Date: 27 Mar 97 11:36:43 EST
From: Gene Gruender <104675.2134@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: Rainbow Chaser's in Georgetown!

We now have a way to connect to Compuserve. I get in the dinghy. I go a mile or so to shore and tie it up. I walk half a mile to the Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company) office. They send us into one of their executive's offices. He gets up from his chair and unplugs his phone. I set in his chair and plug in my computer. I tell the computer to start. When the computer at the other end (in this case, St. Petersburg, Florida) answers, he looks at his watch. When I quit, he looks at his watch again. I leave his desk, he gets to sit back down, and I go pay the cashier for however many minutes he timed at $1.50 a minute. I had 97 emails waiting, so it took a bit, like $18 worth. Just though someone might like to know how it's done.

Once we got our email, there was one from a guy in California who told us we ended up in Cruising World with a picture of us in the dinghy, Nellie in her red cast. Guess we are celebrities of sorts? It may be months before we see it, though.

So, here is what's been happening:

We're still in the Bahamas. We got my nephew, Jason off to the Airport. But not without the typical Rainbow Chaser drama. His plane left at 7:30, and that was AM. If he wasn't there by 7 am, he couldn't get on the plane. We were a bit concerned about getting up on time. We had an electric alarm clock that ran off of the inverter and we had a little battery powered alarm clock. Surely, between both, we could wake up.

We also had the problem of catching a cab at 6 am. Never having been in Nassau at 6 am looking for a cab, we tried to arrange having someone there. There are taxi's in Nassau, legal cabs that have set rates and there are "hackers", people with cars ranging from junk yard material to some pretty nice new ones who try to find riders. The fare for a taxi to the airport is $27. Each way. The fare for a "hacker" is whatever you negotiate. We found a hacker who would meet us at 6am and take us both ways for $35.

We woke up in time, made it to the designated spot 10 minutes early and waited. And waited. At 6:10, it was time to regroup. I went looking for a real taxi and, for the first time in Nassau, couldn't find one. We waited and still none showed up. Soon a fellow in an older Cadillac coupe drove by and said "taxi?". "Yes sir - how much to the airport and back?". $40 was the price and off we went. Very slowly. This was the slowest and most careful driver in Nassau.

After getting out of the populated areas, he mentioned he needed a gas station. None had been open. He was almost out of gas. He finally found one, got some gas, and had no money. I had to give him an advance to get the gas! We did make it, but with only about 10 minutes to spare.

When we got back from the airport Nellie was trying to get Zach's dad on the phone. Our plan was to spend the day getting the boat in order, then leave the next morning. I was waiting for them to get off the phone and noticed that the wind had shifted around to where it was coming from the north. We were going south. It had been coming out of the southeast and we were expecting a long, wet, pounding trip back. I told Nellie that as soon as we got off the phone we were heading out -we weren't going to pass up this chance. Having the wind behind us would be a treat.

We sailed from Nassau back to Hawksbill Cay ( 24 28 North, 76 46 West) and found our old anchorage empty. We got anchored and started exploring the place again.

Sunday we made several trips around the little islands there. This is in a park and fishing is not allowed. But it was still one of the prettiest places you could imagine. We managed to take advantage of the totally private beaches - use your imagination.

We'd planned to take off on Monday morning to go to Stanial Cay, about 20 miles south. When morning came, the wind was blowing pretty hard. 25 knots or so, and we elected to stay and be lazy. We were no longer in a hurry, so we just hung out. Tuesday was a little calmer and we took off.

As usual, the wind was right on our nose. We needed to charge our batteries so we raised the main and motor sailed on down. The main stopped the rocking, but didn't help the spray much. It also didn't help keep the rail out of the water, which also held our jugs of gasoline and diesel. They kept trying to wash over and I'd have to go forward to reposition them. I've added them to the list of problems to solve. We have a bicycle on the deck, also. It was given to Zach back in Texas. It came in handy in Biloxi and St. Petersburg. After all the crossings, though, it is a hunk of rust. I suspect it is going to take a swim soon. Then I can begin to get the rust off of the deck.

We arrived at Stanial Cay, (24 10.4 North, 24 26.7 West) which is a little more south in the Exumas. We first anchored off of Stanial Cay Yacht Club (don't get any ideas, it's just a shack with a very unprotected dock and a bar) and went to check out the town. We walked all over, which didn't take much walking. We checked out the Pink store. This was a grocery store. More sticker shock! This shack had groceries of many sorts stacked up on home made shelves at prices about 3 to 4 times the stateside prices. We looked for the Blue store, another grocery store, but didn't find it. We found out later that it was next door to the Pink store - we didn't think the two grocery stores would be next door to each other. We looked for the Rolle hardware store and did find it. They had various boat parts at double, which, considering the volume, duties and shipping, really wasn't a bad price. They had ice cream bars and cold cokes for 1$ each. After weeks on the boat, they looked pretty good. We had one of each, so our total expenditure was $6. Other than this, I didn't see any reason to linger on the island.

