We've been mostly without internet for the last week except for the occasional dab of 3G on hilltop hikes, so my interim posts will be backdated. Here's "The Perfect Sail," written 3/8/17.
I was originally thinking the wind was going to abate enough to come back north on Tuesday, and as late as Monday night that’s what I was planning. But the wind howled that night every bit as strong as it had the previous two days, and when I woke up at 6:25am, brewed a cup of coffee, and tuned the SSB to 4045 KHz – I’ve unexpectedly become a morning person since becoming a cruiser – Chris Parker confirmed that now little abatement was expected until early Wednesday. Windbird is a tough boat and I don’t doubt that we would have been ok rocketing downwind under double-reefed main and staysail – but we’re new at this, Dawn’s not as into “sporty” sailing as I am, and there was a Cards Against Humanity game scheduled for 3pm at Pirates Beach. So we chickened out and stayed put another day.
It was a good call, because today was one of the best sailing days I’ve had in a long, long time. We went 32 miles from Big Majors Spot to Shroud Cay in 4:50, an average of 6.7 knots SOG even though we turned off course for multiple sail changes and had a little current against us much of the time. We started at 8:30am with full sail on a broad reach in ESE winds around 20 gusting 25, which subsequently became E at 23 gusting 29. We were consistently doing 7+ knots speed through water with 8-knot sprints in the gusts. What a ride! Dawn and I traded off one-hour stints on the helm – the autopilot wasn’t doing so great in the sizable following seas – and shortly after I took over at 10am we started to get overpowered on the main in the gusts, so we rounded up and put in a reef. In the past we’ve started the engine to do that, but this time we were fast enough to do it under sail alone (furling the yankee before rounding up). An hour later we rolled in the Yankee a bit, about 3 turns worth.
Once past the Wide Opening, the seas moderated quite a bit and the wind eased as forecast and also backed a bit, to 080 at 15 gusting 20. We kept the sail shortened and still managed an easy, balanced close reach at 6.8 knots. We kept the sails up while tacking into the Shroud Cay anchorage until about a mile from the mooring field. Once we got here, we realized there was a ton of room to anchor on a sandy bottom just south of the moorings, so we decided to do that. Our new friends Roy and Christina on the Tayana 47 “Moor Passages” weren’t too far behind and followed suit.
While we were anchoring, I lost the pin to our anchor chain guide overboard. I initially thought that the cord securing it to the boat had frayed, but actually the bowline securing it merely came undone. I immediately called back to Dawn (via our walkie-talkies) to drop a MOB waypoint. Once we were done anchoring I threw on my mask & snorkel, and found it quite quickly despite the stirred-up, silty water. Once Roy and Christina got in they came over for a quick-n-easy lunch of walking tacos (e.g. taco ingredients put into a personal-size bag of crushed Doritos, eaten with a fork); then we launched the dinghy, took Piper to shore, and headed out for the North Creek. Dawn and I had already been there, with Kevin and Jeannie on an expedition from Norman’s Cay, but Roy and Christina had not. I took advantage of a strong and fast LTE signal (!) at Camp Driftwood to put in my bids for work, which I had neglected to do during our down days at Staniel Cay (where the 3G signal was slow and intermittent).
On our way back we raced a rain squall to the anchorage and narrowly beat it to close our hatches. We had sundowners a bit ago and Dawn’s now making chili and cornbread, perfect for a night that’s still fairly windy and a bit on the cold side. Tomorrow her and Christina are planning to paddleboard one of the mangrove creeks here on the west side of the island, while I’m planning to hike up to an old well that’s provided fresh water to sailors for nearly 300 years now. Later we’ll move down to Hawksbill Cay to hike to some Loyalist ruins, and then on Friday we’ll be back at Warderick Wells, hopefully in the south mooring field off Hog Cay. It’s shaping up to be a great week.