Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday, day of rest !

Was planning on working on the boat, but Anne and Tom “Anne's Odyssey” stops by, they are anchored out. They asked us if we wanted to go to Starbucks for coffee and WiFi, which we did. Then we walked downtown. Linda and I hit up an ATM add to our depleted cash from paying for our Tow to Nassau. Then we all went to one of our favorite restaurants in Nassau the “Green Parrot”. Two years ago we dinghied there frequently for very fast WiFi and good food, and it still has both. Back to the boat. Linda does laundry and I start scrubbing our now very dirty decks. Jay and Tanya “Minx” who were part of the group of boats hold up at Great Harbor stop by for a visit.

I guess I must be more tired than I realize, from scrubbing the decks, I spill a glass of ice tea on Linda's side of the table and seat cushion, another mess to clean up. I don't know what is going on lately, every time I spill something it lands on my wife and not me. At least I haven't started any food fights.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tow to Nassau

Tow to Nassau

Joe and two sons show up a 7:30am and we are quickly on our way. This is not an easy tow, because our rudder is frozen in a left turn, so not only is Joe towing us, he is also steering us. He has to pull us at a 45 degree angle. 

We were able to fly the head sail for about an hour to compensate, but the wind turned on our nose and we took in the sail.

Almost there !
Entering Nassau Harbor
 By 3:00 PM we pull into the dock at Nassau Harbor Club. I quickly turn on the engine and put it into reverse to slow us down and we gently slide into our slip.

Joe and two of his five sons, mission accomplished !
Two mornings previous, after we ran aground, our friend Betty Romberg “Bright Ayes” had Chris Parker ask during his morning radio weather broadcast if any trawlers in the area could lend Manana assistance. We never heard from any trawlers, because I doubt any were in the area. Over the next couple days we start getting emails from friends further south asking,“Were you that Manana, we heard about during Chris Parker's broadcast ?”. In Nassau many cruisers that we knew and some we didn't, approached us to ask about our little event. Between email, texting, cell phones, SSB radio and VHF, news moves fast. A lot of natural curiosity about an event we all don't want to experience during our cruising days.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Berrys Island Club, Day two

One good thing, the driving rain has removed all the salt from the boat. And in the morning we discover the dock previously paved in poo is clean too. Good now I can lay out our anchor lines and work on them. We arrange to have Joe and his sons tow us to Nassau on Saturday. We spend much of the morning on the cell texting and emailing our insurance and numerous other people on and off the island. To get a good connection or voice with the cell phone we have to go to the second floor porch on the side of the main building at the Berrys Island Club.

Cell phone "Booth,  using our old iPhone as a HotSpot, on the window sill.

It has now become our telephone booth. We finally have some time late in the afternoon to walk around this area of Frazer Hog Cay. There are a few nice homes in the middle of Frazers that are quite remote.
Finally a calm night, Nassau lights on the horizon and a plane heading to Nassau, lower left

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Berry Island Club

We get up and have breakfast and get ready for high tide too try to pull ourselves off. No other boats in sight. Then off to the north I see a small power boat heading south. After a couple minutes I see they are coming our way. As they approach I hop in the dinghy and go out to talk with them. The boat owner Joe Lewis is with one of his sons and Sergeant Anthony Woodside from the Royal Bahamas Police Force. The Cavalry comes to the rescue! I had never had radio contact with them, but obviously they heard our predicament over the VHF and came at the first useful opportunity.

I pull in our Manson which still is not biting into the bottom and we use it's nylon rode as the tow rope. Joe's boat has twin 200 HP engines, but I am not confident it is enough to pull us off. But with some effort we are pulled free. I pull up our Delta anchor and tie a float to our stern anchor and toss it in the water for later retrieval.

They pull us over to the dock at the now closed Berry Island Club. Anthony says they have to get back to Chub but will send some one over by car to take us into Chub Cay for a few hours. The dock is pretty rough, but I find an old board ashore to make a fender board. I put our anchors on the dock. The dock is totally covered in seagull poop. My knees are turning white from kneeling down, working on the anchors. 

