Breakout, part 1 - February 2016
We left you wondering if we'd be hooked (or looped) by Velcro Beach, having,
we hoped, solved the vast majority of issues relatively without drama, in
the Shake and Break (Shakedown became Breakdown, time and again, so the
Shakedown series morphed) series. I rashly predicted the cycle of "you
can't leave yet" issues - which developed right as we were expecting to head
out - had ended.
Not so fast...
We had a few things which we needed in hand, but which had yet to arrive,
preventing us from taking an ideal weather window to cross, yet again, to
the Bahamas. Our barometer had suffered a broken lens (the rest was OK) and
our wind instrument display had no lights. Both arrived just late enough to
delay our departure.
However, another "We aren't leaving without..." moment arrived when we
reinstalled the display and discovered that it wasn't registering direction.
As it happened that we didn't get the display until it was too late to
leave, this wa$ a minor annoyance; I went up the mast, got the head end down
and installed the overnight-$hipped new tail. Up the mast again and all was
So, we're hopeful that this begins a series of Breakouts from our Babylonian
Captivity, so to speak. Our first adventure was to get to Ft. Pierce, in
order to stage for any offshore work. Lydia much preferred to go south to
Lake Worth in order to leave and not have to fight the north-flowing Gulf
Stream on the way to our entrance to the Little Bahamas Banks, on which
Another project I'd had under way, which wasn't critical to departure, but
very nice to accomplish, was the hack which allows me to use either WiFi, if
I have a strong enough throughput, or 3/4G/LTE cellular data, to allow
Google Voice to provide me telephony, with the same number I've had for 40
years (the one on our boat card, the cruisers' equivalent to a business
card) anywhere in the world that I have such connectivity. It also, through
the hotspot phone I have, allows me, where I DON’T have WiFi connectivity,
to utilize the cell network to provide internet connectivity to the
computers aboard. Life is very good in that regard. It's a project which
took much more time and effort than expected, but finally, has not only
finished but been proven; Thank You, Lord!
So, after another conference with our weather guru, we head to the fuel dock
and top up our gasoline, dinghy fuel and diesel while we're putting the last
bits of water into our tanks. We time the tide (well, we left at a great
time; we didn't maneuver for the date) such that we get a roaring ride,
along with a stout tailwind which, unfortunately is dead astern, south in
the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW to any cruiser). Despite not being able to
use our genoa (we'd need at least 15° off of due astern), we were anchored
exactly 2 hours after leaving the dock, in a spot which usually takes not
less than 3 hours, and many times more than 4 to reach. Our newly dived
(cleaned) bottom gave us many instances of over 7 knots, and a few of over 8
knots, aided by the tidal current.
Once again, we chose the area a bit west of the USCG station, but this time,
for whatever reason, I managed to drop the anchor on a scoured rock area.
The chain had lots of little harsh vibrations in it which told me it not
only wasn’t set, but that it was bouncing across something hard. So, we
moved, and got a good set, and laid our our usual amount of chain.
However, we think we dragged last night, moving around a bit with 20s winds
and current against us half the time (leading to running over our chain a
lot). That led to trying out a spot across the channel, and further in.
When I picked up the anchor this morning, there wasn’t much on it, other
than a little bit of 3/8” nylon 3-strand left over from someone losing an
anchor, I expect; a 'good hook' would have generated a great deal of packed
sand and shells. Once we got across the channel, we didn't much like how
quickly it rose to the island in the corner between the inlet and the Indian
River, so we moved to the area of docks in front of the USCG. It took us
three times to find a place I was happy with the hook, but it finally bit.
Worse, for whatever reason, tides vs current here are a total head
scratcher, as there was still a significant current outbound, and it was
only @ 3 hours after the published low tide that we’ve finally swung into
The winds and sun have been lovely to our batteries, as we picked up ~100AH
between 2 hours of motoring and the sun and wind yesterday; overnight the
wind kept up with us despite a heavy load in the reefer and a warm engine
room (where the refrigeration compressor is). As I write, we’re whittling
at the deficit some more in cloudy skies giving us 10A sun to go with the
widely varying wind. That will die off as we approach our expected
departure; that's one of the reasons for going at that time; there's not
much wind, or waves, either, despite both of them being from right where we
want to go. That will mean, again, motoring, dangit!
Yet, despite having had to re-anchor, we’ve both remarked on how much nicer
it is here, bobbing around in the chop, allowing Lydia to start growing her
sea legs, with the wind generator putting out those lovely amps day and
night – along with the impossibility of just popping over to Lydia’s mother
meaning we get another entire half-day to read or relax or whatever - than
being on the ball in Vero Beach.
For the first time in a great while, I hope to make this log occur in real
time, rather than being delayed as has been the case of late. In the
meantime, you can see where we are and where we've been by clicking on
- a site which documents our travels via
the SPOT personal locator beacon, for up to 10 years. If you want to look
back at our travels, you can see them by adjusting the settings next to the
"Flying Pig" at the top, using the expansion arrow.
