A Travellerspoint blog

All's Well that Ends Well

Well, things turned out pretty good after a very bad several days. We have found ourselves depending on the kindness (and competency) of strangers and have not been disappointed. At some times in Nassau it seemed as if half the people we met were actually secret agents for the Bahamian tourist council and were dedicated to being nice to folks like us who, obviously, aren't from "around here."

When the tension level subsided, i.e. the boat was in working order and we had spare parts, we took an evening to have some fun and, at Carol's request, we visited Paradise Island and the Atlantis Hotel & Casino. On the casino side, which we visited, nothing was wagered so nothing was lost or gained. The hotel grounds were fascinating. There may have been as many as 10 to 20 acres of salt water pools filled with native fish. There was a seaquarium aspect where we viewed the pools from below ground level and there was even a below water level walkway with the ceiling being some sort of glass that gave the sense of actually being under water. It was way cool.
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One thing struck us about Nassau: security like we have never seen before. We went to many restaurants, stores to get stuff for the boat, and stores for sundry provisions. Almost every place had the door locked and a buzzer to unlock when a plain sight observation had been made of the entrants. Many others had an unarmed security guards at the door. Then, of course, there were a lot of places that had both. We saw more concertina wire per square mile than Guantanamo Bay has. The local paper in Nassau said that murders were running at a record pace this year with about 23 so far for 2010. There must be a huge crime problem.

That evening Carol was struck by this sunset. Later, after going to bed and turning out the lights, the fireworks began. Not those fireworks, the real ones. We told that when somebody wins big at the Atlantis Casino, fireworks get fired off. It's a good story anyway.
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We had thought to get underway on Thursday but the wind's angle would have problematic to head north, so we stayed an extra day to perform our 100 engine hour maintenance schedule: filters, strainers, fluids, belts, etc.

Friday was a good day for sailing, so we did, getting underway about 1000 and having sails up and the engine off before before 1030. We had a 95-mile straight run NNE to the Abacos, the northern 1/3 of the Bahamas. I had planned our speed/distance calculation to get us there at first light the next day. There was so much more wind than forecast, 15~25 knots, that we actually had to sail with reefed sails to slow the boat down to about 5 knots, something that I never thought we would do. I'm not saying that it was rough, but this was the first time that I have ever made us wear our safety vests and tethers in daylight.

This is the lighthouse at the entrance of Nassau harbour. There seems to me something romantic about lighthouses, a point of nexus to an earlier time when a light in the dark of night showed a safe harbor or the way to a safe passage. They seem to be, today, anachronistic with the pervasiveness of GPS navigation systems. Of course that sentiment was before we had to hit the harbor without any navigation system other than the handheld GPS.
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We arrived at north Man-O-War Channel right about sunrise and were greeted with an unusual sight, to us anyway. On a Saturday morning, about 0730, there were about 20 huge, white sport fishing boats clustered offshore near a channel to the south. As if on signal each powered off in a separate direction, like roaches scattering in the light. My best guess: some sort of fishing tournament.

We motored the last five miles to Marsh Harbour, the principal city on Great Abaco Island. Carol prefers that we stay in a marina after an overnight cruise so that we can rest and recover without having to worry about the anchor dragging, a sensible plan for older folks.

The sensible plan was made better when I noticed that the engine was vibrating way too much, despite having tightened the motor mount nuts and bolts. My thought that there two possible problems: a clogged fuel injector causing the engine to run rough, or the engine was out of alignment with the propeller shaft. When we moored I asked the dock master for the name of a reliable diesel mechanic. I called Basil and he came by about 15 minutes later for a consultation. His verdict: the injectors are OK but the engine needs to be aligned. Not too much of a surprise.

We are staying at the Conch Inn Marina. No plan, it was just the phone number that Carol decided to dial. This marina is quite different from any others at which we have stayed. If there are 60 boats here, less than a dozen are private craft, not available for charter. Most of the boats here are for charter under the aegis of The Moorings, a company with which Carol and I are familiar. When we spent a week on a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands, arguably the best week of our lives until then, and definitely the genesis our our current peregrinations, it was through the The Moorings. Also The Moorings uses Beneteaus exclusively for mono-hulls and when we bought our Beneteau part of the due diligence was to ensure that it had never been out for charter. We glommed on to a brochure about chartering vessels. The going daily charter rate for our boat, newer and shinier, but not so well equipped, would be a minimum of $400~$450 per day. Since we're approaching 90 days on the boat, this comparison is the only one that I've ever seen that makes owning a boat seem economical.

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So, on Monday morning, as promised, Basil arrives with his partner, Michael. If these guys ever get tired of crawling around in tight spaces, they could auction themselves off as a pair of interior linemen in the NFL. They dutifully aligned the engine and then Basil recanted his comments about the fuel injectors being OK. He thought that the fuel injector pump could be having issues.

After lunch Carol and I had one of the conversations that can only be had after about the first 40 years together. To wit, if the engine is a risk, where is the best place to manage that risk. Quite easily we agreed that the USA was better than the Bahamas.

How to get home? I thought to head straight to Brunswick from Marsh Harbour. Carol wanted to go south of the Abacos and head out from Freeport. In the end, we did neither, a compromise of sorts. The weather forecasts had the wind dying later in the week, and we do not carry enough fuel to motor for the 100 hours that might have been required. The irony of relying on an engine to get us somewhere so we can address that engine's unreliabilty was not lost on us.

After just a few hours we had the boat, and ourselves, ready to go and departed at 1630 and cleared the reef by 1830. We decided to go to Cape Canaveral which has is a Class A channel, a trip of some 200 straight line miles which caused us to travel well over 270 miles. No hay problema!

And there wasn't, until we were in the middle of the Gulf Stream, about 65 miles from shore. The unreliable engine, the object of all this, just quit. I tried to restart it one time and instead of blowing the fuses, as at Devil's Cay, it just about drained the batteries, still a bad deal. Maybe una probelma after all.

Not to worry. We had the wind and it was cranking the wind generator and the batteries were recharging. We planned to sail to the channel entrance and then have Tow Boat US tow us in. That plan was working pretty well until we were about 30 miles off the coast. The wind died, we were too far from shore to use the VHF radio and there was no cell signal that far out. It was Devil's Cay deja vu all over again, a sick feeling.

After an impatient several hours, I decided that we needed to try to restart the engine. This time the three electrical switches for which I had much cussed Beneteau, came in handy, because I was able to isolate the house side of the batteries and remove the risk of them draining. Still no luck with the engine but no damage to the other batteries. Then I remembered a small, obscure reset switch on the back of the engine. We hit it and, a miracle, the der diesel started and we were able to make it thought the channel almost all the way to the ICW, near Cocoa, FL.

We'll clear Customs & Immigration and the putt-putt up the ICW to Brunswick, arriving there some time next week.

Posted by sailziveli 05:45

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Glad to hear that all IS well since it has ended well! the old quote seems to always be true--"Tuition in the school of life is expensive"
What they dont say is that the rewards are great! Glad that you two are safe...and sound? We will be looking forward to seeing you back in SC before too long! A and M

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