Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eustatius to Samana, DR

2014 04 17
London, ON

It was a quiet day and night out of St Eustatius, us motoring in no wind.  There were no problems with the diesel nor have there been any since the Antiguan departure.

Dawn saw us coming up on the BVIs.  Our intention was to motor straight through this charter boat haven, hopefully managing to avoid contact with any errant credit card captains.  The country is a small one and an hour of concerted motoring saw us in and out of the closely grouped mountain tops that comprise this Caribbean nation.

Since leaving Antigua we had been augmenting our daily download of the grib weather files from sailmail by listening to Chris Parker who maintains a daily Monday to Saturday voice weather forecast. 

Our plan had been to sail from BVIs to Turks and Caicos and then run up the east side of the Bahamas before cutting west to find Florida.  The BVI gribs suggested this was a bad idea with strong adverse wind and huge waves due to hit Turks and Caicos just about the time we would.  Chris Parker's forecast supported our assessment as did the NAVTEX broadcast out of Puerto RIco.  

Reluctant to give up a very good plan we hedged our bets.  Leaving BVIs we sailed more west that we otherwise would have making distance along the north coast of Puerto Rico.  The forecast did not improve so it was obvious that our plan was dead.  Time for a new plan.

Already halfway across Puerto Rico we decided to commit to  the Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic.  We had to cross the Mona Passage, a reputedly hazardous body of water separating the islands of PR and DR and if all  went well we would be into safe waters of Samana the night before the strong northerly winds and waves would hit.

The Mona Passage was a non event.  Luck was with us and with no weather briefing at all we hit the perfect day for a crossing.  Sundown saw us motoring into the bay in front of the town of Samana.  Our hook was down and we were enjoying a cockpit cocktail before dark settled like a blanket around us.  

It would be three days before we stuck our nose out of the Bay.

Seems Like Bad News... But on the Other Hand...

 March 30, 2014

Lake Worth Inlet, Florida

Antigua did not allow much room for relaxation.  Full of boat repairs, lack of ready built materials or modern equipment hampered our efforts to contract repairs. Much of our time was spent in project management: finding materials, scheduling the various trades, monitoring work being done.  We considered ourselves to be very lucky to have found such experienced workmen and the cost of the job was no more than it would have been in North America. 

This "seems like bad news but on the other hand..." phenomenon followed us all the way to Ontario from Antigua.

The day after repairs were completed to Meredith we reluctantly made our farewells to Stephen and Nancy who travel on Fairwyn, a 52 year old wooden sailboat and made our departure.  Leaving Jolly Harbour we were met midway by a dinghy carrying Holly and Alan from the Australian boat "Summerwind".  Holly had made cranberry scones and they were still warm.  Needless to say the scones did not survive to the end of the exit channel.

Motorsailing in nonexistent winds our diesel ran only fitfully.  Somehow we had developed an air leak in the fuel system.  Diesels do not run with air in the fuel system so every couple of hours the engine would quit and I would have to bleed a hot diesel so we could get underway.  

On one such stoppage I also found a massive engine oil leak caused when an oil filter gasket tore and failed to seal against the engine.  Had the engine not quit due to the air leak we would have missed the oil leak.  The oil leak would have been fatal had it not been found in time.  Our Beta diesel has an oil pressure alarm and shutoff designed to save the diesel in such circumstances but I hate to rely on mechanical systems.

Searching for the air leak I dropped a one of a kind retaining bolt, the one that holds the top on the fuel filter, into the bilge.  The bilge which had just had all that engine oil spewed into it.  The part was brass so the magnetic pickup did not work.  The oil rendered the liquid in the bilge worse than opaque.

Connie and I spent eight frustrating hours working together to find the darn bolt in our deep almost inaccessible bilge.  The boat sailed itself during this period as we were both deep in the bilge, one in the lazarette and one over the diesel while we disassembled the drive shaft, removed the bilge pump and the hoses that reside in the bilge and scooped a year's worth of oily muck out of that deep, dark, uncooperative, murky bilge.  

The part was found and the air leak in the fuel system was also found.  We had been sailing at 2 knots for almost a full day out of Antigua except for a few hours when the diesel ran.  This put us close to the island of Eustatius and we put in to the mooring field at Orangestaadt for rest and relaxation.  Also for some more lubricating oil, as we had used all of ours due to the leak.

Eustatius was a a treat.  Orangestaadt was a lovely polite clean orderly town that stocked absolutely no lube oil for diesel engines, at least none that we could find.  Finally we asked local fishermen who very concernedly sold us a lot of diesel oil which had to be decanted from one of their fifty gallon drums. 

Eustatius is an island we would never have visited had it not been for the air and oil leaks.

What a lovely place.  

A night's sleep on the mooring ball and it was dinghy on deck and us away still heading for Florida at full speed.  Or so we thought.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Finishing the Bowsprit

2014 03 08
Last Day in Jolly Harbour, Antigua
We Leave Tomorrow.  What a Relief

James George, Harbour Wood Shop, Jolly Harbour
Above you see one of the best finds a yachtsman could ever make: James George, a shipwright with twenty years experience, a knack with wood and a love of his job.

