Easy Passage to the Bahamas 🇧🇸

I just reread last years passage to the Bahamas. Thankfully this years passage was nothing like that!

We left Beaufort, NC at 9:45AM on Sunday, November 3rd. Clear blue sky, almost 60 degrees, 10-15 knot ENE winds. Forecast for the next 3-5 days was for light to moderate winds generally behind the beam, nearly perfect sailing conditions for heading south.

This time there were three people to stand 4 hour watches on Lone Star. With 8 hours off between watches it was almost too easy.Brian on Watch When anyone is on deck they are tethered to the boat, our deck naturally slopes toward the sea. Rolling off is not allowed, haha.

We reached the Gulf Stream before sunset the first evening. It was a little bouncier here and the wind slowly veered from a reach to on the wind, then it died down for a couple hours. We motored as needed and made it across around daybreak on Monday. The stream was an unusual 90 miles wide this year, though the fast running part was only about half that.Video courtesy of BrianMovie watching, they also enjoyed a game of Barricade and some Cribbage too!The WindPilot, now called Herman, dons a purple ribbon in light winds to react quicker; it works! Everyone liked using Herman, he’s a lot quieter than the electric autopilot now called Greta. Can you tell we had a German resident on board to name our helmsmen?

Our passage was blessed with beautiful sunsets, some clouds now and then, and a waxing gibbous moon. Not a lot of star gazing, but some.Sunsets Courtesy of Brian

Tom managed to give our daily position report each morning on the Waterway Ham radio net and on SSB with Marine Weather Center twice daily for the latest weather report and weather routing suggestions. Long range radio provides an added level of communications and comfort for us and our families.Our more direct course this year. Tom hit our top speed of 10.5 knots in a short squall.

Our comprehensive overhaul this past summer paid off. Tom discovered a worn soft shackle during his daily deck check. He modified the way the boom vang connects to the mast step to prevent future chafe. The only other minor difficulty was the engine wouldn’t start twice. Tom fixed it each time by bleeding air out of the fuel line. He might have left a little air in the lines when he replaced the primary fuel filter in Beaufort.

On the afternoon of Friday, November 8th, Anita shouted, “Land Ho”! Eleuthera is a long skinny island that took most of the day to pass. We quickly connected all our electronic devices to our island WiFi hot spot. Ah the joy of being connected; while still at sea!

We arrived at Conch Cay Cut, the entrance into Exuma Sound and Georgetown at 3AM on Saturday, November 9th. Still quite dark, moon was setting just before we entered the narrow channel. Anita hand steered the remaining two hours to arrive at Sand Dollar Beach just before sunrise. After the anchor was down, bridle put on, and the sails covered Brian took this pretty picture of the pre-dawn sky.We all attempted to get some rest as we’d stayed up all night, but soon decided sleep could wait another day. Talked with family and sent messages and just admired the view!We sailed 740 miles in 6 days 19 and a half hours; motored less than 32 hours. Easy passage. It is 82 degrees for a high and 72 at night. Jimmy Buffets tune, “The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful” is constantly playing in our heads!

We motored over to Georgetown on Monday to check in with Customs and Immigration. Then took a tour of the town and a celebratory drink at the Peace and Plenty outdoor bar. Lunch at Jillian’s Jerk Chicken and Ribs, mmmm good!

Pictorial highlights of our walk around Sand Dollar:Pudgy all alone on the beachWe found a cavePath to the oceanBrian climbs a Palm TreeFirst view of the windward side of Stocking IslandFound this sign laying in the sandTom and Anita, morning sunStocking Island

On his last afternoon in the Bahamas, Brian rigged the Portland Pudgy and went sailing:The winds were too light. Tom sailed too, but promises to try it again when there is more wind. All too soon we were saying farewell to our nephew and thanking him for sharing in this fabulous, memorable, and easy passage to a favorite winter island.

On Schedule to Escape Winter

Last year we arrived in Beaufort, NC on November 21st and left for the Bahamas on November 29th; the temperature was 31 degrees. It felt like winter. This year we arrived on October 23rd with plans to head for the Bahamas around November 1st. Daytime temperatures were in the 70’s and lows were in the 50’s. Only two boats in the anchorage when we arrived. More yachts populated the docks and anchorage on the weekend.Bird landing on the water atThe public dinghy/fishing dock, directly across from the anchorage.

