FAMILY REUNION

The week in Cambridge with Matt’s family was a delight.  The house, aptly named Hard to Leave, was huge complete with tennis courts, pool, dock and crab traps.  Graham spent his time perfecting his pool (billiards) game, swimming and enjoying the Olympics which were on all week.  Our nephew, Wes, came with his wife, Stacey, and her kids, Andrew, 15, and Maura, 12.  Mary Gillman’s sister, Eileen, came with her two kids, Claire, 12, and Riley, 8.  It was great fun for all the kids to be together.  Sabrina, our niece, came the furthest – from the Dominican Republic, where she is working.  Matt’s brother, Tim, and wife, Maricruz came from Seattle.  Their son, Jacob, and his partner, Matt, came from Hollywood because they are very fabulous.  Chris and Mary and Jim and Marilynn came from Alexandria and our honorary Gillman, Mary Howland, came from Arlington.  We had fabulous food everynight including when Jacob and Matt made Smoked Gouda Mac-n-Cheese accompanied by meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting in pink, blue, green, orange, and yellow.  Who’s more fun than them?  No one.

The view from our dock of a summer thunderstorm over Church Creek

Matt and Jacob's fabulous meat loaf cupcakes

A nice Cabernet goes with smoked gouda mac and cheese and meat loaf cupcakes

Amy wiled away the hours preparing a Gillman Family trivia game to be played Wednesday night, Jeopardy style, complete with prizes from the thrift shop, pictures from younger days of all the contestants and research on the family far and wide.  The contestants came in costume to the event, also furnished by the thrift shop – everything from taffeta to Harley Davidson.

On a couple of days Matt took people over to the boat – once to see it and the other time to sail.  When I asked what they thought upon returning, a couple of people commented that it is small.  I found myself surprised.  Then I tried to remember what I thought of Troubadour the first time I had seen her.  I think I remember wondering if I could live in such a confined space.  It has felt for so long now like all the space we need.  Just this morning I was wondering what it would be like to be in a room with a king size bed.  I pictured a spacious room to accommodate the bed and other stuff around it; I immediately thought the stuff made the (imaginary) room messy and that we don’t need all that space.  Interesting how the mind works.

Wes and Maura show how it's done!

On one evening, Claire and I gathered people for a séance as she owns a Oujia Board and is partial to ghosts.  We had 6 people and 6 candles and we channeled Mocha, for whom there was a small tombstone in the backyard.  After some failed attempts to make contact, we heard howling coming from the back of the house!  Was it Mocha or the boys sitting by the pool?  Claire diligently interviewed all possible suspects but they seemed to have alibis.  ?  I guess we’ll never know.

The Gillman's August 4th, 2012

 

Eastern Shore Cambridge, MD

The first evening in Cambridge featured a most efficient emergency room visit for Graham as he has bronchitis – we were in and out in 15 minutes, prescriptions in hand.  We loved Cambridge – a sweet little town and we were right on the water.  The marina was on a great scenic route for driving or walking.  There was also a most interesting, albeit small, Harriett Tubman Museum as she was from Dorchester County, MD.  The three of us went together to soak up all that we could of this heroine’s story.  Matt and Amy learned a lot; Graham already knew a lot.  Amy also loved Cambridge for its Jazzercise Center and a great little thrift shop.

Deltaville or Velcroville

We haven’t written since the South and now we are in the North.  To catch up on the South, we went straight from Charleston, SC to Hampton, VA, where it all began.  We stayed at the same marina where we left from on 11-11-11 to race to the Bahamas.  From there we went to Deltaville, VA to have the boat hauled and painted.

It is a very small town with a permanent population of less than 1000. For a while they had two West Marine Stores.  Now it is just one of their larger stores.  Everybody was in the boating industry.  It was very hot while we were there.  We stopped in Deltaville because we heard it was a great place to get work done at a reasonable price.  Of course, reasonable is relative.

