So we had left Culebra in our last post. Now we’re nicely making way into our passage northwest – at least for a few days and nights toward the point of East Bahamas marker at 26N 68W. Wind was just aft of starboard beam, and Fayaway is really screaming along at 7-plus knots, flying a deeply reefed main and not always, but often full genoa. Glorious sailing. This is what it’s all about, I often say, when sailing conditions are ideal. A pleasant combination of sailing and surfing over the following swells – on this giant surfboard.
A lull was predicted to approach us on the third day. No problem, we had two full tanks of diesel, enough to run for several days of continuous motoring if needed. As much as we want to make progress, I despise running our “iron genny, as it disguises the pleasant whooshing of the wind and water, and simply counters all that a true sailboat is for. Alternatively, we could sit and wait and bob, like true, hard-core sailors. But that’s not us – we have nothing to prove – I get no thrill from being able to brag how we sat for days waiting for wind. Not this kid. Uh uh. Let’s keep moving toward another part of our neo-apocalyptic world.
At 0400, before sunrise on 11May (one day after departing Culebra), I wrote in our log: “19.47.7’N/66.17.1’W. SOG: 7+kts (gusts/waves/surfing). COG: 343T; Wind ESE 15-20G25, 6-8ft E waves, Sky: CLEAR. Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars clearly visible. Weather outlook uncertain – GFS says ‘benign’ / ECMF predicts… ‘Chance of LOW developing off Florida’ – Will keep watching. No other boats sighted.“
Later that morning we completely dropped the main, and poled out the genoa, which helped smooth our ride, but kept plenty of speed. I seriously burned my legs with scalding water, trying to make coffee and feed my addictions. (Maybe I drink too much?) Note to self: The safest way to make coffee while in a rolling sea is to use three hands. Watched the new Blade Runner “2049” after dinner.
Another couple days of this scenario… main up/down/reef/unreef, jibe, etc… We slowed down a bit (wind dropped, so we motor). We contemplate the weather situation, where Alberto (oh oh… now he has a name) becomes more likely. Chris Parker indicates that we should be able to outrun him if we can make it to 34/76 before a certain date. We contemplate chances of running into a serious storm. Alberto could develop into a Category 1 (40% likelihood at this point), and with wind forecast in our path uncertain of arriving ahead of Alberto near Chesapeake Bay (40%). That gives us an overall likelihood of… uh uh… again we have nothing to prove.
Divert to west or north? Consider Bahamas or Bermuda. We aren’t really welcome anywhere. We pre-registered at both countries for “safe passage” – a special allowance given the COVID-19 situation. In no case we’re allowed off the boat. Just for “emergency” shelter and refueling. What should we do? We aim for Mayaguana, the most Southeastern island in the Bahamas.
We start pushing it – motoring harder, because… guess what?! Another round of heavy squalls is forecasted going in our direction. “Get tucked in somewhere before x time”, says the Weather Guru. “Don’t go past 74 degrees west before checking the weather again.” Great. So, we made it to Abraham’s Bay, tucked inside a reef line by the deadline. While quite exposed, we had good holding with 100 feet of anchor chain, and were good with the 40 knot gusts, squalls and breaking waves. Was nice to rinse all the salt off Fayaway for a day!
Early morning brings a return of clear sky and brisk following wind. So we continue NW, up through the Bahamas. Since we’re only allowed “safe passage” and not allowed to land, the captain thinks it prudent to hoist the Q and Bahamas courtesy flags.
Alberto continued to spin up toward Bermuda. We were satisfied knowing now that our choice was the correct one.
So we made our way intertwined throughout the beautiful Bahamas, roughly another 500 nm, mostly overnight passages, and also anchoring briefly in the white sand at four islands for various reasons, without ever setting foot on land.
- Mayaguana – foul weather avoidance
- Clarencetown, Long Island – waited 36 hours for fuel (18 gal)
- West Bay, Conception Cay – weather, waiting for wind, but enjoyed a swim in the crystal clear water. Shared anchorage with two other “quarantined” mega yachts.
- Freeport, Grand Bahama – fuel (17 gal) and oil change
Between Exumas and Nassau, we had some excitement threading through shallow coral heads, but then the sky turned gray, creating another unexpected challenge in our path…
Seeing and being close enough to hear the growling roar of a real waterspout was exciting enough for that day, but we weren’t done. Fortunately, the sky parted just enough to let us squeak through a passage between Porgee Rocks and Rose Island. We exhaled a sigh of relief after passing through the coral bommie minefields, before our friendly sun began dropping toward our direction. However, we had another surprise…
Ever tried to enter the mouth of the Merrimack River on a fast outgoing tide combined with a 30 knot easterly wind? Well you still haven’t seen anything compared to what it took for us to claw our way out from Hanover Sound. Evidently, growing swells (leftovers from Alberto) had been groomed by brisk northeasterly wind into this funnel from which we barely emerged. Sorry- no pics, as I was swinging our wheel fervently as our little 3-cylinder diesel strained to keep us pointing into the (guessing 30+ foot) breaking wall of water. Have you seen Finest Hours? Well, of course not quite that dramatic, but certainly enough to pucker our innards for a tad.
As with the Merrimack mouth, my principal concern is the shallow depth – large swells mean also deep troughs. Would we hit bottom?! Fortunately again, we did not. Upon reaching the relatively comfortable point of open water and typical 7 foot waves with 20 knot following breezes, we hoisted an appropriate amount of Dacron and prepared for another evening offshore, rounding north of the Berry Islands, on route toward Grand Bahama.
That’s enough for now… hope you are enjoying our adventure! Hug your kids and loved ones (if able). Always focus on being part of the solution and never fan the flames. Be a good example for your neighbors. Remember -the sun always rises!