Sunday, June 7, 2015

Welcome back, Windy!


Windy, trying to appear humble, but actually looks quite smug


We found it slightly ironic that as soon as our wind generator died, we finally began to experience wonderful windy days. This of course, did us no good, and we discovered our solar panels really can't keep up with our refrigerator system. Each morning Hans would wake up to find our batteries seriously drained so he'd fire up the Honda for an hour, and then for another hour before bed. This, however, started to put a serious strain on our gasoline supply and Blackpoint doesn't sell fuel.

Each day we would go ashore and Hans would check the shipping status of the new generator. In the meantime he'd been in contact with Watermaker's Air in Ft. Lauderdale who had assured us it would indeed arrive in Blackpoint. Watermaker's flies into Blackpoint twice a day and our generator arrived promptly on a Tuesday morning. It was then immediately placed on a boat (that probably zipped right past us in the anchorage) and sent straight to Staniel Cay where Watermaker's Air is based. We found this out after walking all the way to the airstrip in the blistering sun. Of course this was at noon, everyone was at lunch, and we didn't see any packages sitting around the empty and unlocked, tiny airport building.

Just try communicating with businesses in the Bahamas. It's not like in the states, where even though you may get put on hold, at least someone answers the damn phone (or in this case the radio). Staniel Cay is an extremely busy and extremely understaffed place. No one ever answers the radio and when you get to the office and tell them this, they will point to their radio (which is squawking with some other poor sap desperately trying to get through), and with big innocent Bahamian eyes, assure you that your radio must not be working.

While still in Blackpoint we tried to radio Staniel Yacht Club in order to find out the status of our package because we really feared it may have been sent back to the states. No one answered so Hans called Ft. Lauderdale where we were assured it would be waiting for us in Staniel. This is when we parted company with our friends and headed back north.

Hans was just itching to get that wind generator up and working and had hatched one of his ingenious 'in theory that should have worked' plans he's talked me into far too many times over the years. Initially he'd wanted to lower the whole top heavy tower into a dinghy where surgery would then be performed. Did I mention he wanted to do this at anchor, with bouncing waves and wakes from passing boats? With visions of nuts and bolts flying overboard (and perhaps a huge scream fest on my part for the whole anchorage to witness), I firmly put the kibosh to that little plan. But, Hans is a manager and therefore likes to manage and so he came up with Plan B.

We approached the Staniel Cay Yacht Club with the desire to pick up our generator, top off our diesel, buy some gas, and get a slip for Hans' brilliant new plan. I don't know why we even bothered to try hailing them on the radio but we did and of course there was no answer. We noticed that the fuel dock is very small, and a little run-about boat was tied smack dab in the middle of it leaving no room for anyone else. We kept trying to radio the club in an effort to get a slip and with still no response we headed for a long dock with an open space. It wasn't easy, especially with little boats crossing right in our path, and the wind and current were pushing us off, but we finally got tied up to the dock.

A good while later Hans arrived back at the boat with our generator and was quite happy to report that the paperwork had been processed properly and we only had to pay for Watermaker's Air fare from the states plus a $10.00 stamp tax and *no duty fees since this was a warranty replacement!

Then he informed me that the slip we were assigned to was exactly on the other side of the dock were sitting at. This meant, in addition to all the bouncy wake we were experiencing in this very busy marina, instead of being pushed off the dock, we would now get pushed onto the dock. Staniel Cay Yacht Club is unprotected and when the wind blows from the west everyone gets kicked out. We were there in moderate east winds and I thought it was awful. Even Hans thought it was less than ideal and had asked if someone could please help us move. Help arrived in the form of an elderly man with one arm. This much I knew; it had taken all of the strength from both of my much younger arms to secure our dock lines. We asked if it were possible to please just stay where we were. No. Two huge yachts were due to arrive and we were in the way. In the meantime a young couple in a power boat sped into our allotted slip, tied up, and hied it to the bar.

The hell with it, Hans said, and decided now was the time to put his new plan into action. This involved waiting for low tide where Hans would then stand on the dock and with the boat sitting low in the water, the top of the wind generator would now be within easy reach. Except it wasn't. The current kept the boat too far off the dock, and the constant chop bounced it around like a cork. With every move Hans made I interjected with, "I don't like this," "I want the hell our of here," "This is crazy." Hans finally agreed that Plan B wasn't going to work and when I told him let's just walk our gas cans to the fuel dock he informed me that he'd been told by the little one armed man that they were out of gas and the fuel boat wouldn't arrive until Friday.

So we anchored out, used almost the last of our gas for the Honda and found out the next day they had plenty of gas and why did we think they didn't? We also noted that the long dock we'd been told we needed to vacate for the two huge yachts, remained empty until the next day.

We dinghied ashore the next morning, got that damned gas, walked to Isles' General Store for some provisions, and purchased a much needed bottle of vodka at the laundromat (the Bahamians definitely got something right, there).

Once again we headed north with Palm Cay Marina in Nassau as our next destination. We'd heard that diesel was cheap, water and laundry were free, and Hans still wanted to give Plan B a shot. We found diesel to be a little more reasonable and water was free but it's bad, and laundry involved walking to a condo and using the one washing machine available and then taking your wet laundry back to the marina to use the one dryer. Since we have no idea how much water we have (and I fear it's very little) Hans drove a courtesy car to the store (and you have to remember to drive on the left side) and bought 10 gallons. I took Wilbur for a walk where he almost had a heat stroke and kept collapsing in the shade.

We'd only intended to stay one day but since we needed a low tide for Hans' plan, we stayed for two. Finally, it was time for operation wind generator. After pulling the boat in as tightly as we could and argued over how this was going to work (I was accused of overthinking, and I asked Hans if he'd even bothered to look at the manual), we actually got the generator off the pole and then lowered the whole thing onto the dock. Hans cut old wires, crimped new wires, tested the unit to make sure it was good (and verified that the old one was indeed fried), and then we pushed it back up into place. After a minor discussion on exactly how the supporting struts were previously placed (I found a picture on my phone to prove I was right), we tightened all the screws and waited for some wind.

Finally after a month we were able to accomplish something

New generator ready to go

A huge shout of joy was heard from the Knotty Cat when we witnessed Windy point her delicate nose into the wind and purr like a kitten while in the nav station the gauge showed her putting juice into the batteries.

The only downside to this successful maneuver is the fact that one of Hans' many hairbrained schemes has finally paid off and I fear just what he may come up with in the future.



*If you need parts sent to you in the Bahamas; make sure you send the freight provider (whoever is getting this part from the USA to the Bahamas, in our case it was Watermaker's Air) a copy of your cruising permit. We also sent a copy to the company in Montreal and told them to staple it to our invoice with the notation 'Warranty Replacement'. There should be no duty charged to warranty parts.


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