We are very impressed with our new super quiet Torqueedo long shaft electric outboard motor. The driver can feel a slight vibration in the tiller. However, it is SO quiet it is difficult to know if it’s turned on! Listen to this short clip:On Saturday we walked up to the Farmers Market. They were celebrating Halloween a few days early.Many of the vendors wore costumes and had candy for the children. Yummy Bacon twist!

Delicious meat pies and farm fresh fruits and vegetables!!

Although we did a lot of provisioning in CT before we left; it was time for the final stock up before heading to the Bahamas. We rented a car for two days, rather than borrow an hour at a time from the local marina. No rushing through the stores this year.First run to Walmart, hardware and pharmacy.

The first half-day of having a car we made the first shopping run. Then Anita picked up our nephew Brian at the bus stop 4 miles away. He flew in from Germany and had been traveling for at least a day and a half. Brian wants to sail to the Bahamas with us and experience an ocean passage. We arrived on Lone Star just at sunset and the insects were feasting on us! After a good nights sleep, a big breakfast and a cup of coffee; Brian spent hours going through our three medical supply boxes and compiled a shopping list to bring them up to snuff. We threw away a lot of old stuff that was no longer sterile or usable. After a light lunch, Brian and Anita went shopping for another round of provisions and filled the small dinghy again. Meanwhile, Tom worked on replacing the electric autopilot motor with our spare and preparing the deck for the replacement rope clutch. He found the old electric autopilot motor had three bolts that were all very loose. It still worked but squealed a lot before the bolts were tightened. Therefore, we still have a working spare, yeah! Unfortunately, once again the shoppers returned right at sunset and again got caught feeding a variety of insects. Guess this is the down side of being here early. No frost yet to reduce the insect population.

The final half-day with the rental car Anita shopped to top off the freezer and refrigerator. Before leaving she put all home-made frozen food for the passage in the cooler. She was satisfied when all the groceries neatly filled every available cold space. We are provisioned to the max! And the black boot stripe at the waterline is still visible; not over loaded.Picture courtesy of Brian

Our weather window was originally Friday, then Saturday. It finally settled into a firm Sunday morning departure. This gave us time to do our remaining chores slowly and enjoy Beaufort a bit more. Like going out to eat at a local barbecue place and doing laundry one last time. Brian volunteered to go up the mast to lubricate and inspect the mast track and rig.He wore our GoPro camera; so cool to see what he was seeing remotely on the iPad. We could snap pictures from the iPad! Pegu Club is featured in the center of this next photo from the top of our mast.Despite our busy days we really enjoyed playing Hearts with 5 players for a couple evenings. So glad Jeff and Kimberly could join us and see a bit of Beaufort, NC.

On Saturday afternoon we started our last project before the passage south: making the Portland Pudgy into a lifeboat and storing it on deck.We are so blessed and thankful to have Brian’s help these last four days of preparation. He was very quick to pitch in and do just about anything and he’s a great cook too. Chicken jambalaya, is on the menu during our passage. A big pot of chili has been made, so it must be time to sail away.

On Sunday, morning November 3rd we raised the anchor and headed out to sea. We did it; left America without running the diesel cabin heater!

Next up; Passage to the Bahamas.

Sailing, Shopping, and Socializing – Ahh Summer!

Lone Star anchored at Flat Hammock, near Fishers Island, New York in late August.

It appears our social calendar was as full as our project schedule this summer. Anita often took time for a brisk morning walk around nearby UCONN campus, sometimes with friends, always admiring the view! Tom preferred to obtain his exercise in the college pool and commute to and from on his bicycle.Avery Point Lighthouse on UCONN property.View of SYC from UCONN.

