Cold Fronts

Hello everyone,

Sorry for the lack of news from down here but it hasn’t been too exciting lately.

We have had cold front, followed by cold front followed by high winds. Here the weather systems are extremely predictable. The prevailing winds are easterly. When a front is headed our way, the winds start to swing around to the south and west and then increase in velocity. The fronts may bring squalls which have rain and/or higher winds for brief periods. Then the winds clock further into the north-west and north and then increase again. They may stay in the north-east for several days before dying
down and swinging into the east. As the islands offer us protection from the prevailing easterlies, we can go up and down the chain of islands freely during those times. When the wind goes around to the south and west, we have to find somewhere to hide. For vessels with 6 foot draft like we are, those places are few and far between. And,last year the Exuma Land and Sea Park put mooring balls in at Cambridge Cay which was one of those protected places! They charge $20 per night and have not left
any room to anchor. If we really wanted to go there, we might be able to get around it by requesting a “harbour of refuge”.

A harbour of refuge is the term for protection from a storm in a place which might not normally allow a sailboat to anchor or tie up. Some years ago, friends entered Freeport Harbour which is a commercial facility and asked for a “harbour of refuge”. They permitted them to tie to one of the docks for several days while the storm howled. It wasn’t necessarily the best dock and there was no power or water but they were safe.

Anyhow, we have spent a lot of time lately in hiding. Not to say that we haven’t had a beach party or two, cocktails aboard other vessels, lunch ashore or even dinner ashore. But, the diving has been scarce with mostly sightseeing adventures instead of hunting for food. The wind has given us lots of power from the wind-generator and we have enjoyed some more of the movies that Steve gave us this year.

We did get to Black Point where I did laundry at the prettiest laundry in the islands. Ida keeps that place spotless but her prices are getting up there. To wash and dry one load costs $7. But, all things have gotten more expensive here. Eggs are almost $5 per doz! Bread is $6, so I bake my own. Wifi is $10 per day.

Yesterday, we helped our friends in the Sandcastle, on Little Bay. They had just flown in for the winter from California. The guys helped take the storm shutters off of the outside while Karen and I helped inside. I swept up the dirt and mouse droppings. We washed off the counter-tops and then tackled the frig. What a mess! A rat had crawled inside and died ( from the poison they left around ). Several cans of pop had been left inside and they had leaked and created a mouldy mass. Yuck! But, by noon
Doug & Jean were in pretty good shape and we all had to take off to hide from the west winds. We will see them later this winter.

So, right now we are hiding again. Back in Oz. But the best spot has been taken by a large motor vessel with lots of windage. We are staying a long ways away from him as he swings wildly on his two anchors. In a couple of days, the wind will die again and we may head off to the Jumentos. We will likely travel alone as High Stepper, Mystic and Flextime all headed to George Town last week.

Oh, and here is some exciting news. At least exciting to me. Before those guys left, we all took a walk to the ocean side across from Jack’s Bay, on Guanna Cay. There the waves bring lots of plastic junk into a cove along with sea beans, if we are lucky. And I sure was! I found a Mary’s Bean which is one of the rarest. It was sitting right in the open and no one had noticed it as it appeared to be a lump of tar. It is very dark, almost black, with the shape of a cross on one side.

So, that is our life aboard, when finding beach junk makes your week! Hopefully, your life is a little more exciting. Your fronts bring snow and cold weather. Stay warm, happy and healthy.

Heather & Murray

The Rest of the Crossing Story

Written Dec 24th in Berry Islands

Hello everyone,

I did promise more details and now, as the wind is howling outside, I have time to write.

On the 18th Dec, we had arranged to meet Terry & Jeanne Persily at a nearby marina. They are friends from the Astabula Yacht Club in Ohio who spend the winter in Delray Beach, Together, we found a couple of marine stores where Murray got the last things on his parts list. The marina had a super outdoor thatched-roof restaurant where we had lunch and reminisced of races, parties and friends we shared. By 3 pm, we headed back to the boat to make final preparations for our crossing.

A dinghy approached the boat while we were working. They introduced themselves as Bob & Jane on Flextime, a Beneteau 40 from Toronto, and inquired when and where we were crossing. Murray answered ” to Lucaya and in about 20 minutes”. They scrambled to get ready and were hard on our heels going out of the West Palm Beach Inlet.

The inlet was ugly and I made a stupid mistake. I had opened the front hatch a bit while working below as it was very warm. And, I forgot about it. The wind was opposing the outgoing current of the inlet and created huge, ugly, crashing waves. The boat slammed up and down and the waves tumbled over our decks. Too late, I screamed ” the hatch is open!”. Murray ducked below and dogged it down. But the bedding, pillows and mats on the floor were all wet. With salt water. But, no time to worry about that now. We pour on the power and eventually get free of those ugly waves. But, it isn’t a whole lot better out in the ocean. And the breeze is bringing us the worst smell you can imagine. We have been using the holding tank because we are in the US but I have not put chemical in it. And it stinks. My stomach won’t let me go below so, Murray to the rescue. He goes down below, puts chemical into the toilet and pumps it into the system. In a few minutes, the air freshens and we can safely take deep breaths.

We get the sails set and head off on our course to Lucaya. The waves are still quite large and hitting us forward of the beam. Because of the waves, the autopilot cannot hold a good course and so we have to hand-steer for the first eight hours. Flextime stays within our sight and we make frequent radio contacts. The new AIS receiver was excellent! On my computer charting program, it showed us the ships around us, their name, course and closest point of approach. It certainly made it much easier to determine if we were in any danger from them and relieved my mind on several occasions. Our radar wasn’t even on during that passage and it is almost impossible to read the screen now anyway.