Berry Island Club dock
Within an hour or so, much earlier than I expected Tyrel shows up in his truck with a few buddies to take us over to Chub. This is a part of Chub/Frazer Hog Cay that few people get to see. The two Cays appear to be one island, but they are separated by mangroves and are connected by a road built up through the mangroves. This is one of the most rugged “flat” roads I have ever been on. Slow, bouncy and lots of weaving around holes. This is worst than sailing on a rough day. 

The Road to Chub Cay, and we though sailing could get rough !

Rudder not looking too good !
We ask Tyrel to pick us up in about two hours. We head to the restaurant (closed after lunch) and Bar for a beer and to enjoy the AC. Then we head to the showers to get cleaned up. I am so covered in salt from the last two days activities I have to wash my hair multiple times to get it clean. We meet up with “Green Turtle” a large Catamaran, single handled by Monty, at Chub and thank him for responding to our VHF call yesterday. I buy 20 gallons of water in our folding Coleman 5 gallon jugs to take back with us. Many of the workers we talk to at Chub knew about our grounding. News on the Channel 16 VHF gets around.

Back on the dock at Frazers I work on securing the boat better. Even with the fender board we have to deal with bolts sticking out of the pilings. I cover the bolts with a large piece of scrap starboard. We have a nice clear early evening, stars are out and the moon is not yet up. Well, by 8:00 PM or so it starts raining and shortly there after a squall kicks up out of the south, the direction we are fortunately pointing. The winds are in the mid-30s and we are bouncing around against the dock. I hop on the dock to better secure the lines and keep my piece of starboard in place to avoid damage to the boat. The dock almost feels like it is moving as much as the boat. Finally after about an hour or two the winds settle down. 

Lessons Learned;

1) If you do not feel comfortable where you are anchored, move.

2) If you are not comfortable, dive on your anchor if you cannot see the bottom. I assume, I snagged a rock or old mooring block which held us until the wind shifted enough, that the anchor slid off.

3) Practice with your anchor watch program. I had “Drag Queen” on the whole time at anchor, but inadvertently turned off the alarm sound sometime in the morning, so we never got the audio warning.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our Ocean Front Condo !

Ok, so how did we get here the next day ?

Earlier that morning;

It was still blowing around 20-25 knots, but a little more out of the south in the morning.

Well, we wake up in the morning and we still have not moved. The winds have shifted almost to the south from the southeast. I am now feeling pretty confident the anchor will continue to hold after 18 hours on the hook. After breakfast, Linda is sitting in the cockpit reading and I am reading down below. We have decided to wait here another day because of predicted squalls out of the west this evening. Anyways Linda decides to come down below to read for a while around 10:30. About 10 minutes later, BANG!, we bounce off the hard bottom. I immediately run up and start the engine and put it into forward. Already too late, the wind is pushing us hard to the shore, with each wave we are pushed further in. Finally, I realize we can not power off the very hard bottom. It is also right at high tide. I haul in our obviously, now useless Manson Supreme anchor, which has never dragged after setting in the 4 years we have had it, and one previous trip to the Bahamas. We lower the dinghy and motor. We load the anchor in the dinghy and I go out as far as I can go to drop the anchor. Back on the boat we start to haul the anchor back in and it will not set. So I go to our backup, our Delta anchor, which has not been off the anchor roller in the 4 years we have had the Manson Supreme. It actually had been upside down in the anchor roller so not to interfere with the Manson and its anchor rode.
The one other sailboat in the anchorage (“J-Dip” may not have that spelled correctly) pulls their anchor and very graciously motors over to offer to tow us, while I am trying to reset the Manson. I decline their generous offer, I do not want to put them at risk. We have insurance and we are in no physical danger. We can hop ashore from the dinghy at any time. In the back of my mind I am thinking, I guess we may be going skiing this winter after all.

