Through 30 April, 2015
Saturday, the 25th and we wheel into the southeast anchorage at Alans-Pensacola Cay. There are 5 sailboats and a motoryacht there already, but there’s plenty of room. By the time we get the hook down, 4 boats are leaving. Was it something we said? Nah, we just got here early, before everyone was up and rollin’. One of Steve’s buddies told him that there was a good snorkeling spot with plenty of spearable fish over on the Atlantic side, so we braved the 2’ seas for the 4 mile trip out. We did some ziggin’, then some zaggin’, and some innin’ and some outin’, but couldn’t find the primo spot. We did get a nice boat ride, though, as we explored a “Hurricane Hole” on the south end of the isle (deep inside but too shallow for The Girl to get through the opening), and an alternate anchorage on the Atlantic side which could provide shelter in a west wind. Completing our circumnavigation, we were starting to get some wind up from the west, and it looked like it was going to be a bumpy night. At 0024, we got a gust, and dragged anchor for about 30 yards until the hook grabbed again. The Admiral woke me up, and we let out another 50’ of chain and backed down on the anchor, getting a good bite. That was it for the boss. She slept in the salon with one eye open the rest of the night, while the wind gusted to near 30 knots. I got the memo. In the morning, Steve walked over to the other side of the Cay to check out the Bight that we had spied the day before. It looked a heck of a lot better than where we were (2’ waves rolling in), and there were no other anchorages for miles that provided shelter from the west, so we hauled anchor and rounded the Cay to calmer waters. We had a beautiful beach, and a gentle swell rolling in from the Atlantic, so we were fat and happy, even in the stiff westerly breeze. We tied a line to the stern of Steve’s dinghy and took turns pulling each other (equipped with mask and snorkel) around the bay. We didn’t see much more than Eel Grass, old Conch shells, and Sea Biscuits but we sure had fun. While we were playing, Julia was cookin’ up some soup for our dinner. After dinner, lots of sips and good conversation, Steve taxied us back to the Girl. As I was drifting off to sleep, Suz checked the GRIB files and saw what appeared to be the only weather window to get back to the States in the next week. It started the next day, and closed around noon the day after. All the while, it looked like conditions were becoming favorable for the formation of a major tropical storm later in the week. Whew! We decided to take a sleep, and revisit this in the light of day.
April 27th, and the forecast was still lookin’ the same. After a peaceful night on the hook, it’s now blowing 27 knots sustained. Any wind over 10 knots with a North component is not good for crossing the Gulf Stream, but the speed was supposed to drop between 1300 and 0000, then move to the East, giving us our window to cross before it went back to the North, accompanied by severe thunderstorms after noon on the 28th. There was no rush to get out early, as we were timing our passage around wind shifts over the next 30 hours. We got the anchors up at 0833 and headed across the Little Bahama Bank towards Great Sale Cay, where we planned to lay in the lee of the island until the wind started to moderate and clock to the East. After running for an hour and a half in 25+ knot winds, the Erben’s decided that towing their dinghy was a no-go. We tooled into the lee of Moraine Cay, where they dropped their hook and brought their tender up. By 1615, we had arrived at Great Sale Cay. The predicted wind shifts looked to be delayed by a couple of hours, so we decided to drop the hooks, take showers, and a little nap. Anchors up at 1830, the wind had moderated to 11 knots, so off we went. I took the first watch until midnight, when the wind had dropped to 4 out of the NNW. At 0400, when I came up to relieve the Admiral, we were clear of the Bank, and there were 7 ships around us, some headed North, some South. After Suz went back to bed, I didn’t see another vessel until daylight. The wind had shifted to the East, but the forecast on the severe weather was off by around 6 hours or so. Two hours out of Fort Pierce inlet, the first storm hit around 0830. For the next 4 hours as we idled outside the inlet waiting for some visibility, we were pelted by hail, 3”/hour driving rain and winds of 30+ knots, with gusts to 40 (as indicated by our windometer). In between the severe cells, when visibility improved to over 100 yards, we snuck into the inlet, only to be confronted by a 250’ long dredge turning around in the channel. The Captain said that we could pass on his starboard if we did so “smartly”. Twenty-eight and a half hours after our start, the voyage was completed as we tossed our lines in the driving rain at Ft. Pierce City Marina. “Erben Renewal” followed a half hour later; having caught 4 Mahi Mahi between dawn and the first storm (I was too lazy to wet a line).