Every time we move LIB from one location to the next, we read. But I’m not talking about cruising guides or even charts, I’m talking about water. Visual Piloting is extremely important when sailing shallow areas like the Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos. Fortunately, the clear waters here make “reading” the water much easier than you might expect.
Visual Piloting helps you know where to go and when to stop.
Understanding the color of the water and what it is communicating can make the difference between floating and being aground. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a boating expression that says, “You have either run aground or someday will.” We have had our experience with grounding in the ICW.
In our defense, on the ICW, the water is not read the same way as it is in clear water, and charts are the primary source of navigation.
Breaking waves are often a “stop sign.”
Understanding the color of water dictates changing course, sometimes even when we are far from shore. These breakers are hundreds of feet from shore, but indicate shallows that we had to avoid.
On LIB, our favorite way of teaching inexperienced water readers is with the following rhyme:
Brown, brown, run aground,
White, white, you just might.
Green, green, in between,
Blue, blue, go on through.
While this isn’t Wordsworth, it is a handy way to remember what to look for here in the Bahamas or other areas where the water is clear and often shallow.
Enlarge this picture to see the shallows in the back.
Today we were exploring the NE area of Providenciales in LIB. The water under the keel as we motored through this channel varied between 9 and 5 feet. (We have a 3.5′ offset so we know how much water is between our lowest point and touching ground.) Slowly we moved forward but we did not go beyond the opening between these two protruding land pieces. The depth at the opening was back to 8 feet, but we could tell by the water color ahead that it would shallow very quickly. I was on the bow, wearing good polarized glasses, to confirm what we thought would become shallow water. About three or four boat lengths past where we turned around between the protruding rocks, the water was less than a foot deep.
Deep Bay, BVIs
This picture, taken from a hill above Deep Bay in the BVIs, shows the deep water in the far distance. Close to shore you can see the water is more green and more shallow. Midway out in the picture are the brown patches where there is too little water to boat across. You can also see a dark blue strip between two brown patches…. that narrow opening may be an opportunity to slip back out into the deep water beyond.
Warderick Wells Park
This final picture from Warderick Wells Park in the Exumas is stunning for it’s beauty but also teaches color. You can see the boats moored in an arc of deep, blue water. To the right is a white beach that is covered in water at high tide but much too shallow to enter. The inside of the crescent to the left shows lighter blue/green then white water; this area becomes a sand bar during low tide. Any boat that tries to cross it will be hard aground!
So there you have s a quick overview of reading water based on our experiences. Memorize the poem, don a good pair of polarized sunglasses, step to the bow of the boat and read away….
Is this similar to how you read water? Any tips you want to share in the comments? I would love to hear them.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. If you want to see what we are up to more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44. We would love to hear from you.
Well I have not had a single minute to spend writing a post on this blog. It has been forever since mom let me sit down and paw out a few words!
I’m listening to something mom’s telling me.
I have been extremely busy here on LIB. When I first became a boat dog, I was unaware of how important it is to look INTO the water and not just monitor the land. Wow, since I figured that out, I realized I have a lot of territory to patrol to ensure my humans are safe.
But just like on land, my humans don’t always understand why I am barking and sometimes I get in trouble because their noses are really weak and they just don’t smell the things I do.
The best example is the dolphins I talked about last time. While we were on that long Intracoastal Waterway trip (2016 Sail to the Sun Rally), there were dolphins galore! But my humans were oblivious until they actually broke the surface of the water…duh!
Not me! I knew they were there and I barked and barked to make sure those dolphins didn’t get too close to my boat. I was so good at spotting those dolphins that other people in the Sail to the Sun Rally would take notice when I barked. Lots of times somebody would come by the boat and thank me for pointing out the dolphins for them. Big tail wag for that!
Trying to catch those dolphins.
One time there were so many dolphins at No Name Harbor in Florida, that MG let me jump in the water and herd them! I worked and worked trying to coral those things, but I never could gather them all together.
Frank let me rest between swims.
