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Doodlebug, rebooted......

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November 2018 -- DoodleBug, the Leopard 47 Power Catamaran, was been sold and replaced by "Danisha", a Tiara 3200 Open. The picture to the right is "borrowed" from the Tiara Company brochure. The "real" Danisha has a blue hull.











September 2016 -- Website Update: DoodleBug has been "reloaded" and has made the transition from rental boat to cruising boat. I have moved all of the 2015 "blog" to "trip logs" which you can accessing by clicking the catamaran picture to the right. I finally ADDED PICTURES to the trip logs. I also just completed updating all of the e-Books so that the pictures display properly when using Apple's iBook app. I have tested these on an iPad3.










January 2016 -- Website Update: We have bid Australia a sad farewell for a while and our Toyota Coaster RV HAS BEEN SOLD!!! Thank You Ray at Koolah Kampers!! (see I have re-ordered the daily entries into time order, moved the trip-logs to a new page and ADDED PICTURES!!. You will find the link to the right (click on the white bus picture).










The logs of our sailing circumnavigation were moved down a level and you will find the link to the right (click on the S/V DoodleBug picture to get to the "old" web-site).







We have also "cleaned up" the sailing logs and reformatted them into .epub files, so that they may be downloaded and read at your convenience on an iPad or Kindle reader as "e-books". Because there are about 6,000 embedded photos in the original website, I needed to split the log of the cruise into 18 "volumes". To date, I have tested these eBook files on both a "Kindle Fire" and an "iPad3". Click right on the "books" icon to access the files for download.

I have also finished the task of converting the Australia "Walkabout" blog to 11 volumes of "e-books", also accessible here.





Doodlebug is in Puerto Rico - July 17, 2020


September 20, 2019

I decided that although Danisha is fast and fun, she is just too noisy for my preferences. I began the search for a “Pocket Cruiser”, popular in the 1970’s and have just purchased a 1981 Cape Dory 28 shown in the picture above. The Cape Dory is a “full keel” boat with attached rudder weighing it at around 4 1/2 tons. She is slower and less maneuverable than modern designs with their fin keel and spade rudder but she offsets this with an earned reputation for seaworthiness and stability in robust conditions. At least two Cape Dory 28’s have solo circumnavigated and more have crossed oceans. She is currently named the “Magnolia Glen” and we intend to rename her “Doodlebug” to match our key fobs. The Magnolia Glen was a fresh water boat and had lived on Lake Michigan for most of the past 38 years, only recently tasting salt water in Florida. A 1977 Cape Dory brochure boasts of a slide out 5th berth in the main cabin to add to the two forward V berths and two berths in the main cabin. Cozy! The original 10 HP engine was traded out for a mighty 18 HP Westerbeke diesel around 2014. The engine is a two cylinder with a displacement of 655 ccs. (38.75 cu inches) and burns 1.1 gallon per hour of diesel at the maximum rate of 3600 RPM. (A more normal cruise speed would be 2,500 to 3,000 RPM) Cape Dory 28's were nearly all sloop rigged with a self tending jib. We will replace the original 38 year old rigging and switch the forestay to roller furling for the jib / Genoa, retaining the slab reefing on the mainsail. Her comfort facilities include a toilet and two fresh water faucets for the forward “vanity” and kitchen. The water system is not pressurized and is operated via foot pumps at the respective faucets. The current stove is non-gimbaled and has two alcohol burners. OK at anchor but not much use underway. We plan to install a battery charger / inverter to power a small microwave oven.

She will stay in Florida for the next few weeks while the rigging modifications are made and then (at the end of hurricane season!) we will see about sailing her towards the Eastern Caribbean.

September 26, 2019

Annette and I had flown into Fort Lauderdale the previous day and had visited the Magnolia Glen at her mooring at the Indiantown Marina. This small marina lies on the St. Lucie River about 20 miles from the east coast of Florida. At this location the St. Lucie River is a part of the Intracoastal Waterway, a navigation system whose origins began in 1802, some 26 years after the founding of the the United States. The Intracoastal Waterway or “ICW” runs about 3,000 miles from Boston, Massachusetts in the north to Brownsville, Texas in the south. The St. Lucie River section allows a “shortcut”, east-west across the middle of Florida via Lake Okeechobee. The Magnolia Glen was blissfully unaware of this history and was bobbing gently alongside the fuel dock when we had arrived at the marina. We started the engine, tested the radio (it made a noise) and installed the GPS chartplotter. All good. An alligator swam slowly over to check on our progress as we installed the dodger and the flag. The Magnolia Glen had begun to look like she was ready to move.

This morning we wiped the heavy dew from the cockpit, added the all important ship stores of a bag of ice and a six pack, before dropping the lines at 0845 hours to begin the first leg of the journey to Puerto Rico. The surface of the St. Lucie river lay still as a mirror, the occasional ripples caused by a jumping fish. We ran the engine at 2,500 RPM and this produced a speed of 5.6 knots and just the hint of a wake. We had checked the depth sounder the previous day and found it reasonably close to correct and it now showed water depths in the river in the range of 6 to 10 feet. There were plenty of power lines and bridges to transit but the only one that might have delayed us was a swing railway bridge, about 3/4 mile east of the marina, however it was open and looked abandoned. The remaining obstacles we passed under with ease but it always raises the pulse rate to look upwards as the aluminum mast passes under a high tension power line with what looks like just a couple of feet to spare. In fact the lowest obstacle according to the chart was 55 feet. No issue for the Magnolia Glen with a 41 foot air draft but an impossibility for our first sailing vessel, the Amel with its 66 foot mast height.

Swing BridgeApproaching the lockThe gates openLower levelSt. Lucie River

We watched the Herons, Anhingas, Ospreys and the like search for their breakfast and at one point passed three cows standing in the shallows on the south bank of the river. The river passed by all sorts of properties, some with boat docks and fancy homes, some still heavily wooded. A very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. At 1100 hours we approached a line of warning buoys marking a dam and a sign notifying us to call the lockmaster on VHF channel 13. The untested radio is installed in the salon below deck, not the most convenient location but fortunately, I had a handheld radio close by and announced our presence. We got an immediate response to state that the lock gates were beginning to open for us and that we were required to be wearing life jackets. Panic! Annette plunged into the salon and found two jackets that we hurriedly donned. The lifejacket I was wearing was inoperable, with an empty CO2 canister but the lockmaster hadn’t actually specified lifejackets that worked!

This was so much fun! Two men leaned over the rail above the lock wall and lowered ropes to us. This was not the Panama canal and we were alone in the lock as we waited for the water level to drop. The total drop was 12 feet and the east side gates opened to the vista of a tidal river, wider and shallower than the canal we had just left. The course now was not immediately obvious as there were multiple side channels and a scattering of port and starboard channel markers, some marking the main channel and some marking the entrance to a side channel. Our concern was that the keel of theArrived Magnolia Glen draws 4 feet of water and the river estuary we were in had obvious shallows and it was necessary for us to stay in the deepest part of the channel without “cutting” corners. The wind was light, and with little current we made it into our slip in Stuart at around 1230 pm. A successful first voyage and no deaths to report to the authorities.

September 27, 2019

The Magnolia Glen had two batteries for engine starting and “house” duties but only one battery was installed and functional. This battery was almost certainly fully charged by the engine alternator following yesterday’s four hour voyage but there was no other practical means of charging the batteries. I had purchased a charger / inverter via the internet and today the main task was to install it. We had made the first of many runs to Home Depot yesterday evening and this morning I cut four squares of 3/4” plywood to use as mounting blocks, while Annette drove over to Wal-mart to buy 4 cheap spring loaded curtain rods. The need for these was to hold in place the wooden blocks after they were epoxied to the curved side of the hull in the starboard cockpit locker. The balance of the installation required me to modify both the DC circuitry as well as the AC circuitry. We had measured the heavy DC battery cables needed and “built” these at West Marine using their work bench and tools – a handy arrangement that they make available for customer’s use in order to avoid store liability. By late afternoon the glue on the blocks was curing, we had installed DC bus bars to control the cabling and we were unpacking our inflatable kayak.

Kayak inflatedsea trial

The Cape Dory 28 is small cruiser with limited storage space. We had decided that perhaps an inflatable kayak was a practical alternative to the conventional dinghy. The latter are diabolical to row in any kind of wind and wave environment and the addition of an outboard motor would just compound the storage challenge. We unpacked and pumped up the kayak, launched it, paddled it around the marina and the St. Lucie river, hauled it back out of the river, wiped it down and repacked it. It has a claimed capacity of 500 lbs. including passengers. This should work and if not, at least it is cheaper than a dinghy!

