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The Saga Continues

sunny 66 °F

Well, we did not get off on Wednesday, as we thought we might. We continued to be concerned about LPG gas leaks. We had a gas guy by the boat on Wednesday to check things out; he smelled gas but could not identify a leak. His first admonition was not to over tighten the hose to the tank -- that might damage the seal. His second was that maybe I had not tightened the hose enough causing the leak. I have not yet figured out how to split that difference without a torque wrench, which I have not owned in decades, which really would not work in this application.

So on Thursday, we are having, we hope, new valves installed on both tanks, one of which, arguably, may need a new valve. As a precaution, we cleaned the tank compartment off accumulated detritus and poured some water through the vent to ensure that it was clear; it was, a good thing.

After four days of intense work, addressing serious issues, it seemed almost bizarre that on Wednesday and Thursday we had no tasks, chores, checks or maintenance to accomplish. The transition from warp speed to impulse power was startling but appreciated; we both needed the break. One day was good but, two days was strictly marking time; as of 02/23/2011 we have spent 23 days in Nassau at this marina. Too many, just about 1/3 of the trip, so far. But at least it's warm and pleasant here, although Spring Creek may get to 70o today.

Mr. T. brought the tanks back this afternoon. One was in need of a new valve, which was changed. The people here are amazing. He came by on Wednesday and checked our system; on Thursday morning he picked up the two tanks; on Thursday afternoon he returned tham and wanted nothing for his time. We gave him some extra for gas but it was little enough for what he had done. Carol has been checking and has not yet smelled anything.

So, on Friday morning we plan to leave for Shroud Cay, a fairly long trip that will take 7~8 hours. Of course, we have planned to leave before and stayed tied to the dock.

Posted by sailziveli 06:07 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (0)

Back to Normans Cay .... OOOOOOPS, Not So Fast

sunny 70 °F

By about 0730 we were ready to start throwing off lines to get underway. I was turning on the electronics and the VHF radio was intermittent and, then, went quiet and dark, a very bad thing because it is the first use safety device on the boat. Big problem! I opened the panel to get at the radio's back side to start checking it. Carol got my electrical tool box and I searched for a continuity tester, of which I used to have two; now that number is zero, and I don't know why, but it falls on me. The continuity tester and a multimeter are either 1A and 1B, depending on the electrical problem at hand. I was able to use the multimeter to check the power supply: good. Checked in in-line fuse: good. Having no better ideas I eventually disconnected the cable to the remote handset. Voila! The radio worked, although I have no idea why that would be. Then I remembered that when we exchanged a non working handset at West Marine they had given us the whole enchilada and we had a replacement cable and fittings. A couple of ad hoc tests showed that the old cable was the culprit and the new cable was a/the solution. All the problems that we had thought were in the handset were, probably, cable related.

Pulling the old cable and running the new one was a fairly straight forward except that we had to empty about half the boat to get access to the cable run which meant that Carol had to remove just about everything in the galley above the level of the counter top, an area she considers her sovereign domain and sole suzerainty. I, of course, have a permanent easement through there since about 2/3's of the boat's wiring runs through that area. The whole job took about two hours; the repair of the galley, much longer. The odds of me figuring out the problem and, then, having those esoteric parts is about a googleplex to one. Sometimes it's good to be lucky.

Since it was too late to get underway, we decided to hang around Nassau another day and do some other work. Carol defrosted the refrigerator and I completed the non-motor part of the 100-hour checklist and a good thing too. When Jason and I were working on the engine we turned off the raw water through hull and nobody thought to turn it back on which meant that we would not have gone very far had we left.This was a rookie mistake of the first order. Since I always check the exhaust when I start the engine there's a very good chance I would have picked up on this, but, perhaps not. Regardless .... another bullet dodged.

But that bullet was small caliber compared to the high explosive (literally) artillery in the afternoon. One of the two LP tanks went empty, way too soon it seemed to us, having last been filled on January 18th. Another one of those things that you don't give much thought. Carol made arrangements to get it filled and I hooked up the full tank. I thought that I smelled gas and asked Carol to check since she is better at these things but she was too stuffed up to be any use. And, the smell could have been from the tank change over. After fretting about this for a couple of hours I went back and disconnected the tank for no good reason other than to mess with something that was bothering me. And, then I saw it or, actually, didn't see it: the o-ring that makes the seal between the brass fittings was not on there. After a second of panic about how to get a replacement here, I looked under the tank and found it. So, for three hours we were, and for three weeks we may have been, leaking explosive, combustible LP gas. This is a truly terrifying thought. Fortunately, LPG has a specific density of about 1.5 and there is a vent in the tank compartment through which gas can exit so everything turned out OK but this one will cause some lost sleep. Kudos to Beneteau for designing an owner-proof boat. The other thing to do is to get a backup o-ring when we get home or, maybe, someplace along the way like Marsh Harbour.

Carol's comment at the end of the day was that maybe having the radio problem turned out to be a good thing. She was probably right, but that could only be true on our boat. Four four days we have been working our asses off, Carol having a much larger and wider margin for error than do I, dealing with issues as they arose. We talked at dinner about whether we have become more resilient. Carol thinks yes; I'm not so sure. Boats being boats, there really is no choice other than to handle situations as they arise and to do what has to be done. What we lack is a baseline as to what level of issues should arise and where we are versus that baseline.

On the other hand, we are here, in the Bahamas; life is pretty good. We have no specific timeline for the trip so there is no sense that we have lost time. We have all of March and April, and into May, to go where we want and to see the islands. So, these problems have not detracted from the trip unless we allow that to be the case.

Tomorrow, Wedneday, if the LP canister gets filled early we'll head out. If not, we'll stay yet another day in the friendly confines of the Nassau Harbour Club Marina and leave on Thursday for Shroud Cay.

Posted by sailziveli 19:22 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Nassau Three-peat

sunny 73 °F

It was pretty cool when the Bulls did it, a Three-peat, and then, did it again, a Repeat Three-peat. On a boat, going back and forth to Nassau, not so cool. We commuted for three decades in Chicago and don't need to be doing it from the Exumas to Nassau. It was a boring commute, no wind, no speed since we did not want to push the engine. One again, we are in the same slip in which we have moored two other times: another Three-peat. I told Dudley, the dock master, that we had earned a plaque with our names on it for slip #48. But that would mean spending a lot more time here, something we don't want to do.

There has been much discussion in the certain media and some literature about the Mother Ship, and its arrival, including those poor souls in San Diego that thought that it had arrived before they perished at their own hands. Well, Carol and I did, in fact, see the mother ship about 12 nm SE of Nassua -- a confirmed sighting -- with pictures. And, the mother ship had her five, count them, baby boats,all in a row.

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This was the second time that we have returned to Nassau from the Exumas and the two days were so nearly identical as to evoke a sense of deja vu. On both days there was very little wind, and what breeze there was had clocked around to the south in anticipation of a front arriving in 36~48 hours. The seas, of course, were almost flat and glassy. Both days were bright and sunny; since we were traveling, generally, to the NW, the sun was hammering the cockpit from the back, so much so that Carol spent most of both the trips in the cabin to escape the sun.

I guess that being back in Nassau is a matter of perspective. I think repairs .... yikes! Carol thinks restaurants ... yippee! No to overlook shopping, showers and other things that so delight her. Once again the first night in meal is pizza. I'm starting to wonder if maybe she didn't sabotage the engine just to avoid cooking a few meals. In her defense, away from Nassau there has not been very much eating out and she has been doing a lot of cooking.

On Saturday morning I decided to tackle an item on the list we had made. Inspect and tighten the bolts that hold the engine mounts to the boat. It seemed simple but necessary since we had found a couple that seemed less tight than they should be. Just to get some spares, I completely took off the nut and bolt from the most accessible of the eight. I saw that the threads on the bolt were badly stripped; no alarms went off, I thought that I might have done this with my overpowering 140-lb., maybe, of mass and muscle. So I went across the street and bought like for like and a few extras and started re-installing new stuff in place of the old. I found it odd that I was using a 17mm wrench on the bolts but a 5/8-in. wrench on the nuts. Still no alarm went off. I didn't like the fact that Keith, the installer, had used locking nuts and small washers. So, midstream I sent Carol with one of the bolts to buy some non-locking nuts. When she returned, after having done three with the original parts the alarm finally went off. I'm not too bright but on a good, average day I can usually avoid full tilt stupid. I guess I did not hit average until about noon. Keith had mixed metric bolts with standard nuts. Of course, the threads were stripped and, of course again, with stripped threads they were not very tight. This may, or may not, have anything to do with the immediate and proximate problem of vibration, but at some point in the future it certainly would have. The last bolt that I changed, one of the ones I had newly installed, we so cross threaded that the only way to remove it was to torque the head off, the good news being that there was room to do this.

So, the final tally was: six bolt sets, six hours; lots of blood on the deck from scrapes, scratches and slashes; old and new parts trashed, lost and discarded ... about $100; my frustration level ... priceless. And, the job is only 75% done because there are two bolts that were just too hard to access by myself. We thought that we had written a check to obviate all these problems. The evidence seems to prove otherwise. I have to admit that I have had unkind thoughts about Complete Yacht Service.

