Passage Back to the United States: Day Two

The sun deserts us for twelve hours

The sun deserts us for twelve hours

Before long, darkness had descended. The long night watch had begun. Cindy and I alternated with roughly 2 1/2 hour watches throughout the night. I slept from 9:00-11:30 and from 2:00-4:30, while Cindy slept from 11:30-2:00 and from 4:30-7:00. While one slept, the other was on watch, mainly looking for potentially collisions with other traffic. I saw two large cargo ships on my first watch. One passed within about a mile and half in front of us. Cindy saw nothing on her first watch, but her second watch was full of lights from large vessels off in the distance. She awoke me several times, as I asked her to, if she had any concerns about how far they were away or where they were headed.

For this overnight passage, we put two mattresses out in the floor of the cockpit (removing the small table previously occupying this spot).  The sleeping crew member can be easily aroused by the crew on watch

For this overnight passage, we put two mattresses out in the floor of the cockpit (removing the small table previously occupying this spot). The sleeping crew member can be easily aroused by the crew on watch

The first of the cruise ships we encountered:  The Disney Magic passes to our port side (It's hard to get good quality pictures of another boat, in the dark, while you are bouncing up and down and side to side)

The first of the cruise ships we encountered: The Disney Magic passes to our port side (It’s hard to get good quality pictures of another boat, in the dark, while you are bouncing up and down and side to side)

On our approach into Port Canaveral we were surrounded with lights from several vessels. This port is a very busy cruise ship destination. We and five cruise ships were all bearing down on the port entrance at, more or less, the same time. I was in radio contact with the port pilots on three of the vessels as we approached. They were making sure I knew what they were doing and where they were going… And I was making sure they knew I was there and that I knew what they wanted me to do. We were fifth in line of a procession of vessels entering the port, in the following order: Disney Magic, Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Sunshine, Carey Beatitude, and Carnival Sensation. One of these things is obviously not like the others. As we entered the port with the Sensation right on our stern, I heard the pilot radio the port police to make sure the sailing vessel in front of him stays way off to port and out of his way. With the floating city bearing down on us, I didn’t need any reminding. If nothing else, all the cruise ship traffic really helped to keep me awake and alert! It was still dark when we made our way through the port. The sun didn’t rise until after we had cleared the first of three drawbridges for the morning.

The Carnival Sensation coming up on our stern

The Carnival Sensation coming up on our stern

The Freedom of the Seas at dock (the second ship that passed us in the night)

The Freedom of the Seas at dock (the second ship that passed us in the night)

We used our radar for the first time while cruising (I’ve played around with it before, but never “needed” it) as we approached Port Canaveral and saw all the lights from all these vessels surrounding us. We could see exactly how far they were from us (which is quite difficult to judge, especially only seeing the lights at night), and we were able to get a sense of what direction they were heading. If we hadn’t had access to this information, the morning would have been much more stressful.

After dodging all the cruise ships, we made our way into the Canaveral Barge Canal and under the 401 Drawbridge. Immediately after this, the crew of Beatitude experienced another first, traversing a lock. Who knew there were locks in Florida? We radioed the lock tender ahead of time for instructions since we had no experience with going through a lock. A lock is a short section of a canal or waterway with two gates on either end to allow for a change in water levels. Based on the indiscernible change in water level as we went through, I think this lock system is solely to block tidal flow going in or out of the canal. Before entering, we placed fenders on the starboard side and prepared our lines to tie off to the side of the lock. We entered when the light turned green and tied off on the cleats. The gate behind us closed. A few moments later the gate in front of us opened, and the tender stated over the loud speaker that we were free to continue on. Cool!

The 401 Bridge.  It's been four months since we've had to contend with a bridge of any kind.  (I didn't miss them.)

The 401 Bridge. It’s been four months since we’ve had to contend with a bridge of any kind. (I didn’t miss them.)

Entering Canaveral Lock

Entering Canaveral Lock

Cindy, tying up the bow to the side of the lock

Cindy, tying up the bow to the side of the lock

Looking back at the lock with the sun rising behind.  One of the many cruise ships in port is visible to the left.

Looking back at the lock with the sun rising behind. One of the many cruise ships in port is visible to the left.

