APRIL--Time to leave the Bahamas, Return to the USA and Turn the Miles Heading North
April 1st, we left Hope Town heading for Big Guana Cay with its beautiful ocean beach. Of course we anchored on the opposite side which is the Sea of Abaco. Went snorkeling on the ocean side at a great reef near Split Rock. Stopped at Nipper's Beach Bar on the way back for a quick refreshment before returning to the boat. Later on, Doug and Marianne from CLOUDSPLITTER came over for dinner---the night of April Fools. When the two of them were getting into their dinghy armed with salad, appetizer, wine and rum.......somehow both of them fell into the water with all the food and beverages. We were down below on DISCOVERY getting things ready for dinner when we heard a big splash and Marianne saying "Oh Doug, Oh Doug". Went up on deck to see the two of them in the water! Every boat in the anchorage had their binoculars on Doug and Marianne. Marianne put her mask and snorkel on---diving down to recover the salad bowl plus the bottle of rum and wine. Doug and Marianne took a quick shower, made another salad and were over on DISCOVERY in a little more than one-half hour. As you can imagine, we had a few chuckles all through dinner about that episode! Yes, I told Marianne to forget the salad but "no can do"--she made another one. The next day, we went to the famous Sunday Pig Roast at Nippers. This Pig Roast is a wild and crazy event........food, drink, loud music and lots of Bikini Babes dancing around. We found a table far from the band---with shade so we could visit with cruisers we met in Georgetown.....NORTHERN HAUNT and SOUTHPAWS (aren't we getting old).
From Big Guana Cay we returned to Marsh Harbour to meet up with Mike and Jan Enzinger on SIGNIFCANT OTHER. We know Mike and Jan from Kalamazoo. Mike and Jan left to go cruising in 2001----they were returning from a couple years in the Caribbean as far south as Venezuela. One of the first questions Mike asked us (after how are you, how was the trip, etc.) was "How much is diesel fuel in Marsh Harbor? The last time I filled up in Venezuela I paid $8.00 for 100 gallons." Yes, that is 8 cents a gallon. Had appetizers on HANANIAH (Dick and Pat Pebbles) along with Mike, Jan, Doug and Marianne. Next all of us went to Snappas for dinner with CHAPULIN (Jim and Nancy) and TRANQUILITY (Cindy and Lee).
The following picture is Mike and Jan Enzinger on SIGNIFICANT OTHER
From Marsh Harbour we left Marsh Harbour with CLOUDSPLITTER for Powell Cay. To get to Powell Cay, we had to leave the Sea of Abaco through the Loggerhead Channel and then return to the Sea of Abaco through the Whale Cay Channel. According to the guidebook, "this is clearly the most difficult and treacherous part of the Abacos." The Loggerhead Channel was dredged for cruise ships in 1989 and a facility, Treasure Island" was established at Baker's Bay for the cruise ships. The facility was closed down in 1993---too many visits were cancelled because rough weather made the Loggerhead Channel impassable. We did not go on shore at Baker's Bay but heard from other cruisers that it is an eerie place to visit.....it feels like the facility was abandoned overnight! Back to the passage information.....the Whales Cay Channel is very susceptible to developing a rage (breaking waves all the way across the channel) when ocean swells come from the northeast. The condition of the Loggerhead Channel and the Whale Cay Channel is reported daily on the cruiser's net The day we passed through it was fine but I must admit I was anxious until we were securely back in the Sea of Abaco. Just before arriving at Powell Cay, CLOUDSPLITTER caught a mackerel. As soon as CLOUDSPLITTER and DISCOVERY were anchored, Carl put the dink in the water to take me over to CLOUDSPLITTER to help Doug clean the fish. I don't know anything about cleaning fish but I do know how to read instructions so I read the step by step instructions from a book to Doug while he cleaned the fish. Doug said I was a "big help"! I not only read the instructions but pointed out what should be done---sometimes I can't help myself! Marianne prepared the fish for all of us to enjoy.
The following day we moved to Great Sale Cay which was to be our last anchorage in the Bahamas. At Great Sale Cay we met up with several cruisers we met along the way.....FINISTERE (Graham and Nancy), PENDRAGON (Dalton and Louise), FANTASY (Obe and Linda), and KILLISA (Carol and Richard). FANTASY, FINISTERE, CLOUDSPLITTER and DISCOVERY decided to travel to Fort Pierce, FL together the next day. That night, Carl and I sat in the cockpit enjoying our last appetizers and cocktails with a Bahamian sunset. I was not ready to leave the Bahamas. Carl, on the other hand, was ready to go because he was focused on the journey to Georgetown on the Sassafras River--didn't know how long it would take us.
