We were hoping to make a late December getaway to the Bahamas since November was preempted by some return trips to visit and support family, but on December 26th I was paid a visit by the kidney stone fairy. I’m very glad we weren’t in the Bahamas as this was my first time dealing with one of these. On the pain scale of one to ten I’d give that experience a 12…..I was told by the doctor that I had two more waiting in the wings so we thought it might be a good idea to take this opportunity to fix some things that we had been putting off while we were staying put for a while.
We had a few projects……..Our watermaker had stopped working in the Bahamas, and that required diagnosis and repair…..we had some wood work that needed repair from some very old water damage,……our alternator needed a rebuild and realignment……the adjacent engine driven, high pressure watermaker pump also needed to be realigned……our refrigerator and freezer compressor had originally been wired in the same circuit which I thought was interfering with the performance when both units tried to start up at the same time,….. our wifi range extender was on the fritz,…… our new outboard was due for it’s ten hour service and our backup, new to us, outboard needed some work as well, and our masthead wind instruments (which supply the wind speed and direction to our instruments) stopped sending data to our cockpit display for some reason and finally our refrigerator evaporator plate needed to be replaced. Keep in mind these projects were tempered by trips to the beach, happy hours and visiting friends !!!!
First a quick tutorial on watermaker function. We take in seawater and filter it to remove any large contaminants. Then the water is pressurized using a “low pressure” pump at about 17psi. That pump maintains the pressure to the high pressure pump which operates at hundreds of pounds of pressure. The water then travels through two tubular membranes (filters). The seawater is highly pressurized and travels along the outside of the membrane and the freshwater is pushed through to the inside of the membrane “cylinder”. That freshwater goes to our tanks and the remaining briny seawater goes overboard. Sounds simple right ? Here’s a diagram ……
Our watermaker was a two fold issue. Our low pressure pump, which feeds the high pressure pump wasn’t moving any water. It is an intermittent duty (i.e. 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off) pump and required a cooling coil to keep the temperature down and extend the duty cycle. Unfortunately, the cooling coil couldn’t make 100% contact with the motor so it suffered from some efficiency issues.
I had initially assumed that the motor was burned up. I removed the pump and was about to order a new one. I had hoped there had been some advancement in pump design and we could get a continuous duty pump, but apparently there haven’t been any advancements in this type of pump design. I thought we were destined to replace the pump for $395. As I was taking the pump to the trash, I decided to try something and I attached the leads to the battery in our van and the pump ran !! So, I found a local pump repair shop and got it rebuilt for $65…although, it took over two weeks to get the parts.
Once the pump was rebuilt I began to investigate other ways to cool the pump and extend the duty cycle. I discovered that Shur Flo pumps makes a 5″ heat sink that fits the motors on a variety of other manufacturers pumps. I get the feeling the motors are all made by the same company and relabeled for the “manufacturers”. I consulted with a friend who was an aerospace engineer for ideas in cooling the pump motor and he recommended “Thermal Grease” under the heat sink. This makes the contact between the sink and the motor housing 100% by removing air gaps and the grease has metal particles in it to transmit heat more efficiently.
I added a 138cfm cooling fan like you’d have on a large computer and fabricated a support from a PVC bus hub and a rubber reducer coupling and ended up with this …..we flushed the system and the motor was as cool as a cucumber !!!
The “woodwork” turned into tearing out 60% of our port settee and replacing the entire seat and a small section of the outboard bulkhead that separates the storage area. I used marine grade plywood and treated it with Copper Coat which is a 9% copper solution that prevents future mold, mildew, rot and insect infestation. I also increased the size of the access hatches so we can store dive tanks under the settee. The biggest challenge was matching the shape of the board that was glassed into that area which would not come out in one piece…or even six !! A lot of the outer edge had to be ground out of the fiberglass. I took this opportunity to run some extra 0 gauge wire forward for the addition of some electrical items down the road. I was tempted to remove the washing machine during this process, but decided we could do that later.
