Working Our Way North - Page 2

29 March 2019   Black Point, Exumas
Some squalls went through overnight and the morning was very over cast with very strong NE winds, so we spent the day on-board.  It brightened up in the afternoon, but there was still a very cold wind which dissuaded us from going snorkelling.  

Overfalls in Dotham Cut

The weather forecast looks like tomorrow will be 15 knot east winds and light south east on the following day that will be good to get us to Nassau.  We then have a 180 mile sail to West Palm Beach, which will take us 36 hours.  At the moment, it looks like there is a big enough weather window for us to make it provided that we carry on past Nassau and have 2 nights at sea – fingers crossed.

30 March 2019   Black Point to Highbourne Cay, Exumas
We woke early to unsettled skies and a 15 knot east wind.  We motored to Dotham Cut, arriving at 09:00, which was about 1½ hours before low tide.  The tide was going out at 2 knots and the wind was against it at 15 knots, so there were some large over-fall waves in the cut.  We decided to “go for it” and motored out hard against the waves, taking a few epic wall of water over the bow.  It was a scary five minutes, but as soon as we cleared the headland, we turned 45° north and we were quickly out of the current and the overfalls.

Despite there being only 15 knots of wind, the waves were steep and confused close to land, so we headed out into deeper water before coming onto our north-west course, which put us on a nice beam reach.  The rest of the days was bouncy, but we made good time arriving at the cut into Highbourne Cay at about 16:00.  

This entrance was a little scary because of the way the sea bed rises from hundreds of metres to just 5 metres, but at least we didn’t have any over-falls to contend with.  We anchored at 24°42.78N 076°49.81W in 5 metres of water on good holding sand.  I was expecting to be fairly isolated here, but we’re in the middle of a fleet of 20 boats.

Topping up with diesel

In retrospect, perhaps we should have taken the inner route across the Exuma bank.  The average depth for the trip is 5 metres.

There’s really good internet access here, so we obtained a weather forecast and unfortunately, our weather window seems to be closing up.  Tomorrow looks fine, but there’s another damn front coming across Florida on the afternoon of the 2nd April.  We now have a dilemma – do we carry on when we get to Nassau and risk getting clobbered by the front  (if it speeds up), or do we shelter somewhere around Nassau until the front has passed over and then make a dash for it on the 4th after waiting in Nassau for 4 or 5 days.  We’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s weather forecast to make up our minds - it’s so frustrating.

31 March 2019   Black Point to West Palm Beach, Florida (Day 1)
We were up at the crack of dawn to find that it was a beautiful day with a slight breeze from the south-east.  The weather forecast showed that the next major front passes over Palm Beach on the night of the 2nd April.  It looks like we should be okay to carry onto Florida today, but there’s a chance that on Monday 1st around midnight, we’ll get 10 knot west winds lasting for six hours.   

We decided that we’ll go for it and we’ll keep an eye on the weather possibly heading further south on Monday evening, to allow us to keep sailing with a west wind.  Our biggest worry is that there will be squalls accompanying the west winds – we don’t like thunder and lightning especially at night.

Having decided to leave, we put the dinghy on deck and set off just before 08:00.  There was so little wind that we had to motor all morning.  I took the opportunity of the calm water and weather to top up our diesel tanks from our three jerry jugs.  Then we had breakfast…

Dodging another coral head

Our route to Nassau took us across the dreaded Yellow Banks, which is a 6 mile wide, shallow patch littered with coral heads.  The charts show several 2.1 metre patches, so we were a little apprehensive, but we saw nothing less than 3.8m even though it was low tide.  (The middle of our route went through 24°53.95N 077°05.00W)

The worst part of the passage was negotiating the last section, past Porgee Rocks and out to sea.  There were huge areas of weed, which changed the colour of the water from light blue to dark blue.  To add to the visual confusion, the depth varied from 8 metres to 3.5 metres, so it was a little nerve wracking especially going past the west side of Porgee Rocks where one of our charts showed a shallow 2.1m patch.

By 14:00, we were in deep water and left the Bahamas behind.  After the stress of navigating in shallow water, I was really happy when we crossed the 200 metre depth contour and the depth gauge shows “Last” denoting the last reading it had – we could relax.  Unfortunately, there was still no wind at all, so we continued motoring out into a calm sea.  

The very light winds continued all afternoon and we had a fabulous sunset reflected in the glassy sea.  For the first six hours, we had 0.5 to 1 knot of current with us, but as we approached the corner of the Berry Islands it turned against us.  I tried to get out of the counter current by diverting across a shallow, 25 metre deep bank, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.

The current against us decreased to less than 0.5 knots as we headed west and it was a lovely night to be motoring.  We were accompanied by half a dozen cruise ships making their way from Nassau to Miami and then later had to dodge half a dozen going the other way.