Passage to Dominican Repbulic

The ride to Puerto Rico  Dominican Republic was quite wet.  Our boat is fairly low in the water, and our bow lockers are probably a bit heavier than is ideal, and to be honest, the boat is probably loaded more than it should be as well.  All of these factors combine to cause our bow to dig into waves every once in a while.  When it does, there really isn’t anything to divert them from rolling up and over the deck and if large enough – right over the salon roof and into our cockpit.  The swells were decent sized 1-2 meters and we were doing a good clip sailing along at 7-8kts.

P1000640It wasn’t too long into the journey that we discovered our efforts to repair the problem with the starboard engine had not been successful.  We thought the problem was a bad fuel injector and had replaced it – but the engine began losing rpms, slowing down and then speeding up.  Eventually – after a short while the alarm went on and the engine shut down.  We were down to one engine, again.  But that was okay – we are a sailboat, after all.

That night was pretty smooth and we handled the problems with a great deal of aplomb, things do go wrong on a boat after all, it’s to be expected.  I was more concerned when the next morning we found a 12” tear in the main sail.  Jay repaired this with sail-tape and we used the full main again the next evening.  Still, it indicates we will need to replace the sails before the large trip through the Pacific… which is disappointing.

We ended up heading more directly south than we’d hoped, but I thought we’d be able to get more easterly when we tacked back up north.  As we moved along through the night, things seemed to be going well – but when I got up for my shift, I found out that the pin holding the top of the jib to it’s halyard had broken so the jib had been taken in.  We were also taking in a lot of water through our leaking hatches and efforts to tape them closed had reduced the influx only moderately.  Whenever a big wave rolled over – it was pouring cupfuls into the head, galley and my cabin.  Annika’s mini cabin in my room was also leaking pretty badly.  With the difficulty in getting a good angle by tacking, we decided to travel the coast of the Dominican Republic at night and catch the lee winds for an easier ride.

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Annika enjoying the sky before dark

I enjoyed my night shift, which Annika joined me on – keeping good company with me.  It was a dark night again, the moon not rising until the end of my shift.  Without the jib we’d slowed down significantly and the ride was so smooth I invited Annika to clip in and lay on the deck enjoying the complete darkness of the sky.  She had just gone out and was laying there when a loud alarm disturbed the quiet, letting me know that the port engine was overheating and had to be turned off.  Uhmmm… great.  Now we had NO engines, no jib and a main that had a temporarily repaired tear.  I was starting to feel a bit more concerned.  Jay got up and figured the best option was to switch the halyard for the jib and get it working again.

Once the jib was up and running I retired to my bunk for a late sleep at 2 am.  I didn’t sleep well though, as it sounded like there was a lot of activity going on above me.  I thought they were adjusting sails, and it seemed like they got the port engine running again.  I was looking forward to making more progress toward our goal and relaxed.

P1000594.JPGIt wasn’t that much longer – 5am, when I heard a knock on my cabin door.  It was Pat, letting me know that we were having problems steering the boat.  He wondered if I had done something to the steering cable when I’d tried to resolve some of the leaking in Annika’s cabin.  I let him know that nothing I had done would have affected it and came out to investigate the problem.  We appeared to be stuck.  At first it was that whenever we headed a course, in short order we’d be pulled into the wind, no matter what tack we were on, or how much speed we’d gained.  But after a while we realized that we weren’t really able to move at all.  In fact, we were holding the same position even if we turned on the engine and tried to motor.  (The port engine would run, now that it had cooled.)

I have to admit that at this point, I was feeling extremely disheartened with the boat.  EVERYTHING was breaking.  Knowing that we had towing insurance and were only 4 nautical miles off of Dominican Republic was very reassuring.  But what were we to do?  What was wrong?  We figured out through trouble shooting that nothing was wrong with the rudders.  When we turned the wheel, the rudders turned.  By process of elimination – we decided we must be stuck on something.  In fact, even though we were in water that was several thousands of feet deep, when we looked at the depth meter – it would sway back and forth between being too deep to read and 5.5’ deep.  Oh yeah, we must have a net hooked on us.

