Captain I’mbeginingtoblamehim noticed something disturbing as he lay cramped and sweating on his belly fixing the steering. One does not normally clear out all of the lazarettes and squeeze oneself in its far most corners, but there he was adjusting steering cables when he came face to face with a compromised exhaust hose. It was cracked, old and rusted, not unlike myself. It wouldn’t be prudent to move on knowing we had this problem.
Back to the phone we went searching for parts and the best way to receive them. The hose wasn’t available in Freeport or Nassau (the larger industrial boatyard locations) but we found one on March Harbor, Abacos. Funny, that is where we are trying to get to. What costs sixteen dollars a foot at West Marine we found for thirty-nine dollars a foot in Marsh Harbor. We needed fifteen feet. We decided to pay the outrageous seven hundred dollars total to have the parts shipped from a Bahamas marine supplier to avoid having it get hung up in customs for days and days like the last fiasco. We ordered it on a Thursday and it was supposed to come in on the last plane the following day.
I’m sure it is not surprising to hear that it did not show up. And to spare you much minutia, our parts had been accidentally and mysteriously flown to Georgetown in the Exumas, two hundred and fifty miles south. They eventually flew the parts, in a roundabout fashion, to South Bimini five days later than expected. Fat Boy, the bus driver, delivered them to us for ten bucks. Installation went well with only a few head bruises and scrapes and a significant loss of water weight. It was hot in the hell hole. And we are finally (dare I say it?) ready to go. But then, the weather thought not. So here we are, stillll.
In the meantime, we have met many awesome locals and boaters from all over the world including Sweden, Central America, Australia, Ukraine, and Minnesota. Unfortunately, we have also been frequently, repeatedly and intimately introduced to mosquitos and noseeums like the plague. I am lumpy, jumpy, grumpy, twitchy, itchy and bitchy.
We have been to the beach, lazed around the infinity pool, rented bicycles, and have shared multiple libations and song with fellow boaters. Off-key singing is even encouraged. Plus, we have our very own aquarium outside our door. It is a good life after all.
Below is a video of Kelly Jelly the little jellyfish with a lot of names; Upside-Down Jellyfish, Mangrove Jellyfish, Cabbage Jellyfish, and Many-Mouthed Jellyfish. She has no brain nor heart but a lot of mouth, not unlike my Captain. She usually lives upside down on the bottom of the shallows. She has a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae so she lays upside down to get enough sunlight to produce her light loving algae food friends. It is not uncommon for fish to hide and sometimes live in jellyfish. I don’t know if that is what the fish are doing in this video, or maybe they like to munch on the same algae that the Kelly Jelly is growing for herself.
We have been in South Bimini for over three weeks. Tomorrow the weather gods have blessed us with a worthy window. We are leaving at first light to sail sixty-three miles north to West End, Grand Bahama. The You’reasailornotaprincess gods (they are so disillusioned) are having a good laugh at me as the five-star marina I’ve been dreaming about for three weeks closed their doors and docks last week. I can’t say that Captain Crustymoldywallet was as disappointed as I was. But, we are gloriously happy to be on our way and are days (hopefully!) away to meeting up with Sadie, Matt, and meowy Toby on Soul Divers. Homemade tamales and Pineapple Smashes with our bestie boat buddies trump any stupid five-star marina. Get cookin’ ye everything delicious alchemist, Sadie, we’re coming!
Nine days after ordering our steering parts “express” we received a call that they had arrived by plane to South Bimini (where we were anchored off of) but were delivered to a shipping agent on North Bimini. So, we dinghied to land, walked two miles and caught a ferry over to North Bimini to meet Pedro at the North Bimini ferry dock. After an hour of waiting and asking around, Pedro the garbage man stopped by in his fully loaded garbage truck to hand off our prize package. Locals wear many hats.
Back to the anchorage we went and installation began immediately. What Captain Notoriouslyunderestimatestime thought would be a three-hour project took probably ten. In all fairness, modifications had to be made to adjust a modern part to a twenty-three-year-old boat. He did a great job.
