Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Abacos Bound

We are under way northbound across the mouth of the Northwest Providence Channel. To starboard is the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean. As I begin typing, the sea floor is some 13,000 feet below us. We drove out of coverage of our Starlink terminal a short while ago, and I am saving to a text file until the terminal comes back on line somewhere east of the southern part of Great Abaco Island.

Vector at anchor off the beach west of Egg Island. Photo: Ted Arisaka

When I posted here a week ago we were settled in at Highbourne Cay for the night, having just picked up a few groceries. We ended up pouring the vast majority of the $9 half gallon of milk overboard before its sell-by date of March 31, highlighting the Bahamian supply-chain issue: everything comes from Florida by way of Nassau, being transferred from a cargo ship to a mailboat at Potter's Cay. Refrigeration may or may not be involved. Clearly our milk had been thermally cycled before we bought it.

Our plotter this morning showing Vector in the middle of a conga line of northbound boats.

Tuesday morning we weighed anchor right after coffee and got underway for Royal Island, north of Eleuthera. All routes north on the bank out of the Exumas involve crossing a minefield of coral heads, called "bommies," and we had about an hour of vigilance at the helm reading the water and dodging around the dark patches. Fortunately, we had excellent daylight conditions with the sun high in the sky.

The dark circle in the middle of this photo is what a bommie looks like from on deck, rising above the surrounding white sand. It could be ten feet down or five, you can't tell from a distance, so we go around them.

There are two routes to Royal Island from the northern Exumas. One remains on the bank the whole way, but transits the aptly-named Current Cut, which we traversed on our way south. On this pass, however, the timing of the tide was just wrong, and we could not get across the shallow bar at the entrance. Instead we had to proceed to the deep water route via the Fleeming [sic] Channel.

Sunset over Royal Island from the calm harbor, before the storm.

The channel is wide and deep, but the depth goes from 16' to over 1,000' in the span of just a mile. This steep underwater bank has the effect of pushing the swell coming in from the ocean upwards to enormous heights, and we pushed off the bank in eight-foot rollers. They were wide and gentle, and Vector just bobbed over them, but in the binoculars, which foreshorten everything, from a distance, they looked formidable. We could see the boat ahead of us disappear entirely and reappear with each wave.

To make matters worse, an overtaking sailboat trailing fishing gear was right where I needed to turn, and I was on the radio just as we arrived at the rollers. Once we were across and made our turn ahead of the sailboat, we were in calm but gently rolling seas until we crossed back onto the bank at Southwest Reef. I carefully plotted our route to take us 3nm from land so we could take care of business.

Vector inbound to Spanish Wells. Photo: Ted Arisaka

By 3:45 we had the hook down in the protection of Royal Island harbor (map), tucked in quite a bit further than last time for forecast southerlies. We were a full day ahead of the windstorm, but it's a small harbor and we wanted a good spot. By the end of the day Thursday the anchorage had swelled to 20 boats, with a half dozen in the much less protected zone across from the entrance, so we made the right call.

The clocking winds pinned us down there for three nights. It was far too rough to splash the tender and take it outside to get to Spanish Wells, and with no place to go ashore inside the harbor, we just remained aboard the whole time. This has become something of a theme this season. Starlink has made being pinned down a lot more pleasant, with unlimited high speed Internet to let us surf and stream to our hearts' content without blowing through very expensive cellular data. This is our first visit to the Bahamas wherein we did not buy SIM cards from BTC or Aliv for our cell phones.

Sunset through low clouds over the anchorage off Spanish Wells.

By Saturday the wind had settled into the North-through-East quadrant, which made it comfortable to leave Royal and run the five miles east to Spanish Wells (map) so we could finally get back off the boat. We splashed the tender and headed ashore to the grocery store before the Easter closures, replacing our milk and restocking the fresh veggies. By the end of the day, Barefeet arrived from Eleuthera and joined us in the anchorage.

After nine days eating aboard we were ready for a break, and so we returned ashore for dinner. We arrived just before 5 in hopes of catching one of the chandleries, to replace our tattered Bahamas courtesy flag, but they had already closed for the holiday. We walked down to The Shipyard restaurant at the east end of the island. In spite of a nice and varied menu, we were both craving burgers, which did not disappoint.

Dinner at The Shipyard, looking over the Ridley Head Channel. North Eleuthera is in the background at right.

On our way back from groceries on Saturday we had popped into Wreckers, where we ate last time, to see if they would be open Sunday, in light of Easter, where pretty much the whole country shuts down. They said yes, so we made a reservation for four of us Sunday evening. Chris and Erin came by and picked us up in their tender at 5:30 and we plowed through the chop into town. I'm glad we made reservations, because the place got busy, perhaps the only joint open.

Barefeet and Vector crews, happy to be seated for dinner on Easter.

Louise has been tracking the weather and it looked like yesterday would be the best day for our crossing, and, in fact, Erin and Chris, who are also Abacos-bound, left at dawn. We were up and ready, but a pre-dawn check of the weather revealed ever-so-slightly better conditions today, and so we stayed right where we were. Barefeet relayed what conditions they actually encountered throughout their crossing, which gave us some reassurance.

Another gratuitous sunset shot on Sunday. Barefeet in the distance mid-frame.

Winds yesterday started clocking around to the south, which would make our anchorage uncomfortable, and so we weighed anchor in the afternoon and ran the eight miles west and around the corner to an anchorage just west of Egg Island, where I tucked in very close to shore to try to minimize the swell (map). It was a beautiful spot, with swimming-pool clear water and a lovely little beach, but we did roll. Along with some 22+ other boats all doing the same thing -- staging for today's crossing.

We saw the Starlink launch pass overhead Sunday night, and I was able to get this fuzzy shot of the Falcon-9 booster making its re-entry burn on the way to the drone ship just east of the Bahamas.

A short while after we set the hook, we were surprised to see online acquaintances Ted and Patty arriving on their sailboat, Little Wing. They had been just leaving Spanish Wells as we were coming in, on their way south to Eleuthera, and I figured that's the last we'd see of them this trip. They stopped by in their tender to say hello on their way back from walking their dog. We hope to see them somewhere in the Abacos and have a proper get-together.

Sunrise this morning over Egg Island as we depart the anchorage.

I don't have much trouble sleeping with a bit of roll, but Louise had a miserable night, and so even though we had cut an hour and a quarter from today's trip by moving anchorages, we were up before the sun and under way at sunrise. As I wrap up typing, the plotter is projecting a 2:45 arrival at the cut and 3pm to the anchorage. The Starlink came back online a short while ago. We are looking forward to being back in the Abacos after nearly a decade.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!