Foiled by wind and waves

Wed 10 Mar 2010 22:26
24:14:28.3 N
76:37:36.6 W

Thomas Cay, Pipe Creek Area

We thought we'd be at Black Point by now. I was looking forward to seeing and using the laundromat with the best view in
the world--and, of course, broadband internet access. However, when we left our little nook in Narrow Water Cay and
headed out into the banks, we were bashed by waves and were going south into strong SSE winds. Garth was having fun, but
I was fairly miserable. I confess to being a fair weather sailor (or motorer). The girls seemed to be on the fence about
whether it was fun or nasty. The waves were steep and sometimes hit into the boat in such a way that they slammed the
rudder sideways, making it impossible to steer. We discussed going to Compass Cay instead, which was several hours
closer than Black Point. After a few hours, Rose was lobbying for Compass. The third (and the most extreme) time the
rudder got slammed to the side I declared we were changing course and hightail it Compass Cay, several miles directly
east of our position. There were no dissenters. We headed into Compass Cay Marina, steering by motor alone--we raised
rudder--and come through tiny channels between rocks and reefs like threading a needle.

We were so relieved to be protected from the wind and waves that we were only slightly mortified when we made a very
clumsy approach to the marina dock to buy water. We first beached ourselves, intentionally, and then had a hard time
back into deep enough water to use the motor. It took a few attempts (jumping back into the water to push the boat off
and hopping back on before it could be blown back into the shallows), but we did it. The harbormaster was very nice
it. He'd seen worse entrances, he said, much worse. The marina is swarming with nurse sharks.

After we tied up to the dock, filled our 27-gallon water tank and a spare 5-gallon water bladder, treated ourselves to
cold Gatorade and candy bars (no ice cream was available), we headed back out of the marina to find a suitable anchorage
for Sea Fever. Staying within the marina wasn't an option ($2.50 per foot per night -- $77.50 for us).

We threaded back out of the marina and south into Pipe Creek, an area with lots of cays and reefs and shallow water. We
found a great beach (with a hilarious Pipe Creek Yacht Club "office," a driftwood structure with lots of momentos from
other cruisers. We'll have to post a photo of this.).
We just had an incredible snorkel, on a ledge nearby that drops off steeply. Garth said drifting over it felt like
flying. Coming back, we were against the current, which was just a bit too much for Rose, who ended up holding onto
Garth's back for the return trip. We saw a blue angelfish, yellowhead wrasse, squirrel fish, cleaning goby, a parrotfish
(unsure which kind), small barracuda, sea bream, rock beauty, a smallish ray (who fled upon our approach) and a
porcupine fish that seemed as curious about us as we were about him. Garth found an incredible mollusc: some sort of
conch or triton. We can't find it in any of our books. It's a foot long and fabulously colored. We've got photos, which
we'll post--one of these days. It was alive and after photographing it, we returned it to its home.

Our thoughts (I no longer can say plans, since those seem to shift with the winds) are to inch south through Pipe Creek
cays over the next few days--maybe to Big Major's Spot (to see swimming pigs) and then to Harvey Cay (near Staniel Cay).
The winds are going to pick up tomorrow (more than today's) and continue for the next few days, clocking around from
SE to SW to NW by Saturday. We'll be protected tonight where we are from the SE and will need to move tomorrow when they
change to SW. As long as we stay within this cluster of islands, we think we'll be protected for our short hops to spots
that will shelter us from each new wind direction.