Spring 2021 – Cay Hopping, Surviving a Storm then back to Florida


Great Guana Cay

Whale Cay passage can be a problem.  In order to get back to the northern Abaco chain, due to shifting sands and uncharted water, you have to sneak out Whale Cay passage into the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the ocean swells, it can be a rough ride. It was a little windy Wednesday, April 7th  and we knew Thursday was supposed to be calm, so we decided to head up to Great Guana Cay and spend the day., instead of heading through Wale Cay passage that day.

Wednesday’s trip was only about 3 hours.  We anchored off Great Guana Cay, just a couple of miles short of Whale Cay Passage.  We were able to dinghy in to Grabbers Pub for lunch. Grabbers Pub had been damaged during Hurricane Dorian and was in the process of rebuilding. They had a kitchen and an outdoor bar (short staffed for both) and had set up a temporary tent with picnic tables.  It was right on the water and the view was spectacular.  Our lunch turned into dinner due to a mix-up in the kitchen.  The bartender/waitress (there was only one) brought us a round of drinks on the house and appetizers to apologize for the kitchen.  Our lunch order took a full three hours to make it to the table, but the drinks were much quicker so we all ended up a bit tipsy! 

Manjack (Nunjack) Cay

Whale Cay passage turned out to be as uneventful as we had hoped and we cruised on up past Green Turtle Cay to Manjack (aka Nunjack) Cay, our destination for Thursday, again it only took a couple hours.  Stacy Lynn and April Fools anchored just off the beach in Nunjack Bay and Carry On anchored off the northern end of the Cay, which had good protection from Southern winds but was exposed to the sea and swells from the north.  Carry On being larger and much heavier handles the swells better than we do, which is why we opted to anchor where we did. 

I had to look up this Manjack/Nunjack Cay because I did not understand the two names.  Apparently, the cay, which is a private cay, (but welcomes visitors) was once called Nunjack Cay.  At some point the cay was renamed Manjack but the bay kept the name Nunjack, and some still call it Nunjack Cay.

There are trails though the mangroves, however it is recommended to bring lots of bug spray.  No thanks!

We walked along some of the beaches looking for shells and then joined Robert and Stacy for dinner on Stacy Lynn.

The guys conversation then started to focus on wind / weather for the trip back across the Gulf.  We were just starting to see some building fronts with changing wind directions which would take a lot of our focus over the upcoming days.

Green Turtle Cay

Because the wind was building and we needed to try and stay on the lee side for our anchorages, we backtracked on Friday an hour to anchor off Green Turtle Cay.  This way we could at least have some protection from the building southwest winds.  The options were to head further north and anchor off mostly uninhabited cays for a number of days waiting out a weather window to cross the gulf stream or head to Green Turtle to enjoy the Tranquil Turtle Beach Bar at the Bluff House and beach that were closed when we were here last, then head north from there.

We had a nice lunch and enjoyed the beach, then as predicted the winds started to kick up.  Sleep did not happen that night due to anchor watch. 

Crab Cay

The weather forecasts were starting to get a little confusing.  Bill and Susan had the best internet service but it was spotty at best.  Working off the information we had, we needed to move north west and try to find a place to anchor out of the building winds. We did another small hop north to Crab Cay on Saturday, trying to find protection from the winds.

We were able to find more protection for the day, but winds were steadily building and now our information was starting to show shifting winds due to strong thunderstorms off the coast of Florida and the Carolinas.

Winds were blowing 15 to 17 knots and supposed to build the next day.  However, they were indicating that the wind would shift to the west and we had no protection from that direction.  Worse yet, the only place that would offer any real protection was back on the east side of Great Sale Cay, about 4 hours away.

We had another night of little sleep, even though we use an anchor alarm, no one trusts it 100%.

Sunday morning about 6:30 am, Robert was able to get a radar shot off his phone.

The blue dot is us

Around 2 pm we decided that we couldn’t wait any longer and would have to get to Great Sale.  About halfway to our destination, things started to look a little bleak. The storm coming off the coast of Florida had decided to head due east and it was moving fast.  It looked like it may pass a little north of us, so we turned south to try and let it pass. That’s when things got very interesting.  Apparently, the storm also turned a little south and fell right on top of us.  Our only option was to get to Great Sale and anchor up for the night. Within 15 minutes the storm hit, visibility dropped, rain started and the seas picked up.

