Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Harbour Island

  We survived our first night on our mooring ball with nary a mishap, with nature, or with the sailboat next to us. The view above is of Spanish Wells from our mooring ball.
  "Bandit" came by Monday morning to collect our $20 fee. His real name is Jock Morgan, and he is a local pilot, and probably jack of all trades if he needs to be. I asked him how much he charges to pilot one's vessel through the perilous Devil's Backbone on over to Harbour Island. He smiled and said "A hunnerd dollars". I nodded in reply and only offered that we had some business to attend to before we could start thinking about a trip over to the famous Harbour Island and the town of Dunmore.
  We have no less than four printed guidebooks, or chartbooks, plus the advantage of Active Captain on our Garmin Bluechart app on the iPad, so we have lots of information to sift through when it comes to local knowledge and inside tips. For instance, all the info we have on the mooring we are on says that the charge is $15 per night. "Bandit" says $20, so you don't argue with "Bandit", you just pay and hope he isn't cheating you.
  The piloting charges are reported to be $70 for a local pilot to take your boat through the Devil's Backbone. The price goes up per foot over 70 feet. "Bandit" says he charges $100, so that's what you expect to pay if you want his services.
  My point is that with all the information at our disposal, we still know little going in to any area as far as what things cost. We can never get a handle on fuel costs or dockage costs. We only find out by asking in person. It makes it hard to make some of our decisions, as a lot of them are budget based.
  We do feel, for the most part, that the locals need to make money off of us, and the prices are consistent with everyone. It's not like they see a "live one" and gouge them. Their future business depends on their friendliness, honesty, and reputations, and they usually are smart enough to not ruin it for a quick buck.
  Rosie and I left Holly on the boat in search of the local BTC office, or Bahamas Telecommunications Company. We docked the dinghy at the dock in front of Pinder's Market, after going in and asking if it was all right to do so. We promised to come back in on our way out to buy a few things when they told us it was fine to park where we were.
  At BTC, we signed up, and paid for, 90 more days of Internet service on our iPad. The young man behind the glass booth in the very small office re-entered all of our information and said we should be able to access our account to see the status, but we still wouldn't be able to add on to our Internet via their online system. They don't work that way. One must take the SIM card out of the iPad, put it into an unlocked phone, and then use some screwy phone number to activate more data usage. He agreed with my assessment of their system as being more than confusing for the average customer. But if all I need to do is visit any local BTC office every 30 days for the next three months to keep a very inexpensive data plan active on the iPad, I'll do it. We're getting 1 gig of data for 30 days at the sale price of $20. We're paying AT&T $120 for 800MB of data per month, but luckily we don't have to visit a local office.
  We popped in Pinder's and picked up a few things. We got bread, eggs, some pork chops, tomatoes, and some lettuce. All expensive, but necessary. The Food Fair, owned by the town, was too far of a walk, but we hear that their prices are good and the selection is better.
  Spanish Wells saw the need a few years ago for some services that their town was lacking, so they banded together and pooled resources and built their own grocery store, and some other things. Most of the goods from the Bahamas come through Spanish Wells, and a lot of the lobster and stone crab claws are processed here as well. It's a nice little blue collar town and the people are incredibly friendly and helpful, which I'll come to next.
  Back at the boat, I commenced to investigate the overheating problem we've been having on our starboard engine. The first thing I did was check the sea strainer. I had cleaned it in Port Lucaya, and upon checking it again, it was clean as it could be.
  A check of the water pump belt revealed nothing out of order, so it was on to the raw water impeller. I pulled the three half inch bolts out and took the cover off and found that our impeller was toast, missing at least five blades.
  The good news was that I had found our problem, the bad news was that I had failed to obtain the needed impeller puller used to pull a usually recalcitrant raw water impeller from its housing. I knew I could probably get the thing out, but only by destroying it, and for the time being, I could still run the engine as I had been, just not at higher speeds.
  An impeller puller is nothing but a bolt with a T-handle on the end, and a regular bolt will do, if you can find the right bolt. I grabbed the new impeller and took off in the dinghy in search of either a proper bolt, or an official impeller puller if I could find one.
