Shake and Break Part 15 - September 15, 2015
My apologies for the long absence. It's a long story (yah, yah, I know,
they all are...)
When we left you, we were north of Whale Cay Cut, the only way from the
'inside' to get to the 'other' inside - the Sea of Abaco
- where the rest of
the Abacos lie.
Those following us for any extended period of time will know that there are
various passages through which a boat
must pass to get from the Atlantic
into the protected waters surrounding the Abacos.
However, off Treasure Cay, and the pristine beach, there is a large sand
bank. The depth
there precludes all but the shallowest draft
going across it; those of us with deep keels have to go around Whale Cay to
get from Green Turtle Cay and its environs to Great Guana Cay, which is the
northernmost part of the Sea of Abaco
During extreme weather
, any of the various passages can be killers. In
fact, during one of the yearly excursions of US northerners to the US Virgin
Islands, known as the Caribbean 1500
(that's how many nautical miles it is
from Norfolk to St. Thomas), a storm brewed, and one of the participating
boats, "Rule 62", attempted one of the passages and was lost
on the beach of
one of the Cays, along with the loss of one of the crew.
So, cruisers have a healthy respect for the particular dangers. Thus, we
listened to both Chris Parker, our weather
advisor, and the local Cruisers'
Net (a VHF radio
meeting every morning, featuring reports of weather and the
visual confirmation of the passages' condition) before we set out for Marsh
Harbour, our next destination
There is an axiom in cruising, about wind
. There's either too much, too
little, or it's coming from right where you're going. Lately, it's been
that there isn't enough. The morning of August 23rd, 2015 was no exception.
was hopeful that it would fill in later in the day, but it
wasn't to be. In fact, there was precious little of anything - wind
waves - and thus it was that again we were a "trawler with sticks" - the
derogatory term applied to sailboats which motor
their way from one place to
another. We'd hoped that there would be enough wind to use our asymmetrical
, as it's fun to fly it, and an easy ride in the right conditions.
But there wasn't even enough wind for that, so Marsh Harbour hove into view
a few hours later, and we were again on our anchor
in the harbo(u - if
you're English)r after motoring the entire way.
We did, indeed, get to the Abaco Neem farm and processing facility,
a large container (well, by the amounts you need of it, the 4-oz.
container was large) of the oil
, along with several gift packages for family
when we returned to the US. We also renewed acquaintances in the area along
with taking a turn at the helm
of the morning Cruisers' Net, sharing that
job with a close buddy we'd met many years ago, Dick Simmons, aboard
Gusto!!! (the three exclamations because it's their third boat
of the name).
We introduced them to Neem as well, to the same amazing and amazed results.
We can't go to the Marsh Harbour area without a trip to Fowl Cay, a national
park, for snorkeling and diving
. There is a massive reef not far offshore
of Fowl Cay, enhanced by dinghy
moorings, which, in calm (which is about all
we've had of late) weather is a joy to behold, whether paddling on the
surface as Lydia does, or from the bottom, as I prefer. Being a national
park, even if there WERE edible fish
available, you are prohibited from
taking anything, alive or dead, from the preserve. As a result, fish
turtles have no fear of you, and come to investigate each new arrival. We
have a small trick we use to get covered up in colorful fish which we share
with our friends in the area; you'll have to come visit to learn it...
Our time in Marsh Harbour was limited this time around, as we had a
commitment requiring us to be back stateside in only a few weeks. Gusto!!!
and we buddy-boated (went in the same general area and times of travels) as
they, too, were returning to the US in the same time frame. So, shortly we
started moving slowly northward again, beginning with Fowl Cay.
However, this trip, on September 4th, while entertaining in the dive
portion, turned a bit ugly when we got back to the boat. A monster
waterspout formed, dissipated, and then reformed, and held for a very long
time. Unlike the typical waterspout, this one looked very much like a
tornado, all black and significantly wide compared to the usual white
stringy shapes of waterspouts in the area. It never came near us, but it
was dramatic to watch. The two other boats in the area high-tailed it to
Marsh Harbour, but we stayed and enjoyed the show.
