The Inevitable Dinghy Towing Lesson   Leave a comment

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Lee on the sail back to George Town.

        Before I get to the topic hinted at in the title of this post, lets talk about more pleasant business. Lee and I are back in George Town. Actually, that’s not particularly pleasant except that it means it’s almost time for our wedding! We sailed here yesterday from Rum Cay. It was the longest distance we’ve sailed for a while (50+ miles) and we actually got to sail downwind for once!
        Rum Cay provided some new and different experiences. After our first night there, the only other boat in the huge anchorage left. We had the place to ourselves for the rest of our stay. The bay was gorgeous and dotted with impressive coral reefs. Lee thought about searching some of them for lobster but never got around too it. We were too busy scoping out the town of Port Nelson and relaxing on the boat.
        The town seemed sleepy and otherworldly. An occasional goat or horse grazed in a vacant lot and residents greeted us from their porches. The cemetery occupied beachfront property and was filled with limestone headstones ( probably from as far back as the 1700’s) that seemed to have melted from the top down. On one trip in, a dog befriended us on the beach and watched us row away with his sad-dog eyes.
        Lee decided he wanted to hike across the island so that became our final day’s mission. Only one road seems to cross Rum Cay. It connects Port Boyd on the North side with Port Nelson on the South. Port Boyd was probably used during the island’s plantation days but now it is simply an uninhabited beach with a protecting reef. The five mile walk there took us a couple of hours. We followed the sometimes paved, sometimes dirt road over mostly flat terrain and past stone wall ruins. We passed the airstrip and old salt ponds. The road was littered with cow pies from the wild cattle that roam around the island.
        The cool wind from the ocean was a welcome relief when we finally made it to the beach. We ate our peanut butter sandwiches and Lee explored while I poked around in the sand. After a quick swim we were back on the road for the return trip. Lee worked on toughening his feet by walked barefoot the whole way back. It took another couple of hours but we eventually tumbled into our dinghy on the beach again.

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The beach at Port Boyd.

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Of course!

        We sailed our of anchor the next morning – quite a challenge when it’s blowing 15-18 and you have to avoid coral heads. After blasting out of the harbor under only our main, we unfurled the jib and started working our way downwind. On the rare occasions when we’re sailing downwind, our destination always seems to be dead down wind of us, forcing us to either sail wing-on-wing or jibe back and forth. Yesterdays conditions eliminated the wing/wing option, as the seas were quite large and the wind gusting above 20. We chose to reach off for a bit and see how we did. Pirat was blasting along at 8+ knots a lot of the time.
        Lee and I sat in the cockpit, watching the dinghy (motor off, oars off, plug out) skim along behind the boat, and guessing at how big the waves were. We just sat there and watched as the dinghy first flipped over on a wave, then nose-dived and ripped off the towing bridle. Uh oh. Now what?
        Lee hit the man overboard button and then announced that we were heaving to, which almost brought us within grabbing distance of the dinghy once it drifted downwind towards the somewhat stationary boat. When that didn’t work, we furled the jib and sailed after the dinghy with just the main. Pirat rolled and pitched like crazy in the huge waves and we ended up doing an accidental gybe. By then we were downwind of the dinghy, which was surprisingly easy to spot upside down on the wave crests. We motored into the wind, dropped the main, and I struggled to get a sail tie around it while the boom tried to buck me off. I drove Pirat alongside the dinghy and Lee hooked it with the boathook. I switched on the auto pilot, hoping the boat would stay pointed into the seas, and helped Lee drag the dinghy aboard.
        We stood in the cockpit, hearts racing, as I pointed Pirat toward our destination again. It had to happen sometime, that inevitable dinghy towing lesson. Many people we talk to have horror stories of losing their dinghies while towing them at sea. We were much better about bringing ours aboard for our sails when we first started out. The Exumas made us lazy about towing the dinghy. The water was always to flat and the wind relatively mild. We never towed it with the engine on and it always seemed to ride along behind the boat pretty well. Now we couldn’t tow it even if we wanted to! The bridle attachments ripped off so Lee will have to order some replacements. I’m sure we will be packing up our dinghy most of the time from now on anyway. We can just turn it upside down on deck but it gets in the way of setting up the solent and anchoring.
        The rest of the sail back was uneventful. We went fast and sailed right up to our old anchorage in Elizabeth Harbor at around 6pm. Now Lee is measuring the tides and doing a final survey of our path into the mooring basin. Tomorrow morning at a super high tide we’ll hopefully drive Pirat in and pick up a mooring. Then it’s time for laundry, packing, and flying to St. John!

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Me, in sailing mode.

Posted March 17, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

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