  I mention that Spanish Wells is a blue collar, working town. So that means they use heavy equipment, and that equipment breaks, and they need to have the means to fix it. So that also means they have a better selection of parts, and people to do the work, than most of tourist type towns a cruiser may travel to. We came to Spanish Wells for a particular reason, and that was to check out a local boatyard, R&B.
 R&B had a bolt that would have done double duty as an impeller puller, but as I found out, our impeller utilized a fine thread, and most bolts you might find in a hardware, or marine store, will be course thread.
  The nice woman at R&B asked me if I had tried "Onsite Marine". I told her that we were just passing through and didn't really know where to turn. I said that I'd be glad to pay them to change out our impeller, but she said they really only did bottom work, and prop repair, even though the sign says "Full Service". I won't hold that against them because this is what she did next: She gets on the phone with Onsite Marine and asks them if they either had an impeller puller, or a fine thread 3/4" bolt, then she handed me the phone.
  After some negotiations on the phone, the guy I was talking to said they had a puller but he didn't know where it was. Only some other guy knew where it was and he wasn't there right now.
  At this point, I mustered up all the tact that I had in my power, and asked him; since I was in dire need of an impeller puller, and I had no where else to turn, could he please, if the party of which he was speaking that knew where the impeller puller was, if he could please, pretty please, call him and ask him where in their building the item was? I also offered to come over and look myself if that's what it would take. I was told to hold on.
  Meanwhile, I talked to the nice woman at R&B and cultivated her, in order to obtain some information on some local knowledge. She turned out to be very helpful and I learned a great deal. Our chummy conversation was cut short when I heard loud exclamations coming from the speaker on the phone I was holding.
  "I found it! I found it!", the person at Onsite was hollering into the phone. I would have thought that he was the one who was in dire need of an impeller puller for a raw water pump on a Caterpillar 3116 marine engine!
  "I'll be right over", is what I told him, and after getting directions to the place from the nice woman at R&B Marine, I marched off in the direction of Onsite Marine.
  Onsite Marine is housed on the main drag in Spanish Wells, and for all practical purposes, looks like an old "filling station", like we used to see on all the corners of any given town, before they all became "On The Run" or "Quick Trip" facilities.
  I walked in and immediately saw the guy I had to have been on the phone with. He appeared to be working on a radio from the 1920's, with tools more suited for a 1950's Buick, but I was in a hurry and I could have been mistaken. He went "in back" (that's where all the good stuff is always found) and produced what looked to me like the impeller puller of which I was seeking.
  I was under the impression that I was in a position to purchase the impeller puller, but quickly found out that, no, I could only borrow it.
  Borrow? At no charge? Indeed. I told him that even though I didn't need another impeller, as I still had another for our other engine, I would gladly buy one from them, no matter the cost, just as a show of appreciation of letting me borrow said puller. They certainly did have a Sherwood impeller for our 3116 Cat, and even though it was $130, I bought it and promised to return in a short time with the impeller puller.
  On the way back to the dinghy I stopped in at R&B and told the nice woman there how well I was helped at Onsite Marine, and to thank her for her help. She was glad to be able to help. Is this town, and the people in it, for real?
  I had been gone quite a while and as I approached our boat, Rosie and Holly were out on the foredeck keeping a watch out for me. As soon as Holly saw me she started running back and forth like she hadn't seen me in ages. It's nice to be missed. Rosie even wagged her tail.
  In the engine room I went; pulled old impeller out, put new one in, took off inlet end of the heat exchanger and extracted missing impeller blade parts, buttoned everything up, and fired up the engine to check for leaks. Check. I was a happy camper.
  Now, the nagging feeling I have is...what about the other impeller? We have put on over 600 hours on our engines since the impellers were replaced before we started out. I'm not sure how long they are supposed to last, but what I'm going to do is just keep an eye on the temperature of the port engine. If the port engine begins to complain about high temperatures, I'll know what to do. But first, I better find my own impeller puller. It's on my list.
  As Rosie, Holly, and I were getting ready for a dinghy ride back to town to return the impeller puller, a boater pulled up and chatted with us for a while. "Robert" is from the U.S., but has been around this area for 50 years. He gave us some good tips about not only Spanish Wells, but some of the areas we are headed to. He was a very nice fella, in spite of him being a blow boater.
