After our trip south to the Ragged Islands we returned to the Georgetown area in mid-February, for lots more fun in this beautiful cruiser friendly area. Tom jumped right back into helping out with the morning local VHF cruisers net and Anita volunteered in the choir at Beach Church.
Elizabeth harbor has at least a dozen good anchorages to choose from. We like to spend 3-5 days in a location, then move on to another. They all have different things to offer. We’ll take this opportunity to expand on a few.
Kidds Cove is the anchorage closest to Georgetown and dinghy access to Lake Victoria where shops, laundry and restaurants and entertainment abound. The anchorage is often bouncy due to a lot of boat traffic. We plan our trips here around the weather and tides. Calm seas and a slack current make for a much more pleasant trip into town for provisions.
Goat Cay is a quiet picture perfect anchorage with swimming, snorkeling and a gorgeous beach. Plus an easy walk to propane refills, a pharmacy with groceries, and a hardware store. It’s a longer walk to our favorite butcher shop and grocery, but doable from here as well. The bay is open to the north but offers great shelter otherwise. A shallow area near the bay entrance keeps deep draft boats out.
Monument Beach is directly across the harbor from Goat Cay and offers numerous trails across Stocking Island to the ocean side beach or up to the monument. There are also several gathering spots for cruisers with fire pits and make shift tables and benches.
Chat n Chill or Volleyball Beach is our next favorite beach on Stocking Island. The former is a business and has a bar/restaurant and gift shop on this area of the island. We enjoyed their Sunday pig roast for the first time this year. Fantastic place to meet up with cruisers every afternoon. A place to enjoy chatting with new and old friends, music jam sessions, volleyball, card games, dominoes, basket weaving, sailing topic lectures, or a walk on the beach. Oh, and beach church on Sundays is held here.
Sand Dollar Beach is one of my favorite anchorages, though it can be a bit bouncy in a south breeze. East winds are perfect here. Beautiful long beaches to walk on and several trails that cross to the ocean side of the island. An artist trail decorated by cruisers is a favorite. There are several gathering spots on the beaches of this anchorage as well.
We had one strong Norther where we hid out in our favorite anchorage behind Crab Cay in Red Shanks. We had great all around wind protection and only a small group of nautical neighbors. The island is deserted.
Houseboat Puff hosted a farewell pot luck one evening. We have really enjoyed our time getting to know these people. Until we meet again dear friends on Puff, Margaret Lee, Local Knowledge, and Maranatha. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in this welcoming cruising area until mid-March.
It was exciting to cross to Cat Island with two boats we had begun to hang out with: Wild Iris and Ujam’n. Stay tuned for more on that trip in the next blog.
Featured Picture Caption: Setting sail at sunrise from Long Island Bahamas
In our opinion, 2021 is the perfect year to travel farther afield in the Bahamas. The number of boats here this year is greatly reduced. It’s easy to find a peaceful anchorage either alone or with one or two other boats. Maintaining physical distance is very easy to do when traveling slowly by boat. The Bahamian government has added a few regulations to keep their residents and visitors safe. We find filling out the domestic travel visa takes less than three minutes and approval via email has been almost instantaneous. We are grateful for the privilege to sail and explore more of these beautiful islands as we escape the cold winter in New England for the third year in a row.
On Monday, January 18 we left Georgetown, on Great Exuma and motor-sailed to Long Island. We expected more than 10 knots of wind, but it did not materialize.
There were only 8 other boats in this large protected harbor. We had a couple very windy days here and eventually went ashore for a walk and to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables before sailing south to the remote and mostly uninhabited southern Bahamian islands known as the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands.
On Thursday, January 21 we were ready to head south towards the Ragged Islands; on the tails of a cold front of course. We love a good downwind sail! We left anchor under sail power alone at 6:45AM. We sailed 56.7 nautical miles in 11 hours, arriving at Flamingo Cay in the southern Jumento Cays just before sunset. We were all alone in this normally popular anchorage. No internet here, so a nice quiet night of reading on board.
The weather was great for sailing. We sailed off anchor again and kept heading south toward Hog Cay, just north of Ragged Island. Ragged Island is the only inhabited island in this beautiful chain of islands,
Hog Cay is a cruisers meeting place. There is a large pavilion on shore and several fire pits. There are lots of chairs and tables and a beautiful view. Cruisers generally gather around 4:30 pm to swap sea stories and watch the sunset. Bring your own beverages. The cell tower on nearby Ragged Island means internet is available.
