Bethel Channel, Andros

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

025-8.280 N
077-59.520 W
Marine forecast for this location

Ahoy from basically nowhere on Andros Island!

I think that I should subtitle this "The Best Laid Plans...Part II" as that would be entirely appropriate. But before I get ahead of myself, let's talk about what did go according to plan. As you recall the fearless crew of the BlueJacket was trapped in the middle of coral field where they had miraculously managed to place themselves during a thunderstorm the day before. It looked bleak for them, but a plan had emerged to extricate them from this deadly menace. They would dive a wreck in the morning, layout an escape route using the dinghy, in good light they would wind their way through the coral heads and then they'd end up at Morgan's Bluff on the N end of Andros. Well, things almost went as planned.

In the morning we headed to the wreck of the Potomac which was a large freighter which was split into two parts. It was easy to find as parts of the wreck were sticking up above the water at low tide. The bow of the wreck was closest to shore and was in about 25' of water. That made it a pretty dive as there was lots of light and colorful marine growth and there were some huge snappers and groupers were hanging out in the bowels. After about 20 minutes on the bow section we headed to the stern section which was about 1/3 of a mile away. You have to imagine that there had to have been some pretty good storms to have separated these sections by a third of a mile. Once again there was a mast-like structure sticking above the water which we were able to tie on to. The stern was in slightly deeper water, but not by much. It was more photogenic as there was more machinery and things of interest. Large portions of the wreck were strewn across the ocean floor and there was no hint of whatever the freighter once carried. It was a fun dive.

On our way back to the boat we tried to map out a route by which we could extricate ourselves. I had a hand-held GPS that I used to mark waypoints. One major problem is that a dinghy is very low to the water and it's hard to see very far forward. I think that my straight lines between points weren't as straight as I thought. We also had puffy cumulus clouds drifting over the sun, so that made it even harder to see what was below. We ended up with about 12 waypoints which I assembled into a route on the Northstar GPS aboard BlueJacket.

Low tide was at about 9:45 AM and we needed to wait until at least mid-tide to leave. I also wanted a rising tide as that would allow us to float off if we got stuck. One problem with this is that there are more and more clouds as the day progresses, so we had to time things just right. At about 12:45 we lifted the hook and got started. Sue was on the bow looking for coral heads and I was firmly grasping the wheel. You have to remember that BlueJacket is 40' long, so there's a huge difference between what you see at the wheel and what you see at the bow. We also have a 6' wide wing keel, so that's a big surface that you have to guide between the coral heads. The keel is in the middle of the boat, so you need to pivot the boat around that point and not the bow.

We worked our way through the coral heads, at times having to make hard right or left hand turns between patches of coral. Sometimes we were only in 7' of water, but I wasn't as worried about the depth as I was about the coral heads. As the old saying goes "It's not the fall that hurts you, it's the sudden stop." Well, that applied here too. The sun would hide for minutes at a time, which made things even more fun. I felt sweat trickle down my back and I wasn't sure if that was due to the heat or stress. Slowly but surely we wound our way out and finally we were free! YEAH!!!!

Our destination was Morgan's Bluff, which was about 6 miles north. We had about 5 kts of wind from the SE. About half way there we noticed a solid line of white caps approaching us. Suddenly we had 15-20 kts out of the NW, which made for really choppy seas. Morgan's Bluff is wide open to the N and the W, so that wasn't a tenable anchorage. A quick check of surrounding keys showed nothing usable, but I did notice a channel behind us that would take us up to Andros which would provide protection from the NW winds. We went back to Bethel Channel dropped the hook to one side of it. The biggest problem was that we had waves coming at us from every direction and the boat was rolling and rolling. I put a stern anchor out to keep us into most of the waves, but then the wind switched again and I retrieved the anchor. I got to repeat this at 1:30 AM when the wind died and we were abeam to the swell with the boat rolling 20 degrees to each side. Oh, we did find a beach with an incredible amount of sea glass of every color. Ah, who needs a boot stripe above the water?

Today we'll dive on a wall at the end of the channel and then head to Morgan's Bluff. The weather looks great, so as long as there are no more surprises, we should be in great shape.

-- Geoff & Sue

For the cruiser/diver:

The Potomac's bow is at 25-06.164N 77-57.844W and the stern is at 25-06.321N 77-57.528W
Log ID: 864

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Photos/Video: Wreck of the Potomac, Andros 

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