Night Shift

After a very brief stay in Marsh Harbour to replenish supplies and visit with friends aboard Zingaro, we made our way South toward the Exumas. We planned to arrive at Fleeming Chanel in daylight, thus our sunset departure into the Atlantic. The weather was right and we took the opportunity while we could.

It’s now 2 am under dark, moonless but starlit sky. I can just see the sky glow hinting where Nassau is on the horizon far in the distance off our starboard bow. The last lights of Abacos dim off our starboard after quarter. The depth sounder gives a false bottom 600 feet below even though my charts indicate the bottom nearly 15,000 feet below just a few miles off the East coast of Abaco. The Atlantic is deep but calm this moonless night as Fin sails toward the Exumas with single reef in main and full headsail. Winds are light at 5 to 9 knots from the WNW. The forecast was for more wind from NNW, but I’m happy with what we’ve been dealt. I am grateful for the mild and pleasant conditions mother nature has chosen to provide. Sometime by 9 am till noon Fin should enter Flemming channel. It depends upon what winds are dealt next. It’s been nearly 25 years since I last navigated this coral infested channel but I expect we’ll find a safe route through when daylight returns.

I am alone at the helm on the late shift welcoming a whale might give me a wink along the side of Fin. We have seen many cheerful dolphins but not a single whale thus far. There is a persistent Sounder echo under Fin at 186-198 feet. It’s likely a large hammerhead shark, one of many that frequent these waters. Just a couple days ago I heard of another sailor near here fishing from his sugar scoop when he spotted the largest hammerhead he’d ever seen come at his boat and swim under in daylight. The sea here is pitch black tonight and I can see nothing, not even a reflection of stars. I’m happy to be warm, dry and comfortable, safely tethered in the cockpit. No trolling tonight.

The winds became very light just before my shift was over at 3 am. Our SOG decreased to 3 knots. Derek took the next shift and we decided to motor-sail in order to arrive at a safe anchorage before night fall. We would traverse some 40 miles through the coral infested middle ground before arriving at a good anchorage. It was a smart move as we cleared the last of the much larger than I remember coral heads just as the sun became too low on the horizon to pick out way through. We anchored off Ship Channel Cay just behind a protective sandbar at sundown. In the future, when coming South from Abacos, I’ll plan to anchor off West end of Eleuthera for a night in order to cross the middle ground banks when the sun is higher. Or even avoid Middle ground and those boat munching coral heads by sailing down the West side of Eleuthera and later cross Exuma Sound. It would provide more fishing opportunities along the way.


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