One morning we joined a few friends for a hike across the island. There are many wild goats on most of the islands around here. The goats must be afraid of people or they hide real well in the shrubbery. I did not get a picture of them.
On one of the beaches we found intact floats that must have fallen off a fishing boat. Tom and Russ untangled them and brought them back to the yacht club for reuse.
We came back on a different path north of our anchorage. Nice three and a half mile hike. There are so many paths, many maintained by the goats, teehee. On another day, Tom and I took a different path and had to come back the same way as we could not find the ocean side entrance to the paths we had used before.
We sailed to Southside Bay on Ragged Island and anchored there for a deep cold front that hit the whole east coast. One day we decided to walk to Duncan Town. There are supposedly about 50 residents on Ragged. We only saw about 8. We had no luck visiting the grocery. No one was around that afternoon. When the east winds returned we sailed north to Raccoon Cay. Beautiful sail in fairly calm seas most of the time. The below chart plotter picture shows five other boats heading north as well.
Another storm was reaching down and this one had a couple of days with a west component to the wind. There are very few harbors in the Raggeds with shelter from west winds. We sought shelter a day early in Low Water Harbor on the south end of Buena Vista Cay and paid the price with a rolly anchorage for the first night. However, we picked a very good spot. By morning other boats were seeking shelter there too. We managed to fit eight boats in with no problem. We celebrated the end of the storm with a small bonfire on the beach.
During this storm the Ragged Island cell tower stopped working on Saturday evening and didn’t get repaired until Tuesday morning. A couple boats that were working remotely had to sail north in the strong winds to reach another working cell tower before their Monday morning work meetings. So glad we are not on a schedule.
Appreciating another day of life afloat with a snack on our aft deck. We did see the green flash as the sun set into the blue water this day. Disappointed we couldn’t capture it with a picture.
We sailed back down to Hog Cay from Buena Vista. A couple of highlights were an ice cream social and a potluck that featured delicious ribs crisped up on an open fire with a few other cruisers that have been in the area for more than a couple of weeks, similar to us. Note: COVID-19 has not made an appearance on nearby Ragged Island. We certainly hope that continues to be the case.
We utilized some beautiful southeasterly winds to sail north up the chain of islands. We stopped at Water Cay on Valentine’s Day and grilled some delicious strip steak paired with parsley potatoes and carrots and topped off with mint chip gelato. The next day we enjoyed a smooth sail on the beautiful banks and through Hog Cay Cut before high tide and into Kidds Cove in Georgetown in the early afternoon.
We sailed nearly 300 miles in the past month. The last two days were absolutely gorgeous reaching sails.
As we reflect on our recent travels we are so thankful for our health and floating home, and the freedom to travel among the beautiful Bahama islands safely despite the global pandemic. We hope you also find joy in your lives.
It’s mid- February and the U.S. is in another cold snap. Stay warm and connected friends.
Above Caption: Gorgeous mirror image on a calm morning in Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We elected to make a long passage from the Abacos to Eleuthera on the tails of a cold front. We raised anchor before sunrise and lowered it after sunset. A very pleasant 67 mile, 11 hours sail with the wind at our backs most of the way. We elected to press on through Current Cut as we thought the current would be slack or with us. Little did we know, that particular current should be calculated using 1.5 hours after Nausau high tide, not Eleuthera west coast. So we had a 3 knot current against us. Thankfully, the rip current is only for a very short distance and it is a deep channel. However, the current did slow us down so we had to choose a closer anchorage to be able to stop before it was completely dark. Rotten Bay near Little Bogue settlement on Eleuthera was a peaceful anchorage with good holding, a cell tower and not much else.
Tom has really enjoyed connecting with family members almost nightly playing card games on Trickstercards.com on the iPad. Fun way to keep in touch with three generations of the Kintz family. The internet makes life better during a pandemic and isolation.
The next morning we sailed about 5 miles to Glass Window, our original destination. We did not turn on the engine, rather honed our skills sailing while raising then lowering and setting the anchor. Glass window with a view to the Atlantic ocean is a bridge on a narrow strip of the island. Long ago there was a natural rock arch at this location. We’ve heard sunrise through the window is quite a view. Unfortunately, this time of year the sun rises well to the south of the window. We met up with cruising friends on a power boat here and really enjoyed exploring this and the remaining Eleuthera harbors with them. Much more fun to share the experience!
