A Travellerspoint blog

April in the Abacos

Lynyard Cay

sunny 84 °F

Carol really liked Spanish Wells; I thought that it was OK but it was not where I wanted to be. Carol seems to be better at the lemon/lemonade thing than am I. At $1.00/ft. it was not an expensive interlude. Oddly, we did not eat out any night we were there. With Good Friday and then Easter Sunday most of the restaurants were closed; the only one open served only fried food, now not part of my dietary regimen.

The big decision was when to leave and where. Having been convinced that Sunday was a bad day, it was, Monday looked somewhat better and Tuesday looked good, I bowed to the inevitable, WEATHER, and we stayed in Spanish Wells on Sunday. Monday we waited for high tide, about 1000, and got underway for Royal Island, again, as a point of departure for Tuesday. We arrived and anchored at Royal Island before lunch and just lazed the rest of the day away, stirring only to watch other boats entering the harbour.

On Tuesday, transit day, we woke early. I checked the weather on the internet and using our XMWeather. XMWeather had been showing a wedge of high waves jutting into the Northeast Providence Channel; for several days the isobar like lines of wave height had been showing 8 and 9 feet, the reason were stayed at the dock. On Tuesday morning that wedge had been replaced by a rhomboid of 12 foot waves. That didn't make any sense so I decided not to tell Carol lest that send her anxiety levels soaring to heights as high as the purported waves.

When we looked out we saw that two other boats, Megerin and Wind Dust, were already underway. Knowing Megerin from Royal Island and Wind Dust from Spanish Wells we decided to follow suit and had the anchor up before the sun was up and headed though the harbour's cut. We were in the open water by 0730, headed north with a little bit of wind to help us on our way. When we were far enough north, out of the lee of the islands the ocean swells were, maybe, 4/5 feet but with a long period between, giving the boat a pleasant, gentle rise and fall. This sunrise, versus the last one at Royal Island, seemed propitious.

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We left trailing behind the two other boats, at 46-ft. and 44-ft. When we cleared the cut between Little Egg Island and Egg Island we saw two more boats ahead of us. The closer of the two was a catamaran and the other was too far distant to distinguish. Given the math of hull speeds I assumed that they would leave us far behind their sterns. But we were able to hang with them.

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We motor sailed, running the engine at 2,700 RPM's, the fuel/speed sweet spot, and put out both sails. There was more wind than we expected but the direction was a little more north than expected; after about 15 nm we were almost a mile west of course from trying to keep some wind in the head sail.

One of the five boats, the one farthest north, turned right, for Africa, leaving just four. We were the only boat with a foresail out and we ended up just passing everyone, to the point that I dropped the engine speed so the other boats could catch up and allow us to follow them through the cut and to the anchorage.

It was a good trip and interesting, too. While I was mindlessly eating lunch I saw a line go flashing along the port side. Turns out that the halyard holding the radar reflector to the top spreader had parted, dropping the reflector about 40-ft. to the water where it was water skiing behind the boat. We recovered it with no apparent damage to the boat or aluminum reflector.

We heard Jesse, on Wind Dust, over the VHF offering the other three boats fresh fish because he had just caught and landed a 4-ft. mahi mahi while trolling on the trip north. This got me so stoked that I broke out my rig and in a few minutes had caught and landed .... a wad of Sargasso seaweed. Not nearly so tasty and the mahi mahi that Jesse, good to his word, shared and that Carol and I had for dinner. He said that this was the first fish that he had caught in the Bahamas in 12 years of trying.

Over the last 12 miles of the trip there was a current pushing us faster than we had any right to be going based on the wind and the engine. Even trying to go slow we made over five knots. The 49.3 nm trip over the open water took about eight hours but we would have been much quicker had we not slowed down to follow the other boats through the cut and to the anchorage.

