How I almost Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory or When a Shortcut, Isn’t!

Chubb Cay to Dollar Harbour, 30 January 2014, Thursday,

It’s Oh Dark Thirty, really, 3:00 a.m.  If I want to get to Cat Cay today, it’s 76 nm @ 6.5 knots, that’s 12 hours, plus the usual hour of hijinks, so I either leave now or drive in the dark. Since for the first few hours this morning I can follow the route I took back in December, it’s better for me to leave now in the darkness, but on a known route.  I also can’t wait to try my new driving lights, but as there is nothing in front of me, I don’t see anything.

Hauled anchor, at 3:45 a.m. and am now underway.  I’m very close to the cold front.  Forecasters had it between Florida and Bimini, but the winds switched around last night to the NW meaning it or part of it, passed thru, however, as I get underway, I notice the winds are again from the SE and I can sense buildups just to my west.  Sure enough, in about an hour, I am going thru heavy rain for about half an hour.  Once again I am passed the front, hopefully this time for good. (Sadly, was not the case and the third time, was at the most critical time.) As the sun came up at 6:30, the very light NW winds just caused barely a ripple on the ocean.  Good cruising weather.

I picked up a hitchhiker for about half an hour.

A Tern Takes a Ride
A Tern Takes a Ride

Been anchored here in Dollar harbor (thanks to Active Captain) 30 minutes, since 17:15, a 14 hour day,  just got out of the shower and now, finally It’s Miller Time, but I’m having stiff drink.  As my mother would say, a highball.

So let’s go back to the videotape. The plan worked well. Would have worked even better had I remembered to look at my Explorer Chart Book of the Bahamas, which was three feet away on the chart table in front of my face all f…day.  (the downside of getting up at 3 a.m.?)

So all was going well.  By leaving so early, the seas were flat for the first 9 hours, it wasn’t till early afternoon that the southerly waves picked up in the shallow water west of the tongue of the ocean.  Small waves about a foot, but once in a while they would hit the boat strangely and cause a disconcerting thump.  I’m making good time too, 1600 rpms, but averaging 7 knots.

At this point, it’s midafternoon and I’m only about 10 nm Southeast of the Cat Cay lighthouse, and I am following the exact route I took coming out, but am wondering why I took that route as it seems a little off from what my Navionics charts are saying.  Especially when I got to the real shallow area that I had come straight thru last month.  Shallow, so cruising slowly for an hour, like 5 kts, with only 1 to 3 feet under the keel.  Luckily, as the water got skinny, I made sure I was exactly on that track, though I did test it, by going north and south of the track to see if it improved. It didn’t.  OK, so I get thru that part and now I’m 3 nm SE of the lighthouse, but it my Navionics says I can try to get to Dollar harbor by coming from the NE on the east side of South Cat Cay.

Interesting. Not one to pass up an opportunity (to save an hour)I slow down even more and give it a try, within minutes the rudder becomes sluggish, I immediately make a sharp U turn and add power as the depth sounder stopped sounding, which means it’s in the mud, sand.  Within a heart stopping  30 seconds, I have at least some water underneath.  OK, all is good, I retrace my steps, get back on course a and once again head NW to the lighthouse and the gap between South and North Cat Cay.

Now, in part because of the wasted time, this storm that has been building is now here, so I go thru the narrow cut south (must hug shore to within 100 ft) of the lighthouse in raging seas and wind.  100 m visibility in heavy rain and wind.  When I get to the west side, it is far worse, as there seem to be two different wave trains and their both 6 to 8 ft.  I realize at this point, that I need sea room no matter  what the seas, so I continue west into the deeper water, >40ft, before I turn South,

Now, I’m wondering what to do, The rain is so heavy, I can’t see the inlets or the rocks just to my left, I don’t trust my chart plotter or my navionics App and the wind is from the North, so continuing on and crossing the Gulf Stream is out of the question.

A light dawns, Like the sun burning though the morning fog, I remember my trusty Explorer Chart Book.  Open it to the pertinent page and low and behold it has all the answers.  It showed why I had previously taken the route I had, plus it showed that the only way to the Dollar anchorage was from the southwest.

I decided to play it safe for once and come all the way south of Wedge Rocks as the channel there looked a bit deeper and wider, on the chart, so I just gritted my teeth and accepted that I would have a rough ride for the next 30 minutes.  The visibility was still bad enough I could not the rocks or breakers, so I wondered about turning into the inlet when the time came, but as it was it was all anti-climactic.  As soon as I was south of the rocks, I turned, and the seas died down to just 2-3’.  Looking at the chart it confirmed the AC advice and it was a piece of cake.  I had 14 ft. of water all the way to this anchorage. There was some wind, but absolutely no boat movement (and for a full displacement boat, that says a lot).  There is a strong current which is keeping Dauntless parallel to the channel, but this is the quietest anchorage I have had in the entire time in the Bahamas.

Here are two videos, but it’s hard to get WordPress to play nice with pictures. So go to http://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless-Public  for the rest of the pictures in descending chronological order.
Finally,  It’s Miller Time and here is one of my favorite Miller time T-shirts at http://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless-Public

Author: Richard on Dauntless

I’m an eclectic person, who grew up in New York, lived overseas for many years and have a boat, Dauntless, a 42 foot Kadey Krogen trawler yacht. Dauntless enables me to not only live in many different parts of the world, but to do it in a way that is interesting, affordable, with the added spice of a challenge. Dauntless also allows me to be in touch with nature. As the boat glides through the ocean, you have a sense of being part of a living organism. When dolphins come to frolic, they stay longer if you are out there talking to them, watching them. Birds come by, sometimes looking for a handout; sometimes grateful to find a respite from their long journey. I grew up on the New York waterfront, in the West Village, when everything west of Hudson St. was related to shipping and cargo from around the world. For a kid, it was an exciting place of warehouses, trucks, and working boats of all kinds: tugs and the barges and ships, cargo and passenger, they were pushing around. My father was an electrical engineer, my mother an intellectual, I fell in between. I have always been attracted to Earth’s natural processes, the physical sciences. I was in 8th grade when I decided to be a Meteorologist. After my career in meteorology, my natural interest in earth sciences: geology, astronomy, geography, earth history, made it a natural for me to become a science teacher in New York City, when I moved back to the Big Apple. Teaching led to becoming a high school principal to have the power to truly help kids learn and to be successful not only in school but in life. Dauntless is in western Europe now. In May and June, I will be wrapping up the last two years in northern Europe, heading south to spend the rest of the year in Spain & Portugal. Long term, I’m planning on returning to North American in the fall of 2017 and from there continuing to head west until we’re in Northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea, where we will settle for a bit. But now, my future lies not in NY or even Europe, but back to the water, where at night, when the winds die down, there is no noise, only the silence of the universe. I feel like I am at home, finally.

4 thoughts on “How I almost Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory or When a Shortcut, Isn’t!”

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