01 April 2012

Making Our Way from TC to Great Harbour Cay

We left TC on Sunday, March 25, with two items left on our Abaco must-do list. 1. Guana: Partake of the world-famous Sunday pig roast at Nippers; and 2. Man-O-War: Pick up our sail from Jay, who was patching a small tear. (We need a sewing machine, we've decided.)

The wind was what they call "fresh" (when they don't want to say "damn it's windy"). We put a reef in the mainsail before we even got underway, which seemed prudent: we could see whitecaps even in the canal. We were also flying our baby jib (100%), since the big genoa was off getting some love from Jay. The wind was blowing hard from the southwest, and even with the greatly reduced sail area, we flew to Great Guana Cay averaging over eight knots. A great sail, and we were feeling quite competent - it was like we actually knew what we were doing, ya know what I mean?

As we were approaching Guana we passed by a Moorings catamaran that was having trouble with her headsail: it was flapping every which way and the jib sheets were tangled into a huge knot. Her "crew" - there were four young couples on board - was unable to get the sail furled. We steered around the hapless charter boat, into Fishers Bay, and anchored in less than six feet of water. We were tucked in between Dive Guana's mooring field and little Delias Cay. We knew that the spot was not well protected from west or north winds or from the chop of the Sea of Abaco, but we'd anchored here before. We let out extra scope and backed down hard on the anchor, so we felt safe and stuck.

Just after arriving, we had a minor crisis: the water heater hose busted - again. Ean handled it like a pro, and I assisted by fetching tools and cutting lengths of hose. At the same time, another drama was unfolding in Fishers Bay - or as we now call it, Troy's Bay. Troy is the owner of Dive Guana. We met him only once, when we picked up one of his moorings in Settlement Harbour on New Year's Eve, but we also "know" him through his daily contributions to the Cruisers' Net. We had left our VHF radio on, and as we were working on the water heater we heard Troy hailing "The Moorings Catamaran Anchoring in Fishers Bay." Ean's head was down under the starboard aft berth, tending to the water heater, but I looked up from my hose cutting duties to find Nauti-buoy, the Moorings cat that we had seen earlier, anchoring about twenty feet behind us. WAY too close. All eight aboard were up on the bow, peering down at the anchor, hoping for the best, I guessed. I yelled across, "Hi!" and "I think Troy from Dive Guana is hailing you on the VHF!". So helpful of me. They responded to Troy, and he asked them to switch to channel 12, and of course I switched as well so I could eavesdrop. Troy was telling Nauti-buoy, quite firmly, that they did NOT want to anchor in Fishers Bay, as the wind was going to blow hard and clock to the north and they would end up on the rocks and he did not want to be rescuing them at three o'clock in the morning, thank you very much, although it's totally up to them, of course. Right. Nauti-buoy responded that they had dropped their hook temporarily, just to get their sail problem straightened out.

On their way out of the bay, Nauti-buoy nearly collided with another cat looking for a place to settle for the night. Between the two of them, I was thinking I needed to put out the fenders. This cat was named Kanana. There were three people aboard, two on the bow and one at the helm. First they tried to pick up one of Troy's mooring balls. After several failed attempts, they gave up on that and decided to anchor. Uh-oh. Troy was apparently still watching his bay. "Kanana, this is Dive Guana." Pause. "Kanana, Dive Guana." At this point, Ean called his assistant into action. I lost track of Kanana for a bit, but when I finally had a chance to look up, Kanana was on her way out of Troy's Bay. Troy had apparently "discouraged" Kanana, and they would go elsewhere, hoping to find a place more hospitable.

The obvious question, here, is WHY did Troy let JOY anchor in his Bay? It might be wishful thinking, but I'd like to think that we got Troy's seal of approval, somehow. Was it because he'd seen us there before? Because we took the best spot in the bay? Because he watched us put out tons of scope and back down on our anchor to make sure it was set? In any case: Troy gave us confidence in the blow that night. Maybe it was totally unwarranted, but what the hell. We were the only boat that Troy didn't run off. It must mean something.

So we "fixed" the water heater (Ean insists that I put "fixed" in quotation marks, here), and we went and had a GREAT meal at Nippers. We took a long walk on the windy beach, and I think we had a couple a' dem "Nipper" drinks, too. And then we dinghy-ed back to Joy and huddled in the salon as the wind blew and blew and then blew harder. Joy swung and held. Yay, us. The sky was lit up with lightening, the wind howled, and the rain poured down. We were up for half the night, rockin' and rollin', stopping leaks, and trying to reassure some slightly concerned cats.

On the Cruisers Net in the morning, Troy reported that the wind had been gusting to 50 knots and the chop was more than two feet in Fishers Bay. We have no way to verify his reported wind speed, since our wind indicator doesn't work (have we mentioned that?). But we tend to think Troy would not exaggerate. Troy is the guy who reports on the state of the Sea of Abaco every morning on Cruisers Net. I guess he gets to do this because the Sea of Abaco rolls right into his bay. Anyway, we have several times heard him describe the Sea of Abaco as "flat calm" at the exact moment we are upon it in a healthy one-foot chop.

Monday was Man-O-War. Stopped at the store to pick up eggs and lobster tails. Picked up our sail from Jay. The wind was still a steady 15-20 knots, so we didn't even think about changing out the headsails. Genoa rested neatly in her sailbag, and baby jib stayed on duty. We anchored for the night close off Lubbers Quarter. At least we started off Lubbers Quarter. We dragged a bit, and then held for a while. We had anchored in grass, which does its best to repel the pointy bits of the anchor. So we ended up dragging away from Lubbers Quarter, which was okay, but then the wind shifted in the morning, from NW to NE, so we started dragging back towards Lubbers Quarter. Not so good. We were in the midst of Big Water preparations. We had decided to leave the Sea of Abaco once and for all, instead of dodging sand bars on the way down to Little Harbour. The new plan: pop out to the Atlantic through the nearby Tilloo Cut. On our list for the morning: lash down the fenders, store the ditch bag in the cockpit, get Jane's PFD out of the locker, install the jacklines, stow all items likely to become projectiles, fix pea soup for lunch, and complete a few other miscellaneous chores. Dragging into Lubbers Quarter was NOT on our to-do list, so we had to pull up the anchor, motor over to Elbow Cay (less than a quarter-mile to the east), and anchor again. Another hour and a half and we were set. A little after noon, we hoisted our anchor again and this time made for Tilloo Cut.

An hour later, we were rolling in big swells and sailing downwind down the ocean side of the Abacos. A beautiful sail, making 4-5 knots. We had considered the possibility of visiting Little Harbour for the night, but there was no stopping us at that point. It was dark before we got to Hole in the Wall at the southern tip of Abaco, at which point we executed a very pretty jibe and headed west for the Berry Islands. With the wind now near the beam, we were sailing 6-7 knots for the rest of the night, dodging cruise ships and cargo vessels. A plug here for AIS. All these big commercial vessels transmit their position, course, and speed at all times. They show up on our chartplotter as nice little pink triangles, and if we poke at the little triangles (touch screen), a box pops up to tell us the ship's CPA (closest point of approach). Very reassuring. If you can match navigation lights, radar ping, and pink triangles, you are SO safe.

At about 0400 Ean woke me up for the rev watch. That's short for "reveille," as in WAKE UP. We were gradually losing sight of the lights on Great Abaco Island. 'Bye, Mom. Thanks to Lorna for helping us find Percy. Thanks for your secret Wahoo Salad recipe, Sally. To Phil, quoth Douglas Adams, "So long, and thanks for all the fish." Fare thee well, Abacos.

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