11 February 2018
Here, There, Everywhere
Where have we been? Here, There, Everywhere trying to hide from the winds. While sailboats like wind, high winds and waves are no fun for anchoring. This time of year is known for watching out for northern cold fronts bringing stronger winds but we've been fairly lucky that it has not been too bad. There has been a lot more rain but that has seem to have died down and we are now getting eastern winds, at times gusting to 25-30 knots. We look for Cays (islands) to hide behind the winds. Average temperatures are in the high 70's and the further south we go, the warmer it gets. YAY!
We spent approximately 8 days at a marina in Emerald Bay during a northern front with rains and high winds and then headed to Georgetown and Long Island. While a Emerald Bay, we ran into friends, John & Stacey who have since joined us and Reflections. We've enjoyed getting to know them better.
During the Emerald Bay stay, we rented a car with Reflections and toured the south end of the island, making a stop at the Tropic of Cancer. This latitude is where the sun is directly overhead during our summer. Prior years, we have stopped there and taken photos, which are in our photo gallery. I didn't take any this trip.
We have been in Long Island for approximately a week and there are about 20 boats anchored out, which is on the lighter side. Georgetown will be having a regatta soon and I'm sure boats will move on down to this island after the races. We've enjoyed the more quite activity here.
John, Stacey, Steve, Jane, Mike and I rented a car and toured Long Island. This is the first year of sailing for the 4 new friends, so Mike and I were able to play tour director, sort of. We did drive all the way south to the very tip to Gordons Beach. We had not been there and it was magnificent. Reminded us alot of the Jumentos. We ran into 1 other couple on the beach. Was very nice to enjoy the beauty.
We stopped in Clarence Town and had lunch at the Flying Fish, where we enjoyed fish tacos. We stopped a Deans Blue Hole for our friends to see but no one wanted to jump. Mike did jump into the Blue Hole a couple of years ago and have a video and photos in prior photos. It was sad to see the beach had lots of trash from the hurricanes, as a lot of the beaches have trash. Lots of plastic!
We then headed north to Stella Maris and viewed the resort and the sound side of the Atlantic ocean. While we were walking the resort, we ran into a lady walking 2 lab puppies on leash and a baby goat following. She said she rescued the goat from the ocean. She saw it out there drowning and she jumped in and saved it. Since then (approximately 4 months) this has became her pet, wearing a pink collar. (see photo gallery) We watched her take the dogs to the beach and the dogs happily got in the water and the goat stood back and watched. It was like the goat was saying, no thank you, been there, down that. And talk about a small world, in talking with her, she lived in Kemah, TX which was the town next to us when we lived in Houston area.
We walked down Erna's Natural Pool, which is on the Atlantic. (see photo gallery) The ocean comes into the natural break wall to make a pool, perfect for dipping our toes into.
We drove over to Cape Santa Maria (named by Christopher Columbus) and viewed the beautiful beaches and then headed for our homes (boats). We had been out since 8:30 am and it was getting dark and Steve was kind enough to drive us all over the 80 mile island.
On Saturday, we volunteered with other cruisers to clean up Dean's Blue Hole beach. The local school kids were also doing community work and total there were about 50 volunteers. Lots of trash to pick up but the beach looked beautiful when we were finished. Dean's Blue Hole is the world's deepest known salt water blue hole with entrance below sea level. It is 663 feet. They hold competitions there, where divers come from all around. In May there is a vertical blue free diving competition where 56 athletes representing 21 countries will compete over 9 days.
On our way back from volunteering, we made a stop at Kenny's Seaside Conch Shack. (we were given a ride to and from the volunteer site by a local expat who also volunteered and she had a car, Beth) Beth said this was the best conch salad on the island. While none of us ate any, Mike would have if he could have gotten someone other than me to share. I can't get past raw fish or conch but it does look good. There was someone that did order it and it smelled good. Similar to ceviche.
Today (Sunday) the winds are stronger and we've elected to stay on the boat and not go to shore. Getting our car (dingy) out in these waves, I usually get splashed a lot. It is a day spent cleaning, baked banana bread, listen to podcast of our church, reading, Mike made water and I washed a few items by hand. It also gives me time to update our blog.
