Friday, February 14, 2014

Bahamas 1/27 to 2/13

With Photos

We wait for the next weather window. Today it rained and we just hung out on the boat and worked on this blog and other projects. Later in the afternoon we walked to downtown Key Biscayne. Stopped by the local library for some WiFi access and by the Winn Dixie for a few items. I add to my collection of bags of fried plantain chips, can never get these up north. I like them better than potato chips. Stop by a coffee shop on the way back for some better wifi and a cup of coffee.

Since we had a few more days before the next weather window to head across the Gulf Stream we decide to head back over to Dinner Key Marina the next morning, for a couple days. Our friends Dan and Dawn, Gertie, are now moored there. There are a couple places I had hoped to visit the first time we were there. Linda was getting concerned that we did not have a dinghy ladder to easily get back into the dinghy when snorkeling in the Bahamas. She had done some research the night before and found that West Marine had a pretty good one, at a decent price, their procurement people must of messed, up they actually had a better and less expensive folding ladder than Defender. We call the Coconut Grove West Marine and they actually go check and make sure the item is in stock instead of relying on what the computer inventory tells them. Most West Marines are notorious for claiming they have something in stock until you go to pick it up and they say the computer says we have 4, but we can't find any. Anyways, they hold it aside for us and we hike there to pick it up. We also stop by a coffee shop for our internet fix.

On Friday we decide it is hair cut time. My hair is getting rather long and its a PITA when I am not wearing a hat and I don't look good in barrettes. We had spotted an inexpensive place for haircuts the week before so we head there in the morning. We get pretty decent haircuts. An added benefit for me, there seems to be more gray hairs on the floor than now on my head. Our favorite local library was closed so we stop by Dunkin Donuts for coffee and WiFi.

 The Barnnacle State Park

We then head to The Barnnacle State Park in down town Coconut Grove. This is a property that dates back to the 1880's with original buildings and native vegetation from that time. It stayed in one family until the 1960's when it was donated to the state. It is kind of an oasis from the 1880 era surrounded by the 21st century.

Cruisers Potluck

Saturday we go to a potluck on Picnic Island with a bunch of other cruisers. Most boats are heading the same direction as us. After the potluck Linda and I split up. She does laundry and I head to the town library for internet access to load some new apps on Linda's iPad and to download software to jailbreak and unlock the old iPhone that Apple no longer supports, so we can hopefully use it in the Bahamas. We get back to the boat and we notice a rotten egg smell and Linda blames me because I made deviled eggs for the potluck. I thought there was something in our refrigerator that leaked into the bilge. I empty out the frig and find nothing. Finally I go check the propane cylinder and it is very cold indicating the liquid propane has been changing to a gaseous state. I discover our regulator has a leak. Again I call the Coconut Grove West Marine and they have a couple in stock and hold one aside for me.

Next morning I leave early to get there when they open. Since it is Sunday the only local propane dealer is closed. We have enough propane left to at least get to Bimini. I get our gas cans filled with non-ethanol gas which should hold us for quite awhile for the outboard and generator. Hopefully they don't sell this crap in the Bahamas. Finally late in the afternoon we had back over to Key Biscayne with Gertie to anchor outside the No Name Harbor to leave a 6:00 AM in the dark for Bimini. A very good weather window is available and there are 8 or so boats anchored for an early morning trip across. We dinghy into No Name Harbor to have dinner at the Cuban restaurant there, The Boaters Grill.

Monday morning 1/27 we leave at 5:30 AM, but I am surprised to see that more than half the boats had already left. Surprisingly, once we get past the shoals into deeper water it starts getting somewhat rough, sending waves over our bow and deck. I forgot to tie down our new sun shower which is holding about 5 gallons of water. I figure we will not get enough water over the bow to even move it. It is getting too rough to walk over wet deck to secure it and receive a salt water shower. About 10 minutes later, swoosh, a big wave washes over the bow and removes our 40 pound bag of fresh water from the deck. Since we are motor sailing at this point I figure by the time we turn around we will not be able to find it, so I don't try. And for the next hour I listen to “You should of tied that down”, repeatedly. In a few more miles we reach the Gulf Stream and the waves calm down and we have smooth sailing/motoring. Soon our depth sounder stops working and I think, great another thing to fix. Finally it dawns on me after looking on the charts, the depths are close to 10,000 feet. The depth sounder stops around 300 feet. It works fine once it shallows up near Bimini. This is the first time we have been in water too deep for our depth sounder.

