Southern Bahamas Pinball   Leave a comment

        This post is a little outdated but we didn’t have internet for a few days. Lee and I sailed from Rum Cay to Mayaguana overnight last night. It was our first overnight in a long time and I have some good stories to tell! Those will have to wait till I get a good night’s sleep.

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The clouds are often the most interesting scenery on our passages.

        Take a look at a map of the southern Bahamas (the scattered islands to the southeast of the Exumas). To me, this region resembles a pinball machine full of little island bumpers, obstacles, and passages that bounce sailboats around before spitting them out at the bottom. The wind is a constant repelling force from the S-SE-E, making almost every passage upwind unless one is willing to wait for a front. Lee and I don’t feel much like waiting. There aren’t any fronts bringing NE breezes in the forecast and we want out of the Bahamas now.
        We need to get out of the Bahamas now, actually, so that we can make it to St. Kitts by early June. Why St. Kitts, and where is that, you ask? After some research over our mini-vacation in California, Lee found a yard in the two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis that seems like our best option for hauling and storing Pirat. The place we were looking at in Florida is too questionable depth-wise and every place else we’ve looked doesn’t have enough protection or isn’t in a place we could easily get to. St. Kitts has the advantage of situating us well into the Caribbean for our next chunk of sailing. Lee’s favorite part is that this yard will dig a hole in the ground for your keel to fit into while the boat is out of the water, keeping the hull lower to the ground and therefore a bit safer from high winds.
        St. Kitts is in the Leeward islands, which are just East of the Virgins and form the top of the southeast-reaching Caribbean chain. That means we’ll be sailing through/past/to the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, U.S.V.I, B.V.I, and a few Northern Leeward Islands like St. Martin. At first I was excited at the prospect of seeing all these places we didn’t think we’d make it to before. Then I realized how far we had to go and got discouraged. Now that we’re finally on our way, though, I feel much better about the miles we have to go and the island’s well visit along the way.

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Conception at dusk.

        Yes, we’re finally on our way…but not by much. We left Georgetown on Friday (Gasp! Bad Luck!) but we’ll just say we left on Thursday because that’s when Pirat left her mooring in Kevalli Cove to anchor near the mouth of Elizabeth Harbor. On Friday we sailed to Conception, a tiny island that is part of the Land and Sea Park. It was a gorgeous spot and we wished we’d had time to explore. We left there bright and early yesterday, prepared for another long beat to San Salvador. Unfortunately it was going to be a little bit too long. We didn’t think we’d make it before dark so we settled for Rum Cay. San Salvador may seem like it was in the wrong direction for where we ultimately want to go but it would have situated us well to sail SE with the current wind direction.
        Yesterday was full of close calls and near misses. It took us all day to get to the anchorage on Rum Cay, even though that was our fall-back shorter sail. We sailed along peacefully for a while. It was another one of those unbelievably beautiful days in the Bahamas. Then the wind died and Lee started the engine. Almost immediately, he decided that it sounded strange and went down below to check something we’d had an inkling might become a problem. Our fears were confirmed by the oil all over the engine compartment. The oil filter we’d just put in was too close to the refrigeration compressor so the compressor punched a hole in the filter after running a few times. All the fresh oil we’d just changed had leaked out.
        No engine? That’s okay, we’ll just sail into Port Nelson. It took all afternoon and I don’t know how many tacks to get to the anchorage. We were fighting a current and beating into sub-10 knot wind. For the second half of the beat, Lee worked below on the engine between tacks while I watched for coral heads and rocks. We wove in and out of the reef and probably came the closest we’ve ever been aware of to hitting a submerged danger. I spotted two distinct, very dark spots out in front of us with barely enough time to run back from the bow, take the helm from the auto pilot, and steer Pirat between the two spots. Rock or coral, they looked shallow and menacing!
        We weren’t having enough fun yet. The fishing line we’d been dragging had to get in on the action. Lee started reeling it in to put the pole away only to find a Barracuda on the hook. It was still alive and it looked mad, as only a Barracuda can. Lee grabbed heavy rubber gloves and pliers and with a little teamwork we managed to get the angry fish off the hook and back into the ocean. Lee swears the Barracuda was mouthing the word revenge.
        We were lucky no coral heads jumped out in front of the boat while we were messing with the Barracuda. Things seemed to be calming down. Then we heard someone hail us on the radio. Lee answered. It was a friendly sailor on his way out of the anchorage who just wanted to let us know that we didn’t show up on his powerful radar. Thanks for the info.
        I was completely exhausted by the time Lee dropped the anchor and we took down the main. I had done the trimming and grinding for all of our many tacks and my arms felt like noodles. I also get these great bruises on my knee caps from resting them on the edge of the cockpit while I trim the jib.

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Cool clouds off Rum Cay.

        The good news is Lee had another oil filter and enough oil to replace what had leaked out. He worked hard for the rest of the evening to get everything cleaned up and out back together. He even pulled out the dead mouse that’s been floating around in the oil extracting pump cylinder thing (that’s the best name i could come up with) since it came out of Lee’s parents’ garage in Maine. I think the mouse was clogging up the pour spout…it looked like something out of the La Brea Tar Pits.
        Today we took it easy on Rum Cay. We met some Danish sailors and a family who sailed down from Maine. Both are on their way North. They’ve already been where we’re going. Tomorrow morning we’re leaving for an overnight sail to (hopefully) Mayaguana. If we don’t make it that far there are plenty of stopping points along the pinball path. The wind should keep us close hauled the whole time but we’re ready for that. My arms have had their day of rest!

Posted April 17, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

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