Archive for February, 2008

Back in the States

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Monday, 2/18, was a lazy day in Little Harbor. We just relaxed on the boat until 11:00 and then went ashore. Little Harbour is famous as the home of sculptor Randolph Johnston, who left “civilization” to pursue an artistic vision. He died at age 88 in 1982 and his son Pete carries on the tradition. We toured the sculpture gallery and the foundry, then walked over to the Atlantic side of the island and watched the waves crash ashore. We ate lunch at Pete’s Pub and chatted a while over beers with Don, Tony and Kelly. Andrew had mentioned the night before that his VHF radio wasn’t working. We had a spare one and we took it to him. We went back to the boat and read the rest of the day.

Tuesday we borrowed Jeeter’s hand-held depth sounder and spent an hour or so sounding the depths in the entrance to Little Harbor. We wanted to leave on Wednesday and we really didn’t want to run aground again. We went ashore and walked along the beach, picking up interesting pieces of coral and shells, then met up with everyone at Pete’s Pub. Pete had just returned from an art show in Miami and I talked with him a while about boats. We gathered up some hermit crabs and had hermit crab races, but the crabs weren’t really into it. I met a local guy named Fred who gave me some good pointers for leaving the harbor. Fred is a diver and has been doing a lot of cave diving. He’s a very interesting guy. We spent quite a bit of time and money at Pete’s Pub that evening, but eventually had to say our goodbyes and head back to the boat.

Wednesday dawned cloudy and rainy, but not too bad to leave. It is nearly the time of the full moon, so the tides are as high as they are going to be for another couple of weeks. We dropped the mooring and left the harbor at a little after 07:00 and anchored just south of Bridges Cay where we had a good view of the cut out into the Atlantic. It looked reasonably calm, so we listened to the weather on the Cruiser’s Net and then got underway for Chub Cay. The weather turned out to be pretty good for the trip, although there was still a good bit of swell from the previous front that had just passed through. We forgot to put Nancy’s seasickness patch on until just before we left, so it didn’t have time to get into her system good and she wound up getting seasick and felt pretty bad for the whole trip. I saw two Blainsville’s whales on the way to Chub Cay. They look like dolphins, but much larger. That night we watched the lunar eclipse. We were making such good time that we were in danger of arriving at Chub in the wee hours of the morning. We couldn’t go fast enough to make a same-day arrival in good daylight, so I began trying to slow the boat down. Eventually I had the engine off and only a tiny piece of the jib out and we were still making almost 5 knots. I wound up moving one of our waypoints so that we would have farther to go, and we still had to circle outside the entrance to Chub for about an hour before the sun was up enough to feel comfortable entering. At 07:15 we were anchored at Chub Cay.

I had only had 4 hours of sleep in the last 48, so I crashed shortly after anchoring and slept for several hours. We were both so exhausted we didn’t even bother going ashore at Chub. Friday morning we got underway once again and entered the Great Bahama Bank, bound for North Cat Cay. We had an absolutely beautiful day of sailing. I put out three fishing lines and trolled them behind. It was the first time I had used all the fancy fishing gear. It is going to take some practice to get the lines trolling at the right distance and separation, so they don’t foul each other. We were going to anchor overnight on the Great Bahama Bank. I thought it would be pretty cool to anchor out in the middle of nowhere with no land in sight. We wanted to get anchored a couple of hours before sunset and that time was approaching when Nancy said something had pulled all the line off one of the reels. Sure enough, the reel set on the port side was out of line. This reel has about 400 yards of 80 lb test line on it, so I had a heck of a lot of line to reel back in. We were sailing at over 5 knots and I didn’t want to stop or turn around, so I just started cranking on the reel. I figured out pretty quick that I would be several hours trying to get the line back in that way, so I had Nancy reel in the slack as I hand-lined in whatever was on the hook. I put on a brand new pair of fishing gloves with rubberized palms and began hauling in line. I didn’t know what was on the hook, but it was big enough to create a lot of drag. I finally got it close enough to see that it was a fish and a decent sized one. I got it alongside and it wasn’t too heavy that I could just haul it aboard with the fishing line and didn’t have to get the gaff, but my, what sharp teeth it has. It was a barracuda, about 3 feet long and weighing maybe 30 pounds. I’ve heard that a lot of people eat barracuda, but the fishing book I have says they should be avoided due to ciguaterra toxin. Ciguaterra is a substance that is toxic to humans and is found in tiny reef critters called dinoflagellates. Small reef fish eat the dinoflagellates and the ciguaterra doesn’t hurt the fish, but it builds up in their tissues. Bigger reef fish eat the little reef fish and barracuda eat the bigger reef fish and eventually the the concentration of ciguaterra can build up to levels that are harmful to humans. Based on this consideration, we decided to toss him back. I really wanted to grill some fresh fish steaks, but it was a lot of fun just catching him, the very first time we put out lines, no less. With all the excitement over we got ready and anchored for the night.