The contrast of water colors from the ocean and bank side are dramatic. After our hike and lunch, we motored over to Hatchet Bay as there was almost no wind. This bay is completely enclosed and therefore offers great protection from bad weather. We had good weather while here. However, we’re so glad we stopped and now know what a treasure this stop provides.
In the morning, we all went ashore for our daily exercise and to explore the settlement. We were greeted by a helpful local entrepreneur offering many services to visiting yachts: laundry, trash disposal, take-out restaurant, guided tours, etc. Friendly place!
The following day we enjoyed a 3 hour, 17 mile easy reaching sail to Governor’s Harbor. We only used the engine to get through the narrow cut at Hatchet and to set the anchor.
After lunch we joined our friends for a walk around town. Ed remembered where the Bakery was and they were well stocked. We bought a loaf of coconut bread and one with cinnamon and raisins, plus two pastries: a cinnamon bun and a coconut tart. All were sinfully delicious! We still have half of the cinnamon raisin bread in the freezer and it keeps well!
We’ve noticed that many of the towns on Eleuthera are clean and neat. They have nice landscaping and this time of year prolific Christmas decorations.
The next day we made a short stop at the Pineapple Cays to visit a farm other cruisers told us about. The four of us hiked a mile to the farm and were rewarded with lots of fairly priced fresh produce. Spinach, lettuce, cabbage, scallions, mini sweet bananas, potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, eggs, etc. We brought our trolley so no one needed to carry the heavy bags on the walk back.
We enjoyed a fresh salad for lunch then continued sailing on to Tarpum Bay for the night. Anita has enjoyed swapping recipes with our son, Alex, then downloading them into the Paprika App so she can make notes and swap ingredients as needed. We recently swapped these two: Egg roll in a bowl (yum) and crustless chicken pot pie made with any cream soup, lots of veggies and leftover grilled chicken, Anita adds hot sauce. Alex spread mixed cornbread on top as he wanted a crust!
Our hike around this settlement was more like a scenic walking tour. I later found out Castle MacMillan is available for rent (pre/post pandemic).
As there was no wind, we motored 13 miles to Rock Sound. It was very hot, Ed and Marge stopped at a reef, but didn’t end up swimming. The water is getting colder already due to lack of sunlight on these short days. After lunch we took another walking tour together to the 600 foot deep land-locked Ocean Hole and settlement.
A young boy fishing on the dinghy dock told us these fish are not good to eat as the water is brackish or part fresh water and mostly seawater. The next day our friends left very early for the Exuma Cays as it was a beautiful day for motoring. We stayed to do some chores and wait for wind to sail to the Cays.
The above shot was taken after we completed laundry. This was the first time since Beaufort, NC several weeks ago and we had three big loads. Tom had to hang from the dinghy dock and drop into the dinghy that wanted to scoot under the dock due to the wind and low tide. My hero! I rewarded him with a favorite, flat bread Pizza.
One afternoon we kept hearing splashes even from inside the cabin. Upon investigation we discovered we were surrounded by playful and probably hungry dolphin. We were able to change our call with son, Alex to a video call so he could see them jumping around too!
We ended up staying in Rock Sound for five peaceful yet productive days. Tom took the opportunity to catch up on paperwork We moved across the harbor for our last day as Northwest winds were predicted with a cold front. We planned to leave before sunrise on the tails of that front for a sleigh ride to the Exuma Cays. More on that next time!
Picture Caption: Arriving in the Exuma Cays, Black Point on Great Guana Cay
We’ll start the new year by comparing 2020 stats with 2019. As expected COVID had an impact on our cruising lifestyle; mainly fewer miles traveled due to lockdowns.
2020 / 2019 17 / 18 nights at sea 223 / 251 nights at anchor 117 / 60 nights on our own mooring 3 / 3 nights at a dock 5 / 33 hauled out on land, still on board 3114 / 3507 nautical miles traveled 5 / 8 states in the USA 2 Countries: Bahamas and USA
On December 19, we left Eleuthera on the tails of a blustery cold front. Winds were 18-25 MPH. Lone Star and crew enjoyed sailing on a broad reach for Black Point on Guana Cay in the Exuma’s. We sailed nearly sixty miles in under 8 hours. The highlight was surfing down a couple steep waves when we entered the cut to the Exuma Banks then entered tranquil waters. It was a fun and sporty sail; shorter than we predicted. That’s always nice!
