Leo’s Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (and it kinda’ sucked for us too)

Hey friends!  We are currently situated “Between The Majors” near Staniel Cay, Exumas, waiting out a westerly blow.  We have been having little luck with uploading pics to the blog here in Staniel Cay (and the rest of the Bahamas for that matter).  As you may have noticed, my posts tend to be picture heavy so I have a few posts that are going to have to be put on the back burner for a while.  I was freaking out about making sure things were posted chronologically (because I’m crazy) but if I don’t skip a few, I’ll get stuck forever and that would be bad…  So, here’s a post about our first really bad day in Cambridge Cay.  I owe you pics from the northern Exumas and the Land and Sea Park, I promise I won’t forget!  Enjoy!  Drena &JR

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Perhaps we under calculated the wind, maybe we shoulda’ found a forecast for the seas, or maybe we finally got a little too big for our britches, but on Sunday, March 2, 2014, Mother, Mother Ocean pimp slapped us pretty darn good.

We had just spent a lovely couple of days with our cruisin’ buddies from Magnolia.  We did lots of snorkeling, drank lots of wine, and talked a lot about this crazy life we have been living the past few of months.  We both decided to leave beautiful Cambridge Cay on Sunday, Magnolia heading north, Journey heading south.  The wind forecast wasn’t anything crazy, but it wasn’t expected to be benign like our Gulf Stream crossing or our overnight to the Berry’s either.  After much reflection on this day, we think our mistake was in here somewhere.  The Exuma sound should be treated like the ocean.  Although technically not the ocean, we now believe it should be treated that way…  We left a little before Magnolia and waved them good bye as we passed behind them on their mooring ball.  We started out Bell Cut and knew that it would be messy because the wind was opposing the current (that’s a mighty big deal down here!) but we assumed it would calm down once we were out of the cut.  Ha.  So for all of you technical people, the wind was predicted 15 knots ENE, see, really not that bad.  Our instruments were reading winds near the predicted speeds when we decided to head out for the day, but we were behind the protection of Cambridge Cay.  Once we were out of the protection of the island, we saw winds between 20 and 25 knots consistently right on the nose as we headed out the cut between the islands, we should have known better!

Once we made it to the cut,  we gave it a nice long chance to calm down but dang those waves were having their way with us.  Neither of us feel comfortable estimating wave sizes, but I can tell you they were BIG, most likely the result of the previous days’ front that passed through.  Bigger than anything we have ever experienced and bigger than anything we ever want to experience cruising again.  Our motto has been to be conservative with travel days, no need to be uncomfortable when it’s not necessary and with what we’re doing, it shouldn’t ever be really necessary.

Needless to say, we were nervous.  We knew we weren’t going to die, but it wasn’t fun, and the sound of Journey crashing down in the trough of the waves was horrible.  And not just for us, it was pretty earth shattering to our darling, Leo.  The downside of a cat on board (who you desperately love) is that your mind is tending to him all of the time.  I think we would have been more likely to push on through the icky waves if we knew the cat wasn’t having mini-heart attacks everytime his little house had an earthquake.  Anyway, after a monster wave gave us one good monster slam, we made the call to flip around.  The scary thing was, we didn’t know what these monster waves would do to us from behind because they sure as heck weren’t comfortable from the front (I hear our crew saying, “That’s what she said.”)

Of course we took all of our safety precautions, life jackets, tethers, etc. but one thing we neglected (Too big for our britches?  The whole sound/ocean thing?) was to put the dinghy on deck.  We were towing our poor dink through this mess and that was a BAD call.  The motor was off of course, but that poor inflatable was being jerked and pulled and tugged in all directions.  She even slammed against Journey’s stern a few good times and there wasn’t a whole lot we could do except get our butts back to the mooring field.  Luckily, we made it back through the cut much quicker than we made it out because of the help from the waves and grabbed a mooring ball and crashed.  We were only out for 1 hour from mooring to mooring, so don’t pity us too much.  A 1 hour lesson is better than an 8 hour one or an overnight one any day, we are lucky.

