Sunday, March 29, 2009

Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay, and Manjack Cay...

On March 23 we weighed anchor in Fisher’s Bay after a leisurely morning and sailed to Treasure Cay, an easy downwind crossing of the Sea of Abaco in 15-20 knot winds, wing-on-wing with the staysail and Genoa.  We traveled 10.5 nautical miles averaging 4.5 knots, arriving at 1500.  The anchorage in Treasure Cay is well protected and although at first glance it seemed a bit crowded, we easily found a spot.  Treasure Cay is a resort, which I had visited with Rob and Keith by land when we first arrived.  Penelope and I went ashore and had Pina Coladas at Coco’s Beach Bar, and then spent a nice evening aboard Alizee.  The next day I changed the oil and filter and in the process discovered (damn/spit) that the Stearns electric oil-changing pump didn’t function … it ran but sucked no oil.  So, I used the back-up Big Boy extraction pump and managed to suck out 3 ¼ quarts.  Not all of the oil in the system, mind you, but better than not changing it at all.
I spied a CR 42 in the anchorage and went over and introduced myself to the owners.  Later, at my invitation, Deidra and Bill from Pajarito, Lewes DE (1999), came over for a sundowner and we had a good visit.  They bought their Pajarito just about the time I bought Alizee, taking it from Fort Lauderdale to Delaware, where they home ported it, and then down the ICW to Florida again in November and over to the Bahamas.  We hope to see them again while we’re here.
The next day we planned to go on to Green Turtle Cay, but the wind and seas seemed not to be conducive to the trip … it was reported to be blowing 38 knots at Whale Cay, where we would have to go out of the Sea of Abaco into the Atlantic and then back in to get to Green Turtle Cay.  So we relaxed with eggs, sausage and toast for breakfast followed by reading, and I troubleshot a couple of light fixtures (basically burned out bulbs, though a fixture above the refrigerator in the galley was totally corroded and will have to be replaced … I took it down).  In the afternoon, we did some grocery shopping, primarily for fresh vegetables.

On March 26, we departed Treasure Cay for Green Turtle Cay.  Winds reached 20 knots, and we had a great beam reach with top speed of eight knots across the Sea of Abaco to the east end of the Whale Cay passage (Loggerhead).  We sailed out into the Atlantic where 12-14 foot swells were 16 seconds or more apart, turned downwind and found our way into the Whale Cay passage.  A forty-two foot Island Packet was a bit ahead of us with no sails out and under power … clearly not a sailor.  Once through the worst of the passage, he finally rolled out his Genoa, too late to help stabilize him in the offshore swells.  We passed them on the final leg to Green Turtle Cay and found ourselves a good anchorage off New Plymouth.  Once settled, we went into New Plymouth, checked the markets and shops, and had a Miss Emily’s famous Masher at what is still Miss Emily's Blue Bee, today run by her daughter and granddaughter.  We also got a nice Hog Snapper filet, which we barbecued for dinner.
The next morning, David Sawyer from Initiative, the Grand Banks we’d connected with in Guana Cay dinghied up and said hello.  He was off to breakfast, but the timing was off for us, as we were just making blueberry pancakes.  Later we visited him on his boat, tied up in Black Sound awaiting to be hauled at Abaco Yacht Services … he leaves his boat there on the hard when he’s not here, and he was getting ready to leave until November or December.  We also dinghied into White Sound, walked a couple of miles around part of the Cay, had a drink at the Bluff House Marina, and then had lunch at the Green Turtle Club, a nice upscale resort.
With a lot of big talk on the radio about a front coming in on Saturday/Sunday and winds shifting to come out of the southwest, we left our anchorage off New Providence and sailed a short 4.92 nm up to Manjack Cay, making 7.5 knots maximum under Genoa only.  We tucked in nicely at the southern edge of the bay made up of Manjack Cay and Crab Cay, and enjoyed the solitude of islands with no stores, no bars and restaurants, only a couple of private homes.  We dinghied about a couple of shipwrecks along the shore and spotted some nice fish, and then up into the mangroves where we discovered a whole new quiet world and a clearly very shallow drafted power yacht anchored peacefully and completely alone.  This has been one of the nicest places we've found ... peaceful is wonderful.

Surprisingly, at Manjack Cay we found uninterrupted internet access and were able to call Penelope’s daughter and some of my family by means of Skype.  At the high phone rates ($1.49 to $2.00 + a minute), the 2.1 cent charge per minute on Skype is a thrill to say the least.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Life on Guana Cay...