Frank finally came out on a paddle board to let me rest for a few minutes. I did not want to give up trying to make the dolphins behave, but my humans said I had to stop…. I was really tired and a little sad I couldn’t coral the dolphins. But it was still a lot of fun trying and I think mom and dad were proud of me! And later people from boats we didn’t even know came over to tell us they had fun watching me. More tail wags for me!
A nice walk on Conception Island
I liked the ICW but it’s really good to get back to the beaches again. We spent January through March in the Bahamas where the water was clear and blue and it’s really easy to see whatever swims under our boat. It sure is nice to be able to roll in the sand and run on the beaches again.
Me snuggling down into the cool sand for a rest.
Mom calls this a refrigerator but I call it a snack drawer!
One thing is hard about living on this boat…. mom keeps my food in this drawer that is right at my level. Every time she opens that drawer wonderful things happen. First off, the drawer is cold and cool air seeps out when it is opened. Secondly, there are excellent smells in that drawer; not the kind you want to roll in but the kind you want to eat! And thirdly, my food is right there and I could just reach in and feed myself!
Don’t tell, I get in trouble if I put my nose in here!
Anyway, every time mom or dad open that drawer, I think they should feed me or at least give me a snack. But nope, humans can be heartless! I don’t get a treat every time they go into the cold drawer ~ in fact, mom and dad eat a lot more out of that drawer than I do!
Mom and I climbed out on this rock.
This year we have been traveling with other boats and that is fun. We don’t always stay with the same boats but lots of people come over to visit me. It’s sad because none of the other boats have dogs to give them licks and keep them safe. But the good thing is I get plenty of extra snuggles and sometimes the visitors even bring me treats! Pretty much everybody thinks I’m a really great dog (I hear them tell MG and Frank) and that makes me feel really happy.
Chillin’ at a concert in George Town – it was loud!
Don’t worry that I’m getting fat with those extra snuggles and treats. I still get plenty of exercise riding in the dinghy and on the paddle board; chasing birds on the beach and flies off the boat; and generally swimming and hiking with my humans.
See how easy it is to see into the water!
I hope you like the pictures I put in here so you can see what I’ve been doing.
I’m helping dad keep an eye out for coral heads in our way.
All in all, life on Let It Be is really good….. but I still won’t use that silly, fake grass mom puts on the back deck unless it’s an emergency! Like that cheap plastic stuff is any kind of replacement for land! Sheesh, I can’t let them get out of the habit of taking me to shore. There are far too many good sniffs there and I don’t want to give that up!
I’m the dinghy lookout when we explore.
At the end of the day I snuggle with my dinosaur while mom cooks.
Oh, hey!…. I just heard my drawer open…. Gotta run!
Oh yeah, remember to come say hi and give me some snuggles if you see us somewhere. Woof woof for now!
We left Thompson Bay and sailed to Calabash on the northern tip of Long Island. There is a lovely establishment called Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort where we enjoyed lunch with Laurie and Ken and friends from s/v Sand Castle.
The next morning as soon as our sails were set for the completely uninhabited island of Conception, Fisherman Frank put out his fishing lines. We were about to take in those lines when I saw several MahiMahi jumping out of the water on our starboard side. Seconds later the fishing line “zinged” and Frank had another fabulous catch!
Another bull Mahi…. fish tacos tonight!
White sand as fine as powder.
I seem to say this repeatedly, but Conception was the prettiest place we have visited. The beach sand is as fine as powder and almost as white. There are no buildings or cell towers anywhere on this small island and the water vacillated between turquoise and deep blue.
We spent our days lounging on the beach, walking the shore, exploring creeks, sharing dinners with Ken and Laurie and generally relishing being disconnected from time, electronic devices and even communication.
Once again the pictures are better than my descriptions so I’ll show your our activities.
Captain on alert as we explored a creek.
(I will try to put up a video of traveling this creek on the FB page when we get internet again.)
While the water was aquamarine or perfectly clear in most of the creek, we came upon a deep pool that was very green and murky. Turns out, this was also a popular swimming hole for turtles, so we donned our masks and jumped in. We saw about 20 turtles!