At 1530 we exited the Atlantic Ocean and entered the Sea of Abaco for only the second time with about four hours of daylight to spare. We used one of those hours anchoring. The first and second tries the anchor would not set well so we moved on and tried again until it finally did. When I dove to look at the anchor it was poorly set in a thin layer of sand and grass over rock. But, there's not even enough wind to crank the wind generator so a dragging anchor is not a high concern.

This trip, like the run from Nassau to Royal Island, was about as nice as could be. It met the standard of dull, nothing important broke or stopped working. My concerns about the fuel gauge were misplaced; it did work so I do not have to swim in diesel fuel again. The weather was beautiful. With the arrival of the most recent high pressure weather system things have been cooler; some mornings have broken below 70o and one below 60o. On Monday night Carol actually pulled the bed spread over herself for the first time in many weeks.

A colorful ending to a great day!

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Posted by sailziveli 10:02 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (0)

Spanish Wells

sunny 82 °F

When all the weather that was going to happen had happened, it just wasn't worth the effort. We could easily have gone north to the Abacos on Thursday and Friday; we could easily have stayed in the harbor at Royal Island. Of course, had we stayed on anchor we would have been boat bound, not a pleasing thing for Carol.

On Thursday, the day we arrived at Spanish Wells we saw the worst of the day on the short trip between islands although one boat that came arrived in the afternoon had seen 40 knot winds, but just in a squall that quickly passed.

On Friday, late in the afternoon, we saw this knife edge of the front slice its way south. Behind was marshaled a host of low, lumpy cumulus clouds, dark and swollen with rain and linked each to the other with horizontal bursts of lightning, none being wasted on the ground, a comforting thought when your tiny home has a five story lightning rod in its middle. 60 minutes of rain and it was all over. We saw nothing of the 60 knot, hurricane force winds but we're not complaining. The thing is, though, that you cannot know where that Fickle Finger of Fate is going to point. Here, it was a non-event; five miles away may have been a disaster. So, safe and tethered to a dock is OK.

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We have two barometers on board. One is the standard analog dial and the other is digital, part of a weather/temperature station. I am not assiduous about recording the readings but I do pay attention. In the past month, or so, I have not seen any readings below 30.00 inches of mercury; on Friday the pressure dropped to 29.80, not an alarming number, but unusual. 29.92 is normal at sea level.

This is an interesting island, quite different from the other small islands that we have seen; small in this case is 2-mi. x 0.5-mi. Tossing out Freeport and Nassau, Spanish Wells is, by far, the wealthiest place we have visited. It has nothing to do with tourism and everything to do with reaping nature's bounty from the sea. There are seven marinas on this island and only one, Spanish Wells Yacht Haven, accepts pleasure craft. All others are reserved for working boats and all of the working boats collect fish and shellfish. Almost all of the catch is sold off the island through distributors, there being few restaurants here. In our travels I have seen lots of working fishing boats but I have never seen boats as immaculately maintained as these. There was not a rust streak to be seen anywhere even though the lobster season just ended. Sunrise over the fleet.

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It also the whitest island we have seen, probably more than 90%.

We rented a golf cart for 24 hours to see the island. It has been four months since I have been at the wheel of anything but the boat and we/I had to drive on the left hand side of the road. It is focusing when a monster Ford F150 is coming in the other direction. There were no traffic fatalities during our drive so I guess we did OK. There are lots of for sale signs about and the prices here are not nearly so scary as they were in the Exumas. Most normal people could find a way to buy a house away from the water. Spanish Wells is mostly built out; there are very few empty spaces on which to put new construction. Most of the lots are very small but on the north side of the island there is a stretch of what might be called estates: larger homes on about an acre with old, wrought iron gated entrances. Down by the old harbor there are some old frame houses that may date to the 1920's. Most, like the boats, are beautifully maintained.

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The majority of the houses look like south Florida when Eisenhower was president: smaller in size, concrete clock, bright pastel exteriors, tile roofs and crabgrass for lawns. I may have missed the lawn flamingos.