We moved about a mile to Big Major Spot, which is an island with a good anchorage to the west. If the wind is out of the east, the tall island will block all the waves and most of the wind. If it is coming from south west to north west, it's completely open. The wind almost never comes from these directions, though, so it should be of no concern.

We found our friends Donnie and Lisa aboard Elisha E there again. Soon we were planning out activities. Nellie wanted to visit Thunderball Cave, a cave made famous in The James Bond movie "Thunderball" and the movie "Splash", and to do lot more snorkeling. Donnie and I planned to find the fish.

There was also another boat there that we'd seen before, Isle with Fred and Nancy aboard. Although we really hadn't gotten to know them then, they were back at Allen's Cay when we were. They had stayed so long at Allen's that Fred had gotten the nickname "Mayor of the Iguanas", in reference to the other thousands of inhabitants there. They had Donnie and Lisa over for drinks and we just crashed the party, a somewhat acceptable behavior here.

The next day we all went to Thunderball Cave. I wasn't really excited about it, but I will have to admit it was a lot more interesting than I'd expected. This is a small rock island, a couple hundred feet in diameter. On two sides it has openings in the bottom which are only exposed at very low tide.

Once you swim into it, it is hollow. It still has about 10 feet of water, but above the water is a hollow dome, probably 20 feet high and 30 feet across, which has some holes in the top, letting in sunlight. In addition to this, there are thousands of fish, many multi-colored fish, all swarming around the swimmers. May people bring food, which gets the fish even more worked up. There used to be a grouper of about 200 lb. who would eat out of your hands, but he hasn't been seen lately. I'm not sure I would have trusted my fingers near him, anyway.

Donnie and I, along with Zachary, tried our hand at fishing. We tried along the rocks and didn't have any luck. I suggested we just go out and drift a bit. Soon I had a jack of some sort whipping out line. Finally, we're into the fish!

It must have been a freak accident on the fish's part, because we didn't find another. We did get a lot of bits, though, but couldn't catch any of them. We tossed out the anchor and got the Glass bottom bucket to find what was 20 feet down there grabbing our bait. Low and behold, they were all about 5" long! We put on some smaller hooks and I started catching them. We saved them for bait. After an hour and catching nothing else, we quit.

That night we had the crews of both Elisha E and Isle over for a pot luck supper. The wind was still and the waters calm. We were anchored in about 12 feet of water and when the wind quit, it got slick as glass, and even clearer. As the others were getting into their dinghies to go back, it looked as though they were floating about 12 feet in the air. What an unusual sight.

Later in the evening Zachary mentioned that there were some fish around the boat. We didn't know what they were, but we tried catching them. With a bit of experimenting, we found they liked hot dogs. We started chumming with the scraps from supper and catching them on the hot dogs. With the full moon and the clear skies and smooth water we could watch them swim around down there. We could tell when they were about to bite, and we could tell when they needed more chum. It didn't take long to have enough for a supper. We weren't sure until we looked in a book what they were, but they turned out to be some type of snapper.

There had been a front that was supposed to come our way for a couple days, but it didn't show up. They had forecast some higher winds shifting around to the west, our exposed side, and then another front behind that. It didn't happen, but they again were forecasting for it. All three of us, Rainbow Chaser, Isle, and Elisha E, looked at the charts and guide books to try to find a better anchorage. The ones that had better protection had poor holding. None of us could identify one within 30 miles that looked better. The holding for our anchors where we were was very good, so we decided to stay put.

The next night we had Donnie and Lisa over for supper. They had started running short of food and money and were glad to extend their trip with caught suppers. After eating and telling a few stories, they headed back to their boat. By this time the wind had changed around from it's normal easterly direction to southwest. This still had a little protection, but we were starting to bounce around a bit.

About midnight we woke up with the wind blowing from the west at about 30 knots. With 50 miles or so for the wind to build up, the waves were starting to rock us pretty hard. I have all chain out now, so I don' have to worry about the line chafing through, but I was worried about the bow coming up and the jerk just snatching the anchor out of the sand. I let out some more chain and went back to bed. It was pretty hard to sleep, though, with the boat motion and worrying about dragging.

Donnie had taken a conch shell and made a horn out of it. He could make quite a racket with it and at bout 1:30 in the morning I heard it just raising hell. In going up to find out what was going on, the first thing I saw was that Isle was 10 feet directly upwind of Elisha E. Between the wind direction changes and Isle dragging her anchor a bit, there was real problem. It was Lisa on the cabin top blowing the horn and Donnie was on the bow, trying to do something about it. Lisa was trying to wake Fred. I grabbed my freon powered air horn and tooted a couple times, although I think the conch had already done the trick.

