After catching our breath in Jacksonville, technically Mayport we headed up the ICW to Cumberland Island GA. One of our top stops along the ICW.
Many people speak poorly of the ICW even referring to it as a mud-puddle. We enjoy the relaxed pace and have the patience to successfully transit without a lot of stress. We just pull over and drop the anchor. An example is the notoriously bad shoaling near Fernandina Beach. We knew would have high tide the next morning so we just pulled over, fired the BBQ and spent a lovely evening. The next morning we transited the area with no fuss or musss. The most dangerous thing on a boat???? A schedule….
We have for years gotten in the habit of anchoring near the south end of Cumberland Island also known as “SeaCamp.” Keeping with this years mantra of trying new things we went up to the north end of the island to an area known as Plumb Orchard.
As we dropped the hook the welcoming committee came out to greet us. I was extra careful to stay on the boat while I was dropping the anchor.
We had a lovely visit and met up with a volunteer docent who came all the way from Washington State to volunteer there.
Returning from the Bahamas is always bittersweet but the passage planning usually forces us to ignore the sting of departing. A trip across the gulf stream is not something we take lightly no matter what the forecast is. We are little greedy as well. See we dont just want to cross it….we want to ride it! There is always a little trepidation.
The below image show the temperature difference of the surrounding water. The section we want to ride is that deepest darkest red. I am always in awe of the shear amount of energy contained in that flowing water. We are able to track the temperature of the water we are in and we can clearly see a 4 or 5 degree temperature increase as we enter the strongest part of th stream. In addition the stream flows at 3-4 knots so every hour you are in we pick that as extra. When you consider we only travel at about 6 knots that is nearly a 40% increase in our “speed over ground.” That is HUGE. The ride though does not come free. That amount of energy is definitely going to churn the water we are traveling in ALOT! Not to mention all that warm water turns into warm humid air which can turn into a really fierce thunderstorm in short order! When we do these kind of passages we really do need to have our head in the game.
First though we have to get out of the Bahamas. Part of our ritual is to ALWAYS spend the night before in a quiet anchorage where we can have extra time to take a good look over Magnolia and make sure she and we are ready to go. It also gives us the opportunity to enjoy a Bahamas farewell sunset.
We awoke about 4am and headed out across the banks. The trip across the banks is about 50 miles of 15 foot deep crystal clear water with a sandy bottom. On a moonlit night you can easily see the bottom passing underneath Magnolia.
We departed the banks in the early afternoon and by sunset had entered the gulf stream proper.
Note the Speed-Over-Ground (SOG) is indicating over 10 knots! “Please keep your arms and legs inside the vessel at all times. Remain in your seats and keep your seat-belt safely secured…thank you” Though it was a lovely sunset you can see curtains of rain falling on the edges. Just a little warning from mother nature.
An no, we are not alone. Here is a cruise ship probably heading for Nassau from Florida. Range about 8 or 9 miles.
And here he is crossing our bow at about 3 miles after kindly adjusting his course to further avoid us.
Reality always sets in when you depart the gulfstream and your vessels speed significantly decreases. In addition there is always an hour of extra turbulence when departing the stream. There is a huge amount of friction between the two masses water which stirs things up.
As were approaching MOA (the buoy marking the beginning of the channel) Jacksonville I throttled up for some reason…and…nothing happened…no increase in RPMs. No decrease either but unnerving nonetheless. The obvious problem would be a fuel filter clogged. We have three and easy to check two, but the third is a bit more involved and not something I wanted to be doing at the end of a 40 hour passage. With the exception of not being able to go faster we seemed fine. I called our TowBoat service, made them aware of the situation and they sent a boat out to meet us JUST in case.
There was the other complication as we were coming into Jacksonville. Though the picture is rather dramatic to look at…we were pretty confident none of the bad stuff would get us before arriving at the dock…which was indeed the case. You can see the towboat ahead of us. My friend Al saw the picture and immediately wanted to know why a dock line was out when were supposed to be anchoring (had not at this point shared the complications) but we have some very wise mariner friends!!!