We are anchored safely in Fisher's Bay at Guana Cay and have spent a couple of days exploring the community around the bay and harbour.  Orchid Bay Marina is pretty upscale, a nice hotel with pool that looks out on the Sea of Abaco.  A good spot for visitors who don't want to stay on a boat.  We walked over to Dive Guana, on Fisher's Bay, but because of the winds they had closed up on Sunday, so we drifted back to Grabber's, also on Fisher's Bay and spent the afternoon listening to Brown Tip and his boys making Bahamian music.  David, our Indianapolis friend, joined us there for a while, and we finally returned to the boat around 1630.

While we were sitting in the cockpit watching the sun and the water and while I played my keyboard, Penelope watched a boat come in, anchor, and saw the couple leave in their dinghy.  Soon she noticed the boat seemed to be further away, and we realized in about thirty minutes that it was dragging out into the sea.  I radioed Grabber's and asked them to make an announcement, and Troy at Dive Guano heard me and called back that he'd come out and pick me up if I'd be willing to help him rescue the boat.  I agreed and soon we were speeding out on his skiff.  Fortunately, the people had left the key in the ignition, so Troy tied the skiff off to the Moorings 35.2 Armonel, I took the helm, and he pulled in their anchor.  We brought her in and put her on a mooring just near Alizee.  

P. and I kept and eye out for the couple's return in their dinghy, and we finally saw them looking all over for their boat.  We managed to wave them down in the twilight, told them what happened, directed them to their boat, and invited them back to Alizee for a nightcap.  Chris Fabian, a Hungarian immigrant to the U.S. from Seattle, and Peggy Kingston, brought us a bottle of scotch and had a hard time grasping that their anchor had dragged.  They did everything right and had 7:1 scope with all chain, but they just never dug in.

This morning, Troy of Dive Guana thanked Alizee on the cruiser's net for helping him bring in Armonel and declared we were honorary members of the Guana Cay search and rescue team.  His co-worker Albert came by a bit later in the skiff to thank us personally, and I gave him the bottle of scotch to give Troy.  All a good thing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guana Cay ...

March 20 - Marsh Harbour to Guana Cay, 16.8 nm in 4:30 hours with a maximum SOG of 7 knots. This is the first sail Penelope and I have had together.  She was pretty nervous about it, but caught on quickly to everything ... successful "so far," as she always says.  It began with light breezes out of the NE which built to a nice 12-15 knots for a couple of hours, and then for the last hour around 1400 built to 20 knots.  We poked our head into Guana Harbour and decide it was too shallow for our comfort and would probably be a noisy anchorage, so we popped around the corner to Fisher's Bay and found a lovely anchorage in about 10-12 feet of water. 

I had to dive the prop and cut away some fishing line (my own line, but very light weight).  What fun that was.  We went ashore and trekked to a couple of the spots one is supposed to visit: Nipper's, which overlooks the Atlantic, and Pirates Cove, a little roadside bar and barbecue where we shared the best rib dinner we've had so far.  Met David, from Indianapolis, on the Grand Banks trawler Initiative, who is anchored just a couple of hundred meters east of us.  All in all very nice, though another front came through on the 21st which dropped a lot of rain.  Today, the sun is out, it's in the 70s, and the wind is 15-20 kts.  We may stay here, or we may go to Green Turtle Cay.  No rush at all.

Bay area sailors may appreciate the fact that folks out here think anything over 15 knots and a swell over 4-6 feet is inclement weather.  They actually cancelled a "cruisers" invitational race at Hope Town last Thursday when the first low started coming through because the winds were predicted to gust to 25 knots.  And today they were talking about how one should stay on the lee shores to avoid the rough water in the middle of the Sea of Abaco that's being stirred up by the 15-20 knot winds.  As I look out there, it is gorgeous sailing weather.  Y'all would die for it.  Well, different strokes ...

Just posted the log of our crossing from North Carolina to the Bahamas.  Scroll down to the March 9th entry.

It's hard to post photos with shakey wifi connections, but eventually I'll get some up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Marsh Habour anchorage ...

Penelope arrived right on time on Sunday morning, and after getting her stuff aboard Alizee, she decompressed a bit from the trip. I took her down to the William H. Albury to meet Brian and Sheree, the young captain and mate aboard the 70 foot, 14 foot beam schooner. They showed us around the boat and then they had to prepare for the boy scouts who were arriving for a week’s charter in a couple of hours.

After sharing some calamari at Curly Tails and checking out of the marina, P. and I took Alizee out into the harbor and anchor easily in the Marsh Harbor anchorage. So, from the afternoon of the 15th through this afternoon, we’ve been getting used to living aboard, cooking meals, and doing some boat chores, such as doing a second polishing of the hull with Teflon polish … she sparkles!

A big highlight of Penelope's first night here was that she flew over the Cape when the space shuttle was poised and ready for launch, and this evening after she arrived and we were on the boat at anchorage, we saw the launch from hundreds of miles away.  I managed a pretty poor photo, but it gives a sense of it.  It was truly quite something.

