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Boat Life Lately. According to my iPhone.

Life lately has been pretty spectacular. From a perfect dolphin encounter to a once-in-a-lifetime baby sea turtle sighting. We are so happy to be cruising again…even if it means a few not-so-fun boat projects along the way.

All photos courtesy of Jereme’s iPhone. :)))

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Instagram >>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

BillNovember 21, 2014 - 1:11 pm

Awesome pic of the sea turtle and dolphins!

Sailing the Bahamas? Do This, Not That.

We are far, so insanely far away from calling ourselves sailing experts. Let’s be real, we’re definitely still more like sailing rookies. But regardless, we somehow made it safely all the way through the Bahamas as first-time cruisers and definitely learned a thing or two (sometimes the hard way!) while island hopping our way south.

Looking back, there are a few tips I wish we would’ve known before setting sail. There are certainly plenty of lessons to learn as first-time cruisers, but these five tips immediately came to mind when reminiscing about our amazing time sailing the Bahamas. And who knows, maybe these five Bahamas cruising tips will help save someone else a few headaches along the way.

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1. DO pick up a mooring ball at the Exuma Land + Sea Park. DON’T anchor outside. At least not for your entire stay.

As much as we usually prefer carving out our own little niche and dropping hook in a quiet, secluded anchorage, I highly recommend forgoing anchoring outside the park in exchange for paying the nominal mooring fee inside the park and picking up a ball. At least for part of the time. And preferably, in the main Warderick Wells mooring field. That is, if a mooring ball is available.

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^^s/v LAHO is moored on the right, tucked behind that green boat.^^

As first-timers to the park, we weren’t sure what to expect, so we initially dropped anchor just outside. FYI, there is no anchoring allowed inside the park. After spending a super rolly night at anchor and having to make the very arduous dinghy hike into the park to see much of anything, we opted to switch it up the next day and picked up a mooring ball for $15 per night. Our enjoyment level increased exponentially after moving “inside” as we were able to more easily partake in all of the park’s offerings (Boo Boo Hill and other park trails, insanely gorgeous snorkeling right by the boat, and tons of amazing photo opps). We were also sheltered from a pretty nasty westerly that moved through the area around the same time.

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^^our homemade sign to place atop the famous Boo Boo Hill at the Land + Sea Park.^^

To get a ball you just need to contact the Exuma Park Office on VHF channel 9 as you are headed towards the island. The park ranger usually won’t know what’s available or assign you a ball until another cruiser drops their ball and leaves that morning. So it doesn’t necessarily help to call way in advance…just wait until you’re cruising close by.

2. DO go ahead and purchase your Batelco data + SIM cards when you first arrive in Bimini. DON’T wait until you need them.

No matter what you read on the Explorer Charts, all those marked “BTC Offices” showing throughout the Bahamas out islands are rarely, if ever, open. Do yourself a huge favor and get your internet situation squared away while in Bimini, where Batelco is open and operating on the regular.

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^^our typical “office” in the Bahamas.^^

Make sure to also stock up on more data cards than you think you will use because you cannot purchase them online or over the phone. I know, so silly.  BTC connectivity is, surprisingly, so very easy to come by throughout the Bahamas. There are towers everywhere. However, if you are not already setup with a BTC SIM card, the necessary data cards from BTC, and a way to activate and use that data, then it becomes extremely difficult to find any open BTC offices the further out you get to make that happen. The best offices we found were in Bimini, Great Harbour Cay, and Georgetown. And thankfully, our cruising buds over at >>Sailing Journey<< saved our butts when we were running low on data in the far islands and gave us one of their data card pin numbers before we ran dry. You guys were total lifesavers. Thank you!