We tried raising the dagger boat to see if it was there, but that didn’t seem to make a difference.  So we held tight till morning and light when we could go down into the water and see what was holding us up.  It was a long quiet wait till morning and we held our position.  Once the light was bright, we decided to make some more effort to get the daggerboard the rest of the way up (it was still about a foot or two into the water.  It didn’t seem like it made a difference, so Jay descended into the swell – which was very difficult as the waves were throwing him into the boat.  Fortunately, we’d brought along a helmet to help protect him, he wore a ski vest and held onto a line – but he saw nothing when he went below.  Nothing was holding us in place.

At this point, we were flabbergasted… however I noticed on the GPS, that in the time since we’d done the final raising of the daggerboard till now, we’d started to move.  So we decided to fire up the engine and see if we would be able to go forward.  And we moved… no problems… The engine fired up and pushed us along at 4-5 kts against the swell.  The gps showed we were changing position.  And most importantly of all – the depth meter showed us at unmeasurable depths – the 5.5 meter reading disappeared.  We were free!

20151208_141959.jpgIt was daytime and as we went to adjust the sails – we realized that the main had two more tears, above and below the first one.  My frustration and despair was intense.  We double reefed the main which took the stress off the tearing area… I went below to sleep, instructing the crew that the bashing was too much for the boat.  We needed to head in whatever course took the strain off the boat.  Pat asked if we should find an anchorage, and I agreed.

New Crew! Pat and Laura – Turks and Caicos

We spent the next 8 or 9 days in Turks and Caicos waiting for our next crew to arrive.  I believe I’ve mentioned Pat who joined us in Georgetown, but I don’t think I’ve given a formal introduction.  Pat came to us with some training and experience with catamarans, to help us in Barry’s absence.  He’s been a welcome addition as we found someone who is extremely pleasant and wonderful for helping to troubleshoot the electronics that have mystified us since we arrived on the boat.  We got a better understanding of the battery set up, the charging capability of our wind and solar etc.  Pat enjoys pulling out manuals and reading through them to get a better understanding of how the equipment works.

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Pat Making a funny face!

 

It’s really nice having someone aboard who actually enjoys doing that.  Most of all, I have really enjoyed Pat’s constant positivity in the face of the most trying circumstances.  Pat always seems to have a smile and a great deal of common sense.  The only bad thing I can say about Pat is that he’s only staying with us until December 15, when he’s returning to his family in California.  We’re going to cry when he leaves, we’ll miss him so much.

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Clean Bottom – but needs a new bottomcoat

The week in Caicos was pleasant.  We were anchored in a sandy area surrounded by expensive vacation rentals.  We met lots of fun people who were visiting for a week with their families – and Fiona got to know a few of the kids, which was a lot of fun for her.  There were four different ship wrecks to explore in the area around our boat.  It was a pretty pleasant and we saw many creatures for the first time, like very large puffer fish, turtles, a LOT of lobster, large purple tangs but not a whole lot of coral.  I also had time to do another bottom cleaning in preparation for our journey to Puerto Rico.

P1000642Laura arrived on the 1st of December in a flurry of excitement for all of us.  Jay left early to do some provisioning at the grocery in town before meeting Laura at the airport.  Once they found each other they took a cab back to the dinghy and then, after so much anticipation she was here!  Laura is another breath of positivity bringing good energy into the boat.  And I was thrilled when she gifted me a genuine Women Who Sail (a facebook club I’m part of) burgee!  What a thrill, now we can more easily find and meet up with other wws!

We had realized that the weather was going to be favorable for doing a couple of tacks to head down to Puerto Rico in a matter of 5 or so days as soon as Laura arrived.  So, the next morning we headed over to a marina, bought some more fuel, water and checked out of Turks and Caicos.  We departed that afternoon into the large swells generated by the trade winds coming up the north side of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

Thanksgiving On The Bright Side

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Pat, Fiona, Annika and Taunya – Jay is taking the picture

 

Having Thanksgiving on a boat in a tropical place is a bit different than it is back home.  At home, it’s fall.  Leaves are changing colors and literally falling.  There’s a chill in the air and frequently a frost on the lawn.  This lends a certain scent and chill that makes the thought of roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing sound very delicious.

