Feb 7

The wind let up today, so I took the dinghy ride across Elizabeth Harbor to Georgetown to publish the website, get water, and drop off garbage.  Internet access in Georgetown is getting better, but it still isn't much of an option from the boat if you are anchored on the Stocking Island side of the anchorage (where most of us are).  There is one independent guy broadcasting a signal from over by the marina that you can receive weakly if you have a god external antenna, but even then, people using him report sporadic connections.  St. Francis, the bar/restaurant near Chat N Chill has wireless, but it hasn't been working for several days.  If you carry your computer to town there are a number of options with widely varying prices.  My choice has been the same as last year, J & K Computers.  Julius runs this business from what was, and still is, his grandfather's tiny grocery.  The grocery part consists of a few shelves containing about fifteen items.  Last year you actually set your laptop on the chest freezer or the checkout counter to work.  Since then Julius has built a counter top on the wall where six people can comfortably sit and work.  He charges $.10/minute, or $3.00/day for access.  By far the cheapest in town, and his system seems to always work.

I got to J & K and setup my computer.  The two primary things I had to accomplish were publishing the website and calling AARP via Skype to straighten out my automatic bill payment.  When I got there, I was only one of two people there.  By the time I got my call to AARP done, there were six people working and a couple waiting for a place to sit.  As part of my conversation with AARP, I had to read my credit card number to them.  After my call was done, I loudly asked if everybody got that number, which resulted in a good laugh.

On my way back to the dinghy dock, I picked up some juice for rum punch research and then filled the water jugs at the free tap on the Exuma Market dinghy dock.  Have I mentioned how much Exuma Markets supports the cruisers?  They built a dinghy dock which can easily accommodate fifty or more dinghies, provide four dumpsters for garbage, provide a mail drop for cruisers, and provide free reverse osmosis water at the dinghy dock.  They are the only large grocery in town, so it's not like we wouldn't patronize them anyway, but they still do these good things.  They are one of the good Georgetown things.

Back at the boat I dumped the water into the tanks.  My two seven gallon jugs half-fill one of the three boat tanks.  Barb needed a couple things from the grocery, so we went back to town for a second run.  We went to the liquor store for rum, but they were out of the cheap stuff we buy.  So, we went into the grocery and got the few items we needed.  When we came out, we noticed a black cloud approaching, so we hustled to the dinghy to get the water.  There was another cruiser filling up, so we had to wait several minutes for him.  As we got up to the hose and started to fill our jugs, it started to rain.  By the time we were done filling the jugs, it was pouring and we were already soaked, so we just went ahead and headed back to the boat.  Even though it was pouring, the water was not rough, so we were up on a plane.  Going fast into the heavy rain, I had to keep my eyes squinted just enough to see.  I couldn't shield them with my hand since it takes one hand to control the motor and since I drive standing up, I hang onto the bow line for balance with the other hand.  Of course, as we got to the boat, the rain slacked up a bit.  I was soaked to the skin so I went ahead and dumped the jugs into the boat tanks then.  Guess we won't need showers today since we got this one.

This evening is the weekly ARG (Alcohol Research Group) meeting on the beach near the monument.  The turnout was very good, and for the second week we've attended, the selection of appetizers was plentiful and of excellent quality.  There is an old joke about beach pot-lucks and the pot-luck piranhas who either bring nothing, or something like a handful of popcorn, and then chow down on the good things.  These have not been the case so far this year.

GPS N 23-30.931 W 075-45.310  Nautical miles traveled today 0.  Total miles 8060.