September 5th had us motoring yet again, anchoring
off the north end of
Great Guana Cay, to visit Grabbers and the island created when the channel
into Baker's Bay was previously a Disney cruise ship destination
dredged. It's the same principle on which the Chinese are making all those
new islands - you suck up the bottom, and put it somewhere else, in
sufficient quantity that it becomes a land mass; those dredgings are called
spoils. Appropriately named Spoil Cay, it was great shelling, as all that
dredging had sucked up anything which was living on the bottom as well. We
also took that opportunity to scrub both the bottom of the dinghy
and all of
ourselves; the sand makes a wonderful exfoliator.
Once again, or still, depending on how you look at it, there was no wind,
and we motored through both sides of the Whale Cay cuts without excitement,
other than annoyance that we were again a trawler
with sticks. Ah well...
Off we went to No Name Cay for a bit more snorkeling in about 4' of water
we saw nurse and reef sharks, always a treat, but very little in the way of
fish, this time. Just about the time we got back to the BAB ("big a**ed
boat"), the skies opened. Always grateful, we scrubbed the decks and then
added a great deal of the world's sweetest water
courtesy of the skies
above. We get spoiled by it; coming back to municipal water is always a
The nature of a marine environment
is that it is full of living organisms -
many of the smaller of which see the bottom of your boat as a nice place to
take up residence. Their presence makes it so the boat has to work
to go through the water, and much science has been applied to the attempt -
and I use that word advisedly - to prevent such habitat. About the best that
has been developed is paints which both discourage (none yet actually
PREVENT) growth, and, in some cases, intentionally wear gradually wear off,
exposing fresh layers of - usually - copper, which is unfriendly to marine
growth. However, scraping the bottom, as one may have to pay a diver to do,
merely removes the hard stuff - barnacles
, and their relatives. That still
leaves a significant layer of slimy stuff which will slow down the boat. To
get the paint
to 'wear off' requires some scrubbing. In our case, I go
under with a hookah rig, an underwater breathing apparatus connected to a
above, and a long-handled, stiff deck
Along the way, we've picked up another buddy boat, someone who'd never been
to the Abacos before. As is our wont, particularly as members of the Seven
Seas Cruising Association, we take new folk under our rudder
, so to speak,
and introduce them to things not mentioned in guidebooks
boat, while it's intentionally beached (grounded, really - a long way from
the beach), is something they'd wanted to do, too, even though theirs was a
90' long power boat
So, on September 8th, we moved to find a place we could run up onto a sand
bank. Rapidly rising is best, as it minimizes the possibility for the boat
to float off without being noticed. When I'm down, I use extra weights, in
order to minimize the effort to be next to the boat. That's good, unless
the boat starts to float and there's a breeze; with my extra weights, I
can't just swim to the surface and catch up!
We didn't like the place we first chose, so moved to Manjack and Crab Cays
to snorkel at Fiddle Cay. There were no fish of interest, but the bottom
was thick with shells. It was also an area of great profusion of the
delicate spider lilies, so much was made of those before our departure was
hastened by the arrival of the biting insects.
September 9th saw us heading north with our friends, for a special treat at
the little cove at the top of Manjack Cay. It is there that you can get up
close and personal with sting rays, nurse sharks and lemon sharks. From
adolescents of perhaps 12-15" wingspan to the older adults of up to 4-5'
wingspans, we were surrounded by these beautiful creatures. Anybody we
expose to this is initially apprehensive, but when they see us interact,
they jump right in.
With our time at Manjack so blessed, the following morning we headed off to
Powell Cay to scrub our bottom. The slope of that sand bank wasn't very
sharp, so I sort of plowed my way forward until we were well grounded on the
falling tide. As it was relatively mid-tide, I'd have as much as 6 hours to
This happened to be an area thick in live sea urchins and sea biscuits. We
collect their husks when they die, but to avoid crushing them as I was
, I tossed all of them that I found to either end of the keel
resulted in a great pile, but also a profusion of urchin spines in my feet.
