Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ahoy Mr. Sulu

Marsh Harbor
26 32.86 N 077 03.56 W

We saw the strangest vessel in the harbor. See the picture below. It flys a German flag and it has radar and other equipment which makes it appear to be rigged for offshore cruising. However I can't imagine such a vessel sailing across oceans. WAIT! I just figured out what it is. It is the shuttle from Starship Enterprise. Perhaps Lt. Sulu and Lt. Uhura aboard visiting The Bahamas on shore leave.

Today is Nancy's last full day here. She and Libby rode the ferry across to Hopetown. I'm sure they'll have lots of stories when they get back. Meanwhile, I'm here alone working on the honey-do list that Libby left for me (you're supposed to feel sorry for me:)

Last night, Nancy treated us to supper at rib night over at the Jib Room. The food and the music were great. Nancy said, "If I drink enough Mexican beer and feast on this swine, perhaps they won't let me back into the states :)"

Also today Ray and Pat on Reflection are departing for Florida.

Also, tomorrow Jim R. arrives from Conneticut. The weather next week sounds favorable.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Plymouth Trip

Treasure Cay

Nancy and I took the ferry over to New Plymouth today. Since The Whale is raging, that's the only way she could get to see it.

We had a nice time and took lots of good pictures. Unfortunately upon return I screwed up and lost my whole day's batch of pictures from my digital camera. Darn. To make it up, here are some pics that Nancy took.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eventful Day

Treasure Cay

What a day! We left the anchorage around 9AM, buying fuel and water before we went. Our destination was Hopetown, about 21 miles away, but dead upwind!!!

It was blowing really hard, 25 knots with gusts to 30. Waves weren't much problem here in the Sea of Abaco. However, we had trouble maintaining 3 knots made good. Our average was more like 2.7 knots made good.

We were sailing with the full jib and with a double reefed main. She was heeling a lot with her rail under water a good part of the time. I reefed the jib 50% to reduce the heel. However our speed made good dropped to less than 2 knots. That was no good, so we dropped the sails to try to motor.

As I furled the jib, it felt strange. I ignored that and finished furling, then tried to motor toward Hopetown. With the motor we could steer straight at the mark, but our speed was only 3 knots. (A wind of more than 31 knots on our nose is enough to stop us dead when under power). Worse, Tarwathie started pitching for and aft resonating wih the waves. With each pitch the propeller would come out of the water. That's unacceptable. I turned back.

On the way back with motor and jib we flew at 8.5 knots. That's really fast.

En route I inspected the jib furler. It looked completely broken in half! I have no idea what happened or why. Therefore, to enter the harbor we had to take down the jib rather than furl it. We lashed it down on deck. With Nancy onboard, we can't store sails in the V berth.

When we returned to the Treasure Cay anchorage we saw a startling sight. A sailboat named Breakaway was sitting there at anchor. She was dismasted. The mast hung in the water to her side. On the way out, I hadn't noticed her sitting there. I asked another sailor what happened. He said that Breakaway's forestay broke last night around 1AM causing the mast to crash down. (How ironic. The boat's name is Breakaway.) I have no idea how or why the forestay broke.

He said that the owner had already hired a crane on a barge to come and help to lift the mast on deck. Too bad he did that, we fellow cruisers would have loved to have helped him to do that. It would have been an engineering challenge.

Next, we anchored, and I got an email saying that Jim R is coming May 1 to crew with us. Horray! That will be fun.

Finally, this afternoon I reassembled the jib furler. Nothing I can see is broken. It just disassembled itself. How or why I have no idea. I'm not pleased. That furler is a $2500 item that is only 16 months old. Now we have to wait for a period of less strong wind to put the jib back up and to roll it up on the furler.

Phew. I need a nap.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blog format change

[I changed the template format for this blog.] If you find that you can't read it because of the change, please let me know and I'll put it back.


The Tropical Life

Treasure Cay

Well, we've been living the tropical life for the past few days. Sorry, not too much time for blogging.

Coco Beach at Treasure Cay

Nancy found an affordable retirement home.

Today we were going to get fuel and then leave Treasure Cay for Guana Cay to go to the wild pig roast. We put everything away. We lifted the dinghy on to the deck. We weighed anchor. Then, two things made me change my mind. First, a big sport fisherman passed us and pulled into the fuel dock ahead of us. Darn, when those guys take on a thousand or two gallons it can take up to an hour. Second, the wind started to blow really hard. Our destination is dead up wind and the trip might have become unpleasant.

