03/06/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
The wind blew all day at between 25 and 30 knots, with gusts above 30, and that was here in the lee of the island. The boat is moving around a lot on the anchor, but it's very secure and quite cozy. What's not so cozy is taking Fuzzy ashore, but we've got that technique down and with him in the pack we've been getting a bit wet but not soaked.
A lot of the folks in the anchorage went to one of Tryphena's buffets at Club Thompson Bay, but since we'd been before, and since the trip back to the boat in the dark would be a hassle in this wind, Bud and I decided not to go. Neither of us had much of an appetite, anyway. We think we might have a touch of seasickness from the constant motion. I'm feeling better now, but Bud decided to take a Dramamine and I gave half of one to Fuzzy. They should both sleep well tonight.
We didn't do much of anything today. A small boat came up and anchored near us. I'm not sure if they were moving in closer or came from another place. I can't imagine they would have moved far in this wind. Anyway, as a precaution, in case the wind moves further east, Bud asked me to let out another 10 feet of anchor chain. That way as we swing we'll stay behind them.
There's not much else to report, I just wanted people to know that all was well. The wind howls but the boat is fine. And a good thing is that the wind generator is making lots of power!
03/05/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
Well, the first day of the strongest weather event of the season so far is behind us, and it was not a bad day. I did take this photo because we had grey skies all day and I don't think I've ever seen that here before. Bud commented that we didn't wear sunglasses all day, that's certainly a first for this season. It's also pretty cool, temperatures are going to run the mid to upper 70's for several days. We may have to get blankets out tonight.
This could be pretty uncomfortable if we were in the wrong anchorage. The wind was up over 20 knots this morning, it came up at about 4 AM. The gusts have been in the upper 20's. But since it's coming right out from shore, we're well protected. I learned you have to be careful getting in the dinghy. We had the dinghy up on the davits overnight. It's my job to climb down in it, release it from the pulleys, and pull it around from the back to the side of the boat. Bud keeps the bow line. I usually stand right in the bow to do that. The little waves didn't look that bad, but it's steep little chop and it was bad enough with me in the bow to take a couple of wave over the bow and splash me pretty thoroughly. If I stand in the middle of the dinghy I avoid that. I also put Fuzzy in the front pack today to make getting on and off the boat easier. The beach is no problem. There are no waves there, it's as calm as can be.
Other than taking Fuzzy ashore we stayed aboard. I gave Fuzzy a bath and made brownies (taking advantage of the wind to use the oven without heating up the boat). Bud groomed Fuzzy again, I had to help for parts of it. We struggled mightily and finally got most of his face clipped.
Tomorrow is supposed to be the day with the strongest wind and Wednesday the day with the greatest chance of squalls, but nothing too much worse than today, so hopefully all of the boats here will be fine.
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.