3. DO sail on to Long Island. DON’T get stuck in George Town.

This one wasn’t hard for us to learn since we knew all along we’d be sailing way past George Town as we made our way towards the Caribbean. From what we hear though, plenty of folks spend cruising season living it up in the Bahamas, hopping through the Exumas and eventually making their way down to George Town where they put down roots for several weeks before turning around and heading back to the states long before Hurricane Season kicks up. George Town essentially becomes the final destination for so many Bahamas cruisers. Even though George Town is lovely, I would be remiss not to mention that Long Island — pretty much the next stop after Georgetown and not more than a day sail away — is my all time favorite island in all of the Bahamas.

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^^loving life on the pristine white sand beach in front of Cape Santa Maria Resort shortly after we got engaged!^^

Head over to Calabash Bay at Cape Santa Maria to see, hands down, one of the prettiest beaches around. The Cape Santa Maria Resort is also a great spot to check out whether you are looking for an actual overnight stay (like we were for my birthday turned engagement) or simply dinghying into the resort for great food and drinks. And if you get real adventurous, sail around to the other side of Long Island too. We ended up in Clarencetown on the east side of Long Island after spending some time in Rum and Conception Cays.

4. DO take your time in the smaller, less talked about islands of the Exumas. DON’T bypass some of these real gems.

After spending probably a little too much time at the front end of the Exumas and the big-name spots like Blackpoint, I really wish we would’ve slowed down and spent even more time in the smaller, lesser-known islands of the Exumas. Looking back, they were hands-down some of my favorite.

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^^snorkel diving the awesome stainless steel mermaid-piano statue that David Copperfield commissioned  just east of Musha Cay.^^

We anchored for one night only directly in front of the private island of Musha Cay, but man was that single day awesome. The islands are so pure and untouched around there. We spent our time dinghy exploring about two miles in both directions with lots of snorkeling, swimming, and conch hunting in between.

5. DO spend some quality time in the Berry Islands, particularly the east side of Great Harbour Cay. DON’T get stuck for over a week (like we did) on the west side of the island.

That is, if you get a good weather window to hit up the east side of Great Harbour Cay in the Berries. For us, ignorance was bliss as we unknowingly happened upon one of the best weather windows you could ask for to take advantage of the east side of the island.

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We literally had no idea what we were doing when we sailed around the island and dropped anchor in front of one of the prettiest beaches in the world. We spent about a week there taking it all in and having, honestly, some of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

Happy Sailing! :)))

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

EllenNovember 19, 2014 - 5:56 pm

Hi! I think I have a pic of your boat pulling out rom Musha under mainsail. We were on the older Crealock 37 and met you there. Happy to see your blog. Looks like you had fun. Shoot me an email if you would like me to send you that!
All the Best!
Ellen

Jennifer - s/v Luna SeaNovember 20, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Thanks for the tips! I’ll stash them away for our time there.

JoeyNovember 20, 2014 - 12:53 pm

Great info. Keep it coming.

BillNovember 21, 2014 - 1:26 pm

I had an unlocked GSM phone that I got a BYC SIM card for. I could turn the phone to be a wifi hot spot and use the ipad and laptop on it. Doing it through the phone allowed me to buy “top ups” at lost of stores, not just BtC offices. Of course being in the very inhabited Abacos helped with that. :)
The east side of Great Harbor Cay was one of our favorite stops also. Amazing beach and places to explore by dinghy and paddleboard.
Can’t wait to get to the Exumas! The rapper Pitbull hasa. Video out now with him by that statue at Musha Cay.
Lovely pictures, as always!

Tuesday Tell-Tales.

A broken raw water pump and a faulty starter.

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That’s what we’re facing at the moment here in Salinas, Puerto Rico.

Talk about one step forward and two steps back. :((( After spending 100 days hunkered down in Puerto Real, Cabo Rojo, we made it only 10 days cruising, TEN DAYS people, before needing to stop for boat projects. Ugh. Now that’s a debbie downer.

And now the $75 Marina de Salinas two-week membership is looking better and better since we are kinda sorta “stuck” while waiting for various pieces and parts to arrive so we can get this engine up and running again.

