Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Couple of Loose Screws


And, no, I don't mean Hans and me. If I'd been referring to us I would have used the phrase 'a couple of screws loose', which everyone knows pretty much describes us.

But, before I explain the title of this post, let me back-track a bit.

After a 12 hour crossing from Florida we arrived in the Bahamas a week ago Saturday. We then stayed in a marina in Bimini for three days (2 more than we'd planned but it felt so good to just plain sit and enjoy the fact that we were finally there), before departing for the Exumas. For us this meant we had to cross over the 'banks'; about an 80 mile passage. The banks are basically flooded land with depths averaging around 10 feet or so. "No problem", we said, "all we have to do is drop the hook on the banks for the night and then continue on the next morning." Of course it wasn't quite that easy as we've discovered that even though the water isn't deep, if you aren't protected by a shoal or a land mass, you'll get bounced around by the tide and current. We did luck out though and anchored with another couple we met in Bimini, first near Cat Cay on day one, and then just before the Northwest Channel on day two. Luckily, both nights were very comfortable.

From there we had a decision to make. Our friends, who are trying to cover as much ground water as possible opted to take on the entire Northwest Passage (another full day) which ends up in Nassau, while Hans and I opted to head to Frasier's Hog Cay, just a half day away instead.

At Frasier's Hog Cay we ended up anchoring next to a different set of friends from Bimini (we met them in Marathon and they, too, made the crossing with us from Florida. Even though our cruising guides boasted that Frasier's Hog had a marina and restaurant; they didn't so we spent a quiet night on the hook. This is pretty much the norm here in the Bahamas, some businesses make a go of it and some don't.

The next day it was our turn to take on the Northwest Passage and even though we'd read tons of warnings about it (it's thousands of feet deep and I pointedly told Hans I did not want updates as to our depth), we, along with our friends from Frasier's, found ourselves safely anchored at Rose Island in Nassau a few hours later. We ended up staying another night while our friends moved on.

Getting out of there the next day was very interesting though and with the wind rushing against the tide we hobby horsed through the churning seas around Porgie's Rocks and headed on to Allen's Cay,which to us, is the first real island in the Exumas.


Which brings me back to 'loose screws'.

I'm not kidding when I say we've pounded through more seas during this past week than we have during the entire time we've owned the Knotty Cat. And I mean hours upon hours. We thought once we got here we would be able to primarily use our sails, yet every stinking trip we've made since we've been here has seen us pounding staight into the wind. Just imagine taking off on an extended road trip and then finding yourself hitting a pothole about every 5 seconds and you'll then see what we've been putting up with for over a week now. One-two-three-four-SLAM-one-two-three-four-SLAM-one-two-three-four-SLAM! Twelve hour bouts of this crap might piss me off but imagine what the Knotty Cat thinks. A few days ago we heard a loud ping somewhere in the vicinity of the base of the mast and we just knew something had fallen from above and bounced overboard. And then it happened again. And when it happened for a third time we were pretty worried. The last time, however, we actually found a loose screw lying atop the boat and I immediately recognized it as a one of the screws that holds our radar mount in place (up near the spreaders). Now that I knew what to look for I was alarmed to note that while there were 5 screws visible on the starboard side of the mount, there was only one screw remaining on the port side and it was sticking out which meant it was ready to let loose at any time. Of course I discovered this while we were smashing and bouncing our way toward Allen's Cay. Once we arrived in the incredibly full anchorage at Allen's, Hans hoisted me up the mast lickety-split where I managed to get a total of three screws (all we could find out of the mish mash of hardware we keep on board) into the port side, I then covered them in 5200.

The water was crystal clear and even though I'm afraid of heights I forgot this fear as from atop my perch I watched a fat shark make its way slowly through the anchorage. I also noted that it seemed to be particularly fond of the boat right beside us. No surprise there, as it turns out the people on that boat were divers and they cleaned their catch there every evening. Needless to say that put the kabosh on any swimming off our boat.

