Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sampson Cay to Bell Island, Exumas

The winds shifted again during the night, which we could tell from the sounds of the wind and water. Once we had daylight, we didn’t tarry, just got ourselves ready to make way aboard Equinox, dropped Tingum back on the tow line and proceeded north towards Cambridge Cay. We’d been in touch with Sam and Heather from Cloud Nine and knew that they were heading there as well, but were behind us as they’d spent the night near Fowl Cay along with all the other boats.
We were a bit worried that we’d get to Cambridge Cay/Bell Island area and find it already full of boats trying to escape the west winds, but optimistically forged ahead nonetheless. We were heading to Bell Island’s Harbor Bay on the eastern lee side of the island, but to get there, we had to go up and around the west side of Bell Island and squeeze through a narrow cut at the northern tip of the island. The charts showed that it would be rather  a narrow gap to go through, but I have to say, I wasn’t prepared for how skinny it looked!
My heart caught in my throat when I saw it, for on the starboard side there was a good car-sized rock with a submerged bar behind it while to port there was a sandy shoal with about 1’ of water over it. The gap between the two looked nigh impassable, since the turbulent rushing water made it hard to determine where the shoal ended and the deeper water ran past the rock. From afar, it all appeared extremely shallow! I jumped to the bow to keep an eye on the water depths, and while Ron slowed Equinox a tad, I also knew we couldn’t possibly stop too quickly with Tingum in tow. So...we trusted our eyes and charts. I was out on the bow, looking ahead intently, checking depths and looking for shoaling, holding my breath as we approached the cut, which appeared narrower by the minute, but...while turbulent, the water was more than sufficient. There was no issue with depths and we breezed through with a good 7’ of water beneath us. Whew!! Gratitude!!
Once around the northern tip of the island, we could see into Harbor Bay -- and, amazingly, it was empty! All the other boats were over in the mooring field by Cambridge Cay, but we had the bay blessedly to ourselves. Once the anchor was down and Tingum pulled up to the starboard hip, we radioed Sam and Heather to give them a heads up about the depths of the cut, along with its narrowness and intimidating shallow appearance. Later, when Sam and Heather joined us aboard Equinox for another fun-filled evening dinner, Sam stated when Cloud Nine came around Bell Island, he immediately upgraded Ron in his  respect and estimation, awarding him the title of “Captain Cojones” for piloting Equinox through that narrow gap. (They were worried about piloting Cloud Nine through, and couldn't believe we squeezed through ourselves!) This from a man who has circumnavigated the globe and seen any number of tricky cuts --- we’re honored!!
Our view of the sunset in our Bell Island anchorage

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