Stars, Sails - the Parallax View
A family of astronomers at sea... coming soon to a galaxy near you...
Thursday to Exumas
Heather/ sunny and 77 F/ NE 15 kts
03/27/2012, Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas

Hi, everyone, we got internet connectivity by walking over to the Sand Bar "Coral Room" and having food and using their wireless.

Derek installed the transmission on the port side and we tested it, and he's measured the alignment, so everything looks good:
Derek happy about transmission

The hydraulic cylinder also installed well and is nicely aligned with the tie rod, and the two connectors appear to be doing well:
starboard side connector to hydraulic steering cylinder
both connectors

Walt and Meryl on Flying Cloud left yesterday, and arrived safely at the anchorage at Norman Cay.
Flying Cloud taking off

Derek and Nick helped with the dock lines:
Derek and nick and dock lines

And Heather blew the conch horn to send them on their voyage in good air with nature :-)
Flying Cloud flying

Back at the Wardle house, the hummingbirds were feeding:
Bahama Woodstar hummingbird feeding
closeup Bahama Woodstar
and another

For some reason, the guys are less likely to perch, preferring to keep the engine running:
eating on the fly

split tail
Notice the tail on this one? That's characteristic of the Bahama Woodstar.

Remember to ask us about this partly-burned boat that has been sitting on the canal for some time:

For contrast, the boat passing it:
flying cloud

Finally, it is really beautiful on land here. Everything grows in such profusion!
flowery wall

We expect to leave for the Exumas Thursday. It will be a few days between blog posts as we have to get internet connectivity to do them. Fair Winds!

Hydraulic Steering Works and No Internet
Heather / sunny and 87 F / 0-10 kts ESE
03/25/2012, Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas

This morning (well, Saturday morning, I guess that's yesterday by now, it being 4 a.m.) we lost the reasonable-speed internet connection we were using to update the blog and we couldn't even send email. I am on a very slow link right now that is only accessible late at night -- went to bed about 9 pm and got up again to use it.

Derek is much happier today since we spent the two previous days with a rental car, tracking down small plumbing parts needed to attach the new hydraulic cylinder to the previously-existing 1/4" tubing. The new standard for this kind of hydraulic installation is 5/16", so creating "adapters" for both ends of the cylinder was necessary. We visited Caribbean Hydraulics on Thursday, and the guy there built the main parts of the two adapters, crimping the new lovely 5/16" hose at both ends to the plumbing parts that would go 1) at one end to the cylinder, and 2) at the other to the 1/4" hose, but he only had one of the two very-end pieces that made the final transition to the existing hose possible, so we needed to find another one. That's why we kept the car a second day, and Friday we went to Albury's Supplies on Mackey St. They have a lot of cool stuff for the mechanically-inclined for cars and boats and trucks, and fortunately they have a guy working there who was able to find two pieces that, put together, would get the job done. Again, he only had one of these; fortunately since Caribbean Hydraulics had had only one as well, the two together took care of the two ends of the cylinder!

After spending this morning getting the stainless steel fabrication guys in Nassau to help us remove a mounting bolt that had corroded into place (in less than 6 weeks) in the bottom of the SSB tunable antenna, we returned the rental car (in the nick of time), and then Derek installed the hydraulic cylinder. I could tell he was really worrying about it because he insisted on doing it during the hottest part of the day; he said the tools were getting so hot he had to work quickly to keep from burning his hands. I tried to get him to come in (and made him drink cool drinks), but I think the hydraulic steering has really been bugging him for the last three weeks, and he really couldn't wait until it was installed and tested successfully. He definitely seemed more relaxed today after everything went together and works!

Walt and Meryl on Flying Cloud are heading out Sunday morning for the Exumas, having gotten everything fixed (for now... in cruising boats, no matter the age, fixedness is at best a temporary state of grace). Perhaps we will see them in future; they have been good company since their return from Hong Kong, and we hope the next phase of their cruise proves enchanting. We kind of expect that for all of our friends heading down the Exumas, it will, and it has. They are amazing islands, which is one of the reasons we wanted to share them with Grant!