Saturday we got up and underway pretty early. It was another perfect day of sailing. We were cruising along on a beam reach making about 5 to 5.5 knots. Whenever you are sailing, and you have a fixed prop like ours, you have the option of letting it prop free-wheel (spin freely in the water with the transmission in neutral), or you can put the transmission in gear to prevent t
he prop from turning. We used to just let it spin, but ever since we had it resized it has created an annoying whine at certain speeds, so we have started sailing with the transmission in gear to prevent the whine. As we approached the anchorage at North Cat Cay, we started the engine, but forgot to take the transmission out of reverse. The engine started right up, but there were very bad noises coming from the engine compartment. I looked at the oil pressure gage and it read zero. We immediately shut the engine down and I looked in the engine compartment to see a whole lot of oil floating in the bilge. Fortunately North Cat Cay is a very easy place to anchor, so we tacked toward the anchorage, sailed up to the spot we wanted to anchor, dropped the sails, dropped the anchor, then took some very deep breaths. Now what? I had read somewhere that Towboat U.S. now has operations in the Bahamas, so I tried calling for them on the VHF radio. I got a towboat operator out of Key Biscayne, Florida, which is almost 60 miles from Cat Cay. That’s not bad range for a VHF, but he said we were coming in very weak and he gave me his phone number so we could go ashore and find a phone to call from. We got in the dinghy to go ashore and the outboard engine began surging and trying to quit on us. Great, one more problem to deal with. We got the dinghy ashore by giving it only as much throttle as necessary to keep moving, found a phone and called Captain Cory of Biscayne Towing. He said the closest Towboat U.S. operator in the Bahamas was probably on Grand Bahama, which is actually further than Florida from Cat Cay. He said he could send a boat all the way to Cat Cay to tow us back, but it would be better if we could sail to the Florida coast and then call for a tow. We decided that was what we would do and told Capt. Cory we would contact him again the next day to let him know how we were doing. Sailing across the Gulf Stream to Florida without an engine is not a problem, but getting through the cut between North Cat Cay and Gun Cay without an engine will be more problematic. There are submerged rocks on one side of the cut and Gun Cay on the other, and sandbars elsewhere along the path of the cut. The cut is easy enough that we could sail out of it, except for wind and current considerations. The wind is currently out of the West, and predicted to continue from the West for at least a couple of days. We can’t sail directly into the wind, and the cut isn’t wide enough to tack back and forth through. There is also a tidal current we need to take into account. We inquired around the island about somebody with a boat that could tow us out, but the only guy with a boat capable was currently in Bimini and not expected back for a day or two. We headed back to the boat and I decided to get a good night’s sleep and then evaluate the problem with the engine in the morning. In the meantime, we pumped the oil out of the bilge into gallon jugs.

Sunday morning, I began searching for where the oil had come out. I didn’t see any obvious place, so my assumption was that the rear main seal had blown out when we started the engine while going 5 knots with the transmission in reverse. The oil we had collected from the bilge had separated from the water so we carefully removed the oil and put it back in the engine. There was somewhat less than a gallon of oil from the bilge and it took almost another quart to get the oil level to the top of the dipstick. I didn’t see oil running back out of the engine and we had nothing to lose, so we started the engine. It started fine and sounded very normal. We let it run to charge the batteries and watched the oil pressure gage and temperature gage like hawks. We let it run for almost two hours with no problem and no obvious leaks. When we shut it down, the level on the dipstick was the same as before starting it. Now I’m stumped. When you find a gallon of oil in the bilge, you expect to find an obvious leak. If we had blown the rear main, I would see oil coming from the bell housing, but I don’t. It doesn’t seem to be leaking at all. My newly revised theory is that starting the engine with the transmission in gear created a lot of pressure in the engine that forced oil out of the dipstick tube, but no permanent damage was done. We decide to pick up anchor in the morning, motor around a bit to test the engine and if it works fine, we will motor out of the cut and sail across to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. We can call Capt. Cory if we feel we need help getting into harbor once we reach Florida. Next I tackled the dinghy engine. I figured the surging and cutting out was due to moisture condensing in the fuel tank. I had bought a special transom-mounted fuel filter and water separator just for this purpose, but hadn’t gotten around to installing it yet. Once I got it installed I took the dinghy for a few spins around the boat and that little problem seemed to be solved, so we dinghied ashore to call Capt. Cory and update him on our status. When we got back to the boat I was ready for a little relaxation, so I swam and snorkeled around the boat for a while and Nancy read a book in the cockpit.

Monday morning we fired up the engine and got a weather report via the HAM radio while the engine warmed up. The weather looked very good for a Gulf Stream crossing and the engine seemed to be running fine, with no leaks. We picked up the anchor and motored around in a circle and still no problem, so we head for the cut. We made it out of the cut easily and hoisted the main sail and unfurled the jib and set a course for Key Biscayne. The wind was light and I wanted to run the heck out of the engine, so we left it in gear and motor-sailed all the way across. If it is going to break, I want it to do it while we are in open water, not when we are maneuvering into a harbor. we also want to keep our speed above 6 knots so we can make it into No Name Harbor before sunset and not have to sail around in circles waiting for sunrise. It was a very good crossing with seas about 3 feet or less and just enough wind to stay above 6 knots with help from the engine. We made it into No Name Harbor just before sunset and got anchored. No Name is a small harbor and it was packed with boats. We were lucky to find room to anchor.

Tuesday morning I called Customs and Border Protection to clear back into the U.S., then we went in search of their office at the Port of Miami. Once cleared in, we stopped at a grocery store on the way back to the boat and got a few provisions. There is a little restaurant at No Name Harbor so we ate lunch there. The food was very good, but the service would best be called lack of service. Tuesday night a really strong storm blew through and several boats started dragging. Our anchor didn’t budge, but the boat in front of us dragged a little, so we had to keep an eye on that all night.

Wednesday I checked the engine before starting it to charge the batteries and found oil in the bilge again. Bummer. I checked the dipstick and we were quite a bit lower than the previous time I had checked it, so the oil came from the engine. Once again I cleaned the bilge out and this time the amount of oil was less than a quart, maybe about a pint. We went ahead and started the engine and I called Capt. Cory, the Towboat U.S. operator, to get in contact with the Yanmar mechanic he said he knew. C
apt. Cory said he would have the mechanic call us and a little later I got a call from Gerd Wunderlich, with Port Engineers. He said he could come out that afternoon and take a look at the engine. He showed up about 14:30 and I dinghied ashore to pick him up. Gerd has been working on marine deisels and Yanmars in particular for over 20 years. He crawled all around the engine checking things out and said he thought the engine was basically sound, but needs a lot of o-rings and seals replaced. Gerd’s shop is in Key Largo and said if we brought the boat to a marina in Key Largo, he’d be happy to work on it. He is going to send us a quote for the work that he thinks needs to be done and we also asked him for a quote to put a new, bigger engine in. This boat displaces 30,000 pounds and almost all the boats this size I have seen have a 50 HP or bigger engine. This engine is a 33 HP and is not big enough to drive the boat to hull speed in calm water. I have wished for a bigger engine since we bought the boat, but the expense kept me from doing it. 33 HP is obviously enough for almost all situations, but there could come a time when we find ourselves out in the middle of nowhere anchored off a nice pretty coral island and a sudden storm comes up and tries to blow us onto the reef. In that situation, you would want all the HP you could get in order to motor into the wind and stay off the reef. Once we get the quotes from Gerd, we’ll decide whether to have this engine fixed or put a new one in. This engine is 23 or so years old and the newer ones are much smaller, quieter and more fuel efficient. The new Yanmar 55 HP engine is actually smaller than our 33 HP and uses about the same amount of fuel per hour. There are a lot of good arguments for a new engine. Thursday is supposed to be another cold and blustery day, so we’ll probably stay put and then head down to Key Largo on Friday.

Entertainment Provided by Stolen Child

Monday, February 18th, 2008

As I write this, it is 05:00 on Monday, 2/18. We are moored in Little Harbor and had quite an adventure getting in here, but more on that after I get the log current.

Thursday, Feb 14, we decided to head back to Hope Town for a couple of days. We have been sometimes too busy and sometimes too lazy to do laundry on the boat, so we had a good bit of laundry piled up and decided we’d much rather do it in Hope Town than in Marsh Harbor. The trip from Marsh Harbor to Hope Town is less than two hours and we needed to charge the batteries, so we just motored the whole way. We called ahead to reserve a mooring and there was a guy in a skiff waiting to show us which mooring was ours. The moorings are laid out in rows, so the harbor is kind of like a parking lot with rows of boats lined up. There was a boat that preceded us into the harbor and had turned down a row of boats prior to the row where our guide was leading us. The boats are quite close together and I was concentrating on not hitting the other boats already moored and following the guy in the skiff. All of a sudden, there is a sailboat appearing from behind the moored boat on my port bow (in front and to the left of me). He’s moving from my left to my right and given our current speed and direction, we will both be attempting to occupy the exact same spot on the water at the exact same time. In other words, if one of us doesn’t change course or speed very quickly, we’re going to see which is sturdier, his beam or my bow. I already had the RPM’s pretty low, so I didn’t even bring it to idle, I just shifted the transmission from forward to reverse and gave it a hefty dose of throttle. I don’t want to stop dead in the water for very long, though, because then the wind and current will drift me into the moored boats. I especially don’t want to start moving backwards because many sailboats, and this one in particular, don’t handle very well at all in reverse. Nancy and the guy in the skiff said the other boat never even looked our way and were probably blissfully oblivious of the whole thing. This all occurred in less than a minute and during the midst of it, I glanced to my right and there was a couple sitting on the foredeck of a moored boat watching the spectacle and their eyes were as wide as mine probably were. Anyway, I got Stolen Child stopped just long enough for the other boat to pass with probably 6 feet of clearance in front of our bow, and then underway again before we drifted into any moored boats. We got moored without any further drama. That evening we discussed and decided on our route back to Moss Point. We want to do our best to avoid all the bad weather and major shipping lanes we encountered on the way to the Bahamas.

Friday we took out the trash and did laundry at the laundromat behind the fuel dock at Lighthouse Marina. It was a beautiful day and we sat at a picnic table under the shade of a tree in a nice little garden area, reading while waiting for the laundry. We had a late lunch ashore and bought a few provisions in the afternoon and then got the boat ready to get underway the next morning.

Saturday morning we dropped our mooring and got to the fuel dock before they opened. We needed to top off our water and I decided to go ahead and fill the diesel tanks even though we haven’t used much since filling up in Port Lucaya. We are heading down to Little Harbor and anchoring somewhere there as we plan to leave through the cut in the reef right next to Little Harbor. The wind is from the north and quite gusty, and expected to move more easterly overnight, so we decide to anchor on the west side of Lynard Cay, which is just a bit north of Little Harbor. We’ll have a bare minimum of protection from the north and great protection from the east. There are already a couple of boats anchored there. We watched a movie that evening (Gangs of New York).