We first met British friends Steve and Helen Lawrence 32 years ago in Barbados after we each had crossed the Atlantic in our respective sail boats. Since then they have completed a circumnavigation. We were so happy to see them cruise into our harbor in their latest boat named Miles. Here they are after a tour of the Nautilus submarine museum in Groton, CT. We were so lucky to have use of a car this summer. Trips to Defender marine supply store, hardware stores, laundry and grocery stores whenever we needed to go were invaluable. We were prepared to use Uber all summer. Tom’s generous sister and her husband offered us the use of their van. Thank you, dear sister!! The car was also a big help when we decided to move into a better priced storage unit and downsize our belongings a bit more. We were also able to visit our son a few times and help them out with a garage insulation project. We were grateful son, Alex and fiancé, Jenna came to more than a few Friday night picnics at Shennecossett Yacht Club.

Tom’s next Project was installing a new lithium iron phosphate battery bank. He was so happy when he moved the old AGM’s off the boat!So sad that I don’t have any pictures of the beautiful blue inner cells, but here is the finished project. We still have a separate engine starting battery for now. So far we are very happy with the new lithium battery bank. It delivers a steady voltage consistently. We’ve even used the microwave and a heat gun with no voltage drop as our old batteries did.At the end of August Tom’s Dad and friend, Ilse came for a short couple night visit. We sailed to Flat Hammock and anchored for lunch and a walk on shore. What a beautiful day. So glad they made the trip!Our next event was to attend a 100 year celebration at the Montville, CT power generation station that Tom worked at from 1979 to 1987. Great time visiting, reminiscing, and touring the current facility. The food was fabulous as well. We decided to do the majority of our provisioning for the Bahamas right here. This was facilitated by the van we borrowed. This time we stocked up on some dried fruits: apples, peaches, and strawberries. Repacked in vacuum sealed bags for longer storage.Tom is always researching new marine products. We’ve been looking for some specific emergency equipment. Things we want to have on hand, but hope to never need. The first was an emergency rudder or perhaps a tiller arm. What he found is a very compact sea anchor: a Fiorentino Shark Drogue. It is deployed on a bridle off the stern and can be used to steer the boat by bringing it close in on one side or the other. The boat will turn to port if you drag it close to the port side of the boat. It doubles as a reliable sea anchor when the seas are rough by adding a weight to the thimble at the tail end; and once again dragging it behind the boat on a bridle.The item stores compactly in itself and is smaller in size than a basketball 🏀. Very well engineered product made of high quality materials. We purchased one and will practice using it as it is so easy to deploy. The YouTube videos for this product were fun to watch and informative.

Next up will be our second piece of needed emergency equipment: a life raft.

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Sailing Exumas with Friends and Family

On Tuesday, March 12 Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club sailed into Georgetown harbor and anchored nearby us at Sand Dollar beach. They brought some groceries for us from Florida, such good friends! Yes, they’ve been carrying our stuff for 2 months! Who does that? They didn’t even succumb to eating the dark chocolate bars. Such will power! We are always happy to see them and spend time together. Dinner, ice cream, card games, route planning, and rainy hikes across the island; making memories and having a blast!

Boats anchored at Sand Dollar beach.The east side of Stocking Island at Sand Dollar.

Found a good view of our boat hiding under a tree while waiting for the light rain to stop.

Three days later Dad and Ilse were due to arrive from New Hampshire. We motored Lone Star from Sand Dollar beach to Georgetown’s Kidd’s Cove in the early morning hours to get water, do some hand laundry on board, grocery shop in town, and then pick up our guests at the airport. After the first wet water run in the dinghy, Tom agreed we should move again to a more secure harbor; Goat Cay. A wet dinghy ride is not the way to welcome our respected elders aboard our humble floating home for a 12 day vacation.

Tom hitched a ride to the airport and arranged the return taxi. Before our guests knew it, Lloyd the friendly Bahamian taxi driver was loading their luggage into the taxi for them. Here they are arriving on Lone Star via dinghy:

They arrived on the boat around 2 PM on Friday, March 15. We provided big drinks and lunch right away.  They had a rest, then we toured the boat and they unpacked. After a good nights rest, Tom & Anita left them alone on board to enjoy the gorgeous view at Goat Cay. We completed the last of the provisioning by hitch hiking to Island Meats, a small grocery about 4 miles away. The locals are so friendly and happy to share their ride, we learn a bit more about the area each time too! Our last ride this day was from a man at the Exuma Foundation. They provide guided tours of the Exuma’s and organize volunteers for a variety of projects to help those in need, like rebuild a house.

