New Providence

So where is the old Providence? Let’s ask The Google:

“The name New Providence Island is derived from a 16th‐century governor who gave thanks to Divine Providence for his survival after a shipwreck. The “New” was added later to distinguish it from Providencia in Western Caribbean (now Colombia) used by pirates.” Thanks Google.

Almost 75% of the Bahamian population lives on this one island — and there are hundreds of islands and thousands of small cays (always pronounced “keys” hereabouts) in the country. Temporarily add one person (and one boat): Andante and I arrived in West Bay, New Providence this afternoon after a nice sail from the Berry Islands.

Very-long-range view of the hotels and casinos and whatnot in Nassau Harbor and Paradise Island. We are on the opposite end of the island.

West Bay is surrounded by a park, a golf course and the exclusive community of Lyford Cay. And a noisy and smelly power plant. But its still a pretty nice spot to spend a day or two and wait for northerly winds to head further south to the Exumas. Some folks have written about excessive surge and uncomfortable rolling at anchor here but with a 15 kt southeast wind we’re barely moving at all.

Andante in West Bay, New Providence.
Same, but from a lower viewpoint. The water is clear enough that you can see the anchor chain on the bottom. But it is a bit greener than in the Berrys. I don’t know exactly why but imagine nutrient-rich runoff from the surrounding manicured community and golf course may contribute.

The first thing I did after anchoring was jump overboard. The water temperature was finally above 70 (yay) and I’d read accounts of poor holding (uh oh). So I dove in and gave the anchor a check to make sure it was set well.

The anchor. You can see that it did drag a bit before setting. I placed two sand dollars just behind it as a reference and will check in the morning to see if it moved any further. Between the 55 lb anchor and the boat are 125 feet of 3/8″ chain (about 175 lbs). All this chain generally prevents the anchor from being pulled upwards and dislodged. The trip line is connected to a surface float to mark the anchor position and so I can extract the anchor backwards should it get wedged under a rock.

While I was in the water I gave Andante an all-over bottom inspection. She looked good except that the prop zinc (the bit that I inspected in very cold water due to a mysterious vibration way back in Fisher Island, NY) was completely consumed. It didn’t fall off but rather completely corroded off. In less than 60 days. Hmm. Not sure why yet but went ahead and replaced it while I was wet. Will watch it carefully over the next few weeks. Hoping it has to do with the dockside 120V electrical system in Beaufort and not the 12V system onboard.

The prop is a little discolored but had no growth on it. I replaced the missing anode (grey lump on aft end of the hub) with a new one.
Just in case you wondered what a 2 m boat looks like in 3 m of water. This was taken at close to 1/2 tide so we may be another 20-30 cm closer to the seabed at low tide. The bottom is mostly sand with some grass. Actually more (and greener) grass than portions of my yard.
I do not have giant starfish in my yard. But otherwise the ground looks similar. This fellow was about 8″ across and directly under the keel.

It rained last night in the Berrys – at 0230. I know this because my porthole was open and I got splashed in the face. This evening just before sunset it was obvious that a squall was coming our way so I closed everything up tight in advance.

Squall at sunset.

The rain was hard and lasted more than an hour. But no complaints: Andante was covered in salt from today’s sail and always enjoys a good shower. I just wish it would rain soap briefly before the rinse cycle.

When I have a chance (and can find some fabric) I’d like to make some rain flys for at least one or two of Andante’s hatches so they can remain open in all weather. It gets a bit stuffy below with all the hatches and ports closed.

Anyway, the plan for now is to hang out here tomorrow and do boat jobs. Perhaps I’ll do a little more swimming and give Andante’s waterline a good scrub. Then on Thursday we’ll ride the north wind down to Highbourne Cay in the northern Exumas.

Bonus Content!

I didn’t have the bandwidth until today to upload these recent videos. Enjoy.

The other day as we were leaving Bimini a group of dolphins led me out of the harbor. One of them played on the bow for several minutes. Good fun.

And while dockside in Bimini I watched some fisherman throw scraps to a big group of nurse sharks. Pretty spectacular. I was actually more afraid of the greedy pelicans.

Fort Pierce is Nice

Which is good. We could be here for a while.

