“Welcome back to Florida,” says Lightning Strike

We arrived at our marina on a Wednesday. On Thursday, less than 24 hours later, we were struck by lightning…well, not us, the mast.

Before the storm, we had had a great 24 hours! We scarfed down amazing dinner at Scotty’s Brewhouse. Spicy BBQ chicken wrap with pineapple, mmmmmm. We found and bought our summer car, a Ford Focus.

Thursday afternoon, a pretty typical scenario for an afternoon summer thunderstorm in Florida ensued. A nasty cell moved in quickly and the winds picked up, giving us a nice heel in our slip. According to our wind speed gauge, gusts were nearing 40 knots (about 46 mph). The sky was an ominous black. And as usual, there was a ton of lightning. Troy went outside on the dock to adjust a fender…not having been in the marina for even 24 hours, he wanted to make sure we weren’t rubbing the dock. I stood in the companion way watching the lightning flash from every direction.

The loudest clap of lightning happened while Troy was still on the dock. I yelled at him to get inside. But before I could get the words out, I began smelling a burning/electrical smell. As he climbed back aboard, I immediately shouted, “Something’s burning!” We quickly shut off anything powered…the house battery bank, the outlets, the ac, and the shore power.

Once we realized nothing was on fire, Troy immediately went into search mode. He was looking for any signs of damage. The burning smell was coming from the air conditioning in the forward hanging locker. No smoke or fried wires. Instead, the burning came from the electrical board.

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At this point, we still didn’t for certain know we were struck by lightning. When that giant clap of lightning happened, my hair wasn’t standing on end and nothing exploded, shook …or whatever is supposed to happen when a boat gets struck by lightning. We thought it might have been a power surge from the shore power.

Next, Troy got on the phone with a company who had the replacement electrical board for the a/c. It would be here by 5:00 the next day! That was AMAZING…since the boat was already getting hot!

Troy continued searching for damage. After checking all systems, we discovered that these items weren’t working…

-a/c electrical board

-refrigerator

-mast light

-wind speed transducer and display

-autopilot

-depth display

-VHF antenna

-propane on/off switch

-spreader and steaming light

-a few random lightbulbs in the cabin

-Wi-Fi antenna and router

-TV antenna

All in all, we thought we got pretty lucky. No severe damage to the boat itself. No fried wires. No blown through hulls. We were fine…and the sunset that evening was not too shabby.

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The next day, the harbormaster emailed me a video of the strike from the surveillance cameras. And there you can see it…a clear lightning strike to a mast at our side of the marina. After the strike, we can see a nice fiery spark off the side, which we presume was our VHF antenna going for a ride. The camera was far away, so we couldn’t not see that it was our boat specifically, but no one else reported any damage…so it had to be us.

Over the next several days, Troy went to work diagnosing each non-working system. Thankfully, we found that many things could be narrowed down to smaller parts and it wasn’t that we had lost the entire system. For example, the depth transducer was fine, we just needed a new display. And the propane solenoid needed to be replaced…we didn’t lose the wiring. When the fridge went out, Troy discovered that the only thing that needed to be replaced was the cooling fan…which we found at Best Buy for $10.00. The cooling fan is EXACTLY the same as a computer fan.

At this point, we only have the autopilot left to be addressed. As long as we don’t have to replace it entirely, we’ve estimated total damage to not reach more than $1,000.00. Yes, it stinks to lose a grand…but it could’ve been a lot worse. I think it is pretty safe to say, I HATE thunderstorms now!

From Nassau to the Berry Islands

We pulled into our slip at Palm Cay Marina just in time before an afternoon thunderstorm began. We were happy to see the familiar faces of SV Elysian and thankful that they were willing to catch lines for us as we docked. I don’t think any sailors turn down extra hands for catching lines when docking!20180611_164837

The marina had just reduced their rates for the summer season, so we decided to stay a total of four nights, rather than two, like we had planned. Our four days were spent enjoying land-comforts…laundry, hot showers, wi-fi, and grocery stores. A full-size grocery store was built since our last visit, just a mile or so down the road, so we walked and brought our rolly-cart to carry groceries. We reprovisioned on essentials and bought a few special items…deli subs, Alexia sweet potato fries, and a few cartons of strawberries.

