Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 28, 2009.

Without fail, every time we cross water that is more than a few thousand feet deep we find that we have a problem with our bilge pump. I don’t remember ever connecting the depth sounder to the bilge pump so I can’t figure out how the bilge pump knows when we’re in deep water. Crossing back from the Bahamas this year was no exception.

If you’ve been a faithful reader then you know that we use the egg timer every time we make a night time crossing. We’ve adopted a new tactic during daylight runs offshore. We set the timer to go off at one hour intervals. Every time the timer sounds I go below and check the engine room, the power panel, battery level and the bilge.

During one of the first routine checks I found that the float switch which should start the bilge pump was completely under water in the bilge. That’s why they call it a float switch. The little arm is supposed to float and cause the bilge pump to empty the bilge. But no. I manually ran the bilge pump and all was well but it was just something to keep an eye on. The alarm was then set to go off every 1/2 hour for the next 14 hours. I’m not talking about a lot of water. It’s just that any water being inside the boat is a little creepy.

In the event that the bilge pump ever failed we have back ups in place. I took the shower sump pump, added a tee and routed a separate hose down into the bilge. This way I can flip a valve, then turn on the shower sump and instead of draining the shower it would empty the bilge for us. Of course, during this little exercise I found that the shower sump no longer has the oomph necessary to pull the water 3 feet up from the bilge to prime itself. So now the bilge pump only works manually, the shower sump will only work on the shower and not the bilge, it was beginning to look like a conspiracy.

We also have a huge Whale Gusher type manual pump. The large manual pump will throw about a half gallon of water overboard every time I pull the handle. Fortunately that still worked as intended.

So now that we’re safely in Vero Beach and caught up on our sleep I figured it was time to see what the problem was.

Our bilge is a very deep, very dark, extremely scary place. Our bilge would give Stephen King the night sweats. But a mans got to do what a mans got to do, besides Christy was up at the marina doing our laundry.

I got rid of the extra hose from the shower sump in order to free up some room in the bilge. Then I pulled the float switch up from the nether regions and started to troubleshoot. It turned out to be an intermittent power connection to the float switch. The repair entailed just cutting out the bad connection and redoing it.

So once again when the little arm floats up the switch turns the bilge pump on and the water resumes it desired position on the outside of the hull.

After that I had to replace the vented loop in the generators raw water system. I’ve never heard of a vented loop actually failing before. I was just happy that I was able to figure out that it was indeed bad. That had the potential to be one of those no brainer things that you’d never expect.

Our fresh water pump that pressurizes the drinking water and shower has been getting weaker and weaker. I’ve got another one on board so that’s on the agenda for tomorrow. Hopefully I can just fix the one that’s in there but if not, I’ll just swap it for the new one. We’ll see.

It hasn’t been all chores since we’ve been here. We had a visit from Gary from the Packet Inn and have spent some time with the My Destiny’s at the Far Niente’s for dinner. We’ve also hit one of the Saturday afternoon cruiser’s get together’s up at the marina. We have plans to head down to Bluewater Books in Fort Lauderdale to see about getting some charts of Cuba in the event my bud Obama can pull this all together in time for next years season. :)

One final note. We did come back with as much food in the freezer as when we left. We wore out 2 courtesy flags of our host country and a small American flag as well. And finally, yes, some chocolate did survive the trip.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 25, 2009.

A lot has happened since I’ve last written or as I like to say, put pecking finger to keyboard. We were comfortably anchored at Manjack Cay enjoying the hunting opportunities offered by the reef when a weather window presented itself. We decided to start the slog back to the states.

Thursday and Friday appeared to be the days to travel so we were up and underway at 0600 on Thursday morning. We had a 75 mile day scheduled to make it to the anchorage behind Mangrove Cay. We had the anchor up and the engine off before sunrise. The wind was from the east at 12 knots or so. We were headed north at about 6 knots under sail alone. As we turned westward we ended up having to go wing and wing to present as much sail as possible to the breeze. The wind slowly petered out and after 7 hours we had to fire up the engine and motor the last 6 hours of the day.

We approached Mangrove Cay just about 1900 hours. As we rounded the cay we found a disturbing sight. A big steel sloop, probably 60 feet in length, was hard aground. Mangrove Cay is in the middle of nowhere and these people were stuck as hell.

Being a good guy, Norm immediately dropped his dink in the water and came over to pick me up. It turned out that these people had been aground for 2 days waiting for a tide that might float them off. They had run aground right at high tide 2 nights ago and found themselves lying on their side every time the tide went out. They had a kedge out and routed to their big cockpit winch (a kedge is an anchor that you take out into deep water in an effort to winch yourself back to a happy place).

The tide was due to be high at 2030 so at 1930 we did everything we could to get them floating again. We had them put up both sails and sheet them in tight as the breeze was just starting to build a bit and was headed towards deeper water. Then we tied a long line to his topping lift in an effort to use the dinghy to heel the boat even more. While this was going on we used another dinghy to try and push the bow around towards the freedom of deeper water. So there was simultaneous pushing, tilting, full sails, winching and engine power all happening to no avail. He was debating emptying his fresh water tank as he had just taken on 400 gallons, but at 50 cents a gallon. His boat weighed in at over 30 tons so what’s another ton more or less.

The woman on board said she thought she might have felt the boat move but wasn’t sure. We did everything we could but we had to throw in the towel as we had to be underway in 5 hours and still had stuff to do to be ready. We advised him to leave his sails up and hopefully the constant pressure from the breeze would do the job and sadly bade them adieu. In a miracle among miracles, as Norm dropped me back at the boat we both turned to watch in astonishment as the huge boat slowly sailed off the reef. It made both our days as we watched them sail off into deeper water and anchor for the night.

