A Travellerspoint blog

April 2010

Used Sailboat for Sale!!!!

No Unreasonable Offer Refused

Sometimes even boats have bad days, occasionally getting a nudge in that direction from the captain and crew.

We were about to get underway on Friday for Devil’s Cay, a relatively sort 23 nm jaunt. I heard the bilge pump cycle; no big deal, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Then, about 5 minutes later, I heard it cycle again, not a good sign; it’s never done that. Sure enough, there was water everywhere. A quick turn on the nearest through hull did nothing so we checked forward of the mast where the two transducers, speed and depth, are located. Each has a threaded locking ring and the ring on the speed transducer was loose and water was just pouring in. It was a very simple fix but a sad harbinger of things to come.

We got to Devils Cay with no problem and tried to set our big Manson anchor; several tries later it was clear that there was no way it was going to set. So, Carol putted around in circles while I switched to the Fortress Danforth anchor. It set, sort of, but not very well. I was backing the boat down to try to get the anchor a better purchase when, once again, predictably, chaos ensued.

The floating, polypropelene dinghy painter, somehow, got drawn into the propeller and stalled the motor; the boat, by the way, was still not well anchored and was dragging. Now we have no power; so, into the water I went to cut the line free from the propeller and shaft. This took a little while but was not a major problem other than our traveling companions, the barnacles, which shredded my back and arms. When I tried to restart the engine …. Nothing! The boat was electrically dead …. No motor, no refrigeration, no circuits were working, especially neither of the radios.

This was looking pretty bad, and the boat was still not well anchored. So, using the dinghy, we put out a second anchor that seemed, in combination with the Fortress , to hold. We were majorly S.O.L.

There were two other boats in the anchorage and one of the boats had come by to offer assistance. We were out of cell range and the big VHF radio was dead as was the SSB. I took the dinghy over to their boat and, miracle #1, Steve on the Fine Lion had a satellite phone which he used to call BASRA (Bahamian Air Sea Rescue Assoc.)

While we’re waiting for BASRA, Carol and I are furiously working on what I thought was the fail point: an on/off switch which can block the ground and shut the entire boat down. I had a couple of spares all of which we tried with no luck. The boat was still dead.

BASRA #1 – Chester showed up about an hour later from Little Harbor, a few miles to the south of Devils Cay. We tried a few things electrical, none of them doing any good. So after discussing our options we decided that if Chester could drag us the ½ mile to open water we would sail to Nassau, about 40 miles against a tough wind, which meant going well over 50 miles with tacking.

Chester, good to his word, got us to open water with enough wind in the sails to make way. So, off we go …. No navigation equipment except a small hand held GPS unit, no navigation lights, no compass light, headed toward a very busy harbor and no radio other than a small handheld VHF unit with a not too great battery which we have to save for when we near Nassau. The cell phone had no chance to work ….. we were tens of miles away from a signal and cannot recharge the unit and were very low on minutes.

We sailed for about eight hours, including two long tacks to get a decent line to the east of the harbor, before I took our first GPS fix. It was miracle #2: from our position, the wind would allow us to hold a line to the harbor entrance and, when we arrived, we were only about ½ mile from the channel and on the correct side, the east, which meant that we could bear away from the wind and nail it, if only we had a motor that would go.

BASRA #2 – We had asked Chester to contact the Nassau office to let them know that we were heading to Nassau under sail and would arrive sometime after sunrise and would need a tow into the harbor. We arrived a little before 0800 and waited to call BASRA. They were PO’ed at us. Somehow, in a classic failure to communicate, a boat had been sent from Nassau to Devils Cay to tow us to Nassau, and they were blaming us for screwing up and wasting their time and money. No one would come out to tow us in and there’s no way that I could have sailed the boat into that harbor, maintained control and anchored; the wind was wrong and I had never been into that harbor before. I’ve been at the helm the whole way, almost 24 straight hours, and I’m 63 and feeling every year of it. The VHF radio battery was gone and the cell phone battery was fading fast, the captain was fading fast, we still had no motor and no plan and were quickly loosing our ability to communicate.

I don’t know what happened behind the scenes but, eventually, the Bahamian Coast Guard came out to take us in; the two guys didn’t seem to happy about this but they got us through the channel and into the harbor. I thought that they would take us to the marina but they dropped us off at an anchorage and told us that this was all they could do, appreciated and all, but we’re never anchored a boat without power, and by the way there is no power to the anchor windlass, so we cannot use our chain rode, which added to the degree of difficulty.

