What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Arrive in Cuba…Part 3 of the Cuba Series

 

So, there’s been a few changes to the U.S. administrative aspects for visiting Cuba. That doesn’t mean the visits are completely over. People from the US have been visiting Cuba for decades before some restrictions were eased in 2010. The important thing to remember is that nothing lasts forever. You could, and still can in some instances, visit Cuba without supporting the Cuban government. There has been a blanket policy instituted prohibiting private vessels and aircraft from visiting but this has yet to be tested. It seems a bit discriminatory, to me, to allow guided tours by companies and yet prevent private citizens from visiting for the same licensed purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

Based on my conversations with the citizenry, the Cuban people are weary of their government running every aspect of their lives but live in fear of being jailed for speaking their minds.  Visits to Cuba and the expenditure of foreign dollars at places controlled by the government (i.e. Cruise ship areas and many of the tourist traps in downtown Havana) only perpetuate the system that oppresses its own people and supports similar systems elsewhere.  Cruise ship fees go directly to the government and military.  Almost all the shops and attractions around the cruise ship ports are government controlled.  We were very cautious to only visit private businesses, which are only the very small family run style and the individual owners keeps the proceeds. Marina Hemingway is controlled by a private group and is the only marina where you can currently clear in when coming from the US.

Cuba is the only country I have ever visited, where, despite the constant touting of their healthcare system by some, you continually meet adults with completely treatable conditions which they are not “permitted” to have surgery or other remedies to correct. ¬†The most notable was an otherwise perfectly health young bartender who had suffered from frequent infections of his tonsils since he was a small child. ¬†He was frequently unable to speak for a week or more. ¬†The only treatment he could obtain was a constant supply of antibiotics which will eventually lead to bacterial resistance and a host of other side effects. He was also not allowed to leave the country for surgery.

I’ve read a lot of complaints about the tightening of the visitation regulations. ¬†Most seem rather selfish and short sighted. Imagine if the employees at any business were denigrated, oppressed, threatened, denied healthcare, and generally mistreated by the management ? Would you still patronize them and line the pockets of their oppressors? If Europeans and Canadians were allowed to go, and went, at times supporting such a system, would you use that as an excuse to visit through that form of tourism anyway ?

US Travelers can still visit Cuba, subject to specific conditions:

Family visits
Official U.S. government business
Journalistic activity–you must be employed full time by a recognized media outlet….unfortunately bloggers don’t qualify
Professional research and meetings
Educational activities (like those from U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools)
Religious activities
Support for the Cuban people—this will hopefully be the license that allows private vessels to visit again.
Humanitarian projects

If this program doesn’t work out we will have to wait till the tide turns and we can more easily visit Cuba again (without supporting this current Cuban government) let’s still be ready……

You’ve done all your research, you have the USCG permit email in your hot little hands, the boat is ready to go and there is a weather window approaching right on cue. ¬†Why are you so nervous then?

Over the decades there has been a lot of misinformation floating around about Cuba, some even correct information attributed to the incorrect source or cause.  Some people believe it is crime ridden, dirty and unsafe. I have always judged places I visit by the character of the people and not the spit and polish state of their buildings and streets.  By this metric, Cuba could not be a better place to visit.  It certainly has infrastructure problems. Sidewalks are broken and usually poorly maintained, if still usable.  Roads are potholed, some are dirt, some (most) have horse drawn wagons on them, even the interstate.  The people are kind, honest and humble.  Cuba is more than Havana, as the US is more than NYC.  Some think Cuba must be like any American Cuban neighborhood they may have visited.  It seems that Cuban/American culture has become so commingled and diluted by American culture that it has become unique. The lack of similarities were surprising.

Back to arrival preparations…..be sure and take a stack of $5 bills for tips, I took about $100 in fives. ¬†You will meet Marina attendants and other employees who will expect small gratuities. ¬†Don’t change any money until after you are fully checked in and don’t go to the hotel or the bank when you are ready to change it.

If you like to trade things, take some MLB hats or shirts, some American beer, some bourbon or other American products that aren’t imported to Cuba. ¬†They make great gifts when someone really helps you out or just to trade and save a few bucks. ¬†We traded a case of Budweiser we bought for $15 stateside for a case of Cristal Cuban beer which was $24 a case. We gave away hats and MLB shirts to people we made friends with around the marina. That didn’t hurt when it came time to stock up on rum, coffee and cigars as we were pointed to the best sources.

