Day 15. Friday March 11th.
And we are off across the stream at last!
We had set the alarm for 5:15am with the plan to be out of the Riviera Beach city Marina at first light. We had one of those restless nights that you have when you know you have a early start, despite trusting your alarm! We got out of bed at 4:30am.
Sian took Bella for a walk through Riviera Beach in the dark being careful to stay in well lit areas, while Paul prepared the lines and power cord for departure. We were going to get a head start and leave in the dark.
Sian untied the last two lines and stepped on board, using our headsets to tell Paul we were clear. With the engine bumped in gear we started to pull out until all of a sudden the boat stopped dead and yawled to one side. Paul immediately knew we have left a line tied! Our lines are black and in the dark we had missed one of the stern lines. Paul reversed the boat back so that Sian could step off the swim platform, untie the line, and step back on. We finally got underway, with a rush of adrenalin for good measure!
We were out of the Lake Worth Inlet by 6am, with the first waypoint of Bahamia Bay in the chart plotter feeding the auto pilot. We would be hands off the wheel until the channel into Lucaya ten hours away. We would let the auto pilot handle the significant drift caused by the gulf stream’s 3.5 knot current running to the north and across our path. In the middle of the stream the boat was pointing 130 degrees when our bearing to the waypoint was 112 degrees. An 18 degree difference!
The forecast held true and the gulf stream was pretty benign, with rolling two foot swells and very little wave action. So all was good. We exited the gulf stream and started to get a good current push toward the North West Providence Channel running along the south of Grand Bahama. Then things got a bit more uncomfortable.
The current was on our stern as we ran towards the south east and Lucaya, we estimated at around 3 knots. The wind was blowing 18 knots from the south east and the seas got up. Nothing dangerous, fours and fives, uncomfortable but not in any way dangerous. The only issues we had was Bella being sick a couple of times and me losing the handrail when going below for a bathroom break. I landed on the closed knife I keep in my pocket (to cut the life raft free if we ever had to deploy it)! Still sporting a good sized bruise from that one! After we passed Freeport we got out of the main current and things calmed down for our entry through Bell Channel and into Lacaya, and the Grand Bahama Yacht Club.
The harbormaster had us pull into the fuel dock first so that we could clear customs and immigration, and then helped us tie up in our slip. We booked into the marina for three nights until Monday. Though unless the forecast changes it looks more like Tuesday before we can start heading further south as some real nasty weather is hitting both Florida and the Bahamas over the next few days. In fact we heard from folks back home that the Players Championship back in Jacksonville was called and it would be Monday before they will be able to finish it!
We are finally in the Bahamas, 2022 version!
Day 16. Saturday March 12th.
And We Wait!
The wind howled all day and got worse as the day progressed . With significant squalls that clocked 180 degrees numerous times.
We got the water hose out and rinsed off all of the sea salt that clung to Sonas from the crossing yesterday.
While sitting in the cockpit in the afternoon we saw the large seventy foot sailboat that had been docked in the slip next to us in Riviera Beach come into the marina. We had been chatting to the two couples and had helped handle their lines as they left. She had left Riviera Beach two days before us so we were surprised to see her come in – and noted that she had not yet cleared customs as the Bahamian courtesy flag was not raised. We also noticed that the foresails that were previously furled on her three fore stays were now missing.
Sian gave them some time to get settled then went over to see what had happened. They had had their furling gear serviced recently and as they were sailing across the gulf stream the furling gear all collapsed. They ended up losing two foresails. It seems that some retaining cotter pins had not been replaced causing the damage.
They managed to get to Grand Bahama and got anchored off shore trying to figure out what to do. However with the approaching storm they decided to get into the marina for safety.
As we were giving Bella her afternoon walk we met June, a dog from a boat a few slips down our dock. Sian and June’s owner Lauren took the dogs to a nearby field and let them run free!
This evening we walked over to the Bell Channel Inn and had conch and lobster in their restaurant, washed down with local Sands and Kalik beer!
Day 18, 19, 20. Sunday through Tuesday March 13th, 14th and 15th.
And Still We Wait!
Seas on our route were forecasted to be 5-7, meaning probably 6-8!
Sian took Bella to Taino Beach every morning to let her run on the sand and paddle in the water. We did the laundry and filled up the water tanks.
After we topped up the tanks our drinks did not taste as fresh as they had done with US water. We are not sure why, as we thought they made their own water using reverse osmosis which is supposed to taste better. Later in the trip Sian read a thread on one of the FaceBook pages that Dorian had driven a lot of salt into the wells used in Grand Bahama which affected water quality. Once we are anchoring out we will take every opportunity to use our water maker to replace the water we added here.
Paul found a small fuel spot on a bilge pad and traced the leak to the starboard fuel lifter pump. He put the engine on warm and ran it up to 1500 and made sure that it wasn’t a significant issue. We will monitor it and wait until we get to Georgetown and replace it with the spare that we have on board.
We took the marina’s water taxi over to Lucaya and had a nice Greek lunch of moussaka and lamb gyro before walking down to Solomon’s supermarket for some fresh fruit and a ride back in the marina’s shuttle van.
The talk on the dock was a constant – “when will the weather break so that we can move!” We spoke with the crew of sailing vessel Ensandel on Monday night. They were leaving on Tuesday morning. Not all of the sources we use for weather were aligned, with NOAA saying 6-8 feet, so we were considering the better forecast for Wednesday. Ensandel offered to radio us when they were out there and let us know the conditions.
We watched them leave then waited for the call which came after about 90 minutes. “Stay Home” was the advice!
So it looks like Wednesday, first to Cabbage Cay. The wave action is forecasted from the south, which is good for that anchorage.
On Tuesday Paul finally got the authorization from the Bahamian Civil Aviation Authority to import and use his drone. We had applied for this back in early January but it had not come through before we left the US. Once in hand Paul walked over to the customs office and added it to our list of non duty paid items on board.
Day 21. Wednesday March 16th.
The forecasts are aligned, 2-3 foot seas and we are good to go.
We left the marina at 8:30. And we were back by 10:00 after a solid hour getting pounded by the 5-7 footers on the nose in the North West Providence Channel. It was bad enough that our DeFever burgee broke loose! After we tied back up in our slip Paul announced that he was NOT washing the salt off the boat again!
The number of boaters stopping by to ask us what it was like “out there” was numerous. Everyone was eager to get going!
The only upside was that here was a fish fry over at Taino Beach tonight! Which we attended and had a nice time talking to other boaters.
Day 22. Thursday March 17th – St Patrick’s Day!
The previous evening’s forecasts were again looking good. The early forecasts also showed a doable crossing from Grand Bahama to the Berrys. So off we went – AGAIN!
And this time we made it. It wasn’t in any manner smooth, but Bella wasn’t sick – which was has become our litmus test of how the seas where. However it was still six hours of uncomfortable boating until we got to the east side of the Berrys.
We passed the four cruise ships from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean at their “private islands” of Great Stirrup and Great Harbour Cays in North Berrys, and later listened to some interesting radio chatter between the different companies as they prepared to get underway, to make sure they didn’t get in each others way.
We pulled into the Cabbage Cay anchorage at 5:30 and found four other boats already there. We quickly got the dinghy launched and Bella to shore for her necessaries
Week three and we were closing in on our cruising grounds of the Exumas and south from there!