March 18: A second blog today because there is so much to share.
It takes two days to cross the Little Bahama Banks in a sailboat. The first day from Spanish Cay takes you to the anchorage at Sale Cay. This was the day we were waiting for, winds from the East-NorthEast, calm seas. Once leaving the breakwater at Spanish Cay Marina we put up sails, cut the engine and sailed all day until we had to drop anchor at Sale Cay. A spaghetti dinner, wine and calm night.
We met up with True Star, at the anchorage, 40+ foot Island Packet that we had docked with on Grand Bahama Island. I took this photo of them at anchor and tried to reach them to have them take one of us, but they didn’t have their radio on, so no photo of Silver Girl.
The weather for Saturday sounded much like Friday and we were looking forward to a second day under sail. We left the anchorage at first light so we would have time to sail back to West End, even if the wind slackened. It was not to be. We had NO wind. So we were dependent on our “trusty” 26 horsepower diesel, pushing us along at 7 miles per hour. We expected a rather boring day and it was hot. The first day we didn’t need jackets or even long-sleeved shirts while on the water then…
Just after lunch, which we ate on the cockpit table, the engine lost power and quit. Rather than drop anchor we hosted the mainsail and had 3 mph of wind that at least allowed us to stay on course and not lose anymore ground while Ed did some quick problem-solving and changed the fuel filter since she acted like she was not getting fuel.
I’ll let Ed pick it up from here.
I managed to get it limping along by using the fuel lift pump.It’s tense depending on a non-reliable engine. I had the Indian Cay Channel to navigate, a shallow channel near the end of our day and just before West End. The Cruising Guide to Abaco Bahamas suggests only using this passage if you are knowledgable about “reading” the water and have reliable engine. The sail would have to come down to assure accurate passage. We were dependent on the engine for this last 9 miles.
I did have a reliable depth finder. I knew the engine was reliable at 1,900 rpm but I wasn’t sure what would happen if I had to cut power-as I had to do to dock. I wasn’t bored the rest of the afternoon. Jan and I discussed anchoring at Mangrove Cay if the engine failed again but at that point it was running steadily as long as I didn’t push the rpm.
The mechanic who had serviced my engine in Daytona Beach before this trip had already proven to be incompetent, so I retraced what he had done. Sure enough, he had left a fuel hose clamp loose at the primary fuel filter, so the engine was sucking air mixed with the diesel fuel. I think I have that fixed now. I have run it 20 minutes at high rpm at the dock. Tomorrow we’ll find out when we start across the Gulf Stream to the US. The plan is to turn back at the slightest indication of trouble. But tomorrow at least we are supposed to have wind from the East and it is the only possible day to cross in the near future. Wish us luck. This has not been a boring trip!
Jan and Ed