Archive for April, 2008

Entry for April 27, 2008

April 27, 2008

Spotted Eagle Ray swimming with us in the cut between Snake Cay and Deep Sea Cay.  See the head?  Weird, huh?

 

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Entry for April 27, 2008

April 27, 2008

Laura on the beach in front of Nippers on Great Guana Cay

Entry for April 27, 2008

April 27, 2008

On Sunday (April 20th) we completed our first coat of marine varnish on the cockpit combing teak and it was looking pretty good.  “Marine” varnish is slightly different in that it has some additives for UV protection and saltwater resistance (I hope).  This also makes it slightly more expensive (of course).

We finished the first coat by 11:30 am and were hoping to leave the anchorage and travel a little north to Hopetown Harbor.  But, when we started running the lines to the cockpit for our sail controls around 4 pm, the varnish was still a little tacky so we decided to stay another night and let it dry completely.  Instead we went for a long dinghy ride in the late afternoon to check out the beautiful houses and beaches south of here.  It was so cool zooming along on the perfectly clear waters that were flat calm in the lee of the little islands.  We saw a few big fish in the shallow waters (maybe barracuda) and a huge ray in only about 2 feet of water.  The ray was about 4 feet across and jet black.  We followed it a little while in the dinghy then it grew tired of us and swam away.

Sunday night we watched a movie (Behind Enemy Lines) and hit the sack early.  We were pretty tired from all the sanding and teak work.

Monday we were up early.  We lightly sanded the varnish and had the second coat on by 9 am.  It should dry by early afternoon when we’ll put all of our running rigging back together and sail up north.  The winds are out of the south today so it should be a pleasant downwind run. 

The weather the past 4 days has been just awesome – beautiful clear days with winds under 10 knots and temps in the high 70s.  It worked out great for doing this teak work when we needed several dry days in a row to complete the work, dry out the cleaned and sanded wood, then put on the varnish in low humidity.  By Wednesday the winds will pick up to the mid-teens and clock around to the north but still no squalls or rain in the forecast for the next week.  That’s fine with us except we have to use our fresh water out of our tanks for cleaning all the sawdust off the boat.  Now if we could only order a couple hours of rain when we needed it….

I guess I shouldn’t have been to sarcastic when talking about the weather.  As soon as we pulled up the anchor Monday afternoon a squall came through and drenched us – we didn’t even have any sides to our canvas up because of the work we had been doing on the teak.  It only lasted a few minutes but we were both soaked by the time it stopped.  Laura was much wetter than I was because she was outside the cockpit trying to put up the forward part of our canvas sides during the squall.  Oh well, maybe next time I’ll keep my mouth shut (NOT!).

We motored about 4 miles to the other side of the inland sea to a place called Snake Cay.  We had heard about some snorkeling there and the winds were changing to make that a better anchorage anyway.  We arrived in the late afternoon and had a nice, quiet dinner in the cockpit admiring our work of the past few days.

The next morning (Tuesday) we dropped the dinghy and motored off to explore the western shore of the Sea of Abaco.  We found a small inlet to another bay behind Snake Cay where the water was much deeper (40 feet) than the surrounding area.  As we were slowly motoring through the inlet, we saw two large rays just gliding along.  We followed them for a bit then kept heading west to explore.  The western bay was very shallow (less than 2 feet) and it was an interesting ride over the smooth, crystal clear waters with the dink.  We eventually headed back to the inlet where we decided to snorkel a bit and just drift with the dinghy. 

We saw several species of tropical fish along the walls and I even spotted two lobsters lurking under a rock about 20 feet down.  That’s about the depth limit of my snorkeling plus lobster are out of season here for the next couple months.  Bummer.

About ¾ of the way through the inlet I saw this large shadow coming toward us from the east.  I jumped and scared Laura who was snorkeling right beside me.  It was one of the rays we had seen earlier but it seemed a little scarier now that we were in the water with it.  It had a 4 foot wingspan and was probably 8 or 9 feet long including the very long 4+ foot tail.  We both thought it looked pretty weird because it had a large head attached to the front of the wings.  We had never seen a ray that had a head sticking out from the rest of the wing part.  It looked like a small dogs head attached to the front of a ray and gave us both the shivers.  It swam around us for a little while – never paying much attention to us – then gracefully sway away with a gentle push of its wings.  When we returned to the boat, we looked up the ray and saw it was called a Spotted Eagle Ray which grows to 10 feet long.  It was beautiful.