Andante and I are still hanging out in Fort Pierce Inlet waiting for a weather window to head south and cross to the Bahamas. The latest forecasts suggest the next opportunity may be Sunday or Monday so I’m starting to get organized. Groceries, fuel, water, then Covid test, then go. Or not, depending on the actual weather that materializes. Good thing Fort Pierce is a nice (and relatively inexpensive) place to wait.

Like many of the boats around here waiting to cross I’m using the daily summaries and interpretations from Chris Parker for weather guidance in addition to my own analysis. I really like how his team understands that sailors are not looking for optimistic forecasts. I’d much rather plan around the worst likely scenario than hope for the best. Andante can handle some pretty nasty conditions without complaining. Not me.

Mmm fruits. The avocados are from Mexico and I’m not certain the limes are local. But the honeybells (a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit) are definitely Indian River local and only available in January. They are really yummy.

Earlier this week I had a chance to visit the long-running and well-organized Fort Pierce Farmers Market. Lots of vendors selling foods and art and jewelry and whatnot. The actual local farm goods were less evident than I had hoped but I did pick up some fruits and some local shrimp. The honeybells, in particular, were fantastic. Almost ridiculously sweet and juicy and only available in January. Lucky me.

The farmers market is conveniently held in a park right next to the city marina where I can safely tie up Dinghy. It was a cool and slightly misty morning but not as cold as it looks.
There were booths selling just about everything. Including some pretty weird stuff with curious marketing choices. Note the “Not made from iguanas” disclaimer. Yay?
Downtown Fort Pierce is kind of cute. Lots of little shops and restaurants.
Alcohol and axe throwing. What could go wrong?

I also purchased some local shrimps from the farmers market. This booth had one of the longer lines at the market and there were folks in front of me ordering hundreds of dollars in shrimp. I settled for a pound each of two varieties. I did a quick taste test that afternoon and then a few nights later made a really yummy risotto with a stock based on toasted shrimp heads.

The large brown shrimp (top) and rock shrimp (bottom) were sold green and frozen in one-pound ziplocks from a big cooler. Once defrosted the soft-shelled browns cleaned up very easily. The rock shrimp were well armored and it was hard work getting the shells off.
I sauteed a sampling of each very simply in olive oil and salt. Yum. The little rock shrimp were bright and lobstery while the big browns were the most shrimpy shrimp I’ve tasted. Very full and complex flavor. I enjoyed them both but would probably pass on the rock shrimp next time unless somebody else peeled them for me.

Since we’re on the subject of food I will mention that my bread baking, by necessity, is improving. I’m now making a loaf about every third day. I’ll share my recipe in a future post. Everyone is making no-knead bread. I’m trying to perfect no-mess bread since cleaning up splattered flour and sticky dough is a PIA (and water-waster) on the boat.

Mmm bread.
Breakfast: Boat toast (bread fried in butter until crispy) and avocados with lemon.

The waiting is tough since I’d much rather be sailing. But I’m using the time as best I can to catch up on engine maintenance (oil changes, etc.) and some ongoing deck and rigging projects. I’ve been shuttling fuel and water from a nearby marina so that all the tanks are in a near-constant state of fullness just in case there is an opportunity to leave. The required Covid test complicates matters somewhat but with a weather window of reasonable duration shouldn’t be a show-stopper.

Hello Sunshine State

Warming up nicely. And still heading south.

Our trip down the long and winding ICW from Beaufort has not been unpleasant. But it was definitely a pleasure to get out into deeper water and really sail for the first time in several months. After an enjoyable two nights dockside in Charleston (and many long walks around the city) we took advantage of a brief weather window to run offshore South Carolina and Georgia to the St Mary’s River inlet and Fernandina Beach, Florida. There was great sailing weather for the first third of the 28 hour trip. We covered many miles on a three-sail broad reach about 5 miles offshore before the wind got fickle and died. That left us with an overnight motor in glassy seas under a nearly-full moon. Not unpleasant at all.

At the entrance to the St. Mary’s River we were greeted by the guns of Fort Clinch. Andante was not intimidated. We were a bit taken aback by the industrial waterfront of Fernandina Beach and the odors of the pulp mill but we found a nice secure mooring to hold us through the gale that arrived overnight. My instruments recorded a max wind of 52 knots. Wheee!

