Monday, January 12, 2009


To Terry Bentley of the Noblesville P.D., my brother Allen, my cousin Howard, and all the others who have complained about "Sushine Blog Withdrawal":

It's been a long time since you heard from us. Since early December, we have been mostly out of touch with the rest of the world. Occasionally, we located an internet cafe where we would stand in line, wait for a computer, and then do a quick e-mail check. Taking time to update the blog was not an option.

Technology arrived on Sunshine yesterday in the form of a high-power Wi-Fi antenna, signal booster and cable, all purchased from another cruiser. We can now pluck those magic signals out of the air whenever we find a "hot spot."

Picking up where we left off in early December:

After nearly a week in Nassau waiting for a weather window, the winds finally calmed enough for us to sail to the Exumas. As we prepared to leave, we discovered that the port engine would not start. It's always something, as Gilda Radner used to say.

Phil worked on the engine for an entire day, but could not figure out the problem. We knew it wasn't getting fuel and feared we needed a new fuel injector pump, which meant importing one from Florida, paying a 45% duty surcharge, and waiting days, perhaps weeks for it to arrive.

The dock master recommended a local diesel mechanic, who arrived with his helper soon after we called. Within an hour and a half, they had located a blocked valve in the fuel line and fixed it. Total charge: $85.00. We were beginning to love the Bahamas.

We pulled out of Nassau Harbour Marina the next morning (December 6th), stopping at the fuel dock next door to fill our diesel tank. Our destination was Allen's Cay, on the northern end of the Exuma Island chain.

There were some minor problems along the way:

1) We had heard stories of dirty fuel in Nassau, so Phil used a special filter as he filled the tank, which slowed the flow considerably. It took 45 minutes to get 41 gallons of diesel.

2) As soon as we were underway, but still in Nassau Harbour, a belt on the starboard engine loosened, causing black smoke to pour from the engine compartment. Phil tightened the belt.

3) After 35 miles, in sight of Allen's Cay, the port engine alarm went off. A water hose leak had filled the port engine bilge with several gallons of sea water. We continued into the anchorage on one engine and anchored in a beautiful bay.

4) The next day, the handle broke off that controls water flow to flush the head and the port engine belt began to squeal above 2,000 rpm. Phil spent the morning fixing the water hose leak from the day before, the head handle and the loose belt.

And you probably thought this was a vacation! The funny thing is, every time we have a mechanical problem, we learn more about this boat and how to fix whatever breaks. In conversations with other cruisers, we have discovered that most of them have the same difficulties. Things break, or wear out, and there's always something to be repaired or improved upon.

Cruisers take pride in learning how to keep their boats in good repair and fix nearly anything that breaks. They are also always willing to assist other cruisers. Best of all, we are fixing all these things in paradise. The weather is perfect. The surroundings are beautiful. We don't have a schedule.

Allen's Cay was the first stop in our exploration of the Exuma Cays. Southeast of Nassau in the central Bahamas, the Exumas are a necklace of beautiful, low-lying limestone islands extending 140 miles along a chain. A few are inhabited, most are not. Those that are have a sprinkling of residents in small communities. There are only a few marinas in the Exumas.

In the next blog, we work our way all the way down the Exumas, meeting up with friends along the way, exploring the islands, enjoying our son's visit over the Christmas holidays and Phil's sister's visit in January.


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