Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The bottom of your boat is akin to the bottom of your car.  There is a lot going on down there but for the most part, as long as things are working, we tend to let well enough alone.  Seems like a reasonable strategy.  My challenge, however, is the 'leaving well enough alone' part.  Most of the projects I work on while aboard Maya are self inflicted.  I seem to be able to find problems where there are none.

Such was the case a few days ago.

We were at a party the other night and one of our good boating friends mentioned to us that he had a great discount at one of the local prop shops.   This shop would pick up the props, polish and rebalance them and then return them to the boat.  It sounded like a great deal.  He asked when the last time we had this done.  It didn't take me long to answer.  "Never."  Well, from the look on his face, I knew that my answer didn't fall into the category of responsible boater.  "Never, he said?"  "Well, yeah." I said.
"I clean them up when I have the boat pulled but I have never had them off to be rebalance."

He said, "well you need to do this right away.  It will make your boat run so much smoother... and you will save fuel in the process."   That sounded great to me.  Besides, I was in between boat projects and this sounded like a lot of fun.

A few days later, we arranged to have him stop by and pull the props off the boat.  Another friend in the marina was doing his props too and we all decided to help each other with the process.  What needed to be done was to dive under the boat, remove several large nuts that hold the prop onto the shaft and then (theoretically) slide the prop off the shaft and lift it out of the water.  How hard could that be?

The first thing that I will tell you was that the water was cold.  Even with a wet suit, you could still feel the chill around your hands, face and head.  It was going to be a tough job. Things went pretty well on the first boat we did.  The props came off pretty quickly and without much trouble.  Maya, however, was determined not to give up hers without a fight.

Now I really don't know how long it had been since the props were off the boat.  I can say for sure that it has been over five years and I would be willing to bet that it has been over ten.  Metals that are submersed in salty water for long periods of time tend to take on properties that are unlike those exposed to the air.  The large metal nuts that held the prop on the shaft were apparently very happy in their present state and were not interested in coming to the surface.  Even with our very large pipe wrenches, it was difficult to get them to budge.  There was a lot of banging and pulling but we finally got the port side prop off.  It took almost an hour just to do that one alone!

The starboard side was going to be more problematic.  As it turned out, there was no way we were going to be able to loosen the nuts that held the prop in place.  We tried everything.  At one point, we had three guys under the boat, with one person with his back on the keel, pushing with his legs against a pipe wrench that we had added a 5 foot extension to.  That is a lot of torque.  Finally we threw in the towel and admitted defeat.  We were going to have one shiny prop and one, well, not so shiny.

A few days later, the props (our single prop and our friends double) were ready.  My gosh, they were beautiful.  They were so clean and shiny that they looked like solid gold.  They are solid brass, btw.
Putting them back on was a lot easier.  They simply slid on the shaft.  We added the two bolts and cotter pin that held them in place and we were good to go.

All in all, this job I thought would take just an hour or so, wound up taking over six.  Even with that, we still were only able to get one of Maya's props done.  Later on, I did buy some 80# wet sand paper to use on the 'stubborn side'.  I spent about a half hour sanding away under water.  While she isn't as beautiful as her sister on the port side,  the starboard side now looks a lot better!

I have to thank my wonderful boating friends Bill, Stephen, George and Dick for helping out with this project.  It wouldn't have happened without you.  Guys like them are what make boating such a great experience.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

The other day we had the opportunity to go for an afternoon cruise with some friends.
We happened upon a pod of dolphins who were interested in racing us.  Check out the video
below for some of the fun.

Monday, January 14, 2013

One difference that I notice about television shows from the 70's and the current slate of TV shows is the lack of a snappy theme songs at the beginning of the show.  There were so many catchy little tunes from the older sitcoms;

     "Here's the story....of a man named Brady"

     "Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed"

     "Well, were movin' on the eastside"

     "Love....exciting and new.  Come aboard, we're expecting you!  The Love Boat...."

     "Green Acres is the place for living is the life for me"

However the one that was stuck replaying in my mind for several days on our Bahamas adventure
was from Gilligan's Island;

     "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale from a fateful trip, that started from this
       tropic port about this tiny ship...."  (skip to third verse)

     "The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed.  If not for the courage of the
       fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost..."

Now let me say from the start that at no time was the Maya ever in danger of being
lost.  At the very worst, I could say the tiny ship was tossed.  But let me start from the beginning.

