Grand Cay, Abacos

Monday, June 26, 2006

027-14.040 N
078-21.060 W
Marine forecast for this location

Ahoy from the northern end of the Bahamas!

As you may have guessed from the subject of this e-mail, we didn't depart for Charleston yesterday. Every morning I receive weather faxes over the SSB and when I analyzed them yesterday I saw that we would run into a weather system on Tuesday as we approached South Carolina. A couple of days ago a low formed right over the top of us and then moved over FL yesterday. Today it's supposed to be over the FL panhandle and on Tuesday it will be over the Carolinas. There were warnings that it might turn tropical, but I could never see how it would do that based upon its track. Anyhow, we would have run into it and 9' seas, had we departed yesterday. As a result we decided to move the boat closer to our exit point.

In the morning we headed off to the Double Breasted Cays. The weather has been very unsettled and we had thunderstorms all around us. Along the way I was watching a t-storm catch up to us on the radar. Most of the time the these t-storms are just heavy rain events with little wind. This one didn't even look like it had much rain. We were running dead down wind with the main sail all of the way out when it hit. We went from 10-15 kts of wind to 35+ kts (40 MPH). When you have 1,000 square feet of canvas up, that's a lot. When you're running down wind you utilize a device called a boom vang to keep the boom from rising up and creating a big pocket in the sail. You want the sail nice and flat. A tremendous amount of pressure is exerted on the vang under normal circumstances. I was just turning the boat sideways into the wind when a shackle (a D shaped connector piece with a removable pin used to connect cables and chains together) on the vang failed with a loud bang. I started the engine, turned the boat into the wind and dropped the main. Upon later inspection of the shackle I could see that it had previously cracked and this event was enough to cause it to completely fail. Just earlier this week I had inspected all of the rigging and didn't see any problems. It's fixed now and we're ready to go.

Our timing for getting to the Double Breasted Cays was both good and bad. The guide book says that you should enter at slack tide due to strong currents. We were at slack tide, so that was good. Unfortunately it was also low tide and the charts showed 6'. That was bad. I talked to another sailboat who had just gone in and he said that he saw 7' minimum. That's better. I decided to go in with the dingy and check it out while Sue did circles with the boat. The anchorage that I wanted to go into was on the SE end of the cay and had closely spaced ridges of rock. There was enough room for us to get in, but I could tell that getting out at anything other than slack tide would be very difficult as the currents would try to push you onto the rocks. Time to go for Plan B!

Plan B: I saw that on the N end of Grand Cay that there was a bay named Wells Bay which looked nice and open and which should have good protection in southerly winds. We headed there and it sure got skinny. At one point I saw 5.7' of water and we draw 5.5'! After threading through a narrow channel we dropped the hook in about 12' of water. We went off exploring and had to race back to close up the boat when wall of falling water approached the boat. There are some funky currents in here and the boat was lying at 90 degrees to the wind and was abeam to the seas. We decided to move to a more protected location and when Sue tried to pull up the anchor she found that it was snagged on some cables. I had to use my snorkel gear to untangle the anchor from what appears to be 3 high voltage cables running from the communications tower to Walker's Cay. Oh yeah, that was fun!

Last night we had intense lightening storms around us, which were enjoyable to watch as long as they were in the distance. At around 5:30 this morning we had an intense thunderstorm come through with 40+ Kt winds. It was pitch black out and raining so hard that you couldn't see any lights or land features. I could tell that we were being blown away from the rocky coastline, so if we were dragging, at least we were going the right way. As it turned out we didn't drag at all and all that happened was the boat got a good washing.

I just finished listening to the BASRA weather forecast and it seems that a low has formed over us and will be moving N today. Since we're headed N, I think that I'll let it move on out before departing. So, we'll most likely be here for another day.

-- Geoff & Sue

P.S. As I was proof-reading this we had another squall come through with 41 Kt (47 MPH) winds and rain so dense that I couldn't see 100'. I'm sure that we'll stay another day! :-)
Log ID: 877

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