Leading up to Shoving Off
We’ll shoot, December is here and we are still in North Carolina. We had hoped to be in the Virgin Islands by the beginning of this month. Prism was stocked up, Kailey ( our newest crew member) was moved in and we were setting sail with a favorable weather window on Thanksgiving. That was till the night before cast off, the weather window shit out on us.
Our friends Spencer and Breena were thrilled about this change in weather forecast, as it meant we would get to spend Thanksgiving with them at their new home in Oriental NC. I am pretty sure they were paying off Poseidon in some way to get us to stay just a little longer.
With the close out of that window and not another one in the next 10 days, we set our selves to finish other little projects here and there aboard Prism as the list is never ending. Kailey took this break in the weather to get in some quality time with her mom before setting off into the sunset with Jon and I for the next few months.
While we were waiting, Christina and Derek aboard SV FIN made their way down to NC and soon they were sitting in the anchorage right next to Prism once again. They also had a laundry list of projects they wanted to get done before making the crossing to the Virgin Islands. Yes, at this point in time we were all still hopping to find a 10-12 day weather window for a blissful passage east then south. The odds were not in our favor, the longer you wait into November, and even worse December, the odds of a peaceful passage to the virgins is almost non existent.
We kept waiting and hoping and working, all the while Spencer and B are whispering little promises of bliss that could await us in the Bahamas. Now heading to the Bahamas would mean that later in the season we would have some hard Easting to make up to make it out to the Virgins. However, heading to the Bahamas from NC would mean we would only need a 4 days window to make it down there. For days we all kept toying with the idea of where to go, while every 5 hours we were checking the newest weather models. The Virgins were looking further and further away, or just a flat out non enjoyable sail to them. With all this in mind, and the stress of trying to leave with nice weather was weighing on us all, hard.
Eventually we all said fuck it, we are going to the Bahamas! As soon as that had been said, I think all of us started to breath a little easier. Well besides Derek who had a nightmare of a time trying to get his new dinghy registered, but that is a whole other story, and not mine to tell.
CRUISERS CHRISTMAS PARTY SHENANIGANS
I feel so blessed to have friends like the ones we have met while cruising. Spencer and Breena are 2 of the most genuine, kind and funny people we have ever met. Considering our very first interaction with them was with Spencer yelling at Jon “ Um hey, so I might hit your boat cause I don’t have steering, and I am in a 41ft aluminum sailboat” I don’t think I have ever seen Jon run so fast, he was down and into the launching basin at HBY within a blink of the eye. Sure enough, Breena was behind the wheel and handled her boat with ease and Prism was clearly not in any danger. Anyways, these guys have become close friends and their friendship was making it very hard to leave NC.
They put together and hosted a Christmas party for their friends who are all cruisers and in Oriental at this time. We met up at their house, all decked out for Christmas and were given ornament cups with our names on them. We filled up our glasses and headed to the loft to play some games which Spencer and B had come up with. I really don’t think I have had this amount of fun in a long time.
Each boat was a team and we were all competing against each other for the grand prize of gloating and a bean bag! The first game was a face painting challenge. One person of the team painted a Christmas themed word onto their partners face, while the rest of the group tried to guess what the word was. The faster the others could guess the word the better the points you got. This was so great cause now for the rest of the games we all had our faces painted. Some more than others, as in Jon who’s was clearly a grown elf.
Next up was a stocking decoration game. One person from the team was blindfolded and given a pair of scissors and some black sail tape. The person who is not blindfolded was giving a word which they needed to talk/ explain to their partner to cut out. You could only used directional words as in “cut straight up, bend a little to the left” ect… You could not say “ cut a square” Once the person cutting had completed cutting out what they were guided to cut, the positions switched and a new word was given. This was a true test of patience and trust. The outcomes are still being laughed about to this day as our stocking hangs proudly in Prism and the other boats.
Next up was a test for our salty sailor skills, one game was a speed round of labeling the parts of a sail, then another was flaking a sail small enough to fit in a measured square. Each team did this without the others seeing, so no hints, tips were given away.