BTW, the stainless steel guys who managed the "get the teensy bolt out of the antenna" trick were Mike's Stainless Steel Manufacturing of Nassau. They are about a block from the Poop Deck, just up the street by the Esso station (yeah, still Esso rather than Exxon on the sign), very close to the Nassau marinas (Yacht Haven and Harbour Club). They spot-welded a crossbar onto the bolt head to get a good purchase on it to remove it -- took them about 5 minutes to do what hours of soaking in penetrant and drilling had not been able to do. It's important to have the right tools for the job. Thanks, Mike!

Derek will try to install the transmission in the morning, and if that works, we will probably leave here soon after (within a day or so, depending on weather) and start south again, hoping to catch up with Jeff (S/V Boundless) to present astronomy stuff to his next sailing group, and hoping to catch up to Chris and Marisa on Charisma (we have your blocks and we want to return them :-) somewhere at/south of Staniel Cay/Black Point. If it does NOT work, then we will be here a while longer, but I am hoping it will work. I have no idea whether I will be able to update the blog in the next 24-48 hours, however. If I can get a good connection, I can go back to including pictures.

Lots of Errands and a Car
Heather / sunny and 81 F / 10-15 kts SE
03/22/2012, Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas

Derek managed to get something else done yesterday after I posted the blog entry... he hacksawed through the corroded galvanized anchor shackle in order to put on a new and shiny stainless steel one. After that, he needed a Kalik!
hacksawing the shackle

After the last post with the laundry arrangements discussed, I was going to mention one more piece of domesticity aboard: we have a couple of herbs, basil and sage, that we got as cuttings from plants left with Carolyn by other cruisers:
basil and sage

Today was a massive errand day, in addition to the cruiser lunch. We rented a car because we had so many places to go. Renting a car in Nassau is a little alarming, since one has to remember to STAY LEFT at all intersections and when turning especially. It's also a little alarming because it can be costly. We went with Budget, as they have a variety of discounts available.

Today was Cruiser Lunch Number Three for me, the second one for Derek. We met Capt. Bill Tice of S/V Charisma (another Charisma!), and it turns out he had met Chris and Marisa in Staniel Cay, towed their dinghy in to Pig Beach so that Chris could work on the engine. COOL!!! On the way in, they apparently had the "no, I'm from Charisma!" discussion :-)

Jeff came back to S/V Boundless today, also came to the Cruiser Lunch, and so did Walt and Meryl from S/V Flying Cloud. It was a friendly group of lively sun-browned cruisers. Jeff will be meeting the plane of his students coming in tomorrow afternoon, and probably heading straight out for the week's voyage with them, so he's been pretty swiftly provisioning today. Walt and Meryl got everything fixed, but then their freshwater pump's drive belt went out, so they are waiting for a final shipment of replacement belts from the US (nobody in Nassau had this exact size of toothed belt).

More pics in the morning...

Derek's Back! Yay!!!
Heather / sunny and 83 F / 5-10 kts E
03/21/2012, Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas

Sorry for the long gap. We were not doing anything exciting, waiting for Derek to get back from his Navy stuff. well, I guess if you're friends or family, you might consider Grant getting a haircut exciting. I tried to copy a sample image he downloaded for it:
Grant's New Haircut

Derek got back from Port Hueneme and his parents' place yesterday afternoon, to much rejoicing aboard Parallax! Almost the first thing he did was examine the hydraulic cylinder package that had arrived while he was gone -- looks like the hose fittings aren't the right size exactly, but he knows where in Nassau to go for new ones, so that's no problem.

