Finally the north winds moderated and left us with some light southerlies we could sail on. We were EXUMA BOUND! We left Marina Cay on New Providence Island at just after 8 am headed for Allen's Cay. Our course of 124° for nearly 30 miles took us a leisurely six hours. That's six hours of true sailing bliss!
|Discovery of a small rip in our jib did not dim our joy!|
This would be the first time we've used the sails since the recent high winds. We quickly realized that they had left us with a small gift. A small rip in our headsail would provide us with entertainment at our next anchorage...
It didn't look like it could get much bigger so we continued to sail on!
|Bruce on the bow spots a coral head to our port side|
We crossed the yellow bank, a cluster of coral heads in shallow waters, and then made our way into less stressful/more deep waters. Still new at this, we practiced our coral spotting skills with the help of a rising sun.
Bruce would call out when he spotted one of the dark blotches that signifies a coral head.
|sliding right by...|
I would alter course, if needed, to avoid hitting the coral. After a while, we both became more comfortable in our ability to spot them with plenty of time to allow us to slide right by...
|Small coral head|
Bruce was able to leave the bow and tend to sail trim while I stood on the aft deck and steered with the autopilot's remote control.
There were a number of sailboats preparing to leave our marina when we left earlier in the day. As some of them began to approach us from behind, our need for speed increased. As you well know.. anytime there are two (or more) sailboats going in the same direction... it's a RACE!
|Bruce and Jezabelle trimming the mainsail...|
Perhaps the others didn't know it but we were competing!
Bruce did all he could to get every bit of speed out of the 8-12 knot winds. We averaged about 5 knots of speed and the other boats soon overtook us.
The winds got lighter and we discovered that our competitors were motorsailing... Eventually we dropped sails and motored the last mile or two into the anchorage.
|Coming around the rock into the anchorage|
I'm still not comfortable sailing into an unknown anchorage. There was a shallow spot near a jagged rock that we must navigate around before we arrived to the protected waters of Allen's Cay Anchorage.
There were already quite a few boats anchored on the glowing sandbar between Cays. We wondered as we picked our way through them, why they were all clustered in this spot when there was a much better and deeper spot just ahead.
We continued on to our chosen spot and dropped anchor. We got as close to the shore as we could and dropped the dinghy into the water so that we could check that our anchor was secure.
Unfortunately, we found it lying on it's side, completely NOT secure. We would get to do this anchoring thing again!
We moved a couple hundred feet away and found a sandy spot to drop our hook. A repeat of the dinghy/looky bucket routine told us that this time, we were set! Time for a sundowner!
The next morning was one of those that I will remember in my mind's eye as an all-time-best.
It was so quiet... nothing but the sound of the current swishing against our hull. The sun peeked through a low bank of clouds and changed the morning from orange and purple...
To the softest pinks and blues the mind can imagine. It was one of those moments when you can't help but count your blessings and wonder how it is that all of this could be ours.
Our little family relaxed in the cockpit, the cats completely comfortable after a cozy night in our family bed.
Soon their more base instincts led them to crowd Bruce for snacks...
We contemplated our choices for entertainment and were reluctant to get moving... but the day was marching on.
We were soon visited by other Cruisers we had met at Palm Cay. They were out exploring and wanted us to come along. We had to decline, a sail repair project must take precedence with us today. But we would join them on the beach later for a bonfire.
|Hunky Dory and Ocean Dreams came to visit|
Well... this project isn't going to finish itself! Might as well get going. The winds could come up at any moment which would make dropping the headsail more difficult. We rolled out the jib and dropped it to the deck so that we could survey the damage.
I made some measurements and quickly figured out how I would go about patching the sail
The rip is right along the edge where the sacrificial suncover is sewn on. This is a spot that was left exposed for over a year by not being tightly rolled while the boat sat for sale. It proves that sun can damage your sails so if you don't want to fix or replace them... better keep them covered!
We assembled the tools we would need, lugging the heavy sail rite machine out onto the foredeck and went to work.
Luckily we have been carrying around a small stormsail (we have two) that we could cannibalize for sail material. We spread it out down in the saloon and I used our hot knife to cut it in strips. The hot knife is another of those purchases that we doubted at the time... would we really ever use it? We have been thankful that we splurged and bought it because it has come in handy SO many times.
