20 December 2013 | Long Island, Bahamas
My mom’s convent was called Maris Stella. It means star of the sea. When you look up the meaning of Mariah, one is Star of the Sea. So, it’s only appropriate that we end up at a marina with that name too. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we are here because we had a breakdown. Grrrrr!
We were happily enjoying Conception Island, all by ourselves…I mean, totally alone. Haven’t seen a single boat in 3 days, no birds, not even that many fishies (except at the reef where they were fabulous). We took a dinghy ride into the lagoon where we saw turtles everywhere. They came by the dinghy to check us out and then swam off at high speed. I never knew turtles could swim so fast.
Then John decided to check the hydraulic steering system. This means checking the pressure and fluid and pumping up the pressure and filling the fluid as needed. He does this every time we start the engine, so we know it’s been just fine up until now. Now? Well, NO fluid and NO pressure. Ah, well, no problem, we have a gallon of fluid and we have a pump. Not sure why it did that, but we have the ability to replenish as needed. Fill it up we did. Next morning, nada, nothing, dry as a bone. Yikes! What do we do with no steering out here 25 miles from anywhere, too far from radio contact, no internet, only HAM radio which doesn’t happen to be working very well right now. After much discussion, we decided to go half way back to George Town (we HATE going back) to Cape Santa Maria where our cruising guide said there was “the last full service marina going south” in the Bahamas. But how to get there???
John filled up the fluid and the pressure again and we set up the “hand tiller”. Yes, we have one but guess where it goes?? Yep, right on top of the rudder and where is that located? Well on the bottom of the back of the boat…silly question. However, to access it, we had to take the mattress and all bedding out of the back cabin, lift up the floor of the bed and insert this hockey stick- shape thing that weighs about 30 lbs onto the top of the rudder. Now, if we have to use this, one of us has to sit back there holding this huge pole and steer the boat, blind, from the bedroom. The other has to sit up top and tell the other where to go. Now, I’ve been waiting years for the opportunity to do just that, but …
Anyway, it took us 3 hours to set the whole system up just in case we needed it. Then we set out to backtrack our way to Long Island to this Stella Maris marina. We were very fortunate that the fluid and pressure held and we didn’t need to use the manual tiller. The harbor is very shallow and can only be entered at high tide where its depth is 5 feet (we draw 4 ½ feet). So we spent the night in an anchorage just north of the marina, got up at 5am in order to enter the marina at 7am which is high tide today.
And here we are…it’s been a whole 2 months since any major repair has had to be done (the head gasket in Folly Beach). We are doing a bit of a pity party as this week the weather window that we wanted just opened up and we can’t use it today. Maybe tomorrow.
The good news is that they actually had the exact right kind of copper tubing that we need right here in this tiny little town’s hardware store and the guy is putting it in right now. So, maybe we won’t be stuck for 5 weeks (think New Orleans). Also, because the owner of the marina had to go into town (25 minute drive) to get the tubing, he took me to the grocery store for fresh provisions. .. whoo hoo! And there’s a salt water swimming pool here…and a bar…and showers…and trash…and water…but they’re out of fuel…maybe they will have some tomorrow.
In summary, we are alive and well in a marina (with our own personal manatee – it’s HUGE!!!!) and we are getting our problem fixed on the same day we arrived. It truly doesn’t get any better than that. Well, it could be better as the place is swarming with “no-see-ums” and I am now covered with over 100 bites and living on Benedryl. Worse than Chinese Water Torture!
3 days later…we thought the problem was fixed and off we went up around Long Island and down the other side happily thinking we were finally on our way to the Dominican Republic (DR). But 4 hours out, when John checked the steering pressure it had dropped and some fluid was lost. Since Stella Maris is the last repair facility in the country going south, we HAD to turn around (yes, we HATE going back) and return for more repairs.
The repairs were performed yesterday, I stayed below with full Deet bugspray in hand while John helped Joe replace more copper tubing. We decided to stay in the marina to test the system and when John checked the pressure this morning…yep, there’s still a leak. Dang! To be continued…