I had to really mess with the colors of this picture so you could see the turtle in the murky water.
Ken hoisted Frank up on Mauna Kea to fix a problematic flag halyard.
Those rocks and coral heads are in about 20 feet of water.
We walked to the opposite side of the island and climbed up a rocky point for an eastern view.
Laurie, a professional hairstylist, cut Frank’s hair on the back of LIB.
Frozen margs… a first on LIB.
Payment for said haircut was frozen margaritas! We lucked out and found frozen Bacardi mix in Long Island, so we shared it with Laurie and Ken. Frank used to make margaritas often when we had friends visit back home and it was a big treat to have frozen concoctions on LIB!
After a week on Conception, we decided to hop over to Rum Cay; a mere 15 miles away. On the way we stopped to dive the Conception Wall on the southeastern side of the island.
Sorry for the quality of the picture… at least you can see how vibrant the growth is.
This is the best dive we have had in the Bahamas! We dove to about 100 feel along the wall and saw scads of healthy, vibrant coral! It was a feast for our eyes. There was very little current and the dive was extremely relaxing.
Frank leads the way through some coral.
There were a decent number of little fish and a few larger trigger fish and angel fish, but the only schools of fish we saw were of very small fish. However we did see a huge lobster having a stroll along the nooks and crannies of the wall. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that lobster’s body was three feet long!
Rum Cay was decimated in September 2015 by hurricane Joaquin and then took a lesser beating by hurricane Matthew in 2016. There was a large marina on the island, but Joaquin dumped so much sand in the channel that the marina entrance was blocked and remains that way today. The main peer, a government dock, has not been repaired and getting weekly supplies to this island via the mail boat is a challenge.
The lack of rebuilding of the government dock and the closure of the marina have caused difficulty for the few remaining residents of Rum Cay. But you would never know it from the incredibly warm and welcoming attitude of everyone we met on the island.
A young man named LeMont and his dog, Spicy, strolled the island with us and introduced us to everyone we met and the dogs as well. Even the free roaming dogs were welcoming and didn’t get territorial with Captain!
Cotton grows wild along the road.
Though I am no agriculturist, Rum Cay seems to have the best soil we have seen so far in the Bahamas. Grass, cotton, trees and flowers grow here unaided and LeMont told us locals grow a wide variety of food.
Principal Ann and Frank
The local school has grades one through nine and a total of 11 students! We stopped by one afternoon and donated a few toys and toothbrushes to the Principal. The school is spotlessly clean and appears to have a good supply of books.
The church and evacuation location
– can you imagine water up to mid-thigh rushing down this street?
During hurricane Joaquin, 40 people took refuge in this church. LeMont told us that the water began encroaching from three sides and they had to move everyone to a different location. LeMont said it was frightening to walk through the thigh high water rushing across the street and that there were elderly people who had to be carried through the rising water. How brave these people are!
Unfortunately our visit to Rum was short because the wind turned south and the anchorage became too rough, so we returned to Conception. Of course we stopped and dove the wall again because who can skip such a great dive opportunity?
Our plan is to stay in Conception until the morning of April 7th, when we will leave at first light and sail toward the Turks and Caicos. Originally we had planned to stop at Mayaguanna, but it appears we will have a W-NW wind so we are going to take advantage of it and go to the Turks in one jump.
The trip to the Turks and Caicos will be a bit over 200nm and should take 30-35 hours. Your prayers for a safe passage and that Captain is accepted into the country are appreciated.
The perfect blue waters welcomed us back to Conception Island.
Bougainvillea is commonly found in the Bahamas.
It is hard to leave these beautiful Bahamian Islands with their unmatched waters and hospitable inhabitants. Everywhere we have visited we have felt welcome and safe. I completely understand why so many boaters choose to return here year after year.
Frank caught a beautiful bull Mahi on our way to Emerald Cay Marina.
