I'm still in George Town, Exuma, Bahama Islands and have fallen into full "Island Mode." By that I mean while I have things to do, I do nothing. Everything can wait until tomorrow, since, except for the wind speed and direction, very little changes day to day around here.
I'm getting more and more involved with the cruising community here. In the past few visits I have stayed on the edges and just watched most of the activities. I'm playing volleyball just about every day. Good exercise and I'm actually getting a bit better; I don't suck as much as I used to.
I've even tried basket weaving once I confirmed with Sue (s/v Nice 'n Easy) that my testicles would not fall off if I wove a basket. I have not yet completed one, but I did learn how to do it. Now I just need to actually sit down and build a basket.
So, on to my day-by-day journal and a few photos that I've taken to try to document this place a bit better.
06-07 Feb 09
George Town, Exuma, Bahama Islands
The wind has clocked around to the North and is still 10-15 kts. I'm still anchored off Sand Dollar beach and have very good protection from the 2' chop that bounces the boats at Kidd Cove on the south side of the harbor.
Last night on the way back from St Francis Resort I realized that I had forgotten to pay my tab. Not a big deal since I'm rather well known there. Jill, who runs the place knew I'd be back. After loosing badly at Texas Hold 'em, I just walked out and down to my dinghy. So first thing in the morning I headed back to the bar and bought some internet time along with paying by bill. The internet connection there (and everywhere around here) is very slow. But because the connection was extra slow today, Jill gave me a break on the cost (usually it's $2 for 75 min).
There also were George and Lynn (s/v Sunspot Baby) and Len and Isabelle (s/v Nocturne)
Lynn and George of s/v Sunspot Baby at St Francis trying to get on-line.
By evening the winds were up to 30 kts. One of the cats in the anchorage started to drag. They think someone tripped their anchor since they had been there for several days before dragging.
On the morning of the 7th the wind generator (Air-X Marine) was putting out a steady 10 amps which equates to about 18 kts. Since I don't have a masthead mounted anemometer, I use the wind generator output as a measure of the wind speed. Some gusts were pushing the generator up to over 25 amps for sustained periods.
Evening of the 7th I went over to s/v Son of a Sailor for drinks. Also attending were Gary and Lisa of s/v Siya Sinana, Liz and Allan of s/v Kokopelli, and Dan and Chris of s/v Hiya Hoa??. We sat around and drank and munched and had a great time. Gary jammed on his harmonica and the rest of us sat around and told lies.
Dan, Chris, and Gary aboard Son of a Sailor
Gary letting loose with a quick blues riff on the harmonica
Lisa had some interesting repair stories. It seems that on their sailboat, she's the mechanical one.
Dan and Gary and I talked about our Corvettes (interesting that we each have one, huh?). Allan argued with me about how regulators worked in a system containing wind generators. Bettye and Liz talked recipes.
Liz, Chris, Bettye, Lisa, oh, and Dennis, on board Son of a Sailor
Allan, of Kokopelli, on Son of a Sailor
Bettye, Lisa, and Liz on Son of a Sailor. The guys were talking important stuff off camera.
On the morning of the 8th I looked at my journal entries that I'd made the previous evening. I can usually tell how drunk I was by the degree of illegibility. Last night I think I was lucky to find my way back to the boat. Actually the first thing I do is to look outside and see if my dinghy is still there. Sometimes I'm surprised I can tie it properly when I get home. I usually hook up a second line to the main painter just in case my knot comes out.
This was just a quiet day aboard Galena. I slept, ate, read, watched movies, played my guitar. It was so windy that I turned on the refrigerator and made ice. Not because I wanted ice, but just to use some of the extra electricity I was making.
Here's something: Galena's head is growing some sort of mold on the outside. This happened once before and I don't know what causes it. The growth is dry and powdery and seems to creep across the outer surface. I usually just wipe it down with a damp paper towel. This time I'm going to try some chemicals. [25 Feb: I still don't know what it is, but it seems to have gone away. Have not seen any sign of it for a week or so.]
The strange growth on Galena's head
These sit-at-home days are good for my budget. Each day I don't go ashore is a day I can do some payback to my previous financial indiscretions.
On the 9th I decided to do some work on my watermaker. I have a Katadyne 40E. It's about the smallest electric watermaker you can buy. It will make about 1.5 gallons of fresh drinking water out of seawater per hour and burn only 4 amps doing it. Water here costs $.50 per gal. (Well, here in GT you can get it free at the dinghy dock in Lake Victoria behind Exuma Market.)
The problem is that as the pump piston moves back and forth, the water in the intake lines also just moves back and forth. No water is actually pumped into the RO system. I believed that this was because I had mounted it to high in the boat. I had it about 8" above the waterline.