We left Allen's Cay two days later only to find ourselves smashing and rolling once again as we headed toward Highbourne Cay. After dropping the hook off of a rocky shore in twelve feet of water and finding ourselves hobby horsing to such a degree we couldn't stand up without hanging on, we gave up and went into Highbourne Marina. We had already planned on coming here for fuel and water so in the end it all worked out. We took on 40 gallons of diesel along with 35 gallons in Bimini so you can see we really are motoring all the time.

I honestly can't even imagine how many other things have been jarred loose during this absolutely smashing trip but I'm sure we'll find out.

Still no pictures. They're all on my iPhone. Don't ask.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Bahamas

Yes, the water really looks like this

We arrived in Bimini yesterday and after I heaved one final time into my trusty bucket I told Hans this will be the last time I cross to the Bahamas.

We woke up at 4 AM, left Rodriguez Key at 5 AM, and I was puking by 8 AM.

Oddly, even though we left our anchorage in the dark which is creepy, that turned out to be a piece of cake. The seas were just ripples for about the first hour but when the sky started to lighten, the waves continued to build and then the wind, which had been forecast to be under 10 knots and going SE, kicked up to 20 knots E and showed no inclination of heading S. We started chop-chop-chopping along with roooooooolling from side to side and my stomach said the hell with this nonsense and, after losing my coffee and orange juice, I had nothing to eat or drink until we docked.

I did manage to help Hans get the jib out (which would hopefully steady the boat and help push us a little faster) before my stomach took over.

Wilbur was a champ though. He spent the entire day in the cockpit and when he wasn't circling the helm pod and passing under Hans' legs like a cat, he licked Hans' face, arms, and legs while sitting tightly against him. I couldn't stand being in the cockpit and went below to the salon with my bucket and every time I would start to throw up Wilbur would rush to the companion way door and stare down at me. This was something he'd never witnessed before and with his head tilted to the side and ears pointed up, he watched with amazement like maybe I'd turned Pentecostal and was speaking to him in tongues. I begged him to come down and keep me company but he must have decided his captain was the lesser of two evils and remained staunchly by Hans' side.

I never did see the sun rise although Hans assured me it was beautiful, I didn't get to witness the phenomenon of watching the gulf's water turn from brown to navy blue as we entered the stream, and I didn't come above when Hans shouted 'Land Ho!' upon spotting Bimini. I did manage to set my bucket aside in order to help furl the jib which unfortunately put me far too close to the proximity of Wilbur's potty patch (which stinks no matter how often we rinse it), and I was off and heaving again.

And then we were in calmer water that suddenly went from navy blue to emerald green, which I did get to see since I'd come above to get our dock lines ready. The channel into Bimini has been re-dredged since our last time here and getting in was easy. And just like that our salt encrusted boat, stinky selves, and an exhausted pit bull, were docked at Blue Water Marina.

The water here is crystal clear and last night as we walked around the docks Hans commented that you don't even need to snorkel to see all the fish below the surface, just look down and they're there. I was looking at little striped fish zipping about, glass bottles lying on the bottom, pieces of old anchor chain covered with sea growth... when all of a sudden a giant ray accompanied by a baby ray glided just under the surface right in front of us. Even Wilbur saw it.

Our day did end on a really high note though. Right after we arrived some kids on the fishing boat next to us needed a drill and some drill bits to fix something on their boat. We lent them ours and after they'd returned them I was down below putting stuff in order while Hans went to check us in at Customs and Immigration. I heard someone call me and when I came out into the cockpit one the kids was standing on the dock. I thought he needed the drill again and then I saw that he had a bag in his hand which he presented to me. It contained two huge Mahi fillets! Wow, fresh Mahi for dinner on our first night here in Bimini almost made that crappy crossing worth it.


Today, after a good night's sleep (I was in bed by 8:30), the sun is shining, I'm walking around barefoot in a sundress while Wilbur snoozes in the cockpit, and Hans is attempting to put new connectors on our solar panels.

It's beautiful but I still say it's the last time I'll sail here.


I'm having a hard time downloading pictures from my phone to my iPad and I have to admit that I took these pictures 4 years ago. But that's okay because nothing here has really changed anyway.




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The push is on.

And that push being; our decision to cruise to the Bahamas.

