I've made it to George Town, Exumas. Here I'll stay for a few weeks and enjoy the company of other cruisers while I decide where I'll go next.
28 Jan 09
Staniel Cay, Bahamas
Galena's track to Staniel Cay
Early in the afternoon I was called by Dennis and Bettye (s/v Son of a Sailor) on the VHF. They were at Club Thunderball having lunch. They asked that I join them. Never being one to pass up a beer I got dressed and hopped into my trusty dinghy. From where Galena was anchored to Club Thunderball is 1.8 nm. That makes for a very long dinghy ride. With just me on board, my little 5-hp Tahatsu outboard motor can get up on plane and run at about 14-kts. That's at full throttle which burns a lot of fuel. Or I can leave her in 'displacement-mode' and run at 5-kts and burn less fuel. I don't have fuel consumption information so I don't know if the trade-off in time is cost-effective. i.e.: I'll get there 3-times faster, will I burn less than 3-times the fuel over a given distance? Anyway, 7-minutes vs 21-minutes of bouncing around in a dink caused me to make the run at full throttle.
The layout of the area around Staniel Cay and Big Major Spot
I almost made it. Then the engine lost power and then died. I was just west of the grotto. The current was strong, inbound. I tossed out my anchor and started messing with the engine. As soon as I took the cover off I could see that there was fuel coming out of the carburetor. I've seen that before. Usually it means the floats were stuck and unable to close the valve. That lets the fuel pump push fuel directly into the engine and floods it. Sometimes there's a bit of dirt in the float valve. Sometimes there's nothing but… well stuck floats.
A guy comes by in a small runabout and asks if I need help. I say, "Sure. Could you tow me over to Club Thunderball?" It's a still a long way, maybe 1/3 mile. But he agrees. As I'm arriving, Bettye comes down to take a picture.
We had a good lunch and made plans to come back to Club Thunderball for the big Superbowl Sunday event they were planning. Dennis towed my dink back to Galena and we called it a night.
The next day, 29 Jan, I started the outboard and it ran fine.
The bilge pump is coming on every few hours. I know what it is but I don't want to fix it. Procrastination is my middle name. The stuffing box is in need of tightening. Or worse, repacking. But I finally got out the flashlight and looked at the stuffing box to see how fast water was dripping from it. It should be a drop or so a minute, max. And that should stop after you've been sitting for a while. I was shocked to see water just running in. Not drops but a veritable stream of water. No wonder the bilge pump was kicking on so often. This had to be addressed immediately. So I put it off until after lunch.
I've described before how hard it is to get at the stuffing box. It can be seen from the front of the engine. But it can only be reached from the back of the engine. I have to lay on my battery boxes while feeling my way down the shaft to the nuts on the box. I have a special wrench that seems to never be adjusted to the proper size even though I lock it in place and never use it for anything else. And the lock nut is always very hard to break free.
This time tightening the packing was just as difficult as last time. After 20-minutes of effort I finally loosened the lock nut and started tightening the packing nut. Last time I did this was about a year ago. I was at Nassau as I recall. I only had to turn the packing nut 1/8 of a turn for the dripping to stop. This time I turned it 1/3 of a turn and the thing was still dripping about once every 5-seconds. Still way too much water coming in but much better than it was. I don't have enough packing material to repack it right now. I'll have to wait until I get to George Town, Great Exuma, where I may be able to get enough of the 1/4" flax packing material that I need. Or at least be able to order it.
S/v Star Shot arrived today. George and Penny sailed with me north from Eleuthera through the Abacos last year. After a quick chat while they were anchoring, they invited me over for sundowners. There I met Frank and Lisa of s/v Sweet Sensation. It was nice catching up with George and Penny. They have been in contact with mutual friends such as s/v Seabbatical. And of course we played 'whatever-happened-to' games into the early evening.
Then I went over to s/v Son of a Sailor for a chat. We decided to have movie night. I went back to Galena to refill my sippy-cup and get my collection of movies. Bettye decided on 'Bucket List.' Dennis made popcorn. We had a nice evening.
On 30 Jan Dennis came by and told me that the internet at Staniel Cay Yacht Club was free today since it was unavailable yesterday. So I packed up my computer and headed over there. Dennis followed me in his dink just to make sure I made it OK. The outboard ran fine at 3/4 throttle (just enough to keep me on plane) all the way. Until I slowed down approaching the dinghy dock. Then it started flooding. I could smell it. But I made it ok.
As I was getting on line I saw a familiar face. I recognized Chris from last year, same time, same place. Last year he and his wife, Kimberly, were at the bar and listened while I waxed poetic about the joys of cruising. He remembered me, too. Kimberly had not yet arrived and Chris was going to do some fishing later in the day. He joined us (Dennis, Bettye, and me) for a few beers while Dennis and I published our blog.
This may be WiFi. But it's very slow WiFi. There's a little blurb when you log in. It says, "How to use our slow internet connection: 1. Click on screen; 2. Take a drink of beer; 3. Repeat until the computer seems blindingly fast."
Eventually I got my blog published. But some of the pictures were incomplete and would not overwrite when I tried to re-upload them. Something I'll have to remember to fix when I do my next update.
I also had 62 e-mails! Most were junk but a few required immediate answers. It was nice to be back in touch with friends. And my friends on Facebook were especially nice to hear from.
There are 30 boats here on the northwest side of Big Major Spot, just north of Staniel Cay. Except for a couple brave souls to the south, we are all jammed up tight into the northwest corner, just south of Fowl Cay. When I say "jammed" I mean we're close enough that no one has any room to drag. Not close as in "George Town Close." But closer than I would normally like back on the Chesapeake.
Here's a shot of how we're all laid in here.
Galena's 29 neighbors tucked in for the expected NE blow
Tonight and tomorrow we're expecting winds from the NNW at 30-kts. All day the wind has been west at 15 making for a rather bouncy ride. When I went to Staniel Cay Yacht Club I went around the north tip of Big Major and down between the Majors. Inside there it was flat calm. But I know from past experience that once the wind goes NW or SE that strip of water can become very, very rough. I've seen 4-ft waves in there! So we're staying where we are and hoping the wind doesn't build until we are under the lee of Fowl Cay.
2100hrs - Winds were west at 5-kts. The ride is a bit bouncy but I have over 100-ft of chain rode out and feel pretty secure. Even though I'm just a couple hundred yards from a rocky lee-shore.
2400hrs - Winds were west at 10. More rough than before but this should be a bad as it gets. The winds should start to clock around to the northwest soon.
0120hrs - Winds NW at 15-kts. Galena is now in the lee of Fowl Cay and while she's heeling over in the wind as she dances at anchor, the ride is smoother than before.
0400hrs - Winds NNW at 25-kts gusting to 30. Galena is riding nicely in a less-than-one-foot chop.
0600hrs - Heard on the radio that someone was dragging. Looked out to see the boat that was on my port bow was now on my port quarter. I flashed my big spotlight on him and he got up and into the cockpit. He and his family got the boat under control and they re-anchored astern of Galena.
31 Jan 09
All day the wind blew at 15-20 kts from the north. Just about everyone was boat-bound for the day.
The next cold front comes through on Tuesday. The problem with than one is that the forecast calls for the winds to come out of the west at 25-30 kts. Where I am has no protection from winds from the west. I could go between the Majors, but the wind is to clock to the NW late in the day. That would make between the Majors a hell-hole.
What to do?
Here's the forecast as reported for the "virtual weather buoy at Warderick Wells":
|31 Sun||E 14-19||E 12-17||ESE 14-19|
|01 Mon||ESE 12-16||SE 13-18||SSE 11-16|
|02 Tue||WSW 20-28||WNW 17-23||NW 16-22|
|03 Wed||NW 14-20||NW 14-18||NNW 17-24|
|04 Thu||N 13-18||N 11-16||ENE 11-15|
|05 Fri||ENE 10-13||ENE 10-14||ENE 15-21|
As you can see, Tuesday looks bad. Two cold fronts are going to come together right over us. Chris Parker, the weather guru, is forecasting 30-kts with gusts over 40 for Tuesday morning.
I'm not staying where I am. I'll skip the Superbowl party and find someplace safe to ride this one out.
01 Feb 09
Galliot Cay (N 23° 55.6' W 076° 17.6')
Trip: 21nm, Total: 1591nm, Engine: 2107hrs
I left Big Major after hearing the weather forecast had not changed. s/v Son of A Sailor followed me out. But some friends were going to stop at Black Point and Dennis and Bettye decided to join them for the evening. I went on to Galliot Cay.
I'm anchored at the NW corner of Big Galliot Cay right now. Tomorrow afternoon I'll move a few hundred yards over to the NE corner of Little Galliot Cay, just SW of my current position. That should leave me unprotected only for the few hours the wind is from the SE on Monday. Then I should be protected all day Tuesday.
Wednesday looks like a fast fun ride to George Town. Riding the back side of a cold front is the only way to head into the steady SE winds in the Central Bahamas. And that's what I plan to do on Wednesday, or Thursday, depending on sea-state in Exuma Sound.
02 Feb 09
Cave Cay (N 23° 54.18' W 076° 16.74')
Trip: 1 nm, Total: 1592 nm, Engine: 2107 hrs
s/v Son of a Sailor came over from Black Point about 1300. He looked at my anchorage and said he'd pass and went to a better protected spot about a mile south of me.
After he left the wind clocked a bit more to the south and my anchorage suddenly became more bouncy than I liked. Sailor anchored just to the south of the cut at the north end of Cave Cay. So I followed him over there. By 1400 I was anchored next to him at N 23° 54.82' W 076° 17.65'.
Galena's move to join Sailor south of the cut
Much more comfortable here for now. We'll see what happens when the winds clock. The winds are now supposed to hold east of south until after dawn tomorrow. Then go quickly to NW and build to 20-kts. I'll head to George Town if the winds are better than 210° before 1100 hrs. That gives me time to make the run into Elizabeth Harbor in daylight. It's about 50 miles southeast of here. So I'm thinking 10 hrs max. Even if I get there after dark, once into the harbor I can just drop the hook in the middle of the harbor and be pretty much out of everyone's way. The only problem is unlighted sailboats in the harbor.
I hope this wind direction holds all night. I don't want to have to get up and move after dark. There's no village near here and at night, it's very, very dark.
s/v Son of a Sailor with Galliot Cut behind; looking northeast.
03 Feb 09
George Town, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas
Anchored off Sand Dollar Beach, Elizabeth Harbour
(N 23° 30.7' W 075° 44.8')
Trip: 47 nm, Total: 1638 nm, Engine: 2108hrs
Track from Galliot Cut to George Town
I decided last night that as soon as the wind clocked to at least 220° I would depart Galliot Cut and head for George Town. Chris Parker's 0630 weather report indicated that today's cold front was not going to bring as sever weather as previously expected. No 25-30 kt winds nor 40-kt gusts from the west. Just the usual SW clocking to NW winds at 15-20 kts. After the weather report I checked the wind: 215° at 10kts. I pulled off the sail covers and started weighing anchor.
Dennis on Son of a Sailor called to me, "You heading out?" Yep, I was. He said he would be following me shortly. I sailed off the hook and out the cut. As soon as I was lined up with Galliot Cut I started to feel, and see, the 4-foot swell rolling in from the east. It was that long, 7-second sea swell that just lifts a little boat like Galena. Floats her like a cork in a pond. I was out and had all sails up by 0730hrs. Galena was making 6-kts in beautiful sea conditions. Just that swell with a hint of wind chop on top.
