"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
In our last post, we had tried to get out on the Sea Of Abaco through the Little Harbour Cut, only to face a rage in the cut, and were forced to turn back.
With our southern route blocked for the next week or more, that left us no alternative but to take the longer, but more sheltered northern route out of the Sea of Abaco.
The island of Abaco is a long, thin island, shaped similar to a boomerang. We were now going to have to travel up the east side of the island, across the north side, around the west end, and into the Bight of Abaco. This two day voyage would end up placing us just 5 miles west of where we were starting from, an aggravating situation.
We headed out early on the 22nd of June, traveling northwards, back towards Marsh Harbour. By noon we had arrived back at Marsh Harbour, and with a wind from the stern we put out the gennaker and had a wonderful downwind sail.
A few hours north of Marsh Harbour is a place called Whale Cay. You have two options when passing Whale Cay. The first is to go out into the ocean, and then come back in through the Whale Cay Cut. With the strong waves out in the ocean, that was not an option we wanted to try. The other option is to travel over a huge shallow sand bank, through the Don't Rock Passage. This passage is narrow, shallow (less than 2 meters for most of it), and constantly shifting. This is one of the places that you can't rely on charts and instruments, and have to go by sight. In nautical terms, it's Visual Piloting Rules (VPR).
The passage is named for the fascinating Don't Rock. We had to pass it at high tide so we could get through the passage, but at low tide it is an amazing sight as the base has been washed away to about one half the size of the rock.
We stowed the sails, and ran slowly forward on the engines. Once again, Kyle went forward to the bow to keep an eye on things, while I motored on through.
By the time we got over the sand banks it was close to 4pm, and we decided to head to nearby Green Turtle Cay for the night.
This lovely little village perfectly captures the image of a small Bahamian village. With narrow streets fit only for pedestrians and golf carts, quaint, brightly coloured houses and shops, and friendly people, it is everything your heart could desire.
While Charlena and Rebecca went ashore to do some shopping, Kyle and I stayed aboard to complete a task. A few days earlier Kyle had tried to lubricate the sail slide on the mast, but the boat was rocking and he was only able to do the lower half of the mast. So now we had to complete the job and we got out the ATN Topclimber. This is a very neat device, obviously designed by a mountain climber and sailor. The first step is to attach the climbing line to the main halyard (that's the "rope" that pulls up the sail), and haul it up to the top of the mast. Once that line is locked in place, Kyle now climbs into the Topclimber's harness, and attaches it to the climbing line. He then moves one of the climbers up the line, puts his weight onto that one, and raises the other. This continues as he climbs up to the top of the mast.
Once Kyle is at the top, he gets out the spray dry lubricant. As he sprays I lower the main halyard so he slowly lowers down the mast while spraying.
The next morning we continued on our way, rueing the fact that tomorrow we'd be only a few miles away, just on the other side of the island.
It was a long day, but by late afternoon we had rounded the island and crossed through the channel at the west end. Anchoring at Cave Cay, we enjoyed the sunset, watching thunderstorms west of us running in a line northwards.
In the morning we were all up early. While Charlena prepared breakfast, and I prepared the boat, Kyle & Becky took Cedar to shore. Once they were back we pulled anchor and headed out.
From Cave Cay there is a 5 mile passage to Spence Rock. This shallow VPR route twists and turns. But it is more stable than the sand banks at Don't Rock, and so we were able to use the autopilot most of the way. Once we passed Spence Rock we headed to Mores Island, where there one of only two channels out of the Bight of Abaco.
The southwest side of the Bight of Abaco opens to the Northwest Providence Channel, and the open ocean. But it is cut off by shallow sand banks. At 2:30 in the afternoon I decided to put our shallow draft catamaran to the test, and half way to Mores Island, we turned right and headed towards the sand banks. With the tide just starting to come in, if we were to get stuck we would have to wait for the tide to lift us so we could head back. It was a gamble, and if it didn't work, would add two hours onto what was to be a long day already.
Once again we were on Visual Piloting Rules, and Kyle moved forward to watch the depths. I watched the depth sounder as we proceeded at normal speed. The lowest spot we found was a stretch of 2.1 meter deep water. That means we had just over 1 meter of water under the hull, plenty safe over soft sand.
And so we now leave this trail for others to follow, the Crawford Passage allows a minimum 2 meters over mean low water and allows entry and exit from the Bight of Abaco without having to travel down to Mores Island.
Once through we turned towards Port Lucaya, and the Grand Bahama Yacht Club. Cutting over 30 miles off our voyage means we also cut over 6 hours out. Putting up the sails we continued through the night.
By midnight we were in sight of Lucaya and could make out buildings we recognized, even in the dark. I took over from Kyle as we approached the Bell Channel and with Kyle on one bow, and Rebecca on the other, they used flashlights to keep an eye on the rocky channel sides as we entered.
Having contacted the Yacht Club a few days ago, we knew which slip was ours, and by 2am we were tied up, and shutting down.
As is typical, there's an adrenaline rush when you reach port after an overnight voyage, even when that was in the middle of the night. So while we were all tired, we were also excited to be back at the yacht club for a few days. It took an hour or so to calm down, then we all went to bed for a long sleep.
This afternoon we made our rounds and said "Hi" to all our old friends who are here, and some new ones that have arrived. It will be an early bed tonight.