June 14 - 24, 2003
Passage to Bahamas
We left San Juan, Puerto Rico at about 8:30 AM and once we were out of the port we raised the spinnaker. We planned to go to at least the Caicos (a 2.5 day trip), and do this by staying south since the winds were forecasted to be lighter up north.
Meanwhile, near Puerto Rico, the winds were rising during the day, so we were doing some pretty good speeds. At around 2:30 Frank was just thinking we should probably lower the spinnaker, because the apparent winds were starting to exceed 18 knots, suddenly he noticed that the tape holding the repair made last November was starting to give. So, we immediately took down the spinnaker and decided we probably wouldn't be using it again until it could be repaired.
Fortunately, the winds clocked and we were still making good time with normal sails. We saw no other boats or ships during the first night, and managed to keep sailing around 8 knots. The next day, we had good winds and kept sailing in 8+ knot range. By 9:00 AM, we had made 200 nm in 24 hours! We had mild weather all day.
In the evening, on Sunday, we had multiple rain squalls appearing on the radar and visible (by their lightning). Despite the radar, we ended up in the middle of a squall. But, it wasn't too bad - only about 25 knot winds. However, we seemed to travel with the storm and it stayed with us for several hours. Karen was a real trooper and stood watch through most of this in the late hours.
After doing some route planning, we decided to go on past the Caicos (one less customs office to worry about) and stop at the first Bahamas island on the Southeast side - Great Inagua. Here we could take a break and enter customs before moving on through the Bahamas.
So, we changed course and headed for Great Inagua. By mid afternoon the winds were starting to lighten. Suddenly, both of the fishing rods went "wheeeeeeeee". Frank jumped out to discover we had just gone through the center of a school of fish complete with birds circling. Probably tuna he thought. Sure enough, after Frank and the girls hauled in the two lines we had two tuna. Very different ones though, this time they were Skipjack Tuna. We kept the larger one, and later Karen cooked it up for dinner. It was delicious after Karen marinaded it with teriyaki sauce.
Here's a picture of one of the Skipjack Tuna:
We ended up motoring all the way past the southern shore of Great Inagua due to a wind shift. We arrived in the port of Mathew Town on the Southwest side at about 10:15 and dropped anchor. The only problem being a loud electric generator on the beach nearby. Wonderful. But, we were too glad to be at anchor and too tired to really notice. Frank discovered the anchor light wasn't working - so he'd have to go up the mast the next day.
Here's a picture of the coast of Great Inagua including a shot of the lighthouse:
On Tuesday, Frank got up and had breakfast. He noticed a large US Coast Guard cutter headed towards the island. A launch from the ship came to check out a mooring ball, and then later they came back with a large red "fishing" trawler which had obviously been converted to private ownership. The trawler was called "Twilight". The weird thing was the Coast Guard coming in with them. They left as soon as the Twilight was moored.
Meanwhile, Frank got ready to climb the mast to repair the anchor light. When he got up, he discovered that the fitting had somehow gotten loose, so all he needed to do was reseat it.
Frank then took a shower and got ready to go in for customs. He had to fill out about 10 forms (about twice as many as the average down in the Caribbean), but he tried to grin and bear i. As he was filling it out, the agent told him fortunately (!) his fee was only $100 US this time. After July 1, the Bahamas legislature had decided to raise the fee to $300!! This is a PER VISIT fee believe it or not. Needless to say, we will think long and hard about visiting the Bahamas again if this turns out to be the case.
After finishing with customs, Frank went on to Immigration. There he chatted with the agent who had actually gone to school in Raleigh for a while. Then, he was required to go back to the customs office for more paperwork and while there a radio call came in from the red boat "Twilight". They were asking whether Frank could give them a dinghy ride ashore because their conveyance was damaged.
