01/28/2008, Nassau, Bahamas
This is an article that Noah wrote for the Reach the Woirld website (www.reachtheworld.org)
If there is one thing that I have seen on this trip that is completely
unlike anything I ever imagined, or ever could have imagined, it's the
flying fish that we saw entering the Bahamas. Dad would point out over
the water and say 'Look, flying fish! It just flew almost one hundred
yards!' and I would tell him 'Dad, a hundred yards is the length of a
football field. There's absolutely no way that a fish went that far in
the air'. Dad invariably would just drop the subject and that would be
the end of it. But then I actually saw one.
More accurately, I saw a zillion. Flying fish travel in schools, and
when they decide to fly, they really fly. They do not just jump out of
the water and glide for a while, like how I used to imagine them. They
explode out of the water by the dozens in plumes of ocean spray, and
they really fly. They go up and down over the waves and sometimes use
them like a ramp to get big air, like an Olympic snowboarder, or a
skateboarder in the X Games. Another thing that we have seen them do
is get just a little bit out of the water and bounce off of the surface
a couple of times like a skipping stone and then do something that
looked exactly like they were walking on their tails, like dolphins in
an aquarium show.
WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
A flying fish's body is shaped like this: >, kind of a bullet shape
or a cigar shape. They have large forked tailfins, with a smaller
dorsal fin close to the tail. They have either two or four (depending
on the species) large and graceful pectoral fins, which they use like a
bird's wings. They have big eyes. Some varieties have very large
mouths, and others have smaller ones. The largest species of flying
fish is the California flying fish. While the average flying fish is
around eight inches to a foot, it is about sixteen inches on average.
HOW DID WE FEEL WHEN WE SAW THEM?
I asked everyone on the Wanderlust how they felt when they first saw
flying fish. Benjamin had no comment. Dad said he felt 'Excited. It
was a new experience for me. I had heard about them, but I had never
actually seen them, and so they exceeded my expectations'. Mom said
that she felt 'Excited, interested, intrigued, enthralled', and that
she 'wanted to sit there and watch them forever'. When I asked Alice
how she felt she said 'I felt like I was dreaming. I didn't know
things like that existed in the world'. As for me, I thought it was
absolutely incredible. I felt entirely overwhelmed.
WHERE DO THEY LIVE?
Flying fish live in warm seas, like in the Caribbean and in the Gulf
Stream of the Gulf of Mexico (these are the places we have seen them),
and the Pacific near California.
HOW DO THEY USE THEIR ENVIRONMENT TO SURVIVE?
They flap their pectoral fins like a bird's wings and use their tail
fins like a propeller on a boat or on a plane. Flying fish can fly at
double their swimming speeds, (up to 45 miles per hour), and for up to
490 feet (150 meters) for thirty seconds to avoid predators. They can
jump to a height of 71 inches (almost six feet - one book even says
they can jump up to twenty feet) above the water. In order to leap
that high, the fish build up speed underwater by thrashing their tail
fins side to side with their pectoral fins (their "wings") at their
sides to be more streamlined so they can move faster through the water.
WHAT CAN HARM THEM?
Bigger fish, like tunas and mackerels, are some of the main predators
of the flying fish but they can fly out of the water to avoid them.
Unfortunately however, when in the air, they become prey to sea birds
ARE WE WORRIED ABOUT THEM?
We are not especially worried about them at all. Flying fish can fly
to escape the bigger fish and swim to escape the birds, and since they
are not very tasty for people and are not even big enough to make a
whole meal, there are not a lot of people out there fishing them to
extinction. There really is no major threat to them that we know of.
They are not endangered or even threatened.
01/21/2008, Hope Town, Abacos, Bahamas
We are becoming Abacos experts, and not by intent. The Kahuna crew and we are ready to leave the Abacos to see other Bahamian islands, but the weather won't cooperate. We are once again at one of those points where we have to wait for wind. The right wind. Our guide book described it as being like a board game, where you have to roll a six before you can proceed. Just as we waited to cross the Gulf Stream, we must wait to cross the Northeast Providence Channel, which lies between us and Nassau. It's open ocean, nothing but water from here to Africa. We have a North wind coming now, but with the predicted 30 knots of breeze and 10 - 12 foot seas, we'll just have to wait for the next one.
So we explore the Abacos. Not a bad thing to do. We celebrated Noah's 14th birthday with pad thai and cake in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas. The next day we anchored on the lee side of an island called Great Guana Cay and walked across it to the Atlantic side. We had been told there was a great beach for snorkeling, but the waves were so powerful that the kids and I couldn't swim out to the reef. So we contented ourselves with playing in the surf. The waves were big enough that we stayed right on shore and let them crash over us, often toppling us and tumbling us over and over. Benjamin loves to play in the surf, and there is such glee in his face when he does, but these were intimidating. Quoting the weather forecasts, he said, "Mom, those waves are 2 - 4 feet . . . . but so am I!" Actually, they were bigger.
