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Old 21-12-2008, 22:33   #1
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Nassau Passage - Revolting

Nassau Passage - Revolting

We've been in Miami for right at a month, essentially just being lazy, but accomplishing some boat chores as well. We finally got around to installing some of the "Port Fans" (very low draw fans from, allowing much better ventilation in both the galley and our stateroom.

As usual on a boat, nothing is as simple as it first appears, and the first one, in our stateroom, involved uninstalling a prior Hella fan installation, which went relatively straightforwardly. It had been located on a bookshelf, a very poor location for actually getting ventilation in the cabin, not only from its cramped position, but its output being blocked by a fiddle bar. It was also wired into a very lovely teak "dress shield" - a boxlike item which hid the conduit carrying the wiring and propane line from the back of the boat forward - which, fortunately, didn't require removal. However, the connection to the house wiring run was in a closet only about 14 inches wide - not nearly wide enough to get into. So, all of my maneuvering was at arms length in a contorted position, including taking off the teak dress shield hiding all the wiring in the closet (lighting and fan), cutting old wires, and making new connections. However, only 4 or so painful and sweaty hours later, it was finished, and we have a lovely, well placed, very low draw, fan for that side of the cabin.

Because Lydia also wanted some LED rope lighting for low-level light on entry to the cabin, in order to either just see well enough to fetch something, or to be able to find, without groping, the very high efficiency (0.2A) flourescent light (also from Hotwire) which we use for reading in bed, and our general lighting, I was going to put both the second port fan and that on the same wiring in the other closet (thankfully 2' wide, so I'd have easy access).

Unfortunately for us, the special connectors used to wire up the rope lighting was nowhere to be found. We turned the boat upside down trying to find them, to no avail. In desperation, as that was about the only possible other place, I dug into the heavy tools and wire storage, where we keep the remainder of our spool of amber and red rope lights. After digging far enough, sure as shooting, they were *under* the reel, where I'd missed them on the first two forays into that storage area. However, we'd run out of time for that project, other more pressing items related to our departure intervening, and I'll get to that one later.

The galley port fan installation, likewise, looked like it should have been easy. I'd installed a Hotwire fluorescent and our amber and red ighting there before, and knew I could draw power from the supply for those and the "cigarette lighter" plug I'd pulled during those installations. What I'd forgotten was that the headliner had some structural members which made the space extremely tight at our two-way (up for amber, down for red) rope lighting switch, which was where I was going to get my power. Working with a maximum of 2 inches of wire available, and 8 different connectors (joined, 4 each), with my big hands, caused it to take far longer than I'd have liked. In the process, our ground wire touched the "hot" terminal, and blew our fuse - of which we had no spare of the same size. Ragasnagglegiggafratz! Oh, well, another item for the shopping list, and we made do temporarily with the next larger value fuse we had at hand.


That tight space mentioned before refused to take all the old plus the new wire willingly. Big hands again, and a hole not 1"x2"to try to fit my finger (with all the wires) into in order to try to guide the wires into the available spaces led to another couple of hours of wrestling, but it's in, and works marvelously. Phew! That wasn't shocking, or really revolting, but what follows truly was...

As long-timers here will recall, we've been having difficulty with our new radar. It frequently refuses to come on, and the best we could figure out was that there was a voltage drop induced by the installers not replacing the old wiring and breaker which supplied the previous radar installation. We'd also been concerned for our battery's health, as it seemed that it dropped in voltage rather precipitously, and has been requiring more and more charging over and above our solar and wind supply.

Some of you may also recall that we'd been having challenges with our inverter. It would shut itself off frequently, and induced a hum on radios. All the work with our marvelous supplier, and the manufacturer, wouldn't cure the problem. As always, our supplier (Hotwire, again) has been a prince in customer service, and offered to take it back as unsatisfactory. We wrestled with that for a long time, but, failing in everything we tried, eventually resigned ourselves to replacing it, returning it for refund.

