Thursday 4 July 2013
After a lifetime spent enjoying the officious attentions of customs and immigration in countries all over the world St. Martin is a revelation: fill out boat and personal info on the computer, print it out, pay $7 US for a stamp and you're done. Except for the bizarro AWERTY keyboard it would take maybe 5 minutes.
After that grueling exercise (someone forgot to temporarily park dink on that side, so entire crew walked the 100 meters around inner Port La Royale to Capitainerie), stopped for brekky of eggs, bacon, croissant and bagette at closest beanery. Pan au Chocolat has been temporarily delayed, but anticipation will give our lives purpose until tomorrow.
Bought lots of crap at Island Water World chandlery.
Due putting out numerous fires (figure of speech) such as rebuilding outboard fuel pump with newly acquired outboard fuel pump kit (ya can't just buy the one stinkin' little gasket), disconnecting every possible battery source (and not being able to depower DC panel - doesn't seem safe, does it?) to finally reset Link 2000 inverter control panel which had gone catatonic and some other chores that seemed more important at the time (what was I thinking?), had breakfast of cereal with yogurt and again missed out on pan au chocolat. To paraphrase the immortal words of someone's favorite president, "this outrage will not stand". To quote no one's favorite author, "the anticipation will give our lives purpose until tomorrow".
Bought lots of crap at Budget Marine chandlery.
- Tomorrow's tomorrow (that would make it, let's see, Saturday)
After sleeping in due extravagant ingestion of rum punches at Lagoonies last evening, dragged sorry butt out for brekkie in Marigot (French side) avec pan au chocolat before heading to fresh market. Although life's primary goal has now been achieved, resultant happiness has infused corporeal being and spiritual essence so expect to carry on much as before.
Contemplation of effort necessary to utilize crap obtained from Budget and Wally World began to impinge upon ebullient disposition, so found more felicitous topics for thought.
Sandy Ground Bridge
Wednesday 3 July 2013
Almost as predicted by GRIB (Generally Ridiculed Idiotic Bunk), but more, wind picked up last evening. We're bouncing around like a squirrel on a caffeine high in 20-25 knots on the beam and lumpy sea. Fighting against over a knot current we're still beating feet when only a rap on the knuckles would do (If you made sense of that, you've been reading this crap too long and should get out more). However, hate to slow greatly as it doesn't much help the ride and arrival soonest wouldn't suck. Although we may anchor in Bay off Marigot (called, oddly enough, Baie Du Marigot) would like to keep option open to make first bridge opening at 0815 into the more protected Simpson Bay Lagoon (Grand Etang De Simpson Baai) nearer chandleries and (since it's still iffy) outboard engine facility.
- A little later
Promised tropical wave has complemented the adventure with, so far, one 35 knot, 3.5 meter squall. HF propagation last 2 days was too poor to confirm, but pleased to say that is now redundant. Looking forward with joyful anticipation to periodic repeats over next 24 hours. Except for the walls of water that rear up above port beam every several seconds and hurl us skyward like an elevator, we feel becalmed when wind drops to 22. Another appendage or two for cleaving to boat would be helpful in these situations. Prehensile tails are way underrated.
Have been asked if, on passage, one anchors for the night. Seriously. OK, seems like a good idea. Drop the hook, pop on the anchor light and go to sleep secure in the knowledge that proper maritime rules have been observed. Last night we were about 7000 meters above the bottom. A bit of ciphering indicates that a minimum of 60,000 lbs. of chain would be necessary (boat weighs 27K) and link breaking strength is a factor of maybe 7 less than that. Or, alternatively, enough nylon rope in compact rolls would take up around 27 cubic meters of room (anchor locker is maybe 3). So, there we are stuck to the bottom, without stabilization from the sails in a 3 to 4 meter sea. We normally sail through the night because it gets us in quicker. Jan takes second (twoth) watch from midnight to 0400 because she doesn't like getting up early.
