Swing Set

Aug 28, 201308:34 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

We Wrap Up Our Bahamas Trip in Luxury

When we entered the anchorage at Big Majors Spot, there was a good number of boats at anchor there, and the Staniel Cay Yacht Club was turning customers away. One week later, we were alone at anchor and the yacht club was nearly empty. School has evidently started.

On one of our shopping trips into Staniel Cay, we took our books with us. We inquired at the “bakery” about getting the key to the library, went over to unlock the door to what looked to be the oldest building in Staniel Cay, and found a treasure of books inside. There was no electricity, but the light from the open door revealed shelf after shelf of paperbacks and hardcovers, all in alphabetical order according to author. We brought in seven books and placed them in a conspicuous spot with a tag attached to the attention of Donnie, an older gentleman we had met on the previous day who was anxious to get some new reading material, as he claimed to have read everything in the library already. We selected five fine books, left a donation in an old cigar box sitting on a desk (with some cash already in it), locked the place up and returned the key to the nice woman at the bakery. The library was the finest treasure we had found in Staniel Cay.

We were thinking about marking Rosie’s 55th birthday at Highbourne Cay, or even in Nassau, but the water in and around Staniel Cay is just so beautiful, and we really don’t want to return to the U.S. until September 1 or so. So, we marked Rosie’s birthday by spending a relaxing day on the hook and then went into Staniel Cay for a birthday dinner. Even though most of the tourists and boaters were gone from the area, half of the dining room eventually filled with customers, and we had a passable dinner, but knew we could have done better ourselves on the boat. If I had only been successful at our several attempts of bagging some lobster or fish earlier in the week.

On Monday morning, we pulled up anchor and started a pleasant cruise northwest through the Exuma Banks. Our destination was just north of Highbourne Cay, at an anchorage we had stayed in on our way down, between Allen’s Cay and Leaf Cay. Half before we got to Highbourne Cay, the gentle following seas became a strong headwind as a front came through from the northwest. I was trying to decide whether to proceed, but whitecaps began forming and lightening was on the horizon. We were about eight miles off the coast of Norman’s Cay, so we turned Swing Set to starboard and found a somewhat protected anchorage from the good-sized rollers coming in from the northwest.

 

We read our books and tried to relax as a gentle rain pelted the decks. We listened to the thunder, but our boat was bucking from the rollers, and what could have been a pleasant afternoon was more like time spent in a washing machine, albeit on the “gentle cycle.” The rain kept up, but the winds subsided, so at 4 p.m. we pulled anchor again and made way for Allen’s Cay on a shallow water route. It was one we had transited before, so even with the poor visibility, I had breadcrumbs to follow on the Garmin from our previous path.

The only other vessel in the anchorage was an old scow that we saw there on the way down. Several locals live on the boat, and I assume they survived by fishing in the area and selling their catch to the restaurant at Highbourne Cay and to cruisers that are passing through. If they had hailed us, or come over, we might have asked about purchasing some lobster, but I decided to leave well enough alone and not invite trouble. Probably not fair on our part, but we all know about “better to be safe than sorry.”

Rosie piled up some leftovers in the convection oven, and I fired up the generator. Naturally, it was at this point that the cooling water for the generator refused to flow through the engine. I had mentioned that we were having some issues with our generator's raw-water flow, and we were on borrowed time as far as how long we would be able to use the generator. It appeared that time was up. I started an stopped the generator a few times, and then the raw water began flowing again.

My current theory is that two things may be going on: One is that we had been making water on our way up from Staniel Cay. The instructions for the installation of the watermaker suggest plumbing the watermaker by tying into an existing through-hull, and one suggestion was the supply to a generator. Fine. This worked great for about 10 months, but.... My though is that the raw-water impeller is failing, and when the impeller stops randomly in a “just so” position, I am pulling water from the raw-water pump via the watermaker, and the poor condition of the impeller may be preventing the pump from priming properly and getting water to flow, at least initially. I’m still not tearing the water pump apart until we get back to the States. We’ll eat sandwiches until then if we have to.

This small anchorage between Allen’s Cay and Leaf Cay was a lot calmer on our previous visit, and I don’t know why, but we had a restless night with the swells rolling into our anchorage. I was up at dawn, and ready to make our 30-mile run to Nassau.

A beautiful sunrise soon gave way to a clouded sky to our east, and rain chased us all the way into Nassau Harbor. We requested permission from Nassau Harbor Control to proceed to the Harbourview Marina for fuel and was granted it. We pulled up to the fuel dock in a stiff breeze and pumped 146 gallons of diesel into a thirsty Swing Set to the tune of $750.

I inquired about a slip for a night or two, but I had some reservations. The dockage at the Nassau Harbourview Marina is not very sheltered, and waves from the wind and vessels transiting Nassau Harbor were bouncing the boats around. When the attendant showed me the slip that he intended for us to stay in, I saw a blanket of sea plants of some kind covering it, and lots of plastic bags, bottles and other trash floating around among it. I told the attendant I wouldn’t be putting our boat in with all that garbage. I was having enough engine problems as it was without sucking seaweed and plastic bags into our intakes. As it was the only offering he had, we left, and had no idea what we were going to do.

