August In the Abacos
Not quite as alliterative as June in the Jumentos (where we weren't,
anyway!), but it's the best I could do :**))
When we last were together on these pages, we were in the Exumas, a
delightful place in the middle, or thereabouts, of the Bahamas chain of
hundreds of islands (Cays, as they're usually called here), preparing to
head to the mainland for family reunions of various sorts.
While we gnawed our fingernails worrying about the forecasted
much-more-active-than-usual hurricane season, our 4 weeks ashore were
uneventful in the Bahamas. As it was, we were on the dock of some folks
we'd met the last time we decamped Marsh Harbour, up the canal system in
Leisure Lee, a mostly undeveloped area which serves as the Marsh Harbour
Sunsail/Moorings operation's hurricane hole, so we couldn't have had a
better place to be in the event of troublesome weather.
However, the month was uneventful, even to the extent of no rain in the time
we were gone. While our time ashore was gratifying, both of us achieving
what we wanted in that time, it's difficult to convey how glad we were to be
back aboard Flying Pig, our home.
Despite the 4 children, 6 grandchildren, 3 siblings, and one very aging
parent I got to see in between attending to more than 20 vendors and
suppliers of needed boat supplies (not to mention the attempts we made at
reprovisioning at the same time, to be carried as baggage on our flight
back), and Lydia's 4 kids and one grandson along with one each pending and
active son-in-law that both she and her ex, who was over from England on
much the same mission got to see and love up on, we both very quickly missed
being aboard and rocked to sleep with no more noise than the occasional slap
of water or halyard.
This lesson, a virtual repeat of our experience on the last trip ashore, has
us vowing that our times ashore will be less frequent than envisioned
following the impact of Lydia's grandson's birth, which prompted
expectations of "not less than twice a year, for at least a month" trips.
For those immersed in the daily bustle of shoreside life, I expect one
becomes inured to the noise and visual distractions which seem not only a
given but a requirement for survival in the bulk of the population today.
Walk in the door, turn on the TV - and leave the room. Turn on the YouTube
and surf. Respond to the thousands of responses to the hundreds of friends
on FaceBook. Once in a while, plunk down in front of the TV and vegetate.
If someone should dare suggest that those things are distracting - and, for
that matter, counterproductive to human discourse, let alone serenity - go
into withdrawal at the thought. And, maybe, if you're extremely unusual,
smell the roses, once in a while.
My sig line contains a couple of thoughts which I've known for many years,
before we got on the boat, or I'd read the book from which they derived.
"The Secret" and many places in the Bible address the first, and "Every
cloud has a silver lining" echoes the second.
Without knowing another tag line, I, from the time I could talk, I expect,
also followed the thought that "An adventure is just a misfortune
reimagined." It's for that reason, bugging the banker for the time so I'd
not miss it on the first Tuesday of the month, that I couldn't wait to see
my house, into which I'd poured so much energy, both psychic and physical,
and money, too, foreclosed on, being auctioned on the courthouse steps.
What I was going through at the time certainly wasn't comfortable - it had
been delayed only because of a bankruptcy filing several months before - but
I looked on it as an adventure. I took the same interest in my bankruptcy's
progress and details, as obscene as that might sound.
My posture, developed only after some rather painful results of stress many
years before, is, "If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger," and "If
you can talk about it - whether 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 months or 5 years
later - without bursting into tears or (conversely) wanting to break
something , you might as well get on with enjoying it so you can tell the
story accurately later." That I'm here, annoying the apparently several
thousand folks who put up with these logs, speaks to my success in that
endeavour. A specific case in point was our extraction, by the Coast Guard,
via a stainless steel basket ride, from our wreck 36 hours into our maiden
voyage. As I was on the way up, seeing Flying Pig at a 60* heel, banging
on, and being pushed further on the rocky shelf brilliantly illuminated in
the chopper's spotlight, the only thought I had was, "I wish I had my
camera!" despite our belief that she was going to be a total loss.