Sunday morning we slept late (until about 07:00), then sat around the cockpit reading until late morning when we dinghied ashore to the white sand beach we were anchored off of. The beach was very beautiful and we walked along it, picking up a few seashells. We also found a footpath to the Atlantic side of the cay and watched the waves crash on the rocks. We dinghied back to the boat and went swimming for a while, then showers, lunch and more reading. Our plan was to head out the cut the next morning and sail down to Chub Cay on the eastern edge of the Great Bahama Bank, then cross the bank westward to Cat Cay, then across the Gulf Stream. We heard on the weather that there is a cold front heading our way that will bring unfavorable weather through Wednesday, so we decide to postpone departure until after it has passed. I’d really like to get inside Little Harbor but the entrance is so shallow I’m not sure if high tide will be enough for our nearly 6 foot draft. On our way to the beach, we stopped at one of the other boats anchored with us (Nina Belle) and talked to Nina and Jeeter. They are going into Little Harbor and offer to radio us with the depth as they go in. We pick up our anchor and head for Little Harbor about 40 minutes behind Nina Belle, timing our arrival for about 20 minutes before absolute high tide. Kelly and Tony, a young couple on another boat (Myrtice) anchored with us goes in with Nina Belle and once in, launch their dinghy and using Jeeter’s handheld depth sounder, check the depth of the channel and radio us that we might bump the bottom, but we should be able to get in. We decide to go for it and enter the channel. Everything is going fine until we are even with the last pair of channel markers, when we come to a very solid stop. I try to motor on past, but the boat is not budging. Jeeter and his two daughters come over in their dinghy and and I pass them a line tied to our spinnaker halyard. The idea is that they will pull on the halyard, which is attached to the top of the mast, and heel the boat over enough to allow us to motor on through the channel. Kelly and Tony push against the bow with their dinghy while Jeeter pulls the halyard with his. Unfortunately, we’re stuck pretty good and the wind is opposing Jeeter’s efforts to get the boat heeled over. Another couple of dinghies come out to help. Don is a single-hander and he is going to race back and forth in his dinghy, throwing up as much of a wake as possible to help float us off. Andrew and Bekka on the catamaran Stray Cat, along with Clay, another single-hander, come aboard Stolen Child and we swing the boom out over the port beam and they all climb out on the boom to help heel the boat over. Then a local guy named Larry comes out in a skiff with a 60 horsepower outboard and we pass him a line tied to the bow, which he pulls on with his boat. Finally, reluctantly, grudgingly, Stolen Child begins moving again. After moving only a few yards we are in water 10 feet deep and we grab a mooring ball. We’re moored safe and sound and have provided great entertainment for all of Little Harbor. The only commercial establishment in Little Harbor is Pete’s Pub and we invite everyone who helped us to meet us there and the drinks are on us. We launch our dinghy and head for Pete’s Pub to repay everyone’s kindness. We met up with most everyone who helped at Pete’s and had a very nice evening. A couple of the locals told us that just last week a charter boat had run over the last two channel markers and drug them out of position. If not for that, we might have just touched, but wouldn’t have gotten stuck aground. Nancy ordered a hamburger that came with cole slaw and the Bahamian staple, peas and rice. The burger was very good, but the slaw was incredible. It had chopped walnuts and crushed pineapple in it. I could have eaten a whole mixing bowl of it, but Nancy would only let me have a couple of bites. When we got back to the boat we decided this was one of the most enjoyable days we’ve had yet.

We will probably stay here until Wednesday, or whenever the cold front has blown through, and then head for Chub Cay. We will have to time our departure very carefully and make sure w
e compensate for the two channel markers which are out of position. There is a full moon on the 21st, which will bring higher than normal tides and that will help.

Stay tuned for more Bahama drama from Stolen Child.


A Sad Farewell

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Today Rob had to leave and return to cold, cold Kansas. We thoroughly enjoyed his stay aboard. I think the last log entry I posted was from Green Turtle Cay, but I can’t remember for sure. I’ll start from there in any case.

It was about 02:30 in the morning, Saturday, Feb 9, and very calm in the harbor. The sky was clear and there was an incredible panorama of stars above. We were anchored in Settlement Harbor on the island of Great Guana Cay. We left Green Turtle Cay on Friday morning, Feb 8, about 08:30. There is a sand bar stretching across the Sea of Abaco from Whale Cay on the Atlantic side to “Treasure Cay” on the Abaco side. Treasure Cay is not really a cay, but part of Abaco. Everyone calls it Treasure
Cay anyway. The sand bar restricts passage for boats drawing more than about 4 feet so to get from the northern part of the Sea of Abaco to the southern we had to go through the Whale Channel, which is a cut in the reef that leads out to the Atlantic on the northwestern side of Whale Cay, and re-enter via the Loggerhead Channel on the southeastern side of Whale Cay. This is very easy to do unless there exists what are known as “rage” conditions. Apparently when there is a heavy swell from the
east (such as a big storm out in the Atlantic would cause) the channels can get violently rough and choppy. Many boats and more than a few lives have been lost in the Whale over the years due to rage conditions, so there is a very nice fellow at Abaco Yacht Services who will tell you what the current conditions are if you call him on channel 16 on the VHF radio. He gave us the all clear, and we got underway. By the time we reached the Whale, there were about 5 other boats traveling with us. It
was an easy passage and we arrived at Settlement Harbor by noon.

Settlement Harbor is very pretty and picturesque, but too small for more than a couple of boats to anchor and still have room to swing around the anchor, so they have moorings you can hook to. A mooring is a permanent anchor (usually a large cement slab or sometimes an old engine block) with a buoy marking its position and there is a piece of rope called a pennant attached to the buoy with a loop in one end. You motor up to the buoy and use a boat hook to grab the pennant and pull it aboard. You
then pass a mooring line through the loop in the pennant and cleat it to your boat. It is very easy and the big advantage is that you don’t have to have nearly as much scope (the amount of chain or line between the anchor and the boat) on a mooring and thus don’t swing in a very big circle. I’m amazed at how close together the moorings are, but as long as all the boats swing in the same direction, they don’t run into each other.

