Saturday, December 5, 2015

Crossing to the Bahamas

Road trip food with a sailing twist--sugar, carbs & energy drinks

We've been prepping for this for over 5 years. We purchased the boat almost a year ago. Lived aboard 8 months. Headed south from Brunswick 2 months ago. We've been in Lake Worth anchorage 2 weeks. Crossing was just under 18 hours (we'd planned 22 hours to the initial anchorage).  Other cruisers would ask our plans, and it was always "depends on how the crossing to the Bahamas goes..."  Well, we're here!
Chris Parker gives the fleet the "thumbs up"

Yes, I'm behind on the blog. We spent a total of 2 weeks anchored in N Lake Worth waiting for another weather window. Not much else to say--errands, dinying around, reprovisioning, West Marine, forwarded mail, shutting off cell phones. You've heard all about that, so I'll give you the highlights:  At the last minute, The Captain decided to whip up a little something for Thanksgiving. (He usually does the turkey and I do the sides and desserts.). He bought some turkey breasts that he cooked in the pressure cooker and sautéed Brussel sprouts. There was supposed to be mashed potatoes and dessert, but they were waived off, with sufficient turkey leftover for turkey/mayo wraps the next day. (I somehow got out of cooking, altogether!)  The Captain saw his first topless sunbather. I was out in the cockpit when a large motor yacht went by with an attractive woman on the top deck. He didn't believe me, so I turned over the binoculars. The captain came out and anchored single-handed (they would drag and reanchor at sunset). We also had another Women Who Sail meet-up at Old Port Cove marina.  Adele is the Captain on their steel-hulled schooner, Willful they rebuilt from a bare hull. We could have listened to her stories for days "When you run aground with a boat that heavy, you run aground!  Tow Boat won't be able to help!"  Our friends on Southernmost were waiting for a part, and then will be going straight through to the BVI's with a hired Captain onboard, so we had a farewell lunch at Duffy's.

Our last Lake Worth/US sunrise for awhile

THE BIG DAY:  I'm up early. I can't sleep. At 4:30 am, I realize I forgot to take off hatch covers. We swung around overnight and are facing south for the first time. I hear engines running before sunrise, so I began my checklist before The Captain gets up. Float plan, bilges clear, breakers on, PFD's and foul weather gear are in the cockpit, snack bag is packed. The boss is awake by 6, and says he can be ready by sunrise, so hatches are closed and I'm in the cockpit and ready before him! 

Hour 1:  Anchor was up with the sun at 6:30 am, and the First Mate is at the helm for the 4 mile motor down the ICW to the inlet (timed to be going out with the 2.5 kt current).  We dropped in behind a large catamaran (Global Hopper, Fountain Pajot Balia) that we'll follow all the way to the Little Bahama Banks (shallower water N of Grand Bahama Island). 

Rounding the corner at Palm Beach harbour, right before the inlet

Hour 2 (7:30):  The sails were raised as we cleared the inlet and we shut one engine down while reducing the second engine to 50%. We are motor sailing @ 6 kts.  A got in a few posts on Facebook before losing cell service (Kelly Nicole & Magnolia are out here somewhere!). Palm Beach is still visible behind us. 

The sails are UP!

Hour 3-7 (8:30):  We enter the Gulf Stream, which will try to carry us north of our course. We are still making good forward progress with the wind staying 60 degrees off our nose in a close reach--as high as we can point. The heading to Great Sand Ridge was 70 degrees and we were able to hold 100 degree heading to compensate for the Gulf--a bigger crab angle than we expected to be able hold. We saw 4 kts of current.  This will put us right on White Sand Ridge "intersection" to enter the banks. We're officially out of sight of land.

The Atlantic Ocean 

Hour 8: We had approximately an hour after exiting the Gulf Stream to readjust our course for any drift. We hadn't been carried too far north so we only had to make a small correction for White Sand Ridge. We had as good a ride as you can probably expect on the Atlantic Ocean. The forecast was originally benign with Chris Parker backing off a little on the morning email ("not moderating as much as expected").   We had SE winds 8-15 most of the way. The 1-2 ft waves were hitting us on the starboard bow, with the occasional crash over the bow, but none of the "bow burying" we dislike when the waves are too close together. The boat motion wasn't the most comfortable we've had, with the boat pitching fore and aft and side to side, but this decreased has we continued.