I thought they had solved the problem when I saw Donnie let out about hundred feet more chain and line, putting a better distance between them. We were getting ready to try to sleep again when I saw Donnie motoring around in his dinghy. His dinghy is old and leaky, it's only 8 ft and it doesn't run well. I couldn't figure out why he was out there until I noticed that Isle didn't seem to have a dinghy anymore. It was up on the rocks getting bashed and Donnie was trying to save it. I watched for some time, as I kept thinking that it was coming out of there. It must have been just an illusion. though, because it never did.

Eventually I noticed that Lisa was yelling at me to turn on the radio. Silly me, I never thought to turn it on. She wanted me to take a line to Donnie.

Once I got near shore, I realized that Donnie was there alone. I'd figured that Fred was there helping. Donnie also hadn't taken shoes and that weathered lava rock was like razors. I managed to get a line to Donnie, who'd already stripped the motor, tank and the other things off. Once it was towed back to Isle, we could all get a little more rest. The dinghy looked a bit sad, though, because it was an inflatable and was punctured a number of places.

The next morning was spent gathering up stuff. The motor had stayed next to the water and the tide came up way higher than normal. It had really taken a bath, in addition to the beating on the rocks. They got it running again, but it'll never look new again. I suppose that they were lucky, though, as we heard of two other boats that were lost the same night.

The wind calmed down and it got fairly smooth by afternoon. Nellie went back to Thunderball Cave for another visit - she'd forgotten her underwater camera the first time. Before she went, she heated something in the microwave and the inverter did it's usual trick of shutting off after about 4 or 5 minutes. She stores stuff in the microwave when it's not being used (we have too much stuff on the boat) and she put the stuff back, then went on to the cave. Now, the inverter will eventually turn itself back on. The microwave stopped because it had no power, not because the timer ran out of time. When the inverter came on, the microwave started. I was busy, but eventually notice a funny smell. In looking around, I saw there were flames coming out of the microwave! Just billowing out! it had heated the stuff until it all burst into flames. I suppose if I hadn't been here it would have burned to the waterline. We don't store stuff in the microwave anymore.

We had arranged for our mail to go to Georgetown so we had to head that way sometime. Donnie's water pump was on it's last leg and just patched together, so he didn't want to make that trip. We left them there, hoping to connect back up with them on our way back up the Exumas.

We were supposed to get another front in a day, which would give us high winds out of the west again so we wanted to get to the east side of the islands and on down as far as we could. We cut across and made it about 35 miles south to Black's Cay, right off of Rolleville and found good anchorage. The water was still, which meant it was clear as glass. It also meant that the no-see-ums (very little bugs that have very big bite) could find you with no problem. I'd bought some house brand after bath splash at Wallgreens before we left. I'd learned back in Missouri that it would keep the mosquitos off. These guys bit, so maybe they wouldn't like it either. I didn't get bit, but Nellie didn't like the smell of the stuff. She has bites everywhere. My smell is gone. She still has welts. Guess which way I'll do it next time?

Later Zachary saw a big fish under the boat, maybe 15 lb.. We set out to catch him. We were a little short on bait, though. We'd used all our hot dogs on the snapper, and the bread was too stall to smash onto a hook. We finally found some cheese that was a little past it's useful life and tried that. He just swam and took it. Talk about stripping some line from my little reel! He made about 2 runs and the line snapped. I had no metal leader and haven't found any here yet. Guess what is going to be on my list next time we hit the states?

We finally made it to Georgetown and went for our mail. This is a cruiser's hangout. There are hundreds of boats here. It's like a giant meeting place. I can't see that people come here for supplies, as there aren't many, (including steel fishing leader material) but everybody stays here a while. We looked for our mail, which came in two bundles and found one. It took two days to find the other.

While we were waiting for it to show up I tried adjusting my transmission linkage. I'd broken a shifter cable couple years ago and it was out of adjustment enough it was becoming a worry. The more I tried to adjust it the worse it became. I took the top off to see what was going on and found one of the springs that should be inside the shifting cluster was somewhere else. Not good. I started checking and decided to check the filter. Full of metal shavings! Really not good. I couldn't get it to go into reverse anymore and with the shavings it is questionable how long it will last. But, what the heck, it's a sailboat, right? We'll just use it until it quits and then sail it on. Nellie isn't very comfortable with that plan, but to tell you the truth, I'm more worried about not being able to run the engine to get electricity to run the autopilot and refrigerator than I am propulsion. Heck, I know I can sail it back, but I sure a hell don't want to have to hand steer the whole darn way.

We're going to stay in Georgetown for a week or so. They have dozen of kids here and Zach is getting to play with someone other than me! There are a dozen or more people in the anchorage who we've met along the way. We'll have parties, cookouts, all sorts of stuff. Guess it could be worse, I could be stuck behind a desk!

Gene Gruender
aboard Rainbow Chaser (one of many!)
in Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas