Blue Holes and Anchoring Blues

As we write this (our first post written jointly), it’s about 4am. We are wide awake. A few minutes earlier, Thom woke up feeling like something was askew. He looked around the boat didn’t find anything amiss and went back to bed. But a few minutes later, he was up again with a sudden thought: what if we were on bottom? Sure enough, when we turned the instruments on, it said we were in 5’ of water. We require 5’ and four inches. When Thom tried to turn the rudder it was clearly stuck.

Earlier in the day, we had valiantly decided to forego our original anchoring spot. Another boat in the anchorage – a 75’ trawler – was having problems with their anchor and their windlass. Their chain was no where to be seen, and they had thrown over a spare anchor attached to a nylon rope (we call it a “rode” but let’s just move along). It was a giant boat. Their anchor roller – the part of the bow where the anchor line first touches the boat – was about 15 feet above the water. And when using rope instead of chain, you need to put a lot more out. Whereas Spartan and the other boats in the anchorage were fine pivoting about on 80’ of chain, this massive boat required hundreds of feet of line. For our troubles, Valkyrie gave us a pound of fresh caught red snapper! Yum!

The Valkyrie, with its massive rode.

Requiring more line wouldn’t be a big deal in some anchorages, but in this particular one, it was a problem. For starters, there is shallow water on all sides, and the patch of space with enough depth for a sailboat is rather small. But to make matters worse, this anchorage has tides coming through, which cause all the boats in the anchorage to swing on one side of their anchor for six or so hours before the next tide comes through and moves all the boats 180 degrees. So the very long rode of the giant trawler meant that it was taking up most of the anchorage, leaving other boats to cling to the edges.

We had arrived at this anchorage in Hoffman’s Cay about 3pm. After settling in, we took our dinghy to a nearby blue hole. A blue hole is a geological phenomenon that occurs in several spots throughout the Bahamas. Somehow the water and the minerals found in the rock on these islands have decided that, once in a while, it’d be good to just have a big hole, hundreds of feet deep and about 200’ in diameter. Some are found under water, but others, like this one, are on land. A short walk from the beach takes you there.

Heading to the blue hole with friends. Can you spot the redhead?

There’s not much life found in this this blue hole. It’s not much different from swimming in a filled quarry. But it was pretty cool, and we enjoyed it. It was our first taste of enjoying the Bahamas. A while later, we decided it may be time to leave the hole when a group of 25 exuberant partiers arrived from a nearby town, chauffeured in hired boats. It made me realize that we are still too close to the states and the cruise ships. But we had done our swim there and it was easy enough to cede the blue hole to the party crowd.

Five of us visited the blue hole. Guess which one didn’t go snorkeling.

On returning to the anchorage, I discovered that, with the changing tides, the giant trawler was getting perilously close to Spartan. They were about to re-anchor, but given their windlass problems, we volunteered to move Spartan instead. At the time, we didn’t realize just how small the anchorage was. We picked up the hook and put it down again multiple times before settling on a place that was closer to our buddy boat, Glissade, than I would have liked. Later that night, as the tides turned again, Glissade and Spartan were getting too close to one another. We decided to fix that problem by putting out more chain. Soon the current pushed Spartan astern of Glissade and we breathed a little easier. When they got close again, putting out a little more chain seemed to solve the problem. But, what we didn’t realize at the time is that extra chain would also lead Spartan to shallow waters.

So, now it’s 4:39am. Our boat is floating again and writing this has given us some time to calm down. We should get some more sleep before the sun comes up and we hunt for a better place to put down the hook. We will fill you in soon on the Bahamian repair adventures that we lived through before getting here. Good night!

2 comments

  1. Never a dull moment for you and your fellow sailors…apart from the weather and beautiful scenery you may have to return home to get some rest. What an adventure! It sounds like you are about ready to qualify for your PhD. in Sailing! If you ever take your knowledge to the next level…you could do very well as professors.

    Like

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