A Change of Plans
23 January 2011 | Sunrise Marina, Lucaya, Grand Bahama
Well, we've decided not to go to the Abacos at all. Bud was worried that none of the anchorages we could reach by Tuesday would be secure enough for the storm that's in the forecast for Wednesday. They are saying the NW Bahamas will get 30 to 35 knot winds with the possibility of 50-knot winds in thunderstorms. Since these winds will be from the west, and since most of the harbors in the Abacos are on the west side of the little islands just off Great Abaco, and since we were afraid we'd have to hold off to leave until tomorrow to go north to get there, we decided to go along the south side of Grand Bahama today and then leave early in the morning and head south again to reach the very secure harbor where Jon and Arline spent a month fixing their engine.
I was reluctant to come this side of Great Bahama Island because there are no anchorages, and I didn't want to spend another night in a marina. But we were going to have to spend the night at Old Bahama Bay before we could take the northern route, anyway. So off we came.
Before we left we got to help out one poor crew on about a 70-foot ketch. They started out of the marina and had their engine stall. The 20-knot wind was blowing them up against the end of a dock and another boat. We helped them get lines out and fend off the end of the dock and get the boat secured alongside the dock. They got a scratch along their hull, but nothing else was hurt. That made me worry about us getting out. It seemed the wind was blowing our bow over against the dock, but it was mostly astern and in the end Bud said it was about as easy a disembarking as we've had.
We also had a really fine sail. The wind was stronger than we thought. We sailed a close reach with 14 to 16 knots apparent for most of the way. We ended up using just the main and genoa. We were getting some really strong gusts and decided not to try to add the staysail. Besides, we hit 9 knots at one point, so how could you improve on that? The wind was out of the northeast so the island was keeping the waves down. There were maybe one-foot waves.
It got a bit tense as we crossed in front of Freeport. There were about three freighters anchored, two of the small island freighters came out, one turned towards us and passed fairly close on the starboard side, the second came out and turned more sharply and passed on our left. Meanwhile, a big tanker was headed in and it looked like it might be close getting in front of him, but we figured he'd have to slow down. Then another freighter came in view off the starboard bow and he seemed to be headed our way. What a busy harbor. Meanwhile the wind was getting a bit fluky. It would die down, and then blow strong again. Suddenly it shifted around in front of the boat and we were being back-winded. It never changed enough for us to change the sails. It always came back to where it had been.
The most exciting part of the sail came after we had the sails down. We were approaching the entrance to the marina. I had called them on the radio and was getting the dock lines and fenders set up. Bud asked me to quick finish the dock line I was working on, and go up on the bow and tell him which way to go up ahead. I looked down and saw rocks here and there under us, but I couldn't tell how deep. I tried to direct Bud to the deepest part, but what we needed to do was go backwards and go the other side of the unmarked post that was there and not on either of our charts. We hit the rocks. We stuck. Bud tried to back off and the boat moved a bit. I thought we were going to have to get a tow, but every time a little wave came it lifted us enough to move. We found a bit of deeper water to the right side and managed to wiggle the boat into the channel. After that, docking was a breeze. Once we were secure and checked in Bud got to take his first swim in the Bahamas. It isn't really warm today, only about 70, and the water was cool, so it's not one he made by choice, but he put his snorkeling gear on and went down to check the keel. He said there is about a 4-inch square scrape on the front at the bottom, but it's just cosmetic. We knew that the charts aren't accurate in the Bahamas. We heard that the markers aren't reliable. Now we experienced it first hand. From now on I won't set lines until I know we're safely in. I'll take a post on the bow earlier and try to see and direct.
Happily, this marina is less than half the cost of the other one, so even though we've had to stay at a marina, it's better than being back at Old Bahama Bay. And there is a little grocery store nearby with reasonable produce, so we bought a few fresh fruits and vegetables to replace those we'd eaten up because we thought you couldn't bring them in (nobody asked, nobody looked). Now we've had our supper and Bud is off to try his luck fishing off the jetty.
We went almost 24 nautical miles today in about 3 and a half hours. Another fast run, the average speed about 6.8 knots. I added a few photos of today's activities to the gallery. Of course I was much too busy to get a photo of the grounding!