Staniel Cay is about halfway down the Exumas chain in the southern Bahamas.  Its a tiny outpost of small grocery stores, a marina, a restuarant with a bar and a small airport.  Its a favorite for boaters like us as it provides a link to civilization (and the internet) in the vast and mostly uninhabited island chain.  On top of that, Staniel Cay has one of the nicest and most protected anchorages around.  The beaches are pristine and generally the weather is always perfect.  It is the epitome of what boating in the Bahamas is all about.

We had been enjoying our time there in Staniel Cay for about a week when we started to hear rumblings of a nasty weather system that was headed our way in the next day or two.  You must understand that boaters live and die on weather reports and rumours of impending bad conditions spread like wildfire.  Add to that the lack of viable and current information and you have a recipe for mass hysteria.  Now the panic didn't rise to that level but lets say that the coming cold front was the talk of the town.

The chatter on the radio was that those in the know were heading 'out of Dodge' to find protection from the nasty thunderstorms and winds that were anticipated.  The problem was that the weather reports were conflicted.  Some of the weather guru's were saying that the front was going to peeter out and amount to nothing more than a wind shift.  Others were offering a much different view.

My background is steeped in weather.  I know how to read a weather chart and can put the pieces together generally, on my own.  From what I could see, the pattern seemed a little benign.  On top of that, it is almost unheard of for a strong cold front to make it all the way south to the Exumas in late April or early May.  Never happens.

Over the next day or so, the anchorage where we were started to thin out.  From a high of about 50 boats, the numbers of boaters staying was shrinking.  The day before the front was supposed to come through, there were probably about 10 of us left.  Most of our cruising group decided to stay put, however a few of the smarter ones got a marina slip or headed to a mooring ball several miles away.

The afternoon before the storm was forecast to hit, the weather was clear and the winds were calm.  Maybe we were going to be right after all.  Much ado about nothing?

Around sunset that evening, the weather began to turn.  We were expecting this and had prepared for a least a bit of unsettled conditions.  We had raised our dinghy out of the water and put her back onboard the 'mother ship'.  We doubled our lines and battened down the hatches, so to speak.  We were ready.  Our thought was still that there were going to be some light rainshowers and possibly some windy conditions for a few hours, but by morning the sun would be shining again and life in the Bahamas would be back to normal.

Around  midnight the first wave of thunderstorms hit.  At night, the lightning can put on a spectacular show as the bolts can be seen for many miles away.  Even though a bolt seems close to you, it really isn't.  This storm brought us a fair amount of rain but as luck would have it, we were in between the worst of the storm cells.  One of our fellow boaters had access to live NextRad weather radar and he observed a strong squall line that extended from Virginia through Cuba.  There was no way it was going to miss us.  This was not good news.

So we hung on that night, not sleeping much.  One of us kept anchor watch to make sure that the 44 pound piece of steel that was holding us in place kept doing its job.  Even though there were fewer boats in the anchorage, there were still lots of rocks lining the shoreline.  We surely didn't want to hit those!  By far these were the worst conditions we had ever been in on Maya and we were worried that our equipment would hold together.

By morning, the rain had let up.  The thunderstorms were over but there were still lingering rainshowers that dotted the horizon.  I went up to look at the dinghy and found about 7 inches of water in her bilge.  Thats a lot of rain!  But, we had survived the night.  What does it say in the Psalms?.....'joy cometh in the morning'.

By about noon, the sun was peaking out and we thought the worst was over.  With any cold front in the northern hemisphere, a frontal passage is marked by a wind shift from the south to the northwest.  We were prepared for this shift although, as it turns out, we were not ready for the increase in the velocity of the post frontal winds.  All the forecasters, including myself, guessed that after the front went through, the winds would shift and the velocity would increase a little, but would die down by the time midday had passed.  This is typical behavior for most cold fronts, especially those that make it as far south as the Bahamas.

No, this front was a record setter.  As it turned out, the winds did shift to the northwest, but the velocity increased.... a lot.  And they kept on getting stronger.   And stronger.   By five that afternoon, the winds were clocking in at almost 40 miles per hour.   And to make it worse, they were coming in from the Northwest; a direction in the anchorage where we had no protection from the resultant waves. 40 mile an hour winds can kick up some pretty big waves.  They were all headed right for us unfortnuate few still left in the anchorage.

