Monday, January 25, 2016

Breathe! In the Bahamas

West End, Grand Bahama to Elbow Cay, Abacos
January 18-20, 2016

We had no intention of departing Old Bahama Bay on Monday when we woke. As we examined the forecasts mid-morning, though, we realized it was likely the most comfortable day of the next several for moving across Little Bahama Bank toward the Abacos. We quickly tied up loose ends and untied from the dock.

The next big decision was whether to enter the ocean plateau of the Little Bahama Bank through the barely adequate depths of Indian Rock Channel at dead low tide, or to instead travel two hours extra to the deeper Memory Rock cut. We attempted the shallow cut, inching slowly at times. Exhale! No touching bottom! Then in order to anchor at Great Sale Cay before twilight closed down the day, we motor-sailed all day.
Anchorage at Manjack Cay
On day two, we enjoyed a gorgeous sail, savoring the peace and quiet without engine noise. North winds that would have prevented a Gulf Stream crossing on that day delivered a perfect beam-reach point of sail for six hours. The heartwarming highlight of the day was watching a mama dolphin and her baby swim and jump alongside us. The little one was about one-third the mother’s length. We’ve never seen a dolphin so small in the wild. Sigh… How sweet! That night we dropped anchor at Manjack (pronounced mun-jack) Cay and the wind dropped to a whisper.

On day three, we bypassed many favorite stopping-places and headed to Sea Spray Marina on Elbow Cay. This will be our hideaway for a while, at least while strong storms keep doing encore performances.
From the same point, we can look out at the Atlantic...
...and back to where Pelican is docked -- the last mast on the right
En route to Elbow Cay, we had to transit around Whale Cay—the diciest part of an Abacos trip after the Gulf Stream. The passage lies where a shallow section of the Sea of Abaco forces most cruising boats to leave the protected banks and go out in the Atlantic around Whale Cay. Northeast wind and even storms far out in the Atlantic can create a “rage,” when the deep ocean waters that funnel between reefs and islands slam onto the banks and create dangerous, impassable conditions. Five-foot rollers were the worst we saw, which means it was a comfortable transit.

Back in the tranquil Sea of Abaco, the sun rose higher in the sky and turned on the aquarium lights. Smooth turquoise water shone with glorious clarity. Starfish, sea urchins, and wavy patterns in the sand were magnified fifteen feet above. Inhale! Breathe in the beauty! There’s life and loveliness to notice and enjoy (not only here but everywhere)...glimpses of beauty in nature that reflect and magnify the beautiful nature of the One who made them.

It is an extraordinary and beautiful thing that God, 
in with the beauty of matter; the reality of things; 
the discoveries of the senses, all five of them; 
so that we, in turn, may hear the grass growing; 
see a face springing to life in love and laughter.... 
The offerings of creation...our glimpses of truth.
Madeleine L’Engle

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Wind, She Did Blow

West End, Grand Bahama
January 17, 2016

What a difference a day makes! Saturday offered perfect crossing conditions with light and variable winds. Sunday served up a super storm.
Saturday: serene and flat calm in the breakwater
A gale warning was in effect, and the day started out breezy. That didn’t stop us from enjoying our first Bahamian breakfast of stewed fish at the Tiki Bar at Old Bahama Bay. By the time we paid up it was raining, but we decided to run for the boat. Halfway there, the wind kicked into high gear. Simultaneously the heavens broke open and dumped a deluge of blinding, drenching rain. We’d never been outdoors and exposed to such severe conditions. In mere seconds, we were soaked to the bone.
Sunday: raging seas in the breakwater
Wind gusts clocked in at 66 knots (73.6 miles per hour). If that velocity had been sustained, it would have been hurricane strength. Sustained winds were actually in the 50s, designated as a “storm,” the category between a gale and a hurricane. We quickly readjusted lines and fenders. As yesterday’s calm ocean now hurled turbulent waves onto shore and crashed into the breakwater, we were more than happy to be in a safe haven.

He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Psalm 107:29-30 NIV

Smooth Sailing All the Way

Palm Beach, FL to West End, Grand Bahama
January 16, 2016

A pre-dawn departure placed us at Palm Beach Inlet just as the sun rose. From the horizon, sunlight cast a sparkling path onto sapphire seas, beckoning us eastward. Throughout the day the waves calmed more and more. The water took on a blue-green hue by the time we made landfall at West End. Best of all, the temperature turned warmer and warmer. The northwest Bahamas lie one hundred miles north of the Florida Keys, yet their weather is similar. Moving east, in this case, is just as good as going south.
Keith hoisting the Q (quarantine) flag before landfall, to be flown until clearing customs
Old Bahama Bay Resort
As always, we’re grateful for the gift of a safe Gulf Stream crossing. Especially when it’s smooth sailing all the way.
Old Bahama Bay Marina
All sunshine and sovereign is GOD, generous in gifts and glory…. 
It's smooth sailing all the way with GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.
Psalm 84:11-12 MSG

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fair Winds

North Palm Beach, FL
January 15, 2016

Tomorrow—January 16—is the day! Today was a no-go with whipping winds, squalls, even a tornado warning. Sunday is shaping up to be even worse. But there’s a small patch of calm in between. At least, that’s what we’re counting on, based on the best forecast tools. Off we go at first light. We’ll take advantage of the weather window to get ourselves to the western edge of the Bahamas: Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End, Grand Bahama.

Excitement grips us, along with a sprinkling of apprehension. We won’t know the exact sea state until we’re in it. Feel free to watch our progress on our satellite tracker: Delorme Pelican. Once we’ve arrived, we’ll post an update. Fair winds and following seas to us all!
There will always be the unknown. There will always be the unprovable. But faith confronts those frontiers with a thrilling leap. Then life becomes vibrant with adventure!
Robert Schuller

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Let the Cruising Begin!

St. Augustine to Palm Coast, FL
November 10, 2015 - January 10, 2016

There are boaters who treat their vessels like floating condos, staying on them but never leaving the dock. This was never our aspiration but has been close to reality so far this season.

We launched in St. Marys, Georgia, on November 7, and after spending three nights at Fernandina Beach, Florida, we pulled in to Camachee Cove Marina in St. Augustine and stayed for a month. During that time, Justin and Kathy Cooper of Cooper’s Canvas designed and created a spectacular new dodger (canvas + windshield) for our boat. They did a fabulous job, and now the person at the helm doesn't need to squat down to see forward.
The new, taller dodger made with EZ2CY glass and classy white trim
On December 10, we moved 30 miles down the waterway to The Marina at Hammock Beach Resort. This completely enclosed harbor provided a safe place to leave Pelican when we traveled home for Christmas. The boat has stayed here for a month, but she was unable to fully appreciate the shore-side amenities, the spa-like showers with stacks of fluffy towels and dispensers of toiletries and the picturesque pool. We, however, thoroughly enjoyed those luxuries on either side of our trip up north (where the best gift was being with the people we love!).
The pool at Hammock Beach Marina

Until now, we’ve had our car with us, which we’d driven down and moved to each new stopping place, That’s not all bad; the convenience of going farther than your feet can carry you is, for most people, essential to everyday life. For us, it enabled the floating-condo lifestyle.
The Marina at Hammock Beach

Now the car is stored and it’s time to cast off the lines and leave this beautiful spot in Palm Coast. North winds bring a winter chill even to Florida. We look forward to several nights at anchor before we arrive at Lake Worth, our departure point for the Bahamas when the weather cooperates. Let the cruising begin!
Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. 
Catch the trade winds in your sails. 
Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain