Departing Tobago Cays, we sailed downwind a very short distance west to Union Island where a man named Janti built “Happy Island.” This is similar to the island off the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI’s called Saba Rock. Saba actually was a rock that was expanded dramatically, but HAPPY ISLAND did not exist before. Janti created the island by piling up conch shells on the reef. WHAT? Yes, he gathered up conch shells tossed away from the harvest of the conch. Next, he hauled and piled these shells up until he had enough area to build a small shade building. Eventually, this grew and grew and grew into what is now Happy Island with a complete house and bar with a dinghy dock, palm trees, picnic tables, and large speakers for party music. Happy Island is the place to stop on Union Island, it is right in the middle of the reef! Look at these photos over the years!
A walk around Union Island
In order to leave for Grenada, one must check out of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That requires a stop on Union Island at the Customs and Immigration offices at the airport or at the local town’s office building. The local office will charge an overtime fee if you request services over lunch or on a weekend. We stopped in at 1205 and decided to walk the town until early afternoon and spend the overtime fee on ice cream instead. Union Island is a busy little town with street vendors, gift shops, bakery, grocery store, banks, and a coffee and ice cream shop. Of course, we hit Gypsy Soul, the coffee and ice cream shop above the Captain Gourmet.
Union Island, the town of Clifton, is the home of all the hard-working people who run boats over to Tobago Cays. They sell bread, fish, jewelry, collect trash and they created a Beach BBQ for cruisers and charterers. The trip from Union is about 7 nm in small homemade wooden boats with outboards. Supporting these industrious people at their BBQ is well worth the $40 US, including transportation from your boat in their boats. The menu is a choice of chicken, fish, or ribs with vegetables, rice and bread served family style. They all work so hard to make it a special event for the cruising boaters. Then after running the Beach BBQ, they make the crossing across open ocean waters to Union Island late at night. Thank you CLIFTON, we will be back.
Where is Happy Island?
Zoom Into our Travel Map Here
Thank you for sailing along with us, we really enjoy sharing this adventure with our friends and family.
Our summer at Saltbox 13 flew by and it is always a comfortable retreat and change of pace and activity from the cruising lifestyle. We find the contrast of life on land vs life on a boat to be so interesting. On the boat, we live off solar power, wind power and a 100 amp alternator and a little diesel fuel. We make fresh water out of salt water, we walk for all groceries. At home, we live in a passive solar home but have endless water (38 gal/minute well) endless power 120 volt, 24/7 internet, cable TV, cars, bikes, and a large Weber grill. Life on land is soooo easy, life on a boat is soooo simple. The contrast is interesting and we enjoy both equally.
Our first two weeks aboard find us in Annapolis Maryland as we stow and store all the items we moved onboard. We are adjusting to living without a car for the next 8 months. We are working thru the yacht systems, some need repairs, some need adjusting. Solar and wind are working great, and we have found once again, our new B&G 4G radar is not working AGAIN. So we are focused on that major system which allows us to sail offshore safely at night. We need to fix it as we are heading offshore 5 days after the boat show!
We spent one rainy week on mooring ball 50 in Annapolis and then a fun 3 days at the Seven Seas Sailing Association SSCA gathering at the Maryland Yacht Club in Rock Creek, near Baltimore. Now we have moved back to Annapolis where we are attending the sailboat show, as we have done for over 25 years. We really enjoy seeing so many cruising friends and Island Packet Yacht Owners. We created and host lunches at the Fleet Reserve at the 2nd-floor roof tent every day from noon til about 2 pm. It is a great way to meet up with buddies. We also look at all the new gear and rigging ideas, most of which we either have or don’t need. We go to seminars and learn new ideas and hear about other sailors’ adventures. It really is a great way to spend a long weekend. We can’t imagine missing the Annapolis Boat Show.
So, we will return to blogging and we will share our photos and adventures once again. Our destination this year is the Caribbean Sea once again, but this time we will push onward past Puerto Rico and make it to Grenada by May 15, 2019. There we will haul out and store the boat from June 1 to Nov 1 for hurricane season. Between now and then, we will have much to share and many photos to capture. Thanks for sailing along.
Our New 2018-19 cruising map is active here. It will be updated as our boat moves. We use the Garmin InReach tracker and the Spotwalla service to archive our trips. This way you can always see where we are. It is interesting to see the creeks and rivers we run and the ocean passages we will make.
It is very difficult to blog and post while moving the boat 10-14 hours a day, every day, 1,000 nm. Twelve days after departing FL, we finally are getting a chance to catch up on photos and blog postings. We have had a fantastic run from Stuart, going offshore direct 525 nm in 3 days to Cape Lookout, NC. There we entered the ICW, Intracoastal Waterway, and worked our way north to the Chesapeake Bay. Once in the Bay, we blasted north in 2 days. We never did that before, running the bay in 2 days. We count home waters as Annapolis to Rock Hall, Maryland, with the Bay Bridge as our defining landmark signifying we are home.
This 2017-18 cruising season has been an unusual one, starting in Puerto Rico with a damaged mast from hurricane Maria. We shipped the boat to Florida and had it repaired by Mack Sails. We tested the rebuild out by sailing a loop around the Abacos and the Berrys. With it being so late in the season, we decided to sail for home where we could use our boat for the summer and wait out the next hurricane season. We will sail back to the Caribbean next season and resume our adventures there. For now, we will enjoy the boat here on the Bay for the summer of 2018.
Here is a graphic of our season.
We departed Stuart on Monday, noon, May 21
Heading out the inlet in a near squall that caught up with us about 3 miles offshore, we were out and heading north. There was a nice 3 to 4-day weather window with forecasted southeast winds of 15-20 knots and no threat of thunderstorms. We liked the forecast so, even with the squall, we left. It was a bit exciting, but we kept telling ourselves the forecast was great. Let’s keep going. Well, we took a beating for about 4-5 hours out of the inlet and we actually thought about turning around, but we pushed offshore to the Gulfstream.
Our passage was great
We had it all, broad reaching full sails, all three, we reefed 4 times, had 3 squalls, lightning and rain, and even 4 hours of code zero offshore. The sailing was really wonderful for days. We both commented many times how amazing the sailing was. Endless sailing. This trip was the longest offshore trip we have made. 60 hours 525 nm. We had two days of 200 nm which was due to the 3-4 knots of the Gulfstream. Making a 200nm day is a great day on any sailboat, let alone a little 35 footer. We were pleased with our speed and the push of the Stream.
The days rolled on and we enjoyed the passage. Radeen and I are not always thrilled about ocean passages, but we do them when we can to cover longer distances. For us, we would rather anchor and rest at night, but sometimes you just have to go to sea and do shifts and keep running 24/7. This was a great time to go offshore, to go north, and we are very glad we did it. Here are the photos from offshore…
Arriving Cape Lookout at 0400
We arrived Cape Lookout before daybreak in a thunderstorm. Our new radar went out the afternoon of the second day so we were running blind all night, a very uncomfortable situation. After making the Cape straightaway, we decided to not go into the harbour until daybreak because it was so dark. With no moonlight, no radar and one lighted buoy missing, it was best to wait. We simply put away the jib and, with a reefed main, we sailed along the shore until 0530 when it was light enough to go in and drop the anchor. We slept until 0800 and then headed out using our code zero for the Beaufort Inlet and into the ICW in beautiful conditions.
Up the ICW, Cape Lookout to the Chesapeake Bay
This is always an easy and interesting section of the ICW. We have run this 10+ times and know the route well. We also know the stops and the anchorages. We have stopped before at Oriental, River Dunes, Manteo, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Dismal Swamp, Norfolk, etc. but this time we were on a delivery running for home. So, we followed our dear friend Reuben’s route into Coinjock. There we made reservations for a prime rib dinner and a dock. What a treat that was after days at sea and on the hook. Coinjock was a welcome relief and we may always go this way from now on. It also saves one day of travel so that was another reason we went this way. Very fun stop. Thank you, Reuben.
The next stop PORTSMOUTH, VA
We never ever miss this stop at the Portsmouth, VA ferry basins. We dock along the waterfront and walk into town on High Street, taking in the Bier Garten, the Commodore Movie Theater, and the local coffee shop. What a great stop to see the new Star Wars movie, “Solo.” So much fun for sure.
Photos of the ICW…
We reach the Chesapeake Bay….HOME waters
These are our home waters! When we reach the Bay, we feel at ease and safe. Starting our sailing here in 1986, we have anchored in nearly every creek and cove. First stop, Annapolis, the state capital of Maryland. and one of our favorites. It was an unexpected pleasure to have dinner with Mary Ann and Ron of IP380 CAVU and Sharon and Greg of IP40 Dreamcatcher, but we have no photo of the fun to share.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge, NOW we are HOME
We have not been north of the Bay Bridge by boat since 2015. We stored our boat in Stuart FL two years ago to prep for sailing to the Caribbean Sea. Then last season, we stored in Puerto Rico. Now we have returned and it was a fun run to cross under the Bay Bridge again. We always cut the corner and that presents these great photo shots looking back into the center span of the bridge with the perspective vanishing point. Very cool photo.
Rock Hall, MD tower
From the center span of the Bay Bridge, we ran for the Rock Hall tower which is a range marker pointed to the main ship channel. Once we reached this, we were home. We motored into Swan Creek and around the creek to Spring Cove Marina. We have been at this marina since 1991. It is the special place where we built all our sailing and cruising dreams. We spent many summers planning and dreaming of going off cruising. For now, we will base here and enjoy our boat.
CHEERS, it is a great life cruising on a sailboat
We celebrated our arrival at The Harbour Shack with great friends, Sharon and Jeff of IP35 Lucille and Ray of IP 27 Wye’s Guy. Again, no photo of the fun.
Thank you all for following along. Your comments arrive in our email box and we love to hear from you.
OUR MAP. Where we have been and where we are now. If our boat moves, this map updates. How fun.
We added a new sail to our rig, a CODE ZERO. After repairing and rebuilding our new mast and rigging, we finally got the boat back to where it was when we stored her in Puerto Rico. Then Hurricane Maria damaged us and we came back to Stuart Florida for repairs by Mack Sails. Once finished we really had nothing to show for all this work and money, so, we bought Island Spirit a cool new CODE ZERO furling spinnaker. These sails are good with a wind angle of 40 degrees down to 140 degrees but the best angle is 50 to 110 and apparent winds up to 20 knots. The true beauty is that the sail simply unfurls and out it comes. Then when you are finished with it, you simply furl it up and it stays in place forward of the jib. To accomplish this we added a masthead crane extension and a new halyard. We welded a new attachment point between the anchor rollers and we added a new self-tailing winch to the mast. Here is a photo of the first day we hoisted the sail:
Welding the Bow
We needed to add an attachment point on the bow, so we hired the best welder in Stuart, Florida, Mike Davis of Native Welding. We moved the boat to the docks and placed the bow over the dock and Mike was able to modify our bow rollers and we added a new arch welded between the two rollers. This places the Code Zero attachment point dead center and well forward of the forestay. On the newer IPs, with the larger bow rollers, they can simply shackle to the existing roller structure. This mod, we are now pulling up on both anchor rollers which are thru bolted with larger bolts than our forestay uses, so we have no worries about strength here. Take a look at the welding process photos. Very nice work.
The Furling Rig
Code Zero sails use a continuous line furling rig. This rig is the Profurl NEX 2.5 which has a working load of 2.5 tons, or 5,000 lbs. The idea is that these sails can be rolled out and deployed easily and they can be furled back up just like a jib. The furling line is continuous and comes off the drum back to the cockpit where it returns to the drum via a ratchet block. This helps with furling by allowing the sail to roll out easily. To see, watch this YouTube Video here by Profurl: https://youtu.be/rcgc5CnJbl4
The Code Zero forward of the Jib
The Code Zero stays furled up and forward of the jib. This becomes one of the most used sails on the boat because it has such a wide range of uses. Unlike a spinnaker, which you have to get out, hoist with the sock on it, rig up the tack to the bow, set up the sheets and pull up the halyard. Then set up the boat on the course, pull up the sock and then set the sail. With this, you get on course, roll out the Code Zero and sail. When finished, roll it back up and leave it right there. For the spinnaker, you go up on deck as the wind builds (oh great) then pull down the sock, now this big tube of sail is hanging there, now lower it to deck or down a hatch and good luck finding a place to store it. Code Zero, furl it, forget it. DONE.
Sailing Photos, Fun Fun Fun
Our second day we sailed 3 times up and down the river and sailed from 40 degrees down to 140 degrees. This sail loves 50-110 degrees. We have a whisker pole and a topping lift so we can rig this for dead downwind as well. Enjoy these sailing photos.
Captain Photo Required
Hayden with his new code zero, way more to follow, just wait til we get to sea with this sail
Tomorrow we hit the OCEAN
.Tomorrow we will take Island Spirit out to the ocean and test this sail out in 10-15 knots with the full mainsail up. This will be very exciting. We will have a drone flying and our friend Ed taking video from a chase boat. We are working with Mack Sails on a video, this should really be fun.
This sailing motoring passage of 79 nm from Grand Bahama to Florida gave us everything from flat calm seas, to beam reach sailing to marine warnings over the VHF to thunderstorms, lightning, rain and reduced visibility. Overall, with 8 crossings of the Gulf Stream, this one was by far one of the calmest and smoothest sea states we have seen.
First, we exited Port Lucaya on Grand Bahamas where we ran out a very narrow rock-lined channel. There is zero chance to turn around and no opportunity to pass another yacht in this channel. Any SOUTH winds blowing into this narrow channel would create a serious problem. We departed at 7 am with the 10 knots of crosswinds. It looked like this.
Here we go
Radeen and I keep out boat moving at full speed whenever we are on a passage. We are not out here for a day sail. We want to make the passage as short as we can make it, so we do whatever it takes to keep the boat moving at or near hull speed which is 7.2 knots. With the motor in flat calm water, we can motor about 6.2 knots, add some sail and we can motor sail at 6.5 knots. Give us 10 knots of breeze and we can motor sail at 7 knots. That is what we do. We find that in the ocean, Island Packet Yachts need 15 knots to push the sea state due to their beam and weight. If the winds are 15-20 knots then these boats sail at hull speed. We can always sail faster than we can motor, but we need 15-20 knots of wind in the ocean. Here we are with a reefed main and a staysail because the winds were only 5-8 knots that morning, so all we wanted to do was stabilize the boat in the seaway.
Then the Winds Die
AS forecasted, the winds died. This weather situation is what is called “diurnal” which means that the winds are based on the thermals off the land. So, while we were near Freeport Bahamas, we had the land pulling in the wind from the sea. Then once we got out to sea, no more thermals, so no winds. Flat calm sea. This was the situation until we reached the south winds blowing along the Florida coast. Look at the ocean, this is amazing, it is never this calm!
