Today marks day 13 at Matthew Town, Government Dock, Inagua, Bahamas. While intending to only spend three days here, we have extended our stay by an extra ten days so far... I guess you could say we’ve been stranded in paradise. Our alternator died the night we were preparing to leave. There is not a ships store here. Nor is there a hardware store. But, the island is filled with the kindest, most thoughtful folks who only want to assist visitors and make sure they have a positive experience here.
We have been camped out at the Government dock in Matthew Town waiting for the arrival of our wayward package from the US.
It has been an incredible experience to witness life here at the government dock. It is definitely a happening place. The people of Inagua are thrilled this season to have more boats than ever before stop here to check in or check out of the Bahamas. The facilities here provide convenient access to the formalities with customs and immigration. The clinic is right next door so the covid process is all within walking distance. Boaters will find the finest, most gracious dock master to greet them upon arrival. George is amazing! I’ll post a separate update featuring him.
Throughout the day people drive down to the dock to check out the boats anchored outside the marina and to look at the boats tied up inside. This is much like what we do at the Wharf in Onancock. The folks here are just grateful to see boats and love to say hello and greet the boaters. We have seen as many as eleven sailboats checking in or out at one time. Just about all the boats are sailboats. We saw one motor cruiser that was 60 feet and carries ten thousand gallons of fuel. An eighty foot catamaran was parked in the marina for a few nights. We never saw the owner but there were at least eight crew members. All of the boats we met (except ours) carried a water maker and had enough solar panels on board to make their own electricity. We are clearly behind on self-sufficiency.
Because it is the government dock it is also the place where the Bahama Defense Force comes with their large ships. The Mailboat comes out of Nassau about every 8 to 14 days. Other important deliveries are made such as the oil freighter bringing precious fuel to the island.
But, the most gracious surprise was a visit from a local fisherman with a gift of a beautiful large Red Snapper deposited on our deck.
There is always something of interest happening at the dock. Inagua is truly a place to come and anchor, visit, and stay awhile. You’ll be glad you did.
Those of you who have been following us on the SPOT Tracker may have noticed it hasn’t moved in five days. Two possibilities arise. One, we really love where we are and haven’t moved on. Or, two, we’re stranded. Well, it’s one and two. Monday night we started the engine to charge the batteries as we usually do and the alternator gave out. Mike will give the Captain/mechanical version of the story much better than I can. Essentially, we lost all power. We have no charging capability to keep the engine ignition charged. Cell phones, chart plotter, auto pilot, navigational lights, everything electrical on the boat required the alternator to keep them running. That means we can’t go anywhere safely.
We spent the rest of the night tearing apart the boat looking for spares. Mike spent all day Tuesday running alternative wires to see what he could make work. By Tuesday afternoon, the gracious folks of the island were coming by trying to find way to help us. We are hooked up to electric (even though there is no electric hook ups here). We have had the aid of a couple of local mechanics. The only answer was to get a new one.
It is now Thursday evening. After three days of trying to find a dealer who had the part and could ship it we landed on a person in Clearwater. We ordered it. Now we just don’t know when it will arrive in Inagua. There are plans here on Fridays and Mondays. This makes us think we will not have the part and be able to be underway until April 30.
What do cruisers do when required to remain in a port longer than planned? We learn more about the people and the place where we are. We learn to appreciate the gift of the place that many people call home. We discover in detail a part of the world we would only have appreciated in a brief passing. We get to cook more fun things, swim more, walk around town more, and just hang out and read more.
Granted we will miss out on the island hopping adventure we planned. But, God is in the midst of all our encounters. There is an adventure of wonder within this one island that 900 people call home. We are grateful for this opportunity. So continue to stay tuned and follow us on our adventure. Life is as good as you make it. Find joy in each moment. There is always joy in the journey.
Inagua is the third largest island in the Bahama chain of islands. It is the furthest south of all the isalnds. It therefore functions as an entry and exit port. Depending on the source of information the island is about 40 miles long and 25 miles wide. It is the most hospitable island full of candor among the locals, and sincere joy and friendship toward the visitors.
On the island tour we saw the sights and sounds of Matthew Town. We were shown the local bars, snack shops, restaurants, schools, churches, and ball fields. The industry that keeps the island in production and with a healthy steady economy is the Morton Salt company. The production of salt started back in the early 1800s. During that time the salt was harvested by manual labor with pic axes, then transported by donkeys and donkey carts to the sea for exportation across the world. Now the salt is harvested by huge machinery and transported by enormous airconditioned trucks. The company employs about 80-90% of the island locals. The other industry is fishing, restaurants, teachers, and government workers.
There is an airport, a medical clinic, villas for rent, a large welcoming government port with dock space for 10 boats. The area is spacious enough for large yachts and catamarans. There was an 80 foot catamaran in the marina with plenty of space. Tourism this far south seems to be a problem for attracting folks to come and enjoy the quiet, restful, set back island of Inagua. Amenities are limited. Yet, there is plenty to do and to enjoy. All the locals offer a hand to those who come to visit. There is an honest concern for the transients to have a positive experience.
Tarrae was our tour guide. She was a delight. She made the best 'flamingo' punch! She is an Audubon certified bird guide and along with being a P.E. teacher also runs her tour guide business. She provided us with a four hour tour of the island. We saw the lighthouse, the town, the saltworks and a lot of birds.
Inagua is a nesting and resting place for migratory birds. The flamingos are an important part of the salt production process. Brine is used in the salt production process. Sea water is pumped from the sea down a large canal access toward the flats. Brine canals border the flats. Shrimp is stocked in the brine which the flamingos eat. The flamingo droppings are also important to the process.
