April 2012 ~ Exumas

Chronological Order

Day 594 ~ Bucketloads of RainApril 30th, 2012

Two solid days of rain, rain, rain and wind, wind, wind.  Put a bucket on the back steps yesterday morning and by this afternoon it had about 6 inches of water.  I've never seen a river or stream on a Bahamian island 'til today when there were torrents coming off the low hills all around.  Horribly humid to boot.  

Our anchor held like a rock in the blasts, but everything was wet and the torrential downpours found every tiny leak the boat has.  May as well document them for the next trip to the boat yard.

The girls tackled math and Lisa worked through some phonics lessons.  We then took the opportunity of the wet abundance and scrubbed the cockpit floor, wiped off the mold growth on the underside of the bimini, washed several bucket-loads of laundry and filled our drinking water (our main water tanks were filled in yesterday's onslaught).  The dinghy completely filled with water and floated the gas tank, so we just added dish soap and scrubbed that too.

Whatever happened to those lazy rainy days filled with movies and books?!

During a brief reprieve when the rain finally slowed to a light sprinkle (you'd think the clouds would run out at some point), we split and swapped kids around.  Cedar and I then took our computers in to the restaurant so I could get some work done, check 5 days' worth of email and update the blog.  Once turning the corner from our protected anchorage, we hit the wall of wind, waves and rain and got soaked.  The anchorage on the other side of where we are is deserted, since the non-current areas are quite exposed, as was the restaurant.  Good thing for us as that means there aren't a hundred cruisers using the internet so it actually worked today.

By the time we were done, the sun was trying to poke through a small hole in the clouds.  The air was noticeably drier and the boat floors and laundry were beginning to dry out as well.  We gathered the kids, brought them back to their respective boats, made a batch of curry and a pot of chicken noodle soup (my best yet for both), then read a little before it was time for bed.  Hoping for a rain break tomorrow so we can get off the boat for a bit.   Wrinkling skin is just starting to smooth out.

Expecting 30 knots of wind later.  Anchor is completely buried with only the chain showing so will sleep well tonight.

 

Day 593 ~ Baking in the RainApril 29th, 2012

The weather keeps changing daily so we never really know what to expect.  We keep getting ready for a big blow and days of rain, but it never seems to come.  We did get rain all night and we could hear the wind blowing, but having the island next to us on two sides gave us a nice snug spot with nary a wave and considerable protection from the blasts.

By morning, our water tanks were mostly full and buckets were set out under the awnings to catch water for the solar shower.  After our standard Sunday Swedish pancake fare, Tiegan and Osa came over to play Legos and I used the rain shower to rinse out my salty shorts while scrubbing the deck and teak.

Nana likes to bake and studies the fancy baking cookbook on a regular basis.  A rainy day is as good of a day as any to use it.  We decided upon a carrot cake since we actually have all the ingredients on board and didn't require a wet dinghy ride to a store.  Cedar came over later to pick up her kids and brought along some fresh made corn bread muffins so we swapped baked goods.  One thing the rain offers is some creative cooking time.

After dinner, we watched a documentary, the first installment of Ken Burn's Lewis & Clark before bed.  For the first half hour, the girls were wondering when the actors would appear for the re-enactment story (i.e. like a real movie).  We explained that a documentary is not a movie and suggested we give it a little more time.  Well, by the time the first half was over a couple hours later, they were asking when we could watch the second.

 

Day 592 ~ Walking in the RainApril 28th, 2012

After an apple pancake breakfast, a desire to get off the boat ensued.  Jaru called over with the same sentiments and we made a plan to head to 'town' to stretch our legs.  We called over to Remi De to see if Remi was available and they suggested a hike along the rocky cliffs.  Sounds good to us.

One of the reasons we love Staniel Cay is their dump.   Well, not that it's a nice place to hang out, but it's a close walk from a conveniant beach.   Getting rid of trash in the islands is always a headache because there really isn't any place to put it.   The islands are small, the wind takes the smell places it doesn't belong.   Rod and I beached the dink and hoofed it for the 5 minutes it takes to get to the dump and deposit our treasures amid the smoking piles.   Come to think of it the slick magazines don't show that either.

Once back with the crew, the 6 adults and 6 kids headed out; at least it was even.  It started to sprinkle before long, but with 90%+ plus humidity, having actual water on your skin didn't really feel any different.  The kids didn't even seem to notice.  We found a trail along the easternn ridge that wound around to the small beach where the kids played the last time we were here.  In the leeward side of the island, there was little rain and wind so the kids played, Remi and Nika swam despite the overcast sky. 

We hadn't been there long when a group of younger people arrived.  Their slick hear and designer gear bespoke only one thing, mega yacht crew.

After a bit, Bruce the talker broke the ice.   These 10 found themselves suddenly with loads of free time because the owner got sick of the bad weather and unexpectedly flew home.  For us, it was finally a chance to ask someone about life on a mega-yacht.  Two of the crew, a Kiwi and Yank (boating terms) were gracious and patiently answered our questions; after being surrounded with posh boats and stores in Atlantis, the queries were fresh on the brain.

From there, we headed back on the road into town and brought Remi back to play until dinnertime.  A quiet evening with dinner, another orange cake treat (this time with real whipped cream) and two chapters to the climax of the Watership Down story before heading to sleep.

 

Day 591 ~ Slogging UphillApril 27th, 2012

We pulled anchor in anticipation of a short motor sail to Hawksbill Cay, just 4-5 miles to the south.

The watermaker failed to start again; I think the Ford starter solenoid isn't up to the task, isn't wired properly or both.   I was fussing with it when the entire compartment exploded in smoke.   A ground wire with weak insulation had come in contact with the hot feed.  Oops.

I was down below with smoke in my eyes when I heard Lisa talking to someone, another adult.  Bruce and Remi had come out in their fast dinghy to see what was what.  Bruce told us that they had a bouncy night and, with the predicted storm coming in from a more southerly direction, it was likely that we'd have a miserable night.  Not to mention sitting out two days of rain.

The decision wasn't so hard, but it was frustrating.  We had been looking forward to a nice slow week with small moves each day to keep things light and fun.  But, weather doesn't always cooperate.   With 25-30 knots of wind coming we need good holding and good protection.  We conferred with Jaru, who was just pulling up their anchor, and we agreed to alter course so we wouldn't be stuck in a rolly anchorage for several days.  Bruce left Remi to play with the girls and went back to move out as well.

The winds were shifting southward already and, once we turned the corner around a sand bank and had to make some easting, we were pointing as close as we could toward the wind.  Then the chop set in and the rain spattered a little.   It was heavily overcast and the combination of wind, darkness and rain brought back many Alaska summer days.

