March 2012 ~ Headed North
Day 564 ~ Laundry MadnessMarch 31st, 2012
Well, the day has finally come. After 22 days without contact, civilization is no longer avoidable. We could probably stretch it another week or two on canned goods and recycled laundry, but Grandma and Grandpa T are getting on a plane tomorrow and airplanes, it seems, prefer towns.
Jaru was up and going a few minutes faster, as usual, but we weren't far behind. It's about 28 miles to Emerald Bay. We don't do the marina thing very often, perhaps 10 nights a year, but Emerald Bay has many memories from past trips, offers free laundry and endless hot water showers, friendly staff and a grocery store within walking distance. Haagen Dazs is calling with siren song.
The winds were light, as projected, but at a better angle than expected. With the genny and the main pulling, we were making 5.5 knots for most of the afternoon over a nearly lake-like sea. With the prospect of guests and a washing machine, Lisa went into turbo-charged cleaning mode. Laundry piles soon filled the cockpit, beds were ripped asunder and the girls and I did our best to keep out of harm's way.
By the time we got to Emerald Bay, the boat looked like someone cared. We stopped at the fuel dock on the way in to get fuel (16 gals after 900 miles). Pulling around to our favorite slip, D14, we decided at the last minute to switch tie-up sides. Not a smart move. Nina and I ran around like chickens in a zoo while Lisa backed and twisted our huge floating RV into place. With Rod catching lines, it was soon under control and the last I saw of Lisa was a walking lump of laundry bobbing towards the big yellow building.
Then the bombshell. The grocery store closed 6 weeks ago. No ice cream tonight, or anytime soon. Not to mention eggs, milk, lettuce, tomatoes or apples.
It was nearly midnight when an exhausted Lisa crawled into bed and collapsed, 11 loads of laundry later.
Day 563 ~ Lobbie-ing Long IslandMarch 30th, 2012
With light winds predicted the next week, we decided to leave the island paradise of Conception and head for Long Island. It's about a third of the way to Emerald Bay where we are destined to commit the cardinal boating sin: meeting a plane. Having Grandma and Grandpa on the flight, however, softens the blow a bit.
The sail was slow and leisurely. We make 4-5 knots in a light following breeze that softened and kicked up in fits and starts. We anchored near Remi De in crystal clear water over pure white sand. The bottom was as clear as looking at your own reflection in a mirror, as if the 15 feet of water wasn't even there.
We cruised a fair bit with Bruce and Toni on Remi De last year. I guess Bruce was still finding his mojo because I don't remember him being obsessed with lobbies last time (Australian for Lobster). Well he is now. We joined him on an hour quest where he poked his head under every ledge and rocky cleft with his Hawaiian sling ready. He caught one small one, but a larger one escaped him; it haunted his afternoon.
At dusk he was back on the reef after the Big One, despite the fact that it was time for the men in gray suits to appear. He came back flumuxed, "I had the sucker in my sights!" he exclaimed with a ringing Aussie twang. "I pulled back really hahd" (on the big rubber band that powers the spear). "But when you pull that hard, it shoots up a little and I missed heem a again! I guess he'll live another season."
I couldn't figure out why Bruce was so animated about the loss until Lisa filled in a critical detail. "Lobster season ends tomorrow," she informed me with a smile. Ah, ha.
Day 562 ~ Up a Creek SharksMarch 29th, 2012
Did lessons in the morning. If not then, they never get done. By 11am the crew were on the beach and in the water. Just another day at a deserted white sand beach.
Conception island is nearly split in two by a brackish river which is fabled to be home to numerous sea turtles. We mobilized the troops, Remi De taking the kids in their new 14' "cool, fast" dinghy while we took the adults in ours. We were able to plane easily with four adults, which turned the 3 mile trip into a 10 minute speed fest.
We picked our way up the river, negotiating many shallow washes of 8-10 inches of water. The deeper we went in, the shallower the water became and the more wildlife was visible. Numerous turtles, mostly small ones, darted left and right from our growling approach. Then, we started seeing sharks. Not big ones, probably only capable of an 8 ounce bite, but sharks none the less. Their fins slicing the surface, they would zip back and forth in front of the dinghy's prow.
Funny, no one wanted to go for a swim.
On the way back we passed another dinghy with a couple of older gentlemen fly fishing for Bonefish in one of the deeper holes. We had seen them arrive in the anchorage an hour earlier. Their boat's name was Destiny. Turning the corner we could see their better halves swimming at the edge of the dark turbulent pool.
"Have you guys seen all these sharks?" we asked, as a way of a caution.
"Oh yeah, they're all over here." they answered, all smiles.
Day 561 ~ Tikki Masala NightMarch 28th, 2012
It blew hard all night, and most of the day, as predicted.
While the kids toiled mercilessly on lessons, Rod and I attempted to explore some of the more exposed coral patches on the east side of Conception's northern tip. It was a mistake. We worked hard for 10 minutes against a nasty current and breaking 3 foot waves only to find cloudy water and hard scrabble bottom. In typical male fashion, neither one of us wanted to cry "uncle" but after a few more minutes of torture, we bailed, and worked back to the dinghy. As happens, the good stuff turned out to be in calm water just behind our boats. It was deep, but there were plenty of fish in abundance including a huge lionfish, and several grouper.
The afternoon faded into evening. The girls returned from the beach. A quick cleanup turned into a full on cockpit scrubdown, long overdue.
We had invited Jaru and Remi De over for dinner, Tikki Masala, specifically. It's been 18 days since we have seen any civilization and it's one of the truly tasty meals we can make completely from canned goods. We had fun comparing cruising notes and debating plans for the coming months.
These were the very people I knew existed years ago during long nights of dreaming and planning. When I first pitched the boat thing way back, the girls would often ask, "but what about our friends?"
"We'll find kids out there, and they will become friends. You can have both friends at home and on boats." I would answer, feeling a little bit like a politician.
"But what are their names? How do you know?" they would counter skeptically, with the impenetrable logic of a 7 year old.
"Trust me. I am not the only dad dreaming of boats."
Now we know their names and who they are. While a geek in Alaska was going off his rocker, there was a city accountant in Canmore, Alberta, making the exact same calculations, and telling his kids, Osa and Tiegan, the exact same things: "Trust me, we'll find friends."
Day 560 ~ Kid ManiaMarch 27th, 2012
Getting lessons in first was like water torture. We finally released the kids to the beach while Rod, Cedar and I snorkeled around the coral near the beach. Visibility was poor. We all ended up on the beach and hung out while Rod and Tiegan made a sand volcano, complete with internal fire.
