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.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Dave and Joan's Visit

From 7 – 20 February our friends Dave and Joan Wolf visited us from the great State of Virginia. During that time they experienced all the ups and downs of cruising. While they were here:

·         We hid from the weather, once from west winds and once from a 30 knot easterly blow.

·         We enjoyed the heat (it was snowing back in VA), and almost froze to death (it got down to 70 degrees F one day). Brrrrr!

·         We learned that one definition of cruising (the opportunity to repair boats in exotic locations) is entirely true as we broke, fixed, re-broke and re-fixed our generator.

·         We stayed at a couple of lovely, single-boat anchorages and later joined 300 of our best (?) friends in the massive anchorage at George Town, Bahamas.

·         We ate at two different yacht clubs, two beach bars and on one boat with a magnificently-equipped galley (ours).

·         We almost … almost … almost caught a fish.

Let me expand a little on each of these themes.

First, Dave and Joan flew into the airport at George Town, Exuma, Bahamas and took a taxi to the marina where we were staying at Emerald Bay. The reason we were at Emerald Bay in the first place was because there had been some not-so-bad-but-not-so-good weather for the latter half of the previous week. We had decided on Thursday to wait at the marina until Dave and Joan arrived so we could decide when to head north. We were lucky that we were at a marina, and that the marina was as fancy-schmancy as the Emerald Bay property, because they arrived on SUPER BOWL Sunday. We, and of course just about everyone else in the marina, had to go to the Super Bowl Party in the very well-appointed Captain’s Lounge. We heard that some people even stayed for the whole game. As for the four of us, we only made it to halftime. Then, both we – who normally go to bed shortly after 2100 – and our guests – who had been up since 0300 to catch their flight – continued to virtually cheer for Denver while we got some rest.

We waited out the weather on Monday and decided to head out on Tuesday. Well, I can tell you it was a little bumpier than I had thought it would be. Now, Dave and Joan are boaters and have been boating with us before, both on our co-owned boats on the Chesapeake and on visits down here to the Bahamas, so they weren’t put off by the sea state, it was just bumpier than I would have liked for their first day on Traveling Soul. Actually, it wasn’t that bad for the first hour or so, then deteriorated rapidly. In fact, while we had planned to make nearly 60 miles that day (a bit ambitious, in any event), we decided to stop a little early, near Staniel Cay. 

Since we expected a little westerly wind that evening, we spent the night in our favorite west-wind area, Big Rock Anchorage. While there, we went to the Staniel Cay grocery store, which Dave and Joan can attest is about the size of a 7-11 and has even fewer groceries. We also went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club which, on its walls, has a number of pictures of – are you ready for this – the cast and crew of Thunderball, the James Bond film that many of you will recall was filmed in the Bahamas. In fact, we really wanted to get Joan (she is the real snorkeler) to the grotto where the famous concluding underwater fight scene was held. Unfortunately, the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. It was actually BELOW 70 degrees. Brrr.

We ended up staying at big Rock for two days, waiting decent winds. When they arrived on Thursday morning, we went to one of Ann and my favorite anchorages, just off the northern tip of Bitter Guana Cay. It is a picture perfect anchorage with beaches to behold, paths to walk, hills to explore and even local iguana to admire – or to run from, if one starts after you as happened to Dave and me.  The last time we were here, we were the only boat in the area. This time we had company from four or five additional boats. Most of them were fairly polite, so it wasn’t too bad even with the interlopers. Harumph!

The next day it was off to what I believe is one of the most picturesque locations in the Bahamas. We stayed at a mooring ball in the Exumas Land and Sea Park; but rather than being in a mooring field, the ball is a single mooring with no others around it. I think we took pictures, but you have to realize that pictures don’t do it justice as the scenery is dazzling in every direction. I know there are some cameras that can capture a panorama, but the view at Obrien’s Cay is just magnificent. Also the mooring is right next to an island owned by our own Pirate of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). After sitting in the flybridge, enjoying the scenery and listening to our satellite radio, we decided to get the dinghy down and go explore the Sea Aquarium, a well-known and wonderful local snorkeling spot. Just as we started lowering the dinghy, however, it happened – the generator conked out. We tried starting it again. Nothing. And again. Nothing. And again … I think you get the picture.
Eventually, Joan did get to go swimming. Here is proof!

I did everything I could think of doing. I replaced the start-up solenoid because the problem was similar to one we had several years ago. The new solenoid wasn’t the answer, so we started up the main engines for an hour or so to keep the refrigeration running and the lights on. The next time we tried to start the generator, I noticed, that the engine appeared to be overheating. I figured it could be the impeller, so I replaced that as well. (That was another story – replacing an impeller looks easy and probably is for folks who know what they are doing, but it certainly wasn’t for me. Anyway, I eventually got it done, but the damn generator still didn’t work.) While all of this was happening, I could still look out the hatch, though, and see the beauty surrounding us at Obrien Cay. It was then that I remembered the old saw that “cruising means repairing boats in exotic locations.” <Deep wistful sigh>

I was about ready to give up, but decided to call some friends of ours in the off chance they would be somewhere close to Traveling Soul and might be able to help. Now, you have to understand that cruisers generally like to help one another. Not only that, but sometimes they have to. When you are stuck in the middle of the Bahamas with no competent mechanics around, you have to go to your friends for assistance. Vic and Gigi aboard Salty Turtle are not only great cruisers and wonderful friends, but they would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. And Vic, well, Vic is a pretty damn good mechanic, as it turns out. Well, as luck would have it, the next day Vic and Gigi were only going to be a relatively short distance from the marina where we were planning to stay.  

