Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Calm Between the Storms

Yesterday afternoon the wind subsided enough that we could safely leave the boat and go ashore.  Yay!  It was so nice to be able to stretch our legs and do something different after four days of boat-bound living. A happy hour had been organized for 4 pm at the cruiser’s beach. We left early with our drinks, crackers and dip and dropped them at the cruiser’s beach, then went for a walk. We returned at 4 pm and saw that no one else was there. No one else was even in their dinghy making their way there. I began to wonder if it had been cancelled and we had missed the announcement on the radio. I didn’t care, I was still happy to be off of the boat. Other cruisers did eventually arrive and I had a good time getting my social fix. It was quite calm but the time we returned to Breeze On and we enjoyed a very pleasant evening in the cockpit under the full moon. The forecast says that it will remain calm until mid-afternoon today when another front is expected to bring wind of 25-30 knots. We are going to use the time this morning to run errands on shore after the squalls pass before we hunker down once again for the next blow. 



Saturday, January 27, 2018

Blowing Like Stink

Blowing like stink is a term that some sailors use to describe a lot of wind. I haven’t decided how I feel about the phrase and I don’t understand how someone came up with it. In any case, it is really windy and has been for over 36 hours. It is supposed to continue for another 24 hours. The good news is our anchor is holding in 30 knot of wind with 40 knot gusts. George put out 130 of anchor rode. There is a lot of room in Thompson Bay and the boats are spread quite far apart. The bad news is this anchorage is quite shallow and the strong wind is pushing water out of the anchorage. We think we have just inches under the keel at low tide. We have heard other boats talking about scraping the bottom at low tide so we feel fortunate. We just heard from someone on a neighboring boat that he doesn’t see a plume of sand under us so he thinks we aren’t scraping the bottom. We haven’t been off of the boat for 2 days and I will be very happy when this lets up. 


Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hamilton’s Cave

We moved the boat before breakfast yesterday. George was concerned about the depth and wanted to find a deeper spot before the big blow. We meandered around the anchorage and ended up in a spot with about the same depth as the spot we left. Oh well. After breakfast Doug and Laura finished packing while George and I collected the laundry. It took two trips to get the four of us, the luggage and the laundry to shore. We drove about 30 minutes south in the rental car to a nice, large laundry in Hamilton’s. We had about an hour to spare after the laundry was done so we decided to tour Hamilton’s Cave. For $15 per person you get an hour-long guided tour of the largest cave in the Bahamas. Since we hadn’t planned to do the tour we hadn’t called for reservations. We were in luck, though, the guide had just finished a tour and was available again. We met him at the sign for Hamilton’s Cave and then followed his car about 1/4 mile north to a road that turned inland up a hill. He gave a flashlight to each of us and spoke briefly about the cave before we entered. It was formed eons ago (I don’t remember how long) when the sea level was much higher. The Lucayan Indians were thought to have lived there around 500 a.d., according to artifacts that have been discovered in the cave.  Our guide’s family came to the Bahamas from the Carolinas as loyalists just after the Revolutionary War. They bought the property from the king of England in the 1800’s. They have used the cave as a hurricane shelter and for hide and seek as children. The cave is huge, with many paths and “rooms”. I understand why having a guide is essential. One could easily get lost. The dark lines you see in the photo are the tunnels of ground termites. We also saw a few varieties of bats hiding in “tubes” at the top of the cave. After seeing so much poor, sandy soil in the Bahamas I was surprised to see clay soil in the cave. Our guide had a beautiful garden at the entrance to the cave and he said the soil is very rich. 
After we finished touring the cave we had a fantastic lunch at Forest #2 Takeaway before dropping Doug and Laura at the airport. We are sad that they have to leave early but if they had waited for the 30-40 knot winds we have now, and for the next few days, they would never have been able to get off of the boat. 





Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hog Cay, Long Island

Yesterday we took advantage of good conditions to sail 20 miles north to Hog Cay. It was a beautiful day of sailing. Hog Cay is a privately owned island with one house on a long, pristine beach. The water was incredibly clear and beautiful. Soon after we dropped the anchor we followed another couple to a reef for snorkeling. They seemed to know just where they were going. The reef was on the northern end of the anchorage and had exposed rock in the middle. It had a variety of coral and fish and was worth seeing. After snorkeling we dinghied over to Joe Sound, an area that is sometimes recommended as a protected anchorage. The entrance to Joe Sound is extremely narrow and shallow with a swift current. Not something that looked at all appealing to us. There were three boats anchored in Joe Sound that looked uninhabited. In addition we saw the wreckage of a large motor yacht. It was interesting to see but I don't think I would want to anchor there with the treacherous entrance and strong current that causes the boat to shift 180 degrees every 6 hours. From Joe Sound we dinghied back to Hog Cay for a walk along the beach. After returning to a Breeze On, Laura, Doug and George heard exclamations from another dinghy behind us. They were trying to draw attention to a dolphin that had been playing around them and even breached twice. The dolphin did swim by Breeze On, fulfilling Laura's wish of seeing a dolphin on her vacation. Shortly after dusk George saw some birds flying by and heard their unusual whistling call. He looked them up online and found out they were West Indian Whistling Ducks, the most endangered species of whistling ducks. Hog Cay is one of two places in the Bahama where they live. Throughout the evening we could hear what seemed like a large group of them in the distance. 
This morning we raised the anchor and had another delightful day of sailing back to Thompson Bay. We had originally planned to stop in Miller's Bay and dinghy to Chez Pierre for dinner. Unfortunately, we are expecting some very high winds in two days so Doug and Laura will be leaving a day early. We rented another car this afternoon and decided to drive it over to Chez Pierre for dinner. The food was fantastic and Pierre was in a friendly mood and quite funny. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Visit with Friends

