09/05/2008/10:07 pm, Allans Pensacola
From now on YOU steer us in!
I'm not coming back here without Electronic Explorer Charts!
I'm never doing this job again!
These and many others were the statements coming out of my mouth after I steered us aground AGAIN! I've always been able to "swear like a sailor" on occasion, but I have to say that being responsible for mistakes helps me to stretch and expand my vocabulary.
Because Jim handles the anchor, I am usually the one steering us into an anchorage. I like being on the helm, and in tight places I like the feeling of being at one with the boat and guiding it through. We discuss the approach; Jim stands on watch from the side decks or the bow and away we go. Our system usually works. When it doesn't - when I put us aground (worst case) or anchor in a poor place and we have to do it again (not so bad but still irritating) it feels just horrible and I get mad at myself and all I want to do is crawl away in a little misery hole.
We were coming in on a rising tide. Because I had gone too far straight in from the waypoint before turning to starboard, we encountered a shoal, and when I got onto it I didn't know which way to turn for deeper water. I thought the water looked deeper to port so I ploughed through that way but it was just a little trough and we were onto the sand again - this time definitely stuck.
We put out the yankee sail but it didn't tip us enough. Next the main went up and we twisted and moved a bit but not enough. Mike (Sapphire) and Jim (Solitaire) came along, and Bob (Toucan Dream) arrived in his large and powerful dinghy. Madcap Jim took over the helm, Bob pushed our bow in the right direction, Mike climbed onboard to help me winch sails in and out, and Solitaire Jim called out depths from his handheld depth sounder. With help from them all, and with wind in the sails, we finally got off the bar and anchored.
After the dust settled we went over to Sapphire to listen in on their strategy session as they planned their departure from the Bahamas. Because they were headed for Fort Pierce, they required a much shorter weather window than we did so we weren't really considering going with them. Also, we would have hated to leave on this note - we have had such a wonderful time in the Bahamas it would have been a shame to have this memory as our last one.
Nancy - ever thoughtful and creative - presented Madcap and Sapphire crews with bottles of champagne to drink upon landfall stateside and CD's with pictures of our shared adventures. They had discovered the "Signing Trees" on the ocean beach and Mike produced a buoy for us all to sign and instructions for us to hang it the next day.
On Thursday morning, we dinghied over to say a last good bye to our friends, and after waving them out of sight, we headed ashore to hang the autographed buoy from a tree. While we felt a little melancholy at first, we still felt we had made the right decision for ourselves, and we went about enjoying the rest of our stay.
We swam in the warm ocean water and we snoozed and picnicked on the beach. We discovered upturned plastic barrels and sticks with a hand painted sign, "I don't want to work; I just wann bang on de drums all day!!" and we banged! Once back on Madcap, our adventures continued.
A big powerboat pulled away, leaving its large dinghy behind. Jim headed off in our small dinghy to retrieve it and deliver it to the powerboat. That was funny to watch because the "towboat" with its 5hp motor was much smaller than the "towee" and Jim kept going in circles till he got some momentum built up.
Bob stopped by to offer us a good-sized hog snapper that we gratefully accepted. We worked on our filleting skills on the foredeck and ended up with two large - if a little raggedy - fillets. (Note: bring a really good filleting knife.)
After enjoying one of them for dinner, we set off for an evening dinghy ride. The boat we had been watching coming toward us seemed to slow and then stop. As we watched a man get out of it and walk through the water holding an anchor, we realized he was on an even more shallow part of that darned shoal. We headed in that direction offering to do what we could to help. Bob came to the rescue once again and towed the boat right off the shoal while we picked up the wading captain and delivered him to his boat and crew.
After all this adventure, we slept well and then departed northward on Friday morning.
07/05/2008/11:29 am, Spanish Cay
My sister sent a message the other day. She deduced from reading the various cruising blogs that, this time of year, some of us are like horses bolting for home and others are like her labrador retrievers who want to roll in the mud and sniff every bush before they must finally come in. (perhaps we could say we want to swim off every beach and check out every anchorage)
Accordingly, we spent a couple of nights at Manjack, moved on to Powell Cay and are now anchored just off Spanish Cay. We enjoyed swimming and snorkelling in 31C water, strolled along beaches on ocean and banks sides of Powell Cay, interacted with the gregarious laughing gull that perched on our dinghy davit and on the swim ladder for the longest time during happy hour.
There was not a sound except frilly little wavelets lapping against the dinghy last evening as we sat out once again under the stars. The sun came up over mirror-still water this morning and has remained light.
We've stopped here in Spanish Cay to refill water cans and check on the progress of our energy boosting arrangements in Florida. Several of our friends decided to leave today in hopes of reaching Florida before the front blows in on Friday. For us, it would mean an abrupt end to this last leisurely week so we've decided to wait for the window that surely must open after this one.
The marina staff is friendly and helpful; the store is well stocked; wifi is easily available for $10 for 24 hours; and the anchorage is just a short dinghy ride away from the marina entrance, making Spanish Cay a good stop. We'd consider it on a return visit too - it's a check in point with Customs and Immigration officers.
We'll move up the cays one more step to rejoin Sapphire and Solitaire at Allens-Pennisicola this evening. We are keeping a close ear on Chris Parker's weather forecasts at 6:30 each morning and expect that we'll be able to start off early next week. He is calling for westerly quadrant winds - not so good - but with some south in them at this latitude - maybe not so bad.
Each day is a new one and if our combo of planning and luck continues to hold, by the time we get to our preferred jumping off point of Double Breasted Cays, the wind will be good too.
06/05/2008/11:48 am, Manjack Cay, Abacos
We've enjoyed a couple of idyllic days at Manjack Cay - alternatively named Munjack or Nunjack. (There must be story there but I don't know it.) We dinghied out to an ocean beach and followed a shady and twisty path across the cay to another, collected sea biscuits, fished conchs up from the shallow waters, chatted with Leslie - one of the owners of the beautiful property here. We dinghied slowly up the mangrove lined creek and then drifted back out again on the ebbing tide, dangling our feet in the water and listening to birdsongs - and looking for the turtle that we heard was there. I guess it wasn't our day to see him because we never did find him.
We enthusiastically accepted Nancy's invitation to celebrate her birthday with a Mexican feast aboard Solitaire. Sapphire provided yummy quesadillas and tortilla chips with an interesting new dip. Solitaire dished up scrumptious chicken enchiladas served with a tasty bean and corn salad from Restless, and Madcap provided a chocolate cake with a little dash of cinnamon and chili powder to make it Mexican. We played Catch Phrase - great fun - and had a fine old time of it.
We are off northward to Powell Cay next and then onward. If I get a chance to connect again, I'll let you know about the other cays we hope to visit on our way north. Connections may be iffy.
If a weather window opens, we'll cross to the US next week. The plan is to depart from Double Breasted Cays and head for Fernandina Beach. All that is highly flexible depending on wind and sea state. We'll go when the wind is right for a sail and the rollers don't crash over our decks!