We had a memorable Christmas Eve anchored at Great Salt Cay. In the morning, after breakfast, my father and I put the dinghy on the water and installed the outboard. We took turns going ashore to explore the cay and collect shells (an activity mainly practiced by my mother and the girls). While in the boat we spent our time reading, swimming, playing cards and board games, talking or simply napping. For the girls we also had complete art set (color pencils, water colors, markers, and plenty of paper), books, and movies.
Natalia began fixing dinner late afternoon; an Iranian recipe for chicken with rice, that included almonds and cloves. ln land, in Ecuador, we have a tradition of roasted turkey or pork and I was worried about breaking it, given that the oven in Antares is not operational. But nobody seemed to mind. The girls were in charge of the decoration of the boat. We had a small christmas tree that I brought from DC. It was installed over the navigation table surrounded by small presents, many designed on site by Marina and Sofia. For lights we used head-lamps.
We started the celebration around sunset with champagne that my parents had purchased in Miami and an assortment of appetizers. In another deviation from the tradition, dinner was served relatively early, at around 8pm. The folding table in the cabin was beautifully set for six people (probably a stretch but we ate comfortably). Natalia’s chicken was a success; the girls, our very demanding food critics, loved it. She had also prepared a salad with tomatoes, greens, avocados, nuts, and blue cheese. We adults, of course, enjoyed a couple of bottles of red wine. After dinner it was time to exchange presents. Marina and Sofia were in charge of the ceremony that ended with them singing christmas songs. It was a night with a full moon that, I hope, we will always remember.
The next day around 9am we hauled out the dinghy, pulled off the hook and got going. The plan was to stop in Fox Town. The wind was blowing from the north east at 15 knots. I set course towards the north, Constancia steering the boat, close-hauled in a starboard tack. It was a sunny morning with excellent visibility and there were no boats on sight. After an hour or so we were past Little Sale Cay and I tacked to a course of 100 degrees that would take us north of the Channel rocks and Sale rocks. Once past these dangers I adjusted the course to the east-south-east towards the anchorage at Fox Town, south of Hawksbill Cays.
By then family was used to life in the boat and they were enjoying themselves, reading, drawing, napping, or simply enjoying the scenery. I spent most of the time in the cockpit reading Soumission, the latest book by Michel Ouellbeck and that I highly recommend. There was not much to do in terms of navigation. From time to time I would stop and look around or go down to the navigation table to check our course on the iPad.
We had sandwiches for lunch when we were north of West End Rocks. By 2pm, 5 hours after our departure, we were approaching the anchorage at Fox Town. But the wind had increased, the sea was agitated and the anchorage didn’t feel safe. So I decided to change plans, turn back and head to Crab Cay instead. Natalia and the girls were not very happy; they wanted to anchor and go ashore and Crab Cay was still 2.5 hours away. But I had called the fuel station over the VHF (in part to see if I could get some coolant for the engine) and they confirmed that it was not the best place to anchor under those conditions. So we continued.
At around 5pm we were entering, very slowly, under power, the beautiful anchorage at Crab Cay. I was concerned by the depth and dropped the anchor half a mile from shore. Natalia considered that we were too far, but at that time of the day the visibility had dropped and I didn’t want to run aground. She reluctantly accepted to stay put and went down to fix appetizers while my father and I took care of drinks. It had been another 7h+ passage but the crew was happy and looking forward to the soiree. Not a single boat around. We were alone.