Friday, April 27, 2007

Maybe tomorrow

In theory our parts are in today. I'll go down the street and check in a little bit. If so we plan to sail to Rum Cay tomorrow and then put in an overnight sail the next day to make Mayaguana. If the weather holds we could make Turks and Caicos on the next day. This is the big part of the trip. Mostly smaller jumps from there with about a 90 mile jump to Dom. Rep.

So next message (hopefully) from 'Provo' in the Caicos Islands.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Still in G'Town

Waiting for parts in Georgetown.

This is the part that I am still not good at. Not good at all. Waiting. Waiting for weather. Waiting for parts. Waiting. I tire of a place after about 3 days. Most places 3 days is enough to learn the essentials of it, get fuel, water, groceries, laundry. Then I’m ready to go. Everyone tells me to relax and enjoy the retirement, the place, the books, etc. I do . . . but not for long. For me I have to nearly always feel that I am on a voyage. Living in a place is what I did the first 55 years. Now I want to be on a voyage. So it is hard for me when these delays occur but surely harder on Sue who has to live with me.

AND a new feature for us (thanks Leah!). We always have more photos than we really want to put directly in the blog. Now when you click a photo you'll see an album of photos of that topic. Below is a picture of our walks on Monument Beach. Click on it and you'll see a number of pics from the walks. Enjoy!
monument walk

So to break things up a little in Georgetown we have recently moved the boat over to Monument Beach. We’re on the other side of Elizabeth harbor now from Georgetown as when we started at Volley Ball beach but now we are further to the north. Certainly too far to dingy into town and that’s ok as it is town where money gets spent! The last two days we have taken the dingy to shore here and explored the trails that wind about on Stocking Island. Truly beautiful and pretty rough. It is steep but do-able climb to the monument itself which is simply a 6 sided monolith about 30 feet high. We sailed toward this many days ago now coming from the north as a steering guide. Great view from here and another path leads you to the ocean side of the island and miles of untouched ocean front. We walked north until we found another path leading up and over and found ourselves nearly back to where we started but actually at a little structure called Peace and Plenty Beach Club. Inside we met Dora who had been cooking there for 28 years. We see that they have beer and we have been hiking for about an hour or more. Yum. Unfortunately, I tell Dora, I’ve left all the money on the boat. She uncorks two Kaliks and tells us to pay her tomorrow as she is closing in 15 minutes anyway. Nice. The next day we did just that and had lunch and two more Kaliks. Smart business woman is Dora!

We miss our friends Jay and Jen on Rum Runner but have become addicted to Dominoes which they taught us. So much so that we bought the deluxe suitcase of dominoes so that we could host an entire domino party if we wanted.

(scroll down. . . for big laughs!)
.(keep going. . . )
Well, maybe not!

We attended a fishing seminar the other day and learned a lot. We need rod, reel and gaff at a minimum. The main tip was to NOT buy new stuff but look for good used so we will. We also need a fish identification book since if it ain't a bass we don't know what the heck it is!

The refrigerator is still not working but my wallet is another$150 lighter! I’ve probably spent as much on repairs (that never take) as I have on the original installation. I’m not throwing any more money at this thing for some time. In fact I’d like to couple the real fix (how do I guarantee that?) with the purchase of solar panels so that I could relax the engine a little when we are on the anchor. For now we’ll learn to be cruisers without refrigeration which there are still several of. It means more canned food, rice, pasta, but fresh meat only when you find it and eat it that day...or FISH! Eggs last without refrigeration especially if they’ve not been refrigerated. Bacon will last long enough to eat over several days. Canned hams, chicken and tuna can fill in. While we miss our ice cubes for cocktail hour we are enjoying not worrying about the batteries. Now there are only a few cabin lights, the water pump, radio, and, occasionally, the inverter to supply 12 volts to.

We hear on the radio that there are other boats waiting to head south as we are. While we don’t really look to ‘buddy boat’ we may try to get with them to compare routes and plans especially if they’ve gone before.

Thursday update:
Our package WILL be here later today. Customs in Nassau was holding it for ransom ($75). What can you do? You pay.

Family Regetta is going on and going on right by and through the anchorage! Exciting. We'll see some more of that today probably. Yes this is another album of pictures. Click on the photo below and enjoy.

Exuma Family Regatta April 2007

Go Cubs. . . oh why bother.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Decision Time.

Do we take this weather window that weather guru Chris Parker on the SSB radio talks about or do we wait until next week for the parts we ordered? Decisions......decisions. We looked at the charts and guidebooks we have on board, read about the thornless passage, and estimated with our dividers that we could make it to Provo in 4 days. Just enough time to take advantage of the ideal weather window that is happening this week.

We couldn't leave until Wednesday or more likely Thursday since the winds are still whipping out of the north at 25 - a calming from the 30+ front that came through earlier. (The sailboat anchored nearby lost his anchor rhode. A chafing problem we suspect. Suddenly we noticed that his boat was facing the wrong way AND MOVING. We blew our airhorn and he immediately came up from below to start his engine and get the heck out of there. Leaving his anchor behind - or rather below!)

So we decided to venture into town today even though the seas are still choppy. Luckily we noticed that one of our snubber lines was having a chafing problem of its own and replaced it before dingying (or surfing) the waves into G'Town. We stopped into Exuma Markets to ask about the possibility forwarding of our boat supplies once they arrive. Well, as friendly and accomodating as they are, the smiling owner said they aren't a mail service, just a mail receiver. Although they would be glad to hold it for us until we return. And you guessed it - we don't plan to return. So that answered that question. No forwarding of our order means that we wait for it to arrive in George Town. (Although we may take a couple days while waiting to explore Conception Island).

Even though the perfect weather window will pass this week, we hope to find some days to head south and east. Since the prevailing winds are SE we will be heading into them. But hey, we'll just throw in a tack or two and eventually make it to Luperon.

Once in town we headed to Eddies' Edge Water to get online and check email, etc. Of course a couple Kalik were waiting with our names on 'em. We did also stop in at the battery store and our new golf cart batteries are in! We'll come back into town tomorrow to pick 2 of those up. It should be a much calmer dingy ride by then.

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the past few days...........
The route to the dingy dock is under this small bridge into Lake Victoria. As the story goes, the locals like to play chicken while driving their dingyies under the bridge. The first one to slow down won't crash the bridge. Have yet to see this!

For internet there are a few choices besides Eddie's Edge Water. One day we went to J & K who offers wifi for only $3 a day. Very reasonable although the accomodations are a bit rough and there is no guarantee that the internet will work. Our experience was that it didn't, except for about 10 minutes. Oh well. We've come to Eddies (who always had cold beer if not working wifi) ever since.
Mom's Bakery comes to town twice a week and when the doors are open who can choose from quite a variety of bakery goods - from coconut popovers to raisin bread. We got the raisin bread which was absolutely delicious. Breakfasts for 4 days!

The local library is right next to the school. It's open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Don't miss it. They have books to borrow AND exchange. Very nice. It's like a giagantic book exchange that many marinas try to offer.

At Volleyball Beach there is this sign that shows mileage from various places mostly from the US. No Chicago noted but Macinac Island is.
And what do you do on Volleyball Beach after playing volleyball? What else but drink Kalik! Here's the aftermath of a serious match, I think.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Georgetown! We made it.

April 6 - April 10 2007

Making it to Georgetown is one of those markers along the way right along with the Mackinac Bridge, Erie Canal, NYC, Portsmouth, Key West, Nassau. Now this is as far as we have planned. Now what?

One idea is to order some parts that we know we need, maybe get the outboard repaired or replaced then go to the east and explore Rum Cay, Conception, and Long and then back to Georgetown to pick up our parts. Nothing is open in Georgetown until Tuesday as Easter is a pretty darn big holiday down here. (The hardware store here had a special on Good Friday: Buy a hammer and get free nails!)

But I’m ahead of myself as usual. Let’s go back to the last leg of the trip to Georgetown. It was only about 10 miles from Emerald Bay to Georgetown. So on Friday 4/06 with winds to be around 15 knots we threw off the dock lines and headed out. The seas were flat and the wind was probably about 15 knots. But not for long. In the first half hour they probably built to 25 and gusty. Where’s this coming from? We are on a close reach and have main and genny reefed down. Still sticking the rail in the water on the gusts! Sheesh! At least we were fast! No problem getting sails down and motoring into Elizabeth Harbor where lies Georgetown.

There is about 5 miles to do once you are within the channel between Stocking Island to the east and Great Exuma Island to the west. It is a tricky little route with a few turns between the shallows but once again the Explorer Charts were dead on. There are lots of places to anchor in the lee of Stocking Island and then another large anchorage over near town. Since nothing is going to be open anyway we elect to anchor off of Stocking Island near ‘Volleyball Beach’(23 31.00 / 75 45.50). Lots of boats but we hear that it can get way more crowded like during the Cruisers Rendezvous in March. We missed that by plan. We didn’t even launch the dingy as it was still blowing and the sea was too rough.

On Saturday 4/07 things calmed down and we went exploring. Right up on the beach here is a little joint called the Chat and Chill (or Chew and Spew or Squat and Gobble. . .something like that). Very island-like bar with a grill. We had a beer and then went and checked out the other place over here called St. Francis. Funny name for a bar but oh well. Not as neat looking. Looked more like a double wide. We went back to the Chat and Chew and met up with Jay and Jen who had just arrived from Emerald Bay. Sure...anyone can make the run in 10 knots of wind! We had lunch at the Sit and Spit and then after naps had Jay and Jen and Kona the wonder dog over for dinner and dominoes. We are now hooked on dominoes. Kona even helped with the dishes! Very fun and lots of laughs until the evening was over and our guests went to get in their dingy...just the painter with an empty shackle on the end! This is about 10 pm and it is no moon dark. We called on the radio if anyone found a dingy (no answer) and then Jay and I headed out in our dingy with a flashlight. This was hopeless. Unluckily, the wind was blowing parallel to the channel so the dingy probably didn’t head for either shore. We made two passes about a half mile up and back but no luck. Back at Enee we loaned Jay and Jen our dingy since they’d need it to get Kona ashore and we weren't going anywhere anyway. They were anchored only about 100 yards from us. I felt bad for them as if the dingy is really lost it is going to be a big pain (and an expensive one) to replace dingy and motor.

The next day (Sunday 4/08) we both were scanning the harbor for the lost dingy but nothing. Then Jay hollered over, “I think I see it”! Sure enough it was tied to the stern if a large power yacht about a mile away. Even better than finding an easter egg! Jay and I dingied over and retrieved it. The guys on the power yacht said they spotted it cruising by around 10 pm and went out and got it. Actually they seemed a little disappointed that we found it but too bad!

I spent the rest of the day doing many little jobs that have been nagging me. I fixed a drawer that always slides out when we are on a starboard tack. Screwed the wastebasket to the bulkhead so it wouldn’t tip over. Fixed another drawer that tends to pop on port tack. We also wanted to improve Enee’s sailability. I always say that you should almost never have to operate something on a sailboat by sheer muscle power. Especially true on this boat since muscle power is hard to come by! There are two things that continually violate this rule. One is that it takes a mighty effort to roll up the genny with the roller furling line. Not sure why but it is. I have in mind to replace the line with a longer one so that the radius at which it pulls will be larger on average. There’s room on the can for more line. Even better is to be able to get the reefing line to a winch for some mechanical advantage. So I rigged a different block down at the rail to lead the roller furling line through a cam cleat and then to the other side of the boat to what I now call the “auxiliary” winch. This winch was originally supposed to be for the main sheet and we use it for that too. But, I’ve since put in a bottom block on the main sheet system with its own cleat so the main sheet doesn’t have to stay on the winch to be cleated as it used to be. There would never be an occasion to have to use this winch to trim the main AND reel in the genny.

