Great Lakes Cruising Club We've been GLCC members for over 20 years and would recommend every Great Lakes cruising sailor consider joining. Bill currently is a also member of the GLCC Board of Directors.
Noonsite ... the "definitive" world cruising web site Noonsite is the culmination of Jimmy Cornell's work on the global cruising scene for the last quarter of a century. It's the most visited source of cruising information on the web, with over 13 million hits in 2006 alone.
Lyn and Larry Pardey's site The Pardey's have circled the globe at least twice in their "back to the basic" self-built wooden sailboats. The Cruising Tips section of this site contains a wealth of information.
Beth Leonard & Evan Starzinger's Web Site Beth and Evan are one of the "rock star" couples of the cruising world. Since 1992 they have sailed over 90,000 ocean miles covering the Artic Circle to Cape Horn, including rounding all five of the worlds great capes.
Paul & Sharyl Shard's Sailing Adventures This commercial site is maintained by two professional sailors and marine cinematographers. Their DVD's are outstanding. The site also contains podcast links and other textual information.
Lee Chesneau's Marine Weather Site Lee is the best in the business, and this website reflects that. We also took a 2-day weather seminar from Lee, which we highly recommend if you get a chance.
Knot Tieing Made Simple Does knot tieing have you tied in knots? Click this site for annimated demos on how to tie every knot imaginable.
Seven Seas Cruising Association The SSCA is an organization of over 10,000 cruising sailors worldwide. Anyone intersted in ocean cruising should consider joining for the wealth of information provided.
Claus and Rachael on Kyanna Claus and Rachael cruised from Bayfield out to Nova Scotia and down to the Bahamas in 2007-2008. Much of their track mirrors our cruising plans for 2008-2009.
Bill and Sylvia on Eos Bill and Sylvia are presently cruising between the East Coast and Bahamas aboard Eos, the beautiful 52' boat they built in Hugo, MN.
Carl and Joyce on Running Free Departing from Bayfield, our friends Carl and Joyce Berdie are casting off on their 3rd trip to salt water this spring.
Nick and Sherri on Sweet Time Nick and Sherri did the Downeast Circle the summer of 2008, sharing several harbors and anchorages with us along the way.
Alfredo and Nicoletta on Jancris Circumnavigators Alfredo and Nicoletta did the Downeast Circle the summer of 2008, sharing several harbors with us along the way. For an English translation of the web site click the British Flag at the top of the home page.
Allen Murphy (Murph) on Kelly IV Bill's co-conspiritor on the Great Lakes Cruising Club Internet School (www.GLCCSchool.com) is presently working his way out the St. Lawrence and South, following a similar path to ours.
Scott and Brittany on Rasmus We met Scott and Brittany in 2011 while ancored off pristine, isolated, Big Sand Cay about 20 miles east of the Caicos Banks. Their blog is one of the best we've seen. Enjoy!
After 49 years of owning and sailing a number of boats, ranging from the 12’ Moth we purchased shortly after college graduation to our present beloved Tayana Vancouver 42 Pilothouse Cutter Jubilee, we’ve decided to list Jubilee for sale with Rogue Wave Yacht Sales, a yacht broker in Annapolis, MD. While we continue to love sailing and sailboat cruising, we're thinking it would be best to sell Jubilee and switch to power, probably a trawler, sooner rather than later to find and prepare our next boat for the following decade or more of our cruising adventures, some of which will be more suitable on a trawler.
We’re excited to be listing with Rogue Wave, a leading brokerage agent specializing in serious cruising boats like ours, and are presently waiting for a favorable weather window to head north from Brunswick on the outside toward the Chesapeake, and ultimately Annapolis. Hopefully the contrary high winds and seas of the past week will lay down by early next week, allowing for an enjoyable sail north.
Jubilee is immediately ready to head out cruising again wherever one's plans might take her. Click Rogue Wave Yacht Sales for more information on our listing, or call Bernie or Kate at Rogue Wave directly (410-571-2955) if you might be interested in a closer look (see the following photos shot just this past year).
We apologize for this overly delayed final post on our 2015 cruising exploits. The task kept falling out of our job jar as we first focused on getting the boat ready for hurricane season storage and then got busy catching up on everything after our return to Minnesota.
Nassau and North – April 7-9
Like last year, we had arrived in Nassau on Easter weekend. Again this year many if not most businesses were closed through Easter Monday, and we wanted to make at least one equipment purchase before leaving Nassau. Although our two big 4D house batteries were good, our two smaller Group 27 genset/starting batteries ended up with bad cells from the prior year in storage. We wanted to replace at least one of them before leaving Nassau, so on Tuesday Peter, owner/operator of the Nassau Harbor Club Marina, drove Bill to a battery shop where we took advantage of Peter's commercial discount to purchase a replacement. By 1:50 Tuesday afternoon with the new battery installed and our fuel topped, we untied the lines and headed off for Nassau Harbor’s west entrance.
Our weather outlook looked ideal with steady E to SE winds and clear skies predicted for the entire passage … plus for good measure a full moon on Wednesday night! Could it get any better?
With 17 knots apparent on the starboard quarter we proceeded out through Nassau Harbor’s entrance buoys and ran for hours with just a slightly rolled in jib. Later as winds eased a bit the jib’s small reef went out and the Main went up. Through it all the sailing winds were near perfect both in speed and direction.
To further improve on an already great situation, after 8:00pm that night we began picking up a 2-knot local current boost. The great weather and current boosts continued through our first night and on to the next day and night until we left the Gulf Stream. The passage was a pure delight.
The Gulf Stream can be rough and even dangerous when wind opposes current, but when the wind is with you while heading north with the current, the Gulf Stream is most certainly your friend. Our weather router Chris Parker periodically sends Gulf Stream analysis emails out to his subscribers. Per Chris’ Gulf Stream email a week or so prior to our crossing, the attached screen snap shows the approximate location of the west & east walls of the stream and its axis (location of highest current) in red superimposed on our Fugawi navigation screen while we’re running a full 10.7 knots “over the ground” in the middle of the stream. Our through-the-water speed was comfortably in the low to mid-6’s all this time. Life underway doesn’t get much better than that.
We typically see lots of commercial traffic … freighters, cruise ships, tankers, barge tows and the like … between Stirrup Cay in the NE Berry Islands and Freeport, a major trans-ship port at the SW point of Grand Bahama Island. Traffic seemed lighter on this trip, partially because most cruise ships are at their further east and south destinations mid-week instead of crossing back and forth to/from Florida and other US ports. Most of the shipping we encountered were cargo ships and tankers waiting to offload or load at Freeport (see photo at left). Plus of course, while we were riding the stream north there weren’t too many vessels heading south against the mid-stream current. Navigation around shipping was pretty easy the evenings of the 4th and 5th.
Unfortunately a little before 6:00am on Thursday the 9th the favorable winds eased down to the point where a little engine boost was required to keep our desired speed up in the lessening apparent winds, so we started our trusty diesel at low revs for the final 6 hours of our passage back to the states. We tied up at Cape Marina in Port Canaveral at noon on the 9th … a total passage of 295.3 miles in just over 46 hours.
Upon arrival we cleared back into the states via U.S. Customs and Immigration’s Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) program. The SVRS is essentially a pre-clearance capability we’ve used for several years now. Clearing with SVRS typically involves just one quick phone call. That completed, we were officially back in the USA!
The Final Leap Home – Port Canaveral to Brunswick: April 10-11:
After one night at Cape Marina we were recharged and ready for another two-day jump, this time from Port Canaveral back to our planned summer-fall storage port of Brunswick, GA. The weather Gods continued to be good to us, with fair weather, albeit relatively light winds, forecast for the entire passage.
The weather forecast also gave us a goal, as by late morning on the 11th the light S/SW/SE/E winds outlooked for our passage were forecast to quickly clock to the N and NE and increase right on our nose if we didn’t make it to Brunswick early enough. Accordingly we cast off our dock lines and departed Cape Marina at 7:00am Friday the 10th under clear skies with a light SE breeze.
It was a pretty bland crossing ... not much excitement except for having to wait a bit for a submarine to enter Canaveral's entrance channel and then turn off to the sub base there. After the sub cleared, the Coast Guard boat holding us all back literally blew a whistle and then quickly got out of the way, as more than a dozen medium to large sport fishing boats and two cruising sailboats hit their throttles to head out like a LeMans start on the water! Not surprisingly we didn't win the start, but it was kewl.
Although we tried to sail a few times, the winds were light to the point that we could only make Brunswick within our weather window by motor-sailing most of the way. So motor-sail we did. We again encountered very little traffic … a couple of barge tows, a cruise ship going into Jacksonville, and the typical gaggle of personal fishing boats near each river mouth or sound entrance. We did hit some light .5 to .7-knot counter-currents running against us in a couple of places, but nothing significant.
On entry to St. Simons Sound via the Brunswick channel it was nice seeing the St. Simons lighthouse welcoming us back to our boat-home in Brunswick, GA. We arrived at the Brunswick Landing Marina fuel dock a 2:30pm on the 11th after traveling 205.4 miles over 31 ½ hours.
2015 Cruise Epilogue
Even though our 2015 cruise was unusually short for us, we again thoroughly enjoyed our southern waters getaway. We had started out with plans to stay state-side and cruise the Florida Keys, but those plans changed as relatively cold, wet, weather persisted in Georgia and Florida this year with front after front blowing in across the lower 48. Leaving Brunswick much later than planned and with much less outside boat work completed than planned because of the weather, we decided at the last minute that our best course of action would be to change plans, jump across the Gulf Stream, and head to the Exumas where we knew it would be warmer. Warmer it was. It was delightful. And in heading to the Exumas instead of the Keys we were also able to connect with many of our Minnesota friends already in the Bahamas.
Further shortening our time in the Bahamas, we subsequently decided to head back earlier than originally planned so we could take advantage of an outstandingly good weather window. Although it shortened our time in the Bahamas, that, too was a good call, for as soon after we arrived in Brunswick crossing conditions deteriorated. Some of our cruising friends ended up pinned down in the Bahamas waiting for an unseasonably early tropical low (eventually named Tropical Storm Ana) to clear the area and head up to a Myrtle Beach landfall in the States (see Ana's path through the Bahamas and up to Myrtle Beach on the left).
All told, we still traveled a total of 1,247 miles (about 1,435) statute miles, over 1000 of which involved getting from Brunswick to Nassau and returning. This year’s cruise reminded us again how nice it was in the Caribbean where we could see the western extent of our Virgin Islands cruising area from our storage marina in Puerto Rico.
Our earlier than planned return to Brunswick also afforded us the opportunity to attend to projects that had gone undone during Georgia’s cold and wet February weather. In addition to our normal end-of-season cleaning and storage projects, the better spring weather allowed us to get to delayed maintenance projects like our external teak, much of which we brought down to bare wood before re-finishing. When we finally left the boat on May 1st our trusty magic carpet, the Jubilee, was looking almost new … and almost too good to part with (see below images), although she remains for sale.
Future cruising plans depend on what happens with the Jubilee. If she sells before next year’s winter cruising season we’ll be out trawler shopping. If she doesn’t sell we might bring her back north next spring-summer. Time will tell, but one thing is certain. In the interim we’ll be enjoying the northern summer to the fullest, sprinkled with some land trips over the summer-fall months. The adventures continue.
This cruising year has been an unusual one. Our later start, longer prep, and goal to get back a little earlier than in past years resulted in a very short time in the Exumas … scarcely over two weeks. But that said, any time spent in the Exumas is good time. We were able to visit all or our favorite haunts, plus enjoy some great times with several of our cruising friends from Minnesota and beyond.
Rather than bore those who have followed our previous trips to the Bahamas, we’ll make this post more about pictures and people than a cruising chronology. But to set the stage, the following was our itinerary:
Depart Nassau on 3/19 for one night at Shroud
Sail down to Big Majors near Staniel Cay on 3/20, connecting with Rose Hanselmeyer and Tom McMaster on Sojourn and Jerry Cucci and Diane England on Nightstar, followed later by Bob and Judy Snyder on Greenstone, Wally and Connie Waffensmith on Summer of 42, Jim and Ellie Watson on Last Tango, and John and Nora Mayo on Saber Tooth.
Sail from Big Majors up to Cambridge Cay on 3/23 – most of the above also migrated to Cambridge for a few days there, but some moved on either south or north. We spent a week in Cambridge. Also joining us there were Canadian cruising friends Paul and Elizabeth on Liesel.
