03/04/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
We're as ready as we can be for the weather that's coming. This morning I told Bud I thought I'd like to try to hike to a beach we'd been told about if he'd take me ashore. He said he'd been thinking he wanted to go to a beach, too. Today is probably the last day we'll be able to take extra trips to shore for a while, and he thought it would be good to get off the boat. Also, with the wind from the south-southeast now and turning light and variable later in the day, it would be a good opportunity to try snorkeling on the Atlantic side. So after lunch we packed up our stuff, I put Fuzzy in the front pack and off we went.
Another cruising couple had told us about this beach. You walk north on the main road to Tryphena's Club Thompson Bay. There you notice that the telephone poles switch sides of the road. At the 17th telephone pole on the east side of the road you'll see a marker, that's where the trail cuts east to the beach. It was just as they described. The trail was marked with two fishing floats on an aluminum pole and though narrow, was unmistakable. After about a half to three-quarters of a mile we came out at the beach in this photo. I put a couple of pictures of the trail in the gallery (now Season 2, Bahamas, Part 2).
I wanted to beach comb, but Fuzzy was insisting on staying with me and was hot and tired so I went back and sat in the shade of the palm trees while Bud snorkeled. Once he was done I asked him to stay with Fuzzy while he dried off so I could walk the beach. I really wanted to find one more hamburger bean. I took off down the beach and was disappointed to see no sea beans at all. I'd thought this would be a relatively untouched beach, but it didn't seem like it. It was, of course, covered with bits of plastic. I tried to take a picture to show all the plastic that covers every beach. I put that in the album, too. I found one sea bean but decided to keep trying and walked all the way to the end of the strip of beach. Not far from the end I found one other really little sea bean, but it was a hamburger bean! Now I have three, the first one I found I'll keep. One of the others is for our daughter and the other for our friend Tracy, who was with me when I found the first one.
We walked back to the beach at Thompson Bay (all together I think it was about a mile and a half). When we came out we were surprised at all the boats in the anchorage. When we left there were 11. When we got back there were 31! I think a few of them just moved down from the area around the town to this end which will be more sheltered from the northeast, from where the strong winds are supposed to blow. Some of the boats probably came back from the Jumentoes or other less sheltered anchorages. One boat arrived after sunset, just before it got completely dark, so now there are 32 boats waiting for the storm.
Right now there is almost no wind at all, and it's just after midnight. By dawn there should be a pretty good wind from the north-northeast that build to 25 knots during the day. Tuesday through Thursday those winds are supposed to be 25 to 30 knots, with some squalls that could bring 35+knot winds. But all of the strong winds are supposed to be from the northeast, so we should all be secure in here. I'll keep you posted.
03/03/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
Friday and today we spent getting things set aboard for next week's weather. We expect wind building from 20 to 30 knots Monday and Tuesday, backing off to 25 knots Wednesday and Thursday with a chance of squalls to 35 knots throughout. Since businesses close here Sunday, we wanted to get everything we thought we'd need for a bit by today.
Also, the resort we can dinghy to still has no extra water and is not yet offering laundry service. So we rented a car again, from noon to noon. We picked it up at noon on Friday. Bud took me to the dock nearest the car rental place and I walked up to get the car. I had Fuzzy in the frontpack. It's been blowing at above 15 knots for several days, and this wind has a southerly component, so the anchorage here is pretty bumpy. So I had Fuzzy in the pack and climbed up the ladder on the dock with him. Bud went back to the boat and got our huge bundles of laundry off the deck and took the dinghy to the beach at the head of the bay. I drove the car down there and walked back the path to the beach and helped schlep the laundry back to the car. I also brought more books for the book exchange at the resort. We got directions to the laundry and took off.
The laundry, like many businesses here, had no sign. It's a good thing we had directions as it was a small, white cinderblock building behind some apartments on a side road. You would never find it without asking. It was small, with only about 6 or 7 washers and 5 dryers. We had 5 loads of wash, so I thought we'd be all day getting it done. But this is the Bahamas. The proprietor showed us which washers to start with. By the time we had the first two loads going, three more washers were free, so we got all our clothes in washers. We were outside talking to some other cruisers who had been doing their laundry, and they said the proprietor would swing your clothes from the washers to the driers if you left the money with him. So we left him our quarters and our drier sheets and took off to go get lunch. And the laundry was only $2 a load to wash and $2 a load to dry, unbelievably cheap for the Bahamas.
We tried to stop at Max's Conch Bar for lunch by the place was packed. We decided to get some of our other stuff done and come back. Bud cleaned out the canned Kulik beer at the cheap liquor store (only $42 a case, but only half a case left). He had to supplement with Budweiser because that was the only beer in cans they had left. We stopped at the phone company so I could see if I could get a Bahama Telephone Company (BaTelCo) chip for my Verizon phone, I couldn't, but I bought a cheap phone so folks with SKYPE can call us on that phone. We can also make local calls. That took a while and the Conch Bar still looked crowded so we decided to make our lunch an early supper and go get our clothes. They were just finishing up when we got back.
