Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Back in the USA

We are back in Palm Coast again.  We made the decision and got ready to return to the states.  The weather forecast was favorable so we planned our route and got ready.  But first we decided to sell our dinghy and motor.  If you have read any of these posts you will realize how important a good dinghy is.  Why would we sell ours?  After the blow that came through there was an announcement that Good Morning Vietnam had lost their dinghy overnight.  You may remember them from when our friend Phillip on Sea Ya cut his hand.  Cori has been wanting a lighter dinghy and outboard.  We talked about selling and she made a run over to propose it to them.  After some negotiation the sale was made.  They have a good dinghy and Cori will be getting her lighter weight combo.  We made plans to stop in Nassau to shop for a new motor.  In the Bahamas you can still buy two-cycle outboards and the prices are competitive with the US.

Wednesday morning we left Big Majors Spot, turned the corner and started back.  The wind was favorable and we set our sails.  We planned to move to Shroud Cay and then stop in Nassau.  While we still had internet access Cori contacted several dealers to get prices on outboards.  One of them gave us a price and mentioned that Friday and Monday were holidays (Good Friday and Easter Monday) and everything would be closed.  When we got to our first waypoint we made a decision to continue to Nassau sailing overnight.  The winds were the right speed and from the right direction and we continued on.  Along the way we decided that the holidays were a sign to skip Nassau and stage for the crossing to Florida.  The fact that Chris parker, the weather guru was forecasting rain and thunderstorms for Friday also helped.  We sailed through the night and Thursday afternoon we pulled into Lacaya/Freeport to get ready to cross.  A 198 nautical mile or 227 mile trip.  We (Cori) got the boat cleaned up and we were able to catch up on our sleep.  Friday evening the front went through and we got caught out in the rain when we went for ice cream.

Saturday morning we checked out of the marina and started back.  The forecast was for light winds and that is what we had.  As we traveled along Grand Bahama Island towards West End we got a call on the VHF from Willamia.  They were near West End with our friends Ken and Fran on Release.  They were planning to make the crossing on Sunday arriving on Monday.  We decided we have too far to go to lose a day.  By evening the wind had shifted and we were able to sail again.  We made good time and arrived off of Ft Pierce around 3:30 in the morning.  Unfortunately, it was too early to check in with Customs.  Since our final destination is Palm Coast we turned north and continued on.  As we continued the wind was slowly clocking around and was eventually too close behind us to sail efficiently.  We started motoring again.  Somewhere off of Cape Canaveral, just before sunset, Cori decided to bring in her fishing gear.  She had been trolling the entire trip and nothing was happening.  As she started to reel in her lure something hit and started pulling out line.  After about 20 minutes of fighting she finally had it alongside and we got it aboard, a very nice yellowtail tuna.  She has wanted to catch a tuna since we cast off cruising.

After some pictures it was bagged and put in the refrigerator, it was too rough to try cutting it up underway.  Monday morning we were off of St Augustine and she made a call to Customs to check in.  This year we followed the guidelines and were able to check in with just a phone call.  Just before entering the entrance channel Cori took down our Bahamian flag and shortly after a Customs and Immigration boat pulled alongside.  After a few questions they turned around and we continued on.  Once in the harbor we caught the 11:00 bridge opening and continue down to Palm Coast.  We were able to get the last slip they have available.

It was a successful crossing, we were able to sail about half the time, we saw several pods of dolphins and we both enjoy night sailing especially with a big moon lightening up the night.  We traveled 298 nautical miles or 243 miles on this leg.

We also called Al, the mechanic everyone recommended, to see when he might be able to check things out.  We got tied up and again cleaned things up, mostly washing down the boat to get all of the salt off.  Al stopped by at the end of the day to check out our system.  After listening to some of the noises and our descriptions he was going to make some phone calls and get back to us on Wednesday.  Cori got the 16 pound tuna cleaned and we dined on fresh tuna for dinner.

Today, Tuesday, we walked to Home Depot for a couple of items and a quick stop at the grocery.  Two and a half miles each way and after several days on the boat we needed the exercise.  Al was back in the late afternoon and checked more  things out.  It appears the v-drive needs to be pulled and torn down.  He also gave us advice on services our engine will need.  I am going to be doing some of the work so it looks like I will be pulling the v-drive out for him.  Cori as also has been making a lot of phone calls getting prices on a new dinghy and outboard.  Looks like we will be here for a
while, but it is not a bad place to be.