It had been nine nights, ten days and an entire bottle’s worth of Alka-Seltzer chewables on this roly-poly, quiet anchorage. Mostly, we spent the time with logistics and prepping the enormous steering project. Captain Tossalineinsteadofhiscookies did fish a bit. Not much was around. He has a chum bag that he fills with last night’s dinner waste. He drops it over the boat on a tether to attract the fish and then throws a line out. The chum bag attracted two Queen Triggerfish. Triggerfish are intelligent creatures. They usually eat slow invertebrates, like sea urchin. They are notoriously hard to catch because of their tiny mouths, strong jaws and skin like armor. Most fishermen spear them. They are delicious. These two stinkers would swim up and chew all the goodies right through the little holes of the chum bag. (They don’t like spinach.) Then they would nibble at the tails of artificial bate at the end of Captain Ohcomeon’s line. I became enamored with them. Then they became my pets. Then they became off limits as fair fishing game. They hung out by the boat and I fed them every day. Other than a successful installation and renewed steerage, they were the best part of that week and a half.
The steering cable, plate, and chain were installed in very tight quarters, with very strong language and very much effort. It was a race against the weather that we won. Had the installation gone more smoothly we were going to use the calm weather window to sail to a five-star marina at West End, Grand Bahama, sixty miles away. But since it turned into a two-day project, we needed to tuck into a marina around the corner on South Bimini, two miles away, before the winds came. Up went B.P. and off we went steering in crazy squiggles for the joy of it and to test it.
Unfortunately, we had to follow our tracks over the exact spot where we grounded and did the damaging battle with the mighty Kraken. The seas were far more settled but still, I was nauseous and spooked. As cool as Captain Cucumber is, I could tell he was feeling it, too. We were jumpy. I stood on the foredeck visually sighting and Captain Easynow helmed right over that quadrant of the sea that I will never forget in my life. We successfully passed it and crept into the cut to the marina with six inches under us and hearts pounding. First, we fueled up and then we went to tuck into a dock. Not my favorite activities. I was gazing at my wits’ end even though things were going well.
There was no one to help us with the lines for docking so I had to jump off the boat and onto the dock with the docking lines and secure them quickly. I jumped off of Echoes with a midship line in my right hand and the bowline in my left. I singled up the midship line on the first cleat on the dock and pulled the line tight and hard to help slow and secure the 22,000-pound fat ass boat. Much to my great surprise, I ripped the cleat right out of the dock. This sent me flying backward and fairly high into the air. I flew inelegantly across the dock and into the sea with an enormous splash and quite a bit of seawater up my nose. I at least had enough wits left to save my expensive prescription sunglasses. A fellow boater came to our rescue and checked first to see if I was ok, which I was, and then to secure the boat. I floated with a hand on the dock as there were no ladders to climb out on and I could not pull myself up. The man said calmly as he worked the lines, “Now don’t be alarmed if you see a shark as I saw a nurse shark a short time ago. All he will want is to be petted.” I have scuba dove with nurse sharks in the past and know they are harmless. It was more the bull, lemon, and hammerheads that I spoke of in the previous post that were running through my mind.
With the boat secure, Captain Giggling (I’m sure it was a funny sight to see) shut off the engine and lowered Echoe’s ladder for me. I climbed out dripping sea water and snot and this is when Captain Thatpartofthebodywherewasteiseliminated made his terrible mistake. He began one of his long, technical “teaching moments” on how I should have noticed the rust on the cleat’s bolt and chose the next one down. What he didn’t know, that I pointed out to him, was that if I had followed his advice, Echoes’ nose would have been three feet deep in the concrete dock. But he must not have heard me and it did not deter him from a long dissertation on brittle compounds and staying alert. I interrupted him sharply to put an end to the speech. I expressed my feelings more fully to Captain Don’tpushyourluckbuddy in private later that evening.
