2012 Blog

2012 Cruise – Concentration on Diving

27 December 2012


We’re dockside at Rodney Bay St Lucia, but hardly idle. I’ve made contact with the “Chinaman” who is going to repair my flexible coupling and alternator mount – making them better than new. The wind instrument and autopilot have been sorted out. In the case of the wind instrument, it was picking up some unwanted electromagnetic interference from the VHF radio, specifically on Channel 12. This was eliminated with the relocation of a Fair-Rite noise suppressor. With the autopilot, I just reset the breaker and the pump started up right away. It looks like it was just working too hard last week when we limped in here. Last week I replaced the seawater pump enroute and after arriving in Rodney Bay, I took the time to “recondition” the pump with a service kit. I always like to have a functioning spare on hand since this is the 2nd time I’ve changed out this pump.

On 26 December we had our annual Christmas dinner, and this time we had the advantage of being dockside. We picked up a turkey while in Trinidad and had it in the freezer for the occasion. We invited Anna and Hakan (Swedish) from SV Unicorn (repeat dinner guests) and Susan and Andrew (British) from SV Andromeda of Plymouth. The women worked out the menu and the men enjoyed it, as usual.

Yes, we’ve got our solar powered LED Christmas lights up on deck and in the cockpit.

If you think that our boat repairs are numerous, I can assure you that they are no more so, in fact probably much less so – than most people. The difference is that most people’s blogs don’t talk much about repairs, either because they’re scared it will affect the sale price of their boat, or because they hired somebody to fix it and don’t know enough to talk about it. If you think that our problems are big, have a look at this photo of the 42 foot ketch immediately at our stern, on a private dock, the back yard of a millionaire’s home. It sunk this morning, not yesterday, not last week — this morning. After a few hours they had found the leak and pumped out all the water. This is a BIG PROBLEM.

22 December 2012

Jimmie Thom and his son Casey flew into Trinidad to join us on Sunday 16 December at 0730am, with the expectation of sailing to Rodney Bay St Lucia over the next week. We were finally sailing North out of Trinidad.

We left Chaguaramas Trinidad on Sunday at noon, and Casey had already assumed his “favourite position”.

Five minutes after leaving the dock, we noticed an engine vibration that wasn’t there before. I asked Diane to throttle down (in the open bay with nothing to hit) while I went under water with snorkelling gear. Who knows, maybe we snagged a lobster pot or were dragging a chain or cable? I didn’t find anything so I took the decision to keep motoring on out of the Boca headed North in the direction of Trinidad. After about 40 minutes, I turned off the engine and we started sailing, with the intention of getting all the way to Union Island or at least Carriacou, hopefully on the windward side of the islands – if the prevailing winds would permit it. The motor vibration was still there but only at certain speeds so it could be avoided. We sailed through the afternoon, the night and as dawn approached we were sailing up the West coast of Grenada. We wanted to be on the windward side, but this is what we got. When we were in the lee of the island, we had to resume use of the engine (motor sailing) since the wind speed was low and the angle was poor. The vibration issue was there again, and when I looked closely at the engine, I discovered that the 200A alternator bracket had broken (this is the one I had fabricated with Jack while we were in PEI in May 2009) and the Volvo Johnson sea-water pump was leaking (I changed this pump in November 2009). I put the engine in neutral for a couple of minutes and removed the alternator belts. We continued to motor sail on the leeward side of Grenada for a few hours and then resumed sailing to Carriacou. We took a mooring at Sandy Bay Carriacou late in the afternoon and were grateful for the rest.

The next morning, I removed the 200A alternator and replaced the Volvo sea water pump. I’ve always got a spare on hand, as well as several rebuilt kits to repair a broken one. The sea water pump is a common failure item since the lip seal is prone to failure against the salt water. I also made a stab at improving the engine-shaft alignment with a view to reducing the vibration. So, we motored North to Union Island to clear into St Vincent and the Grenadines. However, some of the vibration was still there and it was a concern to me ……

In this photo, Jimmie and I are demonstrating the current fashion of 100% sunblock, a fashion that I am trying to get people interested in, particularly since I just had nose surgery for skin cancer!

Union Island was a pleasant place. We were only there about 2 hours. We took a mooring and I went ashore with one of the locals to clear in and pick up a loaf of bread. I found the island to be clean and tidy and the locals friendly. I even brought back dinner, 4 chicken rotis. Why did I buy rotis for dinner after having been in Trinidad for the past 7 months? Because Jimmy Thom and his son Casey were on board and they only spent 5 hours in Trinidad and never got to taste a roti!

We carried on to the Tobago Cays – a destination that Diane has frequently told people that we’ve never visited. It was a little tight to get in there and we did touch bottom once, but we finally took a ball just behind the reef at about 3pm. After listening to all the hype, I found the Tobago Cays to be a let-down. There was a swell behind the reef causing the boat to rock from side to side, the visibility wasn’t great and I was suspicious of our mooring ball. I snorkeled on the mooring and declared it was unsuitable so we had to move! We relocated about 300m and anchored in a deeper spot well behind all the other boats. In the morning, we launched the dinghy and motored over to the reef to snorkel on the ocean side and behind the reef/island “with the turtles”. The visibility on the ocean side was poor, as was the variety of fish. We did enjoy snorkeling with the dozen or so turtles that enjoy munching on the turtle grass but all in all, I found the whole “Tobago Cays” experience to be somewhat less than satisfying – perhaps because I was worried about the engine vibration …..

Meanwhile, Casey was in his “own world”.

On departure from the Tobago Cays, I noticed that the forecabin hatch handle was “less than perfect”, in that you could see daylight through the crack. This was unacceptable, so I reached into my vast bin of spares and with Jimmie Thom’s help, replaced the hatch handle with a new one. This solved the problem and we were able to get underway, bound for Bequia by 1000am and arriving at dusk (after enjoying yet another great sail). We anchored, but I was still concerned about engine vibration, even after only using it for a short period of time.

On Thursday morning, we all went ashore, bought fresh fruit and vegetables and I cleared us out of St Vincent and the Grenadines. At 1000am, we lifted anchor – bound for Chateaubelair St Vincent or even St Lucia, if the weather was suitable. The crossing from Bequia to St Vincent was “lively” to say the least. The forecast was for winds 10-15 knots, gusting to 20. We saw winds in the 20-25 knot range, gusting to 30 – but we were sailing. Early in the afternoon, as we were passing by the West coast of St Vincent, we took the decision to push on to Rodney Bay St Lucia, looking forward to enjoying another night sail – since the winds were NE or ENE and “workable”. Unfortunately, at 1520pm, in the middle of the channel between St Vincent and St Lucia we had a complete LOSS OF ENGINE DRIVEN PROPULSION. The engine vibration was now completely understood, as the aft end of the flexible coupling joining the transmission to the prop shaft broke and “flew out”.

Therefore, we could run the engine but it would not turn the prop shaft. I made the decision that we were to sail to Rodney Bay, well in the lee of the island of St Lucia (to avoid being shadowed and losing wind). In the late afternoon, close to St Lucia and with the wind dying, I took the decision to “shake out a reef” and hoist the mainsail a little further. Well, I thought I’d taken all the reefing lines off (these keep the “unused” sail fixed to the boom) but I missed one. Our new electric winch works very well and I’ll never forget the “tearing sound” as the winch continued to raise the sail, even though a rope was holding it tight in the centre. This screwup resulted in a 4 foot hole in the middle of the sail! Diane and I made a “field repair” using special sail repair adhesive tape, and we carried on.

At dusk, we took in 2 reefs since we were getting further from the island and the wind was picking up, and I didn’t want to stress that “field repair” any more than necessary. Reducing sail meant that we could bury the hole under a pile on the boom and our heel would be a little less …… if the wind picked up.

To put it bluntly, we had a really shitty night since the wind was right “on the nose” and exactly where we wanted to head and getting stronger by the hour.  I think that we tacked more on Friday night than we have since we LEFT CANADA. We can normally sail about 50 degrees “off the wind” but when the wind is coming from exactly where we want to be – we have to zig-zag back and forth to get there. Both Jimmie and Diane were puking their guts out, and I refused to leave the cockpit. Oh, and the wind instrument direction meter was starting to fail. The speeds were (depending on the distance to the island) in the 20-35 knot range, but the direction to the boat was non-sensible. Something was WONKY with the device, and yes – its now on my list to repair. Casey, Jimmie’s 16 year old son – refused to leave the cabin, probably scared out of his wits. Jimmie and I sailed the boat, zig-zagging back and forth working out way up the coast. As if that wasn’t enough, the autopilot stopped working!

By dawn, I’d had enough and called for assistance in getting to Rodney Bay. We were all just exhausted. The St Lucia Coast arrived and towed us in for a very reasonable fee of $ 2100EC, approximately $ 780. It took them just 2 hours to tow us, at speeds of 7-8 knots, directly to Rodney Bay.

At 1000am on Friday 21 December, the day predicted by the Mayan calendar to be “the end of the world”, we were berthed in slip F34 at Rodney Bay Marina. With Diane at the helm, the Rodney Bay launch tied alongside of us and assisted us in through the bay and into the slip. It was a wonderful ending to an arduous trip. But you know what they say – the difference between an adventure and an ordeal — is attitude.

We will be here at Rodney Bay marina (St Lucia) for at least the next month as I complete repairs.

On the positive side: nobody was hurt, our new Li batteries performed flawlessly, our new ultrasonic antifouling is working, and we’ve got a turkey in the freezer and expect to cook it up for Christmas dinner with friends. Here’s a photo of the only fish we “caught”, a little flying fish that gave up its life when it jumped onto our deck. By the way, Casey refused to believe that fish could fly.

5 December 2012

Lithium Batteries – caution, this posting is technical in content

When I first designed and installed the house bank for SV Joana in May 2000, I used 14 – 6V golf cart batteries in series/parallel to produce a 12V bank at 1640 Ahrs (deep cycle storage batteries). In time, I realized that this was too big, unnecessarily big. The next iteration took place in May 2008, when I replaced the original 14 with 6 – 6V floor sweeper (slightly taller than golf cart size) batteries, in series/parallel to produce a 12V bank at 900 Ahrs. This seemed to be the right size for our boat.

With experience, we began to understand the shortfalls of lead acid batteries. Traditional lead acid batteries used for deep cycle storage (as opposed to starting current) should only be discharged to 50%, in order to maximize their lifespan. What is disappointing to us is that the bank voltage drops proportionally with the state of charge (SOC) and load current. Therefore, we could be happily sailing along at midnight with a SOC of about 80% and the autopilot alarm starts to signal LOW VOLTAGE. You see, with fridge, freezer, instruments, autopilot, chartplotter and lights all running, even though the battery bank has lots of energy left in it, the voltage is drawn down to 11.9V, which may also be harmful to 12V motors and pumps. It was never a wiring issue, the wires have always been appropriately sized, or even larger than necessary – in order to prevent voltage drop. The only way we’ve been able to mitigate this voltage drop phenomenon in the past has been to shut down one or more devices (the freezer is the usual one) for about 8 hours. It does seem unrealistic in this day and age to have to do this. We also thought of buying yet another charging device, a towed water generator (approximate charge $ 2,000). However, this would just become another piece of equipment that has to be stowed, operated and maintained – just to keep the battery voltage up. The logical alternative was to replace the lead acid bank with Lithium batteries, just like people are doing with cars.

Some people have said “Lithium batteries, aren’t they a fire hazard?”.  The reality is that all batteries can enter thermal runaway and explode.  Lithium Polymer batteries (the kind that is used in a cell phone) can reach 1250F Degrees with flames. Lead-Acid Battery overheating often results in an acid spill. With LiFePO4 batteries (Lithium Iron Phosphate) — there is no flame, no acid, just heat that is simply contained in the battery box at 285F degrees.

One significant advantage with lithium batteries is that they will produce a constant 12.8V (or higher) as they discharge, dropping off slightly as the battery approaches 10% SOC – a 90% discharge (Li batteries are not limited to 50% SOC as with lead acid batteries). A Battery Management System (BMS) is essential to a Lithium battery bank. While it is likely cheaper to buy the individual cells and produce your own custom battery, you’d also need to perfectly balance the voltage on the cells (to one hundredth of a volt) and then design, build, install and operate your own BMS – something that I did not want to do. Therefore, I bought my batteries as a package system from Lithionics in Florida. Their Lithionics Battery Management System (BMS) (they call it Never Die) box shuts the battery down when it reaches 10% SOC ( their AH ratings include the usable AH).  This system includes five computers ….a master computer (inside the NeverDie box) that communicates with four computers in each cell battery box. I bought two 12V190A-30H batteries, giving me a total of 380Ahr (down from 900Ahrs with the previous AGM batteries).

Here are some photos of the completed installation.

In considering Lithium batteries, you should also carefully look at the charging systems in place. This is how things are done on SV Joana:

Engine Charging

We have a Volvo TMD-31 diesel that has a second 200A (externally regulated) alternator attached. Since we tend to run the diesel at about 1600-1800 rpm (far short of the 3200 rpm suggested by the engine manufacturer as necessary to get full effort out of the alternator), in practice, this second alternator tends to put out a maximum of about 80-100A. The regulator is a Balmar MaxCharge Marine Multistage Regulator MC-612. I reprogrammed the regulator for gel type batteries – and that has tested out fine with our Li batteries. 

We have two wind generators.

Spreco SilentWind, controlled by a Spreco provided W&S Charger.

