April 24 – 27, 2021
From Highbourne Cay, we had an easy sail about 45 miles to New Providence. A couple miles before dropping anchor, a squall came through with 35-40 knots of wind and rain. We saw it coming, so just rolled up the sails and powered into the wind. No drama, but it really underlined the point that we were voluntarily leaving paradise!
As usual, we met some nice people in the anchorage that really just wanted to meet Fluffy, our OC Tender. It’s just like walking a puppy. Everyone comes up and says hi, but their eyes are on the puppy, LOL. The day after arrival was just perfect for a SCUBA adventure, the wind was in the right direction to keep the surface relatively calm, and it was bright and sunny. Jeff took us to a spot marked on the chart as a “scenic underwater sight,” which turned out to be a sunken ship. The ship, now an artificial reef was in 35-45 feet of crystal clear water. The superstructure was just metal bars, with tons of fish swimming thru, so I thought it looked like the zoo, only under water. There was a 5 foot barracuda that gave me a few hungry looks. I kept my hands in fists, as someone told me your safe if your body parts don’t fit in their mouths, but the closer I looked, the bigger his jaws and teeth seemed. With that guy and the wreck itself, I was pretty chuffed to complete my first wreck dive. Jeff was as blasé as always, poking the little anemones to make them dart closed, picking up weird bits of metal, touching the hull. He had a great time. I’m not sure why the idea of touching rusty metal underwater creeps me out so much.
It’s now the end of April and the boat work we have to do in Annapolis is starting to weigh on our mind, so we decided to weigh anchor and move on. We had a terrific, fast sail to the bottom of Great Abacos, where we were going to tuck behind the south end, hiding from the easterlies. They say you having visited the Bahamas until you touch bottom. Well, I am almost please to say, yes, we have visited the Bahamas. They also say that sailors who say they have never run aground are liars. At least we don’t need to worry about that anymore. Okay, so we went in just before low tide. Turns out the “just before” is the most important part of the story. We nose our way into a shallow cove, watching the depth sounder, and we see 10, 9, and 8 ft moving at like 4 MPH, so you’d think it’s not scary. Jeff put it into reverse to stop, but not fast enough… We were blown just far enough to lightly rub the sandy bottom. Okay… some reversing, bow thrusting, wiggling the rudder… We just got more and more stuck as the wind took us on the beam. The difference between lightly stuck and 58,000 pounds hunkering down into the sand is only a couple inches it turns out.
Luckily there was almost no wave action, but the evening breeze was coming up, and as the tide started to come up, we were being gently pushed further and further onto high ground. I love a good adrenaline rush, but this is really getting ridiculous! Jeff had the bright idea of kedging off. I think he learned this in the Jack Aubrey books by Patrick O’Brien (if you really want to read about sailing and awesome true to life adventures, read this later and pick those up). First we tried it with the main anchor. The idea is, you lower the anchor into the dinghy, drive it up to where you want your boat to go, drop it, and then use the Renegade’s windlass to pull in the anchor chain, and drag the boat toward the anchor. However, our main anchor is 88 pounds and each of the 300 feet of chain weigh about 1.5 pounds. I was able to lower the anchor down to Jeff in the dinghy, but controlling the anchor, the chain and the dinghy all at the same time, and dropping in the right place with the right orientation, without destroying Fluffy was impossible. We’d been at this an hour now, because we had to launch the dink from the davits, etc, so it’s a real process. Jeff realizes we need “the Fortress” – our second anchor that is a weird shape, designed especially for sand or mud, but also great, because it only weighs half as much as our main anchor, and critically has just 50 ft of chain, with 250 ft of rope rode (rode is the word for line that ties the anchor to the boat). Jeff was able to build the anchor (it is like 5 ft by 3 feet, so it comes apart into 4 pieces for storage) drop it in the dink, and deploy it like it was no big deal. YAY!. Then I got to haul in on the rode using the windlass. It was pretty amazing. Really hard the first couple feet, and then I’m just zooming it in. Jeff is out in Fluffy, watching. Oh yeah, one of the first things we tried was raising the sails, to see if we could heel over, lift our keel, and just sail away. Obviously that didn’t work, or I wouldn’t have gotten to experience kedging in real life. Okay, so you know were this is going, because we left our sails up in case they’d help later. Yep, I’m hauling that rode hand over fist, going faster and faster. Oops. The main sheet is cleated off. I am sailing beautifully, away from high ground, out to sea, minus Jeff. Heh, heh, heh, the plan is finally coming together. Oh, I mean, more chaos as I run back to the helm to loose the sheets, luff the sails, and let my fearless captain return to his vessel. My I add that we enjoyed sundowers that night more than we have in a long time, in deeper water than we’ve anchored in in a long time!