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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From the Abacos to Eleuthera

February 8, 2017 is a date that will go down in history. No, it is not a birthday, anniversary or a holiday – it is more important than that. You see, today is the day I have finally received recognition from the federal government for my efforts to stay alive over the past 66 years. That’s right, in January, after years and years of effort, I made it to what the social security administration considers my “full retirement age” (66) and have just received my first “full retirement” social security check. Now some of you will think that is kind of a non-event; that kind of thinking only means you’re a youngster and don’t understand how tough it is to get old. You have not yet suffered the aches and pains, the wrinkles, the sagging, the singed hair when blowing out candles, etc. Others of you, however, will understand. It is for you; for those who understand that getting old ain’t for wimps, for those who continue to age in spite of the consequences. And for those who still aspire to achieve the SSA-recognized “full retirement age” that I accept this raise. Now, ladies and gentlemen I have a couple of extra boat units with which to keep Traveling Soul running and to keep her heads operating.  
When we left you (before my tremendous accomplishment) we were just leaving Marsh Harbor’s Harborview Marina. Well, we went from there to Great Guana where we wanted to visit another one of the Bahamas self-pronounced world famous restaurants, Nippers Bar and Grill. We have discussed Nippers in years past. It is kind of a multi-level restaurant/bar that has tremendous views of Guana’s Atlantic Beaches and offers vastly overpriced drinks. The day we got there, the temperature was about 77 degrees and the wind about 10 knots out of the southwest. I’ve gotta tell you, it was just about perfect.

Ann in the lower pool at the world-famous Nippers
 Bar and Grill (she had already swum in the upper pool

Our intentions were to have a drink at Nippers, then to eat at Grabbers, another restaurant on the island (one that does not yet claim to be world famous, is still really cool and charges a little less for its alcohol), but when we got there, it looked like Grabbers was closed. Hmmm… what to do … There really wasn’t much of a decision, we just headed up the hill and had a drink AND lunch at Nippers. We split a lobster salad and cheeseburger. Now, I know there are a number of theories on where Jimmy Buffet wrote his song “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” but folks for my money, it wasn’t too far from the world-famous Nippers Restaurant on Great Guana Cay.

When we arrived back at the boat, the wind had shifted and had picked up some speed. It was only about 15-20 knots, but it was now out of the west – a direction from which our anchorage had practically no protection. We stayed for a while and found ourselves getting rolled about quite a bit – so we decided to go back to Marsh Harbor, anchor there for the night and get out of the wind. It was the right decision. Marsh was only about an hour and a half from Guana and it didn’t take us long at all to drop the anchor. We were in a well-protected anchorage by 4PM.

The beach below "On Da Beach"
The next morning it was off to Hope Town Inn and Marina. Although the resort does not claim world-famous status, it is pretty world-class nonetheless. In addition to the marina and hotel, there is a nice pool, swim-up bar, restaurant, laundry and shower facilities. The resort also provides a water taxi that will transport you back and forth from Hope Town – itself a major tourist center.

Wikipedia identifies several unique cultural events that have recently occurred in Hope Town. In 2009, the TV comedy Scrubs filmed a two-part special on location in Hope Town. The episodes featured Hope Town landmarks and points of interest such as the Elbow Cay lighthouse. Eighty-four cast and crew members turned up in Hope Town, temporarily increasing its population of 300 by over a quarter. Season 3 of TLC’s “Little People, Big World” also features the Roloff family visiting the Bahamas, where they make two stops in Hope Town. A visit to the lighthouse is featured, as well as a scene with the local Methodist church. And finally, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith was married by the lighthouse in Hope Town.

Despite all that cultural heritage, the first day we just lounged on the boat and tried to get a few boat chores done. The next day we went “downtown” – okay, maybe it is more correct to say we went where the restaurants, grocery store and gift shops are located; there really isn’t a “town,” let alone a “down.” I bought a cool map of the Bahamas for myself and bought Ann an ankle bracelet for Valentine’s Day. Now most of you know that I am pretty honest in this blog; when I do something wrong I own up to it. You will also note that we very seldom discuss Ann’s faux pas’. She would have you believe that is because she doesn’t make as many mistakes as I do. But once in a while … well, I am going to let her own up to her own mistakes below.

