Floida to Bahamas via Hobe Sound

Florida to Bahamas via Hobe Sound

Melbourne to Bahamas


After goodbyes in Melbourne we set sail South on 20 Jan 07 with a cool, almost cold, Northerly breeze. Initially it was only about 5kn so we ran the engine for the first hour or so then set sails as it got up to 10kn. Soon, with a goose wing (headsail out one side and main out the other) we were slipping along at 6Kn with an 18kn breeze almost dead astern. With a jibe here and there we sailed almost all the 40 miles to Fort Pierce. It was a clear sunny Saturday with beautiful sailing, all be it a little cool.  The day was relatively uneventful although we saw quite a bit of wildlife, dolphins, manatees, fish and birds. By the time we got to Fort Pierce we had 2kn of current with us as we went under the last bridge and into the channel towards the Western shore to anchor for the night. We had a quick shower and clean up before going ashore to the Cobbs Landing Tiki Bar for a wee beverage. We had been there a few years ago before Fort Pierce was decimated by one of the hurricanes in 2004. Since then the Tiki Bar had been refurbished and was now very neat indeed.  We sat at the bar and had a couple of local Sharktail beers, a few fries and Pina Coladas. I expected it to be fairly expensive so Sasha bet me it would not be as much as I thought - cleaning the saloon and cockpit floors every day for a month - I lost!!


After a comfortable night at anchor and only 30 odd miles to Stuart and our next stop, Hobe Sound to visit friends Brigitte and Willy, we had breakfast and set off mid morning.  What a difference from yesterday, much warmer with a Southerly breeze straight against us so motoring down the ICW channel would be the order of the day.  Sasha took the wheel and I just watched the world go by. We passed the Saint Lucy Inlet which has shoaled so much that it is too shallow for sail boat access to the ocean and Stuart. Shortly after we saw a lovely little anchorage on the ocean side of the channel with 8 boats anchored. The anchorage, known as Peck Lake is separated from the ocean by a very narrow 100 metre wide track of national park. A few miles later we were on through the Hobe Sound Bascule bridge and into Hobe Sound itself.  I rang Willy to check where we should anchor to find we had overshot the mark by about 5 miles.  We should have anchored at Peck Lake!  So, back through the opening bridge where I am sure the bridge operator thought we must be nuts and to the lovely Peck Lake. Our intention was to stop a couple of days to pick up gear that we had ordered and sent to Willy's place.




We spent the next day with Brigitte and Willy, staying on for dinner.  It was great to be able to spend time with them and get many insights and hints on cruising the Bahamas. After loading up the dingy with boxes of goodies, mainly the new HF radio equipment we headed back to Ednbal.  Over next few days we began rearranged our 110 volt power connections and began the HF radio installation.  Our 2.5""Kw Victron inverter/charger could not handle the full through current of our generator so we separated the ""essential"" load from the other high current draw load such as the water heater, air conditioner and washing machine. Running the water maker on battery from the inverter was yet to be tested. The rearrangement took a full day. Next we ran through the radio installation instructions and Sasha researched the antennae options.  I was keen on the split backstay but that meant buying backstay insulators, taking down one of the stays (Ednbal is rigged with two backstays), cutting it and getting the insulators swaged on. Not so straight forward. Sasha then found a HF aerial that slides up the backstay and is clamped in position.  Better radiation than the stainless steel of the backstay, simple installation and the full integrity of the backstay is maintained.  A little more cost than the insulators but a whole lot less trouble. It was ordered.


For the weekend we decided to take Ednbal a few miles north and visit Stuart.  It took an hour to get to Saint Lucie inlet then another hour up the St Lucie River into the Okeechobee Waterway and the anchorage at Arbeau Point where we joined another dozen or so vessels at anchor right next to another Beneteau 393.  Naturally there were introductions, Tom, Mike and Margaret were from Michigan and their Beneteau, Destination, was a 2003 model, same as Ednbal.  She even had the same colours right down to almost identical dodger and bimini.  There also waiting for a good weather window and would soon be going to Peck Lake. If all the rest of our stuff arrives at Willy's on time we could sail in company across to the Bahamas as they were also planning to make Green Turtle Cay (pronounced key) on the Abacos Island group the same as us.




