January 7, 2019
After our pleasant visit at Allen’s Cay came to an end and it was time to move on, we chose Compass Cay so we could swim with the sharks. But first, we needed to duck into the island next door to get some fresh food.
Donning our marriage-saver headsets, I make my way to the bow and untied the anchor snubber, and to get set up to lift the anchor out. Erik had the drives started, does his final check on things, and tells me to proceed.
I started lifting the anchor out with the windlass, calling out when the bridle is visible. I stop the anchor lift when the bridle chain is within reach. Removing the bridle and securing it on deck, I return to the locker to continue pulling up anchor, only something goes wrong – the anchor chain is coming up twisted. That is not supposed to happen. The anchor chain, by design, is supposed to ‘right’ itself as it lifts. The windlass cannot raise the chain if it won’t fit within the grooves. I drop the anchor chain back down and try again. Same problem. I let Erik know we have a problem and to come down, which he does, but we have maybe 1 foot of water under our keels and there is a sandbar a few yards off starboard.
Erik quickly tries spinning the chain and after several tries, we have another 10 feet of chain lifted, but it locks up again and once again, Erik has to come down to help me. I warn him we are too close to the sandbar and he darts back up to the bridge to get us safely away from grounding ourselves.
Finally, he gets the anchor chain untwisted again and I get another 10’ lifted, but I wasn’t paying attention to how the chain was lifting. We have a really stupid anchor locker that maybe wasn’t made for the size of chain we have. As a result, when lifting the chain into the locker, unless you tap and clear the chain as it’s coming up, you risk letting the chain wind itself back into the windlass. Which is what happened with the anchor itself about 2 feet in the water.
Erik could not come forward to help me unwind the chain, as we needed to carefully navigate out of the crowded anchorage. So with fingers crossed, we moved the boat out and into the channel separating Allen’s Cay with Highbourne Cay. I took over the helm and Erik unlocked the chain and secured the anchor.
There are times where I feel very good about myself and there are times where I feel helpless, useless, and incompetent. This was definitely the latter for me. It really messed me up that the chain twisted like that. And that there wasn’t anything I could do to fix it.
As we made the short trip to Highbourne, Erik did his best to assure me that this was a fluke, and that I did everything I could do correctly – namely, calmly letting him know what was going on, keeping my eye on the lookout for problems, like the sandbar, and not crying.
We arrived at Highbourn and picked out our anchorage, but I was very worried about how the anchor would deploy, but as I started dropping it, it easily went out, held, and we were secure in our new home for the night. For added measure, I grabbed my fins and mask and dove the anchor and was thrilled to see the entire anchor buried in sand, with no drag lines. We set the anchor alarm, and hugged each other (which is something we do after every sail, regardless of its duration.)
We dropped the dinghy, grabbed our wallets and backpacks, and set off to get lunch and provisions. Let me tell you, we haven’t had a meal out since we got here – and were really looking forward to someone else cooking and cleaning. We went to Xuma Restaurant, which was fantastic. We sat at the bar, and chatted with the bartender, Kevin, who made us fantastic margaritas and shared his story about how he came to tend bar here. He grew up in Nassau and a friend told him that the owner of Xuma was looking for a bartender – basically the job was his, all he needed to do was show up at the airport for the quick flight the owner had set up. The day of departure arrived, and he just felt he couldn’t go. The deal is this: Employees are expected to work 6 days a week, and every 7 weeks, they get one full week off, with a stipend to travel to other islands. But Highbourn is not the same as Nassau, and Kevin was not sure he could go from hustle and bustle to watching sunsets for entertainment. A couple months later, Kevin called the owner and said he was now ready and if the owner still needed help, he would be on the flight. The owner agreed and it’s been 7 months now and Kevin actually enjoys the fact that there isn’t much to do. He goes back to Nassau every chance he gets, but he no longer feels the need to be there. He said he had never appreciated the beauty of the sea or the tranquility of the sunsets before slowing down on Highbourn. I think many of us who have chosen this lifestyle feel the same way.
Lunch was delicious – we started with Conch Ceviche, then Green Lipped Muscles, and finally Coconut Shrimp. I say this not because this was the first meal we’ve had in the Bahamas, but because it was in fact beautifully prepared, presented, and the flavor profiles were spot on.
After lunch, we headed to the grocery store. Now what many don’t fully appreciate who live near a full-service super market, is that many of the islands are lucky to have even a small convenience store with two small aisles of canned and dry goods and a small walk-in for frozen items. This store had two refrigerators however, and in one of them: COFFEE CREAMER!!! I felt a bit guilty, but I took all 4 bottles they had. Yes, in these stores, there is limited quantity.
We stocked up on Cheetos, got some hair conditioner, peanut butter, and a few vegetables. Most of these stores stock the same things: lettuce, cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, oranges, apples. Maybe limes. And that’s about it for vegetables. But hey, they had Grey Poupon!
Heading up to pay, the cashier asked us if we were sure we wanted the creamer – she said, “creamer is $15.50, you sure?” I looked at Erik, thought about my morning cup of Joe, and knowing we were getting bent over, I said, yes, we want all 4 of those.
Heading back to the boat with our full backpacks, and much lighter wallet, we settled in for R&R before the long sail to Compass in the morning.
However, like most plans, they tend to go sideways when the Admiral decides she doesn’t want to sail all day. It went down like this:
Me: “I don’t feel good honey. I’m getting nervous about this sail.”
Erik: “Talk to me, what’s going on.”
Me: “I’m feeling scared – I know it’s irrational, but I can’t stop my nerves.”
Erik: “Let’s get the chartbook, see where we could go that’s closer.”
Instead of going all the way to Compass, which was expected to be a 5.5-hour sail, I convinced Erik that we should go to Shroud Cay instead. But what I wasn’t paying attention to is where the closest BTC tower was. After all, I have to work and rely on cell towers to connect me to my all day meetings.
We left Highbourn Sunday afternoon for the 2.5-hour sail to Shroud and arrived around 3:30p. It was not a comfortable anchorage, but there were no mishaps with the anchor and she was once again, firmly embedded in the sand. We set the dinghy down and went off to explore the island. Shroud is well known for its mangroves and navigable water ways that extend from the Bank to the Sound. Unfortunately for us, we arrived closer to low tide, so we would not be able to cruise through the island. Winds were picking up as well, so headed back to the boat.
It’s times like these I chide myself for being stupid. We could have been at Compass Cay with great internet access, but instead I let my fear dictate that we should stop halfway there. With Monday approaching, and meetings beginning at noon, we would have to leave very early in order to make it to an island with cell coverage.
Erik suggested we take a mooring ball at Cambridge Cay instead of the anchorages at Compass – with it’s close proximity, we’d have cell coverage for work and there was a lot to do at Cambridge. It was a great call – and we left around 7:30a Monday for the 4-hour sail to Cambridge.
Wearing my trusted beanie, and headset, my stomach gave the all too familiar butterflies lifting out the anchor, but the chain came up easily, without kinking itself, and in no time, I had the anchor secure and snubbed and we settled in for a great morning sail.
Next: Spotty internet is NOT a good thing when your boss is watching