Thursday U.S. Independence Day
Landfall after a long passage is less cause for amazement than it once was, but still exciting. Glow from Anguilla was visible quite a while before discrete lights could be seen. Still looking to make early opening in St. Martin if bridge tender isn't on holiday celebrating American independence. Hey, he could be. The French gave us that big green statue didn't they? OK, maybe celebrating liberty wasn't as important as pissing off the British because of that Napoleon thing, but still... We should know in a couple of hours and either way a pan du chocolat or two are in our near future.
Tuesday 2 July 2013
Today is July 2th, following the 1th and preceding the 3th. "What a moron", you're thinking. "It should be 1st, 2nd and 3rd". But why should those three not end like other ordinal numbers? Is it because firth, seconth and thirth mimic a speech impediment? How about if we used the same convention of adding 'th' to the cardinal pronunciation (ignore 5) and said oneth, twoth and threeth? English is wonderful because it's so nuanced, but here's a place we can simplify without harm. I mean, criminy guys, the language is complicated enough; let's lose the 'st', 'nd' and 'rd'. Then, when this little peccadillo gets fixed, we can sort oneteen, twoteen and threeteen.
We're 60 off apparent wind, going like stink with reefed sails, east of St. Martin's longitude and going farther. When trades really hit tonight should be in great shape to bear off and coast in around east side of Anguilla. May even slow down to avoid pre-dawn arrival Thursday. Love it when a plan comes together.
Still ruminating on what boat work to do while in town. With major chandleries, boat yards, expertise in every system and duty free status, Sint Maarten provides a propitious locale ("good spot" for you power boaters). Regrettably, the forecast "much more active than normal" hurricane season is lurking just over the horizon with its baleful portent and this chariot isn't covered north of Grenada. An alternator isn't alternating, a fridge isn't fridging, a watermaker pump isn't pumping and sometime or other 15 year old rigging wants re-rigging. Other items too numerous to mention are too numerous to ignore.
"So", you may query, "why wasn't all this stuff done in Miami or Georgetown"? "Well", it might be retorted, "besides the bits conking en route and not wanting Jack to be a dull boy, there was other stuff - important stuff - to do"... OK fine, it was mostly that twoth favorite deadly sin thing (see previous). So there! Are you happy now?
Sunday 30 June 2013
Wind backed quickly and sooner than forecast so after motor-sailing into it for awhile yesterday afternoon to get easting, gave up and tacked onto port farther west than hoped. Given wind angle and 25 knot squalls interspersed with no wind overnight, lost more ground to the west, but wind has steadied so we're now just laying Marigot Bay. Still looking to get further upwind as trades are predicted to intensify Tuesday night for the duration. To maintain comfortable ride will want ability to fall off and still make landfall.
Wind finally backed into the east, so have come off 10 degrees and still making good progress east. ETA Thursday morning. With just an occasional squall, weather has been beautiful and North Atlantic kind.
Not feeling very droll last couple of days after hearing that Evi Nemeth (73) and five others have been missing at sea for nearly a month. The 85 year old schooner "Nina" departed Opua, New Zealand on 29 May and was last heard from 4 June in a full gale with seas to 8 meters (26 feet). I handled lines for "Whoosh" through the Panama Canal alongside Evi's boat "Wonderland" in early 2010 and became good friends as we met often crossing the Pacific and in New Zealand. She is a remarkable lady, a cheerful and adventurous spirit who sails her boat occasionally solo, but usually with a crew of friends and/or nieces. Hoping for the best.
Track to St. Martin
Saturday 29 June 2013
So, we have email again one may aver. Well yes, but not at first. It was this morning before delayed exudate was finally cast into the ether. After getting all the bits talking yesterday everything seemed to work, but after connecting to an MBO, virtually no data was exchanged. Transmissions swallowed up by the Bermuda Triangle like that squadron of trainers, one might suspect? Anomalous electro-magnetic interference from alien reconnaissance spacecraft hiding in a deep trench while casing the planet for annihilation, possibly? Low battery voltage? Could have been any one of these, but after cranking the generator to charge batteries before talking to Chris (Marine Weather guy) and setting the radio on high power (a fanciful measure) off it went. As we're approaching 1000 miles from any station and propagation has been iffy on voice the last 2 days, guess we're back to normal.
