“Only in the storm can you see the art of the real sailor.”
— Daniel Achinsky
When I was a kid, I never worried about the anchor dragging at night, that was my Dad’s problem. Well, once you get your own boat, it all changes. I love the anchorages of the Exumas, but a west wind can really spice things up.
This episode happened after we pulled into Big Major Spot, my favorite anchorage in all the Bahamas (pictured above). Normally Big Major's spot is idyllic with its good protection from the east and superior holding on a perfect sand bottom with water as clear as gin.
A ‘Norther’ was going to blow down upon us the next day and the winds began to clock around to the Southwest, and finally to the west after night fall. Over 50 boats were in Big Major that night and none of us ‘Captains’ got a damn minute of sleep! A thunder squall came roaring in with 30+ knot winds straight out of the protectionless west quadrant. The usually calm and tranquil anchoring paradise became a mess.
three-foot waves rolled in from the west where usually six-inch ripples cross the bows from the east. Boats bobbed like corks as the swells came in from the southwest with winds from the west-northwest causing beam seas. Galleys and flybridges were tied down as if we were all going to cross the Gulf Stream and bodies flew across bunks as parents and kids held on for dear life. Spotlights spun around boats like the lighthouse at Hopetown or above an old used car lot at night. Everyone panicked as we all changed direction at different rates as current, wind and swells affected each boat differently.
“Will I swing into the Cabo Rico, the Trumpy or the Hatteras first?”
Lightening filled the anchorage as each boat pointed in unique compass headings. It reminded me of the old ‘bumper car’ ride at the amusement park, with everyone going in different directions. The two big differences, however, were that we were all hoping not to bump and none of us could steer!
Flashlights moved frantically on the bows as everyone checked their anchor lines and snubbers as the rains poured sideways in the winds. Rain slickers seemed useless. The winds howled in the rigging and everyone wanted to let out more scope, yet were afraid that that would ruin the balance of distance between vessels. I stood on the flybridge holding on to the stainless bimini pipes until I realized that the lightening, wet feet and a metal hand hold might not be such as smart idea! This would not be a good time to prove Ben Franklin correct.
Each flash of lightening lit up the anchorage like a 4th of July show. Frantically we all looked at the boats around us as they seemed to change location. “Am I dragging … are they dragging or are we all just swinging crazy,” was the question of every boat owner. The rocky shore was directly behind us, so this would not be a good time to drag! Baci was up on the master bunk with Lee shaking and wondering what the hell I have done to this boat. Lee later realized that if this was the first blog I had written, her family would have flown down to rescue her from the cruise to Hell.
Well, alls well that ends well, as Billy Shakespeare once said. The next morning, tired red eyed captains climbed up onto deck to survey the anchorage. All seemed fine until I looked to the southeast corner of the anchorage to see a 150-foot yacht up on “Pig Beach.”
My heart sank as I could only imagine the anguish of the hired captain on that multimillion dollar vessel. The pigs watched in disbelief as dinghies circled like vultures of ‘rubberneckers’ passing a car wreck. The good news is that two boats with powerful diesel engines pulled the yacht off the shore at high tide and she now sits quietly at anchor with no apparent major damage … far off shore this time!
So in honor of my Dad we had cocktail hour early.
Follow more of Joe's travels here.