Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marsh Harbor Marina and the Pending Invasion (March 19 - March 26)

This has been another of those slow weeks in paradise, the only difference is that this week we made a discovery; a discovery that will be of tremendous interest to my friends in the Pentagon and in the Intelligence Community. You’ll have to wait to find out what that is. Meanwhile I’ll tell you about our adventures this week.

On Monday I focused attention on the boat’s power, power supplies and batteries. I went thorough and checked the levels of all the batteries (they were all good) and started ruminating about all the battery power we have. We have the following:

Quantity              Type                      Voltage                                Purpose

6                              Group 27                 12v                Cranking engines
1                              4D                           12v                Cranking Generator
2                              Group 27                 12v                Runs electronic equipment
2                              8D                           12v                House DC system
2                              8D                           12v                Fridge and a few AC systems (through inverter)

Now, all of you who know about such things are saying, “My God, you have way too many banks of batteries! Except for your engine and maybe your generator battery you need to consolidate your other three banks into one!” In principle, I agree with you. The problem is that the boat came with a separate electronic equipment battery bank with its own batteries and battery charger that is connected to the port engine alternator. And the house DC system is very extensive. There are two sets of DC lights throughout the boat. One set is very dim and might (though I am not sure) be for use when the boat is underway at night or at some other time when you want very dim lights. The other set is almost as bright as the AC lights and they are in the staterooms, the galley, the passageways, the heads, almost everywhere you would want a light.  Also, the DC system takes care of the water pressure pump, flushing the toilets, the sump pumps (the devices that pump water out of the showers and overboard) and the macerator pump to get the uh … er … sewage overboard (which we don’t use because we have our high tech lectra sans sewage disposal systems – which are also powered by the DC system). So, while I could probably combine the electronic equipment bank with the DC house bank, it would cost some money, plus it would not solve my biggest problem.

The real problem is the inverter system. The big draw is the refrigerator – which I figured should draw about 102 Amp-hours per day. Together with a few other odds and ends the AC system should be drawing down about 25% of my inverter bank battery capacity daily, and it shouldn’t take me five hours to recharge. In spite of my research, I don’t think  I have figured out what’s wrong. I say I don’t think because I have generated a few hypotheses that may or may not help explain the problem. Anyway, when we are on the hook next weekend, I am going to try some experiments. I really don’t think they will provide the solution to my problem, but I will try them anyway. And you, faithful readers, will be the first to know the results of these truly ground-breaking efforts. I know, I know. You can hardly wait. I think what I really need is a battery monitor, but I have to  wait until we get back to the States. I have one for the inverter batteries (kind of), but it doesn't tell me everything I need to know.

On Wednesday we went to the Jib Room – the restaurant attached to our marina – for BBQ ribs (which they serve every Wednesday) and we stuck around for what they call “rake and scrape.” My ribs were pretty good, though Ann thought hers were a bit dry.  But that’s not what was important. Rake and scrape is what the locals call limbo. Well, I went under the bar at 5’11” and called it quits. There were a few people who went under at probably 3, maybe 3 ½ feet. Then there was Desmond. Desmond works at the marina and is a “limbo professional” if ever there was one. At 2 ½ feet I thought he was doing well. I was amazed at 2 feet, but honest-to-god when he went under the bar at about 18 inches, I was astounded. I swear the distance between the front of my chest and the back must be `” and, though Desmond is thinner than I am, he is about the same height and he still has a chest. Man oh Man!
If you look closely, you can see the extra lines we added.
On Sunday, we had a cold front move through, which led to (shall we say) some breezy conditions. It wasn’t a major league storm like we had a few weeks ago – the wind only reached a little over 30 MPH – but it was a stiff breeze nonetheless, and it came at us abaft the starboard beam (off the right rear quarter for landlubbers – okay, okay, so I had to look it up). Just like it did during the storm, the wind was pushing us away from the dock. This time, though, I was prepared. I had already moved our dinghy to an open slip that was safer. I had also added three lines (ropes) to the standard five we use to secure the boat in this particular slip. All the lines, moreover, were about ¾ inch thick and at least 10 – 15 feet long (one was about 35) so they could stretch. In short, I was pretty sure we weren’t going anywhere. And, unlike last time, I didn’t think the pilings were stressed; at least not very much. I still had one big line, 1¼ inches in diameter – Ann says it looks like something they might use to tie down the Queen Mary – in case we needed it.
The other big difference between these breezy conditions and the big blow is that my XM weather station works. I can watch the front move through Florida and head straight for us. It is really kind of cool!

The process of alphabetizing spices
On the same Sunday as the little blow, Ann decided to reorganize her spices AND to reorganize the forward cabin. Reorganizing the forward cabin is necessary because Tim, Carrie, Caylin and Gavin are coming later this week and we need to have some sleeping space for the grandkids. We had been using the cabin as a cross between a pantry and a storage room, but as this portion of our cruise is coming to a close, we have used up a lot of our provisions.  Ann is now shifting stuff from the cabin to the forward shower. (There are two of us. Even when we have company I can’t see using three showers at the same time – we don’t have that much water on board! And if the people who come to visit insist on having their own separate shower stall, well, I guess we’ll just leave them at the dock). Of course she was reorganizing her spices too but that is for a very different reason; because they weren’t arranged in alphabetical order. If I have to explain why that is important, well, you don’t know Ann very well.
Ok, since it was something of a slow week, I decided to do some intelligence work to supplement my income. Now those of you who are not cleared for Ultra-high top secret stuff need to turn off the computer and go to bed. For the rest of you I am offering you one of the most astounding analyses you have ever seen. Not only am I providing strategic warning of an impending military confrontation close to our own borders, but I may also have advanced the field of intelligence analysis by several decades. I, therefore, humbly offer the following for your consideration.
Most of us believe Canadians to be a bunch of polite, friendly, maple syrup loving people who frequently wear floppy hats and love their hockey. Here is another anomaly for your consideration. How many friendly, polite hockey games have you seen? Fact: I have seen none; in fact, hockey teams can be very unfriendly and impolite to one another. If friendliness were a real characteristic of Canadians, how could they play hockey? Or is it possible that the so-called friendliness and politeness is a grand deception scheme designed to lull Americans and deceive Bahamians – until it is too late.

