West into the
Old Bahama Channel.
This morning, after a great breakfast of bacon and eggs, Bill and I had to decide if we should backtrack to Ragged Island or reach for the channel. Bill set up the ham radio and we tuned into the cruiser net. Captains were calling in from all over the Caribbean getting information on the weather and waves. The “No Rush” did not subscribe to this service but we were patient and after listening to 8 or 10 briefings we were able to discern that the N.N.E. winds were going to be with us for awhile.
So… if we went to Ragged Island we would lose at least two days and I would miss my flight home. That was no problem, since there was no one waiting for me to return. About the only thing we would gain by going to Ragged Island would be a day of trailing seas and a break from the pounding we were getting on anchor. There just aren’t many options, we can’t go north and make the “Great Circle” over the Bahama Bank to Marathon, because the wind is all wrong for that. We can’t go south because Cuba is in the way. The only thing to do is, stay the course, sail to the narrows and hope we get lifted by a clocking wind. I would have loved to set foot on Bahamian soil again but that’s the breaks.
There is a commercial fishing boat a couple of miles to the west. They have deployed about ten small 2 man boats that are scattering around the bank. I’m not sure what they are fishing for but the process is interesting. They are using a diver who is being fed O2 through a compressor and hose system. The equipment looks old and beat. One boat came up to meet us but we were not able to communicate very well. I was too shy to try out my Spanish … just not feeling very extroverted today.
I’m starting to get into the rhythm. When it gets smooth and quiet… hang on… The bow will have finished it’s climb to the top of the wave and begin to drop. Then BANG, into the foot of the next wave… and it starts all over again.We will cross 5 or 6 waves between crashes and every third one is a bone shaker.
1420 hours Still working it. Course 279 degrees, steering by the wind and hoping it will turn by the time we get to the narrows. Right now it looks like we might be pinned. The seas are 6 – 8 feet and the wind is 22 kts. Outside the cabin house is loud, wet and windy. This boat is singing an anthem.
So far, we have traveled 766 nm.
2200 hours Just finished tonight’s movie Rolling Thunder. Bill predicted that the winds would start to turn shortly after dark and he was spot on. We are in the channel and have just enough lift to navigate. It’s going to be a saw tooth with the starboard tack favoring by a long shot.
I really enjoy these night watches, it is a different world and the boat takes on a new character.
Its pitch black , the clouds have obscured the moon and stars, the only visible objects are the instruments and the reflection of waves rolling away from the stern light. Its an illusion, but other senses seem heightened. A squeaking sheave in the boom that was hardly noticeable this afternoon sounds like a giant pissed off parrot. Voices on the marine radio are crystal clear and the wind in the rigging is singing a dirge. Every couple of minutes a wave breaks over the bow sending a bathtub full of water to crash against the front of the cabin house. Sounds are coming from everywhere..wood noise, fiberglass noise, water noise, mechanical and organic, without pause, not getting louder or softer, just going on and on. Below deck, the smells are stronger, ripening fruit, clothing that has been worn for too many days, wet bedding, they all combine into one big boat smell, that I perversely, really like.
0000 hours Bill is back on deck, time to go below and sleep. I wonder what tonight’s dream is going to be… should be good.