So I disassembled the whole setup: Watermaker, filters, strainers. Then I drilled new holes and remounted everything below the waterline. As usual I procrastinate for an eternity on the tasks that are not quick and simple. In this case, I had to remove everything from the cabinet behind the vanity in the head just to get at the nuts holding the watermaker in place. Removing all the stuff back there was the unpleasant part for some reason.
After repositioning the system, the result was just the same: no water being pumped through the system; just moved back and forth in the intake lines.
Mick on m/v Escargot is a parts supplier and repair tech. He agrees that it sounds like the valve in the pump head needs to be rebuilt. He had a cruiser's pump rebuild kit that I was lucky enough to pick up from him. Someday soon I'll rebuild the pump.
10 Feb 09 French Day at Volleyball Beach
We have a lot of French-Canadian sailors in George Town. So many that radio announcements are often repeated for them in French. We had a little French festival on the beach today. We all dressed with stripped shirts and scarf and had little French flags painted on our faces. Sue of s/v Nice 'n Easy was in charge of painting the faces.
Sue (s/v Nice 'n Easy) doing the face painting thing on the beach
My token French flag on my cheek
I learned how to play Bacci Ball and decided it wasn't really for me. But at least now I understand the game. James and Allison, a couple of Britts who live in France, were my opponents on the Bacci course.
Allison (far left) and James (far right) after our Bacci Ball games
Allison hiding the Bacci Balls
We were all divided up into groups to learn the game. Each group had an official, French-speaking, instructor. Guy (s/v Aftica) got the best-looking instructor of the lot
Guy and his Bacci Ball team
Guy and Silvia (who live in France) were fully engaged in the events. They invited me over to their cat for dinner. The boat's name is Aftica (pronounced: af-TEEK-ah). I once knew a boat named Jaftica (pronounced: JAF-tic-ah) but it's about the same acronym: "Another Fucking Toy I Can't Afford." They love France and think we in the US would be well served to follow the French example toward socialism. "We get everything for free!" says Silvia. "Wouldn't you like that, too?" Ah. Free would be nice, but nothing is free.
Guy and Silvia (s/v Aftica)
The outboard on the dink has been running just fine for the past week or so. It starts every time on the second pull and has not left me stranded with any carb issues lately. But the air deck seems to have a leak.
12 Feb 09 I moved from Sand Dollar beach to Volleyball Beach; right in front of Chat 'n Chill. It's nice here because I'm close to the beach where everything happens. The problem with that is that I'm right here were everything happens. And I'm directly between the town and the Chat 'n Chill. So all the water taxies and work boats zoom around me all day. On the weekends the locals also come roaring through.
KB, the owner of the Chat 'n Chill, heads to the beach with his workers and supplies each morning
The locals have this thing they do: They get going fast. Then, as the boat bounces up and down, they run the throttle full, and then back, in concert with the bouncing boat. It accentuates the leaping of the boat. I think it's a little strange but they find some joy in it.
Today, the 12th, was the first of what I would call a true Bahamian day. The sun was hot, the winds light, the water calm, the beer cold. The air is 77°, the water is 75°, the wind is 8 kts out of the NE. Just a perfect day to be here.
I played Texas Hold'em again and lost... again. Texas Hold'em is put together by Willis and Cathy (s/v Whistling Winds). They handle the setup, the registration, the pay outs, and generally make sure everything runs smoothly so the rest of us just sit there and play.
Cathy (far left) is ignoring Willis (far right)... again
Texas Hold'em starts at six. So by 1730 the bar and patio is filling up with people. Most come just to play and drink. Some come early for dinner. But we all come to chat and have a good time.
The bar at St Francis Resort before Texas Hold'em starts
At the bar at St Francis I was reunited with Rich and Terry (s/v Sea Devil). I had met them last year in Marsh Harbor, Abaco, at the Curly Tails bar. We got drunk and had a grand time. Terry is a hoot! She likes to be a bit crazy and Rich lets her, which is cool. They were heading down to Provo tomorrow.
Also at the bar I met Scott. He was a... I forgot... maybe a financial advisor or something like that. Anyway, he was just on holiday and hanging out at the bar. He had one of the villa's at St Francis and was having a wonderful time. He asked a lot of questions about cruising and said he might like to try that sometime when he gets old... like me... grrrr.
Scott at St Francis
Jill runs the place when her husband, George is away. He is the regional rep for St Francis Yacht Company (see the connection???). He has to take their 50' St Francis Cat to the boat shows and there was one in Miami this month. So he leave Jill and her son, Greg, to run things at the resort.