But …. we were ready for this, sort of. We got a smaller spare anchor and hooked it up to a spare 200-ft. rode and over the bow it went. Miracle #3 … the anchor set right away and held with a pretty good wind backing the boat down. Off goes the BCG and we’re on our own again. We used the dinghy to set a 2d, bigger anchor using our spare 350-ft. rode; this one also set and held. It’s ironic that the best anchoring event we’re had in the whole trip was with no power. The other thing was that we had the right equipment in the right places and were able to use it under duress, a modest accomplishment but way better than the alternative.

I used the dinghy to get to the marina and pleaded with Dudley, the dock master, to get us towed to the marina. Since we had no power, if our anchors did not hold we were going to crash into a bridge, a sea wall or a cruise ship, all three bad alternatives. He located a young man, Gumm, who, with his boat, did, finally, get the boat into a slip. Secure at last, but the boat was still dead, no refrigeration, we could not even use the stove because the gas solenoid would not work.

Here’s where things got interesting and provided a bright side to an otherwise dismal sequence of events. Our boat neighbor, when he heard our story immediately gave us 10-lb’s of ice. Dudley called an electrician who came to the boat on Monday. When I Saw Gumm on the dock I said that I would have offered him a cold beer but we had no refrigeration. So, Gumm shows up about ½ hour later with an ice chest with a 25-lb. block of ice inside for us to use.

The proximate cause of the whole fiasco: two blown fuses, one 200 amps and the other 130 amps. The larger fuse shut down the house side and the smaller did the same for the engine starting circuits. I had done a visual inspection on both and they seemed OK. The only way to tell they were gone was with a continuity tester. The electrician found one problem and I located the other myself. Many, many lessons learned.

The boat, Lazarus-like, now works as it should. No shore power and we’re doing fine. The concern is whether this was a one off event, or are there other things working that could cause a remise. We did have spare fuses, one each, but we used those; sailing with no spares seemed like a bad idea.

So, off we went to buy some replacements. No luck at the electrical stores people suggested. We’re walking back to the boat planning on stopping in every marine store along the way. Carol sees a place and suggests that we try there. I said that I would wait while she wasted her time. Miracle #4: about 20 minutes later out she comes and tells me to come upstairs, which I do. Carol had barged into the office for the pilot boats which meet the large ships, including cruise ships, to guide them into the harbor. She has cornered the guy in charge of maintenance for all of the pilot boats. Poor Eugene has never encountered and could not prevail against a Nordic princess cum verbal tsunami like Carol. Long story short, he had someone going to the states to pick up parts for his boats and offered to get our fuses with his stuff.

BASRA #3 - We stopped by the BASRA office to make amends and to atone; we were told that when the facts finally became clear we had not been the cause of the problem. We made a donation and joined the Assoc. which we probably would have done anyway, but it seemed like the right gesture.

So, the boat works, we have parts, we’re rested and the sun is shining. We survived a difficult experience, met some wonderful people and, maybe, will keep the boat a while longer.

We haven't really spent any time enjoying Nassau other than a Domino's pizza and some Haagen-Daz; we've been consumed with getting the boat and ourselves ready to go. Where to go? We haven't decided. We have more boat tasks to complete today, Wednesday, 04/28. We'll leave the marina tomorrow and, depending on the wind and weather, head east to Eleuthera, north to the Abacos or just wait things out at anchor in the main harbor. We sort of plan to start heading back to Brunswick about mid-May hoping to get to the house in early June. But, as the sage said, "Man Plans, God Laughs."

Posted by sailziveli 04:34 Comments (0)

The Berry Islands

We spent eleven days in Bimini, about six too many. Bimini has some charm but it is not enduring. It is, more or less, somewhere between a 2d and a 3d world country. But, we enjoyed the first few days.

Carol discovered a new delicacy, for her anyway: conch. Being an omnivore, she loved it. I put conch in the same grouping as octopus and sea urchin sushi: the mere fact that something can be eaten doesn’t mean that it should be eaten. Regardless, a guy came by the boat selling fresh conch and she bought several and has eaten most of them by herself …. no need to share! The rest I’m going to use for bait. So, the fish get to cast the deciding vote on conch: eat it or ignore it. For one of the few times in 40 odd years I’m hoping that Carol gets the best of this contest; trading conch for fresh fish sounds like a good deal to me.