The turquoise waters of the Little Bahama Banks

Hour 9 (3:20 pm): As we approached the banks (halfway!), there appeared to be a few squalls ahead of us, so we reefed the main (one of our dutchman lines broke, but not a crisis we needed to deal with right then). The second engine was started and were now motor-sailing at 7 kts.

Hour 12:  The sun set at 6:00 pm:  The waters were mostly calm now, with 15 kts of wind. We had the lights of a few boats in sight, so we turned on our steaming light, which also lights up our sails and makes us very visible (we were warned about the small, local fishing boats with no lights).  We were taking 3 hr shifts, so we both got naps with the cat "Mama it's bed time & the house is still moving?!"

Sunset on the water 6:00 pm

Hour 17 (midnight:30):  As we arrived at our desired anchorage (Northwest side of Great Sale), it was PITCH BLACK. It was basically an IFR approach, with the hopes that everyone's AIS was still transmitting or they remembered to turn on their anchor light. (Our spotlight didn't help much). Creeping in at a slow speed, angling between 2 AIS targets (Kindred Spirit just passed us, so we're hoping they'd still be lit up) and looking for shallower water without ending up on the beach. The Captain laughed as he said,"How are supposed to tell if we're dragging?"  But after backing down on it, in an anchorage with good holding/mostly sand, I was happy. 

Over the next couple days, we heard from more experienced cruisers that called it a "lumpy passage with waves from every direction with the occasional big wave, which slowed their forward progress". Guess we didn't do too bad. 

Stats:  total time 17:36, average speed 6.2 kts, total mileage 114, motorsailed (main & genoa close reach, 8-13 kt SE east wind, one eng @ < 50% power until banks then 1 reef in main & 2 engines).

Sunrise at Great Sale Cay

Great Sale to Spanish Cay (customs):  When we woke up in the morning, I could see the island and our neighbors (and a few we didn't know about).  For the first time, I could see our anchor on the bottom!

Why hello Mr Mantus anchor!

The Captain planned to sleep in, but he's up at 6:30, saying he'll eat an apple on the go if I'm ready.  I wave to s/v Marsea as they motored out.  With plenty of room around us, I go up to the bow with The Captain at 7:30 am to watch our Mantus anchor come up.

It's mostly overcast, as we join the parade of boats around the north end of Great Sale Cay headed south down the protected channel between the mainland and out islands.

Clearing customs at Spanish Cay with s/v Zimbini

Our destination is Spanish Cay, a sportfish marina in it's offseason. A large motor yacht has pulled in ahead of us. We are direct us into a slip in front of the clubhouse. I can see beautiful fish & a small shark swimming under our boat. For $1.95/ft + $20 for electric, we cleared customs, bar, showers, laundry, wifi, shore power. We go out to help Zimbini (Island Spirit 40 catamaran) tie up, another boat we followed on the AIS.  A small thunderstorm rolled through which confirmed this wasn't a great spot to sit out the weekends forecast of gusty winds and 8-10 ft waves. 

Stats:  (approx) Total time 7:30, avg speed 6.0 kts, total mileage 41.0, motored

Sunrise from Donny's Dock in Green Turtle Cay/Black Sound

Spanish Cay to Green Turtle. After checking the weather, we decided to move to a more sheltered spot for the weekend. We topped up the water tanks and put up the cockpit extensions. 
Winds were light, so while motoring, The Captain raised the main sail to dry it out, then lowered and put the sail cover back on. We arrived at the narrow, shallow marked channel for Black Sound behind another monohull, who pulled over and let us go first (yeah, send the newbies in the catamaran first. We get that a lot!). As we near the dock, I look over and see Global Hopper! "We followed you over!"  We have a short chat until I have to turn around and throw lines. I throw the bow line to Papillion, and when I turn around to throw the stern line, it's the Captain from Marsea that I met on the bus in Vero, anchored next to in N Lake Worth, and waved to at Great Sale. The cruising world is getting smaller.  

Stats:  Total time 3:23, avg speed 5.1 kts, total mileage 17.1 nm, motored.

Other crossing blogs:
Magnolia:  sailboat departed from Ft Pierce:
More from Kelly Nicole:


  1. Congrats on a big milestone! Now, make sure to enjoy it all.

    Duane and Diane
    m/v Diva Di

  2. As an aspiring cruiser, I have been lurking on your blog (as well as a few others) for some months now.

    I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment that you must now be enjoying!



  3. Thanks for following, Andy. It's nice to finally be in the Bahamas :-)