Thursday, February 11, 2021

Green Turtle Cay, Good Times

We have been thoroughly enjoying ourselves over the past couple of days, still anchored in White Sound on Green Turtle Cay. Lots of ups, just a couple downs.

I completed my water maker pump replacement early Tuesday afternoon, then started the port engine to test it and make some water. To my dismay, the engine was not charging the house batteries which run the water maker. Fixed one problem, discovered another. I started the other engine which provided the requisite electrons and decided to put aside the port engine charging problem until the following day.

As I headed into shore in the dinghy to meet up with Robin and Amy, I was intercepted by Bill in his center-console powerboat. I had met him briefly the day before and we had exchanged pleasantries. He asked me if we would like to go with him to nearby No Name Cay for lunch and a swim. I replied that I would check with my crew, but I'm sure we would enjoy that.

Crew was enthusiastic, so we boarded Bill's boat and sped over to No Name Cay, home to the Abaco's famous swimming pigs. Sure enough, a small drove of pigs was waiting for us expectantly on the beach. Brown-ish, hairy pigs who were more than ready to go swimming in return for a snack. We didn't have any food, so we just said "hello", gave them a few pats and they didn't need to get wet.

We enjoyed a nice lunch of conch fritters, grouper sandwich, peas and rice at the cay's one-and-only beach bar, Big O's. Then Bill took us to the southern tip of Green Turtle Cay (GTC) where we enjoyed a swim in just-warm-enough-to-be-pleasant water. Bill has been a regular visitor to GTC for over 25 years, normally accompanied by his wife, kids and grandchildren but vacationing solo this year due to the pandemic. He's a very nice, cheerful, intelligent, worldly man from Michigan, who really loves GTC and its people.

We returned to Intermezzo, rinsed off and enjoyed a relaxing evening after our afternoon's sunny outing. While half asleep during the night, I worked on the port engine charging problem. Another boat captain once called doing that as "being a good bunk mechanic." I realized that, if the alternator was not working, I should have seen a warning light on the engine control panel, which I didn't remember seeing. This was potentially encouraging, as if the alternator was working properly, the fix would be much easier than if it wasn't.

Wednesday morning after breakfast I switched on the port engine and, to my relief, no alternator warning light was lit. Furthermore, the alternator was sending plenty of amps to the starting battery, they just weren't getting to the house bank. I'm very familiar with Intermezzo's electrical system and knew there were only a few things that would cause this fault. The likely culprit was a solenoid which prevents the starting battery from being discharged by house loads. Sure enough, when I put my multimeter on the solenoid, it was not properly completing the charging circuit for the house batteries.

Fortunately, I had ordered components for a major upgrade to my engine charging system. I hadn't been able to do the upgrade as planned while in Hilton Head due to shipping delays, but I had all the pieces on board including two Automatic Charging Relays (ACR), which are an upgrade to the faulty solenoid. So, I ripped out the crappy solenoid, installed an ACR and was back in business, better than new. I was pleased with myself, not just for a successful repair, but for taking the time to do the troubleshooting mentally in advance, saving myself from messing for hours trying to figure out what was wrong with the alternator. I had learned my lesson from the faulty pressure switch on the water maker pump the day before.

After getting the charging problem sorted out, I headed to shore with my bike to explore the island. The Bahamas are a former British colony and cars drive on the left side of the road...important to remember as a bicyclist. In fact, The Bahamas are where many British loyalists went to flee the successful American Revolution. There is a sculpture garden in the main town here, New Plymouth, with a historic plaque summarizing the Loyalist history, culture and contributions to the islands, with numerous bronze busts of predominately white people, most of which were cast in the late 1940's, before the islands independence from Britain in 1973.

As I rode along cay's smooth scenic paved roads I admired how diligently the island's residents were rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. Typically, just a few men working steadily to rebuild a dock, a roof, a road, one bit at a time. It will be years before things are back the way that they were, but each day, it gets a little bit better.  Debris from the hurricane is hauled to a temporary dump, where dumpsters are filled each day and hauled away on a barge. Step-by-step, piece-by-piece, day-by-day; there is a steady, gentle determination to admire here.

I rode around the small town of New Plymouth and then headed to Gilliam Bay, a beautiful crescent of white sand beach and protected aquamarine waters. I enjoyed a nice solitary walk on the deserted beach before heading back to the boat.

We invited Bill to dine on Intermezzo last night and enjoyed a pleasant evening of good conversation, good food and decent wine.

This morning we took the dinghy to New Plymouth to get our required 5-day COVID antibody test. The small clinic in town is very efficient, friendly and the tests are free. We all "passed" with negative results. Now we are free to roam about the islands, although we have to complete a daily online health survey whenever we have internet access.

Bill took us to another of his favorite beaches this afternoon, called Lincoln Park. As soon as we were anchored, a large stingray came to greet the boat. These rays are very tame and friendly, regularly fed by visitors. I dropped into the water and the ray swam to me, caressing my legs with its soft, velvety wings. I felt bad not having any goodies to offer it. We explored the beach and protected cove for a bit and identified a potential place to anchor Intermezzo. As we walked through the shallow waters, several rays came up to say "hello" and see if we had any snacks. Between the pigs and stingrays, it seems like one should always pack appropriate treats in these parts.

All is well aboard Intermezzo, though we are struggling with solar power. The prevailing winter winds are southerly, which puts the solar panels at the stern of the boat facing north, in the shadows of the mast and boom. We're not keeping up with power consumption so we have to run the portable generator every couple of days. I hadn't appreciated the solar advantage of the Pacific coast until now, where the prevailing winds most of the year are from the north, which put the solar panels facing south to catch the sun. Winter's low sun angles and limited daylight hours make this difference quite significant in terms of generating power.

We'll leave White Sound tomorrow. Originally, I was planning on heading south to Man O' War Cay, but I think we'll anchor in one of the nearby bight just north and enjoy this beautiful spot for a day or two more. The weather is supposed to be quite good and settled.

I need to figure out what rays like to eat.

The famous swimming pigs of the Abacos at Big O's on No Name Cay

Biking the smooth roads of Green Turtle Cay

Debris from Hurricane Dorian, each day a few more loads taken away by barge for proper disposal

House in New Plymouth town

The memorial sculpture garden honoring the Loyalists and early settlers of The Abacos

Gilliam Bay at the southeast end of Green Turtle Cay

My sunrise/sunset shell