As I previously mentioned, the entrance to Hemingway Marina is tricky and exposed to North winds, so you’ll have to time your arrival appropriately. ¬†The channel is a bit narrow and there was a sunken boat on the east side of the channel in about 15′ of water when we were there. ¬†If it’s your first time it will look a little confusing as you come into the inlet. ¬†The markers are on poles rather than the more traditional buoy. ¬†That makes them hard to see from a distance to be sure you are lined up. The last green mark before the turn to the customs dock (the dock, actually just a wall, is painted blue and I marked it with a blue line in the image below.) the last green mark is actually on shore and obstructed by some large growth. ¬†The seawall on your port side is the edge of the channel, but I still wouldn’t cut it too close. The channel appears to drastically narrow and in truth the last red mark does narrow it slightly but it’s not as bad as it looks. It would have greatly reduced the stress had I known the last green was on the corner of the land by the Customs dock, rather than just being confused about where it might be lurking.

 

Once you round the corner and tie up on your port side, the Customs officials, who were all much younger (early 20’s) and friendlier than we anticipated, come aboard. ¬†A Nurse comes aboard with Customs for a few minutes to take temperatures and generally check the crew for communicable diseases. ¬†The process was quick and the search was very, very minimal. ¬†The customs officers won’t accept or expect a tip, although some might accept the offer of some coffee or a soda.

Keep in mind these canals were dug out and poured in the 40’s or 50’s the concrete must have escaped from the forms during pouring and there are some large extensions that extend into the canals by 5-6′ in places at depths of 3-5′. Stay as close to the center of the canal as you can until you’re ready to tie up.

If you can, it’s a good idea when you make your reservations to request the first canal and the berths along that wall are numbered in the 100 range. ¬†We were in slip 124. ¬†The restrooms and a small snack bar are located where you make the turn into that canal, so wifi and restrooms will be convenient.

Speaking of wifi….you have to purchase wifi cards, similar to the old prepaid phone cards in the US. ¬†You can get the cards at the snack bar, the Chinese restaurant, the Yacht Club or the Mexican restaurant. ¬†Then you go to a place with wifi access, the snack bar, the Chinese restaurant, which is very good, or the Yacht Club and log in. ¬†You get an hour for $1.50CUC.

As you approach the wall in the canal, the dockmaster will probably be there to meet you. ¬† The dockmaster will hint around for a tip. I found that giving out a few $5 tips when appropriate makes later interactions much easier and the people you might need help or guidance from are obviously much more willing to help. ¬† The marina electrician has to plug your boat in and it’s a good idea to give him a small tip because you will have power outages and he will be the one fixing the power pedestal.

Next the agriculture officer will come around to inspect your food stores and make sure you don’t have any risky vegetables or meat. ¬†A Doctor from the health ministry will come aboard to verify your holding tank is closed off from discharge (they just ask but don’t inspect). ¬†After the paperwork is done both of these agents will say “we would appreciate a small tip if you’d like to give one but it isn’t necessary”, we tipped them both and they checked in on us three times during our visit to make sure we didn’t need anything.

After that you are all checked in and ready to see Cuba !!!

The store, marked as the “Ship’s Chandlery” on the satellite image is the best place¬†to change money. ¬†You can get .9 CUC for each dollar rather than .87 and paying any other penalties and if you have Cuban CUC’s left at the end, Jose the store manager, will buy them back. Jose is also a great resource for meeting other people who sell rum, cigars, coffee, souvenirs and conduct tours at much cheaper prices than the stores and other organizations. ¬†Plus you’ll know your money is going to the person and not the government.

There are two currencies in Cuba.  The CUP, the peso, is for Cubans.  The CUC is the tourist currency.  One CUC is equal to 24CUP.  Tourists are not legally allowed to have or exchange in pesos.  All businesses accept both.  Some, that charge in pesos will charge tourists in CUC one for one.  Most will adjust the exchange rate and you can eat and drink very inexpensively.  One afternoon three of us had lunch and beers for about $8.

Next time we get around Cuba and buy some goodies……

 

It just raises and lowers the anchor….how complex can it be ????

