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On March 24th we moved back aboard Freedom.  As our friends, Chris and Larry, sailed our yacht back from Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas to the marina we chose, Harbor Towne Marina, we settled into marina life.  It’s been pretty much a drag.

To catch up, the reason we are sitting in a marina in Dania Beach, Florida is entirely because of the blood clot issue in Chuck’s left leg.  After our initial appointment with the recommended vascular surgeon at Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida we were referred first to a hematologist.  The reason:  to see why Chuck’s blood was clotting.  The hematologist’s disposition:  it honestly didn’t matter why his blood is clotting, the management is the same…oral blood thinners.  Which, of course, he is already on.

A week or so later, we had to go back to the vascular surgeon for a follow up appointment.  The remaining sutures from the surgery in Nassau were removed and we were advised to stop bandaging the wounds.  Though the incisions were continuing to weep a bit, the amount was way down.  The swelling in his leg had gone down considerably over the previous weeks and the surgeon wanted these wounds to start drying out. 

Cool, so far.  All was good.  And, then he brought up the popliteal artery aneurysm   behind his left knee.

When Chuck had his surgery in Nassau the vascular surgeon indicated to us at that time that Chuck had a popliteal aneurysm behind his left knee that would need to be addressed.  He told us that because of how extensive the blood clots were in his legs that needed to be removed in the initial surgery he had decided to forego repairing the popliteal aneurysm at that time…which would have added an additional 3-5 hours onto an already five hour surgery.  However, we would need to have the issue addressed once we got back to the states he said.

Our vascular surgeon here in Florida decided it was time for us to discuss the aneurysm.  Neither of us were real happy with what he had to tell us.

A popliteal aneurysm occurs right behind the knee where the femoral artery splits into smaller arteries that continue on down into the lower leg.  With such an aneurysm, the ballooning of the artery causes a bit of turbulence inside the artery which then makes the area a prime location for a blood clot.  Should the aneurysm form a clot at this point, blood flow to the entire lower leg is cut off.  Once diagnosed, if left untreated and not repaired and the size is 2.5 cm or more, the statistics say there is a one in three chance of the patient losing their leg to amputation within five years.  The only fix: surgery.

The above paragraph is, unbelievably, almost the good news.  The bad news is that in 50% or so of patients if there is a popliteal aneurysm in one leg there is a huge chance that there will also be an aneurysm in the other leg as well as in the aorta itself!

Holy shit, this was getting entirely out of hand all of a sudden!

So,

Chuck had already been through a series of ultrasounds that had revealed and confirmed the aneurysm in his left knee, but the ultrasounds for the aorta and other knee were inconclusive.  So, he was scheduled for a series of CT scans to absolutely determine the status of his arteries not only in both legs but his aorta as well.

The result of the CT scans revealed that the surgeon in Nassau, in the opinion of our US surgeon, had done an “excellent job of restoring blood circulation” in Chuck’s left leg.  The circulation in his right leg was also very good with no signs of clots whatsoever.  There was a 2.5 cm aneurysm in his left leg.  There was no aneurysm in his right leg, nor was there an aortic aneurysm of any size or kind.  The bottom line was that with the exception of the popliteal aneurysm in Chuck’s left leg that would need to be repaired, he showed no other signs of any arterial disease.  The surgery would require a stent be inserted into the artery via an incision in his groin.  That would be the more conservative approach.  After consultation with an Internal Medicine specialist, Pulmonologist, Cardiologist and Anesthesiologist, we scheduled the surgery ASAP, it was to be May 26th.

Seven days after the surgery, there would be a follow up appointment.  Eight weeks after the first follow up appointment will be another follow up appointment.  After the first follow up, we can sail down to Key West, Cuba again if we like, Dry Tortugas, etc.  After the second follow up, we can head back out and down island.  We are already lining up crew for next Fall.

So, we asked all the right questions, did all the right research, looked at all the options, and saw all the right doctors.  Now it would be in the hands of the surgeon.  He was supposed to be one of the best, literally. 

We prayed.

On May 26th Chuck indeed had the procedure to insert a 25 centimeter long (roughly 10″) stent into his popliteal artery.  All went well…last Friday we went back for the one week follow up.  Things continue to go as anticipated.  We are now free to travel with the boat for the first time since March 10th; the next follow up appointment is in eight weeks.  Regardless of where we are, in eight weeks we will be back here for his doctor’s appointment.

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Life here in Harbor Towne Marina is not all that great.  It’s somewhat like living in a scuzzy subdivision except the home is the boat.  I dare say there are few people who would trade living on the hook for being tied up to a marina.  For the better part of four months, virtually all last winter Freedom was at anchor somewhere or the other in the Bahamas.  To go from the gorgeous water and wonderfully friendly people of the Bahamas to the somewhat industrial, power boat oriented, Harbor Towne Marina here in Dania Beach is a several orders of magnitude drop down in ambiance.  What few people we do see are not all that friendly, we are about the only live-aboards in our section, and our view is, well, the pits.  We have gone from having coffee each morning in the cockpit watching for sea turtles and admiring other boats in the anchorage…to drinking our coffee below decks and watching Perry Mason reruns on TV, preferring that over sitting in the cockpit and watching the fork lifts go back and forth into the boat storage sheds.  We’ve gone from our dinghy to a rental car.

Definitely we’ve taken a step backwards.  Both of us are fed up to the brim with our current location.  It is serving its purpose though.  It’s clean and well run.  We are fairly close to the medical facilities, at about thirty minutes.  Close to the beach, Hollywood Beach is about fifteen minutes away…Ft. Lauderdale is only a couple of miles away…grocery stores are close and handy, as are very nice restaurants.  But, the time on the boat just sucks and both of us are quite ready to leave.

One thing we did do was sell our dinghy and get a new one.  If we learned one very important thing last winter in the Bahamas in particular, and since we’ve been out this past year and a half it’s the importance of a good, dependable dinghy.  Our old dink had a rock solid 2-stroke Yamaha 15hp outboard; it started on the first crank virtually every time.  The Yamaha set on a West Marine 11’6” RIB…that was less than adequate.  The RIB was heavy, too long, and had a leak in it we couldn’t seem to ever fix.  Chuck and I both being pretty hefty people, the rig was just too damn slow.  It just didn’t work for us at all, from the get-go.  We put an advertisement in Craig’s List and a sign on it at the marina.  Within a couple of weeks we got a good offer and it was gone…and we were glad it was gone.

We replaced the old dink rig with a new, cooler and faster rig.  It’s an AB, 10’6” Mares Series, with a 30hp Honda outboard…molded console, navigation lights, bilge pump, electric start, power tilt.  It’s two years old, used, but we got it for a great price.  Compared to the old dink, the new one is a sports car…it flies.  We put it in the shop right off to have the engine tuned up, looked over, etc.  But, it should be exactly what we need, albeit, twice as heavy.

One might ask why we intend to sail down to Key West and spend the summer there, in yet another marina?  Well, it’s almost the lesser of two evils.  Here in Harbor Town, we are probably at least an hour away from the Atlantic and a place to sail.  Any anchorages are in the ICW, not really an improvement.  It’s congested, bat-out-of-hell drivers in heavy traffic, less than the most friendly people on Earth, and little to do that doesn’t kind of end up sooner or later a pain in the ass.