There are lots of ways to get from Ft. Pierce to the Little Bahamas Banks,
the shallow area enclosed by the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island, but all of
them involve the reality of the north-flowing Gulf Stream. If you DON'T
want to go north, the best way to get across that patch is to point the boat
due East, which means the least amount of time in the stream. If you're
going to be carried North, but don’t want to (and Ft. Pierce is nearly due
West of where we'd want to go), you have to go south at some point. Many
folks choose going to Lake Worth, the body of water between the Palm
Beaches, 68 miles - or a day's sail -away. The alternative is to make your
way south after you're out of the stream. However, if you start from Ft.
Pierce, it may put you well north of the Banks, out in the open ocean.
Against that notion, for many days, now, Chris Parker, our weather guru, has
been saying that winds will be less, and therefor better for a
motoring-into-it crossing, the further north you lie. Accordingly, that's
what we'll do - leave from Ft. Pierce, get whatever southing that the
available wind will allow as we move in a generally Easterly direction, and
once again, if we're too far north, do that again on the other side.
After another small set of problems, we're excited to be under way again. We
were off our anchor at 8:45 on the 21st, and headed out with the outgoing
tide. We had reinstalled our speedometers (we remove them to keep down the
growth) at the same time as I repaired our forward sleeve, which had lost
its flapper (to keep out excess water) on a previous extraction.
Unfortunately, and for reasons we don't know, the other two aren't reading.
However, one, to gauge speed through the water (STW) was sufficient to gauge
whether we had a current, as compared to our speed over ground (SOG),
provided by our GPS.
By 9:30, we'd cleared the entrance and had our genoa out with an 8 knot
breeze apparent from the beat of 30°. We set our course for 135°, exactly
southeast, in order to make as much possible southing (going south when you
want to end up somewhere else), making 5.9/7.1 STW/SOG, showing that we had
a slight counter-current advantage. Because we were going to be into the
wind (cruisers' axiom: The wind is one of three things - too much, too
little, and right where you want to go), we continued motorsailing, as we
would expect to do for the duration.
As is our practice, we had OpenCPN running on the nav station computer, and
we saw that our track was nearly identical to our previous, marvelous,
crossing. However, this time we had a relative headwind and 3-4' rollers to
slow us down. That angle of attack of the rollers meant that we did a lot
of rock-n-roll. Despite our having a full fuel tank (less sloshing), we
turned on the fuel polisher. As the wind dropped to only 4.5 knots
apparent, and our fully sheeted (pulled as tight as possible) genoa started
luffing (back end flapping due to being too straight into the wind), we
wound in the genoa at 10:15 and motored along. The net charge going into
our batteries, between the wind, sun, and alternator, was 45A, a nice
repayment to the noise, heat and fuel needed to accomplish our forward
The rollers were sufficient to bring lots of green water (seawater vs spray)
over the bow, and our decks got a good wash. Unfortunately, one of the
must-do items we have is to recaulk our toe rail to deck joint, which now
leaks very badly in many places. It turns out that is a product of the
3M4000UV caulk we used, which, their head tech tells me, has a formula
problem which they've not resolved. He promised me a 'good-fer' coupon/form
to take when I went to buy (his recommendation) a competitive product.
Yikes! No such form/document yet, but we have to redo that in any event, as
leaks are anathema aboard a boat.
We followed our previous line, but the edge of the Gulf Stream had migrated
since that last trip, so we got into it a bit earlier. By 2:30, while we
were pointed at 105°, we were actually making 50°, our target for our
crossing segment. The triangulated speed showed that we were making
5.7/6.8knots for STW/SOG, some of that SOG being the part where we were
carried north by the stream. The wind, true to the axiom, was directly
forward, at 11 knots, and the swells, at 45° to our bow, increased in size.
5PM suddenly erupted with an engine alarm (meaning, no oil pressure, or
overheat). Immediately shutting down, and in neutral, I scurried below to
investigate. Dang. Blown water pump/alternator belt. Well, that would do
it. A move to go wind-abeam stabilized the hot area below, and I soon had
the belt replaced and refilled the coolant, much of which had boiled away.
By 5:30, we were back under way.
Curiously, as, again, the edge of the Gulf Stream had shifted, while we had
thought it to be at 79°23'W, we were at 79-19 and still being carried north.
However, based on our progress, we expected to be on the Little Bahamas
Banks by midnight. We were still in such hobby-horsing (front to back
pitching conditions) that our aft hatch kept sliding closed from the motion!
The moon was in and out of the clouds, but otherwise it was a beautiful
sight. Of course, everything's subject to change, and by 10:30, the wind
had picked up, still on our nose, to 14-16knots.
That slowed us down some, only about 4.5knots, on our current waypoint at
122°. That was way off of the 160° we'd have to head in order to get any
benefit from a sail, even tacking, so we motored on into the night. We
entered the banks at 12:30, with the wind clocking, making it 16-18knots at
0° apparent (right directly on the nose).
