Tag Archives: Boat Repairs

Cruising Plans Written in Sand

There is a saying that “Cruising plans are written in sand at low tide.” Once again that has proven true for us, but this year it wasn’t our electric windlass that broke or our watermaker that needed a part the day we left on a cruise as in years’ past. The “plan” was to leave on Monday, November 30, when our slip reservation at Sunset Bay concluded. However, the weather has been rainy and windy for weeks, and it looked like the best weather window to get to Miami would start Tuesday, December 1. Unfortunately, Sunday night we spent four hours in the emergency room when Mark had intense pain. It was diagnosed as a prostrate infection, and he has an appointment with a urologist on Thursday. The antibiotics and pain killers they gave him in the emergency room stopped the pain but also made him very tired, keeping him from doing some last minute projects. We decided we had to stay and now the weather window is closing Friday. Also, today (Tuesday), I got a phone call with the results of a recent bone density scan. It came back with a diagnosis of osteopenia in both of my hips. Luckily someone had just canceled an appointment today and I got in to see my doctor shortly after the phone call. Now I have to get some medications to keep it from getting worse and developing into osteoporosis. We are incredibly lucky that these two health issues occurred before we were in the Bahamas where health care would not have been what we got here.

We have had a very busy six months in Stuart. Another popular saying is, “Everything on your boat is broken, you just don’t know it yet.” Some repairs we knew we had to do, some we didn’t. This summer and fall we replaced the trampolines, which were rotting. We also knew the watermaker needed a new pump. It was no secret that our dinghy had seen better days and after having to add air everytime we used it last winter, we replaced it this fall. The radar wasn’t working and we were able to find a new unit, which has been discontinued but works with our current Raymarine navigation system so we don’t have to replace everything. We have four air conditioning units on the boat and two of them needed to be replaced. We were able to have the salon one custom built locally, for about half the price of the same one we had. We didn’t replace the one in the master cabin yet but cool air from the other cabins and a fan keeps it comfortable. Our TV stopped working several months before we returned to Florida last spring so a new one had to be purchased. Luckily we had a warranty in effect and the replacement was basically free. Even our “marriage saver” headphones died and new ones were no longer available. The new bluetooth ones were more expensive but also much better. We use these to communicate when one of us is in the cockpit and the other dropping the anchor and approaching or leaving a dock or mooring ball. Also, when Mark goes up the mast it is easier to communicate using the headsets. Since the new ones are bluetooth, we can listen to music from our phones or computer on them and even talk on the phone. In addition there were many smaller projects, such as marking the anchor chain for depths so we know how many feet we are putting out. In fact, Mark was doing that when the pain began this past weekend. 

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A few weeks before we are “planning” to leave, I make an inventory of the provisions we have on board. I itemize this on a spreadsheet by category and make a list of what we need for the next six months. Then, let the shopping begin!  Most of the items are purchased at Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart. Apparently we haven’t spent much money at these stores this year, because after a number of multiple hundred dollar purchases, an attempt of charging over $1200 at Sam’s was refused but another try at $1000 on the Sam’s card with the rest of the purchase on another card went through. We knew we weren’t near our credit card limit so when I checked the account online, I couldn’t get to it and was prompted to call the company. That resulted in a number of questions to answer about the purchases and they even sent a text with a code I had to repeat to the agent. All was well, and I profusely thanked her for keeping a close eye on the charge card, as they obviously thought someone had stolen it. Many of our provisions are bought online and delivered to the marina. Sailor gets six months of food, medications for heartworm and flea and tick, vitamins, treats, dental chews, etc.

As the provisions are brought on the boat, the organizing begins. A few years ago we decided to remove the bedding and mattress from the starboard aft cabin and stack plastic boxes labeled and filled with food on the platform. Most of the paper products are stored in one of several   large watertight holds on the forward deck. Also a few years ago we both got Kindles and stopped reading paperback and hardcover books. Those we were storing on the book shelves in the port companionway were given away or placed in our storage unit, and food now resides on those shelves. In addition, items are placed in cabinets, drawers, closets, in benches under salon cushions and under beds. To store under beds means you lift a mattress, remove a section of the platform, and put items in the storage area under the bed. Ingredients for rum punch, gin and tonic, and wine are under a bench in the salon, and a large supply of juice and pop (or soda for those of you who aren’t from the Midwest) are under a bed or tucked away on the floor.

