2010 Cruise Log #2
Crossing the Gulfstream
Sunday, November 29, 2009 – Monday, November 30, 2009
Departed: Lake Worth, FL at 15:56
Arrived: Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island at 8:27
Enroute: 16 hours 23 minutes
Distance: 80.5 nautical miles
Lake Worth provides all sorts of entertainment for cruisers who are staging for an ocean passage. As we waited for our planned departure at 4:00 p.m., we saw a huge cargo ship transporting sailboats and powerboats from Europe. The deck looked just like a boat yard. Shortly after that, Jim yelled down from the cockpit, “Quick, come see this dinghy flying by”. I wondered what was so great about a dinghy going by us too fast until I realized that Jim was being literal. There it was, up in the sky, a Caribe dinghy with an engine and a delta wing buzzing around the anchorage. It’s getting so that nothing surprises me anymore.
We got everything stowed and secured, had a bite to eat, took a little nap, and then it was time to go. Right up until the last minute, we were hoping that our friends on Far Niente would get their autopilot fixed and be able to join us on our crossing to the Bahamas. It just didn’t happen, and so it was two us of – Veranda and Solitaire – heading out the Lake Worth Inlet.
This was our easiest crossing to date – more due to the luck of the weather than to experience or skill. The winds were light, the seas were gentle swells of 1-2 feet, there was hardly any current in the gulfstream, and the moon was almost full. We enjoyed left-over turkey sandwiches for dinner with a small glass of wine. We alternated shifts at the helm throughout the night. I napped from 7:30 until 10:30 before getting up to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies. After enjoying our cookies and milk, Jim went below to sleep from midnight until 4.am.
I love the mid-shift. It’s so peaceful in the cockpit – lots of time for reflection. When I start feeling tired, I turn on my IPod and dance around the wheel to hits from the fifties and sixties. The autopilot does all our steering; my job is to watch for other ships, look out for any floating debris, and make occasion adjustments to our heading. Our new AIS makes the job easier by showing any ships that are in the vicinity on our GPS screen. The AIS display tells us the name and type of the vessel, where it’s going, how fast it is traveling, etc. For example, I saw that a huge Disney cruise ship was going to intersect my course; so I called the captain on the radio to make sure he knew I was out there. He assured me that he would pass in front of me over a mile away. At one point, I had over a dozen large ships showing up on the screen.
Jim relieved me at the helm about 4 a.m. and I napped again until sunrise. We readied the boat for arrival just after 8 a.m. and pulled into our slip at Port Lucaya Marina, with another safe crossing behind us. In case you’re wondering, both of the cats did great. They curled up (not together) on the cabin sole and slept through the night. Snappy came up at dawn to look around, saw the water rushing by, and ran back down the companionway stairs to hide under the table.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Departed: Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island at 06:32
Arrived: Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands at 16:22
Enroute: 9 hours 50 minutes
Distance: 65.2 nautical miles
For the past two years, we’ve had good experiences checking in at Port Lucaya marina. This year was a disappointment. The marina is struggling financially and the resort was closed. We were quoted one price for our slip when I made the reservation and then charged .50 per foot more when we arrived. The normally friendly Immigration officer was having a bad day or something and would not give any of us more than 90 days on our visas, which means that we’ll have to find another immigration office to check into about the time we’d like to be in an isolated and unpopulated area. When we explained our situation and asked for more time, her response was that we’d just have to change our plans. The more we tried to reason with her, the more obstinate she became. When Jim asked for the phone number of her office, she refused to give it to him and stomped out in a huff. Our friends on Veranda were praying that we all wouldn’t end up getting deported. To make matters even more frustrating, no one called customs to let them know we were there – so we ended up waiting nearly three hours to get our cruising permits and finish checking into the country. Needless to say, this will be our last trip to Lucaya.
The day was redeemed slightly by afternoon. We wandered through some little shops, had cracked conch for lunch and then met up with Bill and Christy at a local bar for Kaliks and coconut rum shots. Back at our boat, we washed the salt off our deck, topped off our water tanks, ate the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers and fell into a sound 10-hour sleep.
We were up and underway by dawn. Our weatherman had forecast mild weather on Tuesday and deteriorating conditions the rest of the week – with possible squalls from the South Southeast up to 40 knots. We needed to take advantage of the one good day to get over to the Berry Islands and find an anchorage with some protection from the South and East. Studying our charts and guidebooks underway, we decided to try a small bay off the Eastern Shore of Great Harbor Cay. The anchorage was new to all of us, but looked like it would offer both safety and some interesting beaches to explore.
We arrived well before sunset, secured our anchor, lowered the dinghy into the water, and fixed an arrival drink. Bill and Christy came over later for appetizers and dinner. We all agree that it’s wonderful to be back in the Bahamas. We are looking forward to Far Niente joining us by the weekend.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Departed: Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands at 07:30
Arrived: Nassau, New Providence Island at 16:04
Enroute: 8 hours 34 minutes
Distance: 51.3 nautical miles
By midnight on Tuesday, Solitaire and Veranda were rolling from side to side in our anchorage off the east side of Great Harbour Cay. Personally, I sleep like a baby in conditions like this; just like I’m being rocked in a cradle. My good friend on Veranda couldn’t sleep a wink. We both spent Wednesday exploring the area. The crew from Veranda went snorkeling on nearby reefs while Jim and I dinghied to shore for some beach combing. We’d planned to move to a more protected spot in the Berries on Thursday; but when you are cruising; your plans are cast in jello. Thursday morning’s weather briefing told us that we’d have light Southeast to South Winds. We looked at two options – sailing east to Royal Island Eleuthera or motoring southeast to Nassau. Veranda opted to sail east and we headed out toward the southeast knowing that we’d join up again within the next week.
We had a pretty easy motor to Nassau and got a slip at the Yacht haven. One thing that we’re noticing just about every place we’ve been so far – less service and more expense. Nassau Yacht Haven is rundown, has no fuel, charges for internet, and costs one-third more than two years ago. Last time we came through here, it was filled with cruisers; this year it is less than half-full – mostly with locals.
Our #2 (house) batteries are not holding a charge the way they should. We are going to try to equalize them and if that fails, we may have to buy new batteries. That’s just the way it goes. After that we’ll head into the Exumas.
Nancy, Jim and the Boat Cats
P.S. Arrived in Exumas yesterday – more to follow next week…