Central Bahamas: January 1-5, 2007

We finally got a weather window with lighter winds and left Nassau on New Years Day.  The seas on the bank were still a bit rough and we were concerned about our ability to see the coral heads in the Yellow Bank.  So we took a slightly longer route than the one we used last year.  We read in one of our guidebooks about a dogleg course that would allow us to avoid the coral-ridden Yellow Banks.  One basically steers from a point two miles south of Porgee Rocks (25.03N / 77.12W) to a point midway between the White and Yellow Banks (24.52N / 77.12W). That is a distance of eleven miles. We didn't see anything that had to be avoided on that route, but the guide book warned that there may be a few heads out there.

After making the turn at the point noted above, we made a beeline to Shroud, where we anchored up along the shore among three sailboats and a large yacht.  Left early on the 2nd, going down the bank to Galliot Cut and then switching to the outside and on down to Lee Stocking.  No boats when we got there, but just as dusk fell we were joined by a sailboat.  There seems to be a flocking instinct among boaters, or maybe a roosting instinct.   In any case, the anchorage area was huge, but the sailboat headed right toward us and tucked up fairly close to where we were.,  The water in this part of the world is is so clear and beautiful.  We hated to go past all the great cays but needed to make progress while the weather was good.

On 1/3/07 we again left early and again went to the outside.  The trip was a little lumpy but not as bad as we had expected.  In fact, while in route we debated taking a slight turn to port and going directly to Long Island or Conception or Rum.  In the end, we realized we didn't know the sea conditions out a little further from the Exumas, and so we continued our quest toward Georgetown, arriving around noon.   Experience last year had taught us that when there is a southerly component to the easterly winds, one of the most protected anchorages along Stocking Island is the first anchorage, Hamburger Beach, directly below the monument.   And so we dropped anchor at Hamburger Beach, which put us in a very strategic place to put the dinghy in the water and zip in for a cheeseburger (Chuck) and conchburger (Barb) at lunch on 1/4/07.   Afterwards, we walked across the island to the ocean-side beach and searched for sea beans.   Found nothing, but had a pleasant walk in any case.

Van Sant, in one of his books, talks about the need to be extra careful on the occasion of getting back into cruising after a hiatus.  He phrases it in term of regaining one’s “sea legs”.  But he means by that much more than just regaining one’s resistance to mal de mer.  He means to include the ability to carry out a series of detailed steps that are required to accomplish an important task while “at sea.”

The water maker had not been used for quite a while, for several good reasons.  We spent the summer in the Chesapeake, where water is free at marinas, and where the Bay water is too dirty for making water.   So it had been a while since I had operated the water maker.   It was an occasion for getting back one's sea legs, Van Sant would say.

The control circuitry and fresh water flush are 12 VDC, and the high pressure pump is 220 VAC.   Separate switches, of course.   The 12 V switch is left on at all times, in order to get an automatic fresh water flush once a week, which obviates the need for "pickling".   The 220 switch is normally "off", and is only turned on immediately before pushing the "Start" button to commence making water.   The inverter doesn't make 220 VAC, and so the generator must be running, and the appropriate switches must be closed so that it is in fact making electricity.   Oh, and the through-hull must be opened to permit the intake of the raw sea water that will be transformed by reverse osmosis into palatable fresh water.

