Category Archives: Cruising

Great Sale Cay

Skylark is anchored at Great Sale Cay. We’re hiding from very strong easterly trade winds 20 to 30 knots that started yesterday and expected to continue until Saturday. I was traveling with Polynya but left them yesterday. We had intended to anchor at Alan’s – Pensacola Cay but because the wind was strong and right on the nose we would have arrived after dark…and I can’t do dark. I have enough trouble seeing in the daytime and can’t see at all at night to navigate into an anchorage. And I wasn’t in a mood to take any risks because of what had happened earlier in the day.

Polynya and Skylark crossed over to the Bahamas bank without too much excitement. The first few hours were a bit rough with a NW wind around 10-15 against the Gulf Stream but we sailed and motor sailed straight to Grand Cay where we spent a few days at Rosie’s Marina to hide from a strong weather front that passed through. We then moved a few miles south to Double Breasted Cay, a beautiful uninhabited group of small, long and narrow islands and rock formations. It was tricky getting in with lots of shoals and a very strong tidal current and I ran Skylark aground twice. It was rising tide and John from Polynya came over in the dinghy to help push me off. We spent a few days there, shared a few meals including Christmas dinner on Polynya. Yum.

We left the day after Christmas on a rising tide and I ran up on the same shoal I hit on the way in. Only thing was, now even though the tide is rising, the current and a strong wind were pushing me further up onto the shoal. I couldn’t work Skylark loose and couldn’t even maintain position so We could float off on the tide. There was no way for Polynya to help since it wasn’t safe to try and stop or even to anchor outside and dingy back in because of the strong current. It was quite frightening and my prospects looked bleak. One tactic in this situation is to set an anchor and haul on it to pull the boat off the shoal or at least hold position while the tide rises. Way too much current and the tide was looking kind of high already which meant I didn’t have much time. I had forgotten to take the outboard off the dinghy like I planned to but I didn’t want to try using it as I was afraid if Skylark came loose she’d go flying into the rocks on the other side if the narrow channel. But I had to do something so with the dinghy still tied to Skylark, I tried pushing on the bow with the dinghy. Skylark slowly swung back about 45 degrees but wouldn’t go further. So I tied a line to the engine kill switch in the dink, tied the other end to the lifeline on Skylark and left Patch the ink pushing as hard as he could on the bow. With Skylark at full throttle she started inching forward. Now I’m wondering if there’s enough gas in the dink. After much sweating swearing and revving of engines Skylark was free! Run forward to yank Patch’s kill switch, run back to the helm to miss that big rock and out we went. Whew. That was bad.

So I’ll lay low here for a couple of days. Hope to meet up with Polynya after the blow. Here’s our position data.
At 12/30/1899 12:00 AM (utc) our position was ??°??.??’N ???°??.??’E

Lake Worth

It’s been a crazy crazy summer but it’s finally come together. Lots of stories to tell and pictures to share. Chaos and hurricane and lots of sweat. And swearing. There was swearing. The stories and pictures are all coming I promise but for now here’s a picture of Lake Worth, Florida taken tonight as Skylark waits to cross to the Bahamas. If the forecast holds we’ll leave tomorrow morning. I’m on Skylark alone but traveling with a boat named Polynya. That’s Polynya’s anchor light just ahead. A wonderful Canadian couple I met in the Abacos last year. Now did I forget anything…..

New Bern N.C. adventure

We have decided to leave Skylark in New Bern N.C. for the summer. She will be staying at the New Bern Grand Marina undergoing “beautification”. She will be dressed up and ready to sail back to the Bahamas in the fall. New dodger, Bimini and full enclosure. (Steve would not let me put sequins on her. Sigh.).


Some before and after pictures of Skylark. [image3.jpeg]
By the way… New Bern is a fun little town.


This post by Linda

East of 77W

Gene did a wonderful writeup from his diary of the trip.  I’ve inserted it below.  Included is a link to Google Docs with pictures and videos Gene took.  Big thanks to Gene for doing this, from my notes you’d hardly know we went offshore. 

