written in Georgetown, Exumas
March 15, 2010
Rock Sound Eleuthera to Warderick Wells, Exuma looked like a nice short hop. Following the second cold front to hit Rock Sound in three days the wind we knew well would shift from West to North West and pick up speed. The forecast, both NOAA and Chris Parker, confirmed this near universal progression.
Off we set at dawn, or close thereto, intent on making 45 nm with wind and waves at our back.
Certainly the exit from Rock Sound was a bit tricky. Shallows abound in and around the sound and passages are narrow. Unfortunately to escape the sound required a lengthy leg taking us directly into the wind and waves. On a calm day this should have lasted an hour. This day it took closer to 2.
Waves were 3 to 5 feet off our port bow. Forward progress was reduced to little better than 2 knots at times as Meredith shouldered hit after hit from the lumpy seas. Following a cold front the wind is, not surprisingly, cold.
Meredith carried us safely if not comfortably to the first waypoint and we turned away from the wind. The waves however seemed to track us. As we turned so did the swell. Not so much as did we but turn it did. When we finally cleared Point Eleuthera, an isolated bit of nothingness developed by the Amway family, and established Meredith on her course we had 3 to 5 foot waves off the Starboard beam. This was at 8 a.m.
By noon the "swell" was breaking and no longer 3 feet. Often 8 foot was a better adjective. We shared other adjectives between us as Meredith would from time to time ship green water over the toerail.
But the sailing was exhilerating. Meredith flew under reduced sail. At one point, at the top of a wave, we recorded 9.6 knots! On the ground of course. Speed in the water remained at a little over 6.5.
By 4:30 p.m. we were approaching the cut at Warderick Wells. The cut would allow us to pass between islands and get ourselves off of the ocean and into the somewhat protected Exuma Sound. Exuma Sound is an extensive body of water dividing Andros Island on the west and the Exuma Chain of Islands on its east limit. Crossing any of the islands in the Exuma chain from one side to the other is a short walk, often you can see the Atlantic Ocean while standing on a beach on the Exuma Sound side of an island.
In the Exumas the cuts are narrow, deep and fast running. Warderick was no different. Once again we recorded over 9.5 knots on the knotmeter. Beta, our trusty diesel, was at half throttle. This was the slowest I was prepared to move to maintain steerage.
Through the cut in no time we then kept close attention to the charts as we kept Meredith in the middle of a charted route shown. on the Explorer Charts which would take us from Warderick Wells thence West some 7 miles then south 3 miles and then East 6 miles. This was the only way to get to the anchorage at Emerald Rock just off Warderick Wells.
In Exuma Sound mariners learn quickly to treat the sand bores with great respect. That or they will learn very slowly the same lesson. Down here sand bores are living things moving under their own power not steadily or inexorably in any particular direction but seemingly at random as their whim determines. Tides are limited through much of the area infested with these rodents of the sea and if you get hung up on a sand bore it can take a long long time to free yourself.
Visual Piloting Rules apply. Even with charted routes Meredith keeps one person on bow when transiting an area of sand bores. We travel these areas only in daylight and only when light is good. Cloudy days are not good days to see the bottom.
Our approach to Emerald Rock was uneventful and we approached the anchorage, which was now a mooring field, about 20 minutes before sundown. The loss of this anchorage to a mooring field was not welcomed aboard Meredith but, it being a fait accompli, there was nothing for it but to enter the field and take up a ball. We were too tired and sore and bruised to care.
As it turned out there was something else for it. Ten minutes from the mooring field the diesel stopped with a jerk. It restarted easily enough. Pushing the shift lever into reverse poor Beta jerked to a stall once again.
Trying it once again in forward produced only repetition of results.
The Budget Committee, already on the bow to pick up a mooring ball, instead readied the anchor. With Meredith at at dead stop she payed out rode and slowly the wind backed us onto the anchor. We backed the main a bit to get as much velocity out of the wind as we could.
The anchor grabbed, we went below and found some sleep.
Next morning I dove on the propeller, hoping to find a line wrapped around the prop shaft. Thank goodness this was the problem. Getting out the very sharp and oh so useful Witchard rigging knife I dove repeatedly on the fouled prop shaft until all of the 1/2 inch nylon line wrapped around it was cut off and put placed on deck for disposal.
Roundly did I criticise the lack of seamanship that would allow some errant fool to not only lose such a length of line overboard but to compound such incompetence with the lack of regard for others required to have him leave such line in the ocean, to be found by me.
The Beta started readily once again and this time, when the transmission was engaged, the prop turned smoothly and Meredith started ahead to help the Budget Committee take up the anchor rode.
While the Budget Committee tended to her duties on the bow I busied myself ensuring that the dinghy, which was towed by a bridle on two 1/2 inch lines was set properly for the day's journey.
Then it dawned on me. Not only had inconsiderate slob left a significant length of 1/2 inch nylon line floating loose in travelled waters. No not only that. Some other deceitful slug had stolen about 50 feet of nylon rode from my very poop deck. One towing line was nowhere to be found.
If I ever find the guy who stole my line, let me tell you....