September 28, 2019

Another full day. While I worked on the electrical installations, Annette had hauled the entire contents of the boat out to the dockside where it was sorted, repacked or discarded as appropriate. I installed the inverter / charger and connected the DC cabling. The AC side became a problem when I tried to switch out the breaker for the recommended size. The existing breaker had corroded and I broke the fitting removing it. Back to Home Depot! By 4:00 pm. the charging side of the AC circuitry was installed leaving just the output of the inverter to be reconnected. We were out of time however. The battery was reinstalled and connected so that the engine could be started and everything else re-stowed on the boat. The last few items will have to wait for my return in a couple of weeks time. Nevertheless we have made huge strides in the past three days in getting a handle on the boat systems and can wrap up the inverter installation in another hour or so.

working in lockerThe Magnolia Glen

November 4, 2019

At 0800 hours, we dropped our lines at the Stuart, Florida marina and set sail for Puerto Rico. The vessel is the Magnolia Glen, a 1981 vintage Cape Dory 28. The “28” indicates the vessel length  - which is 28 feet and the crew consisted of me (Ed) and my friend Tony Cortes from Puerto Rico. Tony and EdTony had never been on a sailing vessel before but had bravely volunteered to make the trip. In fact our immediate destination was intended to be Lake Sylvia at Fort Lauderdale, Florida and we expected to begin the journey by taking a couple of hours to navigate the St. Lucie River to its mouth before exiting to the Atlantic Ocean in order to sail south along the Florida coast. This plan came to a halt some 20 minutes later when we ran aground. I had asked Tony to steer the boat for a few minutes while I tidied up lines and fenders and I had failed to realize how narrow the dredged channel was. Although it looked like we were squarely in the navigation, we weren’t and clipped the edge with our four foot deep keel, coming to an abrupt stop. After a few fruitless minutes of trying to power offRescue approaches the shoulder, we acknowledged that we were stuck and called Boat US for a tow. They answered our VHF radio hail immediately and after a wait of perhaps 45 minutes, a large RIB appeared with a bored looking captain, who casually pulled us off into deep water again. This is only the second time I have ever needed rescuing, the previous occurrence being Pago Pago harbor in 2004. Now, paying super close  attention to the depths, we approached and hailed the Roosevelt Street bridge on the radio, requesting a bridge opening. 10 minutes later we were back heading south down the St. Lucie River towards the sea.
The delays we had suffered meant that we would miss slack water at the mouth of the river and according to the chart, the St. Lucie is considered a dangerous exit for small vessels. Local “expert” advice was to “stay between the markers” and by adopting this sage council, we arrived at the mouth of the estuary at 1200 hours and made our turn to the south, with seas in the 5 to 6 foot range and the wind out of the south to southeast.
This was not an ideal wind direction but by 1248 hours, I note that we were motor sailing with the mainsail up, at 4.9 knots and shortly thereafter, went to full sail and turned the engine off. We were sailing! We were close reaching but the ride was reasonably comfortable and the quiet produced by the absence of a hammering diesel engine seemed wonderful. This glow of accomplishment lasted for about 40 minutes before we noticed that the displayed voltage on the GPS screen was dropping precipitously. What was going on? The fridge seemed to have shut down due to low voltage and the autopilot was struggling. Back on engine. We would revise our plans to put in to Lake Worth to sort things out.
Just after sunset we turned into the entrance fairway for Lake Worth, missed a couple of outbound Lake Worth turning basinvessels and cautiously approached the south turning basin. Our binoculars confirmed that there were anchored sailing vessels there and we found a gap in the dark and dropped the hook. Our first leg of the voyage was over, we had no deaths or injuries on board but we had some serious power issues that would need to be resolved on the morrow.

November 5, 2019

Bright and early, we tested the two batteries by individually measuring their voltage and then “loading” them by running the microwave oven through the 1 kW inverter. The batteries recovered their voltage following the test but it was obvious that they could not provide enough continuous power to run the inverter for 4 minutes. The good news was that the low voltage readout on the GPS seemed to be an unrelated problem. A close examination of the wiring and voltage drop revealed that the power for the GPS had been slaved off the depth sounder switch.  The wiring for this switch was designed to handle milliamps and the GPS LED display might pull a couple of amperes. A quick solution was to move the GPS wire from the output of the switch to the input side. This immediately solved the stability problem as well as most of the observed voltage drop. OK, back to problem number one. We decided that it was simply that the Costco lead acid batteries we were using just could not supply enough current without pulling down their voltage excessively. The voltage recovered after the load was removed but that wasn’t enough for us. We needed different batteries Lake Worth marina sunsetand to get these, we need to be at a dock. A quick call to the Riviera Beach Marina confirmed that they had space for us and we motored the 3/4 mile over to the slip, backed in and tied up. By lunch time we had located two high end “AGM” marine batteries and hauled them back to the marina by taxi. We took this opportunity to replace one of the original battery cables with a new and thicker one, as well as switch out the cable ends for new connectors. A repeat of the morning’s load test showed that the new set up could run the inverter without an excessive voltage drop and the GPS held a stable voltage. All done! Ready to set sail again.

November 6 2019

We had scrupulously examined the dregs of the tea leaves as well as the cast of entrails, plus internet weather forecast and all promised the best conditions for crossing the Gulf Stream as Thursday night. snack timeWe would again set out with a destination of Lake Sylvia, Fort Lauderdale and spend the night there in preparation for a Thursday crossing to the Bahamas. We dropped our lines at 0720 hours and the log shows that by 0844 hrs., we were heading south under full sail with the forecast seas of 2 to 4 feet off the beam and light winds, providing a speed of 4.4 knots. We checked our battery voltages all day long and they remained rock steady.
By 1140 hours the seas were in the 4 to 5 foot range off the beam and the wind had picked up to around 15 knots. The seas were distinctly choppy with an uncomfortable ride.
An hour later we had double reefed the main, reefed down the Genoa and were seeing seas in the 6 to 7 foot range. Occasionally we saw a triplet of 8 footers off the beam with one or two 9 footers thrown in for added excitement. The Magnolia Glen has an 8 foot beam and she was not enjoying this, although she was still sailing over the ground at better than 6 knots, accelerating to 8 knots on the back of the waves. While reefing down the mainsail she produced a 30 degree roll, putting the deck at sea-level and making the captain dream of in-mast furling.
At 1430 hours the wind eased slightly and I let the Genoa out but the sea remained stubbornly in the 6 to 7 foot range (instead of the forecast 2 to 4 feet). Fortunately it was a daylight entrance to Fort Lauderdale but the promised easy approach was marred by 4 cruise ships that decided to exit. The first two were clear of us when I put away the sails and without the press of the canvas the Magnolia Glen began to bob like a cork being flushed down a toilet . Tony was not enjoying this and when we turned into the fairway, we could see the third Cruise Ship backing away from the dock. I decided to wait for the ship to clear the entrance and this was a mistake. Other boats (power) were zooming inside and the motion aboard the Magnolia Glen was extreme. Finally I decided that in the interest of crew welfare we would just go ahead and enter, holding tightly to the north side of the channel. The cruise ship was well clear of us but nevertheless began to sound 5 blasts of the huge horn to warn us of danger, as though we couldn’t see the beast towering over our port side. I explained to the pilot where he could go but fortunately he was unable to hear me. At 1730 hours we had arrived in Lake Sylvia and dropped our anchor. A long day.

November 7, 2019

Lake Sylvia is surrounded by million dollar homes and with this view of exquisitely manicured lawns lay some dozen and a half yachts at anchor. Our plan required us to depart in the early afternoon for a night crossing of the Gulf Stream. Since we had all morning to prepare, we were able to hoist the mainsail while at anchor, adjust the outhaul, run the correct length of reefing lines and then flake the sail across the boom in a more seamanlike fashion that the circus of the previous night’s entrance. The fuel tank had been topped up from our deck carried jerry jugs, the fridge restocked with drinks, snacks stowed near at hand and we were ready to go! (A preliminary calculation of fuel consumption gave a fuel burn rate of 0.4 gallons per hour)
We raised anchor at 1330 hours and headed back to sea, bound for North Bimini, Bahamas. At 1435 hours the log showed the engine was off and we were under sail at 6.2 knots with full Genoa and a reef in the main. The latter was necessary to reduce the weather helm that was overloading the autopilot. The day was sunny, 4/8 ths cloud cover with 3 foot seas and winds about 10 knots from the east. Great sailing conditions! Although our destination of North Bimini lay to the east of us, we were heading south as we were to transit the Gulf Stream, one of the great currents of the earth, which flows north along the Florida coast at up to 3.5 knots. Think of crossing a river in a vessel that travels at 5 knots when the river flows at an average of half that speed. I made a rough calculation of the vector we needed and had decided that although Bimini lay at a bearing of 100 degrees (magnetic) from Miami, we would need to steer at 130 degrees. At 1740 hours, about three miles north of Miami, we began to make a sweeping turn in 10 degree increments, adjusting the sails as we went. As I suspected, the Genoa could not handle the tight wind angle, began flapping and was put away. The engine was on and the main sail sheeted tightly to the center-line was still trimmed and pulling. The seas were in the 4 foot range but the motion was not uncomfortable and with a 2/3rds moon to cast a silvery path across the waters, we headed east.
The speed sensor aboard the Magnolia Glen was not functional, so I don’t know what our speed through the water was but the satellites above calculated that we were travelling over the ground at 4.4 knots towards our destination and holding a “course over ground” of 100 degrees, even though we were pointed at 130 degrees, the engine pulling at 2,500 rpm. Thus we headed into the night with almost no shipping around, the sole cruise ship having drifted off very slowly to the north east.
The Gulf Stream presents two hazards to sailors. The first is that when the seasonal winter “northers” of cold arctic air sweep across the surface of the warm water of the stream heading in the opposite direction, the result is lightning storms, rain and ship killing breaking waves, perhaps as much as 40 feet high. The next cold front was forecast for Saturday. The second hazard is that the waters between Florida and the Bahamas are a major shipping lane and a steady stream of cargo ships transit this passage. We would be crossing this shipping lane at right angles and a 28 foot plastic boat that lacks a position transponder, is very hard to see from the bridge of a container ship, particularly if the watch officer is relying on computers to keep watch and is either texting or watching a video at the time. We watched the “miles to go” slowly decrease and by the time we had covered two thirds of the distance, realized that we would arrive too early and in darkness. The seas had dropped during the night and were becoming just a low swell when we reduced the engine speed to 1500 rpm and our speed over ground dropped to a little over two knots. 15 miles from the Bahamas we were now surrounded by the lights of shipping.
Large vessels such as tankers, container ships and the like show five lights which can be seen in combination depending upon where the observer is. If you are ahead of the boat, you will see either a red light on the port side or a green light on the starboard side. If the boat is coming directly at you, you would see both red and green lights. Once the vessel has passed, these lights are no longer visible and instead you see a white stern light. The Magnolia Glen showed these same lights. The other two lights that are displayed by large vessels are “range” lights and these are white. The forward range light is on a pole at the bow of the vessel and the rear light, higher up near the stern. On a clear night like tonight, the lights of large ship can be seen at 12 miles distance and the combination and position of the lights allows the observer to judge the direction the vessel is traveling. Most of the lights seen were of ships passing in the distance but several came close enough that we changed course to avoid their wake. We had “right of way” since we were under sail (they can’t tell that our engine is on) but this is of little import since they don’t see us and the reason that they don’t see us is that there is none aboard looking. 

