26/01/2011/9:39 am, Warderick Wells
We had planned to do some snorkelling and more exploring on Tuesday morning before heading down to Norman's Cay, but the weather forecast made us think we'd do better to get going early and go all the way to Warderick Wells. There were supposed to be SE winds on Tuesday, winds clocking through the N and chances of squalls on Wednesday night.
So, with plans to come back here again, we pulled the anchor that was well and truly buried, and headed out again. We thought maybe we could have two great days of sailing in a row but that was tempting fate! It worked at first - we sailed well under main and Yankee until we got to the Lighting Bore waypoint but then we had to point closer into the wind. The winds that we thought were to be E 17, stayed pretty much between 20 and 25. As we had to turn more and more eastward, we pulled in the Yankee and put out the staysail. Then we turned on the engine and motor sailed, bucking and banging in the rollers and whitecaps. Eventually we had no foresails out at all - just the main to help steady us as we slogged on. After such a lovely start, it turned into a long rough crawl eastward.
To make things even less comfortable, our GPS started cutting out. We saw a US military ship sitting off the edge of the Park boundary and wondered if it might be scrambling the signal. We've had that happen in Maine and New York. We have also had spotty signals going into Halifax harbour in Nova Scotia, but never here. However, as the miles passed and the problem continued, we decided that couldn't be the problem. We got out the Garmin hand held, and Jim turned on the back up GPS at the Nav station down in the cabin. Fortunately the auto pilot kept working most of the time because it was really hard to hold the boat on course manually in the head on swells.
We never could set a course straight toward Warderick Wells so we jigged a bit this way and jogged a bit that way and finally fought our way out of the wind and waves into the protected mooring field at Emerald Rock. Then it was like Old Home Week!
Connie (Oz) had called the park office to reserve us a mooring. Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) were in their dinghy holding the pennant from the mooring ball. Vic (Whisper) called to welcome us as we came in. Peaches (Star of the Sea) called to invite us to Happy Hour, and by 5:30 we were sitting with Ken and Connie (Oz), Jan and Karl (White Pepper), and Chris and Peaches in Star of the Sea's spacious cockpit - all of us talking excitedly about the sailing, the weather, the plans for the season.
The Old Home Week feeling continued on Wednesday morning. We chatted on VHF with Stu (Georgia E) but didn't get to see him because he left for Cambridge before we dinghied over to check in at the Park office. Once the checking in was done and I had a quick look through the shelves of book to trade, and the stacks of rental DVD's, we motored up along the line of boats in the north mooring field until we came to Passages. We climbed on board to have a chat with Karin and Ed, and left an hour or so later to make our way back. But first, of course, we had to stop for a chat at Star of the Sea, and then at Oz, and then we spied Penny and Hal in the cockpit of Volantis, so we stopped there for a while. Next was Whisper and of course we needed to tie up there for a good chinwag and handful of Purity Crackers straight from Newfoundland! By the time we got home, it was 4 hours later and we had just enough time for Jim to do some trouble shooting (unsuccessful so far) on the GPS and me to have a swim before cleaning ourselves up and going over to join Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) for Happy Hour. Their cockpit was full of rousing conversation with Micky and Beth and Rusty and Joy (Slow Dancin') and Linda and Ken (Escapade). Wow! What a sociable kind of a day!!
To top it off, the wind stayed calm, and the possible squalls went somewhere else. We could see lightning flashes in the sky to the North and East but nothing right over us at all. The sky is absolutely full of stars and we have the gentlest of rocking. For this particular day, life is good. Very, very good.
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!!