N26 32.795 W77 03.186 - Marsh Harbor, Abacos

Trip Start Mar 09, 2009
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37
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Trip End May 26, 2009


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Monday, May 4, 2009

  A Night's Sail - May 4, 2009 - Spanish Wells to North Man Of War Channel, Abacos
 
There are two routes from Spanish Wells to the Abacos.  One is the Egg Island Cut about ten miles down the bank and the  other route that could be shorter  (if you're successful) is through Ridley Head and the Devil's Backbone (get the picture?).  To do it successfully (without substantial risk), we would need to hire a pilot to take us through or depend on our ability to read the water and the sea-state would be in good condition.  The cut is between reefs that are uncompromising and unforgiving with fast currents from the ocean.  We opt'd for the longer, albeit safer, route home
 
Around 3PM we ate the last of the fish fingers and carrot casserole and prepared Spindrift for the sail north.  We left Spanish Wells Harbor at 4PM, as planned, and headed out the Eleuthera bank to Egg Island Cut arriving at the Cut at 6PM.  The cut is deep but there are rocks on both sides so glad we arrived during daylight hours.  Entering the NE Providence Channel, we set our heading to zero degrees, unfurled the head sail in 15 kts winds out of the ESE and with a beam reach and SE swells, we were on our way.   
 
For obvious reasons we did not want to arrive at MOW Channel before daylight, so we cut the engine to slow the boat down.  Spindrift slowed down to 6 kts.  At this rate we would arrive around 4AM requiring us to "cool our jets" for a couple of hours until daylight.  Egg Island Cut to  MOW Channel is about 70-80 miles (it's about 54 nm to Little Harbor and an additional 30nm to NMOW cut and 5 nm to Marsh Harbor once through the channel into the Sea of Abaco). 
 
We spotted Great Abaco Light at the end of Hole in the Wall around 9PM.  It was waaaaaaay off in the distance on our approach.   A cruise ship passed behind us heading down to Nassau.    It was cold!  We were freezing!  Dave changed into jeans and a sweatshirt and I had two shirts on and then we dug out our red wind breakers and skull caps.  Still it was cold!  The wind coming off the water was cold.  All my sweaters were buried in the v-berth so I wrapped a blanket around me.   I went down below to boil water for tea.  The stove works great gimbled but it looks scary because the tilt of the stove looked like the kettle was going to slide off - but actually I was the one on tilt!   Once the water boiled, I needed to figure out where to put the coffee cup steady and pour the boiling water into the cup without burning myself.  I placed the cup in the sink and poured the water.  Then I had to get cool water once the tea steeped because it was too hot to drink and I didn't want to burn myself.  Logistics, logistics!  I'm sure full time cruisers have cup holders to place these in while underway!
 
We didn't set up a schedule, every hour or so one of us took the wheel.  At 4AM we reached Little Harbor Bar (you do NOT want to cross that at night) and changed our heading more easterly to clear Elbow Cay and the rocks off Man of War.  Reach MOW North Channel around 8:30 AM. 
 
 
The sail up from Spanish Wells during the night was beautiful.  When the sun set, it backlit orange through the head sail.  We didn't take any pictures because our little camera would not capture those colors.  By sunset, we were beyond land on all sides - that we could see - the moon had risen around 4:00 in the afternoon so shone all night long.  When I was at the helm, wrapped up in blankets and jackets, the moon shone down the back of the bimini and  it was so bright it startled me. I thought it was a big search light shining down on me.  Guess I was starting to get punchy!!
 
Without the engine, it was very quiet (except for the wind gen).  Since we had all our instruments, lights, and radar on, we wanted to stay charged so kept the gen on.  At one point in the night Dave woke me to check the radar off our starboard.  I ran downstairs to look but there was nothing on the screen to our starboard.  He said it looked like a sailboat running with an anchor light.  I popped up and asked where -  he pointed - and I said, "I think that's a star."  Guess Dave was getting punchy too!
 
We continued on northward.  Did not have to adjust the headsail at all - kept on the beam reach.  Eventually we slowed down due to the currents but decided we needed to linger so as to arrive at daylight.  If we'd put up our mainsail, we would have moved right along.  We were doing 6 kts boat speed but only 4-4.5 kts SOG (speed over ground) so were obviously running into current.  But, when you're under sail 4 knots can feel like your flying.  The sail was full, the wind was blowing and we were swooshing our way through the sea.  To our power boat friends, 4 kts is probably idle speed, but in a sailboat on the open water, 4 kts can be flyin'.
 
As we approached Elbow Cay, I could see the Hope Town Light shinning out on the ocean.  It was a very comforting sight, we spent three days moored off that light with Sassy in 2006.  As I watched the light for miles, I pictured that beautiful harbor and all the comfortably sleeping cruisers moored on the mooring balls.  I think I was getting really, really tired!  I watched as the sky turned pink to the east and slowly the entire sky lightened up.  As dawn approached something caught the corner of my eye and off our starboard was a large freighter heading for North MOW Channel.  I'm glad he saw us - because I had no idea he was behind Spindrift.  Dave was sound asleep on the settee and we were on autopilot making our way north.

When Dave took the helm around 6:00, I went below and flopped on the settee. During the night we agreed that we'd sleep topside so we could be alerted quicker.  But in retrospect, we should have taken some of our rests down below where it was warmer.  I hit that settee and slept soundly until 7:30.  It could have been exhaustion but I think it was more comfort - dry and warmer.  Anyway - I popped up refreshed at 7:30 AM, just in time to come about and take our heading into the North MOW Channel.    Dave said, "It's a good thing we didn't choose the South MOW Channel, there is a freighter in that channel on the rocks!".  SMOW was not in our plans, anyway!  But... you'd think the freighter would have known better!
 
Earlier in our travels, we heard that most of the reasons boats end up on the rocks and are holed down here are that the engine quits coming through the cuts.  So we always keep a sail up just in case we have to sail through.  In this case, the sail was working with the engine to bring us through the cut.  We had traveled about 80 miles from Spanish Cay.  As we entered the Sea of Abaco from the N MOW Channel, Dave had the Cruiser's Net on VHF.  They were on the "New Arrivals" so Dave announced that Spindrift had arrived from the Exumas via Eleuthra and was spending a month in the Abacos before heading back home to Florida.   We had officially arrived!
 
Arrived at Mango Marina, Marsh Harbor at 9:40 AM tired, wet and salty! 
N26 32.795   W77 03.186

Life is so good!

N26 32.795   W77 03.186
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