Finished the big trip preparations; dinghy with her extra strap, jacklines on cockpit roof, loose counter items stowed, rag towels handy and departed Treasure Cay anchorage basin around 9:30am. Low wind still which ensured a calm transit using the Don’t Rock path to get past Whale Cay. The charted path through the shallow sand bar area is good for shallow draft boats only; the closer to high tide the better. We motored through around mid-tide, seeing depths mostly deeper than 5ft, but for a few seconds 4.5ft popped up on the display. I looked back for one more beautiful water view and crossed my fingers that we’d have a pleasant crossing.
We had enough wind to sail which became plenty of wind to sail which made us reef as we zoomed past Green Turtle, Spanish Cay and west out of the Sea of Abaco into the wider open Little Bahamas Bank. One sight that surprised us was the 20+ boats (one a MC 30) heading east into the Abacos. Bahamas in spring is lovely if your home base and/or schedule permit.
Dinner, which I’d prepared earlier, was eaten in calm sailing as the wind had backed down a bit and by 7pm an engine was started to assist in keeping our speed over 5kts. By midnight Ortolan was again enjoying unassisted sailing. Russ managed to get a few hours sleep, but was too noisy for me until we began motoring again at 5:15am.
At one point during the dark of this cloudy moonless night we heard a crash of thunder and watched as the area ahead of us lit up like stadium lighting accompanied by cloud to ground bolts. Uh oh. Russ quickly switched on the chart plotter’s weather/precipitation screen; I refused to look. Let’s see, we are out on the water, the only vessel with a mast. One monohull was behind us earlier, but we lost sight of their lights hours ago. Needless to say, I was extremely concerned. The showers and T-storm skimmed passed just to our south, shooting down lightning bolts that were way too close for comfort.
By 9am Tuesday the wind had completed its shift to west and with that we dropped the main in 1-2 ft seas. Exchanged the Bahamas courtesy flag for the yellow quarantine flag. The captain was happy to hear we’d sailed nearly 15 of the 27 hours we traveled to reach the beginning of the Ft. Pierce inlet.
With an incoming tide and low wind, the inlet was a piece of cake. Last year we returned on a Sunday with so much local boat traffic that I was happy to have this return be on a weekday. One tiny problem with being one of a very few boats flying the Q flag is that it becomes a red flag for Homeland Security; as in, “hey we want to stop these guys, they’re returning from the Bahamas.” Fortunately, the distance into Ft Pierce to the ICW turnoff is long enough so if you proceed slowly the visit ends before you have to turn. Three guys, one stays on their hot-shot vessel while two come on board. One of them asks if he can look around and proceeds to do so wearing gloves. The other guy checks our boat’s documentation paperwork and Russ’s driver’s license, then asks us all kinds of questions about where we were in the Bahamas, did we have visitors, did anyone approach us to buy drugs, etc. Of course, they also pose the obvious queries about weapons and drugs on board, even including prescription drugs; no, no and no. They were polite and decent and so I gave them the courtesy of asking if I could take their picture as they left; “just get my good side” says one. Well, I guess I did 🙂