The very last game, and one that has made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. Think of the child’s game “Hungry Hungry Hippo” but you and your partner are the hippos and propulsion. Spencer and B named this one “Hankry Hankry Sailors” As we were not going for small white balls in the center, but for old hanks.
Once all the games were done Breena the game master counted up the total scores and named the winners. Can you guess who won? I think I was overly excited when Team Elf-CAT was called. ( those are the words jon and I had painted on our faces). BEAN BAG AND VICTORY!!!!!!
Thank you so much for a wonderful night and the memories which I will never forget.
Waiting for Weather and Doing Covid-19 Stuff
The weather was looking good to leave for the Bahamas in another 5 days or so. Christina and I borrowed our friends car and spent the day doing the last large provisioning run. Our boats could not fit anymore even if we wanted to ( and Jon always tries).
Now that the boats are ready and stocked, we needed to start the logistics of getting into the Bahamas. They have started an online check in procedure called Click2clear. At first this seemed to be daunting and a little confusing, but the website eventually started to make sense and we were able to get all our official paperwork uploaded. The next step however is where it got a little more complicated, Covid testing and applying for the Health Visa.
Because we are all fully vaccinated the Bahamas allows us to take a rapid antigen test rather than a PCR test. This is great, as they are must faster and allow us to really time our tests with weather. HOWEVER, there is no where near us to get the rapid tests in Oriental, NC. That is without paying $100 per test. We needed to think fast, we spent a few hours looking into places that we could jump off from that had rapid tests near by. Our closest option was Wilmington, a city just 80 miles south of Oriental. With this in mind, we prepped our boats and ourselves to head down to Wrightsville Beach. If we kept up our timing, got the COVID tests, health visas approved and everything went well, we would be set up for a perfect weather window to the Bahamas on Tuesday the 14th.
Starting the Journey South
December 9, 2021
We prepped the boat in the morning, making sure everything was ready for a quick off shore passage. Once Penta was stored on deck and down below was stored away, we raised the anchor and set off down the ICW towards Beaufort, NC. The sail across the Neuse was not a sail at all, just more motoring as we have been accustomed to for the last fews years on this coast. We stopped at Jarretts Bay to top off with fuel before making our way to drop the hook at the mouth of the inlet to wait for the tide to change. While we waited for the tide, we watched the sun go down while surround by dolphins. Originally we were planning on leaving around midnight at high slack, but after eating dinner and looking a little more into our route, we decided to leave at 8pm with the last of the ebb tide. Fin was just a few hours behind us and they waited till 10pm to head out of the inlet.
As prism made her way out of the Beaufort inlet ( for the last time…fingers crossed) we were met with a light breeze and still water. The crescent moon gave the water a shimmery look while the stars were out in all their glory. It just so happened to be that a meteor shower was peaking for this night passage and we were rewarded with hundreds of shooting stars. Jon and Kailey took the first watch with no wind and calm seas. The midnight watch for me was smooth motoring till the south wind filled in around 2:45am. I woke Jon for his watch at 3am, we put a reef in the main and raised the genoa. Sailing baby! The seas got a pit bouncy once the wind died back down around dawn. This was Kailey’s first offshore passage and night passage for that matter. She was quick to find that she is prone to sea sickness. Yuck, I know her pain and tried to give her hints about what makes me feel better when I am in that situation. I don’t think it helped, and the last thing I want to hear when I feel like that is someone else telling me what to do. Sorry Kailey. To keep the boat’s speed up to lessen the motion of the waves we turned the motor back on. Motor sailing has it benefits, such as unlimited hot showers. We reached the Masonboro Inlet around 9am at slack low. We made our way to the fuel dock to top off once more and to fill our tanks with potable water. It was Kaileys turn to take advantage of hot water and unlimited water. When she came back out on deck she had color in her face once again. Lesson learned, motion sickness drugs will be needed in the future.
Prism is way loaded down with full tanks and stores, yet is still the prettiest boat in the anchorage. ( very biased I know) We dropped the hook in Wrightsville Beach in the same spot from 4 years ago with Jet aboard. It was crazy to have all those memories come flooding back, and soon we were recalling where things were and how to get there. It was maybe only an hour after we got the hook down that a little rain squall came through and rinsed the boats free of the salt from the night before.
