Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yeah, It's Almost Time

We have been sitting here in Marsh Harbor for way too long. I don’t like it here. The longer we stay, the more I just want to go home. Enough of the beautiful sunsets foretelling signs of nasty weather.

We had planned on a leisurely exit from the Abacos, lots of time at Manjack, up by the Nunjack Rocks, perhaps a visit to Double Breasted, Allans Pensacola, and Powell. The longer the winds blow from the west, the shorter our time will be for our final hunting for shells and sea glass, and now, being March 31st, the lobster season will be over, so my hunter won’t get a final shot at the Bahamian crayfish. We had been thinking we could get out of here Saturday, but now Parker tells us there will be a big swell from the NW, making the Whale passage potentially hazardous. So, we sit, and we wait.

It’s time to go home anyhow. The framing has started on the house. We have run out of the Crystal Lite that I had collected over five winters at home, when I could purchase this easy to store beverage for $1.99, $2 off its summer price tag. When one of my fellow First Aid Squad members gave me some samples of Gillette’s shaving cartridges, I thought surely it was a life time supply---they’re all gone too. I’m reading Facebook entries from cruising friends back in the States, with envy. I’ve waterlogged my camera, and I’m nearly dry on Benefiber, which has contributed to a season of a clog-free toilet. There’s only one $20 phone card left, and my aunt is worried that the Japan tsunami will repeat and is going to sweep us away. I miss my rheumatologist.

When the boat Va Bene put out a call to the harbor for cleaning cartridges for their watermaker, which turned out to be the same as ours, we volunteered to provide them. It was only after the offer was made that we realized it was our last set. Well, we have lots of big kharma “owe-sies” out there for the prop from Synergy, and the ungrounding from Endorphins. Va Bene gifted a bottle of wine to replace the Opus One we gave Chris and Marsha, this one cleverly labeled if not as well aged.

Can't replace the donated cartridges here, have to go home to get em.

Yeah, it’s almost time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Doing it All with Beth

Beth probably preferred to lay out and soak in the rays, but I had fashioned a whirlwind tour of the Abacos during her stay. After a restful night at Matt Lowe’s Cay, we had a half hour sail over to Hopetown to catch the tide.
We joined Linda, Rick, Hannah and Jimmy, the Sojourner crew, for lunch at Harborside, took the obligatory walk up the lighthouse, and then Beth and Peter took a dip in the beautiful waters of the Bahamas.

Around noon the next day we headed to Man O War despite some wrong-way winds. It is such an interesting comparison to see the hard working folk of this settlement after visiting the transplanted party crowd at Hopetown.
We stopped by Lola’s for bread and conch batter and a little chat, then moved First Edition to anchor off Garden Cay for some SW protection and charter party anchoring entertainment.

As we had hoped, wind and seas settled down by the next morning and we headed to Fowl Cay for a good snorkel, spotting turtles and a ray with a remora hitching a ride and a fantastic variety of multicolored fish. Because no visit to the Abacos is complete without a Nipper Juice, we hopped over to Guana for lunch and a demonstration by the highly hormoned college break girls hitting on the well heeled fishermen older than their fathers.

We had a vigorous sail over to Marsh where the next morning we lunched at Curlytails before loading Beth into a taxi to head back home. Every visit from Beth is too short, and to make it worse, usually signals the time to head home ourselves.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Marsh Harbor and the Arrival of Beth

From Treasure we headed to the armpit of the Abacos, Marsh Harbor. Although you can find 360 protection here, when a front approaches, a scazillion boats head here, put out insufficient scope because it is so crowded, and deep spots are few. But if you like loud music for bedtime accompaniment, you can usually find it here. There are positives, though, like Maxwells, a US style and only slightly more expensive grocery store, and an airport, into which Beth arrives!!!

The Abacos Net is often broadcast from here, at 0815 on channel 68. Barometer Bob provides a weather report, the local enterprises provide their promises, and there is an open mike session for questions and notices of arrivals and departures. It does go on and on, but it is worth a listen.

