Monthly Archives: May 2018

End of a Season

After a couple of relaxing days in Governors’ Harbour, we set out for Spanish Wells.  We left early, to make sure that we made it to the Current Cut at the right time to get through safely.  We pulled in to the fuel dock at the Power Plant in Russell Island to fill up the diesel tanks, before dropping anchor, right next to our friend, Holt, on Agandau!  Over dinner and drinks that evening, we discussed where we planned on going next.  It turned out that we were all looking forward to visiting Harbour Island, so we agreed to hire a pilot to guide us both through the Devil’s Backbone – an area of reefs which can be treacherous, but cuts down the journey to Harbour Island.

On Saturday morning, Captain Clayton joined us on board Sol Purpose and steered us through the Devils Backbone, closely followed by Holt on Agandau.  It was a little nerve-wracking watching the beach get closer and closer, as we avoided areas of reef, and we were glad we had hired the pilot.  He also gave us tips about getting through without him when we left for the Abacos.  And to cap it all, Captain Clayton’s wife bakes bread, and he brought a loaf for each boat!

Once we were through the Devils Backbone, the pilot jumped into his boat, which we were towing, and headed back to Spanish Wells, while we continued on to Harbour Island, and dropped anchor.  We then went ashore, to have lunch.  Holt had injured his foot quite badly a few days earlier and was having a little trouble walking, so we were delighted when a local guy, Derek, gave us a ride to the fish fry area on his golf cart.  We had a nice, but pricey, lunch, before heading back to the boats.

The next day, Moray and I headed back to shore to visit the main attraction of Harbour Island – the pink beach.  The beach is made up of sand and crushed coral, which in certain lights can make the beach appear pink.  I think we might have been there a little early in the day for the full effect, but it was certainly a very pretty beach.  There were people surfing and kayaking, more like a beach in the Mediterranean or Florida than any beaches we had experienced in the Bahamas until now.  We took a nice stroll along the beach and then back to the boat.

The next morning, Sol Purpose and Agandau set off together to head back through the Devils Backbone and then north to the Abacos.  When we made the original passage with the pilot, we had recorded our track, so we were able to use that as a guide, as well as just looking out for coral heads.

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our route back out through the Devils Backbone.  Coral, coral everywhere and lots of ways to sink

Once we were both through, we set sails and motor-sailed to Lynyard Cay in the Abacos.  We had a pleasant night at anchor, and first thing in the morning, Agandau set off for Marsh Harbour.  We stayed for a few hours longer so that Moray could fish, before we too headed to Marsh Harbour to find a safe place to ride out the latest weather front.  We were just getting settled, when Sofira pulled into a marina in Marsh Harbour!  We headed over to Snappas bar and grill, and got caught up over a few beers.  We had just got back to Sol Purpose when the heavens opened!  The rain continued all night and the next morning, so I took the opportunity to make some bread.  Once the rain stopped, we headed ashore to explore.  Moray finally managed to find a pair of fins to replace the ones he had lost in Georgetown, so that we would now be able to go snorkeling and diving together (up till now he had been using mine when he went fishing).  That evening, we met up with Bob and Clare, and Dale (Bob’s brother) who had flown in for a two week vacation.  We went to the Jib Room for BBQ and Limbo night!  And yes, after a few drinks we were persuaded to limbo.  We were terrible, but it was fun.  The professional there was unbelievable – the limbo stick couldn’t have been more than a foot off the ground when he went under it!

The next day was taken up with laundry, grocery shopping, baking and cleaning the boat.  Clare flew out to Boston, for her daughter’s bridal shower, and shortly after, Sofira headed off to Great Guana Cay.  We had decided to stay for a couple more days, which turned out to be a good thing, because the next day, we heard a knock and there was Skip from Prodigal.  The last time we had seen him was in Boot Key, in January 2017!  We joined him for drinks on his friends’ boat and it turned out that we had met them in Wayfarers Cove the previous summer, when Sol Purpose was out of the water!  Small world!

The next morning we left Marsh Harbour, heading out towards the Man O’War cut.  We wanted to take a look at the conditions at Fowl Cay, where there is great diving.  If it wasn’t suitable for diving, we thought we might just continue out to go fishing, but the conditions were not good at all at the Cut.  We decided to just head straight to HopeTown and stay there for the night.  We dropped anchor and took the dinghy into the town.  We swam in the pool, and Moray got to take a shower.  I wasn’t so lucky, as the ladies’ showers were locked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  We went to the Lighthouse, and while I waited at the bottom, Moray went up and got a great view of the town and anchorage.  The lighthouse is the last man-operated, kerosene-fueled, lighthouse and has been preserved by the locals, who bought it in order to prevent it being turned into an automated lighthouse.

The next morning we headed over to Mermaid Reef, and spent a couple of hours snorkeling – my first time since hurting my ankle in February!  We had a great time, watching a huge variety of fish, and just floating around the reef, before heading back to Marsh Harbour to ride out – yes, you’ve guessed it – another weather front!  Everyone had had the same idea, and the anchorage was pretty full.  We spent quite a while looking for a good spot, during which time I managed to run aground 😦 but eventually we found a nice safe spot and got settled in.  The front passed through pretty quickly, and the next morning we headed over to Great Guana Cay, dropping anchor in Fishers Bay.  Over the course of the afternoon a few more boats arrived, but it was a quiet anchorage.

