20/04/2010/3:57 pm, Allens Cay, Exumas
The weather reports have been so confusing lately. West wind/east wind/light wind/possible gales. We hardly knew what to do, but when the wind came up enough from the west to make our mooring at Shroud uncomfortable, and our plan to dinghy up to the north end of the cay to the mangrove creek unrealistic, we decided to take advantage of it and move on. It was a good decision.
We sailed a good part of the way up to Allen's Cay and arrived here to find only one other boat! Last time we stopped here, the little bay was chock-a-block with boats. Jim was pleased to have the Explorer chart on the handheld Garmin GPS so he could tell in an instant whether I should steer to port or to starboard as we rounded the corner and headed up along the shoreline. It has much better detail than the Navionics charts on our Raymarine chartplotter. (Thanks Stephen!)
By the time the sun set, 3 more boats had come in, and we all had a calm night.
On Tuesday, we stayed put, reading our books, dinghying ashore to visit the prehistoric looking iguanas. They are fascinating creatures - all knobbly skinned and webbed toes and beady eyes. A few of them have numbers painted on their backs this year - somebody must be doing a study. We laughed at one big guy who was either a senior statesman or a plain old bully. I tossed scraps of lettuce to them and he did his best to keep the others away, chasing after them on his awkward legs and even swatting at them with his right front foot. Do you suppose they are all right-footed or are there some lefties?
We searched the grassy shoals for conch. Unfortunately, the only live ones we found were too small. Gotta let them live for another year or two. Instead of fishing, we snorkeled around, checking out the bottles and shells on the bottom, admiring our well and truly buried anchor, and getting a surprise from an incoming motor yacht. Jim was swimming the short distance between the shore and the boat when I rounded the end of Madcap to see the yacht heading straight for him. I let out a mighty yell - to alert both Jim and the boat. Fortunately both of them heard me - Jim went into power mode immediately, and the woman on the bow of the boat said, "Don't worry, I see him." That was nice, and it was going very slowly, but it still made both our hearts beat faster to know that it was straight on course for him.
Several more boats came in, including a giant yacht that anchored, opened its "garage door" and slid a fancy dinghy and a seadoo into the water. They roared around for a couple of hours, then slid back into the "garage", the boat weighed anchor and headed off. There is something a little head-shaking about a middle aged guy in skimpy bathing suit and pot belly zooming in and out among anchored sail boats on his seadoo that got spit out the back of his multi million dollar yacht. It takes all kinds, I guess.
Dinner was BBQ steak, potatoes, cole slaw, washed down with a bottle of pinot noir freshly unearthed from beneath the berth in the aft cabin, and topped off with a handful of chocolate chips. We really need to replenish our sweet supply!
18/04/2010/3:49 pm, Shroud Cay
So what are we doing for fun?
At Little Bay, Bruce taught us to clean the conch that Rich plucked from the sea so the next time we find 'em, we can clean 'em. We got caught in a furious downpour and by the time we all got back to our boats (from the conch cleaning lesson ashore) we were soaked and thoroughly desalinated! Marilyn makes wonderful conch fritters, and we gathered on Reflection one night to eat some - along with Madcap's Peas'n'Rice and New Horizon's decadent brownies.
When we got to Big Major's Spot on Monday, we spotted Moon River with a big Nova Scotia flag flying from the mizzen mast in our honour, and Gratton blew his conch horn. These two know how to mark arrivals and departures. When we left Iroquois Marine in Ontario in June, 2007, it was to the accompaniment of Gratton's harmonica. We had a wonderful catch-up conversation later in the evening and though we regret that in all the commotion of the "Troubles", we didn't see them again before they left, we'll meet them in the Abacos.
We hitchhiked from Big Major's Spot over to Staniel Cay aboard Katmandu! We were enjoying a visit with Stephen and Nathalie and the kids before heading around the corner to the yacht club when they suggested that we make the trip on the catamaran. Chris (Star of the Sea) was travelling over with them too, so we tied our dinghy to the stern, (both ours and Katmandu's looking like garbage scows) sipped coffee and stayed dry as Nathalie skillfully handled the helm. How civilized!
Jim and I enjoyed our last Yacht Club lunch of the season - a whopping big club sandwich and fries (split between us!) We picked up a few supplies from the store and took our last look at the nurse sharks snoozing beneath the docks.
We left Big Major's Spot on Saturday and went to Bell Island where we anchored on the west side of the island. It is privately owned and a fellow came out immediately from the luxurious looking shoreside facilities to tell us that we were not allowed ashore. When we saw him approach Katmandu, we figured he was telling them we weren't allowed to anchor there and Jim was marshaling all his arguments about why we were not going to go elsewhere. He was a chatty guy and had many questions about where we were from and where we were going. Was he checking us out? Or was he just making conversation? We don't know who owns the island (should have asked - does anyone else know?), but it is pretty spiffy! Nathalie and Stephen (Katmandu) came over to Madcap for a Spaghetti dinner - not exactly spiffy, but enjoyable anyway. We wouldn't bother stopping here again - much better to go on into the Cambridge anchorage.