Rutland 913 Wind Charger. The controller is a pretty unsophisticated device that ramps up the voltage up to about 13.8V depending on the wind speed. This wind generator is a very low output device (1-3 A).

Both of these wind generator charge controllers are unmodifiable for battery type, voltage and current delivered is a function of wind speed.

Solar Power

We have 6 solar panels, 4 X 75W and 2 X 130W, fixed angle (not adjustable to sun angle). Each array is independently controlled by its own Blue Sky MPPT Solar Boost 2512ix 25A solar charge controller, and has an attached IPN Remote (just to see the charging voltage and current). One is a Master and one is a slave. The charge profiles are not changeable, but their voltage and current is suitable for Lithium.

GENSET or SHORE Power Charging

This is where it gets interesting. We have a 6KW ONAN genset. Either the genset or shore power (while dockside) drives our Magnum Energy MS-2812 Inverter/Charger (bought in April 2010). 

The existing remote control was an ME-RC50 (bought in April 2010). Nearly all loads (the SSB and electric winch are wired direct to the house bank bus bars) pass through the Battery Monitor Kit and current shunt. Therefore, the RC50 is aware of all charging current (from the Volvo external alternator, the Magnum charger, solar and wind). After changing to Lithionics Batteries, I expected to use this RC50 to monitor panel current and panel voltage only, but use the Lithionics provided SOC gauge to monitor the real state of the new House Bank.

In practice, while at dockside or anchor (running the genset), this charger is capable of putting out up to 130A. We’ve been using it for 2 years and it has worked well for us. While at anchor (which is most of the time), we tend to run the genset each morning for about 30-60 minutes, during which time we make hot water, coffee, breakfast, run the watermaker and charge batteries.

Of the 5 different charging systems in use on SV Joana it was only the Magnum that needed any serious attention. It was easy to change the battery type from lead acid to AGM or GEL (mimicking Lithium) but the issue was with voltage – the bank voltage was too high for the remote to fully understand what was going on. The software is all based on lead-acid batteries. When the Lithium bank was full (or at least the Magnum RC-50 thought it was full), the remote would say FULL CHARGE and put the charger into standby mode. Even though we were at dockside, the charge delivered NO current. Therefore, even though we were at dockside and plugged into shorepower, the charger was “on standby” and allowed the battery bank to satisfy all continuous and intermittent DC loads (fridge, freezer, pumps, lights and fans). Even though the true SOC of the bank was only 25% (based on the Lithionics remote monitor), the Magnum remote thought the bank had a SOC of 100% and refused to allow it to deliver even a float charge. This was completely unacceptable to me. 

I communicated directly with the CEO of Lithionics (the Li battery manufacturer) and the VP of Magnum Energy (the charger/inverter supplier) to resolve this problem. Both were very understanding, and quick to offer suggestions. After several days of exchanging emails, I made the decision to replace the RC-50 with an ARC-50 (with firmware version VS 3.010) and replace a board on the Inverter (bringing the firmware up to VS 5.4) — in order to gain sufficient functionality to adjust the charging profile. After installing these two changes, one advantage was very quickly evident. Previously, the RC-50 Remote put the charger into standby after 4 hours (fixed time) of float charging (ie, no charging current). With the ARC-50, I was easily able to force the charger into continuous float, maintaining the battery voltage at 13.6V with varying current (depending on what the battery could absorb and what demand there was). 

Our normal routine is to anchor, not to be at a marina. When anchoring, I run the generator daily, first thing in the morning, for up to an hour. It is during this hour that I want to deliver a lot of charging current. This advanced monitor comes more advanced charging control. I am now able to set the Final Charge Stage to one of the following:

MULTI – typical setting for a multi-stage charger. In this case, if the voltage stays above 12.7V after 4 hours of float charging, the charger will go into standby mode. This setting isn’t well suited to my Li batteries because it puts the charger into standby (delivering no current) at dockside and causes my battery bank to continuously cycle from 100% down to 23% before it starts up again when the voltage drops to 12.7V. The Li battery bank has a higher rest voltage than lead-acid batteries.

FLOAT – this forces the charger to deliver a maintenance charge mode that maintains a constant voltage of 13.6V – while delivering up to the maximum rated current of the charger in order to power up any DC loads connected. This setting is very appropriate for Li batteries when the boat is connected to shore power.

SILENT – In this case, the charger triggers a re-Bulk charging current only when the voltage drops below a preset level, which I set for 13.2V. Silent mode is typically used when alternate charging sources (like solar and wind) are available to finish the charge cycle after the Absorb stage. SILENT mode is definitely suited to anchoring.

I tested the Magnum Charger at dockside (continuous shore power connection) to simulate anchoring conditions, turning OFF the charger at dusk and then turning it back on again for an hour at 0645 the next morning to simulate running the generator for an hour. The Li SOC had dropped to 68% overnight. With SILENT and ReBULK settings selected and 13.2V adjusted for the cut-in, the charger performed perfectly, initially delivering charging current at 135A at 14.1V with the current tapering down as the Li battery bank filled up. After one hour, the Magnum charger had driven the Li SOC up to 89% and was delivering 75A in Absorb stage – then I shut it off and let solar do the rest of the charging – just as what would happen when anchoring.

To summarize, the combination of the Magnum Energy (ME) MS2812 Inverter/Charger and  ME ARC-50 (with the most recent firmware) meets my requirements for shoreside and anchoring charging for my Lithionics LiFePO4 batteries.

1 December 2012 Still in Trinidad

Well, we’re still here, but have been dockside for nearly two weeks. That’s real progress. I’ve installed our new Lithium battery bank – and the next post will deal with that in detail.

I went for the surgery on my nose about 5 days ago. The plastic surgeon removed the basal cell carcinoma and used a surgical flap technique to close up the wound. It looked like a pretty nasty wound at first, but in the fullness of time, I’m sure it will be the best thing. After the stitches come out, I’m going to stick to wearing my fiberglass nose shield in daytime. This photo isn’t meant to show the scar, which is on the right side of my nose, by the way.

Diane and I have taken a couple of very tasty and economical meals at Tropical Marine’s Wheelhouse Pub and Restaurant. On Saturdays they have “Bake-n-Shark”, basically a fishburger (with shark instead of fish) and salad. On Wednesdays, they have swordfish, tuna and ribs. On Fridays, they have a BBQ. The swordfish is fresh, caught weekly by the fishing boats operating right out of Tropical Marine. In fact, I’m sure that the swordfish is the best I’ve ever eaten.

At the pub this past Wednesday night, there was a special event with a local band playing parang, Christmas music. I think this was the first time I’d heard of this kind of music. This YouTube video is representative of the music we heard. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a crowd there at the time. Note to self, avoid large crowds. Consequently, although we reserved for 1900 hrs, and arrived at 1900 hrs – we had to wait our turn until 2100 — to get served. Yes, we waited patiently for 120 minutes before getting any food. When I paid the bill, they caught me “telling the truth” and I told the Manager that Diane’s shrimp kebob tasted like crap (yes, I said that) so they gave us the meal free. Only fair in my mind. On the other hand, the ribs and swordfish were very, very good.

Yesterday afternoon was the annual fundraising event conducted by the Yachting and Sailing Association of Trinidad and Tobago (YSATT). Here is the evidence of Diane volunteering in one of the booths – doing her thing.

16 November 2012

Chaguaramas Trinidad – Diwali (or Divali) Festivities

The CIA World Factbook states that the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago are mostly Indian (South Asian) 40%, African 37.5%, mixed 20.5%, and other 2%. From the perspective of religion, the country is broken down into Roman Catholic 26%, Protestant 25.8% (Anglican 7.8%, Baptist 7.2%, Pentecostal 6.8%, Seventh-Day Adventist 4%), Hindu 22.5%, Muslim 5.8%, other Christian 5.8%, other 10.8%, unspecified 1.4%, and none 1.9%. Therefore, with a population of over 1.2 million, you can expect that there are 490,000 people of East Indian ancestry, and 276,000 that are follow the Hindu religion.

On Tuesday, 13 November, we took part in the Trinidad annual celebration of Diwali (or Divali), a Hindu festival that is celebrated around the globe. Outside India, it is more than a Hindu festival, it is a celebration of South-Asian identities. Diwali is a festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. The word Diwali means “festival of lights.” In the East Indian communities throughout Trinidad, people light rows of lights to commemorate heroic figures in Indian mythology who triumphed over the forces of evil. Also people clean their homes and open all their windows and doors to welcome luck and good fortune during Diwali. The exchange of gifts is also traditional during this holiday, and many people host dinners and Diwali parties.

In Trinidad, Divali is a public holiday and weeks of fasting and abstinence by the Hindu community climax in the lighting of thousands of tiny deyas (small clay pots filled with oil) in courtyards, homes and parks. It is very much a community affair and entire villages are illuminated, traditional Indian wear is donned, special foods and sweets are prepared to share with friends and neighbours.

Jesse James organized a trip with over 50 cruisers to one of the Hindu communities in the South of the island – Felicity (cost of 350TT per person (about $ 58US)). We were treated to traditional Hindu dancing in the Felicity Hindu Temple and had a traditional vegetarian meal (I think it was a bus-up) on a big green leaf. Yes, no plates, just a big leaf.

Something that I noticed when visiting the Hindu areas several months ago, was the occasional image of a swastika, an equilateral cross with four arms bent at 90 degrees.

The swastika remains widely used in Eastern religions (in this case, Hindu) – primarily as a tantric symbol to evoke shakti or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. The word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit svastika – “su” meaning “good,” “asti” meaning “to be,” and “ka” as a suffix. The swastika literally means “to be good”. You’d have to wonder how Adolf Hitler ended up adopting this symbol for his Nazi party and Aryan Race in 1920. Unfortunately, the swastiki is largely stigmatized in Europe and outlawed in Germany and other countries.

10 November 2012

The Nose that Knows …….

I always like to try and inject a little humour, life is like that.

I was first diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma in June 1987, more than 25 years ago, while serving on a United Nations Peacekeeping tour in the Golan Heights, Israeli occupied Syria. The doctor that removed the specimen and sent the tissue away for biopsy was Dr Bill Bateman, a friend of mine. Since then at least a dozen biopsies have been done on my face, arms, hands, back etc. The most notable, and the subject of this post is my nose.

Basal-cell carcinoma (BCC), is the most common skin cancer, but it rarely metastasizes or kills. However, because it can cause significant destruction and disfigurement by invading surrounding tissues, it is still considered malignant. Statistically, approximately 3 out of 10 Caucasians (white people) may develop a basal-cell cancer within their lifetime. In 80 percent of all cases, basal-cell cancers are found on the head and neck.

Three years ago, my Dermatologist in Canada (during an annual exam) zapped a piece of skin on my nose, in an attempt to clear it up with liquid nitrogen. Two years ago, he took a biopsy and then referred me to a plastic surgeon who took another biopsy. It has been impossible to schedule this surgery in Canada, so I recently went to a local Dermatologist in Trinidad. For $ 200 US, she gave me an examination, excised the area and sent the skin off for biopsy. I saw Dr Suite on a Wednesday, and the following Monday she emailed me with the news that it was still basal-cell carcinoma (this was the third positive biopsy in a row) and recommended me to have plastic surgery. I’m going to see a local Plastic Surgeon next week.

In the meantime, I’ve been wondering how I can better protect my skin, and in particular – my nose —- from the damaging UV rays. Yes, of course — I wear sunscreen, SPF 60 – have been for years. However,  in the heat and sweat, sunscreen doesn’t last and ends up stinging my eyes, even though I religiously put it on at least twice a day. I figured this called for sunblock, or even better — a nose protector!

I’ve never seen what I wanted to buy, but I do recall a Cowboy movie about 30 years ago where the bad guy wore a silver nose. Maybe his nose was shot off? In any event, I figured that if I can dream up the requirement, somebody out there has made one. Much to my delight, I found several websites that offer a device that attaches to one’s sunglasses. 

Something like this would be perfect, but impossible to find on the shelf in the Caribbean, so I decided to make my own. I first went shopping to find some Plaster of Paris to make a mold.

Then, I made up a “buttery” mixture (not too watery) and had Diane help me with covering my nose.

Then, after about 30 minutes, I removed the mold from my face and allowed it to cure about another 2 hours or so. Then, I put some vaseline on the cast impression and again made a “buttery” mixture of Plaster of Paris and put it inside the mold. Once it started to harden up, I put a little stick inside, so that I could “attach” my future plaster nose to the vice.

I sanded all 3 of the noses smooth, coated the outside with an exterior white paint (again, it was onboard) and lined the inside of the nose guards with a breathable medical bandage (onboard).

I was trying to get a good photo of the finished product in use – but our Pentax optio digital camera (August 2006) just died, so we’ll have to get a new camera. This photo is taken with my Mac.

I’ve only used my homemade nose guard a couple of times, and it may take some tweaking, but I think this will be a valuable part of my outdoor gear.

1 November 2012

La Brea Pitch Lake, and Hindu Temples

We went on another full-day tour with Jesse James – first stop was the La Brea Pitch Lake, on the South West Coast of the island of Trinidad. Pitch Lake has attracted explorers, scientists and tourists since it was first discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. Raleigh himself found immediate use for the asphalt to caulk the seams of his wooden ship. The lake holds approximately 10 million tons of asphalt, the worlds largest commercial deposit – which is mined and exported for use in manufacturing and road paving.

