the long slog home--Bahama Banks

Fri 9 Apr 2010 23:16
25:29.61 N
78:24.74 W

We made it across the NW Providence Channel, about a 57 miles crossing in 9 hours--the water was quiet in the morning,
just long, uplifting ocean swells. We left at 7:20 am. About a 30 minutes into the passage the motor quit. The low oil
light went on. Garth checked the oil. Not low. He tried the motor again (thinking the definition of insanity is trying
the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome). Crazy or not, he got the motor started up, and it
stayed steadily pushing us ahead at around 6 knots for the next 8 1/2 hours. Waves built throughout the day and we had
odd wave series, coming one way and another (the channel is famous for that). Swells came from different directions and
crossed beneath us. Every now and then a bus-size wave would come from an unexpected direction and give us a ride. (We
were very glad the motor didn't konk out in these unsettled and unsettling waters.) Mostly, we were able to surf the
waves at an angle. I'd say they built from 2' to 4' throughout the day, and then in the late afternoon, as we were
approaching the bottleneck of the channel, things flattened out again and it was pleasant motoring.

We saw two huge dolphin (we think that's what they were). Big dark fins and arching backs (with a big bump on the back
of the head). The girls thought they saw white bellies--Orcas maybe? Probably large dolphins. Garth saw what looked like
a whale tail not long after. Our first marine mammal sighting since we left Biscayne Bay in Miami.

The crossing onto the banks was a surprise. All day long, we'd been telling Rose that the banks would be flat, and she'd
be able to get a good night's sleep below, while were were motoring along. Winds were predicted to be light and variable
all afternoon. However, the wind shifted to the NW, right on our nose, and the Banks had a chop that we were smacking
directly into. About 30 minutes after crossing to the Banks, Garth refilled the gas tank (the one attached to the
motor), and a few minutes after that, the motor quit. Again, with the low oil light. This time, it wasn't as comfortable
to be adrift like a cork in the chop. Again, G. turned pulled the cord, not really expecting it to get so lucky a second
time, but the motor came to life and is back in action. We think it has to do with refilling the fuel tank, possibly
causing air bubbles, or something like that.

Rose stayed in the hot sun all day, and was only below for maybe 30 minutes while I read her chapters of Peter Duck, one
of our favorites in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series. Both she and Isabel dowsed themselves with ice cold
water from the cooler--good thing Garth got more ice in Nassau. That helped a lot. Still, I feel awful for her. I told
her that I was thinking of flying us out from Bimini to spare the girls, especially Rose, the torture of another big
crossing. Isabel goes below throughout the day and gets relief from the sun. Rose was ademant. Isabel, too. They don't
want to fly from Bimini; they want to come across in Sea Fever. We'll see. Last blog I mentioned that we needed a bimini
, but didn't define it for the non-boaty crowd. It's a canopy that fits over the cockpit. One empathetic cruiser in the
sailboat Warm Rain, looked at our boat and said, "You really need a bimini." Garth and I took turns today, going below
out of the sun. Being below takes getting used to, but it can be mesmerizing, closing your eyes and listening to the
waves sloshing against the other side of the hull, just a 1/2-inch sheet of plywood and fiberglass away.

At our current rate of progress, barring any motor problems, we'll be in Bimini by early morning. We're figuring 12
hours from time we entered the Banks at 4:30. The wind is supposed to kick up on Saturday by afternoon. We should be
fine and tucked away to wait out the nasty weather (which could be four to five days straight).

Now that we're going home, we're like horses running to the barn. If the Gulf Stream had a miraculous forecast of low
winds and waves on Saturday, we would go all the way to Miami, doing a 33-36-hour trip. However, we don't expect to get
that lucky.