Anyway, it was still only about 10 in the morning so we fiddled around the boat for a while then decided to pull out the sewing machine to fix a little problem we had with the dodger.  I was down below setting up the machine and JR was starting to take down the dodger.  We got a little gust of wind and the dodger collapsed and pinched JR’s fingers.  I jumped up to help and saw Leo behind the steering wheel.  When the dodger comes down, the cock pit get windier because the dodger does a really good job blocking the wind (that’s it’s job) so I don’t know if the wind spooked him or the noise of the dodger coming off spooked him but he was there one second and gone the next.  I said to JR, “Where’s the cat?” and we couldn’t put eyes on him.  Something told me to stop what I was doing and find him and then we heard a little “meow.”  I peeked over the side of the boat and he was swimming, in the drink towards the dinghy!  I yelled, “Get the net, he’s in the water!” and in the blink of an eye, JR jumped in and grabbed the baby <3  For those of us who sometimes question JR’s paternal instinct, it’s in there, thank God :)

We brought Leo in, he was a bit dazed, and gave him a freshwater bath so that licking the salt didn’t make him sick.  We were all spent.  It was by far our worst day of cruising.

Boo, after his swim :(

Boo, after his swim :(

Later, we finished the sewing, and spoiled the cat, and took a hike over to Bell Rock just to feel some sense of accomplishment on this crappy day (although we knew for sure that one of us would break a leg because that’s what kind of day it had been!)  It was a beautiful view and it was a success even if JR fell in the shallows trying to climb out of the dinghy (2 unintentional swims for JR, 1 for Leo, I was lucky.)

Jake's clothes and Leo's harness drying in the sun.

Jake’s clothes and Leo’s harness drying in the sun.

We did a lot of reflecting and here’s a few things that we learned:

  • The Exuma Sound should be respected and treated as if it were the ocean.
  • We should consider the previous days’ weather as much as the weather forecast predictions.
  • Leo can swim.
  • The dinghy should come on deck everytime we enter the ocean.
  • We work well together.
  • Reflecting on good stuff and bad stuff is a really good idea.
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12 comments

  1. Poor Leo! Glad to see JR has the paternal instinct!
    BTW, March 4 was a Tuesday. While it’s near and dear to my heart, we had a blast that day with some good friends of ours. It was good to hear from you two that day, also.

  2. Leo dude! I feel your pain! I’ve been in unexpectedly in the drink a few times now… the humans had so little faith that they then made me do a ‘cat overboard drill’ when we’re on anchor I have a kitty ladder made of rope with knots so that if I go overboard without them realizing I can climb back up again. (I had to prove I could do it!) The swimming bit is actually quite fun… the fresh water shower afterwards… not so much! Enjoy buddy!

  3. That was a hard lesson learned! Those cuts are not to be taken lightly. I remember coming into Warderick Cut with HUGE waves behind us. I was never so glad to get inside!

    In our cruising experience in the Exumas we avoided going out into the sound unless it was very calm or it was the only way to get somewhere (Georgetown). Also, it’s good to head to a spot that’s comfortable in a front before everyone else realizes that they have to get someplace safe. The few protected spots fill up quickly!

    We were in the same general area last week, sailing with friends on Calypso. We hunkered down in Pipe Creek for a couple days until it calmed down.

  4. Welcome to our world! That’s the kind of shit we end up in all the time (our own fault of course). We’ve finally figured out that it’s just not worth it to go out if the wind is going to be on the nose. PS- If it makes you feel any better, we spent the majority of the last 24 hours bashing into those waves with the mind numbing crashing sound from the bow. However- we knew that would happen b/c the wind is always coming from the wrong way when you go to the DR … it’s in all the books. So we had no choice. We were just thankful that the wind wasn’t too strong and the waves weren’t WAY too big … 4-6 feet we think. PSS- Mitchell has fallen into the drink twice within the last week. Once at a fuel dock (off the dinghy) and once off our stern ladder (on anchor). I’ll give you one guess why he slipped and fell both times. (Phase 4) Miss you! Hello to Leo…. so glad he (and you guys) are ok.

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