Get the Hell out of Dodge

Get the hell out of Dodge.

We were in 5 feet of water with 150 feet of chain out and we continued to drag slowly, but surely, towards the shallows less than 100 feet away. Been there, Done that. But Not Tonight.

It’s almost 11:00 p.m. So, I get out of my nice cozy bed, put on my work clothes and proceed to make the boat ready to heavy seas.  The nice following seas and waves we had getting here would now be on the bow.  Steady 20 knot winds, a 45 mile fetch, had built the seas to 5 to 6 feet and with a short 6 second period, we were going to get wet.  Nothing I had not encountered before, but now, I had daunting task of making Dauntless live up to her name.  45 miles to go, plus we had to tip toe back up the narrow channel.

I looked long and hard at the chart.  The ocean was only ½ mile east of us.  The chart showed an unmarked channel that should have just enough water for us to get through.  It would save us one hour of the narrow channel.

But with strong winds opposing us, the seas would be breaking at the mouth of the inlet. I thought of Barnegat Bay and the channel that almost ended our dream before it even began.  I had learned a lesson, 6 to 8 foot waves are uncomfortable, but only become boat threatening in shallow water.  I would not tempt Fate again.

After making sure all the furniture was secured and everything put away, 45 minutes later, I was ready. Everyone else was still in bed; I start the engine and hauled the anchor. I told our guests that we were moving, but all was OK and just to stay in bed, as it was going to be rough.

As I headed the bow north northeast, I once again longingly looked at the chart with the ocean only 15 minutes away.  But the lesson of Barnegat Bay held me to my plan and I proceeded to follow my path I had just used a few hours earlier.

An hour later, 00:45 I was turning due east into the narrow, but marked outlet channel, when Julie joined me in the pilot house, as a waning last quarter moon, filled the pilot house with a rosy glow.

We were ready for the angry sea.

We didn’t know what to expect with the oncoming waves.  Dauntless does so well with a following sea that one hardly notices 6 foot waves from the stern, heading in to them, is a different story, made even more difficult because we had no leeway to maneuver in the narrow channel.  And while we had just come thru this channel, the lesson of Barnegat Bay was always with me, as I still feel that is the only time the boat was at risk, in hindsight, we may have been literally within seconds of disaster.

With short period, oncoming waves, I reduced power to 1500 rpm.  Our initial speed of over 6 knots quickly evaporated as we would climb one wave, our bow pointing high to the sky, then almost weightless; suddenly plunge into the trough of the wave, with the bow pulpit almost burying itself into the next oncoming wave.  I watched with dismay as our speed went from 6.2 to 5.8, 5.4, 5.1 and finally 4.8 knots.  With 49 nm to go, our trip was now going to be 10 hours, of up and down.

Luckily, I had the foresight to put a transdermal scopolamine patch on before departure.  I would need it.  As the boat settled into its yo-yo routine, I resigned myself to a long night.

Julie wanted to be in the pilot house, so she suggested I go get some sleep. I agreed, I was exhausted and even a few hours’ sleep could make a big difference.  I briefed her on our course and conditions and went to our cabin.

The Krogen 42 master cabin in under the pilot house in the bow.  As I got into bed, holding on for dear life, I remembered that I had sleep in worse conditions.  When Julie and I went cruising with our Dutch friends, Jan and Carin on their wonderful Malo sailboat, in the Outer Hebrides, our first night at St. Kilda bay was every rolly.  The anchorage was open to the southeast, the direction of the swell.  Julie and I slept very well (after being on a sailboat all day on the open ocean, how can you not?). Thought-out that night, I remember thinking I was on a corkscrew roller coaster.  But I slept and I remember thinking many times, now we turn upside down as we roll to the right.  Think of a fighter plane making a diving turn to the right.

So, I did not expect a problem with this boat movement which was madly pitching up and down, there was little (for Dauntless) roll.

But as I tried to go to sleep, I noticed a very disconcerting sensation.  With each pitch upward, as we crested the wave, Dauntless seemed to hesitate, before the downward plunge began. So lying in bed, I found my body waiting and waiting and waiting for that plunge.  No sleep could be had here, so after 15 minutes of up and down, I returned to the pilot house.

Julie then decided to try to sleep on our sofa in the saloon.  She went right to sleep, so after a while I decided to try it too. The weightless hesitation was not really noticeable near the back of the boat. With the autopilot set and no boats in sight, I curled up next to Julie like spoons and promptly went to sleep for about an hour.

Returning to the pilot house, all was as I left it.  All systems were fine, and we were on course moving at about 4.8 knots.  Seas and winds were still strong off our bow (due east) and occasionally, the pilot house would get a bath as the wind would take the top of a wave over the bow.  Not green water, but a thorough dousing.

As it became light out, a sail boat passed to our north and we discovered two flying fish on deck.  We could see the spot where the fish had hit the salon window, about 5 feet above the decks, 8 feet above the waterline.  Though most of the night, I thought the waves were 4 to 6 feet (in Long Island Sound, I had the most miserable 15 miles ever as I headed into 8 to 10 foot short period waves, the boat only making 3.5 knots. Virtually every wave put spray on the foredeck and against the windows and then the really big waves put spray over the top of the pilot house, once seemingly not even touching the pilot house)

At 11:15 a.m. 26 December 2013, we were anchored in Shroud Cay, the Exumas, the Bahamas.

My guests were able to have a beautiful day (remember this was their first day at an anchorage in the Bahamas) and I felt it was a job well done.

This is more like it
This is more like it
Sunset after a loooong day
Sunset after a loooong day

I made a mistake in our destination, but instead of exacerbating it, I bit the bullet and the problem was solved.

I could now enjoy my day.

Thanks for reading.

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.