Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Back up the Exumas. It's even better the second time.

Alright, I told you about our journey across the Tropic of Cancer. It was awesome. I forgot to tell you about the next day, which was less fun. Remember when I stripped out some threads on the motor tightening a bleed nut? It was 3 or 4 weeks ago, it's okay if you don't remember. It resulted in some amazing sailing one day, and amazing creative engineering the next day. Well, the engineering was a temporary fix, and it was time to make it more permanent. At least stop diesel leaking into the boat. That smell takes weeks to go away, and when it's constantly leaking, it never goes away.

So Trevor dinghied across the harbor to get a Heli-Coil kit. We'd never used one before, but they're pretty cool. We also hauled the dinghy out of the water to do some fixing because it was leaking like a sieve in the back, and we were starting to lose air out of the pontoons. Not good. So it was a day of repairs. Work days are no fun. We managed to get the dinghy patched up (with a little hardware assistance from Jim, always there to help). The transom had a crack that was flexing and allowing water in and air out. So we bolted plywood on either side, along with rubber gaskets and a bucketload of silicone (magic stuff). When we put it back in the water the next day, it didn't leak! Woohoo! Right, back to the Heli-Coil. We had never used one before, but it seemed pretty straightforward.
1. Clean out the old threads. Ours were totally gone, so no problem here.
2. Use the tapping tool to make new threads for the coil.  Not complicated, but kinda tricky.  I ran into problems getting the thing to go in straight.  By the time I realized it was crooked, it was already screwed up.  Crap! (And a few other, more colorful words, to be sure.) 
3. Insert Heli-Coil into tapped threads to make new threads that fit that old bolt perfectly.  This is the easy part. 
Like I said, I ran into problems with step 2.  I made crooked threads.  When we put the bleed nut back in, it leaked crazily.  Nope hope for a good seal.  Super major big crap!  (etc.)  The only option was to drill out the new Heli-Coil threads and start over.  The part is trashed anyway, so what could it hurt?  So Trevor drilled it out, being careful to make the damn hole straight.  Then he used the tap and made new threads.  Then put the new coil in.  Alright, looks pretty good.  Bleed nut goes back in.  Fuel is pumped through the system.  And it leaks more than when we started, but less than with the crooked threads.  So I slapped on some plumbing tape, put the bleed nut back in, and repressurized the system.  No leak.  No leak?  Hell yes, no leak!!!  Happy dance time!  After lots of stress, swearing, and a few tears, we had fixed the problem.  This will get us back to the States, where we may or may not replace the part.  We'll see how we feel about it when we get there.

The next day was spearfishing.  And the day after that was our final resupplying in Georgetown.  Then seafood dinner aboard Amata Marie.  While we were enjoying our pre-dinner cocktails, a familiar sailboat came cruising by.  It was Glenice!  They were back from Long Island, only a day after they left.  Turns out they had some engine trouble and didn't want to get stranded over there.  So they came back.  While the cause was unfortunate, we were so happy to see them!  So we had a great dinner and delicious dessert with great friends again. 

Side note: I have to tell you about this dessert.  It's simple and super yummy!  Mix 1/2 cup of lime juice (fresh squeezed key lime juice is best, but you can use whatever is around) with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk.  If you have a refrigerator, let it chill a little bit, but it's also fine at room temperature.  It thickens on its own.  Then use cookies (ginger snaps are good) to scoop up the goosh like a dip.  Key Lime Pie without all the work!  And it makes a great, fast, take-along dessert if someone invites you over to their boat for dinner.  Totally awesome!

Right, so the next day (are we up to Thursday? I think it was Thursday.) we did our final final restocking in Georgetown.  For real this time.  Then we came back and went for a swim (it was hot!).  We swam over to Glenice to make plans to hang out, since it was our last night together as one big, happy family.  We all got together on shore for cocktails and some Chicken Foot dominoes.  During the 3rd or 4th round, the light went away, but Jim brought some lights.  So we played until way after everyone's bedtime.  Great times!  We were all sad to say goodbye.

Friday, we headed out from Georgetown.  It was sad to leave.  We knew we were finally headed toward home, even if it's a month until we get there.  When we got outside to the sound, the waves were rolly, but nothing terrible.  We had the main up and motorsailed up the coast.  Every once in a while, a wave would knock us around, but otherwise it was a pretty nice day.  We got to Adderly Cut while the tide was still coming out.  With the opposing wind, it made for an exciting ride going in.  It didn't look bad at first.  We managed to stay out of the strongest current.  By the time I realized how big the waves were, there was no turning back.  Luckily, we were going with the waves.  "Waves" being a 6-foot chop.  It was spooky to look over and see a wave at eye level and the trough way down low a few feet ahead.  Yikes!  We managed to surf our way through the cut.
The photo doesn't do it justice, except you can see the dinghy there above the anchor
What we encountered was what they call a rage.  The current flows opposite the wind, and it gets all confused a choppy.  We went through a mini-rage.  The current wasn't as strong as it could have been, and the wind was only 10 (at most 15) knots.  This was small-time.  I can only imagine what strong winds would do.  The idea of a full-on rage is terrifying.  We'll stick to this here inside route, thank you very much.
Oh, and another note.  Remember that day we sailed all day, no motor functioning at all?  We sailed through Adderly Cut.  Incoming tide.  Much better.  Even so, we are still super badass for sailing through it.