The hot knife simultaneously cuts and seals the edges by melting them, and thus reduces the likelihood that our patch will unravel, without having to hem the edges.
|I used basting tape to keep the patches in place while I sewed them|
It's been a while since I used my Sailrite machine. I took the instruction book out on deck and made sure that it was all threaded correctly. I changed to a new needle. We chose black thread from our supply in hopes that it would be the better one for UV resistance.
There was no internet of any kind here. It would have been nice to be able to consult the Sailrite website, or my WWS sisters for advice regarding thread/needle choices, but this is what we've got... so it will have to do!
|The sun got hot as I tried again to get the bobbin tension adjusted|
My hopes of this being a quick project were dashed as time after time, I went back to the drawing board adjusting my thread tension. I just could not get it right. The machine would sew fine on my test sample, and then for a bit while I sewed the patch, then it would skip stitches and make longer ones, shorter ones... just a mess. And the fact that my thread was black on white material didn't make it any nicer looking.
Eventually I was able to get both sides patched and stitched well enough that I thought they would hold for a while. I can always rip them all out and redo it with the help of some more knowledgeable cruiser somewhere along the line.
We had wasted enough of this beautiful day wrangling with this machine. So, we tidied away all the sewing paraphernalia and raised/rolled the jib back to it's proper place...
It looks less awful from afar.
We suited up and headed for the beach. That would be... the IGUANA beach!
The beach was empty until we got close. Then they began to swagger to the waterline... beady eyes upon us as we approached.
We didn't bring food. That's what they were looking for, of course. Would they be angered and attack us looking for a handout? Surely if that were the case, this beach would not be listed as an attraction for Cruisers... right?
I gook scads of pictures...trying to get their "good side". Is there one? Some of the larger creatures were really quite amazing looking when you got close. One had pink scales and another had more greenish ones.
There is a definite pecking order among iguanas. We witnessed a few minor skirmishes between them but none ever threatened us. Now and then one would tromp purposefully towards me but he would stop when I held my ground and didn't back away.
We eventually got brave enough to turn our backs to them... Soon they lost interest in our lack of snacks.
Bruce tried to talk to them while they were all assembled, but they just stared blankly at him. I guess he'll have to talk Basketball to someone else <me>...
The lizards went back to the shade of the brush and we enjoyed the cool shallow water. It was delightfully refreshing after the long hours on deck in the sun.
Bruce did a bit of swimming while I checked out the critters beneath the dinghy. I found a small conch schlepping along...
And there were some cute little silver guys hanging out with us.
Soon enough we began to get chilled. The waters here are still a little cool, what with it being winter and all... Still, it's very difficult for us to connect the calendar date with the weather here, and the intermittent news of blizzards and cold fronts back in the US...
We cut our exploration of the anchorage short and dashed back across the shallows towards the boat. The water is indescribable in color as we avert a shallow sand ridge and enter the more deep waters near our boat.
The current runs through Allen's Cay Anchorage pretty swiftly in the shallows between the cays. The waters are more swirling in the deeper spot where we are anchored. We don't have the definite in and out here, giving the wind a bigger influence on which way we lie. It also makes it very important to be far enough from your neighbor because the swirling causes boats to act unpredictably.
We got cleaned up and went back to the beach to meet up with several other Cruiser boats for our first ever Cruiser Bonfire.
The sun was just beginning it's descent making shadows long. We met on the smaller crescent of sand to the north of the iguana beach in hopes that there would be fewer (or none) of the beasts.
Wrong. They were here as well although in fewer numbers and not as aggressive.
I had brought a few lettuce scraps for them but one of the long time live aboard residents of the anchorage asked me not to feed them.
Not wanting to make waves, I complied. Maybe it's like back home when we see tourists feeding the gulls and wish they wouldn't so that the birds wouldn't poop on our heads...
Anyway, the iguanas soon left us when the fire got going. One of the other boats had thought ahead and collected some wood from New Providence, so we didn't have to collect wood. They did throw a few dried palm fronds on top to get things going and very soon we had our bonfire!
The sun went down and we warmed ourselves with the glow. Conversation and laughs rang across the anchorage. The other boats were Canadian. We are learning fast that you can always count on good times when Canadians are involved...
|AnnMarie, Donna, Marie, Kathy and Me|
Tomorrow we will leave here, following the weather making our way further south. We are just beginning to escape the last tendrils of cold...
We are settling into the routine that really IS no routine. We're enjoying whatever each day brings and expecting something completely different from the next...
We're making new friends and saying farewell, not knowing when we will see them again. Life is good.