Log of SV Puff Stuff: Bahamas 2005
By Sam Wykoff
Jan 15, 2005 Arlene, Bandit (our 6 month old Springer) and I
left a cold and snow covered New Jersey with Puff Stuff, our MacGregor 26
Classic in-tow. We arrived at
Everglades National Park in Flamingo Florida on Jan 18; the 80 degree temp
compensated for the sticky mess from some soda cans that froze and leaked
en-rout. We were forced to launch on
the everglades side of the marina, as the Gulf side was completely reserved. This meant hauling out and moving to the Gulf
side when we were ready to depart for the keys and Bahamas. We were joined later in the day by our
buddy-boat, Time Enough, a Mac 26 from Albany NY with Bob and Carol
on-board. Flamingo has a great marina
(picture below) and is only $14 per day.
We spent the next several days working on the boat to ready it for a few
months in the Bahamas. One afternoon
the marina delivered a message to call Bob and Carol; their truck motor died
while provisioning in Homestead, 50 miles away. We picked them up at the Ford dealership, where they left the
truck to have a new engine installed.
The yacht club reserving the Gulf side did not take all the space, so we
moved across; in the process I broke a taillight lens on the trailer. This was remedied by ordering one from the
manufacturer and having it held at Flamingo until our return.
On Jan 24th, we had barely completed our boat
work, when we got what promised to be a good 3 day weather window. On Jan 25 we made the 65 mile hop from
Flamingo to John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo. We arrived at the outer marker to the Pennekamp channel well
after dark. The channel is unlit and
winds for about a mile through mangroves.
We made it with only one grounding.
The Park is nice, with simple slips requiring climbing on and off over
your bow. Our target was a mid
afternoon departure the next day for the Bahamas, with a lot to get done before
leaving. We were up early and Carol
secured a rental car for all our errands: fill LPG tank, fresh veggies, fruit
and meat, extra fuel can, veterinarian clearance for Bandit to enter Bahamas,
West Marine for spare parts. By 1630,
we had even showered and cast off to cross The Stream.
The weather was perfect as we motor sailed SE in light SW
wind and watched a full moon replace the setting sun. A little after midnight Bob and Carol called on the VHF and sang
happy birthday to Arlene. Time Enough
led the way as we road the Stream north and crossed onto the Bahama banks at
Riding Rock around 0430. We continued to motor sail across the banks in
gin-clear water, targeting to traverse the dangerous NW Channel into the Tongue
of the Ocean before sunset; in the span of a few hundred yards the depth goes
from 10 feet to over 1000 with strong currents. We made it on schedule and tied up at Chub Cay marina at 1630,
140 miles and 24 hours after leaving Florida.
Bandit was very happy to reach land, having refused to relieve himself
on-board. At Chub Cay it was cocktail
hour; we opened champagne with a group of sailors and celebrated our crossing
and Arlene’s B’day. We then had a great
dinner at the club and crashed. On Jan
27 we cleared customs at the local airport, $150 cash and numerous forms, but
The effect of cold fronts lessens as you move south in the
Bahamas, so our plan was to jump south as quickly as he weather allowed. On Jan 31 we made a fast spinnaker run to
West Bay on New Providence Island in strong N wind. The next day we moved on to uninhabited Allan’s Cay near the top
of the Exumas chain and slipped into a shallow well protected bay with loads of
wild Iguanas on the beach. Our next
night was at Lobster Cay. With a cold
front forecast, we worked our way into the North Harbor of Normans Cay, which
is virtually a totally enclosed bay; the entrance is very tricky and
breathtakingly beautiful with pink sand beaches, palms and crystal blue water
over white sand. We hung out there for
4 days and I found and cleaned my first conch, from which we made excellent
Feb 7 we moved South to Shroud Cay and Time Enough led us
into a very snug anchorage up a mangrove creek with a beautiful sand beach at
the entrance. A few anchors and lines
were required to hold position, but there was no swell and Bandit loved the deserted
On Feb 8 we
returned to civilization for water, fuel, ice and provisions at Staniel Cay
Yacht Club. Groceries and beer are
about double to triple USA prices; water is 25 to 60 cents per gallon at
marinas and gas is $4 per gallon. The
Club has good dinners at reasonable prices.
Feb 9 we had a good
sail down the Sound side of the Exumas and ducked into a hurricane hole on
Rudder Cut Cay as the sun went down.
The next morning, the water was so still and clear, you could not tell
where the air and water met unless you made some ripples. (Time Enough entering
Rudder Cut Cay)
Another good days sail brought us to Georgetown, our
furthest point South and winter home to some 400 cruising boats. We had 280 nautical miles under the keel
since departing Flamingo. Once again, Time
Enough led us into a 3 foot spot right off the beach in Hole 1, just a few
hundred yards dink ride to volleyball beach and the Chat n Chill beach bar;
this was home for the next 12 days ( see our Mac Gregors in foreground of picture
Cruisers truly “own” this bay and town; they are well
organized and do a lot for the local community. The day starts with a VHF net at 0815. Groups meet daily on the
beach for painting, bridge, dominoes, diving, softball and of course volleyball
( 4 courts go constantly every afternoon).
