A Long Day and a Longer Night
28 January 2011 | Slaughter Harbor, Little and Great Stirrup Cays, Barry Islands
We left Sunrise Marina as planned and picked our way out. We had at least a foot over low tide and had maybe 18" to spare at the shallowest spot, so theoretically we could have gone out on Monday at low tide, but we were glad we waited.
Once we left the inlet we angled across the Northwest Providence Channel, so there was no more shallow water until we reached our destination. There were quite a few ships out there, and we enjoyed using our newly reading AIS display. It would tell us all the details about the ship, plus the closest approach the ship would make to us given our current heading and the ship's heading. It also told us when that closest point would be. No more guessing! Very nice.
A group of dolphins came out to play. We've noticed that the dolphins we see offshore are smaller and faster than the dolphins in the harbors and the ICW. These were really gamboling about and several jumped a couple of feet clear of the water. They would turn and dive towards the stern, then turn again and power up alongside the boat and race across the bow, often jumping as they did so. Of course we could never catch a photo of their jumps, but Bud did manage to get a picture of three of them just under the water alongside the boat.
There's some current in the Northwest Providence Channel so we were slowed a bit. The wind was directly astern. We had the main held out to one side and ran the engine, as we needed to be sure to get to our destination with plenty of time to anchor. The wind switched across the stern and several times we moved the main from one side to the other. The wind did stay steady enough to add at least a knot to our speed, and of course having the main up helped to stabilize the boat in the waves, which were coming up on us just off the stern.
It was a decent day's sail, but it felt like a push. There's nothing between Grand Bahama and the Berry Islands, so we know we had to hurry. We arrived at our waypoint at 3:50 PM, but we still had to go another mile into the anchorage and then find a good spot and drop and set the anchor. We had read that the cruise ships use Great and Little Stirrup Cays as their private islands, and sure enough, there was a cruise ship anchored outside the islands when we arrived.
The pleasure boat anchorage is between the two islands. It's not protected at all from the north or northeast, and that had me worried, as the wind was from the northwest, but was supposed to go around to the north during the night. It wasn't going to be stormy, but would probably stay at 10 to 15 knots all night, and that might mean that the anchorage would be uncomfortable. We went in and over as far to the east as we felt we could. We found the best patch of sand we could and after some hassle got the anchor to drop. We paid out our chain, after we hauled it up the next morning I realized we'd missed one of our markers and had put out 150 feet, rather than the 100 feet we intended. We carefully backed the boat against the anchor to set it. It was really hard to tell if it set. We didn't want to go too far back as it was getting shallow, but before you set the anchor, you first stretch out all that chain. I thought the boat was pulling back, but when Bud let off the power it seemed to come back to where it was, so I figured the chain was stretching and slacking and the anchor was set.
Just after we got the anchor out, four guys in an open boat came by and gave us four small lobsters. They'd caught them and didn't want them. We asked them if where we were was a good place to anchor and they assured us it was, people stayed there all the time. We told them we heard you had to call for permission to take your dog ashore; they said we should, on Channel 12. We called and were given permission to take Fuzzy ashore (they did ask what breed he was, and of course expected us to pick up after him). So now I was feeling pretty good, we had steaks thawed thinking to try our new grill. Surf and turf, nice.
But first we had to launch the dinghy, hoist the outboard over the lifelines and down onto the dinghy, and take Fuzzy ashore. We took along one of our scuba masks so on the way out I could check the anchor. Imagine my dismay to see our 45-pound CQR anchor lying on its side in the sand. To be fair, there was sparse grass, but still!
By the time we got Fuzzy ashore and got back to the boat it was after 6 and getting dark. We decided we couldn't pull up and reset the anchor. We noted our exact position (particularly our latitude, as the wind would blow us south), set the anchor alarm on the chartplotter and decided we'd stand watches. Now neither of us was in the mood to cook, we were exhausted and discouraged. We fried the steaks and ate them with boxed couscous. We broke the tails off the lobsters and threw them in the freezer and settled down to wait. We took turns on the settee in the salon, set our timer for 45-minute intervals and checked the chartplotter. After a while, we were just checking our position on the VHF radio, which is linked to the chartplotter, displays position and is down at the navigation station inside the boat, so we didn't have to go outside.
The wind finally died down in the early morning hours, the boat didn't really move, but then there wasn't that much wind and we had 150 feet of chain holding us (that's 300 pounds of chain) as well as the anchor. It was a really long night! We'd gone 61 and a half nautical miles, then spent another 2 hours with the anchor and the dinghy, then sat up most of the night. So glad I don't have to work anymore!