Passages South

Hello everyone,

On Dec 26th, our alarm sounded at 0430. It was time to go! The wind had died somewhat overnight and we were making a daylight crossing of the Gulf Stream, an unusual event for us. By shortly after 0500, we were underway in the dark, finding our way between the lit markers ( and some unlit ones ) out into the Atlantic. Course was set for Lucaya and we settled back to allow the autopilot to do it’s job.

The seas were confused, as usual, with waves coming from all directions making the boat toss to and fro. Both of the sails were full but with not quite enough wind to allow us to sail. So, the motor continued to tick over and we started the watermaker ( with it’s new, expensive membranes ). Clear drinkable water was produced within 15 minutes! Yeah, at least that problem is fixed.

There was a definite lack of shipping within our sight during this trip, even when we reached Freeport. There were only three or four large ships awaiting attention at the busy seaport that Freeport has become. The sun set as we piloted the south coast of Grand Bahamas and it was full dark when we arrived at Lucaya. The entrance markers were brightly lit and we boldly entered, making our way into a canal to anchor. The trip only took 13 hours but we were pretty tired.

In the morning, we hauled anchor and proceeded to Lucayan Marina to re-fuel and clear customs. That process was accomplished quickly and efficiently and soon we were back at anchor. After launching the dinghy, we wandered through the town and marvelled at the scant number of tourists around. Most of the shops were empty of customers and this was the busy Christmas season.

First light found us underway once again, this time headed south towards the Berry Islands. The seas were flat calm, with no wind when we set out. By noon, the wind filled in but still behind us. Motorsailing on, we reached Great Stirrup Cay by 1700 hrs and, after some difficulty, got the anchor set. Overnight the wind howled in the rigging.

Early morning once again, we hauled anchor and headed out the cut. Once in deep water we turned the bow southward again, headed to Devil’s/Hoffman Cays just 25 miles away. Just one vessel was anchored within our sight as we dropped the anchor on the shallow banks behind Hoffman Cay. The dinghy was launched once again as we planned to be here a few days.

Devil’s Cay’s beaches beckoned and we planned a shelling expedition. But, on the way, Murray dragged a hook and landed a 6 lb Yellow Jack. Back to the boat to store him out of the sun and off we headed again. A few hours were spent hiking the beaches in search of unusual shells. Some specimens were added to the buckets but nothing really special.

Two other boats had arrived and it was time to plan a New Year’s Eve beach party. We made the rounds of the anchored boats to extend invitations for the following evening at a nearby beach. Murray snorkeled on a shallow reef and shot a couple of lobsters to add to the menu. He made some smashed fish and I mixed up curried lobster ( all from Devil’s/Hoffman! ). Everyone showed up and even Chester, the owner of Flo’s Conch Bar on Little Harbour Cay, came. It was an early evening though as we all sped back to our vessels before the sunset.

On New Years Day, Murray went out dragging a line from the dinghy again and caught a ten pound mutton snapper! He said that it was like having a cement block on the line as it almost pulled him out of the dinghy. During the early evening, the wind picked up and a nearby vessel started to swing wildly around their anchor. It was a full-keeled sailboat and, with the wind and current, it was doing doughnuts around their anchor. Some of the passes were coming uncomfortably close to us! We pulled in some chain and also put down another anchor to try to stay safe. Neither one of us slept much and we moved over near White Cay early in the morning.

By the morning of Jan 3rd, the winds and seas had subsided, allowing us to head on to Nassau. All fishing lines were deployed but without any luck today. Monday, the job list was quickly ticked off, as groceries, fuel and clean laundry were bundled aboard and stowed. Today the wind is blowing hard again and I have taken advantage of the cool weather to bake some banana muffins and a pumpkin quick bread for treats or even a fast breakfast in the coming days.

Yes, I did say cool weather. It isn’t snowing here but most people are bundled up in coats and hats. Temperatures may reach the mid 60’sF.

Tomorrow we plan to head south again, into the Exumas. Another cold front, with lots of west and northwest winds, is due soon and we will need to find someplace to hide. Never have we seen so much wind from the west and northwest as we have experienced so far this winter. Hopefully, it will soon get back to the usual pattern of east winds, clocking briefly into the west only when a front passes.

Take care all and write when you have time.

Murray & Heather