- September Surprises...
We left you as we were preparing for the edge of Hurricane Earl, promising
very high winds, but relatively dry weather, with Marsh Harbour being on the
"dry" side of his rotation. With all the easily removed stuff stowed below,
anything not easily removed firmly secured, and all possible windage
reduced, we went to bed confident that we could survive anything forecast.
As so often happens, all the best weather forecasting is just a guess, and
Earl was a total non-event. By dark, during the last of our preparations,
the wind was dying. It died further, and, indeed, the stars were out when
we went to bed. The worst that happened was that a brief shower woke us,
necessitating closing the hatch until my next check a couple of hours later
revealed clear skies and wind under 20 knots. Surprise!
One of our cruising buddies in the harbor had some difficulties with his
engine. In the course of trying to isolate the problem, he broke some
critical parts. Dad's Hardware Store, as my kids used to call my inordinate
amount of gear and supplies, the place they knew they could find anything
they needed, has become Dad's Chandlery and Engine Supply, so, of course, I
had a full set of injectors needed to get his boat back in operation. In
the course of going across the harbor to his boat to see how he was getting
along, just as I arrived at his boat, my 6HP outboard, the one we've been
using on our inflatable, died.
Symptoms were that it had a cooling problem. As I've successfully addressed
an exactly identical problem on our inflatable's usual power plant, that
didn't concern me much. The surprise was the blessing I had by having that
problem develop at his boat. A simple tow back to our home, and an engine
swap - to our usual 15HP engine - on the transom of our inflatable later, we
were back in business. However, had that same problem occurred, with the
same engine, when we were truly out in the wilderness in the Jumentos, I
might not be here writing this today, as we were literally many miles from
anyone during most of our excursions. Surprise!
I went out back to start up our Honda generator just before dark and, with
some horror, saw that the fuel tank's cap was gone. Analysis incicates that
the way we'd been securing our dinghy had allowed the line to contact the
cap in such a way as to loosen it, little by little, until it fell off.
Dad's Hardware to the rescue, after a frantic search through my various
stuff, failing until I reached my plumbing supplies. It wasn't pretty, but
it WOULD keep the water out of the fuel during a rainstorm, and a separate
solution would allow me to run it, albeit with a hypervigilant eye on the
sky, as it wasn't proven to be rainproof, even though it might have been.
With the frequent showers we were having, something more effective would be
needed. I resolved to go to the "real" hardware store to obtain a more
elegant replacement for my Rube Goldbergian stopgap the next day, after
first stopping at the Honda maintenance place to see if they might, on a
long shot, have a cap in stock.
However, one of our buddy boats (among the few remaining cruisers in the
harbor, we've been keeping an eye and ear out for difficulties and jumping
in to help where we can) had heard about our challenge by eavesdropping on
the "party line." The party line is our VHF radios where, after contact is
made, we switch to a "working channel" off the hailing channel. As it's the
open airwaves, folks frequently hear the call, and, if they're not otherwise
busy, switch along with the original parties to listen in, as well as,
sometimes, to break in with commentary and offers of assistance. In this
case, he offered to come snorkel around the stern of the boat with me.
Convinced I'd never find it, as there had been wind shifts recently, I'd
expected to abandon it. However, shamed into it, we went into the water at
mid tide, making it 7 or 8 feet deep where we were. I rationalized that it
would cool me off, and, what the heck - we might find it.
After about a half-hour of it, I was ready to get out, but, just in case,
went to look in an area we'd not been covering. Not 10' off to the side of
our boat, I saw something which looked like a hole that one sees frequently,
home of some sea-dweller. Looking more closely, I saw a glint in the center
of it. Diving down to it, I discovered the glint to be the center of the
inside of the cap. A fresh water rinse and a dry-in-the-sun later, all is
My computer, which is my lifeline, my navigation backup (among others), my
database, resource storage for all things boating and personal information,
and too many other things to enumerate, started flaking on me.
Been there, done that, I enlisted the help of some geek friends. Attempting
to keep the geek language to a minimum, I'll say only that my vendor agreed
with his hypothesis. Accordingly, a new hard drive is on the way to some
friends who will be visiting us in the Bahamas.