I also, in the few years of employment I had in the years preceding my
mostly-unemployed years prior to getting aboard Flying Pig, was a
consultant. Ya, one of those! What made me good at what I did was the
ability to see, from the outside, things which were invisible to my
clients - the forest for the trees syndrome, effectively.
I've tried to keep that objectivity and remove present in my life, as well.
For the most part, I've succeeded, aided by my INTJ Meyers-Briggs profile,
one which has less than 1% of the population as its members, but one which,
nearly universally, is intensely curious. EVERYTHING is interesting. You
may have picked up on that in some of my recent logs. I have also always
derived great pleasure in solving problems. In fact, I get more pleasure
out of identifying, analyzing, devising - and then successfully
implementing - a solution to a problem, than, for example, installing some
great new gadget/improvement in our home (ya, I know - I'm weird!). Not
that I don't enjoy improvements, upgrades and the like, as seen in our 2009
refit in the gallery noted in my signature - I do. I just get a great deal
more fulfillment out of problem resolution.
So, I'm sure you're asking yourself, by this time, what does all this have
to do with August in the Abacos? It has to do with my continued enjoyment
of all that comes, whether uncomfortable at the time or intensely
pleasurable. Lydia just wrote a log having to do with what she perceives as
encroaching ennui, despite the wonders we're presented with every day. It's
enhanced my appreciation for the blessings we have and are enjoying.
So, you impatiently ask, what are they?
Well, for starters, despite all the blandishments of the experts, so far we
have not had the first indication of "tropical disturbance" here as I write
this in the early part of the month.. We may well, in the coming few weeks
and months, as that's when things usually start brewing more forcefully,
but, at least for now, it's a non-starter.
For another, despite all the alarums of those who have gone before us, the
weather, experienced in our non-air-conditioned home, has been entirely
tolerable. In the two weeks we've been back, we slept with a fan exactly
once; the other days have frequently required us to have our duvet cover
over us, and, indeed, hot flashes or no, Lydia has many times had to snuggle
to take advantage of the furnace in me to avoid being chilled.
And, then, there's the sunrises and sunsets, the clean air, and gentle folks
ashore in the many communities within an easy daysail or dinghy ride. On
the subject of daysails, we got ourselves out of the canal community where
Flying Pig had spent the prior 4 weeks and plunked ourselves down (well, the
anchor, that is - we continued to float) just outside the entrance, to
decompress and enjoy our home.
After a couple of days of mostly just catching up on our sleep (it's amazing
to us how sleep deprived we become in the environment mentioned above, not
to mention missing the motion of the boat), we set about unpacking the 200
pounds of supplies, both gustatory (getting something to eat in the Bahamas
is very expensive, all food products being hit by a 45% duty) and
boat-supplies in nature, that we'd brought with us (not counting the almost
hundred-pound weights of our carry-ons!) from, in addition to 2 50-pound
cardboard boxes, two boat-boxes for use as storage on the deck. Our
previous choice, led by the initial success of the ones we'd used during our
refit, disintegrated in less than a year in the tropical sun.
So, the gift in the hand of that problem was that we discovered the
Rubbermaid Action Packers which were a volumetric and dimensional
replacement for our dead ones, and that they were within the space
limitations of checked baggage, not to mention that I could stand on one of
them if I needed to be any taller than I already am. They're that stout.
That out of the way, we had a nice, relaxed sail down to Marsh Harbour,
setting our anchor in pretty much the same spot as we'd been in every other
time we had been there in the past. A quick provisioning run for our
morning eggs and some veggies, the next day off to the laundry, a couple of
days as net anchor (there's a morning cruisers' net on the VHF radio on
which I served as net anchor for three days), and we were off again.
First stop was Baker's Bay, at the top end of Great Guana Cay, a run of
about 15 miles. We sailed off our anchor at 1:15 and headed 328*T, a
straight shot. A squall threatened, but never made it to us, and with the
wind partly at our back, 120* from the bow, we made 3-4 knots in the 5-10
knot apparent wind. That was short lived, unfortunately, because the wind
died about 2 PM, and after puttering along with a whisper of air and not
much progress, we reluctantly motored the last of it at 4PM. We had our
anchor down at 4:30.
