Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boat Troubles and Good Friends

If you thought our cruising life was all fun and games, guess again!! The other day we headed out of the North anchorage at the Park to meet up with our friends at the Cambridge mooring field, which is a beautiful little harbor situated between Bell Island and Cambridge Cay - it is relatively protected from the seas and the wind which is a good thing because it's been blowing 15-30 knots pretty much ever since we got here! And it is forecast to keep blowing like this for another couple days!! Right out of the North Anchorage our port engine starting vibrating really badly - we could feel it all the way up on the flybridge. Doug flew down to the engine room and I shut the port engine off - unfortunately one of the four mounts that hold down the port engine had snapped in two causing all the ruckus when the engine was on. We have big 225 HP John Deere diesel's so when they are not secured not only do they make a lot of noise but the constant shaking causes all kinds of other problems (3 of the 4 bolts that connect the shafts to the transmission had fallen out and were on the floor of the engine room - can you say not a good thing)!!! As if that wasn't bad enough, of course it is the port engine that drives our stabilizers (which keeps the boat from rocking and rolling from side to side) so when we shut off the port engine we also lost the stabilizers!!! Luckily we didn't have too far to go - about 10 miles - because the seas were kicking up a bit and we had to travel on one engine!!

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we then had to weave our way into the mooring field through a fairly narrow and shallow cut and try to pick up a mooring ball in a pretty heavy current with the wind blowing about 15 knots (not fun on a good day with both engines working!) We made it into the mooring field after one false pass (we got a little too close to a reef but backed out and found the deeper water) and got right up to the mooring ball, but the current and wind took us before Doug could get the mooring line tied down - with only one engine, I didn't have the maneuverability to keep us in place long enough. Rather than risk catching his fingers in the line or the cleat (more later....) he let the lines go free. As our luck was running that day, the mooring pendant caught on our props (of course)!!!! "Luckily" we had turned the engines off as soon as Doug threw off the lines so the pendant didn't wrap around our props but just got caught across them - Doug was able to don his flippers and mask and dive to free the lines. Meanwhile our friends had come over in their dinghies to help as had a guy on the next sailboat over (unfortunately all the snailbotter managed to do was almost drown Doug - he brought his dinghy so close to Gypsies that Doug hit it on his way up from a free dive with very little breath left - that's your worst nightmare!!!)

Eventually we got the mooring line freed and maneuvered around in the current until we were safely tied up - talk about Miller Time!!! But instead of a lengthy beer binge (which we figured we deserved after such a day), we donned our shorty wetsuits and headed out in the dink to join our friends on a snorkeling excursion.

The first place we went was a small island off the coast called Rocky Dundas where there was amazing fish and corals and even several caves with stalagmites and stalactites! Then it was on to Tom's Elkhorn Reef where we saw some amazing old elkhorn coral and swam with Barry the Cuda - barracuda look really menacing with their low slung jaws and really sharp pointy teeth but we've never had a problem with them and as far as I know there hasn't been a reported unprovoked attack (even when you wear shiny stuff - ie jewelry). This one just seemed to follow us around as we were snorkeling seemingly more curious than anything. The next stop was the Coral Garden which was right off Honeymoon Beach for a quick view of some great corals heads and sea fans.

But the piece de resistance (who knows if that is spelled right??? but pronounce it in french and it's close enough) was the Sea Aquarium over by O'Brien's Cay - it was down to just three of us by that time, but it was spectacular!!! It is a relatively small area of coral heads and rocky cliffs that harbor a virtual aquarium of fish - I jumped in the water and was immediately surrounded by hundreds of sergeant majors - all I could do was giggle as they circled my head!! But then I was transported to a different underwater world which you just can't imagine unless you have had the opportunity to snorkel or dive a magical place. There were scores of queen angelfish, damselfish, squirrelfish, various species of parrotfish, fairy basslets (half purple and half yellow), blueheads (part blue, white and green), yellow tail snappers and bar jacks, as well as grouper, other types of snapper and blue tangs - we even saw trumpetfish, smooth trunkfish and a spotted burrfish. Now I'm sure you don't know exactly what those all are and I had to look up a bunch of them in our Reef Fish Identification book when I got home (half the fun of snorkeling is trying to figure out all of what you saw!!!) but hopefully you get a sense that this was a pretty special place!!! Bob from September Song had an underwater breathing apparatus so was able to dive down and get up close and personal with some of the fish hanging out in the caves - unfortunately one such fish was a reef shark!!!
Stoplight Parrotfish


Blue Tang


Queen Angelfish

Yellowtail Snapper

Sergeant Major



Elkhorn Coral

Sea Clam

The group snorkeling at Rocky Dundas

Bob from September Song diving at the Sea Aquarium

That afternoon Life's2Short got back from picking John up down in Staniel Cay and they caught 2 mahis on the way back!!! That night dinner was on Tide Hiker - what a feast from the grilled pork tenderloin to the last bite of Stephanie's magic bars with little snickers in them (amazingly decadent)!!! We figured we'd worked off some of those calories with all the snorkeling that afternoon - maybe not enough, but certainly some!!

