Sunday, April 28, 2013

"The Whale" And On To Marsh Harbour

  I had said we had two options to get from Green Turtle Cay to Marsh Harbour. They were taking the Whale Cay Cut, or taking the Don't Rock Passage. The other option I didn't mention was a shallow, twisty passage just west of Whale Cay, and that is what I thought we would try, considering we would be going at high tide. But I wasn't ready for what we found.
  On Sunday morning we got up early and had a nice breakfast of a spinach and bacon cheese omelet with a side of Bahamian Bread, toasted. Don't forget a couple cups of hot coffee.
  A sailboat had just pulled anchor that was anchored in front of us and I called him on the VHF. He had just come through the Whale Cut at noon on the day before and although he said it was "bumpy", he thought it wasn't too bad. I knew he came through in much greater wind than we had this morning, and he also said we would have better conditions going through than he did, if we left now. We were pulling anchor as I spoke to him, and we headed out.
  "The Whale" is a narrow cut that dumps deep ocean water onto a shallow area of the Sea of Abacos. The swells roll in, even in good conditions, and they rage in bad conditions. A strong northerly wind, coupled with an outgoing tide, result in breakers that will wreak havoc with even the largest of vessels. My approach was to get a visual on any breakers before we committed the boat to the cut.
  When we made our turn to pass through the cut, we could see that the ocean wasn't breaking in the channel, but the swells were big, the biggest we had encounter so far. But since there were no waves breaking, our curling over, I figured we had a shot. I also realized why taking the Don't Rock Passage, or the Whale Cay Passage, were equally treacherous; trying to negotiate a shallow and twisty passage with the giant swells would be tricky. I considered that attacking the swells head on in a straight line to be our best chance.
  When we passed through the cut we only rang the ships bell twice, but sea spray was blowing over the top of the bimini. We had our isinglass closed, and we stayed dry and nobody barfed, but I had a grip on the wheel just trying to keep us on a straight course. I know now that if we ever encounter waves taller than the boat, I will simply crap my pants.
  After getting through the cut, we had to make a turn to the south and take on beam seas to head for the Loggerhead Cut. The Loggerhead Cut was dredged over 20 years ago to make a channel for cruise ships transiting the cays in this area, but the route was abandoned soon after because it was too dangerous. As we were headed for the Loggerhead Channel, we could see a huge wreck in our path that wasn't on any chart we had. I wasn't sure if it was in our way or not, until we came right up on it.
  With the swells to our stern, we glided into the Loggerhead Channel, keeping distance from the old steel posts that used to mark the channel. Once we got Guana Cay on our port side, the seas calmed and we made a beeline to Marsh Harbour, eight miles away, but I was a nervous wreck.

  Entering Marsh Harbour is no easy task. The channel twists and turns through several shoals, plus boats are at anchor throughout the harbor, so it was hard to tell where we were supposed to go. In these situations, I always figure that it must be deep between any two  boats, so I used that method to get into the back of the harbor.
  We fueled up at the Conch Harbor Inn Marina, taking on 107 gallons of diesel for a shade under $700 bucks, cash. I didn't like the price quoted for dockage at Conch Harbor, so we popped over to the Harbor View Marina and signed up for at least three nights for a buck a foot per night, plus metered electricity and $5 per day for all the water we wanted to use. The first thing we did was wash the salt off of Swing Set, opting for a more thorough washing in the morning.
  The town of Marsh Harbour probably has just about anything you want, at a price. We took a long walk in both directions away from the marina just to get a lay of the land. We were hoping for a nice quaint town similar to New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, but once off of the water, the town is mainly a series of dusty paved roads, no shade, lots of signs, and more dust. Nearly everything was closed, it being Sunday, but I made mental notes of all the placed I wanted to visit when they opened on Monday morning, as I began my search for the fuel flow solenoid we needed for the generator.
  We had also gotten a reference for an electrician named Andrew. It is well known that Andrew wears a skirt and has a preference for other men. I don't care. He's the guy I want if we have to resort to having our solenoid rebuilt. Any guy that has the nerve to wear a skirt to work has to be good at what he does. I hope he thinks I'm cute.

  We treated ourselves to hot showers on the boat and went next door to Snappas for happy hour. We wanted to celebrate making the pass through "The Whale" in one piece, not that we ever need a reason to celebrate.
  Two fellows at the end of the bar are world travelers on their sailboat, and it was fun trading stories with them. They couldn't believe that Rosie is of little use in navigating our boat, but she was quick to assure them that she wasn't. To her credit, she has other attributes that outweigh any navigational skills known to man, or otherwise.
  So a full day is what we had. Tomorrow, Rosie is going to give Swing Set a thorough washing and I am going in search of our generator part and some other things we need. The forecast is for rain all week, so we might be here a while. We keep getting stuck in these rotten places.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Couple of Stops and Then Green Turtle Cay

  Seven or eight miles to the southeast from Allans-Pennsecola Cay was Crab Cay, or one of them. There are at least a couple of Crab Cays on the charts for this area. We took a slow cruise to Crab Cay and anchored in a calm spot within view of the first beach lined with palm trees that we have seen occurring naturally since we've arrived in The Bahamas.
  Between Crab Cay and Great Abacos Island was a small inlet leading to the Sea of Abaco. In our anchorage we had a view through the cut where we could watch boats travel from the Sea of Abaco into the Little Bahama Bank.
  We took the dinghy out to explore but were soon battling a strong outgoing tide as we were making our way into a creek system leading into the island of Little Abacos, which is adjacent to Great Abacos Island. A combination of enough throttle to keep forward momentum, plus shallower and shallower water, with a rocky bottom, was not my idea of a good thing to be doing, so we turned around and headed for some calm water just inside the inlet leading out to the Sea.
  I donned my snorkel gear and spear to inspect an area below a rock shelf in very shallow water and found an abundance of snapper. I speared a larger one on the first try and proudly took it back to the dinghy where Rosie and Holly were waiting, and I put it in a bucket that I had brought along for this very purpose.
  My activity in the shallow water stirred up the fine sand, or mud, so seeing more fish became a problem. I tried to spear another fish, but missed him, when I saw a nice sized "summer crab" and nabbed him, cleaned him, and added him to the bucket. Two sea creatures in one day is a record for me, so we high tailed it back to the boat to get my catch in the fridge and away from any prying eyes.
  I placed the snapper on my cutting board and it took one flip and went right back into the water and swam away. It took me a few moments to reflect on this event. No tears were shed, although tears were warranted.
  Still not believing my misfortune, I decided to snorkel around the boat after checking to confirm our anchor holding. I swam back behind the boat, and there was my snapper, resting on the bottom, or better put, sitting on the seabed waiting to die. It didn't get a chance. I speared it again and brought it to the boat. I didn't waste any time in cleaning the snapper this time and putting two small fillets in the refrigerator.
  Later, with my eye on more dinner supplies, I got back into the water for some more snorkeling. I was swimming away from the boat when I realized I was cooking along at a pretty good rate. In no time at all, the incoming tide had me pulling fast away from the boat. I honestly had all I could do to swim back to the boat while holding my spear in my right hand. Lesson learned there. Rosie did get a funny look in her eye when I asked her if she would have been able to come after me in the dinghy if I needed her to. OK, two lessons learned.
  Our plans for the evening were to have our fresh caught fare for dinner, along with a grilled sirloin roast. When I went to light the Magma Grill, it wouldn't light. I had filled the tank up in Marathon and hadn't used it yet, and it indeed felt like it was full, but no propane would come from the tank. There is a little screw valve on the tank valve that was closed tight, not allowing the propane to come out. I backed off the screw as the attendant at the propane supply store was supposed to have done, and a grillin' we went.
  We had snapper with lemon pepper, steamed along with "the crab", with our grilled sirloin. We added a box of macaroni and cheese and ate good that night. Livin' off the fat a da land!
  The next morning we left Crab Cay and headed for Coopers Town, and the anchorage across the Sea of Abacos at Powell Cay. We anchored up close to a beautiful beach, just north of a rock bluff which was sandwiched between another long white beach to the south.

  Once I made sure we had a good anchor set, we took Holly and the dinghy to the beach, marveling at the abundance of star fish lining the sea floor. We let the dinghy float at anchor just off shore and we went for a walk. In the picture, I'm wearing my dive knife on my right leg. I was no boy scout, but I come prepared.
  Holly got to run free along the waters edge on our walk and she was in heaven. She would only run part way ahead and then turn around to make certain we were behind her. She'd wait for us a bit until she would run ahead again. At one point she made a dash for the water for a brief swim, and then back to land she came. It may have been her finest moment.
  We got back to the dinghy as some other boaters were coming to shore, thus we were able to get a picture of us together.
  That afternoon we took the dinghy to the southern beach, but we left Holly on the boat to rest. We met some folks under some palm trees attempting to clean a few conch they had gathered. On a makeshift table nailed up between two trees, they had several knives, two hammers, a pair of pliers, a screw driver, a mallet, all laid out. The scene looked like a surgeons table in Negril. The only interest they had in us was whether we had any ideas about how to get the conch extricated from the shell. I only offered as to how I had watched a Bahamian in Bimini do several of them just by knocking a hole in the end and waiting until they crawled out, their home having been ruined. The conch hunters didn't want to wait that long, so pounding and digging away they continued.
  By nightfall, we had been joined by a dozen other boats, all sailboats, except one. We had a very calm night and decided to leave first thing in the morning, but we had a glitch. When I went to start the starboard engine it wouldn't start. The port engine and the generator are on a dedicated battery and the port engine cranked right up. I used the jumper switch to start the other engine. I know our house bank of batteries are on borrowed time. Normally we run the genset for a couple of hours in the morning to bring everything back up, but on the previous night, we had no wind, and since we were leaving right away, there was no reason to run the generator. This is the same scenario we had on the morning we left for Bimini. We now will have to ratchet up our power management a little.
  As we cruised to Green Turtle Cay we ran the water maker and the generator, and the wind generators. We fully intended to arrive with charged batteries and a good supply of water in case we anchored in either White Sound, or Black Sound, places where I would suspect the water supply to be questionable.
  Upon arriving at New Plymouth, an old English settlement on Green Turtle Cay, we decided to set anchor just west of the government dock, outside of either of the two harbors, and we're glad we did. We later took the dinghy in to both harbors and didn't find the views as nice as we had outside. Several other boats must have decided the same thing as we were joined by a few other boats throughout the day.