November 8 2019

At around 2 am there was one ship in particular that I spotted at about 8 miles distance and saw that it would pass close by. Its range lights indicated that it would pass ahead of us and our speed of 2 knots meant that we were virtually stationary, since these beasts trundle along at 20 knots plus. The range angle held constant and I grabbed a couple of flashlights, one shining at the bridge of the oncoming vessel and the other on our mainsail to light it up. It seemed to change course slightly away from us but then came back to its original course. The range lights still showed that we were off to the side but the green navigation light was coming closer all the time and I though, “this sucker is big and wide!”. Distances are deceptive at night but none the less, I popped the autopilot off, grabbed the tiller, hauled the Magnolia Glen over into a tight turn at right angles to the oncoming ship and with the green navigation light now high above us, we powered away from the ship as fast as our 18 horses could push us. We never felt the wake nor smelt the fumes of burnt bunker oil but that was close and the ‘ol adrenalin was right up there! I cannot imagine that they were aware of our existence and they wouldn’t have felt us even if they had run over us. Fortunately that was the last of the shipping and the remaining lights we could see were the shore lights of Bimini as the sky slowly lit up with the dawn. At 0730 hours we tied up to the dock at the Bluewater Resort marina on North Bimini. The Magnolia Glen has left the United States and is in the Bahamas!

November 8 2019 continued......

The Magnolia Glen was tied up safely at the dock in North Bimini but there was no rest for the crew. As we had put away the lines I had noticed an acrid smell coming from the lockers next to the engine. It smelled something like burning clutch plates or brake shoes, neither of which existed on the Magnolia Glen. However the Captain’s task was to check in with the Customs and Immigration authorities. We filled out landing forms from the marina office and then grabbing the boat documents and passports, I trudged off in the pointed direction of the Customs. The office was perhaps a half mile away and although they were still in the process of opening up for the day, a lady handed me a stack of forms and set me down at a table outside to fill in the details. I had read online that they now accepted credit cards to pay for the cruising permit and this was the case, although it added another 20 minutes to the process. Finally we were done and I wandered off to find the Immigration office and again filled out more forms until everyone was happy and we are legally in the Bahamas. Back to the boat. “Tony, we are legal!” I yelled. Tony came out of the cabin looking distinctly unhappy and said, “I found out what is making that smell.”
The Magnolia Glen, as originally manufactured, had two fresh water tanks, one under the forward “vee” berth and a second under the starboard couch in the main cabin. Environmental regulations related to sewage discharge had changed over the years and in order to operate the boat in an enclosed body of water (such as Lake Michigan where she had lived for much of her existence), the forward water tank had been converted from fresh water to sewage, in order to take the discharge from the toilet. A third tank had been added to the port side for fresh water, thereby wiping out much of what little storage space there was. The toilet had been recently installed and had a large valve that directed the discharge either to the outside of the hull, or to the forward tank. When the tank was full, there was no facility to empty it other than to have a boat or vehicle come alongside and vacuum it out from the deck fitting. This had been done in Stuart, Florida and I had been convinced that the unlabeled valve was in the position to discharge directly into the ocean. Tony insisted that the septic tank was now full, had overflowed into the interior of the boat and had soaked the clothes in his backpack, the bedding in the vee berth and most of the cushions from the main cabin that had been stored there for the night crossing. It did not take long to confirm this diagnosis.
As they say, “shit happens” and now as tired as we were, we had to clean up this mess. There were to be three phases to the cleanup. First we had to haul all of the dripping and sewage soaked items out of the boat, onto the dock and determine which if any could be cleaned and salvaged. Next we would need to find some means of emptying the now full septic tank. Finally, we needed to scrub the contaminated interior of the boat to make it once more habitable. The marina provided no help. No, they didn’t know where we could dispose of the soaked mattresses and pillows. No, they didn’t know of any pump-out capability on the island. Tony gave one of the dock hands fifteen bucks to get rid of the sewage soaked bedding and in minutes it was gone. I rented a couple of rooms from the marina so that we had a place to clean up and sleep and we pondered the various options to empty the 30 gallons of waste in the tank. It came down to one choice only. We would pump it out through the window in the forward vee berth into a bucket on the deck. From there it would have to be moved to the toilets on the dock, a procedure best performed after dusk.
What happened next was entirely Tony’s fault. He mentioned to me that I should change the shirt I was wearing in case it got splashed with sewage. I responded that I would be careful and that wasn’t going to happen. As I hand pumped the sewage out of the window, the end of the pipe became rocket propelled and came flying back through the window, soaking me from head to foot in a fermented liquid mixture of poo and pee. If Tony hadn’t mentioned the changing of the shirt this would never drying the laundryhad happened and to make things even worse, he couldn’t stop laughing, even after the second time it occurred. Finally the tank was empty, the valve set to the correct position and the clean up begun with a fresh water rinse followed by a soap and water scrub and finished off with a Chlorox wipe down. It was late when we retired to our motel rooms to shower and launder our clothes, including the shirt that I had been wearing.

November 9 2019

The cold front we had been trying to avoid had arrived during the night and the morning was cold with the wind blowing strongly from the north, the Magnolia Glen straining at her lines and whiteThe cold front arrives capped waves in the access channel to the marinas. Not a day to be out in the Gulf Stream where 45 knots of wind and 20 foot breaking waves were to be expected. Before we left Florida we had purchased foul weather gear consisting of waterproof “Farmer John” style trousers plus jackets with hoods. The latter were welcome on a day like today as we walked the town looking for both restaurants and internet access. We watched in fascination as “Roll on Roll off” shallow water type ferry boat came struggling against the wind and waves. It was less than a mile offshore and we could see the bows leaping high in the sky, clear of the water, before plunging so deep it looked like the boat had sunk. When she was level with us, she turned at 90 degrees to the wind and waves and made a run for the entrance to the Bimini channel. The roll was wicked and whatever she was carrying, I prayed it was well lashed down. We wandered off to find a place that would serve us bacon and eggs, glad to be safely ashore.
Bimini streetThe supermarketSuzukiConch discards

November 10 2019

It doesn’t take long to explore North Bimini since the populated land is about 4 miles long by a quarter of a mile wide. There are two streets that follow the west and east “coasts” plus a smattering of cross streets. To the south was the entrance to the inner shelter guarded by shallow and shifting sand banks thus “town” and the action lay to the north of our berth. By the afternoon we braved the wind and rain and wandered “north” island to the Hilton hotel, where we admired the vacant swimming pool while sipping a $10 local beer in a plastic cup. On our return, a man in a golf cart offered us a ride which we briskly accepted. This was Clint, a construction worker from Nassau who worked a schedule of four weeks on in Bimini with a week off back in Nassau. He was involved in the construction of a new resort plus some number of private homes at the north end of the island. Clint drove us all over Bimini, proudly showing us the construction trailer where he lived and some of the places he had worked. The company he worked for had years of construction lined up for the future so although we admired the security of his employment, we decided that it was a hard career, living away from home for such long periods.

November 11, 2019

Today was a work day and we began by restowing everything on the boat, easier now the forward vee berth was clear of bedding and cushions. We refueled our diesel tank, topped up our water tanks and purchased 10 more gallons of diesel to replace what we had burned, adding a couple of cases of drinking water. The Magnolia Glen was again ready for sea and her crew moved back aboard. WeTony stows the gear had been walking back and forth from the marina to the Big Game Resort where we had been eating occasionally and using their Wifi morning and night to check the weather forecast. We would pass Kim the sandwich lady as well as Clint the construction worker on the main thoroughfare and people would wave at us and greet us by name. “We have been here too long”, Tony observed.

