Onward’s Cruise Journal 2012
Cruise in the Bahamas

A Note to First-Time Visitors to Onward's Journals
7 Apr 2012

April 2012

1 Apr 12; Sunday; Fernandez Bay, Cat I to Black Point, Exumas

  • Anchors aweigh at 0700 under overcast skies. Light wind on the nose but we were able to motorsail for the first third of the 50 nm trip before it clocked enough to make the headsail useless. It was a smooth trip and serendipitously our arrival at Dothan Cut was at slack tide. Onward and Ariel were anchored by 1500. Friends of the Ariels, Jan and Adrian of Squander, came in a bit later and anchored nearby.
  • I had prepared a batch of dough to make bread and focaccia for the Saturday night potluck that never happened. So, I invited the Ariels and Squanders over for pizza. I've gotten much better at getting the pizzas all prepared ahead of time and leaving myself enough time to shower and actually have clothes on when guests arrive. We had a grand time. I was flattered that Miles really enjoyed my Sicilian-style pizza as he is a pizza-maven, having owned a baking company that produced pizza crusts -- and holding a patent on related equipment. Jan & Adrian hailed from the UK and have been sailing this area for 9 years. They were on their way back to have Squander hauled to do some hull repair necessitated by damage during an exit through a cut at close to a "rage".

2Apr 12; Monday; Black Point to Sampson Cay
  • I was ashore early to get a couple of loads of laundry done. I also managed to do some food shopping at Aderley's and get a hair cut from Ida. By 1100, Onward was underway for Sampson Cay. It was a leisurely trip. Along the way, I came across my old friend, Seven Seas - Stephen Speilberg's 279' megayacht which was again anchored off of Sandy Cay (see 6 Apr 11). This time apparently Steve brought along a friend as 282' Cakewalk was anchored close by. As huge as Seven Seas is, Cakewalk is bigger. As I entered the anchorage at Sampson Cay, I could see that the crews of the yachts had set up cabanas, beach volleyball, chairs, dining area, etc. on the east-facing sandy beach of Sandy Cay. Must be nice to be able to invest over $200M for a yacht so you can exploit small private beaches. Somehow I get to do the same thing with Venture….
  • Adrian decided to leave in the morning to head back to FL to start his repair work. I gave him the waypoints I used to go around the SW end of the Yellow Banks that avoids coral heads.
  • I had dinner at the restaurant with the Ariels who then invited me aboard for a nightcap. Miles plied me with a 20+-year old Guatemalan rum that was hands down the smoothest rum I've ever had.

3 Apr 12; Tuesday; Sampson Cay to Compass Cay
  • I spent the morning writing as I continued to lay out some ideas and "stories" to further my recent efforts to improve my adult parenting skills.
  • About 1200, I headed in to Sampson Cay to take on water. As commonly happens, they were out of diesel fuel. I still have > 50 gal aboard - probably enough to get back to the US -- but I will need to take on more; perhaps in Nassau.
  • Water tanks full, I headed to Compass Cay on the rising tide needed for Onward to clear the entrance shallows. As I approached the shallowest section with Ariel following, a large sailing catamaran suddenly rounded the cay heading toward me. I had to back down hard to stay in the deeper water while it transited the shallows. As it exited, instead of going to my starboard side where the water was deeper, it went down my port side and I had to move to starboard. The problem with this is it put me off axis to enter the shallow channel. After it passed, I cut back to port but as I was close to the entrance to the channel, I didn't get over far enough and caught the edge of the bump I knew was there. Onward easily pushed through and the rest of the transit was uneventful.
  • The anchorage has changed substantially since my visit last year. The anchorage area is broader and extends further SE toward the cut. There is still good holding in sand but there are small rocks now visible. I guess Irene cleaned it out a bit.

4 Apr 12; Wednesday; Compass Cay
  • A beautiful day. I spent the morning continuing to write the series of messages to my children about adult parenting. At 1100, the Ariels fetched me and we went into Compass Cay. After saying hello to Jamal and his wife Clio, we headed off for a walk along the beach. The wrecked house on the N point of the crescent beach is still there. Irene did some more damage. But someone has turned the back bedroom, which still has four walls standing, into an exercise room of sorts.
  • We returned to the pier and settled in for lunch of Jamal's grilled hamburgers. He showed me his new toy, a Magnum speedboat and I got him to pose for a photo.

  • Lunch over, we went for a dinghy tour. Laureen & Miles decided they wanted to find a beach for a swim and after checking out several, the dinghy was anchored in the shallows. While they waded S to inspect another beach, I was able to slip into my skinsuit and swim.
  • Dinner was aboard Onward. I had intended to make beef fajitas but was astounded to find the package of pre-cooked frozen fajita beef had gone bad while frozen. Plan B was some delicious pre-cooked chicken sausages browned on the grill. A rousing game of Farkle ensued.

