A Mini Tour Of The Bahamas – Leg 5

March 12, 2011 posted by admin

post on March 11, 2011

log date Feb 27, 2011
N21d45’ W75d Great Inagua to the Old Bahamas Bank (aka the ditch)
1155 UTC 0655 EST
Log Reading 835M
Full main and genoa and 2 reefs in both
Wind SE 15-20 knots

Between Great Inagua and the beginning of the Old Bahama Channel, there’s a large section of water where you can line yourself up gybing to get up the Old Bahama Channel (the ditch).  My gybing work takes me a little north of the rhumb line and then with a gybe over I come to the south side of the rhumb line very close to Cuba.  With one more gybe in mind, I gybe over and start working my way toward the ditch. 



It’s hazy out this morning.  You can’t really see the horizon.  Cuba is a great place.  I’ve never been, but everyone I know who has gone there on holiday has had a fantastic time.  I’ve also heard lots of stories of drug running and patrol ships along the Cuba border.  For many reasons I have no intention of wanting or needing to go into Cuba.  As the sun came up the haze showed how thick it was.  I could just make out the form of land….just barely.  Then out of the haze I see a ship.  My usual procedure, I check the AIS…..doesn’t  show up.  It’s also pretty much standing still.  The AIS will only pop a ship up on the screen if it’s within about 4 miles and this ship could have easily been outside of that range, but still….things were a little eerie!  It’s almost like they were trying to figure out what or who I was.  If they looked through their binoculars I bet they were saying….”what the heck is something that small doing way out here?”  Regardless of who or what they were, a few minutes later they moved on.  Later on that night, as I got very close to the narrows of the ditch I got to chat with some guys on Chemical Pioneer.  They were making their way out of the ditch and I was gybing my way in through a section that’s about ten miles wide, depending on your angle.  I wanted to make sure they saw me, and in the conversation ended up telling them about the campaign, as they were seriously curious about a 21 foot single handed boat way out in never never land!  Then the ditch narrowed and the traffic swelled, and I plodded my way just outside of what seemed to be the shipping lane, and we quickly made our way through the ditch to Cay Lobos. 

Feb 28, 2011
N22d34’ W77d58’ – Great Inagua to Cay Lobos
1605 UTC 1105 EST
Log Reading 1049M
Full main and genoa
Wind SE 20 +knots

 Feels great to be on our way home.  As much fun as this is and as much incredible hard work as it is it’s always nice to pass a mile marker and know that you’re on your way.  So, where were we…..right, Cay Lobos and still in the ditch. Cay Lobos is my final waypoint before returning to the Miami Sea Buoy.  As you know, the depth meter isn’t working. Upon final approach to Cay Lobos the depth meter decided that this was an appropriate place to commit final suicide.  The meter had been steady at 28 meters for almost a thousand miles, or was flat lined.  Most likely the problem I was experiencing was from the soundings reflecting back through the different thermal layers of the water.  Now upon final approach to Cay Lobos lighthouse the meter decides to jump to 2 metres below the keel.  This of course sets off the shallow depth alarm.  Fine…hit reset.  Should be plenty of water here according to the chart.  Then it jumps to 12 metres and then 99 metres and the deep anchoring alarm goes off.  I’m ready to heave the friggin thing right into the water.  Patience prevails as I continuously hit the reset button, try to get a picture of Cay Lobos and the GPS and try to read the chart all at the same time.  Then… almost as if all of the other alarms on the boat were jealous, they started going off as well.  The Active Indicating System felt inclined to tell me about two ships in the area, and the autopilot chimed in with an “off course” alarm for the apparent wind.  Maddening to say the least!  Scary as hell as everything was going off at once.  Fine…take the damn picture and head back out. 

The next several hours were spent heavily engaged with a manual, the cockpit floor and the ST60 display in hand trying to figure out how to shut the damn alarm off.  The ST60 manual is possibly the worst written manual in the world for someone who is semi-conscious and barely able to construct a sentence due to exhaustion and fatigue!  I’m sure that for your average person who is lucid and coherent, it’s an excellent manual, but under the circumstances this was a loosing battle!!!  Note to self….make a cheat sheet for when the alarm goes off again!     Next stop….Miami Sea Buoy J

March 1, 2011
N23d19’ W79d05’’ – Cay Lobos to Miami Sea Buoy
0324 UTC 2224 EST (the night before)
Log Reading 1133M
Full main and genoa
Wind SE 5-10 knots

We’ve worked our way out of the ditch and are making our way north back into the Gulf Stream. 
At this point the current is completely in our favor, which is really handy as the breeze is dying to a gentle drift.  The cruise ship and cargo ship traffic are building quickly also.  All night long we played “dodge the cruise ship”.  Luckily they have just as little interest in plowing into us as we into them.  With a little radio work we all chat our positions and they happily alter course around us.  I felt bad having a big ship like that alter course around me, but honestly, it was that or get mowed down. 