The last week was frustrating. The Berry Islands are due east of Bimini and for a week the wind blew from the east between 15 and 25 knots; it was unrelenting. I charted, recharted, plotted anew, and ran every possible set of numbers. The short answer was, as the farmer said, “You cain’t get there from here,” at least in a safe and responsible manner. Sometimes I wonder whether we’re being prudent or weather wimps. I did notice, though, that no sailboats left Bimini for the east while this weather held.

So, Tuesday, 04/19, I awoke at 0400 and something was majorly different … silence. The wind was not slapping water against the boat; it was not stressing the mooring lines which creak as they stretch and then creak again as the return to size; it was not rubbing the boat against the fenders and the dock; it was not shrieking through the wire rigging and it was not turning the wind generator at destructive speeds. It was a good day to leave, so we did, getting underway at 0630.

We had 93 miles, a two day trip, to get to our goal: Frazer’s Hog Cay. We don’t know who Mr. Frazer was; he probably had a Scotsman somewhere in his past. His pig is a mystery to one and all. The hope was to get about 2/3’s of the way across and to anchor near the NW channel. In fact we only made about ½ of the way and, since there were not good anchoring options, we stayed at MacKie shoal.

A shoal just ought to be sand and, in fact, as we crossed the pellucid water we saw lots of sand mixed with rock. Down goes the anchor and the game began. We had a lot of trouble getting the thing to set firmly. Finally, thinking that it had, we shut everything down. For a pre-shower rinse off, I decided to put on mask and fins to check out the anchor, always a good idea. All the sand we had seen was collected in hollows on the rock. The anchor had about six inches of sand covering it in a small depression. With no prospect of doing any better, we left it there, the expensive, 45-lb. anchor little more than a paper weight, contributing less than the several hundred ponds of chain we had put out.

I was pretty sure that the wind would be mild that night; it was. And we had anchored in anticipation of a wind shift; it did. Despite the shoal, we had lots of room to move if the anchor were to drag. Regardless of all this, I stood an all night anchor watch, up every hour to check to see if it was dragging. It never budged an inch and was difficult to raise the next morning. My guess is that the point must have caught in some crack or crevice.

Having over 50 miles to do the next day, we got underway at 0430. Carol made her contribution and then told me that she was going back to sleep. Captains used to keelhaul crew for less than that. But, then, those captains were not married to their crews. A captaincy just isn’t what it used to be in these modern times.

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Regardless, I saw this sunrise and we had a good day sailing and motor sailing to get to the mooring field, making the 50 nm in about ten hours. After very little sleep the night before we were both zombies and didn’t make it much past 2100.

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Update on conch: one night I put out a chuck of conch on our rod & reel. Carol called me to the cockpit to tell me that something was going on with the rod. In fact, something had a mouthful of conch and was stripping line off the reel faster than I could tighten the drag. Net result: no fish. But when I was stowing the rig the next day I saw that whatever it was had chewed the black coating of the wire leader. Very Interesting.

Carol and I had a walkabout on the island, Frazer’s Hog Cay, today. No scenery to speak of, but interesting none the less. The interior of the island has no, none, zip, nada, scenic interest. The island itself appears to be limestone; we lived in Illinois and it looks about the same. If it’s not limestone then it’s some sort of sedimentary analog of limestone. We had not seen native plant life on Bimini … too developed and too inhabited. Here, everything, except the Australian pines, was native. There’s not much soil over the rock and nothing grows taller than 12 to 15 feet again, except those Aussie pines. The vegetation here is incredibly dense, branches and leaves each intertwining with their neighbors to create an impenetrable mass of green. This appears to be the survival adaptation: with shallow roots, the greenery has a mass that hurricane winds can barely penetrate at the edge and cannot reach the center. If nothing stands above the mass the winds can only damage the periphery and plant life goes on.

We did find a great beach, just on the west side of Texaco Point, where we entered the channel to the mooring field. This area can also be used as an anchorage in the right winds. It is down on the list of things to do the next trip.

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When we had been in Bimini for a day or two I made the usual inspection of the motor compartment. On the deck, under the motor, was a huge bolt, 17mm, along with a lock washer. I thought about it that night and decided, since there was no nut, that it may have come from a part of the motor mount. In the event, that was exactly right; I found the empty threaded hole and put it back. About a week later I got to thinking about causes and symptoms and wondered if the loose bolt might be an indicator of a larger issue. So today, Thursday, I decided to check the other bolts. Long story short: of ten bolts in the front, eight needed to be tightened; the ones in the back seemed OK, but the rear layout is more complicated. Anyway, I hope that this reduces the motor vibration; it cannot hurt.

