Two More Wonderful Sails
13 February 2023 | Elizabeth Harbour
On Friday, February 10th, we had a very fun, relatively short sail from Little Bay south to Little Farmers. The sail was not only fun for us but apparently caught the attention of other boaters. We received a complement on our sailing on the following day. On Monday, the 13th, we sailed from Little Farmers to Georgetown/Elizabeth Harbour at the bottom of the Exumas. We covered more than 50 miles in just over 8 hours. It was an open ocean sail with lots of wind. Now for the fine details.
Yes, the Bahama banks are shallow and yes, there are gaps in the nautical charts. However, they’re not that shallow and the charts are very good- just not perfect. Therefore, yes- it is possible to sail upwind in shallower areas. That’s what we did on the 10th. We sailed off of anchor again and headed to Little Farmers along the west side of Great Guana Cay. The wind was such that a port tack was definitely favored, but occasional starboard tacks back in towards shore were required. Much of the time we had 5-8 ft under the keel. Where the sailing got particularly fun was as we approached Little Farmers and the Oven Rock anchorage area to its north. There was good water through the anchorage area and right up to it’s south edge. We used all the good water. We tacked in closer to shore above the anchorage because there was a shallow area a little offshore. We then continued to sail through the good water and thus the anchorage as far as we could go. We then started the engine, dosed sail and picked our way through reefs (using the charts) into the deeper channel around Little Farmers. After looking for a good anchorage around Little Farmers for the SE winds that were forecasted to go S without success, we headed over to a very shallow bay at the top of Big Farmers. We were able to get the anchor down just far enough into the bay such that Pathfinder was out of the strong current coming through Farmers cut. We stayed in this anchorage for two nights and it was much better than I anticipated it would be.
I do all of our weather routing and planning. We moved to Farmers Cut in anticipation of a cold front that would bring a strong NW wind which would facilitate a great sail south to Georgetown. Once the various weather models were in agreement, we firmed up plans for our sail south and more immediately, a change in anchorages in anticipation of the front coming through after midnight. We moved from the north end of Big Farmers to the SE side of Little Farmers at 9am on Sunday. The area is a good place to be for a NW wind, but good holding is hard to find. I had to dive on our anchor several times to make sure it was well set. We were the first boat to move into the anchorage. We were joined by three more boats within the hour and two more a little later. One boat tried to anchor 5 times before getting a good set on their anchor. The challenges of getting a good set aside, this was definitely the place to be for the night.
The front came through as anticipated and we woke up just before dawn for our sail to Georgetown. We motored off anchor and raised a reefed main before heading for the cut. It’s nice to have the redundancy of two modes of powering the boat for locations like this. Timing was good as we were near slack tide and didn’t have the additional complication of wind against waves in the cut. Once out into the sound- we pulled out the genoa and cut the engine. The rhumb line between Farmers Cut and Georgetown is just off the eastern shore of the Exumas. It gets shallow relatively fast on the right side of the rhumb line. We gybed numerous times on our way to Georgetown. We would go out two or more miles to the east of the rhumb line and then gybe back and just cross the rhumb line before going back out. In contrast to our last sail, we opted to stay in 1000+ feet of water.
Susan commented at one point in our sail that she just felt totally peaceful sitting in the cockpit looking at the waves behind us and listening to music. The water was a beautiful deep blue and the bigger waves were around eight feet.
We sailed into Elizabeth Harbour around 2:30pm. Once into the harbour we got rid of the foresail and followed the deep draft boat route through the harbour which required a few gybes as we were running downwind. There are way too many boats here and many of them are anchored in, or extremely close to the channel. We heard that a “mailboat” (local small freighter) ran aground recently because of the intrusion into the channel. We ended up sailing just off the stern or beam of many boats to stay in the deeper water. Anyone watching us must have been thinking we did not plan to stay or were anti-social. We sailed into the North end of the harbour; sailed past 95% of the boats at anchor and were quickly headed for the southern exit.
We were NOT in search of a particular anchorage. Instead, we were now in hot pursuit of another boat. Back in October I wrote a playful blog post titled, “in cold pursuit.” Around Thanksgiving, we got very close- we were maybe one day behind Charlie (he was in St. Augustine and we had just arrived in St. Marys). However, we parked up as Charlie shot forward and the trail went cold. It got much colder (in regards to distance) as I waited for Susan in New Smyrna Beach and colder still (in regards to temperature) as two record cold fronts came through Florida in late December and early January.
But now, we could almost smell the maple syrup on White Seal. We confirmed Charlie’s location via electronic communications and the final pursuit was on! We dropped sail, started the engine and motored past several reefs and over some shallow water. There she blows- White Seal anchored at Red Shanks! A few minutes later we were waving to Charlie and then anchored off his bow.