The last weeks cruising the Abacos, Bahamas, have felt much longer — they’ve stretched like elastic as our days have unfolded organically and naturally.
We have molded our course to the wind and the weather and are now waiting for a good window to cross back to Florida on Windsong II.
Here are some images that stick with me — and just seem to call out for monochrome treatment.
I’ve haven’t been posting much this last while due to unreliable and non-existent wifi, but I’ve had ideas for a few theme posts in my head.
So, now that we’re back at Treasure Cay, where the wifi is the best we’ve had in the entire Abacos, here is a post focused on colour…
Much as I love black and white on my walls, I adore colour all around me in life. As the artist Kandinsky said: “Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.”
We left Marsh Harbour this morning, hoping to get a mooring ball in Hopetown Harbour, one of my favourite places in the world. Alas, there were none to be had so we came back here.
But as we cruised around looking for a ball to pick up I managed to get a shot of the lighthouse, one of the last in the world to be manually lit very night.
I thought I would try my hand at doing a digital painting. The subject seemed apt for the painterly look.
And we’re not to be deterred — we’ll head over there by ferry tomorrow.
Out here cruising on the sailboat, you’re always looking at the weather!
So it was that we saw a front coming and headed for safe harbour at Green Turtle Cay, an island three and a half miles long and a half mile wide, with 450 inhabitants.
There are two sounds that provide protected anchorages at Green Turtle — and we are most familiar with White Sound, which also offers mooring balls for $20 a night.
So we left Crab Cay early in the day with Tranquilizer and arrived just in time to pick up the last two. The wind had already piped up so it was a bit of a challenge to pick one up — also it had no pennant to grab — so it would have required lifting a 40 pound ball and chain, not an easy manoeuvre.
Luckily, a considerate Canadian fellow saw us and came over in his dinghy to give us a hand.
On the good weather days we rented a golf cart and toured the island, showing Beatrice and Marco some of our favourite spots and beaches and picking up some essential supplies in New Plymouth, the settlement — rum and coconut bread! We visited Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar, home of the Goombay Smash, and had one — one was enough! (Another day we went to Pineapples and had a copycat smash — and it was even stronger!)
While we were at Miss Emily’s, young Garrison came along looking forlorn. I asked him what was wrong and he said he had nobody to play basketball with — there were no kids on the court.
Marco, being a kind and sweet man — also 6 foot 5 inches –volunteered to have a go. Afterwards Garrison came inside to have a look at our cameras. I really wish I had had a polaroid at that moment to give him. What a sweetheart!
On bad weather days, we hunkered in the sailboat and watched the wind cause its havoc. One day Bob observed a family of four in a dinghy that appeared to be flailing in the sound. Their motor had stopped working and they were clinging to the pilings on a dock. It didn’t take him long to jump into our dinghy and go see if he could give them a tow. They happily accepted and Bob delivered them back to their cat. We all try to help each other out here.
Scenes from Green Turtle…
Many have heard of the swimming pigs of Staniel Cay in the Exumas, but not so many know about Piggyville on No Name Cay in the Abacos.
The last two times we were in the area, we didn’t have time to visit, so this time with a very fluid schedule we made the time. And Beatrice from our buddy boat was full of delight to finally see the wild pigs of the Abacos!
There were lots of children having fun feeding the pigs, which is encouraged, and we couldn’t help think of the grandkids in the North and how much they would enjoy this too.
Windsong II and Tranquilizer left our slips in West End about 8:00 am on Wednesday, March 16 heading for Great Sale Cay. We motored about 25 minutes and entered a narrow shallow cut in the coral called Indian Cay Passage. The passage took one and a half hours.
While motoring slowly, we used our depth sounder and chart plotter to find the deepest water to go through and watched the bottom only inches from our keel — just over five feet. Having done this last year and the year before, we kept our previous tracks, and these gave us confidence. We were on an incoming tide so if we did get stuck we would just have to wait for the tide to lift us off. Once through, we where on the Little Bahamas Banks — 10 feet of water! Lots! And all of it turquoise!
Given that we were heading northeast and with a brisk wind on our beam, it was a perfect time to put up both sails and run at an average 7 knots. With this nice turn of speed Windsong II got us into the anchorage earlier than expected.
We anchored with over a dozen boats, some going east like us, and others going west, back to the U.S. Marco and Beatrice came over for sundowners and snacks and we discussed our plans for the next few days. After a nice dinner of BBQ chicken and roasted asparagus, we enjoyed the glorious sunset and then fell into bed and slept soundly. Eight hours in the sun and wind can knock a person right out.
The next day — St. Patrick’s Day — we set out for Crab Cay, a large isolated anchorage with a nice beach. The winds were WNW, and we had a great sale to Crab Cay, often doing over 7 knots. We noticed a huge difference in our speed from having our bottom painted. We just slid through the water.
After four enjoyable hours, we arrived at 2:00 pm and had plenty of time for play — and work (Bob washed our very grungy dinghy bottom). We all had a refreshing dip and went back to the boat for a delicious dinner of strip loin steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. Another great night’s sleep and we were off to Green Turtle Cay to find a snug anchorage to wait out the coming cold front.
