Sail St Louis
Adventures aboard the SV Mardi Gras
February 6, 2010
While finishing the next to final leg of our 2019 trip to George Town, I wondered at my lack of worry about flying over the Bahamas flats in south Exhumas in pitch black darkness.
The flats are vast and except for obstacles such as coral heads and old but well charted navigational aids, it is as wide open as the night sky. What I mean is that when you are on the flats and you have a gps with a chart in it that shows your exact location, you can take off at full speed to your desired destination without much worry. That is as long as you have a lookout posted who is constantly scanning the horizon for lights that could be a boat or a landfall.
I used to fly small planes and night flying, once you got used to it, gave a better sense of security to me than daytime flying. There were fewer planes flying and the ones that were up there had lights on that made them easy to see. The airports were easier to identify too since they each had an identifying rotating beacon with green and white lights that had a particular sequence to make them identifiable. Night boating is the same. Those enormous ships barges on the river and ocean that put fear into so many of my boating friends, have very particular lighting to aid in their identity.
So here I am tonight, February 6 2019, flying over sand 20 feet below my keel at 6 knots.
I am one day away from my final destination of Georgetown Exhumas Bahamas . I am on watch and have a healthy desire to not run into anything. Most of the time During daylight hours you can scan the water all around you and not see anything but water all the way to the horizon so if I could see anything now besides some distant lights, I would see nothing but water.
Just now at 8:00 in the evening, I can see light off my port bow. They are boats at anchor at Staniel Cay six miles to my east. I am headed to Galiot Cay to anchor there tonight hopefully just after midnight. I prefer to anchor in daylight hours but I feel comfortable going here tonight. There is reason to do it at that hour too. As always here, there is bad weather coming and I want to get into GT before it hits. In addition to that, I have been looking forward to getting back to Georgetown for 4 years which was when I was last here.
In my opinion, For a cruiser, Georgetown provides the ultimate tropical cruising experience. The water is crystal clear with shells and fish, dolphins and sting rays easily visible. The beaches are beautiful, the water is warm and the panoramic sunrises and sunsets are the best you will ever witness. But to add to the experience are the people. The cruiser comes from all professions and some even lack a profession except to cruise. But most are like me, a retired guy trying to experience some of the adventure that I had always dreamed of and hadn't been able to accomplish. Some people long to climb a mountain or hike the Appalachian trail. Voyaging to a tropical location is something I had always dreamed of and now I have done it. And all the other cruisers here have also joined that club so we have a natural connection. We help each other, we share meals and sunset cocktail hours. We play volleyball, cards, yoga, chess, checkers and we have special informational get-togethers to find out how to bleed the air from our Diesel engines fuel system or how to make a blowing trumpet from a conch shell. But mostly, we hang out with each other. It is a club of like people, men and women and it is open to anyone who takes the initiative to just go ahead and do it.
I left Portage December 18 and came down to Gulf Shores to get ready to cruise to the Bahamas, and Georgetown specifically.
When I got to the marina which is actually just east of Gulf Shores in Elberta AL the weather was rotten. Rain and cold kept me from pulling Mardi Gras until December 26 but I was prepared and my Christmas lights were up as you will see in the pictures. I have had to learn about what antifouling paints work in salt water and I had brought the best paint I have seen with me. When I pulled the boat out after 3 1/2 years the bottom was great and so she got two fresh coats of the same Blue Water paint. I had experienced some vibration in the shaft since I had damaged the cutlass bearing when I picked up a stainless fishing leader and so I replaced that too. All in all though, having owned Mardi Gras eight years she is in great shape. So it was new paint and cutlass and back in the water.
Now I was back to the more mundane preparations as my crew was to arrive on January 5 to help me move her back to the Bahamas. The Kubota/ Universal diesel runs great but I have had some oil leak issues with her intermittently. I wish it would just leak or not! But more on that later. I have docked Marti Gras at Barber Marina since November 2018 and it is a good place to dock your boat. My good friends and dock mates Pete and Theresa at Barber helped me immensely in every way they could. But happy hours were especially good since Pete is quite the chef.
On January 5 my friends Mike Colligan and Rich Hindrich flew in from St. Louis and Nelson Laffey drove from Gainsville. Nelson crewed for me on my first Gulf crossing 8 years ago. Rich has crewed for my friend Norm Jones on his 43 Irwin and I knew him for the time we cruised together to the Dry Tortugas. Mike and SherryColligan have been preparing their Fisher 30 ketch for cruising and Mike came along to experience blue water sailing.
With last minute preparations completed we pulled out of Barber monday January 7. We motor sailed to Pensacola inlet and out into the Gulf. We headed southeast hugging the coast as we made sure all was well with Mardi Gras. Which it wasn't. After a very uneventful afternoon and evening I noticed oil in the bilge. It appeared that the oil leak had returned . I returned the oil level to full and restarted the engine. It was now early morning of the 8th and we were 40 miles south of Port St Joe, which had been badly damaged in the last hurricane. But I decided better safe than sorry as I only had 8 quarts of oil on board and if the leak got worse we could have problems.
When we got into Port st Joe we had problems raising anyone in the marinas on the radio or phone as they are still in bad shape. There is a canal that links Port S Joe to Appalachiacola and so we headed over there. We got in just before dark and were able to dock and walk a short distance for a nice dinner in a seafood restaurant. Appalachiacola suffered damage but not to the same degree as Por St Joe has.
Mike helped me look over the engine for leaks which we could not find and we bought oil and pulled out of Government cut back into the gulf.
The forecast was for flat water and building wind from the northwest. Just exactly what we wanted to get to Fort Myers.
Ill finish this story later.
Promoting sailing at Alton pool on the Mississippi