Back on solid ground, I decided to give running a go for the first time in months. I hadn’t run since we left home back in February. Early on the second morning in Nassau, I dug out my running shoes and went for it. My old pace (8:35/mi) was long gone, but I was shooting to keep in under 10-minute miles…I succeeded, barely, at 9:45/mile. I ran a total of four miles over our stay at Palm Cay…my legs were like jello!20180609_081810

We walked the dogs around the marina…Ginnie wasn’t so sure what the leashes were all about since she’s gotten used to being off-leash, but both dogs seemed to enjoy the grass!

Troy and I made one trip into Nassau by taxi. We picked up a new handheld radio and the Near Bahamas Explore Chartbook. Since we knew exactly what we needed and from only one store, our taxi driver agreed to wait for us…he was so nice and friendly…telling us all about his life growing up in the Bahamas.

While we had wi-fi, I downloaded the CBP ROAM app in preparation for our arrival in the states. This app is very new and after reading a description about it from the Boat Galley blog, I decided to give it a try. This app will allow us to check-in to the United States without having to go to a face-to-face appointment with Customs and Border Patrol. I entered our passport information and pictures along with our boat information. When we arrive in the states, to check-in, all I would need to do is complete a facetime appointment with a Customs and Border Patrol officer.

After our fourth night, we woke up and left early, to begin the trip 50 miles north to the Berry Islands. The winds were a bit stronger than we expected as we moved around New Providence; this made the first leg pretty choppy. Soon, we were aiming for Little Harbor and Devil’s Cay in calmer conditions. We realized, early on, that we were in for a stormy trip. We watched as dark clouds built up around us in the distance. Lightning was everywhere…but luckily nothing too close. It still made me nervous; as we got further and further offshore, the amount of lightning strikes seemed to increase. We got rain on and off our whole trip, but with the rain, came no wind. We moved SO SLOW. Eventually, we motored, being chased by storm cells in every direction.20180612_13350220180612_134531

Finally, we could see land as we approached the Berries, but we still had a ways to go. The cockpit was soaked from rain blowing in from the sides. Everything was wet, but at least the lightning was diminishing. Soon, thankfully, the storms subsided, and we made it through the cut to the shallow, protected interior of the islands. Once inside, it’s as if we’re in a sanctuary…we got the same feeling after surfing down waves for our first arrival here. We anchored behind Fowl Cay for our first night and then moved over to our favorite spot, Devil’s Cay, the next morning on a rising tide. The interior of the Berry Islands are shallow, so we moved over to our new spot when we had more water under the keel. We dropped anchor in a sandy patch among the seagrass about halfway down the cay.20180613_061518

Calm, protected, and HOT. We were really starting to feel the heat. With little breeze, we cooled off in the water many times throughout the day. Flip-flop hiking and dinghy exploring filled up our itinerary. The views are unspoiled…sugary sand, rocks and grasses, surrounded by blue crystal-clear water…perfection!20180614_12544420180615_152848

Ginnie was lucky enough to score an evening dinghy ride and I finally took a video. You can see her pure joy. I’m telling you, there is nothing that makes this dog happier than perching herself on the front of the dinghy…the faster, the better!

At this point in our trip, we were starting to make plans for our arrival in the United States. It is hard to believe our time in the Bahamas was coming to an end. It had been over four months since we were in Florida. At this point, we planned on moving from Devil’s Cay to Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands. From there, we’d make an overnight trip to Bimini and wait for a weather window to cross back over to Miami. Our weather information from Chris Parker told us that we’d be in for light and variable winds…more motoring, most likely. So, with that knowledge, we made our way out and around towards Great Harbor.