Jan 28, 2009

Fighting our way out of Shroud Cay

We left the little harbor of Shroud Cay today, but we weren’t allowed to leave without a fight. I had two anchors out and I started to pull them up around 8:00 AM, just before high tide. The wind was blowing from the North West which would push us right out of the narrow harbor entrance. I decided I would challenge myself by sailing out of the anchorage. Big mistake.

I raised the main, then pulled up the anchor. As soon as we were free I rushed back to the helm. The wind had already decided that we would be turning to port, so I put the wheel hard over to port to assist. We didn’t gain enough speed to complete the turn fast enough, and I felt the boat slid into a shallow sand bank. “shit” I thought.

The stern of the boat was still floating, and I tried a few different sail combinations with the hope that I could use the wind to push us off. We didn’t move a bit. I called inside to LeeAnn for help. We pulled the main sail in tight to the center of the boat and started jumping up and down on the side of the boat to help it heel over as far as possible. The more we heeled the boat, the less water it would take to make it float and the wind would push us off the bank. Despite our jumping, the boat wasn’t moving. It became obvious that we weren’t going to be going anywhere without  being more aggressive.

I put an anchor in the dinghy and brought it across to the opposite side of the anchorage. Once back on the boat, LeeAnn and I started to pull in the anchor line with the hope that it we would pull ourselves off the bank.

We wrapped the anchor line around the cleat and LeeAnn held the line while I pulled it straight up from the deck as far and hard as I could. Then I would drop the line and LeeAnn would pull in the slack as fast as she could. The motion was like the big saws the lumberjacks used to use to cut down trees. Back and forth, I would pull, let go, she would pull. We worked in tandem like this for a few minutes, until we couldn’t pull the line any tighter. We still weren’t moving.

We tied off the anchor line, and dropped another anchor off the stern of the boat and repeated the same process. Still no luck, both of us were getting panicky. The window of high tide was closing. If we did not get the boat off the ground we would be stuck until the next high tide which was about 12 hours away. Not to mention the boat would probably be laying on it’s side by low tide considering the previous night we’d nearly put the rail of the boat under the water when we weren’t hard aground.

Onto the last hope: We brought an anchor line to the top of the mast and pulled the line as tight as we could to pull the boat onto it’s side as far as possible. Then we put the engine in full reverse, and I got into the dinghy with yet another line to help pull the boat to deeper water. Nothing. We couldn’t gain an inch. I was running out of ideas. What else could we do?

Luckily, when all hope seemed lost, another dinghy arrived, and with their larger engine combined with ours we managed to pull the boat off the bank. Then we had the issue of two dinghies floating around with lines tide to them, a line going to the top of our mast, and two anchors set. We had to shut down the main boat engine because of all the ropes in the water, and now we were drifting not only towards another sandbar, but also a large piece of coral.

Suddenly an anchor line pulled tight and the boat came to a stop. Very close to the coral, but stopped for the moment. We used the dinghies to get the anchors that had be dropped in shallow water. Then as we left the anchorage we saw a huge eagle ray. It was amazing!

We sailed to Black Point settlement. The first half of the sail was great. We made 6 knots easy. Then the wind picked up a bit much, and a bit too on the nose for comfort, but we were only traveling 25 miles so it wasn’t long before we were safe in a new anchorage.

Jan 27, 2009

A daydream and a nightmare at Shroud Cay Harbor

Our first day at Shroud Cay we anchored in the anchorage marked on the chart. The next day we moved around the corner into what's called "Shroud Cay Harbor". It's only large enough for 1 boat. You might call it a lagoon. It was very pretty, and we had our own little private beach:

Our own little beach where we hung out for two days:

After hanging out on the beach all of the first day, we came back to the boat and had a great dinner, Chicken Alfredo. It was canned chicken and the sauce was made from powered milk, but it was good to me! Then we watched a few episodes of Arrested Development and went to bed.

I fell asleep fast, and slept hard. I was excited to get a good nights rest without the annoying ocean swell rocking the boat. Suddenly I woke to a loud CRASH. A pizza pan with some other dishes on top of it had slid off the top of the toaster oven. I’m so used to things crashing at this point, so I didn’t really think much of it at first, but when I got up to take care of the mess, and noticed the boat had a slight tilt to it. The situation slowly became clear to me. The tide was falling and we were aground.

