Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Here we are...

What seemed to be a better weather window looked to be opening up for a Sunday overnight, Monday morning arrival to West End in the Bahamas. With another cold front looking to arrive Wednesday / Thursday, and time slowly ticking away until we need to be back in the States, we decided to go.

All in all it went okay, we just finished checking in at West End and are nicely tucked away against the wall. The Dock Master wants us off the wall, but the wind is blowing about 20 knots out of the west and directly across the slips. I am just shy of dog tired and not that great a boat driver, so everyone agreed that we can sit just where we are until the winds fade.

There wasn't supposed to be 20 knots worth of wind. And there wasn't 20 knots worth of wind, particularly 20 knots worth of west wind, for the first 14 hours of the trip. What wind there was came due out of the east, directly on Kintala's bow. The main went up to catch what we could and to help steady the ride in the small but steady rollers coming from the north. (My guess is they were thrown off the big low up that way.) After a few false starts, the auto pilot decided to play nice, the Beast thumped happily along, and Kintala and crew motored happily into the sunset.

The rolling was enough to make it uncomfortable below, particularly for sea legs grown weak and unsteady by too many months on a dock. Even with the boat helm in auto, we took to spending off watch hours huddled on the floor of the cockpit; just like old times. We had departed No Name a bit early thinking that our planned 5 knot SOG might be optimistic given the lack of breeze and waves. Instead we spent much of the night at near 7 knots, unplanned help from the Gulf Stream. We did slow up once trying to pick our way through the line of cruise ships that parade out of Miami every Sunday night. I like to see at least a mile between me and one of those things going near 20 knots, even if it means going 2 or more miles out of my way.

One weird thing: 30 miles SW of West End, around 2130, we got buzzed by a low flying turbo prop. Not as big as a 'Hurk but bigger than a King Air. It was showing no lights. A few minutes later, a completely blacked out hull moved off of our line. We would never have seen him but he chose to head south to avoid us and was back lit by the recently risen, near-full moon. I managed to get a pair of binoculars on him as he moved away - big thing, but not really military looking. It looked like a shadow sketch of a mega yacht, but it also showed not a single light of any kind. My guess is we stumbled across a lurking security force, though what they expected to find on a direct line between Biscayne Bay and West End Bahama this time of year, other than a cruiser boat heading for the Islands, would be a mystery. It was all a bit menacing which, I suspect, is the intent.

With the early start and boost from the Stream, we raised West End by 0430 in the morning. The unexpected west wind blowing directly against the still outgoing tide made a night entry into the West End turning basin sound like a bad idea. We chose to anchor out instead, even knowing the anchorage is completely exposed to west winds, the holding can be poor, and we would be on a lee shore. The hook went down, as did the bow, with waves just washing over the deck and getting my feet wet as I worked at not falling off the boat. Even with 150 feet of chain out, there was no sleep to be found. Kintala didn't drag which, as it turned out, was a very good thing. At some point during the night the alternator apparently quit charging the batteries. Come morning, there was no juice to wake the Beast so we could move into the marina.

The little Honda proved its worth once again, and here we are.

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