Up a Creek- with Sharks
28 January 2023 | Shroud Cay
Roger Wallace | Strong Winds - Squalls to the South
We are currently settled just south of a spit of land halfway up the west side of Shroud Cay. The wind is blowing at a steady 23kts (26 mph) with stronger gusts. We had originally intended to continue south to Waderick Wells Cay, but the presence of squalls made us reconsider. It’s nice not being on a schedule and having the flexibility to go, or not.
The perimeter of Shroud Cay is rock and scrub covered hills that extend up to a nose-bleed height of 30 feet. The center of the island is a mangrove forest that floods and drains with each tide. Several connected creeks wind there way through the mangroves from the bank (west) side to the sound (east side). The longest of these creeks comes out on the west side just above the spit behind which we are sheltered. There is a small gap in the spit which we can get through with our dinghy- at least in theory. Let the day’s adventures begin.
The wind and associated waves are keeping crews of the other boats onboard. Maybe because they watched us go through that gap on our way to the creek. Most sailboats or cruising motor yachts have inflatable dinghys (RIB’s) of various configurations. RIB’s have more bouyancy and protection from the waves than our small Puffin rowing dinghy. Our Puffin now has a 2-1/2 HP outboard motor as of several weeks ago. We motored away from Pathfinder and carefully through the shallow gap. Going through the gap was fine- it’s what came next that was problematic.
We went through this gap yesterday without issue. However, there was a lot less wind and the tide was higher when we did. Today, we were met on the other side of the gap by a sandbar with breaking waves. The water shallowed quickly so, just as quickly, I cut the engine and pulled it up out of the water. This is where the wind and current took over and quickly pushed us back towards the gap. Out came the oars which we used to steer back through the gap. I’m glad we have a rowing dinghy which rows better and has less windage than a RIB- I think we would have ended up on the rocks otherwise. I rowed us into the lee of the spit and switched back over to the engine. Commencing round #2- with a little more forethought now that we know what’s coming.
We motored through the cut again and had some speed heading towards the sandbar. Susan hopped out of the dinghy with painter in hand as I cut the engine and tilted it up. Susan then pulled us over the sandbar into deeper water and jumped back in as I lowered the engine and started it up. We then motored slowly ahead in the 18” waves. There would be no round three.
We had originally hoped to explore a different creek further up the island, but the wind and waves forced a change of plans. We went back into the creek we partially explored yesterday. Because we didn’t slowly motor 1+nm up the shoreline- we entered a creek sooner than anticipated relative to the incoming tide. We proceeded up the creek in one of three modes of travel- outboard, rowing or pulling. Susan did the pulling and I did the rowing. It was a flood (incoming) tide. However, the current in the creek was flowing out to the banks because all of the creeks are connected and one of them has an opening on the sound side from which all the water comes. So, the tide was coming in that creek and going out the others.
We were motoring through one section with a quick current when one of the bottom features started moving fast. All of a sudden, a large sea turtle went flying by headed in the opposite direction. A little while later, another, smaller turtle went by. A little while later, a 4ft shark went by. Finally, we saw another, smaller shark of the same species. Susan was happy she wasn’t pulling the dinghy when the sharks went by. We’re looking forward to figuring out what type they were.
Motor, row, pull … motor, row pull … Mostly motor. It took us maybe an hour to get to the ocean side of the island and secure the dinghy to scrubby tree.
We then climbed over one of those nose-bleed high hills (maybe 20’) to the beach where the waves were crashing in. It was a beautiful beach that was littered with lots of stuff that humans dump in the ocean. Plastic stuff everywhere. We didn’t stay long as we were both getting stung by wind driven sand.
We did stay long enough for the tide to come in sufficiently that our return trip was much easier. We were now headed down current, down wind and with enough water to use the engine the entire way. Better yet, the tide had come in enough that there were not breaking waves over the sandbar at the gap. It was still shallow though. We motored to a point up wind of the sandbar- raised the engine and extended the oars. We rowed through the gap and back into the lee of the spit at which point we shipped the oars and restarted the engine. A few minutes later, we were back on Pathfinder.
Just before getting back to Pathfinder, Susan said she was following Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice- do something that scares you each day. I think it was just plain fun.