09 December 2007 | Manjack Cay, Abacos
We hauled anchor and started off from Great Sale Cay right after listening to Chris Parker's weather net on the Single Sideband Radio at 6:30 am on Friday. (This broadcast has become the way we start our days Monday - Saturday.) Our intention was to get to Green Turtle Cay in time to check in with Customs and get the formalities of the entrance over with. It was while we were checking the wind speed and the distance on the charts and realizing that we probably would not make it, and thinking about where we could go instead and whether we would make it in time, that Jim said, "Why are we doing this rushing?" Our stated intention was that after steadily pushing ourselves a little farther every day down the ICW, we would change the rhythm once we reached the Bahamas. (Lest I give the wrong impression, we thoroughly enjoyed almost all of the ICW; it has been only in the last few days that we have felt impatient to be done with it.)
Several people have told us that as long as we flew the yellow quarantine flag, didn't flagrantly go off about town, and did get ourselves into a customs office at a reasonable opportunity, we would not be hassled by Bahamian authorities. So, when Jim asked this question, it was like turning off an alarm clock - or ignoring the summons of a blackberry - or responding "When I'm ready" to a call for attention. Why indeed? With that new sense of freedom and release from the clock, we looked again at the charts - this time with an eye to interesting anchorages.
We pulled in behind Crab Cay, just off Great Bahama where our Explorer Chart showed a good anchorage in an East wind. We dropped our trusty CQR anchor in white sand about 3 feet below our keel, dug it in and put our feet up. Jim BBQ'd a pork tenderloin and I made Bahamian Peas 'n Rice for dinner. We watched the sun set and the stars come out, and then went below to watch a movie. It was an island time evening.
On Saturday morning, we woke up to a glassy calm, aquamarine sea. After listening to Chris Parker tell us that the wind would be from the East for the next few days, gradually increasing in intensity, we dropped into 28 degree water for a swim and a cleanup. This is a surreal experience. We heard that it is minus 15 in Ottawa. There is enough snow to shovel in Moncton and Amherst. ... and we are swimming.
With the swim and breakfast over with, we up-anchored and headed back out around the corner toward Manjack Cay (pronounced Munjack Key and sometimes spelled Nunjack)- our next stopover. Once again, we had to do the re-thinking exercise - this time on wind direction and sail-ability. The main was up but our course was into the wind and so it seemed like we'd have to motor all the way. Then we remembered - "Oh yes - island time... direct route unnecessary." So we turned out of the wind enough to put up the yankee. The engine stayed on for an hour to charge the batteries and then off it went while we sailed quietly onward at about 4 knots. Interestingly enough, the wind shifted just enough to mean that we didn't need to do any tacking after all.
Our only diversion in course came when we crossed a clear line in water colour. This business of watching colour for depths is a real learning experience. Colour can mean differences in depth, composition of the bottom, reflection of clouds. We had been in that colour before, so I watched the depth sounder carefully and moved onward. The figures dropped rapidly from 8 ft below our keel to 7,6,5,4ft... At that point I was heading out toward the edge of the line again, and when we reached 1 foot, I let out the sail all the way, turned a sharp right angle and had us into 8 feet (below the keel) again. The chartbook had mentioned that there were shallow areas through the charted route between Angelfish Point and Manjack Cay, and it was right. So now I'm getting my eyes trained to see variations in that lovely green colour! Hmmm - it that 8ft green or 4 ft green?
We anchored in the little bay at the SE end of Manjack Cay where a few houses nestle in one corner. There was lots of depth and a few boats already there. Several more boats came in after we did - some Canadian, some American - one more with the yellow flag. A dinghy ride around yielded a pleasant conversation with a fellow on the dock. He told us that we were welcome to land our dinghy on the beach here, where to pick up the trail to the large beach to the North, that we can walk along the eastern shore of the Cay and have rays and little sharks follow us along - preferably with them in the water and us on the beach! A most delightful piece of news is that we can pick up excellent and free wifi during the day when the tower is turned on. Yippee! We have no cellphone coverage, but this connection is most welcome. It was amusing for Jim to collect his e-mail and find one from David on Calamity letting us know that we can get wifi in this very cove. Pretty good timing I'd say!
Our next learning experience came during the night (Saturday). We have always felt great confidence in our CQR (plough type) anchor and while we have a Bruce and a Danforth on board, we use the CQR exclusively. We also hedge our bets by setting the anchor drag alarm most nights. The wind was blowing about 10 knots E when we went to bed. We had been settled in for over 7 hours before that. So it was with a start that we woke up about 1:30 to hear the anchor alarm sounding. This is not overly unusual - it does sound when tide or wind causes us to swing about to a different direction. Jim went out to check and soon called me for a second opinion. Though the wind had increased to 15 knots, we were still facing the same direction so he knew it wasn't a swing that caused the beeping. It was as we watched, peering into the darkness at the other anchor lights, that we realized yes - not only were they in different positions, they were still changing. Then, alarmingly, we realized that we were seeing a boat on our starboard stern ever more clearly! We were not only dragging, but the momentum was increasing. We both leaped into action - engine started, snubber off anchor chain, navigation lights and windlass turned on, hand on throttle, one eye on compass and another on surrounding boats. Jim pulled the anchor clear and I put the boat in reverse with about 6 feet to spare. We circled back behind all the other boats, anchored again, and debriefed.
Besides being happy that we hadn't hit anything, we were pleased that neither of us had panicked. There was no shouting or commotion - in fact we never saw any sign that all our action had woken up the people on the other boat. What was odd was that the anchor had held well in 10-knot winds for several hours and then seemed to have let go and not reset itself. The tide changed around that time but the wind was strong enough to keep us pointed in the same direction. Perhaps that was enough to cause the lift, although we were fine during an earlier tide change. We doubt that setting two anchors would have made a difference. According to our Explorer book, such a practice does not necessarily limit the strain, and can sometimes complicate things by increasing the chances of tangling rodes. Clearly, this business of anchoring in sand is different from what we have been used to. One thing that concerns us is that always before, when the anchor had been set for a few hours, we felt confident in leaving the boat. Now, we will be a little wary about doing that. It's a problem we'll solve though, because we are not about to confine ourselves to mooring balls or marinas, nor to sit aboard all the time. The learning continues and we're interested in hearing from others who have experiences to share.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and windy - E 10-15 knots with Madcap still in the same place - yeah! We'll sail to Green Turtle Cay later today and will probably stay put for a few days while we explore the island. We can return here to Manjack when the wind beckons us back. Oh joy! We're free to go where "wind, weather and inclination take us". That is Jim's famous line; he's been giving that answer to the question of "Where will you go in the Bahamas?" ever since we left Ontario, and now here we are - doing it.
Because the wind is going to stay E or ENE and increase to 20 knots for most of this week, you can be sure that we'll be where there is reasonable protection and space to put out lots of chain!