Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Amazon Adventure # 25. Close hauled for the Exumas.

From the Journal:
By morning the wind had swung into the NE. We were packed up and on our way to the Exumas by 9am. No sooner out past the reefs then we were into big seas. The course for Highbourne Cay required that we sail as close to the wind as possible. Fiddled with the sails to get the right set. A big catamaran came up behind us ( Celtic Cross) and passed close by to demonstrate his superior windward performance. They looked so comfortably dry compared to our crashing and spray. The girls stayed below and read. Heather emerged from time to time to take the helm while I salvaged and deflated Hippolyta who washed overboard, and trailing anchor lines washed off the decks. Doing anything on deck was difficult.

Midway we passed over the Yellow Bank shallows and I sailed with one foot on the tiller so I could stand up and watch for coral heads. As the day wore on the wind and waves increased ( forecast had said light and variable winds) and swung more into the east. Amazon was soon rushing along with her bows buried in spray ( me too). The Celtic Cross` mast eventually disappeared ahead and land appeared ( two humps and a radio tower). No tower shown on the chart. More distant bits of land. Where are we? Around 3pm we see a yacht anchored close to land. We are really roaring along now and partially luffing the mains`l. Very strong gusts but at least the land is blocking the waves at last.

We cross a sand bar and worry about rocks. We pass astern of the yacht whose crew is trying to furl their sails. "Where are we?" we shout, with salt encrusted smiles. A startled look: "South end of Normans Cay!" We sail into shore only to find the land is too low and gives no lee from the wind. We catch our breath and then motor around the point to find a whole fleet of boats in the next bay anchored in the gale. We move on to the better lee of Wax Cay. Heather leaps ashore and goes running up the beach still in her lifejacket. The evening sun lights up the gorgeous island and white sand beach. What a relief after that 40 mile multi-hour crashing session.

Heather comes back, exercised, and reports animal tracks -a rare mammal called a Hutia. We find once we get the tent up that the wind varies between dead calm and hurricane strength. Heather cooks while wrapped in the folds of the tent. We can barely hear ourselves for the sound of flapping fabric. The anchor lines are bar tight. Fortunately the Danforth anchors hold well in this sand. At last it is bed time. We take down the tent. Ah, blessed silence, but for the wind in the rigging. H. and I snuggle down under the tarp and the stars. Tired? I should say! Bill.

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