Now For The Rest of the Story Part 2:  “Reefs aren’t just for fish” or “The S#*t has actually hit the fan” (Pics and Videos added April 14)

It’s been a little while since I posted Part 1 of this story. I’ve been exploring SE Florida. Swimming, snorkeling, hitting a few golf balls, learning about equestrian sports, ogling mega yachts and generally trying to process the fact that on one single stretch of the A1A highway along the shore at Palm Beach, the value of the mansions there would solve poverty in several third world countries. This place blows my mind. But I think all of that is part of another story.

So where were we? Ah yes, I think we’d left poor Jim alone to fend our newly-launched patched up boat off of the jagged limestone shore. I don’t really know how he did it. Turns out that he wasn’t really alone…

Back at Andy’s, the crew secured the mast to the trailer and headed back to the launch ramp. The kids all rode in the back of the pick up with Paul. Once again I followed with the rental car (did I mention this Honda was a right hand drive car? I can’t tell you how many times we all got in the wrong side of the car to start driving!), and Frankie brought the crane truck.

Craning a mast onto a sailboat is nerve-wracking to be sure. This was my first time and though Jim and Paul had helped others do it before, I don’t think it was any easier for them. Jim told me later that he remembered thinking “If the hook lets go, we’re goners”! Geez. But Andy did a great job. Jim and Paul attached the shrouds (synthetic) and the jib on its furler. (Mainsail and the boom were back at the cottage for cleaning etc). As he swung the mast into place, Frankie’s teenaged buddies fended the boat off the rocks as the tide was going out exposing even sharper jagged pieces. At one point while the guys were putting the jib on, the crane’s hook slipped a little. Jim’s nightmare scenario! But Andy quickly tightened it up and held the mast up until they were done. Whew!

“One Love” was afloat with her mast up! Poor Andy looked so relieved. He told us he’d been a bit sick and quite a few of the townspeople – his friends – had said the same thing. Folks seemed worried about him and all said that he is a great guy. Even though he got through this launch, I could tell he was very, very tired.

Jim and Paul reckoned they could motor to the beach by Andy’s place to pick up the dinghy then over to anchor at the cottage a mile or so south. Jim asked if the kids would like to go for a boat ride and they all said yes!! Our first guests! Awesome. I knew they could sail it with the jib if the motor died and I could always go get them with the dinghy. Little did we know at the time that dinghy motor was … shall we say, a little finicky?

By the way, the kids had told me that they had heard that a big hammerhead shark had been sighted at the ramp area recently. I don’t doubt a hammerhead, or any shark for that matter, could find a few snacks there as the conch fishermen often cleaned their catch in this spot. Which leads me to another quick aside: a year ago, fishermen at the main dock in Rock Sound, pulled a big Bull Shark out of the water. By big, I mean like 10′ or so. There’s a video of it on YouTube. I’m not an advocate of mindless shark killing for fins or out of fear and I don’t know what happened to the shark, but I hope it was eaten. Bull sharks are in our oceans and in our estuaries. I don’t mind that … I value that. But I also don’t swim where the waters are murky for that reason. But I digress…

Andy, Frankie and I drove back to town.  I was totally confident in Jim and Paul’s patching abilities and was sure they would make it to the beach. We had a quick look below for any gushers before they left the dock of course and none were to be seen. I could see the boat with its happy crew tooling along nicely once the kids had pointed out that they were heading for a shallow sand bar and should “go the other way mon”.

I made for the dinghy and figured “I know how to run these things. What could possibly go wrong if I take it out?” I hauled the boat into the water, and fired it up….nope, nothing. Did I squeeze the bulb on the hose? Wait… there is no hose, the gas tank is in the motor! Dumbass! I checked for gas. Full. Hmm, did I push the choke in too quickly? Yes, that must be it. Tried it again, choke out and voila! It ran. Then it died when I pushed the choke in. Dang it. Ok, I tried it again, keeping the choke out. It ran and off I went. By the time I got the Yamaha 2.5 running, the guys had anchored a couple hundred metres off of the beach and Jim had launched the inflatable paddleboard!!! What? Not to be selfish but I thought I’d be the first on it as I really like anything with paddles but no, here came my skipper sensing I was having motor troubles. What a guy! I love him. He was really good on the board too!