Our friends, Doug and Laura, are visiting us from CT. They flew into Nassau, then caught a connecting flight to Deadman's Cay Airport on Long Island.  George and I rented a car to drive the 20 minutes from Thompson Bay to the airport. On the way we stopped at Seaside Village for conch salad. We watched Kenny as he picked out the conch, removed it from the shell, chopped it, squeezed fresh lemon and orange juice over it and chopped peppers and onions to add in. The salad was delicious. After meeting Doug and Laura at the airport we drove to Clarencetown and toured around before eating dinner at Rowdy Boys. It was dark by the time we got back to Thompson Bay and it was a bit of an adventure finding our unlit boat. 
We kept the car an extra day to continue touring the island.  Long Island is 90 miles long and we toured it from one end to the other. We started out at Dean's Blue Hole. It is 600 feet deep and touted as the deepest blue hole in the world. It was a favorite stop last year and we looked forward to sharing it with Doug and Laura this year. For some reason there was a lot of seaweed and plastic trash at Dean's Blue Hole this year. As we snorkeled over it we could see several plastic bags floating in the water. It was quite disappointing. Nevertheless, it is quite a sight and worth seeing. Next we drove down to Gordon's at the southern end of Long Island and walked along a beautiful sandy beach. We got back in the car and drove north, searching for places where we could find lunch along the way. Since it was Sunday very few places were open. Fortunately, the restaurant at Stella Maris Resort near the northern end was open so we were able to eventually find a late lunch. After lunch we drove to the Columbus Monument at the northern end of Long Island. The monument is located on a high bluff 1.7 miles down a very narrow, rocky, bumpy road. People had told us it was a bad road and they weren't exaggerated. Once we were at the end of the road we had to climb a steep hill to reach the monument. It was worth it, the view was amazing. 



Thursday, January 18, 2018

Another Problem Solved

A few days ago we began having trouble with the dinghy outboard. It didn’t want to start and then ran really rough, with very little power even at full throttle. We thought we probably had water in the fuel, although we aren’t quite sure how it got there. Was it the gas we just got in George Town?  Did water somehow find it’s way in the tank or outboard during the torrential rains?  We may never know. In any case it was a problem that needed to be fixed. George spoke to a few friends and received some suggestions on how to fix it. Michael offered to bring his dinghy and gas tank over and hook it up to our outboard. The motor ran better but wasn’t quite cured. He drove George down to Long Island Peteroleum and they agreed to take the bad fuel that was in our tank, even though it didn’t come from there. George then filled it with new gas. He then put in some Sta-Bil additive and changed the spark plugs. Now it runs like a champ!
In the midst of all of the outboard issues we took our very slow dinghy over to Tiny’s Hurricane Hole yesterday for a late lunch. Tiny’s is an adorable open air bar and grill (with a few cottages) on the beach overlooking Thompson Bay.  This afternoon we came back with our laundry. Michelle (aka Tiny) allows the boaters to use her laundry room. There are now over 30 boats in the harbor and we were concerned the laundry room would be too busy. If we hadn’t been able to do it here our next option was to hitch hike 30 minutes south of here to a laundromat. So glad we could do it at Tiny’s. 



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Sun Came Out and the Autopilot is Fixed

The sun was shining for most of the day today. What a difference that makes. It seems like it has been so long since we have seen much sun. We had a few short squalls but not the hours and hours of rain that we had been experiencing. 
I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s post but we lost our autopilot about half way through our trip from Conception Island to Long Island.  We were reminded how much we have come to depend on it.  The autopilot failed when we were in very rough seas & 20+kt winds near the tip of Long Island. We were hit on the beam by one especially big wave and the boat rolled to port and then back to starboard.  The autopilot struggled to keep up and then it just gave up, the wheels spun and the boat turned up into the wind. George regained control of the boat, turned the autopilot off and then on again but it didn’t work. We hand steered the rest of the way and we both had to resist, many times, the urge to turn the autopilot on. Today we set about trying to fix it. George first removed the cockpit floor to check the autopilot motor and the arm that attaches the motor to the rudder.  Nothing looked amiss there. I found some information online written by other Hanse owners who had fixed autopilot problems by replacing a fuse between the autopilot computer and motor. The trick was to find the fuse. After much looking and rearranging of stuff (which we had to do anyway), George finally found it inside the port lazzarette. He replaced the fuse and, voila, the autopilot works! Phew. Neither one of us relished the idea of long passages home without an autopilot. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Conception Island/Thompson Bay, LI

