Stranded in West Bay

Map of West Bay, New Providence, Bahamas

We made it to the Bahamas after sailing out of Miami, FL on Friday. It took 29 hours of primarily motor sailing and 7 hours of resting and clearing in at Andros. We dropped the hook in West Bay, New Providence, where we have been stranded since Saturday. On Sunday, Hayden’s birthday, we tried to bash into 25+ knots of ENE winds only to go 9 miles out, turn around and surf back at 7.8 knots in building seas! DUH, that was really stupid. We had data from our weather router, Chris Parker, and knew it was going to be ENE or E winds….BUT….we thought we could push into this. NO, not down here, this is bigger water, with bigger seas, and we really do not want to move around in the dark, so we need to reach our destinations in the mid afternoons at best!

Departed Miami, made West Bay, now waiting for better winds.
This is the current plan for our George Town run.

So we are here in West Bay, New Providence, Bahamas, on anchor and safe. These is no reason to try to move on UNTIL the wind is in our favor. This will happen Wednesday when the winds move to SSE. Our next destination is Highborne Cay which is 45 miles on a course of 112 degrees. Our overall goal is to deliver Jeff to George Town by Sat/Sun where he has rented a beach house for the week of Feb 17-24. If the weather holds us up, then there are mailboats and planes to take Jeff to George Town.

Here are some photos of our rough days…..

Sunrise over our bow in West Bay, New Providence Bahamas

My “BEACH BUM” crew, Radeen and Jeff

Clifton Heritage Park, where we can land dinghy and walk the sand or swim

View from the Park of Island Spirit at anchor out in the deep water (10 feet)

Radeen is spoiling us with great dinners. Hayden made bread and Jeff stocked the wine cellar.

Radeen walking the low tide

We have now proven that when our weather router says the winds will be 22 knots, gusting to 28 knots from the east, we should believe him. We set sail out into this forecast to “prove” and to “collect data” as to the accuracy of our weather reports. Guess what we learned? ……YES, Chris Parker was right on! Now we know that 🙂

This is the wind for today, dead on the bow, so we will wait until Wed, when it goes more SOUTH

Bahamas Breached

Jeff and Radeen, ready to go, Coconut Grove Sailing Club at dawn
“The hardest part of a sailing trip is….just leaving the docks!” And so it was once again. You would think after all these years of running our boat, now with over 12,500 miles, we would be very accustomed to preparing a boat for a trip. 
This trip, departing Miami, FL for the Exumas then up to the Abacos seemed to be more challenging. With the normal prep work, we met our goal and departure date. Our good friend and fellow Island Spirit team mate, Jeff G. jumped onboard for a sail to George Town. Jeff keeps us all safe with nuclear power and we certainly hope the industry manages with him offline while sailing aboard Island Spirit.
Sunset sailing on the Bahama Banks
After Jeff concluded two days of meetings at the NRC in Washington DC, he moved his Friday flight up to Thursday so we could jump onto the end of a week long weather window and depart Miami. At 0600 we moved off the mooring ball at Coconut Grove Sailing Club and moved to the water dock, filled up, and headed out Biscayne Channel for sea. We crossed the Gulf Stream (Florida Current) and entered between Gun Cay and Cat Island onto the Bahama Banks. We enjoyed a wonderful chicken piccata dinner with strawberries and pound cake prepared by Radeen. Then we sailed all night long across the Banks, bound for the North West Channel.
Morgan’s Bluff Fuel Dock and the only wall to climb up
That is the bar/customs house in the background
We arrived the narrow NW Channel at 0200 (2 AM!) and with lightning and a bit of rain, we crossed into the Tongue of the Ocean. We sailed this south to Morgan’s Bluff. There we needed to wait offshore for daybreak in order to find the channel markers. These were not showing up on radar, so we 
decide to NOT enter the channel at NIGHT. Good call, as the channel markers were NOT there due to  Hurricane Sandy. Arriving in Morgan’s Bluff, we dropped anchor and slept until our 0930 Customs meeting. We had called the day before to make sure they would be there then and they said they would. Well, 930, 1030, 1130….1230 was when the officers finally arrived! We checked into the country and departed immediately at 1:15 pm for a 28 mile sail to West Bay, New Providence, arriving at dusk!
Team Island Spirit, mid stream, offshore Miami
Over all, the 36 hour passage was not as difficult as any of the 10 Cape May, NJ to Block Island, RI runs we have made. This trip has many different components:  Gulf Stream Crossing, Bahama Banks Sailing, NW Channel Passage with missing marks, Tongue of the Ocean sailing at night, and brisk upwind sailing / motoring to get to West Bay. Now, the next leg is 45 miles East to Highborne Cay, where we will reach the Exumas. We can sail SOUTH on this EAST wind and reach George Town. From there….we will explore, explore, explore…
Here are some photos of this leg…

