Man-O-War Cay to Settlement Harbor, Great Guana, The Bahamas
Sunday, April 18, 2004
The cool weather continued. Although the days are comfortable, we’ve had evening and morning temperatures in the 60s. Listening to the weather forecasts, it continues to look like this week will be an excellent window to cross back to the US. Although we’d like to spend a few more days in the northern Abacos, if we don’t take this window it could easily be another week or so before another good crossing opportunity occurs. It’s time to get ourselves in position to cross. Doing so requires that we head north, eventually to pass through Whale Cut. The cut separates the section of the Sea of Abaco that we’ve been cruising from the section that begins the route back to the states. Whale Cut can be treacherous and it has been lately. Hopefully, it will settle down over the next couple of days and we’ll be able to transit it. Meanwhile, we’ll stop at Great Guana Cay for a day or two.
We dropped our Man O War mooring and tied up to the marina dock to fill our fuel and water tanks. Heading out of the harbor, we had a nice sail to Great Guana Cay harbor, the home of Nippers Beach Bar.
We found a mooring in the settlement harbor, dinghied ashore and walked across the island (five minutes) to this “happnin’ place”. Sunday is pig roast day and the place was jammed. They must do more bar business at Nippers than at any other bar in all of the Abacos. Although cruisers visit the place, many of the patrons are renting houses on the island or take the ferry from Great Abaco Island for the day.
Sandy and I surveyed the scene and decided to order food. Bill got the pig barbecue and Sandy got a burger. While waiting for our food we met several cruiser friends who were also on their way north. As we ate, drank and talked we got some spring break action at a nearby table with a couple of young ladies who just had to show off their breasts to the bar patrons. Bill hated that!
Later that evening we returned to the boat and a dinner of grilled ham and zucchini with quinoa salad. Excellent (much better than the barbecued pork at Nippers!)
Settlement Harbor to Bakers Bay, Great Guana, The Bahamas
Monday, April 19, 2004
The weather predictions continue to sound good for a crossing later this week and it looks like Whale Cut will be passable tomorrow. So, today we’ll commit to a crossing. We had a nice sail (15 kn E wind) to Bakers Bay, only four miles away at the north end of Great Guana Cay, to be in position to transit the cut.
We’d arranged to meet Dave & Mary (Mon Amie) to pick up some jewelry Mary purchased for Sandy way back in Georgetown. Pete & Diane (Pearl) came by to say good-bye and we walked the beach with them and a couple of other folks. The north end of Great Guana was once home of a private destination for the Disney Cruise Line. It has since been abandoned. We walked the ruins, feeling like we were in a haunted ghost town. Bill also took a few minutes to clean our filthy dinghy.
That evening we went to a great happy hour on the beach. There were lots of folks, many on their way home, so it was a sort of bitter-sweet affair. A few people even brought their guitars and Bill entertained the group with his little songs, “Mon Piaba”, “Liquor In the Sewer” and “My Sweetheart’s a Mule in the Mine”.
Back at the boat, after all those beach snacks, it was salads for supper. Late that night, Sandy opened the forward hatch above our berth to see the Big Dipper staring down at her.
Bakers Bay, Great Guana to Green Turtle Cay, The Bahamas
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
We left the anchorage at 8:00 that morning to transit Whale Cut and the way north to the States. Winds were ENE at 8-12 kn. Whale Cay Cut turned out to be easy that morning with only gentle four-foot swells in the cut. We arrived at Green Turtle Cay before noon, our last planned inhabited cay in the Bahamas. We explored both Black & White Sounds for a place to spend the night. Black Sound has a couple of small marinas and easy access to the settlement. White Sound, to the north, has moorings but they were full. We decided to anchor just off the settlement’s harbor.
Just before we anchored we got a call on the VHF from Pearl. It turns out they’d decided to use the predicted weather window to return to the States, too. They anchored near us and we dinghied to the cozy little settlement, named New Plymouth, to explore it. Bill did e-mail and we did a little shopping. We stopped at a small restaurant for lunch and had some great cracked conch!
Later, Bill delivered Sandy to White Sound to walk and explore the beach. She didn’t find too many shells but had a nice walk. Meanwhile, Bill checked the engine and the rest of the boat in preparation for a long day tomorrow.
For dinner Sandy had our last lobster tail while Bill had a hot dog! What kind of justice is that? (Well, it was a ¼ pounder kosher dog.) Later, we visited Pearl to play Farkel. We played two games and Sandy & Diane were the Farkel Queens!