The dinghy runs well, even better after I adjusted the idle, and we’ve had a couple of excursions into shore, one to go to Price Right, the local supermarket, where we picked up primarily vegetables plus a really nice rib-eye for which I got out the barbecue for the first time. That went well, too, which was a nice thing.

I’ve had one boat problem, which is the Raymarine C-80 unit. Just before P. arrived, I discovered that the CF card containing all the charts was not being read by the C-80 plotter. After checking to see the card was reading by loading it into the multi-card digital reader that hooks into my laptop and seeing the chart there, I determined that one of the little prongs inside the C-80 had been pushed in somehow and wasn’t connecting with the CF card. I managed to get on line and discover that there is a Raymarine authorized service agent here in Marsh Harbor, Pat McFaden of Merlin’s Marine Electronics, located just upstairs above the Jib Room restaurant and the Marsh Harbour Marina. On Monday I took the unit into him (after borrowing the proper tool to disassemble it), and he tried his best to repair it. Unfortunately, the prongs are really sensitive and it just kept pushing back through, so we shipped the unit off to Raymarine for warranty repair. Pat figures I’ll have it back within three weeks. I hope so, because although I have a couple of sets of paper charts and a good hand-held Garmin GPS into which I’ve entered scores of waypoints, I’d feel a lot better in these thin Sea of Abaco waters with the active chart plotter handy at the helm.

A low front came through last night and this morning, so we’re holding in Marsh Harbor for another night. I also had some mail delivered to the Jib Room, which I have to pick up this afternoon. Tomorrow is supposed to be a sunny day, and I think we’ll sail to Hope Town and spend a day or so there.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Marsh Habour ...

Friday the 13th.  It’s supposed to be a day of “bad luck” and perhaps it is for those people who experience some unfortunate event on this day.  But, for me, it is not.  Sitting on Alizee, my sweet Cabo Rico 36, sitting in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahama, listening to good music and watching the sun slowly set in the west …. I ask you, could it be better?  I’m not sure ….
Bonding with Alizee has taken time.  These past two days, cleaning her after her passage from Oriental,  North Carolina via Beaufort (also North Carolina) to the Abacos, a total of 487 nautical miles over six days and nights – five of those at sea – well, it’s been special. 
The trip with my friends from the Encinal Yacht Club in Alameda, California – Rob and Keith – was great fun, perhaps not as unique as the experiences shared the memoir Three Guys in a Boat, but a special experience nonetheless.  There is something about three guys on a boat that only the guys seem to really understand.  We probably drank too much, but we were on a mill pond for most of the crossing with weather predictions that said only the same for the entire trip.  Had it been otherwise, as skipper I would have cut the rum  ration (not to mention Scotch, Bourbon, Vodka, Gin, and beer).  Maybe that would have been a good thing anyway, but I suppose that’s a lesson this skipper has learned for future crossings.  That one of the crew decided to quit smoking half way through the offshore passage added a bit of tension.  A good thing for him, and I hope he sticks to it, but it proved too volatile in the end for the three guys to really be able to celebrate a good time. 
But, now here, now settled and awaiting my love, Penelope, to arrive in a day or so, now cleaning this special boat, I have found a wonderful space in the universe.   And, I’m thinking of dear friends and family….
“Mitch” Mitchell, who has followed this voyage of mine even before it started, for he did it himself many years ago, incredibly also jumping offshore from Beaufort, North Carolina , and spending time at anchor in Marsh Harbour, where I am now.  You are with me in spirit, and if you decide to jump on a plane between now and mid-May, come ahead … and do please bring Kim, who I love as much as you.  By the way, I’m crossing back to Fort Pierce, Florida (or somewhere on the eastern seaboard) in mid-May.  Wanna crew? 
And, hey, Mike P. – what a great time on the Napa River.  You and Ina have a standing invitation, too. 
Tony Kay and Lin Hullen … I miss you two more than you’ll ever imagine.  I got my piano out a couple of nights with Keith and played the blues and more … Keith’s a great lover of music and has a wonderful sense of rhythm.  We need to share several more bottles of Malbec, and my invitation stands for you to come down here as well.
Here at Marsh Harbour (the proper English spelling, you’ll recognize, since the Bahamas still have that recent connection to the Mother Land), the bars and the boutiques remind me a lot of the Caribbean.  Deborah, my dear friend, I think of you often for all the wonderful times we shared.  And I think of the great Encinal Cruise to the BVIs with Rodney and Jane Pimentel, Tony and Michelle Shaffer, and Steve and Claire Waterloo … not to mention a bunch of great kids.  Was that fun, or what??
And, how about it Bruce.  Don’t you and Gail want to come to the Bahamas?  I’m here, buddy!  Come sailing.
I have some very special friends, Ruth and Neil Cowan, staying in my townhouse in Mountain View … they made my transition so much easier by being there … and they are come hear the first week of April.  Really looking forward to seeing them.
Lisa (my daughter) and her husband Matt , Sandi, Bob and Laura … I’d better stop because I can’t name all the really special people in my life … just think ICOHTEC, SHOT, EYC, CCPH, PiKA, UO, UCSB, NCPH (I hope your recognize one of those acronyms) … and a special call out there to Ben and Julie.
Time for a second martini.  The sun’s just setting and it’s Friday night in the Bahamas….
When I figure how I can stay connected on the internet long enough, I’ll upload some photos.   