I had just done a laundry ($7 for one load, but I also use the hand-laundry system we brought with us, a turn-of-the-last-century design that looks very much like a plunger and which fits inside a 5-gallon bucket (the washtub). The action is similar to churning butter, and will leave your arms a little sore for a couple of days afterward if you are not currently doing tricep pushdowns in your workouts. Even better, the centrifuge!!! It's sort of like the spin cycle on a washing machine (only a little faster), you pack in clothes leaving no gaps, put a protective cover on at the top, and switch that puppy on... it spins up, soon it's putting serious gees on your clothes and a gush of water is swooshing out the spigot at the bottom. eventually when the water slows to drips, you turn it off, and this cuts your drying time to about an hour on a sunny day. The laundry spinner and the plunger and bucket:

Here's the laundry drying and the ham radio antenna that Nick and Carolyn use to do their daily weather broadcasts:
laundry drying

Last night it started raining abruptly, which is always a clown-car amusement on a boat: you have the hatches open for ventilation and everyone starts running around closing stuff so we don't get soaked. Derek and Grant and I had all gone to bed already, and Grant came out of his room while I was still closing the forward hatch and closed the aft hatch and small side opening ports. I know this doesn't seem impressive, but it was very responsible of him. When the pitter patter of rain begins, you have a matter of ten to twenty seconds to react if you are going to keep important stuff from getting wet; Grant didn't wait for someone else to do it, he jumped right on it!

Meanwhile, Derek was regaling us with the story of his JetBlue flight back to the Bahamas:
"JetBlue, in theirinfinite wisdom, refused to let me check in because I didn't have a return ticket. I showed them my cruising permit and explained, so they
called a supervisor who said OBVIOUSLY I needed a return flight. I
argued, fairly loudly. Finally, they offered to "let" me buy a return
ticket, though of course since it was the last minute it would cost
$1400. Not a good solution.

I tried to get them to call Bahamas immigration. Eventually, they
called customs (not immigration), and US customs (not Bahamian).
Unsurprisingly, US Customs told them the US didn't care WHAT they did.
After lots of supervisor involvement, they decided to call Bahamian
immigration, but couldn't find a phone number. I used my phone to find
a whole bunch and started calling them. Eventually I got through, and
the Bahamian immigration guy agreed to speak with them, though he was
clearly confused by why they were such idiots. He did manage to
convince them to let me board....this whole process took about an hour
and 15 minutes. Nothing like a little stress to start the trip.

The funny part is this. After all the fuss about how they couldn't
possibly be irresponsible enough to let me board without a return
flight, they happily took my word for the fact that the guy on the
other end of the line on my cell phone was from Bahamian customs. He
could have been my friend Joe, for all they knew!!"

Now, JetBlue had sold him a round-trip from Nassau, Bahamas, to Orlando and back to Nassau, weeks ago. Note that the whole time they were running in circles over his non-need for a return ticket, they were tying up one of only three functioning check-in windows, so the line of passengers waiting to check in was getting longer and longer. Did they open another window? Oh, no, no. But that was not all. After showing up three hours ahead of time for his flight, Derek was the last person onto the plane. As he arrived, the gate agent gave him a stern lecture: "Sir, this is an international flight, you have to show up well in advance to avoid making the flight late or missing it! You have delayed all of these people..." etc. Think he lost it right about there, not entirely sure, but there may have been some mention of how early he had in fact arrived, how much of his time had been wasted by the circus act at check-in, and how he had had to solve the problem himself, providing an hour's worth of training to six JetBlue agents and supervisors, for which he would be happy to bill JetBlue...

Before they headed to Bimini and eventually back to their friend's dock for the summer, Robin and Liz arranged a dinner with Nick and our own boat -- there were not many people about that day. I'd say Liz did a great job!
Liz and Nick readying table:
Liz and Nick

Right after they got back from Hong Kong, Walt and Meryl on S/V Flying Cloud came along to the Thursday Cruiser Lunch in Nassau at the Green Parrot:
Walt and Meryl from Flying Cloud

And tomorrow is another Cruiser Lunch... our third. That's a lot of weeks of Navy Duty and Waiting For Repaired Stuff. But tomorrow we are also renting a car and will go get the hydraulic fittings (the cylinder fits just fine), the port side transmissions old and new, and we'll UPS some checks to deposit in the States and finish up with another "inaccessible without a car" visit.

Trips to Nassau, Hummingbirds, Rain, Crown Prince Harry
Heather / sunny and 86 F / 5 kts ESE
03/10/2012, Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas

The Wardles' Dock is in a beautiful natural setting, with hummingbirds flying around and epiphytes in the trees:
look ma, i'm up in a tree!