The work by the staff of the Deltaville Boat Yard started out with a quick bottom job.  It expanded into a hull clean and wax.  Then the other battery in bank two started to fail, so we installed new batteries.  Finally, the rig inspection revealed some problems with the StayLock fittings.  We replaced the StayLocks and the backstay.

 

BEFORE: Troubadour is just out of the water. What a mess.

AFTER: A very pretty bottom.

I also took advantage of being on the hard and in the marina to do other work myself.  This work included included: new water heater hoses, rebuilding a bilge pump, installing a new switch for the bilge pump, installing four new halyards, and a bunch of other little stuff.

Finally, after a month in Deltaville, we headed for Cambridge, MD where we would join 20 Gillman types for a family reunion on Church Creek near Cambridge.  We had a week to get there so we spent three days anchored in Reedville, VA, famous for its fish oil factory.  When the wind was out of the wrong direction, boy did it stink!  But the anchorage was very pretty.  We also stopped in Hollywood, MD to visit our old friend, Angie, who crewed with us to the Bahamas.  She has a little cottage there where we stopped and had crabs and cherry cheesecake a la Angie.  Then we wended our way through the Chesapeake Bay and came into Cambridge the Tuesday before the reunion, which was the following Saturday to Saturday.

Us with Angie.  Troubadour in the background above Amy’s head.

 

Great Wicomico River anchorage a little too close to Reedville, VA

A “Fast” Trip Back

We were in Georgetown waiting for a weather window to go east toward the far Bahamas and maybe to the Dominican Republic when we got an email from Amy’s Family.  Amy’s uncle Peter was going into hospice.  We had a family meeting and decided to return to the United States.  While we were sitting in Georgetown, it seemed as though one thing after another conspired to keep us from going east.  Now, as if by magic, a terrific weather window opened up.  It was a perfect window to head east.  But, we were going west.  The calm winds and smooth seas stayed with us as we sailed and motored back up the Exumas and on toward Florida.

Our first leg was from Georgetown to Staniel Cay.  We were out on the Exuma sound for the first 30 miles and then we came in through the Galliot Cut on to the banks against a 3 knot current.  This is a really beautiful wide cut with cliffs that reminded us of Ireland.  We were back in the crystal clear waters of the Exumas.  We headed for Big Majors Spot, where we knew we could find good anchoring and, surprisingly, decent wifi coverage with our high gain antenna as we were trying to stay in touch with the folks at home.

Our next day was a relaxed motor and sail up to Highborne Cay.  We passed right by the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park which had taken us more than 10 days to visit last time we were there in February.  We anchored west of Highborne Cay.  Graham and I swam over to another boat for a chat.  Lots of rays and sharks in these waters.

Our next leg took us across the Yellow Banks to Nassau.  We motored through the numerous coral heads that make up the banks.  We planned our crossing so that we could easily see the coral heads in the morning sun.  We were also able to sail a good distance toward Nassau as well.  Nassau was a huge adjustment after the sparsely populated Exumas.  There were two cruise ships in port and the resorts were busy with sun seeking tourists.  We couldn’t resist a little trip over to Atlantis where the rooms range from $400 to $25,000 a night although we stayed at Nassau Yacht Haven for $50.

The next morning we set sail again in moderate winds and seas.  Unfortunately the wind was right on the nose for this leg across the Northeast Providence Channel.  Our destination for this day was Chub Cay in the Berry Islands.  However, I didn’t like the look of the anchorage in Chub so we picked up a mooring at the Berry Islands Club on Frazer’s Hog Cay.  It was a delightful spot.  Once the moon set, the night sky was awesome.  We have a new iPad App called Star Walk that helps us identify stars, planets, constellations, and even man made satellites.  The night sky is so visible here where there is practically no light pollution to detract from the viewing.

