...Cay, that is. Deep in the Exuma island chain in the central Bahamas. And now for a very long, and much delayed update...
05 - 18 Jan 09
Marathon, Boot Key, FL
I came back to Marathon from Key West a bit early. Before Ron and Rich left anyway. Mostly because I was spending way too much money way too fast. Partly because I was a little worried about leaving Galena alone for so long. And partly because my old friends, Dennis and Bettye (s/v Son of a Sailor) were now at Marathon and leaving soon. Also because my friend Maria (a friend from the Chesapeake Bay area) said she might stop by for a quick visit.
So back I go. Ron drove me to the bus stop. Florida has a nice set of busses that run up and down the keys. For only $3 I rode from Key West to Marathon. Not bad at all. And there's a bus stop directly in front of the marina. How convenient is that?
I get to the marina and I'm on the dinghy dock. The dinghy dock at Marathon is huge. During the day it's quite full of boats. But at night I've come back to find mine lying there almost alone.
The main dinghy dock at Marathon.
The mooring field was full, so so was the dinghy dock.
As I said, I'm at my dinghy (which appeared unmolested). I'm going through my one bag and my computer case looking for the key to the lock on the dinghy. I don't lock the dinghy usually, but since it would be there at the dock for a week, day and night, I thought it would be prudent to lock it up. But now I couldn't find the key. Just two small bags and I can't find the key. I recalled when I locked the dinghy I looked at the key and thought, "I won't need this for a while; put it in a safe, out of the way place." But I couldn't find it. After about 20 minutes I gave up and called my friend Dennis. I asked if he had a set of bolt cutters. As soon as I hung up the phone I patted down the computer case and felt the bulge of the little foam floaty-thingie attached to the key. It was in a pocket that I didn't even remember existed in the computer case. I called Dennis back and canceled the bolt cutters. I motored back to Galena. she was just fine, and seemed to be happy to see me.
I cleaned her up a bit and went to Brodines for a beer. And then went to Docksides for another. There I bumped into Dennis and Bettye. I also met their friends Ron and Sonja. Ron and Sonja were friends with Nancy and Kirk of s/v Tybee Time, who I knew from my MySpace page. Tybee Time is a boat that Nancy and Kirk were doing significant rebuilding on. They were following my travels. Nancy had told Sonja to look for me 'out there' and here we were, meeting over a beer with mutual friends. How cool is that?
Dennis and Bettye at Dockside Bar, Marathon, FL
My friend, Maria, had some business in Miami and decided to drive down to say,'Hi.' She wanted to relax a bit. Do that whole 'lay on the beach' thing. We then drove down to Key West and partied a bit. She also wanted to go for a sail on Galena. All in two days. I don't think I'd call that relaxing. But that's what she wanted to do.
Me and Maria on the beach at Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys
In Key West we hit the usual haunts including Capt Tony's, Hogs Breath, Green Parrot. We ate at El Mason de Pepe, the great Cuban place Ron, Rich, and I found over New Years. By the time I drove her back to her hotel and got myself back to Galena it was about 0300. Long, long day.
The day we returned from our sail, we were heading over to Dockside for dinner when the engine on the dinghy quit. We were not far from Galen so I paddled us back. Rather than screw with it right away, I made us a simple dinner aboard and then tore the engine's carburetor apart. I cleaned the carb out and got the outboard running. I was able to get Maria back to her car before too late that evening.
And Maria at the Hogs breath Saloon
Maria left on the 11th after a sharing nice lunch at Dockside.
The outboard motor on the dinghy has given me more trouble than any single piece of equipment onboard Galena. Now I was determined to find the problems. One is that there is always crap in the gas. I'll find water in the fuel tank; the one that I leave lying in the dinghy. Or I'll find water in the float bowl of the carburetor on the outboard. Both of those are easily fixed. In one case I strain the fuel through a Baha filter to filter out the water. In the other I just open the drain on the float bowl and drain out the water. I keep a screwdriver inside the engine housing just for this problem.
But sometimes there's a lot of crud in the carburetor (that's a technical term, you know?). I've found the primary jet clogged with tan-colored deposits. I've found jelly-like crud in the bottom of the float bowl. This time was different. The problem was that the float valve wouldn't close. After the engine ran for a minute or so fuel would start pouring out of the carburetor. The fuel flow from the pump was not being closed off. So I took the thing completely apart. The disassembly that I had not done before was the driving out of the pivot pin for the floats, followed by the removal of the lift valve. Yep, more crud in there.
