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!