Shroud Cay to Staniel Cay

Wifi is a first-world problem. But its still a problem.

It has been tough to find a solid internet connection for the past several days. I’m not really complaining but have felt guilty about not posting anything for a while. Sometimes WordPress works over a weak cell connection and sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, its been blowing like stink for almost a week and today is the first chance I’ve had to get ashore to an establishment with a fair internet connection. I’ll keep it short and let the photos speak for themselves.

After leaving Highbourne Cay we spend a couple of days in the lee of Shroud Cay, one of several islands within the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. The island is riddled with mangrove-lined creeks and little passages that lead to shallow internal basins and some beautiful sandy beaches. Dinghy and I did some exploring and saw lots of fish and rays and a few sharks. Very few birds.
There is a big contrast between the flour-sand beaches and the razor sharp coral rock. Next time I’ll remember my shoes. Andante is the distant white blotch in the center of the picture. You can tell from the clouds in these pictures that some weather was coming. We didn’t stay long as there was no protection here from the north or west.
Shroud Cay, like Highbourne, is readily accessible from Nassau by large fast motoryachts. So even with weather closing in there was no shortage of big boats full of loud people.
We had a fantastic six-hour sail south to Staniel Cay. We are actually anchored just west of Staniel near Big Majors Spot, famous for its beach of swimming pigs. The anchorage (known and charted as “Bay of Pigs”) has a good-holding sand bottom and is reasonably protected from most directions. The water is crystal clear and every now and then a shark or a ray will swim by. We chose to ride out the storm here — and we did fine.
Although it was still blowing 30+ at Andante’s anchorage, Dinghy and I were able to find some small sheltered beaches to explore. We also went ashore on Staniel Cay and walked around the small town and filled our fuel and water jugs and bought some local bread and vegetables.
Yes there are really pigs on the beach. I didn’t see any swimming but then I didn’t bring any food to taunt them with.
Over
Under
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a gorgeous spot that is welcoming to cruisers of all styles. They provide a nice beach to land on, have fuel and water for sale and will take your trash for a few dollars per bag. And wonderful fast free wifi — I’m writing this while sitting at their bar.
Finally and just in case you think its all fun and games… The diaphragm in Andante’s fresh water pressure pump decided to retire without notice. I didn’t have an exact spare but was able to fabricate a temporary replacement from some scrap rubber. It works OK for now but probably won’t last long.

Its hard to guess when I’ll have good wifi again so this may be the last post for a while. The plan for the next week or so is to head from Staniel Cay / Big Majors towards the settlement at Black Point a few hours south. Along the way I’m hoping to find some secluded anchorages and do a little snorkeling while the weather is nice.

New Providence

So where is the old Providence? Let’s ask The Google:

“The name New Providence Island is derived from a 16th‐century governor who gave thanks to Divine Providence for his survival after a shipwreck. The “New” was added later to distinguish it from Providencia in Western Caribbean (now Colombia) used by pirates.” Thanks Google.

Almost 75% of the Bahamian population lives on this one island — and there are hundreds of islands and thousands of small cays (always pronounced “keys” hereabouts) in the country. Temporarily add one person (and one boat): Andante and I arrived in West Bay, New Providence this afternoon after a nice sail from the Berry Islands.

Very-long-range view of the hotels and casinos and whatnot in Nassau Harbor and Paradise Island. We are on the opposite end of the island.

West Bay is surrounded by a park, a golf course and the exclusive community of Lyford Cay. And a noisy and smelly power plant. But its still a pretty nice spot to spend a day or two and wait for northerly winds to head further south to the Exumas. Some folks have written about excessive surge and uncomfortable rolling at anchor here but with a 15 kt southeast wind we’re barely moving at all.

Andante in West Bay, New Providence.
Same, but from a lower viewpoint. The water is clear enough that you can see the anchor chain on the bottom. But it is a bit greener than in the Berrys. I don’t know exactly why but imagine nutrient-rich runoff from the surrounding manicured community and golf course may contribute.

The first thing I did after anchoring was jump overboard. The water temperature was finally above 70 (yay) and I’d read accounts of poor holding (uh oh). So I dove in and gave the anchor a check to make sure it was set well.

