Monday 4 Jun: Old Bahama Channel to Santaren Channel
At midnight we are motoring WNW into the Old Bahama Channel. The wind is not enough to put the sails up, only 6-8kts on the nose.
When Oana wakes up at 2.30am for her shift, she finds the floor wet in the master cabin head. The fresh water toilet is overflowing. We switch off the valve which should isolate the fresh water supply to it, but it is still leaking. Great, just when you need a valve it doesn’t work! Glen knows the issue is in the electric solenoid valve. We had the same leak last year and he fixed it, but also purchased a spare ready for the next time it leaked. We’ll sort it out in the morning, for the moment we just switch off domestic water pump to de-pressurise the system. We don’t want all our hard-earned fresh water going down the toilet now do we!
Other than this, it was an uneventful night as we continue to motor north of the Bahama-Cuba VTS shipping lane. Wind 3-8kts, no hope of sailing. Some lightening in the clouds to our starboard now, but no thunders. We are safe.
After breakfast, first trick of the day was to replace the solenoid valve of the offending toilet. 10 minutes later, all good again. Usually things we have spare parts for don’t break, and those we don’t have parts for, do! But for once, things happen the right way. That said, the solenoid valve only needs a small rubber seal replacing, but do you think Jabsco sell that? Nope, you can only buy a complete new valve at a silly money price! In the none-marine world you could buy a very fancy toilet, complete, for the same money.
Mid-morning we notice a submerged ship wreck marked “1944” on the chart, so we make a little detour onto the Bahama Bank to go see it. The bank is quite shallow, 8m, and Glen goes on the bow for a lookout directing Oana how to steer clear of potential coral heads. After several left and right, we have gone in circles around the marked wreck enough to accept the sad truth the wreck is not actually there, or more likely wrong GPS coordinated on the chart. Too bad.
Well, we are in shallow water, no wind, we are hot… enough reasons to stop the engine and go for a swim. No drop-off here, so there shouldn’t be any sharks. Indeed, not much life on the bottom of the sea, only white coral sand, some sea-grass and a few star-fish. The water is very warm, and it’s so tempting to just swim away. But we hold onto Cloudy Bay, she would be so scared if we let her drift off! Once out of the water, feeling fully refreshed, we let Cloudy Bay continue to drift. As we sit in the total quiet, surrounded by turquoise water as far as the eye can see, we ponder on the enormity of these Bahamas shallows. It covers 300×200 miles of water that is mostly less than 8m deep. That’s 1/4million square kilometers!
In the process of replacing the toilet valve, Glen took off some floorboards and found another potential issue. Which led to trick no.3. One of the 4 bolts which secure the SSB grounding plate was touching the rubber engine exhaust hose as it vibrated. It would not have been long before it would have worn a hole in the hose. So Glen secured the hose upwards to stop it touching the end of the bolt.
After lunch (which we seem to postpone every day for 5pm) we have another go at fishing, now that the sargasso weed seems to have finally disappeared. And while waiting for a catch, we start to seriously look at east US charts to see if there is a reasonably priced marina where we can moor for check-in formalities.
First attempt, Miami Beach Marina. We call through IridiumGo. Good news, they have availability for us. Bad news, 6US$ per foot (meaning 324$ for a night). Ouch… no thank you.
Fort Lauderdale is too shallow for our draft, Fort Pierce has no availability, in other places the clearance under bridges is too low for our mast, or inland waterway too shallow…hm, sounds like we have the wrong size of boat for US standards. What are we going to do? Where do we go? Well, sounds like we will be going straight for Charleston; all of the sudden US$2/ft doesn’t seem so ridiculous, and we can clear customs there.
Happy to have a plan (for the moment), we move on to practical stuff. The dinghy started to wobble a bit under the davits; it has a tiny puncture somewhere and we need to inflate it once a week. Looks like it is the time to inflate it, to make it firmer on the davits. As Glen gives it the first pump, whiiiiirl goes the fishing line.
We have a fish! Judging by it’s first pull on the line, we feared it will be a big one. But then it didn’t fight too much and Oana reels it in while Glen slows the boat down. We land a smallish barracuda. It was so greedy, that it swallowed the hook entirely, and Glen needs to perform some serious jaw modification surgery to free the hook from between the sharp teeth. After gutting, beheading & tailing and descaling, we think: hm, barracuda…will it be safe to eat it? Are we out of the toxic zone for predator fish? Since we have no idea, for the moment it goes in the fridge and hopefully tomorrow we can get some 3G from US coast and google it. Or maybe we see one of those fancy sport fishing boats all Floridians seem to own, and we can ask them – you know, the kind with a dental chair on the aft deck surrounded by multiple fancy fishing rods.
By the time decks are clean and Glen cleans himself too of the fishy smell and scales, we see a beautiful sunset at 8pm sharp. 1h5′ later than 4 days ago! We have travelled a full time zone and some. Orange-pink clouds where the sun sets, perfect light blue sky above that, and purple sky reflecting on the sea behind us. Magic colors. Now we are out of the Atlantic squall zone maybe we will be treated to nice sunsets again. In the Antillies the sun quickly drops then disappears into clouds on the horizon before it is allowed to yield any colour to the sky.
The wind is still only 4kts, so we continue motoring. Flat sea, no rocking, so it’s laptop out in the cockpit to get on with one of our least favorite chores, editing videos. Well, one eye on the videos, one on the plotter. As we are entering Santaren Channel, the chart fills with AIS markings of the ships crossing the channel, and within minutes we already start dodging them. Looks like it’s going to be a busy night doing just that.
Around 10.30pm the wind picks up to 6kts and we have a very brief attempt to sail, but we were going nowhere fast, so 10 minutes later we revert to engine mode, this time with both main and genoa out on starboard side to help us with the speed.
And so we motor-sail into the dark stary night. Never a dull moment on Cloudy Bay.
Antigua to US, day 8 – motoring
Monday 4 Jun: Old Bahama Channel to Santaren Channel