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Florida to Bahamas

By Anne Clement

Near Cape Canaveral, the town of Titusville is useful for cruisers in that everything we need is within walking distance. It is a dusty little place with frequent freight trains and little mobile home parks filled with tired old recreation vehicles in the center of town. But the holding is good in the anchorage and the pace of life is slow. At the supermarket, the prices are delightfully cheap and in this retirement capital we felt like youngsters while we shopped. There were no young mothers and babies and apparently the schools are poorly funded because most voters are elderly and have no kids. Short sighted in the extreme. We saw a sign at the park, "no swimming - beware of alligators", and were not even tempted to disobey.

With the boat's food lockers bursting, and no mail at the pick up, we headed south once more. On Thanksgiving Day we arrived in Lake Worth having waved to all the full folks enjoying bright sunshine on the patio. Our dinner was simple fare but we do have lots to be grateful for and did not need over filled bellies as well. There were many thoughts of family and friends up north though and a bit of homesickness.

We are at the edge of the trade winds which are mostly from the east which is right on the nose when heading offshore to the Bahamas. They can be quite strong making sailing difficult. In a north wind, the gulf stream current causes steep seas that can be dangerous. So one waits for south and then west wind which is not too strong and sometimes it can be a long wait because that only happens when a mild winter cold front passes. One must be ready to make the dash because the weather changes so fast. About 20 boats were waiting on Thanksgiving Day but the anchorage had over 100 by Dec 10. Two weather systems had gone by already. One was perfect but Nev had a cold. Another passed but was too strong. Dec 11 we were just eating a late breakfast because Nev is sleeping extra to get rid of his cold. We were saying how well we had slept in the quiet night... then we looked at each other and checked the weather forecast which was predicting very gentle north winds 5 to 10 knots!

Local conditions all across Florida and Bahamas just then were light and variable and we considered how fast we can go... Twenty minutes later we had the anchor up and were away.

With both engines full blast and the jib and main up, we made 8 knots in 2 to 4 foot seas even though the wind was 10 knots or less from the north. Within 4 hours, we were across the strongest current and the wind died so we continued with the sails down and engines blasting and passed onto the Little Bahama Banks just at sunset with a salmon colored sky and that glowing turquoise water. It was flat calm and the stars played chase with clouds until the moon came out. I throttled back to a sensible 6 knots and we reached the Great Sale Cay anchorage at 2 in the morning and tumbled into bed.

This morning we woke in paradise. The island is uninhabited and only one other boat is here way at the other end of the anchorage. A weather system is due tonight so we will move to the north side and may keep allowing the wind to chase us like children around the diningroom table in a clockwise manner. This is typical of the Abacos winter cruising scene so we can start right here getting into practice. Luckily there are lots of anchorages and weather forecasts are easy to get these days unlike the past. In Marsh Harbour the cruisers have started a radio net each morning and local weather starts it off. We will be listening in plus reading our weather from our Navtext gizmo which has the southwest Atlantic including Bahamas four times a day. This involves some plotting and interpretation, but keeps us well enough informed with broadcasts four times a day.

But for this morning, sunbathing is in order and maybe I can begin to clean the bottom this afternoon. We're here! The trip to Nassau for Nev to get a new visa will wait until February. We have no interest in further voyages at present. Time to put the feet up and keep the anchor mostly down (clocking round and round with the weather).

Dec 15 Off to clear customs in Green Turtle Cay, Abacos. It is a beautiful Bahama day with blue sky, green water, and warm sunshine. Ahh.

© Anne and Neville Clement, 2003