Monday, December 12, 2016

Hatchet Bay

Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas
May 25-?, 2016

When your best option is to take shelter at a place called "Hatchet Bay" you might be in deep doodoo...

But sometimes a name is simply a name.

  After a heart to heart conversation with Angie, which included the option to fly her and Kipper back to Florida (which was ixnayed pretty quickly), we left Governor's Harbor and motored 20 miles north to Hatchet Bay. There was no wind. It had blown itself out the night before.  Twenty miles doesn't sound like much but this was our first time to take Wings out since the squalls so we were edgy, 
to say the least.

Hatchet Bay was originally an enclosed salt pond.  In the 1930's a 90-foot opening was dynamited to form a protected bay for a dairy and poultry plantation which thrived for a decade, or two... until a hurricane... or two... and some political turmoil...
shut it down completely.

Which is kind of the story of the Bahamas.

Hatchet Bay isn't your typical cruiser's destination but it had what we needed.  Primarily, protection and just enough services to figure out our next move.  Wings' engine was running fine and thankfully the alternator wasn't fried by the lightning and neither were the batteries.  We arrived to Hatchet Bay by mid afternoon without any drama...

The first person we met was Francis, he runs the Front Porch restaurant.  There are some old mooring balls that he rents, which are sketchy, but so was our anchor at this point so we chose the best available and tied on.  Francis has mixed reviews among cruisers but he was a saint to us.  We spent a couple of days surfing his wifi, drinking rum punch, making calls, having some great food, getting his advice, and he even flagged me down a ride to get some diesel up the road in Gregory Town.

We called all the boat yards in Spanish Wells in an attempt to repair Wings in the Bahamas but everyone was booked or unwilling to take on our electrical problems.  Which was probably for the best anyway since we would have had to navigate some unfamiliar water without a depth sounder just to get to Spanish Wells, notorious for being a challenging area even with all your equipment working.  We had also lost our Raymarine GPS and chart plotter but, thanks to Angie, we had an IPad loaded with nautical charts and a Bluetooth enabled GPS locator that was independent of the boat's systems and unaffected by the lightning.  Angie had been using the IPad about half the time already because it was easier to plot our course than the Raymarine plotter attached to Wings.  This meant we could backtrack and pick up our old course from the trip out, at least as far as Bimini.

So we started calling Florida boatyards...

 Meanwhile, on Wings, I dug through the spares left by Dave, the previous owner, another saint.  Dave was a well prepared guy.  I found an extra bilge pump, a switch, a bag of hose clamps, and enough scraps of hose to rig up an extra pump in the aft cabin, closer to the leak, to reduce the load on the main bilge pump.  Now we had a pump by the leak running about every 10 minutes so that the main bilge only ran maybe once an hour, depending on conditions.

After calling a bunch of boat yards we finally found one in Riviera Beach that could haul Wings out within 2 days of our arrival back in Florida.
Now we had a plan!

The plan: sail from Eleuthera 70 nautical miles straight to New Providence Island where we had anchored on our route out from Bimini to the Exumas.  There we could pick up our old trail from New Providence across the Bahama Bank to Bimini.  After that we would be winging it into Florida but we had the IPad and recent paper charts, thanks to Peter and Helen from One Love (the other lightning boat, which was a total loss so they flew home).

The day we sailed for New Providence we left at dawn so we could see our way out the cut from Hatchet Bay.  We were, literally, surrounded by squalls the entire day. On every horizon, there was a storm cell, complete with lightning and audible thunder.  We slowed to let some cells pass in front of us and speed up or changed direction to get out of the way of other cells. None of the wind in these storms made it to our sails so we had to motor the whole way.  Seventy miles doesn't sound like much but at 7 knots it's a full day especially when you're zig zagging to avoid squalls.

We made it unscathed by late afternoon, followed our old trail into the anchorage, and dropped anchor where we had almost 2 months earlier.  Once the anchor was solidly set in familiar sand we toasted with warm shots of good 'ol Ricardo Rum.

Hatchet Bay from above.  The arrow marks the man-made entrance.  We approached from the South.  You can't even see it as you approach, luckily a boat was leaving as we arrived.

Saint Francis' rum punch at the Front Porch.  I could go for one of these right now.

Angie dozes...
Hatchet Bay was an opportunity to finally catch up on some much needed sleep

Angie saved our bacon by loading the IPad with charts and having the forethought to bring an extra GPS locator independent of the boat electronics.  These are waypoints to reach our old anchorage at the west end of New Providence Island.

Hatchet Bay to West End, New Providence

Dawn departure from Hatchet Bay

Safely at West End as another squall passes.