Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back In The U.S.A. With Some Final Thoughts On The Bahamas

  It really makes no sense to visit the Atlantis Resort Marina to just sit on your own boat and not go out, but everything at Atlantis is offensively expensive. We ate out for dinner on the two nights we stayed there, and it was nothing special. Staying at The Atlantis is not visiting The Bahamas, though. It's no more The Bahamas than New York, New York in Vegas is like the Big Apple.
  I have been mentioning that we've had some mechanical issues with the boat. The main engines have been overheating for the last two or three months. Changing impellers hasn't helped. I think it's the heat exchangers. They get deposits on them and they can't cool the engine coolant via the raw water. I need to get them taken off and "boiled out" (really, just cleaned with acid our caustic), or I might rig up some hoses and clean them in place.
  The generator needs the raw water impeller replaced. I didn't want to do it in The Bahamas in case I had a problem and needed some parts. I'll attempt to do this myself now that we are back in the states. With the generator operation being at questionable issue, coming back to the U.S. became more of a necessity for us.
  The other thing is that this August was only the sixth year since records have been kept that there were no hurricanes. The fore casters say that the piper will be paid in September.
  As it is, we really only came back two weeks early. In order to get to Key West by October 1st, and get some doctor visits and other things taken care of, we needed to be back some time in September anyway. There is some other reasons that it was good we decided to return.
  We left Nassau mid morning last Thursday, for a 35 mile run to Chub Cay, which is on the southern tip of the Berry Island Chain. The ride was fairly pleasant and we set a hook at mid-afternoon with the skies threatening rain. I dove on the anchor to find that I have dropped it in what looked like sand, but was hard marl. The only thing keeping us from blowing into the nearby reefs was a thin sea plant of some sort that our anchor was hooked around. I swam back to the boat in quick order and got us out of there before the wind got worse.
  We took the boat to a spot just outside of the entrance to Chub Cay Marina and found good sand and a calm anchorage, until the tide started changing and the surge had us bobbing around most of the night.
  But before we went to bed, two things happened. One good one, and one bad one. First we checked our water tank level and found that the tank was only half full, and we had just filled it up on the day before. Hmmm.
  We were finishing up dinner when a local in a skiff came up to our boat. I went out to ask him what he wanted, and I wasn't in a good mood. We know of some folks who have been approached near nightfall at an anchorage, to be told that they had to go into the marina. The locals do this near nightfall because it's hard to find another anchorage in the dark. The threaten you with "calling the authorities" if you don't comply. If you call their bluff, it still means a sleepless night hugging your automatic.
  Our visitor turned out to be a fisherman wanting to sell us some lobster. He had seven of them of various sizes and he only wanted twenty bucks. I asked him if they were de-veined, and he said yes, but it was a lie. No big deal, but it something that should be done as a matter of course. When I asked Rosie to get me a twenty out of my wallet, Holly ran out and scared the crap out of the fisherman. Good dog.
  We left Chub Cay at daybreak for an 80+ mile run to Bimini. Rain clouds were on our stern, but the Great Bahama Bank was table top smooth. Back in the day, I would have wanted to barefoot ski on it. The Bank is only a few feet deep, and we could see the bottom very clearly until the clouds overtook us and formed in front of us too. Lightening in the distance got our attention.
  The skies darkened and we prepared for rain. We were out of range to use the weather radar on the iPad, so I turned on the boat radar and dialed it in to see rain clutter. We avoided one big squall by altering course to the northwest some, but soon we were outnumbered and were soon going way off course. It became time to bite the bullet and just head into the storm.
  My radar array told me that the storm was only about eight miles wide, so at our speed of eight miles per hour, I figured we would only have to endure the rain and lightening for a half hour or so, which not only turned out to be true, we were spared the lightening, and the rain wasn't all that bad anyway. Nice to know that our 17 year old radar was good for something.
  We had intended to stay at Bimini Sands for two nights, but I looked at the charts again and found that some anchorages at Cat Cay had good reviews on Active Captain. There is one spot on the banks that is only six feet deep at low tide, and you have to transit it whether going to Bimini or Cat Cay, so once through this skinny spot, I just altered course and went to Cat Cay with the intention of staying one night and then on to Miami.
  It was at anchor off of Cat Cay when I discovered that we had a leak somewhere in our fresh water system, but when I took a trip below into the engine room, I couldn't see anything leaking. We were headed "home" anyway, but not having fresh water was going to be a hardship if we wanted to stay on the hook when we got to Miami.
  Rosie made leftovers and we cooked up two of our newly acquired lobsters. They were excellent. After the rainy day, we were treated to our last Bahamian sunset, and after a very long day, we turned in early.
  By seven A.M. this morning we were off! The seas were as smooth as one could want for a Gulf Stream Crossing, but the going was rougher onboard the boat as some personal issues came to bear. Moods did not improve when we learned that Dinner Key Marina was full for the holiday weekend. How were we going to anchor out with no water? I was making water during the crossing, but it wasn't much.
  I called a marina near Coconut Grove to arrange fuel and to take on water. They had a slip we could get for $3 per foot per night. We signed up for the Small Vessel Reporting System and Rosie called Customs and we learned that we couldn't check in by phone until we had arrived at a dock. How do they know if we are at a dock? That firmed up our plan to head for Grove Harbor Marina, next to Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove.
  We entered a busy Government Cut into Miami and turned south. Everyone seemed to be out boating on this Labor Day weekend, and they also didn't seem to be aware of the same boating etiquette or rules of road that I am accustomed to. I was a nervous wreck.
  We found Grove Harbor and pulled up to the fuel dock as the skies were turning black to the west, heading our way. We fueled up and I asked about that slip that was available, and it still was at $3 per foot. I could tell on our way in that most of the better anchoring spots in Biscayne Bay were already taken by the holiday boaters, so we decided to stay at least for the night.
  When I went to the dockmasters office, I explained to the two young girls that we would like to stay for a week or so, but not at $3 per foot per night. Could they do better than that? I was told that they would have to speak to the dockmaster who wasn't there at the moment. We left our paperwork blank where I needed to fill in the price and how long we were staying.
  We got Swing Set safe and secure in a very nice slip, and then I went below to the engine room for a thorough inspection for the fresh water system. I thought I had the problem solved when I felt hot water running across the hull bottom very near the stern. I figured that the plumbing to the cockpit shower had sprung a leak, so I took the shower panel off to check the fittings on the back. They were dry. I was hoping this would be a quick fix.
  Back below, I crawled further back into the bilge. Yes, it was hot water. I tasted it earlier to make sure it was fresh water and not salt water. (Something to remember.) My trouble light soon revealed the source of our leak. It is the hot water tank. This is bad news.
