Passage Through the Jumentos and Hog Cay Cut
Trip Start Dec 09, 2006
217Trip End Ongoing
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We timed the departure from Acklins to arrive at the Diana Banks just before sunrise. The Diana Banks is a known fishing ground a third of the way to Water Cay and our dawn arrival would enable us to troll in early daylight. This timing worked out perfectly and Dave had baits in the water at first light at 6:00 AM right before getting to the Bank. We had a strike just minutes later. But it was another 'cuda and by the time it was released and that bait back in the water we had already crossed the Bank. Dave's consolation arrived soon afterwards - seeing his first ever sunrise green flash. No other fish were ours for the remainder of the journey….
The following day was a weather hold day and on May 4th we moved a very short distance first thing in the morning to a more protected cove that was calm enough to permit Dave to go up the mast - again - to fix the main halyard problem. This time he abandoned the new sheave remedy and simply swapped the halyard and topping lift positions until we could get back to Virginia and have materials to better implement the sheave solution. To perform this swap he had to ascend the mast on the topping lift to tie the (uninstalled) spare halyard to the mast head crane on the starboard side, untie the in-service primary halyard from the port side, come down and replace the topping lift with the spare halyard, then reinstall the topping lift in place of the primary halyard on the port side. So we were back to using the spare halyard.
We anchored near Hog Cay Cut on the bank side for the night and departed at 9:15 AM to arrive at the cut right before high tide, leaving some margin to still have some rising tide in our favor in case we ran into trouble. Hog Cay Cut is a shortcut from the very shallow Exuma Bank side of the Exuma Islands to the deep Exuma Sound and saves many wrong way miles of deeper water passage for vessels with shallow enough drafts to sneak over one really shallow spot in the cut. Pas de Deux draws 4 feet 3 inches under the rudders and the limiting mean low water depth through Hog Cay Cut is 0.9 meters (2 feet 11 inches). Do the math. High tide adds about 2 feet 6 inches so there's enough depth to permit us to get through - and we successfully did this last year, so we were not intimidated.
We arrived outside the cut at 9:40 AM just before high tide and started through very slowly over the deepest of the shallowest spot - or so Dave thought. Despite having over a foot to spare last year, the rudders grounded in the grassy sand and we came to a stop. Fortunately, the flood tide and the wind were against us and Dave successfully backed us off. We repositioned to a parallel course more in keeping with the passable route marked on the Explorer Chart--about 50 feet to the right-- and tried again - over what looked like slightly deeper water - and got through with no touches. At least there were no other cruising boats around to see Dave's red face. Frankly, having a helm chart plotter and accurately identifying the charted route through the shallows in advance makes this passage reliable, particularly if the boat's draft is less than 4-1/2 feet, and quite the time saver—well worth the effort. The soft bottom makes it forgiving when it takes more than one try….
Once through the cut we rigged the full mainsail and genoa for a nice reach up the sound side of the Exumas. We chose to bypass a stop at popular Georgetown as we had no reason to go in there. We had listened to the daily Georgetown VHF cruiser's net and heard the boat census was "down" to 75 boats as the spring migration north progressed.
We stopped for the day at Black Cay located towards the NW end of Great Exuma. This was an area reputed for snorkeling that Donna wanted to see in settled weather and which we had not visited last year. We found a gorgeous anchorage in 6 feet over sand at low tide overlooking three small beaches. Alone again, naturally. We had a nice swim to the beaches and once ashore were happy to help a very large sea biscuit find its way back to the water.