The anchor. You can see that it did drag a bit before setting. I placed two sand dollars just behind it as a reference and will check in the morning to see if it moved any further. Between the 55 lb anchor and the boat are 125 feet of 3/8″ chain (about 175 lbs). All this chain generally prevents the anchor from being pulled upwards and dislodged. The trip line is connected to a surface float to mark the anchor position and so I can extract the anchor backwards should it get wedged under a rock.

While I was in the water I gave Andante an all-over bottom inspection. She looked good except that the prop zinc (the bit that I inspected in very cold water due to a mysterious vibration way back in Fisher Island, NY) was completely consumed. It didn’t fall off but rather completely corroded off. In less than 60 days. Hmm. Not sure why yet but went ahead and replaced it while I was wet. Will watch it carefully over the next few weeks. Hoping it has to do with the dockside 120V electrical system in Beaufort and not the 12V system onboard.

The prop is a little discolored but had no growth on it. I replaced the missing anode (grey lump on aft end of the hub) with a new one.
Just in case you wondered what a 2 m boat looks like in 3 m of water. This was taken at close to 1/2 tide so we may be another 20-30 cm closer to the seabed at low tide. The bottom is mostly sand with some grass. Actually more (and greener) grass than portions of my yard.
I do not have giant starfish in my yard. But otherwise the ground looks similar. This fellow was about 8″ across and directly under the keel.

It rained last night in the Berrys – at 0230. I know this because my porthole was open and I got splashed in the face. This evening just before sunset it was obvious that a squall was coming our way so I closed everything up tight in advance.

Squall at sunset.

The rain was hard and lasted more than an hour. But no complaints: Andante was covered in salt from today’s sail and always enjoys a good shower. I just wish it would rain soap briefly before the rinse cycle.

When I have a chance (and can find some fabric) I’d like to make some rain flys for at least one or two of Andante’s hatches so they can remain open in all weather. It gets a bit stuffy below with all the hatches and ports closed.

Anyway, the plan for now is to hang out here tomorrow and do boat jobs. Perhaps I’ll do a little more swimming and give Andante’s waterline a good scrub. Then on Thursday we’ll ride the north wind down to Highbourne Cay in the northern Exumas.

Bonus Content!

I didn’t have the bandwidth until today to upload these recent videos. Enjoy.

The other day as we were leaving Bimini a group of dolphins led me out of the harbor. One of them played on the bow for several minutes. Good fun.

And while dockside in Bimini I watched some fisherman throw scraps to a big group of nurse sharks. Pretty spectacular. I was actually more afraid of the greedy pelicans.

Details and Derelicts

The list is actually getting shorter.

The initial to-do list created just after we brought Andante home was pretty overwhelming. The list was huge and there were numerous jobs that I didn’t yet know how to even begin. And just when it seemed like things were going well, tasks were added to the list faster than I could cross them off.

Over the past couple of months notable progress has been made. I’ve been able to complete most of the significant structural, mechanical and safety items. Now the focus can shift to helping Andante look her best and making her as comfortable and livable as possible. Fortunately most jobs of that flavor can be done away from the boatyard at a more leisurely pace. I’m looking forward to that.

The boatyard can’t be described as a pretty place. But it has its brief moments such as this cold sunrise last week with mist over the creek wafting into the yard. About 20 minutes later somebody started grinding metal. Glad I was already up.

Many of the remaining jobs can be divided into inside and outside work. So on a recent sunny day I stripped and sanded and varnished. And when it rained over the weekend I repaired some canvas and worked on a few galley projects. And I’m constantly rearranging things below to maximize storage space — and trying to keep a list of where I hid everything so I can find it again later.

