Swing Set

Jun 12, 201307:05 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Allen's Cay To Staniel Cay

(page 2 of 4)

This is the entrance to the creek taken from Exuma Sound on the other side of the island. A boat was pulled up there on a small beach, where a young couple were swimming and enjoying the solitude.

We ducked back into the creek and went exploring until we ultimately found ourselves lost. Instead of making a right when I was supposed to, I made a left. I noticed things didn't look the same and a big sand bar we'd passed our way up the creek was absent on our way down. I still knew where the sun was, so being absolutely lost wasn't a concern, but being lost in a mangrove swamp isn't something to be taken lightly. We did have our VHF radio just in case, and two cold Bud Lights in the cooler to last us for the night if we had to, but soon I saw a cut leading out to the Exuma Bank where Swing Set was anchored. It just happened to be about three miles away from where we'd initially entered the creek.

A couple more boats pulled into the anchorage we were in, and one boat in particular gained my attention as they were anchored a bit further south than we were and were enjoying a calmer anchorage. I'd remarked to Rosie,"that guy over there picked a good spot," because he was closer to the leeward side of that spit of land I mentioned earlier, making his choice a smarter one because we were getting tossed around some.

It was time to move on when morning came. We decided to just tow the dinghy, as our stops were intended to be a only a few miles apart and in protected water, so towing at slow speeds was easier that putting the dinghy up on the davits, as easy as that is. We made a slow way over to Hawksbill Cay and grabbed a mooring ball there. We were able to attach to the ball without too much difficulty, but Rosie hadn't had much practice at her mooring ball proficiency, so it was not without issue that we got settled in.

Unfortunately, the wind and wave protection was not what I'd expected, so after being tossed around for an hour or so, we cast off our lines and headed out, not knowing where we were going to drop the hook, but our route was rife with little nooks and crannies, so I wasn't worried about not finding a suitable spot for the night.

Another thing was that the mooring ball we were on wasn't free, and it was designed for a 150-foot vessel. Payment is expected to be made in a drop box on the beach, not a procedure that I had much faith in. The mooring balls we were to encounter are part of the 175-square-mile Exuma Land and Sea Park, a nature reserve run by a Bahamian non-profit organization. Within the boundaries of the park, no dead or living creatures are to be taken from the land or the sea.

The creatures were safe by me. I'd been trolling my fishing rig since we left Allen's Cay, and to repeat a phrase I heard from a card-playing friend many years ago, "I couldn't catch a Chinese whore with a seabag full of rice." I'm not sure at this point if I should apologize to our Asian friends, or to any Chinese whores reading this blog, but the fact remains that I'm not catching any fish.

We were snaking our way through the many cays on our cruise, and I tried a spot or two, but didn't like the feel of them. Off in the distance, I could see the boat that had anchored in the same bay as us off Shroud Cay. They were anchored off the beach of Cistern Cay. I studied the chart, and although the entrance to the anchorage was narrow and a bit shallow, we made our way there and anchored at a respectful distance from the other vessel, which was a strange cross between a houseboat and a runabout. It looked larger than it was, and the owners were on the beach, so I couldn't use the reference of people aboard the boat to tell how big it was.

It was late when we finally got settled in. We had a nice dinner and spent a peaceful night without much rocking, but when daylight came, the swells rolled in and we began to toss around. We didn't waste any time pulling up anchor, and we sounded our horn as a goodbye to our anchor mates, not knowing anything about them or where they were headed.

We were going to bypass Wardrick Wells Cay because it's a tourist destination, but the forecast was predicting strong winds for the upcoming weekend, and the harbor at Wardrick Wells has mooring balls at $20 per day. Typically, there's a waiting list for these moorings, but we called on the VHF when the park opened and were quickly assigned a mooring.

This picture of the Northern Mooring field for Wardrick Wells was taken from the park office when I went to pay. Swing Set is the tiny speck of boat just right of center. The light-colored areas are sand and are very shallow, and the current runs through here at a quick pace. I mention this to set the stage for my following comments.