By the next morning the breeze finally fills in a little from the east.   The weather forecast is not so good.  The breeze is going to swing around to the west by mid afternoon and then go north in the evening and north east through the night…..bad weather coming.  During the day I finally got to take advantage of some nice kite flying conditions.  The water was flat and the breeze was 5-10 knots.  I got the biggest kite up and then as the breeze started to shift forward switched to the code 0 and then back to a headsail.  By the time the headsail was back up we were smack in the Gulf Stream again.  My calculations were excellent.  A Course of 320 degrees gave us a course made good of 348 degrees as the stream pushed us north.  We were on port tack and getting tighter.  Before the sun went down I checked the jib was ready to go and gave everything a final check over to make sure we were ready for heavy weather.  It was going to clock and build to 20+ knots.  The weather forecasts were inconsistent.  May or may not rain, and may or may not build past twenty and probably only 4-6 foot seas in the stream. I made dinner, made a coffee and got my gear on.  The next problem was that as the breeze shifted, the breeze also died a little which changed my set and drift calculations for the stream.  I had to point higher and was almost up to 290 degrees just to make my course of 348 degrees.  Keep in mind that that course of 348 degrees is the course made good according to the GPS….otherwise known as my “track”.  So the bow is pointed in one direction and we’re heading in a different direction….crazy, but calculated.   So the plan is to carry on west as much as possible, and when the breeze swings north, I’ll tack and sail upwind on starboard and let the current take me rather than fight it, then if we’re heading north a little too much, we can just crack off and push more west.  The angle should also be good for the wave action, but regardless, they are going to be steep and sharp.  Sounds like a good plan…..right? By nightfall the breeze builds to 20+ knots. At one point I had just finished sharing my position with a ship and went up to the bow to put a reef in and change headsails.  While I was up there, the breeze swung hard from the west to the north.  It seemed like only ten minutes.  This is scary!  I’m tethered up on the bow.  The breeze has moved almost ninety degrees in a very short spell of time….I decided to leave the headsail down and go back to the cockpit and check our direction and wind etc.  23 knots and from the North hard.  Within what seemed like minutes, the waves stack.  I sheeted in the main and went without a headsail until I got a feel for the new conditions.  Keep in mind, there’s no moon and I can’t see the wave action at all.  These waves are pressing up against the Gulf Stream.  They are literally square.  No curling or cresting, but just standing straight up and close to each other.  As we made our way we we’re falling hard off the waves.  The bow would climb up a wave and then the wave would disappear out from underneath us and we would free fall down the backside of the wave.  I couldn’t see the wave to slide down it.  We landed with a thunderous crash.  The rig would chatter and scream.  Te hull smashes and bulkheads feel like they are going to pop.  My nerves run for cover.  This is too hard on the boat.  It’s also not getting us anywhere other than closer to breaking something. Time to heave to.  At least heaved to we’re not crashing around and we’re a little anchored in the water with the main hanging down wind.  Granted it’s a lot like being in a washing machine twisting and turning with no great consistency, it’s easier on the boat.  Did you know that according to the locals, the Coast Guard and anyone else you talk to that this is smack dab in the middle of the busiest shipping lanes in THE WORLD!  I didn’t know this.  So the new plan is to drift with the stream in the right direction.  I’ll recalculate our position and our drift every hour to make sure that we’re going in a favorable direction, and once the  sun comes up I’ll carry on sailing to the Miami Sea Buoy.  Time for more coffee….holly crap there are a lot of ships on the AIS now.  Time to get on to talking with the traffic on the radio to make sure we don’t get run over!

3 Responses to “A Mini Tour Of The Bahamas – Leg 5”

  1. jdglobemasterone Says:

    The best yet Diane. I loved the tale of the alarms. Can’t wait to read what happened next. Miami buoy or bust!!

  2. jdglobemasterone Says:

    Forgot to add….Loved the photos.

  3. Liz Reid Says:

    Good stuff Diane, feels like we’re right there with you, great job, can’t wait for the next leg:>)

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