Our 'half hour' sail soon turned into 5 hours of slogging and bouncing.   Having Remi aboard help add some fun the mix, but the motion and wetness eventually got to the girls as well.  "Are we there yet?"

We finally got the hook set about 4pm.  In preparation for the big blow, I ran forward and reversed down hard on the Spade, which set hard and stopped us in our tracks with a jerk.  It just about tripped up Lisa who was standing in the cockpit.   That's the way we like it.

When Bruce came by to pick up Remi, two pigs swam out from the beach toward the boat next to us.  The girls got excited and ran for the kitchen scraps.  Normally, they don't venture much past human wading distance as dinghy after dinghy appears throughout each day bearing scraps and goodies.  After all, the pigs are the main attraction here (they don't call it Pig Beach for nothing you know).  When we were last here during Easter week, besides cruisers, mega-yacht tenders and jet skis stopping by to feed and take pictures, several float planes flew in just to see the pigs.  Some competition for Wilbur for sure, and without Charlotte for advertising.

Inquiring minds note, however, that in the several times we've been to this island since 2007, we never see the same pigs...

 

Day 590 ~ Treats on the BeachApril 26th, 2012

Kids worked through math lessons and breakfast while bread was rising and baking.  We had planned a picnic at the beach on the Eastern shore of Shroud.  To get there we take the dinghy through the mangrove creek just north of the anchorage.  Threading our way up the creek gives us a touch of the Amazonian explorer feel.

Arrived close to noon and found a French-Canadian family already there.  The kids didn't speak English, nor ours French, so all were shy to play together.  However, everyone smiled and understood our offering of cinnamon swirl homemade bread.  We visited a little with the parents, who spoke English very well, and watched him and his friend kite-board across the bay.  The kids played all afternoon while the adults visited.  After our crazy few days in Nassau, it was nice to be able to relax again.

In the late afternoon, Lisa went up the hill to try and hail Remi De, who was due to sail from Nassau.  She reached them just as they were passing the island.  Good timing.  They headed for Hawksbill, where we're planning to go tomorrow.

We finally headed back as low tide neared and the creek still had plenty of water to get us through easily.  A simple dinner of leftovers were devoured promptly.  After a few chapters of Watership Down (the end is coming near so the story is getting exciting), we all headed for bed.

 

Day 589 ~ Feeding the LizardsApril 25th, 2012

Slept well during a peaceful night in one of our favorite spots.  Nice change to the freak storm and aftermath in Nassau.  Spent a leisurely morning getting ready to head out to join Jaru.  Made a quick visit to see the iguanas and offer our leftover vegetable parts and pieces.

We carved up Nana's Jack fillets and made a Jack salad for lunch.  Very tasty.

Sailed to Shroud Cay with the motor running so we could fill our empty water tank.  Met Jaru coming out of their Normans Cay anchorage just as we came past.  Raced them to the mooring ball and beat them by a hair, along with coming close to running over a mooring ball.

Took kids to beach to expend energy.  Cedar and Rod came over later to visit for a while then split off for dinner.  After an exciting chapter in Watership Down, it was time for bed.

 

Day 588 ~ Running SouthApril 24th, 2012

Jaru left early to catch the outgoing channel tide and high tide into whatever anchorage they find.  Morning people.

After all the craziness of the last week, we honored our missed Sunday tradition and made Swedish Pancakes.   We were midway through the preparations when we heard a Mayday call on the radio; it was loud and clear so must be nearby.   The poor guy desperately called several times; he was dragging into the rocks and needed immediate assistance.  After multiple requests for a location, it finally came through as being a few miles to our west.   A black and gray patrol boat zipped past as soon as they knew where to go.

The Remi De crew came past all smiles; they had been approved for their B1/B2 visas but have to wait until tomorrow to pick them up.  We finally departed a little after 10am and found the winds to be fairly light and behind us.  Slow going, but calm sailing with no motoring.  Granted, we averaged about 4-5 knots, but not having to use engines made it worth the longer passage.

A small fish hit one of Vern's rigged hootchies.  It was just Nana's size and she reeled the Almaco Jack in with pride.

We tried hailing Jaru all day, but couldn't get a response.  Turns out they didn't find out that their VHF antenna was broken until late in the day.  We pulled into SW Allans Cay and hoped they were nearby.  By the time Rod hobbled together a fix, we were finally able to make out their scratchy transmission.  They were at Normans Cay; the girls were devastated.

Since it was too close to sunset to move, we tucked into our favorite Allans Cay spot and settled in for the night.  We'll be back with Jaru tomorrow, girls, don't worry.

 

Day 587 ~ Handy DoctorApril 23rd, 2012

With the new anchor spot feeling secure and Jaru nearby keeping an eye on things, Lisa and I were up and hiking towards the Norwegian hand specialist's office a little after 9am.

We found her, smiled our way through two locked buzzer doors and explained the situation.  She was just back from surgery and had another at 11am.   They might be able to slip us in.   Ten minutes later and we had the right doctor's full attention.   She took one look at the X-ray and spotted a subtle, healed fracture the first generalist had missed.  This explained the pain Lisa had experienced.  But, fortunately, there was no displacement so the break had healed properly on its own.   Other than some painful stretching and flexing, she pronounced it well on its way to recovery.  We both breathed a sigh of relief.

We're finding that medical care in the Bahamas is great.  Getting into to see the hand guy in Anchorage is a several month wait.  This trip lasted all of 45 minutes and we were back on the boat by 10:00.

Rod and I then beat the streets of Nassau's waterfront looking for some metal parts and pieces to fix our limping windlass.  Turns out that the stripper, the metal arm that disengages the chain from the drum, snapped off at its mounting base on the windlass.  The tapped and treaded bolts twisted out, taking the base with them.   A new bracket with appropriate holes for the bolts should succeed in fixing it.

Walking past a newspaper rack, the headline proclaimed, "Freak Spring Storm Slams Nassau".  Rod took one look and chuckled, "Been there!"

After asking around a bit, we were directed to Mike's Stainless.  We caught Mike at his desk.   A quick sketch and discussion ensued.   Thicknesses and materials were compared.  "No problem, we'll have it for you this afternoon."

Now that's service we hadn't expected.   A custom fabricated 316 Stainless plate in one afternoon.   That's pretty tough to beat.

Later in the day, part of our multi-boat contingent went to shore to get some exercise.  I headed back to Mike's where I found the shop putting the final touches on the piece by hand.  At $50, considering the turn-around and location, it was a steal of a deal.  While the kids watched a movie back at Atlantis, I fitted and mounted the piece, which worked like a charm.   Huge relief.

