31 January 2022: Turquoise Dream
31 January 2022
Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
White Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
Averaging 14 knots, comfortable and not too stagnant.
Scattered, but not enough to put a damper on the day.
Sunny as can be!
Dry, thank goodness!
After moving to anchor inside the harbor and wait out a few days of bad weather (the forecast saying gusts up to 42 knots), I was ready to get out of Great Harbour Cay. The visit there was mostly filled prepping for boat projects in Nassau, but I did take one full day off to see Shark Creek in the Berry Islands with two boat families who invited me along.
A highlight so far and something I could not believe I missed on my last visit to the area in 2018.
With the sun shining and the wind settled, the first half of the day was turquoise waters and sandy bottoms. I could not resist a cheeky little photo op to be able to able to share the stunning views with the people who follow my journey (see the photo at the top if you managed to miss it). If they cannot see it themselves, at least they can see it through my lens. Plus for myself, I wanted to see if it was possible to capture that feeling of flying over the calm and clear water made up of the most beautiful hues the rods and cones of the human eye can perceive. Looking at the photo, for me, I am reminded of what I was feeling in the moment.
The middle portion of the sail after turning the corner was upwind and was motoring. I left the mainsail up and sheeted it in tight and furled in the jib. Progress was slow as I was not only against the wind but also a bit of wind chop style waves, so, this 10-miles lasted what felt like forever. As I went to turn the corner south, the wind was sort of shifting with me and so I was very close or too close to the wind for the rest of the day. It was gusty, so sometimes I was flying, heeled over at 6.5 knots and other times I could barely make 2.5 knots and would have to turn the engine on. I also started to notice issues with my autopilot getting more prevalent. It always had occasionally let me down, but not enough to warrant repair. It would randomly disengage and let the boat steer itself. But only a couple of times before fiddling with connections and sometimes a swift whack and then it would be sorted. But now it could not hold the heading at all, not for a minute and not with the usual “techniques”. Immediately upon engaging, it would actively steer off course. So the last third of the day was spent hand-steering.
Upon arrival, I debated if I was going to lower the mainsail inside the anchorage or outside beforehand. In retrospect, with a broken autopilot I should have done it in the wide-open ocean. However, unlucky for me, that thought did not arise until after the fact.
After entering and realising how narrow the anchorage I wanted to go to was, I realised not only how annoying it would be to drop the mainsail in there but also that it was not really a suitable anchorage. At least not for the conditions I was expecting for the duration of my stay before I was bound for Nassau. But my backup anchorage next to it appeared to be fine, I just had to get through the cut where the current was running so strong it was bubbling and rippling like a river. I was not sure once I got there that I would be able to get back against the current that is how powerful it looked!
But mainsail finally dropped after multiple tight loops to point back into the wind, and, once through the current, I prepped the anchor to drop. With a narrow anchorage, six other boats already there and shallows all around I spent the better part of an hour weaving through boats and sussing out the size of the gaps between them, the bottom composition (telling the difference between rocks versus sand and grass versus coral heads was very challenging, and it had been a good long while since I had practiced this skill). It was also pretty breezy so the wind chop meant it was not a crystal clear viewing of the bottom but a skewed, eye straining level of clear to try and decipher where my anchor should go.
Once I decided on a spot that I thought I might like, it took me two or three approaches to time my slow down with how fast the current was pushing me at a 45 degree angle as I made my safe but efficient ‘dash’ from the helm to the bow to initiate the anchor drop. I saw a ‘poof’ of sand as it hit the bottom and had a little moment of pride. Once that anchor was on the bottom, I was then fine to allow the boat to drift with the current as it facilitated laying out the chain for me in a nice straight line.
I backed down hard on the anchor and watched to make sure I was not moving, and, satisfied, shut things down and set my anchor alarm. I ensured everything was secure before going below. Time for dinner as the all day sail with no autopilot meant my only sustenance since breakfast was a quickly grabbed granola bar before I was back to the helm.
My neighboring catamaran stopped by to tell me that despite being quite far away (I had specifically tried to crowd the monohull ahead of me and leave as much room as possible), they were really subject to the wind versus current conditions and we may be too close. We exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch about it and I set my anchor alarm a little tighter. As soon as the sun went down, I had seen nothing of concern, so – as I am sure you guessed – early to bed after yet another salty, windy, sunny, solo sailing day had sapped all of my energy!
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
– Dr. Seuss