Saturday, March 7, 2015

Perfect window

As I type this I am alone on watch in the pilothouse. It's 11pm, and Louise is asleep below. We are southbound in the Atlantic Ocean, about four miles off the coast of Great Abaco Island. In about an hour we'll pass Southwest point and begin crossing the Northeast Providence Channel.

This morning found us anchored off Man-o-War Cay (map), a few miles from the more popular destinations of Marsh Harbour and Hope Town. As I wrote in my last post, we staged there for a quick departure to the ocean via the nearby Man-o-War channel, perhaps the best channel on the east side of the Abacos. We had already decided on the overnight option to New Providence by the time we had the anchor down.

Final sunset at anchor in the Abacos.

We had a nice dinner last night on the aft deck, with another beautiful sunset over Great Abaco in the distance. Blossom was anchored only a couple hundred feet away, close enough to talk (loudly), and they came over in their tender this morning to pick us up for a run into town, a short ride away.

Blossom anchored a short distance away. Northern entrance to Man-o-War harbor in the background.

Louise had done a load of laundry this morning, in anticipation of making 150 gallons or so of fresh water under way, and discovered that we're having some issues with either the washer or dryer imparting an odor to the wash. She opted to remain aboard to try to figure it out while we still had the generator running, and I went to Man-o-War with Martin and Steph.

We got rid of some trash and had a nice walk around town, stopping in the two fairly well-stocked groceries as well as the chandlery and even a fabric shop, before having lunch at the marina where we had tied up the tender. After lunch I picked up some bananas and Steph got a few items as well at one of the groceries before we headed back.

That was something of an adventure, as Blossom's tender ran out of fuel before we made it out of the harbor. Good thing, too, that we were still close enough to paddle/pole/pull our way back to the nearest dock (oddly enough, for the town's trash collection site), and Martin hoofed it back to the marina for fuel.

For whatever reason, he could not get the engine re-started -- bad fuel, air locked, fouled plugs, or some other consequence of running it empty under load.  Knowing we had a deadline to make our weather window, when four other cruisers happened by in their diminutive (perhaps eight foot) tender and offered us a tow we accepted. Thank you very much, stalwart crew of Perfect Day (I never got their names), from San Diego.

After getting the big tender back to Blossom, I piled in to the already full tender with our four new friends, nearly going in the drink in the process, and they dropped me at Vector before heading back to their own trawler. Stephanie gave them a bottle of wine, but this sort of thing is really a common occurrence among cruisers; they asked us to just pay it forward.

All's well that ends well, and other than a workout from paddling, a bump on my shin, wet shoes, and some slightly bruised bananas, we all made it back to the boats in plenty of time to prepare for our planned 4pm departure. Louise, however, was doubly glad she had skipped the shore leave. We have some photos, too, but one consequence of my limited bandwidth at the moment is that I can't easily post them here.

We did have a bit of swell after departing the cut, but on the beam with a very long period, so a comfortable ride. As forecast, it's been getting progressively calmer all evening, with winds dying to nearly nothing from the ~15kts we had on departure, and wave height settling down to two-ish from the three to five we had at the start. I expect an easy crossing of the channel tonight and calm conditions in the morning. It's a perfect weather window, but it will slam shut tomorrow night.

On the other hand, yesterday's cruise from Green Turtle was more sporty, with quite a bit of chop on the Sea of Abaco. The run from Green Turtle to Man-o-War involves a brief "outside" leg, between the barrier islands and the scattered reef, and that was much rougher than today's going. Angel voiced her displeasure loudly, but managed to keep her cookies down.

Breakers at "The Whale" as we come out Whale Cay Channel.

Blossom, with greater draft, took a longer route through some sections, and we had a few moments where I had to drive from up top with Louise stationed on the bow to visually gauge our depths, but ultimately we never saw less than 9.6 feet of water the whole way. The $13 chart package I bought from Jeppesen for my Android phone proved its worth, with the only accurate electronic chart aboard for the more challenging stretch.

It's now almost midnight, and I expect to lose cell coverage shortly as we round the end of the island. Louise will take over from me around 3am and I expect we'll be looking for anchorage by mid-morning sometime, somewhere at the west end of New Providence Island.

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