Minerva Reef

What a fascinating place. Cruisers everywhere love to talk about it as if they’ve reached Nirvana once there. Nirvana; it is not. Fascinating it is.

We arrived in the early am. The only entrance for boats is on the W side and quite easy to transit. I wouldn’t do it at night, even having a gps track. There are no man made navigational aids in the channel. In daylight you can see the reef shallows. At night not. Further; at night you don’t see any of the eddies from water flowing out of the lagoon.

Waves breaking on the outside of the reef.

And water is always flowing out of the lagoon. Slower during High Tide and faster during Low Tide. That’s because while the volcano rim acts as a fringing reef it is not high enough above the surf break to keep water out. Twenty four hours per day waves are breaking against and over the reef all the way around.

And for us; anchored anywhere in the lagoon provides plenty of slop. Generally there are 2 High Tides and 2 Low Tides per day. With the low tides the wave breaks on the outer rim of the volcano washing over the top. There is constant flow of water over the top but limited wave action gets through. This flow of water reaches the inside lip and there we have a constant 1-2’ water fall. The sounds of the waves against the reef or the water fall is 24/7. Not what one would think of as … peaceful!

During High Tide the waves and seas break against the outer rim still. The main energy is taken away and spread over a larger area. This energy continues with the smaller waves inside the lagoon. The smallish waves create a constant washing machine. The motion wasn’t bad enough to keep us away but it was down right annoying.

Remember – I complained about no shake downs. Three of our items never checked are; the dinghy, the 15hp engine and the 2 1/2 hp engine. There are more items still not checked but here those are the ones important. Besides that; we prefer to not travel off shore with gasoline on board. This left us at the mercy of other cruisers. Fortunately Art and Nancy from sv Second Wind were kind enough to share their dinghy ride to the top of the volcano rim and to do a day’s snorkeling.

They day after we arrived we were lucky. Those in the lagoon were lucky. The Tongan Navy arrived and said they had planned to do some war games here. Every yacht would need to move to S. Minerva. Yuck! They never told us. South Minerva is 30 nm S of where we are and not as well protected from the seas. Moving there requires motoring into the winds and the seas. I said we were lucky. One of the yachts here was a leader in the rally from New Zealand to Tonga. The rally had planned a stop in North Minerva and they had permission from the Tongan King! Whew. When they informed the Navy of the Kings permission they asked the sailors to clear the change with the Tongan King. Wisely the sailors might be in their interest to play the war games at South Minerva. Sometimes we are lucky. Sometimes.

A wide reef top at N. Minerva

The top of the rim was wider than I would have guessed. We arrived; secured the dinghy and stepped up to a river of ocean water flowing into the lagoon. Depth; about 1-2 feet. In reality Lewis (Quizotic Charters) told me to look for lobsters under the coral bommies on the volcano rim. We all were hoping for a nice haul. All were disappointed. I looked, Art looked, W/ looked. Nancy and Keith (sv Sadiqi) were smart enough to not be too enamored with looking. We were snookered. None, Nada, Zip.

We had always heard how abundant lobsters were here. Ha! You could fool me. I guess it’s like land in Arizona or Florida; how wonderful and “cheap” it is. That is …until you try to live there or build there.

Wendy, Keith, Nancy, and Art

We didn’t find lobsters there. What we found was a world of constant motion. Water flowing over the rim as a stream over shallows. At low tide the waves broke on the outside of the volcano rim and wash atop of it. The flow was continuous to the lagoon. During high tide it was rougher and a bit deeper over the rim. Yet the reef broke up the seas to a barely tolerable action such that one could hide inside in relative safety. We’ve friends that have stayed anchored in winds up to about 40 kts. I wouldn’t want to be there then. That however doesn’t mean it is unsafe. Uncomfortable maybe, not unsafe. The winds were changing to the east so we moved from the S lee to the E lee. There we would spend another couple of days watching the weather and looking for passage N.

After returning to the boats another fellow cruiser stopped by. They gifted a HUGE Lobster each to sv Second Wind and us. How sweet it is. They are lobster fishermen from the S. Island in NZ and I guess they mostly have had enough anyway. That evening everyone arrived at our boat to share in the feast. Yum!

Daily we looked for weather window heading to New Cal but Mother Nature was having none of it. Time and again we would think this was it and prepare to go. Time and again, David from Gulf Harbor Radio and the GRIBS would say “oh-oh”. A Low is forming between New Cal and Fiji or there is a mean frontal system that is arriving there in the next couple of days. We waited.

After being in Minerva for over a week, limited on what we could do, looking for a way out, we made a sacrifice. We decided we would burn the diesel if need be and motor to…. Fiji That opportunity to motor came and we left. Fiji it is.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Leaving NZ

Over half way. And it wasn’t an easy half. Sailing in the mid latitudes is not fun. We had been informed by a retired meteorologist that if we made it N of 30 S we would be for the most part on the up and up. Not so. Here too is where not having an adequate shake down enters the equation.
 
