Thursday, May 4 - Cat Island
After fighting our way to the southeast against the prevailing trade winds down to the Dominican Republic, we thought we would be able to sail easily back northwest all the way to Florida. We were wrong, of course. "You fight the trades all the way down," Chris Parker commiserated, "and then fight the anti-trades home."

Laura in the fighting chair. 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.

A sandcastle built to last! Beachcombing at Pigeon Cay, Cat Island
Photos: (Above in text) We flashback to fishing about Warrior every night around dinnertime. (1) Once again, we thought our sand castle would last forever, but it didn't. (2) Beachcombing a Pigeon Cay Beach, Cat Island. The title photo at the top of the page is also a view from Pigeon Cay, one of the nicest beaches we've visited.

Friday, May 5 - Little San Salvador
After making more adjustments to the motor mounts late last night, we still had a bad knock this morning and could only do five knots. We motored 18 miles to Little San Salvador, which is owned by a cruise ship company. No ships here today, just a catamaran anchored nearby. I'll do more adjusting tonight when the engine cools down and with a little luck tomorrow we can proceed into Rock Sound, Eleuthera. This anchorage is exposed to the west and pretty rolly now, but the forecast is for light winds and I am hopeful it will calm down overnight.

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.

Beach at West Point of San Salvador Sunset at Little San Salvador
Photos: (1) Around the corner from all the cruise ship infrastructure at West Bay is this fine deserted beach. The shallow water reefs further around on the north side looked like they would make for great snorkeling. (2) A trawler came and shared the West Bay anchorage with us.

Saturday, May 6 - Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We had a pleasant night at Little San Salvador, with very light winds and only a slight swell. We were up and underway by 6:00 AM, eager to see if my latest adjustments to the engine mounts had helped. The good news is that we can now cruise at high RPM's, six to seven knots, without any knocking from the shaft. The bad news is that we get some knocking at low RPMs. The quest will continue.

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
All the guidebooks say that the holding in Governor's Harbour is terrible, but we were securely anchored within minutes. As I saw when I used a mask to inspect the anchor, we hooked onto a pipe or cable running along the bottom of the harbor and won't be dragging anytime soon. We already pulled pretty hard on the pipe when we set the anchor, so I'm just going to let things stay as they are until we're ready to leave.

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.

Anchorage at Governor's Harbour No feet on the ground Traffic Mirror
Photos: (1) The anchorage at Governor's Harbour. (2) Her feet aren't touching the ground, as usual. (3) Sadly, in the midst of all the pretty houses and landscaped yards, it was this mirror on a telephone pole that got my attention.

Monday, May 8 - Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera
Great day at the library--very friendly people and the fastest Internet access (apparently via cable) that we've seen in many months. We ordered a ton of stuff from Defender and West Marine which we'll pick up when we get to Georgia. Grabbed some pastry from the bakery and then got some groceries at Eleuthera Supply. We talked for a few minutes with our neighbors Larry and Tracy of the Irwin 37 Soulmatie, and then I returned to the task of adjusting the engine mounts and succeeded in getting the PSS seal to leak again. If the winds go east as predicted we'll probably move up to the Glass Window tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 9 - Royal Island
The PSS Seal The winds and waves were not favorable for the Glass Window, so after a short swim to unhook the anchor from what appeared to be a water pipe, we left Governor's Harbour only to return within minutes because the PSS seal was leaking. I readjusted the mounts back to where they had worked previously and we left again. We'd gone only a few miles when I noticed the water level rising in the bilge again. This time the spring inside the PSS seal had completely given out, collapsing the rubber bellows that keeps the water out of the boat. I was able to move the seal down the shaft so the bellows were almost completely compressed (and thus providing their own "spring") and stop the leak, but this was obviously a turn for the worse. I called R.B. Boatyard in Spanish Wells to see if they could haul us out, but they said their schedule was full and we'd have to wait until June. There wasn't much else to do but keep going, so we continued north under sail, making around five knots in the light winds until we reached Current Cut just about slack tide, which was just when we had planned to be there anyway.

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.

