I awoke in the cockpit on Sunday morning just before 4:30 am when the fridge turned on. Since the pump died and Tim jury-rigged a replacement, it makes a crazy loud noise and vibrates. It was very still and hot in the anchorage when I went to bed Saturday night and decided to sleep in the cockpit and wait for the wind to kick in. The clock in the salon struck 4:30 and the lightening commenced in the distance, just as anticipated.
For the last week we’ve been preparing for a big front to move thru the Bahamas this weekend. The forecast predicted winds of 30 knots and gusting to 40 (roughly 60 km and 80 km respectively) from the north and it was suggested this could be one of the biggest blows of the winter season. Looking at the charts we made the decision to sail two days south to George Town to find the best protection from the wind.
We arrived late on Thursday afternoon and anchored in Kidds Cove close to town. We chose this spot for two reasons. First it’s a very short dinghy ride into town and we needed to top up our water tanks – a job that typically takes a few runs, so being close to town is a time saver. The second reason was we had arrived at low tide and the anchorage we wanted to ride out the blow in would not have enough depth for us to enter. Once inside the anchorage there would be plenty of depth for Grace V’s 5.5 foot draft, but to get inside we needed to wait for high tide. The next high tide would come after dark, so next daylight chance would come Friday at mid-day.
We went into town to get our water and stock up on fresh veggies. The really huge winds were predicted to last roughly 36 hours and after that we were told to expect strong winds for about another 4-5 days… Strong winds don’t make a comfortable or dry dinghy ride so we were prepared to be stuck on the boat for 7 days. Town was hopping and the grocery store was packed. Everyone had the same idea and business was brisk!
At 11:00 we picked up our anchor and motored over to the area known as Red Shanks. We’d never been in the anchorage before, but knew that it was a very protected spot from both wind and waves. We arrived at 12:50 with high tide expected for 1:00 pm – perfect timing!! As soon as we entered it was obvious there was lots of room. We easily found a spot and settled in. Looking around we assessed the perfectness of this spot, nice big hill to the north where the winds were expected from.
Two hours later a dinghy approached and invited us to a dinghy drift at 4 pm. This is a sundowner event where everyone meets in the middle of the harbour and ties all the dinghies together for Happy Hour. It’s a bring your own drinks event and snacks get passed from boat to boat. About 15 boats showed up with at least 4 of them having kids aboard. The kids were like little monkeys climbing from dinghy to dinghy and making polite conversation. I was asked by a eight-year-old how long I’d been sailing and where were we heading! The organizer thought it would be good to meet the neighbours ahead of the forecasted wind event in case assistance was needed during the bad weather.
The next day, Saturday, was a lazy day. We made one last trip to town to download movies from Netflix, check for milk, eggs and yogurt (shelves had been empty the day before) as well as one last water trip. By sunset, the harbour was like glass and the boat was floating quietly in the dark.
The forecast included a line of squalls and possible thunderstorms that would begin about two hours ahead of the front. The fridge turning on in the early hours woke me just in time to watch the first rain storm approach. I knew we had prepared the boat for this blow and so wasn’t worried about what was to come throughout the day, but rather, would there be enough rain to wash the boat? Could I put boat soap on the deck and be assured the rain would rinse it off? Since Tim was still asleep, I let go of the idea and instead read my book until I drifted back asleep.
By 10 am we were seeing winds of 28 knots sustained and gusting 36 knots. The radio was alive with boats calling out wind speed from various anchorages around George Town – Sand Dollar, Monument, Volleyball Beach and Red Shanks. Biggest gusts were in the 44 knots range. One boat in our ‘hood started dragging and neighbouring boats were offering help and extra anchors. They quickly had it under control and were once again anchored safely. A call went out on the radio regarding another boat who had its main sail come loose and flapping in the strong winds, the crew had gone ashore??? It seemed like a strange thing to do in the first few hours of a wind storm when you didn’t know how strong the velocity was going to be or if your anchor was going to hold…
By late afternoon we were looking for something to do. We played three games of Yahtzee, two games of Battleship and 2 games of House Wrecker. We read our books made dinner and re-watched an episode of Sherlock before bed.
One day down, only 6 more to go.