Monday, October 3, 2022

Progress - The Lightning Strike

 Well it is now October - time flies when you are having fun with boats.......NOT!


I am happy to report that after a very slow start with the boat's evaluation etc, progress is being made.  The list of things that were affected ont he boat continued to climb for some time.  Perhaps the most worrying was the engine ECUs that Yanmar originally said were "not available".....Maybe available next year!  I found it hard to believe there were not 2 ECUs sitting in a warehouse somewhere - and that proved to be correct after reaching out to friends in the industry and calling or emailing many Yanmar distributors in the USA, Bahamas, and Europe, I did finally locate 2 units.

Other electrical and electronic items were on baack-order, but I think we are finally getting most of the critical items in and installed.  The one big outstanding item is the freezer - yes the freezer went bad and after leak detecting etc., it was found that the plate was leaking somewhere, and was completely enclosed and not practically serviceable.  In fact removing the freezer was not possible without damaging either the freezer or cabinet.  So we have elected to cut out the freezer completely and replace with a 2-drawer unit...........which is back-ordered!

The mast is being removed this week to allow re-wiring.  I think it was a close call between re-wiring on the boat or removing the mast.  Our trusted rigger recommended removal for a more complete inspection and thorough job.  So the mast will  be off mid week.

Electronics - yes, everything replaced.  Usually this is a good time for an "upgrade", but MS3 was pretty up to date.  So I think we will have basically the same B&G setup, but the chartplotter apparently has a faster processor, and I have addded remote control for the autopilot.  Other majot items include:

  • New battery chargers throughout (3 units) - I have gone with Victron with Bluetooth interface
  • New batterty/tank monitoring system - basically a replacement of the original.
  • New solar controllers - same system, Victron
  • Bilge pumps
  • Condensate pumps for AC units
  • Some internal lighting
  • Masthead lights and anemometer
  • Altenators
  • DC voltage regulator on Generator
These are just the major items - its certainly not a complete list.  Fortunately structural damage was negligible - of course the lightening had to exit the boat and this can be a big problem with the possibility of through-hull fittings blowing out.  Thankfully this did not happen, but we have found a couple of very small areas where gelcoat appears to have blown off the hulls (1/4 in sized); while these were not leaking, I think this is where the charge exited the boat.

Keeping Busy

Meanwhile - we have not been sitting idle.  We have had a lot of things going on.  On the personal front, we have been dealing with some medical issues - yes, getting old sucks!   So if you are reading this and are one of those people saying "I just have to work 3, 4, 5 more years......." keep all of that in mind.  You may be able to predict your retirement wealth (well maybe not in this current crazy market.........but I challenge you that you can't predict your future health!  
Janet has had her rotator cuff repaired; and I am in the middle of some dental work.

We have also been messing with British cars, helping our son fix up his house after a water leak, and  helping out with the anula Lost Bay Regatta at point YC - which was a wonderful success!
Caterham  - runs like a rocket!

Panhandle British Car Association  - Rideshare Day

Lost Bay Regatta - Perdido Bay/Point YC

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Big Bang!

May 31, 2022

We had just entered St. Joes Bay from the ICW/Gulf Canal on our way from Apalachicola to Panama City.....or that was the plan.

We had just filled up with diesel expecting light wind on the last legs of our trip.  When we were in the bay, it was relatively blue skies and a light wind, so we raised the sails.  No sooner had we done this when a small black cloud started to grow very quickly.  Then lightning about 2 -3 miles away.  Hearing that, I decided to start the engines and motor sail to try to put some distance between us. 


Suddenly Boom! and a very bright flash.  Both engines shut down, the instruments seemed to be rebooting, but came back with no data.  Yes, we had been hit.  The anemometer hit the deck like a helicopter together with a molten piece of plastic and circuit board that I think was the masthead light.

Masthead light??
Nobody was hurt.  A quick inspection of the bilges showed that we were not sinking - often lightning can blow a hole in the hull where it exits......but there was nothing evident thankfully.

After a few minutes to collect ourselves, I decided to sail across the bay to Cape San Blas where I knew we could safely anchor in shallow water, so that we could assess things further and come up with a plan.

After anchoring we did a more thorough inspection.  No visible damage - that was good!  No instruments working, and some electrical systems malfunctioning.  But at least we could sail.

