Mar 22, 2018
When it rains in Florida, it really rains! Twice on our way south on Monday, we had to slow Adamant 1 to an idle and wait for the rain to ease up. We could not see 50′ past the boat.
The chartplotter shows us where we are, but it doesn’t show us if there is another boat ahead of us or whether there is a dock sticking out into the channel. It’s better to wait it out; five minutes later the sun is out. On the first day we made it from Vero Beach to Hobe Sound, a wide and deep anchorage, just off of the main canal near Jupiter Florida. Only two other boats spent the night with us and there wasn’t any traffic in the canal to throw a wake.
The next day was only 21 miles, but there were numerous bridges that had to open for us, all spaced far enough apart that we had to hustle from bridge to bridge to make the opening at the top of the hour or the half hour. By the time we were at the last one, we had added a few more boats to our flotilla.
We turned to port as soon as we entered Lake Worth and threaded our way into North Lake Worth, where our friends were waiting for us. There were about 20 boats already there and during the day more arrived. By nightfall there were about 35 boats anchored, all waiting for the weather window to cross the Gulf Stream.
The anchorage is spectacular. It is surrounded by tall condos, all architectural masterpieces and lit up at night with coloured lights that are placed to highlight the architecture. The residents are not very welcoming though. Some of our group tried to go into one of the marinas for lunch and were turned away as the restaurant only serves marina guests, the people who owned the 150′ yachts at the docks. They were told there were restaurants in town and were directed to a dinghy landing area, on the right, just before a low bridge in the northwest end of the lake. Painted in large red letters across the bridge abutment was the message “high theft area”. That sign doesn’t really give you a warm and fuzzy welcome. At least they warn you! Pat and I took a chance by going under the bridge, hiding the boat close to the abutment under a tree, and locking it to a metal grate cemented into the bridge.
Scrambling ashore was an athletic feat that should be part of the Olympics! Picture it. Sort of like that program on TV where you have to leap from one object to the other while holding bags in your hands and not fall in the water! Fun!! We hurried two blocks west and found the Publix store and picked up a few essentials and scooted back to the dinghy before it was discovered. It was still there, locked up and it still had the motor on it!
Early the next morning, a dinghy came by telling us the weather window was opening the next day. We had 48 hours to get across the Gulf Stream and into an anchorage before a storm front was scheduled to come in. I am sure the residents on the top floors of the condos could hear the rattle of 35 anchors being raised!
We moved down 5 miles to South Lake Worth, where there was a huge anchorage, full of boats waiting to cross. It took a while to find a spot to anchor as a big portion of the anchorage had silted in after Hurricane Irma passed by. The dredgers were there, working through the night, trying to clear out the new sandbars. We came in close to shore and made note of the red marker close to the outlet into the ocean. This marker was not lit and could cause a problem if we ran into that in the dark. I say dark because our plan was to leave at 4 am. We spent the rest of the day watching freighters and cruise ships exit the lake, and watching yet more pleasure boats come in and look for a place to anchor. It’s always fun to watch the anchoring dance!!
We were up at 3 am, coffee was in the thermos, sandwiches and snacks were ready, and the boat was prepped ready for the ocean. Flashlights were checked once more, life jackets put on and we pulled up anchor right at 4 am. I’m not sure how many boats left that morning, but our group was 11 boats. My job was to find that red marker and make sure we wouldn’t hit it. Unfortunately, Escapade, the 47′ Catalina we were buddy boating with, did hit it. The force spun them around 360 degrees and tore one of their stanchions out of the deck. No one was hurt and the boat can be repaired, but they had a terrible start to a long day.
Once through the channel and out into the ocean, we put up the main sail. There wasn’t any wind, but having the main up stabilizes the boat, dampening the roll in the big waves. We weren’t going to get a lift from the Gulf Stream current as we were going across the current rather than with it. So we plotted our course for Mangrove Cay on the Bahama bank and settled in. There were loads of boats out there, from pleasure craft doing the crossing, big fishing boats and freighters. The AIS sorted them all out for us in the dark and once the sun rose, we could see them around us.
We had a terrific crossing, motorsailing the whole way. It would have been better if we could have sailed, but it was sunny and warm and we weren’t getting tossed around, so I’ll take that crossing any day! We made it onto the Bahama banks at 2 pm and dropped anchor at Mangrove Cay three hours later. The water was turquoise, about 15′ deep, and calm. We had a light dinner, counted all the boats to make sure everyone in our group had arrived, plus the ones we acquired along the way. We paused when we found out one was missing. Eventually, the last boat to arrive told us that the missing boat had dropped anchor as soon as they arrived on the banks, as they were too tired to continue another 20 miles. Knowing everyone was safe, we went to bed at 6:30.
The next morning we set out and had a fantastic sail to Fox Town, a tiny settlement on the north shore of Little Abaco Island. We were not cleared into the Bahamas yet so we couldn’t go ashore to explore, but we were delighted at 6 pm to hear Westminster chimes played from the church tower. Then the chimes played Silent Night, [not sure why that song in mid January], then God Save the Queen.
Next morning we were underway by 7 am as the window of good weather was closing and the clouds were piling up to the north. Even though the wind had started to fill in, we motorsailed the 35 miles to Green Turtle Cay to get there before the front did. The wind was right on the bow anyway….what I call a ‘noserly!’ We were the first to get into White Sound and once through the entrance channel and into the bay, we were able to pick up a mooring ball. We have been in this harbour a few times and have not been able to stay anchored securely because of the weeds. If there is a front coming through, I want a mooring ball. Our group had dwindled down to 6 boats by then, and most were able to pick up mooring balls; only one opted for a dock at one of the marinas in the bay.
We couldn’t clear Customs until Monday so we were confined to the boat, but by evening, the storm had come in and the winds were clocking in at 25 – 30 knots. On Monday we rented a golf cart with another couple and drove into New Plymouth, a small settlement on the south end of the island. We cleared customs, and then wandered down to the liquor store where they have a breakfast counter and WIFI. I can’t imagine a liquor store in Canada serving up breakfast, but this is the Bahamas and anything goes. Besides, space is limited here on the island, everything does double duty! I was able to download all of my emails but couldn’t call our kids, as my AT&T service doesn’t work in the Bahamas. The telephone office only opens for a few hours on Thursday, so we couldn’t get a Bahamian SIM card until then. We spent the rest of the week exploring the island and the beaches. We dinghied into New Plymouth on Thursday, walked up to the Batelco office only to find it closed, no one had arrived from Marsh Harbour. There were a dozen disappointed people waiting in front of the closed sign!
The wind died down by Friday morning and we decided to give the ocean a day to settle down before we rounded The Whale to get into the Sea of Abaco. The Whale is a small island that cruisers must go around. It is open to the Atlantic Ocean on the north side and unless you draw less than 3′ and can do the inside passage, you must go out and around it. We left on Saturday morning and though the seas were big, they weren’t breaking so the passage was an easy one. Nevertheless, once you get to Guana Cay after the crossing, there is a profound sense of relief! We hurried over the 6 miles to Marsh Harbour, dropped the anchor and launched the dinghy. Someone had told us the Batelco office had reduced hours on Saturday so we wanted to get a SIM card before they closed.
We got there at 1 pm. They close at noon! So no phone or email until Monday. At Fox Town we had asked a friend who had a phone that worked to text our son and let him know we had made it, but it is nice to talk to them ourselves. Oh well. We are in the Bahamas; it’s sunny and hot. We’ll put our feet up and relax until Monday.
Until next time……