Down in Key West, Stock Island Marina in particular, we know a few people.  The marina has liveaboards in it, people are friendly.  One is mere minutes away from the Florida Straits, Key West is a hoot, traffic is light and motor scooters are cheap, Marathon is close, Cuba is a day sail one way, Dry Tortugas is a day sail one way as well…the water is prettier.

So, if we are going to have to spend the summer here in Florida, continuing to recuperate, we’d rather do it in Key West than here in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.  This area is not bad (beats the living hell out of Texas for damn sure) but we’d prefer to live in Key West.

However, though we are free to travel, unfortunately that doesn’t mean we can.  Why?  Why, the weather, of course, what else.

We are smack dab in the middle of south Florida’s rainy season.  Every single day for the next 14 days, according to the long range forecast, there is anywhere from a 50% – 90% chance of thunderstorms.  It’s the same for every station we check in the Keys…Key Largo, Marathon, and Key West.  Every morning for the past ten days we have woken up and gone to sleep at night to the sound of rain.  Asking the locals around here about the weather they tell us if the weather holds to the norm we can count on the next three or four weeks being as it’s been for the past two or so…rain and thunderstorms.

So…we aren’t going anywhere soon.

Not going anywhere soon has become an issue of sorts as of late.  Not insurmountable, but worthy of regrouping.  The reason:  our new dinghy.

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Our new dink is way cool.  But, it’s also weighs considerably more, at about 450#, than the old one, and it is this added weight that requires consideration.

We have davits.  And, the davits are adequate to lift the new dink.  We know the davits will haul the new dink because we have tried to do it; they will work.  But, they really are not adequate to launch the new dink like we’d like to.  As well, we are going to throw in the towel on a bit of solar energy as well.  In short, we are going to have new davits made and think we may use a fabricator our friend Justin Smith used.  If we do use that fabricator, we have to get further down in the Keys…another reason we need to get down to Key West.

However, if the weather is going to have us marooned here in Dania Beach for the next month, we might just hang here for a while and have the dink davits fabricated here.  Over our daily walk today we decided to at least get a couple of quotes on what we want from local fabricators here in the Lauderdale area while we are waiting.  Can’t hurt.

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Cracking up at the Chat and Chill the weekend before Chris left us.

 

Internet service in the Bahamas being what it is, sketchy at best, anyone who regularly reads this blog can readily see that the past two posts here have been rushed.  That has been to simply catch up the blog in a fairly brief manner.  We are now back in the US, Harbor Town Marina in Dania Beach/Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to be exact.  Below is why we are here.

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Our Bahamas courtesy flag upon being removed when Freedom left.  Not really indicative, but showing the wear of a season of winter blows in the Exumas.

On Wednesday, March 2nd, overnight as we slept, and sleeping as Chuck and I do, with our feet intertwined, I most assuredly noticed that Chuck’s left leg was cold.  It wasn’t cool, it was cold…so cold that during the night when I noticed it I asked him if he’d been sleeping with that leg from beneath the cover.  He mumbled something, and the both of us went back to sleep.  The next day I remarked how cold his leg had felt the night before and how in the almost ten years we’ve been sleeping together, always with our feet and lower legs together, I’d never, ever felt his leg cold like that.  As we breakfasted, I felt his leg with my hand and it was still ice cold.  He said he didn’t know why it was cold, it didn’t hurt, he said, and we essentially blew it off.

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Compass Cay and Black Point Settlement

Having topped off our fuel tanks the day before at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, on January 18th we brought up the anchor and set sail eight miles or so north to Compass Cay, a harbor known for its nurse sharks.  Chuck and Chris wanted to swim with them.  I wanted to get in the water with them as well, but moderate pain in my lower stomach at the site of a previous surgery was to prevent me from doing so. That pain has since disappeared but for almost a week it drove me nuts so I neglected to sit the excursion out.

Note:  Staniel Cay Yacht Club is not a yacht club at all, but a restaurant/bar/fuel dock.

The motor up to Compass Cay was uneventful.  We anchored out from the relatively shallow harbor.  The boys dropped the anchor and made the mile or so dinghy ride into the marina there.  I fished under crystal clear skies and in gin clear water…not a bite.

A couple of hours later the guys returned with great stories of their visit with the most gentle nurse sharks.

We upped anchor and headed back south to Black Point Settlement, the trip took a couple of hours and was less than twenty nautical miles.  By 1515 hours the anchor was back down.  Black Point Settlement is touted as the second most populated place in the Exumas, behind Georgetown.  We will take their word for it, we never left the boat…for the next morning we were headed out to Georgetown.

 

Georgetown

January 19th at 0830 hours we pulled anchor and headed to Georgetown.  Black Point Settlement is where we jumped over from the shallow Exuma flats on the east side of the Exumas, to the much deeper Exuma Sound on the west.

I put out a fishing line and then went below and read for much of the eight hour or so trip on down to Georgetown, 53 nautical miles.  An hour or so before our arrival I went topsides and found my line had been taken in.  I put it back out and within a few minutes got a huge strike.  One that snapped my line and took my lure.  Bummer.

We were happy to get to Georgetown.  Georgetown is the most populated area in the Exumas, an international airport, grocery stores, fuel, medical clinic, etc.  We were happy to get there for two reasons: my stomach pain was still in play and somehow Chuck had twisted his right knee…there was medical service in Georgetown.  Since arriving in Georgetown my stomach pain, and Chuck’s knee resolved.

Our arrival at St. Elizabeth’s Harbor behind Stocking Island was uneventful, by 1630 hours our anchor was down just off of the Chat and Chill, a local hangout for cruisers, a bar and grill located on the beach.  No sooner than the anchor was set a dinghy from the ketch behind us motored up and welcomed us to the harbor, Art and Allyson.  It was a great greeting, somewhat typical of the locations we’ve been to so far.  Art and wife were headed off the next day to the Turks and Caicos Islands; a day, night, and another day sail south. 

Just before dark we dropped the dinghy and motored to the beach for a grilled meal of fresh Mahi Mahi, slaw, and French fries…and a celebratory beer or two.

Georgetown was somewhat of a milestone mark for us.  It is traditionally the jumping off point for those headed on south to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic for cruisers headed for the eastern Caribbean, of which we were one.  The multiple anchorages in and around Georgetown are known, at least in the cruiser’s guides, as Chicken Harbor or Turnaround Harbor.  The name is based on the fact that many cruisers bent on going further south into the Caribbean chicken out and turnaround here.  Instead, they go back north or east and flush their plans to go south into the more challenging weather and seas…either staying in the Bahamas or even heading back to the states.  Our plans were not to turn around.

It’s easy to get attached to this area.  The harbors and anchorages are protected from bad weather for the most part, there is virtually anything one might want in the nature of boat provisioning and such, friendly locals and cruisers, and generally just a cool place.  They have an active cruiser’s net on every morning at 0800 hours on VHF 72 with any information one might need.  According to that net, there were roughly 165 boats in the harbor as of this morning.  That changes daily as new boat arrive and depart daily…mostly arriving for the Cruisers Regatta…ten days of festivities.

After removing the starboard stern rail from our boat and having it repaired on the second day there, we’ve just kicked back and enjoyed the area.  Our friends Rod and Joe arrived a couple of days ago and that was a lot of fun.  Joe’s vessel, SV Happy Destiny, left this morning.  It will probably be the last time we see them for quite a while.  Their plans were never to go much further south than Georgetown.  Today they were headed east to Long Island and then more or less north through the Eleutheras and then even further north to the Abacos…before eventually heading back to the States. 

We met Rod and Janet on our Cuba trip where they were on their boat…just great people.  Then we ran into Rod in Bimini where he was crewing for his friend Joe, the owner of Happy Destiny.  Since then, we hop-scotched around them several times, running into them in Nassau, Leaf Cay, Staniel Cay, and here in Georgetown.  Just a lot of fun to be around them both.

As uneventful and laid back as the area of Georgetown has been we did have one near miss of sorts.  On Monday night most of the Stocking Island crowd cleared out to other anchorages in anticipation of winds gusting to the 50-60 knot range.  We stayed, feeling we had good holding.  Initially, we did.  The winds and seas never piped up to the range that was forecast in this area, but they did blow consistently in the 20-25 knot range with the occasional gust to 30 on Monday afternoon.  Late that same afternoon the winds seemed to be decreasing.  After a vigilant afternoon we retired below decks for dinner and a movie.

As the rather crappy movie was ending and the credits rolling, just after good dark, we checked our anchor…all appeared well and the boat was riding good on the hook.  But, a mere few minutes later we were somewhat shocked to feel the boat bumping off the bottom.  We were aground.

Going into major overdrive, we quickly ascertained the anchor had let go and we were dragging in 6’5” feet of water…we draw 6’8”…and we were beam to the seas…not good.  Starting the engine and using the anchor windless and bow thruster to get our bow into the seas, we manage very quickly to get off of the shoal and back out in the harbor to reset our anchor.  It was a very exciting twenty minutes or so, however.  When we got the anchor up it turns out that it was one big mass of sea grass and muck. 

We reset our anchor considerably further out in the harbor, with more scope.  We also established an anchor watch with someone in the cockpit for the remainder of the night.  Even so, we dragged anchor a second time around 0100 hours…about sixty feet it dragged before it set itself.  The winds never got above about 35 knots.

We actually foresaw this possible anchor drag scenario and Chuck and I discussed moving the boat further out from the beach earlier in the day, however, we decided to forego the exercise and PITA of moving.  After all, we’d held anchor in much stronger winds and seas in Staniel Cay, we thought to ourselves.  Well, live and learn, we won’t make the same mistake again of, truthfully, being too lazy to give ourselves adequate sea room should our anchor drag.  Life’s a carnival…

Our plans are to reprovision our boat over the weekend and refuel.  At the first weather window, we anticipate continuing south, most probably, to the Dominican Republic.  We will see.

Nassau to Allan’s Cay

Our stay in Nassau was actually not much, punctuated only by our visit to the Atlantis Resort.  And, for us anyhow, even Atlantis wasn’t all that, offering up only a very fine aquarium and their casinos.  After our water maker was installed and proven the only thing keeping us there was the weather.  At the first window of opportunity we planned to leave.  The first good weather would see us off to the Allan’s Cay-Highborne Cay area, and the Exumas.

On December 28, 2016 at 0632 hours and slack tide, we slipped our lines and headed out of Nassau Harbor for the 60-70 mile cruise to the Highborne Cay area of the Northern Exumas.  Chuck was at the helm.  Our course would take us initially west and then south around Providence Island before then turning east and the crossing of the Exuma Banks.  For those who don’t know, the Exuma Cays split two bodies of water:  the shallow (except for the Tongue of the Ocean) Exuma Banks to their east, and the very deep Exuma Sound on their west.  All of the water very near the myriad island is extremely shallow.  Nonetheless, the Exuma Banks offers miles and miles of 15’, more or less of open water, and great cruising.

It was a beautiful day with ESE winds just under 10 knots, seas were less than a meter, as we made the turn around Providence Island.  The waypoint marked on our chartplotter approaching, Chuck turned the helm over to me.  I nicked the waypoint and then made the turn east, following our route set to miss both the White Banks and, a bit further, the Yellow Banks, a shoaling area just South of Nassau.

…and then the chartplotter lost its signal.  Temporarily at least, we were sailing blind, only by compass…with about 5.5 hours to go to our anchorage.

Now, it wasn’t as bad as it might seem, after all, all GPSs lose their signal acquisition at times.  In fact, on our passage from Alicetown to Chub Cay we lost our GPS four or five times…but it reacquired the signal within a few seconds or so.  However, make no mistake, when one’s primary chartplotter is out that’s not a good thing.  In this case, we fully expected it to grab the signal momentarily. 

But, it didn’t.

Not to worry.  We have two Garmin chartplotters on board, as well as two independent copies of OpenCPN…one cell phone that could be used in a pinch, paper charts along with two hand held VHF radios giving us latitude and longitude, the Iridium GO and Delorme trackers, etc.  We were anything but lost.  But, losing the primary chartplotter that’s right in front of the wheel was majorly inconvenient.  I continued at the helm, bearing off to the south (to clear the White and Yellow Banks ahead) navigating by compass until Chuck and Chris got the backup OpenCPN on our PCs up and running.  Once up, we set one of the PCs in the cockpit and navigated with it.

The primary chartplotter in the cockpit never did acquire a signal.  The Garmin primary chartplotter, the Garmin backup down below at the nav table, and the AIS are all connected to a network and talk to each other.  The AIS and Garmin primary chartplotter both have separate external antennas.  For several reasons, we suspected we had an issue with the primary chartplotter’s antenna.

After we were back to a stable state, I turned the helm over to Chris and went below to read.  While I was below, Chuck disconnected our secondary Garmin GPS down below from the network; it instantly acquired the GPS signal.  Unlike the primary Garmin, the secondary Garmin has its own internal antenna…it acquiring gave further credence to our having an external antenna issue with the primary unit.  About five miles out of Allan’s Cay, I took the helm again to make the entrance into our anchorage.  With the Bluetooth headsets we have Chuck, from down below, steered me expertly into the anchorage.  At 1550 hours we entered the anchorage, fifteen minutes or less later the anchor was securely set.

Our anchorage was actually between two cays, Allan and Leaf.  As it turned out, we were anchored a hundred yards or so from SV Happy Destiny, the boat our friend Rod Casto and, his friend, Joe were on.  They anchored a couple of hours ahead of us.  Though the anchorage was quite protected from everything but north winds, there was a significant tide swing twice a day.

The next day we dropped the dink and went exploring.  Leaf Cay is known as being quite infested with iguanas.  Harmless as can be, the iguanas come to the beach for food handouts from the other cruisers and numerous tourist boats that travel the 35 miles or so from Nassau to see and feed them.  It’s pretty cool.

On the third day there, when two smallish motor yachts left the anchorage, we decided to move to a better spot, more in the middle of the field instead of quite close to the ironshore of both cays.  On the horizon were dark clouds directly to our north and our weather indicated a front with high northerly winds would be approaching.

Chuck and Chris coordinated this move with no input from me.  I wasn’t happy with their efforts at all.  No less than three times they dropped the hook and re-positioned the boat.  By the time they finally settled on a spot we were hit by the first squall line…and the tide changed.  The winds jumped from a leisurely eastish 8 knots to right out of the north at 25-30.  The boat hung beam to the winds and two foot or so chop, the tide not strong enough to swing the stern around and the bow into the wind.  They rigged a riding sail of sorts on the stern to help swing it around…a useless effort in my opinion.  I wasn’t happy.  The orientation of the boat did not change until the tide flooded. 

Other than the iguanas, there really wasn’t that much there.  We swam one day, but with the strong tidal current it wasn’t much fun.  Within a couple of days we were ready to go.  It would be three days before the front cleared and the wind clocked around to the east. 

We spent New Year’s Eve in the Allan’s Cay anchorage, anxious for Tuesday to come.  During that time we isolated the primary chartplotter’s issue as well as our auto helm.  Both had loose connections.

 

From Allan’s Cay to Staniel Cay

With our GPS up and the auto helm working, we raised the anchor at 0830 on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017.  I eased us off the hook and out of the anchorage.  When we reached the first of our preprogrammed waypoints I turned the helm over to Chuck.  There was a squall or two during the morning but otherwise another day in paradise.  The wind, as always it seems, was straight on the nose.  We never raised a sail.  I read most of the day.  The GPS gave our ETA around 1545 hours.

Again, about five miles out from out last route waypoint, I went topsides and relieved Chris; I would bring us into the anchorage.  They were expecting near gale force winds over the weekend at Staniel Cay and I wasn’t about to go through another anchoring fiasco like Allan Cay if avoidable.   I suppose it’s a control thing.  Though, truthfully, no one can drive our boat as good as I can…not bragging, just fact.

With Chuck on the bow with one headset and me at the helm with the other, we eased Freedom between numerous other yachts and into the main anchorage at a cay adjacent to Staniel Cay known as Big Major’s Spot, just off of Pig Beach.  One pass and the anchor was down and set. 

Pig Beach is a beach similar to the iguana beach on Leaf Cay.  Except for iguanas, they have pigs.  It’s a tourist attraction, just like Leaf Cay.  Boats go to the beach to feed the wild, but tame, domestic pigs.  When the dinks and runabouts beach, the pigs come running.  Touristy, but cool as well.  Like Leaf Cay, once one has spent about a half hour there, you’ve seen it all…forever.  Short trip, short visit, and then that’s it, the novelty is over.

After we were anchored, the dink went into the water.  A dinghy is like a yachts car.  You get wherever it is by yacht, then drop the dink to go to shore, explore, etc.  Dinks are very important…if there is no marina it is the only way to get to shore.  At Allan and Leaf there was nothing but the cays.  But, here at Staniel there is civilization or sorts, a couple of restaurants, a couple of bars, an airport with regularly scheduled flights, etc.  We all looked forward to going ashore.

Once started, Chris and Chuck decided to honk on over to the fuel dock and check things out.  I watched them motor away…and then get clobbered by a rainstorm.  LOL  Back I saw them coming.  No sooner did the squall subside than off they were again.  I went below and started to get dinner prepared.  An hour or so later I was surprised to see them in the cockpit.  Surprised because I didn’t hear the motor as they came up.  Turns out that just out a piece, the outboard lost water circulation; they shut it down.  And, then had to row back to the boat.  Poor guys.

We had a box of Yamaha spare parts but had no idea if we had another water pump impeller or not.  Chuck decided to not even look until this morning, choosing to put off any potential disappointment for another day.

This morning, the outboard spares were isolated and indeed there was a spare impeller in the lot.  However, once they got to the water pump it turned out that the only problem was sand that had blocked it up.  They flushed the sand, reassembled the lower unit, and the motor ran fine.  They just left to attempt check out Staniel again.

All is well.

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Fort Montagu, where John Wells introduced us to Commander Tellis Bethel.

 

From the previous post, one can see that we’ve a water maker issue.  It has to be replaced.

Our boat came with a 40 gph water maker.  For those reading this that may not be in the know, a water maker takes salty sea or unpotable water and forces it under high pressure through a membrane and, through the process of reverse osmosis (RO), produces pure drinkable water.  The membrane filters everything out of the undrinkable supply except water molecules…dirt, sand, bacteria, minerals, everything.  The technology has been around a long time to do this.

On a boat that is cruising, there are only a few ways to obtain pure potable drinking water.  One can carry it on board, of course there is a limit to how much they can take…in our case, 80 gallons.  A boat can also catch rain water, an iffy proposition depending on if it rains or doesn’t.  One can buy it at a port of call.  Or, one can make it themselves on board with an RO water maker.  As the body can’t live without it, pure drinkable water is a way big thing with cruisers.

Many cruisers have water makers on their boat; many don’t.  Some are quite content to carry an exceedingly small amount of water on board with them.  Others have fairly large water tanks on board.  Conserving water while on board is always a big thing, water maker or not.  But, having a water maker on board greatly increases one’s comfort.  Showers, for instance…not really an option for a boat that only carries 80 gallons of water and has to pay to refill the tank each time they run out. 

Many pride themselves in how little pure water they use, and their minimalist approach is admirable.  But, once one goes down the minimalist rabbit hole, all sorts of other things could also be eliminated…like an auxiliary engine, navigation by sextant instead of by chartplotter, auto helms, etc. none of which are absolutely necessary to sail or cruise.  Where does one draw the line?  For us, we want a water maker.  And, the long and short of it is the water maker that was on our boat was antiquated and unusable without essentially rebuilding it from scratch.  In North Bimini, when ours petered out, we chose to keep whatever salvageable part we could as spares, and spring for a brand new unit.  We chose a Technautics unit from the same vendor we used when we replaced our refrigeration.

In Bimini, we called the company and purchased the unit.  We arranged for it to be shipped to the marina we had reservations for in Nassau, Harbor Central Marina.  It was shipped out within a day or so from California; our tracking number indicated it would be delivered in the Bahamas at the marina this past Monday, day before yesterday, December 19th.

Now, something the average person in the States seldom ever, often never, has to deal with is custom duties.  If one goes out of the country on vacation and upon coming back they bring too much of what is allowed, they might have to pay a duty on the gifts and souvenirs.  And, in the States, the limit of what one can bring into the country from another is not all that high – a couple of hundred dollars or so – before US Customs will charge them a duty.  And, the same applies when entering a foreign country from the US…immigration/customs will ask if you have anything to declare?  If it’s more than what that country allows you either pay the duty or forfeit the goods.  It’s generally a pretty straight forward proposition.  But, being on a boat can be another story.

Over the weekend, our tracking number for the water maker indicated the unit was in Nassau and indeed would be delivered to the marina last Monday.  Early Monday afternoon, we received a phone call from DHL, the shipper who handled getting the unit from California to Nassau.  They politely told us the water making unit was in their facility here in Nassau and they would gladly deliver it to the marina…after we paid a $2,000 duty!

Yikes!  We weren’t expecting that, for sure.  And, here’s why.

In some countries a foreign flagged vessel can import replacement parts for their vessel and no duty is charged…the Bahamas is one of those countries.  There are only two conditions to be met in order to be declared exempt from the Bahamas’ import duty.  One, the vessel must have entered Bahamian water legally and have a valid cruising permit.  And, the other is that the boat must be in transit to another country.  We satisfied both of those requirements.  And, though not really a requirement, it is suggested, though not required, that a copy of one’s cruising permit be in the shipment, as well as the packages labeled “Repair Parts for Boat In Transit.”

Well, needless to say, we pushed back.  We informed the DHL shipper of the Bahamian law that applied and politely, though firmly, indicated we had no intention whatsoever of paying the $2,000 duty.  The DHL agent requested we email him a copy of our cruising permit and he’d “check into it.”  He’d let us know his disposition the next day.

The DHL agent’s response and actions didn’t quite do it for us; we weren’t comforted at all.  As is often the case with cruisers, we turned to the internet for assistance.  I put out posts on three Facebook groups I belong to explaining the situation and requested information and help regarding our situation.  Comments started to pour in almost immediately.  All were appreciated but most of the comments simply boiled down to “they can’t do that.”  But, one post stood out.  From the Seven Seas Cruising Association FB page came the following post:

“Call John Wells, 242-465-3243, Tell him Capt. Gil said to call. He will probably charge you a few hundred bucks to act as your ships agent but it’s better than a couple grand.  I just spoke to him, he’ll take you to pick it up.”

Enter Bahama John…

Around 0900 on Tuesday, we called John Wells.  Without hesitation, and with no additional information, he said he’d pick us up at the marina at 1000 hours.  He showed up exactly on time and he and my husband left.  Less than two hours later he and Chuck returned with our new water maker.  We paid no duty.  We did, however, have to pay a $400 Value Added Tax (VAT).  We were told we could even have the VAT waived if we kicked and screamed long enough.  But, considering there was no US Tax on the purchase, we decided to leave well enough alone; we paid the VAT, obtained a customs receipt, grabbed our water maker, and returned to the boat.  John charged us $90 for the hour and a half of his time and him furnishing the transportation.  John told us, “The shippers are always trying to pull something like that.”  We called the day a success.  Our $5,100 water maker ended up costing $5,600, instead of $7,600. 

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Commander Tellis Bethel

 

John (Bahama John) Wells, whose name and phone number I have permission to give out, was in every good and great sense of the word, a character.  A real gentleman who seemingly knew everybody on Providence Island (Nassau).  Later in the day, we arranged for him to give us a two hour tour of the area in his minivan.  He was a wealth of information.  There wasn’t a person we ran into that didn’t know who he was, including Tellis Bethel, the Commander of the entire, albeit small, Royal Bahamas Defence Force.  Commander Bethel, whom we met, was exceedingly polite and friendly as well, taking the time to give us a printed poster of the Bahamas from his car and explaining to us his efforts to have the water around the Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos renamed the Lucayan Sea, in honor of the indigenous people who first settled the area in 600 AD.  There was no doubt that Commander Bethel and John were very good friends, first name basis and all.  We were told that though the Defence Force was quite cordial and friendly to cruisers, should they board our boat and we were not treated with dignity and respect, we should not hesitate to call the Commander.  We won’t.

Meanwhile, Chuck and Chris are installing the water maker.  Weather doesn’t look particularly promising after tomorrow, so we might be here through the weekend and Christmas.  Our friends, Justin Smith and his girlfriend, Sher are on their way to Nassau from Hoffman Cay, in the Berry Islands.  Expecting them in this afternoon.  It’s Sher’s birthday and they asked us to go over to Paradise Island for a couple of hours of gambling at the Atlantis Casino.  I can’t wait.

The weather dictated we should leave Alive Town on Tuesday, December 13th.  We’d have three days to cross with ease from Alice Town, first to Chub Cay, and then on to Nassau.  However, on Monday evening when we tried to make water, our water maker took an unrepairable dump.  It was not wholly unexpected, the water maker was probably at least twenty-five years old.  Several options were discussed, including hopping back across the Gulf Stream to Ft. Lauderdale to both purchase and install a new one…I lobbied hard not to choose that option and, thankfully, prevailed.  Instead, the decision was made to use our fairly good internet service in Alice Town to arrange for a new water maker to be shipped from California to Nassau’s Harbor Central Marina where we intended to take on fuel and spend a few days anyhow.  After spending all day Tuesday, we successfully tackled the logistics of making that happen.  Our 20 gph water maker was set to arrive sometime on Monday, December 19th from Technautics , the same vendor we used for our two refrigeration units.

After another delightful meal at the Big Game Club Marina restaurant, in which we were pleasantly surprised to run across our friend Rod Casto (he, his wife Janet, and friend Chuck sailed to Cuba together last May)…we set our alarms for 0600 Wednesday morning to head out.

NOTE: 

I’m not much at all for clichés and cute, overused nautical phrases.  The “cruiser’s lifestyle” sort of irks me, for example.  But, many of them are as true as tea.  One particular one that applies, whether I like it or not is that “Cruising is nothing more than about fixing your boat in exotic locations.”  It’s an inescapable and undeniable fact.  Boats, no matter the age or the condition, break…regularly.

At 0630 we started the engine and almost immediately noticed it was running a bit hot.  Turns out the sea chest strainer was somewhat clogged; we cleaned it out quickly and at slack high tide, 0730 we eased the dock lines and made our way out of the channel.  Good bye Bimini, Captain Husband was at the wheel.

As we rounded North Rock, a reef with light, that sits at the north end of North Bimini, I took over the helm.  Chuck mentioned to me that the auto helm was “acting crazy.”  That was understatement, it would not hold course at all, evidently due to getting some sea water on it the night before as we massaged our leaking,  creaking, failing water maker; the auto helm’s computer module sit right next to it.  So, we hand steered the beast across the Bahama Banks, a somewhat tiresome affair on a yacht the size of ours.

The auto helm issue aside, the eighty-seven nautical mile run to Chub Cay was a great day on the water.  The seas were flat; the wind was light.  We set the genoa and staysail and popped along at almost eight knots the entire time.  Mid to late morning I turned the helm over to Chris before reclaiming it around 1500 hours.  Shortly afterwards the auto helm miraculously started to work again, a good thing.  It was to be a night entrance to Chub, but the moon was completely full, an exceedingly easy approach.  By 2030 hours the anchor was set and we all enjoyed a couple of beers in the cockpit before turning in for the night.  Another 0600 alarm time was established for departure on to Nassau.

At 0600 we were awake, by 0630 the anchor was up and we were on our way, again with genoa and staysail only flying.  Five hours and thirty-eight nautical miles later and we were refueled and in our slip at Harbor Central Marina, in Nassau Harbor…which is where we sit as I type.

Harbor Central Marina is not really one of the best we’ve stayed at.  Though we had reservations, we had a choice of three slips to berth in.  All of them were designed for 30’-35’ long boats, at most.  There were other sufficient slips available that our boats would have more easily fit into but no matter how much we tried we were unable to persuade the two very young Bahamian ladies in charge to let us dock in them.  There advertised internet service has been down for weeks with no indication when and if it will be back, if at all.  There are no dock hands.  They never answered their VHF as we approached.  The showers are marginal.  Overall service would be rated one star and even then we’d be generous.  But, there is free and very fast internet at the small restaurant, Green Parrot, next door, a half block walk maybe.  So, we are thankful.  The boat is tied up and we are safe and sound.

Note: 

Most of the time I drive the boat…particularly when docking and undocking.  There’s no particular reason for that really.  Things have just sort of evolved that way in all these years we’ve sailed together.  Make no mistake, Chuck is quite capable of driving the boat, after all, he had six sailboats before we met each other, and we’ve had two together since then.  But, specifically with the beast, our Tayana 52, he has only docked the boat twice in the over three years we’ve had her. 

Now, to both me and him, there’s no glory whatsoever in being the one at the helm.  Being at the helm when at sea is really nothing more than scanning the horizon and monitoring the chartplotter (navigation, radar, AIS), auto helm and engine instruments.  Docking and undocking in a marina one is not familiar with is a bit different, however.  Though there is some stress on both of us when bringing Freedom into a marina we’ve never been into before, the pucker factor goes way up on the one at the helm during that exercise.  Our boat is big, heavy, and ungainly when slowly maneuvering in a marina, even with the bow thruster.  Throw in a howling wind and ripping current and it’s, well, downright exciting, though not particularly in a good way.