When you’re on a boat, it’s hard to reconcile the day being different from the day before.  The weather in the tropics doesn’t vary as much and the added spice of atmosphere is missing.  Also, there’s a disconnect with family and friends back home.  I’m lucky to have some of my family with me – Annika and Fiona were eager to continue traditional holidays.  And it is really for them, that we made an effort to have a slightly atypical, but still wonderful, Thanksgiving feast.

So this leads to the question of – what is it LIKE doing Thanksgiving here On The Bright Side?  It’s definitely different because first off, there is no oven on our boat.  Everything we cook must be done on one of three gas burners, or outside on the grill.  How do you bake a turkey?  How do you bake pies?

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Stovetop pie!

In the case of the Turkey – my solution was simple… we didn’t.  I had a nice ham I had purchased back in Ft. Lauderdale in the Freezer… we wrapped that in foil and put it on the grill (thawing it quickly and easily in the tropical heat, earlier in the day.)  Second, I was creative with the pie – and have an air bake pan that I can use to “bake” things on the stove top.  So, I lined that with a buttery crust and filled it with pumpkin pie filling – about 40 mins later, we had pumpkin pie!  Mashed potatoes were easy – stove top is normally all you need for that.  And for the stuffing?  Well, I put it all together on the stove and it came out downright tasty.  It might seem a bit odd to have ham and stuffing… but it made it a little more like Thanksgiving.

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Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing

We enjoyed our feast and also watched the episode of The Lord of The Rings – (which traditionally the girls would watch all three episodes on Thanksgiving day – but we don’t have the battery power to run the TV all day.)  It was a lovely day – and the pie (which was definitely an experiment) came out delicious.

delicious hamHappy Belated Thanksgiving from myself an all the crew – SV – On The Bright Side

Mayday! SV On The Brightside TO THE RESCUE

distressOur Trip to Caicos was filled with excitement.  We were leaving in a short weather window that was not optimal sailing conditions, but good enough that we could motor down before a large low came down from the north.  We had just gotten out into the Atlantic, when we registered another ship calling Mayday on our VHF radio.  At first, we presumed it someone way far out in the Atlantic and nothing we’d be able to help with.  However, we were wrong.

Pat and Jay looked up where the Lat Lon of the boat was, and realized it was the one they’d been watching tack back and forth ahead of us.  Their roller furler had broken – sending a line down under their hull and fouling their prop.  They’d managed to secure the mast so that it was not in danger of falling, but they could not sail and had no engine.  The seas were choppy and rough with their boat heaving and rolling  – worse of all, they were only a few nautical miles from coral reefs.

distressed sailboatAs we got closer, we could see a small fishing skiff with a large engine… but they seemed to have no radio and didn’t seem to be moving in to help.  We discussed getting scuba gear and trying to unfoul their lines… but were advised by others on the radio, not to try this and to tow them in.  We maneuvered the boat around, being careful not to bash into them, but trying to get close enough to toss them a line.

This was extremely difficult – as the waves were rocking and pushing us – and even with our two engines, we are a large boat and not terribly maneuverable in these conditions.  After a couple of passes, we got too close and bam!  Their bow sprit came down on our life line, popping one of our stanchions.

help for distress.jpgThe adrenaline was flowing as the fishing skiff came in and yelled that they would bring the line to the other craft and then back to us.  That seemed like a smart idea, they were much more maneuverable.  We handed them our long tow line and got ready to make another (much further away) pass.  However, suddenly our starboard engine died… And we realized that in changing positions, we’d lost track of the second tow line we’d gotten out.  Part of that line had fallen into the water on the aft side of the boat and now OUR prop was fouled!!!!

Fortunately, this happened when we were quite some distance from them, and since our props are fairly close to the water line, it was no where near as difficult for us to unfoul it.  Jay climbed down the ladder with a knife in hand – and attached to the boat, he moved with it and was not in danger of whacking his head.  A swift cut and the line fell loose, the engine restarted, easily.  Meanwhile, the fishing skiff decided to just go ahead and tow the crippled boat and not bother to bring us the line.

