Up until this point in my life I would say I’ve had relatively few experiences which I would categorize as one of those man vs. nature conflicts. Since beginning this journey south, I’ve begun to see that conflict- man vs. nature as being the under current to each day. Where we choose to go or what to do is largely based on the weather and if it is a necessity for us or the boat (man vs. machine… another challenge that Travis may/ may not touch on). Food, shelter from the elements, water and electricity have all been comforts which I have taken for granted and now I know why those pictures of my pioneer ancestors in the late 1800s showed the women as being very stoic and serious, and not that they didn’t have a sense of humor, but now I know… they were constantly enduring that conflict of man vs. nature, it was their life. They didn’t have those comforts of food at the nearest grocery, or water easily pumped into their homes, they had to experience this man vs. nature conflict every day. They had a seriously hard life and I respect that quite a bit more now. In a ways, its rather ironic that civilization has brought our quality of living to this point of comfort and now as a family we are choosing a lifestyle that brings the closeness of nature back into our lives… whether for good or bad. We have definitely been aiming for the pros side and have been blessed with wonderful sunsets and sunrises, calm days with no wind, generally fair weather all the way around. Crossing the Gulf Stream was supposed to be more on the calm side… not so much though as we were hoping. Here’s a short summary of our past few days… and another of my man vs. nature conflicts which continue to add to our storyline 🙂
Crossing the Gulf
We started out with forecast expectations of 15-20kn winds (great for sailing) and 3′ waves in somewhat choppy waters (not so great for the ride)… At midday we were holding fast at 8+kn until a mixture of gusts to 30kn and increased wave heights/ intervals pushed our ‘comfortable’ to uncomfortable so we dropped the mainsail and continued on with the jib and one engine maintaining a speed we felt better with (6kn) and arrived intact to West End, Bahamas in 10ish hrs for 64nm. In retrospect, we definitely would wait next time we until we have less chop, then perhaps dinner might not be the only meal of the day. We all are less grumpy now that our appetites are back and our stomachs are full.
Flying fish were numerous and were our companions most of the day. Customs was smoother than we could have hoped for, imagine a few smiles from us, official looking Bahamians with stern requests, paperwork signed and of course money changing hands. All in all, we made it safely here and are looking forward to exploring the Northern Abacos Cays which are renowned to the east.
Wednesday dawned with some great reminders that nature was still in charge and we needed to respect that. The swell had increased over night as the wind had changed direction/ speed and since the anchorage was not intended for that direction of swell, we were feeling the brunt of both forces. Unfortunately when we were ready to raise the anchor, the switch had disconnected or wasn’t working, so we had to team together to manually raise the anchor which ended up being no small feat! Once we had the anchor secure, we knew we had some huge swells to get through before we could continue on our passage through Little Bahama Bank. Thankfully Travis was at the helm as we hadn’t experienced that level of difficulty yet and he handled it like a pro, bringing us through the tough open water conditions and a coral head studded passage with room to spare. We chose to anchor at Great Sale Cay which is about half way across the northern bank, the anchorage well protected from that north wind, and a great place to sit tight and enjoy Thanksgiving together.
Great Sale Cay
Once again we’ve found ourselves in a secluded anchorage and have revelled in the quiet nature of our routines away from the hustle and bustle of season. We had a relaxing Thanksgiving day complete with a dinghy ride to shore for exploration, but only made it half mile before we turned back (unsure if we would be able to find our way if we ventured further) through the shin-high marsh water. All in all, our dinner left us all with stretched stomachs and full hearts, a very gratitude filled day.
Crab Cay/ Manjack Cay
We left Great Sale Cay with high hopes of getting to our 60nm destination (Manjack Cay) before night fall. However, mother nature surprised us again with a change in the winds to the east earlier than we anticipated and we found ourselves pointing to the wind and waves which did little for our ETA. As a fall back, we had Crab Cay in mind and we barely made it there before sun down. One of the not so hilarious things about sailing here in the Bahamas is there aren’t half as many navigation aids; infact, most are either washed out and unreplaced or unlit, so the plan is to get to each anchorage before nightfall, hopefully eliminating the danger of an hitting an unmarked coral head or shoal which we would have otherwise been able to avoid with. After getting the boat ready to go the next morning, we hoisted the main sails and made good time to Manjack Cay with 15- 20kn of easterly wind, arriving in plenty of time to make water and enjoy games together before dinner.
It is amazing looking through the crystal clear water at the mixed sand and grass beds we are anchoring in. We have been looking forward to a chance to snorkel, so far the cold northern wind has kept us out of the water in the northern Abacos but perhaps tomorrow we’ll try our luck.
The weather cooperated enough for us to take a dinghy ride over to a beach which apparently not too many cruisers stop at. Upon arrival we found numerous conch shells, most had been harvested already, but we did find some which Travis is intent on frying up for us to try.
The ‘jewking’process was quite tedious to get the actual conch out of the shell, we were reading that an experienced Bahamian conch remover can do 4 in one minute! The first step was to hit the shell in the perfect location which unsecures the conch from its holding in the shell, then you are supposed to be able to remove it easily… ours apparently didn’t want to give up their shelter so the whole process for us took a wee bit longer. The next day Travis fried some up with seasoning and batter- the consensus was it tasted like seafood, chewy and could use some sauce 🙂
Going back to the beach, we had some great explorations on land and on sea. The kids tried out their snorkel gear and discovered some underwater wildlife at the same time… checkout the hidden predator that Samuel happened upon, next time we’ll definitely be more cautious when we see this guy though.