Monday, May 18, 2015

Back In Time

 I've had a song stuck in my head lately; Automatic by Miranda Lambert.  This song really struck a chord with me when I first heard it and I feel like it's really beginning to ring true for us.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the lyrics, the song reminiscences about a simpler life, a time when things were earned the hard way and the age of instant gratification was yet to come. We are still in Black Point; still working on our ever so frustrating engine. Even though we really do need to get the engine running, I find myself glad that we have been able to spend time here and glad to be able to slip into a town that, thankfully, hasn't quite caught up with modern times.

   A fellow cruising wife and I have found the we have many common interests; one being the Andy Griffith Show.  This town reminds us of Mayberry.  There is basically one street that runs the stretch of the town on which you will find a few small restaurants, a laundromat, a post office, a police station, a school, a couple of stores, a few churches, and a phone company.  The phone company is only open one day a week for three hours, the stores sell the bare essentials (nothing too hard to come by since delivery only comes once a week by boat), the restaurants sell simple but, delicious fare, and the lady that runs the laundromat also sells a few odds and ends in her store (in the same building as the laundromat) and gives haircuts.  Nearly everyone is on a first name basis here.  People help out when and where they can.  They are genuinely glad to have you here, especially if you show an honest interest in the life they lead.

Lorraine's Café
   Lily, the lady that runs Adderley's Grocery Store, is always helpful and easy to talk to.  One of my student's grandmothers introduced us to some interesting fruit grown on the island.  Hog Plums look like a kiwi on the outside but, actually taste like a plum that's been spiced.  There are people here willing to talk to you about pretty much anything and help out if possible; Lorraine's Café is the place to go for this . . . or a good meal.  There is even a lady that cleans and cooks at the school.  She brought me a few canned drinks the other day just to thank me for working with the students.  Turns out, she doesn't even have any children there at the school. She simply wanted me to know that she appreciated what I was doing.

Adderley's Grocery
There's Lots Of Interesting Plant Life Here

   With the lack of many modern resources here, Bill and I have been forced (in a good way) to revert to less modern methods.  Bill has baked all of our breads (sandwich bread, hamburger buns, pizza dough, etc.) for the past few years.  However, lately, thanks to the time he's had to contribute to the engine (and a tragic incident with the sour dough starter), he hasn't been able to bake much.  This weekend though, he got back into it and made some wonderful Amish white bread.  He even made hot dog buns!

   I have been trying to fight the cost of laundry (it adds up) by doing laundry on the boat.  So, over the weekend I washed and dried several loads of clothes by hand.  I filled a bucket with sea water, added detergent and a few items of clothing, and agitated the clothes (aka scrubbed them by hand).  Once they were clean, I rinsed them with a fresh bucket of sea water and did a final rinse in fresh water.   Then I hung them on the lifelines to dry and started the process again with more clothes.  Granted, this is not my preferred method of doing laundry but, it didn't cost us any extra money, I used less detergent (also saving money), and the clothes were just as clean as they would have been coming out of a machine.  We checked to see if someone still sells the old tubs and ringers and they do!  Apparently sells them; they have the same set up but, are modernly built.  I told Bill I wanted one . . . Wow . . . Wouldn't my grandparents laugh at that . . .

   I've even been getting extra mileage out of our food.  The other day I boiled up an $8 bag of chicken to not only make a ton of stock but, I pulled off enough meat to make about 4 2-serving meals.

Black Point All-Age School
4th, 5th, and 6th Grades
   Today was my last day to volunteer at the school.  I am certainly not jumping to leave but, we really do need to move on; it's hard to get cash here, we are low on provisions, and, if we can't get this engine going, we need to find a place that has someone that can help.  There is a boat that pulled into the harbor over the weekend that could offer some help.  They rebuilt their engine themselves and their engine is the same kind that we have.  So, . . . this guy is going to come over tomorrow morning to offer a helping hand.  Hopefully, having another set of eyes and hands on the engine will do the trick.  Although I can offer a hand to assist, I certainly cannot offer a skilled eye. 

   I said goodbye to the kids and the teachers today.  I grabbed a few pictures, received a lot of hugs, and the principal even bought me lunch as a thank you.  I will definitely miss this little town.  The people, especially the kids, have grown on me.  I'd really like for us to come back once we are sailing through Bahamian waters again.  For now, we need to move on and, to be honest, even if the engine was fine, we would still need to start heading back to the States in order to meet up with Rain Dog and make it to Maine by August.

Few Smiles From the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grades

Right After School Let Out

   So, I am really glad that we were able to stop in and experience this gem in the Bahamas.  We have been able to slow down our pace and enjoy living an even simpler life.  We are definitely going to keep up our more "hands-on" methods of doing things on the boat.  This life we lead lends itself to self-sufficiency.  Hopefully we will be able to continue making our way of life a little less "automatic".

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

   During the last couple of weeks, we have seen some amazing sites; Iguanas, sharks, remote beaches, and ruins, just to name a few.  We have really enjoyed the time we've had exploring.  However, we have also seen, so we are told, some of the worst weather that the Bahamas has seen in quite a while.  Storms, high winds, downpours, and weird currents have been wreaking havoc for those of us that had been counting on the typically good weather that the Bahamas offers. So, along with the good, comes the bad.

Is Anyone Thinking Of The Theme From Gilligan's Island?
Iguana On Leaf Cay


LOTS Of Iguanas

Stairs Up To The Ruins On Leaf Cay

Anchorage Off Of Leaf Cay (We're The Boat
Closest To The Camera)

Tree Inside The Ruins

Interesting View From The
Window Of The Ruins


   Now, I know what you might be thinking.  A little rain and wind is no big deal.  Well, you'd be right if it was a little. Little does not describe this weather.  We've had LOTS of rain (sometimes for several days straight) and winds from 30 to 40 knots gusting to 50 knots. . . . Yesterday we even had hurricane-like conditions with waves coming over the bow (at anchor) and winds over 70 knots!  This was NOT what we were expecting!