Overkill? Perhaps. Yes, people do eat in the Bahamas, but the stores are few and far between and the selection of products is limited and expensive. Some Bahamians order their food in bulk from Nassau and it comes on weekly boat deliveries.  In the Exumas where we spend most of our time we can get some items in Staniel Cay at the Blue Store, the Pink Store, and Isles General. These are all in people’s houses, and if you don’t arrive at the door soon after the weekly food is delivered on a supply boat from Nassau, the pickings are meager. In Blackpoint there is another store in a house that has limited provisions. Georgetown has several stores that have fairly good supplies including the Exuma Market which is similar to a small US grocery store,  but in many cases the items are quite expensive and of course the selection of products is more limited than US stores. Some food, especially dairy products, are subsidized by the government so they are reasonably priced. One could easily live on food purchased in Georgetown, but if we want our favorite brands at a discount price, Sam’s, Target and Walmart aren’t there. Snack items are very expensive. One year I craved red Tootsie Pops and Mark craved Sweet Tarts when we ran out early in the cruise. We finally found some in Spanish Wells in May just before we came back to the States. My Tootsie Pops were in a small bag where half were red and half were green and the price was about a dollar a pop, so you can guess how long they had been on the shelf. We do buy fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products in the Bahamas, although this year we are bringing four dozen eggs from my yoga teacher and friend Kim’s free range chickens and they will last awhile since we got them so fresh. We also have a large cherry tomato plant that is full of green tomatoes already, nine strawberry plants in a strawberry planter, and quite a few leaf lettuce plants.  

The good thing about a catamaran is there is lots of storage space. The bad thing about a catamaran is there is lots of storage space. The result is we overbuy and always come back with enough to live on for most of the summer and fall. The freezer and two refrigerators are both full now and most of the freezer items are in Food Saver bags so they will keep for many months. Below are some of the items we have stored for the next six months. The boxes on the bed are two rows deep. Right now there are 30 boxes, but I do have an additional few days for more shopping! Many of the snack foods are for sundowners where we get together with other cruisers on beaches for drinks, snacks and conversation. We also need snacks for the Texas Hold’em games held on Seas the Day every Saturday evening while we are in Georgetown. 

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Besides boat repairs and provisioning, we have to get in all of our doctor, dentist, hair, dog grooming , veterinary, and medical test appointments before we leave. This year I also got involved in months of chiropractic care when an x-ray showed I have severe scoliosis. Last year, Mark was diagnosed with spinal stenosis shortly before we left, although it doesn’t seem to be very advanced. Sometimes trying to get this done doesn’t work, like this year I tried to schedule  my yearly eye exam and my insurance wouldn’t cover it until December 1, since that’s when I had it last year when we stayed later than normal. That is today, and we were supposed to be gone so I had canceled it. 

There is a great deal of work and planning that goes into leaving the country on a boat for six months, especially to a third world country. One worry has always been what would happen if one of us got sick, or even died, while in the Bahamas. This year we planned for that by getting a nautical policy from SkyMed that in the event of a serious injury or illness will fly us back to a hospital of our choice in the States by Lear Jet, even picking us up from a remote island in a helicopter, paying for our boat to be returned to our home port in Florida if we can’t return to it, flying us back to the Bahamas when we are well, paying someone to watch our dog or flying him back with us, ground transportation in an ambulance from a US airport to a hospital is included, and flying a visitor to stay with us in the hospital if needed. Physical remains are recovered and returned to the States if the worst happens. It is worth every penny for the peace of mind that if one of us was sick, injured or worse, we could get help in a US hospital quickly. We also pay for daily email, SSB and online live forecasts from marine weather forecaster Chris Parker. Another yearly expense is our SPOT device that tracks our progress when we move. In addition we pay for a mail forwarding service that scans envelopes and posts them online so we can see if we want to have the mail sent to us, shredded or the contents scanned. This is essential when we are out of the country for so long.

Sailor, of course, knows something is going on. He got suspicious when he saw some of his toys being washed. A visit to the vet for an exam, shots and paperwork we bring for immigration further confirmed it. When five bags of dog food and enough snacks to cause him to drool arrived, he got dressed in his sailing clothes.