November 12, 2019

0642 hours we dropped our lines from the Blue Water Resort marina and set sail for West Bay, New Providence Island, motorsailing with just the mainsail up at 5.4 knots. Our trip began with a seven mile leg to the north along the coast before turning east, passing onto the shallow bank of limestone that is the Great Bahama Bank. This is an astounding geological feature, a vast expanse of a platform, surrounded by deep water, hundreds of miles across in places, of near flat, white limestone covered with just feet of crystal clear salt water. The depth varies from 20 feet or so to bone dry and with our Exuma Cayskeel draft of four feet, we needed to pay attention to our course to avoid grounding. The bank also has a sprinkling of rocks and corals, both capable of punching a hole in a plastic hull. The various electronic and paper charts contained dire warnings of “Visual Navigation Rules” only. By this they mean that the navigator should be on constant watch for changes in water color indicating the presence of rocks, corals, weeds or shallow water. Great advice but we know from experience that outside the hours of 10:00 am. to 2:00 pm., a window of just 4 hours, light is reflected from the surface of the water making it impossible to see these water color changes. The other caveat is the presence of a “clear sky”. An overcast sky, even at noon washes out the color changes that mark navigation hazards. Our strategy then is to keep to the “regular” routes where possible and monitor the chart closely for mapped hazards, giving them a wide berth. The various charts warn of unmapped obstacles and we set the zoom level on the electronic charts to make sure that we have all possible displayed.  
The wind was light producing a 1 to 2 foot chop. both wind and chop increased throughout the morning until we were fairly bouncing and taking spray over the bows. The Magnolia Glen has turned out be a fairly dry boat with very little spray coming into the cockpit. That morning, we had been passed by a 1982 Cutter, S/V Alabama but otherwise very little shipping seen. By mid afternoon theNo wind chop had settled down to swells in the one foot range, we passed the Alabama which was anchoring for the night on the bank while we headed out into deep water, a full moon lighting the way as the night wore on. The reason that we did not stop was that the latest wind forecast showed an increase on the morrow and we wanted to take advantage of the current light conditions to make the 35 mile mile deep water passage from the shallow Grand Bahama Bank to the island of New Providence – usually referred to by its capital, Nassau. 

November 13, 2019

0600 hours, a beautiful sunrise and we arrived at West Bay, New Providence Island, anchoring at 23 31.7 N 075 46.1 W. It was distinctly warm at anchor and after a brief rest, we changed the engine oilsunrise and oil filter, refueled the main tank and again we were ready for sea. As the afternoon cooled down I dived to check the anchor setting, inspected the rudder and propeller for signs of damage following the Stuart, Florida grounding and cooled myself off. No damage seen below.

November 14, 2019

The weather forecast promised several days of light headwinds with little wave action and we raised anchor at 0610 hours to cross the eastern half of the Bahama Bank to reach the chain of the Exumaflaking the mainsail Cays. The sky was 6/8 ths covered with a thin stratus, peppered by some fair weather cumulus. There was a 3 foot chop on the bank but we stayed dry in the cockpit and saw no other vessels throughout the day as we motor-sailed at around 5.2 knots with just the main sail up. At 1657 hours we anchoredShroud Bay at 24 31.8 N 076 47.9 W in Shroud Bay.  There were a couple of widely spaced catamarans anchored nearby but none offered to barbeque cheeseburgers for us so we were left our own devices. The scenery provided a spectacular background to our feast of microwaved dinners, Tony had found the pop-corn in the vee berth stash and the beer was cold. A good day.

November 15, 2019

Our original plan was to sail south along the Exuma Cays to Big Farmers Cay, then anchor for the night before passing from the shallow bank into deep water for the final 30 mile run to Georgetown. Yesterday’s weather forecast had shown several days of light weather before the next cold front was upon us. We raised anchor at 0700 hours and continued to motor sail south under clear sunny skies. By noon, Tony was able to pick up cell phone service and an updated check of the weather predictedCell service that the forecasted cold front was moving way faster and would reach both further south than we expected and sooner. Reluctantly, we decided to forgo our leisurely night at anchor and proceed onwards throughout the night. By mid afternoon, we ran into our first navigation problem. The Garmin electronic charts showed a rocky bank covered by 1 to 2 foot of water blocking our passage to the Farmers Cay Cut and the ocean. The Explorer paper charts showed less detail but promised a channel with 8 to 9 feet of water, more than enough for our needs, at exactly the same location. Which was correct? We edged forwards cautiously, bearing in mind that it was near low tide, so that a grounding mistake could be corrected with a few hours of waiting. The Explorer chart won the day and we stayed in deep water, entering the pass to the ocean with several knots of current against us. Our speed dropped to 2.8 knots as we fought the flooding tide. Slowly the entrance rocks slipped by and our speed began to pick up until by by 1652 hours, the log notes that we were in open ocean.

We motor-sailed on south, about a mile and a half offshore, with the same low swells we had been experiencing all day. The Exuma Cays consists of more than 365 islets but with a total population of 7,300 souls, there were few scattered points of light showing their existence. We saw no other shipping and after sunset, the stars glittered above before being washed out by the mistress of the night, a 2/3rds moon, that rose from the eastern horizon, ruddy and bloated at around 2000 hours.

At the dock in Georgetown Stocking Island beach Stocking Island beach It's Kalik time! Bahama sunset

We made another night entrance, this time to Stocking Harbour, Georgetown, passing through Conch Cut and following a twisting turning passage between the shallows. This entry took nearly an hour with the Magnolia Glen rolling uncomfortably and unpredictably due to unseen swells that were coming across the barrier reefs. The shore lights seemed to spin around us as we weaved our way into deeper water. We anchored off Stocking Island at 1145pm at 23 31.7 N 075 46.1W. The Magnolia Glen is in Georgetown.

February 5, 2020

Two uneventful flights and we have returned to the Magnolia Glen. The flight from Miami gently touched down at Georgetown, Bahamas and we felt the warm air of a Bahamas February washing away the air travellers angst. The Immigration folks waved us through as soon as I said “boat” and this just left the Customs lady. Again the word “boat” elicited special treatment, only this time we were moved to one side. The lady ahead of us had packages of Volvo diesel filters and seemed to be in an argument with the Customs lady. She was not winning. Everyone ahead of us seemed to be handing over cash or credit cards. Finally it was our turn and we were alone in the terminal. The three large suitcases plus two backpacks we struggled with were not going to get a pass with a “nothing to declare”. We had a boarding ladder, 300 feet of nylon rode, 30 feet of chain rode, two mattresses and a spare autopilot as well as miscellaneous food items. We however were cheerful, friendly and regaled the lady with tales of dumping the previous mattresses in the dumpster in Bimini after our holding tank mishap. I part filled out a form with estimated prices on the items we had brought with us and the lady said that, “next time” we would have to pay Bahamas sales tax of around 11% on our imports but for now, she tore up our declaration list and wished us a good visit.
So far so good. Our taxi dropped us off at the harbor and Norman, the boat tending guy met us at the dock. As he drove us across the water towards our mooring, he casually mentioned that he had found a rat on board the Magnolia Glen / Doodlebug but that it had caused little damage before he caught it and killed it.
4 1/2 hours later we have cleaned the boat. The signs of rat occupation are everywhere. It ate through the plastic caps of a case of water bottles and drank the top inch of water, presumably because it lacked a straw. It ate a hole in the 90% Jib – this was less amusing and further ate through the inflation hose for the kayak. Fortunately we have two foot pumps and the second was untouched. My scuba snorkel was in three pieces. The rat had pooed and peed on just about everything and we filled two large sacks with contaminated and partially chewed items. The miracle of the experience was only one can of peanuts had been eaten. Granola bars, crackers, cookies were all untouched. These had all been stored in the kitchen lockers and presumably the rat had been to fat to penetrate these.
It was 5:30 pm and getting dark before we were able to warm up our first shipboard meal of soup. Tony had discovered an overlooked 12 pack of beer and the fridge had cooled it to drinkable temperature. The adventure continues.

February 6, 2020

Our planned leisurely takeoff had been shattered yesterday by “La Rata”, the rat from hell and it had cost us both time and goods. Despite this setback, the new mattresses we had carried in our suitcases had fit perfectly in the place of the torture devices we had used on the previous trip. Now “completely” rested, we began work at 0700 hours by swapping out the 200 feet of 3/8” chain currently in use for the a mixed rode of nylon / chain combo we had carried in our luggage. This modification was an important consideration in that the Magnolia Glen lacks a windlass and the anchor and chain must be “weighed” by hand, a back-breaking process for such fine athletes as Tony and myself. We inflated one of the kayaks and I used the new boarding ladder to board same, heading for the dock to find the owner of the moorings and pay our bill. Everything had been checked ready for sea and we cast off our mooring around noon, bound for the Exuma Yacht Club, about two miles away at Georgetown, on the opposite side of Elizabeth Harbour and where we could allegedly buy diesel and take on some water. Just as before, our smooth departure came to an abrupt halt when we ran aground about two hundred yards from our mooring. We had followed our inbound track exactly and had chosen the deeper of the two exit passes as shown on our chart. Nevertheless we were again stuck and telephoned our boat minder, Norman to come rescue us. He obligingly pulled us back into deep water with his Boston Whaler and we followed him through the other deeper channel which was still passable at low tide with our four foot draft.
We were unable to raise anyone on the VHF radio at the Exuma Yacht Club but a cell phone call to manager confirmed they had diesel, although she was not on site and couldn’t say if there was room for us to dock. Eventually a fellow sailor hailed us on the VHF and assured us that there was sufficient water depth and we made our cautious approach in high winds. I turned sharply to fit in the tight space between two boats and fortunately the chappie who had spoken to us earlier, caught our bow and helped us dock before we could do major damage to the adjacent vessels. We then stalked the dock looking for the alleged marina workers or lunch, whichever came first.
While docked at the yacht club, we took on diesel and water, walked over to liquor store for beer plus bottled drinking water, then the grocery store for few odd items. After stowing everything it was getting late and although we were still occupying the fuel dock, we promised we would be gone before 9:00 am tomorrow and paid to spend the night in the marina while it blew strongly outside.
The weather forecast promises a 2 1/2 day window to sail to Matthew Town for tomorrow.