Carol has a new favorite restaurant in Nassau: Montagu Gardens, so named because it is only a few hundred yards from Fort Montagu. It's an older place, probably dating back to the 20's ~40's. The food is good and, by island prices, very reasonable. Carol, who seems to have an aversion to ordering the same menu item two times in any calendar year, has twice had their seafood platter. On this particular night we met our starboard side boat neighbors at the bar and shared a table with them for dinner, a pleasant evening with no shortage of boat stories to go around.

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Sunday was another work day, for me at least. 250 hour maintenance on the new engine required several tasks that I had never done before and several that I had never done on this engine. Only one was left undone; I needed to have planned ahead and ordered a spare gasket, which I had not done. At the end of those two days I would have sold off Carol and thrown in Wile E for the promise of never having to hold any wrench in my two hands again.

Come Monday morning we called Albert who sent Jason to look at the engine; after about 5 seconds Jason said to turn of the engine, he had seen enough. The engine was, in fact, very badly out of alignment having severely twisted one motor mount and the proximate cause of the problem was the mismatched bolts which occupied my Saturday. In realigning the engine one of the two offending bolts which I had been unable to do by myself, Jason and I did together. The final vote was that the 8th bolt was just too hard to get to without removing the marine gear (aka transmission). So, it sits waiting for the next owner to handle. The realignment was not quite as good as Keith did during the installation but infinitely better that the mess with which we arrived. On the other hand, I may just be hyper-sensitive to vibrations now and not giving enough credit to Jason. There is no consolation in being correct about the problem and its cause. The right answer would have been: no problem at all from a proper installation.

Setting aside boat problems, we were invited back over to Doug's boat for drinks, he and Sunny having returned to Nassau, as did we; they, however, are headed west for the trip back to the states. We decided that Sunny is a boat princess and probably would not adapt well to life on a smaller boat and a sailboat at that. They are fairly new to each other, building a relationship, something which I admire and respect. I cannot even imagine doing that ... too old, too tired, too set in my ways.

Carol with Peter, the marina manager.

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Sunny and Doug.

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Tomorrow, Tuesday, we'll head back south to Norman Cay an see what we were unable to see on our first, abbreviated visit. Then we'll try to hook up with Debbie L. who is only an island or two away from Normans Cay.

Posted by sailziveli 20:07 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Allens Cay

sunny 82 °F

Having spent the morning doing boat stuff, we decided to move the boat about two miles north to Allens Cay, a place we had admired on our ill advised dinghy ride to SW Allens Cay. The new anchor windlass worked well both in deploying the anchor and recovering it. So, we decided to give it a try in a little more complicated situation. We had been watching across the water to see how crowded the anchorage was; the previous night it had been very full, lots of masts. We figured that if we waited until about noon, many of the boats would have left but that it would be too early for folks to get there from Nassau. So we had the anchor up just before 1200. Despite the very short straight line distance, we had to travel about 5 nm around reefs and other obstructions to get there.

There are three cays and several rock formations that form the anchorage here, rather like at Warderick Wells. This is more interesting, an exercise in VPR, Visual Piloting Rules, i.e. pay attention and watch where you are going, do not be in a hurry to get there. Follow an unmarked channel through the cays; negotiate a very narrow but very deep channel about a boat length from the rocky shore; drive the bow of the boat out over a shallow sand bar to drop the anchor, allowing for the tide changes; when the anchor sets, let out the rode until the stern of the boat is, again, about a boat length from the rocky shore. The anchor is set in less than 7-ft. of water and there is almost 20-ft where the boat is. And we are on a short scope, needing probably another 15-ft. to get to a standard 5:1 ratio of water depth to rode. And, it's not very sheltered. And it's drop dead gorgeous, worth the time and worry unless the anchor drags.

As per usual, I swam out to the anchor prior to my shower and inspected the anchor. The bottom was very hard under a thin coat of sand. The hard point was dug in, but not very deep. We had backed the motor down hard and the anchor had held well, but it looked, at best, as a marginal set, not too concerning at the time. The left handed good news was that the Danforth anchor would not have set at all in this bottom.

We timed things just about right, there being only four or five other boat here when we arrived, one of which left shortly thereafter. This is Leaf Cay, the eastern side of the anchorage.

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Last night was very uncomfortable, the boat rocking and rolling, never still. Some things that have to be learned, I guess, the words on a chart not conveying the import of their consequences. The channel runs north/south, and indicates a strong current; the wind has been straight from the east. The tidal flow and the wind must work in opposition, somehow, to create all the movement. Despite all the evidence that the anchor held like it was welded to the bottom, the whole thing made for a sleepless night, worrying that the next tug on the chain or the next wave surge was going to be the one that caused the anchor to move.

So, we're going to declare victory, say, "Been there, done that," and move on down the road to a different place where I can sleep well at night. Don't know where, but we will be watching those little arrows that show tidal current with a deeper understanding and appreciation.

Our merit badge was to see this sunrise before we left. The gaps in the islands might also be part of the reason that we had such a rolling night.

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Posted by sailziveli 10:09 Archived in Bahamas Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

Back to the Exumas

sunny 79 °F

Woke up Sunday morning and the stalled front over New Providence Island had finally engaged the clutch and gotten into gear and moved on. Clearer skies, high winds, 20~30 knots, and cooler temperatures. Of course, when I turned on the computer and saw that Hot Springs was 16o and it was 72o in Nassau the air felt a little warmer, at least by 56o. That didn't last though; bu 2:00 pm it was 31o and 66o, down to a 35o difference. I would not wish cold temperatures on the folks back home but, please, give me some warmer ones.

Having nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, I decided to re-rig the secondary anchor to the way I would have done it the first time if I had actually been thinking without my head in my nether regions. The new way is better and if it does not rise to the standard of elegance it is, at least, way less ugly and somewhat more functional. Then I got to thinking about the big Manson Supreme so I downloaded a video taken underwater of it engaging in sand .... pretty impressive. I also saw that Lloyd's of London, insurers of lots of big ships, had given it an SHHP rating for Super High Holding Power. So, off went the Danforth and on went the Manson, as a test. If we don't like it we will put the other one back on the chain. I couldn't think of a better place to stow it so it, too, is back on the bow pulpit -- very crowded! Small boat, many anchors, not enough good places to put them. I think about anchors like Big John thinks about bullets: you cannot have too many when the crunch comes.

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We want to leave on Monday and have been watching the weather, which does not look so great. The front has moved along but seems to be pulling stuff from the Gulf in behind it. The winds are supposed to abate on Monday, 14~17 knots,enough for us to feel comfortable leaving but still a lot of clouds, cooler air and possible rain for the next several days. At least the barometer has started to rise, going from about 29.90 last night to 30.20 today.

Got up Monday and it did not look very good; overcast with heavy, dark clouds; wind kicking up whitecaps in Nassau harbour. With the wind the modest temperatures felt very cool. It was a great day to leave the dock. A couple of years ago we would have hunkered down for another day but now we were in a hurry to leave, so we did, getting underway at 0740.

There were only a couple of other boats also heading east. One was a smallish catamaran and these folks seemed completely clueless. I almost radioed to ask them to maintain a course for at least three minutes so that I could pass them but that would have been a public rebuke and unkind, although appropriate. And then I thought that all boaters have to have a first trip and this was, I hope, theirs. So, we worked our way around them and put that boat quickly over our stern.

The wind was pretty good for sailing, which we did much of the way. We, again, elected to head south on meridian W77o 10' and made really good time. It's really hard to sail slow on our size boat when the wind is 15~20 knots, which it was. When we made the turn for Highbourne Cay, we were about 10o inside the wind and the foresail was useless, so we took it down and motor sailed with just the main sail.

Along the way I noticed an unsettling vibration, seemingly near the stern, right under the seat. One of the benefits of having a boney butt, I suppose, is that there is less between me and the boat, so I feel these things. My immediate concerns were motor mounts, the rudder and the zinc that I had just installed.

WE arrived and had the anchor down by 1430. From the last time here we learned that there is more and deeper sand closer to shore so we went in and dropped the anchor on what we hoped was an all/ almost all sand bottom. When I swam out to inspect the anchor it was well and truly buried, showing just a small portion of the top arch. So, we're one for one with this anchor which is always better than zero for one. We'll keep the Manson on for now. While doing that I also checked the zinc -- OK-- and the rudder -- very solid. Earlier I had checked the motor mounts -- all seemed very tight.

Carol did not have a good boat day on Monday, having done little right and much wrong, culminating in discovering that when she re-installed the bins in the forward cabin she did that poorly and they had come loose, shifted and spilled all their contents ... a big mess. I secured the bins this time; the rest was her job.

On Tuesday morning I turned on my BTC smart phone to read the WSJ and to check the weather. Nada! I called the BTC service center and was told that internet access, at least the wireless portion, is down for the entire country with no prognosis on when the service comes back up.

As the anchorage started to clear we saw this boat getting underway with a spinnaker, a sail we have never actually seen before.

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On Tuesday morning we set a time and channel to try to call our friend Victoria on the SSB radio. She is in Stuart, FL, and the propagation tables directed us to the 4 MHz band which we duly selected. No luck there; I could not hear her and do not know if she heard us. We'll swap emails to figure that out. I have also discovered that our SSB handset needs replacing, the plastic coating on the curly-cord handset having disintegrated. I think that the handset wires are intact, but maybe not, or maybe not well.

