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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Whole Lot Of Updates Coming Soon

Updating the blog in the Exumas with either unreliable or unbelievably slow internet proved to be a task I quickly gave up on.. Lots of photos, stories and trip updates coming soon now that we are back in civilization.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Morgans Bluff, Odds & Ends

A couple days after our arrival in Morgans Bluff, we were diving around the harbor and I wanted to check all that fancy work I had done on the running gear. To my shock I saw the cutlass bearing had slid out and was resting firmly on the zinc halfway down the shaft. Good news is, this stopped it from coming all the way out, bad news, what the hell was I going to do?!

The cruisers we met Jeff and Trish had stopped by the boat in their dinghy after seeing we had a CSY 37, a boat they had owned several years earlier. Jeff seems like a pretty handy guy and I stopped by his boat later that night. I figured i'd bounce some ideas on how to fix the problem off him. I didn't get the first sentence out and he laughed "I had the exact problem, heres what I did" He went below and came up with about half a tube of 2 part epoxy "mix this up on a paper plate, scuff up your cutlass, smear it around nice and even. Then shove the cutlass back in and let it cure for 48 hours" I very gratefully accepted his sticky advice and tried not to glue my hands together as I took it back to the boat. The next day Colby and I hooked up our hookah rig to a tank and jumped in to give it a shot. About 15 minutes later I had what I though was a good fix, just needed to let it cure. 
I was also able to tighten the port side set screws quite a bit and between the two I think the repair should last. 

Since we have been here just over a week we have completed several projects on the boat, after all cruising is just a fancy way of fixing your boat in exotic places! I had a holding tank issue and was able to use an epoxy stick to solve the problem, I've replaced seals, greased fittings, repacked and adjusted my shaft packing, checked fluids, topped off fluids and replaced filters. We are ready and after a week, it's time to get out of here and continue our journey. Even though we didn't intend on stopping here, this has turned out to be an amazing experience. Andros Island is interesting to say the least. Morgans Bluff, while not luxury by any means, is a great resource and stop for cruisers living on the hook. 

I was able to pick up Chris Parker this morning for the first time on our Kaito portable radio and we heard our friend Julie asking about a weather window to Bimini. It's amazing how small the ocean really is with cruisers, the islands are littered with friends old and new. 

While we sort of have a destination, we don't have a timeline.. We are here until the money runs out and it's time to head home. Plans change like the weather, directions, destinations, it's all subject to change at any given moment depending on so many factors. Maybe that's why I feel so at home living like this, life is hardly ever boring while cruising. I'm as free as a person can get, living sustainably from the ocean and making as small of a footprint as I can, while making as big of an impact as I can on my children. They grow up fast and I am fortunate to see every day of it.. It's funny how close you get spending every day together on a small boat, exploring the world one stop at a time. I am a lucky man.. 

Time to check the weather!

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The Mothers Day Sail To New Providence.. Detour

We woke up around 6:30 Mothers Day. I made coffee and we discussed what to eat for breakfast. Jessica decided she would rather have dinner than breakfast and I went up to the office to check out. We normally don't spend much time in marinas but it was a long crossing, it was Mothers Day, and best of all it was only 57 extra dollars to stay because they waive 100.00 check in convenience. I checked out, emptied 2 Jerry cans of fuel into the tank and walked with the kids to the ships store and to the fuel dock with my empty cans. Chub Cay is a strange place, there is absolutely nothing there, but the people are overly friendly. Believe me I'm not complaining, especially after our first experience in Bimini with Alicetown. The entire island is privately owned, beaches are no public access, and most of the people you see around work at the resort, which caters primarily to sport fisherman. As a matter of fact, we were the only sailboat in the entire marina, which consisted of mostly boats 75' or more. 

We got ready to leave and set out for New Providence, which is the island Nassau is located on. My intention was to make it and then it would only be a short jaunt to the Exumas. We left out of the protected basin and out into the anchorage where just the night before about 8 boats had been. It was now a blustery rolling mess, and we were headed through it. We made it out of the channel and instantly thought we should turn around. The bow was dipping into the waves, water was washing over the deck and it was a pretty rough ride. About 2 minutes into this and after seeing my speed over ground drop to 1.5kts I set the course for Morgans Bluff on the island of Andros. This was about 14 miles, but it was in a direction I could sail, not directly on the nose. Even at this point of sail we encountered some very large, very unpredictable waves. Some would wash the deck, some would roll us rail to rail and a few just picked us up like a rag doll. Jessica was not having a good day and this wasn't exactly how I had intended to spend Mothers Day. As we were sailing along a breaking wave crashed over the deck and I watched it rip a sail tie off the staysail. We were in a body of water called the Tongue of the Ocean. It's not a big body of water really, but it goes from 30 ft to 30,000 ft with sharp drop offs. I remember reading a Bernard Moitessier book once and he mentioned "Do not sail near mountains" He didn't mean the kind you find on land, he was speaking of the very violent action that occurs when that much energy gets forced to ramp from great depths to shallow. 

As soon as we made the corner around the breakers to Morgans Bluff, we entered a calm harbor, protected from the strong easterly that was blowing out there. There was one boat anchored in the harbor and I wanted to anchor a fair distance away to give them some space. You see, cruisers appear to be like the last couple Cheerios in a bowl. You'll see a boat in a remote anchorage all alone and then you'll see another boat come in and anchor right next to them, I didn't want to be "that" guy. We attempted several times to set the hook and this is the first time my 55lb Rocna didn't set instantly. The problem is the ground is scoured, just an inch or two of sand with hard ground underneath. Finally on our third attempt I found a nice patch of sand and she sank right down to the roll bar. I paid out about 100ft of chain, tied my rolling hitch with my 3 strand nylon snubber and we were set. We hoisted the motor, placed it on the back of the dinghy and after picking up the mess left in the boat, headed to shore. 

There is no dinghy dock at Morgans Bluff, as a matter of fact there really isn't much at all. There is an inner small harbor with local fishing boats, a really nice beach and a small Bahamian bar people call Willies, even though Willy hasn't owned the bar in a while. We tied up our dinghy to a tree, made our way to the bar and enjoyed a drink and a game or two of pool. Ok maybe we played a game of pool and had a drink or two, who's counting?  The selection and prices were very reasonable and we chatted up the bartender to get the lay of the land. We got the password for the internet and found out about free water, free trash disposal and free showers. The showers/bathrooms were very spartan, but they were free. They seemed genuinely happy to see us, everyone was kind and we knew pretty quick this would be a great place to wait out the weather. 
We spent the next couple days exploring the local area, caves, hills, and local residents. We dove around the boat, around the harbor, checked our anchor and dove a few sunken barges right within swimming distance of the boat.  

Henry Morgans cave was a great experience, full of bats and history. 

We met a couple cruisers here on the boat Namaste' named Jeff and Trisha. They had limped in here about a week prior with an engine full of sea water and a local named Chris let them tie up to his fishing boat while they sorted out the problem. Chris is the type of guy you want to know, genuinely helpful, can get anything you need, and really appreciates being taken care of for his efforts. From parts to farm fresh eggs or a ride to the grocery store, Chris is your guy. Jeff and Trisha have gotten to know him extremely well and are partners in a new business here called "Discover Andros" After we had been here a few days, they offered to let us be the guinea pigs with a tour of the island, promising to teach us a little history with some ecology tossed in. We agreed to meet them and Chris on shore at 8am. 
A night or two before and pretty late, a small boat sailed into the harbor and we met Tree and Andy. They were on a small Bristol 27 and just a month earlier Tree had answered an ad for a crew position on Andy's boat. They began their journey, coming all the way down the east coast before getting to the Bahamas. They joined us for our "Discover Andros" tour and we have been hanging out just about everyday since.