Next time…alternator….masthead instruments…..pump alignment….fridge/freezer…..etc….etc….etc
On our boat we have a lot of essential electronic equipment. Some of these devices have remote handsets you can use to control and/or monitor the device like the Autopilot, VHF radio or windlass. These handsets have coiled, rubber coated cables that run from the control head to the plug.
Recently, our autopilot control head cable began to deteriorate. This was pretty concerning since our autopilot was manufactured by a European company called “Cetrek” and they have been out of business for a few years. Since a new autopilot would be around $1500 for just the equipment, we were tying to come up with a way to repair this, and future, cables.
I found a product online called “Sugru” and it is described as a “moldable glue”. It is billed as being waterproof (including salt water), UV resistant, flexible, electrically insulating, heat/cold resistant and shock / vibration resistant. This was readily available on Amazon so I ordered a multi pack. It comes in various colors but for our purposes black matches our cords.
I applied the first section as a test and in 24 hours it was fully cured and seemed to live up to it’s sales pitch. I plan to cover the rest of the deteriorating cord and we will post an update in a few months when we can fully evaluate the wear it stands up to during our travels. I also suspect that Sugru will be a good replacement for caulking around spaces like those around our chainplate through hull openings on the deck combing which need to be recaulked every few years or they leak. This may be a permanent fix for that issue!!! It was a great improvement over the electrical tape wrapping I was trying to use on the cord. It was easy to use and not messy at all.
The new Sugru wrapping …..
The old, ugly, sticky tape wrapping ……
You can get some Sugru for yourself right here using this link !!!
Here’s a post that is three things…..
1) A big hats off to Mantus Anchors….
order yours here…..
2) A reminder to not skimp on ground tackle
3) and that preparation is the key to safety and a modicum of peace of mind when the fecal matter hits the air moving device….
We departed Fernandez Bay and made our way to Half Moon Harbor at Little San Salvador, which is also known as Half Moon Cay. Little San Salvador is a private Island owned by Carnival Cruise Line. As such, it has a fake beachside village, what appaeared to be a fake pirate ship, a real water park, and one or two cruise ship priced restaurants. As a cruising boat, you can visit the island once the cruise ship has departed, as long as you radio ahead and get clearance from the island manager. Some reviews also mention visiting the bar if you get in before the staff leaves. They bring the staffing in every morning from Eleuthera and take all but the resident employees home every evening.
We had researched the cruise ship schedule and we knew that a cruise ship was leaving around 3:30pm on the day we arrived and that another would be arriving around 9am the next day. This wasn’t going to be an issue since we were planning to be underway at 6:30am. We had a very smooth trip to LSS and the cruise ship departed just as we were approaching the anchorage. We had seen some forecast chatter about scattered squalls, but in the Bahamas it seems like if you let that stop you, you’ll never go anywhere.
In the below image you can see a closeup of the anchorage and the pin is approximately where we were anchored, about 300′ off the beach in 12′ of water. When we are in an uncrowded anchorage, or alone in one, we always put out 10 or even 15:1 scope (that’s the length of chain in relation to the depth of the water in which you are anchored.) Thank goodness for that habit….we have 300′ of 3/8″ G43 chain on our primary Mantus 85 pound anchor……we went a couple of sizes over what’s recommended on the anchor and thank God we did.
It was a little bouncy overnight as the actual wind was more southerly than the forecast wind was anticipated to be, so the wave action was a little choppier than what is comfortable.
Around 5:30am I was awakened by some thunder and the feeling of the wind rising. At about 6:30 the wind was rapidly increasing, rain began to fall, and the wind had reached about 40 knots and was gusting to just above 45kts. This was NOT going to be fun…..
The wind was coming out of the West-Southwest so there was nothing to reduce the wave action being generated by the wind. We usually count on an island, shoal, reef or other shallow feature to diminish the waves. There seemed to be two cells moving southeast and we were catching the edge of the first one and we got the brunt of the second one as it passed.