Having rigged the secondary anchor, I was looking for a place to put the larger Fortress anchor and could not come up with a likely spot for it. Then came the DUH! moment: if you are truly anchor obsessive, I am, why rig the smaller of the two anchors? So out came the tools and I moved the large Fortress anchor to the side and brought the smaller Fortress anchor to the stern where it had spent the past three years. While securing the anchor hangers the magic hands struck again, dropping a very good, very expensive 11mm ratcheting wrench off the stern. This was particularly aggravating since it was a replacement for the original in the set which I had lost over the side a year ago. It seemed like it would be easy to find, shiny metal, 16-ft. down, directly below the stern. Even when it's not too windy, like today, the boat moves .... a lot. I did find it eventually, maybe 20-ft. from where I started looking. Hopefully, a good soaking in 3in1 oil will prevent it from rusting solid.

We are back again at Highbourne Cay, a place we left on January 23d. We have no particular plan in mind other than, eventually, to head south to George Town. We know that Debbie L. is not too far away so we might stop near her for a day or so. And, as Luke would have said if he were on a boat instead of in jail, " Sometimes (doing) nothing is a real cool hand."

Posted by sailziveli 14:27 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas sails Comments (0)

Nassau's Not So Bad

overcast 75 °F

We really don't want to be here. Nothing against Nassau, per se, it's just that we like the remoteness and tranquility of the out islands. We lived in the Chicago area for about 30 years and if we wanted to be cheek to jowl with several million of our neighbors we would not have moved to the mountains, 45 minutes from the nearest grocery store. Only about 250,000 people live on New Providence Island, some 7 miles by 20 miles, smaller than Singapore. But after being in places where the population is measured in dozens, this seems like the Big City. The Big City, of course, has its uses and, today, we did use it. Carol and I are incompatible by personality by totally compatible by values and many inclinations. On the way to Nassau we started a list of things to do when we arrived. Having blown off Tuesday afternoon and evening in favor of pizza and sloth, on Wednesday we got going. New batteries for the AM/FM radio remote; buy a copy of the third Stieg Larsson book.

One of the niggling problems has been with the outboard motor fuel line; the fuel tank end won't come off and the O/B motor end won't stay on. So, today, while walking about, we saw that there is a Mercury O/B motor dealer on East Bay Street, the brand that we have. We explained the issues to a knowledgeable man who filled up a bag with parts that he said would correct the problems. It's a miracle! I built a new fuel line from the parts and they all fit, as promised. No more sudden stops because the fuel line fell off the motor and the motor then ran itself dry. This is a good thing.

The other dinghy issue we discovered was that our dinghy anchor line was too short. Bruce, who spent four years cruising the Bahamas, told us that we needed a 50-ft. dinghy anchor line. We had about 30-ft. and he was closer to right than we were. So, after a few stops, we gathered the stuff to make a new anchor line to go with the new, cheap Danforth anchor we bought. I spent the afternoon splicing 3/8-in. line to put together a rig of more than 40-ft. which, we hope and believe will suffice, despite Bruce's admonition for a little more. Working with 3-ply line is one of the only true sailorly things that I can do. I have not yet learned to work with braided and double braided line; I have watched it being done, but that was not enough for me to be able to replicate the splices.

Once again, my job was to clean the cockpit. It was pretty thick and when I lifted the mats I discovered that there was a small colony of rare and reclusive marine marmots living there. They had been thriving on spilled cereal and other food detritus from meals taken in the cockpit.

We are about half way through with fueling, needing only to refill the jerry cans. And, surprise of surprises ... the new anchor windlass arrived at the marina office on Wednesday, at about 3 pm, having been ordered on Monday at 10 am. This was an international shipment, after all. Peter gave us some advice on how to avoid the duties that could have been charged; presenting FedEx with the right paperwork saved us several hundred dollars, and Carol did not even demand a night out based on the savings, although she did hint that she really would like a night at the Atlantis Casino and Hotel. My response was that we could do that but only if she agreed to carry her things to the hotel in a pillow case, which may actually be the only luggage that we have on the boat.

And to make the day end just perfectly, we have an appointment with and installer for Friday morning. Edwin (Eddie) M. worked on our boat about two years ago and we were able to secure his help again for this project. Dudley, the dockmaster for the Nassau Harbour Club Marina, is his cousin and rousted him, him being Edwin, to accept the work. Dudley, it seems, is also related to everyone in the Bahamas, having roots in the Black Point Community on Great Guana Cay where we spent several days and, probably, will again. Our geographical connection is that Dudley lived for a while in Charleston, SC, and, while there, dated a woman in Greensboro, NC, before moving back to the Bahamas. So, we have a bit of North Carolina in common; it's thin, but it works.

On Thursday, another work day, for me, at least, while Carol was playing at being a Steel Magnolia at the beauty parlor. When I had earlier checked the zinc on the shaft there was nothing there ... completely gone after having been installed in Ft. Lauderdale, when the new propeller was put on, maybe seven weeks ago. That seems to be too short a time for such a large zinc. I had asked a local guy about the water in the harbour and he said that it would be cleanest when the tide was flowing out, bringing in clean water from the east. Seemed reasonable. So on goes the wet suit; this time I decided to use the weight belt too, which I had not used when trying to clean the bottom at Great Guana Cay. Nature has not provided me with a lot of built in flotation so it seemed strange that I would be so buoyant in the wet suit but, there must be a lot of air in there so the extra dozen pounds or so made a big difference. I was very close to neutral weight in the water. Big difference, much easier. Putting on the new zinc was a pretty easy thing to do, taking only a few minutes under the boat. It was the first time I had installed one of these on the propeller shaft. Cleaning the bottom was more problematic. The normally clear water was turbid; the clouds blocked the sun; I don't have vision corrected goggles so visibility was pretty poor. The job got done, mostly, but I doubt that I did it well so, I will probably have the opportunity to learn from this when I do it again and again. When I got out of the water I was able to see an oil slick on the water, something Carol had been able to smell, like someone had dumped a load of diesel fuel to the east. I don't think that I swallowed any water but I was concerned about stomach issues which have, so far, not come to pass.

The promise from Lewmar was that the new windlass will be a direct replacement for the old one. I did a quick visual inspection of the new unit and this has a good chance of being true. The supplied gypsy, 002, is correct and will fit our 5/16 chain. The hole alignment and size looks the same. The switches and circuit breakers seem identical.

This is the top side of the unit. The forward/top part is missing the cover and several parts that I removed to get the unit semi-functional.

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There is even more stuff on the inside of the boat, in the forward cabin.

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Of course, this is a boat; there is always a premium on working space. Carol agreed to remove much of the landslide of stuff blocking access but doing more would have resulted in a mutiny.

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Success looks like this, all shiny and new. It took about six hours, more or less, to remove the old one and get the new one installed. My two concerns were (1) that the old windlass had been embedded in 5200 sealant/adhesive, in essence, welded to the fiberglass. This was, fortunately, not the case; the prior installer had used only sealant. And (2) that the holes were not of the right size and orientation. This also turned out not to be an issue. The new one dropped into and bolted into all of the old holes perfectly. The only change was in a wiring block, a different arrangement than the old one. When Eddie had finished he broached the issue of us selling him the old windlass for his boat. We settled on cash and the old unit which seemed like a good deal to us since we had no good idea where to store the old one for the next few months. It seems that Lewmar had learned some things along the way: no plastic parts on this guy.

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After several weeks of, almost, Edenic weather the past few days have been more ordinary. There has been a stalled front right over New Providence Island with the attendant clouds, rain and cooler temperatures. The rain was nice, after a fashion. When the boat gets sailed hard and close to the wind there is always a lot of salt water spray that settles all over, especially on the strata-glass in the canvas surround. Every morning when we get up the strata-glass is covered with water droplets and the first thought is that it just rained. Wrong answer! In the cooler temperatures at night the salt absorbs water from the atmosphere creating the droplets. In the heat of the day the water then evaporates. An interesting cycle.

A couple of days ago a rather large, 52-ft., motor vessel moored across the dock from us. They're nice people and invited us over for drinks and we got to see how the other half lives. Very well, indeed. Their galley is larger than our cabin. The boat was built in mainland China and all the visible work seems very nicely done.

We are, again, waiting for weather. Tomorrow, Sunday, is going to be very breezy so we may not leave until Monday which will be a little less breezy but still brisk. Tuesday would be better but we have been too long at the dock and we are ready to get underway again.

Posted by sailziveli 19:12 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (0)

Back to Great Guana Cay

sunny 83 °F

After the party was over we got back to thinking about more practical matters, like what to do now. We decided to head back to Black Point Community on Great Guana Cay. I wanted to see the Super Bowl and Lorraine's was having a party of sorts and has a flat screen TV. Carol wanted that shower and needed to do some laundry, all easily possible here. So, at about 0830 we had the boat ready to get underway and started recovering the anchor. It was a problem; the links kept jamming and Carol had to work with the windlass to keep it pulling the chain in when the links jammed. At the time, it didn't seem like much of a problem.