So we pull out the Delta with the dinghy and it sets immediately, unfortunately in my rush I did not get the best angle on it. Of course, now the tide is going down and all the holding power is not going to pull us off and if it did the stern would pivot to shore. Aside from bending our rudder shaft we would risk fracturing the rudder tube in the hull.

With the tide going down we are now “comfortably” aground. First time in days that we aren't bouncing around. Just have the waves slapping against the hull. I get on the VHF radio and call over to Chub Cay Marina, but they never respond. It is way too rough for any boats to come over from Chub from the south to help and the northern route is too shallow. Only locals around high tide would consider that route. Another boat in the marina “Green Turtle” later responds and offers to see if he can track down help. With the tide further dropping we shut down the engine, before the cooling water intake is out of the water. We are fortunately upright because we landed on a flat rocky bottom with our big flat lead wing keel. 
At least it is nice and calm, now
We now go to our third anchor our big Danforth which has never been out of the anchor locker in the 7 years we have owned this boat. We take some spare lines and Linda's idea to use the dingy anchor chain and we set that anchor off our stern to prepare for the next high tide. That anchor sets very well. Not much else we can do for now. 

Linda calmly sits on the stern, if she could see this view, she might contemplate divorce.
Unfortunately this side of Frasers Hog Cay is blocked from the cell tower a few miles away at Chub Cay. I can only send and receive text and email if I hold the cell phone up high. So I am contacting our insurance company and sending queries to marinas in Freeport and Nassau for a tow. I only get one positive response from Knowles Marina in Freeport. Two other marinas that do towing and repairs on Grand Bahama never even respond. There is nothing in Nassau for us. Freeport is a long way, but we now have a backup plan.

Good time to put on a new shaft zinc, hopefully we will get to use it.
As the tide recedes, further, the boat is very quiet. I hop in the dinghy with the camera and I see why, the hull is almost totally out of the water. An hour or two later I can step off the stern ladder and walk ashore. Now, the hull is completely out of the water. I notice that the shaft zinc I have been meaning to dive on and replace is now completely gone. Hmm, good opportunity to now easily replace it and I do.

I ride over to ”J-Dip” and thank Eric and Elizabeth for trying to come to our rescue. I am satisfied with my decision to decline their offer for help when they tell me they only have a 15HP diesel engine. Linda was not happy that I made that decision to wave them off.

We have dinner and wait for the rising tide. To distract ourselves until high tide we watch some TV shows in our “seaside condo”. As we approach high tide I check the tide tables and see tonight’s high tide is 4 inches lower than this mornings. And since full moon was just a couple days ago they are going to be getting lower each day. Our next best chance is tomorrow, the high tide is 1 inch lower than the previous morning. After that, high tide declines each day. Screw it, we go to bed. Without the boat rocking and being exhausted we sleep quite well.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Frazers Hog Cay

Lots of wind, but no waves in the protection of Bond Cay. Once we leave the south entrance at high tide we encounter wind and waves almost on our nose, more than forecasted. 

Aground on Bonds Cay, wonder how that could of possibly happened ?
After and hour of punishing ourselves I decide to put the wind and waves on our back and sail east to Frazers Hog Cay and not Nassau. It would have been like traveling 30 miles on a pogo stick. I'm tired after just the first couple miles. In hindsight Mark and Karen made the right choice to get to Nassau ahead of the forecasted winds for Tuesday. I just didn't want to skip the southern Berry's, but we should of (Linda will remind me of this).