Of course, Jim being Jim, he tried to swamp the dinghy and thought it would be funny to hang the board off the side of it while I motored along. I was “not amused” as the poor dinghy couldn’t steer (it was not the helmswoman!!). Well, we made it to the boat and began ferrying the kids to shore. I know that I wrote in an earlier post about how one of the boys thought the water was so cold he didn’t want to get his feet wet! Maybe he just didn’t want to have a hammerhead come and try to make friends?

Our crew safely ashore, the sun was getting lower and lower so we headed for the cottage. The good thing was that it was really calm and low tide so any coral heads would be quite visible. Coral heads are hard, a bit like limestone which can be somewhat brittle but still hard. We need all of the coral in this world that we can get so hitting a coral head is not a good thing for the boat or the coral.

That night, I’d keep getting up to go look out at the boat. A half moon illuminated her hull as I kept checking that a) she was still there and b) that she was still afloat. Yes I was confident in the guys’ work but what if she hit a rock as the tide changed that they hadn’t seen? What if a gale blew up and I didn’t hear it? (yes, I know…dumb)
The next day was Saturday …sea trial day. The winds were fairly calm, the water in the Sound fairly flat. Jim and Paul somehow ferried the mainsail and boom out the boat with the dinghy and away they went under sail while I carried on with provisioning, last loads of laundry etc. As far as I could tell, all was going well as she was sailing along nicely.

Writing this now, I wonder why we hadn’t thought to have Paul’s handheld VHF out with me as they had ours aboard? I guess we thought that if there were any trouble, Jim and I had our cell phones and they had the dinghy, etc. Upon reflection, maybe it was a bit cheeky? After all, the boat had been patched and we were unfamiliar with its systems. What could possibly go wrong?

The next day, Sunday, we left our wonderful rental house by the sea and got under way. The guys assured me that although there was a bit of water in the “bilge”, it seemed like the patches were solid and doing their job. The trickle of water was insignificant and could be sucked up with a sponge. Whew!!

However, they hadn’t had a chance to work on everything too thoroughly…such as the watermaker (this is a desalination system which creates freshwater from seawater), some of the non-essential electrical systems, and the head (bathroom) system. Well, how bad could that be? The fact that One Love had an enclosed marine head was a wonderful thing in my mind. While I love our 22′ Trimaran “Raise a Little Hull”, her head facilities leave a bit to be desired ….a porta potti next to the mast support in the centre of the cabin and a curtain. We love our buddy Paul who often crews with us when we race, but unfortunately for him, the head on the F-22 is next to his head when he sleeps aboard. Poor fella. Here, One Love had a marine toilet and a sink with a hand pump in a head with a door…an actual door, and walls…actual walls!! The Luxury! At least for me. I know the guys would be OK with the “bucket and chuck it” head system and I would do that if I had to…I’m no shrinking violet. But an enclosed head is quite a bonus. Call me spoiled.  Jim did check the black water tank before we left and it was full to the brim! No way to pump it out ashore in Rock Sound and we certainly couldn’t pump it overboard into Andy’s yard! So we waited until we were at least 5 miles off shore to pump it overboard. The tank seemed to pump out fine.

The boat also had a two burner propane stove in the galley (kitchen). Do you know how much a 1 lb bottle of propane costs in Canada? About $5? On Eleuthera they cost $16 US for a 1 lb bottle!! We knew 1 bottle wouldn’t last long so Jim bought a portable 1 burner butane stove and several bottles for a much cheaper cost. We had 2 bottles of propane for the stove and the barbeque but decided that the butane stove would be our “go to” stove in the galley. It’s the same system we use on the 22 when we cruise so it wouldn’t be an issue.

As we headed south around Cape Eleuthera, we were happy to realize that the boat’s VHF radio seemed to be working as we could hear radio traffic on channel 16 and even got a weather channel. We weren’t really sure which electrical systems were fully-functioning so a functioning radio seemed great!

We headed to our first anchorage at Deep Creek. It looked like it had pretty good protection from the predicted winds and if the name was any indication, there must be a good amount of depth in the anchorage. I was hopeful, naively ignoring the fact that both our cruising guide and the charts indicated otherwise. What a dope I am sometimes! I figured the edges of the dredged channel would surely work out for a shallow draft boat. Wrong! We went aground almost immediately in the entrance to Deep Creek. (see our post called Not So Deep Creek). No worries, we backed out just fine and anchored outside of the entrance hoping the winds would stay light. They did. It was a lovely calm night. Paul always says that he sleeps better when we are anchored than when we are docked. I am still learning that skill/trust and so I often keep a close eye on where we swing in the night or if the wind comes up etc. I’m a night owl so that is ok.