We started to put a plan in place.  Basically there was no viable repair facility before Pensacola.  Panama City had a place that might be able to work on engines, but there was a powerline height issue getting there.  Pensacola seemed like the obvious spot as this is close to home.  Then the logistics kicked in….  The wind looked like it would be light at best, but with a 2-day window when it would at least be in a favorable direction.  

No Data on the instruments

As you can imagine, there was lots of texting an calls to friends and family to let them know what had happened.  Salty, our dog was with us and will not go potty on the boat - that's one of the reasons we try to limit long legs.  We were looking at 24 to maybe 30+hours to get to Pensacola in light wind, so we talked to friends in Port. St. Joe that agreed to take Salty for the night and our son would pick him up the following day.

It was a long dinghy ride to deliver Salty - all went well until the return.....of course our very reliable (until now) outboard quit about 2 miles from the boat.  Start rowing.......fortunately a fellow boater anchored near us cane to our rescue with a tow - Thank you "Wonderer".  I think your name was Glen.

Engine ECUs, probably fried

One more thing, our crew member Jeff got some bad news.  His wife was in hospital.  Like the trooper he is, he wanted to stay with us, but we knew we had to get him ashore before we left. 

The plan then came together – best friends Larry and Tracy were staying at our house, and they set off towards us in their truck………with another dinghy and outboard. We got a little sleep to get ready for an early start the following morning.  At first light, Larry and Tracy dinghied across to us.  We sailed back to close to shore, got Jeff to their truck, and set off to Pensacola. 

The winds were light but at least favorable in direction.  At first, we were very slow (2-3 kts), but the wind built a little and we were up in the 6kts +.  We were navigating using apps on phones and iPad.

By this time, I had done the following:

  •  Notified the USCG and put out a Pan Pan message, indicating we were underway with minimal lights, but in no immediate danger.  This was a precaution, but at least the coast guard would monitor us, 
  • Informed our insurance and made sure we could get a tow when needed.  I got their 24-hour contact no., as I just knew we would need it in the middle of the night.

·         Life jackets were on deck and ready.

Amazingly, our VHF radio was still working.  I have no idea why, as the antenna is located at the top of the mast – but amazingly, it worked.  The wind died at about 2am – of course!  We were about 32 miles from Pensacola Pass – but no problem, we had a pre-authorized tow set up.  I made the call.  The dispatcher had our claim info – no problem.  He called Captain Mack of BoatUS Pensacola.  Captain Mack refused to come out….said it was “too far” and in Destin’s area.  Destin would be no good for us – nowhere to go, no repair facility.  After a few choice words, we waited.  After an hour or two of drifting, the wind picked up slightly, we were making way again.  Soon after sunrise, no wind again.  Now we were 12 miles from Pensacola, but no phone service.  I called the USCG on VHF and asked that they call BoatUS, Captain Mack on our behalf.  I also told the Coast Guard of Mack’s previous refusal – but this time told a little white lie that we were in danger of drifting towards shore.  

Now Mack agreed to come get us.

Under Tow, Pensacola Pass

Could we have made it all the way back sailing?  Yes, but it would have taken a long time.  The wind came back a little while we were waiting Mack and we made a couple more miles.  The wind was coming from the North, and it would soon be an outgoing tide – so getting into Pensacola Pass would have been a very slow and lengthy process that would have taken many hours.  The bottom line – we have insurance and a Boat US membership for these eventualities.  Anyway, Mack showed up about 3 hours later and towed us in to the Pensacola Shipyard.  Meanwhile, Jeff made it home and things are now good with his wife’s health.   

Within 20 minutes of our arrival at the shipyard, we were hauled out.  Hats off and a big thanks to
Brandon of Perdido Sailor (our Contractor) and to the Pensacola Shipyard who all did a great job of getting the boat out of the water for further assessment – Thank you!

AND of course, to our best friends and A-team crew, Larry and Tracy for their help.  Without you guys, this would have been an ordeal!



Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Our Return to the US .....and the Big Bang!

 Return Trip

I will keep the story of our return trip brief as we have visited many of the spots we hit previously either on our way to the Bahamas or on previous trips.