Last year Conception Island was our favorite place in the Bahamas. The clarity of the water has to be seen to be believed. It is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park system so there are no buildings or cell towers on the island. The beaches are pristine. It is a small island surrounded by deep water so it is best to visit only during relatively calm conditions. If there are a lot of waves it can get very uncomfortable. We thought we had good conditions for another visit to Conception Island.  Although a cold front was expected to bring a lot of wind to the northern part of the Bahamas it wasn’t expected to make it as far south as Conception Island. We left George Town two days ago to head to Conception.  We soon encountered a heavy thunderstorm that lasted three hours. There were several nearby lightning strikes. When we arrived at Conception the wind and the waves didn’t seem bad at all. After Jean and Michael arrived on Desiderata we invited them over for dinner. The waves picked up the next day and were downright uncomfortable. Most hit the boat on the beam and caused the boat to rock side to side dramatically. Several things inside the boat got knocked to the floor, including my full glass of lemonade. We took a chance getting into the dinghy to scout out a more favorable anchorage. We didn’t try to take the dinghy to the beach, it was just too rough and we could have easily capsized. We went back to the boat, moved north about 1/2 mile and eventually took the dinghy out of the water. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep due to the rolling. This morning we pulled up the anchor and left, without setting foot on the island or even going to a swim. Our mistake was to not consider the sea conditions surrounding the island.  Even if there isn’t a lot of wind right near the island, wind nearby can kick up the ocean swell which just wraps around the island. 
We sailed through some rough seas and yet another squall back to Long Island and were so happy to anchor in a very calm Thompson Bay. It just so happened a cruiser’s happy hour was planned at the beach tonight so we joined in and met some new people & saw some old friends.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Follow-ups: Engine Battery Switch & Rain Awnings

As we sit in George Town awaiting yet another squall I thought it might be a good time to write a follow-up on the engine battery switch and the awnings that I made. 

Engine Battery Switch
It is working like a charm. We have used the microwave a few times since George installed the switch. We have remembered to disconnect the engine battery before using the microwave and reconnect it immediately each time. Incidentally, we have not had any trouble starting the engine in several weeks. 

Rain Awnings
The awnings are still a work in progress. The awning over the v-berth hatch stayed secure even during the 50 knot winds we had the other night. That is the good news. The bad news is the stainless steel rings on the corners of the awning were banging on the deck during the worst of the wind.  They were banging so hard I was afraid they were damaging the deck. We have found that the awning needs to be close to the deck to keep water from entering the hatch due to rain splashing on the deck. However, when it is attached close to the deck and starts flapping in the strong wind, the rings bang on the deck. We are thinking of removing the rings and either sewing dyneema (a very strong type of line) rings in or just attaching the bungees directly to the webbing loops that held the rings. Also, the awning is too small. I wish I had not followed the recommendation to cut down the size to allow for stretching. I plan to make a larger awning once we return home. 
The two awnings used to cover the salon hatch and which were attached to the main sail cover ended up being a total bust. The Velcro that attached the awnings to the main sail cover came undone in just a moderate amount of wind. I am redesigning the awnings to make one larger awning that will be attached under the boom. I suspect that when I finally get this done we will not have another rain storm for the rest of our time here. 

Yesterday we had a long enough break in the rain to dinghy into town to visit Exuma Market and Top to Bottom hardware store. After we dropped the fresh vegetables off at the boat we dinghied over to Lumina Point for lunch. What a treat to be off of the boat for a few hours!  The skies looked threatening by the time we finished lunch and passed by Chat n’ Chill so we opted not to stop and socialize with other cruisers on the beach. There didn’t appear to be many other people there, anyway. 



