10 July 2012

A Day (or so) in the Life of a Dream

8:10 A.M.*: Anchors Aweigh
In our usual places, Jane at the helm, me at the anchor locker. I call for bumps forward to pull JOY up closer to her chain, and periodically a bump to starboard or to port, to lessen the strain on the windlass. Jane senses almost immediately that she got no maneuverability on the starboard side. She shouts out the problem to me and goes to see if there's any prop wash coming from under the starboard hull, but we both know what has happened.

8:32 A.M.: See Jane Snorkel
No early start for us today, yet we've been extremely lucky in the misfortunes of our prop. All three times it has fallen off before this, we've been able to retrieve it. Knowing that it was on when we anchored here, we expect we will find it somewhere within the arc that matches the swing of our boat. We also expect to find the nut that holds it in place. Owing to its size and buryability in the sand, I am less optimistic about the bolt.

9:17 A.M.: Gotcha!...most of ya
Jane dons her dive gear and starts a series of concentric laps around JOY.  Not long afterward, she comes back with the nut.  The prop, she says, is in the same place, but she wants to look for the bolt, so she asks me to get a float so she can mark the location of the prop.

9:38 A.M.: So much to see in the sea
Jane hasn't been able to locate the bolt (the exact marine equivalent of a needle in a haystack), but she has seen a number of interesting creatures, so she decides to multitask: look for the bolt at the same time as filming sea life.  Meanwhile, I look for something that will suffice in the likelihood that she can't find it.

9:57 A.M.: Back to business
Jane has given up on finding the bolt. I've located a metal screw that's the right diameter, though is almost too short to grab any of the threads in the propeller shaft.  But we have no other options, so Jane goes down to dry fit the screw.  Once on, I put the engine in forward and reverse so she can make sure the prop is on in the right direction and that the screw holds.  It is and it does, but we're going to give it some extra support.

10:11 A.M.: Take this prop and shove it
We'd used Locktite to hold the bolt on after the second time it loosened and it worked for quite some time.  We suspect it was the vibration caused by running the engine at a lower r.p.m. to recharge our batteries that eventually broke the glue seal. I find the best adhesive we have on board. This time, instead of gluing the screw into the shaft, Jane opts for gluing on the  nut. I slather the construction cement on the nut, seal it up in a baggie and hand it to Jane.  She'll put the prop on then open the baggie and jam the nut onto the prop as quickly as possible, then she'll screw on the screw as tightly as she can.

10:37 A.M.: Now where were we?
Jane revs the engine in forward and reverse.  We get prop wash, which means the prop is holding.  Off we go.  Better late than never.

7:57 P.M.: Pleasure boating the hard way
We find a somewhat suitable spot to anchor off New Cay in the Brigantine Cay chain just before --as in a little after-- sunset.  The seas have been short and choppy all day which has made for a bumpy, jarring ride.  We slow.  Jane spins into the wind--or tries to.  Our starboard engine is once again of no help.  As a mere formality, I look for prop wash, but we both know our starboard prop is gone for good this time.

It's decision time. I'm not willing to chance getting prop parts shipped to us on Great Inagua, a largish island, but sparsely populated.  Especially, when George Town, a cruiser's paradise for all it has to offer is only 30 nautical miles away.  We decide to head to George Town in the morning.

6:15 A.M.: Here's your fate, what's your hurry?
Doing the previous night's dishes. Reflecting for the umpteenth time on how it is always about the boat, how, so far, we've bought a boat to fix up a boat. Not what either of us dreamt of. Trying to manufacture yet another strategy to stave off bitterness for a little while longer.

Also rolling around in my brain for the umpteenth time is a comment someone once made about living at sea. It was in Port Antonio, Jamaica. We were staying at a bed and breakfast run by a German named Helmut.  In his younger years, Helmut had been a sailor and a dead ringer for Leonardo DiCaprio. The comment that Helmut had made, the thing that had echoed back occasionally over the years and with some frequency as we embarked on this adventure was that after you've been at sea for a while, you stop caring when you arrive somewhere. You're happy to drift on because it stops mattering. Helmut read the look on my face and added that he wasn't talking about being suicidal; merely that time, the timing of events, becomes unimportant. A catalog of practical considerations flooded my brain, but I decided not to pursue the point. There was an ephemerality  about the thought of it that I didn't want to taint with information. And it wasn't as though I needed to know, being on a boat for days on end wouldn't ever apply to me...

