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Old 16-11-2010, 12:06   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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Boat: Morgan 461 S/Y Flying Pig
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Marsh Harbour to Spanish Wells

Marsh Harbour to Spanish Wells

We left you after lots of little and not-so-little chores had been done in
Marsh Harbour, waiting for a weather window to sail to Eleuthera.

With an eagle ear on the SSB, we solicited our weather guru Chris Parker's
advice as to the best day to go. Marionette, one of our buddy boats, headed
down on a weekend, so I got to say goodbye to them while I was doing the
net, after they'd so kindly called in a report for one of the cuts through
which they'd transited. (Part of the morning net is a conditions report,
following the weather found on, which includes about
everything NOAA has to say about water and conditions between the Bahamas
and FL. This conditions report includes all of the passages between the Sea
of Abaco and the Atlantic, in real time, whenever we can get someone to call
them in before the net.)

That wasn't nearly as much wind as we'd prefer, so we stuck in place,
continuing my anchoring of the morning net, and, happily, getting a later
and later high tide, needed for comfortable access to the fuel and water
dock. By Monday, it appeared that Wednesday night would be our best bet.

We wanted to sail at night in order not to run the chance of arriving at Egg
Island, which has a fairly narrow cut, too late in the day. Leaving after
dark would assure us that we'd not arrive too late, and, of course, if
needed, we could always slow the boat down, or heave to near the entrance,
if we got there before dawn. Leaving in the morning to our departure exit
would also allow us a leisurely trip down the inside of the external cays,
for an exit through Little Harbour's passage, a relatively straightforward
job, even in the dark, particularly since we'd done it a couple of times
both ways since we'd first arrived in the Bahamas.

Chris confirmed our expectations, but cautioned that we needed to be into
our anchorage before Thursday night, as the winds and seas would be
building. So, we did our last laundry and shopping on Tuesday, bidding our
other buddy boat, Troubadour a sad farewell, too, as they headed out a day
early. As it turned out, they had to motor most of the way (not all that
far - only about 50 miles) due to the very light winds. They and Marionette
elected to take a mooring ball at Spanish Wells, but, ever frugal, we were
expecting to anchor somewhere nearby.

We've got some issues with our Walker Bay Genesis which are, finally, after
many months, into the warranty queue at the manufacturer. Some are warranty
items, which I expect will be resolved in due course, but one of them is a
safety issue pertaining to how they recommended we lift our dinghy. We've
not had it in the davits since we returned to the Bahamas in late July,
necessitating not only towing it everywhere, but frequent removal on a beach
to clean the bottom, Marsh Harbour being fecund for vegetation accumulation.

Since we would be doing this at night, on Tuesday, I removed the engine and
fuel tank to make it as light as possible. I also rigged a dual line to
help keep it centered as we towed, as we expected some relatively large
swells out there. That dual line would also act as a safety if one should
fail. If it came loose in the dark, even if we saw it happen, the
likelihood of our recovering it would be nil in 6-7' swells...

Wednesday dawned as usual, and I did my preparations for the morning net,
listening to Chris Parker on the SSB, which, due to propagation, was very
scratchy, but readable. He couldn't hear me, however, but, due to his new
web conference feature, I was able to type in my request for confirmation of
our timing, which he confirmed.

I bid a fond farewell to all the friends we'd made this time around in Marsh
Harbour, and signed off as net anchor for the last time this season.
Casting off the mooring pendant, we headed into our fuel, gas and watering.
Happily, our diesel is sipping these days, as it used exactly one gallon per
hour. As the only times we've used it have been to motor at speed, our
consumption is right where it needs to be, confirming the utility of
changing out the injectors as we did 10 months ago. As we'd filled the
water recently, we wouldn't take much, but they charged us the same $20 we'd
have had if we were entirely empty. Ahhh - life in the Bahamas. At least it
wasn't the $.50 a gallon as found in some places - though, on this fill,
that would have saved us some money!

Off we go in light conditions at noon. It's a glorious day but not much
wind. That's of no issue, as we have plenty of time to get to the bottom,
and as we'll not be leaving before dark, so long as we got through all the
shallow stuff which requires a very circuitous, twisty routing, in daylight,
we'd be fine.

