Sunday, December 31, 2017
Today we celebrated an early New Year’s Eve with dinner at Chez Pierre. We had read wonderful things about this restaurant and wanted to give it a try. It was yet another adventure. Jean made the arrangements with Pierre. The reviews, in addition to talking about the wonderful food, also said Pierre can be quite cranky. There had been one Active Captain review that said the people were late for their reservation & were not served (they didn’t say how late!). Anyway, Pierre told Jean he would be open today but wanted to know what time we wanted to come. She also asked if he knew of anyone who could give us a ride. It is possible to get there by boat and dinghy but we didn’t want to have to move the boat just for dinner. Pierre said he would come and get us. Jean said we would be at Basil’s dock which is what other people had always called the dock we use as a dinghy dock. We waited at the end of the road to the dock and eventually saw this tiny white van go flying by. A few minutes later Jean’s phone rang. It was Pierre asking where we were. He went to the dock at Long Island Petroleum which he said was Basil’s dock. Uh oh. Were we in trouble? Will he be annoyed and refuse to give us a ride or cook dinner? He came back in the tiny white van and chastised us for giving the wrong location. He said we were not where we said we would be and that we will walk. As he said that he started to drive forward and then stopped. George thought he was possibly serious about making us walk - which we would not have done. He stopped and we all apologized profusely as we climbed into the van. It had just 2 seats. Jean sat in the front with Pierre. George and I sat on a cooler lid on the floor and Michael sat on the metal floor. Pierre suggested leaving the side door open, promising he would drive slowly (he did not). Fortunately, there was a metal bar across the van behind the front seats. George, Michael and I all hung on. As we drove Jean thanked Pierre for picking us up and made conversation with him. He eventually started to warm up to us. After turning off the main road we went down some extremely rocky, bumpy dirt roads. We finally came to Chez Pierre. We walked in through the unfinished basement, up the stairs into the kitchen and then into the dining room. It was very nice in a casual sort of way. The bar and water was self-serve - get your own beer from the fridge in the back of the kitchen! He had a full menu. We ordered pizza to share as an appetizer. The reviews said it was good and it was. Three of us ordered the catch of the day, grouper with tarragon sauce. Michael ordered the shrimp scampi. Michael and I each had a salad. It was all delicious and lived up to the reputation. After a leisurely dinner Pierre drove us back to the dock. A great meal with good friends & another adventure - a New Year’s “eve” we will remember.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Our adventure traveling on the south side of Great Exuma Island was a success. The most shallow depths we saw were 7.7 feet in the Comer Channel so we had plenty of water under the keel. We arrived at Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas ahead of schedule, just after 4 pm. The winds were light all day but picked up enouh to sail for the last hour. Our friends Jean and Michael on Desiderata were here along with just one other boat.
We spent today doing chores and running errands. First on the list was attending the weekly farmer’s market. We bought some greens, green peppers, bread, coconut candy and stew conch (that is what they call it-not a typo). The local people eat stew conch for breakfast but we saved it for lunch. After the farmer’s market we walked a short distance down the road to Seafarer Marine. This store is every bit as nice as a West Marine. George was hoping to buy a battery switch and wiring to isolate the engine battery. Not only did they have a selection of battery switches but they had the wire and even attached the appropriate lugs for us. The people here are so nice and accommodating. Our next errand was to dinghy across the harbor to Long Island Petroleum for gas and diesel. A man (the owner maybe?) told us to put the full jerry cans in back of his truck and he would drive us the 100 yards back to dinghy dock. Have I mentioned how nice people are here?
The next item on our list was visiting Hillside Food Supply for more vegetables. Even though the supply boat did not come this week (because of the holidays) they still had plenty of good quality fresh vegetables (in addition to a lot of other food and household supplies).
After George transferred the diesel from the jerry cans to the tank and made another run to Long Island Petroleum we finally had time to try out the new Up-n-Out ladder. We tried it first on the bow since that is the most stable part of the boat. The ladder is made to fit over the gunnel and wasn’t secure on the bow. Next we tried putting it on the side near the forward seat. It was possible, but not easy, to get in from there because the dinghy tipped and the side bowed out when we stood on the ladder. Last, we tried it on the transom. This is more stable than the side and the ladder fits well on the transom. It was quite easy to get in from there so we will call it another success.
Friday, December 29, 2017
It seems so far from civilization here with no boats and no houses on shore. Yet we heard the George Town cruisers net on the VHF radio yesterday morning and we have good cell service now. We are not far at all from civilization, it is just on the other side of the island. The anchorage at McPhee’s Creek is rolly although the wind has calmed down significantly. Right now what little wind we have is coming from behind. The current is controlling where the boat is pointed. We are waiting until low tide passes before we leave the anchorage. We have to pass through one more shallow area at Comer Channel. The lowest spot is 5’2” at low tide and we draw 5’8”. If we leave here at about 11 am we should reach the shallow part about an hour after low tide and will get to Thompson Bay, Long Island just after sunset.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
It is a whole different world out here on the sout’ side. Miles and miles of turquoise water with no other boats in sight. Uninhabited islands in the distance. Our first day on this route went well. We were able to sail most of the day and stopped for the night at Rocky Point. The anchorage was calm in 8 knots of breeze. Since we would be going through an area with a depth of 5.9 feet at low tide the next day we wanted to know when exactly low tide would be. We knew it should be sometime around mid-morning but wanted to get a better idea since we wanted to avoid going through there at dead low tide. It isn’t always easy to figure out the tides in the Bahamas. Most places relate their tides to the tides in Nassau—1 hour after Nassau tide, 1/2 after Nassau tides, etc. For a location as isolated as Rocky Point we really didn’t have a good reference. We knew the tide was falling through the afternoon and evening so George took the hand-held depth sounder and took readings every 1/2 hour until we went to bed. Based on those readings it looked like low tide was about 9:30 pm. That gave us a good idea about the time of this morning’s low tide so we could plan accordingly. When we arrived at the shallow area at Duck Cays the depth was 8.2 feet.