We had an uneventful crossing - which is always a good thing.  Very calm but not a lot of wind.  We arrived in the Miami area and secured a mooring ball at the Coconut Grove Sailing Center.

Midnight Sun III at CGSC

Moorings are "tight" but they seem to work, and once again the staff at CGSC were great!  We spent several nights here and managed to catch up with old friends Tom and Michelle who were able to spend a night with us.

We are not "big city" people, but Coconut Grove has a small town feel within an obviously large city and many friendly bars and restaurants - most of which are pet friendly.

Night views from CGSC.

We continued the journey south headed towards Marathon.  We found a nice little anchorage for the night at Dod Island located on the west side of Card Sound (Biscayne Bay)..  After that we spent a night at an anchorage we discovered on the outward journey at Ocean View Inn, located near Snake Creek; and then moved on to Boot Cay in Marathon.  Boot Cay is almost and obligatory stop......well you either love the place or hate it in my opinion.  For a City run facility it is great, with good location for provisioning etc.  There is also a seemingly good community spirit from those that seem to have got stuck there.  Personally - I see no reason to stay more than a couple of nights.  After that, it kind of has the feeling of a "trailer park" for boats.  Now that's just my opinion, and I may get shot down for voicing it.  But take a close look at our Boot Cay neighbor's boat and make your own decision.

Anyway - enough of that.  We moved on and spent a night at Cape Sable, once again anchoring off the beach in very calm conditions.  We were able to excercize Salty on the beach with no crocodiles! (yes, we have seen them in the past- -see some early blog posts)

Now we were trecking North and getting onto the "Yacht Club" run.  As I know I have mentioned before, being a member of a FCYC or GYA club has a fantastic perk of reciprocity, and each member club provides a free night of dockage.  This in itself makes our Pensacola YC membership worthwhile.  Now moving north up the FL West coast, our journey took us to Marco Island (anchoring in Factory Bay for the night); Naples YC,  then a night on a mooring at Ft. Myers, a night at St. Charles YC.

Then we spent a night in a new-to-us anchorage at Cayo Costa known as Pelican Bay.  It was a nice anchorage - except for the Bugs!  OMG, the boat was bug graveyard the following morning!

Onwards again for a night at Venice YC, then anchorage at Desoto State Park, and a night at Bradenton YC.

Once again, great staff and a wonderful welcome from all the FCYC yacht clubs.  At Bradenton, we took advantage of the local Publix store and their "insta-cart" delivery service.  It worked well, we grocery shopped online and our goods arrived at the boat within a couple of hours.  Wow!  I'm not an Uber fan but use it, but now my Uber usage will decline when on future sailing trips!  This is the way to grocery shop on a boat!

From Bradenton another short hop and nice sail up Tampa Bay to- - yes, you guessed it St. Pete's YC.  Usually one of the nicer and more affluent FCYC yacht clubs......but they had a problem  - seemingly a big problem as the health Department closed down the club as we arrived.  Hmmmm.....maybe we didn't want dinner there afterall!  Anyway, other than, another great stay.

A good friend Jeff joined us in St. Pete's.  This was Jeff's first sailing experience and little did he know that we were about to give him the full experience!  We enjoyed two great evenings in St. Pete's before heading out to start our longest individual leg of our return journey.

The following day we sailed across Tampa Bay and out of the pass at Pass-a-grille and north up to Anclotte Key ready to stage for our Gulf Crossing.  We had a great sail with about 18 kts and a nice broad reach.

After a quiet night at Anclotte Key, we made a run for the Gulf crossing, headed for Dog Island and ultimately Apalachicola.  

Sunrise over the Big Bend
We were blessed with good weather, but very light wind making for a motor-sail across.  Still, although purists may disagree, I will take a fast motor-sail in preference to a hard beat-into-it crossing for the Big Bend.  Based on my experience, this can be a tough piece of water with weather often changing fast and unpredictably.  We made the crossing in about 21 hours although I don't think I made a note of our finishing time.

After a brief potty stop for Salty at the end of St. George Island, we continued on for a couple of hours to get into Apalachicola.  Another successful crossing - we were tired and ready for a couple of 

If you have read our blog from previous trips, you will no doubt have seen that Apalachicola and the surrounding area has consistently been one of our favorite areas.  In fact, after some time in the Bahamas and not really wanting to head home, I probably look forward to visiting the Forgotten Coast area more than anywhere else on the trip.  Hmmm......funny how one of your favorite spots can be right in your backyard!

