Farewell South Carolina
At 1030 on Friday 16th November, the wind dropped enough for us to leave our berth without incident. And we even managed to get in and out of the fuel berth without causing distress to ourselves or others. Then, with Lady Jane topped up with diesel and the crew wrapped in multiple layers to protect against the cold, we headed out into the Atlantic towards the entry point suggested by Chris Parker to cross the Gulf Stream.
Sailing lore has it that the Gulf Stream should never be crossed in a northerly breeze over 15 knots. The north-flowing current against a stiff northerly wind creates a sea state better seen on video than experienced. Our plan B was to keep to the west of the Gulf Stream if the wind picked up, then head to Florida for a Tequila Sunrise. But, as we got to the entry point, the wind was down to around 7 knots – so we pressed on. About halfway into Gulf Stream, things did get a little lumpy but not uncomfortable – although we did breathe a sigh of relief to be out and on the other side. One of our Salty Dawgers entered the stream the day after us and got severely beaten up; so much so that he had to return to the US for repairs.
Saturday brought stronger wind, so we switched off the engine and sailed to within 45 miles of the Bahamas, where the wind dropped to practically nothing.
It’s hard to spot land when approaching the Abacos, but it is possible to smell the heat as well as feel it. As the engine went on, the number of layers went off. And by the time we arrived in the Sea of Abacos, we were back in t-shirts and shorts.
As soon as we entered the Abacos, the sea state changed from mildly lumpy to completely flat. That’s great, but it’s also a bit unnerving. As the water is so clear here, we could see the bottom of the sea at six metres deep, which gives the impression that the water depth is far less than it is. Because Lady Jane has a draft of slightly less than 5ft we don’t have much of a problem with depth, but we do need to be careful here. There are several keel-thumping shoal areas and sandbars around to spoil the day.
At 1300 on 19th November, we arrived at our destination – Green Turtle Club Marina – without incident or bumps and tied up near to the fuel pontoon.
Information posted on Noonsite suggested that the Customs folks come to the boat at Green Turtle. But, when the dockmaster called Customs for us, he was told we need to go to them in New Plymouth. And the only way to get there by road is by golf buggy. This turned into a real positive. Maria has always wanted to drive a golf buggy, and what better time to do it than on her birthday – even if it was to go to Customs. So, we handed over $35 to rent one for four hours and trundled off down the road. After a couple of wrong turns and a hair-raising rush down a hill, we arrived at the dock near to the Customs office.
Five forms later, and $300 lighter, we left the office with a cruising permit and permission to stay for 90 days – and a fishing licence. Although how much use that will be to us is debatable. Our track record on fishing isn’t great.
New Plymouth is a lovely town. It’s small, colourful and because Thanksgiving is this week, it’s decorated. So, we took a look around town and the American Loyalist Memorial (many of the loyalists made the Abacos their new home):
On the way back, we spotted a Happy Hour sign outside the Leeward Yacht Club. So we performed a hasty U-turn and headed up their drive. The deal was two of their house cocktails for $10. “What’s in them?” we asked. “Pineapple, coconut, dark rum, light rum,” she replied – about half a bottle of each judging by their strength.
We dined at the Green Turtle Club restaurant that night. It’s not quite on-season yet, so availability wasn’t a problem. The food was good – as was the service. And we got the sense that people come back here over and over again to stay at the hotel. But, the lack of consistent sleep on the way over caught up with us, and the birthday celebrations ended with the dopy crew of Lady Jane asleep at 9 PM. Fortunately, we made it to bed first.
Tuesday was back to boat work. Over the last couple of days, we have inflated the new dinghy and given it a coat of boaty suntan lotion. And because the photograph of the bird revealed the scruffiness of the sprayhood, we took it off and cleaned it. Maria washed the decks. I hoisted the cruising chute to dry it then repacked it and put it below. Then we topped up the tanks with water and diesel. So, it’s been a bit of a spa treatment for Lady Jane. And now it’s back to leisure time.
We are off to find ourselves some pigs.