Monday, March 09, 2009

Log for trip from Oriental, North Carolina to Marsh Harbour, Abaco, the Bahamas...

We made it.  A five-day crossing, light and variable winds the whole way.  A day's worth of sailing.  487 miles total from Beaufort, NC to Marsh Harbor, Abaco.

The full log of the trip appears below.

March 3 – Depart Oriental at 1045 with crew Keith Rarick and Rob Woltring, joining me from the Encinal Yacht Club, Alameda, California.  Easy cast off, with Rob and I on the bow and amidships lines and Keith at the helm, but I take the helm and Keith and Rob get the stern lines.  Once out, I give the helm back to Keith, Rob brings in the fenders and lines, and I get the Raymarine C-80 working.  We head out the channel to the Intracoastal Waterway and the head of Adams Creek at 2400 rpm and 5.7 knots speed over ground.  The compass on the autopilot seems off with the ships compass, and we unsuccessfully try to swing it.  We’ll investigate more when we reach Beaufort, North Carolina, our jump off spot for the Bahamas.

We had a great couple of days in Oriental before we left, capped off by a night of sushi at M&M's with chef Dave serving up some of the freshest fish we've ever had.  A good way to start a trip!
The sun is out now with a bit of warmth, but the outside air temperature is still in the 30s.  We are bundled up.  The trip is generally uneventful, but the autopilot seems to swing wildly when punching in a 1 degree or larger course change.  We hunt for the fluxgate compass, thinking there might be some magnetic item placed close to it, but we cannot find it.  Going down the Russell Slough channel, I raise Pete Waterson of Seacoast Marine Electronics; he installed the Sirius weather system and the AIS, and perhaps, I thought, he mucked something up.  He said his technician, who lives in Beaufort, would meet us there in the late afternoon to see if he could help with the problem.
We made the 1430 opening of the Beaufort Bascule Bridge and found a slip at the Beaufort Town Dock, where we fueled up, filled the four jerry cans, and took on water.  1604.8 hours on the engine when we topped off.
The technician Barry arrived around 1600 and we all literally tore the boat apart looking for the fluxgate compass.  I finally raised someone at Cabo Rico in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to find out where the compass was installed on this boat.  He gave a couple of standard locations, and said he would check with the factory in Costa Rica as to where it was actually installed on Alizee. 
We all went to dinner at Clausen’s, a so-so standard place in Beaufort just across from the docks, and then decided to try in the morning to locate the compass using a magnet and watching the compass reactions.  We finally found the compass location, under the forward hanging locker, and although we couldn’t open it up to see it, we discovered the problem … I had stored an electric air dehumidifier on top of the location at the bottom of the hanging locker. 
March 4 – We depart Beaufort at 1015, head off shore, and as we near the final major channel marks, swing the autopilot compass at 1100, raise the mainsail, motor at 2300 rpm. 
I establish a watch schedule of 2 hours on and 4 hours off.  I take the 0800, 1400, 2000, and 0200 watches; Rob gets the 1000, 1600, 2200, and 0400 watches; Keith takes the 0600, 1200, 1800, and 2400 watches.
At 1230 I open the Y-valve on the head and try to pump out the head through the macerator, discovering that the pump is frozen.  It will have to be removed and repaired or replaced, a job no one is eager to do.  Fortunately, I won’t need it until returning to the U.S. in mid-May, so that can wait.
The seas are flat, flat, flat with perhaps a one-foot swell, and there is no wind.  We start feeling the Gulf Stream at 1330.  Rob notes at the start of his 1400 watch that it is as “flat as a mill pond,” something we say often in the next several days.  We decide to have “Bloody Marys” to fill in the afternoon.  At least we’re under way.
We set up a preventer on the mainsail, and we discuss engine fuel consumption.  We estimate that we’ve got about 64 hours of fuel – 45 gallons in the tank and 19.5 gallons in jerry cans.  I’m being very conservative about the fuel consumption, thinking a gallon an hour. 
In any case, we saw two dolphins when we entered Adams Creek outside Oriental and another one at 1545 this afternoon.  This is a sign of good luck for us.  Rob put out a fishing line in the early afternoon and we caught and released two Skipjacks. 
“The three of us had wonderful light conversation,” Rob noted, and although we had concern over fuel, “the second fuel issue is Vodka – based on our rate of consumption we could enter a critical state at least 31.6 hours before arrival.   Meanwhile our stories are now entertaining, and we have conversation that varies 180 degrees approximately every ten minutes – very funny and fun.”
At 1800 the sun set and Keith noted that “it’s gonna be a cold night.”  At 1900 the AIS revealed a container ship on our port on a converging course, but would easily miss it.
Dinner at 2000 consisted of homemade split pea soup and crackers, which I prepared for the crew.
At 2200 the AIS picked up two large targets, the container ship Singapore, which would cross our bow and the container ship President Adams, which crossed our stern in the opposite direction. 
