08 July 2015

In Search Of Whales & Other Scary Stuff | The Whale Cay Passage, Bahamas

I'm scared of so much stuff already, now I have to add roosters to the list?! Sign seen at Green Turtle Cay.

Everybody is scared of something.

If someone tells you that nothing scares them, then there just scared of admitting that they're like the rest of us - human. All humans feel fear. It's normal. So's taking pictures of tiny polar bears at Death Valley. Perfectly normal. Just saying.

Of course, we're all are scared of different things. Which is good, otherwise things would be boring and nothing would get done. Imagine if we were all scared of getting burned using an oven. The world would be unthinkable - who would make the chocolate chip cookies that sustain us during times of fear? Yes, I rely on large amounts of cookies to get me through scary events.

Do you talk about what you're scared of?

Scott is one of those reserved types from North Dakota. They don't say much and they certainly don't talk about personal stuff too easily. Like what they're scared of. So, he might come across as not being scared of anything. But, he is. We all are. Me, on the other hand, I'll confess my fears to anyone who will listen. I'm a walking poster child for all scaredy cats out there. I'm Queen of the Scaredy Cats (this would make a fabulous t-shirt, by the way).

Guess what, sailing freaks me out. 

There's some scary stuff out there. Like whales. No, I don't mean whales are scary on their own. They're incredible. They're amazing. They're beautiful. I would love to see some, but just not right next to my boat. And certainly not coming up underneath my boat and bashing it into tiny pieces. Now, the thought of that is downright scary. Pass the cookies, please.

Unfortunately, there is a cut you have to go through to get from one side of the Abacos to the other. It's called the Whale Cay Passage. Any alarm bells ringing for anyone? Unless you have a really shallow draft, if you want to get from the central Abacos to the southern Abacos, you have to go out into the Atlantic Ocean, around Whale Cay, down through the Loggerhead Pass and into an old cruise ship channel. After that, you can breathe a sigh of relief. 

I was scared we were going to run into a posse of whales.

Turns out, what you're supposed to be afraid of are the rages. These aren't the types of rages you experience when someone eats the last chocolate chip cookie that you were counting on. Nope. As our trusty Waterway Guide describes them, these are "powerful, turbulent and lethal seas." I can almost live with the terms "powerful" and "turbulent", but lethal. That's a whole different story. Lethal means you can die. As if I didn't have enough to worry about, what with the cookie supply getting low.

The trick is to only do the passage when the weather conditions are right. When we made the passage coming down to the southern Abacos, the weather was brilliant. Flat, calm seas. Easy peasey. Piece of cake.

Coming back, things were entirely different. The weather was unsettled and the wind was kicking up a bit too high. So, we had to wait for a weather window. Sailors love talking about the weather, thinking about the weather and dreaming about the weather (or is that having nightmares about the weather). After all, when the weather is bad, you could die. You can see why it's important, can't you? The possibility of death brings a certain focus on things.

Cruisers obsess over the weather. After all, it can kill you.

When we were in the central Abacos, we struggled to get any weather information on our VHF. The few times we were able to get free WiFi, the first thing we would do is check the weather sites, like Barometer Bob. Not email, not Facebook, not the news - just the weather. Basically, it was all a crapshoot as to what the next day would hold in terms of weather. Fortunately, the weather was pretty darn good, all the way until we got to the southern Abacos. 

Fortunately, once you get down south, you can pick up the Abacos cruisers net on your VHF every morning. You tune in with a cup of coffee in hand and listen to the deep, resonant voice of Skip of S/V Flying Pig, the net controller (I wonder if he was a radio announcer in the "real world"?). You get the latest weather forecast, condition reports for the various cuts and passages, hear questions and announcements from fellow cruisers and listen to advertisements from local businesses. By the time you're done listening to the advertisements, you're really hungry, as all they do is talk about the fabulous food and drink on offer at various establishments. We're cheap and cheerful travelers, so we never did patronize any of the local haunts, but they all sounded delicious - pig roasts, tropical drinks, burgers etc. In fact I'm getting hungry as I write this - what I wouldn't give for some Bahamian mac n'cheese right now.

We listened each morning and held off making our way back up north for a few days as a result of the forecast. Which is smart. It's that whole avoiding death thing, or at the very least avoiding an unpleasant passage. Our pals from S/V Wild Blue left the day before us. They later reported that it was quite lumpy with 6 ft/1.83 m rollers. I think their cats puked during the passage. Never a good sign.

Lumpy and rollers - two of my favorite words. Try working them into conversation at your next cocktail party.

Lumpy. Don't you just love that word? It makes me think of mattresses which need replacing, the cellulite on my thighs and the bumps and bruises I get bashing into things on our boat in lumpy seas. Sailors like to use the term lumpy to describe choppy waves. 

And rollers. Another great word. It makes me think of rolling the dice at a casino and being rolled in the streets by a mugger for your casino winnings. Sailors like to use the term to describe heavy, swelling waves that break on the coast.

Lumpy seas and rollers. That doesn't sound too bad when you put it that way. But when you're experiencing it, I think there are some naughty works that might describe things better. 

When we headed back up north through the Whale Cay Passage, we too had lumpy seas and 6 ft/1.83 m rollers. Fortunately, they weren't overly lumpy or roller-like. Which was good, given the state of our cookie supply. The passage was okay. Not great, but okay. And the best part of all, there wasn't a single whale to be seen! We anchored peacefully at Green Turtle Cay with our boat intact.

LOGBOOK NOTES | Friday, 29 May 2015
  • Total Nautical Miles - 23
  • Anchor Up - Matt Lowe's Cay
  • Anchor Down - Green Turtle Cay
  • Sails Soaring & Engines Roaring - we had the sails up for the entire passage, but put the engine on as we made our way through the cut as the wind was directly behind us
  • Number of Bob Marley Songs Butchered - 2 (that night sitting in our cockpit, we were "treated" to a concert by a really bad singer somewhere on Green Turtle Cay)
  • Number of Goombay Smashes - Nil (see, we have some sort of self-control, even when it comes to the Blue Bee bar in Green Turtle Cay)

Next time on the blog...it's time to bake a chocolate cake, someone's having a birthday!

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  1. I got completely freaked out one night sailing down the coast, middle of the night a strange glow appeared, looked like it was zooming towards me at high speed. I lost it, thought it was an alien or something - woke Andrew up and he came flying up to see the moon rising... felt a bit silly after that...

    1. I LOVE this!!! This is the type of thing that happens to me all the time! Although, you can't be too sure. It could have been an alien with some sort of cloaking device that made it look like the moon when Andrew got up there :-)

  2. i would be wary of the attack roosters. farm animals are not friendly and roosters will definitely peck at you!

    1. I always found geese to be a little off-putting. They seem like they would peck at you without any hesitation.

  3. I loved this! You nailed it. We did Whale Cay this spring and last year too and luckily all went well the four passages. But it can be scary. Your writing is hilarious. I will now go back and read your other posts.

    1. Thanks Sherry! I just checked out your photos - they're absolutely stunning!


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