  The quick fix for the short term will be to bypass the hot water heater. I already had the fittings tie wrapped to the water heater because I used to bypass the heater when I would winterize the boat. I'll bypass the heater in the morning, and then decide whether to install a home style unit, or break out the big bucks and put original equipment back in.
  Meanwhile, I took a shower and went back up to the dockmasters office. "Tony", the dockmaster was back, and even though this marina does not allow liveaboards under any circumstances, he agreed to lease us a slip for a week at $2 per foot per day. He was very nice. This will allow me to take a look at our generator and perhaps install a new impeller. At the very least, we will be able to give Coconut Grove a thorough look see to determine if we would want to stay here this winter after we leave Key West.
  Some friends have wondered why we would want to leave The Bahamas. In the first place, we have a commitment to be in Key West in October, this was explained earlier. In the second place, we need service work done, and according to everyone I have spoken to, there is no one you can trust to do the work properly in The Bahamas. Many folks over there will say they can do the work, but they'll take your equipment apart and then not be able to repair it, or get parts. No thanks.
  We would like to go back when there is more going on, like in the winter. We had originally thought that we would do our Key West thing, and then turn right around and return to The Exumas, but we have been traveling nearly non-stop for a  year and a half. We're thinking a break this winter will be good to bolster up future ideas of wanderlust.
  We may have gotten too spoiled being in air conditioning while at Atlantis.

  I wanted to post a couple of pictures. The one above is of Rosie entering the library in Staniel Cay. It is a real treasure that most of the locals don't appreciate.
  We found that the abandoned developments and projects were depressing. The people are poor and have little motivation. The big resorts come in and drive prices up and only the very rich can afford things. The locals think that anyone arriving in a boat must be very rich. In comparison, this may be true, but we don't like to think that we are responsible for supporting the whole Bahamian economy.

  On a more positive note; I wanted to show you this picture of Holly. We would take the dinghy to the Chat 'N' Chill and just hang out on the beach. Holly would relax under her umbrella in the shade, and we would get more people remarking about how cute she was. Anyone with a camera would take a photo of her.

  The last photo will be of Rosie at Bimini Road restaurant at Atlantis. I wish I could keep Rosie this happy all the time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We Wrap Up Our Bahamas Trip In Luxury

   When we entered the anchorage at Big Majors Spot, there was a good number of boats at anchor there, and the Staniel Cay Yacht Club was turning customers away. One week later, we were alone at anchor at the yacht club was nearly empty. School has evidently started.
  On one of our shopping trips into Staniel Cay, we took our books with us. We inquired at the “bakery” about getting the key to the library, went over to unlock the door to what looked to be the oldest building in Staniel Cay, and found a treasure of books inside. There was no electricity, but the light from the open door revealed shelf after shelf of paperbacks and hardcover books, all in alphabetical order according to author. We brought in seven books and placed them in a conspicuous spot with a tag attached to the attention of “Donnie”, and older gentleman we had met on the previous day who was anxious to get some new reading material, as he claimed to have read everything in the library already. We selected five fine books, left a donation in an old cigar box sitting on a desk, (with some cash already in it) locked the place up and returned the key to the nice woman at the bakery. The library was the finest treasure we had found in Staniel Cay.

  We were thinking about marking Rosie’s 55th birthday at Highbourne Cay, or even in Nassau, but the water in and around Staniel Cay is just so beautiful, and we really don’t want to return to the U.S. until September 1st or so. So we marked Rosie’s birthday by spending a relaxing day on the hook, and then went into Staniel Cay for a birthday dinner.
  Even though most of the tourists and boaters were gone from the area, half of the dining room eventually filled with customers, and we had a passable diner, but knew we could have done better ourselves on the boat. If I had only been successful at our several attempts of bagging some lobster or fish earlier in the week.
  On Monday morning we pulled up anchor and started a pleasant cruise northwest through the Exuma Banks. Our destination was just north of Highbourne Cay, at an anchorage we had stayed in on our way down, between Allen’s Cay and Leaf Cay.
  Half before we got to Highbourne Cay, the gentle following seas became a strong headwind as a front came through from the northwest. I was trying to decide whether to proceed, but whitecaps began forming, and lightening was on the horizon. We were about eight miles off the coast of Norman’s Cay, so we turned Swing Set to starboard and found a somewhat protected anchorage from some good sized rollers coming in from the northwest.
  We read our books and tried to relax as a gentle rain pelted the decks. We listened to the thunder, but our boat was bucking from the rollers, and what could have been a pleasant afternoon was more like time spent in a washing machine, albeit on the “gentle cycle”.
  The rain kept up, but the winds subsided, so at 4 P.M. we pulled anchor again and made way for Allen’s Cay on a shallow water route, but one we had transited before, so even with the poor visibility, I had breadcrumbs to follow on the Garmin from our previous path.
  The only other vessel in the anchorage was an old scow that we saw there on the way down. Several locals live on the boat, and I assume they survived by fishing in the area and selling their catch to the restaurant at Highbourne Cay, and to cruisers that are passing through. If they had hailed us, or come over, we might have asked about purchasing some lobster, but I decided to leave well enough alone and not invite trouble. Probably not fair on our part, but we all know about “better to be safe than sorry”.
  Rosie piled up some leftovers in the convection oven and I fired up the generator. Naturally, it was at this point that the cooling water for the generator refused to flow through the engine. I had mentioned that we were having some issues with our generator raw water flow, and we were on borrowed time as far as how long we would be able to use the generator, and it appeared that time was up.
  I started an stopped the generator a few times, and then the raw water began flowing again. My current theory is that two things may be going on: One, is that we had been making water on our way up from Staniel Cay. The instructions for the installation of the watermaker suggest plumbing the watermaker by tying into an existing through hull, and one suggestion was the supply to a generator. Fine. This worked great for about ten months, but....
  My though is that the raw water impeller is failing, and when the impeller stops randomly in a “just so” position, I am pulling water from the raw water pump via the watermaker, and the poor condition of the impeller may be preventing the pump from priming properly and getting water to flow, at least initially. I’m still not tearing the water pump apart until we get back to the states. We’ll eat sandwiches until then if we have to.
  This small anchorage between Allen’s Cay and Leaf Cay was a lot calmer on our previous visit, and I don’t know why, but we had a restless night with the swells rolling into our anchorage. I was up at dawn, and ready to make our 30 mile run to Nassau.

  A beautiful sunrise soon gave way to a clouded sky to our east, and rain chased us all the way into Nassau Harbor. We requested permission from Nassau Harbor Control to proceed to the Harbourview Marina for fuel and was granted it. We pulled up to the fuel dock in a stiff breeze and pumped 146 gallons of diesel into a thirsty Swing Set to the tune of $750.
