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Old 24-05-2009, 12:17   #1
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Warderick Wells Cay, Exumas to Cabbage Cay Berries April 13-16 2009

Warderick Wells Cay, Exumas to Cabbage Cay Berries April 13-16 2009

Our weather window to Cabbage Cay, in the Berries, called for an overnight sail so as to not arrive too early, due to the tricky entrance, and to have a preferred tide on the expected wind. As always, Chris Parker is our weather guide, so we did our planning on his advice.

Before we left, I did my usual engine checks, which showed the alternator belt being a bit loose, so I tightened it. More than 200 hours on this belt, a real relief compared to our excitements a couple of summers ago! In addition, however, our great Internet connection had allowed me to do some checking about our exhaust kludge I’d made up. I was nervous about water intrusion to the engine, not having that sump which the muffler provided, and my checking confirmed that I’d be well to prove our engine’s integrity after our exhaust bypass. I unhooked the exhaust line from the downhill end of the PVC pipe I’d used, and a fair amount of water came out.

Thus warned, I turned the engine over by hand (using a very large screwdriver against the bolts holding the drive pulleys, and the stub for another set of pulleys to go on which we’d taken off when we redid the refrigeration) two full revolutions. That’s because a 4-cycle engine goes through two revolutions for a complete combustion cycle, and doing that would allow for each cylinder’s valves to be closed at some point along the way. If there were any water in any of the cylinders, being incompressible, it would have stopped.

There was no undue resistance, however, and so emboldened, after I reconnected the PVC pipe which had bypassed the muffler, we cranked her up without incident, and shut it down again once we saw that it was working properly. I’m also glad to say that my having taken it apart and then put it back together, but this time applying more force on the clamps, cured the tiny leak we’d had when it was first used.

We sailed off our anchor at 12:15, following our route out the way we came in. When we turned the corner to head 269*, the wind was such that we put out the asymmetrical spinnaker and the main in about 8-12 knots of wind. Because we were making such nice time, when the wind shifted a bit at 1:30, becoming more southeast, and continuing to shift further south, we made a gentle curve. This kept the wind in the proper quarter, going further west than we needed to in order to make the turn we’d scheduled, but still making progress to the north. Our route called for another starboard adjustment later, and with this westing, we’d not need that.

Eventually, at 7:15, so we wouldn’t have to deal with doing it in the dark, we struck the spinnaker. However, the sock wouldn’t come down, no matter how hard I pulled on the downhaul line. It would go up, and come down a bit, but at a certain point very close to the top, it stuck. So, we did what I referred to as a "dirty drop" – Lydia blanketed the spinnaker with the main, since we had lots of maneuvering room, and I corralled the spinnaker folds as Lydia gently let out the halyard. Once I’d twisted it up enough to take the wind out of it, we laid it down a little at a time, on the deck.

We found that the sock had torn – wear, probably – fouling the downhaul line. Once the sail was fully on the deck, though, we manually pulled it through the sock and stowed it in the bag. Another sewing project! That was resolved by 8PM and we enjoyed dinner in the cockpit, prepared as we labored on deck, by our constant servant, Louise. Good thing she really gets off on cooking and cleaning – we’ll miss her terribly when she leaves in a month!

The wind started to die as we turned on our course of 343* and the swells and waves on our beam caused a lot of rock and roll, given the small force the wind put on the sails, not making for much stiffening effect on our relatively downwind progress of 3.5 knots, half of what we’d been making under the spinnaker. However, by the watch change, when I went down to sleep, at 9PM, the wind had stiffened, and so did the boat. By 11:30, we were making over 7 knots to as much as 8.3 knots as we headed to the west end of New Providence Island.

However, the corner of New Providence Island not only stopped channeling the tidal current, which probably had helped, but it blanketed some of the wind, as well, and when we turned the corner, our speed dropped to only about 6 knots in a broad to beam reach. By the time of our watch change, when I took over at 2:45AM there were following seas at very close to our speed. The effect was to make them equivalent to very long-period waves, and the motion was quite comfortable.

Later, the wind built again to 15-20, and once clear of the blocking effect of New Providence Island, the ocean swells kicked in again, the wind clocking, becoming South to Southeast by 4AM, which made for some rolling around. By 5AM, the wind built a bit, along with the waves, and we were making high 6 to low 7 knots progress on a broad reach with the now-usual rock and roll. The waves continued to build, and the SE swell was augmented by the southerly wind-driven waves, which made it pretty lumpy due to the prevailing 6-8’ swell meeting the 3-5’ wind waves. The effect was to have occasional – let’s just say - "interesting" waves. None of them boarded, but it made for a somewhat uneven ride by 6AM with our mid-6 knot progress.

I checked in with Chris Parker at 7 AM who confirmed that the weather would have produced those conditions. Knowing I was right in my estimations didn’t make me feel any better :{)) However, the wind and the tide were cooperating as we turned the corner for Little Harbour a little after noon under close to a beam reach. The guidebook comments about the cut through from the ocean had lots of little encouraging comments about avoiding the rock awash, and the nasty water in certain tide and wind conditions, but it was full daylight, with the tide to our advantage, and we made it through without any excitement. The entrance to Little Harbour was a bit daunting according to the charts, so we elected to go around to the far side of Cabbage Cay, the adjoining little island to the west.

Unfortunately, about the only good holding was awfully close to the very shallow stuff, and after three tries without success in 15 feet of water, we elected for Little Harbour after all. The charts showed a rather convoluted path, with lots of shallow stuff around us, but we saw that there were a couple of ideal locations not too far in, and nobody home there. So, we picked our way in, with an eagle eye on both of the depth finders, and after wandering around a bit to get the lay of the land, we chose our spot.