Christy and I ate a quick dinner and turned in. We had 20 miles further to travel than the Blown Aways so we had to set out earlier than they did. At 0130 the alarm went off and we less than merrily got underway. It was dark as hell as Christy navigated us through the darkened boats that had filled in the anchorage after we had gone to bed. All went well and after the anchor locker was squared away we turned west.

The first 25 miles was across the Bahama Banks. We had a bit of breeze and we motorsailed west at close to 7 knots. At dawn we were off the banks and into deep water. There was a bit of a roll so the sails were full one moment and then slatting the next. It was about at this moment that the wind went even lighter and we had to drop all sail and rely on the motor alone. The breeze was only a knot or three and coming straight over the stern. It completely sucked. At one point the windex, the wind generator and the anemometer were all facing different directions while the flag hung straight down.

We ended up motoring all the way across the Gulf Stream. We made great time riding the Gulf Streams push. Of course the wind finally started to build when we were about 4 miles from Fort Pierce. We entered the inlet with the flood tide. Once we turned north and went through the lift bridge we again raised sail. We were able to sail the last 10 miles of our trip up the ICW to Vero Beach arriving right at 1900 hours.

Our cell phone had been reactivated so we caught up on some phone calls. We also took advantage of the Locals Boaters Option aka the LBO.

With the LBO cards Customs and Border Patrol has all of your information on file so checking back into the country should be a snap. It was our first time using it so I was a little skeptical. Much to our relief it went off without a hitch and we were checked back into the country with only a phone call. No personal appearance necessary. After that we did a little interneting and then went to sleep for 14 hours.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22, 2009.

The front has passed. The wind died during the night and all was calm. Of course, that was until we got in the dinghy to hit the reefs one more time.

The wind was out of the north at 20 knots and due to shift to the northeast. We hustled out to the reef to get in some more hunting before the seas had time to build.

It was kind of a dull day as we spent about 4 hours splashing around. I took another hogfish as soon as I got in the water. I missed one right after that and didn’t really see another fish I considered worthy until it was time to leave. Then I was able to spear a really nice Margate over 30 inches long. I’d tell you how much it weighed but I can’t find my damn fish scale. I dunno, the boats only so big but I can’t seem to find it.

One final picture of our chartplotter installed in the aft stateroom. It was our old chartplotter we kept as a spare. Instead of letting it lie around I put it to good use as a bedside mounted drag alarm. It’s quite handy as it has a battery monitor and an alarm clock feature as well. You can see from our track how we’ve been lying to the wind as it’s clocked around. That tiny line in the middle of the arc is how the boat wandered around when the wind completely died during the night. I love this thing.

We’ve been keeping a running count of our hunting harvest for the 2009 season here in the Bahamas.

Mutton Snapper…...1
Yellow Jack………...1
Coral Crab………….1
Almaco Jack………..1
Christy’s mysterious Moo Goo……1 (which we did eat and it was good)

That gives us a grand total of 50 fish and 22 lobsters. Not too shabby considering that we were only here in the Bahamas for 70 days. In addition to those edible species I also killed 18 lionfish because it’s the right thing to do. So we’re pretty much leaving with as much food as we arrived with.

So we’re underway for Mangrove Cay in the morning and should be able to cross back to the states on Friday.
April 21, 2009.

This morning the wind was supposed to clock around through the west. Surprise; we’re sitting here pretty much unprotected from the west. The wind was supposed to be 10 to 15 knots with the possibility of 30 to 40 knot squalls. We could have moved the 3 miles across the Sea of Abaco and had good westerly protection but we didn’t.

We decided to stay put based on 3 things. First was that the event would be during the day, when things go to hell it’s always nice to actually be able to see the gates of hell. Second, if we moved across we’d have protection only from the west, meaning we would have to move back as soon as the front passed. The third thing for us to consider was the fact that it’s been pretty windy the last few days and our hook was well set, it’s completely buried.

The front passed as it was supposed to and we did get hit by a few of the squalls with the highest gust we saw being 32 knots. We had nobody to windward of us so we didn’t have that to worry about. We were fine but 2 of our neighbors did drag a bit. They both did a little fancy footwork and did manage to get their anchors down again safely. As you can see, Molly really didn't enjoy the thunder that accompanied the front.

At 1300 hours the front officially passed and the sun came out. The breeze was back under 10 knots so we decided to hit the water once again. On the ocean side of the cay the water was calm and visibility was decent. After about 20 minutes of seeing nothing noteworthy I came across the biggest lobster I’ve seen this year. I had my spear within inches of his beady little eyes but I couldn’t drop the hammer on him. Lobster season ended on March 31st and I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to, he was freaking huge but I just didn’t want to screw up my karma.

It almost killed me, but after watching him for several minutes I continued my swim with my karma intact. Almost immediately I was rewarded with another nice hogfish. After the hog I swam for another hour before I saw another fish I was interested in. It was another good sized hogfish about 25 feet below me.

Hogfish is my favorite seafood and fortunately they’re not the brightest fish in the sea. They have a chameleon like quality so they prefer to sit still and blend in rather than to try and outrun you. Evidently, this guy hadn’t read the manual. As I dove down upon him he scooted into a small opening in the reef. Crap. While I was down there I peeked inside and came face to face with a good sized grouper. Eureka. My spear was already cocked so I shot as the grouper wheeled and darted back into the opening.

He made it into the opening but not before my spear had ripped through his tail and out through his abdomen. But there was a problem….. Between his dorsal fin, his tail and his tenacity I couldn’t pull him ass first back out of the hole. This is where the whole people need to breathe air thing started to get real important. I had to leave my spear and surface so I could continue to be counted among the living.

