So far it’s been a very odd sailing season for us. The wind is either too strong, too light, or on the nose. Often all three in the course of one day.
We’re anchored in Black Point Settlement right now, well sheltered from the howling east winds, waiting to slip out into the ocean and sail south to Georgetown. There was a day when six-foot seas on the beam wouldn’t have bothered us, but this is not that day. In fact, our goal this season is to perfect the art of waiting for wind.
We had lots of practice before we left Florida, when a long spell of strong northeast winds prevented us from crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Rather than wait for a weather window at anchor in Lake Worth, we hunkered down in Peck Lake, a quiet and sheltered anchorage in the heart of the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge which boasts “the largest contiguous section of undeveloped beach in southeastern Florida.”
Now this was true last time we visited, but I’m sorry to say that there are signs of development up and down the beach now. Most of the homes are still in early stages of construction, but one we found was perfectly habitable. The buildings do blend in tastefully with the landscape, however, so it’s hard to object to them.
When the wind was finally right, we hustled down to Lake Worth, loaded up on fresh provisions, and headed out for the Bahamas. Despite a gentle six-foot swell opposing the current in the Gulf Stream, we had our most comfortable crossing ever. We cleared in at Great Harbour Cay, looked at the weather, and decided we could either stay in the marina there for a week while the next front came through or make a run for a hurricane hole in Eleuthera. We chose the latter, and after 17 hours of sailing slipped through the narrow channel in the rocks into Hatchet Bay. The light at the opening was missing, which made the entry a little unnerving, but we made it through without incident and dropped the hook in the dark.
Although our anchor set immediately and held steadfastly, wrapped, we’re pretty sure, on some piece of debris on the bottom—a pile of chain? an abandoned anchor? a refrigerator?—many other boats in the harbour dragged anchor in the gale-force gusts. We were pretty much boat-bound during our time there, fending off other boats as they drifted past us. One boat, whose owners had gone to shore for a hike, ended up hard aground. Fortunately it floated off unharmed when the tide rose, but there weren’t many dinghies going to shore after that.
After a week, the winds abated and we squeezed out of Hatchet Bay and made our way across the shallow banks to the Exumas, where we plan to spend the rest of the winter. We enjoyed some beautiful sailing, but then… the winds picked up again, gusting to 30 knots from the east and kicking up waves big enough to break over our bow and drench the deck in foaming water. We ducked into Black Point and have settled right in.
We go for walks on the ocean-side beach every day, assess the seas, check out the blowhole, a source of endless fascination. It will be early next week before there’s a weather window to make the run to Georgetown. In the meantime, we’ll wait here hopefully for the supply boat to come in. Our fresh provisions are down to one orange and a wilted basil plant.
Surely it takes a while to get scurvy.