Our newly tuned rig demonstrates that it works well in light airs, too, as
we are sailing closer than we've ever done when we're heading upwind. Ever
hopeful, we had our lines out, but aside from a couple of seagulls which
displayed a very close interest in our lures, there were no actions on the
part of any sea dwellers. The most we caught was a couple of instances of

We eased our way down to near our exit point, and, just before dark, threw
out the hook off Lynyard Cay for supper at 5:30PM. A relaxing supper, and
we were ready to leave at 7PM. The winds had been forecast for 12-15 on a
broad reach from the NNE for our nearly due-south trip, and we'd expected to
take in a reef before we left so as to not arrive too early. However, the
light winds convinced us to leave all the laundry out, as we'd want the
maximum stiffening we could get from the expected roll from the swells. The
swells were long-period so wouldn't be uncomfortable, but the more pressure
we could keep on the sails, the less rolling motion we'd experience. Also,
curiously, all the way down the inside, the wind had been from the West,
quite different than the forecast. It could have been land effect, we
supposed, sucking the drive out of the expected NNE winds, but it was so
light that we couldn't imagine being overpowered, nor having the boat go too
fast. As we left, the winds were all of 3 knots!

We exited the cut at 7:30, finding the wind rising a bit, and encountering
the forecasted swells. We set our course for 177*T in 4-6 knots over our
stern at 120*-140* apparent - but still from the NW. We were making 4.4-4.6
knots SOG, so that would make the "real" wind more like 7-10 knots, a very
comfortable speed, warranting our full sails. The 4-6' seas were on an 8-9
second interval, so it was a gentle roll. All was well, so I went down for
a nap at 9PM while Lydia stayed at the helm. As I was sleeping, the wind
clocked ever so slightly, so Lydia bore off a bit to the west in order to
keep the wind at 120*-140* apparent.

By midnight, when she was flagging, and woke me to take over, the wind had
picked up ever so slightly, so I was able to play the wheel a bit to keep it
a bit more on track. If you look at our SPOT tracker line, you'll see where
I started pulling her back to our south course, making 5 knots, now, on a
course back from 190*T to 180*T. Lots of room to maneuver, so whichever way
we went was fine. We'd actually anticipated having to jibe our way down to
avoid arriving too early, but the motion was easy, and the speed slow
enough, that we just kept on directly.

The wind continued its slow build, so, by 1AM, with 8-12 apparent winds over
our starboard quarter at 110*-140*, induced by the roll, we were making
5.5-6 knots. Still a nice easy roll, I didn't have to work the wheel much,
but at 1:30 we had a slight shift, again, further north. That required a
slight adjustment, again, this time to about 210*T COG. Chris Parker had
forecast building seas, and, sure enough, they built enough to require a
slightly further adjustment to keep the sails full in the rolls. Still a
nice long period, though, and a brilliant sky showed off the Milky Way along
with the occasional streak of a meteorite.

3:30 saw another wind shift to about 000-020. Finally it was coming around
to the NNE? I continued to tweak our course, bearing off slightly to keep
the wind in the 110*-140* apparent position which allowed the boat to stay
relatively stiff. However, the plot of our course was steadily moving west.
We'll soon have to jibe in order to make our waypoint, but there's still no
issues of comfort, time, or security, being well offshore in very deep

However, at 5AM, there was a very sudden shift, by 45*, in the wind, finally
arriving at the expected NE position. I bore off sharply, but the noise of
the small crash jibe during a roll as I did that woke Lydia, who came up to
see what was up. This was a great time to jibe, given that our wind would
now be in a much more favorable quarter for sailing, and it would be light
soon. Indeed, the nautical twilight had already started, so we were able to
see what was happening.

Of course, when we jibed, that put the wind forward, rather than aft, so we
saw an immediate increase, to 13-17 knots. Our position now had the
apparent wind at 60*-75* which our new rig likes nearly as much as 30*, so
our speed leapt to 6.9-7.4 knots. We were heading more into the waves, now,
so we didn't experience so much of the roll as before, but had a bit more
pitching moment. Still, all in all, a great ride.

The wind continued to clock, but we were now on a rhumb line for our
entrance into the Egg Island cut, so we just continued to tighten sails,
moving the apparent wind to 30*-45* - which, of course, induced a bit more
heel, and a bit more speed. We never exceeded 15* of heel, a very efficient
point of sail, and we were making mid-7 knot speeds for the last hour or so.
Whatta fantastic ride this has been!

We cleared the cut by 8AM and had the hook down off Royal Island by 8:30.
Unfortunately, for our tastes, the wind at that point was right on our nose,
so we reluctantly motored the last little bit before anchoring, but it made
dropping the sail a piece of cake, as it was in the right position to do so
without having to make a steering adjustment :{))

Once in, we had breakfast, checked in with our friends who had preceded us,
and set about tidying up the boat. Our forecasts had included that the wind
would pick up dramatically later in the day, and the Atlantic seas build
spectacularly, so our timing had been perfect, as we were seeing 17-22 knots
shortly after we'd anchored. After catching up on our sleep, and a great
movie the night before, we headed off to the end of Russell Island the next

Friday saw increasing winds, again as forecast, but we were well protected
where we were. Our friends had elected to take mooring balls in Spanish
Wells, but we preferred not only the isolation (if you can call being parked
nearby to 4 big houses, with video-grade internet, isolated!) of the
outside, but to save the cost of the moorings in favor of a birthday dinner
to Lydia on the 14th.