A couple of boats got out before us and when we hit the way point we headed north on a beam to a broad reach with 15~20 knots of winds helping us along. The foresail took a while to go out, the line having bunched up in the furler, a fairly simple fix as it turned out. While I was diddling this line the other boats were merrily pulling away from us. When we finally got the big dog out and trimmed we flew, rarely going less than seven knots, occasionally going over eight knots, and passing boats along the way. It didn't take very long to cover the nine miles and to head into the anchorage.

The first time we put the hook out I did not like the way we were positioned with the other boats. So back up comes the anchor except this time it well and truly jammed. I had to disassemble part of it to free the links, which I did, and put it back together. Carol got the anchor almost onto the the bow roller and it jammed again. Big trouble this time ... I sheared the head off one of the two bolts and had to prise things apart ... not good. Having done that I again freed the jam and we got the anchor out and well set. When things settled down I went back to the bow to look things over and saw a broken windlass piece in the chain locker. No telling whether it broke and then the chain jammed or the chain jamming caused it to break. Doesn't much matter anyway, the problem is what it is. With the cover off I saw where the broken piece had been, got out the allen wrenches and proceeded to shear the head off another bolt, seguing from not good to actually bad. I did get the first broken bolt out; the second one looks like a problem. Joe V's advise on frozen bolts was good if I had thought to use it which, of course, I didn't. A lousy end to a pretty good day. The windlass is functional, I just don't know how well and for how long or what problems might occur with the cover removed and that piece missing.

I called Lewmar, the manufacturer of the windlass, immediately. Duh! It was Saturday and I hate having things like this pending but there was no choice. Carol did laundry on Sunday and but never did get around to that hot shower. Sunday evening arrived and at 4:30 pm we got to Lorraine's Cafe thinking that we would be early for the Superbowl Party. Wrong again. There was almost no room to be had, Carol and I being about the last of 60 people to show up. Lorraine put out a pretty good spead of food, had lots of cold Kalik beer and we had a good time. There was one man there with a ship's hat from the US Navy, not an unusual sight and I paid it no particular attention. At halftime, when he was moving around, I saw the ship's designation, MSO-471, meaning Mine Sweeper Ocean, the last of which, I thought, was decommissioned about 40 years ago. I served on MSO-520. We talked a bit; he was in Charleston, SC from 63-65; I was there from 67-69. He confirmed that all the mine sweepers are long gone, the USS Skill, his boat, having been chopped up in the early 70's. The USS Alacrity, my ship, was given to the USCGS in the early 70's and probably now is also into pieces.

60 people there and only one other person was rooting for the Giants. I had to love Tom Coughlin, the Giants' coach. He was on the sidelines before a huge game singing along with America the Beautiful and The Star Sangled Banner. He seemed to know the words. That was rewarded with a win, and a good thing too. We almost left early but, fortunately, stayed for 59 minutes and 2 seconds.

Posted by sailziveli 15:03 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (0)

Little Farmers Cay

sunny 77 °F

Carol and I, well, really me mostly, decided to try to sail out of the anchorage at Black Point settlement as we had seen others do the day before. Predictably, once again, chaos ensued and we added yet another chapter to the seemingly endless and unabridged version of Amazing but True Anchoring Follies. It was pretty windy and the boat did handle differently with the sail up. Regardless, Carol let the anchor chain get behind the bow and then signaled a turn to the left; the anchor was to the right. The chain caught on the fin keel and we were riding beam to the wind, not bow forward. I was pretty sure what the problem was, hauled in the sail, threw on my dive mask and jumped into the water. Problem confirmed. Fortunately, Phil, on Amazing Grace, saw what had happened and brought his dinghy over. With his dinghy he pushed the bow around until the chain freed itself and all was again OK. We could have used the motor to turn the boat to the same result, but this was easier. It's good that neither one of us has a "boating ego."

A day that started with a debacle had a mid-morning delight. When we cleared he anchorage we again put up the sails for a straight 9 nm run to Little Farmers Cay. The apparent wind was 20~25knots and we started with way too much sail and, eventually, brought in the foresail to the 2d reef point. The boat was still a load to handle making at least 6 knots and, sometimes more than 7 knots, consistently heeling about 20 degrees, too much for efficient sailing but fun none the less. This was really the first good sailing with the wind being right to allow us to go directly to a way point.

It took a lot of physical exertion to handle the boat in that much wind. At many points I was using both hands and both feet on the helm. Our boat weighs about 14,000-lb. empty and about 17,000-lb. fully loaded, which it is now. 15~17 knots of wind is probably optimal for sailing; over that the wind wants to overpower the boat and push it around. Scott, from the Ft. Pierce blog entry, whose boat weighs 38,000-lb., said that he needed 25 knots of wind to make the thing get going and 35 knots was good sailing. Maybe an overstatement but it does frame the issue.

The anchoring was easy ... good, deep sand that swallowed the anchor. When I swam out to the anchor I saw a huge starfish each arm being more than 6-in. from tip to the center of the body, probably weighing to 2~3 pounds; swimming back I saw another almost as large. In other places I had seen empty clam-like bivalve shells on the bottom. A starfish explains that. This picture looks like what I saw, except for being half, or less, the size.

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There is a restricted area in the anchorage, an approach/departure area for airplanes to use when landing or taking off. We are not in the restricted area, just, but are no more than 100 yards from it. Carol watched a plane land into the wind and did not feel that there was any issue. I wrote a email to the chart plotter company mentioning that this area did not show up on their screen which seems an oversight. I expected more boats here for the festival; but, maybe it's early days yet or they may all be anchored or moored on the other side of the island. (follow on: when I saw a plane fly overhead, I decided that we were too close so we moved a bit and reanchored; the airport has been busy and even farther south, where we are now, seems dicey)

Tuesday night David and Dana had folks over to their boat, Toucantoo, for BYOB happy hour. Dana actually cooked corn chips from flour and made some salsa ... it was really good. We got to meet some new folks on other boats. Wednesday morning Debbie had a champagne breakfast for the girls, the "girls" in this case being mostly over 60 except for Dana who could probably be a grand daughter to any of the "girls."

On Wednesday afternoon we went we went ashore, literally. We took the dinghy to the beach and then dragged it onto the sand and made the anchor fast into some bushes. More informal evolution: Carol's job when we land is to be first out of the dinghy and into the water while I secure the engine. When we leave I push us off, start the engine and scramble into the boat. It works.

This island is different. All of these islands are austere in their beauty; all the islands, including New Providence Island, Nassau, have been very clean. This island is very trashy with all sorts of detritus along the roads. Not nice. Walked about, had a beer at Ali's Bar; met Ali, a presence here about. In Nassau we had met a couple, Fred and Karen, and Carol and Karen hit it off well, Carol hoping that we would cross paths with them again, which we did here at Little Farmers Cay. They have also fallen into a group of boats with whom they are "travelling." We got back to the boat just before dark.

We have been in warm waters for six weeks or so and the water line in particular and the bottom in general have gotten a little bit green and furry so I decided to clean things up. On go the wet suit, fins, mask and snorkel and over the side I go plastic putty knife and scouring pad in hand. The concept is simple; the work is not. Both tools were useful, the putty knife for really thick stuff and the pad for everything else. The problem not yet solved is how to maintain contact with the boat .... every stroke in the water pushes me away from the boat, Newton's Law about opposite reactions, or something. Anyway, most of the starboard side got done in one session and the whole thing will take several days. The good news was that there are no barnacles yet on the bottom.

This morning I spotted a strange sea creature, rarely seen in this parts: Aquatica Carola Rubia. Her bathing suit, actually more like a track suit, would make those of the early 1900's seem immodest but, given her history with the sun a fair enough solution. This was the first time that she has gone into the water this trip and only the second time ever that I can remember her having done so.

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David swam over and chatted a bit when I was through for the day with the hull cleaning. After a few minutes back on his boat he started this special, Australian regime of Sailboat Calisthenics.

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The anchorage got considerably more crowded on Thursday with at least 15 boats arriving after lunch, this picture having been shot on Wednesday evening; by Wednesday evening the place was getting very busy. I did not try to count the number of boats around the island, never having had a good look at the eastern side. There probably were not 100 boats there but the count would not have been too far off that milestone.

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Since we are in a crowded anchorage and know many of the folks we have been keeping the VHF radio on. Really, really irritating! There is a tremendous amount of hailing going on between boats, probably like the old party lines.

On Friday morning I watched this ship approach for at least 30 minutes and was never able to figure out what the tall while things were in the bow, an inappropriate place for most possibilities such as antennas. When the boat was about 50 yards away it all became clear: C Class racing boats. Since this boat passed us at 0830 the chances of a 0900 start time for the first race looked slim.

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We waited a while for some news over the VHF which called for a 1200 start time, So, Carol and I took the dinghy around the point to watch the race. This is the community center. There was music and food; Carol and I split some sort of grilled fish, maybe snapper, for lunch while we waited and waited for things to get underway.

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These boats arrived sometime on Thursday or very early Friday; they were not the ones on the freighter. I guess that C Class racing is the Bahamian version of NASCAR with boats assigned permanent numbers; a few have sponsors. These three boats were also the very last to the start line.

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Guys were getting the boats ready to go to the starting line.

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At he starting line all the boats get into a row and put out their anchors.