 Another item for your consideration: Many people think that most Canadians speak English like Americans, Australians, Brits or New Zealanders, right? That is not exactly true. Fact: A lot of Canadians say, “eh?” and others say “eh!” Could this be some sort of complex code (which might be dependent on specific inflections in the spoken word), or alternatively a challenge and password system used by Canadians when they come to the US on their way to the Bahamas? Because they tend to look like Americans and some Bahamians, it would be important for Canadians to be able to identify one another before engaging in war planning or war-like actions. (It would be interesting to analyze the language that French Canadians use to see if there is an equivalent expression in that language.)

 Diligent readers of this blog will recall that the islands of the Bahamas were settled by colonists who remained loyal to the Crown after the American Revolution – just as the citizens of Canada remained loyal to the Crown. Fact: Today, Canadians appear to look more kindly on the Queen and her family than many Brits do. Could there be a cabal between Canadians and ancestors of these Loyalists? Could they believe their mission is to recapture the Bahamas for the family Windsor?

 And finally, when Ann and I were visiting one particular island in the Abacos, we saw several Canadians sitting around, drinking beer (and it wasn’t Molsons either) and speaking in hushed tones. Fact: The name of that island was Man O’ War Cay! Canadians are well known for their sense of irony. Where else would they plan an invasion of the Bahamas?

 I know I have given you a lot to think about. We will continue our intelligence work down here in the Bahamas and will file another report in the Blog when circumstances warrant. Just watch out for those Canadians.

 ANN'S NOTES: It has been a slow week on Traveling Soul...but unlike my husband I don't count the number of boats that are flying a Canadian flag. My analysis is as follows...they are here for the same reason we are...it is COLD in Canada in the winter....just like in Virginia and we all have boats that can take us away from that cold weather. Now if they do attack I may have to rethink my explanation.

I have been busy getting ready for Tim, Carrie, Caylin and Gavin to visit. I cannot tell you how VERY EXCITED I am. The first thing I had to do is clear off the bunk in the forward cabin. I call it the' train

room'...it reminds me of traveling in Europe on a train at night in bunk beds. Anyway the lower bunk had can goods and food stuff in storage boxes. I figured that Gavin did not want to sleep on top of cans of green beans and cream of mushroom soup. Actually it was rather fun to reorganize that cabin and to meet the challenge of fitting it all in a smaller space and still be able to get to the canned goods when needed. While I was on a reorganization roll...the galley spoke to me. When we moved on board I just put all my spices in a drawer and was grateful that they all fit. However they were all mixed up and hard to find the right spice while in the mist of cooking....so....I now had an empty large box of Splenda that had just been empty from the 'train room' reorganization. And...the box cut into strips were perfect as dividers....are you following me? What could more perfect? I get to recycle a box...save money...and have a perfect drawer full of spices all in order. I was a happy 'boater'.

During the day when we have a slow week I manage to keep busy...I do a lot of reading and I have picked up my cross-stitching once more. I have always enjoyed my time with needle and thread. I have also discovered the art of bread making. I have found out that many women bake their own bread on board...even some small sailboats. I figured if they can do it...well...so can I. I now have several recipes for making bread. The one down side if my stove and oven are twenty years old and the oven runs fifty degrees hotter than the dial...needless to say I have to check the bread and adjust the temperature...the effort is well worth it in the end..!!

Friday late afternoon is when the family arrives and the excitement factor will be high...

More to follow next week...

Traveling Soul...out

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Treasure Cay, Great Guana and the Barefoot Man (12 - 18 March)

We started the week out in Marsh Harbor … again. However, since it looked as if most of the details concerning the home sale were done, we thought we would head out for a few days and relieve the dread Marina Fever.  Now marina fever can take a several different forms. Some people break out in hives and start twitching, their tongues kind of stick out and they generally go bonkers. Moreover, the bottom of their boats becomes overgrown in the green gunk and sea sludge that covers anything that is in the water and doesn’t move for a couple of days. Now, neither Ann nor I had marina fever THAT badly. For Ann it resembled cabin fever; the longer we stayed in the marina the more she wanted to get out. For me, it took the opposite form; the longer we were in the marina, the stronger the pull to stay and the more difficult it was to move on out. There is only one cure – crank up the engines and head out to sea. (Wow! Doesn’t that sound nautical!)

Well, before we went we had to get some foodstuffs and needed to visit the provision store – known to you landlubbers as a “grocery store.” On our way to the “grocery store,” our dinghy ran out of …. well … ok … it ran out of gas. I know some of you want to blame Ann. I may be the dinghy caretaker, but she, after all, is the one who wanted to go to the provision store. But, no, no, no you shouldn’t blame her. I will always take responsibility for things like … well, things like running out of gas. This is what we men do, right guys? And I know that some of you – mostly Ann’s friends (okay, maybe some of mine, too) – might actually want to blame me for running out of gas; honestly, I don’t know why you would want to do that. It is not like we could have drifted into the Atlantic – okay, maybe into the Sea of Abaco, but not the Atlantic. Anyway, as we were floating in the Harbor trying to figure out what to do, a boater who saw that we needed a teeny weeny bit of assistance (before we both drown) deployed his dinghy and came to help us. He said he was doing exactly what another boater had once done for him. Ain’t boaters grand?? Now I guess we’ll have to keep our eyes open for folks who run out of fuel. Or maybe we will just have to let the gas out of someone’s dinghy so we can rescue them and repay the debt sooner rather than later.

As we were trying to figure out where to go and what to do we heard that the Barefoot Man was playing  at Nippers in Great Guana. Now for those of you who don’t know, the Barefoot Man is to the Bahamas what Michael Bean is to the BVI and Jimmy Buffet is to the US of A. He is kind of a boat-ish person who sings funny ballads about the islands and is a heck of an entertainer. It is true that sometimes his lyrics tend to be a little (how shall I put this? Should I say risqué? No, that doesn’t quite capture it. Off-color, perhaps? Again, that is not quite the right word … hmmm … I’ve got it) raunchy – that’s what they are. Well, since we heard there was going to be a concert, we decided we would go to Treasure Cay (with that wonderful beach) for a couple of days, then head too Nippers for the Barefoot Man show.
This is what the Control Head to an ST 7000 looks like --
when it is working YEAH!
First things first: there were two important things that happened when we left the marina. First, the oil I had changed flowed through the system beautifully. I am now an official OIL CHANGER!! Second, the autopilot worked. So, the second qualification I have earned is that of Official-Autopilot-Connection-Tightener! award. In fact, I have also recalibrated the autopilot and now it actually keeps an accurate heading!

