Green Turtle Cay, Abaco

Hello everyone,

We are anchored in White Sound, Green Turtle Cay awaiting the arrival of another cold front. This one is scheduled to come through near midnight with violent thunderstorms and high winds. Many boats have gone to neighbouring marinas to get a little more security. The Bluff House Marina here has quite a good deal going – any purchases in the gift shop or restaurant and bar are directly subtracted from your dockage bill. It is tempting, but…..$1.15 per ft US, plus water and power.

When the wind dies a few days after this front, we will start to head northward into the outer reaches of the Abacos and get staged for the jump-off to the US. Security measures have been tightened, as you can imagine, due to the war. Radio reports say that all vessels are being boarded by Coast Guard 10 – 15 miles offshore. We do not look forward to that, but all of our papers are in order so it should be just a formality. We will head for Cape Canaveral again, weather permitting. It is a 24 to 25 hr crossing, so we need some good weather for at least a full day and night.

Today’s plans are to prepare for the blow by putting out a second anchor, tidying up the decks, checking flashlight batteries and tying down any loose objects. Then, I must sort my shells from Spoils Island and stash them. Afterwards, we are going to the pool and gift shop at the Bluff House. for the afternoon. Guests are coming over for cocktails later and we will catch up with their adventures for the past year.

News from home indicates that the temperatures are rising up there and the lakes are breaking up. Dock work has started in Port Stanley, so spring must be close behind. Rain has rid most areas of the snow except perhaps in the bush. We do get some info about Ontario, but not a lot. Cases of this new respiratory disease, SARS, seem to be spreading. Take care all of you as you are too precious to us both.

Well, we will soon be there amongst you all with hugs to share and stories to tell. So, stay well and happy and we will see you soon.

Murray & Heather

Blown Ashore

Hello everyone,

Before I tell you our tale I want to say that no one was injured and the boat is in good shape.

On March 17th after our usual radio sked with Ontario , we climbed into bed to settled down for the night. Lightning was flashing in the sky on all sides but other squalls had passed over us during the day with little increase in wind. I was unable to close my eyes and got up to watch the storm approach. The wind hit us suddenly from the side and was clocked at 67 knots. That is almost hurricane strength. The GPS drag alarm started to beep and I saw that we were moving through the water at 1.3 knots. The anchor was not holding. The rain was being driven by the high winds and it was impossible to see what was happening. Murray dashed into the cockpit and started the engine to help the anchor hold against the wind. By the flashes of lightning, we could see a cliff of rock behind us. But, how close was it? It was very difficult to tell. Murray realized that it was just a few feet away and told me make a radio call. “Mayday, mayday, mayday” I called, giving our position and the fact that we were close to going onto the rocks. BASRA ( Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association ) answered and took the info. We donned lifejackets and Murray jumped into the dinghy to take a second anchor out. I turned on the running lights and deck lights so that we could be seen and also the strobe at the masthead which signifies a visual mayday.

By this time, the slashing rain had passed and we were able to see that we were sitting 30 feet off of the razor rock cliff. It also appeared that we were aground. Murray took the second anchor out to the bitter end and I payed out the line for him. We hauled as hard as we could with the windlass and pulled that line as tight as we could possibly get it. Looking around we could see that the other two sailing vessels that were anchored nearby had also been blown ashore and had landed on different beach on their sides. A dinghy from a powerboat anchored nearby came out in the storm and helped each vessel deploy anchors. They hauled our primary anchor and took it out as far as they could to windward. We tightened that rode as well using a 2-speed winch on the cabin top. As we were in no immediate danger, we canceled the mayday call. From the dinghy, Murray could see that the water was 18 inches below normal waterline at the bow. At the stern, the rudder was digging a hole in the sand. Radio calls informed us that low tide was still two hours away. Would we remain upright on our wing keel or would we topple over?

