We continued to wait in Georgetown for the perfect weather window that would let us travel straight through to the States. Other boats were leaving and heading North and South, all of them going out in conditions that we would rather sit out and wait for things to calm down. Finally on Saturday, April 1st, we decided that the next morning would be the time to go. No Foolin'. So, we did all of our last minute shopping, surfing the Internet, saying goodbye to friends, prepping the boat for offshore, weather updates, and trip planning. Then, on Saturday afternoon, we moved the boat across the bay to the part of the harbor that's closest to the inlet, Hamburger Beach. It was funny, though, that at Hamburger Beach that very night, was a huge Pirate Party! We didn't get too into the party side of it, but we did dinghy over to checkout the potluck dinner side of it. We almost wished we hadn't. We realized that when boaters have a potluck dinner, they dig way in the back of their storage areas and pull out all of the cans with no labels on them, and just try to make something. We were lucky we had a flashlight so that we could stay away from the really questionable stuff. We met a South African singlehander at the party - he was basically doing the same as us - trying to get a free meal. He was glad a flashlight too, and kept asking us to come over and shine the light on the stuff he was about to try. We were all a little disappointed and had a good laugh about it.
The next morning, we started up Perky at first light and headed for the inlet. We still weren't sure what the conditions would be like, but we were committed at this point and were going to take whatever the ocean threw at us. Just out of the inlet, we realized that even though the seas were choppy and confused, they were easily handled. Even better, the wind was steady and strong, so we set the autopilot, trimmed the sails and killed Perky. We had a glorious sail in the Exuma Sound, doing 6.5 to 7 knots the whole way. Also, Mike can now truly be called a fisherman, as he caught his first edible fish from the stern of the boat, a dinner sized Mahi-Mahi which went right into the fridge awaiting its appointment with the grill at the end of the day. Just after 6pm, we started the diesel back up, dropped the sails, and made the run into Dotham Cut and followed the northern shoreline of Great Guana Cay around to anchor once again in the harbor at Black Point. We knew we would only be there until dawn the next day, so there was no need to do much except watch the sunset, grill the Mahi, and entertain ourselves for the evening.
The next morning, we sailed off our anchor, and slowly ghosted away from Black Point, picking up speed with the gathering winds. Before long, we were again sailing at 6 knots, working our way North on the Banks side of the Exumas chain. We passed many of the places that we had seen on the way down, and after another great day of sailing we dropped the hook on the west coast of Shroud Cay. We arrived a little early that day, so we had some time to do some snorkeling and sunning before the sunset, and had plenty of time to get some rest before the next early morning.
Next day, and we're heading straight for Nassau. The weather is continuing to cooperate, and we're starting to think that if we stay on schedule, we may be able to just keep sailing across the Gulf Stream when we get there, not even having to stop and wait for weather. It felt so strange to speed past so many beautiful places without stopping, but after being weathered in at Georgetown for so long, we were excited to be moving the boat, and the great weather made the miles slip by pleasantly. We entered the east end of Nassau Harbor late in the afternoon, found our way to a fuel dock and while Mike topped off the water and fuel tanks, Kate ran across the street to the small grocery store and stocked up on some essentials for the upcoming passage. We really didn't know how long it would be before we would put into a harbor again, as we really hoped to hop in the Gulf Stream and ride it all the way to Beaufort.
After the re-provisioning stop in Nassau, we cast off our lines from the fuel dock and headed for the west end of the harbor, and out into the Tongue of the Ocean. That would prove to be our last stop in the Bahamas. We sailed overnight across the Tongue and onto the Grand Bahama Banks heading for Bimini, but after checking and re-checking the weather reports, we decided that when we arrived at our waypoint north of Bimini that evening, we would go for it, keep sailing across the Gulf Stream and see just how far north we could get before we were run in. The winds were forecasted to be from the west that night at about 10 knots or so, but that's not what we got. We saw winds straight out of the North at about 15-20 knots, which is a no-no in the Gulf Stream. What resulted was a large swell from the North that made the passage a little rolly and uncomfortable, but judging from the conditions, we were pretty sure that we could get across to Florida before things started getting really bad out there. The night was spent exchanging shifts and plotting our position, each time wishing we were just a little further north and west than we actually were. Pressure and time won out again, though, and as the sun came up, we were on a perfect line for Ft. Pierce making almost 10 knots of speed over the ground. The Gulf Stream was carrying us home at dizzying speed, but we also realized that just as we were moving quickly back to places we know so well, we were leaving the adventure of new discoveries behind.
This cat was smart to find some shade
Mike waiting to use the pay phone
Still in Georgetown
I'm having a great time!
Leaving our friends Gary and Joanna on Andromache - Gary is pretending to be wiping his eyes with a handkerchief
Another cruiser's setup that we were interested in copying
The Pirate Party on Hamburger Beach the night before we left
This was the pirate costume contest
There was also a "best booty" contest, but we didn't stick around for that one
Mahi for dinner - caught in the Exuma Sound an hour or so after leaving Georgetown
Trimming the main - we sailed at 6-7 knots for two days straight
Sunset at Black Point
We're ready for some blackened Mahi
The next day we sailed to Shroud Cay, and anchored on the southern end of the island
The view from where we anchored
And another beautiful sunset
This picture taken after the next days trip to Nassau. At this point, we have already fueled up and filled up with provisions, and are heading out of the west end of Nassau Harbor. We passed an America's Cup boat that took guests from the cruise ships out for a sail.
The Nassau Lighthouse
A pretty mean jetty
We would sail for two straight days and nights before we touched land again at Ft. Pierce, FL., USA