Friday, January 8, 2016

Walker's Cay to St. John's River

"Kids, don't try this at home."  White Pepper had crossed the Gulf Stream 7 times usually struggling against the current.  This time why not use the current to our advantage to carry us north? One very good reason is the local weather in the Gulf Stream.  The heat of the current can create its own weather, esp. thunder storms.  Of course, if there is the slightest wind against current horrible square waves set up. (See the post of last year's crossing.) But  White Pepper was so sick of the "ditch" and the trip from Fort Pierce to Jacksonville that we were ready to take a chance.  An ideal weather window appeared and promised gentle SE to SW wind for the next three days.  As a bonus the weather would be dry with little chance of thunder storms. Coastal thunder storms are a great hazard in the summer along the east coast of Florida (Again see the post of last year's trip up the Florida coast.)

White Pepper set out from Grand Cay and made the round about trip to the Walker's Cay Channel.  This is a wide open passage way to the Atlantic and must have made Walker's Cay so famous before it was destroyed in a hurricane.  We were soon out in the Gulf Stream being whisked to the North effortlessly.  The weather was benign and the sea state reasonable for the wind carrying us Northwest on a broad reach.  White Pepper  tucked in a reef at sunset and was rewarded with a beautiful vista.

During the night the wind died.  I am sure that the boat speed through the water was probably 3 or 4 knots, the Garmin regularly clocked 8 or 9 knots.  We never saw another boat which surprised me since freighters routinely travel the axis of the Gulf Stream to conserve fuel heading North.

Late the next day White Pepper left the Stream heading towards shore.  Our speed was so great that we had to reduce sail and slow down.  The goal was to arrive off of the St. John's Inlet at dawn which by happenstance would coincide with the beginning of the flood tide.  Still the second night offshore is always harder than the first.
Off Watch

The second day dawned clear, bright, and brisk.  After a swift ride up the St. John's we were rewarded with an iconic and familiar sight.
Dane's Point Bridge

By noon we were securely moored at Green Cove Springs.  All in all the trip covered 300 nautical miles in about 52 hours.  Going to Fort Pierce and then up the ICW would have required at least a week. As rewarding as the trip was Jan and I recognize that it all hangs on the weather. Without that weather window we would have had a very different trip.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Grand Cay

Grand Cay

In the far northwest corner of the Bahamas closer to Florida than Marsh Harbor there lies the lovely complex of islands--Walker's Cay, Grand Cay, and Double Breasted.  Now that Walker's Cay has been destroyed by a hurricane few yachts visit here.  The customs office has moved to Grand Cay. There is still an airport on Walker's which the locals use to commute to the rest of the Bahamas; however, almost all of the action is on Grand.  Nearby the uninhabited Double Breasted is said to be one of the most beautiful spots in the Abacos, but White Pepper  chose to skip Double Breasted this time.

Grand Cay seems to be a vibrant village even if perched on the edge of the Little Bank. The sensation of isolation is almost palpable here. We approached the island after a vigorous sail from Allen's Pensacola brushing past Great Sale Cay. It is  impossible to see the entrance into Grand Cay. White Pepper had to follow the Garmin, but it was true. We anchored in the middle of the channel in 13 feet of water.  There was considerable current but the holding was good.  Several sport fishermen expressed displeasure at our choice. Next time we will anchor closer to the town.
 Grand Cay Anchorage

Walking about the village we met lovely people and saw the usual cemetery, churches, and bars.  The main hangout is Rosie's. Rosie is said to own most of the island.  He does serve up a mean cracked conch--some of the best Jan and I have had in the Bahamas.

Pleasant as Grand Cay White Pepper here with a purpose.  We were waiting on a weather window to jump off to the St. John's River in Florida.  This trip is the subject of the next post.