Half way home. Sheltering in Great Inagua.

It’s Saturday morning and here we sit, at anchor, in Great Inagua, the most southern island in the Bahamas where we will “shelter” until the coast is clear to make our way to Florida and the second half of our journey as part of the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Flotilla.  We are one of over 200 boats that are taking advantage of the support of this wonderful group.

I should note that I am a proud member of the SDSA board of directors and am thrilled with what all the volunteers are doing to support cruisers making their way home during this difficult time.   Up until only a few days ago, even being able to stop and rest here was forbidden and is only now available to us, in part, as a result of the hard work by SDSA volunteers and their work with the Government of The Bahamas on our behalf.

The sunrise as we approached Great Inagua yesterday morning was spectacular. When we first arrived, along with another 7 flotilla boats, we had a welcome sight, a USCG chopper paid us a visit. The USCG is always really supportive of the Salty Dawgs and carefully track the movement of the fleet each year.

It was a welcome sight to spy land for the first time since leaving the USVIs.  Not much to look at, I’ll admit. As we rounded the western point of Great Inagua, one of the very few lighthouses anywhere in the Bahamas.  Along the way here, we saw some spectacular sunsets.  And the setting full moon. And a day that had so little wind and calm seas that it might have been a sunrise  in August on Long Island Sound. Brenda and I are thankful for the many notes of encouragement congratulating us on being able to rest for a few days before heading out again.    Let me temper the thought of “resting” as the anchorage is remarkably rolly with the wrap around swell from the ocean.  And, with little wind, it’s oppressively hot and sticky.

As this chartlet shows, this is hardly a harbor, as we are basically resting in the lee of the island with the wind coming, more or less, from the east.  That’s Pandora, the red triangle to the left of the island.  BTW, the east in this chart is to the right.  As you can see, not much protection at all.  The swell that’s coming around the point isn’t particularly large but as it’s hitting us on the beam, causing us to snap-roll, up to as much as 15-20 degrees in each direction, sometimes violently enough to dislodge everything on the counter in the galley.  Last night, horrors, my stemless wineglass went flying on the chart table, with the contents of the “full” glass draining down into where the charts are stored.  The ensuring mess paled when compared to the terrible waste of wine.

And later, as I was pulling a package of meatballs from the freezer for dinner, they spilled back down into the freezer.  Fortunately, as Brenda made them herself, she knew exactly how many there were so I could confirm when I had collected every last one from the depths of the freezer.

Also, a bit unnerving is that we are anchored so close to a “cliff” where the water depth drops from the 20′ that we are anchored in to depths of 1,000′ and more, only a mere half mile away, as shown by the “ruler” on this chart. I thought that it would perhaps be helpful to provide some context on where we are, waiting for Chris Parker to give us the “all clear” to get underway again. BTW, that’s likely to be Monday a few days from now.

Our arrival in Great Inagua marks the successful completion of the first half of our voyage, with 550 miles of the 1,100 to Florida, now under our keel.  You can see the route in it’s entirety below.  Again, we are the red triangle.  Note that we are just north of the Windward Passage, marking the separation of Cuba and Haiti, the passage that Brenda and I took to get to Santiago de Cuba when we landed there from the Bahamas back in 2016. The remaining distance between us and Ft Pierce, where we will make landfall late next week, still seems like a long way off, and it is.   The run will take us west through the Old Bahama Channel, waypoints 13-16, and the Santarin Channel, waypoints 16-18 and then the rest of the way up to Ft Pierce.  The northward current in the GulfStreem will provide a boost of several knots,  as we make our way north the final 200 miles to our destination. Of course, being in Florida will not really be “home” as we will still have to drive the rest of the way to CT.  Our plan, once on land, is to leave Pandora in Ft Pierce and rent a car to make the run home non-stop, with me and Brenda sharing the driving, or should I say “standing watch”.  Oh boy, what we wouldn’t do to have a self driving car waiting for us.  I’ll return to retrieve Pandora in a few weeks with crew for the run to CT, as I have until mid July to have Pandora north of 35 degrees, or Cape Hatteras.

So, here we sit, waiting for the all-clear from Chris to get underway again.

I thought that I’d provide a look at his forecast for the rest of the trip, with some thoughts on what it should mean for us.  Of course, the last few days days of the forecast, in particular, are a long way off so they may very well change.  But, for the moment, it appears that the really nasty weather, that’s hitting the waters of Florida and the northern Bahamas over the weekend, should be history when we are making our run back to the US.

We expect to depart on Monday, the exact time subject to a revised forecast by Chris.  Here is Chris’s forecast as of today with his assumptions on how things will look each day as we make our way to Florida.

Chris:  During Monday the 11th daytime and nighttime: The wind will be variable at 0-15kts from a variety of directions.  You will be motoring.

Bob:  That’s good as it will be fairly calm and while we have motored a good amount already, we still have plenty of fuel left.

Chris;  On Tuesday the 12th all day and into the evening, the wind will be from the NE to ENE, building from 10k to 15k, with sailing on a beam reach.

Bob:  At that point, we should be near waypoint #12, north of Cuba. That should be good sailing as Pandora performs well with full main and jib in those conditions.  The seas should be reasonable and our speed, in the 6-8kt range.

Chris:  On Wednesday the 13th, the wind will be ENE at 15 with gusts to 20, ideal for beam reach sailing. 

Bob: At that point we will be in the Old Bahama Channel, a narrow waterway north of Cuba.  The conditions Chris describes sound pretty good, with the wind hitting the boat directly on the starboard beam, a comfortable point of sail and at those wind speeds, with little heeling, probably about 12 degrees.

