Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Some Equipment Essentials

Swing Set Laying In Elizabeth Harbour From Stocking Island, Across From Georgetown, Great Exuma

As we go steaming into the second quarter of our second year as full time liveaboard cruisers, I thought I’d forgo the philosophy of my last post and focus on the nuts and bolts of our liveaboard existence and pass judgement of some of the operating and equipment systems on Swing Set, and what I think are essential, or perhaps, not so essential, items that I think are good things to have on a boat if you embark on such an endeavor similar to ours.
  In no particular order, more likely as they come to mind:
  The Air-X wind generators are getting a thumbs up. Certainly if coastal cruising will be a large part of your cruising ground, where ocean breezes abound, a wind generator or two may be worth the money, I have decided finally that it is the case for us.
  I can tell a big difference in our Westerbeke diesel generator use when we get a string of calm days, like we had for two or three days in a row recently. Keeping air conditioner use out of the equation, if there is no wind, we need to run the diesel generator at least four hours per day to provide enough charging for the eleven batteries we have onboard. Our Norcold AC/DC refrigerator is the biggest draw on our power, but our big Mac desktop computer is a big current user that we didn’t consider. The T.V., and even house stereo, if you like watts, (big sound) will drain those batteries down too. I don’t want to get bogged down on power management in this blog, just suffice it to say that I’m a fan of auxiliary power generation, be it solar or wind.
  The watermaker gets a big thumbs up if you will be cruising in clean salt water. Not all areas along the Florida coast are places I’d make water, but if you stay in the U.S.A., we can probably find water easily, just be careful about getting water at condo complexes where there is nosy old folks who have nothing else to do but guard their precious water supply, whether you get permission from someone else or not.
  Our Katadyn Power Survivor 80 is a 12 volt unit and the 3.5 gallon per hour advertised output more than keeps up with our needs, at least if I keep the water leaks in the plumbing to a minimum.
  Our power windlass with 25 feet of chain and a 45 pound Delta anchor has been flawless, if I am careful about where I stick the hook. The little float I deploy at the anchor rode/chain splice keeps the rode off of the bottom where the sand and coral can wear on it. The half inch line is plenty strong, and will do fine if you don’t run over it.
  Extra, heavy anchors, we have two, along with plenty of line, is handy to have. We learned that lesson while waiting out Hurricane Isaac last year above the last lock and dam on the Tenn-Tom. Held us so well, one of the anchors didn’t want to leave. It’s still there.
  We haven’t felt a need for a lower helm station. We would always want shade for any helm station, though. We don’t run in the cold, and don’t intend to, but I have jackets and a coat around here somewhere if it gets chilly. I have a couple of space heaters too, to put at our feet if we need them, but again, if we are somewhere where it gets that cold, we are lost.
  Replacing our microwave oven with a convection microwave was the best thing for the galley, by far. We can bake and grill in it, making our Magna propane grill seem superfluous at times, but do know that any oven inside the boat will increase the heat inside. A propane grill outside for warm days is just the ticket.
  Back to power management again; an inverter is necessary. Not so much so you can run your AC equipment on the hook (you never have enough battery supply to run air conditioners or cooking devices off the batteries for very long), but an inverter lets you run AC powered devices while you are underway. Great for making coffee and breakfast underway on an early start. This alone is worth the money for an inverter and the battery bank required to run it.
  I wouldn’t have anything but AGM batteries. We have eleven batteries (Group 31’s, we don’t have room for 8D’s) and I don’t want the maintenance of checking fluids on all those batteries once a month, or more, with lead acid type batteries. Battery technology is improving all the time, and we’ll be on the lookout for better ones as they come along. They are our lifeline to living aboard on the hook.
  Building our parts room/office by gutting our second stateroom, was a huge success. We have a place for tools and spare parts galore. I have been able to fix and fabricate many items on the boat that break or need to be improved with just things I’ve had along with us. I know there are times when we have to order a part or two, but you can’t have everything along that you need, but if you can’t find the part, or the tools to replace it without tearing through seat bottoms and drawers, then you won’t enjoy fixing anything. As it is, the ease at which I can find my parts and tools make repairs tolerable.
  The office, and desk, complete with scanner and printer, full size desktop computer, and a drawer for hard files, make publishing this blog a treat, and it also streamlines the administration of our “household”. I may also add that with only two people, one stateroom is plenty. Guests need to find hotel rooms. This boat is already loaded to the hilt.
  Our Bora 12 volt fans are a life saver. We have four, and I’d like at least two more. We’ll get them when we get back in the States. We never have them on unless we are in the area where they are needed, but in our stateroom at night during the summer, we couldn’t endure the heat without them. The one focused on our dinette was broke for a while earlier this year, but started working again once we got to The Bahamas. Good thing, I would have had to find a replacement had it not began working again.
  The dinghy. Can’t do this without a good dinghy. One that has some speed to it, too. The davits to hold our dinghy have been an Achilles heel, of sorts, we are on our second repair. But I think I have the problems solved. We also replaced the galvanized cable and winches with something a little more suited to the salt environment, and I don’t know how many generations of improvement that my system of strapping down the dinghy while underway has entailed, but again, I think I have a good system in place finally. I don’t want to be out there in twelve foot seas to really test it though.
  We like our Kindles, and we like to read. If we didn’t like reading things would get plenty boring. Life is boring, even in paradise, so you can’t drink beer all day, or wax the boat or fight rust all the time, even though it would appear to some that we do both.
  We also like to cook, and we have lots of room for stores. We’d like freezer space to be greater, but I’d say we are doing just fine with what we have. Eating out at every meal will break the bank, so will going to bars every night. Again, it would seem that we spend plenty of time in bars, but we don’t really go out all that much, and when we do, we have a limit as to how much we spend. If you are rich and don’t need a budget, good for you, but this blog is more for us retired folks on a budget. The rich folks have a captain and a crew to take care of all this stuff, they don’t need to read my blog.
  Our boat has easy access to most everything. Our cockpit is even with the water, so getting in and out of the boat is easy after a swim, or just coming back with supplies in the dinghy. We have a big sliding salon door and can walk right into the boat without climbing, or stooping. There are very few stairs inside of the boat too, but enough to trip on if we aren’t careful, but we also have plenty of handholds throughout. The stairs to the bridge are wide and not too steep, again, handholds are sufficient. I think Sea Ray got it right when they designed the stairs to the bridge on our little boat.
  I had begun the think that a larger engine room would be on our “must have” list if we ever started shopping for another boat, but I have decided that with the ease of which our salon floor opens up to expose most areas in our engine room in which I need to access items for general maintenance, I think what we have is fine. I especially like it if we are at a dock and plugged in somewhere. I can run our air conditioning and have my  work area cool while I struggle and cuss at the stuff I am working on. (But not too much, you know, with the ease at which I can access my tools and all.)
  Dual Racor fuel filters on each engine, and an oil change pump. Can’t say enough about the virtues of each. Need ‘em.
  Our course, a way to get Internet is very high on our list, but if you’ve been reading our blog regularly, we still struggle with it, primarily here in The Bahamas, but we are still fine tuning our system in that regard.
  T.V.’s and DVD players are also nice, but we haven’t found the need for a satellite T.V. receiver. (Books, remember?)
  Fancy electronic gear at the helm is nice, but if you get an older boat and it has working electronics, use them until they fail. We use some of our original seventeen year old gear and it does fine. We never saw the need for AIS, but we might get it when we need to replace a radio. Autopilot is something we’ve been told we needed, but again, we limit our time at the helm and don’t think we need to spend the money on one. We have navigated our boat primarily with an iPad, loaded with Gamin Bluechart Mobile, since our departure months ago from St. Louis, MO. A small Garmin GPS unit is at the helm for backup. Perfect.
  Our lives wouldn’t be the same, and we might have not gotten this far, without our pet. In our case it’s a dog. A small dog, one that can do her business indoors and doesn’t need to be taken to the beach, or wherever, in the rain in the middle of the night. Some people only take their dogs to do their business once a day. This is cruel. I wonder how they could manage it. I couldn’t.
  Holly is our buddy. I said “our buddy”. She like both of us equally, and is a great “person” to talk to. Even greater because she doesn’t talk back. People would think we were bat-shit nuts the way we carry on with our little dog, and we don’t care. We don’t foist her on others, but we usually find a way to have her with us a majority of the time. Simply put, we’d give up this boat before we’d give her up.
  Not really lastly, because I’m sure I left some things out, but a good mate is the most important ingredient to have on a live aboard vessel. I see lots of men single handing it, but I think it must be lonely. Not sure I could do it. Rosie and I share responsibilities, each of us has our strong points. I usually declare that I’m doing all the thinking and navigating, and therefore have the most responsibility, but in addition to all the mundane chores that Rosie has to deal with, she also goes to great lengths to keep me happy. And that, my friends, is the hardest job of all.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thinking About Friends and Family

