22 February 2022: Leaving with Crew!
22 February 2022
Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas
Shroud Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
Handyman extraordinaire from Indiana here to lend a hand between Nassau and George Town!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
14 knots from a just barely sailable direction (and choppy waves over the shallow banks to go with it)
Overcast in a delightful way.
Mild, not too hot and not too cold!
Dry, thank goodness!
How in sailing is it possible to have both a very productive and not very productive week at the same time?
I guess it is the fact that boat projects always blow out of proportion once you get into them. The autopilot was my focus on the docks this week and once I got into it and realised my initial design would not work, I was ready to cry. I usually do not pity myself long so had one evening of feeling sorry for myself and then back to the drawing board the next day.
I was right on Steve and Parker being amazing minds to consult on any project. At one point during the week each of them had been in my lazarette brainstorming new designs with me. And Steve literally has every handyman’s dream tools and ‘workshed’ on his boat (a converted bathroom on his catamaran that is the most organized I have ever seen). These guys kept me sane!
On top of the redesign, I was also planning for a crew member to join me. Friend, Micah, who I knew from West Palm Beach in Florida (helped with rigging many days in a row, and winching me up the mast is quite the effort). He arrived on the 19th and another benefit of the dock I was on is that it is a $10 ride from the dock owners address to the airport. Much cheaper than the $50 plus expected from downtown Nassau.
Micah would be with me from Nassau to Georgetown, but, due to the weather, we were going to stay on the dock an extra couple of days. A third very handy fella to have around, he took the burden off Parker and Steve (though not off of Steve’s tools) and helped me learn a few new skills. I was jig sawing and skill sawing both plywood and aluminium for my autopilot. The plywood generously donated by Steve and the aluminium given to me by the dock owners. I had to cut out new rudder stops and drill into my existing steering system mounted below decks (permanent alterations stress me out). In the end, the rudder stops were all I got done as I wanted to test them out prior to committing to my autopilot design and it was time to get going.
I was so pleased at my steering reassembly which went off without a hitch (well, one hitch, got the cables backwards so they would have chafed if I had not have noticed). But I noticed, so swapped those over and did lots of turning to feel the wheel and job done.
It was only a 45 nautical mile day planned so we did not leave at dawn. But aimed for a ‘morning departure’. However, once out in the less than perfect conditions (upwind in 12 to 15 knots of wind but only over 12 feet of water the entire way over the banks of the Bahamas), I realised we should have left at dawn as this was going to take us a while. The conditions required handsteering and motor sailing so it was a long day.
Also, when I say Micah was crew, it was more about having company and having help with projects like we had already done. He made it very clear before arriving that he was an anxious sailor. Though I took it with a grain of salt for two reasons:
But the realities of how anxiety affects people was extremely educational for me. If I needed help with anything important I would ask and Micah would help. For example, with the upwind bashing we were getting water in the boat, so I went forward to check out the anchor locker – where it had to be coming in – while he was on the helm. The drain was blocked and I could not unplug it underway and waves were crashing on me with the locker now open, so I shoved a rag in the pipe that led down to the bilge and it seemed to solve the problem in the short term. He even made a bagel for me for lunch unprompted, a blessing as I tend not to eat if it is just a day sail but hand steering sure makes me hungry!
However, the rest of the time he sat typically below deck on the settee with noise cancelling headphones and playing calming mind games and strategy games on his phone to distract himself from the sheer panic he experiences while sailing. The look on his face was worse than someone who had seen a ghost and I think it made his anxiety even worse that he did not want to be a burden. Which he was not!
It was truly just like I was sailing alone (plus the delicious blueberry and cream cheese bagel) and once the anchor was dropped and his stress levels could drop again, he was great company.
I was floored to see that this was the state he had been living in every time Eos would sail further south. And flattered he was happy to do it all again with me and help with boat projects too. But I am also a fixer and it killed me a little bit to see him in such a state. It was a rough and uncomfortable sail though so I hoped it would get better for him.
The engine was still being finnicky and overheating on the upwind slogs, so we were not making progress as much as I had hoped. We did shut off the engine at one point and tried clearing the raw water thru hull with a long poking stick I now keep around for that exact purpose, and it maybe helped a bit. But it still seemed to be overheating a little earlier than normal. It would be even more upwind and therefore engine-reliant as we turned towards our intended destination of Norman’s Cay and it was looking more and more likely that we would arrive at dark. Reviewing the charts (while hand steering) and I did not like the look of the Norman’s entrance in dark as coral heads in the Bahamas are spotted only in daylight and the worry of an unmarked coral head occupied my thoughts most of the day, more and more as our arrival time shifted later and later. However, Shroud Cay – further south – had no coral heads on the approach marked (if none worth marking than hopefully none close by either) and the angle was better for the wind so less reliant on the engine.
Though a slightly further distance, the better angle would mean no reliance on the engine and that we might even get there earlier despite being further. So a new course was set and an uneventful arrival in the dark meant we could finally relax!
We had successfully crossed the banks to the Exumas!
“The heart of a man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides. And in its depths it has its pearls too.”
– Vincent Van Gogh