This turned out to be much more problematic than the previous night's thunderstorms.  The chop and waves created by thunderstorms are pretty much short lived.  When the storm is over, the waves die down.  The winds created by this front, while forecasted to last only a few hours actually last for THREE days.

For three days we were prisoners on our boats, riding the waves like a  monkey on a skateboard.  Inside Maya was not a pretty sight.  We had taken down about everything that could be tossed around on the boat.  Nothing was left on the tops of shelves or tables.  We had to sleep on the floor as it was impossible to stay on the bed as the boat heaved back and forth, up and down.  We had heard on the radio that several other boaters were in worse shape.  Those on sailboats were getting beat up even worse as they didn't have the benefit of Maya's heavier weight and deeper keel.  All we could do was watch and wait for the winds to subside.  After the second day, Kim was ready to call a boat broker and list Maya for sale.  She had had enough.  By day three, we were ready to abandon ship and fly home.

But the winds did subside. 

And so did our anxiety.  It was a bad living experience but a good learning one.  As a pilot, I always erred on the side of conservatism.  Had we been on an airplane, we would have headed to higher ground at the first hint of bad weather.  I learned that we must treat the weather with the same respect I did with the airplanes I flew. 

But that was months ago now and while it seemed terrible at the time, it makes for a great story now.
In the years to come, as we retell our saga to those who haven't heard it, I am sure the waves will be bigger and the storms even stronger.  Such are the lives of those on the sea.

"So, join us here next week my friends, you're sure to get a smile."  "From the two intrepid castaways, sailing to Maya's Isles"



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

While Maya is our home on the water, our dinghy would be akin to the family car.  One rarely considers what a luxury it is to have a readily available mode of transportation until its unavailable.  While at anchor, without our dinghy we would be stranded onboard Maya, unable to get to shore.

Sometimes its just a short 50 yard jaunt from Maya over to a nearby beach.  Depending on where we are anchored, it could also be a several mile hike.  We like to anchor as close to the shore as possible, however because of the water depths its sometimes not possible.  The dinghy gives us the flexibility to move about wherever we happened to be parked.

We found ourselves at a beautiful spot near Staniel Cay called Big Majors.  In my mind, this is the epitome of what cruising the in the Exumas is all about.  Pristine beaches, clear blue waters and expansive views all around.  Staniel Cay is a popular spot for boaters as well.  It is a small community that boasts a grocery, marina and wonderful restaurant and bar.  We were able to access the internet, catch up on ESPN and have a beer, all at the bar.  It was really heaven on earth.

The only downside to Staniel Cay is that the anchorage at Big Major is about three miles away.  That meant that each time we wanted to go from Maya to the small town, we had about a 15 minute dinghy ride.  On top of that, the course to the marina where we tie up is exposed to the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  That is no problem when the water is calm, but on a rough day (and we had a lot of those) it is no fun.

One morning after a two day maelstrom of thunderstorms, I found myself with a bad case of cabin fever.  We had been couped up on the boat for a long time and I needed to get off.  I decided to take the dinghy into the marina at Staniel Cay to get on the internet and catch up on our emails.  Because of the copious amount of rain we had experienced, there was about 5 inches of water in the dingy.  It really rained hard!  It took only a few minutes to bail out the water and I was on my way.  The winds were a little stiff causing the waves to really bounce me around.  I had to slow way down in order to keep the dinghy and me from getting beat up.  But, I was determined to get ashore and I eventually made it in.

I spent a couple of hours on the web, checking weather and generally just milling around.  I really like these very small villages.  Life really slows down to a more manageable pace.  Soon though, I figured that Kim was wondering where I was and being that it was nearing happy hour,  I decided to head back to Maya.  

I got into the dinghy and started to make my way across the three mile stretch between the marina and our 'mother ship'.  I was about a mile offshore from the marina when suddenly the dinghy motor just quit.  I mean it just died.  No running rough, no coughs and spurts.  It just got real quiet, real quick.

Generally when an engine is running and then suddenly dies, its a fuel issue.  Once you get them started,  engines like to run and run... and they will unless there is a problem with the gas.  So, my first course of action was to check the fuel.  The tank was over half full so I knew I hadn't run out.  I checked the fuel line to make sure there were no kinks or leaks and there were none.  I was running out of ideas.  I took the cover off the engine to ensure that no fuel lines were leaking or that perhaps the fuel filter was clogged, but all looked okay. Hmmmm.