Beth arrived on time, accompanied by perfect weather, lots of mail, American flags, a new port fan, and licorice for Dad. We are so excited we cannot breathe, and cannot wait to show her all the sites in the Abacos during her too short visit.

Christine and Rob hosted us for hamburgers on her arrival, at the anchorage at Matt Lowe’s, a pretty spot and pretty decent for the SW winds coming in. We walked the private beach, finding abundant tellins, sea biscuits, and a variety of small shells. No one came to chase us, although signs on shore suggested it could have happened.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Treasure Cay

We decided to sit out the next of the Bahamian blows at Treasure Cay, the home of one of the world’s ten best beaches according to Travel and Leisure Magazine. During this visit we found the powdery sand, previously groomed to high standards, displaying the unusual-for-here high tide line of dead seaweed, improving the odds for a shell or two. But as in the past, nada.

The previously available mooring have mostly been removed, and those remaining are private. We wedged our way in an already overcrowded anchorage and paid our $10 anchoring fee, for which you get internet, laundry, shower, and pool privileges. A deal as far as we are concerned.

The fantastic market was open this Sunday until at least 1:00, although the bakery was closed. Laundry tokens are $4 each for wash and dry, or you can pay $8 a load for drop off service, with only a tip added for avoiding the self service. We took diesel on the way out at the fuel dock, open from 8 til 1, then 2 to 5, for $5.25 a gallon, but all the water you can take on for free, although we had expected to pay $8 as we had been advised. You must move into the marina dock to take on water if that is all that you require.

Social activities were great, having happy hour with Charisma, a Hylas sister boat, with Steven and Denise, and dinner aboard First Edition with Alan and Gerry from Civil Twilight and the Celebrian crew the next evening.

We entered at high and left at mid tide, and saw no less than 7 ½ feet mid tide.

Be prepared to have many neighbors packed in here, but the holding is great.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great Guana Cay

For years we have listened to the Abacos Net (channel 68 at 8:15), and during the “invitation” segment, could barely hear some one from Seaside Village Resort on Guana Cay reporting in with their menu. We decided to finally try them for lunch, seeking out new anchorages to explore. The apparently very successful Bakers Bay development, where for only $550 you can play a round of golf, carts, shoes, and clubs provided, has acquired Seaside as shelter for their staff, so no lunch for us.

Chatting with the employees, we garnered permission to cut through their yard to access the beach and found abundant sea glass and flamingo tongues (a shell), and came away with some treasures.

After enjoying a spectacular full moon ushering in Spring in the Bahamas, the following day we hiked through several less than thriving residential developments and had a long walk, enjoying the bonkers collections and brightly painted homes.
Lunch was at Nippers, the home of toxic Nipper Juice, decent island food, and copious flies swarming over your meal until sterno is placed on the table, miraculously chasing them away to cooler climes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back to the Abacos

We have a lot of confidence in our Weather Guy, Chris Parker, who each morning except Sundays transmits a synopsis of the weather and the characteristics of the weather in the Bahamas, by region. For a reasonable fee, we have become Sponsors, which entitles us to ask specific questions about the weather or our routing during his broadcasts, which we listen to on SSB 4045 at 0630. We find Chris to be conservative, and if he says it will blow 25, we can count on low 20’s but rarely 25. So, we generally subtract slight margin.

Well, he must have overdosed on his flu medication when he gave the forecast for the day of our ocean crossing from Eleuthera to Little Harbor in the Abacos. We were expecting 10 knots, dropping to 6, but had upper teens on a beat most of the way. The predicted comfortable 4 foot rollers with a ten second interval were hurling at 6 to 8 feet every 4-5 seconds. So we spent over 9 hours speeding over seven knots, occasionally hitting into the low 8’s, and staying put in the cockpit. We had a cleansing gentle rain as we put down the anchor near Lynyard Cay.

