Now when you’re actually experiencing the bad stuff you do question your sanity in choosing this lifestyle. Take for example our recent voyage from Andros to the Exumas. The morning forecast called for 15 knot NE winds, picking up a little in the evening and veering more north. It was just the weather we’d been waiting three weeks to get for our 70 mile southeast, east sail to the Exumas. It took about an hour for me to raise the anchors, with the stern anchor causing a bit of grief. Finally by 8 a.m. both anchors were up. I was exhausted, but elated as Coleen piloted the Glass Slipper out of the anchorage as I finished securing things on deck.
We soon settled into a nice close reach. Try as we might we just couldn’t point the boat close enough to make our course as the wind was a little too much east. We decided it might take a couple of days of tacking to actually reach the Exumas, but after our third tack, the wind became more favorable and we were able to set the sails for a close reach on our intended course. We sailed for ten hours without touching the sails while the windvane gently steered the boat. We had pleasant 2 foot seas with an occasional 3 footer thrown in just to keep us awake. There is just something magical about a small sailboat making way with a windvane steering. The seas were the most deep, brilliant blue, the sky a clear blue with a few puffy clouds and the temperature around 80 degrees. It was glorious sailing even though we were only making 3.5 knots. The sort of day you dream about. Coleen settled in up on deck next to the mast with a book. I took a break from my own book long enough to bring her a picnic lunch and some sunscreen. There was not much to do other than read, update the logbook every hour and nibble on crackers, very relaxing. We calculated that we’d be out of the Tongue of the Ocean and on the banks by 7 p.m. With a little luck the seas on the banks would be settled enough for anchoring and we’d continue our journey in the morning. We decided to wait and have dinner after we anchored. That was our first mistake.
In the early evening hours we began to anxiously watch the chartplotter and depth sounder so we could take note of when we got out of the super deep waters of the Tongue and into the shallow Banks. We were ready to drop the hook, have dinner, watch a movie and get some sleep. Sure enough right around 7 p.m. we saw the depth sounder engage then rapidly countdown until we were in 20 feet of water. Yeah, we’d crossed the Tongue of the Ocean! Sadly our joy was short lived as we were met on the Banks by choppy, steep, mixed up seas with a strong countercurrent. To make things a bit worse we had to change our course to due east so we could make way through the old DECCA channel which is the only charted course across the shoal and reef filled Banks. Our pleasant sail turned into all hell breaking loose as we motored into head seas. I tucked two reefs into the main and furled the jib to try and steady her a bit. Despite my efforts, she continued to pound her way forward with the bow rising up and up, then slamming down into the seas, stopping and then pushing forward again. Not very pleasant at all. After a bit of experimenting I discovered that by slowing down the engine the motion was bearable, so on we went making 2.5 knots at best. All hopes of anchoring on the Banks were dashed to pieces and dinner was out of the question. There was no way either of us would be able to keep food down. It was all we could do not to be sick as it was. No more reading either. We couldn’t even listen to music as it would have been impossible to hear it over the sound of engine and the autopilot struggling to hold our course. That poor autopilot was definitely working overtime and the noise was just about driving me crazy, not of course to the point where I wanted to sit back there in the stiff wind and hand steer for hours. It did make me long for having a much quieter and more expensive below decks autopilot.
I didn’t even do the math to see when we would arrive based on 2.5 knot speed, I just knew it was going to be a long, long night and wished I’d had the foresight to take an afternoon nap. Coleen and Prince managed to settle in and fall asleep in the cockpit while wearing their harness and tethers around 8 p.m.
This went on for hours and hours. I woke Coleen at 1 and 3 am to take 20 minute watches while I rested my eyes. It was impossible to sleep due to the sound, but it was helpful to at least shut my eyes. I’d like to say that I got used to the motion and enjoyed the beautiful full moon, but I really didn’t enjoy any of it. Although hugely uncomfortable and miserable, I knew we weren’t in any danger and that we’d eventually get there. I didn’t realize it would be at 5 a.m.!
We finally arrived near the anchorage at Big Majors Spot in the Exumas. It’s a huge anchorage and we dropped the hook far from shore as I didn’t feel like navigating my way in any further. Coleen woke up enough to help me set the hook, and ready the boat. I then had my ritual on arrival cold beer, and fell asleep fully clothed in the cockpit. I was too tired to shower and get in my bunk, and too salty to be inside the cabin.
When I finally woke up at 9 a.m. I found myself smiling in paradise. There are no words to describe how beautiful this place is. I made the crew a huge breakfast and then took another nap before finally getting up to clean the decks, cover the sail and launch the dinghy. The Glass Slipper is looking ship shape again, no gear failed during our ordeal, and by nightfall Coleen and I were laid back enjoying popcorn, our famous frozen chocolate drinks and singing along while watching The Sound of Music.
I feel pretty certain we’re going to be back in the 99% awesome part for a while. The next few weeks we’ll be enjoying short five to 10 mile day sails as we explore the lovely Exuma islands.