The outboard carburetor apart, upside down, on the nav station / workbench
I hooked up the fuel line to the carburetor housing's fuel inlet bib. I found that when I squeezed the priming bulb on the fuel line fuel would only sometimes squirt out of the float valve hole in the carb. Sometimes it would not. So I concluded there must be crud in the fuel galley passages that were cut in the casting between the fuel line bib and the float valve. Maybe I could just 'blow it out.' I took a mouthful of water and blew it into the fuel line bib. Same effect: sometimes it would stream through, sometimes not.
Me blowing water through the carburetor fuel passages
There was obviously some blockage in there. The question was how do I get it out? It was too small to go through the float valve hole; since it didn't. Whatever is in there would have to come back out through the fuel line bib end of the galley. The only thing I could think of was to push water in, then pull it back out. With a bit of hesitancy I blew some water in, and then... sucked it back out. Yuck! I spit it into a glass. Sure enough, there was some stuff in the water that was not from me. And I could feel some grit in my mouth, too. Again, yuck! So a few cycles of blow and suck with mouths full of water and the line was clear.
I reassembled it all and have not had any problems since. I assume I'll still have problems with water in the tank. But like I said, that is easy to resolve. I really want to put in a water separator between the fuel tank and the engine. I've seen a filter assembly at NAPA that will work. I just have not gotten around to it yet.
It's always something on a boat.
On 13 January forecasts showed a weather window was opening up for the following Sunday. Windfinder.com and Chris Parker and even NOAA were forecasting west winds at 15-kts. Not too bad for a run northwest onto the banks then southwest to Nassau. The problem is that the forecasts all called for high winds and seas from the North by Tuesday night. That made for a very narrow window to cross that much water. If the cold front with the nigh winds behind it moved faster than projected one would be caught out in the Gulf Stream with high north winds. I've been there and done that and I really, really, don't want to do that again. The narrow window was keeping many cruisers in port. I think I can take the high winds since they will be mostly northwest and therefore behind me. I know Galena can take it. And I plan to be on the banks before they start up. Shouldn't be much more than 3-ft seas on the banks since it's only 12-ft deep.
But that forecast window is a week away. Everything can change by then, and it usually does. So I won't get my hopes of leaving here up to high just yet.
I dinghied over to say hello to my neighbors Josh and his wife aboard m/v Ophelia. They are from Montreal and we had a very long and pleasant visit.
I made three water runs in the dink (the engine is running just fine today) and filled Galena's water tanks. I took a brisk walk to K-Mart and the Home Depot. I bought a new backpack and a big Rubbermaid tub to use as a wash basin. I have not done laundry since... Charleston, I thnk. It's stacking up and I'm running out of shorts.
I went over to my other neighbor in the Marathon mooring field, s/v Moonraker with Kevin and Roxanne aboard. The visit started off fine and then I made some stupid comment and pissed off Roxanne. She went below and Kevin and I stayed in the cockpit and talked of all things boating. Then we went below and had a bit to eat while Roxanne went on deck. Apologies on apologies but she was still pissed. They are planning to run around the Gulf Coast for the winter. Maybe next year they will head east to the Bahamas.
I bumped into Kevin on shore a couple days later and again offered my apologies to Roxanne. He said don't worry about it. But I was. I liked them and felt bad about misjudging how they would take some of my 'humor.' Roxanne sent me an e-mail a few days later and said apology accepted. She also made some nice comments about my web page. So I feel better now.
On the 14th I listened to Chris Parker's weather forecast (4045mHz @ 0630hrs) for the first time this season. His broadcast didn't come in clearly until about 0650hrs. By that time he was doing the individual weather routing for 'sponsoring vessels.' Fortunately, as is usually the case, one of the boats in Marathon was a sponsoring vessel and asked about crossing the Gulf Stream on Sunday. Chris said it was a great window, but that they should only go as far as Bimini and wait there for the high northerly winds to pass.
As the week progressed he modified that to say it was just a 'good' window if you like a good, brisk sail. If you like things quieter, wait for the next window. No next window was foreseeable, however.
I did laundry in my new wash tub. Since I had fresh water available I used it. It took only a couple of hours to stomp my way through 14 T-shirts, 3 Hawaiian shirts, and 7 pairs of shorts. Just like I had seen the hooch-maids in Thailand doing laundry, I was standing in the cockpit, stomping on clothes in a plastic wash tub. Easy work, just time consuming. Everything took turns hanging on the lifelines giving Galena that lived-in look. Now I have enough clean clothes for the next month or so.
On the 15th a 'final' grocery run. I've always had trouble getting a loaf of bread home without crushing it. Last time, When I bought the wash tub, I almost made it. I even had the bread on board in the cockpit uncrushed. I was proud! Then I looked and saw that I had laid a clamp on the bag with the bread. Yep, crushed it. Damn!