It was fairly rough in the anchorage when we got in there, in the afternoon and it took two attempts to set the anchor. It was too rough to get a clear view of the bottom, but we did drop an anchor in what I considered to be a sandy spot. The ideal spot further north off a sandy beach had the only other boat for miles and I didn't want to “crowd” them in this remote anchorage. I had set the anchor monitor program on our iPad “Drag Queen” and monitored the tracking on our navigation program. Not being real comfortable with the location in these high winds I stayed up late, after mid-night, monitoring our position. We had not moved and have been swinging a 45 degree arc around the anchor position.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Leaving Great Harbor

I walk off the boat around 6:00 AM and there is absolutely no wind, seems rather strange and nice for a change. I wash the boat with the free town water (don't drink it) before we leave. Still a lot of dirt on the boat, it really needs to be scrubbed again. 

Cut to Great Harbor, Para-sail boats heading for the Cruise Ships

 We have an all motoring day looping north around the Stirrup Cays on the north end of the Berry Islands and down the east side of the Berrys. Mark and Karen decide to continue on to Nassau arriving after dark around 7:00PM. I decide to anchor on the lee side of Bonds Cay and continue to Nassau the next day.

Cruise ships at Stirrup Cay

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another cool day, Basket Weaving

Wake up to a cool morning, good excuse to make popovers for Sunday Breakfast. Normally on the boat I half the recipe for just Linda and I, but my brain is not yet engaged and I mix a full batch, so I make as many as I can fit into the oven. Mark and Karen stop by to talk about tomorrows sailing and I pawn one popover off on Mark. In the afternoon Mark gives a basket making class using fronds from a silver back palm leaf. It was rather interesting and we have a good group. I got as far as making a coaster, maybe it will grow into something larger. Linda and Karen walk to another beach. Since many boats are leaving tomorrow and the wind is finally blowing less, we have an evening get together
with most of the boats in the marina. Still cool in the afternoon, everyone is wearing jackets.
 Basket Weaving class in session, sitting from the left to right; Jane (Mar-a-Lago), Karen (Sea Vu Play), Ann (Anne's Odyssey), Tanya (Minx), instructor - Mark (Sea Vu Play) and Betty (Bright Ayes)

After 4 days or so of high winds the boats in our end of the marina are covered in a fine sandy grit blown off the adjacent road to the docks.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

More sea urchins

Linda and Karen walk over to Shelling Beach. I get some boat projects done, put in a new heat exchanger zinc, clean out the engine cooling water intake filter, fix the mast boot seal, and clean the bilge. The bilge has lots of rain water which runs down the inside of the mast. With all the rain we have been having, it hasn't been dry in weeks. Also I work on this blog. Linda comes back with a bunch of sea urchins.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rain Showers, again

We have a leisurely morning. Mark comes over and we do a movie, TV show exchange. Hopefully the weather will get better and we will never have the time to watch any of them. We have a few showers during the day to finish off my previous days boat washing with a better water supply. The forecasted squalls and winds have held off for most of the day.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sugar Beach Caves

We get up early to get 4 of the marina's bikes for a morning ride north on the island to Sugar Beach Caves. We discover this island actually has hills, or at least they seem to be with one speed bikes.

We get to the Sugar Beach Caves and everyone finds a Sea Bean, except for Linda. They seem to be found at the high tide line, so I guess we are the first people here for the day.

Sugar Beach Caves

A Cave Man, Mark
Hills,  Linda & Karen
Biker Gang
Big Stirrup Cay, Cruise Ship behind the Island

After lunch Linda vacuums the boat and I wash the exterior with the marina's free wash water. The water is from the municipal water system which is not drinkable. It does have some salt content based on the residue on the ports when the boat dries off.

Late in the afternoon we walk down the docks to the end of the marina and buy some fresh fish from some of the local fisherman. We watch him clean it and an hour later we have it for dinner. Can't get much fresher than that. We had Hog Snapper. Linda though it was too bland. I liked mine, but I had spiced mine up a bit when I cooked it.

Local fishermen

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beach Club for Lunch

Had planned to dinghy through a mangrove creek to Shelling Beach, but find out we can not get through near low tide. Change of plans and Mark organizes a group to walk over to the Beach Club, a beach bar/restaurant on the beach. 