After about 10 dives to the bottom I was exhausted and had to concentrate on my breathing as I found myself starting to hyperventilate over this stupid fish. Ommm Ommmm…. No matter what I did I couldn’t get this fish out of the hole. I was exhausted, he had a six foot spear sticking out of his ass and was acting like he was only inconvenienced. In this situation if you give the fish some time they’ll usually die and make the retrieval a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, the wound wasn’t mortal. He still had plenty of fight in him while I was wondering why my corner hadn’t thrown in the towel yet.

Finally, I went down and looked at the back of the rock that he was under and found that there was a slightly larger opening. He was facing this opening and I could see my spear point. I was tempted to unscrew the point and pull the fish off the spear but he was still fresh as a damned daisy and I knew there was no way I could hold onto his slimy ass.

Fortunately Norm was close by and he came to my rescue. He went to the hole at the back of the rock and shot Mr. Grouper in the face. Using his spear he was able to draw the now dead grouper and my spear out the back of the hole. The thing looked like a damn porcupine with 2 six foot spears sticking out of him but as long as he ends up in the bucket, that’s what counts.

So from the time I first shot the grouper it was probably 30 minutes before we started hunting again. As soon as I turned the next corner I watched as a huge tail slipped behind the reef. The blood in the water had drawn a very large Bull Shark. I only saw the last 4 feet of the shark and it was all tail, no dorsal fin or anything forward of that. I told Norm he was there and headed for the dinghy. Norm took a peek over the reef and confirmed it was a 10 foot Bull Shark. He had to tell me twice because the first time he said it, I was already standing in the dink.

We moved the dinghy about a mile down the reef and started again but by this time the sun was getting lower in the sky and visibility was deteriorating.

We’ve decided that we can spend one more day here on the reef before we have to get underway to make the next weather window to cross back to the states. So we’ll see what the tomorrow brings….

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 19, 2009.

On our last evening anchored behind Green Turtle Cay we had an anchor drill of sorts. Chris and Craig on Tilt noticed that the unoccupied boat next to them was drifting away after a brief bit of high wind had come through. They were prepped to leave for the states in the morning and their dinghy was already lashed on deck. So they called Norm on Blown Away and asked if he could take care of the errant boat. I called Norm and asked him to pick me up and we could reset the anchor for these people. Norm put his dink back in the water and zipped over to get me and we hightailed it over to the s/v Sunrise.

I climbed aboard while Norm took his lookie bucket out to check out their anchor. The anchor was just laying on its side on the bottom so I let out more scope until there was 175 feet out. The boat stopped moving and all seemed well. It turned out that the people had been at a waterside restaurant and were on their way back because they saw that their boat was leaving without them. They were very thankful for our help and the event turned into just another interesting way to meet people.

The next morning we sailed the 5 miles north to Manjack Cay. All I can say is “what a place”. The anchorage offers decent protection from the north, east and south. The Blown Aways have good friends that have been living here for over 15 years. Leslie and Bill have created themselves a tropical paradise here on the cay.

They live in a large home surrounded by wide rambling porches. I don’t know what Leslie did before she moved here to the cay but she should have been a botanist. When we met her she was in her gardening clothes and working her way through the yard trimming and managing their astounding foliage. The first impression I had when I stepped off their dock was just how good their property smelled. Tropical plants were flourishing everywhere.

She graciously took the time to show us around their property. They grow their own vegetables and keep bees and chickens as well. The entire household runs off solar panels much like our boat does. They have a huge series of tin roofs that act as a rain collection system that channels water into their cistern. Very cleverly they use an above ground swimming pool assembled under a roof as the cistern itself. Ingenuity just oozes around every corner. They start a lot of their plants in a hydroponics system that’s automated, quite productive and all powered by the sun. They are also allowing us to use their wifi so we can keep in touch.

The cay is crisscrossed with beautiful trails and walkways through dense foliage. They built a boardwalk that crosses a mangrove swamp. The mangroves grow unimpeded as you walk the narrow plank path several feet above the water. It’s just beautiful.

Another great thing about this place is the diving. On the ocean side there is a reef system that goes for miles and miles. The wind is supposed to clock around to the south and then west so the water should be perfect for spearfishing. But who can wait for the weather….

We took the dinghies out a small cut and onto the ocean side. Big seas were breaking on the reef close to a half mile offshore. Inside the outer reef is a maze of coral heads, one after another. The water was pretty stirred up but visibility was still good enough to do some hunting.

Norm took a humongous grouper while I harvested a Margate, an Almaco Jack and another really nice Hogfish. I saw a ton of nice fish and even a grouper that would have probably beaten me to death if I had tried to take him. Norm and I might have to gang up on that bad boy. So this place is a slice of heaven, we’ll be staying for about a week or until the next weather window allows us to cross back to the states.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 17, 2009.

My first impressions of the Abacos…..the good, the bad and the ridiculous.

During our trip north to Abaco we were in radio range of a boat christened Bananas. The guy was single handing and trying to take his newly purchased boat home from the British Virgin Islands. His last stop was in the Turks and Caicos and after 30 hours or so he was off of the southern tip of Abaco.

He made several calls for information during the day. He needed weather updates as he had been thrashed pretty good by a storm early in this leg of his journey and had gotten pummeled by the storm that delayed everyone’s departure from Royal Island just this morning. He sounded practically delirious from lack of sleep and the beating he had been absorbing.

