May 2, 2011 – Stella Maris Resort Marina to Calabash Bay – Aground, and I’m sure glad I have 3 fully rigged anchors along

11nm cruised today, 2 hours under power and 1 ½ hours sailing – high temp 85 degrees; water temp 78 degrees – ENE wind at 17 to 20 knots; seas 2 to 3 feet inside

I walk out to the marina entrance at 6:30am so I can listen to Chris Parker where there’s a breeze and the mosquitoes won’t bother me. I can tune him in, but the reception is marginal. I hear enough to know that we won’t getting out on the big water today or tomorrow. Wednesday sounds like a better day for our crossing to Conception Island.

While breakfasting on coffee and banana bread, the marina dockmaster walks by the boat and greets us. I walk over to his office and get properly signed in. I’m pleased to see that the rate is just $1/foot, which is extremely reasonable. That rate includes access to facilities at the main resort, which is located on the east side of the island. At 9am we catch the complimentary shuttle over to the resort and walk around. The grounds and buildings are very attractive, and clearly designed to fit in with the island. We walk down to the beach and watch an endless parade of breakers crashing into the reef. In a few days we’ll be out on that rolling Atlantic, hopefully on more friendly seas. We also stop in the resort office and check e’mail on their computer. While so doing, I notice a big headline on the internet. US Navy Seals finally caught up with Osama Bin Laden and killed him in a fire fight. It’s something I worried might never happen, and I can’t help feel that the world is a lot better off without him.

We catch the noon shuttle back to the marina. I walk over to the bank and replenish our supply of cash at the ATM, then we return to the boat, eat lunch, and get underway. It’s a hot afternoon, with little air movement in the marina, but feels much more comfortable when we get out on the banks, where the breeze starts to pick up. Our course takes us dead downwind. I unfurl about ¾ of a jib, and we make around 4 knots. I sail just off the wind enough to keep the sail filled. We quickly cross a big open bay and reach a turning point just off Dove Cay. We swing northward, and I let the sail out a bit, sailing on a broad reach. Our speed picks up to nearly 5 knots on just the partial jib. The winds are quite strong, probably close to 20 knots. We’re in the lee of Hog Cay, so the seas are relatively small, but the strength of the wind is apparent. A little further along, I must harden up and turn a bit more to windward. Our speed drops off, and I finally roll up the jib and proceed by motor. The seas out here are 2 to 3 feet, and the boat heels close to 10 degrees with just a bare pole. We enter Calabash Bay and motor to the north end, where an appealing little shallow water channel leads into a well protected bay. It’s just the kind of place I like to tuck into.

We reach the entrance, and I can read the water quite well. The channel narrows, but just a short way in I see a promising bay. When the water depth drops to below 3 feet I tip the motor up, and raise the center board and rudders. The winds are still strong here and on our beam, and I have to crab the boat to maintain steerage in the narrow channel. The channel narrows further, and I fail to notice the strong current which is pushing us ahead. While studying what looks to be a rock reef right in the middle of the channel, the stern drifts right onto the beach on our port side. I quickly shift into neutral and am helpless to prevent the wind from pushing us onto the sand. There we sit.

I’m not particularly alarmed by this development. We’re sitting on soft sand, and the tide is rising. However, I know that the boat won’t get itself off on her own. It’s going to take a lot of work and all 3 of my rigged anchors to get her free and moving again. The pressure of 15 knots of wind pinning us to the beach, coupled with 3 or 4 knots of current running in this narrow channel will complicate the task. First thing I’ll do is row out in the dinghy with the main working anchor, so I can set it at right angles to the boat, on the sand bar across the channel from shore. Did I say row? I start to loosen the oars and discover, to my dismay, that one of the oar blades is missing. I have no idea how it came off. Perhaps it banged into a piling at the marina. Who knows. It’s just gone. I install the kicker motor instead, and run the anchor out and set it in the sand bar. Next, I rig the stern anchor and run it off the stern and set it in the sand bar, astern of the boat. With these two anchors set, I haul on the bow anchor with Sandy standing in the water and pushing. I manage to get the bow angled out and floating, and then repeat the process with the stern anchor line. She’s now afloat, about 10 feet from shore. Then I grab the danforth anchor, which I always carry, fully rigged, on the bow. I dinghy it to a point past the stern anchor and set it in the sand bar to act as a spring line. With it in place, I’m able to retrieve the bow working anchor and the stern anchor. This allows the boat to reverse direction, so that it’s facing into the current and out of this trap. The wind still presses her in to shore, however I’m not concerned with that. I know I can haul in on the anchor line and get her floating again, and pointed in the right direction. With these wind and current conditions, I’m not sure I could have managed without all 3 anchors. As it is, 3 anchor rodes can sure weave themselves into an amazing tangle. It takes me almost as long to clean up the rats nest as it did to kedge us off the beach.

After all this, it is an easy call to abandon any thoughts of anchoring in this sheltered pond. We head back out the way we entered, and drop the hook just off the beach in front of the Cape Santa Maria Fishing Club Resort. The series of two story buildings located on the beach may just give us a little wind break effect. It’s rather late in the day before we get around to fixing dinner. The breeze is still blowing as the sun sets. I rig the stabilizing sail to cut down on our swing. Even though the wind is right off the beach, a refracting swell still rolls in here. I’m really worn out from the afternoon’s exertions.

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