We were N of 30. Listening on the SSB that am we were informed that we would have two fronts pass over us. For most of us tropical and sub tropical sailors that means an hour or so of crappy weather and then fair winds. Not here.
 
The first front wasn’t bad at all. I turned down wind, pulled the sails flat and ran with it for an hour. Once it had passed we came back on course. Four hours later a second front crossed our path. And it was nasty. Maybe; I ought to say NASTY !
 
We saw it coming. I reefed the mainsail and we furled some jib. The winds struck and if you ever heard of heavy air; that is what it was. The colder, dense air in the higher latitudes can be more problematic. Less than an hour later I reefed our main again. I couldn’t put the third reef in because I didn’t have the lines run. Remember: shakedown!
 
The winds kept increasing. Without the third reef heaving to in this stuff wouldn’t work. By now we had pulled in the headsail and I had up the staysail. Time to reef that. I went forward to reef it and I didn’t have it rigged right. I needed a snap shackle on the clew instead of a D shackle. I got the clew pulled down but couldn’t get the sail set right. Now this is where memory is sketchy. I didn’t ease the outhaul on the stay sail so getting it down and setting of the reef didn’t work. Frustrated and with the wind speed still increasing I furled the sail. We were moving faster than I wanted to go but with only the main up it was manageable. I’m glad we had the new main built heavier than the last and glad we had full battens. For the most part it was setting pretty and the wind vane was doing all the work steering.
 
I cleaned up around the deck. Some lines had freed themselves from the belaying pins and I secured them. After cleaning up the deck I hid behind the dodger. We don’t have a high latitude boat. We don’t have a “Florida room” as I like to call it. High latitude boats generally have an enclosed cockpit. Most of the NZ boats have enclosed cockpits I call…. “Florida Rooms”.
 
I use to laugh at boats with Florida rooms. Not any more. I understand the need. Th the cold wind, the wind chill can easily be deadly. This front stayed around for about 10 hours. Never in our 35k miles of sailing had we had conditions like that and as is often the case, a good part of it was in the dark. One improvement that worked awesome was our new spreader lights. The forward deck light and spreader lights made deck work quite safer. There was not doubt about where things were; what I could do even in the blowing rain. By midnight things had eased a bit and we pulled out some jib continuing our course N.
 
As a side note; the vessel Second Wind was about 60 nm from us and they didn’t have any of this frontal event. I say didn’t have any; I believe they said they had a slight wind increase but nothing memorable.
 
As the day wore on the winds slowly disappeared. W/ wasn’t happy because if we tried to keep sailing that put Minerva another day away. Once we were below 4 kts it was time to start the engine. Generally neither of us complain about sailing at 3-4 kts. But North and South Minerva can be dangerous sailing near them at night.
 
During high tide nothing above the water is visible. I doubt one would even see the breaking waves. There is a light on each reef but the chart doesn’t say how high it is. At least my three charting programs didn’t. Knowing the height of the light and the placement will guide you in how far away from it you are. After visiting Minerva I would say it is about 15’ above sea level and not all that bright. Tonga is responsible for the lights but I have a feeling they are maintained by the NZ Navy.
 
We needed to pass S Minerva in the day light. At least that was my wish and then enter N Minerva in day light. Attempting a night pass passage was not prudent even if one has a gps track. With the engine running we could manage our speed better and our entry time as well.
 
However; as mentioned in our previous post our engine temp was still a bit problematic. W/ was worried, knowing if we had to sail the arrival could well be dangerous. I started the engine and just as before, it rose to the correct operating temp and then kept climbing. I shut it down and waited 15 minutes. Once the temp fell below the normal operating temp I started it again and viola’ ! The operating temp moved into the correct range and we were off.
 
Now we switched from wind vane steering to our tiller pilot pushing the arm of the vane. We powered for a good half day and finally there was enough breeze to sail. A few hours sail, then back to powering. I ran through the starting method that worked and Minerva was our destination.
 
We passed S Minerva earlier than I wished but I did pick up the light on it. I stayed about 2 miles off the edge; closer than I wanted. By all appearances we were fine. 30 nm further N was N Minerva. Arriving in the late morning we could see some boats anchored. We tried calling Second Wind on the radio. We could barely hear them. We were using our hand held VHF as it seems our mast mounted antenna or the bigger boat VHF isn’t transmitting properly. Did I complain about a lack of a shakedown yet ! 🙂
 
As we got closer the communication was clearer and we could see the entrance and checked our charts for a match. . For the most part it was easier than some of the passes in the Tuamotus. I could see a few eddies as water flowed out of the lagoon but nothing enough to physically move the boat about. W/ powered right on in.
 
