|The trip from Havana: After clearing Cuban
Immigration/Customs/Harbor Master/Coast Guard (about 6 folks came aboard
this time) we left Havana Feb 25 at 1000 and motor-sailed nonstop to Nassau
arriving outside of Nassau Harbor on Feb 27 around 1800. The first day
out was great, the first night sucked and then the rest of the trip was a
walk in the park.
|Our route from Havana to Nassau is interesting. On a map the shortest
route leads east across the Great Bahama Bank and passes south of Andros
Island into the "Tongue of the Ocean" then north to New Providence Island
where Nassau is. On a map it looks straightforward. On the other hand
a nautical chart showsthat if you were to "follow your nose to the Bahamas"
your course would lead you across the Great Bahama Bank. The chart shows
that the entire bank is shallow, much of it is single digit depth and it is
riddled with coral heads. That's not to say that it's not navigable but
navigating it is a risky proposition during good conditions and dangerous
during poor conditions or at night.
|Soooo, from Havana Sister motor sailed her big ol self northeast in the
Straits of Florida to a point north of Bimini then east into the Northwest
Providence Channel then southeast to Nassau. It added considerable length
to our trip but we were in deep water the whole way and I like it like that.
|Over the last few years several cruise ship companies have bought entire
islands in the Bahamas to use as private recreation spots for their
passengers. On our way through the NW Providence Channel we passed one of
these islands (part of a group of Bahamian islands called the Berry
islands). Before we could see any trace of an island we saw a cruise ship.
Nothing unusual, we see lots of cruise ships. We watched the ship for a
while and decided that it wasn't moving. It was pretty strange, could it be
in trouble? Next we saw something in the sky near the ship. It was moving
slowly and staying in close proximity to the ship. We thought it might be a
helicopter and that the ship might actually be in trouble. Still no
island in sight. Finally we began to be able to make out an island. Was
the ship aground? Nope! It was just anchored at the company's private
island and letting its' passengers have a go. The "helicopter" turned out
to be a parasail operation run from the ship.
|Most boats enter Nassau Harbor via the main channel, which runs south
into the harbor and then turns east to the cruise ship and commercial docks.
Soon beyond these docks the channel becomes much shallower and passes under
two major bridges (one guzonta Paradise Island and one guzoffa Paradise
Island), past several marinas then on to the east and out onto the Great
Bahama bank. The clearance for each bridge is about 69 feet. Sister's mast
is about 73 feet tall. Ergo we can't enter the harbor the way "most" boats
do. The only alternative entrance to the harbor is from the east where
there is lots of shallow water, rocks and coral heads. We definitely did
not want to have to negotiate this entrance in poor light so, having arrived
just before dusk, we decided to spend the night anchored in some of the
shallow water and make the entrance in the morning when the sun would be at
our backs. The night was beautiful, the water was calm and there was a fine
"sleeping" breeze blowing. We anchored, ate, showered, had a couple of
mediocre Cuban beers, congratulated ourselves on a good trip from Cuba and
|Our self raising anchor: About 0100 the shit hit the fan.
Let me set the stage. We were plenty tired and really needing a good sleep
but it's tough for me to completely relax whenever we're at anchor and
especially when we're in an unfamiliar, relatively open anchorage like
ours. Consequently I was sleeping fitfully when I heard an awful
grating/grinding noise. In the classic response I jerked up and thunked my
head painfully on the overhead. I would have laughed except it hurt so much
and the awful noise was still going on. The noise continued for several
seconds then abruptly stopped. I thought we could have been dragging the
anchor and bouncing the hull along the bottom or along a rock but the
weather was so calm that dragging the anchor was unlikely.
|We could have been hit by another boat but I couldn't hear another boat
and it just didn't feel like we'd been hit. I checked our anchor light to
make sure we were visible to other boats ... it wasn't on. I flipped a
light switch but the light didn't come on. I tried another ... no light. I
went above to check out the surroundings. Allowing for a little swing on
the anchor we were pretty much in the exact spot where we had anchored.
Further, there were no other boats in sight. There was no apparent damage
to the boat but we had no 24 volt DC, which meant no lights. Investigating
with a flashlight I found a major (160 AMP) fuse blown. The fuse fed most
of the lighting and, here's a clue, the anchor winch (the windlass).
|I went forward and saw that the anchor had been partially raised. At
risk of providing too much detail here's what had happened. After setting
the anchor I usually tie a nylon line (we call it a snubber) to the chain,
set the bitter end of the line on one of our forward cleats and let the
anchor chain out until the snubber goes taut. Now the chain between the
windlass and the point where the snubber is attached to the chain is slack
and there is no more strain on the windlass. The whole point is to reduce
the wear and tear on the expensive windlass. What had happened was
that the anchor "system", completely of it's own accord, started lifting the
anchor. It was doing nicely until the snubber wrapped itself around the
windlass which caused the windlass to grind to a halt, putting a huge load
on it's electrical supply and blowing the fuse.
|I knew that I had a fancy anchor control system but I also knew that
that system did NOT have any sort of "auto raise" feature. By this time I
was just happy to have isolated the source so, after blowing one more fuse
(a $40 fuse as it turns out) during the diagnostic exercise, I turned off
the windlass system and went back to bed.
|The next morning I traced the problem to the electronic windlass control
on the pedestal in the cockpit. I disconnected this device from the
windlass relay, turned the windlass power back on and the fuse remained in
tact. We were able to use the foot switches on the foredeck to raise
|It was nearly two weeks later before I disassembled the anchor controls
and found what had caused the problem. The manufacturer had discovered an
error on the printed circuit board (pcb) in the controller. To fix the
error he had soldered a resistor onto the board. One resistor lead was
connected to +24VDC, the other to a component on the board. The resistor
leads were unprotected and inevitably the lead that was connected to +24VDC
contacted another trace on the pcb. Unfortunately, for us, the other trace
went to a connecter and ultimately to the "UP" control on the windlass and
up came the anchor ... at least until the snubber saved the day (or saved
the night in this case).
|Hallberg-Rassy says that ours is the only boat that they've ever
installed this type of windlass control on (they weren't enthusiastic when I
ordered it). The windlass manufacturer says he's changed the design to the
problem should go away. I'm going to try to convince him to recall the
|Our experience was not so awful if you consider some of the
possibilities. We could have been ashore with Sister anchored without
a snubber, in which case she would have been set adrift to find shallow
water and/or rocks and/or other boats and/or ??? We could have been at sea
and lost our navigation and autopilot systems when the 24VDC went away.
Someone could have been entangled in the suddenly operating windlass/anchor
chain/snubber. We've read about folks losing limbs in windlass/anchor
|The next morning: As the crow flies we were about 3 miles
outside of Nassau. The route we had to follow, avoiding the aforementioned
rocks, coral and shallow water, was about 6 miles long. We proceed
cautiously, at about 3 knots, with Andy on the bow looking for submerged
hazards. It's not that we were completely blind. We had paper and
electronic charts for the area and I had plotted a "safe" course for us to
enter the harbor. We followed the course precisely. On the other hand
the Bahamas are notorious for shallow water and underwater hazards and it
was our first time in Bahamian waters so we were, perhaps, a bit over
cautious. In any event we arrived at the marina, Nassau Harbor Club,
without having touched anything but water.
|Customs and Immigration check-in was a breeze. One Customs lady came to
the boat, interviewed us, took our $100 check-in fee, issued us a cruising
permit and a fishing license and left. Soon thereafter a representative
from Immigration arrived and it took about 2 minutes to deal with him. We
dropped our quarantine flag and relaxed.