24/01/2011/9:37 am, Ship Channel Cay
Oh what a day! The wind was pretty much straight out of the East when we got up in the morning. The dinghy was already loaded. The sky was clear. We listened to Chris Parker, poured steaming coffee into thermal mugs and hoisted the anchor.
For the first hour, as we headed from our secluded little anchorage on the west side of Meeks Patch to Current Rock we motor sailed, but after making the slight turn to Fleeming Channel, the main and the Yankee did the work. We were on a gentle broad reach for the hour it took to Fleeming, and flew through the channel at 9.7 knots! (This is an astonishing speed for us!) After altering course for Ship Channel Cay, we fairly flew along on a beam reach under 20-22 kn wind all the rest of the way. We were heeled over enough to have our feet braced; the waves parted on Madcap's splendid clipper bow and we had the side panels up to protect us from wild splashes of spray. This is the angle of sail and the velocity of wind that our good ship Madcap truly loves.
I always find myself a little frightened when we first get into that position of sailing fast - with lots of wind and lots of sail - as we heel over and then rise up again. Jim and I talked about going through a similar range of feelings. It takes a few minutes until I stop clenching my teeth and relax my hold on the wheel or whatever I'm clinging to. And then it changes - I remember to trust in my boat and I start to watch what happens instead of thinking about what might happen! And that is the difference. My body relaxes, I start to feel the thrill of movement, I notice how wind and waves and boat all work together. Sometimes it is gusty and we go over and up and over and up, but this was a special sail - steady wind, steady angle, steady speed.
We blew into Ship Channel Cay around 2 o'clock, about 2 hours earlier than we had figured. The water was plenty deep right up to the shoreline and we dropped the anchor just about where the little anchor is on the chart, ate a late lunch and toasted our fabulous day. Then we were into the dinghy and off to explore. We saw many coral heads scattered around, inviting us to have a look, but it was coolish and we stayed in the dinghy. The ruins of a stone house stood on the hill overlooking the anchorage, with stone steps leading down to the water's edge. Rusty slashes of colour showed where there must have once been a dock, but now we could see no way up. Around at the bottom of the cay, a cluster of houses are a base for the same Powerboat Adventure folks who take tourists to Allens Cay to see the iguanas. A dog was barking on the dock and we decided not to go ashore there. A very protected little anchorage in that area would be a good shelter for shallow draft boats - but not for us. North from the boat, we found a tiny beach but no interesting shells. A sunny day here with time to snorkle would be terrific. Here's hoping for tomorrow morning!
Back on board, I was sitting in the cockpit reading when I heard the noise of chain rattling. I looked up with great surprise to see a Catamaran anchoring just a boat length or so away. (I must have been really concentrating on the book because I had not seen it coming at all.) Jim and I were both amazed and annoyed that in this big bay with a mile of space on either side, this boat chose to sit practically on top of us. It would have been a perfectly acceptable distance in Marsh Harbour or Georgetown, but here?? I considered it downright rude, but Jim preferred to say it was "inappropriate anchoring etiquette". (Smile here!) In the end, it didn't affect us terribly much - it was just irritating. It was dusk and we went about eating dinner and listening to CBC's "As it Happens" in the cockpit, and then went to bed. Fortunately the wind didn't shift over night so we didn't swing into each other.
Except for the "crowd" at the end, it was just the kind of day we dream of - a fabulous sail and a safe anchorage at the end of the day.
23/01/2011/10:00 am, Meeks Patch, Eleuthera
It is now Sunday morning and we made it through the night. I feel totally awed that one 35 lb Bruce anchor (we are not using our CQR because it doesn't dig in as well here) and 100 feet of chain could hold this 23,000 lb boat in the winds that blew last night. It blew steadily 25 knots and higher for hours and hours and hours. I sat in the cockpit for the first 4 hours watching the windspeed readout and the track of the boat on the chartplotter. Then I came down to doze on the settee in the salon and Jim kept going up to check.
We had reasonable protection from Meeks all the way through the NW but once it got to N, we were more exposed. Russell Island was further away and there was more chance for fetch to build but it turned out to be OK. We didn't have much pitching in waves, just as we had hoped would happen, only the pull, pull, pull against the anchor.
It is always our practice to visually check the set of the anchor, and it is easy to do in this clear water. Sometimes Jim dives down to hold it upright while I back the boat off and that helps set it. Sometimes it happens all by itself. That was the case here. We dinghied over it and checked it with the looky bucket (a bucket with a glass bottom) and it was well buried.
So it is good to know that our Guardian Angels were watching and our reasonable precautions all worked! So much of this sailing business is about doing the best you can, and then trusting in a good outcome after that. There are no guarantees. We take reasonable precautions with wind and protection and current and equipment and our own abilities. There is always something that can go wrong and then it can be either catastrophic or minor. And often enough, there are times when nothing goes wrong at all!
Many boats left the area today and are travelling south on this N wind. Because we have time to linger before we meet friends in Governor's Harbor in early Feb, we will wait another day or so. The sea will calm and the swimming will be good. I cut my heel on a piece of glass on the beach yesterday and it starts to bleed again every time I put pressure on any part of that foot. We would love a good brisk sail, but we think perhaps a little more time with my foot elevated will bode well for future walking. So ... with time to linger and a reason to rest, we'll stay put.
Now, I'll try to get these last several postings up!!
22/01/2011/11:39 am, Meeks Patch, Eleuthera
Once again, we are waiting out weather. No. I really need to reframe that. We are happily anchored in a beautiful little spot where we can see large fishing boats from the Spanish Wells fleet go by. We can look down through 18 feet of crystal clear water and see our anchor well dug into white sand, and we can swim and play on the beach ... while we wait for the wind to rise and move from SW to W and eventually around to NW and N.
Two of the 5 boats spread out along the shoreline left this morning to move into Spanish Wells harbour. A new one arrived. We have all lifted our dinghies, and we all have lots of rode out. Before the "frontal prep", Jim and I went ashore to swim and snorkle and explore. It is interesting to speculate on the parties the locals must have on this beach. There are several makeshift camps with assorted chairs and tables and kettles and bottles scattered above the tide line. We discovered matching stuffed armchairs that somehow made their way from someone's living room to this beach, and when we met David and Susan (Luna Sea) they told us that the rest of the set was here last year!
For the first time in several days, we have wifi access so I have spent many hours writing the postings that I have neglected until now. Jim and I are both engrossed in books. He just finished "The Best Laid Plans" and enjoyed it as much as I did, and is now into a Kathy Reichs novel, "Break no Bones". I just finished another Jodi Picoult - "The Tenth Circle" that was, as usual, thought provoking and challenging. Now, I'm reading Margaret Trudeau's memoir, "Changing My Mind" on the new Kobo reader that Alex gave us for Christmas. Jim read a Dan Brown novel on it and said he got used to reading from a 5x7 electronic gadget quite easily. I'm still of mixed minds. I love the fact that I will never run out of reading material, but it doesn't seem comfortable yet. I'll keep at it and see how I feel at the end of the book. As for the book content - I've just read the first two chapters and so far, I'm enjoying it.
It is 6:30 now and the wind has picked up considerably (gusts to 28 knots) and the rain has started. Jim has gone out to check our position and we are keeping ears open for the drag alarm. It is time to stop writing and get some dinner started before it gets too bouncy. And then it might be a good idea to get some sleep in case we have to move to the other side of the island before morning!