Clearing Customs in Green Turtle Cay

After leaving Great Sale Cay, we were on our way to Green Turtle Cay to clear Customs and officially enter the Bahamas. It was another 50+ miles and uneventful again.

There are cute little tugs in the Bahamas, too

There are cute little tugs in the Bahamas, too

Oops, this very large sailboat ran into trouble. Looks like it has been there awhile (this was with a 20x zoom.)

Sad sight – This very large sailboat ran into trouble. Looks like it has been there awhile (photo was taken with a 20x zoom on the camera.)

We arrived at Green Turtle around 2:30 pm and anchored in Black Sound. Quickly gathered all the necessary documents and dinghied into the settlement of New Plymouth. Towns seem to be called “settlements” here in the Bahamas.

There are very few buoys or markers in the Bahamas, and certainly no cans or nuns that we have seen yet. But at Green Turtle they make that extra effort to be sure you know which side of the pole is right!

There are very few buoys or markers in the Bahamas, and certainly no cans or nuns that we have seen as yet. Here at Green Turtle they make that extra effort to be sure you know which side of the pole is right side to be on!

What a nice welcome sign on the dock

What a nice welcome sign on the dock

The Post Office and the Customs Office share this little pink building.

The Post Office and the Customs Office share this little pink building.

The Captain (or "the master" as the paper designates him) is signing documents for clearing customs.

The Captain (or “the master” as the paper designates him) is signing documents for clearing customs.

We are officially and legally in the Bahamas! It was a friendly and easy experience thanks to the lovely official.

We are officially and legally in the Bahamas! It was a friendly and easy experience thanks to the lovely official.

The yellow quarantine flag comes down and the Bahamian courtesy flag is now flying for the education of our stay.

The yellow quarantine flag comes down and the Bahamian courtesy flag is now flying for the remainder of our stay.

We knew that some heavy winds were coming within the next 24 hours and thought that we might just stay at Green Turtle until they passed. However, we talked it over and decided that if we delayed departing for Hopetown, we might be here for more days than we really want. It would be best to make the trip through Whale Cay Channel while the weather is still benign. So, we ate a nice hearty breakfast and lifted the anchor. Within  10 minutes we were aground, even before the channel. Yesterday we had come in at high tide and it was now 1.5 hours before low tide. We backed up and found a place to settle in and wait. No way could we exit the Black Sound channel until after the tide comes in!! Silly us. What were we thinking?? We had 3 hours to wait so we decided to go into New Plymouth again and take a look around.

Let’s take a tour of New Plymouth —

Another Green Turtle Cay welcome. People were truly welcoming and friendly everywhere we went.

Another Green Turtle Cay welcome. People were truly welcoming and friendly everywhere we went. We even saw a little green turtle swimming beneath the surface on our dinghy ride to town.

Green Turtle street signs

New Plymouth street signs

Harbor sight

Homes along the harbor

The Green Turtle Episcopal Church sits right on the harbor

The New Plymouth Episcopal Church sits right on the harbor

A cottage on Black Sound

A cottage on Black Sound

Even the picnic tables are a an extra pretty sight

Even the picnic tables are a an extra pretty sight

This bright pink building had a sign that read "old gaol" - the jail had stairs to nowhere?

This bright pink building had a sign that read “old gaol” – the jail had stairs to nowhere?

The holiday season is upon us, no matter where we may be! I confess I am missing my New England snow for Christmas.

It is a curious sight to see traditional Christmas street decorations in 85 degree weather on an island. New Plymouth decorates for both holidays!

It is a curious sight to see traditional Christmas street decorations in 85 degree weather on an island. New Plymouth decorates for both holidays!

You have to admit this is pretty odd to see at the end of "driveway." Perhaps a homesick New Englander??

You have to admit this is an odd sight to see at the end of  a “driveway” here. Perhaps a homesick New Englander??

The garden courtyard of the island's museum

The garden courtyard of the island’s Albert Lowe Museum

The Memorial Sculpture Garden features bronze busts of important Bahamian historical figures. The centerpiece depicts the arrival of Loyalists from the United States following the Revolutionary War. The Loyalists along with freed slaves from Bermuda, Jamaica, Haiti and Barbados who had fought with the British resettled in the Abacos.

The Memorial Sculpture Garden

The Memorial Sculpture Garden

We decided to take a walk over to Gillam Bay and see the beach.

Looking out Gillam Bay at the beautiful blues. How can blue not be a favorite color?

