01/02/2012, Great Harbour Cay Marina, Berry Islands
Earendil and Kasidah are finally side by side at the same marina in the Bahamas. We tried to catch up with Jon and Arline all last season, and the closest we got was when we were both in Nassau at different marinas, they were coming back and we were going out. We plan to enjoy the next few days together. There is a cold front coming through tonight. The winds may get up to 30 to 35 knots. We're happy to be tied up snug in this marina.
Today was the last day of the weather window we used to get here. It was still this morning and quite nice all day. After a long, hot shower I decided to take a bit of a walk. The marina sits on the inside of a peninsula formed by the marina, the harbor, the cut into the harbor and the surrounding sea. I walked down that peninsula. I wanted to try to find a way out to the ocean (the banks, as the shallows around the Bahamas are called) or to the cut. I was able to find both.
All beaches in the Bahamas are public, and there are lots of places from land where there is beach access. I was pleased to find a sign for beach access along the road and followed it back to a lovely little beach. I found a sand dollar, which I collected. Coming back to the main road I continued down until I came to the cut. There was a track going off towards the ocean side of the cut and I followed it back and came to a terrace-like area where the signs for boaters entering the cut are posted. I put pictures of my walk in the gallery.
I started back and was going to see just how long it would take to get back to the marina, but one of the workers from the marina came by and gave me a ride in his truck. That's typical of Bahamians. I have never met more friendly people. It's so nice to be back here. When I first went out this morning I was listening to the silence. I heard one vehicle, a motorcycle, come near and stop. It was so quiet I heard a man sneeze on the other side of the marina.
Jon and Arline took their dinghy out to try to get some conch. They brought back three large conchs. They gave us one. Barry, from the marina, showed Bud and Arline how to clean them. Then Jon made conch fritters out of their two and invited all the cruisers for a happy hour. We took some chips and hummus and everyone brought drinks. There were at least 12 boaters that gathered. Arline had champagne that she poured into little paper cups and we all toasted the cruising life "no matter what it costs" said Jon. We met some nice people as usual. There's a couple here from Oak Orchard, Anna and Greg, who left the same year we did and are on a ketch. So our little gathering had three boats from Lake Ontario (and another one from Ottawa, which isn't that far). There's a picture of the folks at the conch fritter happy hour in the gallery, too. Arline and I aren't in the group because we were both taking pictures for our blogs.
01/01/2012, Great Harbour Cay Marina, Berry Islands
What a way to start the new year. Bud and I got up, got ready and left the harbor at 3:50 AM. One little slip. This is a man made channel into a basin. The marina is just off the basin. Once you're out the channel you just continue straight out for a short while to deep water. No problem at night. However, this is the Bahamas. Once we left the area of the marina slips there were no lights; no street lights, store lights, house lights, nothing. It was pitch black and we had no way to see the edge of the basin or the turn into the channel. Bud idled along following our track on the chart while I hurried below and got out our spotlight (all the way in the back on the shelf under the nav station, cord terribly tangled) plugged it in and brought it up. I shown it around on the walls of the basin and the jetty and we eased into the channel and out between the blinking red and green lights (yes, actual navigation aids) at the mouth of the channel and we were out.
We motored the two and a half hours until dawn because we didn't want to put sails up in the dark. We used our AIS to identify the three huge and sinister lights up ahead as a "tanker, not under command". He was probably anchored, but was way out from shore and not near any anchorage. The other two boats moving slowly along were cruise ships, idling towards Freeport. Our course took us along the shore and across in front of Freeport. We passed Freeport before dawn and listened to the cruise ship radio operators talk to the harbormaster about coming in at 7 and 7:45 respectively. Happily we were now past the port.