 

Day 586 ~ It All Falls ApartApril 22nd, 2012

It's been nearly two weeks since we saw a grocery store so today is the day.   Somehow Cedar and I were elected from our respective boats to do the duty.   We zipped down to the Texaco dinghy dock at full speed, a nice downwind run.

I had this weird sensation as we turned the corner to City Market, the one where I have shopped from time to time over several years.   The parking lot was just a little too empty.   Sure enough, with our noses plastered to their doors we could see nothing but empty shelves and abandoned carts covered with a thin film of dust.  

They were out of business.

This is the second supermarket in less than a month that I have used before and anticipated only to find they have gone by the way of Tab soda or Crystal (clear) Pepsi.   Remember those?   Kind of spooky.   I half expected to turn the corner and catch sight of my reflection riding in a wheelchair.  However, Cedar knew of another grocery store so we hoofed it 8-10 blocks and turned the corner.   This looked much better.   A parking lot teaming with cars and bustle.

It takes ages to shop properly knowing this is our one shot for the next 10 days, our cold storage is limited and we have no way to keep veggies fresh other than by eating them quickly, which doesn't seem to count.   It was a solid two hours before I was out with my two fully loaded carts.   Cedar had found a reasonable taxi and before long we were weaving our way through Nassau's grimy streets in a car with a Krylon paint job and some serious body damage.

It took another 15 minutes to get our 30 bags stashed in the dinghy.   We turned the corner out into the ripping current and howling wind.   Did I mention we came downwind on the way here?   I hammered the outboard in to "rabbit" gear and we slowly clawed our way up on step, busting through nice 3 foot chop, exploded forward only to be caught in the rising wind slapping spray back into our faces, drenching our clothes and soaking our bags.  I used to subscribe to those slick sailing magazines for years and never once saw a photo of drenched people and groceries in a dinghy.

Well, I guess it could have been raining on top of everything else.

The first thing we noticed as we bounced our way through the anchorage was that boats were moving.  In particular, a smaller cat was working its way toward Jaru.   Cedar put out bumpers but it was still moving closer.  In a fit of civic duty I finally clambered aboard the vacant vessel intending to let out more scope.  I fumbled around with the owner's strange windlass locker knob finally getting it cracked open amid a swirling 25 knot gust of wind.

I was dumbfounded.   There before me lay a pile of chain, ready to go and windlass that was literally in pieces, the motor completely stripped off.   If the guy's bridal had slipped or failed, the chain would have run free all the way to the end, which may or may not even be properly attached. 

I didn't know what to do.   If I released his bridal, his chain would scream overboard in a dangerous rush of heavy metal, easily capable of taking off a hand or ripping up a windlass base.   I was scratching my head in confusion and disbelief as I watched the boat and myself now getting dragged out into the middle of the channel with its ripping tidal currents and heavy commercial traffic.

I was just about to conclude that there was nothing I could do for the poor guy when I looked up to see my boat being swept sideways towards a huge container ship and the concrete bridges beyond.   After withstanding a near 50 knots blast of squall last night, my anchor somehow decided to drag now in the comparatively tame 25-30 knot blasts.  Dragging it was, however, and fast.

I hopped back in the dink and zipped over.  It took seemingly an eternity to get my bridal off, and then only seconds to stream out another 20 meters of chain.  By all rights that ought to do it.   The 30 kilo Bruce anchor, way oversized for our boat, was down and a span of 50 meters of chain out.   That combination had held us through some pretty crazy nights in the past.   It seemed to hold for a bit, but in another few minutes it was clear we were underway again.   There was nothing to do but up anchor and move.

Cedar, dinghy-less on her boat called on the radio, "come over and get me so I can help you re-anchor."   I hated leaving the boat alone for a minute, but realized that doing it all myself in a ripping current and howling winds would be nearly impossible.

We were back in a minute and then the fun began.   The port engine wouldn't start.   Click, click went the ignition.   I tried the starboard with my heart in my throat and that numb dream-like feeling of seeing myself doing things but not really feeling or knowing why.  It fired.  But doing this maneuver in this wind on one engine is sort of like climbing a mountain with one leg.   No matter which way you go, gravity always seems to have the best angle.

No sooner had we started when Cedar came running back, "your windlass won't work!"

I couldn't believe it.  Day after day of fail proof function and the moment it chose to give up the ghost was when we are drifting down into a forest of concrete and steel swept by torrents of ripping tide and wind.  It was blowing so hard that Cedar could yell at the top of her lungs from the windlass only 25 feet ahead and I couldn't hear a word, barely a sound.   I just had the vague impression someone was yelling and the news wasn't good.

I dashed downstairs and found the windlass breaker tripped.  I flicked it back on and was back on top in an moment.  Now the windlass operated, but something was terribly wrong.   The chain just wrapped itself around the gypsy-like fishing line on a reel, creating instant twisted snarls of jammed metal impossible to undo by hand.

Time and again we had to let more chain back out all the while striking the chain with the winch handle as hard as our tired forearms could manage just to break the jams free. 

It was brutal, rusty, skin ripping work in the midst of a screaming gale that felt like it was ripping right through your spine.  This must be the way a mouse feels as it enters the mouth of the vacuum hose.  For us, looming very large downwind, were the bridges, mute and uncaring.

Finally we had the anchor up and were able to motor back to the anchorage and drop Bruce again.   He seemed to stick and as I was just starting to relax, our bow fell off and the entire nightmare returned in full living color.   We were dragging again.

More could be said but you get the point.  Little did we know that, as Cedar and I faced another round of windlass, chain and maneuvering terror, Bruce and Rod were in the park, had felt the wind pick up sharply and hiked up to the top of the Leap of Faith water slide to have a look at the anchorage, "just to check on things."

What they saw lit a fire under their heels.  Jaru was just about to be hit and our boat was headed into a tangle of big nasty chunks of concrete and steel.   They dashed through the teeming crowds of oblivious sunburned Atlantis vacationers with a book in one hand and a drink in the other.  Just as Cedar and I were dragging back to the bridges at a newer, faster pace and preparing for another round of chain battles, Bruce and Rod appeared and hopped aboard to help.   I now know what Custer would have felt if reinforcements had arrived at the critical moment.

I wasn't about to give our original spot another chance to disappoint me.  I motored away from the bridge, through the field of boats to an area where our friends on Imagine had reported good holding.  We dropped Bruce again, and this time he stuck hard.  I backed down on him to make the bridal scream and pop and he didn't budge.   Finally sure we were set, Cedar and Rod grabbed our dinghy and zipped back to Jaru, who was now making her way downstream, although slowly.

