Storms And A Retreat To Bogue Lagoon

After spending a quiet Christmas day, we began watching our weather programs to follow the progress of a “Norther” that was headed into Montego Bay. This “norther” was expected to bring 25 knot winds with 30-35 knot gusts into the Bay, which is wide open to Northers and would accelerate the seas through the entrance, anchorage and send them crashing in to the marina. We tightened our lines, put extra fenders between Slow Dancer and our million dollar neighbor. As it was Christmas, no employees or other owners were around. Around 11 p.m. the storm hit, with the winds growing in strength and the seas reaching 5-6 feet. We bounced around and spent the night monitoring our lines and keeping Slow Dancer from being damaged. Across the dock from us was a 65 foot catamaran, which was creating a lot of strain on the wooden dock and some stress for us as the dock had the potential to break. As we stood watch, the time approached 2 a.m. and owners began showing up along with all of the yacht club employees. They began rapid removing boats off the dock, but not soon enough. A large portion of the dock near the shore broke and sank, leaving exposed power wires, diesel hoses and water pipes. After some deliberation, it was determined that we could stay attached to the dock as we were at the far end, but would need to be pulled out from the dock. A small power boat took our anchor and pulled it out into the mooring field and dropped it. Some dock hands and other owners eased our lines and we pulled forward between the mooring ball and our anchor. The storm had subsided and this fix seemed to work well, except for one small problem…..we could no longer reach the dock with our 2 x 8 to get off the boat, so we sat. The next day was Boxing Day, a holiday with no employees, so we sat. The next day was Sunday, with no employees, so we sat. On Monday morning, we enlisted the help of a fellow cruiser in his dinghy to unhook us from the mooring ball and got a dock hand to pull us in to the dock. We were now able to cross the broken dock, wading through the water, cables and cords, to the yacht club. Time to check out!

The broken dock

We knew of a well-protected lagoon around the peninsula and decided to move there to anchor. There are a number of reefs and coral heads which require much caution and careful navigation in order to access this lagoon. With our 6 1/2 foot draft, it required passage at high tide. We checked the tide tables and saw that we needed to go before 1 p.m. We were quite concerned about getting into the lagoon as many of the markers that showed where the reefs were had been washed away, but learned that some new friends aboard “Slow Dancing” (go figure!) were also going into the lagoon. A couple of the local captains offered to go aboard both boats and help us navigate the shallows. That was helpful! We began to pull up the anchor in the mooring field off the dock and our windlass failed. Our lines had been cast off from the dock and we were adrift! Remember, there is a million dollar yacht, Silver Lining, docked next to us. Quickly, Ken began the strenuous task of pulling the anchor up through the mud and into our anchor locker. Our local captain grabbed a bucket of water that we had been saving from off the deck. He rinsed and Ken pulled. Finally our anchor came off the bottom and off we went. Our caravan of two boats complete with a wealth of local knowledge on board. We wove in slowly around the reef. At one point our depth gauge read 7 feet. That means that we have 6 inches to spare! Yikes! Our captains reassured us and with Dale at the wheel and Ken watching our route, on we went. After 25 grueling minutes, we were again in deeper water and ready to anchor. But because of the anchor windlass, Ken was again forced to anchor by hand, which wasn’t quite as bad in reverse. But still the looming problem of the windlass occupied our minds.

Across the bay, several boats had run aground because of the storm

The following day, Ken pulled everything out of our forward cabin and removed the panel to get to the windlass. Fortunately he noticed that some screws holding the mechanical workings of the windlass had worked their way out. A pretty simple fix! Good thing, as there are no parts stores in Montego Bay.

We were safe and secure in Bogue Lagoon. We enjoyed the company of our fellow cruisers as well as the beauty of this wildlife preserve.

In Bogue Lagoon with “Slow Dancing”

Quiet evenings

New Year’s Eve in Bogue Lagoon

We were waiting for a good weather window to travel south to Negril. During this time, we took advantage of being close to Montego Bay to dinghy in to the near by Houseboat restaurant and walk to the store.

Our “car”

One of our weekly chores at anchor is making water. To do this, we need to increase our power, usually by running the engine or the portable generator. On January 2, we started the engine to make water. We were startled by a smell as well as smoke coming from the engine. Quick, turn it off. Our alternator had frozen up. This was the rebuilt unit that we had fixed in Costa Rica. Good thing that we had a spare! Ken spent a good part of the next day replacing the alternator and rewiring it as it had a different connection. We were good to go! As we were enjoying our dinner, Dale flipped on the anchor light and a breaker popped. On again, pop. OK…..3’s? Ken traced wiring all over the boat and could find nothing to create a short. With no other choice, it was determined that he would go up the mast. With the help of Billy from Slow Dancing as well as a Jamaican friend, Kevin, Ken spent a hot and grueling two hours up the mast to find nothing. So the problem is somewhere in the mast. New wire would probably need to be sent up inside the mast to the top. This is a pretty intense activity and requires someone at the top as well as bottom of this 62 foot stick. Since there was no where to get wire, we decided to keep our cockpit lights on to alert other boaters and wait until we get into a place where we can get both wire and someone to help replace it.

Ken checking wires up the mast

Ken gave Kevin his old phone. This is one happy guy!

With all of our issues either dealt with or delayed, we looked ahead to calm weather and settled on a day to head to Bloody Bay in Negril.

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