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Examining the broken stanchion

 

We followed them in for a ways, talking to the other boat over the radio, making sure they were okay.  It was a bit scary for them, because they were not able to communicate with the fishing boat well.  It was particularly nerve wracking for them, as the fishing boat has a shallow draft and is easily able to maneuver among the coral reef.  They failed to consider the needs of a sailboat keel and just about gave the owners heart failure as they took them through an extremely narrow section – where they could see large coral heads on either side of their boat.

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Underside of stanchion – it pulled the plate INTO the fiberglass

After feeling certain they were okay, we decided to leave them the rope and not pursue their offer to recompense us for the busted stanchion – we were worried about not having a big enough weather window and wanted to be on our way south.  It was an exhilarating experience to be part of a rescue, and I certainly learned a lot about keeping a distance, even if the other boat is in trouble.  Rusty also sent me an article pointing out that towing is a difficult option and probably shouldn’t be done, except by the experts.  So, I guess we’re lucky we weren’t able to actually do the towing ourselves.  Here’s the article for other cruisers who might be interested: tow-manship and how to – towing.

 

 

 

….And MORE Boat Chores….

They say having a boat is really just all about doing boat repairs in exotic locations.  So far, this definitely describes my experience.  I know that a large part of it is that the boat has been sitting mostly unused for the last three years – so suddenly adding a lot of stress (bashing down to Caicos in 2.5 days) really brings any problems to the forefront and can add a few more.

glueOne big problem we’re running into that we were hoping we could delay until Portland is the headliner.  Headliner is exactly what it sounds like – most people are familiar with what they have in their car – above their heads.  On the boat, it’s all over the place.  And the problem is, it’s old and starting to fall down.  In Annika’s cabin (the forward starboard v-berth) it came down in a BIG way.  The whole interior, ceiling and walls just collapsed over her bed, spreading a lovely layer of orange crumbs (decomposing foam).

headlinerWe tried removing the foam and gluing the liner back in place, however the glue was not working (bad combination with previous glue?  leftover granules of foam interference?  Heat and humidity problems?)  It could have been any of those reasons… but none of them were really something we could deal with in Georgetown Bahamas so we had to find another solution.  We decided to scrape out the glue and just paint the cabin white.  This was a grueling four day process that had the entire boat feeling cranky.  Fortunately, when we finished it came out very nice.

Another problem is that all our hatches are leaking – and they probably all need new seals.  But when you’re pounding into waves – the water gets shoved up into them very forcefully – and even a well sealed hatch might have problems.  To mitigate that, Jay’s been working on making hatch covers for all the hatches.  We did have one completed for Annika’s cabin (which seems to be our problem child of cabins,) however it didn’t stay on in the pounding… we’re going to have to add more snaps.

wiringMore projects… I finished rewiring the double fluorescent fixture above the mini-berth in my cabin to LED – it had been giving me trouble because I couldn’t figure out how to rewire it with two bulbs… but the third try was the one that finally did the trick.  It works!!!!  (Doing a happy dance on that one.)

Our passage to Caicos really was hard on the boat.  By the time we were ready to anchor, both engines were dying.  Yesterday we fixed the port engine, which had a water pump failure including blowing out the belt.  In fixing this, we also realized that the alternator mount had broken (probably a long time ago by the way it was rigged) and since we had a spare alternator, we went ahead and replaced it along with the main belt.  Once we completed this and topped off fluids – the engine purrs like a kitten.

alternatorThe starboard engine we haven’t tackled yet, but we’re pretty sure the problem is a bad injector – we’ve even traced which one it is.  Jay taught me that to find a bad fuel injector, you stick a screwdriver up against each injector and put your ear to the handle and listen while the motor is running.  He said it will sound different if the injector is bad.  We dutifully listened and whoah!  He was right… one of them sounded way wrong – and the bad injector is definitely one of the things that could be causing the problems we’ve been experiencing (low rpms, overheating, etc.)  Since today is Thanksgiving, we’re going to work on that engine tomorrow.

trampolineThe trip also tore out the aft section of the trampoline rail.  Rusty told me it was because the holes in the tramp are actually not large enough for the force of water going through them.  And since it was under a lot of stress from the bashing on the way down – that ability to bear load was put under tension and he was right.  We’re repairing the tramp for now, but ultimately we’ll replace it with something that has larger holes and can handle the waves coming up over it.