By midnight, we had to turn on the engine and then the autopilot could take over the steering duties. Murray and I took turns catching a nap. By dawn, we were off of Freeport, Grand Bahama and arrived at Lucaya at 0740 on Dec 19th. Check in went well and I managed to get all of the salty things washed in the laundry at the marina. Then, time for a drink by the pool, a nice barbequed dinner aboard and bed.

First fish of 08 seasonDawn found us departing Lucaya, again in company with Flextime. Our destination was Great Stirrup Cay, 56 miles away and we motored across a FAC sea ( Flat Ass Calm ). Murray’s fishing lines were deployed before we cleared the Bell Channel, the entrance to Lucaya, and he was rewarded with a 34 inch Mahi Mahi several hours later.

I marinated the fillets in olive oil with some tarragon flakes and we grilled them on the barbeque and shared dinner with Bob & Jane as the sun set behind Goat Cay. It had been a tiring few days and we soon sought out the vee-berth for another good nights sleep.

17 lb king mackerelOur journey the next day was only a distance of 15 miles so we had a leisurely breakfast and departed by 0800. The fishing lines were out once again as we had heard reports of catches of black fin tuna nearby. The first catch was just another barracuda but… the line soon went zzzzing. Murray grabbed the pole and braked the reel down. He started to reel in and then the fish went zzing once more as he pulled line and took off. Slowly but surely, Murray reeled him in. “it’s just another barie” he said disappointed. I wasn’t so sure. “There aren’t any spots!” I dashed below for the fish i.d. card while Murray slam dunked him into the cockpit. He’s huge! And it is not a barracuda. It is a 17 lb, 36 inch long king mackerel and very good eating according to the fish card.

Very soon, we thread our way into the anchorage at Devil’s/Hoffman Cays and get our hook down in a sandy spot out on the banks. To the west there is nothing but shallow water as far as you can see. The islands are low but will protect us from a north or north east wind. There are three boats anchored here now – Windswept IV, Flextime and Intuition I ( with Wayne & Geraldine aboard from Nova Scotia ) and Murray cleans his fish and delivers some to everyone. Bob & Jane join us for some exploration as we show them the Blue Hole on Hoffman Cay and the resident groupers. As we are checking out the reef off of White Cay, a sloop powers directly towards us, heading for the small opening nearby. We speed out to head them off as that cut is not a safe passage and they follow us to the correct entrance between the islands. This is how we meet Vickie and Noah, a young couple on a vessel names Serenus headed for the South Pacific and New Zealand eventually. Their trip may have had a bad ending right here at Devil’s/Hoffman if we hadn’t intercepted them.

Once they are securely anchored, we all get together aboard Intuition to share snacks and stories as the sun sets. Later tomorrow the front and wind will arrive but the evening right now is lovely.

Plans were made to look for lobster in the morning and the guys are gung ho. The dighies converge near a reef we have check out years ago. Right away, I spot a black grouper and Murray heads off in hot pursuit. One shot and he has him. Yeah! First speared one of the year. Bob is determined to find a lobster and actually does, not only find one but shoots it right between the eyes. Noah spots some conch and brings them to the boats. Time to adjourn to a nearby beach for conch cleaning lessons. Later Murray makes conch salad for the gang as they gather aboard W4 for sundowners. The wind has picked up but so far all is ok.

Nearby on Little Harbour Cay is a small restaurant called Flo’s Conch Bar and the whole group make plans to have lunch there tomorrow. I have contacted Next Exit and Duet, who are anchored closer to Little Harbour and invited them to meet us there as well. By now, the wind is honking and we are all crazy to be going. But, we put on wet gear and jump into the dinghies with radios, lifejackets etc just in case. We all had a super time and enjoyed ourselves. The wind was even stronger on the return trip but all dinghies got back safely and we settled down for the rest of the day and evening. Intuition dragged anchor around 8 or 9 pm and were on a collision course with us. They got the engine on, hauled the anchor and managed to find a spot with good holding. All this was done is the pitch black night with the winds screaming through the rigging at about 30 knots or more in gusts. No one slept too soundly that night.

Christmas Eve day was spent quietly aboard. We filled the water tanks and charged every piece of re-chargeable equipment aboard with the power from the wind generator. According to Chris, the weather guy, we are stuck here for at least 4 more days. I will have to organize something ashore for Christmas Day.

Dec 28th

Sunset at  Devil's Hoffman CayOn Christmas Day, 12 people from the 6 vessels nearby gathered on a beach for drinks, snacks and games. Vickie, on Serenius, had written a variation on the Twelve Days of Christmas to make it into a cruisers Christmas and we each had a part to sing. It was a lovely afternoon and we headed back to the boats before 5 pm, to prepare our individual dinners. Later Murray and I shared a bottle of champagne until the stars. It was a wonderful day.

The wind has continued to howl and we have stayed put. Today the wind is down slightly and will continue to decrease. Tomorrow, Monday, we will haul anchor early, head to Nassau to re-supply and do laundry and then head out to Rose Island. Then Tuesday we will head southward to Norman’s Cay, to dive and explore for a few days. Flextime wants to continue to follow along and we will enjoy the company.

Meanwhile we will continue to watch for the green flash! We already saw one on Friday night as the sun set behind our boat. All of the best to everyone, stay well and warm and write when you have time. But remember to write to the winlink address as we will only be able to check this one on the rare occasion that we can get a wireless connection.

Murray & Heather
aboard Windswept IV