A quick sanding and coat of varnish on the cockpit coaming should keep it looking nice for a few more months. There are lots of damaged spots and the whole thing will need to stripped to bare wood eventually. I’ve completely removed the varnish from the toe rail, the hand rails, and the eyebrow and plan to let those go grey for now.
Before the rain I dismounted the dodger and bimini and patched up some holes and worn spots. There isn’t much holding this old canvas together. I added new zippers to attach the side panels that create a nice protected cockpit. I prefer to sail with the cockpit open but when its cold and wet I definitely appreciate the protection from wind and spray.
Another rainy-day project: Built a new spice corral from 1/2″ plastic lumber that almost doubles the amount of storage along the wall. I hope to replicate this in teak at some point. I’m not a very good finish carpenter so it seemed scrap plastic was the best place to start.

I do my best to take care of Andante because I’m counting on her to take care of me. For whatever reason not every boat receives the same level of care and attention. In fact, walking around the boatyard can be a bit depressing sometimes. Mixed in with boats that are clearly headed for sea are an astounding number likely headed for the scrapyard. I’m not one to get emotional over a junkyard full of cars — but its sad to think that each of these old boats was once somebody’s dream.

Cute old tugboat
Hard to see in this photo but the name of the boat is “Ula G.” Seems appropriate.
They were cutting this old girl up with chainsaws last week. The big hoist in the background is being used to salvage her lead keel.

Catching Up

Sorry for the month of silence. No excuses.

I’ve been terrible about posting while ashore. Perhaps its because I don’t anticipate the mundane yard work is of general interest. Or maybe I’m just exhausted every evening. Regardless, I haven’t been doing a very good job of sharing information.

I could probably fill you in on everything that has happened until now but that would be too much information. So this entry will share a few highlights from the past month and I’ll do my best to post more frequently going forward.

Probably the biggest highlight for me was flying home for Thanksgiving. It was nice to see Nicholas and those other people. I was particularly thankful this year for carbohydrates and cranberry sauce.

I missed these guys

Much has been going on in the boatyard over the past month. The removal and application of bottom paint went smoothly. A full strip to bare gelcoat and epoxy barrier coat and fairing may still be in Andante’s future but that would have been overkill this year. Thanks for your input on colors: She looks great with her new green bottom.

The two other big jobs I was looking forward to were the replacement of the steering chain and cable (and two worn sheaves) and installation of new engine control cables. The steering work was much easier to accomplish on land than in the water. But boy was it messy. And cramped. And did I mention messy?

But after dreading it for months it was strangely enjoyable to do and very satisfying to complete. And given the critical importance of both steering and engine control and the unknowns of 30+ years of stainless steel crevice corrosion, getting these jobs done is a real confidence boost as I contemplate heading further offshore.

A view underneath the cockpit before cleanup started. Access is through sail lockers on either side of the cockpit. The steering chain and cables translate movement of the steering wheel to movement of the rudder. For several decades the maintenance of the steering system appears to have consisted of smearing heavy grease on the cable and the bronze sheaves. The red cables on the left are the existing (and likely original) engine control cables. These are constructed much like the brake cables on a bicycle and translate motion of the speed and gear levers at the helm to controls on the engine and transmission.
In the confined space under the cockpit it was hard to get far enough away to take a photo of the entire steering system. The key element is the steering quadrant that is keyed to the rudder post. The steering cables engage the quadrant and make it rotate. The cables are pre-stretched 1/4″ 7×19 wire rope — but they will still stretch more when loaded. I expect to be checking on their tension regularly for the next few months.
Topside end of the old engine control cables at the helm. Somehow these got really greasy too. The black lines are tracers I attached to the old steering cables to allow the new ones to be sucked into the correct path through the various sheaves.
New steering chain and cables before installation. The chain is about twice the size of a bicycle chain and is made of stainless steel. I have no idea how many times I climbed into and out of those lockers. But my knees know exactly how many times.
My feet. And also the internals of the steering pedestal. The steering chain (barely visible) rides on a sprocket attached the the wheel shaft. The mechanism at the top is the wheel brake – tightening a knob on the starboard side of the pedestal clamps brake shoes against the shaft and locks the wheel. And the black and yellow wires provide power to the compass light — the compass usually sits on top of the pedestal.

Every day here is full of little jobs too numerous to relate. For example, today I climbed the mast (twice) to fix a navigation light that was acting erratically. And replaced screws in the starboard chainplate covers. And prepared to sew new zippers on the bimini. And inventoried the supply of flares and smoke canisters.