At this time of year, it's generally hot in the Abacos, but we were rewarded
with a couple of short squalls which not only cooled but washed the boat.
And, in reference to the above, despite our finishing under power, it was a
beautiful day to sail, the type of day guests would enjoy if they'd never
been out on a sailboat before.
As always, we do our boat 1-2-3's on a relatively continuous level - those
little chores which allow the time in a boatyard to not be excruciating. We
also had a chance to do some exploring, diving, and other joys of the
Bahamas. The settled weather made for calm seas - perfect for sleeping and
Three days later, with the wind having shifted to a favorable direction
(sailing is all about waiting for the best winds) we set sail for Settlement
Harbour, the town center for Great Guana Cay. Sailing off our anchor at 1PM
(we're not early risers, nor hurriers with breakfast and coffee times), we
immediately were rewarded with a 20-25knot squall. With full sails up, we
just eased them out (taking pressure off them and reducing the level of heel
of the boat) and bore off (headed more downwind) for a while.
The wind had shifted, however, and stayed rather brisk, so our course put us
at 30* apparent wind - a beat, in sailing terms. Our forward motion of 6
knots increased the apparent wind to 13-16 knots. We've found that Flying
Pig does remarkably well very close on the wind, despite its bulk and
medium-heavy cruiser statistics. With the wind continuing its shift, we
tacked after less than an hour, and furled the genoa because the wind was
picking up to the point where we were overpowered. By 2PM we were on
mainsail only, heading 70* into 16-20 knot winds - and against the tide.
That only got us 2.4-2.6 knots, however, so we rolled the genoa back out to
a 100% configuration - the clew being only out to the mast.
As we hove into view of the harbor, because the wind was directly on our
nose, we reluctantly turned the engine on and struck the sails. By 3:15, we
were again securely on the hook. This, too, was a fantastic sail, as far as
we were concerned. The water was in the lee of the island's mass, but with
its very low rise, most of the wind got to us. The waves, however, not
having any distance to build up, were minimal - maybe 6-12" - and, with
another brilliant day, a stimulating ride. This day was one for the
sailors, but, other than the level of heel of the boat, newcomers likely
would have been exhilarated, too.
We visited several places we're fond of there, relaxing and walking, doing
minor reprovisioning (we were out of eggs by this time), and, three days
later, as the wind was dying, headed south for Fowl Cay. This is the
primary small (well, tiny, unihabited) island which marks a National Park -
one where no fishing is allowed - centered around several reefs. In
addition to snorkeling those reefs, a prime objective was to scrub our
The anchorage off Fowl has a sand bar which is perfect to back up to at
mid-tide, allowing the keel to bump while you set the anchor. As the tide
goes out, the keel rests on the bottom, and, using our hookah breathing
rigs, we don't have to "chase" the boat around as it moves in the wind and
waves. Accordingly, we got the first side done, and, as the tide rose,
kedged (used the windlass to shorten the anchor chain) ourselves back out
into deeper water. Once set in deeper water, but in the lee of the island,
we luxuriated in the silence and isolation.
Over the next several days, we snorkeled the reefs off on the Atlantic side
of the island. My first day include some great underwater shots, enabled by
my trick of putting the casing in the refrigerator to drive out the moisture
which plagues the lens area by condensing on the waterproof case's inside.
I'd thought that it would go another day, as it hadn't been opened, but,
alas, I missed a fantastic opportunity when I found it to be totally misted
over. About 15' down, there was an entire school of brilliant blue tropical
fish passing. I swam down to get a closer look, and, enabled by my weight
belt, and the compression of the depth reducing the volume in my lungs, thus
avoiding floating back up, I sat on the bottom.
While I'd seen lots of amazing underwater spectacles, this one was a first.
As though passing in review, the entire school reversed course and passed,
tightly packed, not 2' in front of me. What a great shot that would have
been! And, see above, it was just another reminder of the wonders we are
blessed to enjoy. A friend asked me if I was getting "used to it" yet. I
replied that indeed I was, and glad of it, as I now know where to look for
even more enjoyment, unlike Lydia, who's reaching a point, sadly, of ennui,
of all the "WOW"s with which we're presented on a nearly daily basis.