We took a four mile walk on shore the next day all the way to the North end of Great Guana Cay.
The next day we motored down the gorgeous Exuma Banks to Cave Cay.
We had hoped to spend some time exploring these beautiful Exuma Cays. However, the water is cold for swimming this time of year and the Christmas winds are predicted to kick up. After spending a night with 3 other boats at Cave Cay we decided that we are close enough to make it to our favorite secret secure anchorage in Georgetown. So off we went for a quick offshore run straight to Conch Cay Cut and the multitude of beautiful anchorages and beaches. Gorgeous reaching sail in 10-15 knots of wind in company with other boats we’ve met a few times. There were fewer than 20 cruisers in the Georgetown area anchorages when we arrived on December 22.
We loved going on afternoon walks on nearby Crab Cay and occasionally met other cruisers doing the same thing. Sure missed sharing this harbor with Little Sister, Sunset Trader, Miles and Pegu Club as we did last year.
Here are a couple of video’s of the ocean beach and a jungle like hike back to Sanddollar Beach from the ocean in the afternoon.
Tom restarted the local cruisers VHF morning net just before the New Year. It’s a short net, with fewer boats here. However, it’s good to hear there are other cruisers in the vicinity willing to lend a helping hand when needed.
We continued working on boat projects. Tom has replaced old rusty plastic coated wire lifelines with Spectra and soft shackles. Anita repaired the jib sail cover; replacing a worn zipper, removing sun-rotted velcro and restitching most of it. She also made a seat cover for the dinghy and some small ditty bags. So many more sewing projects waiting in the wings.
We were able to attend the first Beach Church of the season with only 14 physically distant mask wearing cruisers. So good to meet with people in small groups. No new cases of the flu here in some time.
We love this life! We’re so happy to be sailing and enjoying nature and are very glad to be staying in warm weather. Sailing south for the winter suits us. The boat count had reached 71 by the time we left the Georgetown area.
We sail to Long Island and the Ragged Islands next in search of warmer water and weather.
This is our first trip back to this archipelago since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Abacos in September 2018. We are heartened to see progress toward rebuilding. Bahamians are strong resilient people who love their beautiful islands. Cruising in COVID times means fewer and/or shorter trips ashore. Wearing masks, frequent hand washing and keeping our distance from our friendly fellow man.
We heard Marsh Harbor is focusing on rebuilding the Commercial district away from the harbor. The Mud, an area with a shanty town that was completely washed away, is fenced off and the marsh is reclaiming the land. Many of the shanty town residents perished in the storm, but the number will never be known.
Perhaps the owners of these boats have not yet returned to the island? Population in this area is still very low.
We started out using T-Mobile and the BTC cell towers. It was very difficult to download email never mind load a webpage with 3G service. On Black Friday, Aliv cell service had a sale; we purchased a chip with a fantastic plan! $90 for 250GB a month; double there normal 125GB. Time to back up the computers and other devices. Service is LTE/4g fast now too.
Amazing to see that rebar reinforced concrete buildings were no match for the power of the ocean during a monster hurricane. After 3 days we were ready to move on and explore other islands in the Abacos.
Green Turtle Cay Club and Marina is completely rebuilt and operational. So beautiful and welcoming. This is a port of entry and we saw a few cruising boats come and go here.
We rented a golf cart to drive (on the left side of the road) to the Settlement to get our 5-day COVID-19 nasal antigen test at the clinic.
Tom called his Dad and we ended up taking him with us on our golf cart tour of the island.
After our tour and second confirmation that we do not have COVID, we celebrated with lunch on the deck at GTC Club restaurant. Lone Star is centered in the below picture, hidden behind the nice new docks.
We were itching for a good sail. The 20 knot north-northwest wind normally means do NOT head through Whale Cay cut. We sailed northeast through the cut at slack current with 4-6 foot seas with no problem. The wind was at our backs the rest of the way to Hope Town. Excellent sail, 27 miles in just over 4 hours.
Hope Town is on the north end of Elbow Cay. We anchored outside the harbor in 5 feet of water. We took a long walk on shore and found this boat tossed high up on a hill by Dorian, a long ways from the water. The leaning mast and rigging hung over the road.