The cold front continues to twist the wind around and around, making yet another move essential. We lunched aboard our respective vessels then kid swapped for the hour trip back to the north Anchorage.
I forgot my snorkel gear on Volcano Beach so Bruce loaned us his new fast dinghy to backtrack 5.3 miles and retrieve it (we're really just trying to see how many times we can go back and forth). Lisa took the helm and had fun driving the hot rod there and back, at full throttle much of the time, spray flying in the evening sun. It was a good thing we moved when we did as the south bay's waves had gotten bigger in the short time since we left.
The front passed over us in the evening and 20-25 knot winds came in torrents most of the night. Our Spade anchor had completely disappeared into the deep sand and held like a rock all night.
Day 559 ~ Happy ReunionMarch 26th, 2012
The wind shifted as predicted during the night and we awoke to a bouncy anchorage. Our six neighboring boats were gone by the time we sat down to a quick bowl of oats.
We thought it best to move at the sun's noontime zenith so decided to explore first and move later. We skipped lessons, landed on the beach and hiked around Holly's Trail to large bay on the East side. The trail was rugged in places and paralleled the exposed east side of the island thick with coral heads and shallow rocky shelves. On the return walk, we could clearly see two huge fish swiming among the coral heads. Rod went in for a quick dip and found them to be massive parrot fish, easily 2 1/2 feet long, more than four times the size we normally see.
When we crested the final dune ridge, we saw an anchorage boiling with 3-4 foot short chop. Both our boats were bucking in the frenzy. Getting the the dinghy off the beach without mishap required a carefully choreographed entry with the dads doing the final plunging push off the sand ledge while the moms paddled forward. Getting the kids onto Jaru was another hair-raising affair. Picture passing small children from one bucking bronco to another, complete with flying hooves, loose saddles and flying mud. We managed not to lose or injure anyone, but barely it seemed. The younger girls stayed aboard Jaru and Tiegan and Nina came with us.
Lisa had just walked in our boat when she heard someone call Remi De on the VHF. We hailed them and learned they, too, were headed into the south anchorage, right where we were going. We had last seen them in Newport back in September so Nina went spastic. The other two aboard Jaru remained oblivious. Remi, in her usual greeting mode, was on the tramp jumping and shouting as we arrived a few minutes behind them. A happy reunion indeed and the kids from all 3 boats played for a while. Later, when it was time to walk Remi De's Lhasa Apso, brought back from Australia last November, our girls went along 'to help'.
By the time everyone was back at their respective boats, it was late. Quick dinner, then bed. The girls were completely exhausted from 11 hours of non-stop activity.
Day 558 ~ Exxon CelebratesMarch 25th, 2012
Cedar had suggested a 5am departure, but it was nearly 6am when the last meter of chain rattled into its locker. It was still dark enough to warrant navigation lights as we motored out of the anchorage and unrolled our genny. Dawn at sea, at least in the tropics, is always a spectacular event, punctuated with puffy cotton balls and the purest pastels.
The winds were light and directly from astern. This sounds nice, but really means that as the boat accelerates, the apparent wind drops and the sails start to flop around. So, grudgingly, we ran an engine and made fresh water for the first 3 hours.
Later, Jaru reported smoke in the cabin and shut their engine down. Tense minutes passed as we slowly drew away from them. Scenarios ran wild through my head, towing them into remote anchorages, flying in parts, etc. Rod called back a half an hour later and I could tell by the tone of his voice that the news was good. Turned out the problem was a loose alternator connection that was sparking and arcing. It burned off the stud so there was no way to reconnect it. Fortunately, the previous owner had a brand new spare Yanmar alternator in the box with all the fittings, ready to go so we didn't have to divert to extreme, foreign and remote measures.
The wind seemed to build a little, so we finally shut off the engine and sailed for a couple of hours but it, too, soon tapered off. By 11am the engine was running again, and hour ground upon hour, our ETA was 5:30pm. Thankfully, our angle, wind and weather was quite smooth and pleasant. Moving about the boat wasn't treacherous and Lisa didn't even have to hang on while seated.
We had plenty of time to play our full repertoire of passage tricks: movie, books, stories, games. We nosed into the southern anchorage, but found it terribly exposed to the southern fetch and roiling with swell. We motored another half hour around to the northern anchorage and found it nearly glassy calm. All told we ran an engine for nearly 10 of the 12.5 hour voyage; that's 1/30 of our annual engine run time goal. Ouch.
Dropped the hook, whipped up some din-din and crashed.
Day 557 ~ The Exquiste PastMarch 24th, 2012
With a 70 nautical mile passage tomorrow to Conception Island we decided to turn Saturday into Sunday, for the most part. We made plans with Jaru to check out the lighthouse on Bird Rock a little later. The girls tackled a bit of math before we devoured a heaping pile of Swedish Pancakes. Our precious egg supply has been carefully guarded for just such a day as this. Only 5 remain. By the time we were finished and cleaned up, Jaru was ready to head out. We followed in our dinghy and spent several hours exploring the ruins, the tower and the outbuildings. We threaded our way up the spiralling, rusty stairs to the light house pinnacle, 115 feet above the emerald blue sea. The kids ran around collecting artifacts while we imagined what life was like in its heyday. The marker above the door read 1876.
The kids played, collected lizards and ran around and through all the buildings several times. Some of us tried snorkeling and found it to be average. And, we took pictures. Lots of pictures.
After such a busy excursion and a wet ride back, we all took an hour to just sit, work or read before combining our culinary forces with Jaru and grilling up our fresh-caught Mahi Mahi to share with the group. I tackled a small web project since I had wifi, the girls helped tidy up the common areas and Lisa read Watership Down as the sun sank towards the horizon. Just before sunset Jaru came bearing cabbage salad (using precious supplies of fresh stuff like cabbage and apples) and rice to combine with our mahi and then we topped it off with a piña colada treat.
In anticipation of the lighter winds and long crossing tomorrow we called it an early night.
Day 556 ~ Mahi ManiaMarch 23rd, 2012
So last night's fishing was hot; Nika and I basked in the glow all through brekkie.
Rod's a get-up-and -go kind of guy so, once again, we were still clearing away breakfast dishes when their chain started to rumble into their locker. It was probably an hour later before we were finally underway. The winds are predicted to be light so we put up our genny, which is always a stressful undertaking, at least with kid muscle doing most of the work.