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Sailor is ready to take over his responsibilities as First Mate. This is his third Bahamas cruise and as soon as we arrive, he will start running on deserted beaches and swimming in crystal clear water. While we have trained him not to bark, he does woof a few times if a stranger comes past us in an anchorage or mooring field. Some of our followers on this blog and on Facebook have commented that they would like to have Sailor’s life.

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After Mark’s appointment on Thursday, we could leave Friday morning, but the weather window closes that day, according to current forecasts. Hopefully we can leave early next week. Our cruise to Miami, where we wait to cross to Bimini in the Bahamas, takes us first to Lake Worth/Palm Beach on the ICW, then to Ft. Lauderdale on the ocean, and finally to Miami on the ocean. We need a three day window of good weather that doesn’t create big waves on the ocean before we will leave Stuart.

It’s been a wonderful six months in Stuart, but we are anxious to get to the Bahamas. Each year something seems to happen just before we leave, and hopefully these medical problems were  it this time. While we wait, we can enjoy having our Christmas tree lit all evening without using up the power in our batteries that our solar panels, wind generator and diesel engines give us when we are no longer plugged into shore power. In the photo below the smoke is coming from a diffuser with an essential oil called “Christmas Spirit” making our salon smell like the holidays are already here. Hopefully we’ll be opening our presents in the Bahamas.

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Miami to Bimini

The distance from Miami to Bimini is about 50 miles. We arrived at 1900 on 12/27/14, pulled into a slip and settled in for a few days. The first part of the trip was a little lumpy but about halfway across the seas flattened and it became more comfortable. We were motoring directly into the wind. We have been in Bimini a number of times so we knew the channel into Bimini Sands in South Bimini but they have changed the markers since last year. A new large unlit channel marker went between our hulls and popped out under the dinghy.  No damage to the boat, but sure sounded bad!

We enjoy Bimini Sands because it is so quiet here and the marina has wide slips and floating docks. It is the only Marina in South Bimini. In the photo below we are between a large powercat and Interlude. There are other marinas in North Bimini, but they aren’t this nice. Also the current is strong at the other marinasmaking boats rock in the slips. Today we watched a sportfisher try 4 or 5 times to get into a slip with a strong current at Big Game Club Marina. Bimini Sands Marina is surrounded by condos and there are two pools, a tennis court, and several restaurants here. The beach is nice for walking, and Sailor certainly loves running on it.

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We are staying three nights and leaving tomorrow, December 30.  As always, moving around on a sailboat is dependent on the weather. We are hoping to get to Chub Cay tomorrow and Nassau on Wednesday. If the good weather window continues we’ll go on to the Exumas, probably Highbourne Cay on Thursday. While here we had some delicious pizza last night at the Beach Club on South Bimini.  Today we went to the phone company office.  No matter how hard we try to activate our phone and iPad ourselves, something always seems to require a visit to the Batelco office.  We took a colorful bus to the Beach Club and a water taxi to North Bimini.  Lunch at the Big Game Club and Marina was excellent.  (If you look closely, you can see the scars on my knees from the knee replacement surgeries in September and October.)

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Mark had several jobs to do here. It seems that when we have the mast taken down for hurricane season, there are electrical repairs to make. This time, the  anemometer (wind vane) at the top of the mast is not working. Also on the mast, the radar is not getting the information to our chart plotter.  Much to his dismay, Mark had to climb up to the top of the mast to fix them.  It is easier to climb a mast at a dock than when bobbing around at anchor. Still not a sailor’s favorite activity. After all this work he couldn’t get either one to work. I’m sure he’ll be back up again, perhaps at our next and last marina in Nassau, until we are headed home in May.

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Sailboat With a Mast But No Sails

This morning we motored the short distance from Old Port Cove to Cracker Boy Boatyard.  At 1200 we entered the tight slip and the riggers arrived.  A crane raised our mast and the riggers carefully positioned it back in its place on our deck.  Then they asked for our sails.  Hmmmm. They had our sails since June stored in their sail loft in Ft. Lauderdale.  The riggers said they didn’t know that but they could work tomorrow, Saturday, and since we had planned on going to Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow that would work for us.  Mark called the scheduler and he said they hadn’t planned on putting the sails back on today because we could only stay in the slip for two hours and they wouldn’t have time to finish. Apparently someone forgot to tell the riggers about the sails and now they are going to pretend this was the plan all along.

