Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Like Clockwork

It's a been a busy few days. We thought that we would be able to do some exploring around Green Turtle Cay with our skiff, but unfortunately the wind picked up. It made us stick to working on New Horizon, which was a good thing. Both the dinghy and skiff were flushed out with fresh water, greased, and decommissioned before we even made it to the storage yard. Everything we did with all the boats put us ahead of schedule, making the final hauling out and closing up of the boat more leisurely. It wasn't too leisurely for the poor yard crew who had to pressure wash the growth off the bottom of the boat though, but they take it all in stride. It took almost 2 1/2 hours to haul, pressure wash, and block up New Horizon. Timing was perfect, since it was lunchtime by the time they finished, and I gave them three large bags full of all my leftover food supplies to take home with them (I always wonder how many bottles of condiments these guys must have from all us cruisers).

Today we locked the doors and headed out on the 9 A.M. ferry to Treasure Cay, where a taxi met us and brought us to the airport. Our plane arrived early, so we left early and the flight back was very scenic. Dave sat in the co-pilot seat, his favorite spot. We followed all the little islands northwest, including Carters, Double Breasted, Grand, Walkers, and Great Sale Cays. We saw many boats in the anchorages, plus even more sailing back west heading towards a gulf stream crossing. Flying is so much easier and faster, and we don't have to wait for a calm weather window!

Now we have done a quantum leap to Daytona, and will spend a couple of weeks with my family here. Although it figures that it turned calm in the Abacos as soon as we departed, at least it is going to be 85 degrees here over the next few days. The Honda Helix motorcycle is waiting for us to go exploring and Mom has a gorgeous pool to swim in. Life is good and we're ready to be land dwellers again!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I had originally planned on naming this post “THAT was easy!” At least it started out that way yesterday. We dropped our mooring lines at first light, and Hope Town faded into the distance as the sun began to rise.

We set the autopilot, and only had to make minor adjustments in course, all the way to Green Turtle Cay. We seemed to ‘fly’ at 7.2 to 7.5 knots, which considering we were towing our dinghy and skiff, was pretty darn fast for this old boat. Don’t Rock Passage was a ‘piece of cake’ (or so we thought at the time), with only about a foot of ocean swell coming in, and less than a foot of Sea of Abaco chop from astern. We even had perfect timing, skirting the sandbank right at high tide. Click HERE for my previous post and pictures of Don’t Rock.

Once at Green Turtle Cay, we headed into White Sound to anchor. That’s when our luck ran out. As I was bringing New Horizon up into the wind so that Dave could drop the anchor, I suddenly lost all my steering. When something like this happens, you can’t believe it and I kept thinking, “What am I doing wrong?” I yelled to Dave who went to the lower helm and no steering there either. He lowered the anchor, I backed it down, and then he jumped overboard to set it by hand. Unfortunately his ears are still very sensitive from the sinus infection, and he discovered he couldn’t dive down because it was so painful. We just said this spot will have to do for now.

After shutting down the engines, and looking at the steering system in the lazarette, the problem could easily be seen. The two rudders are connected by a one inch stainless steel tie rod. There is a stainless steel lug welded on the tie rod where the hydraulic ram hooks to, through a heim joint pivot, so the rudders steer in unison. The bracket was completely broken off. Apparently from age and most likely from us not moving out of the harbor much this winter, the bolt corroded and froze up so the joint couldn’t pivot. That put pressure on the bracket and when I steered hard, it finally gave out. We were so lucky that it didn’t happen before, like coming in the narrow and twisty channel or on the sandbanks of Don't Rock. Luckily most of the trip was a straight run!

Thank goodness Dave is innovative and he came up with a jury rig right away. It consists of a hose clamp, wires, and a C-clamp to keep the system from jumping around.

Using the engines to help steer, first one, then the other, will put much less strain on the steering.

We (as in I) decided that since we couldn’t be sure the anchor was properly set, because of Dave not being able to dive, and a wind shift and possible thunderstorms due during the next few days, that it would be best to pick up a mooring. None were available in White Sound, but Dave checked out Black Sound, and there were several.

The story doesn’t end there though, because we found that one of the marinas had the cheapest fuel in the Abacos….$5.48/gallon (Sad isn't it? Sorry northerners, but I'd rather buy diesel than oil for the furnace!). We’ve only used about 200 gallons this winter, but figured we would take advantage of the price and fill up. Who knows how high the cost will be next season. Maneuvering around pilings and boats, we finally made it to the fuel dock. $1000 later, and with the help of the friendliest dockhand in the islands (I thought he was going to fall in the water, he pushed us so long and hard off the dock), we eased ourselves over to a mooring in the other harbor.

