We Aren't Where We Expected to Be
11 May 2011 | Spanish Cay Marina, Abacos
OK, I'm not going to mention future plans in this blog again. Every time I do, what I thought was going to happen doesn't. First, you'll notice that I have Internet. That's because we're at a marina. That was not in the plan. The plan was to sail today to Moraine Cay. The wind was from the west and was moving first southwest, then back northwest overnight, but all light winds with the chance of a 20 knot squall. We thought Moraine had the best protection from the northwest and it would put us well on our way to either Great Sale Cay or Mangrove Cay, from where we would depart for the crossing to the US.
We didn't leave White Sound until noon, because we waited until we had enough tide to get out the entrance. We needed to push fairly hard to make the 25 miles to Moraine by five. For the first 12 miles or so we were doing pretty well. The wind was a bit north of where we hoped it would be, but we could manage to sail. For a while we were doing 7 knots with all three sails out. The wind was not steady at all and we were constantly trying to adjust. Finally it moved too far forward so we pulled in the jib and staysail and were motor sailing with just the main.
We were about half way along when a cloudbank started building to the northeast of us. We were watching it; Bud thought it was moving parallel to us but in the opposite direction. Then the clouds got thicker, and higher, and closer. I suggested we drop the main. Bud opted for putting a triple reef in it. We did, but had a bit of trouble getting it in correctly. Just as we finished up the squall hit us. It got very windy, then it got really windy. By this time, Fuzzy was back in the cabin, Bud and I were both in foul weather gear and life jackets, the hatches, that had been open, were all closed.
Bud was fighting to control the boat with the triple reefed main. We didn't have a lot of room to move, we were in a narrow part of the Sea of Abaco and we had only about a mile and a half between the islands that were to windward and the islands that were leeward. We couldn't turn and run with the wind so we decided to drop the main altogether. It didn't come down all the way (of course). The good part about being close to the islands was that the waves weren't bad, so I went up and climbed on the bottom of the mast and pulled the main down and tied the halyard around the boom vang to keep the head of the main from lifting in the wind. We couldn't possibly zip the stack pack in those conditions, so I went and got a line and tied it around the main and boom about 2/3 of the way back. That kept the main under control. Bud had to run the engine hard several times just to keep the nose of the boat pointed into the wind. We were in at least 50 knots of wind. Bud saw 48 on the meter, but knows it blew harder than that at times.
Somewhere in all of this, when the wind eased off a bit, I looked back and saw that our dinghy (which we had towed, because it was a calm day and we weren't going outside the islands) was upside down. Now that wasn't so bad, it was actually towing quite nicely upside down. What was bad was that it still had the outboard on it. And that had folded to its lifted position. Normally, that holds the shaft out of the water. In this case, it kept the shaft in the water along with the rest of the engine. I was sure the transom of the dinghy would be wrecked too.
After I saw the upside down dinghy I told Bud we had to go back to the marina we'd passed a couple of miles ago. He pretty readily agreed and a few minutes later could actually drive the boat in that direction instead of just trying to keep it in one place headed into the wind. I radioed the marina to see if they could take us. They didn't answer. Another boat came on and said they were trying to answer me, but I couldn't hear. He relayed the message and I was able to make sure they had a slip for us.
Once the wind dropped some more, Bud moved the boat closer to the lee of the little islands we were traveling along. When he got close enough (and far enough from the islands downwind of us) he let the engine idle and the boat drift and we tried to flip the dinghy upright. I thought he was crazy to even try, but we pulled the dinghy forward alongside the boat and hooked the spinnaker halyard to the towrope. I cranked up the halyard while Bud guided the towrope until the dinghy was vertical. Then I let the halyard back down and Bud guided the dinghy so it came back down upside right. We moved the dinghy back to the stern and away we went.
So here we are in a marina. And, as you can see from the picture, there is no wind at all! After we finished putting the mainsail away we had to use the boom to pull the engine off the dinghy and put it on it's bracket on the stern rail. The dinghy is unharmed. We didn't even loose our little bailing bucket that was tied inside it. The jury is still out on the engine. Bud drained the watery oil out of it and refilled it with new oil. He pulled the spark plugs and put some oil in the cylinders and pulled the starting rope to flush out any water in the cylinders and move the oil through. The manual then says to take it to a dealer. (It's a new engine, we got it a few days before we left Wilson, and the manual does have a section on "water immersion"). So tomorrow we will be going back to Green Turtle Cay, this time to Black Sound where we saw two outboard repair places. That means today we went 21 miles and didn't really get anywhere, but I'm very glad to be here! And I must say that through it all, Earendil felt solid and safe. She wasn't really daunted at all by 50 knots of wind. I'd rather not sail in that much if I don't have too, just the same.