A MiniTour of the Bahamas – Leg 3

March 8, 2011 posted by admin

Feb 22, 2011
N25d48’ W77d 12’ – Hole In The Wall and on to the Ocean waypoint
0040 UTC 1940 EST (the night before)
Log Reading 266M
Full main and genoa
Wind SE 15-20 knots

The approach to Hole in the wall ended up being in the dark.  It was definitely too dark to take a picture of the lighthouse and too shallow to go in any closer without a depth meter working.  I’ve had several discussions with the locals about coming in to Hole in the Wall and there seems to be a consistent consensus.  The currents make it tricky.  Some people have spent half a day sailing back and forth trying to get in until they get it right.  Not worth it in the dark!  So instead I worked my way to a waypoint within three miles and took a picture of the GPS there.


Class mini rules require validation of the qualifying route.  About four months ago I submitted my proposal to the class to do this route with specific waypoints along the way.  The class approved the route but required me to validate the route along the way.  This is standard operating procedure.  To do this I was required to take a picture of each waypoint with the boat and the GPS in the view, which of course is a bit tricky in the dark, so for Hole in the Wall, a picture of the GPS was going to have to do. 

By mid afternoon the next day the breeze had shut down entirely and the sails were just flogging and crashing about.  Rather than destroy the sails I dropped them on deck and decided to do some work on the boat.  Remember when I said the engine might have swamped coming out of Biscayne Bay?  Well this was an excellent opportunity to inspect the engine and make sure that if push came to shove, that it would run…especially if a ship came near and I needed to maneuver out of the way.  What else for work?  Well I ran a changing block for the jib sheets.  The mini has a hanked on jib and genoa.  Basically they’re little piston clips that hold the sail to the forestay.  When I have one sail up and I need to change to the other sail, I have to do some “bottom loading” of the hanks, but I also have to tie a new sheet on to the clew.  Or, if I’m reefing the headsail, I need to tie a new sheet on to the new reef point.  The mini came with a single fairlead that isn’t big enough to hold two sheets.  The easy solution is to sister up another block to the car.  It was a bit tricky, but with a little effort I just barely got the spectra line through and lashed the new blocks in place.  This made changing sails and reefing sails much safer and easier.  Phew…another job off the list.  By mid afternoon, the breeze started to fill in and we were back up to 10-15 knots of wind.  Next job.  The jib was in terrible condition.  It has really had the crap beat out of it over the past year.  The guys at UK Halsey have repatched and rebuilt it more times than I can remember.  Tristan specifically said to me when he handed it over “this jib WON’T last 1000 nautical miles”!  And as predicted, in the last take down I found a section that was starting to part.  You could see the strands all exposed and the laminate peeled back.  If it got up to twenty knots again this would be the better sail to have up, so I wanted to make sure that she would hold…even if the shape wasn’t great.  With some sticky back, Nick’s palm, some acetone and needle and thread and two hours of patience and time, the jib got a large section about 16” tall by 8” wide reinforced.  It was probably the ugliest hand stitch job ever, but it will hold for sure….


Feb 23, 2011
N24d54’ W75d36’– toward the ocean waypoint
2047 UTC  1547 EST
Log Reading 397M
Full main and genoa
Wind 0 knots

Today was again a no breeze day.  Sails were down and more work was completed on the boat.  It’s very important to take advantage of opportunities as they come.  If you’re not prepared, then you’re going to get caught in a bad position and something is going to go very wrong!  So, this was an excellent opportunity to get more work done.  First priority on the list was to check all of the lashings, split rings and every friction point on deck.  I could have also climbed the rig and checked all of the swages and rivets.  That would be next on the work list for the next no wind day.  I found a few lashings wearing through, but all in all everything was in good shape.  I also attempted some sun sights with the sextant.  Another rule of the qualifier along with having to photo validate the waypoints is to do a minimum of 2 sun sights and complete a running fix with those sights.  Today was a tricky day to do sun sights.  The horizon and the water were almost the same colour in the haze and it was very difficult to find the horizon through the sextant.  I took about 12 sights to develop a curve on the height of the sun measurements.  Once I got some consistent numbers I was happy with my results.  Next I spliced a snap hook onto the trysail pennant.  They couldn’t do this at the loft without having a hoist measurement.  I must have looked pretty funny out there coasting around in no breeze, main lashed to the deck and the storm trysail hoisted ready for war!  It’s a bright orange patch of sail that is virtually bullet proof!  Last successful job of the day was to fully realign the heading on the computer properly.  During all of this mucking about, I found a school of five fish living under the boat, happily enjoying the shade.  After getting to know each other a little, I determined that they quite enjoyed cheerios and apples! 

Thankfully going into the night the breeze filled back in.  What an amazing night!  There was no moon.  It was pitch black save the piercing stars above.  The only thing you could see were the instruments on the bulkhead and the phosphorescence streaming past and out the stern of the boat.  We may have only been doing 6-8 knots, but she felt like a rocket ship!  This was one of those moments that you remember forever.   It’s the reason we do these things.  Try to imagine being a kid at the carnival.  You’re on one of those rides that whips you around at crazy speeds and you don’t know which way you’re turning next…all you can see is the lights whizzing past you.  All you can hear is the thunder of the ride.  You’re so dizzy with excitement that all you can do is laugh and scream.  All I could hear was the thunder of the ocean waves breaking alongside as we torpedoed our way along and the music drumming through my ear of my MP3 player.  It was completely exhilarating!  The kind of thing that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  This was a moment to remember….this is why we do this!!! 

Feb 24, 2011
N24d29’ W74d 15’ – Toward the Ocean waypoint
1352 UTC 1052 EST
Log Reading 481M
Full main and genoa
Wind E 15 knots

The forecast was starting to predict the breeze to clock around to the south east.  This is a traditional weather pattern for the Bahamas.  It’sl controlled predominantly by the Gulf Stream and the prevailing winds.  The high systems will settle in and get “stuck” there for a week or two.  Eventually a low will fight its way through across the Gulf of Mexico and build some heat over Florida and then dump onto the Bahamas.  The cue to this low is the breeze clocking and working it’s way south south east.  When the low starts to take hold the breeze will shift through the south and come from the west and then fairly aggressively swing to the north.  It takes a while for all of this to usually work its way through, but it’s pretty consistent.  The breeze was now very slowly starting to clock a little more south of east.  Today I was able to get some more sun sights in.  Then the breeze went a little north again.  This meant that the swells and the breeze weren’t matching and as we slide off of a wave the apparent wind shifted and the autopilot got confused and tried to alter course.  Then the boat would slowand the apparent wind would come back in line with the boat and the autopilot would try to adjust again…..time to hand steer.  It’s true that throughout this run the sea was somewhat confused….mostly I attributed this to the land masses around and the depths and shallows that the currents were pushing through.  There’s a significant amount of ocean that pushes its way along with the Gulf Stream and makes its way through the Bahamas.  It’s not surprising that the seas are a little confused, but this was a particularly frustrating sea to drive in.  By 2000 UTC the breeze had finally settled back in.  The batteries are starting to stay low though.  Hmmm?

One Response to “A MiniTour of the Bahamas – Leg 3”

  1. john globemasterone Says:

    Diane…marvelous writing. I love …”the storm trysail hoisted ready for war!” and “You’re so dizzy with excitement that all you can do is laugh and scream.”
    The difference here is I would puke…lol.
    Really looking forward to more of your story. WELCOME HOME Diane and Paul.

Leave a Reply