The trip from Great Sale Cay to Fort Pierce went well. We left at 10:30 AM and passed through the Bahamas Banks close to sunset. The Bahamas Banks are quite shallow so the water colors were fantastic and it was a beautiful day. Much to my delight, .we experienced one more Bahamian sunset before leaving the Bahamas.....yes this sunset was while we were underway rather than while we were at anchor. Motorsailed until around midnight when the winds picked up so we could sail. Had to try hold back our speed so we would arrive at Fort Pierce with some light. Our effort to slow down did not work.....ended up going into Fort Pierce in the dark and then anchoring inside until around 6:30 AM when we had enough light to take the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) up to Vero Beach.
In Vero Beach we took time to do some projects. Carl upgraded the watermaker....doubled the output. Also took the boat to the dock (first time since we were in Nassau last January) where we washed off all the salt water and equalized the batteries. Did 6 loads of laundry!!! Went back to a mooring after one night at the dock. Carol and Bruce on WIND ROSE were our mooring mates.....found out that we both had similar plans for moving our boats up to the Norfolk area so we decided to travel together along with Laurie and Gordon on MYSTIC.
I knew that our travels up the ICW would be safe because as we left Vero Beach we had two dolphins as escorts. They were diving and resurfacing along the side of DISCOVERY as we started north on the ICW. The ICW around the Ponce and Matanza Inlets have a couple spots where the water is "real skinny" (shallow). Gordon and Laurie on MYSTIC took the lead for DISCOVERY and WIND ROSE. Gordon was discussing the route with us over the radio. Two other boats were following the conversation and "broke in" asking if they could follow us! It was quite comical to look behind us as we snaked through the channel....MYSTIC in the lead with four other boats duplicating every twist and turn! One of the following boats, ISIS, continued to travel with us up to St. Augustine.
The following picture shows the boats that were behind us as we were following MYSTIC. You have to look closely to see two more sailboats behind the trawler, ISIS
I was very impressed with St. Augustine---the oldest permanent European settlement in the continental US. Did a little sightseeing on land by myself while Carl ran some errands. Went to the Fort Castillo de San Marcos which was completed in 1695...... it has a colorful history (Spanish, English, US and Confederate troops each occupied the fort at one point in time). Decided that next fall when we return south....I want to spend a few days in St. Augustine.
The next three pictures are from Fort Castillo de San Marcos. In the last picture you can see DISCOVERY at anchor in front of the fort. I know, you can't tell which one is DISCOVERY but she is there.
From St. Augustine, MYSTIC and ISIS continued up the ICW while WIND ROSE and DISCOVERY headed for the Atlantic for an overnight trip to Charleston. Left St Augustine at 7 AM (Saturday) for an estimated 34 hour trip to Charleston. During my shift, I received a call from a US Naval Warship. The Naval Warship was calling on VHF 16 stating " I am steering a course of 180 degrees. Calling for the vessel off my bow". I could see white lights ahead and a red light indicating tht a ship was in front of me and to my right so I was quite certain he was talking to me!. I answered, "This is the sailing vessel DISCOVERY. " The Naval Warship asked me to select a working channel which I did--VHF 68. We continued our conversation on VHF 68 where I told him, "I am on a course of 34 degrees. I see your port lights. He asked me "What side do you want me to pass you." My response was "Port to Port and I am traveling with another sailing vessel off to my starboard." At this point, Bruce on WIND ROSE broke into the conversation saying he was monitoring the discussion. I was a bit nervous--never talked to a Naval Warship before or any ship regarding what course to take! Carl encountered a freighter (salty) during his watch that gave him some problems. The salty would not respond toCarl's inquiries regarding how the salty would pass us. So.....Carl woke me up and we changed course to get away from the salty----the sails had to be adjusted to change course. It was a scary experience for me because I woke up from a deep sleep to an urgent request from Carl. The winds were howling and nothing seemed to make sense at this point. This episode ended without any problems other than a racing heart for me! I was wide awake so I took over the watch and let Carl go get some sleep.
The following picture is of Carl trying to get more speed out of the boat. We are sailing downwind from St. Augustine to Charleston.