After the first hour, I had sent out a few text messages to let people know we were in a potentially bad circumstance. In the second hour, I knew we were in a bad spot but I wasn’t sure how bad it was going to be. We began taking 10-12′ waves and some of them were breaking over the bow of the boat. We were riding up 10-12′ waves and then crashing into the trough behind the wave, then taking the ride up the next wave which would drive the swim platform down into the back of the passing wave and it hit hard, sounding like a bomb every 10-15 seconds. Kim was motion sick and in the aft cabin. I was sitting in the cockpit waiting for the anchor to drag and to be forced to decide if we were going to hope it reset before we grounded on the beach, or fire up the diesel and try to power beyond the waves and into deeper water pulling up the anchor as we went and maybe get broached by an incoming wave and still end up on the beach. Either choice had its risks. Even if the anchor held, we had to be worried about an unusually deep wave trough slamming the keel on the bottom and possibly damaging the rudder. We had anchored in 12′ feet of water but didn’t anticipate 10-12′ waves which could have included troughs deep enough to make our rudder reach the bottom. We were lucky that didn’t happen.
We had recently purchased a new 15hp outboard in George Town ($2500) and since it had been very calm the prior day and evening we towed the dinghy with the outboard still attached. That proved to be a slight error in judgement. I’ve read many stories about people who have towed their dinghies with outboards around the world with no issues….just our luck we wouldn’t make it through one season in the Bahamas towing ours.
Around 8:30am, during a few particularly violent and shifting waves, our dinghy flipped over……our dinghy anchor, one oar, a dinghy pump were adrift and our dinghy chaps (material coverings designed to reduce the UV damage to the inflatable tubes), were ripped.
Around 9:30 the second of the cells moved off a little to the southeast. Kim rallied and we managed to go out onto the swim platform and flip the dinghy over. It was a momentous piece of teamwork. I donned my snorkel gear and recovered our anchor, but the pump and the oar were long gone.
Shortly after that, the waves subsided and we were in the lee of the arriving cruise ship. We started the diesel, raised the anchor and motored out of the anchorage and were on our way to Eleuthera after about four hours of the worst time on a boat that we have ever experienced…….wondering “why, exactly, are we doing this?”
Since there’s an upcoming period of unsettled weather headed our way, (prediction is 20-25 knot winds for three to five days) I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about how we keep ourselves entertained while staying on the boat for extended periods. Sometimes that can be three or more days straight depending on where we are and how severe the weather might be. We like to anchor away from the crowds but that results in longer (and wetter) dinghy rides to and from shore.
We spend all but about two months a year on board, so keeping ourselves entertained can sometimes be a challenge.
I have reached a point where I am reading about a book per week. That can be challenging since maintaining an inventory of books in our limited space isn’t really a viable option. It does present a chance for us to resurrect our old “book club” of which Kim and I were the only members. It was very exclusive!
I discovered a series of books by F. Paul Wilson which mostly revolve around a character nicknamed “Repairman Jack”. These books are set mostly in late 1990’s NYC and Jack is a sort of a private investigator/fixer who becomes increasingly entrenched in unusual cases and circumstances that have a supernatural cause. Jack is sort of a Libertarian / polar opposite to a “Ray Donovan” type. The first book in that series is “Cold City”.
There are related story lines that make up a series of about six books called the “Adversary Cycle” which start with “The Keep” (set in 1941) which was also an 80’s movie of the same name, that butchered the story line. If you like fiction drama/mysteries with some supernatural twists, I highly recommend these books.
I also picked up a Jack Reacher book called The Killing Floor which turned out to be much better than the movies. I can’t imagine why they picked Tom Cruise to play the guy described in this book?? I also read a couple of Randy Wayne White’s “Doc Ford” books which are turning out to be good reads…..thanks for that tip Mike !!!!
I have found my Fire Tablet aka Kindle to be indispensable. Now that we have on board wifi I can download books at will !!! We can also access Amazon videos and games on it !Shop Amazon Devices- Fire Tablet Starting at $39.99
We didn’t have an opportunity to get a “Bahamas phone” until our second trip to George Town. That has made things much easier as these phones come with wifi hotspots. BTC (Bahamas Telephone Company) recently started offering unlimited data for $35 per month. Now we can watch online movies and tv shows through a variety of applications for free !!! Let me know if anyone wants the details of those and I can email them to you. (They work stateside too so you could theoretically eliminate your cable or satellite tv bill.) If you’re planning to be in the Bahamas for an extended period be sure to pickup one of these phones…..you can get a Huawei brand smartphone (pronounced Wowee) for about $59 plus $16 for a SIM card on a prepaid plan. I found this link for an unlocked Huawei phone on Amazon which might work throughout the Caribbean if you get sim cards for each place you visit…..that also makes the blogging easier !!!!