Once the rain had moved on and blue skies came back out, we were picked up by Fin for a quick ride to the dinghy dock. We were all looking forward to a nice long walk along the beach and to take a quick look around this little beach town. Once we were back from the beach we all looked at the weather again only to see that our weather window started to crumble. This shattered our spirts and we were all left thinking, well then we will just have to keep heading south. Even though none of us wanted to go to FL. (Besides Derek.. but that has more to do with the dinghy registration story).
That night we all had dinner and thought about our next moves. Do we take this little window on Sunday down towards St. Mary’s? Do we hang here in Wrightsville for another possible weather window for the Bahamas directly? I could feel the stress building back up, and it was not just because of my PMS or damned cramps, no this was flat out passage planning bullshit! I will say that looking/ waiting and prepping for a passage is my LEAST favorite part about cruising. There are so many unknowns and the fucking East Coast with its ever shifting, changing, Gulf Stream nonsense is just beyond irritating. Never the less, we came up with a new plan, to go to sleep and check the weather, AGAIN, in the morning to see if it changed in our favor. My hopes were not high.
HOLY HELL! THE WEATHER DID CHANGE BACK TO OUR FAVOR! Just so you land lubbers know… that never happens. So now it was all make heist on our original plan. First we need to get to the CVS where our rapid tests are scheduled. The bad news is, that place is over 5 miles inland. Luckily FIN has a pair of folding bikes on board which made everything possible! Jon and I had our appointments around noon, and Kaileys was not till almost 2, so Jon and I took the 2 bikes and rode to the CVS while Kailey started to walk. The plan was she wold start to walk, and when Jon and I were on our way back we would give her one of the bikes to go the rest of the way. Besides the fact that the roads into Wilmington are not bike friendly AT ALL, and there were multiple times where Jon and I both thought “ this is how we die, on our way to get COVID tests so we can leave the country” great. Never the less, we all made it there and back with out any injury’s, besides the inside of our nostrils from the test.
By the time we got back to the boat around 3pm we all received our negative results and we applied for the Bahamas Health Visa and paid the $40 each. We did not know how long it would take, but we’re hopeful that it could possibly go though by night fall so that we could leave the following day. The weather kept improving for us and even allowed for a Monday departure rather than just Tuesday.
Fin came over for dinner while the Prism crew awaited approval from the Bohemian Government. By 7pm we received our health Visas and had them uploaded into the click2clear website. Next all we had to do was pay for our cruising permit ($150) and get approved to head to the tropics! We were all so excited when we were cleared, the last thing I needed to do was print the visas and the cruising permit. Jons visa, printed. Kailey’s visa, printed. Proof of payment, printed. Shannon’s Visa…….. ink cartridge low. FUCK!!!!!!!! We just replaced the black ink, we should be fine… WRONG. Damn you Epson and the a fact you HAVE to have all the colors full to print even in black and white. What kind of horse shit is this?! Luckily, fin also has a printer on aboard and I was able to finish printing on their boat. Sadly FIN still needed to make their way to FL, yep to deal with the dinghy. But they would be right behind us and we would catch up with them again in clear warm waters.
December 13, 2021
I am shocked how well I slept, normally I am all nerves before a long passage. Yet I slept like a a ay, maybe it is because my body knew what it was about to get its self into? The weather window looked delightful and we had an army of people watching weather for us almost hourly and reporting back to us via our new satellite messenger. We raised the anchor around 9:20 am, all took some motion relief medicine and rode out of the Masonboro inlet with the last of the ebbing tide. The first 24 hours were to be a motor, which was nice to get us over the Gulf Stream. We made our way out into the open ocean, heading almost dew east to get around Frying Pan Shoals before heading a little more south. Our plan was to motor south almost 80 miles or so to cross the stream at its weakest point. Thankful for our on shore weather watchers, we were advised to cross a little earlier during the dead calm of the night. Once we reached the stream our speeds plumped down from 6 knots to 4.8, then 4.4, then 3.8. It was a very slow 60 miles of easting. All the while we were getting slightly pushed north due to the strong current. I will be so glad when we never have to think about this god awful current ever again. Soon, so soon!
