Apologies. Blog posts are a little late due to lack of Internet access.
We finally tore ourselves away from the Abacos and our friends in Hopetown this morning as we exited the cut near Little Harbour at the southern end of the chain and sailed south to Eleuthera, the next stop on our way to the Caribbean. The Abacos have been very enticing, and over the last week we discussed changing plans and staying in the Bahamas for the rest of this season, circling back to the States this spring and heading to the Caribbean next winter; ultimately we decided to move on as before.
We anchored near the cut before sunset to stage for an early morning departure. Our weather window still looked good, and seeing other boats staging in the same anchorage for the transit reinforced our choice of favorable days to go.
Final preparations for a transit always include hauling the outboard motor up on to the railing and securing the dinghy, rechecking the route and waypoints on our chart plotter, laying out the jacklines and life vests, checking the engine fluids, and hopelessly trying to get a good night’s rest while fighting off the jitters that invariably accompany taking the boat out on the ocean.
I slept fitfully through the night, and lay in bed dozing as the alarm went off at 0530; the waiting was finally over. We made coffee and sat in the cockpit willing the sun to come up and provide us enough light get underway. We finally started and warmed up the engine, hauled in the anchor, set the Main sail and turned towards the opening in the reef. Another boat left ahead of us with sails up, and our new friend Rob who single-hands his 36 foot cutter rig Celebrian, hauled his own anchor and followed a comfortable distance behind us.
The winds were not up quite yet but the swells persisted, as they do, and our first ocean sail on Brilliant started out a bit rolly. The morning was cloudy which delayed the sun’s normal warming of the land to give us a sea breeze, so our promised winds still had not materialized as mid morning came and went. When the sails began to flog (flap) and our speed dropped we started the engine to move us along, determined to reach our destination for today in daylight.
Thankfully the unsteady winds filled in and increased, so we shut the engine off and sailed for a while, but looking out at Celebrian on our beam we noted that she was inching ahead of us. In a previous conversation with Rob he felt that Brilliant would most certainly sail faster than his boat due to her longer waterline, so when we began to fall behind Carrie sprung into action, determined to get more speed.
Sailor’s Joke: What do you get when two or more sailboats sail in the same direction?
Answer: A Race.
We tightened the lines on both our Main and Jib sails, experimenting with sail trim while watching the GPS for changes in our boat speed, and were able to pull steadily ahead of Celebrian, with our calculated time for arrival moving back to earlier in the afternoon. By early afternoon we rounded our next waypoint and headed for the entrance between barrier islands, furling in our sails as we headed into the wind and towards a restricted opening.
With appropriate caution and fresh memories of experiences not too long ago, we were understandably anxious about passing through an unfamiliar entrance, so Carrie rechecked the charts and waypoints and I stood on the bow watching for any signs of shallow water or underwater obstructions. Not seeing anything suspicious we safely passed between the little islands and inside a bay with Eleuthera and her barrier islands now surrounding us on the West, North and East.
We motored into the wind for the last hour and a half to Royal Island, our safe harbor for the night, and found what every sailor looks for in an anchorage: a sheltered bay with all-around protection and good holding. There were several boats already anchored there staging for morning transits, along with the boat that left ahead of us that morning, but plenty of room for two more. We picked a reasonable spot to drop our anchor and plenty of chain, let the anchor settle into the sand and backed down with the engine to securely set it.
We both watched for a few moments to make sure that we were holding our position, and Carrie shut down the engine for the final time on this transit. As I policed up the deck and checked out our surroundings, Carrie brought up some well-earned refreshments to celebrate our safe and timely arrival.
We relaxed in the cockpit with our drinks while watching Rob enter the harbor about an hour later and set his anchor.
Welcoming him over to share some munchies and recount the day’s travel, we gained some insights about Eleuthera from his previous visits and shared our plans for the following day. We plan to visit some sights on the island, while Rob will head further south to the Exumas in the morning.
As the light of the day waned we said our goodbyes, and after a final walk around the deck with my red flashlight, I turned in while Carrie read. I think she came to bed soon afterwards, but I must have been asleep already.