A few of the more notable jobs over the past month (defined as those for which I took photos) included removal of a 25 gallon water tank to free up some prime storage space, cleaning and polishing the prop, and installing a new seawater foot pump in the galley to save water when washing dishes.

The old port upper forward water tank (25 gallons). Removing this created a convenient spot in the main cabin to store all sorts of things and allowed some of the plumbing in this area to be simplified and/or removed — again gaining space for storage. Our total water capacity is now about 160 gallons which is still quite good for a boat this size and perfectly adequate for a crew of 1-2. With a few adjustments (e.g. salt water pump in the galley, drinking more beer) we should be able to delay installation of a water maker for several years.
I like a smooth and shiny prop. Hopefully the evil barnacles do not.
New foot pump in the galley provides seawater for washing dishes. I hadn’t really planned to share a photo of all the other stuff under the sink, but there it is. In case you are wondering, Dawn makes a nice lather in salt water. Even really cold salt water.
Andante back in the water. Traffic noise isn’t as annoying at the dock as it was under the bridge. And it is very nice to feel the boat move again even if just gently rocking from passing boat wakes. (Feeling the boat move while on land was a definite no-no).

Schedule update: I’ll be in NC until a few days before Christmas and will return to NC a few days after Christmas. Weather permitting, I hope to cast off and begin heading south again shortly thereafter. There will be a few days of fueling and watering and provisioning in Beaufort before we head out into the Atlantic.

Boatyard Week 1

Getting dirty. Getting it done.

We’ve been at Bock Marine in Beaufort for a week now and are feeling pretty settled. Life in the yard at the top of a 12 ft ladder is not as enjoyable as life at sea — but its still fun and very satisfying to see progress on many different projects.

The yard provides a nice clean lounge with showers and laundry facilities.

Lounge area with TV and lots of books.
Laundry machine works well even though the water is powerfully stinky.

Outside the lounge everything is dirty. The ground in the yard is not gravel or crushed stone. It is a mixture of sand and mud and the detritus of years of sanding fiberglass and wood and paint. Also, coastal North Carolina is pretty low and flat. Drainage is not really a thing here. The ground stays soft and squishy for days after a big rain.

My front door is not nearly as appealing after a heavy rain. Mud and grit get stuck in your shoes and tracked pretty much everywhere.
I got a good floor mat to catch some of the grit that would otherwise be tracked into the cabin. And I found a couple of cheap solar lights to make nighttime ladder climbing a little safer.

In the last few days I’ve cleaned and repitched the prop, end-for-ended and repainted the anchor chain, repaired some hull dings gifted by the previous owner, sealed the deck and stripped varnish from the toe rail, handrails and eyebrow.

The grease packed inside the prop is very sticky and resistant to being washed out. Which is good – but makes it really fun to remove.
The anchor chain is probably on its last year as the galvanizing is wearing pretty thin. I cut off some particularly rusty sections on both ends, swapped the working end, and measured and repainted marks at 25 ft intervals. Our 250 ft of 3/8″ BBB chain weighs 400 lbs.

The biggest job so far has been removing as much of the old crusty bottom paint as time and budget allows. Two young men from the yard spent yesterday sanding and chipping.

40 grit sandpaper removes material (including fiberglass) very quickly. The Bock guys did a good job removing the worst of the paint buildup without damaging the hull.
Not her best look.

I applied the first of 2-3 coats of Petitt Hydrocoat antifouling bottom paint earlier today. The stuff is water based so cleanup is easy and it doesn’t smell (or melt your brain) like most solvent-based paints. And it sticks to everything so there is no need to remove all of the underlying paint.

First coat of new paint. The bottom is definitely smoother than before and I’m less concerned about big chunks of paint flaking off. Maybe one day she’ll have a perfectly fair racing finish. Not today.

The weather looks great this week so expecting to do more painting tomorrow and Thursday. Then on to seacock maintenance, more varnish stripping and sanding and some preliminary work under the cockpit to prepare for running new steering and engine control cables. Good fun.