Gulf Stream 3 knots
When crossing the stream, we need to plan for the 3 knot current that is flowing north. With a 36 mile wide stream and our boat speed at 6 knots and a 3 knot flow northward, that means we would be in the stream for 6 hours (36/6) Six hours drifitng 3 knots northward will move your boat 18 nm northward. So, that means when you come out of the stream you will be 18 to 20 miles north of where you were heading, Planning for this common set and drift navigation challenge, you need to point your boat 15-20 degrees south of your actual rum line. In this example, we were pointed 270 but we were going course over ground of 300. This ran us right to our destination. In the next photo you can see the effects of the Gulf Stream flowing northward at 3 knots. Look at the compass and then look for COG on the B&G screen.
OH NO, Thunderstorm ahead
As forecasted, the late afternoon thunderstorms would develop over South Florida, and sure enough, there they were. The VHF radio was going off with NOAA weather alerts and severe weather warnings. We were 20 miles offshore when they said…”BOATERS SHOULD SEEK SAFE HARBOR”….great, we are 3-4 hours out at sea and there is no safe harbor. The next thing you know, the temperature dropped rapidly and the winds shifted. We moved into a full out Chinese fire drill, reefing the jib and dropping the full mainsail. The winds picked up rapidly to 25 knots. They were forecast to be 40-60 knots with hail. The most we had was 27 knots, thank goodness.
LAKE WORTH INLET, a CLASS A….ahhhhh
We really like CLASS A inlets, they are deep, they are wide and they are straight in and easier than non-class A inlets. In this area we have Lake Worth and Fort Pierce as class A inlets with St. Lucie in between. We chose to come into Lake Worth in case we could not make it in daylight, then we knew we could enter this inlet at dark and via radar. Lucky for us, we arrived at 7 pm and sunset was at 7:50 pm so we had daylight to enter. Just inside the inlet and to the south we dropped anchor and enjoyed watching this old cruise ship heading out. It was nice we did not meet it in the inlet. Welcome HOME, we are back in the USA.
Welcome to West Palm Beach, Check in with CBP
Since 2011, we have been checking back into the USA from the Bahamas using the LBO, Local Boater Option. We also use the SVRS, Small Vessel Reporting System. Both of these systems have all our biometrics, passports, photos and all info about our vessel. While in the Bahamas, we filed and processed an SVRS/LBO float plan and activated this plan when we’re ready to depart which then gives us a Float Plan number. This float plan number is all that Customs and Border Patrol needs. When you call, they enter your float plan number and you are checked back into the USA.
Surprise! NOT anymore.
You are supposed to use the CBP ROAM app on your smartphone. When you go to download and to use this app, it tells you straight up that it is in BETA form and is experimental to use. I downloaded it but was unable to log-in. So, I called in with my float plan number and the officer refused to take it, he said I must use ROAM. I called back in 3 more times getting a different CBP officer each time. I explained my problem and kept trying to use my float plan number. Finally, on the 4th call, the officer believed my difficulties and asked me for all my data, never using my float plan number. He then cleared us in.
CONCLUSION: You need to use CBP ROAM app, enter all your personal data, your yacht data, your passport, home address, LBO numbers, etc, then you can check in via your cell phone on a conference call with the CBP officer. Other friends have used it successfully. I just wish our government would perfect the APP and get it out of BETA because I never use beta software. I do not trust it at this point in time. The float plan filing website should be discontinued since the Float Plan numbers are no longer used. Filling it out was a waste of time.
That is a WRAP
Year # 7 to the Bahamas is now a wrap. Yes, we were supposed to be in the Caribbean, but the Bahamas are a dream as well. So, it was down with the flag, and store it till next year, when we will once again be on our way to the Caribbean Sea!
PS: We crossed Island Spirit’s Shipping Track
If you look at this live tracking map, you will see that on this trip, Florida to Abaco to Berrys to Lucaya to Florida, we crossed the shipping track that Island Spirit traveled inboard from St. Thomas in January. How interesting to study that. We really enjoy using this Inreach device by Garmin. https://share.garmin.com/IslandSpirit
Our 75 nm run from Great Stirrup Cay in the Berrys to Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island was a mix of sailing and motor sailing and then sailing again. We had planned to depart Stirrup Cay at sunset, which we did, and we planned to sail all night. One last look at radar showed storms coming. So, we smartly turned around and returned to safe anchorage and waited for them to pass. At 10:30. we were ready to sail again. but Radeen was looking at the Weather Bug radar app and it showed severe storms and thunderstorms tracking directly across our projected path, just beyond our 36 mile radar. Well, these storms came all night long just inches north of us right up until the last storm passed us at 7:30 am. Needless to say, we did not get much sleep that night! So, as the last storm was passing, we hoised a reefed main sail and sailed out behind the storm with the lightning just past us to the east. Here is a map of our passage.
