Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Good 4-Day Blow

The wind picked up markedly out of the northeast after midnight on Saturday, and by dawn it was 040 at 28 gusting 35. I had the anchor alarm set but was still up quite a bit to make sure all our neighbors were holding fast. We all held well and there was no drama Saturday night. Sunday was gloomy and cold, and virtually nobody left their boats except for us, for Piper's shore breaks. We took him to Pig Beach - away from the hungry swine -  and later explored Pirate's Beach (a cruiser meeting spot with secondhand tables, benches, chairs, games, and a grill) and the unnamed beach north of it. The first dinghy ride was pretty wet, until I adjusted my technique: put everyone further back in the boat, use half-throttle to get the nose high, go straight into the waves until in the lee of the land, and then head to your destination.

We spent Saturday doing various repairs (changed alternator belts, found a leak in the fresh water system) and chores and playing some games, and then headed over to a nearby Tayana 47, "Moor Passages," to check out our boat's bigger (and much newer) sister. We had hosted happy hour with Roy and Kristina as well Bret and Theresa from Elusive the previous night. But other than our brief visit to their boat, Saturday was a pretty slow day for us and everyone else. Late that night there was a bit of excitement on the VHF - a sailboat on the Staniel Cay side had lost their anchor and was trying to get to the fuel dock, but subsequently lost their bow thruster and went aground (on soft sand, thankfully). Someone helped them get off the bar and safely tied up, and otherwise it was a quiet night though it continued to blow heavily with regular 35 knot gusts.

Sunday was a bit sunnier and people began to emerge from their boats. Nobody was going around the bend to town just yet, but more people went to Pirates Beach, and Elusive set up a happy hour there for 5pm. In the meantime I got our watermaker running for the first time. I never did it in the States because the water was never that great, but here it's perfectly clear so I finally dove in (also due to necessity - 4 people went through one 75 gallon tank in 9 days, and I didn't want to haul water from SCYC in the blow). I changed the prefilter, cleaned the prefilter case and lines, and oiled the pump piston...but didn't get any output on my first try. I realized that air was getting in the system on the prefilter side, so I went through and tightened hose clamps, then used silicone grease on the o-ring and filter case threads. This time we got output right away. I ran it for a half-hour to run all the biocide through the system (the membrane had last been pickled a year ago), then tested it with a TDS meter and by taste. Perfect. I ran it 4 hours and put 15 gallons in the starboard tank, then ran it 3 hours yesterday, and again today. We're making so much wind power that our batteries are staying nearly topped off, even with the extra 8-amp draw of the watermaker.

The Happy Hour on Pirates Beach was a nice respite from the wind, and we got to talk to several sailors we'd only met in passing or heard on the VHF before: Bob on The Edge, Walter and Connie on Summer of 42 (from Golden Valley MN!), Dave and Deb on Lilliputian, Mike, Blanche and Matt on Saltwater Taffy, Stephan and Brigitte on Fille, and others. But the sun set quickly and took the warmth with it, so we moved our beach party up to 2:30 for yesterday. This time most of the "Minnesota Mafia" (my term) was there. Besides Summer of 42, this includes Bob & Judy on Greenstone, Jerry, Deb & guest Kevin on Nightstar, and John and Nora on Sabertooth (honorary Minnesotans - they're Canadian). This group talks on VHF Channel 17 at least three times a day, and they're hilarious. We don't mean to eavesdrop - we and Elusive and Moor Passages have been monitoring and occasionally calling each other on 17 on our handheld VHFs. On Sunday night Jerry and John were chatting and somehow the talk made an abrupt turn to their mutual admiration for each other's boats. I couldn't resist chiming in: "Jeez, you two, get a room!" Dawn was aghast, but they were still laughing about it on the beach the next day so I sheepishly confessed to being the smartass interloper. Which is how I met the remaining members of the Minnesota Mafia. Super nice people. The other really cool guys who later showed up were Elisha and Wes, two 18-year old kids fresh out of high school and cruising the Bahamas on a barebones Tanzer 27. They don't have a working engine and their forestay is currently held together with bubble gum and baling wire after a near-dismasting, but they sure have a ton of infectious enthusiasm. Good for them.

We were hoping to head up to Shroud Cay today but the wind is still blowing harder than previously forecast, with occasional blasts to 30. It has veered enough that it'd be a downwind run and Windbird would be fine, but it's supposed to be nicer tomorrow - Dawn would rather not have any white-knuckle sails if we don't have to. So the plan is Shroud tomorrow, Hawksbill on Thursday, Warderick Wells south mooring field for two days, and Cambridge Cay for two days, then returning to Staniel when my parents fly in next Wednesday. All that is, of course, dependent on weather, but it sounds like we'll have a nice stretch of it until the 15th or so. Of course then we'll probably all be griping about lack of wind. As I said at Happy Hour the other day: "I don't ask for much...just constant wind between 15 and 22 knots at 60 to 120 degrees true wind angle no matter where I'm going!" In the meantime we're taking advantage of slightly better conditions today to go to Staniel Cay for the first time since Friday. We'll do some laundry, drop off garbage, fill up a gasoline jerry can, and have lunch at SCYC. This afternoon we have a Cards Against Humanity tournament scheduled on Pirates Beach. A little watermaking, a few boat chores, a few Piper runs to shore...rough life out here!

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