Feb 8

This morning I attacked the dinghy motor.  Since the other day when I spun the prop, it has not wanted to idle.  There is absolutely no logical reason that spinning the prop would affect the way the motor runs, but it happened at the same time.  With the motor still on the dinghy, I took the cover off and proceeded to remove the carburetor.  I have done this several times in the past when it ran poorly.  Removing the carb requires removing two long 10mm bolts with a ratchet and socket in an extension.  I loosened the bolts and as I was pulling the ratchet back from the motor, I caught the edge of the socket just right so that it popped off the extension and plopped in the twenty foot deep water before I could even react to grab for it.  In seven years on the boat I have lost remarkably few things overboard, and this one pissed me off.  I guess it's better that it's a tool and not part of the motor, since I have another socket.  But it still pissed me off.  The water is just murky enough to make it impossible to see the socket from the surface, and without donning my SCUBA gear, I can't dive to twenty feet unless I can see my target, grab it, and come right back up.  I carefully removed the carb and passed it to Barb on the big boat.  In the safety of the cockpit, I disassembled the carb, wiped a tiny bit of crud out of the bowl, stared at it for a few minutes and put it back together.  As with all the previous times I have done this, the motor now runs perfectly.  While luck was on my side, I removed the alligator clips from the battery cables and redid the corroded connections so I don't have to constantly wiggle the cables as I try to start the dinghy.  That job too went perfectly, and we are back in business.  I had been feeling a little wary of moving away from Georgetown if I couldn't trust the dinghy motor, but I feel better about it now.

As a good road test for the dinghy, I headed into town for some important provisions.  I docked at the small dinghy dock behind the Shell station, which is conveniently next to the liquor store.  The supply boat had come in this morning, so they had a fresh supply of beer and rum.  I helped them not have to work quite as hard by purchasing a case of beer and a case of rum before they had to bother putting them on the shelves.  One of the guys unloading the pickup truck out front took my two cases on a dolly and brought them to the dock for me.  I then moved the dinghy across to Exuma Market's dock and went in to get a bag of ice.  Mission accomplished I headed back to the boat.  In the short time I had been in town, a good breeze had picked up making the ride back quite choppy.  I took it slow instead of abusing the dinghy more by bashing into the chop while up on a plane.  I really didn't want to risk breaking any bottles of my cargo.

Our friends on Sol Y Mar got put back in the water today after fixing their broken through-hull.  They got back to the Sand Dollar anchorage and spent the day putting things inside the boat back together after having had to move stuff to get to where they did the repairs.  We had a nice quiet evening aboard tonight.

GPS N 23-30.931 W 075-45.310  Nautical miles traveled today 0.  Total miles 8060.

Feb 9

Milano Myst is finally getting to Georgetown today.  They had taken their guest back north in the Exumas, and then stayed a couple days at Emerald Bay Marina after the guest left.  They got into the anchorage here and anchored right beside us a little before noon.  We immediately took them to Volleyball Beach to introduce them to Georgetown.  We had lunch at Chat N Chill, and I gave them the basic lay of the land.  After lunch they rode around in their dinghy to say hi to a few other boats they know and we went back to our boat.

This evening we are invited to happy hour on another Texas boat named Katrina Marie.  John & Kitty are also from Kemah.  We met them briefly last year but never really got to know them.  This is their second year here, and they go back to Kemah and work half the year to support their cruising habit.  Joining us were Nikki and Richard form Hello Texas.  They are from Fort Worth, but leave their boat in Kemah when not here.  Also joining us were Gene and Cathy from Dream Ketcher.  They are also from Kemah.  We had not met Hello Texas or Dream Ketcher until this year.  We enjoyed a couple of hours of laughing and telling stories about back home.

About 19:00, we headed up to St. Francis where Terri and Miguel from Bodett are doing Karaoke.  This is the same couple who did Karaoke a couple of times last year when I made my public singing debut.  By the time we got there, Pat from Sol Y Mar had already done three Willy Nelson songs, so it was time for me to bring a little Buffett to the party.  I sang A Pirate Looks At Forty, and got a surprisingly good response from the crowd.  A little later I signed up to sing another Buffett tune, widely known as a Parrothead love song, Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw.  When my turn to sing came, just as the intro was playing, Daniel, Milano Myst's eight-year-old came up and stood next to me.  I had awkward thoughts about signing this song with a kid right there, but there was no turning back now.  When I got to the line about the water bed being filled with Elmer's Glue, he ran off to his parents tickled that I sang something about Elmer's Glue.  Guess I didn't need to worry.  Later I did a duet with Pat of You Never Call My Name, by David Allen Coe, a.k.a. The Perfect Country and Western Song.  We stayed pretty much until everybody had left about 23:00.  Quite a late night by cruiser's standards.