10 extra gallons of diesel fuel on deck to back up our 48 gallon tank
Fuel burn is 3/4 gallon per hour, at 7 mph!

8 gallons of gasoline in red tanks on the stern rails
 for the “car” our dinghy to get ashore

Hayden and Radeen at sunrise departure for the Exumas

Stiltsville homes next to Biscayne Channel

Looking off the stern down at the water color
Bahama Banks shallow water!

 Jeff offshore in the Gulf Stream

There it is…Gun Cay, the island cut that we passed through
Notice the waves crashing on the rocks, this is a calm day

ahhhh….Bahama Banks, 8-10 feet deep, calm, and great sailing
That is the shadow of our sails and hull on the sandy bottom

Sunset on the Great Bahamas Bank, 10 hrs to the NW Channel passage
We motor sailed all night 

0630, 24 hrs later, we are hoisting the Q flag, quarantined in Morgan’s Bluff
on the northern end of Andros. Time to check in to Customs.

Island Spirit at anchor while Hayden is ashore checking in

Anchored off Morgan’s Bluff, Andros Island

Up with the Bahamas flag….papers filed, and fees paid, we are good for 180 days

Off we sail for New Providence from Andros

West Bay, New Providence, Bahamas, a birthday to remember!
 Hayden announces the sunset with his conch horn…Thank you CAREY!

So, we tried today to bash our way into 20+ knot headwinds attempting to sail our way EAST in a East North East wind….DUH…that did not work. After reefing the jib from a 135% to 110% and sailing up onto the banks, 9 miles out, we decided to turn around and surf back into safe port. Doing 7.8 knots down wind in steep seas, we were all happy to safely back on anchor in West Bay with the boat intact. Island Spirit is one tough boat! We really need to WAIT for proper winds and better wind directions before moving on. That looks like Wednesday for now…Oh well, it is tough, but we will just live here until we can move on!

See our building EXUMAS TRIP MAP HERE

Exumas Plan

The Plan to Explore the Exumas, Bahamas

We have reached our planned time frame where we will be leaving the South Florida Coast behind and sailing over into the Exumas for our first discover trip of the area. Last year we spent nearly two months exploring and learning the Abacos, and this year we plan to spend a month or more exploring the Exumas. This area is south of the Abacos and after exploring there we will sail back north into the Abacos where we will enjoy a return visit.

Our good friend Jeff and great crew wanted to jump onboard for a ride out to Blue Water and to George Town where he has rented a home for the third week of February. If all goes well, we should be able to sail him there in time to connect with his wife Sharon. If the weather does not cooperate then there are mail boats and small plane to fly Jeff to George Town. You know the worst thing about cruising is HAVING A SCHEDULE….but we will do our best to discover the Exumas and show Jeff a great cruising time.

