The day dawns and Lucky and I walk out onto the dock and watch sailboats head out early to get a start on their trip to the east. We take the short walk to the beach. He is off leash and alternating between eating rotten seafood and vomiting while I walk through the gorgeous blue water and white sand. Back to the boat for breakfast and Jan and I decide to change our plans.
Start: Blue Water Marina, Bimini, Bahamas, 1603
End: Great Harbor Cay Marina, Bahamas, 0921
Total Distance: 85.5 nm
Average Speed: 4.9 kts
Unlike yesterday, we have a full night of sleep under our belt and feel a bit more clear headed. Today and tonight are good moving days, and though we missed the opportunity to leave in the morning, Mahi was leaving in the afternoon for another overnight trip, this time to Great Harbor Cay. It is in the Berry Islands and is 70 miles closer to the Exumas and, as an added bonus, puts us on a good line to sail to Nassau–more of a southern bearing which will work well in east winds. The winds in the afternoon start off at 15 knots from the S and then moderate in the night and gradually shift to the West. Should be a good night of sailing. The key work is ‘night;’ another night of no sleep and Janny likes her sleep. We wander over to Mahi and tell them we will be in their rear view mirror (metaphorically that is: they don’t actually have a mirror) on the way to Great Harbour Cay.
So we have half a day to get ready and a long list of stuff to do. AJ jumps ship and heads to the pool with kids. Jan and I work on the boat throughout the day. Shower, fixed boom, generator wrapped, secured all equipment on boat, mainsail reefed, made spaghetti for overnight trip, showers all around, put in waypoints for trip and plotted route, secured paddle board and everything else on deck.
And at 1600 it came time for us to go. The wind was playing hell with boats leaving the marina. We pulled down our dinghy and used it to push on a bow from a sail boat into the aisle (against the wind) as they backed out of their slip, and watched another boat clear the harbor only to be blown onto shallows (they got off). So we were a bit nervous–the wind was pushing us into the dock and when we left, would want to push us back into the marina. Along comes JR. His recommendation was to back out (we had no choice there…we had a MONSTER yacht in front of us and our collective savings wouldn’t have been enough to pay for the damage if we went forward), push our stern out into the wind (just like we learned in sailing school), and as he said “giver ‘er some gas” to get around the big cat that was behind us. He would push us off the dock and then, as our stern pulled away, watch our bow to make sure we didn’t hit anything.
A sidebar, your honor.
As you may remember, we have two Yamaha 9.9hp high thrust, long stern drive, outboard motors. As I look across this marina I can see that most outboard motors on dinghies (not the main boat) are bigger than our engines. And the dinghies are much smaller. But these babies just thrust us across the gulf stream into big big waves1 and have been cooking along for 4000 miles. They rock. But reverse is not really their strong point. We are confident but concerned.
So we throw off the lines and JR gives me the thumbs up we are free and reaches down to push us off the dock. The port engine goes into reverse and this time I jam it all the way down to as far as it can go–throttle territory not seen before. The starboard engine goes deep as well, but not quite as far. Both engines scream and we pull away from the dock and back into the wind. Bottom line was we didn’t have a problem. Didn’t hit the yacht, didn’t hit the dock, didn’t hit the catamaran, didn’t run aground, and burned 20 gallons of gas in the three minutes it took us to back out into the channel and head to the entrance.
As we exit the channel to the ocean we get bounced around a bit as the water from the channel meets the water from the ocean. Then we take a right and for the first time in over a month raise the mainsail. And, surprisingly, it goes up just fine. We have one reef in the sail because we are going 80ish miles over 14 hours so don’t need to scream along and we would rather have the reef in if conditions in the water are worse than forecasted. But wind is good. About 13 knots from just off our aft starboard quarter (back right corner for those of you keeping track at home). Genoa up, engines off and brought up and at 1630 we are sailing. We can see S/V Mahi on AIS, but not on the water; they are about a half hour and three miles ahead of us which is OK; we know where we are going. To our right is Bimini, and light clouds. To our left is the Straits of Florida and big storm clouds. We hope they are moving away from us. Our first (of three) waypoints is five miles to the north, where we will turn ~70 degrees to the east and go 70 miles to the second way point. 10 degrees turn to the south, go five miles and our third waypoint which is the entrance to the harbor. After slogging down rivers with twist and turns every quarter mile, this is awesome. We have radar on, AIS on, instruments, lights and pot of spaghetti ready for dinner. We also have every window on our boat open to catch the wind. That last one is going to bite us in the a$$ in a short minute.