In the meantime, however, I went through the several stages all geeks have
come to visit at one time or another, leading to constant blue screens of
death, known as BSODs among those willing to dive into resolution.
Eventually, all my rescusitative efforts with MS XP disk, utility disks, and
others, failed, with the computer failing to recognize the drive. Worse,
digging out a spare drive, formatting it, loading my backup program and
Windoze XP on a fresh disk, and attempting to restore to that disk, using
the several backup and incremental backups I'd made, failed. Apparently the
files were corrupted, somehow. YIKES!
However, letting the computer sit overnight and attempting to start it again
showed that the failed drive was again visible, though not able to start
Windows. Again leaving off the geek explanation, that's consistent with my
Encouraged, I dig out my trusty external connection device after I've
swapped drives, with the newly formatted, XP- and backup program-loaded
bringing up the screen in the usual fashion, and, when I activate my
external tool on the original drive, indeed, it's visible.
So, quickly, I move copies of my critical data and all the
program-initiating files from it to my backup drive, and commence the
terribly tedious task of starting over on a new hard drive. I'll have to do
that again, when the new, cooler-running, and less power-hungry drive
arrives, but, for now, all is well, with the programs reinstalled running
well. (I like this kind of) Surprise!
One set of nearly windless, hot and muggy days, I finally got to the bow
with two different passivation (makes stainless steel which has been welded
or otherwise altered from its original state shiny again) compounds. Those
following us for at least a year may remember that there was some serious
welding done on our bow rollers and protective cage then. Without
passivation, it proceeded to rust ferociously in that area. The two
compounds I have were both claimed to be giant killers in restoring
stainless steel to brilliance. This certainly would be the acid test!
That's because both are acidic in nature. One, Spotless Stainless, is
environmentally friendly, using citric acid as its active component. Shake
it up, brush it on, keep it moist for a half hour, rinse it off, and stand
back and admire the results, which continue for a full 24 hours to improve
via some chemistry which I'll spare you. The other, Wonder Gel, is
definitely industrial grade, using nitric acid as its active component.
Application is very similar, but reading up on it on the company website's
reviews page suggested one could leave it on for considerably longer.
I did a separation test - one side with SS, the other with WG. True to
reports, I had to do some water-spritzing on SS to keep it moist. After a
half hour, I hosed them both off. Neither were giant-killers, but there was
definite progress. Curious to me, however, was that there seemed to be some
milky-looking (the solution is milky in color when applied) thin residue on
the SS side. Not to worry, it shouldn't have any impact...
I let it sit a few days, and, while things were brighter in the uncrusted
areas, there was still notable rust on both sides of the major weld areas.
So, I did it again, but this time reversed sides. Following the same
process, I noted that some areas where the SS had been applied before
yielded a cloudy look on the WG side this time. Hm. That's odd. Well, no
matter, it should all rinse off in the end.
Lots of rinsing later, it wasn't, in fact, gone. Leaving that for later,
thinking it would come off with a scrubbie, I reflected on some of the
reviews of the WG, and went back, taking a wire brush with me to attack some
of the larger remaining rust areas. Between wire brushing and chipping with
the end of one of the brushes, virtually all of the crusty rust flaked off,
exposing a bright surface underneath. Curiously, however, after a couple of
days there were little surface rust spots where there had been none before.
A swipe with the wire brush took them right off, too. Those little (well,
the milky area is substantial, covering most of one side of the protective
cage) milky areas aside, nearly all the major rust is gone, and, while, as
rough welding, not particularly pretty, the major weld areas are bright
Next step was to get some 3M scrubbie pads to get off the milky looking
stuff. No such luck. Even a handled-version of the same, in a higher grit,
made only the smallest dent in the milky stuff. No success, even using a
mix of oxalic acid and Comet with the scrubbies. Lesson learned, one must
apparently scrub the SS stuff off as you rinse it, lest remains and dries on
the surface. I'm hopeful it will respond, but also know that it may not,
when I take a grinder and buffing wheel with rouge to it when we're on the
hard next spring. Not exactly what I'd expected, lesson learned for dual
application, and... Surprise!