James and his helper Colin pictured here took on the job of reaffixing the bowsprit to Meredith once the repairs to the wood and fibreglass had been effected.

Originally Tony, of Tony's Fibreglass, was to have done this end phase.  Tony did a great job of removing the old rotted pads and epoxying new pads in place.  His work was impeccable.  Unfortunately when the job was half done Tony asked to be paid to date and we were happy to accommodate him.  We never saw him again.

James is a different kind of craftsman and a very conscientious man.

The result is a lovely bowsprit gracing the clipper bow of our dear Meredith, secure against the tensions and pressures imposed on her by the rigging, all insults to her integrity repaired with care and great attention, new deck pads of much greater strength than those with which Meredith left the factory.  We are satisfied.

A list of recommended shops in Antigua:

James George at Harbour Wood Shop in Jolly Harbour - carpenter and shipwright

Chippy Woodshop in Falmouth - good work but expensive and they falter on the paperwork

Tony of Tony Fibreglass, Jolly Harbour - knows his stuff and does good work.  Do not pay him until the job is done.

Trevor the Machinist at Antigua Slipway, English Harbour.  Another man who loves his work and who produces metal that is as much art as it is useful building components

Antigua Slipway, English Harbour: The only chandler in Antigua worth the name.  You can get everything from electronics to stainless rod to bulk epoxy and all the stuff in between.  I even found some empty cans.  Sounds weird to buy empty cans but when painting you can transfer paint from the large container to the smaller empty can and save wear and tear on the paint.  Their competition, Budget Marine, is expensive and I found kind of snooty, at least in Jolly Harbour.  The Budget Marine in Falmouth has much better customer service but their prices are still high.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kudos to Carrie Graham and TD Bank Lucan Ontario Canada

2014 03 05
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

With respect to the theft of our money by CIBC International Banking subsidiary First Caribbean Bank we are pleased to report that TD Bank, Lucan, Ontario Canada has saved us harmless.

Carrie Graham branch manager reported today by email that she had completed an inquiry into the actions of CIBC First Caribbean Bank and that money wrongly taken from us by CIBC First Caribbean was being returned to us.  Initially Ms. Graham thought the inquiry would take weeks but I think she turned on the afterburners.

We used an ATM maintained by CIBC FIrst Caribbean in Jolly Harbour Antigua.  We requested $2,000 EC but the machine gave us no money.  The bank, CIBC First Caribbean did, however, take the sum of $2,000 EC from our bank account.  When approached CIBC First Caribbean told us they had no responsibility and any relief would have to come from our home bank.  Odd since CIBC First Caribbean had taken the funds.

One CIBC First Caribbean representative even told us it was illegal for them to give us our money back.  Can you imagine?

Lucky for us the tough ladies at the TD Bank in Lucan, Ontario are more than a match for a bunch of overfed pompous bank staff in Antigua.  

Our thanks to Carrie Graham and her staff.  

Fixing Your Boat in Exotic Places

2014 03 05
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Above is Jolly Harbour, Antigua a pretty decent place to end a transatlantic.  Especially if you need work done to your boat.  As it turned out we needed a lot of work done.

We spent twelve days under sustained high winds, at least they were high for us: winds of 30 to 45 knots apparent carried us quickly but uncomfortably from Canaries to Cape Verdes islands and then very uncomfortably from Cape Verdes towards Antigua.

The winds refused to conform to the grib weather forecasts and rather than winds off our stern we had beam on winds and so we had beam on waves - tossing the boat wildly from side to side.  Our tactic is to reduce sail dramatically in winds of 30 knots or more and we were making 4 knots for most of the first week and a half out of Cape Verdes.  While it may seem silly to go so slow in bad weather we find the slow speed reduces wear and tear on both the boat and ourselves.

One morning on the usual rounds we discovered small cracks in a pad on our bow to which the bowsprit was attached.  We reduced sail even further and took down all foresail.  This was precautionary only as we did not consider the slight cracking in the gelcoat to be significant.  It was of course and under the sustained onslaught of wind and wave the cracks grew.  The growth was infinitesmal but undeniable.  It was also disturbing.  Under the sustained  beating the rig was taking the bowsprit was moving, not something a bowsprit is ever supposed to do.

Here is what we found on arrival Antigua:

Aft Pad

Forward Pad
 The bowsprit was showing some damage from water incursion:


The holes are supposed to be round not oval.

Because the pads were full of water and rotted the stainless steel bolts which held the bowsprit in place had corroded to the point of uselessness.

All in all we were very lucky.  Of course we travelled for ten days on a triple reefed main with every halyard and piece of usable line tied to the masthead and then to a forward cleat.  

Because we were in Antigua we were lucky.  Antigua is one of the best refit and maintenance destinations we have ever visited.  