Just the beginning

Having boated in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, I’ve seen my share of storms. The worst one we ever rode through was a micro blast that hit our Meridian in the Chester River. That storm ripped canvas off of boats and threw scaffold poles from tents through car windows.  We figured that we were pretty well versed with storms and this one wouldn’t be much worse.  Boy, were we wrong.  

In the building seas, we quickly lost sight of the other boats.  Seas built to 7 to 9 feet.  Several times the boat crested on wave only to bow down into the next one.  Water sprayed up over the upper helm. The inside of the boat turned into a yard sale, everything that wasn’t nailed down became airborne.  Cabinets opened and spilled their contents all over the boat.  The dinghy was launch up in the air off the upper helm area and the only thing that held it to the boat was the fact that it was still attached to the davit crane. I wanted to go out and secure the dinghy because I thought it would fall of the boat, but John wouldn’t let me.  He said not to worry, he could always buy us another dinghy, but that I could not be replaced. (What a guy!)

See our little blue dot!

Wind gusts hit an amazing 76 mph, Susan sent us a picture of their instruments showing 69.9 mph. Lightning strikes were all around, so John had to lower the large radio antenna, which also cut down on radio contact with our group.  

We held on best we could and rode through the storm barely finding Great Sale Cay, right about dark.  John pulled us into a small harbour and was able to set the anchor in the driving wind and rain.   We spent another night without sleep as the wind howled from the west, then north and then turning southwest during the night.  

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the storm because I was holding on for dear life with white knuckles!

Monday morning was much calmer but the forecast was for scattered rain and wind gusts for most of the day before finally settling down. We spent another day at anchor cleaning up the mess from the storm. 

West End

Tuesday, we were on the move again.  We woke up to flat calm waters and a beautiful sunrise.  Weighing anchor at about 7:15 am, everyone was excited to be traveling in calm seas again.  We made it to West End about 2:30 pm and tied up at Old Bahama Bay Marina.  Long day but, uneventful!

After rinsing the boats of all the salt water, we gathered for a cocktail and had dinner at the marina restaurant.  William Shatner (from Star Trek) was at the next table.  Stacy and I talked to one of the guys at the table after Mr. Shatner left and he said we should have stopped by the table earlier and that he (Shatner) was a really nice gentleman.  Our loss.

Our last night in the Bahamas!

Wednesday morning’s forecast for a gulf crossing wasn’t as favorable as we had hoped but it was predicted to be worse in the coming days so we decided to go.

Our plan was to head to Fort Pierce Inlet and then to Vero Beach which would make a very long day.  We pulled out of West End about 8am.  For the first hour or so, it really was not bad at all.  Then we hit the gulf stream and with 2 – 3 foot waves,  still not horrible.  We had our fingers crossed that the forecast was wrong but we couldn’t be that lucky.  Right around noon the winds turned more against the waves and gave us some 5 footers and big rolls for the next 4 hours.

Saltine crackers were my friend! 

We hit Fort Pierce Inlet on an Ebb Tide (meaning it was outgoing, in a big way) and trying to get into the inlet was worse than the gulf crossing.  Go figure.  The guys had quite the time of it trying to keep the boats going straight when the tide wanted to push us every which way except straight.

We finally pulled into our slip in Vero Beach at 6pm that evening.  The dockhands were gone for the day, so thanks to our friends for helping tie us up! 

What a great adventure we’ve had!

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3 comments

  1. Wow, what a trip! And a fantastic, very Hemingway-esque, description of the adventure! Glad ya made it back safe & sound! Can’t wait for the next installment! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW! What an adventure! So happy you guys are safe and sound back at Vero Beach! Miss you but so excited for the memories you are making together! ❤ Lisa

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  3. WOW this entry was very exciting for sure! Glad all was well. The photo of you & John is really great….you look beautiful! love reading your blogs … keep them coming! Safe sailing!

    Like

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