Once clear of obstructions, I immediately dropped the fishing lines. I didn't expect much but about a half hour later, the large pole, the new one with 150 yards of 100lb test started buzzing like a small chainsaw. By the time I got to it, only a few yards remained. The reel was almost untouchably hot.
I did my best to crank some back in, and won back a few feet, but it was only for a moment. With our huge genny up and pulling there was no way to slow down and the fish used that to his full advantage. Another moment passed and the line was gone, down to the knot tying it to the spool. Then another minute of incredible pressure, and Ping! we was gone; the 80lb steel leader returned sawn through with tropical teeth. Speculation, of course, was rampant, but what a huge let down. It hasn't been that long since our big tuna, only a week and a half, but the 400 sea miles since then have had nary a non-Baracuda bite.
Well, our despondence was short-lived. Pole number 2 exploded a few minutes later and the fight was on. Nana and Nika, the fishing fanatics, were electric with excitement. Streams of questions and exclamations flew left and right. Nina was on the radio to Jaru in a flash giving blow-by-blow accounts of the battle.
We were still sailing so fast it that it was nearly impossible to get him in. But slowly, mile by mile it seemed, he got closer. A Mahi Mahi, and big to boot, was seen flashing blue and green just below the surface.
Lisa retrieved the Rubbermaid bin and I slowly worked him up to the boat. If we could have just slowed down from 8 knots to 3 or 4 it would have been much easier. Finally, I had him up in the air and sweeping onto the back step. He was too big for the bin and quickly glanced off the side. With a final flip he threw the hook and was lying flat, and free, on the back step. What now?
This fish was huge and powerful. I wasn't going to just grab him with my bare hands. He was so tired, he just laid there, staring at me for a few merciful seconds giving me just enough time to act. I jumped down and past him, figuring a kick or two might save the day. Then I saw the bin, grabbed it and pinned him against the back of the step. He didn't like that. More flipping, but now I was gaining some ground. Nana grabbed the fish bonker, and I got in a few hard whacks. Then came the cooking wine (alc 12%, not as good as rum, but something), then came the knife. We gained the upper hand. Nina was back on the radio, "He's aboard, he's HUGE!"
It took nearly 30 minutes to get him filleted, and the knife and cutting boards scrubbed and cleaned up. I had, literally, just splashed my last bucket of sea water over the back step when reel number 1 exploded again and the fight was on! Then reel number 2 went, and Lisa and I were fighting side by side. Lisa's fish was off not 2 minutes later; 10 more on mine landed Mahi number 2. This was a considerably smaller female which did fit in the bin and making things a little less exciting.
Lisa decided there had been enough yelling, blood and battle for one day, so we kept the lure dry for the rest of the sail around the northwest end of the island. Jaru was still several miles ahead of us and the radio crackled as they, too, hit a fish pack. They had one on and, for a few tense minutes, the radio was silent as all the Jaru hands worked to land it and keep the kids aboard in the process. Finally, the radio sprang to life with an ecstatic Tiegan reporting a large Mahi Mahi on board. Breathlessly he added, "My dad isn't too happy about this, but we got the fish aboard and he's flipping around splattering blood all over the cockpit." We know how that feels.
We finally got the fillets processed, the gear cleaned and all in order about the time we rounded the reef at Pitts Town Point and headed for Landrail harbor. Jaru reported a nice calm anchorage over deep sand, our favorite. The kids went ashore to burn energy, the adults collapsed in exhaustion. Oh, but wait, there's free wifi here, so we can't sleep now.
Day 555 ~ The fishing gets goodMarch 22nd, 2012
Our move today is a small one, just 15 miles to Aklin's Island and a neat little pocket anchorage called "Atwood Harbour". Rod was hot to trot and pulled his anchor up with the rising sun. They were a distant speck on the horizon when we did the same.
The wind was ideal, a beam reach (across the wind at a 90 degree angle). This is our fastest point of sail and, little by little, our game of cat and mouse played out. We eventually caught Jaru and turned the corner into the bay about 20 minutes ahead. We also enter fishless, again, despite trolling two rigs through and over some incredible fishing waters, steep underwater canyons and ripping currents colliding, all the things fish love.
We arrived to find several boats already there, including Cheetah, an innovative new catamaran designed by Dudley Dix, one of my favorites. I had introduced myself to Bill, the owner, in the USVI where we first saw the boat; he had graciously given me a tour, much to Nina's jealous consternation.
Nina immediately keyed up with the possibility of "getting a quick peek". Instead, Jaru arrived and we all went to the beach and walked off our sea legs. Bill and Jeannie from Cheetah came over later and we got re-acquainted. It's amazing how much warmer everyone feels after meeting up 500 sea miles later by chance. We all instinctively know what it took to get here and we immediately have common ground.
We returned to the boats about 5pm. Bill and Jeannine had asked us to drop off our boat card so Lisa and Nina went over to "deliver" it. Nina fervently hoped it would include an invitation aboard. It did.
While we waited for the schmoozers to return for dinner, Nika and I decided to go fishing. I had seen a grouper nearby when I checked the anchor and, after getting skunked the last two days, had a touch of grouper fever. The girls have long since learned that "fishing" means "fishing", not "catching". But, tonight was different. We had hit after hit of Lane Snappers. Nika reeled in an ocean triggerfish and then a snapper while I did the same. We released them all, being only single taco fish and not worth the trouble. That didn't take the shine out of it for Nika, who was beaming from ear to ear with all the action, and on her new birthday fishing pole too. She was happy as a clam.
Lisa and Nina soon returned, Nina gushing with all the wonderful things she had seen next door. A million dollars really does buy you a nice boat, but you pay for it.
Day 554 ~ Rain, at lastMarch 21st, 2012
It's true. At home, we were sick of rain. The summer we left it rained weeks on end.
But this morning, at 3:32am, I was awakened in an instant from a cozy, dreamy state and electrified into action by the unmistable tendrils of a torrential downpour.
Just once in your life, leap out of bed, trip up the stairs, strip off your pajamas and run out into a blinding slash of rain so thick you could cut it with a knife. Your flashlight pokes a pathetic glow into the driving shards of glass, your skin tightens in an instant. Gasping from the temperature shock, you fumble around with the water tank caps, they slip and slide through your wooden fingers as if they were coated in Crisco. Finally you get one off. You twist and fold the towel, place it and see that wonderful life-giving river start to divert into your tanks. You dash across the boat, stubbing a toe for good measure, then do the same on the port side.