  I inquired about a slip for a night or two, but I had some reservations. The dockage at the Nassau Harbourview Marina is not very sheltered, and waves from the wind and boats transiting Nassau Harbor were bouncing the boats around. When the attendant showed me the slip that he intended for us to stay in, I saw a blanket of sea plants of some kind covering it, and lots of plastic bags, bottles, and other trash floating around among it. I told the attendant that I wouldn’t be putting our boat in with all that garbage. I was having enough engine problems as it was without sucking seaweed and plastic bags into our intakes. As it was the only offering he had, we left, and had no idea what we were going to do.
  It was another 34 miles to Chubb Cay in the Berry Islands, a layover that we pretty much need to make before heading the 82 miles west to South Bimini. We could make that trip, as it was only noon, but the winds were kicking up and a storm threatened. Rosie called Yacht Haven, the marina we stayed at when we were in Nassau three months ago. They had a slip, but it was not in a sheltered part of their harbor, plus we were going to be nearly alone at a dock in what is not considered to be a very savory area. I had a gut feeling to pass on staying at Yacht Haven, and I’ve learned to trust my instincts. I was heading for an anchorage on the west end of New Providence when it occurred to me to damn the cost and call the Atlantis Resort and Marina to see about  slip availability.
  Atlantis had slips. We went from paying a buck a foot by staying at a dump called Nassau Harbor View Marina, to staying at the $3.50 per foot per night luxury of Atlantis. Rosie had called the harbor office and she asked about a slip and was in turn asked if we wanted to pay three fifty per foot, or four fifty per foot. Gee, what’s the answer to that? Um....we’ll take the three fifty per foot slip, thank you very much. We were directed to slip 25.
  As we pulled into the harbor basin within the shadow of the gigantic Atlantis Hotel and Casino, I soon saw our slip which was adjacent to a megayacht called “Gallilee”, which had a big center console tender laying in the slip next to it, making our slip even narrower than it was.
  A nice attendant had come down to the dock, and I had expressed some reservation about backing into such narrow quarters, especially with the wind that wanted to drive us into the multi million dollar yacht. We asked if we wanted have them move the tender, and said that I didn’t care about hitting the tender, I was concerned about hitting the yacht!
  He and the present Gallilee yacht crew got a kick out of that, but I swung Swing Set around and backed her into the narrow slip in a fine fashion. On the other side of the slip finger sat another huge yacht. We were in a canyon, but safely tied up.

  The dock attendant took me to the harbor office in his cart where I filled in paperwork for our nights stay. Including Key West, this marina is the finest facility that we have staying in yet, impressive in all respects, including the price.
  We had a quick lunch and then took a walk through the resort. The place is the Disneyland of the Bahamas. The water park is enormous, and the beaches and pools were lined with vacationers, many of them from foreign countries. The last time we walked over this property was in the early 1980's. Back then, it was scrub trees and secluded beaches. There is some old concrete structures that bracket one of the beaches here that we remembered from back when this property was part of the Paradise Island Hotel and Casino. We took some pictures around those abandoned structures long ago. I didn't take pictures of them today, and can't show you the ones from back then. We had a great time people watching while we sipped on seven dollar Bud Lights.
  While engaged in such activity, we got a call from the Galleon in Key West. They had a spot for us for the end of October if we wanted it. Our present agreement with A & B marina was going to get us in there on October 1st, but we had to vacate the slip on the 18th for ten days. Fantasy Fest in Key West is a busy time. We thought we might be able to stay in the A & B slip if there was a cancellation, but I called Mark, the harbormaster at A & B, and told him that we had a slip next door at the Galleon if we needed it. He said that nothing was shaking loose on his end, and he said we better take the sure bet. I called the Galleon back and secured a slip with a deposit. The price is high, but now we don’t have to worry about getting an anchorage in the unfriendly Key West Harbor and taking the dinghy to and from the boat to see our friends and engage in the Fantasy Fest activities. We’ll return to A & B on October 28th, and stay until at least December 1st. We have a plan!
 Last night we had a snacky type dinner at the Bimini Road restaurant in the Marina Village at the resort. Conch salad was part of an appetizer plate that we shared, something we avoid at the beach and roadside stands, due to the fact that those places are downright filthy, and the conch is not cooked. We had a nice time there, but Rosie got sick anyway. The conch apparently is no match for my innards, I didn’t get sick, but we’ll avoid conch salad in the future.
  I checked the weather this morning and decided that the best day to make the jump to the Berry Islands will be tomorrow, with the biggest transit of our current travels over to Bimini to be made on Friday, so I took Holly on a morning walk and popped into the marina office and extended our expensive stay for another day. We’re plugged into air conditioning and getting very, very spoiled.
  Some tropical depression is forming in the Atlantic Ocean, so we’ll keep an eye on it, but we’ll be in Bimini, or maybe even Miami, before it affects us, and that’s even if it develops into something significant.
  We’ll check out Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove on our way down the keys, to see if it would be a place to stay for the winter. But really, it’s hard to think past December of this year. One thing that must be addressed is our generator, but even more importantly, our main engines are overheating when pressed. We’d like that issue resolved before any of our friends visit from up north, as we hope to get in a few “cocktail cruises” with them when they visit, and have no engine problems when we do so.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Finding It Hard To Leave Staniel Cay


  We had a good time snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto just off of Staniel Cay. Some may remember the James Bond movie from the 1960’s, “Thunderball”, some of the scenes were filmed in the grotto.
  In the picture above, Rosie had a hard time getting down from the roof of the cave to pose for the picture, and I was helping her get further down beneath the surface. I swear.
  That evening we had dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, or rather, we ate something at the bar after a few Bud Lights at happy hour. That night I got sick as a dog, and we decided that it had to be the hamburger I ate as it was the only thing that no one else had. (Who passes around their hamburger for others to take bites out of?) The whole experience left me a little peevish, and in the morning, things got worse.
  In my last post I mentioned our generator overheating and I thought I had things figured out by cleaning our sea strainer; not the contents of it, but the outside screen, which had accumulated some scale deposits that could have been blocking proper water flow. Since the last episode when the cooling water was not flowing from the exhaust, I’ve been dutifully checking the flow each time I start the generator, to confirm there is raw water flowing. On this morning, again the raw water pump was running dry, so I shut down the generator.
  I have another impeller for our generator, but the issue is access. The raw water pump on our Westerbeke is on the backside of the generator, and is not impossible to get to, but it isn’t easy. I’ve watched two mechanics over the years change out the impeller on this unit, and I can attest to the degree of difficulty. Both of my hands are still healing from the cuts I got when I tightened up the water pump belt on our port engine, and I was not ready to engage in warfare again, so soon anyway, with the iron of our Westerbeke. Maybe it was time to throw in the towel and head for Miami.