The Pitch Lake looked alive as we walked over it. The surface is spongy to the feet and if you stay too long, you’ll find your feet compressing the surface.

The surface burps, and hisses sulfur gas. Objects (arrow heads, logs) that were swallowed by the lake a thousand years ago bubble up in a new location. Strangely, cashew trees encircle the lake and mango and breadfruit trees are plentiful. The lake is also a bird watcher’s paradise as herons, hummingbirds, sandpipers, kingfishers, ospreys and turkey vultures make this area their home.

The Pitch Lake is said to exist because of two geological faults that intersect, causing crude oil to seep from fractures in the sandstone below the earth. The lighter elements of the oil evaporate, leaving behind the heavier asphalt. Bacterial action on the asphalt at low pressures creates petroleum in asphalt. Although the surface of the lake is solid enough to walk on, the area is in constant motion. The tar is over 350 feet deep at the center of the lake, which is shaped like an inverted cone. Our guide told us that a 40 foot by 40 foot hole (created by the strip mining) completely refills itself in a few days!

The next stop on our tour was to see Siewdass Sadhu’s Temple in The Sea. This is a well known site of worship for Hindus and a bit of a tourist attraction. 

The Waterloo temple was built by Sewdass Sadhu, an indentured labourer who came to Trinidad in 1907. The story is well-known: Sadhu built his first temple in 1947 on lands owned by the sugar cane company, Tate and Lyle. It was broken down and Sadhu was charged with trespassing and fined £100 or 14 days in prison. Declaring that if he couldn’t build his temple on the land then he would build it in the sea, Sadhu began the work that would realize his dream. With two buckets and an old lady’s bicycle with a carrier at the back, Sadhu began the laborious and painstaking task of building the temple in the sea.

Five hundred feet into the quiet waters of the Gulf of Paria, it today continues to stand on the very spot Sadhu first built it, although in a little better condition since repair works were carried out with help from the State and private business in 1994.

Over the years, Hindu devotees and tourists alike have made the journey to the Temple-in-the-Sea, once described as the first of its kind in the western world by Dharmacharya Pundit Krishna Maharaj. On shore, on the grounds next to the temple is the Waterloo Cremation Site (an outdoor Hindu cremation site). As we have toured the Southern part of Trinidad, we have sometimes driven by one of these outdoor cremation sites while a funeral was occurring. Much to our surprise, they do indeed have a ceremony with friends and relatives on hand, while the deceased is burned on an outdoor funeral pyre. Approximately 25% of the population in Trinidad & Tobago is Hindu. It takes about four to five hours for a body to burn completely, and since there is no way to separate the human ashes from the wood ash, the family receive about five gallons of ashes.

The final stop was to the Dattatreya Yoga Centre, a Hindu headquarters in the Caribbean and South America of the spiritual mission of His Holiness Sri Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji, Pontiff of Avadhoota Datta Peetham of Mysore, India. This is also an Ashram and location for many cultural activities, including yoga.

27 October 2012


Another week has flown by. We’re so busy, we actually have to schedule things on a calendar (dental, dermatologist, re-do of upholstery stitching, re-do of dinghy tab gluing, servicing of winches, taking on more projects). If it gets any worse, one of us will have to look for a job!

Of note, a few days ago we took one of Jesse’s tours to Gaspar Grande island (a mile and a half long, a half mile wide) to see the Gasparee bat caves, accessible from the seaside using Skezzo’s water taxi.

On the island of Gaspar Grande, I thought that this rainwater rooftop collection system was worthy of study. I know that this type of system would be difficult to keep in operation in our home country of Canada – but it certainly does look simple.

Over millions of years, wave action and slightly acidic rainfall created the limestone caverns and cave systems of Gasparee, open to the public since 1981. Access to the caves is gained via a 10 minute walk up a 30 degree incline on the northern side of the island (its pretty steep, but on a poured concrete path). To appreciate the cave you need to go deep inside to see the Blue Grotto with its 30 metre depth where sunlight strikes the aquamarine water.  I’ve read that there are 70 species of bats and 9 distinct families that live in Trinidad, although we were told that only fruit bats live in the Gasparee caves.

After the caves, some of the cruisers (Diane included) took the opportunity to have a swim in the refreshing and clean water at the dockside – a big improvement over the water quality in our harbour (Chaguaramas is an industrial port). I didn’t go for a swim as I was trying to stay completely out of the sun.

On the boat work side, Diane has been cleaning the decks, cleaning the cabin, cleaning the fenders etc. I completely tore apart our Rutland 913 wind generator, replaced the bearings and tightened up the commutator bushing – removing the annoying rattle. We copied Chris and Jackie on SV Highheeled (out of Hamilton) and Diane painted the Canadian flag on the tail of our wind generator.

19 October 2012


We’re still here in Trinidad, and don’t plan on leaving for another few weeks. Why? First, we are both getting dental work done, nothing serious, but I finally had a broken tooth pulled that had been bothering me for three years. Second, we’re still in hurricane season, so we wouldn’t normally venture much North, although there are people heading South to Guyana or West to the ABCs and Columbia. Third, our boat is on the hard, right at the edge of the sea. We have many of the benefits of being at anchor (breeze, view) but less of the irritants (rocking back and forth, concern about the anchor dragging). Therefore, we’ve decided to extract ourselves from Trinidad in “slow time”. In the meantime, there are always things to do. For example, last week we went to “Movietown” and saw “Taken 2” at the Cinema. This makes a nice change from watching a movie on our TV. After the movie, we had some very good sushi (imagine that, sushi in Trinidad) at a restaurant. 

There are still things on the boat that need fine tuning. For example, last week I was posting about the successful completion our our conversion of one halyard winch from manual to electric/manual. Well, a few days ago, I tried to go aloft in our bosun’s chair and Diane got to test the new electric winch. It didn’t lift me one inch off the deck and started to click and sputter. On the negative side, since we wanted to finish this job (it required hoisting me 85 feet off the ground), we decided that Diane had to hoist me up the old fashioned way (manually with the winch handle). That still works well, but it got Diane tired, as expected. On the positive side, after some real-world testing, I determined that the installation and equipment was fine, but the shaft failed to penetrate deep enough into the winch to successfully drive the gearing. Therefore, some components have been taken away by our winch/windlass specialist Mr Ian Chai Hong, and we should have it all sorted out again in a week or so. I’ll post more on that next week.

On another front, I decided to have another go at installing the rigid boom vang, a Garhauer product that I initially installed about 5 years ago, only to have all the bolts fall out when we were caught in a storm off Bermuda in 2009. Since I had to take the vang off to get the mast down, I decided to farm it out to a local metal working shop to have the boom attachment bracket “re-worked” to give it a much more substantial bite into the boom. Now, I’m confident that it is solid.

Finally, to finish off the wind generator mount, I decided to address a 4rth mounting point. The pole is mounted to the hull at the base (with a bolt) and with 2 stabilizing bars that are fixed to the pushpit. However, about 6 months ago I started squeezing a fender in between the pole and the 4X4 steel post supporting the solar array. This was supposed to be a temporary solution to see if I could dampen the vibration. Well, it worked so well, I never bothered taking the fender down.

This week, I decided that I could make my own shock absorber (a 3/4” SS pipe inside a 1” SS pipe, and the air gap filled with 3M 5200) to replace the fender.

7 October 2012


Last week, we took some needed time off and went on one of Jesse James’s organized tours. Yes, that is his real name, I’ve seen his driver’s license. Jesse James is a local Trinidadian who has been working for 16 years to provide taxis and tours to the cruising community in Trinidad. We first went on his “Taste of Trinidad” tour back in June. Last week, we went on a trip that encompassed two tours in one, first to the Asa Wright Nature Centre and second to the Caroni Swamp Bird Sanctuary.

At the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC), we were treated to sightings of dozens of beautiful tropical birds in this tropical rainforest preserve. 

The Centre is a “Not-for-Profit” Trust established in 1967 by a group of naturalists and bird-watchers to protect part of the Arima Valley in a natural state and to create a conservation and study area for the protection of wildlife and for the enjoyment of all. Comprising nearly 1,500 acres of mainly forested land in the Arima and Aripo Valleys of the Northern Range, the AWNC’s properties are to be retained under forest cover in perpetuity, to protect the community watershed and provide important wildlife habitat. The Centre’s main facilities are located on a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation, previously known as the Spring Hill Estate. This estate has now been partly reclaimed by secondary forest, surrounded by impressive rainforest, where some original climax forest on the steeper slopes have a canopy of 100-150 feet. The whole effect is one of being deep in tropical rainforest.

We saw, as we have seen before, a huge active colony of leaf cutter ants. Its really tough to get pictures of these little guys, marching back to their home with a leaf on their back (and sometimes a young ant actually riding on top of the leaf, as a security guard). This video is very helpful to understand them.

The Caroni Swam Bird Sanctuary is nestled within a beautiful Mangrove Wetland, and the home of the exotic Scarlet Ibis and 186 other species of bird wildlife, egrets, Herons, and wading birds. You can also see Spectacled Caimen basking in the sun; boa constrictors laying on tree branches, and Silky anteaters on mangroves trees. I took lots of photos, but its tough for them to turn out. This is obviously a big wasp nest in the mangroves.

Although we did see two boa constrictors curled up and sleeping in the trees (and I did take photos), this little boa on the road provided a much better photo.

Before getting on our boat for the swamp tour, we noticed hundreds of these little “one armed” crabs. Oddly enough, if you look really closely, you’ll see that they’re not all right or left handed. They’re both. I wonder if its just random, or somehow sex-related?

We boarded a tour boat and proceeded to pass through the swamp, while our tour guide Jesse pointed out a silky anteater, snakes and various types of birds.

In this photo, Jesse James uses a stick to point at a boa just about our heads. And no, he wasn’t kidding.

The most memorable sight however, is the Scarlet Ibis (en mass) returning to roost on the mangrove tree.As the sun sets,thousands of birds return from feeding grounds to roost for the night. We were mesmerized by the transformation of mangrove trees into  living Christmas trees. I did not take a video, but I did take many photos. I noticed on YouTube that there is a short BBC video that describes the same scene we saw with thousands of birds roosting at sunset.

30 September 2012



Five years ago, we bought a Milwaukee 28V cordless drill, right angle, high torque – to assist with operating the main sail halyard winch. With age, the sail wasn’t getting any lighter – in fact, everything is starting to appear heavier! This drill had enough power in it to lift me in the bosun’s chair all the way to the top of the mast – when it was new. In time, the battery lost more than half of its strength and this year it was all that it could do to hoist the mainsail (which was its primary role). Therefore, six months ago, we started to think about an electric winch.

After considering the different possibilities, six months ago we decided to upgrade one of our existing mast halyard winches to electric. All the winches on JOANA are made by Andersen, of Denmark. They are all self-tailing winches – and are all possible to upgrade with an Andersen conversion kit. These two photos show how the mast appeared before the conversion.

I bought the conversion kit from the Canadian distributor (Rekord Marine) and had it shipped to Trinidad by UPS. After we took the mast down and had it on the ground, it was pretty obvious that this electric motor was not going to fit inside the mast. In this photo of the bottom of the mast, you can see the heavy aluminum pipe that was previously welded in place. I’m told that all masts over 60 feet in length have a splice. Most splices are “near the top”. My mast has its splice in the bottom 8 foot section. Why, I don’t know, but it is very strong.

Andersen provides very good installation instructions, but they don’t talk about halyard winches. Their instructions focus on deck installations, which are far easier than a mast installation. The rigger mentioned that he had experience with only 1 other electric halyard winch installation, that of his brother. In his brother’s case, he decided to mount the electric motor inside a box that became attached to the deck. Unfortunately, this means that you have to be on your hands and knees to operate the winch, which is ergonomically awkward – and difficult as you get older. I opted to install the motor inside a box to be attached to the side of the mast, in nearly the same position as the previous winch. This, in my “mind’s eye” was ergonomically correct. The previous winches were held in place with a 3/4” bolt threaded through the centre of the mast, so I figured I should be able to mount the box in a similar fashion.

I started with contracting out the manufacture of an aluminum box, of 1/4” marine grade aluminum. Justin made this up for me, tailoring the flanges to fit around other mast fittings. Laid on top of the box is the transparent template provided by Andersen, to drill out the holes for the mounting flange.

In the next photo, the Andersen electric motor is sitting on top of the box, to give you the perspective.

In this side view photo, you can see where the box needs to fit. You can also see the existing 3/4” bolt that holds the other winch in place.

After drilling the correct holes in the box, it was a simple matter to install the mounting flange, taking care to make sure that there was sufficient clearance for the motor housing (otherwise, you end up with alignment difficulties). In this case, you can see that I used a caulking/sealant to bed/isolate the two different materials (stainless steel and aluminum).

The next step, in my opinion, was to electrically and mechanically test the setup. It would be a shame to complete the installation and test at the final stage only to discover the alignment was poor or the cabling incorrect. Therefore, a simple dry fit and mockup test was required.

Next, I made a hole for the electric wires in the mast, and completed a second dry fit of the box to the mast. A cargo strap retained from my Harley Davidson purchase circa 2003 proved to be worthwhile (the box and motor assembly are a bit heavy). Here you can see that the box overlays the previous bolt, meaning that the installation will still put the winch in a good vertical position.