  We meet lots of people on our travels, and sometimes we wonder if we can develop a friendship with them or not. We have met some of the same people multiple times along the way, but so far, we’ve just enjoyed their company, or not, while we were with them, and let it go at that, with no further expectations.
  Take the woman we met at the library yesterday, Karen. Karen volunteers at the library on Mondays. She and her husband Clive have lived in their home in Georgetown for 27 years. They came here when things were much simpler, and cheaper, before the big resorts came in and raised prices, and each little chicken shack restaurant raised them in kind, wanting to cash in on the quick buck, but making things difficult for the locals. Karen also blames the “outsiders” for the current crime problem. “Used to be you could leave your purse out on the porch all night and no one would bother it”, is what Karen says. I believe her. But everywhere we go, we get the same comments about “outsiders”. The thieves and criminals are always from “somewhere else”, like Jamaica, or Nassau.
  Karen and Clive now have their home for sale, (she would give us such a deal), but not because of the change in Georgetown society, but because they are getting up in years and need to be closer to better health care. But I’m getting off track, this is not my point.
  My point is that Rosie and I, having picked out several books to take back with us to the boat, sat and had a most enjoyable conversation with Karen. During our conversation, the subject of missing friends and family came up. Karen and Clive have offspring that live in Canada, where they are from, but are looking to move to Florida. It would seem that Karen and Clive have gotten past any misgivings about a need to be near their family in their older ages.
  We would be mere robots if we said we didn’t miss our friends and families, and we do miss them at times. But we also realize that this life we are leading is the only one we are going to get, and having discussed the whole matter going in, have decided to lead it the way we want to, not the way someone else wants us to.
  Sure, it is not as difficult for us because Rosie’s parents passed away several years ago, and although my father is still raising hell up there in St. Louis, he raised me to be independent, whether he knows it our not, (I think he knows now), and I think he has come to accept our decision to live our lives as we do, if not admire us for it. I hope so.
  We decided a long time ago not to have children, so that part of the equation is moot, but even so, if we did have children, our obligation to them ends, we believe, once they get to a certain age. Nothing more horrible than having some offspring still living in the basement when they are in their late twenties, or even later.
  Back to parents, though. I would hope that parents would let their children go and live their own lives as they see fit. Sure guidance is good if it’s needed, but where would we be if the mother of Christopher Columbus nagged him at every turn? Why, we’d be speaking a different language! Wait. He was Italian. Bad example.
  What about Charles Lindbergh, then? What if his parents fretted over every time he went up in some monoplane or another, afraid he would scrape a knee or crash to the earth in a fiery death? If he wasn’t allowed to become the pioneer he was, we wouldn’t have lindbergher cheese. I’d miss that.
  Let’s get back to friends. Our true friends are happy for us, and we hope we inspire them, and others to also follow their dreams. We learned many years ago that friendship can be fleeting. You think you may remain friends with a childhood mate, or a couple you meet along the road of life, and the childhood mate moves away, or the couple decide to get a divorce. Meanwhile, you think everything is going to move alone and everybody is going to be chums forever, but the other people aren’t thinking that way. The other people aren’t going to think of you when that job offer from out of town comes by, or marital troubles rear their ugly head, or your friends do the most inconsiderate thing and up and die on you. Family members are the worst for this!
  Shift gears again. Our potential new friend at the library, Karen. Let’s say we develop a friendship with Karen and her husband. Everything is great while the relationship is, well, what we would call “shallow”. We don’t know much about each other, the stories and jokes are still fresh, but as time goes by, familiarity comes into the picture. There is so much truth in the quote, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Karen and Clive become comfortable with us enough to start bickering with each other in front of us. One or the other of them feel that they are close enough to us to start complaining about our behavior, and even worse, complaining about our behavior to others, thinking we may change who we are. Sounds like I’m speaking from experience.
  So, currently, we don’t go knocking on the hulls of neighboring vessels, wanting to develop any relationships. For one thing, people who go off to live on a boat aren’t the sort of people who like drop-in company. Not only that, we are at the point in our lives where we can afford to let things happen naturally, or not. We are actually happy with each others’ company and can go days or weeks without other human interaction. We are fortunate.
  We do thrive on the communications we receive from the people we have “left behind’, so to speak. Although, we didn’t leave anyone behind. Our friends are with us everyday. We also know that in reality, if we weren’t on Facebook, of publish this blog on a regular basis, people would forget about us. Just someone they knew along their road of life.
  But maybe, once in a while, maybe after they’ve just read a good book, one that makes a person think, they might give us a thought, and wonder how this all turned out for us.
  Honestly, I’d rather they were too busy following their own dreams to ever have time to consider ours.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Georgetown Bar & Restaurant Guide

We’re settling in to life here in Elizabeth Harbour. Although there are very few cruisers here at the moment, there are enough of them and other visitors to make things at least a little interesting.
  Hundreds of boats are here in the winter, we hear, because the weather is warm, but we have found adversely, that many of the home owners and regular cruisers come here in the summer too, because the temperatures are milder than in other parts of the southern U.S. We have been enjoying temperatures in the high 70’s at night, and the very low 80’s during the day. A nice combination.
  Yes, summer is hurricane season. We are reminded of that fact occasionally, the latest being Topical Depression Dorian, which is currently fizzling out, if not diminishing altogether. 
  Once we have to experience a hurricane first hand, we’ll undoubtedly have other opinions, but we are tending to share the opinions of other boater and home owners in this area; with proper preparation, people and property can exist in hurricane country. Much like people exist in tornado, landslide, flood, forest fire, and other natural disaster country. You can live in fear of the unknown all your life, or just deal with it as it comes.
  Georgetown has enough to offer for cruisers in the “off season” to keep them occupied. In the last week, we went to the market, the library, the BTC office. We took trash, got gas in the dinghy, and went to the hardware store twice. Heavy stuff, but adventures each and every one.
  For fun, we go to the beach at Chat ‘N’ Chill, and never fail to meet someone to talk to. We bought a small umbrella to clamp to the dinghy seat so Holly can get out of the sun. She sits perched under the umbrella on the dinghy seat and takes in the scenery like the queen that she is. There is usually plenty of women and girls coming by to comment on how cute she is. Rosie's string bikini is usually the attraction for the men. The staff there is starting to know us and treat us like regulars. We are getting status! 
  We also went to Peace & Plenty again on Thursday night and had a good time. The owner made it a point to come over and talk to us. His companion thought I was a rock star come to visit. An aging rock star nonetheless, but that’s better than being confused with a serial killer. He was also curious about the “attractive woman” who I was with. I told him she was the serial killer.
  We also went over to the Exuma Beach Club for happy hour one night, the night we went last time when Sands beers were two for $5. There was a different bartender there who was preoccupied with stocking his bar to say hello when we took a seat. Eventually he mumbled something about “what would we like?”, and I mentioned the Sands beer special on Tuesday night. He said that the special was only on Fridays and Sundays, which we knew for certain that we were there on a Tuesday last time, and mentioned that very thing. He asked a passing waitress if the beer special was on Tuesdays, and she thought for a moment, and then responded that it wasn’t. Never mind that we had testified in full confidence that we had been there on a Tuesday and it was a special on that Tuesday, but perhaps the policy had changed.
  A smart businessman would have an exucutive decision right on the spot and offered us the beers at two for $5, but he instead ignored us and went back to stocking his bar. I looked at Rosie and said, “Let’s go”. We left the bartender alone to finish his work, being no other patrons.
  We went next door to Splash, a casual place we had been wanting to check out anyway. A lethargic girl behind the huge circular bar sauntered over and asked what we wanted and I asked what the happy hour beer specials were. Without a word, she pointed to a sign over in the corner. I asked if they had Bud Light, and she pointed to a row of bottles. Not a people person, it seemed.
  I was beginning to consider leaving, when another woman with better business skills came over and started chatting us up in a friendly way. Because of her, and her alone, we stayed and had a bucket of beers and a large pizza. Meanwhile, the other girl sat morosely in a corner and waited on a handful of customers when she had to.
  We get this from time to time in The Bahamas, but for the most part, people are nice and appreciate us being here spending money.
  The wind had died down considerably, so we anchored just off the beach at Chat ‘N’ Chill. We were entertained just by sitting on our bow watching boaters come and go. Elvis, the boat taxi driver, waved to us like we were old friends every time he passed by, which was several times a day.
  Yesterday we took the dinghy over to the St. Francis Resort which sits at the back of a small bay next to Chat ‘N’ Chill. We had heard that lunch there is very affordable, and we were pleasantly pleased with the service and the food. If you’re interested, they have one of their South African catamarans sitting at the dock, a model currently for sale, or you can special order one. Ballpark price: “About a million”. Sadly, they only offer a 50 footer. We were thinking at least a 55.
  We do, or at least I do, look at other vessels and consider them as a replacement for Swing Set. Generally, this process involves observing the points about another vessel that I don’t find acceptable, and then realizing that our boat fits the bill just fine, or that replacing our current boat with another is just not worth the hassle. You can substitute “boat” with “woman”, or “mate”, and get the same result.
  Last night, after spending a nice afternoon over on the beach, we brought Swing Set back over to our comfortable anchorage under the monument, just off of Hamburger Beach. The remnants of Dorian are expected to pass through tomorrow, and we’ll have better protection from the easterlies here. After that, we aren’t sure what we’ll do.
  Lobster season starts later this week, and I’d sort of like to get back to some more remote islands to try my luck at catching some of those critters, but living is easy here so close to Georgetown, and we still have two months left on our cruising permit. We’ll both know it when it’s time to head out, for the moment we’ll just take it day by day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Just Living Life

