Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Engine Troubles In The Bahamas

A very early start under full sail from Big Majors Spot to George Town
What do you do when you are in the middle of the reef strewn Bahamas and you can’t use your engine? This was the problem we were faced with a couple of weeks ago when we noticed a subtle noise from the engine turn into a deafening rattle over a period of a couple of hours.  After establishing it wasn't anything wrapped around the propeller, or any anodes or the P bracket that had come loose, or any other obvious signs in the engine room we were at a loss as to what it could be.  Not wanting to fiddle with the engine too much  as it was still working but sounded awful, Sim announced that we couldn't use it and that it was only there for absolute emergency in case we damaged it further.  At this point we were in Highbourne Cay in the Exumas with my sister on board who had a flight out of Staniel Cay 60 miles further south and my parents flying in to George Town even further south a week after that.  The only action we felt we could take was to keep going south until the protected harbour of George Town and Sim could start investigating further.
Arriving in George Town after a fab sail
At first the whole idea of not having an engine caused a lot of anxiety, especially on my part – the clocking fronts that come down off the States with ferocious northwest winds, the coral ridden passes we had to get through – made me nervous.  Sim was more caught up on how serious this could be and how much it would cost us to repair.  Not to mention curtailing our sailing season short and heading back early to the states if, as Sim feared, it may have been an engine bearing.
Over the days and weeks that followed we got used to leaving and entering an anchorage under sail.  The lines were always in place ready to go.  The bimini that is usually up at anchor was down to allow the main sheet to stay attached to the boom at all times should we need to lift the mainsail in an emergency.  We always stayed at the back of the anchorage. We dug the anchor in by backing the inner staysail.  We were more vigilant than ever checking the weather.  For if there is anything worse than too much wind it is too little. A day with 10 kts or less is no good for us as we learnt one day the hard way when there was barely a zephyr and we spent 13 hrs and 35 miles trying to cover 17 miles  in a straight line.  After over a year of a LOT of motoring when we all too easily reached for that key over a halyard it has been refreshing. There are times when it is frustrating, taxing and even a little scary but there is no denying we have enjoyed the challenge. The 60 mile sail from Big Majors Spot directly to George Town has been one of the best sails to date.  We were steaming along on a beam reach touching 10 kts of boat speed, as Sim said not bad for an old tin boat.  Of course this is all the easier to say because after arriving in George Town and with the help of John from Khaya Moya (for when are two heads not better than one?) it was eventually diagnosed as a loose bolt on one of the engine mounts.
Amazing beaches on the east side of Stocking Island
 I know we would not have got much sympathy had we been stuck in George Town, Exuma.  But it is another of those places that you either love or hate. There are a LOT of boats here, 253 to be precise at the moment (yes someone has counted), many congregate here for the entire season before heading back to the States and Canada.  And although yes, it is stunning, the water a perfect blue, the sand golden and the sun almost always shining.  It’s a little too much like “summer camp” with daily activities from volley ball to Mexican train dominos to basket weaving, poker, yoga and church on the beach on Sundays. There is no getting away from it all here.   But that’s not to say we won’t enjoy ourselves while we are here: the easy provisioning and supply of water and fuel, access to laundry, magnificent beaches to walk on and trails across stocking island.......social activities should we choose to join in! There are far worse places for us to work on some of the other multitude of things that have decided to pack in on the boat right now.  As we seem to be in one of those phases where one thing stops working after another.... the radar hasn’t worked all season, the water-maker is churning out salty water, the starter spring has snapped on our 15 hp engine and the 2hp leaks fuel everywhere, making us immobile.....and its blowing a stink on the day my parents arrive.  Luckily we can still get the outboard to run by removing the lid and starting it with the emergency starting cord. Oh the joys of boating.

Chat n' Chill Beach, stocking Island

The pile next to the conch salad bar!

John and Sim enjoying a cold beer

Beautiful calm day in the anchorage

Out for a kayak with John and Shirley

Shirley and a starfish

John and Shirley 

Taking a stroll on Stocking islands windward beaches

Such gorgeous beaches
Fun in the sun

Sim LOVES the water

We took Nevs trail back across the island
Wot a sunset!

The kitty playing hide and seek!

Even a grey day doesn't look so bad

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