We left the Berrys early.  This is our longest leg of the trip.  We will be going for 24 hours nonstop.  We cross on to the Great Bahama Bank past the NW Channel Light at around 11 AM.  We keep going past Mackie Shoal and then pass the North Rocks of North Bimini and out into the Straits of Florida at 10 PM.  The wind is still on the nose so we are motoring for this entire leg.  At about 2 AM on April 3rd we enter the Gulf Stream and pick up speed.  Arriving about an hour before sunrise, we wait for the light to navigate into Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale.  We have to wait for a couple of bridge openings and then we pick up a slip at Las Olas Marina so we can get some rest.

After a couple of days in the Marina, Amy flies to the Twin Cities and Graham and I move Troubadour to an anchorage off the Middle River.  Our friends, Jon and Jill, helped us find this convenient spot.  It is close to their home as well as to lots of other services like groceries and restaurants.

After 5 months in the Bahamas, it takes us 5 days of sailing and motoring to get back to the States.

More on Georgetown

What a place.  We arrived on February 19th.  We were planning to stay about  4-5 days.  Over a month later we getting ready to depart.

What kept us here?  Well there were boat repairs, a visit from Amy’s parents and sister, the cruiser’s regatta, lots of kids, and weather.

Georgetown’s Elizabeth Harbour is a large well protected harbor.  The city of Georgetown is located on the west side of the island.  We stayed in Georgetown at Exuma Yacht Club during the times we were working on the boat.   Most of the time we anchored on the eastern side of the harbour in the lee of Stocking Island.  Stocking island has miles of beaches, great hiking, and great places to just hang out.

Headquarters for the Georgetown Cruisers Regatta is a restaurant on Stocking Island called the Chat and Chill.  Chat and Chill’s beach is also known as Volleyball Beach.  It has picnic tables, volleyball courts, swings and treehouse for the kids, and benches for “Beach Church” on Sunday.  Chat and Chill completes the scene with BBQ, hamburgers, a Sunday pig roast, and lots of refreshing beverages.

Chat and Chill Headquarters for the Georgetown Cruisers' Regatta

The Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta is a really a series of fun events which includes some sailing races.  Events included the hilarious coconut challenge, Texas hold’em, volleyball, homebuilt model boat races, and the in harbor and around Stocking Island races.  It’s a fun family friendly event with Dances on the opening and closing nights.

Coconut Challenge on the water portion

 

Coconut challenge on land portion-toss to your teammates

Dinghy race in the improvised sailing dinghy category

Mostly, Georgetown is an almost ideal setting for a cruiser’s paradise, which is why you will find more than 250+ cruising boats here during the season.  The Bahamians here are very cruiser friendly.  The Exuma Market is a grocery store with its own protected dinghy dock, free water, and free wifi.  The water taxi offers services like special events trips as well as shuttling people to and from the Chat and Chill.

I have already talked about how helpful the cruising community is in my previous post.  The community is also friendly, experienced, organized, and interesting.  Some of the cruisers have been cruising for more than thirty years.  People have amazing stories.  If you have a question, you call it out on the radio net in the morning and somebody will respond.

Cruising is….

Cruising is working on your boat in exotic places.  I had heard that phrase many times before.  Now it has really started to sink in.

I will summarize some of the work we have done so far.  If you are interested in the details, I will be  including them on The Boat page of the blog.   We were offshore on our way into the Bahamas when our chainplate broke.  Chainplates are thick stainless steel straps that are the attachment point for the sidestays that hold up the mast.  When one of them breaks, it is a big problem.  Lucky for us it was the attachment point for a lower sidestay and there was sufficient support for the rest of the mast.  We have been motoring not sailing while the chainplates were being worked on.

When we got in to Green Turtle Cay we found that there were really not any riggers or repair facilities on the island.  We went ahead and took a little R&R in GTC and then motored to Marsh Harbour, where we were told CJ’s Welding could fabricate chainplates.  I took the broken chainplate in to CJ’s so they could use it as a template.

The other thing about chainplates is that if one breaks, you need to pull all of the others to make sure that the others are not about to break too.  So I pulled some of the other chainplates.  The not so good news is that the other chainplates showed similar corrosion.

