Thatís Ms. Murphy to you
19 May 2008 | Moraine Cay
Winds 15-20, gusting to 25 from the WSW, occasional thunderstorms
The best thing I can say is that I haven't cried yet. Haven't even come close, and judging from everything that has already gone wrong, it scares me to think of what will have to happen to get me to cry. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
According to that fine old adage, Murphy's Law, "If anything can go wrong, it will." Well, I've decided Murphy was a woman. Maybe even a woman sailor, because I have certainly seen enough of the ghost of Ms. Murphy these past few days.
That night anchored behind Mangrove Cay turned into a nightmare as the wind just kept increasing. All the boats anchored around me were much bigger than I am and they didn't seem to be bothered by it, but as the wind continued to screech and howl, I kept thinking about what would happen if my anchor rode broke. I was only anchored in about 10 feet of water, but by midnight, I had let out about 200 feet of scope. I kept thinking that with more line, the elasticity wouldn't put so much strain on it. Ha! And as the boat sailed on the hook, I worried that the line would chafe through and part. I knew that the boat had a snubber, but I had never used it before. Down I went into the forepeak at midnight and then I was back in the cabin pulling out books trying to remember what kind of knot you tie to attach a line to another line. Oh yeah, a rolling hitch, and did I have any books with picture of a rolling hitch? Found it. Now, will I remember that when I get up on the foredeck in the screaming wind and dark? Finally, I managed to tie it, got the snubber with the two lines going to either side of the bow into place, went below and set my alarm clock to beep on the hour every hour so that I could stick my head out and see that we were still okay.
I slept fitfully at best and I was up at 5:30 and underway by 6:00. I sailed wing and wing with the two sails on opposites sides of the boat and got it all balanced and was doing 5.5 to 6 knots when I passed several sailboats that were motoring only in the high winds. I was determined to find a place where I could pass a comfortable night, and my plan had been to anchor off the Hawksbill Cays off of the village called Foxtown on Little Abaco. I arrived around 2:30 in the afternoon, but the gusts were whipping up the water and I decided that it didn't look great. I searched the chart and decided that the small bay at Allans-Pensacola Cay looked good and it was only about five miles away. I sailed over there and the bay was full - the only spots left were in the opening that would have no cover. By this time it was nearly 4:00 and time was a wasting. I had to find an anchorage and I set my sites on Moraine Cay to the north of me. Inside it looked like there was a tiny bay with two meters of water and if no one else was there, I might be able to snug myself in.
At 5:00, I was creeping in watching the depth sounder and the laptop screen with my GPS, which I had brought out to the table. There, in the very spot where there should have been two meters of depth, I slid gently aground in sand. I tried to motor her off, but had no luck. OK, so I launched the dinghy and lowered the main anchor into the dink and rowed her out to deep water. Back on the boat, I fired up the windlass and tried to crank her off. No luck. Then I realized the wind was abeam and I raised the main, she heeled over and floated free. . . and started to sail! I hadn't loosened the mainsail sheet and she was sailing up over the anchor. I freed the sheet brought up the anchor and headed out to deeper water.
The wind had dropped and the bight outside the island seemed like it offered a bit of protection between the two reefs, so I anchored there. I lowered the outboard onto the dinghy and headed in to the pretty - but shallow- bay to get the dog drained ashore.
The water was beautiful and I swam and ran on the beach. Though there were a couple of houses, clearly they weren't inhabited and we had the place to ourselves. Chip barked and raced after sandpipers and he was having a wonderful time . . . until Murphy took hold of us again, and Chip disappeared into the brush inland. I got out of the water and ran up the dune calling his name when suddenly I heard him yelp and he reappeared twisting and running with the oddest gait. I ran over to him and when I went to pick him up, I jerked my hand back. He was covered with prickly burrs, hundreds of them on his face, his body, his feet. Each one was about a half inch across and they were tangled into his fur. If he weren't in so much pain, I would have laughed. He was a sight to see!
I got him out to the boat and spent the next couple of hours doing surgery with scissors and tweezers while he jumped and squirmed and growled and bit me - did everything he could to make the job more difficult. Finally, he was burr-free, and I was too exhausted to do more than warm a can of vegetable beef soup for dinner. I went out into the cockpit with my soup bowl in hand and noticed that the wind was picking up again. In minutes, we were back to showing gusts of 18-20 on the anemometer and the wind had swung south leaving us no protection at all.
I tried sleeping in the forepeak, but the boat was hobby horsing so badly that I was burping up vegetable beef soup - a sure precursor to getting seasick. Rather than lie in bed worrying about losing the dinghy that I could hear snapping at her painter, I got up in the dark and went back and climbed into the dinghy and rigged her for the davits. The boat's stern would rear up on a wave and come crashing down splashing water all over me. I was afraid the dinghy would get under the stern and it would get crushed. But I managed to rig it and raise it with the outboard still attached and got it secure so it didn't flog itself to death as the boat bucked and rolled in the two to three foot seas.
I came below, dried myself off, got out a sheet and made up a bunk on the L-shaped settee in the center of the boat where the motion wouldn't be as bad. Chip was scared and when he's terrified, he wants to be near me for comfort. He jumped onto the short leg of the L-shape and squeezed his body half onto the side of my head.
I couldn't help it. A chuckle started building inside me when I pictured what we must look like, with this dog's body up against the side of my head on this rocking boat in an anchorage in the middle of nowhere. And that was when I heard it. That sound that dog owners know well - that pssst noise of escaping gas - and THAT was when I knew that Ms. Murphy was alive and well and had taken up residence on my boat. I didn't cry, but I did laugh until the tears were streaming down my cheeks.
(so to speak)