Feb 10, 201309:12 AM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Just When You Think It Might Get Boring
On our first full day at anchor after leaving the security of A & B Marina, we had a fairly calm day, so I dropped the dinghy in the water and, while Rosie and Holly stayed aboard Swing Set and did girly things, I went in search of lobster. We were anchored in about 9 feet smack in the middle of a big, sand bottom, which was great for holding but not good for lobsters to hide in. They like rocks and crevices, so I had to venture out.
Venturing out means getting far away from the boat. Alone. In water that I've seen very big fish in, and at risk of tidal currents taking me away from the dinghy and my means to get back to the security of the "big boat." While I am still in the process of having the nerve to do this sort of thing without a great deal of reservation on my part, I am not quite there yet, to say the least. After about 90 minutes of peering below, and occasionally donning my mask for a closer look below the surface, I gave up and returned back to Swing Set lobsterless.
The wind was due to pick up during the weekend, and I had an anchorage picked out that was about four miles away, so we pulled up stakes and made a slow cruise east to Jewfish Basin and to an anchorage written about in Active Captain. I have been using the Garmin Bluechart mobile application that incorporates Active Captain right on the chart. It's a nice integration, and I also spent the extra $3.99 for the weather feature.
There are two potential entrances into Jewfish Basin, and I chose one with the widest channel. If you look at the basin on the chart, you would think that it was surrounded by islands and mangroves, perhaps guarded from the wind by nice tall palm trees, but no. What looks like land on the chart is just very shallow water, maybe a couple inches of sand at low tide. Wind exposure is still significant, but the worse winds were due to come from the east on Sunday, and we anchored just west of a land mass once inside the basin. The problem is that the landmass is surrounded by shallow water, and we couldn't get close enough to the island for it to be of much help in wind reduction, but it did help for those potential easterly waves that were also forecasted.
During the night, Swing Set swung around on her hook a whole 360 degrees; the wind had shifted that much. But we still held in about six feet of water, even though I didn't dive down on our anchor. The chart reported a mud bottom; I would describe it as more of a mud/sand bottom, but as it turned out, probably more mud than sand.
We kept seeing small boats entering the nearby mangroves, so we took a dinghy ride to see if there was a party going on at a sandbar somewhere. There was. We found six or seven boats anchored in shallow water, with about 25 or 30 folks of various ages standing around listening to music and tossing a football around. Some of the women had only half of their bikinis on. Perfect. The only thing the group was missing was a higher degree of hospitality. When we motored in and tossed out our anchor, the looks we were getting made us feel like we were from another planet. We're used to getting those kind of looks, so it's no big deal, but no sooner than we made a few words of small talk to a few of them, a fella comes over and says he needs to put his boat just about where ours was, because "the tide was going out." Of all the places for him to need to put his boat, wanting to place it right in the same spot as ours happened to be was not a way of making us feel welcome, so we mulled around a few minutes more and went in search of friendlier surroundings. Like back to our boat.
Undaunted, we decided over a few beers while watching another beautiful sunset, that we'd return the next day and inflict ourselves on these new people with a vengeance. We do that sort of thing. But it was not to be. The wind started freshening with some intensity from the south during the night. The island to our east was not helping at all, but as our anchor had held for nearly two days, we didn't worry, and after a good dinner of Italian sausages and rice with Alfredo sauce, we tucked ourselves in for a somewhat bumpy night.
We were still in the same spot when we got up, thankfully, and after a good breakfast of biscuits and gravy and a ham and cheese omelet, I decided to "relax" on the couch with the book I am reading before attempting my intended chores for the day. I read for a while and then decided to get my toolbox out, but once I looked outside I knew we were in trouble.
Our anchor had dragged, and we were blown into about three feet of water into one of the shoals separating us in the basin from the Gulf of Mexico. The tide was coming in, but the wind was complicating things. I knew that, as the water rose, the wind was only going to push us farther onto the shoal. Waiting it out was not an option, and kedging off the shoal with the anchor was also not an option. With barely nothing under our keel, I started the engines and gently applied throttle with the transmissions in reverse. I knew I had deeper water behind me, and I slowly made some progress towards it; only the anchor was ahead of me in shallow water. Luckily, the soft mud kept the anchor from holding us in position, and I was able to get us into deeper water. I finally got the anchor up and set out to find some better holding.
Whitecaps were building in the basin, and the wind was not to make its full potential until later in the afternoon. I positioned us over what appeared to be sand, but when I went to deploy the bow anchor, nothing happened. After several attempts, and after checking all the stuff I normally check when this happens, I went to the bow and deployed our big Danforth and was able to get a hook. Danforths work in the soft sand and mud, and we were not due for a wind shift for a couple of days.
Once we were set, I pulled up the dinghy that I had left trailing us, secured it in the normal fashion, and then set to find out what was wrong with the windlass. I suspected that I had overheated the small inline circuit breaker, but even after jumping the breaker, the solenoid would click, but the windlass wouldn't turn. I checked the big 60-amp circuit breaker, but really didn't think this was the problem, as the solenoid was working. Maybe I wasn't getting good contact when I tried jumping the breaker, because eventually the windlass started working when the small breaker reset itself. I have other spare breakers on hand in case I need to replace the one currently installed. I may have weakened it.
Given that the auxiliary Danforth was deployed, I started the boat and drove to the right, leaving the Danforth about 75 feet to our left, and dropped the bow anchor, giving us a "Bahamian Moor." Bring it on, Mother Nature. I have two well-set anchors coming off the bow at 45-degree angles. I set our anchor alarm for insurance, and we plan on staying put until the wind dies down in a couple of days.
One of the chores for the day was giving Holly a haircut, and she was not to be spared just because we had a minor crisis. She survived her beauty treatment with no scrapes or cuts, and no bleeding toenails because she won't hold still for nail trimming. Rosie set her course to remove dog hair from the cockpit, and I set to writing this blog post.
Our plans to visit the beach party again today are foiled. I'm not dropping the dinghy back in, just in case we have to make a fast exit, plus the wind is blowing such that many small boats won't be out today any way. The breeze will cool us down as we sun ourselves in the cockpit this afternoon, and we have some spareribs thawing to grill on the Magma grill this evening. Looks like it's just the three of us again today to try to amuse ourselves. Oh darn.