compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Engines die
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

Spanish Wells, Bahamas 5.14.07

Marina entrance Turks and Caicos
Marina entrance Turks and Caicos

Search for fuel

When last we left you, gentle reader, we were fresh off the reef at Ambergris Cay, Turks and Caicos. We carefully picked our way across the Caicos Bank, one person on the bow, one sitting on the dodger and one at the wheel. Colorfully outfitted with parasols against the sun and with polarized sun glasses to see the bottom, we steered among the coral heads in 12 feet of water for most of the day. Toward sunset we arrived at Provo, the big town on Caicos. We anchored out and learned just how bouncy the seas can become on a shallow bank with huge fetch. Kia Orana had hoped to travel directly from Puerto Rico (a US port) to North Carolina (also a part of the US) We also expected to sail. Unfortunately the weather gods have been consistently against us and we had motored so much that the on board fuel was clearly not going to carry us the whole way.

Refueling in Turks and Caicos
Refueling in Turks and Caicos

A voice on the radio informed us that Provo was "a commercial port" and we could only get fuel deeper into the banks at Southside Marina where we could also check in. After much more motoring slowly amongst the coral heads, we found the entrance to the marina and docked. After finally hunting up the proprietor, we found he could not sell us gas until we checked in and we could check in at Caicos Marina another 10 miles into the bank. Off to Caicos marina. More coral heads. Dock full. Wait for space. Wait for proprietor. Wait for Customs to drive over and check in. Wait for fuel cart to be refilled. Fill tank and jerry jugs with gas. Start driving out across the bank back towards Provo. By now the hour grown so late, we could only find a cay to hide behind for the night part way to Provo. Beautiful water. Clear and soft. Nice to swim and get a break from the drone of the engine, but no progress towards the Chesapeake Bay.

The next day, as soon as the sun was high enough to avoid coral, we were off again to the Northwest. Back to the routine of 6 hours on, 6 hours off, switch engines and record log data every two hours. By the time Susie and I were up for our 2am to 8am shift there were thunder storms all around. A spectacular show with lightening lighting up towering cumulus from the inside. Lightening streaking from cloud to cloud and, somewhat more ominously, streaking from cloud to ocean. The clouds completely eliminated all light from the skies and our only view of where we were going was by the brilliant white flashing all around. The radar gave us some illusion of control as we attempted to escape the moving cells at our top speed of 5 knots.

Squally weather Turks and Caicos
Squally weather

By dawn the lightening was down considerably and the sun quickly dissolved the remaining clouds and it was another beautiful day in paradise. Flat seas. Clear blue water. Clear blue sky. No wind. The only excitement came in the afternoon when a large freighter approached from the port quarter. No problem. Alter a little to port, let him pass and then back to starboard to resume course. Susie was taking a picture of the retreating boat when suddenly a very wet (and not too happy) Liz appeared from the cabin wondering if we had altered course. Dick appeared in similar condition carrying wet bedding. Out came mattress, mattress pad, sheets, pillows, and clothes until the whole boat was decorated like a gypsy caravan with the drying contents of the starboard cabin. It seems that the hatch was open and scooped up several gallons of sea water from the wake of the freighter onto the sleeping yachtsmen. Not funny. Not at all funny. All this stuff is now soaked in sea water and will take up moisture again until it is thoroughly rinsed in fresh water and then re-dried. Not funny.



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Engines die

Frieghter which soaked starboard cabin
Frieghter which soaked starboard cabin

We motored on through the rest of the day, pulling in all the laundry and bedding as night began to fall. We motored on up the Exuma Sound to Rainbow Cay. This is all along the island of Eleuthera which is part of the Bahamas. About 2 miles wide at the widest. At least 50 miles long. By the night watch, the lightening was back but this time most of it was behind us and we were much less worried about it. Plus, we got to sail a bit when squalls came by and we were relaxed enough to enjoy the light show. We dropped anchor in the late afternoon at Rainbow Cay to wait for the tides so we could get through Current Cut out of the Bight of Eleuthera for the passage up to the Abacos. As soon as the anchor was down we were attacked by squadrons of mosquitos. Everyone doing a jig batting at mosquitos while we lower the anchor and test it. Big scramble to get inside and put up the screens and chase down the bugs that followed us in. OK, maybe a little funny.

Hatchet Bay, Eleuthra Island
Entrance to Hatchet Bay, Eleuthra Island

The netting held the buggers at bay until, in the morning, the winds were up and the boat started banging in the rising chop. We spent an hour or so in the calm waters of Hatchet Bay. By this time it's Sunday and we haven't had any weather reports for a while and we hoped to get some news before we left. Hatchet Bay has an entrance as narrow as I've ever seen and then a big open, shallow bay to hide in. It does not have WiFi. We decided to make for the cut relying on the fact that two of the three data sources had us at the cut at low water and we should make it through. We exited the cut like a cork from a champagne bottle. Several knots of current with us out toward the Northeast Providence Channel and then onward! To Great Abaco and within spitting distance of Florida. Carried onward by our faithful little pair of 9.9 Yamaha outboards we were heading out toward Egg Island when the port motor started making a weird sound. We decided to down anchor and investigate. When the other engine was put in reverse to set the anchor, the jury rig holding the engine down slipped to the side and allowed it to kick up into the ropes used to lift it when not in use. Liz went over the side to free the prop from the lines and was no sooner on board than Dick went in to investigate the original noise in the port engine. He managed to add gear oil and tighten the prop but the sound wouldn't go away.
New Arch under construction
Dick gives Kia Orana a tow
No problem, we've got two engines and a big reason for the trip was to replace the aging engines. Down starboard engine and we resume the steady 5 knot progress toward the US. Weather is such that we expect to hide on the Abaco Bank for a window to cross the Gulf stream for Fort Pierce in Florida and hope to nurse the remaining engine up the ICW to the Chesapeake. A few miles out, bad noises from the gearbox of engine two. Time to turn tail and return to fishing port of Spanish Wells on a little Cay off of the northern end of Eleuthrera Island. We lashed the dinghy to the side of the cat and drove it at a steady three knots the 10 miles back into the protection of a mooring, arriving just before dark.

Marine railway at Spanish Wells
Kia Orana does not need the rail

We have removed one of the engines and dinghied it in to the Yamaha dealer/mechanic here and the prognosis is not good. It may be possible to get a new gearbox in Florida shipped in and resume progress but this is a very old outboard of a model which is no longer made. We shall see. The mechanic's instant diagnosis was not encouraging. He will tear into it tomorrow and let us know. Basically, he was trying to give (in his charming local English) a message similar to that given by his professional brother in Martinique "C'est grille!' That's the bad news. The good news is: due to the breakdown we didn't sail into the unsettled weather that covers the Bahamas. Also Spanish Wells is a delightful place. Basically a lobstering village of under 2000 fisherman, the homes are well kept and decorated by lovely gardens and a world class collection of seaside kitsch. Lots of marine services, good grocery stores and a well protected and quiet harbor. The crew is warm, happy and well fed and the only complaints heard regard the expense of repairs.

New Arch under construction
Spanish Wells is beautiful


Susie and Lance

S/V Kia Orana

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