Once we were moored, we had sandwiches for lunch and then took the dinghy ashore. We went to this beach bar named Nipper’s, which is a multi-level, multi-colored series of decks built on a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. They have swimming pools on two levels of the decks and stairs leading down to the beach. The beach is very pretty and the reef is just off the beach. Rob and I went snorkeling on the reef while Nancy strolled along the beach. We snorkeled for about an hour and it was incredible.
We saw all kinds of fish and even saw a sea turtle. After snorkeling, we sat on one of the decks and had a few beers and just watched the ocean. We saw two guys carrying big net bags full of lobsters and decided we’d have dinner at Nipper’s. They had rib-eye steaks or lobster for $20, along with salad, beans and rice, baked mac and cheese and steamed vegetables. You could choose your steak or lobster and the rib-eyes were simply huge, but then so were the lobsters. The locals all eat the steaks,
because they eat lobster all the time and steak is a real treat for them. Us tourists eat the lobster because we can get steak anytime back home, but freshly caught lobster is a real treat for us. Everybody is happy. The lobsters were very delicious and we were stuffed when we finished eating and tired from the snorkeling, so we headed back to the boat shortly after dark. We sat up in the cockpit reading for a little while, but we were all nodding off and wound up going to bed by about 21:00.

Later Saturday morning, we noticed the head wasn’t flushing properly (a “head” is a nautical term for toilet). Fixing the head is perhaps the least pleasant job on the boat. It is very rewarding, though, because when the head doesn’t work, everyone aboard gets very grumpy. If you can fix a marine head, you are an instant hero, so I got to be hero for a day. After demonstrating my plumbing prowess, we returned to shore and again went to the beach at Nipper’s for more snorkeling. We snorkeled
a different part of the reef for a couple of hours and then climbed back up the stairs to Nipper’s for a beer and lunch. If I haven’t mentioned it before, there is a local Bahamian beer called Kalik, which is very tasty. After lunch we walked around and had a Guana Grabber at a beach bar named Grabber’s. A Guana Grabber is a famous local drink made of 3 kinds of fruit juice and 3 kinds of rum. It was quite good and I think a few of them would really grab you and not let go for a while. It was
low tide when we got back to the boat and Stolen Child was hard aground. Fortunately the wind was not changing direction much so none of the other boats swung into us. A couple of hours later the tide had come back in and we were floating free again. Rob fixed fettucini Alfredo for dinner.

Early Sunday morning, Feb 10, a thunderstorm blew through the anchorage. It was just a little after low tide and Stolen Child was still aground, but the 25+ knot winds blew her free of the bottom and we were able to swing with the other boats. Later that morning we got underway for Hope Town, on Elbow Cay. Hope Town is where the famous red and white candy-striped lighthouse is. The entrance to Hope Town is narrow, circuitous and shallow, so we timed our arrival with the high tide and entered
the harbor without any drama. The harbor was packed with boats and we had to motor around a lot before we found an empty mooring. After mooring we went ashore for lunch and then strolled around. We walked all the way to the northern tip of the island and back and were pretty tired by the time we got back to the boat. Rob cooked pasta in a clam sauce for dinner that was delicious.

Monday we took our trash to the dumpster and went to tour the lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1863 and is still in operation today. Back in 1863 the locals were very opposed to its construction because many of them made their living salvaging the wrecks of ships that would run into the reef. Once the lighthouse was built, the salvaging industry dried up completely. We were able to climb to the top of the lighthouse and look at the mechanism. The rotating part of the light floats in a
vat of mercury for a very low-friction bearing. It has huge glass Fresnel lenses to focus the beam, which is generated by a small kerosene mantle, much like you find in a Coleman lantern. There are weights that the lighthouse keeper winds up to the top of the lighthouse and a clockwork mechanism that turns the light as the weights fall. It was very fascinating and the view from the lighthouse is awesome. After the lighthouse, we went to the Harbor Lodge, which has a patio overlooking the reef
and Nancy and I sat on the patio having drinks while Rob snorkeled on the reef. We went to Captain Jack’s for lunch, then walked around town taking pictures for a while, then stopped at a coffee shop for coffee. Rob cooked burgers on the grill and some really good macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Tuesday morning we got underway for Marsh Harbor on Abaco Island. The weather forecast was for some bad weather to arrive later in the day, so we wanted to be safely anchored when it arrived. Marsh Harbor is well-protected but quite a bit larger than Hope Town harbor. There were quite a few boats, but still plenty of
room for us to anchor. Right after we got anchored, it started storming and it stormed intermittently the rest of the day. During a break in the rain, we dinghied ashore and had
lunch at a place called Snappa’s. This was the first food we had ashore that left us unimpressed. It wasn’t bad, but nothing to rave about, either. We walked around town for a while and returned to the boat well before dark. I have to say that I don’t really care for Marsh Harbor. It is very full of people and automobiles and strip malls. We hardly ever saw an automobile on any of the other islands, but of course the cays are much smaller than Abaco. On the cays, most everyone either walks
or drives a golf cart around. Marsh Harbor is the third largest town in the Bahamas and is in a busy growth phase. The good thing about Marsh Harbor is the airport and the availability of just about anything you need. It has supermarkets, hardware stores, liquor stores, banks, an airport, etc. The wind blew like crazy all night and I heard on the cruiser’s net this morning that it topped 40 mph during the night. Our anchor held like a champ, though.