Hope Town is recovering and we saw lots of new roofs and renovated homes. There is a lot more work to do in the village. Again the local population has not yet returned.
Vernon’s grocery was open and we purchased our first Bahamian Mac & Cheese of the season. Dense and baked like lasagne, this one had some hot peppers and was very delicious. We purchased some fresh produce as well.
After 3 days we motor-sailed south to Little Harbor. There is a very secure inner harbor here, but we elected to anchor outside as the wind was light. A client/friend of Tom’s came out for a dinghy drift visit in the evening bearing gifts of wine and hats. That means they stayed in their boat tied behind ours, rather than coming aboard. It’s what we do in COVID times. Bruce & Trish graciously shared information about the Abacos and places to see.
The next day we took the dinghy in and inspected moorings for rent and took a walk around the village. We stopped for a fresh lemonade at Pete’s Pub, very pleasantly surprised they were open on a Sunday morning.
Even though there was a windy day approaching we elected to move into the Bight of Old Robinson rather than Little Harbor. We wanted to leave for Eleuthera at first light and would not have a high enough tide to get over the sand bar at the entrance.
As soon as the cold front passed we joined the North winds to surf and sail southward to Eleuthera in search of warmer weather and turquoise seas. Stay tuned for that story next time.
We left Beaufort, NC on Friday, November 20 just before noon. Superstitious sailors say never begin a passage on a Friday. There may be some merit to this! We started out with very light winds and expected we might need to motor for most of the first 24 hours.
Less than 11 hours into the passage we were slowly drifting north in the Gulf Stream; no wind and no engine. Around 10:30PM the engine suddenly slowed, then stopped. Tom could find nothing wrong in the engine room and the motor ran fine, though it stopped immediately when put in gear. Anita thought the steering was also sluggish. We learned in the morning a rugged fishing net was wrapped around the propellor and rudder. Tom donned a wet suit and used an air tank (left on deck) with a long hose. He tied a rope around his waist tied a knife to his wrist and gripped it as he lowered himself into the warm Gulf Stream water. Anita laid on the aft deck (alternately praying and crying) and watched the boat bash up and down 1-2 feet while Tom worked to cut away the net and ropes for about 35-40 minutes. Sorry no pictures or video of this harrowing experience, focused on praying for a successful outcome. Tom said his hand hurt for two days after; from gripping the propeller shaft so hard to hold himself in place.
At 9:30AM we were once again under power motoring SE across the Gulf Stream. The wind was still less than 5 knots. Once across the stream we finally had a bit of sailing off the wind. By the next morning we had 4-6 foot seas from several directions and gusty winds in squalls. Thankfully, thunderstorms stayed distant. Tom experienced some heavy rain on his watch.
On Anita’s mid-day watch the weather changed dramatically from squalls in the distance to beautiful clear sunny skies.
The wind calmed enough that we turned on the engine to charge and make hot water for showers. Uh oh, the sea water cooling alarm won’t shut off. We drifted around a bit while Tom dove in the engine room and eventually pulled out the raw water pump and changed the okay looking impeller. It worked, but he’s not sure that was the problem. We both enjoyed some moonlit watches.
The cold front that passed by us several days earlier was still blowing from the North. As seas had not subsided we elected to avoid Whale Cay Cut and chose wider northeast exposed Man of War Cut instead. To avoid a night time entry we hove-to overnight, drifting at 1-2 knots rather than actively sailing. The constant motion and dropping off the waves slowed, but never stopped. It was very hard to sleep or even rest. I kept thinking some people pay for amusement rides like this. Sorry to say, I was not amused. This is the third time we had to deliberately slow down; sure hope family members that are watching our track are not worried about us. Despite these pauses in our progress we made the passage in less than five days. We used the engine for 26 hours and were more or less adrift for nearly 24 hours. The last day and a half we sailed under jib alone due to a lot of wind and the need to slow down and arrive during daylight.
We arrived in Marsh Harbor before noon. There are at least 30 wrecked boats strewn about the harbor left by Catagony 5 hurricane Dorian more than two years ago. Some floating, some on shore. We hear lots of generators on shore which means power is not yet restored to all areas of the shoreline. The best cell service we could obtain via T-Mobile high speed international on BTC towers was 3G. There are no landline phones working here.
