I have been planning this trip for a while. Covid was not going to get in my way!
I left Rhode Island very late in the season, after Thanksgiving. Because of the late departure I had to make a lot of distance in a short time, and that means going offshore. The first challenge was to find a weather window to sail from RI to Cape May, which is 240 miles direct. On November 27, there was a multi-day spell of good weather — and I was off!
My spouse, tied up with family stuff, would join me mid-trip. So taking off solo, I sailed for two days and two nights, arriving in Cape May in time for another three-day gale to blow through as I sat in a protected anchorage.
Next was one day up the Delaware River into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, stopping at a free dock for two nights at Chesapeake City. I left before dawn and did the entire Chesapeake Bay (180 miles) in a day/night/day.
By December 7, Chesapeake was behind me and I was in the Intracoastal Waterway in Virginia. I continued to push and sailed a day/night/day nonstop through Pamlico Sound/Neuse River to New Bern, NC, about 190 miles.
On December 11, I arrived in New Bern — pretty tired! But, very pleased to be in warmer temperatures. That is a lot of distance in two weeks for a single hander! I detailed the trip further, from November 27 to today, on PredictWind. You can read earlier entries of the trip there, including the second leg from New Bern, NC to Lake Worth, FL where we jumped off to the Bahamas.
It’s the Bahamas part of the trip I really want to write about.
We wanted to get away from the pandemic and come back late spring after most folks have been vaccinated and the country is returning to normal. What better way than to hang out in uninhabited islands on a sailboat? Bahamas was the choice!
To get from Florida to the Bahamas is a 55 mile trip. That’s only 10 hours at 5.5 knots, like sailing from Barrington, RI to Vineyard Haven. The interesting part is you are crossing the Gulf Stream, which is a fast moving “river” that slides up the Florida coast at up to 5 knots. It’s like the current at Woods Hole, but really wide!
Current like that can make for a bouncy trip if it’s windy, and no big deal if calm. We had 15-20 knots on this trip, making it bouncy, but it was over in 10 hours and we were tied up in a protected Bahamian marina clearing customs.
Getting into the Bahamas is pretty easy. You get a Covid test in the US and then with that negative Covid result, you get an automatic entry visa online using their website. You enter the country using that visa and they require another Covid test at a local clinic (free) on the 5th day here. Very easy and streamlined. Then, you are in an amazingly beautiful sailing area!
We entered the Bahamas at the West End of Grand Bahama Island. After clearing customs, we spent a day resting and then headed out for a delightful 80 mile sail (all night and half the next day) to the Abaco Islands.
That 80 miles could be broken up into two daysails, but the weather was perfect for an overnight sail with the stars overhead shining in all their glory.
If you have never seen a night sky with no light pollution, and the Milky Way galaxy going from horizon to horizon, you haven’t lived!
The Bahamas have about 2,000 islands, of which under 100 are permanently inhabited. Let’s talk about Powell Cay, which was our first island stop in the Abacos.
I first explored Powell Cay 40 years ago when I was in my 30’s and sailed my old wooden 24′ sailboat down from RI. I explored again in my 50’s on my second trip down and was amazed it had not changed at all in 20 years. Now at 71, I return again.
Again, it is pristine with white sandy beaches and still uninhabited. One thing is different. Usually there are about a dozen cruising boats anchored off the beach. This time, for our three-day stay, we are the ONLY boat here. The only footprints on a mile long sandy beach were our own. Covid is keeping everyone at home while these beautiful islands stand isolated.
Our next island is Green Turtle Cay where we went to the clinic yesterday to get our day 5 Covid test. Clearly, the island was hit hard 17 months ago with Hurricane Dorian. But much has been rebuilt and the place is up and running. Both the hardware store and the grocery store are open, restaurants are open, and there are a lot of vacant B&B’s.
The main town of Marsh Harbor also is functional with the main marina/resort fully operational and the water taxis can run you to many of the villages around here. The four charter companies were destroyed by Dorian, but Cruise Abaco has 17 boats for charter. Most of them new. The other three charter companies have not rebuilt yet. That means uncrowded anchorages and islands to yourself!
I say if you want a break from Covid, use the skills Narragansett Sailing School taught you and come charter a boat down here. The owners of Cruise Abaco are Mark and Patty Gonzales. Tell them Rob sent you!
Our plans are to explore the Abaco Islands for a few weeks and then head down to Eleuthera for a spell. We are told of an island in the Exumas where pigs swim out to the incoming boats looking for treats — and another island where big Iguanas swim out looking for treats. We just have to go check that out!
So for the next several months, we will island hop, checking out the sights and diving on the coral. So much to see and do!
~ Captain Rob and First Mate Bea
Meet the Author, Rob Lawnsby
Rob was the ASA Instructor of the Year in both 2011 and 2013. He has been sailing for 40 years and has accumulated a great wealth of knowledge. Today, Rob’s certified to teach several classes at NSS, including ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, 106, 114, 118, and 114 Mutihull, as well as Diesel, Boat Systems, & Marine Electrical.