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.
Next up cruising the Abacos.