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When the start signal is given up go the anchors and the sails in a mad scramble.

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Each boat carries two PRI boards, each wider than the boat and each with a set of angle irons through which the board slides from side to side. If a boat had five guys, four would be hanging out past the edge of the boat, no restraints or safety lines, trying to counter the wind heeling the boat over. These guys are tough and really good sailors.

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The race finally started at about 1:30 pm and took several hours so we headed back to the town center, fearing that we had missed the 1:00 pm wet t-shirt contest. Not to worry, they were still trying to round up contestants. Carol, having an appropriate level of modesty, demurred even when I suggested that there might be a 65 and older category. In the event, the floors and walkways stayed dry and no ladies got goosebumps or hypothermia, maybe a good thing since the average age of the ladies there was well north of 18. The only picture I was able to take that was politically incorrect and misogynist was this lady at the races. I know that Rhett will be disappointed in me but these folks are on sailboats not Harleys.

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While there I did get to make a courtesy visit to the Farmers Cay Volunteer Fire Department.

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The games continued with a schedule of Hermit Crab Races with betting but only for a dollar. Carol and I did not win having picked slow crabs.
The paddock and the race course.

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Carol and I stayed until dusk, retiring to the boat. Debbie leaving the Ocean Cabin Bar & Grill.

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The day was a very good one and both interesting and a lot of fun. Some outside money did come onto the island, but maybe not enough for a slow year. It was worth doing and doing again

Posted by sailziveli 12:58 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches boating bahamas Comments (0)

Great Guana Cay

overcast 83 °F

We topped off fuel on Saturday, using 10-gal. The fuel dock was a good hike from our boat so Carol and I schlepped the two jerry cans there and got them filled. The man who filled the cans got a little "incensed" when we started to carry them back; he wanted to do that for us for no good reason other than to be nice! I don't know if there is a genetic trait for being nice but if there is it's deeply rooted in the DNA code of the Bahamians.

We saved topping off the water for Sunday morning before getting underway. There are some mistakes that require a specific sequence of steps that seem too improbable to happen ... ever, but always do. To wit, as I was filling the tanks, and taking longer than I thought it should, Carol called out that the head was flooded and was within 1/2-in. of spilling over the threshold into the main cabin. I had (1) left the shower faucet on/open the evening before and, (2) also left the water switch in the ON position when I checked the tank levels. We were pouring water into the head faster that I was putting it into the tanks. Full tilt stupid and almost an identical repeat of what happened at Dinner Key Marina on our first trip south! There the water was free; this time I estimate that there was $4.00 to $6.00 sloshing around in there. Due to the spill I don't have an accurate gauge on our actual consumption from Nassau to Staniel Cay. However, it must be running at less than 2-gal. per day and is probably closer to 1-gal. per day. Whatever the number may be on that spectrum with 110-gal. on board we are in good shape.

I woke up very early Sunday morning trying to figure out how we were going to get off the dock that morning. Not only was the wind an issue, pushing us onto the dock, a large boat was moored about 5-ft. from our stern. It was pretty wide, at least 15-ft. I knew that there was going to be a period that morning when the wind died and that was the target time to leave. Well, the water issue put paid to that plan; then a rain squall blew through. So we split the difference. While we waited the boat behind us left but the wind had picked up. Carol thinks that It Takes a Village to get anything done; I believe in self reliance. I'm the captain; we did it my way, but not easily and not well and with Carol, not quietly. We finally pushed the boat far enough from the dock be able to use the motor to get positive movement and everything went well after that.

The trip was less than 10 nm and did not take very long. We anchored, no problems; David was swimming in the area and checked our anchor set, said that it was good; I went out later to look for myself to see what "good" looks like so that I can evaluate in the future. Of the 5/6 boats closest to us, we know or have met the folks on five of them. It's a small cruising world.

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This morning we watched several boats get underway for Farmers Cay, including Debbie's boat, S/V Illusions. She, and one other boat, raised her mainsail prior to raising her anchor and sailed out of the anchorage. It looked pretty cool and we will, probably, try it tomorrow when we leave.

After I finished my WSJ and tea, I went below to find that Carol was tearing apart the front cabin, her closet/pantry/whatever, without any bidding from me. She had decided, quite on her own, that she wants to be able to use the shower in the head as a shower rather than as a storage locker, the impetus coming at Staniel Cay where she wanted a shower to wash her hair and, in her words, almost cried when told that they did not have guest showers at the marina. Back (1) to washing her hair in the sink and (2) cleaning, actually rearranging, the head. I like the idea, water usage not withstanding. It has always been rather like walking into a cave with stalactites and stalagmites surrounding me so less stuff in there will be nice.

Having left the dock at Staniel Cay, if not successfully, without any apparent damage to us or the dock, this morning I woke up worrying about wind and weather. While I lay in the cabin and listened to the wind whipping through the shrouds and rigging I guessed 20 knots. When I finally got up and turned on the wind instrument it was 19 knots, not too bad, and not enough wind to present a problem. I look at two weather forecasts that extend to two weeks, a functionally useless time frame since weather forecasts out past 48 hours tend to have a lot of room for change. Both of these forecasts have been predicting a period of heavy winds, 30~35 knots about 10/11 days in the future. As he forecasts update the high winds always stay out there at the 10/11 day window. This got me to thinking that, while they have been wrong about the timing, at some point that situation will happen. So, we now have a nine step plan, in two parts, that we can follow if we are at anchor and the winds get troublesome. Not much original, and a lot of advice from Mike S. on what he has done when the crunch came. It's reassuring to have this plan to follow rather than having to deal with the situation in an ad hoc manner under duress.

We thought that we had finished all of the hard cover books, many left at marinas along the way; this would amount to several thousand pages, one book having gone to 900 pages. Carol found several more that will go to the head of the reading list. We have started saving the books rather than leaving them so the we will have some "currency" to join the library in George Town when we arrive in the next week or so. We thought that we had all three of the Stieg Larsson books; but Carol, having finished the first two, is unable to find the third. But, she still has another wrapped "brick" of books to check. We are two months into the trip and the the supply looks about sufficient to the remaining duration, but it could be a close call. I am sure that we will be swapping out books which mean that running out should be a remote, but disastrous, possibility.

We had a short walkabout on the island. This is the first island on which we have been without any obvious commercial enterprise, usually a marina with attendant businesses. It appears that the only jobs here are small owned businesses, e.g. restaurants and stores, or the government enterprises, e.g. BaTelCo, Water and Sewer, Bahama Electric. It is a pleasant place, even more low key than others we have visited. This looked like a place that sees a lot of action on a Saturday night.

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These flowers took root in the crevices of the rocks, beauty finding a way.

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We have heard and read about a peculiar type of Bahamian racing sailboat called: C class boats. We finally got to see some here. These boats are called catboats, or some variation of that name, with the mast almost all the way forward and they look awesome; they have a sail to waterline/weight ratio that cannot compute ... very tall masts and booms longer than the boats themselves. We saw one in a yard and it was not surprising that they have very full, deep keels for boats their size. We may get to see some race at Farmers Cay.

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Ziveli, at anchor

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Coming back to the boat at noon we thought to get underway for the short trip to Farmers Cay. But the weather turned fairly ugly so that plan is in abeyance until the morning. This a good anchorage with good holding and decent protection from the east winds.

Posted by sailziveli 12:20 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Staniel Cay

sunny 77 °F

The commute wasn't too bad. We upped anchor at Big Majors Spot at about 0930 because the marina said that slack water would be near 1030 and arrived just a few minutes ahead of that time having proceeded very slowly. The wind continued unabated from the SE at 17 knots. We worked our way to the channel although the chart plotter had a span of water at 5-ft, but the slack water was at high tide so we were OK. There is a nasty shoal/reef between the narrow channel and the marina and a big sailboat was anchored right in the wrong place, the equivalent of a semi parking in the middle of an exit ramp on the expressway. F.... Him! seemed like the best policy so we came very close to his anchor line, closer than was polite, but did not actually cause a problem.

I should have seen this one coming but blew it. We had requested a berth wherein the SE wind would push us toward the dock; an easy landing versus a difficult exit. Things were looking pretty good and then the marina guy said that he wanted us farther up the dock, not at the end of the dock where I was headed. I was screwed; I tried to get some forward momentum by revving the engine, but the requested wind was in charge and only accomplished a game of bumper cars, caroming down the dock until folks took pity on the old guy and tried to salvage the situation. It looked like a 911 call and I know what those look like. 15 people helping to manage 3 lines, trying not to embarrass the captain, moi! We finally got moored and, I hate this part, people came by saying that they thought that I did pretty well CONSIDERING THE WIND! Humility is an earned trait and I have earned more than my unfair share.

When at Warderick Wells Cay we took that dinghy ride to Rendezvous Beach where we met and chatted briefly with David, an Australian, and his boat person/partner/crew, Dana, she being from Washington state, a relationship that Carol and I are too old to understand, if it is in fact even a relationship as we would understand that term. Turns out that we are moored directly behind his boat.

