The Way Home

We completed the return trip from the Bahamas to Florida and up the east coast to Cape Cod in just under four weeks. That’s pretty quick for a solo sailor in a moderately slow boat. My strategy was to keep moving every day even if that meant occasionally motoring a frustratingly slow and shallow inside route rather than sailing offshore. In the end this approach proved to be the most efficient way to utilize the scarce and brief weather windows of April.

From Bimini we sailed direct to Fort Pierce. Arriving at 0300, we anchored and entered the US using an iPhone app. No paperwork, no interview. Just press a button, wait 15 minutes, and get a text saying “welcome home.” After a few hours sleep we were underway again heading north on the Florida ICW.

High winds and rough seas kept us inshore for much of Florida, a bit of South Carolina, bypassing Cape Hatteras and the full length of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. We did have great offshore sailing from Fernandina to Charleston, Little River to Cape Fear, Wrightsville Beach to Beaufort, and Cape May to Cape Cod. The last leg was a bit over 48 hours and 265 nm — and we sailed all but a few hours of it. Nice way to end a great trip

Strong north and west winds pinned us down on Bimini for several nights. Not the worst place in the world to be stuck waiting for weather.

The pool at the Bimini Big Game Club. Good wifi spot.
Onshore westerly winds were strong enough to beach many of Portugese Men-of-War on Bimini. Not much remained of their tentacles but there were hundreds of big and small air bladders all over the windward beaches.
Fernandina Beach, FL at sunrise.
Fernandina in the fog. And the smelly pulp mill steam.
Charleston, Hampton Roads, Delaware Bay, New York City. Lots of big ships.
Barge traffic while anchored just off the ICW in the SC lowcountry.
We spent a quiet night in Georgetown, SC. This was actually the first place I touched land since returning from the Bahamas. Not a fan of the pervasive SC pulp mill stink but this is a neat little town and a pleasant one-night stop.
The active pulp mill and inactive steel mill in Georgetown, SC.
Wrightsville Beach / Masonboro Inlet at dawn heading to Beaufort, NC.
Baltimore Light
Motorsailing into 35+ kt winds in the northern Chesapeake Bay. Winds weren’t a factor once we entered the C&D Canal but the long approach was exposed and pretty sloppy. Here we’re showing just the top two battens of the main to provide a little stability in a confused sea. The engine is doing all the hard work.
Under full sail approaching the small wind farm off Block Island.
Andante back in Red Brook Harbor. She doesn’t look too bad after six months and more than 3000 miles. A few adventure marks here and there. The brown stains on the hull from our inshore adventures in South Carolina will come off easily. Looking forward to some fun regional cruising with my crew this summer.

All Good Things Must End

At least for now.

Even Dinghy is a little sad.

After two months in the beautiful Bahamas its time to head towards home.

Andante and I have a long trip ahead and, frankly, photography and blogging have not been high on my list of priorities. I will try to keep folks updated on my whereabouts and will share interesting experiences. Eventually.

We departed the Exumas on April 5. Today (April 20) we arrived at Little River Inlet close to the border between South Carolina and North Carolina and roughly the halfway point of the 1500 nm return trip. The weather hasn’t been conducive to long offshore legs but we keep pushing forward everyday regardless.

The legs completed so far have been the following:

Staniel Cay, Exumas to West Bay, New Providence
West Bay, New Providence to North Bimini
North Bimini to Fort Pierce, FL
Fort Pierce, FL to Melbourne, FL
Melbourne, FL to New Smyrna Beach, FL
New Smyrna Beach, FL to St. Augustine, FL
St. Augustine, FL to Fernandina Beach, FL
Fernandina Beach, FL to Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC to Price Creek, SC
Price Creek, SC to Georgetown, SC
Georgetown, SC to Little River Inlet, SC

As always you can check our current position using the link found on the trip page.

On the sail from Bimini to Fort Pierce.

Yay Visitors!

Hosting successive guests after six months alone was a blast. It was really fun to share the places I’ve explored, the foods I’ve enjoyed and the endless sunshine. I think both of my guests agreed that any visit to the Bahamas measured in days or weeks is too short. Thanks for coming!

I like being alone with Andante. I like being alone with this girl even more.
And als0, dinosaurs.
Dinghy hadn’t been this happy in months.
A quiet morning with sleepy piggies.
Later in the day pig beach isn’t so quiet. On a subsequent visit a couple of ladies from Nassau got up close with a piglet. The big pig wasn’t too happy about it.
A crew member from one of the minimegayachts decided to feed the sharks at SCYC. All of them. The nurse sharks climbed all over each other to get at the fish she was offering.
We visited Thunderball Grotto when the current was pretty strong. This made it more challenging to swim but kept the tourist boats away. Very cool…
…especially with a real mermaid!
Plenty of time to relax on the beach
But eventually the visits had to end. Fortunately short-term airport parking was convenient.

Ins and Outs

A boat is just a moderately slow island.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had the chance to appreciate the similarities between living on a boat and on a small remote island. Life in either environment requires management of a fairly basic set of resources. Food, water, fuel and supplies/parts are key inputs — and all are in limited supply, expensive, and available irregularly and infrequently.

