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The Great Generator Mystery!

On our way into Nassau, Betty looked down at the genny gauges and “OH SHIT”, the temp is showing 220°!  No alarm was going off, but we shut it down immediately and then started the great investigation.

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Now I’m not sure who designed the placement of everything in the engine room, but needless to say, working on the genny is sort of like playing the game of Twister.  Being over the age of 60, our backs, knees and ankles do not bend and curl up to get into tight spaces that easy.  Then, having the right small tools to fit in those tight places is another thing.  Lucky for Betty, all the “men in her life” made sure she had a complete set of everything we could possibly need!

Betty started with checking the impeller.  First, she shut the seacock to the sea strainer and then cleaned out the strainer with the wet/dry shop vac.  She opened the seacock and there was water coming thru, so it didn’t seem that we sucked up a plastic bag.  Then, she took the impeller cover off and I carefully kept track of all 6 screw and washers.  I took photos and emailed them off to all the mechanical guru’s.  Their thoughts were that the impeller looked good.  We then started the genny up, put it under a load and watched the temp crawl back up to 220° again.   Now a phone call to the “Master Guru Gregg”!  He had us start the genny again, put it under a load and asked Betty to use her heat gun on a sensor on top of the genny.  Betty read the heat gun at 180-192°, while I looked at the helm gauge of 210-220°. I rapped my nuckle on the gauge glass and the temp jumped up 10° and then down 20°.  That was a shocker, until my husband told me there was a little magnet behind that gauge.

Diagnosis is that we either have loose wires or a bad sensor.  In any event, the alarm never went off, so the genny is not overheating!

Betty is off to Marine Diesel Services, Ltd to pick up a spare sensor.  When she returns we are off to south down the Exuma chain to Georgetown.

1,400 miles and 40 Pounds in 49 Days!

Betty, Jill and LILI are off again and this time our goals are to make it to the Turks & Caicos and each loose 20 lbs !  Yea, right, not sure which one sounds easier?  Betty’s job is portion control in the weight loss department, LILI’s job is to get us to the T&C safely and not sure what my job is…

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Lines were off at Marathon Marina on Saturday, March 29th at 8:46 am and we cruised overnight to Bay Street Marina in Nassau in 29 hours.   It was lumpy crossing the gulf stream, but once the sun set, the wind and waves died down.  We crossed onto the Great Bahama Bank at 11 pm and a front rolled thru at midnight.  The U.S. Coast Guard had been blaring grave warnings on the VHF radio about the high 50 knot winds and heavy rain.  We must have been at the right spot, as the passing front was a non-event – great lightning show, but not much thunder and winds never went above 14 knots.  One hour of soft rain, barely washed off the salt spray.  Crossing the Northwest Channel was a washing machine at first, but the winds and waves got it together and we had a nice ride into Nassau Harbor.

The marina got our reservation mixed up and after trying to fit an 18′ wide boat in a 16′ slip on C-Dock, they agreed to move us to B-Dock, a wider slip.  After waiting three hours for Bahamian Customs to come clear us in,  we were told that we needed to bring the boat to the Government Dock!   OK, disconnect a 50 amp power cable, water hose and five lines.  A mile down the harbor at GD dock, it was a rough concrete wall, with wind and current pushing us away and no one to help handle lines!  Are we having fun, yet?  A soldier finally wandered over and helped with three lines.

The two Custom Agents were amazed that we were two women traveling alone, they had never seen that before.  Ten minutes of paperwork and we were free to stay in The Bahamas for 90 days and head back to the marina.  By now the current was roaring thru Nassau Harbor and we requested a different slip to make it safer to dock.  Finally at 5:15 pm, we were finally tied up at C-6.

It was my night to cook dinner and their was no ump left in me…  Betty agreed we could each fend for ourselves. After watching “The Good Wife” on TV, we both crashed, grateful to be safely in The Bahamas!

Fifth Anniversary!

Five years ago, Betty invited me onboard LILI to help her move the boat from Jensen Beach, FL to Annapolis, MD.  It was a big leap of faith, as she had never met me.  Joining us for that trip was Mike Warren.   Little did we know that we would become such good friends.