Weather reports have been so confusing lately that we didn't know whether to move in there on Sunday morning, or keep on going northward. In the end, we opted to go on to Shroud Cay, and it was a sound decision.
We managed to sail part of the way, using the dratted "Iron Genny" for the rest of it. A few boats were anchored at Shroud and several came in after we did and took moorings. We dinghied ashore to put our $15 in the drop box and then cruised up and down the shoreline a bit, stopping to say hello to fellow Canadians, Rick and Doreen (Breathless).
After we cleaned ourselves up, we joined Rick and Doreen (Breathless) and Nathalie and Stephen (Katmandu) on Star of the Sea where Chris and Peaches were hosting a fine happy hour. I guess we need to clean up more often because we got some ribbing from Stephen about our appearance! It's amazing what a difference shaving, combing our hair and trading raggedy T- shirts for dressier ones can make!
17/04/2010/3:45 pm, Shroud Cay
We've had a run of bad luck the last week or so, and it has taken both Jim and me a few days to put it in perspective. My friend Marilyn asked me the other day how I keep smiling, and my answer was that I am pretty up-beat in the day time and I mope at night. Jim is doing much the same, although he doesn't smile much! We take turns cheering each other up - this is too small a living space for us to go off into our own caves and cope in our own ways as we might do at home.
It is true that I'm managing (mostly) to remain cheerful in spite of everything, because I subscribe to the theory that, for the most part, like attracts like. Sure, I moan and groan and sigh, but I direct most of my energy to the good things. Jim tends to worry more - if this goes wrong, what else can? And of course it is his credit card that is getting loaded up! We both seem to have a lingering feeling of being beaten up by all this, but we find that if we concentrate on the good, we can handle the bad a little better. Everything is not rosy all the time - sometimes things are just rotten. That's life. However, there are still so many good things that they far outweigh the bad, and here are some of them:
Glenn wrote from Halifax to say that on April 14 and 15, (the days of our Troubles) the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. We are still afloat! When we needed a diagnosis of why the alternator was not charging the batteries, Bruce introduced us to Rich. When we needed new parts, Bruce connected us with Dave at East Coast Battery. When the parts needed to be flown in from Ft. Lauderdale, Watermakers Air flew them the very next day to Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The waves were not as big as they could have been between Big Major's Spot and Staniel Cay and Jim made the trip to pick them up (with our new outboard) without getting soaked! When we needed help to install the new parts, Rich and Bruce were there. When the Troubles got worse, Stephen was next door. The weather has been lovely. The Happy Hours have been friendly. And, to paraphrase an old saying, we still have a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and each other! (for the moment at least, and we live in the moments :-)
Now to some details which will cause eyes to glaze over on non sailors, and heads to shake on precise technical folks! Something went wrong somewhere!
In the process of installing the alternator and regulator, something happened that resulted in the failure of several systems. Our Single Side Band radio (SSB - where we get Chris Parker's weather report and check in with Cruisehimers to let folks know where we are and find out where our friends are), VHF (the radio that's like our telephone for boat to boat traffic), stereo/radio, inverter (where we plug in things that need to be charged up) and anchor/navigation lights at the top of the mast didn't work any more. We're still not sure quite what happened, although there are a couple of best guesses. It seems to have had something to do with shutting off the switch for DC power. This is something we never do ordinarily, but did of course, turn off when the guys were playing around with the alternator. We first noticed the problem the night after we installed the alternator and Jim and I did enough investigation to find that even when the battery selector switch was turned off, the boat's electrical system was still live.
The next morning, as Jim and Rich were searching for the problem, they turned off the DC supply switch, turned on the inverter and started getting high voltage readings - up to 35 volts (in a 12 volt system) and the invertor started popping and smoking. Jim grabbed the fire extinguisher but as soon as they turned the house bank battery switch back on, everything settled down. Our friend Stephen (Katmandu) thinks it may have had something to do with the fact that the wind generator was wired into the system in such a way that when the battery selector switch was turned off, the wind generator was still pumping power into the electrical system. Or - that our linksys system that is supposed to combine and isolate battery banks automatically was malfunctioning.
Jim was concerned that when we shut down the house battery bank, we still had a charge showing up at the electrical panel, meaning that we could not shut all power down in the case of an emergency. Stephen and Jim rewired a few things, labeled everything and drew diagrams of it all. They've made the system as simple as it can be, with manual switches from house battery to starting battery, and from wind generator to alternator. We can shut off all DC power, we can efficiently create power when the engine is on, and we now turn the wind generator off when the engine is on or there is no wind.
We dug out the back-up VHF radio, and the back-up inverter (that plugs into the cigarette lighter) and a battery operated lantern that will work as an anchor light. Our old deck-level nav lights still work so we can travel at night. We talk with fellow boaters to get Chris Parker's weather info, and we make do without radio and music.
These guys spent hours and hours with us, and their sailing partners put up with their absence and kept sending words of encouragement. We have enough sorted out to keep moving, and when we get back to the US, we'll get a thorough diagnosis and a fix.
The pic above shows Rich, Bruce and Jim relaxing after a hard day's work at happy hour on New Horizons. Their smiles reflect the happy camaraderie of guys messing about with boats!