batteriesWe’ve also been learning more about maintaining our batteries.  I checked the water level in them and realized that many were low – which might help explain why we’d been having a difficult time keeping a charge.  As Pat helped me explore and understand the power set up, I also realized that I had not turned on the charging for the wind generator (fortunately, there hadn’t been a lot of wind – I swear I thought I had turned it on.)  It actually really helps keep the batteries topped up.

daggerboardAnother project that was extremely satisfying to complete was finding the leak in Annika’s cabin.  We found that even a modest sail was producing a wet floor… we took out the carpet and determined that there was a leak somewhere in the daggerboard sheath.  We pulled back the headliner and found – there were a BUNCH of screw holes that had been left unfilled behind the headliner.  Woah… pretty lame on the part of the person Gary paid to do the remodel.  Anyway – a little epoxy putty took care of that and now the floor stays dry!  Yippee!

This is just a small sampling of the boat projects we’ve been working on… there are tons more and often it feels overwhelming.  I’m glad we’re going to have the boat up in Portland for three years before we leave on the big trip.  Right now, we’re just trying to get it home… but ultimately there are quite a few things we’re going to be adjusting.  Sailing it there is giving me a really large perspective on what the priorities need to be.

 

 

Swimming with the Dolphins

dolphins kiss smallHow many of us spent our childhood watching Flipper, and seeing little Timmy swim with his amazing wild dolphin friend?  I *loved* Flipper and always dreamed *I* could have a dolphin friend of my own someday.  40 years later, I realize that dream is not terribly realistic.  Worse than that, opportunities to pay to “swim with the dolphins” turns out to be a really bad idea – because it encourages confining and abusing intelligent mammals for profit.  The more we learn about the industry, the less palatable $50 to “swim with the dolphins” becomes.

I figured that being on a boat, I would be given the opportunity to SEE the dolphins and enjoy them as they ride the wake off our bow.  But we weren’t moving when 5 dolphins showed up behind our boat while we were anchored at Monument Beach in Georgetown Bahamas.  They were just out there, swimming around and having a good time with each other. Jay grabbed his gear and took off, to go swim with them.

Initially, I hesitated.  I was sure they’d just swim off and getting in the water would be pointless.  Plus, they *ARE* large, wild animals, it might not be a good idea.  Then I thought about my worries with the pigs and how Jay went over and had a good time, and knew that *this* time I really did not want to be the one who was left out of the fun.  I threw on my bathing suit, snorkel gear and Fiona and I jumped in.  Jay was already out there, quite a ways, swimming with them, and it took Fiona and I a while to catch up.  But we did – and there they were!!!!!

Holy MOLY – I can’t begin to explain how amazing it was to be swimming and looking in the water to see them swimming all around us.  They wove in and out and rolled and turned and even came right up close into my face.  The older dolphin swam so close by, I could see all the little scars on her snout.  I was joyous as I sang out to them “Here I am… wow… look at you!  I’m sooo happy!”  I waved my hands excitedly, but to be honest, mostly they ignored me and played with each other, not minding our presence.

I was careful not to try and touch them or approach too closely – just getting close enough to see them and then letting them choose to come closer or further.  Annika took a while to come out, feeling resistant to getting in the water, but eventually she set aside her teenage angst and joined us in our swim.  We swam with them for 1.5 hours before they wandered off to further parts of the bay.  We were joined by other boaters, who also had their first opportunity for such a close up encounter.

dolphins small.jpgI have to say though, the whole time we swam with them I kept thinking “OMG, I should have my camera.  I should be filming this, I should have pictures.  OMG, I can’t believe I didn’t bring it…” and I was filled with huge regrets about not getting any of it on film.  So when they moved off to the boat next to us, I got my camera, put a fresh battery in it and swam to the other boat.  Twice the dolphins did a close swim by and I COULD have gotten some fantastic footage, except apparently the battery that I thought had a fresh charge, had gone bad.  I couldn’t get the camera to work.  I was sooooo sad.

In order to commemorate the experience, we bought these post cards – but I have no photographic proof.  So, you’ll just have to believe us when we tell you – we really *DID* get to swim with the dolphins.