When we finally left Royal Island he was 7 miles ahead of us and somehow he ended up 13 miles behind us (we never saw him)as we approached Abaco. He had no charts of the area, I’m pretty sure he was misreading his GPS when he was relaying his position and he was surprised twice in the last 30 hours by vicious storm cells.

Some of the other boats were trying to offer him some help. Norm gave him a weather update and one of the other boats tried to talk him into stopping in at Royal Island to get some sleep. He stated that his intention was to keep on going until he got to Miami. Miami is 30 hours away even in good conditions. He was facing a building breeze coming straight out of the west. As the day went on he showed up on the radio every few hours sounding more confused about what to do. He said I’m not declaring an emergency but I’m getting close, the boat is fine but I’m just so exhausted. People tried to get him to alter course and follow us into Abaco but he had no idea where it was and was really unable to grasp simple directions. Columbus had a better idea of what was out there.

Finally the captain of a 102 foot motor yacht asked him to confirm his position and said he would alter course to lend a hand. It turned out he was only 35 minutes away and he changed course to rendezvous with him.

When the captain arrived the guy was practically delirious and saying things like “I’ve got a wife and children” “it’s just been too much” “I was taking the boat to Miami and then on to Texas but I’m gonna leave it in Miami and have it delivered, I just want to see my kids again” etc. True to the tradition of the sea the captain of the power yacht offered to take the guy in tow and drag him all the way to Abaco. The offer was joyfully accepted.

This power boat could probably cruise at 20 knots and yet he dutifully towed Bananas 30 miles at less than 10 knots. We listened as they had to reorganize as the tow rope snapped twice during their trip. The power boat captain chatted with the guy for the entire trip to try and keep him alert. True to his word the captain towed him all the way to Abaco. Then he towed him in through the cut and right into the anchorage. They didn’t drop the hook until 2100 hours. Then the captain sent one of his crew over in the tender to pick the guy up so he could get a good meal aboard the huge motor yacht.

The guy was obviously overwhelmed by the weather and the scope of the trip he was trying to undertake. He was completely unprepared and this power yacht just happened along and made a huge difference. The captain of the La Dolce Vita earned more than a little respect from everyone in radio range that day.

In Abaco they have a morning radio net a la Georgetown complete with weather info, local happenings and such. During the morning net a guy called in and said that a sneak thief had boarded his boat in the middle of the night and stolen several pieces of hand held electronic gear. He felt violated and wanted to know if this was more common than he realized. He asked “Was this a dirty little secret of the Abacos?”

The net controller kind of swept him off to the side and said she’d get back to him at the end of the net. At the end of the net there was a flurry of calls from people that were saying things like “I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I’ve never had a problem”. My thought was “What the hell does that have to do with anything”. This guy was robbed and instead of announcing to everyone within earshot that there had been a robbery, be careful people, watch your stuff. They kinda spun their own little version of damage control. I mean, you could live in New York City for 40 years and never be the victim of crime but if the old lady upstairs gets murdered I think it might be a good idea to tell everyone in the building that it happened. But that's just me.

We stopped for a few days at Green Turtle Cay. The settlement of New Plymouth specifically, and I have to say that it’s utterly charming. Every street is a narrow concrete One Way lane. There are few cars and trucks and the most popular form of transportation is the golf cart.

The buildings are mostly in a good state of repair and brightly painted. There seems to be a good bit of community pride and the town’s appearance reflects that pride. Clean streets, friendly people are the norm. There are a few small grocery stores and places to eat.

As with much of the Bahamas the main influx of settlers came here at the end of the American Revolution. The Bahamas had been already settled by the English in the 1640’s. So it was a natural choice for loyalists that were fleeing persecution after the colonial rabble in America won their freedom from England. The buildings architecture and age along with the English manner of speech remind me of what an old English seaside town must have been like. It really is a great place to visit.
April 16, 2009.

After our late arrival and subsequent work to put the boat back in order we slept like babies. We had planned to spend a few days here before working our way up to Baker’s Bay. Baker’s Bay is a popular anchorage for boaters waiting to make the trip north through The Whale.

The Whale is a section of water that has a well deserved, very sinister reputation. When approaching the Whale from the south you have to transit a winding narrow section of water. This course leads you out into the Atlantic Ocean for a mile or so before bringing you right back into the sea of Abaco through the next cut. The water just offshore is thousands of feet deep and comes up to 25 feet in a very short distance. The result is large rollers that have a tendency to break violently even during fairly benign weather.

Quoting the Abaco, Ports of Call and Anchorages book. “Large ocean going freighters have been known to capsize with loss of lives attempting this passage”. Only a fool or the uninformed would take The Whale lightly. It’s not unusual to have dozens of boats at either end of The Whale waiting for a weather window to make this deceptively easy looking 5 mile passage. So it’s with this in mind we decided to accelerate our trip north.

There’s a huge low pressure system that will pass well north of our position. The winds will be in the 50 knot range. While the wind won’t really affect us it will drive a 10 to 15 foot swell down to The Whale. The Whale is predicted to get very lumpy on Friday and impassible for at least Saturday and Sunday.

So if we get right back on the horse we can knock out a 40 mile day and be past The Whale before the conditions deteriorate. After listening to the weather we were considering that very thing when Norm called and proposed the same plan.

We ended up hauling the hook at 1000 and started heading north. The wind was from the north northeast at 10 to 15 knots as we motorsailed north. At around noon we were able to turn just west enough that we could kill the engine and take advantage of the breeze.

It was another really great day of sailing. We averaged 7 knots for the rest of the day as the 2 of us sped northward. The Sea of Abaco is fairly shallow so you have to pay attention to the chart and follow a proven route as you travel. We were broad reaching, close reaching and close hauled several times during the day. We blew right by Baker’s Bay and with a favorable breeze there was no reason to consider stopping. It was tons of fun and before we knew it we were into The Whales approach.