A lot of effort is spent planning regatta week, which is in mid March
and consists of numerous competitive events and entertainment; unfortunately we
could not stay for it. My team did
however win the bragging-rights volleyball tournament and Arlene’s came in
second, as we beat them in a play-off match.
We had a great oldies dance on the bar deck for Valentines Day. Georgetown is a choppy dink ride a mile
across the bay; you enter a protected dink dock through a narrow tunnel (see
The town has good supplies and free RO water at the dink
Williams Bay on Lee Stocking Island provided a quiet
deserted anchorage on our trip North from Georgetown. Lots of snorkeling failed to provide fresh fish for dinner, however.
With another cold front forecast, we worked our way into the
narrow channel behind Pipe Creek Cay. It was our favorite anchorage of the
trip. We had huge sand bars on 2 sides and the Cay in front giving excellent
protection. The channel offered great snorkling and provided a few fresh
dinners of grouper and lobster.
A strange but remotely familiar feel in the tiller alerted
us to stress cracks forming in the SS rudder bracket; we had one tear apart in
Long Island Sound several years ago.
This could have been real bad news in the Bahamas where help is not
readily available. Unbelievably, Bob
had a beefed-up spare on-board, as he also had torn 2 up. At low tide we made the switch in a few
hours time, allowing us to complete the trip without a problem. I am now having my 2 broken ones rebuilt
from much heavier stock and will carry 1 as a spare.
A picture perfect and very quiet anchorage off Shroud Cay.
After a long days sail we swam and BBQ and then awoke to 2 foot waves and 20
plus knots on the nose at midnight. With no where sheltered to move to, we
spent a sleepless 6 hours and headed North at first light. We learned that a
lot of boats were surprised by the front.
The only fish we caught on a line was this 2 foot barracuda,
which I carefully released. A few
minutes later another fish hit, stripped all my line off the reel and the broke
the line without revealing its identity.
Time Enough anchored at Royal Island. It looks very peaceful …now, however, the
night before a storm came through unexpectedly with strong gusts 180 degrees
from the prevailing wind. Having just
retired for the night, we were called on deck by voices above our forward
hatch. We had our rhode sprung for the
light swell and offered too much windage for the grassy bottom. We had dragged
into a large steel hulled boat, which was a much softer landing than the coral
along the shore. We then had the
pleasure of re-anchoring in the pitch black pouring rain. It took 2 tries to get comfortable, then the
dink motor ran out of gas when I put the second anchor out and I got blown into
the mangroves. Rowing an inflatable
into 20 knots of wind and rain ranks right up there with root canal, but I
finally made it.
As we depart Spanish Wells for the narrow cut in the dangerous
surrounding reef, Arlene ponders if Bob really knows where he is going. As usual, Bob guided us safely through and
North to the Abacos.
In Little Harbor we opted for lunch at Bob’s favorite bar in
the Bahamas, Petes Pub. The rum
blasters went down so easy that by 1400 hours Carol had sense enough to realize
we were “rummed-in”. Shortly after,
another couple at the bar mentioned they were from Cape Breton Nova Scotia and
Arlene immediately shouted “you’re the fiddle player”. The summer before, we
had sailed Bras Dor lakes in Cape Breton and Carol and Bob had met the couple
and played music with them … what are the odds. This quickly led to plans for a jam session at the pub that night
and other places as we sailed north with them.
Hopetown harbor as viewed from atop the lighthouse
If it is St. Patrick’s Day, you can count on Bob and Carol
to organize some Irish music. The
ad-hoc group came together off boats in the marina and provided great
entertainment while the rests of us sipped a wee bit of Guiness at Hopetown.
Puff Stuff and Bandit at Club Solei with the famous Hopetown
lighthouse in the background. The
lighthouse is kerosene fired and rotated by a weight on a cable that must be
wound-up every 2 hours.
Crab Cay is a good shallow draft anchorage with a great
beach and good snorkeling. Bob enhanced dinner with 2 lobsters.
Our great adventure took us 626 nautical miles in 10 weeks. After
traversing the length of the Exumas, visiting the north of Eluthera and
covering much of the Abacos, we departed Double Breasted Cay for Fort Pierce
Florida. The crossing was a little
rough and thunderstorms worried us as we approached Florida. We docked in Vero beach about 24 hours after
pulling anchor in the Bahamas. The next
day we rented a car and retrieved our trucks and trailers from Flamingo;
closing the loop. For me, it was the trip of a lifetime made all the more
memorable by our buddy-boat Time Enough.