 Good Bye Miami

Lunch in the Gulf Stream

Coming into Browns Marina, North Bimini

We get into Brown's Marina in Bimini around 2:30 PM. I head over to Customs and Immigration to clear in and pay our $300 cruising fee. Once I get that done I return to the boat and remove the yellow Quarantine flag and put up the Bahamian courtesy flag. Once we finish this chore we head to the beach with Dan and Dawn for a swim in the clear blue waters of the Bahamas. That night we walk down to the Big Game Club looking for dinner. Before we go to the restaurant, we watch some sport fisherman unloading their catch of Wahoo. Dan who has a number of fishing poles and intends to do some fishing starts quizzing them on what bait or lures they used and other techniques. Finally one of the guys says follow him over to the fish cleaning station and he flays off about 5 pounds of fish for Dan. To para-phrase and old saying “Teach a man to fish, is rather annoying, give him some fish and you can get rid of him faster”. Anyways, we get quite a show, the sharks know in the evening fisherman are cleaning fish and a free meal can be had. Once there is some blood in the water they start showing up. When a whole Wahoo carcass is tossed in the water the sharks start fighting over it. Standing on the dock Linda and I get soaked from the thrashing tails on the waters surface. Adjacent to the dock there is a shark cage that they charge to use to watch the sharks under water. Without the cage though, watching is free. We head to the restaurant and share an excellent dinner of cracked conch (conch that is tenderized before frying, usually with a mallet).

The next day we go for a long walk and had lunch at Captain Bobs and had the Snapper special, a whole fried snapper with rice and vegetables. They give you so much we decide to split it. It was excellent. That night we have a potluck with Gertie and Dutchess (Jock and Val from Toronto). Dan supplies the fish (Wahoo of course) and everyone supplies the sides. Browns has a nice outside grilling area, “Kitchen” and dining tables.

Unfortunately the winds have picked up and the seas have gotten quite rough so we will be staying put and wait for better weather. Crossing the banks to the east is too great of a distance to cover in sun light and we are planning on anchoring out on the banks on a relatively calm night. Since the depths average about 15 feet the ocean swells do not make it on to the banks.

The next day we stop by the BTC (Bahamas Telephone Company) to pick up a SIM card and buy some prepaid minutes. Spend the afternoon at the beach, but this time it is quite rough and one cruiser family with kids is surfing, where it was quite calm the day before. That night there is another potluck with about 30 cruisers from Browns Marina and a few from the marina next door.

The next day we worked on a number of chores and we had rain for most the afternoon. A couple guys came into the marina with a boat load of conch to clean to sell to the local restaurants. I bought a couple pounds.

Cleaning conch, the Peanut Gallery is watching a Moria eel feeding on
scraps under the dock.

Lessons on how to tenderize conch
 Later went over to the fish cleaning station with a piece of 2 by 4 and did my tenderizing. A little egg wash then coating with panko and coconut then into to the frying pan made an excellent dinner for the next two nights.

On Friday we were planning on leaving, even though the conditions were not what we would prefer. In my rush to get going I spaced out and siphoned about 8 gallons of diesel into one off our smaller water tanks. What a F**king idiot ! Not only did I empty one 5 gallon tank I started on the second before I woke up and realized what I was doing. So that ended our plans for leaving for the day. Fortunately our friend Dan had a 12 volt pump so we pumped out the floating fuel and then sucked out water from the bottom of the tank. Pumped out the remaining fuel and water into bottles which quickly separated (fuel on top, water on bottom) and poured water and fuel into separate containers. Fortunately I had previously bought a water separator funnel to deal with bad fuel. Essentially a large gravy separator. I was surprised how well, water and oil (diesel fuel) do not mix. I was able to recover almost all the fuel. This just left me an oily film in one of our water tanks. I removed the plastic tank and hoses from the boat and used Simple Green and water to wash out the tank and hoses.
My oil (fuel) and water separation project