Sail on the Exuma Sound (ocean) side up to Warderick Wells on 3/30. Summer of 42 and Nightstar also moved up to Warderick where we were all lucky to snare a mooring ball in the north mooring field.
North to Shroud on 4/3 in company with Summer of 42 (Nightstar had departed the prior day, heading for Ft. Lauderdale in three jumps).
Back across the banks to Nassau from Shroud on 4/4.
About half way across the banks under partly cloudy skies, as we crossed to Shroud Cay from Nassau we saw our first waterspout while at sea. Waterspouts are fairly common in the summer months down in Florida and the Bahamas, but this is the first one we’d personally seen in our winter-spring travels down this way.
Waterspouts are small tornado-like phenomena. Being fairly small (narrow) they’re less likely to cause damage than the Midwestern tornadoes we’re more familiar with, but they do pack pretty hefty circular winds. Luckily per our radar the cell generating the spout remained at least 5 miles or so to our east. The spout dissipated after several minutes, but did give us a chance to snag the accompanying photo.
One of the best things about cruising is the many friendships one makes. Some of course are longtime friends initially met over the years while cruising on Lake Superior, but while cruising we also continually meet and make new friends. The associated snapshots capture two of those cruising moments with good friends sitting around cockpits for for sundowners.
Impromptu Beach Gatherings:
End of day beach gatherings including everyone in the anchorage is a fairly common occurrence. These pics capture the fun at both Cambridge Cay and Warderick Wells.
One is tempted to think cruising is a sedentary activity, but between raising and adjusting sails, cranking winches, picking up moorings, raising and lowering the dingy, and similar spurts of activity while underway, a lot of exploring goes on both ashore and in the water. We particularly enjoy hiking, and some of the trails in the Exumas offer plenty of exercise with the reward of some beautiful views, as these pictures attest. Bill typically destroys a pair of boat shoes each season from hiking on the sharp limestone found throughout the Exumas.
While at Warderick Wells we scoured the sign pile at BooBoo Hill where cruisers typically leave boat-name carvings on driftwood, but our Jubilee plaque, on the hill since 2009 and last seen in 2014, was nowhere to be found. Wally and Connie Waffensmith easily found their Summer of 42 plaque (see photo), but ours must have been lost the to the winds, hopelessly buried, or perhaps “re-used” by another cruiser as their own. The accompanying picture shows our now-lost plaque as it was in 2014.
We didn't get in a lot of snorkeling on this trip, but did manage to explore the coral gardens at Warderick as well as the south beach at Cambridge Cay. Our Cambridge excursion got a little exciting when we weren't watching our time or location very well and found ourselves getting into the Conch Cut’s ebb current. Quickly swimming perpendicular to the current we hung on to a limestone “peninsula” jutting out from Cambridge where Bill was able to pull himself around to a point where he could climb onto the point. Judy found a little pocket where she could also climb onto the rock. We waited there for about an hour for the current to ease, then re-entered the water and swam back to the beach with only a few leg cuts from the sharp limestone as “souvenirs” of our adventure.
There are so many scenic views in this area, each one seemingly more beautiful than the last. Here are two of our favorites from this year, both taken at Shroud Cay.
Particularly note the photo to the lower right of Waffensmith’s Summer of 42 taken at Warderick Wells while exploring Narrow Water Cay to the west of Warderick’s mooring field.
Back in Nassau:
While in Nassau we explored the Fort Montague park near the marina. It was fun, if not a little disconcerting (double click on the photo to see all the flies on the fish) watching the fish being cut up for sale. We passed. Fish head soup with fly a-la-mode anyone???
A special treat while in Nassau was happening across Italian cruising friends Alfredo and Nicoletta Giacon from the sailing vessel Jancris while at the Starbucks near the marina. We first met them back in 2008 along Quebec’s Gaspe’ Peninsula, cruised in company through much of the Maritimes, later connected again at Annapolis and then re-connected again a few years later here in the Bahamas. It was great seeing them again.
To wrap up this post, below is a screen snap of our Exumas track this season. As you can see our Exumas cruise wasn't too ambitious this year, focusing more on enjoying a few longer stops with good friends at our favorite haunts than on making miles.
Next Leg … Back to Brunswick:
On Tuesday April 7th we’re planning to set off for Brunswick, with indeterminate stops along the way. Stay tuned for our next post in a week or so.
Our cruising season start was later than usual, slower than usual, and was marked this year by changed/changing plans. Bill left for the boat by car during a beautiful Minnesota-Wisconsin warm snap on Saturday, January 24th, with dry roads all the way to Brunswick, GA. That driving trip turned out to be a lucky break on this year of front after front and storm after storm.
Judy followed by plane to Jacksonville, FL, on February 9th, after Bill had gotten the major boat systems all going and the boat again habitable. Our initial plan was to cruise to South Florida and the Keys this year instead of heading to the Bahamas. It was a great plan. We had purchased a cruising guide to the Keys, another for the Florida east coast, plus a Florida chart book. We were ready. But it was not to be. Plans changed, but more on that later.
On Judy’s arrival in Jacksonville we spent the night with our very good friends Al and Judy Potter, who rented a home for two months in the area, both as a winter respite and to help out their youngest daughter, Jenny, and family who had just moved from the Twin to Cities to Jacksonville with Jenny’s husband John’s new job at the big Mayo center there. It was great seeing all of them again, plus John and Jenny’s new home.
We should add that Al also had helped Bill bend on our mainsail in Brunswick the prior week … a several hour task that Judy was happy not to be involved in this year.
Back in Brunswick we dove into maintenance projects and provisioning for our time on the water. In parallel repeated cold fronts started coming through … the tail of the systems dropping tons of snow with cold temps on New York and Boston to the north. Outside work was especially slowed with the cold wet weather. We were beginning to question the wisdom of leaving the Virgin Islands last year.
But that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves while in Brunswick. We certainly did. Long time work and social friends Sylvia and Bill Mueller, initially from Roseville, MN, were living aboard at Brunswick Landings while pursuing their own boat projects. We did several things with them during our time there, as well as with several others in the marina. Brunswick Landings is a very sociable place, with boater happy hours several nights a week, a women’s walking group every morning when it wasn’t raining (and sometimes mall walking when it was), group trips to local hangouts like Bennie’s Red Barn on St. Simon island for their free Thursday night fish fry, a night at Confederation Station to catch some of the best down-home bluegrass and gospel music you’ll ever hear, and a special “Robert Burns” program at the county library put on by Linda Bandelier, a Brunswick Landings cruiser who lived in Scotland for many years and is a professional story teller and folk singer/guitarist as well as being a Methodist minister.
Chicago cruising friends Richard and Joan Miller also visited us aboard the Jubilee for two glorious days, and the weather cooperated perfectly for exploring the area together. During their visit we logged another “must repeat” restaurant, the Blackwater Grill on St. Simon Island. The Blackwater has been featured on the Food Channel (check out Blackwater’s web site for the program), and it both lived up to and exceeded its billing. Our dinner was absolutely out of this world, as was our Sunday Brunch the next day at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel ( photo at left). The accompanying picture shows the two love birds, Richard and Joan, hanging out in Brunswick’s 900-year-old Lover’s Oak tree.
After Richard and Joan departed the weather broke for the worse. The marina even had us leaving dock and restroom spigots dripping to keep pipes from freezing. This NEVER happened in the Caribbean! Reports from cruisers further south in Florida weren’t encouraging either. Maybe cruising the Florida Coast and the keys wasn’t such a good idea after all. We quickly came to terms with a Plan “B”, as in Bahamas. We decided to depart Brunswick and head south as quickly as possible, crossing to the Bahamas, (east of the Gulf Stream the temps are always significantly warmer), and then heading further south to spend a few weeks in the Exumas, hopefully catching up with friends already cruising that area.
The Cruising Begins
March 7-8, 2015: Brunswick to Cape Marina at Port Canaveral, FL – 217.9 miles/32+ hours
After our longest pre-departure prep ever (and many previously-delayed projects completed) we left Brunswick at about sunrise on March 7th, heading nonstop for Port Canaveral’s Cape Marina which supposedly was holding a parcel for our arrival. The temperature was 36 degrees in Brunswick when we left. There even was frost on the staysail cover, accompanied by very lumpy seas outside. Even with the pilothouse we had on everything we owned and were still cold. Plus neither of were feeling 100% given the rough conditions outside. We definitely weren’t in the Virgin Islands anymore!
Luckily things got better the further south we went. There was almost no traffic save the occasional freighter, a couple of cruise ships, and a submarine with escorts departing the St. Mary’s river submarine base.
Port Canaveral was a delightful change for us. Rounding the Cape always seems to yield improved temperatures. For the first time this year we were in shorts and Tees. What a difference 200 miles can make!
March 11-12, 2015: Port Canaveral to Lake Worth – 116 miles/21+ hours
Our “guaranteed” 2-3-day Priority Mail parcel sent 8 days prior had not yet arrived, presumably the victim of the ugly weather to our north. The Seattle, Washington, sender kindly agreed to send another parcel out via overnight FedEx at no charge to us. This kept us in Canaveral another day, but the down time was appreciated. Our package arrived (actually both the earlier USPS and the later FedEx package) late in the morning of the 11th, and we were off again late that afternoon on another overnight targeting an early afternoon arrival in Lake Worth.
This leg was much more comfortable, both temperature-wise and sea-wise. Although we had to motor directly into light southerlies for the entire passage, it was a very pleasant trip. The weather Gods were finally smiling on us as we anchored in Lake Worth under sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures.
We took advantage of the near-by Publix grocery and West Marine stores to dingy in and pick up a few last minute things before leaving the states. In addition, our final tax reports had just become available so we were able to finish and file our taxes from the anchorage (what would we do without the internet???). But the highlight of our stop in Lake Worth was meeting up with long time Quebec cruising friends Joe Mainguy and Joan Murphy, who had sold their boat and purchased a home in the area. We had initially met Joe and Joan in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, when we passed through in 2008. We buddy boated with them along some of the East coast, and then again later in the Bahamas. It was wonderful seeing them again (see photo taken in their backyard)
3/15/2015: Lake Worth to West End, Grand Bahama – 63.4 miles over the bottom/ 75.5 through the water due to the Gulf Stream - ~11 hours
With over 60 miles to go and the Gulf Stream to cross we knew we needed an early start to assure a daylight arrival. We were up and finished with breakfast before first light, had the anchor raised, and were on our way through Lake Worth by 7:25, right around sunrise. Another 45 minutes took us through Lake Worth, its inlet, and out on our crossing course to West End. With basically flat seas and light and variable winds it ended up being a motorboat trip, but we again at least had lucked out weather-wise for our stream crossing (stream crossings can be nasty … even dangerous in strong wind against current situations).
The stream flows north at up to 3.5 knots or so at its highest point and about 2 to 2 1/2 knots on average over its width. For us the Gulf Stream current added a computed 12.1 miles of additional through the water distance to our crossing … a pretty hefty addition during the course of one day.
The trip went like clockwork. We arrived at West End around 6:30 with time to be assigned a slip, check in, and clear customs and immigration. Life was good and, as the ads say, it definitely IS better in the Bahamas.
With the weather GRIBS outlooking a better crossing window on Tuesday, we turned Monday into a lay day to enjoy West End, which we did thoroughly (see accompanying photo).
3/17/2015: West End to Nassau, 139 Miles/24.5 hours
Departing our West End Dock at 11:30am to assure a mid-day arrival in Nassau, our day started with some low-rev motor assist to keep things moving a pace, but within 4 hours the engine was off for the remainder of what was arguably one of the best distance sails we’d experienced so far. As the time wore on and we needed to change direction around the Berry Islands, the winds obliged and shifted accordingly giving us a perfect angle all the way for our single-reefed main and reefed headsail. We were in our Nassau Harbor Club marina slip right on schedule at noon … just in time for a short walk to the DQ in the shopping center across the street and longed-for chocolate shakes and cheesy coney dogs. Life was indeed good. The prior cold weather and lumpy uncomfortable seas off the Georgia-Florida border were mostly forgotten, replaced by warm temps, tropical breezes, and beautiful waters. The “delivery” part of our trip done (see our cruising track at right), our real cruising starts tomorrow morning as we depart Nassau for the Exumas. Stay tuned for the good stuff.
For our final leg this season we would be covering ground familiar to us from the three prior years we spent cruising in the Bahamas, but that final leg would still involve a big jump. The trip from Nassau back to Brunswick, GA, for hurricane season storage would still entail well over 500 additional miles. As Yogi Berra once said … it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and the trip wasn’t yet over for us.