The winter weekly rate at Bimini Sands Marina is $100.00 for a week. That is the cheapest we have ever come by. By comparison, the five-star marina I wanted to go to would have been $250.00 a night. But I bet they have handsome dock hands and that their cleats don’t pop. None the less, we are happily and lazily regrouping. The winds are blowing. Let them. We will stay here snugly until we have a most perfect weather window to venture the next sixty miles to West End.
I know I have been wordily indulgent but my mom likes my stories. So here is a very fishy story.
Trip and Pulltha Triggerfish had been married for many years. They lived in a reef near the cold Atlantic and hunted in the adjacent bay during the day. One day, a huge, strange, sea creature came to rest in their bay. Behind the creature was a bag full of delicious delicacies. How fortunate that the tiny holes in the bag were too small for other fish but just the right size for Trip and Pulltha’s teeny tiny mouths. It was like having free, fine dining in their backyard. They visited the creature several times every day. Eventually, the creature stopped sending out the bag but began to poop out new scrumptious morsels like shrimp tails whenever they swam close. This was even easier and better. Num, num, num! But then a day came when the sea creature slowly swam away. They missed their sea creature very much.
Much to Trip and Pulltha Triggerfish’s glee, another huge, strange sea creature came to rest in their bay. They quickly swam over to the creature and waited for it to provide a bag or poop. Sure enough! The creature pooped out a small piece of shrimp. Trip, being the faster of the two, swam over and opened his tiny mouth as wide as he could and swallowed the shrimp whole. But that is not all he swallowed. Hiding inside the shrimp was a hook that lodged into his belly.
Pulltha watched with fascinated horror as Trip thrashed and struggled only to disappear up into the sky above the creature. She shuddered a bit and sped away to safety. Then a slow and wry smile began to play at her lips. Trip had been an abusive bully and also made her sleep in the cold Atlantic where she shivered every night. She swam toward the warmer bay shallows with a wiggle in her tail.
When she found the temperature that suited her she began to search for a nice hidey hole to call home. She spied a narrow door that led into a dim coral cave. She entered enthusiastically and yelped in surprise when she bumped into a napping, strapping, dapper Triggerfish named Happy. Startled, he opened his eyes wide. Well, pinch me. Am I still dreaming? He said. For you are even more stunning in reality than in my dreams! This made Pulltha blush an even more beautiful blue as she smiled an enormous smile with her teeny tiny mouth.
It has felt like recent posts have gotten a bit artsy fartsy
so we decided to go out and cause a doozey of a ruckus to provide you with more
The crossing of the Gulf Stream went well. We waited for desirable weather. We left Angel Creek Cut out of Key Largo to travel to South Bimini, Bahamas. It’s a great trajectory to take because the current in the Gulf Stream pushes us north as we head east. We set our destination just south of our desired landing and with the Gulf’s help we ended up landing spot on. It was fifty-eight miles and took over ten hours. We motored, motor sailed and had a couple hours of beautiful eight-knot sailing.
We chose an anchorage just south of South Bimini that does not get good reviews. There is a surge, swells, the holding is not ideal and protection can be poor from certain winds. However, the weather looked good for the night and we planned to sail on the next morning early to West End, Grand Bahamas, weather permitting. The weather did not cooperate so plan B was implemented to move two miles north and get a slip at Brown’s Marina in Alice Town, North Bimini.
We have had a few high drama dockages in our history that you may have read about. The most damaging was a small but somewhat expensive ding in the gel coat from the very dock that we were heading to. The current that runs through the waterway in Alice Town is fierce and temperamental, i.e., Kraken country. We chose to approach the dock at slack tide. This is the in-between time when the tides are changing from coming in to going out or vice versa. This is when the current is at its tamest. It was a well thought out, sailorly plan.
We hauled up B.P. and headed the two miles to the cut to get
into the waterway and the marina. My gut
was already churning due to our past experience. The cruising guide clearly
states to never attempt the cut in west winds as the seas get unsettled and
unruly in the narrow and sharp turns.