In the basin off the Miami Yacht Club, where we've been privileged to enjoy the mooring of Saint Steven of prior logs, there are many full-time cruisers. Chatting several of them up on the subject revealed an inexpensive source locally of a variety of off-grid power solutions,
recommended heartily by several who had done business there. Another of the cruisers, one you may recall was working with me to try to help the MYC achieve better wifi distribution during our last visit, is an electrician by trade. We've felt all along that the general state of electricity aboard was not up to snuff, and wished we'd started over when we were in our three-year refit. Having not done so, and not having the time it would require, we did the next best thing, and hired Bruce, the South African electrician, to have a look.

We started with the radar, and without the gory details, after going up the mast and disassembling it, and testing every component, we concluded that we weren't getting the suspected voltage drop as the source of our radar problem. Many back-and-forth's with the supplier for that unit got a knowledgeable technician who walked us through the several possibilities for difficulty, and it was either poor batteries or perhaps some difficulty with the display unit, which controls it all. Further testing is required under actual use, but Bruce was on it, so to speak, and we moved on to the inverter.

His recommendation was to replace our inverter with an inverter-charger, based on his personal experience with the exact same setup, generally, as ours. He, too, has solar and wind generation, and uses his Honda eu2000i for supplemental charging. The charger in the same-value inverter was nearly double the capacity of our shore-power charger, which old-timers will recall we installed on our first trip, in Charleston, and, yet, the Honda easily kept up with the load. So, that's what we did, over the next couple of days, and a boat buck or so later, it was up and working. Revolting, we had not only charging but 120VAC throughout the boat. Gloriosky, no hum on the radios either, and it set in to charging up our apparently seriously depleted batteries. After nearly continous charging and equalizing for a couple of days, we put the batteries to the test.

"She's dead, Jim!" Our voltage dropped precipitously overnight, with nearly nothing running. Ah, well. Better to find out for sure before we're in the third world. A search for our relatively uncommon batteries ensued, and we located a source for replacements. Once we'd confirmed that some were available, we set out to remove the old ones and replace with new - revolting!.

Batteries over 16" tall and which weigh in at well over 100 pounds aren't a simple matter to change out, however, particularly when they have to come out of a box 18" deep, in an engine room with only 4' of clearance. However, with several people assisting, Bruce and I got them out, back to the aft cabin, up to the deck, and off on the dock. Fortunately, they fit into the trunk of Saint Steven's venerable (1985, barely broken in with just under 220,000 miles on the diesel) Mercedes, and off we went to the supplier for the replacements. They turned out to be the same manufacturer as the ones which were in there already, instead of the Trojans I'd sized the battery box to hold when I built it. The Trojans had their handles built into the cases, making them smaller than others, so we again had to cut off the ears which had the rope handles attached for lifting in order to get them in the box. Lydia'd made up webbing harnesses for the batteries before, so we used those and reversed the steps to get them installed.

Despite the supplier's assertion that they were fully charged, they were at only 10.9 volts, so - fortunately, on shore power, making no Honda noise to endure - we charged them up and attempted equalization as well. More revolting stuff, there's features of the new inverter-charger which made it impossible to actually fully equalize them. In any case, being new, they really didn't need it, and we settled for very fully charged batteries. Hooray! Two major itmes in the revolting department accomplished. Only another boat buck and change, but we should be good for many years, now.


We'd spent several days, now, doing that, and hadn't really made any of the preparations for our departure. I went over to Steve's boat, the subject of much adventure earlier during our time here, as it had dragged in one of the southerly blows. We'd reset his anchor with the help of another cruiser pulling it back to its original location, and added our dinghy anchor, much oversized for the dinghy, but just right for this application. While the line for the anchor was much smaller than would normally be used for anchoring this sized boat, we felt it would be ok for a second anchor. Sure enough, it rode comfortably there.

