Late the next day, a sailboat appeared anchored behind us at Culebra. It turned out to be Kashmir (below), a Catalina 40 we had seen in Isla Mujeres. I had heard by way of the grapevine that they were headed in the same general direction we were, but I had never been able to hook up with them. I hailed them on the VHF, and we talked about the trip thus far, and a little bit about where we all were headed. After promising to stay in touch, we puttered around the boat for a lay day. Mild winds and a beautiful clear sky convinced us to lay low. Joy and I talked about why we were dragging. We have anchored thousands of times over the years, and we rarely drag anchor. The Bahamas have similar conditions, shallow sand over a hard coral base core, and we had dragged at Great Sale Cay in winds of about 35 knots. We solved the problem there by stabilizing the boat with two anchors to reduce swinging. Not wanting to add that extra complication, I decided to set our riding sail because the boat calms down with that sail set, reducing her swinging at anchor to just about nothing. No dragging that night.
Kashmir and her crew, Captain Larry, Faith, Pat, and Darnell, became great friends and boat buddies. We would talk during the sometimes long days, laugh at night, joke about any problems, and help each other whenever we could. Ideas, experiences, trials and errors, these are all part of cruising, and we learned from each other. Joy and I have been sailing for 38 years now. We have crossed oceans, gulfs, sailed the Atlantic coast, been here and there, but we will never know all there is to know about sailing. There is always something to be learned, something to share with another cruiser. We all have skills and experiences we can share, and the cruising community is linked by a bond of sharing that is hard to explain. We love sailing; we love meeting new people; we aren’t afraid to venture into the unknown; we care about others. That seems to be a universal truth about cruisers, be they power or sail cruisers. And so it continued.
After a restful day and a peaceful night, we were ready to head south. How many miles today? Where would we anchor tonight? The weather was gorgeous and the winds fair, so when we had reached the next possible anchorage by late morning, we decided to continue on for a long day to make up for some of the five days at Bahia de Ascension. We would cross the Gulf Stream for Banco Chinchoro, one of three true atolls in the eastern hemisphere. Along the way as Kashmir and I were chatting on the VHF, I heard another vessel, Hasta la Vista, hailing Kashmir. After several attempts with no response from Kashmir, I figured maybe the two of them were just far enough apart that they couldn’t hear each other, so I answered. Hasta la Vista was just trying to make contact with another English speaking vessel, the first they had heard in days. They were quite a few miles ahead of us making way for the same stopover. Hasta la Vista had been one of the support boats for the Regata del Sol al Sol, so we shared a common interest. They were a 50 something Defever trawler heading south for Belize, not just sure where, but somewhere. Hasta la Vista reached the atoll well before us and they relayed information about the approach and the anchorage. As light was getting thin, this information would prove invaluable.
George and Marcie on Hasta la Vista called to let us know there were three moorings in the atoll, and they had grabbed one of them. We were next to arrive as Kashmir had not been able to point as close to the wind as Ocean Angel thus finding themselves in an unfavorable eddy as they approached the cays and losing a couple of miles. It was well after dark by the time Kashmir arrived, just dark when we got there. We found one of the mooring balls, but I missed it on the first try so Joy circled around for another go at it. I managed to grab the tether on the second try, but the tether was extremely short, barely reaching the deck, and the mooring hoop had huge chafing gear attached, too big to quickly tie up. I tried to hang on while looking for a way to secure the tether at least temporarily, but the wind and current began to pull the boat away. My boat hook was twisted in the tether, and I couldn’t free the hook or hang on. So, I dropped the boat hook, hoping it would stay tangled until I could find another way to grab it. No such luck as the hook untwisted and took off downwind. Oh boy.
My next plan was to motor up past the ball, grab the tether from the swim ladder, then secure it to one of the large stern cleats. All went well until the boat fell off unexpectedly over the ball rather than away from it, snagging the mooring line on the rudder. Now we really had a sour pickle to swallow. Fearing damage to the rudder as the wind and current strained against the mooring line, I tried to figure out a way to free the line from the rudder. My quickest solution was to don snorkel gear, jump in the water with a safety line attached to me, then push the line down under the rudder. Well, the Angel’s rudder drops down almost six feet into the water, so I knew this was not going to be an easy task. It was hard work, but fortunately, the moon was bright, the water crystal clear, and I could see the rudder and the line clearly underwater at night. After three attempts I freed the mooring line, the boat settled downwind, and I was able to secure a long line to the tether to lead it back to the bow, secure for the night. Anchoring would have been so much easier!