 

Ride from Georgetown to Turks and Caicos

P1000646We knew the ride to Turks and Caicos was going to be a bit rough, the weather window wasn’t ideal.  We’d just sat out a storm passing through Georgetown, so even though it had passed by, the waves were still agitated.  Ideally, we would have waited a few more days for the seas to calm and then left.  The trouble was, we were moving against the wind and current, which is known as bashing.  So you want as little wind and waves going against you as possible.

We decided to leave, because there was another storm coming in from the North (we were headed southeast) that would be arriving in about 3-4 days.  Since that storm would have kept us where we were for a week and we wouldn’t even have a good idea of what our weather window options would be after that, we decided to make a run for it in less than ideal conditions.  So, we knew it would be a bit bumpy, but it wasn’t going to be too bad and we were hopeful that the wind would turn and give us a chance to sail, or at least motor-sail.

Why the urgency?  Well, we’d hoped to be down to Puerto Rico to pick up Laura when she arrived on the first… but as we realized in Georgetown that wouldn’t be an option, we had arranged to pick her up in Turks and Caicos – which seemed quite doable at only 2.5 days away from our current location.  Of course, weather decided to kick up at that point, so we departed at less than ideal conditions, but not at a horrible time either.

20151122_020205So what was it like?  Have you ever ridden a horse on a trail?  As your hips sit in the seat, you find your body moving left and right, up and down and rotating with the animal beneath you.  It was kind of like that.  The waves were short and choppy – hitting us smack on the nose.  The swells were larger and further apart, but added to the bounce.

The kids seem to take this movement in stride, being mildly annoyed by the jostling and finding it difficult to walk smoothly but otherwise being not much bothered.  I found it mildly difficult, and only felt comfortable in my bunk with the fans blowing on me, or at the helm in the captains chair.  I was only a little queasy and found bonine alleviated any challenge I might have had with seasickness.  Pat had no difficulty managing the jostling.  In fact he said that what he experienced in the Atlantic on his last crossing was a lot more challenging.  It does make me wonder what some of our passages will be like, and how we will manage cooking in those conditions.

Jay declined motion sickness pills before we departed and much to his chagrin.  After the adrenaline died from our encounter with the Mayday Boat, he spent his time flat in his bunk in abject misery.  Poor Jay, he was so uncomfortable, tossing his cookies and groaning.  He did the first night watch with a bucket at his side, and by the second night, Pat and I managed to cover for him, to spare him the demands.

In preparation for our journey, I’d made two Thai Curries and a lot of plain rice.  One was panang with chicken, orange bell pepper, onions and mushrooms.  The other was mussaman with onions and lots of okra I’d bought from a farmer in Georgetown.  I think this was a rather unfortunate choice, as Jay can no longer stomach the smell of curry, and Annika and I found that our intestines are not happy with a lot of okra.  I think next time I’ll make a milder choice for passage foods.

distressMidway through our trip, I noticed the jib seemed strangely wrinkled.  Pat agreed that it did and we started to examine what the issue was.  While he was looking at it up close, I noticed that the bottom was disconnected from the roller furler (this is a drum, that we pull and it rolls the sail up for us from the cockpit.)  This meant the bottom of our sail was no longer connected to – anything!  A closer look showed that the shackle that connected it had broken.  We believe that the pin had come unscrewed from one side and the shackle bent.

P1000492While the trip was a bit challenging and pretty wet (our hatches are leaking far more than I’d like) it wasn’t too bad and the night watch felt like an amazing ride.  There was no moon when I started, so aside from the glow of the instruments, the dark was complete.  The movement of the boat was akin to riding a horse on an uneven trail.  There’s a certain roll your hips do, following motion of his body, down on one side, up on the other, roll to the other side.  Or maybe it’s more like doing a slow motion hula.  I found the movement pleasurable as we glided through the stars – if felt like magic to me.  Nevertheless, I slept most of the day after checking in at Turks and Caicos.

 

Staniel Cay – Exumas/Bahamas

Sisters enjoying a dinner out (they look so much like their dad!)

Sisters enjoying a dinner out (they look so much like their dad!)