Its still blowing 35-40 kts as I write this –so expect to stay put until at least tomorrow to allow the wind and seas to moderate a bit. The goal is always to sail the boat so wind is good — but wind direction and sea state matter a great deal. As we head south along the east coast of Florida the ideal weather is something like 15-20 kts from the west. These conditions would allow us to sail at full speed a few miles offshore where the wind is strong but locally-generated waves are fetch-limited. We might still see swell from distant storms but even large swell is more comfortable than short steep waves. These are the general conditions expected beginning late Monday through Tuesday and into Wednesday. I hope to take full advantage of them. The near-term plan is to push south to Port Canaveral and possibly further (Ft. Pierce? West Palm?) as the weather allows.

We should be in South Florida (somewhere between West Palm Beach and Miami) by the end of next week. Once there I’ll take some time to decide whether to head further south to the Florida Keys or make the short hop (around 60 nm) to the Bahamas. Either way, things are definitely looking warmer and sunnier. Yay!

Later today I’ll work on updating the “Trip” link, above, to provide a summary of the 2022 trip legs.

Dockside in Charleston the night before departure.
Red sky at night, sailors delight. Or, if you prefer, from Matthew 16:2-3: He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Regardless, the sky was extremely red the night before we left Charleston suggesting a pleasant day ahead.
We had some traffic on our way out of Charleston harbor. The entrance channel is fairly narrow and with ships and tugs moving in both directions we chose to run just outside the channel between the green buoys and the jetty. I spoke with both the tug and the container ship to let them know our intentions.
Finally making some progress under sail. This was just after turning off the engine outside of Charleston with winds 10-15 from the NW. Almost perfect.
Sunset at the end of the first day out. Wind has now died to less than 5 kts and shifted to the south — no more sailing for now. Serious chemtrail action around here.
Sunrise on glassy seas the next morning. The entire trip crossed an important right whale conservation area and had hoped this would be a good whale watching day. I did see lots of dolphins and birds and a lone sea turtle but no large whales.
A little later that morning we saw a nice example of a mackerel sky. These high puffy clouds (cirrocumulus) look like fish scales and indicate that a change is coming. “Mackerel sky, not twenty-four hours dry” is the saying. (Source unknown, but not Jesus). Another correct prediction – by late evening we were being walloped with strong wind and heavy rain.
Fort Clinch on Amelia Island at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River. Lots of beachgoers and kayakers on a warm Saturday morning. The opposite side of the river is Cumberland Island, Georgia. I’m pretty sure we strayed across the centerline so we’ve now passed through all 12 states between Massachusetts and Florida.
Heading south on the Amelia River. I’m guessing this is a pulp mill but can’t get past how the big pile reminds me of the mashed potato mountain in Close Encounters. Also tough to get past the smell. Fortunately we’re upwind today.
The view from our mooring in Fernandina Beach before the wind started blowing.
The view in the other direction. Given today’s winds I don’t expect to put Dinghy in the water and explore the town. Instead I’m using the time to catch up on some cleaning and maintenance. And baking some bread — because I actually need bread and not just as an excuse to heat the cabin.

One More Gale and 25 Miles to Go

The end is near. At least for now.

Yesterday we completed a relatively short hop from Belhaven to Broad Creek on the Neuse River. Along the way we passed the first (but certainly not the last) shrimp boat of the trip and a small Coast Guard station near the Hobucken Bridge.

Shrimp boat at R.E. Mayo Seafood
USCG Station Hobucken

After getting tossed around a bit in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River we pushed as far up Broad Creek as our draft would allow and found a snug spot close to shore to wait out another gale.

Anchored close to shore. Decks cleared and everything tied down. Wood smoke and owls.
Better in here than out there.

The winds and rain should start any time now and persist through tomorrow. Hopefully by Monday morning nice weather will return and we’ll set off towards Beaufort, NC and the final destination of this leg of our trip: Bock Marine. With 25 nm to go we should arrive at the yard shortly after lunch.

While waiting for the storm I’ve made some changes to the other pages on this site. Comments and suggestions for further improvement are welcome.

Jersey Shore

Long day. Good fun.