But after the excitement of going through the cut, all was well.  We tied up to a mooring ball at Lee Stocking Island.  It was nice to motor onto it instead of trying to sail on like last time we were there.  Amata Marie arrived shortly after us.  We had a delicious dinner of mahi mahi and cero mackerel that Jim and Tim (Nancy and Jim's son) had caught on the way up.  So good!  Trevor dropped a hook in the water when we got back to the boat, just to see what he could catch.  And you know what?  He caught this!
Trevor's fish!  A whopper!
I thought it might have been a crevalle jack (not good to eat), so we tossed it back.  (Thaddeus! Is it a crevalle, or something edible?)  But look how big!  Trevor is getting the bug for fishing.  Who saw that coming?

The next morning (we're up to Saturday now), Amata Marie left, and we went to work.  Like I said before, the research center doesn't have much funding, so we offered to help them out with some volunteer work.  We spent about 3 hours doing trail maintenance.  Snipping away at plants that were trying to take over the trails.  It was hot, exhausting, and backbreaking work.  But afterward, we went for a swim at coconut beach.  It was gorgeous, and we had the beach all to ourselves!  Once we got back to the boat and cleaned up, we didn't do much the rest of the day.  Relaxation is kinda nice, too, you know.  :)

Sunday, we went to work again.  This time, we were on palm frond duty.  We went around the research center, tugging down dead palm fronds and picking up ones that had already fallen to the ground.  They didn't give us a ladder or machetes, so we didn't get all of them, just the ones we could reach and that were ready to let go.  We also picked up fallen coconuts.  Not a bad way to spend a morning.

After lunch, I wanted to do some snorkeling, so we took the dinghy (and the speargun, since it was more than 1/2 mile from the research center) over to Tug & Barge rocks.  We anchored in sand and swam over to the coral.  Pretty coral heads, right next to shore, and coral growing on the side of the island itself.  Lots of fish swimming around.  Trevor spotted a lionfish.  I've been hoping to kill a few lionfish since I heard they were in the Bahamas.  Invasive and voracious, they don't belong here.  So I took a breath, dove down, and took a shot.  Missed.  Hey, those things move fast when they want to.  I dove again.  Direct hit!  But not hard enough, it slipped off and swam away.  When it came back again, I hit it harder and right in the side.  Success!  Okay, so I have this squirming fish with venomous spines ready to stab me if I touch them and put me in excruciating pain.  Now what?  I tried bashing its head on the rocks to kill it.  No luck.  We swam it back to the dinghy and scooted it down the spear.  Then Trevor unscrewed the tip and slid the fish off the pole with a towel.  Sweet!  Now we can go hunting for more.  We swam all the way around the tiny island, Trevor occasionally shooting at a passing fish.  It was a  neat place to snorkel.  Lots of fish and little coral heads all over. 

After a little while, I noticed the clouds were getting darker.  Time to head back to the boat.  We were about a mile from the mooring field, so I put the hammer down and raced to beat the rain to the boat.  Nope.  We were about halfway there when we saw the rain get to the boat.  Oh well, at least it's fresh water.  The wind chopped up the waves a little bit, but we've been in worse.  Onward, to the boat!  As we got there, the rain tapered off.  Of course.  We had left the windows open, but at least we closed the hatch over the bed.  So we had a few damp spots, but nothing serious.  I decided it was time to clean the fish.  I donned 2 pairs of gloves, just to be safe, and dug in.  I'm not very good at cleaning fish.  No one has ever taught me how to fillet.  So I'm still learning.  The fish didn't yield much meat.  But still!  My first lion fish!
My first lion fish!  Not so scary once they're dead.
Yesterday morning, we went ashore at the research center and hopped online to check the weather.  Looks okay, let's go!  So we headed out.  This time, we were taking the inside route.  No need to go back through Adderly Cut again.  Trevor dropped a line in the water to troll for fish.  Jim was nice enough to give us a lure.  And it was way better than ours!  Within 5 minutes, Trevor caught a bar jack! 
It's bigger than it looks.
Go Trevor!  We continued making our way through the shallow VPR routes, which get a little tricky around the Pimlico Cays.  And it was cloudy, so we didn't have sunlight to help us out.  But I managed.  We rounded the cays with shallows all around us, and I didn't run aground.  Right at one of the more intense parts, Trevor caught another fish.  He was down below taking something for an impending migraine, so I told him when he came back.  He pulled it in a little at a time (we were using the Cuban hand reel, because our other 2 reels have been disabled by the salt water).  Just as the fish was a few feet behind the boat, it jumped and threw the hook out.  Aw man!  Trevor was understandably disappointed.  And he had a headache.  Bummer.

