1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: April 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

Not quite a Mayday...

And not my boat either, so you can relax now! 
A group of us are sitting here in Chub Cay Harbor, Bahamas, listening to the VHF and waiting on the return of a Canadian boat, Sainte Paix, that attempted to leave this morning. 
The boat had a serious grounding before its arrival here, bending its rudder shaft and damaging the keel. Apparently the prop shaft was also damaged as on observation by a diver, it wasn’t turning true.
The owner’s insurance took care of basic repairs to the rudder, but wanted him to continue under his own power to Nassau (36 nm) where the boat would be hauled. Several of us advised against this, as his boat vibrated very badly under power. Nassau is of course directly upwind from here so sailing wasn’t a great option, and sailing into and through Nassau harbor isn’t a good idea in any event.
We suggested that he move instead to Bimini, then Florida, which would be a broad reach under sail, and come in south of Key Biscayne, using the motor only to enter the marina when he arrived, or have his towing service pick him up when he got in close enough.
So Sainte Paix left this morning in light and variable winds with another Canadian, Frank Horvath, who was heading for Nassau in his Westerly 23. They got about three miles or so when the stuffing box overheated, sending clouds of smoke out of the engine room. 
The smoke isn’t a big issue, but if the stuffing is burned out, this guy is going to have a lot of water coming in to his boat, and he’s in several hundred feet of water at the moment.  
When this guy gets close enough - he’s now under sail so it will take a while - I’ll go out with the dinghy and tow him into the anchorage. We could get him now but we’re giving him time to reflect on what a foolish risk he’s taken. Once he’s back here, it’ll be up to his insurance company to deal with getting him to a repair facility.
Lesson: when you are on your first cruise and get advice from people with ten, twenty or more years cruising experience, you should probably listen to them. Taking a disabled boat out onto the ocean isn’t the smartest thing you can do, nor the safest. And that’s not to mention what it does to the people who are worrying about you.

So as you can see, I’m now in the Bahamas, anchored in Chub Cay, an absolutely gorgeous slice of paradise. The water is so clear you wonder if it’s even there. Anchoring is very difficult however - you have to be careful not to drop your hook or chain on top of the tens of dozens of starfish that are just everywhere. From my cockpit, I can see 10 to 15 of them. Why is it cruising has to be so challenging?
From here, I’ll head up to the top of the Berrys, a small group of islands with remote, quiet anchorages, then across to the Abacos, which I’m told is South Florida Lite. 
I don’t care much for the sound of that, but I’ve never been to the Abacos before, and I’d like to see for myself.
I went out spearfishing yesterday to see if I could catch myself some dinner. I’d have loved some lobster, but they’re out of season now. The locals tell me that taking a couple of ‘summer crab’ is a common practice but I’ve so far managed to avoid that temptation. It’s been easy, I haven’t seen any ‘summer crab’ to be tempted by.
I did see a small Nassau grouper - too small to take, a small tuna that was too fast to take, a ray that I decided not to take, and what looked like a hogfish that was too far away to take. Did I tell you that spearfishing wasn’t one of my better skills?
So it was a nice swim and I had ribs for dinner. I’ll try again later today and perhaps have better luck.
Now that I’m here in the Bahamas, I’m asking myself why I wasted so much time in Miami this winter. Sure, I stayed for the Miami Boat Show, but that was in February. The Bahamas offers so much more than south Florida.
First of all, they are happy you are here. I asked to tie up my dinghy at the resort dock in Bimini and got a cheerful “Yes Sir” in response. When I said what a nice change that was from Miami, the dockhand looked at me and said, and I quote: “It’s the Bahamas, we’re all about the love”.
Well, imagine hearing something like that in south Florida. Hah! There, it’s all about the money, the bling, the status - it’s all attitude. In south Florida, love is a fungible commodity. 
Here in the Bahamas, it’s smiling faces and sincere hellos from strangers walking by.
Then, there’s the water. Here, you can clearly see the bottom as if through a turquoise curtain at 20 and 30 feet. Sealife abounds, and you’ll often see fish around your boat feeding.
Here, there’s no one to tell you “you can’t do this, can’t do that, can’t you see the sign?” You don’t see police boats from four different forces patrolling endlessly to justify the money they spend on manpower and equipment just to make sure your y-valve is closed or your flares are all current, all the while ignoring stupid or dangerous boating practices that kill and injure people.
Here, it’s expected that you already know what you’re doing and you’re smart enough to keep yourself out of trouble, respect the beauty of the islands and the integrity of the people. No one needs to constantly watch over you.
The difference is breathtaking, and I haven’t felt so relaxed in quite some time. That’s not to say I didn’t know all of this before - but this trip, for whatever reason, it’s resonating with me. I even found myself a while back laying back on a dock, watching the clouds overhead and thoroughly enjoying myself...beats doing spreadsheets I’d say!
In other words, it truly is “better in the Bahamas mon!” 
After next fall’s Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, I’ll be right over here and take in the Junkanoo festivities on New Year’s Eve in Nassau, then go for some ‘scorch‘ and a Kalik at the Twin Brothers restaurant on Potters Cay. I hope you’ll be able to join me!

Talking about the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, I’m pleased to say that we’re now officially half subscribed. My last two ICW rallies were both huge successes and this year promises to be the best one yet. If you’ve been considering joining up for the most fun a cruiser can have going south on the ICW, you need to register soon as last year, we sold out in less than a month.
The concept of the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is to make your trip down the ICW both easier and more enjoyable. I have 27 trips on the ICW under my belt now and provide navigational guidance, helping you by the difficult parts of the ICW, as well as arranging for dockage, and safe anchorages. You also have the reassurance of a group of concerned friends about you.
There is also a fun social aspect to the Rally. First of all, you’re traveling with like minded folks, people who are living their dream of cruising south as they travel with you. Then, we have towns and marinas eager to host us and show us a good time, and believe me, a good time is had by all. There are barbeques, potlucks, and all manner of celebrations as we travel south.
Plus, if there are aspects of boating that you’re unsure of, I’m glad to teach you what you need to know. That includes docking and anchoring by the way. You’ll also be provided with advice on provisioning, passagemaking, handling currents and tide - every aspect of cruising so that at the end of the Rally, you’ll be prepared for your next destination.
Best of all, you’ll have new friends who want to continue on with you as you explore this wonderful world you’ve become a part of - maybe even come here to Chub Cay to see just how great this cruising life can be.
If you’d like more information on the Rally, you can go to the website at www.ICWally.com and request the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally brochure there. If you have questions, you can email me at ICWally@gmail.com and I’ll get right back to you - that is, provided I’m not out with Aduana walking on a gorgeous beach here in Paradise.

p.s. Saint Paix has safely returned and is at anchor again. We're working on a solution to get the boat safely to a repair facility.