Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What a Drag

We arrived through the cut at Rudder Cut Cay about two hours before sunset. Determined to see the underwater statue that magician David Copperfield commissioned we selected an anchoring spot and dropped anchor. Unfortunately after we let our about sixty feet of anchor chain and settled into the spot where the wind and currents ordained we were in only about 6.5 feet of water. We knew that when the tide dropped by two feet later that night we would be in four and a half feet and likely touch bottom. We should have re-anchored in deeper water but didn't. We were determined to see this mermaid and daylight was a wastin'. Our rational was the following: (1)we had touched bottom before in sand at Staniel Cay with no issue, (2) in the previous days we had entered Farmers Cay and slowly passed through 4.6ft of water with no issue so maybe our depths sounder had a small margin of safety and we might not ever touch bottom and (3)the wind was supposed to shift overnight and swing us into deeper water. The sun is setting let's get the outboard onto the dinghy and go diving.

We dingied over to the area the statue is reportedly located and began searching. When finally we spotted it we dropped the dinghy anchor and jumped in. It was actually quite remarkable. Cool idea Mr. Copperfield! He has a private island nearby. It's about 20 feet deep, so quite a dive for us as we are till developing our breath holding capabilities. But we made it down there. A bit surreal.

Once we had our fill we returned aboard just as the sun set. Dinner, a movie and tucked into bed. About 1:00am (low tide) the wind and rain pick up... and up. Waves start rocking the boat. The boat starts making irregular noises and soon we hear and feel a bumping. It worsens and we get up, groggy, to evaluate the situation. The bumping turns into banging and gets even worse. It was as if there was a rock or coral head directrly behind the keel. With every wave it was on the backwards motion of the boat that an impact shook the vessel with a violence I have never experienced. It was this repeated banging that motivated us to try and move the boat and re-anchor a little further ahead. Cassy got her foul weather gear on. I put shoes on. Even as she put the engine in forward gear with all the wind (gust of 35kts) waves and rain I am unable to pull the anchor up by hand (we don't have a electric windlass). I hook another rope into the chain and run it to the winches at the mast. I can winch it up only about ten feet at a time before I have to repeat the attachment process. All this in the driving wind & rain. Adrenalin pumping. The issue was that as we slowly raised the anchor we reduced the scope (length) of the anchor rode. This reduction in scope allowed the wind and rain to loosen the anchor and allow us to drag back into even shallower water. Exactly the opposite of what we were trying to accomplish. Of course as this was all happening in the blackness of night we didn't realize we were actually slowly working backwards until we finally got the anchor up. Now we were in such shallow water that we were stuck and couldn't power forward under motor. The wind and wave action continued to slowly work us backwards. I should mention here that behind us is a small beach and right next to it a rock cliff face. We were well away from it but were inching towards them. Our confreres on Brin de Folie and Oceane were themselves awake from the strong wind and waves. During their checks they noticed our situation and expressed concern on the radio. We said we'd keep them informed if things got really urgent. We couldn't go forward (we'd have to wait for high tide) but we didn't want to drift much further backwards. The only thing to do was to drop our anchor, which we had just spent a herculean effort raising. Of course dropping an anchor doesn't immediately stop you. You have to let our enough anchor rode and back-up quite a bit. So we continued to drift. Back. And back. And back. We were in a vicious cycle that was turning one inch at a time. An hour later were within 150 feet of the rock cliff. I really started to think this was the end of the adventure. How it creeps up on you. The situation was dire. We had to do something. We radioed our confreres and indicated that the situation was now urgent. The agreed and were standing by to provide any assistance they could although it would have been very difficult to launch their dingues in these conditions. We again started the engine and pulled up the anchor. Still stuck on the bottom, this time by some miracle (and the tide being slightly higher and a wind shift, but a miracle nonetheless) we were somehow able to wiggle loose. Instead of returning the way we came we slipped by parallel to the cliff face. We repositioned way over on the other side of the anchorage in deeper water and let our a lot of chain. At this point another boat in the anchorage must have been dragging also because they started re-positioning too. All this went on from 1:00am to about 4:30am. We were exhausted but our planned departure to Georgetown was early the next morning with a 6:30am revellie.

Even though we were very tired and shaken up, the next morning we were happy to get the heck out of there. Ultimately we had a great fast downwind sail al the way to Georgetown.

Lessons learned:
Don't anchor in too shallow water.
If already stuck in too shallow water and rough weather don't raise anchor, just wait it out.

Of all the 

Playing the Exuma Cays

Did she curse us?

Moonrise. You can see the beginnings of the cliff on the right

No comments:

Post a Comment