Cassiopea andromeda, the "Upside-down jellyfish" live in large numbers in the waters under and around Wardle Dock. They are an invasive species from the Mediterranean, they like brackish canals and mangrove areas. They lie on the bottom most of the day and catch small water critters with their upward-pointing tentacles:
upside-down jellies

We even see them swimming free on occasion, usually at dawn or dusk:
cassiopea andromeda, free swimming

The dock area is very picturesque. This is just astern of where we are tied up:
hoist and steps near Wardle Dock

Derek and Grant and I took a walk over to the Sand Bar on Friday afternoon/evening to get a meal out and see the beaches of the south side of New Providence. They face out onto a bank rather than deep water. Here is the view from the deck of the restaurant at the beach side of the (sand) parking lot of the Coral Harbour Beach House and Villas, the property which hosts the restaurant:
Coral Harbour beach from parking area

Derek and Grant went right to the edge of the water, looking toward the Exumas -- our next goal:
looking toward the Exumas

Derek was especially happy with the restaurant... not only was the beer cold and the menu small but relevant (yummy burgers), but there was PGA golf on the flat screen TV...
beer AND golf! Nirvana...

This is what the front of the Beach House hotel section looks like, from just in front of the restaurant (which is much closer to the beach and has a large new wooden deck painted white):
Coral Harbour Beach House
From here, the maintenance issues do not show so much, but there are several areas which need attention on that property. I checked the price to check in for a night and it is way out of line with the appearance and maintenance of the place; maybe before the economy got soft, but not today.

Derek bought Nick lunch when they went into Nassau on errands -- thank you, Derek! Nick drove Derek to the airport on Sunday -- thank you, Nick!

On Monday, Jeff and Elizabeth (S/V Boundless) and I walked up to the nearest grocery store a bit after 1 pm. I asked the ladies in the store whether they had seen Prince Harry's motorcade when his majesty went to the nearby Bahamian Defence Force base to lay a wreath at a memorial. They responded that he had not driven past their store, but had taken a back road. We shopped for provisions, and started back walking south on Coral Harbour Road, with me hauling my groceries in a small dock cart lent by Robin and Liz on S/V Lafs. On the way back, a large number of motorcycles came toward us at a brisk clip, ridden by Bahamian police in their very British uniforms -- pith helmets and bright white jackets. After them came the motorcade. Elizabeth took pictures, and this spot is awaiting her sending the picture of Prince Harry on to me :-)
Here he is, courtesy Elizabeth Palmer:
Prince Harry coming from Coral Harbour BDF base

And in closeup:
Elizabeth thinks Harry's the guy in back on his Blackberry

When I got back, Grant said, "You take pictures of everything everywhere we go, and the Crown Prince of Great Britain drove past you and you didn't have your camera??!" Oh, well.

On Monday afternoon, Chris Clark and Anand Varma arrived to study the Bahama Woodstar making mating display dives and using its tail as a sound effect. They have set up a soft cage with a female inside and put the camera in the compartment directly below because Woodstars have iridescent throat patches that flash red only from straight-on -- from other angles they are pretty much brown. Plus, they want high-speed details of the tail morphology as the woodstar pulls out of his 10-gee dive (yes, really -- they have such small bodies that 10 g's won't rupture them the way it would us).
hummingbird caged and ready for mating displays

Carolyn invited her birding club to a casual reception for Chris and Anand, and they gave some of their powerpoint presentations using the projector and screen we gave Derek for his birthday -- knew that would come in handy :-)
reception for hummingbird studiers

On Tuesday, Jeff and Elizabeth and I took a bus (16A) into Nassau for shopping and assorted errands. Nick drove us to the bus stop (thanks, Nick!). Jeff suggested we first eat lunch at Imperial Take-Away, a good inexpensive authentic Bahamian food place directly across from the British Colonial Hilton.