We also went to the lighthouse. Interestingly, Hope Town features one of the last operational kerosene-fueled lighthouses in the world. This lighthouse was built in 1862 and became operational two years later. It is striped horizontally red and white. Its light can be seen from over 25 miles away. The Elbow Cay Lighthouse is one of only three manual lighthouses left in the world. It has a weight mechanism that has to be hand cranked every several hours to maintain the sequence of five white flashes every 15 seconds. The lamp burns kerosene, at the rate of 1 gallon per night.

The following day we rented a golf cart and explored the rest of Elbow Cay. We went to our favorite eatery on the island, called, “On Da Beach.” It is a small establishment set on the side of a hill, kind of like Nippers, but it has only about ten tables, as opposed to Nippers’ hundred or so. The last time we were here we were wowed by Mama’s (the cook’s name) Grouper Fingers. This time we didn’t see Grouper Fingers on the menu. Oh No! Had we traveled thousands of miles for those delicious grilled grouper fingers only to be let down. Alas No!! On the menu they had “fish tenders.” On the off chance that these were one and the same, I ordered the tenders and Ann ordered a pulled pork sandwich. Guess what. This year they did not have any grouper to cook, so they cooked Mahi the same way and the result was … spectacular!

The history of Hope Town follows the history of the Bahamas in many ways. We know that Elbow Cay, the island on which Hope Town sits, was first populated by the Lucayan Indians in the pre-Columbian era. We know that because, in 1990, a skull was found on the island that dated back 600 years. Several hundred years after the Lucayans, Elbow Cay was periodically visited by pirates hiding from the authorities, and eventually populated by Loyalists – principally from South Carolina – who, after the Revolution were no longer welcomed in the United States. After the failure of US-style plantations in and around Hope Town, the major industry changed, in succession, from wrecking, to boat building, to sponging to rum running in rapid succession. Eventually Hope Town became a center for tourism, which is the backbone of both the Hope Town and Bahamian economies today.

Sunrise at Lynyard Cay ... getting ready to cross.
From Hope Town we headed south to Lynyard Cay, a nice little anchorage just inside the Little Harbor Cut across from Pete’s Pub. We had intended to stay for a couple of days inside Little Harbor, but when we looked at the weather we determined that Monday was going to be the best day in the next several to cross the Northeast Providence Channel (about 50 miles of serious 3000+ foot deep ocean), so off we went.

The crossing was not bad, not bad at all. Spot didn’t even spend her time in her “pretty secret hiding place” – under the table where she can feel all those table and chair legs preventing her from rolling with the boat. (She also has a “most secret hiding place” – behind the sofa – where she goes when the seas are particularly rough, but she hasn’t been there in a long time.) The only thing that could have made the crossing better was catching a fish; alas I didn’t even get a bite. That evening we entered Royal Harbor – a nice and well-protected anchorage – and anchored. We knew that weather was coming in on Wednesday, so we made reservations at the Spanish Wells Yacht Haven. For Tuesday, however, we thought we would stay in Royal Harbor and explore Egg Island.

Why, you ask, would we want to explore Egg Island? As I hope you learn later in our adventures, I have become very interested in the spot of Columbus’ first landing and the route he took through the Bahamas. In grade school, of course, we all learned that Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador. And he did … kind of. Columbus named the island on which he landed “San Salvador,” so by definition, I guess, he landed on it. We do know that the island had previously been known by the natives as Guanahani. But here is the rub – nobody knows which of the many islands in the Bahamian archipelago that was. Columbus’ logs have been lost and we have only one poorly drawn “map” of Guanahani by the Captain of the Santa Maria (that tells us virtually nothing) so we aren’t going to learn anything from the historical record. Moreover, since the Spanish virtually exterminated the native Lucayan people, we are not going to learn anything from their oral histories and legends.

