Saturday, December 13, 2014

Back on track

Centerboard trouble? What centerboard trouble? With a little brainstorming, a few new bits and pieces and a little help from our friends, our centerboard troubles are behind us. At least for now. Here's the short and sweet version...

Instead of replacing the stainless steel wire and swage eye with the same material we opted to use Dyneema all the way.

Dyneema with spliced loop becomes our new "cable"
The year old stainless wire that rusted/frayed/weakened and snapped 
Here's where it's good to have friends with air... instead of having to do a short haul (take the boat out of the water, hang in the slings for an hour and rush to try to get the job done before the clock runs out), our friend Kurt donned his scuba gear and did the dirty work under water for us. 

Kurt and Tina arrive on their Outbound 46 "Pneumatic"
Kurt gets instructions from Skip.... tab A goes into slot B...
...and then goes in to replace the old broken swage eye and bolt with a new bolt and the Dyneema.

Not hard to tell the old bolt from the new bolt. Lots of corrosion on the old one.
The old corroded bolt came out with no problem, but the swage eye took a little more muscle (and a lot of Kurt's air). Once the old pieces were out, he got on with the task of fitting the new Dyneema. Ever try to push a big string through a small hole? It wasn't easy and Kurt came up once or twice and said "I'm not optimistic." This, coming from an engineer had us worried, but we made some adjustments to the spliced loop and he went back down and worked on it until he got it. Thanks Kurt!! 

Centerboard is winched UP again... with a length of rope temporarily holding it in place. 
On deck the same 4:1 ratio set up stays in place...

Dyneema knotted before final length is determined...
...then neatly spliced and finished off.
A celebration was definitely in order. Kurt and Skip toast the new functional centerboard pennant.
A celebratory snorkel was in order too... and Mountain Point is a good spot for it.

School of blue tang along the shore in Mountain Point
Skip tries to blend in with his blue shorts and snorkel
Mountain Point bonus - Iain and Fiona on "Ruffian" row over in their dinghy "Thug" for a visit.
The new Dynema pennant had it's trial run already on the upwind sail to St Martin and it worked perfectly. We still dive down to attach or remove the spectra loop, but as long as we're in clear water that's not a problem. A little unconventional perhaps, but also effective.

The weather in the northeast Caribbean has been unusually mild lately and we took advantage of a slight northerly component in the wind to go to St Martin - primarily to replace the anchor chain we replaced there just over a year ago. The (old) new chain started to rust within about six months so we contacted the supplier in St Martin and they agreed to replace it at no cost. We usually sail during the day so we can fish, but it was the night before a full moon and it was calm and clear so we left about 10 PM and arrived in St Martin with time to kill before catching the afternoon bridge into the lagoon on the French side.

Moon set

Sun rise
Hurricane Gonzalo did a job on St Martin in October and evidence of the storm was clear along the shoreline here. Local mariners counted 100-ish boats lost or sunk (the official count was much lower) and the recovery efforts continue.

Boats and rocks don't mix well. Top left is a work boat trying to free a small freight boat, which stubbornly refuses to budge.
I took my camera with me everywhere we went in St Martin, but somehow ended up with almost no photos. You're not missing much though - mostly what we saw was the inside of Island Water World, Budget Marine and about half a dozen grocery stores. Zzzzzzzz.... 

We did get to see our friends Tim and Nancy on "Larus" arriving through the Dutch bridge and I managed to remember to take a shot of them.

Pretty Larus arrives

As well as a MUCH bigger boat than Larus... squeezing through the open drawbridge. 
And another biggie, signaling that mega yacht season has begun.
Less visually interesting, but more important to us than mega yachts, was our anchor chain swap. Go ahead - feel free to ooooohh and aaaahhh....

Old chain / New chain - oooohhh, aaaahhh. No more messy decks!
While we were at it, we replaced the old shackle attaching the chain to the anchor. It looked OK, but better safe than sorry.

Old shackle / New shackle
Very important to attach the anchor to the boat BEFORE removing the old shackle!
Box of old chain
Bucket of shiny new chain
Anchor chain replaced, shopping done, wind (supposedly) backing to the northeast (it didn't) we pulled up the anchor (on the shiny new chain) and headed back to the BVI for a few weeks. We'll be back this way again soon though and maybe then I'll take some more interesting photos. 

Oh - I forgot to mention the BEST thing we got in St Martin (and that's saying a lot considering that getting new chain was pretty fabulous) was a new fishing lure! And it sure does work....

Mahi #1
Getting filleted

Don't be fooled by the tiny teeth - they're VERY sharp!

Mahi #2 before and after (Sylvester was here)

We had to look up the wahoo since we didn't think it was striped and the fish book said "Bright silver to silvery gray; back may have bluish cast. May display numerous dark bars, especially when stressed." Yikes. Hopefully he was less stressed after we tossed him back in. We caught one more giant mahi that shook off our lure before we could land him, but we were pretty happy with our catch. We'll be feeding lots of people in the next few days.

The magic lure - a plain cedar plug. 
Wing on wing the whole way to the BVI - the beautiful mythical downwind sail finally materializes.
We'll be here for a few weeks, then east again...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Starting off with a bang

I know it's been a long time since my last post... we've been back in the states for a few months working, seeing family and friends and giving our house some much needed TLC (that's a whole different blog). But I'm writing this on Saralane as we bob at anchor in Mountain Point in Virgin Gorda. Nice.

