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the bahamas to jamaica

Posted by on March 18, 2013

January 14 – 17, 2013

Exiting from the Georgetown area can be a difficult task. The prevailing winds blow from some form of an easterly direction, and cruisers find themselves stuck down in the nook between the southeast end of Great Exuma Island and the northwest end of Long Island. The majority of sailors are trying to get east and south, so planning an exit with respect to the weather is tricky. When the winds are down, many will sail directly east to the lee shore of Long Island, and then gradually make their way around the northern tip of the island. We, on the other hand, need stronger winds (greater than 15 knots) to move us without any engine help, so our choice in weather window tends to be different.

Once the wind shifted to the east, we set sail and aimed ourselves due north. We planned to motor sail about the first 20 miles into the swell until we could round the northern end of Long Island. Once we rounded Long Island, and we turned southeast, the winds were supposed to have shifted north of east, and we were going to have the wind and swell on our stern quarter. Of course, we had no such luck!

The winds shifted to the east-southeast and kicked up to about 25-30 knots. Almost dead on the nose and howling like crazy! To make matters worse, before the passage began, I’d told Wil, who was tired and fighting a sinus infection, that I would pull his weight in work and watches. With the increased winds, there was no way Wil could get his needed rest, and the strong winds continued for two days and two nights, with stronger gusts at night. At times, our anemometer showed wind gusts at 44 knots apparent, so we had to stay on our toes.

It wasn’t until we neared the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti that the winds died off and came from the stern. In fact, the wind was so minimal that conditions were ideal for us to figure out how to use our spinnaker for our first time.

the spinnaker colors were a pleasant surprise

happy that we figured out how to fly the spinnaker

can barely make out the mountains on the southeast side of Cuba

As evening approached, we made plans to take down the spinnaker before nightfall. I had an 1800 hour Magellan Net contact with Andrew (s/v Eye Candy), so we wanted to take the sail down before my contact.
Suddenly, we had the “fish on!” call. We rushed to deal with the fish. However, instead of just one fish on a line, all five of our lines had fish on them! We had sailed through a school of tuna. By the time we finished bringing in the lines, we had three and a half tuna onboard. One got away, and one was half eaten by something MUCH larger.
Of course, catching the fish came just moments before my radio contact, the wind was picking up, and we still had to bring down the spinnaker. We had to work quickly, but considering it was our first time with the spinnaker, we got the big sail down fairly easily.
Other than a handfull of water spouts, the remainder of the passage was pretty mellow, not to mention extremely hot. About five minutes before I was to be net control on the Magellan Net, we spotted a big water spout behind us, and 5 smaller water spouts in front of us. They were a fair distance away, but we were able to see water churning as each one touched down. To be on the safe side, we took down the sails and motored for the remainder of the morning. At the same time, we suddenly had a school of dolphins swimming at the bow. There was no way I going to manage to be calm during my net controlling for the morning!
It was mid-morning when we reached Jamaica at the end of the four-day passage. Once the water spouts were gone, and we neared the gorgeous shoreline of Jamaica, we were able to relax and take in the incredible beauty of the mountains rising in front of us. This was a new and different part of the world to us, and we were ready to see what Jamaica had in store for the Full Monty crew.

the coolest place to take an off-watch nap!

water spouts between us and Jamaica!

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