Jeff, acting as tour guide, told us about the library that used to be the jail:
Library used to be the jail From their website: [the building] "was constructed as a jail in 1797. In 1879, it was converted to a library, reading room and museum. The small prison cells which once housed prisoners are now used to store books, charts, Arawak artifacts and a collection of historic prints, colonial documents and newspapers. It was the first building to be constructed in Parliament Square."

By the way, Parliament Square was still decorated for the Prince Harry visit, although the Prince had flown out Monday evening:
Parliament Square

After that Jeff led us up the Queen's Staircase to Fort Fincastle...
Queen's Staircase sign

The stairway and the passage to it were cut through the limestone of the hill the Fort stands upon:
The chasm of Queen's Staircase

It's cool and green down there. At the top there's a kind of straw market, stalls with ladies who sell stuff. Jeff was going to check on Miss Hazel, who has one of these stalls. In fact, he's friendly with several of the vendors there:
Vendors at Fort Fincastle

Miss Hazel is too hot in her stall after noon. Here's Elizabeth taking pictures of the stall so that we (or Jeff) can design an awning:
Miss Hazel's stall. Elizabeth photographing.

Fort Fincastle is pretty small, and these days they charge tourists to go look into it:
fort Fincastle

It did, however, command an excellent view of Nassau Harbour and the sea north of Paradise Island. There were whitecaps in the light-blue waters of the inner harbour, and huge rollers on the sea outside of P.I. Told you about that "weather" and "30 kts" thing:
heavy seas in Nassau

On Thursday, Nick drove Robin, Liz, Grant and me into Nassau to the Green Parrot for the cruisers' lunch, as moral support since the week before there had only been two boats attending. It was occasionally rainy, but also occasionally beautiful. Beauty is all over the place, even while casually driving on West Bay Street:
Nick driving past the western beaches

Hot and still means "interesting" weather is coming
Heather / sunny and 92 F / 0-5 kts SSW
03/04/2012, Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas

It was hot this morning. Hotter and more still as the morning turned into the afternoon. That generally means big weather is coming. Now, after 4 pm, the wind has shifted to W and picked up. When it goes NW the fun will really begin :-) A boat called Lafs (Vancouver BC, Robin and Liz) came in the day us and after Boundless (Jeff, captain and Elizabeth, crew - an educational adventures boat), just ahead of that interesting weather. Here, Nick waits to take Laf's lines and raft them up to Flying Cloud, bu they are soon to be three deep at the Wardles' dock:
Nick waiting to take Laffs lines

Lafs coming in, wind and current at angles to one another:
Laffs coming in

Lafs safely rafted up: see the rudder in the clear green canal water?
Lafs and water

Hoping all the planes today had safe flights.

We are supposed to get 30 kts of wind in the low headed our way. The cool-off will be much appreciated; the Wardle Dock does have electricity but not high-capacity, so they do not allow air conditioning to be used.

There are so many people here right now! Robin (biophysics/chemistry) and Liz (opera) in Lafs from Vancouver BC came first, the day after we arrived (and they had a bumpier passage from Nassau), and then Jeff (music, a bit of everything) and Elizabeth (finishing up a master's in natural resource mgt) on Boundless (from the Exumas), which is a teaching ship: Jeff is the owner/headmaster and Elisabeth is crewing for now -- they both have spouses they'll be meeting up with now that they have come to the location for picking up the next load of youngsters for the week-at-sea experience. Great thing to do in the educational line!

Finally, yesterday, St. Pauli, a boat from Chile, came in: Wolfgang, his wife Paulina, his sons and their friends Thomas, Tomas, Nicholas, Carlos, and one of their girlfriends (Mirabella?). Seven on a 36-foot boat, that has got to be a close-knit family!

This afternoon it got to 93 F in the boat (and not much cooler outside), no wind to cool it off. Many of the sailors went to the beach: the Chilean family went kiteboarding (not too good with so little wind), S/V Boundless went snorkeling. We stayed here and Grant worked on his school, with all the fans we could set to rotating going. Eventually, it started to cloud up, that expected WNW stiff breeze showed up (but nothing like 30 kts), the kites showed up over the beach, and I went outside and set up my shower enclosure, made from PVC pipes and shower curtains, to see whether it actually has any wind resistance. Answer: not really. It will take a lot of attaching to make it work in a breeze. However, I did get my (hot!) shower from the solar shower, and the weather has cooled about 15 degrees since the high. You can see what's coming in this view out the companionway door:
rain on the horizon

We had tortellini and watched Airplane (classic).