I'll go back to the end of last season in a minute but first - our launch a few days ago.

Reuben picks up Saralane in the trailer

Maurice gives Reuben the high sign when the pads are properly placed

Riding in the trailer to the travelift
As has become our practice, we hang in the slings over the yard's lunch break so we can lower and paint the centerboard. Skip patched the "bite" in the centerboard while we were in the yard and it needed a few coats of paint too.

A long way up (or down, as the case may be)
Painting our much loved centerboard
With the centerboard paint dry, all that's left to do is raise the board before going back in the water. Skip climbs the long ladder and winches up the board as I wait below the boat with the Spectra sling in hand to secure the board in the up position. The board was most of the way up and that's where the BANG! comes in. It was the sound the centerboard made when the cable we installed last fall parted from the swage fitting and 800 pounds of board slammed back down in one swift soul crushing motion. There was a fraction of second of silence while we both registered what had happened; the next minute or two of conversation are unprintable. Needless to say this was stingingly disappointing. Visions of rough passages filled my mind and visions of expensive short hauls to try another fix filled Skip's. 

But... the travelift operator was waiting and other boats needed his attention. We had no choice but to pin the board back in the up position and go in the water. We're back to being a fixed shallow draft boat. 

All is not lost though. Everything else on the boat is in great shape (touch wood here) and we've mostly recovered our sunny outlook on life here in the Caribbean. We sat over drinks that night and started to think up new designs for a more robust cable system. We're open to suggestions. Seriously. 

There's lots more to cover, but I think a quickie summary of the end of last season will be enough for now. We spent some time in Lee Bay which is always quiet. The swimming here is great and we're often the only boat.

John H gets a refresher - the sun fades our non-marine grade Sharpie lettering/numbering

Burning man 
John H enjoys the fire too

Saralane alone in Lee Bay
With time on our hands we wandered over to St John to enjoy a few more nights in Francis Bay. Even with Maho Bay Camps closed, there are still lots of people on the beach and in the water.

Giant pelican? Mini yacht? Or is it just perspective....

Nope... it's definitely a giant pelican!

John H makes friends with the laughing gulls
We eventually hauled out and did all the grubby boat yard work we do each year. Sails off, dinghy deflated and put on deck, canvas cleaned and off, perishables given away, roach cookies made and spread around etc. This year we sanded and painted the bottom on this end instead of waiting until our launch to do it. This made us extra happy when we came back and didn't have to sand and paint. Why it took us four years to figure this out I'm not quite sure.

Skip paints. I photograph.
So - kind of a disjointed blog but hey, I'm out of practice! My repaired Mac is humming along nicely (more knocking on wood here) so I have no excuse for not blogging until/unless something else goes on the fritz. I'll leave you with one of many pretty night skies we still oooh and aaah at here. See you here again soon....

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ink Blot test

We've had no trouble getting back into "hanging around in one place" mode since our arrival in the BVI. An unexpected bonus was that early on our time here coincided with friends we haven't seen in a while. John and Fran from s/v Kia Ora, who we haven't seen since last year in St Bart's, have also gotten into the hanging around in one place mode and we sailed over to meet them in Cane Garden Bay. Our friends Tim and Nancy from s/v Larus were in the BVI to run a charter for a week and made a dash around for just a night to catch up with us too. No photos of Tim and Nancy this time.... they just move too fast! But here's the crew of Kia Ora...

Fran, John and Skip on Saralane (note the new cockpit cushions... sewn during my stay in Nanny Cay Marina)
Everyone has already headed off different directions, but it was really nice to reconnect even for a short time. We nudged John and Fran to make a stop at Mountain Point in Virgin Gorda which has become one of our favorite spots and we kept each other company for a few days there, snorkeling the clear water and taking turns paddling around on their paddle board.

Schools of little fishes are everywhere

Fran goes upside down to check on a lobster we came across under a rock

John goes upside down just for the hell of it. Something about being from Down Under maybe?
Swimming through bubbles from scuba divers below us
We were here for more than a week, during which time a school of squid took up residence under the boat. We'd snorkel around and just watch them each day; by the time we left there were 43 in the squid squad.

Mostly they seemed fine with us being there, as long as we didn't make any sudden moves or dive into the water on top of them (ahem, Skip).

Coloring on a calm cool and collected squid

Coloring on a recently-freaked-out-but-trying-to-calm-down-squid

The squid had at least one rough night while we were there. We felt a few thumps against the side of the boat and didn't think much of it, guessing it was probably just fish feeding around us, but in the morning we saw it was more than that. Somebody either got eaten, or barely escaped being eaten, and left an inky mess on Saralane's port side in the process.

Squid ick/ink.
This isn't really your typical household cleaning problem, and absent any handy "how to remove squid ink from gelcoat" guide, we just scrubbed it with everything we had and eventually got it pretty clean. Next time we'll know....

Scrub scrub scrub.....
Though we're keeping an eye out for a weather window for one more trip to St Martin, we'll more than likely just stick around here until we haul out in a few weeks. The water is crystal clear, the fish (and squid) are plentiful, the sailing is easy, the anchorages are calm and the wifi isn't bad either. That and.... well, we just like it here.