This morning (Wednesday, Feb 13) Rob packed up all his stuff and we dinghied ashore for breakfast. After breakfast we went to Buck-A-Book, a used book store located in an old shipping container. Every book is $1 and they also have DVD’s for rent. All the money goes to the Abaco Wild Horses Foundation. We bought a few paperbacks and then it was time for Rob to catch a taxi to the airport. We really hated to see him leave and are looking forward to his next visit in some future locale. Nancy
and I are going to start planning our return trip to the States tomorrow. We want to make it a very leisurely trip with stops in as many places as possible.

So Many Islands, So Little Time

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Well, I had to wake up at 04:00 to do it, but I finally have some free time to update the log. I'll start with our last day in Key West and work chronologically to the present.

Friday, Feb 1, we woke up early and Rob and I dinghied ashore and got his luggage out of the rental car and a few cases of beer he had picked up on the way to Key West. We got all of that ferried back to the boat, then we all went back ashore and Rob drove us to the clinic to get our Yellow Fever vaccination and he went to the grocery store to provision for the trip. Rob met us at the clinic after provisioning and we took the groceries to the dinghy. Nancy and I took the dinghy back to the boat
while Rob returned the rental car and caught a cab back to the fuel dock. After we got all the groceries stowed, Nancy and I pulled up the anchor and motored the boat to the fuel dock. There was a beautiful wooden 3-masted schooner at the fuel dock from either Wisconsin or Michigan, I forget which. We filled the diesel tanks, water tanks, and the gas can for the dinghy outboard and were underway for the Bahamas by 14:00. The weather forecasts called for 5 to 10 knots of wind from the east, slowly
shifting to the southeast and wave height of 2 to 4 feet. These are pretty mild conditions but the wind direction is not the best for us. We will be sailing east along the Florida Keys, then northeast across the Gulf Stream to the Northwest Providence Channel, then east-southeast through the Providence Channel, and finally north-northeast to Marsh Harbor. We will be sailing into the wind for much of the trip, and we may be going too much into the wind to use the sails for some of the trip. This
time of year, however, it is unusual to get winds from the west or southwest (optimal for this trip) for any length of time, and when you do, it is usually because a front is moving through and the wind will soon be shifting to the north, which you really don't want for crossing the Gulf Stream.

The trip around the Keys and across the Gulf Stream was fairly pleasant. There was, of course, a lot of tanker, freighter and cruise ship traffic to watch out for, but that was expected. What surprised us was the amount of traffic pouring out of the Providence Channel. There were times where we had more than a dozen contacts on the radar within a 12-mile radius and nearly always had 6 to 8. It was late Saturday night and early Sunday morning by this time, and we are guessing that all the cruise
ships end their cruises on Sunday, so they were all heading back to Miami, Port Canaveral, or wherever they were based out of. It looked literally like a parade of ships going by for a while. Rob and I both stayed up for this part of the trip. Rob would stay on deck and keep a visual lookout, and I was below plotting ships' positions on the chart using radar for range and relative bearing and Rob giving me magnetic bearing for the ones he had in sight. This way we were able to better figure out
the ships' courses and bearings and determine the risk of collision. Some of these ships are moving so fast that you don't have much time to figure out how close they are going to get and which evasive maneuver is going to be the correct one. Anyway, we got pretty good at our visual and radar tracking system and managed to avoid any nasty bumps in the night.

Unfortunately, once we turned into the Northwest Providence Channel, we were going directly into the wind and waves, which made for a fairly uncomfortable ride, even with the relatively benign conditions. Nancy was sleeping in the forward berth and the boat started pitching (moving in a see-saw fashion) with the bow rising 5 or 6 feet on the wave crests, then falling 5 or 6 feet into the wave troughs. She developed a headache and really didn't feel very well. We decided to tack back and forth
across the Providence Channel, to help ease the motion, but I could tell she felt pretty bad. We were getting pretty close to Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama, so we decided to find a place there to anchor or dock and clear in through Customs. There didn't seem to be any good anchorages, so we decided on Port Lucaya Marina and tied up there.

After we tied up at Port Lucaya, I had to fill out all the paperwork for Customs and Immigration. Only the captain can leave the boat until Customs has been cleared. It only took about an hour to clear Customs and then we went for a stroll around the waterfront and had dinner at a restaurant. Nancy and I had conch fritters and conch salad and Rob had a conch burger. We were pretty exhausted, so we just went back to the boat, had a couple of drinks in the cockpit and went to bed pretty early.
The next morning we got up and washed all the salt off the boat, checked the engine, adding a little oil and cleaning the strainer for the raw water intake. We went to breakfast at a waterfront cafe and Nancy had a lobster omelet that was delicious. After breakfast we got underway, stopping at the fuel dock to top off the diesel and water.

We decided that instead of sailing through the Providence Channel and then north to Marsh Harbor, we would sail west and then north around the west end of Grand Bahama and enter the Little Bahama Bank, then sail east across the bank and then south down the eastern side of Abaco to Marsh Harbor. The Little Bahama Bank is like a plateau under the water. The ocean around the bank is hundreds to thousands of feet deep, then the ocean floor rises almost vertically to only a few tens of feet on the bank.
There are small islands (cays, pronounced like keys) all over the bank where we could stop and anchor for the night and many of them have pretty beaches and good snorkeling. We had a very good sail from Port Lucaya to White Sand Ridge, where we entered the bank. We got to White Sand Ridge shortly after midnight and the entrance to the bank looked so easy on the chart we decided to go ahead and enter in the dark and proceed directly to Great Sale Cay where we would anchor for the next night.