The bottom line is that The Captain (me) decided to stay here another day.

Right now Nancy is away fishing. Maybe she'll have better luck than her brother. I and Libby have yet to catch a single fish despite all the trying.

We're also going to meet up with some other people for a Balderdash game.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nan's First Day

Marsh Harbor

We're already 50% complete converting Nancy to becoming a cruiser. Yesterday we gave her a tour of beautiful downtown Marsh Harbor, went swimming in the afternoon, enjoyed the company of Ray and Pat for dinner on Tarwathie, and finished with the rake and scrape music and limbo show at The Jib Room. A whirlwind day.

But the best part of all for Nancy was the weather report heard on the cruiser's net at 0815. I'll quote it verbatim. "Tomorrow the wind will be NE 15-20 knots, sunny, the high temperature 80, and the low 69. The day after that ditto. The day after that ditto. The day after that ditto. The day after that ditto." It sure isn't like Boston.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nancy's Oddysey

Marsh Harbor

I'll start with the bottom line. Nancy is aboard the boat with us. However, getting her here turned out to be an adventure in international travel.

To start, we have no cell phone service here in the Bahamas, so we had no direct way to contact each other.

Nan started at 0600 at Boston's Logan Airport. Her plane was delayed in Boston. As a consequence, she missed her connecting flights.

Meanwhile, I went to the airport at 10AM, plenty early to meet Nan's plane at 1PM. I brought my computer, but at the airport, I failed at getting an Internet connection. I waited until 1:30. No plane. I went to the desk and asked. They said, "Delayed. Perhaps 2:30" At 2:30, the plane came but no Nancy.

I tried a second time to get on the Internet. This time it worked. I got an email from Karl, Nancy's husband, sent at 8AM saying that Nan was rebooked to arrive on a later flight that would arrive at 5:45PM. OK, I waited more. At 5PM I checked my email again. There was a second email from Karl saying that the second plane was delayed until 8PM. Oh no.

There are no amenities at the Marsh Harbor airport. Fortunately I had a bottle of water and a banana in my backpack and they kept me from starving since I had no breakfast or lunch.

I also found something to keep me busy. Recently both Libby and I have been enthusiastically making baskets from special long pine needles. We did so much of it that we were out of needles. I spotted some of the right species of trees in a forest near the airport. Thus, while waiting I took a hike in the forest, gathered a supply of the long pine needles, than sat on a bench sorting the needles from twigs leaves and debris. It was a nice way to pass the day.

At 6PM I went back to the airline counter to ask if the delayed plane would still arrive at PM. The lady said, "Yes but it is not coming here." "WHAT," I said. She explained that it would fly to Treasure Cay and the passengers would be bussed to Marsh Harbor. In the meantime, the Marsh Harbor airport was shutting down since no more planes would come today. "Where in Marsh Harbor will they take them?" I asked. "To their ultimate destination," she answered.
"Uh Oh," I thought, "Nancy doesn't know a final destination. I just told her that I would meet her at the airport." So where should I wait for her?

Meanwhile, back in Fort Lauderdale, Nancy sat at the airport unaware. The airline neglected to tell her that the plane would go to a different destination.

After some thought, I had an idea. I asked the airline to send her a message; "Meet me at the goverment dock in Marsh Harbor. When you get near, call on VHF channel 68" I sent the same message to Karl in Boston via email, hoping that he could call Nan on her cell phone. Then I went back to the boat, ate supper, and at 8PM I moved to government dock to wait with my portable VHF radio in my pocket.

I waited and waited. It got dark. Mosquitoes began coming out. I had no idea what time her bus would arrive. 9PM passed, then 9:30. Finally, a voice came out of my pocket; "Hello Tarwathie. This is Nancy, can you hear me?" It worked! I gave the bus driver directions to meet me. It came and we were united. By 10PM we had Nancy aboard the boat.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Here I Sit, Barely Hearted

MHH, Marsh Harbor International Airport

After so long living a fantasy in paradise, today is my turn to brush elbows with the real word. My task this midday was to go to the airport to meet my sister Nancy.

I went two hours early, hoping to find a WIFI signal. When I got here it was very crowded. People were waiting outside to board a plane. I also failed to get any WIFI. Skunked.

Oh well, I waited to two hours. No Nancy, no plane. It turns out that the plane from West Palm was delayed. But now the crowding eased and by trying several vantage points, I found the place where I sit now that is a WIFI hot spot. It's very localized. Moving to just the next seat makes it too weak to use.

