Log of Starlight, Big Major’s Spot

The family’s first sail on Starlight was from Nassau to big Major’s Spot in the Exumas. Everyone was excited as we finished last-minute preparations and fueled up just before leaving. The boat was over-full with fresh fruit and vegetables, and we had gallons of drinking water that could find no better home than the space under the saloon table. A big bag of ripe papayas rolled around near the nav table, but we were ready to go. The sun was shining, and the wind was blowing at 10 knots—perfect conditions for the family’s first sail. Too bad the wind was coming directly from where we wanted to go, but no matter. We got off to an inauspicious start when the engine began to sputter and die soon after leaving the dock. We had had this problem a few times on the way to Nassau from Ponce Inlet. There is some contamination in the fuel tank in the form of pieces of old rubber sealant or similar that are big enough to clog the fuel line or pickup. Usually, they clog the fuel line just after the shutoff valve on the tank, so it is relatively easy to remove them. I told Idoia that we needed to sail, even though we were still in the busy part of the harbor. She wasn’t thrilled about the prospect, but the wind was good, so we put the sails up and began tacking eastward. I went to work on the engine, only to soon discover that the fuel line just after the valve was clean. That meant the blockage was inside the tank, which is more problematic. I first tried poking the blockage out with a wire, but it was not enough. I tried blowing the blockage backward, but couldn’t get enough pressure with my lungs. I needed more pressure and volume. The dinghy pump turned out to be the solution. With the right adapter to shove the end of the hose into the valve on the fuel tank, I was finally able to blow the blockage out. I was showered with success as fuel gushed happily out of the clear line and valve. A nice, smelly mess to begin the trip, but nothing some paper towels couldn’t fix… The engine was now working, but we were sailing well, so we continued to tack eastward across the banks towards Ship Cut, which would let us out into Exuma Sound. We reached the Cut at about 0030 the next morning. The wind had come up enough for us to take two reefs in the mainsail, yet still sail at 6-7 knots. There was a slight chop in the Sound—about 2 feet—just enough to make sleep in the forward cabin uncomfortable. All of the family were seasick to varying degrees, but nobody was vomiting. The kids were heavily dosed with Meclazine, and mom and dad a little less. The medicine was doing the trick and nobody seemed too unhappy with the sailing conditions. I tacked out of the cut, which was deep and wide, although some depths were as much as ten feet less than charted on our Navionics charts. I never saw less than 14 feet, but when the depth went from 25 to 15 in just a few second, it reminded me that there were some big rocks down there and I didn’t want to find one with less than 6 feet over it. A couple of long tacks out in Exuma sound brought us to the cut just north of Staniel Cay. The cut was deep and easy to navigate, but finding our way through to the anchorage behind Big Major’s Spot was a little nerve-wracking. We bumped across one 6-foot spot and found good holding in 10 feet behind the Cay. The kids went to visit the pigs on the beach, but soon tired of all the feces in the water and on the beach, so we went to find a beach with “less poop”. A short dinghy ride brought us to a deserted beach that we all could enjoy peacefully. Idoia and I went out snorkeling, and the kids and mom splashed in the shallows. The snorkeling here is not great—most of the coral is dead and algae-covered, but we still saw some fish. Out near a drop-off, there was some live coral and better fish. Back at the boat, we had dinner of rice, onion, cabbage, and carrot, and turned in for a full night’s sleep. Now, we’re just getting ready to head south and east. Next planned stop—Matthew Town.

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