What would a sail be without scones? So, I baked 16 scones and gave 4 away and packed up the rest for the next few days of sailing and travel. These are very easy to make from scratch, we simply use the basic recipe from King Arthur Flour. It is fun to bake on the boat.
Cruise Ships Lease these Islands
Royal Caribbean leases Little Stirrup Cay (aka Coco Cay) and Norwegian Cruise line leases Great Stirrup Cay. The ships anchor off their private islands and then ferry passengers, 5,000 of them, back and forth. WOW, it is crazy how packed the islands are. We sailed past these ships the day before as we moved into Great Stirrup Cay to stage up for the sailing northwest. A cruise is a great option for being here because you really need to get to the Bahamas to see the beautiful blue, blue ocean waters and the powder sand beaches.
Harness on and Hook in, it is off to sea
Radeen and I like to take these selfies as we head out to sea, it is something we do and cherish as we look back and remember the sailing trips we have taken. We wear harnesses and tethers which we hook onto the boat. The idea is to make sure no one falls off the boat, and if you do fall off, then you will not be lost. We have these on at sea all the time. Happy selfie as we head out after a sleepless stormy night on anchor.
Set Sails and Sail
After the storms passed, we had a perfect beam reaching wind for about 4 hours. We started with a reefed mainsail and then shook out the reef to a full main and even added the little staysail. Now under full sail, we were making 6 to 6.5 knots directly towards our destination. PERFECT. Here are some sailing shots.
SHAKE out THAT Reef
With our new mast and our new “Strong Track” and with my new simple single line reefing system (I removed the boom shuttle cars), our mainsail is really easy to reef and also easy to shake out the reef. Here I am after a simple shake out and under full sail with the staysail out as well. This is one happy bluewater sailing captain.
ERRRR, the Winds move FORWARD
WHY, WHY, WHY does the wind change direction? WHY? Especially when we are all set up, we have been sailing along for about 4 hours, all is perfect. We have a long way to go, and then, POOF, the wind moves from 180 degrees to 280-300 degrees and our course is 315. So, furl in the big jib, sheet in the staysail, lower the main back down to a reef and fire up the motor. We now set up for motor sailing with the wind 20-30 degrees off our port bow. We could sail this wind, we just would not get to our destination. When we are on passage, we keep the boat moving and we make sure it is moving towards our destination. Sailing is great, but we are not going to sail in the wrong direction just to sail. So, we motor sailed and hoped the wind would move back towards the south. Now it is waves and salt spray all over the deck and the windshield. One salty boat in a matter of minutes!
Look out, SHIP! Radar has it
While on passage, we set up our digital radar to have a Guard Zone set to 2-3 miles ahead of us, 1 mile wide and arching about 140 degrees. If anything solid enters this zone, an alarm starts to beep and alerts us to the position. The radar will cast a line in the direction of the target and we begin our visual search for the target. At 2 miles out, that is 20 minutes away, and 10 minutes if it is coming at you the same speed, so we like to find the targets quickly. Here is what our radar guard zone looks like. Also see the pointer named ALLEGRO, that is a ship sending out its AIS info.
Can you see the ship? Here is the view from the helm looking towards that ship. Do you see it?
Here, let me zoom in and NOW, you can see the ship. This is a calm day, and a ship is easy to spot, BUT, radar is still #1. it is your eyes at sea. We like AIS, but it is not #1 because many ships turn them off and some do not have AIS. So, radar is it. It is the only thing we count on to identify solid objects that we could hit and that could sink our boat. Look what radar found long before I saw it. Now that I know it is out there, 6 miles, I can watch it. Also, with AIS, I will be warned if there is any danger of a collision.
At night, this ship would be lit and we would have seen it much more readily. We also would think it is much closer at night, because the sea is so dark and a light, any light, will seem like it is running you down. With radar and AIS these situations are far easier. We really like our B&G Zeus3 and our B&G 4G radar.
Powering on, we enjoy the BLUE WATER
AS we powered onward, (yes, fishing, but catching ZIP) we took in the beauty of the blue water all around us. It is amazing how the sea color changes with the sky color and clouds and sun angle. These photos are around 1400 hours and the sun was bright. Look how blue the ocean really is….
SALT SPRAY EVERYWHERE
On a trip like this, the salt spray is over the bimini roof. Everything is covered in saltwater. The decks are soaked, the lifelines, the bow pulpit, the mast and boom and the windshield, all covered in salt spray. Then it dries and it leaves behind all the salt crystals. When you get into port or when you drop anchor, your entire boat is covered in dried salt. If you don’t wash it off, it gets in your shoes, you track it below decks, you sit in it and your clothing becomes salty and damp. Your hands and feet get salty. It is a pet peeve of ours, so we wash it all off after every sail. It takes about 5-7 gallons of water and about an hour for both of to hand wash all the salt off the boat. The ocean seems 10 times saltier than the bays and rivers and creeks. So she was one salty boat today.