Eventually, we headed back to Marsh Harbour for more supplies, only to
return to Fowl for the rest of our bottom cleaning. The day looked as most
do, benign and windless, so we put up our shade tree awnings. These are
rounded - giving the look of a conestoga wagon, but much elongated, as it
covers all but a couple of feet of our deck - awnings supported by flexible
fiberglass wands similar to what you'd see in a dome tent.
In this case, the wind was mostly from the north, directly opposite from
where it was on our last intentional grounding, and we thought it was about
mid-tide. Accordingly we motored over the sand bank - and bumped. We made
it as far as we could, but only had about 50 feet of chain out before we
were securely grounded. No problem - the tide is lower than we thought, so
we'll just have more time on the bottom.
Oops. No sooner than we had the Shade Trees up than a squall came up.
Yikes! Here we are, securely grounded, and it's blowing 25-35 knots, with
rain! Kedging did little good, as the anchor didn't get firmly set, and it
basically came right up. Ah, well - another adventure! Turning on our
trusty Perkins, we motored off in the waves which lifted us off the bottom,
inching our way to deeper water. However, with all the shades up, we had so
much windage that turning directly into the wind (which wasn't the shortest
way to deep water anyway), we stayed beam-to in the wind. That actually
worked to our advantage, as it made the boat heel, shortening our draft.
The bad news was, however, that the dinghy was blown around to our port
side, in the lee of Flying Pig. Despite our having a polypropylene rope,
which floats, the turbulence from the prop caused it to be sucked under and
get involved with the running gear. The good news is that I have a line
cutter on the prop shaft for just such situations, and, true to the
advertisements, it cut the line. Away goes the dinghy!
No problem - once we're off, we'll chase it down. However, we didn't even
have to do that, as Dive Abaco's boat was passing on the way to a dive. By
this time, we were clear of the sand bar, and threw out the hook, secured by
150' of chain in about 10' of water. Keith, Dive Abaco's owner, maneuvered
his launch to pick it up, and, once in range, I jumped into the dinghy,
started the engine, and brought it back. Holy Cow! What used to be about a
50' line is now, with the remainder attached to the stern and to the
dinghy's pieces joined, about 20'! That means the rest of it is probably
Sure enough, Lydia had noted that there was no reverse when she tried to set
the hook. Of course, with all the wind, we were well set, anyway, after I
did my usual setting routine of letting out sections, letting it go tight
(further setting the anchor each time) and, on the last one, attaching the
snubber which would prevent the chain from yanking on us in the waves, so
that was no problem.
After things calmed down again (squalls don't usually last very long in the
Bahamas), I dove the prop. Our reversing prop had about a 6' section of the
line jammed in the body between the flukes, preventing it from reversing. I
got that sorted out relatively easily, so we had reverse capability again -
but the remainder of the line was wound around the shaft next to the cutlass
bearing (a rubber tube, slotted for water cooling, encased in bronze, held
in a bracket). From having helped a friend eliminate one such on his boat,
I knew that the heat of the friction there would turn this into a solid
As it was way too much to do with a snorkel, but didn't impede our ability
to motor if we had to, I resolved to address that when I replaced the zincs
which had virtually disappeared during our time on the dock in July.
(Electrolysis from stray current in the water accelerates the ion exchange
on zincs, which are sacrificial metal protecting the prop from losing mass
from the difference in the stainless shaft vs the bronze of the prop; zinc
is "less noble" than bronze, and so gives up its mass before the bronze.)
Thus chastened, we sat there for a while, and, as the wind died, I attended
to another of the 1-2-3's, this time changing the oil in the Honda generator
which picks up the slack for replacing our electricity when there's not
enough wind and sun for our green power to handle it. Sure enough, as soon
as we were finished with that chore, here comes another squall. Aside from
the noise, Lydia loves those, as it's her cue to go out and scrub the deck!