It recently occurred to me that our windlass could probably use some attention. ¬†After all, it has served us well for a few seasons and hasn’t received any TLC. Our prior boat was much smaller and didn’t have a windlass. Since I didn’t have any experience with any sort of windlass maintenance, I turned to YouTube. ¬†Imtra, the company that manufacters the Lofrans Tigres Windlass we have, has a channel with a detailed six step maintenance tutorial. ¬†All seven videos were a total of about 30 minutes….easy peasy, right ?

It seemed simple enough, so the next day I dove into the disassembly, cleaning and regreasing. In the far left side of the diagram, on the end, you can see the Circlips, which are small circular washer type safety stops to prevent an item on a threaded shaft from falling off if you loosen it too much or it vibrates loose. Those were missing, so I found and ordered some from Grainger. ¬†It seemed that the end of the driveshaft had been damaged at some point and the slot for the clips was bent closed……40 minutes of filing later, the groove was fixed.

So, working our way inward, once the clutch release is spun off you can remove the outer clutch cone, lower the chain stripper out of the way by removing the aft mounting bolt, remove the chain gypsy and the inner clutch cone. Our inner clutch cone was deformed and jammed on the driveshaft.

So, our inner clutch cone wouldn’t come off. ¬†In the video it slipped right off for cleaning, greasing and replacement, not so much in the real world. ¬†At some point in the history of our windlass it must have had a lot of stress on the chain without a snubber line to absorb the force. It was bent and slightly split where the keystock fits into the driveshaft. ¬†The stainless steel shaft was also slightly bulged, deformed and the keystock was bent. ¬†So…out comes the Dremel….90 minutes of careful cutting and the clutch cone was off…..plus ordering a new one for $74 and waiting for delivery…..plus a new gasket for the motor housing $22….

I found a great new source for parts….¬†https://www.pleasureboatmarine.com they were quick to respond and the parts arrived in two days.

Once the new inner clutch cone arrived I had to file the driveshaft to remove the bulges.  That was another hour of fitting the bronze cone, and filing and fitting, since bronze is softer than stainless it made yellow marks on the shaft where it made contact which made it easier to know where to file.

After that was greased and installed the rest went back together pretty easily with the addition of the safety clips on the driveshaft.

Next, I removed the motor housing cover. ¬†This is held in place by two threaded rods that fit into the main body of the windlass secured by acorn, or cap nuts on the outside of the cover. ¬†Our cover however, had a bead of caulk around the edge making it extra difficult to remove….so add forty minutes to the process…….

It appeared this caulk was necessary because the nitrile cord gasket had been installed backward and the raised edge was in the groove of the cover rather than facing outward toward the main body of the unit. ¬†This removal process was made slightly more difficult by the proximity of the standing rigging for the staysail. ¬†I had to loosen the acorn nuts, pry the cover loose, then remove the rods and then take the cover off at an angle and use a rubber mallet to “encourage” it.

Since the housing is aluminum and the bolts and acorn nuts are stainless the cover should have plastic “Delrin” washers to keep the metals from touching as they will interact and cause corrosion. ¬†Those washers were also missing.

The motor housing was in good shape, the wiring was run properly under the motor and the terminals were clean and secure.   I cleaned the motor and applied a light coat of oil to inhibit corrosion.

 

Once it was reassembled, I tested the rope rode drum side (far right in the diagram), the manual override (where the vertical handle is) and we loaded our new, 250′ of anchor chain into the boat.

 

need one ?

The 30 minute videos turned into about 4 hours of actual labor and a few days of waiting for parts…boat life !!!

As an added bonus, our windlass remote control has stopped functioning in reverse mode so that’s next on the list…..

A season at the dock…..Part I

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.

http://www.steam-brite.com/shurflo-34007-heat-sink-cover-inch-continuous-pump-longer-life-cool-clip-p-11287.html

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

Eleuthera…spiders and seaglass….and breaking stuff

After our harrowing experience at Little San Salvador we made our way to Rock Sound, Eleuthera later that day and anchored for a few weeks….it ended up being longer then anticipated due to some clumsiness on my part.