First we worked on completing our health visas. Thanks Kimberly for stepping in to help when we had no data service upon arrival. We eventually learned T-Mobile had a block on our account even though they sold us a high-rate International plan. The folks managing the Health Visa system were very helpful and friendly. We were originally denied because the lab report needed to be attached not a picture of the email saying we had a negative COVID test result. Phew, that’s a relief!
We tried all afternoon to locate Customs and Immigration. We were finally successful the next morning after calling Nassau. They told us to go to Government Dock. Customs officials confirmed they do NOT have a phone in their office trailer. We were processed by Immigration in the parking lot outside the Customs trailer.
A short walk into the commercial district after checking in showed us the Bahamians are hard at work restoring power and property in Marsh Harbor. Maxwell’s Market is huge and well stocked so food is readily available here.
Not all passages are easy. Cruisers like us do not like to sail with a schedule. We had to arrive within 5 days due to Bahamas COVID-19 protocols. Thank you Lord for answering my many prayers on this challenging passage from Beaufort, NC to the northern Bahamas. We have arrived safely and we are so thankful and happy to be wintering in the warm, beautiful and friendly Bahamas.
Tom really wanted to sail offshore around Cape Hatteras to avoid the long hours at the helm through the Virginia Cut. The weather forecast only had south winds or no wind in the forecast. so a motoring we will go toward Beaufort. NC
We have seen very few cruising boats thus far. We have heard many cruisers are moving onto land until COVID is under control. The boat is a better option for us. We do a lot of research before venturing ashore and avoid hot spots completely.
We left Hospital Point in Norfolk, VA rather early and it paid off as we were first in the lock. The water was lowered less than 2 feet. Cloudy day with lots of birds around.
We motored 3.5 miles past Coinjock and anchored to the side of the channel just before sunset. Tom checked the engine before we started out the next morning and found a most unpleasant surprise.
The Serpentine belt drive shaft cover plate was attached by only one bolt out of four. He spent a couple of hours taking things apart and analyzing how to fix it. A few phone calls later the necessary parts were ordered, to be delivered next day to Coinjock Marina. The folks at the marina also gave us a phone number for a diesel mechanic and Tom arranged for him to meet us the next day to remove the old drive shaft pulley and install a new one. Amazingly, Tom was able to put the pulley back together with only one bolt(!) so we could motor slowly under our own power back to Coinjock. We stayed on the west side docks away from the restaurant and marina. So glad we hired the mechanic! He worked really hard to remove the nut holding the drive shaft pulley. He finally used a four foot long wrench! Not a tool we have on board. One boat unit ($1,000) later all was repaired and we were ready to move on.
We enjoyed some walks around the local neighborhood and never saw anyone outside. Unless you count the Halloween decorations.
We left Coinjock Marina in the late morning so we didn’t travel far; perhaps 20 miles. A cold front was approaching that evening. The next day we used those North winds to sail downwind across the shallow Albermarle Sound. It was a fun day despite gale warnings. We were very lucky to make it through the Alligator River bridge during a lull in the wind. The bridge can’t open under some wind conditions. After traveling 50 miles, we anchored for the night at the beginning of the Alligator Pungo River Canal. The next day we traveled another 50 miles and stopped for the night just north of Bay River in Bayboro, NC.
We chose to skip one of our favorite ports, Oriental, NC due to an impending cold front with strong NW winds. We hid in Adam’s Creek for a couple of nights. Then we made the final inland journey to the Taylor Creek anchorage in Beaufort, NC.
We like to celebrate the end of a journey with something special, like a meal out or something hidden away in our own lockers for a special occasion. There are so many nice restaurants in Beaufort and they were allowing very limited dining in. We chose to go to a Mexican restaurant, Mezcalito for burritos. We took half home for lunch the next day. Very tasty, and good strong fresh iced tea!
We finally spotted some of the wild horses on nearby Shackleford Island!
As there was no weather window in sight for at least 10 days; Tom decided to do the wiring and relocation of the solar controllers to the galley bulkhead. It took about four days, but he finished! We now have 1000 watts of solar panels to charge our lithium battery bank.
We finished all those numerous last minute details that need done before leaving the country via sailboat along with some new ones due to the Pandemic. Things like: laundry, food shopping, pay bills or setup bill pay, fill fuel tanks and jerry cans, setup cell service for overseas etc. All while being extremely cautious: wear masks, wash hands, stay away from people.
