03 Feb 2007 – Warderick Wells (Exuma Land & Sea Park), Bahamas

Happy Hour at Exuma Park
Kids, kids, kids!!!
Views from the boat following the storm
Looking back at Exuma Park HQ

After a truly amazing stop at Shroud Cay, an island in the Exuma Land & Sea Park, we sail to Warderick Wells, the park headquarters.  What do we find but kids, kids, kids!!!  There are 5 boats with kids – all older but who’s counting years.  Finn & Teague are thrilled to see the girls from Seaductress and Spoony.  That night there’s “happy hour” with a bonfire on the beach.  It’s BYOB but the park supplies the ice… which is a priceless commodity in this area where fresh water and refrigeration are virtually non-existant.  The kids get to play and roast marshmallows and return to the boat absolutely exhausted.  We get to hang out with other adults who understand the challenges of being cruising parents (there are no babysitters on cruising boats…)

The next day we’re planning to leave so we can get to Staniel Cay to get much needed provisions, propane, fuel and water.  Megan is fitful that we’ll run out of food.  The water we took on from the cistern at the abandoned drug lord’s complex was a helpful supplement but we'll need more soon.  And propane is getting very, very low thanks to the wonderful fresh bread Megan is baking every day (bread, if you can get it, is ultra-expensive).  But all the boats with kids are staying and we have a hard time depriving the boys of a chance to see other kids.  The weather is going to get bad so if we decide to stay for one day, we’ll need to stay for three to weather the storm.  At Warderick Wells you can’t anchor and have to pay for a mooring.  Four days of moorings isn’t in the budget but fortunately volunteers get free moorings.  Megan and I take turns volunteering at the park to get two free days. 

During the stormy squalls Monday, I work with Roger from Seaductress to do some structural carpentry repairs and fiberglass prep work on a very used Carolina Skiff that was donated to the park.  The next day Megan and Roger complete the fiberglass work, dig a ditch and work in the park’s garden… which pays off handsomely.  Megan returns to the boat with fresh tomatoes, basil, cilantro and green peppers.  There are few things worth more in the out islands than fresh veggies where a cucumber could cost you $7.00!  The look on her face when she returns to the boat with an armload of produce is triumphant!

During our stay at Warderick Wells, I am trying to figure out why our refrigeration is working overtime.  We have a good system mechanically but a poorly insulated box.  The refrigerator seems to be coming on all the time and our batteries are constantly being drained.  In the colder climates, our solar panels alone seemed to handle the demand.  In the southern climate, we might need to run the engine an hour a day.  Now it seems like we need to run it for an hour in the morning and two at night!  I tried spraying foam around the box but it only seemed to get worse.  I get out my gauges and add more refrigerant to the system.  I clean the filters for the cooling water.  I start monitoring the water temperature.  I begin a log of how much it is running searching for answers.  Nothing seems to help.  We buy two blocks of ice to keep in the bottom to see if that will help reduce the run time.  Immediately after that I notice the temperature guage starts climbing way up while the system is running.  This just isn’t possible!  I throw open the fridge and finally have an ah-ha! moment.  The little temperature sensor that is supposed to tell the system to turn off when the cold plate inside the fridge is cold enough has pulled away from the cold plate and is dangling in the air near the top of the fridge.  I touch it to the cold plate and watch the temperature gauge plummet to -7 degrees!  For a week the system had been trying to freeze air instead of the coldplate.  The fridge is actually supercooled and we have been wasting diesel running the engine unnecessarily for hours.  For a moment I feel brilliant for having figured it out.  But that moment quickly passes and I soon feel like an idiot for having taken so long to figure out something so simple and so costly.

The next to last day at Warderick Wells, our friends Buzz and Rosemary (Steadfast) show up and bring a goody bag of treats over for the boys.  Buzz and Rosemary have been so kind to the boys.  We first met them on Halloween when they invited us to come trick-or-treat at their boat at a marina in Norfolk.  Before we leave on Wednesday we dinghy over to Steadfast to deliver thank you cards the boys have made and have a really nice visit with Buzz, Rosemary and their visiting daughter Chrissy who is a very talented artist. She shows us some of her fantastic watercolors. And then entertains Finn & Teague with Steadfast's washdown hoses and a waterfight!

Then we’re off for the best day of sailing we’ve had in a long time.  Of course, we still need to run the engine for a while so we can finally top up the batteries after the refrigeration fiasco.

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