[Written on 4/5/14 by Mitchell]
Natalie and I left Cofresi, DR on March 30th and headed north. It was one of our best, and worst, passages yet. Leaving Ocean World we had 17-20 Kts of wind behind us and a 6-8 foot swell. With a double reefed main and the Genoa we were able to average a little over 7 kts for the first 12 hours. While that sounds nice- it was not. Sea Major tended to slide down the front side of the really big swells (10-12 ft). The GPS pegged our top speed over ground at 12 kts with 10-11 kts being common. Making good time towards our destination- what’s the problem? Well, at the bottom of the swells the bow would dig into the next wave causing the boat to veer, and once we started to veer, the wind would grab the head sail causing us to round up further. Thus putting us nearly broad side to the waves. If the swell hadn’t abated we would have needed to throw out the drogue. It was the first time this trip that I thought we might break something important.
In addition to the sea state and the strong winds, we left Ocean World knowing there was a cold front headed south. Since the predicted wind speeds and wave heights were not any worse than we had sailed in on the way down to the DR we decided not to wait for it to pass. Being the first time we sailed through a cold front, it was fascinating watching the rain pockets on the radar, but a little scary going through the strong gusts of wind. Luckily we made it safe and sound; putting 204 nm under the keel and making it to Mayaguana in only 36 hours (that is 12 hours less than it took us to do the same distance when going TO the Dominican Republic).
The orange blips are the pockets of rain that our radar picks up.
Needing a little shut-eye after a long passage, we dropped the hook at an open roadstead anchorage in 30 feet of water on the south side of Mayaguana (Bahamas) since it was after dark when we arrived. Much to my delight, the fish were jumping everywhere! There was a huge school of the large eyed jacks we had caught in the Berrys and they were feeding aggressively. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to lose my fishing pole overboard while trying to clean up the deck.
Well rested and ready to go, we headed back out the following morning; doing the remaining 115 nm to Long Island in 21 hours. This time around we had a really nice sail during the day. However, at around midnight, lights appeared on the horizon and I started tracking a large freighter on the radar. When I saw the lights, the ship was 10 miles off and I tracked him for roughly 5-10 minutes until he had closed to about 5 miles and it was apparent that we were on a collision course. At this point, I woke Natalie up and tried to hail the ship on the VHF radio several times. To add to our growing fear, I got no response; at which point the ship was 3 miles off and still headed straight for us.
We guessed that he was headed south through the pass between Long Island and Crooked Island and so we turned the boat around 180 degrees to give him room, but we guessed wrong. Now he was two mile off and we could see how big he really was! I went below and grabbed the spotlight while Natalie continued to call him on the VHF. I shone the spotlight on the bridge of the ship which must have gotten the captains attention because he finally responded on the VHF and adjusted his course to port; missing us by a little more than a quarter mile.
Best $30 purchase ever!
At 5:30 am, we finally made it to Clarence Town, Long Island. We had been here on the way south and knew the harbor entrance, so we slowly made our way in and dropped the hook just as darkness began to fade. We both took naps and then moved the boat into the marina at around noon. After clearing back into the Bahamas at the marina, we showered, had a celebratory dinner at the Outer Edge Grill, and caught up on some more much-needed sleep.