Very obviously they forgot they had our sails. The workers had already told us they could come to where we will be in Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow and put the sails on. The scheduler did not like that plan and said we needed to be at a boatyard in Ft. Lauderdale Monday morning at 10 am. Our plan was to be halfway to Bimini by then if the weather window was still open. We know for sure it won’t be on Tuesday. We are used to plans being changed due to weather or if something breaks on the boat. When it is a person’s fault, like a rigger scheduler or an insurance representative, that’s hard to take. The two riggers who worked on the mast were excellent and did their job perfectly.  Below are some photos of the process of stepping a mast.

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imageWith no other choice, we left Cracker Boy Boatyard and motored with our nice tall mast and no sails a short distance to the Lake Worth anchorage, which is apparently being dredged.  We are now anchored at the edge of a mooring field. As soon as we dropped the anchor, it all came back to Sailor.  Anchor down = dinghy down = Sailor gets to go ashore.  We had a few other things to do first, but Sailor stuck to Mark like glue. Finally, he got his wish and happily jumped into the dinghy.  A tired Captain and an excited boat dog motored off to Peanut Island.

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It hasn’t been the best of days, but we can’t complain too much when this is our view.

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Getting Ready For Our 2014-2015 Bahamas Cruise

We know that all cruising plans are written in sand, but we hope to leave Stuart in about a week to begin our fourth cruise to the Bahamas. Mark has a few jobs to finish and we have to start provisioning. Normally we would be ready to go by the beginning of November, but we were delayed due to the two knee replacement operations I had this fall. Briefly, my right knee was replaced on September 16 and the left knee was done on October 14.  They were supposed to be replaced in the same week, but I had a reaction to the anesthesia during the second operation on September 19 and the surgery was postponed.  Of course each surgery was followed by days in the hospital and weeks in rehab and then outpatient physical therapy.  I am now ready to continue the exercises on my own so we can leave Stuart. Unfortunately,  two surgeries sapped my energy for weeks and it’s frustrating for me to be so far behind in my part of the preparations. Normally I spend weeks provisioning and organizing everything on the boat in preparation for a cruise. Below is a photo of an X-ray of my new knees.

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Luckily, Mark had plenty of energy and made changes to help me maneuver more easily on the boat until my knees healed and I got my balance back.  The most important addition was to help me get on and off the boat since we are not on a floating dock.  He built a fantastic ramp with a boarding walkway that can be adjusted up and down with the tide. In the photo below, the walkway was not raised for the tide. Once adjusted it is level with the deck. Also, you can see the temporary wooden handrail he placed on the deck leading back to the cockpit.

IMG_1643 Mark also installed a folding teak seat in the master shower.  It works great and while I don’t need it now, I think it will be useful to sit on when taking showers while we are anchored with rough seas or when sailing.

As always, we have made a number of changes and repairs to Seas the Day during the summer and fall while we have been on a dock at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart, FL.  Our dinghy got a leak during the last month of our Bahamas cruise last year, so Mark found the hole and repaired it.  He also added book shelves to the cabins (bedrooms), reworked the bookshelves in our office area so they could be used as a pantry, and added shelves to one of the hanging lockers also for food storage purposes. We are hoping all of these shelves will eliminate the need to use so many plastic bins to store our provisions while in the Bahamas.  Mark repaired the sliding door in the salon so it opens more smoothly. He put hinges on a bench seat in the salon which has massive storage, but only had a small opening before to get at what was in there.  In the photo the previous opening is shown on the wooden bench seat under the cushion.  Before Mark made this hinged seat, we had to remove the cushion (held on by velcro) and reach through that small opening to get items.  Now with the hinged bench seat we have easy access to everything stored in the bench and don’t have to remove the cushion to do it. Mark has also gotten all of the boat systems ready to go by performing regular maintenance. 

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After years of complaining about the fuel consumption of our current generator, we purchased a Honda generator this fall.  The Onan generator that came on the boat is huge (2100 kw) and was designed to work with the hybrid system we originally had on Seas the Day.  It uses about two gallons of diesel per hour.  The Honda generator is much more fuel efficient, using less than a gallon of gasoline per hour.  While we don’t need to use our generator for power very often, due to our wind generator and five solar panels, there are times when we need it and the Honda will be much more cost effective.