The sky started to light up a bit after 6 and the sun rose at 7:04. It was a welcome sight to me! We put out all the sails in the very light wind and motor sailed. We had the engine running at under 2000 RPM and were doing over 7 knots. It was lovely, smooth sailing. At 9:30 Bud went below to rest and I took the helm. The wind picked up to over 10 knots. I didn't want to change the speed of the engine because I knew that would rouse Bud, so I just kept going. We were ripping along at between 7.8 and 8.2 knots. I was keeping a sharp lookout for other ships as we were cutting diagonally across the Northwest Providence Channel, the main shipping channel into the Bahamas. I was hoping there would be little traffic on Sunday, New Year's Day. I saw the top of a boat off the stern. Then I saw another off the bow. I switched views to see the large chart with the AIS and saw five little wedges of ships all headed towards us! They were still a long ways off so I didn't call Bud. I engaged the autopilot to free my hands and moved the curser over the closest little wedge and clicked on it. Not as easy as it sounds, because we were sailing along and the autopilot is less than precise so the bow of the boat was swinging in direction somewhat. Every time that happened, the chart, which is set to display direction of travel up, would adjust and the little grey wedges would move. It was like playing a video game; only you're standing on a heeling boat that is moving around in the waves. I finally got the first boat identified; it would come no more than 2 nm from us. Whew! Then I clicked on the boat behind it. It would come as close as a half nautical mile. That one I wanted to watch. The other three were further away and I gave up on the video game for the time being. I went back to steering the boat. After a bit I tried the closest approaching boat again. This time, as our course varied, I saw an approach as close as 0.2 nm. The other three little grey wedges were also getting closer and I didn't think I could manage to keep tabs on all these boats and keep steering. I saw Bud moving around below. Good, he'd be up in a minute and I'd have help. He didn't come up (it probably was all of a minute) and finally I broke down and called him. He took over the wheel and I took over the chart manipulation. Much better. We also shut the engine off because we were sailing at over 7 knots without it.
Bud altered our course up into the wind a bit for about a half hour until the closest boat passed us. Since we were going diagonally across the channel, we were going diagonally across the shipping lanes. There were two Bahama freighters headed for Nassau whose path was not far off from ours. The closest boat showed it coming within 67 feet of us at some combinations of course and speed as our boat moved with the wind and waves. Bud held us away from the lanes and the boats finally passed. The other three boats never came near us. Once that group of boats passed we had the place to ourselves again and could settle down and sail. I went up on the bow and took this shot trying to get in as much as I could of all the sails flying.
We sailed from about 10:30 until about 1:30 PM. Then the wind started to come forward and die down. We kept sailing for a while because we'd made such good time we expected to get into Great Harbour by 4PM. Another thing our wonderful chart plotter does is to tell you the expected time remaining to your target at the current course and speed. We were down to about 2 hours to the waypoint (about 4 miles outside Great Harbour) when the wind started to die. When our speed dropped until we now had 2 and a-half hours to go, we got discouraged and started the engine again.
We finally dropped the sails when we came onto the banks, and the water depth got down below 20 feet. We still had several miles to go, but we'd be turning more into the wind anyway and decided to get the sails down where there was plenty of room to maneuver. (We turn downwind to furl the jib and directly into the wind to drop the main.) We were still a couple of miles out when we heard Jon on Kasidah, hailing us on the radio. Jon and Arline had left Lake Worth just after we did and sailed all day and all night and come directly to Great Harbour, arriving this morning. What a pleasure to come into a foreign country, but to a harbor you are familiar with, with friends already there. We docked at 4:20 PM. It took us twelve and a-half hours to sail 85.5 nm. Altogether we sailed 208 nm in three days! We are beat! I tried to write this blog earlier but was just too tired. It's now 10:30 and I am falling asleep at the computer. I hope this is still making sense. I put a couple more pictures in the gallery.
It was tiring, but a wonderful way to start the new year.
