While we were anchored in the Royal Island Harbour, Bill went for a long walk ashore. It was spring, and it had been raining, so there were flowers everywhere. I could not find this one in my books. Do you have any idea what it is?
This is a second picture from Royal Island. The two top snails which are almost the size of your closed fist had each found the perfect size hole to hole-up in while the tide was out. They are eatable, so we don’t see a lot of them this large.
When we got to the Abacos, we anchored beside this large sailboat. She is flying the White Ensign of the Royal Navy instead of the Red Ensign of the merchant navy that most British yachts fly. At the top of her mast is the pennant of the Royal Yacht Squadron of Cowes. Therein lies the explanation.
We stopped for a beer at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar on Green Turtle Cay. When we first came here in the 1980’s, Miss Emily presided behind the bar, and the tip jar went to the local Anglican Church. Sadly, no more. But, they still make her signature Goombay Smash. See the sign.
Back in the United States, we stopped for a couple of days at the Cumberland Island National Seashore. They have “wild” horses, perhaps too many, and there are moves a’hoof to reduce their number.
The River Trail provided a pleasant walk from the Sea Camp Dock where we were anchored to the Dungeness Ruins and the smaller buildings that surrounded the ruins. The trail had just the right mix of sun and shade with fewer bugs than the trail we came back on.
The old Captain’s House was converted to a ranger station. Captain Bill rocked on the porch while I wandered around in the yard.
We saw two sunsets while we were anchored at Cumberland Island before we resumed out trip north to New Bern.
After being back home for only 8 days, we went up to Watauga Lake and spent three days and nights on our smaller sailboat, Canary. With rain clouds hanging low on the mountains, it does not look a thing like the Bahamas.
Hello from our home in Tennessee. We returned here on June 14, but I’m getting ahead of myself, so I’ll restart where I left off last time.
When I last wrote, we had sailed from Hatchett Bay, Eleuthera to Royal Island, Eleuthera. As soon as we arrived, the weather turned cloudy, rainy, and windy. It did not change for ten days. Some days we had more wind than rain, other days we had more rain than wind, but we never had the weather we wanted for the 50-mile trip over to the Abacos.
While we were anchored at Royal Island, other boats came and went. Despite the weather, a few went to the Abacos, and a few came from the Abacos. We were a retired couple with plenty of time and were not in a rush. We avoided the bad weather in the ocean by waiting in the harbor for better weather. We took a vacation from being on vacation. We piddled about on the boat reading, knitting, and listening to the radio. Bill took a hike on the island, and the two of us took a tour around the harbor in the dinghy. I found several sea biscuits on the two nearby small beaches, but I left them behind. I had plenty at home already. We were a bit bored, but not totally so.
Finally, on Wednesday, May 23, the weather forecast was for southeast winds of 12 to 13 knots with 3- foot seas; it was time to head north. We were not the only boat in the harbor with that idea. Our anchor was up, and we were gone by 7:30am. I believe the harbor was empty by 8:30am. The wind started out a bit stronger than was forecasted, and the waves were a bit bigger, but the crossing to the Abacos was both fast and uneventful. With all three of our sails up, we sailed past two of the boats that had been anchored with us at Royal Island. [It is always a rare thing for us to overtake another boat. We are a small boat and therefore a slow boat, but we sail our best on a broad reach, and we were sailing on a reach.] We entered the cut at Little Harbour at 3pm, turned north, and anchored in the calm water behind Lynyard Cay.
The weather forecast gave us two dry days before the rain returned, and we spent them anchored at Lynyard Cay before we sailed on to Marsh Harbor. Marsh Harbour is the “big city” of the Abacos. There are lots of stores and most importantly a super market. We visited the super market, refueled the boat, shopped for some gifts in the gift shops, and had a great meal in one of our favorite restaurants, Colours by the Sea. Everything was accomplished between the rain showers. During the showers we topped off our water tanks and filled our cockpit with full 5-gallon jugs of water. On our entire trip this year, we bought just 42 gallons of water at Palm Cay Marina, and we got a few free jugs of water from a tap in Black Point. The rest of our water came from rain. And, we had plenty on this trip.
After four nights in the “big city”, we were ready to move to a more tranquil spot. We motored out of the harbor and sailed the few miles to uninhabited Water Cay. Although another boat anchored near us during the day while they snorkeled on a nearby wreck, and second boat came and spent the night, it was a far calmer and quieter place than Marsh Harbour. We enjoyed the peacefulness, swimming around the boat and taking a nice walk through Water Cay’s foot-deep sand flats and along its white sand beaches. After our one night at Water Cay, the wind and waves were right to go around Whale Cay. Because the water behind Whale Cay is shallow, deeper draft boats like ours must go around the Atlantic Ocean side of the cay; first out of the sound into the ocean, then up the ocean side of the cay, and finally back into the sound. The charter boat companies in the Abacos call it the “Whale Cay Passage”, and fearfully describe its horrors to their charterers. But really, it is like Longfellow’s little girl who had a little curl… when it’s good, it’s very good indeed, but when it’s bad, it’s horrid. With our good weather, our trip was very good indeed.