My callouses are thick enough that I didn’t even feel them as they went in,
but looking at all the polka dots and small lines of the spines made me
think that I would be infected in short order. It didn't turn out that way,
but it was a bit unnerving!
In the end, I spent 4.5 hours under water, doing some fairly vigorous
exercise. Having had nothing to drink or eat in that time, I was pretty
well knackered when I hauled myself up the stern ladder onto our platform.
A couple of quarts of water, a coke (for the sugar) and a Zone bar (for all
the rest of the nutrients) had me sorted out fairly quickly, and we shortly
floated off again. We moved to a deeper location so that we'd not go
aground on the next tide, and had a leisurely supper.
September 11th saw us moving again, this time in the company of Gusto!!!, to
Foxtown. As we'd never been there, but it was one of their favorite places,
it was their turn to play tour guide after all that we'd been doing in our
two trips this summer. Of course, the wind was directly on our nose, so,
once again, much to our disgust, we were a trawler
with sticks which wound
its way through the channel to the anchorage near town.
Our time ashore really didn't involve any touring, as the main reason to go
was the cheap
hamburgers at the local bar and grill
. However, when we were
there, we met the man who'd given us a book when we were in Grand Cay; he'd
said he lived in Foxtown, and, as we'd both finished reading it, sought him
out to return it. Sure enough, he wandered in while we were there, and the
exchange was made. It's a small world...
Well, if the wind's on your nose on the way in, there's some hope that it
might be usable on the way out. That proved to be so, as we sailed off our
at 11:45 on September 12th, to go to Great Sale
Cay, a common stopoff
for incoming and exiting vessels. By 12:15, we were out of the channel and
set our course 297°T over ground vs a heading of 299°T - a rarity to have no
influencing our progress - unless it's right on the nose, as was the
case this afternoon. Our actual SOG was only 6.1 knots, but our STW was
over 9 knots in a perfect breeze. That backed slightly and died a bit to an
apparent 10 knots at 110°.
That proved prescient to the continued clock-and-drop, as by 12:45 it had
backed severely to an apparent 60°- 45° to port at only 6-8 knots. That
movement probably had something to do with a squall which was 7 miles off.
Our wind improved slightly by 2:30, and stabilized at 60° and 10-13 knots
apparent on our port side. That's a close reach, where Flying Pig shines.
Our speed was 6.2-7.2 knots, and despite being a close reach (likely to make
the boat slide sideways somewhat), our heading was 288°T, with our COG
are our salvation and strength; we use their waypoints to
avoid shallow and rocky parts
, not to mention clearing land masses. So, our
waypoint arrived in due time - we turned onto our new heading at 2:45,
tightening into a beat at 40° with 12-14 knots of apparent wind - of which
we made a fair portion, as our STW was 10, but our SOG was only 7.1 knots.
That's still a pretty good speed, even fighting the incoming tide nearly
directly on our nose, as seen by our COG being 286°T but the heading only 2
degrees away at 288°T.
into Great Sale
Cay was to the north, over Little Sale Cay, and as
we headed over the top, as the wind was directly on the nose, we dropped our
and turned on Perky, the iron genoa
. Of course, heading directly into
the wind meant we added to the apparent wind, and showed 18 knots. By 4:45,
we were anchored in the lee of Great Sale.
Fortunately, it was still quite light, and I noticed that the PortaBote,
which we'd been towing behind us, seemed to have taken on some water. No
big deal, as it bails easily. Ooops!! A glance behind a while later
revealed LOTS of water in the Bote. I jump in and bail, and see that the
starboard bottom bolt of the 4 which hold the transom in place, with its
rubber washer, holding out the water, had fallen off. The 1/4" hole was
admitting water at whatever rate that sized hole allows when it's a foot
down. The lesson learned, there, is to not tow the PortaBote with the
still mounted; the chop had vibrated the wing-nutted bolt loose as
the transom flexed with the weight of the engine
That could have been disastrous, but we continue to be looked after.
