May 6, 2011 – Conception Island to Hawksnest Creek, Cat Island

29nm miles cruised today, 3 hours under power and 4 hours sailing; 683nm total – high temp 85 degrees; water temp 81 degrees – E wind at 10-12 knots; seas 4 foot early, 2 foot late

I tune Chris Parker in at 6:35am, with good reception. His forecast is ideal for our crossing today to Cat Island. Further, the next several days sound excellent as well. We have been so fortunate with weather conditions on days when we have exposed crossings. I wonder how much longer our good fortune can continue.

We’re just getting started with breakfast when I see Macek and Christina making ready to get underway. Macek gestures that he’ll call me on the radio later, to get the weather report. We quickly finish breakfast and get ready to raise our anchor. I’ll remove the sail covers while Sandy motors us out of the anchorage. The breeze is around 10, out of the east. I shake the reef out of the main, and then set both sails. Our course to Cat Island takes us on a broad reach, however the residual swell is running fairly high, around 5 feet, and the wind is fairly light. We wallow a bit in the swell, and can only make around 3.5 knots with just the sails. I don’t want to be out on the water for 8 to 10 hours, and so figure I need to do at least 4 knots. I start the engine and motor sail for the first couple of hours. Every so often the wind picks up a bit and I try shutting the engine off, but soon our speed drops off, and I power up again. When I am running the motor, however, I only need about 1000rpm to average 4.5 to 5 knots, with the sails helping.

Shortly after getting sails up, I put both fishing lines out, hoping I’ll finally hook a mahi mahi. I’m encouraged by a flock of sea birds which are actively feeding just ahead of us. We troll right through the area and sure enough, I hear the reel buzz with the sound of a strike. As I reach for the rod I see the tip jerk several times, and then go limp. Definitely a strike, however, not a hook up. Darn.

About 10 miles out the breeze picks up and once again I shut the motor off. This time, however, the wind sustains its speed, and we easily average 4 to 4.5 knots. The seas also settle down, which helps our speed. I think we’re getting a little boost from a current, which is running in the same direction as the wind. It makes for a very comfortable and efficient passage. Calypso is in sight for the entire crossing, maintaining a 5 to 6 mile lead, owing to her earlier departure and faster sailing speed. As we near Cat Island, we can only see the top one third of her mast and mainsail, but she still gives us something to steer toward.

Macek rounds the southwestern tip of Cat Island to see if the bay on the far side will be suitable for anchoring. He finds that it is very rolly there, with refracting swell. Christina radios that they’re heading for Hawksnest Creek instead. It’s a very sheltered tidal creek which should serve well as an anchorage.

We follow their lead and head for Hawksnest. I drop sails near the entrance, and we motor in past the marina. The anchoring spots are a short distance beyond the marina entrance, and we see Calypso riding at anchor in the middle of the channel. We move past them and drop anchor around 100 yards further up the creek. We both set two anchors, Bahamian mooring style, with one fore and one aft, with both attached to the boat at the bow. This will keep us pinned in the middle of the channel when the tidal current reverses.

After anchoring we tend to boat chores, and then we all pile into our dinghy and motor down to the marina to look around and go for a walk. It feels good to get off the boat and stretch our legs. This is a big sport fishing center, and the marina is filled with extremely large sport fishing boats, with great elongated hulls and lofty tuna towers. A short distance beyond the marina is the air strip, well populated with expensive looking planes. A twin engine executive jet taking off speaks volumes regarding the clientelle of this location.

We all go back to our boat for cocktails and a snack. As evening sets in I dinghy Macek and Christina back to their boat. We barbeque up some pork chops and enjoy a brilliant sunset as we dine in the cockpit. Darkness falls quickly. It’s almost completely silent here. The tinkle of the tidal current against our boat hull and the distant cry of a marsh bird are the only sounds.

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