Back to the Exumas

We slipped lines in Bimini just before noon on Wednesday, Mar. 11, bound for Highborne Cay on an overnight run that would take us about 165 nm in roughly 26 hrs. Conditions at the outset were acceptable, not ideal with winds out of the ENE, 16G 22. Seas 3-4 ft at about 5 sec, pretty much on our nose. Ugh! As night fell, the wind kept pretty steady, or at least didn’t diminish, and as we started into the Tongue of the Ocean, the winds had picked up a bit, still almost directly on our nose, and seas became a bit sloppier, no nice even roll.  Now for a cruiser, 24 hrs. of banging into sloppy head seas is akin to having dental work done. For the admiral, who was pro-active with some Stugeron, the trip was still unpleasant.

The captain got some shuteye early in the evening, then took the conn after dark. We left the banks via Northwest Channel somewhere around midnight, and headed SSE across the Tongue of the Ocean. The TOTO is a flat bottomed trench that lies between Andros and New Providence, with a depth ranging from 3,600 ft in the south to 6,600 ft in the north. Anything dropped over the side is going down a long way! Seas became yet more sloppy as we started the leg south, and the ride went from unpleasant to uncomfortable in quick order.  Our active stabilizers remove much of the roll, but does little to attenuate the pitching  associated with running into head seas. Halfway through our run, we were committed, the only detour would have been Nassau Harbor in the dark with no slip arrangement, no thanks! We soldiered on! Our “buddy boat”, Celebrate soldiered within a mile or so range. Along about 0030 hrs, I detected an engine noise, not normal. It persisted, and appeared to be coming from the new alternator I installed in Vero Beach. Very discomforting! So, choose to continue with the noise and potential problem, or stop and do some diagnosis in very sloppy seas? I chose to continue with frequent engine checks to ascertain if the problem was getting worse, which it seemed not to be. Along about 0230, the voltage alarm lit, followed within seconds by the high temp alarm. Uh oh. Shut down- NOW! Fire up the generator, turn on lots of lights, radio the buddy boat and head to the engine room to assess the situation. Alternator pulley spun on the shaft, the pulley chewed the shaft, got wobbly, and tore up the belt. Engine began to overheat, not serious, but enough to make the expansion tank puke. Of course I was directly under it as it puked antifreeze down my neck. It was only very warm, just a sticky prelude to the task ahead!

With no propulsion or stabilization, the boat instantly started rolling and pitching in the sloppy seas. It was difficult to maintain balance as we scrambled to secure things that normally never require securing!  Nothing serious, but what a mess. Deal with it later. I grabbed the portable service blower and a drop cloth, grabbed the spare alternator and belt, some tools and got to work in the 120 degree engine room! Nothing more exciting than swapping out an alternator on a very hot engine at 2:30 in the morning in a seaway! I stayed focused, the admiral made herself prone on the lower companionway sole, fending off the urge to add to the mess! 35 minutes later, the Cummins fired and we were immediately making headway, getting the stabilizers back in action and settling the washing machine that was the inside of the boat! We radioed to our very relieved buddy boat, who was  running scenarios of rigging a tow line and getting to Nassau. No need. We were back in operation and under full power as we continued to our destination. Gotta love those spare parts!

As we started eastward across the banks, the winds abated just a bit, making the ride more tolerable. We arrived at Highborne Cay about 2 hrs behind our projected ETA, but very happy to be dropping the hook! Conditions calmed dramatically as we anchored in the lee of the island, still with an easterly wind around 15-20 kt. One of our more memorable crossings for reasons we’d just as soon forget!!

2 Responses to “Back to the Exumas”

  1. Shawn on 03 Apr 2015 at 12:46 PM #

    Wow – good to see the updates, but not particularly this one!

  2. maerin on 03 Apr 2015 at 2:08 PM #

    Glad to hear from you! Well, it’s getting better as we get back into the cruising routine! It’s a boat, stuff breaks!
    Hope you’re finally warming up there in the north!