Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Island Hopp'n

Panorama - Beach near Fowl Cay

   After spending a few days checking out Bimini, we decided it was time to move on.  Our next stop was Great Harbour (Yes, the British spelling is intentional) in the Berry Islands.

White/Fowl Cay
   As we left the marina, taking advantage of a beautiful day, we were treated to a dolphin escort.  Dolphins love to play around boats but, they hate the noise of an engine. Since we had enough wind to sail in the early part of our journey that day, we were able to provide the perfect playground for these beautiful creatures.  I counted eight dolphins in all.  They were at our stern, playing at the bow, and zooming under the bottom of the boat from port to starboard
and back.

Interesting Rock Formations
Not long after the dolphins left, we were forced to turn on the engine; The wind practically disappeared.  After motoring for a few more hours, we dropped anchor in Great Harbour.  We spent two days here, resting a bit and taking in the sights. Amazingly, we never actually made it to a beach here because we were told that it was way too long of a walk from the dinghy dock (the island proved to be bigger than we thought).
White/Fowl Cay
These Little Snail Were Everywhere

  Our next stop, a day sail over the top of the Berry Islands, was a little place between Fowl Cay and White Cay.  This unique spot offered us a hidey-hole with all-around coverage from the changing winds.  We, of course, enjoyed the beaches here but, the best part of the stay was the blue hole.

The Hole In Question

There's a Path Here  . . .
Somewhere . . . 


   Blue holes are relatively common in the Bahamas.  If you're not familiar with the term, imagine a large crater filled by ocean water that is fed in somewhere near the bottom, surrounded by cliffs, and extremely deep.  This hole in particular was a bit hard to find; There was a path but, it proved hard to follow since there's really no one around to maintain it.  Our cruisers' guide tipped us off to it (we never would have found it otherwise).  We thought about jumping in but, although the entrance was obvious, the exit appeared to be nonexistent.


Washed Up Fan Coral
Crab Skeleton . . . Exoskeleton, Technically


A Shallow Wreck
   Unfortunately, after a few days, our little spot (thanks to some incoming swell) was becoming untenable.  So, we picked up anchor and moved all the way down to Rose Island.  This little spot is just east of Nassau on New Providence Island.

   I was a bit apprehensive about staying here due to a bad experience (REALLY bad swells) the last time we were in the area.  However, that was on the north side and we were on the south side this time.  The winds were better and it showed itself to be a nice spot to stop.

Both of These Wreck are Bahamian Fishing Boats 
See the Fossils in the Rock?

   A couple of days at Rose and it was time to move again. . .  In case you haven't figured it out already,  full-time cruisers still keep a schedule; it just happens to be dictated by the weather instead of a time clock. . . So, this morning we moved into the safety of Palm Cay Marina (outside of Nassau).  There is cold front moving through that is unpredictable enough to stump the weather gurus.  Instead of taking our chances, we've ducked in here for a few nights to ride out whatever the front decides to bring.

   While we're here, we'll take advantage of our surroundings.  We've booked a courtesy car (free with the slip rental) for tomorrow so we can pick up some fresh groceries. . . It will be interesting trying to drive on the "wrong" side of the road . . . We'll definitely be visiting the laundry room while we're here and we figured we'd try to check off a boat project or two while we're in stable waters. The free internet is also, most certainly, a plus.

   Our plan is to head south from here, closing our short-lived chapter on the Berrys. Next up, the Exumas . .
The Red Boat Shows Our Location

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.)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Bimini or Bust

The mooring field was reassuringly calm.  An almost full moon shone orange in an inky black sky scattered with stars. At 3 a.m., we turned on the engine, slipped the lines from the mooring ball, and turned into the channel.

   I was extremely apprehensive about the propeller shaft. Bill had fixed it only the day before (a more complicated fix than we originally thought); it had been tested but, not to the extent that we were about to push it. As we made our way further out into the channel, the calm weather abated my fears but, only slightly.

  It was an hour-long ride out to the open ocean.  During that time, I checked the shaft and the engine frequently.  Each check showed smooth running parts and no leaks . . . the knot in my stomach was beginning to unwind.

  Once out into the Gulf Stream, the weather proved to be a bit too calm; great for crossing but, enough wind to sail.  We had to motor sail.  That knot was starting to grow again.  I was expecting to be able to let out the sails and give the engine some rest.  Now the engine would have to stay on with the sails assisting.

Furry Sailors
   As the glow of the moon was slowly replaced by a beautiful pastel-colored sunrise, that knot in my stomach was again starting to subside.  The morning proved to be the tonic that my nerves were so desperately needing.  Easing-going rollers, plenty of sun, and enough wind (paired with the engine) to reach an average of 6 knots . . . we were going to make it.  No unusual noises from the engine, a smooth turning propeller shaft, no leaks. . . we were going to make it . . .