Anyhow, I used the WIFI to check my email. Guess what I learned? Nancy's plane was delayed leaving Boston. She missed her connections. She'll be coming in on another plane 4 hours later. Oh well, I'm a seasoned cruiser now. I'm supposed to be able to wait patiently for any reason.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Great Motor Oil Caper

Marsh Harbor

Once again I made a giant mistake resulting in an awful mess out in our cockpit. Messes are bad always but messes on board boats or airplanes are especially nasty to deal with.

This time, I screwed up trying to add motor oil to our Honda generator. It has the very annoying kind of filler hole. It sits at an angle and one should fill it until the oil starts spilling out the hole. Well, I thought to avoid mess I could tip the generator back until the filler hole was vertical. I did that, and started pouring in oil from a quart bottle.

It seemed to take more oil than I thought. I kept checking by letting the generator tilt back down to flat and seeing if oil ran out the hole. None did, so I added more. I checked again, none came out so I added still more. Finally, it appeared full but not until I had put a whole pint of oil in. That seemed like a lot. I shrugged my shoulders and pulled the start cord.

She started right up just fine, but three seconds later she started squirting out a huge cloud of blue smoke. I stopped the engine right away. Then, dirty black oil started seeping out from the engine in all directions. It came from the carburetor, and out the air filter, from the muffler, and from under the frame. It seemed to come from every orifice.

Yee God. I must have grossly overfilled the engine with oil. When it started, the sloshing oil must have been sucked up in to the cylinder, and back out through the oil valve, the exhaust valve, and backed up through the carburetor to the air filter.

I grabbed a rag and started trying to keep the mess from spreading, but it was soon overwhelmed. I scrambled inside the boat to grab an oil-absorbent cloth. When I came back, the puddle of oil had spread even more. Soon the absorbent cloth was saturated with dirty oil and I had to get another one. In the meantime the oil was covering the seats, leaking down into the lazarette storage and spreading second by second.

Well, to recover from this I had to remove and clean the spark plug, and the carburetor and the air filter. Then I put it all back together and pulled the start cord once again. I was worried that the engine might never run again until it was thoroughly cleaned. I was wrong, It started right away. Honda makes good engines. It was still making blue smoke as it burned the oil coating engine parts but it kept running. I left it running. After an hour the smoke stopped and everything is back to normal.

Ay ay ay. How stupid of me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas

The store keeper in New Plymouth helped me to understand some of the inside view of island life. We talked just after an overnight thunderstorm. He asked how we rode out the storm on our boat. I asked if the homeowners weren't grateful for the rain to top off their cisterns.

You see, almost everyone living on places like Green Turtle Cay must get all their water from rain. They store it in cisterns. I asked how many gallons a family needs for a year. The store keeper told me that older houses in New Plymouth had smaller cisterns that store only 10,000 gallons (40 cubic meters).

New houses have flush toilets and washing machines, showers and the like and they need 30,000-40,000 gallons (150 cubic meters) per year. A wealthy man, living on the shore could make himself a solar powered RO (Reverse Osmosis) water desalinization system for $10-15K. That might be cost competitive with a cistern. However, water making systems are prone to frequent failures, thus some kind of backup would also be needed.

I asked about the big city cistern on the hill just at the edge of New Plymouth. He said, no, that is not in use any more. However, he said look at the ditch beside it. It is all dug and the equipment is all in place to make a RO city water system for the whole island. It was financed by the government. But alas, before it was installed, they had an election. The new government ministers don't know anything about projects in progress so they all get abandoned. Now, the new ministers are investigating importing fresh water from the USA by tanker. That sounds very expensive to me.

The store keeper told me more. He said that the Bahamas holds elections every five years, and that it is normal that all government projects in progress get dropped when the new ministers take their places. I imagine that it must be very frustrating. I also imagine that it must be at least partially the cause of seeing so many half finished abandoned projects in the Bahamas. I commented on that in an earlier blog.

I recall meeting the same problem years ago in my engineering career. In the 1970s, when I worked for PTI, we were hired by the Mexican federal utility to make an energy management system to help the operators to manage their national power grid. It was a low-ambition low-budget project. Nevertheless, it was big for PTI. I worked on it. We finished it, shipped it away to Mexico and sent an invoice to get paid; about $1 million if I remember right. They paid the bill, but questions and problem reports from the new system never came. Two years later, we learned that the held a new election there, and replaced government employees even down to the level of engineers. The new engineers never knew about this computer system that had been delivered. It sat on the loading dock at the railroad station until it rusted away.