The next day we managed to spend my birthday snorkeling Sandy Cay Sea Park, a wonderful gift that finally became available after three years of trying. Calm seas provided excellent visibility, only to find what once must have been a beautiful reef, but now, had turned brown and lifeless. Colorful fish were not abundant, but six spotted rays drifted elegantly by, providing sufficient exhilaration for the outing.

Celebrian provided a splendid birthday dinner accompanied by an unusual conch bowl fashioned by Robare, the artist. (This work of art may be seen at our future home on Mill Creek, and a purchase can be arranged through the writer.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Chapter Two

After leaving Rock Sound we anchored first at Alabaster Cay, where we found the holding to be very good, despite the chart indications of a poor bottom. We found nothing at all on the beach to add to our several odd collections. Next day, to the Glass Window, as if we hadn’t gotten enough of this on our car ride, but Celebrian and Peter wanted to visit. So, I sat it out at a beach where I came away with an interesting piece of sea glass and that was it. My companions spent what seemed like hours looking at, under, and around the bridge creating the Glass Window, documented previously in this blog.

The next day was our big journey to Current Cut, where we can never seem to get the current predicted with confidence, but always manage to hit it right. It has been our experience that one cannot approach the Cut going west head on but instead must parallel the coast of Current Island on the approach. Even with this route, we often found water shallow enough to start our hearts pounding.

As we were following this tried-and-true route, we saw Endorphins headed right for the cut, and since they draw 6’6”, we expected them to stop suddenly. Celebrian had already breezed on through on “our” track so we stuck with it, and promptly ran hard aground. After several minutes of digging our way deeper into the shallows without any progress, Endorphins called and volunteered to anchor and come back and help us, as their dink carries a 30 HP engine and might provide enough power for the assist. We hated to inconvenience them, but they were quite willing, and we were quite stuck.

On their arrival we tried the easy stuff first, towing from the bow, towing from the stern…not moving an inch. Chris suggested we attach a spare halyard (both our sails being up) to their dinghy, and once this was accomplished, First Edition moved quickly out of her shallow lodging. Very quickly, like a bat out of hell, like a sling shot, like really, really fast. Dumped our benefactors right out of their dinghy, yes we did, designer sunglasses, favorite hats, and submersible but not floatable handheld included.

Of course the helmsman, moi, did not have any idea of that horrible outcome, with my eyes fixed alternatively on the catamaran coming down on us and the depthsounder showing that we were headed to another grounding. The captain started yelling to put it into neutral, he being unaware of the nearby ironshore, the catamaran, the depth, or the currents running toward the scary shore. Lots of F words were exchanged between the crew, as the Good Samaritans drifted swiftly away. Once I became aware, I did note that we were dragging a slightly airborne dinghy from the halyard, as the Captain dispatched our dink to make the rescue and I successfully avoided a collision with the dumb-ass catamaran and the ground below us.

It was a Manhattan evening, shared with Endorphins and Celebrian. As our hand held with its dead battery was identical to the submerged VHF now the property of Neptune and formerly belonging to Endorphins (who smartly carried a spare battery) we passed ours along to the Samaritans, along with a bottle of ’92 Opus One to thank them for their valiant rescue.

So, if you happen to see First Edition aground, please come to our aid. We have learned a lot from this experience, and we just might have another good bottle of vino aboard.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Most of the boats moved to the Northwest corner of the Rock Sound harbor to get protection from the cold front coming through, and we were fortunate to be anchored beside Endorphins, a 48 foot Tayana carrying Chris and Marsha. Endorphins hails from Annapolis and is one gorgeous gal. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a boat owner is getting on a boat bigger than yours, but I did come away with some excellent decorating ideas for First Edition when she begins her refit over the upcoming year. We enjoyed happy hour aboard Endorphins along with Celebrian, and are happy to consider Chris and Marsha new friends.

