So after making the crossing to the Bahamas on February 4, we stayed at Old Bahama Bay for a few nights, anchored in Lucaya for one night, spent a few nights at Great Harbour Cay, then a few nights at a marina on New Providence Island, and arrived in George Town on the 25th. That’s much faster than we moved the last two seasons. Heck, year before last we never got to George Town at all. We didn’t get to visit the rest of the Exumas along the way, but we did catch some fish.
This meant we were here for Regatta. In all honesty, since we’re not traveling in a sailboat, Regatta Week for us mostly just means more boats in the anchorages. Sounds like the sailboat people had a lot of fun, though.
We spent a few nights at Honeymoon Beach off Stocking Island, near the action. I got a lot of good sailboat photos. Unfortunately, part of the action was wave action, which made me seasick. So on Thursday afternoon we moved down to Red Shanks, which is south of the crowded anchorages. We would prefer to anchor in the “cat box,” which is a fairly shallow cove, so it’s mostly only used by catamarans. But very high winds are forecast from the northeast for the next few days, so we are around on the other side of an island that will shelter us.
We got to make one trip over to our beloved favorite beach yesterday. The water was almost warm, the beach was deserted, and we were able to just completely relax.
Now we’re hunkered down, waiting for the storm to pass. In just a few days, we’ll move up to the marina at Exuma Yacht Club to pick up our guests, who’ll be coming in on Saturday.
Picture this: You are an elderly couple alone in the middle of the night on a small boat going 9 mph out on the ocean, several miles away from land. It’s pitch dark. Suddenly a boat with no running lights zooms up behind you. They don’t call you on the radio. They shine a huge spotlight into your boat. You can’t see them and you don’t know who they are or what they want. I have never been so scared in my life. After a few minutes, they turn off the spotlight, zoom up even closer, and turn the spotlight back on. Ron says it’s probably the Coast Guard, and I know it *probably* is, but what if it isn’t? I’m shaking like a leaf, and that never happens, but I can’t help feeling completely vulnerable. After a few more minutes of silence, they turn off the spotlight again, and then they’re just out there in the dark. Ron is looking at radar, and after a couple of minutes, he says they’re gradually dropping back behind us. My breathing slowly returns to normal.
At 10 AM, we arrived at Old Bahama Bay, West End, Bahamas.
A little background: Ron had made a few posts at the start of our trip, but then we didn’t post to the blog for the rest of the trip down the ICW, for some reason that escapes me now. Quick summary: we left very late, I got sick, and we dashed for Florida, making one quick stop in North Carolina to visit family, and one 3-week stop in Georgia to finish Ron’s list of boat refit items. We now have a new watermaker, far superior to the old one.
So on Tuesday, we arrived at Riviera Beach Marina in Florida, our departure point for the Bahamas. Wind predictions for the next day were great, but we couldn’t leave so quickly, because Ron still needed to pick up some boat parts at Boat Owners Warehouse, and we still needed to make our last run for provisions.
The next good weather window was going to be Monday. Okay, so we’ll be in Florida for almost a week. But weather predictions for a week in advance are not very reliable. Sure enough, with every day we were in Florida, that nice day for crossing moved another day away from us. By Thursday, the next good crossing day was the following Thursday. Rats!
Now, here’s the thing about crossing the Gulfstream. (Warning, this will bore the pants off our non-cruising readers–it’s ok to skip this paragraph). Two years ago, before our first crossing, Ron researched very carefully. Everybody advised that you must wait until 24 hours after the wind has any North component (a North, Northwest, or Northeast wind). The theory being that since the Gulfstream is headed North, winds out of the North will kick up ugly waves, and it takes hours for them to subside. Aside from wind predictions, there are also wave predictions, and we prefer not to cross if the waves are forecast to be higher than 1 foot, so that if the prediction is a little off, waves probably won’t be much over 2 feet. On Friday, I noticed that, despite northerly winds on Friday, waves in the Gulfstream were forecast to be only 1 foot on Saturday, starting at midnight and lasting until 1 PM. So we decided to make a break for it. We left the marina at 2 AM Saturday morning. It turned out that, for this trip anyway, forecast wave height is more important than what the wind was doing the day before.
