30 - Norman's Cay to Nassau
- Woke up to rain and made snap decision to push for Nassau at
1000. Beam reach in 20-25 knots. Poor Molly sick as dog
whole way. Dark cause of weather. Crossed between Yellow
and Middle reef areas dodging big black heads. Wet, rainy,
crappy, but its only a day out of the life and we were making good
time. Made it in with big waves behind. Tried to anchor
near boats on Nassau side, but shallow, crazy, went to other side
and got hook well stuck - will it ever come up? As night fell
tide reversed and we were right up next boats but. I stayed up
to watch for several hours, but finally comfortable enough to get
31 - Nassau
- Another crap day. Raining. Wind 25-30 from
NE. Glad we came yesterday as would have been worse
today. Tried to find a marina but all are full. Put out
second anchor. Hate this. Draggy, current, wet dingy
rides, etc. Sucks. Saw Venla. Walked to
stores. Found internet place for 10 cents a min. Not
bad. Killed some time anyway. Wet, wet, everything
wet. Crashed Aquarius resort and casino aquarium. Very
1 - Nassau
- Brought Molly in to grab taxi at 0730. Still pissing
down rain... but at mid-day the sun finally came out! New
world. Jerry canned some fuel and did a larger shopping.
Getting ready to go at first break. Venla came over for
2 - Leaving Nassau
- The sun came out, the wind dropped to 15 in the harbor, and we
made a snap decision to take off at 1000. As we were putting
the dingy on the foredeck, the guy next to us dingied over and asked
if we knew anything different about the weather. No, just
stupid and well rested. Its forecast to be blowing 20-25 again
today according to the Florida MET office broadcast, but the weather
fax (NOAA) shows 15-20.
the traveling is good and the weather looks right for entering the
Gulf Stream, we'll keep going on up to Charlestown. If not, we
can pull in at Grand Bahama and be that much closer to the US and in
a better position to take advantage of the next window.
We can survive a
120 mile trip pretty easy even if is a bit nasty.
we cleared the harbor entrance, the wind cranked up to 20 and the
seas rose steeply. But as we got out to deeper water and seas
evened out and we were soon making 6 knots with 2X reefed main and
50% genoa with the wind 60 degrees off the bow. A bit wet and
bouncy, but not that bad really. Glad we came out, but we are
gonna head for Grand Bahama. The Stream would be hairy in this
around 2200 we rounded the northern-most of the Berry Islands which
are North of Nassau and cracked off towards Grand Bahama and into
the North Providence Channel. Lots of ship passing either
side. The speed cranked up to 8 knots and I only got a wave in
the face ever 10-15 minutes as the angle improved and we started to
benefit from the far off lee of the Abacos Islands. Nice moon
when its not hiding behind the clouds.
3 - Lucaya, Grand Bahama
- We started trying to slow the boat down at 0200 by furling the
genny in all the way, but found ourselves a few miles off Grand
Bahama by 0400. Can't see the supposed entrance lights of
Lucaya Marina, and not crazy about going in through the reef in the
dark, so we jogged back and forth and up and down till
daylight. Where is it? 0600 and still dark. Big
rain clouds to the East. Finally light enough at 0630 as the
rain hit. Wet, wet, wet.
the main down and headed in. No problem. Sun came out as
we motored it. Flat calm inside. Lucaya is a huge
dredged area with two marinas and lots of "waterfront"
areas carved out for housing developments. We tied up at the
fuel dock and waited for signs of life. At around 0700 a
couple of guys from Tangent, a boat from Maine who saw us come in,
came by for a chat and gave us the scoop on the place. We got
a bit of fuel and all the water we could take for US$5, and headed
off to find a spot to anchor. We got kicked out of our first
spot in font of one of the marinas, but then found a great spot back
in one of the housing development areas. Wow. 10
feet. Mud bottom. 360 degree protection.
