Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Double Breasted Cays: Sandy Cay
Grand Cay: Wells Bay

July 24 – 26, 2010

Sandy Cay Anchorage
Sandy Cay Anchorage

You will see that I've listed two places for the header this time. You should read on to find out why I did that, having never done so before. I wish it only listed the first one as it is one of the most beautiful places in the Abacos. I imagine the title also got the attention of most of the guys reading this!

This is another one of those places with a crazy name. I guess it's because the cays are formed be two parallel sets of narrow rocky outcroppings, each about a mile long. Currents run through and between them, creating pockets of deep water, good for anchoring if you don't mind being crowded in by the rocks. If you anchor in this area, you tell people you are in the cleavage. Sandy Cay kind of sits between them, on one end, and has more room around it. Getting in is tricky, as you have to avoid reefs and shallow bars. You have to have faith and confidence in your ground tackle, and there is no quick exit if you get in trouble and think you want to move.

When everyone decided the weather had improved enough for us to haul up the anchor from Great Sale, Wayne consulted with Bruce about the feasibility of us taking FLUKE into the Double Breasted Cays. Bruce and Carol had stayed there many times and knew the waters well. Plus, we knew there were only 2 boats at the anchorage, so we figured we would have plenty of room for our big white whale. We have always avoided this anchorage in the past because of limited room with lots of rocks and strong, reversing currents.

A consensus was reached that our best bet would be to anchor near the wider opened Sandy Cay, going in on a slack tide when the current's push would be minimized, approaching with plenty of overhead light. EAGLE would go in first, get anchored, and then guide us in the deepest water by us following their dinghy.

We managed to put down our bow anchor with ease and decided to put out a stern anchor (our 55 lb. Fortress) to hold us in place, away from some nearby rocks. Everything looked good from above, and Eddie jumped in to see that all was well at the sea bottom too. I snapped the shot seen above; all was calm and peaceful. Wow! We had finally managed to get into this anchorage, a real feat for the FLUKE crew. Ha, Ha on us.

Since we thought all was well, and it was only mid afternoon, we piled into the dinghy and took off to explore some isolated coral heads a mile or so offshore for spearfishing opportunities. Bruce and Carol showed up in their dinghy, and we decided to venture further out to sea.

While in transit, the throttle cable on EAGLE's dinghy broke, and we had to tow them back to their mother ship. By that time, it was 5:00 p.m., just past mid tide. It was too late to go back to the offshore reef, so we headed back to FLUKE, about a mile away.

Boy, did we ever have a bad homecoming! The current was ripping by FLUKE, and it was clear our stern anchor had dragged from where we had set it. Eddie dove in to verify that it had and said that the anchor flukes were barely in the sea bottom. We were way too close to some nearby rocks, and we knew we needed to get the engine started and move farther away before the stern anchor gave way altogether. The three sea stooges were set into action.

We had to use the thruster and engine to move the bow toward the bow anchor, all against the ripping current, while letting out on the stern anchor. The current was hitting us broadside, so it was difficult to get the boat to move against it with both anchors in place. Eddie was supposed to be easing out on the stern line, which was taught as a piano wire. The line made a big jump and burned his hand. When we thought we had enough control with the bow anchor, we made the decision to tie a float on the stern anchor line and release it from the boat altogether and go retrieve it with the dinghy. The line shot out like it was released from a canon!

Wayne got in the dinghy and retrieved the 300' of anchor line and hauled up the Fortress anchor which was not easy! There was not to be a second attempt at anchoring here; we needed to get out before the light got even worse. We knew we could back track using the GPS track we had recorded on the way in, but we still needed to be able to see once we got on another route, and the setting sun was going to be in our eyes.

Fortress Flukes
Fortress Flukes

Our saving grace was that we decided to travel the short distance over to Wells Bay, where we had gone several times before and knew the way in and a good place to anchor. It was 7:30 p.m. by the time we were settled again. Under ordinary circumstances we would never be traveling in those types of waters at that time of day. Is anyone keeping track of how many bone-headed situations we get ourselves into?!

We had two more days of great weather and some “interesting” adventures.

A couple on a sailboat came into the anchorage and came over to ask if we knew about diving sites in the area. They had never traveled in the Abacos before, and had come over from Ft. Lauderdale without any cruising guide. We loaned them the new guide we had just purchased before coming over and told them they could buy it from us if they decided it would be useful. Wisely, they dropped the money for the purchase off at the end of the day. I was amazed anyone would be traveling without a guide!

One morning we went spearfishing in a cut near a little cay with the current flowing strong. It was impossible to swim very much against the strong current, so we were drifting. I spotted a big hogfish in relatively deep water and shot it, but it came off my spear. I didn't want to loose the fish, so I had to swim hard to get to it and shoot it again and get it on my spear. When I was bringing it to the surface, I got cramps in both my calves, and I was already quite tired from the tough swim. I can swim with only one leg, but with both legs cramping, I began sinking. I couldn't stay up high enough to the surface to be able to breathe through my snorkel or say what was wrong. I sucked in sea water and was fading fast, but I wouldn't give up the fish. Eddie and Wayne saw me struggling, but didn't know what was wrong. Wayne kept yelling at me to hand him the fish in the dinghy; he was afraid to come near by with the prop spinning for fear it would hit me. Eddie swam over and grabbed me and the spear and pushed me towards the dinghy close enough for Wayne to grab the fish. When I was finally able to get in the dinghy I realized I wasn't wearing my weight belt. Eddie had ripped it off when he was trying to hold me up, and it had fallen to the bottom. We towed Eddie behind the dinghy where we thought it would most likely be and ended up finding it again. Here is the 10.5 lb. fish from our team effort. I decided to use this photo so you could see the interesting dorsal fins these hogfish have.

Almost the Last One
Almost the Last One

EAGLE showed up again because they wouldn't be able to get the part for their throttle cable for 2 weeks (it's always like that in the Bahamas!) and decided to go back to Florida. We had them over for dinner again and talked them into going out spearfishing in our dinghy since they hadn't had a chance to do any fishing in the area. We were able to get a couple of nice hogfish, but not without a lot of work, both searching and making a team effort to get them cornered and shot. I was by myself and shot a big fish, and it went under a coral head. I couldn't get it out alone and knew the time was limited before a shark showed up. Bruce and Carol were already in the dinghy because they had seen a shark in the area they were swimming, and I called them to get back in the water to help me get the fish. Bruce was able to get his spear in it, but when the three of us were right at the dinghy, the fish came off the spear and was flopping right in between us. That is NOT a good thing, with sharks in the area. We were all yelling at each other to hurry up and get out of the water and Wayne was trying hard to grab the fish. All the thrashing around just attracts the sharks even more. Bruce finally snagged it again with his spear, and we headed back with two nice fish. Bruce volunteered to clean both fish, and went one step farther by giving us half of each, already vacuum-packed!

We pulled up the anchor at 3:10 p.m. to travel the 25 miles to Mangrove Cay, our staging area on the Banks for crossing the Gulf Stream back to Florida.


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