This is what a PERFECT weather window looks like!
South winds 10 knots, Gulf stream calm

Our plan is to depart on Friday in the next weather window that is openning, and motor run directly from Miami to Morgan’s Bluff on Andros Island. There we will check into customs and enter the Bahamas. This is a 20 hour motor run and we will cross the Bahama Banks at night and pass through the North West Channel around 3 am. From there we will turn south for 20 miles more arriving Morgan’s Bluff around 0730. We called customs and they will be open and can check us in on Saturday am. After that we will up anchor and take off right away for the west end of New Providence Island dropping the anchor at Lyford Cay. We will be racing an arriving cold front with 20 knot NE winds. Anchored there, the front should arrive with building North East Winds all night long. Sunday, we will sail south east on this front to Highbourne Cay or beyond. Once here, we will be in the Exumas Chain and this will provide good protection from the normal trade winds that blow 15-20 from the east 24/7.

This is the frontal winds, Northeast and 15-20
This would NOT be fun

The challenge of this passage is to wait for the perfect weather window which is when a frontal systems approaches and pulls the east trade winds to the south. These south winds blow down stream over the northward flowing Gulf Stream (i.e. Florida Current) and the waves calm down to 2-3 feet. Wind blowing with current, no problem. Wind blowing against current BIG PROBLEM, big waves.

In preparation, you get your boat all ready, fuel up, load up the provisions/food (for months) and you wait in Miami for this perfect weather window. When it happens, it will usually only last 1-2 days, maybe 3 and then the front arrives and it blows hard from the North then North East, then it finally goes back to East trade winds. At that point you better be across the stream or be in a safe anchorage or a marina. You can get stuck for days, even weeks due to high winds, and you will just have to wait for the next weather window to move on. Welcome to Bahamas sailing and trade wind sailing with cold fronts from Nor’easter that effect our weather here! Once thing is for sure, you really learn to live by the weather.

So that is our plan. We are ready, we are loaded, We will shut down our Verizon Phones as we exit to sea. Our communications will be down to a SPOT transmitter and our SSB radio. We will be off the grid until we find free and open WiFi somewhere in the Exumas. We Plan to be in the Bahamas until the end of April. Let the explorations and discovery begin….

Here is our Weather data as of Wed PM Feb 6, 2013….we will be departing Feb 8 at Daybreak.
NOTE: Subtract 5 hrs from the time of UTC to get our time here in Florida.

Wed, what we are in right now, this is 5-10 knots from the east
Here you see 10 knots north east

This is typical. East winds blowing directly at you. You need to wait
East winds building….wait
Here we go, the wind is pulling to the south
Looking good, this is 10 knots south east….good window
This is 6 AM Thurs
WOW….looks perfect, 10 knots south east
Thur 15-5=10 am Thur
Still looks good, that is south east winds and still calm….
18 UTC – 5 = 1300 or 1pm Thur afternoon
WOW….even better! SOUTH WIND, this is a GO
Fri 00 UTC – 5 = 7 pm Thur night
Looking good, we are a GO
Really looks good, Friday 06 UTC
Here we go….DEPART MIAMI
Fri 12 UTC – 5 = 7am departure time
(NOTE: See the cold front up north? LOOK OUT!)
We will be at sea between Miami and Bimini
Now we will be on the Bahamas Banks for an all night run
Looks calm, and winds behind us
Sat 00 UTC – 5 = 7pm Fri night
COLD FRONT COMING….we will be pulling into ANDROS
Morgan;s Bluff is the North West Corner this is below the front
Sat 12 UTC – 5 = 7 AM
We will sail this cold front to the East
Andros to New Providence and anchor
Sunday AM, we will depart New Provenience and Sail to the Exumas
This will be our winds as we try to sail South East to Highbourne Key
This looks like a dream sail, winds on the port beam!
My Monday, we will be in the Exumas and this is typical EAST Tradewinds
We will be behind the Exuma Islands and should be protected
This will be TOUGH to move SOUTH into this wind
Tue 18 UTC – 5 is 1 pm Tue afternoon
OH NO….here we go again…another cold front approaching
The winds have moved to the south. We will need protection
Look up NORTH, it is blowing 25-30 knots!
Lucky for us, we will be south of this

There is your Bahama Weather lesson for a crossing to the Exumas. You need to time the fronts, study the patterns, listen to Chris Parker, our weather router, and make your best judgement as when to go. We hope we chose right! If we did, it should be a smooth ride and a great sail, If not, it will be a bashing…..

