I had hoped on this trip that we would get to see a lot of sea turtles. We had seen a few so far, but not as many as I had expected. What happened our first morning in the Royal Island anchorage more than made up for it.
Hearing a motorboat pass us rather closely, I popped my head out of the cabin to find a guy on the bow of the motorboat holding a net and another guy steering. When they came by again I asked them what they were up to. “Catching turtles!” the net guy replied. “TAGGING turtles” came the quick correction from the driver. We laughed about that being an important distinction, and the driver said they would come by when they were finished.
After about twenty minutes they puttered up to Pegu Club and tied off on our rear cleat. It turned out that the boat was affiliated with the Bahamas Sea Turtle Network and the University of Florida. The guys had two turtles and we were welcomed onboard to watch the tagging process!
We learned about the different kinds of sea turtles and watched them get weighed and measured (length and width). We also got to touch them, including their flippers which were surprisingly soft. The tagging didn’t appear to bother them at all (they didn’t flinch), and although the guys worked quickly they also had a hose that they used to repeatedly wet the turtles down so they didn’t get too hot.
After a turtle was tagged, a biodegradable red ribbon was attached to its flipper. The ribbon serves as notice to the taggers that the turtle has already been counted so that they don’t scoop it up again, although it does dissolve in about a week. Once the ribbon was attached the turtle was released back into the water where it zoomed off like a bat out of hell. This was one of those things where we happened to be in the right place at the right time, and we marveled about it for the rest of the day. It was absolutely a highlight of our trip!
The next day it was time to make tracks for Rock Sound, Eleuthera where we planned to ride out the latest front. To get from Royal Island we needed to pass through Current Cut, which is exactly like it sounds. The current rips through a relatively narrow passage, so we wanted to go through as close to slack tide as possible.
When we poked our noses out of Royal Island it was quite clear that the wind had been honking the entire previous day and night. The water was sloppy and choppy, and of course the wind was on our nose. We debated turning around but decided to give it ten more minutes, then another ten minutes, then another. Of course by that time we were halfway to Current Cut so we figured we might as well keep going even though we weren’t particularly happy about the conditions.
There were a few other boats heading in the same direction which always makes me feel better, knowing that we aren’t the only idiots out there! I radioed to the boat ahead of us and asked him if he could let us know how the conditions were when he passed through Current Cut, which he graciously did. Approaching the cut it was clear that slack water had arrived earlier than anticipated and there was now a one knot current against us and rapidly increasing (the current can approach 10 knots through the pass).
The water became extremely swirly so that it was difficult to keep Pegu Club on a steady course, and we immediately decided that if it didn’t improve within ten seconds we were going to turn around. Fortunately everything steadied out and we motored through, but it was amazing how quickly the adverse current increased. We were at wide open throttle going a touch over three knots, and we were very glad that we hadn’t arrived an hour later!
After that excitement we popped out the other side and were able to adjust our course enough so that we could actually sail. It was still sloppy and choppy, but we set up Bob the wind vane and let him do the work for the rest of the day. What a difference from hand steering! Bob has rapidly become one of our favorite pieces of equipment on Pegu Club. We even got used to the sloppy conditions. By the time we pulled into the anchorage at Ten Bay at the end of the day we had decided that as long as we have Bob, we can certainly attempt a multi-day passage on our way back north as long as we have a good weather window. Clearly there are more adventures to come!