The next day we headed back to the town anchorage, and while reading the mail (listening to some one else’s conversation on the VHF radio), discovered that 9 people on 2 boats were planning a meal at Rose’s, a native who serves a buffet style typical Bahamian meal. The cool part of Rose’s is the atmosphere, you enter her restaurant which is in an old house, with sand covering the floors, and a hodge podge of junk that has washed up on her beach. She has a million dollar view waterfront property on which I failed yet again to find a Mary’s Bean.

The Mary’s Bean is a very rare seed, slightly oval and bearing a mark that some see as a cross (thus, named after the Virgin Mary). This bean is said to bring safe childbirth to its owner, and fertility as well. I have desperately been seeking this bean to pass on to my daughter in law, but time is running out. After four years, still no Mary’s Bean.

While at Rose’s I planted a number of heart beans which I hoped would have been found by the teenage girls on Sheet Music, which organized the dinner. Instead, their good ole Dad found one, leaving the others to be found by future hunters unless washed off to sea.

Rose serves a good meal and the coldest beer in the Abacos (being stored in her freezer), but for the second time we found the buffet to be a little skimpy. Rose does come out and volunteer to cook some more when the servings run dry, but by that time you are thinking of getting home before sailor’s midnight. Nevertheless, it is worth a visit and Rose needs help to continue to pay the tuition of her daughter studying at the London School of Economics.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Touring Eleuthera

We were the only boat leaving Black Point, perhaps because no one wanted to buck the big current coming against us in Dotham (adverse 2.5 knots at 7 am with a high tide at the Wide Opening around 9:30). Winds were exactly as Parker had predicted, 12 knots from NE, so we managed to eke out a decent sail at least for part of the day. We arrived at Powell Point at 1400 and then faced the 17 knot wind on our nose for the next couple of hours, anchoring across from the dinghy dock at Four Points Restaurant at 1640. Since many boats were anchored here we figured there must be a free internet signal around and sure enough, a connection could be had in the wee hours, enough for a blog update.

We decided to rent a car and while tying up the dinghy George from Majors Taxi and Car Rental approached us with the offer of a car for $60, $15 cheaper than Dingle’s. If you don’t mind a little dirt on the floor, you can reach George at 242-554-6344 for a rental.

We had a nice pizza lunch in Palmetto Point (the settlement by Pineapple Cays where we first met Jay and Di four years ago) and had our next stop in Governor’s Harbor, where we decided to walk the Atlantic beach for treasures. We asked a local where the beach access could be found, and he volunteered his path, which turned out to lead through the old Club Med. This former resort was shell shocked by a hurricane several years ago and apparently taken over by something called French Leave.
Abandoned again, it retains its regal beauty and pink beaches but you will not find a damned thing to take home with you here, other than nice photos.

We decided we were going to drive to Gregorytown to see the Glass Window, a rock formation where the Bight of Eleuthera meets the Atlantic Ocean, with the Queen’s Highway continuing over a bridge over top. Having been told this was 50 minutes from Rock Sound, it seemed like we drove for hours (well, at least well over an hour) to gaze upon the ferocious waters of the Atlantic mating with the Sound. Don’t bother with this, sail past it, and read all about the various souls washed off the bridge during rogue waves and nor’easters in Pavlidis’ On and Off the Beaten Path. Take the time to shell along the beaches of the Sound along the way instead. Eleuthera is the best location we know of to find milk conch, some totally white, some with a strong purple hue and perhaps not milk conch at all.

The next day we continued, this time South, through several impoverished settlements.
We picked up two hitchhikers who wanted to get to a food market to provision, but asked to be dropped at a liquor store instead, perhaps opting for a liquid lunch. Next came Michael, who asked if we could buy him a meal, and sucker that I am, we agreed, and set to driving him to town. During the short drive Michael, stinking to high heavens and carrying an empty bucket and a machete, explained all he wanted was rice, and $5 to buy some oil to make a fire, and God Bless You M’aam. I suggested Michael might want to get that $5 from some one else, and after I ran in and bought the rice and handed it to him, he left without a thanks. I am sure is still looking for that oil money, or has found another generous idiot who actually thinks you make a fire with oil.