BUT THEN THE WIND SHIFTS SOUTH
Near the end of this trip, the winds returned to the south and we were able to turn the motor off and set full sails once again. This was late in the day and the sun presented these great angles thru the rig as we sailed on.
We arrived OCEAN REEF YACHT CLUB
At 1900, about 30 minutes before sunset, we arrived at the Ocean Reef Yacht Club and docked for the night. Job #1, hook up a hose and wash off this SALT.
Thank you for sailing along
We will depart Ocean Reef Yacht Club in the morning for a direct run across the Gulfstream to the Lake Worth Inlet. Our next blog will share the beautiful yacht club here in Lucaya, Grand Bahama…
We have passed the Berry Islands 6 years now and this year we said we had to go and take a tour around the Berrys. WOW, this water is crystal clear and the beaches are empty and white powdery sand. We had our own beach for a day with our boat anchored off the shallows. Did I say shallows? YES, it is very shallow in every cut you enter and then you can’t go too far into the cuts because there will be a massive sand bore or sand flat fanning out from the ocean cut. So, you go in and find an anchorage right around the entrance and drop the hook. All are not like this, but the ones we were in were. We were in Alders, Bonds, Cabbage, Lizard, Hoffmans and Great Harbour Cay. We started at the south and work our way north around the top and then to the west side where we docked at Great Harbour Cay Marina. While there, we were invited to a lobster dinner at a friends house. Boat buddies of boat buddies are buddies of ours was our saying. Thanks to Bill and Trish who connected us with Mark and Jan who brought us to Kurt and Sharon’s home. What a fun fun night and a delicious meal. Our first lobsters of this year. Thank you so much, Sharon and Kurt and Marc and Jan. Check out these great pics…
We departed Hope Town under full Sail
First let me back up to Hope Town, where we spent a week with buddies and really enjoyed our time there. We set full sail out of Hope Town and sailed all the way to our anchorage off Linyard Cay. There we stagged up for the 12 hour motor sail out Little Harbor Cut and onward to the Berrys. We decided since it was so calm to just make a direct run and get into ALders Cay by dark and drop the hook. Then in the AM, look at the water we saw…
We Move Around the Corner
The next day, after sleeping in, we picked up anchor and moved about 2 miles around the sandbar to Lizard Island off Cabbage Cay. Here we found even more beautiful blue water and white sand beaches and we made it a day of swimming and beach time. Simply setting up an umbrella on a remote white sand beach with no one else around is a very special experience. Lizard Cay could be one of our all-time favorite spots we have anchored off of to date, but it is difficult to select, so we will make it a top 10 spot for now.
Now for the BLUEST water ever
The next day we decided to head north and to motor into and out of each cut to see the areas and the other beaches. When we reached the northeast side of the Berrys off Hoffman’s Cay we set sails and sailed right into the BLUEST water we both have ever seen. Of course it was noon and the sun was bright and the sky blue and the water was 30 feet deep with a sandy bottom making it all perfect for reflections. But even so, this will remain the brightest blue water we have ever sailed into, and we both were overwhelmed by it all. All my photos are simple cell phone photos from my Samsung S7, I do very little to the photos other than resize them and add our name to the bottom right. Take a look at these photos and we are sure you too will agree, this could be the bluest water ever.
Bullocks Harbor and Great Harbour Cay Marina
From the top of Little Stirrup Cay, we rounded the NE side of the Berrys and then sailed down the West side to drop the hook off Bullocks Harbor. We were concerned about the building East winds and we did not want to get stuck behind any east-facing cut with little protection. So, we booked a dock for 2 days and treated ourselves to our first dock since Jan 20th!
So Much to See, so Little Time
We only had a week here and we only saw a few spots. There are so many places to discover and to explore here in the Berrys, that we can see ourselves stopping back when we pass by again next year en route to the Caribbean. We still need to decide if the Berrys are as special and as beautiful as The Bahamas National Trust islands of Warderick Wells and Cambridge and Shroud Cay, but we will leave that up to you all to decide. You simply have to make plans to sail into here and to explore the Berrys and the Exumas and then you can decide for yourself. What a joy it is cruising and discovering new areas as well as returning to favorites we have learned. Grateful we are.
The best way to share the peace and beauty of Hope Town is with this photo essay. Radeen and I along with many others, really love Hope Town on Elbow Cay in Abaco, Bahamas. Settled by Loyalists after the Revolution, it has retained a unique character and charm. For example, the Elbow Cay Lighthouse is still lit by hand each night using a kerosene lamp and the rotating mechanism is still wound every two hours throughout the night, as it has been since 1864.
During the week, we really enjoyed spending time with Island Packet Owners IP440 VIVO, IP38 Thursday’s Child (formerly Purpose from Rock Hall), IP38 Cat Tails, IP445 No Walhalla, , IP485 Sanctuary, IP35 Serenade (formerly Fiesta from Santa Fe), IP380 Cool Change and former owners of IP380 Packer Inn. No photos to prove it, but we also enjoyed seeing dear friends Ed and Sue of Angel Louise, with their fellow trans-Atlantic passagemaking guests, Dick and Moira. Lunch at Cracker P’s was so much fun.
