Sunday April 21, 2013
The spot we had picked back in Long Island to anchor in for a night while we waited for our weather window wasn’t Thompson Bay that we were in before, too bad because I think I could really have gone for some wifi and a beer at Long Island Breeze, but instead was Dollar Harbor, an anchorage about 7 miles south of there. It was another long day ahead of us so once more we were up and moving with the sun. Trying to avoid the Commer Channel and go south of it this time we were going to hug all the northerly islands of the Jumentos. Rode Trip had come in that way last week while we had gone out and around, so Matt gave us strict instructions to stay on their tail in case our charts didn’t list everything and we accidentally ended up on top of some shallow coral heads. We gave them a 10 minute head start, but even with our best efforts it didn’t take more than an hour until we couldn’t (or didn’t want to) slow ourselves down from our 7 knot speeds and we went flying past them and into the lead. I trust our Explorer charts so I wasn’t worried, instead I tried to figure our ETA at the new anchorage, happy that it might be in the early afternoon. With all of the traveling we’d been doing so far in the island chain with nothing under 6 knots it seemed as if it was a guarantee.
The weather gods must have been laughing at us, because as soon as we snuck away from the cays and into the sound, the wind instantly dropped 10 knots with our speed diminishing about a knot and a half along with it. 4.5-5 knots now. Ok, I could handle that. We may not be dropping anchor at 2:00 anymore, but 4:00 would still be ok. Just as long as we didn’t get there near sunset. Our charts were very specific to stay on waypoints while entering since on either side of the mere 8 ft channel were shallow sandbars with crashing surf. It sounded too much like how our entrance into St. Augustine started and there was no way anyone wanted a repeat of that. Doing a few more calculations in my head I figured out that we had to maintain a minimum of 3.5 which is almost impossible for us not to keep that speed. The winds would have to be almost non-existent for us not to be able to make that. But non-existent they became. Dropping down to between 5-10 knots we spent all of our time trying to trim the sails to get everything out of them we could while barely carrying on at 2 knots. Even though Rode Trip was so far out of sight that I could no longer see their sails on the horizon, I gave them a call on the VHF to see if they were running into the same issue we were.
It turns out they were about 10 miles behind us and also struggling to keep their speed up. Stephanie mentioned that (gasp) they might turn their engine on soon just to make sure that they also made the channel entrance before dark. That sounded like a good idea to me, but Matt said we needed to wait, that we’d only turn on the engine if we absolutely had to. I think he was assuming or hoping the winds would fill in, but they never did. Finally with three hours before sunset and 12 miles separating us from Dollars Harbor I convinced him to turn it on. We pointed right into those east winds and plugged along, fighting the wind that decided to fill in as soon as the engine came on. There were storms now coming up on each side of us that we always narrowly missed as we watched shore now grow closer. The storms were now building up 30 knot winds on our nose though and kept slowing us down more and more. Even with the engine roaring at 3000 rpms we were only going three knots. 30 minutes before the sun was to set we made the waypoints to the channel and it looked like we would actually make it through in the fading and overcast sky.
Using three types of navigation, our paper charts, chartplotter, and touchpad, we slowly made our way through the channel and into the anchorage. Coming within 15 feet of the rocky shore to avoid a sandbar in the middle of the entrance, we could see that Brian and Stephanie had already beat us in and were sitting calmly, waiting for us to arrive. We dropped hook next to them in the most electric blue water I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it was lighting from the storm, but this water seemed to glow from below. Looking back at the entrance to the channel you could make out the sandbars, glowing almost white against the blue background. I don’t know how many times I say it, but it was honestly the most beautiful anchorage we’ve been to yet.