4/23/2013 – Nassau Departure
Wednesday morning at shortly after 9:00 a.m. we cast off our dock lines at the Nassau Harbor Club Marina and pointed Jubilee’s bow out of the harbor past the docks chock full of visiting cruise ships. Our weather advisor, Chris Parker, had forecast an easy passage … perhaps too easy, with very light winds over the next several days. As usual, he was right on.
After a short delay waiting for a small container ship to enter the commercial docks at Nassau Harbor’s west entry we set sail to a light easterly, allowing us to do about five and a half knots in flat seas in the direction we wanted. But that wasn’t to last. After about three hours the wind went away and we had to fire up the trusty diesel. It would run for the next 45 hours, sometimes motorsailing and sometimes running only under engine. We docked at Port Canaveral’s Cape Marina Friday morning, almost exactly 48 hours after our Nassau departure.
When cruising you are constantly meeting and making new friends along the way. In Nassau we met a wonderful and fun couple, Bo and Joyce Chesney who cruise and live aboard their beautiful Beneteau 49 Dream Catcher full time (see Dream Catcher under sail at right). Although they most recently lived in Annapolis before cruising, Joyce was originally from Iowa, living in Spencer and Ames before moving east. Small world.
Leaving Nassau at close to the same time, we remained in visual and VHF contact with Dream Catcher throughout most of the trip to Port Canaveral. Having a “buddy” out there to chat with and confer with about navigation tactics is not only helpful but also comforting. This was particularly true during our two long nights offshore with next to no moon to light our way.
That is not to say that our passage was uneventful. We’ve always encountered heavy commercial as well as pleasure boat traffic when rounding Great Stirrup Cay in the NE Berry Islands, as well as at Freeport, Grand Bahama and, in fact, in all the waters in between Great Stirrup and Freeport. This trip was no different. If we encountered one boat that night, we certainly encountered forty or more (we didn’t keep a complete record).
Thank goodness for the AIS (Automatic Identification System) receiver we had installed back in 2008. Almost all commercial vessels plus many pleasure boats now carry AIS transponders that digitally broadcast vessel name, heading, speed, vessel size, vessel destination, and other information continuously. Vessels with receivers such as ours use software to display that data in both graphical and tabular form. On Jubilee that task is handled by the FUGAWI navigation software we run on our laptop whenever we’re underway. FUGAWI not only displays this data on our electronic charts and in tabular form, it also computes important information such as closest point of approach (how close would we would approach each vessel given our and their current courses), the time to that closest point of approach, and more. All this tabular information is augmented with color displays to differentiate vessels that should be of no collision concern (green or yellow) vs. those that we need to be concerned about (red). Click the associated image to see a larger view of our FUGAWI AIS navigation screen at one point off Great Stirrup Cay that evening.
On this night our screen was literally lit up with ships. Usually we had enough information about a ship to know they posed no collision threat, but when the potential for a collision was identified we called the other vessel via VHF radio to ensure they were tracking us on their radar and to discuss what they’d like us to do to assure safe passage. When called, the commercial captains typically indicate that they can see us on their radar and will slightly adjust their course for us (their radars and navigation systems are very sophisticated in helping skippers plot courses safely around other moving boats). In addition, commercial vessels are usually travelling much faster than we are, and as such can often effect major changes in a potential collision situation with only a small course adjustment. Occasionally they also request us to adjust our course.
And then there are also the non-AIS vessels … typically pleasure vessels like ours without transponders that need to be tracked and avoided visually and by radar. All this made for a very busy first overnight out of Nassau.
By around 6:15 in the morning we had finally passed Freeport and the heavy traffic. We would still be encountering the occasional commercial or private vessel, but would no longer feel like we were the game ball in a pinball machine trying to successfully dodge obstacles.
Jubilee had crossed the Gulf Stream five times prior to this trip, plus Bill had also crossed the stream up near Norfolk, VA, during his two Caribbean 1500 trips offshore to the Virgin Islands. The steam is something that deserves respect, particularly if one is in the stream during a wind opposed to current situation which can quickly create dangerously high and steep seas. That said, the stream isn’t something to be feared. Each of our crossings has been uneventful. Timing is everything. Plus if one can “ride” the stream northward for any distance you’re sure to enjoy an incredible boost in speed over the bottom … more miles & less time … a win/win.
We used two sources to determine the current location of the stream. Since the more southerly position of the stream tends to be fairly stable, our weather router Chris Parker sends an email about once a month to his subscribers with coordinates roughly defining the east and west walls of the stream plus where the stream’s fastest current lies. We plotted that information on our FUGAWI charts as a planning guide. In addition we use a color graphic published by the US Navy which shows the same information with the current’s speed color coded (see associated graphic).
Judicious use of all this information can add 3½ knots or more to boat speed over the bottom if one is heading in the direction of the stream, as we were. The net result for us was over 10-knots over the bottom during a substantial portion of our trip north (see associated snap of nav information taken from FUGAWI on our PC). Kewl!
Arrival at Port Canaveral
As we approached the Cape more and more boats began converging. Most were pleasure boats returning from the Bahamas and Caribbean and using Port Canaveral as their US customs and immigration check-in location, but there also were two cruise ships returning that morning. Slowing the boat down to assure arrival in good daylight but after the cruise ships had entered and docked, we made our way into Port Canaveral’s deep and easy entrance and quickly tied up at the Cape Marina fuel dock. Using our small vessel reporting system numbers for customs and immigration (we had previously filed our arrival itinerary via internet from Nassau), check-in required only one simple 5-minute-or-less phone call with no on-board inspection. These new procedures have certainly made check-in simpler. In no time we were officially back in the states!
Shrimp and Grits to Celebrate
Bo is originally from Texas and had a mean recipe for Shrimp and Grits. Not generally being grits fans, we were pleasantly surprised as they treated us to a celebratory evening meal in Dream Catcher’s cockpit Friday evening. Rest assured we now have their recipe!
4/26/2014 – Lay Day in Port Canaveral
We had only planned to stay at Cape Marina one night, but you might recall that our SSB radio was inoperable for our entire cruising season this year. Zach Duy at Duys Electronics in Port Canaveral had repaired and bench tested it for us last year after it originally went on the fritz, but after sending it back to MN, and we in turn sending it to Puerto Rico via UPS truck, ship, and then truck again, it never worked when re-installed. Something must have shaken loose in the multiple transits.
Zach said he’d come into his shop on Saturday morning to take a look, and his look was successful. It turned out the bad capacitor he had replaced last year had leaked some caustic liquid when it failed. That leak had eaten through most of another connection below the circuit board. While the radio worked when Zach had bench tested it, the shipments apparently fully opened the now-etched/partially broken circuit. Once found, the fix was a simple jumper wire to bypass the bad part of the circuit board. We were back in business, but the repair took us far enough into Saturday to miss our preferred departure window for daytime arrival at our next destination. We decided instead to remain at Cape Marina an extra night, leaving Sunday morning instead.
Saturday night we went to the nearby Millikens Reef seafood restaurant for excellent seafood dinners with Bo and Joyce. New friends, repaired radio, wonderful dinner, good weather forecast … what more could sailors ask for?
4/27 – 28/2014 – Port Canaveral to Cumberland Island
A sailor could and does ask for favorable winds, of course, but that’s something we didn’t get. We continued to sit in the middle of some very weak weather systems, making for excellent powerboat days and poor sailing days. What wind we did have tended to be from the south or south southeast … putting our course almost directly down-wind in only 8-10 knots of breeze at best. A direct downwind sail in those conditions would mean running at only about 4 knots or less in less than 6 knots of apparent wind. On the other hand, motoring or motor-sailing in the low to mid-6’s would put the apparent wind at about 4 knots or less, meaning virtually no boost from the sails. As some of you know we’re exploring selling Jubilee once we’re back in Brunswick, ultimately to replace her with a trawler to meet our needs for the next 10 or so years of cruising. Our travels from Nassau to Brunswick this year provided us an opportunity to see what trawler life is like as we powered away hour after hour, albeit trying to get a little boost from the sails whenever we could.
One special highlight was the welcoming pod of Dolphins who came out to join us as we closed on the St. Mary's river entrance. Dolphin sightings are always fun, and being joined by a pod of dolphins is one of the special things we so enjoy about cruising. (see associated youtube video)
Timing is Everything
Our timing into the St. Mary’s inlet at the Florida-Georgia border was terrible. We had forgotten how one has to be focused on tides and tidal currents at inlets and in the ICW. In short, we arrived at the St. Mary’s at max ebb, meaning we faced about 3 ½ knots of adverse current most of the way from the entry buoys to our Cumberland Island anchorage. Not fun … and S_L_ O_W! Tomorrow we vowed to pay more attention to the timing of our transit both out the St. Mary’s inlet and into Brunswick.
4/29/2014 – Cumberland Island to Brunswick Landings Marina
Slack tide on the St. Mary’s Tuesday morning was a little after 10:00 a.m. … too late for us to arrive at Brunswick during a reasonable tidal current while also beating the marina’s closing time. Our solution was to “compromise” our tidal timings. We pulled the hook up and embarked against a weakening flood current (slightly adverse for us) by about 8:30 a.m. We ended up seeing an average of 1 knot adverse current most of the way out, with peaks of about 1 ½ knots … much more reasonable than our in-bound timing on Monday and not too bad a compromise.
The conditions outside hadn’t changed a bit since the prior days. Our final leg of our return trip to Brunswick would again be under the engine with less than 5 knots of apparent wind. Of course we couldn’t complain. We could have been facing 20-knot or more headwinds, or thunderstorms, or any number of nasty situations. Instead we continued with our easy motor-sail to the north (with emphasis on the word motor).
As we worked our way up the channel and into St. Simons Sound toward Brunswick Landings Marina we began hearing about heavy rain and possible severe weather heading toward Brunswick. The front was anticipated to arrive around the same time we expected to reach the marina. Consequently we kicked up the revs., decided to forego a stop at the fuel dock, and instead went directly to our slip to meet Cindy from the Marina. In short order we were secured at our dock and ready for the front, but in the end only saw a few intermittent drops of rain. Even our final docking turned out to be benign on this trip.
Beginning Prep for Summer-Fall Storage
Longtime friends and work associate Sylvia and Bill Mueller on Eos joined us in the cockpit for sundowners once it was clear the rain wasn’t going to materialize. We had hoped to cross paths with Sylvia and Bill as they headed to Puerto Rico and we headed back, but unfortunately they ran into a pesky fuel problem that took several stops plus themselves and several mechanics to solve. Although their fuel problem finally did get resolved, unfortunately a good share of their transit window had evaporated in the interim. They also wanted to ensure all was indeed fixed before proceeding down-island where skilled mechanical help and parts would be scarce if needed, so instead they returned to Brunswick to defer their Caribbean leg for next season. Notwithstanding their disappointment in yet another year’s delay, it was good seeing them again. With Eos also in Brunswick Landings our arrival truly made it feel like we were coming home.
Tuesday morning we started working through our “to do” lists to prep Jubilee for storage. We expected to be in Brunswick about another week and hadn’t yet explored flight arrangements, but our return to Minnesota was now in sight. Hopefully the weather here will cooperate, although the forecast for the next several days calls for overcast skies and intermittent showers.
Reflections on our Return Trip from Puerto Rico
When talking about our sailing travels people always ask what we liked best. In reality there is never “one” best, but rather scores of experiences impossible to compare. For example, how does one compare viewing the North Star off your starboard bow and simultaneously sighting the Southern Cross off your port quarter in the Mona Passage against humpback whale sightings off Big Sand Cay or the close encounter with a southbound humpback while sailing to Mayaguana? Can one ever compare our enjoyable chat in Mayaguana over a Kalik with Scully, and our delightful exchange with an elderly Clarence Town convenience store owner… both men equally proud and enthusiastic about their different home islands. Was the green flash off Puerto Rico’s Isla Caja de Muertos more impressive than the sunset off Big Sand Cay? Was finding sunken Cannons off Fort George Cay in the Turks and Caicos more exciting than exploring the beautiful waters of the Exumas Land and Sea Park? No, there is no “best” … only a string of wonderful experiences shared with friends and crew-mates.
Which brings us to the common denominator of any successful voyage – your crew-mates as well as the friends you make along the way. For this trip we were blessed with the best and most compatible crews one could ever hope for. Our only regret with each crew is that they couldn't stay and sail with us longer.