After our Sail to the Sun Rally friends left from New Providence, Frank and I spent the day provisioning and trying to buy a few things only available from a large city like Nassau. I had thought the ongoing search for the elusive red filter for my GoPro was completed in Nassau when I bought a very nice red lens cover and GoPro adapter from a dive shop.
However, much to my dismay, the adaptor they sold me does not fit my GoPro 4**, so once again I do not have the correct equipment to get beautiful underwater pictures….. which I find very frustrating! Not bringing my GoPro into town was a really dumb move on my part and the result is that I have a beautiful red lens just staring at me, waiting to allow me to share fabulous underwater pictures, and I can’t get it to fit my GoPro!
Gratuitous sunset photo.
Speaking of big cities, Frank and I spent more than 30 years living in Dallas, Texas which is truly a large city with a population of 1.258 million as of 2013. It is a very different experience here in the Bahamas when we visit various Islands and find them sparsely populated yet boasting of many “towns.”
Our visit to Long Island really drove home how incredibly different this new lifestyle is for us.
Physically, Long Island is large island by Bahamian standards. It is approximately 80 miles long and the width ranges from 3/4 of a mile to 4 miles, for a total of 230 square miles; yet Long Island has a total population of only 3,094 as of 2010! The people who live here do not gather into small cities, but are spread among many small villages usually where their ancestors settled long ago. Even well known towns have very few residents, like Clarence Town, the capital, which boasts a population of only 86 folks!
A modest monument to Columbus.
Long Island was originally called Yuma by the indians who settled there and later was named Fernandina by Christopher Columbus. After the American Revolution, many Americans from the Carolinas moved to Long Island and tried to recreate their plantations but the cotton crops didn’t last long and only ruins of those homes remain. Today farming is still important on Long Island but the planting is “pot farming.” My understanding is that soil accumulates in holes in the limestone and it is in these holes that most planting is done. I admire the tenacity of these people and how well they use the resources of their island.
Regardless of the relatively small population, Long Island has a lot to offer, so Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and ourselves, rented a car and set out to explore. Car rentals are on a 24 hour basis and we could pick up the car at any time. We decide to begin our tour at noon and explore the south part of Long Island one day and the north part the next.
Our first stop was right on the road where a local man is in the process of building his sailboat in preparation for the upcoming Long Island Regatta. This regatta is raced by locals who make and sail their Bahamian Sloops.
As soon as we stepped out of the car and began looking at the boat, two residents came over to chat and tell us all about the boat. Apparently their son is building this boat and has been working on it for two weeks. We were amazed by how much he had accomplished in so little time! He must work quickly though as the race is the end of May!
The pool and buildings at Flying Fish Marina are great.
Our next stop was Clarence Town, population 86. There is a very large marina in Clarence Town called Flying Fish. Flying Fish Marina was completely renovated and reopened in October 2016 after damage from hurricane Joaquin.
The exterior of Fr. Jerome’s Catholic Church
Clarence Town also boasts two churches designed and build by Father Jerome. Father Jerome was born in England in 1876. He began studying architecture then changed to theology and was ordained in the Church of England. Father Jerome patterned his approach to religion after St. Francis of Assisi and later converted to Catholicism. Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, Father Jerome had designed and build an anglican church in Clarence Town. After his conversion, he wanted to build a larger, catholic church and did so on the highest available point in Clarence Town. Though he is best known best for the Hermitage on Cat Island, Father Jerome also built and repaired churches as far away as Australia. All told it is said that Fr. Jerome built five churches on Long Island. We visited the two largest ones in Clarence Town.
Churches seem to be the preponderance of buildings on Long Island behind residences! The one below is said to be the oldest Spanish church on Long Island.
The Spanish influence is visible in the beautiful arches.
Perhaps the most beautiful stop during our exploration of the southern side of Long was Dean’s Blue Hole. This hole, where the world free diving competition is held, is said to be 660 feet deep with a cavern that extends 4,000 feet laterally once you get to the bottom.
Yeah, we don’t have any pictures of the 4,000 foot cavern!! But here is a stunning view from above.