A trip to Chippy the woodworking shop produced some professional repairs to the bowsprit itself:

The usual repair: rot drilled out and
new teak dowel glued in place 

Damage to the foreward boltholes was so severe
it required a double dowel to replace the rot

The square patch was dug out and new teak glued in place
for a tight strong fit
Getting ten inch long half inch bolts was not going to be a picnic but without them the whole exercise was for naught.  Trevor Machine shop machined new bolts for us out of 3/4 inch stainless stock the closest diameter we could obtain on the island.

Trevor in His Shop.
And He does not fix lawnmowers
Finally we used Tony Fibreglass to remove the damaged deck pads, remove the wet core and reglass new pads without plywood core.  The factory used plywood, we used laminated fibreglass peaces.  Our luck held and the water in the plywood core of the pads had not migrated to the deck coring.  Had it done so we would have been removing and replacing soft decking.  You gotta know what constitutes a win and we won big.  We had the whole deck sounded by George of Jolly Harbour Woodworking and got a clean bill.  The survey from two years ago was also clean.

Tony Fibreglass at Work
Removing the old core - soaking wet plywood

Tony Strikes a Blow for Freedom and a Sound Boat

Finished Job

Finished Job 2 - Nice Toenails

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sailing the Atlantic from Canaries to Antigua - The Jaded View

2014 03 04
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Here is the abbreviated version:

The Map Legend:

Diamonds are actual position at about 1700 UTC each day.  Blue dots are the planned route.

Bad Weather - Wind over 30 knots for an extended period in any day.  Winds not off the stern and waves from anywhere the wind damn well pleased.  In our case every night the wind was 30 plus from dark to dawn, most nights 35 and 40.  Maybe not life threatening but very unpleasant, wet and cold.

Mindelo bites.  

Good Weather: steady winds of 25 to 30 knots off the stern.  Waves behaving and off the stern quarter.  By the time we got to good weather and settled winds we were too tired to give a damn.

Antigua: yeah well...pretty well fungible with any Caribbean Island.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

A (Short) Tale of Two Cities

2014 02 27
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

One, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, was the best of places:

Santa Cruz de Tenerife viewed from the Wifi deck of the marina

The other, Mindelo, in the Cape Verdes, was the worst of places:

Just a Regular Day in Mindelo.  A blanket of  Saharan sand, camel dung,
dengue fever virus particles and whatever other obscenities
Africa sees fit to spew into the atmosphere obscures a mountain only half a mile away
Leaving Mindelo was a pleasure, the first time we had experienced such emotions in Europe or Africa.  Our departure, as Dickens suggested was a far far better thing we did than we had done before.


Santa Cruz has a local waterfront Opera House served by its own local opera company.

Mindelo offers this on its waterfront, an eagle I think poised to take flight from a pile of ... well mud is the charitable thought:

It has long been our view that the best part of our tour of the Mediterranean has been the Atlantic Islands: the Azores, Madeira, the Canaries.  Arriving at the safe refuge of the Canarian island of Graciosa in strong winds and just ahead of a three day blow we quiMckly came to appreciate the benefits, not only of the islands but of the people who inhabit them.  

Parts of the island chain are massively touristic, several towns consist solely of overbuilt Russian quality mass housing for the Euro mass consumer market.  You just avoid those places.  

We chose Santa Cruz de Tenerife, capital city of this island protectorate, on the recommendation of friends Stephen and Nancy on Fairwyn.  What a joy it was.  Clean air, beautiful mountains, half a dozen well stocked chandlers, urbane lifestyle.

This city is one we will revisit.  A winter apartment in Santa Cruz would be a joy.

Connie Accessing Email on the Wifi Deck

Another Sunny Day in Santa Cruz
Mindelo offers much less.  One of the claims to tourist fame offered by the Cape Verdean government is that six islands in the island chain are uninhabited.  The government suggests this makes them perfect places to enjoy some quiet sailing.  My view is that the six islands are uninhabited because they are uninhabitable.  

Hiking is big on the list of people who enjoy their stay in Cape Verdes.  CIty dwellers and consumers of culture will be less favourably affected.  That one or two islands might be great refuges for the lulu lemoned among us is not a big selling point in the book of moi.

Here the wind blows at 35 knots all the time, the air is nearly unbreathable on most daysfilled as it is with saharan dust and byproducts flung into the atmosphere by Africa and carried hundreds of kilometres out to sea.  The marina has a hellish surge and broken dock lines are the norm.  There is a grocery store but prices are not terribly good and there is no cafe culture whatsoever.

Cape Verdes has no extradition treaty with the USA and this accounts for some of its popularity.  I figure the US government takes the view that any white collar criminal who holes up in CV has exiled himself to near prison like conditions so why punish the poor bugger any more.  

The nicest bit of Mindelo were the colourful fishing boats which lined the shore:

The waterfront grocer

The Marina at Mindelo

The Marina Bar at Mindelo

Connie Gives a Canadian Flag to the Marina Bar for Display