Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bahama Charters Summer 2006

July 29th, 2006
O.K. I'm back in Ft. Lauderdale and it's time to catch up with the blogging. The problem is motivation! Right now it's pretty much all a blur and sooo "yesterday". Keeping a journal during the trip would help out in times like these, but when you're so tired you can't see straight their is little chance in writing down the days events. And even if you did it probably wouldn't be intelligible. So I'll just paint the picture in broad strokes, upload the pics and slip silently out the side door before anyone asks for their money back.

The first charter was a group of eight, two adult couples and their four children. They self-proclaimed themselves as "low maintenance" which of course they weren't even if they were refreshingly casual. The price for that refreshing-ness was too take the "Nestea Plunge" off the moral and legal tightrope of service into the murky liquid of customer satisfaction. See, the parents for whom we had trouble keeping liquor stocked, ice available and glasses full, let the two oldest kids (16 & 17) drink too. And when it came time for the adults to have a break from the kids and the kids to have a break from the parents it fell upon the stewardess or I to play babysitter. Only we weren't supposed to actually babysit so much as play the "cool uncle" who lets them get away with things to that fine edge right before everything goes horribly wrong. In other words let them do their thing, just don't let anything bad happen. Not the most comfortable situation in the world. To make a long story short we pulled it off, but not without some tense moments and ruffled feathers.

The charter took place mostly in The Abacos and to sum up the rest of the charter: I was worn out. Heading into the charter they boasted how they had so friends in the Abacos and continually had people on the boat to party. But in the end they seemed to dislike most of them! And so did I. Adding to the fatigue factor is the fact that I get an extra $500/wk to sleep on an air mattress in the pilot house which is not seperate in anyway from the rest of the boat and therefore not seperated from guest or crew traffic. And I was "late" person which meant staying up until 2 or 3am most nights and since I slept in the pilot house I was essentially first to rise also. Well, second to rise. As soon as the morning person was awake and about, so was I. Well, at least the "awake" part. This in conjunction with wearing so many hats really took its toll. I was Mate, Stew, Bartender, Gopher and Chaperon averaging at least 16 hours a day. Hey, but at least we got a good tip.

We had one day between the first charter and the second charter so there was no rest for the weary. Having been through the ringer the Captain decided to hire another stew to help us out. We really could have used an extra stew for the first charter. As it turns out, we really didn't need her at all for the next two. But we were stuck with her which was unfortunate because she was a real BITCH!! who thought the two implanted masses in her chest caused the Sun to revolve around her! Hey, but at least her shit didn't stink. That's always a nice thing when you're sharing a bathroom. Honestly, I was worried that if I had to listen to one more of her ignorant comments I was going to choke her out and throw her overboard. And I don't even kill mosquittos! But then a mosquito is less of a bloodsucker than she! Buddha help me!

So the second charter was only 5/day 4/nt. Pretty mellow. One of the woman was ill for 2 days. The kids were well behaved but really didn't take advantage of the toys. For that matter neither did the parents. Really kind of a dud. To make matters worse we had a serious mechanical failure. We are sailing along when I look over to the monitor showing the engine room and noticed it's filled with smoke. Great! Good thing I took that fire safety course. So I decide to call 911 and give directions to the fire department. Oh no, that won't work on a boat. So then I decide to put on the fire gear. Oh wait, we don't have any. OK. Feel the door for heat and charge in with my trusty and mighty fire extinguisher. Choking on the thick vapors, Eyes burning from black smoke, Intense heat searing the hairs off my body. Just kidding. No fire, just some smoke from a large rubber coupler which transfers power from the engine to the transmission. Didn't smell very nice though. And of course it meant we were down to one engine.