It was another 34 miles to Chubb Cay in the Berry Islands, a layover that we pretty much need to make before heading the 82 miles west to South Bimini. We could make that trip, as it was only noon, but the winds were kicking up and a storm threatened. Rosie called Yacht Haven, the marina we stayed at when we were in Nassau three months ago. They had a slip, but it was not in a sheltered part of their harbor, plus we were going to be nearly alone at a dock in what is not considered to be a very savory area. I had a gut feeling to pass on staying at Yacht Haven, and I’ve learned to trust my instincts. I was heading for an anchorage on the west end of New Providence when it occurred to me to damn the cost and call the Atlantis Resort and Marina to see about slip availability.

 

Atlantis had slips. We went from paying $1 per foot by staying at a dump to staying at the $3.50 per foot per night luxury of Atlantis. Rosie had called the harbor office, and she asked about a slip and was in turn asked if we wanted to pay $3.50 per foot, or $4.50 per foot. Gee, what’s the answer to that? Um....we’ll take the three fifty per foot slip, thank you very much. We were directed to slip 25.

As we pulled into the harbor basin within the shadow of the gigantic Atlantis Hotel and Casino, I soon saw our slip, which was adjacent to a megayacht called Gallilee, which had a big center console tender laying in the slip next to it, making our slip even narrower than it was. A nice attendant had come down to the dock, and I had expressed some reservation about backing into such narrow quarters, especially with the wind that wanted to drive us into the multimillion dollar yacht.

He asked if we wanted to have them move the tender, and said that I didn’t care about hitting the tender, I was concerned about hitting the yacht! He and the present Gallilee yacht crew got a kick out of that, but I swung Swing Set around and backed her into the narrow slip in a fine fashion. On the other side of the slip finger sat another huge yacht. We were in a canyon, but safely tied up.

The dock attendant took me to the harbor office in his cart, where I filled in paperwork for our night's stay. Including Key West, this marina is the finest facility that we have stayed in yet, impressive in all respects, including the price.

We had a quick lunch and then took a walk through the resort. The place is the Disneyland of the Bahamas. The water park is enormous, and the beaches and pools were lined with vacationers, many of them from foreign countries. The last time we walked over this property was in the early 1980s. Back then, it was scrub trees and secluded beaches. There are some old concrete structures that bracket one of the beaches here that we remembered from back when this property was part of the Paradise Island Hotel and Casino. We took some pictures around those abandoned structures long ago. I didn't take pictures of them today, and can't show you the ones from back then. We had a great time people watching while we sipped on $7 Bud Lights.

While engaged in such activity, we got a call from the Galleon in Key West. They had a spot for us for the end of October if we wanted it. Our present agreement with A&B marina was going to get us in there on October 1, but we had to vacate the slip on the 18th for 10 days. Fantasy Fest in Key West is a busy time. We thought we might be able to stay in the A&B slip if there was a cancellation, but I called Mark, the harbormaster at A&B, and told him  we had a slip next door at the Galleon if we needed it. He said that nothing was shaking loose on his end, and he said we better take the sure bet. I called the Galleon back and secured a slip with a deposit. The price is high, but now we don’t have to worry about getting an anchorage in the unfriendly Key West Harbor and taking the dinghy to and from the boat to see our friends and engage in the Fantasy Fest activities. We’ll return to A&B on October 28 and stay until at least December 1. We have a plan!

Last night, we had a snacky type dinner at the Bimini Road restaurant in the Marina Village at the resort. Conch salad was part of an appetizer plate that we shared, something we avoid at the beach and roadside stands due to the fact that those places are downright filthy and the conch is not cooked. We had a nice time there, but Rosie got sick anyway. The conch apparently is no match for my innards; I didn’t get sick, but we’ll avoid conch salad in the future.

I checked the weather this morning and decided that the best day to make the jump to the Berry Islands will be tomorrow, with the biggest transit of our current travels over to Bimini to be made on Friday, so I took Holly on a morning walk and popped into the marina office and extended our expensive stay for another day. We’re plugged in the air conditioning and are getting very, very spoiled.

Some tropical depression is forming in the Atlantic Ocean, so we’ll keep an eye on it, but we’ll be in Bimini, or maybe even Miami, before it affects us, and that’s even if it develops into something significant.

We’ll check out Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove on our way down the Keys, to see if it would be a place to stay for the winter. But really, it’s hard to think past December of this year. One thing that must be addressed is our generator, but even more importantly, our main engines are overheating when pressed. We’d like that issue resolved before any of our friends visit from up north, as we hope to get in a few “cocktail cruises” with them when they visit and have no engine problems when we do so.

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