Guana Cay was another pretty stop and Frank was quick to observe the kiting potential of this bay. For you kiters, Frank definitely kept his eye on the wind and later in the week managed to get in a bit of kiting here.
Long Island has many caves that were once used by ancient residents as dwellings or places to hide during hurricanes. We sought out Leonard, an older gentleman whose family has owned Hamilton Cave for many generations, to give us a guided tour. Leonard had many stories about the history of the cave and pointed out five different types of bats that live there…. Laurie and I were NOT thrilled when some of those bats swooped down toward our heads!
Sunset was approaching so we turned toward Chez Pierre, a well known restaurant on Long Island. Like every place we visited off of the main road, Chez Pierre was found down a long, rocky, pot-holed road that meandered several miles without any signage to reassure first time visitors. We did manage to find Chez Pierre and had a fabulous Italian meal?? Yep, Italian at Chez Pierre!
The picture isn’t great but the food was!
Pierre was the waiter, chef and check out person, so he was a busy man. The bar was self serve and on the honor system which was unique and fun. We highly recommend Chez Pierre if ever you visit Long Island.
Locally grown produce and homemade breads.
Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 am to noon. We arrived at 8:30 but already most of the produce was gone.
Sarah displays her woven goods.
Straw and sisal work is common on most islands in the Bahamas. You will find straw markets and stands in front of homes where locals sell everything from purses to placemats to hats and baskets.
Sarah’s sample board.
Sarah, at the Farmer’s Market, had a wonderful display of items and she had a poster of the various plaits available. This is the first time I was able to see all the weaves used and I found it interesting.
The boating community at Thompson Bay, Long Island has to be one of the finest I have encountered. The boaters and the Long Islanders have developed a wonderful relationship in which both recognize the positive skills each brings. The people of Long Island are kind and welcoming and clearly enjoy the boating community. The boaters are very aware of the needs of the islanders and contribute tangibly to those needs.
Most recently, there was a push to bring trees to Long Island to donate to the islanders. After hurricane Joaquin, boaters brought much needed supplies and food to Long Island and helped rebuild many damaged buildings. In fact, the day before we arrived, a group of boaters volunteered and replaced the roof on a home.
The relationship between the boaters and islanders seems unique and wonderful to me. I can certainly understand why so many sailors return to the area every year. This is the first time I have seen island life and boat life completely intertwined and it was truly beautiful to see.
Lest you think we are neglecting Captain, let me assure you that she goes with us on most of our escapades. Here she is enjoying the pool and view at Latitudes on Great Exuma Island.
**For those who own GoPros, apparently their is the standard underwater housing and the “diving” housing. We have the regular underwater housing and the attachment I bought was for a diving housing.
We left Cambridge Cay with the intention of going to Farmers Cay before continuing to George Town on Great Exuma. However, once we exited Conch Cut and were on the eastern side of the islands, we had a perfect day for sailing and we just could not get ourselves to stop at Farmers. We had a beam reach and the islands to our west reduced the waves so we clipped along at 8 knots and traveled over 70 miles under main and jib.
George Town is cruisers central in the Bahamas and our first look was startling because of the number of sailboats and cruising boats anchored in the harbors. This was by far the largest gathering of cruisers we have ever encountered!
Typical number of dinghies anytime near Chat n Chill on Stocking Island
We arrived in Elizabeth Harbor, Great Exuma late in the afternoon and chose to find a protected spot because a few windy days were predicted.
We settled in an area toward the southwest part of Elizabeth Harbor called Red Shanks. It was a nice quiet area to ride out the wind, but we knew we wanted to move closer to where all the activity would happen.
Elizabeth Harbor is very large with several areas for anchoring. George Town is where the facilities are like grocery stores, fuel, restaurants, etc. However, this visit was all about the 37th Annual George Town Cruisers Regatta and Festival and many of the daily activities would be across the harbor from George Town on Stocking Island.
When the wind calmed a bit, we moved Let It Be across the harbor to a spot right off of Volleyball Beach on Stocking Island. This was the perfect spot for us because we were a short dinghy ride from many daily activities.