  We cooked our Almaco Jack last Friday night, deep fried in Andy's Seasoning, and served it up with macaroni and cheese and a side salad. The meat of the fish tasted like tuna, but had a lighter color. The few bones were easily picked out, and we had enough from the fish for two meals. I'd call it a success, but don't want to add up what it really cost to catch and eat the thing. Livin' off da fat of da land!
  My blog posts look different, and there isn't pictures. There is a good reason. Last month I used up our monthly data transfer allowance of 800 megabytes in less than five days. This prevented us from using our desktop computer for some very important personal business that we had to address with one of our insurance companies. I'm not going to let this happen again. I think our AT&T bill was higher than our last mortgage payment.
  When I exceed the 800 megabytes, another 150 megabytes are added instantly at a cost of $30. 150 megabytes does not go far. For instance, on my last blog that had several pictures, I exceeded my allowance five times in just a few minutes. What happens is that blogspot updates, and saves whatever you are writing automatically, so I had exceeded my allowance during the writing of that large post, and our AT&T bill shows five charges of $30 each within just a few minutes. So now I'm posting using the iPad with the BTC SIM card. BTC charges $30 per month. They claim you get one gig of data transfer for this charge, but we have determined that you get one month, no matter how much data you use. They have no way currently to administrate the data usage of an individual. They have a way to check, but they don't have the employees to turn that extra usage into a charge to the customer. Welcome to a third world country.
  It's late into our trip, but tomorrow we're going to visit the very nice BTC office here in Georgetown and purchase one of their cheapie phones for $20. With it, we can get 60 minutes of calls for only $20. This will be for local calls, but we'll be able to use this BTC phone to top up our data plan on the iPad from our phone, instead of visiting a BTC office every month. You have to put the SIM card from the iPad into a "broken" phone, which I am not going to do with our iPhone. Lots of folks buy a cheap phone in the States and put a BTC SIM card in it when they get to The Bahamas, but a SIM card is $15. May as well get the whole phone for $20.
  Let it be noted that I'm not asking for advice. I won't listen to any.
  There are fewer regular cruisers around the harbor these days, but tourists are still visiting the hotels and taking the vacation homes in the area for weeks at a time. The regular hotspots like Chat 'N' Chill are still drawing a good crowd, and the beach there is a great place to meet folks on any given afternoon. We took the dinghy over on Saturday and Sunday afternoons both, and set up beach chairs and even a small umbrella to make shade for Holly. Regular beach bums.
  This morning I had to use the Hookamax to dive for Holly's collar in 20 feet of water. Rosie knocked it into the ocean when we came back from the beach yesterday. No big deal, but Holly's rabies tag was on the collar, something I like for her to have. I couldn't find the collar, or the drill bit I lost overboard a couple of days ago.
  I only saw some very small fish, but that's probably a good thing. Tonight, after dinner, we were sitting on the bow watching the sunset when I saw a dorsal fin break the surface of the water. I knew it was a shark, but then I saw the tail fin come at least four feet out of the water and my jaw dropped. It was probably a nurse shark, but it looked huge to us.
  I told Rosie the next time she drops something off the back of the boat, she'll be the one going after it. I won't tell her if I drop anything again.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Back To Elizabeth Harbour And Georgetown

  Elizabeth Harbour was a welcome sight. As we motored into the inlet, my mind was filled with several things, like what kind of fish was it that we had in our cooler? How was I going to untangle the bird's next I created of my new fishing reel? And, why did I waste all of our ice and most of our vodka on a damn fish?
  Clavon was happy to see us at the Exuma Yacht Club. While we were fueling up, I showed him our fish after making him promise not to laugh. A couple other boat owners came over to take a look. No one knew what I had caught. Two guesses were that I had in our possession, a bonita, or some kind of jack, whatever that is.
  I asked Clavon if it was good for eating, and his answer of "Not sure, mon", didn't give me much hope for us in eventually enjoying a fish dinner for all our trouble.
  We took our old anchorage over under the monument off of Hamburger Beach. I consulted my book of game fish that I had purchased last October, not having had an occasion to look at it much since then, and found out that I had caught an Almaco Jack, one of the several types of jack fish. The guide reported that the fish was sporting to catch, to which I could attest, and that it was excellent to eat, if you cut away the dark red meat from the sides of the fish.
  When I got done skinning and hacking away at our fish with my filet knife, we still had enough left of it for a fine fish dinner. But it wasn't going to be Wednesday night, or the next night either.
  We had been cooking a nice sirloin steak in the crock pot during our trip back from Long Island and that was going to be our dinner. We had designs on going to Peace and Plenty for their barbecue on Thursday night, so Rosie put the cut up fish in a Ziplock bag, and we made plans to have fried fish and macaroni on Friday night. Cold cuts are the back up.
  On Thursday we took the dinghy into town for groceries and to visit the BTC office to have the SIM card in the iPad renewed. We also visited the Top To Bottom hardware store where I got a spool of fishing line and a small gaff to use for the next time I go fishing.
  On Thursday evening we took Holly with us over to Peace and Plenty for their barbecue. We shared a $15 rib plate and had enough for both of us to eat. We were helped along with two for $5 Sands beers. Good if served very cold. Like Miller Lite, but better.
  We met up with some cruisers who we had become acquainted with before we left for Long Island. The place was chock full of interesting patrons. We met folks from Austria, Argentina, and Australia. Had the "A's" covered.
  I had to deal with a local who tried to sneak off with a full beer of Rosie's when she left to go to the bathroom, but I was able to do so without resorting to violence. Now I'm a diplomat. All in all, we had a great time at the Peace and Plenty.
  Today I changed out the impeller on our raw water pump. It was hot, I was sweaty, but I completed the job in under two hours and only cut myself once. There were no leaks when I fired up the port side Cat to check my work.
  It's been raining most of the day and I've been working on these posts, but having a great deal of trouble with them saving properly, but I'm getting the job done.
  We have plans to fry fish for dinner and play some cards later. It's a good day.

