04/23/2012, Little Farmer's Cay
I wrote the blog last night to post this morning, but the Internet is still down on the island, it's been down since midday yesterday. Quite a storm blew through. It didn't last long and we were fine, but a few people had an exciting couple of hours. I'll post the full story once the Internet comes back. Just wanted to let everyone know we were okay and there is more to come.
04/22/2012, Little Farmer's Cay
Last night we got ready for the weather. We put the dinghy up on the davits and pulled the drain plug on it. We closed most of the ports and put the center window back in the dodger. We had gone to town on Saturday, we weren't sure if we'd be off the boat much at all today. There was lightning around, as we got ready for bed. We put the computer, the i-Pad, the hand-held VHF and the blue-tooth GPS in the oven. The stove is stainless steel, so the oven acts as a Faraday cage (a metal box) and can shield things inside from lightning damage, or so we hope. It rained on and off through the night, but not too hard and the wind was maybe a bit lighter.
This morning when we got up it really started to rain hard. There was almost no wind, but the rain was coming down and there was still lightning in the area. Suddenly the wind came up. For about 20 minutes the wind blew as strong as we've seen this season. In a matter of a minute or two it went from almost no wind to 40 knots or more. The strong wind was right out of the west. Bud was looking out at the harbor when he called to me. The big powerboat tied to the yacht club had come loose at the bow. We watched as they struggled, they had a bow thruster and after a bit were able to get it back and get it tied again. They were on the radio calling the club, I'm not sure anyone on shore got over to help them.
Then there was more talk on the radio. Another boat on the other side of the harbor had broken from its mooring. There was a powerboat and a sailboat over there. At first I thought it was the sailboat, but on the radio they were saying that the boat had an anchor out and they were working with their engine against the anchor to stay in the deeper water. I saw that it was the powerboat. The boat near us told them if they could get out of the narrow channel they were in and get over here there was another mooring at the yacht club and it was designed for heavy boats, so should hold them. They had set their anchor by hand in shallow water yesterday, so they couldn't pull over it to lift it as they normally would. In the wind and the rain they didn't want to try to lift it with their dinghy, so they were going to put a buoy on the line and drop the anchor rode overboard, and come back and pick up the anchor later. They were worried about getting out of the channel they were in, but eventually we saw them heading out. The owner of the mooring had finally answered their radio calls and was supposed to be coming to help them, but before he got there they decided they needed to leave as the wind had dropped and the tide was going out and were already out in the main channel when he came out in his runabout. He headed over to retrieve the anchor.
Scott, on Scherzo, the boat next to us, was the one who had told the powerboat, Aloha Friday, about the mooring here. He told him he'd meet him there with his dinghy to help get them moored in the wind. Bud called Scott and said he'd go with him if he thought having two in the dinghy would help, so Bud and Scott went over and picked up the mooring and waited for Ted and Nancy on Aloha Friday. I took this shot as the powerboat approached them. There was again almost no wind, but the rain was back and coming down in sheets. With two in the dinghy it only took a minute to get both lines led through the eye of the mooring line. Bud was soon back aboard. Everything not covered by his foul-weather jacket was soaked. It was raining so hard that Bud took a shower in the rain on deck. He waited too long and had to finish rinsing with the cockpit shower, though.
By about 10:30 the sky started to clear. We launched our dinghy and took Fuzzy ashore. He'd shown no desire to go out in the rain. Fuzzy is not a foul weather dog. For a good part of the afternoon it was sunny and windy, 20 to 25 knots right out of the west, as predicted. By late in the afternoon it was bright and sunny and hot.
Glenn and Susie, from Magnolia, the powerboat at the dock, Scott and Paula from Scherzo, Ted and Nancy from Aloha Friday and Bud and I all ended up going in to the yacht club for supper. We stopped in Glenn and Susie's boat for drinks afterward. It's a beautiful 55-foot Hatteras and seems as big and luxurious as a condo inside. We had a very nice time. We might have stayed longer, but we'd forgotten to leave lights on for Fuzzy. When we got back to the boat he was crying and he started quivering when I picked him up, he was so happy to see me. He does okay being left on the boat during the day, but he doesn't like being left alone in the evening, especially in the dark!