Our intention is to head for the Jumentos as soon as winds are lower. This is our favorite chain of islands, where we spearfish and snorkel every day. While Mike has speared a few lobster and fish, Jumentos typically bring us better opportunities. We continue to feel amazingly lucky to experience this beautiful ocean and islands.
07 January 2018 | Exuma Park
Anchored at Shroud Cay tonight, Friday, No internet so this will get posted in a few days. Thursday afternoon we anchored in the channel at Allen Cay. It has two deep channels on each side with a sand bar down the middle. Charts show some of the sand to be shallow so set anchor at the windward edge of the bar to keep from swinging into shallow water. There are huge current reversals every day in these narrow channels between the shallow bank and Exuma Sound/Atlantic ocean. By 16:00 hours the tide/current was going out toward the ocean and the wind was pushing us the opposite. We think the anchor was dragging but not sure. If it slipped down in to the deep channel, there was no sand for the anchor to dig into which was the way we were moving. Lots of rocky shores if the anchor lost it’s bite. We made a decision to move out onto the bank with several other boats. A bit more waves but no big current to deal with. We anchored behind a mega yacht named Usher. ( not sure if it was the “Usher”). It seemed to have two additional 50 ft yachts to carry water tows and sleep extra crew.
Drove around the North end of Shroud today in the dinghy to a nice beach that we walked. On the way back, stopped at a couple of shallow coral heads and tried out Joyce’s new underwater camera. (See photo gallery Snorkeling )
Back to MiJoy and replaced the propellor shaft end zinc and scrubbed the propellor with bronze wool to get it smoother, may give more speed or less fuel consumption. First relaxing evening we have had since we left. Watched the sunset from the cockpit as we ate dinner.
On Dec 29, we sailed south to Warderick Wells. They have a very good mooring field that has great protection from the blow that was coming our way. To be safe, I decided to go early and not miss a chance to be on the better protected mooring balls. Turned out it was a couple of days before they filled up but we had probably the calmest area of the field. We dinghyed around the south end of Wanderick to the south mooring field and was amazed at how calm and beautiful it was. Walked a few beaches. Warderick is inside the Exuma land and sea park and is a no take zone. No fish, shells, sea beans etc. On the way back north, we found some friends, Reflections, in the Emerald Rock mooring field. They had arranged to move to where we were the next day.
We dinghyed about 2 miles north of the mooring field to the end of Long Cay. It was a bit cool so Joyce elected to stay in the dinghy. I slipped in and saw one of the nicest group of coral and fish we had found this year. Joyce suited up and we did a drift dive off the dinghy. If she has put sun tan lotion on her face, she can have trouble with it sealing. After about 10 minutes, she got back in the dinghy because of her mask. Only a few minutes later, I found the sleeping nurse shark. I gave it plenty of space.
The park station at Exuma runs on a shoe string budget. There internet link was down and our phone was not picking up a cell signal on the boat. Some had luck either in the second floor of the office or on top of Boo Boo Hill. I rigged up a canvas case and hoisted the phone up about 40feet up the mast. Joyce’s iPad dinged with new messages before I was back into the boat.
Weather reports said we had a couple of days of good weather so MiJoy and Reflections moved south to Cambridge Cay, still in Exuma Park. As the wind will blow 20-25 knots over the next few days, we are back on a mooring ball. With these wind speeds, the under size wind generator is actually helping a lot. Been a little cold to get out and do much. Joyce made a great pizza last night with dough made from scratch.
A fellow cruiser makes and sells a fridge optimizer control unit. He was at Warderick and I purchased one. In running the new thermostat cable, I found a one inch hole in the insulation on the back of our new fridge. May be the source of the moisture getting into and creating way to much frost on the cold plate. Cable in place, the other parts are simpler to connect up. We then have a digital readout of the temp and graphs of the run time of the compressor. Just what an engineer would expect in the first place. It also has a defrost cycle, that if I can get it to work, will save a lot of time pulling all the food out to defrost. It does lower the temp a little when solar has the battery’s charged and raises the temp at night a little when battery voltage drops.