In the first photo you can see the top portion of the broken chainplate.  As you can see, the top of the chainplate and the portion below deck is in pretty good shape.  The corrosion occurs where it goes through the deck.  They survey missed this completely, although to be fair, a standard survey doesn’t usually include pulling a chainplate to check for corrosion.  The close-up of the break looks even nastier in real life.

Broken Chainplate

Close up it really looks nasty

Ultimately, the decision to replace all of the chainplates was validated when I pulled the port upper (the support for the top of the mast) and found that it was nearly ready to fail too.  As you can see in the photo, almost 75% of the chainplate was gone.

Port upper almost 75% gone. We were lucky this one didn't break.

We finished repairing the chainplates around the beginning of February and we continued cruising south into the Exumas.

Our other major repair is in progress.  While we were coming into Big Majors Spot near Staniel Cay.  We were having problems with the engine overheating.  As it turns out, we had a hole in our mixing elbow about the size of a dime.  The mixing elbow is part of the engine exhaust system, where water and exhaust gases are mixed together and then forced out through the exhaust.  In order to get us to Georgetown, I improvised a patch over the mixing elbow.  I made patches from cut up spare engine hose and then used hose clamps to hold them in place.  This repair held up for 8 hours of motoring or motorsailing for our trip from Staniel to Georgetown.  Here is a picture of the improvised patch.

Improvised patch for the mixing elbow.

When we got to Georgetown, I located a welder willing to try to weld the hole.  However, when he looked at the elbow he said it couldn’t be welded.  He then drove me around Georgetown to the hardware store and a marine store while we gathered the parts to fabricate a replacement.  In the photos below you can see the old and new side by side.

Noke welding a fabricated mixing elbow

Old and new mixing elbows side by side

In the meantime, we found out that my in-laws would be visiting us in Georgetown.  I arranged to have new parts sent to them so that they could bring them down with them.  This will make the 4th time I have had to remove the exhaust system between the engine and the muffler.  Hopefully it will be the last for a good long time.

The good news here is that the cruising community is helpful, knowledgeable, and expert at improvising solutions.  A call out to the cruiser’s net here in Georgetown resulted in six responses including one with a spare mixing elbow that might fit.  It is a great community of boaters.

Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park

Everyone told us about the Park and how spectacular it is.  Pictures really don’t do it justice.  The Park was founded in 1958 and is a carefully preserved slice of Bahamian islands and reefs.  By law, nothing can be taken, not even a shell.  In order to protect the reefs and underwater life in general, the park encourages the use of moorings.  They even have numerous moorings for dinghies so that you can snorkel from your dinghy without dropping a potentially damaging anchor.   The picture here is Troubadour (the sixth boat from the left) on a mooring in Warderick Wells Cay.

Exuma Park mooring field

The current rips through here at up to 5 knots.  However, at slack tide you can snorkel in 6-10 feet of water.  Graham and I snorkeled here but forgot the camera.  Of course that meant that we saw several cool things including the largest lobster we have seen in the wild and eight Eagle Rays.  It is by far the most beautiful place we have seen in the Bahamas.

Graham and I climbed Boo Boo Hill to leave a token of our visit, which is a cruising tradition.  When we got there Graham found another nameplate from another Troubadour.

Graham on Boo Boo Hill with two Troubadours

From here we plan to head for Cambridge Cay and Compass Cay for more snorkeling and Rachel’s Bubble Bath.  The we send Graham to feed the sharks.

Finally some dive photos!

We have been in the Abacos for over 2 months and Graham and I have done a total of eight dives.  We have done four dives in the Fowl Cays with Above and Below Abaco.  This is a great dive shop and Kay and Christian are fantastic instructor and divemaster.  They both worked really hard to make sure that Graham and I had a great experience.

Graham took several great pictures.  This ray showed up almost immediately.