Quiet. Free. Perfect.
to bed and crashed out till 1500. Now rested: when can we move
again? Started the search for weather. I have been
trying for the last two days to check into "Herb's Net" on
12.359 Mhz. Herb is the most famous "weather guru" in
the Atlantic and gives tailored weather routing advice to mariners
from his home in Toronto via SSB radio. Protocol is to check
in at around 1600 and he then calls you back later as he gets to
your "area" as he works his way around the Atlantic
talking to boats. We can hear him, but apparently he can't her
us or does not want to talk to us. We sent him e-mails
from Nassau, but did not get a response. Strange.
is still out of the NE. All of the books say never attempt a
Gulf Stream crossing when there is any northerly component to the
wind. The Stream runs from South towards the NE so if the winds
blows from the NE the waves stack up higher than normal and can get
gnarly and dangerous quickly. Unfortunately, its been blowing
out of the NE for three weeks and based on the weather charts we are
looking at, there is no sign of a change coming in the foreseeable
future. However, it does look like the wind will be only 10-15
from tomorrow for 48 hours or so. May make a break for
it. Could be uncomfortable, but not dangerous if the winds
stay below 25. In addition, we will make great time with the
2-4 knot help of the stream. I can't imagine spending weeks
here and then having to rush up to Maine. Rather take my
chances on a small window. Well for now, lets get rested and
ready and keep monitoring the situation.
4 - Lucaya, Grand Bahama
- What a great sleep. Quiet. No worries about
dragging. No plans to leave or do anything drastic
today. Needed it. Cool morning smelling of pine with
birds chirping. Seems almost a bit like the US. Very
different feeling in the air than the rest of the Bahamas.
That much further North I guess.
continues to be dominated by obtaining and analyzing weather
information. Morning net confirmed what the weather fax
showed: no end in sight to winds from the Northern quadrant, but a
possible easing tomorrow to 15 knots and seas of "only"
8-10 feet in the Gulf Stream. We can either wait here for ever
for the wind to come south (unlikely with the new low deepening over
Nassau - the guy next to us has been stuck here for three weeks
already waiting for a change), or make a break for it tomorrow and
hope for the best. It seems that as we go Northwest the winds
will remain relatively benign over the next few days so if we can
survive tomorrow, we should be able to make Charlestown no
problem. Plan B is to head straight across the stream to
Florida if it proves to be too rough.
a walk into town and went shopping for a few top-up items at the
Winn Dixy. Really seems like we are in the USA here.
Spent an hour or so with the guys from Maine/Mass, Mike and Jim on
Tangent, going over weather and plans. They may follow us out
tomorrow. Scary. They seem to think we have a grip on
the weather. More likely we are just coming up with ways to
see and hear what we want to see and hear and sound credible doing
the dive gear on and cleaned
the bottom of the boat in the afternoon. Lots of barnacles and
scum growing in various random areas. Figured this will be the
last chance to get it clean in relatively warm water. We than
got the staysail rigged and the boat all ready to take off
early. Still unable to check into Herb's net, but did copy
weather he provided to another boat in Grand Bahama further
confirming that there will be a weakening of the wind tomorrow for
about 24 hours only (before picking up again and coming even more
North which will be even worse for us). Our best chance.
We'll give it a shot.
gobbedy, gobbedy.... bump de bump de bump... the cats love it here
and are running laps around and around the decks overhead chasing
each other as I write.
5 - Leaving Lucaya
- It was hard to tell what would actually be worse, the
Gulf Stream crossing in questionable weather, or the anticipation
and hype ahead of it. It seems like everyone in Lucaya is
waiting for a weather window, and nervous as Hell to move.
Their tension overtakes you, and you start to second guess your
plans. One boat on the radio keeps calling us because they
heard (somehow?) that we were going out and wanted to know if we
knew something everyone else didn't. When we explained our
reasoning for leaving, the boat was silent (in shock I guess) and
wished us a safe trip. A man from the boat next door dingied
over to say hello as we prepared the boat to leave last night.