Weather-wise ours was a relatively easy trip. Of course we expected the trip NW to be much easier than any trip down-island since the trip back is downwind with the trades, at least as far as the Bahamas where one starts to emerge from the trades and encounter the remnants of North American weather systems rolling off the US coast. In fact our sailing conditions were almost idyllic all the way to Georgetown. And luckily we didn't encounter any difficult weather from the central Bahamas to Brunswick either. That said, we did miss the consistent trades of the Caribbean once we reached the central Bahamas. And we also missed the lack of bugs in the Caribbean, where we never had to bother with screens or closing up at night. In particular we had almost forgotten how many no-see-ums one encounters at Brunswick (we’ll probably be itching for weeks after our return).
Distance wise our stateside return covered a total of 1,609 nautical miles including our side trips along the way. For those of you more familiar with statute miles, that translates to a total of 1,852 statute miles over the course of 56 days. Our three crews accompanied us for a total of 45 of those 56 days from Fajardo to Brunswick, and we were underway only 32 of those 56 days. The remaining 24 were days spent exploring ashore. Adding our 183 Nautical Mile Virgin Islands cruise to our 2014 winter totals made for a grand total of 1,792 nautical miles under Jubilee’s keel this year, or about 2,062 statute miles. Looking back you can see we were definitly on the move this winter's cruising season.
At this point we’re not quite sure what lies ahead for future cruising plans. We've listed Jubilee for sale through Whittaker Yachts, a step Bill continues to struggle with a bit. But Judy is probably right (she usually is) in her thinking about switching over to power (e.g. a trawler) sooner rather than later for the next ten or more years of our boating adventures. If Jubilee doesn’t sell you’ll likely be reading about our transporting her back to the Great Lakes sometime in the not too distant future, or perhaps exploring south Florida and the Keys next winter. If she does sell we’ll likely be found exploring our favorite Great Lakes hangouts under power next year. In any case be assured that the adventure will continue, albeit perhaps somewhat different than over the past eight years of our “post-retirement sabbatical cruise” aboard the good ship Jubilee. Do stay tuned to see how the next phase of our adventure unfolds.
Having arrived on the same plane taking Ted and Jane Bispala up to Nassau, Stan Cory and Linda Jerlow now joined us for the next segment of our travels … Mayaguana to Nassau. This leg, although one of our longest, would involve several day hops including some longer ones of 10 or more hours, intermixed with shorter passages and, once in the Exumas, very short hops between favorite harbors for some exploring. Scully took us for a short car tour around the Abrahams Bay settlement before stopping at Regies for a round of Kaliks prior to our taking the dingy back to the boat. Over late afternoon sundowners we reviewed our course options, deciding to stick with our original plan for a short starter hop of a little over 40 miles to West Plana Cay on Thursday.
4/3/2014 – Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana, to West Plana Cay
After negotiating the over 4-mile circuitous track around reefs and coral heads to exit Abrahams Bay, we set sail on a broad reach in perfect 15-17-knot ENE winds for the Plana Cays. Our first passage of the Mayaguana to Nassau leg was delightful, capped by rounding the shoal on West Plana’s southern tip and easing our way up into the relative calm of Plana’s west shore, where we dropped the hook in Plana’s beautiful sand bottom (see Stan and Linda on board against the backdrop of West Plana and its beautiful turquoise waters).
Although well sheltered from the east trades and swell, West Plana can offer up a bit of a roll as the swell, although seriously diminished, rolls around the island and toward the anchorage. Making up for the slight roll were the beautiful turquoise waters and mile-long sand beach. We were the only boat there that night. One other boat arrived Friday morning just as we departed our own exclusive-to-us uninhabited tropical island the next morning.
4/4/2014 – West Plana Cay to Attwood Harbor on Acklins Island
Thursday night was again decision time … should we take a very short hop on Friday or depart Plana before sunrise and sail directly for Long Island. The decision was to take a short hop to Acklins Island to break up our longer days with shorter days. It was a good choice.
The Plana to Acklins leg started in 15 to 17-knot easterlies dropping to about 14 knots as we neared Acklins, making for a pleasant sail off the starboard quarter. On the reciprocal trip from Georgetown to Puerto Rico Bill and Wayne LeBlanc had considered anchoring in Attwood Harbor, but decided to pass it up for the Plana Cays since they had approached Acklins too early in the day to stop. Today we would not pass it up, and instead enjoyed a marvelous overnight there.
Attwood Harbor is almost impossible to spot from the water, but thanks to GPS and chart plotters it was as easy as pie to enter. Once inside there was no sea and only the mildest of surges. And after the bouncy Abrahams Bay anchorage on Mayaguana and the slightly rolly night at Plana Cay, Attwood was peaceful as could be.… and it was beautiful. The harbor is almost encircled by a marvelous sand beach which we walked after taking the dingy ashore. We again had the anchorage to ourselves … our own little private cove. Life aboard the Jubilee was about as good as it can get!
4/5/2014 – Attwood Harbor in Acklins to Clarence Town on Long Island
Clarence Town was an almost 70-mile jump from Attwood, so an early departure was in order. We would need to average about 6.5 knots to make Clarence Town by shortly after 5:00 p.m., but the winds were not cooperating. With ten knots or less true wind out of the ESE we had no other option than to motorsail the distance in almost no apparent wind. Thanks to our trusty Yanmar diesel we arrived in Clarence Town right on schedule at shortly after 5:00 p.m.
We hadn’t had Jubilee on a dock since the Turks and Caicos, so a stop at Clarence Town’s Flying Fish Marina definitely sounded appealing. A marina stop promised hot showers where you could simply let the water run, good water to fill the tanks, and a restaurant meal to give the cooks a night off. Unfortunately, the Flying Fish Marina would fulfill only one of those promises. On the weekends the showers are closed after 3:00 p.m., and we were advised not to drink or fill our tanks with dock water, which was a mix of R.O. water and cistern water. That said, we did enjoy a wonderful meal at the marina’s restaurant. After showers on board we enjoyed fish tacos, shrimp tacos, shrimp, fresh cracked conch and conch fritters, all beautifully prepared with choices of two sides each. The marina’s restaurant here is highly recommended.
All four of us slept the sleep of the dead Saturday night after our long transit in the hot sun earlier that day.
4/6/2014 – Lay Day in Clarence Town, Long Island
We had hopes of renting a car to explore Long Island on Sunday, but that was also not to be. Unfortunately the car rental in Clarence Town is not open on Sundays. The settlement’s local “True Value” convenience store was open, however, so we hoofed it over there (about a 10-minute walk) to purchase some bread and a few other supplies. Activity within the relatively new and very squared around marina was in contrast to the extremely small Clarence Town settlement with its total population of only about 125 souls spread around the area so that no one would guess even that number of people lived there.
Overnight the wind switched to the SE, gusting cross-wise cross-wise to the docks the next morning. The forecast called for those conditions to remain and intensify over the next several days. We definitely felt pinned in, having been assigned a slip behind a tight breakwall and well into the marina near a rocky downwind shoreline leaving little room for maneuvering between docks, pilings, rocks and other boats around us (the accompanying photo shows Jubilee in her slip before the winds piped up). Not wanting to stay pinned here several days, Bill decided it best to try to get out of dodge while we could, so after putting 15 gallons of diesel in our tanks and re-filling our spare diesel jerry jugs we made our break.
Thanks to the dockmaster who jumped in a dingy to help serve as a tugboat if need be, plus several other boaters in the marina who helped handle our lines, we were able to warp our stern around using both engine and dock lines and then muscle our way out of the marina with selected bursts of power. Thank goodness for the powerful and responsive Yanmar engine which replaced our old Perkins 4-108 several years ago! We were also thankful for that big Max Prop spinning on our prop shaft, ready to supply plenty of either reverse or forward thrust … something we definitely needed in the heavy cross-wind and extreme small confines of Flying Fish Marina. While providing some exciting “Harbor TV” for boaters in the marina, we managed to get out without hitting any docks, pilings or other boats. Whew! It was good to be out of there.
We found the anchorage in Clarence Town almost ideal that evening, with a nice wind to keep us comfortable but little sea running in the harbor … what a contrast from that worrisome marina. The anchorage also offered an easy and fast exit for our sail along the east coast of Long Island the next morning.
4/7/2014 – Clarence Town to Calabash Bay, Long Island
Long Island is aptly-named for an island about 56 miles long SSE to NNW and a maximum of four miles wide. Our Monday trek would take us about 50 miles north along the island’s eastern shore, then up around Cape Santa Maria (where Columbus lost that ship on a coral reef), and finally south about three miles to a lovely protected anchorage at Calabash Bay on the island’s leeward NW side. Our sail that day was about as good as a sail can get, with SE winds at 15-17 pushing us along in the mid-6’s to low 7’s all the way. This off-wind sailing can definitely grow on a person!
Calabash was a perfect anchorage for the evening, providing excellent holding in sand behind a beautiful beach just a tenth of a mile to windward for another peaceful night at anchor.
4/8/2014 – Calabash Bay on Long Island to Sand Dollar Bay in Elizabeth Harbor, Georgetown, Great Exuma
Our trek today was to be a relatively short one at approximately 25 miles. We slept in a little, took our time with breakfast, and didn’t get the anchor raised until just after 9:00 a.m. With another 15 to 17-knot SE-wind day and us broad reaching (sailing perpendicular to the wind’s direction), we decided to fly only the jib and take it easy, still making excellent time.
The one fly in the morning’s ointment was our genset shutting down with an overheat warning again. This had now happened for the 2nd time in only three weeks. Did we have another damaged impeller, a heat exchanger problem, or worse? Whatever the problem, we decided to let it be until reaching Georgetown, although we did use the satellite phone to order two more spare impellers sent to a marina in Nassau we were planning to visit in ten or so days. In the mean time we still had one new spare and a couple of lightly used impellers from previous preventive maintenance replacements.
After negotiating Elizabeth Harbor’s almost 5-mile-long twisty & shoal eastern approach our hook was firmly set in sand at Sand Dollar Bay just opposite Georgetown. We expected to lie there for the next few nights as a front passed through the area.
Oh yes … the gen set. Stan and Bill launched into the cooling system and water pump with a vengeance, finding several large pieces of impeller blades nearly blocking the hose downstream of the raw water pump. They also found several tubes in the heat exchanger blocked or partially blocked by scale. The impeller blade pieces must have been from a long-prior impellor problem but not found until being dislodged and moved further downstream in that section of hose, causing significant blockage. Those pieces now removed we next cleaned the heat exchanger tubes, first by poking a straightened wire coat hanger through the blocked tubes to open them up, and then by soaking the exchanger in boiling hot vinegar water before flushing with fresh water. For good measure we also replaced the impeller with our last new spare and buttoned everything up again. Voila … the genset exhaust was back to normal, spouting water out the exhaust in spurts like nobody’s business. We were back in operation.
4/9/2014 – Lay Day at Sand Dollar Beach
Now back in the central Bahamas we had again entered the world of clocking winds from fronts coming off the US East Coast … quite the contrast from the reliable trades of the Caribbean. We had anchored the prior evening to a 10 to 12-knot SE wind, but between 8:00 a.m. and noon the wind clocked through SE to North while increasing to just over 20-knots. As the wind clocked we progressed from little up-wind shelter to lying just two tenths of a mile off Sand Dollar Beach in Stocking Island’s lee. Plus the wind was projected to clock further to the east so that protection would even improve.
Protection notwithstanding, it wasn’t a great day to go ashore, walk beaches, check out volley ball beach, visit Georgetown, or explore any of the many other enticing spots around here due to the day’s mostly grey skies, occasional misty rain, and lumpy conditions for the dingy. Instead our first day in Elizabeth Harbor was spent catching up on reading and telling tall tales.
4/10 and 11/2014 – Exploring the Georgetown Area
Although the Thursday morning skies were still a bit gloomy from the frontal system, the winds did cooperate to allow for some Georgetown-area exploration. We started with a dingy trip across to Georgetown to check out the shops, have lunch at the Peace and Plenty, replenish some of our stores, and fill our four 5-gallon jugs with water to partially refill our tanks.
After the trip to “town” our trip back to the boat was upwind against a chop that had developed while we were ashore. The combination of overloading our dingy and motoring against the chop made for an extremely wet ride back. Quite a bit of water was splashing into the dingy over the bow, plus some was even splashing in over the transom. To top things off, for some reason we had taken our bailing bucket out of the dingy a week or so prior and not put it back. While Stan motored slowly into the waves to minimize the water coming over the bow, Bill began bailing using a couple of plastic grocery bags. He was just able to keep up with the amount of water we were continuing to take in. As we closed with the Stocking Island shoreline the waves moderated and the bailing began gaining on the water level. We all came back to the boat soaked to the bone from salt spray and ready for fresh water showers.
