Ships Log

Mid-April, 2006

Grand Bahama Island, Mangrove, Grand, Allan and Spanish Cays

We left West End after filling with diesel and headed to Mangrove Cay. It would be a while before we saw a marina again. The sea was a beautiful blend of many shades of blues and greens. Due to our draft, we had to take the long route around Memory Rock. There is a narrow cut into the Bahama Banks from the Gulf Stream and we tiptoed through with Rana on the bow reading the bottom. We didn't know whether to expect coral or sand. We arrived at Mangrove Cay and anchored in the lee of the island on the north side. It was just a spit of Mangrove trees but a welcome resting spot for the night. We had a nice dinner of Shrimp curry and rice. Rana had spend much time and effort provisioning the boat and we had delicious meals for at least a month on the hook. The stars were fantastic, blazing diamonds in the velvet black sky. The full moon rose huge and deep red off the island.

In the morning,we sailed to anchor off Grand Cay. It was recommended as a charming, but authentic site by a French Canadian couple we met at West End. We anchored off Felix Cay with protection from the prevailing winds. The bottom was hard marl, but held us in the soft winds and we planned to move on in the morning. Rana made a wonderful mushroom pasta and we had a lovely bottle of chianti. The world was great. In the dark night, we saw large phosphorescent forms around the boat.

The morning held other things for us, however. The engine would not start. We initially thought it was the solenoid, since we had that problem in the past. Mike tried to jump around the solenoid without success. We removed it and dingied a couple of miles to the nearest town. Grand Cay is a village of a few hundred people. It had been ravaged by hurricane Wilma last September and was very slowly recovering.

The center of activity was Rosie's Place. Rosie reminded us of Rosie Greer, the 60's football player. He gave us a solenoid to try and we took it back to the boat and installed it. It did not work. Since we were going to be stuck in the anchorage for a while, Mike attached an additional anchor to our primary rode in a configuration we call "Captain Larry's", since our Canadian friend taught it to us.

When we went on deck, we saw that our dingy was 100 feet away and heading for the pass and into the north Atlantic! Rana's swim team instincts took over and she immediately went over the side. She is by far the stronger swimmer on our team. She would have caught the dingy, but had to return to the boat to give Mike her favorite prescription sunglasses. By the time she swam to the reef, the dingy was well out into the Atlantic and she wisely swam to the coral cliff and awaited rescue. All this while, Mike was inflating our kayak and calling for help to Tardis, the other boat in the anchorage. They launched their dingy, installed the motor in amazing speed and picked up Mike on the way to rescue Rana and our dingy. Thank you Tardis!

That night, the wind became alarmingly strong and switched directions, exposing us to a long fetch and high waves. Our primary anchor drug a long way, but the combination of both anchors stopped us before the lee shore cliffs. Mike ran out a third anchor, our monster Fortress on a long rode to windward. We both stood anchor watch all nighton and off.

The next morning, we poured over the Perkins manual and Calder's electrical bible and made extensive tests with the voltmeter. It became clear to us that the problem was the starter. We asked the opinion of the local diesel expert, Alphonso Rolle. He agreed that the starter was the problem but said that it could not be removed because it was blocked by the oil cooling system and our spare did not match the unit on the engine. Disappointed at this news, Alphonso set matters in perspective when he told the story of hurricane Wilma's attack on their little island. He lost his house, his rental apartment, the clinic building he owned and all three of his boats. He said he was thankful because he and his family survived unharmed.

However, we were tired and discouraged and both our and the boat's batteries were running low. Our new neighbors in the anchorage were on the Canadian powercat Chrysalis. They came over and offered the use of their portable gas generator. This saved our frozen fish and veggies and gave us power to start the engine if we ever got the starter working.

We developed a new plan. We met Maxwell Cooper, who was traveling into Freeport the next day and who offered to take our starter to the electrical shop for rebuilding. We spent the day removing the starter. Mike found a way to remove the raw water lines to the oil cooler and leaving the oil lines in place. In this way, sea water spilled into the bilge, not engine oil. The starter is beside and nearly under the engine, so removal of the bottom bolt was extremely difficult. When we got the unit off, we were happy to discover that it in fact was exactly the same as our spare. So, we installed the spare, held our breath and turned the key. The engine started right up!!! That night, Rana cooked a celebratory meal of grilled teriyaki Mahi and coleslaw.

The next morning, we found the three anchors hopelessly tangled, and took hours to raise them, but they did their job very well. By the time we started out of the anchorage, it was low tide and it was a challenge getting into deep water. About 20 minutes out, the engine overheated. Mike quickly hoisted all sail and Rana sailed Raven out while Mike determined the engine problem: the flange that had been digging into Mike's forearms while changing the starter, was the cooling water spigot. It had been slightly opened and lowered our cooling water levels. Once this was repaired, we sailed on to Allans-Pensacola Cay.

The wind and waves were high and just off the nose, making it an arduous 8 hour trip. A thunderstorm came up just as we entered the anchorage at A-P Cay. There were seven boats already there and we dropped the hook behind the pack. The holding was not great and it took a couple of tries to get it set, but it held through the night. We celebrated with a double helping of Painkillers, barbeque tempeh, and potato salad. In the morning, we went to shore and walked to the ocean side and had the perfect picnic of pesto shrimp pasta and cool white wine on our own private beach, accompanied only by a freindly seagull.

The next day, we sailed to Spanish Cay and went into a marina for the first time in a long time. We went to obtain diesel and water. The reverse osmosis water system was down so we could only obtain fuel and file this web update. Tomorrow, we will sail to Green Turtle Cay to see our friends Larry, Nicky and Victoria.