Sunday, December 25, 2011

Update Friday December 23, 2011

Left Miami at 0615 for the Bahamas, heading to North Rock just north of Bimini. I hooked a nice Dorado and got him within 20 feet of the boat. I could see him just below us when he started to dive, getting too anxious I tightened the drag too much and he broke the 50 pound test line… We got to the banks about at 1630 and headed east to Mackie Shoal and then to the Tongue of the Ocean. It was a pretty uneventful crossing, with one sailboat coming at us and turning across our bow about 0100. We passed the shoal buoy seeing it only on radar as it hasn’t been lit in years. We stopped to assist another boat with engine trouble and offered to tow him, he elected to wait for another boat that was coming back with a tool that he could use to repair the fuel system. We continued on when the other boat got close and all was well. We passed into the ocean again and continued on to Frazer Hog where we planned to take a mooring. We anchored up near a beach using the moon and starlight to see the bottom behind a point and got some sleep and waited for dawn. We woke about 0930 and headed up the channel to the moorings. We took one close to shore and near our friends around 1100. The men took a couple of dinghies and went around to Chub to check in. All was going well and we socialized and went to bed about 2000. I could see the chain of the mooring wrapped around the 2 ton concrete block and thought all was well though I didn’t dive on the mooring due to the depth and the strong current.

The Day After

We are on a good mooring now at the Berry Islands Club. Starting to sleep a little easier now after the mooring broke that first night. We have been here almost a week waiting for a decent window to cross to Nassau. The club is actually closed but the manager has the water system and generator going for the boats that are here.

We had an easy crossing from Miami where we had spent almost two weeks waiting to cross. Then we sailed and motor-sailed across the stream and the banks. We got in to anchor at about 0400 and dropped the hook and slept for a few hours after the 22 hour run from the Miami. About 1100 that morning we had taken a mooring on what looked like a good one. I could see that the chain was around the 2 ton concrete block and looked to be secure. We took the dingy over to Chub Cay and went to the airport to check in. All seemed well when we went to bed about 2100. Then at about 0400 I felt the boat hitting the bottom. The second time it hit I was pulling on clothes and looked out to see the shore a few boat lengths away. I started the engine but we were already in shallow water. Chris helped me get the dingy and the anchor in it and I ran the anchor out till we had all the chain out. We winched it in until it bit and was taught so that we would not run up onto the rocky shoreline.
 The boat stopped about a boat length away from shore and was in maybe 4 feet of water on a falling tide. We were stuck good. I had issued a mayday when I got back and had the anchor set. Then later a securite to ask for assistance; but at 0430 I doubt anyone was awake. I took the dingy out and pounded on Randy’s boat and told him what was happening. He helped me set the second anchor and then a third. The boat was secure but the tide was falling and we had no way to get free before high tide. A couple with a nearby house shone a spotlight on us and later offered help.

By sunrise I had all the boats helping us and had put out a message on the SSB radio and asked that person to relay our situation especially back home. At this point I wasn’t sure if we could save the boat. The radios did bring another boater around and I later found out that Chris Parker had called Jeanne to let her know what was happening. We arranged to get a local boat to pull us off at high tide but that wouldn’t be for several more hours. All I could do now was wait, as the boat kept leaning over as the tide fell, eventually the rail was about 6 inches under water and the depth was about two and a half feet. I kept watch for leaks but only saw a minor amount of water get into the boat. Slowly the tide rose and the winds had abated somewhat during the day. Overnight when the mooring let go the winds were gusting to 27 knots.

When the tide was finally high the depth was still only 4 feet. We tried to pull it out into deep water but couldn’t budge the boat. We had a forth anchor tied to two halyards to keep the boat heeled. Someone on shore, who has sailed these waters for many years, told us to pull off with the halyards. I wasn’t sure that would work or if we’d break the mast, but the only other way was to wait for the higher high tide at 0300. That wasn’t a good option so we attached the power boat to the halyards and he pulled. The boat heeled way over and took off for the deeper water. We had to stop and release the anchors holding us and then pulled again and we were in deep water. I started the engine and slowly motored out as we checked for leaks. I slowly motored to a new looking ball that we were told was recently installed.
Tying off to that buoy, I backed on it several times to see if it would give way. After 4 nights on it hasn’t let go but I am still nervous about it.

Anyways I will be off to Nassau on Saturday with 6 other boats and will have company should anything happen. I have dived on the boat and the only damage I can see is a small split in the bottom off the rudder and missing bottom paint. I plan to see if I can get the boat hauled in Nassau to inspect it better and do any needed repairs and touch up the bottom paint. This must be what they mean by “another day in paradise”.
That night we had a little party to relax and enjoy after the days frenzied efforts to save the boat. This is a picture of some of the many people who helped me save our boat that day. All fellow cruisers and Howard who looks after the Berry Islands Club and used his boat to pull us out by the masthead.

I am now in Nassau at a dock at a dollar a foot with electricity and water and finally got a decent night’s sleep. I was awake often during the nights on the mooring to check that we hadn’t broken another one and were drifting away.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sailing South 2011 - 2012

I had a good talk with the CBP officer today who explained several things about cruising permits.. He gave me a paper stating info about renewing the permit... basically it comes down to only resident aliens can renew a foreign flagged vessel cruising permit if the boat was made in the states... If you are not a resident alien then the only way you can renew is to have your permit expire while you are out of the country for at least 15 days before you return... you can turn in your permit when you leave and have it cancelled and the reapply when you return... but make sure you are out for the 15 days and they will ask for papers to show you checked into the foreign port as proof

I will be leaving St Augustine in the morning and plan to take 7 to 10 days to get to Ft Pierce.
The batteries were dead this morning and I suspect I left something switch on... it was raining with thunder and lightning till about 9:30 and then with a little sun peeking through the solar recharged the batteries enough so we could start the engine... the refer was finicky about running but by the afternoon it seems to be working again... will need to keep an eye on it and the switches we leave on... I may need to get a third battery and dedicate it to engine starting only

I am now in Vero Beach for US thanksgiving... I plan to make my trademark Jambalaya
After checking in and out tomorrow I will head for Ft Lauderdale and then it will either be south to the keys with a cruising permit or east to the Bahamas without one

Still in Vero Beach Fl. now and will be sailing farther south soon... May stop in Lake Worth and get another battery sized 4D for the boat for additional reserve capacity when I entertain later into the night

So while debating about getting another battery I had to measure up the space... anyways I took of the caps on my 2 year old batteries and find low electrolyte levels... a summer of solar charging took a toll on the liquid levels... now an excursion to find distilled water and to see if they come back to par... To be continued....

My batteries appear to be back up to par after a long day motoring down the ICW
That will save me a few dollars
Had a great sail from St Lucie to Ft Lauderdale left at 07:00 and sailed into the night and arrived here at 20:30.

I am getting tired of Ft Lauderdale and need to get moving... If the winds abate a little I will sail south to Miami in the morning to Coconut Grove. Sailing inside to there are 25 or so bridges and all are on a schedule with the last being only 54 feet... The schedules are such that I will have to wait for each successive opening... Well I am off to get some groceries and rhum and wine for the trip.

I am going to go down to South Miami tomorrow morning. The winds have been blowing hard out of the N to NE for the last few days so unless there is some moderation today we will stay inside and deal with the 20 or so bridges south of here...
Will check in and out to the Bahamas when we arrive... Looks like there may be a 1 - 2 day weather window on Wed/Thurs. to cross to Bimini... Wish me luck...