2010 Delivery of s/v Felix from Stocking Island to Marion, Massachusetts
This spring, I was asked by my friend John if I would help deliver his boat, s/v Felix from Stocking Island, in the Exumas, back to Marion, Massachusetts. Being fairly familiar with s/v Felix, I was happy to help. The delivery was supposed to take two weeks, and ended up taking about a month.
May 14—Boston to Georgetown, Exumas
The trip started with John, David and I leaving Boston for Fort Lauderdale and then catching a flight over to Georgetown, Exumas, which is the nearest airport to Stocking Island. The flight from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale was routine. The flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Georgetown was interesting because the view from the plane really showed a few things about the Caribbean very clearly.
I was packed for bear, and had brought my EPIRB and GaleSail along for the delivery, just in case. The extra luggage required us to pay a $30 checked bag fee. I think the airlines are getting pretty bad about nickel-and-dimeing their customers on a lot of stuff that used to be a part of the price of the ticket. I’d imagine there will be a backlash if it continues.
For instance, in the Caribbean, the water is much clearer than it is back here in New England. The color of the bottom makes much more of a difference on a sunny day, since the areas that have darker coloration, like coral or seaweed, tend to cause the water to heat up more than the areas with white, sandy bottoms. This leads to clouds forming above the darker patches, since the warm moist air rises and turns into clouds as it condenses when it reaches the cooler air higher up in the atmosphere as seen in this photo (sorry for the lousy picture quality, but the windows of the puddle jumper we were on were far from clean).
The airport and customs building is very small…basically just enough to house the customs personnel and divided into two major sections—one for people checking in and one for people who have checked in. To give you an idea of the size of the building, here’s a photo of the puddle jumper that we were on. The pretty woman was one of our fellow passengers, who is a Florida native that was visiting her sister and brother-in-law, who live and work in Georgetown.
From the airport, we took a taxi to the waterfront. There we met Elvis, who is the watertaxi captain that took us across to Stocking Island. His boat was a small converted lobster boat by the looks of it.
May 14–15—Stocking Island
S/V Felix was actually being kept on a mooring at Kevalli House, which is owned by Bob, an American ex-patriate. Bob has bought out a section of Stocking Island that includes a very sheltered hurricane hole harbor and outfitted it with some very secure helical moorings tied together by a steel i-beam grid as I understand it. He’s got about a dozen or so moorings in his hurricane hole, and has two very nice guest cottages there as well. He owns both sides of the island around his harbor, and has setup a really amazing ridgetop gazebo that you can look down onto Exuma Sound from.
Here are photos of s/v Felix moored in the Kevalli house harbor as seen from the Gazebo, the ridgetop Gazebo, David and John at the Gazebo, Kevalli house as seen from the water, the entrance to Kevalli House, and a view of Exuma Sound from the gazebo.
The beach is amazing, though I didn’t get a chance to actually walk it. Normally, the only person on the beach is Bob’s better half. While Kevalli house is an amazing place to stay, it is off the grid and not for someone looking for a spa or resort type setup. The water is provided by a rainwater catchment system and cisterns, while the electrical system is based on a solar panel array.
One immediate task I took care of when we got to s/v Felix was repairing the autopilot. John had a replacement motor for the wheel drive, which I soldered back in. One of my friends who has circumnavigated has said “one form of hell is a long passage without some form of self-steering”. I’m inclined to agree with him. I also replaced the prop and sheer pin on the dinghy motor, in case we needed it.
May 15-17—Georgetown to West End, Grand Bahama
On Saturday, we headed across the banks to Georgetown to get fuel, provisions and water for the trip up to West End on Grand Bahama Island. While John and David went out for provisions, I waited with the boat at the fuel dock.
One unfortunate boat I saw was a Prout catamaran that had a couple aboard that I think will become Darwin Award winners. These two were in a boat with dual in-board diesel engines, but couldn’t figure out how to get the boat alongside the pier. The captain was so paranoid of hitting the dock, every time he got lines to the people on the dock, he’d pull away in full forward. The sad part was that the dock was to windward of the boat, since they had blown the approach to the windward side of the dock already, and the 15-20 knots of wind would have kept the boat from hitting the dock without any need of using the engines. He nearly pulled the fuel dock guy off the dock twice before we got enough lines to the dock and told him to put the boat in neutral. His wife wasn’t any better, not knowing how to throw a dockline more than four feet. While the boat was nicely fitted out for cruising, with solar panels, a wind generator, etc., it doesn’t appear that the couple is up to the task. I hope they learn really soon.
We left Georgetown and headed out onto Exuma Sound. Exuma Sound is an amazing body of water. It is almost a mile deep very close to shore. The color is like that of a perfect star sapphire—a very deep rich blue. We went north on Exuma Sound until we got to Ship Channel Cay and cut across Middle Ground. This was some of the best night sailing that we had on the entire delivery.
Middle Ground is very typical of the Bahama banks, with aquamarine water that is deceptive in its clarity. You think you can just reach out and touch the bottom, but it turns out to be 30’ deep—rather than the six that it appears to be.
From Middle Ground, we went north and then northwest to the Northwest Providence Channel, which like Exuma Sound is quite deep. Here is a photo of John while we were headed to Grand Bahama Island along the Northwest Providence Channel.
We followed the Northwest Providence Channel up Grand Bahama and turned west to get to West End. We stayed at the Grand Bahama Bay Resort and Yacht Basin.
We had dinner at the restaurant there, and they serve a mean conch chowder. We got an early start, since we were planning to cross the Gulf Stream and head up to St. Augustine, Florida.