Frank dropped the paperwork at PatiCat and let Karen know he was going to help out Twilight. Frank met Bob and Mary from New York. Their fishing boat is a converted pleasure cruiser. On the inside they had gutted the old fisherman interior and replaced it with nice teak wood cabinets and furniture that made it look like an apartment. An apartment that had been tossed about quite a bit. Their engine had gone bad (the blower went out) and they lost vertical stability while at sea (since they need the engines to drive them forward to keep upright). So they ended up calling the Coast Guard who hauled them for 1.5 days to Inagua, from North of Cuba. Their kitchen looked like a kitchen at home - normal fridge, normal stove, microwave. Turns out they have a 21 KiloWatt generator. Unfortunately, their launch (a Whaler) is lifted by hydraulic crane. The hydraulics require the engine to run. The hydraulics also drive their windlass, which was why they needed help to moor instead of anchoring.
Anyway, Twilight needed a mechanic, so Frank took them ashore. He offered to bring them back if they needed it. Later in the day, they called to say they had help and a ride back to their boat. The winds were picking up, so we decided to go ahead and depart. We left at 3:00 PM and had a nice sail up past Crooked Island. The night was perfectly clear and we had great stars, phosphoresence in our wake, and the seas were less than 3 feet. The winds were just behind the beam so we sailed along beautifully all night.
Here's a picture of the huge mountains of salt being processed at Great Inagua as we sailed north:
Long Island and Melusine
We had decided in route we would look at stopping at Long Island. As we approached the bay we had picked out looked beautiful, and we even noticed a catamaran at anchor there. So, we came around to the port entry and went to the marina to get fuel. We then headed out to anchor and as we were leaving a dinghy with kids on board approached us. They were from the catamaran and were VERY glad to see another kid boat. They told us to anchor near them.
Later Frank took the kids over to Melusine (the name of the other catamaran). They had two kids ages 10 (Emelie - the daughter) and 7 (Alec - the son). The parents, David and Nathalie, told Frank that they live in the Florida Keys and have been spending their summers in the Bahamas with their kids - this was their third summer. They own their own business and it is doing well enough that they can take off the summers. Good for them!
Here's a picture of the waters at Long Island, and a shot of Melusine:
The kids were inseparable for the next couple of days. Frank went snorkeling and Karen rested some. We spent some time entertaining or visiting between the two boats. Frank and Karen had a chance to do some sightseeing ashore and get some minor groceries. We had a great time visiting with Melusine, but we had to keep moving on if we were going to get back by July 1st (the deadline on our boat insurance because of hurricane season).
Here's a picture of the kids, and some shots of the snorkeling including a shot of a Queen Angel Fish:
We left early on Friday morning at about 6:15 AM. We ended up motoring pretty much all day because the winds were very light (less than 10 knots from the east - so only about 3 knots apparent). But, the water was smooth and the air was clear (a high pressure system). As a result, fishing action was amazing! Frank landed several fish. He caught at least 3 Mahi Mahi including one at least 5 feet in length. Fortunately, because it was just too beautiful and too big to bring onboard without using the gaff, it made a final jump just behind the boat and snapped the hook off. Later, Frank caught a very large fish which he was certain was a marlin. It snapped the line on the first jump and then jumped again, so he got a good look at it. Quite a day of fishing!
Here's a picture of a Mahi Mahi on the hook:
We had another very clear starry night and smooth seas - good for sleeping, but more motoring and not sailing. We finally got some wind in the morning and altered our course. We had planned to go to Grand Bahamas, but we found out (with some E-mailing and help from our friend Fred Burke back in North Carolina) that the marina wouldn't have a slip until the day after next. So, we decided to stop in the Berry Islands based on some input we had from Melusine.
There was a lot of ship traffic in these waters, so we had to keep our eyes peeled on the radar and looking out for ships. We finally approached the Berry islands in late afternoon. Frank noticed a large partially submerged object in the water near the shore, and sure enough a fishing charter boat was headed right for it. He hailed three times on the VHF and the other boat finally answered and noticed the object. The other boat went to look at it and said it looked like a large electrical box of some kind from some ship. He thanked us for the warning.