Lessons learned: 1) never, ever, head out in the dingy without your bailing bucket, 2) don’t forget that no matter how much water you may ship over the bow, an inflatable dingy will not sink … even though it may seem like it could, and finally 3) a little excitement during a trip to town isn’t always a bad thing. That’s what good stories are made of.
Friday dawned grey and threatening again, but rain never materialized. After breakfast we launched the dingy and headed for shore near the Chat-n-Chill for a hike over to the ocean-side, west up the beach, and finally up the trail to the hilltop monument near Hamburger Beach. After exploring we retraced our steps back along the beach to the St. Francis Resort restaurant for lunch, followed by a stop at volleyball beach and the Chat-n-Chill. Grey skies or not it had been a good full day.
4/12/2014 – Georgetown to White Point, Exumas
After a few smatterings of rain early in the morning we awoke to yet another grey day. Oh for the nearly consistent sun of the Caribbean.rather than the repetitive fronts of the Bahamas. But grey skies notwithstanding we upped anchor at about 8:30 and headed out the long, 5-mile, circuitous west channel route through Elizabeth Harbor and into the Atlantic, running northwest off shore toward Galliot Cut. With only 4 knots of true wind the trusty diesel did its part while we unrolled the jib to help steady the boat in the leftover ocean swell. Today’s run would be a long, slow, day under the engine.
Once onto the banks at Galliot we proceeded further northwest up the banks a few more miles to Hetty’s Land, a small point and anchorage just short of White Point on Great Guana Cay. After a Boston Whaler with a couple of folks on the beach left for the evening we had the anchorage to ourselves as the skies cleared to reveal a shoal of stars. We were again experiencing the best of the Bahamas.
4/13/2014 –Great Guana Cay to Big Majors Spot & Staniel Cay
Our Sunday travels took us the relatively short, 15-mile hop up to Big Majors Spot near Staniel Cay. Staniel with its airstip, Staniel Cay Yacht Club, other restaurants, and three small grocery “stores”, is always of hub of activity. To join in the fun we jumped into the dingy to bring Madeline Island Yacht Club Commodore Stan Cory into town for an “official” visit to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
In Staniel we made all the obligatory rounds … out to see the airport, walking past the “grocery stores”, checking the waterfront with its several rental homes and cabins, and of course lunch at the Yacht Club. Stuffed to the gills from the Yacht Club we were finally ready to return to the boat, our four 5-gallon jugs filled with R.O. water plus a stash of new tee and polo shirts plus Linda’s new visor on board.
When Pigs Fly
Well … maybe they don’t really fly, but they do swim. On the way back to Jubilee we headed in toward shore at Big Majors to experience the pigs swimming out to dingies to beg for food. Linda thought they may have been looking for their uncle Albert after smelling bacon on her breath from her BLT lunch! Luckily we escaped without any porkers boarding us.
4/14/2014 – Big Majors to Cambridge Cay via Conch Cut
With plenty of time for a relatively short 19-mile mostly downwind sail in light following breezes we headed northwest on the banks side until turning hard to starboard and proceeding to the Atlantic side via Conch Cut. From there we went a short distance north and back inside via the Bell Cut to Cambridge Cay. Cambridge, close to the southernmost boundary of the Exuma Land and Sea Park at Conch Cut, is one of our all-time favorite spots in the Exumas.
After settling in on our mooring ball we took the dingy over to Cambridge Cay to hike and explore some of the trails there with Stan and Linda. As the accompanying photos show, the hiking there was, as usual, tremendous.
4/15-16/2014 – Warderick Wells
Warderick Wells is the headquarters for the Exuma Land and Sea Park, and most certainly a spot not to be missed while cruising there. The above picture is of Warderick's beautiful Emerald Bay - in every direction one looks the scenery seems as magnificent as this.
On each of our prior Exumas trips we’ve spent several days here. This year time we would compress that to two concentrated days of exploring.
We were lucky enough to reserve a mooring ball in Warderick’s north anchorage, our favorite spot in the park (see bakground of photo at left). Shortly after registering with the park office we hiked across the island to show Stan and Linda BooBoo Hill and the blow holes, and to capture more Exuma Park memories on camera. The park did not disappoint (see assorted photos in this section).
Our last visit to BooBoo and its pile of cruiser’s plaques at the top of the hill, was back in 2011 while heading south to Puerto Rico. Unbelievable as it may seem, after about 45 minutes of searching we finally found our own plaque buried down in the pile, as well as the more recently updated plaques from friends Wally and Connie on Summer of ’42, Bob and Judy on Greenstone, John and Nora on Saber Tooth, and Mark and Jan on Seas The Day.
After returning our weathered plaque to the boat Bill got the Dremmel and a Sharpie out to refresh our weathered plaque plus update it to reflect this year’s visit. The next day, Wednesday, it would be taken back to the hill for, hopefully, another several-year stint officially commemorating Jubilee’s visits here. Wednesday’s hike followed the causeway trail around to the south and across the island, then north up the island’s western beaches and rocks, followed by a return via the BooBoo trail taken the prior day. It had been a short but good visit to Warderick, but hopefully a good introduction to the park for Stan and Linda.
4/17/2014 – Warderick Wells to Shroud Cay
Thursday brought yet another light southeast wind sail from Warderick to Shroud Cay, at the northern-most boundary of the park. Arriving at low tide we decided not to launch the dingy, as it was doubtful we’d be able to negotiate the inland mangrove creeks we had enjoyed exploring in prior years. Instead we simply chilled out on one of the park’s mooring balls surrounded by several other cruising boats and a number of mega yachts.
It being the week before Easter we were seeing mega yachts in almost every anchorage as owners were taking advantage of school vacations to have their kids and grandkids join them in the Exumas. As an example, we spotted and talked with the crew of Twin Cities and national media mogul (KSTP) Stanley Hubbard’s MiMi while in Staniel Cay a few days prior. But as luxurious and spendy as those mega-vessel are, we’re reminded that our cruising experience is every bit as good as theirs … maybe even better.
4/18/2014 – Shroud Cay to Nassau
Our last passage with Stan and Linda as crew brought us to Nassau on yet another roughly 48-mile down-wind leg, this time across the Yellow Banks in moderate SE breezes. Our usual run across the banks follows a dog-leg route that avoids most of the bank’s coral heads. We were happy to miss out on any unexpected groundings this time too.
As a special treat Nassau sent out an ambassador to greet us for this visit. A dolphin joined us as we approached New Providence, staying to play on our bow wave for several minutes to welcome our arrival. Kewl!
Once in Nassau we topped our diesel tanks at the Nassau Harbor Club Marina to ready for departure on our next leg in a few days. After topping the tanks and moving to our assigned slip we were finally ready to begin exploring Nassau.
Many of Nassau’s restaurants were closed on Good Friday evening, even the ever-popular Poop Deck cruiser’s hangout, but luckily one of our other favorites, the East Bay Villa Chinese restaurant (one of the best Chinese and everything else restaurants we’d ever visited) was open. Chef Judy received a welcome night off, plus the Bay Villa was a great place for celebrating 16 wonderful days cruising with crew Stan and Linda on board. But there was still more to come for the crack crew of the Jubilee as we were yet to explore Nassau with Stan and Linda the following days.
4/19-21/2014 – Nassau
Nassau is almost everything one can imagine, ranging from its extremely poor neighborhoods to its bustling and hustling cruise ship docks and tourist traps to its uber-luxurious and spendy Paradise Island hotels and beaches. Over the following three days we seemingly walked every inch of the city … or at least those parts we were interested in visiting. The attached photo of Commodore Cory having an audience with Queen Victoria illustrates just one of the highlights (although Queen Victoria didn't seem all that interested).
All together Jubilee had brought us some 326 nautical miles from Mayaguana to Nassau with Stan and Linda as crew, a trek that took us from the sprawling country’s most remote and sparsely populated out islands, on to visit some of the most beautiful cays imaginable, and finally up to bustling Nassau. It had been a great trip and a wonderful time together. We truly hated seeing them depart for the airport and Minnesota/Wisconsin Monday afternoon.
We think Stan and Linda enjoyed their travels with us too, but we weren’t so sure when we saw the sign on the cab they selected to take them to the Airport (click photo to enlarge). They may very well have been thanking God for finally taking them away from the boat!
With opposing north winds forecast for at least the following day (Tuesday), we decided to remain in Nassau an extra day and resume our travels on Wednesday toward familiar Brunswick, GA, where we’ll be again storing the boat for the upcoming hurricane season. So far we’ve travelled some 967 nautical miles from Fajardo to Nassau, and probably have close to 500 more miles to travel before capping our return trip from the Caribbean to Brunswick. Stay tuned as the saga continues. We look forward to seeing you again with our next post. Cheers!
Our next leg took us from Provo to Abrahams Bay on the SW coast of Mayaguana. We decided to again stage at Ft. George so we could get going shortly after sunrise without first having to take the extra time to negotiate a circuitous route from Turtle Cove marina to Stellers Cut. Even though we had our in-bound track we elected to use a guide boat from Turtle Cove again just in case there were any tricky cross currents or remaining serious swells coming in over the reef. All went well and we were on our way to Ft. George by around 12:30pm, taking advantage of a 10-knot SE breeze for a lazy sail up to our evening’s anchorage. The seas had laid down over the past day or so, particularly inside the Ft. George cut, making for a calm night on the hook.
3/31/2014 – Ft. George Cay to Mayaguana
We woke to a 5:30 a.m. alarm, had a full breakfast, readied the boat, and were underway by about 7:00 a.m. in good light. The only downside was the lack of wind … less than 5 knots from the northeast. With the main raised but not helping at all, we set off under power for Mayaguana some 60 miles away. The GRIBS suggested we should be seeing at least 10 knots or more of wind by sometime in the afternoon, but at least for the start of our passage that was not to be.
At about two hours out a mature humpback whale passed, surfacing, diving and spouting not 100 feet off our port quarter on a reciprocal course toward Provo. By the time our cameras had been retrieved the whale was a ways behind us, but we did get a short movie of it spouting (see spout near center of frame about 5 seconds into the following 10-second clip). Exciting!
That whale apparently also brought us some good luck. A little later in the morning we passed through two rain squalls which must have marked a trof and wind shift line, bringing 15-17 knots gusting 19 out of the northeast for an exhilarating hull speed passage the rest of the way to Mayaguana’s Abrahams Bay entrance.
Abrahams Bay is a 5-mile long bay lying ENE to WSW on the southwest side of Mayaguana. The bay is defined and protected by a continuous reef along its south border. To reach our anchorage we entered the relatively wide reef opening at the WSW end of the bay and picked our way northeast around shoals and coral heads (see accompanying chart clips) to the anchorage about a mile from the settlement where we’d find customs and immigration plus a few other services. By 5:45 our anchor was down and set after almost 11 hours and over 65 miles underway.
About five other boats, rotating as some left while others came in each day, shared the anchorage with us during the three days we were there. The bay provides reasonable protection from most winds, but the fetches within the shallow bay can make for a choppy anchorage … especially for the long and often wet dingy trips ashore each day.
4/1 – Bahamas Check-in and Settlement Visit
Each of our dingy trips into the settlement’s concrete dock was a wet adventure in short chop, with the final 200 yards spent carefully following the posts which marked a slightly deeper channel into the dock. Outside that channel the bottom almost dried at low tide, and nothing was ever deep enough to transit there. In fact, friends with a rigid bottom inflatable who had visited in a prior year had to get out and drag their dingy through the sand and up to the dock, but with our dingy’s flat bottom we were able to use the motor tipped up almost out of the water, even at low tide, to get in and out without wading.
The Bahamian out islands aren’t prosperous, plus the settlements there are sparse and have very small populations. For example, Mayaguana’s total population is about 300 souls spread across the 25-mile long by 2 ½ to 5-mile-wide island’s handful of settlements. Abrahams Bay is the seat of island government, and check in there was informal, if a bit time consuming. After filling out the numerous forms and paying our $300.00 cruising permit at the customs building (see accompanying photo), we were off to explore.
The small settlement of Abrahams Bay was also the site of the island’s high school (pictured). Only 23 students from across the island attend its grades seven through twelve. With three teachers the student/teacher ratio would be the envy of most US schools, if the school’s other resources were not. We stopped by just after the end of the school day and chatted with a couple of teachers. Everyone was extremely friendly, as have been the other Bahamians we’ve met over the years. The school’s math teacher, came from Cuba, while the other teachers were native Bahamians. It was clear from seeing the school’s teachers and students, plus others, that the island residents were rightfully proud of their little community’s schools.