An even bigger problem is that this big boat has no system for moving the traveller. There is a car and a track with two stoppers that can be moved but you’re on your own for moving the car. With any load at all on the main this is impossible. It is also a great way to either smash your fingers or push hard, have it give way and fall overboard. (I’ll take the smashed fingers please.) A new track, blocks and traveller system costs around $1000. I’m not spending that. This isn’t a racing boat. I don’t care how long it takes to complete a tack I just want some mechanical advantage to accomplish it and there’s that ‘auxiliary’ winch right at the port end of the track.

I attached a block to the car with a bit of wire. I then ran a line from a port side cleat through the block on the car, through another block and then around the winch. Now I can use the winch to pull the car to port. HA you do you pull it to starboard then? Remember, I don’t care if completing the tack takes a little doing. Just want to be able to do it safely. So, let’s say we are beating to windward and are on a port tack. The traveler is pulled to windward over to the port side of the track to center the boom. Now we want to tack. Ultimately, I want the traveler over on the other side but right now the wind can do that. I crank on the winch a little just to relieve the pressure on the stopper. Then I move the stopper over to starboard where I want to end up. Now I can ease the line and allow the traveler to slide over to starboard. We can run down a little now if we have to. Move the other stopper over and under the block and I’ve captured the traveler over to starboard. Now we come about. When we are on our starboard tack we can trim the main with the main sheet.

Now for the other tack. This time we tack first then move the traveler! Back on a port tack after coming about. Now I use the winch to drag the traveler over to port to again center the boom. Sweet and best of all the total cost was ZERO. Just used parts and stuff I had on board.

We went out sailing on Monday 4/09 just to try it all out. We reached back and forth in Elizabeth harbor and everything worked great! We reefed the genny. We tacked many times. We unfurled the genny again. It is a very workable system and just fine for cruising! After sailing about for awhile we moved to anchor nearer town. We have outboard issues and want to be near town in case it finally breaks down. Tomorrow I’ll look for an outboard guy and we’ll try to find or order some other small things we need for the boat.


We took dingy into town (still running...) to explore even though we knew nothing was open. What was happening was a local regatta featuring those bahamian sloops. We had to walk about a mile to get to the little beach area where they were starting from. Here they had set up some small shops with beer and snacks. (By the way, if you’re looking for a way to limit your beer consumption come to the Bahamas...$40 a case and $3.50 - $4.00 per bottle in the taverns! I”m down to about 120 lbs!) There were 3 boats (one more than the minimum) ready to race. The start is a riot and I’d love to see this with about 20 boats racing. All the boats anchor on the start line. Then, when the fat lady blows the conk shell (another phrase I thought I’d never write) the sailors start hauling on their anchor lines like crazy. As soon as the anchor is up they haul up the one huge triangle sail and head out on the windward leg of the race. What a fun way to start! No clocks...first one back wins! We walked back to town but kept our eyes on the racers. They hike WAY out on these things on little boards to keep them upright. The booms are about twice the length of the boats and the mast is set far forward to allow them to go to weather.

Back in town we located some places we want to check out tomorrow: Eddie’s bar and grill with free wifi (we hear), the Exuma Market where you can have a mailbox to receive mail for a time and a battery place! I’m thinking of re-doing my battery configuration to golf cart batteries for my house bank. I’ll get 50% more capacity in about the same space and these things are tough. We’ll see.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Little Farmer’s Cay ( 23 57.2 N 76 19.5 W) to The Marina at Emerald Bay (23 38.0 N 75 55.0 W)

But first a phot from our Explorer Chartbook showing our cruising grounds this past several weeks from Nassau to Emerald Bay. Click on pic to make bigger.

But's a link to my daughter's take on their one week sailing vacation with us. Leah takes GREAT pics. Give it a look.

Our plans to make Georgetown by Saturday 3/31 went out the window with the persistent 20-25 knot winds. Actually we can and have handled that wind but now we need to go out onto Exuma Sound (hundreds of feet deep) where the seas are 7-10 feet in that kind of wind. So we wait and moved a little bit at a time down on the banks side (a few feet deep!). It is funny what you get used to. I used to always try to anchor in 10 - 15 feet of water. Now we are happy when we get 6 or 7 feet of water leaving a foot or two under the keel! When I snorkel around the boat it looks totally wrong to have this big boat in this thin of water but there just isn’t any deep water here! So, you adjust. We haven’t grounded out yet...give us time though. Anyway, it’s all soft sand.

