I don’t think there has been a day up until Mangrove Cay, that I would have said “I expect to spend my 63rd birthday trapped in Northwest Harbour, Great Sale Cay, Little Bahama Bank by easterly winds 20-25G30 knots that began Sunday and are not expected to diminish before Friday.” I’m pretty sure I would remember if I had said that.
Starting with the squally frontal passage as we arrived, we have more or less had 90% of a gale blowing with the exception of a strangely calm night before last. Were we old hands at Bank sailing, we might have snuck farther east before the wind returned with sun-up. Even so, unexpected calms can end unexpectedly. So, we stayed put. We have swung from pointing west when we got the anchor down to east as the atmosphere continues to remind us who really rules the waves.
Fortunately, we can still hear NOAA West Palm Beach, and we get broader brush NOAA NAVTEX weather via UHF. The well-reviewed Sony SSB receiver has been a disappointment. What we have received has been garwarbly voices reading the NAVTEX reports. The more detailed broadcasts have plumb eluded us. ZNS-3 (AM810 on Grand Bahama) has been interesting, but they have yet to broadcast weather info when theoretically scheduled. But the trials and tribulations of the Family Island student cooking contest were worthy listening (the recipes held a lot of promise). All other weather sources remain beyond reach.
One of the (4) other boats anchored here, a ketch a bit larger than us, left early yesterday and came back five hours later unable to do better than 3 knots over the bottom headed east once they had rounded the north end of Great Sale. The 36 miles they needed to travel from there to get to Spanish Cay became impossible in daylight hours. We met the captain and his dog in mid-afternoon after they had discovered this part of the Cay has no beaches, only limestone ledges that endanger dinghies and dogs.
We, too, are headed for Spanish Cay, and it looks as if we may provide guide boat service again as the ketch has lost the illumination for his chartplotter screen — ouch. After discussing it with the captain, I went below and loaded all our Bahama waypoints onto our handheld GPS, something I should have done before leaving Port Everglades.
As beautiful as it is, from time to time we have to go below to get away from the roar of the wind (it becomes a low moan). There’s nothing to be done for the flapping of the US Ensign and the Bahamas courtesy ensign other than closing the cockpit doors. From time to time a larger wave will give the bow a whack, and a gust will roll us, but this is a much calmer place than it was when we arrived now that those limestone ledges are upwind. Sleeping requires a few subconscious adjustments and interruptions to check our position for possible anchor drag.
When we consider what really has us waiting out the weather (normally a 2 out of 4 day affair), it is our draft. At five foot five inches fully loaded, we chose not to risk the Indian Cay Channel. That cost us two hours. That meant we needed to stop at Mangrove Cay while we could read the water. That put Spanish Cay (at 75 miles) 30 beyond our reach given the advancing front. In retrospect, with the strong S’ly winds we could have made that distance in daylight…but that’s “Windsday” Morning navigatin’.
And we wouldn’t have met Schatzie the Wunderhund.
And I might not be smelling my Birthday scratch-made cherry turnovers baking…