Arrived outside Charleston Harbor at 9:20 AM on Sunday and by 11:30 AM we were inside the harbor safely at anchor. Most of Sunday we laid around...sleeping or just relaxing. Our friends, Lee and Cindy on TRANQUILITY arrived Monday morning. They did a straight shot from the Abacos to Charleston (a 3 day run using the push of the gulfstream current to make great time). TRANQUILITY left the Abacos with Jim and Nancy on CHAPULIN. However, CHAPULIN ran into trouble outside Jacksonville, FL......taking on water, could not run the engine, went through a storm so they had problems with their sails (basically not a good day or night). TRANQUILITY was too far ahead of CHAPULIN to assist and they were having problems of their own (the gulfstream was pretty nasty). CHAPULIN used the VHF radio to call for help---the Coast Guard sent out a helicopter and the Navy had a plane out checking on them until they were towed into Jacksonville. As I have mentioned in previous logs, Jim and Nancy are in their early 70s. Generally speaking, the Coast Guard will only come rescue you if you are willing to abandon ship. We think because of Jim and Nancy's age.....the Coast Guard made an exception and took action. While Jim and Nancy were both quite shaken by the experience, they are both safe and grateful for the help they received. We heard they were on the local nightly news!
WIND ROSE and DISCOVERY continued on up the ICW from Charleston.
The following picture is of WIND ROSE and DISCOVERY at the dock in Beaufort.
We saw so many bald eagles in South Carolina. Anchored one night off the ICW in the Calabash Creek. Dropped the dinghy into the water to motor into the town of Calabash for shrimp dinner. Calabash claims to have the Neatest Shrimping Fleet and that they do. Some of the shrimp boat I have seen made me wonder if they are seaworthy. The Calabash Fleet is in great shape. Plus, every boat coming out of Calabash along the creek would slow down when they passed by anchored boats.....never experienced this anywhere else. Really a neat, friendly place to stop.
From Calabash we traveled up to Wrightsville Beach where we anchored for one night. Went to the seafood market for fresh shrimp (this fresh stuff taste so great) where we also bought some wahoo. On the way back to our anchorage, we saw Sandy and Tom on ANANIA so we stopped to visit. Some local fishermen were cleaning yellowfin tuna they had just caught next to the boat. One of the guys asked me if I wanted some....of course. I did split the ziplock bag with Sandy. What a dilemma do I prepare fresh shrimp, tuna or wahoo for dinner tonight??? Decided to do the tuna....wow it was great.
At Wrightsville Beach we took the Masonboro Inlet to the ocean for a run to Beaufort, NC with WIND ROSE and ANANIA. Stayed in Beaufort for three nights...going to a dock for two of them (equalize the batteries, wash the boat, grocery run and laundry). A thunderstorm passed through one afternoon....strong winds but it did not last long at all. I went to the Beaufort Maritime Museum while Carl worked on projects.
From Beaufort we took the ICW. This part of the ICW is rather mundane and not all that scenic. The forecast was for a strong cold front to pass through on Thursday so we wanted to get through the Albemarle Sound before the winds started blowing out of the north. As a result, we put in long days. In the evening, WIND ROSE and DISCOVERY would get together to discuss the day's plan but the following day we would always go farther than discussed. Finally Carol asked us if perhaps we were "over achievers". The long days were worth it because we were anchored north of the Albemarle Sound when the cold front came through.
The cold front was as strong as predicted. We found a good anchorage with good holding and protection just north of Buck Island. A strong squall passed through ahead of the front. Woke up at 1:10 AM when the boat was rocking from side to side. Carl stood just under the dodger hoping the anchor would hold. I was down below gathering up all the loose items that rolled around from the storm and praying for the anchor to hold! This is the first time we have had to tie the computer down while at anchor. I turned on the wind instrument after the worst part was already over and saw winds at 32 knots. This squall lasted 50 minutes. One of the boats at anchor with us, FOXFIRE, ended up on the shore of Buck Island because the anchor did not hold. SHANTY 1 was anchored almost in the channel because it has such a deep draft keel (7 feet 6 inches). Toward the end of the storm, a tug with a barge came down the channel shining its spotlight on us. The tug was so close to SHANTY 1 when it passed that Dan asked his wife, Celine, to put on her life jacket. We just laid back down to sleep around 3:00 when the front came through with its gusty winds. In the morning, we started moving again up the ICW. It was so cold......back to wearing longjohn underwear, fleece pants and several layers of jackets.
The first picture is of Carl dressed in almost all his cold weather clothes! The second picture is of the rather dull ICW just south of Norfolk.
We arrived in Norfolk on April 27 anchoring at Hospital Point while WIND ROSE went to Tide Water Marina. Had a good time in Norfolk....visiting the USS Wisconsin Battleship, the Norfolk Maritime Museum and Nauticus. I even spent several hours walking through a shopping mall. Ate at a great Bistro and New York style deli in Portsmouth. Finally, rode out another cold front........a nasty thing with winds out of the NE gusting to 30 knots.
It was sad to have to leave the Bahamas but we need to be in Georgetown on the Sassafra by the end of May. As a result, April was a month of pushing miles of water under the keel. We still enjoy the cruising life.
Submitted May 5, 2006