We had been told to drag a line entering the lagoon and the fish there will grab anything. Earlier in the day we had a small fish hitch a ride and ran a hook through it. Who ever told us must be a real-estate broker in Florida because it was a tall tale and we didn’t even get a nibble.
 
45 minutes later we were anchored in the lee of the S part of the volcano rim and ready for a good sleep. That was not to be. Art and Nancy offered to make lunch for us; and even to pick us up. W/ couldn’t refuse so we spent lunch with them sharing tall tales. . After, we returned to Elysium with the goal of counting stars from our berth. A great night sleep was honestly earned.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
ps  As mentioned earlier I will move this to the correct date after a day or so. It is out of order so anyone wishing to check up on our blog will see it first. Cheers….

Circumnav for Lison-Life

Congrats to Dirk and Silvie or as Silvie prefers Silvie and Dirk on Lison-Life; who accidentally finished a circumnavigation. We left from Beaufort, NC  with them in the fall of 2009 and traveled to the VI’s. There our paths diverged as we had some damage on the trip down and thus decided to hang in the VI’s and fix our mess, then visit the Windwards and Leewards instead of taking the route we had earlier planned to the San Blas and the Panama Canal.

Silvie and Dirk ditched us in the VI’s  🙂  and continued as Dirk say’s  …. “to sail about”.  Their sailing about took them on the most comfortable route – Westward- which eventually forced them back to Trinidad where they completed their circle and tied the knot.

Cheers to them and be sure should you ever run into them to comment on how they look 10 years younger;  the price we pay for completing a circumnavigation.  And too, here my standard sign off; Go Slow, Sail Far, Stay Long isn’t really fitting so I’ll simply say ….

Well Done

2 Panama

Black Fin Tuna

Black Fin Tuna

Veteran cruisers will tell you that an overnight passage is just as tiring as say a 3 day passage.  You spend a day getting ready, you leave and your sleep schedule is out of whack, your feel for a moving boat is out of whack, and your eating style is disrupted. Then you arrive, same anxiety with one’s landfall in a day as one landfall 3 or more days down the line, you find a place to anchor and you spend a day resting and getting the boat back to a comfortable livable condition. You clean up and put things away. Wash the boat if you can, wash the jacklines, the foul weather gear, the safety harnesses. Fold and cover the sails, coil and store the sheets. We wipe down the cabin floor as no matter how we try, salt from the feet seems to work it’s way to the cabin sole.

So we made it to Snug Harbor where we dropped the hook in 40′ of water. A long way down.

On the way across we started out motoring the first day as the winds were light out of the NE. About 5 hours outside of San Bernardo’s, Colombia we felt we had enough breeze to put up some sails. We shut down the engine and heaven descended upon us. The quiet, the movement for all intents and purposes of a boat mimicking life. The sails are doing their job and pulling approximately 40,000 lbs across a 150 nm stretch of water. We were sailing about 4 kits but we didn’t care. The water was relatively flat like a lake and we were going towards our destination at a comfortable speed with an easy motion.

I put out two fishing lines. It was time to feed the Mahi-Mahi.  For the last 1,000 nm’s they’ve been attacking and taking my plastic lures.  I was hoping on this trip to catch one at the theft and haul their rainbow colored bodies aboard to feed the ships crew for a few days.

As the day wore on and we continued to pull away from the South American Continent the breeze slowly increased to a pleasant 10-15 kits. So too did the boat and we were now in the Indianapolis speed zone of 5-6 knots, the speed of a good runner. Once we reached the 5 kt range we heard a zing of the line on our reel.  I race as fast as I can on a moving boat to grab the rod in hopes of landing this one. The Mahi makes a couple leaps out of the water trying to shake the hook free and then peels off more line, and I’m excited. W/’s been cranking in the other line; although two fish landed would be great we have enough difficulty landing one fish at a time.  She’s a large one!  I let the line run out and then just about the time W/ has the other lure cranked in my line goes slack. DAMN!  There goes Dinner, Lunch, Dinner, Lunch, Dinner, etc. She would have fed us for a few days.

So after a few of my selected choice words issued towards the kingdom of fish I put the one line back out and crawled below to grab another lure. I’ve now given the fish about half a dozen of the plastic lures to feed on.  I wonder if I have heavy enough line (80 lb test) and I’m wondering if I should replace it a little more often. RIght now the line has been on the reels for about 3 years. But this is not the place to do that so I file that info in my dusty cranium and dig out another lure. Rig it and release it. We’re cruising along now about 6 kits and the lures are doing their wonderful dance to the surface and then they dive a foot or so beneath it trailing a stream of bubbles a couple of meters long. We both go back to our tasks, reading, day dreaming, and just watching in awe the deep royal blue of open water. We’re settled in for the afternoon.

