A WEEK AT ANCHOR ON CROOKED ISLAND
Tuesday 30/Wednesday 31 December 2014
LONG ISLAND TO CROOKED ISLAND – FAR BAHAMAS
Stu left in a taxi at 0630, and I returned to Pinball to consider what to do. I’m usually fine with my own company, needs must, but its always hard when someone has just left. But that’s cruising
Slipped the shore lines at midday and had a slow chug around the wide channel leading to the marina and beach. A catamaran had been anchored just off ‘shark beach’ in a choice spot and with Stu’s encouragement that it was ‘a good 7’ deep there’ I slowly nosed in, eyes on the depth gauge. Chickened out at 2m, so nosed out again and crossed the channel to the far side where there was a large expanse of shallow water, some with breaking wavelets – ie very shallow! Another catamaran had been anchored hereabouts earlier, now gone. Finally settled on a spot of brilliant blue with a nice sandy bottom, right in the middle of everywhere. It was only when I looked at the chart plotter more closely I realized I was almost on my own arrival track up the channel – admittedly I had been a bit off centre – but not very bright really to park here. Other boats would be coming past, thinking what a stupid place to anchor. The test soon came with the arrival of a full-on ferry charging straight in at Pinball, but turning away on the buoy (relief) and passing a reasonable distance away, all without hurling abuse my way. Well, not audibly.
This was probably a factor in the decision to leave for Crooked Island that very night, the other being the nice gentle force four easterly wind with just a bit of north in it, allowing Pinball to actually sail the SE course for once. So at midnight it was up anchor, and motor out following the track I came in on, all over shallow water, then when clear hoisting sail and joy upon joy, sailing a calm sea. Pinball held a good course for the northern end of Crooked Island – so named because….oh, whats the point – and I had quite a reasonable nights sleep off and on, with the AIS transceiver telling everyone around exactly where I was, and where I was going, and as usual no big ships (passenger) came near. Really pleased I fitted that last year, and so much better than having just a receiver. All steered by the windvane steering system, in a perfect 13kts of wind.
I was below having a nap late morning, but woke to odd noises. Pinball had come off heading, and tacked all by himself onto north, with attendant sail flappings etc. The funny thing is, this was exactly what needed to happen, and when. I very often find myself thinking ‘Pinball knows the way better than I do’. Good boy! So tamed the sails and headed up the shallow but pretty west coast of Crooked Island until abeam the sandy anchorage off the beach, sheltered nicely from easterlies, but not much else. Here we would see in the New Year and stay awhile just a few miles south of BIRD ROCK LIGHTHOUSE – the most NW’ly point of Crooked Island.
LANDRAIL POINT ANCHORAGE – CROOKED ISLAND
I needed a break, the trip down from Nassau had been non-stop pretty well, just a couple of night stops before Clarence Town, so Handrail Point anchorage would do nicely for a while. For a start I needed to write up the trip down, get some good sleep, and just…stop for a bit.
A LEARNING PROCESS
Friday, January 2, 2015
Daily I would be listening to weather on the HF SSB receiver which is delivered by computer generated voice in a set order covering the Western N Atlantic, Bahamas, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, giving wind velocities and wave heights for the next 5 days. You have to be damn quick scribbling it down, and use of post-its notes proved hopeless…I got through about six which then got jumbled up, and now use a pad. It takes practise to get this routine weighed off!
The decision not to go on was a good one, wind is up today – gusting 25kts and more through the weekend. So we stay here. But the anchorage, although rolly, is safe in easterlies with good holding and a good safe exit too if we need to bug out. If the wind goes Northerly I’ll certainly have to move.
Earlier watched a small trimaran sail in, right up to the beach. It looked more like a home conversion in fact, an ordinary small yacht with a couple of bolt-on outriggers, and on one of them was hauled his dinghy, at a very odd angle. Clearly singlehanded, he sailed right up to the beach, up towards the Bird Rock end north of here, leapt up for’d and dowsed his sails, looking like he was preparing to anchor. Next time I looked, he had drifted way back out to sea again and had re-hoisted both sails – neither of which were reefed in what was now a Force 5-6. In irons for some time with sails flapping, I couldn’t make out what he was trying to do, but concluded he was attempting to tack my way but couldn’t get the nose through the wind. I guess his engine wasn’t working as he hadn’t used it. Finally he was pointing away from Bird Rock and sailed past me to the south, hugging the coast. He looked like a local. I had been looking forward to some company in this beautiful but lonely anchorage, oh well.
This afternoon a few young divers were out just 100yds from me, with attendant skiff with a whopping outboard. They seemed to be just picking up things from the bottom as it was just sand, and no sign of fish. Next time I looked they’d gone.
Well the weather for the weekend precludes going anywhere. Far to the north on the east coast of USA there are gales, and hardly any of the reports didn’t have ‘30kts’ in them. I have also been reading and re-reading Bruce Van Sant’s excellent book on ‘The Thornless Path’ ie how to sail a boat from Florida to the Caribbean against the trade winds and currents. He is so clued up, and I have so much to learn. But he is right, and I can see that his way works, so I will try and follow his advice, and if not emulate him, at least do my best to slip along in his footsteps. One thing I have learnt is that if you want to sail into wind you don’t want more that Force 4, preferably F3 – which is what I had getting here. And it was so pleasant too.. Any more and you go nowhere! Like Van Sant, I find I get no more than 50 degrees to the wind on a tack. Good enough.