We anchored off New Plymouth Settlement on Green Turtle Cay and went to the famous Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar for a cold beer. Then we walked around the town for a bit. It was hot ashore, so we went back on the cooler water and took a dinghy tour of Black Sound and the boats that were moored there. Our departure from the Bahamas was drawing closer. But, we needed one final cheeseburger in paradise and decided to visit Sundowners Bar and Grill. While we were having our rum punches and waiting on our cheeseburgers, we had a delightful conversation with a recently retired Coast Guardsman and his wife. The conversation, rum punches, and cheeseburgers were all good.
On May 31 Bill changed the engine oil and did a few maintenance chores. We checked the weather forecast and decided it was time to leave for the states. The wind would be from behind us, and the rain and storms would probably hold off for a few days. We brought the dinghy onboard, deflated it, packed it away, and made sure all was ready for a long passage. We left in midafternoon. There would be stormy weather off the Carolinas in a couple of days, so we headed to St. Augustine, Florida. From there we planned to sail up the coast; out in the ocean on good weather days and inside in the ICW on bad weather days.
The wind played games with us. Instead of staying in the southwest, it changed directions and blew from the northwest, nearly the direction we needed to travel. Bummer. We adjusted the sails and continued. During the evening of Saturday, June 2, a little more than 48 hours out of Green Turtle Cay, we had a NOAA weather radio alert for a strong thunderstorm with 50 knot winds and hail. Next came a Coast Guard broadcast describing the coming storm and telling vessels to seek safe harbor immediately. We were approximately 40 miles off shore. There would be no safe harbor for us. We took all the sails down, closed all the hatches, and donned our foul weather gear. In the middle of all this activity, we had a pod of dolphins join us. They really put on a show doing back flips 3 feet in the air. Although I watched, I did not have time to make a video.
The storm came. With the sails down, we motored slowly into the wind. When the wind reached 40 knots, Bill could not hold the bow into the wind, so he turned downwind, the opposite of the direction we wanted to go. The wind peaked at 54.7 knots, the rain pelted down, a little hail fell, and the lightning was spectacular. Thankfully, the bad part of the storm only lasted about half an hour. When the wind dropped to 25 knots it seemed very calm. I have now survived a 50-knot storm, but I do not need to do that again.
During the storm, we not only made no forward progress, we also backed us up 3.8 miles. If we continued to St. Augustine, we would arrive in the dark. Not good, we do not pass through inlets or cuts in the dark. It is too dangerous. We changed course and headed for the St. Mary’s River entrance at Fernandina Beach, Florida. The rest of the night was calm. The thunderstorms moved off to the Gulf Stream and filled the eastern sky with an all-night light show with flash after flash of lightning.
After sixty odd hours at sea, we glided through the St Mary’s entrance and anchored on the Florida side of the Cumberland Sound. We raised our yellow quarantine flag and called Customs and Border Protection for clearance into the United States. Despite both the boat and the two of us being registered with the Small Vessel Reporting System, and despite our having properly submitted an internet Float Plan for our return to the United States, Customs and Border Protection asked us to check in with their experimental CBP Roam cell phone app which is being trial tested in Florida. So… we went to the Google Store, download the app, entered all the data about the boat, the trip, and ourselves, then photographed ourselves and our passports. While it was all easy enough, and we were cleared to enter the US almost immediately, it was frustrating for two old and tired people with a brand-new cell phone in one hand and a celebratory arrival beer in the other. Naptime followed.
The next morning, we moved Irish Eyes to Cumberland Island. We spent two days anchored off the Sea Camp Dock. The island was lovely, but it was hot. I think Cumberland Island is the bug capital of the world. As we walked the trails, I could hear the mosquitoes all around me. I just kept moving. Bill was behind me, and he told me I had a large swarm of the nasty beasts flying behind me. Of course, they did not bother him, just me.
By June 6 the weather off the Georgia and Carolina coasts had improved, and we headed north up the coast. We had our sails up, but because the wind was light we were also running the engine to keep our speed up. The next day, worried that we would run out of fuel, we ducked into Charleston to buy another 20 gallons. It took us three hours to go into Charleston Harbor, buy the fuel, then come back out into the Atlantic. It was an annoying but necessary side trip.
After a second consecutive night underway at sea, we entered the Cape Fear River, motored up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach, and spent a few hours anchored there resting and having supper. Just before sunset, we headed back out into the Atlantic on the last of our overnight sails. Early in the morning, we had a bit of rain but nothing like the big storm we had off Florida. We came into the Beaufort Inlet early in the morning, motored north in the ICW, and anchored in Cedar Creek just after lunch. We could have continued for another three hours to our slip in Northwest Creek Marina, but both of us were too tired to even consider that. We spent a very calm evening anchored in Cedar Creek and continued to Northwest Creek Sunday morning.
Our first chore was to get the air conditioner out of the car, install it on the boat, and plug it in. It took hours for the air conditioner to suck all the humidity out of our damp boat. While the boat was cooling down we moved some of our things from the car to the boat and from the boat to the car. Then, we each took long, long, long showers with unlimited hot water. Lounging in a cool, dry, air-conditioned, stationary boat after a long hot shower was just pure bliss.
It rained the next several days, and Bill could not do the outdoor projects he wanted to do. We decided to pack up and head for our home in the mountains. This year’s trip was fun highlighted by the kids coming to Black Point and marred only by the rainy weather and our fuel tank repair trip to Nassau. We will probably go again.
Enjoy your summer.