The remainder of the description is from the log of the trip kept as we moved to our destination.
17:00. We are sailing! Main and Genoa up and doing 5.5 knots which is actually a bit too fast. We will adjust as we move, but revel in the peace and quiet. Waves are more behind us for now at 2-3 feet.
1800: No entry
1830: There was no typing at 1800. Two things happened at that time, near simultaneously. First is we turned at our first waypoint at the North Rock marker. The seas/waves were a bit confused and we were adjusting our sails to the wind. So we hands full with bouncing around and sail management. After we adjusted our sails, I looked at the radar and noticed a line of rain that appeared to be all around us. Simultaneously Jan said2 “it’s raining!”
Our first squall. And thank goodness it was a small one. The wind shifted quickly from our starboard side to our stern and jumped up about 10 knots. And the skies opened and dumped buckets and buckets and buckets of water on us. We brought in the genoa ‘quickly,’ the main remained up; with the reef in, we were fine in this wind, though we centered the main so it wouldn’t jibe on us. And then Jan remembered the windows and went screaming (literally) down below. Our boat was soaked. Inside and out. We were soaked. Everything was soaked. I did manage to contact Mahi on the radio and told them “squallnowwatchoutcomingyiurwayaaaaauuughhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!”
It looked something like this:
1900: 5.8 kts in 11 kts (apparent) at 90 degrees on starboard side. Mahi is 3.03 miles ahead of us. Waves have picked up a bit bit not as bad as earlier. Most of the last hour was spent cleaning/drying off boat, though we did have dinner; Jan made killer spaghetti this afternoon and we hoovered it. Fear and near death experience make you hungry! Depth finder is happy to be back on duty and reporting “Depth of 15.4 feet, SIR.” Andy the autopilot is keeping us at 91 degrees. A bit fast but we will make time now and slow if necessary. Three boats from harbor are like ducks at in a row on the water.
2000: 6 kts in 13.2 kts of wind at 75 degrees off starboard. We reefed our Genoa a bit to slow our roll but put it back out. Our estimated arrival is 7ish in the morning which is still too early but we should see wind shift tonight and we may slow so we will rock on for a couple of hours. And we have the lights of two boats in in front of us and that makes this an unofficial race Really liking not using the engines though we are burning through the batteries with all our stuff on!
2100: 6.3 kts in 15.6 kts wind. 75 degrees apparent. 20.7 feet of water. We have been crushing it this hour. Wind picked up to 15-16 for awhile kts and we were at 7+. We tried to slow a bit but why??? I know we will get there early but damn we are moving nicely. We are rolling a bit and some salt water is coming over the trampoline up front. AJ and Jan went down for sleep. AJ for the night in the salon because his bed is soaked. Jan for thee hours in our cabin with our woobie because our comforter is soaked3 I’m on first watch. S/V Last Call in our sights. It left 30 min before us and we are slowly creeping up on them. Lights from three boats are only thing we can see. Cloudy night so no stars. Rocking quite a bit in waves. The noise from the ocean is way more noticeable without engines. Especially waves slapping the bottom.
We have gone from ‘never at night’ to ‘ we move at night’.
22:00: 5.6 kts in 10 kts of wind from 70 degrees off of starboard. 24.5 feet of water. Course is 102 degrees. Our azimuth is 92 degrees but we have some windage. Just off of S/V Last Call’s stern. AJ was up and about to closing the window in the salon. Too cold. Wind is decreasing a bit as we roll on, but we are still moving nicely.
This is pretty awesome. Moving across part of the Atlantic Ocean. At night. Under sail. And dawn brings a new place. We used to think 40 miles was a huge day (which is was). But now with some good winds off our beam we can really make some distance.