Fish On! Yes, Really.

  On Wednesday morning we were lounging around having our second cup of coffee, discussing whether or not we wanted to spend another day in Calabash Bay. On one hand, we felt that there were still some folks at the resort that we wanted to inflict ourselves upon, but on the other hand, I wanted to change out our raw water impeller, and I thought that changing it in Georgetown was a good idea, in case something unusual came up.
  We both were in agreement that we wanted to get back to the resources available to us in Elizabeth Harbour, so Rosie began to get the bridge and cabin prepared for departure, and I hauled up the dinghy and secured it to the davits.
  I had routed a course that would keep us in protected waters along the banks of Long Island, until we could turn due west where the wind would be at our backs. I also put out our trolling gear. Not really expecting to catch any fish, but our "new" fishing rig was nearly nine months old and I hadn't caught a fish with it yet.
  We were slipping along in 70 feet of water at six and a half miles per hour when the reel started singing. I had a fish!
  Rosie took the helm and I began to reel in what felt like a whale. Once the fish broke the surface I could see that it was a barracuda. I told Rosie to keep us at a low idle, enough speed to keep us on course, but slow enough to for the fish to offer less resistance. I did also worry about the fish running up and fowling our props with the line. Where was I supposed to learn any of this?
  I got the barracuda alongside the boat and hauled it up for Rosie to see. The fish was about three feet long and the lure was hanging outside of it's mouth. The hook was barely in the tip of the barracuda's snout. The fish gave a flip and was gone!
  I stared at the tooth scarred lure for a minute, in deep despair, but soon gathered myself up and let the line and lure back out for another go.
  Not just a few minutes later we had another bite. Rosie took the helm again and I started pulling in another fish. The one was fighting harder, and once it broke the water, I expected to see a huge marlin or something, but what I had wasn't big, but it was putting up a fight. I could see that it wasn't another barracuda.
  I got the fish alongside the boat and this time I had Rosie grab the book hook to use as a gaff. Rose also had the phone and took a picture. (Remember when we took pictures with a camera?) I had no idea what to do with this fish. I couldn't get the gaff in its gills, it was flipping around too much and I was afraid I'd lose this one too. I remembered a trick I had read about, so I told Rosie to get the vodka.
  I had read where you can pour whiskey into a fish's mouth and they will calm down. We didn't have whiskey, but we had vodka. The fish was holding still to get any vodka in its mouth, but I eventually got enough in there to calm down the fish. I wanted to take a swig myself.
  I got the book hook into the gills, the fish was big enough the the bulky boat hook fit. Rosie had brought the cooler down from the bridge and I put the fish in it and covered it with the little ice we had in the freezer. I still didn't know what kind of fish we had, but I knew that it filled the small cooler from end to end, and that it was big enough to feed both of us.
  Now I was stricken with the fishing bug. I put the line back out and in thirty minutes I had another barracuda. Now, I have to admit, I hadn't spent much time getting to know our new Penn reel, and it has more knobs and dials on it than my first transistor radio. Well, I flipped the wrong thing and line spun out of the reel and created a bird's nest. I somehow got my left index finger tangled in the line and then the line nearly cut the tip of my finger off.
  There I was bleeding and finally reeling in my fish, but clearly the wind had been let out of my sails. I brought this smaller barracuda in, not knowing what to do with it, but decided to let it go. I got near enough to its teeth to use my pliers and get the hook out of its mouth.
  I didn't know it at the time, but the size of the 'cuda was great for eating, but I was happy to have just the one mystery fish and all of my digits intact. My fishing was done for the day.

Calabash Bay

  We anchored in the exact spot we had been in before leaving for Rum Cay, close enough to Cape Santa Maria Resort to keep an eye on the boat, but far enough out of the way of their two fishing boats that travel to and from the beach resort several times per day. We were also as far north into the bay that we could be to avoid any swells from the ocean. With the prevailing easterly winds, the anchorage is a really calm spot.
  We took the dinghy over to the beach and found the couple from Springfield, Missouri, just taking off on a beach hike. Dana and Brady had wondered where we had gone off to, so we invited them to come out to the boat for a beer and we'd tell them. They had been wondering if they could see the boat, so they piled in the dinghy and we went out and spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know each other. They each nursed one beer each. I wasn't sure if they were being polite, and didn't want to drink all of our beer, or they just weren't beer drinkers.  As the afternoon wore on, we discovered many things that we didn't have in common. Not long after Dana mentioned their pastor twice in about five minutes, I figured it was time to take them back to the safety of their resort, even if we agreed with Dana's taste in skimpy bikinis.
  We did meet them in the bar later for happy hour. The bar/restaurant at Cape Santa Maria Resort is very nice, and they have affordable happy hour specials and a very affordable bar menu. Dana and Brady left to honor their dinner reservations, and we made ourselves at home at the bar, meeting the staff and some other vacationers while sampling some chicken wings and a very good pizza. The $12 Bud Light buckets were icing on the cake. We stopped at two.
  It was rainy the next day so I spent time checking coolant in both engines and cleaned the sea strainers. Even though high temperatures usually mean it's time for an impeller replacement, I always check these two things first because it's easy to do. I like easy.
  There was a break in the clouds be 3 P.M., which coincidentally was the start of happy hour at the resort. The special between 3 and 5 P.M. is not only the $12 buckets, but they serve complimentary conch fritters then. Andy, our bartender, brought us out four large fritters each which were a nice addition to the Bud Light buckets. We only had two.
  By the time the few folks with dinner reservations began to file into the restaurant, we left our famiilar spot at the bar and joined Holly back aboard Swing Set for a delicious dinner of grilled pork chops and yellow rice, and then topped off our evening with a couple games of gin rummy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Decision Time

  Rosie and I were definitely disappointed in Rum Cay and Port Nelson, and certainly in Sumner Point Marina. We had traveled over 35 miles in rough seas, believing the guidebooks about everything that Rum Cay had to offer. What if we traveled another 35 miles to Cockburn in San Salvador, only to be disappointed again? There is no anchorages around San Salvador unless the wind is coming from the east, which it usually is, but there are no guarantees. When we travel to any island, I usually have anchorages in mind for any weather situation, because you never know.
  At issue was also the current wind situation. Winds were continuing from the east, which would put us on a beam sea heading to San Salvador, something that is not pleasant at all. We made a decision to head back to Long Island at the crack of dawn, and take advantage of a following sea to scoot us along. Our decision was a fortuitous one.
  At 6 A.M. on Monday morning Rosie had the coffee going and I was untying our lines. The sun was just coming over the horizon as we made our way through the maze of coral heads back out to our route west to Cape Santa Maria.
  We hadn't had much experience with a following sea since we began our adventure, and what we soon learned was that unless one wanted to fight the helm all day, the boat will do better if it is going faster than the waves, otherwise the waves overtake the vessel, pushing the stern around as they gain purchase on the rudders. As the stern tries to come around, one can steer "into the skid" as one does when sliding on ice. Real havoc occurs when a vessel is running in a surf into an inlet and the waves push the vessel sideways. In a big enough surf, this is when the boat will broach and possibly roll over. The seas we were in were not big enough to roll us over, but I quickly tired of fighting the wheel. This is where autopilot comes in handy.
  But we don't have autopilot, but we do have horsepower, so I put Swing Set on plane and we ran along with the waves, gently coasting over them with no spray on us at all. Until the temperature alarm on the port engine sounded.
  I really wasn't taken by surprise because when we are running at our cruising speed of 25 miles per hour, I always have a close eye on the temperature gauges. I had replaced the raw water pump on the starboard engine and we were on borrowed time with the impeller on the port engine and now payment was due. I slowed us down to 1500 RPMs, not a very efficient speed, but the added miles per hour gave me better steering, but still not enough to stay ahead of the waves coming at our stern quarter. So I fought the wheel for three hours back to Long Island until we rounded the tip of the island and happily found ourselves back in Calabash Bay and Cape Santa Maria Resort. 