Just after we pulled up the anchor this morning we were joined by a dolphin. It first jumped out of the water just beside me at the helm. Then it swam up to play near George at the bow for a while. So cool.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Our ladder came in and we picked it up from Staniel Cay Yacht Club today. A big shout out to Scandia Marine Products and Watermakers Air. After we ordered the ladder from Scandia Marine Products a few weeks ago they emailed to say there was a backlog for the ladder materials. They asked how soon he needed the ladder. George told them we are in the Bahamas now and wanted to use the ladder while we are here. They prioritized our order, sent it to Watermakers Air in Fort Lauderdale via FedEx at no additional charge and then Watermakers Air flew it to Staniel Cay. Really great service from everyone.
We won’t be trying the ladder out for a few days. We plan to start a trip to Long Island, Bahamas early tomorrow morning. It is 100 miles from here and will take 3 days. We plan to take a route on the southwest sides of Great Exuma and Little Exuma Islands. I have been calling it the back way but I have heard the locals call it the “sout’ side”. It is shallow but everyone we have talked to told us we shouldn’t have any problems. I am thinking of it as an adventure.
We are currently anchored near Pig Beach at Big Majors Spot. After picking up the ladder this afternoon we took a swing by Pig Beach but didn’t get too close!
Monday, December 25, 2017
My family moved from New York state to Florida when I was six years old. I remember complaining about the warm weather and lack of snow, especially at Christmastime. (Truth be told, I also remember complaining in New York when snow would get between my mittens and snowsuit.) Of course, I quickly got used to warm weather on Christmas and learned to appreciate it. I even went water skiing one Christmas Day. It has been many years since we lived in Florida and I once again got used to cold weather at Christmas.
Last Christmas we spent the day in an empty anchorage in Long Island, Bahamas. It seemed strange to not only be in a warm climate but also alone. We love spending the winter in the warm Bahamas climate but this year I wanted our Christmas to be more festive. We stayed in Black Point and went to Lorraine’s Cafe for a buffet lunch. We enjoyed turkey, ham and traditional Bahamian food with about 40 other cruisers. It was indeed festive. This morning, before our Christmas lunch, we both took another turn on the SUP. I ventured a little farther from “home” and felt just a smidge more confident.
Last night George and I and another couple were invited over to a neighboring boat for dinner. The food was amazing and it was a lot of fun. Filet mignon, sweet potatoes and salad. That will be a tough act to follow when it is our turn to reciprocate.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
The wind became very light this afternoon so we made the decision to inflate the SUP and give it a go. I went first and took one spin around Breeze On. It was all I could do to remain upright. George went next and was just heading back toward Breeze On when the wind piped up as a squall approached. It pushed him toward Breeze On, full steam ahead! We are going to need a lot more practice.
Black Point is a welcoming settlement for cruisers. Scorpio’s, one of the bars in town, hosts a happy hour for cruisers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. There were 10 boats in the harbor when we arrived here on Thursday so we thought we would meet a few of the other cruisers at Thursday night’s happy hour. We arrived about 1/2 hour after it started and we were the only people there. We waited about an hour while a few local people came and went but no other cruisers. More boats arrived yesterday so we tried again Friday
night. This time we met several other cruisers. We had met two of the couples last year and were happy to see them again. Five other couples were new to us. We exchanged boat cards, talked about boats and all things Bahamas and had a great time.
night. This time we met several other cruisers. We had met two of the couples last year and were happy to see them again. Five other couples were new to us. We exchanged boat cards, talked about boats and all things Bahamas and had a great time.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
The weather was cloudy and cool yesterday morning so I decided to bake some blueberry muffins while George checked and tightened the hose clamps on the plumbing. (More on what inspired him to do that later.) While he had his head inside the cabinets the wind shifted to the southeast causing the waves to pick up. Our once calm anchorage wasn’t so calm anymore. By the time he finished he was feeling a little nauseous so we made the decision to move. We tucked into Jack’s Bay hoping that White Point would block at least some of the waves. It was slightly calmer in Jack’s Bay and we had the added bonus of two small coral heads nearby for snorkeling. They were close enough that we could swim to them from Breeze On.
The wind died completely overnight. The water was so clear that I could see the anchor pointing east while we were pointing west. I am sure this happens in the Chesapeake, too, but we never see it.
We are now back at Black Point and will stay here through Christmas. Lorraine’s has a Christmas dinner and it will be fun to share it with others.
So, what inspired George to tighten the hose clamps? On our maiden voyage from NY to MD in 2014, we lost an entire tank of fresh water due to a disconnected hose as we motored through NYC! We double clamped all the water feed hoses after that and have made a habit of turning the water pump off when we are underway or away from the boat. We remember to do that almost all the time when we are under way and about 30% of the time when we go out in the dinghy. The other day, after we arrived at a new anchorage, I was doing my usual jobs of turning the Spot tracker off, turning off the navigation system and putting things away. I also turned the water pump back on. George was still at the bow finishing up with the anchor. I heard a strange motor noise and didn’t recognize it. I asked George if he was using the windlass and he said no. I asked him to come below and listen to the noise. Just as we both entered the cabin we realized it was the water pump. The reasonI didn’t recognize it was because the pump usually makes an intermittent pumping sound, not a steady noise. After some investigation George found that the hose feeding the shower had come off. He fixed it and made a mental note to check all of the other clamps.
