Friday, February 27, 2015

So ...

… we motor sailed to Bimini because it looked like it was the only weather window Sister Ocean was going to offer. From there, the Abaco Islands were a day sail north on an easy downhill run.

But the weather window closed. We waited. The southwest winds blew hard. Kintala bounced and thumped against the dock for a long, uncomfortable night of checking and resetting fenders and lines every half hour or so.

So we decide that being anywhere was better than being here. If the winds eased a bit we could still make the run to West End, just a day or so later than we had planned.  After a night anchored off we could turn the corner and be in the Abaco Islands the next day.

But that day or so meant running out of south winds and facing building winds and seas under the influence of a low off the US coast. That would pin us down for nearly another week, in the West end, when anchoring out would not be an option.  I like the marina in the West End. It is a beautiful place and we had a good time there last year. If we wanted to spend a ton of money we could hang out there and have a good time again. We don't have a ton of money. And it isn't like we can't have a good time someplace else in the Bahamas that is equally as beautiful.

So we decided to forgo the Abacos via the West End and head to the Berry Islands instead. The Berry Islands are a place we wanted to visit last year yet couldn't make happen. Being further East they feel less of an impact from the relentless low pressure areas that keep swinging out from the States, so the weather should be more accommodating. With an evening departure and an overnight motor sail into a building east wind, we could be in the Berries with more than a full day between setting the hook and having the weather ramp up. We would still be pinned, though the anchor would be down in a place that wouldn't cost us anything to wait. And it should be weather that doesn't hang around as long, giving us a chance to get moving again.

But an overnight sail after a sleepless night spent resetting the lines in nearly 30 knots of wind started sounding like a bad idea. The cruising kitty isn't that thin.

So we decided that we could leave the next day and still beat the weather. The forecast easing of the south wind would make quick work of getting around the Island, and the first part of the trip would on a beam reach. Eventually the south wind would fade in preparation for a building blow from the east, so more than half the trip would be motor only. An afternoon departure would put us there shortly after daybreak. It would still be an overnight motor sail, though it would be after a good night's sleep and an unhurried departure.

But a morning walk to the point showed the channel to be a lumpy mess in the still stiff south wind. We watched a sailboat slightly bigger than Kintala make the exit. She buried her bow deep in the water several times, and seemed to have trouble steering through the channel markers. She turned the corner north and the jib spun into view. Making tracks she was hull down over the horizon in less than 20 minutes. She was also rolling gunnel to gunnel and pitching spray into the cockpit to get it done. In 12 hours or so she was going to have a much easier time in the settling wind, but she was paying a good price to get there.

Look Ma! Kintala has a rudder!

So we decided to wait another day. The cruising kitty is never thin enough to have me taking that kind of a ride on purpose, and the weather window was still showing okay. The plan was just as good as it had been, except it still meant a 16 hour motor sail into steadily increasing head winds. And afternoon departure would put us there mid-day again; this time with mere hours between setting the hook and the weather change.

But we got up this morning and started reviewing the plan in preparation for leaving. Nothing much had changed in the forecast yet, for some reason, the tight weather window and the 16 hour motor into steadily increasing winds didn't hold the same appeal as it had the night before. Both Deb and I started looking for a good reason why we shouldn't do what we were planning to do. Watching the GRIB file play out we realized that, in two more days, there was a chance of sailing to the West End on an easy beam reach on a fading east wind.

So that's what we are planning on now.

The only hitch is that the forecast has the building east winds pushing us hard against the “T” dock for much of the weekend. The boat that was ahead of us relocated to an inside spot this morning. But this is the inside spot that I crashed getting out of last year, and I am not too keen on the idea of trying it again. Instead I turned a stout piece of 2 x 6 into a fender board and reset Kintala in place, making sure the spring lines would hold the board at the piling. There is a second stern line to hold the bow off the dock at the winds pick up, while the bow line shares chaffing gear with the spring. It shouldn't matter as the bow line will not be doing much over the next couple of days. Extra fenders were hung in places where the boat shouldn't touch the dock, so long as everything else works out according to plan.

Which, looking at the above, doesn't seem all that likely to happen.

(By the way, I am still fumbling around a bit with the east / west thing. The East Coast is now West of us and that has messed with my internal compass. I keep saying "east" than looking toward where I know the coast lies. It will take a few days to re-calibrate.)

What a difference a day makes!
These guys were fleeing from a big bull shark.


Unknown said...

Hello TJ and crew. This is Dave from Eleuthera/Ocala, FL. Been following your blog for a while. Now that you are in the Bahamas why don't you throw your hook in Hatchet Bay. It is protected 360 degrees from all cold fronts coming from the States. My wife and I have a home in Rainbow Bay and I myself will be there March 19th and would love to show you and your wife the island. Currently our 23' O'day is moored in Hatchet Bay.

Look forward to hearing from you. Be happy....Dave

Unknown said...

Enjoy those Lows from the States. Last one (week ending Feb) Snowed in North Alabama for a day! I had 6.75 inches piled on my grill. Better a blow in the Bahamas than snow in Bama! Sail on Tim n Deb!

Unknown said...

Diann and I have made it to Lower Matecumbe anchorage. Marathon for six weeks tomorrow.
Hope you can post updates to the Bahamas soon.
Diann says, "next winter".

Deb said...

@Dave- We spent quite awhile in Hatchet Bay last year. Here's the link to one of the photo posts:

We won't make it down there this year though. Our need to be back north by early May means we're not heading that far south this year. Next year for sure!

@John - I couldn't agree more! I don't miss snow at all.

@Alex - Glad to hear you made it to Marathon. Let us know how you like it. We've never been. Where are you guys going to spend the hurricane season?