We spent 2 nights in Apalachicola - but lesson learned, it was Sunday and Monday.  Many places, including restaurants close on Sunday and Monday - even though it was Memorial Day weekend.  Nonetheless, we had a great stay.

There are some great restaurants in Apalachicola and some unusual spts to visit such as the Tin Shed where you can find no end of nautical and land-lubber junk!

After 2 nights we took the ICW route towards port. St. Joe and St. Joe's Bay.  We took the ICW route as there is always plenty of wildlife and spectacular scenery along the way.  The ICW uses the Apalachicola River  and Jackson River for most of the way to Port St. Joe. followed by a short stretch of man-made canal.

The Tin Shed has a new location!

Well, if you are reading this in near real time, I am going to keep you in suspense for a day or two until I can write the next chapter.  I titled this ......the Big Bang, and yes there was one on our return, but I need to take a break before I can bring myself to writing about it.

As the Coast Guard Says, "......break, more to follow"

Monday, May 9, 2022

To the Berrys...working our way to the USA

 We have chilled out in Spanish Wells for the week!  I did a couple of small boat projects, as you do (cruising=fixing boats in exotic locations!).  But it was nice to chill in a location with a little bit going on while the weather slowly calmed down a least I hope it has.  We will see in the morning. 

We had a great but short sail (7-8 miles) to Egg Island just off the northern end of what is generally called Eleuthera but is really George Island, Russel Island and Royal Island. The anchorage at Egg Island was beautiful - one of the nicer spots in the Bahamas so far.  Nothing there but beach and some snorkelling, but just a wonderful setting.  We stayed the night at Egg Island to stage for our crossing to the Berrys

To the Berry's - April 26

Anchorage at Egg Island
We left Egg at around 7:00 to 7:30am in order to try to get the best winds.  In hindsight - it looked like we had left it a day too late and sure enough the winds were quickly dying.  We had thoughts of sailing ont he code zero alone - which we tried then switing to the Spin as the wind died.  It wa dead behind us.  It quickly went from 12-10-8-6.  We could have puttered along at 4 kts maybe under sail, but we also had some pretty big swells.  Nothing uncomfortable, but sure enough, light wind and big swells was causing the sails to collapse and flog.  We motor-sailed as long as we could stand it then reluctantly rolled up the nhadsail.  It was a good crossing - but it sure would have been nice to sail more of it.

We entered the Berrys at Little Harbor Cay, about midway along the island chain.  The cut was easy, being nice and wide and deep on the south side of some rocks where we could see waves breaking.  Once inside, the depths became quite shallow.  We headed a couple of miles north on the marked route and anchored at Devils Cay.  We had the spot to ourselves but could see a few other boats in nearby anchorages.  It is beautiful and protected from east winds here, but would be wide open to any weather from the west.

To the south os us is Flo's Conch Shack - at the time of writing we have not been yet, but may go.  Its apparently famous for its conch fritters........which seems like many english places that are famous for their "fish and chips!"  Now to me conch is ok, but not something I would travel for.  Fish and chips on the other hand........well, there are some good ones to be had!

Hoffman's Cay

The next day we moved just a little north to Hoffman's Cay.  This is the site of Hoffman's Blue hole.  Wow!  the anchorage was amazing, we jumped into the BLue Hole; Salty absolutely loved it!  So much sot hat we returned the next day to do it all again!
Hoffman's Blue Hole

I do think this was perhaps one of the very best anchorages we have stayed in during our trip to the Bahamas!  and that says a lot in itself.

The beaches were clean and spectacular, adn the Blue hole was quite a sight!

And as we returned to the boat from the Blue hole - this was the sight that greeted us!

A total "blue out" where the sky truly met the ocean!

After a couple of days at Hoffman's it was time to move on.  We elected to move up to the northern Berrys - Great Stirrup Cay area.

We found a place to stop for the night - but what a contrast!  We anchored at Snake cay and took Salty ashore on the southern end of Great Stirrup.  Great Stirrup has become the "private island" for a number of cruise ships - what a monstrocity!  Fun park with water slides, a helium baloon ride that takes you 400ft into the air........adn everything else that goes with that.  Needless to say, we got a visit from security for taking Salty ashore - we were reminded (very professionally and courteous), that we could not cross private property, but we were welcome to use the beach up to the high tide line per Bahamian Law.  We did, and we left early the following morning.