Zing!  Zing!  One reel runs out quickly and then stops, 2 seconds the other line takes off.  Another fish. Again the same dance, I race and try to make sure we don’t loose this one. The line is peeling out faster then ever and I’m afraid it will get to the end and then snap. Slowly I increase the drag on the line as the Mahi endeavors to steal more and more of it.  Feeling like I’ve been at this 1/2 an hour but knowing that it’s been most likely 5 minutes, I have him stabilized with about 10 wraps of line left on the reel. Since W/ now has the other line  pulled in she’s at the helm.  As we’re traveling too fast and the fish is fighting for his life (Yeah, it looked like a Bull Mahi – Mahi to me when it jumped) she points the boat into the wind a bit to slow it down while I begin to reel the beast in. We spend close to twenty minutes more, luffing the boat, falling off, luffing, falling off and all the while I’m inching the line in and bringing the succulent dinner to the boat.  He makes a couple of more runs and peels out some line but I’m slowly winning!  Or so I think.

As we finally get him closer to the boat I can see his figure down in the water and W/ has the gaff ready. She luffs the boat up a bit more so I can reel some more line in and he takes off across the stern dragging the line to the other side of the boat. I carefully hand the pole across the back of the boat to myself not wanting to get the line tangled in the windvane or rubbing  across the backstay.

He’s now swimming beside the boat about 40 feet away and I have W/ turn the boat to bring him more astern, he obviously hears me and shoots off towards the bow and under the boat. I feel the line drag across the bottom of the boat and fear the worse. Another fight lost with a fish, another lure gone and one tired puppy; me. But; he’s still there and pops up by the stern and I still feel him on the line. Hurray!  I begin to keep the line taught and he makes another mighty stab towards freedom.

The line goes slack, I scream, and we begin to sail towards Panama again.  What have I to show for all this effort; 5 blisters on two hands and a long story to tell.

I’m so tired the rest of the day we don’t trail any more lures. With the blisters on my hands I don’t think I could actually reel the fish in and with as much as Mahi’s  fight and no fighting chair I don’t want to risk losing the pole, and I don’t want to risk losing W/ over the side.

We have a delightful sail till about midnight when the breeze starts to abate and by 3 am we’re again using the Iron Genny (engine) and motoring towards Panama.

As the sun rises we begin to search for land. We’re scanning the waters edge intently when I see fish leaping out of the water. Yesterdays loss is becoming a distant memory and with a new day comes new visions of capture. More fish jump (Black fin Tuna) and so I trail just one line. Less then an hour later we hear a zing of the reel and I go to crank in what ever we have.  I don’t know what this one is, I suspect it was another Mahi- as it peels out line quite fast and then boom it too was gone.  I may be stupid but I don’t like giving up. I dig out another lure (I’m going to need to get some more) and sent it back into the deep blue. We spot Land and yell the required mantra “Land – Ho”, we’re motoring, we’re fishing – maybe best to say we’re feeding the fish plastic lures. and we’re hopeful. Hopeful that we’ll soon be cleaning a nice catch and then look forward to rest.

Zing!  Again we go through the land a fish dance. Since we’re motoring it is easier for W/ to slow down, motor forward, and turn the boat. We don’t need to be concerned about the sails and gybing or luffing and popping as the wind fills them in.  I slowly make progress and we bring the fish to the boat. W/ has the gaff ready but as I see it’s a Black Fin Tuna and only a few pounds so he’s close enough to the boat I swing him aboard.  W/’s ready with the Rum (we kill the fish with kindness – He dies in a drunken bliss) and we pour it directly onto his gills. I filet him and toss the carcass back to Neptune for further consumption. Nothing goes to waste in the ocean.

By noonish we’ve made landfall and are motoring towards Snug Harbor hoping that the name fits. We find a calm place to anchor, drop the hook, take care of some projects on the boat and immediately begin our R n R.  We’ll clear in when we get to Porviner in a couple of days. For now the stars are calling and the cow is ready to jump over the moon.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

And on the Third Day..

The am has been blusterie. Wind is a blowin. We fired up the generator to charge the refrigeration and provide our daily allotment of energy and a few minutes later the Hi Temp light came on.  Little things simply just keep cropping up.

I went to investigate and found our makeshift antifreze serge  bottle had come loose and fallen. Luckily the majority of coolant was still in the bottle. I refilled the heat exchanger and all was hunky dory again.  Ok, just for a bit.
It wasn’t long after the generator incident that one of the control lines on the Sailomat chafed through where it connected to the wind vane. So again I hung over the stern, untied the knot, and then shortened the line and retied it back, hook up the control lines and we’re off on autopilot again.

We’re flying. The wind is about 30 kts and we still have the Yankee out.  I calculate that we’ll arrive at about midnight at this speed so we choose to slow down. I don’t like landfalls in the dark.  A boat was recently lost on a reef in Venezula trying to make a landfall on a reefed island in the dark!  Fortunately Cartagena isn’t a dark island surrounded by reefs.