Along the way, I'd wired up an extension for Steve's solar trickle charger that he'd bought to try to keep his battery up so that his new bilge pump would not kill it. After a wind shift, during which time it appeared that Steve's boat wasn't in the same position as before, Lydia and I dinghy'd over to have a look. His anchor line was hanging slackly, so we thought we'd reposition it. Imagine our surprise when it came up with a chain, but no anchor! Hurrying off to our boat, I brought back the other Danforth 22, the sister to our dinghy anchor, and a shackle, and hooked him up. Because we were concerned for those two small anchors' ability to hold if there should be another blow, we let out a *VERY* substantial length of rode as I kedged it out (put the anchor in the dinghy and motored out to where I dropped it). Our dinghy anchor kept him from swinging into other boats with this excessive length, and all was well for that night.


I'd noted that his anchoring light didn't seem to show up, and went over to check out his battery situation. Oops. Water up near the floor in the bilge, the bilge pump didn't seem to be working. I buzzed back to our boat and grabbed a voltmeter and our Honda. Sure enough, his batteries were very dead, even the starter battery, which could have allowed me to run his engine for additional charging oomph. His charger, despite being a two-bank unit, and thus able to charge both his starting and house batteries at the same time, was only capable of putting in 5 amps to each - revolting! - so it would take more than a full day to recharge.

So, leaving the Honda running, I went back to finish up on our get-ready projects. Going back that evening showed that the starter battery appeared charged based on voltage, but it would not even click the starter. Worse, the bilge pump, when I disconnected it from the house and connected it to the starter battery, didn't pump. Dang! Dead bilge pump, too! Hm. Maybe they're just not adequately charged. Refill the Honda, start it going again, and back at our chores again. The next day, I hurried over to have a look, and the bilge still wasn't happening, but the batteries looked like they might be ok. Still no joy on the starter, however, and not on the pump, either, when I did the re-hook to the starter battery. Back over to our boat, and I grabbed a portable pump we had in a bin in the engine room, found a cigarette plug for the pump, and put it down on the bottom of his bilge. Connection, and it started pumping out into the sink. As it was a very small pump, I had a while to wait, and I started looking for potential faults in the bilge pump. Broken wire! No wonder it didn't work! I left that for another day, when we'd come to move his boat to the mooring, and to see how much water came in.

When I came back again, the water was several inches deep, so I knew something would have to be done. Certainly, as the batteries were at least much better than before, and it was a new bilge pump, remaking the connection should produce results, even if the engine wouldn't start.

Back over to our boat, out come the tools, and I remade the connection. Sure enough it started - but didn't quit once the bilge was empty! No wonder the batteries went dead! It must have been connected to the manual switch line, not the float-controlled power. Dang! One of those pricy waterproof connectors, too. Nothing to do but cut the line, and test it on the other side. However, no water in the bilge, having emptied it. Wastebasket over the side, and into the bilge fixed that!

I remade the power side of the connection, and put the raw end of the presumed float line to the other side of the connector. Sure enough, it pumped and then stopped when it was empty.

So, I finished the connection. Scratching my head as to the failure, I discovered that the original connectors were not only not the shrinkwrapped waterproofers, but standard butt connectors - and too big, at that, making the connection suspect. So I remade the ground connection, too, held a lighter under the connectors, shrinking and sealing them, and thought that to be yet another revolting development of our time in Miami :{))

It was a simple matter to move his boat after we pulled up our and his anchor lines, despite the stubborn reluctance of our dinghy anchor to let go of the sand it was buried in. Once on his mooring, we retrieved our anchors and went back to our boat to do our last-minute shopping and cleaning run, with the expectation that I'd come back and take a nap, having pulled an all nighter restoring our crashed computer (again, related to batteries, we assume - Revolting!).