The Bahamas has protocols for the Pandemic. We ordered PCR COVID test kits from Everlywell.com and had them shipped to us at Beaufort Docks. They took 4 days to reach us. We used them the day we left, then sent them off via UPS Drop Box. A link to our results will be emailed to us. We completed our Bahamas Health Visa profiles; we’ll add the International Trip when we have our test results. They only give us five days from time of test to arrival in the Bahamas so we must go! Time to go sailing in the big blue Atlantic Ocean.
We left Groton, CT on Monday afternoon, October 19. This was later than we planned for many reasons. In a nutshell: the weather, boat and crew were not ready. The cooler autumn weather encouraged us to set our sights on a more southern destination, Hampton VA; rather than our normal Delaware Bay. We hope to bypass the longer inland sailing route, ie. up the Delaware and down the Chesapeake.
We have had more than our fair share of southerly winds lately, some of them quite strong. So as soon as the forecast did not include winds from where we were trying to go for a couple days; it was time to go! This year that meant leaving with very light winds.
We used our normal four hour watch system around the clock. Thankfully, we both were able to rest/sleep well on our off-watches. No on-deck drills to disturb our rest.
When we entered the mouth of Chesapeake Bay near dawn on the third day, we had approximately 20 miles to go. Unfortunately we faced a few challenges: fog, low fuel in the two main tanks, very light wind and a contrary current for at least an hour. Luckily we have radar, spare cans of diesel, and patience. Such is the life of a sailor.
We arrived in Hampton, VA after a 69 hour 360 mile ocean passage south. Yes, our average speed when motoring is only 5 knots, so sad. 61 hours of motoring and a few hours here and there of peaceful sailing. Wow, it’s quiet when we turn off the engine. It’s a lot warmer here; 80’s rather than 50’s for a high. Yeah, back to shorts and tees.
We added a Garmin InReach Mini to Lone Star this season. Sorry, we choose to share the link with only close friends and family. No need to let the whole world know where we are. It sure added a new level of fun, safety and peace of mind to the passage.
Next we need to decide if we will motor down the ICW or sail around Cape Hateras? Destination: Beaufort, NC. Not yet sure where we will go after that?
We arrived in CT in mid-June when restrictive stay at home rules were just beginning to relax. Outdoor exercise was encouraged, so the day after arriving off we went with a small family group to Arcadia Management area early Sunday morning. I think we only saw two other lone hikers.
We drove to Maine to drop off a damaged dagger board; for repair, at Greene Marine and spent one night at Anita’s sisters house. Then we drove on to NH for a quick visit with Tom’s Dad.
We had been placing a bunch of online orders as we had some repairs to do. The mast track was very warn where the large batten cars rested. Poor design! Tom had to cut a larger gate in the existing mast track and installed a new super slick track. Then we both worked on replacing the sail slides. Love it when a project goes smoothly and makes a real nice difference! Check out the video below.
On Tuesday, August 4th we had the remnants of a tropical storm. We decided to stay at our mooring as it weighs more than 1200 pounds, bigger than any anchor we have! The video below was taken when the winds were 43 knots, that’s about 50 mph. I see at least 3 roller furling jibs flapping. Folks did not prepare. Warning: do not watch the video if you are prone to seasickness when standing on a dock.
A few days later we rented a car and drove to NH to join some Kintz family members for a socially distanced lake vacation. We wore masks indoors, ate separately, and most importantly everyone stayed healthy.
When we returned the rental car, we took a short break to sail to Block Island during the week and sail home on the weekend when most people arrived. There were no crowds on BI. We took a short hike on a new trail and looked down at the surf side beach; all were nearly empty on a gorgeous August afternoon.
A few days later we joined a few boats from Shennecossett Yacht Club for a weekend cruise to Watch Hill, RI. This event began with a gathering at the hosts’ boat where everyone stayed in their own dinghies. The next morning, we gathered for breakfast on the beach. We kept our distance and still got to visit in small groups while wearing masks. Really fun time and great breakfast sandwiches from a local restaurant.
Before we knew it, Labor Day weekend was over and we had sailed up the Connecticut River to Essex Boat Works for a four day haul out to scrub the topsides, apply two more coats of bottom paint, grease the propellor, and change the zincs.
