Swing Set

May 23, 201303:32 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Flexible Cruising Plans are the Key to Succcess

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I barely got any sleep Monday night, as all I could think about was how I was going to successfully add hydraulic fluid to our steering mechanism without the proper equipment. The more I thought about finding what I needed in Rock Sound, the more pessimistic I became. At about 2 a.m., I went online and found out as much as I could about the job I needed to do, even watching a video on how to do it, and I went back to bed feeling a little more confident on being able to fix our steering.

On Tuesday morning, I was up at daybreak sorting through my collection of hoses and fittings, seeing what I had that might serve my purpose. I did have an ample amount of hydraulic fluid that met the specifications of Sea Star, the manufacturer of the steering system on our Sea Ray, so it appeared that a trip into town wouldn't be necessary.

When I tried to add fluid on the previous day, I was using a funnel...a bad idea. When air would burp from the hoses, hydraulic fluid would erupt out the top of the funnel, covering me and the dashboard with steering fluid. The instructions in my Sea Star manual call for hooking the bottle of fluid to the vent hole at the helm using a hose, and then poking a hole in the bottom of the bottle (which would now be the top if the bottle is held upside down) to keep everything enclosed while turning the wheel alternately in opposite directions to allow trapped air to vent from the system.

I was able to jerry-rig a bottle and hose to add the fluid to our steering system, although it looked more like something rigged up to provide an IV drip in a third-world combat zone. I wish I would have taken a picture of it, but I was busy.

Instructions also include bleeding the hoses at the steering cylinder at the rudders, but I pondered that aspect of the instructions and deemed it unnecessary in our case because, from the bilge to the helm, it's all uphill on our boat, and air bubbles travel upward. The biggest reason to avoid bleeding the steering cylinder was because the only one of us that could reasonably reach the area in our boat where the cylinder is located is Holly, and I haven't gotten around to teaching her how to use a 5/8" wrench yet.

With my bottle and hoses hooked up, and by continuously turning the wheel one way and then the other, I eventually was able to get a lock to lock turning count of about six turns. That means three complete turns of the wheel from hard port to hard starboard from dead center.

Then, I left the wheel centered while I had breakfast, as little bitty bubbles kept rising up through the hose. It's a long way from the stern to the helm, and my patience was rewarded. When I came back an hour later, the hose was solid steering fluid with no bubbles. Additional turns of the wheel revealed no more bubbles. I packed everything up and considered the job a success, at least until we could do a sea trial.

By mid-morning, Rosie and I decided to take the dinghy in and see what was what in Rock Sound. We left Holly to guard the boat, because our last stop was going to be the local grocery store. We tied the dinghy up at a small dock provided by the Four Points restaurant. They have a sign there inviting travelers to tie up, and also where to place any trash that they may bring along with them, which we did. Two bags full.

We walked south to the heart of the small settlement along the main road. No sidewalks are along the Queen's Highway, so our path took us through rocks and grass when the occasional car would speed towards us. I was impressed with how many of the folks would wave as they passed. I did wish one of them would have stopped to ask us if we needed a ride, but no one did.

We saw a sign advertising Sammy's Place, which we knew was a local restaurant, so we followed the signs further into the heart of town and eventually came to a small establishment that not only had a bar/restaurant but a small hotel, as well. It was 11:30 when we walked in. A few patrons were seated at the small bar, and a few more where in the dining section. Most people in the Bahamas will greet anyone entering any place of business with a "good morning" or a "good afternoon," and we received the same treatment as everyone else, returning the greetings.

It was a bit early for lunch, but we were told that if we could wait five minutes or so, the cook would clean up the breakfast supplies in the kitchen before making us whatever we wanted off the menu for lunch. Jen, our waitress, was very nice and welcomed us to their town and to Sammy's. She couldn't have been more pleasant, and soon enough she arrived with a tall conch burger for Rosie and a taller bacon cheeseburger for me. And at reasonable prices, I may add.

We finished up lunch and promised to return for breakfast the next morning if the weather cooperated. Jen said she would look for us. With a tip, our lunch amounted to $25, the lowest priced meal we'd had in the Bahamas yet.

It was a hot walk to the market, and we took a short cut to avoid some of the busy Queen's Highway. I saw a local walking our way as we walked along a quiet residential street, quiet meaning the only living thing we saw were dogs and chickens running loose in the yards. The guy walking towards us was carrying a big machete, something that always makes me nervous. When I get nervous, I begin to look around for any possible weapons, just in case, and the only item I saw that could do any harm to anyone was a tangled up garden hose laying next to one of the shacks along our way. By this time, our machete-carrying fellow traveler was alongside us and we both offered a "good afternoon" to each other. As we passed, I turned around to look and found him doing the same. I suspect he was checking us out for a different reason than I was checking him out for, but he kept walking and so did we. Some may call my behavior paranoia, but I call it prudence. We always say "better safe than sorry," and we actually practice it.

About a mile north of town is a strip mall that houses an automotive store, a hardware store, a bank and a grocery store. We entered the NAPA store looking for a bolt I could use as an impeller puller the next time I did that job and was sent to the hardware store. A fella at the hardware store in turn directed us back to the NAPA store. I may add that in both stores, my request for a 3/4" number 16 bolt was met with quizzical stares. I didn't bring one of my spare impellers with me as a method of demonstrating exactly what I needed, but to be fair, my experience at Home Depot or Lowe's is usually the same. Typically, any requests need to be kept simple, like asking for "paint" or  "a hammer." OK, asking for "a hammer" may be stretching it at Home Depot.

The grocery was the best stocked we've visited, with the exception of Maxwell's in Marsh Harbour. All the meat was frozen rock solid and appears to be sent from somewhere other than the U.S. Rosie asked how I knew this fact, and I noted the absence of anything resembling a U.S.D.A stamp. But we bought a big package of pork chops, at least it's what the label said. The bread selection was slim, as the supply boat hadn't been in yet. It was due in that afternoon. We added a lone loaf of rye bread to our cart after checking it for freshness. Bread is easy to find in the Bahamas, so we didn't sweat at not finding exactly what we wanted. We filled our cart about a quarter of the way up and only spent $125.

We popped into a large liquor store on the way back to the dinghy and picked up two cases of Bud Light for the lightening low sum of $97. The rationing plan for this beverage of choice has not been working out too well.

As we got back to the dinghy, the doors to Pasqual's, the restaurant at Four Points, were open but no cars were around. As Rosie loaded our purchases into the dinghy, I went inside to find out when they were open.

I saw two little kids at a small bar. Hardly any lights were on, and I wondered if there were any adults around. I heard a voice say "hello" but still didn't see anyone until a young woman rousted herself from the confines of the deep couch she was resting in. In a sleepy voice she informed me that they were in fact open for business from noon until 6 p.m. It was currently around 1 p.m. I would've expected more to be going on than a nap at that hour, but I don't own the place. I found out later that they do a bang-up business when the cruise ships come in. I hope so.

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