Monthly Archives: June 2016

GUEST BLOG: A Visit to the Abacos on LIB

We were greeted by Frank and Mary Grace in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas.  They picked us up in their dinghy, Day Tripper, and took us to Let It Be.  We brought some essentials that Frank and MG needed, like charts for the Bahamas! Plus a few extra goodies that we figured they hadn’t had for a while.  Can you say USDA steaks?  (Thank you guys! They were fabulous!!!)

Although we are usually pretty good about traveling lightly, this time we had supplies for LIB, food and snorkeling gear, so it took two dinghy trips to get us and our luggage to the boat.

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Treasure Cay in the background.

We set sail immediately for Treasure Cay.  The wind allowed us to sail part of the way, but after entering Wale Cay, we were nose into the wind and dropped the sails.

Wow! Treasure Cay was beautiful with its’ white, soft, sand beaches!   We swam to shore, then walked along the beach as evening arrived.  

The winds were forecasted to start from the south and west early in the week then come from the east so we planned our stops based on wind and anchorage protection.

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Clouds and rain didn’t stop our adventures.

The next morning we sailed to the northern part of Manjack Cay where Frank had read about some excellent snorkeling.  The Atlantic side of the island was too rough for the dinghy to get us to the mooring ball, so we headed back into Manjack Bay. 

Luckily, a day charter group was in the bay feeding the sting rays near the beach.  We joined the crowd and waded in the water to see the rays.  They swam right up to anyone standing in the water and would rub our legs as they glided past.  They were so soft and slippery it felt like silk gently slipping against your skin.

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Of course, some sharks had to join the party and they swam very close to us as well.  

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Not our favorite sea life.

The wind and weather were very changeable while we visited.  The first 5 days we had rain and clouds but we still managed to have fun and explore wherever we stopped.

Very strong southwest winds with rain were predicted one evening so we anchored in White Sound, Green Turtle Cay. The rain subsided around sundown so we decided to throw out some fishing lines.  The only lures on board for the light reels were fresh water and we didn’t get one bite.  I guess salt water fish like salt water baits?!

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No fish, but we caught a rainbow

Next, we decided to head back toward Manjack Cay but this time we anchored on the southern end. This was a perfect place to paddle board and the visibility was so good that we could spot turtles, conch and starfish while paddling.

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Only a few people live on Manjack, and they have cleared two very pretty walking paths that are open to the public.

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The foliage is beautiful.

One path leads to a dock overlooking the ocean. girls trip-11

See how we braved the rain.

The other, longer walk, leads to the Atlantic side of Manjack.  Like Treasure Cay, this beach was stunningly white and soft but there were some rocky patches that added a bit of elevation.

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Whispering Pines litter the southern side of Manjack

Great Guana Cay was our next stop.  We anchored in The Settlement, grabbed our snorkeling gear and hiked over toward Nipper’s on the Atlantic side.  Sunday is a very busy time at Nipper’s so we decide to skip it and walk to the southern end of the beach where there was supposed to be another excellent snorkel.

Frank and Mary Grace are way more comfortable snorkeling a distance from shore so we waited for them to check out the reef before going in ourselves. 

They took us to reefs that we never would have been able to snorkel!  (We would’ve been too scared.)

Captain enjoyed the hikes and made friends with a few chickens (kind of).  She wanted to join in on everything we did.

We made sure she got plenty of attention while we were on LIB.

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Let the spoiling begin!

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Even when sleeping Captain got some lovin’.

The weather kept us from seeing the fabulous sun sets that MG and Frank share on their blog but they served great gin and tonics, wine and food, so we didn’t miss them too much. We ate some of the big wahoo Frank caught during their passage and even those who are picky about fish enjoyed the fresh catch.  

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Steak dinner deserved fine china!

One thing we really wanted to do was sail with the spinnaker. On our previous trips to LIB, the wind didn’t work for it, but this time we were able to see her fly. Sailing the red spinnaker up was really peaceful and we made good time in light winds.