The lesson is obvious. Having a 100% democratic form of government is not sufficient to make it effective and benevolent.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

End Of The Season

Marsh Harbor
26 32.86 N 077 03.56 W

I've written before how abruptly places like Lake Champlain empty out after Labor Day. Today it feels like that down here. There must be 200 or more cruising boats that left here in the past day or two. That must be a very big fraction of the US East Coast's cruising fleet. I wonder just how big that fleet is. My gut feel is about 1000 boats.

The window to cross the Gulf Stream is Monday. That means on Sunday night that nearly all of those boats will be staged at Great Sale Cay. The anchorage at Great Sale is huge, but I bet even that will be crowded on Sunday night. If the window disappears, and all those boats are stuck there for a week or so, they'll be very unhappy, because there is absolutely nothing one can do on Great Sale, not even hike a trail or go to a beach.

This morning I went for a walk on the beach at Treasure Cay. Boy oh boy do we like that place. We missed it entirely last year in the Abacos. Now, it is our favorite of all places. It would be tempting indeed to rent a slip there for the summer and just stay.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Need Sleep

Treasure Cay

After two nights sitting up on anchor watch, I was ready for a good night's sleep last night. We went to bed about 10 and I was out like a light. Around 1 AM the anchor dragging alarm on the GPS woke me out of deep REM sleep. Sometimes the alarms are spurious because the GPS iteration didn't converge. Spurious positions usually get replace by correct ones within a few seconds. Nevertheless, I had to get up and watch the GPS to see if the alarm was real or not. It was!

Darn, I was too tired to go running around re-anchoring in the middle of the night. Besides, the wind wasn't strong, just 15 knots or so. I resolved to wait it out to see if the anchor continued to skip across the bottom or not. After 10 minutes, it became clear that we were holding position. I went back to bed for a half sleep. Every 15 minutes or so, I would wake, stare at the GPS screen, decide we're OK and then back to sleep.

This morning I took this picture of our historical track on the GPS screen. As you see, it is crystal clear how our trajectory draws an arc as we swing at anchor. It is also crystal clear what woke me at 1AM. Abruptly the trajectory jumped from one arc to a distinctly different one. Also clear is a spike pointing lower right which marks one of those spurious positions calculations when the iteration failed.

Sometimes the anchor chain snags on the bottom. As the snag breaks free that causes the swinging arc to increase in diameter and to shift center point. If that happens we are not really dragging.

Last night's dragging was real. How do I know? We had 70 feet of chain out, and the GPS sensor is 20 feet from the bow. That means our circle of swinging is 2*(70+20)=180 feet in diameter. If I accurately set the anchor alarm reference in the center of the circle, then we should be within 90 feet, if I set it on the circumference we could be 180 feet away. The new arc was 180 to 220 feet from the alarm reference. We must have dragged some. Most likely 50 feet or more.

Today we came back through The Whale again. Good. I was beginning to fear that we would not be able to pass The Whale in time to meet Nancy's plane next Tuesday. Yesterday I heard some gossip that said that The Rage was predicted for today because of a storm 500 miles NE of here. That would have make The Whale impassible for several days. Now we don't have to worry about that any more.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Green Turtle Cay
26 46.62 N 077 20.17 W

I have an embarrassing story to tell; the kind of story that some blog readers like best.

This morning, we started the engine to recharge batteries. That's our normal routine. It ran for about 3 minutes, then it stopped abruptly.

"Uh Oh," I thought, "It must be out of fuel." At least that was my initial diagnosis. What else could make a diesel engine stop abruptly? Surprising though because we bought fuel recently and it shouldn't be down at all.

We have two fuel tanks. 20 gallons each. We use transfer valves to manually switch from the port tank to the starboard tank. Sight glasses on each tank allow us to see the fuel level 0-10 gallons in each tank. More than half full, we have no fuel gauge. Anyhow, I opened up the engine compartment and peered at the sight gauge on the starboard tank we were drawing from. It was inconclusive. You see, the plastic tube that forms the sight gauge gets stained brown. So it looks brown when full and brown when empty. To be useful, I have to be able to spot the air/liquid surface in the tube. When the tank is full or empty, no air/liquid surface exists for me to see.

Anyhow, I switched tanks and cranked the engine. Nothing.