The anchor in 12 feet of water.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
We were all set to start making our way to a George Town when we learned that the dinghy ladder we had ordered is on its way. We have given up on the various methods we tried for getting me back into the dinghy after swimming. I had heard of the Up-n-Out ladder but decided not to buy one before we left home because of the price. Now I wish I had. The ladder collapses to a relatively small size and is rigid when it extends so it won’t wrap under the dinghy. It is on its way to Watermakers Air in Ft. Lauderdale. After it arrives there Watermakers will fly it to Staniel Cay. We are going to remain in this area until then.
We moved from Little Farmer’s Cay to Isaac Bay this morning for a change of scenery. It is amazing how much calmer it is here compared to Little Farmer’s. It is just 4 miles away but the ground it higher, blocking more wind, and we are closer to shore. There are coral heads on both sides of the anchorage so after we anchored we took the dinghy and the look bucket to check them out as potential snorkeling sites. We found one small coral head not far from the beach. I saw fish swimming around so thought it looked promising. After lunch we dinghied to the beach and swam out to snorkel around the coral head. It was low tide and the water was so shallow that we could not swim over the coral, just around it. The number and variety of fish there was amazing. One of the fish we saw, a queen angelfish, reminds me of a character from the Drew Carey Show who wore bright blue eyeshadow. The fish looks like it is wearing bright blue eyeshadow and lipstick.
Monday, December 18, 2017
This morning we left Little Bay and had a lovely sail 10 miles south to Little Farmer’s Cay. We had bypassed Little Farmer’s a few times last year but decided to stop and check out the small settlement on the island this year.
Yesterday, before we left Little Bay we went snorkeling. We were somewhat disappointed. Last year we had seen a lot of very colorful fish around a small reef. This year there appeared to be fewer fish and none that were that unusual. The reef looked as if it was dying, too. After snorkeling we went for another hike in the unfinished development. There are some stunning views for anyone interested in a lot without water of electricity!
After anchoring at Little Farmer’s we took the dinghy to shore. We had wanted to eat lunch at Ty’s, a well-reviewed place on the beach. Ty’s wasn’t open so we walked across the island to Ocean Cabin. We inquired about dinner and were told our choices were fish, lobster, conch, chicken or steak. We had to make a reservation and place our order in advance. It would take 1 1/2 hours to cook. We made a reservation for 4:30 ordered broiled fish. When George and I thought about a restaurant named Ocean Cabin we each thought about a fancy resort in St. Michaels MD called The Inn at Perry Cabin. We both thought Ocean Cabin might be too dressy for us. Hahaha. Not at all. Jean, Michael, George and I were the only people in the restaurant at dinner. The food was served shortly after we arrived and was quite good.
I love the sign about 2/3’s of the way down, Darlene’s Rental and Church.
Sunday, December 17, 2017
We took a short trip around the point from Black Point to one of our favorite anchorages, Little Bay. It has two pristine beaches, great snorkeling, walking trails (roads from an unfinished housing development) and is protected from N to S winds. After we arrived George ran the water maker and inflated our stand-up paddleboard (SUP).
Yesterday morning I thought up a way to toast our coconut bread. I set an insert from our pressure cooker over the gas burner and set the bread on top of it. Toast on low for a while then flip it over and, voila! After breakfast we walked about 2 miles into town to use the WiFi at Rockside Laundry. After we returned George took the SUP out for a spin. We carried that SUP around all last winter in the Bahamas and never even inflated it. Since we are not skilled paddleboarders we need calm conditions to remain upright. Last winter it was either too windy or we were using the calm conditions to move to another anchorage. George did remain upright on the SUP yesterday but said it was very hard to paddle against the wind. That was all I needed to hear. I will try it another day.
Last evening we had Jean and Michael over for sundowners. It was too cloudy to see the green flash at sundown but we had a fun time sharing stories. Jean taught me to tie a bowline using her “scoop-the-loop” method. I have learned how to tie a bowline many times over the years but haven’t been able to retain it. I once practiced it daily for months then forgot it as soon as I stopped practicing. Maybe “scoop-the-loop” will be the trick.
Friday, December 15, 2017
We made it to Black Point at 11:45 yesterday morning. We quickly dropped the anchor, put the motor on the dinghy and rushed to shore. After dropping the stuffed bag of garbage in the designated trailer, I walked as fast as I could to the BTC store while George tied the dinghy and dropped the garbage disposal donation in the donation box. I made it to the BTC store a couple minutes before noon and saw the sign that said they were open until 12:30. Phew! We bought our SIM card then went to Lorraine’s for lunch. While we were waiting for our food we walked over to Lorraine’s mother’s house for fresh baked coconut bread. After lunch we returned to Breeze On to gather up our laundry and take it to our favorite laundromat, Rockside Laundry. While it was washing, Ida, the owner, cut my hair. It is such a treat to sit outside, facing the beautiful water, while getting my hair cut. Breeze On is anchored a little to the right out of the picture.
Starter Battery Update—we have not had any trouble starting the engine since we have stopped using the microwave. We are still searching for a new starter battery that will fit in the space we have and a relay that will allow the starter battery to be charged by the solar panels but protect it when drawing from the house batteries.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
It turns out that the anchorage at Pipe Cay East was an almost ideal place to sit out a west wind. The water was very calm throughout the night and we were able to sleep well. The only issue we had was related to the current. George heard a banging noise in the night. When he got up to check it he discovered the stern of the dinghy (which was tied behind Breeze On) banging up against the stern of Breeze On! They were pointed in opposite directions. The current had the dinghy pinned against Breeze On and he had a heck of a time getting it to move. We had a relaxing morning sitting in the cockpit, reading and looking at the beautiful view. Chris Parker had predicted that the west winds would subside and become light and variable. They hadn’t yet, but by early afternoon we were trusting that they would and we raised the anchor. We decided to tow the dinghy since we weren’t going far but after we rounded the corner of the anchorage it became clear that the dinghy wasn’t happy with the outboard attached to the transom. Since George had already had to replace some rivets on the transom we decided to pull over out of the channel, drop the anchor and take the outboard off of the dinghy. The water was choppy but we managed to get it on the motor mount without mishap.