The crossing was completely lovely as far as the weather was concerned. HOWEVER, there was one drawback to leaving in the middle of the night. We caught the attention of Homeland Security. Which in the daylight would not be a bad thing. But at night, it wasn’t pleasant. I think if it happens again, I’ll assume it’s law enforcement and not be frightened. At least, not terrified.
West End was badly damaged by Hurricane Matthew. Old Bahama Bay lost their beachfront shack serving breakfast and lunch. But they have cleverly converted their little kayak and bicycle lending shed to serve drinks and lunch. Ron and I headed over there yesterday and had lovely cracked conch and fried mahi, with excellent fries and cole slaw. Harold and Erica were as nice as ever, and we had a long chat with Harold about the rebuilding efforts in West End after Matthew.
As we left Norfolk, Linda got sicker by the day. Upon arrival in New Bern she was too sick to even visit relatives. Two trips to urgent care later, she seems to be finally on the mend.
Proceeding south once again, she’s still spending most of her time in The Admiral’s Cabin. Here she is with a smile, sunlight through the window, TCM on DirecTV, and a cat that isn’t tormenting her toes (for the moment).
Even though I STILL have stuff on my project list we finally decided that if we didn’t want to hire an icebreaker to accompany us across the bay, we’d better get going. This time of year the good weather windows in the Chesapeake start to get scarce and daylight hours are getting pretty short. At ALL times of year we can leave our shallow creek only near high tide. All things considered, a Saturday night departure with a night crossing seemed to be our best opportunity for the next week or so.
Originally we’d planned to proceed from here (Top Rack Marina, Chesapeake, VA) via the Dismal Swamp Canal down to Elizabeth City. Alas, the Canal remains closed following Hurricane Matthew so we must use the other route via Coinjock down to the Albemarle Sound. We much prefer the canal route but the lockmaster at Deep Creek dismally (get it?) reports that there are still 4-foot sand dunes within the canal and TPTB haven’t yet contracted for dredging. He’s not optimistic that the route will be available for next spring’s northern migration.
Even with a good meal and a good night’s sleep, we’re both still exhausted from the last-minute provisioning and the night crossing. And of course I have all of my Dismal Swamp routes in the chart plotters already, left over from June. Faced with the prospect of getting up in the dark this morning and hurriedly route planning the Virginia Cut route before an early departure, we reluctantly decided that we could use a rest day here. Sadly, the excellent Amber Lantern Restaurant at the marina is closed today and the second night here isn’t free, but we both think we could use the down time before continuing south.
Following two months of poor Linda hearing me say, “Just one more week,” on a weekly basis, we’ve finally started this winter’s Bahamas cruise.
We left our dock with the tide around 10PM last night and as I write this we’re doing an overnight down the bay to Norfolk. Linda is napping while I man the helm. The temperature is approaching the bottom end of the 30s and I was getting pretty miserable in the unheated cockpit until I broke out a small box heater.
Last Friday we crossed from West End to Lake Worth Inlet to complete our second Bahamian cruise.
I apologize to our blog followers for the dearth of posts this cruise. Here’s the thing:
All but a very few of our WordPress followers also follow us on Facebook. During this cruise we’ve posted on Facebook with pictures nearly every day and sometimes several times in one day. It’s very easy to do and we can do it from our phones as things are happening.
To post here we must upload pictures to the WordPress site and then create a post using their editor. While it can be done on a phone it’s much easier to do this on a laptop. Consequently this doesn’t get done during the day and by the evening when we have an opportunity to post we don’t have the energy to post.
So this is why 3 or 4 of you haven’t heard from us since March. We’re not proud of it but that’s how it worked out.
We would LIKE to record our cruise ex post facto on WordPress as a more-or-less permanent account of our travels. It remains to be seen if we can manage to do this as we make our way from South Florida toward home.
On our first snorkeling expedition of the season we collected 8 conch in about 30 minutes. After the excitement wore off we realized that all of them, even the big guy on the right, were illegal to keep according to Bahamian law. We had them pose for this picture and then reluctantly returned them to their homes. Now we’re going to be on the lookout for bigger conch and perhaps a lobster or two.