We approached Great Sale Cay at 8AM, a common stopover point for transiting
cruisers, thinking we might check in (clear Customs and Immigration) on
Grand Cay, but our data-only hotspot phone, into which we'd put our Bahamian
sim card, came alive. Email revealed that dear friends of ours had been
tracking us on our SPOT locator trail, and knew we were nearby, where they'd
anchored off Manjack Cay. "How about you come for dinner?" As our transit
time to Great Sale was nearly as good as it had been on the last trip (21
hours vs the current 24), we were chuffed with the the end result of a lousy
crossing, but welcomed the thought of getting together with our friends.
So, we continued on, changing our course on the 22nd at 8AM to take us over
the top of Great Sale Cay and head on down to Manjack (also known as
Nunjack; the terms are pretty interchangeable in speech and on the charts)
Cay. By 4:30, we were tucked in near Crab Cay, flying our yellow "Q"
(quaratined - not yet checked in, can't go ashore, yet) flag. Dinner was
freshly caught (Sam, of Sam and Janet, aboard Flyingfish - not 'Evening'! -
returned shortly after our arrival with a full bucket) snapper, along with
several other goodies prepared by our hostess, a professional cook, whose
talents shone on the output! Later in the day, we discovered that friends
we'd made in Vero Beach were anchored right in front of us. Hailing on the
VHF radio (CBs for cruisers, in a sense), we promised to get together later
down the road.
Safely ensconced at anchor, with the engine room again at ambient temps, on
the 23rd I went in for ordinary maintenance. I added some oil to the
chronically thirsty Perkins 4-154 (they are known for rear seal leaks, and
most diesels consume a bit of oil, though not to the degree seen in the
engine in Captain Ron!), checked and added just a splash of water to the
now-fully charged and equalized batteries, removed our depth transducer
(inside mount) and added some water to the cup in which it rested (the water
makes the hull look transparent to the transducer), and again restored our
refrigeration, which had the water-cooled portion of it turned off when it
started cavitating. On the plus side, our wind and sun were netting (making
more than our boat consumed) 10 Amps, keeping our batteries happy.
1PM saw us off to Green Turtle Cay, where we'd check in, and search out
hardware stores for most-likely-unavailable parts. As always, our time in
C&I was just lovely. The lady who'd checked me in during our first visit
last summer was her same sunny self, and this time I knew she wouldn't mind
my bringing Lydia along (only the captain, no crew or passengers are
supposed to come ashore until the captain has cleared all their paperwork);
they got along like a house afire. This time, we thought to get several of
the forms we need on check-in, which will make future check-ins a doddle,
with most of the paperwork already completed.
Thus legalized, we wandered the streets in search of a new shower head - one
which had a default of "off" - to replace the one on the stern, which had a
leaking close-off seal. It's enough of an oddball that I knew we'd never
find it. We soaked it in vinegar, and that helped, and we are currently
'blipping' it - push the button and make it snap up, rather than just
releasing it - which mostly works. We put a bucket under it just so that we
can catch any of the precious fresh water it might lose from our
finite-supply aboard; we use that for rinsing stuff of salt water, anyway,
so it's not really an inconvenience. When we're back among the chandleries
world, we can replace it. Other than this current niggle, it's a real treat
to have a shower on the platform off the stern.
Shortly, there was a prediction of a notable blow. It actually was what
drove our departure when we did; we had to get to where we wanted before
then, or there would not be an opportunity to get across to the Bahamas for
several weeks. Green Turtle Cay has two hurricane holes - White Sound, to
the north, and Black Sound, to the south. We'd thought we had too much
draft (the keel was too far under water) to allow us to get into either of
them, but current reports had it that the inlet to White Sound had been
dredged recently, with other boats never seeing less than 8' depth.
So, with great trepidation, on the 24th, we eased our way into White Sound,
and, sure enough, soon emerged into slightly deeper water in the harbor
(harbour if you're Bahamian), and found a place to anchor at 4:15. A
relaxing dinner, and a watchful eye on where we'd swing (due to the 100' of
anchor chain) as the wind clocked, and we were secure.
Once secure, on the 25th we jumped in the dinghy and went exploring, and for
a long walk. We got to meet several other cruisers out at the reefs
immediately adjacent to the shoreline; if you don't mind the walk, or have
bikes, as they did, this apparently is a great fishing hole, other than that
you really want a dinghy so you can throw a speared fish (and you!) into the
dinghy immediately after capture, and move someplace else, before the sharks
get to that point. On the other hand, if you're after lobster, for whatever
reason, sharks aren't interested when you shoot one, and you can just keep
up doing what you're doing, stuffing the tails (which is all they keep of
these, having no claws) into the mesh bag at your side. They showed off
their catch before heading back to town, as we headed further down the
Down that main road near White sound, you can see beaches on both sides.
The one open to the Atlantic, the same one as the reefs, but further west,
is a great family place; in fact, we encountered one as we were coming down
from one of the real estate agencies' observation towers. Green Turtle,
along with all of the other Abaco Cays, continue to surprise and enchant us.
That seems to be a good place to stop for now, leaving you wondering how
we'll fare in the upcoming blow, whether our friends will succeed in
teaching me how to shoot a lobster (I've yet to even SEE one in the wild),
and other niceties of the northern Abacos.
So, until then, Stay Tuned!
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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