Hanging out in Hatchet Bay (Fri): Our second day, The Captain does some chores including changing the problematic starboard bilge pump and changing oil on the port engine. I decided to join in and defrost the fridge. Later, we went in & checked out the grocery store. (We picked up a large can of Dole pineapple juice $3.39, Lays Stax--his new thing--"cheaper than Palm Beach!", a can of Friskies $1.34 and some guava juice to go with our passionfruit.) Yes, the options are limited and prices vary widely from cheaper-than-home to twice as much. However, they have a small mailboat on Thursday, big mailboat on Friday & a high speed ferry from Nassau. Afterwards, we wander down to Da Spott (bar) and are quickly hugged by some intoxicated locals--The Captain was a very good sport! We had a few drinks and ran updates for our electronic devices, then headed home. (The "big" boat doesn't show up until 6:00 pm--through the entrance channel after dark!)
Day 3 (Sat): At exactly midnight, The Captain bolts out of bed--"The wind just switched!" Either we miscalculated, or the winds aren't as forecast because now we are closer to the limestone cliffs than we planned. By mid-morning, the winds are a steady 20 and he doesn't like our position. (The winds were forecast to be N-NE at 25 thus the reason we tucked back in this corner. Instead they were E-NE. Dang it!). However, moving is a problem. The water is too stirred up to see another sandy patch on the bottom. It's too rough to snorkel and check the anchor set. I propose doing anchor watches through the night instead of moving. An old fishing mooring pops up just off our starboard stern. "Did you see that?" Eventually, we decide to tie a float to the mooring and use it as a reference. We also score some decent wifi since we swung around. I scramble to upload a blog, research posting blogs through our Iridium, update Google Maps and send a few Facebook pics. With nothing but free time, I also finally figured out why my Canon Rebel wouldn't connect to my laptop. Score! We could hear music coming from town, but after lunch the overcast drizzle moved in. Our only neighbor pulls up anchor and moves to a mooring closer to the dinghy dock. No town for us. There are two airports on the island and we see several planes going overhead, even in these winds.
Day 4 (Sun): The next morning we decide to move farther from the bank. We raise the anchor but when I try to increase port thrust to turn, the wind blows us sideways. Craig rushes back and puts the boat in reverse, backing out into the middle of the cove. "There's no thrust from the port engine." Did we hit the dinghy or the mooring? "No, the prop is slipping." We drop anchor to reassess. We decide we're holding and he confident the anchor in sand. He pulls the engine up & looks at the prop. It doesn't appear to be loose, but he gets in the dinghy to reach under the bridgedeck to change it anyway. The waves were bashing him around and he took of a couple waves in the face. (Don't drop the nut!). Yep, the rubber drive looks deteriorated.
I'm officially tired of the free internet, so I go back to reading. We've given up on regular meals because of the sleep schedule, instead munching all day while running the generator and watching TV. Will the winds ever quit howling?
Day 5 (Mon): They keep amending the forecast. We were hoping to get down to Rock Sound for water, fuel (and laundry), then wait for a weather window to take the southern channel to the Exumas. However, we get word some sailors may take advantage of the forecast--less than 15 SE winds, to cut across to the "middle grounds" instead. "Yeah, that would work!"
Tuesday, Exumas: We put the main sail up (one reef) while still at anchor (we're already facing into the wind. Cool trick!), then lift the anchor at sunrise to clear the entrance. The genoa is unfurled and our heading out to clear the shoal & Findlay Cay at the southwest end of Eleuthera puts the wind on our aft quarter, perfect for us. We're flying as fast as 8-9.5 kts without our engines.
At 9:30 am, we spot the sails of our friends, Kelly Nicole behind us. When we make the turn southbound, we're close hauled and an engine comes back on to maintain our arrival time. AND the starboard bilge light is back (after confirming the water in the bilge isn't a problem, he switches the new pump to "auto". We use the emergency hand pump in the cockpit every hour or so as a precaution. Apparently, we have a small leak--bad check valve?). We enter the "middle grounds"--the water is so clear you can see the rocks on the bottom! Cool--and a little nerve-wracking. By afternoon, the wind is gusting to 22. We feel pretty comfortable, despite the "sporty" ride, but a trip down below reveals, you can barely walk. The circuit breaker panel had fallen open, flipping the VHF breaker. A glass bottle of mouthwash has fallen & broken--now the boat smells minty fresh (down below on your hands and knees cleaning up glass with a strong odor is not where you want to be in a rough ride!). Everything from the salon table is on my side of the couch, including the cat's water bowl. (They said that's not supposed to happen in the catamaran brochure!). However, as we get in the lee of the Exumas, the waves decrease, so we elect to pass our original anchorage at Ship Channel (1:00 pm) for Highbourne Cay, where we can get water and fuel.
There are 2 megayachts in the anchorage, including a shore party of jet skis, sups, volleyball, horseshoes & lawn chairs. The Captain, anxious to get out of the waves, considers driving all the way up onto the beach! We're tired (and both a little snippy) by the time we're anchored and the mess is cleaned up. A couple more boats anchor around us and are dinghying around in weather we don't like in our 36 ft catamaran! Kelly Nicole arrives and anchors down from us. The Captain grills some burgers and I'm in bed by 7:30 pm. The winds are still from the SE instead of the east, so we're not in a protected anchorage. Every 15 min or so, the boat rolls hard port, hard starboard. Yuck. Rolly rolly puke puke, Exumas. Just when I get to sleep, there's a rainshower. Then another. Then another. We feel like we have hangovers in the morning.
Stats: Total time 8:08, avg speed 6.3 kts!, total mileage 51.5 nm, sailed 20 nm/motorsailed 1-reef main & genoa close-hauled.
Stay tuned! We're about to get to the fun part ;-)