30 March 2013 - After days of preparation to s/v Lastdance and loading stores of canned food, wine, beer and rum and, we departed Key West at the end of April and sailed to Boot Key where we anchored for the night. The next day we set sail at the crack of 9am and crossed over to the Gulf side of the Keys via Channel 5 and began our “thin water odyssey” to rendezvous at Key Largo with friends,Squeek & Vicky in s/v POW-MIA, Tom & Gerri in s/v Fairhaven and Art & Brenda in s/v Flynnigans Wake. Once there, we took our dinghies ashore to Gilberts Tiki Bar where a band entertained a crowd of humans and a pod of dolphins who jumped and “danced” to the music just feet from our beach table.
Two days later, as we all sailed up Biscayne Bay we were overtaken by heavy rain and strong northerly winds before we could anchor in the lee of high rise condos south of Belle Isle and the Venetian Causeway in Miami Beach. There, we waited out the bad weather and then Teresa and I sailed north to Fort Lauderdale to meet up with my son Christopher, Michelle and the grandkids who were taking a cruise ship to Italy for a much needed vacation after his deployment to Afghanistan.
Once the family was safely on their way to Europe, we got underway and again rendezvoused with our sailing buddies; heaving to off the coast until 8pm, when we sailed east for the overnight crossing to Grand Bahamas Island. After a tranquil moonlight sail, the island came into sight shortly after dawn and by 10am we rendezvoused with Jon & Renee in s/v Jonnee, another boat from our marina in Key West.
We motored onto the Little Bahamas Bank via Indian Cay Channel, an unmarked passage through the reef consisting of a series of dog-legs using GPS waypoints and eyeball navigation through crystal clear turquoise waters. Once passed the reef we set a course for Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited island midway across the Bank. Anchored for the night, we slept well after having been underway more than 24 hours. In the morning we got underway for Spanish Cay and a day later we were safely moored in White Sound on Green Turtle Cay, where we cleared Bahamas Customs and rented golf carts to get around to the island’s many beautiful beaches, restaurants and excellent tiki bars.
After three days of carousing around this little gem of an island, we took advantage of good weather and set sail for Great Iguana Cay. To get to Great Iguana we first had to transit, “The Whale!” The Whale consists of an inlet from Abaco sound to the sea, a notorious stretch of ocean and then another inlet back into Abaco Sound. When the wind opposes the current, “rage” conditions are created causing huge waves that have been known to capsize even large sailboats. Fortunately, we enjoyed a quiet and uneventful passage and anchored in Fishers Bay by late afternoon.
We sampled the famous “watering holes” of Great Iguana such as Nippers and Grabbers and after two days we sailed further south to Marsh Harbor on Little Abaco Island. There we parted ways with s/v Flynnigans Wake and s/v Jonnee; they going further south, the rest of us turning north. We stopped at several uninhabited Cays along the way to enjoy some snorkeling before returning to Great Sale Cay which was to be our staging anchorage before sailing off the Bank and making the crossing back to the U.S.
Our plan was to await a good weather window and then depart at dawn and sail through the day and overnight to Ft Pierce but as we left the Bahamas Bank, we decided to change course and sail further north to Cape Canaveral, an additional 50-miles of open sea. It proved to be a mixed bag decision because a frontal system swept up from the south and hammered us throughout the night with 30-knot winds and 12’ waves that swept across our decks, leaving us shaken but well stocked with fish left behind by the breaking seas. Conditions to the south were even worse and we heard a Mayday call from a sailboat we had seen at Great Sale Cay.
Arriving in Cape Canaveral at 10am the next morning, we cleared in with US Customs and then licked our wounds by going out to dinner at the local yacht club which served excellent martinis! A day later we were underway again but we were soon forced to seek refuge in Dayton as Tropical Storm Beryl hammered the east coast. After waiting 3 days for the remnants of Beryl to pass, we set sail for St Augustine where we spent 4 days enjoying the celebrations and reenactment of Sir Henry Morgan’s raid on that town 500 years earlier!
Two weeks later we arrived in Beaufort, NC to spend time with family and have Lastdance hauled out for maintenance and have a reverse cycle air conditioning system installed. While there we received word that Teresa’s brother Jeff had been hospitalized in serious condition so we did a road trip to Tampa. Jeff’s health deteriorated rapidly and while Teresa remained behind to be with him, I drove to New York for my mom’s 90th birthday celebration. Sadly, Jeff passed away while I was in New York and Teresa stayed in Tampa with her sister-in-law, Sharlee. Two weeks later we were reunited in Beaufort and after a weekend sail to Cape Lookout with Ashley and her fiancé Matt, we saw Christopher and his family off to Germany and in mid September, we pointed our bow south for our return home to Key West, arriving in early October after an uneventful mostly coastal voyage.
Teresa got her old job back at Sunset Marina and after 6 years of retirement, I took a part-time job as a “dock-boy” at Conch Harbor Marina. We enjoyed great Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years celebrations here at Key West Naval Air Station, the highlight of which was a 7 Fishes dinner aboard Lastdance with 6 guests. Now as Spring approaches, we’re getting ready for hurricane season and a June trip to Raleigh, NC for Ashley’s wedding, after which I’ll be going on to Germany to spend a couple of weeks with Christopher, Michelle and the grandkids!