Seeking refuge in the cockpit you are wide awake, and happy. It's raining hard, your tanks are drinking in the wonderous waves of free water. No diesel driven water maker, no noise, no smell, no hauling, no begging, no stealing about in the night. Free water. Isn't it glorious?
For a full minute you stand there just soaking in the musical drumming sound, oblivious to the fact that you are buck naked, shivering and dripping like a garden flower.
On second thought, don't try this at home. If you do, they'll send the men in white coats after you with a straight-jacket.
We did other things after daylight hit. The girls worked through their lessons, we fished intensely for two massive grouper that we can clearly see but which refuse to bite anything offered, even dangled in front of their noses. The kids lit a beach fire on their own 2 mile beach, concocted 'herbal' tea and otherwise did what kids and fire and sand always do.
Sleep well my busy daughters.
Day 553 ~ Chilling in ParadiseMarch 20th, 2012
We spent a wonderful night anchored off a remote Bahamian atoll with dear friends nearby. It doesn't get much better than that. We awoke to another tropical morning studded with puffy clouds. The forecast is for building winds, but we can't see it coming from here. We did some abbreviated lesson work to have time to join Jaru at the beach before lunchtime.
The beach is steep and deep with powdery sand, transitioning to broken shell fragments at higher elevations. The kids did what kids and sand always do, while the adults explored the mile and a half of untouched beach. We found real, unharvested conch shells and miscellanous other items washed ashore. Items of a plastic culture. A fuel tank with the "No Smoking" still clearly visible. An aluminum Vodka container. Feral goat tracks and heron prints.
Ruins are shown on the chart but proved difficult to find, if they even remain standing.
We returned to our boats, baked our bread and fed the hungry. The kids went over for some more beach time, then the fish obsessed ones did a mini expedition in the dinghy, but came up empty.
We did a quick dinner of planned overs, then some story time and beddy bye.
Day 552 ~ An Unexpected PassageMarch 19th, 2012
Mayaguana doesn't offer much. The chart shows a couple of small settlements and a few connecting roads; the tallest hill is 41 meters, and there are only two. With a 4 mile headwind bash to get to one, we opted to round the western end of the island to attempt the other at Northwest Point. Our map depicts an anchorage and fuel dock, maybe they even have a little grocery store with something fresh.
We have enough food from St. Thomas to last a while, but our produce consists of 2 tomatoes, 6 carrots of a slighly bendy nature, a half of a pineapple collecting fruit flies and a half head of iceberg lettuce brown in the center. Had we put a little thought into our Cost U Less shopping trip with a car, we could have stocked up on fruits and veggies of the canned variety. We do have a couple bags of dried lentils we can sprout; in fact, the first crop is well underway.
The girls sped through lessons in record time with good attitudes as did our boating companions, so we swapped kids for the short ride around the corner, Nina heading to the monohull and Osa with us.
Jaru, with a half hour's lead came back on the radio with bad news. Once around the Southwest point, aptly named Devil's Point, the wind, swell and chop made for some ugly seas. Our route to Northwest Point would be up swell and into a terribly exposed anchorage. An executive decision via VHF was reached and we altered course for our next stop, Plana Cays, 26 nautical miles to northwest.
The charts weren't encouraging, the only marked anchorage appears as an open roadstead, likely subject to nasty cross-swell. Jaru had a good head start, but once our headsail was flying it was a foregone game of cat and mouse. They called us and offered to take a few photos on the way by.
As we turned the southern corner of West Plana Cay, a stunning 4 mile beach with vibrant sandy patches sprang into view. The water even looked smooth to our distant eye. We motored up the coast, found a nice calm spot and dropped the hook in pure sand. I was in shortly after and stunned by the incredible visibility. I could almost see our anchor from the swim ladder nearly 150 feet away.
Jaru called a few minutes later to report a 38" Mahi Mahi had joined them aboard. They offered to share, so we rounded out the evening with a Dorado BBQ at our place. Even Nika, ever skeptical of new foods, ate some and said it was, "ok, I guess".
Day 551 ~ Passage to MayaguanaMarch 18th, 2012
Let me guess, you have never heard of "Mayaguana"; neither had we. Sounds like someplace in Bolivia. It's actually a nearly uninhabited remote Bahamian Island about 50 miles northwest of the Turks and Caicos which, of course, you learned about in fifth grade geography.
Rod and I agreed last night to get moving about 7am as a hedge against a slow trip and a night arrival. I finally pried one eyelid open and blinked a few times. The clock read 6:51am. Ouch. We'd probably hear Jaru's chain running over their windlass in a few minutes.
However, when we looked out, Rod and Cedar were just starting to raise their dinghy. It was nearly 7:30am and the sun was well above the horizon when we were both finally ready. We followed Jaru out of the reef passage since our entrance had involved a few tight places. We got the sails up and the fishing lures down. The winds were light for the first few hours but built throughout the day. There were a few bobs and crashes, but overall it was a smooth 50 mile reach.
On the chart, Abraham's Bay had looked inviting, but in person it was churned and choppy with the northwest wind. We motored in a bit, and didn't see any protection without grinding all the way up to the headland, nearly 4 miles and an hour upwind. We bailed out and flipped a u-turn. One other boat was tucked up against the southern coastline. The chart suggested a few decent places but, when we arrived at the first one, the smell of burning trash was overpowering. A musty cloud was arcing downwind from the island's dump, which is routinely set alight. We ground on along the coast until our noses were free of the smoky stench and set the hook in Russell's Bay.
The bottom here is deep and a mix of hard crust, coral ridges and deep sand. I thought we hit the sand target, but snorkeling revealed an anchor just sitting on a washed hard bottom. We upped it again and this time nailed the sand patch dead on. Jaru was having similar troubles. Since I was already in the water, they motored over and I was able to zero their Rocna anchor into a patch of sand.
The kids went for some much needed beach time and found a number of fabulous, never harvested conch shells. A sure sign that humans are few and far between.
Day 550 ~ Another Day, Another RollMarch 17th, 2012
Another night of fitful sleep for Jaru, a little better for us. It was time to move. We had discussed leaving for Mayaguana, Bahamas, this morning but, with barely a breath of wind in the present and breezes from any or all directions on the horizon, we opted to wait one more day. Neither one of us wanted the sounds and smells of engines to dominate the whole 50 miles. The prospect of ending a "day" passage feeling around for an anchorage against a rocky coastline wasn't too thrilling either, so we punted.
