This chart of the coast from North Carolina to Cuba shows the route of our trip this year. The red line is our trip south and through the Bahamas up to our arrival in Marsh Harbour in the Abacos. The green line is our route during this blog entry. Although the green line is long, we sailed it in just seven days. The red line took five months. The blue water is shallow and the white water is deep. To me it seems backwards, but Bill says they do it that way to save ink.
There is not much to see at sea. It is just water and sky like this. At night we have stars, planets, and the moon, but my camera will not take their picture from the moving boat. That is why I don’t have many pictures this time.
This is the inside of the pump that pumps water through our engine to cool it. The black rubber thing in the middle is the impeller. Two of the vanes are broken off and are sitting on top of the pump. Bill replaced the pump with a spare one the day before we left the Bahamas.
Hello from Kingsport, Tennessee. Bill and I arrived back home Thursday evening, June 22. Now we have all our projects here at our house to keep us occupied.
When last I wrote, we were anchored in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. We stayed there for ten days. The weather forecasters I wrote about last time were right; we had rain and thunderstorms almost every day we were in Marsh Harbour. It was humid, and when we were not having a storm, there was very little wind. Bill did boat projects getting Irish Eyes ready for the ocean trip back to the US. I mostly read and stayed out of his way. I did not knit much because it was so humid I could not hold the yarn. We went into town a few times to do a little shopping and to eat in some of the restaurants. Bill made his fourth and last batch of beer on the boat while we waited on the weather to clear.
Finally, on Saturday, June 10, the weather forecast was decent. We left Marsh Harbour and motored north in the Sea of Abaco, past several islands, then around the ocean side of Whale Cay before returning to the Sea of Abaco. While the trip around Whale Cay can sometimes be a little rough, this year the sea was calm, and we traveled just off the island’s coast. Sometime in the mid-afternoon, Bill noticed the engine temperature gauge was reading a little higher than usual. We anchored, and Bill checked the pump that pumps the sea water that cools the engine. Two of the vanes on the rubber part that goes around inside the pump were missing. They had broken off and plugged the hose. Bill picked the broken vanes out of the hose, removed the old pump, and installed our spare one. All I did was watch and worry. We motored a little way farther to make sure the water pump was working, then we anchored for the night at Powell Cay.
It had been a long time since we had been swimming. As soon as the anchor was down, we were in the water with our pool saddles and a beer. The water felt really good.
With a forecast of light winds from the southeast slowly changing to southwest over the next four days, it was time to leave the Bahamas. The genoa sail was up and the engine was running by 7:40am Sunday. We were headed back to the US. The course was set for Charleston and the autopilot was steering. Over the next four days, we motored some, we sailed some, and we motor sailed some. Off the coasts of Florida and Georgia there were thunderstorms and showers in the Gulf Stream that we could see. We stayed to the east of the stream to avoid the storms. Only one storm came over the top of us, but it was in the daylight. Thunderstorms are worse at night or at least they seem worse. Not only are there the wind and rain, but with a 48-foot-tall aluminum mast it is hard not to worry about lightning. Our last loaf of bread, store bought, was gone. I, with encouragement from Bill, made some yeast rolls as we sailed along.
As we neared Charleston, the forecast said our good weather would hold, so we altered out course for the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The next forecast was not good, so we turned toward Winyah Bay and Georgetown, South Carolina. Six hours later NOAA changed their mind again, so we again changed our course back to the Cape Fear River. Wednesday evening, Bill did some calculations. We were going to arrive at Cape Fear River entrance at 1am -- in the dark -- not a good thing. We tied two reefs in the mainsail making it as small as we could, and Bill tied a bucket to the stern of the boat and threw it in the water to slow us even more. That worked; Irish Eyes arrived around 7am Thursday. It seemed like a long time since we had seen land. While we were at sea, we worked two to four hour shifts, one of us sleeping while the other watched the boat. There was not much too look at except blue water, the sky, and the clouds. Occasionally, we had atlantic spotted dolphins swim with us for a while to break the monotony. I know I do not want to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat. An ocean crossing would be way too long for me.
After calling Customs and Border Protection in Wilmington and receiving clearance to enter the US, we continued up the Intracoastal Waterway to Wrightsville Beach and anchored there. We were both very tired. We considered sailing on to Beaufort overnight, but after four days and nights of only sleeping a few hours at a time, a full night’s sleep sounded too wonderful to pass up.
Friday morning, we left at sunrise, went back out into the Atlantic, and sailed on to Beaufort, NC. That leg of the trip took about twelve hours. If we had stayed in the ICW it would have taken us two days. The trip to Beaufort was uneventful until we arrived at the Beaufort Inlet. It was quitting time of the next to the last day of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament with its over $2,000,000 in prize money. Let’s just say the huge sport fishing boats were in a rush coming home through the inlet, and there were a lot of them. Their wakes combined with the waves coming into the inlet and the tide flowing out made it a rough, bouncy, wet, and almost terrifying entrance. What a ride! We anchored for the night near Fort Macon, the first safe place to stop.
Saturday, we travelled up the ICW to the Neuse River and then on to Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern. It had been a week since we had touched land in Marsh Harbour and six days and seven hours after leaving Powell Cay. It was hot in the marina, and the first thing on the list was to put the air conditioner on the boat and start it going. We got it on the boat, but it would not start. My 38-year-old Chevy Blazer started right up, and we drove to Lowes to buy a new air conditioner. With the new air conditioner installed and set to cool the boat, Bill and I took long showers with unlimited hot water before going out for a pizza. The small things in life are really luxuries, a cool dry boat, a good shower, a pizza, and sailing to the Bahamas with the one you love to name a few.
It took us four days in the marina to clean the boat and pack our stuff. We left New Bern around noon on Thursday. The rusty old Blazer made another trip to Kingsport safely. Bill and I are slowly getting back into the swing of life on land... dirt dwellers again.
We had a good trip. Maybe we will go again.