Our mooring is a stone’s throw away from the storage yard, so it looks like we are finally in the clear. Whew, what a relief!

We even have fairly good internet, which is a plus. The first order of business was to go online and find the right parts and stock to repair the steering problem in the fall when we return. Where would Dave be without his Ebay? I may have said this before, but there is a saying that cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places. Now it’s not only that, but it seems just as important to be using the internet in exotic places!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Loose Ends

Wow, I can’t believe that a week from now we will back in Florida. The winter certainly has gone by fast. We are tying up loose ends here in Hope Town and making sure that all projects are completed. Tomorrow is the last cruising boat race, if the wind is not blowing too much. Dave plans on being on the Abaco Rage, while I will be on the race committee boat. We will probably drop our mooring lines Thursday or Friday and start heading north to Green Turtle Cay. We are hoping for benign weather and seas on Saturday, so that the Whale Cay Passage will be calm or at least passable. Our haul-out date at the storage yard is Tuesday morning.

I have been doing all the inside cleaning, polishing and organizing. Lists are written as to what we have on hand, what we need next season, and what items need to travel back and forth with us. Next, all the outside stainless rails and trim has to be scrubbed and a fresh coat of protective wax gets applied. Everything else related to summer storage, is done at the last minute.

This will be my last post from the Bahamas. Our internet service runs out tomorrow morning and I don’t know what will be available as we get to the islands further north. I’m already getting shaky from wifi withdrawal, and our signal hasn’t even disappeared.

Thanks for reading and I’ll update again from ‘the other side’, be it after Whale Cay if possible or back in Daytona!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Crowd Pleaser

Yesterday's final dinghy race of the season set a record for the amount of boats watching the 3 race series. There were all sorts of dinghies and skiffs, plus a 49 foot yacht!

The 12-14 knot breeze was a bit too much for the Abaco Dinghies to sail in, but there were 10 Sunfish and 4 Junior Sailors in Optimists Prams that participated. One family came all the way from Guana Cay. The father and one son were each out in Sunfish and the other son, who is going to the World's Competition in the Dominican Republic, was in an Opti. All three of them placed in the top 3 finishers. Very impressive!

Dave came in 5th place, but that's pretty good, considering all the hotshot racers that were ahead of him.

Best of all, everyone had such a good time. It was a great way to end the season.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dueling Duo

Dave and Jim went Sunfish sailing around the harbor yesterday. Both guys did really well with the challenge of maneuvering around all the moored boats. It was such a pretty day, and made even better with the colorful Sunfish sails.

It was also a perfect day to practice for the races that we have coming up on Sunday. I'll be on the race committee boat that day, and they will need all the help they can get. For the first time in a couple of years, all the conditions will be right for Sunfish, Abaco Dinghies, and Junior Sailors in Optimists Prams, out on the race course at the same time. Each division will have a separate start, but a different version of the triangular course. This makes for close finishes, and the race committee has to be on high alert keeping track of it all.

Stay tuned for exciting post-race reports and pictures!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Movin' On Up

Tonight was the Hope Town Sailing Club's Commodore's Dinner, held poolside at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge. This is one of the prettiest places on the island, so it was the perfect setting for this popular annual event.

This year was a 'change of watch', since we now have a new commodore. It also means that Dave has stepped up as the new vice-commodore for the next two years. Now it's time to really start paying attention to how things are done and what running the club entails.

All the flag officers received a rose boutonniere, but we had to call over the Lodge's manager Tom, to put Dave's on. Strangely enough, none of us ladies knew the correct way to do it.

Do you believe that we keep a suit and tie on board New Horizon? We were all talking about how we had to find and then air out the suit jackets, since this is usually the only time they get worn. We also kidded each other about not putting our leftovers in our pockets, because it would be an awful thing to discover next year when we pulled the jacket out of the back of the closet.

No matter what the guys were wearing, they almost all still wore their sandals or Crocs. Some even wore shorts and blazers, Bermuda style. Gotta love the tropics!

The officers' wives weren't left out and received their own flowers, which was much appreciated. It really was funny to watch as the women kept the commodores organized. We all know who really runs the show!