  The harbor for New Plymouth is separate from White or Black Sound, and is pictured above. There is a very nice dinghy dock for the public, and we tied up to it and dumped some trash in a nice big stainless steel dumpster right on the dock. We walked into town and were impressed with the clean concrete streets and tidy painted homes.
  The town has been in existence since the 1800's. There are two hardware stores and three small grocery stores, and several restaurants and few bars. We made note of one of them and decided to come back later. One of the bars, I mean. We did buy a few things from Sid's, the best stocked grocery store, we thought.
  Back at the boat, I decided to run the generator for a couple of hours because we would be gone to dinner, the time we would usually run the gen while we cooked. The generator refused to start.
  The truest thing about a diesel engine is that it has to get fuel. Well, any engine is like that, but diesels are relatively simple in that fuel flow is the usual cause of an engine not starting.
The one thing I know how to do is change a fuel filter. I hadn't changed the Racor filter since last August, so even if it wasn't the cause, it sure wouldn't hurt. Trouble is, I thought I had two extra filters for the smaller Racor unit on the generator, but I was down to our last one.
  After the filter change, the generator still wouldn't start. While operating the preheater, I noticed that the fuel flow solenoid wasn't activating, so I gave it a little nudge while holding the preheater on. The solenoid clicked into place and the engine started right up. I still wasn't sure of the root cause of our generator not starting, but one thing I knew was that I was out of spare filters, the easiest thing to fix.
  Later, we went to Sundowners for some beers and dinner. On our way into the dock, we stopped and talked to the German couple who we had met in South Bimini and were about to head back to Florida. It was nice to see them again.
  Once we arrived at Sundowners and had ordered two Kalik's, I got to talking to the owner, and I asked him who might have some Racor filter elements. He asked another patron at the bar the same question, the patron got on the phone to his brother-in-law, and a short time later, a fella pulled up in his golf cart, long hair, dirty t-shirt, no shoes, but with two Racor filter elements for our Racor 500 fuel filter. The price was high, but gladly paid, along with a tip and a beer for George, the owner of Roberts Marina in Black Sound. That was service.
  We had a nice time at Sundowners. They have free WiFi, so I tried to call my dad. Magic Jack may be free, but the connection was horrible. I'm glad we kept a small roaming plan with AT&T.
  This morning I went to start the generator again and it wouldn't start. I gave the fuel flow solenoid another kick in the ribs and the engine fired right up. We ran the generator for a couple of hours while we had breakfast and did some route planning for our trip south. I shut down the generator and did some diagnostics on the fuel flow solenoid. I was getting proper voltage at the solenoid once the preheater was activated, just like it's supposed to, so the problem isn't a bad connection to the solenoid. I did some random activation of the preheater and the solenoid did activate sporadically, so it will work, just not dependably. Our mission has become to either get this solenoid fixed, or buy a new one, and Marsh Harbor is the place to do either.
  Rosie and I went back into New Plymouth for lunch, and to pick up anything we might have missed at the grocery. In Black Sound, we stopped to talk to a sailor that was familiar with the area and he suggested Marsh Harbor Boat Yard for our generator repair, and also suggested an electrician in Marsh Harbor who probably could fix the solenoid. Bill Raynor was full of other useful information, and we were glad we stopped to talk with him. One thing he told us was to check our passports to make sure the amount of time on them was stamped 180 days, like our cruising permit is. We did check later and all was fine.
  Once leaving Green Turtle Cay heading south, cruisers need to either pass through "The Whale", a cut out to the ocean, and come back in again a few miles south at the Loggerhead Channel, or take an inside passage through "Don't Rock Channel", a shallow and treacherous route. The outside route seems to be the no brainer approach, but breaking surf makes the Whale Cut even more treacherous than the twisty Don't Rock Channel. Bill Raynor told us that we should have no problem going through Don't Rock, especially at high tide, so we're giving it a shot tomorrow. We'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Allans-Pennsecola Cay

  We didn't leave Fox Town on Sunday like we had planned. In the morning there was plenty of rain clouds in the area and more were heading in our direction. Monday was looking better as for as the forecast went, so we decided to stay put. Even though we were only going to travel eight miles to the east, there is no sense on leaving an anchorage when you have a good hook set if you don't have to.
  By mid afternoon the sun stuck its head out briefly. We put on our rain gear for insurance, (it won't rain if you put on the raincoat), gathered our week's worth of trash, put Holly in her Sunday best, and motored the nearly one mile across to Da Valley in Fox Town.
  The dock at Fox Town Shell, where the bar/restaurant "Da Valley" is located, sits on tall pilings which are not suited for getting on and off a dinghy. Most visitors are directed to tie up at a neighboring building with a deck right over the water. A wide wooden ladder provides the means to climb up, and to tie up. If you aren't the first one there, you are out of luck.
  I had told Rosie that we would bring the one bag of trash that we had, but we would leave it in the dinghy until we saw if there was an opportunity to dump it somewhere. The last thing I wanted to do was be accused of sitting out on anchor and avoiding the town, only to come in when we needed to dump garbage. That is not what it was, but it was how it would appear.

  In the photo, you may be able to see Swing Set way out past the rocks and a catamaran anchored pretty far off in the distance too. The sailboat tied to the dock had been towed in the day before. They had lost power and were calling for two days for help, but didn't issue a distress call. I only heard a boat calling Spanish Cay. There was no evidence of anyone being in trouble. More about them later.
  We walked in to "Da Valley" and were met by a half dozen locals in a very spartan room housing a plain wooden bar and a pool table. A dining room was off to one end and the deck was out front. A kitchen and bathrooms were toward the back. This would be the site of our Sunday afternoon activities, nearly seven hours of them.
  We met Judy Russel, the owner, one of her daughters, and then we met Ronald, Judy's husband. We grabbed two seats at the bar and ordered two Kaliks, after finding out the price, which was $4 each, a steep price but seems to be the going rate. No one else at the bar was having anything, just hanging out.
  We found out that the grocery store was closed on Sundays, a fact that didn't surprise me. We didn't really need anything, but we would have bought some eggs and some limes if they had them. Certainly they would have limes, but eggs would be a stretch. We might have even bought a case of Kaliks, but like I said, they weren't open.
  We began to meet the locals as they came in. Everyone was very friendly towards us. I was soon told that to them, we were like royalty. I don't really like being treated like royalty, but when you consider the alternative, I guess it was OK.
  I went out on the deck to make a call on Magic Jack. My dad didn't answer, so I called some friends in Florida because I was on the WiFi at Da Valley and the call was free. I did eventually get a call in to my father and we had a brief conversation.
  As I completed my calls, a fella approached me and introduced himself. I thought he said his name was Curtis, so I said, "Pleased to meet you, Curtis".
  "No!...It's KIRKWOOD! K-I-R-K-W-O-O-D" he spelled out. Then he proceeded to list all the services he was prepared to avail upon us. Anyting we need, brudda.
  Our freezer was full, so I didn't want any fish, or "summer crab", so after a brief description of all the services he himself provided as an "attendant" there at Da Valley, then came what I was expecting, a request for money.
  As I have said before, I don't hand out money to anyone. And, if KIRKWOOD had asked for one dollar, or five dollars, I would have politely declined his request. But....Kirkwood had asked for SIX dollars. I had to ask myself why the number six? He said it was only to be "a loan", and that no one could see me give it to him or he would get in trouble. I was intrigued by the amount, and the clandestine nature of his request, so I said I would loan him the money. How repayment was going to be facilitated was another mystifying concept.
  I went to the bathroom and withdrew six one dollar bills from my wallet. I palmed the bills and went back to the deck and was prepared to slip them discreetly to Kirkwood, but he wasn't having any of it. "Don't do dat, mon. Don't do dat." He was in fear of being seen taking money from me to the point of paranoia.
  I got up and on my way back inside, I slipped the bills under the tarpaper on the side of the building and said to Kirkwood, "Look here". He did.
  Soon after, Kirkwood entered the bar like he was loaded, a new man had arrived. He approached one friend and bought him a Dr. Pepper for one of his newly acquired dollars. Another chum got a Coke for the same amount. I was starting to like this guy. Later on I whispered to Kirkwood that it was time to repay the loan. I asked him to go to our dinghy and get the bag on trash we had on board and get rid of it for us. He was happy to oblige and promptly did so. He was happy and so were we. I later received a respectful "knuckle bump" from our new friend.
  A woman from the sailboat out front had come into the bar seeking information about when was the next high tide. We talked to her some and found out their story. Her husband had changed out the Racor fuel filter on their diesel engine but didn't purge the air from the fuel line, so the engine wouldn't start. So for a simple item like that, they had become disabled at sea. I asked the woman why her husband didn't stay put where they were, which is where we are now at Allans-Pennsecola Cay, and she said her husband wanted to try to sail back to Fox Town. It gets worse.
  During the transit, one of their dogs, a four pound toy poodle, went topside to barf (not bark) over the side and got swept off the boat. With no power, there was no way to turn around in the wind, so they watched the dog swim for its life as they blew back toward Fox Town. Even with the tiny life jacket that the dog had on, there wasn't much chance of it surviving. I don't know if the woman was in possession of all of her faculties, but she didn't seem too upset by the situation. I know that Rosie and I would have been inconsolable. The very thought is still bothering us even today.
  A few other things that the woman revealed to me, and Ronald was listening in, had me convinced that her and her husband had no business being out in their little sailboat. I even asked her if her husband was making any comments about suicide. At one point I looked at Ronald and said that we needed to go have a "talk" with this woman's husband. He agreed, but we didn't do it. Apart from never trying to date a hooker, two more things a man should never do is tell another man what he should do with his wife, or his boat. I gave the woman our card and told her to call us if they needed any help, as they were going in the same general direction as we were. I hope to never hear from them.
  We met Freddie, the mechanic who fixed the fuel problem on the sailboat. He was making a decent living there in Fox Town, just doing anything he could to survive. Knowing how to fix things always gives a person a leg up when they are around others who don't. Kirkwood came over to Freddie and engaged himself in conversation with Freddie, and it was obvious that Kirkwood was a pariah in the community, even given his largess with found money. Kirkwood was pounding on Freddie's back in exclamation at the end of every sentence until Freddie finally said, "Kirkwood, if you hit me one more time, I'm gonna knock you out!"
  The place became deathly quiet until Kirkwood made a quick apology and a quicker exit, only to slip back in and ask me for another loan. This one I declined.
  By dark, the place was full of customers, and we were making a big dent in their Kalik supply. Judy began getting them from a cooler in the back and they were nearly ice, a good thing when beer tastes like a Kalik tastes. We weren't in Kansas anymore, and I don't like to overstay my welcome in a place with a pool table and a plentiful supply of alcohol, even if I'm the one drinking most of it.
  We ordered a plate of cracked conch to go, and asked for our bill. Seven hours of pounding Kaliks for both of us, plus just one order of conch brought our total just into three digits. I had to get a twenty from Rosie for the tip. Judy handed us the biggest container of fried cracked conch we had ever seen, piled high with lightly battered conch, a little bit of fries and a tiny cup of slaw. We had heard Judy pounding away at the fresh conch before deep frying it. It was the best conch we ever ate. Period.
  On Monday morning it was raining pretty hard. I looked at the radar and saw a break in the weather that was to happen about mid-day. When the sun came up, we pulled up anchor and headed to Allans-Pennesecola. As we left the harbor, Ronald came on the radio to say good-bye to "Mike and Rosie". We may have left a good impression.
  I kept an eye out for a little dog swimming in circles all the way into our anchorage where there were four boats nestled in. We picked out a good spot that wouldn't interfere with anyone and set a hook. I dove down on the hook to confirm a good hold because we had rocks on our lee side. We had another one of our great "surf and turf" dinners and after dinner, I used some of the chicken bones to put a couple of lines out in the hope of catching dinner for the next night.
  We played some gin rummy and enjoyed a quiet night. This morning the wind had swung us around and was forecasted to whip up later in the day, so I dove on the anchor again and positioned it better in the sand. On the way back to the boat I found a small conch crawling along the sea bed minding its own business. Things didn't bode well for the conch as it became bait. One thing I learned from a fisherman at Da Valley was how to use conch for bait, which there is always a good supply. I have a rod out there now, baited with the rascal, as I write this blog.
  Tomorrow we start heading southeast along the cays that make up the eastern chain of the Abacos. We'll stay a day or two at each anchorage as we head towards Green Turtle Cay where we might get a slip and visit a grocery.
  I've also forgot to tell about the one Bora fan that failed on the boat, just as we got to Bimini. We'll try to find a replacement if possible, and we're going to be in areas that might have such a thing. If that's the worst of our problems for a while, we'll be lucky.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Milestone