On the other hand we got to buy lunch from Sister Janes car. I had just heard about her the day before. She prepares a variety of meals and serves them out of the trunk of her car in styrofoam clam shell boxes. It was amazing, it was the clown car of food. She had BBQ chicken, baked chicken, fried chicken, stuffed chicken, fish. You got two sides, choices of Mac and Cheese, rice & peas, beets and about 5 others I can't remember. I could not believe she had all that hot food to be served from the trunk of her car. Then she says go to window two. Window two ? Huh ? Her assistant was in the back seat loading the sides and cookies and acting as the cashier. Amazing, I was bummed we had not learned of her sooner, especially since she only does this on weekdays. We buy one meal to share because its huge.

 Sister Jane

I see Bill from the boat next to us walking down the street and I wave him over and tell him if he hasn't had lunch he has to try this. Well, Sister Jane rattles off the menu to him, but this time also mentions meat loaf. Meat Loaf ! I jokingly cry-out in a hurt voice “You didn't tell me you had meat loaf !”. She says she forgot. All this in the back on one not so big car. A couple boaters by extra meals to care them through the weekend. If I had known about her sooner I would of asked about the weekly meal plan.

The next day I finish cleaning our water tank and reinstall the tank and hoses. And then we put all the food and gear back in the aft berth that has been stacked in the main cabin for my oil separation project. We cool off at the beach with a bunch of other cruisers and then stop at Nates Bakery for some cinnamon bread and coconut bread. That night we have lobster tails for dinner with Dan and Dawn. A local woman came by with 12 to sell earlier in the day. Everyone stays put in the marina on Sunday to watch the Superbowl. I finish a few repairs/projects and we get the boat ready to leave on Monday.

We had a tour of the Dolphin House.  A Home/Art project of a local artist/historian Ashley Saunders.

At one point I asked him how many churches there are on Bimini, because we had seen quite a few.
He replied "13 churches, too many leaders, not enough followers"

The forecast is not great, winds out of the east, on the nose across the banks, but we have been here too long and decide to leave and head to Chub Cay. We are followed by Gertie and Dutchess. We get about and hour of sailing heading north of Bimini before we turn east into the wind. Pretty good chop, but no swells. The winds pick up more late afternoon and it looks like it will be rather rough anchoring out on the banks, so we decide to motor to the eastern side of the banks to anchor west of some shoals, hoping the waves will be less. Unfortunately we have to motor until around 11:00 PM to get there. No moon light to help. Surprised how many other large power boats are on the banks for the night. We finally get to the agreed waypoint and drop the anchor. Still pretty rough, but good enough to get some sleep. We keep the radios on all night in case any problems arise.

Jock on Dutchess plays Reveille for our wake up call at 7:00 AM and we are quickly on our way for another 5 hours of motoring to Chub Cay. Once around the shoals we are in the “Tongue of the Ocean” and depths of 8,000 feet. The swells aren't as bad as I thought they might be and we maintain a fairly good cruising speed. We reach Chub and anchor around noontime. Spend the afternoon relaxing and happy hour was on Gertie. That night the anchorage gets rather rolly as wind direction changes slightly and swells enter the anchorage. We are able to sleep, but standing up and walking around is difficult. We head further east to Frazers Hog Key to an open but shoal protected anchorage.

 Shore party at Frasiers Hog Cay with Dawn, Jock, Val and Dan

 My pet Sting Ray

Happy Campers

 Beautiful, remote spot, only one other sailboat. We stay two nights and explore some other small Cays and hike on Hog Cay. We visit the ruins of a couple homes that were obviously destroyed in a hurricane within the last 20 years. Amazing the amount of destruction.

Friday morning we all leave around 8:30 AM for Nassau. A pleasant day of motoring and we are anchored by 3:30 PM and we all head to the Green Parrot for conch fritters and beer.

