South Pacific: Rum Cay

Sunday, February 29, 2004:

N    23o38.545′ W 074o50.918′

(Ft. Nelson, Rum Cay)

Right now it is 6:00 am, Sunday morning, with the crew sleeping after a well deserved rum ration (more precisely, Dick’s Bushmill Irish whiskey) and a full night’s sleep. We arrived yesterday at Rum Cay at daybreak after 48 hours of sailing from the Grand Bahamas. We then lingered off the coast until 10:00 am to have sufficient light to navigate the coral heads in the anchorage. With the help of the guide book Gentlemen’s Passages South, Peter on the bow, and Dick monitoring the GPS, we successfully navigated our way in.

This being our first time finding our way through coral, I was very concerned, especially since the surface of the water was rough, due to the wind. Fortunately, Peter found that he was able to see the coral (as long as the sun was not behind a cloud) despite the waves. And, Dick recorded our route in on the GPS, so if we follow the satellite “bread crumbs” back out this morning, we should be in good shape.

This stop at Rum Cay has been a too short RR & R. (Rest, Relaxation, and Repairs), with more of the later, unfortunately. Peter is still working on getting the wind indicator working, requiring multiple trips up the mast. We also replaced the sacrificial zinc plug on the propeller. This is a cap of zinc that is screwed onto the hub of the propeller. The zinc’s function is to create a slight electric charge and corrode in lieu of the brass propeller. The last zinc cap had apparently sacrificed all, leaving nothing but the retaining screws. During these repairs, I was diving under the boat, Peter was up the mast, and Dick was the “Safety Officer” and “go-for”, making sure we had the tools we needed. At one point he made us both take a break as a thunderstorm approached. The end result of our labors is that Lillian has a new sacrificial zinc and Peter is planning to finish his task this morning. We also had to stitch a torn grommet in the mainsail.

Despite those tasks, we did have time for recreation, including a little snorkeling. The island is, as Dick noted, something out of Hemmingway, and the water is incredibly blue and clear. The first thing Peter did when he got down from the mast last night was to head for the fishing gear. He said he could see a four foot fish circling the boat, all the time he was up on the mast and I was in the water. He insists it wasn’t a shark. He didn’t catch it either, so instead of fish for dinner we had a not so tropical combination of Kielbasa and baked beans. Today we are off to Matthew Town on the Island of Inagua, our last stop on our race through the Bahamas.

Peter, headed up the mast

Dave Dickerson, the experienced sailor who helped bring Lillian down from Maine back in November, would shake his head at our luck in the weather that has gotten us here, as was he amazed by the two weeks of favorable winds we had in getting Lillian down from Maine, back then. Her weather luck continues. Normally, the winds in the Bahamas this time of year are from the SE, but due to a front, we left Port Lucaya with a southwest wind over our shoulder. The wind then clocked around to blow from the north, as we rounded our course to head south. The price for the favorable frontal winds has been large waves and stiff winds. We are still debating how large and how strong (our wind indicator spent the trip dangling from the masthead), but the winds have had to be over thirty knots and the weather fax indicated 9 foot waves, which is an average. We have definitely seen some bigger. But the boat takes them in stride. She rolls with them but doesn’t lose her momentum. Feeling very stable, Lillian has occasionally had her rail in the water, but comes right back up. With only a little coaxing from the helmsman, she can be kept on a good average course. The best sail combination for the more vigorous conditions have been a double reefed mainsail with the storm jib. With the winds and waves, we have not wanted to trust the helm to the autopilot and have taken turns steering by hand. On the last leg into Rum Cay, we had the wind coming directly over the beam such that we were taking the waves broadside. Even though she was healing way over and the waves were rock and rolling, I was able to take my hands off the helm, literally for minutes at a time, and she would hold her course. I was impressed.

During the writing of this journal entry, the crew has awoken and the preparation for the next leg begun. Time to enter the next waypoints into the GPS.

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