Waiting for Weather   Leave a comment


The view from our original anchorage in Nassau. That’s Atlantis on Paradise Island.

You wouldn’t think weather would be exerting so much influence on our passages at this point. What’s a little wind and a few waves after some of the sails Lee and I have done over the past few months? Well, the Bahamas introduces a new element into our passage planning: coral heads.

Depth has always been an issue. Her 7.25 ft. draft makes Pirat an awesome boat to sail but hinder sour travels somewhat. We knew we’d encounter a lot of shallow water in the Bahamas and we expected coral and rocks too. What’s tricky and unsettling about the shallows combined with the underwater dangers here is that we could be sailing along far from land in 10 foot water and come upon a coral head with only 6 feet of water above it. It’s not like we only have to worry about hitting things when we’re approaching shore or maneuvering around in an anchorage under power. We could be dodging rocks while full-on sailing in the middle of a 30-mile passage!

The trip from Nassau to the Exumas is one such passage. The banks in between are shallow and dotted with hazards. Our charts show some major things to watch out for but pretty much tell sailors that depths of 1.5 meters or less could crop us in any 3 meter zone. That means we will have to keep constant watch for anything that might reach up to bite us from below. Here’s what we know about reading the bottom from above so far.

Very, very light blue/white = very, very shallow (2-4 feet) with white sand.
Light turquoise = very shallow; too shallow for us; sandy bottom
Turquoise = shallow, probably around 10 feet so passable for us; sandy
Blue = dark patches seem to indicate either a rocky or grassy bottom; generally deep enough for us as long as it’s surrounded by deep enough water too.
Very dark blue/black = Rocks! Serious rocks seem to show up as super dark splotches that don’t lighten as you approach them and the light changes.
Blueish yellowish greenish = Coral, shallow, generally bad stuff.

Watching the underwater landscape from Pirat’s bow has got to be one of the most nerve-racking experiences ever. I constantly wonder is that dark spot a rock? Is it too shallow for us? When we go down with this wave are we going to hit the bottom? Is that light patch a shallow sand bar?

We haven’t hit anything yet but we’ve crossed some shallow, sandy areas where we probably had inches of water under our keel.. We’re definitely erring on the side of caution.


The Green Parrot, where we’ve been docking our dinghy and internet-ing it up.

So, we’re still in Nassau because as soon as the wind started coming from a favorable direction (northeast), it also came in at 20+ knots and brought clouds with it. Clouds mean no direct sunlight, which we need to be able to see the things we don’t want to hit. The mysterious bottom is even more mysterious when you can barely make out what’s down there.

We tried to leave on Thursday but elected to duck into Bottom Harbor just outside Nassau because the wind was still from the southeast. Why beat when we don’t have to? It was supposed to clock around the next day, and it did, but then the clouds arrived. Leaving our anchorage yesterday made us realize how hard it was to see in the clouds. We ended up going back into Nassau and anchoring on the East side of the harbor for an easy exit when we can finally get out of here.

Our foray to Bottom Harbor on Rose Island was not unproductive. We met people! I’ve been complaining about how we weren’t meeting people, especially cruisers our age. Well, Bottom harbor filled up with sailboats shortly after we anchored there and two of those boats belonged to young couples. Illusion and Rasmus met back in Florida and have been sailing together since then. They’ve been in the Bahamas about as long as we have and are heading to the Exumas. A third sailboat of young people joined them recently but they were off on a side trip.


Bottom Harbor on a gloomy morning. Rasmus (center), Illusion (right)

It was so amazing to sit and talk to people with similar stories to ours and similar experience levels. We spent a few hours on Rasmus Thursday night and have been communicating with the bunch on their little VHF net since we left. Hopefully we will all head to Allans Cays tomorrow, when the wind should be a bit calmer and hopefully the clouds will be gone.

Meanwhile, Lee and I will be exploring Atlantis and wondering about the gigantic party boat that woke us up by pulling in right next to Pirat and blaring insanely loud music in the middle of the night. Oh, and I’ll be stressing out about the wedding because it’s next month!!!

Posted February 13, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

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