We decided to leave Little Farmers after only a day. The place was a little disappointing. You really have to watch out for 3 year (or more) old charts and cruising guides. This place was billed as a real is if you like your gems with old washing machines and bags of garbage strewn along the side of the roads. There was supposed to be a ‘yacht club’ with fuel and water that took credit cards. No, no and NO! That's the bridge to the yacht club below. At this point we are nearly out of folding money and nobody takes plastic. Ocean Cabin was the one nice and clean place but not all that friendly. I asked to use the computer and the lady set it up for me and just walked away. I had just come from two places in a row where the internet was free for customers but I should have asked. This lady says nothing to me but tells her waitress that after one o’clock my bill would be $20+ as the secret rate is $5.00/half hour. I whiled away 2 hours on the last blog and other projects. If you are going to tell your waitress why not tell me? Well, I guess I can think of a reason. So...we left the gem and went on to...

Big Galliot Cay (23 55.5 N 76 17.3 W)

Actually, we were going to anchor a little south of this by Cave Cay but at this point there were about 6 boats on anchor here at Big Galliot and no boats to the south. Hmmmm....what do they know that I don’t know? I always hate crowding in to a tight anchorage but I just wondered what the deal was. There was a pretty big hole between boats to anchor so we did. Not long after that 3 of the boats hauled anchor and anchor south. Well we stayed and it was fine although it got pretty rolly in the morning. We weighed anchor then and moved just a mile south to anchor off of Cave Cay where we hoped it would be a little calmer. Note that we are in the lee of these islands but there are many inlets to the sound around here and when the tide runs it can make for uncomfortable anchorages.

Cave Cay (23 54. 3 N 76 16.2 W)

This is an interesting place. A guy named Steve Cone purchase the entire island (I bought a car once and didn’t sleep for a week!) He has since put in a power plant (which includes solar panels and wind generators), air strip, dredged the big anchorage area and the channel into it, put in about 12 slips, fuel dock, restaurant, guest cottages and a huge home for himself. It’s nice to keep busy! The whole place is not really done yet but they say it will be in about another year. They are not really advertising yet although they are open for fuel and for renting slips even though there are no boats there yet. The pic shows the restuarant on the left, some 'cottages' and the owners home on the right. This is probably a brilliant project as there are really NO places to put a boat in a marina between Staniel Cay and Emerald Bay 15 miles north of Georgetown. We went in by dingy sounding our way with our lead line as we went because it sure didn’t look deep enough. It is though. About 7 feet all the way in even at extreme low tide. The next day we took Enee in and got fuel and water. I’m so paranoid about fuel. I have no working fuel gauge on board but have carefully kept track of how many hours I get per how much fuel. worry that right at a crucial time you will have miscalculated and run out. We have a 75 gallon fuel tank...I filled up...20 gallons! I really have to calm down! I don’t think I’ve EVER bought more than 25 gallons. Still amazes me how efficient these diesels are (We use about .5 or .6 gallons per hour of running time at around 1500 - 2000 rpm).

From the marina we moved just a little south of the marina entrance to get away from the noise from the diesel electric plant. Actually a very pretty anchorage with another one of the millions of little beaches that dot these coastlines. Of course nothing and nobody there the way we like it! But come our good friends Jay and Jen aboard Rum Runner to join us. That’s a good thing! We hung out at the little beach together and watched their dog try to fetch conk shells. That’s pretty funny. What would Gracie have thought of such crazy behavior?

That's them swimming with their trusty poodle, Kona. Knowing we were just about out of provisions, Jay and Jen had us over for a yummy dinner of pork tenderloins and salad followed by lessons and a game of dominoes. They are really fun and we look forward to running into them some more.

