Thanks to Chris Rosenberg on Pi Squared for the title photo of a family outing in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Thursday, April 20 - Luperon
We had been planning to start heading north late this week when the tradewinds started to fill back in, but instead I've started a project of rebedding the windlass (I installed it quickly just before leaving Sale Creek, knowing I would need to redo the job later). It takes time to do a job like this right, and even longer when I do it wrong. We're now thinking we'll probably leave Sunday. Possible bonus: Clarence Myers and family from Sale Creek are making tracks directly for Luperon in their Irwin 37 Third Angel, so there's a chance we'll get to see them here before we leave. Yesterday morning they were around 300 miles out, between the Bahamas and Cuba and making good time. Just checked and as of around 4:00 PM they are 222 miles out--we'll look forward to seeing them!

View from Yacht Club
Photo: View from the lower terrace of the Marina Luperon Yacht Club. It's a fantastic place with a fantastic view, with improvements being made every day.

Saturday, April 22 - Luperon
Looks like Third Angel was diverted up to the Turks & Caicos by adverse winds and rough seas, so it's not clear they will make Luperon before we depart. The trades should be moderating tomorrow but I think we may wait a day for the seas to settle a bit before leaving early Monday evening. We'll go overnight to West Caicos, sleep for a while, and then on to Mayaguana over the next night. We'll rest for a while, then overnight again past Rum, Conception, and on to Cat Island. Most of this will be retracing old ground, which I normally try to avoid, but since we will probably be traveling on our own, I think it's best to stick to the beaten path. In the meantime, I stupidly left the satellite phone out in the cockpit last night during a lengthy downpour. Although we have our full awning up, the wind blew the water around and the phone got quite wet. I will have to wait a couple of days for it to dry out before trying to turn it on again.

After rebedding the windlass, I didn't have much do to yesterday so when boats started dragging I was happy to assist. One was a 40 foot Cantana catamaran (Meridian, a very nice boat), the other a monohull (Casa del Mar); both required repeated attempts to reset. When the problem anchor comes up here, it's inevitably a Delta. We'd been riding on our Delta for a few days now with the Bruce as a backup, and yesterday I noticed all the slack was gone from the rode to the Bruce. Et tu, Delta? I love our Delta in sand, but it just doesn't work as well in certain types of mud. I just heard Bruce Van Sant on the radio predicting, perhaps a little too smugly, that there should be more boats dragging today. He's right, though. I think at least one boat has dragged every day we've been here.

Monday, April 24 - Luperon
Even though conditions haven't moderated as much as predicted in the Southeast Bahamas, I talked with Chris Parker today and "received permission" (as we like to joke) to start north. Yesterday's e-mail from Clarence on Third Angel indicated they hoped to check in at Provo today, and judging from the reports on the radio this morning that should be possible. If we leave late this afternoon we may be able to get up to Provo before dark tomorrow, so it's possible we may be able to see them. I powered up the sat phone this morning and it seems to be working, so that's good news as well.

Tuesday, April 25 - Not Luperon!
We left the harbor at Luperon at 5:00 PM and were soon plowing across six to seven foot seas offshore. The crossing to the Caicos Bank went quickly, but perhaps not quickly enough. Although Laura did fine, Annie and I had lost our sea legs after almost three weeks on the millpond of the Luperon harbor, and despite being in the cockpit most of the time both of us got sea-sick. After twelve hours we got into the lee of the Caicos Bank and everything calmed down considerably, which unfortunately included the wind, so we ended up motorsailing the last forty miles. Before the sun came up I got a great sight on Polaris*, confirming that we were a safe distance from the sand bores and reefs to starboard.

At French Cay we cut over onto the banks and arrived at Sapodilla Bay at 2:00 PM, anchoring right next to Third Angel. How great and amazing to see Clarence, Mary, Ashley, and Luke, last seen waving goodbye when we left Sale Creek five months ago. We all snorkeled together around the boats while I cleaned off a few hundred mussel shells that had attached themselves in the fertile waters of Luperon. Also arriving the same time we did were Allison and Rick on the catamaran Meridian, who had left Luperon a couple of days before us but stopped at Big Sand and South Caicos along the way.

*I always wanted to say that. Actually, I was looking through binoculars at the time, which I suppose is not quite as impressive. Never could figure out how to use a sextent, not that we have one aboard.