As the oil flowed through the system and the autopilot took us to Treasure Cay – our first destination – something truly amazing happened: a dolphin took a liking to Traveling Soul. Ann headed out to the bow and, for at least five minutes, our dolphin friend played in our bow wake. He was so far under the boat that I couldn’t see anything from the helm, but occasionally Ann would take her eyes off the dolphin long enough to give me this look of utter incredulity; she couldn’t believe the antics of our newly acquired dolphin friend.  I am sure she will write more about it below, but it appeared to be one of the highlights of the trip and it was only Day 1!

Throughout their lives, great men face and make choices. Napoleon decided to gamble everything at Waterloo. Nixon made the trip to China. President O’bama seems to be staking the success of his presidency on the Health Care Plan. Me? Well, I too, had a problem and choices to make. About three weeks ago, as most of you diligent readers will recall, we did not have a very good experience while anchored at Treasure Cay; our anchor drug and I stayed up all night making sure it did not happen again. Even more importantly, I lost a great deal of confidence in our anchoring skills. The following week when our friends Dave and Joan Wolf came to visit, we went straight to the marina rather than face the demons who lurk the bottom of Treasure Cay, unfastening anchors at will. Now that we are going back to Treasure Cay, the great question I had to face and the choice I had to make is whether we should anchor or go to the marina. We got there about 2 PM, at high tide and by God we dropped that anchor with authority. Ann did everything according to the textbook and the anchor set well. I ran the engines in reverse a couple of times to make sure we wouldn’t drag – and we were locked in.
I told you I liked to bury my toes in the sand at Treasure Cay
Unfortunately that night the wind shifted through 360 degrees and that set off our anchor alarm. Now I don’t set my anchor alarm the way everyone says you should, i.e. set the alarm at the same instant you drop the anchor, setting the distance for the amount of line or chain you have out. Because I never remember to set the alarm at the same time we drop the anchor, I set the alarm to go off if the boat drifts more than about 70 feet. Now the boat is naturally going to drift if you are at anchor, I just hope it won’t be more than 70 feet. If it does, I go check the situation and if nothing is untoward, I go back to bed. At Treasure Cay I discovered that the wind was in the process of making this 360 circle – so I decided to stay up until things settled down.

This is my artistic shot. I call it "solo cabana." :-)
The next day we went to the beach, lounged in the sun and went to Coco’s (the local beach bar/restaurant) for lunch and a beer. I then went for a long walk along the beach while Ann went shopping. Generally we had a wonderful leisurely afternoon and evening. Overall, it was well worth staying up most of the night before.

Coco Bar, our favorite on Treasure Cay.

The next morning we were off to Great Guana. Usually when people go to Guana they take a mooring ball in or just outside of Settlement Harbor. We had thought that there would be so many people there for the concert that we ought to reserve a spot in the marina so that’s what we did. When we arrived, however, we saw that most people anchored – which we should have done too, but it just never occurred to me; I wasn’t aware that the anchorage was so big. Next time I will know better. Anyway, within 30 minutes of pulling into the marina, we learned that it was full. However, it wasn’t going to be full of the 40 to 45 boats we were used to, oh no! It was going to have about a dozen hoity-toity 65-plus foot yachts. Usually Traveling Soul is the second or third biggest boat in the marina – not here. Man those boats were big AND they were all new, or at least looked like they were new.

Well, that afternoon the concert started. Before I begin, I should say that nothing I can say will adequately describe the event. It was a happening, man! (Remember happenings?) Nevertheless, I am going to try to give a sense of what it was lik. Nippers is on a ridge overlooking a wonderful Atlantic beach and the third largest barrier reef in the world. The bar/restaurant itself consists of about four levels built into the side of the ridge with picnic tables throughout; some of the tables are in the shade and some are in the sun – and with a two-level pool in the middle. There is also a small stage somewhere near the middle of the first level.

The Barefoot Man and his band. Unfortunately,
he turned his back just as I was shooting the picture!
Now imagine spring break with somewhere between 700 – 800 teenagers, dancing, singing, drinking, eating, drinking, flirting, drinking and listening to the concert. Now imagine that at least ¾ of those teenagers weren’t teenagers at all, but a bunch of 50- and 60-somethings having more fun that the youngsters would have had they been there. There were some young folks there; in fact there were some very cute 20-somethings in bikinis who were dancing on tables. Not to be outdone, there were also some 50-somethings who were dancing on tables and – to be honest – some of them shouldn’t have been. But they were having fun. The rest of us had fun, too. Ann and I grooved to the music (for those of you who don’t know what that means, you are probably too young to be reading this anyway!) we people watched and, well, we might have had a few frozen Nippers and Goombay Smashes ourselves. (Those are two of the most popular local libations and they are very dangerous in that they go down like fruit punch).
The crowd of juniors and seniors at the concert.
The Barefoot Man is an excellent entertainer. Since I do not have the computer skills to sing some of his songs, I will list a few song titles – and yes, some of them are as risqué as the names imply, some even more so.

A few of the plastic cups that gave their lives in our quest
for nirvana at the Barefoot Man conert.
·         “Time Flies When You Are Having Rum”
·         “Small Dinghy”
·         “Desperate Horse Wives”
·         ”She Loves My Deck”
·         “The Pussy Cat Song”
·         “Save the Lap Dance for Me”
·         “A Thong Gone Wrong”
·      And, of course, my personal favorite, “Viagra.”

The following day we went to “Grabbers Bed, Bar and Grill.” It too, was a really cool place with a Bahamian man singing some great music. (Sorry, but I didn’t get his name – though many of the folks there did and thought very highly of him.) We had only one rum-filled punch to drink (and we shared it), but for lunch Ann had a burger, which she really liked, and I had a Lobster Quesadilla. Ok, I didn’t find any of the lobster in that quesadilla, but neither one of us is complainin’. We had rum, music, a beautiful beach and lovely weather. It may not have quite been paradise, but it was pretty damn close.