Joyce tells me I’m writing a book so signing off....for now...lol
Nassau to Allan Cay
28 December 2017
After leaving Harbour Cay, we continued south in The Berry’s to Cabbage Cay. We were the only boat anchored and while we did not see a sunset, we were treated with a nice rainbow. We managed to avoid the rain due to catching a fish (barracuda not good to eat) we had slowed the boat down and was dragging the fish to tire him out and lucky us, as we entered the cut to the Cay, he fell off and we did not loose our lure.
We staged at Cabbage Cay to head across the Northwest Channel to Nassau then southeast to the Exumas. We awoke early to a beautiful sunrise ( just for you Sally) We put the fishing lines out and never got a bite until approximately 5nm to Nassau Harbour. I slowed the boat down and Mike reeled the fish in. A perfect size Maui Maui for our dinner! Mike gave the fish a shot of vodka in the gills, which kills it, then filet it. We then proceeded into Nassau Harbour, calling Nassau Control for permission to enter, the Harbour, stating our vessel, our business & continue through. We anchored near a marina that is across the street from the “last nice grocery store” we will see for weeks. Last chance for selection of veg’s and fruits. Mike dropped the dinghy in the water and took me over to the dinghy dock & I walked to the store. Mike went back to the boat & put diesel in the boat from the jerry cans we carry on board as extras. He then took the cans to the fuel dock & filled them back up. He then returned to pick me up at the dock & we returned to the boat. It was around 3pm & our next anchorage was about an hour or so away. We decided to stay where we were & leave for The Exuma’s early the next morning. Mike grilled the Maui Maui & we were asleep by 7:30pm. (We are on boaters time now- go to bed when it is dark & wake up when it is light). I woke up around midnight restless, which is unusual for me. Mike is a lite sleeper & of course I woke him up tossing & turning. We went out in the cockpit to check on the anchor & discovered wind & current had shifted us in an undesired position. We were in 5’6 water & we draft 5’5. We checked the chart plotter & tides (we were on a falling tide) & knew we needed to pull up the anchor & re-position the boat. We reset the anchor & it appeared we did not wake up the 2 boats near us. We went back to bed & I thanked God for waking me up to alert us. God is good!
At sunrise, we were up & had our coffee & toast & left the Harbour. As we were passing the next Cay, (approximately 5nm) we heard a distress call, Mayday Mayday on the radio. A boat was on fire & was abandoning ship. We checked our charts to see if we could get over there quickly to help, but thankfully, several power boats were responding & we could see them heading in that direction. They could get there a lot quicker than our “snail boat”. It was sad to hear the captain of the boat advising they were abandoning their boat & in the water. I took a photo of the smoke in the air ( see photo gallery). We don’t know how the fire occurred but from the conversation with the vessel captain & BASR (Bahama search & rescue) there appeared to be no injuries.
We motored sailed Southeast ( had our jib sheet out) to Allan’s Cay, our first stop on the chain of cays of Exuma, maintaining about 7 knots.
We anchored, put the dinghy in the water and Mike got a lobster for dinner. This anchorage is popular during the day for larger boats and tourist going over to see the iguanas at the beach. Lots of jet skis too. It has now calmed down as they have left to go back to either Nassau or Highborne Cay. Depending on weather, we will stay in this area for a few days and explore before moving on south.
3 nights at anchor Merry Christmas
24 December 2017 | Great Harbour Cay Berry Islands Bahamas
While we are again at Great Harbour, It is about a week later than my last post. We had 3 great nights on the hook at Soldier Cay. Only about 10 miles away as the crow flies but about 25 nm in a vessel with 5-1/2 ft of draft. Motor sailed both over and back. We might have tacked into the wind but it would take twice as long or more to get there.