An alternative anchoring site was found on the chart; with not even a breeze, we didn't want to try the 'marina' again. The bay in front of the northern ghost resort is surrounded by reefs and, in all but a northerly wind, should offer limited rolling potential and not be too far in the opposite direction for our departure.
The morning got off to a pretty good pace with the promise of beach play for those completing their morning duties. Even Nika had done all but two math problems the day before in order not to be left behind when the play bell chimed. When lessons were nearly done, Jaru headed north on a scouting mission and, upon hearing a positive report, we followed.
The only other boat in the bay was a day snorkeler so we decided to follow suit. One spot they picked didn't look like it was near any reef, but once in the water the kids quickly discovered a sand dollar haven. The reef nearby was also vibrant with color and offered decent snorkeling.
Later in the day, when the sun wasn't quite so intense, I took the kids back to their 'animal museum' where they played contentedly 'til it was time to escape before the sunset sand-flea scourge hit.
Day 549 ~ De-Bugging SpotMarch 16th, 2012
After a bad night of sleep, we're done with bouncing so moved into the marina a mile north of us. Marina is a loose term for an area excavated, bordered with steel and a concrete walk and then forgotten for many years. Sections of concrete have since fallen into the water. Entrance is a bit hairy through a coral reef. Took it slow and, because our draft is shallower than Jaru, we went first and called out depths. Made it fine, anchored in flat calm water with no wind and we were just about to breathe a sigh of relief when a fly, then a no-see-um, then a gnat flew by. Nina ran for cover, the others started swatting.
I made pancakes for Nika's birthday and we ate between swipes at our nearly invisible assailants. While discussing the consequences of remaining in the sheltered flat water overnight vs. a bouncy anchorage with wind potential, Jaru called. They informed us that they, too, were going batty and, because light to no wind was forecasted, they opted for b0uncing all night instead of being eaten alive. So, out we went, following our track in and anchored halfway between the marina entrance and our original spot.
After such mundane tasks and clearing the table and doing lessons, we did a little more snorkeling. The water here is super clear, the reef pretty good despite a lack of abundant fish life. On the way back, we dinghied to the edge of the sea cliff, where the water gradually descends from 6 - 20 meters, then drops off to 210 meters. Rays of light were the only thing we could see in the deep. A large eagle ray ghosted past at the edge of our visibility. A huge barracuda swam by.
After lunch on our respective floating homes, Rod and I took the kids to the south side of the big resort beach. Cedar and Lisa stayed behind to catch up on sleep. In no time the kids were deep in imaginitive play and oblivious to the adult chaperones.
Dinner followed by a couple chapters of Watership Down and the girls were nodding off. It's great to have kids around again.
Day 548 ~ ReunionMarch 15th, 2012
Awful night of bouncing and rolling with the waves and wakes that wrapped around the tiny island. When all were awake at 7:15a, we figured the sooner we move out the better. After 5 days of chasing Jaru, we were ready for a reunion.
Put the genny up and coasted downwind to and through the Caicos Islands' western cut while Nina and Nana did lessons. Nika decided to celebrate her birthday today so she didn't have to do chores or school. Having talked about celebrating her birthday with our Canadian friends for a couple months now, she was beside herself with excitement with knowing her birthday wish was finally coming true.
Once through the cut, we turned downwind with a bit of genny trouble and sailed the remaining 2 miles to Jaru. The water color is amazing. A small shelf 9-12 meters deep extends off West Caicos island about a hundred yards or so, then drops off to 210 meters of deep, nearly black water. Jaru was on dive boat mooring ball so we anchored just north of them with plenty of scope. They dinghied over, we gave hugs all around amid lots of kid excitement. We immediately made plans to get off the boats and go exploring on terra firma.
We dinghied up-island to a reef and snorkeled then moved to the beach to warm up.
The Ritz Carlton started a destination resort here in the mid-2000's. They selected a pristine, deserted beach with excellent diving and fishing just outside their reef protected bay. Rod calls it the Stephen King Ritz Carlton.
It is a massive project with dozens of structures in various stages of completion, some nearly turn-key, others just hulking frames. The entire complex is frozen in time since the economic crash of 2008. Sliding glass doors stand open to the weather, travertine flooring still covered with protective mats, toilets enclosed in their plastic shrouds, fixtureless bathtubs, wires dangling from their boxes. Tools, cases of caulking, reels of wiring lay about just as if they were poised for another work day. The main lobby is still concrete, the flooring tile half finished in most places, tool boxes rest quietly, buckets of mortar and paint stand ready. All that's left to complete the scene are tumbleweeds rolling past in the whistle of the wind.
The kids played on the beach while we explored the resort then went back to boat to wash up, make cake and prepare dinner. With 1/5 of our tuna and Jaru's Mutton Snapper remaining, we combined forces to blacken and grill for the whole crew. After dinner Nika blew out her 9 candles and opened her gifts. The girls had even found some small gifts for Tiegan and Osa, whose birthdays we had missed while we were separated.
Day 547 ~ Perfect Sailing, Bad NewsMarch 14th, 2012
Sailed downwind all day across the Caicos Bank to try and meet up with Jaru. Our ride was quite pleasant and very smooth in 2.2 meters of water; we hardly knew we were sailing and that's the way the girls like it. The kids conquered math and Lisa covered phonics while I sat on the trampoline steering around baumies (coral heads) with the autopilot's remote control. Lisa took the helm (clicker) after lessons while I made lunch; the girls listened to stories later.
By 4:30p, we were finally able to hail Jaru on the VHF which means we were within 20 miles or so. They had to check out of the country the night before and had slipped over to the the West side of West Caicos, thus avoiding unwanted attention.
I made a few calculations and had to break the bad news. There was no way we could make it to Jaru's location before dark and I had no appetite for dodging coral heads in the glare of a setting sun.
Moans, groans and tears echoed between the walls; another day without rejoining our dear friends. The girls were crushed. Instead, we opted to anchor on the south side of Providenciales instead off the west side of Southwest Reef. Rough anchorage, very bouncy with occasional wakes to liven things up but guaranteed to get us moving quickly at first light.
Day 546 ~ Back in the WildMarch 13th, 2012
We bounced around all night, but not as bad as the eight monohulls surrounding us; all were pitching considerably in the rolling cross-swell. We slept well anyway, catching up for the previous short nights.