ANN’S NOTES: The past few days have been so much fun for me. We got out of the marina for four days and meet a new couple . We actually meet Bente and Tony in Marsh Harbor before we left and had them over for a drink and conversation. They live on a 40 foot Catamaran named Side by Side…I liked their boat name. They have been living on boats of one kind or another for eighteen years. Anyway…I really did not get to say good bye to them…they were going to breakfast as we were putting our dinghy away… ( I dislike that Boston Whaler and cannot wait to sell it when we get back to VA/MD) I did feel bad that I did not say good bye … as the universe usually does … it lets you make up for things undone. When we pulled into the marina at Great Guana…we were assigned a slip right next to Side by Side. I thanked the universe and was a happy camper. The next morning Bente came over and asked if we could share a cup of coffee together and get to know each other a little better. It was amazing how much we have in common. She is Danish and had stories about when she was a little girl after World War 2. She also has studied Reiki up to level two…I am a Reiki master. She volunteers in Hospice…I have worked in Hospice for many years as a CNA. We both have daughters named Lisa…the list goes on and on. Sometimes the universe just puts people in your path that you connect with on a soul level. We talked about Yoga…she does a daily practice of the 5 Tibetans. It was so wonderful to just sit and talk…hear a female voice…and exchange ideas…book titles…and in general just love being in each others’ company. Bente…if you are reading this…thank you so much for that morning. I have a good chance of seeing her again this summer…they maybe in the VA/DC area.

The second amazing thing that happened was the DOLPHIN!!! OMG…OMG….OMG!!!! I just cannot tell you what that was like. We have seen dolphins from a distance…sort of grey spots swimming around. But this was just heart pounding…sheer delight. We were going into Treasure Cay and we saw the dolphin come close to our boat…but then he/she stated to play in our bow wake. I looked down and could see his/her eyes…hear him/her take a breath…actually feel the beautiful presence of this animal. The tail of dolphins have a split in it…he /she was swimming so fast that I could see the water flow off of it and it looked like a jet stream…Amazing….she/he played for almost five minutes. I was talking to him/her…thanking it for coming to us…sent Reiki blessings to her/him…I even told her /him I loved it. The thought of this dolphin will always be with me…when I need to feel happy…that morning will always be there for me to remember. The universe is an amazing and wondrous.

The concert with Barefoot Man was a blast…it was prime time people watching. There was lots of music, dancing and such. We also learned an important lesson. We have a new VHF  radio on board…great piece of equipment, a must-have when you own a boat…anyway…this radio is set that when anyone pushes a distress bottom a general alarm goes off on our boat and it gives the Lat and Long of the boat in trouble. Problem is …any alarm that goes off and you are not around to turn it off is “not good.” During the concern on the loud speaker we heard…something Soul…had an alarm going off…actually they said the boat was drifting away. Yup…the boat was tied to the dock BUT the VHF distress was on. Michael walked back to the boat and turned the radio off. So…I will make sure the radio is off every time we depart from the boat…Lesson learned…check…

We are counting down the days to the arrival of Tim, Carrie, Caylin and Gavin…less than two weeks to go!!

Traveling Soul…OUT…

Friday, March 16, 2012

Marsh Harbor Marina and the Great White (5 March - 11 March)

There I was, face to face with a 17 foot great white shark. He made his run, opening those enormous jaws, and coming straight at me with sharp-as-razor teeth designed for no other purpose than to tear hunks of flesh from his living prey. I would have been that prey had I not had the presence of mind to swivel my hips to the left, deftly dodging his bite. Not good enough, huh? Ok, how about this: there I was, face to face with a 47 foot giant squid …  Ok, maybe that isn’t quite true either, but it has been a kind of slow week and I was trying to grab your attention. Did it work?
(Author's note: I really tried to download  more pictures, but they are taking soooooo long, I decided to publish without all of the pix. MB)

Actually, several things happened this week – many of them important to us, but maybe not very interesting to you. First, the home inspection contingency has been lifted from our sales contract and we are one step closer to selling our house! The only contingency remaining is the appraisal; the bank wants to make sure the house is worth what they are lending, so they are having an appraisal done. After that’s finished, all we have to do is keep the buyer alive long enough to close. That may be more of an issue than you might think, because for several days, I wanted to kill him.
Now our house is getting old and we expected some items to come out of the home inspection that needed to be repaired. But the list he gave us had thirty items on it. It was certainly the longest list I had ever seen and even the longest our realtor had ever seen. I will admit that some of them were important. The house needed some electrical work, for example. Some of the items, though, were pretty silly. For instance, they wanted us to add a string to the light in the laundry room. Come on guys. For that item I thought we should offer them a cash settlement of 35 cents so they could buy their own string and match it to the other décor in the laundry room, or, because I was feeling generous, maybe even 70 cents so they could buy a spare. Add a string … good heavens! But the one that really got me was for the garage. Apparently a squirrel has taken up residence in our garage. Now the fact that they wanted us to get him out was understandable, but they also wanted us “to seal the garage so no other animals can get in.”  “So no animals can get in?” Come on guys, mice can get in even the newest, most tightly sealed houses – and squirrels, my lord, I guess they have heard nothing about the Great Malcolm Court Squirrel Wars of the 1990’s when Ann tried everything to keep squirrels out of the bird feeders! “Seal the house,” my eye! In the end, we pretended to be political liberals and threw money at the problem; the whole list is now theirs, but the money to fix (at least some it) is ours.

 (Excuse me while I take a couple of deep cleansing breaths. In with the good air, out with the bad; in with the good air, out with the bad. !) Ok, I am better now. Anyway, we just made reservations to go back to Virginia for closing on April 9th. Yes, we probably could have closed with scanned and faxed paperwork plus a notary or two. But you know what? We just wanted to go back to make sure everything goes as it should – and to celebrate. We’ll be leaving just a few days after Tim and Carrie’s visit, so we will meet them at home for Easter. By the time we get back to Marsh Harbor, it will be time to start packing and getting the boat ready for the return trip.