  Today is April 20th and marks one year to the day that we have been living full time aboard Swing Set, and it's the one year anniversary of Rosie's retirement. When we reflect back on all that has transpired in the last year we cannot hardly believe it.
  We've been at anchor here just across from Fox Town in the Little Abacos since last Wednesday. We had intentions of going in to shore on Thursday, but didn't see any activity at the local restaurant, Da Valley, at all. We didn't see any point in sitting in a bar or restaurant by ourselves, so we figured that we'd wait until the weekend, as the weather forecast has dictated that we'll be here at least until Sunday afternoon.
  The trouble with having windy conditions that warrant staying put is that those same windy conditions make dinghy travel wet and uncomfortable, and make other water type activities less than enjoyable too. So while we are waiting for the wind to calm down some, we have been reading and doing some chores, but are still enjoying the fabulous view from the boat.
  Some woodwork in the galley had come loose, so yesterday I used Gorilla Glue and fixed that, using some creative methods to clamp the repair while the glue dried. Having clamps and ratchet type strapping available is great for these type of projects because finding ways to put pressure on glue repair jobs takes some doing if you need to do them while the object is "in place".
  Holly also got a haircut. I scalped her this time, but Rosie says she still looks cute, and I have to agree. She does very well at holding still when I am trimming her face, what there is of it, but she still fidgets a great deal when I trim her feet. We think it tickles her. When I use the clippers around her private parts, she just about falls asleep in her reverie. Even telling about it makes me uncomfortable.
  Just as we were finishing up with Holly, we smelled something burning and we both figured it was just the trash burning in Fox Town, but upon further inspection, we found that a GFI receptacle in the day head had burnt. Really burnt. I had already replaced two of the three GFIs we have on the boat, as they had ceased to function. I didn't worry about the one in the day head because it's Holly's room and we don't use that receptacle, but the line feeds a receptacle in the master stateroom. All bets are off when conditions are such that the boat is bucking and bouncing, although it's a natural condition for a boat, but GFIs do get old and fail. This one may have tripped, or tried to and couldn't, and it took me some time to ascertain the problem, resetting the inverter three times during my diagnoses, probably exacerbating the overload condition. I replaced the melted GFI with a new fancy one that has a light on it to show there is no overload. Good to have spare GFIs around too. 
  I also found a worn out cable ferrule on the dinghy harness and replaced it with a stainless steel cable clamp. I say "ferrule", but I'm not really sure what it's called. All I know is that I had used some aluminum ones when we built the harness initially, not thinking of the salt water it would eventually be in. Aluminum really has no place on a boat, especially in a high stress area. When we get back to civilization, I'll rebuild the harness system for the dinghy as I have another idea about how to make it better. There is always room for improvement.
  On the subject of improvement, the wind generators have really come into their own in this steady 20 plus M.P.H. wind. We're keeping both battery banks charged up with ease, and are able to operate the water make on just the wind generator alone. I thought I had a problem with our recently rebuilt wind generator, but we are experiencing wind conditions that we have not had on a steady basis as of yet, and the unit is just operating like it is supposed to, going into "regulation mode" once the battery bank voltage reaches the cut-out voltage, only to start up again once voltage drops again to operating mode. The generator feeding the inverter bank typically doesn't enter this mode as the load from the refrigerator is always on it, but the 12 volt system doesn't have a constant load on it unless the water maker is on. I hope I have not just jinxed ourselves.
  Our Friday was just about shot. We took showers and got dressed a bit, and was heading for Da Valley, but the wind was really kicking up and we figured to be drenched before getting to shore if we went, so since we had no pressing reason to go ashore, we decided to eat in yet again.
  While heating up dinner and checking our mail on the St. Brendan's site, we saw a bill from the Community Health Center in Marathon where I got my physical recently. Even though the doctor there was in our network, we still got billed as though he wasn't. Not being where we can spend lots of time on the phone to rectify this error turns a small issue into a large one. We try to keep our ducks in a row but continue to be sabotaged by the incompetence of others. It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot, but I hate it when other folks are gunnin' for us.

  After a brief rain shower we watched another glorious sunset and then put one of our DVDs in and watched that before turning in. Rainman wasn't any better the second time around.
  Our sleep was a bit restless as the harbor here has not offered the wave protection that I thought it would. When the wind shifted more to the south, which I knew it would, I could have reset the anchor closer to the shore of Fox Town, but I don't like to pull anchor in a blow unless it's absolutely necessary, and two other boats in here that are anchored closer to the shore are bouncing around anyway, so it's best to stay put.
  If you read the comment section on my last post, you will see that an anonymous reader had questioned my use of the term "rode". My use of the term has only been applied from what I have learned from seeing how the term was used in other places. The best thing is that I'm not getting paid for this blog and I don't have to answer to anyone. I may even make up some words occasionally. If any comment needs to be made regarding my writing approach, it should be about my use of punctuation, as it is abysmal. I do try to keep the content mainstream, more or less, because two regional websites contain a link to this blog,, and Heartland Boating, and I only owe it to them to behave myself as much as possible. But it's not easy.
  We're going to try to make it into town again this afternoon as the wind is predicted to settle later on. Our short term plan is to leave here tomorrow afternoon and head for Allans-Pennsecola Cay, not very far away, but the scenery will be different. Next week looks good to start island hopping to the southeast, perhaps only staying one night in each place. We still want to find a calm anchorage with enough wind protection to allow good snorkeling conditions, plus a nice white sand beach to look at, as well as walk upon, would be nice too. I bet we find one.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fox Town Little Abacos

  There was quite a thunderstorm brewing on the morning we wanted to leave Port Lucaya Marina, but if I had the tides figured right, we needed to leave around noon to be at high tide when we got to the critical northern section of the Grand Lucayan Waterway. I had decided that if we couldn't leave in time for a safe passage through the Waterway, then we would stay another night and sit out the storm.
  We had good WiFi at the dock, so I had checked all my weather tools, not only for the current storm, but for the outlook for the next several days. I didn't expect to have any Internet service until we reached the western end of Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands. The current storm was fizzling out and it looked like we would meet our intended departure time of noon.
  Meanwhile, I cleaned out the sea strainers on our main engines. There was a fair amount of grass and sea shells, (little ones), giving credence to my suspicion of the starboard engine running hot was due to the debris in the strainers. I also checked engine coolant in both engines and they were full. Engine oil was full too. We were good to go.
  First we did a quick walk around the "town" to look for a loaf of bread. We wanted Bahamian bread but wound up buying a mass produced loaf of wheat at a small grocery for $4, the going rate. We also had to dodge several hawkers standing out in front of the many restaurants wanting to know if we had had our breakfast yet. I must be losing weight and be looking skinny for them to be concerned with me having had a good meal lately. If I look skinny, Rosie must look emaciated.
   We got back to the boat and I went up to pay our bill and get a receipt for our fuel and dockage. They had wanted to put us on a flat rate at $15 for electricity, but I opted for the metered rate, much to their chagrin. We used 6 kilowatt hours of electricity which amounted to a big $3.60. Cha-ching! But the rest of the bill was close to $500. Still, I'll always opt for metered electric as we don't use much, especially if we don't run the A/C, which we hadn't. In fact we haven't run any heat or A/C since last September.
  Patience is not a virtue I possess, and once the bill was paid and the sky cleared up, I wanted to head out and Rosie was ready too. I figured even if we left early, we could poke along and wait for high tide in the waterway if we needed to.
  We followed the Bell Channel east for a couple of miles and entered the Grand Lucayan Waterway, a boondoggle project if there ever was one. The eight-plus mile canal was dug to promote housing and resort construction right before the economy collapsed several years ago. There is huge concrete structures nearly completed, but abandoned. Lots of half built houses too. The early birds finished their homes, some of them humongous mansions, and they sit along the waterway alone, surrounded by barbed wire and big Doberman Pincers.
  There is one bridge to pass under but it's over 27 feet high. The waterway is lined with a concrete wall on all sides, and most of it is intact. The canal is 250 feet wide on the lower end, but narrows on the upper end and the retaining walls end there.