And, at the same time, we ran out of water in our front tank, the larger of
our two. That made 5 weeks on that tank; soon we'll have to consider a
visit to the fuel depot to refill them as well as to top off our diesel and
Two days later, still in that same spot, we saw an impressive waterspout a
couple of miles away. We'd not noticed it forming - by the time we saw it,
it was a very thick rope, looking exactly like a tornado, both in size and
the disturbance of the water. As a precautionary measure, we started the
engine, in the event it headed our way, because we had lots of room to run
at a right angle from where it was. However, like most waterspouts, it not
only didn't move much, and had burned itself out within 10 minutes, so we
shut down again.
Eventually, the wind shifted again, and we backed onto our original
grounding spot, going from 150 to 275 feet on our anchor chain. My first
order of business was to address the prop zincs and the now-mostly-solid
mass of line around the shaft. Both were no problem, thanks to our hookah
rigs which allowed us to stay down as long as we wanted in the
bathwater-temperatures. Lydia handed me parts and tools, and, after a lot
of chiseling, I had the melted mass cut away from the prop, the new zincs
attached, and we set to cleaning the remainder of the bottom. That, too,
went quickly, and, with the boat already floating again, we shortened the
chain, putting us back in deeper water. Once up to 50' of chain in the
water, we set about readying to sail for Treasure Cay.
We sailed off the anchor just before 6PM, knowing we'd not make it to TC
before dark. However, our course of 265T put us on a beam reach. Our
apparent wind was at 90*, allowing us to make 5.4 knots in 8 knots of wind.
That direction held, but by 6:30, the wind had dropped to only 6 knots,
dropping our speed to only 3.7 knots As the sun headed down, we were seeing
only 3-5 knots at 110* apparent, dropping our speed to only 3.1 knots. By
8PM in the gathering darkness, we sailed onto our anchorage off the Fish
Cays. All in all, a great day on - and in - the water. As seen above, I
addressed a problem successfully, making me happy, the bottom got cleaned,
making Lydia happy, and we had a relaxing sail in beautifu, if very light,
weather, making us both happy. All in all, another great day in the Bahamas
Our purpose for visiting Treasure Cay was to investigate its potential for a
refuge from a tropical storm, with the Atlantic ocean spawning disturbance
after disturbance, having the portent for some excitement in these parts in
the near future. Despit our having been referred there by a couple of
friends, our explorations and chatting-up of some other cruisers convinced
us that it wouldn't work for us. Despite that, as hot as it was, we looked
forward to enjoying the facilities there, allowed by a $10 fee for boats
anchoring in their basin. As the entrance is a bit tricky other than at the
highest tides, we anchored outside and dinghied in. Imagine our pleasure
when the management, learning that we weren't taking up any of their sea
room, offered us the use of the swimming pool and showers at no charge.
A day of relaxation, dips in the pool, sloth, and reading ensued, followed
by a fresh water shower. Thus refreshed, we headed back out to Flying Pig
at sundown. By this time, it's the 27th, and tropical disturbances are
mounting, so we wanted to be back in the Marsh Harbour area, closer to our
expected hurricane holes, developed on prior times here.
Another beautiful day! We sailed off our anchor (keep that diesel fuel in
the tank!) at our usual relaxed time of 12:15. The weather was just
perfect, with a light breeze of 8-10 knots apparent wind at our 25-35* beat.
We started off with Otto, our autopilot driving...
This time we had some help from the tide, which, though on our nose, pushed
us so that our course was pretty much the same as our heading. That enabled
us to make 3.7-4.4 knots on a course of 129*T - but the course we could make
was so tight that we found we could drive the boat more efficiently than
Otto, playing the wheel to keep us exactly at 30* apparent wind, without the
danger that the wind would shift and force us into an unwanted 360* tack.
As it was, we took a tack to miss the projected outcropping about halfway
down, sailing the rest of the way extremely tightly pinched. A movement of
a couple of inches at a time, under constant watchfulness, kept us properly
pointed. Making great time, in wonderful conditions, we hit Marsh Harbour's
entrance at 4:15, and had the anchor down by 4:45, again in our usual spot.