We met Trevor Pinder the next day at the Deep Creek “Dock”. He said he’d be on the dock to meet us but when we dinghied into town, all we saw was a rock jetty and a lot of shallows! But there was Trevor waving at us from the jetty. I guess that is their dock. In these small settlements, it’s a bit hard to know exactly where the town is! A lot of the homes are spread along the shore but the businesses? Hard to know. Sure I could have consulted the Internet or Google Maps but where is the fun in that? Trevor had some light bulbs for us and he thought they might work. Awesome.

We decided we deserved some Ice Cream so we headed into town and asked a kid if there was a place that sold ice cream. It was completely the opposite way that we were walking. No worries. It was here in Deep Creek that we were adopted by a couple of local dogs. Especially a caramel-coloured mutt I nicknamed “Caramel” who Jim had given some water to in his hand. We weren’t sure if they were strays or what the locals call “Potcakes”.  Potcake is the burnt rice on the bottom of the rice pot and this is what people often feed the strays.

I don’t know where everyone works in this little town. Maybe for Princess Cruises at Bannerman Town (their tropical “island”)? We chatted with a bunch of folks hanging out at Pinder’s Marine. One fellow had visited Canada and spoke about travelling to Ottawa and Hamilton and taking the bus to Calgary I think! He loved it and wished he could have stayed longer. It was winter. Was he crazy? The folks here, like all of those we had met so far on Eleuthera, were very nice. Very open and welcoming in a genuine way. Just down the road though was a pack of dogs there we weren’t so sure about. There was some snarling and rough housing within the pack and as it came up the road toward us at Pinder’s, the two dogs who adopted us began to growl a warning. “Caramel” moved close to his new buddy Jim and finally barked to warn the pack that we were to be left alone. And we were. Amazing. Our two canine friends stayed close to us all the way back to the jetty. It was very hard to leave them.

Southern Eleuthera is a beautiful and increasingly unpopulated part of the island as you get further from the normal tourist destinations. (Todd Vendituoli, who used to live on Eleuthera, has some videos on YouTube and Facebook about the island which feature some excellent drone footage of some of these places. Click on these Links to view his Droning around Rock Sound and  his Trip to Lighthouse Beach videos).

We decided to stage for our jump to the Exuma Islands from Lighthouse Beach, the southern-most part of the island. As we approached the beautiful palm tree-lined beach with its interesting rock outcroppings, I couldn’t help but turn to the guys to express what a beautiful place this was when BAM!!! SCRAPE, BUMP, KNOCK, DRAG!! “Oh _______!” (insert whatever strong expletive you can come up with as I’m sure one of us said it.) To say that we had run aground would be a bit of a wee understatement. We hit Hard. Dammit. I had broken my own rule of never taking my eye off the water when entering an anchorage. Sloppy! I knew there were rocks in the anchorage and even a couple of sunken boats closer to the beach. How had this happened? We were just so happy to be cruising into a beautiful anchorage that we didn’t see the rocks, just under the water. Jim figured that the daggerboard hit as well as the hull…yup, on the port side where much of the recent repairs were. Crap!

So that happened. We sheepishly crept into the area where we’d chosen to anchor, dropped the hook and started to check for damage ie. water coming in. Sure enough. There was a slow but steady trickle. It was too dark to go over the side to have a look so we decided we would take turns getting up in the night every couple of hours and sponging the water off of the floor into a bucket as it was all running to just between the galley and the head. Geez.

The next day Paul and I went over the side and I filmed the new damage so Jim could have a look too. It was ugly. We hadn’t pierced both layers of the hull but the scrapes were heavy and the jagged scarring was plain ugly. Not to mention a little scary. The forward storage compartment under the V-berth had its own slow trickle just ahead of the water tanks. So what to do?

At Lighthouse Beach, we were only about 45 minutes or an hour’s drive from Rock Sound. There was a road that led right to the beach. Maybe we could call Andy and he could come and lift us out of the water again? Were the leaks really that bad? Did we have any of that waterproof putty for sealing such scrapes? Nope. We had looked around for that putty as part of our pre-launch shopping excursions but to no avail. We decided that the trickles were manageable but now it meant that our cruising itinerary would change radically. No lingering and playing in beautiful anchorages. It meant that we needed to book it back to the USA ASAP. A big bummer but we had to look after the ship as it were.