The trip from White Sand Ridge to Great Sale Cay was pleasant and uneventful, but I have to mention the dinner Rob fixed while we were underway. It was a linguine pasta with putanesca sauce (I'm not sure of the spelling). The sauce has oregano, basil, anchovies, olives, capers, crushed tomatoes, and various other ingredients and it was awesome. We arrived at Great Sale Cay and dropped the anchor in 8 feet of crystal clear water. We went swimming and I got my first good look at the boat's hull
since hauling it out of the water when we first bought it. Whatever the previous owner had used for bottom paint was really good, because there was no growth of any kind on the hull. Rob and I dove down and looked at the anchor and were surprised at how quickly it sets. You could see where it had started out and that was only about 2 feet from where it was set. After swimming we took showers and relaxed in the cockpit. Rob is making these drinks called Cuba Libre. They have rum, Coke and lime
in them and they are very good. I rarely drink mixed drinks, but these things are habit forming. They go well with a Guinness, too. Rob fixed steaks marinated in cuban mojo sauce with beans and rice. It was again an incredible dinner.

Wednesday morning we got underway headed for Green Turtle Cay, but we figured it might be too close to dark before we got there for comfortable navigation close to shore, so we decided to stop overnight at Allens-Pensacola Cay. Allens-Pensacola used to be two islands, but a hurricane piled up sand between them, joining them into one cay. We got there fairly early and Rob swam to shore and went exploring. Nancy and I relaxed in the cockpit for a while, then launched the dinghy and went ashore.
We found Rob and Nancy and Rob walked over to the Atlantic side of the island while I just wandered around the beach on the anchorage side. Then it was back to the boat for another sumptuous feast, drinks and music. Ro
b fixed some of the best burgers I've ever eaten with spanish rice liberally doused with Cholula sauce. I call them fantail burgers (the fantail is the aft end of a boat or ship and that is where our barbeque is).

Thursday morning (this morning) we got underway and arrived at Green Turtle Cay about 13:00. We dropped anchor just off the town of New Plymouth and dinghied ashore. We ate lunch at a little restaurant and I had the fried conch and fried grouper special. It was indeed special. Nancy had a crawfish salad and conch fritters and Rob had a grouper sandwich and conch salad. New Plymouth is a very pretty, quaint little town that was founded in 1786 by loyalists from the States after the revolution.
It is not glitzy or touristy at all, which is why I liked it so much. The streets are narrow, the houses are small, and they are all painted pretty pastel colors. We just wandered around for a while and toured the local museum. We're back on the boat now and Rob is fixing jerk chicken with beans and rice for dinner.

There is more interesting stuff to tell, but I really want to get an update posted on the website, so I am going to wrap this up and get it sent off. I can use my HAM radio to send this text as an email to a certain email address, and it will show up as a log entry on our website. That way I can make an entry without having internet access, but I can't attach any pictures, so I'll just save all the pictures until I have internet access and create a gallery on the picture gallery page. Even though
we are having fun, we miss everyone and look forward to hearing from you. Send us an email at the kc0wtv address I sent you.

Perplexed in Paradise

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I really, really want to make a nice, long entry, but I have a problem. The ice is melting in my cuba libre (an awesome mixed drink that Rob is making for us) and I need to get back to it. We are anchored at Great Sale Cay, having arrived here shortly after noon today (Tuesday, 2/5/08). We had a great sail and a little bit of motoring to get here. Once we dropped anchor, we drank a few beers to celebrate our arrival, then went snorkeling, took showers, then started on the cuba libre drinks.
We just fired up the grill and Rob is going to grill steaks marinated in cuban mojo marinade. Rob really needs me to deliver a professional opinion on the merits of drinks made with Ron Abuelo rum versus drinks made with Captain Morgan rum, so I really don't have time for a long log entry. I've been keeping my journal up to date, so I'll post a nice long log entry within a few days to catch you up on all the details of our very interesting last few days. Well, duty calls, I have a drink made with
Captain Morgan waiting for me. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it.


Key West

Friday, February 1st, 2008

We stayed on the boat all day Sunday, resting, cleaning and straightening up the boat. The wind picked up to about 20 knots for a couple of hours, then blew at about 15 knots the rest of the day. The anchor seemed to hold without budging. One of the hinges on the companionway door broke and I replaced it. I had noticed it was cracked some time ago and had been looking for a set of replacement hinges, but couldn’t find the same kind of hinge. I wound up emailing Tayana and they were able to send me nearly exact replacements. I had them stowed aboard and was planning to replace all of them when I refinish all the teak in the cockpit. The hinges are tightly mortised into the doors and frame and the new hinges were slightly larger than the old ones, so I had to chisel out the mortise a little larger. I was glad I had stowed some chisels and other woodworking tools aboard. Small as the job was, it was fun to do some woodworking on the boat. I only replaced the broken one and will wait to replace the others when I get around to refinishing the teak.

Monday I removed the sheaves (pulleys) from the end of the boom so we could take them to town and look for replacements. The edges of the sheaves were broken and sharp-edged, which had caused the reefing line to part on the trip to Port St. Joe. I had to put more air in the dinghy before we could go to town. Our dinghy is an inflatable and has a very slow leak, so I have to pump it up every few days. When we got to the dinghy dock, it was incredibly crowded, just like the last time I was in Key West. We were able to push and shove our way into the crowd of dinghies and get tied up, though. We went to the West Marine store and they didn’t have an exact match for my sheaves, so I bought some that were too big and some that were too small, thinking I would modify them to suit my needs if exact replacements couldn’t be found elsewhere. It was mid-afternoon when we left West Marine so we went to Finnegan’s Wake Pub to get our daily recommended allowance of Guinness and have a late lunch/early dinner. They had both Guinness and Murphy’s on tap, so I had one of each. Nancy and I both had the fish and chips. After we ate, we just strolled around a little and then headed back to the boat. We still wanted to get our Florida driver’s licenses, get a couple of immunization shots, visit Customs and Border Protection, and do some sight-seeing, so we called Rob and arranged for him to rent a car one-way from Miami to Key West and meet us here instead of Miami.