Before we left Key West, Chuck and I agreed, without actually talking about it, we’d alternate helming the docking and undocking efforts.  As I’d taken on the docking in Key West, I brought us out of the Safe Harbor channel when we left.  Chuck took us into Bimini, and out.  I took us into Chub Cay, and out.  It was Chuck’s turn to take us into Nassau Harbor…and out, when we leave.

My poor guy had a fairly rough time docking at Bimini.  Even with calm winds, there was a slight current at the dock which, unfortunately, he didn’t read.  However, there was a dock hand available to assist us at least.  In Chub Cay I took the boat into and out of an anchorage, sort of a piece-of-cake thing.  

In Nassau, however, it was Chuck’s turn to handle the docking and conditions, though not all that bad, were not all that good either.  The wind was gusting off the port quarter at 10-15 knots, but the current was ripping straight into the slip we were assigned, and there were no dock hands.  The very short finger pier ended forward of our mast, pilings midships and aft, both port and starboard.

After an admittedly easy and picture perfect dock along the fuel dock, and then unable to convince the marina staff to give us a berth with a longer finger pier, after considering the wind and current, Chuck chose (rightfully in my opinion) to enter our assigned slip bow to.  As there were no dock hands, I elected to handle the lines from the dock, as Chuck and Chris eased from the fuel dock and approached the slip.  Chuck expertly lined up on the slip and brought the boat in, with the current dead on the stern.  We got a quick bow line on before quickly securing the stern lines to the two pilings on either side of the stern…then the midships spring lines.  Though not a difficult dock per se, it was wasn’t an easy one either.  We danced a delicate ballet from point to point fighting both wind and current in an effort to prevent the midget of a fixed finger pier from damaging our cap rails.  Thankfully, we have strong, study rub rails.  It wasn’t particularly pretty, but sometimes it never is.  Adequate length finger piers would have made the dock a no brainer.

As Gulf Coast sailors, current is something that very seldom comes into play…not so, here in the Caribbean.  We have next to no experience dealing with ripping currents.  Believe me, we are learning to deal with it quickly.  Docking is never an issue of just getting to the dock and secured.  It’s always an issue of getting to the dock and secured without tearing your, or someone else’s, boat up.

 

I certainly don’t scour the internet for sailing and cruising blogs but there are a couple that I follow…three, in fact.  Of the three, one of them has solicited donations via PayPal from the start, or at least since I’ve been reading it.  The other two wrote blog posts several years ago specifically stating their disdain for such blogs, seemingly appalled that someone would have the nerve to ask their readers to support their cruising…posts much longer but very similar to this very one here.  A few months ago, I happened to notice that both of those blogs now have PayPal or some other form of internet payment means (often more than one) and actively solicit donations. 

“Please support our efforts and the ability to continue posting content of our cruising lifestyle on the internet.  It takes a lot of time, money, and equipment to make these posts.  In order for us to continue we need your financial support, no matter how little or much you’d like to contribute so that we can buy new equipment and continue bringing you the quality videos and blog post you’ve come to enjoy.  Since you’ve been contributing to our cruising kitty we managed to buy a couple more cameras, underwater housings, mounts, lights, batteries, microphones, a new laptop and video editing software.”

…or something to that effect.  Sounds a bit like an evangelical preacher begging for money when they already live in a ten million dollar home to me.

Needless to say, we don’t contribute. Our idea of charity doesn’t include helping others support their travels, or lifestyle, if that dreaded word is more to your liking.

And, though it is a bit time consuming to put together a decent blog post, and even more if one wants to produce a video, my site here on WordPress doesn’t cost one red cent and no special equipment is necessary.  I use either our Nikon DSLR or my iPhone for the photos.

I fully realize that some are not as fortunate as perhaps we are.  I also understand and respect anyone that has the drive to make a buck.  But, it seems more than a bit pompous and presumptuous for all of these people to assume that their blogs and vblogs warrant anyone paying for it, or that their particular content is really any different than anyone else’s.  Believe me, or check for yourself, there are hundreds and hundreds of sailing and cruising blogs out there just like the three I follow…posting essentially the same content, the same photos and same videos, often shot from the same vantage point.  Truthfully, though we shoot a lot of photos, that is one of the reasons my blog posts don’t have more photos…everyone would have already seen them.

I’m not trying to be a horse’s patoot here.  If one wants to contribute to a blog they follow or like, for whatever reason, then by all means do so.  But, for us, we’re not interested in helping buy new camera gear, computers, etc for a cruiser because in their eyes they are the next up and coming Cecil B. Demille offering up a veiled threat that if people don’t give them money they will stop posting.  In fact, in my opinion I don’t think they will quit posting…I think they would post whether people donate to them or not.  And, if they do quit blogging, there’s literally a hundred more to take their place.

A blogger knows exactly how many people read their blog, and all manner of other information concerning the hits they get to their site.  In our case, we don’t get all that many hits on our blog and that’s fine with us.  We don’t write our blog to generate click bait in order get a few bucks at the end of the month from advertisers.  And, you certainly will not see any internet links to online payment sites here…ever.  Our blog is personal…actually I have to curb myself from making it too personal.  In short, our blog is for us to one day look back and reminisce about our trip, not to particularly entertain the masses while having them help pay for our more than extended vacation.  If others enjoy it that’s fine but if they don’t, that’s fine as well.

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I’ve neglected our blog and after being somewhat scolded by one of our followers I will endeavor to be a bit more diligent in our posts.

The passage from Key West to Bimini was a bit rough on me.  Not because it was difficult; on the contrary, it was about as near to perfect as any passage we’ve ever made.  But, because I just felt extremely tired and out of sort.  In hindsight, I’ll write it off to having a very mild but lingering-in-the-background upset stomach.  Perhaps some background is in order.  I just felt a bit out of sorts.

Chuck and I have had additional crew on our boat for two of our passages and considering the shallow depth of the Bahamas, decided we like company on this one.  The first name that came to mind was a close friend of ours from Texas, Chris Earls.  Chris is forty-nine and has been sailing and boating with his family and others since he was six.  Over the years he’s either done out-right or has assisted Chuck on numerous projects on our boat.  No better candidate could have been found.  We contacted him and he was available.  As it were, we got him down to the boat in Key West one week before what became our departure over here to the Bahamas.

During that week, as anyone who makes offshore passages would attest, there were many things to do.  We started tracking the weather and a good window for leaving turned out to be last Tuesday, December 6th.

On the Monday before we left there were two major items left to do: complete our provisioning and, almost as importantly, bring our yacht to 3D Boat Yard (right next to the marina) to have our fixed prop replaced with our newly refurbished foldable Max Prop.  The Max Prop is way more efficient than a fixed prop and the boat performs much better with it.  On three separate occasions we’d attempted to have our propellers changed out but as luck would have it, we just couldn’t make it happen.  So, on Monday, the prop change was job one; it had to be done.  We had the propeller guy lined up and were set with the boat yard to have the boat quick hauled at 1300 that afternoon.

As 1300 rolled around we rode over to the yard only to find out that they were going to have to splash a large schooner first…we were next in line after that for the quick haul.  The long and short of it was after the schooner was dropped in the haul out slip and started their engine they had lost engine cooling water circulation…busted impeller.  Our haul out time slipped to almost 1530 before our prop contractor finally got to work.  He had some very minor problems that delayed his installation but the boat yard agreed to stay late, knowing we were leaving the next day.

