We had an extra week to prepare for our voyage from the northern Bahamas, known as the Abacos, back to the U.S. We had attempted to leave Thursday, May 9th, but realized that morning that the weather window was closing. Although we were already underway, we didn’t feel comfortable committing to a three day-500 mile passage to arrive in Beaufort, NC at the beginning of a gale. Four days for that length of passage is more predictable in our boat. So we anchored at Great Guana Cay and the next day moved on to Green Turtle Cay.
We continued to make the boat better for the ocean passage ahead. Tom took the time to scrub the bottom on two different occasions. He ran out of sunlight the first time. A smooth surface under water will improve our speed, especially in light winds! Anita spent her time cooking and baking, filling the freezer with vacuum sealed meals and treats to make meal preparation super easy at sea. We caught up on laundry and house cleaning, recharged batteries on a bunch of items like handheld radios, spot light, and battery jump packs. We also reviewed and organized ditch bags and medical supplies.
The Bluff Point Cay anchorage on Green Turtle Cay was a beautiful, secluded location with a few birds twittering and only a few houses occupied at this time of year.￼￼ We were the only boat at anchor in the harbor for four days.
Our last night in the Bahamas some local swimmers out for their morning exercise invited us to dinner at one of the houses on shore. A group of 9 or 10 guys were sharing the house at the time. They even picked us up on board as we had folded up our dinghy in preparation for our passage. Delicious marinated chicken and rice, great fellowship and swapping of stories. They took some drone pictures of our boat in the harbor and measured the height of our mast, so cool!We gave them some dehydrated peanut butter as a thank you gift, something we still had in stock and they had never tried.
We prefer ocean passages to inland waterways for several reasons. Fewer obstacles is a given. Amazing night sky especially now with a full moon (though the stars and Milky Way are beautiful when there is no moon). This time of year, nights are relatively short, even shorter as we head north. The rhythm of the four hour watch system is easy for us to adapt to. We have the same watches each and every day forming a pattern.
We left our lovely anchorage at 7AM on Thursday, May 16 and sailed nonstop to Beaufort, NC in just over four days; arriving at 1PM on Monday, May 20. We anchored across from Beaufort Docks; the same place we left from last November.
The passage was super easy! The full moon made it very easy to see at night.We had one bedraggled bird sleep on our lifeline all night. He flew away at dawn and was a long way from land!Fun to see a pod of dolphin play with us in the Gulf Stream.
We enjoyed great weather the whole trip. Very few clouds, light winds, no rain. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We actually would have preferred a bit more wind. The highest we had was around 12-14 knots right behind us. We ended up motoring almost one third of the time: 29 hours of 102. We steered with the electric auto pilot exclusively on this passage, rather than the wind vane. There was not enough apparent wind for the wind vane to work well.
In contrast, the entry into the Beaufort inlet was sporting with following seas and a contrary current of a knot and a half. There was also a large dredge blocking off the entire deep water entrance channel at one point. The real entertainment began when we started the engine as we needed to turn up wind and weren’t sure if we could still sail. The alternator belt broke almost immediately. No time to fix it now! We sailed the last 2 miles up winding narrow channels, against the tidal current, and with a variety of small pleasure craft. There was a large motor yacht passing us at the last turn as we were sailing too slow (4-5 knots) at the same time that a larger fishing vessel was coming the other way. It’s understood they didn’t know our engine was out of commission. Fortunately, we never had to turn fully into the wind so were able to steer flawlessly! A sailboat stops when it points closer than 45-50 degrees (360 degrees on a compass) either side of where the wind is coming from. The same large motor yacht chose to block the entire channel right in front of the anchorage by spinning his boat around in preparation for docking. We managed to steer past his bow and avoid other anchored boats. Then we turned upwind into the narrow anchorage across from Beaufort Docks. Tom dropped the jib and after the boat stopped; lowered the anchor. Meanwhile, Anita dropped the main. Once we were sure the anchor was not dragging and the nearby boat was far enough away, Tom dove into the engine room to replace the alternator belt while Anita covered sails and stowed sailing gear. Once the engine was available, we re-anchored a little further from the channel and nearby boat and ensured the anchor was set by backing down with the engine. Exciting finish to an easy and relaxing passage. John, from the neighboring boat stopped by to chat in the evening and congratulated us on a well executed anchoring under sail. On our first cruise 30 years ago we had plenty of practice sailing on and off anchor. Good to know we still have the skills to make our floating home safe and secure.
Incidentally, we believe the underlying engine problem is a small amount of rust on one of the pulleys that chafes the belt. Tom has sanded/smoothed this area and we have been able to continue using the engine as evidenced by the twenty nine engine hours on this passage alone. We have a brand new higher output alternator, pulleys and serpentine belt waiting for us in CT. It will be the first of many new projects on Lone Star.
Check-in with U.S. Customs was a breeze with the CBP ROAM application (Yes, there’s an app for that.)
The weather is unsettled for the remainder of the week so we plan to stay near town for awhile. Perhaps do some walking, browsing and chores. Not to mention restocking on ice cream, chocolate, chips and brownie mix. Things we never bought in the five and a half months in the Bahamas. We hope to find another weather window soon to continue our passage north offshore.