February 7, 2020

We dropped lines at 0715 hours and motored gently out of the marina bound for Matthew Town on Great Exuma Island, some 230 miles distant. It was clear and sunny and for the next hour and a half, we wove a tortuous path between shallows and reefs until we emerged into the open waters of Exuma Sound. The log shows that at 0850 hours we were under full sail, close reaching at 4.5 knots towards the northern tip of Long Island. The log also mentions that when I came to apply sunscreen, its squirted out of the side of the tube where “La Rata” had chewed a hole. I began to feel sorry for the little bugger in that it had presumably entered the boat via the dorade (deck mounted ventilator) where the metal screen placed to prevent such ingress had been pushed aside and was then trapped inside the hull. The food on board was stored behind massive locker lids and the finger holes that were drilled through the lids were too small to allow him / her to get through. The only food left exposed to “La Rata” was a single can of peanuts, plus of course a case of bottled water.
By 1200 hours we were beam reaching at 5.5 knots towards the tip of Long Island under sunny skies with just an 1/8th  of cloud and seas in the 1 to 2 foot range. We cleared the northerly tip of Long Island and as we passed by Rum Cay, we were exposed to the Atlantic waves. By 1613 hours we were on engine with two reefs in the mainsail, too close hauled to use the Genoa. The winds were light and we headed on a course to the southeast and into our first night of the passage.

February 8, 2020

The winds stayed light throughout the night with waves in the 4 to 6 foot range and with only a double reefed mainsail set, it was rough ride although the Magnolia Glen tracked through the waves quite well. I had solved the problem with the autopilot setting since I had brought a manual with me on this trip and turned the “heavy seas” filter option on. A booby (that’s a bird!) landed on the mast spreader late at night but amazingly didn’t poo all over the boat as has happened on previous voyages.
At 0500 hours the engine died. It had to be a fuel issue and I checked the fuel gauge which showed more than a 1/4 tank of fuel remaining. The Racor filter had been replaced less than 100 hours before, as had the on-engine filter. I went forwards and untied one of the lashed on cans of fuel, hauled it to the cockpit where together we emptied it into the tank and with trepidation hit the starter on the engine. It started immediately and we headed onwards into the waves and darkness, together with a great feeling of relief on the part of the crew. We had spare filters of course but this is a messy and time consuming job, especially in 6 foot seas. The motion and physical effort had overriden the capabilities of Tony’s anti-nausea medication and he retired below.
Last night’s booby had returned to fish off our bow just after daylight and by 0800 hours we were well into the wave shadow of Aklin’s Island, heading south- southeast towards the Mira Por Vos Passage. It was cloudy with 6/8 ths coverage but the seas had dropped to the 3 foot range and we motored on with just the reefed mainsail to provide stability. The waves dropped to the 1 to 2 foot range as the day wore on and at 1600 hours we passed through the Mira Por Vos Passage leaving Aklins Island behind and saw our first shipping. Two freighters passed by plus the only sailing vessel we have seen. The latter was a large ketch, west bound and with a huge cruising chute or spinnaker. The chute kept collapsing, which did not surprise us in the least since the winds were still light. We headed into our second night at sea with the seas in the 3 to 4 foot range, motoring at 4.5 knots.

February 9, 2020

Around 0200 hours the engine died again, only this time, we had a can of fuel available in the cockpit locker and Tony and I did a “refuel at sea” that would have made the Indy 500 race team proud. Again the engine restarted instantly and the remainder of the passage passed without incident. We anchored off the end of the airport runway at Matthew Town, Great Exuma at 0920 hours.
I promptly went to bed, slept, woke up and ate lunch, slept for the afternoon and then went to bed early!

February 10, 2020

Winds blowing hard today. Last night a swell crept into the anchorage producing a wicked roll. The wind was also blowing strongly and although I had tried to tie off loose halliards, they nevertheless hammered at the mast all night long, adding to the misery.
Today we were reminded of the fact that we anchored off the end of the runway when a twin engined turbo-prop passed overhead, a little above mast height. The Coast Guard chopper has flown over a couple of times but the VHF is out of reach so I didn’t get to ask them if they deliver pizza.

February 11, 2020

Today was a maintenance day. As soon as the engine cover was removed we were startled by a considerable quantity of oil under the engine and soaking the absorbent material layered there. I tested it with my finger, wiping it on a clean paper towel. The oil was clear. I checked the engine oil and found it dark with combustion products as expected and down about a pint. That is normal. The engine dipstick wiped on the same towel proved that the oil under the engine was not engine oil. The only source of clean oil in the engine compartment is the transmission. Had we blown a transmission shaft seal? I checked the transmission level and found it full. This is not easy to do on this boat. You have to lay a furniture blanket or similar padding along the length of the engine and then with arms forwards (like Superman!) you slide through the tiny space between the engine and the compartment roof. If you have done this before you will be wearing a hat to protect your skull plus have a headlamp on the hat. The oil check was not making sense so I again checked the transmission oil level. Perfect! What was going on?
Well at least we could top up the engine oil. I grabbed an oil can from the adjacent cockpit compartment and checked its contents. It contained dirty oil and I had been saving the partially filled can for use in the next scheduled oil change. As I put the oil can back in the compartment I noticed that I had dribbled  droplets of dirty oil everywhere. Tony helped me clean up and I couldn’t understand how I could have been so careless spilling it. It was only when I pulled out the can of new oil that understanding came about. This can too dribbled oil. “La Rata” had eaten holes in both cans and in the rough conditions we had experienced, several pints of oils had leaked into the bottom of the compartment and presumably from there into the engine compartment. No transmission seal leak!
That evening we witnessed a “Green flash” sunset. This is a rare meteorological event and requires the combination of a clear view of the horizon with no clouds blocking the view and a warm day. As the last glimmer of light from the setting sun dips below the horizon, a warm air layer at sea level refracts this light in the same manner that false “oases” are seen in the desert or pools of water on a highway. What the brain interprets as the sky reflected from water is actually the sky refracted by the warm air at the ground / water surface. Different colors are refracted by different angles depending upon their wavelength, thus the final glint of light from the setting sun is a “green flash”. You can’t blink when you are looking for one and an alcoholic drink in the hand helps you accomplish this. 

February 12, 2020

Each day we have studied the weather forecast and looked at the various options available to us. A high pressure area has settled over the mid Atlantic producing extra strong trade winds. The forecast winds remain resolutely from the East and since we are on the West end of the low lying island, we experience the winds but not the wind generated waves. There is however a 1 to 2 foot swell that wraps around the island and breaks on shore at an angle producing spectacular looking waves and surf along the beach. We have been planning a Friday departure for Providenciales Island at the West side of the Turks and Caicos group. I had intended to buy diesel fuel here before we depart, as well as to check out of the Bahamas since Matthew Town is an official “Port of Entry”. The cruising guide suggests that the town marina is small, has space for just a few boats and should only be attempted in the most settled weather. The plan was to use one of the inflatable kayaks we have on board to make a landing but the surging swell and high winds were now making this look tricky.
Today was the day however and we deployed the boarding ladder, inflated the kayak, lashed two empty fuel jugs aboard and with a waterproof backpack containing the boat documents and passports, I set off for the beach. Paddling was hard against the wind as I left the Magnolia Glen but as I got closer to the beach, the wind seemed less and the waves crashing on the beach bigger. I lined up on a boat ramp just south of the airport runway and although the waves reached well up the ramp, they weren’t breaking. As it turned out it was an uneventful landing and I hauled the kayak up to the road intersection and tied it to a bush to stop it from blowing away. The road was empty but I knew that the airport had customs and immigration officials so I began walking towards what looked like a hangar, whilst wearing a yellow life jacket and hauling two yellow fuel jugs. I had walked less than 50 yards when a car came towards me and I flagged it down. A young woman rolled the window down and I asked her if I was headed towards the Customs and Immigration office. I was not, she said, hesitated for a moment and then said, “I will drop you”. I put the fuel cans in the back seat of her car beside her baby carrier and she drove me the half mile to the Customs office. Here I received exit papers before walking next door to the Immigration office. The Immigration officer took our completed passport exit papers and I asked him how far it was to the fuel station in town. “I will take you”, he said. We got in his Jeep and he drove me to the town harbor where the harbormaster called for a fuel truck. About twenty minutes later a huge truck rolled up and I filled up my cans. I asked the truck driver if he could give me a ride back to the boat ramp and he said “Of course”. What nice people!
My kayak was still waiting patiently by the side of the road and I pondered loading two cans of fuel into it, particularly since the wind had risen in strength since earlier this morning. Sanity prevailed and I decided to leave one can on the boat ramp for a second run. Getting off the boat ramp was relatively easy. I just lifted the kayak forwards over the rough concrete until a particularly big wave washed me off into deep water. The wind was not quite as strong, just off the beach so I paddled parallel to the beach until I was more upwind of the Magnolia Glen before launching towards it. I am so glad that I had made the decision to just take one fuel jug as its weight in the bow was causing the kayak to try and broach in the wind. I hardly needed to paddle on the return trip, turned at the last minute and caught the boarding ladder. We jointly decided that the run to pick up the second can was not going to happen until the wind dropped again, hopefully this evening.
Another lazy day at anchor waiting on weather. Around 5:00 pm the wind did drop a little and I launched myself into the kayak paddling against the wind to the beach. It was now low tide and the exposed boat ramp was steeper but not difficult to land on. By now I had the approach down pat and I slid alongside the Magnolia Glen bearing the precious cargo of diesel and ready for the Olympic whitewater kayak finals. We are officially cleared out of the Bahamas and just in time. Our courtesy flag has been shredded in the wind and just has a few threads left.