Eventually, we made it back to Rudder Cut Cay.  This was the place where I had spotted a lion fish a few weeks before.  I was ready to get that sucker!  But I waited until I was sure Trevor wouldn't die from taking expired migraine meds before I left him alone on the boat.  First, I checked out the cave on the other side of the hill.  It was pretty cool.  It went farther in than our cave, but had a sandy floor with no coral.  It did have 3 holes in the roof, one of which seemed to have a cactus growing around it. 
Cactus over a cave hole on Rudder Cut Cay.
After sufficiently exploring the cave (there wasn't much to it), I went back to the boat to get my gear.  It was fishing time!  I looked where I had seen the lion fish before, but it had hidden in a hole.  I shot at it anyway, maybe hitting it, maybe just making it mad.  I went to another coral head.  There was a lionfish in there, too!  I shot at that one.  Missed.  Went back to the first coral head.  It went on like this for quite a while.  Shooting at (and occasionally hitting) one of the lion fish.  I finally managed to get the one in the second coral head.  It was a biggie.  I took it back to the dinghy and deposited it in the bucket using the same method as we did with our first lion fish.  Then I went back.  I had to get that other one!  I did manage to hit it solidly, but my spear got stuck in the rock.  No way I was going to reach in there to get it!  So I tugged and yanked and finally got the thing out, but no fish.  So I went swimming around.  I found yet another lion fish.  Shot at it a couple of times, but it was really well-protected.  Then went back to my first lion fish.  Still couldn't get it.  So I went back to the other coral head.  Hey, there's another lion fish in there!  I shot at that one a couple of times, too, but couldn't get it out.  Have I mentioned I'm not very good with the spear?  Well, I'm not bad with it, but it's very tricky to get something tucked into a crevice when there's no straight shot and all you can see is flowy fins (venomous ones, at that).  I went back to my first fish.  I poked the spear into its hidey hole, with no real hope of getting it.  Then it swam out.  I guess it was tired of me harassing it and tried to make a run for it.  But had a couple of big holes in it, so it wasn't going very fast.  I shot, missed, shot again, hit!  It was pinned to the sand, but not dead yet.  I pulled the spear back one more time and gave it a solid shot behind the head.  Dead at last.  I did a little more swimming and stabbing, hoping to get a third fish, but no luck. 
Went back to the boat and cleaned up.  Then cleaned the fish.  I was better at it this time.  And we had lion fish for dinner.  Whoa!  So delicious!  I mean, really really good!  They're a lot of work to kill (if they have good hidey holes) and clean, and they don't have much meat on them.  But boy are they tasty!  Oh, and a shark (maybe a lemon shark) showed up to munch on the morsels I tossed overboard.  Definitely wasn't a nurse shark.  Cool!  First lemon shark!

My second lion fish.
Today, we had an excellent trip back to Black Point.  We even got to sail.  Just sail.  Without the motor.  It was pretty sweet.  We got anchored by 1:15.  Not bad!  Then we came ashore and did some laundry and had cheeseburgers (DeShamon's has excellent cheeseburgers).  Not internet.  It might be the last time for a while that we have internet access.  Internet is scarce in the northern Exumas.  Then we'll be heading over to Eleuthera and eventually to the Abacos and back to Florida.  Not sure what the timeline is for all this travel, but we'll play it by ear.  And keep you informed as much as possible.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From the Tropic of Chattanooga to the Tropic of Cancer


We've been on this boat trip now for six and a half months.  According to SeaClear, we're 875 nautical miles from our home port of Chattanooga, TN (as the crow flies, if it flies in a straight line).  But we've sailed (and motored, of course) many, many more miles than that.  Two days ago, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer.  Hell yeah!  What an accomplishment!

We almost turned around at Black Point.  We would have missed so much if we'd stopped there.  We've really gotten to know and love Jim and Nancy on Amata Marie and Greg and Janice on Glenice.  We wouldn't have spent nearly as much time with them if they hadn't talked us into coming farther south.  We would have missed great snorkeling (and a lionfish) at Rudder Cut Cay, the crazy sailing (with a dead motor) the following day, the nice people at the research center and the amazing view from Perry's Peak on Lee Stocking Island, and the refuge of Elizabeth Harbor and Georgetown.  We have been in Georgetown for two weeks, and we have enjoyed it so much!  Affordable groceries, friendly locals, cheap phone calls back to the States, and excellent anchoring.  We've been hiking, spearfishing, snorkeling, swimming, working, relaxing, eating, and socializing to our little hearts' content.  It's been awesome!  And we almost turned around.

For that matter, we almost didn't come to the Bahamas at all.  I can't imagine how much we would have missed if we'd just headed up the east coast.  We've had rough times: 25-hour crossing from Bimini to the Berrys, engine troubles, and those pesky, persistent headwinds.  But we've had great times filled with gorgeous scenery, good food, and great friends. 

But you wanted a story, not a sappy recap.  So here goes.

Sunday morning, we decided to scoot down to the Tropic of Cancer.  It's only 5 miles south of here, but there's an island in the way, so we had to go about 10 or 15 miles southeast to cross that imaginary line.  Since it was their idea to go in the first place, we got Amata Marie to go down with us.  We left around 8:00; they came shortly behind us.  Instead of programming waypoints into the GPS and jumping from point to point, we just eyeballed our way down Elizabeth Harbor.  There are some shallow places and some coral reefs to watch out for, but we figured we'd be able to spot them.  But it was cloudy.  Bummer.  We did the best we could comparing GPS coordinates with the charts and trying to keep clear of obstacles.  It worked just fine for the most part.  There was a scary moment when the depth jumped from 22 to 8 feet when we ran over a coral head.  Yikes!  And by the time it shows up on the depth finder, it's too late to avoid it.  Luckily, it wasn't shallower than 8 feet, so we were okay.  But I slowed down a little and looked even harder for the dark coral heads hiding under the water.  Sunshine would have helped.  We made it out of the harbor and hoisted the main, hoping to get a little help.  We were going straight upwind.  I mean, straight into it.  There were coral reefs to avoid, so we couldn't even zigzag our way down.  And we only gained 0.3 knots filling the sail anyway.  So we just let the sail luff and motored on at our measly 3 knots.  Jim and Nancy caught up with us pretty quickly. 

Amata Marie, Jim & Nancy's CSY 44

Amata Marie, after they got tired of the main sail luffing
Eventually, we made it far enough southeast that we could turn straight south and cross the Tropic of Cancer without hitting land.  We aimed for the big, gorgeous beach and anchored just offshore.  We crossed the line!  We were officially "in the tropics".  I think it's a pretty big accomplishment to take a 27-foot boat that far south.  Go us!
It's official: We crossed the Tropic of Cancer!
We all went dinghied ashore to have lunch together.  Getting into shore was a little exciting.  The water is pretty deep right up to the beach, so the waves break two feet from shore.  We were easing our way to the beach when a wave came right up under us and tossed us onto the beach.  Inadvertent dinghy surfing!  We hopped out and used the next waves to drag the dinghy up onto the beach.  Jim and Nancy had an even more exciting trip in.  They anchored their dinghy out because it's too heavy to beach.  Nancy jumped out of the dinghy to wade to shore, but ended up chest-deep in the water.  10 minutes later we were all on the beach, but their dinghy was getting too close to the beach.  Jim got aboard to tighten the line on his stern anchor when a wave crashed right onto the dinghy, flipping him out backwards.  Fortunately, the dinghy didn't smack into him, and he had time to get away from it.  Once they got it situated, we all had lunch and enjoyed the beach. 
Beached dinghy with Earendil off in the background

Beach!  (and a cap'n)
After lunch, Nancy and I wandered up the beach to check out a wreck in the shallows.  It was pretty cool.
Wreck off the beach

Earendil and Amata Marie anchored off the beach

If you look close, you can see our boats in the background.
When we came back from our beach exploration, it was time to head back to Georgetown.  After obligatory couple shots, of course!
Awww!  We love a good beach!
So then we sailed back.  This time, the wind was straight behind us.  It was light, so we didn't pick  up much speed from it.  But it was fun to fly our big, rainbow genoa!  We were enjoying it so much, we decided to take the long way home.  Instead of going back in to Elizabeth Harbor the way we came out, we sailed all the way to the top of Stocking Island on the outside.  At one point, the depth dropped off to over 600 feet (the depth finder stops at 600, so we have no idea how deep it actually was).  Exciting!  We trolled for fish all the way back, but didn't catch anything. 

It was a long day, and we were gone almost 12 hours, but we crossed a major milestone!  And now that we've gone as far south as we're going to, I guess we're officially on our way home.  Sometime in the next couple of days, I think we're going to start our mosey north.

Oh, and yesterday we went spearfishing with Jim.  Trevor and I didn't get anything, but Jim had a very successful day!  And he's generous, so we had schoolmaster (a kind of snapper) for dinner with fried rice.  And tonight, we're going over to Amata Marie for another seafood dinner!  Yum! 

Yesterday did have a sad note, though.  Our friends Greg and Janice on Glenice headed over to Long Island for a few days.  We're not sure when they'll get back to Georgetown, but there's a good chance we'll be gone by then.  We're going to miss them terribly.  They've been such great friends on the trip.  But we'll get together with them sometime!  That's the good thing about cruisers; they're always turning up somewhere!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life is Hard Sometimes. This is Not One of Those Times.

Still in Georgetown, and I think we'll be here a while.  We're having a blast.

Saturday, we came in to town to make early Mother's Day phone calls.  (The place with cheap phone calls is closed on Sundays.)  The we did a little more grocery shopping.  We buy groceries every time we come to town.  And then we bought booze!  One of the liquor stores gives 20% off when you buy 6 bottles.  Pretty good deal on top of already cheap rum.  So we're stocked up for a bit.  For years, I think.