So, our plan took shape. We would try to get to Florida as fast as we could with whatever winds came our way. And boy did the winds come our way! We left Lighthouse Beach hoping to get across the Exuma Sound to Staniel Cay in the Exumas (surely we had a little time to see the swimming pigs?) But of course, the increasingly strong winds were on the nose. I think winds were in the 20 knot range or more. Thankfully, the deep waters of the Exuma Sound didn’t kick up short period chop. Rather, the waves were fairly far apart but they still built to about 4-5′, maybe more. Nasty stuff to bash into on a trimaran. So we bore off the wind and tried for Highbourne Cay almost near the top of the chain of islands. Dang. So much for the Exumas. Maybe another time right?

It was a bumpy ride to be sure and I started to feed Jim anything with ginger in it. My poor sailor has been known to get seasick in certain conditions. Luckily Paul and I don’t seem to get that though Paul says he can’t go below when it’s lumpy. I don’t have a problem with that though I noticed I tend to crave salty snacks more in wavy conditions. So while Paul was happily sailing the boat (“Hey guys I think I can get her to hit 12 knots!) and Jim was uh, examining the water over the side of the boat, I was able to go below to make lunch, get drinks with electrolytes, etc.

So back to the Head for a minute. Ultimately on our first day out, the time came for the head to be christened by yours truly. Jim told me how to work the pumps and said “Go for it!”. Ok I thought, but I’m not going whole hog here. Just #1. I told myself that it might be smart not to put any paper down the system even though her former owner had told us it worked great and we could put “anything” down it!! The marine head is a Lavac Head. Folks online seemed happy with theirs. So….I was a happy gal after the head seemed to flush! Ah but my happiness was not to last. As we cruised along, in the next day or two, the head was given a more serious workout. Then while we were lumping along in the waves and stiff winds of Exuma Sound, it happened. A CLOG! Was I not feeding the crew enough roughage? Too much meat? Too much starch, not enough salad? I blamed myself and my culinary skills. The guys tut-tutted my concerns but things were looking a bit desperate as we finally got out of the very strong winds and anchored off the beach at beautiful South-West Allans Cay. (If you look at a nautical chart or Google Earth, you will see a bunch of shallows to the south of the Allans Cays and north of Highbourne Cay. There are lots of cautions for taking this route in but we did it! The visibility was ok and the tide was high enough that we could stay clear of hazards. It was very tricky but we made it through)

So Jim bravely chose to deal with the clog. For a guy who had just had a bit of “mal de mer”, I was amazed. My Hero! Well, as the title of this post indicates, the poop really did hit the fan and anything else that was in the head…sort of!  The air in the head was both brown and blue as the way he was pumping the head built up a mass of air in the lines which had to go somewhere…which was up and all over the inside of the toilet and it’s lid. You see the Lavac system works by air sucking the waste down with air so the lid of the toilet kind of vacuum seals itself to the bowl. So when it all backfired, the crap exploded all over the underside of the lid, the seat! And even spewed out a bit onto the wall.  Poor, poor Jim. My Hero. He came up for air after cleaning up what he could and I cleaned up what remained so he wouldn’t toss his ginger cookies.

Once his tummy settled down, he decided to change the main pump for the spare which looked as if it had barely been used.  The head pump is located high on the wall of the head and when he opened it, crap literally ran down the wall. Yuck! He struggled to reach the pump mounting bolts through a couple of 3″ holes with vice grips while laying on the 2’x2′ floor upside down! The pump which Jim took out was clogged pretty solidly. No doubt the gunge inside it had hardened in the heat while the boat had been on the hard in Rock Sound. Kind of like having our own mini-geological era as the stuff in the pump had hardened to a rock-like solid. Gross. Why the explosion? We learned that one of the valves allowing water to flow in (thus completing the pumping cycle) was closed even though it looked open!! Weird. So Jim added Boat Plumber to his long list of skills. Thankfully, once the head was repaired, it worked gloriously well. We sure take “modern plumbing” for granted don’t we?

We will leave you here as we chased endangered lizards around SW Allans Cay (or rather, they actually chased us!).   Did I mention that Paul brought along his pet tree frog and Jim’s gecko came along for the ride too? More on our animal friends, our new best friend – the bilge pump – and Paul’s incredible ways with a sewing needle in the next installment.

Stay tuned for Part 3: “So technically we are sinking?” or “Hope the frog can swim!”


About Carleen&Jim

Sailing (and other) adventures of Carleen and Jim often featuring us sailing or racing our trailerable trimarans.
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