Jill running things from the bar
As I left St Francis, my pull cord on my outboard motor broke. Willis and Cathy (s/v Whistling Winds) were the only ones left at the dock. They were nice enough to tow me home to Galena.
The next day I disassembled the top of the outboard motor and replaced the pull cord with a hunk of rope I had laying about. It took less than an hour. We'll see how long it lasts.
Len and Isabelle (s/v Nocturne) stopped by. They noticed the Lorain, OH on Galena and wanted to say hello. They were from Gallion, OH. Later in the day I say Len at the trash dumpster in town. He good naturedly gave me shit because I didn't stop by his boat to ask if I could carry their trash to the dump. Then, a couple of days later he stops by Galena and says, "I'm going to make a trash run. Like a good neighbor I'm checking with you... That's what good neighbors do, ya know?" I'll be getting ribbed about that for the rest of the month I'm sure.
Isabelle and Len, from Gallion, OH
On the 14th we had a Valentines Day dance at the Chat 'n Chill. Rockin' Ron (s/v Sea Dancer) played DJ along with his lovely wife, Karen. The place was packed. Many of my old friends were there. George and Penny (s/v Star Shot) and I shared a few stories. I danced my little self crazy with anyone who was standing still. Nancy, Cathy, Sue, Bess, Terry, Gail, Rita, Penny, Sandy (Oh, and their significant other) were all there having a truly rocking time.
On the 15th I was out on the volleyball court when I hear, "Galena!" I look over and it's Toby and Donna from s/v Cariba. I had not seen them since Miami Beach a couple months ago. Since there were weeks ahead of me I figured they had moved on further south. Actually they had had some serious boat problems (engine mounts, shaft and coupler issues) and had to return to Florida. Then they left Cariba there and crewed a big motor yacht down here. But they're here and it's wonderful to see them again.
16 Feb Again with the batteries! I awoke to the beep-beep-beep of some sort of alarm that I didn't recognize. I jumped up and headed over to the nav station. I finally noticed the VHF radio was flashing: "Low Batt." I checked my Link 20 and, sure enough, the voltage was down to about 10.5 volts. I had been spending electricity like it was going out of style. Even had the fridge on for a while a couple of days ago. But as I shut everything down and gave it some thought I didn't think I'd been that wasteful lately.
I fell into a funk. Me and my batteries have always had a bitter relationship. Sure, I check the water and the connections regularly. Sure, I try to keep them charged up to over 75% capacity. So why to they fail so regularly? I buy batteries that are warranted for 3 years and they last... well... just 3 years! The wind had been light and the sky a bit cloudy for the past couple of days. But still, I didn't expect the batteries to be stressed.
I checked them again, and added just a bit of water to one of them. Less than a cup total. And these are the big 4D batteries. I've sometimes added half a gallon to them after a long hot summer. I ran the engine for a couple of hours to get the batteries up to a working voltage. Then I shut off everything and just let the wind generator and the solar panels do their thing. By the next day they seemed fine. But that's one more thing to worry about. Can I continue south with marginal batteries? I think not! [24 Feb: since then I've had no problems from the batteries. Must have just been a fluke.]
Last week, during the high winds, Galena's starboard flag halyard chafed through. Now back in the States that's no big deal. But here we have to fly the Bahamian courtesy flag from the starboard spreader. I had been flying mine from the port spreader. Now the wind was down and I took the opportunity to go up the mast and replace the starboard flag halyard. Since I now had the required flag where it belonged, I went ahead and put up all my flags for the rest of the day.
I found bugs in my mac and cheese. Last year, near the end of the year, I found that these same little critters had invested all of my pasta stores. This time, I repackaged everything into zip-lock bags. While I had one such bag with a couple of bugs in it, they hadn't spread to the other stores. So they must be from eggs that are in the packages to start with.
I talked with Doug (s/v Scallywag) about my air deck leaking. I had glue but couldn't find my patch material. He gave me a patch. So I took my dink to shore and disassembled it. I cleaned the area under the deck as well as the bottom of the hull. I put the air-deck in the water and looked for a leak. I couldn't find one. I played with that deck for over an hour and still couldn't find a leak. So I put it all back together and will try again some other time. I went back to Galena and saw the patch lying on the nav station. If I had found the leak, I wouldn't have been able to fix it.
On about the 17th I went to St Francis for Internet. It was very, very, slow. I was on just long enough to look at a couple of the 80 e-mails I had piled up. One was from Moonlight Serenade. They are actually en route! Yeah! I can't imagine sailing the Chesapeake in mid February. I was half expecting to hear from them saying they were just blowing off this winter's cruise. But, no. They are on their way. I'll stay here until they show up. Then I'll decide which way I'm going.