By the time we left Pipe Cay we didn’t have time to get all the way to Black Point, our next destination, so we pulled into Big Majors Spot (the home of pig beach). Although the west wind had subsided shortly after we left Pipe Cay the water was still choppy. The anchorage was bouncy and rolly for a few hours but by the time we went to bed it had calmed down This morning, since we were near Staniel Cay, we decided to dinghy ashore and buy some diesel, visit the Pink Store for vegetables, and the BTC store for a SIM cards for the Wirie. (George said he would write a blog post on the Wirie so stay tuned for more information.). Before we left we checked the hours of the BTC store, M-F 9-4:30. We stopped there first and saw a sign saying “Gone to Black Point. Back at 2:00 pm”. Hmmmm. We had also checked the hours for the Black Point store which were Wed. 9-12. We usually have trouble keeping track of the days of the week but we did know today is Thursday. Oh well. We didn’t want to hang around until 2:00 and probably won’t make it to shore at Black Point before noon. It will have to wait. That is island time for you. Next stop, the Pink Store. We had no idea when the supply boat comes to Staniel but this time we were in luck. It had arrived yesterday. We found beautiful lettuce, red peppers, avocados and an onion. Score! I asked the owner if the hours of the BTC store had changed. She actually had a very reasonable explanation for the change. She said the weather was too bad yesterday for anyone to get in and out of Black Point harbor so they were opening there today instead of yesterday. Black Point is especially bad in west wind. Not only is it completely open to the west but it is v-shaped so the waves get funneled in. Now it all makes sense. The water is flat calm now and we are on our way to Black Point.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
This anchorage isn’t what we expected. Looking at the chart it seems as if the Pipe Creek area had relatively narrow waterways surrounded by islands and cays. It is actually quite wide open. The “creeks” are deeper channels surrounded by sand bars. Some of the sand bars are dry at low tide. Most of the time they are covered by water. Our anchorage is opposite a cut leading to Exuma Sound. Swells come in from the sound making the anchorage rolly at times. Now that the wind has shifted to the west the waves have subsided. The current is very strong here and the orientation of our boat is dependent on the current, not the wind. When the wind is over 20, then it determines the orientation of the boat. Some people put out a stern anchor as well as one at the bow to keep the boat from swinging with the current. We haven’t bothered with that.
We took a dinghy ride south this morning to check out more of the Pipe Creek area. We were going over a sand bar and eventually George had to raise the outboard up a notch. Then he had to get out and pull the dinghy. Then I had to get out and we both pulled the dinghy. Eventually we got back to deeper water and we continued our ride. The water is clear and many gorgeous shades of blue, depending on the depth.
After lunch we got back in the dinghy and took a ride through the mangroves at Compass Cay. The creek started out very wide and became narrow as we neared the top of the cay. By the time we decided to turn back we didn’t have enough room to turn the dinghy around. George had to get out to muscle the dinghy around.
The first photo is from the Explorer Chartbook, I put a red arrow in to show where we are located. The last photo was taken in the mangroves.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Chris Parker was not exaggerating about winds from the last cold front. Michael, on Desiderata, said he saw winds of 43 knots. The front arrived two nights ago and we stayed hunkered down all day yesterday. It stayed windy through last night and by this morning we still weren’t sure if we wanted to move on. After waiting a few hours we decided to give it a try. As we turned just inside the cut the current was with us and we were traveling at 9.2 knots! We put the main sail up and sailed at over 7 knots. We had to take a circuitous route through shallow areas to arrive here at the Pipe Cay East anchorage. This anchorage as the advantage of offering protection from west wind, something hard to find in the Exumas. We looked at this and other similar anchorages nearby last year but were scared off by the depths on the approaches or warnings about current. Today we decided to bite the bullet and try it. We planned to come in on a rising tide, close to high tide. It is beautiful here but a little more rolly than we had hoped. The wind is supposed to die down even more before it shifts to the west tomorrow afternoon as the next cold front arrives. We hope the water flattens out, too.
Update on the battery issue—
We have stopped using the microwave since that is the only thing on board that has a large electrical draw. Probably heating George’s coffee in the microwave just before we weigh anchor was not good for the starter battery. Anyway, without the microwave the engine has started the past several times now. This is especially good since we’ve been unable to find a starter battery that will fit the physical space of the current battery. We have talked to marine stores in Nassau & Georgetown, plus had our friend Ray research the West Marine battery that Alex, our lithium battery guy, recommended and all the batteries that are available here are too tall for the space where the battery sits. Our latest theory regarding the engine start issue is that the Sterling Voltage Sensitive Relay is not functioning properly. We may need to replace it with one designed for use with our new lithium batteries. More research to do on this but at least we now have one bar of cell service at this anchorage & can access the internet!
Saturday, December 9, 2017
We took a break from the battery issue yesterday to go for a hike to Barefoot Beach. There are numerous secluded beaches all around that are accessible by dinghy or hiking trail. Today we went snorkeling at Kelly's Reef about a mile away. Now we are hunkering down for the expected cold front.
Friday, December 8, 2017
It is so beautiful here. The water is incredibly clear and such beautiful shades of blue. We are going to stay a few days and sit out a front while we also try to sort out the engine battery problem. Last night we were both puzzled to see the engine battery voltage flickering and dropping when we ran the microwave. We are puzzled because we thought the the two systems weren't connected. Stay tuned...
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Last night we were anxiously awaiting Chris Parker’s email to help us decide if we were crossing to the Exumas today or tomorrow. It appeared that we would have better wind speed and direction today but better sea state tomorrow. We wanted to see if there was any change in the forecast before we made a final decision. The email didn’t come until after 9:00 (cruiser’s midnight). Based on the email we decided to leave in the morning but by then it was too late to pull the dinghy up onto the arch.
We got up at 6:00 to take the motor off the dinghy and pull the dinghy up. We did all of our other preparations to leave. As George was at the bow getting ready to pull up the anchor I started and engine and...it shut off again. Just like it had the other day. I checked the battery key. It was on but I switched it off and back on just to be sure. Still nothing. George checked the engine battery, it seemed fine. We started to think it might be a problem with the starter. George started poking around looking for the starter connections and I did an internet search for Volvo Penta D2-55 start problems. I found a few forums that talked about issues similar to ours. Our engine has an electrical start system. There is a black box with wires going in and out that acts as an interface between the starter panel and the engine. If it thinks that the battery doesn’t have enough voltage when you are trying the start the engine. it shuts everything down. Since it seemed that the battery had enough voltage we thought the interface was faulty. Someone on the forum suggested bypassing the interface and jumping the battery by connecting the red and yellow wire to the fat red one using a long screwdriver. (Sounds like hot wiring to me). George was happy to have a long screwdriver with a rubber handle that he used to service the winches on our last boat. We attempted the hot wiring but the engine still didn’t start. Then we thought there really must be a problem with the battery. Someone else on the forum suggested testing the voltage drop as you try to start the engine. We did and, although it was hard to tell since it shuts off so fast, it seemed to drop from over 13 to 11 something. Not good.
We have 3 sets of batteries on Breeze On. The house batteries, the starter battery and the bow thruster battery. They aren’t connected to each other so we can’t use the house batteries to start the engine, etc. George asked Michael if he had jumper cables. He did not. I mentioned using the Honda Generator. George was focused on jumping the battery and said the Honda Generator didn’t have the right connections. Then he realized he could just start charging everything using the generator through the shore power connection and we could see if the engine would start with the generator on. It did! Hooray! Of course, by then it was too late to sail to the Exumas today so we plan to go tomorrow. We think the battery problem may be the unintended consequence of the new solar panels. They, and the new lithium ion batteries, work so well that we haven’t plugged into shore power since they were installed about 6 weeks ago. The solar panels charge only the house batteries. The engine battery and bow thruster battery charge when the engine is running or we are connected to shore power. As I said, we haven’t connected to shore power in about 6 weeks and we haven’t been running the engine much lately either. The voltage on the engine battery seemed good at over 13 volts but wasn’t as high as it used to be when we used shore power more often. I read that the engine is a big draw of power so we are assuming if the voltage isn’t closer to 14 it drops too low to start the engine. We may need a new battery. We will look into that when we get to Georgetown. After we get home next spring we will have a switch installed that will allow us to connect the house batteries to the starter battery, if needed. George is charging the batteries with the Honda Generator as I write this and we hope the engine starts right up in the morning.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
When we went to lunch at Sammy’s yesterday we tied our dinghy at the dock of another restaurant, Frigate Bar and Grill. We felt a little bit guilty about doing that but a man working on the property at the time said we were welcome to tie up there. As we were approaching the Frigate I noticed several very nice beach chairs lined up in the sun facing the water. I was puzzled about why they were there. There isn’t a resort on the property, I didn’t think local people would be interested in sitting in the sun and cruisers like us wouldn’t be interested, either. The man who helped tie up our dinghy told us that he keeps his boat near the dock and uses it to catch conch for the people from the cruise ships. We were skeptical about cruise ships since it is shallow for several miles around Rock Sound. We thought he meant cruising boats like ours. Well, this morning I was reading the Explorer Guide Book and saw that Princess Cruise Line has a private harbor at the southern end of Eleuthera. So, I imagine that one of the excursions is to bring people from the ship to Rock Sound by land. The Frigate Bar and Grill is probably a stop for lunch or a conch fritter snack and the people can also lounge in the chairs. Now it all makes sense!
Today was a day for cleaning the cabin and shopping for fresh vegetables. Our pattern lately has been to shop the day before the supply ship arrives when the shelves are most likely to be empty. Yesterday I asked SOB when the ship was due. He said it was today. Sure enough, when we got up this morning the ship was already at the dock unloading. We thought the fresh vegetables should be on the shelves by the afternoon and we weren’t disappointed. The store, Marketplace, is a really nice medium-sized grocery store and has an amazing 15-20 foot tall fresh decorated Christmas tree that was brought in from the US.
Jean and Michael on Desiderata were coming into the harbor as we were returning from the store. We dinghied over to say hello and spent some time catching up. It was great to see them again.
Monday, December 4, 2017
It has been a day of ups, downs and then back up again. We dropped our laundry at Dingell’s at 7:30 am. As we returned to the dinghy we saw a man hanging around the dock. He mentioned something about his motorboat tied up to a mooring and George guessed (rightly) that he wanted a ride to his boat. He drove him over to his boat while I waited on the dock. George expected to just drop him off but it turns out he wanted a tow back to the dock. George had never towed anyone with the dinghy and was skeptical it was going to work. It did work, the man and his boat made it to the dock, I got back in the dinghy and we went back to Breeze On. George thought he had earned some good karma. Not so much - more on that later...
In other news of the day, we spent a few hours in the morning working on adding more cellular data to my BTC account. When we don’t have WiFi (which is most of the time) we connect to the internet with BTC cellular data. The 2 GB we had purchased a few weeks ago ran out and it took quite a while to figure out how to add money to my account and then purchase 2 more GB.
For lunch today we dinghied to shore and than walked about a mile to Sammy’s Place for a traditional Bahamian meal. It had received good reviews on Active Captain and we were not disappointed. The waitress recommended the grouper, which we both had, and it was fantastic.
