Saturday 6 May 2017

Hemingway Marina, Havana, Cuba to Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End Grand Bahama Island
22nd April

With Dave’s help I left the berth at 0700 and motored to get fuel and then on to clear customs. I was done by 0800 and motored out of the channel through the reef which was a lot calmer than it had been on my way in. The plan was to head for either Bimini or direct to West End depending on whether it was daylight or not by the time I was off Bimini.

We sailed well North Eastwards under full sail until about 1700 when the wind died and thunder storms starting erupting all around. None were directly overhead but the lightening was sufficiently close for me to deploy the lightening conductor. I sincerely hoped it would not be tested. It was also pissing with rain and the sea was still very sloppy, we therefore rolled around making about 3 knots under power. There was also a lot of shipping about and being under power I sometimes had to take avoiding action. It was a thoroughly miserable couple of hours.

By 1900 the wind had returned and quite fresh too and so two reefs went in the main. There were still numerous thunder storms around and it was still pissing with rain but we were sailing once again and on course for Bimini. As dusk fell a large Eagle like bird kept on trying to land on top of the mast and I was fearful that it might damage the VHF antenna which was already slightly bent due to an argument with a tree in Amsterdam in 2012! Eventually after numerous aborted landings and about 30 minutes it gave up and went elsewhere.

23rd April

The  wind increased in force such that I was forced to put in a third reef at 0100. I was glad I had rigged the pennants to by-pass the first reefing point in Jamaica so that now the first reef was actually two reefs and I could put the third reef in without having to mess around with re-running the pennants – not something you really want to have to do when the wind is getting up. I had a bit of a problem with Angus during this period. I still had the large vane on – which in these conditions was too big – but I did not fancy hanging off the back of the boat to change it. Angus kept slipping so that I constantly had to adjust him to bring us back closer to the wind. I think the wind resistance provided by the bigger vane was the problem. It still occurred even after I had tightened the friction wing nuts using pliers.

The wind eased during the course of the night such that by 0830 we needed full sail once again. I messed up big time – or rather messed up at some earlier point without noticing. To my horror as I shook the reefs out the mast end of the first reefing pennant disappeared into the boom. The stop knot had clearly not been tied properly and had untied itself. Now I had no means of using the first reefing point and it was going to be a devil of a job to re-reeve the pennant through the boom. Indeed it may require dismantling the boom itself, obviously not something that could be done at sea. Clearly that was not a tenable situation. Fortunately, I had some spare blocks (pulleys) and was therefore able to use 2 of these to rig the pennant on the outside of the boom. That sorted things for now.

By 1230 despite no increase in the wind our speed was up from 6 knots to over 8. We were clearly getting a very considerable lift from the Gulf Stream. Shortly afterwards the nearby eastern sky was ominously black and we were skirting a very large thunderstorm. By 1430 the wind had died completely and I the engine on. We were still making 6 knots over the ground despite using only mid revs on the engine which would normally produce about 3 knots. By 1630 the wind was back and we were making 8 knots once again.  It was now clear that we would be off Bimini in the dark and I therefore decided to carry on direct to West End. At 1730 the wind freshened and backed requiring two reefs and preventing us from laying West End! At 2000 I tacked to head north. By 2200 we were becalmed again and so the engine went back on and we headed directly for West End. By 2330 the breeze was back and we were able to lay West End. 

We were only about 30 miles East of Miami around this time and I could see the loom of the city lights to the West. It seemed strange that I was so near the USA but that I would not after-all set foot on it's territory during this trip. 

24th April

Around 0630 we had a too close for comfort encounter with a ship that was heading directly for us only a mile off. For some reason he did not show on the AIS until then. This encounter heralded a plethora of shipping and I was kept on my toes making sure we had no further incidents. By mid afternoon the breeze was on the wane once more and by 1530 it was clear we would need to motor if we were to make West End before dark. I’m glad we did because of course by the time we were approaching the harbour the wind was back and there was quite a swell running in the very narrow entrance channel that did not open up until we were right on top of it. I would not have liked to have tried that in the dark. Thankfully, we were moored up safe and sound by 1930.

Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End

A pretty marina/resort with a beautiful beach. Very expensive however. $66 a night plus $15 a day for water whether or not one used any.

For me, only making a short stopover in the Bahamas the additional $150 for the required cruising permit made it a very expensive stop. They did though have wifi and an internet connection that worked enabling me to catch up on communications with family and friends. I ate ashore once - $14 for a decent Cheeseburger and Chips at the Beach Bar. On day two, Scott and Laurie from the USA, on board Whiskey’s Whisper (one of the few boats I have come across that is smaller than Arctic Smoke) invited me for dinner which I gratefully accepted. Scott advised me on the best route to take across the little Bahama Bank and we had a most enjoyable evening. On day three I took a bike ride (bikes and use of the pool were included in the price of the Marina) into the West End settlement to do some shopping. It had been devastated by Hurricane Matthew in October and the locals were still very much in the recovery phase.

The Marina/Resort had been hit too but by comparison got off lightly. In West End, numerous buildings, people’s homes had been completely destroyed and many others were very badly damaged.

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