Update: we have found that the fish is not a tuna but a Jack Crevelle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Decision time

In our last post we were leaving Nassau.  We got out a little later then I had hoped but we were off and once out of the harbor we were able to sail rather than motor.  That lasted only a couple of hours and the wind died and we started the motor leaving the sails up to catch what wind they could.  We planned to stop at Highborn Cay for the night since we would be able to reach it before sundown but decided to continue on.  If we stopped we would have to just pull anchor in the morning and make a long day of it moving south.  We continued, planning to arrive at Big Majors where all of this started.  We arrived off of Big Majors/Staniel Cay in the dark and anchoring there at night should be no issue.  At this point we decided we would rather continue around Harvey Cay and stop in Blackpoint Settlement.  We tried going there several times but had not made it.  At this time I took over and Cori went below to get some sleep.  The wind started to come up and we shut off the motor to sail, it didn’t matter how fast since we didn’t want to come in in the dark.  As we continued I decided we had had enough of towns and we needed a remote anchorage and empty beaches.  We bypassed Blackpoint and continued further along to anchor in Jacks Bay.  I rolled up the headsail and let the boat just ghost along going less than one knot waiting for sunrise.  Once the sun rose we moved into the anchorage to share it with three boats from Canada.  There are Canadians everywhere down here.

We chose our spot and motored to it and as I dropped the anchor Cori put us in reverse to set the anchor and there was a bad sound came from down below.  Something in the drive train did not like running in reverse.  There was no problem when we backed out of the slip in Nassau but now there was, again.  After a nap we launched the dinghy to go exploring.  We had watched the Canadians snorkeling not too far away so we headed over there after they had moved on and found a coral head.  I dove down with the video camera to check it out.  As I got back in the dinghy we noticed the video camera would not shut off.  We took it back to the boat and I pulled the battery and left our snorkeling gear to go ashore.  There was a small beach in a little cove and we headed there to get some beach time.  This is at a narrow part of the island so we were able to cross over to the sound side to check out the rocks and a small cove and beach there.  For some reason I forgot to bring a camera.  From there we took the dinghy up to another beach and followed a path to the sound side again.  Here we found another little bay carved out of the rocks with a sort of cave cut into it.  There was a party spot under the overhang so this is a popular spot for someone.  There was also a lot of seaglass and a few shells so Cori was in heaven.  Back at the boat since I was already all salty from the snorkeling I dove down to check the prop and shaft to see if there was anything wrong there.  Everything seems normal.  Once back on the boat it looks like our little video camera has died.

The next morning, Thursday, we pulled the anchor and set the sails to go back up to Big Majors.  We made every attempt to sail since we were in no hurry but the wind dropped so low even the spinnaker would not stay full.  Time to motor again.  We pulled into the anchorage and dropped the hook.  I got into the dinghy and went over to Catalyst to see if Scott could come over to check out the noise.  We had met Scott when the transmission had gone out and Vic called him to look into it.  In the evening we had cocktails with Dean and Kim on Dreamcatcher.  We met them while in the marina in Nassau.  We ended the day with a late St. Patrick Day dinner of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.

Friday morning Scott came over to check things out.  We are all confused but he thinks it may not be terminal and we could continue on.  Decisions about the future need to be made.  Since there was nothing we could do about it we decided to head over to the Staniel Cay anchorage in the dinghy to see Cliff and Adrianna on Will O Wind.  We met them last year in the Abacos.  They were surprised to see us.  After visiting with them we joined them on a hike on a path that brought us along the east side of the island, over the rocks and down to a beach and then back around to the starting point.  Again, I forgot a camera.  Back in the anchorage our friends from Eleuthera, Phillip and Theresa on Sea Ya, had anchored next to us.  We got caught up with them that evening over cocktails.