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We went out again on Easter Sunday morning, less traffic, a safer drive. The Methodist Church has a small garden near the road which we visited. It was in some disrepair but there were these lilies (?) and some red flowering trees.

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These are all named as separate islands but, when the tide is low, a person could walk across the flats from one to another. This is the flat between Spanish Wells and Russell Island.

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There are several stores on Spanish Wells, enough for the population except for a liquor store. For that Carol had to take a ferry ride from Spanish Wells to the northern tip of Eleuthera, maybe a half mile from dock to dock. This is the very tip of the island.

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We also drove over to the non-eponymous Russell Island which is quite a bit larger and almost undeveloped. There were some land clearing projects going on, maybe to support new homes.

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So, here we sit on Easter Sunday; I wanted to leave this morning but others cautioned against that. They may have been right. It's not so much about the wind as the waves. On the north side of Spanish Wells is open ocean; call it the Northeast Providence Channel or the Atlantic Ocean. Regardless head east and you'll hit the Cape Verde Islands and then Africa. Right now the seas are running 5~9 feet between here and the Abacos. So, by Monday or Tuesday things may have settled down enough to head north. We might hire a pilot to take us out through the reef to the north; we might go back to Royal Island and leave from there.

Posted by sailziveli 10:42 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

When Men Plan, the Gods Laugh

semi-overcast 84 °F

Nassau is probably a fun place to visit; we enjoyed it here in January. This trip, like the previous two, was all work and worry. We got everything done except for one very deferrable task. The bottom got cleaned and it was a great deal, of a sort; only twice what we pay in Brunswick. The mast head fly was repaired, by moi. The OB motor was checked over and returned on Tuesday afternoon. And the fuel tank was drained, cleaned and refilled along with the brand new diesel jerry cans. If I do not survive to return to the mountains it will be due to a diesel fuel overdose. I have bathed in it; breathed it; probably swallowed some; and had it invade several open cuts and scrapes. I would truly like to be quit with that stuff other than putting it into the fuel tank.

The final "fuel hit" came Tuesday after I thought that I was done. I had removed and reinstalled the fuel level sender. When I checked to see if I had the wiring hooked up correctly it turned out that not only had I gotten that wrong, I had also misaligned the float so that it was stuck in the down (empty) position. When I removed it again we had so filled the tank that fuel dribbled out the top of the tank. Installing the sender is a trick I have not yet mastered. It has two gaskets, a metal ring and a polypropylene fixture, and five screws. It is so cleverly designed that 65 year old, semi-arthritic, fumble thumb hands cannot ever get all the parts and pieces aligned so that more than four screws will match up with the threaded holes in the tank. I had diesel fuel all over the deck; I was sliding around in it; I was so covered with the stuff that I almost could not grip the screwdriver to turn it. 45 minutes into a 5 minute task I finally had the sender working.

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If there are any disappointments with the trip so far, other than things breaking or not working, it would be these: we did not go to two islands we wanted to visit, Cat Island and Long Island; we have spent too much time in marinas, not a bad thing, just not what we had imagined. When we talked about how to head north Carol wanted to avoid the overnight trip and break it into two legs: one to Royal Island near Eleuthera and then to the southern entrance to the Abacos. I decided that we would try this route despite a fairly long leg of almost 60 nm on the second day. We now have about thirteen hours of working daylight and that should be enough time to handle the distance.

On Wednesday, at about 0800, we got underway for Royal Island. Despite having a clear understanding of the fuel/engine problem, despite having taken the proper steps to remediate the problem, despite having run the engine to ensure that we were well primed with clear fuel, despite all that, leaving the dock was a big time worry. What if I had unwittingly or half-wittedly caused another problem along the way, or the big obvious problem obscured a more insidious problem. I guess that at some level Carol and I are, by our natures, worrywarts; on the boat with our reduced levels of competence there is much about which we always worry .... to the point that, sometimes, it drains the pleasure from the experience.