We finally did get to eat at Max's. The photo is Bud at the now very uncrowded Max's Conch Bar. The food was okay, but really didn't compare to Tryphena's at Club Thompson Bay, which has our vote as best Bahamian food so far. We drove south a ways so I could get a shot of sightseeing, but when we got back it was too late to do our shopping. By the time we got the laundry hauled down to the beach it was dark. The wind was down so we did the trip in one load, going very slowly, and didn't get wet. We had the laundry packed in black plastic garbage bags, just in case.
This morning we did the shopping. The car was parked off to the side of the little road that heads back to Indian Point at the north end of the bay. Today we left Fuzzy on the boat. We took an early wet trip in with Fuzzy, so we planned to again make two trips back. We beached the dinghy and drove the couple of miles to put gas in the rental car and get another 10 gallons of water. Then we stopped at the store and got groceries.
We had two large and three small bags of groceries and two 5 gallon jugs of water. Everything had to be carried back down the path to the beach. I put a picture in the gallery (now another new album) of the rental parked by the path entrance, which is marked, as so many are, with the ubiquitous plastic jugs found washed up on all the beaches. The path is only about 500 feet long, but when you go back and forth on it a few times, it adds up. We loaded up the dingy and I helped push Bud off into the little waves and I drove the car back to the rental place. They just had me leave it parked there, unlocked, with the keys under the mat. They were closing the auto repair part of the business and the guy who ran the rentals would be by sometime to move it.
I walked back down the little lane to the dock and Bud picked me up. He had taken the groceries aboard and put the perishables away. He wore full foul weather gear for this trip. I had my foul weather jacket and put it on. We didn't get wet, except for sweating inside our jackets.
Now we're all ready for the blow. If it wasn't for taking Fuzzy ashore we wouldn't have to get off the boat until the wind dies down sometime next week. Actually, the strongest wind is going to be from the most protected direction, so the waves we have to deal with might be at their worst in these pro-frontal winds today and early tomorrow.
03/01/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
One thing I've noticed about cruisers who've been at this for a while is that they don't get too excited about having to fix things. It is, it seems, all part of the experience and the more you do it the more confidence you have when the next problem presents itself. I say that knowing full well that a) the next thing that presents itself will be something we've never dealt with before and have no idea how to fix, at least until we start to dig into it and b) some things can be so bad that they end your cruise, or even your boat.
But to get back to our experience, I was pretty nervous when we discovered the leaking rudderpost while crossing Nurse Channel in the Ragged Islands. Salt water was coming into the boat! The bilge pump was coming on every 15 minutes or so and we were 80 miles from any parts and 100 miles from the only place around to pull the boat out of the water. When we got back here to Thompson Bay I was no longer afraid, but I was worried that we wouldn't be able to fix it without hauling the boat. Especially after Bud adjusted the stuffing box twice and the leak persisted.
Today, however, we tackled the problem and learned a few more things about our boat. The stuffing box consisted of two halves. There is a lower flange on top of a cylinder with a lip that turns in towards the shaft. There is an upper flange with a thick cylinder that also fits loosely around the shaft, but the upper cylinder drops partway into the lower cylinder. Then you put packing material (flax impregnated with wax or Teflon) into the lower cylinder, the bottom lip keeps it from falling out. You push the upper cylinder down so it compresses the packing material and you bolt them together. Tightening the bolts compresses the packing material and squeezes it more tightly against the shaft, sealing the water out but allowing the shaft to turn.
The instructions in the owner's manual say to use a small drift or similar pointy item to dig the old packing material out. What they don't say is that after 28 years the top layer of the packing material is so compressed that it's rock-hard, and falls into almost dust as you try to dig it out. They also don't tell you that almost no tool will actually fit in the space you have to work in. We ended up taking turns at the digging, using a small screwdriver, a piece of wire hanger, and a large upholstery needle as our tools. It took about four hours to finally get all the old material out. The good new was that the top of the rudderpost was above the waterline, just. The bad news was that the autopilot, that has a steering arm attached to the rudderpost just above the stuffing box and below the regular steering quadrant, was obviously installed some time after the stuffing box had been in use for a while and adjusted. With the new packing Bud couldn't get the stuffing box compressed enough so the autopilot arm would clear the stuffing box bolt. He ended up having to grind a bit of the bolt off! There's room on the shaft above the installation point, so the arm could have been installed higher, but it wasn't.
But, the job is done, the rudderpost no longer leaks. Although we still have to test it at sea under load, the condition of the old packing was so bad that we have little doubt that the new packing will have solved the problem. Probably the most amazing thing about this repair is that is cost us $6.50 for a second package of packing material. So I was feeling pretty happy as the sun set on this day!
Late-breaking News! Bud told me the Internet had a good signal late at night, so it's 1 AM and I just finished uploading the photos from the Jumentoes & Raggeds. They are in their own album.
02/29/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
We took another little jaunt to nowhere today. We pulled the anchor and went out on the banks sailing with just the jib. We wanted to see if the rudderpost was still leaking. It was. We pulled the jib in and let the boat drift and Bud went down and tightened the stuffing box some more. We turned around, put out the jib again and sailed back. Still leaking.