Our beach romp was abruptly terminated by the arrival of a shark. It was about as big as a person, and swimming right along the shoreline, not any further out than the bigger kids were. I called to them and motioned them to come in, and of course they yelled back "why?". I made the universal hand sign for "shark" (hand raised vertically to forehead) and they moved pretty darn quick. We spoke with some other beach-goers who know this island well, and they said the sharks are reef sharks, and don't ever bother swimmers. Nevertheless, we stayed out of the water.
I had packed 28 hot dogs, a loaf of bread, and various condiments, so it was time to get a fire started. Bill and Jeff had to work pretty hard at it, but with the help of 6 kids, they gathered enough kindling to get one going. We each found a stick and proceeded to roast and eat the most delicious hot dogs, ever. Between the 10 of us, we ate them all. Next on the agenda was Nipper's Bar. There was a party going on. Music and dancing at 2 in the afternoon, and a dual level salt water swimming pool with waterfalls. This was the chance we needed to get all that ground-in beach sand off us so we didn't bring it back to the boat! We romped in the pools for the rest of the afternoon and then walked back to our dinghys and motored out to our boats at anchor as the sun was setting. It really had been a perfect beach day.
We started school aboard the Wanderlust, after our winter break. We aim for four days a week, four hours a day. Alice and Noah are pursuing their studies, quite independently, but Benjamin needs more help. Right now he's working on division and multiplication facts, which are just boring. So we had a game show. Bill was our announcer, and I asked the questions. Alice, Noah, and Benjamin were the contestants. Benjamin got a 15-second handicap on each question, and if he didn't answer correctly, then Alice and Noah had a shot at it. We are also reading an abridged version of Moby Dick, and learning about whaling and 19th century sailing. I'm enjoying this so much. I didn't know if I would, and I'm honestly relieved to find that I do. It's such a treat to have these hours everyday to learn with my kids. I love watching them and helping them learn, and I love that I can tie in the things we learn to our everyday experiences. I love coming back from a day on the beach and looking up the creatures we saw. I love trying to answer questions that I thought I knew, finding the limit of my knowledge, and then searching out more info. ("Why is the sea salty?")
A major cruising activity is fishing, the product of which is a major source of protein in a cruisers diet. Bill has taken to fishing with all the enthusiasm he brings to any new hobby. He has caught dorado (aka dolphin fish), grouper, flounder, snapper, various mackerel, and barracuda. He grills it, fries it, or makes sushi, but my favorite recipe is ceviche. He chops up onion and green pepper, adds a can of tomatoes, fresh lime juice, salt, and Tabasco. Fresh cilantro if we can get it. Yum.
So stay tuned, as soon as we roll a six, we'll head south the Nassau, where we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Bill's mom. She's planning to sail with us for a few weeks, and we honestly are counting the days until we see her.
01/16/2008, Little Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas
[s] [c1]p:26=B019.00'N:077=B000.00'W [c2]pd:000|0.0 [d]2008-01-16 23:01Z [t]Repairing Our Boat in Exotic Locales [l]Little Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas [a]Bill Mintz [b] Cruising: The Art of Repairing Your Boat in Exotic Locales. (Where parts are hard to find and expensive.) January 17, 2008
Most days I see the sunrise. I am up before the family and go on deck in the dark. A few minutes of peace before the chaos of the day. This is not a vacation.
Here is some info for you gear heads. Get all the skills that you can before trying this. The sailing skills are but a tiny fraction of what you will need. It is the ship keeping that is so difficult. A lady on an Endeavour 33 told me that "there are always 5 things wrong with your boat; and you are aware of two of them". Truer words were never spoken. Today before breakfast while everyone else was asleep I adjusted the throttle linkage on the engine and changed a flat tire on one of the bicycles. This is typical.
The last few days before departure were a blur of effort. Judy had set a date, we had had a Bon Voyage party, and it was just time to get going already. Still, there was work to be done. Janice from Maritime Canvas replaced a failed zipper on our bimini top in hours. (She also gave us windows in that top as a gift. Thank you Janice.) Through another very generous gift from the Stacy and Larry Wolin we had been able to install a radar unit (Many thanks, Stacy and Larry). That meant four days up until midnight installing it. It was about 95% complete when we left. On the way from Montrose harbor to the Chicago River Lock the tower that I had had made toppled over onto our mast which was horizontal on the deck from bow to stern. (Fortunately it fell that way and not into the water!) Our first breakdown was not =BD hour into our trip. I secured it temporarily and continued on. I made a permanent repair several days later in a small town in Illinois.
