December, 2006. Boat Yard.
We left Tampa Bay and headed to Cortez to get the boat hauled out of the water. The boat is in need of many repairs, many of which I do not understand. The depth sounder was not working right away which is a problem when traveling in Florida’s shallow waters. Clark found a spare he had and off we went. We got to Cortez early but was not able to get hauled out right away due to the awkward channel and high tide times. We, and when I say we I really mean Clark kept finding things that needed to be fixed. Luckily, Clark knows his boat and how to fix all these things. We got the fresh water maker working properly, scrapped all the barnacles off so we can go a lot faster (2 knots faster; 50% faster!) pulled the shaft, making adjustments to the cutlass barring, installing a shaft generator, replacing the packing gland hose, moving the water pump, getting the boat painted and varnished and many other essential parts working properly. We just got a few last minute details to take care of and then hopefully we will be in the water again by Friday before everyone goes on Christmas holiday!
We travelled 180 miles from Cortez to Key West in about 30 hours. It was an interesting first sail for me. We saw a few dolphins and a giant sea turtle along the way. It started off as a slow sail then in the evening the wind picked up quite a bit. Now I know why we put the harnesses on when we are on deck! I woke up in the middle of the night in 20 knots of wind ahead of the beam which is a bit more than what the boat needs. It was then that I realized the importance of doing the dishes and storing things properly before going to bed at sea! I found a skillet a couple of days later under the nav station. When I crawled my way up on deck and got harnessed in I noticed the sky was so brightly filled with stars. Being away from all the city lights the stars shine a lot brighter and you see a lot more of them. I saw my first shooting star, actually my first seven! Staring up at the sky kept me up for my 4 hour watch, although I think I forgot to check for other boats and to watch the instruments! But, thanks to the gps and autopilot we only got a 1/2 mile off course. We anchored North of Christmas Tree Island in Key West for New Years.
Our first order of business was to buy a new outboard motor. We ordered the motor and a couple of days later we would pick it up in Marathon. While we were in Key we did the touristy things of taking a picture of the southernmost point, walking down Duval street and visiting Mallory Square. A couple of days later we picked up the new Tahatsu motor in Marathon then sailed up to Snake Creek to wait for the fronts to pass and the north winds to go away so we could cross the Gulf Stream.
January, 2007. Bahamas.
We were getting cabin fever waiting for weather in the Keys and left a day earlier than what we should have. We crossed the Gulf Stream in an East wind with 25 knots of wind and 8-10 foot waves. It took 23 hours to cross the Gulf Stream. When we were an hour away from land the wind died and the Gulf Stream was taking us to Virginia. We started the motor to take us the last five miles. Soon afterwards the motor overheated because a fan belt failed and the water pump stopped functioning. This was a particularly bad situation since we did not have a spare fan belt of the right size. Clark was luckily able to save the day by disabling the alternator and putting the old belt back on. It wasn’t completely trustworthy so I watched the belt to make sure it stayed on while Clark motored in to Gun Cay, Bahamas. Clark made a modification to the engine that allowed the spare fan belts to fit and fixed the problem once we were anchored. Gun Cay turned out to be a great little spot. Lots of conch, starfish and hermit crabs. I found 158 pet hermit crabs!! I made a home for them in a tupperware container. It was also a great spot to snorkel. I swam with my first nurse shark which was about 6 feet long! We saw Sting Rays, Barracudas, Tuna, Angel fish, Parrot fish, Trigger fish and many other species of colorful reef fish.
We sailed East to Morgans Bluff on Andros Island to check in to the Bahamas. Andros island being the largest in the Bahamas seems to have a lot of freshwater. The smaller islands don’t seem to have much since the ships line up to deliver the water to all the other islands. So we filled up on free water and did laundry. The fees to check in to the Bahamas are now $300 for boats over 35 feet. We met up with some friends and did some provisioning. However, at $8 for a gallon of milk and $55 for a case of Budweiser we ended up only getting some pasta and chicken. The grocery store was about 2-3 miles away but the people are friendly enough to offer you a ride.
We stayed in Andros for three days then headed to Nassau for some protection from a front that was on its way. We were able to anchor in Nassau between the cruise ships and the Atlantis resort. We went over to Paradise Island to check out the Atlantis Aquarium which is definately worth a visit. We went in the evening around 6pm which I believe is free admission at that time. We were able to find a larger grocery store and did a bit more grocery shopping. We also found an internet cafe along the way. We waited for another front to pass then headed to the Exumas. Our first stop was Shroud Cay where we anchored in for the night then headed to Big Major Spot the next day. We were coming into the anchorage when our motor failed again! This time the transmission disassembled itself and started grinding away into pieces. Not good.
February was a very hectic month for us. We didn’t get to our webpage and I’m writing this after the fact. We continued to have problems with our transmission. After it disassembled itself it worked for a bout another 10 hours but then it started slipping. I think some of the metal filings from the earlier problem got into the clutch plates and messed them up. All this from hireling some work done! I’ve only hired 2 things done on this boat, and both have turned out to be disasters. I had a pump rebuilt that resulted in the loss of the engine last trip. I hired a new engine installed and it resulted in the loss of the transmission. Both caused by workmen just not caring about doing a proper job.
We sailed most of the way to Georgetown where, with the help of my parents and friends in Florida, I had another transmission flown down. I removed the engine and transmission at anchor and installed the new transmission. All seems fine with the new transmission.
We headed out from Georgetown to continue east. We spent a wonderful 2 days on an island called Conception. Where we dove and walked on the beaches. We had the whole place to ourselves for most of our time there.
We then motored to Rum Cay and sailed off the next day on a long passage to Mayaguez. That trip took all day and night but we had a relatively good passage. There was a bit more wind then we really needed and a few thunderstorms but the wind could have been right on the nose. When we arrived a front caught up with us so we hunkered down behind the reef to wait for the rains to pass.
Then it was off to the Turks and Caicos. We again had very nice winds. We were able to sail most of the way in calm conditions. We decided to head south for French Cay instead of checking into the main city in the chain. It looked like the settled weather would hold and we could leave the next day for the Dominican Republic.