View from the cockpit as Galena ran south to George Town
By the time Dennis came through the cut 30-minutes later, I had true wind just aft of the beam and apparent wind just forward of the beam at 10-kts. Perfect sailing weather.
Dennis called s/v's Kokopelli and Siya Sinana to tell them the sailing was great. They were a couple of big cats that Dennis had met up-island. An hour later I saw them come through the cut and into the Exuma Sound. There were 3 sailboats about 4-miles ahead of me, Dennis and his two friends behind me. A nice little fleet heading down to George Town.
s/v Son of a Sailor passing Galena on the way to George Town
As the day wore on the wind continued to clock from the southeast to the west and to the northwest. The wind speed also built during the morning. By the time I was 8-miles from the entrance to Elizabeth Harbour I was down to just the 130% Genoa. But the wind continued to build. Soon I was fearing for the safety of that sail. My Genoa is a very lightweight sail. The strain on it was worrying me. So I raised the staysail (which I had dropped because it was blanketing the Genny) to blanket the headsail and take some of the strain off it. It did that, and took my speed up to 6.4 kts.
Oooh! An artsy shot of Son of a Sailor!
Sailor after she passed me. This is my usual view of boats that I cruise with.
When I was 4 miles from the harbor entrance I was down to just a staysail with the wind almost directly astern of me and still making 5.5 kt's I rode that staysail into the harbor and all the way to Volleyball Beach. There I dropped sail, fired up the engine, and looked for a parking place. There were a couple of places that might have worked at Volleyball Beach, but they were not quite big enough. At least not in the wind and seas at that moment. So I went on down to Sand Dollar Beach and found a nice big spot to drop the hook. 18-ft of water and 100-ft of chain. I'm secure; I think.
The three main anchorages are along the southwest shore of Stocking Island and are Monument (aka Hamburger), Volleyball, and Sand Dollar beaches. The dominant wind is from the NE so these are usually very comfortable anchorages. Across the harbor to the southwest is the town of George Town which surrounds Lake Victoria. Kidd Cove is where we anchor when we have to do a lot of stuff on shore such as water or fuel runs, laundry, shopping, etc.
The general layout of Elizabeth Harbour and the George Town anchorages.
Dennis called and said he and Bettye were heading over to St Francis Resort for a beer and asked if I wanted to ride along with them. I had not put the dink in the water yet so I rode with them. It's a long run (about a mile) and we were, of course, driving to windward. I was pretty wet by the time we got there.
St. Francis Resort and Marina
Trina, the bartender at St Francis remembered me from last year and as I walked in said, "It's been a long time, Blue Eyes." Nice to be remembered, no?
My favorite bartender at St Francis Resort, Trina
I also met the crews from s/v Kokopelli and s/v Siya Sinana. Dennis and Bettye had met them up-island a few days before.
Lisa, Gary, and Liz at St Francis. Lisa was asking, "What brand of camera is that?".
04 Feb 09
It was a cold night. The wind died down a bit and was only blowing about 10 kts out of the northwest. That made it blow right down the harbor. So Galena was bouncing a bit all night long. It was so cold I even grabbed a second fleece blanket to cover up with.
The morning net was enough to remind be why they call this 'adult day care.' Way too cutesy for me. After the net Michelle (s/v Seabattical 1) called. I said I was heading over to town to make a trash and water run. She invited me over so I stopped by. Had a nice little visit with her and Clark. Then Clark was heading over for the daily organized swimming event so Michelle and I did a trash and (me) water (her) propane run. On the dinghy dock in town I bumped into Dennis and Bettye (s/v Son of a Sailor) and, when Clark came by to pick up Michelle introduced them all.
Michelle and Clark, s/v Seabbatical 1, at Chat 'n Chill, Volleyball Beach
I went back to Galena and found that I was not as short on water as I thought. Galena carries 60-gal of water. I still had about 12-gal left; enough for 6 more days. So with the 15-gal I brought back from town I had just about one full water tank.