Ruins at Royal Island
Photos: (1) The bellows on the PSS shaft seal are now almost completely compressed. (2) The ruins of the W.P. Stewart house at Royal Island, which date back to the 1930's, have been cleared and landscaped. We heard that some ex-football players had bought the island for $11 million and were planning to develop it.

Wednesday, May 10 - Royal Island
Enough whining--it was time to take some action. In fact, I made a list. We got off to a good start when Rafael from Cat2Fold, true to his word, came over to take a look at our shaft issues. He found a lot of play in the shaft, suggesting that the cutlass bearing needs replacement, but thought that the PSS seal was probably okay. His advice was to try to get back to the states before attempting repair. Over the course of the morning I removed the water heater (it's now sitting in the aft cabin) to give unencumbered access to the seal, disconnected the drive shaft from the engine and slipped part of an inner tube supplied by Rafael over the shaft just in case the seal gives out completely. In an emergency we can add just one more hose clamp and seal off whole mess. Later I changed out a shaft zinc to help keep the shaft balanced and scraped those pesky little barnacles off the bottom of the boat while Laura and Annie cooled off in the water at the stern.

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 ( 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.

The amazing folding 36 foot catamaran The inventor of the folding cat. Laura inside the starboard hull
Photos: (1) Cat2fold is 36 feet long with a 24 foot beam that folds to 8 1/2 feet for trailering. (2) Rafi says that for a limited time, each boat will come with a free happy hour snack plate. (3) Laura inside the starboard hull, which is the galley, a sleeping bunk, and a big nav station/sofa.

Thursday, May 11 - Spanish Wells
In some circles it's considered good and necessary seamanship to negotiate all cuts with a sail up, just in case. We found out why early this morning as we motored towards the narrow entrance to the anchorage at Royal Island. At just the wrong moment, we lost all power from the engine when the shaft slipped and spun free from the transmission. Annie says she's never seen us get a sail up so fast--fortunately fast enough to avoid being blown into the rocks just twenty feet away.

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!

Fishing Fleet at Spanish Wells Mooring field at Spanish Wells
Photos: (1) The main channel through Spanish Wells is home to an impressive fishing fleet. (2) There are eight mooring balls just off the channel near town in Spanish Wells.

Saturday, May 13 - Meeks Patch, off Spanish Wells
We spent two nights at Spanish Wells Yacht Haven as the docks filled with other boats. We especially enjoyed visiting with Fletcher and Barbara on the Oday 32 Com'on-a-long, who were traveling with two dogs, one large and one small. We stuffed ourselves with pizza at Teen Planet, shopped at the big Food Fair supermarket, and bought bilge pumps at R & B Marine. Spanish Wells is an interesting place, settled after the American Revolution by Loyalists who are today remain very independent--not Bahamian, not British, but uniquely their own people, with their very own accent. We heard tales about a well known local pilot who despite having been born and raised on the island is not considered a native because he can't trace his ancestors back to the original Loyalists. The island supplies a large percentage of the seafood produced in the Bahamas, and the men apparently make a very good living for the entire year during the months they spend out on the boats. Every house was brightly and freshly painted...every yard landscaped...many with water sprinklers going. This is the first town in the Bahamas we've visited where you could sell anyone a lawnmower.

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.

Laura on the run. Laura swings.
Photos: (1) On the run, as usual. (2) Laura wanted to go all the way back to George Town just to swing on the rope there. Fortunately, we found a suitable swinging rope on Meeks Patch.

Monday, May 15 - Man-O-War Cay, Abacos
We had an uneventful crossing to Man o'War cut, arriving around 7:00 AM this morning. Naturally, since we weren't in a hurry, we got 12-15 knot winds on the beam plus a favorable current that had us averaging well over seven knots. We sailed the entire distance, although since we were making water and running radar all night long, I actually ran the engine several hours in neutral charging the batteries.

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
Yesterday the weather was unsettled and rainy all day, so we stayed here on a mooring in the eastern harbour at Man-O-War and didn't leave the boat. A squall came through in the morning with winds hitting 40 knots, so we were glad to be on a mooring. After a rainy night it's still overcast and windy this morning. It's 6:19 AM and I am waiting for Chris Parker's first broadcast to see what our prospects are for the next couple of days. Next stop; probably Marsh Harbour, just five miles away.

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