May 4, 2011 – Calabash Bay to Conception Island

20nm cruised today, 4 hours under power and ½ hour sailing – high temp 78 degrees; water temp 78 degrees – ENE wind at 12 knots; ocean swell 6 feet with 8 second interval; 3 to 4 foot wind driven seas; wind, swell and seas all on the nose

I feel the wind die down in the middle of the night. The forecast of favorable conditions is holding up. When I rise at 6:20am the breeze is slightly south of east, but following a little rain shower it backs to ENE, right where Chris Parker says it will be. Wind strength is down, though, and we shall make our move out to Conception Island. Macek and Christina aren’t sure if they will leave today. We wave goodbye as we motor out, a little after 8am. We’re able to motor sail a bit at first, weaving our way between coral heads and heading for deep water. It’s a strange feeling, approaching the abrupt boundary between shallow and the deep. We cross from vivid aqua into deep violet-blue, and I know we’re entering an environment of powerful forces. The Atlantic swell, stirred up by winds and weather systems from as far away as Africa relentlessly surges toward us. The ocean swell is running 6 feet, and wind driven seas are 3 to 4 feet. Periodically, a wind driven sea climbs up onto the back of a swell, and we rise up onto a 10 foot high mound of moving water. The swells are spaced enough that we rarely pound, however we do a lot of porpoising. As we approach Cape Santa Maria, the northern tip of Long Island, we swing a couple of miles out to sea, to avoid the shallow shelf which extends way out. Even so, the sea bottom rises abruptly to a depth of 60 feet. This causes the open ocean swell to heave even more abruptly. This very bouncy ride continues until we finally cross into deep ocean water once again.

While crossing over this shallow spot we get a radio call from Calypso Macek and Christina have decided to cross over to Conception after all. We look back and see them sailing round Cape Santa Maria, close in to shore. We look forward to sharing our time at Conception Island with them.

Conception Island is about 15nm from Cape Santa Maria, and we approach the northwest anchorage shortly before 1pm. The very large motor yacht Terrible is anchored there, along with 2 large sailboats. The anchorage is very roomy, however, and we’re able to move in to shallower water and anchor in a very nice spot. Once hooked, I put the sail covers on, tidy up the boat, and hang the kicker on the dinghy’s stern. We watch as Calypso‘s mast appears on the horizon. As they draw closer, I’m puzzled as their boat takes an unexplainable turn to the south. I try radioing but get no answer. They swing back toward us, and I get a pained radio call from Macek. He’d hooked a big Mahi Mahi, which was why they’d veered off course. After a short battle he tried hauling it into the boat, but the fish broke his 80lb test line and got away. He is utterly distraught.

They anchor off our starboard beam. We decide to go for an afternoon snorkel. We dinghy out to the reef which extends off the north end of Conception, anchor the dinghies, and slide into the water. What we find saddens us. The coral formations here are mostly white and dying. We see lots of colorful fish, but the reef itself has little of the complexity of a healthy reef. Matt is particularly affected, since he recalls snorkeling here just 7 years ago, and seeing a totally different world. We fear that all the reefs around Conception are similarly suffering.

We return to our boats to fix dinner. After dinner we are invited to go over to their boat for drinks. We suggest watching a movie on the laptop, and they think that’s a fine idea. We plan on laying over here tomorrow. When we go over to their boat we’ll make plans on how to spend our time here.

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