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.