Sun rising over Port Canaveral

Sun rising over Port Canaveral

After passing the Canaveral Lock, we entered a beautiful section of the barge canal populated with blue herons, seagulls, jumping fish, and a couple of gators (all seen by us). It is now also populated by a Bahamian Bananaquit. Chiquita, our new crew member, shirked her duties of standing watch overnight and spent the night down in our hull sleeping. As we cleared the lock and entered the more “back-to-nature” part of the canal, Chiquita came upstairs and flitted around the salon. Before long, she had exited the salon front windows and flew off to establish a home in the United States.

Three Pelicans as we exit the lock

Three Pelicans as we exit the lock

Chiquita roused from her slumber once the sun rose and we were through the lock.  She was gone a few minutes after this picture was taken.  We miss her.

Chiquita roused from her slumber once the sun rose and we were through the lock. She was gone a few minutes after this picture was taken. We miss her.

The Rising Sun  in our wake as we motor westward on the Canaveral Barge Canal

The Rising Sun in our wake as we motor westward on the Canaveral Barge Canal

Serene Stillness of the Early Morning on the Canal

Serene Stillness of the Early Morning on the Canal

Blue Heron

Blue Heron

Before exiting the four-mile-long barge canal, we passed through the Christa McAuliffe drawbridge, shortly thereafter turning to starboard to head northward up the ICW. While not the Bahamas, the ICW possesses a unique beauty with which we were glad to be acquainted again. The roughly 15-mile voyage northward to Titusville was a difficult one. I was exhausted from our passage from the Bahamas, my eyes were heavy, and the ICW was narrow. There was no relaxing yet. We passed through the NASA Causeway Drawbridge, and then, finally, passed beneath the 65-foot fixed New Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville. A half-mile later, we turned to port into the Titusville Municipal Marina, home to our friends from Regatta Pointe, Tim and Annie. We chose this marina primarily because we knew they were here, and it would be good to see them again. But, the marina looked to be very economical and a decent place to tie up for a few weeks.

The NASA Causeway Bridge

The NASA Causeway Bridge

Our first nail-biting 65' bridge on the ICW.  Many to follow in the coming months.

Our first nail-biting 65′ bridge on the ICW. Many to follow in the coming months.

After receiving our slip assignment, we backed Beatitude into Slip B-48, tied up the lines, hooked up the shore power, and checked into the Marina. We had done it – A 28 hour, 173 mile passage from Great Sale Cay, Bahamas, to Titusville, FL, U.S. I’ll reflect more on our past few months in a future post. For now, it was good to be back on U.S. soil.

Reunited with Tim and Annie!

Reunited with Tim and Annie!

Beatitude at the dock at Titusville Municipal Marina

Beatitude at the dock at Titusville Municipal Marina

Beatitude in her slip

Beatitude in her slip

Passage Back to the United States: Day One

Unlike my usual pre-passage routine, I actually slept very well last night. We awoke in time for one last listen to Chris Parker’s Weather Information on the SSB. Nothing significant changed. It was a go. At 7:15, we raised our anchor from the sandy bottom off Great Sale Cay and headed in a northwestward direction. We followed the track that I had entered into the chart plotter the day before. The first 50-60 miles of our journey would take us across the remainder of the Little Bahama Bank. We were in 15-30 feet of turquoise water for this entire time.

Weighing anchor at Great Sale Cay

Weighing anchor at Great Sale Cay

Occasionally our anchor comes up like this, with the shank of the anchor stuck too high up in the swivel.  It won't come up on the bow roller like this.  I have to take a boat hook and lift up on the roll bar of the anchor, taking the stress off the joint, while Cindy hammers the shank of the anchor back down.

Occasionally our anchor comes up like this, with the shank of the anchor stuck too high up in the swivel. It won’t come up on the bow roller like this. I have to take a boat hook and lift up on the roll bar of the anchor, taking the stress off the joint, while Cindy hammers the shank of the anchor back down.

Sunrising behind us as we leave Great Sale

Sunrising behind us as we leave Great Sale

Enjoying a beautiful sunny morning and afternoon on the front deck as we sail across the Little Bahama Bank

Enjoying a beautiful sunny morning and afternoon on the front deck as we sail across the Little Bahama Bank

When we were well into our journey across the bank, we acquired a hitchhiker, a little bananaquit that we called Chiquita. At the time of her arrival on board Beatitude, we were approximately 30 miles from the nearest land. She had flown a long way to get to us, and she was not interested in flying anywhere else. She stayed on board as we left the Bahamas and entered into the Atlantic waters.