Before we went to town Saturday, we noticed our stuffing box was dripping every 3 seconds.  Not so good.  So in the afternoon, we decided we needed to tighten the thing.  It had been 6 months, so we were probably due for a little maintenance.  Unfortunately, it's one of those things we don't do very often, so we forget how to do it.  After loosening and/or tightening (we were never sure which we were doing, maybe that was part of the problem) for a while, we only made it worse.  I thought it might be a good idea to try to block the water from the outside.  So I put on snorkel gear and hopped in the water.  I tried garbage bags, I tried rope.  Couldn't get anything to make a good enough seal.  Finally Trevor figured out that one of the hose clamps needed a little more tightening, and he got the leak stopped.  Yay! 

While I was in the water, though, I notice some fish swimming under the boat.  I thought they looked an edible size, so I tossed a hook in the water, baited with a tiny piece of old hot dog.  And I caught one right off!  I tried again.  Caught another!  I ended up with 5 of these fish.  Of course, I had no idea what they were, just that they looked like they were in the jack family.  So I hopped in the dinghy and took the fish over to Amata Marie to see if they had any idea.  Just before I got there, Greg and Janice showed up on their dinghy.  So we all chatted for a little bit.  Apparently, Jim had fantastic luck spearfishing that afternoon.  Made my 5 little fish seem pathetic, but I was still happy to have them.  I followed Greg and Janice home to Glenice, and Janice helped me look up the fish in her fish book.  They were yellow jacks, or bar jacks.  The book said they are excellent eating.  Sweet!  So I went home and scaled and gutted them.  I wrapped them in aluminum foil with butter, garlic, and some peppers.  Trevor cooked a pasta to go with them.  We had an amazing meal!  Living large here.

Sunday, we finally got around to exploring a little bit of Stocking Island.  We took the trail up to the Monument on top of the hill.  Nice view!  Then we wandered down to the ocean side and wandered the excellent beach over there.  Totally sweet beach!  In our wanderings, we found a coconut.  Yay, our first coconut!  On our way back up the hill, Trevor smashed it on a rock enough to get the outer husk off.  When we got back to the boat, I attacked it with a hammer and screwdriver to get the water out.  Just a tiny sip, but so tasty.  Then I worked on getting the meat out.  I worked for quite a while, but I finally got it all cleaned up.  Yummy coconut!  So much work!  And since it was Mother's Day, I made pudding for our boat moms Janice and Nancy.  They're been so awesome to us on this trip, it seemed the least we could do.  They seemed pretty happy to get pudding.  Now Trevor and I are craving pudding of our own, though, so I might be cooking pudding again tonight.

Yesterday, we vaguely planned to come to town and do more shopping.  But Jim came over and said he was going spearfishing and invited us to come along.  Sure, why not?  Even if we just snorkeled, that's pretty nice.  But he let us borrow his Hawaiian sling, so we were in hunting mode.  Trevor spotted a big, red fish under a rock and pointed it out to me.  So I shot at it, and missed.  Tried again, missed again.  But it drove the fish out of its hiding place.  I got closer and shot again, and I hit it!  But the spear kinda bounced off.  Still the fish just sat there, so I shot it again, this time with more force.  And I got it!  Because we didn't want a struggling, bleeding fish in the water with us, we immediately swam it back to the dinghy, which was really far away!  We were tired by the time we got there.  But we had a fish!  Jim speared a schoolmaster and gave it to us.  And then he pointed out a flounder, and I got that one, too.  The flounder was way smaller than it looked in the water.   Everything looks bigger under water.  We all picked up and moved to another island.  Trevor got to use the spear this time.  We spotted a huge Nassau grouper (good eating!).  But it was a little deep, and Trevor couldn't get quite close enough to get a really good shot.  After the spear got close to it, the grouper hid way down in its burrow.  We were sad to miss out on a treasure like that.  But hey, we still had three fish.  We went home and cleaned up, and then realized we had been in the water for 4 hours.  We both put sunscreen on, but 4 hours in the water in the middle of the day is more than SPF 30 can handle.  So we're both burned on our backs.  Thank goodness for aloe with lidocaine.  Then I proceeded to clean the fish.  And I've come to the conclusion that while small fish are edible and make a decent meal, they are so much work I don't even want them by the time I'm finished cleaning them.  That poor tiny flounder was too small to even mess with, so I tossed it over.  Luckily, it didn't go to waste, as a big barracuda slurped it right down.  But we had an excellent dinner of fish (big-eye snapper and schoolmaster) and steak (we had to eat it since our ice was gone).  Surf and turf!  Delicious.

Today, we're back on shore again, doing some shopping and playing on the internet.  I had the best glass of lemonade!  Fresh squeezed!  So good!  Today is hot, and there's almost no breeze.  So we're enjoying the shade of this porch before we go wandering around town in search of foodstuffs. 

If anybody had a mind to come visit us in the Bahamas, this is the place to do it.  You can stay on the boat (accommodations are very small, but you're welcome to them), or there are places on shore where you can stay.  We're in Georgetown, Exuma.  The airport code is GGT.  But this is the most stationary we'll be until we get back to the States.  So come on down, the water is amazing!  Just let us know soon so we don't leave.  :)  We'd love to have visitors!

Friday, May 6, 2011

We Are Awesome, and So Is Georgetown!