So I sat down for a minute to contemplate my options.  As I looked towards the shore, I noticed that the wind and current had taken me farther away from land.  In the short amount of time I was working on the fuel problem, I had probably drifted another half mile away from where I wanted to be.  Not good.  So, I did what I probably should have done from the beginning and dropped the anchor.  No sense it getting farther away, right?  Well, the water I was in at that moment was about 20 feet deep and my anchor line is about 15 feet long.  That wasn't going to work.  I decided that maybe if I kept trying to start the engine, it might catch and I could limp back to shore.  

So for the next 15 minutes, I pulled on the start cord like there was no tomorrow. (and I was beginning to think that there may not be).  It wouldn't start.  Meanwhile I was still drifting away from land.  Now normally we carry some flares and a handheld radio when we are on the dinghy, just for emergencies like this.  However, because of the several days of storms we had just experienced, I had taken them inside Maya to keep them dry.  I forgot to put them back on the dinghy before I launched that day.  Duh!

The only thing I could find that could be of some help was Kim's plastic rain poncho.  We keep those on the dinghy in case we run into a rain shower or the waters are so choppy that the water sprays up into the boat.  Luckily hers is bright red.  So, I stood up in the dinghy and started waving her red poncho hoping to catch someone's attention before I floated further out to sea.

As it turns out, a fellow boater had been sitting on his back deck enjoying his afternoon tea when he noticed my signal.  He jumped in his dinghy and headed out in my direction.  I explained my situation to him and he was glad to help.  He tried to get my engine started by after a few minutes of pulling on the start cord, he gave up too.  We decided to tow the dinghy back to the marina.  We got the two boats tied together and readied ourselves for the short trip in.  However, when he went to start his engine, it wouldn't start either!  What was going on here?  Bermuda triangle?

Another alert boater also happened to be watching this all unfold and got into his dinghy to see what was up.  He arrived on the scene and we told him not to shut down his motor!  Anyway, to make a long story short, he towed us both into shore where we could at least sort this out on dry land.  I borrowed the radio at the bar to let Kim know what was going on.  She contacted Stephen aboard Tides In (one of our Bahama Bums sister ships) and he brought his dinghy into the marina to help me out.  We both knew it had to be some kind of fuel issue but we didn't know what.  He towed me all the way back to Maya where we could at least take our time and get the thing fixed.

The rest of our flotilla (about seven boats in all) had been monitoring the radio since I had made the call to Kim to explain the situation.  As it turns out, we had a lot of small engine experts to draw upon to get the thing running again.  We towed the dinghy over to the beach where we all could work on it.  Within 30 minutes, the diagnosis was clear.  There was water in the fuel.  

What we think happened was that during the previous days rains, water had leaked in and around some of the rubber seals on the fuel tank.  Eventually it got picked up by the fuel line intake and sucked into the engine.  Anyway, we dismantled the fuel system and dried everything out.  We changed the plugs and hooked up a new fuel tank and it started up on the first pull.  Woohoo!  Back in action.

Thank goodness for the help of perfect strangers and the crews on our traveling companion's boats.  Without them, I might be still floating, somewhere near Cuba, most likely.  After a long and trying day, we needed a break.  I went back and got Kim and we headed to the beach for some R & R.  We didn't go far though.  I wanted to be close enough where I could swim back.... if I had to.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

The next stop on our trip down the Exuma chain was at the Exumas Land and Sea Park.  The Land and  Sea Park is much like an interactive zoo.  All of the areas within the park boundary are protected, which means no fishing, hunting or even shell collecting.  It is a wonderful place to explore all the Bahamas has to offer.

The Park is run by the Bahamas Conservancy, which means by independent donors.  Luckily there are a lot of benefactors as this is really a jewel.  The Park is staffed by volunteers and is very well run.  For boaters, the Park offers mooring balls.  These mooring balls are spaced around the park so one doesn't have to worry about dropping their anchor over a coral reef.  Additionally, the balls are moored deeply into the sea bottom, so you don't have to be concerned that you are going to drag the bottom  and float away if a big storm were to come up.  The balls have a heavy line attached to them, so all one needs to do is to drive up to the ball, pick up the line and attach it to your boat.  Sound easy as pie, right?