After a tour of the town we stopped at “Reggie’s Lounge and Guest House” for our first taste on this trip of a Bahamian Kalik brew, the famous beer of the Bahamas brewed in Nassau. Here we also met Terry and Leslie from the trawler Orient Moon out of Annapolis and anchored near us in the bay, plus “Scully”, the island’s unofficial ambassador, taxi service, and bone fishing guide who we had talked with earlier that morning on VHF. Scully would be taking us to and from the airport the following day. We highly recommend using his services for island tours or transportation if visiting in these parts. Just call for “Scully” on VHF 16.
4/2/2014 – Crew Change Day
After breakfasts we stowed Ted and Jane’s two duffels and one carry-on in large garbage bags for the wet, up-wind, trip into the settlement. Once ashore they changed into salt-free travelling clothes before Scully arrived to run us to the airport.
Mayaguana sees two scheduled flights a week to/from Nassau, plus the occasional charter plane. Most of the passengers seemed to be locals augmented by a few tourists visiting for the island’s excellent fishing, especially bone fishing. While at the airport we had a long chat with a London, UK, couple who had spent one week fishing at Andros Island followed by another week fishing at Mayaguana. The island has a few guest houses and one small resort that cater to visiting fishermen.
Mayaguana’s airport was a throw-back to the 50’s when the US had built a small base and observation post on the island, presumably in response to perceived threats from Cuba at the time. All that exists of “the base” at this point are two abandoned concrete observation and gun emplacement towers plus the airstrip. The hill with the concrete building ruins is also home to an obelisk and plaque commemorating the recovery of the first orbital capsule to capture movie film of earth from orbit (see photo). The capsule was recovered off Mayaguana back in 1960.
The airstrip’s “terminal building” had once been a fire station. Ted and Jane would definitely not be flying out of an MSP or even an Anoka County or Flying Cloud clone today. Informal and a bit worn as it was, the facility works and in no time after Stan Cory and Linda Jerlow’s plane arrived the plane’s 15 seats were emptied and then again filled for the return flight to Nassau.
We hated to see Ted and Jane depart. We had had some wonderful times and special experiences with them from the D.R. to Mayagyana, a total of some 217 sea miles, but by the same token we’re also looking forward to our upcoming adventures with Stan and Linda as we continue our trek north and west toward the Exumas and ultimately Nassau. Stay tuned as the adventures continue!
We ended up spending a little more time than expected in the D.R. Our next crewmates, college friends Ted and Jane Bispala, flew in on Sunday, March 16th, and we celebrated their arrival with dinner at the main restaurant at Ocean World. Joining us was David Reid, a fellow cruiser out of Marblehead, MA, who we had met a few days prior. His wife, Nancy, had to fly home from Antigua because of recurring back problems, so David was single handling their custom steel expedition sloop, Vamoos, back to Florida. He had arrived at Ocean World after a non-stop run from Antigua, and was planning a couple more big hops to get back state-side.
Dinner that evening was delightful. A wedding party occupied a long table set in the middle of the dining room, while others, mostly cruisers, had several other tables. It was fun being an “uninvited guest” to a Dominican Republic wedding celebration. They even shared their wedding cake and toasted us (we think that’s what they were doing … it was of course all in Spanish). And to add to the festivities, we celebrated both Ted and Jane’s arrival and David’s birthday – quite the evening!
Life was good … until later that night when Judy got sick … definitely food-related. Bill followed the next day. Luckily Ted and Jane didn’t have any problems with what they ate. The episode set our planned departure back from Tuesday to Wednesday as we recovered.
To be honest we’re not sure that the food poisoning was caused by the marina restaurant. It could have been the restaurant outside the complex where we ate with David the night before, or even the pizzeria we had eaten at the day before that. Whatever the cause, however, the discomfort was the same.
It’s easy to get contaminated food or drink in the DR when you think you’re being careful. The city and marina water isn’t potable. We didn’t drink any or fill our water tanks with it. We were also careful of what we ate. But conditions and norms here are just not the same as those at home. For example, a fellow cruiser had eaten in a restaurant outside the Ocean World property and ordered a glass of wine. She didn’t think the wine was drinkable and had the waitress take it back … which she did by pouring the now already-sipped glass back into the bottle in front of them at their table! At least one other cruiser in the marina also contracted food poisoning while we were there. All-inclusive resorts (of which there are many) don’t seem to have these problems (e.g. – they have their own water systems, etc.), but outside of those you’re pretty much on your own.
We had always planned a side excursion in the D.R. with Ted and Jane for the Monday after their arrival, but only Bill was able to go with them for a Puerto Plata city tour. The city is poor but charming in its own way. The long beach in front of the ocean-side avenue was befitting a luxurious coastal metropolis, but behind that avenue was a labyrinth of narrow streets and old, mostly run down, houses and small businesses that had probably been there for centuries (see photo of an actual still-operating hotel in the old area, plus the central town square). The only modern places we visited were the more exclusive residential area far up on the hill, and the Brugal rum factory that churned out 23,000 cases of rum a day. That was contrasted with the “cigar factory” we visited in the old town that had one person hand rolling cigars. Another fun stop in the old town area was a Larimar cutting and jewelry making business, where people were cutting raw stones containing Larimar veins (a gem only found in the Dominican Republic) into attractive shapes. They then polished the resulting stones for jewelry settings. Both Judy and Jane had purchased Larimar this year, as had Alan a week prior.
Wednesday March 19th to March 20 – Crossing to Big Sand Cay
Wanting an morning arrival in good light at Big Sand, we received our Navy clearance after two hours of “clearing out” mechanics at about 5:00 p.m. and were out of the marina breakwater by 5:20. Conditions were about as good as could ever be hoped for, with winds at or just aft the beam (apparent wind right off the beam) all night long starting at about 14-15 knots, which decreased to 10 the next morning as we approached the island. Seas were calm by ocean standards … about 3-4’. Neither Ted nor Jane had done any open ocean crossings before, so the lighter conditions were helpful but still a challenge. Ted was able to get his stomach settled down a few hours into the passage, but neither felt comfortable sleeping down below. That said, they were each able to catch some z’s at the pilothouse dinette with the aid of strategically placed pillows while Judy and Bill took turns piloting us under a star studded sky.
And what an idyllic night it was. The constellations were brilliant. The North Star was clearly visible slightly off the starboard bow and the Southern Cross just off the port quarter (our heading was about 340 degrees true all night long). We had a hint of bioluminescence in our wake until the light of the now ¾ moon overpowered the tiny sparkles given off by the plankton colonies disturbed as we passed. Times like this are a major reason we love sailing so much … especially down this way.
We ended up rolling some jib up through most of the night, both to ease the motion below and to keep us from arriving at Big Sand too early as we were also getting a little current boost. Our timing was perfect. The anchor was down at 8:15 a.m. We had made it, and Ted and Jane had made their first open ocean passage!
3/20-21 – Big Sand Cay
On our arrival at Big Sand we found but one other boat which was crewed by a Swiss couple working their way toward the states, but they raised anchor and headed off to the NW shortly after we arrived. After their departure we were literally treated to a whale of a show, with humpback whales spouting and surfacing in the rich waters around the cay. March is said to be humpback calving season down this way, and whale watching around the D.R., the Turks and Caicos, and elsewhere is in its prime. Attached are two photos of the action. We apologize for the clarity, but one never knows where to point the camera when the whales surface, so we subsequently had to crop and zoom the originals for the close-up shots.
After breakfast we decided to nap a bit before exploring the island, but that plan fizzled when all four of us fell fast asleep. The boat didn’t come alive again ‘til after 3:00 p.m. The command decision was to delay our shore-side visit, add another night to our stay, and do our island exploring on Friday. That plan fizzled also, as the swell was running too high on Friday to safely land the dingy ashore. Bummer. Nevertheless we had a great R&R day on board. The crew of Ramblas, Bill Barnes and Charlene Clarke’s Hylas 46 who had arrived from Ocean World just that morning, joined us aboard Jubilee for sundowners that evening. Bill and Charlene hail from Santa Cruz, California, and their crew are fellow yacht club members there. A good time was had by all.
3/22 – Big Sand Cay to South Caicos
Saturday dawned another beautiful day in the tropics. With the anchor up shortly after 10:00am we followed about a mile and a half behind Ramblas for a relaxed roughly four-hour sail to South Caicos island, our official Turks and Caicos check in port. Cockburn Harbor on South Caicos is a small, sleepy, mostly fishing community said to number a little over 1,500, but that has to include all of South Caicos Island. We took the dingy ashore about 45 minutes after Ramblas and completed our check-in at the small general store/Western Union/Marina office near the dingy tie-up. Check-in was easy, if time consuming … first involving customs and then immigration after the immigration agent arrived. Our Saturday arrival cost us an extra $45.00 in the overtime fees levied any time after 4:00 or 4:30pm or on weekends.
Boat Maintenance in Exotic Places
Boats always provide ample opportunities for repair in exotic places, and so it was for us in Cockburn Harbour. Our first surprise was the anchor windlass, which wouldn’t respond to our remote (and only) windlass control. After some frantic checking we determined power was getting to the windlass control box down below, but the hand held wired windlass control wasn’t working. A further check revealed one of the three gold male pins in the remote control connector had broken off in the female connector socket inside the anchor locker. To quickly get the anchor down we jumped the control box leads from inside the boat while using our “marriage saver” 2-way headphones to communicate between Judy on the bow, Bill in the forepeak, and Ted at the helm. Then after clearing in, Ted and Bill managed to jerry rig an alternate connector for the broken pin … not very elegant but the remote windlass control was again working. We’ll have replacement parts blue labeled to Stan and Linda for them to bring along when they join us.
That mission accomplished, we had dinner and were enjoying the evening while running the gen set to bring the freezer down when the gen set shut itself off. Now what??? After a bit of sleuthing Bill determined that the new impellor he had installed in January was defective … the screw that engages the slotted drive shaft had slipped on the rubber impeller causing the impellor to pump little if any water. Luckily we had two more impellor spares, and Bill replaced the defective impeller with a new spare to solve the problem.
3/23 – South Caicos to Ft. George Cay
No matter how we cut it, this leg was going to be long and tedious. Instead of crossing the shallow Caicos Banks we decided on the “northern route” around the Caicos. We’d first go north around South Caicos, continue north and around East Caicos, then head northeast along Middle Caicos, proceeding around the north end of North Caicos, and stopping to anchor for the night at inside Ft. George Cut on the way to Providenciales, or “Provo”, our destination for Monday. The run would take at least 10 hours at an average speed of a little over six knots.
It was a good plan, but the day was brutally hot and humid with hardly a breath of wind to boost our speed and comfort through the remnants of a 3-4’ swell. This day was to be done totally on the trusty diesel … our first motoring since departing the D.R. Our alarms woke us up around 5:40 a.m. for breakfast before raising the hook about an hour later as the sun was rising in the east. Our timing turned out to be near-perfect, as we were through the entrance in the Ft. George Cut reef and had the anchor down in calm waters by 5:00 p.m.
3/24-29 – Ft. George Cay and on to Turtle Cove Marina
Ft. George Cay was a wonderful and historic stop. In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s the island’s settlers set up a fort on the cay to defend their main export port for cotton production. Thanks to years of storms eroding the shore-side gun emplacements, those cannons now lie under water about 50 yards offshore. After a fair amount of searching in the dingy we finally found four of the supposed five coral-encrusted cannons which are still visible on the bottom (see photos). Neat find!
After our Ft. George exploration we raised anchor for the short run down to Steller Cut and the circuitous path through the reefs and shallows to Turtle Cove Marina on Providenciales (Provo for short). Thankfully Turtle Cove provides a guide boat service, and they sent out a Boston Whaler to help guide us in (see photo).
We loved Turtle Cove and Provo. Provo is absolutely bustling with high end resorts and shopping like we haven’t seen in months. It’s been by far the most prosperous island we’ve seen down this way. There are several excellent restaurants within a short walking distance of the marina, plus we rented a car (more like a rent-a-wreck) for two days to do some more far-flung exploring on Provo’s roughly 21 mile long 38 square mile island, 30 square miles of which is national parkland.
In addition to provisioning in an IGA that was every bit as complete as a Byerlys back in Minnesota, we were also able to get some repair work done here. One of the transom clamps on our dingy outboard had stripped out of the aluminum casting, and a local machine shop was able to partially weld the hole and then cut new threads. They also fabricated and welded the replacement for a broken piece of skeg at the bottom of the motor. It’s amazing how much one can get done on a small island like this.