An eternal hour later, we were all reset and happy.   The wind died down, the sun warmed up, the tide ebbed and, if a photographer from one of those slick sailing magazines had shown up, he'd have said, "Smile!"   After all, it was just another day in a tropical paradise.

 

Day 585 ~ The SquallApril 21st, 2012

Took the Jaru and Dreamer crews in to the park to watch the 9am aquarium fish feed and get our wristbands before checking out of the marina.  Lisa went to settle the bill and also use the courtesy phone to find a clinic.  Just before leaving St. Thomas, Lisa jammed her finger against Sea Pearl's mast.  Seven weeks later, it's still swollen and very sore.  With the help of of the marina staff, she found a walk-in clinic a short distance from shore.

We anchored out in the channel and had lunch.  Jaru took the kids back into the park while Lisa and I walked to the clinic.  The waiting room was empty and they called her back within a few minutes of signing the paperwork.  The doctor looked at it and sent her upstairs for some x-rays to determine if it was broken or not.  Not being able to see anything on the film, she recommended a Norwegian hand specialist who might possibly have an opening on Monday.  Eighty-two minutes later, we were walking back to the Dock.

Remi De picked us up and then we connected with the water park group just as they were getting cold and changing into dry clothes.  Lisa stayed with Toni to visit, Bruce went on the rides with Remi and the rest of us went to the aquarium and then back to our boats.

Rained off and on the rest of the day; glad our big day in the park wasn't today.  After dinner, we topped off the evening with a little ice cream treat at the Marina Village.  Then, the exhausted crew went to bed early.

At 3am we both awoke to a scream of wind in the rigging.   I dashed upstairs to turn on the GPS anchor alarm just as the squall hit.   There were successive blasts of wind in the 40+ knot range, I could feel the boat squat lower in the water as it shouldered the blasts.  This area is known to have variable holding.   The rain was so thick at first that visibility was nearly zero but, as it lightened, I could see that Bruce had his deck lights on and was up and around.   A catamaran that anchored just at dusk was dragging in our general direction, but their crew was up and working, their headlamps flashing like light sabers in the thick falling rain.   The GPS showed that we had moved a meter.  It felt really good to slither back into a warm bed a few minutes later and, the wind back to a mere 20 knot hum, know that our anchor was set like a rock.

 

Day 584 ~ Water Park IIApril 20th, 2012

Spent all day at the Atlantis Water Park.  Topped it off with our traditional pizza dinner before everyone dragged themselves home.

 

Day 583 ~ Water Park IApril 19th, 2012

Wind shift to the south brought  swell into the anchorage in the wee hours.   Not very comfortable this morning.  We were the only boat left by the time we ate breakfast.  Up anchored and motor-sailed in light winds to Nassau making drinking water on the way.   Really nice to have new watermaker membranes.

Called in to the marina, but they said that our favorite slip #17 was taken even though we reserved it 2 weeks ago and reconfirmed just 2 days ago.  Other than the $7 per foot mega-yacht slips, here are only a four that accommodate our 25 foot beam.  We knew that Remi De already had one wide body slip, so I asked if either #1 or #2 were taken.  Thankfully both were empty so, after some harried moments when Lisa couldn't get the engine out of gear and the boat was headed into pilings without bumpers, we finally got things under control and the boat tied down.  For all the expensive mega-yachts that are attracted here (anywhere from 50' to 150') along with the 3 foot tide variation, you'd think they would have installed floating docks.  Instead, there are pilings in front of concrete docks.  We grabbed a quick lunch before heading to the water park.

We gathered clothes, water and shower stuff and were on our way.  In the past, we've walked from slip #17 and that was a long way around, especially with 3 young kids after a full day of water fun.  But, after already doing this 2 other times and now being put in the Back 40, we got smart.  We knew of a dinghy dock at the marina office, so we just dinghied there to check in and they said we could leave it there all day if we wanted.  Sweet.

Lisa and Bruce went down the 80 foot drop slide and the kids (hard to tell who that is in here), with varying adult combinations went around the rapid river and the shark slide.  At 5pm, all the kids went to a movie with Jaru while Lisa tackled 3 loads of laundry.  By evening, the girls were fading fast, so after dinner and a chapter of reading, they went straight to bed.  Lisa and I took the opportunity of cool night air to hose off the layers of salt from our last few passages and do a little scrubbing of traffic areas before succumbing to sleep ourselves.

 

Day 582 ~ ChillingApril 18th, 2012

After 17 days of company, 51 meals, 120 nautical miles and 14 anchorages it was time for a break.  We woke late, did a slow morning, some math lesson work and a huge batch of Birch Mirch.   We are getting to the good part of Watership Down, so we read first one chapter, and then another and then another.

We ate a light lunch, then some more reading, Legos and then a swim to cool off.   Now the glow of Nassau is lighting the western horizon while the girls listen intently to another cliff hanging chapter as Hazel and Bigwig lead the escape from Efrafra.

 

Day 581 ~ Action JacksonApril 17th, 2012

Action Jackson called at 8:40am to say he was on his way.  By 9:20, when he hadn't reached our boat yet, we began to get a little nervous.  By 9:35, we were closing hatches and getting ready to launch while at the same time watching the horizon with binoculars.  Moments later, the yellow boat was spotted; he was actually on his way.  Whew.

Action Jackson came by about 1:45 to invite us to his show "in about an hour or two" (gotta love that island 'soft time').   So, we got ready and headed to the dinghy dock once all the day boat passengers were done debarking. All the local boat crew were helpful in directing us where to get off and to watch out for slippery steps. But, as we took the first step on the ladder, a guy with "STAFF" printed on the back of his t-shirt informed us that their group had "rented the whole island" and we were not allowed to get off.  Well, I told him that "Action Jackson had invited us to watch his limbo show" thinking that that would be our ticket. Alas, it was not the case. The guy held firm, just replied, "well, he shouldn't have done that" and that was that.

The "whole island" though?  I think not.  All beaches in the Bahamas are considered public, even on privately owned islands.  We rounded up Jaru who had just arrived and went ashore by alternate means (some steps carved out of the limestone) just further up the island. We already knew of a path across to a nice beach and were also a bit curious if other "STAFF" were posted there as sentries.   Since the beach way to the Sandy Toes beach bar was blocked by a large rocky outcropping, we figured that climbing over to sneak in would attract too much attention.  Instead, we went the other way and enjoyed the open beach and a shady spot while the kids played and had a great time.

