Before I completely leave the subject of Governor’s Harbor, I have a bit of ‘fessing up to do. It was hot, I mean very, very hot. Moreover, we had made the mistake of not putting up the sun shield on our front windshields. Since we were facing southwest, the sun was heating up our “pilothouse” every afternoon. In fact, it was well over 90 degrees inside the pilothouse during part of the time we were there. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t quite that hot in the salon, but it was still very, very warm. At 1700 we usually start up the generator to recharge the batteries, to provide electricity for cooking, etc. Well, on the second day we were in Governor’s Harbor, the heat got to me. I made a command decision and TURNED ON THE FLIPPIN’ AIR CONDITIONER!!! Within minutes, the room was tolerable and within 15 minutes or so, it was actually getting cool. Ann, the woman who abhors the heat had nothing to do with it. (She made me say that!) There. I have admitted that I was the one who wanted the air conditioner!
After Governor’s Harbor, we were off to Rock Sound. Rock Sound is near the southern tip of Eleuthera. It is a body of water about two miles wide by four miles long with an opening about a mile wide in there are channels from one side to the other. Now, the good part about Rock Sound from a boater’s point of view is that if weather comes from the north, you can anchor near the northern end; if from the south, you can anchor near the southern end, etc. So, in my view, it is not just an anchorage, it is set of anchorages. When we arrived, we had heard that the weather was coming from the northeast, so we decided to anchor near the northeast end. The other good thing about Rock Sound is that it can hold a lot of boats. When we arrived and headed for the northeast corner, we found that we were not the only people who can read weather forecasts. There were seventeen other boats there – but we all had lots of room. It was a great anchorage.
The weather was also decent while we were at Rock Sound. Yes, it was overcast and yes, it did rain once or twice. But it was cool – and after our experience with the heat in Governor’s Harbor, we were certainly ready for a little chill. We walked around the settlement, visited some nice gift shops and a grocery store, that while not on par with Marsh Harbor in the Abacos, was very well-stocked.
|Ann's back and the Ocean Hole at Rock Sound.|
After the Ocean Hole we stopped by a little restaurant/bar for conch and beer and while there met three couples, vacationing together, who had flown in from the States (actually, one of them flew in from Scotland), as well as the crew from Sophia. We turned a short conch-and-beer stop into an hour-and-a-half gabfest and had a great time.
Our plan all along had been to go to the Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina before jumping across the Sound to the Exumas. We had stayed at the marina before, but were surprised to see that they actually had built up more of the resort (including a swimming pool) and that they had some guests staying there. The last time we were there, no one was staying in the resort and only one other boat was at the marina. While we were at Cape Eleuthera, it was very windy and it continued to rain on and off – but at least it wasn’t hot.
Without much else to do, Ann and I decided that we would rent a car (at $90 per day) and tour parts of the island that we couldn’t see from the sea. We rented from Friendly Bob’s Car Rental, which is not to be confused with Big Daddy’s Car Rental – which is apparently the competition. Although we already knew it, we realized once again how poor of a country the Bahamas is. Moreover, it is very sparsely populated. Eleuthera, the island we were exploring, is 110 miles or so long, and although it can be as narrow as one mile, it is probably an average of 2-3 miles wide. And there are only about 10,000 people – most living on the northern part of the island. Of those who live in the south, the vast majority live in “settlements”. These settlements, for the most part, consisted of only twenty or so houses, a couple of churches and maybe a general store that sells everything from groceries to hardware to clothing. So, while our drive was informative and interesting, it was not particularly entertaining.
We left Cape Eleuthera to cross the Exuma Sound on the perfect day. The weather was beautiful and the seas were calm. Initially, Spot wasn’t sure what we humans were up to, so she hid in her regular hidey-hole behind the sofa. But when she saw the journey was going to be a smooth one, her highness actually came out and actually associated with us, her staff.