After returning to the boat we decided to head north and visit Man O War Cay.  We motored for about 2 hours at low RPM (to save fuel) into the northerly 10 knot winds.  We entered the harbor to look for a mooring but it was very crowded and very shallow.  We had less than a foot of water under our keel the whole time we were in there so we turned around and headed back out.  Instead we decided to check out the anchorages on the northwest shore.  Our last weather report (from 2 days ago) said the winds were supposed to go northeast later in the day which would put us in the lee of the island.  The farthest anchorage was very protected and had a narrow opening.  I set a waypoint on the GPS and slowly motored toward it.  We were about 200 feet from the waypoint (according to the GPS) as I started turning to starboard and enter the small lagoon.  The boat immediately bumped and slid to a halt on the reef as I hit full throttle reverse to back off.  The entrance to the lagoon was only 6 feet deep so I didn’t worry when I saw the water getting shallow – I mistakenly thought it was the entrance.

The boat had drifted probably 10 feet onto the shallow reef before our forward motion had stopped.  I’m so glad I didn’t have the sails up or we would have been pushed much farther onto the reef.  I tried both forward and reverse (full throttle on our poor engine) without moving us a bit.  I was able to eventually turn the boat back toward the deeper water by swinging the rudder all the way to port and using full forward throttle but we were still stuck.  We raised the mainsail to try and tip the boat over a little but the winds were too light and didn’t tilt us enough.  We quickly dropped the dinghy both to take the 200 pounds off the stern and maybe try to pull the boat around into the deeper water.  I eventually took the dinghy and tied off to the bow for additional pull.  With Laura on the helm of Second Wind and me in the dinghy pulling with full throttle we were able to turn the boat so it faced into the deeper water but it wouldn’t budge.  A couple other sailors came over in their dinghy’s and offered to help.  One of them only had a 2 hp motor so I don’t know what he expected to do.  The other had a 20 hp so I asked him to take the line I was using and try to pull the boat forward.  I would get back on the helm and work the rudder port to starboard with full throttle on the big boat.  I don’t think he even got the dinghy pulling before I was able to swing the boat back to starboard and felt it bounce the keel several times on the reef as we were hit by some passing waves.  The boat zoomed off into the deeper water under full throttle and the full mainsail.  The poor guy in the dinghy who was trying to tie up to the bow was almost swamped as we pulled him backwards alongside the boat.  I shutdown the engine and turned the boat into the wind so we would stop and not swamp him.  He quickly untied and we gave him our thanks as we slowly sailed away.  As I said before, you can’t get too comfortable when running a boat.  As soon as you start thinking everything is great, you get bit in the butt by something you didn’t think about.

We spent the night in a different anchorage that was very rolly because the winds went west instead of east.  They were north when we anchored so we were a little protected by the island.  As the winds went west in the night, the waves hitting the boat were larger and larger until we were moving around pretty good by morning.  We don’t notice it as much in the stern where our cabin is but anyone up front in the forward cabin would have been moving up and down about 2 feet with the waves.  We had wanted to check out the beaches and snorkeling around here but the west wind is going to send us on our way.  We’re heading back to Marsh Harbor to restock the boat with groceries (mostly fruits and veggies) and maybe head back here in a couple days.

A couple days ago we completed our stock-up in Marsh Harbor with groceries and a couple stops to the duty-free liquor store to fill our wine cellar for chartering this summer.  We purchased 4 cases of Chilean wine for $5 / bottle – both red and white – and about a case of booze.  Prices were about 1/3 of what we would have to pay in the U.S. so we really filled up the dinghy.

We spent 2 days in Marsh Harbor again (Wednesday and Thursday) where we put another coat of varnish on the cockpit teak (the 5th) before sailing across the bay to Great Guana Cay.  The picture is the same spot on the combing where I took the “before” picture.  Nice, huh?

In Guana Cay we anchored in a nice, protected bay and the next morning took the dinghy over to the main harbor.  Of course, we had to visit Nippers – a famous beach bar overlooking the Atlantic side of the Cay.  It was fairly busy for a Friday afternoon and we walked a mile or so on the beach with the waves crashing on the reefs.  We walked back up the stairs to Nippers and browsed the store for t-shirts.  They had some nice ones but they were $30 so we didn’t buy any. 