The water in the Sea of Abaco was smooth as silk and the breeze was pleasant. When we got into The Whale proper I was surprised just how rough it was. Rough isn’t really the right word as it was only a bit lumpy but I could see how it could become dangerous even in decent conditions.

So needless to say, I’m glad The Whale is behind us and we’re anchored at Green Turtle Cay.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 15, 2009.

We had planned to leave at first light so I was up at 0530. Unfortunately, there was the deep rumble of thunder off to our west. Since the first leg of our journey was to be to the west I didn’t want to take the chance of sailing into a storm cell that wasn’t yet visible in the early morning grayness. Plus, Christy said to set the alarm for 30 minutes later.

Chris Parkers weather report showed favorable conditions for traveling north, but there was going to be scattered, possibly violent squall activity. The consensus among the boats in the anchorage was that pulling the hooks at 0700 and heading out was the thing to do.

At ten to seven I turned the key and the engine no starty. F*#k. I went below and arked the starter and the engine cranked right over but refused to catch. Usually, if the engine turns over and refuses to start it’s either a fuel problem or a fuel problem. But there was more to be considered…….

Last night when checking all the fluid levels and the engine room in general I found the alternator belt had started to delaminate. So I removed the water pump belt to access and replace the alternator belt. The new alternator belt was a much tighter fit than the old one but I was able to just barely make it fit.

So, naturally since I had been messing with the alternator only the night before I figured I must have broken or unplugged a wire somehow. There are three poles on the top of the alternator case and all three still had their wires attached. Then I traced all the wires and found nothing broken. I did however find that the engine mounted ignition breaker had tripped. I reset it and went above and turned the key to the run position and heard the tiny *click* of the breaker once again popping. Crap. There must be a short somewhere.

Every time I turned the key the breaker instantly popped. So I removed the ignition panel from the bulkhead to begin troubleshooting. In the meantime, Christy radioed some of the other boats that we weren’t able to get underway. Now I was feeling incredible pressure, I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it. I know that people want to help but I just can’t stand being responsible for someone missing their opportunity to move on. If they didn’t leave today they’d probably be stuck here for a few days before another weather window opened for them. The jump across to Abaco from the north end of Eleuthera can be pretty nasty so decent weather is very important. I was sure I could figure out the problem if I could just sit and think it through, instead of trying to frantically find the problem so I didn’t hold everybody up.

The Blown Aways were adamant about not leaving us. They have to be back in the states in two weeks and if they get stuck here for a few days their trip to the Abacos would become a mad dash and kind of pointless. They might as well leave straight from here and head back to the states. How could I be responsible for that? No matter what I said “that we’re in a well protected secure anchorage, that there’s the well stocked town of Spanish Wells only a half hour dinghy ride away” his reply was that we just can’t leave you. I was pretty sure I could get everything squared away if I could just slow down and spend some time with Nigel Caulder’s excellent book on electrical and mechanical boat systems.

0900 was pretty much the cutoff time for getting underway and still being able to make the next anchorage in Abaco before dusk. Finally succumbing to my pressure our friends on Fine Lion, Sapphire and even Blown Away headed out. I appreciated that they were willing to delay or even forego their trip to help us. If I thought that I was in over my head I would have been glad to get the help. I just felt in this instance it wasn’t justified and just being responsible for them possibly staying here was crushing me.

During all of this I had removed the ignition panel. I individually checked the ignition switch itself, then the starter button and the pre heat button. All were fine. I kept coming back to the feeling that this wasn’t coincidence; I must have screwed something up the night before. Every time I checked something and it wasn’t the problem I found myself back at the alternator fondling and retracing those 3 wires to no avail.

Then I ran through the troubleshooting procedures for the starter solenoid and then the preheat solenoid in an effort to find what was tripping that breaker. No love. I was sitting on the settee with the electrical schematic for the ignition system and checking things one at a time.

I still felt it had to be something I had done so I was reading the section of Nigel’s book dealing with the alternator. As it happened the alternator he uses in some of the pictures is our exact alternator. I could see the 4 wires clear as a bell. 4 WIRES? There were 3 poles across the top of the unit and another pole on the bottom corner.

I got my mirror and checked and sure enough there was the problem, the fourth pole. The wire was still firmly attached but the tightness of the new belt had pulled the alternator over just enough that the pole was barely pressed up against the engine block causing a short.

I loosened the alternator and pried it away, retightened it, reset the breaker and at 1015 the boat fired right up. The pole was very close to the engine block at only a sixteenth of an inch away but that’s the best I could do without over tightening the belt. I figured after the belt runs a bit it will stretch allowing me to adjust it to a more proper clearance.

We called Blown Away and told them we were an hour behind them and underway. Because of our heading and the wind direction I wasn’t sure that we would be using the mainsail today. With the wind dead on the stern it often blankets the more powerful genoa and there was no way I was doing 55 miles wing and wing in rolly conditions. So for the first time in as long as I can remember we left an anchorage with no mainsail up.

We left the anchorage’s narrow entrance and pounded south for a couple of hundred yards dead into a nasty 5 foot chop and 20 knots of wind. Then we had to turn west for 2 miles before starting our run north. During this 2 mile stretch to the west things took a turn for the worse. The engine died. Oh Shit.

We were in 15 feet of water about 300 yards off a lee shore composed entirely of stone. Christy immediately turned into the wind while I began to raise the mainsail. Without enough speed to maintain steerage I couldn’t keep the sail from getting tangled in the lazy jacks. The boat was pretty much at a standstill and before it could fall off, I dumped the anchor and ninety feet of chain into the water.