2300: 4.8 kts in 10 kts wind. 103 heading. 31.5 feet. Checked in with Mahi. We are still going to arrive really early at our current speed, but we figure might as well keep on moving in case the wind dies down. The wind did ease at about 1030 and we dropped to about 3.9 knots. Mahi on AIS and I can see his forward speed and we are going about half a knot faster; we are passing him as I type this.
0000: Jan up. We are doing at 3.2 kts in 7 kts of wind. Someone upstairs has a good sense of humor. We passed Last Call and were in the process of clipping by Mahi when the wind decided to drop dramatically about about 2330. Our forward speed dropped to 1-3 knots and Andy was whipping the wheel madly back and forth looking for heading in light winds. I took over the wheel as we bobbed up and down on the waves. I could see Mahi’s speed and he was making about 4 knots in this crappy wind so I went about adjusting our sails to maximize or forward progress. I figure we are ahead of schedule anyway so we can wait out a slack win. The wind apparently was waiting for Jan, because when she popped out on dec, the wind picked back up to about 9 knots. She asked the obvious question on how Mahi was going so much faster, so I called Joe and he told me he got tired of the crappy wind so went ahead and turned on his engines. DOH!
I head down to bed. Jan is in charge.
0300: Back at it. 3.4 kts at 8.4 kts of wind. 91 degrees heading. 57 feet of water. Stars are out. When I got up I took a look at the state of the batteries and we are at 48%. Crap. Because of all the water dumped inside our boat, the inside feels like a sauna and the fridge/freezer have been running constantly. As have the radar, instruments, running lights and we are seriously depleted with four hours of darkness left. We get to fire up the portable generator! Jan also lost wind but kept on sailing figuring we weren’t in a hurry. It is quiet. Other than the generator that is. The waves have definitely reduced in size; they are rocking us but not slapping the boat. Wind is calmer which means we go slow. Mahi is a mile ahead of us and still making his four plus knots by cheating.
0400: 3.7 kts at 7.6 kts. Our ETA which was 06:30 is now 11:30 if we maintain this pace. The two boats ahead of us are pulling away (cheaters) but we can live knowing we are pure of heart because we are sailing! At least for another hour. Then we will fire up the engines and carry on. Stars are out.
04:32. Finally pulled in the genoa, dropped the engines and turned them on and head out motor sailing. We went 12 hours with no engines! FREE MILES and daddy likes free. But we want to arrive at the harbor before dark, so no more purist. The wind is very light but gives us a slight push and the engines are not working hard to move us forward.
05:00. 5.5 kts and wind doesn’t matter because the engines are moving us along. Current ETA is about 9am. Mahi is about 2 miles ahead of us and going slightly slower; we should be fairly close behind them as we approach the marina. Jan is up and bustling about checking bilges. We have a bit of water in both…the culprit, we think, is water coming in through the bilge pump hoses up in front when waves wash up and over our bows. I’m going to bed until 7am.
Jan is in charge.
06:30. I’m awakened, gently, by Jan. We need to bring the main in. Up on deck and it is light and ahead we can see Great Harbor Cay. The waves are very small and the wind is basically none. I climb aboard the hard top and we drop the main while keeping our course. We have caught up with Mahi. We are third in line so we go ahead and slow way down to give time for the other boats to get into the marina and set before we arrive. We have plenty of time to enjoy the sunrise, drink a cup of coffee and eat breakfast while we make our way to the marina. Except for the lack of sleep, life doesn’t get much better.
0915: Trip complete. We are in the harbor, tied up to our slip and ready for a nap.
1Donnelly scale. Anything over a ripple is ‘big big’
3The woobie is an army poncho liner. It is a rectangle of thin insulated material, in a sexy digital camo pattern, that is issued to the Soldier and which fits inside the Army poncho. Most people use it by itself to sleep with in temperate conditions. Or to add an additional layer in a sleeping bag (aka ‘fart sack’) when it is really cold. Best. Piece. Of. Gear. Ever.