Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mishaps on the Way to Nassau

Monday, January 30, 2017

With fond memories in hand, we left Great Harbor Cay on Monday morning at first light.  Our plan was to go West and then South, then East to get around the large shallows to the west of the Berry Islands, and anchor overnight next to Chub Cay/ Frasier's Hog Cay. This would be a long run (53 NM), so we needed every minute of daylight we could get in order to arrive before sunset.  And the following day, we would move on to Nassau, across the infamous "Tongue of the Ocean".

The winds were still brisk Monday morning, but were predicted to begin diminishing after 11am. So, we set out, initially motoring into 17-18 knot headwinds with light chop.  Soon, we were able to turn West and sail with a single-reefed main & jib. But as we got out further, the wave heights kept increasing until they were up into the 6 foot range, and coming in ahead of our beam, producing a lot of spray and water over the boat, and a lot of unpleasant motion.  Joan and I fared alright, but Bill had a case of mal de mer.

This was the beginning of our mishaps.  We soon discovered that several improperly-secured items on the deck, including a boathook and one of our two sunshowers, had been washed overboard and were lost. :(  We will have to replace them in Nassau.

Once we were able to turn south, the wind and waves were behind our beam, and things calmed down.  And, as predicted, the wind began to die and the waves immediately started to lay down. Soon, we were motor-sailing in order to keep up our speed so we would arrive before sunset.

As we were approaching the beginning of the Tongue of the Ocean, I noticed something unusual in the distance.  It appeared to be a thin band of dark at the horizon, looking for all the world like land.  But there was no land supposed to be there!  Double checking our position and the charts confirmed this.  I scratched my head and we sailed on.

As the mysterious dark strip got wider, I could see white waves on it!  Now this looked like waves crashing on a reef!  I checked and rechecked our position and the charts, and there were no reefs anywhere near here.  We sailed on.

Eventually, I realized what we were seeing.  At the boundary of the Tongue of the Ocean, the water depth goes abruptly from around 25 feet to over 2000 feet!  So, in a sharp straight line across our path, from horizon to horizon, the water color changed from turquoise to cobalt blue! An amazing sight!  It was like being an ant on a map! Although I understood why it happens, it is one of the strangest things I've ever seen.

By 5:00pm we had arrived at Chub Cay/Frasier's Hog Cay, and tucked up into a sheltered anchorage behind Texaco Point and anchored in clean sand in 9 ft of water..  There was only one other boat there, all of the others having chosen to anchor off the south shore of Chub Cay.  After sunset, the sky was clear and the stars were spectacular, except for the southeastern horizon, where you could see the sky glow of Nassau, only 35 more miles away.  Tomorrow, we'll head there.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Because we had a much shorter run today, we had a more relaxed morning and enjoyed the sunrise.
Sunrise from Frasier's Hog Cay
It was shortly after we left that the real mishap hit us. But, in order to understand it, you first need a little background.

Since we left the US, we've had our head's Y-valve set to discharge directly overboard instead of into the holding tank. This is the norm in the Bahamas, as there are NO pumpout facilities. We took great pain to be sure our holding tank was pumped empty right before we left because we have no way to empty it ourselves. However, because of the weather, we've mostly been at marinas so far (where we use the shoreside facilities), and only anchored out twice.

Anyway, it turns out that, unbeknownst to us, our Y-valve was broken, and was still diverting waste into the holding tank instead of overboard! On Tue morning, the tank finally filled up, forcing waste out the vent, and through the threads around the deck pumpout cap.  The pressure blew the seal on the holding tank's cleanout port, dumping raw sewage into the bilge! This was a triple whammy as
  1. We now had no functioning head
  2. We had a nasty mess to clean up (while living aboard)
  3. We had no way to empty the now full holding tank
So, when we get to Nassau, the first order of business will be to pull everything out of the v-berth (where the holding tsnk is located), figure some way to empty the tank, and remove and disassemble  the 40-year-old Y-valve to see if it can be repaired or must be replaced.

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