Mayday, Mayday

Mayday, mayday, vessel on the rocks taking on water….

That was the call we heard yesterday. Our hearts beat a little faster and I ran to the radio to take down the information and quickly plot the position. We were currently too far away to be of much help, but continued to monitor the situation. Eventually, we heard that it was a 65 ft ketch on the reef near Black Cay. He had been holed and was taking on water rapidly. Several smaller boats were circling him, and assisting in removing personal effects etc to the nearby beach. Requests went out on the radio for a large capacity pump and everyone in the area scrambles to try to locate one to save the vessel.

By the time we drew close, the water had virtually filled the vessel and the captain was ready to give up. A pump arrived shortly thereafter, supplied from the army base near George Town. It was a large one and had a diesel motor. We called in to the vessel co-ordinating the rescue and offer our assistance. But, with our deep draft and the seas that were running, it was difficult for us to be of any help. They thanked us, and suggested that we maintain our present course. We continued on towards George Town, with one ear always tuned to the radio. It wasn’t long before we heard that the captain had given up and was abandoning the ship. All the crew and the ship’s cat were safe, and hopefully, with a lot of their belongings. They were taken to a nearby town and looked after by the locals.

On our return north the following day, we again contacted the co-ordinating vessel that was on still on scene. He told us that the coach roof of the boat had been destroyed overnight in the pounding surf. The vessel had broken free of the reef and come to rest against the rock outcropping. The family was still recovering some belongings from the boat, but had managed to get most of their personal things off the day before. The ship’s cat was missing at the time, but, as the island was very small, they expected to recover him shortly. We extended our sympathy to the family and our praise to the people that had worked so hard to help them. It was a very difficult situation and handled extremely well by the volunteers in the area.

So, we will watch our course lines even more carefully. Keep our eyes open for reefs. And monitor the radio for other boats in trouble. And perhaps consider having a large pump available for situations just like this one.

Love & Hugs, Heather & Murray

Update from the Log Book of Windswept IV

Hello everyone,

We hear that the weather up north this winter has been very good, with little snow and quite warm temperatures. We hope that it stays that way for all of you and that the flu bug doesn’t bite.

Things are still great aboard. The weather has been wonderful lately, with 3 weeks of sunny warm days. The water temperature is still around 78 degrees F.

Along with friends aboard MarNel IV, we have done a lot of fishing and snorkeling. Some of it quite successful. I have become adept at spotting the camouflaged groupers, and Murray is really getting good with his spear. He shot a good sized lobster right between the eyes, for our first feed of lobster aboard this year. But, it sure wasn’t the last. A little wheeling and dealing ashore one day got us 2 lobster for $10. They were the perfect size for one meal. Then last night, a purchase from a passing local got us a HUGE lobster for $12. That one fed us and we have at least one pound of lobster meat left over for Lobster Newberg ( I got the recipe from another boater ). Yummm.

In our travels, we have seen some lovely reefs. Recently, the wind and seas were very calm and we took the opportunity to snorkel on the Sea Aquarium again. It was just awesome. Huge fish and beautiful coral gardens. The sea aquarium is inside the Exuma Land and Sea Park and fishing there is prohibited. Consequently, the fish are not afraid of divers and just mosey around, in and out of the reef. Last year, we were disappointed to see that the huge groupers had gone and were afraid that someone had shot them. But, after we were in the water about 30 minutes on this visit, they started to show up from their hiding spots and we saw at least 3 big ones. It was wonderful to see them.

We have burned up a lot of gas, trying to catch fish from the dinghy, with little success so far. On the other hand, still fishing using conch bits as bait has been very good. Murray caught a total of 6 trigger fish in two days. They are hard to clean, but have a lovely firm white flesh that is very tasty.

Right now, we are back in the Staniel Cay area and anchored around us is the Canadian fleet. Or, that is what it looks like. Canadian flags seem to be in the majority at this moment. In fact, the numbers of American cruisers seem to be greatly diminished, while the Canadian ones ignore their slumping dollar and head off anyway. We have had many reunions with old friends and are meeting new people daily. I organized a beach party a few days ago, with drinks and snacks and conversation while the sun set behind us. Last evening, we saw our first green flash of the winter. As the last of the sun disappeared into the sea, a brief flash of bright green was spotted. It is rare, but does happen.

Well, that is what is going on here. How are things with everyone up north? Write when you can. Hugs to all.

Heather & Murray aboard Windswept IV

Holidays in Staniel Cay

We hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s and that Santa was good to you all. He even managed to slide his bulk down the mast and put a couple of things in the stockings hung there. On Christmas Day, we had turkey dinner aboard a friend’s boat. The turkey was cut in half and each half cooked separately in the barbecue. I brought mashed potatoes ( without a masher, Murray had to smash them with a spoon ) and a freshly baked pumpkin pie. It was a real feast.

Things were quite quiet in Staniel over Christmas, but as New Year’s neared, the events cranked up. There was a picnic on the public beach, with the junior racing teams competing in the bay on Sunfish. Fund raising events, such as auctions and dances were held. On the 31st, the C-class Bahamian boats competed in a three race series. They are 16 to 18 ft long with a cat rig. The mast is 40 ft high and the boom 20 ft long. There is little ballast in these boats, but they use the weight of their crew to hold the boat upright. The crew climbs out onto planks extending over the side of the boats. These planks are called pries. When the boat tacks, so do these planks. Murray had the opportunity to sail on one for one race – The Termite. I took several photos with my digital camera and hope to send them to the website in Feb sometime. Another picnic was held on the beach, followed by the Captain’s Cocktail party with free rum punch and snacks. Fireworks were scheduled for midnight, but the rain put a damper on that.

On New Year’s Day, the Cruising Regatta was held. A fleet of 18 boats entered, including 5 catamarans. The wind was blowing 12 to 15 knots with an overcast sky. The start line was skewed, and a trifle short. Especially with those wide cats in the race. We sailed the line on starboard, but the cats couldn’t make that tack and came in on port. The collision was just behind us but the sound of crunching fiberglass was one that I don’t want to hear again soon. Two cats crunched, with some damage to one but it was able to continue on. The course was a triangle approx 6 miles long and we went around twice. Although we were pressed hard by our friends on Annual Hope, a Hughes 38 from Lion’s Head, Windswept IV ended the race in 2nd place. The prize was a watercolour by a local artist. Just lovely.

As the cold fronts were approaching and winds forecast to be high, the next day found us negotiating the shallows behind the Majors and setting our anchors to keep us safe. We are tucked in behind a little cay, in a small bay with six other boats. The wind started to blow hard yesterday and it is quite cool. I know, not as cool as there! But, some people are wearing sweatshirts! Too cold to swim and too windy to leave the boats. So, we bake and read and fix things and listen to the radio calls. Life in a anchorage during a blow.

Well, that’s what has been happening here. How’s things up north?? Snowy?? Not a snowy as Buffalo, I am sure. Hugs to you all and stay warm and well.

Murray & Heather aboard Windswept IV, getting wind swept!