We are finally out of charterville; a survey of the boats around us showed those of a more serious cruising variety. After boat clean up and breakfast, like half of those surrounding us, we pulled out at 9:30am. We sailed across the Turks Island Passage with a crosswind to Long Cay, Caicos, where we tucked in the lee of South Point. Tomorrow, we'll make the 40 knot run to Providenciales where Jaru awaits.
After lunch, we dinghied to Sandy Point and explored Long Cay. With the exception of a few iguanas and lizards, there was little sign of life. We forged a trail to the top of the hill and found a huge blowhole which dusted us with salty blasts caught in the swirling puffs of the tropical tradewinds. The view from the ridge was austere, a vast open wilderness of wind ravaged ridges and shallow salty lagoons. Downwind from the blowhole was a large sandy "desert" (girl term); the salt from the blowhole's eruptions killed everything downwind and formed a sort of crater-like bowl. Set in this wasteland, like a jewel dropped in a parking lot, was our boat, patiently waiting.
When we arrived back at the dinghy I was shocked to find it high and dry. The tide had dropped another foot and it was doubtful we could drag it the 50 yards to deeper water. I quickly checked the tides on the iPhone, which should have been done before we started, and realized we would be stuck here until well after dark if we couldn't get the dinghy free. Fortunately, about 4 inches of water remained and we were just able to drag it to deeper water.
That was close.
Day 545 ~ Anchoring at Night's EdgeMarch 12th, 2012
Somewhere around 10pm, we were safe enough past the Silver Bank, a 900 sq. mile area with dangerous rocky heads 90 miles SE of the Turks. I turned us 10 degrees and the ride, though 2-3 knots slower, smoothed out considerably as the we accelerated away from the easterly wind and wave trains. Lisa took over around 1:30am.
The day was smoother with speeds around 6-8 knots. We saw a couple of cargo ships, but otherwise nothing but mile after mile of wet, desolate salt land, heaving and running in an endless throbbing pulse of energy, like the heart beat of a hidden leviathan.
Despite the smoother ride, the crew was still not feeling up to par. We did a quick dinner of sticky rice in the pressure cooker (4 minutes) and warmed up a can of Bush's beans. Warm comfort food like that won't win any awards, but it was quick and nevertheless hit the spot.
The winds tapered off throughout the day, making it questionable whether we could arrive at Big Sand Cay before dark. We rounded the northern tip of the reef at sundown, reached the last few miles into the anchorage and dropped Bruce just before the surrounding boats disappeared into the blackness. Ten minutes later, I had to use a flashlight to judge the distance accurately. Sailing 53 hours and arriving within 15 minutes of impenetrable darkness was like throwing a dart from the garage and aiming to hit a fly on the windowsill. So close that it felt a little more like a Coincidence.
With the hook down and set, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, sat around chilling and talking a bit before crashing hard.
03/11/2012 22:00:41 AKDT
03/12/2012 07:57:12 AKDT
Day 544 ~ Another Day at SeaMarch 11th, 2012
Lisa woke about midnight and I went down about an hour later. As always happens the first few nights of a passage, I lay there in my bunk feeling the buck and roll and hear the gurgling of the endless sea whispering past my ears in stereo. It's pitch dark below, the motion is fluid and easy. I feel the sounds as much as hear them. The experience is likely the closest to being in the womb again, riding along on someone else's errands, racing towards an unknown tomorrow.
BANG! THUMP, wacka-wacka. I am up in an instant and clawing at the stairs. Lisa, standing watch at the time, is ahead of me in the cockpit trying to figure out what happened. The first thing I sense is that we have slowed down and then I see it. The foot of the genny, complete with rolling furler attached, is flopping around by the helm nearly 40 feet away from where it should be. The titanium carabiner with a rate strength of 20 kilo Newtons has sheered off in a gust leaving the bulk of the genny's nearly 800 sq. feet of sail flogging in the morning trade winds. The whompa whompa of the flapping sail awakens the rest of the crew and, working together, we turn downwind, pull it down and bungie it to the trampoline.
Lisa went to bed and the girls and I ate brekkie and read. Later, the girls got a movie treat since we had good solar and wind power. Cooked up another slab the yellowfin and ate the best tuna fish sandwiches ever, far surpassing anything from a can.
Winds decent, swell 1-2 meters and we're flying. At our 24 hour mark, I saw some squalls ahead. With the wind picking up I replaced the genny with the main head sail. I took and average speed before (9.5 knots) and after (8.9 knots) the change. Losing .6 knots was well worth the increased peace of mind.
The rest of the day we sat or laid around as moving about was not possible with the swell and current wind angle. The girls and Lisa dozed off and on to ward off any tummy turning. The girls watched another movie later while we had good power supply (useful for distracting the stomach too). As things flew off counters and out of cupboards, they generally remained in that fallen state. To right them would be pointless; better to leave sleeping dogs lie as they say.
About 6pm I figured we made pretty good time. We left St. Thomas at 2pm, but the first few hours had been slow. A more consistent 6pm to 6pm measurement showed 196 miles in a 24 hour period, our best so far and an average of 8 knots. That's about as fast as the average person can run in full sprint mode.
03/10/2012 16:30:26 AKST
03/10/2012 19:40:04 AKST
03/11/2012 09:51:10 AKDT
Day 543 ~ Shock CultureMarch 10th, 2012
Today is the day, the waiting is over. We're tanked up with water and all that's left to do is a final grocery run and pick up the BGAN SIM card, which should be at the Post Office today (fingers crossed, this is the Caribbean). Lisa drops me off at the University dock about 11am and I am waiting for the gypsy bus at 11:15am. Then wait, and wait some more, which is unusual. Bus finally appears, but the driver gets out, makes a phone call, then sits in the cab doing paperwork. It's 11:25 now and the post office closes promptly at noon. I finally put a bug in his ear and we get moving.
Traffic is thick downtown and the bus stops several times. I don't have a watch, but can feel the sun arcing through the sky. I finally punch the buzzer and bail out at a point that's within a block or two of the Post Office. I start jogging, only to realize that my flip-flops aren't really meant for that. A cant works better. I blast through the sliding doors and into the wall of air conditioning. I look at the clock, it's 11:54am. Whew.
I have all my tracking numbers and ID in order, but the skeptical postal worker, probably miffed at having to work on Saturday, meanders off into the labryinth of hazy dim behind the counter. Shapes move in the semi-flourescent glow. Voices are heard; a ruckus laugh. The manager steps briskly to the door with her wad of keys, it's high noon. My "customer service representative" appears around a far corner. In her hand is an Express Mail flat. Relief. We will now have connectivity at sea, which is, I admit, a double-edged sword.
