After Lee Stocking, it was back to Pig Beach and Big Major Spot. Big Major is far less scenic than Lee Stocking, but it is very well protected from winds coming from the north and east – and that is exactly the directions from which we expected the winds to come over the next several days. They weren’t supposed to be terrible, but bad enough so that we wanted some protection. So we went to Big Major and waited.
Waiting at Staniel
Staniel Cay is right next to Big Major and the closest and coolest island around. Although all we were doing was waiting, I learned something while at Staniel. Sitting and waiting is not as inexpensive as I had thought. You see, I have a Nook, from which I can order and read Barnes and Nobles e-books. Since I am a fairly fast reader, I have to download a book maybe every other day. At $10-$15 per book, that can become kind of costly. Just a thought.
Bored people also give lessons on watermakers to people who probably don’t really care about them. It was also at Staniel that our watermaker came even closer to giving up the ghost. As you may recall, we use reverse osmosis to produce fresh water. Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water purification technology that uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles from drinking water by trapping contaminants on the membrane and allowing pure water to flow out. It can remove 98 to 99% of most contaminants including Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), sodium, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, arsenic and a plethora of other chemical and organic contaminants. In its basic form, reverse osmosis requires a very high pressure pump and a special filter (membrane). Ours also has a simple sensor to tell us when the water is pure. Newer, more modern watermakers have all sorts of cool gadgetry, but ours is pretty old fashioned.
Before we left the States, we had our high pressure pump rebuilt. You may remember that it was difficult to find someone to rebuild it because it is a pretty old pump. Since we have had it back, though, it has performed like a champ. I knew our membrane also needed to be replaced, but simply did not have enough time after getting back the pump. Since we have been in the Bahamas we have flushed the membrane twice with fresh water – essentially trying to get those trapped ions, molecules, and larger particles out of the system. We are now at the point where she is just not going to flush anymore.
Anyway, the EPA recommends a TDS measurement of less than 500 PPM (parts per million) for tap water. When our watermaker is working correctly we can get 200 – 250 PPM easily. However, the sensor in the watermaker seems to shut the system down if it is making less that 450 or so – and because we apparently are producing water outside of its parameters, it currently wants to shut down the system. Since we are going to be in the Bahamas only another week or so (more about that later) we are not going to be able to find, buy, ship and replace a new membrane. Instead, I just turned off the sensor. I can hear you now, “Hey, Brown, what are you doing? Trying to get sick?” Well no. Actually, we have a gadget that measures TDS and it says we are producing water with 450 or so PPM. Moreover, we run all of our drinking water through a Brita filter that reduces the PPM one more time. In short, we are confident we will be all right until we get back to a marina and eventually the States.
I mentioned that we are headed back to the States a little early this year. My mother, who lives in Arizona, is not doing particularly well and we thought we ought to go out to AZ to see her. My sister, who is constrained by having to w-w-work (I hate using four letter words), is going to visit her at the end of March and we thought it would be great if we could all be there at the same time.
Anyway, by the first week in March we were actively watching for an opportunity to get to the States. From the northern Exumas, we have to travel about 220 nautical miles to Lake Worth. Try as we might, that is an absolute minimum of three days for us – roughly 75 NM per day. As we study the various weather prognostications, all we can see is two nice days together, then a space of four or five days before we can get a third day that might be good enough to cross the Gulf Stream. For those of you who know the Bahamas, here is our initial plan: get to Highbourne Cay, wait until Monday the 11th, then put the pedal to the metal and go all the way to Chubb Cay, anchor there for a night, then head out for Bimini early the following morning. We will end up staying in Bimini for several days (at least until Saturday the 16th) before we can launch for home. We have looked at various alternatives but given the weather windows we have it looks like the Highbourne to Chubb to Bimini to wait ton then make our run to Lake Worth is our best bet.
I also calculated our fuel usage. After the 240 nm trip, we would have almost 20% reserve which was plenty. Most captains are willing to go with about 10% reserve, but even though I am more chicken than most, I figured 20% would be fine.
Highbourne – Chubb - Bimini
We have been to Highbourne a number of times over the years and have traipsed pretty much all over the island. We had missed one beach, however, which we promptly walked. We also, of course, needed to go to Xuma, the best and most expensive restaurant in the Exumas. Rather than go for the pricey dinner, however, we decided to go for the slightly less expensive lunch. To give you an idea of the cost, Ann almost ordered a hamburger until she noticed that it cost $25 – that is not a typo, $25 for a burger. Now I know burgers can be delicious, but $25 delicious? I don’t think so. Instead we ordered some conch fritters which were very good and a seafood pizza which was decidedly mediocre. Next time, we’ll go for dinner.
Then we waited for the weather.
And we waited
We had intended to leave shortly after 6:00 on Monday the 10th, but I had forgotten that we had just “sprung our clocks forward.” So, when we got up at 0600 it was still dark outside. We waited until 0700 when we could see the anchorage and launched for Chubb. It was easy weather and easy-peasy cruising as a British friend of mine would have put it. The only problem was that we ended up going a little faster and using a little more fuel than I had intended. Hmm. Would that come back to haunt me? Maybe.
When we got to Chubb, I plotted our course for the next day. Yikes! I had made a mistake. I had thought it was a little over 80 miles to the marina, it turns out it was a little over 94. That’s about an hour-and-a-half difference in travel time. Also, I realized that my fuel calculations had been a little optimistic. With the extra distance and the speed we made the day before, we would only have a little over 10% reserve, which might have been enough for the ICW, but not for the Atlantic Ocean. We now had a little problem. If we left at first light, we would arrive in Bimini at 1700 at the earliest – about the time everyone closes. Who would assign us a slip? Who would pump our fuel? You can see the problem.
