Tag: Bahamas

West-End Bahamas And a Possible Sighting.

West-End is a peculiar place. You basically have the Old Bahama Bay Marina and resort, and the village. Customs and Immigration are in a one-desk building on the West side. The resort has a series of good looking brightly painted bungalows with luxurious rooms, one which I rented for one night at a discounted rate, thanks to the Office of Tourism. Million-dollar houses are scattered around. Luxury yachts stop by to check-in and refuel, maybe go on some fishing adventure. That world is alien to me. A few cruisers make it a pit stop as well, like Scott and his wife Noi on their Tayana 37. I spent the evening with them and slept on their boat last night. Scott happened to need a dinghy outboard motor so I sold him mine. If Dagny is found I can always buy another one later. I have received good help from the marina as well, letting me make phone calls, loaning me a bicycle and other largesses.

The village is another story. Poverty is widely apparent, with many abandoned houses, run-down buildings and many other signs that the island is having a hard time. There are no jobs available and tourists can only eat so many conch fritters. I was given a good tour by Keith Cooper and Eric Darville who rents houses and cars here. You can ask for them to anyone in West-End, it is a small community. Keith offers eco-tours on his boat, and he knows his stuff.

My second day on the island I needed medications so I header for the health clinic in the village. I never had such a thorough medical examination in my twenty two years in the United States, and for a mere thirty two dollars to boot. It turns out that I was badly dehydrated, but otherwise healthy. I did need to take my beta-blocker that day however, and they put much efforts in finding a replacement drug that afternoon. My hat is off to nurse Quant, the doctor and receptionist.

Yesterday was spent shopping in Freeport with Keith to find some clothes. Freeport reminds me of some areas of Florida. Mainly a commercial port, it does not seem widely populated. A lot of products here cost twice as much as what you would pay in the States.

I do get the clear impression that to visit the Bahamas you need to be self-sufficient, as I was with Dagny. Otherwise, you are pretty much visiting a bunch of resorts and better have a budget to accommodate the fact. Accommodations are the main issue, which a boat solves rather nicely. Anchoring out will save you a bundle, just make sure your anchor is holding…

A sailboat was presumably spotted, seemingly anchored near Memory Rock. Keith got the information from a local fisherman. There are no other details at this time, and I am not getting my hopes up. Dagny was presumably spotted way North of that point, so it seems very unlikely that the boat would have back-tracked South. It could be anyone spending the night on the Bank before continuing on. I am waiting for Keith to be back from one of his tours to go talk to the guy and ask for a description. Of course it is possible that the USCG report was wrong and Dagny could have gotten caught on the shallows around Memory Rock if her anchor was still dangling. I consider the possibility unlikely, but one can always hope. If the description of the fisherman fits, then I will hire him or someone else to go have a look this afternoon.

Update: False alarm.. Clearly not the same boat.

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Crossing The Gulf Stream.

I left on Thursday December the 17th. Friday was going to be bad weather with the winds switching to the North, which for crossing the Stream is a no-no. I left early at at 5:30, motor-sailing. I can’t describe the anticipations and worries leaving at night on my first ocean crossing. This was going to be the shake-down cruise for Dagny and I. She undoubtedly has more experience than myself. Truth be told, I have practically none. I fear that admitting this will get me the wrath of experienced sailors, and they would be mostly right. This is just the way I do things, from cave diving to flying ultralights. Inexperienced doesn’t mean ill prepared or lacking knowledge. I have envisioned this trip for years and learned everything I could about sailing. This was my first time alone on a boat. My total sailing experience amounted that morning to a few hours aboard a friend’s boat as a guest. Now you’re going to think I am crazy. I certainly do not suggest anyone try this. You might not come back.

Leaving the Saint Lucie inlet was fairly straight forward. The channel is well marked. As soon as I was out the swells were pretty big I though, but I had no idea. Sea sickness reared its ugly head. I vomited three times, nothing but water. I had not slept the night before. Fortunately I felt much better after that, but could not keep water down from then on. My intent was to shut off the engine but my jib got entangled so I decided to take it down and motor through with the main sail. I had to lay on deck and crawl to the bow to bring it down, all the while clipped to my safety harness. This harrowing experience was a taste of things to come. Matters improved a bit as I hit deep waters. The Gulf Stream started pushing me North. My intent was to aim for Great Sale Cay or Little Grand Cay. What I thought was going to be a twelve hour trip was quickly turning into something else. To get a heading East I had to point the bow to 160 degrees magnetic! The boat was moving North faster than it was moving East. That was a big problem because If I missed the tip of the Bahama Bank I was on my way to Bermuda! I wince now thinking of the engine quitting in the Stream. My backup plan was to get out of it as soon as possible and then tack back South to the Bahamas, probably taking days to do so with impending dubious weather.

