Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday at Sunset Bay Marina

Up and at 'em by 7:30am.  Glorious sunshine.  He is Risen!

First on the agenda:  get a cab to River Forest Marina to pick up our truck.  We have to have wheels.  Sweet baby has been pining for us all winter, hiding out in a warehouse, waiting for us to return and claim her.

Second:  breakfast.  Have you ever dined at the fine food restaurant called "The Cracker Barrel"?  Waddle in with the rest of America and you will feel right at home.  If the line up for seating is too long, you can laze in a rocking chair on the porch until they call for you.  Once at your table, a sweet-young-thing will smile you to death and call you "you'all", take your order and deliver forthwith, still smiling.  It's hard to not like it there, even if you get sick afterwards.  (Of course, it could just be me--I get sick wherever I eat out for breakfast.  I am allergic to breakfast.  I'll save that for another post.)

Third:  We had 24 hours from arrival Stateside to clear Customs and Immigration, requiring a 45 km. drive to the St. Lucie Airport in Fort Pierce.  Hence, the need of wheels.   As our US cruising permit had expired while we were away, we had to get a new one, even thought Steadfast will not be "cruising" but in storage for the next 9 months.  We have gotten used to the officious, gun-toting bureaucrat behind the bullet-proof window.  Captain B thinks the man has mellowed over the past 12 years we have been dealing with him.  I think Captain B has gotten used to the hoops he has had to jump through and has given up umbrage over them.  ha.

Fourth:  Back to the boat to give Nelson some time outside.  There is a wonderful park and river walk close by.  There are also delightful boutique opportunities too, which makes walks all the more fun for me.  As Captain B changed the oil in the transmissions, washed the engine room, made charts and lists for the marina manager when we see him, I read my book by Patricia Cornwall, did my nails and walked the dog.  My new name is "Boat Princess" which I like much better than "Boat Fluff".  Can a Captain mutiny, or just crew????  My heavy duties begin tomorrow.

We were unable to log into our home church website in time for Easter service today, but we did connect on Good Friday in time for the communion service.  One of the wonders and benefits of the Web.  Here's hoping you had a wonderful family weekend and many blessings as we celebrated Jesus' victory over death and the grave.  Blessings to you all.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Clang, Crunch, Scrape

-Prepare for collision.

-What did he say?

-Prepare for collision!!!!

The winds were light, skies were clear and we were under way by 8 am.  Breakfast was done on the go.  A seven-hour run from Nassau to Freeport was our float plan for the day, with a couple of bailout provisos in case of heavy seas or a turn in the weather.  Things rolled smoothly along all day—no bailouts needed.  Regular engine room checks throughout the day gave us assurance that things were as they should be and we motored safely on.

Nelson hunkered down in his fly-bridge crate and slept the day away.  We passed several feeding frenzies, attested by diving birds and jumping fish and wished we had time to drop a couple of lines in the water.  By 3pm, we’d made the entrance to the Ocean Reef Yacht Club on Grand Bahama Island.  It had been an uneventful day at sea.  Leaving the crashing surf behind her, Steadfast glided into the placid waters of the inlet. 

-Ocean Reef.  Ocean Reef.  This is Steadfast, Steadfast.  Requesting slip assignment please.

Our VHF hail went unanswered.  Nobody home in the office late on Saturday afternoon.  Captain B slowed to idle speed in the marina basin, waiting for directions. 

-Hey!  Where are you headed?  Are you coming in?  We could already feel the warm welcome.  Captain B requested directions to our appointed slip and the banter passed back and forth sending us in the right direction.

Sonny Boy and I walked out on deck, getting our first glimpse of new surroundings.  A jumble of motor and sailing vessels were tied up in front of colourful buildings.  Cruisers lounged on aft decks.  Drowsers lazed in hammocks strung up in rigging.  Chatter-boxes leaned over waist-high walls in front of their condos getting the latest gossip.  Little did we know we were about to become their newest, hottest topic, as we shattered their peaceful bon hommie.

Without my turning around, I was suddenly facing jungle growth beyond a rock wall on the side of the marina opposite the resort.  Steadfast had turned and was advancing on the wall.  On the fly bridge, Captain B’s jaw clenched.  His hands flew back and forth from the transmission leavers to the throttles.  Sweat plastered the shirt to his back.  The boat was acting of its own volition, steering us directly into a rock wall.

Out on the front deck, we had no idea what was happening when we head the words one NEVER wants to hear:
-Prepare for collision.

Refusing to move from forward gear, the port-side engine plowed ahead in slow-motion.  Molasses-oozing-catastrophe into a chilly void.  Sonny Boy threw himself onto the bowsprit, straddling the anchors.  His feet in flip flops braced against the wall in a futile attempt to fend us off.  The two anchors slammed together as they made first contact with the rock wall—clang.  The fiberglass hull spoke next—crunch, crack.  Then the wall let us hear from him—scraaaaaaaaape.

-Turn off the port engine.  I ran inside and hit the kill switch.  My legs felt like spaghetti, my stomach turned to water. 

