No wind, no seas, no land, no engine!

March 18: A second blog today because there is so much to share.

It takes two days to cross the Little Bahama Banks in a sailboat. The first day from Spanish Cay takes you to the anchorage at Sale Cay. This was the day we were waiting for, winds from the East-NorthEast, calm seas. Once leaving the breakwater at Spanish Cay Marina we put up sails, cut the engine and sailed all day until we had to drop anchor at Sale Cay. A spaghetti dinner, wine and calm night.

Sale Cay anchorage

True North at anchor

We met up with True Star, at the anchorage, 40+ foot Island Packet that we had docked with on Grand Bahama Island. I took this photo of them at anchor and tried to reach them to have them take one of us, but they didn’t have their radio on, so no photo of Silver Girl.

The weather for Saturday sounded much like Friday and we were looking forward to a second day under sail. We left the anchorage at first light so we would have time to sail back to West End, even if the wind slackened. It was not to be. We had NO wind.  So we were dependent on our “trusty” 26 horsepower diesel, pushing us along at 7 miles per hour. We expected a rather boring day and it was hot. The first day we didn’t need jackets or even long-sleeved shirts while on the water then…

Just after lunch, which we ate on the cockpit table, the engine lost power and quit. Rather than drop anchor we hosted the mainsail and had 3 mph of wind that at least allowed us to stay on course and not lose anymore ground while Ed did some quick problem-solving and  changed the fuel filter since she acted like she was not getting fuel.

Ed and engine

I’ll let Ed pick it up from here.

I managed to get it limping along by using the fuel lift pump.It’s tense depending on a non-reliable engine. I had the Indian Cay Channel to navigate, a shallow channel near the end of our day and just before West End. The Cruising Guide to Abaco Bahamas suggests only using this passage if you are knowledgable about “reading” the water and have reliable engine. The sail would have to come down to assure accurate passage. We were dependent on the engine for this last 9 miles. 

Indian Cay Channel

I did have a reliable depth finder. I knew the engine was reliable at 1,900 rpm but I wasn’t sure what would happen if I had to cut power-as I had to do to dock. I wasn’t bored the rest of the afternoon. Jan and I discussed anchoring at Mangrove Cay if the engine failed again but at that point it was running steadily as long as I didn’t push the rpm.

The mechanic who had serviced my engine in Daytona Beach before this trip had already proven to be incompetent, so I retraced what he had done. Sure enough, he had left a fuel hose clamp loose at the primary fuel filter, so the engine was sucking air mixed with the diesel fuel. I think I have that fixed now. I have run it 20 minutes at high rpm at the dock. Tomorrow we’ll find out when we start across the Gulf Stream to the US. The plan is to turn back at the slightest indication of trouble. But tomorrow at least we are supposed to have wind from the East and it is the only possible day to cross in the near future. Wish us luck. This has not been a boring trip!

West End, Grand Bahama Island

Jan and Ed


About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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2 Responses to No wind, no seas, no land, no engine!

  1. TBC says:

    Isn’t incompetence wonderfully frustrating? And isn’t competence the saving grace? Thank heavens you both come under the latter category, not the former.

    So if you’re headed back to the good ol’ US of A, when will you be home? We miss you at Cup-a-Joe.

    Hugs to you both,

    TBC and Arnie

    • ejhowle23 says:

      back in the US tonight. 5 days to Daytona, a day to off-load and two more home. When does that get us there? Around the end of the month, I think. Assuming we can move everyday. Crossing was-well, what can I say, it’s the Gulf Stream. Tired tonight!

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