The other piece of very exciting news is that we may have fixed our head problem. I say “may” because, as I think I mentioned in our last posting, the second head was acting up. It is, of course, possible that something went wrong with both heads independently within a few days of one another, but that would be quite a coincidence – and when on the job, we sanitation engineers don’t believe in coincidences, we look for patterns. The last time we had a problem like this was in North Fort Myers. If you look at North Fort Myers, you will see that it is on a major fresh water river. I have already explained in some detail how our Lectra San heads work. The most likely problem we are told, is either not enough salt in the water or insufficient electricity in the system (caused, e.g. by dirty electrodes). We eventually figured out that in North Fort Myers, we had too much fresh water in the system (because of the river) and not enough salt. Now there is not a fresh water river anywhere near our marina, but patterns is patterns and, when you are grasping at straws, you will call anything a possible solution. We went to the store and bought extra salt and started flushing with an ounce of salt. You know what? Head number two is now behaving normally, and head number one appears to have stabilized (i.e. we still have a yellow flashing light, but no red flashing light). We are holding figuratively our breath (and hoping we don’t have to do so literally), and using our salt. We still have the number of the repairman in West Palm Beach, but it looks like we may make it until then!

On Thursday, we went to Maxwell’s Grocery Store and a few other places to get some provisions. When we came back to the dinghy dock, we got into our dinghy, put the key in the ignition and … nothing. I tried a few more times and hoped it wasn’t the battery, even though I knew it was. Luckily, no more than a hundred yards away was an outboard motor repair facility. When a fellow boater showed up and offered to take us back to our boat, we decided Ann should go back with the provisions and I would stay and try to get the dinghy fixed.  James came out with a couple of tools, opened the motor did some mechanic things and pronounced the battery not only dead, but “bad” as well. Actually, everything he said seemed to make sense so I bought a new battery (with labor that was $188, in case you were wondering). When he got it in, I cranked it and not only did it crank right up, it just sounded a lot better than it ever had.  So, James, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, thank you!
As Ann so delicately puts it below, we have some "big ass" engines.
And I had to drain the oil from both of them!

The other exciting maintenance news of the week is that I changed our engine oil! I know, I know that doesn’t sound too hard. After all, I am sure many of you have changed oil in a car. Well, our Detroit Diesels are not cars. In your car you might have had five quarts or so; we have five gallons of oil in each of our engines. In your car, you could unscrew that little nut at the bottom of your oil pan and let the oil trickle out; in our diesels, we have to suck the old oil out through the dipstick hole using a special tool. In your car you probably had some dirty oil after you got it out; in our diesels we had grungy sludge that didn’t want to come out at all. In short, changing our oil is a dirty, messy, filthy, grimy business.
John doing a bit more than "supervising"
the oil change on Traveling Soul

Lucky for me, I had help. Our friend John, who had done this a few times in the past, was the first one to volunteer. Actually, I am not sure John would agree he volunteered; he might say we bribed him with dinner the following night, or that we told him we wanted him simply to supervise – just before we put him to work on the oil filters. In any event, John’s help was invaluable. In fact, as we were completing this dirty, messy, filthy, grimy task, we identified a few things we could do that might make the task a little less onerous next time. If we can, I will feel a real sense of accomplishment and will tip my hat to John’s suggestions. If not – to hell with it, I will pay someone to do it.

There was a sad part of the week. On Friday, our friend John decided that he was going to head back to the States. As you will remember we met John as we arrived at West End and he has stayed with us almost the whole time. He would sometimes come over for coffee and I would sketch out my upcoming maintenance challenge. Invariably, he would either offer some advice or – more often than not – he would be there to help me do whatever was required. Since I am, what some might kindly call, “maintenance challenged,” John’s help and the confidence he gave me to take on other tasks, is greatly appreciated. We hope to see him this summer up and around the Chesapeake. But whether we do or not, John, “fair winds, following seas and have a bud on me.” (Actually, since John doesn’t drink, maybe I should have said, “SAVE a Bud for me” J)
Our friend John, in m/v Vulcan moving on to better cruising
grounds ... where he has to make his OWN coffee!!

ANN’S NOTES:  It has been a slow week as you can tell from Michael’s writing. I still have the usual tasks to do… grocery shopping, laundry and cooking dinner… all these every day things keep me grounded. The oil change day was interesting…I did a small part…kept the men in paper towels and held a few funnels when asked. We have two…excuse me…big ass engines .That oil was dark and thick…this oil change challenge will take place every 100 hours that we put on the engines…fun…fun…fun !!! Around mid-week after reading two books that week…and the boat was clean…the wash done…I was  having a case  of  ‘marina fever’ sort of like ‘cabin fever’. I decided to learn the exciting game of ….ready for this…YUP…you guessed it…dominos.  A group of people get together every afternoon and hang out in the bar/restaurant and play. I figured what the heck…could be fun and only three people were playing – a perfect time to learn…I would only embarrass myself in front of a few people. I have to admit that I had fun…I caught on quickly and will go back to play next time I am around and need something to do. It was sad to see John leave, he is surely a gentleman and he has really helped us from day one. He is fun to shop with and can keep a conversation going like no one I have met. I am sure we will see him this summer on the Chesapeake …anyway I hope we do and we can share our coffee in the morning once more. We did meet a few new boaters and we always like to exchange stories and ideas. All and all…we are having a wonderful time. I am counting down the days to the arrival of Tim, Carrie, Caylin and Gavin!!! Also our daughter Lisa, married to a very handsome Marine, Dave, will be moving from Cherry Point N.C. to 29 Palms CA in June. We are hoping to see them on our way back up the intracoastal waterway on our way to VA. That is about all from my point of view…thank you for reading our blog…Traveling Soul…OUT

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marsh Harbor Marina and The Big Blow (26 Feb - 4 March)

I am writing today so I don’t have to think about what is happening outside. A cold front is on its way to the Bahamas. Although that only lowers the temperature from about 76 degrees to about 70, it brings with it winds. Like 40 MPH winds. Now I have bragged about our boat a lot. It is big, it is heavy and it can take a lot. One of the downsides about having a boat this big is that it has a lot of windage (area that the wind can use to push us around). Once again, though, I am ahead of myself. Let me tell you what happened earlier in the week.

Once Dave and Joan left, our plan had been to stay in the marina for a few days then to head south to Little Harbor and Pete’s Pub.  However, just before they left we had an offer on our house!! We decided, therefore, to stick around the marina where we had good phone and internet connectivity. By Sunday, we had accepted the offer and the house was under contract. Hurray!! (Two days later we found that Tim and Carrie had made an offer on a house and their offer was accepted also!) Our buyers scheduled the Home Inspection for Wednesday and our realtor said we would hear something by Saturday. When we got the Inspection results, they wanted us to address some 30 issues ranging from slow drains?!?!?) to rewiring some electrical stuff. Get this: apparently a squirrel has taken up lodging in our garage. Well, they want us to get it out and THEN seal the garage so no more animals can get in. Seal the garage ... so no squirrells and mice can get in? Come on, guy. I asked our realtor what she thinks we should do and am awaiting her response.
If you will recall, when Dave and Joan were here, we received our Autopilot in the mail. Our friend John came over to help and when I started to disconnect the old one, he noticed the words “ST 7000” flashed on the screen. Hmmm. We played with the connections a little bit and discovered that the problem might have been nothing more than a loose wire.  So, wait a minute. I spent $400 on a new autopilot, $100 on FedEx charges, piloted the boat from the pilothouse (as opposed to my preferred Flybridge station) and had to deal with Bahamas Customs. Andrew was the young man who told me it was the control head and it is Andrew who will never set foot on this boat again. Grrr. Look on the bright side, Mike. Your autopilot is fixed and you have a spare control head!! Bright side, shmight side Grrr!

We also had a head (toilet for you landlubbers) malfunction. As you will recall, we have three heads on the boat. The master head has not worked since we bought it, in part because we couldn’t find anyone who worked on Lectra San Heads. Now Lectra Sans are classified by the Coast Guard as an MSD I (Marine Sanitation Device I). They take in the waste, process it on board by using electrodes to turn salt water into hypochlorous acid (HClO for you chemists), which, in turn, destroys odors and bacteria by oxidization. At the end of the day, most experts agree that what is left over is cleaned and better for the environment than anything that comes out of any city waste processing facility – that is, when the Lectra San works. We had two working heads and that was plenty for Ann and I, and any visitors we might have had. Then head number 2 stopped working.

Well, I read the manual from front to back a couple of times (that’s how I knew about the HClO).  The solution was to flush a diluted solution of muriatic acid into the head, following some very strict safety procedures, then wait 45 minutes whereupon everything would be good again. I followed to procedures to a Tee – and, of course, nothing happened. Actually, it is not completely out of action, but we don’t ask it to process the … er … heavy stuff, if you get my drift.  

During the week we invited two couples over for drinks. Mike and Harriet aboard Dual Dreams and Jack and Sherri aboard Taiga (who were a great help on Sunday). Dual Dreams has been cruising for some time and had a number of suggestions to offer us newbies.  It was a good thing we met Jack and Sherri as they were very helpful the following day.
Just before Dave and Joan left, I lost a crown on one of my molars. Ann, Little Miss “Be Prepared” brought a set of dental instruments and some Dentex, a temporary filler for cavities and a temporary glue for crowns. Well, it didn’t quite work as well as advertised, but it did give me enough time to find a local dentist. Before I got there I wasn’t sure what to expect, the Bahamas is a Third World country after all.  Well, you sure wouldn’t have guessed it by this dentist’s office. She had graduated from the University of Texas Dental School , had some of the highest tech dental equipment I have seen in any dentist’s office, had CNN playing in all the exam rooms … I want her as my dentist! Anyway, she replaced it and I haven’t had any problems in the two days since.
Then came Sunday. We had heard that the high pressure area that had dominated our weather for the past several days was going to give way to a strong Cold Front. We heard that there might be some serious wind – twenty to thirty knots – associated with the Cold Front and the seas would be very uncomfortable. That was okay for us, we were tied up at a dock in a marina.
As you can see, Traveling Soul does have some windage!

Sunday morning dawned as any other day. The sun was out, people were adjusting their lines and there were even some folks at the pool. Then the winds came. They started out at 10, then went to 15, 20, 25, 30 – we were sure they would plateau at 30, that was the highest prediction we had heard. Then they went to 35, 40, 45, the highest gust we clocked was at 47 MPH. Those are high winds, even if you are tied up at the dock with several ¾ inch lines holding us in place. Now a ¾ inch line is a pretty big one and has a high working load. However, there was so much strain on one line, in particular – it was moaning and groaning and groaning and moaning – that we tried to add another line to take up some of the strain. The best way to do it would have been to reduce some strain on the first line – without loosening it. So, we pulled and pulled on the boat, trying to generate just a little bit of clack on the over-stressed line, but we couldn’t move it. In fact, Ann got blisters from pulling on the line and I got cramps in my hands. Eventually, several folks from nearby boats came over to help and we eventually got several lines as tight as we could – but old faithful was still moaning and groaning.

While all this was going on, we had another issue. While in the marina, we generally keep our dinghy down so we can travel across the harbor to stores, etc. The night before we had tied the dinghy to our swim platform and put out some fenders to protect the boat in case the dinghy banged into it. Well, the winds were coming from our starboard aft quarter and were really pushing the dighy around. I added more fenders, but that didn’t do any good. I adjusted the lines holding the dinghy, but that didn’t do any good. Eventually, Jack, from Taiga, came over and not only offered advice, but got in the dinghy and tied it to a piling. Still, we were getting water over the top and had to go into the dinghy and bail it out. Eventually, I decided that I would move the dinghy into one of the protected slips. I asked Jack to help and he was more than willing. Soon, I cranked it up and headed into the jaws of the nor’easter.

I could tell you that Jack and I were two men before the mast, prepared to face Mother Nature in all her fury … But if I did, I would be lying; our dinghy doesn’t have a mast and the trip was a bit anticlimactic. We pulled into one of the slips and the dockmaster helped us secure her. 

