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27 April 2011

Taking care of business (not without pleasure)

So we realized sometime after we left Emerald Bay that our (brand new) refrigeration system was not really cooling as it should. It had been excellent all through the trip down the ICW and across to Bimini and down the Berry's and Exumas. By the time we got to Provo ice was melting in the freezer, drinks were not cold in the fridge, and we started to worry that if we were leaking freon we would burn out the compressor. So, we took some of the meat and poultry to the freezer that that South Side keeps for ice, and asked Bob, the proprietor, if he could track down a refrigeration technician. The first guy was booked until the next century, but he did find someone to come out yesterday. He was more than competent, quite thorough, and diagnosed the problem within an hour - a pinprick hole in the plate that surrounds the freezer compartment.
Full disclosure - JP bought an ice pick for Leigh to keep her from using the can opener to break up the ice. This may have been a tactical error, but we now know that the plate is considerably more fragile than we thought, whatever might have been the cause of the hole.
By last evening, the hole was well patched and the fridge and freezer back to full function - but we spent the entire day on the boat, despite having picked up a rental car in the morning. We dined out at the Tiki Hut at Turtle Cove Marina - that's the sunset picture above.
Today we waited a little while for the technician to return (to confirm that the fix worked, and to get paid), but decided to head off for our errands late morning. A marine chandlery, a home depot type place, a bookstore, a pharmacy and a supermarket. These are places that we have never seen in the islands - the home depot type place and the supermarket in particular are completely US style (at about double US prices, granted). I walked around the supermarket with my mouth hanging open - it could have been Publix, or a super Stop and Shop, or a brand new Safeway.

Between our trip to the chandlery and the home depot we went to lunch at "da Conch Shack" which has one of the best locations on the Island, and really good food. The conch items (conch salad and cracked conch) were good - the fried grouper was excellent. The rum punch wasn't bad either.

After putting away the overabundance of food that we bought (in celebration of the fridge/freezer fix AND the supermarket), we stayed on board this evening, eating chili and listening to the 30+ knot winds that are blowing, even in the marina. Should lie down a bit by tomorrow (Thursday) evening, but we probably will stick here until early Saturday morning before resuming our journey to the southeast.

25 April 2011

Raconteur's third country

Raconteur will be ten years old sometime later this year; she is a 2001 Hunter 410, though for some reason she has a 2002 hull number. Her first owners kept her in Delray Beach, Florida and made regular trips to the Bahamas; we brought her home in the summer of 2005 and then made our first trip to the Bahamas in early 2009, and of course returned in early 2011.
After our two-part Bahamas cruise this year - Lauderdale to Bimini, the Berry Islands, New Providence, and the Exumas down to Emerald Bay in the first leg, and then Emerald Bay to Long Island, to Conception, to Rum and to Mayaguana in the far southeast in the second leg - we headed off yesterday very early to Providenciales (aka Provo) in the Turks and Caicos. Here is JP, taking down the Bahamas courtesy flag, and raising the quarantine flag, which we will fly until we check in to the TCI.

We made it here ahead of winds from the south that have settled in now, through sometime late Friday. We are at a small very cruiser-friendly marina called South Side, so will probably rent a jeep tomorrow and tour Provo, and may try to find a surveyor and see if we can get a quick haul-out at a nearby shipyard. We have to do it by late June or so, and so would have tried it in Grenada or Trinidad, but as JP is fond of saying, what's done is done.
Good internet access here, so more posts and pictures to come. Here are the most recent photos of our journey from Mayaguana to Provo.

22 April 2011

Heading south and east

We have been at Rum Cay since Wednesday, thinking we would need to wait out some weather, but have decided that we still have a window ahead of it to make a good run, with winds from the northeast, from here to Mayaguana, about 145 nauticals. We can bail out to Crooked Island if it is too rough out there, but if we don't go now we are going to be stuck again next week when the wind clocks to the south.

