Swing Set

Aug 21, 201312:55 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Finding It Hard to Leave Staniel Cay


We had a good time snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto just off of Staniel Cay. Some may remember the James Bond movie from the 1960s, “Thunderball.” Some of the scenes were filmed in the grotto. In the picture above, Rosie had a hard time getting down from the roof of the cave to pose for the picture, and I was helping her get further down beneath the surface. I swear.

That evening, we had dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, or rather, we ate something at the bar after a few Bud Lights at happy hour. That night, I got sick as a dog, and we decided it had to be the hamburger I ate, as it was the only thing that no one else had. (Who passes around their hamburger for others to take bites out of?) The whole experience left me a little peevish, and in the morning, things got worse.

In my last post, I mentioned our generator overheating, and I thought I had things figured out by cleaning our sea strainer; not the contents of it, but the outside screen, which had accumulated some scale deposits that could have been blocking proper water flow. Since the last episode when the cooling water was not flowing from the exhaust, I’ve been dutifully checking the flow each time I start the generator, to confirm there is raw water flowing. On this morning, again the raw water pump was running dry, so I shut down the generator.

I have another impeller for our generator, but the issue is access. The raw-water pump on our Westerbeke is on the backside of the generator and is not impossible to get to, but it isn’t easy. I’ve watched two mechanics over the years change out the impeller on this unit, and I can attest to the degree of difficulty. Both of my hands are still healing from the cuts I got when I tightened up the water pump belt on our port engine, and I was not ready to engage in warfare again, so soon anyway, with the iron of our Westerbeke. Maybe it was time to throw in the towel and head for Miami.

Our main engines are overheating at cruising speed, so we already have a reason to head home, but other than the consideration of the weather, we have to travel back to the U.S. at a slow speed, whether it’s now our later, but the generator is another matter. Yes, we have our wind generators, but as I’ve been saying, they supplement our power needs but don’t provide them. Existing on the hook without our diesel generator is nearly impossible, unless we wanted to empty out the refrigerator and subsist on crackers for the next few weeks.

I poked around on the generator, not doing anything to it of any significance, just checking things out, and then I decided to try it again. This time the raw water flowed out the exhaust like it’s supposed to. That was well over a week ago, and the generator has been running properly ever since then. A mystery that we’ll solve stateside.

Mark and Debbie, if that is in fact their real names, left on one day, and another “old friend” arrived the next. Linda, on the 37 foot Nordic Tug Mercy, chugged into the anchorage with a friend that used to live next to her on Ramrod Key, near Big Pine. Linda publishes a blog occasionally. Her link is on this blog site.

I’m not here to tell Linda’s story as I have enough trouble telling our own, but she is an old salt, used to pilot supply ships, and knows her way around an engine room. I told Linda the story about the generator, and she has some theories that seem plausible to me. The bottom line, and we agree on this, is that you don’t mess with success. It’s best to leave things alone until we get back to the U.S., where we can find someone suitable to look at it and where we can get any parts we need. No telling what can go wrong when you tear into something. I’ve always liked it when one of my choices was to do nothing.

One of the things we have learned about the Bahamas is that there are few people around that know how to do anything that may be required in the mechanical department. We know this not only from personal experience but from polling other cruisers. The big yachts regularly go back to Miami, or some such place, for overhauls, and it’s not unusual for mechanics to be flown in to fix things. This is why most of the vessels you see in the size range of Swing Set are sailboats. Lots of things on sailboats can break, but they can still go. As far as the creature comforts are concerned, sailors don’t need them because they are nuts.

Everyday we think about when we will head back to Florida. I figure it will take about a week, and we want to be in Key West by October, so we have time. We do want to arrive in Miami, in order to check out Dinner Key Marina, and Coconut Grove, and also to stop in Marathon to visit Holly’s veterinarian and our dentist, but we don’t need many extra days to do those things.

While we really like Georgetown better than Staniel Cay, we can travel on the banks all the way to Nassau from Staniel Cay, so weather will not play as much of a role when we decide to head out. We have a nice protected anchorage here at Big Majors Spot, as least from the prevailing easterly winds, and we have stores in Staniel, and the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the best place to go and meet folks that we have been to, but the field is a close one.