Rum Cay

  On the northern tip of Long Island is Cape Santa Maria and Calabash Bay. We pulled into Calabash Bay, sheltered from the prevailing easterly winds, and lined with some nice homes, a first rate resort, and a fine white beach. We dropped the dinghy in and went exploring.
  A creek that leads inland caught my eye and we entered a narrow spot in the reef that guards the entrance to a shallow bay that eventually narrows down to a creek that runs down to Joe Sound, and then back into the southern end of Calabash Bay. Had the tide been up, we could have taken the dinghy around Galliot Cay, but we were only able to cruise around in the deeper water of the bay, but we saw sting rays and one nurse shark.
  We ran along the beach that fronts the Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort where there were a handful of summer tourists taking advantage of a sunny day. One such tourist was a lone female wearing a skimpy bikini. I felt it necessary to ask her a few questions about the resort.
  "Dana", as she introduced herself, was on vacation with her husband. It was the second time that they had visited the resort and they really like it. Her accent sounded familiar, so I asked her where she was from, and she said her and her husband lived in Springfield, Missouri, practically next door neighbors from where we used to live if you consider our current location.
  We learned some things about the resort, and were getting the impression that it was a quiet, family type resort, and a bit upscale. Not really a place we are attracted to. We're from a different part of Missouri.
  We went back to the boat and made a nice dinner, with plans to stay in Calabash Bay for a couple more days, but while looking at the charts the next morning, i suggested to Rosie that we take advantage of some calmer weather and head east to Rum Cay, and then on to San Salvador. Rosie liked the idea, and our second cup of coffee was taken at the helm, on our way around Cape Santa Maria, the northern tip of Long Island.
  We were soon out in the Atlantic Ocean, hitting three footers head on until we arrived on the lee side of Rum Cay, three hours later. It was a fairly rough ride, but we kept our speed down to lessen the impact with the head-on waves, so our movement was more see saw than side to side.
  Like many of the islands east of The Exumas, and Long Island, Rum Cay doesn't have many protected anchorages. We were headed to the only marina on the island, Sumner Point Marina, on the southeastern end of Rum Cay at the town of Port Nelson. The southern route along Rum Cay is shallow, and lined with reefs. Coral heads are numerous, but a zig zag course is marked into the small entrance to Sumner Point Marina.
  I hailed the marina on the radio and got no response, not really unexpected because it was a Sunday after all, and the marina is not officially open for business. In fact, there is no charge for slips, water is free when they have it, but there is no electricity. Unfortunately, the place is also a major dump.
  There were a handful of boats tied up, mostly in disrepair, but there were two very expensive sport fishing boats tied up, offering some optimism to the situation. We circled around to the back end of the marina basin where there was one nicer home with another big sport fishing boat at a dock out front. The front drive also was home to some dump trucks, two bulldozers, and an earth moving machine. A nice view if your appreciation is only what equipment like that costs.
  We were motoring past the marina again, trying to decide where to tied up our boat, when three Bahamians came down to the dock to direct us into a slip. "Billy", as one of them was named, was directing us into a space on the dock where I had already decided we were going to tie up anyway, at least until someone complained. It appeared that things were going to work out.
  With the wind blowing us away from the approach alongside the pier, Rosie tossed Billy a line and he helped pull us in. Another fella, "Scoobie", took a stern line. They both proceeded to tie us tight to the closest piling, leaving no slack for the ebbing tide. Both Billy and Scoobie knew nothing about tying up a boat, but they, and their third cohort, "Hartley", were obvious in their desire for a tip, but they didn't push the issue. Good thing.
  I let them know that we would come see them if we needed anything else, and then we set to work tying the boat up for real. I had a discussion with Rosie about relinquishing lines to dockhands; it's OK to toss a line if the situation requires it, but the responsibility of the line stays with Rosie, whether she is securing the line herself, or directing someone else to do it.
  Once Swing Set was secure, I saw two crew members of the larger sport fishing boat out washing down the decks, so I went over to ask them some questions. They had been at the marina for a day and had gone into the town of Port Nelson where they said that there wasn't much there. They had gone to a sand bar, which was open on a Sunday, by the way, but they said it wasn't much either. They also said that they were chased by two feral dogs when they were in town and that it may not be a good idea to take Holly.
  I returned to the boat and made my report to Rosie. We decided to get showers and walk the half mile to town, but leave Holly to guard the boat. Locked up, of course.
  Our walk to the town of Port Nelson was hot and dusty along a gravel road. Trash and debris lined the roadside, and when we finally reached some buildings, we wondered if we had made a wrong turn. Nothing was open, and the one person we saw barely looked at us, let alone gave us the impression that he would have welcomed any questions.
  We took a side road back toward the beach and passed a woman on her porch feeding some birds. We asked her about Kaye's Place and she said that we had passed it, "just over da bridge", but there was a party and the place was closed. We thanked her and decided to just go back to the boat and have dinner. We passed Kaye's Place and saw that it was just a house, actually appeared to be abandoned, but had a few rusty chairs under a big tree, all for your dining pleasure.
  Hartley came by on his four wheeler on our walk back to the marina and asked us if we wanted a ride. I took a long look at the dusty road, another look at the rusty luggage rack on the back of his Honda, and declined his generous offer. He asked at least twice if we were sure we didn't want a ride. If I was sure then, one look at the numerous scars on Hartley's face told me that he might not be the best driver on Rum Cay. It appeared that his head may have had some close encounters with a palm tree or two.
  Arriving back at the marina, we heard what I knew was dogs barking and running towards us, actually snarling, and galloping was more like it. Remembering the tale of the feral dogs chasing the crew members of the sport fishing boat, I reeled around and yelled "GIT!" As I was reaching for my knife, I yelled again, "Git on outa here!", and those two dogs spun around and ran off from where they came from. Rosie said she almost had a heart attack.
  As we stepped onto the dock and were rinsing the road dust off our feet, a young woman walked over and introduced herself as "Gro", the owner of the two dogs. She apologized for their rude behavior, and I told her that apologies were not warranted, but she was lucky I didn't stab either one of her pets in our defense.
  I calmed down some and we learned that Gro was running the marina with her boyfriend Bobby. She was from Norway, which was interesting in itself, but she went on to tell us about the feud between Bobby and the owner of the earth moving equipment who was trying to run them out of business. He was the "enemy".
  We know there is two sides to every story, but you have to wonder about folks whose business plan is to not charge customers for dockage for a whole season, just to piss off the neighbors.
  We also found out that Billy, Scoobie, and Hartley don't work at the marina, or have anything to do with it actually, but I suspect that they may have more business sense than either Bobby or Gro.
  We retreated to the boat and we saw the rest of the gang that live at the big house adjacent to the marina. Had this been thirty years ago we would have sworn that these folks were running a commune of some kind. It's what it looked like anyway. We decided to leave first thing in the morning.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Three Productive Days In Stella Maris

