Friday, June 7, 2013

Leaving the Exumas and sailing to Eleuthera the water and the sea were almost matching shades of blue.  The water was so pretty.

A pod of porpoises followed us for a while in the Gulf Stream.  They moved so fast it was hard to take their picture.

This was sunrise in the morning before we got to Charleston.  Bill was asleep, and I was sailing the boat.

We were tied to the dock at the City Marina in Charleston, and Andrea was headed straight for us.  We would be together at 8am Friday.

Hello from Charleston, SC.  We have travelled a long way in the last few weeks.

On our last night in the Exumas, May 17, we anchored just off Ship Channel Cay.  Early the next morning, we pulled up the anchor and headed off for a day long sail to Royal Island.  The last time we did this we went through Current Cut.  This time we chose the Flemming Channel for variety.  We towed a Clark spoon on a steel leader thinking we might catch a fish along the way.  The steel leader would stop any toothy barracuda from biting off our lure.  We hoped to catch something around the many coral heads we had to dodge in the shallow water west of Eleuthera.  Well, we did not even get a nibble until we came out of the Flemming Channel where the depth increases from 3 meters to over 1000.  There, a dolphin fish took the lure.  We thought we had him, but the metal eye on the lure broke.  The fish got away with a hurt mouth, and we got nothing.

Royal Island was just an overnight stop for us in Eleuthera before we headed north to the Abacos.  We were up before sunrise for the 60 mile trip.  The weather forecast was for winds of 10-15 knots and seas of 3-4 feet.  Wrong!  The wind blew at about 20 knots, and the seas were occasionally 8 feet high.  To get into the protected Sea of Abaco, we planned to go through Little Harbour Cut.  It is the space between two bits of land with reefs on both sides.  Sometimes these cuts can be really, really rough.  When the wind and the waves are coming into the cut while the tide is going out it can look like a washing machine.  The locals call it a ‘rage’.  Captain Bill was worried.  When he lets me know he is worried, I am almost past worry and into deep panic.  We considered continuing on north to a wider, deeper cut.  But, as we got closer the wind dropped and the waves calmed.  We heard over the radio a boat going through the cut telling their buddy boat that conditions were not too bad.  That was good news.  We came through the cut just fine and had our anchor down off Lynyard Cay by suppertime.   It was a long and tiring day.

We stayed anchored at Lynyard Cay for several days because it was a little stormy.  During the first night, I woke Bill up so he could catch rain to fill our water tanks.  He topped off our tanks and caught another 30 gallons in jugs.  He could have slept because it rained during the next day too.  During a break in the rain we took the dinghy over to the beach and walked across the cay to the Atlantic side.  On that side the sea was really rough.  The beach was rocky, so the waves were crashing on the shore.  In the sand above the rocks we found a turtle’s nest with tracks left from the night before.

On Thursday, May 23, we moved a little farther north, anchoring in Bucaroon Bay.  The land in front of us had several small beaches separated by bits of rock.  We took a dinghy tour of each one.  To our surprise on each beach we found a different kind of shell and plenty of them.  Two were especially interesting.  One beach had lots of pieces of sea biscuits, and Bill dove just off shore for a box full of whole ones.  Another beach had a kind of beautiful pink, purple, and yellow clam shell that I had not seen before.  It was hard to leave our beaches, but we needed to move on.

We motored up to Marsh Harbour the next day.  It is the largest town in Abaco.  It even has a stop light (!) and a real airport.  Maxwell’s Grocery Store is almost the size of a small US supermarket.   We shopped, ate in restaurants, and visited with other cruisers on both our boat and on theirs.    After being anchored alone for so long, it was different to have so many boats anchored around us.  Dinghies came and went, music reached out from the nearby restaurants and bars, and the VHF radio kept up a near constant chatter.

It was time for us to think about heading back to the states.  Chris Parker is a weather forecaster who broadcasts over the SSB radio.  Boaters can subscribe to his service and talk to Chris to get a personalized weather forecast.  Being the thrifty people we are, we just listen.  There was always someone wanting to go in our direction.  His Abaco weather forecast was for windy and stormy weather all week long.  Some days he was correct, and others were just a little cloudy.  Chris’s forecast for Saturday June 1 and the days following was not too bad; a steady 10-15 knots from the south and a small chance of thunderstorms.  He also talked about the possibility of a tropical low forming in the Gulf of Mexico.  It seemed like a good time to leave Marsh Harbour, so we did.

The first day we sailed north between Abaco Island and the cays, then we turned northeast and crossed the Little Bahamas Bank.  The next day as we left the Bahamas and entered the Gulf Stream, the wind was 20 knots from behind us and the seas were rolling us quite a bit.  We could see rain and lightning all around us, but most of the time we were dry.

We were originally headed to Fernandina Beach, Florida because a cold front was expected to exit the US coast on Monday.  It became obvious that we would not make it to Fernandina Beach in the daylight, so we altered our course westward for St. Augustine.  When we left the Gulf Stream, the wind fell to 10 knots and the sea calmed down.  We turned on the motor to help us keep going.  You know, you can never please a sailor, either the wind is too strong or there is not enough.

Chris Parker’s weather forecast for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was pretty grim.  While the cold front had “dissipated”, the tropical low was expected to intensify and pass over Florida.  First there would be lots of thunderstorms over south Florida, then the tropical depression would sweep up the US east coast.  It was time to get out of Dodge.  Bill did some navigational calculations and said we could make it to Charleston before dark on Tuesday.  Once again we changed course.  The wind was light, so our trusty engine pushed us along with the mainsail up to lessen the rocking motion.

Out in the Atlantic we saw a pod of porpoises, several large fish, and two turtles all in one afternoon.  One night we had four flying fish land on our deck.  It was not a bad trip.  We had only one minor disaster; both of our auto pilots broke.  Fortunately, this was the last morning, so we did not have to hand steer but one day.  It was a long day.  We made it to the Charleston Harbour entrance around 4pm.  We were tied to the dock at the Charleston City Marina by 5:30, and we were cleared by customs by 6:30.  Both of us took showers with unlimited water and went out for supper before collapsing in our bunk.

Wednesday and Thursday we walked around parts of Charleston, shopped, restocked the boat, filled the fuel tank, and repaired or replaced some of the things that had broken along the way.  We had a new auto pilot shipped to us overnight.  Thursday night we went out to dinner with long time friends Louis and Cathy Boyd then waited for tropical storm Andrea to pass over us.  It was not all that bad a storm.  The wind peaked at just over 40 kt and we caught 4 inches of rain in our rain gauge.

Friday we made the obligatory trip to West Marine to buy boat stuff, shopped for presents for the grandchildren, bought still more groceries, and went out to dinner with Ed and Susan Herrington, friends from Kingsport now living in Charleston.

If the current weather forecast holds, tomorrow will be a perfect day for heading north, and we will be on our way again.

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