Trip Start Feb 22, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bahamas  , West Grand Bahama,
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

After 3 years of planning to cruise the Abacos islands in the Bahamas, we finally got here on Tuesday, February 22, 2011. The first week in December we left with Paul & Linda Ledoux and their Cal 33 and sat at the anchorage in Lake Worth for 7 straight days and nights through 32 degree weather at night and rain and high winds and decided there would be no weather window for a while. We then returned to the Loggerhead  Marina in Stuart. Paul & Linda had to change their plans to cruise with us because their daughter was expecting twins and her due date was moved up. So they have since decided to sell their boat and purchase a condo in Stuart. Another couple, Julie & Chad Dibler from Wisconsin, asked if they could go with us. They just bought a Catalina 36 that was docked near us at the marina. They needed to outfit it and upgrade some things, including a new engine. Finally it all came together and a friend of theirs, Steve, flew in from Illinois to crew with them for a few weeks. Dave Piley, a sailing and fishing friend we met a couple years ago will be crewing with us for the crossing of the Gulf Stream. So we thought we had a window with a southwest breeze on February 9 and both boats left Stuart and went out the St. Lucie Inlet and sailed to weather down the coast of Florida to Palm Beach Inlet and 5 miles north on the ICW to the Lake Worth anchorage again. Guess what, the forecast changed! The winds switched sooner than expected out of the north. So Dave called his wife June and she drove down to pick him up and he will join us when we call him. So we sat there for 9 days at anchor. In the meantime we decided to subscribe to the cruisers weather guru - Chris Parker's email weather service for 3 months. He broadcasts 4 times each morning via SSB, but our antenna on our SSB receiver is not strong enough to catch his reports. So each day we receive his 2 page in-depth analysis and predictions from various sources for the gulf stream crossing and coastal areas and all of the Bahamas. It sure is more reliable than doing the research ourselves. In the meantime we moved the boat to Old Port Cove Marina (where Tiger Woods keeps his yacht "Privacy")  and sat there until we got the news from Chris Parker. He predicted a good crossing day for Tuesday, Feb. 22! So Dave came back on board and on Monday we moved the boat 5 miles south to the Palm Beach inlet and anchored and tried to get some sleep. At midnight we got up and hoisted and reefed the mainsail and pulled up anchor and met up with Allegria,one of the other 3 boats that we agreed to cross with at 1 a.m.. We have "Allegria" with Dale from Ottawa who is single-handing and meeting his wife who will be flying in to Marsh Harbor next Tuesday; "Dibs on This" with Julie & Chad Dibler from Wisconsin, and Jack from Maryland on "Odyssey". None of us has ever been there before. It was a beautiful night with a full moon and very little boat traffic. The seas were 3-5'. Steering required constant vigilance due to the 3 knot current in the stream. All four boats monitored channel 78 so we could communicate with each other as well as channel 16. Dale on Allegria had air in his gas line and notified everyone so we all slowed down and stood by until he resolved the problem. Chad reported that he had a vibrating prop and everyone stood by to assist if needed. It was a very comfortable feeling knowing there was help nearby and we weren't alone. Once the sun came up we noticed that the gulf stream was the most beautiful shade of cobalt blue and the water temperature was 80. We began seeing flying fish and irridescant Portuguese Man o War on the tops of the swells. Dave saw land first and got to yell "Land Ho" on the VHF. At 1 p.m., exactly 12 hours after leaving Florida, we arrived at the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End. Everyone said the same thing, "LOOK AT THAT WATER" It was clear and the most beautiful shade of turquoise. We pulled into the slip and filled out all the customs forms and hoisted the yellow quarantine flag and Denny went to customs with all our passports and boat documentation and paid the $300 cruising fee. The slip rental was $80, water was $15 and electric was $24. Very expensive. Once we were legal, we took down the quarantine flag and hoisted the Bahama flag. Then we did what we'd been dreaming of doing. Grabbed a cooler and some cold beer, snorkel gear and towels and walked to the gorgeous beach a few yards away. Let the snorkeling begin. Denny said it was the best he's ever seen. Parrot fish, starfish, live conch, barracuda. Everyone said the same thing, pinch me, we can't believe where we are. Dale cooked a pot of spaghetti and everyone brought something and we had a potluck on the picnic tables and Julie & Chad provided a great toast with champagne for all. Wednesday morning we had a meeting at 8 am. and decided to go to the anchorage at Mangrove Cay, a small uninhabited island. There were light NE winds, sunny skies and it was 80 degrees. We had to motor thru narrow Indian Cay Passage with quite shallow water for a few miles.  