But this time I actually got a loaf of bread down below and put away in perfect shape. For the first time all winter! These little victories bring a lot of joy to my life. See, if I weren't so inept I'd not have these moments of joy as I overcome my limitations!
I've just noticed that the new flatware I had purchased at the Navy exchange in Annapolis is starting to show rust spots. So much for inexpensive stainless steel. A little polishing cleans the rust spots off but I shouldn't have to do this.
I also found that the less expensive peanut butter (Publix brand in this case) doesn't stay mixed-up well. Within a couple of days the oil is floating on top while the bottom gunk has turned to a dry spackle-like substance. Also the peanut chunks migrate to the top. I had not seen that in the brand name products like Jiffy. Again, no big deal (I just spend a few minutes mixing the stuff up. But it's one more little thing that I wouldn't have expected
Also on the 15th I saw the Sunday weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream collapsing. The northwest winds, which were to follow the window on Tuesday were now forecast for Monday. So I'd only have a single day before the sailing would become... shall we say: interesting. And those winds on Monday were projected to be even stronger than before. But still, I thought, Galena is not a small craft; she's an ocean-going cruiser. And if I can't handle 20+ knots abaft the beam I shouldn't be out here calling myself a cruiser. Right? Damn Right! I still planned to leave Sunday afternoon as soon as the wind clocked around to the south.
On the morning of Sunday, the 18th of January the wind was light but still out of the SE. I messed around all morning worrying about the wind. Wondering if I should go or stay. Thinking that I really, really didn't want to stay in Marathon another week. And knowing if I didn't take this opportunity to go, I'd be here at least another week. The indecision made my stomach hurt.
By noon on Sunday the winds were begining to clock around to the south at about 10kts. I decided to go for it. It takes about an hour to get Galena ready for sea. Everything from removing sail covers to rigging jacklines; attaching the auto pilots to stowage of equipment below. The dinghy outboard has to be raised and secured on it's chocks at Galena's stern and the dinghy itself has to be secured on deck.
I departed Marathon, finally, at 1515hrs on Sunday the 18th of January after 26 days on a mooring ball. In departing I have to say I don't see what all the rage is about the place. Sure, it's inexpensive; for the Florida Keys. But there is nothing there. Unless you have a car you're stuck in what is essentially a trailer court. I just don't see the attraction. So I was happy to leave and be on my way. As I said before, I don't really feel like I'm cruising until I leave the States. And today, I will do just that.
18 - 20 Jan 09
Marathon, FL to Nassau, Bahamas
I don't have any pictures of this little jaunt. Sorry. Everything of interest happened at night. And while I did try to take a couple of shots, nothing came out.
The synopsis of the trip is pretty simple. I had to motor most of the way across the Gulf Stream since the wind was very light. But the seas were pretty calm, too. Until just before I got to the Bahama Banks, that is. Then everything started picking up. The seas were 6 to 8 feet and the wind was on my port quarter, but still too light to just sail. I'm not sure where those seas were coming from.
Once on the banks I secured the engine and sailed all day and all night. The Tongue of the Ocean (the last section of the trip before Nassau) was rough as expected with seas over 6-ft. The promised winds from the northwest finally filled in late on 19 Jan and carried me rapidly into Nassau. With just a double-reefed main Galena was galloping along making over 6-kts.
If you don't care about the details skip down a bit.
Galena's track from Marathon, FL, to Nassau, Bahamas.
240 miles in 40 hrs
18 Jan 09 1515 hrs
The wind was SW at 10 as I motored out of the Marathon/Boot Key area. Of course I'm trying to go to the Southwest so I'm pounding into a 2-ft chop all the way to the outside of the reef which was about 7 miles. Once I'm outside the reef I turned to the east and had more favorable winds and seas. Still, I couldn't really sail since I was pointed too close to the wind (starboard tack). And the wind chop was up to 3-ft out here.
18 Jan 09 1700 hrs
My heading was 090°, wind 150° @ 13-kts, Speed Over Ground 6.0-kts I was feeling just a little sea sick. First time in a long time. Not nauseous just the lathargic, tired, "I-don't-want-to-do-anything" feeling that is usually the first signs of seasickness. It will probably go away soon.
18 Jan 09 1730 hrs
Wind was decreasing so I shook the reef out of the main. Now running with all up: Full Main, Staysail, Yankee Jib. I had a nice hot bowl of chilli for dinner.
18 Jan 09 1745 hrs
Wind has significantly decreased. Now down to 3.5-kts (apparent) from 150°. SOG less than 3-kts. So Engine On again.
18 Jan 09 1813 hrs
Wind picks up a bit so engine off. I see rain clouds to the south of me and it's getting dark. A cautious sailor would reduced sail while there is still some light to see what he was doing. I drop the jib as I see what looks like serious wind on the water to my starboard side.
