Saturday, December 19, 2015

Grand Turk to Great Abaco - 450 miles


 
9th – 13th May 2015

 We were all pretty glad to get out of Grand  Turk, maybe we were there at the wrong time of year, but even if it were the height of their season (whatever that is) there was little to offer the sailing cruiser.  Perhaps the cruise ship terminal has sucked all of the life out of the tiny island, and as we didn’t go to the terminal (no interest in doing so) we didn’t see where all the life went.

And the biggest issue on my mind was FUEL FILTER, or lack thereof.  The marine supply store didn’t have one. So we were going to have to sail pretty much all of the way there because I was saving whatever filtering ability the one I had installed to get us in through the hazardous reefs leading into Great Abaco Island.
And as we were going to be in the Atlantic Ocean all the way there I fully expected us to be using the trades to get us there.

And that’s exactly what we did – it was generally great sailing, mostly broad reaching,  generally always heading north west with a few sail alterations and occasional adjustments to Mr. Chubbs.  We had good wind all the way, sometimes a bit too much and  our boat speed was between 4 and 6 knots.  Life was good.

I do remember many electrical storms which did get my crew twitching.  Most of the conditions we encounter on the ocean we can react to to keep the situation somewhat in our favour.  With electrical storms, they start off as little pockets of lightening in the distance, and then a few more until whoever’s causing it sees the mast and decides to move in and scare the bejeezus out of you.  Altering course doesn’t help, because they find you and follow you to wherever you are next.  And when the thunder claps right over the top of you it shakes your bones.  Basically if you are going to get struck – there’s nothing you can do about it.  It’s a good idea to protect your electronics by unplugging everything when you’re in the thick of it, some people say to put all of your hand held electronics in the oven – I’ve done that, seemed like a good idea to put them in a metal box.

Being out in the open in the ‘eye’ of an electrical storm on the ocean is extremely exciting – the top layer of your hair stands up and you feel charged up, and the knowledge that if you get struck you aren’t going to know it anyway.  It’ll be poof!  And you’re gone.  So just enjoy it.

So this part of our journey was the reward to all of us in that the sailing was exactly what ocean sailing provides.  The frustrations of all that goes wrong is shed when the sails are full,  Mr. Chubbs is doing his job, the stars are bright and you have the feeling that if my life ended right now I would be happy (as long as the actual ending wasn’t too traumatic of course).

We arrived at Great Abaco early in the morning with almost no wind at all, a beautiful clear, sunny day - continuing to sail at 2 – 3 knots and less sometimes.  The sport fishing boats were coming out all around us and our sails were flogging and my crew were glaring at me willing me to start the engine.  I wouldn’t – I was in that dreadful state of having to make a decision that could and likely would bring the guillotine down after 400 odd miles of a great sailing journey.

 

I called Cruise Abaco, the company I was coming to work for, told them of our predicament, that it was highly likely that my engine would die on our way through any one of the channels leading through the reefs on the Atlantic side of all of the Abaco Cays.  Mark suggested we go for North Man-o-War, he would go buy us a fuel filter and meet us in his powerful, fast motor boat.  Now that I had back up we started the engine, took the sails down and headed for North Man-o-War cut, and just before we arrived – what happened? the engine started to die, and die and with its last gasp I darted below and switched to the forward fuel tank – just to see if it would make any difference.  It did – the engine took a huge, deep breath and motored us in.  Mark came out to meet us, threw us the extra fuel filter and we  motored into Marsh Harbour.

Its funny how often an arrival is anti-climatic, this one was.  It had been a tense though enjoyable journey, the constant fuel problem had eaten away at my body so that when I finally got into a shower I hardly recognized myself, I had lost so much weight.

The clearing in process was taken care of at the Conch Inn Hotel and Marina – the Customs and Immigration people came out to us there.  Be prepared anyone coming into the Bahamas – It costs U$300 for a year, regardless of how long you want to stay which includes a fishing permit.  It does notinclude immigration, just the Boat.

The staff kindly gave us a key to their showers and password for the internet – my crew made their arrangements to leave.

That evening  as we were getting into our dinghy I looked over to the boat anchored in front of us, Sonyo – I knew that name – then I saw Marcus from Switzerland, the owner of Sonyo.  The last time I had seen Marcus was in Gran Canaria just before we headed out across the Atlantic for the Caribbean.  The time before that we met in Gibraltar.  It is very cool to meet these people again in different parts of the world, friends made in such a short time and likely forgotten because they were short time friends – and then when we meet again, we realize that even if its for a short time - that’s all we have then - but we are still good friends and value that time together.

Someone I know said that cruising is all about the people you meet, and its all about saying goodbye to good friends.

So Debra left the next day for Colorado; Adam helped me take down the genoa which had been causing some problems since Sint Maarten – as it came down I could see that the halyard had been twisted.  Another problem solved.  Adam left and I made arrangements to put MoondancerX into Marsh Harbour Boat Yard.

Getting to Marsh Harbour Boat Yard from Marsh Harbour entails sailing or motoring a few miles to Point Set Rock before heading towards Boat Harbour.  Because I had a couple of days before I was booked in I decided to have a look around, so as I was motoring over to Man-o-War Cay guess what happened?

the engine died – by now I was so used to it I just dropped the anchor in the middle of the Sea of Abaco, which was about 12’ deep, changed yet another $50 fuel filter and carried on.  I got 11 engine hours out of that last fuel filter.  It was enough for me to see Man-o-war Cay, where I bought 2 more fuel filters, Hopetown which has a beautiful old fashioned but functioning light house and then to the yard where I made preparations to leave my lovely girl for the summer.  And to leave the fuel problem for my return in the fall.

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