We get the Yankee rolled in to about 20 square meters and we’re still flying at 5.5 kts. Better but not slow enough. I’m hoping that the winds will abate a bit as we reach the corner of Colombia.

The day wears on.  While reefing the sail in those winds it was flogging about wildly. I’ve since come to the conclusion that if we need to reef the sail in heavy wx it would be best to ease one sheet and pull in the other bringing the clew of the sail midship thereby collapsing the sail. Then we can roll it up easier.

I talk to KaijSong and he tell me he would rather enter Cartagena even in the night then heave too.  He said there is nothing to bother, the lights of the city point to  anything you can run into so after discussing it for a bit and still trying to slow down we decide to go in. Our charts are fully up todate, be just got them from Bellingham Charts, all systems are working on the boat and if anything seems amiss we’ll then wait.

About 11 pm that evening when I was off watch; seems to always happen that way, W/ woke me to say she had thought the sail for the windvane had disappeared. This plastic piece is what feels the wind to turn the oar (that we had lost on an earlier trip) and the oar moves in the water like your hand hanging out a window in the car turned to the wind. The force of the water over the oar then pulls on the wheel and steers the boat. Without this sail the wind vane doesn’t know where to go and we just keep heading as somewhere straight ahead but not consistent and not related to the wind.  She’s right. I had asked our Sail-o-mat guy for a the bolt that is to connect the sail but although he sent some bolts he didn’t sent this one, so since we’d had it on for 5k miles already and never a hint of it leaving I never really worried about it. Fortunately, Mike on Infini had lost his when he was first getting his wind vane functioning, so he had bought a piece of the correct plastic material and I had made a spare too. Easy fix, grab the spare, put it on and connect it all back up.  This time however I marked with a permanent marker where it sat so we could flash a light on it and see if the sail was wiggling out of it’s position. It had moved slightly so on my next watch I took some of the magic blue tape I love and taped it on. Short of a hurricane it would now stay.

About 2 am we arrive at the outer marker and we start up the Iron Genny (engine) and  pull in the sail. We slowly go in the Boca Grande’ cut which is listed as a small boat entrance (the ships channel although deep was suggested to avoid at night as boats have been robbed there). There appears to be an under water wall that the chart says o.2 m – 2 m.  We find the deepest spot on the chart and traverse the wall. I don’t see any markers near by (none  lit anyway) and our new chart shows none. The depth guage reads 7′ for a few seconds then drops back down to 20′. I was too tired to really be concerned with it because I didn’t see anything on the chart. W/ was concerned for a few seconds then she too relaxed when we got into deeper water.

We were lucky. A few days later a catamaran that was leaving hit the wall with their daggerboards down. People were reporting that the bouys had moved. I now have a position for the center of the channel. Funny that on the RayMarine chart chips the bouys show but not on my electronic chart nor the new paper charts!   As we get farther and farther from the beaten path I’m sure that will be a more common occurance, charts wrong, bouys wrong and entering in the dark will be a true NO-NO!

But; we did make it in and slowly navigated to the anchorage. While I was looking to anchor off Club de Pesca (we really, really want to stay at that marina), we ended up anchoring in deep water 20′ off of Club de Nautico ( a marina undergoing a major – slow refurbishment).  Ironically, the spot we picked in the middle of the night ended up being one of my better anchoring choices we’ve made in deep water. Tomorrow; actually today, after a welcome sleep we’ll take care of the formalities.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Grenada Here we Come!

Powerboats Yard

Powerboats Yard

We left Trinidad after all our boat projects we completed and we had a wx window. Neil on Early Out casually informed us of a disturbance that Chris Parker said would strengthen in the next day or so; however, our trip would be overnight and if we couldn’t sail, we could drive (motor 🙁 ).

After a nice lunch at the Crews Inn Restaurant with Lee and Sharon on Allegro we paid our bill and cast off the lines. The boat was in the best shape she’s been in since leaving New Port Richey, FL ; at least that is what we had thought. We cast off and motored out the cut and out of the only harbor we’ve been in in Trinidad.

Chagaramus Commercial Port

Chagaramus Commercial Port

Wendy Driving

Wendy Driving

There we headed N around the bend and looked for the magic 12 nm mark that our friends on Coho told us about. Gordon said that Trinidad effects the Trade Winds for about 12 nm. After a couple of hours of motoring and close to the 12 nm magical  line we felt that there might be enough wind to sail. There wasn’t a lot of wind, but we had left a little early anticipating a light breeze  (as per the GRIB files).