18 Jan 09 19100 hrs
I'm going too slow. Up with the jib and to hell with caution! It's starting to get a bit warmer outside. It's up to 71° now. SOG: 5.5-kts HDG: 070°.
18 Jan 09 2200 hrs
Wind is down to less than 5-kts and SOG is less than 3. So engine back on. That brings my speed up to 7.0 kts. I'm seeing a lot of cruise ship traffic. Nothing I have to change course for, but it's all around me. And I'm already tired and sleepy. But the touch of seasickness has left me. So that's a good thing.
19 Jan 09 0700 hrs
Winds were SW at 10-kts. 4-6 ft seas. Very 'lumpy' conditions. I'm still motorsailing and plan on turning more to the north once I cross onto the Banks below South Riding Rock.
19 Jan 09 0950 hrs
On the Great Bahama Bank. I've turned a bit north (left) of my course toward Russell light to get better speed. The seas went from 6-ft in the ocean, to 2-ft on the banks. Big difference. The engine is off and I'm having a nice, sunny, warm, quiet sail.
Harvey (my Aries Wind Vane) is sometimes a pain the ass to get properly adjusted. First you have to get his wind paddle properly oriented into the wind. Then you have to find the proper notch on the chain into which to slip the tiller hook. That's a function of weather helm. And you have to have the ship as balanced as possible before you do all this. Then you watch for a while and see what he does. A wind vane auto stearing system doesn't follow a course; it follows the wind. Every little gust or swirl will cause a change of course by a few degrees. Sometimes by a lot of degrees. So you get everything set 'right' and watch for a while. If the ship is suddenly 20° off course, you may have to adjust some things. I usually adjust too many things at once and then I'll be 20° off course on the other side! Eventually I can get everything just right. Then Harvey will guide Galena along without any input from me.
19 Jan 09 1415 hrs
Wind is diminishing. It was supposed to hit 30-kts about now and instead it's 4-kts (apparent). The temperature has stayed 71° since I hit the Gulf Stream last night. The skis are clear and the sun is warm.
19 Jan 09 1500 hrs
Wind is now 4-6 kts (ap) at 240°. Seas are 1 to 2 feet with just a few white caps. SOG: 4.4 kts with just a slight rolling motion. I spent the better part of a week worrying about this crossing and so far it's been very mild.
19 Jan 09 1530 hrs
The sun is hiding behind some high clouds so it's time to get dressed. At least I got a little bit of sun on my butt. T-shirt and shorts is all I need right now.
This will be night #2. A first for me single-handing. I've never stayed out on a leg alone for more than one night. But I've had some naps and will take some more tonight. I should be fine.
19 Jan 09 1700 hrs
I've been sailing without incident or comment for eight hours now. Nice and relaxing. I've been napping and eating and reading. Just a very nice day on the banks. I've also been trying to decide where I'm headed. My plan was to turn south at Northwest Channel Light and make for Morgan's Bluff on north Andros Island. But the wind has stayed out of the south all day and is supposed to build overnight. That would make heading south difficult. Also, I'd arrive in the dead of night at a port I've never been to. And there would be no place to hide and wait for daylight.
In light of the timing and the winds I've decided to go directly to Nassau. If I slow down a bit I will make Nassau just after dawn. "Slow Down" is a funny problem on a Westsail. We're known for sort of automatically slowing down on our own.
I've just had a spot of heavy rain followed by wind... lots of it! For the first time in a long time I'm out on a pitching deck dropping the staysail and tucking a reef into the main while Galena dances under way too much sail. Loads of fun!
I've moved the GPS/Radar instruments below to the nav station. I've run control lines from the Aries wind vane into the cabin. I can stay below now and just poke my head up for visual checks every 15-minutes or so.
19 Jan 09 1745 hrs
Wind is 240° at 15-20 kts with SOG 6-kts. Galena is moving well under just a double-reefed main.
19 Jan 09 1820 hrs
It's getting dark and the wind is down just a bit. Fewer white caps out there and waves are about 3-ft. SOG: 5.5 to 6.0 kts. I'm approaching Northwest Channel Light. Radar shows the light and a couple of cargo vessels coming through the channel. I've been through here several times, but never before at night. A few years ago I talked with a cruiser who was hit by a 'mail boat' right here. He had some excuse about the lights on the boat not being right. But none the less, he and it collided. So I'm being very careful.
Galena is really rocking and rolling in the wind and waves. And I'm still on the Banks! I fear it will be much worse once through the NW Channel and out into the Tongue of the Ocean. The water depth goes from 14-ft on the Banks to several thousand feet in just a mile or so. Should be interesting.