Complicating everything was the fact that we could not raise the marina where we wanted to stay on the telephone – their number was disconnected – or on the internet. It was also one of the two places in Bimini that sold fuel. So we had to make reservations at a different marina, Brown’s, and decided we would figure out how to get fuel later.
I lay in bed thinking about the problem until I came up with the obvious solution. We had to leave before light. I woke Ann up at 0430 and told her the new plan. We would depart Chubb shortly after 0500 and arrive in Bimini by 1500. We could then stop at our preferred marina for fuel and ask if they had an overnight slip. If yes, we would refuel, call and cancel our reservations at Brown’s, spend the night at Bimini Sands and all of our problems would be taken care of. If not, we would refuel and we would still have a place to stay a little way up the Bimini channel. Ta Da!
OK, my preference would be to stop here and jump forward to tell you how everything worked in Bimini. But I am afraid my darling wife would give her version of events which just might be decidedly less favorable to yours truly. Now, before I begin, you have to realize that nighttime travel on a boat is very, very different than daytime travel – especially when you are trying to maneuver in tight quarters. This particular night was dark. I mean it was black. It was as black as a witch’s heart, as black as a thousand foot hole, as black as a coal pit, as black as … well, you get the idea.
On the way out of the anchorage there were two sets of lighted markers. One set was working perfectly. We could see red on one side of the channel and green on the other. They were right in back of us and I knew exactly what I had to do to get out of the anchorage. The other set of markers were about 300-400 meters away and they had only one light burning, the green light was lit, but the red light was apparently burnt out. I remembered coming in that I thought the markers were pretty close together, so while we wouldn’t have to squeeze to get through them we would have to pay close attention.
This was the boat immediately abaft our port
beam when we made our starboard turn.
You can see how dark it is. But at
least he had his running light on!
I turned on minimal lights for the interior, turned on the running lights, then turned on the radar. After I lined up the various radar targets with markers on the chart and the anchored boats, I put us in forward and we were underway. Slowly, very slowly we moved through the first set of markers. No problem. I lined up on the far green marker and headed directly for it. My plan was to head for the green marker, then turn away as we got close. That way I figured that I could make sure that I missed the unlit red marker. I sent Ann forward and asked her to guide us between the poles with hand signals. My plan worked – well, almost worked. Ann kept telling me to move away from the green pole, but I was more worried about the red one, so I kind of stayed on course – until the last
minute second fraction of a second when I realized how close
we were to the green pole. Instead of coming about 5-10 feet from the marker, I
came within about 5-10 inches (or maybe .5 – 1.0 inches). It wasn’t that I
couldn’t see the green marker coming up, it is just that estimating distances at
sea is very difficult. At sea AND in the dark, well, forget about it. I kept the starboard engine in forward and put
the port engine in reverse to turn the boat to the left, and then I threw the
steering wheel to the left. I was happy when we did not hit the marker dead on
and ecstatic as we squeaked by the pole and didn’t touch it anywhere along the
side. I guess I was lucky that night.
Once we got beyond the markers, it should have been simple. All I needed to do was turn hard to starboard and set forth. However, before I could turn the boat I got soooo disoriented that I almost turned the boat in a full circle before I realized what was happening. I looked outside and realized that wasn’t going to help, so I focused on my chartplotter, lined up the course and headed out. This was not my finest hour.
As we proceeded westward we came across a few boats going our way or going eastward that did not have any lights whatsoever. We generally picked them up on radar, but nor having running lights on is not only illegal, it is stupid and irresponsible! I just don’t understand how and why people could do that. They are not only risking their boat and lives, they are risking ours as well. Also, there is a pole marking the Northwest Channel. It sticks up about ten feet from the water and is supposed to be lit. As is so often the case in things for which the Bahamian government is responsible, the light is burnt out and the marker is a major hazard to navigation. I had timed our arrival at the marker to occur at first light because … well … lighted markers are often burnt out in the Bahamas. As you can tell, I get a bit upset about things like this.
Ann’s Notes. As you all know I am the one who proof reads the blog before it goes out into space, or where ever blogs go to be read.
|The very welcome sunrise.|
I had to chuckle when Michael made his confession. I have a pretty low resting heart rate, however, that dark morning on the bow, staring into the darkness and with a green light marker quickly approaching, the heart monitor on my FitBit almost had a flipping heart attack. So why, Captain Oh Captain do you send your only crew member and wife of forty five years into the darkness, with one simple mission. Signal me if we are getting to close (he said) OK..I can do that. The catch is you have to listen to me. As all of you know from previous statement about going to restaurants at night and than having to come home in the dinghy…I HATE MOVING IN THE WATER AT NIGHT…PERIOD…DOT.
Michael is an excellent captain of Traveling Soul and can become laser focused in a nano-second, and responds quickly. He is like a Zen master; he becomes one with the boat, and chart plotter.
Then to top it all off, I see behind us three lights off to our Port side. We have a rather large 50 foot-ish sail boat that wants to pass us. We made contact with him on the radio, and he took the lead, followed him from a distance until we got onto the shallow water of the Bahama Bank and he veered off in another direction.
I have been doing a lot of reading also, if I am not cross stitching or cooking for fun, I read. I have a box of books , some at left behind by Dave and Joan, some I exchange with friends and then recycle and some I get from exchange libraries at marinas. A take a free book, leave a free book.
We are actually on the last part of this Bahamas trip, we have lots to do when we get back…it will be great to have my cell phone again.
Spot update, she is pretty much her sweet feline self, she needs to gain some more weight and she will do that on her own schedule. Dave and Joan have been by her side with loving care. We are blessed to count them as family.
Traveling Soul …OUT