Well the trip down from Norman's Cay to the Land and Sea Park started out as most of the days did on this trip.  Clear skies, warm temperatures and a light breeze.  A cold front had gone through the day before but the forecast called for diminishing winds and calm seas.  After our experiences the day before, we were ready to put Norman's behind us and start over.

Around eight in the morning, the Bahama Bums (Maya, September Song and Tides In) weighed anchor and headed south for the 25 mile run to the Park.  In boater's terms, 25 miles is around 3 hours or so, just about the perfect distance for an easy days run.  As soon as we got away from shore, we noticed that the waves were a bit higher than expected.  We are lovers, not fighters and we normally don't like to see any waves over three feet tall.  Even thought we have stabilizers attached to the boat, seas over that height make the trip uncomfortable.

But all in all, it was tolerable.  The forecast didn't say anything about the waves being that big, so we just figured that residual winds from yesterday's cold front were still kicking things up a bit.  The thought was that it would calm down some as the day progressed.

Well, it didn't.

It got worse.

For the next three hours or so, we got beat up.  It wasn't terrible but it wasn't fun either.  They say that the boat can take way more than her sailors can, and with that I would totally agree.  Maya, as all Defevers, is designed to be out on the high seas.  Three or four foot waves are nothing for her.  But, they are something for us.  

As they say, 'Hope springs eternal,' and I believe that sentiment is what kept us going that day.  We kept believing that it had to smooth out soon.  I mean, how could the forecasters have been so wrong?  Plus, we were only going 25 miles.  You can do anything for 25 miles, right?

Well, we made it down to the Park in one piece.  In some ways it was good experience for us.  At least now we know what we can tolerate and what we would not want to do again.  But, we were with our friends and soon all would be well.  All we had to do was to pick up the line on our mooring ball and all that was left for the day was to meet on the beach for happy hour.

Normally as you get closer to shore, the waves tend to diminish.  This is mostly because the surrounding terrain acts as a wall to block the incoming wind and resultant wave action.  Today was a bit of an exception as the island that we were going to be moored along side was on the wrong side of the winds.  In the Bahamas, 99% of the time the winds are out of the east.  That day, the winds were out of the west, and fairly brisk.  There would be no protection for us as the moorings were on the west side of the island.  There was nothing between us and the waves except open water.

We have picked up the line from a mooring ball several times in the past.  Generally what happens is that Kim drives the boat so that the bow of the ship is right over the ball.  I take a long pole with a hook on one end and snag the line that is attached to the ball.  I pull that line aboard and attach it to other lines that are connected to our boat.  Once all the connections are made, you can sit back and relax, knowing that you are safely tied to the sea floor and that you aren't going anywhere.

Because of the high winds and wave action, we decided that it might be easier if I drove the boat and Kim caught the line.  Maya has a high profile and in higher winds, she gets pushed around a bit.  It takes a little bit more finesse to keep the boat over the mooring ball while the other person tries to grab the mooring line.  It is not unusual to take several passes at grabbing that mooring line.  In calm winds, its a piece of cake.  With the winds and waves we were seeing that day, it was going to be tough.

The first pass was primarily a practice run for us.  I wanted to see how much the wind and waves were going to affect us.  Additionally, there are other boats right next to you, so you have to be mindful that you don't inadvertently float into them while you are trying to catch that mooring line.  The next run at it had Kim on the bow with the boat hook.  I brought Maya up to the ball, but because the waves were raising us up and down two or three feet at a time, it was hard for Kim to snag the line before the winds pushed us away.  Unfortunately for us, we were assigned a mooring ball that had a fairly short line on it.  (BTW, these lines are called pennants)  That meant that we had very little slack to work with in bringing the line onboard.  It also meant you had to be very quick in the handling of the lines as the waves and wind were constantly changing and I was having difficulty keeping Maya right over the ball.

The next time around, Kim was able to snag the line on the mooring ball.  But, because the waves were raising us up and down so much, she was unable to hold onto the line and the boat hook.  Something had to give.  Unfortunately, it was the boat hook. It departed the boat and splashed into the water.  Not to worry though.  We had three of those thing onboard.

So we went around again and I lined up Maya on the mooring ball.  Kim grabbed the line but once again, the wind and waves were too much for her.  The power of the water literally took the boat hook out of her hands.  It too hit the water.  Now we were down to our last boat hook.  We decided to change places and have Kim drive and me handle the boat hook.  Kim got Maya close and I was able to grab the line.  But because of the wind pushing Maya away from the ball, I couldn't hold it either.  I tried to disconnect the boat hook from the line but couldn't get it done before the hook disappeared from my hand and landed in the water.