19 Jan 09 1840 hrs
Rain again. Hard rain. Harvey is steering us just fine. I'm sitting below in the cabin, drinking coffee, watching screens of what's happening outside. This is just wrong but very comfy. Every few minutes I stick my head out and, nope nothing there but wind and rain.
19 Jan 09 1900 hrs
Band after band of heavy rain pass over me. waves are over 4-ft. Every now and then one does that hard "Slap!" against Galena's bow. Causes the whole boat to shake!.
19 Jan 09 2100 hrs
Passing NorthWest Channel Light. A freighter calls me and asks me to stand well clear. Duh! I see him and will stay a half mile away. We'll both be passing the light at the same time and the deep water channel there is not all that wide. Then he calls back and tells me that he will be turning to 240° after passing the light. I tell him I'll stay well north of the light and pass him starboard-to-starboard to give him room to turn south. He agrees. We pass and he looks very very close. Radar indicates that he is about half a mile away. But he sure looks close.
20 Jan 09 0100 hrs
Waves are well over 6-ft and the wind is WSW at 15-20kts. Quite a ride under only a double-reefed main. The wind is actually down a bit. But every few minutes you get that set of 3 waves that simply rock my little world and send everything crashing about; including me. I must be one big bruise by now.
20 Jan 09 0300 hrs
Wind is decreasing but I'm still making 5+ kts. My ETA is well before dawn. I might go in in the dark, but I'd rather do it in the daylight.
20 Jan 09 0600 hrs
I'm heading into Nassau harbor just as dawn is breaking. It's too early to get into a marina so I just motor over to the anchorage at the east end of the harbor and drop the hook.
The long voyage is over and I'm safe in harbor in Nassau, Bahamas. I'm very tired but otherwise just very happy to be here. I have to remember to put things away a little better before I do a trip like this again. Down below there's stuff tossed all over the place. My nav station had way too much stuff laying on it when I started. Charts, pencils, rules, guides, things like that. Now that's all on the cabin floor.
But overall a very nice passage. Now I need sleep.
18 - 20 Jan 09
Nassau Harbor Club Marina, Nassau, Bahamas
(N 25° 04.482' W 077° 18.750')
Trip: 240nm, Total: 1464, Engine: 2096
Every time I've come to Nassau I've stayed for a least a little while at Nassau Yacht Haven Marina. The customs people require you to be at a marina to do the paperwork. I guess this is so they can board the boat if they want to. But they never have.
Anyway, last year there was no room at any marina so I just anchored out in the channel for the night. The next day I went into the marina and did the clearing-in thing. But the customs agent got all huffy with me saying I was breaking their laws by not clearing in on the day I arrived at Nassau. Really gave me grief for anchoring out the previous night even though I didn't leave the boat.
This year I was about to do the same thing (although I was planning on lying about my arrival date just to not get yelled at). As I was anchoring in the area in front of Nassau Harbor Club Marina I hear someone shout, "Hey Bill!" I look and there, in that marina is Dennis and Bettye aboard s/v Son of a Sailor. In case you're not following my whole life's journal, I'd met them in 2004 on my first trip to the Bahamas and then bumped into them at least once a year since. I had had lunch with them at Marathon a few days ago before they went across to cruise the Berry's, north of Nassau. And here they were again.
I dinghied over to Nassau Harbor Club marina since they wouldn't answer the radio (who knew they monitored Ch 12?). Yes, they have room for Galena. And it's only $0.75/ft/day plus $10 water plus metered electricity. That's a bit less than Nassau Yacht Haven (last year they charged me $2/ft/day). So I dinghied back to Galena, raise anchor and motored into the marina. Clark and his buddy helped me come in without incident. Within a half hour immigrations was there to clear in a couple of us cruisers and an hour later the customs agent showed up to do all the paperwork. So many forms! So many places where they have to stamp their little stamps. Fee was the same as usual, $150 for Galena for a 120-day cruising permit. It's $300 if your boat is over 35-ft long. The immigration guy was in a good mood and gave me a 120-day visa, too. So I'm all set.
My slip-mate was a Canadian boat named Brandaris with Walter and Brenda. They were waiting for friends and then would be running down to George Town, Exuma, like everyone else.
This marina is directly across the street from the main market. I went to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. It was rush hour. The main drag is right outside the door to the marina office.
Rush Hour traffic just east of downtown
That evening I was over at Son of A Sailor for drinks. I met Bill and Millie of s/v Against the Wind. He's a retired lawyer, something Dennis and I give him grief over constantly.