In the next step, I drilled the 3/4” through holes in the box and mast (both sides) for the 3/4” threaded rod, then re-installed the box with self-manufactured neoprene gaskets and 3M 4200 sealant. In this next photo (end-on from the bottom of the mast), you can see that the alignment is so good that both 3/4” bolts “appear as one”. You can also see the electric cables coming out of the box, secured inside a short piece of water hose to reduce wear.

Next, I painted the box with an etch primer, then epoxy, and then 3 coats of a white polyurethane paint, the same as what we just put on the mast. In this photo, you can see the gear is fitted to the shaft of the motor, awaiting the winch installation.

In this last photo, you can see the outcome at this point in time. Two more stages remain. First, to adjust the position of the triple rope clutch feeding the winch, in order to make the halyard alignment from the mast exit, through the rope clutches to the winch – more fair. Of course, when the mast is stepped on deck again (next week sometime), I’ll have to make the final (inside the boat) electric connections and then test again. This project is coming along just fine.

20 September 2012


The mast/boom painting program has gone well. First, we had to remove and or replace some fittings, then mask off those items that shouldn’t get paint. Then, the mast and boom were sanded with 220 grit paper, mechanically abrading the surface. Then they were washed with a degreaser/cleaner and cleaned with with acetone. The first coat of paint was an two part etch primer (yellow, but applied only over the bare metal)./

Then, we rolled on two-part epoxy primer (grey). Epoxy is good paint, but it doesn’t have any UV protection.

The final paint to be exposed to the UV is a two-part polyurethane, Jotun Hard-Top AS – Matterhorn white. In fact, all paint products were Jotun products, a UK company that sells paint world-wide. This paint is considerably cheaper, and very similar to the Awl-Grip series (that is 5 times more expensive) – but less glossy (commonly used for industrial applications, and on big ships). We could give the mast and boom one coat of epoxy with only 3 litres of paint. One coat of polyurethane used up only 2 litres of paint. We applied 3 coats of the polyurethane after the epoxy.

I should have mentioned that sometimes we’ve had Herbert (from SV Abraxis, a German flagged sailboat, with Herbert and Erika) giving us a hand. Herbert and Erika built their own aluminum boat. Helping hands make for lighter work, and we’re always there to return the favour.

At this time, I could say that we’re waiting on the rigger (Jonas from Trinidad Rigging), who in turn is waiting for parts. He has the new halyard sheave bearings. Also, I’m still waiting for Justin (the welder) to make my aluminum box that will house the Andersen electric motor, converting the port side halyard winch (aft halyards) to electric. I’ve bought all the pieces necessary to complete the installation, but I need the aluminum box/housing to get going on this project.

Last week, I mentioned a new deck/steaming light in the blog. Here’s a photo of the installation.

13 September 2012

LIFE ON THE HARD – Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago

Boat work is going well, very well. Since I last wrote, I replaced the aft Hella halogen lights (they were attached to the underside of the solar panels, illuminating the stern) with Bebi Electronics LEDs, very bright ones that consume very little power. These LEDs (there are 4 clusters of 15) consume about .1A each, for a total of .4A, compared to the previous halogen lights that consumed 6A each for a total of 12A. The difference this makes is that we can actually turn these lights on and leave them on for hours at a time. With the halogen lights, I could only leave them on for 10 minutes or so, it was too much draw on the battery.

The next thing I did was to completely install the Ultrasonic Antifouling system, control box and 4 transducers. This took a full day (I chose a very rainy day, and there are lots of them these days), requiring bonding of the transducers to the inside of the hull (in strategic locations), without making any holes in the hull and then running the wires to connect them. I’m keen to get the boat in the water so that I can report on how it works.

The mast has been unstepped and is now on the ground next to the boat.

I’ve also shown two photos indicating one of many cracked machine swaged fittings (all the upper fittings are machine swaged, and nearly all were cracked) and a broken strand (only the forestay had a single broken strand). Either of these failures could have caused the rigging to collapse, under severe conditions.

I’ve been picking away at the jobs. I replaced the VHF cable, swapping out RG8X for RG213. The replacement cable is about 3 times thicker, so it should give us better range. I’m also changing the antenna, but I don’t want to actually fit the antenna yet since it will get in the way while I’m working on the mast.

I replaced the existing LED anchor light (4 years old) with a new Aqua-Signal tri-colour fixture, but, I removed the incandescent bulb and soldered in (you guessed it) a Bebi Electronics LED. I also drilled a hole in the top of the fixture and fitted a Bebi Electronics LED anchor light, with a daylight sensor. I realize that the assembly looks a little home-made, but it is very energy efficient, and very water proof. We’ve never had masthead navigation lights before. When I was building the boat I thought it was sufficient to install the navigation lights at deck level only. However, based on our experience over the past 3 years, I’ve come to realize the importance of being seen at night, even when the boat is moving up and down in the ocean swell.

I also replaced the deck light / running light fixture with an identical one, not sun damaged, but changed the halogen deck light bulb for another Bebi Electronics LED. In fact, I soldered in place 2 LED clusters, one pointing down at the foredeck, and a second one pointed up the mast to the upper spreaders. This should help to make our boat stand out in a dark anchorage!

Now, only 2 jobs remain: fitting the Andersen electric winch upgrade on the mast (port side) and painting the mast / boom. To that end, both jobs are “underway” and I hope to report on them next week.

Diane had hoped to participate in aqua fitness over the past week but only went once, due to the unexpected arrival of a seasonal cold. This is very rare for us to get a cold, and thankfully, I didn’t get it this time around.

5 September 2012

BACK TO THE GRIND – Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago

We’ve been back from our two month holiday in Canada for nearly a week. Our return was uneventful. It sure is nice to have a direct flight, Trinidad to Toronto. The boat was a bit dirty on the deck (no doubt from the boatyard dust and Saharan sand in the rain), but there was no sign of any mould. We left the dorade vents open as well as a couple of the portlights. Nothing was stolen or out of place.

We’ve settled back into life “on the hard”. This means using the toilets and showers at the boatyard facilities. We are fortunate though that our fridge and freezer work while we’re up on the hard. Although our toilets don’t work, we do have an A/C unit cooling our aft cabin so sleeping is not an issue.

While waiting to get started on the mast project, I’ve finished off a few smaller LED light projects. The galley area was always a little dark, so I added two LED lights from Bebi Electronics in Fiji (which I had delivered to our address in Canada). I also added a bright little LED light in the shower.

The good thing with LED lights is that they draw so little current, you can use a very small wire. The bad thing, is that at this “stage of the game”, I’m loathe to have wires showing so I’m doing my best to hide the wires. In this photo, you see what I mean as I’ve drilled entrance and exit holes in the Ikea racks above the galley sink – and am in the process of fishing the wire (my finger is holding the wire).

The end result, in my humble opinion, is a very smart and efficient light. This light draws only about .1A and lights up the counter top and galley sink area. Diane has been washing the dishes in the dark for years. Now she can see what she’s doing.

The next application was just over the food preparation area, and this LED light is intended to cast light into the pantry area. In this area, I had to fish wire in “the ceiling” and connect to a nearby existing light fixture.

Last, but not least, I had to install an LED light in our newly painted shower, to brighten up that area. Now, you can definitely see yourself in the shower.

With the next blog, I should be able to talk a bit about the mast work. The rigger (Jonas from Trinidad Rigging) did an inspection this morning. Unfortunately, he found several cracked swage fittings and at least two broken strands. We’ve made the decision to completely replace the standing rigging. Cost, at this time – uncertain – but likely to be in the $ 10K region. At this time, the boom is on the ground and the mast will be lowered tomorrow with a crane. Then the list of mast issues will be dealt with, one by one.

29 July 2012


We’re currently in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada – visiting Jonathan. We’re halfway into our summer holiday/hiatus from the boat. On 29 August, we’ll be flying back to Trinidad to resume our maintenance/overhaul session. One big project that is left is to take down the mast – more on that next month. 

In the meantime, I’ve been investigating (and eventually bought) an ultrasonic anti-fouling system for our boat (to complement our Coppercoat anti-fouling that was applied in September 2008). A few years ago, I heard about ultrasonic anti-fouling and came across a UK manufacturer. A control box sends a variety of pulsed ultrasonic signals to one or more transducers mounted on the inside of the hull, which in turn emit a series of low power, low frequency sound waves which are virtually inaudible to the human ear.  In theory, the resonance within the hull creates a wall of moving water molecules over the entire submerged area of the hull.  The micro – environment which exists as a result, destroys algae and barnacles so they don’t attach themselves to the hull.  ‘The science’ is in the differing frequencies and the harmonics set up within. Over the past five years, I’ve been patiently waiting to meet up with someone, or see some practical testing of this technology, before rushing out to buy it myself. Apparently, a metal hull (steel is best) lends itself to this technology, with aluminum and fiberglass hulls working as well. It doesn’t work with wood hulls or cored fiberglass.

A few  weeks ago, I read a current issue of Practical Sailor  where they had recently bought and were testing a system from a Canadian company in Montreal. I emailed the company in Montreal (since I was driving by there anyway) and requested to drop in to have a discussion about their product. Unfortunately, I never got an answer to my email, so that was an opportunity that never came about. It did, however, give me cause to spend many hours on the Internet researching the topic. I’ll admit, there were lots of posts from 4 or 5 years ago, where people said that this technology does not work. Of course, most of the nay-sayers were people who had an opinion but no practical experience with the technology. Deeper into the research, I did discover some very useful links, where there is recent evidence that mega-yachts and some governments are making the plunge into the technology. It appears that it does work, but the location and mounting of transducers is critical to performance. There are some positive and recent links about ultrasonic antifouling that helped me to get a balanced view:











After considerable thought, I decided to buy a quad (4-50W transducers) system from an Australian company for about $ 1700 (shipping to Trinidad included) and try it out. Even with 4 transducers pinging away, this digital system is claimed to consume less than 1A at 12V DC. I’ll install it in early September, launch JOANA in October, and expect to report on its progress after 3-4 months of immersion.

28 June 2012 Chaguaramas Trinidad

We’re on our last week here, before taking a break and flying back to Canada on Friday. One of the small projects that we undertook was a “spruce-up” of the aft shower. Diane complained that it was difficult to keep it clean, particularly in the corners. So, she cut out as much of the silicone caulking as she could, and then faired the joints with “Awl-Grip”, sanded (and sanded, and sanded) and painted the fiberglass shower stall with four coats of “Awl-Grip”. I helped a bit. The paint alone cost us $ 150US, but the result was well worth the effort.

The “main event” for this year’s haul-out was to replace the shaft seal. I installed the Tides Marine drip-less shaft seal in September 1999 (with a lot of help by Jim Brown in Kingston), so after nearly 13 years of service, it should come as no surprise that it had started to leak – but just a bit. Over the past year, the leak has become more evident with “a few drops per hour”. This really is trivial, but I thought it was important to change the seal before it got out of hand. I needed Justin from the welding shop to help me withdraw the propellor (with his hydraulic puller) and then again to remove the prop shaft (with his “sliding hammer”) and finally to help me “pull” the shaft back up into place with his hydraulic puller. The whole process took place over a week, but the actual labour involved was about 2 days.

Uncle Sam has finally finished his contract with the deck painting. Since it rains just about every day, this is no small feat, and one must pay careful attention to the sky.

A few months ago, Diane noticed that our pressurized hot water supply on the boat was delivering rusty coloured water. After some examination and consideration, I decided it was time to replace the water heater. I withdrew (using a crow bar and sledge hammer) the old 12 gallon Raritan steel water heater and replaced it with a Force 10 aluminum/stainless steel 6 gallon model. We’ll see how this one turns out.

If you think that we’re working hard on our boat repair jobs, consider our Danish neighbours in the boatyard. Here you can see Jendst and his Trinidadian carpenter working with their home-made steam box, bending 2 inch thick teak planks to replace rotten ones on his hull.

This past Saturday, we joined about a dozen other cruisers for an excursion to the Maqueripe Bay on the North side of the island. This involved about a 30 minute ride in a maxi-taxi (a van with a higher roof), an hour and a half walk through the rainforest (up and down the edge of a hill a fair bit) and finally a swim in the Caribbean Sea at the beach. We found the jungle alive with sounds – in stark contrast to every other Caribbean island that we’ve been to. Yes, we’ve been to the rain forests in Puerto Rico, Dominica, Antigua, St Lucia, St Vincent, Carriacou and Grenada. As I noted in my log a few months ago, Tobago was exceptional with the flora and fauna to be seen in their rainforest. However, now that we’ve been to a rainforest in Trinidad, we can see that there really is no fair comparison with the other islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Here, the jungle is alive with the sounds of birds and sometimes howler monkeys. We came across one monkey hanging above our heads but he was a little shy and it was tough to get a photo.

I wish I could have taken a recording of what we heard next. It sounded really creepy, perhaps only two but maybe several howler monkeys going on for about 15 minutes. It was like we were on the set of a horror movie! I found something similar at a site on the internet. Have a listen to this short sound bite.

We continue to find small boat projects to do, ones that are easily done when we’re on the hard. Seeking to reduce the slipperiness of our cockpit seat cushions, we decided to epoxy some treadmaster strips on the horizontal surfaces.

Ian Chai Hong (WinchWorks) has finished with the windlass. He completely tore it apart, replaced seals, replaced brushes and brought it back for re-install. He knows his stuff and his rates are fair. Even the manufacturer doesn’t sell replacement brushes for the motors they sell. They sell a complete replacement 12V motor!