We had called Morning Star Marina Fuel dock just inside the inlet at Mayport and they could have not been nicer. They got us settled knowing we had just had a long passage and were beat.
We quickly got the “third” fuel filter changed and ready to go. The dock this close to the main St Johns River shipping channel did make for some interesting moments!
It was nice to be “home.’ Mentally it is just a lot easier to be here than in the Bahamas. We have all the support systems we need here. While we are in the Bahamas we just do not have access to emergency medical or the parts supplies. The Admiral enjoys her time in the Bahamas and I, well I don’t mind a dock along the St Johns river…next, heading up the coast.
Departing Eleuthera we woke up very early (03:00) in the morning so we went a ahead and got underway. Crossing the Northeast Providence Channel is no small thing. We consider it the “biggest” water we operate on. We have crossed the 50 miles of open ocean in swells so large the entire mast of companion boats disappeared. It is really something to experience. There is nothing to break the waves between here and the coast of Portugal. Note also the depth here can get to 15,000 feet…yes 15. No matter how small the waves are, when water depth goes from that deep to sea level, rest assured “stuff” is going to happen.
Before heading for the open ocean though there was the little matter of extracting ourselves from out anchorage off Royal Island transiting the cut between Egg and Little Egg Island. We had a little moon and been through here in the daylight before so extra attention brought us out in no drama.
The passage to the Abacos was one our best through here and our early departure meant we were not racing the sun to the other side. The passage was actually so good we made the decision to enter the Abacos via a different inlet than normal just to widen our experience a bit. Rather than enter the traditional Little Harbor Inlet at Lynyard Cay we continued up to North Bar and entered there. It was a non event which is just the way we like new experiences. Some day in a BAD situation we may need an alternative inlet and so now we have that in out back pocket.
We actually left Eleuthera sooner than we had wanted because of some approaching weather so after passing by Hope Town we continued on to Marsh Harbor to top up provisions before finding a quiet anchorage to ride out the next days storm.
We found the perfect little spot about 5 miles to the north-east off Man-O-War Cay. We expected to have good protection from the strongest winds from the NE and most important no other boat anchored near by!
We even arrived Man-O-War with time to head to shore and have some lunch, a little walk and of source and ice cream cone. While we were in town we saw a Moorings Charter Boat circling and looking for a mooring ball. (Mooring is a charter boat company where people rent the boat for a weeks vacation — sometime a little scary because of inexperience yet where most of us started) . As we headed back to Magnolia in Blossom (dinghy) we saw they we outside circling trying to figure out where to anchor. A bit later they found their way over towards us…we waved them over, got them anchored so where in the forcast biggest storm of the year we were anchored and ready to ride it out. As anticipated we were well out of any waves, lite swell wrapping in from the north during tide changes and a maximum of 35 knots though 50 was reported in Marsh Harbor…well boats drug at anchor and why we got out of there.
We were able to score a mooring ball in Hope Town (thank you Jay & Will). Annette quickly connected with her “boat ladies” and they set off on a walk around the island and catching up.
Meanwhile back aboard i made some “engine room dough” for grill pizza. We were happy to host the gang from Exuberant, Pegasus, Ilar, Renaissance Woman, aboard Magnolia . It was a fun evening and always good to spend time together.
A “neighbor” caught some lovely pictures of Magnolia on the ball in Hope Town Harbor.
We met a lovely couple our first season here. J&C were looking to buy a house on the island. One thing lead to another and 2 years ago I was able to help for a few hours lifting and setting some heavy beams. They now have the beautiful cottage with an amazing view. Good people, who worked extremely hard to attain their goals. People who really inspire….so happy for them
Magnolia is the closest boat in the picture.
…and there was ice cream
and walks on the beach
Rod from Pegasus had a BIG birthday while in Hope Town and Mary organized a surprise party. It was a fun evening a great time to catch up.
