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It’s A Long Way To The Bahamas: Stormy Seas, Bumps & Bruises

Some of you reading this will be sailors like us, perhaps even on a similar route.  Others are following our journey and may have a little or no knowledge of sailing, but are enjoying our experiences.  So I will try my best to relay our latest journey so you can all appreciate the challenges we’ve undergone.

Having left the beautiful BVI’s on 6 April, Skipper, Molly and I prepared ourselves for a stint at sea with three long day trips hopping down the coast of Puerto Rico, then a two-night trip to Turks & Caicos and from there one more overnight run into The Bahamas.  Sounds doable, fun even but in reality, it’s been a hellish time and took us over two weeks to make it to the Bahamas, complete with an unplanned week in Dominican Republic.

So halfway through our two nights at sea, en route from Puerto Rico to Turks & Caicos, we hit a storm; a cold front that in addition to torrential rain and 40 knot winds, gave us hail and even snow.  Having spotted a water spout forming on the water (like a twister), and with the rough seas and three-metre waves now against us, (think Perfect Storm but without George Clooney) Skipper decided we’d turn around and head to the nearest safe harbour.  Unfortunately, this happened to be at Samana in the Dominican Republic, some 70 miles behind us.

Finally, at 10pm, wet, tired and pretty shaken, we arrived in Samana dropped the anchor in the most disgusting sludge-coloured and littered water I’ve seen in the Caribbean.  It was like anchoring on a rubbish dump.  Well, there’s another story here to tell about our week storm-bound in the Dom Rep, but I’ll let Skipper write that one up for you later.

Photo 1 (DR - Sludge coloured water)

Needless to say, after more thunderstorms and torrential rain, when we eventually spotted a weather-window to leave we jumped at it.  We knew the first few hours of the journey would be rough as we were going against the wind and the waves, but after that it should have been plain sailing…

Unfortunately, the rest of the trip from goes down on record as being one of my worst and I’d have rather done three weeks of crossing the Atlantic again than the last few days.  It wasn’t unsafe, just hellishly uncomfortable with very rough seas at times and large waves hitting us on the side and making us roll around and corkscrew.  And for the sailors out there, this catamaran felt like being on a monohull as we were being bashed around so much by the waves. I couldn’t walk around inside the boat without stumbling and even my bumps and bruises now have bruises.

The rolling motion was that bad that for the first time in three years, our steadfast tea and coffee containers (which sit on the breadbin in the kitchen) were thrown off.  They didn’t budge an inch crossing the Atlantic, but in the first three hours of leaving Dom Rep (and we were prepared for it to be rough), the coffee caddy took a dive straight down the stairs and into the East Wing, spewing Dowe Egburts everywhere.  The sugar wasn’t far behind, but thankfully it kept its lid on while surfing the stairs.  A rather aggressive pineapple took flight out of the fridge – managing to open the fridge door by itself, while a screw came loose in the saloon ceiling scattering dust and crud everywhere.

Photo 2 - Coffee Caddy Dive

I cleared up as best I could with the hand-held Dyson, which was wielded about like a light-saber as the boat competed with the waves while I tried to catch loose coffee spreading all over the guest cabins.

My next challenge was to heat up the ready-made pasta bolognaise.   Just as I was about to serve up, another rough roll to starboard and the two dishes went smashing on to the floor.  Thankfully, the bolognaise was still in the pan so all was not lost, except for a few very loud expletives from my mouth!  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but one thing was for certain, after all this excitement, I was now feeling very seasick – and I was due to start my five-hour watch.

So, we had yet to reach the point that we’d had to turn back the previous week.  Skipper very kindly slept up on the Bridge with me on my watch as the wind was blowing up and the sails were far from set and forget.  I plugged my ipod in, which did a great job of drowning out the scarily loud noise of the wind, and the waves pounding the boat.  And for a few hours foot-tapped along to some ‘80’s tunes and a bit of Olly Murs while keeping an eye out for other boats and checking the sails.  We cracked along at between 9 – 10 knots (average at night would expect to be about 5 – 6 knots) and so were making good time.

When we swapped shifts, Molly and I went down to bed but sleep, even with earplugs, was darn near impossible.  Skipper let out the reefs that we put in the Genoa and went for speed rather than comfort in an effort to get into the Turk islands quickly.  Personally, I’d have preferred comfort to speed as moving around down below to get dressed or make a cuppa was like being a beginner on an ice-skating rink.  We dropped anchor seven hours earlier than planned and had covered 184 miles in just under 22 hours – our personal best!  (And my personal worst)!

Our home for the night was Great Sand Cay, a deserted island and it lived up to its name so we quickly took Molly for a long play on the beach and in the water in order to make up for such an ordeal.  A good night’s sleep followed and we were in the company of two other boats, which was comforting for once not to be on our own in a deserted anchorage.

Photo 3 (Great Sand Cay Turks)

The weather was a little better the next day and we spent four hours crossing the Caicos bank, which is very shallow aquamarine water full of coral heads to dodge around so Skipper had to be very switched on while navigating our way through this.

Photo 4 (Caicos Bank)

We arrived at our Caicos anchorage at French Cay – another deserted island – and overnighted with one other boat.  This time we didn’t get off onto the island as it looked too rocky to land.

Photo 5 (Caicos Sunrise)

Day 3 and an oh so early start of 0430 in order to get over to Mayaguana, an entry point in the Bahamas before the Customs & Immigration office shut at 5pm.  But we eventually made it and I was there and ready with the Fizz Friday bottle of pink Prosecco to open.  However… and here’s something for our sailing friends to note…this port of entry has no ATM or bank and they like to be paid in cash, something that we had run out of due to our long visit in the Dom Rep.

Photo 6 (Molly makes it to Bahamas)

So, before we and Molly can officially land on the Bahamas islands, we have to move on to the next check-in point at Long Island – in the hope that they also have a bank or will at least take a credit card! We now have another 120 miles to cover, which means two more sunrise mornings and long day sails ahead.  I know it’s beautiful, but this sailing lark can be very tiring and quite tiresome at times!

Photo 7 (Bahamian sunrise)
Photo 8 - Lady Slipper Quay

© Two Drifters Travel

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