We do seem to be in the midst of a streak of adventure. Hopefully it’s almost over and I can go back to more boring posts (we swam, we snorkeled, repeat) complete with pretty pictures.
The cold front had finally passed and we decided it was time to get out of Norman’s Cay and move to one of our favorite anchorages last year, Pipe Cay. We were down to slightly over a half tank of diesel and our reserve tank of water, so it was time to make tracks down to Staniel Cay where we could replenish both. The plan was to stay in Pipe Cay for a few days, wait out a mild front with westerly winds, move to Staniel, and then backtrack north and spend some time in the Land and Sea Park. Well you know what they say about plans.
We were supposed to have easterly and northeasterly winds of about 15 knots, steadily decreasing throughout the day with some mild scattered squalls, so we were looking forward to finally getting some sailing in. And that’s how the day started. We reefed for the first mild squall, shook out the reef, and tucked in a reef for the second even milder squall. After the second squall passed we experienced an interesting weather phenomenon: the wind literally shifted from the beam to our nose in an instant with a “whomp”. Great. Now it was coming from the south. Good forecast.
We still wanted to get to Pipe Cay (and we wanted to get there before dark) so we fired up the engine as the wind steadily died and we shook out the reef again. Then the winds started to increase. And increase. And increase. Now it was blowing a steady 18 knots from the south, on our nose, and it was getting quite choppy. I was not happy and started hollering “F minus! F minus!” to the weathermen out in the ether.
I looked at Jeff and said that I was sick and tired of motoring into a strong wind, so we decided to cut the day short and go to Warderick Wells instead. Now at least the wind was 15 degrees off of our bow so we weren’t taking so many waves over the bow. And then I heard it.
“What was that?” I asked Jeff. “What?” He didn’t hear anything. But I had. A slight change in the sound in the engine. About 45 seconds later it happened again and I said, “That!” and he heard it too. The unmistakeable sound of an engine being starved of fuel. The same sound it made when we were heading to Jacksonville last spring from the Abacos. And then the engine stopped. Jeff and I looked at each other.
In about 10 seconds we decided Warderick was still our best option so I fell off the wind so we could start sailing. Ten minutes earlier I had been cursing the wind. Now I immediately thought of how the forecasters had claimed it was going to die, and I was willing the wind to stick around. Keep blowing, keep blowing!
We had gotten lucky because we had been to Warderick last year and we knew the anchorage was a straight shot through a nice and wide entrance, flanked by a sandbar on one side and a rocky cay on the other. Two tacks later we were on target to sail through the center. Sure enough, the wind had dropped below ten knots but as long as we had forward momentum it didn’t matter. Heck, we were in the Exumas. As far as we were concerned we could throw an anchor out onto the banks if we needed to.
Although we had never dropped the anchor while under sail before, we knew our friends on S/V Lone Star had done it countless times and our friends on S/V Spartan had to do it just the previous week when their engine’s water pump died on their crossing to the Bahamas, so I took encouragement from that. The next thing we knew we were coasting into the anchorage with our second rainbow of the day welcoming us. Jeff released the clutch on the windlass and lowered the anchor, and the Rocna hooked into the sand. We had done it! Our first time anchoring under sail. And you know, it was kind of fun!
Just like last time the engine issue turned out to be a dirty primary filter so by the end of the day Jeff had changed the filter and we had bled the engine. Big Red was up and running again and we had vowed to change the filter more frequently than the engine manual recommended. A celebratory toast followed.
It never fails to amaze me when I look back over the past 18 months since we untied the dock lines at Shenny. While I’m sure we could have sailed into an anchorage before we left, I know I would have been shaking with nerves. Instead I felt this quiet confidence. Of course we can sail into the anchorage. Of course we can drop the anchor under sail. Never once did I doubt that we could do it. I know we still have tons to learn, but man, what a difference!