Chiquita first appears on the lifeline next to the helm station.

Chiquita first appears on the lifeline next to the helm station.

Chiquita, aBeautiful Bird

Chiquita, aBeautiful Bird

Checking out the Christmas (Easter) Cactus

Checking out the Christmas (Easter) Cactus

Face-to-face with Chiquita

Face-to-face with Chiquita

As we neared the deeper water, I placed the two fishing lines off the stern. Just as we were clearing the Little Bahama Bank, in about 40 feet of water… Fish on! We put the engines in neutral, Cindy grabbed the net and the camera, and I grabbed the rod. He put up a wonderful fight, before we eventually landed him off the starboard stern. Cindy netted him, and we brought aboard a 40 lb. Amberjack. One trouble with being a novice, learning-on-the-fly saltwater fisherman is, when I catch a new kind of fish, I’m not sure how edible it is. I do have some resources on board which gave Amberjack a below average to average score on how good it is to eat. I thought I’d fillet it and give it a try. To my surprise, once I started filleting it, I noticed little white strips intermingled throughout the meat. It looked like worms. It was at that point, I decided to give up on the idea of eating this amberjack and decided to throw it over for shark food. When I finally reached port, I googled amberjack and found that they often are infested with parasites, namely with tapeworms. The several internet sources assured me that they were still safe to eat, but unless I’m starving, I think I’ll pass.

It's a fight to the finish!

It’s a fight to the finish!

Cindy's netting job

Cindy’s netting job

Beautiful, 40ish-lb Amberjack

Beautiful, 40ish-lb Amberjack

Just after the excitement of the catch, we had a different sort of excitement. I noticed we had lost a little power. When I checked the main, I discovered that the first reefing line had snapped in two. We lost the first reef that was holding the rear of the sail down (remember, the clew had blown out on a previous passage). So… I decided to put the second reef in. A few moments later, we had placed the second reef (Chiquita is sitting on my head as I type this). Crisis aborted.

Is there something on my head?

Is there something on my head?

Cindy making one my favorite dishes for dinner

Cindy making one my favorite dishes for dinner

Mmm.  Banana pudding for  dessert (or, as it turns out, breakfast the next morning)

Mmm. Banana pudding for dessert (or, as it turns out, breakfast the next morning)

Lasagna!

Lasagna!

However, just after I put the second reef in, the topping lift (the line that holds up the rear of the boom) came off. The shackle that holds it to the back of the boom fell off and was nowhere to be found. So, I used a different shackle and shackled it to the boom, close to where it was supposed to be attached (the new shackle did not fit through the old opening). Crisis two aborted.

We continued on a northwestern (307°) course throughout the rest of the afternoon as the sun made its slow but inevitable descent into the western horizon. Chiquita kept us company all afternoon, flitting here and there, landing on our heads and feet and arms, being as sociable as you might imagine. She had no fear. We offered her some food and water, but she wasn’t interested at first. Later on, however, she decided to snack on some bread crumbs and raisins. (To be continued…)

Chiquita watching "Overboard" on the iPad with Cindy

Chiquita watching “Overboard” on the iPad with Cindy

Chiquita on Cindy's head while playing golf (I think she was whispering in her ear what cards I had)

Chiquita on Cindy’s head while playing golf (I think she was whispering in her ear what cards I had)

Chiquita enjoying her perch on the Doritos bag

Chiquita enjoying her perch on the Doritos bag

Sunset on the Atlantic

Sunset on the Atlantic

Two Days on the Move: Green Turtle Cay to Great Sale Cay

Sunrise over Green Turtle Cay

Sunrise over Green Turtle Cay

On Thursday, March 12, we again arose early in order to hear Chris Parker’s forecast at 6:30 on the SSB. There were no significant changes in the weather over the weekend, so we still planned to cross back to the U.S. Saturday/Sunday. Four days remained in which we will not be in civilization, so today, after I checked both engines out, we boarded Dalí and headed into New Plymouth for a few provisions. On the return trip into White Sound, we were greeted by three dolphins heading south in the dredged channel as we headed north. It’s always wonderful to see these beautiful creatures.