March 5 – Flat seas and not enough wind to sail at 2400.  By 0115 the seas became very lumpy, with the wind trying to build and with the Gulf Stream pushing us 55 degrees off course.  It appeared that the Sirius weather system does not reach beyond about 40 miles offshore, except down in the area of the Bahamas. 
During my 0200 watch, I lost sight of the horizon completely, the moon not bright enough for me to see it, and with the lumpy seas, I got sea sick.  After feeding the fishes, it passed, only to return after my watch when I tried to sleep in the warm and stuffy aft cabin.  But the second time cleared it out, and I was fine for the rest of the trip.
“Flat as a mill pond out here,” said Rob on his 0400 watch.  “Occasional zephyr and warming up substantially with the sunrise.  Patchy high clouds with a forecast of breeze somewhere – just not here.”
The cloud cover seemed to create what breeze there is when the sun is obscured during the day, but we still must motor.  The Gulf Stream seems to have pushed us 30 nm off our original track Abaco.  At 0810 we are 100 nm out of Beaufort, and 135 miles in actual nm traveled from Oriental.  We breakfast on hard-boiled eggs.
At 1015, exactly 24 hours after departure, we top up the fuel tank with three jerry cans of fuel, which is 14 gallons.  This means we are getting 7/10ths of a gallon per hour.  1629 hours on the engineThe siphon (using an outboard motor fuel line with a bulb) works perfectly and there is hardly any spillage.
By 1200 it is warming – tee-shirt time – and the clouds are clearing.  No really wind to speak of and the sea is actually getting flatter, but we’re finally out of foulies and into shorts.  A seagull landed in the dinghy, but I managed to coax him out.  We had sandwiches, cheese, apples, and crackers for lunch. 
At 1330 we pulled out the Genoa and made four knots under sail.  With the engine off, I checked the oil, which was full and clean.  We sailed for perhaps thirty minutes, which was very peaceful, and finally we restarted the engine at 1800 rpm and motor-sailed.  Rob whipped some lines, and by 1600 we were enjoying cocktails.
At 1620 we rolled in the Genoa and went back to 2400 rpm and back on the rhomb line track.  Rob wrote in the log that “Jim cooked a wonderful dinner tonight and we spruced up the cabin area and properly set the table for red wine and spaghetti topped with vegetable, tomato and basil sauce” – fresh corn bread muffins accompanied it.  (Thanks!)
We listened to music on my IPOD played through Alizee’s radio and speakers, and enjoyed a night with a half-moon above.  The night watches see no changes – mostly flat seas with a light breeze mostly on the nose and partly cloudy skies.  It’s a pretty a balmy night.  Our speed averages around 4-5 knots.
March 6 – The sun comes up with increasing cloud cover and winds straight out of the south at 8-10 knots.  We have 275 miles to go to the North Man-o-War Channel entrance in the Abacos.  Keith noted that “James made the slaw and the best coffee yet.”  We had oatmeal and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast.
At 1000 we saw a Marlin off the starboard and two or three porpoises off the port, one coming right in beside the boat and playing for a couple of minutes.  “Starting to see fish” says Rob, and he lengthens the leader on a line.  But the seas are still flat, and we are only hoping a falling barometer portends wind. 
In the afternoon we spent a good hour at rest trying to put the Spectra water maker into service.  Unfortunately, there is a leak at the exit end of the high pressure tube, and we couldn’t get enough pressure to run the cleaning bucket and clear out the pickling brine.  Had a hell of a time locating the three hoses for the bucket, as well.  Very frustrating, and we are all getting bored.  We appear to be getting good fuel consumption, but we all want to be sailing.  If we could catch some fish, that would be a nice distraction, but there have been no signs of fish since morning, and we are in very deep water.  Only migratory fish would be out here.  Well, always time for some shut-eye, since we each have two-hour watches every four hours.
Cocktails and a veggie-stir fry plus stroganoff pasta makes the evening better.  At 1900 Keith pulled out the Genoa and we sailed for the first time really, which lasted into the night.  Rob wrote about his watch after we went a bit off course: “My my, the foul-ups that can and do occur.  Sailing along in 15 knots of breeze there is a sudden wind change.  All three sails up and all the way out.  The Genoa and staysail back wind and the autopilot goes into stand-by.  The boat heaves itself and stops, the wind directly off the bow.  I turn the wheel and nothing.  The wind clocked 90 degrees on the wrong side.  James and Keith are asleep and I’m sure not going to let them know what’s going on.  When moving the Genoa to the other side, the starboard sheet gets a knot and sticks in the track car.  I try to pull it back to no avail.  So I had to furl the sail to gain enough slack to undo the knot.  Meanwhile the wind clocks 90 degrees back when to where it was when this melee started.  Long story, short ending – now back sailing and the wind dropped to below 10 knots apparent.” 
