After our overnight trip to Georgetown, we spent a couple of days anchored
off of Sand Dollar Beach in Elizabeth Harbor. The winds were still strong so
we worked on some projects on board and accomplished what we termed a
“reset.” We reviewed and consolidated our remaining provisions and
reorganized things in storage to work better for the future. Basically we
got ready to have a lot of fun over last couple weeks in the Bahamas. We
also started planning for things we need to do when we return to the States,
Once the wind died down we moved over to anchor off of Kidd’s Cove and
Georgetown. We loaded up on water, diesel, gas, provisions, beer, etc. over
the few days we were there. We hadn’t had a good rain in weeks, so I spent a
day washing kitty prints off of the deck while Sabrina cleaned our
stainless. Our friend Jess was in Georgetown at the same time, so we met up
with her and played some volleyball to relax after our hard work.
On Friday the 20th we left Georgetown, we planned to spend a week in the
southern Exumas before returning to Georgetown for the Family Island
Regatta. (We saw them assembling the regatta shacks and bringing the race
boats into the harbor, it looks like it’s going to be a blast!)
We sailed north to Rat Cay, which we hoped would provide us protection from
the strong south and southwest winds that were predicted. We tried to do
some snorkeling on Saturday around this area but the visibility was horrible
because the water was too stirred up. Saturday night we listened to Jimmy
Buffett’s last concert of his current tour, “Welcome to Fin-Land,” while we
watched thunderstorms descend on us on the radar. Luckily most of the
stronger storms stayed north of us.
Sunday morning started calm but then a persistent 30 knot wind built in the
late morning. It was a little more westerly than I expected and our
anchorage became pretty rough. Just after lunch a “Mayday” call came
through on the VHF. A 32′ sailboat was unable to fight the strong winds and
was being swept into the reef about a mile south of us. Luckily they missed
the reef and ran aground on the beach on a falling tide.
Three other sailboats in the area responded to the mayday call. The captain
was bi-lingual and one responding sailboat was French so they were able to
converse freely and the French boat was able to provide a larger anchor.
Another sailboat had a Boston Whaler tender with a 100hp outboard and
attempted to pull the boat off the beach, but was unable to fight the strong
winds. The sailboat only had a low-power handheld VHF so we relayed traffic
for them while all this was going on. They requested that we try to find a
larger powerboat that might be able to pull them off when the tide came up
later in the day. I contacted the Marina at Emerald Bay and the dockmaster
was able to find a boat that would be able to come by later in the day at
high tide. We relayed information throughout the afternoon via our powerful
VHF radio and I checked the weather to see when the winds would subside.
About 5:00 the winds swiftly abated. They dropped to a little over 10 knots
by 6:00 and the French sailboat was able to free the aground sailboat by
towing them off while the others heeled the boat over by pulling on the top
of the mast. I notified the Marina at Emerald Bay that a towboat would not
be necessary and the sailors needed no further assistance. Both sailboats
were then able to make a protected anchorage before dark. They were very
lucky and very grateful for the assistance they received.
While the situation played out, Sabrina and I stood anchor watch to make
sure we weren’t dragging in the strong winds. In the cockpit we discussed
the current circumstances and the some of the false notions about the area.
We are only about 20 miles from Georgetown and what most sailors consider
“safe and protected waters.” But, there is no Coast Guard to respond to the
“mayday” call, and it was very hard to locate a suitable towboat. With a
low-power radio the aground sailboat was very lucky to have three boats in
the transmission area that were able to respond and provide assistance.
It goes without saying, but regardless of your cruising grounds you should
always be prepared to be fully self-reliant in any situation, there may not
be anyone around that can reach you in time.
And that brings us completely up to date! Later this morning we’re moving
north to Lee Stocking Island and a more protected anchorage for the current
winds. There is a marine research center on the island, and hopefully we’ll
be able to take a tour.