In the afternoon we also finished all of the bungee cords for the awnings. They are all installed now and we are quite pleased. They seem to be holding in place and don’t flap around a lot with the wind. The real test will be whether we can leave the hatches open when it rains.
When we were preparing to return to get our laundry just before 5:00, the dinghy motor wouldn’t start. George had to row the dinghy to shore (fortunately it wasn’t far). Then, part way there a bolt and wing nut that hold one of the oar locks came apart. The wing nut dropped in the boat and the bolt went in the water. What the heck? Where was his good karma?
On the positive side, the laundry was ready. Three loads cost just $21.00. We would have paid at least that much to wash it ourselves in the laundromat. Janet did a very nice job and I would highly recommend her. After picking up the laundry we went back to the dinghy to row back to Breeze On. The man who was there in the morning was back again. George asked his name. He said his name is Scottie, but everyone calls him SOB. His initials are actually SOB! It turns out that we had met him here last year near the local grocery - we heard the tale of his name then, too - unforgettable! After rowing back to Breeze On George fiddled a bit more with the motor and it started! Hallelujah! I guess the good karma returned!
Sunday, December 3, 2017
The awning worked as hoped last night, it kept the squalls away. There were actually no squalls at all.
After taking measurements for the bungees on the other awnings we prepared to pull up the anchor. I pushed the button to start the engine fan and when it beeped I pushed the starter button. The engine turned over once and everything shut off. Oh no! What could be wrong? George’s first thought was that the key for the engine battery has been jostled when he was moving things in the “garage”. He turned the key, I tried the engine again and the same thing happened. He checked the engine battery voltage reading on the control panel and it read 13 volts. To be sure he checked it with a voltmeter. That also looked good. George looked at the battery to make sure the connections weren’t corroded. They looked good. I scanned the manual but didn’t find anything helpful. Finally, George used a flashlight to make sure the battery key was actually in the “on” position. It wasn’t. He turned it to on and the engine started right up. Phew! Crisis averted.
We motorsailed south to Rock Sound. After dropping the anchor we dinghied to shore and walked over to Dingell’s Motors where we inquired about laundry. The cashier said there is a woman named Janet who will wash, dry and fold it, or we could take it to a laundromat. I said we would like to have Janet wash it. She called Janet on the phone and handed the phone to me. Janet and I agreee that I will drop the laundry at Dingell’s before 8:00 am and she will return it by 5:00. We had read on Active Captain that other people have used her service and thought it was reasonable.
As George and I walked back toward the dinghy dock we noticed the sign for Ocean Hole. We turned at the sign and eventually came to a small park beside a very large blue hole. It qualifies as a blue hole because, even though it is on land, it is fed by seawater. The sign said it was 600 ft deep. As we looked down into the water we saw several fish, including a few very large tropical fish. I suspect they are very well fed.
Saturday, December 2, 2017
The first project of the day was fixing the torn main sail cover. One of the reef lines had apparently caught on it while we were putting the sail up, most likely in the dark. It is quite a project to get the cover off and back on when the main sail is on. It took about 4 times longer to get it off and on than it did to make the repairs.
WARNING: This paragraph is for sewing nerds. If you are not, please skip ahead. I first attached a length of binding to replace the seam allowance that had been torn. Then I reattached the webbing and sewed the two sides of the cover together again. Finally, I attached a short piece of webbing across the end of the seam using a box stitch to provide extra strength.
The next project was putting some bolts on a hinge at the stern of the dinghy. George had noticed that the rivets that held the hinge in place were starting to pop out. While George worked on that I repurposed some wide webbing we had bought to use as a sling for the dinghy. (The sling didn’t work very well so George came up with a new plan.) I cut a piece of the unused webbing and sewed a loop so we can use it as a foothold for our dinghy step idea. Stay tuned to see how that ends up working.
Our last project was to cut and make the bungee cords for the awning that goes over the v berth. We had one squall last night and few this morning that required closing the hatches so it didn’t rain in. I wanted to get at least one of the awnings finished so we can (hopefully) leave the hatch open during a squall. We joked that this means we probably won’t see another squall the rest of our time here. To make the bungee cords we measured what we wanted as the finished length for each cord when stretched. Then we multiplied that length times .65 to determine the unstretched length. We cut the shock cord with the hot knife, then used hog rings and hog ring pliers to attach the cord to the rings on the awning on one end and the hooks on the other. All of the supplies came from SailRite. We should own stock in that company.
We attached the awning and so far we are happy with the results. We will see what happens if and when we have another squall.
I just want to mention how nice it was to be able to use electricity to operate the sewing machine and the hot knife. With our old batteries we wouldn’t have had enough juice to do that.
To top off the day we saw another green flash as the sun set.
Friday, December 1, 2017
We were motoring through Current Cut at 7:00 am this morning, as planned. We had a little less than a knot of current going with us. After that we had a brisk sail over to one of our favorite anchorages in Eleuthera, Ten Bay. It is basically a long beach with casuarina trees and houses on one end. There is just something about it that we find pretty and peaceful. After getting the anchor set George started up the water maker and filled the water tank. It was the first time we have used it since we left home. Just before we left home George tried the motor and it wouldn’t start. George cleaned the carburetor, with the help of a YouTube video, and that took care of the problem. We were both relieved that it started right up today.
We will most likely stay in Ten Bay 2 nights and use the time to live out that old definition of cruising—“fixing things in exotic places.”
