It’s Tuesday morning and I just shut down the motor that has kept Pandora moving since we left Great Inagua at 15:00 yesterday. We are currently about 50 miles north of Cuba and making our way west toward the Old Bahamas Channel. The wind has finally begun to fill in at about 10kts from the NE giving us a nice beam reach sail. These conditions are expected to continue until tomorrow when the wind should increase 10-20kts, from the same direction.
We spent three days waiting for good weather in Great Inagua and with the exception of a few brief intervals of calm, it was a miserable anchorage, with a steady stream of swells coming around the southern tip of the island, making for very uncomfortable conditions as we rolled violently from side to side, sometimes enough to knock things off of the galley counter into the sink.
On the bright side, the water was impossibly clear and a beautiful shade of blue, a reminder of the past seasons that we have spent in The Bahamas in. The water in the Caribbean, while nice, is nowhere as clear as it is in The Bahamas. We were anchored in about 25′ of water and you could see the bottom as clearly as if it was a mere 5 feet deep. I did go swimming once during our visit and while hanging off of the stern of the boat I could see the anchor chain entering the water and going all the way to the bottom. I’d guess that you could see between 75′ and 100′ through the water.
As I mentioned in a past post, less than a half mile behind us the 25-35′ depth abruptly dropped off of a cliff to over 1,000′ deep and it was all I could do to keep from looking over my shoulder when I was in the water, imagining a shark lurking up and over the cliff looking for dinner. Thanks Peter Benchley, you’ve ruined swimming in the ocean for me, forever.
Anyway, the water was a remarkable blue and while I did go swimming, I can’t say that it was relaxing. Brenda decided to skip it.
Oh yeah, and I did I mention that it was HOT? Fortunately, there wasn’t much wind as that did keep the wrap-around swell down somewhat but it made for a very hot anchorage. Additionally, in the evenings, even thought we were hundreds of yards off of the beach, the mosquitoes were terrible.
Each night seemed to be progressively worse and by the third night Brenda and I ended up sitting in the salon swatting mosquitoes, well after midnight, trying to reduce the resident population, at least a little. We have screens for our hatches but with the very light wind, to close them made it even hotter down below. Finally, after several hours of swatting, Brenda went back to bed and I sat up alone trying to attract and destroy the rest of the “armada”. It wasn’t until I had the brilliant idea of lighting a bug coil and placing it in the forward head that the problem was finally solved. The mosquitoes were still there but somehow, they no longer tried to land on us. Those coils really worked for us.
Anyway, after that “final” night we swore that we’d not stay for even one more and when you added the boat snapping from side to side, sometimes nearly 20 degrees in each direction, “enough was enough”.
Sympathetic cruisers who were in contact with us suggested that we put out a bridle on the anchor chain to the stern of Pandora to pull her more in line with the waves. That would normally be a solution but with the light and variable wind, constantly changing direction, that was unworkable.
Chris Parker was advising us to stay there for another day but we just could not stand the thought of another night at anchor 4-5kts and leave earlier. The idea being that we would not get to the Gulf Stream until the adverse winds cleared out. So, we left early but have to go slower. With that in mind, we are trying to keep our speed down by going under main alone. I expect that I will need to put in a reef soon, as well. Making Pandora go slower goes completely against my instinct but, in this case, it’s what we need to do.
A friend of mine, Tom on Aladdin, is a day ahead of us and will be right in the middle of the nasty winds in the Gulf Stream so let that be a lesson to us in keeping Pandora from getting there too soon.
Keeping our speed low is important as we have to be sure that we don’t exit the Old Bahama Channel and Santeren Channel and into the Gulf Stream off of Florida until some bad weather that is forecasted to clear out by sunset on Thursday.
Keeping our speed down will be particularly tough as a NE wind in the 15-20kt range is supposed to arrive here later today and we will need to reduce sail to keep our speed down. Hopefully, when I speak with Chris Parker this evening, he will say that conditions in the Gulf Stream will clear up a bit sooner than he had anticipated so we can keep moving.
When I say “clear up” I am referring to strong those strong NE winds in the 25+ range that will be in the Gulf Stream later in the week, and anytime that the wind in the Stream opposes the northbound current, you get really steep waves that are very close together. In this case, they would be 10′-12′ steep waves, really miserable conditions and something that we really need to avoid.
Oh yeah, speaking of seasickness, Brenda has adapted to life at sea, a first for her. She is eating well, knitting and reading and has also been able to stand watch both at night and during the day.
She is even able to move around down below, something that is normally not possible for her. I will stop short of saying that she’s “having a ball” but at least she doesn’t feel sick all the time. That’s good and is making a long trip more bearable for us both.
We are staying pretty loose on keeping watch while underway and it seems to be working out well for her to sleep down below until about midnight and then to stand watch for several hours while I catch some sleep myself. It’s an informal plan and is working well for us both.
So, here we are on the “final stretch”, sort of, of a 1,500+ journey that began back some two months ago in St Lucia when the Covid-19 virus began to wreak havoc around the world.
I’ll admit that we are both anxious about re-entering the US given the fact that our home country seems to be really struggling to keep things from spiraling out of control.
So, with some luck, any changes in the weather forecast will be for the better and we will still arrive in Ft Pierce by late Friday or perhaps Saturday. Of course, that assumes that we don’t have to divert to Key Largo or perhaps Miami to wait out adverse weather.
Wish us luck.