A view of Egg Island. Was Columbus really here?
As you can imagine, people from all walks of life have stepped into the void to offer suggestions as to where Chris landed. Enter Arne Mollander who, at the time, was a retired civil engineer from the Bethesda, MD. Although I have not read his original paper (hey, what do you think I am, a historian?), Mollander ran some computer models of a possible Columbus route and concluded he landed at … Egg Island. Now, other people have run different computer models and arrived at different conclusions, but since I am not going to build any stinkin’ computer model, I decided to rely on something else – something called common sense. And as far as common sense is concerned, ain’t no way Columbus first landed on Egg Island. In the first place, Egg is only 800 square meters in area – which is kind of small to support the size of the native population that Columbus claimed rowed out to meet him. Second, from Egg you can see Eleuthera. Eleuthera is a very long island – 110 miles long as a matter of fact – and from Egg appears as if it could be the continent that Columbus was seeking. But Columbus did not go southeast to explore, he went further west. There are several other reasons as well, but I am not going to go into those here. Egg does, however, have a really cool beach.

After Royal and Egg Islands, we headed for Spanish Wells. We have been there several times before, but we heard that the construction at the marina where we traditionally stay was finally completed and we wanted to see what it looked like. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, there was some weather coming in  and we thought it was just as well to be in a marina when it hit.
The marina was very nice and, since they have finished building their pool, Ann went swimming – I’ll let her tell you the rest. As for the weather, it was pretty much a non-event. A lot of rain, but the wind wasn’t that bad.

I have held on to this blog entry far too long, but we had some connectivity issues – which are now fixed. So, on we go and out the blog comes.


Ann’s Notes: Well, I guess I need to explain AND defend myself ... HUMMMMM …where should I start.?
First, let me explain what I do prior to leaving Traveling Soul before an outing…it does not matter if we are in a marina or at anchor.  As most of you that know me, I tend to be very organized, some might say overly so, but that is just how I operate and I am comfortable with that.  Anyway…before departing my mental check list is, food and water for Spot, clean litter box (she does her part so I do mine, that is the human-feline agreement we made) turn some music on to keep Spot company, turn the VHF off so the emergency alarm does not go off (I will let Michael explain that one, if he wants to) … remember the camera, check to make sure we have money and or credit card, do we need a grocery shopping list and do I have it?...bring recycled grocery bags and a cold bag if needed.  If we take the dinghy, make sure all the electronic items are in a dry bag,   will we need the portable hand held radio ... there are a few more things but I think you get the idea. I have a lot going on in my head. All is good as far as I am concerned.

So…back to the story that I am supposed to own up to. We went into a lovely little gift shop, the Ebb Tide. There were lots of pretty handmade Bahamian items and some different pieces of jewelry. With Valentine’s day just a few days away my wonderful husband bought me a new ankle bracelet with pieces of sea glass on it. It is different and very nice. He also bought a map…I usually care all the items in one bag so we do not have to shlep so many bags. Anyway, we continue to do our walk and taking pictures. We were all over the tourist area taking pictures. I use my Ipad for pictures and Michael has the small camera in his pocket. After our lovely walk-about picture taking tour, we went to Cpt. Jacks for some beer and fries. I thought it would be the perfect time to put my new ankle bracelet on and enjoy it. OMG…no small sack in my medium bag that was in the big dry bag…S*#t…I lost it. I finished my beer and fries quickly.  I left and Michael paid the bill, then joined me in retracing our steps. Grocery store … No; Memorial Garden ... No; Liquor Store…No; Very first place I opened the bag to take a picture of a dumb tree growing out of a coconut…YES!!! The pretty little bag was lying on the side of the road. Show me with a happy face, I do believe I used a few of my Karma points on that find and retrieval.  So my friends…that is my story and defense. 

Now about the swim in the pool ... So far I have kept my promise to myself to swim in every pool I can. I did get a pass on the pool at Treasure Cay as it was windy and cold. Besides…I swam in that pool more than once in past visits. The Spanish Wells pool is very nice, at night, very few lights on and is very refreshing sans clothes…

Traveling Soul….OUT

Monday, February 6, 2017

Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbor

Given our experience at Green Turtle – which, I know, appears to have given truth to the shibboleth that cruising is nothing more than “repairing your boat in exotic places” – I suspect many of you are thinking that the cold weather where you are is better than dealing with Drunken George. Well, this entry just might change your mind as we spent the better part of three days at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – the beach at Treasure Cay – then moved to Marsh Harbor.