Tuesday we went ashore and the dinghy dock wasn’t quite as crowded. We went first to Customs and Border Protection. I wanted to make sure I knew the procedure for clearing back in when we return from the Bahamas. Next we went to the Department of Health office to get travel immunizations. We had gotten several in Kansas City, but they didn’t have the yellow fever vaccine and we need the booster for Hepatitis. The Department of Health directed us to a different office but said we would have to make an appointment and gave us a number to call. I tried calling several times, but got a recording and left a message. If I don’t get a return call by Wednesday, we’ll just show up and see if we can make an appointment in person. Next we went to get our driver’s licenses. We had to wait quite a while, but we now have official Florida driver’s licenses. We will be getting our mail through a mail forwarding service located in Florida, so our domicile of record is now in Florida and we already registered to vote in Florida. We are now officially Floridians. After we left the license office, we went to Los Cubanitos Hardware, an old-town Key West marine hardware store, where I was able to find some exact replacements for the sheaves in the boom. They only had two, and I could have used four, but I can use the two new ones for the first and second reef lines and re-use the best of the original sheaves for the outhaul line. The fourth sheave is not being used as I don’t have a third reef point in my main sail. We were quite pleased at not having to jury-rig the sheaves we got at West Marine. We returned the West Marine sheaves and went to Pepe’s for dinner. At Pepe’s I had the best soup I’ve ever tasted. It was a mahi-mahi soup with sweet jalapeno peppers. There was a couple at the next table who looked Japanese. I had taken a year of Japanese at the University of Kansas back in 1990. I decided to try speaking to them in Japanese to see if they would understand me. I leaned toward them and asked in Japanese if they were from Japan. The girl’s eyes got as big as saucers when I said this and she smiled and babbled something back to me which went completely over my head. All I caught was enough to know she was quite surprised to find a crusty boat bum in Key West speaking Japanese. I replied in Japanese that I didn’t understand everything she said, that my Japanese is very poor. Fortunately their English was much better than my Japanese and we pretty much stuck to English after that, although I did dredge up and shake the cobwebs off a few more phrases. He is a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan and will be returning to Japan next year. They drove down from Michigan for a vacation and spent some time in Orlando and just arrived in Key West this morning and will be leaving this evening to return to Michigan. She is from Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. They were very surprised and pleased to hear Japanese in Key West, even as badly mangled as it was. It was fun to try speaking Japanese again after all this time and I felt good that they were able to understand me.

Wednesday was busy. I changed the oil and oil filter in the engine, which is a moderately unpleasant job, but is rather enjoyable when I have some tunes playing and I’m singing along. Unfortunately, my singing makes it even more unpleasant for Nancy, but she is strong and able to tolerate quite a bit of unpleasantness. I also put the last coat of varnish on the teak seat that goes on the stern of the boat. I have been waiting for good weather (warm temperature, no rain, low humidity) to put the last coat on and today was perfect. Nancy put some waterproofing on the front half of the bimini (the canvas awning over the cockpit) and put leather conditioner on the leather chafe protector while I was doing the engine work. We finally went ashore just after noon and went to the clinic where we were supposed to be able to get some immunizations we need. You have to make an appointment to get the immunizations, but they don’t answer the phone when you call, and they don’t return your message, so we decided to go in person and ask for an appointment. So we get there and there isn’t even anyone to talk to face-to-face. There is a phone and you dial an extension to talk with whoever is behind the green curtain. I dial the extension and a lady answers. I ask for an appointment for travel immunizations and she says she can’t schedule an appointment because the computer is down. I guess they threw away all the paper and pencils when they bought computers. Anyway, she said she would be able to make us an appointment Friday and I’m wondering how she knows the computer will be working Friday. Maybe it isn’t broke, just on vacation and is returning Friday. I gave her my cell phone number
and she will call us Friday to make an appointment, though I’m hoping we are on our way to the Bahamas Friday. We left the clinic and toured the Ernest Hemingway house. I had seen it when I was here in April with William, Jamie and Kevin and I enjoyed it the second time as much as the first. Nancy enjoyed it, too. Then we had a late lunch/early dinner at an Irish pub named Bogarts. It is the same place where William and I waited for Kevin and Jamie to get to Key West. We had Guinness, conch fritters and fish & chips. We were both pretty tired by the time we made it back to the boat. Tomorrow should be a moderately slow day, as we’ve done everything we really wanted to get done here except the immunizations and we can’t do that until the computer gets back from vacation. Rob will get here tomorrow early evening.

Thursday we put the new sheaves in the boom and Nancy finished waterproofing the bimini. We packed up all our dirty laundry and went ashore. The lady from the immunization clinic called while we were doing laundry and said we could get our shots at 10:00 Friday. We hauled the laundry back to the boat and then did a little more sightseeing before heading to the pub to meet Rob. We had dinner and a couple of beers and then headed to the boat. It currently looks like Friday will be a good day to start for the Bahamas. The plan as I write this (Friday, early a.m.) is to get immunized, provision, return Rob’s rental car, top off the diesel and water tanks, then head for the Bahamas. If we hustle, we can get all of that done and be out in the Florida Straits by mid to late afternoon. Hopefully my next log entry will be from the Bahamas, or perhaps en route to the Bahamas.