I had decided that we were due for an oil change. ¬†We were way under on engine hours but over on the time frame for an oil¬†change, so I decided to change the oil and filter while we were here. ¬†Well, long story short, I pumped out the used oil, without spilling a drop (which I should have known was a bad sign) but couldn’t find my slimline strap wrench to remove the filter. ¬†So, I went to the local NAPA and bought a slightly larger wrench that I hoped would work. ¬†Unfortunately, the width of the new wrench snagged the oil cooler line and ruptured it….uh-oh…..bad weather was forecast for the upcoming weekend and after the Little San Salvador incident this was almost too much to deal with….essentially we were going to be without an engine until we received a new line….which in the Bahamas could take weeks……and it did…..we spent about three and a half weeks total and it turned out to be a good thing because we had time to see things and visit our favorite spots again and again.

Part of the moral to this story is ….take plenty of spare parts when you venture away from the U.S. ¬†We have a cruiser’s kit onboard but it doesn’t include oil cooler lines. ¬†I won’t make that mistake again……

 

here’s a satellite image of Eleuthera. ¬†The pin is Rock Sound. The Glass Window Bridge is in the skinny part of the island just north of Gregory Town.
Image courtesy of Google Maps

We considered renting a car, but ran into the insurance issue again, so we hired a driver (Lyle) to give us a tour of the island. ¬†He was a super nice guy and was full of knowledge about spots on the island. ¬†The price wasn’t bad, eight hours for $125 plus he knew a great place for lunch.

The Glass Window bridge is in northern Eleuthera and is one of the few places you can see the Atlantic and the banks side of the ocean at the same time. ¬†It’s more impressive when the weather is unsettled but still pretty cool.

The east side of the “glass window bridge” on the east side of Eleuthera see the video on my Facebook page….

 

the west side of the Glass Window….

 

 

Me at the cliffs….east side of northern Eleuthera

 

 

Long view of the Cotton(Ceiba) Silk Tree

 

A Cotton Silk or Ceiba tree

 

Cotton Silk Tree…upview

 

Beautiful beachfront church in Rock Sound

 

An abandoned 1950’s fire truck stored behind a Kalik beer warehouse….

 

In the spider cave….Kim doesn’t look worried at all….

 

We found this little guy dead on the side of the road….that’s about a 2″ Gatorade lid for scale…..maybe he was hit by a car…..I wonder how badly the car was damaged?

 

The “Boiling Hole” near the Spider Cave

The “boiling hole” is essentially a blue hole or a cave that is connected to the ocean. ¬†At times, if the tide rises or falls rapidly, the water will churn and bubble. Many of the early residents believed these holes were homes to sea monsters. ¬†Animal and fish carcasses would occasionally surface in these holes after hurricanes which only reinforced that belief.

Kim descends to her spidery doom….
The spiders are here !!!

Kim looks apprehensive …..

The beaches on the east side of Eleuthera were among some of the most beautiful and isolated….there was also a TON of seaglass…..

 

The spoils of a couple of hours of seaglass hunting…we found a few black pieces which are the third most rare ….
Believe it or not….that’s the moon

 

We found a great little restaurant and resort on the east side of Eleuthera across from Rock Sound. ¬†It was owned by a wonderful lady named Rose Gibson. She was super friendly, would pick us up when she saw us walking around town, took us for an impromptu island tour one day while fish shopping and was a great cook !!! There are five cabins on her property that are on a hillside overlooking the ocean…..

Here’s a link to her website…..if you go tell her Brett and Kim sent you !!!

http://www.northsideinneleuthera.com


Remnants of the former Cotton growing industry spring up all over the island ……

There were thousands of these little land crabs running back and forth between the foliage and the surf….dropping off their eggs

 

A cropped version of this photo of Kim was used in Cruising Outpost Magazine’s weekly online photo collection….

Mike arrives and brings a double rainbow….and has a Kalik !!

Since Hurricane Irma’s recent swing past the Bahamas you’ll be pleased to know that the islands here were largely untouched. We haven’t heard of any structural damage anywhere in Eleuthera.

Little San Salvador….Oh the horror !!!

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….

 

Image courtesy of Google Maps

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.

 

image courtesy of Google Maps

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?”