While at St Francis we saw a big sailboat leaving hole #1. But she turned north way too soon and came to a sudden stop. About eight of us went down to our dinghies and made like tug boats. We turned her around but the captain decided to turn her back the way she was going. He kept moving into shallow water instead of back the way he had come. Finally with two dinks pulling on her main halyard to tilt her over, and a bunch of us pushing on her sides, she finally moved off the shoal and into the channel. He disappeared without so much as a 'buy you guys a beer' comment.
Here at George Town we have a wide variety of boats. Some are even yachts. Here is one such that dropped by to sit out a bit of bad weather. I think that's why they dropped in. I don't think I'll see them on the beach playing volleyball. But you never know.
m/v Man of Steel anchored off volleyball beach. Probably some poor steel worker, huh?
On the 18th I moved Galena over to Kidd Cove. I needed to get rid of trash and make a few water runs. I also made a few phone calls and got some cash. I've been staying on budget fairly well. My budget will allow me to bank a bit each month for unexpected expenses. And I've been able to do that for the past few weeks.
I stayed at Kidd Cove and while here went over to the Peace and Plenty bar. Glenn the bartender remembered me and welcomed me back to the islands.
Glenn the bartender at the Peace 'n Plenty resort
There I bumped into my poker buddies Jamie and Tony. I finally figured out that Tony is Jamie's dad. I also met Jo, the wife/mother.
Jamie and his mom, Jo, at the Peace 'n Plenty
Also met new friends like Butch and Constance. Butch plays in the band and Constance works as the chef on a big motor yacht. We had a lot in common, including politics! which is a rare thing around here. This island is so full of Obama posters and the other cruisers are so liberal (as a rule) that I find I have to keep my opinions to myself most of the time. Nice to talk with like-minded folks on occasions. And it's especially nice when those folks look a nice an constance.
Me and my new conservative friends, Constance and Butch, at the Peace 'n Plenty
The next day I moved Galena back to the northern side of the harbor. I was going to move over to monument beach. But then I decided to take a swing through the volleyball beach anchorage and, there, right in front, was an opening just my size. So I'm back here in the prime spot. Cool!
Laundry day finally came. I had a 5-gal jug of fresh water left on deck from my water runs while in Kidd Cove. So I got my wash tub out and filled it with salt water and soap. I washed everything; then rinsed it twice in salt water. Then a final rinse in the fresh water. Then everything was pinned up on the lifelines to dry. Didn't' come out too bad. But I think I should have rinsed them a bit more. They feel just a bit salty still. Well, wear them for an hour and they'll be salty anyway.
I talked Bill (s/v Against the Wind) to join me for Texas Hold'em. He said he knew how to play poker, but had never played Texas Hold'em. Well, he won the tournament. Took home $95.
A couple weeks later I convinced Clark (s/v Seabbatical 1) to join me for poker. He came in second and took home $60. OK, it's got to be my turn soon, right?
The final two tables. Clark's face is almost visible at the far left. Next to him is Sharon (m/v My Sharona) with her damaged wing, then Norm who always does well, then someone I don't know, then Terry and then Tony.
Jami and his dad, Tony, at the St Francis
Someone gave a luncheon seminar on VHF communications. They discussed DSC. Of course, the next day I get startled by my VHF alarm going off when someone hits the 'All Ships - Urgent' button. I'm sitting in the cockpit and after jumping down and turning off my alarm, I still hear the alarm coming from a lot of the boats around me. A little bit of knowledge....
22 Feb 09 I took my hand-held depth sounder and sounded the holes around Volleyball beach area. I found that the best way to get into the hole was to hug the dock at St Francis. At low tide I saw nothing less than 6.5-ft. Getting into hole #2 was a bit harder and I saw 5.2-ft at low tide there. But that hole is big enough and has room enough to actually anchor. There's only a few mooring balls in hole #2.
I played Trivial Pursuit at St Francis with Mike (s/v Pagan Chant) and s/v One Eyed Parrot. We came in second! Mike is really good at this game.
Seabbatical 1 is staying in the harbor until after Chris Parker makes his Weather presentation in town next Monday. Then they are heading back south and to the Ragged Islands. The Cruiser's Regatta starts that week (4 Mar) and I'll stay for that. I want to do the race around the island again. Then the music festival, then the Family Island Regatta, then.... I'll get out of here eventually.
Sometime in the next few weeks I want to sail over to Long Island. I have to at least go that far before I head back to the States. For now, I'll just sit here and enjoy the sun and my friends.