Shutting down the engine to sail is always a joy. One of the true high points of the sailing life. Engines are a necessary evil. When you need them they are so valuable. When you don’t, they are just so obnoxious. With the engine off and the sails pulling,  the boat takes on a life of it’s own. It breathes the air, it moves to the sea as a dancer moves to the music. We are not on the boat, we are not in the boat, we are one with the boat.

There are a couple of things to miss between Trinidad and Grenada, Oil wells, ships, and Pirates. Fortunately there haven’t been any pirate attacks here in almost a year. To aid the small boats crossings between Grenada and Trinidad the Trinidad Coast Guard has an email address that boaters are encouraged to use to inform them of their float plan and they are said to keep watch on your trip. We never saw them. That doesn’t mean they weren’t around. Our friends on Lison Life were boarded by them when they made the trip, another cruiser we knew of was met by them approx 10 nm from Trinidad and escorted in. It’s nice to know they’re there, and it was nice to make the passage without any interference by either the CG or Pirates.

Oil wells are another matter. Texas has so many and there are some unlit wells. Wells are always to have lights  but some unused wells  have automatic lights and most things automatic eventually fail. However, the wells here are occupied and have full crews so they’re well lit. We could see them for 15 to 20 miles at night. Easy to avoid them.

Ships are however different from wells. They move, they are many different light configurations, such as towing, being towed, fishing, anchored and simply going like a bat outta hell somewhere. Not to worry. Before we left the US last year we installed AIS (Automatic Information System) that reads boat positions (on ships), speed, course and destination. It is sweet.  So I went to fire that system up and connect it to the computer; viola, NOTHING!

What? Nothing! Oh No! W/ loves that system. Oh! Oh!  I fiddle with it for a good 15 minutes before I give up. One system we worked on in Trinidad was the VHF. Before I purchased a new radio I had done diagnostics on the old one and that most likely meant I disconnected the AIS from the VHF system and never remembered to connect it back up. Put that fix on the list to complete in Grenada. Fortunately this is not a high traffic route like Panama, Yucatan Straits, or the Gulf Stream off of Florida.  Tonight we won’t have AIS and fortunately we only saw two ships out there.

Anyway; we were sailing,  the Sun had set so I went below to get a shot at the first off watch. I tossed and turned and W/ said I slept some. Ok; maybe I did. I arose about midnight and we figured we needed to run the generator to recharge the refrigeration. So on the generator went. Check the water flow; Good. Wait for the generator to warm up and then start the refrigeration compressor.  The Generator warms up; I get ready to turn on the refrigeration compressor and the “Hi Temp”  light comes on. W/ quickly  checks the water flow and none. Shut the generator down. I look bewildered.  We wait 10 minutes and try again. Engine comes on, all goes well, the engine warms up and then alternator kicks in; the “Hi Temp” light comes on again and the raw water flow stops!  Damn! Damn! I can’t believe it. Fortunately we’ll be in and anchored by the am and I can solve the issue then.  That’s two major systems not working! Damn!

W/ goes down for some R n R.  Generally we do 2 hours on and 2 hours off but in short passages where we’ve an over night it is more as we feel.  She gave me close to 3 hours and I figure to do much of the same. But as one hour goes by and the wind has shifted a bit we’ve gone off course. We have a rule that neither of us leaves the cockpit without the other on deck. Yeah we have Jack Lines that we tie into them offshore and always at night –  but still we want another person up on deck. She and I can sleep easier knowing that the other isn’t taking any unnecessary risk. So I rouse her for a couple of minutes and I go to adjust the wind vane for the course we want. All’s  adjusted she now falls back to sleep and I settle in for a gorgeous evening sail.

Two hours later I wake her and we switch. I get an hour or so before we’re close enough to land that we both need to be on deck. Remember; for boats, land is the dangerous stuff. We’re close enough, and it’s too dark to actually enter the harbor. We reduce sail area and thus our speed drops so we hope to arrive at Sun rise. We pull in the Jib and sail on the Main only. This drops our speed from 5-6 kts to 2-3 kts. We slowly approach land. As the Sun rises we’re able to see the harbor and markers for the entrance.

Markers in any of the islands are always suspect. We follow them some and use them for guidance; but, mostly we use the charts and in this case our old tracks in and out. We had been in and out of this harbor twice so I still have our GPS tracks in and out of the harbor. We follow the track in that led us out and we thankfully enter Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada. Once we’re clear of the reefs I scramble down below and dig out our Q flag signaling that the boat is under a Quarantine until I can go ashore and meet with Health, Immigration, and Customs officials.

Once anchored we use a halyard to  remove the dinghy off the back of the boat.  I row ashore and walk across the hill to Customs in Prickly Bay. Therein I complete the formalities and return to the boat. In Mt. Hartman Bay there is some boat movement as there are many who believe that the storm Neil told me about was strengthening and some were adding more ground tackle while others were moving to the dock. We simply left our awnings stowed and added more chain. We’re  good…. we hope. 🙂

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

On, and On, and On and…

By the end of the third day we were accepting of our fate. You start to get into the routine of the boat. You know there is no easy way out. You are determined to see things through and be successful. We were beyond the limit of turning back to the US. The closest land masses now were the Exumas, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. So we continued on.

