Dinghy Boy and Anchor Girl

Catamarans are said to handle like an army tank in that you can throttle forward on one engine and back on the other and pivot the boat on its own axis. We're talking extreme maneuverability, and while I've never actually driven a tank, I can say that despite its girth, a cat, with its two engines, is very easy to handle in tight quarters. With one engine, it's a different story. 

We departed Treasure Cay this past April early one morning to head east out through Whale Cay passage into the Atlantic, north around Whale Cay, and back into the Sea of Abaco through Loggerhead, another cut between the outermost barrier islands, on our way up to Green Turtle Cay and Manjack -- beautiful islands not always reached by casual charter cruisers out of Marsh Harbour. One reason some don't venture this far is that the passages out and back can be dangerous at times, because the Atlantic goes from very deep to very shallow very quickly, and weather systems far offshore can push water into the cuts to where there can actually be breaking waves on a sunny, otherwise mild day. So you approach them with respect, but reports were that conditions were very good that morning, and off we went. 

impeller.jpg

Aboard were myself and my wife Ginny, along with our son Stevie and our niece Marisa - both of whom were still asleep. About forty five minutes out, as we reached a waypoint on the GPS, an alarm beeped. I cleared the waypoint from the GPS thinking that was the source of the beeping, but it didn't stop. I was stumped and continued to fuss with the GPS, and having no success changed tactics and shut down the port engine. Still the beeps. I started it again then shut down the starboard engine, and no more alarm. I restarted the starboard and got the alarm again. I shaded the gauges against the bright sun and leaned in close and yes, there was the idiot light signalling high temperature. The impeller, which sucks seawater in to cool the engine, had gotten clogged and burned out. No starboard engine, so I turned the boat around and we headed back to the little harbor at Treasure Cay to seek repairs.

I had nicknamed my niece Anchor Girl because she was my go-to for anchoring, and Stevie was Dinghy Boy because though having no prior experience was game to drive the dinghy to help tie a mooring line to a mooring ball or to shuttle us in for a trip to the beach or for dinner. Now I needed them both, and Ginny roused them. We would be motoring through a small maze of anchored vessels back to a mooring ball. As nimble as cats are with two engines, with one they like to go in lazy circles. Cats also have a lot of windage, meaning that trying to head into or just off the wind means you get blown down easily. We had only a port engine and about 10 knots of wind, and the mooring ball was directly into the wind. 

Dinghy Boy and Anchor Girl dropped the dinghy, climbed in, unclipped the lines and started drifting astern as Stevie tried to pull-start the engine. People on the other boats settled in with their coffee to watch the morning entertainment. They weren't disappointed. "Daaaaaaaad" Steve yelled a moment later, "the rope won't pull!" I'm threading through boats toward the ball and don't have a lot of time before I reach it. "Take it out of gear" I yell back, which is met with the reply "what does that mean? I don't speak boat." 

He gets the outboard into neutral, and the rope pulls, but still it won't start. I reach the ball and have to turn and weave back through the boats on one wheel to make another pass. He gets the engine to start, they race up to the bow, get the line from Ginny, and together we make another approach on the ball. This time as we get close, the bow crosses the wind so that both port engine and wind are pushing hard to starboard, and even with the wheel all the way left we blow down and have to come around another time. 

The third time was a charm. I approached with the ball farther to starboard, crossed the wind as we got close so the bow was blowing down toward the ball, and Dinghy Boy and Anchor Girl zipped to the ball, pulled the line through, zipped back to the bow of Callisto and got the line up to Ginny who cleated it off. Routine. 

We spent a lazy, extra day at the beach, got the boat fixed that afternoon, and the following day made our way all the up to a beautiful, deserted beach in a sheltered cove at the north end of Manjack. We snorkeled, hiked around to a windswept beach on the exposed Atlantic side, and lazed around the cove. We then headed back a bit south to Green Turtle, where Anchor Girl helped us lay the hook and dinghy boy drove us to the docks at the tiny town where we had drinks, dinner and watched the sun set.