Galley Wench Tales

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S/V Gallivant, sailing at a 15-degree tilt as an 18-knot wind angled at our boat’s bow.
Gallivant is a a Gulfstar 45; we were sailing the Bahamas Banks to Nassau.

We ended our excellent day of sailing from Bimini to our anchor point on the Grand Bahamas Banks with a bit of a head-scratcher. . . “Hmmm, that doesn’t make sense. According to our engine hour-meter, we only turned the engine on for six-tenths of an hour.”

In fact, of the eight and a half hours we sailed, we ran the engine for five hours. For five hours of an engine run, our voltage was inexplicably low. It would be equivalent to driving your car all day, and wondering if low batteries would prevent any electrically powered systems from working—lights, instrument panels turn signal indicators . . .  The difference is, most of us don’t live in our cars, and on a boat, the engine batteries power most of our systems—refrigeration and freezer, lights, the water pumps . . .  Our navigation systems also rely on power: our GPS/charplotter, our instruments to track the wind and our pace, our autopilot, our windlass [which drops and retreives our anchor], our radio communication . . .

We don’t spend much time plugged in to power on a dock, so when an engine run isn’t recharging our batterieis, it’s an issue.

One of our lighter moments of the day: this hitchhiker, as we approached Nassau, Bahamas.

Wayne figured out the two issues—the recharge failure and our engines stopped hour meter were related; that whatever wasn’t giving accurate hour-meter readings was linked to a disconnect between our engine run and our battery voltage. Once again, I am incredibly grateful for Wayne’s mechanical skill. I don’t believe we could do what we do without it.

We could’ve run our Honda generator to fill the gap, but we were pinching the wind on our passage, which meant we were sailing at too much of a tilt to safely run our generator.

We didn’t want this to happen!
Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

Meanwhile, we also discovered our bilge pump alarm works quite well! 

Justifiable reason to panic.
Photo by 
samer daboul from Pexels

When you hear that bilge siren scream, it’s a warning that if you don’t sort out the problem, your boat could sink. Wayne pulled out our boat’s system digram outlining all the boat’s thoughulls and bilge pumps, and then frantically pulled up our floorboard—painfully crunching his thumb in the process—until he found the source of the problem.

Due to the pitch we were sailing, our galley sink water drain hose went into reciculation mode, sending one of the bilges into re-cycling rather than draining the water out. This caused our bilge pump to go into overdrive. We slowed down, which, along with a bit of wind shift in direction and drop, our boat leveled out and the problem stopped. 

Chris(topher) and Chris(tine) of s/v Scintilla stuck nearby until they were confident we could safely limp into Nassau.

S/V Scintilla, sailing into Nassau Harbour. We were close behind, and led the way to the anchorage.

This car carrier slipped into Nassau Harbour right before us, delaying our passage to anchorage.

With a mix of sailing and motoring, we completed our 75 nautical mile passage, and arrived in Nassau in time to anchor before sunset. 

S/V Scintilla, with a taller mast than ours, makes it under a Nassau Bridge—barely.
It sure looked like out mast tip came close to grazing the low point if the bridge underside!

Given at 2 am or so the prior night (or, technically, earlier that morning), chop brought on by a brisk wind assertively hobby-horsed our boat, with a rocking motion from stern to bow and back, over and over, tugging on our anchor. When the time came to set sail at first light, we were already awake, but not well rested for the passage. Our anch held fast—a little too well—as it initially didn’t want to come up when the time came.

Did I mention we were tired?

After arriving in Nassau, Wayne devised a temporary work-around for our hour-meter and charging system. It’s not perfect, but it will work until Wayne puts the time in to do the more extensive rewiring to return it to working properly without requiring manual intervention on our part to turn the engine hour-meter on and off inside the engine room.

Location Location

Sun sets over Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. View from our anchorage.

We’re in Nassau tonight, 25 04.564N 77 18.652W, though the issues cropped up on the Grand Bahama Banks. Tomorrow we’ll head to Shroud Key in the Exumas, as there’s a wicked weather front coming in that will foroce us hunker for shelter for a while. We don’t want to spend the next 10 days or so in Nassau, so we’re getting while the going’s good. We we likely be out of wifi range for a while.

Atlantis Resort, Nassau Harbour. We anchored a bit past it, locating closer to
the less glamorous but more practical fuel dock and marine supply stores.
We’ll be far from anything like this in the Exumas.