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S/V Earendil
A Grueling Night Prompts a Change of Plans
05/10/2012, Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End, Grand Bahama

Today was the day we had thought we'd sail to West End, but the forecast had changed and although there was supposed to be 14 to 16 knots of wind from the southwest (good angle) all night Wednesday and all day today, there were also isolated squalls predicted and the intensity of the squalls increased today. So we decided to leave last evening. That also would give us no real deadline for getting the 88 miles up to West End. If we left at sunset and we had a great beam reach we'd arrive about 7 AM. If we went a bit slower, we'd arrive later in the morning. It made sense, so even though I don't like night sails, I agreed that it was the best plan.

This picture was taken as we were sailing on the first leg away from Great Harbour Cay. We are literally sailing into the sunset. Not long after this our course turned a bit more north and the wind was more behind us and we slowed down. The moon is in its last quarter, so it was not yet up at sunset. There were scattered clouds that covered the stars on the horizon. It was difficult to steer a straight course. We'd set up the wind vane for this trip and before it got dark we tried to get it working, but failed. Just after dark our speed dropped to between 4 and 5 knots. I was discouraged about that, normally at that speed we would just run the engine and motor sail, but Bud said we were in no hurry, we were sailors, we should just enjoy the lovely night and sail. I tried, and the wind was soft and the temperature was perfect and the ride was comfortable. But there were squalls out there that I couldn't see (except the lightening ahead of us that Bud said was going to pass to the east before we reached it), and there was the worry about power, and the need for radar and AIS to track the freighters and cruise ships all using the Northwest Providence Channel, that we were cutting across.

Bud stayed at the helm and let me go down and try to sleep. I couldn't sleep, but I did lie down on the berth in the salon and try to rest. I got up every hour or so and checked on Bud. He was still at the helm and still doing fine. At one point I took the helm for a half hour or less to give him a little break. Otherwise, I kept him supplied with food and drinks and in between tried to rest.

Finally the wind picked up, and then it really picked up. We had over 15 knots of wind and the helm was getting hard to handle. We decided to reef the main. Bud turned into the wind and we brought the main down part way, as it came down I pulled in the reefing lines (fore and aft). When I'd gotten the forward lines all pulled in as far as they would go I winched up the halyard and winched in the aft reefing line and it was done. Again, the reefing worked well and it was all done in the cockpit. We now had four-foot waves and at night with any kind of waves we don't leave the cockpit without a tether. We already had on our life jackets, because we always wear them at night.

With a triple-reefed main and full jib the boat was handling well and we were making over 9 knots with the current. The wind generator was keeping up with the power needs from the sailing instruments and frequent radar use. It was rough, though. I had to clip in and go out and turn the dorades. They were facing forward and waves were coming high enough on deck to send water down them. Poor Fuzzy couldn't get off the couch in the salon. It was too rough for him to do anything but sit. We finally put a double reef in the jib, too. That slowed us down about three-quarters of a knot, but it also smoothed the ride a bit. Plus, we felt more ready if the squall Bud saw on the radar caught us. I offered to take the helm, but Bud said it was pretty hard to steer with the waves, so he kept on it. By now he'd been at the helm for about 10 hours with almost no break. He did let me give him a break again because he was worried about muscle cramps. I did fine, but it was hard work. Bud came back to the helm after only about a half hour.

We passed the harbor entrance at Freeport just as the sky was starting to get light. There was no real sunrise as by then there were a lot of clouds. I was planning to take the helm at dawn and let Bud sleep for a couple of hours, but just after dawn we started hitting the edges of squalls. I was needed on the sails. We tried furling the jib. For a little while we were sailing at about a knot and a half with just the triple reefed main. The wind had moved towards the front of the boat. There was a huge squall crossing in front of us and we didn't want to sail into it. It passed and we put the engine on, but we thought that sounded funny (prop vibration?) so we shut the engine off and put the staysail out because the wind was now close to the nose. That didn't work so we took that in and put the jib back out. We tried a full jib sheeted hard, but then furled it and went back to a triple reefed jib and main both sheeted hard with 22 knots of wind on the nose and 5 foot seas. Finally Bud said we would have to tack out or put the engine on. At this point we were about 2 and a half hours away from our destination and had been sailing for 13 hours. We both agreed to try the engine. So we started the engine and furled the jib again.