During our tour of Andros we learned quite a bit about the islands unique history, including the settlement of a group of the Seminole tribe of Indians that settled in the town of Red Bay (READ HERE). There was a festival that day, but we ended up visiting several other towns, Lowe Sound, Conch Sound as well as two different blue holes, one freshwater called Uncle Charlie's and one salt in Conch Sound. There was also a trip to the local grocery store, liquor store and "take away" which is what they call a take out restaurant. The grocery was interesting and we did a little bit of reprovisioning, managing to only spend about 32 dollars and getting some good fresh produce. Some of the prices were very reasonable and then some were jaw dropping. 8 bucks for a small can of SPAM? I don't think so!

It was a full day and we learned a lot about this island, things most people would never see on a visit and got a different perspective on an island that isn't as well known or visited as many of the others. Here are a few pictures of our day. 

Government Building

Drink In Hand

Conch Sound Blue Hole

Tree to the right of Jessica

Jeff giving us a history lesson

Tree and Andy

Watching the start of the fishing tournament 

Chris leading the way to Uncle Charlies Blue Hole

In the Indian community of Red Bays WIKI

Hand carved mahogany wood pieces 

New monument to the Seminoles of Red Bay, erected less then a week before our visit. 

Finally Something To Write About....

There comes a point when you feel like you are so far behind on something it seems like you can't catch up, well the blog kind of feels that way. For the longest time it became really hard to write about our daily lives as we worked, and lead almost normal lives in Boot Key Harbor. You can only write so much about going to work, potlucks and daily stuff. Rather than try and fluff things up I pretty much vanished and the blog got tossed on the back burner. Well I'm happy to report there are several things that have changed and I am writing this post from Morgans Bluff, on Andros Island, Bahamas. Rather then write a chapter book, I'm going to hit the highlights.. 

S/V Thin Line is paid off.. After we returned from Bimini I got licensed, insured and started a boat bottom cleaning business in Boot Key. My clients were almost exclusively moored boats in the harbor and Colby was my partner. Cleaning boat bottoms isn't exactly glamorous work, as a matter of fact it's dirty, hard work. Between the cuts, shrimp and critters crawling around on you, while trying to get into your ears, to the physical labor involved with breathing compressed air underwater for hours each day. I'm happy to report that between that and the next piece of news, we were able to get the boat paid off quickly. Colby and I began to back off from the cleaning and eventually phased it out and turned our extra time and attention to working on the boat to prepare her for an extended trip. 

Once again my music became a priority and both Ty Thurman and I were making a steady income playing music around Marathon. We have several people that come out every week to support us and we always had a crowd. There is talk of a trip to Nashville and a new CD this fall. You can check out our music page HERE  Jessica continued to work at Burdines 3 days per week and one of those days (Wednesday) I played music. My work became music and working on the boat. 

Speaking of working on the boat.. After a brisk sail and an incident with the prop vs my mooring line, it became necessary to do a haul out to replace my cutlass bearing and throw some bottom paint on.. Not to mention we wanted to get a good look at her out of the water. We scheduled a haul out at Keys Boat Works for a Friday. On Wednesday I had scheduled a fuel tank cleaning with a guy named Mitch, he came highly recommended. We had several issues with the grime and grit on the bottom of the tank fouling filters both primary and secondary when we got tossed around a little. During our Bimini trip it really became a problem.  Mitch began sweeping our tank, within 10 seconds had clogged his massive centrifuge system.. It clogged several more times and he couldn't believe how dirty the tank was. "In 12 years, this is the dirtiest tank I've ever seen on a boat that still runs" He couldn't believe we even made it across the harbor, and to think we did our entire Bimini trip! We did consume massive amounts of racor filters though! There was some conflict with our haul out date/time and I ended up spending the entire weekend tied up to a courtesy dock at the boatyard, with a scheduled haul out on Monday. While at the dock, over the weekend I removed the entire fuel system, every hose, every clamp, every single twist and turn.. I spared no fitting and replaced the entire line, removing at least 25' of useless hose that did nothing but clutter the system and cause flow restriction. I even found a couple connections buried that had no hose clamps, that could have ended badly with my fuel pumping into the bilge! 