5 Apr 12; Thursday; Compass Cay
  • I worked all morning on my adult parenting messages and sent them off. Then I spent a couple of hours answering back emails.
  • One of the great things about modern technology has been that both my son-in-law and my daughter have been quite good about sending me short video clips of Elena from their iPhones. This has allowed me to follow her development from the newborn to the ripe old age of two which she just attained. Just before her birthday last week, it suddenly dawned on me that I could make short iPhone video messages and send them to Elena. So I sent two: a Hello from Grandpa and a Happy Birthday. Laura told me she delighted in both and wanted to watch them many times. She particularly likes the part where I say: "I'm going to come and give you a hug" which she replies "Yes!" to. Neat. So today I made and sent a couple more: one showing me on the bow of Onward so she could see my boat. And another showing the interior of my home which she has visited.
  • Today was Laureen's birthday. As it is improper for a birthday girl to have to think about cooking, I invited them over for a pasta dinner.
  • About 1230, I fetched the Ariels and went off to Compass Cay for lunch. On the way in, we found a 40+' sailboat laying on its side on the reef just S of the entrance to Compass Cay Marina. A boat from the marina had just deliver an electric pump as it had taken on water. We passed by as they were busy.
  • After lunch, I made another video clip for Elena showing a bunch of people in the water while 6 to 10 nurse sharks swam among them.
  • On the way out of the marina I stopped by the boat, Second Wind with a couple and their grandson and dog aboard. Apparently they had anchored near the entrance just to go in for lunch when the anchor didn't hold right and the ebbing current swept them sideways onto the reef. In the process, it started taking on water around the prop shaft and through a sink drain as it healed. The woman, Ann, was from the Lippencott family prominent in Chesapeake boating. Their VHF was underwater and they had no backup. I told them I would return with a handheld to use.

Second Wind on the Reef

  • After dropping Laureen and Miles at Ariel, I fetched one of my handheld VHFs and my handheld depth sounder. Back at Second Wind I found they had ~2.5' of water on the port, reef side and ~5' on the starboard toward which they were heeled. I told them I'd come back in an hour or so and check again after mid tide. They were bailing with the electric pump and with a bucket.
  • I went off to one of the southeastern beaches at Pipe Cay and did some skinsuit swimming and sunning on the beach so I won't have to return to America with a tan line.
  • At > 3/4 tide, I went back to Second Wind and found there was now ~3.5' of water on the reef side. As the strong flood current was pushing them toward the deeper water to starboard, it wouldn't be long until they should have been able to get off.
  • Following the rule that no good turn goes unpunished, as I moved around the stern to check the shallow side again, the current pushed Venture into their dinghy and the handheld depth sounder got flipped out of my hand and sank. Ann quickly put on her snorkeling gear and dived in and fetched it! Wow.
  • Next we tried to take a halyard and pull the mast over to starboard. I just wanted to pull directly but Skip, a guy who was helping, wanted to pull and have me pull him. Well when my larger engine pulled, it lifted the first dinghy out of the water and flipped the driver out. I helped him into Venture and then back on to his dinghy. I then pulled on the halyard using Venture alone but, while I could heel it, it wasn't enough. A bit later, a tender to one of the yachts in the marina came out with 4 men aboard. They took over the halyard pulling while I used Onward to push on the port stern quarter. Another dinghy pushed on the port beam. I managed to rotate the stern enough that the bow got pushed off by the flood current. The boat was well down at the bow due to the amount of water it had taken aboard. It needed to be move to the marina quickly so pumps could be connected to shore power.
  • The larger tender then towed Second Wind in while Venture acted as a tugboat to steer it. Miles pushed with Ariel's tender and Laureen went aboard to help with dock lines and provide welcomed some support to Ann. It was finally laid against a pier so two electric pumps provided by motor yachts in the marina were put to work.
  • That done, I returned to Onward and began making some pasta sauce using the technique my sister, Kathy, showed me last summer using olive oil, garlic, onions, thin slices of sausage, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and spices. When Laureen and Miles arrived, we first toasted the Birthday Girl with chilled Prosecco Miles had brought along. I took a quick shower while they relaxed in the cockpit.

Laureen the Birthday Girl!
  • Miles made a caesar salad and I served the sauce over angel hair pasta with some birthday wine from Ariel' cellar. Delish. For desert there was a piece of rum cake from Ariel and some coffee ice-cream from Onward. It turns out both the Ariels and the Ladyhawkes love coffee ice-cream -- my favorite as a child in RI. A lusty game of Farkle followed. Laureen, appropriately, won the second game by an astounding margin to cap the night.