The next day (21 Jan) was spent messing around with Galena. I took a walk down the street looking for cruising guides for points south of George Town. I could/should get a new chart book for the far Bahamas. Maybe I'll do that in George Town. The one I have is many years old. And I need charts for anywhere I go south of the Bahamas. Maybe I'll just bit the bullet and order a set of charts from Bellingham Printing. They sell black-and-white prints of standard charts at considerable savings. Still, I checked the cost of all the charts I'd need to get to Australia and it would be over $500. I'll have to be sure of my plans before I spend that much money.
My fuel status was: 24/33/20 (Stbd/Port/Deck) for a total of 77-gallons. I had used 10 gallons motoring across the Gulf Stream. I put 10-gallons of the deck jugs into the starboard tank and bought 10 gal from the marina at $3.18/gal. Now Galena is just about topped-off with 87-gal. That should last quite a while. I need to do an oil change soon, too.
On the evening of the 21st we all went down town. "All" means Bettye, Bill, Millie, and me. Dennis stayed home. We walked through the shopping center to Shirley Street and waited for a bus. Bill kept asking, 'Are you sure this is a bus stop?' I pointed out the other people standing around.
Shirley Street is more the 'norm' for Nassau neighborhoods
We took the bus to downtown. That's where the cruise ships land and the thousands of tourists disembark. They walk around the several blocks in that area and think they've seen Nassau. Well, yes, they have. But the certainly have not seen New Providence island. Nassau is just the capital city. There's a lot more to the island than the few blocks around the cruise ship port.
We walked around a bit. Bettye had never seen this part of Nassau. She and Dennis had only stayed down near the yacht marinas. Again, only seeing one small part of the island. A few years ago the guard at Nassau Yacht Haven gave me a tour of the island. We went to the Bat Cave, to the south shore, to just about everywhere. Bettye and Dennis and probably most other visitors have not seen any of that.
The ladies went to the straw market while Bill and I went to Senior Frog's.
The straw market is under the plastic on the left, Senior Frog's is straight ahead.
We were shocked when we found that a beer was $6.50! Talk about taking advantage of tourists!
Me, Bettye, Bill, and Millie at Senior Frog's, Nassau.
When the ladies were finished shopping we headed over to a small bar on a back street named The Bahamian Kitchen. We drank and ate and have a very nice time. Then we caught a cab back to the marina. And went to Son of a Sailor to finish off the evening.
22 Jan 09
Norman's Cay, Bahamas
West shore (N 24° 36.157' W 076° 49.228')
Trip: 43nm, Total: 1507nm, Eng:2103hrs
Departed Nassau Harbor Club Marina at about 0730. Dennis helped me cast off. The current was on my stern as I backed out of the slip. But I forgot about it and didn't back up enough before going forward and trying to turn to starboard and out toward the harbor. As a result I very nearly got pinned against the boats in the slips to my right. I hit forward thrust and saw the bow start to come around. Then I noticed that I was heading back into the slip instead of around to starboard. That's when I saw the problem and just about panicked. I tried the pivot-turn routine but the current was sending me back toward my slip too fast. I gave her full throttle and full starboard rudder. I missed the sterns of the boats in the slips by about 6 ft. Way too close. But I made it.
As I headed out into the harbor I raised all sails. But there was just about zero apparent wind. I ended up motor sailing almost all the way to Norman's Cay. Just the last couple of hours turned out to be a good sail. s/v Son of a Sailor almost caught up with me but not quite. Dennis suggested we anchor on the west side of the island. A place I've never tried. There's no current and less wind there. Much better than inside of the cut where I've always anchored (and some times run aground) before. As it turned out the west side was a very good place to anchor.
Galena's track from Nassau to Norman's Cay. About 43 nm.
Dinner on Son of a Sailor then home for a quiet evening alone.
The next day I went to MacDuff's (which is now called Norman's Cay Beach Club) with Bill and Millie (s/v Against the Wind). Again, $6 beers. What's with this? I wonder what the price will be at Chat n Chill in George Town. Two years ago the price there was $3. Last year it was $3.50. This year??? So a burger and a few beers cost me $40. I can't do this but every couple of days and stay on budget!
We walked around and climbed the hill to the old house up there. This was supposedly Carlos Lehder's place. But it seems way too small for a drug lord's lair.
For those who don't know the story of Norman's Cay and it's part in the drug trade of the late 1970's here's an extract from a previous blog:
Norman's island is famous (infamous?) for having once been the home of Carlos Lehder, co-founder of the Mendellin drug cartel. Lehder lived on the island in the late 70's and used the island's airstrip to run cocaine shipments between Columbia and the States. This brief history is taken from Bahama Pundit:
The facts are that from 1978 to 1982 Lehder operated one of the world's biggest cocaine rings from Norman's Cay in the Exumas. One of Lehder's associates, interviewed in the 1990s on the PBS news magazine Frontline, put it this way:
"He operated on the island from the beginning because he had the blessing of the Bahamian government. They were funneling tons of money...The Bahamian government gave Carlos a promise. We will advise you. You will get a wink from us, a signal, when things are getting too hot and you need to move out of there."
