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Water, Precious Water
|Not unlike those of us who live on board boats, island inhabitants need to be particularly watchful of their use of freshwater. Four million gallons of water each day is needed to meet the demands of the inhabitants and business in and around the city of Nassau located on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. Even more water would be needed if Nassau were required to supply water to the new and expansive Atlantis Resort. Fortunately, Atlantis has its own reverse osmosis desalination plant, which supplies all the resort's needs. Of course Atlantis depends on Nassau to supply water if the RO system falls short or fails. So the demand for water could easily, on any given day, substantially exceed four million gallons.|
Where does Nassau obtain four million gallons of water each day? There is not sufficient ground water to meet this need so Nassau has an RO plant as well, but this produces far less than four million gallons on a daily basis. The answer is Andros Island, which lies 50 miles to the west of Nassau. Andros is the largest Island in the Bahamas, measuring 100 miles by 40 miles, yet is sparsely populated. Andros may not have many inhabitants, but it has an abundant freshwater supply. This water lies just under the ground on top of the salt water table that permeates the coral substructure. This water is gathered, or as the Bahamians would say, "harvested" by digging long shallow canals and the sucking the freshwater out of these canals. How is this harvested freshwater delivered to Nassau? A pipeline cannot be run the short 50 miles because the 6,000-foot-deep Tongue of the Ocean separates the two Islands.
The answer lies in the 400-foot long tanker Titas
is a water tanker, which each day loads up its tanks with freshwater from Andros Island and transports the water over to Nassau. In fact as I write this I am sitting on the Titas
halfway between the two islands. We are chugging along at seven knots carrying three million gallons of precious freshwater. Titas
looks just like a little oil tanker, but the crew never worries about overfilling her tanks and spilling product into the ocean.
Presently it is just before 4:00 p.m., and in another three hours we will enter Nassau Harbor, make a hard turn to starboard to moor along the ocean side of Arawak Island. Once secured, Titas'
s crew will hook up hoses two feet in diameter and begin discharging our load of freshwater into large manmade, above ground cisterns. This discharge process takes about five hours and as soon the offload is complete, Titas
's separate ballast tanks will take on salt water to bring her back down to a draft where her props will be immersed. Then she will head back to Andros Island for yet another load. This process goes on each day, there is no break for Titas
, though her crew rotates every three to four months. Titas
has been hauling water for 12 years now. Knowing this I cannot resist doing a little math, 12 years multiplied by 365 days a year and the product of that multiplied by three million gallons per day equals 13,140,000,000,000 gallons! That's over 13 trillion gallons of freshwater!
A side benefit of the work that Titas does is the harbor, which was created for this vessel alone but is shared now with cruising vessels and others. To enable Titas to moor at Andros for loading freshwater, a harbor and channel needed to be constructed. A channel was blasted and dredged through a narrow portion of the coral surrounding Andros and now a secure harbor exists at Morgan's Bluff, found at the NE corner of Andros (25° 10'N/78° 02'W). From Nassau a true course of 278-degree takes you directly into the buoyed channel, which has an official depth of 24 feet and is 300 feet wide. Beware though, the buoys are not lighted and are not painted. They are rusty metal balls, large enough to be seen and picked up on radar, but not exactly on the channel's edge. Close, but not precise. There is a range marking the channel's centerline and on a calm day you can use this range to line up your approach. Once you have made the entrance in daylight you could do it easily at night, but I would not make an entrance at night the first time.
When you reach the channel's last marker you need to make a sharp turn to port and head in towards the protected anchorage. When we departed today there were seven cruising sailboats anchored up near the beach. There is easy landing for a dinghy and several abandoned fishing boats are washed up on the beach. I found a huge unbroken Conch shell with a radiant pink interior, which I'll take home to my wife (or my daughter, whomever claims it first when it comes out of my bag).
A short walk down the one lane road that passes close to the beach and connects Morgan's Bluff to the rest of Andros takes you past a modern and well-painted sign that says "Henry Morgan's Cave." There is a pirate image on the sign and chest of gold. A small footpath leads off into the brush and I followed it along for about 100 feet where I came to a large cave opening. There was no gold to my disappointment, just mosquitoes and empty beer bottles. But it looks like a good cave to hide gold if you were a pirate. The gold these days on Andros is freshwater, millions of gallons of freshwater. So here I sit on top of three million gallons of the stuff. And a day from now when I am off the Titas and taking a hot shower at the Holiday Inn in Nassau I will know exactly where this water came from!
Cruisers' TreasureNear a dock at Morgan's Bluff on Andros Island I found a private, unregulated supply for freshwater! When I first saw the spigot I was not sure what I was looking at for it is a true Rube Goldberg contraption of pipe nipples, elbows and reducers. But at the end of all the fittings is a standard gate valve spigot. There is no handle on the valve stem so you need a pair of vice grips or pliers to turn the spigot on, but it turns easily. And when I first turned it, out of curiosity to see what, if anything would come out, to my great delight out came freshwater.
Well, as a former schooner sailor who was always scrounging for the best deal, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. A freshwater spigot, unguarded no less, on the dock in a part of the world where freshwater is worth great amounts of money. Woo Mama!
Well, I could not wait to pass along its location to all you fellow sailors. Now, of course, I have not checked (nor will I) as to whether this spigot is available to the general public (but there is no sign or warning that it is not), If you should be in the Bahamas, near Morgan's Bluff, you may want to go check this out.
OK, so here is how to find the spigot if you are anchored just off the Bahamas Water and Sewage Dock inside Morgan's Bluff. Face east, looking toward the long concrete pier. To your right, at the south end of the bulkhead you will see a half-sunk, 75-foot tramp freighter. If you look 100 feet north (left) from this vessel you will see a blue pipehead, similar to a fire hydrant, sticking out of the ground. Within a few feet of this pipehead is the Rube Goldberg water spigot. Since landing at the dock face is impossible for a small boat, the best avenue for gaining access to the dock is to land at a small rocky beach, which is just inside where the sunken freighter lies. I went swimming off this beach and it is fine for landing an inflatable (for a short period of time).