|Thompson Bay in the Rear View...|
The guidebooks say that you can’t plan cruising around shoreside events. You have to go when the weather says go… and you have to be ready. Ready at a moment’s notice. We weren’t ready.
It looked like the timing just wasn’t right. We wanted to stop at Calabash Bay, which needs winds and seas with no northerly component, followed one or two days later by very light winds from the west so that we could sail (or motor) to Conception Island for a couple of days… then we wanted north to northeast for a run to Rum Cay before we continue on.
Bruce voted to stay and I wasn’t opposed. There was plenty to do around the Bay and we wanted to attend a Beach cleanup on Saturday with the other Cruisers here. Decision made!
That decision stood until about five minutes later when we watched our friends aboard Encore motoring out of the Bay… Suddenly we were lonely. I told Bruce that we could go… It wouldn’t be perfect at Conception Island but we can always go back again when our time in the Caribbean is done. We could spend tonight there and then continue on to Clarencetown tomorrow. We could even wait around there for better weather and still attend the beach cleanup party!
Our desire to move on with our cruising plans battled it out with fear, anxiety, indecision, comfort, and those forbidden shoreside plans. No time to quibble, stay or go? STAY or GO??? If we’re going we’ve got to go NOW!!! We stared each other in the face, each looking for the answer in the other… Let’s GO!
And so… we were Off-Like-A-Prom-Dress… We quickly shut hatches, raised the dinghy onto the davit, locked the outboard onto the rail, started the engine and navigation instruments and pulled up the anchor. We said goodbye to the Bay on the morning net and motored out of the Thompsons Bay without even doing the dishes.
Once we were underway, we could feel the inertia releasing its grip. It felt good to be going again. If we didn’t go now, it could be weeks before the right weather pattern presented itself. So what if we can’t snorkel on Conception Island… it’ll still be there when we return. And Clarencetown has a stunningly beautiful anchorage with protection from most directions. That would be good because there is some more ugly weather on the way.
|Goodbye Sally and Jerry!!!|
|LAND HO!!! We get to say that... Land Ho...|
I settled with a wait-and-see attitude. What else could I do??? As we approach the island, if it looks bad, we can always fall off and just keep right on trukin’ to Clarencetown. But I was very nervous. My stomach was clenched and I was hyper-focused as I stared at the crashing waves hitting the reef to our right. I kept looking from the chart plotter to the island, trying to make it fit… I looked at the angle of the swell and hoped that coming from the north, they would not wrap around and try to stuff us into the opening between the reef and Wedge Point.
We dropped the sails and motored along the coast looking for a spot that was less rolly. I guess these little islands that poke up out of thousands of feet of ocean never see calm waters, no matter which direction the waves are coming from. The swell always seems to wrap around and find us.
The water was deeper than I expected, in the 20’s and I would prefer to find a spot with less than 15 ft. of depth so that we could reduce scope and not damage any of the coral heads. We found such a spot very close to Boobie Cay at the far eastern corner of the bay. The gentle roll seemed less pronounced here, maybe due to the water coming in from the break in the reef to the NE. Whatever the reason, we would take it. We dropped the anchor just as the sun went down.
The anchorage is very beautiful and it is a shame that the weather wasn’t more settled. There are lonely beaches beckoning to us, and coral patches to snorkel right off the stern… but it is too windy and cool to even think of getting into the water. We had leftover chili for dinner and went to bed early with plans to leave at first light.
I closed my eyes and thought how it was a little disconcerting to suddenly find ourselves out here alone in the wild with little access to the world. There is no cell tower on Conception Island. There were no other boats, which only reinforced the doubt in my mind that this was a good decision.
Long Island was the last of the islands we had previously visited and going forward from here will all be new. And while that’s exactly why we are out here… it’s been quite some time since we were out of our comfort zone. We’ve grown used to being… well… comfortable! From here on we’re on our own. And it’s a little scary.
|Listening to Chris Parker with a needy cat|
The rolling lessened overnight so we both were able to get a good night’s sleep. We jumped out of bed after listening to Chris Parker and greeted the sunrise still a little disappointed at leaving without exploring, but I had more important things on my mind.
|Up with the sun|
We were in a hurry so kept the motor on. We did throttle back see how we did under sail power alone but it was too slow to get us into Clarencetown before dark. Romping along with speeds up to 7.5 knots, we surfed the waves and made the final decision to skip a visit to Rum Cay. The west winds would mean another uncomfortable night there and they are barely recovered from the hurricane. Put them on the list for next time…
|Dolphin beneath the waves|
Bruce went to the bow to watch and didn’t take a camera… I didn’t want to leave the cockpit because I had no life jacket on… The boat was still really heaving so I was taking no chance of joining the dolphin. Better safe than… having great pictures of dolphin at the bow…
They left us and slowly we began to feel the calming effect of Long Island in the size of the waves. It grew more comfortable and Jezabelle was fooled into thinking we were done. She revived long enough to eat and take a trip to the catbox, then returned to her post as we neared the entrance to Clarencetown’s harbour.
|Lulled into eating by calmer waves|
I downloaded a weather report and conditions looked so favorable for making or way south in the next couple of days, we had to ask ourselves… can we risk passing this wind by?