February 13, 2020

Last night Tony inventoried the food supplies and reported that we have a 5 day supply of microwaveable meals left and at least a “three Puerto Rican birthday” supply of candy. We have been tidying up and restowing gear in anticipation of a rough passage to Providenciales on Friday. The weather forecast shows a drop in wind and waves in about a 36 hour window and the distance is around 105 miles.

February 14, 2020

Valentines Day and the wind was still blowing strongly from the east. The forecast had remained fairly constant for the past five days and claimed that the wind speed would begin to drop in the afternoon and would be down from 22 knots to 14 knots by tomorrow morning. We raised anchor at 1130 hours and headed north, remaining in the wave shelter of the west coast of Great Inagua until we reached the northwest point. From here was a 45 mile run to the tip of Little Inagua Island and we motor-sailed in 6 to 8 foot seas at 4.7 knots. By 1700 hours we refueled the main tank with the seas still very rough and still in the 4 to 6 foot range, even though we were protected to some extend by the landmass of Great Inagua to the east. The island is very flat and there was no sign of habitation on the west coast nor any speck of light as we headed into the night. At 2130 hours we again needed to refuel the main tank and noted that our speed over ground had dropped off to around 3.75 knots suggesting a counter current.

February 15, 2020

The log showed that shortly after daylight at 0635 hours, we had cleared the Inagua Islands and began a 34 mile run to the entrance to the Sandbore Channel on Providenciales. We were now motoring directly into the waves and they stayed in the 6 to 7 foot range with 3/8th cloud cover and scattered rain pods around. By early afternoon the depth sounder showed that we had reached the Sandbore Channel and thus were again in cell phone communication range but still 15 miles from our destination marina. The wind never let up during the day but a 10 foot water depth meant that we just faced a short chop. We arrived at the South Side Marina, Providenciales Island in the Turks and Caicos group at 1700 hours and tied up.

February 16 through February 17, 2020

We are leaving the Magnolia Glen at the marina here for a month, so after clearing with Customs and Immigration authorities in the morning, we tidied the sails and rigging and lashed down the errant diesel and water jugs, making the our craft look seamanlike and ready for the ocean again. We also cleaned out the locker where the rat had dined on the oil jugs. There was very little oil in the locker but as I was already “inside” the locker, I took the opportunity to “sound” the fuel tank with the handle of a screwdriver. The distinct change in audio tone clearly showed that the tank was near empty, perhaps at 1/4 capacity rather than the 3/4 full that showed on the fuel gauge. The mystery of the unexpected engine stoppages was now explained. We had carefully refilled the tank to no more than “full” on the gauge, not wishing to dump fuel into the ocean via the overflow / breather hose. In fact the tank had been sucking fumes each time the engine had stopped and we had refilled it to perhaps 1/4 full, even though the gauge had shown full. We experimented by removing the fuel gauge, rotating it through 180 degrees and reinstalling it. It now read correctly at the 1/4 mark.

Providenciales, or “Provo” as the locals call it, is quite different from the Bahamas Islands we have visited. Although the Bahamas is a member of the British Commonwealth, it gained its independence in 1973. As a result of Bahamian independence, Turks and Caicos received their own governor and remained a British Overseas Territory. For the casual tourist it just looks like a whole lot more money than the nearby Bahamian Islands, with lots of expensive hotels, expensive real estate and a predominantly tourist economy. Tony was shocked to find a 6 pack of Corona beer was $25 at the liquor store and a “cheap” bottle of wine for $45. Most of the local labor on “Provo” derives from either the Dominican Republic or Haiti and the minimum wage here is $6.25 per hour. (Puerto Rico is $7.25 per hour). This compares to $9 / day for the Dominican Republic and $5 / day for Haiti. How the locals survive with such a disparity between the local salaries and the cost of living I just don’t know.

March 12, 2020

I flew back to “Provo” yesterday afternoon thus today was definitely a “work” day. The engine oil and filters had to be changed, the diesel jugs refueled and re-stowed and the water tanks filled. Those were the “A” jobs. Next I attempted a repair of the toilet which had ceased to operate at 100% functionality during the last passage. It still pumped waste outside but no longer “flushed” with clean sea-water. I was not anxious to “dive” into this project but some research had indicated that it might be possible to overhaul the input side of the pump without breaking the integrity of the definitely messier output of the pump. Sure enough, I discovered that the internal plastic parts of the flush side had somehow disintegrated. I had a repair kit which included cryptic instructions and these said to test the function of a selector lever for “flush or dry” and replace if necessary. Predictably my lever failed the required test and the service kit helpfully did not include this replacement part. No problem, at least the toilet would flush even if it couldn’t pump dry! I rebuilt, re-assembled and tested - all good. Later that afternoon I again used the toilet and it would no longer flush as it had this morning. What was its problem? This was not critical but meant that it was again necessary to have a half bucket of sea-water available for major toilet usage. I repaired the spare jib where the Georgetown rat had eaten a hole and made a trip to the local grocery store to load up on bottled water, beer and food. By mid afternoon everything on my list had been checked and I was tired and ready for a break.

It was now time to head off to the airport to meet my new ship-mate, Luis. He was flying into Provo from Barbados, via Trinidad and Antigua. The coronavirus pandemic was working its way through the US presidential campaign, the US legacy media and the international media. What kind of travel restrictions would he run into? In fact he was just about the last person to clear Customs and Immigration and finally came through the security doors with his backpack. We hope to leave tomorrow.

March 13, 2020

Friday 13th. At 0730 hours I was to pay my marina bill and at 0900 hours we had arranged for Customs and Immigration to visit the marina and clear us out. In the meantime, Luis and I checked the boat for departure, removing sail covers, clearing the decks and stowing the gear below. At the appointed time, the marina office stayed dark and empty but an hour later the bill had been paid. Soon it was 0930 hours and still no sign of the Customs officials. I had the office girl check and was informed that I needed to come to their office downtown as today they had no car. The marina manager Bob, kindly gave me a ride to the Treasury building and after an intense search for someone who could provide change for a $20 bill, we were finally done and I had clearance papers in hand. Next was immigration. This officer finally showed up around 1100 hours and I handed him four pieces of paper. We were now cleared our and dropped our lines, motoring gently along our inbound track with only inches of water of clearance beneath our keel.

Our course lay to the southeast along the Gingerbread Passage crossing the Caicos Bank on a route that was declared suitable only for vessels with a draft of less than “5 or 6 feet”. The Cape Dory 28 draws 4 feet and we motor sailed close hauled with just a reefed mainsail into a 2 to 3 foot chop. Mid-afternoon we spotted two dolphins, a mother and baby, the only pair we have seen on this trip and they played in our bow wave for a few minutes before getting bored and disappearing as mysteriously as they had arrived.

I had hoped to clear the banks before dark as the exit is deemed by the chart as “visual navigation only” but this was not to be and it was around 2300 hours when we were again in deep water, had turned off the engine and were sailing close hauled with a reefed Genoa and double reefed mainsail.

My new shipmate Luis had already shown his competence in steering and adjusting the autopilot course across the shallow banks and so I left him on watch to take a nap below. An hour later when I came back on watch, conditions had deteriorated markedly in that a half moon cast the heaving waters in a silvery glow and we could now see that the waves were in the 7 to 9 foot range off the beam. The Cape Dory would plunge sideways into the troughs, close hauled, rolling up to 40 degrees and then climbing to the crest of the next wave we looked out over a confused and seething mass of huge rollers. We could hear crashing and banging from below as items that had been less securely stowed went walkabout. Water was sloshing along the cabin top and soaking the cockpit seat cushions where we were uncomfortably and miserably hanging on. I eased the Genoa, eased the main and fell off our course by 5 degrees. This helped a little and noted that our course now lay near directly to an anchorage at Big Sand Cay. This was a no-brainer; we would put in there, regroup, check the weather forecast and re-stow the boat.

March 14, 2020

In the darkness we eased up towards the unseen land of Big Sand Cay and when the depth gauge showed 18 feet of water, we dropped our anchor at 0500 hours, letting the wind blow us back on 150 feet of rode. There seemed to be a lot of current but once we were in the shelter of the Cay, the huge waves had gone and were just left with a swell, wrapping around the end of the islet and travelling along the beach. There was one other boat here based up a single anchor light and a dark shape beneath.

Dawn showed a beautiful and lonely white sand beach, swell breaking far up the sand and large breakers throwing spray high into the air, north and south of us where the reefs lay, which were providing some protection for our anchorage. It was still very rolly here but after last nights beating, it felt wonderful. Around 8 am, our “companion” of last night, a large ketch, departed sailing west and we were alone.