That evening Herb had told another cruiser in the same area there would be squalls to 40 kts and then settle into about 20 kts. We rigged the boat for the wx, furling the genoa, and reefing the main. We left up the staysail and the reefed main.  Part of the forecast was right on, we did have a squall for about 3 hours blowing in the mid 30’s as reported by Lison Life. But then the winds dropped to about 15 kts. Being the passive sailors we are and being it was night we simply waited for the winds to pick back up to 20 kts predicted. They never did and we made slow progress and progress was even a little W of S. In one respect we lost ground but in another we were doing fine.  Had I not listened to Herb we would have rolled the genoa back out and most likely been making good progress. As the “youth” of today say “Oh Well”! Generally though we’re learning more and more about the boat, with those winds we never even rolled any water in the gunnels, we had some spray but the dodger bravely stood up to any water aimed for our heads (great purchase). and the boat just took it all in stride.

In the am we did roll out the genoa, left up the staysail, and unfurled the main for as of yet the finest sail of the trip. The winds were perfect, the  seas were benign and we could make good progress in the direction we wanted to go.  The generator ran and stayed cool, the spreader lift was still hung up in the home it had found. Life was good. So good in fact that I chose to hang out two fishing lines.

W/ had chosen to take a nap and I hung out two surface lures, one about 25 yards behind the boat and the other about 50 yards. Then, I settled in for the wait.

Only Pic of Mahi we have

Only Pic of Mahi we have

When I heard the first zing of the line on one reel I yelled for W/,  cutting short her nap and went to grab the first real with the fish. She would bring in the second line. But as she was slowly waking up and coming out of the cabin the second line too went zing! I knew that Mahi like to travel in pairs and even the smaller ones like to school but I never expected to hook two at once!  Following Don’s advice (an avid fishing friend from S Florida) we set the reels so there would be some drag and the fish couldn’t easily break the line and we kept the boat at speed while W/ did her best to hang on to one rod and reel I tried to pop the fish to the surface and bounce them along to the boat.

This was a miserable experience.  The boat was traveling at 6 kts one way; the fish was doing his best to swim X kts any way away from the boat and W/ and I were doing our best not to give Neptune any new fishing equipment. We switched poles and I tried to bounce the other one on the surface to the boat. Neither fish would have anything to do with that method. They would jump, run, sit and try to break the line and spit the lure out but they would not calmly and quietly ride on top of the water to the boat. Finally after what seemed like an hour – probably it was 10-15 minutes we felt the Mahi’s weren’t tiring out nearly as much as we were. Back to the old stand by.

We luffed the boat. This was a simple procedure as with all sails set we just needed to adjust the windvane to head upwind about 5-10 degrees and the boat would luff, the sails would make noise but the boat would slow down.  Finally we were gaining on the fish. W/ was trying to keep the one under control while I cranked the other in. It was getting close to the boat; we could see it and the question was really how were we to get the fish aboard!  We could find our gaff. Needless to say we didn’t need it with this fish. As he got within about 3 meters of the boat I was going to when the boat rolled a bit lift him out with the pole and line and swing him aboard. She/ he (I don’t remember if it was a male or female Mahi or not) had other ideas. The first time I tried the line broke and the Mahi swam off into the deep blue WITH OUR LURE! DAMN!  Ok, on to the other one.

This one we were going to handle differently, not only don’t I want to loose the lure (they can be expensive) but I would like to have fresh Mahi to eat and store. So the new plan was to bring it up along side the boat and I would grab and haul it aboard. Then W/ would rush and get some alcohol to pour on the gills and the fish would die a happy death. Hopefully.

We got it to the boat and she took the pole and went forward on the leeward side while I donned a leather glove and reached over the side to grab the fish. The fish wasn’t liking that too much. I tried to grab the line and the tail. Lost round one. I tried to grab in his mouth and the tail, lost round two, I tried the line and tail again, lost round three; I was getting tired and I’m sure the fish was getting rather PO’ed.

Finally I tried grabbing the eyes and that tail and that got him close to over the lifelines and then with two hands hanging on to the tail I got him (actually her) into the boat. W/ brought out the Rum and we subdued her. She still struggled but not as much, then the camera and finally the fillet knife.  Blood everywhere, Mahi steaks cut for freezing and cooking and a happy cruising couple. How good could life get.

We cleaned up as best we could, we had already set the boat back on course and we sailed the rest of the day with smiles on our face. We sailed till about 3 pm when the winds died and we turned on the motor for what we hoped would be a day or less.

