Sunday, April 25, 2010
UPDATE: The Crossing - Vero Beach to Great Sale Cay, Abaco Bahamas
April 2nd, 2010
Weather forecast is good for the crossing and today is get out of Vero day. Slept late and had breakfast and coffee on the boat. Off to the showers at 10:30 and back to the boat to hoist the dink and outboard. Off the mooring at 1:30 pm just in time to wait in line for the fuel dock for an hour. It’s Friday of Easter weekend and every boat that will float in Florida is out. A good time to get out of here! Not that we didn’t enjoy our stay in Vero Beach, we did and will be back sometime in the future. We now know why they call it Velcro beach. It’s hard to leave a great place like this. There’s this one guy who told me he came to Vero Beach Marina 30 years ago and has never left. He’s Ex-Marine and a funny soul to talk to. With guys like that I guess there’s no need to try to set any longevity records at the marina so off we go.
Departed the dock around 2:30 pm and made the turn south for Ft. Peirce. Had a nice little pull from the tide and we dodged boat after boat on our way south to the inlet. As we approached our last obstacle before hitting the high seas (North Ft. Pierce ICW Bridge) we were following another sailboat. We hailed the bridge on approach and to our surprise it began to open. Was quite impressed by the bridge tenders timing. The first vessel passed through the bridge and we were maybe 20 boat lengths behind them. The current was pulling us toward the bridge at about 2.5 knots and we were under power. At a point maybe 10 boat lengths before the bridge the tender starting close the bridge. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only did he not answer my initial opening request the butt-head is not paying any attention to the fact that we are almost to the bridge and he’s starts closing it. Well with a shower of SOB’s and other sailor language, I managed to turn Wind Dust about 10 seconds before the point of no return. Now, if you have been following our blog you know how I feel about some bridge tenders. Mind you we have encountered some real buttheads along the way but have been amazed how professional the Florida Bridge tenders have been. Well this guy wins the prize for all we have encountered so far. Pardon my French please – but I call him the (insert your imagination here) of the century. Calling this guy an idiot just doesn’t do him justice. I managed to bite my lip and took about 45 deep deep breaths and moved on once he decided to let us through.
We met lots of other sailing vessels who apparently had crossed from the Bahamas heading back for the States as we made our turn and began our passage through the busy Ft. Pierce inlet. The tide was going out and directly opposing the east wind therefore we plowed through some big waves until we passed the entrance mark. We turned south as planned and ran offshore down the Florida coast to a waypoint about 10 nm north of Lake Worth inlet (Palm Beach) then made our turn NE towards a waypoint north of the White Sand Ridge on the Little Bahamas Bank around 12:45 am Saturday morning.
Our AIS system worked awesome as we could see the many big freighters, tankers and cruise ships moving up and down the Florida coast at night. The system shows their vessel on our chart plotter along with the vessel’s name, heading, speed and CPA (closest point of approach). We have a Class B AIS Transceiver so the other ships/vessels can see us on their AIS system. Our unit transmits our position, speed, heading, radio call sign and vessel name. All large ships are required to have a working AIS system installed onboard. We also used our radar to see small vessels that were crossing the Gulf Stream from the Bahamas to the US.
After we made our turn to the northeast to cross the stream we encountered very confused seas and the wind was out of the E-NE at 15 to 20 knots. The forecast was for E-SE 5 to 10 knots. We pounded into the confused seas for about 4 hours only making about 3 to 4 knots progress. At one point I considered turning back for a better day. Once we were about half way across conditions began to improve and we were able to pickup speed. We hit the our waypoint turn about 11:30am Saturday morning and made the turn for Great Sale Cay still 52 nm away. Once we were on the bank we still had wind and seas on the nose however we were able to plow through the seas without getting slammed all over the cabin. We never got the push from the Gulf Stream we were supposed to get. In retrospect we should have run straight from Ft. Pierce inlet to our waypoint on the bank. We had a great trip across the bank to Great Sale Cay. We met 7 or 8 sailing vessels on their way back to the US as we made our way to Great Sale. The water on the Little Bahamas Bank is a gorgeous aqua blue and runs from 15 to 25 feet deep. We really enjoyed our day experiencing the water.
The day seemed to take forever and our ETA at Great Sale was projected to be 7:45 pm or just after sunset. Flying the yellow quarantine flag we pulled into the anchorage just as the sun was setting. We set the hook, celebrated our achievement with a couple drinks before promptly beginning to set all kinds of snoring records. We were not alone in the anchorage as we counted 5 other vessels on anchor.
We slept late and woke up to a beautiful Easter Sunday morning. We decided to rest and stay on the hook Easter Sunday. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place. All the other vessels began to leave one by one until we were the only vessel in the anchorage. In the afternoon we began to see other mast over the horizon and by sunset there were at least 10 other vessels in the anchorage. We enjoyed sitting on deck listening to music and watching the departures and new arrivals. We whipped out the grill and cooked a couple New York strip steaks for dinner. Boy did they taste good. We had another great evening on the hook with a nice breeze and beautiful stars.
Monday morning we had coffee and some breakfast and got underway to Manjack Cay. This leg of our trip was 55 nm and took us from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm to make the run. We passed several vessels headed north towards Great Sale and by the time we made it to Manjack the anchorage was beginning to fill up. With the quarantine flag flying high we set the hook and cooked dinner. Another beautiful day in a beautiful place.
Tuesday morning we weighed anchor and shoved off for a quick 4 nm run to Green Turtle Cay and New Plymouth. We took our time setting the hook and had to also drop the dinghy and lowered the outboard so I could run into customs. When checking into Customs only the Captain goes ashore to clear in.
With Ginny onboard I shoved off and ran to the dinghy dock at the main ship dock. What a beautiful little town New Plymouth is.
I walked down this one lane concrete road past many shops and homes with bougainvillea and many tropical plants to the customs building which also serves as the post office. I met Kelly the customs agent whom we had previously spoke with on the phone and she was extremely nice and helpful. I paid our $300 entry fee and received our official paperwork which includes a fishing license.
As I’m walking back to the dinghy dock I’m sure Ginny is going to love this little place. Even though we didn’t plan on spending an overnight anchored off New Plymouth that’s what we did. Two nights as a matter of fact. My hunch was correct and Ginny did love New Plymouth.