Quarantine Flag
   About 10 hours from pushing the ignition switch, Bill and I turned in the the channel toward Bimini; half an hour later we were tied up in the marina preparing our paperwork  for customs and immigration. Bill soon left with paperwork in tow (only the captain is allowed to leave a vessel until everyone, including the boat, is legal).  I tidied up the cockpit and the salon, arranging and cleaning things as I went, all the while thanking God for a safe crossing . . . and the release of my stomach muscles . . .

This one's for you CJ, Courtesy flag #1

   When Bill returned with the documentation, we pulled down the 'Q" flag (to be flown upon entering a country) and replaced it with a Bahamian Courtesy Flag (showing that we are cleared into the country).  This is the first of many flags we hope to fly.

   Understandably, we went to bed right after supper; 3 a.m. is not my preferred time to start the day . .  .  The next day (today) we slept in, ate a good breakfast, and then set out to explore the island. Most of this time was on the beach. of course, enjoying the pristine blue waters of the Bahamas again.  We treated ourselves to lunch at one of the other marinas and even ran into some West Marine customers that remembered us and our story.   Enjoyable conversation flowed long after the food was gone.  I sat down to write the piece that you are reading now as soon as we returned.


   What's next? . . . We are waiting for the wind to change.  So, we will be here through tomorrow morning.  After that, we will make our way across the banks to the Berrys or make a short jump down to Cat Cay (whichever the wind change allows for). We are safe, we are here, and we are finally back on our journey.  I'll keep you posted.

   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.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

This is NOT Lock Wire

   Ok, time for a bit of trivia . . . Take a look at the above picture . . . What is it? I'm going to let you think about it while you're reading through my story this week.  I'll give you the answer at the end but, in the mean time I'll give you a few hints: Its use has nothing to do with where we found it . . . and it's not lock wire . . .

  This past Tuesday morning, Bill and I made our last run for errands, prepped the boat, and got underway.  The engine started up beautifully and the only "issue" was that the anchor was a bit difficult to pull up because there was a enormously thick layer of mud on it.  We were officially Bahamas-bound.

   As we made our way along the ICW (Inter Coastal Waterway), we had a smooth ride just puttering along and waiting for the bridges to open at their allotted times.  Just as we were passing under one of the bridges, we heard the bilge pump kick on.  "No problem", I thought.  Bill had run the water maker earlier and during the process, some of the water had been dumped into the bilge.  However, after it switched off, I heard it almost immediately come on again.  Hmmm . . . I went down to investigate and found only a little bit of water at the bottom of the bilge and that the pump had fallen over on its side (this usually makes it run incorrectly).  So, I righted the pump and returned to the cockpit.  I thought that would be the end of it . . . yeah . . . right . . .

   We continued to hear the pump cycle on and off.  I went back down again to check but, this time there was significantly more water than before.  I swapped places with Bill at the helm and had him take a look.  That was when he found that the rotor on our dripless shaft seal had shifted.  This left a gap between the other parts of the shaft and the hull, allowing water to seep in.

   Now, as you can imagine, this took our mood from carefree to panic mode in about a half second.  I pulled us over to the side of the channel, turned off the engine, and stayed at the helm while Bill quickly grabbed tools and started working on the rotor.  After a few very uneasy minutes, he popped his head through the hatch and asked me to come take a look; no more water.  The rotor just needed to be adjusted and tightened. Voila!

The pipe going from the middle of the
picture to the left is the shaft; the
orange piece is where the bolts go
   Happy to be on our way and, of course, not sinking, Bill started the engine again.  A few seconds of bliss and then . . . terrible noises.  The engine was running fine, the propeller was turning but, we were going nowhere.  We could rev up the engine and adjust the throttle all we wanted; no movement.  Great . . . now, thankfully, not too far from the area where we pulled off was an anchorage.  So, with very little wind, we let out the sails; slowly but, surely we inched our way into safety and dropped anchor.

   Once we were settled, Bill climbed down into the engine room to take another look.  This time, he found that the bolts that bore into the shaft (allowing the shaft and its adjoining parts to turn correctly and create propulsion), had come loose . . . We also found that these bolts are supposed to be secured with lock wire (allowing for a much more secure hold on the bolts since it's made to be load-bearing). . .  Note the word supposed . .  .

   They were being held in place with . . . (Ok, here's your answer) . . . electrical wire! Yes, electrical wire, as in the stuff you might run to things like light switches or a ceiling fan. . . .Yeah, we were not amused.

Note the single, thick strand of wire
here, versus the many thinner strands
in the top picture
   We already have the lock wire but, not the replacement bolts.  They're normally not that hard to come by  but, when you're just anchored out somewhere nothing is easy to come by. We have spent the last couple of days here in the anchorage, trying to make to old bolts work but, to no avail, they're just too worn.

   So, the plan is to pick up a ball for a couple of days in a local mooring field (The weather isn't good for a crossing until Wednesday anyway).  This will allow us to pick up the bolts at a hardware store, get them installed properly, and make a full test run before we leave.  Come Wednesday, we should be able to head out into the gulf stream and onto Bimini. Hopefully, when I write next time, it will be with a Rum Punch in hand.      


   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.)