In the 2 or 3 times in the past when we let one tank run dry, this step fixed the problem. (This is the 4th time I made this mistake in 4 years. That means I remember to check and to switch 99.7% of the time.)

I pumped the manual fuel lift pump lever for 5 minutes, then cranked again. No start.

I inspected the primary fuel filter. It was full of fuel. I changed the filter anyhow on general purposes. I cranked again. Nothing.

I began to doubt my diagnosis. I removed the air filter and cranked. Nothing. I changed the air filter anyhow on general purposes.

I removed the secondary fuel filter. It was dry. Good; that's a clue. I fetched a cup of diesel fuel and filled the filter, put it back in place, and worked the manual fuel lift for one more minute. Then I cranked. Nothing.

Libby brought out the Nigel Calder maintenance book and found the no-start checklist. It was too general to be of use.

I was then considering disassembling the fuel system bit by bit to see where fuel flowed and where it didn't. Before taking that drastic step, I looked up the air bleed procedure in the engine manual. Aha; there's a bleed screw on the secondary fuel filter. The instruction said to loosen the screw and work the manual fuel lift pump until fuel streams out with no bubbles. I did that. No fuel came out at all with or without bubbles. Double uh oh.

Finally, I decided to crank with the air bleed screw open. Fuel streamed out and the engine coughed. Great! Now I tightened the screw again and cranked. She started right up! The Beta engine's fuel system is self-bleeding so just letting it run would purge the rest of the air in the system.

The embarrassing part is that it took me almost 90 minutes to restart the engine. Last night I sat up on anchor watch ready to spring into action and to use the engine to prevent disaster in case the anchor dragged. Well if it had dragged, I would have sprang into action only to have the engine stop minutes later in the midst of an emergency. Double contingency. Very bad. I didn't know how to correct, bleed, and restart rapidly. Triple contingency. Very very bad. It is a good illustration of how seemingly improbable multiple contingencies can be more likely than we suspect.

What lessons to learn?

1) I've always had the habit of checking the fuel level regularly. When we are on the move and using the engine a lot, that means daily. When at anchor and using the engine to recharge batteries, that means weekly. I fell victim to Island Time. I thought we refueled only a few days ago. Checking the log book, it was more than two weeks ago. Anyhow, 99.7% is not good enough. I should revise the routine to check fuel daily no matter what.

2) The next time we run a tank dry, I'll loosen the bleed screw *before* trying to crank the engine. That might get us restarted in seconds rather than an hour or more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Days Go By

White Sound, Green Turtle Cay,
26 46.63 N 077 20.14 W

We spent two glorious days on Manjack Cay. For nature, that's the nicest place we found in the Abacos. One can take the dinghy into a small beach, belonging to the island's resident, Bill. Bill welcomes visitors. From there one takes trails to swimming beaches on the ocean side or the bay side of the island. One can also take the dinghy through a shallow area between islands to yet another beach, offering splendid isolation and snorkeling. Along the way, we found a great big conch. We picked him up. Now his meat sit in our fridge. We'll make chowder from it. The entrails I've been using for bait. Still haven't caught a fish yet, no matter what I try.

Now we are back in White Sound on Green Turtle Cay. This is the same place we spent some nice days last year. In the evening, Libby and I play Bananagrams, a word game that we like a lot. It was last year, our friends Pat and Walt aboard Wings of Eagles introduced us to that game and gave us the copy of the game.

There are three other Westsails with us in White Sound. Friends all around.

Last night we had some strong thunderstorms come through with a passing cold front. The winds weren't to strong here, but they spun us around in a complete circle. Several boats dragged their anchors. That always causes a Chinese fire drill. Anyhow, we lost a lot of sleep sitting up on anchor watch.

The bottom here in White Sound is not good for anchor holding. Nearby, on Guano Cay, they had winds with gusts up to 60 knots and hail. I'm sure that caused a lot of excitement among the boats anchored there.

Tonight, another front will pass, perhaps we'll have a repeat of those storms.

I can't wait to take my sister Nancy to New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay and to Hopetown on Elboy Cay. Those places are just so darned cute. She'll love them. She arrives next week.

Sailing Stories 3

White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
26 46.64 N 077 20.14 W

Here's another sailing story from our favorite salty curmudgeons, Art and Don.

The Bluenose II is a schooner tall ship. She is the symbol of Nova Scotia. Canada sometimes uses her as an ambassadorial vessel. For 20 years, Don was Captain of the Bluenose II. Art was his first mate. For crew, they took Canadian youth looking for their first sea experience.

