Monday, January 30, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Georgetown

Sunrise over Sanddollar Beach anchorage
Saying Goodbye to Georgetown
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.

After many days anguishing over weather reports and charts, we lifted anchor from Sanddollar anchorage, Georgetown around 7am on Tues, Jan 24th. The winds were predicted to be southeast 12-15 for the day, promising a great sail to Cape Santa Maria at the north end of Long Island. There was an armada of about twenty boats exiting Elizabeth Harbour that morning. Some were heading for Thompson Bay, Long Island, others to Conception Island, but we were determined to keep going east. By 2 pm we were abeam of Cape Santa Maria, the wind had dropped to less than 10knots, on the nose, and combined with the swells and current against us, we were making no progress tacking. We had to give in and fire up the "iron genny" and motor sail toward Rum Cay. The seas were very confused and even with the engine we were only making 3-4 knots over the ground.

About 1600 we were in radio contact with Eclipse, a ketch that had left just ahead of us, and they were experiencing transmission problems and heading back to Conception Island. since it was going to be close to dark when they arrived, we relayed to the boats we knew in the anchorage to be ready for them and help them in, which they did. We heard the next day, by SSB, that they limped back into Georgetown safely, going to arrange repairs.

We really had not planned how far or long we would go for. We had decided that we would go as long as the weather, boat and our bodies would accomodate. We had never done 2 overnights together, and thought this was a great opportunity to see if we could. As opposed to an open ocean crossing, if we decided we could not continue for whatever reason, we did have island and anchorages nearby that we could go to.

We continued to talk to boats all night, by VHS and SSB as we spread out. It was reassuring for all of us to know that we were not alone, and that everyone was having difficulty making speed against the swells. We anticipated the winds to drop, but had hoped we could handle the swells better. the weather forecast predicted that the winds would come up NE 10-15, which we should have been able to sail with, so we motored/sailed east and north of Samana in anticipation. By Wed. afternoon, we had to make a decision. Chris Parker was recommending that everyone be "tucked in by Thursday evening", so where were we going to go, Mayaguana, Provo or East of the T&C. We were sailing close to Avalon V, and they were planning to go to Cockburn Harbour, South Caicos on the east side of the T&C. they had been there before, and said it was an easy entrance, good holding, customs and fuel where readily available. We checked up the writeup in Pavlidis's guide to the T&C and he certainly concurred with Avalon V.

But it was about 130 miles away, and to ensure we got their by happy hour (1600) Thursday we were going to have to do 6-7 knots. The wind should pick up and swing to the NE, and if we ran the engine with the sails and did a second overnight,we should be able to do it. And this would avoid the Sandbore Channel and the Caicos Banks, neither of which Ross was keen on doing. But we could always bail out in the morning and back to Provo or Mayaguana if we deemed it necessary.

The night passage was much better than the first. The seas had settled down, and the wind did move to the NE, so motor sailing was much more comfortable. Plus as we had been told, the second overnight is easier than the first. You do get into a routine and sleep better. In fact Thursday morning, we both felt great!! We still had to push RAFT to get into Cockburn before dark, and we were determined to do it.