Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Allan’s Cay to Normans Cay, Bahamas

15.4 nm
Wind: SW 5-10 knots with frequent gusts higher
Seas: 1-2 feet
Latitude: 24°35.65’N
Longitude: 076°48.48’W
Maximum speed: 6.6 knots (under sail)
Average speed: 3.5 knots

Because we didn’t make it to the island yesterday to take pictures of the iguanas, we rowed over this morning just after a gigantic boat called “Powerboat Adventures” full of bikinied teenagers from Nassau roared away. We had to share the island with one other boat, though, a fishing boat whose crew were cleaning a bunch of fresh dorado on shore and feeding the scraps to the iguanas and birds. They offered us a ziploc full of fresh fish, which we accepted gratefully, and a fifteen-pound bag of ice. So maybe our delay this morning was worth it.

I would say it definitely was, but Karl was grumbling a little as we pulled up our anchor at one o’clock. We got into a big fight last night about our mileage in the Exumas--I think we can take our time and enjoy it a little, do about fifteen or twenty miles a day instead of the thirty to forty that we’ve been doing, and spend a day or two at each anchorage. Even at that rate, we should be to Georgetown in about two weeks. Karl thinks we should just race on down--we could also be in Georgetown in three days if we push.

We continue to have problems with our engine, though, which may be one reason he wants to push. Today it kept losing RPMs as we tried to motor dead into the wind yet again. It was doing something else crazy, though, something new, that Karl thinks might be the bearings in the water pump. Not a noise you want to hear. We were stuck with a tough decision, because of our late start, to try to tack south in light wind, or anchor someplace sketchy off coral heads on the bank.

I, as always, leaned towards sailing, since we were barely motoring at three knots anyway, and Secret flies when she’s beating, even in light winds. Since Karl was still cranky at me, I hand-steered as we tacked all the way into the anchorage at Normans Cay, eventually able to fall of the wind onto a beam reach where we hit six knots under sail, finally running into the harbor under main alone.

We were still flying, though, which was inexplicable given the relatively light wind, until we anchored and I dove in to check our spot. The current took me immediately, in the time it took me to pull my mask on, and I panicked a bit. I also hadn’t eaten since breakfast, nor had I drank much water, both things that are hard to do when you’re hand-steering. Karl threw me a line, but I still could barely make headway swimming at my full strength towards the bow of the boat. I eventually let go of the line, encouraged by Karl to use both arms, and then panicked wholesale, gasping and panting and terrified. It took me about twenty minutes of hard swimming, never more than a hundred feet fromt the boat, just to get back to the line.

I came back to the boat and huddled in my bunk, shivering and angry, until we both cooled off and apologized to each other and had a nice broiled fish dinner. Still, though, I learned the hard way that these Bahamian currents aren’t something to be taken lightly. This one was far stronger than the one that carried us away at St. Augustine. There’s no way we could row against it. The only way we could leave the boat is at slack tide. I’m beginning to understand why people have 50 horsepower motors on their dinghies.

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