Saturday Dan, Dawn, Linda and I walk to BTC to get our problems with setting up our cell phones straightened out. The folks at BTC in Bimini were not too knowledgeable. We stop for breakfast first. The BTC office is full of confused white guys trying to get their phone issues straightened out. I leave thinking we are all set, with data and voice. Just as we are getting ready to go to some other stores, Dan gets a call from Jock telling him their boat is dragging anchor. We walk quickly back to our dinghy and take them back out to their boat. Jock has gotten their anchor reset for now.

Back on the boat I find I still have problems with setting up the cell phone. After lunch we head to another BTC office downtown. Finally, a young woman there fixes the problems and we have data and voice access. We stop for ice cream for the first time in the Bahamas. Could not find any ice cream in Bimini. That night we get a light squall and are happy to finally get most of the salt washed off the boat. Dutchess drags her anchor in front of us so they move to the other side of the harbor. We have a pier down wind of us so we keep a close watch, but we hold steady. Have been very happy with the Manson Supreme anchor that we got for this trip. In three months we have not dragged once. Until we got to Chub Cay we have always gotten an immediate set when we backed down on the anchor. At Chub we dragged a 100 feet before we got a set, my fault not the anchor's. I was just about to pull it up and start over when it dug in. Nice clear water makes it easy to see what the anchor is doing.

Nassau, Cruise Ship dock, Gertie in forground

We are anchored near the Cruise Ship docks. Some of these boats are amazing. The Disney ships, dwarf some of the Carnival ships. I don't know what keeps them from tipping over they are so tall off the water. When the Disney ships are ready to leave they play a familiar Disney tune on what sounds like a giant calliope made of a series of perfect pitch fog horns, its pretty cool and attention getting, which of course is the point. This morning there were 5 cruise ships side by side in port, the maximum they can handle. Downtown must have been shoulder to shoulder with people. We all head over to the beach on the north side of Paradise Island and later walk over to Atlantis. We check out one of their newer sections, that obviously is getting away from their normal family theme. No kids around. Lots of adults, drinks in hand standing in the many pools. Outdoor Craps and Black Jack tables. A few bare breasted women showing off their silicon enhancements. As we leave it dawns on us that the guards stationed on the walk ways are not for the adults, they are there to keep underage people from entering. Although I wonder what happens when some kids wander in from the beach side.

Monday is laundry day. We were initially going to take the local bus to a laundromat, but Dan tipped us off to a Marina that had a couple washers and dryers. So Linda and I head over there. 18 dollars for 3 loads. With only very slow filling washers it took 2-1/2 hours to finish. I left her there and headed to the fuel docks to load up our diesel deck cans. I topped off our diesel fuel tank the day before from another fuel dock by transferring from our deck cans. I also go back to the marina and buy some water, 25 cent a gallon, using our three, five gallon folding jugs. In the afternoon we went to Fresh Market, a very nice supermarket even by US standards. We went to a Fresh Market in Coconut Grove that was much more expensive, catering to a much ritzier crowd. I left the folding wheeled cart on the boat so we were limited by the canvas bags we could carry. Which prevented us for buying to much stuff. At the dock where we left the dinghy we ran into some people that we met at Vero Beach, who are mutual friends with, Bob and Carol, who are mutual friends of John and Genie Soboslai. I emailed Bob and Carol a couple times knowing that they were also headed to the Bahamas. Bob and Carol are in the east anchorage in Nassau so we swing by and say hello, but only Bob is home. He is trying to work out a problem they are having with the outboard engine for their Catamaran. While we are there we see another boat from Burlington, Vermont “Omo'o” a unique Downeaster 38 Ketch, which I instantly recognized which we used to see every Fall at the Marina where we haul our boat. So were go over there to visit. Two guys sailing while their wives are at home, everyone is happy.

Late in the afternoon we head into downtown hoping for one last ice cream fix before we leave the next day. Everything closes early on Sunday, one cruise ship left and only locals downtown. The Ice Cream Parlor is closed.