The sun-drunk marina sprang up as if a bucket of ice water hit it in the face:  everyone alert, on duty, grabbing fenders or spare lines, jumping into dinghies, revving up engines, hustling to best view vantage points, calling advice to us and to each other.  The world exploded into action around us. 

Working in concert, strangers came to our rescue from every direction.  An inflatable dinghy acting as stern thruster, swung our aft beam alongside the appointed slip.  Seven men and women hauled lines to tow us into position against a freshening wind.  We made land.  The crisis was over.

It was the next morning before the engines were cool enough to get up-close-and-personal to figure out what had gone wrong.  Captain B quickly diagnosed a linkage problem in the port transmission.  An itty bitty piece had come loose and fallen off.  Now we have a great big hull repair to deal with.

Lessons re-enforced:  Little things can cause big problems.  Boating is always an adventure.  Life is unpredictable.  There is no use crying over spilled milk/scratched-cracked hulls.  Nothing happens if you don’t leave the dock.

So how has life been treating you these days?  Anything new?  Any lessons leaned? 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Martini for Fish

We left Compass Cay this morning for Highbourne Cay, just at the change of tide.
-Let's do a little fishing, we thought.

Rigged the lines, set the drag, hadn't even sat down yet and the first line got a hit--a big one!  As I was busy reeling in the first fish, a second one hit the other line.  Two fish at once.  The whole things was over in ten minutes.  Talk about "a little fishing"!

When Berlin, our waiter at lunch, asked if I would like a cocktail, I proposed a trade:  one Mahi for one Martini.  He was quick to take me up on my deal.

It's hard to say what I was most pleased with:  the free martini or the fact that I didn't have to clean the fish I gave away.  What a fun day!  What did you do for St. Patrick's Day?  Did you drink green beer?  Wear green garb?  Twirl a shileighly?   (sp?  Peter will have to help me with this one.)

See you "down-island" as they say here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This 'n That

The weather has us holed up in Compass Cay for the past week and a half.  High winds and waves.  No fishing, poor wifi connections, even our phone reception is poor.  I've never seen this marina so even rafted together!

While we languish in Paradise, we've been busy enough, catching up on chores and learning new skills.

You guys know me, fishing always comes first.  And so, it was time to re-spool my reels.  The line that was left was getting less and less as I cut off hunks of tangles and fractures.

Holding the spool with my toes....

I cranked the line onto the reel.

Ta Da!  All done, ready for the next fishing excursion.

Meanwhile, we had a table emergency.  Our salon high-low dining table took it into its head to rise to the fullest extent of its ability.  We could eat right off the plates under our chins--no forks needed.  This job took two days and several consultant-helpers to resolve the problem.

Nelson gave supervision, advising on the best approaches (Read: just got in the way, trying to figure out this new game.)

Then there were the new teak chairs for the aft deck.  Yes, teak!  Never needs work, will weather to a soft grey patina.  Or, looked at another way, I'd rather varnish them twice a year and have them a lovely, golden, shining thing of beauty.

Captain B doing his engine room yoga...

Eureka! he found an aneurism on an engine hose, leading from the raw water engine hose, to the transmission oil cooler.  Ummmm.....  All I can tell you is, it would have been game over if the thing had let go under way.  A tour of downtown Nassau found the replacement parts needed and we hardly missed a beat.  Yeah for Captain B!!

Now this next little situation showed, we are much more spoiled, sitting in the lap of luxury, than we had previously given ourselves credit for.  The hot water heater sprang a leak and drained out our whole supply of water onboard.

Well, the watermaker got to work and replenished our supply forthwith.  As for hot water, well, 
-We can live without it don't you think?  
-No problem.


Off again on another shopping spree, looking for the hiking, camper's friend, the solar hot water bag.  This was going to work just fine.  Five gallons would warm in the sun on the back deck, suspend from the hand rails over the aft shower vent and do the trick of keep down the screams produced by frigid water on tender body parts early in the mornings.

Not one to be bested by engine-room gremlins, Captain B got to work and deciphered the problem.  He stripped the outer casing and insulation off a portion of the heater.  He miraculously, with his captain's intuition, found the pea-sized leaking hole.  JB Weld and an old screw plugged the leak and we were back in water showers at our leisure once more.  A new hot water heater is now added to the replenishing list when we get back to the States.  Steadfast is one well maintained boat :)

Captain encourages guests to wake him if they hear anything that causes concern in the night.  Never has a guest woken us--for any reason.  The Captain himself though, will leap from his bed and rush around in the dark.  
-Did you hear that?  Something is rubbing, dripping, bumping, grinding, breathing.....

Today, we are on the trail of an innocuous leak... the water pump turns on every four or five hours, for no apparent reason.  Captain B had been listening to it all night.  So far, we've emptied the forward hatches, checked the forward bilge, explored around the washing machine, under the galley sink, in the forward head.  Nothing is immediately obvious, and so we will lay awake again tonight listening for the pump.  