As Keith noted a midnight, “at least we’re sailing, albeit not very close to our mark.  The Islands are straight up wind, so let’s hope for a big right shift.  Beautiful moon with partly cloudy skies and warming weather – this is what we came for!”
March 7 – At 0400 I went off watch and made Rob some coffee.  The Sirius weather clicked in and started working, and it revealed that we would have little chance of any significant breeze, though we should get 10 knots out of the east further down the track.  I estimate that with fuel consumption at 7/10ths of a gallon per hour and 36 hours to cover the remaining 182 nm to the channel, we should have about 2-3 gallons left in the tank if we average 5.0 knots SOG.  Keith thinks we’ll be there by 1700 tomorrow (Sunday); I’m thinking more like 2100, which will be too late to go through the channel into the Sea of Abaco.  I think we should slow down and arrive at daybreak on Monday, but if we pick up speed because of the light breeze, say to an average of 5.5 knots, we might just squeak in before the sunsets and we could anchor at Man-o-War Cay.
We got the data page up on the C-80 (we are all learning this system as we go along, although Keith took a Raymarine class on it), and the data page lets us see exactly how many hours to go to our waypoint.  Very nice. 
Around 0900 we a seagull took our fishing lure.  Keith and I reeled it in and I managed to get the hook out of its wing and beak with long-nosed pliers.  While really painful for the poor thing, at least it gave him a chance.  We hope it heals.  The bird was very stunned when we released it, hardly able to fly at all.  We’re close to 200 nautical miles from land, so it’s got a long way to go.
This morning it’s time to be tropical – tee-shirts and shorts are the uniform of the day.  By 1250 we are 156 nm from North Man-o-War Channel on the Abacos, with an ETA of around 32 hours.  We saw two fish jump by a floating seaweed bed and made a couple of passes with our trolling line, but got no bites.  Absent fish, Rob said the best thing to eat on the boat was the trail mix that Penelope and I made in Oriental.  It is very good, but I sort of like the 10-day coleslaw, the recipe for which I found somewhere from the Seven Seas Sailing Association (I think I want to join that group).
At 1700 we continue to motor sail, with a little (often very little) help from the staysail and main.  We’ve rolled the Genoa in and out several times today.  But it’s now 5 o’clock (here not somewhere), and we will soon be well-beveraged and likely over-beveraged soon enough.  Serious offshore sailors, they say, don’t drink while on the high seas.  Perhaps, but we are three guys who are serious about living and are not of that persuasion.  We do enjoy our evening cocktails, and tonight we do it listening to Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, albums for which I owe Wally Bryant, the fellow from whom I bought my Islander Bahama 28 Dog Days almost nine years ago and which is being lovingly looked after for me on San Francisco Bay (I trust) by Encinal Yacht Club friends Mark and Karen Brunelle.
Rob slept through dinner and then insisted on taking most of my 2000-2200 watch.  He’s napping now, and I’m to wake him at 2200, but I think I’ll let him sleep a while.  I feel good and won’t mind taking only about three hours off until my 0200 watch.  The chill seems a bit greater tonight, but I think it’s because of our taste of tropical warmth during the day.  We have a three-quarter moon with few clouds tonight, which makes it pretty bright.
At 2400 Keith took his watch and wrote that he “couldn’t sleep last night while sailing, but zonked as soon as the motor was started.  I’ve gotten way too used to motoring,” he said.  “Not the most fun way to do a passage, but it has definitely been a great trip.  Hopefully we get enough extra breeze tomorrow to reach the channel entrance before dark.  At the current pace we will arrive just after sunset.”
March 8 – The wind is out of the south at 8 knots at 0200.  We are 87 nm out from our destination.  Hope for wind is eternal for sailors.  I’m concerned we won’t have enough fuel, though I think we’ll still have some in our tank when we arrive.  Maybe it will be okay if it’s fifteen hours; probably not if it’s twenty.  With an 85% full moon it’s “very pretty” writes Rob.  “A light sweater is all that is needed for warmth.”
At 0630, Keith noted that “Rob reported lightning on the horizon.”  The two of them hoped to sound the fuel tank at the watch change, but could not get access.  I’ve been telling them I had a 45 gallon tank (based on the purchase documents of the boat), but they are so bent on motoring fast to reach the channel before sunset, they pulled out the boat’s blueprints and discovered the tank actually has a 50-gallon capacity.  “So we may have an extra five gallons,” writes Keith in the log.  “Every bit would help [and] I would like to get there tonight.”
0730 and Keith and I pow-wow over a cup of coffee about our ETA.  Rob is worried that his wife Carol is worried; he told her we’d get in by Sunday.  Keith is tired of motoring for four days.  But I’m convinced we can’t make the channel to the Sea of Abaco before sunset even if we push it at 3400 rpm, a speed which will certainly reduce our fuel consumption.  And, although I know diesels are meant to be run, I’m not running this one for ten hours at close to redline.  So, I made the decision to sail today, save fuel, and then be positioned to go in Monday morning with the high tide and when the sun’s up and we can see the passage.