Hoping to leave Sunset Bay in about a week, it’s time to start shopping for food and other provisions. I use a lengthy spreadsheet to itemize what we have, what we need, and what we have to buy. Then lists are made and the shopping begins!  Prices for food and other goods are more expensive in the Bahamas, so we will try to buy everything we need for the next five months before we leave.  Also, some things aren’t available in the small stores we usually shop at when we visit the smaller settlements so if we don’t bring these items with us, we don’t have them until we return to the States. We’ll be buying food, paper products, dog food, everything that is in the medicine cabinet, cleaning products, etc.  Basically, we need to stock up on everything we use. Of course we still buy perishables while we are in the Bahamas and usually we realize we have forgotten something. Mark and I both take prescription drugs, so we have to get special permission from Medicare to get six months of them, rather than the three months we can normally get.

Due to my operations, this has been a very unusual season in Florida. I was either in the hospital or in rehab from September 16 until I came back to the boat on October 31, except for three days in between the two surgeries and rehab when I was home. During this time, Mark was usually visiting me, so he didn’t have the amount of time he usually has for repairs and new additions to the boat. Last year in the Bahamas we were somewhat limited because my knees started to hurt so much.  We’re excited to be getting back to a somewhat normal life now.

Boat Repairs in Exotic Places

Some say this is the definition of cruising: repairing your boat in exotic places. Tied to a dock for six months, we rarely find anything that needs to be repaired because we don’t use many of the boat’s systems when we aren’t sailing and are connected to shore power. A few days before we left this year we turned on the chart plotter and discovered the backlight circuit had failed. It was cheaper to buy a used display than to get it repaired. We found several on eBay and drove a few miles to pick one up. Once we leave the dock and all systems are running it’s not unusual to discover something needs to be fixed.  We hope that it happens before we leave the States where parts are readily available, but of course that isn’t always the case. There are old boats and new boats, but no matter how carefully they are maintained, repairs are a necessary part of cruising.  Seas the Day is only five and a half years old and she has been at a dock for over half that time, during hurricane seasons. Even with excellent care, there are many intricate systems aboard and eventually parts fail.

Several days after we left Stuart we arrived in Miami and discovered the watermaker wasn’t working. A Spectra Watermaker technician who lived nearby diagnosed the problem, ordered a new pump and in a few days the watermaker was working again.  When we got to the Bahamas, we realized that we were having a voltage drop between the batteries and the buss where the power is sent to everything that needs it. The batteries and buss are connected by a long cable. This was a major problem last year, but we hoped with the addition of a sixth battery and the new wind generator we would have plenty of power even with a voltage drop.  If the voltage is low the freezer turns off, even though there is plenty of power in the batteries to keep it on. In the middle of the night our voltage might be 12.2V at the batteries but the buss reads 11.7V.  Last season Mark made some changes which helped including putting in a better cable, but decided to take another look.  After checking everything he couldn’t figure out anything else to do so he started to put things back together and suddenly there was a burning smell and a cloud of smoke came out of the top of the inverter.  Mark has done the same procedure multiple times when working on the batteries and nothing happened. This time the inverter stopped working.  Without the inverter, we have no AC power so the outlets don’t work and we can’t watch TV, do laundry, use the breadmaker or ice maker, or charge electric toothbrushes and camera batteries.  We can’t use the microwave, the toaster, a blow dryer or a coffee bean grinder.  We have 12V chargers (cigarette lighter chargers) for our phones, computers and tablets, Kindle, etc. so we don’t need AC outlets for them. Most of the systems on the boat run on 12V and they don’t need the inverter either.  We didn’t panic, but realized if we weren’t able to replace the inverter, or repair it,  our living conditions on the boat would change.  Oddly, the next morning we noticed the inverter was back on!  Apparently when it overheats it turns off and when cooled down  resets itself. Broken parts rarely fix themselves so this time we were lucky.

Next, our 21KW generator (huge and left over from when we were a hybrid boat) stopped working.  We use it to charge the batteries if the solar panels and wind generator don’t give us enough power during the day.  We don’t run the generator often, but sometimes on a cloudy, still day we need an extra push to keep the batteries charged high enough through the night.  Mark tried several possible fixes, but in the end discovered that the repair is inaccessible without removal of most of the outer cabinet work and possibly the genset body, which won’t happen until we get back to Florida.  Our only alternative now is to run one of the diesel engines for a half hour or so to charge the batteries.  This isn’t a good practice because it puts unnecessary hours on the engines but until we repair or replace the generator this is our only choice. Luckily we don’t have use the engines while we are anchored very often since there is plenty of sun and wind in the Bahamas to keep our batteries charged.

