The weather is changing, and the longer we wait to leave the islands, the smaller the chances become for finding a good weather window. After three weeks of dodging storm front after storm front, we decide to make a dash for it, leaving the Abaco Islands of The Bahamas to cross the Gulf Stream back to Florida.
The weather window we find is dotted with squalls. Without much experience in inclement conditions, we set off with across the Gulf Stream with fingers crossed.
Hope you enjoy!
Lauren & Kirk
FILMED: June 2019
THE ABACO ISLANDS, POST-HURRICANE DORIAN:
This footage was filmed prior to the utter devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. Dorian hit the Abaco Islands as a category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds of 185 mph, flattening most structures and leaving 70,000 people homeless. They are still rebuilding — and will be for a long time.
If you’d like to help the Abacos, check out PERC https://www.percabaco.org/. This is a 503c organization which supports a number of Abaco-based charities and is tax-deductible for U.S. residents.
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Thinking About Buying a Boat?
– [Lauren] We’ve been in The Bahamas for two months and it’s been amazing. We don’t want to leave, but the weather is changing, and hurricane season is upon us. We’re now down to our last few days here, starting with one more swim on the reef.
– [Kirk] Hey, talk to me.
– We’re going to Fowl Cay. We heard it’s one of the best places in the Abacos for snorkeling and diving.
– Woo. So, one bonus that we just discovered of our new headsail is that we can actually sail dead downwind. Really, since we bought the sail, we’ve had very few downwind days, pretty much almost always we’ve been going up wind. We’re going dead downwind and our headsail is not collapsing like it used to, but what we’ve done is we’ve, with a snatch block, rigged up the jib sheet to the outer toe rail, genoa track that we have. And basically as soon as the sale starts to curl in, like it’s going to collapse, the sheet is tracked out far enough that it pulls it back open. So it never really collapses, which is pretty awesome.
– Next stop on our way North was Baker’s Bay on Great Guana Cay. Before entering the anchorage, we paused for a private yacht navigating the tiny channel into Baker’s Bay Marina.
– [Kirk] Very large boat, going into very small space.
– [Lauren] In the last few weeks, we’ve been paying particularly close attention to the weather, and marveled at the formation of all the thunderhead clouds.
– [Kirk] 125. Do you think the sun go behind the clouds or in front of them?
– I don’t know. It always goes behind the clouds Kirk.
– [Kirk] Yes.
– I just returned from paddling across the bay and into the harbor. Maybe it was the impending thunderstorms or the vacation homes that appeared vacant, or maybe it was just the stagnant water. It was a nice to paddle back out here. I was creeped out a little bit because sometimes I could see the bottom and sometimes I couldn’t.
– [Kirk] Hmm.
– It got really dark at times, and I was like, “Oh, what if I fall in? what if I fall in?” Like… Try to get out.
– [Kirk] You’ll never be seen from again?
– I know. Oh, look the sun is going behind the clouds.
– [Kirk] Oh, no. Why would it do that?
– Right, I gotta get up. My feet are numb. Do your feet?-
– Go numb?
– Yep. Wow, that was quiet a maneuver.
– Yeah. This has been our usual routine now. One of us takes the board out, brings it back, and then the next one goes out. Usually at sunset because the temperature is finally cool enough. And the sun isn’t beating down anymore. This afternoon we spent pretty much all day on the boat inside, working on computers. Both of us just want to be in the world. It’s been really nice having that board. It’s like an escape pod from the boat. You can start to feel really cooped up. It’s a very small space. You can’t move your body very much. And sometimes shore isn’t that great. So being able to get on the paddleboard and just be on the water, is really nice.
– We’re making power sailing and taking a bath all at the same time. What’s up? You wanna talk? what you want to say? You want to say something.
– Right now, we’re on our way to Allen’s Cay. Which will be our second to last stop in The Bahamas. At least that’s the plan. Then, after that, we’ve got 40 some miles to our jumping off point to head back to the East coast. We’ve settled on Norton Head in South Carolina, which will be a two day or two nights, three days sail. It will be our longest sail ever. If this is what we end up doing.
– It’s over 300 miles, and we don’t have the best weather window. We’ve been kind of dodging little isolated thunderstorms on our way back up to the North side of the Abacos.
– Yeah, the last two or three weeks now, it’s been more and more about trying to find a protective anchorage than it has been about trying to see anything really. We’ve stopped here and there for groceries and-
– [Kirk] Yeah, getting life done.
– Yeah. Doing life, getting wifi or whatever. But it’s, hurricane season is upon us. And we’re both getting a little anxious to get out of the box.
– [Kirk] Yeah, cause it’s June 12th.
– Right now.