Welcome Visitors Clarence and Mary
Photos: (1) Welcoming committee at Sapodilla Bay. (2) Clarence and Mary from Third Angel at anchor at Sapodilla Bay, Provo.

Thursday, April 27 - Sapodilla Bay, T&C
We had a wonderful visit with Clarence, Mary, Ashley, and Luke all day yesterday here in Provo. Along with the crews of Imagine and Colbalt, our two boats called Flint's Taxi (649-242-2240) to get a ride to Turtle Cove Marina for $6.00/person. There didn't seem to be much going on at Turtle Cove, so we hopped on a jitney ($2.00/person) that took us to the far south end of the island to the Conch Farm--an interesting place and reportedly the top tourist attraction in Provo. Our jitney driver, Lugi (if I heard it right), had given us his phone number (649-243-4395) so we'd be able to get a ride back. He dropped us off at the IGA supermarket, and from there we caught another jitney which eventually brought us and all of our groceries back to Sapodilla Bay. First, however, we had to drop off a number of other passengers so we got a pretty good tour of the island.

After a late night visiting with our friends, morning came with a report of high winds off South Carolina that will send seas up to ten feet down our way this weekend. I talked with Chris Parker and he advised we should plan to be in port by dawn on Saturday, so we've cleared out and plan to leave around Noon today in an attempt to get to Cat Island before the seas arrive (this assumes we can average 5.5 knots). If we make it all the way, this will be our longest jump to date at around 250 miles in 45 hours. If not, we should be able to make it at least to Rum.

Note about Sapodilla Bay: cruisers have been leaving garbage at the south end of the beach in a wooden dumpster. The dumpster was full when we were here a month ago and unfortunately nothing has been picked up. There is now more garbage on the ground than in the dumpster, which looks pretty awful. If no one is picking up the trash, I think cruisers will have to stop putting new trash there. The current situation makes everyone look bad. With all that said, the last thing I did before leaving the Turks & Caicos was to put two bags on trash there of top of the pile.

Friends in a Dinghy Sally the Conch
Photos: (1) Our friends from Sale Creek. (2) Meet Sally Conch.

Friday, April 28, 6:00 PM - Underway 20nm south of Rum Cay
Leaving Sapodilla Bay around 1:00 PM yesterday I throttled the engine up to around 2500 RPM, its favorite cruising speed, and haven't touched it since. After 29 hours, the Volvo is still humming along. Last night as we were passing Mayaguana I took Laura's 15 inch TV out into the cockpit. Annie made popcorn and we all sat watching "A Series of Unfortunate Events." I was somewhat distracted, of course, by the need to keep watch and especially by the almost continuous lightning flashes that were illuminating the clouds far ahead of us. I thought we might have to flank the storms by veering west to Acklins, but with the movie long over and dawn approaching, the bad weather had dissipated before we reached it.

When I talked to Chris Parker this morning he had increased his estimate of seas in the area to up to fifteen feet if we didn't make it to Cat Island in a timely fashion. Too late! We had long since committed to making the attempt. After experiencing five knots from the south last night, the wind has clocked around to the west and now northwest. Just as I was typing that the boat has heeled over as the wind is suddenly up to fifteen knots, headed for twenty out of the north. It seems as if we've been in a contrary current most of the day, so we can use the speed. We shut down the engine at 6:45 PM for a while, but went back to motorsailing because we were heeling so much even with reefed sails. This afternoon I added ten gallons of fuel from jerry jugs to the tank, so maybe we can save a little on this leg. We expect to arrive at Smith Bay on Cat Island around 8:00 tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 30, - Hawks Nest Marina, Cat Island
We made it to Cat Island, but boy did we get spanked. During the day I had been reading the book Treacherous Waters, a compilation of stories about sailing disasters that Clarence had loaned me. The wind and seas had been calm for the first 35 hours of our trip, but now they were quickly building and it occurred to me, as I thought about the tales of tragedy I had been reading, that our little ship was as vulnerable as any of them. In fact, for the past couple of hours I'd been hearing some odd vibrations and resonations, and checked the front motor mounts to be sure all was well. I couldn't find the problem so shut down the engine sometime after midnight; we were only twenty miles from Cat Island and could sail the rest of the way. The wind had been well above twenty knots for a while, but seemed to be settling down. When Annie came into the cockpit at 1:00 AM to take her watch, I was happy to go below to get some sleep.