GPS N 23-30.931 W 075-45.310  Nautical miles traveled today 0.  Total miles 8060.

Feb 10

Today we are going into town to an arts and crafts fair at the Peace and Plenty hotel.  It is set up around the pool.  The arts and crafts are secondary though.  The Royal Police Force youth marching band is supposed to perform at 11:00.  We got to the show about 10:30 and browsed around the fifteen or so local artists booths.  There were a lot of woven straw items, lots of beads, and lots of paintings.  One booth that did get our attention was a guy who carves necklace charms out of conch shells.  He makes shapes of hearts, sailboats, dolphins, birds, and turtles.  The polished conch is a shiny pink and white color, and each one is unique.  We had seen this guy last year on the street, and then when we came back by where he had been to look at his stuff, he was gone.  Barb got a sailboat necklace.

11:00 came and went, and there was no sign of the band.  We hung around until almost noon and they still weren't there.  People kept saying they were coming, so we went to the pool bar and got a beer while we waited.  By 13:00 there had still been no band, so Milano Myst went back to their boat, and we joined Bobby & Francie from Barefootin' for lunch there at Peace & Plenty.

We spent the late afternoon reading aboard.  In the evening, Barb made pizza and then kicked my ass once more in Sequence.

GPS N 23-30.931 W 075-45.310  Nautical miles traveled today 0.  Total miles 8060.

Feb 11

Over the last few days I have been doing a lot of route planning for where we go from here.  The original plan was to make a series of day trips from here to Long Island, to Rum Cay, to Mayaguana, to Provo in the Turks & Caicos, and then to Luperon in the Dominican Republic.  For those of us who prefer nice smooth conditions instead of a "boisterous sail", the day trip method usually works best since you are heading southeast into the prevailing winds.  Picking a weather window to make painless progress against the prevailing conditions is the hardest part of the trip.  You normally do small day trips because you only get small breaks in the prevailing winds, and even if you have a bumpy day, it's only one day.  After plotting several different options, we got a weather forecast that is amazing.  A front is supposed to come through Tuesday night that will shift the winds to the west, and they are supposed to stay light and from the west for three or four days.  That means we should be able to make a less-than-forty-eight hour run straight from here to Provo without the other stops.  We have seen Long Island and Rum Cay last year, so not stopping there and making such good time southeast sounds great.  We'll have to talk to Chris Parker tomorrow to see if he concurs with the forecast.

Based on the chance that we may leave, we spent most of today doing little things to prepare.  We have also been reading the Turk & Caicos cruising guide.  We will probably only spend a few days there and then continue to Luperon, but we need to know about Customs check in and where to get fuel if needed.

Mid afternoon a drama started unfolding on the VHF.  We heard a call that there had been an accident in Lake Victoria, by the Exuma Markets dinghy dock, and that somebody was injured.  A call went out on the radio for any doctors or anybody with medical training to come to the dinghy dock.  Keep in mind, the majority of boats are anchored on the other side of Elizabeth Harbor, over a mile away.  After much confusion, one cruiser went to the dinghy dock to try and at least coordinate something, but he found nobody there.  Meanwhile one of the U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters that cruises around here was sighted.  One of the people with the injured guy hailed the helicopter and they responded.  The injury apparently was a deep cut from a dinghy propeller in a man's thigh.  It was described as going all the way to the bone, and he had lost a lot of blood.  The story as we heard it explained later was that the man, a single handed sailor, was in his dinghy out in Exuma Sound (the big water to the east of Elizabeth Harbor).  He apparently fell out of his dinghy while underway.  Another cruiser in a small boat saw the dinghy going slowly in circles and went to investigate.  They found the guy hanging on the back of the dinghy, unable to get back in.  The prop had gashed him at least once.  They got him into their boat and brought him to the marina, not the dinghy dock, thus causing the initial confusion.  Once the helicopter got involved, the local police got involved too.  The helicopter landed on the local baseball field, a couple miles from the marina.  The man was rushed in the back of a pickup truck to the helicopter, while the helicopter got permission to pick him up from either the Bahamian government or the Army.  We're not sure which, but the radio conversation made it clear that they couldn't take him without permission.  Apparently they got it, because about ten minutes later, the helicopter took off with him bound for the hospital in Nassau.  The cruising audience was filled in on these details by the guy who had rushed over there to coordinate.  None of our friends knew the guy.  There are a lot of questions like who will tend to his boat while he's gone, etc.  Apparently there is about one accident like this per year, which results in announcements over the morning net to remind us all to wear our kill switch lanyards, which most of us don't.