He said he has been waiting here for 3 weeks for a "weather
window" to go to the Abacos. I was pretty surprised as
the water is fairly protected on the way over there and the trip is
pretty short. He seemed to really doubt the sensibility of our
plan to make a run tomorrow. He started mentioning how freak
100 knot winds came unforecast to Lucaya last month and how his brief
Gulf Stream crossing from Florida was "Hell". I was
really starting to get tense. Not the stuff you want floating
through your mind before a passage.
woke early and motored out of the harbor by 6:15 am, as soon as the
sun had peaked out enough to give us sufficient light.
Initially there wasn't much wind, and we motored for a few hours in
the lee of the island. Some boats in Lucaya asked us to call
in on the radio our conditions. We called Tangent, who had been half
thinking of coming out too, but the crew, and elderly gentleman from
New England seemed very wary when we last spoke to him. He
kept reading the passage from the cruising guide to us "Never
attempt a Gulf Stream crossing with any northerly component to the
wind in winds over 12 knots". When he came up on the
radio, he had more scaremonger news for us; "There ain't no way
I'm going out there. Two boats just pulled in who crossed from
Florida last night, they said it was horrible."
we rounded the corner, the wind picked up, but we still had some
protection from the banks so the sea state was OK. We made
good progress bombing along. I took a nap while things were
still stable. As the day progressed, conditions
worsened. By sundown on my watch we were bashing into waves,
and the wind was gusting to 30. This was not predicted! I was
in full foul weather gear as the waves breaking onto the boat were
drenching me every few minutes. Aaron came up from his nap
pretty alarmed. "We're not even in the Gulf Stream yet
and these are the seas? We can't go into the Gulf Stream with winds
of this strength." Ughh... We kept heading north. Luckily,
the winds subsided as the evening progressed and we entered the
stream. We probably saw 15-20 most of the time with gusts
above 20. Of course this was a "robust" sail, wet,
and hard, but at least I felt it nothing we couldn't handle, and
nothing we hadn't braced ourselves for. We were close hauled and
heeled over a lot, making about 9 knots with 2 knots of current
helping us out.
6 - Gulf Stream
What can I say? Its an uncomfortable passage to be
endured. I can hardly eat, my hair is salt encrusted from all
the waves we took over, but I reason with myself that it will be
over in a day or so. We are motor sailing by late morning. The wind
has shifted more northerly, and we have to head very high to make
Charleston, higher than we can go under sail alone. This is truly
unpleasant, but I'm driven to push ahead with thoughts of finally
arriving in the US after so much anticipation, with this last
passage behind us. There was an excitement in my heart as I
looked forward to finally being "home" (with all its
comforts!) after so many years.
try to remain calm and see it through, but every time Aaron
downloads a weather fax he has alarming news. "Well,
there is now a gale warning behind us, and there is a front
developing off Maryland that Herb said would be a problem...
engine on, we've got to outrun this gale." I just rolled
my eyes, this is beautiful.. At least we are already in the Gulf
Stream, so presumably if shit really hits the fan we can make a run
west and it won't be too terribly long before we are out onto the
the day progressed, I experienced the "Gulf Stream"
conditions as advertised, steep choppy waves, larger than they
should be for the wind level. We bashed and bashed along into
the waves, screaming along at 8-10 knots with the help of 2-4 knots
dusk came, we tuned in for a radio sked with Raven, another boat
attempting a Gulf Stream crossing to Florida. Raven was calling in
and getting personalized weather and advice from Herb. When he
came up at 8:00 he told us that Herb was surprised he was still out
there. Herb said the front that developed in Maryland was
rushing down towards us, now at the 32ond parallel. He advised Raven
to run for a port. We were now just above the 31st parallel,
which meant the front was less than 60 miles ahead of us. It
would hit soon considering we were racing along at almost 10 knots
an hour and the front would be moving quite fast itself towards
us. What to do? We really had our sites set on Charleston. So
close, can we alter plans now.
deciding factor was a VHF weather forecast Aaron heard with gale
warning and reports of 25 knot NNE winds already off Charleston. He said, well, I always wanted to see Savannah...
change course. Initially it was a huge relief. As soon
as we altered course and were on a beam reach, the apparent wind
dropped and the world suddenly seemed very civilized.
