Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spanish Wells to the Exumas

Sunset at Ship Channel Cay

We celebrated our last day in Spanish Wells with a hearty breakfast at the Anchor Restaurant. We met Bandit at the restaurant to settle our mooring ball fees before dropping the lines and heading out toward the Exumas. We were staging for the next day's crossing at the Royal Island anchorage which is a short 6 mile run for the day. We love this beautiful anchorage and it so nice to return to a familiar spot. It takes a lot of the worry and stress away when you have been somewhere before. Once anchored in Royal Island we relaxed onboard before going over to Island Tyme for sundowners and a final route check for the sail to the Exumas.

The next morning we picked up our anchors at 7 a.m. for the 45 mile sail from Royal Island to Ship Channel Cay in the Exumas. The forecast called for west or west-southwest winds 10-15 knots in the morning with 3-4 foot seas. We knew it was going to be a bit lumpy heading southwest toward Fleming Channel, but we anticipated calmer waters once we transited the channel.

The waves were 3-5 feet with some bigger ones that our boats buried their noses into as we bashed across. Once we arrived at Fleming Channel the winds and waves were opposed to the tide which caused the channel to impart a washing machine action on us. Eventually we made our way to the calmer side of the reefs and the boat's motions settled down nicely. We got more sail up and enjoyed three to four hours of fun sailing. Once we arrive in the area known as Middle Ground and Yellow Banks we needed to really keep an active watch for coral heads. They appear as very dark spots which in the right sunlight show up pretty well.

As we progressed further south the winds kept getting weaker which eventually forced us to drop our sails and simply motor along for the last two hours. We dropped our anchors in 10 feet of beautiful clear water just off the west side of Ship Channel Cay. We were all exhausted after getting very little sleep the last two nights and a long 9.5 hour crossing that day. Other than watching the sunset and sharing some sundowners aboard Island Tyme we didn't do much that evening. The next day we put both dinghies in the water to do a little exploring. Beautiful water, private little beaches, sting rays, starfish, conch and rugged shorelines kept us entertained. A beach picnic was the perfect way to relax and reflect on our trip to date.

Gail and Don exploring
Rugged and beautiful
Ship Channel Cay beach

The group decided to stay at this anchorage for one more night as the winds were forecast to be from the east which works well there. Unfortunately the forecast was wrong and the winds decided to perk up a bit and came in from the south as a storm front passed nearby overnight. It was a bit lumpy out there, but our trusty anchors made it seem ok.

We let the sun rise high enough to highlight the coral heads in the water before leaving Ship Channel Cay and moving the short 5 miles to Allen's Cay. We motored directly into the wind and waves until we entered Allen's Cay where the water looked so much calmer. There were only three boats in the anchorage which was good to see. Our Garmin BlueChart software showed plenty of room and deep enough water for us to move in to the northeast end for the best wind protection. We were pushed a little too far north and as we began turning around we realized how strong the outgoing current was in this anchorage. Once Wrinkles was sideways to the current she slid several feet too far toward the sand bar and presto, we were aground.

Waiting on the high tide

Mike tried all the usual fixes, kedge anchor, lean the boat with sails, etc., but the ripping current had Wrinkles pinned to the sand bar. Don and Gail came over after anchoring their boat to try pushing with their dinghy, but it just wasn't going to help. We knew the tide was still falling, so we were going to get pretty stuck very soon. Some cruisers came over and tried to push with three dinghies which was appreciated, but bound to fail. We rigged up a long line off our main halyard to keep Wrinkles tipped in the right direction while we waited for the tide to turn and raise us back up on the water.

Mike jumped in the water and took advantage of the exposed bottom paint to scrape off 6 weeks worth of growth. Eventually the water started coming back and Wrinkles re-floated herself with a little assistance from the kedge anchor. We anchored in a better spot and enjoyed a very cold drink. We keep learning, but this lifestyle can be trying at times. Oh well, another lesson learned and no damage done.

The view from our Allen's Cay anchorage


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