Monday, we took some time to explore the trails on Lee Stocking Island.  We wandered down to the airstrip, then found the Loyalist trail that took us to Coconut Beach.  It was a typically gorgeous Bahamian beach with gorgeous white sand and crystal blue waters.  I have pictures, but can't get the uploader to work right now.  From there, we climbed Perry's Peak, the highest hill in all of the Exumas at a whopping 123 feet above sea level.  It's not very high, but it gave an amazing view!  We saw the dark blue waters of Exuma Sound (ocean side) rolling with big waves and huge white caps.  We were very happy to not be out there.  And on the other side were the calmer turquoise waters of the Exuma banks.  So pretty!  When we came back by Coconut Beach, we tried to knock coconuts out of the trees so we could eat one, but we had no luck.  We did meet a nice couple from a 25' sailboat (and their big, happy dog).  They gave us the idea of a Heli-Coil to fix our engine problem.  One of these days we'll get up to NAPA to find them, but it's about 2 miles north of town here.  After the hike, we were hot, sweaty, and exhausted.  So we went for a swim.  Of course.
Tuesday, we went on a tour of the Perry Institute for Marine Science.  It was very informative.  They do quite a bit of research there on fish and coral.  Unfortunately, they're really hurting for funds.  So if you have expendable income and want to donate it, feel free to visit www.perryinstitute.org/ .  They do good things.  They were super nice to us (even let us do some laundry!) while we were there.  So we're thinking that on our way back up the Exumas, we might stop for a few days and do some volunteer work.  With their limited funding, they don't have the resources for all the upkeep, so we might be doing some maintenance.  We're pretty handy with hammers and screwdrivers.  Seems like the least we could do after they were so helpful. 
Wednesday, we started the motor (Yay!!!) and headed out.  Instead of going out Adderly Cut where we came in a few days before, we stuck to the inside.  It was cloudy and sporadically rainy, so VPR routes probably weren't the wisest decision (you're supposed to have lots of overhead sunlight to clearly see the colors), but we managed just fine.  Rat Cay Cut was the next good cut to get out to the Sound, but I was a little uncertain about going out.  We had talked to Glenice on the VHF, and they indicated it was still pretty rolly.  So we stayed inside.  We ran over some pretty shallow waters (4', yikes), but didn't run aground.  Go us!  Eventually, we were at the end of the inside routes.  We had to either stop and anchor or head outside.  So we pulled up the main sail and headed toward Soldier Cut.  It was exciting!  Soldier Cut is narrow and shallow, with rocks on one side and coral on the other.  So if you miss the channel, your boat gets smashed in a most unpleasant way.  We managed to eyeball the channel and made it through without incident.  (Admittedly, it was a little tense for a few minutes.)  Zoom!
Then came the fun part!  Once we got outside, we were faced with the biggest waves of the trip.  (I know I keep saying this, but I do think we keep getting into bigger and bigger seas.)  We estimated there could have been 8-footers in there.  But they were rollers, and Earendil handled them just fine.  Actually, it was a really nice sail down the coast.  Gorgeous sunshine, nice breeze, deep blue waters.  Pretty sweet.  We planned to stop at the Marina at Emerald Bay, but their prices were higher than we thought.  Only $1 a foot, but with a 40-foot minimum.  $40 for a night?  And a 3-night minimum.  Nope. we're too poor for that.  So we headed on down to Georgetown.  About 2 miles from the cut into Elizabeth Harbor, Jim on Amata Marie called us to see how we were doing.  He told us where he was anchored and said there was plenty of room.  So that's where we went.
It was an odd anchoring experience.  We motored past Amata Marie, aiming for shallower water closer to shore.  But the water got deeper when we passed them.  And deeper.  Where we thought about anchoring, it was 15' deep.  15 feet!  We're used to anchoring in 6' and being able to see the bottom.  So we turned around and went back out to the shallower water.  We dropped the anchor, but I realized we were in the channel (unmarked, of course).  So we picked up anchor and moved farther in.  We managed to drop anchor in 12 feet, but it still seemed so odd.  
Yesterday, (after snorkeling for a dropped French press lid in 15' of water) we were ready to get to shore!  Cash, groceries, and ice were top items on the to-get list.  But the dinghy wouldn't start.  What now?!  Trevor worked on it, changing out the spark plug, checking the throttle and seals, and draining the carburetor.  Finally, he got the thing working.  Yay!  We think we may have gotten some water in the gas, either from ethanol (damn stupid ethanol is a terrible idea for fuel) or just bad fuel (after getting fuel at Cave Cay, both our engines have acted up - coincidence?).  Either way, it was working, so we headed to shore.  It's about a mile across the harbor, but we were going with the waves, so it wasn't too splashy.  We tied up to the dinghy dock in Lake Victoria and headed to the bank.  Yay, cash!  We checked out the main grocery store to get an idea of prices.  "We can afford this!  Yay!"  Then we wandered around town, looking for lunch.  We got pizza!  It was affordable and, while not great, very satisfying.  We were told about a J&K Enterprises, where phone calls to the US cost only 15 cents/minute.  So we found that and called my mom for her birthday.  It was so great to finally talk to my parents!  I think we're going to spend quite a bit of time making phone calls while we're in town here.  
We bought some much-needed groceries (and ICE!) and grabbed a little bit of water (free here).  Then we headed back to the boat.  And we got soaked!  This time we were going against the waves, and they were bigger than before.  So we were splashed, and so were the groceries.  Most survived okay, but our sugar got a little damp, and so did our popcorn.  But I think we'll be alright.  And we'll be going back to the grocery store a few more times, anyway.  While we bought a ton of stuff, we still need lots more.  It's amazing how low our supplies have gotten.
After getting the boat put back together, we had some drinks aboard Andros with Chris and Kevin.  They're super nice.  They have a 31' Hunter, and it's pretty awesome.  It's only 4 feet longer than our boat, but it seems twice as big.  It's very nice.  We came back home to some delicious Hamburger Helper (with real hamburger, not out of the can, and fresh onion and peppers).  It was such a treat to get real meat and real veggies.
This morning, we needed to come ashore again.  But instead of taking the dinghy all the way across, we just brought the whole boat. Our friends on Andros gave us the idea.  There's plenty of room to anchor over here, and it's a much shorter dinghy ride in.  We'll probably still get a little splashed going out, but not nearly as bad as yesterday.  And when we're done, we'll just go back to the more sheltered side of the harbor and anchor again for the night.  Trevor made some more phone calls, and now we're enjoying some free internet on a breezy porch overlooking the harbor.  Did I mention Georgetown is awesome?  Because it is.  
We're not sure how long we'll be staying here.  We have a lot of restocking to do, and there's quite a bit to explore.  And we're in no rush to leave.  We're just happy to be here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Adventures! From Black Point to Lee Stocking Island.