Google Docs Link

9kylark Blog:  May 13 – May 21, 2018

These are diary notes of the trip to bring Steve’s boat, Skylark, a 27ft, 1983 Pacific Seacraft from Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas to Moorehead City, NC, a trip of apx 500 miles over the open Atlantic.  This is an adventure. The three of us are a strange crew. Steve is 60 and has 2 years sailing Skylark. Bobby Palumbo is 65 and has no sailing experience, I’m 75 and haven’t set foot on a sail boat in 40 years.  Not bad, not a motley crew, but ……


Day 1, Sunday (Dock Side/New Plymouth folders)

GM: NY to Ft Lauderdale.  6am flight. Met Bobby at airport prior to Island Flight.  Small prop plane, 30 people. Day was grey, overcast rainy when we landed.  Took ferry to Green Turtle Cay. Right to Skylark. Got gear on boat. Crowded.  Went to dinner, walked to town. Getting to know each other. Great dinner at Sundowner, fish (Mahi Mahi) and fried Conch.  Bobby’s first time with Conch which he liked. Back on boat, sleeping arrangements. I’m on the dinette bc of my snoring. Bobby decides to sleep in cockpit.  Started to rain. Bob came in to V-Berth. OK. Woke about 6am with light and roosters.


Day 2, Monday (Dock Side/ManJack Cay folders)

GM: Went to town shopping.  Wanted to buy some gifts and shirts.  Great lunch. Sweet little town (many pics).  Got boat ready to leave. Steve wants to move to an open anchorage.  We leave at 3pm heading West about 6 miles to anchor at Manjack Cay. This bay has about 8 boats anchored over a big bay.  Grilled steaks. Nice dinner outside, watched the sundown and talked. Saved some steak fat as bait. Put it on a hook and went to sleep.  Late, I woke to line being jerked hard off rod. I’m out in cockpit grabbing the rod, fighting something I can’t see, but it takes what it wants of the line.  It locks up the line, and I can’t move it, so I release the drag and go to bed. Next morning the 50lb line is broken. We thought it might be a barracuda or shark.  When we told the local dock master, he said it was probably a nurse shark. Oh Well.


Day 3, Tuesday (ManJack Cay folder)

GM: Steve listens to a Caribbean Weather service, Chris Parker, who gives specific area and routs forecasts for his subscribers.  The forecast was bad. Not going today. Big squalls came thru. Frustrating, but Steve is cautious about the timing of our leave vs the storms that are still out there.  We had a white out squall at anchorage (pics). Spent day watching other boats.

Steve starts the motor to run some power, and the engine gives off overheating warning.  Shuts down and starts to take the engine apart, right there – all over the cabin floor. Discovers that the impeller which forces cooling water thru engine had broken blades.  No problem. He pulls out the spare and puts it back together, all in about 90 min. MacGyver on the water. Dinner and two movies on my laptop.


Day 4, Wednesday (New Plymouth/Dock Side folders)

GM: All wanted to go, start, but forecast said it was still squally and would get better towards weekend.  Steve was torn but decided to look for a better window the next day or so. Going back to Green Turtle Cay.  We had a great 90 min sail back. I haven’t been on a sailboat in 40 years, but it’s like riding a bike, and all my previous sailing experience came back.  I started to point out some suggestions on sail shape to Steve. He said this knowledge about sail shaping using leach, slot, tack, etc. was areas that had eluded him in his sailing growth so far.  Able to share a lot with Steve. It worked for us all. Spent night on anchor out in the harbor at Green Turtle Cay. The forecast is looking better for Fri/Sat/Sun. Thur is D-Day.


Day 5, Thursday.  (Underway)

D-Day 1.  