On Saturday, coming back from town we went by C_Language to introduce ourselves.  It had been suggested to us that we contact Rick to see if he could diagnose our single sideband radio problems.  We can receive clearly but when we broadcast we are told we have a lot of distortion.  He ended up spending most of the day onboard trying to find a fix for it.  Several times we thought we had it but no luck.  In the evening we planned to meet up with everyone at the James Bond Thunderball party at the marina.  Part of the Thunderball movie was filmed here, specifically the grotto scene, and they throw a party to celebrate.  Costumes were encouraged and there were a lot of them, mostly white tuxedos.  I never dreamed anyone would pack a tuxedo when going to the islands.  They also had a casino set up for entertainment.  A good time was had by all and at the end of the evening we got to try to find our boat among all of the others in the anchorage.  We had heard of this problem but this was our first time experiencing it.  All boats look alike in the dark.

Sunday we brought the radio over to Rick to troubleshoot some more and we headed back to redo the hike with a camera this time.  In the afternoon we were back on the boat listening to the Nascar race.  There is a front coming our way and a lot of the boats were moving to more protected anchorage so we moved closer into the corner of the harbor to have protection when the winds come around from the north and northeast.  When the radio was done we went to pick it up and stopped by another Pearson 424 to meet the proud owners of Gambit II, the second 424 we saw here.  There are also two Pearson 422 sailboats which are designed as center cockpits using the same hull as the 424.

During the night the front came through with a lot of rain but not too much wind.  We thought we had made it unscathed but listening to the forecast in the morning learned that the second front was close by and that one would be packing the winds.  Later in the day the wind did kick up into the 20’s but quickly clocked around to the north.  It blew all day but we were in a good spot were the wind couldn’t kick up a lot of waves.  Rick came over to trouble shoot the radio again.  It is still not working right and he is bound and determined to find the cause.  In the evening he joined us for happy hour on Rum Tot, a sistership to his Pearson 422.  We have our own little corner of Pearson 42’s.

We have been going over our options and have decided it is time to head back and find a place to have our drive train checked out.  Just too many things are going on with it and we need it sorted out if we plan to continue this summer.  We had originally planned to be back by mid-April so we are not too far off of our plan.  We just didn’t plan on spending so much time in Nassau.  The rest of the Exumas will have to wait for next year.  Listening to the weather forecasts we think we will be starting back on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Leaving Nassau, again.

We are getting ready to leave Nassau, again.

We had hoped that the new bearing would arrive in time for the V-drive to be installed before the weekend and we would be back to the outer islands.  Obviously it did not happen.  Late Monday afternoon they showed up with the V-drive and installed it.  It is a meticulous procedure to install; everything has to line up perfectly.  They line it up, check it with a feeler gauge, make an adjustment, check it again, make another adjustment and on and on.  Once everything checks out they start tightening the bolts and again, check everything with a feeler gauge to make sure everything is aligned.  The final checks are to turn the prop shaft and make sure there is no variation.  Any misalignment will cause vibration and wear.  The final check is to start the engine and see what happens when it is in gear.  So far everything checks out.  It is a several hour process and some of these fine adjustments are made with a three pound hammer.  Now I have to remind myself to check the tightness of the bolts after running it several hours.  Sometimes they will vibrate loose.

We had not planned on any of these stops in Nassau, or to stay as long as we have so we are way behind in seeing the islands.  We plan to leave here and head back to the Staniel Cay area to continue south.  How far we get is anyone’s guess.  The weather forecast for the next few days is for light and variable winds then clocking to the south, exactly where we are planning to go.  We may give the new equipment a workout since it doesn’t look like we will be sailing.

Friday, March 11, 2016

We are still in Nassau

We are still in Nassau.  Not much has gone right.  The only good side is that have been sitting out some strong winds from the east.  The down side of that is that we are facing west and the winds and the waves it builds up are hitting us on our stern making a lot of noise and bouncing us around.  At least we are sitting at a dock and can get off the boat but then there is nowhere we want to go when we get off.

This all started when the damper plate broke and we had to sail back.  Once the transmission was removed and we found the broken damper plate they ordered a new one.   It arrived on Friday and it was installed.  We thought we were going to be able to leave.  When the engine was started and put in gear there was a lot of vibration and noise.  This was not supposed to happen.  Since it was the end of the day we had to wait until Monday for answers.

