Saturday, May 30, 2009

Days 156- 160 Sailing Offshore from Bahamas to Beaufort, NC

On Thursday, May 7th, we were eager to begin our sail from Green Turtle Cay to Sale Cay, but we waited for the Black Sound Marina to open at 8AM so we could top off fresh water and diesel tanks. Then we were off. As you can see from the picture, we continued to sail with the spinnaker in the shallow waters of the Little Bahama Bank (northwest of the Abacos). It was a lovely sail, but not enough wind to get us to the Sale Cay anchorage before night fall.

Thursday afternoon we had to decide what to do with little or no wind. Our only choices seemed to be finding another place to anchor for the night or cranking up the engine. Well, we don't like to motor our sailboat, so we started looking for a place to anchor out in the middle of the banks. Then John said, "We could just keep sailing all night long." Wow! What a concept!

The moon was full so it was easy to see all night long. We decided that with four-hour watches we could sail all night just fine. John agreed to take two night-time watches. Here's how our watches were scheduled: John sailing from 8 PM to midnight, Penny sailing from midnight to 4AM, John sailing from 4AM to 8AM, and Penny from 8AM to noon.

Well, that's the way it went! We sailed all night on Thursday rather than stopping to anchor. This picture is at sunset on Thursday night as John sailed us northwest over the Little Bahama Banks. Penny was getting ready to take a 4 hour nap until her watch started at midnight.

On Friday morning, May 8th, we were still transiting the Bahama Banks. We continued with our watches. Then at 9:45 AM Penny sailed off the banks and into the Atlantic heading for the center of the Gulf Stream. Here's Capt. John napping in the cockpit as we approached the ocean.

The Atlantic and the Gulf Stream were awesome! The water color changed from light aqua to a deep, beautiful royal blue--like ink! The wind was steady and the current in the Gulf Stream enhanced our boat speed from a good hull speed of 6 or 7 knots to an exceptional speed of 9 to 10 knots! Woo-hoo! We're on our way home!

The scopalamine patches were working for Penny and the Power Bars were holding out. We charted our progress north and discussed options to change directions and head west to the US coast. But after one day at sea, it seemed like a good idea to keep going. The weather was great and the boat and we were holding up well.

This is sunset on Saturday, May 9th.

Saturday afternoon the wind died and we were forced to motor for 3 hours until the wind picked up again. The 4 hour watches continued and we were doing fine. There was no need to turn left and head to Georgia or South Carolina. We decided to stay in the Gulf Stream and press on to Beaufort, NC.

On Sunday, May 10th (Mothers' Day), we continued to sail swiftly north. Then at 3:30 PM again the wind died. We floated along marveling at the flat, calm ocean. It was very strange and sort of eerie. Of course, we could just hang out and wait for the wind to pick up again, but we were running out of good weather. This seemed to be the calm before the storm. So, we roller furled the jib and cranked up the engine--after all, we had lots of diesel fuel!

We motored all night Sunday. The moon was still full and we were lucky to be far away from big freighters and cruise liners that worry sailors at sea. During John's watch this last night, he did what he had been wanting to do for our whole trip--he caught a fish! Actually, there were two fish--flying fish--which jumped out of the sea and onto our deck. No kidding! And, they were fairly good size too.

Still motoring we moved out of the Gulf Stream toward the coast of North Carolina. The sky was already clouding up and by late morning on Monday, May 11th the temperature dropped and torrents of rain beat on us. We could see land first in the distance and then began to recognize the sea buoys leading into Beaufort Inlet. It was nice to think about being back in Beaufort, but the awful weather was making us wonder if we should turn around and go back!

The rain eased up and we sailed into Taylor's Creek, Beaufort--ahhh-home. We called Beaufort Docks for a slip so we could check into US Customs. We lowered the Bahamian ensign and raised our yellow quarantine flag. Penny went ashore to talk to customs and arrange for them to come inspect the boat. We could not leave the boat until we were checked through customs. By early afternoon, the customs official got to our boat from Morehead and officially inspected Caribbean Soul. We passed the test and are now legally free to move about the country.

And move about the country we will! Lots more adventures are yet to come.

This is the end of our 2009 Bahama Blog. Thanks for reading our blog. You were always a part of our sailing adventure as we took pictures and prepared stories for you.

Stay in touch, you are important to us!

Days 154 & 155- Preparing to Sail Home

Tuesday, May 5 and Wednesday, May 6, 2009.