Staniel Cay was our next stop and the first town we’d been to since Marsh Harbor.  We went ashore to get some groceries and a few treats and see if we could find some free wifi (we couldn’t).  It was the first time the kids had gotten to see the style of Bahama’s towns (they never actually left the marina at Marsh Harbor) and they thought its quaint nature extremely adorable.  We visited the Pink Pearl Supermarket and the “convenience store”; both of which were people’s homes who’d converted a garage into a rather ill equipped “store.”  That night we had dinner at the Yacht Club, which was more than I’d normally spend, but it was the first time we’ve eaten out in

Super thrilled to see our first sharks of the trip!

Super thrilled to see our first sharks of the trip!

three weeks and we kept it pretty reasonable.  While we were at the yacht club, we saw tons of nurse sharks in the harbor which were apparently attracted by all the lobster heads and entrails dumped there after cleaning.  Afterward Annika learned how to row, by rowing us back to the boat in the dingy.  The course was rather round-a-bout, but we arrived in the end.

I think everyone who goes to the Bahamas has to stop here and see the pigs.  It’s a bunch of pigs who have been culled to be female only – they live on the beach and tourists come to see them.  The pigs will swim out to see the boat, and gobble up the scraps… you have to be careful because they can be aggressive.  Since our dinghy had crapped out on us again, Jay swam out to see them.  I was intimidated by large pigs, having had an unfriendly relationship with ours when I was a teenager.  We watched from afar.

After we left, looking to head out again on our next leg south; Jay and I decided it was time for a “man overboard” drill.  He quietly put on a life jacket, and in a very calm, not very deep, section of a large bay, he jumped off the side of the boat.  At this point, I hollered “MAN OVERBOARD!!!” and pointed at where Jay had landed in the water, whilst simultaneously taking the engine out of autopilot and pivoting us around to where he’d fallen.

The girls came rushing out, neither realizing this was a drill – the adrenaline was flowing full force.  Annika started shaking like a leaf, but immediately went for our danbouy johnbouy – which costs to rearm.  I assured her it was a drill, and that would not be necessary in this instance, that Jay did have a life vest on.  Fiona kept pointing to his location (as she was supposed to),and sobbing, because she’d thought he really fallen overboard and was scared he was hurt or we’d lose him.  We tossed Jay a life ring as we came closer, and then helped him back aboard by lowering the ladder, and using a boat hook for him to hold on to – to assist him with the “current.”

b bright side

Afterward, we talked a lot about what had gone well with that, and what we could do better.  Jay decided next time, we’ll simulate an unconscious victim.  That will be a pretty big challenge as we figure out how to use the spare halyard to haul him up with our lifesling.

Iguanas! Allen’s Cay – Exumas/Bahamas

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Some of the many iguanas

We ended up spending a bit more time in this spot than I intended.  We came here, because there is an island of iguanas, that are used to being fed.  As all of us on board really enjoy reptiles, it seemed like a great place to stop for some fun.  We anchored in a fairly well sheltered little bay, and proceeded to snorkel over to the beach, where we could see tourists arrive in small power boats and the iguanas would come out.  We brought over some fruit and veggies that were a little bit

Jay and the iguanas

Jay and the iguanas

passed by – and boy did they come.  They thoroughly enjoyed the repast of grapes, cherry tomatoes and cabbage leaves we supplied.  Jay was hand feeding them cabbage leaves, Annika and I decided to give it a try, only to find the iguana’s reach was farther than we thought and everyone except Fiona, got bit.  Fortunately, the bites were minor and did not get infected, but we were careful only to throw food to them and leave the hand feeding to Jay who didn’t seem to mind.

a lone iguana

a lone iguana

Allen’s Cay was also the first place the kids got to see some minor reef systems.  They really enjoyed seeing the Christmas tree worms, hard coral polyps, and tons of conch and quite a variety of colorful fishes.  Some of the highlights were a really large boxfish (I think?) that had a remora on it, a really big stingray, eating in the grass under our boat, brain coral, that Fiona had been really excited to finally see , tiny sea stars, crabs, and fish that created a lair and built a rock wall around it and then sat there with a gaping mouth, only to disappear inside if startled.

Wrapped up sail stack... ready for the heavy winds!

Wrapped up sail stack… ready for the heavy winds!