                                                                                        Karen, (Mark taking photo)
   Ann & Tom Rank  "Anne's Odyssey II" 1 & 2 from the right
   Linda &  Nile "Manana" 2 & 5 from the left

   Polly & Dave Brown "Illusions" 1 & 5 from the left
   Betty & Wayne Romberg "Bright Ayes" 3 & 6 from the left

We all got back mid-afternoon. Linda and I take a dinghy ride with Mark and Karen across the harbor to town. We discover White Water Grocery store has some fairly good and reasonably priced ice cream, we all get two scoops each. We check out both grocery stores in town for future purchases. More variety than Bimini and prices seem to be a little less.

Another game night with Sea Vu Play.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Great Harbor Cay

Got up rather late at 7:30AM and had a good breakfast. We were one of the last boats to leave Bullocks Harbor and head into Great Harbor Marina. Great Harbor is a very protected Hurricane hole.
Entering the cut into Great Habor

Great Harbor Cay, like many places in the Bahamas underwent lots of development in the late 60's and 70's only to go bust due to mismanagement and underfunded projects. It was a popular spot for many celebrity's like Cary Grant, Walter Cronkite, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Nicklaus, Joe Namath, Ingrid Bergman, and the Rockefellers. The 1973 Arab oil embargo, precipitated an economic recession which pushed up interest rates to near 20%. The main investor abandoned their development here and left millions of dollars in debt. By the late 70's the economy had shifted to cocaine smuggling. Most of that activity went away in the 1990's due to efforts of the USA DEA. Interestingly the original 18 hole golf course is now a 9 hole course that local home owners pay to have mowed and is free to use. Bring lots of golf balls, because you will never find most of the ones you slice off the fairway. If I had only known, I would of at least packed away a 5 iron and putter and a bag of balls. There are a lot of abandoned buildings, homes, a hotel, golf course club house, etc. 

In the last 10 years or so Big and Little Stirrup Cay just off the north of Great Harbor Cay have been under constant development as a day beach for a couple different cruise lines and provides some employment to the locals. There are a number of boats in the marina here, snorkeling, para-sailing, etc that head over there most days. The government collects about 2 million dollars a year in departure taxes from the cruise ships. There is even a wholesale store in the village to supply chotchkies to tourist shops on Big and Little Stirrup Cay. Pretty amusing place to walk through looking at all the
tacky, tasteless memorabilia. The owner tells us prices shown are the wholesale prices, if we want anything it would cost us double. No problem there.

Shelling Beach
In the afternoon we walk to Shelling Beach on the Atlantic side of Great Harbor Cay. I find my first sand dollar and some sea urchins.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Sail to Great Harbor, Berrys

We head out right after sunrise. Still fairly rough, but we head south. The north wind is behind us so we have following seas. Between boats leaving Browns and Sands we have 6 boats heading together across the Great Bahama Banks to the Berry Islands and Great Harbor. 

Still too rough to go north around the Bimini's, before heading east. We all head south with following seas for an hour or so until we turn east on the Banks. Once on the Banks the ocean swells disappear and we only have local chop to deal with.
Sea Vu Play
 We pass over a couple areas where the depths are around 6 feet, but because of the chop we can not see the bottom. On a calm day the water is so clear here, boats feel like they are floating on air. You can stand on the rail and watch your shadow running along the bottom.

We sail and/or motor-sail past sundown. We have all been talking back and forth on the VHF radio during the day. There is a half moon overhead which gives us some visibility. As we all approach Great Harbor in the dark I don't feel the need to turn on the radar. We are all anchored outside Great Harbor Marina by 8:30 PM. We are sheltered by islands to the north so we only have the wind. We have a rather calm night. Long day, we have covered about 100 miles.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bimini Sands squall and winds

Woke up to a windy morning, but the squall line on the weather radar is still a couple hours away. A bunch of us sit on the wall in front of our boats, watching them bouncing around in the wind hitting them broadside.