Jump to present time and the three of us are back together doing the same trip.  Betty and I suggested to Mike that jewelry is always in good taste for anniversary presents.   Mike found out the traditional gift for 5th anniversary is wood.  He brought us each a gift, a handmade wood key chain that he made himself.  Very beautiful, I might add!!

 

 

On May 21st, Mike and I flew in on the same flight, rented a car and headed up to Stuart.  Within an hour of arriving at the marina, the rental car was returned, we took a photo for posterity and lines were off shortly after 4 pm.  We had a weather window to head offshore out of St Lucie Inlet and we didn’t want to miss it.

Seas were a bit lumpy until we got to the western wall of the gulfstream.  Then, for over 24 hours we were flying along at 12 knots!  Not a bad push for a boat that cruises at 7.5 knots!   Our goal was to make it all the way to Beaufort, but our weather window started to close, so we ducked in Cape Fear Inlet and continued on in the ICW to Wrightsville Beach with anchor down at 6 pm, 50 hours after leaving Stuart.  Capt. John Stemke, arrived shortly after for dinner to help us  celebrate a successful offshore run!

Up early the next morning, Mike and I were on a mission to get LILI back to the Chesapeake.  We stopped in Morehead City, Alligator River Marina and Portsmouth, before arriving at Mike’s home on Cobbs Creek in time for a Memorial Day cookout.

 

All Good Things Must Come To An End!

It was hard to believe, but we had been in The Bahamas for over five weeks.  It was time to start to head back to the U.S.  We had been carefully reading Chris Parker’s daily weather emails, looking for a good weather window to get us back across the Tongue of the Ocean, the Great Bahama Bank and the gulfstream.  We had planned one last day of snorkeling at Hawksbill Cay, but the weather was not going to cooperate.  We woke up to grey and overcast, with thunderstorms and squalls predicted for the entire day.   So up came the anchor and we headed for West Bay at the far west end of New Providence Island.

While underway, the generator (genny) temp started to climb a bit.  We checked everything we could check, not finding a cause.  Once anchored, I put on my wetsuit and instead of snorkeling to look at pretty fish, I was diving under LILI to see if the sea water intake was covered in algae or barnacles.

I REALLY DON’T LIKE DIVING UNDER LILI!!  It ranks right up there with snakes, and big iguanas.  Once I stopped hyperventilating, I tried maybe 15 times to go under and scrub away what little “stuff” was there.  I would like to think that all my flopping around underneath the boat would have made a different, but nfortunately, the next day the genny temp was still a bit high.   (Betty would come to find out, once back in Stuart that the genny impeller was down to two blades!)

Friday morning May 10th, the anchor was up by 8 am and we were on our way home.  Coming over to The Bahamas, our non-stop trip from Marathon to Nassau had worked so well that we planned our trip home, non-stop from West Bay to Stuart, FL.  We had a good weather window, the wind was light and the seas were calm.  Squalls and thunderstorms were predicted, but nothing that we felt  we couldn’t handle.

Exuma Land & Sea Park

“The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park is famous for it’s pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathtaking marine environment.”  Betty and I love the snorkeling here, beacause  The Park provides info sheets with all of the best sites identified, with a few having dinghy mooring buoys.  We spent three days in and out of our wetsuits, and in and out of the dinghy checking out every location on the info sheets

. Cruising from Cambridge Cay to Warderick Wells, we popped out into the Exuma Sound.  It was a rare day with no wind.  We were amazed to be able to clearly see the bottom in overr 50 feet of water!

Our favorite snorkel spot is behind a tiny cay, off of O’Brien’s Cay, called  the Sea Aquarium.   A large school of Sargent Majors were waiting for us as we slipped (more like kerplopped) over the side into the water and then surrounded us looking for handouts.  The variety of brightly colored fish were plentiful and the coral was somewhat healthy.

 

At Warderick Wells, we climbed to the top of Boo Boo Hill.  Three years ago, we left “our sign” in the pile with all the others.  Last year the park took a direct hit from hurricane Sandy, so we weren’t sure if we could find it.  But after much searching Betty, pulled it out of the bottom of the pile.  We carved out and painted “13” to update it and then carefully buried it in the bottom again.  Hopefully, it will be there when we come back the next time.