Thursday, January 11, 2018

George Town

We made the trip from Lee Stocking Island to George Town two days ago. The wind was on our nose so we had to motor through lumpy seas all the way. Just as we were approaching the harbor at George Town the skies opened up with a very heavy thunderstorm. We slowed our speed in hopes that it would let up in by the time we reached our anchorage. Fortunately, we could follow the tracks from one of last year’s trips to George Town. The rain did indeed let up by the time we dropped the anchor. We were grateful for that but especially grateful not to have been hit by lightning. It is a little unnerving to be the tallest thing around during a thunderstorm. There was an even heavier thunderstorm at midnight. Lots of wind and rain. George stayed up for a few hours, watching the tracks of the boat on the anchor alarm iPad app. It turned 360 degrees a few times as the wind changed directions. We heard on the radio net the next morning that the wind had gusted as high at 50 knots. Yesterday it continued to rain off and on all day. We did have enough of a break in the morning that we were able to go into town and do a few loads of laundry. It was raining by the time we returned but our huge plastic zippered laundry bag (that I purchased here in George Town last year) kept everything dry. Our very first glimpse of the sun yesterday was at sunset, leading to a beautiful double rainbow. 
If the rain lets up today we will venture back into town for a bit of shopping and maybe a haircut for George. 




Monday, January 8, 2018

Lee Stocking Island

The squalls stopped and the sun came out, allowing us to get off of the boat for the first time in five days.  Hallelujah!  It was such a pleasure to go out for a walk and appreciate the beautiful surroundings. We dinghied a short distance south to coconut beach and hiked to the top of Perry’s Peak. As an added bonus we encountered Nancy, from Blue Bay, and her friend, Lois, sitting near the trail head. I was able to get my “social fix” for the day. 
The night before last we were anchored at Twin Beaches. It is a lovely anchorage but was way too shallow for our comfort. We were checking the depth several times an hour as the tide went out. At one point we saw 5.7 feet on the depth sounder. It is a wonder we weren’t thumping on the bottom. We believe that the strong east wind might have been pushing the water out of the anchorage, making it much more shallow than we remembered from last year.  In any case, yesterday morning we moved to the anchorage known as the Marine Center.  There used to be a marine research center located here, the empty buildings still remain. We had hoped to get an additional foot of depth here but ended up with more like 6”. Every little bit helps. There were three other boats here when we arrived but still enough room for us. 



Saturday, January 6, 2018

Wanderlust

Our sister-in-law once said that George and I have wanderlust. I suppose it is true since we moved five times in four states in our first eight years of marriage. We did finally settle down, living seven years in NY and 22 in CT. Now it seems like the wanderlust has kicked in again. We have found that when we are cruising we like to move about every four days or so. We had been anchored in Thompson Bay, Long Island for a week so it was time to move on. Yesterday we raised the anchor just before dawn and sailed/motorsailed 60 miles to the Lee Stocking Island area. It was one of our favorites last year. We entered Rat Cay Cut and anchored at Children’s Bay last night. We had to wait for a higher tide this morning to move on to Lee Stocking Island. We visited this area twice last year and each time there were several other boats anchored. This time we are the only boat, aside from the tours boats which continue to stop at a nearby beach. It is cloudy, windy, cool and raw right now.  I know we won’t get any sympathy from the people up north, but we are wearing long pants, long sleeves and even jackets at times. I suspect we might remain the only boat anchored here until the weather improves. The forecast suggests that might not be for a while.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Bomb Cyclone

A weather event, apparently known as a bomb cyclone, originated near the Bahamas and is now headed up the east coast causing blizzard conditions. In the Bahamas it triggered increased wind and lower temperatures (70 instead of 80). I read that the cyclone is called a “bomb” because of the rapidly dropping pressure. 
Yesterday morning it was very calm in the harbor. By the afternoon the wind picked up from the SW then shifted W. The harbor is not protected from the SW but we opted to stay and tough it out. It did get bumpy but not all that bad. By the time we went to bed the wind was behind Indian Point and the harbor was a bit more protected. The maximum wind recorded by Desiderata was 44 knots. If the wind drops enough we may go ashore to Tiny’s Hurricane Hole for an early dinner. If not, we will stay hunkered down. 
Before


After

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Battery Switch Installed

George installed the new battery switch that disconnects the engine battery from the relay. Now the microwave is back in business. Yay!  He installed the switch near the relay on a wall under the nav table. Since he didn’t have the proper tools for the job (hole cutter or multi-tool) he thought it might take a long time. In fact it took just three hours. We both think it looks great. We tested it with the microwave by turning the switch to off and watching the engine battery voltage while we ran the microwave. No change. The voltage dropped when we turned the switch back on and ran the microwave. I am optimistic that we will be able to remember to turn it off and on while running the microwave since it is close to other switches we have to turn on to run the microwave. Of course, it is cloudy today and we aren’t getting much solar power so we probably won’t use it until the sun shines again. Even so, I am very grateful to have the option. We plan to replace the engine battery and relay when we return to the states. We hope the switch will protect the engine battery until then. 
Yesterday morning we went snorkeling and tested the Up-n-Out ladder. It worked well both for getting in and out of the water. The snorkeling here is the not best we have seen in the Bahamas but it was actually better than we expected. The water is somewhat cloudy due to fine silt on the bottom. Nevertheless, we found a moderate-sized reef and saw quite a few fish, some we haven’t seen before.