While out in the Bahamas last winter I took to trying to collect a bit more video to put together some stories about our times cruising the islands. It’s such a wild and unique experience. In my work I normally film and pass off the footage to the production and so I’m not burdened with the consuming work of editing. With this project I have to put in the time to tell the whole story. To collect the sound, choose the music, create narration.
It’s a highly self-reflexive process and one that takes me far too long to complete. As it is now July and here we have Episode 1: Lost Stabilizer in Bahamas Wind Storm.
Those of us that live on the water know this term well. We sculpt much of our lives around the weather.
We’re extremely lucky to have the technology we have today. GPS and advanced weather predictions help us make better, safer decisions. After the refit we had our usual pre departure scramble, though amplified by three years of parts and pieces to sort out. Each morning we refresh weather data on TimeZero, scan through different models on Windy and check the wave predictions on BuoyWeather.com. We weren’t planning a major crossing, 24 or so hours total run, across the gulf stream, past Bimini, a quick customs check in Nassau then a final pass over the bank to Staniel Cay.
All of this requires a few things to line up. The winds on the gulf stream should be light and from the south, lest they rake across the current and make for short period waves. The boat can handle quite a bit, but after a refit and not having run in a while, we preferred a comfortable crossing. Timing needs to be just right to make Nassau during custom’s office hours and allowing for a mid-morning, sunny departure to cross the bank; a shallow (12-20 feet deep) sandy stretch between Nassau and the Exumas that is littered with coral heads that can be within a foot or two of the surface and require good, vertical sunlight to see and avoid.
As we ran our errands, collecting parts for a few final projects, offloading various unneeded items to storage and a late night run to provision, we kept checkin the weather and watching lake-like conditions on the Atlantic gulf stream fading, our window shrinking.
Finally, we finished the preparations, well enough. A number of projects still open, to be finished along the way. We wound our way over the tunnel, down the New River, under the 17th street causeway. Terry, on the Lauderdale water taxi, expressed her joy at seeing us moving again; and offered to come along as a deck hand, not knowing it was no day cruise, but an open-ended departure.
A collective sigh of relief as we passed the port and out to sea, the auto-pilots working ‘well enough’ but still in need of tuning. The sun set behind Miami and Fort Lauderdale, dark encroaching from the east and the stars rose over Bimini as we passed just north of the island in the night. Across the familiar, shallow bank, shoal markers, Bahamas freighters passing in the night, until the towers of Atlantis appeared on the horizon along with the sun.
We found a temporary slip at the Yacht Haven marina in Nassau. Having completed the cumbersome registration process and payment online, we then had to wait an hour for a customs official to come to the boat simply to collect an additional fee. Another window ahead, was diminishing, but fortunately we departed just as the clouds opened and we could make our way south, across the banks and opted to anchor on the east side of Norm’s Cay, right at the edge of our weather window.
With the anchor set and the outriggers launched, Luke decided to try out using the paravanes as ‘flopper stoppers’ to stabilize the boat form the slight roll caused by the incoming swell. As the winds picked up to about 30 knots overnight, we slept, safe and sound. In the morning however, the line to the port ‘fish’ (paravane) was dangling in the wind.
I was happy to be in the water, albeit mission at-hand, to find the 50 pound, aluminum stabilizer plate somewhere on the seabed. The poor water clarity made the search tough, but after a couple hours I was able to locate and mark the escapee with a buoy, then return with a line to winch it from the seafloor. The plate was resting on a rock covered with coral, which was a bit disheartening as we try to avoid impacting the places we visit and carefully choose our anchorages. Coming in with growing winds, it was hard to see that there were a couple rocks in the area but after removing the paravane, I suspect the shackle pin broke free and the plate glided over to rest where it landed. The plates are designed to work as underwater gliders, balanced to fly through the water like a paper airplane.
With the winds, dying it’s on to Staniel Cay to meet Charlie and Jeff, in bound from the cold NorthWest.
No, not us, but our namesake, the beautiful sailing schooner Wanderbird, also known as Elbe No 5, was struck by the 465-ft container carrier Astrosprinter on the Elbe river near Hamburg in Germany last June in 2019.
We often check in on the old wooden boat, to see if she’s had any work or a change of ownership. Hamburg Maritime Foundation, the most recent owners, had recently completed a $1.7million refit at a Danish yard and she was enjoying work as a tour boat when the unfortunate incident occurred.
We had always dreamt of sailing our little sister to meet the noble schooner and while she rests just underwater, chances grow slim as she’s consigned to the briney depths.
As for us, we continue to make preparations during quarantine. After more than two months, the boat is back in the water while we wrap up the repairs and improvements.
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