Spanish Wells and Eleuthera

We spent a couple nights in Spanish Wells, one of our favorite towns in the Bahamas. A settlement of about 1500 people very friendly people, it is dominated by the commercial lobster fishing fleet. Last time we were here was after the close of the lobster season so the entire fleet was at the dock. With several weeks to go cashing the tasty shellfish, this time the commercial docks are mostly empty.

I’d guess there are about 35 large boats fishing out of this harbor. Guessing that each of those has a crew of 4 to 6, that’s a rather large fraction of the local population out to sea at a time.

Since the local town is relatively prosperous, the markets tend to be well stocked. We loaded up on fresh veggies, and are back on the move south.

Today was a beautiful sail south along the west coast of Eleuthera. We made it halfway down the island, and anchored in Alabaster Bay. We dropped anchor just as the sun was setting. We turned on our flood light and watched the small fish gather in its glare as the moon rose and the night darkened. Life is good!

Right now our planning is looking at some rougher weather coming through over the weekend. We’ll be looking at finding a place to hide from it before we move on.

We are still struggling a bit to sort out our internet connection. Until we do pictures will have to wait!

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Sandy Point–Redux

We are anchored off the settlement of Sandy Point on the southern end of Great Abaco Island. We staged here a number of times last year, so it is a spot we are well familiar with. We are relaxing, and enjoying being out here in full cruising mode with no worries or schedule other than the weather dictates to us.

So far, everything on the boat has worked well. We have the last of a few troublesome instrumentation issues sorted out. We lack a reliable internet connection here, but such 21st century problems do not seem such a big deal out here.

Today had Karen spending time exploring the beach, while Bill puttered around the boat with some longer term projects and spending some time exploring by dinghy. The sun is now setting in the west, and between us and the horizon are the evening showers over the warm water of the Gulf Stream making a beautiful view.

Tomorrow is supposed to be calm and quiet. We are going to take the chance to do some fishing, then we will begin our path to the south, headed for Royal Harbor near Spanish Wells. Royal Harbor is a small bay, and one of the very few anchorages in this area with wind protection from all directions. We will sit there for the frontal passage which will be coming on Monday. We might asl put into the the harbor in Spanish Wells for a day or two.

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Such a Difference…

Not all, but certainly most, of the days we were in Fort Lauderdale we were at some point during the day hot and uncomfortable.  We were 10 miles inland at the boat yard, so there were no cooling sea breezes.

Having moved 50 miles to the southeast, the difference is amazing.  Yes, certainly in the hottest part of the afternoon it is still hot out in the sun, but the humidity is lower, and the breeze is better, and the nights are JUST cool enough.  It is so much nicer being surrounded by water!

One thing that might surprise people from the cold and snowy north, is that this is the “off season” here in the Bahamas. A couple reasons for that.  Most of the people coming here by boat come from Florida.  In the summer they can come out here and enjoy cooler more comfortable weather. A big draw here is the ocean fishing, and for most of the glamorous species, the real season starts in April or May. Finally, the weather here is changeable in the winter.  Cold fronts can bring days of rain.  We are enjoying the relatively empty marinas, although it is quite a bit busier than I remember from last year.

We are going to be jumping off tomorrow to head further East.  Our target is about 110 miles due east as the seagull flies, Sandy Point, at the southern end of Great Abaco Island.   We had stopped there several times last season, and it will make a good staging ground for our next step south.  We expect about an 18 to 20 hour run if the weather forecasts hold true.

We have found some new places we want to go, and are looking forward to being out exploring again!

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Back to Bimini

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Opening the Dania Beach Boulevard Bridge at dawn on the way out into the ocean and the Bahamas.

One year–to the day–after we last checked into the Bahamas here in North Bimini, we are back. After watching the weather for some time as we were getting ready to pack up, it seemed there were weeks of very steady, contrary winds. We were expecting to have a bit of a wait, but in a bit of a surprise, on the first day we were ready to leave, the weather shifted, and off we went.

We have friends who are new Amel Super Maramu owners here in Florida, and they are busy refitting their “new to them” boat, Ora Pai.  We invited them along as crew for the 12 hour passage.  Alan passed in order to keep some projects moving ahead on their boat, but Laura jumped on the offer. It will be easy, just hop on the ferry back to Florida.  Alan even asked if it was important to have a ferry ticket ahead of time, or if it was good enough to just wing it. I assured him that “winging it” would be fine.

We arrived back at Brown’s Marina on North Bimini a little before 6PM.  Filled out our paperwork and marched down the street to clear Customs.   A bit unusually, the Customs office is open until 11PM. After Customs, you have to go to Immigration to complete the check in process. That office closes at 5PM. So we have to call out the Immigration officer to process us on overtime for an extra $75. As he is finishing, Laura mentions that she is going to be taking the ferry back to Florida. He has some information for us, “No, can’t be done.  Yesterday was the last day.  The ferry boat is in dry dock for two weeks.”

Well, now…

The next morning Karen and Laura take a hike across the island to the office of the local puddle-jump airline which flies the 50 mile route over to Fort Lauderdale. Things are very quiet on the island.  We didn’t appreciate the percentage of the tourist business that arrives by ferry.  Almost everything is closed. Even the big Hyatt resort has shut down for the two weeks the ferry is out of service.  In a bit of odd logic, even the airline’s office on the island is also closed!

