Weather

Weather forecasts are vitally important to us to plan our passages and even if when we are anchored.  Frontal passages will change the direction of the wind and we try to use that directional change to our advantage.  As an example, heading down the Exuma islands with a strong south east wind would be difficult to say the least.  If there is a cold front forecast and the winds will eventually swing clockwise, going to the south, south west, west and then northerly, we will then utilizing this frontal passage to sail off the wind having a much more comfortable trip. 

There is an old saying that the most dangerous piece of equipment on board a boat is a schedule.  Last year we were in Bimini waiting 10 days for the strong easterly winds to subside so we could get to West Bay on New Providence Island.  Having to leave a safe anchorage in unsettled weather because of a schedule is something we try to avoid at all costs.

On board Firecracker we have numerous methods of obtaining weather forecasts.  Each morning at 0630 hours we listen to Chris Parker for his weather briefing on 4045 kHz that is broadcast on the single side band.  We have also subscribed to Chris’ updated forecasts sent to us each afternoon by email.  I’ve included the 4 PM forecast for 2/19/2014 below as an example.

Wx Update, Bahamas, Wed19, 4pm

10a ASCAT: SE Half of C Bahamas ENE-E@17-23 / NW half of C Bahamas E@14-17 / NW Bahamas E-SE@9-13 / N of Bahamas to 29N SSE-SSW@7-13 / 30N-NorthCarolina from 75W-79W SSW-WSW@13-33, lightest 30N, and strongest within 200mi S&E of CpLookout.

BUOYs:

FwyRk 100-120@11-16 / WEnd 030-080@6-10 / Canaveral variable, establishing 150@8-12, 2-3′ / Chrlstn-FryPnShl 230@17-21g27, 4-6′.

IMAGERY:

Showers & squalls mostly offshore beyond 120miS&E of Hatteras.

Clouds and maybe a few mild squalls S&E of T&C and from GrtInaugua to S of RaggedIsland.

Clouds NW Bahamas do not seem to generating any precipitation.

SYNOPSIS:

What an amazing winter! I don’t see any imminent end to the pattern of persistent upper-air support for ColdFRONTs into our region, with reinforcing energy about every 48hrs. This situation is currently in place near US E Coast…and the axis of this energy will shift S&E into areas from N Bahamas to 30N or 32N Sun23-Fri28…and may press farther S&E into Bahamas/SFL and adjacent waters during 1st few days of March.

Areas S of the above zone should enjoy mild E-SE wind/seas and settled weather or even L&V conditions Sun23 onward…but areas N of the above zone will see the occasional stronger impulse (in the form of a significant LO/GALE).

So…strong pressure gradient drives brisk E-S Trades Thu20-Fri21…conditions in all areas moderates Sat22…and this starts what may be a reasonable opportunity for folks to work S&E thru Bahamas and to E Caribbean.

Folks desiring mildest motoring conditions FL-N Bahamas should look at Sat22-Tue25, though ColdFRONT may bring some N wind into at-least N Parts of this area anytime after mid-day Sun23.

TONIGHT…RIDGE 31N/65W-StAug, with S@5-15 across RIDGE / with RIDGE farther N, E-ESE Trades are able to rebuild throughout Bahamas-SFL / N of RIDGE sees mild winds backing WSW<S.

 

TOMORROW…Reinforcing HI builds off Mid-AtlanticStates, and drives increasing ESE Trades Bahamas / increasing SE-S wind N of Bahamas to SE US.

 

TOMORROW NIGHT…Nest strong LO moves NE thru GreatLakes, and associated strong Dynamics (inward & upward rushing air into this LO and its FRONT trailing thru MississippiValley) drives further surge of E-SE wind Bahamas / SSE-S wind N of Bahamas, with most of these areas 20k)+.

 

FRI21…As ColdFRONT approaches US E Coast, strongest Dynamics shift N&E of Bahamas…allowing areas S of RIDGE (along Bermuda-Canaveral) to settle slightly / N of 33N continues building until ColdFRONT exits Coast late.

 

FRI21 NIGHT-SAT22…RIDGE Bermuda-N Bahamas, with SSE-S@10-15, and some moderation to E-ESE wind rest of Bahamas / N of Bahamas squally ColdFRONT stalls, with variable-but-brisk wind/squalls, settling gradually during Sat22.

