8 knot winds from the Southwest and minimal waves – finally, a suitable weather window for our crossing from Lake Worth Florida, to West End Bahamas. This forecast is what we’ve been waiting for.
We raise the anchor at Lake Worth at 4am and make our way out of the lake. It’s pitch dark so we use the marker buoys to navigate through the channel leading us out into the Atlantic ocean. It’s plain sailing for the first few hours, we’re cruising at around 5 knots and the sun rising on the horizon is a pleasant sight.
By around 10am the winds have picked up to around 20 knots and as a result the waves have also increased. The sailing conditions continue to worsen and we have to bring down the mainsail, leaving just the genoa out.
Our boat may be 42ft in length but she’s pretty lightweight, 20,000lbs. She doesn’t plough through the waves like a heavy displacement boat, instead she rolls over them. At a guess there are some 8ft waves ouhere and we surf down some of them at 8 knots.
We make our way across the Gulf Stream which has a 2 knot current flowing North. To account for this we have to adjust our heading to a point further South than we want to go.
Now, although I’m embarking on this sailing adventure I am terrible in rough seas and with these kinds of conditions my sea sickness makes an unpleasant appearance. Ben does a great job of keeping things under control on the boat, whilst I do a great job of laying down in the cockpit just about keeping my stomach under control.
By late afternoon we see West End in the distance and I strongly hope that means the waves will die down. No such luck.
We’re still rolling up and down every wave and I know if I move, this seasickness is going to get the better of me. But, I have no choice, as we get closer it takes two people to navigate, bring in the sails, steer, radio the marina, check the charts, put the fenders out and keep us safe.
We make our way towards the channel leading us into the marina, the boat rocking around and twisting sideways with each wave. The channel’s marked out with a rock wall and it’s nerve wracking knowing that one small error or particularly large wave could see us crashing into them.
Thankfully, after 11 hours of sailing, we safely make it into the calm waters of Old Bahama Bay Marina where we check in with customs before reflecting on our crossing…the positives, the negatives and what we could have done differently.
As the sunsets we plan our onward route.
Over the next few weeks we make our way along the Abaco Islands. It’s winter here so the weather is hit and miss, sometimes we’re fortunate, sometimes less so. On good days the sun’s out, the winds are low and we find ourselves exploring the uninhabited islands, snorkelling the coral reefs and fishing. When the cold fronts come through we take shelter in a suitable anchorage and find things to do on the boat…repairs, watching films, reading and playing games, our favourite being Jenga! Always more fun played on an unstable vessel!
We really do find ourselves in the middle of nowhere out here. The Abacos are the most Northern Islands in the Bahamas. Only the larger islands are inhabited leaving the smaller islands as nature intended. They are quite rocky in places but there are plenty of stretches of white sandy beaches too. The islands are covered in wild shrubs and trees and we’ve heard some have wild pigs roaming around but we’re yet to see any. Most islands have a little “path” going from one side of the island to the other which help us explore more easily. The paths are so unidentifiable, people have tied washed up items onto the trees to mark the way. We’re guided by plastic bottles, ropes, crates and flip (or is it flop…?).
These islands are well off the beaten track and the only other people we see here are other cruisers. Everyone we’ve met has been so friendly, welcoming and helpful. It’s truly a community amongst sailors. Whilst anchored in one remote bay sheltering from an upcoming storm, sailors from other boats came over in their dinghy to introduce themselves and offer assistance if we had any trouble in the storm. Over the next few days we looked out for each other, socialised, played games and went for walks together. It was from one of these fellow sailors that I obtained my first bread recipe…via the vhf radio. So, as the rain came down and the wind was blowing outside I got out my measuring cups and ingredients. After a few hours and plenty of elbow grease I had successfully created my first loaf from scratch! I must say I was pretty pleased with the finished result!
With bread making under my belt I’m on a mission to make us even more self sufficient. Enter the fishing rod! During one of our beach ventures we collected conch, although out here they eat it, my aim was to use it as bait. They’re ugly, slimy things and I couldn’t quite face taking it out its shell and handling it so I left that bit to Ben. However…off the edge of the boat I lowered a piece of conch on a hook down to the seabed 8ft below, within seconds a fish had taken the bait and was hooked. I reeled it in and placed it on the chopping board in the cockpit. The next bit wasn’t easy for me to do, and in between my squeamish noises I just kept apologising to the fish…but I did the necessary in order for us to eat fresh fish for dinner.
This is a whole new life we’re living and we have so much to learn and experience. Living on a yacht in paradise sounds fantastic, but there’s going to be lows as well as highs. We’re on an adventure and whilst our liveaboard life has only just started, I think I can say I’m going to enjoy it!
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You can also watch my vlog for the Gulf Stream crossing and Abaco Islands leg of our adventure on my You Tube channel.