It was time for Magnolia to get moving and we had one more challenging area before taking on the Gulf Stream. The cut around Whale Cay is very exposed to the ocean and can be very shall we say “rambunctious.” We picked a good day and had no problem.
We always get through the Whale and start looking for the next window to cross the gulf stream. This trip we did make time for a stop at Manjack which is known for the shear numbers of Sea Turtles and HUGE Sea Rays
One thing people do not appreciate about the Bahamas is the variety of “climates” they have…in the south Exumas the country is arid and desert like. Here in the north Abacos there trees and a totally different feel.
There in the middle of the harbour is our trusty steed….and home. Magnolia.
From here we will stop out to Great Sale Cay and depart for the United States from there.
After having a wonderful trip down the Exuma chain we arrived Great Exuma, aka Georgetown, aka “Adult Daycare.”
We caught up with Exuberant and enjoyed hanging out with Burt & Prue
After a couple days in “daycare” and topping up on provisions we were off to Cat Island, about 50 miles to the north east.
First stop is one of our favorites in the Bahamas, Fernandez Bay ( https://www.fernandezbayvillage.com ). The anchorage is protected except from the west, there is no west protection on Cat Island! We always meet interesting people and have a great meal…whats not to love?
Prue reminded us it was Fish Fry night in New Bight and also it was Junior Junkanoo ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkanoo ) night. It was also brought to our attention there were 3 Hylas sailing yachts in the anchorage and only one Krogen….which is completely backwards from normal
In the next couple of days we were expecting a lengthy blow, no significant west winds forecast but plenty of east. We also wanted to get away from the crowds so we would have plenty of anchor room. Bennetts Harbor was the perfect fit. A beautiful beach and easy access to a protected dock. What was not to love and it worked out perfect.
After nearly a weeks slow down in it was off to Eleuthera Island. The trip from Bennetts Harbor Cat Island to Rock Sound CAN be done in one LONG day but why do that? We are suppose to be slowing down. We stopped Little San Salvador Island…known as Half Moon Cay to the Cruise Ship Community.
This particular anchorage is very complicated for me….not to anchor…no not at all super easy, stay out of the way of the ships and get in as close as you can to avoid the North Atlantic swell that is wrapping around the island. First, what they do here is amazing….these ships arrive about dawn…between the two of them what, maybe 10,000 people? They take them all to shore, give them a beach fantasy day to include beach horse back riding and then pile them all back aboard and be underway by supper. An amazing dance in my mind…then I am so very grateful. We get to explore this beautiful island environment for months on end…most of these passenger will be back in hectic world in the next couple days. What we do is not for everyone….but it is not wasted on us…I assure you.
The next morning we departed at first light to be sure we were out of the way of the next arriving ship and sure enough, Carnival Cruise lines was on the horizon….
After that we were off to round the Cape of Eleuthera and up to Rock Sound.
The Cape Of Eleuthera I think has the most beautiful water we have seen.
We arrived in Rock Sound just ahead of the next cold front which was expected to be “sporty” so it was good to be in a secure harbor. Additionally our Bahamian WIFI Hotspot needed a replacement SIM card which was being flown in. We anchored up near the airport and of course the flight arrived as the front was too. I jumped in the dink and beached it a couple hundred yards from the airport, walked into the airport with its typical Bahamian chaos and a hundred arriving tourists. The whole thing was a bit of out of body experience. I picked up my package, raced back to Magnolia and was back on-board to finish my coffee to watch the rain and a rainbow. It made us chuckle about our life a little asking, “I wonder how others day started out?”
Our next and last stop in Eleuthera was Governors Harbor. We had never made time to stop and enjoy and this was our opportunity. What a wonderful stop. We just wish it could have been a couple weeks later so we could have enjoyed a day or two with Stan and Suzie from the The Pearl ( https://sscruisingadventure.blogspot.com ). Schedules seldom align but we keep trying!