Rodriguez Key to Cat Cay

You might have noticed on the last page just how far away from the island we were anchored. Normally, we tuck in fairly close, but we were experiencing some abnormally high and low tides, minus 1 foot, and we had difficulty finding enough water to be comfortable. With what, you might say. Well, the winds were whistling a steady 25, all day and night, and the bay was developing a nasty, sloppy chop launching our boat on quite a dance along with every one else. On one of the 7, yes seven, days we spent waiting for weather, we were actually relaxing in the afternoon, and I had just laid down to continue reading a very good book when I heard the wind begin to climb steeply. Next I knew, the wind generator was screaming bloody murder, the wind speed indicator showed 45 knots, and the anchor drag alarm sounded. Before I could jump off the settee, I heard the wind scream even louder, and I vaulted into the cockpit to find every boat in the anchorage dragging, us included. The wind had changed direction and increased so quickly that everyone’s anchor just yanked out. The anchor reset quickly, but we had moved into shallower water, and I was really uncomfortable looking ahead to another extremely low tide. So, we weighed anchor and moved further out into the bay with a couple of larger vessels. Now, we were really out there. 

Rock Harbor in the Distance
Rock Harbor in the Distance

Up ahead of us now we could see many boats moored off Rock Harbor, a popular boating center in the Keys, but the mooring area was a bit too shallow for our draft and we were resigned to bouncing around out in the deeper waters of the outer bay. At least we were secure and didn’t have to worry about the keel or rudder meeting with the bottom. We gave some thought to entering the harbor channel to tie up at one of several marinas tucked away inside, but we knew the contrary winds would soon change and wanted to be ready to jump across the Gulf Steam on a moment’s notice, so we hung out in the bay. All day long on the VHF radio we would hear one commercial boat after another warn others of their approach to “Crash Corner”, a more than 90 degree turn in the channel where the view of oncoming boats is blocked by heavy mangrove growth. We could only guess that more than a few boats have collided at this sharp turn.

Sunset at Rodriguez Key
Sunset at Rodriguez Key

I guess every cloud has a silver lining of sorts. On March 31st, the weather forecast for April 1 called for NE winds of 5 increasing to 10 by mid-day. The sunset at Rodriguez was nothing short of spectacular on the 31st, and we were poised to head out in the morning. Now all the cruising guides and Bahamas general sailing information tell you not to cross the Gulf Stream unless winds are south of east, and generally, I agree with that guideline, but winds had dropped way off and seas were predicted to be 2 to 4 feet in the stream. I figured we better give it a try or strong winds would be back from the wrong direction the next day. Plus we could always turn back if it was too rough for Joy. Well, early in the day, it was a piece of cake. We left around 6 AM and winds were around 5 knots and seas were almost flat; we were just able to motor sail with the main strapped in tight. By the time we reached the center of the Stream, winds had picked up to around 15 true, and we were seeing 20 to 22 apparent, very close on the bow. Now the seas were not so nice; short, steep, close together, and slam bam you know what. April Fool’s! We toughed it out as we had no choice, and by 5 PM we were headed into the channel at Cat Cay Club. 

Fuel Dock at   Cat Cay
Fuel Dock at Cat Cay

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