The fog was so thick the morning that we planned to leave Stuart, Florida, to begin our cruise on Windsong II to the Bahamas, we could hardly see the sailboats moored next to us at Sunset Bay. We were scheduled to meet our buddy boat, Tranquilizer, with Swiss friends Marco and Beatrice aboard at 9:00 am. One thing was clear though — we would be late! We weren’t going anywhere in that fog.
We contacted our friends to let them know, and we all waited for the fog to clear. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before we were heading down the St. Lucie River to the “crossroads” of the Intracoastal Waterway, Florida’s inland waterway.
As we left the anchorage, we saw a dolphin swim by our boat, which I always take as a positive omen when beginning a trip on the water. We met up with Tranquilizer and all went smoothly as we motored together down the ICW toward Lake Worth, where we planned to anchor beside the Palm Beach Inlet overnight as we had done before our two previous crossings.
We had been studying the weather for weeks and Tuesday seemed like an ideal day to cross the mighty Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. The Gulf Stream is a river in the ocean that moves warm water from the Gulf of Mexico north along the coast of North America. It’s several thousand feet deep and 40 miles wide. The current in the centre can be more than 4 knots. Crossing it is nothing to trifle with. Vessels are pushed north even as they head east. When winds are brisk and northerly, there can be huge waves. So it’s important to wait until conditions are favourable to cross.
The particular part of the ICW from Suart to Palm Beach has about seven bascule or lift bridges, which must be raised for sailboats with tall masts (ours is 55 feet) to go through safely. A number are opened on demand and the rest open on a set schedule, such as the hour and half hour. We radio the bridge operators as we approach and make sure they know we are there and would like to go through when the bridge opens.
The ICW can be very narrow in places and it is shared by all manner of watercraft, including large power boats with huge wakes, jet skis and people on stand up paddleboards. One particularly idiotic man was fishing in an inflatable canoe right beside a bridge. When the bridge opened, we proceeded full speed ahead. As we got to it, he decided to cross in front of us. We couldn’t stop and we couldn’t go around him. So we gave him five blasts of our air horn to indicate an emergency. He quickly realized his predicament and moved aside. Whew!
The Gulf Stream crossing went just fine although the beginning was “a bit traumatic” in Bob’s words. When we lifted anchors and moved through the Lake Worth Inlet at 4:00 am, it was pitch black — there were no stars or moon visible at all.
To put it bluntly, it was really hard to see. As we came out onto the ocean, there was a lot of commercial boat traffic going in both directions. It was like trying to cross a busy highway. There were so many lights — some clear, some coloured, some flashing. What did they all mean? You have little depth perception in the dark. It is difficult to judge who is closest to you and who is farthest away.
I kept staring at a whole range of lights in front of us. What is that?, I asked Bob. The AIS identified it as a tug boat and the radar showed two barges in tow about a half a mile behind it. They were connected by a wire just under the water. You don’t want to get between a tug and its tow.
Using our radar and AIS to guide us, we waited for a break and then scampered across the sea lanes. Our buddy boat stayed close and it all worked out well in the end.
It was a bit lumpy out on the ocean — the winds were light, as predicted. We put up our jibs anyway and motor sailed almost the whole way. Later on it was rolly, which we don’t particularly enjoy, but we had no symptoms of seasickness, so all was good. Once we got across the sea lanes there was very little traffic the rest of the way.
I was able to get some video along the way, which really gives a good feel of what the journey was like. I hope to post it later.
We came into West End/Settlement Point under yellow flags at 2:00 pm and went straight into the slip we had reserved. Once we said hello to Marco and Beatrice and I sent a message home that we had arrived safely (and I kissed Bahamian terra firma!), we walked over to the government office to clear the boat, get a cruising permit and fishing licence, and have our passports stamped.
Windsong II and its crew (Bob and me) left Stuart on Monday, March 14 with buddy boat, Tranquilizer (with Marco and Beatrice). We crossed the Florida Straits and the mighty Gulf Stream on Tuesday, a journey of some 10 hours. The black circles show where we left from in Florida and where we made landfall in the Bahamas. The image above is of the sunrise over the ocean as we crossed, having left Palm Beach Inlet at 4:30 am.
On Friday, we reached Green Turtle Cay. You can see how protected the anchorage is and we are also on a mooring ball. We will spend enjoyable time here as we wait for some bad weather to pass over. Yesterday, we had a relaxing breakfast (for a change) of pancakes and pea meal bacon (aka Canadian bacon) given to us by a kind friend before we left Florida.
More to come on the details in between Monday and Friday…
So, what is it like to live on a sailboat on a mooring ball in a Florida anchorage while waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas?
When I’m too old to do this, I’ll be able to look back on my photos and be reminded of what daily life was like. I will remember these days fondly..
Cooking and eating
Getting things ready on the boat
Some projects that have been installed:
- new bimini that Bob sewed up at home
- motor lift crane for the outboard
- a new VHF radio with GPS, AIS and DHC, interfaced to chart plotter and new mike at helm
- two new cockpit tables Bob made at home
- new AM/FM stereo radio at nav station
Hanging out with friends
Enjoying the environment