Once, the government of Canada, sent the Bluenose II to the USA as the Canadian representative to the christening of the vessel USS Truman. Don was captain, Art was first mate, their crew were youths. All of them strictly civilian.

When it came time for the christening ceremony, ships of all nations were invited to send their senior officers ashore to inspect the troops. The closest thing that Don and Art had to a uniform was matching khaki shorts and matching tee shirts from Don's personal boat. Everyone else, Americans and foreigners alike all seemed to have beautifully white starched naval uniforms besplendid with medals and gold shoulder epaulets. As Don and Art came down the gangplank a reviewing line of US Navy Admirals snapped to attention. There were seven admirals, and about 40 other senior officers there, none below the rank of commander. Don and Art tried to hold poker faces as they walked down the line and reviewed the troops. My guess is that while they walked the line, the Navy was probably on the phone to the Canadian Embassy to tell them, "Don't send those two clowns again."

After the ceremony, the guests were all invited to tour the USS Truman. Everyone declined except Don and Art and a Captain from Russia who was dressed even more disgracefully than the Canadians. When they boarded the Truman, they were met by the Captain himself. The Truman's Captain gave them the gold plated tour, then everyone parted politely.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Engineer Hero

Astronaut Don Pettit is my new hero. Watch this video about what he did.

Footage courtesy of Don Pettit. Music courtesy of Bardo Music/South Hill Project. Produced by Flora Lichtman

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Splendid Day Followed By Fire Drill

Manjack Cay
26 49.25 N 077 22.00 W

Yesterday didn't sound great. The morning was cool, overcast, and there was little wind. We decided to motor up to Marsh Harbor. En route however, the sun came out and the wind came up and before you know it we were enjoying one of the best day sails in memory.

We decided to forgo Marsh Harbor and sail for Manjack Cay, north of The Whale. It worked great, we sailed through The Whale, no problems with swells, and doing 6.8 knots close hauled under full sail.

Because of the wind direction, some anchorage other than Manjack would be better. We turned to Crossing Bay. When we got there, and dropped the hook, we found that it was the most beautiful anchorage that we can remember ever. We were surrounded by the crescent of a 5 mile long world-class beach. The far end of this beach was the back sice of Treasure Cay. Underneath us was unbelievably white sand, ground to a fineness somwhere between sugar and flour.

At night we had to wait until 10:00 for the moon to come up. Around 10:00 we heard a strange noise, bang bang bang. I went up on deck to look. Lo and behold it was a firewors display on Green Turtle Cay with the full moon rising behind it. If only I had a stabilized camera, I could have gotten a spectacular picture of the fireworks in front of a full moon background.

This morning, we made it to Manjack, but then had a fire drill trying to anchor. We tried to anchor three times and failed to get the anchor to bite. We tried both the plow and the Danforth anchors. Finally, we dropped a fourth time, and I put on my snorkelling gear. I swam out, dove down and burried the anchor by hand. That worked. When we pulled down on it with Tarwathie, it burried itself and held find. However, somehow we managed to knock the boarding ladder off the rail. It sank to the bottom.

I took a cushion for floatation, and started a search for it using my snorkel. When I found it, I dove on it holding a line to pull it back up. The line was too short. I swam back to get another line. "Look out!" Said Libby, now the cushion was floating away. Finally, I retrieved both the cushion and the ladder. End of fire drill. The water feels wonderful for swimming.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Foiled Again

26 27.85 N 077 01.31 W

Easter is a big deal in The Bahamas. They have a four day weekend here, Friday-Monday. We forgot about that. We had planned to tour the famous glass foundry in Little Harbor, but it was closed. Oh well, perhaps we'll come back there when Nancy is here.

We spent the day weaving baskets. We're both getting pretty good at it. We also did some beach combing.

We took the dinghy to a nearby island that looked to be uninhabited. It wasn't 100% uninhabited. When exploring we came across an inland salt water pond about 5 acres in area. It had been dug out of the limestone bedrock. It had a culvert that connected it to the sea. It also had a rowboat tied up on the shore. We couldn't understand the purpose of the pond. It didn't look good for swimming or fishing or anything else. Probably, it was the remains of yet another project abandoned half-finished.