I may have mentioned that we gave Carlos of Alpha Canvas yet another job, to redo our salon cushions. We were never satisfied with the original job. The foam was very soft, non-sculpted and with no piping. Carlos used existing fabric that we had leftover from the original job (12 years ago) and made us up 7 new cushions. These are firm and much better than we ever had before.

On Monday, tiring of boat jobs — we went on an island tour of Trinidad titled “A taste of Trinidad”. This is a regular tour by the well known personality “Jesse James”, and yes, that is his real name. There was an article in the December 2011 edition of Compass magazine, titled “A Taste of Trini: Feasting Your Way Around the Island by Anne McMillen-Jackson” available for online viewing here. The article gives a very good explanation of this trademark tour but let me summarize our trip with my own perspective. Firstly, the population of Trinidad and Tobago was founded by indigenous Amer-Indians, and immigrant Spanish, East Indian, African, Chinese and even English people. In time, the island became a wonderful melting pot of these cultures, blending their traditions, religions, culture and food. The purpose of our island tour was literally to taste our way around the island, from 0900 to 2130 hrs, “grazing”. Here, Jesse James and Hunter outline the route that we’ll take throughout the day.

Diane kept track of what we ate, and a list of what we ate and drank follows.



Shortly after getting on the maxi-taxi, Jesse stopped at a roadside vendor and picked up some treats, and this set the pattern for the rest of the day……

  1. herring and coconut bake
  2. salt fish and herring
  3. doubles

4. cow heel soup

5. roast bake and baccho bok

6. cheese pie

7. bodi beans

8. pigtail bbq

9. buttered casava.

10. peleau chicken
11. beef pie
12. silk banana (a variety of banana)
13. cheeky toes (another variety of banana)
14. french cashew
15. egg plant pie (bighanee)
16. potato pie
17. kitchorie
18. brazil nuts

By this time it was nearly 1300 and we were at beach on the Atlantic Ocean (East) side of Trinidad. It was time for “lunch”.
19.chicken gizzards
21.bighan choka (eggplant)
22.curried mango
23.curried chicken
24.stewed beef
25.curried goat
26.macaroni and cheese
27.two kinds of roti bread
28.pineapple chow
29.baked sharkNow we tried some local non-alcoholic drinks
32.peanut punch

Back on the road again, we stopped at more roadside vendors.

35.pomme cythere
36.coconut sweat bread
38.coconut turnover
43.tamarin ball
45.curried duck
46.cassava pone (cake)
47.coconut drop
48.cocoa beans

Returning to Port of Spain, Jesse stopped at a take-away shop for “dinner”:

50.geera pork
52.fried sweat potato
53.green fig saladAnother stop at a roadside vendor for fresh ice cream:
54.ice cream (I had peanut and Diane had coconut/pineapple)

And, finally, one last stop at a fruit vendor (to set a new record) …….
55.five fingers starfruit

All in all, it was an excellent way to tour the island. We saw many sights and experienced a detailed taste of what Trinidad has to offer. I fully recommend this tour.

20 June 2012 Chaguaramas Trinidad

Attention to Detail

Alpha Canvas continues to get work from us. We decided that the interior cushions in the salon need to be replaced. We had spare upholstery fabric on hand (have been carrying it for 11 years), but we wanted to replace the cushions and have new covers made. We’ve never been satisfied with the foam density or shape of these seats or seat-backs. Its time to make them right. I cannot give Alpha Canvas any better recommendation. They are now on contract number 4.

“Uncle” Sam is working hard to paint the deck, cockpit and raised cabin areas. At times his work appears a little slow but he is under contract, so it shouldn’t matter to me how long he takes to complete.

We extended the contract with Allen Dowden (Yacht Maintenance Services – working out of Powerboats Marina) to include painting of the toe rail, inside and outside. I figured that if I trusted anybody to paint white just above the newly painted green hull, it had to be his crew. After all, if they spilled paint, it would be right over what they spray painted just a few days before. My nightmare was confirmed though when I discovered that somebody was a little sloppy and many small droplets of white paint were evident on the green hull the next day.

Here, I’ve marked off a number of spots from the original spray job that needed to be brought to Allen’s attention. 

The next day Allen sent over a crew and they took the time to make the corrections. What I really wanted though, was for them to inspect their own work. As I’ve been warned, quality control, inspection and attention to detail are lacking in Trinidad. As the owner, you need to look carefully at this yourself. They will work hard to please, but try to get the job done with less effort. I don’t think this is any different though than most places in the Caribbean.

Just to shock me, one afternoon Sam was a little sloppy with his deck painting and left a large spot of white paint dripping down the side of the green hull, which I only discovered after he had left to go home. It was cleaned up quickly, no harm done, although we did have a talk the next day.

After much effort, the prop shaft was extracted, cleaned and polished. The shaft is so tight in the Thordon bearings that we had to have a custom made “sliding hammer” operated by Justin from the welding shop. The engine room bilge area was completely cleaned and repainted by me.

All in all, the yard work is going well and on schedule. We are looking forward to bit of a break as we will be flying back to Canada on 29 June.

11 June 2012 – Chaguaramas Trinidad – Peake Yacht Services

Work is well underway, with a few projects finished and new ones popping up every day. For me, one of the biggest jobs has been the painting of the topsides. Although this was contracted out to Allen Dowden, there has been lots of work required by us. For example, we had to remove the SS hardware making the door closures on the transom doors. This took me nearly a day to remove these pieces, another day to polish them with the grinder/polisher and then Diane finished off the job with yet another day of detailed polishing.

This work always pays dividends though. When I reinstalled them, I made up new plastic gaskets isolating the SS from the hull, something that I had expected would not be necessary first time around since the 5200 caulking would provide the isolation. The topside painting required sanding off the old topside paint, spraying with 2 coats of primer and then 3 coats of two-part polyurethane paint. We chose Jotun Hardtop AS, essentially an industrial/marine paint over the high gloss finish of Awlgrip basically because of the higher cost of labour required for the finish. Maybe next time?

We’re quite happy with the finished product, and so happy with the contractor that we’re going to keep on going. We’ve now hired him to paint the toe-rail, and a different fellow to paint the deck and raised cabin area.

I have yet to start on the touch-up of the bottom paint, but that will come. Yesterday, as we were cleaning and marking the chain (and polishing the SS Bruce anchor and touching up the galvanizing paint on the Rocna anchor), we discovered that the Ideal Windlass had some problems. At first I thought it might simply be a battery issue, since it was working unusually slowly. However, this morning the windlass was making a loud clicking noise as it was operating under no-load, in reverse. Just as I was leaving the cockpit with tools in hand, a local technician (Ian) called up to me and introduced himself. He claimed to be an expert in windlass and winch servicing and repair – and after a 5 minute conversation this was confirmed. I couldn’t believe my luck. Where else in the world would you have someone calling on you in the boatyard, trolling for work in this specialized field? Needless to say, Ian and I spent the next 2 hours dismantling the windlass and he took it away to his shop for in-depth analysis.

Alpha Canvas has now also made some new cockpit cushions for us and today picked up a contract to make new settee cushions using new foam but our existing fabric (that we have been carrying around as spare for the past 10 years).

I’ve completely dismantled the propeller shaft and associated linkages, but the shaft is proving to be too difficult to remove by myself. So, I’ve found a local tradesman who will come by tomorrow to help me withdraw it – so that I can replace the shaft seal.

Diane is currently working in the shower, cleaning / sanding and refinishing – and here she is polishing the transom doors hardware.

Although we’ve been quite busy, we have been on a few shopping trips for grocery and other essentials. We’ve been very impressed with the stores and malls. In a week or two, we also hope to get in some touristic trips around Trinidad.

1 June 2012 – Chaguaramas, Trinidad – Peake Yacht Services

We’ve been “on the hard” at Peakes for a week now. A lot of work has taken place, all of it on schedule and I’m pleased with the progress. We chose to be hauled at Peakes because they have a 150T Travel-lift. This meant that we were hauled out without removing the backstays or the wind generators. With previous boat yards, we had to take something apart. This Travel-lift is big enough that no disassembly is required. There was even a diver in the water to position the straps. We also had the boat weighed and the operator confirmed that SV Joana weighs in at 32T (contrary to the 37T that a Travel-lift operator advised us in September 2009). He was very sure of the accuracy of his scale.

After the boat was lifted, it had a thorough pressure wash.

It was lowered onto a transporter and moved to a vacant space in the yard, only about 60m away – one that was appropriate for the work that had to be done.

We have contracted with Allen Dowden (Yacht Maintenance Services situated at Powerboats, an adjacent yard) to do our topsides. He has had workers sanding off the old one-part Pettit Easypoxy (that Diane and I applied only 3 years ago) and will be spraying on two-part Jotun TopCoat polyurethane (in a few weeks). We found the Pettit paint looked great for a couple of months but it proved to be way too soft and lost its shine in the sun.

One job that has been completed has been dinghy chaps / tube covers for our “new” Zodiac RIB. We contracted with Alpha Canvas (Carlos Fensom). These covers will help to extend the life of our hypalon tubes, in the hot tropic sun. Don’t these chaps look great?

One job that is nearly done is relocation of two head discharge through hulls. As a short explanation, in 1999, I installed two septic exits at what I thought was the water line. Much to my surprise, they both ended up above the water line. The result was that when we were pumping directly overboard (very common in the Caribbean as there are almost no pump-out stations), the waste water spills out about 6 inches above the water level – much to our embarrassment in a crowded anchorage. Now that I have relocated them (requiring new holes, new fittings and some welding/painting), I expect this discharge to be quite a bit more discreet.

I’ve removed and cleaned the bowthruster propeller and anode. I’ve removed and cleaned the autoprop, anodes and shaft. This work is in preparation for removing the shaft and replacing the shaft seal, located in the engine room. I’ve also removed 7 hull anodes (5” diameter) that have been bolted to the hull since September 1999. I’ll be finally replacing them with new zincs that I’ve got on hand.

We’ve been staying in “The Bight”, the onsite hotel at Peakes. The boat is a pretty dirty environment right now and the convenience of a hot shower and climate control A/C room only 80m away from our ladder is very enticing. However, we still eat breakfast and lunch on the boat (the worksite) but carry our self-prepared supper to our hotel room at the end of the day.

24 May 2012 – Chaguaramas, Trinidad

We had a really great sail from Tobago to Trinidad a few days ago. We lifted anchor and departed Store Bay Tobago at 0530 and headed SW. The winds were 12-15 knots, gusting to 20 at times. We were on a broad reach the whole way, with light seas to match. I made a video to show just what it was like. You can watch it here.

We’ve now been dockside at Crews Inn since Sunday. We couldn’t anchor at Scotland Bay because it was literally overwhelmed with locals. We drove deep into the bay, turned around and inched our way out. I’d say the Bay could safely accommodate 10-12 boats, but had at least 40 local boats (many rafted or tied to the shore to prevent swinging). Instead, we headed straight for Crews Inn and asked if our berth was available a day early. We were in luck!

Our boat will be hauled tomorrow at Peakes. In the meantime, we’ve been doing some chores and familiarizing ourselves with the local environment. The work program is taking shape.

17 May 2012 Charlotteville – Tobago


We’ve been in Charlotteville now for a little more than 7 weeks, can you believe it?

People have been asking if we’re still here! Diane summarized our stay in Charlotteville with this entry to the Caribbean Navigator, a Facebook Group page.


We found a piece of paradise when we arrived March 28 2012 in Man of War Bay in Charlotteville Tobago. We are a Canadian couple living aboard our 53’ sailboat sailing the Caribbean. It is now 7 weeks later and we fell in love with the place. The people, the scenery and relaxed feeling are what has rooted us to this very idyllic, traditional, non- commercial village. 

We have become a part of the community. We venture ashore almost on a daily basis and the local people welcome us with a pleasant “good day mon” and a fist knock. Darlene the bread lady bakes fresh baked bread 6 days a week and if you put in your order around noon, she will have a loaf ready for you a by 6 pm. Several villagers have offered to drive us the hour and half trip to Scarborough for more extensive grocery shopping but after staying for a while you no longer feel the need for any thing that is not local. The best fish market on the island is located here and it is always fresh, prepared the way you want and very well priced. 

While here it is a must to walk the many paths through the lust green hilly countryside, relax on the beach, snorkel the rich abundant reef and lime with the locals.

We took some side trips to the Argyle waterfall (breath taking) and went scuba diving with Aguamarine divers (Professional organization and some of the best diving we have done in the Windward islands).


Sadly, it is time to go. Tomorrow, we expect to sail out of here, anchoring in Store Bay, Scotland Bay and then reaching Chaguaramas (the hurricane hiding mecca of the Southern Caribbean) on Monday morning. Our trip should look something like this.

Once we reach Chaguaramas, we plan to stay dockside (yes, our first marina berth in more than 13 months) at Crews Inn for four nights and then haul the boat at Peakes. We have a long list of things to do, and I’ll save that for a future update.

1 May 2012 Tobago


We’re still in Charlotteville Tobago, but I wanted to write about something – product development and our “new dinghy”. 