It was slow going with wind, waves and current all against us and Bud not willing to run the engine over 2000 RPM, but the vibration was steady, so nothing seemed to be getting worse, and the ride wasn't bad. Finally at 10:30 AM after a fifteen and a half hour work out we got to the marina. Just before we arrived the squalls cleared out and the sun was shining with less than fifteen knots of wind.

The experience made us realize that trying to do 36 hours with a mechanical autopilot that doesn't seem to work well without the engine running and an engine we don't want to run, in winds that are supposed to be around 20 knots and seas that are supposed to reach 8 feet is not something we're going to choose to do. Bud is going to dive on the prop again tomorrow to see if there's any change in the amount of play or the condition of the nut, cotter pin and shaft key. After that we'll figure out our next move. It feels great to be here, though.

05/11/2012 | Sue M
Amen to that last line. We are glad you are safe.
Break out the wine and beer!
05/11/2012 | Bob
Is there something about this 'retired life of leisure'
that I'm missing? The pictures of fish and starfish is
more what I had envisioned. You are braver than I think I will ever get to in retirement. Is there a deadline for your arrival in Florida? Just curious. Bob

Quick Update
05/08/2012, Great Harbour Cay Marina

Sorry no photo today and just a quick update. Bud dove on the propeller and determined that the problem is that the nut has just one drilled hole for the cotter pin; that doesn't allow him to get just a bit more of a turn on it and there's not enough play for a half turn to line the hole in the nut back up with the hole in the shaft. Everything else looks fine and there is probably no damage being done, but the prop is very slightly loose and will stay that way.

Our plans now are to wait for sailing windows and do one 11 to 13 hour sail from here to West End on Grand Bahama, and then after a day or two to rest, about a 36 hour sail right up to St. Augustine. We just have to wait to see what the weather brings. I'm not looking forward to that 36 hour sail, but it does seem to be the best option. It will be hard on Fuzzy because although he will now pee on deck, he is getting so lame that standing on a rolling deck is very hard for him, especially on three legs. He may have to pee without lifting his leg; we're all making sacrifices.

05/08/2012 | colin
Can't you find a thin washer for the prop shaft? even a steel one would last for the trip.
05/09/2012 | Skip
Use a castle nut.
05/09/2012 | Jill
When we get back to the states it will be easy to get a castle nut. Here there is no where to buy one. If we thought it was necessary we would wait to have one shipped from the US, but we think we can sail back with it as it is. There is one washer on it, the amount of space is very little, no room for another washer, even a thin one.
05/10/2012 | Colin
A machine shop will 'move the taper' up the shaft 1/2 an inch and increase the threads behind the prop. If you do that they make a 1/2 inch spacer to shim back the tranny end to keep the prop in the same place. Its cheaper than a new shaft and gives you a fresh bearing surface in the packing and the cutlass bearing.
05/11/2012 | Jill
Thanks for the advice, Colin. When we get back to the states we'll probably get a new feathering prop, but you can be sure both the new prop and the spare prop will fit right with the shaft and hardware.
05/28/2012 | Barbara Walch
The last post I see from Jill is May 11.
Has anyone heard from them since ?
Am I just a worrywart?
Oh #%!!#$!
05/07/2012, Great Harbour Cay Marina

This morning our weather guru, Chris Parker, mentioned in his outlook that this week all the bad weather is north of the Bahamas, while the Bahamas have light winds. Next week he expects the situation to be reversed, with windy, squally weather in the Bahamas and light or no wind to the north. Bud and I looked at our options and decided to move to the marina at Great Harbour Cay today in preparation for staging a return trip in light air that would get us to Fort Pierce or Vero Beach on Thursday. The prop has been working fine, and while nice south winds would be perfect, you rarely get perfect, and as long as the prop is okay light wind is better than squalls.

It's just under 30 miles around the top of the Berry Islands and back down the west side to the Great Harbour Cay Marina. We decided not to put the main up because the wind was very light and we'd be changing course so often, we weren't sure how much of the time we'd be able to sail at all. We probably should have used the main, but we put the jib out and for the first 12 miles or so did fine. We were running the engine at about 1600 RPM and still going over 6 knots, with only about 8 knots of wind. For a while at the top of the island chain we couldn't use the sail at all, so motored. Bud still kept the engine to 2000 RPM as we were going to get to the marina by 4 PM and that was our goal. We hadn't left the anchorage until just after 11, because we decided after the weather to do this and we had to ready the boat, including lifting the outboard onto the aft rail and the dinghy onto the foredeck.