The GT Cruisers Regatta has far too many activities to list them all, so if you are interested in seeing more detail, look them up on FB: George Town Cruising Regatta 2017
Frank and I tend to be more about ‘doing’ than ‘watching’ so we signed up for many activities. In fact, we were so busy I hardly had time to take pictures.
Yoga was a fabulous way to start our morning on Volleyball Beach.
Nearly every afternoon there were pick up volleyball games that we joined often. Sometime there were 9 people per side and other times we only had four. It just depended on who wanted to play. The games were super fun with a variety of skill levels. We found volleyball to be one of the best ways to meet new people and get a little exercise in the process.
Frank seemed to think that the more sand he got on himself during volleyball, the better and I think he brought home a fair amount of the beach each afternoon. I wish I had a picture of that!
Tina and Bill of s/v Our Log joined us for the Poker Run. The weather was a little rough with some wind and squalls, but we managed to have a great time in spite of it.
The wide, open harbor was rough in windy conditions.
We traveled by dinghy across Elizabeth Harbor to six restaurants and at each location we chose a playing card. The final stop was back on Stocking Island at Lumina Point where we picked up our final card.
Bill, Tina and Frank look pretty serious about choosing a card.
A measly two pair, but we’re still smiling!
Our luck at pulling good cards didn’t exist and we ended up with only two pair. But we enjoyed seeing all of the restaurant/bars and sampling their food and drinks, and we couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Bill and Tina. We also met some great people, especially Jane and Kevin of s/v Libeccio.
Our next big event was the Coconut Challenge which we did with s/v Tatiana. YEP! James and Kristen were back with us again and we had more laughs than should be allowed doing this crazy event. The Coconut Challenge had three parts:
Part 1. Four people in life jackets in a dinghy without a motor. Each person has a swim fin to use to propel the dinghy. 1,000 coconuts were released and each dinghy tried to collect as many coconuts as possible without leaving the dinghy.
Many teams competed in the challenge.
James and Frank catch while Kristen tosses coconuts.
Part 2. One person stands with his back to two other team mates who are holding a garage bag. The thrower tosses coconuts over her head and the catchers catch the coconuts in the bag.
Who gets the most style points?
Part 3. Each teammate has one coconut and the team has 5 seconds to toss the coconuts over a net and into scoring circles in the sand.
Overall we earned 2nd place in the Coconut Challenge!!
Our next event was a dinghy race in which you had to create a sail and race straight downwind. Frank had the great idea of flying one of his kite board kites as our sail. After some convincing, the judge did allow us to enter the race but we had to start a little distance from the other racers as a safety precaution.
We started off great and it looked like we would easily WIN the race. But we quickly outran the kite which subsequently lost all power and fell from the sky! Sadly we were unable to recover and lost the race. Happily, no one was injured by the crazy kite and the kite lines didn’t get entangled in anything.
Next up on our schedule was the SUP race. Frank took first place in the men’s division and I paddled my way into second for the ladies.
There was a big variety show put on at a local park that included acts by cruisers and locals. Most of the performances were singers with musicians. Several dances were performed by children and there was even a poetry reading. Quite a variety of talent.
Frank prepares for the costume party.
Frank pulled out his shark costume from Halloween and entered the costume contest which had a theme of Gilligan’s Island or a Favorite Castaway. Although he was very energetic and into his character, he didn’t win any prizes.
Pretty creative costumes.
The most exciting events for us were the sailboat races! We decided to enter LIB in the In Harbor Race as well as the Around the Island Race. Of course we invited friends to join us as crew! And since most of us were graduates of the Sail to the Sun Rally 2016, we wore our t-shirts!
The In Harbor Race was my favorite because it was fairly short and pretty exciting. Our crew included Ken and Laurie from Mauna Kea, Kevin and Susan from Radiance, Tina and Bill from Our Log and James and Kristen from Tatiana.