We went to the anchorage we had been told about. Interestingly, it was near a beach which was obviously used to cater to cruise ships. A beach full of recreational support like water trampolines, jet skis, kayaks, hundreds of beach chairs, etc. Later in the evening a thunderstorm came through. The girls remarked that they were actually glad to hear thunder because it reminded them of home. We had not had thunderstorms the entire time down in the Caribbean believe it or not!
The next day, we relaxed while watching a cruise ship approach and dump hundreds of people ashore. Fortunately, the jet skis went well away from us, we only had a bit of traffic from locals coming on water taxis to provide support to the cruise ship customers. Thankfully, none stopped to bother us though.
Frank did some exploring on the dinghy and even tried snorkeling - but, the conditions weren't very good. We decided to leave late in the evening so we would have an early day arrival in Grand Bahamas.
Here's a picture at the Berry Islands in the rain:
As we were getting ready to leave, yet another thunderstorm came through. We actually weighed anchor while it was still raining. We had some other squalls during the night, but not too bad. We also had a problem with our jib furler which Frank patched with some rope while getting wet in rain and seas at night. In the early hours of the morning, on Monday, June 23rd, we were passing Freeport. Unfortunately, the winds veered the wrong way and although Frank tried tacking several times there were just too many ships to dodge so he ended up turning on the motors. The winds picked up as well so the seas got pretty choppy.
West End, Grand Bahamas
We motored for the next several hours to West End, Grand Bahamas and hailed the Old Bahama Bay Marina on the radio. They still had a slip for us, and we went in. We got fuel first, then moved to our slip. The marina was packed this time. In fact, they gave out their last slip just a few minutes after we got ours. Lots of people coming from Florida for the weekend had been stuck an extra day because of the winds stirring up the seas making it impossible for small boats to get across the gulf stream.
There were kids on some of the boats, so our kids were thrilled to have kids to play with on the beach, pool and on other boats. Frank got caught up on Internet and noticed we had an interesting E-mail. Some people had been looking at our web site because they were also buying a Voyage 440. They noticed we had plans to stop in St. Augustine and invited us to make use of their slip behind their house. Way cool! So he wrote them back. Later Karen and Frank spent some time cleaning off the boat while the kids played.
Frank found out two knobs that hold the jib furler in place had fallen off, so a jurry rig would have to be used until replacements could be ordered. We all took showers and then got ready to eat at the restaurant. We had a nice dinner and even decided to go for dessert. An excellent meal! Afterwards, Frank turned in the paperwork to clear out for customs and paid the marina since we planned to leave early the next day.
We left at 5:30 AM on Tuesday, June 24th. Frank sent an E-mail to my sister Susan - it was her birthday. The families with the kids the girls had played with the day before zoomed past us in their speedy motorboats as we were setting up sail. They were going 30 knots with two 225 horsepower motors! We had pretty good winds and were making decent speed (using a LOT less fuel than those motor boats). Eventually we got into the gulf stream and got an extra 4 knots of speed for several hours. It was great seeing 12+ knots on the GPS.
We got an e-mail from the Morton family who had invited us to visit in St. Augustine. They were looking forward to having us visit and offered us the use of not only their slip, but also their pool, outside shower, a dog, and two kids! Frank always knew the web site would pay off.
We managed to sail all day until about 7 PM when we had to start the motor because the winds had lightened up. A few minutes later, the fishing line suddenly when "wheeeee" again. This time, after quite a fight, Frank pulled in a large "Little Tunny". Another rarer variety of fish in the tuna family. This one was about as big as they get - about 25 pounds. We threw it back because we weren't sure how good the eating was, and we still had fish in the fridge.
Here's a picture of the Little Tunny. It's weird how we would take pictures of fish catching, but always forget to take pictures of the marinas we visited.
Patricia took her first night watch. Afterwards, she stayed up with Frank and they had a nice chat as we motor-sailed along. We ended up dropping the sails around 2 AM and motored the rest of the way to St. Augustine , Florida and the USA! (a web page for this will be here soon)