As soon as the first no-see-um hit, however, we made a dash for the dinghy and escaped before the onslaught.  Enjoyed a tranquil evening with dinner, a chapter and some rare wi-fi that connects us to the outside world.

 

Day 580 ~ Rose IslandApril 16th, 2012

We took a nice leisurely time eating brekkie.  The wind is a solid 20 knots from the East-Southeast and Nassau is Northwesterly so it should be a fast, smooth ride.

We welcomed Bruce back to the family about 10am and motored a bit to round the reefs between Highborne and Allans Cays.   As we raised the mainsail, a line of dark clouds crossed overhead and, naturally, the wind piped up.   We had a few exciting moments as Lisa turned across the wind and our floating home took to flight with a rush of wind and water.   Once she got us pointed downwind again, everything calmed down in its usual magical way and we settled into a nice smooth, fast ride.   We hit 10 knots a few times, but managed to average 8.8 on the whole.

Rose Island is a long, rocky strip just to the East of Nassau.   The anchorage isn't particularly good, but it's close to the big city.  Particularly, it has a great stretch of deserted sandy beaches separated by rocky outcroppings on its northern coast, complete with shade trees.

We managed to get our sails in and pick our way around the rocky shoals and into the anchorage from the West.   We dropped Bruce in about 3 meters of water and he caught and held immediately.  With what little we could search through the cell network, James searched for water taxis so we didn't have to take the boat into Nassau just to drop them off.  With several houses, a fancy resort and some really nice beaches, we figured there must be some sort of water taxi service.  We spotted a phone number on the side of a local's bright yellow speed boat just above the words "ACTION". 

We dinghied over to chat and he agreed to take the Green family if we couldn't find anyone else.  Turns out he's the entertainment for the Sandy Toes beach bar, a world class limbo king evidently.  His website was printed on his business card: action-limbo-king.com.  The question still remains, does the low-going Limbo King have high standards?  Back on the boat we Googled some more taxis but, short of renting an entire 50 passenger day cruise boat, came up empty.  Dinghying around the anchorage for some local intel, we found a charter captain who gave Action Jackson high mark.  With that recommendation, James called him and arranged for a morning pick up, but with plenty of buffer to still give us time to take them in Day Dreamer.  After all, dis is still de islands, Mon.

That settled, we did a quick lunch and then took the crew ashore to the beach for some energy burn off.   Wrapped up the night with a huge batch of chicken curry with 7 cups of rice.   There were no leftovers.

 

Day 579 ~ The Island of SalvationApril 15th, 2012

We spent a bouncy night with swell from no apparent source.  High winds and noise made for restless sleep.  I woke up feeling horrible with flu-like symptoms which the girls soon named the "New York disease".   Probably just the usual winter bug.

On our way to the next destination, we were going to stop in to snorkel the drug plane at Norman's Cay, but opted instead for a peaceful breakfast of Swedish Pancakes.  Or, as peaceful as one can get with 5 kids under 13 years old.  The stack couldn't even fit on one plate and we had pile the rest on a second.  The tower, consisting 16 eggs, 1/2 gallon of milk and 1.5 pounds of flour, quickly disappeared down the hatches of 5 kids and 3 adults.

We then sailed in brisk winds up to Highborne Cay where we hoped to replenish our provisions.  We had fun letting Jaru get a head start and then slowly reeling them in.

The story goes that in 2008 we had been without a provision source for 18 days.  The supplies dwindled with 2 extra adult guests and we ended up subsisting on bits and pieces of left over meals, canned tuna, canned green beans and canned asparagus for nearly a week.  By this time our picky food eating girls were singing a completely different tune.   Normally spurned bread crusts were eagerly devoured and plates were licked clean with nary a complaint.   Upon reaching Highborne Cay's general store, about the size of a 7-11, we all were excited by the prospect of some basic staples.   As we tied up the dinghy and stepped ashore, Nika exclaimed, "The island of salvation!"   She was 4 years old.

After anchoring we took two representatives from each family into town to find the store open and selling more than just lemons.  We managed to find some greens, apples, oranges and grapefruit.   Some prices were astronomical, $7.80 for a can of coconut milk, while others weren't too far afield.  After the kids tidied up the salon, we took them to the beach to expend some energy.

We also finalized our plans for getting the Green crew to their plane in Nassau and decided to delay our Atlantis water park arrival by a day to recouperate from the recently busy guest-filled weeks.

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Day 578 ~ Amazon ExplorationApril 14th, 2012

It blew hard all night, repeatedly yanking our mooring ball with surge upon surge.   I was nervous about the shallows we had crossed coming in, so we gave the tide some time to turn, then sailed downwind for a few miles to clear the shoals.   Once we turned across the wind to make some northerly progress, we took off.  We saw 11.6 knots a few times while averaging in the mid-9's.

We snagged a mooring ball next to Jaru and enjoyed a reasonably peaceful lunch.  High tide was predicted for about 4pm which makes river navigation easier.   Coordinating with Jaru, we each launched our dinks and puttered up the brackish mangrove creek which divides Shroud Cay in half.  We worked our way up against the current and soon popped out on the ocean side awash with tumbling waves pounding the white sand beach.   This is one of our favorite spots in the Bahamas, beautiful, remote and usually deserted.

 

Day 577 ~ Bailing OutApril 13th, 2012

Quiet evening.  Breeze kicked up around midnight.  Expecting 20 knots, but that never came.

We should have stayed put today.   Decent winds were predicted, but by the time we had threaded our way back out of Little Halls Pond and around Bell Island, the wind had been foiled by a local squall system that sucked the life out of the wind.  We motored in concert with Jaru for an hour, and then another hoping the wind would fill in.  It didn't look promising.

We consulted the charts and realized that Warderick Wells island was the only reasonable anchorage short of a 4 hour motor to Hawksbill Cay.  Jaru, on the other hand, decided to stick to the original plan and slog it out under power.   I am just not into grinding that much.  As it turned out, by the time we reached the park the watermaker had filled our port tank and the 5 gallon jerry jug and dark clouds surrounded us.

Right after attaching the mooring ball to our bridle, the squall unloaded its fury.  We let the deck rinse off for a while, then collected water in our starboard tank.   Fifteen minutes later it was full.    I tried to ignore the fact that we could have saved all the watermaker effort over 2 and a half hours by just counting on some rain.

When the clouds passed, we dinghied the crew to shore.  We walked up Boo Boo Hill to check out the blow hole and the pile of boat name plates then returned to the beach so the kids could play.  Dinner and a chapter book , we headed for some shut-eye.

 

Day 576 ~ Slow GoingApril 12th, 2012

Calm, peaceful night.  No bugs.  Slow morning.

