Friday, June 1, 2012

Oh, so where were we.....

Our first stop in the Exumas was Norman's Cay.  This small island is about 60 miles southeast of Nassau. On the way there, one gets his first views of the diaphanous blue waters the Bahamas are so famous for.

We found the anchorage with no problems and couldn't wait to get our dinghy in the water and head to the beach.  We were anchored just a few hundred yards from shore so it was going to be a short ride in.

Getting the dinghy off the flybridge and into the water takes some effort.  One has to do a lot of climbing and lifting and hooking and unhooking of lines to make it happen.  I plan about a half hour
to get the boat off the lifts and into the water, ready to roll.  This time though, I had a problem.  Just as I was stepping into the dinghy from the swim platform, a rather large and unexpected swell lifted the boat and the dinghy.  Unfortunately for me, I had one foot on both vessels.  Something had to give and it was me!  I fell.  .....   and rather hard I might add.  

I landed on my ribs on the swim platform with quite a thud.  Along with that, I left several inches of the skin of my pinkie finger attached to the boarding ladder where I was trying to hold on.  The first instant I stopped moving I knew I was hurt.  I thought for sure that at a minimum I had broken some ribs.  It hurt to breathe.  Additionally, I saw a lot of blood around so I knew that something else must be amiss as well.  

Not to bore you with the details but I probably did have some broken ribs and I for sure could have used some stitches in my finger (I bled for several days afterwards), but I was going to survive.  What a way to start the trip!  So, Kim came running out and helped me inside.  I asked for some polysporin, bandages and a rum punch.   After about half an hour I was ready to go to the beach... very gingerly albeit.

We spent the afternoon on the sand with our Bahama Bums cruising buddies:  Bob, Stephanie (w/ their labs Godiva and Cassie) and Stephen and Pam.  They are fellow Defever owners and we would be traveling together on this adventure.  It was amazing to be on a deserted beach with sand like powder and water like glass.  I never knew water like that existed.

So anyway, we spent that first quiet night on the western side of Norman's Cay.  In the morning though, ominous clouds were gathering.  The first of many on this trip.

Prior to this, we had seen nothing but smooth and glasslike seas.  It couldn't have been any calmer.  We awoke that morning to a rocking and rolling motion, that while not uncomfortable, was not something we enjoyed.  Speaking to the other boats in our group on the radio, we decided to move the flotilla to the eastern side of the island.  Since the winds and waves were coming out to of the west, being on the lee side would allow the island to serve as a natural wall, blocking the bad weather.

It was a great idea, one shared by about 40 other boats.  No kidding, while we were one of the first to arrive on the east side of the island, within a few hours the anchorage was overflowing.  There were boats trying to fit in everywhere.

Most boaters like to have a buffer zone around them while anchored.  Much like driving on the freeway, you don't want someone right in front or behind you.  You want some room in case you have to maneuver.  Well, that was our plan.  Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way..... and that is how our first 'run in' occurred.

There we were, minding our own business when we heard some fellow boaters having some words of disagreement.  We weren't sure at first what was going on but we heard a lot of  F bombs and the like being exchanged.   Not wanting to pry, we laid low inside Maya with our ears pressed to the glass trying to figure out what was up.  Lover's spat?   Spousal mutiny?  It was all sounding rather juicy!

Suddenly on the radio, one of our fellow boaters called out to us and said, "Maya!  Maya!  are you monitoring what is going on?"   Not wanting to sound like a nosy neighbor I responded, "Yes, there seems to be some kind of commotion over there but I am not sure."

"Well" they said, those two boat have run into each other and are floating right towards you.  They seem to be out of control.  You better move .... and quickly!"

Turns out that in this crowded anchorage, two boats had gotten their propellors and anchor lines tangled up and as a result were floating hopelessly out of control.  Like a bull in a china shop they were going to do a lot of damage to whomever they hit and we were first in line.

I raced to try and start our engines and pull up the anchor as quickly as I could.  Normally this would take about 5 or ten minutes but with this hulk of fiberglass and metal coming towards us, there was no time for the checklists.  Kim was busy outside positioning our fenders for impact as it was clear there wasn't going to be enough time to move out of the way.  Bob, who already had his dinghy in the water was trying to act like a tug boat, using the nose of his inflatable boat to push everyone apart.  In the end, we did make contact, but luckily for us, it was just some scratches.  We were able to fend them off as they continued their journey of havoc downstream from us.

Whew, that was close.  It was decided that that event was going to be the highlight of our bad experiences and we decided to repair to the local establishment for some refreshments.  We all got into our dinghies and headed for McDuff's bar and grill, the only building on the island.

We drowned our sorrows and toasted the end of our misfortunes on this trip.  From here on out, it was going to be clear sailing.

When we got back to the boat that night, we noticed that it was tilting at a rather odd angle.  Was it just the rum punches we had been drinking?   Upon closer inspection, it turns out that we had anchored on the edge of a sandbar.  In our hurry to get out of the way of the two boats earlier in the day, we had repositioned to a spot further up the channel.  By that time it had become very crowded and we didn't have a lot  of spots to choose from.  The area we chose showed 14' of water under us which is great, but as the tide swung around during the day, that 14' went to 4' and we were then sitting on the sand.

Now, this is not a problem for boats.  The sand on the bottom is very soft and the hulls of boats like ours are virtually indestructible.  There was going to be no damage.  The only problem was that, all night long, the boat shifted every so slightly as the waves came and went.  The resulting sound was a little like fingernails on a chalkboard.  It was maddening.  

After a few hours though, the tide came back in and we lifted off the bar.  But, it was a long night.
Surely this would be the last 'un fun' event we were going to have.

Stay tuned..


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