We decided to begin our 3+ year adventure with a fairly long first leg, 1052 nautical miles (1210 statue miles) from Stuart, FL to the Island of Culebra, part of Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands. The people of Culebra call their island the “Last Virgin” maybe due to the fact it’s the westernmost Virgin Island, maybe due to the fact it’s not overly developed, but to us, it was the first Virgin Island coming from the States.
We planned to spend approximately 6-7 days at sea and as most of the waters we would be in are far too deep to anchor (over 20,000′ deep north of Puerto Rico), we would have to run the boat non-stop 24 hours a day. We were a little concerned about being stuck offshore in bad weather or sea conditions as it’s very hard to get a good long term forecast for some of the waters we would traverse.
We hired our usual professional weather router Chris Parker, who is typically very conservative and even tried to talk us out of several passages last year. He uncharacteristically forecast 10 days of “benign” weather. As most of you know, it’s difficult to forecast the weather out 2 days accurately in most major cities, but 10 days of good weather! He had to be right for only 6 of the 10 days, just long enough to make Culebra.
So on January 20, Ann’s birthday, we left the USA to head for… the USA. According to my phone call with US Customs and Immigration, since Culebra is a US territory, as long as we didn’t stop, anchor or have contact with another boat or foreign soil, we didn’t even have to notify them of our arrival. Apparently it’s like driving from Georgia to Alabama except with waves. We’re just so used to being hassled by Customs and Immigration when we get to a new island, it just didn’t seem right. We actually kind of missed the challenge.
The first two days of the trip were gorgeous! After crossing the gulf stream we had only 1′-2′ seas, sometimes less as we wound our way through the Bahamas: across the Great Bahamas Bank, through the Tongue of the Ocean, the Exuma Bank, through Highborne Cay Cut and finally Exuma Sound to the open waters of the North Atlantic.
Transiting Exuma Sound on Day 2
That’s when the someone mentioned how nice the weather had been and jinxed the rest of the freaking trip. OK, it wasn’t horrible, but at times, like 12 hours at a time, a little difficult to sleep , cook, walk and use the head. The waves never got really big, mostly 3′-4′, trending towards 5′ at times with an occasional 6′ thrown in whenever I was just starting to doze off. Then again, we would have several hours of 2′ seas just to tease us. All in all, Chris’s forecast was very good, the winds just being a little to a lot higher than predicted.
In addition to the weather, we also developed salt water leak in the engine room and the forward bilge at Day 3, not something you want to see offshore. It turns out the boat had probably never been loaded with a full 1700 gallons of fuel, 450 gallons of water and three years of provisions and spare parts before. This additional weight coupled with our speed put the generator exhaust under water and the thru-hull fitting was leaking steadily. In addition, the newly rebuilt water maker was leaking salt water in the forward bilge. Luckily we were able to slow the leaks and keep the water maker running using advanced duct taping techniques until we reached calm waters.
Unfortunately we were not able to fish very much due to the sea state (it’s difficult to stop the boat in 4′ seas to bring the fish in) and ended up with only two Skip Jack Tunas and a Barracuda, so nothing worth eating unless you’re a cat.
Jim and Linda Miller decided to join us for the journey to vacation and help crew and praise the Lord for that! It would have been a long trip for two people. With 4 of us, we set up 3 hour shifts giving us 9 hours between shifts to rest.
After 5-1/2 days, we arrived in Culebra on a Sunday to find our good friends Richard and Lavinia Maggs aboard the 42′ Krogen “Partners” waiting for us with our traditional Krogen breakfast of Bloody Marys! It was a great welcome and good to be anchored with them once again behind the beautiful reef at Dakity. Dakity Reef is one of our favorite places to anchor as the huge and very wide reef completely breaks the waves allowing beautiful anchoring conditions in turquoise waters with a fantastic view of nothing but open ocean.
Jim and Linda spent an additional week anchored with us in Culebra and we spent some quality time at the local bars and on the local beaches before they were forced to fly back to the States and the winter wonderland of 2015.
In 20′ of Water Transiting the Exuma Bank. The Water is so Clear, We Were Nervous ABout the Depth!
A Excited Pod of Dolphins Spots Us by Leaping High in the Air and Then Converge on the Boat