We left Green Turtle on Tuesday morning and headed for Treasure Cay.   As the crow flies it is less than five miles to Treasure from Green Turtle. Unfortunately, Traveling Soul and other boats are not crows and we do not fly. The water between the two islands is very shallow, so unless you have a shallow draft boat you need to go out into the Atlantic and cross behind an island named Whale Cay. If you take the Whale Cay route, after passing the island, it is pretty much a straight shot to Treasure. The one glitch is that Whale Passage, or The Whale as it is called, can be very, very rough. In fact, about 50% of the time it is impassable to pleasure boats. (I am guessing as to the percentage, but suffice to say, it is a significant portion of the time.) Most people heading south wait at Green Turtle until The Whale looks reasonable, then cross. We had already spent plenty of time at Green Turtle, waiting for George, and were ready to go on Tuesday morning and it looked like the weather was in our favor.

Two other boats were also ready: Elegante (who left George and his drunkenness behind for a real mechanic somewhere) and The Lower Place, boaters we had met at West End. We left as a flotilla in column with Traveling Soul in the lead – because we had done the Whale in previous years – and the other two behind us had not. The passage was actually very good. There might have been a few 3-4 foot rollers, but basically we were all in good shape when we finished.  

We arrived at Treasure and took a mooring ball. The anchorage and mooring area in Treasure Cay are one in the same. It is a man-made, or more correctly, a man-improved lagoon that measures about ¼ mile on each side.  Until two years ago, the area was strictly an anchorage. Recently, however, they put mooring balls in the lagoon and increased the cost of staying here from $10 per night to $30. There is a small anchoring area, but even it costs $20.  A few years ago we were in some pretty significant weather here at Treasure, so we know that even though it is man-improved, the wind can blow pretty hard. We looked at the mooring balls pretty closely and determined that we would stay here as long as the wind didn’t pick up.

On the first day we simply checked out the local grocery store (surprisingly well-stocked), the bakery and some of the other little shops. The second day, we got the kayak down and I went kayaking for the first time in quite a while. In addition to the lagoon, Treasure Cay has a number of canals on whose shores they build houses, condos and time shares so most visitors can have waterfront accommodations. I meandered down one of these canals all the way to the end. I can tell you there are a lot of houses, some very big and expensive and others of a more reasonable size.

The canal on one of my kayak adventures.
After my kayaking adventure, Ann and I had lunch at Coco’s where I had my first meal of cracked conch since we have been in the Bahamas. It was not as good as the conch at Foxtown (where we did not get to go because of our battery issue), but it was definitely good enough. So, cracked conch with rice and beans topped off with a little coleslaw and a Kalik (the local beer). Ah!!! Vunderbar!!! After lunch we took over one of the little tiki huts and spent the afternoon alternatively sunning and shading ourselves. Ann spent most of the time reading, while I took a long walk on the beach. The weather was a little cool, but I have to tell you it was heavenly.

The following day was a little too chilly to go swimming so we limited ourselves to exploring the area in a dinghy. We not only took one of the canals to its end, we discovered another canal that we will have to check out next time.

On Friday we picked up some fuel – actually “picked up” is not quite correct, we paid an arm and a leg for fuel – and set off for Marsh Harbor.
One view of Treasure Cay
We have been to Marsh a number of times and have spent quite a bit of time there. This year we came for several reasons: (1) Change the oil. We try to change oil every 150 or so hours and that means we generally have to change it once in the Bahamas. Since Marsh has the ability to dispose of used oil, we generally change there. (2) We need to clean the boat; she is salty and dirty. (3) Re-provisioning. Maxwell’s is probably the best grocery store in the out-islands (all islands other than New Providence – which is the island on which Nassau is located). (4) Hey … we will be here on Superbowl Sunday what do you think we are going to be doing?

After arriving at Marsh (and taking a nap, of course) we strolled around a little to see what was new and what was old. We learned, for example, that one of the little gift shops we used to frequent is now a “Gentleman’s Club.” Most other things, though, are about the way we remember them.