Since we are getting in a mind set to do an overnight trip, we thought we'd try on the cat's lifejacket again.  Not that he will wear it, nor do we expect any rough conditions.  He has only had it on once, when we first bought it, and he didn't like it.  So we got it out and snapped it on him.  It is snug enough that if you pick him up by the handle on the jacket, he won't slip out, but it's not constraining.  He acts like he is paralyzed though when he has it on.  He walked around in spastic steps and meowed like he was hurt.  We laughed at him and took a few pictures before releasing him.

The planned excitement for the evening was to be a dinghy drift.  This is where lots of people get together in their dinghies, in the middle of the anchorage, tie them together, and have a floating happy hour while they slowly drift across the harbor.  Since the accident seemed to have a happy ending, the float went on as planned.  At 17:00, dinghies came from all around and started to raft together.  Appetizers were passed from dingy to dinghy and boat cards were exchanged with neighbors you didn't know.  The "official" count was sixty-four, which is about twenty shy of last years record setting attendance.  We were not here yet last year when they did this.  Of course, it's hard to imagine how you could possibly get anything close to an accurate count unless you had an aerial photo where you could count them.  But then gain, who cares.  It was a hoot.  Lots of folks, including us, found ways to mount large state flags to the dinghies.

On our way back to the boat at dusk, we found Milano Myst aboard a large catamaran named Dream Catcher.  This is Dream Catcher from New Hampshire, who also has kids aboard.  They had all spent the day on a trip down south of Georgetown at Pigeon Cay.  They had a wonderful day and had just gotten back before the dinghy drift broke up.  We were invited aboard and spent a couple hours with Dave & Lisa sharing stories as well as some great conch fritters Lisa whipped up.

GPS N 23-30.931 W 075-45.310  Nautical miles traveled today 0.  Total miles 8060.

Feb 12

We're beginning to prepare for our departure Wednesday.  Things to do include getting water and fuel.  The wind has picked up more than forecast, so the bay is quite choppy.  I emptied two jerry jugs of fuel into the boat's tank and filled it up.  I loaded the fuel jugs, the two water jugs, and a bag of garbage into the dinghy and headed to town.  I went to Exuma Market's dock first and got rid of the garbage.  I also dropped a piece of mail going back to the States in the box that other cruisers carry back to mail.  I went back to the dinghy and had to wait a few minutes to get to the water hose, but then got the water jugs filled.  I then moved to the Shell station dock and took the two fuel jugs as well as the dinghy gas tank to the pumps.  I got the diesel, but they were out of gas.  So I went back to Exuma Market's dock and took the gas can to the Esso station and got it filled.  Now came the fun part.  Going back across the bay, into the large chop, with these four jugs wanting to slide around.  Even standing up, I was soaked by the splashing over the bow by the time I got back to the boat.  We emptied the water jugs into the tanks and I decided not to make a second trip over for more.

In the course of my trips back and forth across the bay, I saw one of my neighbors towing a dinghy back from town.  I recognized the dinghy in tow as being the one belonging to the guy who got hurt yesterday.  On my back to MoonSail, I noticed the neighbor had attached the dinghy to a boat right near us.  Then I recognized the boat as being one we had seen up in Staniel Cay a couple weeks ago, and I knew the name was the French word that they had been saying on the radio.  When they had been looking for the boat, I couldn't see the name on the stern, and didn't put two and two together.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and napping.  We have happy hour beach plans tonight with several of our friends who want to see us off on our journey south.  We got to Sand Dollar Beach, into the chop, relatively dry by taking it very easy.  Three boats, Sol Y Mar, Perseverance, and us, are leaving Wednesday, and there was a nice turnout of friends there to say goodbye.  We stayed until dusk and then went back to the boat.  The trip back was with the waves, so we stayed dry.

