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Nope, still haven’t moved more than ten miles from where I was almost two weeks ago. This is not a problem. I knew that my cruising schedule would be dictated by the tides and the weather, and mentally prepared myself for the fact that I might be in one place for quite a while. Twelve days is a little much, and it looks like it’ll be at least another week, but that hasn’t made me sore of my new lifestyle at all. I’m back in Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas after two nights at anchor off of New Plymouth, the settlement on the island. Shifting & increasing winds made the anchorage untenable, and I woke up just as my anchor started to drag towards another anchored Pacific Seacraft.
I fired up Old Unreliable and got my sails ready to hoist as backup then laid out some more chain hoping the anchor would bite. It didn’t, and fortunately the engine was cooperating so I was able to reanchor after getting uncomfortably close to my sister ship. I was trying to get southeast to Hope Town for some engine repairs before making a quick offshore passage to the Exumas.
There are two ways to get to Hope Town and the rest of the Abacos: over a shallow sandbar called “Don’t Rock Passage” or go outside the Sea of Abaco into the Atlantic, east around Whale Cay, and back into the Sea of Abaco past the sandbar. I suppose if I were better at this I could time my passage over the sandbar to be there at absolute high tide and hope that Hurricane Sandy didn’t shift things around too much from what’s on the latest chart, with a few inches of water between my keel and the bottom. Not something I want to risk, so I think I’ll just go around Whale Cay. The problem with this is the steep plateau that the Bahamas sit on. The water goes from being thousands of feet deep, to shallow reefs almost instantly. You can imagine what happens to all that water when it slams into this wall when winds and swells are out of the northeast (it’s called a “Rage” around here).
And that’s exactly what has been happening, moderate winds have been out of the north for the past two weeks. Two days ago I made a run at it to check it out in the hopes it wouldn’t be too bad. On my way to the channel I could see the sandbars at Don’t Rock Passage and a lot of white water, breaking waves over the shallow sandbars. There was another sailboat on the horizon in that direction, and all I could see was his mast swinging wildly from side to side. Yep, glad I’m not doing that! I started out the channel to Whale Cay two miles in trail of another larger sailboat. Through the binoculars I could see large breaking waves all over, in what I thought was the channel ahead of me. The ketch in front of me radioed some of his friends with a report saying “we punched our way through but there’s 15-foot breaking waves all over and we were rolling quite a bit!” His buddy responded in his best sarcastic Larry David tone “good for you!” My natural reflex upon hearing that was to swing the tiller hard over back to Green Turtle Cay and I didn’t fight it.
I anchored off of New Plymouth with hopes of attempting it again two days later, along with two other sailboats, but the weather reports indicated another cold front and higher pressure would produce even higher winds out of a northerly direction for at least the next week. The other two boats headed into White Sound and I into Black Sound for refuge. The good news, if it can be called news, is that I surpassed 1,000 miles of cruising aboard Saoirse in my aborted attempt at The Whale.
In the meantime I’ve been exploring New Plymouth, perfecting my potato-onion-garlic-salami frittatas, completing some boat projects, and of course tanning and swimming. I also went a few miles over to Munjack & Crab Cays for a few days for a change of scenery while waiting on the weather. As far as real work goes, I just started a 15-month project with a Agency Access, a professional marketing agency, to get some of my work out to publishers and clients.
I never bought an outboard motor for my dinghy. It, the bins of spare parts they require, and the gasoline they sip would take up more room on my 27-foot island. This was all a part of my “simple, green cruising” plan. I’m working on my massive python arms and shoulders rowing everywhere, but every time someone zips by me effortlessly steering with their outboard, something inside of me wishes I could move around like that. We’ll see what the future holds for outboard motors.
What about this place I’m at now, New Plymouth Bahamas? If you’re still with me you might as well keep reading because I’ll keep it short. New Plymouth was founded in the late 1700s. American Loyalists and their freed slave counterparts, still loyal to King George, could not remain in America. They left for the Bahamas with hopes of a prosperous life.
In the end only a couple of families settled some of the islands, which is evident by the abundance of only a few surnames on some of the smaller islands. New Plymouth looks like an old New England village with the clapboard houses, white picket fences and stone walls. The only difference is the pastel colors of these homes and the palm trees surrounding them.
It also looks a lot like Key West, and for reasons you might not expect. In the 1800s many residents of New Plymouth picked up their houses, placed them on sailing barges, and settled Key West. New Plymouth and Key West became official sister cities in 1977.
There are a few small grocery stores, cafes & restaurants, a liquor store, hardware store, and a number of churches. Alton Lowe is a renowned Bahamian artist who opens his local gallery to the public. Vert Lowe carries on the tradition of his boatbuilding father on a smaller scale, building very intricate and detailed model ships. There are also many festivals throughout the year celebrating the various cultural roots that make up the island’s inhabitants. The longer I’m here, the more I’ll share.
What are your stories of being on “weather hold”?