Desmond, from the Jib Room doing his version of
"Rake and Scrape." What we used to call the limbo!
On Saturday we were determined to clean the boat (see #2 above), but after a young man visited us and made an offer, we decided to sit inside and watch HIM clean the boat. Ok, most of you know that I am not the greatest mechanic on earth. If we have a problem with the engines or with the starter (ahem!) we have to hire someone to fix it. Cleaning, though, cleaning we can do ourselves – and we are pretty darn good at it – so we usually save our money for serious problems and do the cleaning ourselves. However, this time it was hot outside and we had just had a very tiring couple of days on the beach in Treasure Cay – oh yea, and we have learned that the further you get on the northern side of sixty the difficulty of cleaning the boat increases exponentially. We paid the tariff, therefore, and a couple of young men spent a couple of hours cleaning the boat. And Man did they do a good job! Earlier in the day we had re-connected with Kevin and Margaret aboard Osprey. They asked if we wanted to attend Steak Night The Jib Room. The answer of course was yes and we had a great time eating an excellent New York Cut and catching up with them.

On Sunday, we had two tasks. First we changed the oil (see #1) and second we watched the Superbowl (see #4). Changing oil on any boat is a dirty and time-consuming job; on our boat it is even more so. We do not have the proper equipment so we have to draw the old oil through the dipstick opening and into a long cylindrical container that we bought years ago from West Marine. It kind of works on the principle of siphoning gas; you create a vacuum in the cylinder, run a hose from the container to the oil opening and the vacuum forces the oil from the engine into the cylinder. Each of our engines carries five gallons of oil, so drawing all of it out through a very tiny hole can take most of the day. In addition to sucking out the oil, of course, we had to change the oil filters. If we did not have oil under our fingernails before changing the filters, we most certainly did afterwards. Ann generally stays a bit cleaner than I do, partially because she wears gloves. And me? I don’t need no stinkin’ gloves! I revel in having oil soaked hands – not. Anyway, this is definitely a two-person job and her help is always invaluable.

After we had changed the oil and taken a shower we headed to the World Famous Snappas Bar and Grill to watch the Superbowl. Now Snappas is world famous primarily because they say they are world famous – and they say it with conviction. Neither of us had a stake in this particular Superbowl; we just wanted to see a good game – and have some nachos and pizza. We left after the third quarter fairly satisfied that the Falcons had it in the bag. As I was sitting in the boat, however, I was hearing too much cheering from the sports bar down the way, so I returned to Snappas. Those of you who care, know the rest of the story. The Patriots won in the first overtime in Superbowl history. I guess we got the kind of game we wanted to see. Oh yea, the nachos and pizza were pretty good, too!

Monday was our re-provisioning day (see #3 above). Ann was especially looking forward to Maxwell’s. She has this thing about supermarkets and grocery stores. While she enjoys buying stuff (and later cooking it), she also likes just walking the isles – kind of like I am in fishing stores. In addition, Ann took a dip in the marina’s swimming pool. One of her New Years’ Resolutions was to swim in every pool we find; so far so good. She swam at West End and at Green Turtle. I gave her special dispensation at Treasure Cay because it was so cold on the day we had designated as our “pool” day.
Tomorrow we are anchoring off of Great Guana so we can visit Grabbers and yet another establishment that is world famous by self-proclamation, Nippers. After that we head to Hopetown and then maybe a night or two on the hook off of Tahiti Beach.

Ann’s NOTES: I always love going to Treasure Cay, the beach is just so beautiful. It was named on the travel channel as one of the top ten beaches in the world. Even a picture cannot capture the true white color of the sand, and the many different colors of blue in the water. I think what is unusual is the sand is cool under your feet. In many other beaches I have been the sand is hot and you need to run to the water to cool them off.

Spot -- who usually hides when the camera
comes out, let Ann take this picture of her
on the bow at Treasure Cay
We are staying at a different marina in Marsh Harbor. We usually stay at the Jib Room but when I called and talked to Jason (he is the dock master) he said they were full. So we went across the harbor and we are staying at Harbor View Marina. I must say that I do like it on this side also. The marina staff is helpful and friendly, the bathrooms are clean and well maintained and the laundry facility has nice big washers and dryers. So when I do the laundry I can hang out at the pool. It is a very difficult life that I lead, please do feel sorry for me …NOT.
I have also made a major change in our little feline’s life. Until a few weeks ago whenever Spot was outside, she was on a leash and in her harness. Well we do spend a lot of time at anchor and I thought she needed to have a little more freedom and alone time. (All girls need alone time…right?)  Anyway, I have been letting her out on deck by herself to explore, in the mean time I have been learning to control my anxiety and heart palpations. Spot is now two years old, knows the boat and what the limits are outside. When we are docked she with one of us outside, she has never jumped ship but those docks look like it might be fun to explore.

