The crossing, Reggie’s view.
It is now 10:00 am, 2-24-2014. We had a quiet night at anchor in Lake Worth. A couple times in the night I could see lightning storms to the east but they were too far away to hear the thunder. By this morning, they were gone. I arose a little after 7 to start the coffee so Barbara could be served in bed. Checking the weather showed no significant change from last night’s prognostications. We decide to go.
After breakfast, the morning prestart checkout begins. First check is the through hull and strainer where the sea water enters the boat to cool the V-drive, transmission and engine. It is referred to as raw water. Roll back marine carpet on sole of lower salon. Remove access lid. Close the seacock. Remove the cap from the strainer. Pull the screen basket and inspect. No sea grass or jellyfish this time. Open seacock briefly to confirm good water flow and nothing obstructing the inlet. Replace screen and cap, open seacock and announce out loud “Raw water check”. Close compartment.
Next stop, floorboard in the upper salon/dinette/galley. Removing this panel give access to the V-drive, the fuel sight gauge, fuel crossover valves, a view of the deep bilge and the packing gland. Eyeball the bilge. Deep and dark. No surprises. Open fuel sight gauge valve. No buble showing means we still have over a half tank of fuel. Close valve. Open fuel crossover valves to allow fuel to cross from the port tank to the starboard tank, from which the engine draws. Close crossover valves. Check oil in V-drive. Look for slow drip of sea water from the propeller shaft packing gland. It was dripping too fast last night at shutdown so I tightened the packing gland. Too fast is too much water running into the boat. Too slow and the propeller shaft gets overheated.
Next stop, remove the companionway steps. This gives access to the transmission and the rear of the engine. The oilsorb pad below the transmission has become soaked with transmission fluid due to the leak. The leak has gotten worse. It usually takes several days of leaking to fill the oilsorb pad. This is just one day since changing the last pad when we refueled. We had to push hard for a while yesterday and I’m hoping the leak slows down as we ease up. Add transmission fluid. Check engine oil. Check engine “fresh” water(the water and antifreeze in the enclosed portion of the engine cooling system). Eyeball anything you can see. Replace the stairs.
Turn off wind generator. Turn on GPS. Confirm VHF radio is on. Normally we would also turn on the wheel autopilot but it is broken. Anyone have a spare? Turn on start battery. Go to cockpit and confirm everything is OK and no lines are hanging over to foul the propeller when we begin motoring. Confirm transmission is in neutral. Set fuel control at 1/3. Preheat engine for 10 seconds. Press start and smile as engine actually complies. It is a treat every time.
Take the windlass remote to the bow and retrieve enough chain to unhook the snubber. Begin retrieving anchor chain, stopping if you see mud on the chain so you can wash it off and not fill the anchor locker with mud. Finish retrieving and secure anchor. Return to cockpit and motor away.
We traveled about 6 miles from the anchorage to the ocean. Nothing exciting has happened since then. After clearing the channel marker bouys, we set the foresail to help steady the boat and perhaps gain a little speed. Wind is light. Sky is baby blue with skiffs of clouds. As we enter the ocean, the water changes to a glorious blue. This sure beats the brown of the ICW farther north. The depth sounder gives up trying to measure depth after the depth exceeds about 650 feet.
We are sailing into the sun on a heading of 100 degrees true. Our first destination, some 55 miles east, is a spot on the charts about 2 miles south of Memory Rock, a rock on the edge of the Little Bahama bank, so small hardly anyone has ever seen it. We head south of it because north of it the water is too skinny(shallow) for us. The direct straight line heading to the rock is 81 degrees true. We are headed somewhat farther south because the gulf stream will carry us north as we cross it. We are averaging about 5.5 miles per hour.
The coast guard hails the motor vessel “Done Deal”. What was your last port of call and what will be your next port of call? “Bimini, Lake Worth”. What was the purpose of your trip? “Pleasure”. How many souls on board? “5”. Please change to channel 22A. “Roger”.
I look south, east and north and see nothing but the sea stretching to the horizon. Tall motels are slowly shrinking behind us. My watch ends. I send out the SPOT notification that all is OK and our current location. I enter our location on the chart and in the logbook along with speed, direction, and any notes about our vessel. I write this post to here and lay down to rest, still wearing my inflatable life vest, harness and tether in case Barbara needs me instantly for an emergency.
Back at the helm at noon, the buildings behind us can barely be seen. By the time we finish lunch they are gone. Nothing can be seen in any direction but sky and gorgeous blue sea.
Barbara makes us a tasty sandwich of lunch meat on marble rye bread with fresh spinach. I also have a hard boiled egg, low sodium V8(bought it ‘cause it is supposed to be better for us. Doesn’t taste as good) and a red delicious apple. There had been concerns about being able or wanting to make lunch, hence the snack box. Either or both of us could have been suffering from motion sickness but neither was. The rocking and rolling of the boat is not too bad, but it never stops, thanks to the combination of swells from far away and small waves from local breeze.
Now comes hours of motoring in two hour shifts. Not much else happens. Man the helm. Rest when off watch. The rocking and rolling is worse now without any sails up. The wind died and the genoa was furled after lunch. The helm requires almost constant attention as each wave tries to knock us off course.
Our boat was designed for use as more of a coastal cruiser, not a long distance ocean craft. It has a fin keel and separate spade rudder. You can tell its racing heritage because it is so responsive to the helm and it is comparatively light for its size. If I turn the wheel a quarter of an inch it begins a slow turn. This arrangement is not so great for long crossings. Cruising sailboats of comparable size might weigh twice as much and have keel running much of the length of the hull. A full length keel is best for holding a course. Did I say I’m missing my autopilot? Did I ask if anyone has a spare?
A sailboat is visible several miles south of us, no sails up, heading back to where we just left. A couple large cargo ships appear on the horizon, cross miles behind us and disappear on the opposite horizon. Near sunset a fishing boat crosses our bow about a mile away, probably headed home to West End, Grand Bahama Island, with the days catch.
We arrive at Memory Rock at 6PM and change course for Mangrove Cay where we hope to anchor in another 5 hours or so. Depths change from those measured in thousands of feet to 14 ft very quickly as we cross onto the Little Bahama bank. We hoped the rocking and rolling would disappear but it just diminishes.
An electrical problem has developed. It doesn’t stop us but is a worry and will need troubleshooting in the morning.
It gets dark and the world disappears. It is even easier to get disoriented than in the day time. We can see stars but not easily since the bimini cockpit cover was installed in the afternoon to try to provide some shade from the Caribbean sun.
We arrive at the anchorage, we think, in total dark. We cannot see the little island which is about as flat and as large as a big front lawn. In the morning we’ll see it is nearby, a few shrubs, no trees.
We feel our way along with the depth sounder and the electronic chart, thanking the inventors and hoping all is accurate. Anchor is dropped at about 11PM. We will have no shelter from wind, and not much shelter from waves from most directions but the waves are smaller here and it is acceptable for getting some rest.