Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Manjack 005
Have a Cool One

May 19 – May 27, 2008

Getting Started Can Be Complicated

As we were finally as ready as we were ever going to be, we left the home dock after lunch on May 19 and immediately headed over to the Vero Beach Municipal Marina's fuel dock to take on 400 gal. of diesel fuel at $4.49/gal. That price is painful enough, but to think we could have filled our 1000 gal. tank at less than $3.00/gal. when we returned last Nov. was like adding salt to our wounds.

The high price of fuel has necessitated a change in our cruising plans for 2008; we will spend a couple of months in the Bahamas (just in the Abacos, a close run for us from FL), and regretfully, we will not be going north at all this year.

After fueling up we headed south to Ft. Pierce where we planned to anchor until about 2:00 a.m. and then we would haul up the anchor, head out the inlet and make the 15 hour run to where we could anchor in Bahamian waters the following night. On the way to the inlet Eddie noticed that our NEW alternator was overheating! Wayne adjusted it to cool down, but the trade off was having it put out less amps, meaning that it would have less battery charging capacity. We have been plagued with alternator problems forever! Onward anyway.

When we arrived in the inlet area we saw that a large barge was taking up a lot of the space in the turning basin where we have anchored several times in the past. We decided that since it was late in the day and there wasn't a lot of boating activity going on, we would squeeze in the area next to the barge. Right after we got the anchor set properly, the captain of the Ft. Pierce Pilot Boat called us on the radio to tell us that the small freighter Christopher Dean would be leaving the dock in 30 minutes, and the harbor pilot who would be captaining the boat out the inlet said we would be in his way. The pilot boat captain suggested just shorting up on our anchor chain would be adequate, so that's what we did. The Christopher Dean moved by with plenty of room to spare.

We were all in bed by 8:30 p.m., thinking that we were off to a good start for the 2:00 a.m. departure. Ha-ha, only in our dreams.

At 11:30 p.m. Wayne awoke to the sound of one of the bilge pumps continually running and water splashing. Those are two bad sounds on a boat. His investigation revealed that the engine room bilge pump was on because sea water was pouring in through a broken fitting on the generator's coolant line. The E & W repair team went to work immediately to stop the water flow (close the valve) and figure out how to fix the fitting. Not having a spare part to replace the broken fitting (this is a part we have never heard of breaking before) required some serious thinking about if we had anything aboard that we could use to make a workable repair. A few years back while attending the Miami Boat Show we had bought a handy, multi-use gadget (like the old Vegamatics for the kitchen!) that we had never used, but looked like it could be used for this unusual repair need. This tool and some stainless wire worked well enough to mean that we wouldn't stay behind to try to go ashore and look for a replacement the next day. Since the repair took until 1:30 a.m. we just pulled up the anchor and headed out to sea.

Stormy Seas

Despite what seemed like a favorable weather forecast for our Gulf Stream crossing, we had a mostly miserable ride. Seas were only 2-3 ft.but choppy and steep, winds were 15 – 20 KTS, hitting us on the starboard beam at 60 – 90 degrees, pushing FLUKE to the side all day long. Visitor and Eddie were sick most of the time.

Crossing Over 001
Visitor and Ursa Trying to Relax

Crossing Over 004
Eddie's Fresh Air Nap

Shortly after we passed White Sand Ridge and entered the shallow waters of the Bahamian Banks, a severe thunderstorm overtook us. With lightning hitting all around us, the winds kicked up to 60 Kts, hail pelted down, making tremendous noise, and the rain poured, making white-out conditions at times. The wind pushed our stern and knocked us 45 degrees off course. It was exciting to say the least, and the only “good” thing about it was that the storm moved very quickly. We lost our flag and a gas can off the back deck. The furniture in the cockpit was blown helter skelter, rain was forced through window panel seams, and we were lucky we didn't sustain more losses or damage. Conversing with other cruisers since we've been here, we know of two who have been hit by lightning, one of which sustained $85,000 worth of damage just to their electrical system alone, with no fire!

Oh, our planned 15 hour passage wound up taking 17 hours because of our slower speed to conserve fuel and contrary currents.

Looking For Mr. Sun

Squally conditions have continued to persist the whole week we've been here. Winds out of the west necessitated we anchor on the west side of the Sea of Abaco which cruisers seldom have to do because of the generally prevailing easterly winds. We made the best of that situation by finding a good snorkel location in a rocky area in the lee of the land of Great Abaco near a place called Conch Rock Creek.

Since the area was shallow we took delight in flipping over rocks and poking through grass beds. We were able to see more creatures we don't ordinarily spot on the deeper coral reef areas: fireworms, several varieties of brittle stars, other types of starfish, anemones with cleaner shrimp, octopus, and sea hares. The sea hares are particularly fascinating because they look like fat, giant, gelatinous, colorful slugs, 6 – 8 inches in length. When you pick one up they curl up into a jelly ball with frilly edges. Since we don't have good underwater photo capabilities, a photo we found on-line has been used.

sea hare
Sea Hare

Deeper waters allowed us to search under rocky ledges where we could see spiny lobster peering back out at us. Lobster season doesn't start until August first, so there were none to be put in our cooking pots on this trip.

A big topic of conversation amongst all the cruisers is the presence of lionfish. Many of you have seen these fascinating, delicately beautiful fish in saltwater aquarium displays. It appears that they have successfully established themselves in Bahamian waters, another example of a foreign species of fish now living where it shouldn't. Despite their beguiling appearance, these fish have venomous spines, which pose a dangerous hazard to unsuspecting water enthusiasts. From an ecological perspective, they are known to have voracious appetites, eating anything smaller than themselves which can disrupt native fish populations. We have seen some of them both times we have snorkeled.


We were ready to move over to Manjack Cay when a frontal system moved through and winds shifted out of the east. A lot of other cruisers had the same idea, and we have run into several boats we know from our other travels.

To get out of the wind we took a dinghy ride through the mangrove lined shallow creek that cuts into Manjack Cay. We were able to see two species of juvenile turtles, some large rays, and fish peering out from the prop roots of the red mangroves.

On the way back we stopped at a sandy cove beach area belonging to the island homeowner who has a sign that says Trespassers Welcome! Really showing island hospitality, they allow cruisers to share their internet access via WiFi. Thus, we are able to make this posting right from FLUKE at anchor within range of their antenna.

Manjack 004
Island Chin Wag in Progress