The weather has been just wonderful, we are getting to be experts at planning where we want to be, according to the forecast.
I want to thank you for reading and following our adventure.

Traveling Soul…OUT



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

West End and George

“Arghhh!” said I, “unless you start working I am going to eviscerate you! I’ll blow your head (gasket) and throw your (rocker) arms into the sea! I’ll …” But I am getting ahead of myself. Before I had to become the pirate “Nine-Fingered Mike” we were having a wonderful adventure in the Bahamas. Let me start from the beginning.

The Crossing
Remember Winston Churchill’s famous saying that, “there is nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at without result?” Well, for a boater there is nothing so exhilarating as to cross the Gulf Stream without event. Our crossing was just about perfect. The waves were only about two feet, the winds were less that 10 MPH, there was very little big ship traffic; in short, our cruise could hardly have been better. 

On the way over, via radio, we became re-acquainted with our friends Denny and Denise aboard their boat Waypoint II. We later met them for drinks on their vessel and had a jolly good time. (They had a British friend visiting so that “jolly old” stuff was for him.)
Ann making adjustments to the kayak during this week's
"Storm of the Century."
Anyway, when we arrived at Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End, Bahamas, the weather was beautiful. And the next day was forecast to be just as nice. Saturday, however, the weather was supposed to deteriorate and Sunday we were supposed to see a cold front preceded by some Gale Force winds. It was going to be yet another of those Storms of the Century to which we are all becoming accustomed. (I think we have been through enough “storms of the century” to last a millennium or two.) Our cruising plans had us going from West End to Great Sale Cay to Foxtown and then  to the Bluff House Marina at Green Turtle Cay. If you match calendars to plans you see that we were going to get into a marina on Sunday afternoon … it might work. Since we hadn’t yet had a chance to activate our Bahamian phone, we asked our friends Jeff and Sally aboard Adirondack to call and make reservations for us at the marina we like at Green Turtle. We were so confident that our plans would work that we left our slip and had just departed the marina when Jeff called on the radio and said the marina was full!! Wow! We had never heard that before. Well, we did some quick calculating and decided that we would stay at our slip at West End for this particular storm of the century (you know the old saying, ”a bird in the hand …”). To be honest, we are kind of glad we did stay as, on Sunday night, we measured the winds at a sustained 40+ with gusts into the 50’s.

In the days we were stuck at West End we roamed around the resort, had dinner at their restaurant (which was very good, by the way), strolled the beach and … are you ready for this … Ann took a dip in the resort swimming pool!! I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but Ann is not a big-time swimmer and the water was COLD. Ann also took a trip to town and activated our phone. We can now make phone calls and generate a wi-fi hot spot. Oh! We also checked on the temperature in Northern VA and southern MD (chuckle, chuckle) and watched what some of our friends were saying about their lives in Oregon, Wyoming and Montana (LOL). 
We also met some fellow cruisers. There was Prudi and Rick aboard Rascal’s Retreat, Charlie and Robin on The Lower Place, and Monica and Rick cruising on Moni Jean. Charlie, from Mississippi, has one of the strongest southern accents I have ever heard – anyway, it is the strongest that I can understand. As most of you know, there are some who twang so much that you can’t understand them.

The perfect Bahamian anchorage on a perfect
Bahamian day.
Once the weather finally broke, we headed out to Great Sale. Some of you may remember my affinity for that particular island. The island itself is deserted and, on three sides, surrounds a beautiful anchorage with good protection from three directions and with excellent holding. We were there in a perfect Bahamian anchorage on a perfect Bahamian Day. Until the next morning.
The Engine