  In the picture, you can see the narrowing of the waterway. On the plus side, the depth on this upper end was sometimes 25 feet deep, but the bottleneck was at the opening to Dover Sound on the northern end.
  Even at our slow pace we reached the northern end of the waterway and the tide had just started to come up. I wasn't too worried though, as I had talked to a captain that morning at the marina that had traversed the cut at the upper end at low tide. He gave me a critical pointer about shoaling on the western side and I felt we could make it through.
  Bear in mind that we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and running aground would be a major event, so we were both nervous as we slipped between the narrow channel markers with lots of brown showing on either side of the boat. "Brown, brown, run aground", is the mantra.
  We got past the last set of markers and commenced to follow the course I had plotted out to reach Great Sale Cay. By the way, "cay" is pronounced "key", so if I say "bays and cays", it's not "bees and kees", but still "bays" as in "days". Forget it.
  The other shallow water transiting mantra is "White, white, you just might", as in if you see white, it's usually shallow water with a sand bottom, but not always. The trick is knowing the difference. We got through the channel and there was plenty of white showing directly in our path. I knew, or thought I knew, that both our chart plotters couldn't be wrong, but I generally avoided these big milky blue patches just in case. But I initially suspected that some underlying current, or wind condition was just stirring up the bottom. I was close.
  I later read in our Dozier's Waterway Guide that the phenomenon is called "fish muds". Great schools of Bonita, or other fish, congregate on the sea floor and stir up the loose mud, turning the ocean in those spots a milky white. I soon found myself just passing through these "fish muds" with ease. They look decidedly different than a shallow sand bottom, and since we were following a known route, I was content on following the information on the chart.
  We were both feeling the affects of the crossing over to Lucaya on the previous day, so even though we had a contingency plan to stop at Mangrove Cay on the way to Great Sale Cay, the contingency became a necessity when we realized that Great Sale was still three hours away and it was nearing 3 o'clock when we sighted Mangrove Cay.
  Mangrove Cay is just a spit of land barely sticking up from the sea, but most of The Bahamas is like that. The one advertised anchorage on Active Captain is shown on the west side of the island, but even though winds were predicted to come from the east over night, the waves were coming from the south, and they were substantial enough for us to want to avoid them for a decent nights sleep. I poked our way north of the island and set a good hook on the northeastern side where the water was calmer.
  We hadn't set anchor since we left the U.S., and at first the anchor didn't want to leave the pulpit. If anchors could think, I'd understand, but as far as I know, they can't. With a little nudge from Rosie, the anchor finally plunged into the seven feet of water. When I tried to retrieve it so Rosie could hook our floater on at the chain/rope juncture, the windlass would turn, but wouldn't take up line. I left things as they were and decided to think about it  later, as if I had a choice. The matter troubled me through a quick dinner and an early bedtime.
  Before turning in we got a call on the VHF. A sailboat heading west hailed us and wanted to know how much water we had under us. He also mentioned that in all his years he had never seen a boat anchored on the side of the island we were on. He seemed impressed to learn that we had seven feet under us, but he decided to anchor in the known spot, even after I told him my logic for picking our spot. He was planning on an early 5 A.M. departure in the morning, but might slip over and join us if things were bumpy on his side. We didn't hear from him, but our night was as calm as can be. Not a wave slapped our hull all night.
  As is typical, my best thinking is done right when I wake up. Then it's downhill from there. But on this particular morning, as I awoke I realized what the problem was with the windlass. The little tension arm was not resting against the line and capstan where it enters the locker. I went forward and gave it a little poke and back it went. I finished the surgery with a squirt of WD-40. I wish all our problems were solved that easily.
  Great Sale Cay was 20 some odd miles to our east, and it was to be our next stop no matter what. I knew the weather would hold out at least until Thursday, and even though we had no way to get weather reports except on our AM radio, I was confident that we could take our time in reaching the Abacos.
  We cranked up the water maker, which also was justifying the expense for it. Since our trial in the Dry Tortugas, I had some issues with the incoming line holding a pack into the water maker and had to prime it with a pitcher of water every time I started it up. This was not an insurmountable problem, but just added to the inconvenience of running the thing. I suppose most water makers are mounted closer to the water line, and while ours was in the "trunk" at the stern, it was a couple feet off the water. If I learned anything in all my years at the beer factory, was how to transfer liquids via a pump and how to pack a line. I began shutting off the inlet valve at the filter, which is mounted right next to the pump, when I shut down the water maker. This prevented the water from venting from the incoming line, allowing the pump to stay primed upon startup. Sometimes a quick valve switch from "circulate" to "run" is also needed, but it only takes a second until the air is out of the system and we start pumping. Currently, every time we are in transit, or running the generator, we make water and fresh water showers are readily available. The circulating line from the starboard engine keeps the water in the water heater nice and hot without running the water heater itself.
  Before hauling anchor, we plopped two hunks of pork roast into our small crock pot that we brought from our condo, but had never used. I had the bright idea that running the crock pot during a long transit would provide us with a quick hot meal upon arriving at an anchorage, and would minimize the use of our generator to make dinner. I added a packet of pork gravy and requisite cup of water, along with some pepper, set it on low and let 'er rip.
  Once we got underway I set the throttles at 800 RPM and let Rosie take the helm. While she kept a sharp eye to the east, I set out two fishing rods in order to troll for dinner on our way to Great Sale Cay. On one rod, the cheap one from Wal-Mart, I had a fake shrimp, and also left one of the two bobbers attached to the line. Don't ask why, as I don't know why.
I had never used our new rod and reel that we had bought from Gary and Judy's neighbor way back in November in Cape Coral. I set it up and attached the nicest lure I have to it, one I got from Denny Heisler at our going away party almost a year ago.
  We arrived at Great Sale Cay after a very pleasant cruise. However, nothing struck our lines, at least as far as I knew. The bobber and lure was missing from the Wal-Mart rod, but our Ugly Stick, Penn reel, and high dollar lure were still intact, on the plus side. Sigh. Good thing I know how to find locals selling fresh fish and lobster, I mean "summer crabs".

  No one else was at anchor when we pulled into the northwestern harbor at Great Sale. We bypassed the advertised anchorage and snuck into much shallower water where we had more protection from any southeastern winds that were predicted to come later in the week, if we decided to stay a few days. We were in grass, but I dove down on the anchor and it was deep. I have discovered that anchoring in grass will work if you get the anchor set deep in it. We were in a similar bottom during the 35 M.P.H. blow in Key West and we didn't move an inch. I also considered the direction we would drag to if we did drag, and it was to open water. No big deal. I also gave a quick look to our running gear and thought I saw some small barnacles on the exhaust housings, so a dive in the morning seemed necessary.
  While we ate like royalty upon our slow cooked pork and candied yams, over a dozen other vessels made their way into the harbor. All of them packed together around the one Active Captain advertised spot. Either it was the herd mentality at work, or we were in water too shallow for the other boats. Could have been both dynamics at work. We cranked up some Neil Young and took the picture above. Later we popped in a DVD and watched a movie.
  The next morning we were up early after a cool, pleasant night. After a quick breakfast I grabbed my mask and took another look at our running gear. Although some paint had come off of the exhaust housings and shafts, the trim tabs and trim tab bodies all retained their newly applied paint, and the hull didn't have a spot on it where the paint had come off, or where any sea life had taken up residence. What I thought was barnacles, well, wasn't. This made me happy.
  We had hoped for an Internet connection at Great Sale, and we did get an occasional signal, enough to download email and get a quick report on Windfinder, but the anchorage wasn't as nice as we had envisioned, so we picked a spot to the east and headed to it. I wasn't too comfortable with just a forecast from the radio station in Nassau for our travel planning. Fox Town, with its 200 foot BaTelCo tower on the Island of Little Abacos, was our intended target, just about 27 miles due east.
  I left the rods in their holders for this transit, but didn't deploy any line. As we left Great Sale, I had planned to take a short cut route south of the island which was shown on our Garmin Bluechart Mobil chart, but it was not showing on the dash mounted Garmin 640 chart. The app on the iPad had us traversing solid ground when we came through the Lucayan Waterway, and the 640 was right on, so I tended to agree with the dash mounted plotter, and took a course further south before heading east again. This made the route longer, but not as long as if we had gone aground.
  As we neared Little Abacos, I realized that the Garmin 640 charts were not as up to date as the app on the iPad. The Garmin Bluechart app was showing details that the other one did not have. They both agreed in terms of GPS location with our in dash Raymarine unit. For the approach to Fox Town, I decided to rely on the Bluechart app, having surveyed the route on the Explorer Chart earlier that morning. Details on the Bluechart app were visible in person.

  If you are on a computer and can blow this photo up, you can see the rocks that line the harbor entrance, along with the wrecks. We were extremely nervous coming in, but we kept a close eye on the depth finder, a tool that is always the determining factor in any situation. The water is so clear it was hard to tell just by looking at it just how deep it was, but we held at nearly eight feet all the way in. Fox Town came into view on our right as I again bypassed the Active Captain anchorage and made our way over a largely sand bottom and snuggled closer in to Hawksbill Cay, just across from town.