The optimist that I am, I thought “I’m sure it’s already low tide, this is probably as bad as it will get”.

I scanned the shoreline with our spotlight. I could tell it wasn’t low tide yet because the mangrove roots were still underwater, but I still clung to a hope. The tides vary from day to day. Some times they are really high, and sometimes really low. Maybe we would be lucky and this would be the most the tide would drop.

I checked our chart book, low was at 1:15 AM in Nassau. It was 10:40 PM, and we were 30 miles east of Nassau. I didn’t know if that meant our low tide would be sooner, or later than 1:15. Either way it meant that low tide was at least 2 hours away it, and that things were going to get worse before they got better.

It’s amazing how fast a tide falls. We were already heeled over to 12 degrees. It seemed like only moment later we were at 15. The tide continued to drop and the boat laid further and further on it’s side.

At 2:31 AM and the boat settled in at 28 degrees. Drawers fell open, plates fell on the floor. At first I tried to keep things picked up, moving whatever fell to the low side of the boat. But things kept falling and eventually I just left them on the floor.

It’s very difficult to move around on a messy boat that is heeled over that far. There was no walking. I crawled around like I was playing on a jungle gym. I started to get a headache, probably from the stress of the situation.

It wasn’t really possible to sit, I was always sort of laying down. LeeAnn  wedged herself against the wall and tried to sleep. We tipped to the point that the rail of the boat was just above the water. I hoped that we were at slack tide. There was no way I was going to sleep before the boat started to rise again. The waves lapping against the hull sounded unnervingly like the blub blub blub sound a sinking boat might make.

I thought about the day we had spent living out a scene from a postcard. The day seemed to fantastic, to dreamlike to be real. And in the dark the dream had turned into a nightmare. It all seemed so perfectly opposite. So novel. So unreal. They say reality is stranger than fiction. In some way this felt like life reminding us that there is a natural balance. Two sides to every coin. A low for every high. Or maybe I just need to do a better job when anchoring in such a tight spot.

Finally, the tide started to rise, and once I felt sure the boat was not going to sink, I did my best to fall asleep. The next day, everything seemed like a fairy tale again, and we stayed an extra day/night.

Shroud Cay

We spent about 3 days at Shroud Cay. It was very nice and beautiful.

There was a natural fresh water well on the island. Most people take their dinghy to the path, but we thought we would walk the shoreline for an extra adventure.

Walking to the well:

Where could it be?
We found the path!
Walking down the path:
A hole in the ground on the path:
I was thinking the well would be like, a hand pump or something. This well had fish in it. I feel bad for the old Spong Fisherman who used to get all their fresh water from this very well. The cement wall around the well was built in 1927.
Screw the well, I'm going swimming...

On this day it was LeeAnn's brothers birthday, and our friend John's as well. She made this for you three:

The Ruins of Royal Island

Exploring the ruins of Royal Island:

Notices the "weeds" to the left of the picture.... perhaps this was something planted by the previous "operators" of this island.
LeeAnn and Banff:

Jan 7, 2009

Still no time to talk!!

We're in Marsh Harbor, Abaco.

It's our least favorite of the places we have been so far. It's not very pretty, the people are a little rude, and it's very hard to get internet access!! We will be leaving here as soon as the windy conditions we are currently having pass us by.

Here are some of our latest activities:

Hope town!

Chris and leeAnn goofing off:The road ends (yep, that's the road)
Chris and LeeAnn wondering "where do we go now?"
Picture of the anchorage in Hope Town:


Take care, we miss you all :)

Jan 5, 2009

No time to talk

We're sitting in a coffee shop in Hope Town. I don't have much time to talk so I'm just going to post some pictures!!

Jan 1, 2009

New Years in Green Turtle

We woke up this morning to find the other boats had all left the anchorage. I was sad we hadn’t already left too. I was anxious to get to Green Turtle Cay. We packed up, and headed out. The wind was out of the west, and later switched to the North West. It pushed us along at 5.5 to 6.5 knots. It was a great sail. We went from Sale Cay to Green Turtle Cay in 11 hours, an average speed of about 5.5 knots.

By the time we got to Green Turtle it was dark. We knew the channel was very narrow, and it was rough conditions. So we decided to anchor outside with the other boats, despite the lack of protection from the waves.