So there were a few things to keep straight, but it ain't rocket science.   Then how come I messed up?  Pushed the "start" button and almost immediately got an error indication light:  "low or high pressure".   Hmm.   The thru-hull is open.   But the strainer does look kind of grungy.   Take it out and up to the galley for cleaning, and discover the darn thing is oxidizing, and so is coming apart as I attempt to brush it clean.   Ah, but I purchased several extras for just such a contingency.   Put in a new one, and am just about to try again when Van Sant whispers in my ear:  "Have you really done everything you need to do in order to make water?"   Blush.   I have forgotten to turn on the 220 VAC pump.   No wonder there is low pressure!   Climb up the stairs to the control panel, flip the 220 switch, avoiding meeting Barb's eyes, whistling a nice little hopefully routine tune.  Back down to the engine room, where I mentally review all of the required steps, and then, satisfied, holding my breath, push the "start" button.  Several seconds and then error: "low or high pressure."  Oh oh.   Mentally review the required steps yet again, and still feel satisfied.   Time to a.  get out the manual, and b.  admit to Barb that we may have a problem.   I find in the manual the listing of the nominally normal readings for the various gauges, and they all seem just about right.   The manual lists as one possible problem the thru-hull being closed, or the intake being blocked.  Maybe there is growth on the outside of the intake.  Dig out the flippers and mask and snorkel and the rusty old putty knife retained just for bottom and/or prop cleaning, and splash in.   My that PropSpeed sure has the rudder and prop looking good!   Ah, there is the intake for the water maker.   Clean as a whistle.   Darn,  wanted it to be dirty so that I could clean it and solve my problem.

Rinse the salt water off self and gear, and take manual down to the water maker.   Try several times, observing the gauges carefully.   Hmm.  The Feed Inlet Pressure indicates -6, and the manual says that if the pressure is lower than -6 for two seconds, the unit is shut off and the error is raised.   I see in my records that I recorded a pressure of -5 when first testing the unit after we bought the boat.   The filter in and filter out pressures should be within 10 of each other, and they seem to be.  Don't see much else to try or do.   The 5-micron filter is a little dirty, but not dirty dirty.  Just soiled.   Still, nothing else to try, and the manual does list changing the filter as a trouble-shooting remedy in this instance.   Might as well change the filter before attempting to call Sea Recovery, the manufacturers of the unit.

Change the filter.  Try again.  Failure.  Try again.  Failure.  Try again.   Failure.   Try again.  Failure.   Did it take a little longer to fail that time?  Try again.  Failure, but definitely after a longer period.   I've tried enough times that I'm actually getting the green light indicating that it is making good water, but then: failure.   Try again.   Green light.   No failure indication!   Sit and watch for several minutes.   Feed Inlet Pressure is -5.   Stick my head up from the engine room, and give Barb a big smile.   Suddenly, I am a big hero.   Run the unit for over an hour, with no failure.

But did I really "fix" it?   Did anything other than stubbornly retrying have any affect?   I don't know, and Van Sant hasn't whispered anything that would help.

By the way, for those of you who are reading this and are thinking about outfitting your own vessels, I have some advice.  Sea Recovery supplies the high pressure pump in three varieties:  a 12 V unit, a 120 V unit, and a 220 V. unit.   As I've indicated we have the 220 V. unit.   We sure wish we had either the 12 V or 120 V version of the pump though.  With either of those versions we could make water while underway, without having to run the generator.   When we have been cruising all day, the batteries are already charged, and so it seems a shame to have to run the generator just to make water.   So why don't we switch?   Because we have been told that other components would also have to be changed, and so the switch would be very expensive.   So we live with what we have (and will now cross our fingers that the Feed Inlet Pressure will not again go below -6.)

On our last night in Georgetown we moved down to the Sand Dollar Beach anchorage and attended a Sundowner party on that beach.  Had a great time and met a lot of folks who are headed the same direction we are.   Many of them were planning also to head to either Long Island or Conception the next morning.  We were pleased to discover that wi-fi access has really improved in Georgetown.  Many more places have it and it is available in many of the anchorages.  We took our PC into Georgetown for wi-fi access but  learned at the sundowner that we could have gotten access from our boat in the Sand Dollar Anchorage.  Live and learn!

Chuck relaxing while anchored off of Hamburger Beach near Georgetown (note monument on hill in background)

Barb enjoying the ocean side opposite Hamburger Beach

Tusen Takk II anchored off of Hamburger Beach

Barb using Skype to talk with folks back home while in GT


Flag courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.