On a windy and rainy Monday afternoon, it is time to catch up on the blog! We have been busy entertaining guests, and dealing with travel and weather. The next week or so looks to be back to what passes for normal aboard Harmonie.
Bill’s brother, Jim, sister-in-law, Laura, and their son, Mike, were visiting aboard Harmonie for the past week. We had a carefully planned and researched itinerary for their visit. You can guess what the weather gods did to us when they heard we had a plan and schedule! After they finished laughing, they stirred the weather pot to be sure nothing went as planned. Fortunately, all aboard were flexible and good natured as we responded to changes.
Our plan for Wednesday afternoon was to head into the large lagoon that goes by the name of the “Sea of Abaco” via the North Bar Channel. The string of large winter storms that pounded the Northeast coast of the USA had generated a large swell here, almost thousand miles to the south. When that large swell ran up against the reef on the east coast of Great Abaco Island, the resulting huge breaking waves rendered the channel passage to the calm interior far too dangerous to consider entering. Since the forecast was for the size of the swells to decrease over night, we sailed out to the east until about midnight, then turned around and then sailed back toward the coast. Come morning, it was true the waves WERE smaller, but not nearly small enough. Time for a “Plan B.” A wider, deeper channel was 15 miles to the north. Man-O-War Channel was our fall back plan.
As we approached, we tuned in to the VHF radio to hear the local “cruiser’s net.” This is a daily cross between a call-in radio program and a telephone party-line where information of interest to the local sailors is exchanged. We heard a report on the conditions at Man-O-War Channel, “Rough and turbulent. Two on a scale of zero to five.” Two out of five sounded promising, so we pressed on, especially after seeing the local mailboat take the passage without problems. Still, there was a strong offshore wind of 20 to 25 knots that was ripping the tops off the breaking waves and dramatically blowing spray back out to sea.
The actual channel runs through the reef at a slight angle, so when you first start in you have to take it on faith that there WILL be a break in the waves.
We (obviously) made it though without serious problems. I think Jim summed it up best when he said, “If this was a ‘2’ I would not want to be here on a day when it ranked a ‘3’!”
Our first plan was to anchor or pick up a mooring, but it was windy and rough enough we decided that a marina would be the comfy choice for all concerned. Fortunately, Orchid Bay Marina is centrally located on Great Guana Cay, and had a spot for us.
Putting Harmonie in her assigned slip in 25 to 30 knots of wind was a…challenge. But we got her in place without breaking anything, and without embarrassing ourselves. So that was all good!
One of the things that has become obvious to us is the physical damage that was done by last year’s hurricanes is mostly gone here. The real lasting damage to the local economy is from the people who are staying away because they think (incorrectly!) everything is broken. While it is nice to have an uncrowded experience, it is disturbing to see facilities in good shape, sitting mostly empty during what should be their high season.
We will be out and about cruising the Sea of Abaco again tomorrow now that the weather looks to be settling in to a calm period. Hopefully the snorkeling and fishing will quickly improve!