One day in Georgetown, the dinghy motor died while Mark was crossing the harbor to go to town. The current pushed him along while he tried in vain to fix  it. A couple in an anchored motor yacht noticed his dilemma, lowered their dinghy to go rescue him, towing him back to our boat. After a few hours, Mark had repaired the motor. It would be a disaster if we didn’t have a dinghy motor because the dinghy is our “car” while we are here.

The next mechanical failure was the watermaker….again. Until this year, it had been working perfectly, making clean water out of sea water whenever we were away from a dock. The watermaker was running on our way from Williams Bay to Blackpoint but shortly after we dropped the anchor we ran out of water. I had done four loads of laundry on the way there that day, but this was not nearly enough to empty the tanks which hold 120 gallons. There is no gauge on the tanks but the watermaker makes 12 gallons of water an hour and the tanks should not have been empty.  Removing the floorboard over the watermaker, Mark saw water running out of a broken part and collecting in the bilge. Until we were able to get a new part, the watermaker would not work. Many cruisers here do not have watermakers and get along fine.  In reality you never make up the money it costs to buy a watermaker, but it is convenient to be able to have all the water you want, any time, any place.  We were near Staniel Cay so we brought the boat to the fuel dock, purchased 120 gallons of water at 40 cents a gallon, emailed the watermaker dealer in Florida and ordered the part. Then we went a few miles north to Cambridge Cay to get protection from an approaching front and waited for the part to arrive.  It’s very easy to get mail at Staniel Cay via Watermakers Air whose small airplane flies round trip from Ft. Lauderdale twice a day.  Within two days our new part was waiting for us at Staniel Cay.

The watermaker is fixed and all is well……at least we don’t know of anything that needs to be repaired. Another saying is “Everything on your boat is broken……you just don’t know it yet.”

Photos below are from Cambridge Cay and Staniel Cay where we have spent the last few days.

This was the view from our mooring ball at Cambridge Cay.  We were at the end of the field of 12 mooring balls, all taken by boats needing protection from a front passing through the Bahamas. Obviously this picture was taken before the strong winds and choppy seas arrived.

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Some dogs love to stick their head out of a car window.  In the Bahamas, our dinghy is our car and Sailor, like all boat dogs we’ve ever seen, enjoys riding in the dinghy and he doesn’t even need a window to feel the wind in his face.

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In Staniel Cay there are three grocery stores: the Pink Store, the Blue Store, and Isles General.  All three are in houses.  Isles General is on the bottom of this two story home.  (The Pink and Blue stores are much smaller.) There is a small room stocked with groceries and another small room with boating and household items.  For $39.10 today, we got two large cans of juice, some fresh broccoli, a package of frozen broccoli, and two large containers of yoghurt.   These prices are the reason we provision before we get to the Bahamas, but we still need to buy fresh food from time to time. The more populated settlements, such as Georgetown, have larger stores with more reasonable prices.

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One of the highlights of Staniel Cay, besides having the James Bond movie “Thunderball” filmed here, is Pig Beach.  Years ago a few pigs were left on Big Majors Island and every year there are new piglets.  People come close to shore in their dinghies or small boats and the pigs swim out to beg for food.  We didn’t get close enough for them to do that because Sailor might have jumped out of the dinghy to play with them and that would not be good!

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Most of the inhabited islands in the Bahamas have a Batelco (phone) tower.  Under it is always a Batelco store, which makes it convenient to find one.  These islands have strong phone and data signals, but the ones that don’t have towers and are far from islands with towers have weak or no signals.  Cambridge Cay is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park where there are no Batelco towers, thus there is a very weak signal coming from the tower on another island and sometimes no signal.  We have a Wilson cell phone signal booster and by placing our Bahamas phone in a cradle with a cord running to an antenna outside the signal went from no bars to five.

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We’ll be at Staniel Cay for a few more days and then will start north, stopping at a few islands before we leave the Exumas and sail to Eleuthera.