The weather forecast for the next several days had winds in the 15 to 20 knot range with seas accordingly, similar to last nights conditions. I had been hoping for much lighter winds after the major cold front had passed through last week-end but this is not to be. The fall back option was now to sail to Luperon in the Dominican Republic, a distance of 80 miles from our current position. We should make this in a single tack and in order to arrive right after dawn, we would need to leave here around noon tomorrow. This estimate was based upon a sailing speed of an average of 4 knots.

March 15, 2020

We had done a super job of re-stowing everything after yesterday’s hammering, the main fuel tank was topped up and all of the fluids checked. We were ready to go. At noon we raised anchor and just outside the shelter of the Cay, we turned onto a direct course for Luperon, trimming the sails for a beam reach with reefed Genoa and a single reef in the main. The forecast had called for winds of around 16 knots and although the waves were still coming near directly onto the beam, we were soon sailing along at better than 6 knots. By mid-afternoon we had reefed in more of the Genoa but the speed did not drop appreciably and we stormed into the night still averaging 6 knots or more. This speed made the waves on the beam more tolerable, as you no longer feel like the boat is about to capsize but the problem was that we were going to arrive at our destination way too early.

March 16, 2020

The sail through the night was relatively uneventful. A single freighter aimed at us directly but responded when I called him on the VHF to enquire if he could see us. He asked if we were attempting to cross his line of approach (where he would have right-of-way if we were a power vessel) but when I answered that we were a sailing vessel on direct course for Luperon, he immediately changed course and passed well behind us. At 0300 hours we were 3 miles off the entrance to the Luperon anchorage and 5 hours too early. By now we were in the night lee of the island of Hispaniola and both wind and waves were lessened. We reversed course and and attempted to put the Cape Dory into a “heaved to” position. This was not entirely successful as this is the first time I had tried this and I think we had too much Genoa up but we did set the boat up to hang 45 degrees off the wind with a boat speed of around 2 knots. (to “heave to” on a sloop you tack without releasing the jib-sheet so that it becomes “backed”. You then set the mainsail in opposition to the backed Genoa and lash the rudder to adjust the wind angle.) At dawn we reversed course and sailed back on mainsail alone towards the entrance to Bahia Luperon. This is a tricky entrance with lots of conflicting navigation advice in the various sailing guides but we met “Mike” in a dinghy in the entrance channel who yelled some course corrections at us and we did not go aground. At 0910 hours we picked up a mooring just off the Puerto Blanco marina. We are in the Dominican Republic.

July 13 to July 14, 2020

Doodlebug has been trapped in Luperon by the decision of the Dominican Republic government to shut down all ports in an attempt to “do something” in response to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Last week they had finally opened ports (sea and air) to international traffic and I had made arrangements to fly back to retrieve my baby and sail her to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately the perfect weather we had been having had ended and several days of high head winds from a nascent tropical disturbance were forecast. So it was that I found myself winging back to the Dominican Republic on Monday 14th July, hopefully on the “back side” of this system. That afternoon I was back aboard and began by starting the engine to charge the batteries. The engine would not start – completely dead, no clicking sounds of solenoids etc. I found my electrical meter and checked batteries – all good, and then measured the voltage at the starter solenoid. Again, it was good. I scrambled around to find a piece of wire and then a knife to cut it with, all the time muttering imprecations at the various nautical deities but eventually had a short piece of electrical wire with exposed ends as a “jumper”. With this is I “jumpered” across the starter solenoid and the engine started instantly and ran smoothly. This meant that the starter button itself was defective and all of the other possibilities were eliminated by the fact that the engine was running fine. Back to checking things out.

After charging the batteries, I stopped the engine and then attempted to restart it in the usual manner. It started instantly. I tried three more times the following morning and each time the miscreant button did its job. Another arrow dodged? In any event, I stored my 4 inch piece or jumper wire carefully where I could find it again if necessary.

I spent Monday night aboard and by Tuesday morning had inventoried the contents of the boat and kayaked over to the dock to meet my future shipmate Domingo at breakfast at the marina restaurant. A hasty meal of desayuno Americana and I was riding pillion on Domingo’s motorcycle (coronavirus masks but no helmets), over to the Immigration office at the nearby town. Here we met Luis and together descended upon the Immigration guy. In minutes he had blessed taking Luis off my crew list and we sent him on his way. Luis was hoping to get a crew position on a boat sailing for Europe but the Captain is still trapped in Cuba with no flights to the Dominican Republic. Luis will now fly to the Canary Islands in hopes of picking up work.

Our next stop was “Port Control” where I was assessed various fees for having the boat trapped in Luperon by government decree. I asked for a “coronavirus discount” and everyone in the office laughed. Next stop was the “Navy” or “Armada”. A long tedious process of filling out of the usual forms followed by the issuance of a “Despacho” (outbound clearance), a document that is regarded with much gravitas in most countries but is utterly ignored by the United States. The usual whispered requests for “gifts” for the Navy officers and we were back to Immigration. This time we each filled out a questionnaire on coronavirus symptoms, affirmed that we didn’t have any and were issued official certificates stating that we were virus free. At each office we were interrogated as to our departure time and I assured them that would were, “wrapping things up, couple of hours – say, around noon”. In fact you are supposed to leave within 4 hours of the issuance of clearance and not in any event after sunset. Our plan was to leave around 10 pm. when the offshore winds were suppressed by the evening katabatic winds from the Dominican Republic mountains. Normally we might hope for 12 hour window overnight before this trend reverses and the trade winds dominate as headwinds. I was however hoping that the forecast light winds would arrive allowing us to continue eastbound throughout the day and pick up another katabatic headwind respite for the second night.

In the meantime, Domingo took off to fill a couple of diesel jugs and buy us some extra beer and bottled water. I ran down my list of check-out preparations and was changing the Racor fuel filter when Domingo returned with the supplies. He said that the Navy had called him to see if we had left yet and since we hadn’t, they wanted to send a drug enforcement boat over to check us for illegal cargo (per their treaty with the USA). An hour or so later, they did indeed show up and searched our boat most thoroughly. In fact I don’t think we have ever been searched so thoroughly. After they left, Domingo said they were dragging it out because they wanted a “present” and I assured him that if I had in fact been carrying a shipment of cocaine, I would have been more than happy to give them a “present” for them to go away.

At around 8:00 pm the DEA / Navy boys called again to ask if we had left and we dropped our mooring and headed out, with Domingo on the bow giving directions based upon local knowledge so that we wouldn’t run aground. In the unprotected waters of the north coast, it was still very choppy, with waves in the 5 foot range but lightish winds. Doodlebug rolled sharply from side to side but I decided that we would just suffer for a while instead of raising the mainsail to dampen the roll. I felt that the risk involved with getting out on a plunging deck in darkness to raise the sail was not worth the comfort factor. We were bound for the marina at Puerto Real on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, a distance of 250 nautical miles involving transit of the feared Mona Passage.

Our speed over ground was in the 2 to 3 knot range, I was hoping for 5 knots on engine but would take 4 if I could get it. We increased engine RPM to 2,500 and we did pick up speed until it looked like we were averaging around 3 knots. Was this due to the prevailing current or just the effect of the head seas? As the night wore on, our speed again increased slightly and a fingernail clipping of a moon rose in the east. The forecast warned of scattered rain pods with lightning and I hoped we might avoid these. We did see a few flickers to the southeast but nothing came close.

July 15, 2020

At 0430 hours we refueled the main fuel tank from one of our six 5 gallon diesel jugs and I noted that the seas were a little calmer than when we left last night, perhaps down to 4 footers. We were just off Rio San Juan and I was calculating fuel consumption and average speed. As expected our fuel usage was slightly higher than planned and our average speed slightly slower but I hoped that the forecast lighter winds would help with both.

At 0830 hours our position was N 19 43.1’ W 070 07.5’ indicating a run of 45 miles or so in the 12 hours since we departed. By now we had raised the mainsail, leaving in a couple of reefs and this had noticeably reduced the roll as we plunged into headseas at 2,500 RPM on our mighty 18 HP Westerbeke diesel.

The wind was directly ahead and occasionally the sail would flap but we were still surprised when one of the battens fell out of its sleeve in the sail and landed in the cockpit. I tightened the outhaul again and we motored on.

During the morning the winds were not only lighter but the seas were also lower with rounded waves and we picked up speed accordingly. The wind had swung to the northeast giving us a little push from the mainsail and I tried using some Genoa for and hour or so. The winds were in the right direction but too light to be of much use and the Genoa kept collapsing and I put it away. In mid afternoon the winds again picked up in strength and were quite choppy and remained in the 6 to 7 foot range as we headed into our second night at sea.

July 16, 2020

I had hoped for light winds and seas by hugging the coast as we continued east and had intended on following this strategy until we reached Punta Macao, about 150 miles from Luperon. Since this wasn’t working, after midnight I began peeling away from the coast in the direction of a waypoint I had placed on the northeast corner of a shallow bank, called by some, the Hourglass Shoal. This feature sits on the northwest side of the Mona Passage and the chart warns of tide races and the like, where the water depth goes from 12,000 feet to 190 feet in the space of a few miles. As we moved offshore into deeper water, the waves stayed in the 6 to 7 foot range but were less choppy. Lightning flickered around us ominously but we passed along the southern edge of a line of storms, with only an occasional lashing of heavy rain. My greatest concern was that our speed had dropped such that we were only making 1.5 to 2.5 knots headway and this at 2,500 RPM. This blew my fuel consumption plan to pieces. At our rate of fuel burn, we would not have enough diesel left to make the trip on engine.