We are beginning to form theories about these unfinished projects. The first, is that the best business to be in in The Bahamas must be earth moving. It seems that most of the project do the first step -- earth moving -- an stop there. Our second theory is that rich men retire to The Bahamas, buy land, or but a private island, and then indulge in their favorite hobby -- playing with bulldozers and earth moving machines. We remember watching a land owner on Sacanadaga Lake who was like that.
He moved earth and big stones from one place to another. The following year, he'd move them somewhere else.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Sandy Cay
26 24.05 N 076 59.75 W

Yesterday the wind was almost totally calm. That made perfect conditions for snorkeling and diving. Treasure Cay emptied of almost all boats, among them Tarwathie. We wanted to move in the direction of Little Harbor. Little Harbor is one highlight of the Abacos that we didn't see last year. We got as far as Sandy Cay.

Sandy Cay is supposedly the best snorkeling spot in the Abacos within the sheltered waters. It is also a fine little island to comb the beach in search of shells or other treasures. We stopped for the afternoon. We walked the beaches and this morning I'd like to snorkel (even though the wind is blowing more this morning).

As we pulled up to anchor, Libby remarked, "That boat over there is flying a Swedish flag." We decided to surprise the Swedes. We rowed over to their boat in the dinghy and greeted them in Swedish. They were totally surprised. It was a family with a man, wife and their son, all from Stockholm. They had been cruising in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean for two years, and never once in that time had they met someone who could speak Swedish. They invited us onboard for drinks.

We had a lot of fun, chatting with them in Swedish. You see, it has been 20 years since we left Sweden and we have almost no chance to practice the language either. We worked very hard to learn that language; spending a thousand or more hours in classrooms. After all that work, we can't forget it very fast, but use of the language becomes very rusty without practice.

Poor Libby. She had a harder time than I did. Nevertheless, she did very well. She understood everything, and she managed to find words to express everything she wanted to say. But after some time she said "This is giving me a headache." We called and end to the international diplomacy and rowed on in to the island.

The island was lots of fun. We crossed an isthmus of sand that was submerged only ankle deep under water. The sun warmed that shallow water to bath temperature, making it really fun. We encountered a shark hunting for his supper as we crossed. Since we were only ankle deep you can imagine how small the shark was. Anyhow, all of a sudden he sensed our presence and he took off in the other direction making excellent speed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Treasure Cay

I just got some good news. My sister Nancy is going to fly here to sail with us in the Abacos 4/18 - 5/1. We love having company. Even better when it's family. We'll have a good time.

Not leaving here until 5/1 will put pressure on us to get to New York City by June 1. Maybe it is time to do a longer passage; say nonstop Bahamas to NYC. It's only 842 nautical miles via a great circle route. Say 9 days. That's about double the longest passage we made before. What the heck.

We have Jim R, a potential volunteer to be crew. Perhaps we can work something out with him.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sea Stories 2

Treasure Cay
26 40.33 N 077 16.92 W

Don Trisha and Cheryl have spent the last 10 winters cruising in Cuba. Because they are not American citizens, the US Coast Guard leaves them alone. There is not much in the way of cruising guides to Cuba telling one where to go or how to navigate. Therefore they had to learn much if it themselves by direct experience.

The only guide they did have for reference was written by Nigel Calder. Mr. Calder, a Brit, is famous among cruisers. He wrote "Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual," which almost every cruising (including us) has on boat. Mr. Calder, an editor of New Scientist Magazine, also writes numerous magazine articles. Anyhow, Mr. Calder also wrote a cruising guide to Cuba. How he did it is the subject of this story.

As Don and Trisha relate it, Mr. Calder had a fancy recording depth sounder. When he came to a new port, he anchored out, put the recorder in his dinghy, and steered a straight line course in to the anchorage. If the recorder showed depths no less than 5.8 feet (that's what his boat needed) then he documented it in the cruising guide.

When Don and family tried to follow those routes on Road to the Isles, the had lots of trouble. 5.8 feet was marginal for them. Sometimes they had only an inch or two of water under the keel. They had to get out in the dinghy to scout and proceeded very cautiously. In one case, they had to traverse a lagoon inside the reef for several miles, all the time with only inches to spare. That would be a very anxiety ridden trip.

After safe arrival at the ports, they would relax and get to know the locals. Several times they said, the local fishermen would say, "Why did you enter the harbor that crazy way?" "Huh?" said Don. "Well," explained the fishermen, "the water is very shallow where you went, but if you moved over a few hundred feet, the water is 14 feet deep." "Ay ay ay," is the appropriate Cuban expression for that. Even in the case of the miles long passage inside the reef, they were only a few hundred feet from a deep channel the whole way.

