April 4th, 2015
We didn't cut our cruising teeth in The Bahamas like many people do. Therefore shallow or skinny water, reefs and shoals get
our my attention. As I mentioned in a previous posting, North Sound Antigua is a big area filled with tiny uninhabited islands, scrub spits, shoals and reefs. This makes for some great gunk holing, exploring, bird and aquatic life watching and snorkeling with only a few other yachts competing.
However, after two nights between Redhead and Rabbit Islands, we decided it was time to push on. Provisions are running low, including some basics....aka meals are getting weird. But more on that topic over on the Beyond Burgoo tab. There are basically two ways out of North Sound. Backtrack to the north quite a bit and then negotiate a cut in the reefs up there and then head straight east out into the Atlantic quite a way to clear Long Island and the rest of North Sound and finally turn south. Or Bird Island Channel, the shorter but much scarier option. I say scarier because, it looks really, really, really narrow on the charts. The Doyle Guidebook says something to the effect of "local knowledge needed." Usually that means take another way for us. However sv Sara Lane said they went out this channel just fine. "I wouldn't come in that way." said Skip. "I don't think you could find the channel coming in but it was fine going out." There are no channel markers. NONE!
O-Kay.... We discussed with another seasoned cruiser who said "No Problem. Just take it slow and watch the water." Sv Persephone was still anchored next to us and decided to leave the same day. They draw 6.5 ft. We draw 6. We offered to go first but they were ready when we hailed them and prefer to go it by themselves. Note - buddy boating can often lead to a series of mistakes vs just one. David on sv Persephone is a firm believer in this as are we so no worries that they wanted to go it alone. We told them we would see them down the line somewhere.
We opted to wait a little longer for the sun to get a bit higher so we would have the best visibility. In the mean time, we watched sv Persephone from afar as they made their way across the bay and slowly through the channel. Afterward David called on the VHF to report. "Go slow but there is a 3 knot current in the really narrow dogleg part so be careful to stay in the middle and give it some throttle in there. AND I had abandon the chart plotter because it was off and go to eyeball navigation. You must have good daylight to do this."
O--Kay. The few clouds that were around cleared to blue sky and we took off. I was at the helm. Tom offered but I needed to do this thing....get over my
fear unease of skinny water, shoals, reefs and such. We crossed the bay fine and headed into the cut. At one point early on Tom said " This isn't so bad. It's kind of fun." Freak! I am married to a freak! This is the same guy that thinks passing under bridges is fun. Not! *Yes, bridges wig me out a bit too. Let's see....big bridge with concrete and steel, fast moving current and our home zooming towards it? Yeah, real freakin fun!
Anyway, then the channel continued to narrow and the yellow/brown of shoals started to show up in the water on each side closer and closer in patches here and there. Reportedly the channel is deep enough and it was. The challenge is that it's so narrow and there is no room for a mistake. It doesn't gradually get shallow or even quickly. It goes from 20 ft to 5ft like THAT on both sides! Remember, we draw 6 ft loaded. By now Tom has taken up position a on the starboard deck as lookout. As we approached the super scary, ultra narrow, dogleg it became apparent by the encroaching yellow/brown shoals off the starboard side that the chart plotter was off. Tom had to guide me through as the chart plotter would have put us on the starboard shoal. The current had picked up so I had to give her more throttle to keep her moving forward under control. The worst was over after clearing that part but I still had to content with bashing into big Atlantic waves slamming straight into us as I headed out the final part of the channel. Then we cleared it all and cracked off into the Atlantic swell.
Whew! We radioed sv Persephone to report "All's well." (as the Brits say). Note - We told him our Garmin charts were off. He reported that his Raymarine/Navionics charts were off as well. I have taken a screen shot so I can forward to Garmin Marine and the topographical people there. Sv Sara Lane told us the NV Charts are correct but I need to confirm that with them one more time.
Lesson - electronics and charts are great. So are good light, eyeballs, and common sense. This seems like a D-uh but this was a good reminder.