We also love to play board games. But, space again is an issue….board games are out, so we have mostly dice games on board. We play a lot of Yahtzee, we were recently introduced to a new dice game called “Farkle”….and we have a set of dominoes on board if we want to play “Mexican Train”…..it’s a fun game that was taught to us by our dear friend Joan in Florida …..
thanks for the introduction to “Farkle” Doug and Barb on SV Melinda Kay !!!
This is just a quick entry to say thank you to Jahnke Electronics in Green Bay, WI……just before we left Florida we had an issue with our Kenwood TS-50 HF transceiver. It was blowing the inline fuse when transmitting. Without that radio we can’t receive emails or weather reports when we are away from wifi and out of range of the NOAA weather reports broadcast by the Coast Guard on the VHF radio. We also use it to monitor maritime and weather voice networks.
The people at Jahnke checked out our radio, cleaned and aligned it, checked the capacitors, replaced the power button and replaced the memory battery, all for $100 !!! Plus it only took a few days !! It has been working great since then…..they weren’t able to replicate the fuse issue after they maintenanced it and replaced the on/off switch, but it works and that’s the most important thing for us.
Since we recently got our “HAM” licenses we look forward to many years of service from this radio…..thanks to Jahnke……
here’s a Link to their website …..
As we “begin to begin to prepare” for our Bahamas trip we are considering buying a drone. We thought it might be nice to post videos to the blog, plus we can use it to advance scout for coral heads…..
We are looking at this one since it has a remotely viewable camera via iPad, can be controlled on any smart device and a 23 minute flight time with a 150′ range. It can also record……any thoughts or suggestions ? We’d like to keep the drone investment under $200…..
We get this question ….A LOT….
“How do you know where you are or how to get where you want to go?”
The question makes complete sense. After all, most people are, at a minimum, accustomed to having at least a road map, road signs and street name signs. Add to that a Tom-Tom, Garmin or other turn by turn GPS, either hanging on their dash or in their phone. On top of that, whether they know it or not, they have had a subliminal geography course going on their entire life. Some people may not be able to find New Jersey on a map, but they can navigate their local area pretty reliably.
What most people don’t realize is that they use a form of marine navigation in their every day life….it’s commonly called Dead Reckoning or D/R for short. D/R is essentially estimating your position based upon your known direction of travel, your speed, the elapsed time and use that to determine a point between where you started and where you are headed. You didn’t know you were a Navigator, did you? Just imagine if someone put you in a car on I-75 (that runs North and South between Detroit and Miami). Pick any spot…assume a speed of 70mph and an lapsed time of 5 hours….where are you ? Ta-da !!! A D/R “fix” or estimated position (EP).
Many people, when they imagine marine navigation envision the use of a Sextant and some pretty complicated calculations based on the angles of the sun, moon or stars coupled with other fancy techniques. Frankly, the sun and stars aren’t always visible, so navigators need a method they can use reliably when they can’t see either, that’s where D/R comes in.
Take a look at the snapshot of the chart below. That’s an image of a “rhumbline” or direct course from an area South of Miami called Angel cut to Cat Cay (Cay is pronounced like “key”) in the Bahamas. That rhumbline is 48 miles long.
For the purpose of the example, let’s use our boat. Kitty Hawk averages about five knots per hour under power. If you average out the sailing speed, 5kts is also a safe number unless the wind really dies, at which point for this example we would fire up the diesel and still maintain 5kts. A knot is 1.152 miles per hour, much in the same way a nautical mile is equal to 1.1 statutory miles.
