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.