12/31/2011, Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End, Grand Bahama
We made it. We tried for an early start but that didn't exactly work out. We cast off the lines at just about 6:45. It seems we left at low tide, and Bud was keeping to the green side of the channel as instructed, but he kept a bit too far to the green and we went aground. We were stuck pretty hard. I went down and checked our chart on the computer for the tides and was glad to see that we had just passed low tide, so gradually the tide would lift us. Not wanting to wait for the tide, Bud gunned the engine as each of three different boats went by and created a wake. After the third try our boat started to move. It spun all the way around on the stuck spot so when we came out of the mud we were facing back into the marina. Bud had to go back into their basin to turn around. The second time we came out of the channel it was about 7:20, we finally made it out of Lake Worth at about 7:45. So much for our early start.
We were still breaking in the engine and running it hard so even though there was no wind we were making pretty good time. However, there was a current against us from the start. We figure it was the tide coming in. We started out heading southeast, to try to get a bit south of our destination before we entered the north flowing current of the Gulf Stream. We were diverted even more to the south by a freighter. We have an AIS receiver hooked into our chart plotter, which tells us the name, size, type, destination, speed, course and most importantly the closest point of approach of any boat equipped with an AIS transponder. Since all large commercial boats and ships must have AIS transponders, it's a nice tool. Bud had one freighter come up whose closest point of approach was 210 feet. That's a lot closer than we're comfortable with. So Bud altered our course to the south so the closest point of approach was a half-mile. I took a picture of it as it passed; it's in the gallery.
After that ship passed we turned back southeast again, and not too much later decided we were at the edge of the Gulf Stream, so set our course for West End, which by then was a couple degrees north of east. Our speed picked up a lot when we did that and we made between 7 and 8 knots the rest of the day. The seas were very flat today; it was like sailing on a cobalt blue Lake Ontario. I took a shot of Earendil cutting through the Gulf Stream and that's in the gallery, too.
It wasn't nearly as spooky to me to head out into the ocean this time. For one thing, we've sailed out of sight of land quite a few times now. For another, we were going to a place we'd been to before, and finally, we could see our track from our last trip on the chart plotter. It's amazing how comforting that is.
For the last third of the trip we flew the jib. There wasn't much wind, but it built a little and in the end the sail was helping. It was nice just to have a sail up.
At about 3:30 PM we headed for the channel to Old Bahama Bay Marina, and I took this picture of our approach. We're now cleared through customs, tied up, plugged in, fed and ready for the new year. I'm so glad we made it. We have one more very long day, to get from here down to Great Harbour in the northern Berries. We're going to get up at 3:30 AM and take off at 4 AM so we can arrive down there in daylight. At least we're feeling more confident with the engine. The fuel bubbled all day again, and again Bud added about a pint of diesel to the Racor at the end of the day. But the engine ran strong all day-and we're here!
12/30/2011, Lake Park Harbor Marina, Lake Worth
We did it. We got up, took Fuzzy ashore, lifted the engine off the dinghy and the dinghy onto the foredeck and LEFT VERO BEACH at 7 AM. We took the ICW down to Fort Pierce. The bubbles were bubbling in the Racor, but the engine was running fine so we decided to head outside and try to make the run down to Lake Worth. The photo is Earendil going out the inlet at Fort Pierce.
There was almost no wind today, we never put up the sails, but we ran the engine hard and made it to the Lake Worth Inlet before 3 PM. I took some photos as we came in the inlet, I'll put them in the gallery. We came back to the marina where we stayed last year, Lake Park Harbor Marina. The log read 59.63 nautical miles.
We were concerned because there seems to be a lot of vibration from the engine. Also, the stuffing box, where the propeller shaft comes in through the hull, is dripping probably more than it should. That can be adjusted, but the drips were getting spattered up onto the oil pan and leaving a salt deposit there. We were afraid the spatter was because of the vibration and the vibration because of misalignment. We called the Yanmar technician who sea trialed with us in St. Augustine. After leaving a message with him we called the Yanmar dealer that did all the work in Vero Beach. They assured us that the alignment was fine; the stuffing box just needed adjustment.