Gosh it was almost pleasant in the moonlight. We should be in
by 6 am, this is lovely. It seems as though we were out of the
Gulf Stream in no time.
7 - Thunderbolt (Savannah), Georgia
- Well, the "lovely" sail didn't last too
long. Before we knew it the front was upon us. Thank God
we altered course and left the Gulf Stream. We would have been
murdered. Winds were creeping up past 25, to 30. I was
getting tense during my watch, but didn't want to wake Aaron as I
knew he need the sleep so badly. I started to see the wind
clock even higher, up towards 40 knots, and thought, this is
madness, how are we ever going to get the sails down to enter the
channel. The wind was also coming even more northerly, and we
were on a close reach now. I was soaked from the waves, and
could barely see through my salty, wet glasses. The boat was really
heeled over, it was hard to move at all.
we switched watches, Aaron put the third reef in the main. It
doesn't seem to slow us down at all. I went down for an hour
of sleep before I had to return to help get us in the channel.
Aaron said he wanted to leave the sails up until we had the
protection of the channel to get them down. He also didn't
want to wait for dawn, claiming we could enter in the dark. I
was pretty surprised by these plans.
Aaron woke me at about 5 am, the world was pretty messy. We were
bombing along in high winds somewhat out of control, there were
ships everywhere, we were both freezing and wet. Aaron was having a
hard time identifying buoy lights etc.. so we worked together. I sat
by the chart and radio below. A pilot ship started calling us
on the VHF. He said that he had a barge being towed in the
channel and that there were three large ships waiting just outside the
channel to enter behind him, could we please stay to the south of
the channel and wait for the ships to enter first.
was pretty surprised, responding that this would be a problem, we
would run out of water if we stayed south of the channel before too
long, and that we were a little out of control with the sails up,
maybe unable to slow down. We "argued" back and
forth, and one of the ships captains got on the line and said if
you've got sails up and are out of control, you definitely want to
be behind not in front of us. He said, "We've been
waiting out here 2 hours for dawn in this awful weather to go
in." I didn't say anything, but 2 hours on a large ship
in this conditions seems like the Ritz Carlton compared to the last
48 hours on Redwings.
along before we knew it we had converged with the channel entrance
and the barge was just ahead, with the ships behind us. I
screamed to Aaron that we had to get the sails down. I tried
steering us up into the wind and we tried to buck the waves to get
the sails down. I kept
thinking, this is incredible, we are so close to the markers we
could hit them, I can see the ships bearing down on us from behind
commencing their run for the channel, and the barge just in front
heading for us. The wind lashed, and we were thrown about, poor
Aaron had a hard time staying on the boat in such a dangerous
situation up by the mast and foredeck. Finally the sails were
down (though we discovered we had a three foot rip along the leech
of our main), and we entered the channel.
radioed the ships to tell them we had been taking our sails down if
they were trying to call us and would like to enter the
channel. This time they seemed a lot more amenable, perhaps
they had seen us getting thrown around. The captain said, lets
try to work together, I know you must want to get inside too as
quickly as possibly, try to stay south, and if you run out of room,
enter the channel and I think we can make room for you.
Luckily the sun was rising and it was easier to make sense of it
all. We started to slow entry in, we were still getting bashed
by waves. The ships were huge, and as we went along, one by
one they passed, us, with very little room to spare, but we stayed
in radio contact, and it all seemed to work out.....
and we finally made it to the USA! Hooray! This day is
continued in the next section entitled Intracoastal
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