This trip is part of an organized rally called the ARC Bahamas. The rally provides a way for boats to travel from Virginia to the Bahamas in a group with regular weather briefings, required safety gear, inspections and training. There is another rally, the Caribbean 1500, which is leaving at the same time and heading for the British Virgin Islands.
We were all due to leave on Sunday, November 2, but were delayed one day because of a nasty weather system passing through (off shore weather reports showed winds over 50 knots at its worst). That same system brought cold wind and rain, which made leaving for the islands seem all the more appealing.
Our crew was rounded out with two experienced sailors, Ron and Phil. Pete sailed with Phil before and Ron & Phil sailed together once before on a boat almost identical to ours, so we’re leaving with confidence.
We quickly made friends with Rick and Helen on Symmetry, the boat docked right behind us. They too are going to the Bahamas and the guys were helping each other out with last minute preparations. We’ve informally decided to be buddy boats and check in with each other twice a day as long as we are in VHF range.
We started out Monday morning from Portsmouth, VA. Brendan & Colleen were there to see us off, which was really nice. I will readily admit to lots and lots of butterflies before we left, but once we were underway with all the other boats the butterflies disappeared. The winds were light and several boats crossed the starting line with their spinnakers flying, which made for a festive atmosphere. Adding to the festivities we had dolphins swimming alongside us as we left Hampton Roads.
Shortly after leaving, I noticed that our American flag was torn so Pete pulled out my Sailrite sewing machine so I could repair it. Phil dubbed me “Betsy Ross.”
We watched the sun set over the southern Virginia Beach with a cold wind blowing. The remnants of the weather system made for some big swells and lots of rolling during the night.
The next morning was clear and sunny. It was already getting warmer, but not enough to put away the jackets yet. Starting the engines to charge the batteries we discovered the port engine wouldn’t start. Pete found salt water in the air intake. We assumed we’d have to make due with one engine until we got to the Bahamas.
Wednesday dawned with absolute calm. There was no wind and the sea was as still as glass. The experienced sailors all said they hadn’t seen anything like this before. About mid-morning we got a VHF call from Rick and Helen on Symmetry, suggesting that we attempt to raft up and work on our engine since it was so calm.
We got the boats close enough for me to step onto Symmetry, while Rick hopped onto Delphinus. We separated the boats and allowed them to drift. Surprisingly they drifted apart and in different directions, but never out of site. Helen and I had a great visit on Symmetry, while the guys worked on the engine. I looked over at Delphinus just in time to see Rick do a backflip off the bow and begin swimming back to his boat.
As I’m writing this I am still amazed that I stepped from our boat to another boat and back again while 300+ miles offshore.
Wednesday night we treated ourselves and the crew to ice cream sandwiches from the freezer. It was a great “pick me up” at what we assume is the mid-point of our cruise.
Most evenings we were all able to sit down together for dinner, which was a nice way to round out the day and plan for the next day. This is a shot of one of our dinners.
Throughout our trip Pete has put out a fishing line every day. Unfortunately, the only thing we caught was a huge ball of sea grass. It looked like some kind of sea creature.
At this point we are anticipating a Saturday morning arrival in Marsh Harbor. Winds are light and variable. Thursday night into Friday morning was a rough night. There was a lot of slap against the hulls from the rollers at sea. At times it felt like a battering ram trying to break into the boat. On some level I was waiting for a rush of sea water when one of those waves might break though the hull — an incredible force!
We motored most of the way on Friday. For me, I was counting down to arriving on Saturday morning. We reached the coast of the Bahamas in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday. We had been advised not to enter the channel until daylight, so we waited for sunrise to enter the channel. This is one of the rare occasions when I’m able to capture a sunrise photo.With sunrise on Saturday morning, we entered the “cut” at Man o War Cay, the finishing line of the rally. There is still about another hour of motoring to our destination – Harbor View Marina. As we approach the marina, no one is answering our VHF calls, so we tie up at the fuel dock. Soon we have a very friendly and efficient dock hand, Ron, helping us top off our fuel and tie up in our slip for the next few days.
We celebrated our arrival at a local restaurant with the crew of Symmetry and rounded out the day with drinks and dinner.
We had a beautiful sunset from the marina. We plan to spend a couple of days here and then move on the explore some of the other islands of the Bahamas.
This concept of not having fixed plans and schedules is new to us but we’re doing our best to adapt! Stay tuned for new updates.