Rum Cay is gorgeous; you can go to to see the album of our trip from Georgetown to Long Island to Conception to Rum.

but here are a couple of pictures.


We had the most amazing meal at Kaye's last night (that's her in the first picture above); she cooks in a kitchen that is about the size of our galley but considerably older, and we had a feast. Some kind of soup, followed by grilled wahoo, a potato-lima bean casserole, one of the best cabbage salads I have ever had, if not the best, and, of course Bahamian peas and rice. $20 a head.

Once we reach Mayaguana, I may be have email but probably no other internet access. We will need to hang there until the middle of next week (27th or 28th) before we make the easterly run to the Turks and Caicos.

Having a blast...big surprise. Looking forward to the next legs of the journey.

Oh, one more cooking note. Made a fish chowder in the pressure cooker yesterday, first making fumet from the grouper parts (and ceusing our grouper fingers and some frozen scallops. It will be our dinner underway tonight.

16 April 2011

The Galley

This is a photo of Raconteur's galley, taken today from the companionway steps. I am doing a little pre-cooking for the trip, as mentioned. Last night I did pork chops with potatoes and carrots in the pressure cooker; it actually tasted pretty good. It was a VERY basic recipe (no experimenting with more complex or expensive items, though meat and fresh vegetables are plenty expensive in the Bahamas, since nearly everything is imported), but the flavor was absolutely remarkable, and the cooking time amazing. The prep is very similar to conventional recipes (no avoiding peeling and chopping duties) and it is best to brown meats first, which I did, but once the chops and the veggies were in, it took about 10-12 minutes to come up to pressure, and 15 to cook, and then maybe 10 or so before I put it on the table. Pork was not overcooked, veggies were tasty, and if I wanted I could easily have thickened the sauce for a proper gravy.
Today I tried chili. It came out a little less thick than we normally like, but we sampled a bit for lunch and again the taste is amazing considering we typically cook our chilis for hours and hours - this was 13 minutes under pressure. Put three medium and two smaller Sterilite containers in the freezer.
This is the floor space of the galley - I can put one foot in front of the other five times from the aft cabin door to the sink, and three times from the oven to the companionway steps, four from the fridge to the bottom of the companionway.

The Force 10 oven holds a 10" pizza pan, and though we don't have one, it would JUST hold an 11X13 baking dish. We store the 6 quart pressure cooker there when we aren't using it or the oven (it hangs out in the aft cabin while we are baking). Here's the oven and stove, and yes that is a little microwave built into the cubby above the stove. We don't use it a lot, though when we are making passages, we switch on the inverter and use it to reheat our dinner (things like the pre-made chili):

The giant cutting board you can see in the first photo is one of our best investments - it is custom made to fit on top of the stove, providing additional surface. It's heavy and you have to watch to keep your fingers out of the way when moving it around, but it's a great thing.

There is never enough fridge or freezer space, and what is there is awkward, but many earlier boats don't even have the luxury of such systems. You may remember we replaced "the system" in 2010, and I say nice things about it every day. So what is in there now?

Fridge: English muffins; celery, carrots, spring onions, small sweet peppers, two heads of romaine, oranges, limes, lemons, two and a half semi-ripe (!) tomatoes, six leeks, a half pint of cream, various canned drinks (tonic, club soda, beer, ginger beer, V8, coke, ginger ale...) a plastic bottle of cranberry juice, several pints of OJ, two 16-oz containers of sour cream, various cheeses including extra sharp cheddar, colby, a wedge of "Italian", some shredded parmesan, two kinds of butter...that's what I can think of without looking.

Freezer: newly made chili; beef tenderloin bought whole and untrimmed and cut into a 1+kilo roast, nine 200-300 gram steaks, and a 250 gram "tail"; a large pork tenderloin; ten pounds of chicken quarters; a bottle of gin, a bottle of vodka, one and a half large bags of ice cubes; one package of English muffins; a one pound bag of tiny frozen scallops; a one pound package of bacon; a smoked sausage link and a kielbasa link, and some brown-and-serve sausage.

