March 3, 2021 at 6:30 a.m., we backed out of our spot in the marina and headed out of the beautiful harbor of Port Antonio, Jamaica. In a matter of hours we would be out of Jamaican territorial waters. We aimed Slow Dancer toward Cuba and Haiti and pulled the sails.
Wednesday was a beautiful day and we sailed until evening when the wind died. So on we motored in the dark with Cuba on one side and Haiti on the other. We took 3 hour watches while the other tried to get some sleep.
At the beginning of Dale’s 6:00 a.m. watch, she looked back and noticed a string of bottles behind Slow Dancer. Oh no! This is how the fishermen mark their fish traps! These are usually much closer to shore. We were currently in over 1,000 feet of water! We put the boat in neutral to eliminate any danger of the line wrapping the prop. Wow, there were no less than 10 bottles floating behind us as well as some nylon line and it was certainly coming from underneath Slow Dancer. Dale volunteered to go down first and look. So donning a snorkel and mask, she climbed down the swim ladder. Fortunately there was not much wind, although the seas were between 3 and 4 feet which without any forward momentum, left us slamming up and down. Wow…..there is a lot of stuff down there! The line was wrapped around the prop shaft with a bottle between the shaft and propeller. The line also ran forward under our keel to a 7′ branch that was tied to it. What a mess! It is so amazing that the propeller kept spinning! Who knows how long we were dragging that mess in the dark. Ken cut away the bottles so that we could get down more easily. Dale went under several times, but was not strong enough to keep the boat from slamming down on her as well as unwinding the line. So Ken took over and with a knife he proceeded to work away under water with many slams above and into him. Remember, this is all underwater, so after a minute or two, he had to come up for air. Oh look….on the AIS (similar to radar) there is a big ship coming in our direction! We were ultimately dead in the water as we could not start the engine and there was no wind. We were floating, but not at a very fast rate. We did some calculating and realized that it would pass us on our port side a couple of miles off. Whew! OK, back to work. Finally with a last hack of the knife, we were free of the odd contraption! Ken was battered and had blue bottom paint in his hair, but was not too badly injured and we were both ecstatic that we were now able to start the engine. And later on in the day, we pulled out the sails and proceeded toward Cuba. During the day and night we saw many ships as this thoroughfare is a direct shipping path to the Panama Canal, 800 miles away.
We sailed slowly so that we didn’t arrive at Great Inagua in the dark. As the sun rose, we looked at the beautiful blue water and Matthew Town, Great Inagua to our right! A new country to explore, but wait….what about our COVID tests as well as the agency that has to approve us. We are not even supposed to be in Bahamian waters yet! We now had cell reception, so proceeded to download our negative tests and attach them to a website all while motoring into an anchorage and dropping the anchor. Nothing like last minute!