Thanks to Chris Rosenberg on Pi Squared for the title photo of a family outing in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Thursday, April 20 - Luperon
Saturday, April 22 - Luperon
After rebedding the windlass, I didn't have much do to yesterday so when boats started dragging I was happy to assist. One was a 40 foot Cantana catamaran (Meridian, a very nice boat), the other a monohull (Casa del Mar); both required repeated attempts to reset. When the problem anchor comes up here, it's inevitably a Delta. We'd been riding on our Delta for a few days now with the Bruce as a backup, and yesterday I noticed all the slack was gone from the rode to the Bruce. Et tu, Delta? I love our Delta in sand, but it just doesn't work as well in certain types of mud. I just heard Bruce Van Sant on the radio predicting, perhaps a little too smugly, that there should be more boats dragging today. He's right, though. I think at least one boat has dragged every day we've been here.
Monday, April 24 - Luperon
Tuesday, April 25 - Not Luperon!
At French Cay we cut over onto the banks and arrived at Sapodilla Bay at 2:00 PM, anchoring right next to Third Angel. How great and amazing to see Clarence, Mary, Ashley, and Luke, last seen waving goodbye when we left Sale Creek five months ago. We all snorkeled together around the boats while I cleaned off a few hundred mussel shells that had attached themselves in the fertile waters of Luperon. Also arriving the same time we did were Allison and Rick on the catamaran Meridian, who had left Luperon a couple of days before us but stopped at Big Sand and South Caicos along the way.
*I always wanted to say that. Actually, I was looking through binoculars at the time, which I suppose is not quite as impressive. Never could figure out how to use a sextent, not that we have one aboard.
Thursday, April 27 - Sapodilla Bay, T&C
After a late night visiting with our friends, morning came with a report of high winds off South Carolina that will send seas up to ten feet down our way this weekend. I talked with Chris Parker and he advised we should plan to be in port by dawn on Saturday, so we've cleared out and plan to leave around Noon today in an attempt to get to Cat Island before the seas arrive (this assumes we can average 5.5 knots). If we make it all the way, this will be our longest jump to date at around 250 miles in 45 hours. If not, we should be able to make it at least to Rum.
Note about Sapodilla Bay: cruisers have been leaving garbage at the south end of the beach in a wooden dumpster. The dumpster was full when we were here a month ago and unfortunately nothing has been picked up. There is now more garbage on the ground than in the dumpster, which looks pretty awful. If no one is picking up the trash, I think cruisers will have to stop putting new trash there. The current situation makes everyone look bad. With all that said, the last thing I did before leaving the Turks & Caicos was to put two bags on trash there of top of the pile.
Friday, April 28, 6:00 PM - Underway 20nm south of Rum Cay
When I talked to Chris Parker this morning he had increased his estimate of seas in the area to up to fifteen feet if we didn't make it to Cat Island in a timely fashion. Too late! We had long since committed to making the attempt. After experiencing five knots from the south last night, the wind has clocked around to the west and now northwest. Just as I was typing that the boat has heeled over as the wind is suddenly up to fifteen knots, headed for twenty out of the north. It seems as if we've been in a contrary current most of the day, so we can use the speed. We shut down the engine at 6:45 PM for a while, but went back to motorsailing because we were heeling so much even with reefed sails. This afternoon I added ten gallons of fuel from jerry jugs to the tank, so maybe we can save a little on this leg. We expect to arrive at Smith Bay on Cat Island around 8:00 tomorrow morning.
Sunday, April 30, - Hawks Nest Marina, Cat Island
As I stepped towards the low side of the boat, my foot went into water up to the ankle. Water was pooled up all along that side of the boat! I dipped my finger and touched it to my tongue. Salt! We were taking on sea water, and the bilge which had been normal when I checked it just a couple of hours before was now almost overflowing. I rushed around trying to find the cause. Had the toilet intake siphoned water into the boat? No. Was there water coming from the thru-hulls in the aft cabin? No. I opened the rear access door to the engine compartment and shone a light on the "dripless" shaft seal, and there it was: a steady stream of water spraying from the bottom of the seal. I felt around and the seal was still in one piece, but I couldn't see why it was leaking or how to stop it.
For the next four hours, Annie and I bailed water while Laura, who had been awakened by all the commotion, watched from the aft cabin. It took two of us to bail because water dumped into the sink in the head didn't drain because of the heel, the galley sink was too far away, and the cockpit also wasn't draining fast enough. I would hand the bucket (actually a small wastebasket) to Annie and she would dump it over the cockpit coaming. The bilge pump for the shower drain was clogged at the filter and water was deep there as well. The primary, backup and manual pumps down in the bilge were almost useless because they were on the centerline and the water was on the side of the boat. With the wind still blowing around twenty, taking down both sails without the engine to keep us into the wind would be very rough and I thought we ought to keep moving toward land if at all possible. So we bailed, never sure that we were making any progress. The horrible sound of water sloshing around inside the boat is one I will never forget. At times like these, it suddenly occurs to you that bouyancy is a fragile and perhaps temporary phenomenon.