But we’ve got plans in Clarencetown on Saturday… What about the beach cleanup? Our friends are expecting us! I remembered what the guidebook said about the dreaded shore plans. We decided to take the perfect winds and sea state we had magically been given and just keep going.
That way we would have a head start on making a day-hop to the Acklins Island group, our next destination of choice. Maybe we would even make it all the way to the southernmost tip in one day….
Perhaps we could have made it inside safely, but I lost my nerve. We just kept on going.
|Things were a MESS down below|
Turning off the engine was nice. So far we had shown complete disregard for our vows of sailing more and motoring less… The problem comes when you want to get to a particular place before darkness comes making it impossible to see the coral scattered throughout so many of the anchorages here. In hindsight, we could have simply rounded the northern point of Long Island and sailed in leisurely fashion down the coast to where we are now… I guess that’s how it goes…
We left so fast that we weren’t ready. We had no groceries and would have to live on whatever we have on hand until we reach Great Inagua, some days away. We enjoyed the sunset with dinner and were actually looking forward to the overnight sail.
|Passing Little Harbor|
|Chili leftovers for dinner|
|Little cloud rainbow... that's a good omen... right?|
|Pre Dawn... we made it!|
Bruce came up and took a watch while Jezabelle and I dozed down in the aft cabin. If she was confused about why we weren’t stopping she didn’t express it as long as she got to go to bed when it got dark. I slept dozed comfortably but was wide-awake within three hours and went back up to take my next watch.
This is almost unheard of for me. Normally I can’t stand to be forced to leave my bed and go back up. I can only attribute my newfound superpowers to the fact that I am no longer stressed out and tired all the time. I have finally found my Cruiser Groove and can put aside the normal sleep rhythms that formerly made overnight passages intolerable to me.
I stood watch for a while as Bruce caught a nap in the cockpit. We made a few sail adjustments, rolling in the jib to reduce flogging noise as the decreasing wind left us prey to the rolling waves.
|Dawn. We just kept going|
I hesitantly woke Bruce to check it out… We couldn’t tell what it was but a red light would indicate a vessel passing before us from starboard to port, with it’s port side displayed to us. But it didn’t seem to be moving. My perspective was all off and I couldn’t tell the distance. I would just keep an eye on it while Bruce continued to doze.
While only a mile and a half to land, I called time to jybe back out again. That light must be on land but I saw nothing indicating its presence on my chart… We turned the boat away from the islands and continued on our way back out into the total darkness.
Clouds now obscured even the zillion stars and I had to search to distinguish the horizon. I don’t know what my “watch” is supposed to accomplish in darkness such as this and I was struck with the realization that we are truly out here careening through randomness, blindly safe in the comfort that whatever Powers-That-Be are holding us, we believe that they have some other purpose in mind for us than seeing us plunge down to the bottom of the sea… Really what else can you think at moments like these? It saves the sanity…
Bruce woke up and took his watch while I grabbed another hour down below. When I opened my eyes again I could detect the approach of dawn. Arriving back to the cockpit I consulted our position and saw that we were maybe ten miles from our destination and would arrive with just enough sunlight to make a safe landing.
|Southern tip of the Acklins Island Group... in the rear view|
|Out here with the Big Boys now...|
So now, not only were we Off-Like-A-Prom-Dress… but we were tossing the stillettos, the lacy lingerie, and Grandma’s pearls into the teeth of the north wind as sacrifice to her benevolence. We were both super nervous as we started up the engine again. No use in thinking of how we could have been moving faster all night to reduce our distance to this next destination… that ship has sailed. We’ve gotta make time NOW!
The ride was so comfortable I went down below and did the dishes that we hadn’t done since Thompsons Bay… Bruce cleaned up the clutter of stuff that had been tossed to the floors by the waves leaving Calabash.
|Birds! We must be getting close!|
We could see the stark contrast in the color of the water where it was over 300 ft and then it was 40 ft. and quickly decreasing as we approached the now-familiar glowing green of our anchorage.
I have to thank the creators of Explorer Charts for giving us this gift. I would never have approached this anchorage without their promise that we could do so. There were coral heads littered everywhere protecting the white sand close to shore.
The anchor dug right in and we shut everything down. We tidied up the rigging and covered the mainsail and sat down with a well-deserved and long awaited Sundowner.
We had done WHAT??? We had come 194 miles in 34 hours, that’s what… We were safe in an anchorage that looks like something we conjured up in our dreams. It’s beyond beautiful and it’s remote… we are the only boat here. How did we get here? Practically on a whim… So much for proper planning... Is it better for a prudent sailor to be flexible to this extent or does that open us up to peril? I do not know…
And they said we would never leave…