We cleared the harbour by 0825 and set course for the north end of Eleuthera chain. There was a little wind, not much, but enough to provide a little punch to the motor, and we made good time, well over six knots. The clean bottom must have contributed some extra speed too. It was a very nice day to be on the water. It was only the second time, maybe in a month, that we had not seen whitecaps on the water, just some gentle 2~3 foot swells that gave the boat a pleasant "ocean motion."

The trip was boring and uneventful, those two measures of pedestrianism now being basic requirements for a nice day on the boat. Carol and I have handled our fair share of adversity this trip and, if we have not done so gracefully, we have, at least, done it with a sufficiency of equanimity. It would be nice to have about four or five more weeks of boring and uneventful. That would close the cruise out nicely.

We had never considered coming to Royal Island before. Our cruising guides, purchased in 2008, all said that the island had been purchased, was being developed, including a marina, and that the owners "discouraged" anchoring. Well, this place is another Field of Dreams. There are more boats anchored here, seven, than there are buildings. David and Alice said, "Developed, sure! One guy on a tractor." Well, even the tractor is gone and all of the buildings, save one, are single wides. There are, however, a couple of abandoned buildings, maybe from the 40's or 50's.

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The channel entrance is really narrow, one hundred feet is too generous an estimate. And, a lot of whatever width there is, is taken up by rocks and shoals. The charts said that anchor holding varies but we had no problem getting our anchor to set. The good news is that the wind will be ten knots, or less, so the will not be much pressure on the anchor, a good thing since we put out a short scope. But there is enough wind to make the wind generator go. It is a well protected harbor in almost every wind direction. There is really no place in the harbor to land a dinghy other than a small dock, and since it's private property that's probably a bad idea.

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We had not been able to receive the SSB weather forecast due to all the interference in Nassau Harbour. But, we had checked all the weather web sites including the Royal Bahamian Meteorological Society whose forecast said: no significant weather through Friday. The wind prediction was for single digit winds from the S to SW for our planned transit to the Abacos. Got up Thursday morning and we could tell something had changed; the single digit winds were 15~20 knots in the sheltered anchorage. Turned on the SSB radio to listen to Chris Parker. In the first minute he was talking about squall lines moving from the Florida Keys to the NE with 50~60 knot winds; the cold front that was supposed to come through on Sunday was now due to arrive sometime Friday with similar 50~60 knot winds in squalls. Looked out a porthole and saw this sunrise: red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.

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We weren't five minutes into the weather broadcast before Carol had out the chart book and was offering to call the Spanish Wells Yacht Haven for a slip which eventually she did. They had room so we got underway for the six nm trip in 20~25 knot winds. I was not sure that we would be able to get there; the Explorer charts show 1.7 meters, about 5.6 feet; the chart plotter rounded down to 5 feet, less that our draft of 5.2 feet. Fortunately the tide was almost at high water so we never saw less that 8.8 feet; getting out may be an issue unless we plan for the tide and/or calmer weather.

So, here we sit at Spanish Wells, in a marina again, a place we had occasionally thought to visit but for which we could never generate a sufficient level of interest. Two of the other boats that were at Royal Island also decided to come here. We got a surprise at noon. Dudley, the dock master at the Nassau Harbour Club, had brought his boss's boat over here for some work. So, he came by to chat a bit; if he has to lay over due to the weather we'll invite him by for happy hour although he does not drink.

The weather is going to be challenging through Sunday and that forecast will probably be right. Instead of the south winds that we thought would help push us north, we'll now have to wait for the winds to clock well around to the east before we can head to the Abacos and there's no telling when that may happen.

Posted by sailziveli 11:37 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Back in Nassau

sunny 82 °F

This time by choice, actually; the boat was not yet in need of repair there. We want to head north to the Abacos, a place we visited for a weekend on our first trip here. The weekend ended with concerns about the Westerbeke engine, which performed admirably, until it quit in the middle of the Gulf Stream, but did, eventually, get us back to Brunswick.