GM:  Everybody up at 5:30 ish.  Coffee. Then we move boat back to Black Sound Dock for final topping off (water, groceries).  We also wanted/needed to shower. Each of us was pretty gamey after 4 days. More pics. Said goodbyes and left dock at 10am.  Headed for cut out into Atlantic about 8 miles west, basically downwind. It is sunny and beautiful. Colors are so alive. Hit the cut at 12:30 pm.  Arrive at the waypoint to turn north and we’re now on a starboard broad reach, trade winds 18-23 kts wind. PERFECT. One reef on main, 100% jenny. (video)  We watch the speed climb. We’re up to 6.5-7 kts. Skylark was built for these conditions. Steve then turns on the self-steering vane… OMG! What a wonder this rig is.  Holds steady angle setting to the winds. When knocked off by quartering waves, it comes back smoothly. As the day goes on, we’re learning to trust it. Come night, we shortened sail bc we don’t know what’s coming at night.  Speed dropped to 4-5 kts, but we’re good with that. Sea state appears to me to be 4-6’

Chris Parker says lots of squally weather west of 77 degrees Longitude.   We’re right at 77 going north. Steve sets the course to work 10-15 degrees east of north.

Steve decides to cook a steak on the stove.  Not having a harness belt, he gets knocked hard to port and conks his head.  We were fortunate, blessed as he hit a panel that had some give vs a hard wall.  A real hard hit could have ended the trip right there. He took some aspirin and went to bed for an early sleep.    

We sail 120 degree wind angle (NNE).  I take the 12/12:30-4am slot. Lots of stars.  Then cloud cover and darkness. Lots for me to deal with in my head and past storm PTSD.   Self-steering is a wonder. Lonely, meditated a lot. Forgot to put music on my phone. Winds moderated a bit @ night 15-18, so did the seas.   Steve comes up at 4. He and I see our first vessel, big (600’) way in the distance. Steve gets on the phone and they respond and say they see us, and eventually crossing our bow about 1 mile ahead.  

Right after when Bob/Steve relieved me, there was a big squall with lots of rain.  It was cloudy thru the AM. (Videos).

We set all time hi for Skylark of 124 miles for a 1 day run. And then beat that day two:  Steve is learning a lot about subtle sail changes- shape and setup.

Day 6, Friday

D-Day 2.  (Underway)

GM:  Big Day.  No Storms – lots of waves.  Lack of sleep begins to catch up with us.  Last night I served up and ate the leftover steak.  Bad idea – got sick. I was groggy in AM from lack of sleep.  Went down and filled pt bottle with water, drank it all down and threw up within 2 min.  Went up on deck to lie down, and got sick again, over the side. All during time, kept turning to the Guru.  After 5 min on the low side, Skylark slides down the back of a good wave and takes 6-12” of warm sea water over me.  A wakeup, but a warm one. I snap out of my weakened state. All sense of illness gone in an instant! The Shock of God!   Worked all day w guys, fresh and feeling good.

Today we flew wing and wing.  Jenny out on a pole. This stabilized the boat.  (From the waypoints it looks like Skylark made 150nm on day 2) SS.  Beautiful day.  We passed the ½ way point.  Tomorrow we expect to hit the Gulf Stream.  We’ll know by increase in water temp. All Good!


Day 7, Saturday

D-Day 3. (Underway)

GM: Sunny morning.  Entered Stream over-night bc water temp jumped 1.5 d.  Waves start to increase. Soldiers, big boys. We’re sailing on starboard broad reach 18-25 kts.  As good as it can get for Skylark and us. Day after day. We know we’re getting closer. Nights are the hardest, on deck alone, only the sound of the boat and waves, dark, wet.  Tests me.


Day 8 Sunday   

D-Day 4 (Underway)

GM:  The waves get bigger, 6-8 ft, then some look bigger.  They’re not a problem for Skylark except for the roll and occasional splash.  But its impressive. The “?” factor are the Squalls, especially at night. We had 2, both in day light.  No lightning!! Last one on the way out of the Stream. We saw it in the radar, watched it over take us. I went down to grab something – the camera, and by time I got back, it was too wet to leave cabin.  35 kts and lots of rain. 15-30 min and its over. Easy if you’re rig is set right, and Skylark is. We had a double reef main and 60% jib out. Handled just fine.