May 18–20—West End, Grand Bahama to St. Augustine, Florida
We left Grand Bahama Bay Resort and Marina to cross the Gulf Stream and head for St. Augustine. This is a view of the Grand Bahama Bay Resort and Marina from our slip the morning of May 18th.
This was the last time we needed to fly the Bahamian courtesy flag, seen below, flying on the starboard shrouds just before we lowered it. .
We got to watch the sunset as we approached the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream. As you can see, we had a relatively placid crossing. We rode the stream north, and used it to speed our passage to St. Augustine. We did run into a bit of rougher water as we left the western edge of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream was further west than is usual.
A boat we met at Grand Bay had talked about how rough their crossing was, with seven foot waves batting them around like a bathtub toy. A boat we met at St. Augustine said much the same thing about their crossing, the day after we crossed. I guess the weather goddess was looking out for us.
St. Augustine ended up being a longer layover than we had expected. The weather forecast called for winds out of the Northeast, which was the worst possible direction, so we stayed in St. Augustine for a week. Entering St. Augustine, we spotted another Gemini 105Mc catamaran. We later found out it had been bought by an Australian couple who was learning to sail on it. They’re planning on cruising the Caribbean this summer, and heading for Panama this winter and plan to cross back home to Australia.
We crossed under the Bridge of Lions and took a slip at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, which was one of the nicest facilities we stayed at during the delivery trip.
Clearing into US Customs turned out to be a royal PITA. The Customs service asked us to fill out a webform, and as luck would have it, the webforms were not Macintosh compatible because some idiot used ActiveX controls in the webpage. Of course, none of this was known until you had gone through 95% of the process and only on the last page did you get a warning that it wasn’t Mac-friendly. Fortunately, I had my “gaming” MacBook Pro with me, which has a Windows 7 partition on it for gaming…and John was able to finish checking in using Windows 7 and FireFox.
May 20–26—St. Augustine, Florida
We did some sightseeing while we were in St. Augustine, including getting a tour of the Florida National Guard headquarters, since David has a friend who works there.
This is the fireplace from the Officers Club at the Florida National Guard Headquarters and is original to the building.
One of my favorite street signs was this one, which warns the area is subject to tidal flooding and that vehicle damage may result, which is located along one of the main streets through the St. Augustine waterfront. The Santa Maria restaurant, which is located just before you get to the St. Augustine Municipal Marina from where this photo was taken is one that is best avoided according to the marina staff.
We ate at several of the local restaurants, including the Habana Village Cuban Restaurant, which is a short distance from the marina. One evening, we ate dinner at the A1A Brewery and Grille, and then went to the San Sebastian Winery’s wine bar to listen to a pretty decent cover band called “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”.
Another restaurant we had dinner at was Barnacle Bill’s. If you get a chance to stop there for dinner, you’ll probably meet Katie, who was our waitress, seen here with one of David’s friends.
St. Augustine wasn’t all vacation though. John flew back to Massachusetts to take care of some work, while I worked on s/v Felix. While John was away, I repaired the shower sump and the air conditioning, which were having problems. The shower sump was a simple fix. The hose that had been installed was too long and that was causing it to kink and preventing the pump from working properly.
The air conditioning was a bit more complicated. The raw water pump for the heat exchanger had failed. The standard pump on the Mermaid air conditioning units is a small Teel pump that looks like this:
This pump is undersized and I think that Mermaid knows this. They sell this pump for about $100. The replacement pump is much larger and appears to be a much better built unit and looks like this:
If you’ve got a Teel pump, expect to replace it fairly shortly, and don’t bother getting another Teel pump, but upgrade to a March series pump instead.
However, the two pumps use different inlet and output hose sizes, and I needed to use a small section of hose and two adapters to retro-fit the newer, larger March pump. This allowed me to include a clear hose section after the pump, before the heat exchanger, that can be used to visually check to see when the pump is primed properly. Having the air conditioning working was a necessity in an unusually warm St. Augustine spring.
I also ran into a couple of familiar faces in St. Augustine. Mike, his wife and their son were there on their new-to-them IP 38, s/v Moonshine, which you can see over Mike’s right shoulder in this photo.
We met quite a few fellow sailors in St. Augustine, who were there on boats that ranged from Penny, a retired lawyer from Massachusetts, in her 20’ custom catboat, The Stray, to a Catalina 42 named Reboot, owned by a retired corporate exec named Roger Jones. Here is a photo of Penny’s The Stray.
I had dinner with Mike and his family aboard Moonshine the night before we headed out.
May 27–30—St. Augustine, Florida, to Cape Fear, North Carolina
We left St. Augustine for Cape Fear, North Carolina. We were lucky enough to be accompanied by a trio of dolphins during this section of the trip. The dolphins were having fun playing around the bows of the boat.
We also had two birds visit us. The first was this masked fellow. He only stayed for part of the night. I believe he is a tern of some sort, but don’t know what specific species he was.
The other bird was this little fellow, which appears to be a terrestrial bird that had been blown out to sea. We tried to give him some water and shelter, but unfortunately, he didn’t survive the night.
We passed through some thunder squalls, but nothing too serious. It was a good chance to get some practice reefing the sails and shaking out reefs.
When we got to Cape Fear, we spent the night at the Bald Head Island Marina. We were lucky enough to get there before Eb & Flo’s Steam Bar closed for the night and had dinner there. The food is excellent there and if you stop there, you might meet Nicole, who waited on us.
However, the 40’ slips can be quite a long walk from the restaurant and other facilities, which are halfway-to-three-quarters of the way around the marina from the slip we were assigned, F2.
This was a pretty nice marina, except for the long walk. However, the St. Augustine Municipal Marina wins out by being only a block or so from the heart of St. Augustine.
To be continued in Part II…