  Our main engines are overheating at cruising speed, so we already have a reason to head home, but other than the consideration of the weather, we have to travel back to the U.S.A. at a slow speed, whether it’s now our later, but the generator is another matter.
  Yes, we have our wind generators, but as I’ve been saying, they supplement our power needs, but don’t provide them. Existing on the hook without our diesel generator is nearly impossible, unless we wanted to empty out the refrigerator and subsist on crackers for the next few weeks.
  I poked around on the generator, not doing anything to it of any significance, just checking things out, and then I decided to try it again. This time the raw water flowed out the exhaust like it’s supposed to. That was well over a week ago, and the generator has been running properly ever since then. A mystery that we’ll solve stateside.
  Mark and Debbie, if that is in fact their real names, left on one day, and another “old friend” arrived the next. Linda, on the 37 foot Nordic Tug, “Mercy” chugged into the anchorage with a friend that used to live next to her on Ramrod Key, near Big Pine. Linda publishes a blog occasionally. Her link is on this blog site.
  I’m not here to tell Linda’s story as I have enough trouble telling our own, but she is an old salt, used to pilot supply ships, and knows her way around an engine room. I told Linda the story about the generator, and she has some theories that seem plausible to me. The bottom line, and we agree on this, is that you don’t mess with success. It’s best to leave things alone until we get back to the U.S. where we can find someone suitable to look at it, and where we can get any parts we need. No telling what can go wrong when you tear into something. I’ve always liked it when on of my choices was to do nothing.
  One of the things we have learned about the Bahamas is that there are few people around that know how to do anything that may be required in the mechanical department. We know this from not only from personal experience, but from polling other cruisers. The big yachts regularly go back to Miami, or some such place, for overhauls, and it’s not unusual for mechanics to be flown in to fix things. This is why most of the vessels you see in the size range of Swing Set, are sailboats. Lots of things on sailboats can break, but they can still go. As far as the creature comforts are concerned, sailors don’t need them because they are nuts.
  Everyday we think about when we will head back to Florida. I figure it will take about a week, and we want to be in Key West by October 1st, so we have time. We do want to arrive in Miami, in order to check out Dinner Key Marina, and Coconut Grove, and also to stop in Marathon to visit Holly’s veterinarian and our dentist, but we don’t need many extra days to do those things.
  While we really like Georgetown better than Staniel Cay, we can travel on the banks all the way to Nassau from Staniel Cay, so weather will not play as much of a role when we decide to head out. We have a nice protected anchorage here at Big Majors Spot, as least from the prevailing easterly winds, and we have stores in Staniel, and the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the best place to go and meet folks that we have been to, but the field is a close one.
  Last Sunday night we left Holly on the boat and we went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The marina was full, which doesn’t take much, but they were turning away big yachts. We met a crew member from a 95 foot wooden sailing yacht, Mestre Belo, an absolutely beautiful vessel. (Currently for sale at 2.5 million) Mark, not sure if he was the captain or not, keeps his personal boat near Coconut Grove, and he had lots of valuable information for us in regard to Dinner Key Marina, and the area in general. He also discussed the life on a big yacht. If you think catering to owners of a huge megayacht sounds appealing to you, consider having a seven year old, maybe the granddaughter of a guest, or worse, the owner, tell you to “Hurry up, I want to go to the beach now.”
  Mark’s ever present VHF radio squawked. Some of the owner’s guest and family wanted to change the reservations for dinner, and that chore was left to Mark at the last minute. They beacon, he answers. He is a better man than me.
  We were left alone with David, the excellent bartender, for only a minute, when Catherine and Peter came in and took seats near us. They are from Charlotte, North Carolina, and as friendly as you would imagine folks would be from that part of the country, and we had a great time talking to them.
  By the time the evening was over, we met a Mike and Lee, a Brian and Jen, and a handsome woman named Lucy, who we did a good turn at the Grotto earlier that day. She came over to thank us. Rosie thought she looked like some actress, but couldn’t remember who. She was a guest on Mestre Belo, so who knows who she was?
  As the evening wound down, we were not only invited back to a birthday party for Catherine from Charlotte, Mark had told the owner of Mestre Belo that I had worked at a beer factory, and I had brewed his favorite brand. Apparently he wanted to meet us, so Mark invited us to join the whole gang onboard the sailing yacht.
  We were inclined to decline the invitation, but the boat is so magnificent, I wanted to see it close up, so we stopped by on our way to our dinghy just to say hello.
  The cockpit of the yacht had about 25 people on it, all gathered around the owner, and what looked to be his favorite son, who was “entertaining” the group with guitar playing and what some would describe as singing. Mark invited us aboard, but since we arrived mid-warble, no one interrupted with any greetings. We were told to “wait here a minute”, just on the outskirts of the cockpit, while Mark went over to the owner to announce our presence. Meanwhile, we did make the acquaintance of a giant who introduced himself as “Shark”. He appeared friendly enough, but I got the impression that he was just checking us out, maybe for weapons, again, who knows?
  As we listened to the singer butcher Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, slurring over the line “burning out his fuse up here alone”, (Hasn’t he seen that commercial?) Mark went over to whisper something in the owner’s ear. Soon we were given an apology that the owner didn’t have the inclination to grant an audience at the moment. Rosie and I exchanged knowing looks, thanked Mark for the invitation, and then we made our exit. We didn’t want to make anyone feel anymore uncomfortable than they probably already were, with all those noses stuck up their butts and all. 
  Not to generalize, but we figure celebrities and the very affluent, get jaded by being treated with so much deference, and if they weren’t messed up from the first, they soon get that way. Great, now I’ve insulted the sailboaters and the rich folks. There will be no one left to read my blog.
  We were late getting back to Swing Set, maybe the latest we had been out in a long, long time. Holly was so glad to see us, and we were glad to see her too. Our dog may not really love us like we think she does, but her treatment of us is many times better than that of indifference from complete strangers. We could lose faith in our fellow man if it wasn’t for things like what we learned the next morning.
  Linda, on Mercy, had changed crew on Sunday. Ellen, her old neighbor, had flown out of Staniel Cay, and her cousin Nancy, took Ellen's place. Nancy was onboard to make the trip back to Florida. You see, Linda’s mother passed away a couple of weeks ago, and she has to get to Panama City to attend a memorial service in early September. She understands, like we do; what’s the hurry?
  Anyhow, Linda had gotten up near midnight while we were over on Mestre Belo, and she noticed that our dinghy was gone. I would have guessed that our dinghy had been stolen, but Linda thought we were out stranded somewhere, so she went looking for us in her Whaler after midnight. Who does that?