We saw three big vessels crossing our route over last 2 days.  All ID’d on Garman. The night cleared as we approached MooreHead City.  We went on port tack for a couple hours to set up our entry to the port as we had moved far enough east.  Steve’s experience with Moorehead was challenging, big waves, lots of big traffic, bad tides. But as the evening got later and we got closer, the waves dropped, and at 2am, there was very little traffic.  The water, wind and current were very smooth. Steve’s past tracks showed on Garman, which we followed into the port. It was difficult to see the markers, but the Garman map made it easy– easy like a video game.  We found an open spot at the Marina and hooked up to the dock at 2:30am.

We were all tired, very smelly and needing sleep.  We took quick showers in the cockpit and went to bed by 3am.  I woke up at 8 with the marina manager standing along-side Skylark.  He welcomed us and asked us to come register and check in with immigration.  Steve called them, and they showed up within 30 min. Examined our docs, asked some questions, had us get rid of some fruit, etc and were gone.   

We made the passage in 3 days, 14 hours at an avg of 5.83 kts/hr.  That’s a big number for Skylark, and a very good ride.

Day 9, Monday (Moorehead City)

We spent two days at dock, cleaning up, meeting other sailors/boats, winding down.  Bobby met and left with his son. I’m going home on Tue. Steve will meet Linda on Sunday and take the ICW up to Norfolk Va.   

Lots of pics


Bobby is fearless.  Coming on this trip with virtually no sailing experience and trusting his friendship with Steve and how capable he knows Steve is, man, that’s a big deal.  He held down all his watches, kept the space open, no complaining, and now he has this trip and experience! Bob was a great crew and a good man.

Steve is the perfect skipper.  Thoughtful, prudent, knowledgeable, listens, wants to learn and takes suggestions, and for the most part funny.  I might have to learn to speak some sarcasm. I look forward to sailing with him and Skylark again.

Amazing adventure.  It reawakened my deep love of sailing, and as Steve said, the really had parts recede and you’re left with the highlights which make all the difference.   Amen!


Bahamas to North Carolina

Skylark’s crew, Gene and Bob. Gene has considerable sailboat racing experience and he taught me a tremendous amount about sail trim on the trip. Bob is new to sailing but did great.   Here they are studying the navigation chart.  

Gene, Bob and I at the dock in Green Turtle Cay during final preparations.   

Here’s our GPS track from the eastern Abacos to North Carolina.  The X isn’t significant .    Just under 500 nautical miles, 3 days 14 hours.  Phenomenal time for little Skylark. The distance traveled was actually greater as we didn’t sail a straight line in order to take best advantage of the wind and keep the motion of the boat reasonably comfortable. Our best day was 140 miles, our average speed was 5.8kn for entire 84 hours. The first night out we shortened sail considerably for fear of squalls and averaged around 4.5kn. Steering was handled by the Monitor wind vane which performed flawlessly. We were almost 3 days on starboard tack sailing a broad reach in varying wind strengths mostly around 20-25 with waves around 5-7′. We only hit one squall of consequence which packed sustained winds of 35kn, the vane handled that well too. Skylark was amazing. It was as if she knew exactly what to do, complained if we didn’t set the sails properly and happily romped over the waves when we did.

It did get a little wet. Well, it got really wet.  When Skylark slid down the face of a wave, occasionally there was another wave coming from a different direction that partially fell into the very rear of the low side of the cockpit as we hit the bottom of the trough.  

We got lax on the watch schedule and didn’t keep to the 3 hours on and 6 off that we agreed on.  As skipper I should have insisted on following this, I think it would have been less tiring for everyone.

For the next extended trip I’ll plan simpler meals.  I was overly ambitious about cooking underway, I tried once and went flying across the cabin.  For all the safety gear we have on deck I had never given any thought to safety inside the cabin besides the existing hand holds and lee cloth.

The crew also requested speakers outside in the cockpit so they can listen to music on those night watches.

I’ll also give more thought to how to stay dry….

In the dark, we tied up to the dock next to the marina instead of the marina dock. I jumped off the boat to reconnoiter, didn’t see the missing dock boards and took a plunge. Gratefully I only injured my pride.  Very anticlimactic.

We had an awesome trip, Skylark performed flawlessly and Chris Partner’s weather forecasts were spot on.