Margaret also told us there was a grocery store a short walk from a bridge across a small inlet on the other side of the river. On Saturday 28 Jan we tied the dingy up under the bridge and walked about 100 metres to the shopping complex and Publix. We piled up a shopping trolley and walked it back to the dingy, unloaded and returned the empty trolley, all too convenient really!!  On Sunday we went over to Anchorage Marina to fill water and top up fuel (I had emptied the jerry cans into the generator fuel tank) before heading back to Peck Lake. There was a yacht lying across the end of the jetty with her bow protruding past the end so I backed in down one side and tied up. The vessel on the end belonged to a young couple, Peter and Crystal. It turned out that Peter was originally from Serbia, so he and Sasha had a good chat Serbo-Croatian. I took the opportunity to put on anchor chain markers, different colours every 10 metres and white at the 5 metre marks in between. By the time we ready to leave it was mid afternoon and the tide was coming in effectively pinning us to the dock. Now with the bow of the yacht in from blocking an easy forward exit we were in a spot of bother. I tried backing up but had no where to go so finally Sasha pushed our bow out off the dock as far as possible and away we went. Unfortunately the tide was sweeping us sideways fasted than I could get out and it seemed our aft staunchness would catch on the anchor protruding from the bow of the other vessel. Sasha screamed and I swung the wheel to kick our stern out, we just missed two very relived people.  Why didn't Peter move his boat back a bit? She had a 7 foot keel and was on the bottom!




We had a very cold trip back to Peck Lake with a 15kn icy Northerly behind us. In the cockpit I had scotch and Sasha stayed in the saloon all the way to keep warm by cooking dinner. More gear arrived at Willy's, HF aerial, Lewmar sail rigging spares and communications electronics’ - serial to USB converters (6), USB hubs (2 off 4 port), connecting cables etc. With still no weather window due to a procession of cold fronts we would have plenty to do.




Over the next week we got the HF radio up and going which then left Sasha to sort out the HF email. Did I mention the fridge, no, well that is another saga. For some time the freezer seemed to be consuming too much energy and getting too cold (down to -12C) even at low settings, 2 out of 8.  I fiddled with the thermostat but it appeared that, from time to time it would just stick on and the compressor would run continuously drawing about 6 amps. Eventually we ordered a new thermostat, installed it and problem solved.


Sasha’s addition to Rogers very brief commentary to Freezer Thermostat Saga:


I have an override permit as a publisher and this time decided to add my view. The thermostat was a “real drama” I had to live with for over a month! I mean it! Not only that Roger lost sleep over it, he would be awake for hours during the night – listening and counting minutes of freezer operation. Then, it would not be enough to grunge to himself in low voice, he would get up, open the freezer lid, adjust the thermostat (usually) to lower and return to bed. So, over the month or so – there were regular interactions between Roger and the Freezer’s thermostat (occasionally the Fridge thermostat was at fault too). The sequence was as follows:

1.    Roger complaints of Ah used in the morning. He is looking at the battery monitor display intensively, calculating % Ah usage of the past eight hours and concludes that % use is enormous – a theory is that during the night freezer must have run all night using 15-20% juices of the battery banks. However, this is never the case during the day, as then the % use is really very modest. What a moody behaviour of the freezer’s thermostat this is!

2.    Still grudging, he opens the freezer lid, checks the temperature on the thermostat positioned in the ice tray (acquired at Home Depot for the purpose of checking at the thermostat for the price of $1.25!), lets the cold air escape from the freezer big time, and then finally decides to reduce the thermostat setting,

3.    Freezer of course runs again for a period of time (has to cool down again after lid wide opening action by Roger!),

4.    Few tens of minutes later, Roger jumps up to the freezer, lid wide open again. He checks the temperature (which is usually not to his satisfaction, and you can hear his murmurs filled with complaints) and then either lowers or winds up the thermostat back again,

5.    Than the whole process continues.


During the following weeks, the agony not only continues but is picking up. Roger makes another purchase – this time a very sophisticated temperature measuring device at RV shop. The device not only measures freezer temperature but the outside ambient temperature, and not only that, it is also provided with Hi and Lo alarm settings. Very claver indeed! The Hi and Lo alarms are promptly set by Roger. So, after the new installation, the alarms go off few times a day – sometimes they beep “Temp Hi” and then other times, they beep “Temp Lo”, and Roger promptly attends to each and every alarm by adjusting a “sticky” freezer thermostat setting. Sometimes the setting is adjusted up, and sometimes it is adjusted down too. According to Roger - Thermostat is definitively “playing up”.


