Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Friends to the Rescue in Cambridge Cay, Exuma

Rachel at Cambridge Cay in the Exuma Islands
                                                                                                                                                                                           There are no guarantees for "smooth sailing" in life or when cruising in the islands or anywhere for that matter and anyone who has sailed for any length of time knows with almost certainty something is bound to break along the way. When an incident occurs it's comforting to know that there's a community of cruising friends who will undoubtedly offer assistance or at  the very least advice. The SSB (single sideband radio) community has proven to be one that will not only offer advice but, will ponder your maintenance issues until they've been resolved. Another advantage of cruising has been the true friends we've made along the way. We're all in the same boat and at times rely upon each other for moral   support, knowledge and occasionally, a helping hand.

     Recently, while spending time at Big Major's Spot we put out a query over the SSB net airwaves relating to our malfunctioning outboard dinghy engine. During a grocery shopping expedition from Big Major's to Staniel Cay Joe purchased gas for the dinghy outboard. After adding the new gas to the tank there was clearly an issue. The engine would start, run for a few minutes, sputter and peter out. Even though water in the gas was suspected Joe attempted to rule out other possible culprits by changing the fuel filter, spark plug and Racor filter. Nothing worked. I must give him credit because he refused to give up even though the situation was discouraging. Throughout the long afternoon, Joe continued to work tirelessly on the outboard. "It's new, it's a Yamaha and it shouldn't be having issues!" I agreed but, being without a dinghy on a boat is akin to being marooned in a house without a car. There are no trips ashore, no visits to friends boats, not jaunts around the harbor. It's quite isolating unless you have a penchant for swimming ashore and once you're arrived you're obviously dripping wet. Where could you expect to go at that point other than a wet T-shirt contest?

Markand Julie
Mark and Julie from Rachel at Cambridge Cay, Exuma Islands
     The query that Joe asked on the SSB net concerning our issue with the outboard resulted in positive results. Our friends Jim and Laurie aboard Kismet were anchored at nearby Cambridge Cay catching up with old friends Mark and Julie aboard Rachel. Evidently, they'd overheard our plea and invited us to join them at Cambridge Cay where Mark, an outboard engine aficionado offered to assist us with a professional diagnosis. Feeling relieved Joe prepared for our next day mid-morning departure north to Cambridge.

     The sail to Cambridge was quick and painless until we reach the narrow coral head studded passage into the anchorage. I was unprepared for the tension of negotiating a zig zag rock and coral strewn, unmarked passage entrance. There were no navigational marks. Close attention had to be payed to the charts, GPS and "eyeball" navigation. I'd developed a slight tension headache when we'd  finally reached the safety of the anchorage.

Joe diving near Cambridge Cay, Exuma
    Most of the anchorage at Cambridge Cay has been taken up by Exuma Land and Sea Park moorings. Mark and Julie work as mooring hosts for the Park so we chose a mooring close to theirs. Mark arrived shortly after lunch, listened to our tale of woe and the sputtering engine. He felt that the least invasive approach was prudent and offered a water filtering funnel and a fresh gallon of gas to facilitate the diagnosis. The boys let the engine run for a while and it was clear that gas was the culprit. Joe spent the next two days filtering the gas that was purchased. He did get a dive in at a couple of interesting spots and was most relieved that the outboard was once again running and reliable thanks to the kindness of friends.

     The experience reiterates the importance of self-reliance when cruising in this area. Carrying spare parts, repair manuals, patience and the ability to problem solve. When all else fails it's great to know that a community of friends is there willing to offer a helping hand.