Monday, December 20, 2010

Allen Cays

Saturday, 12/11 –up at 0625 for weather, breakfast and departure.  Harbour Central fuel dock opened at 8 and we went over to load up with fuel.  The forecast was light and variable winds from the ENE (we had 10-15 knots), and we had a nice motor sail  (and at times shut off the engine) to Allen Cays.  We found a spot to anchor and went ashore on Leaf Cay to meet the iguanas.  Here is another unexpected surprise, I felt like Dr. Mautrin, a figure in the Patrick O’Brian series of golden-age-of-sail books. Every island he gets a chance to visit is another tropical zoological / botanic holiday.  This tiny ring of islands is home to an endangered species of Iguanas found nowhere else in the world.  Like the bears at Yellowstone, these critters are accustomed to people and are fed so regularly that they come running for chow when a boat pulls ashore.  Judy brought some of Mary’s kibble which no longer interests her.  The Iggies, as Judy calls them, were happy to oblige. Click, click, pictures taken and we relaunched the dink and back to our boat. There were three other boats in the anchorage and we stopped by “Kiwi Pryde” to say hello to Vernon and Sandra Pryde on their Lagoon Catamaran. This was the third significant “pride” of our trip.  I asked if they were using a New Zealand spelling, and they offered, “No it’s our family name.”   They are staying here for the big blow, we decided to also.
 It’s a constant surprise that it gets dark at 5:30 when it’s 80 degrees outside, and when the sun sets here it’s like instant dark.  Weather issues made our nature tour short and sweet.
We were happy to be in this protected anchorage as a full gale (34-47 knot or 39-54 mph winds)was anticipated and Norman’s Cay, our original “hurricane hole,” seemed inadequate (too dangerous to get into) after rereading the cruising guide. And so we hunkered down. The other three boats in this ring of cays appeared to have two anchors out, and I got nervous.  We have anchored out almost every night of our trip, and we were blessed with wonderful, or at least relatively benign, weather.  Tonight (actually the next two and a half days and nights, it turned out) would be a test for our anchoring skills, the holding quality of the local bottom and the new Delta anchor.  The other boaters were futzing around with their ground tackle in a way that must have made them feel more secure. It had the opposite effect on me.  Then I remembered reading about the use of a kellet, or sentinel.  The kellet is a weight deployed part way down the rode (anchor chain) which acts to flatten the caternary curve of the chain making the anchor end of the rode more horizontal and increases the bite or hold of the anchor.  I pulled out the Chapman’s and boned up on the details.   I unlashed the 22 pound Wilcox-Crittenden “Danforth” knock-off which had sat securely on the after deck since New York.  This was our number three anchor, our lunch hook, to be used for short stops, but it was the right size for this job. I put a chain through the shackle and around the seventy feet of chain I already had in the water.  My scope was eight to one and all chain.  This should be enough for most circumstances, but the holding and wind strength was an unknown factor.  I could have let out more of the hundred and seventy feet of chain I carried, but for the other boats around us, and the shallows beyond them.    Judy had selected our spot well, projecting where the big wind was forecast to blow from.
So I dropped the kellet chain, like a garland around the rode.  Ideally I would have had a large shackle which could slide down the chain, and/or I could have deployed the rig with the initial drop, placing it exactly where it would do most good.  Since it was too late in the game, and too small in the shackle department, my rig slid out about ten feet from the anchor roller on the bow and stopped there. Well, it was better than nothing, as it did act as a snubber, dampening the effects of the 35+ knot gusts that ripped through here, and after a three day blow, we were right where we dropped the hook to begin with. Bravo to us. 
Sunday, before the blow, we installed our new autopilot fluxgate compass.  When you install a new compass for the autopilot, it needs to be “swung,” or driven in circles, to get itself oriented.  Space was a bit tight in the anchorage and the current was strong and we went lightly aground, then the engine started conking out so we re-anchored and prepped for the storm.  The wind started to build Sunday afternoon and got so strong that we decided to take turns on watch all night going into the cockpit every 10 minutes to make sure all the boats were in the same spots and not dragging their anchors…this would have been a good night for rocker stoppers….and the winds were due to be heavier on Monday.
On Monday we had sustained winds 25 + knots, gusting higher and we were really rockin’ and rollin’.  Steph put out rocker stoppers but they did not help much.  We worked on the blog, with Steph writing and me working on photos.
On Tuesday the winds began to subside and we ventured out to visit other folks in the anchorage.  Vernon came over to say hello and we met Chris and Heather from Alaska (and doggies Kira and Minnow) on “Legacy” and had a nice afternoon eating Heather’s fresh baked cookies and our cheese and octopus canapés.  We also visited Allen Cay, which was between us and the brunt of the wind.
Steph decided to change the fuel filter and oil when we got back to the boat.  Two tasks not attended to since we left home, a couple of hundred engine hours ago. It became a very frustrating experience, because it meant bleeding the fuel system……which is a very time consuming and nasty thing to do.  Well, we had planned to leave on Wednesday, but the engine would not run.  I was resigned to spend the rest of my life on this desert island, or at least until a favorable wind could take us back to Nassau and a mechanic. Vernon had offered to help us do it, and after we got totally fed up with it, (I have a very short attention span when it comes to cold iron) we enlisted his help.  It took him about three hours, but he finally did it.  While Vernon, a retired successful commissioning engineer found the Perkins frustratingly finicky, i.e. he needed to run through the complicated, messy, contorted  bleeding process four times before success, he was tenacious in his resolve to beat the machine. Another angel in our midst….Needless to say, we did not leave on Wednesday so we were able to accept his and Sandra’s invitation to join them for Sundowners.  NB  “sundowners”, “It’s always five O’clock somewhere” or “The sun’s below the yardarm,” all terms for evening libations. Traditionally everyone brings finger food to share and beverages for their own consumption. I told Vernon the drinks are on me, as long as he drinks rum.
This was my first visit aboard a fully functioning catamaran outside of a boat show. This Lagoon was a beauty.  The day before, Chris and Heather on board their monohull, “Legacy” said that even though they have lived on a monohull for the last eight years (eight months a year,) it’s like living in a basement apartment.  Now on the cat, I could see the point, windows were at normal level instead of above your eye level.  Vernon said that since you spent so much time on board, on the hook, you ought to be able to enjoy the view.  I told him I was a traditionalist and aside from being fast, level, spacious, wife kindly vessels they were too untraditional for me.  He brought me acropper (turned me around)saying that in his hemisphere, multihull boats have been the norm for over a thousand years.  Touché. He added that this was their house “with a sail on top.” “Kiwi Pryde” has changed the way I look at cats.
We spent a lovely evening with them and look forward to seeing them at some other time this winter.  Before visiting them at sundown, we took a last dink ride over the Leaf Cay to visit the ruins and the Iguanas.  We also met Michelle and Jean Pierre from Montreal on “Blue Marie 2”.

Total relaxation....

Iggie on Leaf Cay

Iguana tracks

Bestest freinds

Three days on the hook--perfect arc

Heather, Kira and Chris on Legacy

Beach erosion from the storm

Fish were blown/washed ashore

Outside Allen Cay

The anchorage from Allen Cay with Leaf Cay in background

Vernon and Dr.Pepper

Sandra aboard Kiwi Pryde

New friends

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