Winter is the shortest sunlight days of the year. Not only do you have the least amount of daylight, you also have the least amount of sun intensity. Great that we have the generator as the solar panels had difficult keeping up with the demand when we were at anchor. And Paul, no hair dryer was used. We used about 70 amp hours on each of the 3 nights for refrigeration, fan at berth and anchor light. A bit more in the morning to make coffee. Last time cruising, we would use over 120. Pleased with the reduction. Water maker is making 16 to 18 gph. Big improvement over b4.
While we are not marina people, to get fast shipment of parts into the Bahamas, you need an airport. Since our dinghy is our car, the parts we need for a permanent outboard motor fix are being flown into to Great Harbour. Email from the cargo shipper said they are coming on todays plane. Will walk the 1.5 miles to the airport tomorrow to see. The other advantage of Great Harbour marina is once you are here 10 days, the rest of the month is free. Update: Motor parts a day late and the marina gave us a lift to the airport and helped get the parts thru immagrations. Parts installed and outboard motor seems to be running well.
At anchor, we are in and out of our dinghy several times during the day. At night, I lift the dinghy up with the stern arch and block and tackle leaving the motor on the transom. The triple block at the transom takes about 30 pounds of pull to lift the dinghy with the motor on. It is a bit of effort but I think very worth it for the security at night. During offshore passages, the motor is stored on the motor mount on the arch. During our stay at Soldier, I was working off the swim platform of the sailboat. I had connected TWO lines to the bow of the dinghy. One line is attached from the stern rail and on the other end a very high strength Wichard snap shackle to connect to the dinghy. The other line is the painter (line/rope) attached to the (front) bow ring on the dinghy and tied to the sailboat rail. I had been in the cockpit and returned to the swim platform to find the line with the snap shackle hanging in the water and the dinghy about 5 feet further away from the boat than it should have been. This description gets a little complicated. The bow ring on the outside of the dinghy has a complimentary ring on the inside of the fiberglass hull. Attached to this ring is a "D" shackle which connects to a stainless steel carabiner. The arch lifting tackle attaches to the inside bow ring as this is the strongest connection. The rope with snap shackle attaches to the D shackle. This is usually the first line attached when returning to the sailboat and stays in place when the dinghy is lifted out of the water. That way it is place when the dinghy is lowered. The pin in the D shackle had unscrewed and was laying in the bilge of the dinghy. This allowed the snap shackle to come free without it opening. Friends of our, Paul and Laurie "found" a drifting dinghy several years ago about 20 miles or so from where the owner had lost it. That's why I always have two or three lines attached to the dinghy. The D shackle has been tightened with a wrench this time and I will probably add seizing wire to make sure it does not come loose again.
Pretty much always projects to do on the boat. Drilled the 1-3/16" hole for a USB charger at the navigation table. A couple of 3 foot wires from the house fuse block will need to run. In the past, the 120 VAC from the inverter had to be on to charge phones, iPad, InReach satellite tracker at the nav table. This new charger lets two devices be charged without having the inverter on. The same chargers are at both berths. The iPad has an anchor alarm program called ANCHOR. When we anchor out, the GPS function of the iPad places the position of MiJoy on the screen of the app. the anchor is positioned on the screen with the tip of your finger and an alarm radius is created around the anchor position. The anchor can be moved around to get the alarm circle to line up with the track the boat has swung thru. This alarm going off in the middle of the night means something may need to be done immediately. When the ANCHOR alarm is on, the iPad pretty much has to be on a charger thus the need for this additional charging station.
The picture of me fishing off the side deck is not the method we typically fish. There was a school feeding at the outer edge of casting range so I quickly snapped at Rat-L-Trap to the small rod. Several strikes but no hook sets as I retrieved thru the feeding. On the last cast, it appeared to be a 2 foot barracuda hit the lure. The 15 pound test line was not up to the very sharp teeth barracuda have and I lost the lure.
The plan is to listen to Chris Parker (weather guru for boaters) on Monday and if the weather looks OK, head around to the SW corner of the Berry Islands. The next day 35 nm to Nassau where I will drop Joyce off at a marina across the street from a very good grocery store. I will get diesel and wait for her to return. Anchor a night east of Nassau and then head south towards the Exumas.
