We are officially on our way back to the states. It will take three days, the first two of which are short runs and the last will be a FULL day. Little did we know that we would be transported to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) for the first two days.
Start: Mooring ball, Treasure Cay, 0818
End: Anchorage, Allen Cay, 1442
Total Distance: 34.4 nm
Average Speed: 5.4 kts.
Our day in Treasure Cay was nice. Nice enough. But not great. Not the Exumas. Or the Berries. Or Eleuthera. In spite of their claim to a top 10 beach in the world. So we decided it was time to head on out of the Bahamas. There was a good weather window over the next 3-4 days that could get us the 180ish miles from Treasure Cay to Fort Pierce, Florida, which was our planned port of entry in the good old USofA. We made that decision at 10pm. And at 7:30 we were pulling up the anchor and heading to the fuel dock. Not for fuel. That was good. But for water. We had about a quarter or less of a tank (15 or so gallons), and wanted a bit more in case something happened. Met the dude at 7:50, we mostly filled up ($7.00) and by 8am we had a full(ish) tank and heading out.
To flat, flat, flat water. No wind. No waves. It was gorgeous. There were a couple of boats heading out. We were the only catamaran heading to the west. We had two choices. First was heading out the Whale cut into the Big, Bad Atlantic for just a mile or two before turning back into the banks. OR we could take a shallow route called the “Don’t Rock” passage. Don’t rock because there is a no kidding rock called “Don’t Rock” on the maps. Where you turn to port. And head over some very, very shallow water. Like 2ish feet at low water.
Downside for taking the Don’t Rock passage? Run aground. Disaster. Humiliation. Ridicule. Upside? Save four miles. An hour at the pace we travel. I have zero pride–we head to Don’t Rock. The good news? It is a HIGH tide baby. Like dead nuts high as it gets for the day at 0847. Which is when we hit the rock. Figuratively of course. And it is a full moon, M-O-O-N, which means big big tide; a full three feet over the charts. We are confident(ish). We turn to port around the rock, Jan posts herself up front and we head out on the passage.
And make it through just fine. Chopped an hour off the day, never saw less than five feet. Scoffed at the monohull that had to head out into the passage. We were on our way. The next two days are very similar. About 30 ish miles each. Day one to Allen Cay and day two to Great Sale Cay. Both are relatively isolated anchorages. Not a lot of wind forecasted for either day, and what wind there is will be behind us, so a lot of motoring.
But hell. We are a sailboat. So we throw up the main, because why not?!? Normally we would turn up into the wind to put up the main to relieve pressure on the sail making it easier to get up, but since there wasn’t any wind, we threw it up as we were going! We were off. And this day (and the next) reminded me of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).
For those of you who have not had the pleasure, the BWCA is a 1 million plus acre wilderness area in Northern Minnesota that is filled with lakes straddling the Minnesota and Canadian border (thus the Boundary in BWCA). Power boats are not permitted (or limited to 25 HP or less), so canoes are the way to get from island to island. And campsite to campsite.
The area is lakes with portages. Untouched by humans. And for the majority of the time, they are placid lakes perfect for canoeing across. Which is what our two days looked like. We were in calm water separating bodies of land and islands.1 With few others around. When I was in junior high and high school our church youth group would spend a week or two each summer paddling and camping across the lakes. It was just like this. Well…other than the crystal blue water and white sands. BWCA is clear water, but more rocky. And pine-tree-ey. And cold. Like even in July.
Day one, trip to Allen’s Cay was quiet. Engines drove us most of the way, but wind did pick up late morning and give us a push. So the sail filled up, but we kept the engines running. As we approached Allen’s Cay, we passed a 50ish foot Beneteau under sail. We were cheating, of course (that is, motor sailing). As we got close to the anchorage, we dropped our mainsail, turned into the anchorage, and almost bumped into the Beneteau who had cut to our inside; he wanted into that anchorage first. I can understand. Dude was on deck with two octogenarian hotties and wanted to impress them heading into the bay; why not pass us and get the sweet anchorage.
Except we don’t compete with him for anchorage spots. His boat? 6+ foot draft. Ours? Three feet. So when he cruised on by, we cut behind him and went into the shallows, dropped anchor and were set in four feet of water. Even though we have anchored in four feet of water numbers times, it is still disconcerting to look down into the water, observe the rudders floating what seems to be inches above the water, but is, in fact, a foot or more. We all went ashore and hiked over to the ocean side where trees were decorated with driftwood and garbage that had boat names carved into them. Good use of garbage, but I’m pretty sure the trees were pissed.
Great Sale Cay
Start: Anchorage, Allen Cay, 0820
End: Anchorage, Great Sale Cay, 1445
Total Distance: 35.7 nm
Average Speed: 5.6 kts.
Next morning, same. Flat, flat water. Not a puff of breeze. Clear blue skies.
Our destination is Great Sale Cay, just shy of 30 miles away. Our final overnight before we head back to the USofA. No drama today. No sailing today either. We do put the main sail up (good to remember we are a sailboat after all), but it was our engines that drove us all the way there. We did practice reefing drills–putting an reef in and shaking it out and doing it again. Just in case we had to on the ocean when the conditions aren’t so nice. AJ does school, we read books, lay around deck, complain about the heat, the bright sun, the lack of waves. Absolute hell on the water.
Great Sale is a huge anchorage–took us 20 or more minutes to get around the point of land and into the anchorage. There were 15 or more boats spread out with plenty of space for everyone. We got there right at 3pm so had plenty of time to explore–dropped the dinghy and headed around the island to a beach we saw on the way in. There were the ever present ruins of some construction effort that had gone bad and, of course, a lot of sand. In the grass of the anchorage we saw HUGE rays and turtles. Good last stop before we took trip back to ‘merica.
1To be clear, these bodies of water were MUCH larger than the lakes in the boundary waters. We could paddle across in minutes or hours. It would take days to paddle across these distances. You would, most likely, get flipped and eaten by some sort of shark/barracuda/lobster before reaching land. But still–today it looks the same!