Last Sunday night, we left Holly on the boat and went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The marina was full, which doesn’t take much, but they were turning away big yachts. We met a crewmember from a 95-foot wooden sailing yacht, Mestre Belo, an absolutely beautiful vessel. (Currently for sale at $2.5 million.) Mark, not sure if he was the captain or not, keeps his personal boat near Coconut Grove, and he had lots of valuable information for us in regard to Dinner Key Marina and the area in general. He also discussed the life on a big yacht. If you think catering to owners of a huge megayacht sounds appealing to you, consider having a 7 year old, maybe the granddaughter of a guest, or worse, the owner, tell you to “Hurry up, I want to go to the beach now.”

Mark’s ever-present VHF radio squawked. Some of the owner’s guest and family wanted to change the reservations for dinner, and that chore was left to Mark at the last minute. They beacon, he answers. He is a better man than me.

We were left alone with David, the excellent bartender, for only a minute when Catherine and Peter came in and took seats near us. They are from Charlotte, N.C., and as friendly as you would imagine folks would be from that part of the country, and we had a great time talking to them.

By the time the evening was over, we met a Mike and Lee, a Brian and Jen and a handsome woman named Lucy, who we did a good turn at the Grotto earlier that day. She came over to thank us. Rosie thought she looked like some actress, but couldn’t remember who. She was a guest on Mestre Belo, so who knows who she was?

 

As the evening wound down, we were not only invited back to a birthday party for Catherine from Charlotte, Mark had told the owner of Mestre Belo that I had worked at a beer factory and had brewed his favorite brand. Apparently, he wanted to meet us, so Mark invited us to join the whole gang on board the sailing yacht. We were inclined to decline the invitation, but the boat is so magnificent, I wanted to see it close up, so we stopped by on our way to our dinghy just to say hello.

The cockpit of the yacht had about 25 people on it, all gathered around the owner, and what looked to be his favorite son, who was “entertaining” the group with guitar playing and what some would describe as singing. Mark invited us aboard, but since we arrived mid-warble, no one interrupted with any greetings. We were told to “wait here a minute,” just on the outskirts of the cockpit, while Mark went over to the owner to announce our presence. Meanwhile, we did make the acquaintance of a giant who introduced himself as “Shark.” He appeared friendly enough, but I got the impression that he was just checking us out, maybe for weapons. Again, who knows?

As we listened to the singer butcher Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” slurring over the line “burning out his fuse up here alone,” (Hasn’t he seen that commercial?) Mark went over to whisper something in the owner’s ear. Soon, we were given an apology that the owner didn’t have the inclination to grant an audience at the moment. Rosie and I exchanged knowing looks, thanked Mark for the invitation, and then we made our exit. We didn’t want to make anyone feel any more uncomfortable than they probably already were, with all those noses stuck up their butts and all.

Not to generalize, but we figure celebrities and the very affluent get jaded by being treated with so much deference, and if they weren’t messed up from the first, they soon get that way. Great, now I’ve insulted the sailboaters and the rich folks. There will be no one left to read my blog.

We were late getting back to Swing Set, maybe the latest we had been out in a long, long time. Holly was so glad to see us, and we were glad to see her, too. Our dog may not really love us like we think she does, but her treatment of us is many times better than that of indifference from complete strangers. We could lose faith in our fellow man if it wasn’t for things like what we learned the next morning.

Linda, on Mercy, had changed crew on Sunday. Ellen, her old neighbor, had flown out of Staniel Cay, and her cousin, Nancy, took Ellen's place. Nancy was on board to make the trip back to Florida. You see, Linda’s mother passed away a couple of weeks ago, and she has to get to Panama City to attend a memorial service in early September. She understands, like we do: What’s the hurry? Anyhow, Linda had gotten up near midnight while we were over on Mestre Belo, and she noticed that our dinghy was gone. I would have guessed that our dinghy had been stolen, but Linda thought we were out stranded somewhere, so she went looking for us in her Whaler after midnight. Who does that?