Back in December 2011, we decided to rewards ourselves and upgrade our 9’6” AB Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB), with Tohatsu 9.8 HP 4-stroke outboard. I found that my ass was always wet, no kidding. I had to use diaper rash cream on my butt cheeks for months at a time to combat “boat bum”. Since it has been nearly 3 years since we left, we were in a good position to see what other cruisers use, and glean what works best. Getting  slightly larger tubes was number one on the list. The next thing is that we saw how easy it was for a dinghy with a motor of at least 15 HP push around our boat, to take a mooring ball, to do a Med moor, or to get unstuck. So, another thing we wanted to do was to upgrade our outboard. We went from a 9.8 HP 4-stroke Tohatsu to a 18 HP 2-stroke Tohatsu. No complaints there. It does everything we want it to. For a dinghy, we traded in our AB for a new Zodiac, a Cadet LITE 310 – about 10” longer than our AB. We love this RIB. It keeps my ass dry and does everything we want. However, like many products these days (particularly those made in China), it does have its flaws (and we have pointed these out to Zodiac through our dealer). This is what it looked like, new, and hanging by a halyard.

First thing we noticed when we were considering buying the dinghy was the location of the drain plug. For some reason, when they installed the drain plug, they chose NOT to put it at the bottom of the floor. In fact, we looked at 3 dinghys in the warehouse and they were all the same. I can’t see why they do this. The result is that we can never totally drain the water, and have to mop it up with a sponge. See what I mean…….

After owning the Zodiac RIB for only one month, while we were still anchored in Rodney Bay St Lucia (where we bought the dinghy), we discovered that one of the oar-lock plastic tubes broke through normal use. I tried to source a replacement tube from aluminum, but still haven’t found a supplier. Nonetheless, I found (in my own ships stores) a perfect replacement, although it is made of white plastic instead of aluminum. I easily made the repair/replacement, at no cost to me. I recommended that they consider an alternative material. Plastic is too light for this application.

A few more months went by, and we noticed another failure. There is a little string that secures the end cap of the oar locks in place. Would you believe it, yesterday I touched the string and it just crumbled in my fingers! Four months of sunlight and it has disintegrated! On the other tube, I found that the string had already fallen apart. The lesson to be learned is that the Chinese fabricators should have used a material that is more robust in the sun. This is what it originally looked like.

I replaced the string on both sides, at no cost using existing materials, stainless steel fishing wire and a little epoxy putty (to make a head on the wire as it passed through the end cap). This is a fix that is a thousand times better than what Zodiac provided in the original manufactured product.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This Zodiac dinghy does a lot of things right: the tubes are oversized, the seat is well positioned, the oars work well, the fabric is heavy-duty. It just isn’t perfect.

23 April 2012 Tobago

One of our goals this winter was to dive more. While in Carriacou in December, Diane got her PADI Advanced Diver card. We both dove in Carriacou, then again in St Lucia and Barbados. While in Tobago, we just couldn’t turn it down.

We wanted to dive “locally” here in Charlotteville, but the fellow (Ron) who runs it was just too busy. He comes up from Trinidad once a week for a couple of days at a time. He has a compressor and equipment “on site” and contracts with Curtis (who operates a fishing charter boat called “The Workshop”) to take divers to the dive sites. Speaking to other cruisers (Jim and Anechy from SV SALTY SHORES) we discovered that there are other alternatives, nearby. Following their lead, we started diving with Aquamarine Dive operating out of the Blue Waters Inn. Over the span of several days, Diane and I logged 11 dives with the dive shop. We were very satisfied with their professionalism and quality of service. So much so, that we just might go back again next week. We’ve been to 6 of their dive sites so there is still much more to see.

On one of the dives, Diane had a small “Cleaner Rasse” following her, closely. This is a little fish that lives off the dead skin or other waste products found on its “host”. This little fellow stuck close to Diane for about 15 minutes.

Here are a few photos that I took using my SeaLife ReefMaster Mini shockproof and waterproof digital sports camera. Since I am always the photographer, it’s tough to get me in a photo, but I’m always there.

Saturday night, for something different, we went to a free jazz concert, the first of many this week happening throughout the island – starting with Speyside (a 10 minute taxi ride). The concert took place on the Speyside “Fair Grounds”. The whole area was very neat and tidy and both Diane and I wanted to contact the Guinness World Book of Records to discuss the outdoor toilets. Never in our lives have we ever seen outdoor toilets, so outrageously clean and hygienic — and they were AIR CONDITIONED! With this our first impression, how could the music fail to deliver? There was a wide range of Calypso and Caribbean jazz music from a number of artists. When the volume turned up, we migrated to the rear…. It was a very enjoyable evening. We did sample the national dish, crab and dumplings – but were sadly disappointed. The crab was very small and required tremendous effort to suck out even a minuscule quantity of meat. After only a few minutes, I gave up and went back to the vendors to buy some BBQ chicken.

15 April 2012 Tobago

Last week, we contracted with Curtis (who operates “Workshop Tours”) to give us a tour of the Northern half of the island (200TT per person). This includes the rainforest and the beautiful Argyle Falls. We were immediately struck with the rugged topography of this island. Since the top half of the island is so mountainous, the roads are full of tight turns and steep inclines. Often we came across a washed out area, and there were obviously efforts made to combat erosion.

The raw beauty of Tobago is stunning. As we were to later find out, the Southern part of the island (where the tourist resorts are) is much tamer, flat or with gentle rolling hills.

Curtis pointed out something interesting. He named a bird that makes its nest hanging from a tree (presumably to keep away from predators, like snakes). We found this very unusual, having never seen it before. Apparently, the nests don’t last for a complete year (particularly through the rainy season), and every mating season – you see these birds reconstructing their nests again.

As we walked through the rainforest (in rubber boots), Curtis was quick to point out the masses of working ants (that I found difficult to photograph), as well as the different vegetation. The constant sounds of birds in their natural habitat made the trip even more exotic. There was no paved road or concrete steps to walk on here!

On our tour, we also went to the sea-side village of Roxborough, specifically to visit the Argyle Waterfalls. These are Tobago’s highest waterfalls, tumbling in a series of stepped cascades some 54m (175ft). It is a 15-20 minute nature walk from the parking area to the actual falls, and it costs $ 20TT (about $ 3US) to enter. There are deep cool pools for swimming – in fresh water. Having a swim in fresh water felt very strange compared to the warm salt water that we are accustomed to. The water felt “heavy”.

A few days later, on our own, we took one of many scenic (and extremely steep) walks out of town. This time, we went South in the direction of the remains of Fort Cambleton. Diane poses at the scenic lookout that guards the entrance to Man-of-War Bay, where we are anchored at Charlotteville.

While we were there, I happened to see and photograph a small hummingbird, both in flight and at rest. This is really difficult to do.

One day when returning to our anchored boat at about 4 pm, we stumbled upon a red mass of sea life. At first, it looked to me like pollution, a spill of red diesel – but there was no smell. As we got closer, we saw thousands of small “sperm-like creatures” (the size of my baby finger-nail), translucent but with a red ball inside and an active/wiggling black tail. The mass was about 20 foot in diameter and 6 feet in depth — and it was living and moving. It was really weird, like a science fiction movie. A local later told us that this was probably “engine lobster” something that fish live off – not normally seen in the bay.

As I write this blog, there are 9 cruising boats in the bay, 7 European, 1 Canadian and 1 American. All are sailboats, none are catamarans, and all are metal (aluminum or steel) except for one fiberglass boat.

A few days ago, we took on some fuel, something that we didn’t “have” to do, but couldn’t turn down the price. The price of diesel fuel here (onshore) works out to $ 0.25 US / litre. We bought 400 litres, in various jugs, all transported from shore by dinghy (6 trips in total). For 400 litres of fuel, I paid $ 100 US. There are no marinas in Tobago to fill up at, but you can buy the same fuel in Trinidad for three times the price, at a marina. The last time we fueled up was in St Lucia, at a cost of $ 1.22 / litre (duty free). Therefore, this 400 litres of fuel (that cost us $ 100 US) would have cost $ 488 US in St Lucia. Although it was a messy, rag consuming and tiring job, the financial savings made it worthwhile.

We are enjoying our time here, getting to know the locals – and in no particular rush to leave.

1 April 2012 – Charlotteville, Tobago

Initial Impressions

Our motor sail from Barbados to Tobago was an easy one, although a little longer than expected. The distance was 120nm, and I figured we would average between 5 and 7 knots. In reality, it was very difficult to get even 4 knots, on average, since we were pushing against a nearly 4 knot current all the way, In the last 5nm, the Speed Over Ground (SOG) rose from 4 to 8, within minutes, as we broke out of the Northbound current. We burned about 55 gallons (US) of fuel over 28.5 hours. After clearing in with Customs/Immigration, we took some relief after looking at the gas pumps on shore. The price of gasoline is 43 cents / litre and diesel is 25 cents per litre. This solidified our initial, favourable impression, of Tobago on shore.

We went to Sharen and Phoebi’s restaurant for a delicious local meal, in very nice surroundings. Not cheap, by local Caribbean standards, but very affordable for us.

The next day, we did have a very cheap lunch at a local “Roti” shop. Here, Diane and I each had a “Roti”. Now we’ve had many Roti’s in the past, but I’ve never written about them and we’re now in “Roti Territory”. In Trinidad and Tobago about 41% of the population is of East Indian background  and another 18% of the population is ” Dougla”, meaning they are part Indian, part African. The Indians brought with them their distinct East  Indian “kitchen”. Roti is  a very popular dish in Trinidad and there are shops selling Roti with different curry fillings. Two Rotis and 4 “soft drinks” cost us 70TT, $ 11.67 US. We had lunch with two French sailors who had sailed from France, crossing the Atlantic from Cape Verdes to Brazil. Their yacht was in Trinidad having some work done.

In this photo, behind Diane is the local fishing fleet of Charlotteville Tobago, in Man-o-War Bay where we are anchored. People from the capital city of Scarborough come here on the weekends to buy fish. Fishing is their livelihood here and as yachties, we need to respect and support that.

Like all of the Eastern Caribbean (as opposed to the Bahamas), when it rains here — it rains! Run-off ditches like this are common-place. There isn’t much water draining now, but there will be …..

We took a walk to “Pirate Bay”, just next to where we are currently anchored (in 55’ of water). On the way, we couldn’t believe the natural beauty on land, as well as the sounds of nature (mostly birds) everywhere. By far, our impression is that Tobago has more birds than any other Caribbean island that we’ve visited.

These are only our first impressions. Next week, we have a Northern Island tour planned as well as some local diving. We’ve been sleeping very well as the ocean swell and anchor roll in this anchorage is trivial compared to what we suffered through in the Barbados!

26 March 2012 – Barbados

We’ve now been here for two weeks and have started looking for a weather window for our next passage SW to Tobago. Bob Edwards returned back to Canada a few days ago. Since we’re not likely to return to Barbados, due to its location and in no way a statement of its quality – we decided to hang on a bit to get “our fill”.

One of the reasons that we will be happy to leave is that this anchorage at Bridgetown, Carlisle Bay – is probably the worst anchorage that we’ve stayed in, in the past 3 years. There is no dispute about it. There are periods of time that it quiets down, and periods when it is downright nasty. The problem is that Carlisle Bay is not a natural harbour. It is surrounded by white sand beaches. There is a lot of maritime traffic. The Atlantic Sea bends around the peninsula and creates a harmonic roll that is well beyond comfortable (two foot waves with white caps that are not aligned with the wind). It got so bad in the end that we just couldn’t stand it by day and couldn’t sleep at night. We figured that we had two options: rent a hotel room or leave. In the end, we chose a third option, tying a stern line to a nearby mooring ball. This had the desired effect of pointing our bow into the swell, instead of taking the swell on the beam – and continually rocking the boat from side to side. It also had the undesired effect of taking our hatches out of the direct wind, so it became hotter inside the boat. You can’t have everything.

When we took our island tour by taxi last week, one of the things that caught our interest were metal garbage bins embedded “in the ground” – perhaps because of the endless wind? I wish I had taken a photo, as it was quite different and very common throughout the island.

One of the great things that we found here in Bridgetown has been dinghy access and garbage dump off. Chris Doyle’s guide says that “The Boatyard restaurant” is a good place for cruisers. They charge you only $ 20 US per day to tie up your dinghy at their dock (end of the pier where tourists jump off into the water). For this $ 20 US per day, you get showers, and garbage drop off. If you spend money at the bar or restaurant, this will get deducted from your $ 20 cover charge. It appears to be a win/win scenario, and keeps you coming to The Boatyard. However, we thought The Boatyard was a tourist trap and too far removed from the city centre and any other alternatives for bars and restaurants. We preferred to shower on our boat, tie up our dinghy downtown and drop off our garbage – all for free.

We tried very hard to avoid the rolling caused by the swell.

The night swell has setup again and we have decided to leave town ASAP. Tomorrow morning we’ll go into Customs/Immigration and do our out clearances.

17 March 2012 – Barbados

Yes, we’re here in the Barbados, an island that gets less than 600 visiting boats a year (and that might include the cruise ships?) — and I’ll bet that most of them are mega or super-yachts at that. To put this in perspective, the anchorages of St Anne and Le Marin in Martinique (our last destination) had at least 1,000 boats on anchor and at dock! The anchorage at Rodney Bay St Lucia usually has 80 – 100 boats on anchor, and there are many more at dock and in the lagoon. Our strategy of leaving from Martinique and sailing SE with a ENE wind worked out just fine. We sailed all the way, clearing in at Port St Charles. Chris Doyle’s guidebook describes the docking facilities at Port St Charles to be much better than in the capital city of Bridgetown (where the cruise ships go). There may be some truth in this, however, we did find even the docking (and you have to dock the boat, clearing in by dinghy is not allowed) to be far below standard. The fuel dock (where we were directed) was only about 40 feet in length, and with our boat surging back and forth, I thought the wooden fuel dock was going to collapse! Anyway, after we cleared in, we headed South for two hours and anchored in Carlisle Bay (at the mouth of the Carlisle River) at Bridgetown (the capital), described as the only anchorage in Barbados. We are currently anchored, together with ONE OTHER cruising sailboat. Barbados is not highly visited primarily due to its geographical location, over 80nm due East of St Vincent. With the winds predominately East, it can be a bugger to get here.