Nassau to Coral Harbour, New Providence
Heather / sunny and 84 F / 0-10 kts SSE
03/01/2012, Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas

When we got into Nassau, Chris from Charisma
Chris from Charisma
came over the very next morning and he and Derek started trying to figure out what had gone wrong with the hydraulic steering cylinder and how to fix it, if that were even possible.

It wasn't. The cylinder could not even be serviced by anyone in Nassau, it had to be sent to the USA. Derek and I sent it via DHL Monday from the shopping center across from Nassau Harbour Club Marina, and it arrived THE NEXT DAY. That company (DHL) kicks major butt in the deliveries world!

When it arrived, the guys in the shop expressed shock that it had worked up to the present. It was apparently all rusted in the interior and filled with rusty water. Their words. Has to be replaced.

Meanwhile, the seawater-and-diesel-sodden carpet (see picture previous post) was ripped out, and we walked to Jolly Roger Ltd. (which does paints, tile, carpeting, vacuum cleaner repair and personal care products like shampoo, go figure) and asked to buy a remnant. They directed us to Mr. Wells in the back, which had a large warehouse-like area full of boxes of stuff and another back room filled with rolls of remnant carpet. Unlike the front part of the store, the back was not air conditioned. Mr. Wells was extremely helpful; he even arranged us a ride as one of his guys was dropping off a package to ship to the Exumas from Potter's Cay near Nassau Harbour Club. The carpet remnants are plentiful and of all qualities: we chose a nice beige piece that was thicker than the flooded carpet, and replaced it the next day.
our new salon carpet

Now, brace yourself, because the cockpit was filled with cans that had to labeled with a Sharpie then washed to get the salt off to keep them from rusting really fast, and lines that were displaced, and eventually new carpet remnants and all sorts of other stuff that was temporarily not stowable where it's normally stowed in the following pictures... we did get it cleaned up and stowed down, but not until just before departure!

Even if they could not fix the hydraulic steering cylinder, Chris and Derek could jury-rig a steering system, and Chris was incredibly generous in lending his kevlar straps and two blocks to make it work; Derek had blocks, but not kevlar straps, and both of his vice grips were needed to affix the non-stretch line to the center of the post connecting the two rudders.
Vice Grip Steering

With the small compartment housing the hydraulic access open, vice grips and red line, blocks and straps
blocks and kevlar straps steering
and some chafing gear to lead the line to the two side winches, they set up a steering mechanism: the main traveler.
Main Traveler Steering

Like the wheel, push it to port to turn to port, and starboard to turn to starboard. With the hydraulic cylinder back in the States for repairs or replacement, this was the only way to get us from the costly Nassau Harbour Club to the much more affordable and naturally-appealing Coral Harbour. We are glad to have yet another reason (aside from their general awesomeness) to catch up with Chris and Marisa in the Exumas: to return their blocks and straps!

Derek used one of his leftover pieces of StarBoard making a box with holes in it to cage/cover the drainage hole in the bottom of the diesel locker (Derek told me to add that Chris did most of the work). Underway, this stayed beautifully dry, even when we pounded a little on the southbound leg!
the StarBoard locker drain protector

Derek even found a shop that could rebuild the portside transmission (we hope). Of course, we needed at least that transmission so as to have the valuable reverse gear on that engine when approaching Nick and Carolyn's dock in Coral Harbour. So he will remove the transmission in the morning and take it into Nassau for the rebuild, catching a ride with Nick, who will be driving in for business.