Got up with great plans of exploring the creek which divides Compass Cay, but by the time we were through with brekkie, no one had the energy to motivate the troops.   We finally got in gear enough to get the anchor up and motor up to Little Halls Pond where Jaru is waiting.  Plus, we wanted to check out the sea aquarium at slack tide.

We got out and found not a breath of wind.  The water, like glass and crystal clear, teases our mind into thinking, in irrational flashes, that the water isn't even there and our boat is flying over a white sand desert. It's a beautiful illusion and one only broken by the slight wrinkle of our wake slipping away behind us.

We anchored just past Jaru, had a quick lunch and then mobilized for a snorkeling expedition.  We hit the tide about right and enjoyed excellent sunlight with very little current.   Lisa chose to dive the shallow reef and has come a long way with underwater photography this year.  Take a look...

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Day 575 ~ A Serious CatamaranApril 11th, 2012

We did a pancake breakfast and got everyone and their stuff settled and packed.

Of course, I had an ulterior motive in lending Elcie our ultra-wide angle camera lens yesterday.   That meant I had to go back and pick it up again in the morning, which also might provide a great opportunity to be invited for a look-see.  You can arrange things as best you like, but sometimes better things happen.  Richard, Elcie's owner and visionary, beat us to the punch.  Stopping by yesterday evening, he invited us all over for a tour this morning between 9:30 and 10am.

James and I weren't going to disappoint him.  We motored over and were given the full enchilada tour, complete with reflections on mistakes made, costs for this and that and thoughts on building your own boat in the first place.  I was too over-awed to have the presence of mind to take any of my own pictures, so you'll just have to check out their charter website which does an fair job of representing their boat.   Granted, judging a boat from a little photo on a screen is like trying to understand the scope of the Sahara Desert from a sample vial of sand.  Suffice it to say that if world cruising is your goal, Elcie has no equal.

We probably spent and hour poking and prodding Richard with questions.   Finally, it was time to move on and we had our own boat to deploy.  The wind was vaporous, so we motored the 7 miles or so to the north end of Pipe Cay where we anchored on a huge, flat sandy shelf in 7 feet of crystal clear water.

When it's shallow and the visibility is good, the kids love swimming off the boat.   With two new in-house playmates, we didn't have to suggest it twice.

I had an itching for a Piña Colada, so James and I zipped over to the Compass Cay marina for a bag of ice.   After two rounds of blender work and cramming some ice into a few spare corners of the freezer we still had plenty left over.   One of the girls had spotted another kid sailboat, Imagine, anchored about a quarter mile away.  I hailed them on the radio and offered our half bag which is akin to offering free beer on a college campus.

I zipped over to drop it off.  Jane mentioned they were planning a bonfire on the beach that evening and we were invited to join them.  So, after dinner and well equipped with bug dope, we puttered over the beach and enjoyed a crackling marshmallow roast with 3 kid boats:  Imagine, Good Trade and Mahari.  The kids had a blast.

 

Day 574 ~ Boat Kids GaloreApril 10th, 2012

Other than Jaru, the last few months have been pretty thin in the kid department.  Sometimes you freeze and sometimes you fry.   Today we were dropped into the boiling fat.   Well, it actually started yesterday with the arrival of the Green family.

Morning chaos broke with excited kids playing and giggling while the parents tried to sleep off the late night.  Some boat families who we first met in Farmer's Cay a few days ago were also in the anchorage and we invited them to the beach later on.  After lunch, we took our contingent, along with Jaru, across the channel to the beach area.  A sailboat named Elcie, all aluminum hull, also came with their 2 girls to total 9 kidlets ripping up the sand.  When we arrived, there was a couple enjoying the entire beach on their own; they looked so lonely.   As we unloaded the troops they threw us a few icy glances, rolled up their towels and stomped off.   I just don't understand.

Rod, Lisa, James and I snorkeled around the islet to the south of the grotto where we saw lots of coral, a few new types of fish, a sting ray, two turtles and a nurse shark.  Lisa swapped kid-watch duty with Cedar so we could snorkel the Grotto one last time before the masses descend at low tide.

We left the beach, took the smaller kids to the Grotto nearer to slack low tide and then rounded up the troops for dinner and an earlier bedtime.   There was an insane amount of yelling, sand and wet smiles on the ride back.

 

Day 573 ~ Surprise VisitApril 9th, 2012

First thing in the morning, the girls and I took my folks to the airstrip for their flight to Nassau.  The plane was delayed, no surprise, but they finally got off.  We then went to the store to drop off our propane tanks and replenish our food stores.

By the time we returned, the channel was a freeway with skiffs zipping by us at full speed left and right, front and behind; it was time to move.  We upped anchor and motored near the Thunderball Grotto anchorage.  Again, the extreme April tides challenged our depth meter but, after a couple of false starts, we got Spade set in deep sand at last.

We have long planned for the Green family's arrival.  They flew down for a week of respite from their current fast-paced life in lower Manhattan.  James and his family sailed the Caribbean and then crossed the Atlantic to take in the Greek Islands, all in one non-stop year.  We first met them aboard their boat in Martinique in February 2011, then crossed wakes several times up the island chain.  They also just happen to have two boat kids, an 11 year old girl and 8 year old boy.  The girls were clueless to the very end.

Rod and Cedar took our girls and ran interference while Lisa changed the sheets and I made another airport run to pick them up.   The girls and Jaru clan were back aboard our boat when I returned with four new passengers.  Nina's eyes were like alien spaceships when she saw her old boat partner, Paloma, in our dinghy smiling from ear to ear.  Nana was stunned for several seconds as her brain computed the four faces she knew but who shouldn't actually be standing before her in the flesh.  Nika, in her typical nonchalant manner, simply said, "Hi Ronan" as if they'd just played together this morning.  Needless to say, it was fun to watch.

After the shock wore off, they were all excitedly buzzing about.  The rest of the afternoon was a vortex of snorkeling and kid chatter until the wee hours.  Okay, the adults did some talking and catching up too.

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Day 572 ~ Sunday TraditionsApril 8th, 2012

The predicted cold front passed last night with 20-25 knot winds from the northeast as predicted.   The howling rigging awakened me a few times, but I would just picture the Spade anchor buried in the deep sand, turn over and go back to sleep with a smile.   There's nothing like good holding to give a guy peace of mind.

Being Sunday, and Easter, we made our traditional Swedish Pancake breakfast.  I mixed a huge batch with the addition of Mom and Dad; there were only two left.   That's one dozen eggs, 6 cups of milk and nearly 2 pounds of flour down the hatch.