Thankfully, the winds were from the east. Did I mention the sharks? I saw them in this very cut on my way in last
year. There is a research center on
South Bimini studying nurse, bull, hammerhead and lemon sharks. This is shark city. Here is a photo I took last year off a dock
not a quarter mile away from the cut.
And here is a photo I took from my phone yesterday.
We rounded towards the approach with perfect timing for slack tide. But, what we saw were a lot of rolling waves and unsettled water. There are shoals all around the cut and so it made sense in these winds to see waves like these on the shallows. We had much discussion about what to do next. We really wanted to keep with our timing for docking. We slowed down and watched a small fishing boat navigate the cut with relative ease. We double checked the depth on our charts in the narrows and it was ten to fifteen feet. Our keel is just short of five feet so there was plenty of sea. We agreed to move forward with our plan.
We passed the first navigational marker and proceeded toward the second. A large swell lifted Echoes up, surfed her for a while and then dropped her, hard, on the seafloor. Guess who was there baring his teeth? A mighty and enormous Kraken had three of his arms around our keel and was wrestling Echoes with a powerful hunger. He was not smiling. He was not howling with laughter. He was fighting with all of his might to smash Echoes onto the rocks and eat us up. The sounds I heard were an agony I hope never to hear again in my life.
Hold on tight!
Captain Clearhead yelled, I’m going to give it hell on the next swell
and we are getting back to the sea with everything she’s got.
We waited for the next swell and the engine roared its
battle cry but the wave just pushed us sideways as the Kraken threw another strangling
arm around us.
I have no steerage! I
have no steerage!
Our steering broke on the grounding. The Kraken had the steering cable in his
teeth as he shook his ugly head. The
helm spun and spun with no connection to the rudder.
There is an emergency tiller in the lazarette (storage area) by the helm. Captain WonderfullyanalItakebackevrythingI’veeversaidagainstit had just checked, lubed and played with it before we left Marco. Every time and I do mean every, I put dock lines and fenders away in this lazarette, he says, Stay clear of the emergency tiller. Do not block the tiller. The tiller was not blocked. I have never seen a person move faster. I stood watch at the helm calling out upcoming swells, their size, and direction. I noticed people gathering on the distant beach to watch the drama. I was glad of it because I wasn’t sure that we wouldn’t be swimming towards them and wanted their eyes on us. I thought of that hungry Kraken and his shark gang.
There is a plate on the decking that unscrews just behind
the helm. Once that plate is off, you
screw in a pipe. There is another pipe
that screws on to the first pipe perpendicularly to make it a T. This is the emergency tiller that you manually
rotate left and right to turn the rudder and steer with. It is only about three feet tall so Captain
Soakingwetfromwaves was on his knees so he could muscle as much strength as he
had in every turn. It required the kind
of strength that only adrenaline can provide.
He yelled his orders out to me over the terrible winds and waves as I
needed to be the eyes and work the throttle.
I yelled back the timing and angle of the approaching wave and he would
tell me when to give it hell. I would
rev the piss out the engine on his command and pull it back when appropriate. We fought that Kraken with everything we had
in us. Finally, finally, finally, we
rode a swell up, powered through it and back out to sea.
The first thing we did when we were safely offshore was to check the bilge. This would be a ready sign if we were taking on water from the damage of cracks or holes. The bilge was gleefully quiet and empty. Then we ran around checking things visually. So far, so good. Captain Stillcalmashell checked and auto helm still worked. He patted me on the back. My bottom lip trembled.
Don’t lose it on me now.
We still have work to do to get to safety.
Aye aye, Capn.
We decided the best bet would be to return to the anchorage we came from by using the tiller and the autohelm to get us there. It is awkward steering at best. We slowly approached our anchorage. I dropped B.P. and at last, we were safe.
