We made it!
14 February 2019
Our continued voyage south on the ICW revealed a new electrical issue. After running the engine all day from North Palm Beach to Boca Raton, Dave realized the alternator wasn't charging the batteries. While we were now seeing a potential window coming for crossing to the Bahamas, we didn't like the prospect of having to run the generator every day throughout the rest of the winter. Our search was on again for a mechanic. We went into a marina in Hollywood that had a concierge service with mechanic recommendations. The mechanic had both the alternator and the regulator bench tested and they both checked out fine. We ended up with a new battery isolator and left with the assumption that our problem was solved.
After continuing on to Miami, provisioning in South Beach and anchoring overnight in Hurricane Harbor (Biscayne Bay), we departed for the Bahamas on February 3rd. We had great conditions crossing the Gulf Stream and onto the Bahama Banks, so our arrival at the marina we were headed for would now get us there before sunrise. We decided to sleep for a few hours and anchored on the Banks in the dark.
We arrived at the Chub Cay Marina (Berry Islands) and quickly cleared through Customs. Unfortunately, our batteries had not charged after running for 20 hours. Dave studied the regulator manual, did all the meter tests outlined and reprogrammed the unit. While exchanging emails with the mechanics he used in both Cocoa and Hollywood, he discovered on his own that the regulator ground wire was not connected. When he connected it, the alternator was now putting out electricity. We enjoyed the pool and the beautiful marina grounds for 2 nights then anchored just outside of the marina with plans to move up the Berry chain to an anchorage protected from the strong East winds expected for at least the next several days.
During a rough ride going up the east side of Whale and Bond Cays, we realized again that the batteries weren't charging. We went into the cut just south of Little Harbor and promptly grounded in grass and sand turning north in between Cabbage and Lizard Cays. It was a shit storm trying to get off. We attempted tipping the boat with Dave pulling on the halyard from the dinghy and me giving the boat full throttle. When this didn't work, the other boat nearby tried to pull us off- unsuccessfully. We had no choice at this point but to wait for the tide, which would be high again in 10 hours. In the meantime, Chester Darville from the renowned "Flo's Conch Bar" (the only building structure in sight)and the BASRA representative (Bahamian Coast Guard) for the area, stopped by in his powerboat and told us to call him on the VHF if we needed his help. This was reassuring as there were no other resources nearby and we were well outside of wifi and phone range.
Amazingly, the boat stayed vertical as the tide dropped further, exposing almost the entire hull. Dave saw this as an opportunity to scrub the hull and change the zincs. He worked and I looked for turtles. We charged the batteries with the generator. Just before sunset when the tide was flooding in, the boat heeled hard (see photo in gallery). At the next high tide (in the dark), we started to float then got pulled right back onto the shoal by the current. This happened repeatedly until we were eventually able to power off about 10:00. With a flashlight we anchored almost blindly in the narrow channel, using the other boat's masthead light and the barely visible shoreline as reference points. (See the photo of the charted area). We were in plenty of water but closer to the other boat than we were comfortable with, so Dave stayed up most of the night keeping watch on our position.
We slept in and the other boat left. While tempted to leave after such a taxing previous day, we recognized how well protected we were from the wind and how absolutely gorgeous the setting was. We ended up choosing to stay for 4 more nights and enjoyed the scenery and the abundance of turtles, rays, birds and huge starfish.
Using a weather model we loaded prior to leaving the marina at Chub, we expected the winds and seas to start abating. We decided to move a little further south, working our way closer toward the Northwest Passage, the deep water route to Nassau. We crossed the Little Harbor cut in rough conditions, but it was a quick trip across on the inside and we were soon anchored in the bight west of Bond's Cay in calm waters. There, Dave did a little more reading in Nigel Calder's "Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual" and decided that there are diodes in the isolator that needed investigating. He discovered that the wires were connected wrong, he reconnected them properly and, lo and behold, the electricity coming from the alternator is finally charging the batteries! Needless to say, he all but fixed the problem singlehandedly! Now we finally have some peace of mind!
After one night at Bond's Cay the winds were lighter than were predicted in our now outdated weather forecast. We headed south again with the intention of stopping at an anchorage just inside of Whale Cay, a good jumping off point for our day long run to Nassau. On the way to Whale, Dave started getting uneasy about the fact that we hadn't seen an updated forecast in a week. We decided to go the extra couple of hours past Whale and back to Chub Cay Marina so we could get internet. We learned when we got here that there was now a front coming through with squalls expected throughout the night and into today. Within a few hours we were experiencing high winds and heavy rains. Our anchorage would have been very uncomfortable and our night sleepless keeping watch. What a great decision!
As things let up today, we will move to the anchorage just outside of the marina. Conditions look favorable for making the trip to Nassau tomorrow. We will stop briefly there to fuel up and provision. Stay tuned for our next post from the Exumas!
Check out lots of new pictures in the gallery...