Return to Staniel

Tue 30 Mar 2010 14:36
24:11.622 N
76:27.102 W

Well, yesterday we had another "one of those passages." . . . We were anxious to move on from Little Farmer's Cay . . . thinking about our general progress back north, thinking about getting to Cambridge Cay maybe in time to see it for a few days and then backtrack next weekend in time to catch the Easter festival at Black Point. . . . As usual, schedules are a terrible way to make sailing decisions. Also, yesterday was the only day in the coming week that was forecast to have a southerly component to the wind--better for going North.

Winds were 15-20 knots from the East for the prior couple of days, whipping up the Sound, but leaving the Banks side flat as a pancake. Our sail to Oven Rock the prior day was on the Banks side, and we reveled in the ability to sail in strong winds on calm water. But we knew from our GRIBs that the wind was going to clock around overnight to the SE, then the South during the day, then moving to the SW by day's end. Then the next two days would be a cold front blowing through from the north, which would really preclude any movement north. Up to the SE direction, all of the Banks side is in the lee of the land. Then a SE wind will blow along parallel to the shore. And a South wind will start to build up waves from a long fetch across the Banks.

We decided to poke our nose out and see how things looked around 10 AM. All serene. Strong winds blowing from the SSE but only a 1-foot chop, maybe a 2-footer now and then. We motored along, telling ourselves that we had until Oven Rock to make a final decision. We had put a double reef into the sail in case we wanted to raise it, but decided not to repeat the strain on the rudder that we experienced in following seas before, so we just motored, and steered with the motor, with the wind behind us. (The rudder has taken a lot of abuse on this trip and I can see that I need to rebuild the whole thing as a stronger system -- bigger pintles and gudgeons, better linkage from rudder cheek to rudder blade, etc.)

Along the W coast of Great Guana Cay there is no harbor for 10 miles, and then Black Point which affords little protection from the west. But there is a creek near there by Dotham Cut that we thought we might tuck into. And Staniel is about 5 miles beyond that. So we passed Oven Rock and were surfing along on the following waves and all seemed fine. So we pressed on. Already, the idea of going back was unappealing because we'd be heading into the wind and waves. In the first hour the waves started to build . . . now they were 2-3 footers and not right behind us but off about 20 degrees from our port quarter, so every now and then a big one would lift the stern and slew us a bit sideways. Not terrible but unnerving. The second hour saw the waves build to 3-4 feet. More unnerving. More episodes of being pushed around or heeled more than we like to heel over. The girls were fairly impertubable, though Rosie seemed periodically unhappy with the whole situation. We kept asking how she was feeling and whether we should just tuck into the creek by Dothan Cut. We got to Black Point and debated whether to continue. We figured one more hour of discomfort and we would be able to anchor in good shelter with protected passages up among the many little cays north of Staniel and through Pipe Creek area toward Cambridge. If we went into the creek we'd be stuck there for a day or two. So, with promises of ice cream in Staniel, we pressed on. More waves, more rolling, high winds, then the anxiety of getting through the reefs around Staniel at low tide. We used our charts, our GPS, our eyes, and our shallow draft to sneak through the rocks.

All in all, there was no awful moment, just the accumulation of constant anxiety. We're glad to have put 15 miles behind us, but regret that it was done with difficulty. Bigger boats would have had no trouble out there on that day. We just need to repsect the limits of our boat and our crew. We were very glad to step onto dry land and walk to Isles General Store, where we did one final reprovisioning -- apples, ice cream sandwiches, bread, block of ice, cans of seltzer and tonic water. After Staniel we don't anticipate being able to load up on such luxuries again till Bimini, or till we're home. It felt strange to walk around Staniel -- already knowing the town somewhat from our earlier visit. We were cheered to see progress in two buildings under construction. No sense of new discovery; but a pleasant sense of returning to the familiar.

We're hoping to get a Wifi card here and upload one more batch of photos before we go, if possible. After that, we may not be able to post photos till we reach Miami.

Today we'll probably sit tight in our shelter between Big Major and Little Major, as the cold front blows through. Then we'll thread our way up to Cambridge Cay. After our passage yesterday, the girls voted not to try to return to Black Point for the Easter festival this coming weekend. They don't want to back track and then have to repeat the passage.

In the list of things broken:

The fuse for the 12V socket in our main breaker panel kept mysteriously blowing. As we often had several different devices plugged into it during a day (laptop, GPS, camera battery charger, Ipod Touch), it took a while -- and several perfectly good fuses blown -- to identify the culprit: the little camera battery charger cord. Not the camera batteries themselves. Not the charger box. The cord had somehow developed a short. We chucked it, but then worried we'd have to go the rest of the trip without taking pictures. Luckily, though, Lilly suggested seeing if any of our other cords had the same plug end and the same voltage -- yes, the spotlight charging cord did, and all is well.

I broke an oarlock on the dinghy. Just rowing lightly to shore by myself. Not pulling a heavy load or a boatful of a people. A mystery why it broke just then, but the shank broke clean off leaving the ring on the oar. I looked for an oarloack at the store in Staniel yesterday but no luck. I've rigged up a loop of rope through the oarlock socket on the gunwale, and the boat can still be a rowed. Not quite as elegantly and symmetrtically as usual, but we can move it along as needed.

The strap that holds the lower rudder pintle to the rudder cheek lost one of the two nuts that fastens it on. Interestingly (to some, maybe) it was the nut I had secured with a lockwasher; the other bolt on that pintle strap has a nylon locknut that seems completely secure. I thought I had a spare in my tool kit, but after turning it inside out, I determined that we possess nearly every other dimension of nut and bolt in the world, but not a 3/16" 18 tpi nut. Bill Raley on Act III gave me two out of his kit -- bless him.

In the list of close calls:
[Lilly here: ]The night after our dinner at the yacht club, at which I had grouper, I became extremely nausiated and first thought it was the rolling of the boat, but then started vomiting. Garth and I both started worrying about ciguatera, a neuro toxin that accumulates in large fish at the top end of the reef food chain--the reason not to eat large grouper. First symptom is vomiting, next comes tingling and numbness in the hands and feet and burning feeling in skin. It can be serious and lingering. Three others in our party last night had grouper, too. We wondered if there would be a mass medivac in the morning. We stayed up for hours, with Garth asking me: Is your skin burning? Are your feet tingling? Happily, I was better in the morning. A bit tender-feeling, but fine, and by mid afternoon, I was fully better. We have no idea what the cause was. Food poisoning of another type, maybe? No one else on Sea Fever got ill.

In the list of animals sighted:
Scorpion near Oven Rock, sitting on an interesting conglomerate of shells. He raised his tail, threateningly, but he was only about 2 inches long, so wasn't intimidating.

Brittle Stars under rocks in the tide pools here by Little Major's Spot. They are black thin-legged starfish, but move with the alacrity of a small octopus.