April 25, 2009.
A lot has happened since I’ve last written or as I like to say, put pecking finger to keyboard. We were comfortably anchored at Manjack Cay enjoying the hunting opportunities offered by the reef when a weather window presented itself. We decided to start the slog back to the states.
Thursday and Friday appeared to be the days to travel so we were up and underway at 0600 on Thursday morning. We had a 75 mile day scheduled to make it to the anchorage behind Mangrove Cay. We had the anchor up and the engine off before sunrise. The wind was from the east at 12 knots or so. We were headed north at about 6 knots under sail alone. As we turned westward we ended up having to go wing and wing to present as much sail as possible to the breeze. The wind slowly petered out and after 7 hours we had to fire up the engine and motor the last 6 hours of the day.
We approached Mangrove Cay just about 1900 hours. As we rounded the cay we found a disturbing sight. A big steel sloop, probably 60 feet in length, was hard aground. Mangrove Cay is in the middle of nowhere and these people were stuck as hell.
Being a good guy, Norm immediately dropped his dink in the water and came over to pick me up. It turned out that these people had been aground for 2 days waiting for a tide that might float them off. They had run aground right at high tide 2 nights ago and found themselves lying on their side every time the tide went out. They had a kedge out and routed to their big cockpit winch (a kedge is an anchor that you take out into deep water in an effort to winch yourself back to a happy place).
The tide was due to be high at 2030 so at 1930 we did everything we could to get them floating again. We had them put up both sails and sheet them in tight as the breeze was just starting to build a bit and was headed towards deeper water. Then we tied a long line to his topping lift in an effort to use the dinghy to heel the boat even more. While this was going on we used another dinghy to try and push the bow around towards the freedom of deeper water. So there was simultaneous pushing, tilting, full sails, winching and engine power all happening to no avail. He was debating emptying his fresh water tank as he had just taken on 400 gallons, but at 50 cents a gallon. His boat weighed in at over 30 tons so what’s another ton more or less.
The woman on board said she thought she might have felt the boat move but wasn’t sure. We did everything we could but we had to throw in the towel as we had to be underway in 5 hours and still had stuff to do to be ready. We advised him to leave his sails up and hopefully the constant pressure from the breeze would do the job and sadly bade them adieu. In a miracle among miracles, as Norm dropped me back at the boat we both turned to watch in astonishment as the huge boat slowly sailed off the reef. It made both our days as we watched them sail off into deeper water and anchor for the night.
Christy and I ate a quick dinner and turned in. We had 20 miles further to travel than the Blown Aways so we had to set out earlier than they did. At 0130 the alarm went off and we less than merrily got underway. It was dark as hell as Christy navigated us through the darkened boats that had filled in the anchorage after we had gone to bed. All went well and after the anchor locker was squared away we turned west.
The first 25 miles was across the Bahama Banks. We had a bit of breeze and we motorsailed west at close to 7 knots. At dawn we were off the banks and into deep water. There was a bit of a roll so the sails were full one moment and then slatting the next. It was about at this moment that the wind went even lighter and we had to drop all sail and rely on the motor alone. The breeze was only a knot or three and coming straight over the stern. It completely sucked. At one point the windex, the wind generator and the anemometer were all facing different directions while the flag hung straight down.
We ended up motoring all the way across the Gulf Stream. We made great time riding the Gulf Streams push. Of course the wind finally started to build when we were about 4 miles from Fort Pierce. We entered the inlet with the flood tide. Once we turned north and went through the lift bridge we again raised sail. We were able to sail the last 10 miles of our trip up the ICW to Vero Beach arriving right at 1900 hours.
Our cell phone had been reactivated so we caught up on some phone calls. We also took advantage of the Locals Boaters Option aka the LBO.
With the LBO cards Customs and Border Patrol has all of your information on file so checking back into the country should be a snap. It was our first time using it so I was a little skeptical. Much to our relief it went off without a hitch and we were checked back into the country with only a phone call. No personal appearance necessary. After that we did a little interneting and then went to sleep for 14 hours.