As I stepped towards the low side of the boat, my foot went into water up to the ankle. Water was pooled up all along that side of the boat! I dipped my finger and touched it to my tongue. Salt! We were taking on sea water, and the bilge which had been normal when I checked it just a couple of hours before was now almost overflowing. I rushed around trying to find the cause. Had the toilet intake siphoned water into the boat? No. Was there water coming from the thru-hulls in the aft cabin? No. I opened the rear access door to the engine compartment and shone a light on the "dripless" shaft seal, and there it was: a steady stream of water spraying from the bottom of the seal. I felt around and the seal was still in one piece, but I couldn't see why it was leaking or how to stop it. Bouyancy is temporary!

For the next four hours, Annie and I bailed water while Laura, who had been awakened by all the commotion, watched from the aft cabin. It took two of us to bail because water dumped into the sink in the head didn't drain because of the heel, the galley sink was too far away, and the cockpit also wasn't draining fast enough. I would hand the bucket (actually a small wastebasket) to Annie and she would dump it over the cockpit coaming. The bilge pump for the shower drain was clogged at the filter and water was deep there as well. The primary, backup and manual pumps down in the bilge were almost useless because they were on the centerline and the water was on the side of the boat. With the wind still blowing around twenty, taking down both sails without the engine to keep us into the wind would be very rough and I thought we ought to keep moving toward land if at all possible. So we bailed, never sure that we were making any progress. The horrible sound of water sloshing around inside the boat is one I will never forget. At times like these, it suddenly occurs to you that bouyancy is a fragile and perhaps temporary phenomenon.

Around dawn we were closing in on Cat Island and the seas had dropped from five to three feet as we came into the island's lee. I finally stopped the leak by loosening a stainless ring and pushing it back against the rubber seal. Sailing on to Smith Bay as we had planned was going to take another three hours or more, so we headed for Hawks Nest Marina. Just outside the entrance channel we dropped the sails and started the engine. The knocking sounded terrible, but we got into a slip. After reseating the seal to stop the renewed leak, I took a quick shower and then headed for the resort office to get a ride over to Customs. Since Hawks Nest is quite remote, the best solution was to rent one of their cars and drive myself over to the New Bight Airport to clear in. The Customs fellow was a little unhappy with this procedure but took pity on me after hearing about our mechanical difficulties. When I got back to the boat I went to sleep and did not get up again until the next day, still feeling worn out. I was thinking that we would probably have to sail the boat to the nearest haul out facility (not particularly near) and have some expensive work done on the shaft and bearings.

This morning I checked the motor mounts again. The front ones still looked fine, but one of the rear ones was very loose. I snorkeled under the boat to check the shaft and found nothing wrong there. After I struggled to get the one mount back to its proper attitude, both the knocking and the leak seem to have disappeared. We're hopeful that we can resume our cruise without expensive repairs, although you can bet I will be making some modifications to our water removal systems. We pulled up most of the carpeting from the boat since it was all soaking wet and spent most of the day trying to dry repair things that were damaged, from our last rolls of toilet paper to our two laptops.

In the meantime, Hawks Nest is a very beautiful and relaxing place. Almost all of the boats here are big sport fishing craft, some of them for charter and others being looked after by hired crew while the owners fly in once in a while to fish. The resort has its own 5,000 foot runway with several planes belonging to current guests parked alongside. The swimming pool and beach with palms and hammocks looks straight out of a brochure. There are bicycles everywhere for transportation, kayaks, and a laundry where Annie spent much time today. There is free wireless and an "honor bar" at the restaurant. Although this is our first marina since Nassau, I think it's one of the nicest we've seen in quite a while.

Annie says: The few sentences above don't quite catch all the drama of the event. There is no mention of the alarms, the shroud stays, the whisker pole and the runaway autopilot. This is a story best told over a couple of cold beers. Anyway we did survive (including the boat) and hopefully will never have to live through that experience again. As usual, Laura was an absolute angel of a trooper the entire time.

Mess of Dorado Beachcombing The pool at Hawks Nest
Photos: (1) A whole lotta dolphin waiting to be cleaned at Hawks Nest Marina. (2) Beach combing near the Hawks Nest entry channel. (3) The pool, beach and hammocks in the distance are waiting for you at Hawks Nest Resort.