My snubber came off my rode about 1500hrs. Suddenly the GPS was showing Galena about 10-ft further back from her anchor position than she had been. I, of course, thought I might be dragging. But after checking things out I figured probably not. But it gave me pause, none the less. I'm in 18-ft of water and have 100-ft of 3/8" chain out. Not quite 5:1 scope. So I put out another 25-ft of chain and replaced the snubber. That should be good. We're getting a lot of wind but not so much in the way of waves. Just a little bouncing around. The forces on the anchor are mostly a steady pull. And now Galena seems to holding her position just fine. The wind is forecast to clock to the NE and stay about 20 kts for the next few days. The more NE it clocks, the more protection I'll have from Stocking Island.
I went to Volleyball Beach at about 1600hrs. There I met Seabattical 1 again. They had moved from Kidd Cove to Volleyball Beach anchorage. We had a couple of beers and then Clark wanted to leave. He was contemplating whether or not they were going to sail to Long Island tomorrow. There were several boats doing a mini-cruise to Long Island and back. But with the wind forecast to be north at 25-kts tomorrow and then ENE 25-kts through the weekend they would probably be stuck there till Monday, earliest. So they have decisions to make. Clark said he would decide after Chris Parkers forecast tomorrow morning.
After they left I went over and introduced my self to a few cruisers on the steps at chat and chill. Johnny and Wendy and their two kids (s/v Osprey) are anchored right next to me. And another couple who have a Westsail on the west coast but are cruising here on their other boat.
I left the beach just after sundown because it was windy and getting quite cold. Now I mean cold as in 'Bahama-cold.' That's 67° and the wind was over 15-kts. That's cold!
Just after I returned to Galena I was visited by Rob and Susan (s/v Mandate). I had met them in Charleston last winter (2007) and they, anchored off my starboard side, had recalled the boat. After looking up my card they stopped by to say 'hi.' Rob and Susan also do the morning Yoga classes on the beach. I've never tried yoga. Rob insisted that I get my butt to the beach and give it a try. I know need to do something to get this old body working right. They meet on the beach at 0930. We'll see.
Spam sandwiches for dinner and a movie to put me to sleep.
05 Feb 09
10 boats left on a race to Long Island this morning. The wind was still NW at 20 kts and that should give them a romping good run. They will have to wait a few days to come back, though. My friends on Seabbatical 1 had signed up for the race but were undecided as late as this morning. The wind, the idea of 'being stuck there,' countered by Clark being tired of George Town all caused indecision right up to the moment the race started. They were second-to-last across the line. I expect them back in a week or so.
I had a full day of "camp for gown-ups" today.
I started with yoga on the beach at 0930 hrs. For about 45 minutes I stretched and pulled and, of course, breathed deeply (why do they always stress that?). Actually I felt better after we were finished. But my big gut kept getting in the way.
In the afternoon I was off to beginner's volleyball clinic. I've always just sat around and watched the fun volleyball games; never played. Today I and about 20 others had actual instruction on how to play. Then we had a few games. Great fun and again, at least I was off my butt and doing something.
Playing volleyball on, of course, Volleyball Beach, Stocking Island, George Town, Exuma, Bahamas
On the way to Volleyball Beach I saw Alan and Patricia on s/v Nauti-Nauti. I had met them last year at Little Harbor, Abaco. Alan came to the beach later to play volleyball and I talked with Patricia at St Francis when I went up there later in evening. So nice to see friends again.
A few beers later I was at St Francis Marina and Resort for the twice-weekly Texas Hold 'em game. $5 for 3-hrs of fun. Had a great time there although I didn't even come close to the final table. I had a bit of trouble finding Galena when I left St Francis. It was very dark with no moon. Galena only had on her amber garden lights and was further from shore than I remembered. And the run from St Francis to Sand Dollar Beach is about a mile. That's a long run in a dinghy, at night, no lights, cold, windy,… whaaaaa!
In bed by 2100 hrs. Another day in paradise. Now if we can only get finished with the cold, windy weather. I didn't come here to wear jackets and hats.