Jury Deliberations Continue

Well, when I woke up this morning, my foot had improved. I don’t know if it was the ice pack I’d put on it or the ibuprofen, and I don’t know what prompted the big spike in swelling and pain in the first place, but my foot was so much better than it was yesterday that I decided not to go to Marsh Harbour just yet. I’ll get plenty of time in that population center in the coming days…no need to be in too much of a hurry to get there.

Instead, I motored a couple of hours toward the more populated areas to the north. The target was a place called Tahiti Beach, at the south end of Elbow Cay. For Further to be able to reach it via the direct route required maximum water depth: one set of charts made it look impossible to get through, while the other made it clear there WAS a path, albeit a narrow one, if you went at mid-tide or higher.

To that end, I waited until mid-tide (going high) to depart Lynyard Cay. So while I was motoring at a good clip, I still got to that thin stretch at well after mid-tide. But no luck. I squeezed through a couple of seemingly too-shallow parts, but right after an anomalously deep hole in the path, the water depth dropped almost instantly—and more importantly, my depth sounder was showing depths shallower than what the chart said should be there. That was it—I turned around and limped back on my own track back from whence I came.

The Austrian couple I’ve been sailing with waited even later to depart Lynyard Cay than I did. Their boat draws more water than Further so they were waiting until the last possible minute. When they called me on the VHF and asked me what I’d seen, they immediately altered their plans and stayed west in the deeper, doable channel, as opposed to trying that direct route. The irony, of course, is that when I had expressed doubts about the direct route yesterday, Klaus had mocked me and said I needed to be braver. Famous last words…

I did manage to get a glimpse of the anchorage at Tahiti Beach before I turned around and it looked PACKED. And there were at least ten boats on the AIS, which meant there were probably twice that since half the fleet usually doesn’t even have their AIS on. So after cutting my losses and then not wanting to detour an additional hour and a half to get to a crowded anchorage, I opted to just drop the hook a short ways south of the cut on which Tahiti Beach is located. It’s a peaceful spot—the nearest other boats are a good quarter-mile away—and it’s well-protected from the easterly winds.

The Austrians sent me a photo of where they wound up: a resort not far from Tahiti Beach. Grrrr…

But I’m digging the peace and quiet here. I’ll be in the thick of things at Marsh Harbour starting on Friday so this is a nice calm before the human-spawned storm. And you could hear that storm on the VHF today as people bickered back and forth over who was anchoring too close to whom and what the regulations and etiquette say and blah blah blah.

It’s frankly kind of a microcosm for the shift I’ve observed as I’ve moved north from the Exumas. There’s a lot more modernity, more hustle-and-bustle, up here. There are more houses—and some big-ass fancy houses too—than I saw farther south. For me, the jury is still out on the Abacos—hell, the jury is still out on the entire Bahamas and this trip as a whole—but I am sensing some trends.

And those trends extend to natural doings, too. Granted, I’ve only been in the Abacos for a bit more than twenty-four hours, but already I’ve found the waters here to be getting progressively shallower the farther north I go. I’ve been having to plan out my route and my anchorages with tide in mind WAY more than I did down south. It’s not a concern for many boats, but for Further and her 6-foot, 2-inch keel, the infamously shallow waters are finally rearing their ugly head.

Not only is the water thinner up here, it’s also more…agitated. Passing by North Bar Channel today, the inlet at the north end of Lynyard Cay, the swells from the open ocean bounced Further all over the place. And that makes sense: there ain’t nothin’ east of the Abacos until you get to Morocco and the rest of northern Africa. That’s a whole lot of open ocean, baby, and while that means it requires more consideration than more benign waters down south, it also means there’s more potential for surf and other water fun that I like. So there are pros and cons to everything I’m seeing thus far.

The jury on this trip will remain out until after the trip is completed and I’m back in the U.S. But I am alert to everything and taking it all into consideration as I go. And there is still so much to be learned.


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