We had not intended to stay here an entire week, but two strong cold fronts gave us the excuse to do just that. Please enjoy our photos.
We hope you see the beauty and the fun of spending a week in Hope Town with boating buddies while living on our boat on a mooring ball in the harbor. This cruising life is a dream, and we appreciate it more and more every day. Thank you for sailing along.
What a sail it has been! After leaving Lake Worth Inlet, FL, at 0700, we anchored off Great Sale Cay at 2330 and the next day we were underway by 0700. The forecasted approaching front was right on schedule and we could see it as we motored north to round the island. The front looked a lot worse than it really was. It was forecasted to be only 10-15 knots from the NW, so a nice easy front. Well, it was PERFECT as our course was East and, with the NW wind, we rolled out the sails. Check out these great sailing photos of the front. WARNING: This blog post has some really cool sailing photos. I hope you all enjoy these.
The Wind died out, the front has passed
You have to LOVE springtime sailing when the cold fronts are not as strong and the NW winds are not 25-30 knots. Then, when the front passes, the air behind the front is cool and the sea is calm. Look at the Abacos as we powered around Crab Cay to Green Turtle Cay where we needed to check into the country.
Customs and Immigrations, welcome to the Bahamas
We docked at Leeward Yacht Club at 5 p.m. We cleaned off the salt and spent the night. We did not go anywhere as we could not check in until the AM. So we relaxed and had a Mahi Mahi fish dinner onboard, of course, some wine and called it a night. This was one of our best runs to the Bahamas. Sadly, we are missing our buddy boat 380 SHAWNEE. After weeks of preparation, Drew and Deb had a fuel problem and then a broken motor mount. Darn, we were so looking forward to sharing this run together 🙁
The next day, we checked into the country with Customs and Immigrations. We arrived at the office at 1100 hours and they had a sign on the door that they would return at 1235. No problem, MON, we will come back, it is Island Time. At 1400 hours, the customs officer finally arrived and we were able to process our paperwork and pay our $300 for a cruising permit. The fee is based on boat length. As it states on the government website, the fee is $150 for 35-feet and under boats and it is $300 for a 35-feet and over boats. We are a 35 foot boat. Do you see a problem here? Well, we have learned that it is at the sole discretion of the office to choose a price for 35 footers! Five times we have paid $150, this time and one other time, we paid $300. Welcome to Da Bahamas, Mon.
Let’s Go Thru the WHALE
When heading south from Green Turtle Cay you have to go out over a reef to sea, run in front of Whale Cay, then cut back into the Sea of Abaco over another reef. This “Whale Cay Passage” can be very serious. It can also hold you up on either side of the passage for weeks if the swell is breaking over these two cuts. This day, the winds were SW 15-18 and that makes for a dream run as you can sail out to sea. beam reaching, and then close reach back into the Sea of Abaco. Perfection! This day will go down as one of the best sailing days in many, many years. We had about an hour of engine time, to leave the harbor, set sails and then to motor into the next harbor, drop sails and anchor. The water color changed several times on this leg. First, there is the Bahamas Banks at Green Turtle, then the indigo blue of the deep ocean outside Whale Cay and finally the Teal Blue Green of the Sea of Abaco. Navigating around here is easy, the waters are protected and we simply love sailing in the Bahamas. I hope you enjoy these photos. Some of the best.
Arriving at MARSH HARBOR for the JIB ROOM
It is Saturday night and, if you are in the Abacos, then you know it is STEAK NIGHT at the Jib Room / Marsh Harbor Marina. We LOVE to treat ourselves to this great meal, wonderful bar, fun limbo show and, best of all, fun with sailing buddies. Our boat buddies on IP 485 SANCTUARY, Sheryl, Michael, and Andrew arrived from Naples FL via Key West to here. We also connected with Caliber 40 HIGH ZZZs, Sheppard and Deb. We bumped into IP 445 GRATITUDE, Mike and Lizzie, new owners out of Rock Hall, MD who joined us as well. Our World Sailing, Ocean Crossing Buddies on Catalac Catamaran 44 ANGEL LOUISE, Ed and Sue, came over from Hope Town. We all had a great time gathering at the happy hour, drinking BILGE BURNERS and enjoying a wonderful steak dinner at THE JIB. This is like coming home for us. We count this as one of our “happy places.” We do miss the previous owners, Tom and Linda!
WE ARE HERE and We are Happy….
We are so happy to be out cruising again with our boat repaired. Now we can keep going and set sail for the Exumas and the Berrys. First, a full review tour of the Abacos.
