Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January 20, 2016 Gulf Stream crossing from West Palm Beach to Memory Rock

Before leaving this morning, we listened to Chris Parker’s weather one more time.  And it was a go!!  We had to take the Mercury outboard motor off of the dinghy.  I started breakfast, but came out to help Dave when it was time to lift the motor off the dinghy and put it on the motor mount.  Then he finished tying up the dinghy on the davits. 

Dave called Lawnmower headquarters to thank them for their trouble one more time.  He told the guy that answered the phone, but he said the manager was right there and he could talk directly to her.  She got on the phone and sounded a little sheepish when she answered.  Dave thanked her again for all her trouble.  She let out a big sigh of relief and said she was worried that he wanted to return the generator and she’d have to come pick it up.  They both had a good laugh and she wished us gook luck on our trip. 

There is a bridge close by that only opens 15 minutes past every hour.  So we pulled anchor at 10:00 am and made it to the bridge for the 10:15 opening.  We reached the inlet by 10:50.  There was a 10k north wind with 2-4 foot swells.  By about 11:30, the wind picked up to 15k and stayed that way for the rest of the passage.  Now we had 4-6 foot swells with 2-4 foot waves on top of them.  We raised both the main sail and the jenny along with running the engine.  We had a NE wind now, so we sailed at 120 degrees SE to take advantage of the wind.  Plus the gulf stream usually moves you north once you are in it.  About 3:30, the wind shifted to the east, which was right on our nose.  So we took down the sails and motored directly to Memory Rock.  The Gulf Stream is about 20 miles off shore and we weren’t feeling any affect from it.  The wind continued to average 15k with 20k gusts.  The wind and the current were cancelling each other out, which also created some rough water, but we were now considering ourselves “salty sailors” and were enjoying the ride.  Only a few things hit the floor in the cabins.

About 4:30, we heard our friend Gary call the marina at Westend, where he was headed for the night.  They switched to channel 10, so we followed and eaves dropped.  They were about 15 miles off shore (about 3 hours away) and their engine had failed.  They were under sail and he was wondering if he would be able to sail into the marina.  He was told that would be difficult.  So Gary asked if they had any towing service.  They did not.  Gary had a number from Tow Boat US for a towing service in Freeport and would the marina call them for him.  Gary waited on channel 10 while he called.  The marina came back with the information that the tow service was about 30 miles in away in Freeport and would charge $450 an hour to meet him there, help him, and return to Freeport.  So Gary asked him about anchorages in the area.  The marina didn’t think they would be very good in the rough weather we were expecting.  It was past closing time by now, and the marina no longer answered his calls. 

So now we stepped in and called Gary.  Gary explained that he had changed his Racor fuel filter and filled the cup wth fuel.  Dave asked him if he had primed the fuel to get the air out.  He hadn’t.  We have the same Yanmar engine, so Dave directed him to a thumb lever on the fuel pump to prime the fuel.  That didn’t help either.  So Gary decided they would sail back to the US, have Tow Boat US bring them in, do what was needed for repairs and try again next week.   It was tough for him to go back, but we agreed that the US would be the cheapest place to repair anything OR to even find service.   

At 5:50 we heard him call the USCG.  They answered him, but Gary couldn’t hear them.  So we relayed the call for him.  We contacted the USCG on his behalf.  Basically, Gary just wanted them to know they were on their way back to the US, and would the USCG contact Tow Boat US so they would be aware that he would need their services in the early morning hours.  The USCG also asked for a description of their boat, their location and how fast they were traveling.  It felt good to be able to relay the information for him.  And Gary really appreciated our support. 

We were at Memory Rock about 8:00pm in the dark.  We had been following the light for Memory Rock for the past hour.  But as we approached the line of rocks that separates the ocean from the Little Bahama Banks, Memory Rock was just to the left of us and NOT lit.  The light ahead of us was the stern light of another sailboat that we had seen early in the day.  We passed through the bank of rocks south of where we had gone last year, but it was an easy passage in the dark.  Last year we arrived at sunrise and I was able to stand on the bow and watch for rocks as we weaseled through the rocks.  This turned out to be just fine. 

Dave had been at the helm most of the day, but he was OK with me taking a nap now that we were on the Banks.  The depth averages 15 feet.  And it was basically a straight shot to the north side of Great Sale Cay over the next 8 hours.  The wind was still 15 knots, but it was pretty calm on the Banks.  So I was able to sleep in our v berth rather than making a bed in our saloon area.  I slept until 1:00am and relieved Dave.

Dave "checking the depth of the water"

sunset over the US

raising the quarantine flag in Bahamian waters

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