We spent our Easter Sunday with Hans sweating in the engine room, and me sorting through my stash of dog collar hardware (I do admit to sneaking in some selfish time perusing all the new-to-us books I picked up at the exchange library and I'm absolutely giddy over some of my finds). At the end of the day Hans managed to replace a lot of ground wire connections along with two new transmission oil dip-sticks, and I had a bag full of sewing stuff to take ashore today where I fashioned a new leash and harness for Wilbur in between doing a couple of loads of laundry. Alas, the harness is a tad too big but can be easily fixed.

When we decided to spend an additional week here in Boot Key Harbor we thought we had tons of time to get some loose ends tied up. Every night we'd discuss what we would need to accomplish the next day and then for some reason the next morning those very tasks didn't seem to get done because some other matter would take precedence. But, all of a sudden we are down to a couple of days and even more stuff has cropped up. One thing I hadn't counted on was the propane tank to my stove crapping out on me. When we were living in a marina I could get one of those suckers to last me over six months. This one lasted two. This is a direct result of constant heavy winds making it impossible for me to use our grill and therefore relying solely on our stove. We are very thankful to have a place to fill our propane here and this morning, in addition to a much needed liquor run, we got that out of the way (and don't think crossing a four lane highway with a full tank of propane sans a traffic light isn't exciting).

First and foremost: every day Wilbur needs to go ashore for some much needed sniffies. This dog has been in his glory here, and as soon as our sun screen and my orange dry bag make their appearance Wilbur becomes unglued and starts snorting, huffing, and pacing. Surely some other dog on some other boat has dared to piss where he's pissed and he. will. not. stand. for. it. So, ashore we go with him because he's our baby and that's how it is.

And then there was the morning I knew if I didn't do something about my hair the world just might as well end. Hans and I spent an hour and a half of sweaty labor pulling my hair through one of those bleach caps with a crochet hook (if Hans ever wanted to exact some revenge upon me, that would have been the time), and after all that fun I took a pair of rusty scissors to the whole mess. Actually, the result wasn't all that bad and I saved us about $90.00 (the going rate here in this area).

One day I boldly made the slightly over one mile trip to Winn-Dixie by myself. I discovered, via my trusty luggage cart, that my duffle bag full of groceries, two 24 packs of beer and four 12 packs of soda, weigh a lot more than the 8 rolls of paper towels and the 4 rolls of toilet paper I'd hauled the day before. Yesterday, as a couple, Hans and I made a huge provisioning run to Winn-Dixie and filled two carts to the absolute max. We then ended up in line behind a couple who tried to pay for their purchases with an out of state check. With her french manicure, the cashier clacked and clacked at the touch screen, but the transaction wouldn't go through. After much more clacking, she got on the horn and called for help. When another call for help went out Hans very politely informed me that he'd been in line ahead of this out-of-state-check couple but had lost his place when he had to rescue me from floundering down the wrong aisle in search of more sun-screen.

My very first 'easy' run


Hans had departed the dinghy dock and took the first half of our haul to the Knotty Cat while I waited for him to come back and pick me up along with the remainder of our groceries (from our taxi run)

Even though we were waiting in line with refrigerated items and knew our taxi was due to arrive any second, I wasn't nearly as distraught as the young lady rushing about and hysterically waving her arms around with her mini-cart of groceries and wailing, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I only have a half hour before I need to get back to work!" Unfortunately for her; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph never did arrive to help, but, Jesus (pronounced Haysoose), Maria, and Jose, did arrive at our checkout and even after more collective clacking they could not resolve the out-of-state-check issue. In the meantime the out-of-state-check couple continued to stand placidly by without ever seeming to understand that what they were trying to achieve just wasn't going to happen. It was just about the time the holy trinity was ready to cry uncle and call in the Federal Reserve that the out-of-state-check couple got with it and the wife grudgingly unlocked her purse and produced a credit card.

The damn finally broke and we all flowed with relief from the Winn-Dixie. And on this particular wave we hope to push on to the Bahamas.

Our cockpit with a miniscule amount of the crap we hope to haul to the Bahamas

Friday, April 3, 2015

Yeah, that thing I mentioned about highs and lows?

