So it was time to leave Andros and sail to New Providence. Having kept a close eye on the weather, we decided to leave while winds were still subdued. The forecast was for south winds at 8-10knts and 1-2ft seas for our Tongue of the Ocean crossing.
We said our goodbyes to Sean, finished our final deck and cabin preparation, and got a mid-day start for the 6-7 hour crossing to West Bay, New Providence (catty-corner to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas).
Having had to motor much of the journey thus far, we had made a resolve to use the engine as little as possible from now on. We raised sails, hauled up the anchor and made a port turn for the Morgan’s Bluff inlet. We sailed on a beam reach (90 degrees to the wind) making good speed for the first bit. Making a turn toward West Bay we lost speed as we headed into the wind and our GPS chart plotter updated with an arrival time of 2 am (NOT GOOD), so we continued to sail in a comfortable direction to make progress and planned to tack (turn) back and forth to achieve our destination. After making our first tack we realized this progress was going to add a significant amount of time to the journey as well, but should have still put us there before dark.
Once out about a mile from the inlet of Morgan’s Bulff the Tounge of the Ocean drops sharply. What was once a mere 50-100 feet deep has, within the span of a few hundred yards, dropped to a mind boggling 6,000 feet deep. That’s correct—a 6 with three zeros behind it. Certain that this is where the Kraken lives (in company with every other magnificent and never before seen creatures that have been the talk of legends and cause of phobias for centuries) an extra deep breath had to be taken to refocus on sailing.
Almost as the clammy sweat had dried from my hands, Bethany notified me of a squall that had begun to brew behind us. Having set sail less than two hours prior, with clear skies, this disturbance definitely came as a surprise. Extremely dark clouds robed the front of the storm and heavy sheets of rain brought up the rear similar to a train that follows a bride’s dress—sweeping the land behind it. Still within reach of cell phone service,Bethany quickly tapped into remote assistance from our buddy Sean who was still at Morgan’s Bluff. He had radar on his boat so with our gps coordinates was able to update us as to the storm’s conditions, direction of travel and relative position to us. We determined we were just north of the storm we seemed to be in a relatively safe location and would probably not be affected by it.
As Bethany made a trip below deck to gather some items and check on our packing job, I turned around just to peek back at the storm once again. To my surprise on the leading edge of the storm an interesting dark blob was poking down. Having grown up in the Midwest, “Tornado Alley” as we call it, this little thing was a bit of a heart stopper and the train of thought that followed went something like this: “Oh crap, that’s a tornado... I’m on a really tiny boat in 6,000 feet of water, moving at a snail’s pace and have all of my kids on board...I should’ve stayed in school...!”
I didn’t know what else to do, but try to rationalize this cloud out of existence, so that’s what I proceeded to do and those thoughts went like this: “That can’t be a tornado, it’s just a low hanging cloud... that would be HIGHLY unlikely a tornado—out here, unforcasted, yes...definitely a low hanging cloud.” And to my surprise, within about a five minute span, I was indeed about to think it out of existence...
Cue the change to more ominous music.
Shortly thereafter, Bethany had returned completely unaware of the situation and the stress that had caused a nervous sweat and pungent body odor to ensue. I had her take the wheel while I tended to the sails. Once she sat down, Zion joined her at helm. Upon her arrival, she surveyed the storm and also noticed a funnel cloud... a new one. She directed Zion to keep an eye on it. Having also grown up in the Midwest AND, gone through the same internal thoughts that I had gone through, she was sure she would also internally wish this “low hanging cloud” out of existence.
As soon as I reported back to the cockpit she informed me of her discovery. I immediately turned around to observe a full on spiraling, funnel cloud. Proteins, adrenaline and probably a concoction of other instinctual substances rushed to my brain and told me it was time for my pretentious thoughts about sailing vs. motoring to be put aside.
So firing up the engine and “putting the hammer down,” we took off like a 1982 dodge Astro van with a clogged carburetor. Though still at a sluggish pace, and pounding into every wave, I had the feeling that I was making progress away from the danger that was seemingly in pursuit of us. As the next hour drug on like a bad musical, we managed to leave the storm behind and somewhat enjoyed the next few hours as we made it safely to the east side of the Tongue.
Pulling safely into West Bay had given us a new spring in our step, so we motored gracefully up to shallow water near a beach and dropped anchor. With a couple hours of daylight left, we lowered the dinghy and rowed to the beach to let the kids (and us) give our sea legs a rest and have a little fun.