t has been a long time coming. We stopped at OPC for our second annual service visit to Yacht Tech but one thing after another kept us from an earlier departure to the Bahamas and points south. Over the past 90 days we have completed two dozen projects; installed a spare hydraulic steering pump, new bow rollers, hurricane lines, tender towing bridle, updated charts and guidebooks, replaced the forward head, replaced the cockpit awning, installed Huper Optik film on the forward pilothouse windows to reduce heat, etc. The most recent delay was a Lugger over-temperature problem. We could run the boat all day at cruise RPMs at normal temp (185F) but as soon as we would open the throttle the temp would begin to rise with no sign of stopping at the maximum of 205F. It required a month of work to figure it out. We started by flushing the grid cooler with muriatic acid; took the boat out on a seatrial, no joy. We then replaced all coolant hoses and installed new thermostats; took the boat out on a second seatrial, again no luck. Poor fluid flow through the cooler appeared to be the problem. We then replaced the circulation pump but found the old pump, while leaking and in need of replacement, would not have been the cause of poor flow. We then removed the aftercooler and had it flushed and pressure tested and reinstalled; conducted a third seatrial – success!! Apparently a combination of small issues led to the reduced coolant flow and symptoms. We now have the cleanest Lugger on the planet and it runs beautifully at all RPM. Fresh antifreeze, all new filters, oil, etc. We also serviced the genset and wing engines. Stocked the boat with food. We have 800 gallons of fuel aboard. We are ready.
The ride is lumpy at best. Weather forecast from Chris Parker suggested a late afternoon departure for a West-bound crossing. An hour out to sea and he releases an update suggesting an early Monday morning departure. Instead of 2-3 foot seas we encountered 3-5 right on the nose with an easterly wind. Choppy. Spray over the bow. Run the wipers. Our speed near the coast is reduced to 6 knots at times even though we are running at 1700 RPMs which generally produces 8 knots. A combination of northerly Gulf Stream currents and headseas slows us down. Soon the sun sets behind us and we are engulfed in darkness. I checked the navigation lights before departure; red on port, green on starboard and white steaming light on the stack all shine brightly. I forgot to run back to the stern and check it and, sure enough, it is not functioning. It is too rough outside to fiddle with the light as it is mounted 7 feet off the deck right at the back of the boat. So I improvise and tape an LED headlamp to the back door with Gorilla tape. I figure it will last a hour or two; amazingly it was still going strong at sunrise.
I run down to the engine room several times during the first couple hours to check on items we’ve serviced over the past 3 months. The IR temp gun shows the engine is running at a cool 177-178F at 1700 RPM; I’m delighted. The pilothouse temp gauge still reads high and will have to be fixed; a new sensor didn’t do the job.
Ship traffic was light in the Gulf Stream. One Coast Guard cutter and two southbound ships and that’s it. By the time we enter New Providence channel and are off Freeport the traffic picks up. One vessel is “hove to” 12 miles out on the radar. AIS data suggests we should pass safely astern. Several other vessels cross in front and behind but none required altering course or speed. We pound on.
Sleep on the first night out is a rarity for us; these conditions make it nearly impossible. I’m wide awake and stay at the helm till midnight. Deanna takes the helm for the midnight to 3 AM watch. She encounters no traffic. Conditions are slowly getting better. As conditions moderate our speed climbs to 8 knots. The moon rises and provides dim illumination of our surroundings through scattered clouds. The pounding is interrupted by short periods of relative calm; then back to pounding. I manage to sleep an hour or so but mainly simply enjoy being stretched out with eyes closed. Soon it is my watch and time for our 3-hour engine room check and fuel tank change. The Lugger hums along; the engine room is a cool 85F with outside air temps at 68F. Very nice.
By sunrise the seas have calmed considerably; four more hours to the Bullock’s Harbour waypoint, five hours to the marina. The Norwegian Pearl is visible on the horizon; she is anchored off Little Stirrup Cay while her passengers enjoy a day at the beach. We cross onto the banks and the 500+ foot dark blue seas change to 50 foot turquoise water and crystal clear. It is great being back in the islands! We reach our waypoint and slow down as we work our way the last 4-5 miles through shallow waters finally arriving at our destination at noon after a wait for a slip. Tesla and Tivoli are parked on a single long pier, Q flags flying, covered in salt, ready to clear customs.
Clearing in takes 15 minutes without fanfare; we have our 90-day cruising permit in hand, replace the Q flag with the Bahamian courtesy flag and are ready to explore.