Around dawn we were closing in on Cat Island and the seas had dropped from five to three feet as we came into the island's lee. I finally stopped the leak by loosening a stainless ring and pushing it back against the rubber seal. Sailing on to Smith Bay as we had planned was going to take another three hours or more, so we headed for Hawks Nest Marina. Just outside the entrance channel we dropped the sails and started the engine. The knocking sounded terrible, but we got into a slip. After reseating the seal to stop the renewed leak, I took a quick shower and then headed for the resort office to get a ride over to Customs. Since Hawks Nest is quite remote, the best solution was to rent one of their cars and drive myself over to the New Bight Airport to clear in. The Customs fellow was a little unhappy with this procedure but took pity on me after hearing about our mechanical difficulties. When I got back to the boat I went to sleep and did not get up again until the next day, still feeling worn out. I was thinking that we would probably have to sail the boat to the nearest haul out facility (not particularly near) and have some expensive work done on the shaft and bearings.
This morning I checked the motor mounts again. The front ones still looked fine, but one of the rear ones was very loose. I snorkeled under the boat to check the shaft and found nothing wrong there. After I struggled to get the one mount back to its proper attitude, both the knocking and the leak seem to have disappeared. We're hopeful that we can resume our cruise without expensive repairs, although you can bet I will be making some modifications to our water removal systems. We pulled up most of the carpeting from the boat since it was all soaking wet and spent most of the day trying to dry repair things that were damaged, from our last rolls of toilet paper to our two laptops.
In the meantime, Hawks Nest is a very beautiful and relaxing place. Almost all of the boats here are big sport fishing craft, some of them for charter and others being looked after by hired crew while the owners fly in once in a while to fish. The resort has its own 5,000 foot runway with several planes belonging to current guests parked alongside. The swimming pool and beach with palms and hammocks looks straight out of a brochure. There are bicycles everywhere for transportation, kayaks, and a laundry where Annie spent much time today. There is free wireless and an "honor bar" at the restaurant. Although this is our first marina since Nassau, I think it's one of the nicest we've seen in quite a while.
Annie says: The few sentences above don't quite catch all the drama of the event. There is no mention of the alarms, the shroud stays, the whisker pole and the runaway autopilot. This is a story best told over a couple of cold beers. Anyway we did survive (including the boat) and hopefully will never have to live through that experience again. As usual, Laura was an absolute angel of a trooper the entire time.
Tuesday, May 2, - New Bight, Cat Island
Although the shaft thankfully wasn't leaking, a rather insistent knocking told us that we don't yet have the engine aligned properly. Once we got around the shoals we were able to sail towards New Bight, just a few miles north. Hoping to change our luck, I put out the trolling line with the spoon and quickly had a hit--an 18 inch Spanish Mackerel, which ended up safely in our refrigerator and eventually on the dinner table. Later there was a huge tug on the line, which turned out to be a three foot Great Barracuda, which we were glad to get off the line. But our biggest catch of the day came after we anchored and returned from a pleasant walk on the beach. Don from Warrior, a sport fishing boat anchored nearby (our only neighbor), called on the radio to say that they had more dolphin in their freezer than they needed...would we like some? Ten minutes later we were enjoying a hour's visit with Don and Sue, who have cruised and fished far and wide in the Bahamas. Before we left they had given us not just the frozen fish, but also two "Triple-D" dolphin lures, some new paperbacks and magazines to read, and loaned us the excellent BBC/Nature series "Blue Oceans" on VHS tape.
Today we dinghied ashore and looked at the ruins of the Armbrister Plantation home dating to 1760 right off the beach, then walked twenty minutes to the top of Mt. Alverna, the highest point in the Bahamas. Summit! This hill is home to Cat Island's most famous attraction, the Hermitage, a miniature replica of a Franciscan monastery. One man, Father Jerome, built all of this as measure of his devotion and a place to spend his retirement as a hermit: the sorrowful "Stations of the Cross" as you climb the hill, a tiny chapel for his devotionals, a bell tower, an outdoor shower, a small room with a bunk. What a peaceful, grand, and yet very humble place! Laura and I followed a trail nearby to a small cave that must have been a favorite hideout for the local inhabitants over the past few hundred years.
I adjusted the engine mounts and changed the oil this afternoon (526 hours), so we were in theory ready to move to a new spot tomorrow. However, Don and Sue on Warrior invited us to go out fishing with them on their boat and we're all quite excited about doing that instead. Got an e-mail from Clarence saying that Third Angel was safely in Luperon, so that was good news as well.
Wednesday, May 3 - New Bight, Cat Island
We learned a lot about fishing and had a lot of fun thanks to the generosity of these fine folks from South Dakota.