Not finding us, but seeing a large group gathered on the deck of Mestre Belo, she rightly figured that we were on there. When she told us about her concern, we were nearly driven to tears. We thanked her profusely, but no thanks were needed. Then, she asked what we were doing for the day, as her and Nancy were going lobstering. We were a bit “under the weather” and were only going to make a trip to the grocery store, and then chill out for the rest of the day. We were able to “pay it back” to some degree by offering to pick up some things for her and Nancy at the market.

Later, we dropped off a loaf of coconut bread and some tomatoes for the crew of Mercy, and they wanted to pay us for the items. We declined to take any money, and I told Linda she owed us nothing. If you remember, Linda brought water in jugs out to us when we were anchored off of Big Pine last fall.

After an afternoon of reading our books, Linda and Nancy came by in the Whaler to tell us they caught one lobster that afternoon and to see if we wanted to join them for a Pina Colada at the Yacht Club. We had some spare ribs we were getting ready to grill, so again we declined the offer to go for cocktails. Then, we were invited over to their boat to have surf and turf the next night, and again when I made some lame excuse about not wanting to plan “so far ahead,” I could see Linda was put out a little, and when they left, I felt like a heel.

It’s a legitimate statement that we haven’t had dinner with other people since the start of our journey. We did have breakfast with John Neely and his girlfriend back in Nassau, so it’s not like we won’t dine with others. I don’t know why I declined the dinner invitation out of hand, I guess it’s just my nature, but I began to anguish over my decision.

Sometimes, people ask other people to do things, not for the people getting the invitation, but they ask because they just like to and it makes them feel good. What’s the big deal about accepting a dinner, or other invitation, when it may mean something more to the person doing the asking? After talking to Rosie, I decided to tell Linda that we would be delighted to join them for dinner if we could at least bring a salad.

Linda and Nancy soon came roaring back in the Whaler while we were grilling our ribs. I waved them over, and when they pulled up, I said that if the invite was still open, not only would we like to join them for dinner, we would also like to go lobstering with them in the morning if they wanted. Weather permitting, we agreed to meet at 10:30 the next morning so we could add to the “surf” part of the “surf and turf” menu. We were able to make them happy, which in turn made us happy. Much easier than fretting about the matter for days, and more fun in the long run.

Even with a threat of rain, Linda and Nancy picked us up in the Whaler, right on time. We spent about three hours hunting for bugs, and only Linda had success at finding and catching one. The time was not spent for nothing, though. We saw rays, many fish and even a barracuda followed us at a distance for a bit. We had a nice day.

Our dinner that evening was even better! Nancy had flown in from Miami with some delicious steaks. We brought the promised salad, and they made fried potatoes (with onions), and Linda divided up the two lobsters for us all to share, complete with a sauce of drawn butter, garlic, lemon juice, and small pineapple chunks. We ate like royalty! We might have gotten off to a rocky start, as Nancy began to say a very short "grace" while I had a mouthful of salad, but like I said, it was short and she topped it off with a toast. We all clinked our beers, and I escaped damage, or they did. Depends on how you view it.

We left their company as the sun was setting. They’re plans were to leave early in the morning to begin their slow trip north, but none of us felt like we were saying goodbye, just “see you later.” I’m fairly certain we’ll run into Linda on our way back, but if not, we know where her house is on Ramrod Key and will most likely visit from time to time.

Our visit back here at Staniel Cay looks like it will turn out to be at least a two week affair, but we have no reason to leave. Why get back to the waters of the U.S. when we won’t find clear water there like we have under our boat right here?

Our anchorage is popular. While Elizabeth Harbour is more of a sailors haven, the big yachts and other powered vessels tend to come here, or to Highbourne Cay. As we lay about reading our books, we can look outside and see not only the best views you can imagine, but we like seeing the big boats come and go. We wonder where they come from, and where they might be going. We also wonder if they even give our little boat a second thought.

Sometimes a dinghy, or tender will leave the “big boats” and motor past us on the way to the beach, and the people aboard won’t even deign to look over so we can wave hello, let alone for them to say hello. Their loss, we think. Over the years we have never known when we’ll meet our next friends.

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