Crossing to Exumas: Second Attempt (Success)

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Miles: 36.27
Time: 6 hours 32 min
Avg Speed: 5.6
Max Speed: 7.7

March 18, Monday: Up with the sun we headed to to the Exumas. Technically this was the third try- Saturday we had tried twice to cross but turned around both times. The wind was in our face again but it was not torture and the swell was minimal.

We arrived at Allen Cay (also spelled Allan Cay) in the early afternoon. We anchored between Allen and Leaf Cay just north of the entrance. We first anchored south toward the little beach, but pulled up anchor and moved north.

We took the dinghy over to Leaf Cay to Iguana Beach where we also could hike to some ruins. It was a great evening and the iguana were everywhere! If you zoom in on one of the pictures you can play “find an iguana” because there are about 10 more in the trees and on the rocks in the background of the pictures. When we got off the dinghy they came running down the beach. It was a little intimidating!

Back at the boat, we had a spectacular view. Stew decided to take a quick dip, but just as he was going down the ladder a nurse shark poked his head up. Then a second bigger shark started circling. I assume they were nurse sharks…

March 19, Tuesday: During the night we had bounced a bit and hit bottom so we decided to move north in the anchorage. We debated moving down to Highbourne Cay (about 10 miles south) but decided against it. There was a cell coming and it seemed to be arriving soon and we did not want to be out trying to move south with a cell coming. There was some coverage here and the winds were predicted to be around 20-25. It was reasonable to ride out the storm here.

We found a new anchor spot with a lot of water underneath us. Our anchor set so we felt we were ready for the storm. Well, it was a doozy!!

Lightning, thunder, heavy heavy rain all around us. Winds were whistling, more than the predicted 20Kts. Then all of a sudden a strong gust – we would later learn was clocked around 85Kts – put S/V Freedom on its side and spun us onto a sand bar. The rain was coming down so hard we could not see where the wind was taking us. IT WAS SCARY!!

We knew we had hit something and stopped – at least we were not thrown into the rocky shore… that would’ve been the end of S/V Freedom. As it was we were tipped and bouncing and creaking with every surge from the sea. Waves were crashing against us – still raining and thunder and lightning all around.

A neighbor catamaran called on the VHF to see if we were OK. They offered to bring us a second anchor – I couldn’t believe they would go out in the dinghy in this wind and swell. We told them to hold off – which was good since they soon discovered they had broken their anchor bridle.

We got in touch with Boat US – no easy feat – the Bahamas BTC would not go through so we had to use our US coverage. Unfortunately, Boat US could not find anyone to help us. They called the Highbourne Cay Marina (as had we) and they were of ZERO help. Couldn’t even try to find us a private boat to help us out.


I did get in touch with The Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association – BASRA. Captain Chris was accommodating and continued to text through WhatsApp with me all day. They could offer no physical aid but he had some good ideas of what to do. He fished in Allan Cay so he knew exactly where we were beached.

High tide was around 5 PM (low tide was at 10 am) so as the tide was rising we needed to keep ourselves from beaching further – the wind and waves were pushing us further onto the sand bar. Our main anchor was taunt and holding us on the west side (where there was high water) so Stew dug out the second anchor and using the dinghy dropped it to the North East. Then we wrapped the anchor rope around the wench to pull it tight. The two anchor points of contact seemed to be holding us in place.

It continued to storm intermittently all day. Each time Stew heard any motor he would go out on deck and try to hail them down. We finally made contact with a center console that was from Highbourne and willing to come back around 4 PM to help us get the boat into deeper water. In addition, the nearby catamaran already offered to help with their dinghy.

While we waited on high tide at 5:00 Stew decided to try to use the go-pro camera to see what was going on under the boat. He used the grip mount and connected the camera to the gaff pole, lowered the pole into the water and presto – we could see how deep the keel was buried and whether the rudder and propeller were buried as well (they were not, I think my running the engine periodically had created. a hole around them – pushed the sand away).

At 4:00 we had our plan – I would be at the wheel, Stew would be on the front anchor (pulling it in as we moved into deeper water)- and we would communicate through our headsets. The center console boat was given a line connected to our front cleat – he would pull us toward the front anchor – I communicated with him via VHF radio. The dinghy with 2 people was given the halyard attached to the top of the mast and they went south to keep us keeled over as much as possible – we communicated with them through hand signals. Even with the howling wind, swells, and rain, we got the boat off the sand bar!! We bounced it like you do a car stuck in the snow… and it worked!!!

Once in the deeper water, we had to pull up the main anchor completely, get rid of the second anchor, grab the halyard from the dinghy, get the front line from the center console boat, and not get beached again while doing it!!

Thankfully we were successful. We thought we would go outside and sit there in deep water for the night, but there were 4-6 foot waves and worse wind so we ended up going back inside between the cays. But we dropped right at the entrance into this area so we had as much deep water around us as possible.

The night was rough and we didn’t sleep much – still pretty stressed about what happened and worried it would happen again.

But we lived to sail another day.

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