 

SUN23…RIDGE 28N/65W-27N/82W, with S@5-10 across RIDGE / continuing decrease in ESE-SE Trades S of RIDGE / variable under 20k N of RIDGE, with strongest wind within 90mi of FrontalTROF which may lie from NFL ENE-ward to waters N of Bermuda.

 

FORECAT:

PRECIP:

Abaco: can’t rule-out an isolated squall to 20-25k Fri21 onward.

C Bahamas: can’t rule-out an isolated squall to 20-25k thru Sat22.

SE Bahamas: isolated squalls to 20-25k thru tomorow, then similar to C Bahamas, with less coverage and only a slight chance for a mild squall.

 

WIND (for wind near squalls see PRECIP):

Abaco: 090@9<100@15 tonight; 100<135@17-20g24 tomorrow-early Fri21 morning; 130-150@12-15g19 Fri21, 11k<8k Sat22; 130-170@4-9 Sun23.

N Exumas: 090@17-20g25 tonight, 090-deg<120-deg tomorrow-early Fri21 morning; 110-130@15g20 Fri21, 12k<10k Sat22, 10k<8k Sun23.

S Exumas: 080@18-20g25 tonight; 090<110@20g25 tomorow thru mid-day Fri21; 110@17g22 Fri21 afternoon, 15g20k<13g16k Sat22, 12k<10k Sun23.

SE Bahamas: 080@20g25 tonight; 090<100@20-23g29 tomorrow thru mid-day Fri21; 100@20g25 later Fri21-Sat22 morning, 16g20k Sat22 afternon, 15k<12k Sun23.

T&C and GrtInauguaS&E: 090-100@20-24g32 thru Fri21, 18-20g24k Sat22, 15g19k Sun23.

 

SEAS:

Abaco: 4-5’/7secE today, 5-6’E-ESE tomorow, ESE-SE Fri21; 4’/6-7secE-SE Sat22, 3-4′ Sun23.

C Bahamas: 4-5’/6-7secE today, 6’E-ESE tomorow, 6′<5’ESE Fri21, 4′ Sat22, 3′ Sun23.

SE Bahamas: 6-7’/6secE thru Fri21, 6′ Sat22, 5′<3′ Sun23.

 

CROSSING:

Late today thru tomorrow night are best for W-bound sailors, due to building ESE<SE Trades/seas.

Fri21 may be workable for most interests, with moderate SE-SSE winds, but some mild squalls.

Sat22-Sun23 are very likely best for ALL motoring activities.

N Route watch for possible ColdFRONT late Sun23, but at-least S Route should remain benign motoring thru Mon24 and probably Tue25.

 

N ROUTE: 120@10<13k/2′<3′ tonight, 14g17k<15g20k/4′ tomorrow; 120<150@18g24/5-6′ tomorrow night; 150-200@14<12k/4′<3′ Fri21, 8k/2′ Sat22-Sun23…scattered squalls to 20-25k/6′ likely Fri21 thru early Sat22 morning, then mostly dry again.

 

S ROUTE: 100@14g17<16g20k/4′ tonight, 16-18g24k/5-6′ tomorrow; 100<140@18g24/6′ tomorrow night; 120-160@15g20<10-12g15k/5′<3′ Fri21; 100-150@7-10/2′ Sat22-Sun23…isolated squalls to 20-25k/5′ possible tomorrow afternoon-Sat22 morning.

 

OTHER AREAS:

KyW: E-ESE@15-20/5′ thru tomorrow night; E-SE@10-13/3′ Fri21, 8-12k/2-3′ Sat22-Sun23…same slight chance for squalls as S Route.

CFL: SSE@10<ESE-SE@14/4′ tonigtht; ESE<SSE@15-20/5-6′ tomorrow; S@15g20 Fri21, 10k/3′ Sat22-Sun23….squalls to 30k/6′ Fri21-Sat22 morning.

NFL-GA: S@10<14k/4′ thru tomorow morning; S@15<SSE@20g25/5′<7′ tomorrow; SSE<S<SW@20g26/7′ tomorow night-Fri21 morning; SW<N@10g15/6′<4′ most of Fri21; N<E<S@0-10/3′ Sat22-Sun23…isolated squalls to 30k Fri21 & Sun23.

Carolinas: WSW@20<W@10<S@10/6′<4′ tonight-tomorrow morning; S@10<25k/4′<7′ tomorow; S<SW@25g30/8′ tomorow night-Fri21; W<N<E@15g20/7′<6′ Fri21 night-Sat22 morning; E@15<L&V/4′ Sat22; L&V/3′ Sun23…isolated squalls to 35k/9′ Fri21 and possibly to 25k Sun23.