From there the breakdowns and repairs came fast and furiously. So many that my memory gets quite hazy, but I'll try to list some of the more interesting ones. There was a small diesel injector leak. In Grafton, Illinois, I used some silicone to create a temporarily seal. Of course, I repaired the now nearly famous major fuel leak at Cape Girardeau. At Aqua Yacht Harbor (the border of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama) I replaced one of our VHF radios, installed a new pump on the forward head (toilet), pulled and replaced the impeller for the speedometer, and repaired Honda and Yamaha outboards.
New raw water and fresh water pumps in Demopolis, Alabama. We had to spend some time waiting for the part to come, then waiting for the right part to come. Of course I broke the pulley getting it off, so I had to find a man in town who could repair "everything but a broken heart and the crack of dawn". Then the seals .
Then the mast went up in Mobile. I had about a week of work. Stepping the mast went quite well. I installed a new flag halyard on the port spreader that I had forgotten a line in. That involved a trip halfway up. Of course there were the masthead instruments and antenna to install. A new mast boot seal had to be made and all the electrical connections. Then a project: I was never pleased with the main sheeting system, so I had purchased a pair of winches and a set of blocks to mimic the sheeting system that I had admired on several Hallberg-Rasseys that I had seen. So after a day drilling holes into the deck and filling them with silicone I had the new winch system in. Then replace the water pump again! Another oil change (had I mentioned those?) fuel, water, and off we went. I didn't have to look for a West Marine store for five or six days! I found one in Destin, Florida and got a new zinc for the outboard, and a drain plug for it.
Apalachicola saw another oil change, and a few minor repairs. I repaired the bicycles that had been given to us in Mobile. They had spent some time under salt water in a hurricane. New cables, chains, lots of lube and they were working again. Also time to learn about salt water fishing, and purchase some fishing gear.
Marathon, Florida found me installing new LED lights, mounting boards on the rails for the new jerry cans of fuel and water. A few thousand dollars worth of food, charts, and parts stowed and we were as ready as we were ever going to be for the Gulf Stream. Then I broke my collarbone in one of the more bone-headed stunts I have pulled off. Two weeks later and we made landfall in Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas. Another fresh water pump change. Not an easy part to find on a tiny island. This time I also changed the radiator cap and found the factory spec was 10psi, not the 16psi that had been installed. That $5 part was the likely culprit in about $1000 worth (plus my labor) of failed water pumps! Of course having a very painful collarbone injury has put a crimp in my style. Lucky for us we have made some good friends in the Kittle family. Wonderful people from Michigan with 3 girls and 2 dogs crammed on a 34' sailboat waiting out the winter in the Bahamas until they can return to finish their 46' catamaran and come down here again. They have been great company and immeasurable help during the course of my recovery. I owe a million thanks and a large debt of gratitude to Jeff, Sue,, and their daughters Lisa, Jaimie, and Christie. Jeff has helped me with almost every task since my injury. He also helped (read: did it by himself) clear a clogged bilge pump that was a messy, greasy job.
Now we are in a snug harbor of a teensy-tiny island, Little Harbor, about 50 nautical miles north of Eleuthera. There is no chance of getting any parts here if I need them. My to do list:
Stop that mast from creaking! Chase down and seal the oil leaks on the engine now that I have stopped the water leaks. Find and stop the water leak on our fresh water pressure system. Install more LED lights. Test and diagnose our charging system. Install covers on the mast entry at the top of the interior. Install covers on the backing plates in the aft cabin. Several more bicycle repairs. Adjust the door to the aft cabin so it stops popping open. Install a new cable to the interior mounted GPS. Connect the GPS to the VHS radio for the position distress call Install the cradle for the life Raft Install the EPIRB Interconnect the Radar, wind instrument, and GPS Install the lee cloths in the main salon and the forward cabin. Sew a new cover for one fender. Replace the thermostat on the engine with a factory spec one. (I have the part!) Get all the speakers for the stereo working. Replace the catch on the door under the galley sink Repair the pump for the raw cooling water on the refrigerator once and for all Varnish the exterior wood again Varnish several areas of interior wood. Especially the cabin soles. (Floors to landlubbers.) Get all the wires for the computer to one place so we don't have "spaghetti bowl" cord nightmares. Install 3 more 12 volt outlets. Repair the macerator pump on the forward head.
That is all that I can think of off the top of my head, but I am sure there is quite a bit more. Here are a few things that I forgot to mention that I have done so far:
Adjusted the clutch on the anchor windlass Re-rigged a new anchor to replace the lost Danforth Re-rigged the whisker pole. Cleared clogged scuppers and drains Many whippings and splices Numerous small wood repairs Polishing, cleaning, adjusting, painting, sealing.
I can't even remember most of what I have done, or the projects that I would like to accomplish. Please understand, I am not complaining; far from it. Every project takes a new creativity and each completion gives new satisfaction and added confidence in the boat. Far from disliking the work on the boat, I find it an integral part of the rewards of cruising. But the lifestyle has its own myriad rewards. There are the fish I have caught, the sunrises and sunsets, the fresh breezes, and the time that I have spent with my family and with new friends .