Tuesday, May 2, - New Bight, Cat Island
After refueling at Hawks Nest--we'd burned 25 gallons to cover the 365 miles between Luperon and Cat Island--we left the fuel dock yesterday in the same high style we had arrived...but if anyone was laughing they were kind enough to keep it fairly quiet. Maybe next time I will remember that when pulling a doubled line around a piling, you can bet that any knot in the line is going to get caught.

Although the shaft thankfully wasn't leaking, a rather insistent knocking told us that we don't yet have the engine aligned properly. Once we got around the shoals we were able to sail towards New Bight, just a few miles north. Hoping to change our luck, I put out the trolling line with the spoon and quickly had a hit--an 18 inch Spanish Mackerel, which ended up safely in our refrigerator and eventually on the dinner table. Later there was a huge tug on the line, which turned out to be a three foot Great Barracuda, which we were glad to get off the line. But our biggest catch of the day came after we anchored and returned from a pleasant walk on the beach. Don from Warrior, a sport fishing boat anchored nearby (our only neighbor), called on the radio to say that they had more dolphin in their freezer than they needed...would we like some? Ten minutes later we were enjoying a hour's visit with Don and Sue, who have cruised and fished far and wide in the Bahamas. Before we left they had given us not just the frozen fish, but also two "Triple-D" dolphin lures, some new paperbacks and magazines to read, and loaned us the excellent BBC/Nature series "Blue Oceans" on VHS tape.

Gulls with anchorage in background New Bight
Photos: (1) Gulls on remains of pier at New Bight, with Seaductress at anchor in the background. (2) Beach at New Bight looking south from the pier.

Today we dinghied ashore and looked at the ruins of the Armbrister Plantation home dating to 1760 right off the beach, then walked twenty minutes to the top of Mt. Alverna, the highest point in the Bahamas. Summit! This hill is home to Cat Island's most famous attraction, the Hermitage, a miniature replica of a Franciscan monastery. One man, Father Jerome, built all of this as measure of his devotion and a place to spend his retirement as a hermit: the sorrowful "Stations of the Cross" as you climb the hill, a tiny chapel for his devotionals, a bell tower, an outdoor shower, a small room with a bunk. What a peaceful, grand, and yet very humble place! Laura and I followed a trail nearby to a small cave that must have been a favorite hideout for the local inhabitants over the past few hundred years.

I adjusted the engine mounts and changed the oil this afternoon (526 hours), so we were in theory ready to move to a new spot tomorrow. However, Don and Sue on Warrior invited us to go out fishing with them on their boat and we're all quite excited about doing that instead. Got an e-mail from Clarence saying that Third Angel was safely in Luperon, so that was good news as well.

Armbrister Planatation House Ruins Gateway to the Hermitage Summit! The Hermitage
Photos: (1) Considering it was built in 1760 and then burned by revolting slaves around the time of Emancipation, the old Armbrister place is in pretty good shape. (2) Laura reaches the summit of the highest mountain in the Bahamas. (3) Father Jerome must have been an amazing man.

Wednesday, May 3 - New Bight, Cat Island
We had a fantastic day of deep sea fishing aboard Warrior with Don and Sue. In addition to a big Barracuda (released), we caught four dolphin and kept three of them, the largest of them about thirty pounds. Running a spread of five lines, Don and Sue hooked at least two billfish but both got away. Fishing on this awesome boat with its powerful twin Yanmars reminded me, strangely enough, of hang gliding. First, because although there is a huge amount of skill involved in finding and hooking the big fish, there is always a bit of luck involved as well. Second, sport fishing boats are always chasing birds around, much as hang gliders do in search of thermals. If there is one of those huge frigate birds soaring above the water, boats head that direction, knowing that the bird is shadowing a big fish. Apparently the big fish chase the little fish up to the surface, which is what the birds are really after--although of course I suspect they might also be looking for thermals in their spare time.

We learned a lot about fishing and had a lot of fun thanks to the generosity of these fine folks from South Dakota.

Das Boot. Don handles a Dorado Annie in the Fighting Chair Dolphin Head
. Photos: (1) Although it has no sails, Warrior is definitely a mighty vessel. (2) Don wrestles a Dolphin to the deck. (3) Annie reels in a big bull Dolphin. (4) The blue and green colors on the dolphin were amazing.

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