So you can see what is on MY mind today...

We are getting ready to set off toward Long Island (the north coast) tomorrow morning, and then from there to Conception. We are too out of practice to take on a 45+ mile journey all at once! Susan and JP replaced the bung for the dinghy, and did some stainless polishing (read: rust removal) while I was cooking this morning, and all that will be left is to top off the water tanks today, and stop for fuel on our way out of the marina in the morning.

Probably no internet until we hit Rum Cay later in the week.

15 April 2011

Back aboard, at last

After more than six weeks away, we limped back to the boat on Wednesday the 13th. I brought a HORRIBLE flu back from DC and promptly gave it to both my sister (who had the good sense to go to the doctor for Tamiflu and cough syrup) and to JP - he and I just collapsed in a heap for a week. This year: FLU SHOTS ALL AROUND.
Raconteur is in beautiful shape, although the zincs had in fact totally died, as we feared they might. Susan replaced two of the three yesterday (see photo - lovely job; these are on the under the boat, on the propeller shaft, just forward of the prop) but the third was missing its screws and we could not find any metric screws today to replace, that job remains for another day.
Provisioning here is very good; we have used both the Emerald Isle market (the marina shuttles guests in a golf cart) and Exuma Markets (by taxi today; thank you, Bernse!) and now we are stuffed to the gills. I am working up my courage to tackle the pressure cooker for dinner (pork chops) and for some pre-trip cooking (Chili and Ham and Split Pea soup) - I am not afraid of it exploding or anything, but I fear my ability to make anything taste good. I will report back in a future blog post.
We will head to Conception Island tomorrow or Sunday, after topping off the diesel and the water, then south to Rum Cay and down the rest of the Bahamas chain to Mayaguana. To the Turks and Caicos from there, and then a short (90 mile) passage to the Dominican Republic - about two weeks or so from now, conditions (weather and crew) permitting.
It is NICE to be back.

02 April 2011

Getting ready to go (again)

Not exactly tropical...had to buy boots for our visit to Montreal the first week of March.

Now I qualify as a totally indifferent blogger...I have been using the photos that I post (now with captions, thanks to my friend Ellen in Portland) as a way of keeping everyone up to date on Raconteur's adventures, but thought I would try blogging again for a bit.
Raconteur ended up staying in Lauderdale a bit longer than planned, as Susan's dad Calvin died on the first of January. We stayed in NH to be with Susan's mom, and JP made a trip to Europe to see our client there, and to see his folks, so we didn't head for the Bahamas until the 3rd of February. We arrived in Bimini after about a 15 hour passage, and then headed down the chain. Here is the link to the photos from that three week trip:

We got to Emerald Bay near Georgetown, on Great Exuma, on the 26th of February, and then headed back to Lauderdale on the 28th. We had commitments in Montreal and in Europe again, and Susan wanted to spend some additional time with her mom, AND I needed to hit DC/MD for a few days to check in with colleagues and to see how the Maryland house is doing. MY mom actually flew from Lauderdale to Baltimore yesterday so we could spend some time together.

We had met some really nice people on S/V EƤrendil; we saw the boat for the first time when we were anchored in the Berry Islands, and then got to meet Jill and Bud and Fuzzy at a cruiser's party on Warderick Wells, and then anchored next to them by chance at Big Majors. ANYWAY - THEY kindly reported on Raconteur's well-being a few days ago when they stopped at Emerald Bay, and we are hoping to catch them when we get back, before THEY head Stateside.

So...we head for Georgetown this coming Wednesday morning, and will re-provision there (having given away or ditched all perishables when we left; Raconteur is plugged in to shore power but we couldn't risk the fridge and freezer stuff for six weeks). By the weekend we should be on our way to the southernmost Bahamas, and from there to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and (drumroll) THE CARIBBEAN). It is probably very bad luck to make any predictions from there, but the general plan is to be in Trinidad by the 1st of July or so.

Will post again when we are back on board.