  Rosie hooked our floater onto the chain/line connection. We were in seven feet of crystal clear water with plenty of protection from anything but a westerly blow. We had an excellent Internet connection, some stores and restaurants nearby, and plenty of snorkeling opportunities. We knew we could stay here a few days and let our finances catch up with our expenses with no problem at all.
  You may have missed it from an earlier post, but some may wonder about our use of the "floater" on our anchor rode. The floater is a small fender attached to a short stainless cable with a snap on the end in order to clip it to the last link on the chain before the rope splice. We only have 25 feet of chain, and we don't want the chain/rope splice to contact a sand, or rocky bottom. The float keeps the splice off of the bottom and is easy to deploy. I later dove down on our anchor to not only confirm a good hold, but to check on the effect the float was having on our rode and found it to be satisfactory. Enough about that.

We took a short nap and then dropped the dinghy to go exploring. We are far enough from town to escape prying eyes, but just a short dinghy ride away. We can also see the boat from the one restaurant we'll go to if we go at all.
  The shore of Fox Town is lined with rocks, big rocks. Four huge boulders set as sentinels guarding the entrance to the two fuel docks and the government dock. I use the term "dock" loosely here. There is not much to them. We motored over to Shell fuel dock where the restaurant "Da Valley" is located. We were told to park our dinghy at a rickety ladder leading to the deck of a building next door, but we were not planning on staying just then. We just wanted to case out the terrain, and ask if we could bring our pet to Da Valley. "Of course, mon", came the reply, as if we were crazy to ask. The guy we asked had directed us in to the dock at the fuel station and the restaurant. He had a cute puppy with him, all white with a solid black circle around his left eye. I didn't take a picture, but perhaps later. The small pink scabs covering the puppy were a little disconcerting, however, and a mental note was made for us to keep precious Holly at a distance if we made shore.
  We secluded ourselves back on the boat, putting on the stereo and relaxing in the cockpit, taking an occasional dip in the ocean and keeping an eye on the horizon for other boats coming into the harbor for the night as they made their way east to the more popular Spanish Cay. We kept hearing them on the VHF, but no one stopped.
  We had defrosted two more of our "summer crabs" and I made a pot of spaghetti. We topped the spaghetti with a butter, garlic and lemon sauce, along with a nice "crab" on top. Don't forget the Parmesan. That was some good eating.
Fox Town is not mentioned by anyone on Active Captain, and no fuel stop is advertised there. The Abacos Guide and Bahamas Waterway Guide do mention it, but I think the rocks and shallow water scare most travelers away. Our friends Denny and Reggie have visited the restaurant here, so we'll have to try it for their sake. We might wait until Friday, or when we can see anyone else at the place, using our binoculars. We don't want to be the only patrons in the joint like we were at Sherri's in Bimini.
  I've already made routes to the next two stops, both cays on the Sea of Abaco. Both anchorages are secluded with no services, but only 8-10 miles from here, so Internet service should be OK. For now we have an iffy weather forecast ahead of us, but we have plenty of fuel, making our own water, and plenty of food and beverages, although the Bud Light supply is looking slim. My plan of two beers a day for each of us is as laughable now as it was when I made it. I'll check back in when we have another story to tell.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Port Lucaya On Grand Bahama

  We prepared ourselves and the boat on Saturday for a planned departure from Bimini Sands Marina on Sunday morning. I went to the dock masters office on Saturday to pay for the last night we were to be there and was told to wait until morning, someone would be in the office before 7 A.M. We roasted some chicken for our last Bimini meal and added some local seafood to the menu as well. Illegal local seafood. Hey, a guy was selling some "summer crabs" at the dock. If we didn't buy four of them, someone else would.
  By 7:20 Sunday morning I was still waiting for "Donnie" to show up and burning daylight. The wind was due to pick up in the area we planned to travel to by late afternoon and I wanted to be gone. I left a note on the counter telling them to charge our credit card and we cast off. I called on the VHF on the way out and finally got in touch with the person who had promised to be in the office before 7 A.M. Donnie said there would be no problem with them just charging our card. We'll be checking.
  There were light winds and some waves as we made our way up the North Bimini coast. By the time we were an hour out and just past the Northern Rock, we were being tossed side to side on a beam sea and the ride was uncomfortable.
  I tried a turn to the east to head into the waves and wind and quickly realized that heading to the Berry Islands to the east like we had originally planned was a bad idea. The wind started blowing waves over the top of the boat and soaking us. I turned back to the northeast and we figured we'd stick it out.
  As we left the Bahama Bank and into the Northwest Channel, and into much deeper water, the waves got bigger but further apart and the ride became tolerable, but just tolerable.
  One comforting thing was that in our sixty-plus mile crossing we saw plenty of ship and boat traffic. We didn't feel like we were all alone. I used our Spot device to send a couple of "We're OK" messages to those on the list. I hope they care.

  We sighted a huge tanker sitting outside of Freeport Harbor about 30 miles from the coast, and then we saw land at the expected 20 miles out. We took a turn more to the east and followed the Bell Small Boat Channel to the Bell Channel Inlet, pictured above, into Port Lucaya.
  Old Bahama Bay Marina looked deserted, and we had read that they no longer had fuel, so we turned to our port and found the Port Lucaya Marina and pulled in to top off our tanks.
  We took on 69 gallons at a very reasonable price of $5.55 per gallon. The rent at the marina is a bit steep, twice as much per foot as Bimini Sands, but electric is metered and water is a flat rate of $10 per day for all you want. After a tiring crossing, plus a desire to wash down the boat, we signed up for one night.

  We were tucked in behind a big Ocean Alexander and just across from a big Hatteras Convertible fishing rig. We had rich company while we washed the salt from our own boat.
  Another Sea Ray pulled in while we were finishing up, and they had a little Yorkie aboard. Turns out the girl wanted to finish a hair cut that she had started, but forgot to bring her dog clippers. We loaned her Holly's clippers so she could finish the job.
You can see part of Port Lucaya in the background of the picture above, and even the local Pizza Hut. This part of the Bahamas has more of a "Disneyland" look to it. The little bar/restaurant village was built just for tourists and probably not indicative of the real Port Lucaya, but we were tired and hungry, and just before sunset, we gathered up Holly and took a walk into "town".

  Coronas and Miller Lites were offered up at Rumrunners at two for $5. A good deal here. We struck up a conversation with a local who scooted down to another bar stool to give us room to sit, plus we met some other folks from the U.S. and Canada, down here on vacation. One girl asked us where she could find the "real" Bahamas. We said they we intended to find out soon.

  Holly looks like she is about to fall asleep on her feet, but was really just blinking from the flash. She actually behaved well at the bar and made some friends. She dismissed a couple of shady characters in her typical way, but overall, was fairly accepting of all who came by to pet her. We think she may be elitist.
  After a couple of beers and walk around, we stopped by Pizza Hut and got a pizza to go.
  WiFi service is very good here, therefore the blog tonight. In the morning I need to check engine oil and coolant levels. I'm going to clean out the sea strainers, particularly the starboard one, because that engine was running hotter than the port engine on the way over. I hope it's not the raw water impeller, but if it is, the one on the starboard engine is easiest to replace and I have spares.
  By mid-day we should be heading up the Grand Lucayan Waterway the divides the island in two. We should be able to get back on the hook as the north side of Grand Bahama is filled with lots of bays and cays, offering plenty of protection from wind and waves coming from any direction. We'll be in the Abacos by mid-week, but then again, maybe not.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Slight Delay In Our Departure From Bimini Sands

  Yesterday I filled up the fuel tank in the dinghy, taking on a whopping 2.8 gallons at a cost of $18, in order to get ready for our intended departure to Port Lucaya on Saturday.
  When I started putting the dinghy up on the dinghy davits, I noticed some extra flex in the starboard davit. Upon closer inspection, I found two failed welds on the brace just at the most significant bend on the davit. This juncture takes the most stress and I guess our crossing last weekend was too hard on it. My heart just sank at that moment and I had to sit down and think. Had I noticed it last Monday, I could have had it fixed by now. Lesson learned to inspect the boat closer after a rough trip.
  I gave myself less than a minute to mope about it, and even had visions of scrapping our Bahamas adventure and towing the dinghy back to the U.S.A. Then I got to work.
  First, I went to the office and inquired about local welders. I was told to find the foreman of the construction crew that is building condos on the premises. "Pete" might know somebody.
  Then I went to visit a couple we met at the pool who come here all the time and know a few locals. Craig and Jean are from New York, or thereabouts, and visit Bimini every few months. Unfortunately, Craig didn't know anyone, but could contact "Peanut", his main man here in Bimini, if I needed him to.
  I finally found Pete. He then found his second in command, Calvin. Calvin said that "Rudy" was on his way over here from North Bimini to do some welding for the construction company. He was the only welder in these parts and the guy to see. I was told that he would be sent in our direction when he got on site. I've heard these types of stories before, but for the time being, it was our only hope.

