15 January 2022: Bahamas At Last!
15 January 2022
Peanut Island, FL, USA
West End, Grand Bahama, Bahamas
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
Under 10 knots but a following sea of 3 to 5 feet for the first half. Sea state really calmed down after passing through the Gulf Stream.
Not a cloud in sight!
Balmy for this time of year
Dry, thank goodness!
I did not want to get out of bed this morning. If there is something I value a lot, it is sleep. Early mornings with not enough sleep really do a number on me, and it was now two doozies in a row!
But I knew the importance of the day so I forced it. Believe me, I had to force it.
There was not much to do before departing other than coffee and breakfast. I did not even have one sip or bite but just put it next to the helm, started the engine and began pulling anchor. I had gotten a bit slack on the ICW with my lifejacket and other important routines, but now I was going offshore so back to good habits: lifejacket on and PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) on me, tether available for use, etc. It was pitch black so pulled anchor with the headlamp on and watching how much was left to stop with it still on the ground. Then leaving my anchor post to go back and raise my mainsail. Once that was all the way up and flopping in the wind, returning to the bow to finish stowing the anchor and departing out of the channel – Bahamas bound!
There was luckily very little traffic and conditions were as predicted. I got on course and away from land and, while still in reception, set to the last important task that I did not yet achieve (if it was possible). From a few nautical miles out I managed to have enough reception to activate my Garmin In-Reach, by light of my headlamp, and start a tracking map and share the link and contact details with my contacts who were on my float plan.
By the time I was done this I was able to see on the radar and AIS – and from the lack of surrounding lights – that I was on my own. Everything was humming along nicely as I motorsailed in very, very light winds with only the mainsail up. I decided to take a couple of naps. I brought up a couple of pillows and a light blanket and set an alarm. I remember night shift previously sleeping in ten or fifteen minute increments and everything was fine and my only hesitation for doing long overnight or multi-day passages on my own was that I did not think it could refresh me. But the first nap of ten minutes and second of fifteen did help a bit, at least temporarily. And the sunrise really helped to perk me up when it finally made an appearance.
Throughout the day I had a couple more naps, nothing too substantial or scheduled. Just as needed when possible. And things went smoothly. Given I had breakfast in the middle of the night, lunch was around breakfast time at 9am and I guess that makes my midday meal supper. I had a couple of prepared salads I grabbed at the grocery store to make it easier on me as I knew I would be tired from all the prep that I would not be ‘prepping’ any sort of food for passage the night before.
At 10am I was making good time, I found a couple of boats nearby me who were buddy boating to the same spot as me and radioed to see if they would mind keeping an eye out for my arrival as well (they were a bit faster so knew we would not be travelling together for long). And they said they were happy to! And so I carried on, watching them get ahead of me until they disappeared over the horizon.
It was about 1pm when I noticed that the engine was overheating. Something that had not happened in the hundreds of miles of motoring in the ICW while heading south. So that was a bit unusual. I ran through the things that I knew could make an engine overheat and checked the coolant levels (fine), checked the raw water strainer (fine) and made sure raw water was coming out of the discharge out the back (fine). I idled down to a low idle and turned the fridge off to reduce the load, but stayed in gear as the wind was too light to go into neutral and keep moving. The temperature slowly came back down to normal but would rise in anything above a slow crawl. I had about 15 miles to go and now could only travel at 3 knots so that would put me arriving at sunset.
That seemed acceptable so I kept on moving but paid much more attention to trimming the sails to get the most out of them to move any little bit quicker!
The autopilot also seemed to be struggling, it could not do fine movements anymore but instead would steer way out of the way one direction and then way out of the way in the other direction. That autopilot has let me down a couple of times in the past, so I did not think much of it. That is until I found it difficult to handsteer with fine adjustments.
Between the engine temperature issue and the steering (plus a few seaweed mats I had seen floating on the surface over the course of the day), I came to the conclusion that it must be seaweed in the thru hull and limiting raw water uptake and on the rudder or propeller or something. I opened up the engine compartment once again and though clean, it did potentially appear to be less water than I thought might be normal. I may be onto something here.
Then came my pondering as to whether or not I should drop the sails and jump in the water and see what was up or just keep on at the slow pace and sort it out on arrival. Despite really wanting to swim with the crystal blue waters, I thought it more prudent to deal with it once I arrived. Dropping sails, getting in and sorting it out could take a while and even then it might not be the issue in the end and I would arrive after dark for certain after not having solved the problem at all. Plus keeping the captain onboard and dry and comfortable was a priority for safety.
So I carried on at my slow place, the buddy boats checking in on me by radio after they arrived and realizing I would be later than planned now that I was having engine issues. They checked in a few more times over the course of the few hours but all stayed the same so I arrived in one piece to new friends to catch my dock lines before total sundown/low light
I was in disbelief that I had officially solo sailed from Connecticut south to Florida and now to my first new country as a solo sailor. I felt like I was earning my stripes every time I pull the other anchor, like a daily milestone.
I was also proud of myself because immediately upon stepping on the dock it became obvious looking at my rudder through the crystal clear Bahamian waters that there was weed wrapped around it and more than likely in the thru hull as well! Great diagnosis Cally!
But I was safely tied to the dock and needed to put up my quarantine flag and check into the country. Luckily, this was the same place where I have checked into the Bahamas before so I knew the drill. The whole thing was digital this time around so it was even easier. It was not more than 7 minutes and I was in and out with my Bahamas courtesy flag flying from my spreader to signify I was checked in. And my new buddy boat friends were ready for me to have a celebratory drink with them. A glorious day all around!
“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”
– Fitzhugh Dodson