– [Lauren] The next day the winds shifted all the way around and we tacked back and forth westward across the little Bahama bank towards our jumping off point Grand Cay. You might be wondering, “Why even go back to the U S at all? Why not just sail on South to the Caribbean?” At this point, it’s pretty late in the season to start a journey South straight into the hurricane box. The last thing we want to do is taunt mother ocean from a tiny vessel that moves at seven knots. The other reason is we both want to spend some time with our families back in the Midwest. Family means a lot to us. And since moving away after high school, we’ve lived pretty far from them. From several hundred miles to as far as halfway around the world for the last 15 years. Besides being hurricane season in the Atlantic, summer’s the best time to be in the Midwest. So once we haul our boat out, we’ll head North for a couple of months, then returned to drop the boat back in the water in the fall with plans to venture further South It’s tropical PB&J. With coconut bread and guava jam and just peanut butter.
– [Kirk] That’ll keep me busy for a while. What song is this?
– “Beast Of Burden” We are relishing the last few hours, few days of music that we’re going to have because we’ve actually been streaming our music the entire time here in The Bahamas. And as soon as we get out of cell phone range we’re not gonna have any music. Because we don’t have any on our hard drives. I don’t think… We haven’t listened to music off of hard drive since Pandora came out, really. Because we’ve always been streaming. I don’t know. Neither Kirk nor I have been people who feel like they need to collect music, I think. So we just, we haven’t done it. And… Yeah. Now we’re finally in a place where that would have been helpful.
– [Kirk] Tacking upwind in very light air added a bunch of miles to our trip. So to avoid anchoring in the dark at Grand Cay, we decided to stop off at Great Sale.
– [Lauren] Super high cliffs. I mean high for The Bahamas really. Ooh, there was lightning over there. So rain just started coming and we’ve been keeping an eye on those jellyfish tentacles over there.
– It’s funny, did you hear last night when the rain got really hard for a second? You could actually hear it come down the boat.
– [Lauren] Oh really?
– Yeah. Because it was like a real short span of like real big drops, and I heard a wave of it go, and then like move past.
– I was so dead tired last night when the rain came. You were like, “Lauren, it’s raining.”
– [Kirk] Yeah. And then he didn’t say anything. I was like, “Lauren, Lauren, it’s raining.” You’re like, “Oh, should we shut the windows?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m doing.”
– I think I shut like two windows. And then I crawled back in bed. Alrighty then. I think it might be time to get inside. What do you think?
– I might take a naked shower.
– [Lauren] You just took a shower.
– I know, but I didn’t take a rainwater shower. It’s gonna be nice and cold. Maybe you’ll have to wake me up so I can go make dinner.
– We considered for about 10 seconds pouring bowl of cereal and then going to bed.
– I’m still considering it. Didn’t say what I was making for dinner. We’ve had extremely light air the last two days. And we actually rigged up our spinnaker to sail like 60 degrees off the wind.
– [Lauren] Yeah.
– And it was doing okay, we had such light wind. Three, four, five knots of wind most of the afternoon. So we were doing like three, four, five knots of boats speed. It was kind of cool. It was almost the code zero that we want. You had a good idea to go up and tighten down the tack, which kind of pulled it as tight as we could make it.
– [Lauren] Yeah. One point for the first mate.
– Yeah, but what else did you do today?
– I took the boat out of the anchorage, myself.
– [Kirk] Under sail.
– Under sail.
– [Kirk] It was very good.
– [Kirk] There was no swearing. There was no yelling. There was no Frantics.
– No crying.
– I mean, it was not a crowded anchorage, so we had plenty of sea room. It was very easy.
– [Kirk] I was just about to say, it feels like we’re sailing right now.
– Yeah. We definitely-
– And we’ve just moved a tone.
– Are turning. Yeah. We, spun 90 degrees. That was a rough last night. The lighting started right after sunset and the boat has been bobbing around pretty much the whole night. Kirk thinks we might have dragged the anchor. We were hopping to have a restful day before we left on our big big three-day sail. And, this is the start of this supposed restful day. We actually have 15 more miles that we needed to sail yet to get to our jumping off point. It’s so crazy yesterday, the sail was so perfect really. It was beam sailing. So we actually had a breeze compared to the last few days where we’re sailing downwind, and it didn’t feel like we had anything. So, it actually took the edge off the heat. And… Yeah. What a difference a day makes.
– [Kirk] We made our way North to Grand Cay, to drop the hook for one last evening in The Bahamas. You can see the current ripping out over there. ♪ Pa, pa, pa, pa, pa ♪ ♪ Pa, pa, pa, pa, pa ♪
– Haven’t worn these in a while.
– We haven’t been in seas this big. Was that auto?
– No, that was the radio.
– [Announcer On Radio] Slight thundershowers and thunderstorms.