Looking out Gillam Bay at the beautiful blues. How can blue not be a favorite color?

Looking across Gillam Bay

Looking across Gillam Bay

Al goes wading in the water (it was a very hot day.)

Al goes wading in the water (it was a very hot day.)

Michele wishes she could have gone wading (drat those compression stockings for the lymphedema!)

Michele wishes she could have gone wading (drat those compression stockings for the lymphedema!)

Back to the boat to catch the rising tide out of Black Sound. We will not anchor in here again; next time it will be White Sound! We safely made our way of the channel and headed for Whale Cay Channel.

A deep draft boat (deeper than 3-4 feet) must use Whale Cay Channel to make passage south toward lower islands. Whale Cay Channel is “clearly the most difficult and treacherous part of the Abacos.” Thank you, Mr. Steve Dodge. That quote may be accurate, but also makes one’s stomach queasy before the day’s travels even begin. Taking this channel brings you out on the ocean side of the Abacos, and then you must come back in again in order to avoid the shallow bank off of Treasure Cay. Fortunately, it is all about choosing the right weather, which is why we decided to go on to Hopetown as soon as possible; it could be quite a few days before there is another day like this. We had good winds and reasonable seas. Although healed over, the ride was fine. We used sails and engine so that we could reach Hopetown before dark, which is critical.

Whale Cay in the distance. We are surrounded by del blue water again.

Whale Cay in the distance. We are surrounded by deep blue water again. The photo does no capture the beauty of the colors.

The ocean surf crashes against Whale Cay

The ocean surf crashes against Whale Cay

Wow - look at this splash against another small cay.

Wow – look at this splash against a very small cay.

For the most of the afternoon we were doing 8-8.5 knots thanks to wind and power.

For the most of the afternoon we were doing 8-8.5 knots thanks to wind and power.

By 4:15 pm,  we were approaching Hopetown on Elbow Cay. You have to have faith when you approach this entrance – you head straight to the land and then make a very sharp left turn along the shore. That’s where the deep water is – by “deep” they mean 6-7 feet!!!

A welcome sight - Hopetown Light

A welcome sight – Hopetown Light

Dan and Marcia were waiting for us in the harbor and led us by dinghy to an open mooring. What a great welcome that was for us after 3 long days.  It feels good to be with friends again and to finally stop, rest, and relax for awhile. In three months, we have traveled over 1700 nautical miles, seen many places, and met many wonderful people. We are happy to be in Hopetown, on Elbow Cay, in the Abacos, in the Bahamas! Ahhhh, Paradise.

 

The Crossing

Sounds like the title to a movie or tv show, or novel, doesn’t it?

We are no longer “Bahama Bound” – we did it, we made it, and we are in the Bahamas! Our crossing was uneventful, which means it was exactly what we hoped for – no stress, no danger, no nasty conditions. That’s what “waiting for a weather window” means.

We exited the Lake Worth Inlet  on Tuesday, December 10th, at first light, around 6:20 am, following a Canadian sailboat, Lucia.

Heading out to sea through the Lake Worth Inlet

Heading out to sea through the Lake Worth Inlet 

The sunrises over the Gulf Stream

The sunrises over the Gulf Stream

The cruise ship, Bahamas Celebration, passed right by us on her way into West Palm Beach. A different way to see the Bahamas!

The cruise ship, Bahamas Celebration, passed right by us on her way into West Palm Beach. A different way to see the Bahamas than our approach!

The first hour was the roughest with winds and waves, but nothing that was upsetting. After that, things settled down as expected and we were able to sail for about 3 hours. We headed more southward for the recommended S-curve navigation to cross the northward flowing Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream will push the boat north so you must compensate for that by heading southward. Otherwise you will be farther north than your intended destination.

Once we were in the Gulf Stream our depth finder stopped working as the water depth plunged to over 1,000 feet and later to 2,500 feet. The water became the most beautiful clear, deep blue – a sapphire color that was deep, but not dark.

Beautiful deep blue sapphire water

Beautiful deep blue sapphire water

 

A beautiful day to cross the Gulf Stream!

A beautiful day to cross the Gulf Stream!

Eventually the winds slowed to a point where we needed engine assistance. The sailing was so nice while it lasted. Throughout the crossing , we watched the funny flying fish, sometimes they leaped out of the water and “flew” a short hop and other times they seemed to be skimming the surface by standing on their tail and skipping.