  I didn't waste any time while waiting for Rudy to show up. I found some scrap lumber and bent the dinghy davit back into the position it's supposed to be in, and used the available surfaces of the boat to hold the steel in place.
  I was told that Rudy was a Cuban, so I was looking for a smallish type Cuban fella to show up, but coming down the walkway towards our boat was a very large man, lumbering steadily in our direction. I gave him a hi sign, indicating that I was the one waiting for him. He nodded and kept coming.
  When he got close enough for conversation, I asked him if he was Rudy. He shook his head yes, and then said, "I heard you were looking for me and wanted to beat me up!"
  I said that I did want to beat him up, but first I would have to go get my wife to help me.
He raises his big paw with four fingers up, and says "You're gonna need four wives". By now he's at the boat and I invite him aboard while we both are sharing a laugh.
  Rudy surveys the situation and does some serious thinking. His portable welding equipment was in North Bimini. He could bring it over, but getting it close to the boat would be an issue. He asked if I could bring the boat over to the Government Dock in North Bimini on Saturday morning. I ask him what time I should be there and he tells me 9 o'clock.
  I said I'd be there and he gave me his phone number so I could call him when we got underway. As he was leaving he said the price would be cheap, we would have to give him "the dog".
  I said, "No way. You got a better chance at getting the boat."
  Having nothing better to do for the rest of the day, we filled a cooler and went to the pool. We met a few folks, and Craig and Jean came up too. A couple we met here had left this morning (against my better judgement) for Chubb Cay, then to Nassau, and I looked out into the channel and saw them coming back in, six hours after they had left this morning. This was not a good sign.
  When Dave and Michelle got their boat docked and finally came up to the pool, they had a story to tell. They were taking six footers on the nose and water was flying over the top of their 50 foot Carver. Dave had gone down below to use the head when they were hit on the beam by a wave that knocked Dave to the salon floor and sent their stereo and printer crashing to the floor too. Dave hurt his knee in the process, and they turned right around and made their way back to Bimini to try it again this morning when conditions were forecasted to be better. They haven't showed back up, so I guess they made it to Chubb.
  We stayed at the pool until nearly sunset and then came back to the boat and had a quick dinner and turned in early for our big day today.
  I called Rudy at 8:30 and said we were heading out. He said he would direct us in at the Government Dock in 25 minutes. We were drifting in front of the dock for just a few minutes and here comes the Cuban on a Honda step-thru 90, pulling a huge Lincoln Arc Welder on a small rusty trailer behind it. To my utter disappointment, Rudy motions for us to come in broadside to the concrete dock. The wind was up and I knew it would be dicey, but Rosie put out all our fenders and I positioned ourselves to float right into the dock with the wind, doing our best to avoid the north corner of the dock where huge rods of rusting re bar were sticking out of the decaying concrete.
  Just as I'm 25 feet from the wall, the local water taxi comes in. Apparently I am taking his spot and he doesn't like it one bit. He motions for me to turn away. "Too bad pal", I say. "I'm already committed and I'm staying here". I'm hoping Rudy has the pull in town that I think he does, and I'm right. Once the pilot of the water taxi sees Rudy, huge Rudy, we hear no more about it and the water taxi squeezes into a space on our bow until we leave.
  At Rudy's suggestion, Rosie and I had placed just about every old towel we had, plus some of our "good" ones, along the stern and wetted them down to protect our vinyl and our fiberglass from the sparks of the welder. Rudy gets to work and first repairs the two broken welds on the starboard davit. Then he cuts four more braces and welds them into place on either side of the braces at the corners of both davits that take the most stress.
  He grinds a little, and buffs his work even less, but the welds look strong and I'm happy. He looks at me,  shrugs his shoulders and says "Looks good to me", and I know he is finished. This was no time to be finicky about fit and finish.
  He gets all his stuff put away and I ask him how much? He looks at me and says with a straight face, "A grand".
  "Rudy!" I say, "You know, now that I think about it, I think I'm gonna have to take you on myself."
  He laughs and holds up two fingers. "Two", he says. I go get two hundred and a fifty for appreciation. He sees the tip and holds out his big paw for a knuckle bump, a sign of respect in this part of the world. He said for us to keep his number, he'd be glad to help us out in the future.

  We were able to pull away from the Government Dock without incident and made our way back to Bimini Sands Marina. I cleaned up the welds with some 1000 grit sandpaper and got the dinghy squared away while Rosie cleaned the boat up and got some laundry together.
  While Rosie was washing the towels we had used for the welding project, I met some new boaters to the marina and was introduced to a local who had come by in his skiff which was loaded to the gunnels with fresh conch. I was told that he also had some "summer bugs" for sale.
  It's uncanny how these "summer bugs" look just like lobster, and even taste similar, but whatever you do, don't call them lobster. I bought 16 large ones for $5 a piece. We're having roasted chicken and "summer bugs" for dinner tonight, and we'll have them for a few nights coming up. Not sure why, but I was told to not keep them on board the boat too long. Hmmm.
  Lots of interesting boaters have been coming into the marina today and it will be hard to leave on Sunday morning, but it's the only weather window for a few days. A German couple is heading out in the morning, in the same direction as us, towards the Abacos, and although we won't travel together, we will probably see them in the Little Bahamas Bank. They have to go around West End as they are too tall for the bridge on the Grand Lucayan Waterway, but we can save some time and go that route. We have about a 60 mile crossing ahead of us.
  We had a little squall come through so I was able to use the marina WiFi and get this blog out while Rosie mopped the boat. We're taking Holly for a walk and then we're starting dinner. I think it'll be a good one.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bimini Sands Marina

  The weather window we had last weekend came and was gone by Monday afternoon. We made some use of our time here in Bimini and were able to accomplish a few things.
  First thing up was a trip to BaTelCo in Alice Town in the dinghy. I tied up to a dock at the Bimini Big Game Club and Rosie and Holly stayed with the dinghy because I wasn't sure if they would run us off or not, plus Holly would have run off customers at the BTC office anyway.
  Two nice women and a young intern staff the BaTelCo office in Alice Town. None of them know what they are doing. I asked the first woman if the sale was still on for the monthly data plan, the one where you can get 1 gig of data for $20 instead of $30. I was told that the sale ended last Friday. Of course it did. I said I wanted to buy a BaTelCo SIM card for our iPad anyway, and get the 1 gig of data for $30. "We are out of SIM cards", I was told. This part was true, but the other woman said the sale was still on, and I might get a SIM card at the local Mal-Mart. Yes, I said "Mal-Mart", it's a small block building just down the Kingshighway near Big Game. No signs outside, but "You can't miss it".
  All this took an hour or so to find out, but I left the store and went back to see Rosie on the way because the Mal-Mart didn't open until another half hour. Rosie was holding up OK, so I went to Mal-Mart and bought a SIM card. The store is small and stocked with men's apparel in the way of dress shirts and shoes, and probably lots of other stuff if you ask.
  Back to BaTelCo, where "Joshua" installed the SIM card in our iPad after activating it in one of their phones. This seems like a simple process but it took almost two hours. Right before I'm ready to leave I asked how to access the website so I could add more data service with the two extra cards I bought. Ellodie Roberts told me, "No problem, you are already in "the system". I was told to just use my name and everything would be alright. Sure.
  Oh, and by the way....Joshua made a mistake and only added one day to our data plan instead of 30. They couldn't fix that in the store, a "technician" had to do it and I'd have to come back the next day. Then I was told that a technician had to be over in South Bimini the next day and he would come by to fix the problem. "What time would be good for you?", I was asked. I don't know why I bothered to say a time, and in fact I didn't. I said anytime was fine, so Ellodie said the technician would be by at 10 o'clock. I assumed she meant A.M., but in retrospect, I'm not sure anymore.

  Monday afternoon wasn't a complete waste. It was calm, so we took the dinghy out and explored around both western coasts of North and South Bimini. I did some snorkeling too. You can see just how beautiful the water is here in the photo.
  On Tuesday morning I didn't want to start any projects on the boat, in fact I wanted to wait up near the dockmasters office so I wouldn't miss the technician. 10 o'clock came and went, and so did 11 o'clock. At 11:30, Rosie and I had lunch in the restaurant and "Donnie", one of the staff here, said he'd call BaTelCo and see when someone would come. He got back with us and said someone would be here around "two-ish". He emphasized the "ish".
  At 3 P.M. a BaTelCo truck went flying down the gravel road toward the southern end of the island. We figured he had his other business to do and would stop by on his way back to the ferry. An hour later he went flying back up the road. Minutes after that I was on the phone with Ellodie.
  Eventually, one of the staff here who knows the technician, and more about BaTelCo than the BaTelCo workers, added the 30 days to our iPad. "Tim" said it was the most excitement he had all day when I thanked him. Then he just smiled when I asked him to show me how he did it. So the whole day was wasted waiting for the technician when Tim had been on site since 8 o'clock that morning. But it wasn't over yet.
  I decided later that evening to see how to get on the BaTelCo website to add data later and found out that Ellodie had indeed put me "in the system", but she used a password to register the account. I think she should have told me what the password was, don't you?
  On Wednesday morning I was waiting on the steps of the BaTelCo store in Alice Town when Ellodie and Joshua showed up. Ellodie didn't seem too pleased to see me. Over an hour later, it was decided that "the system was down", because Joshua couldn't access his account either. Ellodie said that I could leave, she would call me. Right before I left the store, I got a more pressing message on my phone.
  AT&T informed me that I had generated over $250 worth of calls in the last week. At what I thought was 25 cents a minute, this would mean I had been on the phone for ten hours. Not hardly. When we got back to the boat I asked Rosie to get to the bottom of things.
  Turns out that the 3.99 "International plan" that we had been depending on was only for calls from the U.S. to other countries. Rosie hadn't read the fine print. We had tallied up over $300 worth of calls. Long story short, AT&T agreed to drop those charges, but we had to sign up for another International calling plan that only gives us 100 minutes for $120. Don't call us, we'll call you.
  What we'll do is buy an unlocked phone and put a BaTelCo SIM card in it and get a much cheaper rate here in the Bahamas. I'll be getting it somewhere other than Alice Town, however.
  On Wednesday we went back to Mackies Sand Bar for happy hour at 3 P.M. Of course, we were told that happy hour didn't start until 5 P.M. Undaunted, I ordered a Bud Light for Rosie and a Kalik for me, because as I told the bartender; "Happy hour may not start for another two hours, but we're here now". She went and talked to the manager and we were then told that if we stayed past 5 P.M., they would ring up all our beers at the happy hour price of $1.50. That made us happy.
  Some other boaters joined us at the bar, and we met some locals too. We ordered a huge pizza to go and it came out piping hot just as the bus showed up to take us back to the marina. Mackies is the best, and only, place worth going in South Bimini.
  We were relaxing later in the cockpit of Swing Set when one of the security staff at the marina came by and talked to us for a while. He was working on his birthday, but was happy to have a job. He said he had a good wife, a good job he's had for eleven years, and although he didn't have a nice boat like ours, he had a nice bicycle. When I reminded him that he also lived in a nice place, he said with some gravity, "No one wants to live where they are at, man".
  Let's see...
  We also spent some time at the infinity pool. We gathered up a cooler, beach chair, transistor radio, dog bowl, dog, beach bag with towels, sunscreen and beer coozies. There were three women at the pool when we got there who had less junk with them and one of them had a baby not even a few months old. We surveyed all the stuff we had, most of it for Holly, and realized just how sick we are. The fact that Holly was placed on the beach chair with the towel protecting her little scalp from the sun didn't help our case.
  Some workers actually showed this week up to finish some condos being built over by the infinity pool, so on Thursday we decided to spend time at the other pool by the entrance, even though the occasional passing cars and trucks kept a fine layer of dust on everything over there. It was better than listening to screw guns drilling into sheet metal all day.
  Before we went up to the pool, one of the boaters here asked me to help him with a boat project. He just needed an extra set of hands and I was glad to help. He also dropped a part down inside his boat that he couldn't reach and I was able to use our "grabber" to retrieve it. A grabber is a good thing to have on a boat.
  I ran into Tim, the guy here who fixed our iPad issue, and he showed me an app for our phone, or iPad, called Magic Jack. If you have Internet service, you can make free calls online. I installed it and it works great. I'll give it some more trial and maybe we can remove our expensive AT&T calling plan.
  We spent the whole afternoon at the pool and met some nice folks, some who just come to Bimini because they like the Bimini Sands, and some who are just passing through, like us.
  Our plan has changed because of the weather, but our plan is always dependent on the weather. Instead of heading east to the Berry Islands, we have decided to leave Saturday, or Sunday, for Grand Bahama Island to the north. I want the wind to die down and come from behind us when we head out. If we head to Port Lucaya, just east of Freeport, we can transit the Grand Lucayan Waterway into Dover Sound and then east through the Little Bahama Bank and then over to the Abacos Islands. We can then go south through the Abacos, eventually getting to Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands.
  We're learning as we go. I'm writing this blog because the WiFi will work here at the dock late at night, in fact it's 4 A.M. now. So I'm not using our data transfer, saving it for looking at the weather while we are under way, a more important use of our Internet.
  I think we have our phone calling issue solved, but we'll reduce our calling even further, even though we don't call too many people. Keeping in touch is why I write the blog.
  Which brings me to this final thing: I had a friend of a friend send an email the other day saying how much he enjoyed reading the blog and wanted to do this very thing some day. Then he went on to ask what kind of boat we had and wanted me to tell him all about it. What does he think I've been doing for the last fourteen months?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