The morning of the race dawn revealed a perfect day for sailing. Frank and I scurried about making sure LIB was ready and things were in order. James and Kristen arrived and we fired up the engines, except our starboard engine would not start! It didn’t even turn over. After a bit of diagnosing (and perhaps a swear word or two) we contact Bill, Mr. Mechanic Extraordinaire! He zipped over to LIB and bypassed the ECU to get our engine started. Phew, we were ok and off to the races!!
James directs and we hop to!
James was our tactician for the day and Frank had prepared a job list so everyone could participate in the race. Every one of the crew had only sailed on monohulls so we had to do some practicing before the race began.
I will admit, our tacks were a little rough at first! But we persevered and by race time, we were ready! This is the first time I have ever raced a sailboat and it was an adrenalin rush. I was at the helm and Frank oversaw all line work while James gave instructions.
Our imitation of wild action shots!
LIB from a competitors view.
We gave it our all and managed to earn third place. Ok, there were only four boats in our class, but still we earned a flag!!
Tina and Bill ready to add a preventer when we flew wing on wing.
The around the island race included the same crew with the addition of Brian from Radiance. Once again James was the tactician, I was at the helm and Frank was overseeing lines. Ken, from s/v Mauna Kea, put it best in a FB post:
We must be flying – look at our windswept hair!
“Let It Be placed another 3rd! It was a great race, after the first mark we were second. Shortly after that we were in first and then it all slipped away. We had victory in our hands and then someone offered drinks and snacks.”
Sharing snacks and laughs post race.
Haha, I’m not sure that was the reason we lost, but it makes a good story. Our monohull sailors got to see LIB in her worst sailing position – upwind. But since we were all comfortable while slogging into it and some one (ahem, Brian) even managed to nap ~ it wasn’t a bad day at all.
At the end of the first day, s/v Tatiana and LIB sported the same winning flags.
After many afternoons of practice, Frank and I chose to enter the Fun Volleyball event. We even had to get “rated” by the organizer. Unfortunately, the weather turned and we had to depart George Town earlier than anticipated, so we had to cancel our spots.
We left George Town on Friday so we could make it to the western side of the Exumas before the next weather front arrived. So today we are anchored off of Little Farmers Cay in relative comfort even though the winds are kicking up close to 30 knots. These winds are expected to stay with us for a few more days, but we will make our way toward Staniel Cay tomorrow as some friends arrive on Tuesday.
Some folks have asked me to give them my thoughts on George Town because it is well known as a cruisers hang out. I have to admit we had a blast there but I don’t know if that is because the Regatta/Festival was in full swing. Frank and I plan on stopping back in George Town when we move south again toward Long Island. It will be interesting to see what George Town is like when it has it’s “usual” number of boats.
Thanks for stopping by and reading this very long post!
Sunrise on a crossing.
Wow! I can’t believe how quickly time has passed since we arrived in the Bahamas. We had an amazing trip from Key Largo, FL to Cat Cay, Bahamas. The weather could not have been better and the sea state was great. We left at first light and arrived about eight hours later.
We anchored on the east side of Cat Cay and spent a day or two kiteboarding and playing in the magically blue water. What a fun way to kick off 2017!
Boosting above the beautiful water.
Frisbee with Cappy in the shallow areas.
After checking in at Bimini, we moved to the north side of Cat Cay so we would be in position to leave for the Northwest Cut. At dawn on January 3rd, we lifted our anchor, raised our main, pointed our bow toward the Cut then raised our pretty red spinnaker. We hardly touched our lines for five fabulous hours and averaged more than 8 knots.
Flat water and wind is a great combination!
We sailed all the way to Frazers Hog Cay, which is about 80 miles, before dropping anchor for the evening.
We were pushing forward quickly because we wanted to catch up with some of our Rally buddies who were heading to the Exumas.
Having visited Nassau on a previous trip, we chose to skip it and instead went to the east side of New Providence and a lovely marina called Palm Cay. The marina staff, especially Brayden, were incredibly nice and helpful. They did everything they could to make sure our stay was excellent, and it was!