  Not finding us, but seeing a large group gathered on the deck of Mestre Belo, she rightly figured that we were on there. When she told us about her concern, we were nearly driven to tears. We thanked her profusely, but no thanks were needed. Then she asked what we were doing for the day, as her and Nancy were going lobstering.
  We were a bit “under the weather”, and were only going to make a trip to the grocery store, and then chill out for the rest of the day. We were able to “pay it back” to some degree by offering to pick up some things for her and Nancy at the market.
  Later, we dropped off a loaf of coconut bread and some tomatoes for the crew of Mercy, and they wanted to pay us for the items. We declined to take any money, and I told Linda she owed us nothing. If you remember, Linda brought water in jugs out to us when we were anchored off of Big Pine last fall.
  After an afternoon of reading our books, Linda and Nancy came by in the Whaler to tell us that they caught one lobster that afternoon, and if we wanted to join them for a Pina Colada at the Yacht Club. We had some spare ribs that we were getting ready to grill, so again we declined the offer to go for cocktails. Then we were invited over to their boat to have surf and turf the next night, and again when I made some lame excuse about not wanting to plan “so far ahead”, I could see Linda was put out a little, and when they left, I felt like a heel.
  It’s a legitimate statement, that we haven’t had dinner with other people since the start of our journey. We did have breakfast with John Neely and his girlfriend back in Nassau, so it’s not like we won’t dine with others. I don’t know why I just declined the dinner invitation out of hand, I guess it’s just my nature, but I began to anguish over my decision.
  Sometimes people ask other people to do things, not for the people getting the invitation, but they ask because they just like to, and it makes them feel good. What’s the big deal about accepting a dinner, or other invitation, when it may mean something more to the person doing the asking? After talking to Rosie, I decided to tell Linda that we would be delighted to join them for dinner if we could at least bring a salad.
  Linda and Nancy soon came roaring back in the Whaler while we were grilling our ribs. I waved them over, and when they pulled up, I said that if the invite was still open, that not only would we like to join them for dinner, we also like to go lobstering with them in the morning if they wanted. Weather permitting, we agreed to meet at 10:30 the next morning so we could add to the “surf” part of the “surf and turf” menu. We were able to make them happy, which in turn made us happy. Much easier than fretting about the matter for days, and more fun in the long run.
  Even with a threat of rain, Linda and Nancy picked us up in the Whaler, right on time. We spent about three hours hunting for bugs, and only Linda had success at finding and catching one. The time was not spent for nothing, though. We saw rays, many fish, and even a barracuda followed us at a distance for a bit. We had a nice day.
  Our dinner that evening was even better! Nancy had flown in from Miami with some delicious steaks. We brought the promised salad, and they made fried potatoes (with onions), and Linda divided up the two lobsters for us all to share, complete with a sauce of drawn butter, garlic, lemon juice, and small pineapple chunks. We ate like royalty! We might have gotten off to a rocky start, as Nancy began to say a very short "grace" while I had a mouthful of salad, but like I said, it was short, and she topped it off with a toast. We all clinked our beers, and I escaped damage, or they did. Depends on how you view it.
  We left their company as the sun was setting. They’re plans were to leave early in the morning to begin their slow trip north, but none of us felt like we were saying goodbye, but just “see you later”. I’m fairly certain we’ll run into Linda on our way back, but if not, we know where her house is on Ramrod Key, and will most likely visit from time to time.
  Our visit back here at Staniel Cay looks like it will turn out to be at least a two week affair, but we have no reason to leave. Why get back to the waters of the U.S. when we won’t find clear water there like we have under our boat right here?
  Our anchorage is popular. While Elizabeth Harbour is more of a sailors haven, the big yachts and other powered vessels tend to come here, or to Highbourne Cay. As we lay about reading our books, we can look outside and see not only the best views you can imagine, we like seeing the big boats come and go. We wonder where they come from, and where they might be going. We also wonder if they even give our little boat a second thought.   Sometimes a dinghy, or tender will leave the “big boats” and motor past us on the way to the beach, and the people aboard won’t even deign to look over so we can wave hello, let alone for them to say hello. Their loss, we think. Over the years we have never known when we’ll meet our next friends.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Some Mechanical Issues And A Staniel Cay Redux

 We left the sanctuary of Elizabeth Harbour a week ago yesterday, but before we left we had a mission to find two bilge blowers to replace the two on the boat that had begun to act up. It proved to be yet another one of our minor adventures.
  First we went to Top II Bottom, the hardware/miscellaneous store in the heart of Georgetown. I could have sworn I saw a box with the word “blower” on it during one of our visits. (One thing we always do, when we visit a new town or settlement, is when we enter any store for the first time, or any subsequent time for that matter, is to browse through the whole place and make mental notes of what they have to offer.) One of the girls in Top II Bottom, as is usually her custom, asked us what it was we were looking for. When I told her that we needed one or two blowers for our engine room, she was perplexed. She asked the woman at the check out counter if they had any engine room blowers, and the woman said she would have to order it. While those two were talking, I was looking. I then said that we wouldn’t order anything as we were leaving the area, so she called a marine outfitter nearby called Perry Brown’s. She got off the phone and said that they didn’t answer, and then asked me again what it was that we were after.
  As good naturedly as I good manage, I asked her why she immediately said she would have to order the blowers if she didn’t know what they were? I then spied a box on a shelf marked “blower”, and was somewhat relieved until I saw no markings on the box except a price of over $176.00. I know what the price of such blowers are in the U.S., and even with the typical 50% markup in the Bahamas, no engine room blower that I had ever seen was going to cost $176.00. I needed to open the box to satisfy my curiosity, if nothing else.
  You would have thought that I had threatened to kill a puppy, judging from the look I got when I asked to open the box! “You got tape?”, I said, as I whipped out my knife and slit the box open. The older woman wasn’t as horrified at my actions as the younger one was, but even if the item packed into the box was exactly what I was after, I wasn’t going to pay what was marked on the outside, but it turned out to be a blower for a small air conditioner of some sort, and wasn’t the right size anyway. I thanked them for their help and left before they had any chance of making a complaint.
  We walked over to ask Clavon, over at the Exuma Yacht Club, if he knew where we could get a couple of blowers. He mentioned Perry Brown’s too, but wasn’t sure about giving us directions on how to get there by dinghy. Clavon suggested that we ask one of the local charter boat operators who just happened to be pulling up at the dock.
  My eyes glazed over as the nice young Rastifarian was explaining the route, in a language that was a mix of one I could understand, and one that I couldn’t, but eventually I gathered that Perry Brown’s was located between the bridge to Crab Cay, and the Georgetown Marina, two places I knew how to get to, but unaware as to the maze of mangroves and shallow reefs that marked the way. “When you pass unda de bridge, you make a right. Go aroun’ da bar, but it’s high tide, mon, so you can probally go straight ova da bar. Go round de island. It’s back behind dat island.”