Mike (observing) and Vic (assisting) the
"Generator Whisperer" Scott (out of picture)
About an hour after we got to the marina, Vic arrived with his tools and went right to work. The first thing he did was put in the impeller properly. (I had made one slight, little mistake.) That was a major step in the right direction, but we still couldn’t get the generator to keep running. Vic then tried this, tried that and tried something else. Everything seemed to be functioning well, but the generator still wasn’t working.  Vic finally decided that he needed to get Scott – who, apparently, is the true expert on diesel engines and, to malfunctioning generators, the most feared human mechanic. Now, I don’t know Scott and have never met him. But remember what I said about cruisers in general? They really do want to help one another, so Vic was pretty sure he would be able to recruit Scott into our repair effort. Before she left, Gigi assured us that we would have a working generator before we left the area. The following day, we moved the boat to Big Major Spot and shortly thereafter Vic and Scott came riding to the rescue in Scott’s cool dinghy.

Now, lest you think that I was completely idle while awaiting Vic and Scott, I was not. In fact, I had been reading the manual when something struck me. [First a note: those of you who are not boaters might think that engines on boats are cooled with salt water; that is not exactly correct. Actually, they are cooled by FRESH water which circulates through the engine. The fresh water, in turn, is cooled by salt water that is scooped up and fed into the heat exchanger.] Everyone had focused on the sea water and the sea water – fresh water heat exchanger, but no one had looked at the fresh water itself. I went into the bilge, checked it, saw that it was low and added some more. I wish I would have had antifreeze to add to the water, but I didn’t have any on board – I never plan on being on a boat that is in freezing temperatures. Anyway, the engine started up and it looked like I might have solved the problem. I then decided to re-replace the solenoid since there was apparently nothing wrong with the one I had replaced the previous day. Oooops! Big mistake. By the time Scott showed up the generator was not working at all!

I think it took Scott all of half-an-hour to figure out that I had broken the generator, fixed it by adding the fresh water, then broken it again by incorrectly replacing the solenoid. He moved the one wire I had mis-connected and voila! The generator worked again!!! He and Vic were then off to help another cruiser with his engine. Scott, aboard his tricked out dinghy, reminds me of the Lone Ranger riding his horse Silver, which, of course, makes Vic his faithful companion Tonto (sorry, Vic, but sometimes I back myself into literary corners).

After our generator tribulations, we headed down to Little Farmer’s Cay. There, we had lunch at the Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club. It is kind of difficult to describe this particular Club. First, it is not like a yacht club that you might normally consider. It is a pretty beat up building that has a couple of rooms inside, one of which is empty and one looks like a 1960’s restaurant, with old tables, table cloths and variegated straight-back chairs, and two picnic tables outside. We ate outside as did the only other group at the Club.  The Bahamian serving us also either owned or managed the Club and had his other employee cooking. It took a while to get the food and it was very okay. So, why did we go? Because we wanted Dave and Joan to be able to say that they ate at multiple Yacht Clubs in the Bahamas, of course!

The following day we headed to George Town. On the way, we … yes, you guessed it … we (almost) caught another mahi! Don’t worry, I am not going to go into great detail. Let me just say that I hooked him and brought him within feet of the boat, where he proved to be very rambunctious. Although I tried to gaff him, he kept jumping and moving away from us. Finally, on his last jump, he was gone. I know exactly what I did wrong. I should have fought him longer and tired him out more. That way, we would not have had the energy to jump and we would have been able to get him on the boat. Lesson learned!
Dave and Joan at the "Chat and Chill"
 beach bar. They saw a sign on this post for
"Put-In Bay, Ohio," One of those cold places
they used to go.

After arriving in George Town, we anchored, went downtown, visited Chat and Chill (the local beach bar) and did some regular touristy-things. The day before Dave and Joan left for their return flight, we stayed at the Exuma Yacht Club – which is more of a marina than a yacht club – and had some excellent lobster quiche made by Ann.

 Ann’s Notes: Just wanted to fill in a few blanks…

The visit with Dave and Joan was fun, glad we can share some of this adventure with them. They know they are always welcome on board Traveling Soul. Plus Spot gets a lot more spoiled when they are around. Dave builds the best cat forts from pillows on the sofa. I have tried to duplicate the fort but Spot just thinks I am crazy and walks away after a big yawn and stretch.

Michael pointed out that while lowering the dinghy the generator stopped. Please note that at that point the dinghy is hanging over the side of the boat and I am up on the second deck holding on to a bow and stern line – and the hand holds on the dinghy. Standard procedure in lowering the dinghy…the bad part is that we need the generator to power the motor that makes the winch – and the cable on the winch – go up and down. The only good things about this incident are: the generator did start again, long enough to get the dinghy back on board AND there was very little wind while it was being deployed and I was handling it. Not too much panic on my part, just some silent prayers.

Joan did get to go swimming once, while we were at the Chat and Chill in Georgetown.

The four of us had a few wet dinghy rides, Dave and Joan saw what the local Bahamians call a grocery store. They range from a little building to massive ones; provisioning, has become an art form for me.

That is all for now, Thank you for following us.

Traveling Soul…OUT