Sure enough, the holding was excellent. Since there was some heavy weather forecast for the following day, with 30-40 knot squalls, along with significant tidal current through the cut where we chose our spot, we double anchored at about 5 PM on the 14th, and settled in for dinner.

There’s about one place left on Little Harbour, the island having fallen into ruin with the decline of the prior fishing/sponge-gathering industry and a few hurricanes, a somewhat famous eat-and-drinkery. They require three hours notice of your intent to eat there, with a pre-selection of what you’ll have, as they want to make sure you’re happy. Flo’s Conch House, we discovered when we went ashore to explore on the 15th, is well named. I imagine, as well, that if it’s burgers you want, they’ll want time for the meat to thaw! There were literally walls of conch shell for hundreds of feet on both sides of their dock. I can’t imagine how many thousands of shells there were, but it was very impressive to say the least.

We came ashore at their dock after first hailing for permission as recommended in the guidebooks, and chatted up the owner, who, one might say, is "older than dirt" and has seen it all. Some of that included a very serious hurricane during which time she hid under the over-200# commercial baker’s mixing bowl she uses to make her bread dough and listened to the destruction around her. Her son does the cooking now, and as we returned from an excursion to the beach, showed us how he prepares conch, which was not only interesting but instructional for our future use with what we may harvest. I have to say, though, for all the various sizes of conch shell we saw, many of which were of the size we harvested, there were also some monsters which must have been nearly half again the dimension of our biggest.

They directed us to the only path we could see, leading to the beach. From the harbor side to the Atlantic wasn’t much of a walk, but there was no road intersecting it, which meant that they were the only ones out here, and that, like so many places in the Bahamas, whatever they sold, it would have to come in by boat. And, being the only place, and with a very shallow approach from the north, the usual path for supplies, it would have to come in a very small boat. For all that, their prices were very reasonable by Bahamian standards. Like all establishments of this sort, washing and non-eating water came from a cistern, and a generator provided electrical power. Chickens roamed the yard, along with an unfriendly (but not in any way aggressive) dog.

We met a couple of folks there who were finishing their lunches and walked with us to the ocean. Not surprisingly, in this ever-shrinking world, despite one of them being from Sweden, one of her best buddies was one of the administrators of the Ham test I took in Georgetown. It had been 9 years since she’d seen him, so couldn’t quite recall the boat name, but with the hint of what he did, and a name of "Bob" (she also couldn’t recall his last name), I triangulated on his and his boat’s name. Small world…

When we got to the ocean side, it was unbelievably rugged, and massive boulders had been thrown up on the shore, obviously, from their position (basically flat limestone, sitting askew on other rocks) not where they were, or in that attitude, from erosion, nor, from the terrain, having fallen from someplace higher. It’s difficult to imagine the force of the sea needed to do that!

A walk along a path which had been developed by those before us, picking our way along the limestone and boulders, brought us to a beach where Lydia hoped to find more hamburger beans, but, alas, no such luck. Other small finds, including what looked to be a NEW ping-pong ball (what sort and size of boat would have a ping-pong table, apparently up on deck [else, how would it have made it overboard?]), made it interesting, though. After a couple of hours of marveling at mother nature’s work (I also found the stern platform/engine cover/dinghy mount to a major fiberglass power boat thrown up on the beach, the presumed remains of a total wreck), we made our way back over the hill and down to the dock to our dinghy for our return home.

Once I’d delivered Lydia to Flying Pig, as it was nearly low tide, but still plenty of daylight, I took the hand-held depth sounder and went exploring to see what sort of depth we could expect on the way out. During our stay there, two other boats had anchored out toward the entrance, where we’d expected some potential excitement on the way in, and another was anchored well to our stern. Going over to a very shallow area, I confirmed the readings I was getting, just in case the sounder wasn’t correct. We were in about 15 feet of water, and with all the wandering about that I did on the exit route, despite getting quite close to both shorelines, I saw nothing less than 8 feet on the way out, and usually more like 9-12 feet. That was very reassuring, of course, so we relaxed a good deal about our exit the next day.

When I was out, I noted that our anchor lines were crossed. Dang! We must have swung around with the current overnight. Oh, well, no big deal, as it was pretty light wind at the time. I used the dinghy to push the boat around, untangling the lines. Oops. They hadn’t tangled, after all. After doing that, using my dinghy to block the small waves, and seeing the bottom in the calm slick behind it, I saw that, instead, with one line shorter than the other, the longer had merely swung over the line, not crossed. So, I repeated my tugboat imitation and put them back the way they were :{))

As tonight was the forecasted blow, we settled in to enjoy another marvelous dinner courtesy of the ministrations of Lydia’s mother, watched a movie and had an early night. However, the expected blow passed us by, and we passed a peaceful, relaxed evening.

As we got up the next morning, the 16th, and we started our coffee water, I noticed that it seemed to be taking an inordinately long time to boil. What?? No flame?? Dang. Some problem with the electricals controlling the solenoid? A quickie troubleshoot showed we had power, so I went aft and checked. Sure enough, we’d eaten (pardon the expression) our way through the second of our 10# cooking tanks of propane. Fortunately, we had our spare, the fiberglass 17# unit I’d bought the last time we were ashore in GA. I took out the two smaller empty tanks, replacing them with the single larger one in the propane locker, and we finished boiling our water, enjoying our morning coffee and breakfast. All this breadmaking is sure demanding on the propane!

Well, I see that I’ve run my mouth/fingers again, so we’ll leave you here for the moment. See you next time…

Stay tuned!



Morgan 461 #2
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