Wednesday, we departed Lake Worth Inlet at 0700, en route to Memory Rock (50nm) where we would enter the Little Bahamas Bank and turn east for Great Sale Cay (45nm). Arriving at midnight, we dropped anchor and slept. Next day, onward to Green Turtle. We had the “Mother of all WX Windows” as perfectly predicted for a week by www.PredictWind.com. This service is so exact that it has become our primary service, in addition to Chris Parker. Last year, when we ran the Thorny Path, (Bahamas to US Virgin Islands) it was dead on for many passages. (Thank you, Don Roy of buddy boat FEZYWIG, who turned us onto Predict Wind while in the Turks.) This time, Predict Wind had a great WX window identified for a week in advance so we targeted Wednesday am to take the calm south winds across the Gulf Stream. Here is a picture of the entire route we ran.
Mahi Mahi FISH ON
This was our 12th Gulf Stream crossing and many times we have trailed fishing lines behind the boat times. We have never caught a fish. Everyone jokes that Island Spirit can’t catch fish. Well, to change that, last year, I started using my old cedar plugs and we started catching fish. Last year, we caught two nice sized tunas and this year, 2-3 hours out of Lake Worth inlet, we landed a 40″ Mahi Mahi. THE SPELL IS BROKEN! Team Island Spirit CAN catch FISH! DONE. It was so exciting and also very exhausting as I fought the fish to the boat. In fact, it was a full hour Chinese Fire Drill. The fish ran out a bit of our 60 lb line until I could increase the drag to stop it. Radeen, at the helm, slowed the boat down. Then the fish pulled a smart move and dove under the stern and wrapped the line around the dinghy davits. I was on port with the fish now off to my starboard stern. Now, it was getting serious. “RADEEN, turn the boat to port, circle left!” “WAIT, the MAINSAIL is still up!” “So what? There is only 5-10 knots of wind.” I fought the fish with the rod aft and over the davits and managed to get the line free. Now the fish took a run to our starboard side and went for full air, leaping totally out of the water trying to shake this single hook. I kept full tension on the line and brought the fish to the side of the boat. WOW, what a beauty!
Rookie mistake not having gloves on, I barehanded the 60 lb test line and secured the fish to the side of the hull next to the cockpit. With the gaff in my left hand and the line in my right, I missed try #1. OH BOY, the fish went nuts and the line around my hand started to dig into my fingers. Try #2 I gaffed the back 1/3 of the fish, right where I wanted to, and pulled him up tail first. Now with the fish on the gaff, I could lasso the tail with a preset line. NOW I GOT HIM. I could hold the fish with the rope AND the gaff and cut the gills over the side. This allows the blood to drip into the water and NOT all over the boat. After 4 cuts with the filet knife and one whack to the head with a winch handle, I had the fish killed. We now tied the fish to the top lifeline and hung it there to bleed out. OH MY GOSH! That was CRAZY. We snapped some great photos and then proceeded to filet the fish and bag the meat for the frig. That night on the Bahama Banks, we had Mahi Mahi fish tacos, yum yum. Here are the best photos. ENJOY….
ONE HAPPY FISHERMAN, Hayden
Here is my favorite photo. Radeen did a great job getting the photos. WOW, that was a big fish to land on a sailboat. My comment is…. imagine landing this fish in your living room, then sitting on the sofa and cutting filets off on your living room floor. YUP….fishing on a cruising sailboat. Imagine the clean up!
Motor Sailing the Stream up onto the Bahama Banks
With this “mother of all weather windows,” we continued to motor sail toward Memory Rock, but we discovered that if we headed more northerly to the next waypoint, Little Bahama Bank, we would pick up 1 knot of speed. So we kept going northeast with the boat pointed on about 110-120 degrees but making 70-80 degrees over the bottom, doing 7.2 knots. We liked it and it put us onto the banks by 1600. One of the beautiful situations of this leg is that the Gulf Stream is so blue, dark indigo blue. Then, going from 2000 foot deep water up and over the shelf onto the Bahama Banks, the water colors change to a spectacular teal blue (Kathy Heck, IP380 Tianui) and all the shades in between. This color change happens during about a half of a mile and it is breathtaking. We tried to photograph the various colors and here are a few water color photos…..
FOOD: How do you eat while underway
Radeen is a great cook onboard and at home. She plans and makes wonderful meals at sea and when we are on anchor. For example, here was our dinner created at 1830 while underway on the Little Bahama Banks:
Traveling at NIGHT! How do you see?
One of the hard parts about making long boating trips is that you have to travel in the dark. We have learned to use radar as our number one tool. It is the only thing that will tell you that there is nothing solid in front of you. Remember, we do not slow down, we are on passage and we want to get there, so it is full steam ahead in the black of night. Radar is #1. As the sun goes down, we prepare the boat and ourselves for nighttime. Red LED lights, red LED headlights, instruments set to nighttime mode, the enclosure down because it will be cold, and then we keep simply going. I am really proud of Radeen because how she knows how to run all our gear and the boat. She is not afraid to stand watch at night offshore.
Finally, we reach Great Sale Cay, 2330 hours
Here is the review, the map, of our route. We have made this eastward Bahama runs seven times now, and we really enjoy the trip, especially when you can wait for the best weather window and go with a south wind. Thank you all for sailing along with us, it is great to share the adventures….