Alexandra Yacht Club
Founded 1906

Wind Dance - Hugh Nicholson

Thu, July 4, 2013

Returning Home

On January 30th my friend from Alberta, Norm, arrived and at 6:00 am the next morning we left George Town, leaving behind some newfound friends and four weeks of fond memories. The south- west wind and warm weather made for an enjoyable sail down the Exuma Sound and we entered the Grand Bahamas Banks at Cave Cut, anchoring off Farmers Cay in the late afternoon.

My Boat at anchor among the larger cats off Monument Beach
Brice, from Ottawa, serenaded us on the bagpipes each evening at dusk

At 5:00 pm Farmers Cay raised the flag to signal the start of the Farmer's Cay Regatta which is held on the first weekend of February. Norm and I were there for the flag raising, music and partying that followed. Unfortunately for the people organizing the regatta the weather was dreadful. The wind shifted on Friday to the north bringing high winds, low temperatures and two days of rain. While this had a negative impact on attendance and sales, the event was still well attended by Behamanians who travelled to Farmers Cay from Nassau by Mail Boat on Friday. Approximately 100 boats owned by snowbirds were also in attendance.

Regatta participants at Farmer’s Cay

On Sunday morning and we sailed to Black Point where we watched the Superbowl at a local bar/restaurant with a group of cruisers and local residents. We then made the short trip from Black Point to Staneil Cay the following morning. After stopping for our $6.00 coffees in plastic cups (the high price being a Bahamian carbon tax??) and watching the large sand sharks swimming around the docks, we snorkelled in the Thunderball Grotto, the location for the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball (an iconic milestone in the history of feminism).

Regatta participants at Farmer’s Cay

From Staniel we went to Wardreck Wells Sea Park , and then Allan's Cay . At Allan's Cay we saw the Dragon Iguana's, which due to the daily illegal feeding by tourists from cruise ship excursions and visiting sail boats, are becoming increasingly aggressive.

Regatta participants at Farmer’s Cay

On February 8th we arrived at Nassau where Norm, two days later, boarded a plane for Edmonton and colder weather. I sailed on to Bimini and then crossed over to Florida on February 14th. The sail across the Gulf Stream was an idyllic ending to my two months in the Bahamas. The skies were blue, the water turquoise, te winds south-southwest 10-15 kts, and the seas calm. I sailed from Bimini to Lake Worth, Florida at a speed of 8-9 kts, thanks to the northerly current of the Gulf Stream. My welcome to the USA wasn't nearly as idyllic as the Gulf Stream crossing. I had the dubious pleasure of watching a water spout form a few hundred yards in front of me. This was followed by a two hour downpour and squall. If I needed some help in making the adjustment from the laid back Bahamian lifestyle to the faster paced and colder northern environment of the north, this was just the experience I needed.

My trip ended at Jacksonville Florida where I left my boat on the hard and flew back to welcoming March weather of Ontario.

I plan to return to Florida in January 2014 and, after another trip to the Bahamas bring my boat back to Ontario in the spring.

The six months I spent travelling south was a wonderful experience. I made many new friends, enjoyed some great sails, developed new skills and expanded my horizons.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012

I am now at Dinner Key in South Miami. I will be here for about a month and then I will be crossing over to the Bahamas, weather permitting.

I sailed down the coast of Georgia, rather than managing the challenges' of the ICW. The large tides in Southern Carolina created some huge currents in the ICW, that were very helpful when they were going in the same direction I was heading but frustrating when they were not. At times I would be going at 8 kts plus, and at other times I would be struggling to maintain a speed of 4 knots.

The sail down the cost of Georgia was a nice change and the seas were manageable. About half way down the coast I saw my first flying fish. I was watching some sea birds and dolphins feeding and suddenly what looked like a small bird flew away from the area. It looked odd, as the wings were further back, and a little sneaky, as it didn't fly above the waves. It sayed in the troughs and after about a quarter mile dropped into the ocean.

My first port in Florida was Fernandina. Fernandina is on Amelia Island. Amelia Island has an interesting history. General Sherman gave the island to the freeded slaves after the south fell in the Civil War. Most of the island consists of blue collar trades, but Fernandina is a quaint little town with many restuarants and boutiques. I stayed in Fernandina for two days and then headed south down Florida's ICW. It took me another 8 days to reach Dinners Key. Florida's waterways were a pleasure to travel. The tides are small (from 1 ft to 3) and the waterways deep, wide and well maintained.

