On Monday, February 16th, we visited our third Bahamian island group in three days. After a brief stay in Eleuthera, we weighed anchor at 7:30 a.m. and headed southwest, back out toward the Northeast Providence Channel. In about an hour and a half, we exited the shallow waters of north Eleuthera and made our way out into the deeper waters of the Atlantic. We continued parallel to the edge of the channel for about an hour and a half before reentering shallower waters through the Fleming Channel.
From the Flemming Channel, we headed southward to the Exuma bank. It was quite an interesting experience for us as we made our way toward the Exuma Islands. It was our first real test of visual piloting. The two hour journey was fraught with hazards. There were coral heads (small isolated spots of coral reef) rising to the surface everywhere. Cindy stood on the bow and helped to spot these hazards so that I could avoid them. The water was crystal clear, and the sun, for the most part, was bright overhead, making our task of spotting the hazardous coral heads easier. We zigged and zagged our way past these dangerous upcroppings of coral, which our friend aboard Delfino calls “land mines”, all the way to Ship Channel Cay, at which time we could breathe a little easier again. A short while later we turned to port into our anchorage for the night at Allens Cay.
We could see numerous masts tucked in behind Allens Cay as we approached. It looked crowded from the outside, and it was. It is a fairly small anchorage, but there were eleven boats anchored in this small space. It was difficult to find a place to drop anchor. Initially, we thought we had found a spot in the northern section of the anchorage. We dropped our anchor and it set right away. But as we let out scope, the catamaran behind us came out to the bow and told us he had 125 ft of chain out, and that we would not have swinging room where we were. That was a ridiculous amount of scope in this small, shallow anchorage. But, we pulled up anchor and moved around behind him. Twice we tried to set our anchor, but it would not set. I moved up a little closer and tried again. The third time was the charm. We let out 80’ of chain and backed down on the anchor hard. It held.
The wind and the current in this anchorage is crazy. I jumped in the water to dive on my anchor to make sure it set. It was all that I could do to swim from the back of the boat to the front. I was totally exhausted swimming against the swift current. I held on to the bridle for a few moments before continuing forward. Just a few feet more and I had had enough. I could see the anchor buried completely in the sand from where I was. We were in about 10 feet of perfectly clear water. I drifted back to the boat hoping that I could snag the swim ladder on the stern as the current rapidly took me astern. The wind was coming from the north when we entered the anchorage (as was the current). It is supposed to shift to the South in the night. I was a little anxious, given the poor holding in certain areas within the anchorage. There were rocky shores on the islands to the east and west, and numerous other cruisers to the north and south. Hopefully, my anchor holds… and all the other boats’ as well.
Delfino also made the passage with us today. It really is nice to have a companion vessel on a passage. We had Fabio and Michelle over for a spaghetti dinner in the evening. We discussed the adventures of the day and our plans for the next few days. We’ll probably see them again before they continue further south to the Caribbean and we return northward on our return to the States.
The biggest highlight of our passage today was the fish we caught. During our brief excursion out into the deeper waters of the New Providence Channel, we hooked a fish on one of our stern trolling lines. It was a beautiful 26” King Mackerel. I quickly filleted it and placed it in the fridge for a future meal or two. It was small enough that it didn’t put up much of a fight, but it was still nice to catch a fish to dine upon.