With the SIM card tucked carefully in a button-down pocket, I hit the Pueblo supermarket one last time. No yogurt, no whipping cream (for Nika's birthday cake), but plenty of eggs and apples. I load up my backpack and hoof it to the nearest gypsy bus stop.
I was in for a long, swerving drive. A passenger climbs aboard with a boom-box over one shoulder and promptly cranks it up to overpower the rumble of the bus's broken exhaust. Half the passangers start bobbing their heads to the beat, the other half glare off into an invisible horizon. A baby who was sleeping in the next row awakens to the din and starts screaming. The boom-box keeps thumping and squealing obscenities.
It's experiences like these that convince me that there is no actual culture in the Caribbean. What does exist is a subculture where rude behavior is tolerated and often celebrated. It's time to leave.
Lisa picks me up at the dock, we raise the dinghy, do some final tightening, then motor out around the southwestern tip of St. Thomas in fluky winds. Once we clear the point, the trades fill in and the engine is finally silenced. With the genny flying and huge long-period ground swell heaving under a deep glossy velvet, we scoot out to sea.
An hour later, we were all on the tramp listening to the Hobbit, when one of our fishing rigs started singing. By the time we got back there wasn't much left on the reel. I sat for what seemed like forever fighting whatever was down there. By the time I got it near the boat, both the tuna and I were exhausted. We put the fish into the lidded bin expecting the standard minutes of flopping, but the guy was so tired that he flopped once and was silent. Looking at the size of him, we put away our rigs and used every last bit of space in our little fridge.
Not a bad way to end a day.
DayDreaming Spot (departure)
Date/Time:03/10/2012 08:46:41 AKST
Date/Time:03/10/2012 10:20:28 AKST
Day 542 ~ Provisioning for a Lift-offMarch 9th, 2012
Well, water was not to be had last night. Local fisherman chose that night, and the only one during our entire time we were in Brewers Bay, to hang around the shoreline after sundown. Perhaps the full moon had something to do with it. Lisa woke up around midnight and said there were several fishermen still on the dock as well as 3 more in a dinghy just behind our boat until at least 1am. Hoping for a quiet Friday night for our clandestine water run.
Weather shaping up for a sail north. Nina and I went to Cost U Less to stock up. Kids to beach in afternoon. During dinner there was someone working late in the university office. Shortly after, however, the light went off and we hoped all went home for the weekend, or at least for the night. We made our move before any fishermen came back. We dinghied over with water jugs ready. Lisa tied us off while I grabbed the hose. Right in the middle of filling the first tub, a woman appears outside the building. We're not sure what she's adjusting, but we hope she doesn't notice the sound of water at the dock as the tub is almost full and the water pressure is high. After several eternal minutes as we prepare our excuse of why, if given permission, we're using their water after dark, she takes no notice and disappears up the drive. Whew. I'd never make a good criminal.
Somewhere back, we discovered that we've lost 2 of our 3 buckets. We bought them in Grenada and even lost and retrieved them once, thanks to the kids' eagle eyes. Normally, we empty one bucket while another is filling. As we have no other spares, we fill the tanks, one bucket at a time. Slow progress, but at least we don't have to motor back to town for it.
After our stealth water run, it was time to relax with a chapter of The Hobbit and then some shut-eye.
Day 541 ~ A water connectionMarch 8th, 2012
Nika, Nana and I went fishing at the crack of dawn. We trolled, we jigged. Nana got one hit but, otherwise, we were back at the boat empty-handed "starving" for brekkie an hour and a half later. This fishing thing is hit and miss, mostly miss lately.
We borrowed Spike for a beach walk and the kids swam a little.
We need to top up on water, but Charlotte Amalie is in the wrong direction. A couple days ago, we watched the VI University staff hose off their research boat upon the return of one of their trips. Seeing some staff on the dock today, Lisa went over to see what she could find. Upon her return, she reported that an employee named Steve gave us permission to use the hose, but we needed to get it when "nobody was around" inferring to the darker hours of the day or, rather, "the later the better".
Works for us...we think. Either he didn't want the whole anchorage to see us or the other employees/boss, it was hard to say which. Never thought sailing would reduce me to sneaking around with jerry jugs in the dark of night.
Day 540 ~ Waiting for WeatherMarch 7th, 2012
We are stuck here for the present. I know, it sounds so hard being trapped off of a white sand beach in the tropics. But, when our friends are killing time 400 miles northwest waiting for us, and seas are raging in between, it makes us feel pretty small.
A boating couple who we met in Long Bay came to test sail a Laser so Nina went out and raced around with him. Nika and Nana were anxious to borrow Spike again because "he needed another walk".
As the cold front trapping us here finally arrives, it rained off and on all night between shivering blasts of wind that sang through the rigging with ghostly sighs. Our Spade anchor was completely buried in sand and held like a rock all night.
Day 539 ~ Energy SpikeMarch 6th, 2012
Nana's been asking to sail Sea Pearl solo for a while. The past anchorages were either too exposed or the wind too light. However, today was perfect. The breeze was moderate and solid, the anchorage protected, the water clear and nearly flat. We reviewed all the basics, that she knows well, and off she went. I remember the feeling when, back in Alaska, Nina first took out Katy out on Mirror Lake. I felt an odd mixture of trepedation, pride and loss; she needed me.
And there she sailed with the wind, auburn hair flying, green eyes flashing confidence in the face of a challenge. She reached down the bay, tacked cleanly and came by for a close past. It's a great feeling seeing her on her own and also sobering. In a few years, she'll sail out the door.
Nana, our dog lover, lives vicariously through other dog owners. After much chore finishing and room cleaning, we took up our neighbor Alannastar's offer to borrow their maltese "with a bad haircut" Spike. Nana and I dingied over and picked up the little rascal. Nana and Lisa then took him for a walk on the beach. Actually, Spike took them for a walk, dragging them around the park.
Nana was in heaven.
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Day 538 ~ Banana Cream PieMarch 5th, 2012
The previous boat owner's wife was a serious chef and left behind a huge volume of cooking supplies including a fully illustrated baking book which Nana loves to peruse. We were looking it over when we stumbled upon a Banana Cream Pie recipe. Now, we just happen to have a surplus of bananas at the moment. We didn't have the whipping cream, cream cheese or yogurt the recipe called for, but that could easily be remedied.