We left Nassau late, almost noon, in order to be sure of getting there after Nick (our hosts are Nick and Carolyn Wardle of the SSCA -- long-term BASRA supporters and ECLSP supporters: Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park) returned from his BASRA lunch today. Steering around the shoal in mid-harbor and the dock and cruise ships in the harbor of Nassau
Derek steering through Nassau Harbour using a line and blocks
was a little alarming, but out at sea it went very well -- we found we could get better leverage on the traveler by using our feet or leaning against the mainsheet with our hips. It was a bit more physical than the usual steering, but satisfyingly direct: and it worked! The weather was also very laid-back: perfect for our purpose! Nick talked us in through their canal system by VHF once we were inside the breakwater; here is the canal system as we approached:
canal system
And Carolyn and Nick caught lines and tied admirable rolling hitches to attach us to their bollards:
Carolyn heading for a bollard
Nick instructing Grant on line handling

It was very peaceful as we got settled in and the sun started to set:
Sunset at Coral Harbour, New Providence, Bahamas
We made a tasty spaghetti dinner with meat from the newly-stocked meat department of the City Market in the shopping center opposite Harbour Club (Grant had helped with the grocery shopping in Nassau before we left! See:
Grant carrying back groceries in Nassau
I totally appreciated that!) and Grant played some of his current favorite anime series for us, after dinner. (Meat was not available at the City Market until Wednesday, the same day Charisma left for the Exumas).

By the way, when you enter Harbour Club Marina, you might as well start using their water right away; they charge $6 - $8 for it each day regardless of whether you are hooked up (reasoning that the heads and showers are usage). They do have a pool, that's a plus, and some pretty plantings:
hibiscus in bloom poolside, Nassau Harbour Club

More cruiser tips: Laundry at Nassau Harbour Club is currently $3/token and the third dryer out from the back wall gets hottest: it was the only one I did not need a second token to use. The tokens are the same "Double D" tokens used farther south (at Black Point near Staniel Cay, for example), but they cost more farther south. The maid who cleans the hotel rooms tends to take over the laundry in the morning, so if you are a night person, buy your tokens ahead and wash after 5 pm for maximum calmness.

Heading out to sea with jury-rigged steering and only one working engine seems a lot scarier when it's ahead of you than when it's happening or has already finished. As it turned out, it was a beautiful day for it. All of us were grateful:
Grant contemplating the sea north of Cable Beach, Nassau

Also after dinner, we were delighted by a call (our first on the new Bahamian cell phone!) from Charisma -- they are at Shroud Cay and looking to get into Warderick Wells for the beauty and also for the upcoming "blow": a norther, wind's supposed to go up around 30 mph on Sunday.

Avoiding That Sinking Feeling...
Heather / sunny and 86 F / 0-5 kts NNE
02/25/2012, Nassau, Bahamas

On Wednesday, we sailed from Bimini across the Grand Bahama Bank with a group of eight other boats. At five knots, it takes two days to cross these wide banks, with crystalline clear blue water showing sand and starfish and sea cucumbers 15 feet below.
Crystal Clear Blue Water of Grand Bahama Bank
On the second day, when it was calm and smooth, Derek and Grant were picking out details even in 30 feet:
Grant and Derek scrying in 30 feet

When we anchored out on the bank at Mackie Shoal Light to spend the first night (not a good idea to cross shallow banks in the dark), we were a small "town" of sailboats with our masthead lights burning. This turned out to be convenient for those who DO travel the banks at night, as the light itself seemed to be "not functioning at this time."

We then followed New Moon
New Moon underway
and Charisma
Charisma with 100 HP just cruisin
along with Grace
Grace sailing right into the wind!
pretty much upwind to the anchorage at Bird Cay -- there was supposed to be internet connectivity there, but the marina on nearby Frazier's Hog Cay that was going to provide it and rent us a mooring ball (and maybe let me get the saltwater-splashed bedding dried out) is closed until further notice for renovations, in other words, "not functioning at this time."

We had a nice snorkeling trip to the shores of Bird Cay with Chris and Marisa (Charisma), who found a tiny saltwater aquarium style reef in a warm patch with beautiful young reef fish and all kinds of interesting small corals hiding under overhangs -- a mini-reef. Charisma and New Moon were planning on heading to Nassau the next day, Thursday, so we also continued immediately to Nassau. I teach online, and I can't be away from the internet for extended periods. Grace had been headed to the anchorage at the West End of New Providence, but a northerly swell caused the entrance bar to become iffy and George and Doris decided to divert to Nassau. Here they are (Grace, the two-years-newer sister to Parallax) under sail coming into Nassau:
Grace sailing into Nassau
The image is a little tilted because we were tossing a bit when we took it.