December 14, 2021
We did not get out of the stream till around noon, and finally we were seeing speeds in the 5 knots rage again.Eventually some wind filled in around 3pm on the beam. This allowed us to turn of the motor and sail doing 6.6 knots. And Bob Perry calls this boat slow. By 4 pm we were here: 31.42N, -77.33W and life was good. Prism was doing her thing, her crew was happy and feeling great. Our weather watchers informed us that if we kept up our speed we would be sailing into the heavier winds and seas to the south of us. BUT, if we lingered we might get stuck out her with no wind and large seas. Yuck.
It was forecasted to pick up to the low 20’s with gusts into the mid and high 20’s with seas building to 6-8 feet. Those are not ideal conditions, but we knew Prism could handle it, it just might get a bit rough. We were all drugged enough that we were willing to chance it to get to the clear waters of the Bahamas as fast as we could.
December 15, 2021
The winds started to build along with the seas, so we put a double reef in the main, set up the yankee and the staysail, Prism was sailing with a bone in her teeth. GET IT GIRL, we were sailing comfortably doing 7+knts. Once the wind increased to the point where we were doing 8+ knots we took down the staysail and went with double reef and yankee alone. All 3 of us were surprised how comfortable Prism was, the seas would come roaring along right at us on our beam, but Prism just lifted her round ass and took them with no problem. Yes there were times we took a slap of water to the face, or the cockpit would get sprayed, but for the most part it was warm and dry-ish. Forward of the cockpit was a salty world of spray. Prism just trucked along and we all took our turns on watch getting sleep when we could or wanted.
This morning was a little more of the same with the double reefed main and yankee, but the winds started to lie down a little and we were still getting a few larger swells here and there. As we approached the bank, the wind died down even more and the seas started to relax a bit too. Jon shook our the reefs and raised the genoa once again. Prism was still screaming along at 6 knots. We rounded Middle Shoal and entered the shallow banks of the Bahamas around noon. We could see the bottom and all took in the beautiful blue waters that we had heard so much about. The bad news was, once we made that turn, the wonderful winds on our beam were now on our nose. We had over 40 nm still to go till our designated anchorage. I guess this is where bob was right about us being a slow boat, Prism slowed down to about 4.8 knots with the full main, staysail and genoa as we bashed up wind into 17knots of the easterly trades. Fun. It was not long before we realized we would never make it to our anchorage and we would have to either sail the bank thought the night ( not ideal) or just drop the hook in the middle of nowhere in 20 feet of water. Jon and I were at each other’s throats a bit when trying to choose what to do. I felt that we could continue to the anchorage in the dark and to trust the charts. Jon felt the complete opposite. We were at an ends, and I think Kailey could have cut the tension with a knife. We ended up dropping the hook in the middle of the bank right after sundown. Once the sails were down and the anchor was set, we were all shocked how smooth the boat felt anchored with no protection from wind or waves. Lucky for us all, the wind did die down a bit which allowed us all to get a full nights sleep. We were all in bed before 8pm with full belly’s of home made pot pie.
December 17, 2021
We all woke feeling refreshed and ready to get to our first Bahama Cay. We had the anchor up shortly after the sun was up and we made our way, motor sailing directly into the wind towards Grand Cay in the Abacos. We could have taken all day to tack our way up the bank, but we wanted to get the anchor down and into town to check in before it was too late.
As we approached the anchorage on the south east side of Little Grand Cay we kept a sharp look out for shallows and possible coral heads. The carts for the most part seems to be right on with a few spots that might have been a little more shallow now after Hurricane Dorian.
We found a spot among ell grass and sand in 8.7 feet of water ( at low tide) and were over joyed to feel and see our new ULTRA anchor bight into the tough sub-straight with little effort. YES WE LOVE THIS NEW ANCHOR!!
Kailey and Jon launched Penta while I got our paperwork ready to check in. The dinghy ride was short and easy through Funny Cut and onward to Rosies Place Dinghy Dock.