The 75 pound fish on the cleaning station at the marina (photo in gallery) is a wahoo caught by SeaMoore, a sport fishing boat from the US in our marina. They caught two, the other one about 20 lbs. They were kind enough to give away more than half of the fish. We got enough for two meals. Grilled it on the boat, excellent.
This is Christmas Eve. We wish all joy and peace for the next year. Our Christmas miracle was the internet was fast enough for us to see and hear most of First Baptist Tulsa's service this Sunday morning. We were hoping to see the Christmas eve service music but that did not happen. We got to talk to the kids thru the internet which was nice.
Projects in the past to get MiJoy ready to cruise
12 December 2017 | Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas
I write this while in Great Harbour Cay (pronounced "key") Berry Islands, Bahamas. Weather is a bit cool and windy.
After over a year of MiJoy sitting at the Fort Pierce City Marina in Florida, we have pulled in the dock lines and made it to the Bahamas. This post will be more of a technical analysis of what we did getting the boat ready both in Kemah, TX several years ago and over the last few months in Ft Pierce, FL.
MiJoy was a 2 year old 50 hour boat when we purchased her in 2012. Previous owner had added a good bimini top but had done very little else to her. This is what we did to get her ready.
A full width clear "plastic" wind screen was added at the front of the bimini. Most true cruising boats have a smaller dodger. In really big waves crashing over the foredeck, the wind screen might collapse. We stay away from that kind of weather. We made zip in side and rear curtains from a 80% sun block material. Kind of like bug screen material. It is used for home windows. Blocking the sun is great. The side screens also block about half of the wind and a lot of the water. We will run them on the windward side of the cockpit when sailing if it is cool. Makes it much more comfortable. Also adds a bit of privacy.
An oversize rocna anchor and plenty of anchor chain was added. Great security when on the hook (anchored) at night. The rocna held in over 50 knots of wind one night at Big Majors.
An Atlantic Tower aluminum arch was installed at the stern of the boat. This is what lifts our dinghy and holds the solar panels and wind generator. Great product at a very good price. I was able to install myself so that saved on cost. Motor lift and storage bracket were also added to the arch.
The story on the water maker is still out. A used system that was installed on the same model of boat as MiJoy was purchased in Kemah. Great to see how someone else installed the system. Once installed, it only made 8 gph of very good water which was down from the 11 gph it should have made. It did give us enough that we could go to the Jumentos in the the very southern Bahamas for weeks and have enough water. JT Halden, the Spectra rep in Fort Lauderdale, rebuilt the high pressure pump and upgraded the 12 vdc pump head and it now appears for the two times we have used it to be making 17 gph. Big improvement. It is a lot of money for a small part of the time that it is used.
The refrigerator and freezer on a sailing boat determine how much "cheap" perishable food you can bring with you from the states or expensive local food you can re-provision with in the Bahamas. The other option to stock it is local caught fish and lobster. I had added insulation around the sides and bottom of the top open freezer before we left Houston. The additional insulation got it cold enough that ice cream would be hard. During our last cruising season, the refrig compressor was running almost all of the time. The outside of the refrigerator box surface was at 55 to 60 degF when the inside was at 40 degF. The insulation had gone bad. As changing the refrig type would have been a major effort, we purchased a replacement for the original a few months ago. It now runs around 35% of the time. Some additional insulation was added to the freezer in Ft Pierce and it is running less. The compressors on these two devices amount for 60% to 70% of the energy we use when on the hook. It's one of those items I am very frequently monitoring.
As a result of the power drain from the refrig and freezer, a wind generator was purchased and it was delivered to us 2 years ago in the Bahamas by S/V Migration. I was hoping for enough power coming in to offset half of the refrig drain at night. The specs on the wind generator would lead you to believe that it would. In practice, it does not. With the lower power consumption of the new refrig, it may make a substantial impact to how much we use during the night. It's all about not draining the batteries too low and getting them back charged with the solar panels during the day. MiJoy carries two 235 watt solar panels on the rear arch. Each panel is connected to it own dedicated charge controller. This gives us the ability if one panel or charger quits, to have half of the system power. Winter time in the Northern Bahamas with the low sun and clouds give us about two thirds of the power we get later in the year when we are further south and the sun in higher.