As we came in from the Sound, we went through the cut that takes us to Cambridge Cay. We knew that the weather for the next day or two was not supposed to be especially nice, so we wanted to hide in the Cambridge Mooring Field. It is run by the Exuma Land and Sea Park (about which, more later). When we got there, there was only one mooring ball left and it was built to handle a 125’ boat. Now the rules of the Park state that, if you are a regular-sized boat, you should take the mooring balls that are designed for regular-sized boats and should leave the moorings intended for BIG boats to them. However, if there are no regular mooring balls available, then you can take those intended for BIG boats. There were no other mooring s available, so Traveling Soul took a mooring space intended for a 125’ boat.
|Sunset at Cambridge Cay.|
For those who don’t know, let me spend just a minute explaining how a mooring system works. A mooring ball floats on the surface and is connected to a large, heavy anchor permanently attached to the seabed. A length of line called a pennant – usually with a loop at the end – is attached to the mooring ball. You attach your boat to the pennant and are thereby connected to the big, heavy anchor. There are three keys to a good mooring: the size of the anchor, the strength of the line connecting the anchor to the mooring ball and the strength of the pendant itself. If any of these are too weak, you can have a catastrophe. Well, the Park built a good system and maintains the moorings very well. Moreover, since our mooring was built to handle a 125’ boat, I can assure you that those evenings we were connected to the Park’s mooring, we slept very well.
After enjoying the view from the upper deck at Cambridge, walking across the island itself and exploring a couple of pristine beaches, we set off for Staniel Cay. It is here that the story gets interesting.The Watermaker Episode
When we left Spanish Wells, our watermaker was working perfectly. Yes, she is old; yes, she is finicky; no, she doesn’t produce much water, but she is ours and she worked. I think we were at Governors Harbor when she finally gave up the ghost. Everything ran like it was supposed to, but the system just would not produce water. I knew what was wrong and I knew what I needed to fix it.
|Not the best picture in the world, but the assembly |
with the membrane is the long, skinny tube.
Those of you who want to know watermakers work should go find someone with a chemistry degree because it is very science-y and very complicated. For the rest of us, let’s just pretend that it is a system that forces seawater, under great pressure (700-800 psi, in my case), through a semi-permeable membrane that basically “squeezes” the salt and other impurities out, dumps them overboard and produces good, safe water. The membrane can be finicky, however, and can dry out easily. When that happens, you have to buy a new one and replace it. That is what happened to us. We needed a new membrane. Now, I suspect you are asking the same question I was. How in the name of Heaven was I going to get a fairly hi-tech semi-permeable membrane in the out islands of the Bahamas. Hmmm.
Well, among useless pieces of knowledge I keep stored in my noggin, is the fact that Staniel Cay is the Bahamian HQ of a company called, oddly enough, Watermakers. And that company makes and services – you guessed it – watermakers! But wait there’s more. The same company owns – are you ready for this – their own airline. Yes, you can fly from Fort Lauderdale to Staniel Cay aboard Watermakers Air. More importantly, they have a service that will pick up parts in the States and deliver them to Staniel Cay. Even more importantly, they will help you troubleshoot your watermaker and figure out specifically what size and what kind of membrane you need and then they will ship it to Staniel Cay – for a fee of course. Fee, shmee, I was saving on the cost of water and/or of a repairman coming to Staniel to work on my system. A perfect set-up, right?? Read on.
Well, we made reservations at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club Marina so we could pick up the membrane and put it in. In fact, we reserved a slip for two nights – Thursday and Friday – just in case the process took longer than we thought. We left Cambridge, went to Big Major Spot (an island near Staniel) for a couple of days – and then began a series of events that, my friends, is nearly unbelievable.
The first thing that happened concerned the weather. We knew there was a front coming in, but we only learned two days before our reservations started that Staniel Cay would not honor reservations if there were Westerly winds over 20 knots – and on Friday, westerly winds over 20 knots were predicted. (You have to realize that in the Bahamas, the prevailing winds are from the east, and while they can get up to 20-25 knots, the islands are generally located so that you can easily find protection from the winds – the marina at Staniel Cay is so protected. But when there are westerlies, especially if they are above about 25 knots, it gets downright nasty). We thought about our dilemma and decided to go ahead and stay at Staniel on Thursday, then pick up the part and put it in on the same day. On Friday morning we would have to find a protected anchorage – and we would have to do so with about a hundred other boats that are in the area.
Well, we spent time on Wednesday cruising around looking for places to hide from the winds. We found three that we thought might fit the bill. However, we weren’t sure how many boats would have chosen the same three spots by the time we were ready to anchor on Friday morning and how much competition there might be for the spots. We thought about just skipping the stop at Staniel altogether, but we needed our membrane. Hmmmm. ‘Twas a conundrum.
Our solution was to develop a plan. It seems that is my solution for just about everything. We would stay Thursday at the marina as planned. Then, early Friday morning, we would leave and would search each of our three potential anchorages to see if there was still room for us. If there was, we would, of course, drop the hook there. If all three places were full, though, we would proceed to Bell Island, where I knew there would be space (because it is a big anchorage). I am going to leave here until next week when I discuss the “Big Blow,” – or as we call it “BlowmageddoN” – because I have to first explain what happened with the watermaker.
All I had to do was take the pressure vessel assembly off the bulkhead (wall), unfasten the bolts with an Allen wrench, take off the end caps, remove the old membrane, put in the new one – with some O-rings – then reverse the process to make everything work again. Simple, right? OMG, not quite. First, the watermaker, of course, is located on the forward bulkhead of the generator room – the headroom for which is a rollicking 4 feet. Second, the generator room is full of lots of stuff, so if you think it is easy to get to the watermaker, you would be most incorrect. In fact, it is inches away from a permanently-mounted fire extinguisher. My point is that nothing is simple while working on any boat, but particularly our boat, in the generator room on the forward bulkhead.
First, I took the fire extinguisher off the wall so I could get to the watermaker. I then took the electronics for the watermaker off the wall so I could get to the pressure vessel assembly, then I unscrewed the bolts holding the end caps in place. Now, all I had to do was take the end caps off, right? Nope, they wouldn’t budge. I twisted, I turned, I pushed and I pulled. Nope, they still wouldn’t budge. I was getting frustrated and I was getting pissed. With all the strength I could muster, I braced the electronic unit (to which one of the end caps was connected) against the bulkhead and twisted as hard as I could. I felt movement. I tried again and finally, finally it twisted off. Success! I pulled out the old membrane and prepared to put the new one in. I tried like hell to get the other end cap off, but it wasn’t going to happen. Eventually, I came up with the solution – I didn’t need to take the other end cap off. All I needed to do is slide the new membrane in. Again, nothing is as easy as it sounds.
Ann had found a video on-line telling us how to put in the membrane. Unfortunately, the instructions suggested we use a particular kind of water soluble lubricant that we did not have – and NOT to use a petroleum-based lubricant. The membrane simply would not go in without some kind of lubrication. Hmmm. What to do. Well, we went with the only water-based lubricant we could find on board, KY Jelly. Actually, the kind of KY we had was enhanced with vitamin E, so we figured that it would be a healthy watermaker. With the KY and a little twisting and turning, the membrane slid in. A little hammer work to make sure it was seated. Then I only had to reverse the installation process. Voila! We now have a working watermaker that produces water. YEEESSSSSS!!Next week, we’ll finish the tale of BlowmageddoN.
ANN’s NOTES: Wow… I have a lot of ground to cover… according to my mini-journal I need to go back to 01/07/16…so here we go
Thursday 01/07/16: We are still in Spanish Wells, beautiful weather. Walked to the grocery store , we were out of paper towels and of course I could not just buy paper towels, I had a few more items that I just had to have. I still have not learned the items in your cart lesson. Anyway, a very nice local lady in her golf cart (that is how most people get around on the island) asked if I would like a ride back to the marina…I had a very large package of paper towels plus the above mentioned ‘other’ items. I was very thankful and had a short conversation with her. She was born and raised on the island and would never think of living anywhere else. We went out to lunch at the Shipwreck restaurant, such a wonderful view. Both our boat neighbors departed today, we have the dock to ourselves.
