Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 8, 2016

On in the Bahamas

30.3.16 – Wednesday – We left George Town and the Exumas to stage our departure to Jamaica. First step was Cape Santa Maria on the north of Long Island. During the hours it took us to get there our attention was mainly focused on the trolling line; we craved fish but none was taken. We anchored in a bay south of the Cape close to shore not far from a small coral knoll. We all went snorkeling and immediately I noticed a nice grouper peeking out of a crevice just to our stern. I made some plans regarding that fish.

Later in the afternoon, after swimming and paddling, Yaron took command of the fishing effort. He used the fish I caught a few days ago as bait and took out four fish, a small grouper was sent back to grow up, another mid-small one was designated as bait material and two were going to be our dinner. Yaron used most of his bait fish; the tail section was still intact. I used a spare roll of line that I had, connected a triple hook to it and put it in the general area where I saw the big grouper.

As we were finishing our dinner we heard that line go out. Alas! It was not the fish we hoped for but an ugly jack trevally which we totally dislike. We cut the line but unfortunately for the brute the hook, which it swallowed, stayed inside its stomach.

A short sudden rain squall signaled the end of the day.

31.3.16 – Thursday – Today’s destination was Rum Cay. This is what I wrote about the place when I visited in 2007: “Fast reach to one of the most beautiful locations so far”. I also mention the fact that we went into Sumner Point marina. In 2016 it was a totally different experience. First of all we had the wind straight on the nose at 15-17 knots and waves superimposed on the swell from the east; it was a rough and unpleasant ride. When we finally got closer to Port Nelson, the main settlement, we could see no sign of the buoys leading into the marina. We did see a big Lagoon cat at anchor and worked our way in her direction. I didn’t like the color of the water ahead, turned back and dropped ours on a clear blue sandy patch. Looking at the charts I thought I could tuck behind the reef near Point Sumner. I didn’t realize that what on the chart seemed to be a snug area was actually very big and wind induced waves had enough fetch to make us roll quite a bit.

Yaron and I took the dinghy to check out the marina. Again, no lead in markers of any kind and very shallow water on the approach. We came in and the first thing that caught our eye was a sunken ketch.

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A catamaran sat askew near what seemed to be a deserted dock.

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We could find no one to speak to and turned back to our boat. Later in town we were told that the marina was closed. We took the dinghy to visit Port Nelson. I might have taken a hint from the guide book which said that the island “Suffered when its salt pond operation shut down, precipitating a population drop from 5000 to 680”. The town is in a very bad shape. Many houses are deserted, ruined cars litter the sides of roads; what a pity! The main reason for our coming here was to give Gili and Yaron a glimpse of what I expected to be “The unspoilt jewel of the Bahamas” just as a proud sign in town stated.

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1.4.16 – Friday – This was a day full of unplanned action. We started out at 0700 to go Little harbour on Long Island, 40 miles away. The wind was southeasterly at 13-17 knots and enabled us to sail close-hauled to our target. It quickly became clear that we had a current of 1.2 knots and waves coming at us 45 degrees off our port bow, both slowing us down considerably. With a feeling of disgust I added one motor to give us enough speed to get there reasonably early.

At one point I glanced at the mainsail and something seemed to be wrong. Took a closer look and found out that on one of the mainsail’s sheet three pulleys’ the shackle holding it to the boom disengage itself and funnily fell right into the bailer of the dinghy and was not lost. In order to put it back in place we furled the jib, sailed into the wind a lowered the main. With the boat going up and down the waves it was not very easy fixing it and once I did I asked Yaron to pull up the mainsail. at one point it stopped and refused to go all the way up. a close inspection revealed that the main halyard, helped by the up and down motion of the boat, has swung and stuck itself forward of the upper crosstree.

Releasing it required a climb onto the lazy-bag in the rock and roll ride and after a few tries it went back to its normal place. sails up again, we had a nice push for about an hour from a big cloud which backed and increased the wind so we were doing 7 knots in the right direction. That finished, we came upon an area of relatively shallow water rising to 30 meters from a thousand or more. I showed the depth to Yaron saying that in an area like that we could finally catch a fish. Even before I finished the sentence, Yaron saw the trolling line being pulled out. It was a big one and the fight began. It took more than twenty minutes of reeling in, of having the fish pull the line back, rushing forward in an effort to get itself free and finally we saw it. A four or five foot shark; we wanted to take its picture and release it but the brute broke free taking the lure’s tail triple hook and disappearing in the deep.

At thirty minutes past three p.m we arrived at the entrance to Little harbour; one has to watch the GPS carefully so as not to take the wrong entrance, because two coral bottomed pseudo passes smile at you as if saying:”Look how beautiful I am, come in through me”. We went inside and as I turned into the wind to drop the anchor the starboard engine shut itself down. Trying to start it was it felt as if the battery is dead; but this was a six month old one and checking its voltage I got 12.60V. We check all possible solutions and concluded that the problem must be electrical. None of us is neither a professional nor an amateur electrician so the thought was to go back to Flying Fish marina near Clarence Town, 12 miles back north and seek a pro. I called Randy, who worked on my boat in Miami to ask his advice and he said it was probably the starter relay. “If you have a spare, just replace one wire at a time, this should do it”. By that time it started getting dark and Yaron’s and my tendency was to delay that operation to the morning but Gili insisted that we do it pronto.

With the help of some old notes I had and the setup of the old relay we put a new one in. I was in the engine room and Yaron went and turned the key. Zilch, Nada, not working. “Let me try and interchange between the last two wires” I said. Did it and the starter came to life! For a professional mechanic this may be routine, for us it was a victory.

