Monthly Archives: October 2014

Central Abacos, 5 weeks in – by Randy

As hard as it is for us all to believe, we are 5 weeks into our grand adventure. Since we last posted, we have moved on from Green Turtle Cay to Guana Cay. Getting from Green Turtle to Guana involves transiting one of the Abacos more notorious spots, the Whale Cut. The Whale as it is affectionately known, can in certain weather conditions become impassable. On the day we transited the area, the weather was moderate and although the boys experienced their first taste of sea sickness, the passage was well within acceptable safety limits and we were soon pulling into calmer waters to moor for the evening. While at Guana, we made the obligatory visit to one of the Abacos more celebrated beach bars known as Nippers. The grog was great and the food delicious but the view of the Atlantic reef off of Guana is what makes this spot a truly must see spot.
During our time in Guana Cay, we secured Pilots’ Discretion to a mooring ball in Settlement Harbor. Some of the reviews that we had read indicated that the mooring balls were too close together and poorly secured so we paid particular attention to our chart plotter and anchor alarm to ensure that we were not drifting during the night. In the end, we found no problem with the security of the moorings but we will acknowledge that had all of the moorings been taken, they would have been closer together than we would have been comfortable with. The good news for us is that it is still the slow season in the Abacos and as such, we have felt anything but crowded wherever we have been. Our stop in Guana Cay was capped, watching and celebrating the Giants win of game 7 of the World Series. I know for a fact, exactly where I was when the Giants won their first pennant in my lifetime and I am pretty sure that Ryan and Ronan will always remember watching the World Series on the big screen at Grabbers Grill in Guana Cay in October 2014.
We have had some technical issues pertaining to our battery chargers ability to replenish our ship’s batteries after a couple of nights at anchor. As a result, we modified our route plan to incorporate a stop in Marsh Harbor to seek out a qualified electrician to help us address our concerns. Originally, we had planned on proceeding from Guana Cay to Hope Town on Elbow Cay, entirely bypassing Marsh Harbor. Given that Marsh Harbor is the third largest city in the Bahamas and the largest in the Abacos, we elected to avail ourselves of the services that frankly would not have been available in the stops that we had planned.
Based upon the reviews that we had read, we stopped at the Harbor View Marina in Marsh Harbor and found the facilities and staff to îboth be first rate. It turns out that Troy, the owner of the marina comes from a family with deep roots within the same industry that I have spent my career is working in ( the airline industry) Troy has gone out of his way to to help address our electrical issue going so far as flying his own plane to Florida to pick up a new battery charger that I had shipped to a convenient location. To say that we highly recommend Harbor View Marina would be a gross understatement.

Satellite view of Pilots' Discretion track into White Sound, Green Turtle Cay

The Sea of Abaco – by Randy

Since leaving the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End on Grand Bahama Island, we have been exploring the Abacos.

Our first day out, we transited the Little Bahama Bank, passing just north of Mangrove Cay to anchor in Northwest Harbor at Great Sale Cay (a run of 47 nautical miles) The entire day we cruised across unbelievably clear waters without seeing another vessel. When we got to Great Sale Cay, there were two other cruising boats already anchored but there was plenty of room for each of us to find just the right spot with good holding and clear water beneath us.

After spending one night at Great Sale Cay, we elected to proceed northeast to Double Breasted Cay. We had read in the various cruising guides that this was indeed a special spot worth the slight detour north of our originally planned route. Entering Double Breasted Cay requires weaving through a very narrow passage as you wind your way around a series of coral heads and sand bars. Although Navionics has taken some heat in the past for the accuracy of their charting data in the Bahamas, it is my opinion that they have made great strides to address the issue with their current generation “freshest data” package. We found the information on our Raymarine E127 chart plotter regarding Double Breasted Cay to be precise all the way in and it was indeed helpful although the area clearly demonstrates why a mariner needs to be able to read the water visually while cruising in the Bahamas.

Once securely anchored, the boys set out on their first snorkeling trip at Double Breasted Cay; they swam from the back of the Pilots’ Discretion over to Sand Key where they saw all kinds of marine life. It was here that they saw their first Bahamian shark, a 4 foot black tip. In addition they got a good look at a barracuda as he swam under our boat. We enjoyed Double Breasted Cay so much that we elected to spend two nights there before heading south down the Sea of Abaco for Green Turtle Cay. The run to Green Turtle Cay was just over 60 miles and since we ran a portion of the trip at 25 knots , we were pulling into White Sound in the early afternoon.

October is the slowest time of year in the Bahamas and as a result, many of the resorts and marinas are closed. We are staying at the Green Turtle Cay Club, a beautiful resort in White Sound. The docks are open but the restaurant and bar as well as most of the resort facilities are closed. That said, the staff that is here ( they have a maintenance staff doing facilities upgrades) has been super helpful. I had been here ten years or so ago by air and it is clear to me that they have done a great job of upgrading this great facility over the years.

Maptech Raster Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Maptech Raster Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Radar Return Approaching Great Sale Cay (Grand Bahama Island on the Right)

Radar Return Approaching Great Sale Cay (Grand Bahama Island on the Right)

Navionics Vectar Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Navionics Vectar Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Snorkling, Double Breasted Cay

Snorkling, Double Breasted Cay

(2014) Ryan swapping the quarantine flag & courtesey flag, West End Bahamas

Quarantine and Courtesy Flags – by Theresa

Yellow Q (Quarantine) Flag

Yellow Q (Quarantine) Flag

One of our many pre-departure preparation items was the purchasing of the yellow Q (quarantine) flag, along with courtesy flags for each of the countries that we would be visiting, either intentionally, or potentially due to some change of course or boat maintenance requirement. International law mandates that vessels fly the yellow quarantine flag upon entering territorial waters of another country. The yellow Q flag must remain flying until the vessel and its crew clear customs and immigration at which point it is taken down and replaced with the host country’s courtesy flag.