The weather is showing a nice blow coming in the next day or two. We decide to move in closer to shore so the girls can get to the beach easier and we can have some protection from the coming winds. Nina and I hopped the dollar bus (locally known as the "gypsy bus) to Pueblo and on the way back checked out the anchorage from the University's hilltop setting; there appears to be a clear patch of sand right in close. Somehow we ended up in the residential part of the campus so had to backtrack up the hill with our bags of groceries.
"I told you this was the wrong way to go!" Nina reminded me.
We ate a quick lunch after which Nana and I smashed up the ginger cookies, baked the crust, mixed the filling and repacked the entire fridge to make room for the pie. The girls then were free to head to the beach for some more energy burn-off.
We did dinner, whipped up the cream, topped the pie with bananas and dug in. A cold creamy treat is so rare; I am afraid there wasn't much of the 2 pound pie left.
Day 537 ~ Traditional DayMarch 4th, 2012
We started the week right, with a stack of Swedish Pancakes. We are liking this Brewer's Bay place. Nice beach NS quiet even on the weekends. The girls headed to the beach with their "cows" (bumpers) and enjoyed stretching their legs. We read a couple chapters in the Hobbit and sent them to beddie-by.
Day 536 ~ Sailing LessonsMarch 3rd, 2012
I have been intentional about not pushing the girls into sailing. Of course, the critic would counter that just living on a boat is a forceful shove toward a certain view of life, and of the attraction and beauty of sail. There's truth in that, I suppose. But Nina was the one who begged to go to sailing camp. The girls spontaneously show me boats they like or don't like; they offer opinions about their sailing characteristics, "That boat is too fat, it must sail slow." They build endless boats with Legos and debate their specifications, "shouldn't it have a double spreader mast?"
For a while, Nika has been asking me to teach her how to manage the main sheet on Sea Pearl, our JY-9 sailing dinghy. She mastered the tiller long ago, but the main sheet requires more muscle and is a little scarier. As she's turning 9 in a couple of weeks, it was high time.
After a week in bustling city anchorages, Sea Pearl had been splashed minutes after we dropped the hook in Brewers Bay, a sweet little protected spot in the lee of the international airstrip. She rode out the night quietly cleated off and was now ready to go first thing this morning.
We rigged her up and cast off. The wind was blustery farther out in the anchorage, so I took the mainsheet until we were were protected some by the shore. Then Nika took over the sail control. She had a few surprises, but overall did very well. Time and again we would get hit with a gust and she was able to feel and see that by just letting off the mainsheet, she could control heeling and speed. There's a lesson for life there.
When we reached back to the boat, Nina and Nana were anxious for a turn. I, however, am completely innocent.
Day 535 ~ The RaceMarch 2nd, 2012
Getting sick of these city anchorages, all a-roll with vendors to the cruise ship industry.
After fussing with the Ford starter solenoid for nearly an hour, I finally took all the connections off and wired it directly to the battery. No clicks. A hammer didn't help.
So, into the dinghy, back downwind a mile, then pounding the pavement for 20 minutes to NAPA. The NAPA guy scratched his head and didn't know what to think of it. "I've never seen one of these not work; they are simple." They refunded my Visa card, but then refused to sell me a new one since I wasn't using it for a car. "But, I don't want my money back, I want a solenoid that works." Since I wouldn't leave after a few minutes, they finally hauled out a new one. I insisted on testing it first. Nothing.
Hmmm. The NAPA guy was as confused as I was. We finally went across the street to a little garage door hack shop automotive repair place. The guy took one look at it, clipped a couple of alligators to it, and had it clicking away in a second. Turns out the negative has to be connected to the mounting plate, not the silver stud. Duh, it's a car part man, the frame is ground.
At least I wasn't the only one feeling stupid. The NAPA guy was considerably more smiley now and happily sold me my old solenoid.
The girls and I walked back in the mid-day heat and then slowly motored upwind and up-chop back to the boat. Ten minutes later I had the "new" solenoid in and wired properly. This should do it, I thought, as I flipped the long neglected watermaker switch. The motor fired up, then promptly quit.
Ahhhhhh! A few minutes later and I found the control board fuse was fried, again. Popped another 2amp fuse in and tried again. Same. Another fuse, same. Hmmmm, this is not good but my patience and ideas have run out and it's time for a break.
The anchorage is bouncy and busy so it's time to move. Sailed out and around St. Thomas to the West side of the airport runway. A bit of periodic noise when the planes come and go, but definitely calmer. Girls took Sea Pearl out. We all went over the beach and walked around a bit, then loaded up again. We were just making a final tack when a second small sail boat appeared around a rocky islet. She was long and bigger, but sporting the same JY logo on the sail. The girls went spastic. It cut over towards us and, sure enough, it was a sister design to ours, only 6 feet longer and sporting a jib. The girls dropped me off at the boat, then tacked back and forth with their bigger rival, getting waxed time and again but having fun all the same.
I finally got to go swimming again and found Spade had punched right through a corally crust and was decently embedded in sand.
Day 534 ~ Setback CityMarch 1st, 2012
Woke up feeling a little beat up from yesterday's phone and boiler marathon. It's a pain having to fix your house's heating system, but a serious headache from 6,000 miles away. This is where growing up in one place my whole life really pays off.
Not only did we have a Grandpa with a truck and the time to spend the entire day running around procuring parts for us, but a few phone calls to childhood buddies and we had a new boiler and indirect water heater waiting at the local plumbing supply house's 'will call' at wholesale prices. That alone saved us about two grand; a positive way to start a very expensive day.
We wanted to head to the Turks & Caicos this morning to beat the northerly front steaming towards us next week, but with our boiler in flux and new renters at the end of their rope, we just didn't dare leave cell phone coverage for the 3-4 days it will take to get there. The day turned pretty windy as well, in the 20-25 knot range, so we likely wouldn't have ventured out in it anyway. Good sailing weather, but not family friendly.
Tackled long-overdue client work and tried to get the watermaker running with a new fuse. No dice. We may be stuck with the jumper cable jury-rig trick until we can get back to the US mainland. Unless any lightbulbs come on in these little gray cells.
Also tackled changing home insurance to reflect our new house situation and, while we're at it, new flooring for our thrashed mother-in-law carpet. After 13 years of multiple use, it just won't come clean so we decided to extend the kitchen's laminate floor into the living area, the same we have in several places upstairs. However, when calling around to check prices, it couldn't be so easy of a task. WilsonArt discontinued their laminate flooring in November of 2010.
Back to the drawing board.