“Okay, fine” says Rob … he really doesn’t like it.  “It’s the power boater in you,” I say, and he agreed.  We are still running the engine at 1500 rpm just to make headway.  I think about wind….
At 0945 we set the engine at 1800 rpm, just enough speed to arrive at sunrise on Monday, March 9th.  Our ETA is 20 hours and we have 158 nm to go.  The Sirius weather indicates no wind of consequence until late-afternoon and that will probably be the result of the pressure differential from losing the sun’s heat as it sets. 
“This feels like sitting on the front porch watching the grass grow,” said Rob.  Keith is reading Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded – an interesting book and one I want to get, while Rob falls asleep on the port side of the cockpit.  I’m officially on watch, but at this point it doesn’t much seem to matter.  We haven’t seen fish signs, and grass is floating by and catching in the lures.  Keith and I have independently seen flying fish skimming the glassy waters, but that’s it.
At 1130 the Horizon Lines Horizon Challenger, a small container ship 699’x79’, crossed our wake on their way to Jacksonville, Florida.  Rob radioed them and asked them if they would contact Carol to rest her worries, which they kindly said they would do.  (They in fact did get through to her, we found out later.)
Another afternoon of light sailing and motor sailing, followed by cocktails .  Keith cooked beans and franks for dinner.  We are close to the end of the passage and we can all taste it.  “The promised land,” signs Tortola’s M.J. Blues, the young blues singer I’ve gotten to know on charters to the British Virgins.  “The promised land” is now the Bahamas, and we’re almost there.
At 1815 Keith logged: “We’re on our final approach to the Abacos.  Finally a great afternoon of sail in mild conditions.  It’s very soothing to turn the motor off after nearly five days of motor sailing.  A dinner of Bush’s Baked Beans and franks served with some good blues really helped end this run on a good note.  A leisurely final night of sailing and we will be at the Island before sunrise.”
After dinner Rob crashed and Keith and I listened to blues.  A cruise ship, the Norwegian Majesty, passes headed for Great Stirrup Cay, along with two other unidentified vessels.  I got out my keyboard and Keith drummed on the empty jerry cans, as we played into the night with blues from the IPOD piped through Alizee’s stereo system.
At 2300 hours Rob notes we are fourteen nautical miles from the mark at the entrance to North Man-o-War Channel.  “Under sail but trying to slow down….  James and Keith are asleep.”
March 9 – 2400 hours and 12.5 nm from the channel entrance. 
0055 – “Land Ho!!  First lights on the Island spotted.  We’re here!” logs Keith.  At 0205 I assume watch.  Keith has just hove to, and I can see the famous lighthouse at Hope Town flashing seven miles away.  I’ve made my first real ocean passage and arrived to this idyllic spot to cruise for a couple of months on my own cruising sailboat.  In three days Keith and Rob fly home to California … there’s a part of me that wants to get off with them.  It’s a feeling I remember at the end of charters.  But Penelope arrives on the 15th in Marsh Harbour and we start another leg of what was my but has truly become our adventure.  I miss her a lot!
It’s going to take a while to settle down the feelings and emotions of the trip.  For me, it’s a lifetime sailing experience.  What’s on the horizon is less important now in terms of sailing.  My confidence is stronger.  I feel better about my skills, although this wasn’t a demanding sailing trip.  I feel better about the boat and know her better than ever.  Now perhaps we’ll catch some fish and enjoy a couple of days ghosting the Sea of Abacos.  But first we have to fuel, get water, and clear customs and immigration.
We’re drifting at 9/10ths nm per hour.  At 0500 Rob turns on the engine and motors us to five miles out.  By 0630 we are 2.85 nm out from the channel entrance and the sun is rising behind us.  High tide is at 0800.  Flat seas, light wind from the south.  Perfect conditions.  At 0900 we pass the reef cut, call our wives and partners on cell phones, call the Conch Inn Marina and head for their fuel dock.  It’s warm and tropical!
1000 hours and we arrive at the Conch Inn Marina in Marsh Harbour.  Immigration arrives at 1100 and clears us.  We end up waiting until almost 1700 for customs to clear us in, but meanwhile we fuel up, get water, move to a slip for the night, have lunch and drinks at the Curly Tails bar, nap, and Keith has a Cuban cigar on the poop deck.
The engine read 1604.8 miles at Beaufort, North Carolina, when we fueled there.  In Marsh Harbour it read 1697 hours.  At Marsh Harbour we were stunned to discover our tank took only 29 gallons; we all thought we had only about 8 gallons left.  We used 63.4 gallons on the crossing of about 486 nm, and in the 92.2 hours the engine ran it consumed .6876 gallons per hour.  Lovely performance! 
In terms of water, we took on an estimated 30 gallons at 20 cents/gallon.
Many more photos