As it turned out, Parallax started taking on water through a forward locker -- water was filling up the locker as we pounded into the choppy seas between Bird Cay and Nassau, and swooshing through the storage bilge under our forward bunk (due to a drainage failure in the diesel deck locker), and we wound up with seawater sloshing back and forth along the salon carpet before we figured out where the leak was and fixed it.
washing the carpet with diesel-scented seawater, ahhh nature

Then we pumped out as much water as we easily could, using an emergency portable pump connected to Derek's high speed drill -- the whole time the boat was on autopilot -- and finally, once the leak was stopped and the immediate flooding pumped down to a certain level, the hydraulic steering ripped out of its mount, all the way aft. Thus, the steering for the last 1/3 of the voyage was iffy -- I steered by hand, while Derek dealt with the hydraulic cylinder to try to keep the steering semi-functioning long enough to get us into Nassau and past the cruise ship channel. Charisma was awesome, stayed beside us and offered spares and advice and moral support the whole way!
Charisma sailing in the Berry Islands
And John and Paddy on New Moon talked to the dockmaster at the marina they'd chosen, so the marina was ready for our wounded-steering vessel's approach. Nassau is a large commercial harbor, so there are permissions to obtain and commercial shipping to avoid. Here's Charisma avoiding a brightly-painted commercial vessel:
Charisma versus the Big Red Ship
Altogether too eventful.

Friday, using a Shop Vac lent by Chris and Marisa, and while Chris and Derek were searching out hydraulics specialists and machine shops, I took 25 gallons or so from the shallow bilges under the floors, then rescued cans of food that had been soaked in diesel-scented saltwater, and re-established internet connectivity (much to Grant's delight). I also badly needed to do laundry to get saltwater out of bedding and towels, but there was some kind of island-wide water outage, the water was "not functioning at this time."

While I was pumping the water out, I listened to the local classical station and was treated to an announcement that the island's cell-phone and internet service had been interrupted but BTC was working on the problem and appreciated their patrons' patience. In other words, communications were "not functioning at this time."

Charisma invited us over for dinner and a movie in a non-diesel-soaked salon -- in their beautiful boat, in fact. They have worked on it for years and redone the complete interior, and it's lovely. It's a Challenger Anacapa 42 monohull with two cats (but not on the yards, the cats stay in the boat and there are no yardarms to worry about). Marisa made a wonderful spaghetti sauce with a little kick to it -- so delicious that everyone ate until they wanted to fall asleep, and Derek brought out his birthday present from last year, a video projector, and the scroll-like screen Grant and I made, and that worked pretty well!

We ripped the carpeting out of the flooded area last night and this morning -- Chris and Derek are working on the hydraulic steering -- next will be the transmission for the port engine. I did laundry this morning at $3/token in the marina laundromat, and the whites loads were stained orange-brown by the Nassau water utility flushing the lines. Not a uniform orange, either, but streaks of rust all over the towels and underwear. At least the water was now functioning. In the middle of laundry, Marisa came in to do a load for one of her kitties, who had gotten into the engine room and had to be thoroughly cleaned. I needed to visit a veterinarian anyway, to get more lactated Ringer's solution for our cat, so I went along with Marisa to the vet clinic, which was a great place -- the veterinarian is a Tuskegee University grad and she looks young but really knows her stuff!
animal clinic nassau

Paddy from New Moon offered to shepherd our respective laundry loads through the process as she was also up doing laundry -- what a wonderful, helpful thing to do! It looks like Ella The Cat will be OK, but she keeps pushing the envelope on those canonical nine lives -- her appetite for plastic is similar to our own kitty's.

We will be on New Providence for weeks now, with internet almost all of the time.

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S/V Parallax
Who: Derek, Heather and Grant
Port: Pensacola
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