Follow Joe and Leah aboard SENECA

The sail north…part 3


After clearing customs and immigration and grabbing conch fritters and a cold Kalik I was back on SENECA to have my much deserved dram of rum. I tried to sleep, but it was so hot in the boat that I only managed a short nap before getting up and jumping in the marina pool and showering. As I do whenever getting to a new place I spent the afternoon walking, scouting things out and generally getting a feel for the town. By this time of the season in Marsh Harbour the cruisers have been replaced by luxury deep sea fishing yachts. Little (yet mighty) SENECA sat in her slip surrounded and dwarfed by these modern day hunting ships most of which were unoccupied and waiting for a charter. This all lead to the town quite slow even by Bahamian standards. I was not looking for nor expecting spring break, but I was dying to tell some sea stories over a couple of beers to someone besides my bird friend, Bandito.


Today was spent provisioning for the next leg and there was a fairly big grocery store which I shopped at. I was able to replenish my stores from the last trip and add some things that I learned I craved out there. I added a bunch of canned juices and coconut water (a real treat) to vary my drink selection, more fruit and a few more cans of pasta and chili for the quick easy dinners.

Back on the dock in front of the marina a local guy was making fresh conch salad. I grabbed a bowl and found a palm tree were I could sit and enjoy the fresh conch salad and a cold Kalik. Sitting there I was flooded with a feeling of contentment. I thought about the last five years and how much I had learned about sailing and boats and cruising. I had sacrificed a lot and it worked hard to get here and under that palm in the Bahamas on that day it was all worth it.

At happy hour a beautiful young girl sat next to me at an otherwise empty bar. I was able to tell her with my tales of crossing the grand ocean and she told me how she had just arrived and … she was waiting for her charter captain boyfriend to come back from a sail. Damn, the Gods are good to me, but not that good. I returned to my marina and few new people that just sailed in were in the pool. I joined them and talked sailing and Charleston for a bit. Also at the pool were some really nice sportfisherman gave me a steak hot off the grill. Pretty good night.


In the morning I bought a couple last minute things and checked the weather forecast again. The winds were looking light for the next week, but I did not want to sit around waiting for better winds. My thought was to get out and head west and hopefully get some lift from the gulf stream. At 10:30, with my batteries charged, I pulled out of the slip and gassed up. When I sailed out into the harbor I planned on anchoring out in a small harbor for the night and do some fishing and swimming, but the 10- 15 knot winds were moving me along pretty well so I kept sailing out of the channel and got on a heading to Charleston.

I cooked a nice dinner and then winds tapered at dusk as I butchered the ukelele and smoked my mersham pipe. With the full batteries I kept Gilbert on all night and was able to get on a good sleep schedule.


Winds were light, but at least was expecting that. I trolled a coupple fishing lines and was entertained all day by a family of fish that swam along in my wake. It was a slow day averaging 2.5 knots. Ran the engine for a couple hours after dinner to keep the batts charged.


Wind picked up that night with gilbert on the helm. I was actually doing 4 knots! The seas were building by morning and got to be 3-5 with breaking crests. Wind shifted to the west and put me on a more northerly heading.

As the sun went down winds were really building and I reefed the jib. A couple hours later some lightning packed squalls were catching up to and surrounding me. I had waited too long to reef the main and by the time I decided to it was really dark, seas were up to 5-8 and breaking, and winds were gusting 25+. ‘Reef early’ had always been my mantra, but with all the light winds I guess I forgot what it was like to be overpowered. I had to head up into the wind and seas to reef. Holding on to the mast and reefing (strapped into my harness of course) in the dark while taking waves over the bow is not fun. After getting the reef in I turned to run with the seas and was very relieved how much it control I regained because of the reef. Gilbert was unable to deal with the following seas so I was forced to hand steer all night through the squalls.


At 5am the winds finally calmed and Gilbert took over as I slept hard for three hours (through my alarm) in the cockpit. Winds were down to a very nice 15 with some lingering seas. Winds were still west and I was able to hold my rhumbline to Charleston. I was able to sneak in a couple of naps and catch up on sleep today. Had an MRE dinner and ate a mango that a woman had given me in Marsh harbour. By night I was picking up VHF weather forecast from the east coast coast gaurd. That made me feel close.

Winds shift to NW.  Gilbert drove for 11 hours allowing me to catch up on sleep.  By morning I was definitely in the gulf stream as I was swept north.  only 80 miles from Charleston!  at 1:15 I saw dolphins, always a good 2:00 I was picking up South Carolina radio stations.  Winds shifted to SW as I got through the stream.  Kept very close watch on the horizon expecting boat traffic to increase


Sailed until 5am and I could see buoy lights and a few boats.  Made some coffee and at 6:20 I passed the outer channel marker.  I was soon crossing over my southbound route from 4 years ago.  I fired up the engine as the winds died for the last time and motored past Ft Sumter.  Motoring through the early morning glassy Charleston harbor I straightened up SENECA and made phone calls.  By 10 I was pulling into a slip in Ashley Marina.  US customs met me at the dock and two really big agents came aboard making SENECA feel tiny.  They checked me back into the country.  I then did my much deserved dram.  Opened a tiny bottle of champagne that I got back in Culebra.

5 dayy 399 nm.  Four years SENECA was back in the US.


October 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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