We will also assume, just to make things simpler and avoid calculating “tacking” (which is changing the course of the boat to take advantage of the direction of the wind) the boat, that the wind is coming out of the South at 10 knots. That means we could sail straight across our rhumbline course on a coinciding magnetic course, using our helm compass and autopilot to be sure we stay on that heading. A course is an intended route….a heading is the actual direction the boat ends up going based on current (like the Gulfstream), wind or other factors. In this scenario we would need to make a slight course adjustment to the south to stay on our rhumbline course due to the Gulf Stream that flows to the North in this area at about 1.5 to 3 knots. (That would be a dream crossing to the Bahamas by the way.) If we left Angel’s Cut at 7pm we could estimate our position on the rhumbline at any given time by multiplying the number of hours passed by our speed of 5kts and our ETA at Cat Cay would be ????
If you said anything close to 9.5 hours later or around 4:30am….you’d be exactly right!!! Congrats !!! You’re a navigator !!!
Generally speaking, there are “road signs” out in the water as well. That way you have a visual confirmation of when you’ve arrived at your intended destination. While the U.S. has the best marked and best maintained system of waterway navigational aids, (called ATONs, as in Aid To Navigation, in the boating world) the Bahamas don’t do as bad a job as some countries. Most of these markers are colored (red or green) and numbered so you know when you are approaching the first or last in a line at an inlet, channel, or where you might be in a waterway. While Cat Cay doesn’t have any channel markers, you have to navigate this inlet by sight. In contrast, Bimini to the North, is marked by lighted red and green buoys numbered 1 for the green and 2 for the red. When numbered, Greens are odd and reds are even.
In this day and age, GPS and chart plotters have made navigation even simpler. Our chartplotter is capable of displaying our course, our speed though the water, speed over ground, heading and our position on a chart simultaneously. It’s always a good idea to have a non electronic backup method, and use it underway, in the event of a catastrophic failure though. That’s where D/R comes in to save the day.
Things we fixed…..(the last few things on this list were more like upgrades)
Both heads (toilets)…..rebuilt the pumps, replaced the intake and output lines, replaced the water intake strainers, siphon breaks..rebuilt the forward head pump multiple times before finally replacing the entire housing…
Diesel—adjusted the Valve lash, oil changes, used high dose diesel cleaning solution treatment four times due to contamination of our injector pump…(this wasn’t an issue we caused, it was caused by a boat yards poor work in NC)
Patch the Genoa Sail sunbrella sacrificial cover
Racor filter / housing rebuild and filter change
Galley Faucet….this began to leak and reached a critical point while moored in Key West…..the faucet was so old that the owner of a plumbing supply warehouse, who was in the family business for 50 years said he hadn’t seen one of these in 35 or 40 years!!!
Galley Sink….at some point in our boat’s history….someone (possibly a sadist) used 3M 5200 to seal the sink to the countertop…..for those of you unfamiliar with 5200, it’s a great product for installing things you want to be bulletproof…..it’s not so great for something you might want to remove….ever……even employees at boatyards groan audibly when they learn they have to remove something installed with 5200….it has been nicknamed by some “death paste”. The upside is, since the edge of our sink was so severely damaged during removal, we had a custom single bowl sink fabricated and installed …..if anyone needs such a replacement let us know we have a great source for these sinks !!!
Drinking water inline filters (x3)
Aft head cold water faucet replacement
Power switch for VHF radio….which completely deteriorated and fell apart in my hand when we went to switch on the radio to check the weather in the Dry Tortugas…..
Zinc replacement x2
Remove lines from props ….five times….one with a crab trap on it….no bonus crabs though….