We listened to Chris Parker on Tuesday morning. His forecast was for a secondary front to come through on Wednesday with about 16 hours of winds on the "or so" side of 20 knots. With that we were pretty sure that we would not be able to get out the Emerald Bay Marina channel into those east winds; and we were pretty sure that we did not want to transit one of the cuts to head west in those winds. So, after the weather we cast off our lines and headed out. We passed along the port side of that big, blue hulled boat and felt very small in doing so.

We had about 130 nm to cover to get to Nassau and wanted to do that in three days, roughly 40 nm per day. This portion of the trip is about distance, not style. So we motor sailed the whole first day trying to cover and much water as possible. Our thought was to get to Black Point Settlement, hopefully by about 1600 (4pm). We made such good time, rarely under six knots, that we ended up about seven miles north by 1500 (3pm) and anchored at Big Majors Spot, just north of Staniel Cay. Davis and Alice left on Sunday; on Tuesday we anchored about 100 yards behind them.

When we headed south we exited the Cave Cay Cut on the south end of that island onto Exuma Sound. This time we headed for Galliot Cut at the north end of that same island: Cave Cay. Galliot Cut has the benefit of being fairly wide and fairly deep, at least compared to Cave Cay Cut. We hit the cut just before high tide and were fairly lucky. The wind was from the east and the tide was headed east and we got a very small example of what they call Rages here, the waves caused by the friction of wind and water headed in opposite directions. A small example was more than enough.

Actually, the boat is in need of some minor repair. The mast head fly is not aligned, is loose, or both. We can work around this but it is a really good reference for sail trim.

Wednesday started bad and went from there to worse, then awful. Getting the anchor up is not a real challenge, but wind does add a degree of difficulty, and it was windy as Chris Parker had forecast. Carol understands the windlass pretty well but her strength will never be making a critical assessment of a mechanical process. Sure enough, the anchor twisted at the bow roller and wedged in hard and tight, half in and half out. Carol came back to the cockpit but had no real interest in handling the boat in a crowded, windy, shallow anchorage near land. So I piloted the boat out to the fringe where she took over and I started working on the anchor. This work was mostly me hanging out over the bow pulpit and whacking the shaft of the anchor with a ball peen hammer. Enough whacks and it finally came loose and we secured it.

We had covered about 30 of 38 nm from Big Majors Spot to Highbourne Cay and were nearing Norman's Stake, a turning point hard onto a nasty, submerged shoal. All of a sudden the chart plotter started sending messages: Lost Fix. This went on for almost a half hour and was unnerving; it's a long way to Nassau using a small, hand held GPS, our only backup. The signal came back in time for us to make the turn safely and has not been a problem since. There's no explaining it, I suppose. We're been by that place many times without a similar problem. Maybe we can blame it on the Commie rats in North Korea or Islamist terrorists anywhere.

As we approached the anchorage at Highbourne Cay, maybe two miles out, the engine started to lose RPM's, a sure sign of a fuel supply problem. We limped into the anchorage at low RPM's and did get the anchor out and secured the boat. We tore apart the rear cabin to get to the fuel filter. When I removed the filter it was perfectly and purely black, so black that I had stop and think what color it should be: some shade of off-white. The residual fuel in the bowl was not the honey color of the island's fuel; it was dark, muddy and opaque. Big problem! I disconnected, then dismounted and finally disassembled the Racor fuel filter. There is a small float inside and I was concerned that the crud might have caused it to stick. Cleaned everything in fresh, soapy water. Then, it struck me that water and fuel are a poor mix so we got out the Honda generator, fired it up and blew the water out of the interior passages and channels with the small air compressor. We put everything back together, primed the fuel lines and started the engine: it ran, but only for a few seconds. It took us a while to prime the engine successfully but finally, probably blind luck, we got it going and kept it going. We ran it for a half hour at different RPM levels and checked to see if the RPM's were constant with an optical tachometer; they were. Four hours after we anchored we shut things down and counted ourselves weary but successful.