Thankfully, it is still technically Hurricane Season and we are anchored in what’s probably the safest, most protected part of Puerto Rico, smack dab in front of a very cruiser-friendly marina where (after paying said membership fee) we now have access to sending/receiving mail, the shower and laundry facilities, free wifi, and…get ready…a swimming pool! Not too shabby, eh? All while simply anchored out in the harbor.

Jereme says we’re not “stuck,” we’re just “enjoying” our time here and our newfound “club” membership. Hah! And that Salinas, Puerto Rico is basically the same as Sandals Resort. Lol. Um, not exactly Jer.

The good news is, Jereme is inching his way closer and closer to becoming a bonafide diesel mechanic. ;)) And I, on the other hand, may need to find a job to support my reading habit. Lol. I am averaging about one book per day on my Kindle without a whole heck of a lot else to do around here.

Here’s to hoping we get these two engine projects fixed soon so we can get moving. Again.

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

Out with the old. In with the new.

Outboard engine harness, that is.

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^^look at the pretty new harness!^^

When we bought our boat back in 2012, she not only came with a nice Avon by West Marine RIB dinghy and 8HP Yamaha outboard motor, but also a spiffy little engine harness used to hoist the dinghy motor on and off the sailboat whenever needed.

And for some strange reason, we have continued to place our faith in that original, super worn out harness for the past eight months.

Probably not the smartest move as some of you might recall what happened the last time we trusted something original like this…yup, we lost the freaking dinghy after a knot we never checked or re-tied came loose. That should’ve clearly been lesson enough, but for some unexplained reason, we have continued to use and, might I add, heavily rely upon our very worn out harness. Putting it through constant heavy duty wear and tear on the regular as we hoist our 60 lb. motor nearly every day on and off the boat. For months on end.

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^^the old one…in pretty crappy shape.^^

Not only was our old harness very worn out, but it was also always in the way. It’s loosey goosey shape interfered with the cooling water pilot hole (better known to most as the pee tube, lol) on the engine. It flopped over in front of the motor and was constantly in the way of the pull start cord and gear shifter. The sun-damaged fabric was weak and had no good place to clip the engine hoist onto. And it was always just loose, super fragile looking, and had obviously broken at least once in the past based on that awesome knot holding it together.

After months using this old and broken harness to hoist our dinghy outboard motor on and off the boat, we finally smartened up and ordered ourselves a brand new one last week while we are here in Salinas, Puerto Rico waiting on some other engine parts to arrive. That is, after we debated whether we should attempt making our own, DIY-style harness, from rope. But, thankfully, not before the old one totally broke on us and caused any damage to the motor itself.

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Although Amazon.com had a Davis brand engine harness available for shipping to Puerto Rico, the customer reviews suggested it contained metal parts that may rust after awhile so we opted instead to order one from Defender.com.

The one we purchased does not have any metal elements that could easily rust or break. And after receiving the new harness, Jereme quickly switched out the old with the new and we were back in business just like that.

We no longer have to hold our breath each time we hoisted the outboard motor. Phew!

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

Coffin Island Was Nearly the Death of Us.

(Coffin Island, Puerto Rico)

I’ll tell you what, our second day at Coffin Island was definitely NO vacation. No walk in the park either.

I wish I could say we were sitting back sipping sundowners and snorkeling the island during our time anchored at Isla Caja de Muerta. Okay, fine…on day one, we were. But on day two, we were hunkered down and holding our breath through what was maybe one of the worst storms we have ever experienced (although, let’s be honest, we haven’t been through a ton).

Not only were we sitting on pins and needles as our little wine cork of a boat bobbed helplessly 250 feet from and way too close to a rocky shoreline, but also then to realize that our anchor chain was holding the load of the boat all by its lonesome because our bridle shackle had come apart and was now missing in the waters below made weathering the storm that much worse. Oh, and let’s certainly not forget having to call in SeaTow later that same day for a membership renewal after our engine refused to turn on from either a faulty starter or low batteries.