By the end of the day, Laura has managed to reach the main office of the airline by phone and booked the next available ticket on Thursday for a flight back to Fort Lauderdale. Apologies to Alan for kidnapping your partner during your busy project time!

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Lobsta! Ready for the vacuum bags and freezer.

In other news, Karen managed to track down the Bailey, the Lobster Man and stocked up the freezer with a couple dozen fresh local lobster tails. I think a big pile of fresh, and inexpensive lobster will be the highlight of her visit here! (and Bill’s too, as they are in the freezer for months to come! Karen)

 

 

 

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Sailing again…

OK, so we didn’t ACTUALLY do any real sailing yesterday, but we did motor down the New River, and the Intracoastal Waterway to the anchorage in South Lake, in Hollywood, Florida. The trip down the New River gets easier every time we do it, but it is always the most crowded, and congested waterway we ever have to deal with.

 

Whenever a boat gets worked on, the expectation is that things get better, but you really can’t ever test EVERYTHING at the dock.  Half way down the river, the engine alarm starts to make some half-hearted squeaks, and all of the instruments go a bit haywire. I quickly convince myself that the problem is the electrically supply to the instruments.  This wasn’t completely out of the blue, since I had done some work on the electrical panel, and could easily have knocked a wire loose. By the time we drop the anchor the panel was totally dead.

Fortunately a diesel engine like ours will run happily without electrical power.  The only catch is that you cannot start it–or stop it!  To shut the engine down I had to climb down into the engine room and work the manual stop lever. By the time I was ready for bed I was convinced I know what the problem was.  A loose 12 volt supply wire to the key switch.

Fast forward to this morning. I pulled off the instrument panel, and find… all the wires in good shape.  Hmmm…  Further testing indicates that the wire that is supposed to supply 12 volts to the panel is not doing so.  Grrrr… down into the bowels of the engine room…  While disconnecting the relay box for further testing, I find a thick cable with a 30 pin connector that is NOT connected…

Ooops.  When stowing some extra containers of motor oil, a large jug of oil tugged on the wire…  All more better now.

Today on the afternoon high tide we will run over to the Hollywood Marina fuel dock and top off the tank–for the first time since we left the Bahamas in the spring!

Early tomorrow morning, a cold front will be crossing Florida.  After what seems like weeks of east and southeast winds, tonight it will shift to Southwest, and then Northwest.  Just the ticket we need to cross over to North Bimini.  It will be an early morning start, but should be a fast and fun run across.

 

 

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Getting out of Dodge

We have been polishing off projects and repairs quickly, and are almost ready to go!

It was supposed to be simple…

One of the things we undertook on this maintenance stop was to have the genoa furling gearbox powder coated.  It lives out on the bow of the boat constantly in salt spray and the finish was getting very rough.  To protect it from further corrosion and keep it looking “yacht-y” we decided to have it powder coated.  I looked for a local shop, and I found a powder coat shop associated with a machine shop.  A perfect combination, I thought, in case there are problems getting the thing apart. I am going to make a very long story very short, and say it was a mess, and nearly a disaster.

In a way I was lucky: The shop reassembled things with one part rotated from where it needed to be.  When I took that off to get it oriented correctly I saw the main thrust bearing…dry. No grease. And it wouldn’t turn.  Hmmm….

The more I looked the more messed up things were.  Seals looked like they had been installed by a blindfolded chimpanzee.  Powder coat on bearing races.  Power coat in o-ring grooves.  Things put in backwards. Moving parts not lubricated. It was a mess. If I had installed it as it was delivered to me the whole thing would have self destructed in days of use.

After a day and a half of re-work we got it back to serviceable condition, ready to furl our sail for years to come.

It is always true… NOBODY cares as much about your boat as you do.

Go get a left-handed monkey wrench.

In any sequence of projects, sometimes it seems you get into the “two step forward, one back” mode.  In what I hope is our last “step backward” I discovered a serious leak on our main engine raw water pump.  After rebuilding the pump, reinstalling it was a different kind of challenge..

In the engine service manual the engine maker specifies a special tool to align the pump with the camshaft. Turns out the manufacturer never actually made the tool. It is a phantom of the manual writer’s imagination. Hence this pump has a bad reputation of having a short life and wearing out in odd ways because people do not understand the importance of careful alignment, and even if they do understand, there is no way to actually do it!

To solve the problem, I had the machine shop here at the yard make the alignment tool for me.  So now I have a rebuilt pump, installed correctly, and the tool to do it right in the future. Hopefully good for a while!

And the End Approaches.

We have a day or two of work here, and then we are off as soon as the weather cooperates.  Less than 2 weeks later than we expected.  Not too bad, in retrospect.

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Merry Christmas!

Yes, we had expected to be in the islands already!  Unfortunately, a few key things continue to drag on… If we were the kind of people who get frustrated by such things, we’d likely be frustrated, but so far, it’s good! It is fun working with Karen to expedite the various suppliers.  We do a really good game of good cop/bad cop.

Yesterday I found a minor engine problem.  Easy to fix,  I only need a few parts. Parts that are easily available… unless it is Christmas Week!  There is a chance the local suppliers will have it…

But… all is good now, and will be even better soon.  I have learned how to rebuild the raw water pump on a Volvo engine, we found a few more good places to eat, and we’ll have some friends joining us.  Hopefully, we’ll get our parts in hand quickly enough to  put back everything together in time they will be able to sail over to the Bahamas with us before their vacation time runs out!

 

 

 

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