Sunday, April 11, we left the huge bay of Staniel Cay, home of the swimming pigs. We had heard from some friends that we had met in Panama that they were in the Bahamas on a mooring buoy not too far away. Sure, we’re game! We were now venturing into the Exuma Land and Sea Park. This is a protected nature preserve that has strict rules, but was supposed to be a beautiful group of islands with amazing sea life. The area that our friends on Mariah were at was called “The Aquarium” for it’s amazing sea life. The park does not allow anchoring in designated areas because anchors will damage the coral. They have placed mooring buoys at select locations to enable cruisers access to the beauty that is the park.
We wound our way between several islands after a couple of hours of “brisk” sailing. We knew that the weather was going to pick up, but our access to internet to check this was limited, so we ventured forward. As we approached the mooring field, we saw our friends, Trish and John and selected a buoy across from them. We have not had a lot of experience at grabbing moorings and it is certainly an acquired skill. With Ken driving closer to the ball and Dale on the bow with the boat hook, we inched closer. There it is! Now, just pull the pennant up and attach our lines, right?? Wrong! Dale’s arms were not quite long enough to reach and we passed it by without a grab. OK, Ken backed up and Dale got it. But it was heavy! Oops! There goes the boat hook in the water and no pennant to tie to! Fortunately for us, our friend John, is a quick dinghy launcher and he came to our rescue. First he grabbed our boat hook out of the water and next he grabbed the pennant and took the line from Dale and threaded it through. Now back up to Slow Dancer and around a cleat. Ken put the engine in neutral and ran up front to help. Not pretty, but we had completed the mooring process, with a lot of help!
OK, we were attached to a huge mooring ball with a lot of ground tackle. Now to really look at the weather and talk to our friends about it. We subscribe to a weather service called Marine Weather Solutions. He had just posted today’s weather. Oh no…..in exactly our area, there was a prediction of high winds and squalls. Something that none of us had seen before were the words: “Seek Shelter”! That is a little hard on a boat between islands, but we were better off here than in an open bay. It was now early afternoon and the storm was not supposed to arrive until night, so how about a sun downer with our old friends and a couple of new ones to discuss the impending weather. A good time was had by all and we settled in to our respective abodes for the evening and to see just how bad this storm could really be. We have battled the elements since arriving in the Bahamas. For every beautiful day, we pay for it with 4 or 5 very windy ones. The Bahamas are flat islands and there is nothing to stop the wind, so it accelerates and blasts across the many islands.
We ate dinner and went to bed. We were securely tied to our ball, had everything battened down and our anchor alarm on. The wind was relatively light. We were rudely awakened at shortly after midnight by our anchor alarm screaming “anchor alarm, anchor alarm”! We jumped out of bed wondering how can we be dragging when we were on a mooring ball and the boat suddenly healed over to Starboard. What is happening? Then back up and over again on the Port side. We were spinning around the mooring ball! We had never experienced such force and with it came pelting rain. As we looked out we saw our dinghy “Tiny” jumping up and down on the deck. His lines had come loose! Ken to the rescue! On a wildly bucking boat and blinding rain, he made his way to our front deck to retie Tiny as Dale watched Ken disappear from view! Oh no, if he goes over, what would we do?! He would surely be run down by Slow Dancer circling the ball! Whew…..he made it back, soaked, but OK. For hours we listened to the screaming wind and watched our anchor alarm to be sure that we had not come loose. This was one of those instances that had us wondering if we were truly insane to be out here! After hours of nothing less than terror, the wind calmed down and we were able to rest.
In the morning as we compared notes with our friends, we found that the winds had reached 72 miles per hour! This is category 1 hurricane level! No wonder it seemed so scary! The next day the winds blew, but not severely. We were invited to our new friends’ catamaran for pizza and a movie. During the movie (what else, Pirates of the Caribbean, since we were across from Johnny Depp’s private Island !) we heard the wind picking up and it began howling. We piled into John and Trish’s dinghy (Tiny was much too small for the rough waters) and headed “home”. The wind did indeed pick up and we again danced around the mooring, but not quite as badly and with no alarm screaming. And then it was done. Storms come and go quickly here!
The next day we were able to snorkel around the “Aquarium”. It was indeed like being in a fish tank! We also snorkeled over a sunken plane that is legend to be from a drug runner heading into or out of the nearby private island of a drug lord (now arrested). What was a couple of days ago, our nightmare turned out to be a very beautiful place!