  • ( If you have internet, these are the files above)
  • (Chris Parker)

NM family

Radeen, Punkie and Shane

Gallup, New Mexico, Radeen’s hometown, is a long way from south Florida where her sister and brother-in-law live. Rose Marie, aka Punkie, traded their timeshare for a condo on the beach in Hollywood, FL. We moved Island Spirit from Marathon in the Florida Keys to the Hollywood Municipal Marina. One can really become spoiled with a rental car, a slip, and a condo facing the ocean! We slept on the boat at the marina and used the rental car to come and go and to show Punkie and Shane the wonderful sights of South Florida. 

Hollywood Beach Towers Resort

Hollywood is a wonderful beach front town with a well designed boardwalk made of paving tiles level with the sand. The boardwalk is 2.5 miles long with the typical gift shops, pubs and ethnic restaurants. Renting a surrey with bike pedals for 4 was a great way to see the boardwalk and the guys enjoyed a tour via electric stand-up Trikkes. With the condo unit on the 11th floor ocean side, we could enjoy the view and see the full moon rise over the ocean. 

On the first day, we took in the French-Canadian Festival on the boardwalk, complete with crepes, and also drove to the Fairchild Botanical Gardens south of Coconut Grove and Dinner Key. 

The next day we enjoyed alfresco dining for lunch on Ocean Drive in Miami’s South Beach. Luckily, we bumped into the 50th anniversary celebration of Lamborghini Automobiles. After the president of the company and the Mayor of Miami spoke, 50 Lamborghinis revved up their engines for a parade from South Beach to Palm Beach! What a sight to see…Italian employees on radios organizing the cars with company executives and honored guests. These cars range in price from $250,000 to $640,000 $US! We also explored Lincoln Road Mall, always a fun walk with outdoor seating and coffee shops. 
The next day found us in search of an Apple Store to have our broken iPad replaced. The Apple store in Aventura Mall turns out to be the SECOND most busy store in the USA, second only to the New York City Apple Cube! The place was crazy busy with well-dressed shoppers speaking many different languages and 5 year old with their own IPads. We took the first available appointment – 2 days later! Then we all could not resist the pull of the Cheesecake Factory Restaurant, again dining al fresco.
Another fun adventure was a boat trip up the New River aboard the Jungle Queen. This is a 3 hour tour past the many beautiful homes and yachts all the way up to Marina Mile past I-95. What a great trip this is! The next day found us back at the Aventura Mall to the Apple Store. We also enjoyed the very modern Museum of Science & Discovery in Fort Lauderdale with an amazing Everglades Airboat Simulator and other interesting exhibits. Punkie & Shane came aboard for lunch one day to see our boat and marina life. This was such a fun time and a stark contrast to living on a boat. Malls, Cars, Shopping, Grocery Stores, and Condo Living…….so easy!
Our visit was too short and after only five days, Punkie and Shane flew back to the dry, cold southwest high desert. We never seem to have enough time together……
We made good use of the rental car to accomplish two separate trips to Publix for provisions, to Total Wine, West Marine, Bluewater Charts and the WEMA Gauge Company. On our last day in Hollywood, we had a surprise visit from former IP-owners, Debbie and Craig. Sadly, we didn’t take a photo to prove it!
Here are a few photos of our visit

Family fun!
Banyan trees along the road in Coral Gables, FL


We were lucky to have great weather every day!

Mojitos and other drinks with Cuban sandwiches on South Beach 
We enjoyed South Beach’s vibe and Art Deco Archtecture
A scary Alligator Show was part of the Jungle Queen excursion
This photo is not zoomed in…we were very close!
Dinner at Five Guys with IP-31 True Love owners Keith and Blanca.
They are our support team in Miami, providing cheerful mail and chauffeur services!

A new experience for all was watching Jai Alai, the fastest ball game in the world!

Pedaling our surrey on the boardwalk

Saying good-bye at the airport – hope to see you soon!