Standing in the bow as I do to bail meant that the stern wasn't taking on
much water after I'd shoveled out the majority. Sitting on the port side
while I removed the engine and gas tank meant that no more water was coming
in. As we were about to do a crossing, we would have disassembled the
PortaBote, and stowed it in its placed on the port rail on deck
. So, once
the engine, tank, and oars were removed, we hoisted it alongside,
disassembled and stowed it. The remaining wind of 16 knots made that a bit
adventurous as it wanted to blow around, but we wrangled it into submission
in short order.
Supper and bedtime were a gentle rocking in the breeze, but September 13th
brought a stout breeze - once again directly on our nose(s - we were buddy
with Gusto!!!) so we motored into the 18-20 knots for the entire
day, on the way to Mango Cay, our stopoff before our crossing to Ft. Pierce.
We could see, off in the distance, an angry squall building, so we had
plenty of notice before it was on us as darkness fell at 6:15. The 35
knots, with gusts over 40, made for short 6-8' seas. However, we were in
the putative middle of nowhere, so we just held station, nearly blind from
the torrential rain, directly into the wind until it subsided. Once it had
calmed down a bit, we finished our journey to Mango and were anchored in
preparation for our departure.
That had been enough of an exercise, and our forecast
was for benign
conditions for the following morning, that we convinced our traveling
buddies that we could wait a bit from their original plan of being under way
at 3AM. Instead, we headed out in a dead calm at 4AM on September 14th,
motoring toward Memory Rock, our exit into the Atlantic. By 8:15, there was
still no wind, but it was getting hotter as we left the Little Bahamas
We left Memory rock behind us around 8:15, and, once clear of the reef and
shore line of West End, set our course for 238°, with 19 miles to go to the
edge of the Gulf Stream
, making 6 knots in a dead calm. By 11AM, we were
able to set a "go to" - our chartplotter
and autopilot's term for where we
want to end up, and raised all our sails
. Because we saw only 3 knots
apparent wind, we continued motorsailing, making an improved 7.3 knots SOG
on a 308°T heading resulting in our COG of 316°T by our not-yet-in-the Gulf
Stream at 79°18'W. We should see a major lift
Sure enough, by 12:45, our apparent wind shifted to 60°, and our SOG
rocketed up to 8.6 knots. However, at sea, all things are subject to
change, and ours arrived an hour later as seas built in a NORTH (crossing
the Gulf Stream
with a North wind can be exciting!) 10-13 knots, with us
still seeing 60° apparent wind. That soon became 20 knots as we shot to 9.5
knots SOG on our 305°T COG. Seas were manageable at 2-4', coming from 120°
on our stern. It made for a wobbly but relatively steady ride.
2:30 saw a moderation and clock, resulting in a beam reach in 8-10 knots of
wind, but we were still making a stream-aided 9.5-9.9 knots SOG toward Ft.
Pierce. That worked itself into a fair amount of rock 'n' roll as the
pressure eased on the mast
(allowing more movement in the waves), but we
inched upward to 10.5 knots SOG despite our 'only' 10 knots of apparent wind
on our beam.
So we could see to do it, we dropped our staysail at 5:30. Meanwhile, the
wind continued to clock, and we exited the Gulf Stream, dropping our speed
to 'only' 8.4 knots. We continued our beam reach all the way to the Ft.
Pierce inlet as our speed further dropped to 7.4 knots. By dark, we were
anchored in our favorite spot near the USCG station.
So, we came ashore, again, due to commitments already made before we left on
this trip over. We trust that we have about exhausted the Shake and Break
series; nothing of consequence has broken this trip, so, given all that
we've repaired, we think we qualify, now, to have earned the Shakedown
badge; with any luck and discipline, our Breakdown cruise events
be held to mundane things.
So, the question is: How long will it take ashore for Flying Pig to once
again take wing? Will Velcro Beach (nickname of Vero Beach, for those who
get stuck here) hold us, or release us for further adventure?
Until next time, then, Stay Tuned!
461 #2 SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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When a man comes to like a sea life, he is not
fit to live on land.
- Dr. Samuel Johnson