Ack! Ack! Ack! Actually, the starter didn’t sound exactly like that, the tone was deeper – kind of Uck! Uck! Uck! The point is that the starboard engine wouldn’t start. After trying to start her for about 20 minutes, I grabbed my tool bag and went down to the engine room. Any of you who know me know that I have a deep knowledge of mechanical systems obtained by having spent years at some of the best schools in the country. West Point, Harvard, Columbia, I have been to all of them. At one of them, I even took engineering! But as I stood there, bag in hand, forlornly looking at the engine first, then at the batteries and battery connections (I thought it might have been low voltage) I realized that none of those fine schools had taught me what I needed to know – how to start the %^&$ engine.  I thought it might be a bad starter or possibly bad battery connections, but actually I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I grabbed my screwdriver, looked at that scalawag of an engine, stared straight into its pistons and sad, as loudly as I could, “Arghhh! Unless you start working I am going to eviscerate you! I’ll blow your head (gasket) and throw your (rocker) arms into the sea!” or something like that. I went back up to the helm and lo and behold … after a hiccup or two the darn thing started.
We immediately changed out intentions and decided we needed to get to Green Turtle Cay where they had a reasonably competent mechanic and where we might get Traveling Soul fixed and on her way. As we were cruising, I noticed a boat following us. It turned out that Elegante, a boat that was with us in Great Sale, also had trouble starting one of her engines.  We were beginning to think that there might have been a virus in the waters!

We asked the marina to contact a mechanic for us and for Elegante. They told us, George, the mechanic would be at the slip on Friday – the day after  we arrived. It sounded pretty good if you ask me; as transients we seldom get that kind of service. It is often before we can get on a mechanic’s schedule. Anyway, I called George periodically through the day on Friday and his arrival time kept getting pushed back. Finally, at about 5:00 PM he called and said that we wasn’t going to be able to make the 4 PM appointment, and would not be there until the next morning. Although I was disappointed that George would not be here on Friday, I was glad that he worked on Saturday; I was afraid that he would claim the weekend as his days off – the way the rest of us do. Moreover, having a mechanic two days after you ask for one isn’t exactly terrible. So, I was willing to give George a break. So, I am sitting here at the computer on Saturday 28 January at the Bluff House Marina on Green Turtle waiting for George to appear. I’ll let you know how things go.
George Day I

I didn’t go anywhere or do anything on Friday or on Saturday because I was waiting for George. He had said he would arrive at the boat Saturday morning. Twelve o’clock came and there was no George. I had waited until noon to call him so I could ask what time of the MORNING he was going to come see us. He said he had just dropped his mother off at the ferry (who said anything about the ferry the day before?!?!?!) and was filling his truck with his tools and would be there in about 20 minutes. He showed up about 1330. Anyway, he immediately diagnosed my problem – there was insufficient voltage getting to the starter. If true, that was good news, I had a battery problem (batteries are available on the island) as opposed to a starter problem (starters have to be ordered from the States). He wanted to confirm his analysis, so before he did anything else he wanted to go back to his truck and get a diagnostic tool. When he got to his truck he took off – yes, as in drove away. AARGH! I could feel the pirate nine-fingered Mike emerging, but I resisted … I resisted … I swear that I couldn’t believe it. He just up and left!
I didn’t want to upset him, as George appears to be the only game in town. After about an hour I called him with gritted teeth and smiling lips and asked if he was coming back. Yes, he replied, as soon as he did some jobs his wife had for him. I guess it was about 1530 when George came back with his diagnostic tool and his wife’s chores completed. He tested the batteries and confirmed that one was very bad and the others were not in very good shape.  Actually, you could see the leaking battery acid and feel the heat building in two of the batteries. It was time for them to go. I told George I wanted all three replaced (we have three 12-volt, Group 27 batteries for each engine), but he argued with me. He thought the two not-so-good ones might be brought back to life when disconnected from the bad one and charged overnight. In the event, we agreed that he would get three new ones and we would leave the two not-so-good batteries on the charger until he returned.

At about 1700, as promised, George called with the price of the new batteries: they were $250 each, for a total of $750; that’s seven hundred and fifty bones, bucks, smackerolas, dollars, greenbacks, simoleons. It is 150 Big Mac meals and probably a couple of thousand Chicken McNuggets, BUT I prefer to think of it as simply, ¾ of a Boat Unit. Actually, less than a whole BU is not that bad in anything for boating, especially in the Bahamas! In the States, a good marine starting batter would only cost $150 or so. But the problem is … we aren’t in the States. So, we pay ¼ of a BU each and hope they are decent batteries.
Sunday began exactly as did Saturday – we were waiting for George. Hopefully, he is going to deliver the batteries and put them in.