I hear his words again and for the first time they sound right. Call it accepting that I've been bested by a floating collection of machinery I cannot understand. Call it adapting to the entirety of this situation we've unknowingly created. Call it serenity. In a mind's single quiet breath, what Helmut said became true. I had absolutely no preference as to when we made George Town.  My newfound equanimity enveloped me like a soft breeze.

Jane wakes up sometime later and announces her new "Lemonade Policy," the apposite manifestation of which is that instead of making for George Town, she'd rather take the day and  explore the Brigantine Cays. Well, then.

11:43 A. M.: Ours, all ours!
It's the off-season for cruisers.  Moreover, our guidebook, everyone's guidebook, informs us that these cays are good for bonefishing, but not cruising.  True enough, we haven't seen a single vessel since leaving Staniel Cay.  We pack our beach chairs, hiking shoes, water, books, cameras, garbage bag, and sunscreen into our dinghy, fit ourselves in amongst all our gear and head off.

The sun comes out after awhile.  We play Rallyball. We go for a long hike over coral slopes that separate lush tropical vegetation from the sea. Jane takes the dinghy back to the boat and packs a picnic lunch. (I ponder the fact that if something happens to her, I'll die on this deserted island).  She comes back. We sit in our chairs, reading our books, drinking our white wine before the ice cubes melt. In a world of six some billion people, we have happened on a day's worth of utter isolation...of paradise.

JOY will have to wait until tomorrow to have her unending needs attended to.  Today we choose to remind ourselves of why we did this.

*Times are highly approximate.


  1. Sounds like an awesome day; dreaming about being in that water.

  2. Hi Jane and Ean,
    I read alot of cruising blogs and just found yours. My wife and I hope to be cruising in a few years and I am trying to read and learn as much as possible. I have spent most of the day reading yours from the beginning. I found it to be very entertaining and educational. I appreciate your honesty in describing the mistakes and problems you encountered. The only disagreeable thing I found in the whole thing was the "Recall Scott Walker" comment on Dec. 10. :) Best of luck to you both. and may your lives continue to be filled with Joy.
    Larry Jenkins

  3. Hi, Larry

    Thanks for reading our blog and thanks for the feedback, especially about the Scott Walker comment. We try to keep our politics out of this blog, but sometimes it bleeds. Again, we appreciate your pointing it out.

    Cruising is a very interesting and eventful life. We look forward to reading about your adventures.

    Fair winds,
    j & E

  4. Ean, Hope you aren't losing Max Props?!

    1. You mean Max Prop singular. We lost the Max Prop on starboard a long time ago. Port side is still holding fine. No, this was just a fixed prop and we're replacing it with a fixed prop. When it's time to replace the Max Prop on port, we'll put a fixed prop on that side, too. It's just too expensive to replace Max Props every time one wants to fall off.

  5. I may have a fix for your props loosening up and falling off. I put up with the same on my Yanmar SD20s and fixed it with a new prop nut system from Seahawk. It includes a castle nut and the center bolt has a through hole. Line up the hole with the castle and secure with safety wire or a cotter pin. I haven't lost a prop since.

    The prop nut is available from Frank & Jimmie's Propeller Shop in Ft. Lauderdale @ $61 each. It's their part # MP14 - Seahawk locking nut system for Yanmar SD20 saildrive.

    Good Luck!

    Dot Dun

    1. Hi, Dot

      Who says whining doesn't pay? That's funny, we bought our (once) spare prop from Frank & Jimmy's. We have an SD31, but I bet Seahawk makes one for that model as well. We'll look into it when we get to our next port of call.

      Thanks for reading our blog. Hope you find it entertaining.