The end of the month has us fully focused on the procession of storms and
hurricanes marching out from the coast of Africa. Danielle looked
threatening, but quickly proved her tendency to go north, providing no
threat. Earl appeared as though he might give us a hit, but, again, proved
to be of less than hurricane threat to us, despite his extremely strong
winds further offshore. The last couple of days of the month have been
windy, with the occasional squalls, but only to the degree that we get clean
decks and full batteries, courtesy of KissyFace (our KISS wind generator)
and Little Miss Sunshine (our 370 watts of solar panels), the weather
otherwise being generally sunny and breezy. The last several days at the
end of the month had winds in the 15-20 knot range pretty consistently, with
some minor lulls and squalls, so our batteries are very happy :**))
Also in the last couple of days, we've had an impromptu hurricane
preparation disccussion and meeting with several fellow cruisers, timed when
Earl appeared as a real possibility for danger here. As that anxiety passed,
we got another group up to play Mexican Train, a dominoes game very popular
with cruisers in the Caribbean, and a great time was had by all. As always,
the cruising community is a moving target, with those in it crossing paths
around the world, or wherever their travels take them. We've made many new
friends here, and re-met several we knew from other places.
One last piece of excitement remained. A fellow cruiser, in the course of
trying to identify and resolve a low-power situation on his diesel, the same
one as I have, not only needed the spare injectors I had aboard, he had to
remove the head to get out the two which broke, leaving the tips firmly
welded to their holes. No amount of effort on his and a fellow cruiser's
part made any difference, so the head went off to a machine shop to extract
them. I dinghied over to take some pix of the disassembled block, and just
as I arrived, my 6HP engine died. Overheat, due to, no doubt, failure of
the impeller, as the "pee hole" from which water squirts to show that
cooling water is passing through the engine was dry. The gift in that
problem was that it happened in a controlled environment. Had it occurred
in some remote area, we'd have been well and truly stuck, as this dinghy
rows about like a rock, never mind how far one might have to do so in what
might be stiff winds and lumpy water. The local outboard shop will have
another in stock next week, and I expect I'll have that problem solved; I
just put on the 15HP engine, our usual one for this dinghy, and all is
As I finish this on September 1st, we're expecting winds from the side of
Earl which will be in the 25-35 knot (30-40+ MPH) range, with the worst of
it to happen early in the morning of the second. Fiona is expecting to
provide no challenges, and Earl is nothing more than a bit of a huff to
those experienced in squalls (those will be sustained winds, however), so,
aside from moving our anchorage to avoid swinging into a moored boat (they
don't move in a big circle as we do, with all the chain out) as the wind
comes around from the current East to West, cross-wrapping both ends of our
spinnaker halyard around the furled genoa (to avoid heavy winds getting
under an edge and, eventually, causing rips) and taking down the loose stuff
on deck, there's no more we need to do to get ready.
September is still in the height of hurricane season, so we may not continue
our lucky streak, but, if we do, we have our hurricane hole ready, and our
plan in place. All in all, what a great place to be!!!
I'll be taking over the anchor position for the morning cruiser's net for
the next several days. A few of us remaining in Marsh Harbour (the harbor is
virtually empty compared to the high season of late winter and early spring)
rotate those responsibilities, allowing folks all over the Abacos to get the
weather, hurricane updates, "invitations" from businesses, community
announcements, and, at the end, during the "open mike" session, offers of
help, requests for information, birthday and other celebrations and other
non-specific stuff. Those wondering what those sessions sound like can
listen live to channel 68, the hailing channel in the Abacos, at any time (a
cruiser who wasn't responding to my hail got a call from a relative
stateside who was listening, telling her to go to 68 and return my hail!),
or the net from about 8AM, during the checkins, and from 8:15 for the actual
cruiser's net, by going to Out Island Inter.Net CrusiersNet
and click on
the "68 Live" button...
As usual, this is plenty long, so I'll leave you here. Until next time,
Skip and crew
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand. You seek problems because you need their gifts."
(Richard Bach, in Illusions - The Reluctant Messiah)