So the four of us headed over to the "store" where Carol dropped off our laundry. She's liking this part, moving from doing laundry to managing laundry; she was an executive and has a graduate degree, after all. There was a thatched pavilion at the store; while the others were doing business I went out to sit in the shade and ended up engaging one man in conversation. It was wonderful; he owns a business in Nassau and was here to visit his mother. One of the items we discussed was all the incomplete construction on the several islands, something that David had also noticed. His explanation was interesting. He said that these are retirement homes on the family islands. The construction is proceeding apace with the plan to be completed in several years. People take time off to work on the houses; this year a foundation; next year a course or two of cinder block and so on until the target retirement date when a lot of stuff gets done all at once. It seemed credible. He also said that lots here, on Staniel Cay, were going for $1 million. The locals can afford housing because their land had been owned by their families for generations.

Talking with David was also interesting both culturally and generationally, he being in his mid twenties. Our governing concept, family, kids, house, career, is alien to him, at least at this point. He's a boat and water guy, and if those two things can somehow give him some sustenance, he seems to be good with that. Aspirations, goals, long term do no seem to be part of the deal except, maybe, getting the boat back to Australia. He mentioned that he had been to Cuba and scuba dived at the Bay of Pigs, seemingly without any sense of the history of that place. Still, he is a very pleasant, very personable young man and we enjoyed the afternoon and we will probably see him again as both boats head south. Hanging out with people young enough to be our grandchildren is interesting.

Some work did get done. We cut my hair again, no pony tails for this sailor despite how cool Mel Gibson looked in Mutiny on the Bounty, greasy hair! And, I cleaned the cockpit which after about 10 days looked pretty much like a land fill. I'm not sure how that area gets so dirty. Maybe it's windborne. We will have to get used to a dirty boat, or one cleaned only with buckets of salt water. At 40 cents a gallon, or more on some islands, if I don't get a fresh water bath then the boat doesn't get a fresh water bath.

Friday being January 27th, our anniversary, we think, we went out to dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club; it sounds better than it actually is. Carol has bought two new dresses this trip and tonight she wore the first of those, purchased in Ft. Lauderdale. It must have been a big night: she washed her hair and made a point of mentioning that she was actually putting on eye makeup, a first this trip she said, as if I would have ever noticed.

To get to the restaurant area we had to walk through the bar which had the ubiquitous large screen TV's showing sports. So, what's on TV? Cross country skiing -- blond, Scandinavian white guys named Anders and Bjorn wearing Lycra suits and sweating on the snow. Go Figure. Cool Runnings is alive and well on a small island in the Bahamas.

Dinner was nice; they started with conch chowder, which I actually tried. However, when we got back to the boat I felt an almost irresistible impulse to put a fish hook in my mouth and to flop around on the deck. Carol had lobster and was glowing and radiant, as all women are on special occasions when they feel special. I liked the Key Lime pie and complimented her eye make up.

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One of the reasons that I was eager to come to Staniel Cay was,"Bond, James Bond," this being where the grotto scene from the movie Thunderball was filmed. Every skinny, goofy, dorky guy like me wanted to Sean Connery, pretty much the epitome of cool in that role.

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I had hoped to snorkel into the grotto which is just part of a chunk of rock out in the harbor formed by several islands including Staniel Cay. That is best done at the slack water following a low tide which this day will be after 2200, 10PM; so, that is not going to happen. Disappointing, but only a little bit. I'll just have to keep trying to find the bikini babes from the poster, a pretty good consolation prize for an older guy. The grotto is in the right hand most of the three islands.

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I saw this in the bar last night when I wasn't watching cross country skiing. For me it was like a magnet; for most others, white noise, a part of the background. The flag in the shadow box was the one carried and used by Henry Stimson, Sec. of War, at the 1945 Yalta conference, that conference being an important part of history for the 20th century. Why it should be in a bar on Staniel Cay instead of the National Archives or the Smithsonian is a mystery to me and almost all others on the island.

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Carol had her walkabout this morning ... less sun, cooler temperatures; I had mine this afternoon, more sun, warmer temperatures. I walked over to the windward side of the island to Ocean Beach. So far, all of the windward sides in the Exumas have been intimidating for sailing vessels. This one also had pretty water.

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There is a much used fish cleaning station here at the marina. Predictably, marine animals have figured this out, in this case, nurse sharks. They are not the most dangerous of the breed, and the largest of these was probably no more that 5-ft.; but each does come equipped with a standard set of very sharp teeth and a big appetite. It's hard to see but there were about 25, maybe more, in the area and perhaps a dozen in the picture. These guys were fairly polite about the whole thing -- no feeding frenzy, no eating each others tails, but petting and wading was not advised. We also saw several rays or skates in the area, some commingling with the sharks. These were, at most, 3.5-ft. across.

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Our last night we saw this sunset (oh, no Mr. Bill, not another sunset) and life is still good. Tomorrow, Sunday, we head south to Blck Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay, maybe 10~12 nm.

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Posted by sailziveli 18:11 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises fish beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

Big Majors Spot

Not Quite Staniel Cay

sunny 70 °F

Debbie, our friend on S/V Illusions, moored at Warderick Wells on Wednesday evening. We spoke with her briefly then but the weather was not very good and she headed straight back to her boat after checking in with the office. The next morning, more or less as we were getting ready to get underway, Debbie came by and we chatted for a while and compared some notes. We still plan to see her at Little Farmers Cay.

At 0900 we got underway, the wind and current not requiring any special maneuvering, a good thing for the captain. I had checked the weather and nothing seemed like an issue. By the time we cleared to the Exuma Bank, weather was an issue. If the wind was ever less than 20 knots, I didn't notice, and it was running 130 to 140 true; our general course was 135 to 150 degrees, messy and bumpy, made worse by the depth of the water, about 20-ft., which created very choppy water, not waves like in deeper water. In the big picture it was the perfect day not to do what we did; we should have stayed on the mooring ball. At least I didn't screw up like the captain of the Costa Concordia.

After almost two months we did actually sail the boat. We found a leg that had good water to the west so we were able to run close to the wind and then tack back to the way point. I thought that I had this right. In the event, I came up a half mile short on a leg of 4.5 miles, pretty poor. On the other hand it's been a long while since we truly sailed; an even longer time since we have sailed and tacked. Anyway, we will probably not get drafted for the America's Cup team. But it was really nice to sail.

I have been trying to get out of the point A to point B "are we there yet" mind set. Hard to do. So, the thought was to anchor near Sampson Cay, a small, tight, very well protected anchorage near a pretty nice marina with a good restaurant, and to go for a nice anniversary dinner. Didn't happen! When we headed to the anchorage we could see that there were several boats there already and that other boats had been forced to take less sheltered positions.

It was still blowing 20~25 knots, so the next idea was to go to the marina on Staniel Cay, only another 5 nm with plenty of light and time. But with the wind, and the current that I believed would hit us in that channel, it seemed a bad idea, never having been there before.

No profiles in courage here! We saw all the boats anchored in the lee of Big Majors Cay and headed there hoping that there is, in fact, safety in numbers. I nosed in with all the other sailboats and we anchored in about 10-ft. of water over sand. I did do my swim out to the anchor and it looked good. Of course, I do not actually know how a well set Danforth anchor should look, so I'll have to make that a conditional statement. Maybe after a few more dives I will have a functional clue.

It's a pretty crowded anchorage, at least 30 boats, giving just the right protection from the SE wind. Lots of sailboats but also several big motor yachts of the 60~100-ft. variety, the type that I thought never anchored and always went for the marina.

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This was the first time we have been around so many other boats at an anchorage. It's not crowded, just busy. At night it had its own tableau. Most sail boats showed just a single anchor light atop the mast; the large motor yachts, presumably with full time AC generators, were lit up like a city street with cabin lights, deck lights and, most, underwater lights that surround their boats in a luminous glow, which actually looks kind of neat. Most boats now have anchor lights that are LED for power saving. They also have a clean blue/white color that is quite distinct from incandescent bulbs. Their color and number look like an alternate Milky Way when this many are together in one place.

This morning we are headed to the marina on Staniel Cay for a couple of days, probably a trip of no more than 3nm.

Posted by sailziveli 09:20 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Warderick Wells Cay

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

semi-overcast 83 °F

We called the park on Saturday and asked to be put on the waiting list for a mooring ball; the park does not accept reservations. Carol called at 0915 on Sunday to see where we were on the list and they told us to "come on down." So, we did, leaving at about 0930 with a flotilla of other boats that, we guessed, were also going to the park. Actually, none of them were. Boats are like herding cats: if they go the same direction it's an accident and doesn't last very long. (We were subsequently told that getting a mooring ball this quickly never happens. Things are slow in the Bahamas now)

The trip was about 30 nm and took less than six hours but there were a lot of way points to get here. The front portion of the Explorer Chart books have a page with lots of pictures on how to read the water. I never gave this much concern and told Carol, the self professed color queen, to learn the techniques. It didn't take either of us very long to notice that when the sun went behind a cloud reading the water got harder and we really missed the color clarity.

The color issue could not have been more clear than Sunday, when we entered the park. The channel is very narrow but fairly deep; the channel was turquoise surrounded by almost white sand bars. We, actually me, had to turn the boat around to put the bow into the current to approach the mooring ball. Once again I thanked Joe V. for teaching me the trick for turning a sailboat around in very confined spaces. It has saved my bacon on several occasions including this one.

