To The Bahamas, Part 15: Marsh Harbour to Lake Worth Beach, Florida

2012-04-20, 11:00 — Lake Worth Beach, Cannonsport Marina

Wow. We set sail roughly 48 hours ago, rather later than we’d planned, but it all worked out perfectly. We didn’t throw loose the dock lines until about 10:30 on 2012-04-18, because the dockmaster had to read our electric meter and he took his sweet time coming around. Of course, we’re all on island time, so we just waited, reading, talking, entering waypoints into the chartplotter, things like that.

Not much sailing today, unfortunately. Most of the trip down the remainder of the Sea of Abaco and out through North Bar Channel into the Atlantic Ocean was in very narrow strips of water, so we motored until we got out into the Ocean. We’re really feeling the time pressure because of our flights, so we didn’t really need the delay that going aground would have created. Besides, even though the weather reports showed outstanding conditions all the way back to Florida, a delay of even one day would have put us into a much less favorable situation, with higher winds moving around to the north and higher seas to boot. The pic below is of Channel Rock just off to the north side of North Bar Channel. It seems like almost every pass or channel between the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic Ocean has a Channel Rock (by that name); certainly, Whale Cay Passage had one.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 165 -Channel Rock on the north side of North Bar Channel out into the Atlantic from the outer Bahamas Cays

Once we were out through North Bar Channel and into deep water (that’s what our depth gauge displayed: DEEP), we raised the sails and turned off the engine. We had a nice beam-to-broad reach all the way south to Hole In The Wall and SouthWest Point, where we turned westwards towards West End and Florida. We still hadn’t made a firm decision whether to stop at West End or not. I was leaning heavily against it, because of the possibility that our weather window might close on us if we do, but Barbara was in favor of breaking this otherwise 2-day, non-stop sail into smaller chunks. We decided that we’ll decide some time on the second day.

The sail down the outside to Hole In The Wall was great. We sailed fast in 18-22 kt winds and did little but read and watch for other traffic. We saw large patches of a reddish or brownish substance all over the sea. Some times, the patches were all around us, and at other times they were sparser. We eventually decided that they must actually be Sargasso (as in “from the Sargasso Sea”).

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 168 -A patch of plant material flaoting on the Atlantic surface -2

We sailed well beyond Hole In The Wall because of a very dangerous reef that sticks out to the southeast several miles. We were quite surprised that we never saw a light marking Hole In The Wall. There’s supposed to be one there (it’s on all of the charts, at least). But, as we’ve seen and read, many markers and lights in the Bahamas go missing or dark and aren’t restored for long periods of time. I guess the Hole In The Wall light was one of those.

Frank made spaghetti with a meat sauce for dinner that night, but nobody (not even Frank) was up to eating it, so we bagged it and put it into the refrigerator for consumption another night. I modified our previous watch schedule slightly so that watchkeeper “i” would stay up and overlap with watchkeeper “i+1” only one hour and watchkeeper “i+2” would get up only one hour early to overlap with the end of watchkeeper “i+1″s watch. This really worked well and gave each of us plenty of time alone in the cockpit during the night.

I’ve learned that I really, really love late-night watches. Things are just amazing. There’s lumenscence in the sea from where the passing of the boat disturbs plankton and other small critters. There’s billions of stars in the sky. And it’s so peaceful (as long as there’s not bad weather, which can spoil it all in a hurry). Frank and Barbara both enjoy the late-night watches, too.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 174 -Frank on watch in the cockpit -3

Plus there’s all the cruise ships going by with walls of light blazing! Grrrrrr…the cruise ships have so many lights all over them that they can be seen for what seems like forever. Worse, they don’t have any discipline about their lights’ colors — we saw cruise ships from their port side with loads of green lights and from their starboard side with loads of red lights! (For those readers who don’t understand the importance of this, let me explain: running lights must be red on the port side of a boat and green on the starboard side, thus allowing other boats to know the direction in which a boat is actually traveling. It’s a safety thing.) The actual running lights were usually completely unnoticeable because they were overwhelmed by the conspicuous consumption of electricity to light up everything else! And, of course, the cruise liners were there during the daylight hours, too.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 171 -A cruise liner overtaking Dream SeQueL -3

Unhappily, not too long after we turned westward, the wind became enfeebled. We were rarely getting wind as great as 10kt, which isn’t going to push the boat very fast — especially when it’s directly behind the boat. Which it was. So we tried motor-sailing for a couple of hours. However, it was too difficult to keep the jib from thrashing around every time the boat rolled on a swell (roughly every six seconds), so we furled the jib. (One of these days, sooner rather than later, I’ve got to learn now to use our whisker pole to pole out the jib in situations like this!) We did have a preventer set up for the mainsail, so we left the main up, although with a reef in it for safety.

We motor-sailed throughout the night of 2012-04-18, through the day and night of 2012-04-19, and right into Lake Worth Inlet this morning. No weather problems whatsoever, unless you count light and variable winds as a weather problem. But the weather reports are predicting heavy rain and high winds by tonight, so we made the right decision to cross the Gulf Stream right away without stopping at West End.

Once we got here (in the Cannonsport Marina, where we are berthed), we telephoned U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clear into the United States. They asked me (as Captain) a bunch of questions based on the Local Boater Option (LBO) registrations we’d all three done as part of the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) registration I did for Dream SeQueL. But they granted us clearance without a personal interview, which was something of a relief — none of us relished getting into a taxi to go several miles to some place where we could be questioned in person, as tired and unkempt as we were. All that trouble registering in SVRS and in LBO actually paid off!

Well, the adventure is, for all practical purposes, over. In three days, I will fly from PBI (Palm Beach International airport) to PHX (Phoenix Sky Harbor airport) to attend the INCITS award banquet where I’ll receive my Lifetime Achievement Award. I’ll return the next day, but won’t arrive back in Palm Beach until after Frank has taken at train down to Ft. Lauderdale to catch his place back to Buffalo, NY, where he stashed his car for the duration of this trip. And then Barbara and I will have to sail the boat back to her home dock in Clearwater Beach.

Right now, I’m hopeful that the water levels in the Okeechobee Waterway will allow us to cross Florida instead of having to sail back around the southern end of the state.

<<All photographs Copyright © Frank Pellow, 2012. Used with permission.>>

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