Aug 23, 2017
Leaving Man-O-War Cay heading west our destination was Green Turtle Cay. To get there we had to round Whale Cay, a relatively small island, out in the open Atlantic Ocean. The seas can be unfavourable, as in huge rollers that have come all the way across the ocean.
Every morning there is a Whale Cay report on the VHF, so when it’s reported that the conditions are favourable to round the island, it’s a highway at rush hour with traffic going both ways. The morning we chose the rollers were manageable and the traffic was heavy. Once past the island, we headed south and surfed the waves into calmer water. Our destination was White Sound, at the northwestern end of the island, a quiet, enclosed anchorage. There are two resorts in the harbour, both boasting fabulous restaurants, bars and pools.
On our second day in the anchorage, we headed to shore and rented a golf cart. The island is only three miles long and a half mile wide, so a golf cart allows you to visit every corner of the island, explore the beaches on the Atlantic side and make a visit to New Plymouth, the only settlement on the island.
The settlement can be walked end to end in 15 minutes, but it packs a lot into the small space. There is a bank, four grocery stores, several bars and quite a few restaurants. There is a liquor store that doubles as a breakfast bar! Can you imagine liquor stores in Canada serving up breakfast? Neither can I!
The settlement was founded in the 18th century and the architecture of the older homes is unique in the Bahamas, with steep pitched roofs, small windows and all painted in tropical colours. Flowers abound in the neat and tidysettlement.
When we visited in 2010, there was a shop where an elderly gentleman made model boats. His work was amazing and the first thing we did after we parked our cart was look him up. His shop was still there, but it was closed, a disappointment for sure. We consoled ourselves with fabulous fish burgers and a cola! The next two days were spent walking the trails that were either too steep or too washed out for the golf cart.
On Thursday, we met up with Folly, our buddy boat. It was decided that the time had come to head stateside, so at 6:30 Friday morning, together with Folly, we hauled our anchors and in flat calm water we headed out for Great Sale Cay, 50 miles west. From Great Sale Cay, you can head south to West End and Freeport, or strike out west and make your way to one of the many inlets on Florida’s coast. Some adventurous types will head northwest, ride the Gulf Stream, and head to Georgia or the Carolinas.
Our destination was Cape Canaveral in Florida. We motor-sailed all day and somewhere about 4pm, when we had Great Sale Cay in sight, we received notice from Folly that there was a weather front moving in on Saturday, not a good idea to be heading across the Gulf Stream in that, and Great Sale Cay does not offer protection from any direction! We could head south to West End and wait out the weather there, but it may be days before we would be able to make the crossing. So the skippers made the decision to keep going. We had already done 10 hours of motoring-sailing and with another 23 hours ahead of us, we settled down to make the crossing. We stowed everything that might get loose, installed the jack lines, put fresh batteries in our personal strobes and made up food and snacks to keep us going until we reached Florida.
It’s easy to tell when you have made it to the Gulf Stream: the water temperature goes up and so do the waves! We were still motor-sailing as the wind was very light and the seas were from the stern port quarter. The waves were huge, rolling around about 6 – 8’, not a problem for Adamant’s high freeboard and our inboard auto-pilot. The auto-pilot steered the whole way, freeing us up to navigate, get some rest, and wedge ourselves into a corner so we didn’t get thrown about when the big ones rolled under us. We kept a close watch on the AIS as it was impossible to spot ships lights when we were pitching around.
It turned out there were quite a few pleasure boats that had decided to cross that night, as the VHF was full of chatter, a comforting sound as it is easy to feel alone out there in the dark! About 2 am, I leapt up when I suddenly saw what appeared to be the bow of a big, white cruiser, about 50’ off our starboard beam. Before I could do or say anything, I realized it was actually the crest of a huge wave! Once my heart rate went down, I looked forward and in the glow of our steaming light, I picked up a wall of white ahead of us, as far as the light would shine. It was the back of the wave in front of us, and there was a large “hole” between that wave and the one we were riding on! I decided I would stay sitting in my corner for a while longer and not look out! I radioed Janice and we decided we didn’t want the sun to come up because then we would be able to see those big rollers! Better off in the dark getting thrown around!
However, the sun did rise, but by then we were closing in on the coast and though the waves were still huge, then had lost the breaking tops. By then we were used to the rhythm of the waves and managed a decent breakfast and a refreshing shower! It took forever for the coast to appear, but long before it did, we were dodging freighters and cruise ships. What a busy harbour: cruise ships, military boats, casino boats, pleasure craft, it was all there. Our marina was just a couple of miles up the canal and we wove our way through the bedlam, tied up and shut down our engine. We did 210 miles in 32 hours and there was not a cloud in the sky. Go figure, they have the same weatherman as they do in Canada!
Until next time………….
Longtime CY staffer Lynn Lortie and her husband Pat left Midland last summer to make their way into the Great Loop and head out on a three year sailing odyssey. Follow their progress right here in CYOB.