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This one inch bugger, when failed, will disable your engine; have a spare!

We could now go on according to plan and sail to Great Inagua, our last island in the Bahamas from which we would sail to Jamaica.

2.4.16 – Saturday – Going out of Little Harbour is never easy. I remember how nine years ago we were astounded by the waves breaking right at the pass into the bay; it was the same now. Once out the sea conditions were not good. Steep waves combined with wind on the nose produced a wild ride. Having feared such eventuality I was ready with an alternative. “Why don’t we go and hide behind the south point of Long Island. The forecast ids for the wind to go down in the evening and we could leave for Inagua tomorrow”. After a bit of a discussion my suggestion was accepted and we along the coast around South Point. Yaron, ready for action took out two barracudas in succession and it fell to me to release them from the hooks; codas might be infected with ciguatera and we’re not eating them. 

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With the second fish caught we had a nasty surprise. As I throttled back to slow the boat the starboard engine – the one we thought we fixed the day before – died down. Trying to restart it presented the same symptoms as yesterday. We clearly needed a mechanic. Yaron started perusing the guide for mechanics in the area; one was reputed to live in Cabbage Point, just two miles to our north. We tried calling him on the phone but got a voice message saying:”The number you called in not in service”, the same message repeated itself in two more numbers we tried. When we reached the Cabbage, all we could see was one ruined house on shore and no signs of life. We ended calling the Morton Salt Company in Inagua and a supervisor there told us there was a mechanic named Newell who would be available when we come Monday.

We sailed back to anchor behind a line of coral which gave minimal protection but very good holding on sand. (22 53.04 N 74 53.087 W) Yaron and I went ashore but found nothing we want to report on. Back on the boat, I entered the engine room to try and check the electrical connections; no joy. The decision is to leave tomorrow to Inagua with the hope Newell would be able to fix our engine.

3.4.16 – Sunday – At 0630 we motored out on one engine. During the night the sea calmed down completely,. the wind a very light southerly. I was obsessed with the urge to find a solution to the engine problem and looked up the relevant chapter in Nigel Calder excellent book “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual”. Being sure that the problem lay at the electrical supply to the starter I decided to to try the bypassing procedure he described. The fact that the engine shut itself down was attributed to a possible fuel filter contamination and I quickly changed it. Bypassing either the starter solenoid and switch did not do the job so as a last resort I tried starting using the house battery bank. It started! It was a bit wobbly at idle power but when I advanced the throttle the engine worked just fine and our speed rose considerably.

Our joy was short lived; after a little over an hour the engine noise changed, the speed dropped  and it seemed that the connection between the motor and the drive was lost. I throttled back and the engine shut itself down. Inspection of the engine room did not reveal anything external but when I checked the gear oil level I found it low. I was at a complete loss as to what the problem was and suspected the worse imagining all sort of dire scenarios. We proceeded on our port engine.

In the late afternoon the wind veered to the northwest and passed the 10 knots mark. I decided to pole out the jib and sail wing and wing. The operation was delayed slightly by Yaron catching a small skipjack tuna and then we were sailing properly; the wind rose gradually up to 15-17 knots and our speed rose with it; our ETA was suddenly before sunrise!

Dinner over we started our watch system with Gili taking the first. It was not long for her to call me to the cockpit.”Our speed has risen to 8 knots, sometimes 9, we need to reef”. First reef and still going too fast; second reef in and we were OK.

4.4.16 – Monday – The night passed peacefully enough. As I  came on watch at 0300 I opened full sails as the wind abated. With first light the island was seen and at about eight o’clock we were close to the harbour. We had scant information about the place so when we saw a yacht at anchor near the entrance we came by to ask for information. The young couple on that boat (they turned out to be Norwegian) had a yellow flag hoisted and no real info so we gingerly went in. The Waterways guide said that they had 10 berths for transient yacht. When we came in we saw none but could squeeze into a free space near a Haitian boat, which later moved to give place to a big workboat.

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A lady in a small red car came by and waved me over. “I am Dona, the Harbour Mistress. You need to pay six dollars for the stay in here”. Dona was conducting her business from the air-conditioned car,rather than from her office. She showed us the water faucet (25 cents a gallon) and when I asked whether she knew Newell, the mechanic, she recited the number from memory.

We called the man and after 20 island minutes (close to four times that value) he arrived. Tried a few things, filled gear oil, investigated others but did not come to a definite conclusion. At one point he said he had to go and would return at 1500. Until that time we did some work on the boat and Gili and Yaron went shopping. The supermarket just got new supplies but they lost the invoices and could not fix the prices for some goods so they came back with no fresh veggies.

A customs man came by and told us we had to leave at first light because a Navy vessel needed the place. We actually wanted to go out since the small harbour basin was airless and hot. After lunch we started walking towards the customs and immigrations offices. It turned out to be a long way in the searing heat and luckily a young customs lady whom we saw in the morning when we entered was on her way to the office and gave us a ride there and back. Formalities where concluded very quickly and we went back to the boat to wait for Newell.

Just before he came at 1745 I looked inside the starboard engine room and saw a big puddle of gear oil; so now that we had a leak there was no way we could operate that engine. When Newell arrived I showed him the leak “There’s nothing we can do now, I’ll try and fix it in Jamaica” I said. Newell concurred. “How much do I owe you for your effort?” “Give me twenty dollars” he said. That was real cheap even considering the fact that the engine was not fixed. So if you need a mechanic in Inagua – Newelll is your man. His cell  phone is 242-4530240. The man works for Morton Salt company and will come to a boat during his free hours.

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Tomorrow – single engine to Jamaica.

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