We were going to leave Allen’s Cay the following day, we were concerned about a tropical depression that had developed and was headed to the Bahamas.  After a lot of texting and conflicting reports, it turned out it would be hitting us the next day.  So rather than skeedaddling elsewhere and being stuck at sea in the middle of rough weather, we decided to stay put for another day.  That night, we prepared by removing everything not attached, off the deck, stowing it down below, and tying up the sails so they could not catch in the ferocious winds (It was expected to be a tropical storm by the time it came to our area.)

Tied up roller furler

Tied up roller furler

The next morning, we could see the ominous clouds off in the distance.  And as they moved north , they were still too far East to really hit us.  In fact, as the day passed and the clouds drifted by, it ended up being a big nothing for us, which was a relief.  50 miles to the East on Eluethera where we’d been two days ago… it was a nice storm.  We enjoyed the extra beautiful sunny day we were given and just snorkeled our way around the protected bay, enjoying new sites we had missed in our previous swims.

Here Fishy Fishy

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Jay’s special technique for hooking a fish.

The big question was… would we be able to catch fish, or would come up with a big zero like many boats I’ve read blogs on.  It seems like there are two kinds of boats, those who catch and those who throw a line out, but hook nothing.  I haven’t been able to determine exactly what the difference between the two was, and I was nervous to try my hand at it.

Jay had no such compunctions.  Back in Ft. Lauderdale, he returned from the sporting good store with all kinds of fishing tackle and paraphernalia.  I looked at the morass of gear dubiously and wondered if it would really work.  And when we’d towed a line through the gulf stream on our way to the Bahamas, it had certainly not produced any fish for the effort.

Now that we were back in the Atlantic, sailing from the Abacos to Eluethera Island, Jay put the line out again.  This time, instead of a plain wooden plug (which books say is surprisingly effective, but wasn’t that day, for us) he mounted a pink and yellow vaguely squid shaped rubber that was embedded with a rather large trihook.  As he got ready to toss it overboard, he told us that it had been gifted to him by his good friends Steve and Linder Maggart with the endorsement that it was lucky.

I’m not sure if it was luck, or the sloppy kiss he gave it as he chucked it overboard, but whatever it was, it worked.  It took a few hours, as fish-on didn’t happen until mid day and shortly into Jay’s mid afternoon snooze in the cockpit… the sleep and befuddlement from an abrupt wakening quickly fled, replaced by the adrenaline rushing your body at the excited screeching of Fiona “Fish! Fish!”

Action shot!

Action shot!

Jay rushed over and started hauling in line, hand over hand, around the wooden spool designed for ocean trawling.  As the lure got closer, we were able to see the brilliant yellow of the fish attached, and knew that indeed, it was FISH ON and we were having dinner that night.  The fish was small enough Jay was able to haul it up and bring it aboard with just the line, and we all marveled at the beauty that is a wild Mahi mahi.

After Jay dispatched the fish, he casually chucked the line back in the water and began cleaning it.  It was a probably about 32″, 5.5 lbs and had a couple of nice fillets that would make a great supper that night.  We were scrambling to get some cold water to put the meat in when a sudden snap brought our attention to the line that had been thrown back out!  We’d caught another fish!  Suddenly, Jay was hauling in line a second time, and we could see a second Mahi mahi leaping in the distance.  Jay announced enthusiastically that it was a BIGGER one – and he brought the fish to the back of our boat.

P1000334This time, it was too large for Jay to haul up on the line, so Annika and I ran around frantically, like keystone cops, finding the gaff, getting it ready and trying to hook a 42″ 12lb fish that’s desperately attempting to loose itself from the hook.  Jay was hollering – “Don’t worry, take your time, it’s only huge, heavy and wiggling everywhere.”  Panicking and ineffectively thrusting the hook at the fish’s side, I finally managed to grab it through the gills and Jay grabbed hold of the handle as well, together we hoisted the beast aboard.

Now we had 12 steaks in addition to the two fillets the first fish had supplied.  It’s a good thing we had room in the freezer from eating up the ground beef.  And hopefully, this is just a prelude to many more successful fishing experiences.

Gorgeous fish!

Gorgeous fish!

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Pardon the gore, but isn’t the color change amazing? (Cleanup wasn’t much fun either. :P)