The next morning (Saturday) we were up early listening to all the weather reports so we could decide on where to go next.  The next step with heading north from this area is a small (5 mile) jaunt along the ocean side of Whale Cay to reach the entrance to the northern Abacos.  The Whale Cay passage is notorious for big waves from the open ocean.  A boat that had traveled it in the morning reported only 4-6 foot, long swells so that solidified our plans to leave the quiet anchorage in Guana Cay and start working our way north.  We hauled up the anchor, set the mainsail and zoomed away on a downwind run at 3 ½ knots. 

The run around Whale Cay was uneventful and had a pleasant sail for the 16 miles to Green Turtle Cay.  We motored slowly around the harbor then found a nice, quiet place to anchor away from most of the other boats.  We’ll hole up here for the next 3 days as a front comes through on Monday which will clock the winds around to the south, then west, then back to northeast.  The anchorage is protected from all compass points so we’ll just need to watch our anchor as the winds move the boat around in a circle.

Last evening we took the dinghy around the harbor and walked around Green Turtle Club and Marina for awhile.  The place was pretty dead so we motored across the anchorage to the Jolly Roger Bar and Restaurant at the Bluff House Marina.  They had some good music going but it was also pretty dead for a Saturday early evening.  I think this may be the off season here.  Most of the marinas are pretty empty.  We each had one of the specials that were called a “something” turtle – rum and fruit juices we think.  I don’t know exactly what was in it but neither of us remember what it was called and Laura almost fell out of the dinghy when we got back to the boat.  Wow!  We’ve got to get back there!  Not bad for one $4, happy-hour drink.

We’ll explore this area for the next couple days before heading north and working our way around the mostly deserted northern Abacos.  Maybe by Wednesday or Thursday there will be a couple days of east to south winds so we can make the crossing back to The States.  Sorry it’s been a week since we updated the blog but we haven’t had Internet access until last night. 

Entry for April 20, 2008

April 20, 2008

Step #5 – Apply several layers of marine varnish (this is after the first coat before sanding for the second coat).

Entry for April 20, 2008

April 20, 2008

Step #4 – Apply teak sealer / preservative (step #3 was hand-sanding with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper)

Entry for April 20, 2008

April 20, 2008

Step #2 – Rough sanding with 80 then 120 grit on the power sander.

Entry for April 20, 2008

April 20, 2008

Step #1 – strip off the old crapolla with paint stripper

Entry for April 20, 2008

April 20, 2008

Friday morning finds us in an anchorage all by ourselves off Elbow Cay.  What a treat!  With all the charter boats around here, I never expected to find a nice anchorage with a little isolation.  Laura has started stripping the old varnish off the combing around our cockpit and I spent about an hour tucked down in our engine room changing a refrigeration belt (why does it take 7 wrenches to change one belt??).

Yesterday we sailed out of Marsh Harbor into the Abaco Sea (an inland sea protected all around by reefs and islands).  It seemed like everyone else had the same idea and we were sailing north with 4-5 other sailboats and 3 trawlers (power boats).  We were close-hauled (wind very close to our bow) and flying along pretty good in the 15 knot winds.  I’ve learned that trying to hold the boat too close to the wind makes us loose speed as the sails loose their push every so often.  So, I fall off the wind in order to head into it.  Sounds like a conundrum, huh?  What actually happens is as we fall off the wind a little, the sails fill, the boat heels over, speeds up and tries to head back into the wind.  This is called “weather helm” because the boat is unbalanced in the windward direction.  If I let go of the steering wheel the boat would head into the wind, the sails would flog and the boat would stop.  It’s actually a good thing kinda like your front-end alignment in the car being adjusted so you would go off onto the right shoulder if you let go of the wheel.  That’s a better outcome than heading into oncoming traffic.

Anyway, as the sails fill and the boat tries to head back into the wind, I steer away from the wind a few degrees (either manually or with the autopilot) and the boat becomes balanced.  The wind on the sails is trying to turn us into the wind while the rudder is trying to push us away from it.  This is pretty cool because if the wind dies a little or moves forward (which happens pretty frequently when close-hauled), the rudder suddenly has more effect and moves the bow away from the wind which refills the sails and keep the boat moving pretty fast. 

I was using this philosophy as we were heading on a north tack with several other boats and we were passing them!  I guess this ‘ol tub still has a few surprises in her.  We sailed about 2 miles north then tacked east to where we actually wanted to go.  (We couldn’t head east originally because that would have been directly into the wind.)  I think it was the best tack we every did – partially because the boat was moving pretty fast at around 6 knots and partly because we’re getting better at it.  I turned the wheel all the way to starboard and released the port jib sheet when the sail fluttered.  Laura then pulled heavily on the starboard jib sheet to pull the jib around our staysail forestay as I started to turn the wheel back to port and reverse our turn.  I stopped the turn exactly where our new heading should be as Laura quickly tightened in the new working jib sheet.  This all took place in about 8 seconds and I don’t think the boat slowed to less than 5 knots.  As the boat settled into the new tack we looked at each other with big smiles on our faces.  I said to Laura, “That was awesome.  Let’s do it again!” 