The next day was spent trying to figure out how to get our motor mount fixed - it needs to be welded before it can be replaced and then the engines will need to be aligned, but baby steps - first things first - where to find a welder in the out islands of the Exumas?? We talked to Compass Cay and got the name of a guy in Staniel - Jeff, just Jeff - who they thought was a welder - OK great. We tried to hail Staniel Cay Yacht Club, the next real port of civilization about an hour and a half by boat, to no avail but a catamaran in the anchorage (Moving On) radioed us that they would call the Club for us and assuming they could connect with Jeff, offered to bring the part down for us on Friday!!!! Moving On voluntarily watches over this mooring field in the southern end of the Park and have been truly amazing! They brought our part to Staniel and gave it to a guy named Burkey who owns part of the marina and several stores in town, and is the local minister, who would get it to Jeff to fix - they would then make arrangements through Burkey to get it back from Jeff and get it up to us in Cambridge on Sunday - WOW!!! We were a little concerned watching our part leave in a relay of people we really didn't know since without it we can't use our port engine, but that's how things get done down here and it was amazing that so many people were willing to go out of their way to help us!! We have found that as cruisers we are all very eager to help others not just because we are all out here living the life but because you know at some point you are going to need help and hope that some other cruiser is around to help you!! Hopefully we get the part back on Sunday and Doug and the guys (all of the guys on our buddy boats have offered to help!!) can get it installed and the engine realigned on Sunday afternoon or Monday so we can all head South when the weather breaks!!

As if all that wasn't enough, our watermaker has decided to be temperamental - OK it isn't working properly - the saline content of the water it is making is too high!! Poor Doug has tried absolutely everything and I believe he could recite the manual backwards and forwards and maybe even in Latin he's read it so many times. At this point we think it has to be some kind of defect in either the watermaker itself or the installation - as soon as we get to Staniel Cay we will try to find someone who knows watermakers and/or call the manufacturer! So what do we do for water in the interim --- conserve!!! We mostly shower off the back of the boat with a quick rinse down with fresh water - don't feel too bad for us, the water down here is gin clear and about 80 something degrees!!! The only thing you need to be careful of is the sharks that regularly swim by our boats but mostly after about 4 or 5 pm!!! It is very weird (but cool) to be standing up on the flybridge or the front of the boat and see a shark or a big ray passing by but the water is so clear that you see everything!!! Yesterday on our way in to the beach for an afternoon of beach relaxation, we actually saw a huge orange starfish that had to be over a foot long!!!! All of our buddy boats have graciously offered to transfer some water to us and the use of their showers (we think that was a request before the next potluck dinner....) but they have all been great!!

Remember how I mentioned that when we were mooring Doug had to let the lines go so he didn't crush his fingers.....well one of our buddy boats wasn't so lucky!! The other day Rickshaw decided to move to a mooring ball closer to the shore to get a little more protection from the winds and the surge. The wind was blowing around 20 knots and unfortunately Lynnie got her finger caught in the mooring line and managed to rip open one of her fingers pretty badly. Next thing we knew, the folks on Moving On were leading Rickshaw in their dinghies to Compass Cay at a high rate of speed where they knew there was a doctor on one of the anchored boats! The doctor fixed up her hand free of charge (another cruiser going out of his way to help!!!) and luckily it wasn't as bad as they first thought - she still needs to keep it dry and free of infection (both a challenge when you live on a boat) but should be just fine in a little while. Life's2Short was down in Compass Cay and also came to their rescue - they actually put them on board and steamed back up here towing their dinghy instead of letting them dinghy back through the rough cut - very cool!! Lynnie's close call made us all really think twice about this life we are leading - yes, it is a ton of fun but it is also dangerous. We are on a moving boat constantly fighting the forces of nature and what we do is very physical - we all joke about our ever present bruises and cuts and scrapes, but we know that a bad accident could happen to anyone at anytime. We all have extensive first aid kits on board (although some better equipped with prescription drugs than others - you know who you are), but knowing that you have friends and other cruisers out there who are always willing to lend a helping hand makes us sleep a little easier at nights!!

Last night we had a big fish grill on September Song - Stephanie and Bob grilled up the two mahi Colleen, Todd and John had caught on Life's2Short - Brenda had the tough job of keeping the boat steady in the rocking seas!!! I don't think I'll ever get sick of eating fresh fish - even if it's always mahi (I once ate mahi for every meal except breakfast during a three day Key West binge - I really like mahi!) The food and the company was wonderful as always - I really need to keep snorkeling and hiking and kayaking if I want to avoid weighing about 200 pounds by the time this trip is over!!! Now if the wind would just let up so we could do that......
Sunset on the Back of Tide Hiker
Sunset in Cambridge Cay

Click here to see a Google map of our location at Cambridge Cay

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