– We’ve been struggling with when to leave The Bahamas to get back to the United States ever since the last good high pressure system took off and has left us now with just low, after, low after low. And it seemed like a switch was flipped and we’re officially in hurricane season. We really wanted to go up to North Carolina, but there’s no really good weather window anymore. I don’t know, maybe if we waited longer, but there hadn’t been over the last three weeks. So we decided to just make a shorter hop over to Florida. It’s going to be one overnight. And even as it is, there are storms all around us. So that’s unnerving. We haven’t sailed in much weather before, So we’re just… We’re new at it. We don’t know what to expect. We don’t know what to try to avoid. We don’t know what we can weather safely. And our autopilots been acting finicky. And the third thing that I almost forgot to mention was Kirk’s back has been hurting him a lot, the last couple of days. It just kind of flared up out of nowhere. And he’s been in so much pain a couple of times that he’s had to lie down. And it’s the only position that he could really tolerate. Yeah. Captain in pain, finicky autopilot, stormy weather. It’s just not a great recipe for any long haul sailing. So we’re going to do our hop over from the Abacos here to New Smyrna, Florida, which is a hundred and some miles. I forget exactly the distance. But do you remember the time it’s supposed to be one day and six hours. So that puts us in tomorrow, early evening, if all goes well. That water is starting to look a much deeper blue. We’re right on the edge of the, I think it’s the little Bahama bank and just a couple of miles, we’ll be into the deep water. That is a cloud. I just tried to clean the lens because I thought there was a smudge on it and then realized that it was actually just all this rain. Love, how is it going?
– Uh, okay. We’re eventually gonna need to tack though. We can’t keep running downwind, it’s gonna push us further and further north. By 3:00 AM, There was lightening in every direction and a larger system was chasing us down. It felt pretty lonely out there. And we spent the remainder of the evening asking the weather gods to please just hold off til sunrise, so we could see what we were getting ourselves into. As the storm inched closer, I noticed a blip on our AIS and radioed out into the blackness to say, “Hello.” A friendly voice piped back, and it was no longer just us against the weather. Now we had a friend to share the experience with. We traded local weather and sea state conditions throughout the early hours of the morning as the storm slowly gained ground. With the double reef main, we were overtaken by 40 knots of wind from the stern. we were running dead downwind in the Gulf stream and rocketed forward now holding 12 knots of speed over ground. Because we were moving so quickly, the squall was slow to pass, but we were making fabulous time. It was an exhilarating experience. And after the initial adrenaline wore off, my nerves calm down and it was quite a bit of fun. But even though we were out of the storm, the seas weren’t done with us yet. We still had to make it through Ponce Inlet, which we planned to hit at slack tide. And as it turned out, our AIS buddies were from New Smyrna and gave us some extremely helpful advice to navigate the notoriously difficult pass. Yeah it still seems like there’s actually current sucking out. Come on baby, you can do this.
– [Lauren] Big one picking you up.
– That was nearly
– Wow. That was intense. I’m glad we talked to that guy. It was only after we both made it through safely that they told us it was one of their most hair-raising entrances they’ve ever experienced.
– [Lauren] What did he tell you that you did?
– Stay tight to the wall, keep up your sail. Thanks so much for the assistance SV, Strange Bird. We look forward to seeing you out there again one day.
– So we made it through the Ponce Inlet, and it was a wild ride. And we’re so relieved to drop the hook in this tight little anchorage. And that’s been super peaceful the last couple of days. Exactly what we needed was to just stop moving and do nothing.
– Yeah. This anchorage literally has felt like we are stopped. Like we were on dry ground.
– Yeah. The boat has hardly moved at all. Except when boats go by and they’re usually just small little fishing boats, so they don’t make too much of a wake.
– Even with like, I don’t know, we had 25 knots at land a few times and a little storm went through. There’s just not enough fetch here. Any direction to build up any sort of chop and the boat is just like dead calm.
– I wish it would have found me yesterday cause it was sunny out and it was really, really pretty. There was a little bit of wind and it was a little bit earlier. So refreshing, honestly, compared to the last few weeks in The Bahamas, because it’s been so hot there. But now we’re feeling it. Now it’s still.
– Yeah. It’s warm.
– And the humidity is starting to stick, but we were off to Marina for the first dock stay in, shoot I don’t know, two months now I think.
– No, no. Oh, yeah, yeah, because I guess we spent-
– The first week in The Bahamas, we spent at a dock when my sister came to stay. Oh. And we also… We haven’t been off the boat and on land for a week like as of right now.
– Right now.
– So we’re really excited to get to land.
– And pizza. Excited for pizza. All right.
– Bit we’ve got a bridge, we have to make it under in 35 minutes and we’ve got 30 minutes to get there. So we gotta get our anchor up.
– Right now.
– Right now.