George Town, Great Exuma….there and back again

So, in early February we made the run from Little Farmers Cay to George Town to send Mike home from that airport. ¬†We were sad to see Mike leave, but, he has a home and boat of his own. The palm fronds were taking over his yard and breaking out all of his windows (hahaha inside joke there)……

George Town is west of and adjacent to Elizabeth Harbor, which is bordered on its East side by Stocking Island. ¬†Stocking is the home to a few interesting sights. Boats in George Town tend to do what they call the “George Town shuffle”. ¬†As the wind changes directions the boats scurry from side to side of the harbor trying to hide from it to insure a smoother night’s sleep at anchor and a shorter, drier dinghy ride to shore. ¬†We are fortunate enough to weigh in at about two to three to three times¬†what the average sailboat weighs, so unless it’s blowing over 20 knots consistently and we are very exposed we sleep well at anchor no matter what. ¬†That weight, coupled with our 85lb Mantus anchor and our inventory of 300′ of 3/8″ chain tends to keep us in place and peaceful once we set the hook. ¬†It has the added bonus of allowing us to avoid anchoring close to the crowds all desperately seeking that protection.

The below image centers on Elizabeth Harbor…..with George Town in the lower left corner. ¬†One of the interesting features of G-Town is Lake Victoria. That’s the small lake in the center of town that is open to the harbor via a small overpass/tunnel that makes you feel like you’re on a small water ride at Disney. ¬†I could never get a straight answer from anyone about whether or not the lake access was manmade or natural and the bridge was simply added for vehicular access…..but my gut tells me the water access was cut for boats to enter and the bridge added afterward.

Satellite image courtesy of Google Maps

We spent ten days, a few before Mike’s flight and a few after. ¬†We had to get away from G-Town though, as it is crowded and was becoming more so as the cruiser’s regatta approached. There were over 400 boats by some accountings. ¬†Now, don’t get me wrong…it’s a huge harbor….but that’s still a lot of people and boats for a lifestyle we chose because of an ability to escape crowds….We met some great people in George Town, we just didn’t want to meet ALL of them in one week…..

We are asked about George Town a lot and the only way I can describe it is a “summercamp” (although technically in winter) for adult boaters. ¬†There are quotidian activities that made it feel a bit like groundhog day, …..volley ball, yoga, art classes, water aerobics and so forth. ¬†It’s ok in small doses for us, but that’s about it. Different strokes for different folks. ¬†There were some people who stayed there for the whole season and it is their entire destination every year.

We went back to George Town a few weeks later when two of my childhood friends (Bob & Tom) came to visit for a week. That’s right..in the Bahamas it’s……Brett’s childhood friends 2 Kim’s childhood friends 0 ….hahaha

Swim faster Bob …..it’s coming …..

At Peace n Plenty ……

 

There was some decent hiking to be done, some spear fishing and snorkeling in the George Town area. ¬†We even managed to get a dozen whelk (a catchall name for a variety of species snails) which we boiled, cleaned and dipped in garlic butter. ¬†I thought they tasted like chewy lobster….Kim disagreed…..the parts we had to clean off made great bait though….

A whelk of the variety which we feasted upon…..

 

and Tom caught this …….he was kind enough to call it a team effort …..

Yes it was as big as it looks ….about 20 pounds…even the locals were jealous of this one

 

Tom and Bob looking for Atlantis…..on the east side of Stocking Island….

The stone monument on Stocking Island east of George Town……view from the bottom

The view from the top…..

Me…..one foot in the dark and one in the light …..as usual

Tom, me and Bob……at the Chat n’ Chill Beach

Cordell Thompson of the Exumas Historical Society giving a talk about the history of the Exumas…….

Mutton Snapper!!!! Caught during our first stay with Mike…

The famous Peace n Plenty hotel…..it became our favorite place due to Jamaro, Emmitt and Tim (plus his adorable son Mason) the bartenders !!!!

Where’s that stone monument ? It’s over there ūüí™ūüĎą

The Exumas….or Neverland Part III aka Allen’s Cay

After the hustle and bustle of New Providence it was nice to know we’d be back out on the hook soon. ¬†We departed Palm Cay Marina shortly after Junkanoo and moved to Allen’s Cay, the northernmost island of the Exuma chain. Allen’s is known for its population of “prehistoric Iguanas.

 

(Above Image courtesy of Garmin BlueChart)

Image courtesy of Google Maps

 

 

Kim’s new friend…..

 

 

 

We lucked out when we arrived at Allen’s Cay. ¬†As we entered the cut, a power catamaran exited the small cove at the North end of West Allen’s Cay….you can partially see the armada of sailboats anchored in the north side between the two main parts of Allen’s Cay.

