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Posted by on Nov 24, 2010 in Sailboat, Sailing, US |

Consulting Time Safely to the Bahamas

Arrival is sweet, although navigating the cuts into the Sea of Abaco can be dicey even on a good day.

Our friends on the Morris 486 Consulting Time II finished their passage from North Carolina to the Bahamas recently, and once they’d left the boat shipshape in a slip, they flew back to the States and the reality of 9-to-5. Watch captain Andy Tofuri submitted the final report with a newfound perspective on both the pleasures and the risks of arriving at one’s destination.
— John Burnham


A rainbow over Sippican Bay marked the evening before CT II's departure.

Andy Tofuri writes: The last report put Consulting Time II and her crew about 240 nautical miles due north of Whale Cut into the Sea of Abaco.  We had crossed the Gulf Stream and the waves had subsided to relative calm 6-8 foot long(er) period swells on the starboard aft quarter.  Our course heading was 182 degrees, and the wind had clocked around to the NNE at 15 knots.  Not a great point of sail, but if we were careful we could make maintain 6.5 or 7 knots.

By midday on Wednesday the winds diminished to about 6 knots, and clocked back to nearly dead north.  Boat speed was down to just 3 knots, and we were about 100 nm away from our prize.  We decided it was time to charge the batteries, so once we furled the jib and centered the main, we were again making 7.5 knots toward our destination.

Late that afternoon we spotted a lone whale basking on the surface, probably 200 yds off the port quarter.  We had probably come with 50 yards of the beast and are fortunate not to have hit it.  We watched it for a while as we slid past, and it did not move.

There's always something to fix after crossing the Gulf Stream, but fortunately these were minor.

There's always something to fix after crossing the Gulf Stream, but fortunately these were minor.

Thursday morning at sunrise we could start to pick out the the trees and houses on Little Abaco Island and could almost taste the conch burgers and Kaliks.  The wind picked up a bit as we motored through North Man-O-War cut, with a strong current trying to push us to the south toward the rocks at the north end of Man-O-War Cay.  A little more power, and we rode the small waves into the calm, turquoise Sea of Abaco.  Once inside, we decided it was too beautiful not to play sailboat; Lora had the helm, Doug was busy at the nav station finishing up the “paperwork” and getting the documentation ready to clear in, Bill took a shower, and Andy was busy on the deck un-rigging the jacklines, taking out the third reef line, and other such chores.  We doused the sails, motored ito the Marsh Harbour Marina and tied up to the fuel dock at 0845.  The Customs Man was called, and in typical Bahamian fashion he showed up at about 1130. By 1145 we were legally cleared in.

By 1200 the five of us were headed to Hopetown –  I forgot to mention that Lora’s husband John had flown in to meet his bride.  What a surprise for her.  We had a fine sail in brisk winds from Marsh Harbor over to Elbow Cay, picked up a mooring ball, jumped into the dinghy and hurried over to Capt’n Jacks for conch burgers and Kaliks.  After a quick tour of Hope Town, we did the obligatory stair climb to the top of the lighthouse.  While we enjoyed a couple of Doug’s famous “Boat Drinks”, a rainbow appeared over the lighthouse.  We had seen a rainbow the afternoon before our departure from Marion.  Was it a sign?

Another rainbow, this one over Hope Town Lighthouse shortly after our arrival

Another rainbow, this one over Hope Town Lighthouse shortly after our arrival

Friday morning we headed over to Guana Cay for lunch at Grabbers, toured the island, and headed up to Nippers for a look at the Atlantic.  Overnight the wind had picked up to 25 kts out of the east, and we were in the middle of a full blown Abaco Rage.  Lots of chatter on the VHF from boats that were still outside with 12-15 foot seas, and all of the cuts were impassible.  Some discussed trying to go all the way down to Little Harbour Cut, but reports from there were discouraging.  We all agreed we were glad we’d arrived the day before.

On Saturday morning, we headed back to Marsh Harbour.  Bill had a flight back at noon, and the boat needed to be cleaned up.  Steven (who runs Marsh Harbour Marina) was waiting for us at our slip, and we tied up appropriately for leaving Consulting Time II for 3 weeks. (Doug is planning on cruising the Out Islands of the Bahamas down through the Exumas, Long Island, and possibly to Great Inagua, returning to the US via the Florida Keys in early May, and then back up to Maine for the summer. )  We ate the last batch of chili for lunch and set about our chores to close up the boat. Everyone was busy until about 1430, but when we were finished, everything was shipshape.  We took the dinghy over to town for a little exploring, and Andy found the conch salad stand.  Lora and John watched how conch salad was made and still actually ate it.

The crew at Marsh Harbour: Doug, Bill, Andy & Lora

The crew at Marsh Harbour: Doug, Bill, Andy & Lora

While writing this final chapter, I have learned that S/VRule 69, a Jeanneau 46DS traveling with the CRA Caribbean 1500, diverted from the pack heading to Tortola and went onto a reef  in the Abacos late Saturday night.  According to the CRA event tracker, the last reported position was just south of the Little Harbour Cut about 12 nm south of Marsh Harbour.  Three of the crew were rescued, but Laura Zekoll is still missing.  BASRA has called off the search.  As I mentioned earlier, the VHF chatter regarding the conditions of the cuts during the Rage were not encouraging.

We often think that crossing the Gulf Stream is the tough part of this journey. But making landfall, especially in the Bahamian Out Islands, can be dicey even in daylight.