LILIPAD to the Rescue!

Our mornings start out quiet, sitting on the back deck in our jammies with a cup of coffee.  All of a sudden the VHF radio comes alive that there is a dinghy loose and floating away.  We look to the boat next door and sure enough, it is his dinghy.  I also look around and see that none of the other boats have their dinghy’s in the water.  LILIPAD is tied off the stern and ready to go and I am a firm believer in “Pay it Forward”.  So I quick change into my bathing suit and before I know it I am heading off to Y-NOT, to pick up the owner.

In the mean time, the owner of a sailboat three back has gotten his dinghy in the water and is heading toward the wayward one, now drifted into the rocky shore of Little Major Spot.  I drop off the owner at his dinghy and as the other rescuerer heads back, his dinghy runs out of fuel.  I now throw a tow line to him and before I can get him back home, the first wayward dinghy is stranded again!  So back again to pick up Dave (we are on a first name basis now) and tow him back to his boat.

That afternoon, a mysterious bottle of Myers Dark Rum ended up in LILI’s cockpit from Dave (we presume).  That evening, Bill stopped by with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay.

 

Meeting up With Friends

Talk with anyone who has visited the Exuma Cays and they have all been to Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  The building is nothing fancy, just a small screened-in casual bar and restaurant, that draws cruisers to it, like a magnet.  Besides having “cheeseburgers in paradise”, watching big screen TV’s with news from the U.S., they also sell internet access – $15 for 100 MB or 24 hours, whichever comes first.   Everywhere you look, someone is hooked up to their computer, iPad or smartphone getting their email from home.  Granted the majority of the world has internet at 4G speed, but in this area it is slower than dial up.  A great amount of patience is needed while you wait, wait and wait for a connection.

Betty and I packed up our laptops into plastic garbage bags, piled into the dinghy and headed into SCYC  to get connected back to the real world, check out our email and post our blogs to family and friends.  While waiting for a connection, three different couples that Betty knew from Marathon came up and said hi.  Within 15 minutes, we had an invitation to dinner from Mary and Howard on NAZDAR.

That evening we had a wonderful dinner with Mary and Howard and their guests onboard, Sally and Gary.  They had towed their Jupiter 31, behind NAZDAR from Marathon.  With their guests leaving on Saturday, plans were made to snorkel Thunderball at low tide on Sunday.

Thunderball Grotto is just off SCYC.  It is a cave under a small cay that became famous with the 007 movie, Thunderball.   Betty and I had yet to be snorkeling, so even though we had done it before, we were excited.  The best time to snorkel is at low tide, because you can swim right in.  Once inside, there are two large holes that let sunshine inside.  Normally, the cave is crowded with cruisers dinghy’s and fast tour boats bringing guests down from Nassau for the day, but today there were only the four of us.  With the blow out of the west, the water was cloudy, but the fish were still there to greet us.

After lunch back onboard, Mary and Howard took us for a ride in the Jupiter 31.  We ran inbetween the cays to stay out of the 2-4 footers coming off the bank, to Sampson Cay.  We were just in time to watch the fuel tanker come in to refuel the marina.

We meandered up Pipe Creek weaving in and out of the small islands and cays for over five miles.  Most of the way we were reading the color of the water to avoid sandbars and coral heads.  We headed out Cambridge Cay Cut and came back down the deep blue Exuma Sound side.

That evening Mary and Howard were invited to LILI for a light supper.  Mary and Howard were just starting their Bahama Adventure, while we were winding ours down.

Looking for a Hidey-Hole in the Exuma Cays!

From Calabash Bay, we had a 64 mile run up the Exuma Sound to Dotham Cut.  Within a couple miles of leaving the shallow turquoise water of the bay, the water color changed to a dark royal blue as the depth dropped quickly to 3,000 feet and then on to over 6,000 feet deep.  We had a comfortable run with 3-4’ rollers, 12 seconds apart on our port stern quarter.  However, we got to Dotham an hour after high tide.  The current was rushing out the cut.  Our 7.5 knot speed, dropped to 3.6 knots as we slowly made our way through the narrow rocky cut.  Pulling into the Black Point anchorage, it was the first time in over 30 days (since Nassau) to be anchoring someplace we had been before and familiar.   We were looking forward to going into Lorraine’s Café, for free WiFi and possibly doing laundry at the Rockside Laundromat, the best one in The Bahamas!