The Chart above shows our intended route as we next sail South to Tobago, and then Trinidad, when the conditions are right.

Barbados is part of the Lesser Antilles, 34 kilometres in length and as much as 23 kilometres in width, amounting to approximately 431 square kilometres. Barbados is outside of the principal Atlantic hurricane belt, although not immune. On average, a major hurricane strikes about once every 26 years. The last significant hit from a hurricane to cause severe damage to Barbados was Hurricane Janet in 1955, and more recently in 2010 the island was struck by Hurricane Tomas, but this only caused minor damage across the country.

The terrain varied quite a bit as we did our island tour. The highest point of elevation is a little over 1,000 feet. The East coast has more rugged terrain, likely due to the constant pounding of the seas and the relentless trade winds.

Barbados was initially visited by the Spanish in the late 1400s, and then the Portuguese in 1536, but neither claimed the island. The first English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in Barbados in 1624. They took possession of the island and two years later the first permanent settlers arrived from England. Barbados today has an estimated population of 284,000 and is now an independent state and member of the Commonwealth realm. Barbados may also be one of the only islands in the Caribbean not to have flip-flopped between English and French rule. There were many old churches, usually Anglican or Methodist.

During our island tour, we were struck by the level of infrastructure. All homes are equipped with electricity and running water. Not present are the individual home water catchment systems and storage barrels that are so common on other Caribbean islands. A national healthcare system is in place and education is provided up to and including the university level – a stark contrast to most of the other islands. The fields are tilled with machines and we never saw a single person with a machete in hand (which is very common on the other islands). Gasoline sells for $ 2.30 / litre at the pumps (double the price of Canada). Eddie Murphy and Oprah Winfrey are two of the many celebrities who have established homes with the rich and famous. We also learned that the singer Rihanna hails from Barbados.

The downtown section of Bridgetown has a beautiful downtown pedestrian shopping mall, and we’re certainly going to have to go back there. In the photo below, Bob and Diane pose.

I also found a Harley Davidson shop and picked up a T-shirt for my brother Brian.

We’re not sure when we plan to leave here, as always there are a number of considerations. We’ve found where to securely leave the dinghy and drop off garbage. We have good wifi and have easily sourced grocery stores and all the other usual amenities.

13 March 2012 – Our Thoughts on Martinique

Since Bob Edwards is still with us, and the winds are favourable (ENE), we’ve decided to leave Martinique and head to Barbados. Barbados only gets about 300 visiting boats per year. The reason for this is that Barbados lies approximately 90nm due East of St Vincent. Its a bugger to sail to. Since we’re North of St Lucia (which is North of St Vincent), we’re well positioned to sail SE to Barbados, as long as the wind isn’t from the SE!

Although we’ve only been in Martinique for only four days, we’re convinced that we’ve got to come back. Martinique is the jewel of the Windward Islands, if not the entire Caribbean. The services and infrastructure make it seem like you’re in Europe. Although the currency is in euros, and it is an island that relies heavily on tourism, the prices aren’t too bad. Sure, its tough to compare restaurant food with the cheap meals that we found in Grenada and St Lucia — but the quality is certainly there!

We took a local bus from St Anne to the capital city of Fort de France. Nearly all the way, we were traveling on four lane highways, complete with traffic lights and traffic circles – where necessary. As we got closer to Fort de France, we saw dozens of shopping malls, big box stores (all European brands). This was definitely different than anywhere else we’ve been. This photo gives you an idea of one of the pedestrian shopping malls. Everywhere, the signs are in French and people are chatting away – in French of course!

Diane discovered a bikini shop, with very good products at excellent prices.

The photo below is of the Schoelcher Library in Fort de France, a very elaborate metal building designed by Gustav Eifel, made in France and shipped to Martinique. The building is named after an extremely popular administrator from the eighteen hundreds, who was credited with lifting the shackles of slavery in the French islands. This was also explained in the museum that we visited.

Early this afternoon, we’re starting a night sail to Barbados. The timing for the next post will be a function of Internet availability. I should also explain that the island of Barbados will position us nicely for the next trip, an overnight sail to Tobago – another island that lies East of the Windward Islands and is off “the beaten track”.

11 March 2012 – Cruising with Bob Edwards

Bob Edwards (from Ottawa) arrived a day late from Canada (weather routing issues in Philadelphia), but that hasn’t stopped us from showing him the sights. We first spent 5 days in St Lucia, mostly waiting for the right weather, but also wanting to give him a flavour for one Caribbean island that he has never seen before.

We had near ideal conditions for the day sail North to Martinique (seas of 8 – 10 feet, winds of 20-25 knots at 60 degrees). Consequently, we sailed direct, into the crashing seas and winds. The boat was covered with salt spray, but easily washed off with rainwater the next day.

As I write this blog, we are anchored in St Anne on the SW corner of Martinique, an ideal anchorage. The only downside is that we cannot get Internet “on the boat”, but we have to go ashore to use an Internet cafe instead. Oh well, you can’t have everything. Our first impressions of Martinique are very, very favourable. Although the prices are in euros, making expenditures seem a little more expensive, the quality is there. The port of Le Marin is first rate. They have two very large and extremely well stocked chandleries. The highways are also first rate, obviously subsidized by French taxpayers. The restaurant food and supermarket products show a much higher quality than many of the other Caribbean islands that we have been to so far.

3 March 2012 – Rodney Bay, St Lucia

Today, Bob Edwards will arrive (flying from Ottawa) to spend three weeks with us. We’re really looking forward to his company. Since he has never been to St Lucia, we figure we’ll stay here for a few days and then sail North to Martinique, another island neither Bob nor we have been to. In the meantime, I found the time to finish off the “dryer drawer” project. 

If you remember, while we were in Carriacou a few weeks ago, we extracted our un-used Miele dryer, leaving an empty but attractive void. While in Saint Vincent last week, we contracted with Burt Frazier (a local cabinetmaker) to make us 3 drawers and sliders. The difficult part of the project was finding the materials and getting straight cuts. Yes, I’ve got lots of tools onboard, but no table saw. We were short on time so he couldn’t really finish the project, but this morning I finished it off with the final sanding, hardware and minwax. We’re quite pleased with the outcome, and as you can see, the wood is not maple but yellow pine – a hardwood indigenous to many of the Caribbean islands. Diane is looking forward to relocating some of her galley and clothes washing supplies to this easily accessible area.

27 February 2012 – Wallilabou, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Exploring the Island of Saint Vincent

We have sailed by the island of Saint Vincent three times before, without stopping. This time, since we had time to spare, we figured we’d try it out. 

The large island now named Saint Vincent was originally called Hairouna (“The Land of the Blessed”) by the native Caribs, and those Caribs boldly prevented any European settlement in their homeland until the 18th century. When the French arrived, they gained partial control of the island, and began cultivating coffee, cotton, tobacco and sugar on plantations. Those plantations, like most early plantations in the Caribbean, were worked by enslaved Africans and native Caribs. For most of the 18th Century, the British, French and Carib Indians fought for control. There were numerous bloody battles, with the British gaining total control in 1790s, when the remaining Caribs were shipped to Central America. 

Over time, African slavery in St. Vincent became a hot-button issue in England as repressive rules forced on the blacks (used to cultivate sugar cane and other products) were brutally enforced by the white plantation owners. When the British abolished the African slave trade in 1807, misery continued until 1834, when slavery (itself) was finally abolished in the British Empire, as well as in Saint Vincent, and in other British colonies.  Adding to that misery, the La Soufriere volcano erupted in 1902, killing 2,000 people. Much of Grenadine’s farmland was damaged, and the island’s economy deteriorated rapidly. 

By British decree, Saint Vincent was given complete control over its internal affairs in 1969, and finally, on October 27, 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (comprising 32 islands) became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence. The big island of Saint Vincent (volcanic in origin) has a rugged mountainous terrain, lush forests and many uncluttered beaches and inlets. In comparison with others in the Caribbean, the port city of Kingstown is one of the most picturesque we have come across. 

Today the overall economy of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines revolves around agriculture, with bananas and coconut palms the major cash crops – with ganja or marijuana an unofficial export. The CIA World Factbook says that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a transshipment point for South American drugs destined for the US and Europe and a small-scale cannabis cultivation site. Tourism is a growing business (especially on Saint Vincent), but on the outer islands, smaller crowds, isolated beaches and quiet days are the norm. 

We were hesitant to visit this island for two reasons: numerous previous reports of theft (the island in general) and anchoring challenges. When I say challenges, it may be better to have somebody else’s assistance. As a volcanic island, the underwater profile of the shoreline is extremely steep. We dropped the anchor in 80 feet of water (scope of only 2:1 instead of 6:1) and had several “boat boys” pull a stern line to shore for us, tying it around a palm tree.

I was suspicious when this line passed over a concrete wall and gave one of the locals a length of rubber hose to prevent chafing. “Speedy” tied it in place and promised to keep an eye on it. Twenty four hours later, the hose fell off and the line chafed through, and unfortunately we were away at the time – on an all day long island tour. Fortunately, it was with one of “Speedy’s” friends (Bert) so we were informed as to what was going on. I was able to give “Speedy” direction as to where to find more lines in our transom lockers and everything was fixed up nicely. When we got back to the boat later in the day, Diane and I redid the lines, this time securing to a different tree (better angle to keep away from other boats) and instead of wrapping the rope around the tree, we used a 12 foot length of chain first, then attached the rope to the chain.

The buildings you see on shore are remnants from the 2005 Disney Movie Set where they filmed portions of Pirates of the Caribbean – Curse of the Black Pearl. The Wallilabou Hotel has tried to keep these sets intact as a tourist attraction.

We did our island tour with Bert (who we discovered is a cabinetmaker), traveling by car from Wallilabou to Kingstown (the capital). This basically covered the SW quadrant (maybe a quarter) of the island. Our impression is that the roads can be challenging, entirely due to the geography. If you look at a road map of Saint Vincent, the roads (what few there are) basically hug the shoreline crossing many many rivers and gorges. The interior of the island is largely unsettled.

Here’s an interesting photo of the Buccament Bay Beach Resort. If you look closely, you can see the pure white sand on the beach to the right, as compared to the nearly black sand on the left. The black sand is typical of a volcanic island. The white sand was “barged” here from Guyana – for the tourists.

Our visit to the capital of Kingstown was very pleasant. We found the streets to be clean, orderly and a proud representation of the country. Of course, we easily found the ubiquitous stands selling pirate DVDs (legal in most Caribbean countries), 5 for 20EC (this works out to $ 1.50US each).

Like many of these Caribbean islands, there is an old fort, leftover from the times when either the British or the French were here. In the case of Saint Vincent, Fort Charlotte was built by the British. What I found interesting was that the cannons point towards the city of Kingstown (defending against the Carib Indians), rather than to the sea – as we normally find.

On our day trip, we drove uphill to the Vermont Nature Trail, through Barrouallie, Layou, Buccament Bay Beach, Kingstown and the beautiful Botanical Gardens. We even took a short walk to the Wallilabou Heritage Park, to see the old estate and “waterfall” (which was only about 6 feet high).

At 0400 hours on Saturday 25 February, we had our first “unauthorized boarding”. Diane and I sleep in the aft cabin of our centre cockpit Roberts 53. We awoke, hearing someone walk across the poop deck. I opened the hatch, observed a local black man, unarmed, wearing only a black bathing suit (approximately 35 years old, no facial hair or scars) – bending down observing our mask/snorkel/fins. I yelled at him to “get out of here” repeatedly. He was stunned by my appearance and quickly moved back, descending into the water and swimming to shore. We were anchored in 80’ of water at Wallilabou St Vincent, with a stern line ashore. He was not threatening, but he was obviously caught in the act of theft – and left with nothing.

What we did right: The anchor light and 3 night LEDs provided adequate ambient light for security purposes. The boat was completely locked up, hatches, portlights and companionway.

What we did wrong: We left “attractive” items on deck that could be stolen, but absolutely nothing was reachable from the water’s edge. To steal anything, a thief would have to walk on our decks. In my hast to confront the intruder, I did not try to take his picture, blind him with a flashlight, or arm myself with a billy club.

I reported this incident to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net, as well as Noonsite, but it remains to be seen whether they publish it or not. Although nothing was stolen from us, it was a reminder to be vigilent. It is well worthwhile to view the previous country reports.

When Burt the local cabinetmaker has finished with our new galley drawers (filling the void where the dryer was), weather permitting – we’ll be headed North again to Rodney Bay St Lucia.

19 February 2012 – The Waiting Game (Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou)

Here we are at anchor in Carriacou, just North of Grenada – waiting for relatives. This time, its Diane’s brother Ted and his wife Karin, part of 7 people (most of whom we know) that are chartering a 42’ catamaran out of Horizon Yachts in Grenada. Not that we mind waiting, its part of our lifestyle. We’ve been here now for a week. What do we do with our time?

