Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lee from Alesto Fixes the Battery Charger

Readers of this blog will remember my slogan that something breaks on a White Pepper every day. Thankfully that saying is not as true as it used to be. However, one day last week while the Honda 1000 generator was chugging along charging the batteries I noticed how the noise changed and the amp meter swung from charging to discharging. The Master Volt battery charger which I had installed 6 years ago in Fort Pierce had failed. If was drawing a larger than usual charge because I had let the batteries run down to 12.2 V. This is not an unusual situation on White Pepper and not usually a problem. This was the first time though I had let the two new “suit case” batteries get this low.

Within 10 minutes of the failure, Lee Haefele, of Alesto 2 was heard on the VHF announcing that he was giving a seminar on electrical problems on Volley Ball Beach. Also he was available to help with some electrical problems. How much more heaven sent can it get? Lee is from Ithaca, NY. He is not an electrician, rather and enthusiastic amateur.

I went to the seminar which was great and put my boat card in the pile on the table. By and by, Lee came to the boat. After some preliminaries it was obvious that the problem was indeed in the black box of the battery charger. The manual for the Master Volt was worthless, and it said not to open the box. Rather we were to take it to the dealer.

The inside of the Master Volt was a large transistor board. Nothing seems burned or amiss. Eventually, Lee spied some fuses which looked good but upon testing with his meter were found bad. They were simple 20 amp car fuses. Lee hopped in the dingy and sped across the road stead to the local hardware store. Within several hours and for less than $4 the unit was fixed and functioning.

This was a huge save for White Pepper. This unit easily charges the batteries up to the 14.5 V. that is needed to knock the sulfate off of the lead plates. The Balmar generator on the engine can also get to 14.5 but only after several hours. Also I am sure that if I had had a marine electrician look at the unit back in Florida he would have announced that the unit was burned out (it was) and needed replacing. The Master Volts typically cost $1500.

Thanks Lee.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cave Cay, Glass Cay and George Town, Exumas

 Looking East at Cave Cay Cut

Musha Cay

Ordinarily the run from Black Point to George Town along the Exuma chain is an uneventful 46 mile run sometimes with an overnight. White Pepper managed to turn this trip into a three day adventure.
It has always been the policy of this blog to emphasize the positive aspects of cruising. Otherwise travel literature would turn into a “litany of misery” ( quote from Mark Twain. ) This trip, however, was harrowing. On the leg from Black Point to Cave Cay the water belt broke and the motor overheated. After a scramble I was able to replace the belt, but the motor and transmission never quite recovered.

We anchored at lovey Cave Cay which is private. There is an upscale marina, the Safe Harbor Marina. Musha Cay is just a half a mile away. Musha Cay is the property of the magician David Copperfield. Between Cave Cay and Musha Cay is Cave Cay Cut. This is the last deep water cut between the Great Bahama Bank and the Exuma Sound on the way south to George Town. Cave Cay does not get any respect from most of the regulars who use Galliot Cut two miles to the north. White Pepper wanted to try a different path. We had to wait until late morning for the current to clear the cut. Clearing the cut was uneventful at slack water. By 11 am we were off to George Town 31 miles to the SE. A wonderful, gentle southerly breeze made for a power reach under full sail—135% Genoa and main. White Pepper had the most delightful, sparkling sail until 2 pm when the wind stopped. Ordinarily this would be no problem for a cruiser, who would power up the engine and motor on. No such option was available for White Pepper with a crippled motor.

It was Jan who came up with the plan for an emergency landing at Glass Cay. Glass Cay is more of a day stop at the northern tip of Great Exuma Island, but the weather was settled. Indeed that was the very reason we could not proceed. We made an uneventful passage of the Glass Cay Cut and spent a pleasant night anchored over 9 feet of sand. The morning brought a predicted SW wind-- but much stronger than anticipated. Or at least unanticipated by NOAA because there were several kite boarders there enjoying the breeze. We waited until late morning for the wind to behave, but it never did respond to commands from NOAA to lay down to predicted values. We had a very anxious moment getting the anchor up because the motor failed again. We had to sail out of the anchorage. The newly installed electric winch for the main sail halyard was the hero of the day. It got the main sail before I had to re-anchor.

By early afternoon the breeze had clocked to the west and northwest building to force 4, 16 to 20 knots, with higher gusts. White Pepper was scudding along at 6 to 7 knots on the short trip to George Town 14 miles to the SE. This is hull speed for her, and reminded Jan and I of racing on Corpus Christi Bay. About 3 pm we were able to sail the familiar doglegs of the northern entrance to George Town known as Conch Cay Cut. Any joy at returning was tempered by having to actually sail the boat to the five precise way points that make up the entrance.