Tuesday, we planned to leave for Allen Cay before a front comes through on Thursday. Gertie and Dutchess decide to stay until Friday, they both have some uncompleted projects. While we are sitting at anchor Linda and I, and Dawn on Gertie are lucky enough to witness a Sting Ray fly out of the water. I have heard they can do this, but have been skeptical, until now. The forecast had been for little wind and we had expected to be motoring, but we were able to sail most of the way without the motor running. We get into Allen Cay around 4:00 and go over to see the Igaunas waiting on the beach for hand outs. Allen Cay is a protected area for the Igaunas their last refuge in the Bahamas. I assume the Spaniards ate the rest of them, “they taste like chicken”, after they enslaved and killed off the native population of people.

 Allen Cay, iguanas
Wednesday, is fairly windy and choppy. We motor around but decide not to snorkel. I snorkel around the boat and check depths at the limits of our swing radius for the predicted squalls and wind shifts. I check our anchor and our neighbors anchors.

Late in the afternoon a French Canadian sail boat “Mistress Quickley Too” comes in the anchorage and tries to anchor between us and a sand shoal to the north behind us. At first, I convince them to anchor elsewhere, where they will have more swing room, with the forecast winds clocking from east to west over the next day or so. With them between us and the shoal we will not be able to add more scope to our anchor rode. But, no luck they come back to the same spot and thought they would be real clever by dropping their bow anchor and using a stern anchor to force the bow to point south into the predicted overnight wind direction. Even though the wind is currently blowing out of the northeast mostly on the stern so their bow anchor never gets a good set. Since they have restricted their swing with a stern anchor they are parked within our current swing radius, preventing us from letting out any more scope. I motor over and talk to them again, but to no avail.

The one saving issue for us is their bow anchor is a Bruce, notoriously bad in sandy and weedy bottoms and not recommended for the Bahamas. In the Chesapeake mud they are fine. I was discussing the situation with another French Canadian on our other side who is adept at anchoring, I told him our ace-in-the-hole may be that Bruce anchor, it may let loose before we swing that far.

I put out all our fenders on the side towards them before dark and put up the dinghy. The geometry proved itself when the squall came through around 1 PM. We were about a boat length from them in a 30-40 knot blow with heavy rain and we were swinging over their anchor chain. I was concerned for our rudder. The ignorant assholes are blowing their horn and yelling at us that we are dragging. I yell back “I told you not to anchor there and they should let out more scope”. I start the engine and shorten up our scope for a little more clearance to avoid having their anchor chain dental floss our rudder off. The dummies still have their stern anchor line tight so they could not swing into the wind. The inevitable happened, the Bruce started losing its hold from being pulled sideways and they started dragging, outside our swing radius. Unfortunately they started to swing into another sailboat, “Quartet”, family with two kids we first met in Bimini.

After another 20 minutes of them fending off each other and Quartet nearly getting their rudder fouled in the dragging chain, the Canadians start pulling up their anchor lines. The FC's are now busy yelling at each other. Surprisingly in English, which must be the first mates first language. One thing we have observed on Lake Champlain it is very hard to yell and swear in your second language when in a panic. So, compliments to the captain.

Lesson learned for me, be more assertive and provide a geometry lesson to the unconcerned party and insist on exchanging phone numbers, email and insurance information ahead of time.

Another light squall comes through around 5:00 AM. The boat has never been so clean of salt since we left Lake Champlain. Its like we went through a giant car wash. Thursday we sleep in late, since we were up much of the night and putz around on the boat. Too windy and choppy to go anywhere.

The wind clocks around to the north west late in the day. Exactly on the forecast schedule. We are protected from the west winds by Allen Cay, but are still getting swells from the previous wind direction out of the south. The swells should dissipate before the wind does later tonight. The forecast for tomorrow is for light winds.

Now that the winds have shifted to the northwest I can see that “Mistress Quickley Too”in their new spot is still pointed to the south, because guess what ? They have their stern anchor out and are now sitting broadside to the wind, except they are now in front of rocks not sand, stay tuned. Later in the day the wind shifts out of the north, and all the boats in the anchorage are face north except for, guess who ?