We stumbled across the New Port Mouth Lodge and although it looked welcoming, we could find no one to explain its philosophy. They probably spend their time sitting around and putting backward in their pockets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Short Stop in the Central Exumas

We were one of the few boats that departed Georgetown on Sunday, with most being scaredy cats about the big swells. I was feeling very feline as we were coming through Conch Cut, watching the breakers and counting the time between the rollers coming in, looking more like 6 seconds than 9 to me. Parker at least got the 8 feet right. Except for the one boat calling out “Anybody catching any fish on the Sound?” the VHF was quiet. I wasn’t thinking of fishing. I was thinking of barfing.

A short while later the seas and our stomachs settled a bit so we put out a line. My previously placed order for mahi or yellow fin was repeated. With the exception of numerous well-winded flying fish and a shark that we snagged, First Edition saw no seafood during the voyage.

We ran a great current into Dotham Cut (with Low Tide at the Wide Opening at 1409, we experienced a two + favorable current at around 1445) and we headed for Sampson, where there were 12 boats anchored. The most we had seen previously was maybe six. I went online and bought 24 hours of internet from Exuma Wi Fi, made a few phone calls, and caught up on emails.

The next day we puttered around while I did more internet work, and then refueled at Sampson. While there a woman approached us and told us she had worked our boat while it was in charter in the Virgins, and we chatted a bit about the Jachneys and the size of the hole in the water that First Edition had become since purchase.

We proceeded on to Black Point where Ida at Rockside Laundry greeted us like long lost family, did three loads of laundry, and pondered whether or not we had any “backward” in our pockets.

Before leaving the Exumas, we decided to put together a happy hour with a bunch of people whom we knew, some only sort-a. Nancy and Jim on Solitaire are “old friends” (we met them last year), Robin and Corbett from Cookie Monster are boaters from NJ that for two years we have kept running into but never spent quality time with, and Ginny and Jesse of Wind Dust we had met at a pot luck at Green Turtle last year and became Facebook friends with but hardly knew. It was a good group with lots of yummy nibblies, great laughs and many good friendships in the making. We treated ourselves to one of Nancy’s recently published cookbooks, as we served Bev’s dates stuffed with parmesan and walnuts, a huge hit. Every one is staying put tomorrow, as First Edition heads off to Eleuthera.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Frigoboat Repairs

Many of my blog followers have absolutely no interest in the Frigoboat refrigeration system, although they have been forced to wade through numerous entries over the last two and a half years as we have dealt with it. I write this treatise for those who have this system or who might be considering the purchase. Others can move on.

In the Spring of 2008 upon the recommendation of numerous Hylas owners, we acquired two separate Frigoboat units, one to run the freezer and the other the refrigerator, with a box dedicated to each unit. The installation was done by a fella who was highly recommended, but not a “refrigeration guy”--- the procedure is supposed to be a no-brainer for those of you more mechanically inclined than us so we doubt that this was the cause of our woes. Although we had frequent mishaps with the frig, a weird wiring snafu was the cause so we cannot fault Frigoboat. But the freezer has caused us to spend several thousands of dollars and lost cruising time.

Immediately upon launching after installation, the freezer would run hard, reaching its set temperature for only minutes in a 24 hour period, and set at 12 degrees usually ran in the upper teens. Trips back to the installer and to our nearby location by him did not turn up any solutions, although several things were tried. Eventually we were directed to go to Annapolis to visit the distributor, Rob Warren of Veco, Inc. Mr. Warren would see us only in a slip, and was not available for several days upon our arrival.

He reviewed the equipment and installation and found no serious faults, suggesting we had an insulation issue. At his recommendation we hired J Gordon to move the thermostat, without any effect. By this time our hopes of getting to Maine for the summer were dashed.