The kids played some more at the beach after which we upped anchor and sailed north to Staniel Cay so we can meet my folks' plane first thing tomorrow morning.   We came in at extreme low tide, what with the recent full moon and all, and had to pick and choose our spot carefully.  All but the narrow channels wrapping around all the islands are shallow sand but on the third pass we found a 'just deep enough' sandy patch and set the anchor a fair distance out.  By then it was getting dark so we ate dinner and headed to bed.

 

Day 571 ~ Moving UpApril 7th, 2012

After last night, any place sounded good.   We followed Jaru around the southern tip of Farmer's Cay and sailed up to White Point, one of our favorite anchorages.   Great protection from the north and east, to where the wind was shifting, good holding in pure sand, a fantastic beach, and limestone slab walled fort that the girls and I have worked on over 3 of the last 5 years.   We tremble to think how it looks after a year of hurricanes.

We arrived about noon, downed a quick lunch and headed ashore.   The "front porch" section of the fort was completely demolished.   The "kitchen" area was partially standing but mostly toppled, so the kids and Grandpa worked on repairing and strengthening it.   Our sign depicting our name, dates of construction and invitation to help build was long ripped off the tree on which I had secured it last year with 4 stainless roofing screws.   The screws were still there and we found remnants of the sign scattered around the trees behind the beach.

The crew returned exhausted from their labors.   Dinner disappeared in a flash and the sleepy heads were out shortly thereafter.

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Day 570 ~ A Nasty AnchorageApril 6th, 2012

Some nights are better than others.   If sleeping peacefully every night with nary a care in the world is important to you then the boating life is not going to be your cup of tea.

Western winds are predicted which in this stretch of the Exumas reduces your potential anchorages from 60 to about 2.   One is inside the cut that forks north and south around Farmer's Cay.  We spent a so-so night there a few years ago on our last boat and so already knew it wasn't going to be great.  We weren't disappointed.

We upped anchor about 20 minutes after Jaru and spent a couple of long hours trying to catch them.  The winds were light and I didn't care to fuss with the genny so we gained on them only meter by meter.   It was fun, actually, a fair fight in these light airs.

We were a few miles ahead by the time we reached the cut and then motored through against a ripping 3 knot outgoing current.   There were a few boats in my preferred spot so we headed into the lee of Little Farmer's Cay itself.  We dropped Bruce and heard it grind its way over rocks and nastiness.  It finally set.

Snorkeling over it looked okay, but not great.  Jaru came in and dragged their 25 kilo Rochna this way and that with no real bite.  We surveyed the sand bar in the middle of the channel and found a nice field of white sand in 3-4 meters of water.   Rod made the judgment call to move and find better holding; I should have followed his lead.

The night came with lightning cells left and right, then a nice blast of wind as the front passed followed by a torrential downpour that lasted long enough to top off our tanks.

Then the tide shifted.  The current was now ripping past us, swinging us out in the channel, pinning us sideways to the wind while rocking and slapping us side to side with the swell.  It was loud and miserable and, while the winds howled, all I could visualize was our Bruce on the bottom with one hook sort of set around a sand stone.   Morning couldn't come soon enough.

Rod reported that their crew slept like a rock in calm and quiet.

 

 

Day 569 ~ Blast OffApril 5th, 2012

Laying in bed last night I kept thinking about the new deck light.  There had to be a reason it comes on, but only partially.   Then it hit me.   The entire mast wiring is a little funky because the anchor light uses reversed polarity to determine whether to display anchor lights versus navigation lights.   The nav lights, which are rarely on, are correct polarity and the anchor light, usually on, requires reversed polarity.  If the deck light shared the same negative/neutral return, then it might be getting weird current.  

No point in testing it broad daylight so in the morning we did our usual thing: brekkie, lessons and such.   After plowing through educational material with the promise of beach time, we did a quick lunch and dinghied over to the blow hole area.   It turned out to be a spectacular playground.   Like building sand castles near a small, slightly scary but never really dangerous active volcano.  As the tide changed, and the surf built on the big water, the noise and watery explosions got more and more boisterous.  The kids were having a blast, body surfing, rolling in the surge, channeling the outflows, diverting the rivers and working sand into every piece of clothing possible.

Eventually we had to tear them away, feed them and bed them down.  Nika was so exhausted she could barely climb into bed.   It was about this time I remembered the deck light.

I flipped a few switches and had Nina outside keeping watch for the light.   It sprang on with a strong steady glow that set the deck awash in shadows and light.   "Woo-hoo!" Nina hollered, "it works!"

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Day 568 ~ Tomato HeavenApril 4th, 2012

Grocery day has finally come.  After 25 days of camping, there was a little tingle of excitement aboard today.  Fruit was in the future, the very near future.  Of course, being on a tropical island means we may not get what we expect, but we should get something that isn't extracted with the help of a can opener.

I took our list and bags and waited for the shuttle at the office.  In the meantime, Lisa emptied out and scrubbed our water tanks, supervised a final deck wash-down and got the boat as ready to go as possible.

Cedar and I rode around Great Exuma with representatives from 5 other boats, stopping at this store and that finding a few precious items like nuts, plumbing parts and, finally, groceries.  We nearly ran into the store and there were plenty of giggles and smiles upon seeing the piles of peppers, oranges and bananas just waiting for a home.  We each have company for the next couple of weeks, so one cart would hardly handle the masses.   Soon, we were each dragging two carts around and running back and forth for key items.

After getting our stuff packed in the van, we walked back a hundred yards to a tomato stand sighted on the way in.   Now, we are talking real tomatoes here, ones that look like they were grown, instead of produced.   They were all shapes and sizes, had occasional blemishes and were a deep, vibrant red.  The old guy in the truck sauntered out to us.

"How much are your tomatoes?" we asked.

"Just take a bag, Mon." he mumbled.  Cedar looked at me quizzically.

I wasn't sure what to do, but saw him gesturing towards some supermarket bags dangling from the rusty card table.   I took one and selected a few tomatoes, probably a pound and a half or two.   He put his hand out for the bag, which I surrendered.

He gazed inside for a long time.  Was he counting them?  Who could tell.  He muttered something to himself.

"Tree dollahs." he finally mumbled.

I paid promptly with a smile.   Seeing that the prices were good, Cedar picked a few herself.   We are both so suspicious of produce from store shelves we now view all such offerings with suspicion.  Silly fools.  These were the real deal, tomatoes with soul, tomatoes with purpose and flavor.  Back at the boat an hour later I cut into one and garden smells wafted through the hulls like a scent candle had been lit.   The flavor, after weeks of can goods, was straight from heaven.

I should have bought half the table.