The Peanut Gallery; Mark, Linda, Karen, Jo & Mark ("Truant")
Left leaning boats
White Caps ! in our protected basin
 Around 10:30 the squall line approaches and the wind and rain lets loose. Wind picks up to 45 knots and swings from south to west. Which is good for us since we are now facing these high winds. The squall passes within 20 minutes, leaving just the wind which drops to 35knots. 

Entrance to Bimini Sands
The skies lighten up and we have mixed sun and clouds for the afternoon. The waves braking on the western shore outside of Bimini Sands are quite impressive. I walked over to the beach in my best rain gear, Hat and Bathing suit, to take pictures. It was still blowing and sand from the beach was starting to pile up on the second story roof of the ocean facing condo. Even though it was not raining I was soaked from the salt water blowing off the waves. I was also well exfoliated from the sand blasting.

Sand on the roof
In the afternoon Linda did laundry and worked on a couple projects. I pulled out the sewing machine for Mark to repair his Bimini canvas which had a lot of stitching pull out under the high winds during the squall. Plan to leave early tomorrow for Great Harbor, so we go to bed earlier than usual.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Moving Day

I may suck at backing up, but I do walk on water !

By mid morning 4 boats move over to Bimini Sands. I back into our new slip so we are facing the predicted wind direction of the squalls on Sunday. Fortunately, being the last boat to arrive we have plenty of help backing into our slip, since I suck at backing into slips. A group of us head over to the Infinity pool for the afternoon.

Pool bottom

Midget umbrellas, the poles been broken from past wind events.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Rain All Day

We have already had more rain here in Bimini than we had on our whole 3 months in the Bahamas two years ago. Spent the day on the boat. Mark (“Sea-Vu-Play”) and I texted back and forth, planning to take a walk to the food store whenever there was a break in the rain. Finally around 3:30PM the rain stops, for awhile, we all quickly head out before the rain starts back up. 
Lake "Mal Mart", Karen, Linda, Mark
Lots of water

I wear a light rain jacket and a bathing suit. Of course it starts raining again before we get back. We pass Bob (Not-to-Fast”) walking over to the ocean side in his bathing suit to check out the surf. Since I am already wet, I head over also. 

Sunday's forecast is for more rain and squalls, winds 40 knots from the south. A number of boats come to the conclusion that we should move to Bimini Sands on South Bimini tomorrow to avoid the southern exposure and current at Browns for the forecasted squalls. Bimini Sands marina is a man made keyhole basin, surrounded by condo's and is very protected and has no current.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Bimini - cool drizzly

Another cool drizzly day. Mark, Karen, Linda and I walk to the store to see if new produce has come in. It didn't. I go to the Batelco store with some cell phone problems. Mark is on the search for a replacement battery for his Bahama cell phone. No luck for him, may have to wait until Nassau to find a replacement.

Linda and I visit in the afternoon with Bob Elder who is on a Katie Krogan Trawler. Bob is “home alone”, his wife Peggy is back in the states for a few days. Bob has been here for a couple weeks and we found out he is the reason the bathrooms and showers have improved since two years ago. Bob, a retired engineer, is pretty handy and had been fixing the plumbing on his own. Brown's manager felt obligated to supply him with new fixtures since they were getting free high quality labor.

A bunch of us had hoped to go to the Thursday night Fish Fry at the Big Game Club, but it was canceled due to the lousy weather.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bimini - more rain

Another slow day. The weather is not co-operating to sail east to the Berry's. It is an 18 hour sail, which requires and overnight or early AM start. With the foul weather we can't get two good days back to back. Everyone is waiting for a long enough window, between lousy weather to make the run to the Berry's. The last few days have been cloudy and cool in the low 70's. Last time here, I went swimming every afternoon. I haven't been in the water, yet.

Let the Shell Seeking begin
Buying fresh lobster tails on the dock
Another Happy hour