The Big Blow
15 January 2023
We spent Thursday afternoon hiking some ocean front trails on Cambridge Cay and searching for treasures along the secluded beaches. While taking a break sitting amongst a couple of inuksuk
on a hilltop we had a birds eye view of the power of the tidal currents. The wind was blowing 15 -18 knots from the east and the white capped waves rolled relentlessly onto the beaches, however, a different wave pattern caught our eye. The tide was in full ebb and the current was flowing out of the narrow cut at such a rate we could plainly see what looked like a little river pushing almost a mile offshore against the incoming waves. The standing waves were quite visible, driving home the advice about how important it is to respect these narrow cuts. We returned to Dagny to find that our group of 3 boats had grown to 7 and counting, with still more than a day before the front arrived; we wondered how big it would get. As it turns out we're allowed on the beach at Bell Island as long as we stay below the high water mark, so with drinks in hand we headed to meet our new neighbours for an abbreviated happy hour.
Friday morning dawned warm and sunny with light winds and a few rain showers drifting around. There was a strange atmosphere in the anchorage as people prepared their boats for the approaching weather. By mid morning the wind had started to shift and build a little in advance of the cold front. The sound of windlasses dumping out more anchor chain could be heard throughout the anchorage as anchors were dove on to be sure they were set properly, loose gear was stored or secured on deck and dinghies were lifted out of the water. By early afternoon our group had grown to 12, but fortunately everyone was well spaced and we were content with our spot. There really was a calm before the storm by mid afternoon and the anchorage was restless, a few dinghies were relaunched, dogs taken to shore and a few last minute visits to neighbours were made before sundown. Oh, and of course the last stragglers came in bringing our total to 14 boats.
Friday afternoon's beautiful weather prompted a few people to take advantage of it before things deteriorated with a visit to the Aquarium. This natural phenomenon is a small semi circular reef in the corner of a cay a mile or so from our anchorage. It's on the list of "must see" for those who visit the area as it is teaming with fish and makes a great snorkelling adventure. However, the currents run strong and it's advisable to swim during slack tide, especially if you swim like me. The atmosphere in the anchorage suddenly changed as a Mayday call came over the VHF requesting immediate medical help at the Aquarium. The panicked voice pleaded for help, describing they had a drowning victim who had been revived to the point of breathing but was still unconscious. As beautiful as these places are one must remember how isolated it is and help isn't always near by. One of the Mega Yachts responded that they had dispatched a high speed run about with a medic to assist but they were 20 minutes out. The airwaves fell silent and we never did find out how the victim faired.
By Friday evening the wind had shifted west north west as forecast and at bedtime it was blowing maybe 20 knots, but as always s..t hits the fan at night. Somewhere around 1 a.m. I heard the rain coming and we got hammered by a very heavy rain squall and the winds picked up significantly. Once I had closed all the hatches and determined the anchor was holding I decided to move to a main cabin berth where I could keep an eye on the anchor alarm as well as easily check our neighbours. It was the beginning of a long 22 hours of sustained winds of 23+ knots with gusts over 35 and on occasion 40 knots. Dagny rode it out like a champ, bobbing and weaving as the gusty winds pushed her around and "Rocky" held us in position like a champ. Overall our group faired very well, only one big cat had to reset his anchor, but there are reports from through out the area of boats that dragged and one 51' sailboats washed on the rocks. Finally the wind abated around 11 p.m. allowing us to retire to the Vee berth for a well needed sleep.
Today's picture is of one of our neighbours playing Taps on his French horn to signal the end of another day in Paradise. Turns out he is a member of the Indianapolis Philharmonic Orchestra.