Green Turtle Cay to Treasure Cay
05 March 2011 | Treasure Cay Marina
Sailboat aground in entrance to White Sound, Green Turtle Cay
Mar 1: After a very pleasant supper at the Green Turtle Club restaurant, we set down to plan our next trip which was to be to Treasure Cay. A couple of cruisers highly recommended the Treasure Cay Marina as a good place to stage out of while cruising the south part of the Sea of Abaco so we wanted to stay there a night or two to check the area out. The first part of our planning is always a check of the upcoming weather. The next day, March 1, looked to be ok, but after that, the weather was going to get a bit dicey. A cold front (what else) was coming through on March 2 bringing high winds out of the north for the next several days. That was highly significant because to get from Green Turtle to Treasure Cay and other southern destinations you have to go around the "Whale" and you can't do that when high winds are blowing from the north.
The Sea of Abaco is divided into two halves by a shoal that extends out from Treasure Cay (which is actually a peninsula on Great Abaco) out to an island called Whale Cay. The shoal is too shallow for larger boats to cross so it is necessary to go out into the ocean to go around Whale Cay. This requires going through a passage in the offshore reef called the Whale Cay Channel. In strong north to east winds, the passage can become dangerous with steep breaking waves. These conditions are known as a "rage". The weather forecast was predicting just those conditions.
Well, no problem. We had a whole day before the winds were going to clock around to the north and increase. We just needed to get off reasonably early in the morning to ensure an easy passage.
The next morning around 9am we headed out to cross the Whale. As we motored away from the marina we could see a sailboat just entering the White Sound entrance channel. It had its sails up but didn't appear to be moving. As we got closer, we realized why. It was aground.
The entrance channel to White Sound has a controlling depth of about 5 feet. It is an "L" shaped channel and quite narrow, maybe two large boats wide. The larger boats go in or out one at a time.
The grounded sailboat, we later found out, had a 6 foot draft. He had entered the channel with the tide up about a foot just an hour or two before low tide. If he had followed his wife's advice, he would have been ok. She told him to stay in the center of the channel but he instead tried to "cut the corner" in the "L" of the channel.
As we motored out, we could see that the skipper was trying hard to get off the shoal. He had his sails up to try to heel the boat over to reduce his draft and was using his dinghy to try steer the boat off the shoal. We decided to stay well clear to give him room to work so we went back into the sound and took up a mooring buoy. After a while, a couple of cruisers in dinghies joined him to help out. Nothing worked. The tide was dropping too fast to allow the boat to be pulled off the shoal. About 11am, the skipper dropped the sails, deployed an anchor to prevent the boat from going further on the shoal, and sat back to await the next high tide coming up at about 3pm.
From the sound, we couldn't tell if the grounded boat was blocking the channel or not. One report said that there might be room to go around but the reporter wasn't sure. So we sat and stewed. Our precious Whale crossing day was running out. Finally about 12:30pm a 44 ft catamaran decided to try to go around. He made it out with no apparent problems, opening up the channel for the rest of us. When we went out at about 1pm, we found the grounded boat to be right on the edge of the channel leaving maybe 3/4th of the channel open.
Our rounding of the Whale turned out to be very easy. We entered the Whale Channel after a rousing one hour sail from Green Turtle in 15 to 20 kt winds fortunately from the SW. The Channel turned out to be no rougher than the rest of the Sea of Abaco which was choppy with 2 to 3 foot waves. We continued on to Treasure Cay Marina arriving there about 5pm.
As I write this on March 3, the weather forecast has pretty much come to pass. On March 2, the day after we arrived in Treasure Cay, the Whale was still passable in the morning but very rough. The local weather report showed winds during the afternoon up to 25 knots out of the north. Today, the cruisers net says the ocean passages are close to impassable with near "rage" conditions. The peak wind speed today reached 35 knots out of the ENE.
Meanwhile, we are tucked safely here in Treasure Cay Marina. Our intended overnight stay has stretched to four days already and will probably last till at least Sunday, March 6, while we wait out this latest windy spell. Next stop, undetermined. (see, we really are on "cruisers time".)