  I was going to take Rosie back to the boat, and then call Perry Brown’s on the phone to see if they even had what we needed before setting out on a mission to somewhere that I wasn’t sure I could find, but the sky was darkening and a rainstorm was brewing. Perfect time to head for parts unknown, so I pointed the dinghy in the direction of the Crab Cay bridge, throwing caution to the wind.
  I evidently made a wrong turn or two, and we found ourselves on a flat that I thought I would have to drag the dinghy across, but in the distance I saw the tops of some saiboat masts, and a parking area with several boats on trailers. Then we saw buoys marking a narrow channel into what turned out to be the hard to find Perry Brown’s.
  The store was well stocked, for the Bahamas, and Perry himself waited on me. He had two engine room blowers in stock, a brand that I was familiar with, but one was the 4” model that I needed, and one was a 3” model that would need to be adapted. I’m a firm believer in the old “bird in the hand” adage, so I plunked down two fifty dollar bills, got my two dollars in change, and returned back to Rosie waiting in the dinghy. “Let’s get back to the boat before this storm rolls in”, I said, and away we went.
  I have been using duct tape for years. Motorcycle racers back in the ’70’s always had a roll or two in their arsenal, and the habit is hard to die. Swing Set is even equipped with three rolls. One black, one white, and one of the classic silver. That day was probably the first time I ever used duct tape for the manufacturer’s original intended use of taping a duct. I taped the 3” blower to the 4” air duct on the starboard side of the engine room, and installed the 4” blower on the port side. Not a perfect setup, but one that will work. Probably for years.
  By the time I finished my chore, the sun had popped out, and we were on our way. We passed over Conch Cut and were making way northwest on a flat Exuma Sound. A boat approached on our port side, and it turned out to be “Dave”, a fella originally from England who works in Houston and lives part time on Long Island. He was out lobster hunting with his friends Pierre and Antonia from Germany, who were visiting Stella Maris. He just buzzed by to tell us goodbye and to have a safe trip. You never know where you’re going to meet the next person who can turn out to be a friend.
  Our bright day soon had a pall cast over it as I spooled up the Cats to see if replacing the impeller on our port engine solved the overheating issue on that engine. When we got on plane, both engines exceeded the maximum 195 degree operating temperature by several degrees, and then the high temperature alarm for the port engine sounded. I slowed us down to our typical displacement speed at 1200 R.P.M. and the temperatures quickly dropped back to an optimum 180 degrees. I wasn’t quite fuming, no sense in that, but I was racking my brain trying to figure out what my next move was going to be, regarding the overheating issue.
  Rosie remained silent as I mentally scrolled through our options. I was getting nowhere without consulting Mr. Google, or my service manuals, so I decided to focus on other matters. I asked Rosie to call the Conch Marina in Key West. Maybe we would get a good word regarding our chances of getting a slip in Key West Bight for the months of October and November. 
  Rosie went down to make the call, and my need for some good news was not to be. The harbormaster at the Conch Marina was perplexed that the young girl we had been communicating with regarding the possible slip had not contacted us. It turns out that the slip in question was going up for sale and it wouldn’t be available for us. I know B.S. when I hear it, but if they wanted to give the slip to someone else, for perhaps more money, what were we to do about it?
  With a new focus for the afternoon, Rosie began using up our precious International Calling minutes, and started contacting the other marinas in Key West Bight. She hit paydirt with Key West Bight Marina. They said we could reserve a slip for the month of November, which was better than nothing, but I consider the place a dump, and they were going to charge us a premium for the days of the offshore powerboat races. We decided to give one more last ditch effort to get a slip at A&B Marina, at least for November, but Rosie only got a voicemail when she called them. We then decided to hold off until morning and try to call A&B again, first thing in the morning, as we knew the harbormaster was usually in the office by 6:30 A.M.
  We arrived at Rat Cay Cut and entered it without incident. Then we snaked our way over to an anchorage that we stayed at on our way down, just off the beach at Lee Stocking Island. We were tucked into a fine spot, protected from some predicted prevailing winds, and then proceeded to salvage the remainder of our day by a short cocktail hour and a fine dinner. Two other vessels came by with an eye on our prime spot, but they moved on. That “bird in the hand” that we had acquired earlier, also turned out to be the “early bird that got the worm”.
  Before we went to bed, I fired off a lenghty email to Mark Miller at A&B Marina, so that he could go over just what it was we’d be asking about when we made the call I was promising for first thing next morning. Rosie wondered why we had to use up our valuable phone minutes to call, when we could just use email. I reminded her that folks can find it easy to ignore an email, or even lie when giving a response, but when faced with a phone call, or better yet, a face to face encounter, most people will find it difficult to put you off. We needed a slip, and the gloves had to come off.
  Rosie checked our mail before 6:30. Mark had been in the office even earlier than we had anticipated and had responed to my email. He could promise us the whole month of November! This was great because most of our friends weren’t arriving in Key West until October 31st anyway. After our phone call, things even got better.
  We asked Mark that if we promised to arrive on October 1st, and then vacate the slip for the booked up time period of the annual Key West Fantasy Festival, could we then return and have the month of November? We wound up with such an agreement. We could keep the slip until October 18th, leave, and then return on October 28th. We would either anchor out, our get a mooring ball over at Garrison Bight, a short dinghy ride into Key West Bight, for those days of Fantasy Fest. Mark also promised that if there were any cancellations for a slip of our size, that it was possible that we may not even have to vacate the slip at all. This is what we were after in the first place. So now we have a plan of some sort, but primarily we need to be at A&B Marinas by October 1st. 
  We spent a day or two at Lee Stocking Island and then moved on. We transited the Adderly Cut and made way northwest for ten miles or so to the Rudder Cay Cut, with the intention of snaring our anchorage just off the island of Rudder Cay, where the giant lobster was that I had seen on our way down.
  A 42 foot Tiara Open was anchored just around the corner from our intended spot, but we didn’t see anyone around. We passed by them, dropped our hook, and before long we went calling on our lobster. It was not only not home, no other ones were home either.
  We were back at our boat when the folks came by that owned the Tiara cruised by in their dinghy to say hello. Mark and Debbie were on vacation. Mark hails from Miami and Debbie has a home in Ft. Lauderdale. They turned out to be very nice, and we chatted with them until some locals noticed Mark’s dinghy over near us and came by to see if we wanted to purchase some lobster. Mark and Debbie had gotten some earlier, and told us what they had paid. I thought it was a bit high, but I had no room to negotiate, given the circumstances. The fishermen had several lobsters in their boat, one looked like the giant one I had seen weeks earlier, but the smaller ones are sweeter, so we bought two smaller, but very nice sized ones. The monster wouldn’t have fit in any cooking utensil that we owned anyway.