On Friday, 04/23, we are off for Devil’s Cay, still in the Berry Islands. It is remote and completely uninhabited. A guy we met in Bimini had been there and said that he liked it very much. We will see for ourselves.

Posted by sailziveli 03:39 Comments (0)

Alicetown, Bimini

sunny 75 °F

Well, we finally made it to Bimini. We set out to go to the Bahamas on 11/18/08 and actually arrived on 04/09/10, a mere 507 days later, more time than Darwin needed for the Beagle to get to the Galapagos and more time than Capt. Cook needed to sail to and discover the Sandwich Islands.
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This was our second try to cross to Bimini this trip. We were going to leave on the Saturday before Easter, but arriving on Easter Sunday seemed like not such a good plan what with customs, immigration and all. So, we left on Easter Sunday. The wind was forecast from the ENE, which seemed workable, at 15 knots. In the event when we were about 10 miles off shore it became clear that the winds were from the east, dead on, and the 15 knots had morphed to 25 knots. There was no line we could have sailed to get across the Gulf Stream and hit Bimini. So with heavy seas, high winds and no plan, we retired back to the Marathon City Marina which we had just left.

That was OK because there were some water projects that required a Home Depot. I had been getting a great deal of longitudinal input (married men will understand these code words) from Carol about the taste and smell of the water in our tanks. She didn’t like it; I had never noticed. So in goes an inline filter from the tanks to the main faucet in the galley. I also jerry rigged a two stage filter for using hoses to fill the tanks. I also had to reinstall the foot pump that Carol uses after it became loose and would not work.

With time on our hands we worried about our potential vulnerabilities. All boaters obsess about the weather and, away from the internet, most people in the Bahamas listen to Chris Parker on their Single Side Band Radios, one of which we have. We had not been able to hear him stateside, too much static, maybe, we thought, there was too much interference from cell towers and such. We hoped for better reception in the Bahamas but that put a heavy burden on HOPE. So, we decided to sign up for the XM Marine Weather service and to have the antenna installed to download the information to our two laptops. What a mess. I spent two full days on the phone with technical support centers trying to get either computer to work, one with Windows 7 and the other with Windows XP. Eventually both did work despite the efforts of all involved, sort of a spontaneous digital healing. This was the first time I had had to deal with unstable software since the days of Sears using IBM’s O/S 2 operating system. Getting XM Weather was a wise choice; we still cannot receive Chris Parker and an internet connection here is the impossible dream.

Thursday, 04/08, was the day; the winds were, more or less, correct for the trip. We had about 36-hours before a storm front was due to arrive. There was no way to lay down a plot line …. too many variables, some of which themselves would vary over the course of the trip. The one rule that seemed to apply was not to let the course over ground be smaller than the bearing to Bimini, e.g. Bimini is at 060 so steer 080. It is better to head up from the south than to have to head down against the current from the north.

Everything went about as it should have until we got to the Bimini channel waypoint. I have only mis-entered the coordinates of a way point once; this one I got wrong twice. I thought that this error was the reason that I could not find the channel markers. Wrong! Seven of the eight markers went to buoy heaven during a hurricane so, we hung around off shore to watch some boats exit the channel. Then we took the plunge. It turned out OK but there were some surprisingly shallow waters where deep water was supposed to be the deal (to be fair to the chart publishers they did mention shifting sands).

I’ve cleared customs and immigration countless times around the world. This was the first time that I have done so with papers hand written in triplicate using carbon paper and lots of official stamps. Fortunately, it was a painless process, no lines and no hassle when we had written stuff on the wrong lines of the forms.

The water here is beyond beautiful and no picture I will ever take can convey that beauty. It is clear from the darkest blue of the very deep water to the aquamarine shades in the shallows. The west side of the island is mostly a white sand beach, and relatively high ground: probably 15~20 feet above mean low water. The view across the Straits of Florida is memorable.
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Bimini seems interesting but not in any way that would compel us to stay for an extended period. It’s predominately a black island, but I probably knew that. It’s interesting to be in a minority and not a problem because everyone, so far, has been very nice.

There is not much in the way of money here or good jobs to bring money onto the island. Some government positions, a few with utilities and some service jobs at hotels, etc; that’s all. Tourism seems to be the only way that new money comes onto the island.