We spent the next morning exploring the area, in particular, checking out the local dive stores to see whether we could rent tanks or get refills there.  We were desperate to get some diving in, and it looked as though the conditions would be perfect the next couple of days.  Dive Abacos could do both, so we arranged to go back just before close of business, to rent two tanks which we could use the next day.  That decided, we headed to the beach and took a nice walk before dropping into Nippers for a beer.  There was a group of people there already, and as soon as I spoke to Moray, one of the women – Anne – said “are you from Bristol?” !  So to all of you who say I have an American accent – you are wrong!!!!  Anyhow, it turns out that she is originally from Knowle Park, not far from Novers Hill where I grew up!  Once again, it’s a small world.

Later that afternoon, we picked up the dive tanks, before heading to Grabbers for dinner, before an early night to prepare for diving the next day!  Very excited, we left bright and early the next morning, and headed out through the Whale Cut, turning right towards the reefs to drop anchor.  We got all the gear in the dinghy and headed to the reef.  We dropped into the water for our first dive of the year!  We spent 75 minutes just cruising along the reef, which although not a pretty reef, had really interesting structures and lots of life.  We went back to Sol Purpose for lunch, and then Moray went fishing, as we were not in a nature preserve.  He didn’t catch anything, but I think he had a good time snorkeling and checking out potential future dive sites.  We headed back to Fishers Bay, where Moray returned the tanks and picked up two more.

The next morning, we went in the other direction and went to Fowl Cay Reserve to dive.  There are several mooring balls for small boats and dinghies, in order to protect the coral, so we picked one and dropped down to the reef.  We spent a leisurely 90 minutes cruising around the reef, which like yesterday, was interesting more for its structure than colour, but was teeming with life.  I was particularly pleased to spot a peacock flounder hiding in the sand.  I was getting cold, so we surfaced, only to find that it was raining!  Not a problem when you are under the water anyway!  We spent our surface interval having some lunch and warming up, before selecting another mooring ball and heading back to the reef.  This time, we were accompanied for the whole dive by several grunts, who just stayed with us, even when the reef sharks also decided to join us.  In total we saw 4 sharks on this dive, all of whom checked us out and continued on their way.  While I am well aware just how dangerous they can be, I can’t help but be in awe of these beautiful creatures, and every time I get to swim with one I feel very privileged.

After two great dives, we headed back to Fishers Bay to return the store tanks and get ours refilled, in case we would be able to get another dive in the next day.  We knew that wouldn’t be the case pretty soon after looking at the weather forecast, so we decided to just spend the next day chilling out on the boat.  By this time, Agandau was also in Fishers Bay, so we spent some time with Holt too.  He decided to go up to Nippers to check out the Sunday BBQ, which is infamous.  We decided against going, but we enjoyed watching all the boats full of tourists being brought over from Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour to participate in the festivities.

Our next stop was Treasure Cay.  When we arrived, we dropped anchor, closely followed by Holt.  Just then, another boat hailed us to let us know that he was about to leave.  Holt was going to be staying for a few days, so as soon as the mooring ball was free, Holt tied off to it.  We all went to shore to take a look around, and to have drinks and food.  We saw Chuck and Sabrina, who we had last seen in Georgetown, so chatted with them for a while.  It was also bingo night, so we played a few cards, and Holt won a bottle of wine!

Also in Treasure Cay we saw Kevin and Caroline on Redtail and Charlie and Michelle on Rascal.  We got to catch up with both of them, bringing our 2017/2018 sailing season full circle, as we had been with them in Wayfarers Cove at the beginning of the season, and were ending our season with them in Treasure Cay.  Yes, this was to be the last day of our Bahamas adventure, as we saw that the weather was forecast to be variable, with few windows of opportunity to get back to the United States, especially as we were hoping to cross back to North Carolina in one trip, rather than cross to Florida and then work our way up the East Coast.  So on Wednesday, April 25th, we left Treasure Cay and headed out the Whale Cut.  From there, we headed north to Morehead City.  We sailed some of the way, and motor sailed the rest, and for the most part, had reasonable conditions, if a little lumpy.  We saw one nasty squall, but we had been tracking it on radar, and had dropped the sails before the squall hit us.  So then it was just a case of riding it out and waiting for it to pass.  It wasn’t too long, and from then on, we had a great trip home, arriving in Morehead City at mid-morning, on Saturday April 28th.  We had covered the 487 miles in just 73 hours which gave us an average speed of 6.7 knots which was great for Sol Purpose.  We also got a chance to sail with double head sails when the apparent wind dropped below 8 knots.  With the Code 0 and full genoa out on opposite sides of the boat we were able to sail very close the the apparent wind speed.

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code 0 out to port and genoa to starboard

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5.3 knots of apparent wind, 6.5 knots SOG and 4.5 knots of water speed… good times!

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to clear in through Customs and Immigration in Morehead City at the weekend, so we spent a couple of days on board.  However, we were in a marina, with TV and internet, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship!  Bright and early on Monday, Customs and Immigration officers came to the boat, checked through our freezer and fridge, checked our passports and gave us the OK.  We dropped the yellow quarantine flag, and left Morehead City.  We spent a pleasant day motoring along the ICW and the Neuse River, before arriving in New Bern Grand Marina just before 4pm.

We have a had a great winter season in the Bahamas, visiting familiar places, discovering new sights, catching up with old friends and making new ones.  Now we are in New Bern, which we consider our home from home, where we will spend the next few weeks working on the boat, and preparing for our trip to Thailand.  The next installment of this blog should be very different, so watch this space!

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