Wednesday, March 4, was likely to be our last day in Eleuthera. The next day, we planned to make the open water, 60 nm passage northward back to the Abacos. It looked like the ocean swells would be 3-6 feet from the east with a 12-17 knot ESE wind. It sounded like a reasonable weather window. We planned to check again before we went.
In the morning, we installed the new battery for the port engine. The engine now starts immediately as it is supposed to do. Beatitude has a fairly long list of repairs and upgrades which must be addressed. That was one of them. I also installed the O-rings on the watermaker. Next time I make water, I’ll see if that fixes the problem. Around three in the afternoon, Chris Forsyth, of Chris Electronics came to repair my SSB (Single-Side-Band Radio) antennae. The antennae is just a couple of wires which run up my port shroud. However, the wires which from the SSB were joined to a different kind of wire at the base of the shroud. This junction come loose. I had no idea how to connect these two completely different wires. Chris was very helpful and eventually ended up soldering the two sets of disparate wires together. Fifty dollars later and another item was checked off the list.
We really didn’t do much else on this day, other than to go into town to have a farewell to Eleuthera dinner at the Shipyard Restaurant. We enjoyed an excellent meal and used the free wifi before returning to Beatitude for the evening.
The next morning, March 5, we arose just before 6 a.m. to prepare for our trip northward. The day before, I had arranged for Jock, a local pilot who also runs the mooring balls, to escort me out the north cut from Spanish Wells. This saves over 10 miles (and over 2 hours) of distance over the more straightforward route of around Egg Island, which is the way we came in to Spanish Wells three weeks ago. The cut through the north is narrow and thraverses a tricky reef. The guide books suggest a guide if this passage is attempted, so that is what we did. Jock charged us $50.00 to guide us through the narrow opening and out into the Northeast Providence Channel. It was worth it for the time we saved.
Unfortunately, just outside the cut, our starboard engine again overheated. My assumption is that there are still more remaining fragments of broken impeller. So, we motorsailed all day with the port engine along with genoa and main. A few hours later, I noticed the second unfortunate event of the day. Hey, we could make a movie about this, called “A Series of Unfortunate Events!” Oh… wait. They already did. Anyway, I noticed the mainsail looked a little funny, so I left the helm station to investigate, only to find that now the clew has ripped out of the mainsail (The clew is the rear, lower part of a sail). Just a few months ago, the head had ripped out when we were attempting to cross the gulfstream for the first time. We repaired that in Ft. Lauderdale, but now we have another mainsail issue. At least with the clew being ripped out, I can put a reef in the mainsail and still have a functioning sail (which we did today). I’m not sure if I’ll try to repair it in the Abacos or if I will wait until returning to the states in 2-3 weeks.
Our passage was otherwise okay. Cindy didn’t quite like the 3’-6’ (with occasional 7’-8’ early on) waves which came over our starboard stern quarter. The wind was not from a great direction for sailing as it came over our starboard side from about 140-165°. The main kept blanketing the genoa. Nonetheless, we made over 7 knots for most of the day, until the clew of our main ripped, at which time we decreased in speed to about 5.5-6 knots. As we were in deep water (~15,000 feet) most of the day, we had both fishing lines out. We did briefly have a fish on the port line. By the time I saw that there was a fish on and hurried over to grab the line, I saw him break the surface of the water twice, and he was gone. The line was cut/snapped cleanly. Oh, well. That’s two straight trips in a row through the Northeast Providence Channel in which we had a nice fish on the line, but ended up losing it.
There was another boat leaving Spanish Wells for the Abacos about the same time we made our way out of the channel, Grace. We buddy-boated with them across the passage. The waves and wind were both coming from such an angle as to be running directly into the Little Harbour Cut, the entry channel we had hoped to use to reenter the Sea of Abaco. This would make the entry a little dicey and potentially dangerous. Grace opted to head further north and enter the North Bar Channel. We decided to go ahead and use the Little Harbour Cut. I was a little apprehensive, but we were at slack low tide and the winds and waves had calmed a little. Grace had no difficulty with the North Bar Channel. We made it through Little Harbour Cut without incident as well, but it was pretty interesting and anxiety-producing. As the waves approached shallower water, they became steeper. They were breaking over the reefs on either side of us. Fortunately, they did not break over our stern although there was one wave in particular that picked us up pretty good and pushed us a little sideways going in. Before we knew it, though, it was all over and we were safely into the Sea of Abaco. We journeyed a couple of miles further north and dropped our anchor in 20 ft. of clear water off Lynard Cay. Grace, our traveling companions for the day, arrived around the same time and dropped their anchor a hundred yards or so from us. Eight hours and a little over fifty nautical miles after leaving Spanish Wells, we had returned safely to the Abacos. We’ll likely stay at Lynard Cay for a couple of nights before heading further north. Today, Captain Roy Rogers, our sailing instructor from three years ago, also arrived in the Abacos with a charter boat. We’ll hopefully meet up with him in the next few days. It appears his vessel did not emerge from its Gulf Stream Crossing unscathed. It suffered a shredded mainsail which will need to be replaced.
After enjoying some of my wife’s excellent Lasagna with some Pinot Noir, I watched the sun brilliantly set over Great Abaco island. The captain of Grace, came out on deck and blew his conch horn, signaling the setting of the sun. This is a very cool tradition we’ve noticed, both in the Keys and in the Bahamas. Down in Staniel Cay, there was a cacophony of horns blaring simultaneously to celebrate the ending of another day.