Monday, November 18, 2013

It’s not all beaches and Margaritas

Posted by Scot

Actually, Sara and I are not big Margarita drinkers.  As far as I know we have never consumed one on the boat.  A few beers, some wine occasionally, but no umbrella drinks.  So you can get that image out of your head.

But that’s not actually my main point.  I wanted to talk a bit about the weather.  When you are living on a 40 foot boat, you are pretty much outside all the time.  The weather is a huge part of our daily life.  When it is good, our life is good.  Most of the pictures we post on the blog are taken on those days.

When it is a little windy, usually our travelling is good.  Except when the wind is coming from where we want to go.  Then it is either a bit uncomfortable, or downright miserable depending on how much wind.

When it is a lot windy, then life gets tougher.  For the past two days, we have been pinned down by another north-eastern front, with winds up to 30 or more knots.  For those keeping track, in the three weeks since we left Florida, this is the third such front that we have encountered.

For the first one, we tied up to the dock in Bimini.  The second one, we spent tied to the dock in Nassau.  This time, though, we were determined to stick it out at anchor, to prove to ourselves that we could do it.  This is not just self-serving bravado.  We are aware that there is not going to be a marina available every time we have bad weather, and we need to have some level of comfort living “on the hook” in big winds.

When the front comes, the sun goes.
So, as the front blew in (exactly on schedule as forecast– thank you!) we were comfortably anchored in the Staniel Cay Harbour with a lot of extra chain out.  Given that the front was coming from the north-east, we anchored off the southwest corner of Big Majors, reasoning that we should have good protection there.

At first we did, but as darkness fell and the wind came up, we found that being off a point of land really just divided the wind into two components.  The northern component wrapped around the corner and gave us a huge side-swell, rocking us back and forth.  The eastern component was stronger, and kept our nose pointed that way, so that we were subject to the ongoing rolling.

At around 20 to 25 knots, the wind starts to howl in the rigging of this boat.  The howling and rocking lasted all night long.  The next morning, Sara and I were up at first light.  Actually, neither of us had really slept much, as we took turns keeping an eye out to make sure our anchor didn't drag.  We had a quick conversation to see if we could figure out a way to improve our lot for the next few days as this front passed through.

We reviewed our charts and guidebooks, and saw that about an hour south of us was Black Point Settlement, which had a bay that was protected from both the north and east.  It looked likely to be better than where we were.  It was unlikely to be much worse.  The only problem was getting there in the ongoing gale.

Coming in to Black Point - the wind is still up, but the waves are much less.
We fired up the engines and pushed the boat into the wind to raise the anchor, fighting it’s tendency to swing off every time the wind grabbed the bow.  Eventually we got the anchor up and turned downwind to clear Harvey Cay.  At first, we had a windy, wild “sleigh ride” with the wind and waves on our tail.  As we rounded the point of Harvey Cay, we turned south west, and were battling into the wind and waves.  We let out just a corner of the jib to help the engines, and our speed jumped from 4 1/2 knots to 7 1/2 knots immediately.

The extra speed kept our time bashing into the waves to a minimum.  After about 45 minutes of a bucking boat, with spray breaking over the bow and landing right back into the cockpit, we were nudging as close to the protective shores of Black Point as we could.  The wind was still howling over this low lying island, but we had managed to lose the waves completely.  We spent the day boat bound, but managed to grab a slow internet signal with our wifi extender and catch up on the blog.

A windy, cloudy day gave everyone the opportunity to hide out in their cabins and catch up on some sleep...
...and some reading.
Last night was still loud, but much less bumpy.  Today, the sun is finally starting to poke through again, and our solar panels are back at work for the first time in a few days.  The wind is supposed to ease off enough tonight that we might consider heading out again tomorrow.  Until the next front comes through.

Black Point -  not the most picturesque anchorage, but good protection.

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