Heading North (or Dodging Storms and Coral Heads?)

April 18, we left the beautiful Warderick Wells mooring field and headed north. We had enjoyed 3 beautiful days with great weather, now we knew that we would pay for those 3 days!

We were headed for Shroud Cay, but were not so sure about how shallow the areas around the island were, so we bypassed it and ended up at Highborne Cay. This island has a little marina village with a store and restaurant. Both of which sounded lovely after a couple of weeks without either. But of more concern to us was a place to take our trash! While there are glamorous parts of cruising, there are many not so glamorous! One of these is trash! What to do with it? The entire Exumas Land and Sea park is a pack it in, pack it out area. No trash cans anywhere. So the thought of getting rid of two weeks worth of trash made us literally giddy!

We arrived at Highborne in the late afternoon and dropped anchor. We also snorkeled to our anchor to see just how “hooked” we were. We were great! There was a coral head beyond the scope of our chain, but it looked to be deeper than our keel….hopefully! But there was that one spot that stuck up higher and it was hard to tell how far below the water surface it would be by low tide, but we were a long ways away, right?

There were two mega yachts, a couple of sailboats and the dreaded charter boat. These are “rent a boats”. Most times the captains have some experience and knowledge, but the few times that they do not is a danger to others. We have been in anchorages where they do not pay attention to their anchors and drag in the middle of the night. They, many times anchor too close or drop their anchor and head into town not even knowing if they are hooked! We try to avoid them, but inevitably one drops right by us. Fortunately they are identified by the sail cover with the charter company’s name on it. Kind of like “student driver” signs!

There was a bit of chop on the bay, but not bad. It was about a half mile into the marina and we would need to be careful of current, tides and waves while transiting in our trusty Tiny. We decided to head in the next day, Monday. The weather report wasn’t too bad for the time that we would be there, or so it said. OK, we knew that we would pay for our beautiful 3 days! The seas picked up as did the wind. It blew all night and by the next morning, we were dancing around the anchorage by a chain. At low tide we could see the coral head and it seemed much closer. Hmmm…..as the wind shifted, would we cross over it? And exactly how much space would there be between our keel and that head? We decided that we were not going to take a chance so pulled in about 20 feet of chain so that we definitely could not reach it. Chain…..we put out a lot every time that we anchor. The minimum should be 5:1 in good weather. So for a depth of 10′ many people would put out 50′. But we are always on the super careful side and put out a scope of 10:1. So that would be 100′ rather than 50′. This gives us a larger swing radius, but also puts a lot of chain on the ground to assist us with greater holding. But the down side is that we swing…..a lot! And we were.

We waited all of Monday for the wind and seas to calm down. It didn’t happen, in fact, it got worse. Many boats left, including the charter (thank goodness!). A couple of us remained, one mega yacht (do they really even feel the waves?), a monohull (like us) and a catamaran. Maybe we can get into the marina “town” on Tuesday, we really want to get rid of our trash and get some fresh produce.

On Tuesday, the wind had stopped and the waves were smaller. It would have been nice if they were gone, but they were at least smaller. We dropped Tiny into the water and as we bumped up and down on the remaining waves, lifted the outboard off of our back railing, down to the swim platform and in to Ken in the waiting dinghy. This is more like a relay than it sounds. Ken hefts, Dale holds, Ken moves, Dale holds, Ken jumps in the dinghy, Dale holds, Ken lifts and Dale lifts as well, Ken attaches. This whole “dance” is performed in reverse when we return. We have GOT to get dingy davits when we get to the states! These lift the dinghy out of the water and suspend it by hooks, the engine stays attached.

So now we were headed into the marina with 2 1/2 bags of trash and our backpacks to haul any groceries that we might gather. It was bumpy and the current pushed us into the harbor. There were mostly mega yachts inside. Wow did we feel small aboard Tiny! We found our way to the dinghy dock and were instructed by the fuel dock attendant to mask up and show him our Health Certificate issued when we arrived in the Bahamas. We complied and asked him where we could leave our trash. That will be $30 pay at the store. Seriously?? Well, we had no alternatives and knew that we had another 10 days to two weeks at anchor ahead of us. Fine. We shopped in the little store, not much fresh produce here! And we had a nice lunch at their beautiful restaurant. The restaurant went right along the same lines as the expensive trash bill! But it was nice to have a burger and fries. As we were enjoying our lunch, we watched the winds and seas pick up. Ugh! It would be a wet dinghy ride back and we had better get going before it got so bad that we swamped poor Tiny in the current. So off we went, bumping into the waves, but made it safely. We did our reverse dance and got the outboard safely back on the railing (not as easy as it sounds!). We hauled Tiny onto the bow and were done.

Tiny (second in) at the dock surrounded by mega yachts
Beautiful view from the restaurant at Highborne Cay

We said “so long” to Highborne Cay on Wednesday morning and headed out early toward the coral fields that are Nassau. Our plan was to get into the heavy corals by mid day so that the sun shone through the water and Ken on the bow could easily spot them. But what if the sun was not shinning?? Something that we had not planned for was the volcanic eruption of La Soufriere on St. Vincent and the cloud of ash that would cover the Caribbean. Well, of all days, here it was! We had an enjoyable sail for three hours and then we were there, the dreaded coral fields in the shallow waters surrounding Nassau. So we inched along for four hours between coral beds, shallows, LOTS of ship traffic (doing the same thing) and between islands. Our goal was Sandy Cay to the east of Nassau. We arrived about an hour before dark and with much difficulty semi-set the anchor for the night. There were no other boats anchored here and now we knew why. There was sand, but it was shallow with rock or coral underneath. The wind was calm and we were counting on a calm night so that we didn’t drag. We were delighted that we had one!

Our own private island, Sandy Cay

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