Last time we checked in, we were in the Florida Keys, waiting for favorable weather before crossing the Gulf Stream on our way to the Bahamas. Once again we find ourselves in a marina, waiting on the weather. This time we're in North Carolina, biding our time while a nasty, chilly northeast wind finishes blowing, so we can safely make our way up the Alligator River and across potentially treacherous Albemarle Sound.
We made our Gulf Stream crossing to Bimini on January 31 in acceptable but less than ideal conditions, with seas of 2 to 3 feet. We spent several days in Bimini before winds abated enough for us to make the 82 mile crossing of the Great Bahama Banks from Cat Cay to Morgans Bluff on Andros Island. The weather windows in the Bahamas this time of year can be quite narrow, and you need to be prepared to jump when the opportunity affords.
We spent nearly 2 weeks exploring the northeast side of Andros Island. Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas, nearly 100 miles in length, but it is also the least visited of the main islands. It offers little in the way of marina services, however, it does feature the third longest barrier reef in the world, the world's greatest concentration of blue holes, and world famous fly fishing for bonefish. We visited several blue holes, and I was able to snorkel on one. We also toured a remote settlement where descendants of Seminole Indians now live.
Leaving Andros, I took a deep sea route across the Tongue of the Ocean to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands. Along the way I managed to catch a great fish, a Mahi-Mahi fully 4 feet in length. A real highlight was stumbling upon the ruined mansion and related buildings constructed by the eccentric Jo Carstairs back in the 1930's. She was known as the Queen of Whale Cay. Once we reached the north end of the Berrys, we crossed North Providence Channel to the south tip of Great Abaco Island, picking up another Mahi-Mahi along the way. We then worked our way along the south shore of Grand Bahama Island under sometimes challenging cruising conditions until reaching West End, which we departed on March 3 for Florida.
Our return crossing of the Gulf Stream gave us a rough ride for about 3 hours, out in the middle, before settling a bit as we neared the Florida coast. We entered Florida waters at St. Lucie Cut, near Stuart Florida. It took us 2 weeks to cruise our way up the Intracoastal Waterway on the east coast of Florida, to Fernandina Beach, on the border with Georgia. We've experienced a torn sail, broken rudder lines from striking bottom, and a series of engine problems which resulted in getting towed once and coming into a marina under kicker motor power a second time. The battery charging system also gave trouble during that same time. We've managed to work our way through all those issues, and as I write, all key systems on the boat are once again performing happily. I wish I could say the same for the weather, which has been unseasonable cold and windy. We bashed through 4 to 5 foot seas in a stiff north wind the other day. We've recovered from that and are waiting for the winds to abate, so we can proceed up the Alligator River and across Albemarle Sound, on our way to Norfolk, VA, where Sandy will fly to Seattle for a visit with kids and grandkids. I'll stay with the boat and sail her up Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore, where Sandy will rejoin the cruise. We're looking forward to warmer weather and the lovely sights of New York, the Hudson River, and the canals of Canada.
Best regards to our friends back home, Mike and Sandy Cecka Currently in a slip at River Forest Marina, Belhaven NC – April 16, 2016