First of All –
- First time averaging nearly 8 mph for an entire 9 hour passage
- First time docking in a marina across from another MacGregor
- Carrion Crown Harbor
- Lilly Cay
- Miles Cruised today: Power: 69; Sail: Motor sailed 7 hours
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,108
- Hours Underway: 9
- Fuel: 23.2 gallons/$85
- Morning House Battery Reading: 12.55
- Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: ENE
- Daily High Temperature: 76
- Water Temperature: 74
We have no great ambitions for today, since a check of weather information last evening didn’t show much hope for a Gulf Crossing any time soon. I step out into the cockpit to a stunning sunrise. Sandy hands me a mug of coffee and I tune in Chris Parker’s weather. Somewhat surprisingly, he paints a pretty picture for crossing conditions on Wednesday. Suddenly, everything changes. Instead of setting out in leisurely fashion on a 40 mile passage toward an anchorage at the east end of Grand Bahama Island, I decide to make a big jump and go offshore, straight across Northwest Providence Passage to Lucaya. The distance is 69 miles and I think we can make it to Lucaya before dark. Ordinarily, when a long passage is anticipated, I like to start around 3am, so I can arrive by early to mid afternoon. However, today’s cruise plan has been abruptly changed so as to put us in position to take advantage of a Wednesday crossing window. Weather for today is supposed to be quite settled, with wind abeam or off our stern quarter at 10 knots or less. I figure we should have good conditions for going well offshore, on a straight line course for Lucaya. As soon as the decision is taken I turn the SSB radio off, start the engine, raise anchor and head out. Sandy brings me a bowl of oatmeal while I’m motoring across the banks. We cross shallow water for the first 8 miles before reaching the drop off. I’m hoping for settled seas out in deep water, but this is not to be. On the contrary, seas prove to be extremely challenging for the first half of the passage. With wind out of the northeast and on our beam, I let out the jib and set the engine at 3000 rpm. We are running at the surprising speed of 7.5 to 8 mph. The seas, however, prove too difficult for the autopilot and I must resort to manual steering. For 20 miles or so the wind comes unobstructed off the Abaco Bight, and it pushes a steep, closely spaced 3 foot swell. Mixed in with that, we are pushed from behind by another 3 foot swell component. Occasionally, these two swell directions result in a peaking sea which lifts the boat, and it heels uncomfortably to 30 degrees or more when we slide off. At other times a big following sea overtakes us, and a side swell slaps into us, again causing the boat to swerve sharply and heel over. I work the wheel back and forth, trying to anticipate the push of the seas, and counter their forces. I’m able to keep us on course, but it’s physically and mentally tiring. Our speed during all this is really quite remarkable. The following seas cause the boat to surge ahead, and I see speeds up to 10.7mph when we’re sliding down the face of a big swell. We go hour after hour with speeds well over 8 mph. The Garmin GPS has a readout which estimates time of arrival, and I watch it steadily drop, from 5:30 initially, then down to 4:30, and finally settling down at 3:55pm. This is great news, because it will enable us to get to Lucaya Marina well before the fuel dock and marina office close for the day. About half way through the passage I detect a very gradual easing of the breeze and a settling of the seas. Whereas to start with, the ocean was heavily littered with whitecaps, by 1pm they are almost absent. The only hiccup occurs around 2pm when the engine abruptly quits. I figure I’ve run my tank out of gas, although I didn’t expect this to happen. I look into the tank and see several gallons still inside. Perhaps with the bouncing around, the gas line sucked air and caused the engine to quit. I add 2.5 gallons from a gas can and try pumping up the squeeze bulb. It stays collapsed, which is what happened while we were in Ft. Meyers earlier in the trip. Then I look at the fuel line where it connects to the tank and I see the problem. The fuel line has kinked, thereby blocking the flow of gas. I straighten the line and the squeeze bulb works properly. The engine starts right up, and we’re off and running again, with only about 5 minutes lost. I later add 5 more gallons of gas to the tank, which should be plenty for getting us into Lucaya. I phone the marina when we’re about 12 miles out and confirm that they have space for us. The fuel dock will be open and watching for us. It is with considerable relief that we turn into the entrance to Lucaya harbour. While passing between the rock jetties which line the channel I see some sort of pigeon land on a palm frond. It looks like it might be a white crowned pigeon, the same species that has led me on several wild goose chases, in vain quest for a photo. Sandy passes the camera up to me and I shoot a picture while motoring by. Amazingly, the picture turns out quite well, and it is indeed the white crowned pigeon of the Bahamas and West Indies.
The fellow at the fuel dock is extremely friendly and efficient. He takes our lines, helps us gas up, registers us for our slip, and then scoots over to the marina side to take our lines when we dock. It feels great to be here again. This has been our staging point when preparing to return to the US for both of our two previous Bahama cruises. This is a very attractive marina, with nice facilities and not nearly so loud and hectic as the one across the channel and adjacent to the marketplace. They have a free shuttle here which takes boaters over to the marketplace, and we plan to go over there in the morning. Right now, it’s time to settle in, dump garbage, take showers, and fix dinner. Our dockmaster friend, as he’s helping tie us up, points out that, right across the dock from us, another MacGregor 26X, just like ours, is moored. No one is on the boat, but it is kind of cool to have two Macs right across from each other in the marina.