As it always seems, not only didn't we get off as soon as we expected, as we had to move our boat to allow another cruiser to take our place (our slip was needed by another boater coming for the Xmas part the Yacht Club was throwing that night), once we actually got out after securing the boat to another (rafting up alongside), it took much longer than expected. That was due, mostly, to the lack of English-speaking help at Wal-Mart as we buzzed around trying to find some specific stuff we needed, but we succeeded in our general supplying, as well as buying a substantial cache of new fuses, and laid in a supply of Coke and Beer which should last us several months. No bathtub for us any more, they fit perfectly. We've been told that these make excellent tips, as beer approaches $4 a can, and Coke a dollar. I was able to find 24-packs of Coke for only a dollar more than the initial supply of 12-packs I'd bought on the last run, so I laid in an extra over and above what we could comfortably store :{))

By the time we'd finished dinner (at 9PM! cuz of the delay in our errands) stowing all the laundry and groceries from the run, it was after 1AM, which worked out well, actually, as we couldn't have left a great deal earlier due to the tide state. However, I was without a nap, and expected to fade quickly. At 1:50AM, we slipped our lines from the boat we'd been rafted to, and headed out the channel.

That morning's chat with Chris Parker revealed nearly ideal conditions for the crossing of the Gulf Stream, and our passage to Nassau, other than what little wind there was being on our nose, at whatever direction we turned.

Starting southeast, we picked up the Gulf Stream at about 4 in the morning and our course, despite our pointing 45 degrees further south, was nearly due east. As I was feeling fresh, I sent Lydia down to sleep and settled in for the night. Next to no waves, with a light northeasterly wind, we motored all night, Lydia being unwilling to allow me to go topsides to set the main in the dark. Once light, I woke Lydia and we put up the sail, and continued motorsailing, getting little lift from the sail but having greater stability from the rolling which is induced in the waves without it. I went down for a nap after a lovely breakfast, returning after a few hours to enjoy the trip.

However, as I wasn't fully rested, I went down to sleep again after I'd written, on Sailmail, the SSB mail service we use at sea, to Michael, who might be joining us in Nassau. We crossed into the Bahama Bank at North Rock just after noon, with gin-clear water 21' deep. Even in the
no-light conditions later that night, you could see clear to the bottom. Lydia set course for Mackie Shoal on a rhumbline of 105* and I rejoined her just after dark, right after she passed it.

After dinner, I got a return mail from my son, who, due to an injury to his wife's neck, would not be coming. As we were making excellent time, and nearly to our next turning point, the Northwest Channel light, we elected to throw out the hook in about 15 feet of water, and went to bed at 10:30. The anchor, in only our spreader lights, was visible as it arrived on the bottom and made its initial set. After our usual anchoring sequence in which we pay out successive short lengths, allowing the boat to drift back and further set the hook, we put out an excessive amount of chain in order to sleep soundly. In order to arrive during daylight hours at our destination, Yacht Haven, we'd have to be off before daylight, so I got up at 5:30 and started the coffee (first things first!) and then the engine. We were under way in full dark, but the sun soon rose, and we passed the light at 8AM.

About that time I put out the lines, and no sooner had I gone back down to start the log then we had a fish on our port pole. It turned out to be a small snapper, but not worth trying to fillet. We put out the line again, and hoped. Fishing wasn't so great, but one of the boats we talked to later reported that they'd taken a tuna and a couple of mackerel on the way over, but in the southern part of the banks. Gotta be in the right place at the right time! Little bits of grass kept fouling our lines, and one time when I went to check, the starboard line seemed slack. Sure enough, the lure was gone - apparently it had been hit so hard by something that it snapped the clip on the leader. As long as we'd lost the lure, I took advantage of the occasion to make up a new tuna plug, and put it out.

As forecast, the winds were very light, and essentially right on our nose, so we continued to motor for a short while, but the wind shifted slightly, and while light, it could provide a bit of lift. Accordingly, up went the main, and we set our course for Nassau Light, 118*. The wind picked up a little, and shifted south a little, so we actually got some drive from the main. Eventually it went far enough south that we put out the genoa as well, and actually sailed effectively for several hours. By 4PM we were trying to reach Yacht Haven over VHF, unsuccessfully, so we just continued motoring on.

