Wednesday, March 29th
Weather: Sunny, low 80s and light southeastern breezes
Route: Shroud Cay north under motor --> Highborne Marina to refuel --> south to Hawksbill Cay under motor
- seeing Sharks at the Highborne Cay Marina while we refueled
- getting a mooring ball at Hawksbill Cay, despite our late arrival
- adjusting the itinerary based on having one working engine
- enjoying another quiet dinner with friends
We were all up early for our usual breakfast of cold cereal or oatmeal, yoghurt and berries, tea or coffee and optional bread, While the crew secured the galley and prepared to slip the mooring lines, the Captain radioed the Warderick Wells Park HQ to reserve a mooring ball for tonight. 3 hours after our 8:45 departure from Shroud Cay we reached the Highborne Cay Marina. Being tourists, we motored into the Marina, only to be told that the proper procedure was for us to radio in our request for fuel and wait our turn. We further embarrassed ourselves by "kissing" the pier with the forward section of the starboard hull while trying to dock at the fuel station. Sheepishly we motored back out to the "waiting area", radioed in our request for fuel and waited to be called by the Harbour Master. The Captain put the wait time to good use, testing his maneuvering skills -- with an engine in each hull he had theoretically used the helm controls correctly to dock without hitting the pier. By isolating each motor and running only one at a time he realized there was no helm control for the port engine. We could hear the engine running but the cat did not move as it should with the helm control engaged. Hmmmmm...
At noon the Harbour Master hailed us. We proceeded into our position at the fueling station, this time letting the friendly dock hands pull us up to the pier with our mooring lines. While the Captain added 30 gallons of fuel to the boat and Hubby topped up the water tanks and dinghy gas tank, the women jumped ship to explore the pier. Under a fish cleaning station at the end of the pier we saw Nurse Sharks and a Bull Shark finishing the rest of the scraps thrown over by a fisherman cleaning some Mahi Mahi. There were also several Ruddy Turnstones scouting the pier for food scraps. An hour later we were back on board and motoring away from the Marina.
By 13:30, in deeper water clear of hazards, the Captain and First Mate began investigating the propulsion problem. The First Mate snorkeled down to see if the prop was tangled in something, then snorkeled down two more times to see if he could manually turn the propeller while the gear control was in neutral and in gear. Intermittently we were trying to contact the mechanic at the Navtours home office in Nassau on three different phones (cell phone signals were weak this far from Highborne Marina) to ask them to suggest what diagnostics might determine where the problem was. The motor was working but the propeller was not spinning, so the problem was in the cable linkage or the gear box. By 14:30 Hubby and the First Mate had narrowed down the problem enough that they were satisfied they could not fix it. The Navtours mechanic confirmed that we could safely (although more slowly) continue our planned trip with only one motor.
While motoring south at 4.3 knots on one motor, the three women fine-tuned the revised itinerary to make up for today's lost time. Everyone agreed that travelling smaller distances and snorkeling more was a good plan if the winds were going to continue to be so light. It was clear we would not reach Warderick Wells today, so we radioed the Warderick Wells Park HQ to change our reservation date to tomorrow (March 30th) and headed for Hawksbill Cay's southern mooring field, arriving at 18:30. After the team effort to pick up the mooring ball and secure the two mooring lines, the two kayakers took $20.00 mooring fee the short distance to the Land and Sea Park's self-pay box, while the Captain cooled off with a quick dip in the ocean. Happily, his back pain was almost gone.
The remaining three of us started dinner -- a quick 3-bean chili with some of the pork loin leftovers from Sunday night. In the small galley the three of us coordinated our washing, cleaning and chopping to produce a lettuce, raddichio, avocado, radish salad and chili made with sautéed onions, garlic and peppers, cans of fire-roasted tomatoes, cans of black, red and garbanzo beans, leftover pork loin, pan heated tortillas, lime pieces, shredded cheese and salsa. After exploring the beach and a small estuary the two kayakers returned just as dinner was ready, regaling us with descriptions of what they had seen -- the most exciting of which was a large Sting Ray.
Over after-dinner tea, as the sun set, we all reviewed the proposed itinerary changes, exhaustively discussed tide tables, their offset times for these cays and the concept of slack tides, finally settling on Plan D. Staniel Cay was eliminated as requiring too much travel time, so the southernmost destination would be Warderick Wells. Cambridge Cay was discussed as a possible destination for tomorrow, but discarded as being too dependent on good tides for navigating to the mooring field and for snorkeling. Since we had arrived here too late to explore this cay we all liked the idea of simply staying at Hawksbill Cay all day tomorrow and leaving the Alexian moored here tomorrow night. The itinerary for the following days reduced motoring time, allowing us to arrive at each night's mooring field in time to snorkel.
By 22:30 we were all a bit addled from looking through reference material all day. Over breakfast tomorrow we will change our reservation for Warderick Wells and discuss where to snorkel for the day. With clear skies we could see an amazing view of the stars just looking up through the overhead hatches in our cabins. Because we didn't get much physical exercise today I was not very tired. With the Big Dipper visible through the hatch of our cabin, it was a beautiful night to do a crossword puzzle.