We had a couple of rain showers over the weekend and it has blown a steady 15-20+ knots out of the east every day.  We pretty much hung around the boat until Jason was back on Monday to work on the problem.  We tried a couple of things like using the little video camera to get a good look at the propeller; he disconnected the prop shaft from the V-drive to see if there was any change.  All indicators were that something was wrong with the V-drive.  He pulled it and took it to the shop to have Albert tear into it.  The V-drive is a special set of gears that allows the engine to be set further back in the boat with its shaft connection pointing towards the front of the boat.  Basically it is installed backwards.  There is a shaft that goes into the drive and just below it is the prop shaft with the two shafts forming a V.  This allows the engine to be installed much further back in the boat but also adds to things that can go wrong.  On Thursday Albert stopped by to check the shafts and how it was installed since he couldn’t find anything wrong with the V-drive.  There is a special self-centering bearing in the drive and he feels that may be the problem.  One has been ordered.  Of course, everything has to be sent over from the states but we do not have to pay duty on it.

It is Friday and we were hoping the drive would be ready and be installed.  So far no luck.  We had hoped to get out before the weekend since that would only add to the number of days we are paying for the slip in the marina.

When we arrived in the Bahamas, on 12/16/2015, we were issued a 90 day cruising pass.  Our 90 days will be up next week so we took the opportunity to walk down to Immigration and apply for an extension.  You are not allowed to file until at least three days before or after your expiration date.  We are a couple of days early but they extender our stay instead of telling us to come back next week.  We get to stay; now we need to get out of Nassau and start having fun in the islands.

There is one other piece of good news.  I have been having a lot of trouble with the 3.3 horse outboard.  When we want to use it it usually does not want to start.  It also has taken to draining its fuel tank if the shut off is not closed.  There was a boat here ready to go back to Florida that had an identical motor they bought when they arrived in January and decided they would not have a use for it when they got home.  They offered it for sale and we bought it.  A new motor with about five hours on it instead of our 13-14 year old.  It was too good of a deal to pass up.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Back in Nassau

We are back in Nassau.  How did that happen you are wondering.

We left Nassau to continue our tour of the Exumas, with only one small problem right away.  We pulled out of our slip and moved over to the fuel dock to take on fuel.  Once the fuel was topped off I made a trip up to the office to pay our bill.  Back to the boat we cast off and started away only to have the dock hand and the manager waving for us to come back.  After retying up they explained that the clerk gave us the wrong bill.  It turns out of course that we owe more money.  No one ever seems to call us back because we paid too much.  Off we went again.  We got out of the harbor and raised the sails.  We tried sailing for a while but there was not enough wind to keep our speed up so we started the motor and motor sailed for the day.  We arrived at Highborn Cay about a half hour before sunset, anchored and settled in.  It was chilly and we had pants and sweatshirts on, not how I pictured life in paradise.  The anchorage had a lot of boats in it but it is big enough to handle many more.  The only problem was that there was a swell causing us to roll.  It was a long night since we have trouble sleeping when it rolls this much, you tense up your muscles to try not to roll around in bed and possibly fall out.  In the morning it was no better so we decided we would check out the area another time and pulled anchor.

We had a fabulous day.  The winds were right and we sailed to Big Majors near Staniel Cay at 6-7+ knots.  On arriving at Big Majors we spotted Salty Turtle and anchored off her stern.  About an hour later Vic noticed we were there and hailed us.  Monday we spent on the boat relaxing, at least I did.  Cori was busy rearranging the v-berth after having everything pulled out for her sewing projects while in Nassau.  In the afternoon we launched the dinghy and put the 3.3 motor on it.  As usual after it had sat unused for so long it would not start.  We were going over to Salty Turtle for social hour and after watching me trying to start the engine Vic came over to get us.  We spent an enjoyable evening with them even sighting the elusive “green flash” at sunset.

It is a new month, time to start new adventures.  We pulled anchor with intentions of going to Blackpoint Settlement, a short trip away.  We motored out of the anchorage and rounded Harvey Cay and decided to sail again.  We raised the sails and shut down the engine.  The winds dropped almost as soon as we raised the sails so we fired up the engine again.  The only difference this time was that when we put it in gear nothing happened, nothing, nada, zip, zilch.  No forward, no reverse, just neutral (I know, that is not a proper sentence but I cannot repeat what was said).  We turned the boat around and decided we needed to get back to Nassau.  While we were within range of a cell tower I called Albert to tell him we were having problems and would be sailing back, no idea how long it would take.