6 Apr 12; Friday; Compass Cay

  • Well, it looks like Onward will stay here through the weekend as a cold front is on its way. This morning was a busy one in the anchorage. A hugh motor yacht, Meridian, moved into the Marina and another, Latitude, anchored N of Ariel. A third, ~ 60', anchored between the two. Then came the first seaplane. Then came the second seaplane. I got the Steward busy getting last night's dishes done then I looked out to see what new was happening. This was just in time to see the second seaplane make a takeoff run just off Onward's bow. Wow!
  • Anchorage Gets Crowded

A Seaplane Crosses Onward's Bow

  • It was a busy day with three seaplanes landing and taking off from the anchorage. I went in to talk to Second Wind and learned that it had been holed in the forward end of its keel when it grounded - expelling the mysterious leak source. He contacted BoatUS Insurance who put him in touch with Overseas Salvage which has a boat at Staniel. A diver came over, found the hole, and put underwater epoxy in it.
  • The megayacht Latitude moored in the anchorage launched two jet skies. These apparently had no mufflers and the noise sounded like being trackside at Daytona. After almost 5 hours of this harassment, I was really ticked. Several people called on the VHF and asked them to cease. Finally, after sunset, they retrieved the *&&^^)!#$ things and quiet returned. I was so annoyed I found myself hoping to hear a splat as they ran into each other or something hard -- then I was upset with myself for wishing harm. Baaah! The Ariels invited me over for dinner and chef Miles grilled a wonderful ribey steak. Delish. We all decided to make it an early night alowing Laureen to continue to bask in the sunshine of her spectacular Farkle win last night.

7 Apr 12; Saturday; Compass Cay

  • The front came through in the early hours with a torrential downpour but not much wind. It was wonderful to hear the rain washing Onward down. In the morning, the wind was still. I was listening to Chris Parker and had just asked him about crossing back to the US starting tomorrow when a strong squall hit with rain and winds. I had a challenge in attending to Chris while looking the world whipping by Onward's ports. As soon as he was done, I went on deck and found Onward whipped around by the wind and close to a catamaran. I kept on alert to be able to power away should the wind carry the boats too close together. When the squall had passed, I asked the catamaran to move as he had anchored too close for the conditions and he courteously did.

8 Apr 12; Sunday; Compass Cay to Nassau
  • I Ventured over to Second Wind with one of my handheld VHF radios so Terry would have some means of communication on his trip back to Nassau and the US.
  • By 0730 Onward was ready for sea travels. The anchor came out without issue in spite of the many small rocks it had wrapped itself around over the course of the stay here. The passage out over the shoal areas proved uneventful -- Good!
  • Early this morning I was able to download updated gribs. They indicated that the weather in the Gulf Stream Crossing area would start falling apart a bit on Wednesday afternoon with a shift in the light winds to the N. Even with the winds forecast to be ~10 kts, I really didn't like the potential for having to put up with the wind against the Stream. So I looked at going directly from Compass Cay to Nassau instead of stopping at Highborn Cay overnight and to pick up fuel. I told Miles what I was thinking but the decision point was several hours ahead.
  • The winds were 15 - 20 from the ENE which enabled me to do hull speed under sail. I was doing so well, I decided to go to Nassau to take advantage of the wind and to cut a day out of the transit to the US. I was able to sail all the way to ~ 10 nm from the entrance of Nassau harbor. In fact, I could have sailed into the harbor at good speed but that would be too complicated and I needed to take on fuel and get anchored before dark.

9 Apr 12; Monday; Nassau to the Grand Banks
  • Onward was underway out of Nassau harbor at 0530.
  • I anchored ~ 10 nm E of Great Issacc light in 30' of water at 2000 hrs. Although I've done it >6 times, it is still weird to anchor in the "middle of nowhere". By midnight the slight swells were gone and it was so quiet -- that woke me up.

10 Apr 12; Tuesday; Grand Banks to Ft. Pierce
  • Onward was again underway at 0530. Again the problem with the autopilot bring down the SeaTalk network cropped up. Strange but pulling and reinserting the 5A fuse that powers SeaTalk from the course computer fixed the problem.
  • Onward pulled into the marina at 1900! Great to be back home. Although the "big city" does seem a bit strange after the last 4 months.

11 Apr 12; Wednesday; Ft. Pierce
  • Spent the day getting Onward organized to spend a bit of time away from me.

12 Apr 12; Thursday; Ft. Pierce
  • Spent the day getting me organized to to go out to the West Coast to visit my children.

13 Apr 12; Friday; Ft. Pierce
  • The Ariels headed off to dinner with me at a Thai restaurant to celebrate Miles' birthday tomorrow.

14 Apr 12; Saturday; Ft. Piere to West Coast
  • I was off at 0530 to drive to Ft. Lauderdale for an 0900 flight to San Diego. Joseph fetched me at the airport and we headed off to lunch.
  • I am suspending my journal writing while on the West Coast.