Wednesday morning begins with a hearty breakfast ashore at the Green Turtle Club. The anchor is up at 10 AM. Cutter Loose is bound for Great Sale Cay, some 55 miles to the northwest. The forecast for today is benign, with light winds of 5 to 10 knots clocking from southwest to west to northwest to north. The decision is reached to push hard for Great Sale Cay today in advance of squally weather that is predicted for tonight and tomorrow when winds are expected to increase in speed and clock to the northeast as a slow-moving cold front traverses the area.
We are pleasantly surprised to experience west winds at 15 knots on the beam on a day when we fully expected to motor to our destination. Our course takes us past Cooperstown and Angelfish Point, then west towards Crab Cay and Foxtown. Wind speed is now 15 to 20 knots on the bow. Cutter Loose is powering into 3 to 4 foot waves. A layer of salt water now covers the deck. So much for the accuracy of the weather forecast! To make matters worse, the charge light on the engine panel is now illuminated, indicating that the alternator is not charging the ship’s batteries…another mystery to be solved.
The anchor is down at 7 PM in Northwest Harbor at Great Sale Cay. Despite its name, there are no special sales or shopping bargains to be found at Great Sale Cay. Rather, it is a large open bight surrounded by low-lying land on three sides that offers excellent protection from the northwest to the east. The Cay is uninhabited. There is no cell phone service or Internet access at Great Sale Cay. Because it is the most protected anchorage within a 50 mile radius, many yachts stage here to commence voyages in all directions. At this time of year, many of the yachts in this harbor will leave directly for the east coast of the U.S.
Overnight, light winds shift to the north, then northeast. At daybreak on Thursday, the rumble of thunder can be heard in the distance. Sirius marine weather shows an ominous squall line to the northwest along the frontal boundary. The bulk of the lightning and heavy thunderstorms pass to our west, but Great Sale Cay is not spared entirely. Sixty minutes of pelting rain and 25 knot winds associated with the squall wash the salt from the decks of Cutter Loose. Another late afternoon squall provides a second rinse. By early evening, the front has moved south of Great Sale Cay, ushering in sustained easterly winds of 25 to 28 knots.
Each morning at 6:30 AM, meterorologist Chris Parker broadcasts marine weather for cruisers at 4045 MHz on the single sideband radio. This is one of the highlights of our day. According to Chris, the cold front has become stationary to our south while high pressure moves offshore from North Carolina. The effects of this classic trade wind machine are felt all day on Friday the 13th with gusty east winds continuing at 20 to 25 knots. This trade wind pattern will remain in effect until the next cold front exiting the U.S. nudges the Bermuda high to the southeast.
On Friday afternoon, there is excitement in the anchorage. A catamaran has dragged anchor and is aground on the lee shore of Northwest Harbor. A tow boat has been engaged to pull the vessel into deeper water. Each of the 20 yachts in the anchorage is monitoring the VHF conversation between the grounded vessel and the tow boat. At first, the effort fails. But precisely at high tide, the cat begins to inch its way off of the bar. A collective cheer from the anchorage erupts as the cat floats free.
Wind from the east at 25 knots continues to howl overnight and into Saturday morning. It is a restless night. Chris Parker predicts that trade wind conditions will remain in effect on Saturday. Gale warnings are now in effect in the Gulf Stream. According to Parker, easterly winds will begin to moderate slightly on Sunday with further moderation expected on Monday. In the meantime, we will remain anchored at Great Sale Cay waiting patiently for the wind and seas to subside.