Speaking of running into...the other day there was an announcement on the SSB radio that two boats had collided on the sound. One power and one sail. The sail boat lost there rig as a result. The crazy part is that it was broad daylight on basically the Atlantic Ocean! The reporter called it a case of dueling autopilots. Everyone uses the same Explorer Charts (they are great!) and punches in the same waypoints. Now you’re on opposite courses and steering by GPS is plus or minus 10 feet. CRASH! I’ve seen people sitting in their cockpits with the auto helm on reading a book and facing sideways. Don’t get me wrong. I’m anxious to get a new autopilot for Enee for those long passages. Even with an auto pilot somebody has to be AT THE HELM paying attention.

On to The Marina at Emerald Bay

Well, maybe we should have waited one more day but we were already overdue to report in to Leah by 3 days so we easily motored through the cut at Cave Cay. As usual we head out reefed. The wind was nearly on our nose so we tried motor and main. With the waves building up to 4+ feet our speed was down to about 3 knots. At this point we tried something that used to work on Catalina Enee. I led the jib sheets inside the shrouds and then just unrolled enough of the jib to bring it back to the lower
forward shroud. Now I can haul this little sail in pretty close and get closer to the wind. Additionally I tightened the lazy sheet which pulled the jib even closer. All together we were able to motor sail at 5-6 knots and tack the ever elusive 90 degrees! Pretty bouncy but a lot better than it is when you go bare poles. I got a little seasick for the first time ever but that may have been due to little breakfast and left over rum in my stomach!

The Marina at Emerald Bay is one of the best kept secrets in the Bahamas. This is a totally invented place. They are building all kind of condos here and putting in fancy restaurants and golf courses. It is not mentioned in the cruising guides (yet) or charts we have and we only learned about it from other cruisers. It’s a pretty good deal. A very nice marina and you can have full service (electricity and water) for $2.25/foot/day. Less if you just want to tie to a pier. There is free wifi, free laundry (unheard of), a lounge with tv and a pool table (no money here either), a nice casual restaurant ($$), and free shuttle bus to the local grocery, bank, liquor store. We hope to get our re-provisioning done here rather than Georgetown. The shuttle bus is a BIG deal to those without cars! We’ll be here today and then leave for Georgetown tomorrow. We have some boat issues (always) that we hope to take care of there.

For one thing, I think I’m DONE with this Nissan outboard. What a hunk of crap. We know that it will suddenly flood itself while motoring which is really fun. Now it has taken to making a really bad humming, vibration, metal on metal type noise from the base of the engine. I don’t know what this is but I know engines are NOT supposed to make this noise. I’m sure this is a BIG deal to investigate and fix and not worth the money. I was happy to have a 4 stroke engine but I don’t think these things are as dependable (yet) as the good old 2 stroke. I hear that about all that is available is 2 stroke in the Bahamas because they love them for their dependability. I’ll be looking for one in Georgetown and then I can use the Nissan as an auxiliary anchor! Other small projects include replacing the roller reefing line and maybe the jib halyard. Other small stuff like that.

This just in...the people at Emerald Bay Marina are very nice...and insane! The power went out here and stayed out for several hours. I asked when it might be on and they didn’t know. I said, I figured I paid for a full price slip which basically meant it has electricity. Right. So...I just looked at her and she at me. I went on to explain that I was paying a premium for something that wasn’t being provided. She told me the problem wasn’t theirs but was up the line at the power company. I tried to explain to her nicely how much that didn’t matter to me because either way I was paying for a service (it’s metered on top of it!) that was not being provided. She said if I would like to move to a basic slip with no power (75 cents/foot!) that I could do that. I said that I was already in a slip with no power so why bother moving me? No, she would have to charge me $2.25/foot if I stay in that slip. I started laughing at the insanity but I was the only one who thought it was funny.

Wait...there’s more! There power posts are only 50 amp the sockets of which don’t fit a 30 amp cord so they loaned me an adapter. This was yesterday. So, I went back to the slip and disconnected the cord and brought back the adapter. I told the lady that now I really do have a slip with no power because there was no way for me to plug in. Nope. That slip is $2.25/foot no matter what. Now I really laughed...alone. I suspect that there is no way to make the computer come up with a charge of 75 cents a foot for that slip so we’ll move the boat and I’ll only pay one day at $2.25 and one day at 75 cents. People are so funny.

Tomorrow on to Georgetown...anchoring is still free!