A SAILING Experience: Bahamas to Turks and Caicos

Monday morning 4.21 we pulled anchor at 8am in George Town after making breakfast, coffee and getting through our morning routine with the dogs. SV Krow was about 20 minutes ahead of us. We navigated out of the harbor south from San Dollar Beach and watched anxiously as Krow’s mast flung wildly back and forth like a metronome as they made their way into Exuma Sound. If the waves were rocking a 50′ Valiant that much, we would surely be experiencing more action than that very soon.

Previously satisfied with the way everything was stowed below deck, I did one more sweep of the entire boat to triple check that nothing would go flying. The dogs were happy and looking around. Peter put us on course to the northern tip of Long Island.

2-3′ seas and 10-12 knots carried us away into Exuma Sound on a beam reach with all sails up. The motor was off and all was great.


Rounding the northern tip of Long Island got a bit scary. The winds picked up to 15-20 knots with gusts of up to 25. The seas quickly grew to a relentless army of 5′ waves with the next charging at us right after the last as we traveled downwind. Another reminder that “when it’s time to reef, it’s too late”…

Sailing in conditions like this is new to us and we had a heck of a time getting the boat back under control and getting the sails down. 5′ following seas in 20 knots was just too much for us to keep any sails out that day so we turned the engine on, pointed straight into the pummeling waves to get the main and mizzen tied down. Peter had to bring them both down by himself since there was no way our autopilot was going to let me get away from the helm. It took every ounce of concentration I had to keep us dead center into the waves. As each one crashed over the bow my knuckles grew whiter and whiter. Peter was out on deck doing a fantastic job tying up the sails despite the stormy conditions. The whole ordeal took us about half an hour.

We were finally ready to fall off the wind and make a 180-degree turn to port. Mary Christine flung around like a ragdoll as we got back on course. The smallest slip of the hand or over-correction of the wheel would push us back broadside to the waves as she yearned to point dead into the wind. Every second had to be anticipated. All afternoon we held our compass heading and steered by our peripheral vision watching the rolling waves sweep under our stern gushing toward the bow.

Of course it wouldn’t be a passage if our fishing lines weren’t out. The zinging of the reel quickly changed our mood from high anxiety to bubbling with excitement. We landed our first Mahi Mahi while aboard the Mary Christine. It as about 20 lbs, not too bad! Somehow the fear fo the 5′ waves slowly disappeared as I helped Peter filet the fish on deck. The autopilot held well enough now that the winds had died down a bit. This fish would give us 5 meals each with plenty left for the dogs.


That night as the sun went down, we pulled further and further away from Long Island towards the Crooked Islands. The swell grew and the waves rose from 5′ to 8-10′. Eyeballing the steering was no longer an option as darkness engulfed the boat. I couldn’t see the waves sweep underneath us anymore which meant we had to rely strictly on our instruments and feeling the waves. At 5′ it was hard to “feel” our way downwind. Luckily, our course happened to be dead on downwind all night long.

We slept in shifts, sometimes two hours and sometimes three. We held our shift until we couldn’t stay awake anymore. Staring at a chartplotter in the dark is a little like driving on a lonely county road at night. Boredom sets in and it becomes hard to see with tired eyes.

As the sun came up the next morning the seas were much calmer. The gentle rolling of the ocean surface rocked us slowly. The weather was perfect with moderate winds and sunshine on our shoulders. All three sails went up and we made great time. We were just far enough away from our buddy boat SV Krow to not be able to see anyone or anything all around us. The overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity set in. The wind filled our sails and the sun kissed our faces. Mary Christine glided through the waves effortlessly and silently. All that could be heard was the cool ocean spray refracting off the bow. The water was a rich blue, so crisp and powerful.

The coast of West Caicos grew closer. Our friends on SV Krow took the northern cut to Provo. We anchored in solitude tucked inside the Southwest Reefs. The exhaustion of the completed passage wore on and we were fast asleep for a few hours of rest before continuing on to the Dominican Republic later that evening.

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There is something so incredibly enchanting about being on a boat in the middle of an ocean. It was just Peter and I out there, free from all the troubles and worries back on land, free from rules and free from the standards of society as we know it. There is so much more out there to discover and experience. The world is a beautiful place and what better time in our lives to feel the joy that sailing off into the sunset brings us!! Dreams really do come true!!



  1. Bean says:

    Peaceful with the wind in the sails and the water against the boat. Sunshine in your hearts. After sailing a bit with you I completely understand how you feel. Amazing life on the “Mary Christine” one day at a time! Love, Bean

  2. Richard Baila says:

    5′ seas I’m sorry we have those in B’ham bay. After you do much sailing in the trades the conditions you experienced are the norm. Both the NE and SE trades blow 20 to 25 and seas of 5 to 10 ‘ are not uncommon. When you are comfortable with that come visit in the high lats.
    Richard B

    • Hey Richard, It was our first experience with 5′ chop so close together. We prefer the lower lats WHERE THE COCONUTS GROW:) I would love to visit Bellingham again but most likely by plane to avoid those chilly waters!!

  3. German Enciso says:

    Hi ! this is your friend from Cartagena, Colombia. Jody you have defined the essence of the sailing life in the last sentences of your note today !!! Congratulations….there are no more words to it. The love and committment to the care of your dogs is really inspiring not only because the dogs are beautiful but because it comes from the compassion and sensibility inside yourselves !!! Looking forward when you show up in Cartagena…

    German Enciso

  4. Rick says:

    We are Just back from West Caicos on a liveaboard diveboat. Really enjoying your blog! We encountered large swells too while getting around to the west of the islands. I pondered the feel of a smaller sailing vessel. Thanks for posting.

  5. Capt. Jim says:

    There are no words that can describe the feeling of a crossing. I am so excited you have experienced it and can share that with others now. You will learn to enjoy the higher wind and large swells. The ultimate “E Ticket” ride.

    Great post.

  6. April says:

    Hi! Glad to hear from you again! Just as a little helpful trick with the Whitby 42’s: Because they are ketches, they are absolute beasts in rough weather (beasts in a good way). We used a nice little trick at Texas A&M with ours. When the weather starts getting a little heavy, you can leave the jib and mizzen sails up and take the main down completely. That way the center of effort on the sails is still held in roughly the same place, but you don’t get near the weather helm and the boat motion calms down considerably. We were able to keep sailing in several regattas when the boats around us had already given up and decided to heave to. That’s one of my favorite little features of a ketch rig.

    • April, THANK YOU! We do prefer to sail with our genoa and mizzen but this time we already had the main up when the winds and wave changed. Even after taking the main down it was terribly difficult steering downwind. We’re learning! Next time we’ll try that combo in heavier weather. We appreciate the tip for sailing a ketch! We would love to hear a few more ketch tricks!

  7. I just had to laugh! Our reaction in those conditions would have been exactly the opposite of yours — the sails would have stayed up, but absolutely NO fishing! Can’t imagine landing and filleting a fish in 5′ waves. Congrats to you — that mahi is gorgeous and makes me hungry!

    • Hi Carolyn! If the waves hadn’t been so close together it wouldn’t have bothered us at all :) We did pretty good for only a little over two months of cruising experience then! And thanks, the landing and filleting was the easy part for us ;)

  8. Myrna says:

    So glad you guys got thru that rough spell so well. It scared me just reading about it. I am not so sure I would describe the experience of being out there with nothing but water surrounding you, but maybe if I experienced it like you are I would love it to. Take care, Love, Myrna

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