Nothing but blue ocean

Nothing but blue ocean

At 2:30 that afternoon, we reached Memory Rock, the “doorway” to Little Bahama Bank. Half way there, to great Sale Cay. We were out of the Gulf Stream and in the Bahamas!! The water depth suddenly goes from 1200 feet to 20 feet!! And it is as clear as can be, a turquoise color now.

We have arrived in the Bahamas - on the Bahama Bank!! Just 50 more miles to go today.

We have arrived in the Bahamas – on the Bahama Bank!! Just 50 more miles to go today.

The day became totally different at this point in the voyage. As we crossed the banks there was no wind, no seas – flat and calm. You could look over the side and see straight down to the sandy floor.

Little Bahama Bank - What a calm day we had!

Little Bahama Bank – What a calm day we had!

 

This is us looking over the bow at our reflections in the clear calm water.

Can you see us reflected in the clear, calm water as we look over the bow?

The sun set behind us over Little Bahama Bank

The sun set behind us over Little Bahama Bank

As the sun set behind us, the clouds to the south painted a different picture.

As the sun set in the west, the clouds to the south painted a different picture.

 

Just a glow on the horizon

Just a glow on the horizon

And then, it was dark with hours still to go until we could anchor at Great Sale Cay. Everyone says there is nothing to hit, no shallows, and it is perfectly safe and easy to do this in the dark. And it was. We could keep our eyes on the other sailboats who made the crossing as well (Windswept, Dreamcatcher, Lucia, and Neesa.) Occasional conversations on the VHF among us all brought a sense of community and comfort for the rookies like us.

We anchored off the western shore of Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited island that is most useful as the first stopping point for boats who have made the crossing over to the Abacos. It was so quiet. I have never “heard” quiet like that. 102 nautical miles, 15.5 hours. There were 7 boats anchored around Great Sale Cay for the night.

Up again early the next morning for the trip to Green Turtle Cay where we will clear customs and check in. We hoisted our yellow quarantine flag, hauled the anchor, and left Great Sale at 6:30 am.

Great Sale Cay, our anchorage for the night. Not much to look at, but a great spot to stop in the dark.

Great Sale Cay, our anchorage for the night. Not much to look at, but a great spot to stop in the dark.

The yellow quarantine flag must fly until a boat and its crew has cleared customs.

The yellow quarantine flag must fly until a boat and its crew has cleared customs. You can’t do anything on land until that is completed.

The Captain enjoys his bagel

The Captain enjoys his bagel

What a curious looking rock

What a curious looking rock

Enjoying the ride from the bowsprit

Enjoying the ride from the bowsprit

More cloud paintings in the sky

More cloud paintings in the sky

We had a good trip to Green Turtle Cay and are now cleared and checked in. More about that later. We have wifi, but it is slooooooooooooow. 😉

 

WWW

WWW does not refer to the World Wide Web this time. It stands for “waiting for a weather window.”  To reach paradise on the other side of the Gulf Stream, boaters must make the passage during a “good weather window.” Now that we have done all the preparations we can, traveled over 1000 nautical miles the eastern coast of the US, we are waiting and watching for a good weather window. We have been watching the weather forecasts for a week now, keeping our eye out for the next window.. Tomorrow (Tuesday, December 10th) looks like a good possibility.

The Gulf Stream is one of nature’s most formidable forces. This “stream” of warm water runs northward along the American coast traveling from two knots up to four knots with a mean of 2.5 knots. It is actually part of a larger ocean-wide system that flows from southern Florida up the eastern seaboard to the Arctic, over to England, and finally back down to Africa, along the equator, up the coast of South America, past the Caribbean Islands and into the Gulf of Mexico, and then back up the coast again – a big clockwise current of water in the ocean.  Here, in Florida, the Gulf Stream rushes through a deep narrow strait about 25 miles wide between Florida and the Bahamas. A successful (meaning not scary and frightening) passage should only be attempted when the winds are south/southeast, less than 15 knots, with seas less than 2-4 feet. Any wind out of the north will cause the seas to build in the northward flowing Gulf Stream, resulting in a very rough ride.

This passage across the Gulf Stream is called “the crossing.”  Wherever cruisers are gathered, you hear these questions:

  1. Where are you crossing to? (usually West End or Green Turtle Cay for the Abacos or Bimini, Nassau, Chubb Cay for the Exumas)
  2. Where are you crossing from?  (usually Lake Worth, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami)
  3. When are you crossing?

