Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Journey from Panama: Chapter Two, Morant Cays, Jamaica

Click here for Chapter One if you missed it.

Hand steering. No other thoughts or activities. Hand steering, through the night, through the day and through the night again. The first night was not too bad, energy-wise, but by the second night we were both feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. Cruising couples usually come up with their own schedules of how to share the time at the wheel at night. For us the schedule is often sleep driven. Bob will go down early (9 PM ish) and sleep for 4 or 5 hours. Then when he comes up I get to go to sleep. I can hang on longer because I know that when it is my turn to sleep I get to sleep as long as I want. 

That is what we *normally* do on passage. When the autopilot is working. When the steering is not so difficult. On this passage, that was not the case. Without an autopilot the steering takes total concentration. On a dark night, when there is no moon or stars to help guide you, there is just a pitch black void to head into. Setting up the watch schedule is very different. A longer watch is better for the sleeper, but much harder for the steerer. We worked at finding a balance. Too short of a watch and the sleeper doesn't get rested, too long and the steerer gets burned out and loses concentration. In this situation we found that 1-2 hour watches worked the best for us, allowing the person on watch to dictate how long they were willing to stay on duty.

Morant Cays. 51 miles off the coast of Jamaica. Low lying sand spits formed next to coral reefs. Shallow enough to anchor and collect ourselves for the next leg.  We head to Morant Cays, Jamaica. Steering through the night, counting down the miles. Looking forward to a break, but we have to be careful not to arrive in the dark. We try very hard to avoid going to any new anchorages without enough light to assess what we are anchoring in and what is too close to Rhapsody. We are tired and ready for a break, but we have to slow down. A mental push and pull. Go, get there, but not too soon!

First glimpses of Morant Cays

What will be there when we arrive? Will there be a good spot to anchor, or will it all be rocks or coral? Will it be good holding for the anchor or will we just be hanging on, hoping that the anchor won't drag? More questions pass through my head. Is the bilge pump working? I can't hear it. Once the engine stopped I realized it was working fine, I just couldn't hear it over the noise of the motor. All the water that had been dripping in was now being transported over the side of Rhapsody. What about immigration? We don't have permission to enter Jamaica, and in this time of Covid-19 countries are quite protective of their borders. The recent story of a cruising couple in the South Pacific kept coming to mind. They were headed to Indonesia from Fiji. They were having some boat issues and headed towards the Solomon Islands for rest and repairs, similar to our stop in the Morant Cays. They attempted to call authorities on the radio, to no avail. They arrived at one of the outlying atolls of the Cook Islands and dropped anchor. It was not too long before the authorities arrived, told them they were there illegally and took them off to jail. I doubt that Jamaica would act as harshly, but this scenario still played in my head. 

The largest of the Morant Cays

It is very difficult to see the Morant Cays from any distance, they are so flat. As we approach we can tell that the water is definitely calmer behind the reef which is knocking down the waves. The water is clear and blue, there is a lighthouse and some other sort of square structure, and, surprisingly, another sailboat! No dinghy on the boat, and no people aboard, but their anchor light is shining. A mystery. Who owns this boat? Where are they and why is the boat here? Questions we may never get answers to!

We successfully anchor in sand. The anchor is holding well. We dive into the clear blue, salt water, to, ironically, rinse all the salt off of our bodies! (Thank goodness for our fresh water showers!) It feels so good to have a break from the hand steering. Time to plan our next moves, and time for some restful sleep. 

Next stop: Navassa Island (where?) while still trying to get to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

We love to hear your comments.

Cindy Sheroki said...

You guys are amazing. Do you feel like you’re getting younger as you travel? There’s no way I could sleep so little and function to sleep again. I’ll have to look up that next island you’re aiming to.

Sarah said...

Passages like this one don't do much to keep us young! The sleeps afterwards help, but the need for longer recuperation time is growing!
Navassa- the island you go to when you REALLY want to get way!