Approx 60 hours later we turned off the engine.  The good thing is that we have plenty of fuel as the designed tankage is 200 gallons. But we only carry about 150 gallons as I don’t know where exactly full is and the fills are on the sides of the tanks so I keep them about 3 cm down on each tank. That alone will give us a range of about 900 nm. Right now we’re less than that from the VI’s but one thing we don’t really want to do is motor all the way there from here.

Fair Winds  …… Hopefully.

Trip Summary

Day 1: Sailed to Clearwater, Genoa only. We were going to anchor at Anclote Key but w/ the NE breeze we decided to go down to CLW and anchor off Sand Key. Lovely Sail down, steered the whole way as we were just to lazy to set up the Sailmat self steering vane.

Day 2 Clearwater to St. Pete. Stoped at some friends just inside Johns pass. Again just the Genoa and hand steered. Easy three hour trip w/ NE – E Winds.

Day 3 St. Pete to Venice, Fl. Actually set up the boat for all the sails. Had the Mainsail up and the Genoa and setup the windvane. The windvane steered 90% of the way and we used the Mainsail for about 1/2 way. Winds NE-E. Fast trip we’re getting an idea on how big the Genoa is on this boat. Furling it is work and W/ can’t do furl it without using a winch. Stayed a Crows Nest Marina (CNM) and pickup up 10 gallons of fuel. Don’t recommend Crows Nest but if one needs a place then they’re just about it. Higle park around the corner is free but we didn’t know about the teen hang out there as last time we were there they were evident and we didn’t want to be bothered. We love sleep! The food at CNM wasn’t what were were use to either. The showers were clean and new laundry machines but their “Cruisers Lounge” was quite a stretch.

Day 4 Venice to Ft. Meyers Beach. Sailed mostly under Genoa till the Winds died. Used the windvane most of the way till we fired up the Iron Genoa (engine). Then had a filter plug and needed to bleed the engine. See earlier post. Got in to the beach and stayed in mooring field for about 5 days. Nice showers, laundry and dinghy landing.

Day 9 Ft. Meyers Beach to Marathon. Used only the Genoa in mostly N winds switching to SE when we could have used the N winds still. Used the windvane most of the way. Lumpy trip. See earlier post.

Estimate we used the windvane 80% of the trip. We’re believing the Genoa is simply to big for us and the boat w/ the winds this time of year. We’ll switch it out later on. Don’t know if we’ll keep it.

Time Slows down

As we reach closer to the end of our project time seems to slow down. Projects seem to drag. I know it is only an illusion but she sure feels like we’re aground. We’re working on some new projects yet (I’m installing the fuel tank for the heater) and W’s starting more on maintenance projects (she’s revarnishing the companionway that was never fully varnished and she’ll be revarnishing the exterior).

In the midst of the major projects we work on finishing up minor ones. We already replaced a main halyard because I felt I had oversized the halyard for the head of the sail. On the mainsail I could barely get the line through the eye. So I bought a halyard a little smaller and replaced the one that was on the mast. Then the halyard that had been on I’m splicing a snapshackle to it and that will be the halyard for our drifter. W or I get to go up the mast to add a block and the new – replaced halyard to the mast head. She’s never been to the top of this spar and oh what a view, 60′ off the water! If I go up I need to take some pics. 🙂 We recently bought a sock for the drifter and we’ll soon be able to see what she looks like. I can’t even remember what the sail looks like as it’s been years since we’ve had it out of the bag. I look forward to hoisting it in calm air just to get it set up correctly.

After the Spinnaker halyard I get to add a shackle to the Staysail halyard for a pole topping lift. Once all those little things are completed we can actually go sailing again and see how she goes. Look forward to flying it – she’s one BIG sail.

Fair Winds to all

A weeks Shakedown thoughts and results

We’re back. I tell people we’ve only added 3 additional things to the list but W tells me I’m wrong. More like 12. Ok, so what. I dove on the boat in the Vinoy basin to see if the chain hook gave me any problems. We were really lucky. None that I could see. Maybe a nick or two in the bottom paint but I didn’t see anything major. I came up smiling. On the return trip we started out with light winds off the stern but later in the day they freshened up a little and we actually were able to sail our course. Earlier we were going so slow downwind that we actually started tacking downwind to make it more comfortable and feel like we were getting somewhere. We couldn’t use the drifter yet because all the fittings haven’t been installed yet. Around noon with the breeze up to maybe 10 kts we decided to test out the Sailomat Windvane again. What a joy to be going the course we want and neither of us neededing to be at the helm. We anchored a little earlier than we had hoped at Anclote Key just off Tarpon Springs. As we only took our rowing, sailing dinghy and as we had anchored about a 1/2 mile from the beach we simply hung out on the boat. Then Saturday we sailed up to our channel and returned to our berth.