I would have loved to have made a video, shot from our bow, of entering the park; I cannot image prettier imagery. Unfortunately, I was busy driving the boat and Carol was on the bow engaged with reading the water. So, in lieu of that our offer is these panoramas courtesy of my new Nikon camera:

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Quite by accident, Ziveli is almost in the center of the second picture.

After checking in and, Carol electing to join the park, basically make a donation, we hiked across the island to Boo Boo Hill. The etymology of that name is: a ship wrecked on this island and all aboard perished with no bodies ever recovered for burial in sacred ground. Now those uninterred shades wander the island making the boo sound heard best on the hill. A good story! But when we looked at the windward side of the island it's easy to see how a ship could founder and wreck with no survivors. The rest of the story is more problematic.

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Life on the island is tough for plants. They all seem to have developed some similar traits: they can deal with salt in high concentrations; many have thick leaves to reduce moisture loss; they do not grow very tall because with the thin top soil tall things topple in high winds.

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Only the strong survive and, sometimes, not even them, or not for very long.

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I guess that I had always assumed that "tropical islands" would be lush and verdant, and many are. These islands are dry, arid, very few having any naturally occurring fresh water. I have read that in earlier days the islands were more wooded than today, those trees having been harvested for fuel. On the out islands we have seen only a few palms and an occasional rogue Australian pine standing taller than about 15-ft.

One different thing we have noticed here is the average age. Most cruising locales look like AARP conventions; here there have been many boats with younger folks, say 30's~40's, some with their kids. We're too old to feel guilty, but we never took Sean on any island hopping boat trips. We have met several "cruiser kids" and observed many more. What has struck us is that they are the nicest, most polite, most well mannered kids around. They also seem very well adjusted socially, able to interact with people of all ages, young to old. I have thought about this but do not yet have an idea about why this should be.

Here we are in a remote island paradise; we are on a boat not tethered to shore; we cannot make a phone call because BaTelCo has no cell towers within 20 miles. There's no water, fuel or food available. And yet -- there is pretty good internet service, not cheap but something is better than nothing. And, in addition to the ubiquitous book exchange they have about 200, or so, DVD's that they rent for not very much money. So, we rented a DVD for the evening just to try to stay awake past sunset. It probably won't work but it's worth a try. (Post Script: we did watch the video on the computer and played the sound through the FM radio. Big mistake! We used over 10 Ah which shocked me. The computer DVD drive must require a lot of power. No more DVD's unless we are on shore power.)

It's clear to me that some boat owner would have benefited from having my computerized maintenance checklist.

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This skeleton of a sperm whale that perished near by is on the beach close to the office. It was 52-ft. long before its untimely demise from having ingested some plastic. The skeleton, I think, does not do justice to the bulk and mass of the animal from which it came.

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And this is just about one of the coolest boat toys -- ever! If we had the room, which we do not, this would evoke a major case of boat envy. It is just a kayak with outriggers and a sail. The owner is on a large motor yacht, maybe 60-ft. The sad story is that he has probably done more real sailing in the past two days than we have in the past two months. Oh well, the park has a few kayaks that can be used for free; one of those will just have to do.

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We had dinner in the cockpit tonight, and like the several that preceded it, watched another unique and glorious sunset. I was struck that we live in a beautiful place, Spring Creek in Madison County, NC, and we are traveling in a beautiful set of islands. It may be easy to become inured to all of this and to accept the beauty as commonplace, normal, and not to respond with awe to the miraculous sights that our eyes behold. Carol's pretty good at this; I may need to work at it some more. This was our view on Tuesday morning when we had a few minutes of rain. It was worth at least a little bit of awe and wonder; unfortunately the camera did not capture the richness of color in the rainbow. To my comments in an earlier blog about the horizon, we have seen lots of rainbows but not so many where the whole 180 degree arc was visible.

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Ed Sherwood died a year ago this month, an event which jolted me at the time and must continue to engage me at some level since he has been much on my mind recently. It might just be the fact that this is January, the month of his passing; it might be that there is a boat moored 100 yards away that could be Da Vinci's twin; maybe it has to do with him wanting to come to the Bahamas but not having the time to overcome his hurdles and obstacles while Carol and I, facing our own set of hurdles and obstacles have, finally, made the trip. I do not suppose that it is important to know the why of these things and I hope that it is enough to cherish the memory of a man we both liked, enjoyed and miss and to count the blessings and good fortune that has been given to Carol and me in our lives and in each other. On January 27th, we think, we will have been 44 years married.

We took the dinghy down to Rendezvous Beach to check out the ruins of the Davis Plantation. There's not much in the way of information about the place, just a land grant to 1785. There's not much to see, just the ruins of a few stone huts, no Tara-like manses about. It's hard to imagine what they might have planned to harvest other than rocks, a crop that would have done very well.

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Another bird invaded the cockpit of our boat, probably finding crumbs from cereal that I spilled. I think that the specific breed is: yellow breasted cockpit scrounger. Or, maybe, it's a Bananaquit (Coereba Flaveola) but I'm just guessing at this. If nothing else this just goes to show that I need to clean the cockpit. This bird was persistent turning up again and again, seeming untroubled by our presence other than the fact that we interrupted his food search. Several times he flew into the cabin.

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Narrow Water Cay is the western boundary of the cove that holds the mooring field. It is not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but it does a pretty good imitation.

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On our last day here this huge catamaran, maybe four stories high came in and secured itself on a mooring ball. I thought that this would be way too much weight but when I checked with the office the lady said that they could accommodate boats up to 150-ft. long, something that I would not have guessed.

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Tomorrow, Thursday, we will head south toward Staniel Cay. If we go directly there it's only 20 nm.

Posted by sailziveli 13:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Boat Miscellany

sunny 82 °F

One thing that could not be more different between the mountains and the boat is horizon awareness. In the mountains the sky view is always truncated by a ridge or three. On the water almost every point of the compass is completely visible. Not better, just different. One day at anchor we watched these rain squalls move past us without leaving a drop on the boat.

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We were three nights at Highbourne Cay and watched a lot of boats come into and leave the anchorage. There were several things that struck us:

  • This was the first place that we have ever seen power boats at anchor, including some very big ones, maybe 80-ft.
  • There have been a lot of Beneteau sailboats. This is to be expected like a lot of Chevrolets in a Walmart parking lot. But, no Fords? There have been almost no Catalinas or Hunters. The last evening at Highbourne Cay there were at least five Beneteaus among the dozen sailboats there. The first night Highbourne there was another Oceanis 361 anchored closest to us.
  • The Bahamas may have been annexed as the southern province of Canada. It seems like at least 1/3 of the flags flying have the red maple leaf. It's probably hard to see but the flags are, L>R, Canada, France and the USA.

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I have been trying to get back in the habit of using fins and mask to check on the anchor after we shut down the boat. Most cruisers carry a 5-gal. bucket with a clear bottom on their dinghies and motor out to inspect their anchors. Since I have been using nature's largest bath tub for my daily ablutions the swim out is a good way to get used to the water. When I checked our re-anchor at Highbourne Cay I was not pleased with the set, thin sand over rock and the anchor position was marginal, but acceptable with not much wind expected. That convinced me that I have to check every time which, of course, I knew but did not want to do.

The trade winds have arrived a little earlier than usual bringing predictable and steady winds from the SE. Our general plan has been to move from Freeport to George Town, almost a perfect line to the SE. The point being we have not been able to sail without the motor going, and the sails giving an assist. The good news, I guess, is that we are in no danger of wearing out the sails. The return trip will be better, though, we hope. Our best sail ever was from Nassau to Marsh Harbour with SE winds and a NNE heading. We flew -- a great twenty hours.

The new engine has been steady and reliable and, with the new propeller, much faster. Even with that, the old engine had some nice points, at least by comparison: we were able to have oil pressure and engine temperature gauges, not possible with this engine without creating unacceptable problems. In lieu of the temperature gauge, we use an IR heat sensor, like firemen would use. The old engine also had a bottom drain for changing the oil, much better than we have now. Still, reliability and speed vs. convenience is no contest. The only issue I have noticed is an occasional drip of coolant, maybe a couple of teaspoons a week. Not an issue, and if it were, we have identified the leak and fixing it would not be hard.

We have used the new engine enough in enough different circumstances that it looks like we may have found the sweet spot: 2,500~2,700 RPM's gives us 5.5~5.8 knots at 0.65 gal. per hour or, perhaps, a little less. This far south, the days are almost, but not just yet, 11 hours plus another hour of twilight. So, a cruising range of at least 55 nm has so far been good enough. In the Exumas, from Nassau to George Town, our passages will be anywhere from 20 to 55 nm.

There is an issue on sailboats called prop walk, a tendency for the stern to want to pull in the direction that the propeller is turning. Rarely an issue going forward, it is almost always an issue in reverse. With the new, larger propeller our prop walk in reverse seems to have increased proportionally with the new diameter, maybe more. This will just take some time for familiarity to develop. Like with the engine: additional speed vs. handling convenience is no contest.

A bit of good news has been electrical usage. We have had some 12~14 knot winds so the wind generator has been pumping in the amp hours 24 hours a day and the solar panels have topped things off by mid afternoon. This will probably change as the weather warms and the wind attenuates but it has been nice so far.

