The Perils of Peregrina

By Larry Bradley

(Ed. The following was found on the Internet - Giving a cruising account of PEREGRINA, owned by Brice and Teresa Wightman.)

Once again this spring, Diane and I spent 3 weeks in the Bahamas aboard "Peregrina", and Alberg 37 yawl owned by Brice and Teresa Wightman. Followers of this saga know that this tale tells about cruising like it REALLY is, not the rose-coloured-glasses view one gets from the magazines. With this in mind, put on your foul weather gear and your safety harness, batten down the hatches, reef the main and hoist the storm jib - we're off sailing!

For a change, Peregrina was actually IN Nassau when we arrived, was at a dock, and everything was working. A minor problem was that she was NOT at the dock where she was supposed to be, and where the cabbie left us off. A quick call on channel 16 using my handheld raised "Peregrina", whereupon the skipper informed us he was on the gas dock at Yacht Haven, NOT at East Bay - just as the cab pulled away. That's OK - cabs are as ubiquitous in Nassau as mosquitos in Pontiac Bay.

We were allowed to stay at the gas dock overnight. First thing next morning (Sunday), up and off the grocery store to stock up, then we were under way by 9:30. Sunny, warm, nice breeze for a reach to Norman's Cay, about 40 miles away. Anchorage was not too crowded - about 25 boats. There is a vicious tidal current in the anchorage, as there is in many anchorages in the Exumas, so two anchors were put down - one in the direction of the flood tide, and one for the ebb. A nice supper and a peaceful night's sleep. (Right about now you are wondering "what's going to go wrong" - things are going too well. Keep reading.)

Up around 6am the next morning. Skipper says "I've got good news, and I have bad news." Say's I, "What's the good news?" Skipper says "I found the spares kit for the head." Indeed, that is good news. Stupid me, forgetting the axiom "Never ask a question to which you REALLY don't want to know the answer", asked "So what's the bad news?". Answer: "We need to USE the spares kit - the head has exploded - just AFTER I used it". Argh! It turned out that the gasket in the waste outlet side of the pump had given way, and instead of the pump pumping the stuff over the side, it was pumping into the head compartment. Messy stuff! So - take head apart - remember, it just has been used - this is worse than changing my grandson's diaper! Replace all gaskets. Clean scale (and other less pleasant stuff) out of pipes. Put head back together. Try pumping. No go. Argh! Take head apart again, this time to replace joker valve at the outlet hose. That's where the problem started - there was a blockage at the joker valve, and the pressure built up when the head was pumped blew out the worn gaskets. Finally, after 5 hours, the job in the head (no pun intended) was done.

That evening, the wind started to pick up from the south-east. Now the anchors are set in an east-west line and that's how the boat lies, 'cause that's how the tidal current flows. But with the wind a-honkin', the boat now lies bow to the south-east, the wind being strong enough to overcome the current. No problem - anchors are holding just fine. Until around 11pm, as the tide goes out, there is a "bump" from the keel as "Peregrina" touches the sand bottom. The water was a tad thin where we ended up after the wind took over. And at night, in a crowded anchorage, with high winds and a vicious current, we were not about to try to move. The boat has a full keel, so she rests on it quite safely. However, as the tide went out, she heeled about 30 degrees. This made sleeping in the V-berth an interesting exercise. The final solution was to sleep athwartships, feet down, rather than try to stop rolling down to the low side.

Next morning, the wind was still blowing 15-20 knots SE, so we headed out onto the banks to sail on to Warderick Wells, another 30 miles or so south. Up went the number 2 and a reefed main, and off we went, close-hauled, for a heavy, but fun sail.

Warderick Wells is a fascinating spot. It is the headquarters for the Exuma Land and Sea Park, operated by the Bahamas National Trust. Within the Park, which extends for about 50 miles along the Exuma chain, the flora and fauna are protected. The Park Warden, his wife and baby, live in a small wooden building which also houses the Park Headquarters office. The building was constructed to a great extent by volunteer labour, with most of it coming from the sailing fraternity. Many of the cruisers (your truly included) spend some of their time at Warderick Wells working around the HQ. The anchorage is a crescent, perhaps 100 feet wide, between the island and a huge sandbank that dries at low tide. A vicious tidal current flows through here. There are about 25 mooring buoys which are available by reservation over the VHF - anchoring is not allowed. $15 gets you a mooring for two nights maximum. However, the really dedicated volunteers get to stay longer - I met a couple that had been there for 6 weeks, working around the place. There are all sorts of trails around the island for exploring, and there are always cruisers hanging around the Park HQ to chat with.

After two days in Warderick Wells, it was back on to the banks for a close-hauled sail in 20 knots to Staniel Cay, some 25 miles away. We tied up at the Staniel Cay Club, which had recently re-opened after a 2-year closure. Here one can get fuel, water (at 50 cents per gallon), ice, and supplies. There are three small grocery stores on the island, an airstrip, church, two marinas (the Happy People is the other one). Both marinas server dinner. You make reservations early in the afternoon, and place your order then. When you arrive at 7:30 for dinner, it's all ready for you. And delicious. We only stayed on the dock for one night to stock up and eat. The next day we motored out to a lovely anchorage behind Big Major's Spot. This is a huge anchorage that could easily hold 100 boats. Sand bottom in about 12 feet of water, with several nice beaches. Other than the odd yahoo on a seadoo (the larger motor vessels tend to carry several of these obnoxious machines), it was a peaceful spot.

The next morning at slack tide we carefully eased "Peregrina" through a 20' wide channel between Big Major's and another small key in order to get out to the deep waters of Exuma Sound for a sail to our next stop - Farmer's Cay