Tune up, recommission the diving air compressor and change the breathing air filter
Replace outboard prop and kill switch
Refrigerator coolant line unclogging
Replace Aft cabin fan….then replace defective blade….then fan died…again…ugh
Unclog Lazarette drains
Unclog sink drain x2
Fix aft head intake leaking seacock
Replace steering sheave and pins
Replace Hatch solar fans
Replace / upgrade anchor to a Mantus 85lb galvanized anchor
Upgrade Battery cables, install battery bank monitors, replace underrated/melted battery selector switch and install a main fuse for battery banks
Install new Wind instruments and displays
Painted the salon and V-berth interior
Repair salon sole soft spots
Shower stall refinish……
This all added up to about $12k for the year in boat upkeep….they say to anticipate 10% per year of your boat’s value for upkeep so we are a little high but fingers crossed that goes down next year……
When we arrived in Key West, after our overnight stay at Looe Key Reef,… (See that post here …. https://learntoliveaboard.com/2016/07/scenes-from-along-the-way-to-dry-tortugas-via-key-west/ ) we spent about 90 minutes navigating the entrance to Key West from the South. There was no shortage of small and large traffic including a departing cruise ship. We had called ahead and arranged for a mooring ball in the Garrison Bight Mooring Field.
We made our way around Fleming Key, which is the home of the U.S. Army Special Forces Undwerwater Training Center which is located at it’s north tip. The island also has a waste water treatment system and a Dolphin Training Center !! You do see a conspicuous number of dolphins cruising between the boats anchored on the west side of the island. There are A LOT of boats anchored on either side of the channel in the area between Key West proper and the channel on the west side. There are a great many people who find it cheaper to buy a boat and live at anchor than to rent an apartment or commute from the upper keys when working in Key West.
This was the first time we tried our tactic of picking up a mooring ball from the stern swim platform (Kim’s idea). I have to say, it worked really well and avoided all the extra stress and strain of leaning over the bow to snag the pennant. The bow of Kitty Hawk is about 5′ above the water line. Our initial concern was that the weight of the boat would make getting the pennant from the stern to the bow impractical. We used our “Grab-n-Go” (a special spring loaded, gated, stainless steel hook that attaches to an extendable boat hook) to grab the pennant and lead it forward to our lines. Here’s a diagram for anyone unfamiliar with a mooring ball….
The 2′ to 3′ white, floating ball, usually has a blue line running horizontally around it, is attached to the bottom by a piece of heavy chain. A steel rod or chain runs through the ball to the chain that leads to the bottom. At the top, is a steel loop or large eyebolt that attaches to the pennant. On the bottom of the body of water there might be a large concrete anchor or really anything heavy, sometimes there is a helix style pin screwed directly into the sea or lake bottom. The pennant is the (normally) yellow tether, usually a heavy nylon rope with a loop covered by chafe guard on the free end.
The mooring ball was about $300 for a month, as opposed to $1700 a month for a dock in Key West. If you plan to stay on a ball more than 17 days it is actually more affordable to just pay for a month on the ball. The downside is that the mooring field is a 15-20 minute (sometimes pretty wet) dinghy ride in to the city dock and about a mile walk to downtown. We didn’t find that too bad most days since we counted the walking as our exercise for the day.
We spent just over three weeks in Key West not counting our small break for our trip to Dry Tortugas.
Here’s some shots from Key West…..I took these with my iPhone 4S….I either need a new phone or a dedicated camera…..
I would have liked to enlarge these remaining photos but the software for the blog seems to be wiping out the rest of the post every time I try to do so. Sorry…I’m afraid you’ll have to click on them to see greater detail…..
While we were in Key West the “America 2.0” was in port making daily sunset cruises and short local charters. She’s a model of the original Schooner America that won the first America’s Cup in 1851. She’s 105′ overall with 3600’sq of sail. She also has freestanding carbon fiber masts.
There’s a pretty cool story about the restoration of the fort in Key West. Construction for the fort was begun in 1845. It was originally constructed by the army and used heavily in 1898 in the Spanish American War. In 1947 the fort was turned over to the U.S. Navy and was used for storage. It was basically a dumping ground and most of the historical parts of the fort were buried. In 1968 a local named Howard England recruited volunteers to excavate the fort walls and restore the cannons. It was discovered that the fort contained the largest number of Civil War Cannons anywhere. England invested ten years restoring the fort. Thanks to his efforts and his volunteers nicknamed “sandhogs” the fort went from abandoned dumping ground to tourist attraction with a beach covering 87 acres.
Some photos from around the fort ……
Next time ….Key West Part Deux…..or part drunk?