Saturday, May 30, 2015

Emergency hold

We are all set for our departure to the port of Palm Beach, which would bring to a close our time here in the Bahamas. The tender is secured on deck, the scooters are double-strapped, the day tank is fueled for the crossing, and the boat is otherwise ready to go. However, we got some bad news today, and we will be holding here in Bimini until at least Monday.

Sunset over the strait yesterday evening. These never get old.

As I mentioned in my last post, there was a good chance we might meet back up with Blossom in Palm Beach, as they've also been eyeing this weekend as their weather window for the crossing. They've been at Palm Cay on the southeast end of New Providence for a week or so, since dropping off guests of their own. We'd been buddy-boating with them for most of our Bahamas cruise, until a cash shortage sent us to Eleuthera, and then our commitment here had us pass them in New Providence three weeks ago. We felt a little bad about parting ways, but both boats had been running flawlessly, and Blossom seemed to be well past any break-in pains.

They had told us recently that they'd shove off early this morning for a two-day straight run to Palm Beach, arriving somewhat ahead of us, mid-day tomorrow. So it was no surprise when I saw a Facebook post this morning from them in Nassau Harbor, held up waiting for the Disney Dream to reach her berth. That prompted me to start tracking them on Marine Traffic, and I was puzzled to see them in an odd part of the harbor, no longer on their route, and having been there a long time (vessel traffic is seldom held up for cruise ships more than a couple dozen minutes).

Louise texted them to see what was up, and our jaws dropped when, after some delay, they texted back that they had had a fire on board. Short of catastrophic flooding in the open ocean, a fire on a ship is the most dangerous thing there is, and especially so when it is a fiberglass boat. We were relieved to hear that they were safe, the fire was out, and the boat was mostly undamaged. Rather than elaborate further, you can read more about the event on their blog, here.

We are a bit far away to be of any immediate assistance; it took us three full days to get here from Nassau, and we could shorten that to two under exigent circumstances. But at the very least we can meet them in the Northwest Providence Channel whenever they are ready to get back under way, and buddy-boat back to Palm Beach with them. Considering the fire was in their "wing" engine, which was their emergency propulsion system and is now inoperative, just having another boat in visual range on an open-water crossing can make a big difference. The wing engine also provides primary hydraulic power for their maneuvering thrusters and anchor windlass, all of which still work but at greatly reduced capacity.

They have phone calls in to all sorts of people who will play a role in resolving this, but today being Saturday, they just don't have enough answers to form a complete plan. I don't imagine that will change on Sunday, either, so realistically, Monday is the first chance they'll have to make some decisions and let us know how, or even if, we can help. We continued preparations for departure throughout the day, but shortly after dinner we confirmed via text message that we'd remain here until we have further word.

Some good news here is that the weather forecast has actually been improving, and what looked earlier like a two-day window today and tomorrow has now stretched out to Wednesday, at least within our own fairly wide comfort band. So the only real consequence now of waiting until Monday to make a decision is that I will have to wave off my eye doctor appointment on Tuesday and reschedule for later in the week, or possibly the following week. If we hear on Monday that our assistance is not needed, we'll simply do on Tuesday what we had planned to do tomorrow.

If it looks like they will want company and their boat is safe to operate, we'll make our way to Nassau or some intermediate point such as Stirrup Cay to meet up with them. One of the unanswered questions right now is who/how/when will that decision get made, considering their boat is still under warranty and the manufacturer will likely have to be involved.

Tuesday will mark three full weeks that we've been here in the Bimini/Cat/Gun Cays area, a place where most cruisers spend one or two days at most, usually while clearing in or waiting to cross back. We've enjoyed our time here, but we'd like to move on; in particular, the bugs here are awful, and Louise is being eaten alive. I usually don't suffer as much, but they are so bad here that even I am starting to get eaten.

At least the weekend yahoos will start clearing out by tomorrow afternoon. It's 11pm and I can hear loud music from some joint at the south end of North Bimini, nearly a mile away, and the wakes from passing boats with rude, clueless skippers running through the anchorage on full plane reach a crescendo on Saturday afternoon.

Neighbors again.

Our neighbor from two Saturdays ago, Arianna, once again dropped the hook here, this time just 400' from us, and I expect we'll see their water toys tomorrow. But $200k-per-week charter guests tend to be an older and more sedate crowd; nary a peep is coming from the 164' megayacht.

Arianna's mini-me followed them in and anchored off the beach in front of us. They only stayed for the afternoon. Not really related to Arianna but is was amusing to watch them arrive one behind the other.

In anticipation of today being our last day in warm and crystal-clear Bahamian waters, I finally donned the hookah rig and spent an hour or so under the boat scraping barnacles and checking all the running gear. I'd need another three hours down there to finish the job, but I got most of the big stuff off, paying particular attention to the zinc anodes, which had so much growth they could hardly have been effective. Fortunately most of the hull was much cleaner, with notable exceptions along part of the keel and the port stabilizer fin where we wore the paint off, probably dragging through the mud or sand in Florida.

While I was working under the boat I came up for a quick break and tool change just as a ~45' sedan bridge came barreling into the anchorage, but attempting to do so by crossing the Henry Bank. Unsurprisingly, he promptly grounded on the sand bar, but he had so much forward momentum that the swell breaking over the bar (which should have been his first clue) finished the job of carrying him across.  It's hard to imagine he got away with no damage to his running gear, but we asked if he was OK and after a thumbs-up he just said "Shallow here, isn't it?" He never did anchor near us; I think the bar scared him off, and he must have thought we draw only three feet. In reality, if he had gone another hundred feet he would have been in ten feet of water with us. We're not sure what was more expensive, the accessories on his go-fast boat, or his bikini-clad companion's augmentation.

Tonight's spectacular sunset, which we thought at the time would be our last from the Bahamas this season.

We watched this one a long time.

Since we'll be here at least another day or two, we'll probably move to a different spot tomorrow, at least for a change of scenery. We might offload the tender again for another restaurant meal as well; since dropping our guests off we've kept to the boat, trying to work our way through all the provisions that could conceivably be confiscated by CBP on our way back into the US -- we overprovisioned a bit toward the end in anticipation of guests. We both remember surrendering salami and a variety of other items when crossing the border by land, although I've heard boats have fewer problems with this than RVs.

I grilled the last of the beef this evening (skirt steak) and Louise will crock-pot some of the other protein still in the freezer, but mostly it's chicken and other less expensive items that won't be so hard to part with. We'll also hard-boil any leftover eggs on the crossing, which makes them "legal." Mostly, we need an excuse to get off the boat for a bit.

An extra couple of days here will also give us the opportunity to get more of the boat put back in our normal cruising trim. Items that normally stow in the forward stateroom, which is seldom occupied, have been squirreled away all over the rest of the boat for the last two weeks. Rearranging them had taken a back seat to preparing for the crossing and making landfall plans.

While we had already mentally prepared ourselves to be back in the US on Monday, it looks like we'll just have to spend a few more days in paradise instead. First world yacht problems. I'll post here again when we know more about the plan.

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