Friday, December 11, 2009

Goodbye Bahamas, Hello United States

Getting Ready to Haul the Anchor from Sampson Cay, Bahamas

Its 2:40 am...nuff said. Next time you see us, hopefully Christa and I will be in south Florida. Wish us luck on this big and important push west. Meanwhile, I leave you with a picture from yesterday's dingy exploring adventure around Sampson Cay. Pretty nice! Beats melting snow windshield wiper fluid any day.

Capt Chris

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Exumas Central Bahamas

Anchored Sampson Cay, Exumas Bahamas

 I have been a sailing fool! Last Monday, the 7th, I threaded my way out of Mayaguana with SV Nautilus in tow. The weather was delightful, with winds 10 to 15 knots east south east. The direction of the wind, sometimes so maddening, remained its stubborn self and stayed mostly east of south. It is hard to explain why the east south east wind is so maddening. But here goes. For long time readers, you all know how difficult and taxing my trip to windward, toward the Caribbean was. Even when I reached St Maarten, where in theory all this great Caribbean broad reaching sailing sound begin in earnest, never really met my expectations. From the northern leewards right on through to Grenada, Christa and I still had to occasionally battle head winds.

So it was with great relish, that I lit out from Grenada in early November, for the true trade wind sail back home to the USA. Don't be deceived, a large percentage of the time conditions have been delightful, at least from Grenada to St Thomas. Since then, the wind has sagged to ESE, putting the wind directly on the stern, not for a day or two, but constantly. So this has been a pain in the rump, adding many many extra miles and a lot of work. This means I have to gibe the boat. I don't like to gibe once, never mind ten times on a passage. As a single hander it is a big production and on a Westsail it is even more of a production than other boats. If done in-correctly my very large mainsail will come ripping across the boat possibly potentially tearing the sailtrack square out of the deck. The boat is generally rolling heavily as the waves move closer astern and at the moment of truth, when the wind gets on the other side of the main, if the stars align and the boat rolls in combination with the gibe, the forces are immense.  To alievate the strain, I double reef the main. So a gibe involves, rolling in the jib (can't gibe with jib out due to staysail stay), reefing the main, dis engaging the windvane steering gear, stowing the running back stays and finally the gibe. If the jib is poled out just add  another task to the list. All in 15 to 20 minutes. At night longer. As fatigue sets in, I slow the process down so I can catch mistakes. Sorry for all the details, hope I didn't lose you! My long winded point being, I though the sail home would be all broad reaching. But once again, what you see and read in the glossy sailing magazines is vastly different than reality. I am complaining a little bit, but my deep satisfaction with making the boat move through the water remains. Sometimes, it is pure magic and the glossy magazines can't capture either.

So where was I. I sailed due west from about 10 am to near sunset. Wonderful, beautiful broad reaching, but not in the correct direction! Time to gibe. With Acklins island only 5 miles ahead, I changed direction and sailed due north between West Plana Cay and Acklins Islands. Again, the sailing was beautiful on a moonless night, stars a plenty and with a fair current we picked up speed to 7 knots. By midnight I was in such a position to gibe again and sail up the east coast of Long Island. As the sun was sinking, the wind started to get light and I fired the engine for the last two hours. The anchor was down by sunset in Calabash Bay on the northwestern tip of Long Island. Distance covered, 220 nautical miles. With a belly full of Mac and Cheese, I fell into a deep sleep in a calm bay, only to be awakened by my Zen like alarm on my Blackberry Curve. It was 2am. Time to make the donuts.

With a fistful of French Roast, I hauled the anchor and was undersail by 3am bound for Galliot Cut to make my entrance onto the Exuma Bank. A critical timing issue, given the velocity of the current in the these cuts. I was under the gun. The fire 3 hours of sailing was done within the lee of Long Island with little sea action. Again I fought the east south east breeze and had to gibe several times. I arrived at the cut, about an hour late and had to the enter the cut on the ebb. The water is very turbulent as the current opposes the ocean swell, but with 51 horses of Yanmar under the hood, Christa and I powered thru at 3 knots, until we were spit out onto the banks. It was 3pm and we had covered 63 nautical miles. I dropped the hook in a secure little anchorage. Strapped on my mask and finns to check the anchor. The water is so clear, one never tires of it, but the current was still ripping. I jumped in and almost got swept away to the nether nether world. I grabbed ahold of the rubber as jelly fish were sailing passed me in the current.....and then....I was face to face with a huge Baraccuda. She was showing me her dental work. All this happened in the span of 10 seconds. Oh by the way, the anchor was snugged in the sand.

After a long deep sleep, I awoke yesterday morning and weigh anchor for a 17 mile sail north along the Exumas to Sampson Cay where I am now anchored. A lovely little resort adorns the island. The picture above is the marina on the island.

I am now about 48 hours, or about 200 plus nautical mile sail to reach Florida. Unless today's forecast changes substantially I will leave tomorrow morning bright and early bound for Florida. My route, takes me from Compass Cay in the Exumas, due west along the Decca Channel (28 miles), where I enter the Tongue of the Ocean. Turn north for about 90 miles, pass west of Nassau, to the NW Channel, where I enter the Banks again. Turn West to Russel Beacon, turn west south west to South Riding Rock, where I enter the Florida Straits and cross the Gulf Stream. I hope to land somewhere in the Florida Keys. Maybe Key largo, Maybe Rodriequez Key. Will depend on weather and the velocity of the Gulf Stream. I need to be in Marathon no later than Wednsday before the next monster cold front sweeps down with north winds. Really looking forward to coming back to the United States. Dorthy said "There's no place like home."

Capt Chris

PS: Check my Google Photo Album, I've been posting many pictures.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Safe in the Bahamian Out Islands

Anchored Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana Bahamas

Last Thursday evening I pulled the anchor from Luperon Dominican Republic, along with another single hander, Oscar, a 66 year old German, married to an American and headed out to sea. I knew that it would be a rough trip to the Bahamas, as the trades had been in the low high teens and low twenties for a few days. True to form, the Dominican coast was rough. We left at about 10 pm and the first 7 or 8 hours the wind and seas were cranking. It takes some gumption to launch to sea at night by yourself and I always have to fight fear. But once I'm underway and moving, with tasks a plenty I start feeling much better. This was no different, but the sea was running 8 feet or more with twenty plus knots. At night with the clouds streaming across the glow of the moon, it felt like a storm. The boat is amazing though. Once the proper sail combination is set and the wind vane dialed in the boat easily handles a 10 foot wave rolling under her quarter. 

 The next day, we had gained sufficient distance for the Dominican coast and the sea became more consistent and smooth. In fact, I spent the rest of the trip trying to slow the boat down. Entering Mayaguana is a no joke shot through a reef, and then a five mile journey inside the reef with coral heads abound. We had to time our arrival with the proper sunlight to spy the coral easily. 

Christa entered the reef at 10 am, a tad early, but we did just fine. Anchors down in 8 feet of the clearest water on the face of the planet.

First impressions of Mayaguana. Remote. Just feels like the end of the world.

I'm looking closely at the weather and hope to leave within a couple of days to make either Long Island or shoot through Galliot Cut and make the Exuma's. We shall see!

Capt Chris