"At least oars don't break down!" a fellow boater called to us as we rowed past him in our dinghy here in the Boot Key Harbor mooring field a couple of days ago.

And why were we rowing? Because our newly repaired dinghy motor refused to start, that's why.


One of our neighbors checking things out

I guess this is the low I was worrying about after experiencing the high of surviving the nasty front that blew in the night before.

What a confluence of events we've experienced in the last couple of days.

When we arrived in Boot Key Harbor I was thrilled that Hans signed us up for a week long stay. I'm a bit of a wet blanket and I like the feeling of stability one gets with putting down roots for more than one day. After that I'm usually ready to leave and move on to our next adventure.

The day before our week long commitment here was to end, we made huge plans to finish up some loose ends. We would get up early and walk to Publix and Winn-Dixie for a huge provisioning run and then hire a taxi (it's like 5 dollars) back to the dock. I would get a load of laundry done along with both of us getting much needed showers, Hans would clean up our engine rooms, we would hoist the dinghy and motor into their respective resting places aboard the Knotty Cat, and the next day we would be off to the next anchorage before we blasted off to the Bahamas.

I woke up on Wednesday morning to Hans saying, "I've decided we're going to stay another week." I was thrilled as I love it here in Marathon, and then I thought maybe he was playing a cruel April Fool's joke on me. But he wasn't. He'd been following the weather and realized the week ahead weather forecast wasn't favorable at all for crossing to the Bahamas and all we'd do was sit in an anchorage using up all our water and food stores. And that's not fun.

After listening to the morning cruiser's net on channel 68 we decided to take Wilbur to the Hillbilly Diner (a new floating breakfast enterprise) where the owner promised bacon flavored treats to all furry friends. "Yaaaay!" Wilbur exclaimed, and we jumped into the dinghy. Only the outboard wouldn't start.


Even though we gave the motor several rests just in case we'd flooded it, it never did start and our plans quickly eroded. Wilbur did not get a bacony treat, laundry didn't get done (it's still piling up), a provisioning run was out of the question, but Phil, who happens to be on the boat right beside us, heard me complaining about our problem after we'd rowed* ashore, and offered his expertise. C'mon over! we exclaimed. And he did. BTW, Wilbur is not a fan of rowing; he wants to get to shore 'now' and half way through our slog to the dock he tried to get out and tow us.

*I realize there are a lot of cruisers who don't have outboards and they row everywhere (and they're in fantastic shape too!) but as long as we have an outboard we'd like for it to work.

Over the next few hours Phil and Hans systematically tore that bugger to pieces. Hoses, spark plugs, wires, you name it, that motor got the deluxe spa treatment (In my 50 plus years on this earth I've yet to receive this kind of attention). To me, the motor was starting to take on a smug kind of aura and she still refused to start. The next day on the cruiser's net our problem was made public and we received a lot of good info, yet our motor continued to remain mute. Hans finally gave up and started calling various enterprises and we were dismayed to find their repair schedules were over a week out. And then we found Alex from Sea Tek (who lives not far from us in the mooring field). Within a half hour of our S.O.S., Alex arrived and promptly got down to business. It was obvious that he knew what he was doing and after a few ministrations to our outboard, it fired up like it hadn't a problem in the world.

We were stunned as Alex really did nothing more than point out that a couple of wires Hans had cut had been unnecessary and then he scrubbed the spark plugs with a wire brush. That's it.


So, I think we have a bit of sibling rivalry going on here. The Knotty Cat has been gifted with all kinds of bling lately and even though the outboard (the Knotty Dog) did get her carburetor rebuilt back in January, this wasn't good enough. And while I'm sure it gave her a heady feeling to hold all of us hostage for a couple of days she knew she couldn't pull a fast one over on Alex.


Alex takes care of business

We were quite happy (Wilbur even more so) to finally motor over to the dinghy dock and Hans hiked to West Marine and bought even more stuff for her highness.

I only hope she's satisfied for the time being.


Just as I went to hit the publish button on this, Hans emerged from the starboard engine room and reported to me that the transmission oil plug fell apart in his hand and the dip stick is now stuck in place.



Daddy, will we ever get to the Bahamas?