 

We had been watching Chris Parker’s weather forecasts closely and each day, he was predicting unsettled weather for The Bahamas.  On Thursday, he came out with three different forecasts for the Exuma Cays.  The last one said the wind would be changing from the SE to the SW, then the NW, 15-20 knots.  Once the wind picked up and moved from the westerly direction, we would get 2-4’ wind waves.  Most of the Exuma anchorages give good protection from the SE tradewinds.  When a cold front blows through and the wind clocks around there are not many hidey-holes for west or north winds.  That evening we sat down with the charts and tried to find as many good hidey-holes as possible in case they filled up quickly.  That night the heavens let loose with about 3” of rain and LILI got a good rinse.

 

First thing Friday morning, even though the wind hadn’t clocked around yet, the anchor was up and we headed out in search of a protected anchorage.  Arriving at our first choice we were only the second boat there.  We tucked in nicely between Little Majors Spot and Big Majors Spot.  We were just a three-mile dinghy ride to Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  We couldn’t do laundry there, but we could get WiFi.  By late Saturday afternoon, there were at least 40 other boats anchored between us and the yacht club, including at least 5 mega-yachts.

Calabash Bay

Calabash Bay is what you dream about, the perfect remote beach fringed with palm trees and casaurinas.  The two-mile long “to die for” beach is tucked just around the most northern end of Long Island, Cape Santa Maria.  The water has so many colors of blue, from the Bombay Gin blue close to shore to the dark royal blue of the deep Exuma Sound.  The chart notes that there is a surge here, but once anchored, it seemed very manageable.  Best part is there is a small resort here welcoming cruisers to their dining room.

 

It was Jill’s night to cook, so dinner reservations were made at Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort for 6:30 pm!  We had heard that the meals were great, so why not?  Only one problem, no dinghy dock!  Now in the past, Jill had difficulty beaching LILIPAD and getting her stuck.  So in the afternoon we scoped out the beach for a landing site.  After taking showers and putting on nice shorts and shirts, I opted for my bathing suit underneath.  We checked out that low tide was at 6 pm, so we could anchor the dinghy really close to shore and not worry about getting her stuck…  Yea, easier said than done.  Betty got to shore without getting her shorts and shirt wet, but I gave up and it was a good thing I had my bathing suit on.  Off came the clothes and into the water I went to get the bow anchor in the right place.  Good thing I brought a towel and the nearest cottage had a fresh water spigot.  I rinsed off, got dressed and sat my wet butt on the towel in the lovely second floor screened-in dining room.  Diner was wonderful!  I had cracked conch and Betty had flounder and we both had rum cake with ice cream for dessert – our first dessert in over a month!

 

Wednesday morning, we took a long dinghy ride looking for a beach to go shelling.  We did venture over to Hog Cay and up Joe Sound Creek.  Betty then spent the day in heaven – on the beach all by herself, looking out at the blue water, listening to the waves hit the shore.  Jill on the other hand spent her time working on this journal.

South of the Tropic of Cancer!

Is the Tropic of Cancer Latitude N 23° 30.000’, 23° 27.000’ or 23° 26.152?  For 2013, the answer is the last one.  It is as far north as the summer sun travels above the equator in the Northern Hemisphere.  Below this line, you are in the Tropics where it does not experience seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall), as the sun is always high in the sky.  The sun is directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer at noon on the summer solstice, June 21.  We made it below the Tropic of Cancer.

 

Most cruisers never make it south of here, as you are exposed to the Atlantic Ocean.  There are legendary passages to negotiate.  There are not many all-weather anchorages, hardly any settlements and few sources of fuel.  The direct paths to and from the Caribbean crisscross this area.  While typing this on May 1st, I overheard on the VHF radio, a small group of sailors that had left George Town this morning.  They were discussing the weather conditions as they rounded Cape Santa Maria on their way non-stop to Lupron, Puerto Rico.

 

The ladies on LILI made it as far south as 23° 21.540’ and that is as far as we are going.  It is time to turn around and start heading north.