We got to the marina as planned, but Bud had noticed a vibration while we were motoring at 2000 RPM, so once the boat was secured at the dock he tried reverse again. There was a terrible rattle. The prop must be loose. So it looks like our plans have fallen through. We certainly won't be leaving at 5 AM tomorrow to try to catch this weather window. Instead, Bud will be diving on the prop again to see what's going on and try to see if we can fix it once and for all. Until we have damage assessment we don't know what we're facing.

At least we have Internet (and air conditioning, because the no-see-ums are bad here if the wind doesn't blow). I'll take advantage of this interlude to upload the pictures for the last few days.

Enjoying the Berry's
05/06/2012, White-Devil's-Hoffman Anchorage, Berry Islands

We've had two nice days at this anchorage now, with almost no swell. At one point there were four boats in here. There are three of us left. The boat that came in first after us is still here, they are a couple from Germany who've been living in Florida for many years and are US citizens. They have a dog, it looks like a reddish, brown Scottish Terrier. The other boat is a couple from Australia, their 12 year old daughter and two little white dogs. When we went to the beach with Fuzzy last evening they were ashore. One of them is a Jack Russell Terrier named Sam. He seemed a bit aggressive and we were worried about Fuzzy. Sam was interested, but polite. Fuzzy was completely unaware until he turned around and Sam was right behind him. Fuzzy was unfazed and Sam continued to be polite. Sam was a bit skittish in meeting Bud and me, then Bud was petting him and leaned down close to him and Sam bit Bud's nose! By time Bud got his shirt off, to keep it from getting bloody, and his nose rinsed enough so the blood was slowing our dinghy had started to float away. That brought an abrupt end to the trip to the beach. This morning, Sam's owner, Ian, came over and brought "medicine" for Bud's nose, some nice fresh Red Snapper they'd caught and some home made chocolate chip cookies. Not a bad take for a misjudgment on Bud's part.

Earlier in the day yesterday, Bud had gone snorkeling on the reef outside of White Cay, that forms the eastern barrier of the anchorage. I went along in the dinghy and read while he snorkeled. He pronounced it one of the best reefs he's seen in the Bahamas, so today we went back and both went snorkeling. Bud took his spear both days but didn't get anything. Before Bud had even gotten in the water I saw about a 4 foot shark. I just looked it up and I think it was a Blacktip Shark. Once I saw the shark I was hoping Bud would not spear any fish. It's one thing to have sharks follow your catch on the line, quite another when you're all in the water together. It was a nice area. There was a lot of soft coral and fire coral, some hard coral and many, many fish. I'm always frustrated when I get back that I've seen so many specimens I can't remember details to identify them in our guides. I don't have an underwater camera, so I just try to enjoy them. Bud saw another shark that looked like it was sleeping on the bottom, that was a nurse shark. Then, just as he was snorkeling over towards the dinghy he saw a really big shark. He thought it was about ten feet long. That ended the spear fishing for him!

Tomorrow we'll listen to the weather report and try to figure our next steps, but for this interlude of light winds we're certainly enjoying where we are.

We Rested
05/04/2012, White-Devil's-Hoffman Anchorage, Berry Islands

I said we were tired after yesterday. I don't think I realized how tired. I always wake up early and got a picture of the sunrise that I'll add to the gallery when we get Internet again, but I didn't have the energy to do much beyond the basics. I took a picture of the boat in the anchorage, which I'll add to this post. I actually took a nap in the afternoon and slept. I can't remember the last time I've slept during the day.

Bud snorkeled a bit. He's also very tired, but he can't seem to sleep. It has been noisy sitting on the bridle in the surge. The boat has new motions and new noises. The wind is dropping. We expect it to be very light tomorrow. The bad news is we don't have enough solar panels, so without the work of the SuperWind we'll probably have to run the generator. Probably a good trade for having the surge stop.

This evening I walked for a few minutes when we took Fuzzy ashore. He and Bud stayed on the beach. I noticed that a lot of the bushes are now in flower, or about to flower. No doubt in response to all the rain that's fallen in the last couple of weeks. I took pictures of some of the flowers. I was getting close to another bush to check out the flowers when I noticed they weren't flowers at all, but little hermit crabs clinging to the branches. I took a picture of one of those too. It's the first time I've seen them anywhere but on the ground.