Well, first off, we went diving again with Lumbadive, a dive operation run by four Canadians who are in “semi-retirement”. With 6 dives (split evenly between Diane and myself), it works out to $ 45 per dive – if you have your own gear (their tank). This is not too bad, we can afford it – and the dive sites are rich in coral and fish life. The staff are friendly and very helpful. We certainly recommend Lumbadive.

Next, we again took a local bus to the capital, Hillsborough, where we bought some of the hard to find items and this time discovered a small ice cream shop that makes very cheap and delicious smoothies (we had banana chocolate). Most of what we need though can be found right here in the small village of Tyrrel Bay.

We also tackled “the dryer” project. In 1998, I bought a Miele washer and dryer, at a cost of nearly $ 1,000 each – quality appliances. Although these appliances were unused (yes, I mean never used) for 11 years, I always figured there would come a time. In April 2009, just weeks before departing Kingston, I realized that I had inadequate electrical power to drive the washing machine. It needed 220V, two-phase power – but I could only supply one-phase power. Therefore, we removed the Miele washer and replaced it with a dependable Maytag washing machine (120V only).

Now, 14 years after buying the dryer, we have very slowly – but finally come to the conclusion that we don’t actually need a dryer. We much prefer to hang our clothes outside to dry. The only time I can think of that we might like to have a dryer is on an ocean passage – and in that case, we are in agreement that we can wait until we make landfall before washing our clothes. Therefore, while waiting here in Carriacou, we let the word out that we were looking to give away our dryer. In short time, we had Kenneth from Lumbadive offer to find a good home for our dryer. Therefore, we un-installed the dryer, lifted it out onto the deck and onto a local’s boat (for shoreside delivery) who was very happy to receive a new, unused dryer. Now we have a hole, or as some might rather think – an opportunity – for more storage. Diane wants me to make a couple of drawers so that we can maximize what we put in there. This project will have to wait until we get dockside, so that I can have access at least to a table saw and some sliding hardware.

Another discovery was that our anchor light failed while here in Tyrrel Bay. This is an OGM LED anchor light (with sensor) that failed just 1 year beyond its 2 year warranty. How disappointing! After some research on the Internet (Seven Seas Cruising Association) and the advice of Brian Alexander (SV Novia), I decided to replace the defective anchor light with a product from Bebi Electronics in Figi. The Bebi LED lights come very highly recommended from cruisers and are not sold in retail stores (consequently, you have to order them on the Internet and they are manufactured and delivered all the way from Fiji). By the way, the Bebi LED lights come with a lifetime warranty. I also ordered some additional LED lighting for future projects and will eventually report on that. In the meantime, we’ll be using our backup anchor light, a Davis Mega Light (incandescent, not LED).

Ahh – here they are, they arrived on Saturday afternoon.

Shortly after they anchored, we enjoyed “Dark and Stormy” drinks on SV Joana, and then headed over to “The Lambi Queen” for dinner and onshore entertainment. I’m trying to get some duty free fuel (price is $ 9EC / US gallon versus $ 15EC / US gallon). After that, we intend to sail North again, this time stopping in Bequia.

Shortly after they anchored, we enjoyed “Dark and Stormy” drinks on SV Joana, and then headed over to “The Lambi Queen” for dinner and onshore entertainment. I’m trying to get some duty free fuel (price is $ 9EC / US gallon versus $ 15EC / US gallon). After that, we intend to sail North again, this time stopping in Bequia.

Shortly after they anchored, we enjoyed “Dark and Stormy” drinks on SV Joana, and then headed over to “The Lambi Queen” for dinner and onshore entertainment. I’m trying to get some duty free fuel (price is $ 9EC / US gallon versus $ 15EC / US gallon). After that, we intend to sail North again, this time stopping in Bequia.

7 February 2012 – Diving at Soufriere and The Pitons, St Lucia

We have taken a mooring ball on the Southern edge of the town of Soufriere. Its tough to anchor here since the depths drop off so quickly. However, we have passed by The Pitons twice before and never stopped, so we figured it was time. The mooring costs us 54EC for two nights, or 108EC for the week (we’re staying a week).

Taking a mooring gives us the right to snorkel in the St Lucia Marine Management Area (an underwater protected area), but we’re not permitted to SCUBA dive unless we take a local guide. You’d have to wonder about these local fishermen operating “inside” this protected area, using a large net to encircle fish right next to our boat……

We did some research and decided to go with Action Adventure Divers, led by two brothers Chester and Vincent ($ 35US per dive – they provide the tanks). The park is situated with the two world-renowned giant peaks of Petit and Gros Pitons abruptly rising from the depth of the clear, blue Caribbean Sea and provides a protected natural breeding ground for a very wide range of coral and reef fish.

On our first dive, we did Superman Flight, located right at the base of the spectacular Pitit Piton Mountain. The cliff face here was used as a setting for the film Superman 2, where Superman was filmed flying down the cliff to just above the water. There was a bit of current on this site, promoting good visibility and requiring little effort to move across the reef. The steep slope presented a number of beautiful soft corals, and a great profusion of fish life – better than I have seen in some years. Something new was a basket star, very unusual – it felt like velcro in the palms of your hand. The next day, we did a wall dive between the two Pitons. Here, as you drifted across the wall/slope, you could see the impact of historical lava flow on the growth of corals. On the third day, we dove the Anse Chastanet Reef, followed by the wall dive.

The town of Soufriere is a small, very local, not very touristy St Lucian town. Here, you can find most (maybe the word “many” would be more accurate) things here in local grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies, hardware and automotive shops. You have to scale back your expectations though. Here’s an example of our lunch, at 37EC for both of us ($ 13.85).

After lunch, we had a walk-about, and took a few photos. Here’s one for our daughter Joana — Joana’s Midnight Bar.

27 January 2012 – St Lucia

Diane’s brother Henry and his wife Marilyn were here over the past week, enjoying St Lucia. They stayed at the Bay Gardens Resort, an excellent facility that we can highly recommend. We had no problem visiting them there since it is not an all-inclusive resort, although we only sat by the pool and drank mango smoothies once during the week. The rest of the week was quite busy doing other things.

First, Henry wanted to experience SCUBA diving, in the ocean. So, as a former Instructor, I gave Henry some personal lessons, training him in the use of his mask, regulator and buoyancy compensator. Together, we made two dives under the hull, where we had anchored just adjacent to a reef that was 12 – 25 feet deep. After he became comfortable with that, we then tried a drift dive on a shallow reef (16 feet) nearby at Pigeon Island. At the age of 57, he showed that he can learn new skills!

Of course, we also walked all around Pigeon Island, climbing to both peaks, and had wonderful views of Martinique to the North – only 26 nautical miles. One of the more interesting things that we did was a Segway tour. Diane and I have done this once before in Madrid Spain, but this was the first time for Henry and Marilyn. They found the vehicle very easy to learn and fun to operate.

We also had a private tour of the island by taxi, price negotiated by Diane ($ 50 per person instead of $ 110 offered by the local tourist shop). We visited the volcano, the Pitons, Rainbow Falls, a chocolate/cocoa factory and a rum distillery. It was an excellent tour and provided a balanced view of the island. We stopped for lunch at Soufriere where both Diane and I tried the local BBQ pork – a first.

In this photo, you get an idea of all the possible rum concoctions made by St Lucia Distillers in Castries — maker of “Chairmans Reserve – Spiced” — my favourite.

It was really great to see family, and we were very appreciative that they were able to carry in their luggage our mail and some of the more difficult items to source (ice cube trays with lids, pressure gauge / computer for a SCUBA regulator, bearings for my Rutland 913 wind generator). Sometime next week, we’re going to head South to Carriacou. We’ll probably stop off at one or two places along the way, whatever suits us, since we want to take in more reef diving. In Carriacou (18 February?), we hope to meet up with another of Diane’s brothers – Ted and his wife Karin, who will be chartering a boat out of Grenada and headed North.

16 January 2012 – Rodney Bay, St Lucia


We’re still here – but its a good place. On Friday, Diane’s brother Henry and his wife Marilyn will fly in from Canada. We’re looking forward to the visit, even though they’re going to be sleeping onshore at a nearby resort.

Yesterday we took a local bus (4EC per person, each way (total transport cost $ 6)) to the local Caribbean Cinema to watch “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. The film was excellent and the theatre just like you’d expect to see in Canada. Entrance, popcorn and drinks were less than half the cost of what we’ve experienced in Canada. The theatre was clean and the seats comfortable.

Today, Diane took up the regular task of polishing the stainless. My impression is that she goes up on deck about once every two months or so, for about 3-4 days, for an hour or so each day. This way, all the “noticeable” stainless gets a polish. However, when we’re passage-making, she needs to do that much more frequently because of the salt spray. Me, well – I’m responsible for hull scraping. This is kind of like mowing the lawn, at least in terms of effort. As far as anti-fouling paint goes, I’d say that cruisers that I’ve met can be categorized into one of 3 groups:

a. No antifouling. Believe it or not, there are actually cruisers who haven’t painted their boats for years. Barnacles and soft growth stick and stick hard. Some of these guys haven’t moved the boat for years, so who cares about barnacles? By the way, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, if your boat is covered in growth underwater, it goes a lot slower.

b. Ablative or soft antifouling. This is by far the most popular approach and requires nearly yearly application of a soft paint that slowly peels off, as the boat moves. If the boat stays in one place for months at a time, nothing falls off but the owner has to clean it.

c. Hard antifouling. There are some hard, smooth paints that claim to keep the hull clean of growth – I don’t think these work well at all. One exception that I’m aware of is our bottom paint – Coppercoat (a copper-rich epoxy coating) which claims a 10 year lifespan. We applied this (together with Dave Sutton’s help) in Kingston, September 2008.

URL: www.coppercoat.com

My routine for cleaning the hull is as follows:

Once per week, while on my daily swim – vigorously brush the waterline (only the top foot of it). This is where most of the growth occurs, because of the sunlight. The deeper you go, the less growth there is. Depending on whether the growth is hard (small barnacles) or soft – I’ll use one or more of these tools.

With warm, stagnant water, there is more growth. With colder water and a bit of tidal flow, the growth is much less.

Once per month or so, put on snorkeling gear and use one of many tools to scrape clean the hull from the waterline down to the top of the keel. This includes a quick clean of the propeller.

Once every 3-4 months (more often in summer, less often in winter), put on my SCUBA gear and clean the rudder/skeg/keel, including the bow-thruster tube, propeller and shaft.

So, today it was time for me to complete the cycle and clean to the bottom of the keel. I’ve been wanting to make a post on this subject for some time, but have been unable to produce quality photos. Here, for example is a photo of the growth on the propeller. There were no barnacles at all. We last coated the prop and shaft with “Prop Speed” in October 2010.

Digital image

Note to self, refrain from doing this when the wind is 20 knots on surface. Why? Because although the current and waves are really good at removing the debris, it is a bugger “holding on”. It takes a lot of effort just to stay in place. I tied two scrapers, two brushes and a camera to my buoyancy compensator – leaving my hands free. However, SV JOANA (like most other boats) sails a bit at anchor. The result is that the hull swings from side-to-side and makes my cleaning job more labour intensive. This is a photo that I took of my scraper “in action”. Its a little difficult to take the photo, but I think this is pretty accurate.

The job is done, I’ve cleaned everything up, and I’m now blogging about it.

8 January 2012 – Rodney Bay, St Lucia

An hour ago, 24 sailing yachts crossed the start line at Rodney Bay, heading for a 15 month around the world rally. This rally is conducted by the World Cruising Club and you can read more about it here. In fact, there were 25 yachts expected to cross the start line, but one has a problem of some kind and is “slightly delayed”. A few more will join the rally at the first stop, the San Blas Islands (near Panama). Here is a photo I took from our poop deck looking South.

This rally is so popular, that they are now conducting one every year. The 2011 World rally will finish in Rodney Bay in early April.

When Diane and I were still living in Ottawa a few years ago, we contemplated joining one of the ARC round the world rallies, but had a few reservations. First, the rally takes only 15 months. If we sail around the world, we don’t look forward to more than 6 months at sea and about 9 months in ports visiting, repairs, maintenance and “slack time”. I don’t think I’m far off with that estimate either. Its based on 22,640 nautical miles, average speed of 5 knots (120 mile days). Its just too fast for us, really. Next, if something goes wrong with the boat, or the crew, you could easily find yourself stranded as the rally moves on. From our experience, there are lots of things that can happen, either at sea or in a port. There are lots of simple things that can cause extreme disruptions to a schedule like this. In my humble opinion, the best thing is NOT to be on a schedule. Finally, there was the issue of costs and preparation. Despite the fact that I built SV Joana and we have been sailing on this boat for more than a decade (full time for the past 2.5 years), there is a requirement to show qualifications for first aid, fire fighting, mechanical and electrical repair. As if a two day course will prepare us for these things? Sure, I’ve got the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Yachtmaster certification, but the World Cruising Club wanted a lot of other small qualifications that I (in fact both of us) really don’t need anymore. I can’t remember the cost, but it was of the order $ 28,000 – for “management”, Panama Canal fees, weather routing and a few weeks at dock. Nope, not that interesting to us. In fact, have a look at the itinerary at this link. Nope, you couldn’t pay me to take this trip.

Nonetheless, I do wish this crop of intrepid voyagers the best of luck with their trip. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our current version of cruising