The hook immediately set and saved the day. While Christy monitored our position I went below to find that the alternator had eased its way back so that the fourth pole was once again causing a short. The good news was that the belt had already stretched a bit and I was able to adjust it to keep the alternator a quarter of an inch away from the engine block. I reset the breaker and Veranda once again started right up. I hauled the hook and having had enough excitement for one day I finished raising the mainsail just in case.

We had to make tracks so we had to motorsail north often hitting 8 knots as we hurried in an effort to arrive before dark. The excitement still wasn’t over for the day…..

The waterspouts we had seen the other day were just average, run of the mill water borne tornados. Today we saw the mother of all waterspouts.

It was massive. The spout slowly made its way down from the clouds until it reached the waters surface. The thing that made this spout so special is that it had to be close to a half mile wide and kept its form for at least a half an hour. It finally did fade away and we spent a bit of time dodging storm cells just in case another one decided to form.

The entrance to Little Harbor in Abaco can be scary as hell. The opening is very wide with only a deep center section. It’s pretty scary watching the waves break over the reef on either side of you as you transit the unmarked deeper center section. Fortunately we had a perfect day for our first time entering this cut and surfed in on large slow rollers. We made it by the skin of our teeth as we entered the cut at 1900 hours just 30 minutes before sunset. It was calm enough that I would have been able to do it in the dark but after the way the day started, I was glad I didn’t have to.

We dropped the hook 20 minutes later and went about putting the boat back together. All my tools, books and schematics were still where I had left them when we fired up the boat. I even had to reassemble and reinstall the ignition panel as there just wasn’t time in the morning.

So…..we’re in the Abacos.
April 14, 2009.

The sail up to Royal Island was great for the first 25 miles or so and then the wind got flukey and died off. We had to start the engine and motorsail for the last 15 miles.

Our journey today would take us through the Current Cut. They don’t call it “Current” because it just happened either. The tide rips through this narrow, reef lined cut. The tide was supposed to change and be in our favor around 1300 hours. We scheduled our trip to arrive at 1330 so we could ride the ebbing tide through the cut.

During our trip, Norm from Blown Away related the story of the last time he had been through the cut. It seemed that he arrived under full sail in 25 knots of wind at dead low tide. He had his 6 foot draft boat screaming through the approach at 7 ½ knots in 7 feet of water. He made out okay, but he was still very relieved to be going through this time on such a beautiful day and just after high tide.

So, of course, 2 hours later as we approached the cut the sky became ominus. We were the last of 6 boats as we drew near to the cut. Off our port bow several water spouts were attempting to form from the bottom of the cloud. So, in my minds eye I’m picturing us topping Norm’s “Current Cut horror story” as we meet a waterspout in the middle of the cut. Boats going through the cut were reporting speeds of 7, 8, 8 ½ and 9 knots as the tide started to run. By the time we ran the cut we saw 9.8 knots.

Once through the cut several of the boats turned to face the freshening breeze in an effort to drop sail. We had all sail flying and as a result, so were we, as we barreled along at 7 ½ knots for the last 8 miles of the day. We did have one waterspout almost completely form behind us as we charged along. It was far enough back that we could have dropped sail if it had become an issue but we weren’t going to give it that opportunity.

The anchorage at Royal Island is one of the most protected spots in all the Bahamas. Once inside we found ourselves part of a 12 boat mini armada. Most were planning to move north to the Abacos while we were heading west to the Berries the next day.

Funny thing about the next day was that nobody went anywhere. The wind was blowing 20 to 25 knts from the south with very confused 6 to 10 foot seas running, so everybody decided to stay put.

They say an idle mind is the devils workshop or some such crap. We had a little too much time to think while we were there and changed our itinerary a “bit”. The Berries are out and the Abacos are in. The wind and seas were forecast to make a westerly trip to the Berries a nightmare for several days. While a northward run up to the Abacos looked a bit more promising. So rather than sit for a few days we decided to make our first trip to the Abacos.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

April 12, 2009.

First off, happy Easter everybody. We hope the rabbit found its way to everyone’s home.

When Norm and Rick saw the size of the hogfish we had gotten they decided that the spearfishing might be pretty good here in the area. So we planned to rendezvous on Saturday at 1000 hours and hit the water.

Norm got 3 decent sized hogfish while I took a small grouper and a reef crab. It was the first crab we’ve harvested this year. I was just swimming along and looked down into a hole and there he was. Christy cooked him up and he made a nice appetizer.

We got out of the water and went back to the boat for lunch before heading in to town. The flaw in the days schedule soon became apparent when we reached the bakery. It’s the only “real” bakery that we have found while in the Bahamas. Bread, pies, jelly doughnuts, you know…..the works. Since we didn’t get there until afternoon, everything, every crumb was gone. Row after row of empty shelves. Crap. Last year when we were here the jelly doughnuts didn’t even make it out to the street. At least I have those memories.

Next up was the grocery store. Christy bought a few items while I filled a gas can and then we were back to the boat for the night.

We were supposed to be leaving Governors Harbor on Easter morning but the weather prediction was for no wind at all so we opted to stay until Monday morning. So we spent Easter Sunday, what else, spearfishing. We were rewarded with another outstanding hogfish.

After lunch we went in to town to walk a bit and came across friends at Buccaneers, a nice shade tree pub. The place is comfortable, beautiful and serves man sized meals for a reasonable amount. Since we had just finished lunch we decided to just have a drink with our friends. A huge Slurpee type drink with the biggest shot of rum I’d ever seen was only 2 bucks. Bargain.

