About 1:00 am, I got up to give Dave a chance to sleep. He said there had been a lot of ship traffic in the Northwest Providence Channel as we crossed it. The ship traffic actually stopped us from going north as early as we wanted to to avoid stormy weather. But so far, we have just been watching lightening off to the west. He checked our SSB e-mail and we did receive an e-mail from Chris Parker. We pretty much knew the weather prediction, but what he gave us were latitude and longitude coordinates of where we would reach the Gulf Stream, then where to go to stay in the Gulf Stream, and then where we should start to move to the NW and cross the Gulf Stream and exit it without having to fight the current. That is what you call individualized service! So Dave entered the coordinates into our chart plotter and set up a route. With that, our autopilot would follow the course and make the appropriate turns for us. If we are sailing, we may have to vary from that course to take advantage of the wind, or adjust our sails. But it is a great plan to go by. Then Dave crashed for the night.
I didn’t have to worry about staying awake in the wee hours of the morning because I ran into a lot of traffic heading into and out of Freeport, Grand Bahama. It is the second largest city in the Bahamas, after Nassau. I wanted to head north west past Freeport. And all the ships where heading north/south in and out of port. So I had to head more west and try to time going behind some of the ships. I also had to change my speed to be sure to miss some boats. We started using a great feature with our AIS (automated identification system). It will bring up a little square that tells me how close we will pass the ship and in how many minutes. We like to stay at least 3 miles away from the big ships. That gives us time to change course if need be. If it looked like we were going to be closer, I would usually slow down to let them pass by. I didn’t want to try to pass in front of them unless I had a 5+ mile difference.
|heading into the thick of things|
Outside of Freeport, ships seemed to be lining up to enter the port. One ship really had me confused. First he was crossing my path in front of us perpendicular to our boat. Then he was going the opposite direction parallel to us. Then all of a sudden, he was crossing our path at an angle. I figured he was circling to get in line. So I finally called the captain on the VHF radio. I explained to him that I was going to West End and wanted to pass him on his stern. I wanted to know if he was going to continue on his course and at the same speed. He assured me that he was. So I thanked him and reiterated that I was planning to pass behind him. Most of all, I wanted him to know that we were there. We’re so small compared to their ships. And I have heard horror stories of huge ships hitting sailboats and not even knowing they hit them. We wouldn’t cross these channels if we didn’t have AIS.
|trying to go behind this ship|
|and these are only the boats that have AIS and have it turned on|
Dave relieved me about 7:00 am. I lasted longer than I thought I would. I guess with all the traffic and then the sunrise, I was wide awake.
I cooked breakfast for us and then crashed for a few hours. We had motored through the night, so we decided to stop at West End for fuel. I woke up around 11:00am and helped Dave anchor by noon. There were all kinds of big fishing boats lining up to get fuel in the marina. We got in our dinghy with the diesel fuel cans to see if we could weasel our way in-between them. Dave figured most of them would want gasoline. We had to tie up our dinghy a ways away from the fuel dock and walk with 4 empty 5 gallon cans to the fuel pumps.
When we reached the fuel dock, the boat tied up there had just cut into a chilled watermelon and was handing out slices. It was awesome. I don’t remember the last time I had watermelon. Either it wasn’t available, or it was really expensive in the Bahamas. We talked to another power boater. He was from Ft Lauderdale. It only takes them 2 hours to get to West End. But I can’t imagine how much fuel they go through.
We walked back to our dinghy with Dave carrying 2 of the full 5 gallon cans. We thought we could pull up off to the side to pick up the other 2. We started visiting with a guy walking his dog. He figured we were on the sailboat that he saw anchor because we were in our dingy. He was on a 361 Beneteau (36 ft) from St Simon’s Island, GA, which is near Brunswick, GA where we spent last summer. He just bought the boat last year and this was their first trip to the Bahamas. They were also heading back that night, but were going straight across to Florida, then up the coast. They didn’t have an AIS, so were hesitant to go nonstop like we planned to. He was younger and new to sailing. We had fun answering his questions. I think we are easy to approach and have had smaller boats. We thought it is great that they were making it happen.
|good bye Bahamas|
We took off by 3:00 pm. We were both in the cockpit until after we had dinner. Then I took my early nap. I relieved Dave about midnight. Usual ship traffic, but much less out here than in the Bahamian channels. He relieved me about 6:00 am.
|Dave showing how we tether to the boat|
|holding the tether that is hooked to the jack line that runs the length of the boat on both sides|