04/20/2012, Little Farmer's Cay
We decided yesterday to stay at Little Farmer's Cay through the weekend. Another round of bad weather is coming. This might be the worst we've seen in a while with squalls to 40 or 50 knots and wind from the west at 20 to 25 knots. There aren't too many places to be secure in a west wind in the Exumas. There are some marinas, but we'd like to stay out of marinas for a while, there's an anchorage at Staniel, but the holding isn't supposed to be great and it's a cut like this with lots of current. The next place that's really nice are the moorings at Warderick Wells, in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, but you have to go on the radio at 9 AM and try for a space there. Both times we've tried we've gotten in, but with this kind of bad weather threatening we don't want to chance it. We like it here, the moorings are secure and relatively cheap, there is free Internet and with our WiFi antenna we have a great connection on the boat. There are fish in these waters and at least three turtles that live around here.
We did decide this morning to move to a mooring a little further south. The one we were on, though closest to the yacht club, is the most exposed to the northwest. The forecast this morning increased the duration of the expected west wind, and includes a day of lighter wind (but still about 15 knots) from the northwest, so tucking a bit further behind the island seemed like a good thing to do. Two boats left this morning, so we took the ball furthest south. When we moved the tide was just starting to flow out, so the current was flowing southeast, and the wind was blowing from the southeast, so they were directly opposed. That made grabbing the mooring confusing. Bud drove the boat up to the ball against the current, but once I grabbed the mooring line, the wind was pushing the boat further up, so Bud had to reverse the boat to hold it in the wind while I got one line on it. He had to reverse it again so I could get the second line on. The bow was held into the current, but the wind on the stern pushed the bow up current past the ball. The good news is that reverse seemed fine, so the propeller continues to be okay.
The wind is going to start picking up tomorrow, and then blow hard tomorrow night through Monday. We wanted to try to find the cave on Great Guana Cay, which is the eastern barrier of this harbor. It involves a rather long dinghy ride; so we figured today would be the day. We'd tried to find it last year after hearing about it from Jon and Arline. When they found out we couldn't find it, Jon marked our chart and gave us actual GPS coordinates. We've had those coordinates sitting on the navigation station since January. Of course I couldn't find them. I estimated the coordinates on the two places Jon marked on our chart, the start of the trail at the beach on Great Guana and the cave itself. I input those into our hand held GPS and we set off. We had to beach the dinghy about 0.2 miles from the trailhead because the shoreline closer was rocky. We walked along until we got to the GPS coordinates and there was the trail!
We had no trouble following the trail, although at one point we thought we'd come too far. The trail does continue to the Atlantic side, but the turn off up the hill to the cave was easy to see. The entrance to the cave is just a gash in the side of the hill, with trees and brush all around it. Once inside, it's pretty big. I put some other photos in the album. Thanks Jon and Arline, we finally found it!
04/18/2012, Little Farmer's Cay
We did leave The Marina at Emerald Bay today. Hopefully for the last time this season. We set out for Lee Stocking Island. This is the place that has the Perry Marine Institute on it. We met the owner's daughter and the island manager about a month ago at the Chat 'n' Chill in George Town. We thought we'd go there for a few days before Jamie and Adler came to town, but the weather was wrong to get back to George Town, so we went with the rally to Long Island instead. Then when we left last week we thought of stopping there, but decided to come right to Little Farmer's Cay because we wanted to get as far as we could, sailing, before we used the prop.
Today, we thought it would be the perfect time to go to Lee Stocking Island. The wind was light, so we thought going the 30 or so miles to Little Farmer's would be too much. Besides, there's another blow coming through this weekend, so we thought it would be good to go to Lee Stocking Island, then Friday sail on down to Little Farmer's to wait out the blow. We left the marina at close to 11 AM with another boat, Osprey, who'd been our dock mates and were also going to Lee Stocking Island. They were going to anchor. We wanted to take a mooring ball, because we don't have to use reverse to catch a mooring ball and we do have to back pretty hard to set our anchor. We timed our departure so we would arrive after noon, when the tide would be coming in, moving the same direction as the wind.
We sailed at about 5 knots or so until we had almost gone the 15 miles to the waypoint at the entrance to the cut. Just as we were arriving, the wind changed, it picked up a little and moved from the stern to the beam. Suddenly we were doing over 7 knots. We had just been discussing where we thought the mooring balls were. We've never been in there before and I know Bud was worried about maneuvering in a tight anchorage without stressing the prop. In the end, we decided to keep on going another 15 miles to Little Farmer's Cay again. The wind is supposed to be lighter Thursday and Friday, so we might end up motoring. With the change in the wind we knew we could sail and we knew we would get here at around 4 PM, late but not too late to see our way in. So once more we didn't go to Lee Stocking Island. I did call Osprey on the radio, because they knew about our prop problems and I didn't want them to wonder what happened to us.
