I want to conclude the Bahamas Adventure with the Christmas Disaster

But before I tell the rest of the story of the summer Canada trip, in which there will be midnight dives, midnight docking, 12 knot currents, flying trawlers, flying people, swinging booms, crushing dinghies, crashing seas, the bureaucracies of the world at their best, BoatUS on the edge, Canadian customs, the ever vigilant USCG, pilot ships, thunderstorms, rain, ships passing in the night, lobster pots, lobsters, big tides and of course fog, fog and more fog.

I want to conclude the Bahamas Adventure with another lesson learned and disaster narrowly averted.

Christmas Eve, My crewmate, Chantal, and I returned to Bayshore Marina in Nassau.  She would be leaving to visit her parents the next day and I would be picking up Julie and two of our friends, Karen and Jason, who were coming back for more adventure, having shared some of the shenanigans of Maine this past summer.

The trade winds had continued to blow steadily out of the East and ESE at 15 to 22 knots for the entire week.  They were forecast to continue the next few days, so I decided to use the following seas they would produce and head to Andros Island.  Overall course would be WSW, so the winds and seas would be just off our stern and provide a great ride, as Dauntless loves having her rear end goosed.

I had already noticed and thought about two issues, two yellow, if not red flags. The first being the lack of anchorages in the area we were heading for and the second being that no one ever mentioned cruising to Andros island.  Everyone talked about the Abacos, the Exumas, Nassau, etc.  here was this big island, just 45 miles west, whose only redeeming value was that they produced much of the fresh water for Nassau.  Furthermore, looking at our planned anchorage, it would require an hour long threading of a narrow, unmarked channel.  I would use my very accurate, so far, Explorer Charts, and my Navionics app on my Samsung Note, as well as the Navionics chart on my Raymarine Chart plotter (6 years old data).  I felt confident that we could handle whatever came our way.

But I figured we would be getting off the beaten track. How bad could it be?

What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?

So Christmas Day starts out rosy and pink.  Beautiful sunrise, we get underway, backing up out of the marina, everything ship shape.  I had even written out and gone over some new household procedures with our guests, since a few things had changed since the summer.  I was feeling very organized and experienced!

Hubris.

First hour, we have to head SE to get around New Providence island (the island Nassau is on), it’s a bit of a rough ride with 3 to 4 foot seas rolling the boat 10° to 20°. But after an hour we turned southwest and the ride totally smoothed out.  A little after noon, we reached Tongue of the Ocean, where the water went from the Bahamas depth of 10 to 20 feet to over 4,000 ft. deep.

I took this opportunity to stop the boat, putting her in neutral.   The month before, I had taken a similar opportunity to take a swim.  Any thoughts of swimming quickly evaporated as dauntless broached (waves turning the boat perpendicular to the waves) within two minutes with a vicious roll almost 40 degrees.  As I used the wheel to pull myself up, I quickly put her in gear and pushed the throttle up to get steerage back.  No damage done, a little lesson learned.

Our charts indicated a very narrow marked (with pilings) channel extending ¼ mile due east of the Island, after which we would turn south and thread our way another 45 minutes south to an indicated anchorage at ———-

We did this, arriving at our planned anchorage about 4 p.m., about an hour before sunset.  Andros Island has a reef protecting much of the east side.  We had worked our way south, with the Island about ¼ mile to our west and the reef, indicated by a line of angry breakers, about ¼ mile to the east.

Seas had built to 4 to 6 feet out of the east.  The period was relatively short, about 6 seconds, but we were protected now by the reef and just had some small chop, though with continued strong easterly winds to contend with at anchorage.

Christmas Sunset over Andros Island. What you can't see the island, ...

Christmas Sunset over Andros Island.
What you can’t see the island, …

After getting the anchor set, letting out 100 ft. of chain in only 6 ft. deep water, I didn’t like what I was seeing.  In the Exumas, we were normally anchored just west of the cay.  The cay would protect us from the wind and waves and the beach would be very close, sometimes within 100 feet of white sand and blue, clear water.  I wasn’t seeing that here.  Instead, even though the reef protected us from the large waves, there was a surface chop that made the water turbulent.  The Island also was far away, maybe a half a mile, though the shallow water was very close.  Lastly, we were in a narrow channel, the wind was strong out of the east and to the west of us was shallow water and the island itself.  In other words, if we dragged anchor, we would be on the beach before I could ever say, WTF?

We had dinner, watched another pretty sunset and at 7 p.m. two hours after our initial anchoring, as I am finishing my glass of wine, I look at the window and to my dismay, I see we’re dragging, slowly for sure, but dragging none the less.

I call everyone to Action Stations.  Fire up the engine, decide where we need to be, haul anchor, move to the new spot, drop the anchor, set it, and wait.  It’s not holding.  We try again.  No luck.  And now, our situation is made even more uncomfortable, as we are sitting perpendicular to the wind, producing a yawing motion.  While not terrible, I figure let’s try an experiment, let’s put out a stern anchor!  With my motto being, there is a first time for everything, we talked it over and while we did not need a stern anchor, it wouldn’t hurt to try it now.

We did, and after an hour of moving, fiddling and other hijinks, we came to the conclusion that it was a waste of time.  Luckily, through foresight, luck, the gods or all three, it turned out to be relatively easy to retrieve (I am sparing you the gory details, but suffice it to say, this was an hour long production).

So, it’s 9 p.m., dark, windy and I’m ready for bed.  45 minutes later, the anchor alarm (Drag Queen) goes off. I just up, even bother to put on pants, start the engine and for the third time move the boat. I’m back in bed at 10 p.m.  Before even closing my eyes, as I think about the past few hours, I realize that Dauntless has moved roughly a foot a minute ever since we got here, so in one hour, we will again have moved 60 feet and what am I going to do then?

I screwed this pooch and there is only one answer.

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