The photo shows our speed over ground in the lower right hand corner. Not bad.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
We enjoyed our visit to the Spanish Wells museum. We learned a lot about the history of the Bahamas as well as more recent history of Spanish Wells. We found the information about their successful fishing industry, catching crawfish (spiny lobsters), especially interesting. If you eat lobster in Red Lobster it most likely came from here. The crew are all equal owners of their fishing boat and share revenues and expenses equally. If someone retires he puts his share up for sale. If someone is interested in buying it the rest of the crew/owners vote on it. Jean told us a lot of the local businesses are co-owned in a similar way. I forgot to take a photo of one of the fishing boats but I fond one online. They are mostly boats that were former shrimpers. The outriggers aren’t used for nets anymore when catching lobsters.
After the museum visit Jean and Tom gave us a ride to the Food Fair grocery store in their golf cart. Then they gave us a ride back to the dinghy. We really appreciated their kindness. If you visit Spanish Wells look them up at Done Reach cottage. It is near their cat boat, also named Done Reach.
In the afternoon George and I left Spanish Wells and sailed to the western side of Current Cut. Due to very strong currents we are advised to go through the cut 1 3/4 hours after Nassau’s high tide. That would be at 7 am tomorrow morning so we decided to spend the night at anchor near the cut. It is a bit bouncy here but not too bad.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Yesterday rained almost constantly so we stayed on the boat. I barely even stepped out of the cabin. George ventured out a few times to use the hand pump to pump the water out of the dinghy. I was really wishing we had finished making and attaching bungee cords to the awnings I made so that we could use them. We had to keep the hatches closed because of the rain and it got really warm inside.
Today looked to be a much better day so we went to Harbour Island. It is about 10 miles away and accessible by boat through the Devil’s Backbone, a narrow, winding channel through reefs. It is recommended that you have a guide to help you through but we decided to take a ferry or water taxi. We looked into the large Bahamas Ferry. It would have cost us each $50 round trip. Then we saw that we could take Pinder’s Water Taxi. We see their water taxis coming and going frequently. We stopped at Pinder’s grocery store (there is a reason these are called the “family islands”) to inquire. The cashier said it would be $15 round trip. That would include a water taxi to N. Eleuthera Island, then a van to the other side of the island. From there we would take another water taxi to Harbour Island for $5 each. We decided to choose Pinder’s over the Bahamas Ferry. It was cheaper and provided more local flavor.
At Harbour Island we first stopped at the Board of Tourism office to get a map and advice. Next we walked to the Lone Tree, a large, dead tree at the edge of sand flats. It was quite a sight. After that we walked over to the Atlantic side of the island to walk along the famous pink beach. It really is a nice shade of pink but the color doesn’t really show in photos.
We had a terrific lunch at Sip Sip (Bahamian slang for a place to gossip and drink) overlooking the beach. Another squall came through soon after we left the restaurant so we went back to stand under their covered patio for shelter. After it stopped raining we continued to walk around the island and stopped in a few shops. Harbour Island has some modest homes but also quite a few upscale resorts and houses. The prices in the shops were ridiculously expensive. One place had what looked like beach coverups for $250 and $325! Nevertheless, we had a lovely day and thought the trip was well worth it. After our return water taxi/van/water taxi ride George held out $40 to the driver, expecting $10 change. The driver said we owed another $40. George told him the price we had been quoted but he insisted $20 per person each way is always the price. It makes no sense that they would charge the same price as the larger, faster ferry. I suspected we were charged the “sucker tourist” price. Oh well. Live and learn. We still had a nice day.
Before we returned to Breeze On we stopped briefly at Tom and Jean’s house to say hello and exchange boat cards we made arrangements for Jean to show us around the museum tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
We pulled up the anchor and left Lynyard Cay at 4:40 am yesterday morning. Why so early? We wanted to be sure we could make the 60 mile trip to Eleuthera in time to arrive during daylight. We also believed the winds were going to pick up during the day, leading to bigger waves. We were hoping to arrive before that happened. I have to say it was a little creepy for me to be driving out of North Bar Channel between the islands and reefs in the dark. We had a route in the chart plotter that I just had to trust. I also had to trust that there were no big waves coming at us through the channel. There weren’t and everything was fine. There was just a gentle 1-2 ft swell. We motored for about 1 1/2hr until there was enough light to see the sails. We have raised the sails in the dark before, using headlamps and a spot light to see what we are doing, but it is a lot easier during daylight. After the sails were set the ride became much smoother and faster. The winds were stronger than expected, 17-18 kn, and were were sailing at 7 kn, sometimes over 8 kn. With the stronger winds we also had bigger waves, 3-4 ft on the port aft quarter. It was cloudy and cool all day long. We had to wear long sleeves to stay warm for the first time since arriving in the Bahamas (life is tough!).
We made much better time than expected and arrived at our planned destination, Royal Island, in the early afternoon. We decided to press on to Spanish Wells and pick up a mooring. Shortly after we arrived Jean and Tom, who live on the shore, came by in their small boat and said they often have cruisers over to their house for drinks in the afternoon at around 5 pm. How nice! We were tired so begged off for yesterday. Today has been squally so far. If the squalls stop we may go to shore, dump the trash, pick up some fresh vegetables and stop by for a drink. We found out from Jean and Tom that there are no places for cruisers to do laundry here anymore. There used to be one washer and one dryer in the back of a store but that is under new ownership and they are out of the laundry business. Laundry will have to wait.
Sunday, November 26, 2017
We left Hope Town yesterday just before high tide and zigzagged our way around the shoals down the Sea of Abaco. We anchored off of Lynyard Cay. It is the first time we have anchored in over two months. We were so busy getting ready for the trip that we didn’t sail much in the weeks before we left home. After we left on October 31 we have either been under way, tied up at a marina or on a mooring ball. It is nice to be anchored again. Lynyard Cay is a lovely spot. Just as we anchored a large turtle seemed to be very curious about us. It was treading water about 50’ away and kept popping it’s head out of the water. It is lovely but the anchorage is also a bit challenging. There is quite a bit of grass on the bottom and it is tough to get an anchor to hold in grass. We tried to find the sandiest area to drop the anchor. We thought we had a good one. George snorkeled our to check on the anchor and thought it looked good. However, after he came back he hit his foot on a rock and found that he could actually stand up behind the boat! Not good. He is 6’1” and our keel and rudder are 5’8” below the surface. The bottom appears to be very uneven and the wind had shifted to push us closer to land. Just before sunset we reanchored in deeper water.