Green Turtle Cay to Great Sale Cay, The Bahamas
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
We’d intended to hoist the anchor at 6:15 but Bill overslept a few minutes. (Too much Farkel?) We finally set sail about 6:45. We were headed for Great Sale Cay, 60 miles away and our planned stop-over on our way to Florida. It started out as a nice sale (E 10-20) but the wind got light and we ended up motor sailing most of the trip. There were rain showers all around us as we approached Great Sale but we barely got a drop.
On the way over, Sandy made another basket with palm fronds Bill cut on Turtle Cay. She also made gluten-free ginger bread cookies. Bill read a book while the trusty autopilot maintained our course.
We dropped anchor at 4:15 in the anchorage at Great Sale Cay. Great Sale is an uninhabited island with a good anchorage that is commonly used as a stopover. There were only three other boats there when we arrived but by evening 14 were anchored in the cove.
We checked with a few other boats and found that Lou & Jean (Pica) were planning the same crossing as us so we made plans to leave about noon tomorrow. No, it wasn’t laziness. We wanted to plan to arrive not sooner than 7:00 am at Ft. Pierce, FL, to run the inlet in daylight.
We had a relaxing evening. Dinner was filets with roasted red peppers, onions and zucchini and baked potatoes. We also grilled some chicken to use in salad for dinner on our crossing. This is our last planned anchorage in the Bahamas! The wind changed to ESE (a favorable direction) during the night.
Great Sale Cay, The Bahamas to Vero Beach, FL
Thursday – Friday, April 22 – 23, 2004
We woke to sunshine and very light breezes. Bill checked the boat and engine and tried to nap in preparation for the overnight crossing. Sandy noted that today would have been her mother’s birthday. She’d have been 89 years old today. We miss her!
We left the anchorage at 11:30 am with Pearl and Pica. Although the wind was light (SE 10, 77°F), it was very good weather for our crossing. Let’s hope it stays this way for the 116 mile trip! We motorsailed all afternoon across the shallow Bahama Banks
Just as daylight began to wane, we crossed over the edge of the banks into deep water. And then … our engine suddenly overheated. Damn! Inspecting the situation, Bill found that the bolt that holds the alternator belt adjustment had sheared off. We didn’t have a replacement bolt of the correct size but Pete on Pearl had some that could work. Pete put them in a baggie, sailed alongside and tossed them into our cockpit. Thank heavens for well equipped crossing buddy-boats! Bill replaced the bolt and we were back in business as the sun slipped below the horizon.
The wind soon picked up and we shut the engine down and sailed with a reefed jib. The wind held at 15-25 all night while we sailed together with Pearl and Pica. We also encountered our friends aboard Attitude who stayed with us for the rest of the crossing so that we had a little flotilla of four boats together all night.
Conditions offshore were a bit rolly with small swells and a four-foot chop. The motion was sometimes uncomfortable but they were heading more-or-less on our course so at least the boat didn’t pound. We saw and managed to stay well clear of a few ships along the way. It was a long night. Sandy managed a nap but Bill didn’t. We were happy to see the dawn as we approached Ft. Pierce in dying breezes. On went the engine and we easily slipped through the inlet at about 8:30 am.
Overall, we had a smooth crossing. Much more comfortable than our crossing to the Bahamas.
We called Verizon and reinstated our cell phone plan. The next calls were to marinas in Ft. Pierce to try to secure a slip for the night. No luck! There was a fishing tournament that weekend and all the marinas were full. So we decided to head north, up the ICW, 12 miles to Vero Beach. Pica decided to join us but Pearl had family and friends to visit in Stuart so they headed south.
Arriving in Vero Beach, we tied the boat up in a slip. Then we phoned Customs and obtained a clearance number. We washed the salt and crud off the decks and filled our water tanks. Then it was time for showers and pick up a rental car ($10/day). We drove, with Pica, to the Port St. Lucie airport to clear Immigration. It was a 20-minute drive each way to accomplish a 3-minute formality … what a waste! Returning to Vero Beach, we drove to the beach where we got a recommendation for a restaurant named Two Jays for dinner. We drove into town and had a great, inexpensive dinner. Returning to the marina, we joined some folks aboard Attitude for drinks.
Long day! Back on the boat, we collapsed and slept soundly until Saturday morning!