Luckily for us,  September Song was moored just a few hundred yards away from us.  Bob had been watching us try to pick up the line (they got theirs on the first try). When he saw what was happening, he went to put his dinghy in the water so he could come over and hook up the lines from in the water.  Since our pennant was so short, it would be easier to take the longer lines from Maya and attach them at the ball in the water.  But it was not to be.  As Bob was trying to get into his dinghy, the up and down wave action caused him to lose his balance.  He fell on his swim platform (sound familiar?) and broke a couple of his ribs.  We didn't know it at the time, but he was very close to losing consciousness as the pain was very intense.  His guardian angles must have been watching over him as his wife Stephanie heard the last of his plaintiff calls for help.  She got him aboard just in time.

Once again, a fellow boater came to our rescue.  He was already in his dinghy and was also watching the show we were putting on.  He managed to pick up all three of our lost boat hooks and return them to us.  He also picked up some lines from Maya's bow and attached them to the mooring ball from his dinghy.  This saved us from having to reach over and grab that darned line ourselves.  What a lifesaver!
As it turned out, he was very busy the rest of the day as most of the other boaters coming into the mooring field were having the same problem as we did.  He was able to attach most of the bow lines to the mooring balls for the other ships that day.  

So a rough trip down from Norman's and a bad experience picking up the mooring line from the ball served to remind us that boating is not for the feint of heart.  The saving grace was the beautiful sunset that soothed our battered souls.  We thought to ourselves, 'surely today was the worst it was going to be'.  Had we only known.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Oh, so where were we.....

Our first stop in the Exumas was Norman's Cay.  This small island is about 60 miles southeast of Nassau. On the way there, one gets his first views of the diaphanous blue waters the Bahamas are so famous for.

We found the anchorage with no problems and couldn't wait to get our dinghy in the water and head to the beach.  We were anchored just a few hundred yards from shore so it was going to be a short ride in.

Getting the dinghy off the flybridge and into the water takes some effort.  One has to do a lot of climbing and lifting and hooking and unhooking of lines to make it happen.  I plan about a half hour
to get the boat off the lifts and into the water, ready to roll.  This time though, I had a problem.  Just as I was stepping into the dinghy from the swim platform, a rather large and unexpected swell lifted the boat and the dinghy.  Unfortunately for me, I had one foot on both vessels.  Something had to give and it was me!  I fell.  .....   and rather hard I might add.  

I landed on my ribs on the swim platform with quite a thud.  Along with that, I left several inches of the skin of my pinkie finger attached to the boarding ladder where I was trying to hold on.  The first instant I stopped moving I knew I was hurt.  I thought for sure that at a minimum I had broken some ribs.  It hurt to breathe.  Additionally, I saw a lot of blood around so I knew that something else must be amiss as well.  

Not to bore you with the details but I probably did have some broken ribs and I for sure could have used some stitches in my finger (I bled for several days afterwards), but I was going to survive.  What a way to start the trip!  So, Kim came running out and helped me inside.  I asked for some polysporin, bandages and a rum punch.   After about half an hour I was ready to go to the beach... very gingerly albeit.

We spent the afternoon on the sand with our Bahama Bums cruising buddies:  Bob, Stephanie (w/ their labs Godiva and Cassie) and Stephen and Pam.  They are fellow Defever owners and we would be traveling together on this adventure.  It was amazing to be on a deserted beach with sand like powder and water like glass.  I never knew water like that existed.

So anyway, we spent that first quiet night on the western side of Norman's Cay.  In the morning though, ominous clouds were gathering.  The first of many on this trip.

Prior to this, we had seen nothing but smooth and glasslike seas.  It couldn't have been any calmer.  We awoke that morning to a rocking and rolling motion, that while not uncomfortable, was not something we enjoyed.  Speaking to the other boats in our group on the radio, we decided to move the flotilla to the eastern side of the island.  Since the winds and waves were coming out to of the west, being on the lee side would allow the island to serve as a natural wall, blocking the bad weather.

It was a great idea, one shared by about 40 other boats.  No kidding, while we were one of the first to arrive on the east side of the island, within a few hours the anchorage was overflowing.  There were boats trying to fit in everywhere.

