Squalled Out - Blournaling #6

Editor's Note:  Some journal excerpts from our last few days of sailing in the Bahamas before crossing the Gulf Stream to Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Crossing from Staniel Cay, Exumas to Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas:  hit a squall a few miles outside of Nassau.  Kept the sails up and got some amazing speed out of the wind.  Maybe want to consider taking down the sails in the future.  Or at least reefing : )

Nassau to Chub Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas:  we were five minutes out from the channel/anchorage, when we got sucked into a squall.  We’d already dropped the sails just in case, but it got nasty.  We tried to tuck in behind Mamma Rhode Rock, a spit of rock four feet high and maybe a few hundred feet long, which kinda worked.  The swells went down, and the wind power dropped in half when I pointed downwind, but there was another islet right in our path, so I couldn’t continue in that direction.  I tried doing laps behind Mamma Rhode Rock, to keep us in calm water, but the iPad was not working so well in the rain.  I was getting disoriented and didn’t want to run aground.  Plus my glasses collected rain, so I couldn’t see well.  We even tried goggles, but that didn’t work.  (Best solution: snorkel mask).  So we headed out to open water until the squall past. Note to self: get dodgers for the cockpit.  And maybe some real foul weather gear.

Chub Cay to Cat Cay, Bimini Islands, Bahamas:  A doozy of a sail.  Em and I woke up at 3:45am, pulled anchor by 4am and motored out through the channel markers in the dark.  Had a gorgeous morning sail.  We had daylight by 6am and the sun rose around 6:30am.  Orion was low in the east sky. We motored until we had light, then put up the sails.  Once under sail, we made a good 7-8 knots.  We listened to music and enjoyed the sunrise. 

Eli wanted to make breakfast, so Emily helped him put together a batch of pancakes.  He did the whole thing:  flipped pancakes, set the table, put out syrup, peanut butter and bottled water.  He’s so funny: he’d put the pancakes on the table, then came back with a stack of bowls to set the table.  He got this ‘silly me’ look on his face, laughed at himself and went back to get plates instead.  While everyone was bustling around, waking up, he realized he’d dropped a misshapen pancake on the floor.  He picked it up and popped it in his mouth.  He put out the forks, cups, everything.  I think it gave him a lot of joy to do it.

We paid the piper (the wind piper) around 10am.  We’d had a nice 15-20 knots of wind and lots of speed that morning.  I thought we might get in around 3-5pm, instead of 7pm.  There were lots of trawlers and power yachts out there following the same line.  We were holding our own against them.  Then the squall clouds started to drop their rain.  We missed the first few, then sailed directly toward one.  I saw a large fishing trawler turn perpendicular to it (which meant, straight into our path) trying to work its way around the backside of the storm.  We took the same approach and turned south as well.  Trouble is, the storm just kept going.  It had no back.  So we got hit by rain anyway.  If we were going to sail in the rain, I wanted to go toward our destination, so we resumed our coarse west.  

After four hours of hunkering down and motoring with autopilot, we cleared the squall and saw blue sky again.  We raised the sails and were back up around 6 knots.  I finally settled in for a much needed nap.  I’d gotten about 3.5 hours of sleep the night prior.  Emily took the helm and I zonked out on the cockpit bench, on top of the cushions and wrapped in a sheet.  Perfect sailor nap. 

The wind picked up and we were doing 7.5 knots.  We were 20 miles out from Cat Cay, and we had another squall come up on our port side.  But now we could see land.  We rode the wind on the front side of the storm and managed to race out of its path.  I was relieved.  I wasn’t in the mood for another squall.

Suffice it to say, I’m squalled out.  Give me sunshine, blue skies and a gentle breeze, and I’ll be happy.