Monday, February 16, 2009

oops, we missed a post!

Here is a post from Friday the 13th. It didn't get into the blog somehow. Probably, because Michael wrote most of it (or it was Friday the 13th!). It is now, Feb. 16 tied up in a marina in Nassau patiently(not for long, over 3 hours) waiting to clear customs. Immigration was very prompt. We have lots to do in town and want to get started, but can't until we finish with the proper bureaucracy. Laundry, groceries and cook's night out for her birthday are in store if we can just do the paper work. But it's the islands - "no problem mon" so we sit and wait through a few rain showers.

We have posted some pictures, not many, on the photo page. We can only do that when we have internet access, so please be patient. We'll also try to take more - we're still getting in the swing of things. Running a boat is like running a small city - we have to deal with water department strikes, electrical department strikes, sewage department strikes, and now I.T. department strikes. Running this small city takes alot of patience and good negotiation skills. But all in all the "city" is running well.

Here's the Friday post:

No Longer “an island in the stream”

Strictly speaking of course. We passed South Riding Rock on the western edge of The Great Bahama Bank at 0650 this morning. We successfully, although slowly, crossed the gulf stream over night. The crossing was good. Once we got east of the reefs off the Florida Keys we started seeing big shipping right away. For the next 8 hours we did a lot of watching and dodging. (For the sailors out there, the AIS system was good but not great. It didn’t always get the time to the closest point of approach correct and the icons on the chart plotter didn’t match up to the radar targets. Interesting bug we will look into.) For non sailors AIS is a transponder system similar to airplanes, but required for large commercial shipping. It broadcasts the name of the vessel, its speed, heading, size and destination. We have a receiver on board that displays the information on the chart plotter.

We left a bit too early and had to slow down to make a daylight (sunrise) approach to S. Riding Rocks. We have an aversion to making landfall in the dark. No matter where! We were hitting speeds over the bottom of 7.5 knots with the current in the stream. By 0200 (2am) there was no wind and we were motoring with the main up for stability, at 1500 rpm (2200 is normal cruising speed) and our speed over the bottom was around 5.5knots. Once on the bank we increased speed to 6.4 knots.

The approach to the western edge of the bank presented us with a nice greeting party. About 8-10 small dolphins, much smaller than the ones we are used to seeing in Tampa Bay, met Astarte and played in our bow and stern wakes for 15 to 20 minutes. We always read that as a good omen.

I will try and send this once Barbara gets up from her well deserved nap. It was a long night.

Unfortunately, not all is perfect. You know what they say: ”The definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations”. If the seas stay calm, Michael will be spending the day working on the water maker. We have a reverse osmosis water maker that turns salt water into fresh. We had it on our last boat Mariah and it worked great. We kept it and installed in on Astarte. After the installation Michael ran it for a short time and it worked. When he started it up yesterday in the beautiful blue waters of the stream, it was not working. He bounced around in the v-berth for an hour or so cussing and swearing but couldn’t seem to solve the problem of not enough sea water coming into the system. After 12 hours of thinking about it he has a plan and if the seas stay calm will try and trouble shoot.

The Great Bahama Bank is quite remarkable. It averages around 20 feet deep and the water really is “gin clear”. You can sit on the bow of Astarte and watch the bottom go by for hours on end. It is mesmerizing – you have to force yourself to look up to check for boat traffic. The shallowness is a bit disconcerting at first, but the consistency of depth wears you down. The good news is the clarity, the bad, is the lack of much on the bottom. Some sea grass, lots of sea slugs, the occasional star fish and if you watch for them you will see large square pieces of metal roofing. They are put out by the lobster fishermen. The lobster, not Maine lobster, but Florida crawfish or spiny lobster, love the cover provided by the roofing or plywood. We don’t put a line out on the banks, because we catch too many barracuda that often take our lures and are not that good to eat. We had no luck in the stream, even though the line was out for all the daylight hours. Michael even tried putting the line out as we approached the banks, but no joy.

Still motoring, still weather, lets hope it all lasts. We have arrived in our first foreign port.

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