Like some boats, many islands (including Staniel Cay) have their own reverse-osmosis water plant powered by either electricity (locally generated from diesel fuel) or solar power. Andante does not have a water maker so I lug 10 gallons (80 lbs) of water from shore every few days.

Trash and sewage accumulates and generates bugs and smells on both boat and island if not regularly offloaded, buried, burned, or otherwise dealt with. I did not see any evidence of recycling in the central Exumas but did find myself anchored downwind of the dump on several occasions. Based on the number of derelict cars and machinery strewn about the islands I expect the cost of shipping waste off the island is prohibitive.

Visiting boaters deal with these resource issues as best they can knowing they will eventually relocate to somewhere else where food and supplies are plentiful and water is free and poop disappears down a pipe never to be thought of again. But the islanders have to live with these constraints all the time. The friendly laid-back nature and great patience of the out-island Bahamians seems a perfect coping mechanism for the many things they cannot control.

Food and fuel for both boat and island depend on regular mailboat and tanker deliveries. Fuel (especially gasoline) and certain supplies and foods (especially fresh stuff) can quickly become scarce when weather or mechanical difficulties prevent the arrival of the weekly mailboat. Here a mailboat is preparing to offload supplies (including food and liquor but also cars, building materials and propane tanks) at the government dock on Staniel Cay. Always best to shop the day after a mailboat comes!
The east-facing Atlantic beaches collect a substantial amount of plastic waste including fishing gear and packing materials from commercial ships. The biggest chunks are often collected (sometimes by visiting cruisers) and piled up for eventual removal. By whom? To where? I don’t know. The small bits most easily ingested by wildlife will persist in the soil for a long time.
Osprey nest on White Point partially built from plastic trash.
It is very expensive to move heavy equipment to a small island for a building project. And if that piece of equipment fails or becomes obsolete it must be similarly expensive to remove it. Here just off Samson Cay is seems somebody decided this front-end loader was of no further use and would make a nice artificial reef. It is far enough from shore to be certain it didn’t get here under its own power. And it was a really strange thing to come across underwater in an otherwise barren area.
On Andante I collect trash and dispose of it ashore when possible. In the Black Point settlement a trailer is provided to boaters by the community for trash drop-off for a small donation. Unfortunately these small islands don’t have the ability to deal with large quantities of trash other than by burying it or burning it. Not sure what happens to on-island sewage. Probably septic tanks. On the boat sewage gets manually pumped overboard when well away from land.

Oven Rock and Little Farmers Cay

Close but far away.

Some days ago we sailed a few hours south to Little Farmers Cay, a small island with minimal services that has not yet been fully corrupted by tourists and comfort-seeking cruisers. I hesitated to make the trip because this can be a tricky area to approach in a deep-draft boat. In the end I decided to anchor Andante far away and dinghy in to avoid the shallows and strong currents. We found a nice spot in the lee of Great Guana Cay about 1.5 miles north of Little Farmers and just north of Oven Rock.

Oven Rock is a big chunk sitting by itself on the beach of Great Guana Cay. The rock has an almost rectangular hollow in the western face that does make it sort of resemble an oven. Our reason for visiting wasn’t the rock but a very pleasant hike across the island with a stop in a cool cave in the middle. There is a freshwater pool in the cave that is supposed to be swimmable and diveable. I did neither but did enjoy the cool air and the intricate rock formations. The view of Exuma Sound was pretty spectacular from the rocky windward beach.

Then I took dinghy another mile or so south to Little Farmers Cay. First stop was the Farmers Cay Yacht club to look around and take a long walk. The only connection to town from the yacht club requires walking the length of the 3000 ft runway — but the runway is open on three sides to beautiful blue water so it was a very enjoyable walk to nowhere. At the southern end I turned around and walked back, then used dinghy to go a little further south to the cute and quiet government dock that was swarming with sea turtles. No throngs of tourists or visiting cruisers here — yet — which makes the whole place feel more remote than it really is. Which is just fine with me.

Dinghy at Oven Rock, Great Guana Cay, Exumas. The “oven” is on the opposite face of the rock so nothing to see here. Move along.
View from the top of the hill on the hike across Great Guana. Exuma Sound is on the right. There is a small, shallow lagoon with a nice white sand beach fed by breaking waves from the sound.
Inside the spooky cave. The water is fresh and very clear and the ceiling and floor are covered with interesting formations. I didn’t see any bats.
The Farmers Cay Yacht Club is a tiny laid-back place with one of the nicest dinghy docks I’ve run across.
Dinghy at Farmers Cay Yacht Club.
Walking the runway. It is long, straight, mostly flat, and not at all smooth. I didn’t see anyone land during our visit — and I was definitely looking over my shoulder — but understand the runway is used regularly by private planes and charters.
Little Harbor on Little Farmers Cay inshore of the government dock. Much evidence of fishing and conching activity. At lunchtime there were locals sleeping in hammocks tied to pilings on the docks. Very peaceful.