How long it would take was the issue.  The winds were light and variable so we sailed slowly for the day.  About 4:00pm the winds freshened and we were able to scream along at 4 knots.  Usually 4 knots is our motoring threshold, if we can’t do 4 knots we motor.  Now 4 was our top speed.  We planned to continue nonstop through the night.  In the evening the winds dropped again and we were able to keep moving 1.5-2.5 knots.  3 knots is equal to about 3.5 mph, an average person’s walking speed.  We continued this way throughout the night.  At one point I could hear sounds around us as something came up to breathe but never saw anything.  Another boat in the marina reports that they saw a pod of whales on their way from Eluthera.  My main concern was arriving at our waypoint at the yellow bank at night.  There is no way we could navigate around the coral heads in the dark.  Fortunately we arrived about an hour before daylight and only going 1 knot we had plenty of time to wait for sunrise.  Unfortunately the wind died.  We had a great view of the sunrise but were going nowhere.  Eventually the breeze, I can’t call it a wind, started to come up and we had a few ripples on the water.  Up to this point it was flat as a mirror.

We started our way through.  I was beat from being up all night so I went below to catch some sleep.  Eventually I heard noise from on deck and went up to see what was wrong.  Cori was fighting with the sails because the breeze was shifting and dying.  We had gone about a mile and a half.  When I asked her how long I had been asleep she replied “three hours.”  A mile and a half in three hours, a new record.  We worked the sails and the shifts to get through the coral heads, at one time moving backwards watching the same coral go past us in the opposite direction.  The best thing I can say about this is that the water was clear and flat so we had a great view of the coral on the bottom.  Eventually we got through, about 3 miles in 4+ hours.  There was a light breeze, about 3 knots and with the spinnaker up we started to sail.  Unfortunately not the right direction, but we were moving.  I was hoping for a repeat of the previous afternoon when the wind switched from the east at about 6 knots so we could make some time.  We waited, and waited, the entire time going north to northeast instead of northwest.

About 4:30 it happened.  There was a subtle change in the wind as it clocked around to come out of the northeast and all the way up to 6-8 knots, Just what we had hoped for.  We tacked with this new wind and set our new course, not yet to Nassau Harbor.  As the wind settled in it shifted slightly and we were now making a direct line to the harbor entrance at 3.5 knots.  It felt like we were screaming along.  Once we got within cell range we called the marina to tell them were on our way back, no idea of arrival time.  They told us to anchor in the anchorage near them and they would send out a boat in the morning.  We continued into the harbor, rolled up our headsail and continued to the anchorage.  The harbor is protected from most winds so we were moving very slow again under just the main and the mizzen sail.  At one point we had to unroll the headsail to get some speed because we were moving so slow we could not steer.  We picked a spot to drop the anchor and as we got there I dropped the anchor, fed out the chain and snubbed it off.  The motion of the boat set the anchor and caused us to spin around when the rode was tight.  Our first ever attempt to anchor under sail.  We congratulated ourselves on making it and had dinner.  We had made it just before sunset.

We had traveled 82 nautical miles in 33 hours, an average speed of 2.5 knots or just about 3 mph.  At one point Cori pointed out to me that we were going walking speed, I pointed out that it was more like the speed of a little old lady with a walker.  A jogger could have gotten here faster.  Oh well, that’s sailing.  At least we had sails to get us here; it is all part of the adventure.  As Cori says: “the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude.”  We had an adventure and more stories to tell.  We have been waiting out weeks of winds in the 20’s hoping for some days of light and variable, now they are here and we had to sail through them instead of going out exploring.

First thing in the morning the marina arranged for a tow and we are tied up in the same slip.  Unfortunately the windlass decided to quit after bringing in about a foot of chain.  I had to pull all 75 feet and a 45 pound anchor in by hand.  I am feeling it and it doesn’t feel good.  I called Albert and he sent Jason, the mechanic, back right away.  On removing the transmission he found that the damper plate had sheared off and was in pieces.  The damper plate is a mechanism that takes the shock of starting the engine from stressing the transmission.  My thoughts are that starting the engine with it permanently in gear over-stressed the plate and caused it to fail. It is a waiting game again.