Our Return Trip

Our return trip took us a with a long day to Bimini - last stop before the USA.  Bimini is far from a Bahamian treaure........well more honestly, its a bit of a dump as far as the island goes.  But its a good spot to clear in and out.  There are a couple fun spots and the Bluewater marina is reasonably priced.  Big Game Club serves reasonable food, and the End of the World Sandbar is definately a place to visit - as we have done on several trips!

We found some old grafitti from a previous trip and refreshed the ink while adding a new one for Midnight Sun III

After 2 nights, we headed back towards Miami.  Winds were lighter than forecast, so it became a motor-sail, fighting the gulf stream to stay south.  But we did have one amazing surprise.  As we left Bimini, we were escorted by a pod of Pilot Whales!  At first, I thought they were dolphins, but they were larger and darker in color - and clearly not dolphins!  What an amazing sight to end out time in the Bahamas!

Monday, April 25, 2022

A Wonderful Story from Spanish Wells

 Cruising Story – Restoring Faith in Community and Humanity!

The cruising/sailing community is a fairly tight knit group and there are countless stories about cruisers helping cruisers, particularly when something breaks or malfunctions.  We have witnessed this many times and have often lent a hand, tools or spares in order to get a boat back up and running.

But this week we were the recipient of an act of kindness that really helped restore my faith in humanity and community.  We have been staying a few days on the boat in the Bahamian town of Spanish Wells, located adjacent to the north end of Eleuthera. 

It is a wonderfully unique town, with a vibrant and successful lobster fishing industry.  The locals here are so friendly and hard-working; but take the time to greet you as you walk down the streets, often offering a ride if you are carrying shopping etc.  

Our story began as we finished dinner in a local restaurant.  Our dog Salty was with us and is often our “ambassador” for meeting new friends.  Erica and David and their friend Bereness introduced themselves and took an immediate shine to Salty. 

Ambassador Salty

We spent a few minutes chatting and as we often do when we meet new people, we offered a “boat card” to them.  For any non-boaters reading this, Boat cards are like business cards that cruisers use to exchange contact information.  We left the restaurant and walked back to the boat.  Thirty minutes later, I received a text message from Erica, “we would love to have you over for breakfast tomorrow to hear about your adventures – we will pick you up from your boat at 8:45am”.  How kind!  We graciously accepted.  We had a wonderful breakfast and invited them to come see the boat later that day, we extended the invitation to stay for dinner and I would cook steaks on the grill.  That evening, they came to the boat, with 20 fresh lobster tails, wine, and home-made ice cream. Our simple dinner became a surf and turf feast!  We learned that our new friends were leaving the island the following day, but they insisted that they would leave their house open so that we could use their laundry facilities.  How wonderful was that!  The local laundromat had closed down, so this was a great help to us. 
The view from our new friends' home

But how amazing is that – 24 hours earlier we were total strangers, and now we are trusted to use facilities in their home when they were not even present.  Needless to say, we are extremely grateful and intend to remain good friends.  The town of Spanish Wells is an amazing community.  We have experienced many acts of kindness on each of our trips through this area, but this one tops them all! David and Erica – thank you!  We truly value your friendship!

David, Neil, Janet, Bereness, and Erica

Friday, April 22, 2022

We Slow the Pace a Little....or do We?

Monument Anchorage

Georgetown and Stocking Island

Its always amazing to have guests and we loved our time with Cliff, Kristen and Cole.  Now we have the boat to ourselves, its so quiet!  We had held up quite a pace trying to pack in as many things as we could while our guests were here.

Chat and Chill Beach

We spent a little time on  the hook enjoying the activities at Stocking Island.  It is a winderful community of boaters here, but it is easy to get stuck there!  Easy community, things to do, comfortable.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.....but many people get stuck in that "comfort zone" I guess.  Some stay for months!  We liked the Monument Anchorage with its nice beaches and walks.  Chat and Chill (bar) was just far enough away that we didn't go every day.....but we could make it by dinghy with just a little effort.