Ready, Set, Stop

Yesterday the riggers finished most of what they broke on the boat.  After they left Mark had to fix some more of the electronics that weren’t working.  Just when he thought all was well, he noticed the chart plotter screen getting dimmer and dimmer.  We don’t know if it had anything to do with the other electronic problems caused when cables were cut, but regardless we realized we had to replace it.  Unfortunately in the five years since we installed our Raymarine E120 chart plotter, the company has completely changed their chart plotters and they are now digital.  The only way to get the display fixed is to send it to Raymarine to be repaired, or we can buy a used one online.  We did the latter and located one about an hour and 15 minutes south of us near Ft. Lauderdale.  We purchased it and are driving down there to pick it up tomorrow morning.  That is one advantage to being on the east coast of Florida.  There were actually three displays on eBay located within an hour and a half drive of Stuart.  All were probably removed when the owners replaced their units with the new digital model.

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If we could have left this morning, we would have been in Miami on Monday and could have sailed to the Bahamas on Tuesday when the current weather pattern is good for going across.  Starting Wednesday, not so much.  We subscribe to Chris Parker’s weather forecasts, Marine Weather Center. He sends out detailed marine conditions for the US East Coast, Bahamas, and Caribbean.  He also does a daily weather webcast which is simultaneously broadcast on SSB radio.  Here is part yesterday’s email forecast.

Sat22-Tue25 should be OK for motoring BOTH Routes/Directions…but N Route may be mildest Sat22-Sun23, possibly Mon24 / S Route may be mildest Mon24 and possibly Tue25. Forecast confidence decreases Wed26 onward, with risk for inclement weather increasing dramatically late Wed26 or Thu27.

Miami to the Bahamas is the south route.  If we leave on Monday and get to Miami on Wednesday, we will have missed the current weather window.  It gets worse.  Here is what he said about the coming month of March:

OUTLOOK for MARCH:
Winter continues! S Branch of JetStream is active, and ColdFRONTs/possible LOs may form and/or track along GOMEX-FL-N Bahamas & waters N of Bahamas…and waters near or even S of Bermuda. March may bring a cycle which repeats every 7 days: 1-3 days of LO/FRONT/TROF with nasty weather (possible GALEs, at-least in squalls) along the axis detailed in previous sentence…forcing wind-less RIDGE S of 25N. 1-3 days of brisk N<E wind following FRONT in all of W Atlantic including ALL Bahamas & FL. 1-2 days of pre-Frontal clocking S<W wind ahead of next impulse mainly N of 25N / S of 25N moderate E<S wind. Then cycle repeats.

Miami is at 25N.  So we may be waiting for awhile in Miami, but that is not new.  Unfortunately if we could have left earlier in February, there were multiple days of good crossing weather.

Dolphins cannot help but bring a smile to your face and no matter how many times we encounter them, we have to stop and watch.  Today they were playing in the marina by our boat tossing fish back and forth to each other.  I didn’t get a shot of that, but I did get a picture of one dolphin diving. We needed a reason to smile.

IMG_4381Sailor has learned a new trick.  When a window in the salon is open, he likes to jump up on the couch, stick his head out and watch what is going on. He’ll have a lot to look at when we finally leave the dock. We’ll definitely need to keep him tethered and in a life jacket because he doesn’t get that he can fall in the water.

IMG_1363He does the same trick from outside standing on the foredeck and looking into the salon.  He hasn’t tried to leave or enter through that window……yet.

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The Long Countdown Begins

Normally at this time of the year we would be almost done checking off lists of things we need to do before we leave for the Bahamas in November. The boat repairs would be almost done and we would be provisioned for six months. However this year due to waiting for Sailor to turn 6 months old in December we have an extra six weeks to get ready.

Mark is in full repair/install mode and he is definitely making lists and checking them off.  He has finished the washdown pump installation, which seemed to take longer than anything he has done on the boat, including installing the AIS, the watermaker, the Satellite TV dome, the washer/dryer, the solar panels, batteries, the wind generator, LED lights, and numerous other complicated projects.  Why?  Well, this installation involved running wire and hoses from one end of the boat to the other, side to side and front to back though walls not intended to have things running through them.  All this so we can wash off the deck when we are not at a dock where we can connect our hoses to shore water.  The hose is near the anchor, where we can use salt or fresh water to wash off the mud that always comes up with the anchor.  In addition, we can connect a regular 50+ ft hose to it to wash the entire boat.  In the picture below Mark is down in a locker making a hole to bring the hose out to the deck.  Notice he is not smiling.