Hurricane season was still in full swing, with tropical disturbances seeming
as though they were being spit out of an assembly line in Africa, but none
of the several tropical storms which developed came anywhere near us, and
were of no event. Weather in the latter part of the month was glorious, so
we went sailing, more on which below.
However, the massive tropical low which had been lurking in the central
Caribbean, in the course of a few hours, went from a tropical low to a
tropical depression ("tropical depression 16") to a tropical storm (Nicole),
generating, in that same short time, for our area, a tropical storm watch
moving quickly to tropical storm warning. This was a huge system, but very
disorganized, so, ironically, the "center" of it had very settled weather,
but the nastiness extended for hundreds of miles to the South and East.
Thus, suddenly, we were at risk. We moved from our secure anchor to an even
more secure, hurricane-proven, mooring nearby, made double lines to it for
extra protection, wrapped the genoa with the spinnaker halyard to prevent
potential damage, and settled in for the predicted 40-60 knot gusts and LOTS
We did, in fact, see one gust to 40knots during one extended period of more
than 30 knots (35mph), and get massive amounts of rain, prompting me to go
empty the dinghy several times in rain-lulls. We secured the KISS wind
generator on the worst-expected overnight to come, and settled in. Happily,
by late afternoon, most of the real excitement was over. Aside from some
loud noise due to the wind, and having to keep our hatch closed most of the
time, like every other tropical storm or disturbance we've been in, thanks
in no small part to our having prepared for worse, was pretty much a
non-event. Indeed, by the following morning, NOAA (the US weather
forecasting folks) had declared Nicole dead, and not even a tropical low any
So, enough of the surprises. Weather here in the Bahamas, despite the risk
of tropical storms at this time of year, is marvelous. We stayed in Marsh
Harbour for most of the time, thoroughly enjoying the small community of
cruisers who remained in the low season, and making several new and very
dear friends in the process.
Toward the end of the month, weather was so fantastic that we all headed off
to different parts, taking advantage of the good sailing promised. The
promise lived up to the expectation...
September 23rd, we sailed off our anchor in Marsh Harbour, bound for
Fisher's Bay, near the top of Great Guana Cay. A spot of excitement due to
our having slipped the anchor at a point when we were on the wrong tack
momentarily had us slightly grounded in the shallows next to the small
channel leading out from the shipping docks, but that was quickly resolved
as we got back onto a starboard tack and headed out of the harbor.
We saw fairly consistent winds on what was, initially, a broad reach, moving
through a beam to a close reach after we cleared the rocks in the way of a
direct approach to our anchorage. A fantastic day to sail, with bright
sunshine, nice breezes, we were there in 1:45 from anchor up to anchor down,
and we settled in to join our friends who'd left the previous day.
The next day was also a great sailing day, and one of our friends, who'd
stayed behind to get some work done on the boat (endless boat chores, of
course, keeps the boat shipshape, and they'd had more than their share of
challenges this month, one of which I was able to assist in diagnosing since
I had a mechanic's stethoscope), quickly arrived. Our friends who were here
the previous day had already snagged a lobster, so we were anxious to get in
the water to see if we could duplicate their success.
The six of us spent a warm afternoon looking under rocks, and, sure enough,
both of our neighbors brought home a lobster. I only saw lionfish, the
poisonous-barbed scourge of the Bahamas, but not having my spear along,
didn't take any. Too bad, as the Bahamian government wants every one
possible killed, as they are a threat to the indigenous species here.
Another cruising couple had told us, in the Exumas, that if you take a
scissors and cut off their spines, they are actually great eating, so I'm
looking forward to trying that out some time!
After a shoreside expedition to one of the businesses who advertise on the
morning cruiser's net, of which I'm a sometime anchor (three of us have been
rotating anchor chores, and, now, with one of them gone, it's fallen to the
abovementioned diesel-challenged boat and me until the normal anchor gets
back from her vacation), we saw yet another of our Marsh Harbour friends
They were just overnighting, however, and we all pulled up anchor and headed
for different parts, some to return home, others to different anchorages,
and us back to Marsh Harbour. So, on September 27th, at 1:15, we again
sailed off our anchor, this time with plenty of room and depth if it worked
out on the wrong side. As it happened, we were pointed in the right
direction, and proceeded directly to our course of 191*T, with wind at 13-18
knots, pinching to 30* apparent wind and enjoying the 5.2-6.1knot speed over
However, that got to be a bit wearing, as the wind was coming up and, in
that full-sailed condition, were a bit over-canvassed at that point of sail,
and heeling to 20*. The most efficient level of heel is well under that...