Where I'm blogging from. Not too shabby.

Three days ago, we left Black Point.  After getting knocked about by stronger-than-predicted wind (big surprise there) and choppy waves, we cut the trip short.  We anchored about a mile south of where we started.  The anchorage was pretty rolly, so after a little beach time, we headed back to Black Point. 
The next day, we left Black Point again.  It was much better!  The waves were tolerable.  Though the wind was in our face, it wasn't too strong, and we managed to motorsail our way down to Cave Cay, where we stopped for fuel.  We spent the last of our cash (not the last, we still have $4) on 6 gallons of diesel and one gallon of gas.  That should get us down to Georgetown.  We passed the super cute Musha Cay (adorably colorful houses and a totally sweet palm-tree lined beach) and made our way down to Rudder Cut Cay.  We anchored next to a cave!

Naturally, we had to go investigate this cave.  So we hopped in the dinghy and headed over.  There's a hole in the roof of it.  The hole lets in enough light for coral to grow in there.  It was pretty cool!  We could see blue tangs, assorted grunts, and lots of little fish swimming around.  We thought it might be worth fishing, so we headed back to the boat to grab our fishing gear and snorkel gear.  We had no luck with the fishing.  We tried to catch bait with the sabiki rig, but those little guys weren't biting.  So we anchored the dinghy outside in the sand and snorkeled in.  It was beautiful!  It looked like a garden.  It was so shallow that we didn't want to use fins and risk kicking anything, so we went barefoot.  In one of the little coral heads outside, we saw a huge lionfish.  I've read that they're all over the Bahamas, but this was the first one I've seen.  I wished so badly that we had a speargun.  They're wickedly invasive, and everyone is encouraged to kill them.  I've also heard they're crazy delicious.  So if we happen to pick up a spear gun in Georgetown, we'll have to go back to that spot and see if we can't get that lion fish.
Hole in the cave roof.
Yesterday morning, we were up early and ready to get down to Georgetown (if we could go fast enough).  But the engine wouldn't start.  Crap.  Assuming we had gotten bad fuel at Cave Cay, we changed out the fuel filters and bled the lines.  It started up and died after about 20 seconds.  Crap again.  So we bled the lines again, thinking maybe we missed a bubble.  In the process, we managed to strip out the threads in a casing where a bleed nut screws in.  Crappity crap crap!  This made it super leaky.  If fuel leaks out, then air gets in.  And the engine won't run.  We thought plumbing tape might do the trick, but we couldn't find it.  We tried duct tape.  No luck.  We tried a few other things.  Nope.  Then we remembered we're a sailboat.  Hell, let's try sailing out of here.  We won't make Georgetown, but we might get down to Lee Stocking Island. 
So we hoisted the main and lifted the anchor.  With a light wind, the boat does not go very fast with the main alone.  We managed to get out of the anchorage and into the channel toward the cut.  But with only the main, we were hardly going fast enough to even have rudder control.  So we hoisted the genoa.  Whoa!  Zoom we went!  But we were on a narrow VRP route, and we didn't have much room to maneuver.  So we tacked and tacked and tacked, zig-zagging along this little channel toward Rudder Cut.  Under sail alone, we knew we wouldn't be able to navigate those tricky VRP routes, so outside in Exuma Sound was our only choice.  With skillful tacking, we managed to zoom out of the cut into the sound.  The outgoing tidal current helped.  Ah, open water!
So we sailed the day away.  Once we were out there, it was actually pretty nice.  The waves were fairly big, but they were rollers and not choppy.  It was a great day of sailing!  We had to tack back offshore every once in a while.  On one tack, our genoa caught on one of the spreaders, and we ended up with about a 6-inch tear along a seam.  Crud.  But it didn't catch again, so we weren't too badly off.