Our connection was so fantastic that most of this and the preceding day was
spent talking with friends and family, including, on the 11th, a call to my
father on Veteran's Day, quite special for both of us. When we have good
connections, our Vonage phone (the same number I've had for more than 30
years, including when I first got to GA with Southern Bell) is a real treat,
allowing family and friends to call our "local" number and have it ring
here, wherever anywhere in the world may be as "here." Video calls by Lydia
to her grandson and children, Vonage calls to England (free with the basic
suscription) to her mother, web surfing (catching up on the hundreds of
birthday wishes flowing through Facebook, a real bandwidth hog), and the
like entertained us for those couple of days.

However, we expected that the highlight of the next few days would be the
record seas expected. As a byproduct of not only a gale in New England, but
the remnants of Tropical Storm Tomas, seas were expected to be 15-16' swells
on a 14 second interval, augmented by 6-8' wind driven waves. Chris Parker
suggested those in the Abacos get out their cameras for the display.

Accordingly, on Saturday we set out in the dinghy for the tip of Eleuthera,
hoping to find a way to the beach as suggested by the satellite views of the
island. Looking for a place to land the dinghy led us first to a ramp
which, on closer inspection, appeared to be private. However, we'd seen a
couple of dogs and a woman walking on a clearly private dock not far away,
so went over to solicit advice on where to land.

Loretta (as we learned later) said that it was all private for many miles
down the coast. However, she apparently sized us up as no threat, and
invited us to tie up to their dock, and would point us to a nearby location
which should be good for wave watching.

This turned into a long visit, a slight tour of the grounds (in her golf
cart, accompanied by the two enthusiastic labs, Mocha and Mango) of the
Sands estate. That's as in Sands Beer, the "truly" Bahamian beer, as the
other, Kalik, is only bottled/canned here, the money reverting to Heinekin,
the owner of the mark. She and her husband were the local reps for the
mark, and were full-time caretakers of the estate. A friendship immediately
developed as she gave us the tour of her "caretakers' cottage" - a marvelous
expansion of a small house - and showed off all her sea-treasure art.

Lydia went wild, as it gave her numerous ideas about what to do with all
that she's been collecting, and Loretta graciously allowed her to take
pictures of much of her work. We learned that she was a native Bahamian,
but her husband, off in Nassau for the day, would be back on Sunday, and
would love to meet us. Of course, her hospitality included, with our
expectation as it started of immediately setting out to go wave watching, of
the offer of a couple of Sands beers! However, our time together allowed us
to finish them before leaving and, many thanks later, we set off.

As it turned out, we badly misunderstood her instructions, and, wandering
around (you can see our end points on the SPOT page) to many dead ends,
eventually walking about 5 miles or so to Preacher's Cave. That's a
destination in itself, as it is the point of the first settlement on the
island, begun by a shipwrecked fellow who took refuge in the cave, and, as
the community grew from various immigrants, church services were held there
for over 100 years. It was also the seat of government for a time, with the
local meetings being held there as well.

We'd seen a sign on the road leading to Preacher's Cave, and were pondering
whether we wanted to walk the 3 miles to it, when a taxi stopped on the main
road. He told us of how far it would be, and, since we were that far afield
already, decided we'd walk it. However, in conversation about our mission,
he mentioned that the waves were so severe that the road at Glass Window
Bridge was closed due to water 18-24" deep in the road. All personnel on the
island were instructed that they needed to get across that area early that
morning, or it would be impassable very quickly. Included in that
discussion was that a truck trying to make it earlier had been thrown
against the guard rail by a boarding wave, and severely damaged. As that was
many miles down the road, there was no way we were going to get to see all
the excitement, and it was getting late, anyway, after we'd been to the

The wave-watching, given that there were no cliffs there, was unspectacular,
and we trudged back to her home, arriving about 4:30. Given that where we'd
been pointed was just a short walk up the beach (but required going around a
prominent white gate, which we assumed was closed for a reason, so we
didn't), she was worried that, like a couple of her family had done in the
past, a wave had caught us and took us out to sea! She was just about to
call out the rescue folks when we walked up.

She sent us off, after a laugh and a sigh of relief over our adventure, with
a gift of some local produce, and a couple of glass ball floats which I
bought for Lydia's upcoming birthday, along with an exchange of phone
numbers and email addresses. We allowed how as we might try again the next
day, if she'd let us, to go to the VERY close wave-watching location. As
Saturday was the peak of the waves, we'd not get the best view, but it was
still forecast to be notable, only a couple of feet less.