Since our vessel is registered and flagged in the United States, in accordance with proper flag etiquette, we proudly fly Old Glory from the highest place of honor on our vessel, her stern. IMG_0059.JPG

Courtesy flags are flown at the next highest place of honor, e.g. a starboard halyard, or in our case a jack staff on our bow.

Flag Duty

Flag Duty

As a supplement to the boys’ homeschooling, we have assigned them the duty of raising and lowering the quarantine and courtesy flags as appropriate to our immigration status and our host country du jour.

We have also assigned them the task of researching and keeping a journal about the meaning of the flag for each country that we visit. This week they learned that the aquamarine stripes at the top and bottom of the Bahamian National Flag depict the colors of the Bahamian skies and water while the yellow stripe in the middle represents the shore. The black triangle on the left of the flag signifies unity. The courtesy flag for the Bahamas have the Bahamas National Flag on the top left corner of a red flag with a cross on it.

R&R Starfish Old Bahamas Bay

We be on island time now mon! – by Randy

Thursday Oct 16, 2014

Yesterday we had an enjoyable crossing of the Gulf Stream and are now savoring our first day in the wonderful country of the Bahamas.

PD crosses the Gulfstream

PD crosses the Gulfstream

The weather models were showing relatively benign sea conditions for our crossing yesterday with 3-5 ft seas. There was a forecast for a line of squalls to develop over the Gulf Stream late yesterday afternoon with steadily steepening seas but after reviewing the available data, conferring with our weather Guru, Chris Parker, and taking a look at the NexRad radar on our chart plotter, we made the determination that we could make the crossing safely by staying in front of the developing line of inclement weather. Originally, we had planned on crossing at 8 knots (our most economical speed) but given the potential for developing weather we increased our speed to 17 knots to stay at a comfortable speed for the sea conditions and stay in front of the line of weather that showed ominously 3-4 miles astern of us as we worked our way across. In the end, we did have to alter our course slightly to avoid a couple of thunderstorms but other than a few minutes of moderate rain with a few 5 foot waves we had a smooth crossing.

The customs and immigration procedures at the Old Bahamas Bay Marina could not have been more convenient. When we called in by radio (Channel 16, then switched to channel 10 ) we were told that Customs would not require us to tie up at their dock first but rather, sent us to our assigned slip and requested that the Captain report to the Customs and Immigration office after the Pilots’ Discretion had been secured in her slip. The paperwork was routine (helped significantly by the fact that the first mate, my wife Theresa, an immigration attorney who is type A,  had converted all the Bahamian Customs and Immigration documents to fillable PDFs and had them completed before our arrival). Our Cocker Spaniel, Patton, was also pleasantly surprised when our concerns about bringing him ashore were completely dismissed by the Customs Officer. A very quick glance at his forms and veterinary health certificates and he was welcomed into the Bahamas.

R&R OBB hammock

R&R Old Bahamas Bay Hammock after clearing Customs & Immigration (blue building behind them across the bay)

R&R Starfish Old Bahamas Bay

R&R Starfish – Homeschooling recess in Old Bahamas Bay, Bahamas

The boys could not believe how clear the water is here and when we turned on our underwater lights, they thought we had changed them somehow because in Tarpon Springs they illuminate an area about 3 ft astern of the Pilots’ Discretion while here in the Bahamas, the water is illuminated for about 50 ft astern. After a day spent relaxing and home schooling we will head out tomorrow to begin our exploration of the Abacos. First stop, Great Sale Cay then on to Green Turtle Cay.

Doing the cruiser’s weather window Cha-Cha in North Palm Beach

Ryan and Ronan at Pirates Cove

Ryan and Ronan at Pirates Cove

October 11, 2014

We have enjoyed the last week working our way east and south to be in position for our Gulf Stream crossing. After departing Indiantown marina on Monday, Oct 6, we proceeded to Manatee Pocket in Port Salerno, FL where we anchored for two nights. Manatee Pocket is one of my favorite stops along the east coast of FL because I spent several months there while attending Chapman’s School of Seamanship where I earned my 100 ton masters license over 10 years ago. The spot provides easy dinghy access to several very good restaurants as well as any imaginable marine service. After leaving Manatee Pocket, we traveled south on the ICW, anchoring one night at the north end of Lake Worth in Palm Beach. It looks like there will be a brief acceptable weather window for our crossing to Grand Bahama Island this coming Tuesday but we are balancing that opportunity with the requirement to get a couple of electrical issues dealt with prior to leaving US waters. After what has generally been a quiet tropical storm season, there are a couple of potentially troubling tropical depressions developing in the Caribbean, one in particular may have the potential to close our weather window just as we get our electrical issues straightened out.  Such is the life of a cruiser, a different but welcome adjustment from my professional life where everybody was focused on making the airplane move within 14 minutes of scheduled departure.

The good news is that we have found wonderful facilities at the North Palm Beach Marina so any weather delay will be handled at a modern, well equipped marina. Dockmaster Chris Pignataro and the entire staff here have been extremely helpful, the location is central to many good sources for provisioning and just to make it that much better, they were nice enough to put a Ruth’s Chris Steak House (Theresa and my favorite steak house in the world) right down the street. When the weather breaks and the boat doesn’t we will post again from our first Bahamian port of call.