Monday morning we hauled the boat, after a pressure wash it was time to get to work. The overall condition of the boat bottom wasn't bad, virtually no blistering, and what I did find were extremely superficial (thank you CSY) Thruhulls weren't great, however they were nowhere near needing immediate attention. However my prop, shaft, cutlass bearing were not in the same condition. Luckily I had the help of some very great friends to guide me in the right direction. I pulled the prop, was able to finally get the cutlass loose and removed, the shaft however was not a piece of cake! It was bent and the coupling that connects it to the transmission would not let it go.. We tried a torch and heating it, but ended up grinding it off and buying a new one (88 dollars). I had the shaft straightened, prop completely redone and repitched. It turns out the prop was entirely to big for the engine/boat and he took it down a couple inches and changed the pitch from 10 to 8, which also got rid of the large gouge that was in one blade. With all that in hand, and with a lot of help from Diesel Don, we realigned the engine and running gear as best we could. The problem is the engine install wasn't done correctly and the closest we could get was 1/6000 tolerance, we needed 1/4000.. Short of undoing it, lifting it and recutting the stringers down far enough I can adjust, that was as good as it was going to get. That is a project that will have to be done at a later date..   

Grinding bottom paint is dirty work!

With the nice shiny prop, shaft, coupling, shaft packing and everything aligned. With the coats of fresh bottom paint, it was time to splash her in the water! 

Jessica had been working at Burdines for well over 2 years and she put in her notice for April 24th.. While she would miss the people she worked with, and of course hearing me play on Wednesday nights ;-), she was glad to take a break and is looking forward to whatever lays ahead for her after we return from cruising. She had a going away party and was given a nice pie to the face by her coworkers!

I finished my gigs for the season and with most of the projects done it was time to get ready for our long awaited cruise. For more than 2 years we have waited for this, sure there have been little vacations, but a week here or 10 days there wasn't what we came here to do. We had done it, we paid the boat off in 14 months, completed a bunch of projects and still managed to save a little bit in our sailing kitty. Our plans were all over the place, from traveling to Cuba, to NYC, to anywhere in between. We finally settled on the Exuma chain of islands in the Bahamas.. With all the work we had done, much of which I didn't even mention like repairing our jib which was badly sun damaged, it seemed like a great place to enjoy our earned vacation and shakedown the boat, before heading off to some really remote exotic destination. 

We left Marathon on Thursday May 7th with virtually no wind, except the breeze directly on our nose! We didn't make it out of BKH until 3pm and we set our chartplotter for the Channel 5 bridge, anchoring right at sunset on the southwest side of the bridge in what turned out to be a peaceful anchorage. We pulled anchor and got underway Friday May 8th at 4:30am with absolutely NO wind, headed for South Riding Rock and the Bahama banks. The crossing of the Gulf Stream was like glass, however we did encounter huge mountain sized rollers sent down from Tropical system Ana. They were massive, but so wide and smooth that we would glide over them effortlessly. We arrived on the banks right before sunset and were greeted by a huge pod of dolphins, the welcome wagon showing us the way.. The plan was to anchor on the Bahama banks, but the wind had picked up a little and the decision was made to shut down the engine and enjoy a casual sail through the night, putting us at Chub Cay in the morning. For the first time I was able to sleep several hours while Jess took the helm, she's starting to get pretty salty ;-)

We made Chub Cay around 11am and checked in with absolutely no problems, raised our Bahamian courtesy flag and spent a night at the dock. The next day we were set to head for New Providence, however the weather would have different plans.. 

Chub Cay

Next entry will be Mothers Day Sail to Morgans Bluff..