Well, things did eventually get hot - for the Bahamian government as much as for Lehder. And those activities forever tarnished the reputation of Sir Lynden Pindling, severely damaged our national psyche and almost brought down the entire government in disgrace.
Heavy pressure from the US led to the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry in November 1983. And the following year its 500-page report published the unpleasant details of widespread official corruption and described the enormous social problems the drug trade had spawned.
The son of a German father and a Colombian mother, Lehder started out as a small-time car thief and pot dealer. But his notoriety as one of the founders of the Mendellin Cartel, and his eventual megalomania, made him a legendary and feared figure much like Blackbeard - an earlier international rogue who once had free rein in the Bahamas.
At the time of his arrest in 1987 Lehder, then 37, was reported to be worth more than $2 billion. Throughout the early 1980s his airstrip at Norman's Cay was receiving cocaine flights from Colombia on a daily if not hourly basis, transferring the loads to smaller planes for distribution throughout the US.
To begin with he bought as much property on the island as he could and then chased off the remaining residents. Armed guards patrolled day and night and former Member of Parliament Norman Solomon was once threatened at gunpoint on the beach.
Lehder's social activities were also legendary: "Orgies," his one-time associate told Frontline. "Five males, 10 females and everybody runs naked and everybody switch partners and everybody drinks and smokes marijuana, and alcohol, and three days of Sodom and Gomorrah."
And he was also a Nazi, dressing in military fatigues and comparing himself to Hitler. According to Tamara Inscoe-Johnson, who has written a book on Lehder: "He spent untold hours plotting a political career, aiming at the Colombian presidency. As his goals expanded, so did his fascination with Nazism; after all, Hitler’s goal was to take over the world, and it was the same with Lehder."
Before Lehder, Norman's Cay was a popular anchorage for visiting yachts. It was developed in the early 1970s as a small residential community with a clubhouse and marina. But in 1978 a Bahamian company called International Dutch Resources began buying up land there. IDR was set up for Lehder by a regular trust company in Nassau, which conveniently managed his working capital.
According to the New York Times, Lehder was responsible for 80 per cent of the Colombian cocaine reaching the United States, mostly through the Bahamas. And the interest in his current whereabouts is ironic in view of the recent renaming of Nassau international Airport after Sir Lynden Pindling, "the father of the nation".
Lehder's Bahamian empire collapsed in mid-1983, when NBC television broke the news that Bahamian officials were on the payroll of Colombian drug lords. At first the story generated howls of protest (and some lawsuits) from top Bahamian officials, including the prime minister.
But soon afterwards, they began singing a different tune. In 1985, after the Commission report was published, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Hanna called on Sir Lynden to resign and opposition Free National Movement leader Kendal Isaacs condemned the 'nation for sale' scandal as the worst in modern Bahamian history.
Again, a quiet night on Galena and in bed by 2000hrs.
24-26 Jan 09, Saturday-Monday
Hawksbill Cay, Bahamas
(N 24° 27.971' W 076° 46.196')
Trip: 13nm, Total: 1519nm, Eng 2103hrs.
Up at 0630 to listen to the weather reports. Everyone agrees that the winds will be NE clocking to East and then SE by the end of the week. Wind speeds will be 10-15 with a bit more by Friday. The temperature has been quite cool and we're all looking forward to the winds clocking around to the south. That should bring an end to this cold weather and get us back to T-shirts and shorts. Now, by cold I'm talking low-60's. It's supposed to be in the mid-80's here now. How and I supposed to work on my tan with this kind of weather?
Still, it's warm enough and sunny enough to sail the way I like .
Me on the early morning sail between Normans and Hawksbill Cay, Bahamas, and working on my tan
I sailed off the hook at Normans without a problem. I love doing that! Just showing off, of course. Most cruisers can't do it; or don't feel a need to try. I like to move from island to island without the use of the engine at all. I usually shorten-up the anchor rode and then raise the mainsail with the main sheet free. Then I'm back at the windlass to break the anchor free and bring it up. Then, if I have time as Galena starts to swing away in the wind, I'll haul up the stays'l. At that point I stroll back to the cockpit and just sail away. Very cool. And quiet. And I usually get some thumbs-up from other sailors. Of course, if things somehow start to go wrong, those same sailors start putting out fenders and cursing me!