We expect to be here a few days as there are a number of light air days ahead. We will move again in anticipation of some good sailing weather, as we have one short hop and then two long sails to get back to Florida. Our next stop is a marina, and we don't want to sit there in waiting for the wind. I have a feeling that if no-see- ums invade when the wind goes we'll move to the marina so Bud can close up the boat and put the air conditioning on. We don't have a screen for our companionway, and if the wind is light the other hatches and ports just don't let in enough air to cool the boat. As usual, our plans will change to fit the circumstances.

Always Surprises, Always Something New
05/03/2012, White-Devil's-Hoffman Anchorage, Berry Islands

The wind is supposed to be decreasing day by day. Also, we're headed north, and the northern Bahamas are having lighter wind. All that said we did leave Nassau at 9 this morning for the relatively short run (35 nm) to our anchorage in the Berry Islands. With all the concern about decreasing winds, we hadn't really worried about waves. Wrong. We exited Nassau Harbour into some heavy rollers, probably 5 feet on average. Since we had to come out through the busy harbor with cruise ships and freighters we didn't have the main up. We had to motor out a ways to let a freighter go by before we could turn to put the main up. I had my life jacket on because the deck was rolling a lot. I had to go up to the mast and release the lazy jacks and untie and pull up the main halyard. Once those things were done I held the boat into the wind while Bud raised the main. Normally at that point we shut the engine off. Today, in the heavy seas, Bud left the engine on until we had the jib out and some way on. The motion settled down, but it was a rolly ride.

A new twist in our sailing is listening for the bilge pump. Since we're using the spare prop, and it is fixed, the prop and shaft continue to turn while we sail. It's noisy. Not only that, because the shaft is turning, the stuffing box is dripping water (as it should), and because we've never been satisfied with the shaft alignment we have the stuffing box drip quite a lot. That puts water in the bilge, so every once in a while the bilge pump comes on. But if we're on a starboard tack and the left side of the boat is heeled down, the bilge pump switch is lower than the water pick up, so the pump won't switch off. So you either have to turn the boat to where it's level, or use the hand bilge pump to empty a bit more water out until the pump stops. So these days whenever we're on a starboard tack (and heading north in prevailing east winds you're always on a starboard tack) we have this on-going conversation about noises. Is that a powerboat, an airplane or the bilge pump?

Not too far north the waves did calm down. We were still crossing the Northwest Providence Channel, and there was still nothing east of us but the Atlantic, but perhaps the Abaco Islands to our northeast were giving us some protection. Anyway, the wind stayed around 12 knots for the day, the waves calmed down some and we made between 6 and 7 knots for most of the trip. We got to the anchorage at about 3:30.

We were the only boat in the anchorage and we picked a good spot and got the anchor set without any problems. Bud backed on it up to 1400 RPM, no change to the sounds from the prop. Oh but then the fun began. This anchorage is marked as having surge. That's when the waves outside the anchorage cause small waves inside the anchorage. We've never had a problem here before, and this is the third time we've anchored here. Today, the wind was keeping the boat pointed more or less east, but the surge was coming from the entrance to our south, so was hitting us broadside. The boat was rocking from side to side up to a bit more than 10 degrees either way. And we had to launch the dinghy and put the engine on it. We managed to do everything with no accidents. Not bad considering the dinghy was going up and down about three feet relative to the boat. We took our trusty viewing bucket and checked the Rocna, it was set.

After Bud went down in the cabin and had to take a motion sickness pill he started to think about the situation. He remembered reading about a way to get the boat facing into the waves, so the motion is reduced. We found the information in Nigel Caulder's "Cruising Handbook". Bud took the hook we'd unsuccessfully tried to use on our anchor snubber and tied our 50 foot dock line to it. Then we pulled the anchor up a bit and removed the snubber, pulled it up some more and put that hook on it. Bud led the line back to the winch and I let the anchor chain back out and Bud winched the line, so now the boat is held at an angle between the bow and the winch (which is about two-thirds of the way back, at the cockpit). I set the snubber again. It was better, but we decided we needed more anchor chain out, so I pulled some back in so I could again untie the snubber. Bud went down to the anchor locker and pulled up more chain from the lower locker to the upper locker, so it would pull out, and we let out more chain, winched the line in again, and it worked! So I tied on the snubber again and we put chafe guard on the snubber and the 50-foot line and we are set. Finally.

We are both tired, it turned into a long day (second one in a row) but it was good to try something new and have it work.

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