  Mark and Debbie invited us over for sundown cocktails later on and we agreed on a time. Meanwhile, I perpared our lobster tails for dinner later on that evening by slicing them along the topside and pulling the meat out of the shell. This permits the meat to expand, preventing it from remaining dense in the shell when you steam it. Like popcorn, only better.
  Our intended visit of an hour or two with Mark and Debbie turned into four hours. We got back to the boat to meet a miffed Holly, at an hour too late to prepare a nice lobster dinner. We ate some Triscuits and went to bed.
  The next morning I had a plan to tighten the water pump belt on the port engine, hoping to find a solution to our overheating problem. If I found the belt to be loose, and it would solve our problem, I would then make the effort to tighten the belt on the starboard engine. I should have never turned down this particular road.
  Now listen friends: I try not to complain, or even divulge my physical ailments or maladies. For one thing, no one cares. For another, it’s no ones business. But on that day, I about wrecked myself.
  The guards for the belts on our Caterpillars are not easy to remove. This is an understatement. For one thing, the first bolt I attempted to remove was frozen solid and it was stripped on the head. I couldn’t even get my giant vice grips to get purchase on it. I wound up removing the entire bracket that holds the bottom of the alternator on, and the bolts for that were in a place almost impossible for me to get to, given my current supply of tools. (A 3/8” swivel socket is now on my shopping list.) Now I know what my friend Karl Kotraba was cussing at when he installed these same belts before we left St. Louis back in April of 2011.
  Seven hours later, I had the water pump belt tightened on the port engine and the guard re-installed, and I was ready to fall out with either heat stroke or shear exhaustion. Mark and Debbie had inquired about getting together, but we had to take a pass. All I wanted was to eat our lobsters and go to bed early. I got myself a nice hot shower, and as Rosie prepared our dinner, I managed to find some energy to start up the port engine and make sure I at least put it together properly. The loud sqeal that emitted from the engine room informed my that I had made the belts too tight. I was real quiet during dinner.
  During our meal, and all during the night, all I could think about was returning to the engine room. My hands had cramped up, both of them were more cut up than when I replaced our steering cylinder in Nassau, and I constantly wondered why I had replaced that belt guard before testing my work. 
  The next morning I had the demeanor of a soldier facing a march to war, and not a brave soldier either. I wanted to cry.
  But armed with some new tricks, I got the guard off a little easier, and loosened the water pump belt a tiny bit. I started the engine to make sure it had stopped squealing, and decided to forgo installing the belt guard again, as I want all of our belts inspected and possibly replaced when we get back to the U.S. One and a half days of hard work and I felt it would only be a miracle if it resulted in solving our overheating problem on the port engine.
  We spent the next two nights visiting with Mark and Debbie. They came to Swing Set on Saturday night, and we went to their boat again on Sunday night. During this time, Mark had planted a seed in our minds about considering a stay at a marina in the Coconut Grove area of south Miami, near the popular boating of Biscayne Bay. We are considering this move after spending our time in Key West this fall, and have started inquiring about slip, or mooring availability.
  We all decided to cruise back to Staniel Cay on Monday. I wouldn’t agree on traveling together, and that wasn’t their cup of tea either. We left as soon as the tide would allow, and as soon as we got past the skinny areas of Musha Cay, I gave Swing Set a try out on plane. Ten minutes past arriving on plane at 25 miles per hour, both engines exceeded 200 degrees, in fact the starboard engine approached 210 degrees without sounding an alarm, and the port engine protested at 205 degrees, so I shut them both down where they quickly cooled to 180 degrees. Looks like it will be a slow ride back to the States, but that’s the way we came, and it’s still faster than most trawlers.
  We arrived at Big Majors Spot, near Staniel Cay Yacht Club, and we found several mega yachts at anchor. We nestled in just off of “Pig Beach”, happy to be surrounded by other boaters. Not too long after, Mark and Debbie arrived. They came by to say hello, but had plans to get a slip at the Yacht Club, so we said we’d see them the next day.     Our plans for dinner included a scrumptious roast we had been cooking in the crock pot all day, smothered in cream of potato soup and beef boullion. It was falling apart when we ladeled it over the two packages of Ramen noodles we had prepared. Egg noodles are usually what we use, but the Ramen noodles were getting some whiskers, and we wanted to use them up. Delicious!
  Yesterday we went to town to visit the library and to take our trash. We found the library closed, with no sign on the door to inform us to get the key next door “at de brown house”, which we later learned was the custom. On our return to Staniel Cay Yacht Club, we ran into MP, or Marie Pierre, our friend from Nassau who works as a mate on Island Time, a yacht that was visiting the area.
  We stopped to visit with MP at the Yacht Club, and when she left, we ran into Mark and Debbie and chatted with them awhile, promising to return for dinner at 6 P.M. Rosie and I returned to the boat to rest up, and when I fired up the generator for our afternoon charge, the generator shut down on us for high temperature. Boo.
  Cussing ensued, with promises to leave the next morning, taking the quickest and fastest route to the nearest Marine Max location in Miami. My hands were too cut up from my latest mechanical episode, to attempt replacement of the generator water pump impeller. The pump sits on the backside of our Westerbeke, nearly impossible to get to. Only the experience of doing this chore blind will allow most mechanics to accomplish the fete, and I have had zero. But if nothing, I am tenacious.
  Because it’s easy, I pulled the sea strainer out. I know I had pulled it out just a few weeks ago and didn’t expect to see much, but you never know when you are going to pick up a plastic bag that will clog up the works. Water flowed through the hull fitting with the strainer removed, but there was a great deal of scale deposits on the exterior of the strainer. I took my wire brush and cleaned the strainer, replaced it, made a quick inspection of the inlet by diving under the boat, and then fired the generator back up. Water flowed and the temperature stayed at the recommended 180 degrees. I was happy, with reservations.
  As I was buttoning up things, I heard Rosie talking to someone, and when I took a look I found a young couple pulled up alongside Swing Set in a small skiff. I turns out that this young couple from Fair Hope, Alambama, was researching Staniel Cay on the Internet, as a place to visit, and ran across our blog, and began to read it regularly. They had just arrived and were taking a ride in the rented skiff and saw our boat and came over to say hello and to say how much they have been enjoying the blog. The very pretty girl also wanted to see Holly. Holly is a babe magnet.
  They were staying at the Yacht Club and said they’d see us later in the bar. We were going there for happy hour and to meet Mark and Debbie. Makin’ friends.