There are many wild donkeys since the use of them for salt production was halted. Donkeys are hunted game as deer is for folks in the US. Conch is harvested by the fishermen and the snack bar conch fritters have that fresh off the boat flavor.
Here is 40 picture slideshow of our tour. I hope you enjoy the tour as much as we did.
The most exciting part of a passage is getting underway. It is filled with anticipation energy and a little fear. The fear comes from, ‘what can go wrong’ and ‘will the exit process go smoothly.’ The anticipation energy comes from’ ‘what will this passage hold’, ‘what new sights will we see’, and how well will we sail.’ Each of these builds as we finally drop the dock lines and pull away from safe harbor.
While Mike keeps us abreast of our adventure through the Sailblogs, I write a few tidbits that come to mind on the news page of this website. We had an incredible passage coming to the Bahamas from Aruba. It's hard to believe it was only four days to travel 632 nm. We had strong easterly winds as we headed north that put us on a fast point of sail. Although the seas were a bit rough they were nothing in comparison to other passages we have been on. The surprise for this crew member who is aware of the seasickness that hits with every first two days of a passage was how hard it hit this time. Maybe it's age. Who knows. But, while Mike was dealing with a whole pan of spilled macaroni salad on the cabin floor I was hugging a trash can and we were both being knocked from side to side in the cabin trying to hold on. If anyone had a recording it would have made for great comedy.
Watches are definitely our comfort place. We slip into the schedule each time without a thought. Being alone on deck with the dark skies, new moon sliver and a universe of the twinkling stars wraps a sense of great assurance of God's grandeur and grace. There is nothing more relaxing and joyful than being on night watch in the middle of the sea. (Of course when it's not a storm.)
Today we’ll take a tour of the island-maybe. We set a time and date with a man in a truck. Now we sit and wait. If there’s a no show we have a ton of boat work to make us happy for the day. Until next time with more photos.
Provisioning means food, liquid, and everything to stay fed and healthy while on board. One thing to remember when provisioning is: 'if you don't like it while on land-you won't like it at sea'. So, when shopping for meals, snacks etc. be sure to include all the favorites, the fast and easy to make, and the special treats too. Nothing is worse than being on board hungry and everything is food you would never consider eating while on land. Passagemaking food is a little trickier because we never know when the seas or the wind make it too rough to cook. I've learned to plan three days of grab and go foods as well as meals that taste good either hot or cold.
One thing we do while at sea that we never seem to do at home is stock up on fresh foods. We look for the local fruits and vegetables. We clean them and then hang them in our hammocks to help them last longer.
We don't have a freezer so we ask the local restaurant (sometimes it's a butcher) to put our packaged meat in their deep freeze until the day before we leave. The frozen meat stays frozen sometimes up to a week in our refrigerator.
Potatoes and apples last the longest, close to three months. Bananas, avocados and fresh vegetables don't last more than a week.
We don't have a water maker. Our water tank holds 80 gallons. It is potable but doesn't taste good. We use it for showers etc. We calculate 6 liters of drinking liquid a day for the two of us and that's how I buy enough water for a month.
Once it is all bought, it has to be stowed and accessible for the passage. That's the fun part. As you can see from the pictures it all works out even on a small boat.
Probably the least romantic part of any adventure is the preparation for it. A passage requires a lot of planning. When folks make passages in the way we have over the last twenty years it requires an extra amount of preparation. Each year our Neverland has been in storage in a foreign port. That means we begin our preparation from home far away from our precious boat.
When we arrive at the port where Neverland has been resting during the time we've been away, and with Covid-19 it's been longer than we hoped, we know there are many things that require our attention.
Before she is launched we do a complete hull check. That means the thru hulls, the zincs, the propeller, the depth sounder, and the speed wheel. We also do as much on deck work as possible until the time of launch. We don't want to waste any time as we measure our time carefully each day.
Part of planning is everything that can go wrong or be broken and need repair. Also, everything needs to be removed for inventory and assessment. Safety and every inch of the boat needs inspection and adjustments made as necessary.
So, after she has been launched we discovered problems with the chart plotter, the winches, the dinghy, dinghy engine and a few small things. We have been able to spend time to correct all of these issues.
We have a rental car and that has made life really comfortable. I've been to the grocery store twice, Mike has been to the marine store three times. We had another covid test in keeping with the Aruba departure regulations for arrival in the Bahamas.
Sunday I plan to do the final shopping for all the fresh food. Mike will finish rebuilding the winches. We hope to watch church. I will begin cooking our passage meals. We will finish doing the rest of the safety checks. We need to buy fuel, fill up water tanks, and jerry jugs.
Needless to say there is no boredom here. There'll be a final wash down of the deck and a tip to customs for permission to leave. We'll fill out a health passport for the Bahamas so they will hopefully allow us to enter when we arrive there.
It's been a busy time. Thanks to the restaurant at the marina we've been able to use wifi to stay connected. Hope all the folks we love are well at home.
We are so excited to announce that we have t-shirts. They are great quality shirts with silk screened images guaranteed to last. Currently we have limited sizes: XL, L, M, in adult and Youth M. You can support us on our adventures with one of these t-shirts. Contact us through our email address if you're interested in having a t-shirt. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Adults shirts are $12 and youth shirts are $10 US dollars only.
Come along with us as we sail to the next destination.
Mike & Monica
We plan to write some notes here about our sail trip and the preparations for it