We also have Sirius satellite weather on our electronic chart plotter.  It is a very comprehensive weather source that doesn’t require either radio or internet.  It includes graphical Weather Radar; Cloud-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Ground Lightning; METARs; Tropical Storm Tracks; Hi Res Coastal and Offshore Wave Heights with Period & Direction; Wind Forecasts and Weather Observations; Hi Res Sea Surface Temps; Alerts; Isobars; Extended Forecasts; Weather Observations; High & Low Pressure areas and Fronts.  In addition to all that we also get 150 channels of satellite radio.

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Not much happening in the Bahamas today so here is the weather at noon in northern Florida/Georgia.  There are strong thunder storms with lots of lightning at the southern edge of the storms.

When we have internet access (most of the time) we also use WindAlert.com, PassageWeather.com and BarometerBob.org (in the Abacos).

Rudder Cut Cay to George Town

Just a reminder, I had to disable the Comments Function on the blog due to excessive spam, if you would like to comment please feel free to email us at;  ted-at-tedmercier.com or ginnie-at-sailfirecracker.com, don’t forget to use the @ instead of –at-.

On Monday February 10th we left Rudder Cut Cay and headed to George Town.  We counted 14 boats behind us and 4 ahead of us, altogether about 25 boats anchored in Elizabeth Harbor that day.  Most boats do not anchor over near George Town but across Elizabeth Harbor in the lee of Stocking Island.  The prevailing winds during the winter are from the east and there is much better protection there.  It makes for a longer and sometimes wet dinghy ride but a much safer place to anchor.

Yesterday, Tuesday the 18th was a happy day.  After not hearing from our friends Rick and Cindy on Dark Star for a few weeks we had started to worry if they were OK.  Well no need to worry, we heard them calling us from their dinghy.  We welcomed them aboard and broke out the rum.  It was so good to see them again. 

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Rick & Cindy on the right with their friends Steve & Val on Barefoot’n having a cool Sands on Volleyball Beach.

Today, Wednesday the 19th Ginnie left to go back to Connecticut to visit with Sarah, Devon and the grand kids.  She flew out of George Town to Miami and then on to JFK.  She will be back next Thursday.

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Ginnie with Reese (now 3 years old) and Graham

After the regatta we plan on joining the rally going to Long Island (Bahamas).  The rally is a race from George Town to Thompson Bay on Long Island. There will be tours of the island, dinners ashore, and of course a party with trophies for the race winners.  Last year there were 48 boats, this year over 50 have signed up so far.  With about 300 boats in the harbor for regatta we are hoping for even more.

This year Colleen, sailing with her mom Mary on Glass Slipper started doing a kids net at 0745 hours.  She uses the same format as the “adult” net that is broadcast every morning at 0800 hours.  She is doing an incredible job; by the way Colleen is 12 years old!  What a neat way for kids to meet and get together.

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Little Farmers Cay to Rudder Cut Cay

There were about 125 boats at Little Farmers Cay for the 5-F’s Festival.  By 10:00 AM on Sunday morning, the festivities were over and most boaters were on their way to the next destination.  We missed stopping at Rudder Cut Cay last year, so I very much wanted to see the stainless steel piano and mermaid sculpture that David Copperfield had reportedly made for his girlfriend.  The piano sits in about 12 to 15 feet of crystal clear water in a cove at the west side of Rudder Cut Cay.  He owns Musha Cay, just to the north, and has a home there. 

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It’s interesting that in the US the passages from the ocean to inland protected waters are called inlets.  Here in the Bahamas they are called cuts.  The entrance from Exuma Sound to the Great Bahama Bank on the west side of the Exumas between Rudder Cut Cay and Little Darby Island is Rudder Cut.  If there have been strong easterly winds for a few days, and there is an outgoing tide, the waves in these cuts can become high, short in duration and downright dangerous.  When these conditions exist it is called a rage.  Most boats will avoid cuts when there is a rage condition…just not worth it.  We entered on a perfect day, calm water and no rage.

Just north of the cove with the piano was a cave cut into the coral bluff.  We were able to dinghy into the cave and actually beach the dinghy.  There were two holes in the ceiling of the cave that let light in.

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Approaching the cave from the south.

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Looking up through one of the holes we found cactus growing over the hole.