The remainder of our time on Provo was spent doing farther flung explorations on the island and sampling conch fritters and cracked conch everywhere we could (they farm conch here). Our trip to Northwest Point, a national park, involved rough limestone roads that at times felt like they’d shake our already-wreck-of-a-car apart, followed by a one lane trail through sand to the point. Views of the breakers on the point were worth the trouble. The heavy north swell breaking on the beach was spectacular (see video below).
With that we’ll close this post to get it up on the net before staging out of here, hopefully tomorrow (3/30) for Mayaguana, about 60 miles WNW in the far southern Bahamas. Starting from Mayaguana we’re expecting our internet access to be minimal at best, so our next post might be a while in coming. In the meantime stay tuned, or consider registering for an RSS feed so you’re sent an automatic email whenever we're able to post.
As I write this we’re on the last leg of our non-stop passage from Boqueron, Puerto Rico, to Ocean World Marina near Puerto Plata on the northern coast of the D.R. After about 170 miles of beautiful sailing for our crossing, albeit a bit lumpy overnight while in the Mona Passage between PR and the DR, the winds have almost shut down. With the true wind at only 5 knots and the apparent wind running 2-4, we’re on the trusty diesel and autopilot, motoring an easy 6 knots to arrive at our destination sometime mid to late morning.
Diesel or not, it’s a magical night capping an equally magical crossing and several wonderful days spend along Puerto Rico’s southern coast. As our crew for this leg, Alan Olson, often says … “aren’t we lucky to be able to have this experience”. He’s right. We truly are. We are motoring under a rising 2/3’s moon that casts so much light it may as well be full. There are few clouds but for the occasional very wispy and isolated puffs. The few puffy clouds, like a bride’s veil barely hiding her happy eyes, don’t quite conceal the sparkling stars behind. We’re cruising under a shoal of stars. Off our port quarter lies the Southern Cross, very clearly visible at our 19 degrees of latitude. Off our starboard quarter lies the more familiar to us North Star and its pointers in the big dipper. Sunrises and sunsets were spectacular (see sunrise photo to right).
There have been very few boats out with us as we follow the coast of the DR. We saw but one private vessel out with us today, roughly paralleling our course but about a mile off our port. Even shipping has been sparse. Our AIS shows a freighter about 12 miles behind us and heading for essentially the same destination as us … Puerto Plata’s commercial harbor as opposed to our marina a couple of miles further to the west. Earlier tonight AIS showed a Carnival Cruise ship headed east off our starboard beam. There have been one or two other freighters also, but basically we’ve had the ocean to ourselves.
Alan is right … we are incredibly lucky.
But enough romanticizing. What about this trip from Fajardo to the DR?
3/2-3 2014 - Alan’s Arrival and Final Prep
Prior to Alan’s arrival, as covered in our immediate previous blog posting we had been feverishly working to provision and ready the boat for the following eight weeks of travel. With four on board most of that time, and much of the trip in places where restaurants and supplies are few and far between, provisioning alone was a fairly significant effort. Once done, our freezer was packed tight with frozen meats, leaving only enough room for a now-small bag of St. Thomas ice cubes for our evening sundowners.
Alan flew in from frigid Minnesota on Sunday the 2nd, and we took the opportunity to do a couple last minute provisioning stops with him after meeting at the airport. Monday the 3rd he and Bill tackled a couple of final projects, most notably fixing a slight leak in the brand new head by installing the replacement part shipped to us by Raritan. Even a “slight” head leak is worse than annoying, so it was good to have that done. Pre-checked out of the marina so we could leave before they opened Tuesday morning, we were now, literally, good to go.
Tuesday March 4th – Puerto Del Rey to Bahia de Jobos
Weather systems rolling off the US east coast were creating recurring pressure trofs (yes, that’s the correct weather spelling) which were being forced down toward the Caribbean. The result was a periodic diminishing of the trades each time a new major North American weather system headed “out to sea” off the east coast. Our Minnesota friends can certainly attest to this winter’s “weather systems”, but for us they didn’t bring cold. Instead they resulted in recurring cycles of lessening and then resuming trade winds. On Tuesday we expected to have to motor due to light trades. Luckily that didn’t materialize, at least on Puerto Rico's east and south shores. We had an absolutely gorgeous 53-mile downwind wing and wing (headsail poled out on the opposite side of the main) run in comfortable seas (see video of crew member Alan Olson thoroughly enjoying our south shore sailing).
At day's end we anchored behind a reef and mangrove barrier at Bahia de Jobos with light cooling breezes and flat anchorage seas all night long. Our trek to the DR was definitely starting on the right foot.
Wednesday March 5th – Short Stop in Salinas Followed by Anchoring at Caja De Muertos
While Wayne LeBlanc and Bill had also anchored at Bahia de Jobos on their east-bound delivery trip aboard Jubilee in 2011, they didn’t have time for any exploring along the way. This down-wind trip would be different.
Under jib alone we sailed the flat waters behind the mangrove barrier islets until turning north to enter the harbor at Salinas for a total run of about 8 miles. This portion of the Puerto Rican coastline is a maze of hurricane holes among the mangroves, capped by a long harbor at Salinas almost surrounded by mangroves. We anchored among the many cruising boats there and took the dingy to a local watering hole for beer and calamari “lunch”. Life was good.
After our quick Salinas stop we departed for Caja De Muertos (translation: Coffin Island) to pick up a park mooring ball for the evening. Caja De Muertos is an island park lying about five miles offshore and roughly mid-way between Puerto Rico’s 2nd largest city, Ponce, and Salinas. With plenty of trade wind push, we made the trek averaging six to six and a half knots under jib alone, not needing to mess with the main preventer or a whisker pole on the jib.
After grabbing a mooring ball we took the dingy in to shore to explore, including a walk to the old lighthouse at the top of the island’s highest point. The views up there were stunning.
We understand that Caja De Muertos can be a very busy place on weekends, with ferries dropping off day visitors and pleasure boats occupying the available mooring balls or anchored. However, on this week day in March there were only three mooring balls occupied, plus a couple of small cruising or fishing boats anchored near the northern part of the island. In spite of its name, “Coffin Island” is a must-do stop along the southern Puerto Rican coastline.
Thursday March 6th – Puerto Balina and the “Guilligan Island” Area
We had another beautiful, 5.8 to 6.5-knot jib-only downwind sail to the Puerto Balina area, a total of only 23 miles anchor up to anchor down. Simply unrolling the jib and not needing to tend anything is clearly the way to go! If only one could sail downwind to any destination.
We initially planned to anchor behind the reef and mangrove islands, but even though the water there was flat the wind was howling. Instead we pulled behind the spit of mainland near the Copamarina resort, and anchored there out of the trade wind’s blast (see Jubilee anchored in the background of both photos above). The downside of this move was a slight roll from ocean swells bending around the break in the reef a quarter mile away, but the slight swell was a minor inconvenience to pay for a less wind-blown anchorage.
Guilligan Island is really not “Guilligan Island”, but rather the local name for a small barrier island-park near the break in the reef that someone said, probably back in the 60’s, resembled the Guilligan Island of TV fame. It’s also said that the young ferry captain taking people out to the island and back resembled the show’s lead actor, Bob Deaver. For whatever reason, the moniker stuck, and a funky beach bar and island ferry service are keeping the association alive.
Although we never got out to Guilligan (too rough for our little dingy and not enough time for the ferry), we loved the area as we explored the shoreline nearer our anchorage with stops at the Copamarina Resort and the funky Guilligan Island beach bar (see photos).
Friday March 7th – Gilligan’s Island area to Boqueron
The trof-interrupted trade wind situation caught up with us for Friday’s passage, resulting in a light down-wind and mostly motor-sailed trek westbound and around Cabo Rojo to Boqueron for a day’s run of just under a 30 miles. But wouldn’t you know … just as we were setting the anchor we were greeted with howling wind from a nearby rain squall that left us dry but made setting the anchor a bit difficult. However, once set we were hooked for good into Boqueron’s clay seabed.
Boqueron is a large and very protected harbor with a barrier reef extending across the entire opening except for navigable passes near each end. It tends to be the arrival and departure point for a large percentage of cruising boats coming and going from western Puerto Rico. As Wayne and Bill did back in 2011 when they first arrived in Puerto Rico, we again called Raul Santiago (787-519-3177) the semi-retired 30+ year New York cab driver who operates a taxi shuttle service between Boqueron and Mayaguez where the nearest customs office is located. As far as US law is concerned we had no need to “check out” of the country, however, the D.R. will want to see our Zarpe (or clearance papers) from our last port when we check in there. U.S. Customs provides “courtesy” clearance papers for requirements like this, but obtaining them requires an in-person visit to a customs office. Since Customs in Mayaguez is not open weekends, we requested an “early” clearance on Friday for our planned departure on Sunday.
Boqueron is a bit like Key West, perhaps a bit seedier, and perhaps a little like the bar and club area of a typical college town. In fact, in addition to being a popular cruising stop it tends to be the bohemian college-crowd’s beer and beach get-a-way spot for western Puerto Rico. You can buy oysters, clams and tacos at stands everywhere, and the streets are lined with bars and restaurants. On weekends the police block off the main street paralleling the waterfront and the whole area fills with partiers.
We didn’t’ want to increase the average age of partiers by our presence, so we opted out of the late night bar scene. But that said, we did enjoy drinks, appetizers and dinner ashore on Friday.
Saturday March 8th - Boqueron Lay Day
Forecasts outlooked continued very light winds on Saturday, so we decided to sit tight on the anchor in Boqueron and instead depart Sunday afternoon, which promised better sailing winds plus calmer seas from the two preceding light wind days. Judy and Alan went ashore again to look around, fill one of our 5 gallon jerry jugs with diesel (that’s about all we used so far this trip), and stop for a beer and some appetizers while Bill stayed on the boat and finished most of our 2013 taxes (unfortunately we’re still waiting to receive a final statement on a couple of investments before we can electronically file). Cruising is much more than fixing one’s boat in exotic places … it’s also doing your taxes in exotic places.
Sunday March 9 to Tuesday March 11th – the Mona Passage and Dominican Republic
Bill’s course across the Mona was projected to run about 240 nautical miles. The weather forecast was looking excellent, with winds (see above chart snap with wind GRIB overlays), if a bit light, called for beam winds for much of the trip. Based on a variety of average speeds, we calculated the trek should take somewhere between 39 and 48 hours. With this outlook in mind we decided a 2:00pm departure would pretty much assure arrival at Ocean World Marina in the DR sometime during daylight on Tuesday. It’s always nice when a plan comes together, and this one seemed to be coming together just as well as could be.
When the 2:00 departure time arrived it took quite a while for Alan to spray the heavy clay off the 100+ feet of 3/8” chain anchor rode we had out … dousing 18” sections at a time. Finally the anchor was up, and shortly after clearing Boqueron harbor the winds started filling in, making for the beautiful sail described in the opening paragraphs of this post. Judy did her usual great job of keeping us well-fed, even in lumpy and heeling conditions that would drive most chefs to despair. And Alan turned out to be one of the most capable and experienced crew one could hope for. Bill and Wayne had experienced a similar almost all-sailing Mona crossing in 2011, and this year’s west-bound trek was equally straightforward … and magical.
Tuesday March 11 – Arrival in the Dominican Republic
We did it! Pretty much per our plan we arrived at Ocean World at around 9:00 in the morning after 43 hours and 242 miles underway. Our first stop was their fuel dock (photo at left) where we cleared customs and immigration, a straightforward if somewhat time consuming process involving several forms from immigration, customs, and the two navy officers who all visited the boat, plus a member of the marina staff. Once clearance formalities were completed the yellow “Q” flag (vessel in quarantine) came down from the starboard spreader, with the DR courtesy flag replacing it.
The rest of Tuesday was spent exploring part of Ocean World, having lunch at the Ocean World park building (see 3-story 3-dimensional mosaic on the outside of the casino/restaurant/disco building at right), doing a bit of souvenir shopping, and of course taking much anticipated (and needed) showers. Having arrived a couple of days earlier than accounted for in our initial plan, Alan made arrangements to catch an earlier flight home on Wednesday. We celebrated the conclusion our time together and our sail from Fajardo to Ocean World with dinner Tuesday evening in the elegant Ocean World restaurant (see photo of us in one of their custom sofas). After dinner we checked out the Casino one floor above the restaurant, and then stopped in on the elaborate floor show yet one additional floor above that. Since we arrived right around the time of the show’s Grand Finale, the host led us to a back table to see what it was like, hoping his “preview” would result in ticket sales for another show later in the week. Although the show was elaborate and the costumes, dancing and singing exceptional, his plan backfired with us as we decided we didn’t need to spend that much money to see the whole show.