After our drink it was back to the boat where Christy prepared an Easter feast. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and fresh broccoli, oh my.

We should be leaving in the morning for Royal Island which has pretty much nothing. The next day we’ll be headed for Devil’s Hoffman in the Berries where we’ll stay for at least a week or 2. We loved the desolation of the Berries last year so we’re really looking forward to getting back there on our way back to the states. What this all boils down to is that this should be our last internet until we get back to the states around the first of May. Until then……
April 11, 2009.

We raised the mainsail and sailed off the hook at 0800 on Friday. We left the harbor right behind Blown Away and another Pearson 422 christened C-Language. Pearson 422’s are fairly rare so this was our first opportunity to sail with one.

The wind was 8 to 15 knots out of the east southeast. This turned into a truly wonderful day of sailing as we headed north. We were wing and wing for the first 3 mile leg of the journey and about a mile behind the others as we left the anchorage.

When it came time to turn onto our desired course I cut the corner at the waypoint and turned north. We ended up turning north at about the same time as the others and it turned into an 19 mile drag race to our destination of Governors Harbor. We had a great day and built a lead of about ¾ ‘s of a mile. With about 5 miles to go I got a little lazy with my sail trim and the other 2 boats came on like gang busters (it was lunch time, I couldn’t help it). We ended up paying attention to our sail trim and barely snuck into the wide open harbor just ahead of the others. Blown Away is usually a faster boat than we are so I was pleased to do as well as we did. It was interesting to see how evenly matched we were with C-Language with our odd rig.

We were in Governors Harbor early enough to head out hunting for some fresh fish and a little shelling. I was able to take a really nice hogfish for the evening’s meal. On our way back to the boat we came across a couple of 32 packs of Coca Cola bobbing along. They were still in their plastic and cardboard wrapper. We pulled the first one aboard the dink and were pleased to see that they appeared brand new and in good shape. They must have fallen off the mailboat or perhaps the town dock. Now all we need is to find a bottle of rum and the whole evening is set. Talk about the “bounty of the sea”.

Since it was Good Friday there was quite the beachfront celebration. Of course, a wall of humongous speakers was put to good use for several hours of gospel music. Thankfully it
was over at a reasonable hour and all was quiet by 2300 hours. Praise Jesus.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

April 10, 2009.

We spent the day following our arrival in Rock Sound trapped on the boat. The wind was between 25 and 30 knots for most of the day. The ride at anchor was pleasant enough it was just that there was no place to get ashore without leaving the dinghy dangerously exposed.

So we waited until Wednesday before we even dropped the dinghy into the water. There are 2 good places to leave the dink. The first is the official dinghy dock. To call it hazardous is not unreasonable. The other place is the dock attached to a local waterfront pub. Either dock really requires no big winds from the west. We headed into town to check out the local grocery store. We walked around a bit and found the Post Office and took care of some mail. Then we went to a local eatery called Sammies. Great food, good prices but I was only there for the ice cream. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a hot fudge sundae, it was glorious. That’s right Mom, ice cream for lunch…….

Most of the Bahamanians are very religious so it only stands to reason that Easter is a biggie. The kids get 2 weeks off from school and Eleuthera schedules their “Homecoming Festival” during this time period. The festival was due to start on Thursday so we took a walk down to see how they were making out getting things ready. The food stalls were built and the ever present sound system was in place so things looked pretty much ready to go.

On Thursday we again went into town. This time we did some serious food shopping, hit the liquor store and filled a propane tank. It costs about 6 bucks to fill our propane tank in the states. The tank usually lasts us about 10 weeks. Here it cost us $21 fill, I almost shit but then again everything is more expensive here. We watched as a local woman paid over $400 for one shopping cart full of groceries. I don’t know how they can afford to live.

Wifi is a little touch and go here. The local wifi baron is a bit of an ass and he charges $10 per half hour for the privilege of standing in his shop to use your laptop. So it was with great interest that we listened to tales of the sidewalk in front of the grocery store being a wifi hotspot. So we brought our laptop with us when we went to do our shopping. Yep, they were right. Christy stood in front of the grocery store for over an hour chatting on line with people from home.

We had made dinner reservations for the evening at a place across the island. There were ten of us going and Rose’s Nort’side sent 2 cars to pick us all up for the trip to the restaurant. The place is bizarre. You walk in the restaurant door into a bar area that has palm fronds hanging from the ceiling. I felt like Gulliver ducking and weaving my way through the low hanging ceiling treatment. The floor is raked beach sand and the d├ęcor is “Rustic Gilligan”.

There is a large dining room and as you walk around you can pretty much walk right into the kitchen. The place is located atop a bluff looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. You grab a drink and descend the ancient staircase to the beach. You can do some shelling along the beach as you wait for your dinner to be prepared.

Dinner was great and the portions were immense. After dinner we were driven back to town and dropped off near the dinghy dock. We headed back to the boat where we were entertained by Caribbean music, loud Caribbean music, no, extremely loud Caribbean music until 0200. With a wall of 10 foot speakers the music actually starts to feel like its penetrating your body. It’s kinda funny, some people really complain about the loudness of the music. One couple even moved their boat further down the beach when they realized where the speakers were set up. We just try and take the attitude that’s its just one more experience to be savored.

Friday, April 10, 2009

April 7, 2009.

We had 3 glorious nights tucked away safely in the anchorage at Pipe Creek. We spent one evening on a beautiful beach having cocktails with the crews from 8 other boats and during the evenings conversation we came to find out that one of the women is a hairdresser. So the next morning Christy and 3 other women met her at the beach and received wonderful haircuts for $10 each.