I gathered up the ship’s papers, our passports and money in case it was necessary to abandon ship. We tried to rest but another storm cell approached. The wind howled again, this time hitting us on the side. The boat remained upright even in the force of this gale. After its passage, we watched the hours tick away and tried to rest waiting for enough water to return to float us off.

At 4:30 am, we started to haul on the anchor rodes, going to first one and then the other. Finally, she swung free! We started the engine and re-anchored in deep water. We could see by the dawn light that the other boats had also managed to pull themselves off the beach.

Murray dove on the rudder to check for damage. Thank you C & C for building strong boats. No visual damage seen, but we will check closer when we haul out. On the wing keel, he could see 8 inches of sand and grass piled on the flat surfaces.

For a time, we will be very nervous of approaching thunderstorms but nothing can prepare your boat for a sudden, unexpected violent wind. This was the first time we both realized that we could lose our boat in just one instant. We were lucky.

Now, we are anchored near Marsh Harbour to relax a bit, check out the underbody more closely for damage and to meet with friends.

Hugs to all,

Murray & Heather

The Ides of March

I hadn’t noted the date that morning or perhaps I wouldn’t have been talked out of my bed quite so easily. We were anchored in Royal Island and planned to sail at first light, heading to the Abacos. But, during the night the wind had started to sing through the rigging. When the alarm went off at 5:45 am, we looked at each other and said “Maybe tomorrow”. A short time later we spoke to friends who were underway already and they reported that the seas were fine. So….. we grabbed our clothes and hauled anchor. We powered through between the Egg Islands and into the North East Providence Channel with a glimpse of two sailboats off in the distance ahead of us.

The Channel was busy with freighter and cruise ship traffic but none of them came close to us. Other than the three sailing vessels, we saw only one other pleasure boat during our passage. Murray had the fishing line out for the complete trip but not a nibble. The seas were very confused, as is usual with this area. The winds were from the south east at 15 knots but the waves seemed to come from two directions – east as well as southeast. The boat tossed and rolled. Murray saw the heel indicator show 15 degrees on one side, then right over to 20 degrees on the opposite side. In the hurry to depart, I had neglected to take any anti-nausea medication. So, my stomach was not really happy with the conditions but as long as I stayed above decks, I was ok.

When we were within 20 miles from our goal, the sky over the land to the west of us began to darken. The clouds took on an ominous appearance. Then, was that thunder? When the sound came again we were positive it was thunder. The lightning flashes followed soon afterwards, but seemed a long ways off yet. We told ourselves that the storm was following the land and that the sky was still clear above us. That didn’t last too long. Soon the sky was dark everywhere and lightning flashes surrounded us. When one flash was immediately followed by the crash of thunder, we both jumped. Rain pelted down and the wind picked up. Luckily, we had rolled up the headsail and had only the main up at this time.

All in all, we went through four squalls before we entered between the reefs at Little Harbour, Abaco. Other than a little wet and cold, we were in fine shape. Visibility at times had been hampered but it cleared enough when we needed it to safely navigate into the protection of the islands of the Abacos. We motored a short distance and dropped the anchor for the night just before 5 pm. Double rations of grog for the whole crew that night.

Yesterday, we snorkeled some and found a few conch. I walked the beach picking up shells while Murray cleaned them. Everyone had departed from our anchorage and we enjoyed the solitude. The squalls are still marching through now and then, rinsing the decks with fresh water and shortening our radio use with the crashes of lightning. But the skies cleared and we were blessed with a perfect complete rainbow nearby. Today the wind has been honking and we will stay put once again. But soon we will have to venture into the crowded Marsh Harbour to meet old friends, do laundry in a machine again and maybe get some fresh veggies. I stocked the boat so completely this year that all we have had to purchase so far has been tomatoes, green peppers and lettuce.

The Abacos will keep us under its spell for a few weeks and then we will start to wend our way further north and prepare to cross into the US once again. We hope all is well with everyone up north and that spring will be showing its face soon.

Hugs to all, Murray & Heather