After the prop was installed and we splashed, it was back to the Stock Island Marina Village fuel dock where were took on a whole four gallons of fuel (we thought we’d need a measly fifteen) and left ourselves tied up there rather than go back to the slip.  Then we hurried to downtown Key West to return our scooters, before borrowing a friend’s jeep and rushing to the local Publix Supermarket to finish provisioning.  By the time the provisions were bought, brought and loaded back onto the boat it was near 2200.  Our initial plans were to leave, perhaps as early 0300.  Exhausted from a grueling and very stressful day, we then sat down to finalize our route.

Now, over the previous several days we’d consulted several from the marina that had made the trip over to Alice Town.  Seldom can one have too little information on something like this.  Our first plan was to go from Key West to Rodriquez Key, down near Key Largo in the upper keys, spend the night and then jump over to the Bahamas the next day; that plan would have broken the trip up into two days with the only real advantage being it avoided an overnight passage.  Then we considered going to Marathon, Florida, anchoring out, and then make the jump…which also would have included an overnight passage.  All of us being dead tired and somewhat stressed not only from the day, but for the several days before in which we averaged maybe six hours of sleep a day, we finally just took a deep breath and tossed out both of those plans.  Here we were with over a hundred years of sailing experience between us and we were fretting a 150-160 mile passage in what was predicted to be perfect winds and seas.  We’d sleep until 0600, have coffee, and depart Key West at 0630 direct to Alice Town.  We estimated the passage at somewhere between 21 and 24 hours.  At 0630 the next morning, after another six hours of sleep, we slipped the dock lines and headed out into Hawk Channel.

The plan was to take the shortest path to the Bahamas…we’d take the Hawk Channel inside the reef until an hour or so before sunset and then jump out into the Gulf Stream.  We’d then set our rhumb line for Alice Town, Bimini.  And, we did.

We’d never sailed inside of Hawk Channel but knew before we left there would be a lot of crab pots.  We weren’t disappointed.  I took the helm while Chris and Chuck spotted crab pot floats…we estimate there were roughly 39,658,003 crab pots…we’re not sure…we quit counting at five million.

After we jumped outside into the Gulf Stream the sail was uneventful.  What was significant is that our ETA at North Bimini was estimated at between 0300 and 0500…we knew that, at the least, we’d have to circle the entrance until daylight.

The only burp in the passage was our dinghy davits.  Around 2200 hours we noticed that the starboard side davit had dropped about three inches for some reason.  Upon inspection, we saw that a stainless steel pin that allows the davits a bit of movement had failed.  It was still quite secure, however, and with less than one meter swells we decided to just keep an eye on it, anticipating a repair once in Alice Town.

We arrived at the North Bimini waypoint at almost straight up 0400.  Within a half hour, another sailboat arrived off of our starboard quarter.  We hailed them on the VHF, S/V My Kay, asking what their draft was (we draw 6.5’).  They drew 7.0’ and indicated they were going to have to circle until high tide which was to be around 1300.  We knew we would have to do the same.

So, for the next eight boring hours we, along with My Kay, circled the entrance about a half mile or less offshore…watching multiple catamarans and small power boats with their shallow draft enter.  Occasionally, we’d hail a vessel exiting the cut and inquire as to water depth.

At around 1230 hours we uneventfully entered the channel; Chuck had us safely tied to the dock at Big Game Club Marina a short time later.  We had dinner at the marina, showered, and by 1830 I was in bed and sound asleep…a short time later the boys turned in.

After a great meal and thirteen hours of replenishing sleep my out of sorts disappeared.

One pleasant surprise was that within a half hour of our initial docking, a gentleman approached us on the dock offering us a dozen freshly caught lobster tails at a price that was ridiculously inexpensive.  We jumped right on that.

The next morning, Thursday, we dropped the dinghy in the water and completely disassembled the dinghy davits, removed them from the boat, and brought them to a welder we were told about.  By 1430 hours the repair was made, expertly.  A couple of hours later the davits were back up and the dinghy safely hanging from them.

That evening, I cooked a splendidly delicious meal of steak, two lobster tails each, and my semi-famous hashbrowns.  We made short order of the feast.

On Thursday, after we had communications, business back in the US dictated that Chuck had to return in order to send a Limited Power of Attorney to our lawyer back in the States.  On Friday morning, he flew out to Ft. Lauderdale to handle that chore…Saturday morning by noon, he was back, his trip a success.

We knew before we got here that there is essentially nothing to do and nothing to see, and we weren’t disappointed.  It’s a small place, with friendly people but otherwise quite bleak.  The locals make their living fishing and catering to the tourists and cruisers.  That was no problem with us for on Friday, a cold front blew through with 25-30 knot winds, rain squalls and a chop in the marina that made conditions raw at best.  We hung out on the boat, took care of some minor repairs, ate at least once a day at the more than acceptable marina restaurant, and just took it easy.

Today is Monday and the weather is once again settling down, the sun is out, high in the upper 70s, and the chop is gone.  We have a great weather window, starting tomorrow morning, for the next three days.  After we refuel today, we plan to head out for Chub Key tomorrow, perhaps anchoring out on the way.  In Chub, we will anchor out before making the 37 mile passage into Nassau early on Thursday to arrive mid day.  On Friday, the weather is expected to again deteriorate with high winds and seas between Chub and Nassau.  We fully expect to be in Nassau before then…you never know, however.  Once we ride out the next weather system in Nassau, the 10 day forecast indicates we will have a good week or more of favorable winds and seas to pass east of Providence Island (Nassau) and continue on South.

There is one additional side story in the trip.

On Friday, we received an email from Stock Island Marina Village informing us that when we exited our slip last Monday to go to to the boat yard we had hit the huge power boat that was next to us.  We were somewhat taken aback as we were quite careful when we undocked.  All three of us on our boat were in agreement that there was no way our hull hit them…we did acknowledge to ourselves that our dinghy came quite close to his yacht, though we honestly didn’t think that hit them either.  We contacted the owner, told him that we didn’t feel we had hit, but to be sure, and in the interest of fairness, could he please send us a brief narrative of his side and take a few photos, particularly the height from the waterline to his alleged damage.  We also assured him that if we hit him we’d be more than happy to pay for his damages.

He honored our request and as soon as we saw the photos knew that we were mistaken.  At exactly the point in which we were the closest to his boat it was apparent that the rubber port side rub rail of our RIB dinghy kissed his boat leaved three or four minor scuffs.  As we could see from his photos, and of which he admitted in his note, the damage wasn’t even slightly severe, very minor scuffs indeed.  We called our friend Kyle Ohearn who did our bottom job this summer and asked him to take a look.  On Sunday morning he dropped by the owner’s boat to look-see.  Forty-five minutes later he was gone, the scuffs buffed out and waxed and…most importantly, the owner of the power boat tickled pink with the effort.  He had a PayPal account…we paid him the $105 immediately.

The incident was more an inconvenience than anything else.  On three separate occasions we had the marina park large power boats right next to us, in a double slip that was already too small for one boat, much less two, considering the tight fairway…our bow stuck out fifteen feet.  On the first occasion the power boat actually struck our boat when docking, though the damage was insignificant.  On the second occasion the boat was quite beamy and close to us, we complained and they moved him to another slip.  And, as the boat we kissed was docking we complained at the time, but they berthed him there anyhow.  It would have been one thing if the marina was chocked full of boats but there were numerous double slips that all of these boats could have had…instead, they docked them next to our 52′ behemoth.  Oh well, as the Captain at the helm at the time of the kiss it was my responsibility to control my vessel…shame on me.

