5/30/10, my last post
30 May 2010
Well we're finally getting everything unpacked, amazing the amount of stuff we had on board. I wanted to do a post of things that worked and things that didn't for anyone who may be contemplating a similar trip.
Spot; spot is a satellite based system with GPS which works on most of the planet. Once you figure out how it works it's very effective. You can have spot e-mail a list of friends and relatives that will give them your location complete with a google map. We sent a signal every evening and whenever we moved, when we were crossing the Gulf Stream we sent one about every two hours. The unit cost about $100. and a one year subscription was about another $100. We wouldn't leave on another trip without it.
Cell phones; We used pre-paid, Tracphones, which worked well, in the Bahamas the government has a strangle hold on cell phones and costs can be exorbitant and service poor. I tried a local SIM card in the phones but could not get it to work. A word of caution if you try to buy a SIM card in the Bahamas try it out in the store before you buy. This local SIM would enable us to make local phone calls on a pre-paid plan, there were a few times when we wanted to make a local call.
Internet access; We had two options, wi-fi or a smart phone via Verizon.
For wi-fi we used an Alpha range extender with a 15' USB cable extension which we could run up a halyard to get more elevation. If you choose this route cover the alpha with a plastic bag to protect it from moisture, tape the plug and sockets that are outside and take several extra extensions or consider the extensions with gold pins which are resistant to corrosion. The Alpha come in 1/2, 1, and 2 watt versions, we have a 1. A friend has a 1/2 and a 2 and tells me he can't see much of a difference.
I talked to several people who used another type technology which uses cat-5, fiber optic cable. They say it works much better, cost about twice as much, I think I'll switch to this when we go again.
A third way of internet access is a local provider that you find in different areas, the cost is from a few dollars to $10 per day, usually with data restrictions. We used this several times and can be a pain, take a pre-paid, credit card of maybe $100, that you can use to sign up on line if the particular provider provides this option so you don't have to expose your main credit card.
For access in the states I bought a used smart phone, a palm treo, on e-bay for $100 which was set up for Verizon (you pick the carrier then the phone). Doing this enable me not to have a contract and we temporarily canceled the service when we were in the Bahamas and I canceled again when I got home. I used a third party software for tethering the phone to the laptop called PDA net which was about $35. Verizon wanted $12 per month which has gone to $25. There were about 3 or 4 places we stopped where we couldn't get a Verizon cell signal and when we did the speed was very slow for internet. Some friends with a Verizon air card tell me there speed is similar to DSL but with the card you have to have a 1 or 2 year contract. I don't think it would be worth it to me because it is only useful when we're traveling in the states, maybe 3 months.
We got our fill of talking to folks at home while we were in the Bahamas through Skype, which we found easy to use. We didn't add the camera until we were back in the states and so missed the opportunity to show us in bathing suits while they were shoveling snow up North. The audio quality is dependent on the internet connection and strangely, we found the addition of video did not slow things down noticeably.
Navigation; We used the chart plotting software "Captains" on our old laptop and are pleased with it's performance. The chart plotter makes navigating so easy next time I think I'll get a second laptop and dedicate one for navigation only, I suspect some of my wi-fi problems might be the old computer. There were times when I could compare results with others using the same set-up and theirs worked better, one difference was they had more resent laptops.
Google "active captain" Jeff Segal has put together a great deal of info on Cell phones and provides an app to load chart plotting to your smart phone. I bought it, only $50 for all U.S. charts but seldom used it. I was thinking it might serve as a backup but I don't think it's practical due to the small screen size of the phone.
I could find no tide current locations in the Bahamas, and only spotty tide tables. Google "easytides" which is compiled by the British Admiralty and they will give you tide tables a week out for several locations. One of the cruising guides, not "Guide to the Bahamas" by Wilson, that I used, has a tide correction table where you add or subtract from Nassau's tides to get the location that you're interested in. You will need the Explorer paper chart books which have very limited tide info but a wealth of other information
Miscellaneous stuff; Joy dish washing liquid will suds up in salt water and we used it to wash dishes and do some laundry, the laundry requires a fresh water rinse to get the salt out. We took on the salt water when we were in the ocean, hopefully far enough from pollutants in the various anchorages, when we go back I'm gong to do something to make this an easier task like a dedicated 5 gallon can for the salt water plumbed to the galley sink.
If you're not adept in the art of spear fishing get a pole spear as opposed to a Hawaiian sling, it's not as effective but easier to use. Get a shorty wet suit and diving weights, the suite gives you some buoyancy as well as the salt water and you can't get any depth without the weights.