The discussion topics between me and Roger are reduced to bare minimum, rarely time left in between his complaints over the freezer thermostat and battery usage. At that point, I finally order over the Internet a new one (not Roger, but thermostat).


Next the new 200AHr AGM batteries that we had installed just before we started out cruising from Melbourne Fl in June 2006. Right from the start I was not happy with the discharge characteristic. The battery voltage would drop below 12 volts before even half discharged.  I had been in contact with the supplier, DC Marine, in Miami about it several times and the owner, Dave, suggested I take them in to get them checked and replaced if necessary. So, we hired a car, took the batteries out, left Ednbal on only the starting battery, took the batteries to the car by dingy and drive the 100 miles from Hobe sound to Miami.  It turned out that DC Marine was a whole sale outlet operating from a small unit warehouse in northern Miami. The guys there checked the cranking capacity and declared the batteries good. I spoke to Dave by phone and, although he guaranteed that new ones would behave the same, he agreed to replace them. So it was back to the boat and reverse the process. Only time will tell if the new ones are any different.



As a publisher, again, I could not resist the temptation of adding few words here. However, considering that the Thermostat saga lasted for only a month (see my comments about it above), I would have needed at least six times as much effort in describing the battery saga which lasted well over six months!



Finally we could see a good weather window coming up for the middle of the week. After a wonderful dinner at Brigitte and Willy's we were up early to get a few last minute supplies and return the hire car before upping anchor at just before 10:00 on Wednesday 7 February 2007 to run down to the Intracostal Waterway to the  nearest ocean outlet at Lake Worth.  The we filled fuel and tanks and pumped out the sewer holding tank before meeting up with Margaret and Mike on Destination to plan the crossing of the gulf steam and Grand Bahamas bank the next day.




Sailing in company



We agreed to leave at 01:00 so that we could be on the bank in daylight (55 miles) and at he first anchorage, Great Sale Cay, by about 17:00, at average 6kn, still good light. We went to bed early but took a long time to get to sleep, so excited about starting some ""real cruising"". We were up at 12:30 and had the anchor on board just before 1. Be the activity on the VHF several boats had already left. Along with Destination we headed out. With a light, around 8kn breeze from the South we motor sailed almost due East at a little over 7kn.  It was a glorious night, first good weather for a couple of weeks and it seemed like we had aced it!  After a few miles the echo sounder lost touch with the bottom and as the breeze dropped out we took in the sails. We had to motor but it was just beautiful. At around 9:30 the echo sounder began to register and within minutes it was only 30 metres deep.





We could see the water colour changing from deep ocean blue to shallow sandy coral green up ahead and by 10:00 we on the bank in 3 metres of water (yes our Bahamas charts were metric). Soon Sasha's anxiety about being in shallow water ebbed away as she too enjoyed, at last, BEING ABLE TO SEE THE BOTTOM. At last, truly away from the ugly brown of the ICW. It was a magnificent day, sunny, no breeze and the Grand Bahamas Bank like a mill pond for the whole 45 miles to Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited island in the midst of the Grand Bahamas Bank. We did a couple of cleaning and maintenance jobs but mostly just sat back and enjoyed. As we approached Great Sale's anchorage we prepared our swimming gear, masks snorkels etc, for as soon as we anchored it would be into the water.  There were 8 other yachts in by the time we arrived just before 5. The water was crystal clear, soft sandy bottom with the anchor in 3 metres of water. How fantastic to be in such water at last. Although cool (about 18C) we swam and checked out Ednbal's bottom. Some paint off the bottom leading edge of the keel and rudder, probably from the episode on the way down from Oriental, a bit slimy and the prop anode almost gone. After the swim and shower it was GnTs on the foredeck watching the big red ball disappear over the ocean, yes again, at last, seeing ocean sunset! No more rubbish in the water, no lumps of plastic all over the place, clean clear beautiful salt water.. We must be in paradise!


Sunrise on Bahamas