Wednesday, January 2, 2013

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

NEW YEARS GREETINGS FROM PORT LUCAYA, GRAND BAHAMA !

We have retreated to a lovely marina at Port Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island. This was not our intended port of call but we choose to go north from the Berry Islands at 02:00 hrs on Sunday 12/30/12.

On Thursday 12/27/12 we left North Bimini and headed north 30nm and then east for another 50+nm to arrive of the Berry Islands at first light. We pulled into an area between Little Stirrup Island and Big Stirrup Island. You could see the bottom it was mixed sand and hard rock. We anchored in 14 ft of water in an area of mixed sand and rock bottom. We backed on the anchor first slowly to set it and then 1000 rpm followed by 2000 rpms. We did not move, no chain jumping etc it all looked good. During the remainder of the day we napped and enjoyed this idyllic place. No other boats around. The cruising guide mentioned that the anchorage could get busy when a cruise ship arrived since Little Stirrup was used as “A day on an island for the passengers”. Surveying the island revealed groups, fifty per group, of blue beach lounge chairs. We estimated the total at 400-500. Early morning light revealed “The Majesty of the Seas” sitting outside the breakwater. There were two ferries with a capacity of 30/boat doing loops outside the breakwater and the liner. We were not disturbed since we were about 0.5 nm away and inside the breakwater. The depth in the harbor varied from 21ft to 4 ft so we knew we would not see a cruise ship inside the breakwater. We spent the entire day being entertained by the antics of the passengers. Life guard stations appeared, kayaks glided out from the beach and jet skis with tour wranglers. A lead wrangler out in front 10-15 jet skis and then a sweep wrangler on the tail end. They would shoot off some place in a nicely spaced line and reappear in a hour…circle up at shore for a head count and it would start all over. I checked the weather forecast for Sunday and was content with 10-15 its out of north during the night but did not swell on the weather synopsis of “brisk winds” with the passage of the front over us. The anchorage has no protection from the North. Concerned about the passage of the front I got up at 0130 hrs Sunday morning to check the anchor alarm. As I stepped up into the cockpit it was obvious the winds were 15-20kts and gusting. Not good at all! Checked the chart plotter and we had dragged a little maybe 15 -30 ft. I fired up the diesel and thought I would watch it. Reassuring Judy that it was just precautionary. We had a 10-1 scope out with anchor chain on the bottom. Over the next 5 minutes the wind picked up and we were doing 0.8kts in a straight line due South and we were 600ft from our anchor way point. No reset tonight. Dragging quickly toward the 4 ft depths. Judy got dressed PDQ while I drove us back to the north. With life jacket on, head lamp etc. she went forward to pull the anchor. By this time it was 4ft short steep waves in the area from the north. The weather was deteriorating and with no anchorages around with north protection I decided to go out. The bottom had not looked that promising when we came in with small sand patches and rock bottom. Well, whatever visions I had about coming out with big surf was unfortunately true. 10 ft + steep crashing surf, water flying thru the air, 10 footers breaking was the instant reality in the darkness. The only saving grace was the channel out is wide and easy to find and heads due north. So we banged our way out to 1000 ft water it only slightly improved. The only choice was to head north over to Grand Bahama about 60 nm away. We were running at 2800 rpm and in the first 3 hours doing about 1.5 its. Later Judy asked if we would get there before dark and I shook my head. We spend 17 hours before being in the southerly lee of Grand Bahama. I picked the best marked channel, the Bell Channel, and decided that I would go in as far as the outer buoys at 20 ft depths and assess the sea state and the channel. Once I reached the outer buoys the sea state had decreased to 4 footers on the nose. I slowed the boat to 3 kts and still had enough way to maneuver so we went in. In the jetty it was flat…..wonderful flat slow water…I backed off to forward idle and proceeded slowly. After being up for 17 hours we now needed to find a marina fuel dock and tie up until the morning. Thirty five minutes later we did our first pass of the Port Lacaya Marina fuel dock so Judy could see the pilings for the control line and on the second pass she nailed it. By the time we were completely tied up the dock master showed up and said we could not stay there the night but on the other side. We lined the boat into a slip on the other side, tied up and went to bed. It has been a while since I’ve been so tired. The bed felt warm and welcoming. Best wishes to all.

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