Sunday March 10th.
We had originally targeted Monday to leave for this year’s trip but, since we were all ready to go, we decided to set off Sunday instead. The Queen’s Harbour lock opened at 8:am, and we aimed for a 9:00 am start. We radioed the lock shortly after 9 to find that there were gate sensor problems and we had to wait at our dock. The lock had just recently been upgraded with new electronics and I guess they needed some bedding down. We finally got through around 10:15.
Our plan was to stop briefly at Palm Cove Marina and get sufficient fuel to get us to our marina in Lake Worth. That way we wouldn’t be unnecessarily carrying full tankage on our trip south. We called the fuel dock to make sure that their fuel dock was up and operational and were told that it was. When we got there we were then told that only one of the diesel pumps was working and that was going very slow. A boat had just pulled in ahead of us and was taking on fuel. After waiting a half hour we found he still had a long way to finish, so we decided to leave and head to our next stop, and get fuel there. I guess their definition of “operational” is different to ours!
Apart from navigating through a large boat sailing race north of St Augustine, we had an uneventful trip to Palm Coast where we arrived just after 5:00. We went up to the European Village for dinner at Lisbon Nights, which was becoming our tradition for trip “first nights.”
We got back to Sonas and found that the salon AC had stopped working. The pump would come on for a few seconds, then go off. We found that by turning on the pilothouse unit it would fire up the pump it shared with the salon, and then the salon would be fine – as long as the pilot house AC was running.
Next morning started off foggy. We took on the fuel we wanted and were away by 8:00. It was again an uneventful trip through Daytona, New Smyrna, Titusville and into our anchorage just south of the NASA Causeway Bridge at 5:00. Sian was hesitant to launch the newly galvanized anchor and chain, as she knew it would never look as good again!
While under way we contacted our AC company and he suggested the issue was a pump trigger. he offered to send his guy to us at Palm Coast but we were already underway. We called a company in West Palm and arranged for them to fix the issue when we were down there, and before we crossed to the Bahamas.
The anchorage was peaceful, this was the second time we stayed there and both times were excellent. We upped anchor at 8 and headed south through Cocoa, Melbourne and into Vero. We found that the diesel at Vero Beach City Marina was an exceptionally good price ($2.90) so decided to top up our tanks there rather than Lake Worth. We were really surprised at the number of boats that were sharing mooring balls – sometimes three to a ball. We had thought that Tuesday would not be busy – but Vero was jumping. The dock master was lining people up on the radio and on the fuel dock, with more arriving as we fueled. We went over to the Riverview restaurant for dinner, which offered deck seating and a typical bar menu.
We left Vero at first light. Ran through Fort Pierce, Stuart, St Lucie, Jupiter down into Lake Worth. For choice we would rather leave out of Fort Pierce which works well for the Abacos. But since we were heading to Lucaya and then further south we needed to leave out of West Palm to avoid bumping up against the Gulf Stream flow. Our peeve with running from Fort Pierce south to Lake Worth is the number and different types of slow zones, some of them are pretty long. This adds significant time to the trip.
We also passed an international sailing regatta at Jensen Beach.
We had planned on staying at Sailfish Marina, which is right inside the inlet. But there was a sports fishing tournament on and the marina was fully booked. So we arrived at Lake Park marina and tied up in some gusty wind. We used Trip Advisor for restaurant suggestions and walked a mile or so to a grubby looking run down windowless crab shack with a single car outside, which had been listed as a top 4 pick! We kept walking and eventually ended up at the more up-market Pelican Cafe where we had a lovely dinner.
Steve from Gulfstream came and replaced the bad AC pump trigger. He had another in the van so I asked him to leave it with me, and we put it into the spares inventory.
The conditions were not right for a crossing on Thursday, with Friday looking good. So we went to the Boat Owners store and got a new filter for our holding tank vent which Paul installed. We also paid a visit to Publix supermarket for some more fresh produce. That night we went to Frigates for dinner. We still weren’t making much of a dent into our on board supplies!
The weather from our sources told us that it would be good for crossing the Gulf Stream on Friday. In fact NOAA used the word “benign!” So at first light Friday we set off. The first challenge we faced was exiting the Lake Worth inlet with a strong outgoing current facing a SE wind. It certainly got lumpy.
Once outside we put the waypoint in for Grand Bahama to the ESE. The weather forecasts had called for 2-3 foot seas with a 2 foot swell. We don’t know if going nose into them made them feel worse, but we basically “hobby-horsed” across for 7 hours until we got out of the stream. We were also getting a strong ammonia-like smell from the cabin area, which needed to be investigated once tied up.
As we got closer to our destination we realized that we would not make the marina by their closing time so radioed for directions. When we got there a few guys on the dock came and helped tie us up. We were puzzled for a while as to why we didn’t make it in time as we had done this exact same trip two years ago and made it with just under an hour before closing. We then realized that last time we had gone before daylight savings time, this year after. So we were basically an hour later before leaving West Palm due to light, therefore an hour later getting to the marina in Lucaya!
The folks at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club had contacted customs and immigration on our behalf (who also close at 5!) and they gave us permission to come ashore and check in the next morning. So once cleaned up we went up to the pool bar for drinks and dinner.
We had originally planned on staying just one night, but now needed to clear customs and immigration the next morning. This could happen anytime between 8 and 10! We decided not to set out for our next stop in the Berries that late in the day, so stayed an extra night at the marina.
Plus we found we had an issue! And in investigating that issue, we found a second! When we woke on Saturday morning we heard both the fresh water pump cycling and the forward bilge pump going off. Paul turned off the fresh water system while he searched for the culprit. He quickly found that water was pouring out of our water heater. At first it seems to be coming from the heat exchanger outlet so he put plenty of silicone on that, left it to harden and turned the water supply on again. The leak had slowed considerably.
Next he started to investigate the ammonia smell – which got worse when we turned on the AC for the master cabin. So he started with the bilge area. When he lifted the hatch by the VacuFlush system he found that the bellows had failed and sprayed toilet material everywhere creating a right royal mess! He has a photo but not to be shared!! So for the next hour or so he cleaned up that mess and got the bilge as clean as he could. We turned off that toilet and used the guest from then on. We could replace the bellows with one of our spares while we were continuing to cruise.
His reward was going up to the bar and grabbing a few beers while watching Manchester United get knocked out of the FA Cup. Not the best day he has ever had!
So with the water heater somewhat operating and the bilge cleaned up we set off at first light Sunday. About two hours out we checked the water heater again to make sure it was behaving, to find water pouring out again!
The choice was, continue cruising and do without hot water for three months, or turn back to Lucaya and have it replaced. We turned back, and into the same slip at Grand Bahama Yacht Club. Since it was Sunday we knew we could get nothing done today. Instead Paul jumped into the bilge and, after three hours and many scraped knuckles and cursing, got the bellows on the the Vacuflush replaced and the bilge fully cleaned. We now have two working heads again!
First thing on Monday we called the local boat yard. Owner Charlton Knowles came over on his way home from the yard and agreed that the water heater needed to be replaced. He doubted that one could be found on the island so would probably have to have one flown in from the mainland.
So now we sit in Lucaya and await further developments! AND it is raining heavily! Though one benefit is that Sian had time to make some scones – great with butter and jam!