Again, we only stayed one night, then pushed on to Spirit Cay/Long Cay. This is actually a private island, but we had seen a couple of boats in a small half circle bay and we thought it would be a well protected place to anchor.
Long Cay on a calm day.
Turns out the boats we saw belonged to the islands’ owner who was very welcoming. She was also a bit surprised that we had made it into the area with our sailboat! Apparently very few boats try to squeeze through the cut we took. (Surprise!)
Frank is standing on the ocean floor as he cleans the brown stain off of LIB
The first full day we were in Long Cay, the extreme lunar tides allowed LIB’s mini-keels to rest on the sand and Frank hopped into the water to clean away the “ICW Smile” that had accumulated on the boat.
LIB looks much prettier without a mustache!
Serious winds were predicted for the next several days so we needed to move out of the shallow bay and anchor in a deeper spot to protect LIB’s underside. We chose to attempt a Bahamian moor (two anchors set from the bow about 180 degrees from each other) to reduce our boat swing from the wind and the current.
While we did a good job of keeping the boat in safe territory, we looked a bit like the Keystone Cops trying to get LIB to settle in an area deep enough for her even at low tide. We were trying to settle in a small circular area with a diameter of about 25 feet.
After hours of trial and error, we gave up that spot and moved to a different area on Long Cay. We managed to Bahamian moor and LIB settled nicely but we were less protected than we had hoped. Still, we were confident our anchors were well set and the only issue was how uncomfortable we would be during the winds.
Building winds created crashing waves across the rocks!
The wind began early in the morning and we saw some pretty high wind speeds. Thankfully the boat motion wasn’t terrible, but the water was so rough that we only left the boat to take Captain to shore.
After four days of winds in the low 20 to high 30 knot range, we had a small break in the wind and decided to exit the narrow Long Cay inlet and find a more protected anchorage where we could get to land even with the high winds.
Using the VHF, we contacted a couple of Rally boats who were hiding out in a nearby anchorage. They were ready to stop paying marina fees and we all decided to sail to Warderick Wells, the Exumas Sea and Land Park’s main island.
The trip to Warderick was pretty brisk as we had squalls throughout the day which brought surges in the wind and waves. As our Rally leader Wally would say, the sail was “rather sporty!” But our reward was arriving at the amazing anchorage in Warderick Wells!
A view of the anchorage at Warderick Wells.
It was super fun to get back together with friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally. We spent several days together exploring the trails, hanging out on the beaches and snorkeling.
Inside the bone structure of a huge whale!
Our professional, personal hairstylist, Laurie, gave all the guys a trim!
Hiking one of the trails on Warderick Wells.
The Park prohibits dogs from the trails so Captain was unable to walk with us. But she did play on the beaches with us and between frisbee and romping in the shallow water, we managed to tire her out.
Cap dug down to the cool sand then settled in for a nap.
We had an excellent time drifting about with sailing vessels Valentine, Blue Lady and Mauna Kea, but after more than two weeks without restocking or restaurants, our provisions were beginning to run low. Also, another cold front carrying strong winds was predicted, so we decided it was time to find a protected marina and a grocery store.
Frank and I wanted to head north to visit the islands around Eleuthera and our friends wanted to push further south. So we waved goodbye to our Rally friends again and forged north alone. But I am quite certain we will reconnect with these friends again very soon!
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.
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.
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.
Of course, some sharks had to join the party and they swam very close to us as well.
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?!
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.
Only a few people live on Manjack, and they have cleared two very pretty walking paths that are open to the public.
The foliage is beautiful.
One path leads to a dock overlooking the ocean.
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.
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.
Let the spoiling begin!
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.
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.
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!
Missing our sailing friends Nancy and Tanya!
Blog post by Anneva, Dana, Cathy
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
- 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.
- Being alone and isolated if something does go wrong.
- Fear of seasickness.
- Stepping outside my comfort zone.
- Lack of visual references: there are no landmarks to tell me I am going the right way.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Bahamas are visible just after sunrise.