MiJoy has what I call a tropical shade (canopy) that covers the foredeck back to almost the bimini. It is great at keeping the salon much cooler and keeps the rain from impacting the cabin top. Rain can be very loud when you are trying to sleep. As MiJoy sat in Ft Pierce for 18 months, it keep bird droppings off the deck and reduced our electric bill to keep her inside cool enough that mold did not grow. We did not use the shade a lot when anchoring but it was a good investment.
MiJoy has an IslandTime wifi radio that helps reach out to get an internet signal from marinas or sometimes hotels/bars that are located on the water close to where we anchor. Internet in the Bahamas is pretty expensive thru your phone data plan. This helps keep those costs down.
The first year we cruised, MiJoy carried a 8 ft inflatable bottom dinghy with a 6 hp motor. The small dinghy was very wet when we were traveling thru waves. Joyce would use an umbrella for protection. Most of the time it would not get on plane. A 10 ft fiberglass hull with inflatable tubes on the sides dinghy and a 9.8 hp Tohatsu 4 stroke are now carried. We went over 8 miles on a dinghy trip Friday that we never would have been able to do with the old dinghy. This is our "car". As we do not stay in marinas very much, to get to the grocery store or take the laundry to town, we use the dinghy. It's good that the laundry is dry when you bring it back to the boat.
MiJoy has a 5.5 kw diesel generator. It was used a bit in the past to recharge the batteries. Rarely did we use it to air-condition the boat. It has 600 hours which is pretty low. A third 4d battery was added in Houston to the house bank. With the past issues of frig, without this extra battery, we could have had problems draining down the batteries to a low voltage that would be damaging.
MiJoy carries two 10 pound propane bottles in a locker on the stern of the boat. They power the two burner stove, oven and grille on the stern rail. Propane costs about twice as much here in the Bahamas as in the states and can sometimes be difficult to get. Before leaving Houston, an inverter was installed on MiJoy. It allows the microwave (120 vac) to be run without the generator being on. We also use an electric tea pot to boil water for coffee or as I write this, hot chocolate as it's a bit chilly. Both of these minimizes propane use and heating up the galley (kitchen for you land locked folks). The inverter also has a battery charger built in. When it does come time to run the generator, this charger can put 100 amps into the battery bank. Add in the normal battery charger and sometimes we push 125 amps into the batteries. Running the generator also allows the electric hot water heater tank to be turned on. The diesel main engine has a coolant loop that heats water in the hot water tank when we travel on the motor. A couple of days on the hook not running the engine and that water can be to cool to take a comfortable shower.
Probably a 100 other additions to the boat that were added during the time we were getting ready.
Left Ft Pierce, Finally. Bahamas here we come
05 December 2017
MiJoy finally left the dock at Ft Pierce City Marina after being docked for over a year. Marina has been great to us & we appreciate the staff.
We motored south down the ICW (intra coastal waterways). We normally don’t travel ICW a lot but our plan was to stage our Bahamas crossing from Lake Worth Inlet, which will allow us a shorter crossing distance across the Gulf Stream. One of the downsides of ICW is all the drawbridges you have to go under. We had 7 bridges. You have to radio the bridge controller & request for the bridge to be raised. Some bridges are opened on the hour & half hour or they will raise upon your request.
Another downside is staying in the channel & not running aground. Thank goodness for US Boat. We have been a member since 2012 & never needed a tow however today we were glad to have that membership. Nice young man came about 45 minutes after our call & got us back in the channel. I think he was being nice in saying, people do this a lot in this area, tricky reading the markers through here.....
We dropped the anchor at North Palm Beach about 5:30. There are about 40 boats in the achorage & probably half will be crossing over to Bahamas because of the weather opportunity.
The captain had been asleep about 45 minutes & I’ve made last minute phone calls to the kids😪😪. Our phones will be turned off & will communicate via FaceTime when we have internet.
Our plan is to cross over to The Berry’s & check in at Great Harbor with customs. Prayers for uneventful crossing