36:31N 75:30W Abacos to Chesapeake

Madeleine and Martin
Sun 9 Jun 2013 15:22
Man O’ War Cay in the Abacos is a delight, with stylish houses on the beach, an attractive small boat harbour and an excellent restaurant, “the Dock and Dine”. “Best Conch in the Bahamas!” Could well be. We met the much travelled Bob and Betsy Baillie in the anchorage and joined them for supper in the D and D. They suggested that we join the Ocean Cruising Club and gave us a couple of back copies of the bi-annual mag, the “Flying Fish”. Awesome; full of tales of amazing seamanship  in Patagonia, the Tasman Sea, unpronounceable islands somewhere in the Pacific, the north Russian seas where the ice fair dripped off the page. Not sure we’re quite up to snuff.
We refueled, reprovisioned and cleaned up in the Boat Harbour Marina (catchy title) adjacent to Marsh Harbour on “mainland”  Abaco. This is a well developed area with a scattering of residents who trace their lineage back to the “Loyalists” who left America during the War of Independence and voted against independence for the Bahamas – or so our taxi driver claimed! Tip? No, two could play that game. We told him we would reverse the tide of history – he seemed quite satisfied with that.
Boat Harbour Marina  was playing host to 30 or so Sports Fishing Boats which had arrived to take part in the annual fishing  competition. These super smooth 70 foot, four storey, sports fishing boats are festooned with rods, mega reels and fighting chairs. They are the Rock Stars of the ocean fishing world where hard drinking, big prize money and ludicrous bets are common place. An excited crew member explained to every passer-by that he had landed a 9 foot 222 lbs Marlin that afternoon and had given the fish to the restaurant on the quay to feed his 6 crew. And the competition had not even started. As one of only two sailing boats we scuttled away quietly back to our anchorage.
And so to sea for the 750 mile passage to the Chesapeake. But which way to go? Do we take a 100 mile detour to the west to catch an early ride on the Gulf Stream’s 2 to 3 knot current or as Bob said “go for the Barn Door”. In the event significant weather on the Carolinas coast made it an easy decision – go East and take the long way round, stay well off shore and take the slow boat to Ch...
Good decision; the storm tracked the American coast from Florida to Cape Hatteras for days 2 to 4 inclusive. We plotted the outer limits and tried to follow the 20 knot wind band. The centre developed into a large area of plus 40 knots and NOAA gave it a 20% chance of developing into a “named wind storm”. Suffice to say even 300 miles from the centre, the dear old Atlantic was playing rough. Sleep deprivation and excessive motion excitation do not make for happy sailors! As Madeleine said “ this must be what it’s like to be really, really old – you have to plan ahead before taking every step!”
Day 5, crossing the Gulf Stream with the aid of NOAA’s”pictures” from their heat sensitive satellite, watched by us for free. Amazing. Made up for some lost time hitting over 10 knots on occasion but with wind over current it was super smooth.
So here we are early morning on Day 6, North of Cape Hatteras, North of 35 degrees North, “out of the hurricane zone”, (where have we heard that before);  20 miles off the American Coast. And we have thick fog; can hardly see the bow. The radar is on, AIS is interrogating every passing vessel and we are glued to the screens, but still doing 7 knots on course for the Chesapeake bridge. It never used to be like this; we remember fog horns and “dead slow”, frozen hands on the wheel and head for shallow ground where the big stuff can’t go! Now all this technology makes arm chair sailing for old people ...Pardon? Did you say something?
As we write the fog is lifting and two old Loyalists, in pursuit of their promise, are mounting a surprise Sunday morning attack on Norfolk, Virginia, home of a large part of the American Navy. What do you mean, they can’t take a joke...................