This slowed us down considerably so when we finally arrived at our intended marina I was very much looking forward to finishing the journey and docking up. Preferably, with one engine, you dock up bow first. It's just easier. So we intended to do this, but the marina informed us that since our power was in the rear we wouldn't be able to reach their power outlets if we went bow first. So we decided to dock stern-in, which led to a minor catastrophe which could and should have been completely avoided because what the marina told us regarding the power was complete bullshit and we could have came in bow first. So what's this minor catastrophe I speak of? Well as Pierre is backing the boat in with one engine and dealing with some current (not the easiest thing to do) he gets off course a bit. My job is to be his eyes and seeing eye dog so to speak so I get on the radio and tell him to abort and retry. He does and is more on course this time. But not perfectly. "Pierre your close to the piling. Stern to port.... Stern to PORT!... STERN TO PORT!!! Your not going to make it!!" And so he hits the piling which bends but fortunately doesn't break. As it turns out he was planning to use the piling as a bumper, if maybe not quite with as much force. The problem was with the rope which was resting on that piling and since it wasn't glued down promptly found it's way in to the water. Before I had time to scream into the radio "NEUTRAL" it was too late. Like iron to a magnet the rope was attracted to the prop and the two quickly became intimate. So now we are down to Zero engines. Luckily we were deep enough into the slip to catch a few lines, secure the boat and then pull it in by hand. The trick for me was managing my new found crew which instantly materialized to give us a hand. Nice sentiment, but as The saying goes, "too many chefs, spoil the pot". Something similar can be said for too many captains on one dock!
Well it took Pierre and I about 10 free-dives each to swim under the boat and cut the rope from the prop. I have a piece of it draped around the ships bell as a souvenir. Back up to one engine! Back in the game. Anyway, we got a bad tip from that one and were glad to move on. The question was whether or not we could get the boat fixed before the next charter. Luckily we had 6 days in between, but we are in the Bahamas not Ft. Lauderdale. Pierre had a mechanic come and check it out. "No problem Mon! Fix tit ina day" OK, we realize he's probably crazy, but it seemed to give Pierre some hope while I'm not at all convinced. The next day we get a second opinion which confirms our suspicion that the first mechanic had been smoking conch or something! "Big Job, Big Big Job. Nothing I can handle." Yup, gotta lift the 1100 HP engine and the tranny which probably weighs as much as the engine.

So we limp it to Nassau. There we contact a mechanic who actually rebuilt the very same engine a few years ago. He's good and knows his stuff. Only two hiccups. They don't have the part and it's the weekend of the 10th of July which is equal to our 4th of July. The Bahamas are 30 years young and they take the holiday as seriously as we do. If everything goes right and we get the part for them they say they can get the job done in time for the next charter.

Well, I'm not going to hide the fact that I was a little bitter about having to fly back to Lauderdale to track down a coupler and bolts while half the crew flew home to chill out and the other half stayed behind to chill out. However, I got it done and I guess I can chill out when I'm dead. So I brought back the part and bless their hearts the guys got the job done. We got the boat set and headed to Atlantis (arisen again) to pick up the third charter.

Atlantis is in Nassau and is themed after the lost continent of "Atlantis". It's new, cost a lot to build, has lots of stores and is very pretty. The kind of place I hate! Now of course their is no shortage of money (except on my boat) in the yachting world and you can find yourself in some very ritzy places: Miami, Monaco, Nice, Majorca, etc. In places like those you'd pay $2-3/ft for a dock space. In Atlantis it's $7/ft!!! It's completely insane! When you add in power (note the circuit breakers were mislabled) and water for a relatively small boat such as ours (95ft.) it's a $1000 per night to sit in their marina! I'm pretty sure I'll have the last laugh though when the next big hurricane comes and buries their precious little development right alongside the original Atlantis.

So the third and last charter. In a word excellent. And it was excellent because the guests were excellent. A Brit and Aussie family with sailing experience and just a real sound outlook on life. Their was Rachael (2yrs old), but no teenagers to worry about. The sons (in-laws) and daughter (in-law) were all 20 to 30 something and enjoyable to be around even if one son's girlfriend insisted on asking me fully loaded questions which no one in their right mind would answer like; "Who's your favorite guest?" or "Who's your favorite on the crew?" or "Who of the crew have you hooked up with?" Answers: "Yes, no and maybe!"

We had seen Nassau, The Abacos, The Eleuthras and so it was nice to get to see The Exumas on this trip. They are farther southeast and much less developed, in fact one of the islands is a protected national park complete with a pirates lair which we visited. So far I must say this area is the most enjoyable simply because it isn't developed as much. Nassau and the Abacos have more (well at least a bit more) life and entertainment, but if that's what you're looking for then why leave Ft. Lauderdale? The family jetskied, waterskied, tubed, fished, went on hikes with us and snorkeled almost everyday. They drank, as Brits and Aussies do, but they didn't show it. They were sincere and appreciative and it was an honor and a pleasure to have worked for them. If only they could all be like that.

Well, I'm running out of steam and I'm going to wrap it up. It was work, but it was a good experience. I don't have pics of everything so for the record I did get to drive the big and little boat, sniff out/deal with the aftermath of 3 burnouts, party, jetski, feed large formerly vegetarian/now carnivorous lizards, feed wild island pigs, snorkel with a pair of dolphins, a pair of reef sharks (5ft), on two plane wrecks and with countless fish and crustaceons of various size and color. Oh and I got a couple hours of sleep.

I hope you enjoy the pics.......DJ
Carpe diem