Volcanic Formations Comprise A Lot Of The "Ground"
In The Land And Sea Park
These Rocks Are Actually Labeled With Notes But,
Are A Bit Out Of Tune
    As if these conditions weren't causing enough worries (Will the anchor drag?  Did we tie off the dinghy properly?  How long will the batteries last without solar power? . . . ), our engine decided that now was the time to have a major tantrum.  The day before we were supposed to leave our mooring in the north of the Exumas Land and Sea Park (a wildlife refuge open to visitors), we decided to run our engine for a bit to charge the batteries. We don't normally have to do this that often because our solar panels replenish the batteries wonderfully. However, bad weather means no sun.  No sun means no solar power. So, when Bill went to start the engine, it refused to actually charge. It would run but, there was no charge going into the batteries. It was then that we discovered that we were leaking diesel from the fuel injector pump. Ugh! Great! By the end of the day, after getting completely frustrated and making little progress, we figured we were just going to have to rely only on our sails until we could get this engine issue fixed. We were only able to charge the batteries because S/V Uplifting leant us their generator and some fuel for the night.  Thanks, guys!
Knotty Kat Walking With Us
Up to Boo Boo Hill

On Boo Boo Hill Wooden Plaques With
Your Boat Name Can Be Left; There Were
Quite A Few 

View From Boo Boo Hill
Another Awesome View

   Since we had to leave the next day for a place with more resources (a way to get engine parts, water, laundry, etc.), we decided to head for Black Point. Black Point doesn't have much but, the possibility of getting parts shipped in to us was something we couldn't pass up.  Once we knew where we needed to go, we needed a way out.  In open water a sailboat has room to actually sail but, in the close quarters of a mooring field, the more exact steering of an engine is needed. You don't want to run into another boat while you're trying to change a sail.

  So, what to do?  We again relied on our fellow cruisers. I have mentioned before the unspoken bond of cruisers; a camaraderie that you're accepted into with no prerequisites, just an understanding that you are now part of an extended family that takes care of each other.  Four other men from as many cruising boats came out in their dinghies to motor us out of the mooring field. With two dinghies tied to either side of us, we were able to steer while they provided the horsepower.  As we got closer to open water, one dinghy on each side left. This allowed the two remaining (and more powerful) dinghies to finish the job and then break away.  We made it into open water, got our sails up, and headed for Black Point. We are very thankful for the assistance these guys gave us.  I can't imagine what would have happened if we had had to sail out of there (Thank you to S/Vs Blue Moon, Knotty Kat, Cool Cat, and Cookie Monster Jr.).

   So, once we made it through more strong winds, we pulled into Black Point and anchored.  The weather hasn't let up but, the welcome we've received here helps to ease the sting of our problems.  Everyone here seems to be welcoming to visitors.  We've attended a service here at the Mission church and are planning on attending the Baptist church this Sunday.  The local grocery store has a little bit of everything from butter (measured in gram increments) to frozen meats to bug spray and even hair dye. Lorraine' s Cafe offers good food, free WiFi, and easy conversation. Lorraine is also the go to person; If you don't know where to turn here, check with her.  The free water and trash disposal are a plus, they only ask for a small monetary donation to help out the churches and school.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grades
   We are donating in a different manner.  I am volunteering at the school. Yes, there's only one.  With few teachers around, this means that three grade levels are combined into one class.  The teacher that I worked with on Monday has about 15 students in grades 1 through 3.  The teacher in the second half of the long open room we were in has grades 4 through 6. It was interesting to see a school dynamic so varried from U.S. schools.  The principal asked that I spread out my help by rotating between classes each day.  So, today I helped with pre-K and Kindergarten and tomorrow I'll switch to the upper elementary.  Given our engine issues and the horrible winds, I don't know how long we'll be here but, I plan on helping out as much as I can. One of my students yesterday told me the she didn't want me to "go away on the boat". . . I told here I wouldn't be leaving for at least a week. This seemed to make her happy.  Funny enough, the situation reminded me of the Mary Poppins books when she tells the children "I'll stay until the wind changes.".

   Bill has been running himself ragged trying to get the injector pump problem solved. He's made calls, sent emails, and checked websites trying to sort out a plan of attack to get our engine running again.  He thinks he's found a way to send the old pump off to the States, get it rebuilt, and sent back via the tiny airport here.  This is easier said than done though since the cost isn't cheap, it might take a few weeks, and actually getting the old pump off will be a royal pain.

The Screen "Door" In The Hatch
   We have, at least, been able to use our down time to make other improvements on the boat.  Bill installed a charging relay for the batteries so that, when we do get the engine going again, both battery banks will charge more efficiently.  He also made a screen door of sorts for the main hatch. This allows us to keep the bugs out and cats in at night and allows air to flow through the boat when all the other hatches and ports have to be shut due to rain.  I am working on making two removable panels for the life lines.  These are mainly to cover the gates on either side of the boat so that the cats can't escape or fall overboard. We do have safety netting up but, we haven't been able to find a  convenient way to attach it to the gates. These will solve that. I'm also putting a pocket on each one so we can store things that, right now, are cluttering up the cockpit.

   So, even though we're in a sticky situation with the engine and energy issues (we've had to resort to making our fridge/freezer into an old fashioned ice box), we're trying to make the best of things. Black Point is a nice little community to be "stuck" in. Our cruising family has come to the rescue when we needed them. We are dealing with the weather and slowly making our way through this "sour" time in paradise.

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)