Must admit, at first I was less than delighted by the prospect of endless beating into wind in biggish seas, and on my own too. But I can see now that it is achievable, without all the pain, if you really get to grips with the weather to get the windows of opportunity, plus learn how to use island effects. So, feeling a lot more confident as I have the tools – an HF radio that gives me the weather in detail, Van Sant’s book on how to do it, and a full set of excellent charts. All systems are go on Pinball, so it should work! Crash course in Met for Sailors.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
STRONG SE’ly gusting over 30kts
Two boats arrive, the first a sleek pilot house 50’er with several guys on board, anchors quite close alongside me, and I have to listen to his generator running for hours in the afternoon, and a second smaller boat about my size anchors further out in line with him. Bit odd! All that beach to anchor off! He/they must have had quite a trip in! All day the winds have been fierce, steady 25kts gusting 33 often..youch! But its better to have some company, and not a good idea to be anchored alone.
Spent most of the day downloading weather, but no breaks showing for the next 3 days, with a big HIGH to the north, deepening LOW and a storm developing over central America giving squeezed isobars in between, its easterly with a touch of south at 20kts (25kts here). There are gale warnings for Gulf of Mexico, Central America and N Atlantic! Right decision to stay here awhile I think, just hope its not too much longer. Some swell coming in from both ends of the island but not too bad.
Sunday, January 4, 2015 DAY 5.
Wind eases to 20-25kts SE by E Sunny with some heavy looking rain showers to the north going past.
9.00 The 50’er motored out and set sail heavily reefed. They are in for a very hard day! Bruce van Sant would not approve. I am certainly not going anywhere with big winds and seas. The other guy is still here. Then at 1030 the other smaller yacht set off under full genoa only, heading west. No problem with that, downwind all the way. I could do THAT!
Monday, January 5, 2015 AN ABORTED ATTEMPT EAST
Woke at 0230, went up on deck and on an impulse – the wind having abated to around 10kts – and after consulting the weather charts, thought it worth a try to have a go at sailing! Up anchor at 0300 under a brilliant full moon, and gently motor-sailed with just a small genoa past BIRD ROCK LIGHTHOUSE (that doesn’t. Should be renamed DARKHOUSE). Turned the corner and we’re in 30-33kts and building seas. Ok, I’ve learnt my lesson. Back to the anchorage.
The situation is that there’s a series of cold fronts coming down from N America, and a very strong high to the northeast which is giving some heavy winds. I’m hoping to have another go Wednesday sometime, as the effect of a front arriving is to oppose the tradewind.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
DAMP START, Rain showers, EAST’LY 30DEG WATER AND AIR!
Up a bit late at 8 so missed Chris Parker’s –the Caribbean Weather Guru - forecast, but listened to what follows – a question answering session lasting an hour. Most are from Yanks waiting to cross the Gulf Stream, and very few from folk down this way, so not a lot of use today.
THE TARGET SINGLE SIDEBAND (SSB) RADIO RECEIVER
For the non-techies and girls, you can skip this bit…!
Bought this receive-only radio just before coming out from UK, as they only seem to sell the full blown and very much more expensive transceivers in Florida – albeit at a much better price than in UK. But I didn’t want the transmitter bit until I’d got some experience of just how useful this radio might be, the reason for that being the difference in price mainly, 120 quid for the receiver against 4500 quid at UK prices for the full monty. Added to that would be the extra workload of installation of the tuner, ground connection usually requiring a through-hull fitting, and a real problem for me – setting up a suitable aerial. This usually consists quite simply of wiring up the backstay of your boat to the tuner, but because there are some nasty currents going through the aerial when transmitting you don’t want anyone touching it, so an insulator is inserted in the backstay so that a) you can’t touch the live aerial, and b) because you want the antenna to be a certain length (ish) and not connected to the whole boat!
Well, when I changed the rigging back in UK I asked for insulators to be fitted on my split backstay, so they put one of the two in the wrong place ie just above where the split stays join up, which makes the wire above that point just not long enough to do the job. It should have had three not two, one at the top, and one on each of the split stays, to give a minimum length of 7 metres. But I didn’t know this at the time, had more important things to research didn’t I. Now I know!
So I just bought a receiver, and if I’m honest, without much hope for its usefulness, after all, it was just another little black box, and so cheap too. Not only that, but no one ever mentioned the Target set in reviews, and there’s usually a reason for that. So a sense of ‘just give it a try’ prevailed.
Twiddling through the frequencies achieved nothing, the odd MW channel yapping. But I had had the sense to buy a book on it whilst at Indiantown, and here was the info needed, frequencies, times, services on offer. What I found to my delight was that there was a wealth of weather info being transmitted daily, more detailed than can be downloaded through the satphone, and after a bedding in period of trial and error, quite easy to use. With this set I can obtain verbal forecasts as described above four times a day, 5 days ahead, plus various weather faxes saved onto the laptop giving charted forecasts and real time met charts, IR pictures, wind/wave charts (most useful), sea states and cyclone danger, USCG NAVTEX, plus manned channels like Chris Parker’s detailed forecast and individual assistance to cruisers calling in. Conclusion: this is THE radio to have in these waters.
Wednesday, January 7 2015 LANDRAIL POINT
Went for a swim round the boat – yes I was looking for sharks all the way round – dried off, lowered the dinghy and paddled ashore to have a look round. Walked down to LANDRAIL POINT picking up nice bits of coral on the way on this delightful beach, to find a small but handy little harbour cut out of the rock/coral for the locals, by the locals. Neat. There also seemed to be a river – surely not – yes river running into the harbour area. A few locals drove past in their 4 x 4’s, all waved back, whilst another drove his truck down the ramp to recover his motorboat. They fish just off here in their boats, out all day they are. Walked back in the gathering dusk, paddle back to PW having taken some pics from ashore, and ate the penultimate slice of Nig’s special Stuffing Slab, listening to Cheryl Crow of course. Good day..
NEXT: ANOTHER LEAP EASTWARDS..