Thursday, May 4 - Cat Island
Our icebox stuffed with fresh fish thanks to our friends Don and Sue on Warrior, we had our eye on the island of Eleuthera, but the distance was great and the winds would be northwest, directly against us. So after Don and I made a quick trip ashore to get some groceries, Seaductress bid our fishing friends goodbye and motored north along Cat Island. Unfortunately, knocking noises from the drive shaft at high RPM's indicated that I still didn't have the shaft realigned properly, but we were able to move twenty miles north to the beautiful beach at Pigeon Cay. Laura had a great time on the beach, building a very solid sand castle and body-surfing small waves while I kept watch for attacking bull sharks. I knew the chance of a shark coming up on this particular beach was pretty darn slim, but I couldn't forget the tales of ferocious, lightning fast bull sharks I'd heard about the day before at Columbus Point. Bull sharks are sometimes seen in very shallow waters. Of course, they've also been seen as far inland as Illinois, so I wouldn't put anything past them.
Tomorrow, if the forecast of light northwest winds holds and I'm able to improve our shaft alignment, we may motor another twenty miles west to the island of Little San Salvador, which is now a private island for cruise ships. Doing so will make the trip to Rock Sound, Eleuthera just a forty mile jaunt on Saturday.
Friday, May 5 - Little San Salvador
We're still enjoying delicious meals of fresh dolphin thanks to Don and Sue on Warrior. Annie has come up with a dozen different ways to serve dolphin, and they're all great.
Saturday, May 6 - Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We pulled into Rock Sound, Eleuthera around 1:00 PM and walked around town a bit (I forgot to take the camera, so naturally I saw lots of photographs I wanted to take). We seem to be entering a more affluent part of the Bahamas, with more and more of the houses painted and their yards actually landscaped--very pretty. After getting ice cream at Dingles (nice dinghy dock there, too) we made our way to the Ocean Hole Park, which was full of fish waiting to be fed. Laura caught a small lizard, which tried biting her (she hung on gamely) and finally escaped by breaking off its tail. For the third day in a row we're anchored on a lee shore, but I'm going to check the weather and see if the wind is supposed to turn around tonight. I could, if I like, probably tune in the NOAA weather forecasts out of Miami, because for some reason VHF propagation has been extremely good for the past two days. We constantly hear TowBoat US out of Miami, and even heard the Coast Guard out of Key West, a distance of well over 300 miles.
Sunday, May 7 - Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera
We took a hike around town and marveled at the pretty houses and flowery jungle-landscapes in the yards. Eleuthera Supply, where we bought cold drinks even though the store had closed fifteen minutes earlier, turned out to be an excellent grocery store. The Haynes Library, well over a hundred years old, was also "closed" but we were able to look inside, anyway, and found one of the neatest little libraries we've ever seen. The upper floor (hot in the afternoons, so mornings would be recommended for a visit) was all computers. There are just a few other boats sharing the anchorage with us tonight. We'll probably stay another day and move on towards the Glass Window on Tuesday if the weather remains settled.
Monday, May 8 - Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera
Tuesday, May 9 - Royal Island
Sailing through the very narrow cut reminded me a lot of the races we used to do at Sale Creek: light air, fluky winds, but fortunately no current. We got a lift at the last possible second and squeezed through the cut with the rocks just a dozen feet to starboard. Six miles further was the well protected harbor at Royal Island, where a half dozen boats were anchored. We were looking forward to exploring the ruins of a sprawling home right on the harbour, but a new "private property" sign discourages visits ashore. Strangely, someone is landscaping the ruins. I visited with Hans and Merrole on a nearby Corsair 31 trimaran Triagan, and also met including Rafael and Heidi, who are test-sailing a prototype of a folding catamaran named Cat 2 Fold with twin wishbone booms, one on each hull.
It appears there are four or five marinas with haul-out capabilities in the Abacos, so tomorrow I may call them to see what's possible. We obviously need to replace our PSS shaft seal and most likely the cutlass bearing near the prop. I had hoped we could limp back to the states but I'm nervous enough about attempting the fifty miles of open water between here and the Abacos. Every option involves some kind of long crossing that we'll want to do under sail. It's possible the PSS seal, in its compressed state, would handle more motoring but because we don't know what has become of the spring inside of the bellows (I imagine sharp pieces waiting to rip holes) we will try to do as much as possible without stressing it [editor's note: I found out later there is no such spring inside the bellows]. Unfortunately for our sailing hopes, there is very little wind in the forecast for the next five or six days.
Over the years I can remember injuring myself and being amazed that just a few minutes before I had been in no pain whatsoever. How is it possible that we ever take that wonderful lack of pain for granted? I remember now what cruising was like when we could go anywhere we liked without worries--just look at the map and go--and I can't help but think that it must have been wonderful.