Sunset at Great Sale Cay

Sunset at Great Sale Cay

Standing in front of the waterfront grocery

Standing in front of the waterfront grocery

This is what a better than average Bahamian grocery store looks like.  This was one of the better ones.

This is what a better than average Bahamian grocery store looks like. This was one of the better ones.

Groceries loaded aboard Dalí, with here now matching lettering on both sides.

Groceries loaded aboard Dalí, with here now matching lettering on both sides.

Leaving New Plymouth

Leaving New Plymouth

One of the dolphins in the White Sound Channel

One of the dolphins in the White Sound Channel

We stayed to use wifi for an hour or so, and then pushed off from the dock at 10:30. We had a very pleasant trip northward through the Sea of Abaco to our overnight anchorage at Crab Cay at the northern tip of Great Abaco Island. We anchored here on our way into the Abacos three or four months ago. We had following winds and waves and made 6-7 knots motorsailing with one engine and a reef in the main. We, of course, placed the reef in the main because of the ripped out clew (which occurred on our passage from Eleuthera back to the Abacos last week). We now have the main set to the first reef. We won’t have to adjust it at this point. When we raise the main, it will stop at the first reef. This effectually makes the clew superfluous, as the pressure on the clew area of the sail is now on the first reefing line.

Under sail, well-worn, tattered Bahamian courtesy flag still flying

Under sail, well-worn, tattered Bahamian courtesy flag still flying

We arrived at our anchorage just after two in the afternoon. We dropped our anchor in about 8 feet of water and put out an 8:1 scope. There were only four other boats in this ample anchorage when we arrived (later on two more would pull in). I swam up to check the anchor to make sure it was set securely. It was buried deeper than I’ve ever seen it. The roll bar was barely visible above the sand. With the 25 knot winds expected overnight, it was nice to know we weren’t going to drag. We had a wonderful spaghetti dinner and watched a movie before retiring.

Returning from an anchor check

Returning from an anchor check

Crab Cay Anchorage

Crab Cay Anchorage

Sunset from Crab Cay

Sunset from Crab Cay

On Friday morning, the 13th (A lucky day, we hoped!), we awoke early to once again listen to Chris Parker’s weather information… and, still, no changes in our plans. So, at 7:15, we weighed anchor and headed westward across the Little Bahama Bank. Today’s destination: Great Sale Cay. We raised the main and unfurled the genoa and motorsailed using one engine again today. We averaged around 7 knots with following winds and waves. How pleasant it is when the waves are behind you and you are not beating into them! We could have made better speed and just sail without motoring, if it had not been for the wind angle. The wind was virtually coming from directly behind us. As it was, I had to gybe several times in order to keep the wind just off the stern to allow me to motorsail.

Cindy, hanging out at the helm

Cindy, hanging out at the helm

Unfurling the Genoa

Unfurling the Genoa

It was a good day on the water. The waves built to 2-4 ft. on the Little Bahama Bank, but since they were rolling in from behind it was quite comfortable. By the time we rounded the northernmost point of Great Sale Cay and made our way into our anchorage, the wind was blowing from the east at a steady 20+ knots with gusts up to 30. Around 1 p.m., we dropped our anchor in the well-protected anchorage in nine feet of water and placed out a 7.5:1 scope. I then jumped in and visually made sure our anchor was set. It was. We should be secure overnight with these winds, which will start to diminish after midnight. There were three other boats in this massive anchorage to keep us company overnight.

Beautiful Bahamian waters of the Little Bahama Bank

Beautiful Bahamian waters of the Little Bahama Bank

Our Anchorage at Great Sale Cay

Our Anchorage at Great Sale Cay

Mmm!  Pizza!

Mmm! Pizza!

Once we had squared away Beatitude at her anchorage, I showered off the salt water and sat down at the helm station to enter our route into the chart plotter for tomorrow. It will be approximately 55 miles or so in a WNW direction until we clear the Little Bahama Bank. At that point, we will turn more toward a NNW direction and make a bee-line to Port Canaveral, another 100+ miles.

Sunset at Great Sale Cay

Sunset at Great Sale Cay