Then it got deeper and we could all relax and enjoy the sail. The average depth of the water surrounding the Bahamas is about 6-10 feet compared to over 4,000 feet deep in the gulf stream. Because the area of the banks is so large and the water so shallow, a tremendous volume of water must enter and exit the banks with each tidal cycle. With a tide of about 3 feet and an average depth of only 6 feet on both banks combined, nearly 50% of the water is flushed off the banks twice a day. The flushing action keeps the waters very clear. At 3 pm we anchored with another Canadian sailboat and one from England. Our anchoring is so much better since we purchased these Marriage Savers. They are a two-way radio headset with mouthpiece so no hands are required. This way Denny is at the bow lowering the anchor and can let me know whether to put the engine in forward or reverse or idle.
Thursday, Feb. 24 - Left the anchorage at 8:30 a.m. bound for Great Sale Cay 21 miles East. It was another gorgeous day. Since the winds were on the nose we motored all the way. We saw our first fish mud today. It is a school of bottom feeding fish stirring up the water so it looks cloudy like a shoal. Once we got there we saw friends of ours on "Sea Camp" that we met back in Lake Worth.  Bud and Eileen are from Winnipeg. There was a total of 15 sailboats and one trawler for the night. Sunset is past and now the clouds have covered the moon and stars. Looking out I see tiny white stern lights from all the boats and I can smell someone grilling sausage and onions. So peaceful!
Friday, Feb. 25 - We left Great Sale Cay at 7:30 a.m. bound for either Green Turtle Cay or an anchorage somewhere. It was blowing pretty hard out of the South, at least 15-25. We had a reefed main and reefed jib and still were doing over 7 knots. All 5 of us  pulled into a really protected  and scenic anchorage called Crab Cay. Everyone was pretty pooped today. Safely anchored with 9 sailboats and 1 trawler by sundown. Happy hour on "Dibs on This"!  Everyone brought an appetizer and drinks. That was our dinner. Steve on "Dibs on This" entertained the harbor with his singing and beautiful guitar playing later in the evening.
Saturday, Feb. 26. - Left at 8 a.m. and today we will sail to Treasure Cay. It's sunny and light SSE winds are predicted. The water temp is 85 and we are all motoring. It's only 29 miles today. While transiting these islands the time just flies by.  A typical day when we are moving the boat involves getting up at 6 a.m., having coffee & breakfast, doing dishes, gathering the binoculars, chart books, VHF hand held radio, storing the generator if we used it and checking the chartplotter to make sure all the waypoints that Denny installed the day before are good. Then he hoists the anchor and we are underway. Today we slowly passed by Crab Cay (Key), Spanish Cay, Manjack Cay, Powell Cay and Green Turtle Cay. Most are uninhabited but some have small settlements or a resort.We have to drink a lot of water and juices to stay hydrated.  While we are motoring we can charge our hand held VHF, the camera and the laptop. We're looking forward to a few days of rest in Treasure Cay. We'll need to get more provisions, ice and do laundry. At one point Chad reported seeing a 9 foot shark under his boat. The water is so clear and smooth it is surreal.It's quite un-nerving to be sailing along and you can see the bottom in 25 feet of water. It was a long hot day today as we led the fleet through the dreaded Whale Cay Passage. It's a narrow opening between two huge rocks and an island that took us out into the Atlantic to avoid shoals in the Sea of Abaco. It lasted for about 5 miles in the Atlantic and then we came back into the Sea of Abaco. All was well. There were no huge seas and the winds were light. Once we were all anchored it was showers for all and then we met at the Tipsy Seagull bar in the marina to get tipsy and then went to dinner at a place called Spinnakers.
Sunday, Feb. 27 - We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and took the dingy to shore at 7 a.m.. We found the local bakery owned by Captain Forty, a friendly Bahamian who sells bread, cakes, pies, eggs, hash browns & grits. In the afternoon we collapsed on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We met tourists from all over the country. This one woman from Indianapolis showed us her scars from donating a kidney last year to her brother who is a physician in Maui. Later it was a farewell get together for Steve from Chad & Julie's boat. He flies back to Illinois tomorrow. So we held the party on Savage and Jack & Steve both brought their guitars. It was a beautiful night.
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Steve on

Thanks you guys for welcoming me on to your boat & was great to share with so many good people

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