Exploring Cayo Largo

Scott-Free’s blog
Steve & Chris
Mon 6 Feb 2012 16:38
Monday 6th February 2012

The last week has flown by here in Cayo Largo.  We have been dividing our
time between working on the never-ending joblist on the boat and exploring
the island.

Job-wise, the most pressing problem was the generator which seemed to have
sprung a leak.  We do not need to run it here as we are connected to shore
power, but once under way we need to run it daily to top up the batteries
that power the boat systems, including the autopilot.  Steve had ascertained
that the leak was coming from the raw water pump, and would be just a simple
job of replacing the seals.  We had spares on board and so we set about
removing the pump in order to replace them. Steve got the water pump loose,
but it just would not pull out.  He was wary of pulling too hard in case
something broke, so finally in frustration we left it in pieces while we
emailed Rod Boreham the MD of Advanced Yacht Systems (who had supplied the
generator new four years ago) for help. He knows his product inside out and
always comes back with sensible suggestions.

By next morning Rod had replied with an explanation of why the pump wouldn't
come out and what to do. The front casing (held on by four Allen bolts) had
to be removed along with the water pump! The pump would not pull off because
the gear that drives the pump was attached to the shaft and was too big to
come through the casing, so the lot had to come off together. Once off it
was a simple matter of dismantling the pump and replacing the seals. It soon
became apparent why it leaked so much water - the seal had slid back up the
shaft! With Rod's explanation of which way the seals went in, plus
intructions on how to fix and grease the water seal to help prolong its
life, the pump was soon good as new.

We then took apart the wheel pilot, which is our back-up autopilot and
seldom used, but it is fixed to the wheel itself and was impeding the
turning of the wheel from time to time when it seemed to jam up.  A good
clean up with fresh water seems to have done the trick.  Fingers crossed!

The water here at the dock has a rather unpleasant, sulphurous smell and
taste, and we decided not to put any in our tanks.  Instead we spent an
afternoon re-commissioning the watermaker.  This is a simple task of
flushing out the chemical preservatives with which it was 'pickled' last
June and then running it for half an hour, discarding the water made, and
then testing the water to see if it is of good quality.  The meter read 250
ppm (parts per million), which means the membrane is working well.  We then
checked around the whole system to ensure that there are no leaks - it
basically draws in sea water from under the boat, passes it through a
reverse osmosis membrane, and sends the waste salt water back into the sea
and the fresh water into the boats's water tanks - and we would not like any
of that water appearing in the boat where it should not be!  We have been
running the watermaker for several hours a day since then to top up the
water tanks.

Exploring the island did not take very long!  It is a small cay along the
reef that lines the south-west coast of Cuba, and it has been developed for
tourists.  There are no towns or villages here other than holiday villages,
and the Cuban workers live in accommodation in the grounds.  They work here
for 20 days straight and then go back to their homes, mostly on the Isla de
Juventud for 10 days.  They are fed in staff canteens and so there are no
shops here where you can buy food for daily living, other than the 'ship's
chandlers' in the marina where they sell catering sized packets and cans,
obviously sourced from the hotels!  We can get bread rolls there, fresh each
day, and eggs, and we're told that if we give an order for fresh fruit and
veg they will get it for us.

We took the rib out to the long white sand beach that runs along the west
side of the island and went snorkelling, though there was little to see, so we just enjoyed the swim. 
Playa Sirena on the west coast of Cayo Largo                                                Our anniversary - can't remember how many years...
We also took the rib to the north of the island to Cayo Iguana where it appears that the iguanas have a whole island to themselves - apart from the ospreys that nest on top of the lighthouse - no wonder we couldn't see the light!
The iguanas are not at all bothered by visiting humans...                                ...though the ospreys on the lighthouse were a little more vocal!
We visited the turtle rescue centre and explored the island by road on a scooter. 
Baby turtle at the turtle rescue centre.                                                            The adults were slightly less keen to be held!
Sue from Marawi made me a birthday cake, and just to prove I am not getting old, I rode pillion on a scooter for the first time in my life!
Steve went out on a dive boat with Bob & Sue from Marawi and had his first dive in 18 months, which he enjoyed as much for the reminder of the experience of diving as for what he saw down there.  He was keen to go again, but the weather conditions haven't been right for the last few days, with lots of cloud and even - yes - rain!
Marawi left on Friday for Grand Cayman - they are on their way to Panama - and we have been waiting for a weather window to set off east once again.  We plan to leave tomorrow and lay our best course to windward (Mr Christian!!) hopefully in the direction of Dominican Republic, possibly stopping in Jamaica, who knows?