Last musings on the Bahamas and the voyage to Beaufort-Moorhead City

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Tue 8 Jun 2010 13:33
Our last few days in Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas was very enjoyable made more so by the arrival of our friends Wendy and Ralph on Altona last seen in George Town, Exuma. We had a wonderful day together walking the ocean beach all the way round the top of Green Turtle, along Coco Bay on the calm waters of the Sound and back to the anchorage. Our last walk proved to be the most adventurous. We are so pleased that we made Green Turtle our 'farewell' stop as it was so beautiful. Before we left they kindly shared some of their freshly caught Dorado with us onboard Altona - a memorable evening together.  The previous weekend we also enjoyed a fish fry supper with an American family chartering a catamaran for a week who had a few difficulties mooring up for the night - they were experienced sailors but the charter boat was found lacking! The meal was in the Green Turtle Club and was combined with a karaoke evening which needless to say was a brutal assault on all ears except for the people murdering the songs. When they got into the classic Sinatra oldies we escaped especially as the staff were walking our way with the microphone!
Nikki was reminded of the film - 'Grumpy old Men' when seeing this pic! Surely not         Viewed at the end of Green Turtle Ocean beach - who knows what happens here at full moon!
This seaplane was parked just off the beach  - gratings are for access over sand                 Dance of the dead tree roots - or are they sparring with each other like crabs
So we left the Bahamas to escape the hurricane season which experts claim will be a bad one this year. It was interesting to note how the types of boats seen around the Abaco changed in just a few weeks. The sailing boats departing for points north with the void being filled by the expensive sports fishing boats equipped with multiple rods, outriggers and lures the size of fish we are usually quite happy to catch. These boys are after the big fish whereas just hauling a 30 pound Dorado onboard is quite enough for us to achieve. If Clint had owned one of these boats in the movie Jaws then the shark would have been history a lot sooner. These sports fishers costing upward of $2-3 million can motor at 30 knots and be back in the States before any tropical storm hits the Bahamas. So they go across for the fishing, just as Hemmingway used to do, party hard into the early hours and then head out into the deep ocean to fish. With tournament prizes offered in the million dollar bracket its not surprising that these boats turn up for the possible prize money alone - not just the tasty fish.
Our final thoughts on the Bahamas - wonderful, great, fantastic and any other superlative one can bring to mind. The friendly Bahamian people are a credit to their country, the clear waters beautiful to swim in (when they warm up in May), the sunsets, the variation on cloud formations, the vibrant colours of the seas. All this and more, with the bonus of having had welcome visitors to share some of the experience with us. We will return next season for another cruise through the islands as there is still so much to see. So some last pics....
To sea we went exiting through one of the ocean passes into the deep blue Atlantic waters bound for Beaufort/Moorhead City, North Carolina or, if the weather held, even further north into the Chesapeake. We waited some days for the right weather window but as any forecaster will tell you the further ahead the prediction the more likely it will change come the time and that proved to be the case. As each day the 5-6 day window changed everso slightly causing us to re-think the route and departure time. Initially we were to head straight north round the outside of a south flowing eddy off the Gulf Stream and join the stream south of Hatteras. In the end we made a course straight for Jacksonville as the winds were due to be light which meant we could ride the 4 knot current all the way north. There was no obvious route proved by the number of boats fanning out in different directions, some enjoying success some ending up fighting against the south flowing eddy. But our original plan would have been best and we didn't take it! However, it was a safe route with the option of being able to bail out anywhere along the Florida or Carolinas coast should weather or conditions onboard deem it necessary. We were pleased to make Moorhead City completing a successful passage.
A change in the weather seems likely                                                                                Caught at just the right moment - playful dolphins visit
Despite a storm having traversed the area a few days previously it had been forecast that the seas would have subsided making the Gulf Stream route realistic for a small boat such as ours. However, when we arrived at the axis where the current was in excess of four knots conditions proved challenging for us and the boat. Swells were evident from three different directions and despite periods where the sea was relatively flat there would be areas ahead where the sea state looked nasty. Vertical walls of water reared high before hitting the boat followed by a deep hole into which Ajaya would plunge down before rising high over the next wave then CRASH, down into the next hole. At this time our speed over the ground was in excess of ten knots - tremendous progress if you cared to stomach the crashing and banging along the way. In the end we exited the stream into calmer waters still enjoying a two-three knot favourable stream.
An 'alarming' event was experienced in the early hours one night when the Carbon Monoxide alarm went off in the port aft cabin. Last time this had occurred was in Morehead City when one of the batteries had overheated so this was worrying. Phil was on watch in the cockpit when he could hear the sound of an alarm somewhere onboard. There are so many items of equipment that sound audible warnings especially when all the electronic navigation systems are running that sometimes its hard to pin down exactly where the noise is coming from. The answer to that question was provided by Nikki as the alarm had gone off just inches from her ears in the aft cabin. There followed a thorough check through the boat for any signs of overheating batteries, vapours, escaping gas, fire etc. Nothing was evident and it was presumed that with no draft to create airflow it was her breathing (or was that snoring) under the alarm unit that had triggered it after all. Phew!!
We had looked forward to streaming the new fishing lures behind us and the most expensive one proved just perfect, hooking two Dorado, but not before the aft deck became a real mess with fish blood everywhere. These fish are immensely strong and don't take kindly to being dragged onboard a boat against their will. The trick of injecting a quantity of de-natured alcohol into the gills works providing the fish stays still long enough to let it happen. On one we squirted it into the mouth and the fish almost bit the end of the bottle off! The other problem with dealing with fish out at sea is the movement of the boat which in big swells can make grappling with a slippery customer, gutting and cleaning while sailing at 5 or 6 knots quite a challenge.
Dorado No.1    - female as usual                                                                                         Dorado No 2  (also female) - Skip looks in need of a good meal himself
Our third fish was a real bonus as we were into the shallow waters of the east coast USA. It's incredible to believe that 25 miles off the coast of this great continent the water depth is a mere 100 ft or less. Sailing over Frying Pan Shoals off the coast of North Carolina the water depth rises to just 50 ft. Just as the depth was increasing again and having convinced Nikki that it was highly unlikely that we would hook anything worth having onboard to eat (still having the two previous fish in the freezer box) the line streamed out on the electric reel (thanks again Keith) and we pulled in a King Mackerel or Kingfish as they are called in some places. This was a meaty fish with a mouth full of teeth to go with it and so that became fish number three, making our voyage a very successful fishing trip. We can never resist posting pics of the lovely fish caught out in the ocean - much of which is still to be enjoyed.
The King Mackerel - we need a bigger chopping board !                                                   Secure in Beaufort Docks marina after four days at sea and clearing at Moorhead City