I sailed all the way to Hawksbill and into the anchorage without starting the engine. Just enough wind from just the right direction. That doesn't happen often so I was really enjoying it. Once I turned east after passing the rocks just off the west side of Hawksbill Cay I was pinching pretty tightly on a port tack. That was OK since I was approaching the anchorage. I have a habit of dropping the staysail way too soon. And I did it again today. I'm heading into the anchorage at 3-kts or so and that starts to feel fast to me as I get near other boats. I drop the staysail and my speed drops to 1.5 kts. Just barely steerage speed. A few minutes of that and I start to think about putting the staysail back up. I headed up and dropped the hook. There were three other sailboats here but no one was aboard to see my wonderful display of sailing prowess.
Since this is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park they have installed mooring balls along the beach here. That means if you don't want to pay the fee for a mooring (I think it was $15 last year) they you have to anchor a hundre yards further from the beach than before. Not a real problem.
Galena at anchor outside of the mooring balls and my trusty dink on the beach
Hawksbill Cay, Bahamas
s/v Son of a Sailor arrived about noon from Shoud Cay where they had been the previous night. They were followed shortly by s/v Against the Wind. I invited them all over for drinks. Galena is rather small and getting four other people into her cockpit is a tight fit. I need more seat cushions, too.
Sundowners on Galena with Bettye, Millie, Dennis, Bill
Anchored off Hawksbill Cay, Bahamas
Then we all went below to play some dominos. Bettye and Dennis had never played and Bill and Millie had not played in a long time. Mexican Train is the game of cruisers. In a short time we were all pros. Five people down below is a crowd. Before everyone sat down, they were trying to mill about and tour Galena's 125 square foot interior. Actually kind of funny. But once everyone was seated it was fine. We talked and played and had a nice evening.
Bill, Millie, Bettye, and Dennis playing dominos on Galena
Hawksbill Cay, Bahamas
Again, I was in bed by 2000 hrs. Days in the sun really tack it out of me. I plan on staying here for a couple of days and doing some snorkeling at the rocks. This is part of the Exuma Park system and there's no taking of anything here; not even shells from the beach. But you can look all you want. I also plan on laying on the beach and reading and working on that tan. I just need some sunny weather.
s/v Son of a Sailor and, behind her, s/v Against the Wind anchored next to Galena at Hawksbill Cay, Bahamas
The weather forecasts on the 26th indicated no change until next Friday which will bring a cold front with clocking and increasing winds. That might be a good day to make a run to George Town. I'll head down to Staniel Cay today or tomorrow (Tuesday?). A day or two there and then to Farmers Cay or Galliot Cut (Thursday?) and then on to George Town (Friday?).
27 Jan 09, Tuesday
Staniel Cay, Bahamas
(Actually NW of Big Major Spot: N 24° 11.359' W 076° 27.497')
Trip: 40.7nm, Total: 1560nm, Eng: 2103 hrs
I decided to come up to Staniel cay yesterday. Mostly for the WiFi that's available here, and partly for the cold beer. And because I can snuggle up close to the northwest end of this island (Big Major) and be protected by Fowl Cay from the coming northwest wind that's expected to be around 25kts as the cold front comes through here on Saturday morning.
The trip up here was terrible by most standards. 3-4 ft waves and 18kt winds. Just about on the nose. You can see from the track below that I had to do that annoying saw-tooth tacking. The kind where one tack takes you backwards instead of forwards. I hate that!
But I again managed to sail off the anchor at Hawksbill Cay and almost all the way to the anchor here. But I dropped sails and started the engine for the last few hundred yards into the anchorage. There were just too many boats around for me to sail in. I'm good; but I'm not stupid.
Several times I thought I could just start the engine and motor sail directly to Staniel. I was passed by several sailboats doing just that. And I thought ill of them for not toughing it out like me. Or for not being as silly as I. Cay, that is. Deep in the Bahamas' Exuma chain. Now for a very large update....
Galena pounding to Windward enroute to Staniel Cay
With Galena pounding her bow into the waves all day long, whatever deck leaks I have on the starboard side really opened up and there was considerable water dripping into the pilot berth area. I'll have to dry that side of the cabin out when I settle down here.
The Thunderball Club is open again. This will be the first time that's it's been open when I was here. For the youngsters out there, there was a James Bond movie named Thunderball. Filmed in the late '60's. And much of it was filmed right here at Staniel Cay. Anyway, the main bar/restaurant has been closed for many years. Now it's under new management and I'll be having dinner there tonight. I will probably stay here for Superbowl Sunday and spend it at the Thunderball Club, too.
Then it will be on to Black Point and Farmer's Cay. Friday a week from now is the First Friday of February. As such, there will be the annual First Friday in February Farmer's Cay Festival. I've never been in the area for that, either. But I'm here this year so I'll hang around for it. Then on to Georgetown.