Technically, you are not allowed to sell or trade goods or services while here in the Bahamas. People often do what they can on the side to make a little money and of all the methods we’ve seen, being a hairstylist ranks at the top of the list. We’ve met a few guys doing diesel repairs, some wifi experts, computer repair guys and hairstylists. Hell, we’ve met doctors here and have yet to see one charge someone for rendering aid.

Most cruisers take care of their own diesel maintenance, wifi is usually squared away before you leave the states, but most guys are afraid to cut their wife’s hair. I know I am. Like most of the guys, I get my hair cut here on the boat by my wife. The women’s hair is a different story. These random cruising hairstylists have a ready made clientele in whatever anchorage they choose to drop their hook. The women are happy which makes the men happy and all for $10 a head.

While Christy was off getting her hair cut I helped Jeff from Inamorata sew a torn headsail. They had recently torn 2 sails and the day before Nancy from Solitaire had taken her Sailrite sewing machine over and repaired the mainsail. She did a nice job and the sail should easily last until they get back to the states. When it came time to stitch a ten foot section of the headsail the machine just couldn’t handle it.

The Sailrite machines big claim to fame is how heavy duty it is and how well it can make repairs to both sailcloth and Sunbrella fabrics. The thing is a cast iron, no frills bully, or so the dealers lead you to believe. I’m not sure if it was a lack of a tough enough needle or what but the machine just wasn’t going to get it done.

In the past I’ve had to hand sew a small section of our sail on our old boat so I kinda had a technique in mind. Jeff and I sat on their spacious foredeck with the sail across our laps and painstakingly put in one stitch after another by hand until the ten foot section was suitably repaired.

We were just putting the sail back up on the roller furler as the girls came back after haircuts and some shelling. After some lunch we went out to do some spearfishing. Over the course of our 3 days in Pipe Creek I was able to take 3 nice grouper and a schoolmaster.

When I put the largest of the grouper into our bucket he vomited up his last meal. It was a small parrotfish. I guess he thought the pain of my spear ripping through his body was something he must have eaten. Quite a few boats spend most of the winter here in Pipe Creek so I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fishing. I figured it would be pretty well fished out.

We have a front scheduled to come through late Monday night. We would be wonderfully protected in Pipe Creek but then trapped here for a few days so we decided to head out for Eleuthera before the storms arrival.

On Monday morning everything lined up just right for us. The wind was to be from the south at 10 to 15 knots and the tide would be ebbing in the morning. The biggest reason for wanting a favorable tide was the cut itself. On the charts it looks narrow and a bit intimidating. Fighting an incoming tide there would only prolong the stress of the moment. With the tide going out we could be through the gap before we had a chance to get to concerned.

Normally we wouldn’t have chosen this particular cut as the place to head out. Since we had spent an afternoon drift diving the cut we had a pleasant familiarity with the underwater topography. The only reason for concern was a series of huge underwater boulders. They are the biggest “rocks” we’ve seen in the water anywhere. They were as big as a single family home, just sitting there on the flat bottom off to the side of the channel, just below the surface waiting patiently for the unwary boater.

We hauled the anchor, raised the mainsail and headed out with Solitaire close behind. It was an uneventful trip as the tide spat us out into Exuma Sound. Then we raised the genoa, killed the engine and settled in for a day of sailing northward to Eleuthera. The wind was a little lighter than predicted but had us moving along at about 5 knots. The wind was supposed to build as the day went on so we were content. Solitaire was a little more concerned about making electricity and the approaching front so we watched as they motorsailed over the horizon.

Our trip was slow and uneventful until we approached the Powell Point waypoint. I had the mainsail held to starboard with a preventer. Actually I use a preventer from the boom end to a bow cleat and another line from the boom end straight down to a midship cleat to keep the boom from rising and spilling air. We were wing and wing and the genoa was collapsing as the water started to get rolly as we approached the shallows. We took down the genoa and planned to sail up onto the bank with the mainsail alone. Then once we gibed onto our new course we could redeploy the genoa. And then it happened….

Fish on. Our heavy pole mounted on the stern arch started to scream as line was quickly unwound. Christy got to the pole first and was unable to set the drag tight enough to slow whatever we had down. I pulled the pole out of the holder and sat down and slowly wrenched down on the drag until it bottomed out.

The drag was fully tightened and line was still slowly coming off the reel. Shit. Christy gave me a glove and with it I was able to slow and finally stop the reel from giving up line. The right thing to do would be to slow the boat down and allow the fish to wear himself out. Only then could we hope to reel in whatever we had. The only problem was that we had 2 preventers in place. Slowing the boat would be a 2 person job and just wasn’t doable. Shortly thereafter our choice was made for us as the heavy monofilament lined parted. Fish off.

We just don’t have enough experience with big game fishing. I know we needed to get the boat moving slower, I just didn’t think we could get it done before the big fish spooled our reel. He was already out 150 yards and slowing down wasn’t a choice he seemed to want to make. After rewinding the line we put our fishing gear away and crossed onto the bank. So the bottom line is no Mahi Mahi for dinner.

The wind was finally starting to build and when we put the genoa back up we found ourselves doing 7 ½ knots for the last 2 hours of the day.

Once into the anchorage we picked a spot and dropped the hook. The front is supposed to be fairly vicious and it looks as if we won’t be able to get off the boat for a day or two. Its not that the anchorage is so rough it’s just that the town is on the lee shore and our unattended dinghy would get the shit knocked out of it while we were in town. We will be here for a few days before the weather allows us to sail north to Governors Harbor.