Friday, January 29, 2016

To Rock Sound - The Long Way

We managed to get to our destination, Rock Sound, via Royal Island. We chose this northwest and then southeast route to keep the winds aft of our beam and to keep us sailing, as much as possible. We also chose Royal Island Harbour as an interim destination for the strong southwest winds as well as the cold front passage Thursday night. We were expecting 20-25 knots, gusting to 30. We saw gale force winds (35 knots) and a squall with reported winds up to 48 knots. As you know, we do not have a wind instrument, but we use the sound of our rigging. It moans like a cartoon ghost in the upper teens and twenties. It sings a higher pitch in the thirties, and has an even higher pitch and decibel level in the forties. But to get technical, some guy with a wind instrument reported the 48 knots. We were thankful we were in such a protected anchorage that had little or no fetch, therefore it was all about contending with the wind. Plus looking out for the boat that anchored near us.

We were up most of the night, therefore we were not enthusiastic about moving on this morning. Once Myron was convinced this was the only day of favorable winds, northwest 20 to 25 knots, he roused me up and we set off. We knew we would not be off Governor's Harbor before the sunset, but we have been in and out of Rock Sound so many times, our confidence was high to arrive in the dark. The real challenge of the day was negotiating Current Cut in high winds. We tried to time our arrival at slack, but the tide tables were off and it was just beginning to ebb and on its way to getting quite rowdy. On the other side of Current Cut was a completely different world. Complete peace. A local boat passed us with a six year old driving and dad on the bow, both waving and having a great day. That is the thing about that place: if it is bad on the west side, go to the east side!

We filled both saddle tanks with water, probably over a hundred gallons made, and all around had a very pleasant day. After dark, Myron had a dolphin jump out of the water at the side of our center cockpit and take a good look at him. Gotta love dolphins. We arrived about 9:30 pm. Time for a shower and much needed sleep.

Love to all,

{GMST}24°52.03'N|076°09.94'W|1/29/2016|9:48 PM{GEND}

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Royal Island Harbour

I forgot to mention yesterday that we had a pod of dolphins join us on the banks just off Highbourne Cay. We both went forward to watch their antics. They seemed as happy as us that we were having a boisterous sail.

The wind never let up last night. At 5 am, squalls began to come through. It made me wonder about the difficulty of today's journey. But the sunrise chased away the squalls and we had another great sailing day. We did start the motor to get through Fleming Channel, as the tide was against us and the wind, creating lumpy seas that are better to just get through. We tried a few times to find a good hold in this harbour. We wanted to be further west in this anchorage, but the holding was better where we ended up. Normally we are well on the east end, however strong southwest winds have been forecasted which make our usual spot less desirable.

This should be an excellent place to wait out the next few days of bad weather. When the winds turn favorable for our next journey, we shall set off again.

Love to all,

{GMST}25°30.90'N|076°50.80'W|1/27/2016|5:10 PM{GEND}

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

And So It Goes

They say, if you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans. As mentioned yesterday, our plan today was to sail across the Exuma Sound, fish if possible, and anchor at Rock Sound, Eleuthera Island tonight. Alas, the wind forecast changed, losing the better south component, making for a reach on the Exuma Sound that is too tight for Hold Fast. Further, the seas were four to six feet with a four second interval. We believe it, because we had occasional three foot seas today sailing on the banks.

And so it goes, as we know Auto Paul understands, sometimes you have to sail north to sail east. We shall get to Rock Sound again, at some point. We are taking a longer, sailable, engineless route, and will in the meantime be looking for a place to hide from the next trough, cold front, low, combo weather punch.

We were the ONLY boat heading north in these strong winds and seas. It was a great sailing day, for us, although we had to keep reefing the main to keep Hold Fast near seven knots. We ended up with a triple reefed main and the jib was reefed on and off, depending upon point of sail. We began to wonder what is wrong with us to be so completely against the herd. More than 20 boats pounded, bashed, motored and tacked around us, as they headed south against the weather. We saw our sister-ship 'Anneteak' and hailed them on the radio. They were not happy and it did not look fun, but they were bound and determined to get to Cambridge Cay to hide from the cold front and ultimately to Georgetown.

It has been years since we anchored at Ship Channel Cay. It is so rough on the Exuma Sound that a swell is wrapping its way around to us. It reminds me of a tame anchorage on the Channel Islands of the west coast. In other words, a little surge will not affect our sleeping. There is a boat fishing behind us, but otherwise we are all alone.

We keep hoping we look brilliant. Tomorrow will tell.