The very first thing Captain Extremelyfocused did was to feverishly take everything out of the lazarette and tear apart the steering system. I asked for five minutes. I went into the cabin and sat down, soaking wet, (totally against my rules) and played two games of Wordscapes on my phone. Aren’t I nuts? It was the best way I knew how to stop the screaming in my head. Words are my refuge. After two quick games, I changed clothes and started cleaning. The cabin was wet with seawater that had dripped off of us. Cabinets opened and barfed out their contents. Tomatoes and pears had launched from a basket above the sink in the galley onto various walls and burst to smithereens. Man, do tomatoes have a lot of little seeds. We both worked diligently and quietly on our projects.
Captain Mechanicalgenius deduced a pulley plate had snapped, had disassembled it and was on the phone ordering a new one within a couple of hours. He has the owner of Edson International’s personal cell number and was told he could call it twenty-four seven for assistance. However, John was warned that Will was from Massachusetts and on super bowl Sunday he might be a bit inebriated. Next, Captain Notrunningoutofsteamyet snorkeled Echoes in the cold, wavy sea diving under her, again and again, inspecting every inch. Shockingly to me, everything looked good. There is a saying that sailboats are much tougher than the sailors who sail them. Well, amen to that. After the snorkel, we attempted to take the dingy in to grab a taxi to the airport to clear customs as is protocol. But hurricane Irma took out the landing we had read about in the cruising guide and we did not see other options. So, we decided we had enough for one day.
That night, I had several glasses of wine and a very
satisfying cry. Captain Reflective and I
discussed our misjudgment and shared a very large piece of hard to digest humble
pie. We will now have another mantra to
add to our growing list. Never approach
a cut in any kind of unsettled sea state.
Since then, we have engaged the help of our friends on Soul Divers who are patiently waiting for us on Green Turtle Key. They have researched, advised and provided encouragement and good humor. We had a lengthy check in to customs and immigration as we had to explain our delay. Where are you anchored? The immigration man asked. Man, that’s a shitty anchorage, was his reply. It is a roly-poly, keep you up at night, don’t leave anything on the counter anchorage. But we were grateful for it none the less. We scuba dove Echoes and thoroughly checked every inch of her rough and tough bottom, keel, rudder, propeller, through hulls and girly parts. She has a beautiful, big bottom.
Fear is an interesting animal. I don’t know what it is about my Captain Wasn’tthatexciting and our two sons. They certainly don’t process fear like I do. But put Captain Whitefacedandsweatypalmed on a plane or rollercoaster and then I’m the brave one. Show any three of my men a needle and they will sweat profusely and likely pass out. The doctor and dentist are their Kraken. Yet one son is becoming a small aircraft pilot for the fun of it and has taught mountain climbing, river rafting, and backcountry snowboarding. The other son is in the Army National Guard and dances through gas chambers, tosses live hand grenades like water balloons, likes to drive fast and furious and shoot that backcountry snowboarding with his brother. Fear is a fickle and baffling thing. In this story, I was scared shitless. Oh no, foul-mouthed just settled into my shoebox.
We have been at the same roly-poly anchorage for seven nights now. The part that Captain Expiditeimmediatelyatanycost ordered last Thursday is still floating around the Bahamas. We spend every day trying to move it along. Welcome to the Bahamas. It is the laid back nature of the islands that we love the most until we are waiting on a very crucial part to be delivered to a disabled vessel on an anchorage with no address. Without exaggeration, we have made over twenty lengthy calls to Fed Ex and customs trying to help make it happen. We make a call and then wait an hour for processing and then call back to push it through to the next contact and start all over again. Right now, the part has cleared customs in Nassau and awaits someone to apply our payment of a VAT tax to help pay for all of this wonderful help we’re getting. No one knows what happens after that as to how to get the part from Nassau to Bimini. That will be tomorrow’s mystery.
We have plenty of everything we need and we are safe. Captain Can’twaittodigin assures me the installation shouldn’t be a big problem. I have picked out a five-star marina to head to when we are able where I will polish my princess crown, feast on fine dining, do laundry and clean heads.
I hope for my sake and not yours, that all of my following posts will be artsy fartsy and filled with cloud and fairy tales, lucid dreams and mediocre poetry. The adventure continues…
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