North and South Bimini

  This photo is looking south from the South Bimini Island, actually from the tiki hut at Mackies Sand Bar at the Bimini Sands Beach Club, but more about that later.
  My blogs may not contain as many pictures as I'd like to publish while we are here in The Bahamas. Our current data plan only allows 800 MBs of data transfer per month, while this is an upgrade from the plan we instituted last week, it's still falls way short of what I'd prefer. We'll save data transfer on our MiFi device for email, weather, and an occasional blog, hopefully at least once per week. Less pictures, and smaller ones, will allow us to retain the data transfer for the services we really need.
  After finding out at BaTelCo that we couldn't put their SIM card in our iPad, another boater at the Bimini Blue Water Resort came by late on Friday afternoon and announced that he had just gotten a SIM card installed in his iPad at the local BaTelCo store in Alice Town, and he now has 1 Gig of data transfer, at a cost of $20, plus the cost of the SIM card of $14. I suspect that our boater friend had been imbibing some Kalik's, in fact, a few of them, but I don't dispute his claim in general, but I feel like I need to visit the BaTelCo store in Alice Town again on Monday.
  So, for this reason, and one other, we are still in Bimini. The other reason, is that I had been watching the weather all week, and the calm period due to arrive today did arrive, but is only to last a day or two. This is plenty of time for us to travel the 80+ miles to Great Harbor in the Northern Berry Islands, but the waves were still to be coming from the North, meaning at least a 3 foot beam sea on our port side for a whole day, not a pleasant situation. Weighing all these things, plus our rule of not venturing out on purpose when the wind exceeds 15 miles per hour, we decided that hanging out here in Bimini is not a bad thing, only we wanted a change of scenery.
  We stayed at Bimini Blue Water Resort and Marina for four nights, and we went to breakfast twice, once at CJ's, and once at Captain Bob's. We had a good take out lunch at the Taste of Heaven. I've already mentioned our overpriced dinner at Sherri's Diner. We had checked out the menu at the Bimini Big Game Club, and decided that the management there must be nuts. It's a nice place, but prices are too high. I don't know where all these Bahamians are getting so fat, but they aren't eating out much, and the prices in the little grocery stores leave us scratching our heads too.
  On Wednesday, at our marina, a trawler came in and docked next to us, blocking some of our view. Also, first thing the captain says to Rosie while I wasn't around was that our lines were too tight and our rub rail was squeaking against the rubber protector on the piling. I had already taught Rosie the solution to that problem, so Rosie says, "I'll fix that right now", and then whipped out our bottle of Joy dishwashing liquid and squirted some on the rubber. No more squeak. I also let the captain of this boat hear me say to Rosie that what we do with our boat is no one else's business. I may have used a couple of cuss words too. His demeanor towards us became pleasant after that.
  It was during one of my sleepless mid night episodes that I decided to change harbors. The wind had let up on Saturday, so we fueled up the boat at $6 per gallon, taking on 83 gallons of diesel. (This is what we burned crossing over from Key Largo) We paid our bill and pulled out of the North Bimini Harbor and into a rolling Atlantic Ocean where I dumped our holding tank in 2800 feet of blue water. Don't gasp. There are no pump out stations in Bimini, and most folks just dump in the harbors.
  Our destination was the Bimini Sands Marina, just less than a mile away on the island of South Bimini. No sooner than we left the cut going out of North Bimini, we turned around and aimed for the cut going into the harbor at the Bimini Sands. This entrance is not to be traversed in a westerly wind, as it's very narrow and shallow. The wind was coming from the Northwest, and lots of waves were making our steering difficult. I put some throttle into Swing Set so I could steer better, and we sailed right into the harbor without a hitch, but we were both nervous as hell.
  I have pictures, but can't show them, but the harbor here is a square cut into the rocks, lined with nice condos. There is a restaurant on site, a customs office, ships store and grocery, and two pools, one of them is a very nice infinity pool overlooking the ocean. But even though it's full of water and we can use it, the deck isn't completely finished and there is no furniture. We don't care. I think we'll be using the pool quite a bit in the coming days.
  There is another "marina" just south of here owned by the same company. They have another restaurant and a sports bar called Mackies Sand Bar. We went there yesterday evening to check it out, and also to see what the marina looked like.
  We hopped on the complimentary shuttle bus that connects both properties and also takes vacationers and travelers to the small airport nearby, and we rode the 2.5 miles on the gravel road to the Bimini Sands Beach Club. The marina there is exposed to southerly and southeast winds, and is surrounded by dirt road and sand beaches, meaning a dirty boat in my mind, plus there is no one there, meaning not many boats in the marina. It's a little too secluded for our tastes if we're going to leave the boat for any reason, especially with patrons leaving Mackies in various stages of inebriation.
  The good news is that bottled Kalik beers are "only" three bucks, a deal around here. I didn't know Bud Light was included too, but it was nice to find out. The bar menu was reasonable, and we found out that there were two happy hours, one on Wednesday, and one on Friday, where the same beers were $1.50 between 3-6. Pinch me, I may be dead. I'd say in heaven, but that notion falls into even greater fantasy territory for me.
  After Monday, the wind will kick up in the area on the Bahamas Banks like it has been for the last few days, so it appears we'll be here at least until Saturday. I've spent everyday looking at our options as far as other destinations go, considering not only the Berry Islands, but also the Abacos, Andros, and New Providence Islands, but the sea conditions to all places are not going to be pleasant after Monday, plus after our expenses with the wind generator and bottom painting in Marathon, it won't hurt our budget to stay put for another week.
  You might think that the marina expense could be eliminated by anchoring out, but there is only one decent place around here where we could drop a hook, and it would only be calm for a night or two. The cost of running the diesel generator is nearly the cost of our slip here at the Bimini Sands, considering the cost is only $1.10 per foot and fuel is $6 per gallon. Four to five hours of generator running makes plugging in at this marina an attractive proposition. Almost as attractive as happy hour at Mackies on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Finally In The Bahamas

  On Monday, April 1st, we took a cab to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital so Holly could get her "physical" and Health Certificate for entering The Bahamas. $75 later, we were headed back to Boot Key Harbor, exactly one month to the day after her rabies shot. Her shot had to be administered no sooner than one month prior to her entry into The Bahamas, but we now also had, by law, 48 hours to check in at Customs and Immigration. We had heard there is wiggle room in the 48 hour stipulation, but we hear lots of things.
  I had filed a float plan with the Small Vessel Reporting Service, a feature administered by the U.S. Customs Service. This should allow us to enter back into the U.S. with just a phone call. I stated our last port as Marathon, knowing full well we would be getting fuel before we left U.S. waters, but I didn't know where. Already breaking laws.
  We pulled out of Boot Key Harbor and made our exit into Hawk Channel through the Little Sisters cut and headed east, or northeast. I thought we might stay overnight at Rodriquez Key, near Tavernier, Florida, but I cranked Swing Set up to cruising speed and we arrived at Rodriquez Key just after noon, too early to call it a day. I used the Active Captain feature on our Garmin Bluechart Mobil app on the iPad to find a marina that sold diesel, so we pulled into the Key Largo Harbor Marina for a $500 fill up of 100 gallons of the red stuff.
  I picked out Angelfish Creek on our chart for our intended overnight stay and was making way towards it when I saw a line of clouds forming to the north of us. I used the XM Weather feature on our Garmin Chartplotter and found out there was a big storm cell coming our way. I got on the VHF for a NOAA weather report and confirmed the report on XM of an intense storm with a severe marine advisory on our hands.
  I reacted too quickly, not knowing for sure which way the storm was heading, but I thought I could get around it to the east, so I headed out to sea to circumvent the storm. I didn't seem to be making any headway, so I listened to the NOAA report again and found out the storm was heading southeast at 25 knots. We weren't going to out run it at our present rate, so I did a U-turn and headed back toward land, not knowing where I was going to find a safe harbor.
  The only nearby place was a small channel into the Ocean Reef Club, so I made way towards it, and once in the harbor, I called the harbormaster and requested to tie up until the storm passed at their very exclusive and no doubt expensive club. He gave us permission to tie up between two mega yachts as long as we needed to in order to avoid the serious weather headed our way.