This morning we dinghied a few miles north to Sandy Cay to go snorkeling. It is a place we tried to visit last year when we first arrived here with our friend, Ray. We couldn’t get to the reefs because the dinghy motor wasn’t working. We were happy we could give it another try this year. It really was a nice spot to snorkel. Large, tall reefs with a wide variety of coral (although somewhat bleached, like most coral in the Bahamas these days) and quite a few pretty fish. Before we set out to snorkel we tried out our new system for getting back in the dinghy. Since we have a new type of dinghy our old system wouldn’t work very well. Figuring out something new was on our long “to do” list before we left home. We got as far as developing a plan but hadn’t yet tried it out - mostly because I didn’t relish the idea of going swimming in the Choptank in October. Anyway, the plan was to buy a Fender Step, tie a loop onto the bottom (there is a place for that on the step), attach the Fender Step to a dinghy seat and let it hang over the side. The lower loop would be used as the first step and the Fender Step would be the next. I tried it out before we left in the dinghy, with George balancing the other side of the dinghy. I was able to hoist myself in. Hooray!
We wore our short wetsuits for snorkeling and we were very happy to have them. Last year we would have to quit after 15 or 20 minutes because we were cold. This year we should be able to snorkel as long as we want. After we went snorkeling I had much more trouble getting back in the dinghy. I don’t know if I was just tired or some of the lines on the step had shifted making it harder to get up. In any case, George lent me a hand and I was able to eventually get in. We think the system will work well with some more tweaking.
After returning from snorkeling, rinsing off and putting on dry clothes we got back in the dinghy and headed south to see a blue hole in a mangrove creek. Shirley from St. Michaels (they keep their boat at Yacht Maintenance & we met them for the first time in Hope Town) had mentioned that it was worth seeing. The creek is really shallow and George had read that you should go in and exit just before high tide so you don’t get trapped. We found the blue hole (a sinkhole in the water - dark blue area in the photo) and saw several turtles on our way out. We are always amazed by how fast they swim. After seeing the blue hole we dinghied over to Little Harbour for lunch at Pete’s Pub. Little Harbour is indeed a little harbor. There is a spot in the channel with just 4 feet of water so we would have to enter and leave at high tide with Breeze On. There isn’t much in Little Harbour other than Pete’s Pub and Gallery and a few houses. The gallery is quite nice. It contains numerous large and small sculptures made by the Johnston family, a local family of artists. Lunch at Pete’s Pub was delicious. It was worth the wild 40 minute ride through quite a bit of chop back to Breeze On.
Friday, November 24, 2017
Yesterday George noticed that there was a rip in my sailing hat. He suggested that I could cover it with a patch. I thought that was a good idea. While we were walking around Hope Town we stopped in a gift store and spent $8.00 (gulp) on a patch. This morning I got my sewing machine out and sewed the patch on the hat. When I looked in the mirror to check the results I noticed a small dark spot near the patch. I wiped it with my finger and the spot got bigger. It was another hole! I attempted to zigzag the new hole with the sewing machine but it just kept tearing. The old hat has given up the ghost. Well, as my mother would say, it doesn’t owe me anything. I really like the wide front brim and the neck covering in the back. Oh well, I can replace it after we get home.
While I was attempting to repair my hat George was transferring diesel from a jerry can into the fuel tank. After that we dinghied over to the marina and filled the jerry can. We went into the marina store and found an anchor to replace the one that was lost yesterday. A 2 lb. anchor cost $49.00 (double gulp). Well, at least we are supporting the local economy.
This afternoon we went ashore to take a walk on the beach. On the way back we stopped by a boat from St. Michaels, MD. We had a nice chat with Shirley and compared notes about our passages to the Bahamas. Turns out they often bring their beautiful boat to Yacht Maintenance, across from where we live. Small world.
Thursday, November 23, 2017
We were extra cautious and left Green Turtle Cay early this morning to ensure we could get through the Whale before the front came through. We headed for Hope Town, another adorable town that we visited and liked last year. As it turns out our friends Jean and Michael were headed for Green Turtle Cay and arrived there this afternoon. Darn! We knew they were on their way to the Bahamas but weren’t sure where they were going. We will have to meet up with them later on.
After picking up a mooring in Hope Town we dinghied ashore to see where we might find some Thanksgiving dinner. We saw a sign advertising Thanksgiving dinner outside Cap’n Jack’s, a restaurant on the harbor very close to our boat. We decided to come back later for an early dinner. We had tied up to the main dock in town where there are signs telling boaters to use a stern anchor. That keeps the boats perpendicular to the dock and allows for more boats to tie up. George tossed out our dinghy anchor but didn’t think it was far enough so he hauled it back and tried again. This time, as he pulled the line to tighten it up, the line came back without an anchor attached. Oops! He went back to the boat to get another small anchor that we have. The water isn’t quite clear enough here to go diving for our lost anchor. We will shop for a replacement at the local marine store.
When we returned to Cap’n Jack’s we sat down and asked the waitress for the Thanksgiving dinner. She asked if our names were on the list. Oops again! We said no and must have looked disappointed. She said she would check to see if there were two dinners left. After several minutes she came back and said there were! Hurray! The dinners were delicious. As we sat on the deck and ate we watched the really unusual clouds from the front moving in. It was quite a sight.