Saturday, January 31, 2009

Busy In St Martin

Marigot Bay, St Martin
18 04.0N 63 05.4

It was perfect timing - we had about a week’s worth of chores to do and arrived in St Martin just as the weather turned to very wet and windy with frequent heavy showers and lots of grey sky, plus plenty of wind to test our new wind generator. We bought one in Trinidad and it started to make a grinding noise after a month or two, so it was sent back to the manufacturer for repair and we had come to St Martin primarily to pick it up.

After an hour or two mounting it, running the wire again etc etc we sat back and watched it spin and put out lovely amps – then during the night we were woken by ker thunk, ker thunk and the same problem had reappeared! The manufacturer was great, we got a new unit shipped to us for free and after uninstalling the old one yet again, and installing the new one all was well and we could fully join in the “amp wanking” with our cruising mates again.

“Amp Wanking” – this is a term coined to cover the endless discussions held by cruiser over evening drinks about the size of their battery bank, how much power they get from solars, wind gennies etc and how many amps the fridge uses – it’s the cruising equivalent of how well little Johnny is doing at school, what grade at violin he is etc etc.

The rest of the time passed raiding the chandleries, buying wine and cheese in French St Martin, and Heineken, fruit and vegetables in Dutch Sint Maarten. We also said farewell to many cruising friends heading in a different direction from there. So, not the most interesting cruising week but we both feel good about it as Matsu is again in top condition and the cupboards all filled with goodies. By the way, do not throw away your socks when you go sailing in the tropics, they make fantastic shock proof covers for wine bottles!

Monday, January 26, 2009

St Tropez Of The Caribbean

Anse Colombier, St Bart's
17 55.4N 62 52.3W

Yes we are on our way to St-Martin but St-Barts is on the way and we’ve never been so …we checked it out and it was definitely worth it!

Gustavia, the capital is a busy port de plaisance filled with super yachts, mega yachts, pretty yachts and more yachts. In town you can find everything you don’t need on a yacht … Gucci bags, Dior perfumes, Chanel clothes, confit de canard and caviar. But we loved it!

We opted instead for a secluded anchorage called Anse Colombier about 5 miles from Gustavia, ie only the 2 huge mega yachts blocking our sunset and a few cruising boats. It’s in a marine national park and it’s very pretty, lovely white sand beach, walking trails over the iland and turtles endlessly swimming past the boat.

The marine life has been protected for many years now and a trip underwater shows the benefit of it. We had an absolutely wonderful dive where we saw turtles, rays, eagle rays, eels, and thousands of fish. We were adopted by a large queen angel fish who travel with us for the entire dive, absolutely amazing!

But yes, we still have to get to St-Martin and get our repaired wind generator so let’s go.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sand, Sand, Sand

Cocoa Point, Barbuda
17 33.2N 61 46.1W

We said goodbye to Antigua and had a lovely sail to Barbuda. Average speed of 8.5 knots on a 40 mile journey … not bad! All that time fixing the engine and we sailed the whole way! But oh so good to be on the move again.

Barbuda is nothing more than a beach … but what a beach. Fine pale pink sand for kilometers, actually all around this little island. We walked some 10 kilometers along it the first day. A very good stretching of legs after 10 days cramped in the engine room.

We also took advantage of this dream location to reconcile ourselves with cruising. So no work for a few days, long walks, bike rides, snorkels and swimming in this clear turquoise water. Book reading and star watching completed the activities. We promised ourselves to be back soon but St-Martin and our repaired wind generator are calling us …
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gear Box Repairs

"Jolly" Harbour, Antigua
17 04.5N 61 53.8W

To Cruise: v.i. To sail about without precise destination or making repairs at a series of places, often exotic.

Boats are under an awful lot of stress caused by salt water, harsh sunshine, bashing waves, etc. People say that the more use a boat gets, the better it is for its various systems but I personally think boats are in better shape simply because you have no choice but spending so much time maintaining and fixing them. This is not a complaint, just a foot note to the Christmas video!

So, after a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous week –at anchor- with The Wilsons to start the new year we decided to tackle the issue on hand, the gear box. To make a long and painful story short, the dip stick supposedly firmly attached to the fill nut had fallen into the gear box and, depending on the point of sail, the moon quarter and/or any other completely esoteric reason we did or didn’t have reverse gear. We lived with this gremlin for while, making sure we could entertain friends joining us for a sailing holiday. A very special thanks to Dave from s/v Magic who helped us anchoring at times when all the above mentioned factors were aligned and the engine was refusing to go into reverse.

So there we were, in beautiful Antigua, taking the engine apart. To do so, the entire engine had to be parted from its mounts and lifted in the air. It’s been firmly attached for 20 years so to undo the 12 reliable bolts took a hard day of work.

The second day the engine was lifted and held in place with a hydraulic jack and another fight with bolts attaching the gear box to the engine started. Let me explain how this work would be better performed by a mix between a yogi, a contortionist, and an arm wrestler. First it needs to be done in an upside down position, requires 2 elbow flexes and 3 wrist ones to get a tool on the one bolt and then, the easy part, you must apply incredible force in order to loosen it. A few “mantras”, 12 repetitions and voila! I did hold the light and pass the tools remarkably well but all merit goes to Tim alias Captain, Chief Engineer, Mechanic, Yogi, Contortionist, Arm Wrestler and amazing husband. Once out the gear box had to be opened up the offending and by now very badly mangled dip stick removed and then reassembled trying not to get it sealed so it won't leak oil!

It cost us all of $40 to get it fixed, an improvement from the initial fear that the gear box would need to be replaced entirely and, on an engine that old, it might not worth it, replacing the entire engine being a wiser, but very expensive and time consuming, decision.

To put it back together was not an easy task but it was somehow easier and done with a lot more enthusiasm. We tested the engine by moving anchorage in 25 knots of wind and a head sea and it all worked well. I must (reluctantly) say that we had a scary moment during the test when a very loud BANG was heard. We both thought the engine mounts had given way in the rough seas but, “fortunately” it was the anchor falling off the bow roller. I had forgotten to tie it down when leaving the anchorage. Major Oops! But luckily no damage, just very wet people.

So with the gear box now back working it is off to Barbuda for some R&R on the white sands there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Wilson New Year

Jolly Harbour, Antigua
17 04.5N 61 53.8W

Kate , Rog, Abby and Georgie Wilson flew into Antigua for a week on Matsu in time to celebrate the new year, the warm weather (after a Philly winter) and all things Antiguan.

Our plan was to sail round some of our favourite anhcorages with them, but as we prepared to leave Jolly Harbour the gear box that has been giving us intermittent problems since Union Island finally died for good. So instead we spent a wonderful week "stranded" in Jolly Harbour this left us with a mere 7-8 deserted beaches to enjoy and the kids missed out on the joys of a 5 hour sail from place to place - not sure it was too much hard ship!

New Year's Eve was very special, we had a night on the beach with a BBQ and a camp fire and at midnight let off the Chinese lanterns that Mike and Liz had brought last April, we finally had a night of no wind and something to celebrate with friends. During Mike & Liz's visit it blew 30 knots all day and night and we feared major burns or starting a bush fire!

The evening finished with Kate & Abby fast asleep on the beach, while Georgie and Rog ran round partying and asking for more beer, so no genetic predispositions there then!

The rest fo the holiday passed with conch shell collecting and just having a lovely time and we were very sad to see them all head off to the airport. Kate somehow let herself give Rog permission to return for the test match in Antigua next month so we will see him again soon!

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