As we moved further into the Mona crossing I considered the options. First of all, my route called for a 20 degree course change at my next waypoint. Perhaps we could sail the balance of the route. If not a direct course, perhaps we should sail south through the Mona until level with the latitude of Puerto Real we could make a shortened tack on engine. At worst, we would have to abandon the crossing and sail back downwind to The Dominican Republic, re-entering the country at either Samana or Punta Cana ports-of-entry.

July 17, 2020

We passed our waypoint and changed course for the southern side of Isla Desecheo (Trash Island), a small island about 12 miles off the west coast of Puerto Rico, watching the miles-to-go tick down at a glacial pace and waiting for the shudder of the diesel engine running out of fuel. We had one 5 gallon can left. When we made our turn, the wind angle did move from “directly ahead” to “close hauled” but the wind speed was too light to do us any good. The seas were still choppy and our speed in the 3 to 3.75 knot range. As dawn broke, we were abreast of the tiny Island that had been used as target practice by the US Navy in WWII. Domingo spotted a pair of dolphins off our bow and we were simultaneously treated to a magnificent sunrise. Our course was now set for a formation called Escollo Negro, an extensive submarine feature that comes within 6 feet of the surface but which has a narrow and winding deep water transit passage between the shallows. We were now close enough to our destination to commit our final 5 gallons of diesel to the main tank. When we did this, the gauge showed about half full.

Doodlebug graphicsDomingoSunrise in the Mona Passage

About 5 miles from Puerto Real we could see masts in the distance when the wind began to howl a something well over 20 knots, producing whitecaps and 4 foot waves. Our speed dropped again to 1 to 2 knots. We were lashed with rain and I wondered if this was to be Neptune’s last barrier. Slowly we gained ground, although it seemed at times that we were stationary. Puerto Real got marginally closer and the waves went down a little.

Thursday night Annette had received a call from a friend saying that the Puerto Rican Governor had closed the marinas again. Annette had called the Puerto Real marina this morning and the manager there was unaware of this. By afternoon he knew this to be true. We called the marina office once we were in cell phone range, were given a slip assignment and motored into our slip, tying up at 1430 hours and aided by the second stupidest dock hand we have ever encountered. Nevertheless Doodlebug is safely in Puerto Rico after a 66 hour passage and with just a couple of gallons of diesel fuel remaining.

August 1, 2020

I had arrived at the marina in Puerto Real around 1000 hours prepared to do some hard labor in getting Doodlebug ready for sea. My goal was to undo all of the other hard work I had done the previous Wednesday in preparing for the passage of tropical storm Isaias. On Tuesday I had spoken to the marina manager from 100 miles away and he had stated that it was likely they would require me to “evacuate the marina and tie up in the mangroves”. I didn’t need this. Annette and I had worked on preparing the house for a hurricane but hadn’t wrapped up the fine details believing a Thursday landfall. Now I was faced with six hours of driving plus a boat move. When I arrived at the marina on Wednesday morning, the manager told me that I needed to wait until high tide Wednesday afternoon before moving the boat. Tropical storm winds were forecast to arrive on the east coast at 2:00 pm. Wednesday afternoon. We went with plan “B”!

Doodlebug had been centered in the marina slip with doubled lines and all sails, cockpit covering canvas etc. had been removed and stored below. I now had the task of reinstalling the cockpit cover, reinstalling the mainsail and then the Genoa. By noon I was soaked in sweat and tired. Finally, it was all back together, jack lines run, life-jacket and tethers located, flag re-installed on the stern. My plan was to sail around 1400 hours so that I would be off Cabo Rojo around 1700 hours in anticipation of the forecast light seas and dropping wind. As it was, I had a dock lady help by dropping my last two lines as I motored Doodlebug in reverse out of the slip. The wind was light, with a cross slip component and as I feared, Doodlebug refused to turn but filled the available space between the two lines of docks, broadside and drifting slowly towards the closed end of the dock. Fortunately, the adjacent slip was vacant and I motored forwards and tied her up again. I next tried rotating her through 90 degrees, since the slip she was now in was open on one side and I managed to get her moored “side to” in front of a large catamaran.

Okay then, I next set a spring line and by “hitting reverse”, I attempted to “spring” the bow away from the dock and then motor forwards. Nope! The mighty Westerbeke engine did not provide enough enough power to force the bow away from the dock where the light wind was pinning it. My third attempt was to “walk” the Doodlebug forward along the dock until she was back at the adjacent slip where she had temporarily roosted but now facing the opposite direction, i.e. pointy end forward. A brief drop in the wind and we motored straight out of the slip and headed for open water. A lesson reinforced! Every time I have tried backing her out of a slip in anything other than a dead calm, it has been a disaster She just likes to go forwards and that is that!

At 1440 hours we headed out and set course south, towards the southwest “corner” of the island of Puerto Rico, Cabo Rojo, rounding this around 1700 hours. The weather forecast had promised light winds and dropping seas as we motored directly east into these. I expected the conditions to be “bouncy” off the Cape and indeed they were. Forward speed dropped to two knots and a line of rain pods would occasionally belt us with rain as we ploughed on, the engine at 2,500 RPM. I didn’t put up the mainsail to reduce the side to side roll because I didn’t want to increase the windage of a sail that wasn’t going to contribute any “forward” thrust and I further hoped that the promised lighter winds would arrive. The sunset was veiled behind gloomy rain clouds as I headed into the night.

My route took me close by the Margarita Reef and then across shallows off Punta Brea. I was dozing in the cockpit when a particularly large wave hit the side of Doodlebug and pitched her over about 60 degrees. The sound of crashing came from below. It was now pitch black and I couldn’t even see the waves hitting us but they were supposed to be bow on, not from the side. The chart showed that we were close to a drop off, where the water depth goes from 30 or 40 feet to several thousand feet. Maybe the waves I was getting were a function of this abrupt depth change? I changed course to point to the south east and headed into deeper water. This seemed to work as the waves from the side decreased both in frequency and amplitude. By midnight, the wind seemed to be a little lighter, a full moon had risen and we were picking up speed as the waves finally dropped.

My critical equipment failure was that the kitchen timer I was using as a “watch timer” died with a dead battery. I probably had a spare battery on board but I had “repaired” the effects of the earlier freak wave by moving everything that had landed on the floor onto the starboard side bunk, which had a lee board installed. I was not going to dig through this lot looking for a possible “button” style battery. Instead, I searched for a cell phone charging cable since I had given Annette mine for the long drive home. Success! I found a brand new cable and could now use the timer function on my phone. My routine was to set this for 15 minutes. At the present boat speed I would travel less than a mile before the alarm went off. I would then check the horizon carefully for obstacles or hazards, check the engine gauges to make sure that oil pressure, temperature, RPM and volts were all where they were supposed to be, check the GPS display to make sure that I was on course and there was nothing critical within a mile and then........I would then carefully sit or lie in a position of minimum discomfort / security. Doodlebug’s cockpit sucks for this. The “normal” cockpit sleeping position is to lay full length on the lee side bench. Unfortunately the tiller autopilot is installed on the starboard side, so that just leaves the port side. As it was I jammed myself in the “corner” next to the cockpit door and braced myself with my legs onto the opposite bench. I was using a tether from my life jacket to the base of the sheet winch and the earlier freak wave clearly demonstrated why. A 90 degree roll could propel a sleeper over the side and the cold water would be what woke you up!

At midnight I refueled the main tank from Jerry Jugs and estimated 35 miles run in the past 10 hours, an average speed of 3.5 knots, not too bad considering the conditions. My halfway point was la Isla Caja de Muertos, “Coffin Island”, that is located about 8 miles from the Port of Ponce and I passed this around 0400 hours with the island seen as a silhouette against the lights of the Port of Ponce. This was followed by a beautiful dawn and although the morning revealed heavy rain clouds, in the main, they were shrouding the range of coastal mountains and I was in sunshine. By mid-morning I was off La Boca del Infierno (The Mouth of Hell) a gap in a pretty line of reefs, notable because of the large power station in the background as well as the fact that in 1825, the pirate ship “Anne” had escaped from the pursuing USS frigate the John Adams by passing through this gap but the pirates were arrested as soon as they got ashore by waiting Spanish troops. My transit was pretty tame by comparison.

My route then passed along the southeast coast of Puerto Rico where most of the power stations are located and I was surprised to see as many running on coal as there are. The Puerto Rico government owns the power company and although the executives of the latter have been wanting to convert the coal plants to natural gas, the politicians want to use unicorn farts instead and have been denying the necessary financing. I passed a long line of windmills whose sails were barely turning and confirmed the lack of wind that I was experiencing. A line of rain pods appeared as I turned north towards Las Palmas del Mar, plus an annoying wave train just off the beam causing a pronounced roll.

Finally the miles and hours ticked down and at 1540 hours the Doodlebug sailed past La Pescaderia restaurant and tied up at the Las Palmas del Mar Yacht Club after a 25 hour passage of 100 miles. She is here! 1,250 miles from where we bought her in Florida.