We passed some other boats that we've been seeing at the other anchorages. Although we hadn't spoken to many of the other folks, we exchanged waves and hellos as we weaved our way through the narrow channel leading to our mooring ball. As is my custom, I approached our ball into both the wind and the current, allowing me to nose up to the ball with the greatest of ease. Rosie was positioned on the bow with the boat hook, and she adeptly snatched up the harness with one try. Things were looking good.

Once Rosie got the harness in hand, I kept the boat in position so she could slip one end of of a mooring line through the eye of the mooring harness, the other end being previously fastened to the starboard bow cleat. Once the line was slipped through the eye of the harness, we were home free, because then it's just a matter of dropping the whole works into the water and pulling the free end to tie off to the same starboard cleat. This is simple unless your boat mate drops the whole works onto the top of the anchor, where the now pile of spaghetti will foul.

Rosie was making an attempt to free the line from the anchor and was able to do so, then she began to pull the free end of our line through the eye of the mooring harness, still pretty good so far. Then, something strange happened.

Rosie was pulling the line correctly through the harness eye, but I don't know if a bug flew by and distracted her, or a small bubble shifted in her brain, but for some unknown reason, Rosie began to pull the line the opposite way through the harness eye, and before I got a chance to stop her, the line was pulled completely through the harness and we were now unattached to the mooring ball harness. Rosie then says, "It came loose."

What I said then cannot be repeated because our blog gets published on some public sites, but imagine that it was worse than saying anything about Chinese whores.

I could only take a deep breath and go through the motions again to get one side of our lines attached to the mooring harness. I didn't have the foggiest hope that we could manage to repeat the entire performance to attach a line to the port side cleat. Instead of using the smarter method of Caterpillar horsepower to do the trick, we had to resort to the dumb but proven method of human muscle, and a good supply of pain relievers later on that night.

So, we got hooked, and not long after, our anchor neighbors in the odd looking boat came by to hook up to the mooring behind us. Their performance made us look like seasoned sea-fairing types by comparison.

The captain backed toward the mooring ball with the wind and current on his bow. I knew this would be interesting to see. His mate was able to grab the ball with a hook and get a line on it, but then things got really interesting. Now, the ball was on their beam and the wind and current was pushing against the side of their boat. The captain left the helm to help tug on the line, (never leave the helm when docking our anchoring) and then the dog on board got anxious to help when the line got tangled around the engine of their dinghy. The dog jumped into the dinghy and ran towards the stern, where it tried to jump into the water. I say tried because the front half of the dog was in the water, and it's hind end was still in the dinghy, which looked more like a canoe than anything. A foldable boat is what it was, but the point is that the dinghy was unstable and the dog had all it could do to keep its muzzle out of the drink.

Meanwhile, the first mate had handed off the other end of the line she'd slipped miraculously through the harness eye, but the captain was torn between saving the dog or tying off the line. Thankfully, the dog won out. The line was handed back to the mate, and the captain now jumped into the water to rescue the dog. The mate was left on the side of the boat with a line in each hand, looking more like a teamster handling an unruly hitch of Clydsdales, before the captain returned to the deck and was able to get a line on the bow where the boat was turned toward the mooring ball and finally secured on both forward cleats. At this point, the captain looked over at me with both hands raised high in the air and exclaimed "We DID IT!"

I gave them a much deserved thumbs up.

Rosie and I decided to go for a little exploring in the dinghy, but first we went over to our new harbor neighbors. First, I asked if they had ever hitched to a mooring ball before and the captain, Doug, said that no, it was the first time ever. Then, I really got a look at the boat. It was an older, trailerable, 30-footer or so with an OMC outdrive that Doug had trailered to Florida from Arizona. He had absolutely no experience in running a boat, except for the last two weeks and he was "learning while doing." In fact, not 20 minutes after launching the boat in Key Biscayne, the steering cable broke.

I then admitted to him that when I first saw them anchoring in a much better spot than we were back near Shroud Cay, I remarked to Rosie I thought he knew something we didn't. I then told Doug that I still thought he might know something that I didn't, but it wasn't the things I thought they were. We both laughed at that.

After meeting the mate, Denise, we talked a bit more about travel plans. They admitted to being out of water and planned on staying in the shelter of the harbor for the same reason we were, and were heading to Staniel Cay on Monday. We offered any assistance that we might be able to provide and said we'd probably see them on down the line.

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