The above chart snap shows our 361-mile track taken the past 8 days. On Wednesday morning Alan caught a cab to the Puerto Plata airport and we were again left to our own devices until our next leg’s crew, Ted and Jane Bispala, arrive on Sunday. Alan was not only an outstanding and extremely experienced crew member, the three of us really clicked together. Our time together between Fajardo and Ocean World had been a blast … full of new experiences, great company, and many magical moments. Now it’s time for a little down-time offset with a bit of boat work (like waxing the cabin sides … not done yet this year) before Ted and Jane arrive for the start of our Turks and Caicos and southern Bahamas leg. As always, stay tuned for those details as the adventure continues.
P.S. for cruising boaters – The water at Ocean World is clean but is not considered potable. Far be it from us to argue with the marina staff on that point. Thankfully we have two large water tanks on board (about 140 to 150 gallons total), and have been fairly conservative on our water use, so we should be fine to the Turks and Caicos where we expect potable water will again be available dockside. That said, cruiser’s coming through this way should not expect to fill their tanks here, but for those who do need water we just learned that you can fill your own water jugs (most cruisers carry several 5-gallon water jugs for hauling purposes) at a convenience store just a short distance from the Ocean World complex. That store apparently has the big, water cooler type bottles of clean drinking water from which they will fill your water jugs to take back to the boat. We'll probably purchase 20-30 gallons there before we leave, just to provide a little larger "safety margin" on water capacity as we head further north to the Bahamas.
We’re sorry about the long interval between posts, but we’ve been busy packing a lot into our limited Virgin Islands time this year. Following is a screen snap showing our final, short but wonderful, Virgin Island excursion on Jubilee.
Culebra – 2/5-2/8
Our last post (February 6th … “The Adventure Continues”) was from Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands a day after our arrival. We ended up staying four days in Culebra after hearing that Gail Bowdish and her husband, Barry Lyon, planned to arrive soon from St. Thomas aboard their center cockpit Beneteau 42 Gaiamar. Although we had seen Gail in Minneapolis in early January where she was the GLCC Lake Superior mid-winter dinner’s featured speaker, we hadn’t seen Barry since we crossed paths at Virgin Gorda’s North Sound about a year ago.
Before joining forces a several years ago, Gail and Barry had each logged over 20,000 sailing miles, and since that time they’ve sailed another 13,000 miles together! Gail has also non-stop single-handed the length of each of the five Great Lakes … an accomplishment attained by only a very small group of elite sailors. We first met Gail back in 1992 at another Lake GLCC dinner event in Minneapolis. At that time she was working as an ER physician at the Hennepin County Medical Center. It was good seeing them again while enjoying the funky joys of Culebra together.
St. Thomas – 2/9
We made a one-night stop in St. Thomas to re-fill the water tank that we had lost to the bilge due to a broken half-inch hose barb. As repairs go this was about as easy and cheap as one can get on a boat … fix ½-inch barb and associated 18” hose with on-board spares, and then re-fill the emptied tank at Crown Bay … total cost about $15.00 for the water. We also ran to Red Hook and back on a dollar bus (converted pick-up truck) to get a few things there, including a new Larimar pennant for Judy
St. John – 2/10-2/11
Colorado friends LaRue and Susan Boyd aboard their center cockpit Hunter ’45 Southern Cross had snagged a mooring at Caneel Bay to hang out until Susan’s sister arrived via ferry in a day or so. Caneel can often be rolly, but the winds were perfect for a visit this time. Bill had seen and had dinner with the Boyds while in Fajardo (Southern Cross splashed just an hour before Jubilee went in the water for the year), but Judy had missed them. Sundowners aboard Southern Cross were in order.
BVI’s – 2/12-2/19
We cleared into the BVI’s at Soper’s Hole, West End, Tortola, and per our usual plan spent one night there after a large mid-afternoon lunch at Pusser’s. For those who have seen them, Bill had a Pusser’s “Great Dog”, and yes, he ate the whole thing! As Pusser's describes the selection it's an oversized, humongous, gargantuan (all words from their menu), highest quality hotdog made especially for Pusser's, then dipped in beer batter and quickly deep-fried and served on a hot bun with French fries, chopped onions, ketchup, mustard and sweet relish condiments. Having it brought back cullunary memories of the Minnesota State Fair. Bill survived! Then it was off to the Bight at Norman Island the next morning.
The Bight – 2/13-15
Those who have been following our blog from year to year may remember that the infamous Pirate’s restaurant on the beach at Norman’s had been almost totally re-built for last season (see 2013 photo at left) . That’s the good news. The bad news is that while closed for hurricane season this past summer-fall, the new building burned to the ground October 1st. But for some good news again … the rebuilding was going forward at a pace we’ve seldom seen in the islands (see photo at right).
Of course EVERYTHING has to be brought in by boat, including the construction crew. They started by building an open air temporary restaurant and bar in a very permanent structure which will remain a bar area in the totally rebuilt complex. For immediate kitchen needs they brought in a temporary trailer, placed it in the bush behind the new temporary restaurant structure, and remarkably are serving the same full menu offered in prior years. Thank goodness we were able to order our favorite – Chicken Roti … the best we’ve found so far in the Caribbean.
Bruce and Susan Harris arrived on Andiamo to join us on the 14th. We’d last seen them when we stayed with them at their Calgary home in September on our way to a Leavenworth, Washington wedding. Of course, when with Bruce and Susan there’s always some hiking involved, as these Norman Island overlook photos attest.
Marina Cay – 2/16-17
We had a great reefed main and reefed jib sail up the Francis Drake Channel to Marina Cay, almost laying it on one tack! From Marina Cay we grabbed their shuttle ferry to near-by Trellis Bay to check out the happy hour scene there, followed by dinner at Pusser's Marina Cay with Bruce and Susan.
While sailing up to Marina Cay we noticed a 2" tear in the jib. Under further inspection we're pretty sure it was caused by dragging the sail across something sharp while raising it on the furler this year, as there were a few other snags in line with the rip in the same area. The good news is that these things can easily be repaired now days, using sticky-back dacron sail cloth on both sides with no need to sew. We quickly lowered the sail, applied a patch, re-hoisted the sail on the furler and voila ... a fully repaired sail! Cruising IS fixing your boat in exotic places.
For our second night at Marina Cay we caught their new, six day a week entertainment duo. The two brothers had come from Tennessee, and while not on par with a Michael Beans their performance was pretty good. We closed out this last night with Bruce and Susan with dinner aboard Andiamo. While we each have our own adventures ahead, we'll definitely miss buddy boating the remainder of this season.
Soper’s and BVI Check-Out – 2/18
Our time was limited in the BVI’s this year, as was Bruce and Susan’s. The next morning they headed further east to Virgin Gorda’s North Sound to stage for their hop further east to St. Martin and vicinity, while we reluctantly turned the other direction, heading downwind to West End and our BVI checkout. We’ll now need to start getting used to the roll of downwind sailing, as it will almost certainly be the norm for next 1400 to 1500 miles. To avoid the hassle of jibes with an almost dead-downwind course, we ran under jib alone for the trek to Soper’s … in fact we wouldn’t touch the main again until after our re-provisioning stop in Fajardo.
Once at Soper’s we decided to stay there for the night before moving on Wednesday to Francis Bay on St. John.
St. John’s Francis Bay -2/19-20
Our Virgin Island stops this year were influenced more by the friends we were hoping to spend time with than by a quest for new anchorages, experiences or favorite coves. At St. John’s Francis Bay we connected with longtime friends Hans and Ruth Deller.
Hans and Ruth had been cruising down here for more years than we can count. Years ago we had also occasionally sailed and chartered with them both here and in other Caribbean locations. We even bought two new sailboats from them back in the 70’s when they had started Sunworld Yachts as a “side business” during the gas-crunch-fueled sailing boom (timing is everything).
St. John begs to be hiked, so hike we did over toward Leinster Bay and the overlook just a short hike up the Johnny Horn trail. The next day we joined Hans, Ruth and others in an informal Francis Bay beach appetizer and sundowner gathering with about 10 other cruisers. This kind of gathering was the norm when we were cruising in the Bahamas, but it seldom happens here in the Virgins with their high percentage of charterers. Wherever cruisers congregate you can count on impromptu cockpit and beach gatherings, whereas charterers tend to stick to themselves, interacting very little with other cruisers or locals. The difference is understandable … the charterers are here on a short vacation break, typically for only a week or 10 days, and they tend to come and travel together as “ready-made” group.
St. Thomas Charlotte Amalie Harbor – 2/21
On Friday we reluctantly left Francis Bay, Hans and Ruth, and the other cruisers there to head further downwind to St. Thomas. The first order of business in Charlotte Amalie on Friday was an inexpensive eye exam for Judy.
It turns out that Judy had forgotten to renew her MN driver’s license before heading down here. Once expired, it would mean a re-take of both the written and driving tests when we return to Minnesota. However, luckily, on the MN DMV web site Judy found there was a way to renew a license while out of state. Bingo!
Wanting her eye test from an English-speaking optometrist, she arranged for a $20.00 exam at the local Sterling store Friday afternoon. In parallel our daughter Jill was watching our home mail for the snail mail state DMV forms to express mail to us in Fajardo. After one final step … finding a Puerto Rico lawyer to notarize the application (banks and other businesses don’t have notaries down here … only lawyers) … and she’ll be good to go for a remote license renewal. Oh the hassles … and complications … of cruising.
Culebra Again … and then Fajardo – 2/22 -23
Another rolly down-wind run on Saturday took us to Culebra, where we anchored one final time near the entrance reef to Ensenada Honda. After a peaceful night there we were well-positioned to exit the reef-lined entry Sunday morning, head further west to Puerto del Rey, top our diesel tanks there, find our assigned slip, and begin preparations for our downwind travels toward the east coast.
We've been busy here at Puerto del Rey. As of today’s posting on 2/28 our provisioning is now pretty well done for the trip back to the States. Our freezer is full to the brim and frozen absolutely solid with meats that should take us at least as far as Nassau with our various crews.
Plus we’ve now finished our canned goods and staple shopping (quickly closing in on $1,000 in groceries so far). We also need to do a liquor, wine and soda run to the local warehouse outlet tomorrow plus a short run for last minute produce & bread the day before we leave. The provisioning end is in sight!
Bill has also been doing a lot of much needed cosmetic work on the boat plus a few minor maintenance items that didn’t get taken care of before we left for the Virgins about a month ago. He took the pin rails, boom gallows, traveler arch, cockpit coaming, cockpit grates and kicker pad down to bare wood, and has since given them each at least two coats of Cetol Light. He also touched up all other exterior teak while Judy put a fresh coat of varnish on our interior teak window trim. Jubilee is starting to look pretty good, if we do say so ourselves.
It sure is nice having a string of days in Puerto Rico where we aren't seeing a little tropical rain squall come through every couple of hours to totally mess with any brightwork plans, as is too-often the case here. Our teak has seriously suffered over the past two years in the Caribbean sun without adequate touch-ups to keep it in shape. Hopefully this week’s efforts will get us back to at least passable appearance.
Sailing puts tremendous loads on the running rigging, often measured in the thousands of pounds, and back in Culebra we noticed that a dual mainsheet traveler block had become deformed to the point of the center brace actually breaking off! Luckily no harm was done. We jerry-rigged a temporary repair using other blocks until we returned to Puerto Rico, and now have a much heavier duty block where the old one had been (see the old deformed block on the left and new replacement block on the right).
The Next Leg
Our first crew, fellow Twin Cities sailor Alan Olson, will be flying into San Juan on Sunday, March 2nd, to sail with us as far as the Dominican Republic. Although currently boatless, Alan brings with him tons of experience including a transatlantic passage with some other mutual friends. We hope he doesn’t find our little hop along the south coast of Puerto Rico and across the Mona Passage to the DR too tame … or too warm (most of his sailing has been done in the higher latitudes).
The one downside of his visit is that his wife Beth wasn’t able to join him. Beth just started a new job a few weeks ago, and doesn’t yet have any vacation accrual for our trip.
So … with that to entice you … please stay tuned as we start our trek back to the states via the south coast of Puerto Rico, the D.R., the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and finally Florida and Georgia. We’re thinking about storing for hurricane season again in Brunswick, GA, just north of the Florida-Georgia border, as we’ve had good luck there in the past. In the mean time we look forward to seeing you soon for our next installment!