  We left Holly alone for four hours again while we had beers and dinner at the Yacht Club last night. Holly was pouting and not speaking when we got back to the boat at nearly ten o’clock, but she forgave us after a half an hour and commenced to lick us to death. We love this dog, and really don’t want to let her out of our sight, but we can’t take her everywhere. She just hasn’t learned to appreciate “alone time”.
  This afternoon we are going snorkeling at the Thunderball Grotto with Mark and Debbie. There is lots of activity here in Staniel Cay, and if our boat holds together, we’ll stay here a few days, but probably won’t dally too much on our return back to civilization. 
  We’re approximately 250 miles from Miami at the moment, and given our usual cruising speed, we’re looking at several days of travel, maybe ten or more. We can make longer days if we have to, but what’s the hurry? We can have our engine work done while we’re sitting in Key West this fall.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Murphy's Law And A Couple Other Things We Can Do Without

  It never fails. Murphy’s Law is supreme when you live on a boat. We had planned to leave today and head back up the Exuma island chain, but yesterday, on Sunday morning, I discovered that the blowers for our engine room have both failed. Of course, the one or two places that may have blowers in stock are closed on Sundays.
  Get ‘em early on Monday and be on our way? No. Today is Emancipation Day here in The Bahamas and it’s a national holiday. Everyone is closed. Everyone except Chat ‘N’ Chill.
  After spending the whole weekend anchored just off the beach at Chat ‘N’ Chill last weekend, we motored back over to our favorite anchorage just off of Hamburger Beach, a week ago. We didn’t do much all week except visit the grocery store, and the library again. There was quite a bit of rain and wind early in the week, but things cleared up on Thursday, so we went to the weekly barbeque at Peace and Plenty. The place was still hoppin’ even though the harbor is clearing out.
  Some of the folks we have met here in the harbor were at Peace and Plenty having a good bye party of sorts, but most are heading in the same direction as we are, so we know we’ll see them along the way. One couple is heading to Venezuela though. We won’t see them for a while.

  On Friday we went to St. Francis Resort for an early dinner. In the photo you can see the beach at Chat ‘N’ Chill on the left side of the picture. St. Francis Resort is run by some folks from South Africa. They sell a sailing catamaran, the St. Francis 50. I mentioned it in an earlier blog.
  On Saturday morning we took Swing Set back over to anchor off the beach at Chat ‘N’ Chill, where we planned on spending the weekend. If you like to meet folks from all over the world, the Chat ‘N’ Chill is a good place to do it. They are always open, except one day a year, Christmas, and the prices are always reasonable and they stay the same. This is a recipe for success. The patrons know what to expect and they get it. We can’t help but get drawn to the place, especially on the weekends. Even though this is a resort area, and you wouldn’t think a weekend would make a difference, but it does. Folks that may have homes in the area and might have other things to do during the week, will spend their off time on the weekend at Chat ‘N’ Chill.
  We have two blowers in our bilge, but one must have gone out some time ago. My hearing is not so astute that I can tell the difference when one blower is running, or two, so I missed it when the one quit. When the second one quit, that left us with zero. You’re good at math too.
  Blowers are not as critical on a diesel powered boat, but they help keep the engine room cooler when we are stationary and are running the generator, especially in the heat, and being August, the days and nights are getting warmer. 84 degrees during daylight, and things cool down to a chilly 80 at night, but it takes until past midnight to get that frigid. Anyhow, we could get by without blowers, but they are broke, and I won’t be happy until they work like they are supposed to, just like the rest of the equipment on our boat.
  This morning I fiddled around with them and got them working, but once I got them re-installed, they wouldn’t come on again. I think the windings are going bad on the little motors, or there may be enough rust or corrosion creating a “flat spot”. If I give them a little spin, they’ll start turning. This is something I don’t want to be doing every time I turn on the switch for them. They are toast. Tomorrow we’ll go into town and visit Top II Bottom. I know they have blowers in stock. I’ll put them in before noon and we’ll be on our way. This is the plan. Note that we are out of Bud Light, and the liquor stores were also closed on Sunday and today. It’s a long way back to the U.S.A.
  This afternoon I went snorkeling. I wanted to score some lobster, but I did manage to bring eight conch into the dinghy. Rosie kept stuffing them into the little cooler we have in the dinghy until she said there was no more room. We took them over to A.J., the Bahamian kid who runs the conch bar at Chat ‘N’ Chill, who has been friendly to us. I wanted to watch him clean the conch as a way for me to improve my technique, but A.J. was enjoying his holiday with a few of his buddies, fraternizing with a half dozen bikini clad young girls on the volleyball court. I told him I’d leave the conch over at his shed. He was very happy that I knew something about “priorities”.
  My last post was about some things we find essential for our lives aboard Swing Set. After I posted that blog, there was a question on the America’s Great Looper Cruiser’s Association about someone needing to transport a car from one part of Florida to another. They had been living in Marathon for about eight months and wanted to get their car to wherever it was they had moved to. I suggested to them to sell the car.
  We have met folks who are still attached to their material things and have needs for storage sheds and automobiles. Most folks still have homes, and we get that, we just can’t afford to do both, even if we wanted to, but owning a car while living on a boat and cruising full time is silly. After nearly a year and a half, we have not found a need for owning a car. We’ll rent one if we ever have to.
  Bicycles are another thing we can do without. In the first place, Rosie is an accident waiting to happen on a bicycle. She has the dental work to prove it. Bicycles require the proper safety equipment to operate them, as far as I’m concerned, and pedaling a bike while wearing flip flops is not gonna happen, and we don’t have room to store two bike helmets, let alone the bikes themselves. Don’t mention to me about strapping the bikes to the rails on the boat. We like to think that we don’t resemble the Clampett’s when we are motoring along the waterways, and we don’t plan on starting to. We’re fighting enough rust as it is, as well. 
  I don’t know how many times I have to post it as to when we will be in Key West. I wonder if anyone reads this. We are shooting for October 17th to November 17th, but in truth, we will most likely be there for the whole months of October and November.
  The harbormaster at the A&B Marina, which is our first choice, is not exibiting the same optimism for us getting a slip as he did when I spoke to him last January, and again on July 1st, so we contacted two more marinas. Our best hope lies at the Conch Marina, where Dante’s is, the bar and swimming pool that is sure to be a “place to be” during the time we’ll be there. We are waiting any day now for word from the staff there. They have a slip in mind where they want to put us, but they have to contact another boat owner before they can commit to us. They are “optimistic”, but we won’t be happy until we can send a deposit and secure the slip.
  Either way, we’ll be in Key West, but maybe at anchor among the “praire dogs”. I hope it doesn’t come to that.