We backtracked about 10 miles to the southeast of Marsh Harbor to this anchorage.  Our plan is to check out this area today and start working our way back north either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  We have 3-4 places to visit for sightseeing and snorkeling before making it back to Marsh Harbor on Sunday or Monday.  Then we’ll do a final stock-up at the grocery and hardware stores before heading north from there to Green Turtle Cay.  We’ll meet back up with Raffi and Lisa there and hang out until the next good 2-3 day weather window for sailing back to the U.S.  Green Turtle Cay is supposed to be beautiful with excellent snorkeling so we’re looking forward to that.  But, it is a resort island to we want to make sure we are pretty well stocked up before we get there.  From our experience, the prices in resort communities are much more expensive.

Well… Laura sucked me into another major boat project (I knew it was coming…).  She decided to start working on stripping and re-staining the teak combing that forms the top edge of our cockpit.  She was doing one little section at a time – applying the paint stripper then using a putty knife to scrape it off.  When she finished the front section I started sanding what she had stripped.  It was looking pretty good as we kept going for awhile. By the afternoon (Saturday) we were ready to put on the first coat of sealer, before applying the five to eight coats of varnish…  that’s Sunday’s job.. the first coat anyway…

Friday morning we took the dinghy for about a 5 mile ride around to the islands here.  We found some great beaches and took the dinghy ashore for a couple mile walk around the island.  We also found a nice typical style bar and grill on the beach – “Cracker P’s.” The fish dip was just delicious but it was expensive for a lunch.  We had the fish dip appetizer, spilt a cheeseburger with mac & cheese on the side, one cocktail each and a key lime pie for desert.  The total was $48 with the tip.  Good thing we don’t do that too often.

We came back to the boat and finished sanding the front half of the combing.  Don’t you just love the look of bare wood?  It looked so good we decided to strip and sand the back half on Saturday morning then spread on a preservative and varnish the whole thing.

Saturday was a full day of work on the teak.  In the morning we stripped the aft half of the combing and sanded it smooth with 120 grit on the sander then 150 and 220 grit by hand.  Around 4 pm we were ready for the sealer.  It went on pretty nice and by 5 pm we were admiring our work with a ice-cold drink!

Now for the big news – we had excellent Internet on Saturday night so I made a few phone calls with Skype on the computer.  One was to the woman who runs the Catskill Marina.  We’ve decided to keep our boat there and they are going to hold a slip for us.  We’ll probably be there around the first week in June until sometime in October.  Check it out at http://www.catskillmarina.com/.  Besides visiting with friends and family all summer our main goal is to start our charter business with weekend day-charters on Second Wind.  We’ll start bookings as start as soon as I obtain my Coast Guard Captain’s License.  I’m studying now so should be able to take the tests soon after we arrive in NY.

Both Laura and I will be looking for summer (or longer) jobs starting in June so if anyone knows of opportunities, please send us an email.

The picture is what our cockpit teak looked like before we started refinishing.

Entry for April 17, 2008

April 17, 2008

It’s cold here!

Last April we were in Georgetown, Bahamas and met some people who had sailed up from Trinidad.  We talked with them for quite awhile learning a little about the 2,000 mile trip (each way) and special things they did along the way.  One of the things I remember from that conversation was they said they were cold.  Coming from the Northeast and having just sailed down the ICW from Virginia, we were pretty warm in the 70 degree temps.  I really didn’t understand them until now…

A front came through yesterday and the temperature dropped a couple degrees each hour.  By time we went to bed last night it was 71 degrees in the boat.  That’s the lowest I’ve seen the air temperature around the boat in more than a year.  During the night the winds picked up to 25 knots and they woke me up.  Something felt weird.  Then I realized my feet were cold.  Laura has been sleeping with a sheet on the bed and sometimes I tuck a leg under.  Now I had my whole body under the sheet and I was cold.  So, I got up and dug out a blanket for the bed.  We snuggled up under the blanket and slept until the Sun woke us up in the morning.