I asked everyone I met the first two questions. I think each person I asked had a different approach to their crossing, so it became just an exercise in information gathering. We will make our own decision. Question #2 depends largely on the answer to #1. Now that we have decided to go to the Abacos rather than the Exumas, we will leave from Lake Worth Inlet (Palm Beach area) instead of traveling farther south down to Miami.

Question #3 depends entirely on the weather and only the weather, as long as your boat and its crew is prepared and ready. That’s why it is called “waiting for a weather window.”  Weather is everything. Many cruisers have an SSB radio so they can listen to Chris Parker, the weather guru. We couldn’t invest the thousands of dollars necessary for an SSB system, so we bought just the receiver for less than $100. Strongly recommended by everyone. Well, so far any voice/words coming out of the little black box are completely unintelligible.  The sounds it emits remind me of the UFO noises on tv shows and movies, the old shows and movies.  Fortunately, there are many other sources for weather information – many great websites, apps, NOAA, and VHF radio.

Al listening intently to the SSB receiver. Listening to the weird noises and sounds it emits.

Al listening intently to the SSB receiver. Listening to the weird noises and sounds it emits.

 

The SailFlow app on my iPhone shows these winds for Tuesday.

The SailFlow app on my iPhone shows these winds for Tuesday.

 While we were waiting…..  (more WWWW)

Checking our AIS track is funny when anchored in a place with a strong current flowing through. The blue squiggles are the boat's movement all day and night while anchored.

Checking our AIS track is funny when anchored in a place with a strong current flowing through. The blue squiggles are the boat’s movement all day and night while anchored. Don’t worry – that ROCNA holds like a charm!

 

The "Black Sparrow" pirate ship for a children's birthday party. They get to attack the little barge with ware guns.

The “Black Sparrow” pirate ship for a children’s birthday party. They get to attack the little barge with water guns.

Close-up of the Crusty Crab under attack

Close-up of the Crusty Crab ate rest between shows

The Black Sparrow back at the dock.  Alas, where are you, Johnny Depp?

The Black Sparrow back at the dock. Alas, where are you, Johnny Depp?

A sight-seeing cruse boat all decked out for the holidays

A sight-seeing cruse boat all decked out for the holidays

The Palm Beach holiday Bat Parade was last Saturday. It was north of our anchorage, but we did get to see this one boat go by on its way.

The Palm Beach holiday Bat Parade was last Saturday. It was north of our anchorage, but we did get to see this one boat go by on its way.

This will be the last post until we are settled in the Bahamas and have acquired a wifi connection. It is all new to us so I cannot tell you when that might be. Our AIS signal will not get picked up from the Bahamas by the websites (vessel finder or marine traffic – please don’t worry!!! 🙂

We are so excited to be Bahama Bound!!

 

 

 

 

 

Family Visits and Preparing to “Cross”

I haven’t posted any photos or news in the past week. There haven’t been many sunsets or dawns, dolphins or other nature to photograph; and I got lazy while also feeling very busy. Thank you to the friends who emailed to ask if everything was ok with us since there had been no posts.

While in Florida we took the opportunity to visit some of Al’s family who live here. While we were in Vero Beach, we rented a car and drove to Spring Hill to spend a couple days with Al’s mother. We enjoyed our visit with mom and her friends at Timber Pines. The bonus was our stay in a hotel – let the water run while we shower, watch tv, use the air conditioning, and provision for the next phase of the trip using a car instead of the bus and dinghy.
al and mom On our way back to Vero Beach, we stopped in Orlando at the Customs and Immigration Office for our interview. The US Customs and Border Protection has implemented the SVRS (Small Vessel Reporting System). SVRS is a web-based automated on-line reporting system created to allow  boaters to quickly and easily report their arrivals from foreign waters. This will allow us to “phone in” our return to the US instead of travel to a customs office, which requires a taxi or renting a car. We completed the necessary online forms and brought our boat documentation and passports with us. I expected this to be a formal and thorough process and interview, but it was actually very easy and low key.

Orlando Customs Office

We said goodbye to Cutting Class who left Vero a few days before us. They crossed over to the Abacos earlier this week and are already enjoying the Bahamian sights, sounds, and weather.

Goodbye and Good Luck!

Goodbye and Good Luck!

 

Our next stop was Stuart, where Al’s brother, Bill and his wife, Barbara live. Bill is the owner of Stuart Yacht Sales and arranged a free dock for us near his office in Port Salerno. We enjoyed our days visiting with them and truly appreciated their gracious hospitality.

Stuart Yacht Sales – i wish I had remembered to take a picture of Bill and Barbara!!