After we were here at the dock the Yanmar tech called back. He concurred that the stuffing box alone could be causing the spatter, but said an easy way to check the alignment was to turn the shaft by hand when the boat is stopped and in neutral. It should turn. Once the engine cooled a bit I tried that, I couldn't turn it. Bud couldn't turn it. It was 4:55 PM and I called the Yanmar dealer again, no one answered. I called the tech back, and thank goodness, he answered. His diagnosis is that the alignment is out but it shouldn't really hurt anything and we should go.
So we're going, but I can't say that we're really happy about the state of things yet. I'll feel much better once we cross and make it to Nassau. Tomorrow we will cross to West End. That should be 10 hours or less. Sunday we'll try for the Berry Islands; that will leave us one or two short hops to Nassau. Here's hoping!
12/29/2011, Vero Beach Marina
West Marine called at 11 to say our parts were in. At 11:15 we were on the bus, having packed up our stuff and Fuzzy and dinghied in to shore. At 11:45 we were back on the bus with parts in hand. Our hope was to install them, test the engine and take off in time to get to Fort Pierce by the end of the day. The parts were installed by 1:30 PM. We primed the Racor and started the engine. Bubbles, lots of bubbles.
In desperation we disconnected the fuel line from the tank and stuffed it in one of our jerry cans of diesel. Prime the Racor again, no bubbles! It was the new fuel pick-ups we'd just had installed. So we uninstalled those, put our old parts back on, replaced the fuel line from the tank to the manifold since it had been pulled on and off so many times the ends were ragged, primed the Racor, no bubbles. Repeat for other pick-up, same result.
We took the boat out for a sea trial, again. No bubbles until we opened it up in the ICW, then the same old bubbles we've had all along, but the engine ran without a skip. I'm not sure why it felt somewhat like a triumph to be back where we were, but it did.
Anyway, there's a good weather window through Sunday, so tomorrow we are going. We'll go back to our old routine of topping off the Racor every day. At least now we can do it with the fuel pump. I guess that was worth the extra 5 days and $300. Hah!
So I swear, this is the last sunset we'll see this year in Vero Beach.
12/28/2011, Vero Beach Marina
We left our mooring ball this morning, stopped at the fuel dock to pay for our mooring, take on water, and walk Fuzzy one last time and headed out. Away from Vero Beach at last. I checked the engine. Yes, the stuffing box was dripping nicely. Yes, the Racor was bubbling, perhaps more than ever. We got out into the main channel, Bud opened the engine up and... it slowed right back down. Fuel starved, gulping bubbles. He had me get the anchor ready in case it quit altogether, we turned around and came right back to mooring ball # 31 at Velcro Beach.
The good news is that Pete made the air leak so bad that it confirmed our diagnosis. Bud took apart the new fittings Pete had installed and found the same type of fittings we'd had in there, only Pete had bought one with the wrong sized hose barb, so the fuel hose wasn't secure on it. He took them ashore to talk to Pete, who insisted that two places he'd visited yesterday had told him these fittings would work (that's what they told Bud when we put them in originally). Only Pete insisted what he'd bought was slightly different from what we had (they weren't). He also told Bud that West Marine had fittings for our Racor in their catalog. So after contacting Ace marine and having John search unsuccessfully through his van for a fitting to go from the straight flare hydraulic fitting now on the Racor to the pipe thread fitting for the fuel hose barb, we hopped the bus for West Marine.
For a mere $30 extra we had two fittings ordered for overnight delivery that would go into the Racor and end directly in fuel barbs. We then just had to get fittings to go from 3/8-inch line to ¼-inch line, which we were also able to purchase at West Marine.
Meanwhile, Don, Pete's friend and sometimes helper, mentioned again how much better our system would work if we moved the little electric fuel pump down to a low point in the system. Then it would prime the Racor without having to dump diesel in from a bottle, act as a check valve to keep fuel from draining back out of the Racor and eliminate a lot of fittings and valves that Bud had between the Racor and the engine. It made enough sense that we decided to do it. The photo shows the fuel pump all plumbed and wired in it's new home by the fuel manifolds under the galley floor.
Tomorrow we get the new Racor fittings; bubbles beware!