Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Gulf Crossing – Marsh Harbour, Bahamas December 2004

There were a lot of boats in Lake Worth waiting for weather to make the crossing. We have determined that Sunday night (Dec. 5) should be okay, the winds forecast to be E 5-10 shifting to SE going 10-15 and getting stronger as the week progressed. We motored down to the Lake Worth Inlet, anchored for a few hours and left at 8pm. It is 53 nm to the bank, we estimated it would take up about 10 hours, so we would arrive at dawn. Unfortunately, the winds were stronger, the seas confused, and our progress slowed by tacking and it took us 13 hours, but arrived safely. We bailed out at Mangrove Cay, anchoring about 2 pm. tired because the boat motion was too great for anyone to get much sleep but pleased to have the gulf crossing behind us. We are in the Bahamas!!

The next morning we took a nice leisurely sail, without the motor for 1/2 the way, tacking RAFT to Great Sale Cay. This is a uninhabited anchorage, and again we rested. At first light, well rested, we motored to Spanish Cay. It is time to get checked in with customs and start the real cruising. Our Children will be joining us in Marsh Harbour, one of the most north easterly points of the Abacos, they arrive next weekend for the Christmas holidays. We are really looking forward to their arrival, and now are sure we will be there to meet them.

We are really enjoying the colours of the seas. As we crossed the Atlantic, it was rich indigo blue. Then immediately hitting the bank, gorgeous turquoise and you can see bottom at 30'., the joke is that you can count the blades of grass. This morning it had an emerald green hue.

Dec 9/04 Only one obstacle left, between us and Marsh Harbour – the Whale. We had read and heard about its reputation and we were concerned. We had heard from Silent Joy (they had crossed with us and had lots of Bahamas experience) that today was a good day to go, and we took their advise. We had wanted to stop at Manjack, and Green Turtle, there was so much exploring to do, but that would have to wait. We had a very uneventful motor through the Whale, inspected Bakers Bay on the way through and arrived in Marsh Harbour in the early afternoon. This was to be our base for the next month.

Dec 11/04 We went to town, just for a walk, still checking out what stores are in Marsh Harbor and what we can buy here and what it will cost. There is a huge grocery store, Solomons, which is comparable to a regular A&P etc, well stocked with everything, even some Costco brands, good meat selection, baked good, fruits & vegs are not as nice, and everything is equal to US prices or a little higher. Things coming in from US are subject to a hefty duty. We dropped off our propane tank at the local variety store before 9am, and it was returned full by 1pm for $12. (US$ = Bahamain dollars) even the ATM worked to get money out of our Canadian acct.

We had been speaking to a couple on the next boat, a trawler out of Nova Scotia, Claude & Louise, and they invited us over for a drink. He is an accountant, used to work for Revenue Canada, and now works internationally on short term contracts in Africa, Asia etc, and they sail the balance of the year. Drinks turned into dinner, and a very nice evening. We returned to RAFT (by dinghy) about 8pm.

The wind picked up during the night, and both of us were up at 4am checking things out. Bev had a "dream/premonition" about the dinghy, and sure enough it was missing at that time. We both felt sick, the dinghy is our "car" and a valuable part of our cruising equipment. Without it, we can't get off the boat. It was dark, and we couldn't see it, plus we couldn't do anything at that time. The tide was now coming in, it had been low tide about 10pm last night. The tide could have taken the dinghy out to sea, but the winds would have most likely kept it in the harbour.
Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep after that, not that worrying about it would help. Daybreak came at 6am, and about 7am we were able to signal the trawler that we needed some assistance. Claude took Ross out to the far edges of the harbour and around the anchored boats and the shoreline but the dinghy was still lost.

In Marsh Harbor, the sailors network on the VHF radio every morning at 815am. This is a time where you can find out the weather, news, what is happening around the area, and you can network with the other boaters. It is like a coffee time in Florida, only this happens every morning on the radio. We had introduced ourselves yesterday on the net, and felt so stupid when today we had to admit that we had lost our dinghy. Everyone immediately took action, several boats came over to offer their dinghies so we could go search, or go to town, and tell us "it happens at some time to everyone". Within an hour, we had heard from Marsh Harbor Marina, the dinghy had been found, sandwiched between two boats, no worse for wear, except for the rain water it had collected. What a relief. Proof again what a great group of people boaters are and how willing they are to help.

So now we are back in business, have attached another tying line to the dinghy. What had happened, when Bev gets out of the dinghy, she always wraps the rope around the cleat, in a hitch. Then Ross passes all the stuff out of the dinghy, and usually ties the same line in a bowline to the pushpit. Somehow this didn't happen last night, and Bev's cleat hitch didn't hold either. We both messed up. So now we are setting up a 2 line, 2 tie up system so hopefully this is our last time, we have to admit to the cruising world that we can't secure a dinghy.

It is very windy, and rainy today. One front has passed through and another one is expected in the next couple days. This is the predicted weather front that caused us to come directly to Marsh Harbor without stopping at any of the deserted islands, and sand beaches that were beckoning to us as we came across. Marsh Harbor is a protected anchorage with good holding, and a safe place to be right now. The fronts are due to pass through by the end of the week, so we will be able to take the kids, when they arrive out to those deserted islands and sand beaches, to do some exploring, snorkeling, swimming, walking, etc all what we came here to do.
The weather continues to be warm, 70-80's Ross enjoying ocean beach, Great Guana Cayduring the day, little cooler at night.

Nippers: Ron, Brian, Bev (front) Bill and Ross (rear)