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Preparing the spinnaker.

We cannot possibly cover everything that we did in 6 days but it was amazing. We really enjoyed our visit and we want to say a special THANK YOU to Mary Grace and Frank for sharing this adventure with us!

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Missing our sailing friends Nancy and Tanya!

Blog post by Anneva, Dana, Cathy 

BVI to The Bahamas: Putting on Big Boy Sailor Pants

Frank and I have worked to build our sailing experience and increase our passage lengths gradually so we would be comfortable when the time for our first long passage arrived.

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Sunset our first night

Our first overnight passage (13 hours) was in May 2015 when we sailed from BVI to St. Martin. Since then we have made a few other overnight trips and a couple of two night passages to help us become more comfortable and confident with sailing off shore.

Of course, any trip is only as good as the weather, so we do our very best to research weather and plan our trips to insure favorable seas and winds and currents. Then we pray that nothing unexpected comes along!

Even with building our experience and choosing the best weather window we could, I was nervous about the 855 nautical mile (nm) sail from the BVI to Marsh Harbour, Abacos.  We expected the trip would take around six days but I mentally prepared myself for seven so I would not get impatient.

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Sunset from the helm with the jib out.

Most sailing blogs state the passage specs, but I tend to find the experience itself interesting.

Here are the facts about the passage to satisfy the sailors who prefer the data only:

Distance: 855 nm

Duration: 5 days 21 hours

Average speed: 6.1 knots

Highest speed: 13.4 (surfing waves is fun!)

Most miles in a 24 hour period: 160 nm

Days 1-3: excellent wind with mostly following seas. Daytime we flew our asymmetric spinnaker alone or with our main. Nighttime we sailed under the jib alone.

Day 4-end: motor, motor and more motor as the wind died.

Other Vessels we saw:  barges and container ships = 5    sailboats = 0

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Container ship pulled by a tug boat. Something we definitely have to look out for.

So those are the facts, but what is a passage like?

This passage was six days in the company of only my husband and our dog.  There is a lot of time alone because generally we traded off naps and watches until we adjusted to the schedule.

Daytime is a vista of blue with occasional surprise visitors like dolphins or birds. 

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A lone dolphin came to visit.

Nighttime is vast darkness, using only red headlights to protect our night vision and sailing by sound and feel since you can’t really see the sails.

I found the passage experience humbling in the sense that we are so small compared to the vastness of the ocean and the power of nature.

Just prior to our departure, my uncle passed away and this passage became a time of prayer for me as I turned to God for comfort in the loss of my uncle, in the vastness surrounding us, and in the recognition of how vulnerable and fragile we are.

I was pretty nervous about the passage and I have tried to identify what factors cause me to feel skittish. Here are the main things I think create my jitters:

  1. Knowing I am relying completely on our boat and our wits if something goes awry.  I know the boat is well made and that we keep it in excellent working condition, but one never knows if something is going to suddenly fail.
  2. Being alone and isolated if something does go wrong.
  3. Fear of seasickness.
  4. Stepping outside my comfort zone.
  5. Lack of visual references: there are no landmarks to tell me I am going the right way.
  6. Hurricanes/Cyclones!

Our original departure from Cane Garden Bay, BVI was delayed by 3 days due to a little cyclone named Bonnie. We didn’t want to sail into a mess and we wanted Bonnie to show her true intentions before we left the safety of the BVIs.

Seeing this storm pop up and develop so quickly only reinforced number 6!

We departed Cane Garden Bay around 10:30 am on Monday, May 30th; Memorial Day in the States. Our first day was beautiful with excellent winds and calm seas. We raised our main sail and red spinnaker.  We fairly flew along. 

As the sun began to set, my nerves began to mount because it seems like any time things go bad it happens at night!

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Goodnight sun, I wish the moon would shine.