This is what we came home to, Dad and Ilse lounging on the stern soaking up the view and the sun:

We offered options: a swim/snorkel in this beautiful bay or a sail to another harbor. Dad really wanted to go for a short sail. After lunch we hoisted the anchor and sailed north until the channel narrows then tacked back and forth south to anchor at Chat ‘n Chill beach a couple hours later.

On Sunday, we all dinghied ashore for Beach Church and even joined the choir. The gathering afterward with coffee and baked goods was fun too. we did a small boat project: adding markers to our main anchor line that Dad just delivered to us.  Seeing the anchor was most of the way up we motored around the corner from the very busy anchorage to quieter Sand Dollar beach. Dad worked really hard lowering, raising, and once again lowering the anchor with his big toe! We didn’t like the first spot we’d chosen; too far from the beach.We anchored near Pegu Club and were all soon in the water snorkeling to the nearby reefs and beach.Dad, the chemist, commented about the extra fine sand in the Bahamas. Tom’s answer: here soft limestone is pounded by the sea to make fine sand. In New England, hard granite is pulverized by the ocean waves to make gravel and courser sand.

Jeff & Kimberly came over for a visit at sundown and we played a game of hearts with them. Lots of laughs! After another leisurely day at Sand Dollar we moved Lone Star across to Kidd’s Cove to top up the water tanks that we had abandoned on windy Friday. Dad, Ilse and I took a short walk around a small part of town. Then picked up a few groceries at Exuma Market.

On Tuesday, we enjoyed a five hour, 35 mile, down wind sail north to Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas. Pegu Club led the way. We enjoyed a Hearts rematch that evening.

The next day we all hiked ashore to stretch our legs. We found a good view of our boat and had extra people around to take our picture.The island is now deserted, but was home to a marine research center until 2015. We saw an abandoned air strip and a ghost town. A short trail led to a beautiful view of the beaches on the east side of the island.We returned to Lone Star and discovered a nearby sail boat aground on the shallow sands. Tom motored over to lend a hand to this unknown cruiser by first attempting to heel the boat over with a halyard; that didn’t work. Then he relocated their anchor into deeper water. As the tide rose they were able to winch themselves free. We watched from the deck.Swimming here was a definite challenge as there was a current to contend with. Streaming a life jacket on a rope behind the boat was a necessary precaution. Dad still enjoyed his daily swim.

Kimberly joined us in the evening for a card game – Oh Heck this time, quite fun!Dad and Ilse enjoying a beautiful sunset!

On Friday morning a guy on a neighboring boat stopped by asking for our email address. He took the following picture of Lone Star this morning and told us the pot of gold must be on board. We’re still looking, ha!On Friday, March 22, we waved farewell to our friends on Pegu Club as they continued sailing north and we returned to Georgetown. We timed the weather well. We enjoyed another easy downwind run, this one taking six hours to go the 35 miles. We anchored at Honeymoon beach for protection in the upcoming southeasterly blow. Seeing there was no possibility of card games with our friends on Pegu Club we turned to movie watching for evening entertainment. Watching Red October in stereo while the boat is rocking was a highlight. The last three nights we laughed watching Odd Couple first season episodes before bed time.

Swimming in Honeymoon beach was easy and fun. Although once the tide was too low and our guests complained of a stinging sensation in the grass near shore. Thankfully, the sting washed away when they swam back to the boat. A favorite pass time for our guests was playing games: cribbage, barricade, hearts, and UNO.We couldn’t pry them away from the Barricade board this evening to see this pretty sunset, so I showed them the pictures.Sunday was too windy for a dinghy ride and it threatened to rain all day, but held off until over night.On Monday, we moved the boat to a reef near Honeymoon beach in hopes of spotting more fish on their last full day in the Bahamas. Guess we didn’t anchor close enough. There was a current running, making it a challenge to swim. Then it turned cloudy making it very hard to direct them to the reef. They gave up without finding it. They saw only sand!

We motored over to Kidd’s Cove that evening so we would be a short dinghy ride to shore the next morning for their taxi to the airport. We had a real nice visit and believe they had a nice vacation too!Spring has begun and cruisers are beginning to head north now that weather patterns are settling a bit. Time for us to head north as well to see more of the Bahamas.