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.

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