Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Exumas Revisited - Back To Florida

We are currently back in Florida at our defacto home base, Harbortown Marina in Ft. Pierce. After cruising the Bahamas for 3 months, my symptoms of a hernia had become more noticeable so we thought it best to come back to the states to have it looked at and addressed before it became acute. If you know any good Doctors in Vero Beach, Florida, let me know.

The last couple of weeks were fun because Trevor came to spend them with us sailing in the Exumas. We revisited many of the islands in the Exuma Park, and had a great sail with him dodging coral heads back to Nassau where he caught a plane back to the states. Then Gayleen and I did a 26 hour trip from Nassau to Bimini last Sunday. After relaxing for two nights we had an awesome crossing back to the states in the daylight on Tuesday. It was one of the calmest and most relaxed crossings we had done and to have done it in the daylight made it that much more fun.

A few of the highlights of the Nassau to Bimini to Lake Worth crossing were:

- Leaving Nassau to start the 26 hour overnight trip the conditions were not good with huge waves and chop just off our bow. The winds were supposed to lighten up quickly so we pushed on. Some friends who followed us out an hour after we left turned around and went back in but they were in a smaller boat and were really being tossed around. This is when we appreciate the length and weight of Pearl. She handles rough seas very well. Fortunately after about 2 hours the conditions improved considerable and we had a nice sail for the majority of the trip.

- Gayleen has become very proficient at handing Pearl as well as sailing at night reading the distant lights of random pleasure boats and freighters to know that we will not collide with them. This gave me the opportunity to fall asleep a little after midnight and sleep until just before daybreak while she was at the helm for the most difficult part of a night crossing where it is hard to stay awake.

- When we arrived at Bimini we found that the harbor entrance that we now know well was impassible. The ocean had huge swells rolling in from the northwest that created large breakers across the entrance to the harbor. They were so big they went over the protective reef, crashed entirely over all the navigation buoys and broke onto the sandy beach. We resorted to Plan B and continued past the entrance to the south end of North Bimini where would could round a point and anchor out of the swells. This was the first time we had a bottom that the anchor had a hard time setting in. After dragging it for a hundred yards it finally caught and we had lunch and waited to see if the swells would die down. It was a really nice day with little wind but the big winds of the previous few days had stirred up the ocean quite a bit. After 5 hours we sailed back up to have a look at the harbor entrance to find it still very difficult. We watched two sailboats come out through the breakers getting rolled from rail to rail. I doubt much remained on the shelves down below but they managed to make it out without damage. After hanging around another hour the swells got a bit smaller but more importantly started coming in sets of 4 or 5 separated by about 10 minutes. We watched and timed a couple of sets and then entered the channel at full motor speed. It worked fine and we had a smooth entry in between the next set of waves that rolled in.

- Crossing the Gulf Stream it was almost totally calm at times and the water was the deepest blue. About half way across we had a Bermuda Triangle experience. In a place where it was over 2500 feet deep our depth gauge which shows a -- when its more than 99 feet started reading between 12 and 14 feet deep. This went on for about 15 minutes. I actually looked over each side of the boat to see what was under us in case we were being stalked by a submarine. I saw nothing and it went back from shallow readings to -- with no sightings. Some friends said that large sharks at times will swim under your boat in the shadow and maybe we were picking one up but who knows.

- We entered Lake Worth inlet around 5 P.M. and anchored hoping to sail up to Ft Pierce early in the morning. We turns the SSB radio on at 6:30 A.M. Wednesday to listen to our weather provider, Chris Parker. I asked him for the conditions to travel from Lake Worth to Ft Pierce that day and he hesitated and then said well.....if you are going you should be on your way now because its going to get rough mid afternoon. We decided at that point to not go out into the ocean but to motor sail up the ICW in the protected waters. That was a good choice because by noon time it was extremely windy and rough even in the protected ICW.

But let me get back to the good part and the photos which we all enjoy. The trip back through the Exuma Park with Trevor could not have gone any better. He got to experience fun hikes, snorkeling as well as a strong weather front which we seem to have to dodge and find protection for every 10 days or so. These photos are fun because we finally had the nerve to bring our waterproof camera underwater with us. Fortunately it did not leak and still works!

First stop for Trevor was Pig Beach where Speed's hat got an up close and personal experience with the cute pieces of bacon.

Bahamian Camouflage

There seems to be one of these hammocks on every island

Yes, they did climb to the top of Bell Rock that's behind them.


Snorkling in Rocky Dundas Caves

Shroud Cay Mangrove Waterway

Shark passing through

Trevor riding the most amazing natural whirlpool at Shroud Cay

8 inch angel fish

Not sure what this guy is

This is what 2,800 ft deep Gulf Stream water looks like

About half way across the Gulf Stream I felt something on my arm and jumped. It turned out to be this little bird that decided Pearl was a good place to rest for about 20 minutes before moving on.

Modern GPS technology has made it easy to knnow where you are and get to the Bahamas, maybe thats why there are so many cruising boats there these days.

Doing 8.6 knots with 43 nautical miles to go with an estimated 4:17 P.M arrival time at Lake Worth Inlet...can't wait!

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