  After an hour, the major part of the storm had headed out to sea, and the marine advisory had been concluded. I called the harbormaster and thanked him for his hospitality and we pulled back out into Hawk Channel for our short hop into Angelfish Creek, a cut-through from Hawk Channel to Card Sound. Just as we got into the narrow channel leading into Angelfish Creek, the skies let loose and we got a free boat wash. By the time we put our anchor down, the rain stopped and we were able to enjoy a pleasant evening once the big boats traversing the cut stopped for the night. None of them seemed too concerned about any "no wake near boats at anchor" protocol.
  I was up by 6 A.M., checking the weather, and the oil in the Cats. The sun was just peeking over the horizon when I began to get under way. Hold it right there, partner.
  The port engine wouldn't crank over, and during my diagnosis of the problem, I ran the batteries down and the starboard engine wouldn't crank either. Dead in the water.
  I started the generator to charge up the batteries and then climbed into the engine room to see what was going on. I can't seem to climb into the engine room without cutting myself somewhere, and this time was no exception. I checked the alternator belt and battery voltage and didn't find anything wrong. The back of my right hand was bleeding as I climbed back out of the engine room, adding to my displeasure.
   I was able to start the port engine with the starboard engine already running by holding the jumper switch down, but the port engine would die when I let loose of the switch. To keep the engine running, I used a clothespin to hold down the switch, but we weren't going to be traveling to The Bahamas that way, so I used the offshore services feature on our Garmin Chartplotter and found a Marine Max dealer in Miami, plotted a course to it, and pointed Swing Set toward Card Sound, scrapping our long awaited crossing over to The Bahamas for at least another day, but who knew how long we would be delayed?
  Rosie had gone below for something and then came to the bridge and asked me if I had turned off the breaker for the port ignition. I said that I had not, and then the lightbulb came on. I asked Rosie to switch the breaker on, then I removed the clothespin, and the port engine kept purring along.
  Rosie was quite proud of herself, and this was one of the times that I was reminded that we are truly a team. We seem to make up for what the other sometimes lacks. We did a little dance and I turned the boat around 180 degrees. Bimini, here we come!

  We were about an hour behind schedule, knowing full well it could have been much worse. I could only imagine running all the way up to Miami to the Marine Max dealer there only to find out the ignition was off. I may have quit boating on the spot.
  We had smooth sailing, as you can see from the photo above, but about half way across the 56 mile crossing, the light northerly winds kicked up a 3 knot Gulf Stream and things got bumpy. The ship's bell was ringing almost constantly once I put Swing Set on plane to get on top of the waves. I'm not sure if the pounding at speed was worse, or the extreme rolling we were getting at our slower, economical speed, but we made up some time and were soon in sight of land.

  We were just so excited to be entering the channel into the North Bimini Harbor! Our destination was the Bimini Bluewater Resort Marina, and we quickly found it and called them on the VHF. We were met at some nice docks by "Lewis", who helped us tie up.
  Then it was into the office to arrange for dockage for one night, but was told to go to Customs first to check in. We left Holly to guard the boat, and we both walked to the Customs office with all our papers, all filled out, and most importantly, cash.
  Typically, only the captain is allowed off a vessel to check in, but the customs office in Alice Town is,'s laid back. But we dressed up a little for the process, something I learned that is appreciated by the authorities. We had everything pretty much in order, so when the officer asked how long we wanted our cruising permit for, we said "180 days", and were granted that amount. Some folks who we know who had just come through here only got 90 days, with the option to extend their stay, but it requires checking in at specific locations, and still the extension is not guaranteed.
  Once leaving the customs office, which is on the grounds of the Bimini Big Game Club, it was a short walk to the police station, where Bahamas Immigration had set up a "temporary" office. The man there was very nice, and we were soon on our way to BaTelCo, just up the street, to see about some Internet service here.
  We found out that the iPad we have is "locked" and a Bahamas Telecommunications Company SIM card would not work. I made a few calls to AT&T, but was only able to speak to a robot before getting cut off. We had purchased an International Calling Plan before leaving the U.S. so we could make calls for 25 cents a minute, for a monthly fee of 3.99, but I wanted Internet service through BTC so I could check weather, get email, and post blogs. Basically, what we wanted was a reduced roaming charge plan.

  As we walked down Kingshighway, we stopped in front of the Bimini Big Game Club for this photo. Kingshighway is very busy and there is no sidewalks. Speed limits seem to be non-existent. We made notes of places we wanted to visit later, it was becoming clearer to us that Bimini wasn't going to be a one-night stay. According to the weather reports, we would either have to leave Bimini first thing in the morning or be here at least until the weekend. It didn't make much sense to come all this way to leave in such a short time.

  Rosie went to work on the iPad trying to line up some international Internet service through AT&T, similar to our International Calling plan, but the WiFi service we paid for here at the marina left much to be desired. We could only connect while sitting just outside of the office. While Rosie worked on the iPad, I worked on a couple of Bud Lights to sooth my nerves after quite an eventful day. But there was more to come.
  We wanted a plan for our MiFi device on the boat so we could stream data through it to not only the desktop computer, but also to the iPad, or even the iPhone if we wanted to, but Rosie could only manage to get the iPad set up for a Global Internet and WiFi service, at a cost of $60 per month for 300 MBs. That's not much, but if we could avoid staying at marinas with poor WiFi service, it would be worth it.
  I soon found out that only having the service on the iPad was going to severely hinder our ability to manage our "household" stuff, plus posting a blog was going to be next to impossible. But, the iPad plan was better than nothing, and I could use it at the helm to check on weather when we were near a BTC tower, which many of the islands have, even if they are sparsely populated.
  We cranked up the water maker, as water here is 60 cents per gallon. We are paying $15 per day for electricity, so we might as well use it to make our water. One thing, the dockage is only $1 per foot, per day, a reasonable amount. We took showers and grabbed Holly for a walk to the "End of the World Sand Bar", on the southern end of the island.
  On our way there, we found out it was closed, so we turned around and climbed a small hill on the west side of the island to "Sherri's Diner", or something like that. Sherri's is not much more than a shack. We ordered two Kalik beers and contemplated having dinner there. We watched the sunset and ordered two more beers and two Snapper fried fish dinners.
  No other customers arrived, and we watched some local boys breaking glass bottles for sport on the beach, which of course, is littered with glass and trash. Talk about killing the goose that laid the golden egg!
  Our fish was ready and we picked it up at the window, ready to dig in. Good thing we had the two Kalik beers, because the only thing the fish was missing was its eyeballs and entrails, having been fried nearly whole, something Rosie has never been exposed to.
  It was tasty, but it came time to pay and we were presented proudly with a bill of $48, plus tip. Did I mention that we were the only customers they had? No wonder. We vowed to never order anything again without asking the price first. I know this, but I keep forgetting my own rules. Might always be the beer.
  Back to the boat and early to bed after a long day, but I woke up around 1 A.M., bothered with the Internet plan we pressured ourselves into with AT&T. I poked around on the computer for a bit and found what I thought was a solution.
  In the morning I called a number I found on the "My AT&T" application on our iPad and made a call. We were easily able to transfer the Global Data and WiFi plan to the MiFi device on the boat for the same money we were going to pay just for the iPad. Life was looking pretty good again!
  To celebrate, (we don't need much reason to celebrate) we went out to breakfast. Captain Bob's, our intended cafe, was closed, so we asked the woman at the marina where we could go and we were directed to CJ's deli, just up the hill next door to Sherri's Diner.
  CJ's had a menu posted on the wall and the prices were reasonable. We had a good breakfast in a very small place, only four stools along a little counter where just on the other side our breakfast was prepared by the two women who were running the place at the time.
  But everyone who popped in to get something to go was friendly and offered a "Good morning". We have found everyone so far to be polite and friendly, something we haven't experienced before in Nassau or the West End, many years ago.

  We took a walk after breakfast into Bailey Town, just north of Alice Town. Bailey was a Prime Minister at one time. I don't know who Alice was. Buildings are for the most part very run down, and like I mentioned, there is trash everywhere. It's a shame really because the water surrounding Bimini is spectacular.
  We also stopped in at the Bimini Big Game Club to see if they sold diesel. Fuel at the Bluewater is $6 per gallon and I wanted to see if they had a cheaper price. Turns out that Big Game doesn't sell fuel at all, but all of the boats there get fuel at Bluewater and it is judged to be good fuel, so we'll get it here before we leave.
  Back at the boat, Rosie polished the fender holders on the bow that had begun to tarnish with rust again, an ongoing process. I got out some contact cement to repair the gasket on our flybridge hatch that was a victim of the rough crossing. I also talked to some others who also made the crossing yesterday, and who also have decided to wait until the weekend to head out, with the weather being forecasted to get rather blustery.
  Not sure how much data transfer is used in posting a blog, but I'll soon find out. We will have to severely reduce our Internet browsing because we normally exceed 5 gigs a month on the desktop, not to mention the 3 gigs we use on the iPad. Blog posts may be few and far between, but I wanted to get this one out because finally being in the Bahamas is another milestone for us.
   We've been at this for eleven months now, and it's hard to believe we have met our goals thus far. But now we have at least six months of exploring these islands ahead of us, hundreds and hundreds of them over thousands of square miles. We won't see them all, and we won't know where we are going until we see the weather each day, but if we can stay for the summer and avoid the hurricanes, we can come back next time to see what we may miss this time.