  We went back to Onsite Marine and returned the impeller puller, and thanked everyone profusely. When we got back to the boat, things really got weird.
  Our sailboat neighbors came by in their dinghy and I waved. They came over and we actually had a nice long conversation with them. I think it helped that while they were gone all day, having taken the "Fast Ferry" over to Harbour Island, our boats played nice and everything was how it should have been when they returned.
  They wanted to exchange "boat cards", but I sadly answered that we didn't have one, even though we do, because I didn't want them to read what I wrote in the last blog about them. You won't tell, will you?

  Today we went to Harbour Island. That's Rosie, of course, and Holly, of course, at the government dock in Dunmore, on Harbour Island. It's not easy getting to Harbour Island, I guess that's why a lot of rich and famous folks come here for vacation. Imagine: we went there too.
  I did some information gathering and learned that a water taxi from the government dock in Spanish Wells over to Jean's Bay on North Eleuthera was $4 each. Then a taxi for ten miles to Three Island dock was $25 one way. Then another water taxi over to Dunmore was going to be $5 each. You do the math.
  Taking the boat over would require a pilot. Even the experienced folks around here suggest it. Then we had to think about coming back, as our trip south would require it.
 The alternative of taking the dinghy on at least a ten mile cruise was out of the question, as the winds have picked up considerably out of the north and breakers would be pounding the Devils Backbone.
  So, we decided, since we had to leave the dinghy somewhere, we would take it the two miles or so over to Jean's Bay to the water taxi dock over there, and then grab a taxi to the Three Island dock for a water taxi ride to Dunmore. And you thought this life was easy.
  We tied up at the dock at Jean's Bay and got a call in for a taxi. We quickly got picked up by David in cab 146, and then found out the price wasn't $25, but $30. Remember what I was saying earlier?
  Still, when you think about a ten mile cab ride for two people, and at the price of fuel around here, the charge is fair.
  We jumped in a waiting water taxi with some other folks and were soon in Dunmore Town.
  It was encouraged by the water taxi folks that we rent a golf cart in order to explore Harbour Island, but we wanted to have lunch and have a couple of beers, so I couldn't justify paying $20 per hour for a golf cart so it could sit guarding a parking spot while we ate lunch. A lot of cruisers visit the touristy spots, like churches and nature areas. We think that's funny.
  Valentine's Marina is where we would have liked to have lunch, but dogs were not allowed. I don't blame them, the place was ritzy as hell, but at noon, they only had two customers.
  We found a nice deli with outside seating, and pets were allowed. I certainly hope so; two women at the table next to us had a newborn baby, and they actually set its bottom on the table! Horrid.

  After this photo, Holly settled in to Rosie's lap and didn't make a peep. She was basically enthralled with the bugs scooting along the floor. Meanwhile, the baby at the table next to us was breast fed, (mildly interesting) but then both women took turns trying to make the critter "burp", which means "barf" no matter how you say it.
  I had an oven roasted turkey sandwich with Applewood bacon, provolone, and avacado on one of the freshest buns I've ever had. Rosie had a "California Wrap", which was vegan, but it really looked good, and Rosie said it was delicious. We both say this was the best meal we've had (off the boat) since we've been in the Bahamas, and we don't know the name of the restaurant!
  After lunch the wind was out of our sails, so we headed back. A quick water taxi ride, a quick taxi ride, and we were back to our waiting unlocked dinghy at the water taxi dock in Jean's Bay.
  Once back to the boat, I put the dinghy back on the davits and we read our books and had a nap before the wind picked up again and a storm threatened.
  Rosie started dinner and I started this blog. Seemed like a good thing to do. We'll pay "Bandit" in the morning for last nights mooring, and tonight's, but at mid-day tomorrow when the tide is up, we'll unhook from our mooring ball and get fuel over at Ronald's Service Center, and then we'll point our bow south and follow the Eleuthera Island chain as far as it takes us, at least for a few miles tomorrow anyway.
  Rosie calls and dinner is ready. We're having oven roasted breaded pork chops, steamed corn and garlic butter rice. Can't wait.
  I thought this was going to be a quick blog entry today.

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