We passed by hundreds of anchored yachts in the phenomenon that is the “village” of George Town cruisers that Jan and I have grown to know. The tally on the last day of Regatta was 302 boats. Finally we skidded to a stop at the Sand Dollar anchorage. We anchored under sail which is no easy task when there is a crowd. Sand Dollar is our favorite "subdivision" in the "village."  There were only 50 boats around. 

In addition the hot water heater was affected by the overheating and is leaking. This will need to be addressed or we will not have fresh water. How much damage was done by the overheating will determine whether White Pepper will be able to continue cruising or will have to return to Florida. However, for the short term we are safely anchored in a safe and familiar place with friends.

 Sand Dollar Beach

 Kite Boarder enjoys wind and clear water of Glass Cay

The "village" of George Town cruisers

Monday, March 10, 2014

Black Point--with a spot of giving back

White Pepper sailed right passed Staniel's Cay on the way to Black Point, Exuma. We actually sailed as we were short tacking into a gentle SE breeze. That night as Jan and I were enjoying a traditional Bahamian dinner at Lorraine's Cafe, I was struck that I could not understand why anyone would prefer the world famous Staniel's Cay Yacht Club to Lorraine's. The food could not possibly be any better, although I suspect the wine list at SCYC beats the box wine at Lorraine's. I imagined that Donald Trump and Barrac Obama would prefer the Staniel's Cay Yacht Club, but given an honest choice Warren Buffet and Bill Gates would choose Lorraine's.

That is not to begrudge the Staniel's Cay people. Thirty years ago they started with a shack that looked and functioned much as Lorraine's does today. But with pluck and the accidents of geography they have build a world class franchise with the mega yacht trade. Still there is nothing White Pepper needs there.

The great joy of visiting Black Point is the children. They play in the street. There is only one road and no cars or trucks. They laugh and interact. They are not sheltered-in-place as in America--playing video games while being protected from roving pedophiles. On this visit Jan had bought a generous selection of children's books to donate to the school as well as a several dozens of pens and crayons. Also she added several sets of water colors. The principal was grateful, of course. We asked what her plans were. She said the greatest need was to find some way to educate the older island children on line so that they did not have to leave for Nassau to receive a high school education. From Nassau the kids often returned to the out islands with tattoos and a drug habit along with their high school diploma. We promised to help if asked.
Shandell looks at one of the new school books

Another joy is the laundromat. Lorraine's cousin Ida runs it. It is clean, efficient and all of the machines work (which is a rarity in the Bahamas). Also there you can get a hair cut, take a shower for $6, and buy supplies. I purchased a 2 quarts of much needed transmission fluid.

Black Point provides free water and garbage disposal to the boaters. Staniel's Cay charges for both of these. Water there is fifty cents per gallon. Garbage is $5 for a small bag and $10 for a large bag. Lorraine's and Scorpio's bar offer free high quality WI-fi asking only a modest donation or an order of a beer. Staniel's Cay Yacht Club WI-fi is $5/ hour.

Adjacent to the anchorage area is a beach that is only one or two feet deep for several hundred yards. The white sand reflects the sunlight. By late afternoon the water is bath tub warm. Jan and I took shampoo. After a romp and scrub we returned to White Pepper for a fresh water rinse—just heavenly.

Finally, there is the bread. Good bread is also available at Staniel's Cay. Home made Bahamian bread just does not have any equivalent in America. It is sweet and heavy. The bread is more like a study cake then the wimpy, wispy stuff we have at home.

Finally it was time to leave as the wind shifted into the SW. The next two days will be the jump to George Town, Exuma. George Town is the capital of Exuma and cruiser's paradise. More posts later.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fourth Visit to Exuma Park

 Bridge on Hutia Trail.  

White Pepper at the Emerald Rock Anchorage

Study in Blue

A different look at Boo Boo Hill.  Boats leave souvenir here until the next hurricane blows them away.

The North anchorage has appeared on many  postcards.

Jan looks out on the Hog Cay Anchorage.  See our post about the pirates lair from 2011.

Remains of the Davis Plantation.  Imagine the hardships for slave and master alike.

This was White Pepper's fourth visit to Exuma Land and Sea Park.  It is the crown jewel of the Exuma Chain and indeed all of the Bahamas.  I have little to add to previous posts and will let the exquisite scenery speak for itself.  Just a few notes:  Texans will recognize hutias as nutrias--small rodents..  These are the only mammals in the park.  The Davis Plantation is a few stone ruins that mark an unsuccessful attempts by a loyalist cotton farmer to settle the land around the time of the American Revolution.

We had to divert to the Emerald Rock Anchorage due to transmission problems.  Emerald Rock is open and beautiful.  It does roll when the wind is anything further clockwise then SE.  The transmission may need to be replaced.  It also prevented us from trying the Hog Cay and Cambridge Anchorages which were on the agenda for this year.