I had the dinghy tied up to the side of the boat like I frequently do at night when I’m not worried about theft.  I have a large, 5/8” line tied to the bow eye of the dinghy and another, backup line, tied to one of the aft handles.  I don’t like to leave anything on the boat open to a single-point-of-failure (the guys that worked for me will find this a familiar theme).  Last night when I woke up I could hear the dinghy bouncing on the waves going past the boat at anchor and making noise.  I finally decided to bring it around to the stern and haul it up on the davits.  Laura was awake so we turned on the mizzen spreader lights (to light up the aft deck) and went to work. This was at 3 am!

The poor dink was really bouncing around as I climbed in to attach the davit blocks.  I felt like I was in some kind of carnival ride trying bouncing all over the place.  Even though I had the dinghy tied fore and aft to Second Wind, I still tried to hold on to the swimdeck so the lines wouldn’t keep jerking me around when they got to their ends.  It was quite interesting but not more than 5 minutes later Laura and I were hauling on the lines to raise the dinghy on the blocks.  Things were much quieter with the dink up out of the water all safe and sound.

Today we lazed around in the morning only completing one task on the boat – running some acid through our aft head to clean out the Lectra-SAN poop conditioner.  That took about an hour and the rest of the time we caught up on computer work and read.  Laura called Lisa on the radio and asked if they would purchase some laundry tokens for us at their marina so we could do some laundry this afternoon.  After lunch we put everything together and got ready to drop the dinghy for our ride into the marina.  There were 2 foot waves going by the boat and I could just picture the dinghy crashing around when we dropped it into the water.  We both looked at each other and mutually decided that laundry today wasn’t a real priority.  We hauled everything back down into the boat and decided to stick with indoor boat games today.

The wind was howling again all night as it was blowing 25-30 knots from the northwest.  I was awake several times in the night checking on our anchor and the boats around us.  A few times I woke up because the boat was shaking which happens with winds over 30 knots.  We had no problems and the boats around us seemed to be fairing well.

On Wednesday the winds were still howling but they had moved to the north which put the shore right in front of us and calm seas in our part of the anchorage.  After breakfast and our morning chores we put our laundry stuff together and headed in the docks.  Laura stayed at the marina working on the laundry while I walked with Lisa and Raffi to the hardware store, NAPA and the grocery store.  I needed to buy a spare oil filter for our diesel because I planned on changing the oil in the afternoon and using my last filter.  I don’t like being without a spare.

I completed my trek around town and joined Laura in time to help fold the clothes.  We then headed back to the boat where I changed the oil, oil filter and fuel filter on our main engine.  I had just enough oil to fill the engine after the change but now I only have a few spare quarts.  I checked all over town and nobody had the right oil for our boat.  I bought enough for 2 oil changes in Trinidad but we’ve used that up already.  Oh well, we’ll be back in The States in the next couple weeks and I’m sure I can track down the oil I need working our way up the coast.

We decided to head back into town to dispose of our used oil and buy a couple quarts of alternate diesel oil in case we needed some in the next couple weeks.  We followed the signs to the Shell station as they took the used oil.  As I handed over the 2 2/1 gallons of used oil, the tech in the yard said, “3 dollars please.”  I couldn’t believe it!  Nobody had charged for disposing of used oil because they usually sell it back to a recycler.  But, they don’t recycle it here.  Instead they store it in 55 gallon drums for sometime in the future when they can ship it off the island for recycling.  I was thinking about taking it back to the boat and storing it but decided to pay the fees.  I knew this place was expensive but this is getting ridiculous.  Boaters bring millions of dollars into these islands every year and many places still seem like they try to suck out every dollar possible.

Tomorrow the winds are going to finally subside a little so we’ll either be leaving this anchorage then or Friday.  We have 5-6 places we want to visit within 10 miles of here for nice beaches and snorkeling before we start working our way back north.  I’m looking forward to it!

It’s Thursday morning and we’re preparing to get underway.  Our plans are to head back south a little to sightsee and snorkel a few days while working our way back to this area by the end of this weekend.  Then we will head to Green Turtle Cay with Windfall to cruise that area before looking for a good weather window back to the U.S. 

The picture is a sunset from our anchorage in Marsh Harbor.

We’ll write again in the next couple days so keep checking for updates!

Entry for April 14, 2008

April 14, 2008

I’ve spent a little time upgrading our website and adding pictures.  There are some new sailing pictures off the home page under the link “Caribbean Sailing”.  Or, you can click the link here –

http://www.geocities.com/billsoulier/sw_sailing_pics_1.html

Enjoy!