For us, it’s always all about the weather.

Though both Chuck and I have been sailing for many years, both separately and the past ten years we’ve been together, we’ve never claimed to be experts, preferring instead to say we “know what we don’t know.”  And, one thing we’ve known since we headed out a year ago was that we were sorely lacking in the ability to obtain weather information while at sea.  We subscribe to several weather sites that allow us more than adequate weather forecasts when sitting at the dock, but once we get out of range of either the internet or cell phone service we are on our own.  Understand, we do have a brand new viable state-of-the-art SSB on board but neither one of us are particularly single side band savvy.  We needed and wanted another option.  We also wanted a sat phone.  After much research we found what might be the answer.  The product…is the Iridium GO.   Ours arrived yesterday.

This unit allows one to use e-mail, tracking, iPhone as a satellite phone, and most of all, to access weather from anywhere on the planet.  And, specifically, it supports a weather site we subscribe to called PredictWind

Though we consult and subscribe to somewhere around 12-15 different weather sites prior to making a passage, PredictWind, is our go-to site when it comes to weather.  Since we’ve been using the site their forecast have been right on the money every time.  PredictWind gives routing suggestions, departure forecasts, sea state, wind speeds and directions, currents, passage times, water temperatures, grib files, and a host of other functions.  Having the ability to access this kind of information, via the Iridium GO, while at sea takes a world of worry out of being there.

The unit is not cheap and our plan is $150/month just for the service.  As well, it’s said that is not the most intuitive of electronics to set up.  But those who use it swear by it. 

For us, not particularly fair weather sailors but not foolhardy, caution to the wind types either, we now have two satellite units.  One is the Delorme inReach, recently updated to give local weather forecasts…and now the Iridium GO.  Both are satellite units and work anywhere in the world, certainly anywhere we will be going, we think.

As we speak, Captain Husband, is slowly chugging away at mounting the antenna and running the cable to the navigation station, never a pleasant task.

Will let you all know how it turns out.

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This little fellow came waltzing down our port quarter the other day…a real beauty.  He stayed a while before casually sauntering down our stern line and on down the dock.

 

We had our bottom job and are back in the slip.  It went smoothly, really.  Not the easiest or most forgiving slip to back into, but not really all that difficult either; there were six of us horsing it in and we had plenty of fenders out.  Still, it was nice to get the boat in the slings, always is.  We hauled out and were in the blocks by noon…three days later, Friday, we splashed.

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We were warned about this haul out slip by a local friend .  Our mast is so high we always have to back in so the crane can make the lift without nailing the forestay.  Even at that, the crane here could just barely get us out of the water (without hitting our backstay…had about four inches under the keel while moving the boat to the blocks.

 

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We had fenders out everywhere…concrete always wins over gelcoat.

 

We were anxious to see the bottom after our last haul out.  There was significant growth hydro blasted away before the painters did their thing.  But, in the big scheme of things, it went well.  We are fortunate that as big as our boat is we have not one blister, not even a previously repaired one.

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The hull being hydro blasted prior to being blocked up.  Two years of marine growth…it was time.  If we’d have waited any longer they might have declared us a marine sanctuary.

 

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Was a wonder the boat even moved…

 

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The bow thruster tunnel seemed to fair a bit better though the sacrificials were toast.  Not so much for the starboard bow.

 

The work to be done was quite routine, actually:  sand and recoat the bottom, inspect the prop, shaft, cutlass bearings, bow thruster and shaft spurs, replace the zincs, have three small dings in the topsides repaired, and then have the entire topsides cleaned and waxed.  This was done by two contractors, one for the painting and ding repair and the other who handled the waxing.

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There were six workers, three on the bottom painting and three on the cleaning and waxing.  They did a superb job.

 

The shaft, bearings, bow thruster, and spurs were in good shape and repairing the topside dings was uneventful, as was replacing the sacrificial zinc/aluminum…the cleaning and waxing was nothing short of superb.  However, not so much with the prop.

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This is the aft end of the Max Prop.  As you can see, the zincs were on their last leg.  However, the issue was that space that appears as a black curved line in the upper right quadrant of this photo.  That is where the prop blade enters the gear housing…that space was out of tolerance, though just barely.  As shown in the photo, the blades are in the neutral position.  The yellow one sees in this photo is the remnants of the Prop Speed that was applied two years ago.

 

One of the things required in inspecting the prop was to purge the interior gears with grease, a semi special kind of grease, for in our case, we carry a 3-blade, 20” PYI Max Prop on our 1.5” shaft.  Without getting into the rather complicated mechanism that is a folding propeller (and as the pix shows it is a complexly engineered gizmo), greasing the interior of our Max Prop is not something the inexperienced just wants to jump into.  Certainly not something either Chuck or I wanted to tackle.  We brought in a professional to do that job.

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Part of the aft portion of the internal gears of the Max Prop.  All of those letters that one sees stamped correspond to a specific prop pitch.

 

Upon inspecting our prop and before he disassembled it, the pro called to our attention that there was a bit of play where the prop blades joined up with the gear box.  We called PYI, the Washington state manufacturer of Max Props and a firm known for their customer service and explained the play.  They gave us the tolerances for the allowable play.  When we checked these tolerances we were just on the edge of what was acceptable.  As we anticipate going down island in a few months and didn’t want to have what could be less than acceptable work done down there on what is an insanely expensive  propeller, the decision was made to remove the foldable prop and send it to PYI to be refurbished.  They estimated a seven to ten day turnaround.  Of course, we had a spare fixed prop on the boat which the pro then popped on for us.

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The boat after completion and as it is being moved to the haul out slip.

 

This was not our preferred way to go, we’d have rather the foldable prop be the primary, the fixed as the back-up.  We’d have liked it that way because the fixed prop can be installed with the boat in the water way more easily; the Max Prop, theoretically, could be installed with the boat in the water, but nowhere near as easily as the fixed.  But, we didn’t want to keep the boat out of the water for a couple of weeks or so waiting for the Max Prop to be returned from Washington.  As well, our Max Prop is way more efficient when motoring than the fixed.  The prop walk (tendency of the boat to turn in the direction the propeller is spinning, most noticeable when the boat is in reverse and backing up) is also significantly less with the Max Prop than the fixed, though with the bow thruster that is somewhat less of a concern.

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After completion and just prior to being splashed.

For those not in the know, a foldable prop’s blades pitch in different directions depending on the direction the shaft is turning, i.e., whether the boat is in forward or reverse.  When the shaft is not turning, as when under sail power alone, the blades straighten out with no pitch, essentially acting as three fins…the propeller drag is significantly reduced when in that position.  Though the prop mechanism is complex, it is very dependable and quite proven.

And, lastly, we were most interested in how our Max Prop had held up these past two years regarding marine growth, for on our last haul out in 2014 we opted to use Prop Speed  on it.  After inspecting the prop before it was hydro blasted we did see somewhat of a difference/improvement on marine growth, but not enough to justify the expense of recoating it.  Using Prop Speed on the Max Prop cost us just under $300 when we had it done on the last haul out…just wasn’t worth it to us this time.