Chris; On Thursday the 14th, wind will be from the east at 20, with gusts to 25 in GulfStream, sailing on a beam to broad reach.

Bob:  By then we will be off the coast of Florida and moving north.  With wind at 20 with gusts to 25 the sailing will be “sporty” but with a reef in the main, we should be OK.  At those wind speeds, and wind aft of the beam, but not too deep on the wind, Pandora should be hitting 8 to as much as 10 kts through the water helped along by the current of the Gulf Stream, giving us speed over the bottom of 10-14kts over the bottom.  This will, I hope, be very fast sailing.

Brenda:  “Fast sailing perhaps, but that day will pretty bumpy, or should I say shitty!  Just sayin…

Chris:  On Friday, heading north with the GulfStream from Miami-FtPierce, the wind veers from E to ESE or SE at 15-20 with gusts to 25.   And there may be a few mild squalls with up to 30kts of wind at any time between the Old Bahama Channel north to Ft Pierce.

Brenda:  “Shit, Shit, Shit.”

So, there you have it, here we are, sheltering in Great Inagua, waiting for the dust to settle along the path between us and Florida.  At least we can have a glass of wine in the evenings and not worry too much about the weather.   Of course, with all the rolling, we will have to hold on tight to our glasses.

While this post is, and nearly always is, “all about us”, there are a lot of other boats making the same journey now and in the next few weeks, with the next group heading out in the next few days.  This is a screen shot of the tracker as of Saturday morning.  That’s a lot of boats are underway.  You can see this tracker in real time, for yourself as the upcoming days unfold by following this link.

One more thing…  Sunday is Mother’s day and Brenda is none to happy about spending it here, having to clutch that celebratory wine glass tightly to keep it from spilling.

At least we have excellent cell coverage here so our son’s Rob and Chris will be able to talk to their mother.

And I know that they will, as they always are, very attentive to their mother.  They are very good boys!

Wish us luck.  500 miles to go to the US.


11 responses to “Half way home. Sheltering in Great Inagua.

  1. Larry Shields


    Very good to read your latest update. At least you and Brenda have a couple of days to layover, even though not the most comfortable. Glad to hear that the fuel situation is holding up well.

    Should the weather not improve for next Friday, is there any chance of finding a harbor of refuge south of Miami for a day or two?

    Happy Mother’s Day to a Brenda.



  2. Mary and Jeff, Sv Finte

    We are sailing up from Belize and have made it as far as Key West. We’ve been watching weather on PredictWind (unable to tune in Chris here). Unfortunately looks like we can’t take advantage of your beam reach winds from our position, so we’re waiting/hoping for the Friday winds to arrive as predicted to set sail for northern ports from here. PS. Key West for Mother’s Day but most places still closed. Maybe we’ll find a nice takeout Cheers.

  3. Bob, we used to have a swell and current problem anchored off Plymouth Montserrat before the volcano blew. I half owned a bar there back in the 70’s. Donald street turned me onto a way to relieve the rock and roll and I’ve seen it in print since then. Run a line from your anchor chain to either the port or Stbd. Genoa winch then let about 10’ or so of your chain out and crank in the line and the boat will come around to the swell which should ease your rock and roll. Stay safe and have a great sail to Ft Pierce .

  4. Judy Hildebrand

    Just read your post and wondering if you are familiar with setting up a bridle to decrease your rolling? You can point your bow into the wind with one set up and be way more comfortable.
    If not I can describe the process to you.
    My email address is

  5. Glad you’re getting a chance to rest for a few days.

  6. Hope you can sleep OK in the rolling sea. Good that you got a place to rest. Good luck on the leg to Ft Pierce.
    Happy Mother’s Day, Brenda!

    • Dorothy Mammen

      Lovely post, so enjoyable to read, great images, and Brenda’s commentary, haha!! On Mother’s Day in this era of covid we are all Staying Home, similarly celebrating … with a phone call … sigh. Not rolling, though . Fair winds rest of the trip! From one of your SSCs!

  7. Hi Brenda &Bob,
    Happy Mother’s Day!
    Sending good thoughts and vibes your way. Fort Pierce is in your sights now. Brenda you are The Best!
    Bob, I look forward to your next posting. Fair winds…

  8. Emily Skolfield

    Thanks for all the details, very helpful to have the context as I follow your journey home. Fair winds and easy sailing for the next leg of your trip

  9. https://www.vi.gov/usvi-assists-critical-covid-patient-from-vessel-at-sea
    US VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Bryan’s COVID-19 Task Force has announced that an individual suffering respiratory distress aboard a vessel at sea is one of the territory’s latest COVID positive patients.

    The individual, who is hospitalized at the Roy Lester Schneider Regional Medical Center in critical condition was admitted late Thursday evening after the vessel in which that individual was aboard was apparently denied entry into Puerto Rico.

    Governor Bryan said Friday that to the extent possible, the USVI will assist in providing any humanitarian assistance it can during this pandemic.

    “From what we know, this individual who was suffering respiratory distress needed immediate medical attention and probably would not have survived a days-long trip to the U.S. Mainland without acute care,” said Governor Bryan. “Giving this patient a fighting chance is the right thing to do.”

    Governor Bryan added that first responders in the Virgin Islands “are among the best and take every precaution to protect not only themselves but our community as well.”

    The vessel left Charlotte Amalie at noon on Friday.

  10. richard stanard

    as a now ‘retired’ cruiser at age 75 i really appreciate having this detailed account…brings back many great memories both good and not so good such as a rolly anchorage so i sympathize but also envy your overall experience…thanks again

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