We'd carried our handheld VHF, expecting to catch up with our friends on the
mooring balls, checking a couple of times as we walked, but abandoning the
original plan of walking around Spanish Wells when it became apparent we'd
not be back immediately! However, once we left Loretta's, we set off in the
twilight, meeting our friends who'd just gone ashore, at Spanish Wells.
During our walk, we'd "interrogated" some locals about the best place to get
dinner, our lunch date having long expired. Unanimously, they recommended
the "Snack Bar" - which turned out to be a lovely family restaurant. This
became our birthday dinner, and all of us left stuffed and happy.

Just as we were about to make breakfast, our Bahamas cellphone rang. It
turned out to be Jack, Loretta's husband, offering a ride to Crystal Window
and other places for wave watching. Many pictures of absolutely staggering
waves, including some which climbed about a 50' cliff, and crashed over
about 100' of land, to run over the road, later, we were taken to lunch at
The Cove, a resort south of Glass Window. As we headed up the road, we
stopped at a couple more places to get the photo-op.

One had me clambering over huge boulders - the size of automobiles, thrown
there by the enormous force of the waves of some prior storm - to get a
great view of massive waves bursting well over 100' feet in the air, in the
distance. The second, one of Jack's favorites, which he led us to, was an
indentation in the cliff about 50 feet high. That we had to cross water to
get near the edge should have told us something...

No sooner did we get close than a monster wave climbed the cliff. It
knocked Jack down with its force about 30 feet from the edge, totally
drenched me and Lydia, respectively 50 and 100' away, and, we figured,
totalled our cameras. Jack's caught a rock on the way down, as did his arm,
but I'd seen it coming, being far enough back to duck and take the blow in a
bit more braced condition. His cuts, thankfully, were superficial, and
cleaned up readily, and we quickly rinsed our cameras in fresh water back at
the truck.

Between our all being totally soaked, and the injury, I didn't take our
underwater camera to the high (and dry, I might add) side of that particular
venue to try to catch a picture of another such wave. Both of our cameras
were inoperable as we left, which isn't surprising as neither were designed
to take a boarding wave, especially salt water! His display got a knock,
which may have killed it, but ours has a viewfinder, so there was, perhaps,
SOME hope for rescue...

Aside from being pretty wet, and shedding our shirts to minimize the water
in the truck, and some napkins on his cuts, all was well, and we set off to
home. We were offered a shower, but having no dry clothes, we demurred and
headed back to our home. The weather was perfect for the entire day, with
the sun shining, and, because we were in the lee of the island, aside from
it being a bit long of a dinghy ride, the trip home was comfortable. A
quick shower later, we were just fine.

I did the best I could to disassemble my camera, but succeeded only in being
able to move the back far enough to see the circuitry inside. Corrosion
Block has saved me more than once, so, crossing my fingers, I used the
nozzle tip to get it sprayed as much as possible. Immediately, I'd removed
the chip, which, in a reader, proved OK, and I got our pictures off of it
for Lydia to work her magic with Picasa, later to be put up on the web. So,
after allowing the works to drain as much as possible of the Corrosion Block
(electronics will work just fine immersed in the stuff, but I didn't want to
have to deal any more than necessary with it leaking out after reassembly),
I put it back together, put in some batteries, and, voila, it takes
pictures, shows me the viewfinder, zoom works, and all appears well.

The next day, after allowing it to drain further, on a paper towel, I put in
the batteries again and confirmed that all basic functions and buttons, save
the one for macro, seemed to be working. Whew - getting a replacement here
in the Bahamas would be a real nuisance, never mind how much it cost.

So, yet another adventure in the lives of Flying Pig. New friends, great
explorations, breaking and repairing stuff - what more could one ask? We've
found, consistently, that if you take the time to engage the locals, they'll
go out of their way to make your experience a positive one. I've made that
observation in prior logs, but this was just another example of finding what
you expect, wherever you may find yourself in an unfamiliar place. This has
gone on, as usual, very much longer than I'd expected, so I'll save you all
the other entertainment with our hosts, but we sure are blessed.

Meanwhile, our travels of the last few days, beginning in Marsh Harbour,
should still be visible for another day or so (SPOT only stores a week's
worth) if you go to That should take you to our
SPOT tracking page. It's ever so much more entertaining if you can see what
it looks like from above, rather than just as a map, so click the "hybrid"
tab in the upper right. Double-clicking anywhere on the page will enlarge
that section, and you can drag the page by clicking and holding, moving it
wherever you want. There should be several pages, most recent first, so to
start from the beginning, click the far right arrow in the bottom left,
which will take you to the oldest page.

Finally, you can see our pictures of our hosted tour by clicking on one of
these links:
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia Fell - Birthday Trip...
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia Fell - Arriving in E...

Until next time, Stay Tuned!


Morgan 461 #2 SV Flying Pig, KI4MPC
See our galleries at!
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