Love to all,

{GMST}24°48.64'N|076°49.77'W|1/26/2016|3:56 PM{GEND}

Monday, January 25, 2016

Staged at Staniel

Our weather this year has been interesting, to say the least. We just finished taking the effects of the fourth low to form in the Gulf since the beginning of January. Last Friday and Saturday were different than our wind event a few weeks ago. Rather than abnormally high winds for about three hours out of the northwest, we had over 24 hours of strong winds out of the northwest. It got so rough at anchor in Georgetown about 2:15 am Saturday that I finally got up. We were taking turns keeping watch through the night. It is not so much that the anchor will let go, we had over 10 to 1 scope. The concern was more about other boats hitting us. We had anchored out by ourselves but by the time the winds were due, three boats came in and anchored in front of us. To entertain myself, I got creative with the nearby boat names. One was called "Let's Dance." It seemed fun for about the first hour. Poor Hold Fast worked back and forth on her anchor chain so hard and for so long, the chart plotter looked like it had a solid green banana inked on it from the boat tracks. I guess it was more furious pacing than dancing. Another boat name was "Last Rodeo." It was a smaller boat than us and was bucking like a bronco. I chose to take the name optimistically and hoped this was our last rodeo due to these lows. However, I figured if there was a wife on board Last Rodeo, it could be prophetic and she might soon be off that boat.

We have one more low forecast to form in the Gulf, possibly Thursday. Since the trough that just went over us Friday is regressing back to us, and a new trough is coming toward us, and the low is forming soon, it appears we only have two good days to get somewhere. We took advantage of it and moved north to Big Majors Spot (lovingly known as 'Pigs Beach') near Staniel Cay. If the weather holds, we should be able to continue sailing north to Rock Sound tomorrow. That is the plan. The execution of the plan depends on more than just us. Hopefully it is not too rough to get some fish involved, as in on the BBQ.

It mostly a nice sail north, we could have used a little more wind. But we were glad the winds were light when it was time to enter the cut. Our timing was not great and we hit Cave Cay Cut about mid-ebb flow. There was not enough wind to push us in, so we had to throttle up and drive her in. It took only a few minutes but it felt much longer. Once inside on the banks the wind filled in well and made for a great sail. We made about 101 gallons of much needed water. Time for dinner, show and sleep.

Love to all,

{GMST}24°10.93'N|076°27.67'W|1/25/2016|4:57 PM{GEND}

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Georgetown Fish Fry

We enjoyed our stay at Long Island. It was nice to see the people recover so quickly from having a hurricane hover over them. The donations were gladly received and the folks we talked with were quite thankful. Thank you to all who donated and for the prayers.

We highly recommend a visit to Salt Pond, Long Island, not just because we find the people so friendly, but we also very much enjoy the Saturday morning Farmer's Market. Here is a tip: they say it begins at 9 am, we go at 8 am because the vendors sell to one another and what you want may no longer be there by 9 am!

We suffered through some mild south winds there, but could not stay any longer with strong SW winds forecast, therefore we came back to Georgetown. The winds were calm upon our arrival, allowing us another visit to Fish Fry for local food and local socializing. The Patriot/Chiefs game was on, so there was much to be rowdy about.

Weather is unstable, hence so are our plans. We will keep you updated as we move around.

Love to all,

{GMST}23°30.46'N|075°45.68'W|1/17/2016|4:57 AM{GEND}

Friday, January 8, 2016

Full of Water at Long Island

Before Wednesday night's fiasco, our plan was to ride the wind to Long Island on Thursday. However Thursday ended up being a day of repair and recovery. Myron got our outboard squared away and it is purring nicely. He went to help Brent on 'Strider' with his salt soaked outboard, but Brent was already getting help from another cruiser. We went and fetched some of our 'Sea Foam' to share with Brent to help disperse the water in the gas. They were up and running within 30 minutes of our visit. We toured around in Hold Fast looking at the bottom, but could not find our other gear. While touring, we saw several dinghies at 'Blue Heavens' with people all over her like ants, repairing the damage suffered from hitting the rocks. It was heart-warming to see. We heard a lot of thank-you's over the radio and appreciation of the cruiser kindness. The lady on Bamboo, who was hit by another boat that tore up her rigging and chain plates, was almost in tears when she was thanking people for their help, including someone that brought her chocolate. Gotta love that!