  We had lunch at the Driftwood Cafe on Thursday because all of our food was in coolers due to Rosie defrosting the refrigerator. I had my sought after cheeseburger, made by hand with fresh ground beef. A side of fries and cole slaw rounded off the meal and I must say it was very good. Rosie had a Ceasar Salad with chicken. She said if was "real good".
  On Thursday afternoon, Joe brought "Gerd" to the boat to look at what I wanted to have welded. I had made a template for the stainless and Joe found suitable material and had cut it. Gerd is German, like the owners, and used to be the marina manager here. He is a man of few words. Few, as in none. Nevertheless, it appeared that our welding was going to take place on Friday, barring rain.
  We visited Ian and the Driftwood Cafe on Thursday night. We were just going to have a couple of beers and then go back to the boat for dinner. The kitchen staff had made a mistake on an order, making a huge beef burrito instead of beef nachos, so Ian remembered how much we like the burrito from Wednesday night and offered it to us on the house. How can you pass up an offer like that? Later, the smoke detector went off and I hollered "If that's a hamburger you're burning, I'll eat it!" No such luck.
  We got back to the boat before dark and we trying to decide whether to have dinner, or pop in a movie and eat a big bowl of popcorn instead. Rosie was taking in the view from the dinette and said, "Oooh, look how pretty the moon looks!"
  "Yes, all twenty four of them", I said. "That's one of the globe lights that line the marina basin you're looking at."
  We both had a real good laugh at that, but we'll seen how Rosie's sense of humor holds up when she learns that I put this in the blog.
  Chantal might have been history, but storms were still due to pass through, and they did. It rained most of the night, and the wind was blowing swells into the marina entrance. We bounced around some, but we were tied to the dock pretty securely, so we weren't worried.
  I was up by 7 A.M. because I wanted to be ready to drop the dinghy in case the welding was going to take place early. Joe came by just after 7, making sure his last cut on the new bracket was correct. He said if the rain held off, we would get the welding done that day, and he left the bracket with me.
  While I was waiting, I took some plastic board material and began to cut pieces for some extra bracing for the davit. I had an idea to sandwich the davit at the point of the most stress, exactly at the curve of the davit, and I had mentioned that to Joe. He generally liked the idea, but said it would work better if I filled in the space between the two tubes that make up the davit, and then sandwich them in, providing stiffness to the area in hopes to avoid the flexing that was causing the welds to fail.
  It took me all morning to cut the pieces with my hand jigsaw, and then a few more hours of sanding the pieces incrementally, measuring, sanding some more, and then obtaining a tight fit between the davit tubes. Meanwhile, Rosie took our laundry across the road and Holly just laid in the salon, staring out the door and pouting because we weren't paying her any attention.
  One of the yard workers wheeled the welder over to our boat, so I figured it was showtime. I put all my stuff away, dropped the dinghy, and moved the boat back closer to the bulkhead, as per Joe's instructions. Then I waited.
  No one told me that Gerd was going to do the welding, so I was watching Joe and two other guys drilling holes to modify the haul out railway to fit the catamaran next to us. The whole time I'm wondering why I was told to move the boat if the welding wasn't going to commence. There was threat of more rain, and the wind was freshening. I didn't have Swing Set tied down good enough for a windstorm, plus the tide was beginning to go out. I began to worry that I had dropped the dinghy and moved the boat for nothing.
  I kept quiet though. I got my sander back out and finished fitting the pieces I had made, then I painted them. While I had the paint out, I painted the garbage pail in the cockpit. I kept busy, and I kept an eye on any sign of welding progress.
  I left the boat as Rosie was returning from the laundry. She asked me how it was going, and I said that it wasn't. I retrieved my now dried painted items and when I came back I found Gerd on the boat. He had the new bracket clamped onto the davit and was beginning to tack it in place. I mustered up all the tact that I could and explained to him that it was imperative that the failed weld on the original brace be welded before we weld the new bracket over it. Without a word, he unclamped the new brace and prepared to fix the broken weld. The only thing he said was that "ziss metal iss too sin". I agreed with him, but said that, "It was what it was. Nothing I could do about it now." And so he welded in silence.
  He finished welding the new brace on, and then walked away without a word. Big surprise. Imagine, this guy used to be the marina manager. Had I met someone like him when we arrived at the marina on Wednesday, it is unlikely that we would have stayed here, at least not for three days.
  I sat and wondered if perhaps it was someone else who was going to do the cleanup of the welds when I finally saw Gerd, grinder in hand, in the process of borrowing the extension cord that Joe and the other two guys were using to drill holes over on the railway. (How it takes three guys to use one drill is a mystery to me.) I told Gerd that they could keep the cord, that I had one he could use. Silently, he came to the boat and grind down the weld.
  Apparently he was finished. He then asked me if I had any fine sandpaper. I said that I did, and that I'd be happy to polish up the welding with the sandpaper. He reminded me that I would have to wash down the boat too. We had covered all the vinyl with wet beach towels to prevent burning from sparks, but there was still lots of metal dust and debris all over the transom. Yes, I think it would be prudent to wash the boat down.
  As Gerd was making his exit, I thanked him for taking his time to do this welding for us. All he said was, "I don't sink it's going to verk".
  I was prepared for a comment such as this one. I said, "Well, that's a little like telling me my wife is ugly. There is nothing I can do about it now. The damage is done. I have to work with what I have. If this doesn't work, I have the whole dinghy davit torn off and start over. But, I think this is going to work. The davit has held up for three years already."
  "Three years?" Gerd gave a small nod of his head, and I think I may have detected a hint of a smile even. I bet I could grow on Gerd eventually, but at our given ages, I don't think there is time.
  Rosie and I began to clean up the mess while I began an assault on some ice cold Bud Lights. We both got showers and by 7 P.M. we were back at the Driftwood for dinner. We typically don't eat out three times in three days, but we wanted to patronize the newly opened restaurant, if only for Ian's sake, but really, the food is good and fairly priced. Rosie had chicken fingers with Mediterranean Potatoes, and I had Grouper fingers. Both of our meals were delicious.
  During dinner, we told Ian that we had plans to leave in the morning. Our charge for the repair was to be $98, an hour for Gerd, and an hour for Joe. I never had a yard bill for under $100 dollars before, and I told Ian to make it an even hundred. No sense breaking the mold now. After what ultimately wound up to be a very productive day and evening, we returned to Swing Set before 9 P.M. and wasted no time in falling asleep.
  This is where I wanted to post pictures of the finished product, but the WiFi signal is weak this morning and I can't load up pictures. I got up very early this morning and had a good breakfast and then set to work installing the extra bracing I had made. The stiffening pieces between the davit tubes tapped in just perfectly with my hammer. Just right. Suffice it to say, it looks good and I really do think the repair will hold up. If I see Gerd today, I'll offer to buy him dinner if we return next year and his prediction about the repair not working comes true.
  Ian came by the boat. He was checking meter readings and announced that the meter we are on doesn't work, so it appeared that we had used no electricity. I told him that running one air conditioner, which we had been doing, would amount to roughly 6 kilowatt hours per day, or at their rate, $3.60, but we also had used electric to do sanding and drilling. I suggested that he charge us $20 for the three days. He countered with $15. Ian drives a hard bargain, and I know when I'm beat. I relented to us being charged $15 instead of $20. Sometimes you just can't win.
  I wrote this post while waiting for high tide so we can leave. We probably don't need it, but the extra depth will be welcome when we transit the channel out of here. Our plan is to go just a few mile up the coast to Calabash Bay, near Cape Santa Maria, the northern tip of Long Island. Even though we have rain fore casted for every day, the winds should die down, so we are considering jumping over to Conception Island in a day or two. It's 14 miles northeast of here and is a totally uninhabited island. The beaches and water are reported to be the most beautiful in the Bahamas, and the snorkeling is supposed to be phenomenal. Not sure if we'll have Internet service there, or even phone service, so we might be incommunicado for a few days.
  We probably spoiled ourselves in the air conditioning for the last three nights, but the temperatures here should be 75 degrees at night, and highs of 83 degrees during the day, so with a pleasant breeze on the hook, we just might be able to survive. One thing we feel is for certain, there will be a return to Stella Maris Marina in our future.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Sigh Of Relief In Stella Maris

