Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Crossing to Eleuthera

We had yet another fantastic sail from Black Point up to Warderick Wells on Friday and ended up dropping the hook right next to Epiic in Emerald Bay. It was great to see Dan and Isabelle over two months after our last passing in Ft. Lauderdale. They took a little longer than us to cross and work their way down to the Exumas but are now headed to Georgetown and points south, hoping to arrive in Puerto Rico before the onset of hurricane season. With any luck we'll see them again in the Caribbean next season.

Shortly after our arrival we all went snorkeling at Emerald Rock and the Ranger's Garden site near park headquarters, both of which were fairly spectacular on Friday. Later we had Epiic over for sundowners and catching up, and then we invited them for breakfast on Saturday. I made my specialty, Mexican Breakfast, and then we listened to the 9am park net. Unfortunately we were unable to both procure moorings in the north mooring field, but we were able to get the last two moorings in the south anchorage / hog cay - which is our favorite in the area - so we prepared to convoy over there. Just as we were bringing up the anchor, Dawn called up to say something was wrong with the steering. I let the chain back out and went to investigate - yep, it was pretty buggered up. I took the bed apart and soon discovered why: the steering cables had loosened and slipped off of the rudder quadrant. Yikes, that could have been really bad if it had happened when we were in a tight spot! The cause was that one of the backing nuts on the cable tension adjustment bolts had backed completely off and allowed the adjustment nut to slacken. I dug through our hardware stores and found some locknuts of the same size, which should prevent that from happening again.

After we were moored in Hog Cay, Dawn and Judy and I picked up Isabelle (Dan was taking a nap) and we dinghied around the south side of Warderick Wells to snorkel the Malabar Cays. It was a really nice snorkel although it was rather rough with honking southeasterlies. We got fairly soaked on the ride home - but hey, we were wet already. We had dinner separately but then got together on Epiic afterwards for our last night together. Pretty early the next morning they took off on a rather rough bash to Staniel Cay to meet guests, while we hunkered down for a stormy Sunday in the anchorage. I wrote my column, Judy caught up on logs, Dawn played games, and Piper laid pretty low. Several squalls came through and at times the wind against current had Windbird lurching on her mooring rather uncomfortably. The highest wind we saw was 30 knots, though...the same night a severe thunderstorm hit Cape Eleuthera Marina with 80+ knot winds & gusts to 110!

Monday morning dawned much calmer, with southwesterlies of around 15 knots. We were off the mooring ball by 8am and headed out into Exuma Sound for our crossing to Eleuthera. The wind direction was just right to try flying our spinnaker for the first time but the strength was kinda at the upper end so we initially held off, instead rigging the pole and flying wing-on-wing and then gibing over to a broad reach as the wind veered WSW. Finally it died enough that we felt comfortable putting up the chute. What a pretty sail - and what fun to fly it! It was considerably easier to rig, launch and recover than I realized. I'm sure we'll do it a lot more in the future.

Six or seven miles short of Cape Eleuthera the winds had finally died enough that it was time to put away the sails and start the motor in the interest of getting to Rock Sound before dark. In fact we arrived at 4:45pm and got a nice spot to anchor in front of the government dock. We took Piper to shore and walked through town, and then stopped at a neighboring boat on the way back to Windbird. Totem is a family of five who is finishing up a ten year circumnavigation; they have a popular boat blog and have written a book about cruising with kids. We initially heard of them through Delos and have checked out their blog occasionally since. Super nice family. Behan actually flew out today to give a presentation at the Annapolis spring sailboat show, but we're having Jaime and the kids over for dinner tomorrow night.

This morning we were up bright & early to go rent a car at Dingle's Motors, which was closed last night but advertised car rental on their sign. Well, we got there only to be informed that Dingle was out of the car rental business. They called around for us but all the places with cars for rent in Rock Sound were either out of cars, not answering their phones, or unable to deliver a car until the afternoon. Dawn and I hoofed it north of town to the Rock Sound Market on what turned out to be a false tip about cars for rent there - but we did find another car rental place along the way. They didn't have cars for today but they do for tomorrow, so we decided to stay another day and drive the island tomorrow. That fits better with the weather anyways - if we'd gone to Hatchet Bay tomorrow we would've been motoring all the way, 42 nm.

On our way back to meet Judy at Government Dock we found a cool art/gift shop, Blue Seahorse, that is run by two friendly young Eleutheran ladies (one of whom lived in MN for a winter!). They welcome cruisers to hang out on their patio and use their wifi. Back on the boat Judy made lunch and I loaded Garmin software updates onto our chartplotter, autopilot, radar, etc. This was primarily an attempt to fix our autopilot, which has never worked quite right since we installed it in January. It's never been able to make it through the Sea Trial/Autotune process, which means we've been setting rudder gain & counter-gain settings manually with rather unsatisfactory results. In calm seas it wanders a bit, but while annoying is at least usable. In rough seas or higher winds it has to be watched like a hawk, which completely negates the point of having an autopilot. Dawn and I are considering doing a multiday passage from Abaco straight back to the Carolinas, but if that's going to happen we need to have a properly working autopilot.

After I loaded the updates I was feeling pretty tired - we've had several short nights this week - so I laid down for a nap while the ladies went back to Blue Seahorse to shop and use their wifi. After they got back we put the dinghy on the davits, hauled up the anchor, and headed out into Rock Sound to attempt an autopilot sea trial with the new software. This time it worked, and the autopilot now holds heading and course like an absolute champ! Well, that's under power in calm seas anyways; we'll be giving it much more of a workout over the next week and hope to have complete confidence in it by Marsh Harbour.

While the ladies were in town they ran into Markus, a cruiser with an Elan 444 who Dawn and I had met in Georgetown. He noted that some friends of his had highly recommended Nort'side Ocean Restaurant a few miles out of town; the proprietress, Rosie, will pick you up in her car. We decided to make a reservation and at 6:30 Rosie came to government dock to pick up Markus and us. Man, what a treat. Her restaurant & cottages are gorgeously situated on a bluff overlooking a pink sand beach and the Atlantic Ocean, and Rosie is quite a character in the best possible sense - a warm, friendly, vivacious, proud mother of six accomplished children scattered around the world. After a wonderful Bahamian dinner of smothered grouper (Dawn & I) & cracked conch (Markus & Judy) plus peas-n-rice, coleslaw, and fried plaintains, Rosie showed us an album from her life and those of her children and grandchildren, opined at length on the sources of happiness and success, and led us in a little song about "love is a ting, you gotta give it away, give it away, give it away...." It was really a nice evening. I should mention that the prices are super reasonable for such a good meal in the Bahamas ($42 bill including gratuity for Dawn & I, including a rum & coke each). So if you're in Rock Sound, give Rosie a call.

We're headed to bed soon as we have a rental car lined up for 7:30 tomorrow and we're hoping to see a decent bit of the island. On Thursday we plan to take the boat to Hatchet Bay and then Friday-Saturday it's looking pretty good to make the 130nm passage up to Abaco. This Bahamian adventure is approaching its end, which makes us a bit sad because we've had such a wonderful time here - but we'll be back next November.


  1. Hi Sam, can you post the link to your Flying column? Is there one link that lists all of your columns in one place? Thanks!

    1. Try this link: http://www.flyingmag.com/find/weigel