Clarence Town, at the southeast end of Long Island, Bahamas, is a quiet and almost empty little town. It has a small general store where we could get bread and a few shelf-stable groceries but no fresh produce or dairy. There are also a few restaurants on the island and a fairly large marina/resort. Besides the marina, the most active area in town was the government dock. Every Monday, the mail boat arrives at the dock but by Wednesday all of the fresh items not snapped up by locals and cruisers are shipped off to other parts of Long Island. We arrived on Wednesday, sigh.
Our time in Clarence Town was mostly preoccupied with passage planning. The wind, waves and ocean swell were too lively for us to travel before the weekend but the forecast showed that on Sunday or Monday a possible window was opening up to go from Clarence Town to the northwest side of Crooked Island, south to the tip of Acklins (both 7 hour day hops) and then to make the big jump over to Great Inagua. This last bit is about 85 nautical miles so it would mean doing our first overnight sail. We wanted to get our weather window right to make it as safe and comfortable as possible.
We spent many hours studying the weather and discussing options with our boat buddies, Kemana and Kesh. Our weather window for the last two legs of our journey looked great but the wind direction for travelling to Crooked Island, our first leg, wasn’t good at all. Our solution? We decided to cut out those first two legs. The wind was perfect for going straight from Clarence Town to Great Inagua in one big 27-hour sail. This option looked so good, we even picked up a fourth boat for our pod. “That’s It!” a 47-foot Catalina from Canada (also going to Grenada) would be travelling with us.
Monday morning, we weighed anchor at 0700 and set sail. We were excited. Our first passage that included an overnight sail was underway.
We had a beautiful sail from Clarence Town and up to the southwest tip of Acklins. It was one tack and we hit speeds of 8.7 knots. So far, the trip was fun and easy 😊.
But, once we cleared past Acklins Island, we were in the open Atlantic. The wind speed kept its steady 18 to 20 knots but the waves and swell increased significantly. We were rocked and rolled over and over. It was now 1900 hours. Nighttime had arrived. Thankfully, we had an almost full moon illuminating the ocean. Both Mike and I stayed in the cockpit all night, trading off shifts at the helm. Every two hours, one of us would monitor the dashboard and the other would sleep. Our automatic pilot did all the steering. Our pup Ocean stayed in the cockpit with us all night, sleeping the whole time. What a great sailing pup!
During the night, the rocking from the swells was uncomfortable, for sure, but we got used to the motion. Well, except for the really big swells that would hit the boat broadside every minute or so. Yeesh. Movement during those times was impossible without getting launched sideways. We were safely tethered though so no midnight swims!
When the sun peaked out at 0600, we could see Matthew Town and all was right with the world. We had done it! Our first overnight sail in the open ocean. We were anchored at Matthew Town at 0700 on Tuesday morning, a full three hours earlier than planned. A sweet treat was a solo dolphin that greeted our arrival and hung around while we finished anchoring. Ocean loved the little guy! Our three other buddy boats arrived at the anchorage shortly thereafter.
Matthew Town was wonderful. Ocean was a hit, once again, with the locals. People love her sunglasses! Besides exploring, we picked up a few necessary grocery items for the next overnight leg. We learned that you have to have food at the ready (cooking and moving around the boat is extremely difficult on a passage) so we grabbed more granola bars, muffins and easy to make instant soups. The most interesting errand of the day, however, was getting fuel. Matthew Town doesn’t have a proper fuel dock. Instead, you call a guy and he brings fuel to the dock. So, we called “the guy” and he said he was out of fuel until at least the weekend. “No, no” we were told, “You called the wrong guy. Call this guy.” Called the “other guy” but same answer. No fuel until at least the weekend. George the Harbourmaster then came up with a third guy to call. Well, three times is the charm! This guy arrived at the dock in his car and took all of us to his place of business in town to get the pre-ordered fuel needs for all four boats. While he topped up our jerry cans, we learned that his place of business doesn’t just do fuel top ups. No, he also runs a bar, restaurant, liquor store, hair salon, ice cream parlor, contracting work and a radio station in the same building. Now that is multi-tasking!!
Although Matthew Town is an inviting little Bahamian town, our main focus was to rest, get a few necessary groceries, fuel-up and get going to the Dominican Republic. We have a beautiful weather window opening up for Friday and want to make sure we are ready to go. Wednesday was busy with preparations and also moving the boat to the south shore of Great Inagua to shorten the distance to Luperon. By staging the boats at Lantern Head, our trip becomes 147 nautical miles, almost three hours shorter. We can’t wait!!
Click the link below to see where we are right now!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.