From our boat neighbour in Ponce, we had learned a thing or two about possible destinations in the Bahamas. We had to be in Nassau by the 19th of April, and were advised about a few stops on the way. So we saved a few possible anchorages into our route planner and downloaded the weather. The wind was great, just the CAPE (which predicts thunderstorms) was getting very high in a few days time. We decided on a route and starting time which had the least chance of thunder. Because we don’t want to get stuck in a thunderstorm!
Our first destination was Clarence Town on Long Island. On the way, if we would get into bad weather, we could stop in Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic, Great Iguana or Abrahams Bay in the Bahamas. The first half of the route would be along the main whale migration route, and the second half of our route would be among many shallow areas and little islands. This was going to be a tricky passage..
Setting Sail on Day One
We checked out of Puerto Rico by phone, which took a while. We got a clearance document by e-mail, which we would need in the Bahamas. Around 10:00, we were cleared and hoisted the anchor. Motivated to be more sporty sailors this trip, we immediately hoisted the sails and put the hydrovane in action. This was great sailing, wind from 120 degrees behind us, doing 6-7 knots in 15 knots of wind. With this wind and this sail setup, we would be able to sail all the way to the Bahamas without a sail change. Bring out the books and snacks!
But by noon a big dark cloud appeared on the horizon. It approached fast and we saw a curtain of rain approaching. When it hit the boat, all hell broke loose and we were soaked in a matter of minutes. It lasted a good 30 minutes before the squall disappeared, and it took all the wind with it. In 0,0 knots of wind, we took down the sails and started the engine. Bummer.
Somehow, the engine dropped revs quite quickly and started making a weird noise. I noticed the temperature go up a few degrees (but no alarms went off). We turned the engine off and seriously considered sailing back to Boqueron. After the initial shock (‘**** the engine is broken again, we did something wrong!’) we cooled down a little bit, gathered our thoughts and we figured that there might be something wrong with either the propellor or the alignment of the engine. As the propellor is the easiest to check, we took out the GoPro and filmed the prop.
Got it! A plastic bag in the propellor! What a relief. We put the GoPro in the water again, shifted backwards, let it turn, shifted forward, let it turn, and eventually it came off. Without even getting into the water! We were overjoyed the engine was fine. As you can imagine, we are still a bit traumatised by our old one. All this stress, and all of it before we even had our lunch. Thomas prepared two pots of china noodles, we hoisted the sails and we were back in action.
We had heard that Boqueron is a big drug smuggling town, and saw a few suspicious looking boats in the bay there. The police seemed to be well aware of that problem, because they were everywhere. A police airplane kept circling our boat in the evening, but they didn’t call us on the VHF.
The wind picked up overnight, we put a second reef in the mainsail and flew towards the Bahamas. We were doing around 7 knots, which is super fast with only 15-20 knots of wind!
Damn Day Two
Day two was not the best day. We sailed through 5000 m deep water with high waves, which made it impossible to sleep. We both felt pretty seasick and maybe the words ‘I am done with sailing’ were said by one of us. Or both of us. Thomas took care of all the cooking because I couldn’t, and we napped as much as possible.
Glorious Day Three
Like usual, day three was perfect and we were loving it again. We both slept good, the weather was nice and the sunrise even prettier than all the other ones we saw before. It was so comfortable that I took out the laptop and started doing some writing and research for our newly founded company. When the wind died in the afternoon, we had to turn on the engine again. We decided that we would make a stop to wait for wind, just south of Turks and Caicos. But just as we were almost there, at 21:30, we decided to keep moving. We didn’t want to anchor in the dark and we didn’t want to clear into Turks and Caicos (100 dollar).
It was a good decision to keep moving, because at 6:00 in the morning of day 4 our log book says: ‘A perfect sail!’. We had 12 knots of apparent wind, sailing downwind with a speed of 6-7 knots. The only bummer of the morning was that my (second..) e-reader had broken, so I had to keep myself entertained with sudoku’s from then on.
When Thomas was done napping by 10.00, we had a strategy meeting during breakfast. The conclusion always is the same: ‘lets drink one more coffee and see what the wind does before we change it all up.’ Our speed dropped under 3 knots during the second coffee so we got busy hoisting the spinnaker. When the wind was just 7 knots, sailing 170 degrees downwind, even the spinnaker didn’t want to play along anymore. We gave up, started the engine and puttered along. It didn’t seem like the wind was coming back soon.. While motoring Thomas noticed that the bolts on the hydrovane mounting had come loose a little bit. We immediately took off the rudder, but this was a fix to be done on anchor. We were quite close to Abrahams Bay, which we marked as one of the ports of entry into the Bahamas. We decided to drop anchor there and wait on more wind.
We navigated the small pass, sailed around coral heads and dropped the hook when we had 1,5 meters of water under the keel. We were going to have to get used to this, anchoring in shallow water! We were still 5 miles away from the little town, so we hoisted the dinghy from deck and made the long trip ashore. We were welcomed by a beach, some coconut trees and the most amazing turquoise water. Hello Bahamas!
In total, we did 450 miles in 76 hours, which is a 6 knot average.
During this four day passage, we got into a more active way of sailing again after our lazy passages in the Caribbean. It was a lot of fun seeing how much faster we can do sail changes, how we know exactly when to pull which lines and how great of a team we have become. Where it used to take us at least an hour to hoist the spinnaker, now we do it in 20 minutes. Where we used to dread to use the spinnaker pole, it has become an easy 5 minute job now. We can plan our sail changes so that we do them during daylight as much as possible, and during our shift change other ways. We even got a new schedule where I sleep 4 hours in the evening, from 20:00 to 00:00, and have a dog shift from 00:00 to 03:00. Thomas does the shift from 3:00 to 6:00, after which he can sleep in as long as he needs. If we both get a ‘longer’ sleep of 4 hours every night, we are rested much better and we can keep doing this for a long time. Bring on the Atlantic crossing!