Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dangers While Boating - or - Keep a Sharp Eye Out

This past week our step-daughter and her friend visited the island for the first time. Normally our weather here during the spring is wonderful with strong breezes which cool one off and provide us with moderate temperatures (we usually are at 80 or 82 degrees F.) Unfortunately, we were in a trough for about 3 weeks and when they arrived we had no breeze whatsoever. This makes the normal temperature feel rather hot and with no breeze to blow the bugs away we experience another discomfort.

There is not a lot do do on the island if one does not dive, snorkel, swim, fish or hike. The girls were not divers, it was too hot to hike or fish and so snorkeling or swimming was the only option open to them. We did have a scheduled visit to one of the Cays for a lunch, to another for a birthday lunch and swim

and a local restaurant for dinner and unscheduled dancing with our own "live music band".

We went to the other side of the island for a couple days of snorkeling and lunch and visited with the woman who found Sue the dinosaur on display at the Chicago Museum of Natural History, so it was not all dull.

Because of the calm weather we were lucky enough to snorkel off the end of Southwest Cay where there are abundant reefs and a beautiful 80' drop off.

With all of this available I guess some excitement was due in the lives of our visitors - or, at least my husband unconsciously thought so.

While returning from a lunch with friends on their Cay my husband decided to take the girls on a short tour of the east side of the island down to the south end. It was still daylight and the seas were calm. We showed them the cliffs and the abundant foliage of this end of the island and upon making our return my husband decided to go in for a closer look at a portion called Caribe Harbour.

Now to approach Caribe Harbour one has to be very careful as it is lined with a stretch of reef and the entrance is difficult to find. As we got in close I was rather worried wondering why he was even attempting this feat when we found ourselves up on the reef! We were surround by reef and there was no way of pushing the boat off.

My husband leaped in the water and made a valiant attempt to free the boat, but it was useless. It was fortunate that I had my cell phone with me and it still had minutes (more about that in another blog). I called friends who contacted Andy, a young man who runs a dredging business at the airport (among other things) and Andy, Uli (a German friend) and a worker ventured forth in their small boat to assist.

By now it was dark and the approach to this strip of reef was even more dangerous. Our boat, at this point, had been pushed in towards land, up and over the reef and now laid on a strip of sand. Andy drove back and forth for about 20 minutes looking for the entrance through the reef and by some small miracle found it. They climbed out of their boat which was about 30 yards from our boat, walked to us and grabbed the rope from our boat and towed it over to theirs. We tied the boats together and Andy went to start his engine.

Unfortunately (how could we have more bad luck?), his engine starter rope broke and he was powerless. We were in water that was a little deeper now (about 3-4 feet) and my husband was able to put his engine down far enough to start it and propel both boats towards the sea.

With one person standing on the bow and with the aid of my trusty little flashlight (I always carry one) we navigated the area and found the opening and were out in open sea! The down side of this was that suddenly the wind had picked up, it started raining and the seas were extremely rough.

We let Andy's boat fall behind us a distance and secured the rope from his boat to ours and began to haul him home. They wanted to pull over at our dock as it was a short distance away rather than go all the way to the airport, but the rain was falling in torrents now and we could not see the land to determine where out house was. Therefore, we plodded on to the airport at a slow pace getting soaked and wondering if we would ever be dry again.

It probably took us 45 minutes or more to reach the entrance to the channel to the airport where we hit another sandbar and had to wrestle off that. Over all this experience took 3 hours and we pulled into the airport about 9 p.m.

Andy has a small "hotel" over the water and invited us to spend the night. He gave us shirts and towels to use and we retired to our rooms. Unfortunately, the double bed in one room had been drenched by the rain because someone had not close the window and my husband and I shared a twin bed with a lot of mosquitoes. The girls shared another room and we attempted to get some rest.

We rose at 6:30 a.m. to take our leave after getting little sleep and left for home. We arrived there and took a two-hour nap before getting up and leaving for the Cay for our shopping day!

This whole experience was uncomfortable and frightening for the girls but now they can look back on it as an "adventure" - at least that is what we will tell them from time to time.


  1. Great story about the reef! It sounds so much better when you tell it...
    Thanks again for all of the fun. People cannot believe how beautiful the pictures are. The hummingbirds seem to be a real favorite among my friends.

  2. The island is a beautiful place and the snorkling is fabulous. Thank you again for being such wonderful hosts. This was definately a trip of a lifetime!