Our neighbor Jack bailing our dinghy.
He later helped me move it to a safer place.
Now, I swear, no more than 30 minutes after taking our harrying Dinghy ride, the wind began clocking around and the cold front arrived. The temperature dropped a good 10 degrees and the wind shifted directions, decreasing to maybe ten to 15 MPH.  Whew we made it through another adventure.
ANN'S NOTES: It has been an exciting couple of days...First the good stuff. One morning I woke up with a fresh cup of coffee in hand...went to the stern to look outside and right in front of me was a dolphin...they are such beautiful animals. He or she swam around our boat and under our dinghy a few times...the sound of them taking a breath is a reminder to me of how important it is for me to just be still and breath. I do have a picture but it just a grey blur...we may post it.

Now on to the not so much fun stuff...between handling acid for the heads, and holding lines in the wind...I think I can say I am becoming a true boater. The weather has not been very nice ...the days are windy and at times chilly. I am very happy that we were in a marina when this 'weather front' came in...the thought of being at anchor would have been horrible. Remember that margrine commerical? 'it's not nice to fool mother nature' ...she told us point blank that she was in charge. We had to re-adjust lines and fenders all day....and those poor lines were just screaming for some slack. On every cleat on our boat we had a line attached to it and the dock. I was off and on the boat a few times and even the whole dock was swaying a little. Then we add the dinghy to the whole mess...Michael had the boat tied every which way we could think so it would not bang into our swim platform...but there were white caps in the harbour...wind blowing the dinghy into the boat and no way to stop it. Our new boat neighbor help bale the water out of the dinghy and then went with Michael to tie it up in mid-marina. The result of all this was we no longer have a rub rail on the swin platform...new one to be installed when we get back to VA/MD. As quick as the wind started...it stopped...you could see the clouds 'clock around' and the temperture dropped ten degrees...it started to rain and it was cold. Amazing to watch...not so much fun to be in the middle of it.

It may not be a great picture, but why don't you ask a
dolphin to hold still for a minute!You can see the edge of the dinghy
on the right side. If we would have been in it we might have been able to get a free ride!

We are also in trying to wrap up the sale of our house. We had a home inspection and of course they nit-picked it to a near death. We do have a good realtor,a good phone and excellent net connection.So far so good...that is all for now....all is well on Traveling Soul....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dave and Joan's Winter Adventure (16 - 25 February)

Our very good friends Dave and Joan Wolf came to visit from 16 – 25 February. We were able to take them to Marsh Harbor, Hopetown and Elbow Cay, Treasure Cay, and Great Guana Cay. We also went out for dinner quite a bit – probably more often than we had since we arrived in the Bahamas. Anyway, these are the chronicles of Dave and Joan’s Winter Adventure.

The first night Dave and Joan were here we went to Mangoes for dinner. The restaurant had been closed for the winter and had reopened only about a week earlier. In fact, during dinner both the owner and the chef (formerly of the Four Seasons in Nassau) came over to introduce themselves. Now, that kind of thing doesn’t often happen in the States! For dinner, the four of us had some combination of conch chowder, cracked conch marinated in lime, grilled grouper and barbecued ribs. Everything was scrumptious! Ann and I really like Mangoes because it has both Bahamian and American fare, because the food is good and because it is on the water. Other restaurants have two of those characteristics, but not many have all three. In fact, we like it so much that we also went there on Dave and Joan’s last night. But I am ahead of myself.

Anyway, the next day we went to Hopetown on Elbow Cay. We aren’t going to tell you all about the island because we already did that in an earlier posting (it was one of those Loyalist enclaves after the Revolutionary War). On the day we arrived, we went into town for the historical sites (for Dave) and to the boutiques (for Ann and Joan). The next day we rented a golf cart and toured the southern half of the island – which is beautiful – and had lunch at “On Da Beach,” a cute little bar and grill that Ann and I discovered the last time we were on Elbow Cay. It is a small one-room establishment that overlooks the long beach on the Atlantic side of the island. The day we were there, the surf was a little too rough to get in the water, but we did stroll along the beach for a bit.  The last time we visited On Da Beach we were the only customers; this time there were a number of people.  I like to see lots of folks so I can be sure they will be open the next time we come around!
Ann, one of our lighthouse junkies,
at Elbow Cay Light

After the trip around Elbow Cay, Dave and Ann – who, as most of you know, are Lighthouse Junkies – visited and walked to the top of Elbow Cay Lighthouse. That evening we ate on board and had, what else, but lobster with drawn butter. Mmmmmmmmmm

The weather forecast was looking a bit iffy so we decided the next day we would go to the Marina at the infamous (deep scary voice) Treasure Cay. Now, some of you will remember that only week or so prior we had a not-very-pleasant experience in the anchorage at Treasure Cay. This time, you will notice that we got smart. Instead of going to the anchorage, we headed straight to the marina. It was a bit windy, but we pulled into our slip without incident. Then we went to the beach. Again, it was magnificent. You just have to see the beach – the multiple shades of blue, turquoise and aqua – and you have to feel the confectionary sugar-like sand between your toes before you can understand why we like that beach so much. We also had a little snack at the local beach bar, Coco’s, then did a little shopping and headed back to the boat.

The second day at Treasure Cay we learned a lesson. The day prior the wind was 15 gusting to 20, but it was generally from the south. That meant that while there were some significant gusts of wind at the marina, there was little more than a pleasant breeze across the peninsula at the north-facing beach. The second day, however, the wind was about the same strength, but it was from the north, so it was coming straight off the Sea of Abaco onto the beach. So, while we spent some time at the beach that day, we didn’t spend as much as we would have liked. That night we went to dinner at A Touch of Class, one of the five local restaurants. They came to the marina to pick us up and took us the two or so miles to the dining room. The service was great, but the food was only okay. Moreover, it wasn’t on the water – and I do love eating on the water. Overall, I think we would all give the place a passing score, but we probably won’t be going back this year.