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Looking out from the interior of the cave, Ginnie is standing on the sand bottom holding the dinghy.

Staniel Cay to Little Farmers Cay

This year we wanted to return to Little Farmers Cay during the 5 F’s festival.  Farmers Cay Festival on the First Friday of February.   Locals are joined by Bahamians from other islands as well as cruising visitors for food, music, dancing and Bahamian C- Class racing.  These C- Class boats are just amazing.  With their wood masts, Egyptian cotton sails and hiking boards these boats are a handful.  This is a very competitive class in the Bahamas.  The ship below unloaded five racing boats at the dock in front of the Farmers Cay Yacht Club.

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Unloading one of the race boats.

We decided to stay at a mooring in front of the Farmers Yacht Club owned by Roosevelt Nixon who we had met last year.  We were a short dinghy ride to the race course and to the cruiser festivities held at other locations on the island. 

Terry Bain owner of the Ocean Cabin Restaurant organized some activities along with the cruisers.  A legs and butt competition for the guys-no I didn’t have a chance against a cruising gynecologist with shiny silver briefs.   He won hands down; actually his hands had nothing to do with his winning.  The second event was a wet-shirt competition for the ladies. I’ll let the photos tell that story.  My battery died in the camera for the third event, maybe just as well.  This entailed the ladies strapping on toilet bowl plungers and retrieving rolls of toilet paper from between their partners’ legs.  I’ll let your imagination run with that.

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Yup…his shirt does say Free Rum.

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There were three races on Saturday, the photos below are from the first two.

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All boats must be anchored on the start line at least 15 minutes before the start.

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When the race starts the bow crew feverishly pulls in the anchor and the sail is then raised, the anchors needs to be back on board as the boats start sailing.

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And the race is on….

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This is light wind sailing, can you imagine another 10 or 15 knots?

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Rounding mark #1

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Bul Reg and Warrior heading for the second mark.

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Check out how far the booms overhang the transoms on these boats.

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The trophy’s, provided we imagine by the Kalik beer company.  One phrase we have learned in the Bahamian lingo is “Two Kaliks Please”.  Every bartender seems to understand us.

Shroud Cay to Staniel Cay

Another short day sail brought us to Staniel Cay.  Last year Ginnie made me bring a blue blazer, tie etc. so that we could go to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  Oh how naïve we were.  As mentioned previously these “Yacht Clubs” are mostly just beach bars.  This year it was bathing suits and t-shirts, OK maybe shorts and a shirt at night. 

Staniel is known for having its share of large yachts and this year was no different.  One evening two of the large boats on the other side of the dock we were on had their underwater lights on.  We were in about 12 feet of water and the bottom looked like a moonscape.    

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It’s hard to believe that these boats are actually floating in 12 feet of water.

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We were told that this creature was a cuttlefish, a close relative to the squid.

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One of the many incredible yachts at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Highborne Cay to Shroud Cay

The next leg was to make a stop at Shroud Cay, the northern most cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.  We wanted to stop here last year but the timing wasn’t right.  The park is a 176 square-mile area.  It includes 15 large islands and many more tiny ones.  Shroud Cay is known for its outstanding mangrove creeks that are wonderful to explore. 

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The creeks are very shallow with mangroves along the edges.  The current in the creeks was surprisingly strong.

West Bay to Highborne Cay

West Bay to Highborne Cay

A nice day sail across the banks brought us into Highborne Cay, an upscale private island with a very protected harbor.  We chose to go to the Highborne Cay Marina since we needed diesel fuel.  We called the marina to ask which side we should put fenders and dock lines on for the fuel dock and we were told that they were out of diesel.  Well it is the Bahamas and all supplies are dependent on the supply ships arriving on time.  They told us that the fuel supply ship would not be arriving for another four days.  We decided to stay anyway.  As we approached the inlet to the marina we saw a group of people at the end of the dock.  I thought they were there to watch and see if we would run aground!  When we approached we saw that they were watching a large group of nurse sharks that gather there for a snack as the fisherman fillet their fish. 

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Fins to the left, fins to the right and your the only girl in town…..

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Seems like a nice spot for swimming.

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Firecracker, the second boat from the left.

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The beach on the eastern side of Highborne Cay looking out over Exuma Sound.

West End to West Bay, New Providence Island

If you cross the Gulf Stream and make port in either Bimini or West End you are looking at an overnight sail to your next destination if you don’t anchor on the banks as we did last year.  Our choice was to depart West End at 9 AM and sail directly to West Bay.  We transited the Northwest Channel at about 2 AM and arrived in West Bay late morning, a 26 hour trip.