The weather, so far, has been just about perfect. Mostly sunny, warm days and a few cool, but not cold nights. Carol, of course, is sweltering, the temperature occasionally getting into the low 80's. I have yet to put any winter clothes away since at night the temperature has dipped below 70, my threshold for freezing. Carol did, however, store the wool blanket. On average we have enjoyed the climate. After a day in the warm sun, a night breeze can seem very cool.

Now that we are anchoring a lot we have been using our radio headsets to communicate from the bow to cockpit. We had seen many cruisers using these but could never locate them on the internet despite a jillion searches with all sorts of combinations of key words. Someone finally told us where to locate them on a website called Cruising Solutions. The reason that we could not find them was that they were marketed as Marriage Savers, not radios. Truer words were never spoken, having done stuff without them and, now, with them. They are one reason that Carol may make it to our 44th anniversary in a few days.

I tried to listen to the two football games on Sunday on the SSB radio by tuning to the Armed Forces Network which, I assumed, would be carrying the games. I did get to hear some of the first game, Ravens v. Patriots, including the exciting, but disappointing ending. The reception went south on all of the AFN frequencies and I was unable to listen to any of the Giants v. 49er's game where I would have pulled for the Giants, cousin Les' team.

Posted by sailziveli 11:07 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

SW Allens Cay

Jurassic Park in the Bahamas

sunny 80 °F

After a fairly typical morning on the boat, not much activity, we decided to take the dinghy to Allens Cay, about two miles north to see the iguanas. There is about a one mile reef/rocks between here and there with one good way through so we broke out the portable GPS with marine charts to make our way through the opening.

Not much of a problem, the GPS doing its thing well. However, having gone on the north side of the reef into a north wind the ride got bumpy. Again, not a problem. It also got wet ... Carol's description: the two of us fully clothed in a bath tub being drenched with a fire hose. Pretty close. Back at the boat I pumped out several inches of water.

The GPS was in a zip lock baggie and became pretty unreadable at that point and my glasses we so wet and salty the we just headed for a beach we could see. Turns out it was SW Allens not Allens, but who cares. We took the dinghy well up on the beach and put out the anchor. The boat is anchored near the tower to the left of the dinghy on the island in the background.

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Down the beach comes Iggy Iguana, no fear, no concerns, no problems, the local Jurassic version of Welcome Wagon. They are about 30-in. long and can move pretty quickly when they want to do so; they are vegetarians so not any real threat. They used to be ubiquitous throughout the islands; now they exist only on these few islands and are an endangered species. So, no more worrying about becoming a pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots for these guys.

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SW Allens is not very big, basically a large U shape. There are two defining items: a knoll, maybe 30-ft. above sea level and this single palm tree (lots of palmetto trees) which was just about on the beach where we landed.

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Walking in the water we noticed these conch shells, I figured empty. Not so. There were hundreds, none larger than about six inches. We did finally find a couple of conchs that were, maybe, legal size. I offered these up to Carol who, after personally devastating the conch population of the Northern Bahamas for her dining enjoyment, eschewed any more needless slaughter of the defenseless conch population. Oh, and she wants world peace too. On the plus side, I now know where to get my bait for fishing.

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Most of the island was eroded limestone with bits of sandy patches. The erosion pattern on the rocky part produced some very sharp areas; Carol slipped and punched a hole in the palm of her hand. I shredded and left about a quarter of the bottom of my not very good reef walkers there. We found this cairn and Carol added "our rock" to the pile.

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The ride back was much drier with the waves on the stern; we had dried out during the island visit. About halfway back, in an exposed, windy area, the engine quit. Oh s.... it's a long way to row. A simple fix ... I had pushed something against the fuel tank and disconnected the hose. Then the GPS stopped. A simple fix .... just reboot the thing and we made it back through the gap in the reef. Back on the boat, Carol tended her wound and we decided that it had been a good day but that we were through -- no more adventures.

Posted by sailziveli 14:10 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach boating bahamas iguanas Comments (0)

Highbourne Cay

semi-overcast 77 °F

On Tuesday, after much anxious thought, I decided that our weather options were not working. We are at the extreme fringe of the XMWeather satellite coverage: the wifi antenna needs a fairly tight radius to work; there is Chris Parker SSB reception and sometimes not. So off to BaTelCo go Carol and I to get some sort of cell antenna for the laptop that will allow internet access. No such deal. But they did have 4G phones with a data plan that can also produce a wifi hot spot. Carol has been wanting a smart phone and has a birthday in not so long, her 66th for all who count these things. She is now the proud (and clueless) owner of a really sporty Samsung smart phone that we will use through the Bahamas and then will become hers when we return to the states. The only problem was: slower than slow download speeds when we had be promised 8Mgbs --- we were more than 100 times slower than that. So, rather than leave on Wednesday, as planned, there was another trip to BaTelCo to get an explanation. An arcane setting, one that I could not have known about but that the salesperson should; it's always so comfortable to be able to blame others for our own failings. An easy fix and things work fine. This also gave us a chance to refill an LP canister, not critical but nice to have done. A left handed benefit of this: much lower power consumption with the phone and iPad than with the laptop which won't get nearly as much usage.

In a way of thinking, the trip actually starts now. To date, on this trip, we have always had tethers to the shore: lines to secure us at marinas; electrical cords to power us at the dock. Now, we will start to sweat those not being at hand. Will the anchor drag? Almost certainly, at some point, yes! Will power consumption be an issue? A given with our refrigerator. Will I go nuts worrying about these? You betcha'.

As I was configuring things for the second anchor on the bow, I made a note to reread the section on anchoring in The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, a practical reference we keep on board. There were, as expected, well illustrated and described maneuvers for setting two anchors; not a thing on how to recover two anchors. Maybe that's supposed to be common sense but it doesn't seem very common to me.

This got me to remembering our first and only time we tried to set two anchors, that being during our first trip south. It was in Awenda Creek, in SC, an experience I have not yet forgotten and was recounted in some blog entry during Nov/Dec 2008. Since that event we have covered several thousand miles and have accumulated three more (checkered) years of experience. It's hard to connect the dots between then and now. We have learned so much and have so much more confidence, if not in ourselves, then, at least, in our decision making. The simplest lesson seems to be this: Do not knowingly put ourselves in a situation we are not sure we can handle. Those situations will happen often enough without any extra help. But, the simple fact is that however much more we may now know, it's not enough and will never be. We started boating too old and too late in life to be able to develop the breadth and depth of knowledge that we would like to have.

So, when Thursday morning came we were way past ready to leave Nassau. Not, maybe, so ready to see if the nav plan to skip the Yellow Bank and to skirt the White Bank would work. Coral heads v. white sand seemed like an easy choice since the water depths were about the same, minus the height of the coral heads, of course, but it added several miles to the passage. But, Bruce & Dawn had done something similar so we weren't the first to jump off that edge.

We left the marina at 0715. There is an inconvenient shoal that guards marina row and we wanted the maximum water during the falling tide. No problems there, plenty of water if you mind your location. As we were leaving we finally got to see Fort Montagu, apparently undergoing some restoration or renovation. It's tiny, maybe bigger than our garage but probably not as big as our house. It's hard to appreciate the fort as an impregnable redoubt holding pirates and the Spanish at bay for a century or two.

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The non-Explorer Chart nav plan worked out great; we never had less than 13 feet of water and saw no coral heads which, of course, doesn't mean that they were not there. About an hour before we hit the anchorage a modest front blew through -- a band of clouds, one minute of not very much rain, an a wind shift from 270 to 010. We were anchored by 1430, putting out more than 100-ft. of chain, and we were only the fourth boat in the anchorage which seemed fine to us. At about 1630 the action got a little more intense, with about 10 more boats pulling in and doing so in a way that seemed a lot like amateur hour bumper cars... anchoring too close, anchoring in a way that could foul another boats anchor line. I thought about getting on the VHF to say something and finally decided that this is life in the Bahamas: mostly adults and a few figurative teenagers. In every anchorage there has to be a last boat in.

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That evening came some ugly news. The promised high speed internet does NOT work in the out islands; this was a question that I specifically asked. It does work at speed maybe 10% better than dial-up, so a problem but not a deal breaker. I downloaded Android apps for the WSJ and the Economist. The WSJ is a big change; two years ago I was reading, maybe, six square feet of news print, now eight square inches of OLED screen.

On Friday we went to SW Allens Cay, a separate blog entry.

On Saturday we went ashore on Highbourne Cay. It's a smallish island, maybe two miles long. The marina facility and its store are about as nice as any we have seen. We replaced my shredded reef walkers; who would thought to have found those here. We went down to the beach, less idyllic and much angrier with some weather coming through.

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We were concerned about the weather so we headed back to the boat, stopping only to appreciate that the Bahamas are a mindset as well as a place.

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After lunch we decided to reanchor the boat. The wind had shifted almost 180 and that could be bad for anchor holding. After we did this, several other boats made similar adjustments.

In the next day or two we hope to be able to move down to Warderick Wells Cay and get a mooring ball there for a few days. This cay is the center piece of the Exuma Park, more or less the Bahamas equivalent of Yellowstone.

Posted by sailziveli 14:08 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beach boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

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