Our free dock

Looking out at the ocean from Hutchinson Island

And we did more provisioning…… again. We bought meats as well as assorted other items. It took me 3 hours to pack it away and vacuum seal the meats in smaller packages. Lately, it seems as though all we do is “provision.” Shop, lug it all onto the boat, unpack, reseal, organize, stow away. Since I have never done this before I really have no idea if we have the right amounts or even the right foods. 15 weeks/ 3months is a long time.  I have read and spoken with other cruisers and everyone has a different style and their own suggestions. We tried to really stock the things that are expensive or hard to find in the Bahamas.  Experienced people told us that beer and wine are both expensive, but rum is cheap.

Bags of wine and cases of Yeungling!

Bags of wine and cases of Yeungling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
I expanded  my herb garden by adding another pot with more basil, oregano and cilantro. I like looking at the greenery and using the fresh herbs in cooking. After loosing the first herbs early on the trip (sorry, Trudy!) I was determined to try again.

My fresh herb garden

My fresh herb garden

We decided to go outside for the run from Stuart (St Lucie Inlet)  to the Lake Worth Inlet. The winds and waves looked good. The morning began well – I took the helm to get us out of our snug little slip and I took the boat away from gas dock after fueling. I don’t usually do this so it was a big step. The current was against us as we went out St Lucie Inlet —

Current against the green can

Current against the green can

 

Current against the red nun

Current against the red nun

On our outside run from St. Lucie Inlet (leaving Stuart) to Lake Worth Inlet (the Palm Beaches) we encountered higher seas than expected. Nothing really awful, just a lot of water over the bow.

We had quite a ride - higher seas than expected and lots of water over the bow!

We had quite a ride – higher seas than expected and lots of water over the bow!

That would have been no big deal except that the hatch over the forward head was not secure. Good news – heads are meant to get wet. Bad news – Al hangs his shirts in there. Totally soaked in salt water. Now we needed to find a laundry, again. There are no reasonable moorings or docks here in Lake Worth so we are anchored, but there are no public dinghy docks. We paid $10 a day to bring our dinghy to the Riviera Beach Marina. We also rented a car (Enterprise $10/day weekend deal, but that is another story) to take care of other last minute tasks.

Another laundramat - Mega dryers this time.

Another laundramat – Mega dryers this time.

 

Florida's version of a snowman inside of the Dunkin Donuts.

Waiting for the clothes to wash and dry – Florida’s version of a snowman, inside of the Dunkin Donuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using our rental car, we drove to Pompano Beach with our three CNG tanks to have them filled before we go to the Bahamas.  Funny thing about the CNG. In Connecticut, it cost us $218 to fill the three tanks. With WiseGas, in Pompano Beach, FL, Scott charged us only $40. Even with a $40 car rental, it is much cheaper!!

Getting our CNG tanks filled by WiseGas

Getting our CNG tanks filled by WiseGas

While down in Pompano Beach on Saturday, we drove along the Fort Lauderdale beaches. Oh my goodness!! Monster cruise ships everywhere. And people everywhere!!

Fort Lauderdale beaches

Fort Lauderdale beaches

We stopped at West Marine for a “couple things.” Yeah, right. 🙂 What boater/cruiser only picks up a few items?? (Actually, we usually only do that.) This West Marine is the mega/flagship one, largest West Marine anywhere. We bought some additional sun and snorkel shirts, and I replaced my good sunglasses which had been crushed.

The Mega Flagship West Marine Store - biggest one anywhere!

The Mega Flagship West Marine Store – biggest one anywhere!

While staying on the free dock outside the now closed restaurant in Port Salerno, we acquired a stowaway – a mouse who loves cilantro. He ate all the leaves. Once that was gone he tried the chex mix and peanut butter crackers over a period of four days. Every night we have tried a new trapping system. The mouse hasn’t left any evidence the past two nights, but he hasn’t been caught either. All of our food is now secured in heavy plastic tubs so he can’t get at it – can you picture this on a boat? For an easy-going, sweet guy, Al has become quite aggressive and totally obsessed with eliminating our stowaway. He keeps muttering, “I have to think like a mouse.”  We just have to get rid of this little guy before we leave for the Bahamas – he has no passport!!

So here we are in West Palm Beach, getting ready to make the crossing over to the Bahamas. It feels like we have spent most of the last two weeks getting ready to make this crossing. You can only get ready for so long. Sooner or later, you just have to go because you will never be 100% ready.  We are now waiting for our “weather window.”  Tuesday is looking promising.