Turning North…

It is amazing how fast and how slow this experience goes at the same time. The trip down the Intracoastal felt like it would never end, the time waiting for weather windows in Fort Lauderdale and Bimini lasted forever; but in the midst of all of that, we have hit our southernmost point and are turning north.

Since our last post, which is over a month ago (have to get better at posting more regularly – that’s for sure), we were leaving Staniel Cay ahead of a front that would bring strong winds from the North. On our way south, we stopped at Little Famers Cay. No pictures from this stop, but the memorable part was a poor captain, who brought a party of about 6 people out to see the Exumas. He anchored the 36′ center console off the beach, and when he came back, the tide went out and he was hard aground… We had to have a few drinks with him and help to entertain his guests while they waited for the tide to come up. The worst part, and you can’t make this up, there was a bucket that was left on the beach to use as a step to get off the boat. The bucket marked the point at which the boat would float again – a dog came up on the beach, and picked up his leg to christen the bucket – this poor captain could write this day off as the worst day ever.

From Little Farmers Cay, we traveled south to Great Exuma. Because the weather was expected to be nasty, we got a slip at Emerald Bay Marina – next to two resorts… Sandals and Grand Isle. Definitely a nice place. Our trip down was a bit eventful – the mainsail would not unfurl, the boat was filling up with water, and it smelled like an electrical fire… Before you get worried, I’ll back up…

Ever since we went offshore from Fort Lauderdale to Miami and anytime we were in any seas thereafter, we would get water in the bilge. The problem with leaks on boats is that the final resting place of the water is nowhere near the source of the leak. The leak was not enough to sink the boat, so we just kept an eye on it, and used a wet-dry vac to keep it under control on the offshore passages. Every stop we made, we moved a step closer to finding the leak; however, we had still not found the source. On the trip from Little Farmers to Great Exuma, it finally caused enough trouble to keep the boat in the marina until we solved it. One of the times we went down to vacuum out the bilge, there was a distinct smell of an electrical fire… for those that don’t know, fires are the single most dangerous issue you can have on a boat. We resolved the smell and isolated the power, and safely pulled into the marina – but the issue had to be solved before we would set sail again.

This was the culprit of the electrical smell… on boats, you always have to watch out for the ‘after market’ additions. Ours has a great flat screen TV in the salon. The wiring is all waterproof, except for where the TV plugs into the power. This was a standard plug with a little electrical tape around it – and that was sitting in the bilge where the salt water was coming in… While fiberglass may not be Chris’ strong point, AV is – we had that fixed the first few days in the marina.

The good thing is that we were stuck in the marina for weather for a little over a week, and then because of some weird pricing, there was a breakeven point at 10 days… meaning, if you stayed 10, it was the same price as staying for a month. So the pressure was off and we settled in to explore the island.

The first week, we became Rake ‘n’ Scrape groupies… The local band was great!!! We literally followed them from place to place – it was a fantastic way to experience the local restaurants – not the places in the tourist guides. We explored both Great Exuma and Little Exuma; including a big white tower on a cliff which guided ships to the coast of Little Exuma to pick up salt that was harvested from local salt ponds. We also made it to the tropics… at least we stood south of the Tropic of Cancer.

Not sure if this video will upload, but if you’ve ever wondered what Rake ‘n’ Scrape is, here is a snippet with Tali and Savy dancing. Simply put, a large drum, guitar, bass, and a saw with a screw scraping on the back beat. It creates a great vibe!

Chris and Tali overlooking where the Salt ships would come in to Little Exuma… there is really no harbor here – wonder how they actually got the boat to shore?

Tali and Savy standing on the Tropic of Cancer. It was great to connect the Tropic of Cancer to the Celestial Navigation and sun sites Tali was taking.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch Chris had a chance to go through Fiberglass 101 and 201 trying to fix this mysterious leak which we had narrowed down to somewhere in the anchor locker.

He thought he had the leak fixed, filled the anchor locker up with water and none ended up in the bilge. Success!!! We were having a good time, so we decided to stay a little longer. One of the benefits of being next to Sandals is that they have a SCUBA diving operation in the marina, including training. Chris signed up for his open water certification and finished up by the end of the week. There was one problem – when we put the anchor back in the anchor locker, the leak started up again… problem was not solved. Hmmmmm premature celebration.

While there is not a ruler in the picture to determine the size, that anchor windless drum is not 6″ in diameter – he was crammed in there pretty tight getting his fill of resin fumes, acetone, etc… All part of cruising in beautiful places.

This is after Chris’ final dive for certification with his instructor, Lincoln, and classmate Kirsty.

Unfortunately, a “masters” in Fiberglass was needed for this issue – it was beyond Chris and all of the other helpful folks in the marina. It was time to bring in the heavys, enter Junior: a local Bahamian boat guy! Just what we were looking for. With some trial and error and deep discussions in the cockpit, which always involved rum shots, he eventually found the source. The anchor locker drain holes were leaking – and though we weren’t convinced that so many gallons of water could sneak through those little holes, Junior was pretty sure he could fix it. After a few days and a number of rum shots he concluded his work and we brought her back out on the high seas. We had a great ‘test sail’ with friends and ended with a dry bilge! Finally!! Now we are free to continue on our way.

Tali, Savy, and our friend Liby from s/v Liberator III on our test sail – it was a beautiful day!

The good thing is that during this repair, there was really no place to go. Those in the Northeast experienced the Bomb Cyclone – well we felt the tail end of it in the Bahamas with a swell that was the largest swell that locals ever remember seeing. We were basically trapped in the marina because we could not get out through the breaking waves.

To the left of the breakwater is the channel leaving the harbor… No one was leaving to bring their boat over those breaking waves!!!

As we look back on the past month, we got into a bit of a routine. The girls made great progress on their schoolwork, we had weekdays and weekends… We rented a car on the day that the mailboat came in with the fresh fruits and vegetables. It was truly living an island life – it didn’t feel like a vacation, but just a different way of living. We had not experienced that to this point. It’s very easy to treat this as a year-long vacation, but first of all, it would be expensive; more importantly, though, it’s not really the experience we signed up for.

One of our excursions on mailboat/provisioning day to the northern end of the island.

And today we are celebrating yet another holiday in Tropic weather. Becky had the Irish Rovers playing this morning preparing the corned beef in the slow cooker and starting the shepherds pie. She befriended the local butcher, and asked him what his thoughts were on getting the corned beef. As luck would have it, he actually lived in Red Bank NJ for a few years and worked under the tutelage of Stewy at Monmouth Meats. He gladly would cure our beef!! Chris scoured the island liquor stores and found some Guinness, the meal was now be complete. So we are currently sitting by the pool sipping Rosè, looking forward to sharing our meal with our fellow boat friends this evening – Sláinte!

With our turn north, it is a halfway point of sorts. We’ll head back through the Exumas, over to Eleuthera – Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, and then on to the Abacos. So while the compass heading changes from South to North, there is still so much to see and experience.

We miss you all…

4 thoughts on “Turning North…

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