Tuesday was our day to provision for the last time in the Bahamas. We shopped in Marsh Harbour for power bars and other snack food that does not require any preparation. It is possible to cook underway, but ocean passages tend to be "rolly" at best, so working down below in the galley is a challenge. Also, even though Penny uses scopalamine patches for blue water sailing (ocean off-shore sailing), she doesn't like to push her luck by spending extended periods of time down in the galley. The other provision we needed was a bit of US cash. The ATM machines in Marsh Harbour give you Bahamian dollars, so we had to do some trading in town to get US cash. The Bahamians use both the dull green US cash and the bright, colorful Bahamian cash without hesitation. Somehow, we don't think businesses in the States would be willing to take our Bahamian dollars.

Weather forecasts were looking good for a sail north so we planned two daytime sails to get to the northwestern edge of the Bahamas. Then we could head out for a quick crossing over to Florida. So, on Day 155--Wednesday, May 6th-- we had a delightful northwest sail downwind to Green Turtle Cay. As you can see, we hauled out the spinnaker and had a lovely sail.

We got to Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay at low tide Wednesday afternoon. We radioed the nice guy at Black Sound Marina who said he had a mooring for us, but advised us to wait until the tide starting rising again as the sound entrance is very shallow. We anchored outside New Plymouth Settlement and waited a couple hours. At about 5PM we motored into Black Sound and hooked up to the mooring. Then we grabbed the laptop and the headset, so we could Skype home from the beach-side bar Pineapples.

So here is Penny finishing off a very fine tropical frozen drink beside the pool at Pineapples Skyping the family. The message is a bit strange--"We are leaving to sail back to Beaufort tomorrow morning (Thursday, May 7), but we have no idea when we will arrive." There is a possibility that the weather will be good enough to stay in the Gulf Stream and sail it north to Beaufort rather than sailing west to Florida first. If we sail west to Florida, we will work our way north along the coast--St. Augustine, FL; Savannah, GA; Beaufort, SC; Charleston, SC; Wrightsville Beach, NC; and home to Beaufort. How long does that take? It took us almost a month when we were sailing south to the Bahamas in December. But the weather in December was not very travel-friendly--it was cold and the wind often blew in the wrong direction. Also, the Gulf Stream flows north, not south. So--who knows? Three weeks? Two weeks? Or, just one week?
Well, regardless of how long it will take, we need a good night's sleep for tomorrow's sail to Sale Cay and on to the northwestern edge of the Bahamas.

Day 153- Finley Flies Out

Monday, May 4, 2009

Before Finley flew back to the States, we got him to help John change a light bulb. Does that sound strange that John would need help changing a bulb? Well, take a look at the pictures. This is John at the top of the mast changing the masthead light. Not an easy bulb to replace!

Then we took a taxi to the airport to see Finley off. As it turned out, the flight was delayed for 2 or 3 hours, so we got to play some more dominos with Fin.

So now we need to plan our passage back to the States. We are watching and studying the weather. It looks as if a great weather window is coming up. Also, the moon is full making night travel easier. Stay tuned--a big sea adventure is coming up!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 152- Back to Marsh Harbour and Mermaid Reef

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This is our last full day adventuring with Finley. With Finley at the helm, we sailed the short distance from Hope Town to Marsh Harbour. We decided to stop just short of the harbour and explore Mermaid Reef which had been recommended to us by Elizabeth Way, a friend from Beaufort. Pictured below is our sail across the Sea of Abaco and our temporary anchorage at Mermaid Reef.

Here are some of the underwater sights we saw. Pix 1 & 2 a sergeant major fish in profile and face first; pic 3 a blue angelfish; pic 4 a French angelfish; pic 5 a ballyhoo which appear right on the surface in large schools; pic 6 a blue parrotfish and a starfish; pix 7 & 8 midnight parrotfish; pic 9 a stoplight parrotfish; and pic 10 a school of grunts of some sort.

The videos above are of John and Penny with lots of fish--mostly parrotfish and one of Finley.
Then we sailed on to Marsh Harbour and anchored for the night. These pictures are of Fin and Penny hanging out at Snappa's one last time.

And finally the sun sets on Marsh Harbour.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 151- Exploring Hope Town with Finley

Saturday, May 2, 2009

So on Saturday, we did the tourist thing and wandered around Hope Town. Here's Caribbean Soul back on the mooring in Hope Town. John snapped some pictures from the dinghy as we started our day.

Here are some more pictures of the lovely Bahamian village of Hope Town.

Once again, we visited the lighthouse in Hope Town--this time with Finley.

Then back to the dinghy and over to the Reef Bar for some more snorkeling.