  We have free WiFi! So I'm backing up for a week and showing you this picture of the beach at Chat 'N' Chill on Stocking Island across from Georgetown, Exuma.
  The Chat 'N' Chill is such a fun place to go to, we found it hard to leave Georgetown because of it. We have been told that, "in season", the place is hopping with customers, and three to four hundred boats line the shores of Elizabeth Harbour. We cannot wait to visit in the winter months. We think this place would be a great place to visit on vacation.
  Meanwhile, any reservations about our decision to travel to Long Island, with our initial disappointment in Salt Pond, plus the threat of Chantal hanging over our heads, has disappeared like Baptists at a raid on a strip club.
  Yesterday morning we left our anchorage in Thompson Bay in Salt Pond. The morning was sunny and calm, but we were in good moods because the threat of tropical storm Chantal was diminishing.
  The storm was taking a track that I had initially hoped it would, and was staying south of Cuba, but was weakening. Wind was still going to be an issue, but not too much of one. I'd rather be lucky than good. This time we were lucky.
  On our approach to Stella Maris Marina I still wasn't sure if I wanted to go the additional miles to get into the harbor. The marina is located on the very inside corner of a large bay, off of our route somewhat, and the path is not a very deep one. It was early, we had the time, and we both figured we ought to see if the guidebooks and reviews we had been reading were anything close to reality. We could always change our minds and travel the extra few miles up the coast to Joe Sound if we didn't like what we encountered at Stella Maris.
  On our approach on the largely unmarked channel, we saw a dive boat coming out from the marina entrance. This was good news, the first boat we saw actually underway in days. There might be life at Stella Maris!
  We entered the small marina basin through a narrow but adequate cut and quickly saw the fuel dock. It was a neat affair and there was plenty of room to maneuver Swing Set alongside. I called the marina on the VHF and didn't get a response. It was Independence Day in The Bahamas, a holiday, and perhaps they weren't open. But instead of leaving, I went in search of somebody.
  I was wandering around the boatyard and a fella came out. "I guess you're looking for me", he said, and I replied that if he could sell me some fuel, that he was indeed the guy I was looking for.
  Ian, with a proper British accent, introduced himself as the manager of the Stella Maris Marina, having just taken over the job after purchasing the dive operation here recently and eventually making an arrangement with the owners to operate the marina and the restaurant. He and his wife are from the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, and have been trying to purchase the dive operation at Stella Maris for a couple of years. After spending about twenty months waiting around and dealing with the unbelievably slow bureaucracy of the Bahamian government, they gave up hope and went back to Europe, only to get a call from their lawyer a few months later saying that the deal was done. Back to Long Island they came.
  After getting our fuel, and asking a few questions that Ian had the right answers to, I asked about getting a slip for a night our two. The price is fair, and we were able to secure an alongside pier instead of the usual med style dock that prevails in the marina. The slip we took was that of the large marina dive boat that was currently moored in the adjacent canal, a  true "hurricane hole". The boat would be there until the end of hurricane season, so we'd be able to stay as long as we would want to. I began thinking of a three day arrangement.

  We got Swing Set tucked in and plugged in our shore power. We hadn't used our air conditioning since Nassau, but within the close confines of the protected marina, we were happy to have it chugging away.
  Rosie and I went exploring a little. We wanted to see the hurricane hole, so we hiked over to see it. There were several boats lined up in the deep basin. Lines running from the sides of each vessel were tied securely to bollards that line the bank on each side. I'd feel safe keeping Swing Set here if we need to.
  The marina is part of the larger Stella Maris Inn and Resort, on the other side of the island. The complex is owned by an older German family, and interest in running the marina has declined over the years, and so has the marina. But a resurgence is obvious, and Ian is working hard to improve the property. This is not a resort; you go over to the Stella Maris Inn and Resort for that, but there is a dive training tank, accessible from the second floor deck just off from the entrance to the Driftwood Cafe. The tank is big enough for lounging around, and Rosie and I decided to do just that if the promised rain would hold off.

  This is not the view from the deck and "pool", but you can see the fuel dock and the bay beyond. The view is naturally better from the deck, but I didn't have my camera and now it's raining. Use your imagination. Also, take note of the center console fishing boat with the four outboard motors.
  The Driftwood Cafe is open from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. for lunch everyday. They close for two hours and then reopen from 5 to 9. The two hour break is necessary at the moment because the Ian's bartender has gone on an extended vacation, and his wife has gone back to Europe to visit their grown daughters and for some much needed R & R after training new kitchen staff and opening the restaurant just three weeks ago.
  We didn't visit the cafe for lunch, but had lunch on the boat. I checked on Chantal, and she was history. NOAA discontinued tracking her. Some wind and rain is to be expected for the next couple of days, but the storm threat is gone. Our moods improved considerably.
  We spent a couple of hours "at the pool". Ian came by numerous times and at once remarked how he liked to see the guests "enjoying it". We were very happy to be enjoying it. Quite a few patrons came by and took lunch orders out with them. The cafe seems to be catching on.
  We took showers in the bathroom just off of the deck and retired to the boat to relax in the air conditioning. I took a nap with my buddy Holly, and Rosie read. At 5 P.M. we put some clean duds on and made our way to the cafe.
  There were a few locals having a beer and waiting on "to go" orders. We wished them a happy Independence Day and took a seat near the bar where Ian was freshened up. We took possession of the first of two ice cold Kalik beers, enjoying some sporadic conversation with the locals and with Ian, held captive by our close proximity with no escape from my many questions.
  We were joined by the guys on the center console fishing boat with the four outboard motors. Lightening had destroyed the electronics on all four motors, and they had replaced the control boards at considerable cost. The test run that they had taken that afternoon had checked out, and they were headed back to Jupiter on Friday. I told them that Saturday might be a better day. After a couple more beers, they tended to agree with my weather prediction for the rest of the week.
  The fishermen ordered off the small, but delightfully different menu, and we did the same. We largely enjoyed our conversation with the three of them while we waited a short time for our food to arrive from the kitchen. Rosie and I ordered a large beef nacho plate, and a beef burrito to share. The prices are very fair, and we stuffed ourselves, plus brought half of the large burrito back to the boat when we finally left at 9 P.M.
  We had an early wake up call after sleeping like babies. A nice cooled down cabin and the calm sanctuary of a protected harbor makes for great sleeping conditions, something that is somewhat of a luxury for us.
  This morning I wanted to be up early to meet "Joe", the boatyard manager, I guess. He's reported to have been working here for 43 years. A person can get set in his ways after working at a place for 43 years, and Ian apparently recognizes the dynamics of dealing with Joe, with Ian being the "new guy" and all.
  Joe and I are currently undergoing negotiations to have the crack on our dinghy davit welded. Our initial meeting was less than productive, but he's been to the boat three times now and I think he's warming up to me. The issue is having enough power at the dock to use a welder, plus the availability of the stainless material is an issue too. He does have some plastic board material that I'll use to fabricate a brace to allow us to continue on without the davit failing. After discussing my plan at length, he told me to hold off making anything just yet. He's going to see if he can get what we need to do the job right. I think he sees my desire to not do a cheesy job, and he appreciates such things it seems. Some people just like to help you do the right thing.

  The owner of a new Boston Whaler Conquest came over and asked to borrow my drill. When I took it over to him, I saw this friendly manatee laying on his back and getting a drink from the air conditioning cooling water on his boat. I went back to get my camera and he was still at it. Naturally, the picture doesn't do the scene justice.
  Rosie is busy defrosting the freezer and waiting for the rain to stop to take laundry across the Queen's Highway to the laundromat. Before starting the blog I polished some rust from our air generator towers and our anchor light pole. I like writing the blog better, and I started when the rain did.
  I suspect some more conversations with Joe are in my future, but mostly this afternoon will be spent reading. I'll hit the ground running tomorrow if I have to fabricate some braces for the davit. We originally had designs of renting a car and seeing the island, but it's supposed to rain again tomorrow anyway. Tonight we'll visit the Driftwood Cafe again. I have designs on one of their delicious looking cheeseburgers tonight.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Salt Pond Is A Dud