I also had a neat encounter with Maitees in Titusville. I took the dinghy to a creek, Taylor Creek, for groceries. I thought I saw something move next to the boat but when I looked around all I could see were two huge granite rocks. As I walked up the creek to the road I then noticed that the rocks were actually Manitees and that the small creek had a couple of dozen manittes in it. They were huge and looked to be about 300 lbs. each.

As I travelled down the the ICW, Florida seemed to have two notable features: great beaches and unbelievably large and numerous mega yachts.

Towards the end of December I'll start looking for a weather window to cross over to the Bahamas. I'll probably move out of Dinners Key and head to one of two Key Biscayne harbours: Hurricane Hole or No Name Harbour. These are the two areas where boats wait for weather windows. By joining them I should be able to benefit from their expertise and ensure some safety in the passage by travelling in a group. My destination will probably be Bimini.

Given the delays on the way down I will probably have to return to north Florida to store my boat. It is now too late to travel to the southern end of the hurricane zone. The Bahamas however are a great fishing location. I met a sailor from Ottawa who said he didn't know the first thing about fishing but ever time he went into a shallow area in the Bahamas he caught fish.

The weather in Florida is also a great change from the Carolinas and Georgia. Florida seems to be far enough south that the northern lows travelling down from New England don't result in the low temperatures common to the other southern states.

I'll send you my next update when I set out for the Bahamas.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012

I am now in Myrtle Beach South Carolina and will be in Georgetown this evening. The two week delay in Annapolis and the week weathering out hurricane Sandy has put me well behind schedule.

Unfortunately I lost some additional days in the Chesapeake waiting out bad weather prior to Sandy and a few days after the storm avoid high trailing winds.

When Sandy struck I was in Hoboken North Carolina, travelling with two other boats. We met in Norfolk Virginia and travelled together from that point on. We were docked at the Mayo Seafood Company and Carl Potter the owner of the company offered to create space for us at his old location that was more sheltered. We accepted and his son, Mike, helped us set up our lines and then took us to a grocery store at Bayboro about 20 miles away. He also turned on a generator in one of the trawlers so we would have power and washroom facilities. A retired trawler captain named AE (his mother couldn’t spell, so she just put down AE as his name) helped me with my lines, he was quite a character.

Two other boats also joined us, a Beneteau 39.3 and a 40 foot C&C. The C&C anchored out so we never met the couple on it. The Beneteau pulled up behind me. Tom, the skipper of the Beneteau was a former soldier and delivery captain for Swan Yachts. He’s 69 and divorced. After his divorce he bought a boat and has been sailing ever since. He’s sailed around the world a number of times and has participated in most of the transatlantic races. While we were fretting over the best ways to secure our boat, he knew exactly what he wanted to do and efficiently set his lines.

The worst part of Sandy was the isolation. Sandy flooded the surrounding area and we sat at the dock weathering the storm for 6 days. When Sandy initially hit we were all on Tom’s boat socializing (drinking). When we returned to our boats we stayed on the for the next three days, as the winds hit us.

We left the dock probably a day too soon as the winds were still over 25 kts and headed across the Pimlico Sound to Oriental. About five miles from Oriental my motor finally died – the repairs in Annapolis didn’t address the underlying problem. As a result I now have a new 15 hp Honda.

I left Tom and Ron behind in South Port SC, as they are heading out along the coast and I can’t make the trip due to some repairs my furler requires as a result of Sandy. The southern part of North Carolina is very beautiful: small towns such as Swansboro with beautiful beaches and inlets. At each inlet there’s also dolphins feeding and on my trip from Wrightsville to Southport I met a school of dolphins every hour or so.

I should be in Georgia this weekend and Florida week this Friday. Georgia has 9 foot tides so the inlets and waterways will be very turbulent and the water ebbs to the sea and back, so I’m not looking forward to this part of the trip. In addition Georgia doesn’t maintain their part of the ICW so there a lot of unmarked shoals. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to follow a larger boat, that draws more water, through this part of the trip.

Hope everything is well with you and your families.