In town we got a few more details of the previous night, such as the winds went from 10 knots from one direction to over 70 from another in the snap of a finger. We met Ed and Sharon on 'Imagine,' a Passport 42 we managed to avoid as we tried to raise anchor. Ed was impressed with Hold Fast and her crew, mostly because we avoided them, but also because it was so rough they would occasionally see our keel. Not just the round bottom at the bow, but the keel. Sharon kept repeating that to me because she was so stunned that we came that far out of the water. They could not believe Myron was keeping control of the boat in such rough waters. I also discovered that the revving sound I heard when I was on the bow of the boat (trust me, it was hard to hear anything in that wind, but I heard this) was not Jammin's prop coming out of the water but their wind generator trying to tear itself apart. During the mayhem, the thought did cross my mind about someone's wind generator shedding its blades in all directions - like toward us - but I was too busy to dwell on it.

So kudos to Myron's driving, to Hold Fast's big engine, but mostly we thank God for our safe delivery.

We understand that the low is now a storm system and may possibly even get a name. Even though it is gone, it is sending us some large swells from the north. Nothing too bad as we left the southern cut from Georgetown, but it was uncomfortable. Once we were behind the long line of reefs, we had smooth running to Long Island and a slight breeze out of the northwest. I emptied most of the water in the fouled tank when I used it to clean salt water off our solar panels and the enclosure (salt water on the inside AND out!) We made about 117 gallons of water and every tank is full.

There are about ten boats here at Long Island. We should be meeting them under better circumstances!

At some point, Pastor Craig will be available to receive the donations. We can see some of the destruction from the anchorage, such as a boat way up on land, roofs missing and damaged docks. The trees are dead a good 30 feet up the shore. We should know more when we meet with Pastor Craig.

Love to all,

{GMST}23°21.48'N|075°08.08'W|1/8/2016|4:54 PM{GEND}

Thursday, January 7, 2016

We are OK

Last night, after sunset, we had a significant weather event.  According to boat reports with wind instruments, we had winds in Georgetown to 75 knots, gusting to 91 knots.  At Staniel Cay, they had 106 knots.  It was all related to an elongated low that formed near Cuba and then moved northeast very near if not over us.

We were in the middle of dinner when it hit and knocked us over on our side.  The wind direction made a change of over 90 degrees.  It is great holding at Monument, however when Hold Fast’s anchor turned to reset, it fouled on some canvas.  We were on the move.  The seas were quickly over 4 feet in the anchorage.  Myron drove the boat to keep us from ramming others, while I was on the bow trying to get the storm snubber off the anchor chain and get the anchor up.  It was a significant challenge as I spent about 20% of the time holding my breath as the bow dipped into the oncoming seas.  I had my inflatable life vest on and I am thankful that it did not self-inflate in the middle of my task.  Everyone had their motors on and we were all able to keep boats from coming together and we never fouled anyone else’s ground tackle.

As we maneuvered away from the anchorage to an open spot, we checked to see if the dinghy was still attached to Hold Fast.  It was, but it had flipped over in the winds.  We could not see the dinghy engine and assumed it was on the bottom back at the anchorage.  We pulled out into the middle of Elizabeth Harbour and put out a 12 to 1 scope, managed to get the storm snubber back on in the rough seas and then waited it out.  It was now 8:45 pm.  By midnight, the winds let up and we could go check gear again.  The wind vane suffered some re-arranging when the dinghy went airborne, the generator had been tied down on deck, so it still there and we secured it in the cockpit.  I had one of the water ports open hoping to catch rainwater, so we fouled the port-side tank with sea water.  The inside of the boat was a mess.  To my delight and surprise, the coconut pie I had just made was about the only thing that did not find the floor!

Our first priority at daybreak was to right the dinghy.  As we pulled the dinghy to the side of the boat, we were elated to see that the black motor which we could not see at night was still attached, albeit inverted and taking a good salt water soak.  We wrestled the dinghy upright using a halyard, and were able to recover the fuel tank and fuel line.  The dinghy anchor was entangled with the motor and fuel line.  We lost one oar and the paddles that attach to the ends of both oars. 

The outboard is now on the back of Hold Fast.  Myron has pulled the spark plugs, sprayed it with WD40 and it is drying out. He will change the oil next.  He did a good once over of Hold Fast’s Ford Lehman engine as it worked very hard as Myron powered against such significant winds.  All is well. 

Many of us were checking on each other via radio and email last night.  It is good to be in the company of people who care and want to help.  Last night we got an offer from ‘Jammin’ to help us find out outboard and this morning we got a call from ‘Tilt’ offering the same thing.  We listened to the net this morning about all the boaters who incurred damage either from going ashore or tangling with other boats.  Myron is making notes about who else needs help.  Several have suffered much worse than us.  I will put our oar and oar paddles on the lost and found list.

I have bruises but nothing is broken.  To sum it up, we had our butts handed to us last night.  But we are OK and better off than some.  Today is a day of recovery.

Love to all,