Only short-in-stature, challenged-in-draft vessels can navigate the intracoastal waterway protected by the Jersey Shore’s barrier islands. Unlike the ICW south from Norfolk, VA the New Jersey segment is very shallow and the fixed bridges that cross it are shorter than the 65 ft standard. So real boats need to head out into the Atlantic at Sandy Hook and sail offshore to Cape May, a distance of about 120 nm. There are a few inlets in between that can be used to break up the trip (notably Atlantic City) — but we chose to press on and get it done in one 24-hour period.

Friday afternoon we filled the fuel tank, refilled the snack locker, and gave the engine a thorough checkup. On Saturday morning we left the Atlantic Highlands boat basin at dawn. It took more than two hours to navigate north around Sandy Hook, into the Atlantic, and then back south along the beach to the latitude of our starting point. There were lots (LOTS) of little fishing boats for the first few hours. I didn’t see anyone actually catch anything, but from the volume and diversity of boats (and the salty language on the radio) you could tell these folks were serious about their sport.

The Atlantic Highlands boat basin has an amazing view of downtown Manhattan.
After much messing about in inland bays and sounds it was a good to finally be out in the ocean and heading in the right direction.

Weather conditions were generally good with a few clouds and a light drizzle in the morning. A few scattered showers were predicted for the evening. It was cool enough and with enough rain potential that I put up the bimini to provide a windbreak and keep the cockpit somewhat dry. And I bundled up too.

Winds were light and from behind. On a flat sea we probably could have sailed the whole way but with a 2-3 foot quartering swell we were rolling and the sails were not effective on their own. So the engine ran for the first half of the trip to keep us moving at a reasonable pace. The genoa did help stabilize the boat as long as there was enough wind to keep it full. To escape the noise and smell I spent time forward of the cockpit as conditions allowed.

An almost glassy Atlantic

The Jersey shore is not particularly photogenic from 1-2 miles offshore. In some areas there were lots of little cottages and families at the beach, in others the entire beachfront looked commercial. Each of the towns was different, none more so than Atlantic City. The high-rise buildings were visible from more than 20 miles away in daylight and the gaudy lights further still after dark.

Barnegat Inlet is known for its occasionally rough and dangerous conditions. The wreckage of a sailboat was being cleared as we sailed past. The Barnegat Lighthouse is one of the taller and more attractive along the coast.

With the glassy conditions I was disappointed to see no whales. But I was ecstatic to see some brown pelicans. These are generally warm-climate birds that migrate to the mid-Atlantic states in summer and are very rarely seen as far north as Cape Cod. More evidence that we are making significant progress southward.

An afternoon rain shower provided some interesting colors. The full rainbow was visible but I was unable to get a photo of the complete arch as my camera lens wasn’t wide enough.

Right around sunset the wind picked up as a few more small storms passed over us This let us shut down the engine and sail for the second half of the trip. It was glorious cruising along at 7 kts on a starry, moonlit night.

Storm coming

Cape May is a well-protected harbor with an easy-to-navigate inlet. Which is good, because I had to navigate it at 0400 this morning after 22 hours of sailing. Fortunately there was still some moonlight. And also GPS. And radar. And a very effective range. And lighted channel markers. And I had studied other accounts of finding the anchorage in the dark. So using just those few tools we found a nice spot to anchor just off the beach adjacent to the Coast Guard training facility. And then went to bed.

We are literally a stones throw from the beach. We’re well-protected from the weather. Not so protected from the fisherfolk who started zooming by before 6 this morning.
Coast Guard training facility in Cape May

From Cape May the fundamental routing decision is whether to continue south on the outside to Norfolk, or head inshore up the Delaware Bay, across the C&D Canal, and down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk. I’m looking forward to having some family visit us in the Annapolis area — so we’ll be taking the inshore route this time.

Today, besides napping, I’m working on planning our transit of Delaware Bay and the C&D canal. It looks like the weather should be passable tomorrow – not perfect, but workable – and the all-important tides and currents align nicely with daylight hours. The leg from Cape May to Chesapeake City (near the Maryland end of the C&D canal) is about 75 nm but should take less than 10 hours if we can ride a favorable tide the whole way. A substantial gale is expected Tuesday and Wednesday. If all goes according to plan we’ll ride that out in Chesapeake City. From there its on to Annapolis, then down the Chesapeake to Norfolk to join the ICW.