  After our lengthy and bumpy crossing to Long Island yesterday we didn't feel like exploring the town and thought we would wait until today. Wish we would have done it yesterday.
  But first, I'll back up. Leaving Elizabeth Harbour yesterday morning, the forward bilge pump came on, evident by it's warning light at the helm. Each pump has one. This was odd, and when odd things happen on a boat, it's best to find out the "root cause" because it means something isn't right. The forward pump coming on without the aft pump coming on means a problem. An unusual problem.
  Another thing that hasn't been right is the amount of water our water maker has been making, or how much our tank has been holding overnight. I do believe in coincidences, and when problem solving, coincidences confuse the issue. I also believe in getting lucky.
  I had mentioned yesterday that the stern harness on the dinghy failed. I was able to rig up some more strapping to keep the harness intact long enough to  lower the dinghy and make a repair. What I rigged up yesterday with what I found onboard is better than what broke, so I think we'll be keeping it. In regard to the dinghy davits, that I haven't mentioned, is that one of the welds that my Cuban buddy Rudy re-welded in Bimini is cracking again. The extra gussets that he welded alongside the original strut are helping keep the davit from failing, but either I need to find another welder, or some material to brace up the davit myself. I have some ideas, but I need to find material. Salt Pond will not be the place to find the material.
  I saved the investigation of the bilge pump until this morning. There was water in the bilge again this morning, deep enough for the pump to come on, but I had to switch in on manually. The pump worked, so the problem would be the float switch, or the wiring. The float switch was only a few months old, so I suspected a bad connection, and I found one. A cut in the wire insulation let salt water corrode the copper wire inside, turning it to dust. I spliced in a new connection and confirmed the proper operation of the switch. Great!
  But where was the water coming from? It rained really hard last night, so I suspected rain water although rain water really doesn't get in the bilges, or it isn't supposed to. I have known about a fitting on the drain for our water maker, way in the deep corners of the engine room, that has been leaking. Just a little drip drip drip, not enough to make that much water build up, but conditions change. But that water has a high salt content, and the bilge water was fresh water. I tasted it.
  I saw a tiny stream of water sneaking along a stringer, so I grabbed my worklight and looked for the source and found it! A fitting on the inlet to one of our fresh water pumps was leaking like a sieve. Not only did I find the reason for the water in the bilge, but also discovered why it seemed like our water maker output has been reduced, or not as much water remained in the tank overnight. So it was a good thing that the bilge pump switch failed.
  What is not a good thing was coming to Salt Pond. All the boats we saw off in the distance are not fellow cruisers here to weather out Tropical Storm Chantal. Upon closer inspection in the dinghy this morning, we found out that most, if not all, of the vessels laying in Salt Pond Harbor are derelicts. The rest are sinking. We are here alone.
  The places touted in the cruising guides, you know, the guide that lured us here in the first place, are closed. Out of business. The fuel dock is in such bad repair I wouldn't take our boat near it, and I'm not sure if any fuel pumps work anyway.
  There is nothing here in Salt Pond to keep us here, except for the approaching storm, and the storm track did change. We are now smack in Chantal's path, but the path might change again when Chantal crosses over Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She'll be here on Thursday.
  Early tomorrow morning we'll be heading up the coast about 14 miles to Stella Maris. There is a hurricane hole there of sorts, plus a marina. Or so the guidebooks say.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Long Island Waiting On Chantal

  We have left Chicken Harbor, otherwise known as Elizabeth Harbour near Georgetown, Great Exuma. After looking at the forecast for what is currently Tropical Storm Chantal, we headed east from Georgetown to Salt Pond in Long Island. 
  While The Exumas run more in a northwest to southeast direction, Long Island lays just east and runs more north and south. The Grand Bahama Bank sits in between and the southern tip of the Exumas stabs Long Island almost directly in the center of that island, just about where the Tropic Of Cancer lies, and that is where we headed.
  When we left the anchorage this morning, we were hailed by another vessel, Island Girl, a sailboat. The captain said that they'd be following behind us, also heading to Salt Pond. We also met another small sailboat on the way out of the cut, a guy we had met during our two weeks in Georgetown. He was heading east too.
  Tropical Storm Chantal is developing southeast of this area, and the five day outlook for probability places Chantal just about everywhere in The Bahamas, and most of Florida. There is no running.
  Depending on how early Chantal "hooks" to the northwest, we can possibly avoid the majority of the storm by this move we have made. We will be staying north of the storm, maybe, but lots of factors come into play. We'll be watching the forecast with each update. As much as we appreciate our friends' concern about our well being, we want everyone to be rest assured that we get all the alerts we need via email, don't feel obligated to send us what we are already looking at.
  Running further east to the Ragged Islands, or Turks and Caicos, would put us well north of Chantal, but running in the open Atlantic Ocean when there are already wind and rainstorms brewing, is not an option. Coming across the shallow Great Bahamas Bank today was strenuous enough. 
  The stern harness on the dinghy, (stainless steel cable) is starting to break. I did a emergency repair while underway this morning. The twisted strand cable is nearly broke in two. I'm going to make another harness out of line. It won't be as pretty, but it will be strong.
  Our crossing today was almost five hours, and we were pounding headwinds pretty hard for the last three hours. We made our way into Thompson's Bay, and steered Swing Set to the tallest hill along the shores of Long Island, and finally anchored in six feet of calm water, as we are protected from the wind whipped waves by the coast.
  We're taking a breather for the rest of today, and then we'll decide if we want to travel twenty one miles north up the coast to Joe Sound, a dandy hurricane hole with a tricky entrance, but sheltered water once entry is gained. The unknown is how many other vessels have the same thing in mind. The hole only holds six boats, and we don't want to be number seven.
  As a last resort, we'll stake Swing Set down with three anchors in the best place we can find and seek shelter on the island somewhere. The dinghy would probably be lost if we do that, and the boat may be too, but we aren't riding out a hurricane on the boat unless we are in a hurricane hole, and maybe not even then, but this storm is not predicted to build to hurricane status.
  There are a few other boats anchored here, just out from the Long Island Petroleum Company. We stayed away from the other boats as it lessens the chance for calamity if the wind gets crazy.
  The next couple of days will tell the tale. We have good Internet here, so I wanted to get this blog posted. We'll be sending SPOT reports to those of the receivers list. Please pass along that we're OK to anyone who you think may care.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Holding Pattern

  For the most part, our week has been rather uneventful. After the Junkanoo last Saturday night, the winds clocked back around to come from the ESE, making us exposed to wind and waves blowing right up the length of Elizabeth Harbour, so we moved the boat back over to our original spot just off of Stocking Island. After spending another night bouncing around due to the more southerly, rather than easterly direction of the waves, we decided on Monday morning to make another move.
  Crab Cay Marina is a marina project that was begun in 2006. A beautiful stone bridge was built to allow traffic to go from Georgetown to Crab Cay, some roads were graded, and piles of construction materials were placed all around the natural harbor which was also dredged to a nice depth for a marina, but then everything stopped in 2009 before any docks were put in, leaving a nice protected harbor, albeit with not much in the way of scenery along the shoreline. We moved over there to ride out what was predicted to be a windy week.
  Trips in the dinghy from our anchorage off of Stocking Island were wet ones, even though we did our best to run "with the wind and waves", and one trip in the dinghy from our harbor in Crab Cay was not different. Our one trip into town last Monday evening to get some water and dump our trash left us all soaked. After tiring of the less than picturesque view we had, by Tuesday afternoon, we were ready to move back to our spot off of Stocking Island. That's what we like best about our home. If we don't like something about the surroundings, we can just move.
  Winds moved around more from the east as the week went by, so our move was a good one. About eight other boats in the area joined us, all with the same thing in mind. Everyone has been staying put until the current wind conditions calm down some.
  We made a couple more trips into town, one of them was to the local library. The small wooden building is now being staffed by volunteers from the cruising community here. We took three books in and were able to swap them for three others from their huge trading selection that is comprised from duplicates from the main section. We were also able to buy some books for only a dollar, which we can then use for trade fodder on subsequent visits. The best thing was that we bought a library card for three dollars, which is really just the recording of our boat name and our names on a list. Whenever we visit to borrow any books, we just give them our name. Our names will stay on the list until the library burns down, and there is no limit to how long you can keep the books out. The key here is trust.
  When we returned to the dinghy after our library and grocery store visit to Exuma Markets, we were hailed from a boat in Lake Victoria by a familiar sounding captain. It was Linda from the M/V Mercy Me, who we had met when we were in Big Pine. We talked for a while and caught up on some cruising info, but then we said our goodbyes because we had cold stuff we wanted to get back to the boat.
  The Fourth of July was a non-issue for us. We planned an outing over to Chat 'n' Chill, but the rain fixed that. Once we decided to stay in and have dinner on the boat, we had no desire to venture back out for the evening. We saw a few fireworks off in the distance at the Four Seasons Resort. I could have joined in with a few shotgun blasts, but I declared all our ammunition at Customs, not having squirreled any away any for robbers (I'll have some 'splainin' to do), or reverie.
  Our days have been spent mainly reading our books, but we did take a couple of long beach walks along the white sand beaches of Stocking Island. Everyday there has been the threat of rain, and we had some spectacular lightening shows on a couple of the nights.
  We did make it over to Chat 'n' Chill yesterday. There are huge rays over there that swim along the beach. You can reach down and pet them if you wish. A dolphin swam up to a big group of folks and entertained them, swimming just a couple of feet away, until some teenage boys got aggressive and ran it off. We're glad we never owned any teenage boys.
  We still are having issues with our Internet, thus this short blog with no pictures. I'll make up for it next time. Maybe.