As for learning new skills, I have taken up basket weaving 101.
These are made from the Silver Palm fronds just emerging as new spring growth.  My technique leaves a lot to be desired, but I am improving slowly.  I'm going for a big round one now, and plan on an oval shaped cracker-carrier next.  Fun in the sun, in a different way.
Welcome to the life of live-aboard cruisers.

I hear the snow is melting at home, and that tulips are making their first pokes up into the sunshine.  A new kitten is giving Nemo a run for his money (fat old cat) and the pneumonia sufferer is improving by the day.  Tell me your news, keep me in the loop.  Steadfast will be turning towards home before too long and I will have some catching up to do.  Until then, we are relishing every day of togetherness and rest while we have them.  Blessings to you all.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Papayas...who knew???

My dear friend Gail, loves the islands and spends at least 6 months a year on her boat here.  I remember when she planted the seeds of a papaya she and her mate had devoured on board.  Nothing to waste.

Papayas are native to tropical rain forests and the Caribbean.  I had never even seen one, or taken a taste of one until I ventured very far south.

I remember when Gail's seeds became 2 inch seedlings, basking in the sun on the upper deck of her Grand Banks boat.

I remember when she planned to plant them on shore at Compass Cay in 2008.

This year, I discovered that they had taken root and grown.  Two out of 12 flourished, which is not bad when you just put them in the dirt and walk away.

See what they look like today:

I traded two bottles of my homemade Maine Blueberry Jam for a fresh papaya off the tallest tree.  It will be a couple more days before I get to serve it up at breakfast.  Can't wait!

Do these delicacies grow where you live?  Do you eat them as is, or make marmalade of the green ones?  I have heard of using them in ceviche recipes.  I am all ears--do tell.

Tonight the clocks "spring forward" one hour.  If you are working the night shift, lucky you.  If you don't want to miss church in the morning, reset your clocks before bed tonight.  See you in the morning, Blogging Buddies.  Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite.  :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Bimini Twist Bahamas Style

No, there are no fish pictures today.

The good news is:  we hooked two of the biggest fish this season.  I reeled in a 45 pound Mahi.  My arms almost fell out of their sockets.  While Sherven tried to gaff him, Valdez was at the helm.  When the fish swam into the engines, the line was cut and we lost him.  Boo hoo.  The next morning, enroute to Big Majors, I hauled a 5 foot Wahoo up from the deep.  My biceps are growing enormous!  This time, Buz had him in the net twice, but he kept getting free.  He was so big, the net couldn't hold him.  He smashed his head on the swim platform a couple of times and threw the hook.  Again...  

The bad new is:  we lost two big ones.  We could have fed the whole anchorage with all that fish.

And so, for diversion, let's discuss the Bimini Twist.  This ambitious fishing knot creates a strong double-line header on the end of a fishing line, touted to ensure landing heavier fish than what the line is rated for--a 50 or 60 pound fish on 40 pound test--that sounds good!

The problem with the Bimini is that it is extremely complicated to tie.  You need about three pairs of hands, a knee or foot, hooks and any other tying aids available.  Sherven showed me his Bahamian version, which is soooo much easier.  I've tried to get photos of the process and I hope the explanations will let you master this fun knot for yourself. If you are not a fishing person, indulge me.  I am so excited to have learned this new skill :)

To begin, make a loop the length of your two arms.

Wrap the double line around the width of your palm at the free end, holding the free end of the loop tight.

Now it's time to twist for the first time....
thread the looped end of the long double line thru the loop in your hand,
over and over again, at least 6 times.

Here you see the loop from your palm, twisted 6 times by the long-loop end of the double line.

Holding on to the free end and the long-loop end, pull strongly, as hard as you can, to compress the twist and make a strong knot.

Clip off the excess of the free end.
You now have a large loop on the end of your fishing line, attached with a twisted knot.

The second part of this version of the Bimini Twist is attaching your swivel.
Move to the loop end, farthest away from the end of your rod.
Thread a swivel onto the loop.

Hold the swivel in your right hand, pull up the end loop with your left.

Letting the swivel hang free, and the end loop over the index finger of your left hand,
twist the lines (4 of them) 5 to 6 times.

Now you have a twisted-line small loop and things are going to get really fun.

Take the loop in your left hand and feed it thru the loop in front of the swivel.
Pull on the swivel and the long-loop double line to compress the twists.

Clip the left-over loop close to the swivel.
Eureka!  You now have a double-line leader with swivel attached on the end of your fishing line, ready to haul up the big fish!

If you are still reading....  

I have decided to re-engage word verification in my comments box.  I know, I know!!!!  I hate it too.  Unfortunately, Mr. Anonymous is plaguing me with spam and it is getting worse every day.  I really wanted the discrete little check box to "prove you are a human", but it is only available on Word Press.  We'll see if this works for a while and then maybe I can remove it again when things settle down.  I live for feedback, love your comments and look forward to hearing from you.  Please don't let this little inconvenience stop you from leaving some love.  :)