But wait ..... there's more! Thursday morning we ran the engine a while to make sure that the fuel supply was working. We decided that it was and brought up the anchor and headed northwest to Nassau. Our assessment was correct until it wasn't. One hour out and the engine died again. Checked the filter: pristine. The only possible explanation seemed to be a blockage in the fuel tank. So out comes the Honda generator and air compressor again. I blew out the fuel line, primed the engine and voila: it ran. Once again, the most improbable boat tool, an air compressor, saved the day.

When the engine died and we got it restarted, we changed our course to Nassau, opting to take a shorter route through the Yellow Bank and its coral heads. We figured that this would save about 5 nm, an hour of travel time and a gallon less of polluted fuel going through the system. People make this transit all the time but it was a first for us. It was a good day for newbies: flat water and bright sun. The band of coral heads may only be two miles wide, a small portion of the trip. The coral heads are easy to see and to avoid. The issue is that the dark of the coral head stands out well but it is almost impossible to gauge the depth of water over their tops: maybe 2-ft., maybe 20-ft. Since the penalty for guessing the clearance wrong is severe, everybody seems to weave through the dark spots, zigging and zagging, trying not to connect the dots. Boats that usually go arrow straight, driven by wind or motor were all over the place like some kids carnival game.

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We decided not to push the engine for fear that the increased fuel flow would cause things to clog again. After 0 knots and dead in the water 5 knots seemed pretty good and we arrived at the Nassau Harbour Club at 1530. We requested a specific slip location that we knew we could enter without maneuvering, forward or reverse, at high RPM's. They accommodated us and all ended well.

Fuel denouement: I was at a store looking at fuel transfer pumps that I could adapt to clean the tank. I was talking with a lady, explaining the issue, and she asked where we had purchased the bad fuel. I said at the Emerald Bay Marina. She mentioned that there was an article in the Nassau paper about Emerald Bay having old fuel, going bad, because they don't have enough sales volume to turn it over. Mystery solved, it was not the captain's fault!

For all of the aggravation and expense, there is a bright(er) side. Had we lost the engine Tuesday morning, which could easily have happened, we would have been on the windward side of the Exumas in strong winds pushing us toward a shore less than two miles distant. In the many scenarios that could develop from that situation most end badly.

We called Albert's Marine to have someone check the engine, just in case. Surprise, the eponymous Albert himself showed up. He said the engine is fine. Someone will come by on Monday to pump the tank dry and clean it. We are replacing all 50 gallons of fuel, an ugly, unnecessary expense. Carol also wanted to replace the five diesel jerry cans so we did that too.

Since we are in Nassau, we walked down to Lightbourne Marine, a Mercury OB motor dealer, to see if someone would check the carburetor on our motor. They sent a boat by to pick it up. Way cool! We found someone at the marina who will clean the bottom; it's beginning to look like one of the putting greens for the upcoming Masters tournament in Augusta.

The last major to-do was the mast head fly. Carol hoisted me up the mast, not a complicated thing but an activity that works better and more safely with two people on deck. It seems to be hard for any sail boater to walk by a bosun's chair without wanting to help. The magnet worked well this morning and a nice guy came aboard to manage the safety line and the mast mounted cam cleats. My guess was that the problem was going to be very simple to solve or require a complete replacement, not possible in Nassau. We needed a break and got it; it was a loose set screw needing only a couple of turns from a screwdriver to secure it. While I may not have gotten it aligned perfectly, it's good enough for us to sail with.

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The weather has been great, if not always great for sailing. At the southern end of the Exumas it was warm to the point Carol thought it hot; it was fine for me. Our first night in Nassau the temperature got down to 68o; good for Carol, cool for me. Everyone has said that April is a great month in the Abacos and we are looking forward to the time there. Carol has been using her time in Nassau wisely: getting her hair done, making dinner reservations and shopping.