Most boaters like to have a buffer zone around them while anchored.  Much like driving on the freeway, you don't want someone right in front or behind you.  You want some room in case you have to maneuver.  Well, that was our plan.  Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way..... and that is how our first 'run in' occurred.

There we were, minding our own business when we heard some fellow boaters having some words of disagreement.  We weren't sure at first what was going on but we heard a lot of  F bombs and the like being exchanged.   Not wanting to pry, we laid low inside Maya with our ears pressed to the glass trying to figure out what was up.  Lover's spat?   Spousal mutiny?  It was all sounding rather juicy!

Suddenly on the radio, one of our fellow boaters called out to us and said, "Maya!  Maya!  are you monitoring what is going on?"   Not wanting to sound like a nosy neighbor I responded, "Yes, there seems to be some kind of commotion over there but I am not sure."

"Well" they said, those two boat have run into each other and are floating right towards you.  They seem to be out of control.  You better move .... and quickly!"

Turns out that in this crowded anchorage, two boats had gotten their propellors and anchor lines tangled up and as a result were floating hopelessly out of control.  Like a bull in a china shop they were going to do a lot of damage to whomever they hit and we were first in line.

I raced to try and start our engines and pull up the anchor as quickly as I could.  Normally this would take about 5 or ten minutes but with this hulk of fiberglass and metal coming towards us, there was no time for the checklists.  Kim was busy outside positioning our fenders for impact as it was clear there wasn't going to be enough time to move out of the way.  Bob, who already had his dinghy in the water was trying to act like a tug boat, using the nose of his inflatable boat to push everyone apart.  In the end, we did make contact, but luckily for us, it was just some scratches.  We were able to fend them off as they continued their journey of havoc downstream from us.

Whew, that was close.  It was decided that that event was going to be the highlight of our bad experiences and we decided to repair to the local establishment for some refreshments.  We all got into our dinghies and headed for McDuff's bar and grill, the only building on the island.

We drowned our sorrows and toasted the end of our misfortunes on this trip.  From here on out, it was going to be clear sailing.

When we got back to the boat that night, we noticed that it was tilting at a rather odd angle.  Was it just the rum punches we had been drinking?   Upon closer inspection, it turns out that we had anchored on the edge of a sandbar.  In our hurry to get out of the way of the two boats earlier in the day, we had repositioned to a spot further up the channel.  By that time it had become very crowded and we didn't have a lot  of spots to choose from.  The area we chose showed 14' of water under us which is great, but as the tide swung around during the day, that 14' went to 4' and we were then sitting on the sand.

Now, this is not a problem for boats.  The sand on the bottom is very soft and the hulls of boats like ours are virtually indestructible.  There was going to be no damage.  The only problem was that, all night long, the boat shifted every so slightly as the waves came and went.  The resulting sound was a little like fingernails on a chalkboard.  It was maddening.  

After a few hours though, the tide came back in and we lifted off the bar.  But, it was a long night.
Surely this would be the last 'un fun' event we were going to have.

Stay tuned..


Monday, April 9, 2012

We made the crossing from the Keys to the Bahamas.  What an adventure!  We prepositioned in Miami as we wanted to make the Gulf Stream crossing and approach to Bimini in daylight conditions.  It was amazing as the water changed from a green blue to a very dark navy blue as we entered the 2500 foot deep Gulf Stream.

Six hours later we could see the small island of Bimini, our first port of call in the Bahamas.  It was nice to be on land again!  We cleared customs there, had a wonderful Bahamian dinner and then hit the sack early in preparation for our pre-dawn departure for the Berry Islands.  It was over 12 hours from Bimini to the Berry's with nothing but water to look at.  But once we got there, the waters were stupendous.  We have never seen so many different colors of blue.

Another Bahamian dinner made with fresh Mahi that we caught and it was off to bed again.  We were off to Nassau the next morning.  Nassau was a great port.  Yes, its a tourist trap but we had a good time.  We are traveling in a flotilla of three main boats with another 8 in tow.  The other eight are good friends of ours and they are one or two days behind us.  Its a lot of fun when we finally catch up.  In Nassau, we were all at the same marina and spent several days there resting and hanging out at the pool.

Soon we were on our way to the Exumas!  Lots of adventures to share but the bandwidth is very limited here and they limit our internet time.  So, I have posted some pictures to give you an idea of what we are seeing.  Will fill you in with the details when we have better access.