Friday 01/08/16: Annie’s Bight/ Gregory Town Eleuthera. Beautiful little cove during the day, turns into a washing machine on spin cycle at night, thank heaven it has a sandy bottom to hold Bertha, plus the bounce back noise off the island from the waves was loud. Michael got the kayak down (another activity that has more than one or two steps). Watermaker acting up, first signs of trouble. Burgers on the grill
Saturday 01/09/16: Arrived Governor’s Harbor Eleuthera. Bumpy ride over Exuma sound. Very hot and humid day. Dinghy over to town, dinghy shore yucky and dirty, water yucky and dirty, not my favorite place. Looked around in the grocery store, $6.50 for a small jar of baby dill pickles (I think I will wait and restock somewhere else) I was happy to return back to my clean boat, I need a shower after walking in that water to anchor the dinghy to shore. Good news free WiFi from Ronnie’s, whoever he is, thank you.
Sunday 01/10/16 : Very warm day, harbor very choppy and we have lunch reservation at the French Leave Restaurant and Marina. * note* in order to get to the restaurant we need to get into the dinghy and motor over, please also note, the harbor very choppy comment. I do not like trying to get into a dinghy that is bouncing around, the problem is actually many safety problems I have about getting into a bouncing dinghy. The dinghy is going one way with the chop on the water, Traveling Soul is going another way, the water is trying to make it impossible to get off the boat and into the dinghy. But there was the food incentive pulling us into the dinghy and to the restaurant (I could make this a lot longer, I may have a few issues to work out) Let me just say, the lobster pizza was amazing and we made it back to the boat. Michael took out ALL the fun I was going to have, that HE TURNED ON THE A/C!!!! I was the hardy pioneer women that day…just saying.
Monday 01/11/16: Arrived Rock Sound Harbor. Rain squalls off and on most of the day. Nice anchorage, lots of boats. Started calling for replacement part for the watermaker, this may take some time, better to start early and ”get’er done” as the cable guy would say.
Tuesday 01/12/16: Dinghy to the Wild Orchid bar and grill to use their dinghy dock, it looked safer than most in the area. Walked around town, saw the Ocean Hole, stopped at a cute gift store, all handmade items from locals .Went to the grocery store for fresh items, Michael was with me so the items in the cart and his reminders helped. Went to the bar and grill for a quick snack and meet some nice people on vacation and another couple in the harbor on their boat Sophia. It was a really fun day.
Wednesday 01/13/16: Arrive Cape Eleuthera Marina. Bought fuel and then went to our assigned slip. Easy cruise over, Good WiFi, Nice relaxed day
Thursday 01/14/16: Car for the day, bought a not-really-very-good $10 map from the marina, at least we could read the print. Went looking for the lighthouse, could not find the light house…hum that is strange, one can usually see a lighthouse from a long distance and we were on the coast line and on the beach. * note* a few days later in the book I was reading about Eleuthera, it said the lighthouse was not maintained ,was abandoned and no longer standing, well that explains why we could not find it. Roads are in terrible shape, the settlements are few and far apart and rather depressing. Found an old abandoned church, at one time probably the center of a settlement but as people on these islands often do, they just leave and that is that. We found a lot of small liquor stores, I think that is one way to handle poverty and yet you see the children in their clean and pressed school uniforms playing in the government run school, such a contrast. Went to the grocery store only this time we had a car so I could go wild and put anything I wanted in the cart and Michael was with me. (It is nice to have a car) Found out our friends Dave and Joan are coming to visit!!!