The problem was that Mr. Calder concerned himself only with finding a feasible route in with at least 5.8 feet depth; any feasible route. He never explored from side to side to find the best route..

Now, when they open up Cuba, the first thing we're going to do is to buy Cheryl Barr's cruising guides to Cuba, not Nigel Calders.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sea Stories 1

Traversing The Whale
26 42.75 N 077 13.26 W

Libby is taking Tarwathie through The Whale. While she's doing that, I have time to sit here and blog.

We met some wonderful people at the Leeward Yacht Club. First was Art on Conch Pearl. Next was Don, Trisha and their daughter Cheryl on Road to the Isles. All of them were from Nova Scotia and all have been sailing for many years. For 20 years, Don was captain of Canada's "tall ship." Cheryl writes cruising guides. We own a copy of her Down East Circle Route guide to the Saint Lawrence/Nova Scotia regions.

Bob and Art have been buddies for 25 years. They have loads and loads of sailing stories. Books full of stories I'll bet. We heard just a few.

Most interesting was about how Bob and his family build their boat, Road to the Isles. The boat is 62 feet long, a Herreshoff design, made of steel and she displaces 30 tons. They built it in a boat yard on the Saint Johns River in Florida. Libby and I and several others were sitting around in Bob's cockpit having drinks, when I asked Bob, "How do you build a boat like this out of steel?" Well, that was exactly the right question. Bob became really animated. He stood up and began lecturing for the whole group within earshot. He did it very well. It only took 15 minutes. The whole group of us sat mesmerized the whole time.

They started with drawings of Herreshoff's design. Then they lofted it. That means transferring the drawings of the frame cross sections to full size pencil marks on sheets of plywood. Then the plywood was cut and used as a template to cut steel frames from plate. The frames were then mounted in place, held by forms and stringers. At that point, the skeleton form of the boat was formed. The whole thing was then used to make wooden molds of the hull plate sections, piece by piece.

There was a free welding course being taught at a nearby high school vocational department. The school boys weren't interested, so it was open to the public. Both Don and Cheryl went to the course. Cheryl earned her welder certification there. Don chose for class projects building of water tanks, fuel tanks and miscellaneous stainless steel gadgets he would need for the boat. The school provided all the materials for class projects free. Even the instructor pitched in to help so they also got free labor. Quite a deal.

They ordered 15 tons of steel plate. When it came, they picked up each sheet one at a time to see which way the natural bend was. You see,at the factory the steel is rolled up, and it retains a memory. The plates prefer to bend more in one direction than the other. Then they cut the pieces out, and took them all to a machine shop. For only $178 the shop rolled each piece until it conformed to the wooden mold. They had help from the boat yard owner to select whick place on which plate to cut the pieces from. When they were done, there was only one wheelbarrow of scrap left from the 15 tons of steel. That's remarkably little waste.

After that, the newly certified Cheryl did all the welding. Soon they had a complete yacht. I can testify that she's really beautiful and solid as a rock.

By the time Don finished with his story, I was all fired up. "Let's go build a steel boat of our own Libby," I said. Well that idea didn't last long, but it served as testament to Don't story telling skills.

I'll post more Art and Don story some other day.

Friday, April 03, 2009

We took a lot of pictures today in New Plymouth. It is a very photogenic place. Have a look at those plus other recent pictures here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Signs Of The Times

Leeward Yacht Club, Green Turtle Cay
26 45.72 N 077 19.46 W

We changed our minds again (surprise!) and moved in to Black Sound on Green Turtle Cay for a few days. That way we avoided some uncomfortable weather, and we get to take advantage of an introductory special for The Leeward Yacht Club slips.

The slips here cost $0.63 per foot. That's less than half of what most other marinas charge. The catch? There are no bathrooms, or showers, or laundry. However it is convenient to places we want to visit on Green Turtle. Therefore we splurged.

I read that abandoned sailboats are littering the coastlines all over the US. It is not storm damage this time it is the economy. Lots of people can't afford a boat as an extra toy. After trying and trying to sell it at reduced prices, they give up and abandon it.

We also heard at the nearby boatyard on Green Turtle that they will be full up for this summer with stored boats. That meshes with what we heard from several other cruisers. They were planning on leaving their boats here for the summer rather than making the north/south migration. It costs less to store the boat here for the summer and fly home.

So, if you have some liquid money and you have the urge to become a cruiser, now sounds like the perfect time to shop for a real bargain. Of course, that advice is age old --- buy when everyone else is selling and sell when everyone else is buying.