The Atlantic water is such a deep blue, something to behold. I had never seen such a sea color. It really wakes you up when you get sprayed in the face once in a while too.. The sun started to come down. I thought of my friends at Indian Beach watching it. The fishing boats disappeared. I was alone out there, with no land in sight, in pitch darkness. Gigantic dark shapes started looming on the horizon; immense floating cities carrying cargo and people. You can make cruise ships very easily, having more lights than a Christmas tree. The commercial ships are very eery, massive, I can’t over emphasize it. A sailboat does have priority, but this would be the same as giving priority to mosquitoes over car windshields.. Stay out of the way! Nobody seems to answer radio calls either. Are they asleep? Is anyone on board?

Fatigue was taking its toll. I started dozing off. Trimming the sail correctly I found I could let go of the boat’s tiller and it would keep its course. I waited half an hour, same heading. Sleep came in bouts of twenty minutes or so. I would wake up getting spray in the face, or simply because my mind somehow knew I had to keep watch.

Dagny feels like a tank. What an awesome boat. I am learning her quirks as I learn mine. Morris sure knows how to build a boat and Chuck Paine knows how to design them. Part of the credit I give to her for keeping me safe.

Nineteen hours after departure I had reached the very tip of the Little Bahama Bank, way too far North. I couldn’t see anything and decided to drop anchor in forty feet of water. The swells were bad and the wind was increasing. I was safe tethered to the ground below, everything was going to be fine, I had made it. I couldn’t have been more wrong…

PS: I will add a video to this post tomorrow or the following day.

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Living Aboard a Small Sailboat is Actually Pretty Nice.

It has been only six days mind you, but I am settling into a nice routine. Not that living aboard is something I particularly want to do on a boat that small. I missed a nice weather window today and tomorrow because of a stuck valve on my diesel inboard. Yep, I have identified the problem, but that doesn’t necessarily help me. WD-40 and a bout of slight violence with a screwdriver handle didn’t do any good. Better have a profe$$ional check it out. Bottom line is, it is about traveling, discovering new lands and cultures… I am still at the dock, stuck for lack of finances and mechanical knowledge. One thing I have learned is that anything related to boats moves slowly. You just can’t be in a hurry. I haven’t been contemplating my navel all week though, today was very productive…

Yesterday a guy a couple slips down had a cooler stolen from his boat. I wouldn’t have left a $400 cooler in an open boat (they make $400 coolers?!), but I understand why he might have felt it was safe. My boat has been floating here for a year and a half, the last month with thousands of dollars in equipment, unlocked. The area is (was) supposedly extremely safe. This prompted me to install a lock I had purchased to secure the companionway hatch. Yes, the famous bubble hatch. The forward hatch was another problem. I solved this one with a simple bolt through and a cross bar on the inside; primitive but effective. Now I can lock the boat when away or lock myself inside if need be. It’s not crowbar-proof but it would give someone so equipped a run for their money.

Companionway Hatch Lock

Companionway Hatch Lock

Forward Hatch Crossbar

Forward Hatch Crossbar

Next, I looked at my Optimus two-burner kerosene stove and decided that it was time… Two holes, nuts and bolts later it was hanging in its new home, but leaning backwards… Weird… The stove is supposed to swing the way the boat is leaning so you can cook while sailing. No way a pot is going to stay on at that angle, yet the gimball axes are aligned with the burners. Then I noticed notches at the bottom on each sides. I immediately thought “counter weights!” You can adjust them as the tank empties… Not great, but it will work. A couple fishing weights should do fine. One burner seems to be clogged, one more thing to fix. I think I will buy new burners some time in the future. The Optimus is for serious cooking, not for a cup of tea or hot chocolate. I use a tiny alcohol stove for that. It barely burns more alcohol than required to preheat the kerosene burners, so why bother. Kerosene does smell a bit too. I also haven’t yet gotten a thin sheet of stainless steel to protect the ceiling. See my stove test video, you’ll understand…

Optimus Kerosene Pressure Stove

Optimus Kerosene Pressure Stove

While I had the drill out, boy do I enjoy my solar panels and inverter, I decided to install the fire extinguishers on the bow bulkhead and one near the engine. I am more concerned about the Optimus throwing a tantrum than anything else…

Fire Extinguisher

Fire Extinguisher

I usually get up early, around eight. There is a nice mom-and-pop breakfast place within walking distance. Actually, everything here is within walking distance, including bars, restaurants, post office, boat gear store and supermarket. Wifi is available most places. I use a USB powered special antenna (2W), which seems to work fine, but I prefer to connect at the breakfast place or the restaurant. I have learned to recharge my devices while the sun shines on the solar panels. Doing so at night drains the battery too fast.

I skip lunch, even dinner sometimes, though the restaurant across the water has sushi rolls for $8, and the one behind it has crab cakes, my favorite! Daytime is for boat work, while I can see. Not having a shower on board isn’t so bad since I noticed the hotel nearby has a pool and the showers door is often unlocked. So yes, I sneaked in! I have rented a room there a couple times so I don’t feel too guilty about it. There is another option at $30 per month, but hopefully I won’t be here that long.

