If its not one thing, its another.



{Look at that nasty crack on our backstay}

It all started innocently enough. We were making our way to Spanish Wells in Eleuthera from Little Harbour when about 2 hours into our 11 hour sail Jason noticed an inch long crack in the swedge of our backstay. An inch long crack is a much bigger deal than it may seem on the surface. The crack means that our rig could go at any minute potentially causing our mast to come crashing down. It means that whoever is at the helm could get smacked in the head with 1/4 inch wire and stainless fitting potentially causing serious injuries. It means that we need to take care of it immediately.

When we pulled up to Spanish Wells we headed into town to start the search for a new backstay only to be greeted with nothing but “Closed” signs. Turns out it was Sunday and this religious island completely shuts down. So we were forced to stay on a mooring for a night and head to town first thing in the morning to find a replacement.

The good thing about this island is that everyone knows everyone and what everyone can do or offer. “You need to find Chris. He’s super tan and is on a bike with a basket.” Well, that should be… easy? While I was getting directions to his “really colorful house” just over the bridge from a really nice lady, a guy lent Jason a bike so he could go catch up to Chris. This island is insanely nice! People were going out of their way to help us out. At the end of the day we found Chris AND had a few different options of how we could fix our back stay.

Feeling good we decided to move off the mooring and head to an anchorage nearby to save a few bucks. Moorings in the Bahamas seem to average $20 a night with ZERO access to amenities so we really hate taking them. Just as we were waiting for our anchor to set we heard a “POP.” A pop is definitely not a good sound on a sailboat – unless there is champagne involved. We rushed back to the cockpit and noticed the engine smelled a bit funny. We immediately turned it off thinking maybe the alternator belt slipped off and was the cause. Ha! As if it would be something so easy. Everything looked OK so we tried starting it again. The good news is we immediately figured out what the problem was – our starter. The bad news was now we couldn’t sail OR motor our boat. We were officially broken down. After a day and a half of running around Spanish Wells and taking a ferry to mainland Eleuthera the even worse news was that our starter was shot and we needed a replacement.


{When you can’t sail or motor you make friends with other sailors who will tow your boat with their 15hp outboard. Murray from Windswept IV saved the day}


{And, when you run aground the nice locals pull you into the main channel.}

Considering our engine is 50 years old we knew there was no way we’d be able to find a replacement on this 2 mile long by 1/2 mile wide island. So began another search! After talking to the Customs guy, his friend Robert and a bunch of other people we think we have the situation figured out. Considering our starter is an essential item to getting our boat moving we should be able to avoid the insane 45% duty fee that the Bahamas likes to tack onto deliveries, but it appears we’ll be spending a significant amount of time in Spanish Wells while we wait for parts to be delivered from the States. Air deliveries arrive on Fridays and boat deliveries arrive on Wednesdays. We also met a guy who is delivering a boat to Daytona this weekend and will be back to Spanish Wells next week who offered to bring back the parts we needed. We definitely have options, but we’re still trying to figure out which isn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg and which will be the most efficient. I guess there are way worse places to be broken down.

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  1. I have no experience with the Atomic 4, but was curious about the cost of a starter so I did a little searching on the internet. Looks like the starters are available for about $180, so they are not unreasonably expensive.

    Is it possible your problem is the solenoid?

    Also found this interesting video on hand starting an Atomic 4 with a crank, but like an old Model T. Now this is a good back up system that is not available with most boats.


    Good luck with the repair!

  2. I’ve heard a lot of people just converted atomic 4’s into hand-crank starters.

    Basically looks like a winch handle you attached and you have someone down below turn the motor (think like old 20’s cars) while the person up top is firing it up with the key.

    Just a thought, I have no knowledge of the process to convert that, though.

    Good luck!