Stingray photo credit to Graham

The reef shark was about 5 ft long. This shot showed him at one of his closest approaches. The shark came and went about 5 times over a period of 20 minutes.

Reef Shark just hanging around

Kay took Graham and me on a separate side trip because we both still had 1000 psi of air left.  We took a short cut out to the reef and spotted this turtle.  Graham took several great shots of Crush (Finding Nemo) the turtle.

Mr. Turtle is my Father, Name's Crush

Finally, I took a picture of of Graham.  His hair is getting kinda long and it was standing up straight.  Reminded me of another character in another Pixar movie.  Graham or Syndrome: you decide.

OK is it just me or does Graham look like Syndrome from the Incredibles

Thanks to Grandpa and Grandma for our new camera.  It’s really cool.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Around the tree Christmas morning

We are celebrating Christmas in Marsh Harbour.  Missing our families but thank goodness we can stay in touch via Skype.  We have good quality voice connections and sometimes video when the Wifi is speedy.  Christmas was low key with small gifts.  Not a lot of room for big gifts anyway.  We want to wish all of our family, friends, co-workers a very Happy and prosperous New Year.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIM!!!!

Arrival: Green Turtle Cay

We made it!  Troubadour is a great offshore sailboat.  The more we sail her the more we appreciate the all of the little details of the Robert Perry design and the tweaks made by previous owners.

We departed from Hampton, Va on Friday November 11th with a 10 AM start off of Old Point Comfort at Fort Monroe.  The crew was me, Amy, Graham, and Angie.  Angie is a very experienced delivery crew who came along to help us with sailing and watches as we learn the boat.  Winds were 18-25 knots out of the NW which made for a downwind run under a single reefed main.  We had to jibe a couple of times to get out of the Chesapeake Bay over the tunnel of the CB Bridge Tunnel.   Once on the open Atlantic we were mostly on a starboard tack at about 130 degrees magnetic. I think we entered the Gulfstream on Sunday morning very early (Happy Birthday Chris!).  As we cross the Gulfstream, off comes the fleece, gloves, and heavy foul weather gear.  In a few hours out come the shorts and the fishing gear.

We have an informal watch schedule during the day and 3 hour watches at night: Graham from 6-9, Amy 9-midnight, Angie midnight to 3, I get the 3-7:30.  At 7:30 we do an SSB check-in with fleet position reports and wind direction and strength  The morning check-in also includes the weather forecast for the high seas.  We use this in addtion to the high seas radio fax  reports we get by connecting the SSB to the laptop (thanks Dave!).

It is pleasant sailing although the wind is often what we Chesapeake Bay racers call no wind out of the south.  We motor through the calms and sail when we can.  I picked up a great book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude (thanks Jeff Kan!) which we read on the way down.  By the 5th day, everyone is reading the book at the same time.  It has four bookmarks in it. 

Graham hangs out on Troubadour's back porch at 30.12 N 75.00 W

 By Thursday, as we approach the finish line, the wind shifts to the NNE and the seas begin to build. At 4 AM we heave to in big seas off off the Spanish Cay south cut.  We have been told to not to attempt the cut at night.  Then Mr Murphy, as in: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, pays us a visit.  First, we break a chainplate, second we get pooped by a wave that breaks into the cockpit.  The wave seems to have caused a short in the engine panel and we can’t get the engine started.  We want to motor into the cut and although we can sail in we want to have the engine running we we enter the cut.  There is a bypass starter on board which I have to dig out.  When I go to connect the bypass starter we find the problem is a blown fuse!  A quick change with a replacement from the ample supply of spares the previous owners had on board helps us to banish Mr. Murphy for a while.  We motorsail through the cut at about noon and the seas die down to a 3 ft chop.  We arrive at Green Turtle Cay at about 3:30 PM welcomed by Bluff House staff and Johnny, the Caribbean 1500 staffer.

Currently, we relaxing in the marina organizing the the repair list and making reservations to go scuba diving with Brendal.