5.78 nautical miles later we are about 100 feet from where we were. The anchor is set nicely again. Bud made a dinghy run to town for water and to refill our one propane tank. While he was gone I looked for more information on the stuffing box for the rudderpost in the Norseman Owner's Manual (I have an electronic copy we downloaded from the Norseman Owner's Group web site). It told how to replace the shaft packing in the prop shaft (which is obviously underwater) and said it can be done with the boat in the water. It said to do the rudderpost the same way, although the top of the rudderpost is supposed to be above water. We're not so sure it is, with the extra weight we have on the boat, but at least we have instructions on replacing it. Tomorrow I'm going to the marine store to try to buy some more shaft packing material, we have a little, but not enough. It's supposed to take 5 wraps, we probably have enough for 2.
So we are hopeful that our problem can be solved without hauling the boat. We'll see.
At least the propane was a good price. $25 for a 20 pound tank refill.
02/28/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
So the big deal today was going into Long Island Breeze to use the Internet. We decided to eat dinner there and I even took a shower for the occasion. When you have to haul your water in 5-gallon jerry cans, 20 gallons at a time from a dock that is a mile from the boat, taking the water for a shower is not done lightly. I can't wash my hair in this bay either. There is fine silt mixed with the sand and when the wind blows the water gets silty. You can barely see the bottom is 8 feet of water! Not what I want to use to wash my hair.
Anyway, we packed up our garbage (the dumpster is next door to the resort at the government dock), Fuzzy and his food and set out. Bud hung out with Fuzzy while I went up to get on-line...and I couldn't! For some reason my computer would not accept the password. I think the password had changed while we were away, but when Mike tried to enter it in the computer for me it timed out. I tried several different times, several different ways, but in the end I couldn't get on. So no pictures and I'm trying to post this via the free Internet we've grabbed from the boat. Now I don't know when I'll get good Internet again. We did have a nice dinner.
Tomorrow we're going to take the boat out and check out the rudderpost to see if adjusting the stuffing box got the leak under control. Then we'll make plans for the next little while. I'll post things one way or another, and add all the pictures as soon as I can.
02/27/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
We had a bit of weather last night. First it rained and Bud got up and shut the hatches before things got too wet. Then later there was a short time with a LOT of wind; Bud thought it went up over 30 knots. He went out on deck and made sure nothing blew away. I slept through all of that. I got up just after the rain for Fuzzy patrol, Fuzzy and I walked out on the foredeck. That was only about 11 PM. Then I slept out in the salon with Fuzzy for the rest of the night. Slept right through Bud going up during the wind. Fuzzy slept through until about 6 AM, then I took him on deck again.
This morning we wanted to do two things. We wanted to see about adjusting the stuffing box around the rudderpost, to see if the bolts would move and to see if it would have any effect on the leaking. We also wanted to defrost the freezer. We moved all the food from the refrigerator into buckets, put ice on top and covered them with towels under the dinette table (about the coolest spot on the boat). We then moved all the food from the freezer into the refrigerator and turned the fridge on and the freezer off. We put a pan of heated salt water (don't want to waste fresh water) in the freezer and let it defrost.
Meanwhile, I stacked all the bedding up on one side of the bed and opened the panel above the rudderpost. Bud crawled up there and took a look. He was able to turn the bolts. He turned them and dried things up and then waited to see if it helped. He also put WD-40 on the upper bearing while I turned the wheel. Later, when he inspected it again, he used a mirror to really take a look at things. He found nuts on the bottom of the bolts, so his first attempt hadn't tightened anything, he'd just turned the nuts along with the bolts. So he tried again. Happily he was able to tighten the bolts. It did slow the drip to a tiny ooze. He didn't want to over tighten them and risk stripping or braking them because then we would have a serious leak that would require taking the boat about 20 miles from here to the only marina in this part of the Bahamas that can pull a boat. It's Stella Maris, the one we went and looked at, and we have to go in their four-mile long channel at high tide. We think we're okay now, but like so many things on the boat, we're not sure. We plan to take the boat out, probably Thursday, when the wind drops a bit, but not too much, and sail around and check it under sail.
We did get the freezer done and both the freezer and refrigerator cleaned and repacked. We're still trying to get the freezer back to temperature, it's a good thing the wind is blowing and the wind generator is making power or we'd have to run the generator for sure.
We've been trying to spend a bit of time with Fuzzy on the beach. He won't walk far, but we do try to get him to walk some. He likes going to the beach, but he doesn't want to go far or stay long. I took a picture of Bud waiting with the dinghy while I give Fuzzy some beach time. Bud walks with us a bit, because that encourages Fuzzy to walk, but while Fuzzy should walk, Bud shouldn't, so it's a compromise.
I've posted this and the photos for the recent entries using wifi accessed with our antenna. It's not the best, so I'm not trying to update the gallery. Tomorrow Long Island Breeze is open so we plan to eat dinner there and I'll take the computer and do some put all the pictures from the Jumentoes and Raggeds into the gallery.