Pretty stellar day, wouldn’t you agree? ;))

Luckily, there were a few extreme “highs” to our day too that somehow managed to overshadow out all of ^^that^^ utter crappiness.

Regardless, here’s what I now know for certain. Waking up to horribly shitty, excuse the French, conditions at 5:30AM in a rather unprotected anchorage is not really the glamorous sailing vacation either of us had in mind when we left Naples last March. Surprise crap conditions, no less.

I know I’m not much of a meteorologist, but seriously how does a system the size of Puerto Rico literally just pop up out of nowhere? Ugh. After a fantastic arrival and first afternoon at Coffin Island, this surprise development started off our second day on a pretty craptastic note as the massive storm hammered us hard for several early morning hours as it moved over the entire island of Puerto Rico.

I’m talking 30 to 40 knot wind gusts, huge red fire-y colored blobs of yuck weather on the radar, severe marine warnings, and what felt like 200 strikes of lighting…all a little too close for comfort when you are sitting pretty in a big floating lightning rod of a home.

The whole time ^^this^^ weather situation was unraveling, we were being sucked closer and closer to shore as the wind pulled our anchor scope to the max and pushed us in the least optimal direction.

No bueno.

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Sailing-Blog-Cruising-Caribbean-Puerto-Rico-Coffin-Island-Anchored-During-Riding-Out-Storm-Radar-Tropics-LAHOWIND-1 ^^that gross red blob and orange marine warning box just passed over our poor little boat anchored off Coffin Island.^^

We kept an eye on real time radar and our boat’s location offshore using our phone’s GPS as the system passed and eventually died out. Fortunately, our anchor held firm and we rode out a super intense patch of thunderstorms basically unscathed and no worse for the wear after it.

As conditions began to clear up, we assessed our anchor situation and immediately realized that our bridle shackle had loosened and come apart during all the craziness, leaving the rest of our bridle uselessly dangling below water and all of our boat’s weight and tension being supported by our windlass alone. Super.

Thankfully, we were anchored in water nearly as clear as the Bahamas and jumped in to dive for our missing shackle pieces. Amazingly, we were able to immediately spot and retrieve all three separate components that had come unscrewed and put everything back together with the added addition of a some seizing wire to keep the bridle shackle from unscrewing itself in the future (which we obviously should have done originally like we did with our shackle holding the anchor to the chain).

We also went ahead and re-anchored the boat a bit further from shore in case any more “surprise storms” popped up.

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^^we were, perhaps, a little too close to shore.^^

After thinking our misfortune for the day was behind us, we set out to enjoy what was left of the day. While en route to take Oliver to shore for a potty break, we hit the cruising jackpot of a lifetime with a chance baby sea turtle encounter! I wrote a whole separate post about our once-in-a-lifetime sea turtle hatchling encounter >>here<< because it was downright amazing and definitely deserved its own post.

After experiencing such a low low with the storm, followed by an amazing high from the baby sea turtle sighting, we were not expecting another series of extreme ups and downs to follow. After dinghying around to explore Coffin Island and returning to the boat later that evening, we made the executive decision to go ahead and run the engine to charge our depleted battery bank — the result of several overcast days in a row.

You can tell where this is going, can’t you?

Yup, as luck would have it, our engine wouldn’t start. Fab. You. Less.

We tried and failed on about twenty different attempts to start her up, but just could not get our trusty Perkins 4-108 to turn over. As much as we would love to simply sail right out of the anchorage and on to our next destination without using an engine at all, that isn’t going to be happening any time soon. It’s one thing to sail out in open waters, but to sail through an unknown-to-us channel and into a packed anchorage in Salinas, and then have to anchor under sail (without having an engine as backup) probably isn’t the smartest idea for us still somewhat newbie sailors. Yes, I’m confident we could in fact do it if we had to, albeit it wouldn’t be pretty, but today (thankfully) wasn’t going to be the day.