The wind stayed pretty good and we did get to the waypoint at about 4 PM. I was dismayed to see all the masts as we entered the harbor. I didn't want to have to anchor. Two other boats were just in front of us. They each hailed Little Farmer's Yacht Club to ask about mooring balls. I was sure there would be no mooring left for us. There were just two balls left at the yacht club, there was another mooring way at the northeast end of the channel, I'm not sure how deep it was. The two boats ahead of us went up near the yacht club moorings, then one of them came back down and I heard them on the radio say there were no pennants at the moorings. They'd made the same mistake we made last year when we first came here. The mooring ball is attached to a light line that is tied to the pennant. In many places the mooring ball is attached right to the heavy pennant and a light line that you grab floats free. Here you grab the ball and pull it and the light line up until you get to the heavy mooring line. The first boat left, Bud and I were headed for the mooring right in front of the yacht club. The second boat waved us away, indicating that the moorings were no good. They were close enough that I could call out and explain, so they grabbed the ball just up current of us and we turned and grabbed the ball we wanted. I took this photo after we were moored of all the boats along the channel. I've never seen this many boats here before. I put a photo in the gallery of the yacht club taken from our boat; with everyone else here, we feel we got the prime spot and we were the last to arrive. I'm not sure where the boat ended up that rejected these moorings, but I'm glad we didn't have to anchor. So far, so good on the prop.
04/17/2012, The Marina at Emerald Bay, Great Exuma
Fuzzy's step is built, the boat is cleaned, the wash is done and we're ready to try and leave for the third time. If the weather is as predicted we will leave in the morning.
Yesterday, we made some phone calls to find out if using a single nut on this prop is OK. The good news is that our Max Prop (assuming it was the standard one for the Norseman 447) had a standard taper and thread and so the taper on the spare prop should be a match. We had to call PYI, the makers of the Max Prop to find that out. The shop that built our new prop shaft said he would have built it to match the Max Prop, but that there are models of Max Props that don't use standard tapers and threads for their shafts. He did say that he knows some people use a single nut with a cotter pin on their props. You could tell that's not what he thinks is ideal. We don't need ideal; we just need to get back to St. Augustine.
I am getting pretty discouraged with all of the problems. I do not like constantly wondering if the fuel is okay (bubbles are still with us), if the zincs are okay (we ate through two prop zincs so for, now we're running without a prop zinc, but with two zincs on the shaft), if the alignment is okay (you still can't turn the shaft by hand). And now there is the additional worry that the prop might not be okay. Honestly, I just want to be back in Florida and I don't want to take this boat offshore again until all those issues are resolved.
I hope I am able to at least enjoy the trip back.
And I shouldn't complain, we've been stuck in this beautiful marina, with great facilities, including this nice billiard room, and very reasonable rates. Things could certainly be worse (and that's what worries me!).
04/15/2012, The Marina at Emerald Bay, Great Exuma
Michael Smith always says on the cruisers net on Sundays "Sundays are quiet days on Long Island." Well it was a quiet day here, too. We tested the outboard using two buckets (one to hold enough water for the engine to pump water through the cooling system and one to catch the water the engine pumps out) and it idled fine. We had thought of leaving it up on the stern rail, but Bud wanted it back on the dinghy in case we have trouble with the prop on the big boat and have to tow it with the dinghy. That's a disconcerting thought. In any case we lowered it back down onto the dinghy and pulled the dinghy and engine back up on the davits.
I took a walk out to the point just south of the marina. The golf course at the Sandals Resort, that this marina is part of, wraps around the point. It's really quite a beautiful course. I used the rate sheet for the golf course to record weather reports, but if I remember correctly, for Bud and I to play a round of golf, renting clubs and shoes, it would cost $330. I think we'll pass. I did find four golf balls out on the beach yesterday; this is the first time I've found golf balls while beach combing. You can see why they get in the water.
We went up to the billiard room here and played a few games of eight ball this afternoon. While we were there Joni and Mel from Serenity, whom we'd met last January at Great Harbour Marina, came in. They were driving around the island; they are staying at the marina in George Town and were amazed to see how nice this place was. They sail out of Florida and come to the Bahamas all the time. They have to be back to Florida by Saturday, but on their big Tayana that is no problem. They plan to leave Tuesday and do a couple of overnight sails.
Bud finally cooked one of the fillets from the Mutton Snapper he caught Wednesday morning. He did a Cajun preparation and it was quite good.