The idea of creating a blog about our adventures was to share those moments with our family and friends, many of whom professed to be “living vicariously” through us. It was enjoyable to write about all that happened but as you will learn, it was also prudent to withhold a few details until we returned safely so as not to cause too much worry. We call this Now For The Rest of the Story as told in several parts.
When we arrived in Rock Sound, our first look at the boat did not inspire a lot of excitement. It’s hulls were partially hidden by tall grasses from which emanated the sounds of clucking! (Paul just about stepped on a chicken which ran out from those grasses the next day). Eight months in the sun, humidity, winds and rain, not to mention the near miss of Eleuthera by Hurricane Matthew in October and the myriad of birds in the area had left the decks and the sails on the deck desperate for a wash. Jim was a little dismayed at the sorry sight. After all, we’d only seen the boat in pictures most of which had been taken months before when she looked clean and in great shape. But we hadn’t come all this way, with 400 lbs of gear and our good buddy Paul, to be put off by a little scrubbing. The more important thing to consider was the damage to the main hull which would ultimately determine how we proceeded.
The next day we hauled everything out of the boat and laid it all out on tarps in the massive dirt yard behind the owner Andy’s house. Just a reminder, Andy owns a heavy lifting company so he has some pretty big trucks coming and going and thankfully, there was a lot of room to work.
Once the boat was emptied, and Paul had hacked away the grass below her, we had a look at the hull, inside and out. In our correspondence with the former owner, the hole (aft, under the transom) was described as being as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to the hull. Yes there was that. But there were other obvious holes as well as some suspect areas that emerged once the guys started tapping on the hull. Many of these proved to be on the port side at, or below, the waterline. Oddly though, one or two big spots were more forward of the daggerboard case which is in front of the mast! Jim relates that when he ground those areas out, the foam core was black and stinky as if the blackwater tank had leaked into it!! Whoa! Yuck. We knew that the previous owner had had troubles with the black water tank leaking into the freshwater tank due to there being an opening above the two! That was fixed a few years ago and now the tanks are completely separate. Perhaps the stinky core was from that old episode?
I say “many” holes but there were only about 3-4 major areas of concern which were subsequently ground out and filled with foam, fibreglass and epoxy on the outside of the hull. Inside, under the port settee storage at the waterline, there appeared to be a couple more areas of concern that were like horizontal slashes which Paul also ground out and patched. Incidentally, the hull is a foam core sandwiched between inner and outer layers of fibreglass.
In previous posts, I may have mentioned how nice the folks were to us in Rock Sound. Andy took one look at Jim’s little battery drill which he was using to grind out the holes and immediately said “I’ve got a real grinder if you’d like to use it!” He hauled over an extension cord as well as a hose so we didn’t have to haul buckets of water to scrub the boat. He also offered any other tools we might need. So kind.
While the repairs were happening, we were blessed with really nice weather. It did get hot in the afternoons but as I’ve mentioned, we learned shade management quickly. There was also no rain. Thanks goodness or it would have been a mucky mess. Most of the time there were cool breezes which helped immensely. The electricity only went off once that I know of causing a short delay to some of the heavier grinding.
My job was to clean the boat, the cushions and the sails as well as to provision her and see to our comforts aboard once we were launched and underway. Back at our rental house, the sails were spread out on the beautiful deck overlooking the Sound. The mainsail was awesome. While it had lain on the deck over the past 8 months, it had had its stackpack cover on but since it was loosely flaked inside the cover, there was enough airflow to prevent much mold from growing. The jib on the other hand looked awfully moldy when we unrolled it! It has one of those clear UV covers on the luff of the sail but I think because it was furled so tightly, the mold took hold easily inside. It required a lot of scrubbing! But there were no holes and all the stitching seemed fine …or so we thought! (Yes, blatant foreshadowing)
The screecher (genoa) seemed in better condition and the stitching seemed fine. No holes, no mould. So we had three sails. No spares. No problem.
It’s a little bit tough to do repairs when under a time crunch but as we only had the rental house for a week and we had to leave enough time to sail the boat the 300 miles to Florida, there was a bit of pressure to get One Love ship shape. I had absolutely no fears that the guys would be able to repair her enough to sail her. Everything just seemed to be flowing along as we thought it might.
Finally, after three and a half days of solid work, came the day to launch One Love. Andy decided to use his own big powerboat trailer to transport our boat to the ramp. This meant repairing his own boat motor enough to launch it to free up the trailer! Wow! Andy, you’re a legend!
Unfortunately I missed him lifting our boat onto the trailer with his crane as I was doing final errands at the stores. Dang. There are four lifting rings built into the boat for that purpose. He lifted it off of its concrete block and wood stands, swung it around and over his truck, then onto the boat trailer. To prepare for this, the trailer had to be modified with a bit of planking down the centre and the floats tied open a little (ie. not tucked into the main hull as they normally are for transport) in order for them to clear the powerboat rollers. So a load which would normally be about 8′ 6″ wide or so, was now about 12′ wide! “Island Style Mon” as Andy’s buddy and employee Frankie would say.
