13 January 2007 | Stocking Island
After three days and nights of 20 to 30 knot winds we were done. The forecast was predicting gradual moderation but no real breaks until Tuesday or Wednesday. Hideko and I were not going to stay on the dock another night. There are lots of places in the Bahamas that we would be happy to be stuck but this marina was not one of them.
I have used a spring line to get mono hulls off of lee docks several times in strong wind but trying this for the first time with our new boat in gusts up to 30 knots gave me the willies. After a quick review of our insurance policy we began to put a plan together.
I had asked the dockmaster to help us get off the day before at noon but he never showed up. After his no show I enlisted the willing help of our friends on Edelweiss and Red Leopard.
We began by getting the engines running and warmed up as a safeguard in case we needed to control the boat at some point during preparations. Our next step was to install a new spring line on the port bow cleat brought back to a dock post amidships. With the wind on the Starboard quarter we could then remove all of the other lines which we did one by one to ensure that the boat was stable as each line came off. Next we moved two fenders up to the port bow and secured them there.
We had five people working the problem. Hideko was stationed on the bow with a fender in hand ready to pop it in at the apex as I rolled the boat forward. Lowell was on the dock holding the tail of the spring line ready to release it once we were off. Rick was on his dinghy with a line to a stern cleat to help swing the rear end out (rick has a monster dinghy with a 20hp outboard) and Jane was on board ready to loose the line on the stern cleat once we were clear.
We waited for a little bit to see if the wind would give us a break but it continued to press the boat onto the dock with a minimum of 20 knots. When everyone was ready I popped the starboard engine into gear and began to drive the boat up on the dock. As the spring line took hold the boat began to roll onto the bow fenders gradually bringing the stern out into the wind. As we drove up on the dock Hideko put the critical fender in the exact spot necessary to allow us to roll as far forward as possible without scaring the gel coat. The wind was whipping through the cockpit because we had dropped the wind screen to reduce windage. The chop was relentless and I was very worried that the up and down motion would pop us off of a critical fender at the worst possible moment. Rick put pressure on the stern as we closed up the last few safe inches of roll.
Hideko signaled reverse. There was nowhere to go but back or into the dock. I gunned both 54 horsepower Yanmars in reverse and Swingin on a Star bolted off the dock and into the channel. I was surprised and impressed at how much thrust she could generate even with all of the wind and waves working against her. She's show a pretty tall 26 foot wide profile to the wind when backing up.
There was a 3 foot shoal area at the end of the dock that we had to get wide of and another dock to starboard that we needed to avoid hitting. I had preset the rudder a little to starboard to turn her out into the channel a bit as we gained steerageway. This all happened quickly and I found myself driving the boat backwards in close quarters at several knots. During this process Jane set Rick free and we cleared the outer post. The wind continued to try to drive us back into the dock and the shoal area but I decided to make the turn down wind in order to avoid the post at the end of the adjacent dock. It was work getting her around but as her nose came into the wind everyone exhaled.
I couldn't believe how perfectly everyone executed the plan we put together. We are blessed to have such great friends. I'm sure that they all had better things to do than stress out trying to get a 50 foot boat off of a lee dock in 30 knot gusts. Hideko and I are still getting used to our boat. She impresses me more every day (Hideko and the boat :-). With a more experienced skipped she probably could have come off single handed. While I enjoy developing the experience I will take the help of good friends any day.
Rick got up on a plane and showed us a great anchoring spot he had found on the southern most end of Monument beach. It was beautiful. There's a small hill knocking the wind down 5 or so knots and the minimal fetch between us and the beach eliminated all of the chop. There were boats everywhere enjoying the sun and water. It was like traveling to another country. We dropped the Rocna in 7 feet of water with a sand bottom and fell back about 75 feet to keep things tight enough for the other boats around.
I dove on the anchor and gasped when I hit the water. The water was 71 degrees! I had gotten used to the nice warm 85 degrees of the banks. The anchor was perfectly set, not completely buried but the flukes were dug well in. I ended my refreshing swim quickly and looking next to us noticed that we had anchored right across from Shanty! It was great to see Steve and chat with him. He had quite a bit of local knowledge and we got several great tips. He also lent us an anchor light which we really needed in the busy anchorage. It was fantastic to be out of purgatory and in the real cruiser's Georgetown, which is actually 100% focused on the anchorages west of Stocking Island.
We passed the afternoon chatting with Shanty, Eyran and Mica on the back porch. After dinner we joined Red Leopard one anchorage over for a game of Mexican Train Dominos with the Edelweiss crew. It was a great time. We brought ice (hey, it's a rare commodity out here!) and Rick served up some great Guacamole and Caribbean Mai Tais. We packed it in around 8PM and enjoyed a nice sleep without squeaking fenders.