At sundown, we lowered the main and spinnaker and flew our jib for the night time sail.  Because we were sailing downwind, we added an outhaul line to move our clew out further from the center of the boat and catch more wind.  With just this genoa and the following seas we were still managing between 6.3 and 8.2 knots!

That first day was our fastest and LIB ate up 160 nm the first 24 hours.

Each evening as the sun went down, I had to talk to myself about being calm and having confidence in LIB and us. We had no moon and the sky was cloudy so we were devoid of light. The absolute darkness can be frightening on the sea and my imagination can go into overdrive if I don’t control it! I have never suffered from panic attacks, but I think that could be an issue on a passage for those who do.

Typically, I took the first watch from 7-midnight and I was very happy when my shift was finished the first night so I could go below to sleep.  I was tired at the end of my shift, but mostly I knew if I slept, when I awakened, the sun would be close to rising!

Sun up means stress down for me.

My pattern of being comfortable and relaxed during light, then becoming more tense when the sun set, recurred for the first 3 nights.  Thankfully, I became more accustomed to the absolute solitude and darkness of night watches and my confidence in LIB increased with time. I actually enjoyed the last two evenings on watch when we had periods of clear skies and I could watch the stars.  I counted four falling stars one night.

Day two was the most exhausting one for Frank because he crawled into bed just after sunrise and 30 minutes later, a BIG fish attacked our fishing line. I couldn’t helm and reel in the fish so Frank had to get up.

LIB was cruising along at about 7 knots with only the spinnaker up and Frank was having a hard time making any progress with the fish. After about 15 minutes, we socked the spinnaker and the boat slowed to around three knots. STILL too fast to fight the fish. I finally had to put the engines in reverse and Frank was able to land the fish 45 minutes after he started the fight.

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His effort was worth it as he caught a 4 foot wahoo!

The spinnaker went back up and Frank set about filleting his fish. Between fighting the fish, filleting it and cleaning up, Frank was at it for about two hours!  He was extremely tired but we had about 12 servings of fresh fish on board!

The remainder of day two and most of three we were able to move from spinnaker to jib and make good time sailing.  But June 2nd ushered in a window of no wind. The seas became flat and the wind died so we ended up motoring the rest of the way to Marsh Harbour.

We still managed about 6 knots with only the engines, but sailing was definitely faster – and quieter.

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Captain likes to help me nap.

I am happy to report that Captain did very well on the passage. She is pretty relaxed when we sail and there isn’t much noise created by waves banging the boat or sails flapping.  These miles were relatively quiet and she seemed comfortable.

And to answer the NUMBER ONE question I get – yes, she does go to the bathroom on the boat.  We have a piece of artificial grass that we keep at the back of the boat and she uses that.  We don’t want her to go to the front deck during the passage and we have a fresh water hose at the back that we can use to clean up after her.

However, for those who plan on taking a dog along – teaching Captain to “go” on the boat is not a complete success. If land is nearby, she refuses to use the fake grass and waits to be taken to shore.  On this crossing she waited FOURTY-EIGHT hours before she used the mat!!! 

(Dog lovers don’t shoot me, I was plenty worried without getting criticized!)

Captain was much happier after she went and we praised her and gave her plenty of treats but she was still reluctant to use the turf.  Hopefully time will erode her resistance.

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Guess who was very excited to see land?!

Looking back at the passage from our safe harbor in The Bahamas, it went as well as I think it could have gone.  The sailing weather was fabulous and when we had to motor, the seas were very calm so the boat motion was excellent.  Using just the jib at night made managing the sail very easy and reduced stress.

Our next passage will be from The Bahamas to Beaufort, N.C.  We are waiting for a good weather window and we will have the benefit of the gulf stream to push us along. All told, we expect that passage to take three or four days. 

I think Frank and I both have a sense of pride and accomplishment about completing this six day passage. Does this earn us “big boy sailor pants?”  Probably not.

I’m not sure how we can actually earn that moniker, but successfully completing this passage certainly increases our experience and our confidence.

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The Bahamas are visible just after sunrise.

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