Fernandina to West End, Grand Bahama Island

The original plan was to sail offshore to Ft Lauderdale and wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini.  As we were sailing down the coast, we decided we should pull into the Lake Worth Inlet at West Palm Beach and stage for a more northerly crossing of the Gulf Stream.  Then when we were off the coast of Jupiter, north of the Lake Worth Inlet, we had favorable conditions and decided to simply turn left, keep sailing and head directly to West End on Grand Bahama Island.  Fifty five  hours after leaving Fernandina we were finally back in the Bahamas.  Clearing customs and immigration there was simple since the office is adjacent to the fuel dock.  We obtained our cruising and fishing permit and immigration gave us a 140 day visa, long enough for our stay in the Bahamas.

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The cool (Ginnie said it was cold) weather was with us throughout northern Florida.

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This was our first sunset as we entered the Gulf Stream.

This year we crossed the Gulf Stream at night and had a couple of hitch hikers. The small bird landed on the dinghy first, found a calm spot under the seat bag then later flew in under our dodger.  The larger one circled us many times trying to find a place to land.  He eventually landed on the top of the radar dome.  Just as it was getting dark I heard a splash, he must have fallen asleep and slipped off.  Undaunted he again circled us and made a landing on the cabin top.  A much better place for a nap.  By morning both birds were gone.

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Dolphins love to play in the bow wave of boats, but only if you are going fast enough for them.  Thank goodness we have a Saga 43.  There were six or seven in this pod and they stayed with us for over 20 minutes.  When they approach the bow they actually roll on their sides and look up at you. Sarah said they are called spinner dolphins.

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Our first sunrise on the east side of the Gulf Stream on our way to West End.

Back to the Bahamas 2014

St Marys GA to Fernandina FL

While going just a mile or so may not seem like a great voyage it certainly was a milestone in our journey to the Bahamas. 

Last spring we arrived at St Marys Boat Services to have Firecracker hauled for the summer.  Why haul a boat for the summer?  Well it’s a long sail back to Connecticut for a few months sailing and since we wanted to return we would have to face the same long sail back.  We picked St Marys Boat Services because it is one of the few Do It Yourself boatyards left.  This was important to me as I do just about all maintenance and repairs on Firecracker.  The plan was for us to go down to work on the boat once or twice during the summer.  However Ginnie had another plan.

Being almost two hours away from Sarah, Devon, Reese and Graham was getting to be a pain.  She listed the condo in Mystic and within a few weeks had an offer that could not be refused.  The hunt was now on for something closer to the kids.  Sarah actually found a wonderful house in Branford that turned out to cut the commute to see the kids in half.  Leaving the boat in Georgia turned out to be fortuitous.  We would not have had much time to use the boat, never mind take it back south.

After moving in and getting settled, OK somewhat settled, we left for Georgia.  The temperature when we left Connecticut was 4 below zero.  We arrived in St Marys two days later with a high of 74 degrees, what a change.  But the cold followed us south and the next day the temps dropped into the 30’s.  After a few weeks working on the boat we were ready to launch.  While in St Marys we reconnected with Ed from Constance. We had originally met Ed and Lynn in Cat Island last year.  You may remember from a previous blog that they took 17 years to do their circumnavigation.  It was great seeing Ed again.  

We found two wonderful restaurants in St Marys.  Ops, an Italian restaurant is owned by a large extended Turkish family.  By the time we left we felt that we had been adopted and were part of this terrific family and their employees.  At the Borrell Creek Landing restaurant we met Linda, the hostess, a transplant from Long Island (NY not the one in the Bahamas).  If you heard her speak there would be no doubt which Long Island she was from.  Linda and the restaurant owner were very good to us.

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We needed to launch at high tide and leave the boat yard quickly as there is not enough water at low tide for our keel.  So we wound our way down the North River, out the St Marys River to the ICW and into Fernandina FL. 

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The upper chart plotter is new this year.  We found the Raymarine with Navionics charts to be very accurate in the US, but not so in the Bahamas.  Last year we had to rely on our Explorer Chart Books, now we have the electronic version on the new chart plotter.

Fernandina is a beautiful historic town on Amelia Island.  We stayed at the Fernandina Harbor Marina for a few days waiting for a little warmer weather and more favorable winds to make our way south. 

 

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