Now you have to understand that Frankie’s phrase encompasses a world of meaning. He referred to his car as a “Bahamian Bubbler,” maybe because it had a tendency to run on, or struggle to start, or it’s timing was off, etc. A case in point was our rental Jeep…the “Not So Grand” Cherokee. Pretty much it’s entire exhaust system fell off on day two of driving on the pitted Queen’s Highway. (We saved it so they could re-attach it later). It also had at least one nut missing on each tire. Maybe there is a niche market on Eleuthera for lug nuts but as Frankie is trying to get into the tire business, I wouldn’t want to compete with him.
Andy’s boat trailer was another example of Bahamian ingenuity. I don’t think any of the tires on that big trailer matched. Half seemed a bit deflated or completely flat, but maybe that was helpful on the potholed roads? The trailer was held onto the truck at the coupler with a pair of vice grips. No lights or safety chains. But it worked! It all worked and if it didn’t work, someone would make it work. Maybe it wouldn’t be pretty, but it would work. Island Style is working with what you have! We embraced that philosophy wholeheartedly.
It is very hard to make a living on some of the islands and just getting parts for anything broken down can be exorbitantly expensive. During our initial inventory of the boat gear, we noticed that the outboard gas tank was nowhere to be found! Kind of important as it feeds gas to our motor right? Apparently it had wandered away some time ago and with all that was going on, Andy had forgotten to tell us. We called all over Eleuthera but none were to be had. We wish we had known. Back at Watermakers Air in Ft. Lauderdale on our way over, we had been told that we couldn’t bring our own empty gas tank as it had had fuel in it before (we had thought we could use it as a secondary tank). Had we known we needed one, we would have bought a new one in Florida and brought it with us. Now there is a niche market….new outboard gas tanks!
Frankie found out about the missing tank three days before launch and said he “knew some people” and would see what he could do. Amazing! The day before we launched, he came by with the right-sized tank so the guys didn’t have to jury rig a jerry can! The fittings were not exact but the guys made them work. Wow!
On launch day, One Love slowly made her way out of the yard as Andy gingerly wound his way through the narrow back streets of Rock Sound to the “highway” (remember, the highway is like a two lane back road where I come from. In some areas there are dividing lines, in others there are none).
Folks politely tried not to point and stare. Those in cars or trucks pulled over to let that odd load by. Everyone knows Andy and they knew that we were there to buy the boat, fix her up and sail her away. We got lots of friendly smiles and waves too. It was a bit like a parade as I followed the pickup and boat. Frankie followed all of us with the crane on the big truck. No wide load permit or police escort. Island Style!
The “ramp” at the launch area was roughly hewn, most likely scraped into shape by one of Andy’s machines out of the local limestone. The tide was ebbing quickly and Andy’s big pick up truck had a tough time backing the trailer in far enough. At one point, I think it got stuck. I was on the bow and the guys were all trying to get the trailer tongue high enough to let the boat slide off. There was a jack involved under the tongue but they ended up just lifting the truck and breaking the jack! Geez. So I moved my arse to the stern of the boat and voila! She slid into the water. I quipped to Frankie that I was glad my diet hadn’t worked out!
The dock alongside the shore was perched on some very jagged limestone. We put our fenders out but the tide was really exposing the sharp edges. We left poor Jim alone to deal with that while the rest of us hustled back to Andy’s for the mast. Now here is another story. The bulbs in the lights on the mast were all blown along with matching fuses at the electric panel. One of our missions during our repair week was to scrounge up some bulbs and fuses. A tough go. No good way to Island Style that stuff. I think we cleaned out the local AID Hardware store of fuses. Wonderful folks there. No bulbs to be had. Hmm…. The guys fixed what they could and the rest would be done along the way…hopefully. We had word that Trevor Pinder, who runs a marine repair place in Deep Creek on the south end of Eleuthera might have bulbs. Cool. We planned to sail to Deep Creek upon leaving Rock Sound anyhow. I’d heard about Trevor via the Women Who Sail Facebook group so he came highly recommended.
So I don’t believe we had any lights on the mast. But I had a pretty bright inflatable solar light which we could hang from the spreaders while we were anchored plus we had a working stern light as well as red and green running lights at the bow. Pretty good.
Safety gear. We had been told that there should be some flares on the boat. Never found any and we couldn’t find any to buy nearby in any case. So we went with a few handheld flares which Jim had brought with us. The VHF radio seemed to work and miraculously, the solar panels had kept the two marine batteries nicely charged since One Love had come ashore. Our outboard and new-to-us gas tank were working too. The Garmin chart plotter didn’t work, nor did the autopilot that was tied to it but we had the excellent Explorer Chartbooks, a couple of GPS’s and a couple of devices with the Navionics App on them. So we figured we could find our way around the islands. What could possibly go wrong? (This phrase soon became our mantra!)
Stayed tuned for Part 2 “Reefs aren’t just for fish” or “The S#*t has actually hit the fan”