Take lots of beer and snack foods, we started using dish towels that we could reuse rather than paper towels. You'll need to be able to transport 15-20 gallons of water in the dingy when in the Bahamas, we used collapsible, 5 gallon containers purchased at a on line camping supply place ( I thing "Big Eds or Big E's) and they were OK but fragile. I would do the same again but take better care of them. I think every cruiser you talk to will tell you they took too many clothes, we did.
Our Honda eu 2000 performed wonderfully.
U.S. customs, we pre-registered to get back in and that worked great. Do it before you leave however, it requires a trip to a customs office and a place to send a sticker which you can't get while your at the office??? If you want to take a gun you need to take it to customs before you leave and have an agent witness the serial number and give you a form ( you should get the form on-line). This will make it legal to bring it back to the US.
My favorite anchor is my 22 pound dansforhth with 20' of regular tensile chain, a 20 pound killet and a bridal, with 50'x 1/2 of rode. We like to anchor in 2' of water at low tide so this gives us adequate scope. I also had a second dansforth, 20' chain with 150'x 1/2 rode, a 35 pound CQR knockoff, 20 chain and 150' of 3/4 rode. I also lugged a 45 pound CQR knockoff which we never used and I don't think I would take again.
A good VHF radio and antenna is important, in the Bahamas you use the VHF alot. Several locations have "cruisers nets" that give weather and other info of interest. Speaking of weather we spent a good deal of time gathering weather info. When we had internet access I used "passagemaker" or "Windfinder" to get info on the fronts that continually roll through. Also I bought a "Kaito" single sideband radio receiver for around $100 and we could listen to Chris Parker Weather. He has a subscription weather service the cruisers with a SSB transceiver can radio him for specific passages. He starts with a general report beginning with the Abacos and working South. There is no charge for just listening and you can get a pretty good idea of whats happening. I might bring a recorder as it's sometimes hard to write fast enough to get all the important aspects. Reception is effected by atmospheric conditions and sometime we could not get him at all. The Coast Guard broadcasts on SSB also but we could never get them. Also you can get software to produce weather faxes through your computer with the SSB signal, I tried this out before leaving and it worked but I couldn't get it to work after that. I think the faxes are for such a large area that they are of little use but there are other experienced cruisers who disagree with me.
We winterized our house in Md. and did not leave any heat on. I drained and used RV antifreeze on; washing machine, dishwasher, ice maker, hot water heater, toilets, all traps, water pump (we have a well). We used to do this when we had a summer place and it's always exciting when you turn the water back on to see if you did it properly. I was surprised that everything worked as before.
I was also concerned with the vehicles and ethanol gas contamination, I've got a 115 HP, Yamaha fuel injected, 4 cycle, out board motor that I could not get running properly all last season even after spending $650+ and alot of my time, all due to ethanol. I used as much gas as I could then treated the remaining gas, pulled the batteries and that worked out OK also.
Thats all I can think of for now, If you're thinking of going--do it, do it sooner than later. We had a great time and I hope to do it again.
Bob, Alice and Pepper
25 May 2010
Had a good breakfast with Tim and Jill, that Tim prepared, and got underway about 10:00 for the 32 NM trip to complete our journey.
Arrived home at 6;30 and tied up to our pier. I had taken the straps off for the lift and also I wanted to clean the hull before it dried out so we left the boat floating for the night. The next morning I lifted the boat out of the water and was surprised at the amount of barnacles on the underwater portion, I scarped these off and power washed the mud like stuff that was at the waterline.
The house fared well, I winterized it for the trip which involves draining all the water and can be difficult to be sure you have it all. You find out when you turn the water back on and I was happy not to see any leaks.
Strange to sleep in our bed at home, we were gone for 327 days.
Don't know what we'll do this fall, would be nice to repeat this trip every other year but on the other hand you never can be sure of what unexpected event might happen to prevent another long trip. so we'll wait and see.
Bob, Alice and Pep
Pic is of My-Gem-An-I back in her lift on the Chester River
25 May 2010
We left Goose Creek about 8:00 and headed to the Little Choptank River where we planned to meet up with our friends; Tim and Jill Argie, fellow Gemini owners. We were going to anchor at James Island which is right at the mouth of the river and one of our favorite places on the Bay but you need for the wind to be coming out of the West to block the waves. Sense it was blowing out of the South we changed to Parson's Creek, very near the marina where the Argie's keep their boat.
I made a batch of spaghetti and they provided a salad and we ate on their boat because ours was a mess. We've been plagued by flees lately and we can't easily get rid of them because you need to fumigate and we'll wait till we get home. The Vet says a female flee can lay 500 eggs every 30 days so you only need one to come on board. Not sure if Pep brought it, she takes Advantage, that is supposed to prevent this. We have not been lucky in unwanted critters; we've had a mouse, ants and now fleas.
Pic is of Links, Tim and Jill's boat at Parson's Creek, Little Choptank River.