It is such a treat to sit at the head table, since not only is it the best seat in the house, but we also received our meal first. It's almost like having our wedding all over again.

This year's speeches were quite humorous, but a little unnerving, when we saw some lightning, and thunder boomed in the distance. Thankfully, no storm materialized, and the clear sky made it a perfect night under the stars.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Dave may be down, but not out. He wouldn't miss the opportunity to sail on the Abaco Rage, even when sick. That's because he has now become the mainsheet guru. This can be such a strenuous job that it requires an assistant to help 'tail' or pull the line.

This picture tells it all.

They have already tacked around the mark, Stafford is trying to get the boat to 'answer the helm', Dave and Billy are pulling in the mainsail, Pete is positioning himself on the high side pry, and hidden under the sail is Bobby.

Friday's Spring Regatta was a good one for Dave not to miss. All during the race, a rental boat kept 'stalking' the Rage around the course. After the finish, the skiff came up to the crew, and a man asked them if they would shake out the reef in the mainsail, so he could take more pictures. The photographer turned out to be Benjamin Mendlowitz, who takes photos for Wooden Boat Magazine and their prestigious calendar! We'll have to keep a look out to see if the Rage becomes even more famous than it already is. If it happens, I'll be sure to post something here and on the Rage's blog, which I am now the editor of! The link for that can be found here and on the right sidebar.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preserving Our Light

Last week was an exciting week at our red and white, candy striped lighthouse. A group of experts came to Hope Town to inspect and assess the condition of our Elbow Reef Light Station. This included Ed Gunn, who is the executive director of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in Daytona, and has over 10 years experience restoring Fresnel lenses. Also with him was Steve Varhola, who has developed tools for removing the strips which hold the curved glass pieces of the lantern room's exterior glass in place. What a fantastic opportunity to meet these talented people!

Several of the protective outer glass panes have deteriorated and broken over the years and need replacing. Until more curved glass can be made, pieces of lexan were brought in and installed.

As you can imagine from a lighthouse built in 1864, plenty of restoration is needed. The Bahamas Lighthouse Preservation Society is an amazing group that is striving to preserve this one of only three remaining manually operated lighthouses in the world. It’s a never ending battle between the elements, politics, money, the threat of automation, and getting the help they need.

Help is what we do best though, and spearheaded by Dave, we have now started up a group of enthusiastic volunteers that are trying to do whatever we can to assist around the lighthouse and grounds.

We had our first work party and we accomplished so much in one day. Our emphasis was to clean up the grounds, and concentrate on the storage building, which will hopefully become a future workshop.

BLPS director Annie Potts and Jerry Whiteleather, lighthouse engineer (who knows everything about the light and every part and tool), first gave us an introduction about all that has happened and what needs to be taken care of in the future. Heinz and Dave show a piece of the lens that fell out.

Then it was time to get to work. Cleaning up the trash that had blown in from the hurricane and gales was arduous but straightforward, and we removed much refuse off the premises.

The storage room is packed full of spare parts that needed to be categorized and organized, right down to having pictures taken of them. All shelves and floors had not been cleaned in many years. It’s so overwhelming that you wonder where to begin?

Leave it to the women to “git ‘r’ done” though. Aletha dove right in. She has experience being a missionary in Honduras and rebuilding schools.

Dave discusses work with Annie while the ladies sort tiny parts.

Linda and Patti are caulking gurus!

Outside the building, lights, windows, and doors needed repairs and caulking.

How many GUYS does it take to do one window though?

Lunch break with a view.

There’s still plenty of work for the volunteers to do. For now though, the grounds look so much better and give a better first impression to visitors. Plus the storage building is now secure and ready for the new glass panes to be stored and worked on.

It was a fun day and a great way for everyone to learn more about this national treasure. What a privilege to float happily in the harbor right underneath it every winter.

Footnote: I have added a link to the Elbow Reef Lighthouse website on the right sidebar.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not So Bright Side

The beginning of the end of a great weather period. Talk about "March coming in like a lion?!" This year it certainly was true. It was very ominous as the cold front approached and at one point looked like a waterspout was forming.

It all dissipated though, and we were left with gray skies and lots of wind. For the past two days it has been blowing at least 25-35 m.p.h., with many higher gusts. The noises all the boats make around us is amazing, and especially the sailboats with 'stow away' sails. These are sails that furl up into the masts, but the slots where they roll up, howl and whine in the breeze. Then New Horizon itself is swinging around wildly on her nice safe mooring lines, but the waves make it rock, and then jump up and down. Today it's like living in one of those 'bouncy bounce' kids playhouses.