So, by midweek we should have the OB motor back and we should be completely refueled and ready to head north. It's 95 nm run from here to North Man-O-War channel, an access point to Marsh Harbour and Hope Town. We'll make an overnight trip, planning to arrive shortly after sunrise. When there we hope to be able to meet up with Debbie on Illusions and also hope to see David and Alice again on Alice Mae.

Posted by sailziveli 14:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Emerald Bay Interlude

sunny 77 °F

There are some interesting boat name pairings here in George Town. Bojangles and Troubadour, a musical pair; Rocinante and Dulcinea, a Quixotic pair. Troubadour actually did hail Bojangles once on the VHF radio. Not much pairs with Ziveli.

We got back from town on Tuesday very wet. There were a couple of inches of water in the dinghy, some of which got into the (allegedly) water proof bag in which the computer was stored. By luck, or by plan, all the computer gear was also in big zip-lock bags so no damage was done. The fuel/water separator was leaking gas into the dinghy and may be the cause of a new O/B motor issue: it didn't run with much power or high end RPM's on the trip back. Of course, the trip back was not a good candidate for a Bonneville Flats like performance test, since we probably had a few hundred pounds of water in the boat. If Sir Isaac Newton had owned a boat his 3d law of motion would have been: for every problem you fix you also create an equal, but different problem. I think that I can deal with the leak which may also deal with the power issue ..... or not!

The winds arrived yesterday, Tuesday, afternoon. Carol wanted to stay in town for lunch, which I proposed we do; she also did not want to be on the open water in the dinghy when the winds came. In this case lunch lost out over concerns about the weather, and a good thing too. A brutal ride back would have been magnified even more. So, we, and most other boaters, are marooned on our boats. Not a bad thing since there is a water taxi which can be hailed on VHF 16.

For all the very obvious reasons, weather is a big deal on a small boat. As we have searched for sources of forecasts we have found that there is no perfect Bahamas solution for us, anyway. The internet actually has the best source of specific information, scalable to very small, very specific areas. On the other hand, there is no great overview of weather macro-dynamics other than Chris Parker who seems to spend about half of each morning broadcast talking about troughs and ridges in such far away places as Bermuda and Nova Scotia. Combining Chris Parker with the internet seems to present a fairly good picture of both cause and effect. I dislike being in a place where internet weather is not available and have, to some extent, tailored most of our anchorages based on BaTelCo phone towers to get internet access; probably wimpy but I really don't care.

There has been an aspect about the weather here that has been quite different from our previous experience. Typically, when weather frontal systems move through we have been used to having a day or two of heavy, complete cloud cover and periods of rain lasting for hours, frequently longer. Here the clouds always seem to be mixed with sun; rain only seems to come in squalls, lasting a few minutes, rarely longer. This may be because we are so far south that weather systems just break up naturally. I think that we have seen more rainbows in the past few weeks than in the past few decades. Most have been only a partial arc; this one was only the second complete arc that we have seen. It's not much captured in the photo but these colors were especially bright and vibrant.

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In the strange world of 12vDC systems: when trying to listen to Chris Parker's weather on the SSB radio we noticed that there was a high level of interference which we assumed was atmospheric. Then when tuning the antenna to the frequency we noticed that an LED reading light flashed off then back on. Turned off the light and the static disappeared. No other light on that wiring run did the same thing. The lights are all the same and go through the electrical panel; the SSB is directly wired to the batteries so I don't know how there could be any electrical connectivity between the two. Fortunately there is no fix required; we just keep that light off when the SSB radio is on, but inquiring minds still want to know.

For electrical power we have been doing very well. There's been enough sun for the solar panels to contribute and the winds, of course, have been constant, almost eternal. In fact, we have been shutting the wind generator off at night for concerns about over charging the batteries; more importantly, the sound of the generator has become the pea to Carol's princess-like lack of sound sleep. There have been many worry points this trip but power has not been one of them. That's a good thing because, while we are frugal in our use of power, the number of things on board that demand recharging continues to grow: two Bahamas cell phones, one a smart phone; two laptop computers; an iPad; a Kindle; a satellite phone; a camera; a VHF hand held radio. The other two cell phones, USA numbered, will swap for the Bahamas ones on our return.