We made popcorn, cuddled up close, and started to watch “Galaxy Quest“, but my patients with the waves was worn out before Tim Allen realizes he is on an alien spaceship.

We were rocking like crazy. Water was even splashing up unto the foredeck. I didn’t have to say anything to LeeAnn, we made eye contact, then started making preparations for what we knew was going to suck: pulling up anchor in large waves, then navigating an unlite, unfamiliar channel in the dark.

After we had secured everything on deck and locked the cat in the bathroom, I walked to the bow of the boat to pull up the anchor. It was pitch black. I couldn’t even see the anchor line with out shining a light on it. The waves were hitting us hard, I didn’t have a chance of pulling up the anchor by hand.

LeeAnn sat down at the helm and put the engine in gear. The boat veered off far to the right, tugging at the anchor and pointing us in the direction of the other anchored boats. I called to her “steer us to the left!”

The next thing I knew we were pointing far to the left, tugging at the anchor. I called again, “back to the right!” and as we came close to pointing towards the anchor I called “straighten her out!”

After that we quickly got into a groove. I would call back slight course corrections and we stayed on track well enough that I simply had to pull the line on deck and wrap it up.

After we got the anchor secured we turned our attention to the more daunting task of safely navigating the channel. LeeAnn kept a look out for boats and watched the depth sounder while I stayed bent over the chart. I navigated on the fly, quickly taking our latitude and longitude from the GPS and plotting it on the paper chart.

Once we were close enough to the channel markers, I abandoned the charts. LeeAnn used our spot light to shine for the channel markers. We would pick up a green marker and head for it, then we would find it’s corresponding red. Once close enough to the markers, LeeAnn would start the search for the next set.

Sometimes we wouldn’t be able to find the next set right away and LeeAnn would have to shine back on markers we had passed to be sure we were still in what we hoped was the middle of the channel. When she aimed the flashlight behind us, I was flying blind.

Eventually we would pick up another red, or green, I would head for it, and the process would start all over again.

We crept on. Suddenly we caught a break. A ferry boat was coming up behind us fast, shining his spotlight. Kindly, he started shining the channel markers for us, guiding us in. By the time he passed us we were close enough to the inner harbor to make it the rest of the way with out any trouble.

We dropped the anchor right behind some French sailors. We were technically still in the channel, but the wind was high, and it was very crowded. I didn’t want to go any further forward until we had daylight.

We were very near the shore, with barely enough water to float, but we made it! Exhilarated, and with adrenaline pumping, I rushed back to the cockpit where LeeAnn was standing and gave her a big hug, “We did it!” I exclaimed with a big smile on my face.

She didn’t share my excitement. I didn’t understand her attitude. We had been presented with a challenge, we worked as a team, and overcame it. The anchor was down and our success was certain, what was there to be upset about?

I took in our surroundings. There were lights in the distance, and music from several parties drifted to our ears. Music that varied from local island music, to Cher. Everyone was celebrating New Years Eve.

LeeAnn was homesick, and upset that we weren’t in a better place to celebrate New Years Eve. I found myself mystified by our differences. Sure I missed my friends and family, and I would have liked to be at one of the parties on the island, but I was just as happy to be on my boat with her. Reveling in our moment of success.

For me, the challenge we had just over come was far more satisfying than spending the night partying somewhere. Parties are a dime a dozen. I’ve been to so many stereotypical New Years Eve parties. You get drunk, count down to mid-night, kiss, and through the years it blurs into one great big indistinguishable cliche party.

The experience we had just had entering the harbor would be burnt into our memories. Of all the New Years I’ve experienced, and I’m sure for many to come, this is one I will distinctly remember.

Yes we are alone, far from home, and have no one to celebrate with on New Years Eve. But we are on an adventure, writing the story of our lives. There is romance, and charm in the night we spent New Years Eve on the deck of our boat, listening to the party echo out over the water. Strangers in a strange land. And when we count down to midnight, we’re alone, but we have each other. For me, that is the perfect way to spend New Years Eve.

We went to sleep. Angry at one another for not understand each others feelings. When we woke up, each of us felt better. We went ashore for the junkanoo parade. By the time we got back to the boat, we had completely forgotten about being angry at each other the night before.

Pictures of the New Years Day parade: