That was the easy part.
The clear water that made the Bahamas so alluring and beautiful, however, was also a source of frustration. We never knew how deceptive it can be to read water 'by sight.' For example, when we were sailing our first narrow passage from West End to Great Sale Cay, I excitedly leaned over the side and yelled, "Conch!" "Starfish!" "Bottom, I can see the bottom!" only to have my husband gently point my attention to the fish finder. While I was convinced we were down to five feet of water, the fish finder indicated seven feet.
"OK, you try it," I said to my husband. He looked over the side and shook his head. Even though we stayed in the Abacos for two months, neither of us could ever tell the visual difference between five feet and eight feet of water. This didn't make a world of difference to us, living aboard a boat that only draws only three feet, but if we'd had a boat that drew six feet, that difference would have been critical.
As for trying to follow the charts, well, that could get a sailor into a bunch of trouble, too. The charts were reliable, but the navigable courses around some of these little islands seemed to change on a daily basis. With a constantly shifting bottom surface, we found that whoever was at the helm had to be alert and ready to change course at a moment's notice.
Throw in the dramatic effect of the tides and you can see why so many boat carcasses litter the reef-strewn areas around these picturesque islands. Two harbor entrances, in particular, stand out in my mind as downright tricky: Little Harbor and Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay. I admit that I'm the conservative captain, and I've been known to fudge the danger factor once in awhile, but on these two entrances I was right to be cautious. If we'd read the tides wrong, like the catamaran that entered Little Harbor four hours after we did, we, too, would have grounded. Granted, it was a bit of a luxury to witness a grounded catamaran (how many times does a captain see that in her life?), but the catamaran drew the same three feet that our boat does, so if we'd been a little off in our navigation or tide tables, we could have easily grounded, too.
|"On our first night out, we re-anchored three times because I was convinced that the fish finder was indicating a steeply-banked shallow bottom directly in front of the boat."|
The old saying not to rely on one means of navigation holds true, especially when negotiating shoal waters. What the eyes see isn't the only story, and is likely to present a ball-park figure when it comes to determining depth. In the same way, what the depth sounder reads can also be subject to various distorting factors. A cool head and cross refrencing both with what you see and what your instruments read is necessary to keep your boat in safe water and your cruise from winding up on the beach.
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|