Friday 01/15/16: This is my “get ready to leave day.” We are still at the marina and they have some amenities that most marinas in the Bahamas do not have, for example a laundry room. So … in my head I had it all planned out. The pantry is restocked, the fridge is full from yesterday’s shopping spree so now is the day to tackle the laundry. Right??? NO!!! There are only two washers and two dryers, only about three other sail boats in the marina and they were all doing laundry yesterday, so I figure, a couple of hours and done. I load up the car to bring it back to the office for Friendly Bob to pick up and drop off the laundry. I get to the laundry room only to find two local women, in a small hatch back full of dirty clothes, unloading it. Yup…you guessed it, the locals can use the laundry room. They each had about five loads each and I could tell it was going to be a very long day for me if I stayed. I was not a happy boater at that moment. I went back to the boat to tell Michael that I wanted to do the laundry on the boat. Now the marina charges for both water and electric, water is .35 per gallon and electric is .50 per kilowatt hour. He helped me bring the laundry back to the boat and even in my math challenged mind I knew having clean cloths was going to be pricey.* note..it was* Then to add insult ,to injury, we had to top off our water tanks, since our watermaker was officially not working.
Saturday 01/16/16: Beautiful day to cruise( in clean clothes) Me and my eagle eyes spotted the last mooring ball in Cambridge Cay. The mooring hosts (I will explain what they are in a moment) were in their dinghy and handed me the pendant so I could put our lines through and be connected to the mooring ball. Anyway , the Bahamian Park system has a volunteer program that you can sign up for, that allows you to stay on a mooring ball at a discounted rate. Their part is to help people as needed, such as handing new incoming boats the pendants and collecting the mooring ball fee. Nice to know we are tucked in when the bad weather front comes in tomorrow.
Sunday 01/17/16: Glad we are on a mooring ball, it is very windy out, a few squalls have come through bringing more wind and rain. Did lots of reading and cat petting. I have not mentioned Spot in a while, she really has become a true cruising feline. She is such great company and she keeps us amused and entertained every day, she is a joy to have around.
Monday 01/18/16: Beautiful day in Cambridge Cay, it is our beach day. Wind not too bad, got the dinghy down and back up (an important part to remember) to go exploring. Walked a few beaches and just enjoyed the many colors of the water in these parts. It is so very hard to even explain how beautiful the water is, it takes all your senses to appreciate it.
Tuesday 01/19/16: Michael did a great job getting us out of Cambridge Cay. Unlike the Chesapeake Bay, there really are no tidal charts to refer to, so you need to know how much water there is below you at all times and not depend on knowing when the tide is up or down. To depart Cambridge Cay is like a maze, we lightly touched bottom once, not a problem. Arrived at Big Majors Spot/Pig Beach. Found a good place to anchor. Still windy out, watched some old movies on DVD to pass the time. Lots of radio chatter about the bad westerly wind that was due in a few days.
Wednesday 01/20/16: Started to formulate a plan in case we could not stay at the marina. We took what I would call a joy ride (not really so joyful) to find a place. Now you need to remember (again nothing is easy on a boat) that there are many steps to putting down and anchor and bringing one up. So just to say that we went for a joy ride really did take some time and all the steps that go with it, times two, we had to anchor back again at pretty much the same place we had left. The joy ride led to a good plan all and all, and gave us an idea where we could go and not have to scramble looking for an anchorage like so many people had to do. Bahamian tourist board filming on Pig Beach, our boat may be in the back ground. Look it up on Google, these pigs are well feed and big. A new batch of piglets were on the beach also, the male pigs must be happy.
Thursday 10/21/16: Arrive at Staniel Cay Yacht Club(and “sort of a marina”) The new membrane arrived on the 9:30 flight, we pulled into our slip at 11 am and that is all I saw of the island. I was the “go get” girl in this project. I am very proud of Michael for sticking with this project, it would have been much easier to just say “to hell with this” and get someone else to do it. The space is very tight to work in and not a normal position to work in. It was an all day project, but we do have a working water maker that hums along and makes safe drinking water at 7 gallons per hour. I will be really good and not say anything about the KY jelly and sliding in.