Wednesday, May 10 - Royal Island
As much fun as we had working, relaxing with the crews of Triagan and Cat2fold was even better. To get to Royal Island, both boats had been folded and trailered to Florida from California. Rafael has patented both the folding mechanism for his catamaran and a method of raising the mast he's used in winds up to 25 knots. The 36 foot 5,000 pound boat folds to just eight and a half feet. There is living space in each hull, plus a soft "living room" on the hard (folding) bridge deck. This prototype was built in New Zealand but Rafael is currently looking for an investor/builder in the states (for more info on the boat, see www.cat2fold). Among the nice things installed on this boat is an Airhead composting toilet. The Airhead was smaller than I had imagined and reportedly works very well--I can testify that there was no odor, which is not something you can say about most holding tanks. Having temporarily disconnected our hot water aboard Seaductress, I was very interested in the Zodi (www.zodi.com) water heater, which is a metal can like a garden sprayer. You put it on the stove and heat up the water, watching the built-in temperature gauge, then pump it up and shower with it. After enjoying the company of Rafael, Heidi, Hans and Merrole on board Cat2fold, we went over to the Corsair 31 Triagan for a quick tour of that boat, which was also very impressive. Hans said they've cruised places such as Baja, Belize, and Guatemala in the boat and it is a joy to sail.
Tomorrow we will motor over towards Spanish Wells, which is just five miles away, to test the shaft and do some shopping (I'm in the market for more bilge pumps, among other things). If all goes well we will probably try to make the fifty mile run up to Little Harbor on Friday, then weigh our options from there.
Thursday, May 11 - Spanish Wells
Although I was about ready to sell the boat and fly home, this latest breakdown was useful in understanding some of our previous problems. The shaft was able to break free because it slid forward in the mount at the transmission. Now, finally, I understood what had happened to the PSS shaft seal a couple of days before. A spring in the bellows hadn't broken--Eric at Sale Creek had confirmed that there is no spring inside the bellows--but instead the shaft (and thus the collar that seals the bellows) had moved forward a half inch. This morning it moved another half inch, and the shaft key was able to come completely out.
It took me four hours and two attempts but when I finished I was pretty sure the shaft wouldn't go forward again. As designed, the shaft is kept from sliding forward or backward by two set screws (bolts actually) which had sheared off and gouged out their set holes. My aging drill bits protested but were able to drill the set holes a little deeper into the shaft. Second, I filled the formerly empty space ahead of the shaft with a washer and wooden spacer. Third, I bolted a shaft zinc just aft of the mount to stop any forward motion.
If we go to the Abacos at this point, we probably need to have the boat hauled there. The other choice is to sail back to Florida via the Berries and Freeport. In the meantime we have moved to Spanish Wells Yacht Harbor ($1/foot) because all the moorings close to town were taken. Spanish Wells is a pretty town, with lots of very carefully painted and landscaped houses, but we found out that if you happen to be wandering around hungry between 4:00 and 6:00 PM, you are out of luck--the restaurants are all closed. Maybe Annie will fix us something to eat soon!
Saturday, May 13 - Meeks Patch, off Spanish Wells
Maybe that's just what happens when you have an island where people have free time but don't drink beer.
This afternoon we left the marina, fueled up at Spanish Wells Marine (12 gallons, 551 engine hours), and traveled just two miles to the island known as Meeks Patch, where we found Cat2fold and Triagan anchored off a nice little beach. Under the trees on the beach was a bizarre collection of picnic tables, recliners, carpeting, a hammock, rough tables, and a volleyball court, all deserted for now but evidently much in use at certain times. Laura had great fun snorkeling along the shallow beach, chasing the collections of small fish about.
We have propulsion enough to get in and out of harbor, so our current plan is to head for the Abacos when the winds fill in. We had originally thought about leaving Monday morning, but since we'd like to get all the way up to the Man-O-War/Marsh Harbour area, we will leave Sunday afternoon and make an easy overnight crossing of around 80 miles. The winds and seas are forecast to be mild so it should be a nice sail.
Monday, May 15 - Man-O-War Cay, Abacos
We went into the narrow entrance to Man-O-War harbour but found no viable-looking moorings in the main harbour, so we nosed into the eastern end and picked up a beautiful mooring that was labeled #23. Unfortunately, the other side was labeled "Outrageous" so clearly this was a private mooring (we never saw the boat but we did see a house with the same name later). Nearby was a very worn rental mooring labled Edwin's Boatyard, so after inspecting it we moved over to that one. I had just settled in for a nap when Darren from Edwin's knocked on the hull, suggesting that we move to a better maintained mooring up the cove, so that's where we ended up. I asked Darren about hauling out at Edwin's (reputed to be the best in the Bahamas) and to my no great surprise he said it would be 3-4 weeks before they could get to us. The Man-O-War marina looked very nice for $1.25/foot, with a swimming pool and free wireless Internet to each slip; mooring balls are $15/night.
After I slept for a few hours we took a long walk covering the circumference of about half of the island, much of it along the beach on the eastern shore. Man o'War is a neat and clean little island with narrow little lanes designed for golf carts. All the houses are painted and landscaped, many of them hidden down little trails through the greenery. According to cruising guru Pavlidis almost everyone on the island can trace their roots back to one set of ancesters. I suppose it's the nature of islands to be this way, but it still seems a bit strange to me.
Wednesday, May 17 - Man-O-War Cay, Abacos