Ann, in her "Prepare to Anchor" pose at Marsh Harbor
On Tuesday we headed back to Marsh Harbor to anchor. Why you ask? Well, I could bore you with the whole story, but I am just going to give you a summary. (As I was editing this, I noticed that I wrote more than I intended. I guess I changed my mind – I am going to bore you with the whole story.) Our most diligent readers will recall that our autopilot failed part way across the Gulf Stream. Andrew (the local electrical guy) looked at it and said he thought it was the control head. The solution was simple: get a new control head and replace the old. Under the heading “nothing is easy,” however, we discovered they no longer make the control head that I had. I e-mailed Rick, our broker, friend and all-around maintenance guru and asked what to do. He found that there was a new control head that was supposed to be compatible with the old one. After some discussion, we asked him to order one, send it via Fed Ex and bill us. The day we were leaving Marsh Harbor with Dave and Joan we got a call from the marina telling us that our package was at the Marsh Harbor airport and we needed to take our temporary cruiser’s permit to Customs so they could clear the package and we could pick it up. We asked if all this could wait until Tuesday and we were assured that it could. That is why we were back in Marsh Harbor. But the story is not yet over.

On Tuesday, we called the number we had and were told that we did not really need to bring the permit to the airport, we could fax it over. (We had specifically asked about faxing on Friday and were told that customs need to see the original.) So we went to our favorite marina and asked them to fax the Fed Ex invoice number and the cruising permit.  Five minutes later the package cleared Customs and we were told that we could pick it up the following day. Jason, one of the dock masters at the marina heard part of our phone call and asked why we were going to the airport instead of having Fed Ex deliver the package here. The answer was because we thought we were told we had to. Jason called the Fed Ex office and asked why they didn’t deliver to the marina any more. Well, apparently the voice on the other end claimed it was all a big misunderstanding and of course he would be willing to deliver the package. Yea, yea, yea, yea.  Anyway, I now have the part – but the story is not over. I will tell you the rest in the next installment.

 Anyway, back to Dave and Joan’s Winter Adventure. On Wednesday we headed to Great Guana Cay – home of the world famous Nippers. Now Ann and I have been wanting to go to Nippers for the past couple of weeks, but weather had always changed our plans. On Wednesday, everything looked good and off we went. On the way over (about an hour-and-a-half cruise) we saw a dolphin! Although we had seen several in Florida, it was one of the few we had seen in the Bahamas and Joan, in particular, was thrilled. The omens were good!
Dave Joan, Mike and Ann at Nippers.

Our boat buddy John was waiting for us at Great Guana along with his friend and visitor, Katty. Katty is from Caracas, is fifty years old and is as cute as they come. John met her some years ago when she was a sergeant in the Venezuelan Air Force. She speaks pretty good English, though she sometimes misses some of the discussion. John’s Spanish isn’t good enough to translate, but we all seem to get along anyway. We took a mooring ball at Great Guana and, without further ado, the six of us headed for the bar I mean restaurant. Nippers is a multi-level bar-restaurant on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic beaches of the island. It has a two-level pool with a water fall connecting them. The day we were there, it was kind of hot outside and Ann, Joan and Katty all used the pool to cool off.  It was kind of cool to sit there, eating conch and drinking beer, taking an occasional dip in the pool and watching the surf roll in.

Speaking of surf, while we were at Nippers the water on the Sea of Abaco was nearly flat; the waters of the Atlantic, however, were boiling! At the far reef – about a quarter mile offshore and the “third largest barrier reef in the world” – the breakers were easily ten to fifteen feet high. At the beach, they were only about six feet, but still strong enough to knock most people down. Well, Ann and Joan just had to find out how powerful those waves were, so they went out in the surf to brave the waves! They didn’t go out quite far enough to get knocked down, though they did get knocked back a bit. Me?? Well, someone had to take pictures!!! All in all it was a great place to visit!
Ann, dressed nicely as always. Mike in "Island Formal"

Everyone is familiar with history’s most famous photos and videos. There are, of course, the magnificent photos of Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz and others. In an entirely different vein there is the Magruder film of the Kennedy assassination. Well, I will soon have in my possession, a digital image that combines the artistry of the great photographers with the history-defining nature of the Magruder film. Yes, I will have a photo of the “Great Swimsuit Malfunction,” otherwise known as the “Wolf Film.” This picture is the first known photograph taken of Joan Wolf’s posterior after she slid off Traveling Soul’s swim platform and tore her swimsuit. It documents the fact that small tears in women’s swimsuits can become much larger almost immediately and that they can show off parts of a woman’s anatomy that they usually want to keep covered. Yes, my friends, I will have only one of two copies of this photograph. The difference between mine and the one Dave Wolf owns is that I will be happy to sell mine to the highest bidderJ.

 After Nippers and Great Guana, we headed back to Marsh Harbor. The original plan was to rent a car and go see the lighthouse at Hole-in-the-Wall about 15 miles to the south. However, in talking to some other folks, they recommended not going unless we had a four-wheel drive – apparently it is a bit of a bumpy road. So, we decided that though we had been to Marsh Harbor before, there were still places to shop and sites to see.  Now to most people a grocery store is not on the list of sites you need to see. Well, Dave is a bit of a foodie so he certainly wanted to check out Maxwell’s, the Abacos answer to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Wegman’s. Ok, it is not much of an answer, but in addition to the standard fare, they had Sheep’s Tongue, Pigeon Peas and some very strange Bahamian spices.  

On Saturday, Dave and Joan had to leave. We kind of wished they had already retired and we could have kept them here for a bit longer. However, they needed to go home so they could make enough money to keep their boat Sans Souci ready for the summer.
ANN'S NOTES: It was a very busy week and the time went by quickly. We all had a great time showing Dave and Joan all the fun places that Michael and I have discovered. I did take a lot of pictures but when we went to download them the ywere gone from the camera memory card. The only thing I did was change the battery and some how that is when the pictures must have gone away. Thank heaven Dave is a picture taker so that is what you are seeing in the blog. Thank you Dave very much for pictures. The delivery of the boat part was like a three stooges movie...three different telephone conversations...three different set of instructions...my solution...get a local person on the line and let them handle it. Jason is such a nice guy and he takes good care of us in the marina. The one thing that Michael did not mention was  when we were in Treasure Cay we rented bikes to go to a local ceramic handpainted store. It was a fun ride together...we bought a few items and than headed back to the marina via the local neighborhoods. There are some beautiful summer homes on the beach. Also when Dave and Joan were here, Michael lost a dental crown. To everyones surprise I had bought a dental repair kit and we did fix it for a little while. About every other day we had to re-glue it...I guess that is about all I have to say...Traveling Soul...out....