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

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