Feb 21 2007 – Farmers Cay

We anchor off Cave Cay.  This is a strange private island which apparently has a really nice protected interior harbor in which to anchor… except that someone not so nice has purchased the island and sends rottweillers to the beach to intimidate those who dare anchor.

We dinghy a few miles to Farmer’s Cay.  Finn finds a friend on the beach.  Megan checks out the little store but comes back and says only one word… “scary.”  Little Farmer’s doesn’t seem to be too welcoming.  We tried earlier to reach Little Jeff on Farmers to buy some propane.  He tells us he’d rather we just keep going and get it in Georgetown.

The next day we make an early departure through Galliot Cut so we can time the tide and leave at slack high water.  Our plan is sound and the pass through the cut is much less dramatic than the boat we watched yesterday as it passed through the ripping current of Galliot Cut at full ebb tide.  Then things get a little more dramatic.  Thinking we’re safely through the cut, I engage the autopilot to take us on a straight course until we get out to deeper water.  Grace immediately makes a sharp turn to starboard and the rocks.  I quickly disengage the autopilot and make sure Megan isn’t transmitting on the SSB (which at some frequencies wreaks havoc on the autopilot).  She isn’t.  I engage it again and watch the autopilot’s compass readout change over 90 degrees which causes Grace to do the same once again steering us toward the rocks.  I disengage the autopilot again. Megan comes up to ask what the heck I’m doing.  I’m checking the charts and trying to determine if there is a local magnetic disturbance.  No.  Then it hits me… perhaps something metal is near the flux gate compass (this is an electric compass used by the autopilot which is mounted under the starboard settee).  Megan goes to check.  Eureka!  We find the “local magnetic disturbance” – the kids Magneto toys which have super strong magnets are stuffed down the edge of the cushions over the compass.  Move the toys… solve the problem.  Glad we always maintain a watch when we use the autopilot… otherwise some innocent play with Magnetos could have some rather exciting consequences.

On a sad note, later in the season and not far from where are on the Exuma Sound a beautiful Norseman 44 will collide with a large trawler.  Both captains were using the same charts with the same waypoints and letting their autopilots steer which took them on a collision course.  Everyone is safe but the Norseman loses its rig (dis-masted).

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