We made one last trip to NH to visit and play games with Tom’s Dad and enjoyed a hike nearby. Delicious beef stew and yummy pies, thanks Ilse!
We helped plan a last minute wedding shower for our son. They’ve set the date for next May! We’ll sail north again next spring to attend.
Our next summer project was to install 4 additional solar panels on the pilot house roof. We will have 1 kilowatt of power when the installation is complete. We couldn’t head south until the panels were safely secured. Tom finished that on October 15th. He still has to do the wiring and install a new controller, but that can be done south of here. It’s getting too cold! Although our diesel cabin heater has been working fine, keeping us warm.
Tom’s yacht brokerage is more active this year than last. People must be realizing boats are a great way to travel and live in isolation. We love this lifestyle and look forward to making a passage south real soon.
This summer recap shows a few highlights only. The majority of our time was spent in isolation on our boat at our mooring. We look forward to a future beyond this global flu pandemic, when we can hug and laugh and be social again. Stay healthy, happy and safe everyone.
We are so thankful to have been allowed to shelter in place in the anchorages surrounding Georgetown on Great Exuma in the Bahamas. Lone Star was our quiet refuge during the first three months of the global pandemic known as COVID-19. As of this writing the island of Great Exuma was still blessedly free of this flu. We were in no hurry to head home where the virus was prevalent. However, hurricane season was approaching and early this year.
We consulted with Chris Parker at Marine Weather Center and twice abandoned a planned departure. It was quite ironic that we left Georgetown when there was a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico, a stalled ridge with severe thunderstorms off Cape Hatteras, and the potential for another tropical depression near Bermuda. What? Why? Sometimes things are not as bad as they seem.
Final preparations for an extended ocean passage on Lone Star include:
Bring Portland Pudgy on deck and rig as life boat, add gear bags, and cover
Top off diesel tanks and two gerry cans, secure in port cockpit
Fill two gerry cans of water and secure in port cockpit
Rig jacklines for safety harness tethers
Charge all batteries for safety and navigation equipment
Secure portable electronics in floating bag
File a float plan and share with emergency contacts
Last run to grocery store to top off on fresh food (as we have a freezer it is pre-stocked with vacuum bagged homemade meals well in advance)
Send out family email with contact info
Tom is a HAM radio enthusiast. Radio schedules determine our watch system on Lone Star. With just two of us on this passage we prefer four hour watches. As many boats travel in late spring to leave the hurricane belt, the radio nets were very active. Tom is a net relay several times a day now and he enjoys speaking with and assisting boaters.
On this passage we checked in with several nets twice a day so our family could manually track our progress. Our son, Alex did a wonderful job keeping our group of family and friends well informed via a group email. He provided handmade charts of our progress and discussed the weather where we were. We even spoke with Alex via a phone patch one morning using our ham radio and KPK. Thanks Glenn!
From Georgetown we headed north between Cat Island and Eleuthera. Then straight north until we swung a bit west to pick up the Gulf Stream just south of Cape Hatteras. The weather was cloudy the first few days, but the winds were behind the beam so very easy sailing.
The last 50 miles proved to be the most challenging of the trip. Just after we left the Gulf Stream to head straight north for Montauk, the fog rolled in and the wind became very light. In the early morning hours, we were motor-sailing when multiple engine alarms sounded: charging and over-heating. The alternator belt was missing. After installing a new one, Tom found the original in the bilge and surprisingly in tact. When the engine was turned on again, it promptly threw off the belt again. Tom quickly found that the water pump had seized up. Hmm, no spare on board, so we are now an engineless sailboat. We can do this! We can make it home under sail. It required patience and perseverance, dealing with light shifting winds and contrary currents. As the ocean water in New England is cold, Tom determined we could use the engine for the 10 minutes it took to drive into the harbor. We arrived in our home port just before sunrise on Saturday, June 13. Yep we were tired, happy and satisfied that we had made it in on our own. No rest for the weary however, as it’s a summer weekend and boats were bustling by our mooring all day.
Statistics for the Passage
We sailed 1200 miles from Georgetown in the Exuma chain of Bahamian islands; to Groton CT. We were at sea for eight and a half days. We ran the engine for only 19.25 hours, which consumed approximately 11.5 gallons of fuel. Each day had more and more daylight; 13.5 hours to start and 15 hours nearer our destination. On our fastest day in the Gulf Stream we did 178 miles.