We hit the sack early, at about 20:30.  The wind is still howling pretty good, and at the last minute I decided to leave the VHF on overnight in case anybody had trouble with their anchors.  About 22:15, I was awakened by hearing Milano Myst Rob's familiar voice on the radio.  I figured something must be wrong, so I quickly got up to see.  It turned out that our friends on Caribbean Soul had drug anchor and were having trouble getting it reset.  It sounded like they had hit another boat as well as lost their dinghy.  They were anchored a quarter mile or so in front of us, and by the time I was awake and above deck, the dinghy was already past us.  A boat two boats behind us caught it and got it secure.  After about ten minutes, Nick from Caribbean Soul called Rob and I and said he could use some help.  We both raced up to where he was in our dinghies and got aboard.  I drove the boat, while Nick and Rob worked on getting the anchors up, and Deanna controlled the spotlight so we could keep track of other boats near us.  We eventually got the anchors up, moved to a more open space and reset the primary anchor.  Rob and I stayed aboard for several minutes to make sure things were secure.  Unfortunately, significant damage was done to both Caribbean Soul and the boat they hit, which will all have to be dealt with.  But no people were hurt which is most important.

Once back at the boat, it was obvious that some squalls were coming.  There was lightening in the distance, and the wind was still howling.  We sat up in the cockpit until 02:00 making sure we were secure and everybody around us was too.  We were a little concerned knowing that nobody was aboard the boat that belongs to the guy that got hurt.  A very heavy rain came, but fortunately the lightening stopped before it got anywhere near us.  We finally got a little sleep between 02:00 and 06:00.

GPS N 23-30.931 W 075-45.310  Nautical miles traveled today 0.  Total miles 8060.

Feb 13

The morning started off as exciting as the evening had finished.  I got up at 06:00 to listen to the weather forecast on the SSB.  About 07:00, the wind died down and the line of clouds had moved just north of us, just like Chris Parker said.  But, about five minutes later the wind started to build again, and the direction had changed suddenly to north.  A sudden wind direction shift causes some anchors grief.  We swung around and seemed to be fine, but suddenly it was apparent that the unattended boat was adrift.  I was not entirely sure of our security, so I didn't leave MoonSail, but three other guys from neighboring boats came racing over, got the boat under control and got a second anchor set.  It is not in a place that will be problematic for us if the wind comes back to the west, but they are supposed to come take it to the boat yard where it will be secure this afternoon.

One of our other neighbors had put out a second anchor last night, and now that we have all done a 180, we are pretty close to them since they swing differently on two anchors than we do on one.  They are aware of the problem though, and let out some more rode to move away from us.  By 10:00 the wind had died, the sun came out, and all is well.  Quite an exciting night.

We are getting together for lunch with the other boats who are going south, to make sure we are on the same page.  We should be ready to go tomorrow, with an early afternoon departure planned.  That will put us in Provo, in the Turks & Caicos, early Friday morning.  We are tickled to death to get a weather window of light winds from the west in order to make this trip in one hop instead of four or five.  We heard this morning that one of the five boats that left here a few days ago, doing the short day hops, was lost on the rocks in southern Long Island yesterday.  Apparently they trusted their Navionics electronic charts, which are known to be inaccurate, instead of their eyeballs.  I don't really know the details, but an announcement was made on the morning VHF net to beware if you use Navionics charts (we don't).  This should be old news to anybody who has them, since the problem was identified at least two years ago.

I'm going to publish the web today before we go, so details of the big trip with be next time.

GPS N 23-30.931 W 075-45.310  Nautical miles traveled today 0.  Total miles 8060.