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Here’s the rest of his current list: build a drop leaf cockpit table (which he has just started), put a hinged seat on the salon bench so we can get into the storage under it easier, remove the glass from three corroded bathroom mirrors (each has three sections) and get new glass, install a solar hot water heater, fix the freezer, fix a leak in one water tank, install (many) new 12V outlets, install LED lights in the cockpit, install LED lights in three cabins above beds, install another (6th) battery, and install an SSB antenna.  In addition we have to get the mast and sails put back on (called “stepping the mast”) and get cloth sleeves made for the foam cockpit lifeline covers.  I suspect more will be added to this “fix” list in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I need to start thinking about provisioning and making those lists. We will wait to do the actual shopping in early December.  Once we start buying six months worth of food, paper products, personal items, etc. it fills a whole cabin and every storage area including the freezer and two refrigerators.  We are actually still using supplies we bought a year ago….obviously we overbought.  Sadly, I must have been in a hurry last year, or maybe just lazy, but I didn’t keep an itemized data base of what we bought before we left, what we bought in the Bahamas, and what we had left at the end of the trip.

We have to provision for Sailor too. I’m waiting to purchase his lifejacket until just before we leave since he is growing so fast.  He is getting the Ruffwear K9 Float Coat Dog Life Jacket.  We got a nifty gate that swings open both ways to put in the doorway leading to the cockpit.  It’s called the Richell One-Touch Adjustable Pet Gate and is much nicer than baby gates that you have to step over. In the last few days, we have trusted Sailor on the deck without his leash when we are with him.  The gate must be kept shut if we can’t keep an eye on him because he isn’t ready to be out there alone and won’t be for awhile. Thank goodness it is finally cool enough to turn off the air conditioning and open the door and windows/hatches. Incidentally, the brown rug by the gate is advertised to “soak up to 7X its weight in water and mud” and dry 5X faster than ordinary door mats. We’ll see how that works with a wet dog coming back from sandy beaches.  It’s called a Dog Gone Smart Dirty Dog Doormat.  Of course, it is vital to bring six months of dog food with us.  We have been using Life’s Abundance Dog Food which we order online.  They have a formula for number of cups per day for age/weight and how many cups are in each size bag, so hopefully we’ll figure out the correct number of bags to buy. We’ll also bring any medicine we think he might need.  Since he will continue to grow for the second six months of his life, we have to bring larger collars and  harnesses which he can grow into. We give him NuVet Plus Vitamins and of course he’ll need six months of heartworm and flea and tick medicine. Last, but probably not least, Sailor has an appointment to be neutered before we go.  

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Checking Off The “To Do” List

On a boat, the work never ends.  Luckily, most of the time when we are at the marina during hurricane season, the projects are things we want to do.  When we are cruising, usually Mark spends most of his time fixing something that breaks. We have been at Sunset Bay for four months, with two more to go.  The biggest projects are finished, but the “to do” list is still long.  We have wanted to get a new dodger (aka windshield) since we bought the boat five years ago.  The one that came from Lagoon with the boat was, to put it mildly, a piece of junk.  After a short time, it was impossible to see out of it, unless Mark had just polished the windows.  By the time we replaced it, it was moldy and falling apart.  The new one was made by G & G Sails and Canvas, which is located a few miles from us in Stuart.  The front windows are 80 ml acrylic (Ez2cy) and they are glued into the frame, rather than sewed into it.  The side ones are a coated vinyl called Strataglas.  The nice thing about acrylic is they can be buffed if they get scratched. They are also as clear as glass. We tried to find someone who would install glass because we lusted for windshield wipers, like powerboats and a few sailboats have, but in the end we are very happy with the results.

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At the top of our list was to purchase a wind generator.  When Seas the Day was a hybrid, we had plenty of power from the many chargers and batteries, but once we got rid of all of that, we needed other sources for when we aren’t plugged into shore power.  Last year, we installed five solar panels on the bimini.  They worked great in the spring and summer, but in the fall and winter as the days shortened and the sun was lower in the sky, we got less and less charge from them.  However, in the winter there is a lot of wind in the Bahamas, so we decided to add a wind generator to keep the charge up overnight.  We got an Eclectic D400,  which is the quietest generator with the highest output at the lowest wind velocities. We won’t be able to try it until we unplug from shore power in December and head to the Bahamas.  Mark installed it, as he has done with almost everything we have added to the boat.  If it doesn’t give us quite enough charge at night and cloudy days, then we’ll add another one next year.

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