Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Picking Up Trash in Great Harbor Cay

White Pepper spent Tuesday morning helping to pick up trash in the Great Harbor Cay Marina and along the road to the beach. One of the ladies along with Hans, the harbor master, organized the affair.

Twenty of the boater met at 9 am. We represented almost all of the able bodied sailors in the marina that day. We divided into teams and set to work battling brush, small (harmless) snakes, and worst of all – poison wood. Poison wood is Bahama's version of poison ivy. The snakes are boas about 12 to 18 inches long and can not even bite.

Jan and I were assigned the section at the beach end of the road about a mile from the marina. We shared the duty Glenn and Dorothy from Dot's Way. During the work I came to a profound realization. The responsible Bahamian (or more likely a visitor to Great Harbor Cay) throws his empty beer bottle deep into the brush along side of the road. The irresponsible Bahamian or visitor just flips it aside. The responsible beer drinker, however, causes much more grief in clean up. This is because it is much harder to dig into the deep brush to retrieve trash and beer bottles.

The effort took about 2 hours. All of us filled up 36 of the large black trash bags. A nice older Bahamian in a small red pick up stopped and helped haul the bags to the dump. Before noon we were all done and feeling very good about the effort. Then off to the showers to clean up the scratches and wash off the poison wood oil.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, Our Third Visit

This will be White Pepper's third visit to Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas in four years. The game plan has been to pick a good crossing (3 for 3 so far). Then we hunker down in perfect safety to let the Bahamian winter pass over us for a month or so.  Good plan; but things change.

Port Lucaya Marina is clearly slowing down.  The Grand Bahama Yacht Club still has not re opened.  We stayed there in luxury in 2011.  It went bankrupt, and we are now at the Port Lucaya Marina for the past two years. The marina is adjacent to the Port Lucaya Market which is a loud collection of shops and restaurants designed to service the cruise ship trade out of nearby Freeport.  The crowds seem thinner this year. Even the bands are less loud and less obnoxious.  We get a good monthly rate for dockage, but the shower and toilet facilities are degraded. Wi fi is intermittent except in the middle of the Market.

We have had wonderful fun with our Bahamian friends, Paula von Hamm, her husband Don Maples, and Paula's brother Randy.  I have played golf and watched football playoffs with them.  Our regular partners at Port Lucaya Marina, Leslie and Mitch, of m/v Absolutely have been great. We enjoy  the excellent shops and restaurants that Port Lucaya  and Freeport offer. We lounge by the pool and walk the beach. The weather in port is excellent although one cold front after another passes by . Freeport has two fully stocked hardware stores so I can keep up with the endless maintenance chores.

However, this year we have met few fellow cruisers. Most of the boats here are empty being on long term storage due to the good rates.  Most are power boats.  The sailors that come in are French or French/Canadians. They are wonderful.  But true to their nature they usually anchor out in the numerous holes that the local residential development provides.  Then they quickly move on South or East. 

Jan and I will pull up stakes here after only  17 days.  We paid for 30 days. We will grab a weather window and move to Bullock's Harbor on Great Harbor Cay in the northern Berry Islands. Things will be quieter there for sure, and it will still be winter in the Bahamas.  However, Port Lucaya has lost its charm for us. It will have to become just another wonderful memory.  I do not believe that we will come here next year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Third Time's a Charm--Lake Worth Inlet to Port Lucaya

Most of these Boats will leave Lake Worth tonight for the Bahamas.  Note the full moon.  Also this  remarkable photo was shot by Jan on her iPad in the late dusk when the scene was barely visible to the eye. The famous Palm Beach is the background.

Every crossing of the Gulf Stream is unique, but success tends to bring repetition. So it is with the White Pepper. This was our third successful crossing from Lake Worth Inlet, Florida to Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas.

Let's review the options. A rare cruiser will leave Jacksonville, cross the Gulf Stream, and then head South for Marsh Harbor. I believe this is for the boat that does not mind a beating.

Another set of brave souls will set out from Fort Pierce, sail South, turn East, cross the Stream and then enter the Bahamas at the Mantilla Shoals bound for Great Sail Cay, Spanish Cay and Green Turtle Cay. In reverse this route is my preferred course for leaving the Bahamas in May. However, it present considerable difficulty in January.

Further south at the Lake Worth Inlet (essentially West Palm and Palm Beach) many cruisers gather to cross on the so called northern route. Most travel from Lake Worth to Memory Rock on the edge of the Little Bahamas Bank to Great Sail Cay (about 110 n. miles away from Lake Worth) and then on the escalator to Green Turtle Cay and the Abacos. While very popular this route leaves one exposed to the vagaries of winter in the Southwest North Atlantic. Another option is a quick daytime trip to West End, Bahamas on the tip of Grand Bahama Island. This trip is only 55 n. miles. White Pepper chooses to go south to Port Lucaya which is 18 n. miles past Freeport for a total of 90 n. miles. This route is both up current and up wind. It is the path less frequently traveled.

The great problem with going to the Abacos from Lake Worth Inlet in January is that it is winter in the Bahamas. While the weather is often nice it is occasionally terrible. Great Sail Cay while fine in settled weather is no refuge in a storm.
Another rant is that the best time to actually sail across the Gulf Stream as opposed to motor is just before a cold front. If one is tucked into Port Lucaya, no problem. If tucked into West End when the front passes, you a just bored for a few day. If caught out in the Little Bahamas Bank in a northern, real problems can occur.

Moving on South Fort Lauderdale is a good spot to launch out to Bullock's Harbor on Great Harbor Cay in the Berries.