One of the major economic activities with tourists seems to be sport fishing. This picture notwithstanding, I don’t know if Bimini was the island in the opening section of Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, although he wrote most/all of it here. If it isn’t, it certainly could be. The western edge of this island is remarkable. The water depth goes from 30 ft. to 3,000 ft. in maybe a mile and only a couple of miles from the beach. And, the deep waters of the Gulf Stream are where the big fish are to be had. A powerful sport fishing boat can leave Alicetown and be in very deep water in less than 30 minutes. Many of the marinas and one restaurant have 8”x10” pictures of folks with their catches of the day, some of the blue fin tuna going to 1,000 pounds.
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The cruising guides mention this store or that restaurant, a bakery or a bar. When you check the place out what is on offer is, maybe, a front room with a couple of tables or a closet sized space with some shelves and not too much in the way of merchandise on them. Carol noticed that all the inside workers are women, not men. Coming from the America of huge malls and Super Wal-Marts, it’s hard to understand that this level of retail activity can provide for and sustain some 1,700 souls, but it does.

There is only one main road: the King’s Highway, which runs the entire length of the island, not more than 7 miles. It’s easy to imagine that this was once a horse and a wagon path. There are a few cars on the island but these are certainly out numbered by golf carts, gas powered, not electric.
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It seems like about one of every ten buildings is abandoned and simply on the way to being completely destroyed by water and heat. Only a few buildings seem to be maintained and those not assiduously. Maybe the answer is that there isn’t enough money to get the job done or done economically. There is only one real estate agency on the island and not many For Sale signs.

This house was an exception. It’s a very nice house, very well maintained. Our guess, from the lions rampant, is that it was the residence of some British official before independence.
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One of the places we found was an abandoned resort at the very south end of the island. In modern terms it was like finding a Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan. From what I've seen of the island, if I were staying here, this is the place I would have wanted to be. The story is that some 30 years ago the family owners came on hard times and squabbled among themselves and it then fell into disrepair. Now, it is completely overgrown. It must have been special: several acres with the best views on the island. Now only one unit is occupied and that one looks like its ready to go.
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We rented a golf cart for a few hours to tour the island. This took about three hours with lots of stops for pictures; it’s not a very big place. Some things we saw, or didn’t see were:
• No public school, although when we asked, folks said that there is one, the building just isn’t what we would expect.
• No parks or playgrounds for kids with swings, slides, etc.
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• No obvious source of electrical power generation, although there is electricity.
• No obvious source for fresh water and only a few buildings have cisterns. The marina at which we are now moored has fresh water showers and a fresh water swimming pool.
• Only one gas station; it’s at our marina.
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• No franchises of any kind. But, there are two stores called Honey Buns, one north and one south; maybe we’ll read about that IPO in the near future.
• It was interesting to see that at least one bar has a no smoking policy.
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• The island is well churched, maybe 7 or 8 that we saw, including, of course, an Anglican church.
• Most boats moor in the harbor on the east side of the island; this boat is an exception.
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• There are free range goats, supposedly from the wreck of a Haitian refugee boat.
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In the Florida Keys killing a conch is a capital offence, Key West billing itself as the Conch Republic, without actually having any more conchs. Here, plainly, not so much of an issue; there are piles of shells along the shore and they are used for borders and fences. Conch fritters are as common here as French fries are in the states. Carol had a conch and lobster omelet for breakfast one day; the chicken needed no pity from her and the conch and lobster got none as she cleaned her plate.
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Most of the northern end of the island, maybe a quarter of the total area, has been purchased for a development: Bimini Bay. There are a lot of houses and condos built there already, although some seem to be spec houses, unfinished inside. The cost of entry is pretty high …. $2.0 million for a ½ acre lot; since every construction supply except sand for the concrete has to be brought in by boat, the cost of a house would probably be astronomical. We both like the deal on our 18.8 acres a lot better and we don’t have to worry about getting wiped out by a hurricane’s storm surge.

This has been an unusual winter, one not conducive to sailing. We waited out a hard freeze in Brunswick, the weather in Vero Beach, the weather in Key West and the weather in Marathon. Now, again, we're waiting out the weather in Bimini. We’re not sure about the next leg of the trip. We need to go east but there is a stalled high pressure area to the north and the forecast is for winds from the east at 15~20 knots through 04/15. To go east we have to cross the Grand Bahama Bank, running 15~25 feet deep. The wind on the bow in relatively shallow water with a fetch of some 70 miles would make for a very rough passage. I've read Milton and I do not agree that, "they also serve who only stand and wait," but waiting we are.

Posted by sailziveli 09:56 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating Comments (0)

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