We met some great people, exchanged stories and experiences, and raised a few glasses!

Calabash Bay, Long Island

Janet had a trip to make to Vegas to attend a wedding.  I elected to stay with the boat and Salty.  That sure beat two three-leged flights to get from Georgetown to Las Vegas and back on 4 days!  Hats off to Janet for doing it!  So we headed to Emerald Bay Marina where we had easy access to the airport and a good spot for Salty and I to chill for a couple of days.  While Janet was away, Salty and I did make a solo trip to Long Island with Larry and Tracy of SV Tra-Sea.  The weather was great - we ended up motoring across, but having a great sail back, returning to Stocking Island, Georgetown.

We had a great stay in the beautiful Calabash Bay, and were able to explore the backwaters by dinghy and give Salty and amazing beach walk

Spectacular waters!, great beaches, and a friendly local resort that actually welcomed cruisers to thier happy hour and restaurant!  This is a spot I would highly recommend and will come back to in the future.  Even though it was a short visit, i really enjoyed our time there.

To Head North?

We had hoped to go down to the Ragged Islands (south) on this trip, but its likely not happening.  Looking ahead at the weather - it was just not working to move south and get back in a reasonable timeframe.  It is now April, and our cruising permit expired May 15, and our insurance company wants us out of the Bahmas by that date too (hurricane risk).  So somewhat reluctantly, we decided it was time to start heading North.

Lee Stocking Island Marine Reseach Facility

SV Tra-Sea Departs!

We were at that point in the trip where we knew it was time for us to go separate ways to SV Tra-Sea.  Their plans were taking them south and on to Grenada down the "Thorny Path", but our plans were to head home for the sumer.  It's always sad to separate from our best friends, but it was time.  They had a weather window to head east and on towards the Turks and Caicos - so we wished them well, and we knew this was now time for us to go generally North.

Salty checks out the Ruins

Our first hop took us back to Lee Stocking Island.  Now this is an interesting spot.  An old Marine Research Facility was based here that apparently lost funding about 10+ years ago.  The facility consists of a village; ponds and laboratories where some type of marine studies were undertaken; airstrip; water treatment plant, etc.  it had a very apocalyptic feel to it (I think that's the right word!).  Abandonned, cars and trucks in the street, - everything but the zombies!  While it was interesting - it was kind of weird........especially when I took Salty ashore for his night-time walk!

Back to Black Point for Easter Regatta

Easter Regatta

Ok, I did talk about getting stuck in Georgetown/Stocking Island.....and Black Point is another spot where that can happen.....and here we were again!  but its a good place to anchor for a blow, and we did have a minor blow.  But it was also the local's Easter Sailing Regatta.  Wow - how entertaining!  Six local traditional bahamian boats competed....two sank (but was recovered).  Well you just had to be there and see the excitement.  Rules?  I think they were "fluid".  Start times - when the boats were ready.....finish line - well even that seemed to move around.  Lots of yelling and wet sailors!  THey even allowed a few tourists to join their crews for a couple of races.  No - I didn't.  I was tempted.  Fear of the recovery time from injury got the better of me.  Maybe that was good sense!....I am not as young as I sometimes like to think I am.


 Made Some North Progress

Anchored off Norman Cay
We left Balck Point with no firm plan on destination.  We were thinking of maybe Cambridge Cay about 10 miles north......but what perfect conditions we had!  Wind on our tail at about 120 degrees and about 18 kts with a near flat sea.....we had to go further.  Even with a late start we made about 45 miles to Norman Cay which put us quite far north in the Exumas.

Weather System Approaching

I had been watching the weather as I normally do.  A trough and low pressure system was rolling off the US coast pushing strong NE veering E winds down to the Bahamas.  Not dangerously strong....but perhaps enough to make conditions uncomfortable, and the outlook was similar for about a week.  Where would be a good spot to hang out?  The Northern Exumas were Ok, but not great, so we elected to make a relatively big push the next day and go to Spanish Wells.  We sailed, we motor-sailed, then motored a bit.  Went through a couple of localized squalls - but nothing bad.  We made it to Spanish Wells in good time and secured a dock in town.  It looked like we would be here several days to a week - so its nice to be at a dock where you can get off the boat comfortably and have the piece of mind of being securely tied up and sheltered!!