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Waiting on weather...

Rob Woltring and Keith Rarick arrived on Saturday night to join me as crew and sailing masters for the crossing to the Bahamas.  They had expected warm weather in the South, but instead they landed in the midst of a major winter storm.  No matter, we hunted up a steak dinner at the Texas Steak House in New Bern (the barbecue place was closed, to Keith's disappointment), and then drove back to Oriental.  After getting all their stuff aboard, we settled into some serious celebration ... over-beveraging seems to be the word that jumps to mind.
The next morning we had breakfast at the deli, and set off on a series of errands.  Rob seemed to have lost his reading glasses and thought they were at the steak house, so we decided to drive into New Bern, retrieve them and do some shopping.  Alas, no glasses there, nor in the car, so we turned to spending my money on more stuff for the boat.  Over the course of the next couple of days we acquired line, safety tethers for the fishing pole and gaff, an additional rod holder, four jerry cans and a siphon, Starbucks coffee, more beer, more scotch, tequilla, fixings for sushi (nori, soy, wasabi, sushi rice), and whatever else I seemed to have forgotten ... Rob wanted to put a generator on the boat, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
We did all of this in intermittent rain, sometimes pouring rain, and in ever falling temperatures.  By Monday it was 31 degrees and we had snow flurries (never enough to stick, but damned cold).  We soldiered on despite the weather, and kept an eye on the weather forecasts.  Keith offered up a couple of sites that I had never heard of ... among the best weather sites ever:  Unisys Weather and the Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center.  Based on these and the NOAA offshore forecast we decided the storm would pass by Tuesday, when we'd head for Beaufort NC and then on Wednesday morning go offshore.
Meanwhile, we finished up the shopping, returned my rental car to the airport in New Bern (Ross Pease, the harbormaster, loaned us his truck to bring us back to Oriental), and got back to the boat around 14:00 on Monday.  Pete Watterson of Seacoast Marine Electronics dropped by to see that the AIS was working, and by happenstance arrived just as I was putting my new registration decal on my EPIRB.  He noticed that the battery was two years out of date ... I had been looking at the wrong date on the EPIRB and not noticed ... so he agreed to take it back to his shop, replace the battery and do all the pressure tests.  When he came back to the boat around 16:00, I was out taking a photo of the harbor, so Rob persuaded him to set up a GPS interface for my computer so I could use Coastal Explorer.  Good idea, even though it was another boat buck, and after we got a driver for the USB/serial port adaptor, we got it going.  Rob brought a whole raft of charts on disc, which I'll load in the computer before he leaves.  Pete stayed for a sundowner, and we then prepared to head out to dinner.
We had been to M&M's, my favorite dinner place, the night before, after hearing some music over at the Tiki Bar ... a town of 1,000 people, and somebody had complained that music outside at the Tiki Bar was too loud, so they had a local band (my bass player friend Bob was there) play while town officials went around with a decibal meter.  And it was 40 degrees or worse outside.  But I digress.  M&M has sushi on Monday nights.  It's owner/chef Dave's favorite evening, I think, and he makes sushi as good as any I've ever had (my apologies to Shin-san at Akane in Los Altos).  Keith and Rob agreed, and we had a great meal, Dave sending us off with a sushi roller and a bottle of his homemade fig wine (well, no rice wine available, so this will have to do).
We got back to the boat and settled down for a nice night and awakened to sunny skies ... cold still, but sunny and our prediction seems to be correct.  Breakfast and we'll depart at noon.  It's been a great stay in Oriental!