Carol is a communal, social person and likes to listen to the cruisers' net in the morning. There is a boaters general section in which boaters ask for assistance, beg for parts and barter pieces. We asked for help when the O/B motor was having its first problems and received a tentative offer from another boat. There is a certain misery loves company aspect to this as we have realized that our problems may be unique but that having problems in absolutely not unique. The litany just seems to go on: electronics, electrical, O/B motors, canvas, etc. Many of these make our issues seem like small beer.

In all the diddling with the motor, repeatedly taking the cowl on and off, the gasket that seals the edge of the cowl to the motor came loose. I had not checked to see how the gasket was affixed; I assumed glue. When in town I asked at a store if they had any double sided tape and, surprisingly, they did. A great product and quite well suited for mounting 4th grade science fair exhibits; I'm not so sure about motor repairs. Turns out that the gasket was originally set with double sided tape. It took a while, and some acetone, a product I dislike using, to clean the old glue and foam from the gasket. We are now water proof again, at least for a minute. The new tape cannot be much less reliable than the old tape, I hope. The problem with projects like this is not having access to Ben's infinitely equipped workshop: not the right tools, not the right work spaces and not the right work surfaces.

Carol seems to be, if not intimidated by the new motor, very chary of it. She was generally competent and capable with the 4-hp motor but reluctant to use it by herself, doing so only in confined areas such as the Vero Beach or Boot Key Harbor mooring fields; the logic of that was, I suppose, that there would always be someone around to help her if she needed it. She has never even started this motor and the recent spate of issues will not encourage her to do so.

We have been rethinking our plans. We had wanted to head to Long Island, south and east of George town. But next week the wind will shift to the north meaning no sailing going or coming. I had wanted to go to Cat Island, about 40~50 nm east of here and maybe we yet will; but the numbers are daunting, for the trip west anyway, and I don't want to write nautical checks that our seamanship and stamina cannot cover.

So, in lieu of an actual plan, we headed back to Emerald Bay for access to the internet so that we can deal with the IRS' claim to all that we own. Carol hauled two huge bags of clothing, towels, sheets, etc. to the laundry, none having been done since we were here last. Her rough calculation was that we saved enough money with free laundry to pay for one night at the marina. As an side benefit, I got to watch Florida play Louisville in the NCAA round of eight; Florida lost, bummer! On the plus side, Carol talked Doug, the dockmaster/GM for the marina to carry our IRS stuff back to the states and to mail it when he travels on Tuesday. This will make something that was getting pretty complicated much easier.

The most likely outcome is that we will stay here until the weather settles and the wind becomes easterly again and then head back up the Exumas to Nassua, a trip of two or three days depending on how hard we push. Carol is very keen on spending time in the Abacos, the northern islands in the archipelago. That area gets more and worse weather than where we are now. We have been told that things settle down in April so we would plan about a month there; the north/south distances there are shorter than in the Exumas so that should allow us plenty of time to explore before heading home.

For about an hour this Saturday we had this section of the marina to ourselves. Wendy and Burry had left on the Seahawk; no other boats had people on them. The the big white boat arrived followed by the blue hulled boat. What struck me about that boat was its size, looking to me, after all of these 40 years, larger than the USS Alacrity. I checked the numbers: it is 170-ft. long lacking 20-ft. of being the same size. But, USS naval warship v. private vessel: it's a contender.

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On Saturday evening, 03/24 Carol got taken out to dinner for her birthday, her 66th. We met David and Alice at the marina and David, in a very generous state of being, treated us to dinner, an unexpected but very pleasant evening. We saw them off this morning as they headed north; we expect to meet again in the Abacos.

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Carol on Her special Day!

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Posted by sailziveli 20:57 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (1)

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