We returned to Zahnisers in Solomons, where we have found we have received excellent service. Zahnisers does not have a dedicated refrigeration guy, but Chuck their top-notch electrician reviewed the insulation and found it adequate. He did not like the noise the evaporator plates were generating, and suggested we evacuate the refrigerant. Once done, the unit performed as advertised.

This lasted for about a year and a half until the compressor failed to chill but continued to run while we were in the Bahamas. After a shut down period of an hour or so, the unit returned to functionality and continued to operate well until we returned to the States. A repeat of this problem became weekly, then daily, as we worked our way up the coast. We exchanged emails with Frigoboat who immediately identified the problem as debris or water in the system, and directed us to J Gordon in Annapolis. While there, J Gordon installed a filter dryer that they found had cured the problem which they had observed numerous times.

After leaving Annapolis the hard running compressor failing to reach set temp condition continued, with the compressor now shutting down frequently and restarting after it cooled. More communication with Frigoboat resulted in their blaming J Gordon for installing the incorrect filter dryer (despite their earlier recommendation). Frigoboat would accept no responsibility for the labor or material cost for this wasted exercise.
Frigoboat now directed us to go to Washburns. Once we had made those arrangements, we asked the technician, Chip, to contact Frigoboat. The repair was discussed and carried out as Frigoboat directed, and Frigoboat did supply the new filter dryer at no charge to us.

As of this writing, all seems to be working fine, although the compressor does seem to shutdown if it has been working hard, say, when a large amount of room-temperature food is placed in the freezer. It restarts without any intervention on our part.

For the record, we love our Frigoboat system. Our refrigeration is set at 42.5 and nothing spoils before we use it. Our freezer is set at 10 degrees, and everything is rock solid, including ice cream. But, if you consider Frigoboat, we recommend the following:

1. Insist upon the installation of a filter dryer with each unit. There is a kit available, suggesting the frequency of our problem.
2. Before undertaking any repair, be sure the technician speaks directly with Rob Warren or Courtney, a knowledgeable Veco technician, to detail the procedure to be undertaken.
3. Consider a spill-over system (one compressor with a fan installed for the frig box) to save money. Everyone we talk to with this installation can still freeze ice cream and what could be a better goal?


We spent several days at Georgetown, just in time for the Cruisers’ Regatta. This is fun for some, and annoying to others, and regardless of which category you fall in, you would have been stuck here due to strong winds. We had an extension of our time to say our goodbyes to Bob and Bev, and shared a few cocktails and lunches at St. Francis---yummy mahi-mahi over Caesar Salad every single time. More phone calls from the technological epicenter of Georgetown, the best bargain in the Bahamas. We finally got to experience the Two Turtles Inn, which had been closed for the last three years; we had a decent lunch and free internet. Having received favorable results on my blood test, I was able to welcome Bob’s niece Emily and Bev’s son Brian with a Manhattan aboard Savage Son.

As for the Cruisers’ Regatta: enough already.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Back to Long Island

Having found Paradise, it was with great regret that we left the Jumentos. Having reached Long Island, we are now officially on the homeward bound leg. While we are both anxious to see our home in progress, we have had the most incredible adventure this year, and don't want it to stop.

While in Thompson Bay we repeated the usual pasttimes, guests on board for dinners, , buffet at Trifina's, laundry and lunches at the Long Island Breeze, and dinner at Chez Pierre's where we officially inducted Mike from the Breeze as The Restauranteur to the Entourage. Sadly, we said goodbye to Judy and Greg on My Destiny, Karen and Chris on Synergy,and Jay and Di on Far Niente, while joining Savage Son on the way to Georgetown. Hopefully we will catch Celebrian in Eleuthera before picking Beth up in Marsh Harbor.

We are now in Georgetown where the Cruiser's Regatta is in full swing. It's not for us, but not much is. We are spoiled, having seen Paradise.