The marina shuttle made a few more stops, then headed back home.   There was the usual hauling and packing craziness but all done with a smile and an edge of excitement -- salad tonight!

Our time at Emerald Bay was productive.  We washed and dried 16 loads of laundry, re-sewed all our insect screens, stitched a new grill cover, calculated and e-filed our taxes, cleaned the water tanks, completed a few client chores, upgraded our deck light to LED, replaced and tested our watermaker membranes, uploaded the blog and cleaned the boat.  Despite all the chores, it was fun and relaxing in a way: warm showers every night, clean sheets, and now fresh food.   However, it's all edged with trapped feeling: squeaking dock lines at night, the sounds of strangers walking past, garbled voices echoing off the hull and bugs on hot windless evenings.   It was time to leave.

We motored out, raised the sails and turned into our favorite Rat Cut a couple hours later.   We set Spade and went for a swim, explored a beach and enjoyed a bug-free, quiet evening swinging at anchor.  

The salad was fantastic.

 

Day 567 ~ Death and TaxesApril 3rd, 2012

Well, taxes anyway.  April 15th is right around the corner and Lisa's getting the tax deadline blues.  The McKerrow's brought us a 2012 copy of Turbo Tax in February so, in theory, nothing is holding us back.  Dad had picked up an LED R16 bulb for us.  Again, in theory, I should be able to replace the 20W halogen deck light bulb with this one and reduce its power consumption by nearly 80%.  If only it was that simple.

Light first.  Lisa cranked me up on a halyard and in two minutes I had the old bulb out and in my hand.  That's when I noticed the wiring, which connects to the bulb socket, was badly corroded and hanging on by a few strands, literally.   There didn't seem to any easy fix, at least for now while hanging from a harness.   So, knowing it will bite me some day, I installed the new bulb into the as-is socket.  Nina then flipped on the Deck Light breaker and the light came on.   Wow, that was easy.

We did math lessons after which Cedar took the kids to the beach.  In the quiet, Lisa dug out her piles of papers and started the annual process of funding Obama-land.  By the time the crew returned wet and sandy, she was close to finishing and we were expecting a large refund.  Better than owing more, but frustrating to know we overpaid so much, especially with our recent home boiler implosion.

After dinner, darkness fell and we all tromped out on deck to witness the new, super-efficient LED deck light.   The same one that will allow the kids to rope swing after dark (and leave the adults to converse in relative peace in the cockpit).  The switch was flipped and a feeble glow fell, barely visible to the naked eye.   It was on, but it was dim, really dim.  "I can't even see a shadow from it!" Nina exclaimed.  "I guess it couldn't be that easy."

This girl is starting to get the boat thing down pretty well.

Due to popular demand (Mom), we have added a "Chronological Order" switch to the top of each blog page. Clicking the link will reverse the month's order to begin with the first of the month at the top of the page.  Once you have clicked the link, your preference should be remembered through that session allowing you to view all the other blog pages in date order.

 

Day 566 ~ Power ProjectsApril 2nd, 2012

Electrical power on the boat is always limited.  With an air-conditioned lounge, tables, desks, chairs and power, Lisa tackled some long overdue sewing projects.  She finished up remaking all the insect screens and helped Mom turn our old dirty and mismatched blue grill cover into a nice new one of matching purple.

Dad had brought a new pair of membranes for the watermaker and, after some false starts, we managed to fit the new membranes into the pressure vessel without (fingers crossed) rolling or mis-setting any of the 6 critical o-rings.  Rod and I re-installed the high pressure lines, refitted the low pressure product lines, and then fired her up.  The leaks weren't huge, but drips fell from nearly every fitting.  Ugh.

Off they all came.  More teflon tape, more polishing, more twisting and another re-start.   This time, to my skeptical surprise, nary a leak could be found.   After a couple of hours of running, we took a sample and tested the salinity with Rod's handheld Total Dissolved Salts tester.  It read 382 parts per million.  Not the 190 that Rod's been getting, or the 248 that Remi makes, but it's way better than the 1,000+ that has been coming from ours.  Lisa took a taste and proclaimed it good.   Sea water has 35,000 parts per million of salt, so a drop from 35,000 to 380 represents nearly a 99% rejection rate.

To top it off, we are now producing 16 gallons an hour, instead of 8-9.   Smiles all around.

Still no grocery run.   We are talking to the marina about an organized shuttle in the marina van to the store, but it keeps being put off another day.   We haven't seen any store since March 9th.

 

Day 565 ~ Membrane TransplantApril 1st, 2012

Rod had generously offered to help with replacing our watermaker membranes.   After a decent night's sleep and with the prospect of new membranes in my parent's luggage tonight, we dove in.    

It only took 10 minutes and the pressure vessel (the tubes that hold the membranes) was out on the table.  That was the easy part.  Now we have to remove the caps from the tubes.  The technician in St. Thomas said something like, "It' a bit tricky, but you can do it.  A vice would make it easier."  Well, I had a vice, sort of.  It's one of those collapsible, portable things that, back in Alaska, looked like a must-have item.   In truth, it has been stored in a forward bin for almost a year without ever seeing the light of day.  After several minutes of contortions with huge vice grips, it was clear that a geek from Alaska and an accountant from Alberta just didn't have what it took in the muscle department to win.

Out came the dive gear, the paddles, the bumpers and finally the vice was found.   A few minutes later and we had it attached to a dock gangway and were cranking it down.  To my surprise, its grippers are polished smooth, not a bit of tooth to be found.  Of course, they slipped right off the smooth, hard plastic end caps.   We tried sand paper and other tricks, but no luck.

It was time to swallow our pride and seek a real vice.   We first met Glenroy, the maintenance manager for the marina, in 2006 so felt comfortable asking him for a few minutes of vice time.   I showed him the problem and he handed me his entire wad of keys, selecting one from the glittering ring, "this will get you into the shop, I trust you."

Pretty tough to beat that kind of service.  Ten minutes and a few vice cranks later, the caps were off and in hand and the key promptly returned with a smile and polite thank you.

Meanwhile the combined kid crew was scrubbing decks at Jaru.  One of Corsair's owners came by to comment on their cleaning efforts and how they could come clean her boat when they're done.  Little did she know that they took her offer seriously and soon appeared with brushes and buckets in hand ready to start.  Oops. 

But she held their feet to the fire and pointed out areas that needed extra work.  The kids did a great job, no whining or complaining, and an hour later came back with 10 smackers, or $2 each, for an hour of scrubbing, proud as punch.  "Who needs math?!" Nana exclaimed, "when I grow up and need money, you can always scrub a boat!"

Well, the last part is certainly true.