The bad weather came at a good time though, because both Dave and I have been sick. We have come down with what is 'fondly'(HA!) called the Hope Town Grunge or Crud, an upper respiratory virus. It has spread like wild fire through the islands, but unfortunately this 'fire' isn't doused quickly. Average recuperation is 3 weeks. I don't think anyone has gotten over it without going on antibiotics and/or prednisone. Gee, now Hope Town really is living up to its nickname 'Hollywood', with half the people hyped up on steroids! I can be included in that bunch because my asthma is an issue. I have to admit that I caught it first, 10 days ago, and Dave started in 2 days ago. Living on a boat with two coughing, blowing, sneezing people is not fun when we do it at different intervals. We just can't get away from each other. Sometimes we do it in unison which is much better!

No one wants to hear about all that though, and we just say, "this too shall pass." For now it's blowin' a hooley and I better go out check the mooring and dinghy lines!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sculling 101

Hope Town held its Heritage Day Celebration this past weekend, with a huge turn out from all over the Abacos. This year focused on the Wyannie Malone Museum, but they also had six Abaco Dinghies set up for people to learn how to row or scull them. Dave and I were key people in getting these wooden boats bailed out (they took on water through their planks, since they had been stored on land until recently, and had yet to swell up once in the water), and then towed them over to the dock where the festivities took place.

The dinghies drew a lot of attention, and even the ladies came out to give it a try. It is a lot harder than it looks, that's for sure! The oar is long and heavy, and has to stay in a small notch on the back of the boat. Then you have to get it underwater and make it 'swim' down to push the boat ahead. If you don't keep the right angle or movement, the oar pops back up to the surface. I couldn't do it on my own, but Dave assisted.

Mercedes, the grocery store manager, did the best out of all of us, after a lesson from Harold Malone, who owns a couple of the dinghies. Her sculling talent must be in her blood from being Cuban. She's so funny and a ball of fire, laughing the whole time, and talking so fast you can't understand her.

Last year, only the guys that participated received shirts that said "A Gentleman and a Sculler". This year they presented the the women with shirts too..."A lady and a Sculler". Here we all got together for a photo while dancing and showing off our shirts.

Afterwards, I gave Dave a ride back to Harold's house, as we returned the boats back to his dock.

We certainly do enjoy the diversity here in Abaco! We never know what we will be getting involved in next.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dog Day Afternoon

Yesterday was a perfect day for a VBIC (Very Brief Informal Cruise) to Johnny's Cay, just outside of Hope Town. There were about 20 of us that brought our dinghies and skiffs out to the little out-island for a picnic.

Notice how the trees have been damaged from Irene, but the foliage has returned.

Dave and Bill refine their Abaco Dinghy sailing skills. Always be ready to duck when that low boom swings over your head! No wonder Sam has named this boat 'Nothin's Easy'.

Best of all, I think that the dogs enjoyed being on this island the most.

Penny (and her owner Chris) from ChrisDeke enjoying the sun.

Miniature or toy poodles make great boating dogs, and there are several in the harbor. They don't shed, love the water, and are very friendly. I don't have a picture of Belinda B's Pete, but he is our favorite and loves everyone. He recently went blind, but that hasn't stopped him from going to the beach. He seems to have adapted really fast. Ankers Away now have a gorgeous reddish brown poodle, that loves the beach so much, they have named their dinghy 'Rusty's Boat'.

Another one of my favorite dogs to watch is a yellow lab named Rudder. His owner Sid, never goes out in any of boats without the dog. He even races his Abaco Dinghy with Rudder as crew.

This is Simon from Interim, a Westie. He's getting on in age, but is still really spunky. Although he loves to go to the beach, he doesn't get to go very often because he has too much fun in the sand.

Speaking of sand...what is that thing?

It's actually golden retriever Schooner from Spirit, making herself smell really good by rolling in an old sponge.

Mark and Kim telling Schooner it's time for a bath!

Seeing the fun the dogs were having made us really wish we had one again, but it's "not in the cards" right now with our lifestyle and my allergies. Oh well, after seeing Schooner's condition, maybe it's best to enjoy everyone else's pets and leave the cleaning to them!