Kitty Hawk safely anchored at the SW Allen’s Cay Cove.

Things we fixed (aka broke) along the way….

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

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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 !!!

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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….

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Tune up, recommission the diving air compressor and change the breathing air filter

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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

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Replace Hatch solar fans

Replace / upgrade anchor to a Mantus 85lb galvanized anchor

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Upgrade Battery cables, install battery bank monitors, replace underrated/melted battery selector switch and install a main fuse for battery banks

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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……

 

   

Key West…..Part One

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.

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Image courtesy of Google Maps

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….

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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…..

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The Key West Lighthouse
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Kim in front of the Kapok tree aka Ceiba Tree considered sacred by the Mayans

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…..

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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.

 

imageKim with ¬†“shot cannon” at the entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor.

imageA cannon restored and mounted inside the fort.

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 ……

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Next time ….Key West Part Deux…..or part drunk?

So,….How much does it cost to live and travel on a Sailboat ????

Aspiring cruisers frequently ask the question “What does it cost to do this?” …..that’s tough to answer unless you keep records for a few months, at least. ¬† Plus it can be difficult since boats and their systems come in various sizes and levels of complexity. ¬†The larger the boat and the more systems you have on board the greater the associated costs. ¬†We feel like we live pretty well on Kitty Hawk. ¬†She has a nice balance of systems and amenities without feeling like you are camping ¬†on the water.

For us, generally speaking, we run between $3,000 and $4,000 per month. ¬†Some months if we don’t have an upgrade or repair and we anchor out more, we are closer to that $3k number. ¬†Some of our friends who cruised in the 1980’s have told us they could get by on as little as $300 per month !!! Looking back, my first car in 1982 cost me $400 !!!

Kim, fortunately, is becoming meticulous when it comes to documenting our expenses on a daily basis.  Now that we have a full year under our belts, I thought it was time to put all of her hard work together into a post.  Since the process of categorizing expenses has taken some time to refine, I decided to limit this first accounting to the last six months.  That should help to make this more understandable.

Unfortunately, the app we use to track these expenses can’t export the information. ¬†We have to use screen shots of the reports, so the resolution isn’t the best but you’ll be able to see how things break down percentage wise.

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It seems like the first half of the year is always the most expensive.  Since hurricane season starts on June 1, that tends to be the time when we get any professional assistance with any needed repairs started.  We also pay for our annual hurricane haulout reservation in May, which adds between $250 and $500 to the budget.  There was also about $2,000 of extra expenses, due to some poor work we had done in North Carolina in 2015, that not only required corrective repairs but caused some damages that needed repair also.  There are some front loaded services for the year that come up and we are in the process of dividing these up over the whole year. The average for this last six month period was about $4,480.00 per month.  Adjusting for the extra repairs this number should be more like $4,100.00.   I feel safe in saying that this number will continue to go down as we move forward.  Our rough numbers for the twelve month period was closer to $3,000 per month. I hope our upcoming years will be closer to that $3,000 mark, or less !!

Our largest category, Entertainment, covers anytime we eat out, away from the boat, or any other land based excursions (Parks, tours or the like).

The second largest, Monthly expenses, includes set, recurring expenses.  Things like XM Radio subscriptions, cell phones, our MiFi hot spot, DAN insurance, Boat/car/life insurance, personal property taxes and membership fees fall into this category (our old sailing club dues, our current marina association, Elks club, etc).

In third place we have Miscellaneous, that includes things like income taxes, laundry, health/vision, other supplies, fishing gear, scuba gear, and hotels.

Transportation includes, taxis, buses and rental cars.

Fuel includes both the diesel for the boat and gasoline for any vehicles we use along the way, plus the gas for the dinghy and dive compressor.

“Lowes” is our catch all category for any hardware store expense.

The Marina category covers any docking expenses or other fees incurred while at a Marina or private dock (Wifi, water, electricity etc).

The Alcohol category covers wine, beer or liquor that we buy to keep on the boat. (That 2% is much lower than anyone anticipated, I bet !!)

We will compile another report like this in another six months and include both periods to see how the expenses shape up once we have all the categories locked in.

Never fear….the Key West Post is still coming…..it’s still in the draft phase….