So, thinking that our engine issue was mostly battery related, we launched into full blown energy conservation mode, knowing that the following day’s forecast was calling for more of the same — clouds and rain. The total opposite of what we needed with our main energy source being solar panels. We turned off all our lights, fans, the fridge, and anything else drawing power on the boat. We also went ahead and renewed our SeaTow membership by phone in case we found ourselves stranded at Coffin Island in a few days and in need of a tow back to the main land. PS – SeaTow not only covers mainland U.S., but also Puerto Rico, the USVI’s, and even the Bahamas (through an affiliate company). PPS – We ended up not needing a full blown SeaTow rescue, but at least now we have that peace of mind in our back pocket.

Thinking that our engine woes could also very likely be the result of a faulty starter (in combo with low batteries), Jereme got to reading our trusty Nigel Calder Mechanical + Electrical Manual and then proceeded to “tap” the starter with the end of a hammer. Real technical of a “fix,” I know. Jereme said if it were Nintendo, it would’ve been like he just removed the game cartridge from the console and blew air in it. ;)) You guys know what I’m talking about. Lol. Side note, our awesome Nigel Calder book has come in handy on a number of occasions. That guy knows it all. A huge thanks to our friends The Eick’s back in Naples for gifting us this treasure of a book before we left town.

And surprise surprise, that little hammer tap did the trick!!! The engine finally turned on!

Phew!

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We left that baby purring for the next several hours as we watched our batteries juice up and then made a super early 3:30AM departure from Coffin Island and headed for safe harbor in Salinas, where we knew we’d be spending the next several days fixing our engine.

Especially after our engine also overheated a tad on the trip to Salinas. I know, things just keep getting better.

We are definitely happy nothing more serious happened during our time in Coffin Island (which by the way is super beautiful), but we sure could manage without any more crappy early morning weather wakeup calls or engines not working from here on out.

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

Mark and Cindy - s/v Cream PuffNovember 13, 2014 - 10:44 pm

Hi Guys,

We had a 4.108 on our previous boat. That thing ran and ran and ran. It even ran underwater once (another story).

The 4.108 is notorious for the starter solenoid getting stuck. A tap with a hammer usually does the trick but the little copper ring inside will get a burned spot each time it sticks. Then, it just has a hard time working. One of the causes for this is starting the engine with a low battery. Duh! We used the engine to charge the batteries.

If the hammer trick doesn’t work you can bypass the solenoid by using a screwdriver to short the points on the starter and jump the starter. It’ll give off a pretty good spark but it will let you know if the starter is good or bad and if it’s good the engine will start.

Hope this helps.

Happy trails!

Mark

Mark and Cindy
s/v Cream Puff
http://www.creampuff.us

Mark RoopeNovember 14, 2014 - 6:42 am

It seems as though the Island was aptly named.
People think this cruising life is all glamour but I think it was summed up by someone who said.. round the world cruising is all about fixing your boat in exotic locations.
Just remember, if it is broken duct tape it, if it is not broken hit it and if neither of those work it is an electrical problem.
Glad your hammer worked.

Skelton CrewNovember 14, 2014 - 2:59 pm

So glad everything turned out okay! The worst storm we’ve ever been caught in was also not forecasted and in the wee hours of the morning with winds from the exact opposite direction as expected. Go figure ;) Experiences gained are great, just not always that great while happening. Here’s hoping for more stellar days ahead! ~Jackie

Stephanie Gardiner - SV CambriaNovember 14, 2014 - 3:36 pm

Ahhh! The joys of cruising and living-aboard! If it’s not the middle of the night anchor-watch, then it’s the engine-watch. And if you’re really lucky, you get both at the same time. Glad all you guys lost was a little sleep!

LAHOWINDNovember 17, 2014 - 3:03 pm

Thanks everyone! Definitely a learning experience that we hope we won’t have to repeat all too often. :) -Kim