The only thing missing are of course are my friends. It has been different since the coffee shop closed, but that didn’t prevent seeing my closest friends and there was also the daily sunset gathering, until now. I don’t know anyone here. So far it hasn’t hit me fully yet, but I know once I leave the Florida coast behind, it will…

Tomorrow I am installing a radio antenna on the stern and running a couple antenna cables back to the cabin. I also need to scrub the deck, but better do that when the sun starts going down. I still have a bit more cleaning to do and put a few things away, where, I don’t know. The boat is really full. By the way I did take a video of my setup, sort of a tour of Dagny, deck and cabin. There has been progress since then, but you’ll get an idea of the size of my living space, what’s left of it. I just edited the file and uploaded it on Youtube. I tried Kdenlive on Linux but it crashes all the time and really isn’t user friendly. Power Director 14 on Windows works great for me, even though I hate Windows. I could only output 480p with the trial version.

The wind vane, this mysterious device that steers the boat using wind power needs to be set-up. Fortunately I have the manual. I know, guys aren’t supposed to do that, but It’s my ass out there, excuse my French…

The next weather window I think probably won’t happen until the 22nd or later. I really wanted to leave much earlier. My engine absolutely needs to be fixed by then, and I want to leave with at least $300 in my pocket, $150 for the Bahamas entry fee. I’ll be working online throughout my trip, so no need to have a big cruising kitty before departure. I have Search & Rescue insurance through Delorme, but will add medical evacuation insurance to that as soon as I can. My forward storage lockers have food and water for forty five days. It’s time to go, I am growing a bit frustrated…

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L’aventure de Dagny en Français.

Ma première expérience de voile fut une courte sortie sur le voilier du père d’un ami. Le temps a Dunkerque était pluvieux avec un bon vent, digne du Nord de la France. Nous sommes sortis du port sans voiles, au moteur. On se crut dans une machine à laver. Nous sommes rentres après deux heures, froid et mouilles. Je pensais alors ne jamais plus mettre le pied sur un bateau.

Vous me pardonnerez mes erreurs de Français j’espère… L’Anglais est maintenant ma langue principale. Bien que je parle à mes parents toutes les semaines et à quelques amis Français ici à Sarasota, il est très rare que j’écrive en Français. Je pensais n’écrire ce blog qu’en Anglais, mais j’ai un peu de famille en France et quelques amis. Pour n’imprimer que les articles en Français, cliquez sur la catégorie Français dans la colonne de droite. N’hésitez pas à corriger mes erreurs, utilisez le lien Contact. Merci.

Dix ans plus tard j’arrivais en Floride… Ah, quelle différence. Un temps magnifique tous les jours, le paradis. Ce ne fut que huit ans plus tard qu’un ami qui pilotais un P-51 Mustang pendant la guerre m’invita sur son voilier de trente pieds pour une sortie, au cas ou, étant donné son age avancé. Des qu’il a coupé le moteur, alors j’ai compris…

Après beaucoup de recherche je décidais de construire un bateau de trente deux pieds en acier, un Tahitiana. J’ai acheté les plans et me suis inscris à des leçons de soudure. Avant de commencer, recherchant ces modèles sur l’internet, j’ai trouvé éxactement ce que je voulais construire, dans un état douteux, mais le travail ne me fais pas peur. Je l’ai acheté, et commença la restauration. C’est une longue histoire, mais le bateau fut ravagé pas des voleurs qui ont tout pris, même découpé les hublots a la scie électrique. Il ne restais plus rien de valeur à bord. Fin du projet.

Mais le virus était toujours là. Vingt et un ans aux États Unis, c’est très long. Le pays n’est plus ce qu’il était. Il est temps maintenant pour moi de partir et découvrir de nouveaux horizons. L’an dernier j’ai trouvé un Morris Frances 26 à un prix raisonnable. Il est presque finis. J’ai repeint le pont, ajouté des panneaux solaires et réparé quelques problèmes. Il me reste un peu de peinture a l’intérieur et quelques détails. Je pense prendre la mer en septembre.

Le plus proche, ce sont les Bahamas à quarante nautiques de la côte Est. Une traversée d’une journée en somme. Le problème c’est le Gulf Stream, un courant qui viens du sud et peut causer une grosse mer avec un vent du Nord. C’est le triangle des Bermudes après tout. Si j’arrive aux Bahamas sans couler ou disparaître dans un brouillard mystérieux, je pense y rester deux mois, pour me faire la main. Ensuite, nous verrons… Le but serait de traverser le canal de Panama vers le Pacifique. Entre deux, qui sais… Après, aucune idée… J’irais le plus loin possible, que celà dure trois semaines ou trois ans, il y a beaucoup de choses a voir dans le monde.

Anticipez des articles en Français donc, bien que la plupart seront en Anglais, mais vous aurez les photos et vidéos. Je vais aussi installer un module de traduction qui devrais vous permettre de les lire.

A bientôt donc, si j’arrive a partir, ce qui n’est pas certain, mais j’éssaye…

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