The next tricky part came when it was time to go back to the inside.  We had to navigate another one of those narrow cuts.  The tide was coming in, so the current worked in our favor again.  I don't think we could have made it against those currents with only our sails.  So we zoomed into the cut, missing the rocky island to port, and the rocks awash at starboard.  Right on!  As we came around the western tip of the island, it was time to take down the genoa.  Then we had a headwind and nothing but the main sail.  Boy, were we going slow.  So slow I had almost no steering.  So I would turn out of the wind just enough to build up speed, then I'd tack around to where we'd want to go.  The tide was pretty high, and we were lucky to avoid running aground on a sandbar.  We managed to make our way in toward the mooring balls.  Can we sail onto a mooring ball?  We almost did!  Believe it or not, we were actually going too fast.  I luffed the sail and tried to slow down, but we were going over 2 knots as we got to the ball.  Trevor managed to grab it and hang on.  He hung on too long.  The momentum of the boat was too much to stop, and Trevor was dragged backward into a stanchion.  He let go, but not before the stanchion was broken.  (This is the second stanchion that's been broken on this boat.  I think they're poorly constructed.)  Maybe sailing onto a ball wasn't going to work.  So Trevor hopped into the dinghy and took a line over to the next ball (which I had nearly sailed to by this time, damn I'm good).  Then we tied on, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. 
We managed to make it through two cuts and (nearly) onto a mooring ball under sail alone.  It was an exhausting and incredibly frustrating day.  Our engine was dead, our sail torn, and a stanchion broken.  We both mellowed out with a cocktail.
Did I mention we spent all our cash on fuel?  Luckily, the research center here on Lee Stocking Island takes checks!  They work on donations, so we technically could have stayed for free.  But we don't mind paying for a ball, especially after the traumatic day we'd had.  And they take checks.
This morning, Trevor went in to pay for the ball and inquired about water.  They're not listed as having water available for cruisers, but we're in pretty rough shape, and they took pity on us.  We have water now!  After coffee and breakfast, it was time to work on that engine.  We'd talked to our friends on Glenice the day before, and they gave us a few more ideas to work with.
First, I tried wrapping whipping twine around the nut to make it bigger and to possibly get the thing to seal.  No go.  Meanwhile, Trevor found the plumbing tape.  I wrapped some of that around the twine.  Still not a perfect seal, but it's better.  So we added more tape.  And more.  Better, but still leaky.  Then I wrapped the plumbing tape around all the stuff, hoping to seal it off.  It was better, but the diesel seeped through the tape.  What else can we use to seal this damn thing off?  Latex gloves?  Sure, let's give that a try.  With that improvement, we managed to get the motor started, though it ran slow.  Sounded like it just wasn't getting enough fuel.  We thought if the seal wasn't perfect, the fuel pressure would be low, so that makes sense.  Then we strapped some electrical tape over the whole thing.  Didn't see any more fuel coming out, but the engine still ran slow.  But it kept running, so that was good.  Just not good enough to get us to Georgetown.  The throttle lever was pushed about as far as it would go, so there wasn't any way to get more power.  Or was there?  I thought the fuel lever on the engine looked a little odd, so I manually pushed it open.  The engine revved up.  I let it down, then pushed it back again, this time watching the lever in the cockpit.  It wasn't moving the whole way!  "Trevor, we have a problem with our throttle cable!"  He opened up the locker to look at it, and sure enough, it was off its bracket.  We turned off the motor, put the cable back in place, and started it up again.  Vroom!  It's working!!! 
So all that mess with changing the filters, bleeding the lines, stripping the bleed nut threads, and disassembling the fuel intake (forgot to mention that one) was all for naught.  Maybe.  We could have had a little water in the fuel.  We'll never know.  But now it's working!  We'll need to replace the part with the stripped threads.  Maybe in Georgetown, if there's a place we can order it.  But it's something we can fix ourselves.  No need for a mechanic!  Awesome.
Then we repaired the sail, stitching with dental floss because it's about the strongest thread we have on the boat.  Looks a little funny (minty green floss), but it works.  So 2 out of the 3 things we broke yesterday are now in working order.
We've had a good day.
The wind is going to blow pretty hard for the next few days, so we'll probably stay here.  There are trails to hike (we can get to the highest point in the Exumas), and the research center does tours on Tuesdays and Fridays.  So we're "stuck" in another great place.  And Wednesday or Thursday, we'll start heading south again.  Eventually, we'll get to Georgetown.  And then the Tropic of Cancer.
Adventures!  Some good, some bad, but always adventures!