In the meantime, just before we tried to radio YH, a monster fish hit our port pole. By the time I got to the pole, he'd snapped the line, but I got to see him tailwalk for a bit before he headed back into the sea. Dang! The drag had stiffened overnight, and, no doubt, that was the cause, as the line broke right at the tip of the pole. As we were rapidly approaching the inbound channel, and hadn't yet received our permits, we elected to take in our poles...

Transit of the channel was uneventful; we dropped the main right at the light on the end of Paradise Island, and after many times, finally raised Yacht Haven. We got directions to our slip, but by the time we got to it, everyone was gone. After about a half hour of trying to raise someone, we took matters into our own hands and just chose a slip. The boat next to us had arrived just before us, so Customs was on the way, and he came to us almost immediately.

Apparently YH had told them that both of us had our papers already, so he came without. However, Bahamian courtesy was apparent, and relaxed, as the Customs officer told us to relax, go have dinner, and the security guy would find us with the appropriate papers. Actual clearance of customs was a non-issue, as we were told to just go enjoy ourselves, and not worry about it because he'd be back. Sure enough, the security guy showed up with the papers and told us that the Customs man would be back in a couple of hours.

Portia, meanwhile, ever the explorer, was already off the boat and visiting other yachts. Because we wanted to make sure she didn't get lost, we put her harness on, and headed off for a walk. We headed in to the office area to find out the skinny on wifi and showers and bathrooms, and happened upon the security guy again, getting the info we needed. We also ran into the guy in the slip next to us, who told us that diesel seemed to be in short supply at the moment, as at least two local docks had none to sell. Hm. That may be trouble, as we used the majority of our fuel getting here. With a strong blow coming tomorrow, leaving might be enhanced with the security of our Perky's help being available. However, it should be a rollicking sail south, as the wind will be north for the next couple of days and east nearly the entire time through the new year. About the only variable will be how strong it blows, ranging from next to nothing, like tonight, to the high 20s for most of Monday through mid-Wednesday. So, we'll have to check that out first thing in the morning. We also hope that we'll be allowed to stay for the full 24 hours so that we can go explore a bit before we have to get out.

Portia, on the way back to the boat for dinner that Lydia's mom was preparing, was so anxious to go that she not only ran, she pulled so hard on her harness and leash that she was running down the dock on only her hind legs :{)) Dinner was fabulous, and the Customs (wo)man - the other guy was off duty -showed up in due course. We had decided it might be nice to head to bed early so that we could get a full day tomorrow, getting our Bahamas phone as well as checking out the sights for our time returning as we go north later in the spring. However, see above as to what happens on a boat - it makes "island time" look like a compulsive type-A personality. Customs didn't finish until nearly 10, and at this writing, we aren't sure when immigration will appear. Another all-nighter appears possible. It's already 2AM and the dock is still alive. Our slipmate filled us in on places to go and things to see, but he's got a 3' draft - not nearly as accommodating for us in these shallow waters!

At this moment we don't really know where we'll go, other than to move south. We'll probably just meander down the keys until we get there (Georgetown), and being in the out islands, may not have internet access on a regular basis. If not, we'll send our reports via sailmail, through David, but the forums will have to wait for our "real" access, as I don't want to burden David with too much. Those interested can see our progress, both in the last couple of days as well as as we go along, on our SPOT page, SPOT Shared Page, a tool several of our friends have purchased based on seeing how neat it is :{))

So, for now we leave you in (during the daytime) sunny Nassau, mid 70s during the day, high 60s at night, and currently no wind, which will change very soon! We don't believe we'll be up for the office's opening at 5, but at the rate things are going, we may well have never gone to bed. The security guy tells us he was unable to reach the Immigration folks, so it will be sometime tomorrow before we see them. Our hundred-dollar required slip may be filled entirely with the process of checking in. Our slipmate wishes he'd gone to Marsh Harbor - and at this early hour, so do I. However, we'll move on when we can...

Stay tuned!


Skip and crew

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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