George Day II
 Oh my God. George the Mechanic deserves his own blog page. He is horribly irresponsible, does not understand the implications of his own actions and is generally yucky! Maybe his drunkenness is at the core of the problem, because George is a drunk. I don’t mean he is an alcoholic; I have had alcoholics work for and with me. It is not fun, but it is usually manageable. But George makes alcoholics look like wonderfully responsible people. George is not functional, he is not even an alcoholic. He is simply a drunk. Now that I have vented, maybe I should explain.

Ok, I was sitting and waiting for George on Sunday morning. He called and said that the weather looked better than predicted so he promised to give me a call about noon to say whether or not he would be at the boat with the batteries. So, of course, I continued to wait on the boat. I must note than I didn’t quite understand why George couldn’t work if the weather was bad. The batteries go inside the boat and he was not going to get wet working on the batteries!! If he got cold, I could have turned on the heater. Anyway, I didn’t hear anything else from George until I called him about 2PM. No, because of the bad weather, he wouldn’t be there today. I reminded George that we wanted to leave on Tuesday and he told me not to worry – he would be there Monday morning.
He called Monday morning at about 9:00 to say he was on the way. He asked me to find out who the dockhand was that day so he could get in touch with him. I did that and reported back to George. At that point George actually called the dockhand and asked him to have the dock’s carts arranged to expedite the movement of the batteries. In fact, he asked him to execute the plan as soon as George called from a specific landmark on the way to the marina. So far, so good. Ten O’clock passed, then 11 o’clock. I called George just after noon to ask him if he was still going to make the battery delivery this morning. He told me that he had just left and was on the way.

The battery connections pre-George
About 3:00 we tried calling George several times and could not get through. We then went to the office and asked them to call (they had, after all, recommended George). They couldn’t get through either, so they called him at home (no answer) and at the boatyard where he sometimes worked. The boatyard said he left at 1:30 (of course, he told me he was leaving at 9:00). At 5:00 George shows up with a helper Eddie (to do the heavy lifting) and our batteries! George said he was sorry for being late as he had to fix a flat tire. At least I think that was what he said. You see, his speech was slurred and he was drunk; I mean drunk, drunk – absolutely blotto, totally sh*tfaced, completely shnockered – I guess you get the picture. I was a bit concerned that George wouldn’t be able to connect the batteries correctly. (Actually, at this point I could have connected them, but George would have none of it; he was going to finish the job himself.) Luckily Eddie was there and while he didn’t know all he needed to know, he could serve as George’s hands during the connection process. Just to make sure, I got the picture of the connections we had taken before the process started and made sure all the wires were in the proper place.
The whole process took only about an hour. I had thought about telling George off, but why? He is a drunk and everything I said to him would have fallen on deaf ears. My goal at that point was to pay him and get him out of here. When he finished with Traveling Soul, he went to see Elegante, the boat that also had starting problems at Great Sale. The first thing he did when he arrived on board was to ask for a beer. ‘Nuff said.

The next morning we were off to beautiful Treasure Cay. But for that story, you’ll have to return to the next entry.
Spot, sleeping at the Helm
Ann’s NOTES:  Yes…it has been a slow start to our cruise in the Bahamas. Crummy weather the first week and then THE GEORGE INCIDENT. Michael has covered our time at Green Turtle, I was right by his side in the waiting game. I must say that Michael was very good in handling George, he keep his cool and his sense of humor. I did not even get into town, bummer I know. What Michael did not mention was when the batteries were failing so did our master head’s ability to flush and process waste AND our freezer stopped making ice. At this point Michael did blow his gasket, he said we were heading back to the states once the engine started. It just seemed strange to me that the engine and the head stopped working at exactly the same time. That means that after spending many boat units on the new head system, the installer took the easy way and shortest route to the closest power source. We have a full bank of batteries to run our “house” systems. Our starting engine bank should only start our engines ... good grief … I am not an engineer but I do have common sense. The happy ending to the story is we have a starboard engine that works, a toilet that flushes and an ice maker that is making ice. I think we may a few “words” with the head guy in Palm Beach. So that is my side of the story…

Spot is enjoying the sun when it is out and if the wind is not blowing at gale force, she is a happy feline. I am sure the weather will improve, but then I am a total optimist.
Traveling Soul OUT…