Further South, Miami is very close to Bimini and Gun Cay/ Cat Cay. This is the so called southern route. Of course, from these destinations one is committed to a long, maybe overnight sail across the Great Bahamas Bank to Nassau, New Providence Island and all those hassles.

White Pepper has actually traveled the southern most entry route which is from Marathon to Riding Rock Cay, across the Great Bahamas Bank, through the North West Channel and on to Chub Cay. This is a rarely used entry to the Bahamas.

This year White Pepper arrived at Lake Worth looking for a narrow window that had been predicted days earlier. The window was narrow indeed and predicted just ahead of a weak cold front. The front was so weak that there would be none of the usual clocking Southwest and West wind. The Southeast breeze would only weaken at night for a few hours.

Jan and I picked up the anchor at 10:30 pm and left the Lake Worth Inlet at 11 pm. 5-10 knots with 1-2 foot seas were predicted. What we got was 10-12 knots from the SSE with 2-3 foot seas. We could carry the reefed main which stabilized the boat. Actually sailing would have been a long sorry beat. However, with the new powerful 3JH5e Yanmar motor White Pepper powered along at 6+ knots all night long. There was a beautiful full moon with clear, dry skies. It was an easy trip.

We arrived at Port Lucaya at noon 13 hours later and were docked by 2 pm. At 3:30 pm the front arrived. The skies opened up; the wind howled. Jan and I were at the bar and raised a toast to those fellow cruisers still out on the Little Bahamas Bank headed for Great Sail Cay.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Motor Mounts

This post addressed some puzzles that go back as long as 20 years. It may also help some amateur mechanic as naive as I was.

Be sure and tighten up these motor mounts often.” said mechanic Al Blande as he was finishing up the 50 hour service on White Pepper's new Yanmar engine.

The motor mounts are huge 15/16 inch bolts mounted on shock absorbers. They were indeed loose after only 50 hours of use. I had never tightened the motor mounts on the old engine, a 3HM. I guess I thought that they tightened themselves magically. Actually I never gave the motor mounts a thought until they broke.

White Pepper had broken the motor mounts on two previous occasions. One time was about 20 years ago motoring up from Brownsville. Only one mount broke with little damage. Another time was about 12 years ago. Three of the mounts had broken at the same time. The motor fell into the bilge pan but kept turning. The aft part of the transmission was bent and there was considerable damage. I had carelessly assumed that the problems was electrolysis since electrolysis was the cause of almost all my problems at the “hot” pier at the Corpus Christi Marina. Now I was forced to consider that shock loading was the culprit. Maybe loose motor mounts had damaged the old motor and threatened the new engine.

I bought a large15/16 inch box wrench and tightened three of the four mounts. But I could not reach the forward port mount no matter how I twisted and stretched. The new motor just barely fit into the engine compartment. There was simply no room for 12 inch box wrench. I bought a 15/16 socket but could not find a driver that would fit into the space available.

Vero Beach friend Davido from s/v Utopia came to the rescue. Davido is a “tool” guy with a vast array of tools and wrenches from a lifetime of collecting these things. He brought over a “half moon” wrench, a 90 degree wrench with a short handle, and a 12 point box wrench with a 6 inch handle all in 15/16 size. By successively using each of these several times over he got the mount very tight.

Thanks, Davido! But now I will have to figure out how to do this myself.

Christmas at Vero

Christmas tree crafted by Jan from items found on the beach, Aphrodite guards her gifts

All families have their Christmas traditions. Ours has become taking up a mooring ball at Vero Beach Municipal Marina in Florida. Jan and I have spent 3 of the last 4 Christmases at Vero.

Vero Beach is easy to reach and hard to leave. With the good weather and free bus to great shopping Vero Beach is just so easy and convenient. After leaving chilly Green Cove Springs in northern Florida we schedule a lot of in-the-water chores for Vero Beach. This year those chores included setting up the sat phone, bringing the outboard motor back to life, doing final provisioning, and servicing the fishing rods at the local fishing shack. This year the outboard motor, a Yamaha 8 HP two stoke, was especially balky. Parts had to be ordered from California which took 5 days including Christmas. Jan painted the salon table with chalk paint. She also redid the bunk with new 3 inch memory foam.  It is like sleeping on a pillow now. A cabin light was replaced with a fan. Mechanic Al did the 50 hour service on the new Yanmar engine. He replaced the oil and adjusted the valves. The most challenging chore by far was tightening the forward port motor mount. It was in such a tight spot that the chore took 3 days and 3 trips for the hardware store. I have made a separate post about this difficult task.

We renewed many old acquaintances. We went out to lunch and dinner with out raft-up mates from last year—Davido and Sandra from s/v Utopia. We hooked up with Skip and Harriet. They are one of the many cruiser couples who have purchased homes in Vero Beach. This group has adopted a name--CLODs. This acronym stands for Cruiser's Living On Dirt. The CLODs meet for breakfast weekly and attend the Thursday evening happy hour at the marina. Skip even took me golfing at his club. Thanks, Skip!

All of this activity took place in the Christmas season. Gifts were purchased and received. The marina office was full of new packages every day. This year I had the foresight to purchase a gift of jewelry for Jan back in Beeville before we left in October. I hide it successfully and really surprised her. The surprise was particularly complete because I had bought her a nice light fishing rod as a decoy gift.

Christmas Eve dinner was celebrated with Corpus Christi friends, Bruce and Tammy, on their boat, Dos Libros. Also present were our mooring ball partners, Joe and Sherry fron  Narsilion and Ken, who was Bruce and Tammy's mooring ball partner. We toasted Ken and Connie from Oz. We had spent the previous two Vero Christmases with them. Christmas Day was celebrated with a traditional cruiser's pot luck dinner. It was very well done. A call from the daughter's completed a great day.