And just like that our time in the Bahamas came to an end.
|Parker and Jill - SV Tootsie|
|Elain, Gary and Susan - Barefootman Nippers|
|View from Hopetown Lighthouse|
|View of Hopetown Beach|
We had a wonderful time in the Abacos, seen some amazing sights, and met wonderful people, now it was time to head back to Florida.
The first thing on the agenda was to negotiate a safe passage back through the Whale. When we came through it the first time it was a lovely calm day and we had no problems at all.
After waiting for a good weather window we set off with MV Teaghlach and SV Nine Lives but instead of navigating around the treacherous Whale Cay passage we were opting to do the inside route through aptly named,“ Don’t Rock”
|Passing "Don't Rock"|
Don’t Rock passage is a little more sheltered from the Atlantic but comes with its own problems, being that it is very shallow. We were fortunate to follow MV Teaghach through and never saw less than 5 feet of water on the depth sounder. Once through we were hit by some larger waves but it was nothing compared to what was lying ahead.
On Easter Sunday we set off from Green Turtle Cay for Great Sale Cay. We were going to anchor out for the night and get an early start to West End. Great Sale is about 60 miles from Green Turtle and the trip was easy. In December when we stayed in Great Sale, we got hit by a big blow and it made the anchorage very uncomfortable. This time was no exception, the winds were from the ESE but the rollers that came in to the bay were straight from the South, It made for a rocky night on the hook and I didn’t sleep well at all.
|Sunset on Great Sale Cay|
The next morning (April 1, April fool’s day) we set off again with our boating buddies and headed to West End. This was supposed to be one of the easiest parts of our trip, the banks are shallow and the waters are a gorgeous clear blue/green. It was supposed to be a walk in the park. But the forecasts were a little off and instead of SSE winds at 10-15 knots we got blown around and knocked about in a confused sea state with waves on the beam and winds up to 25-30 Knots. It made for an uncomfortable ride but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Now, to get to West end you have to go from the “banks” out through a cut (which is basically a inlet through a reef) and turn to left to get into the harbour. As I said, the waves were pretty nasty out on the banks and we knew going through the natural narrowed area of the cut those waves would be amplified. We expected that and were prepared to hit a few big waves as we got through. Little did we know? Live and learn. As we entered the narrower area of the cut we were met head-on by waves larger than I have ever seen. The wind was blowing straight from the Atlantic into the cut and gathered up waves and threw them at us. I thought we were going to lose the boat. The waves were so big, we would ride up them one side and down the other. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my life. All I could do was pray. Gary used the throttles and controlled the speed of the boat to prevent her from slamming down the bottom of waves. We kept heading into the waves taking it on the bow, it was too dangerous to try and turn to head to the harbour as we would have been capsized in a second. We kept taking the big waves on the bow and headed out to deeper water and when Gary spotted a break he turn the boat back around towards the harbour. We now had these big waves on our stern (back). They would lift us up and carry us forward, Gary steering to control as best as he could, we headed to the rock lined entrance of West End.
As we rode the last wave into the entrance I spotted people on shore applauding. That we made it in safe was a testament to Gary’s cool composure and his ability to handle to boat. Of course as soon as we were safe inside, I burst out crying, even writing this now I feel the tears come to my eyes again. I thought I knew what it felt like to be scared when we crossed the Gulf of Mexico. That was nothing compared to the utter fear I felt when I saw those big elephantine waves heading towards us.
Well, what can you say, lesson learnt. We won’t do that again. We were able to forewarn our friends on SV Nine Lives, a 34 cat that opted to anchor on the banks and wait for the waters to settle down. MV Tealaigh came through the cut with us. Joan and Gerry, who have been boating since the 70s, say they had never experienced anything like that.
|This picture doesn't do it justice but this is what we had to come through to |
get into the harbour. Looks like nothing but Ican asure you it was SOMETHING!!
Now we are in Old Bahama Bay Marina in West End and already our ordeal seems like a dream and is fading away. Our weather window has slammed shut with a vengeance and it looks like we might have to wait here a few days for the winds and waters to calm down enough for the trip across the Gulf Stream to Florida. Yeah, boating is not for everyone, one minute you can be filled with wonder and the next minute you wonder what you are doing. I still believe it is all worth it.
…………….to be continued