So, at 1:30, we bore off a bit, to 195*T, and rolled up the genoa from its
normal 135% to about 110% (measured in the difference between 100% being the
point of the clew, the attaching point for our sheets, reaching to the mast,
or some percentage further than the distance to the tack, at the bottom of
the front of the sail), resulting in a much more comfortable level of heel,
and a much-less-pinched 35* apparent wind.
As the wind was nearly directly from the place we were going, we were going
to have to tack our way home, so at 2PM, as we neared the opposite shore, we
did just that, making our COG 88*T. Suddenly, the clam clutch on the furler
line let go, and the genoa ran out to its full 135%. Oops! No biggie, I
rolled it back in, this time to about 85%, in 24 knots apparent wind, still
pinched to 30*. Frequent readers of this stuff which gushes out from me in
a torrent of loghorrea may recall a similar time under full sail where we
manually steered, as the slightest wind shift held the possibility for our
becoming backwinded, requiring more effort than we like (lazy slobs, we are)
Flying Pig actually sails very well very close to the wind, but in that
attitude needs constant attention. No problem - we came to sail! With the
wind up as it was, we were taking some water over the deck, vexing Lydia,
who, every time that happens, feels compelled to wash it down afterwards,
preferably with a good rain. We were also head-on to the prevailing swell,
and, combined with the tidal flow being against us and the hobbyhorsing of
the boat, we were creeping along at all of 2.6-3.0 knots.
Sure enough, however, "wait 15 minutes" being our watchword before we do
anything substantial, by 2:45 the wind had dropped to an acceptable level to
let out the genoa again. Initially, that led to similar speeds, but the
wind was now only 12-16 knots, a very enjoyable, if slow, sail.
That drop in wind was the harbinger of a shift, fortunately, and we improved
our course over ground to 102*T. With that difference in the tidal flow, we
also picked up speed, allowing us to make half again our progress, at
3.9-4.5knots SOG. We were happily sailing along (you can still see, for
another couple of days, our course on tinyurl.com/flyingpigspot if you were
so inclined), so went as close as possible to Man'O'War before making our
final tack. Waiting, and thus proceeding further, would allow us a more
comfortable point of sail as we headed toward the harbor.
So, at 3:45, we tacked again, this time to 215*T, allowing us a more
favorable 45* point of sail with 14-16 knots of apparent wind, this time
with the waves on our beam, and, aided by the tidal flow keeping us pointed
in the same direction we were actually going, allowed us to pick up the pace
to our more typical 5.5-6.5 knots.
During the day, especially during our nearly-overcanvassed conditions as we
pinched along, we'd kept a wary eye on some potential squalls, but aside
from the occasional wind increases to the mid-20s (close to 30mph), it was a
great sail, if busy. We hit our mark at the entrance to the harbor at 4:30,
and had the anchor down in our usual spot by 4:15 - nearly exactly double
the time it took us to sail up!
All in all, a most enjoyable month in the Abacos. We'll stay here for
another few weeks, as our weather guru, Chris Parker, cautions strongly that
conditions are ripe for lots more excitement before it's all over. Indeed,
despite the currently bright sunshine and moderate (12-17, with 20knot
gusts) breezes filling our battery banks from our "green" solar panels and
wind generator, much higher winds are forecast for the beginning of October.
Having made the effort to get secure on our mooring, we'll leave Flying Pig
where it is for the moment, but, most likely, will start heading south as
soon as the weather systems settle down a bit.
So, for now, we'll leave you, unreasonably blessed in our comfortable home.
Until next time, Stay Tuned!
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand. You seek problems because you need their gifts."
(Richard Bach, in Illusions - The Reluctant Messiah)