Not expecting to see much traffic on this passage, the number of sightings is a surprise. There has been at least one every day. Altering course 20 degrees was necessary this afternoon to avoid a Brazilian ship at 17 knots that was steaming up our wazoo (use of this word may create some confusion among those who have subjected themselves to this malarkey for awhile. The normal definition is: a repository for storing specific items that, with an overabundance, produces leakage, e.g., "we caught so many fish, we had omega 3s out the wazoo". Current usage describes a place one would prefer not leak). Although comforting to know there are others stupid enough to venture into the North Atlantic during hurricane season, it presents us with a vexatious obligation to actually look around now and again. Man, somebody should have said something before we spent all that money on this boat.
Having made excellent progress last day or two we could get to 63W (approximate longitude of Sint Maarten) by morning. As wind is forecast to back into the east southeast by then, tacking onto port may allow laying destination without much discomfort. Assuming the urge strikes to adorn some of these entries with photos, will snap a picture of our circuitous chart plotter track as we have chased the wind around.
"I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later." - Mitch Hedberg
Friday 28 June 2013
Had a fright last evening. Serial to USB converter, which connects computer to both Pactor modem and SSB radio, stopped working - no email; no written communication. Egad! That's like being in the middle of an ocean all by yourself.. Oh, right. Anyway, notwithstanding that blog readers would be spared for a time, it was something of a catastrophe at this end. This drivel could still be written, of course, creating a deluge of pent up effluvium upon recontact with internet thus provoking literary apoplexy (cool), but GRIBs (Gerbil Related Insipid Balderdash) would be unavailable to give erroneous wind forecasts. Plus Jan actually does something positive with the capability. This assumes, as some may, that communicating with the greater world in a non-psychotic manner is good. After trying everything else (this is almost always a misstatement as hardly anyone sacrifices a virgin), swapped identical data cable with printer (another inaccuracy, particularly in this case as they are different color) to occasion operation of both appliances. Felicitous outcome was, no doubt, facilitated by blind luck and liberal utilization of 4 letter incantations.
Sailing to weather (means wind is closer to the pointy end, Cal) is often avoided as it is generally more obstreperous and less comfortable than sailing off the wind. As this passage was to be entirely hard on the wind, expectations were low. So far however, except for squalls first day, this has been a remarkably pleasant trip. True wind has rarely exceeded 14 knots, keeping seas down, and boat speed at high angles has been an agreeable surprise. Much more noticeable than with the Cabo Rico, sailing fast upwind increases apparent wind speed which causes boat to sail faster which increases apparent wind speed even more which causes boat to sail even faster which causes... Fortunately, as velocity increases, wind vector moves forward preventing approach to the speed of light at which point we would nearly fill the universe and time aboard would be way, way slower than for everyone else. As we neared St. Martin inhabitants would be incredibly old and the Sun would have exploded making the island somewhat more difficult to find. Is physics a great science or what?
Polar Bear at Singapore Zoo
Thursday 27 June 2013
Distance from Georgetown to St. Martin, as the crow flies, is a touch over 780 NM, but crows, being cowardly and superstitious creatures, seldom risk the Bermuda Triangle. For non-sailors unfamiliar with relevant concepts, traveling this route (roughly east southeast) usually entails sailing north northeast. "Well that's pretty stupid", you might say (if it makes you feel better go ahead, no one will be offended). Regrettably trade winds, which are dandy for trade routes, blow the wrong way and assure this isn't one (sailboats can't sail directly into the wind, Cal). "So what does one do?", you might query (assuming you have a urge for that sort of thing and don't mind if people talk). Although the trades blow roughly from our desired destination this time of year at these latitudes, winds farther north may be from somewhere else. Even if not, one can sail far enough, say to Bermuda, that tacking back will do the trick. The hope, of course, is that a wind shift to 'somewhere else' will be 'somewhere else' enough so as to move the boat sufficiently east before getting all that far north (for those who weren't in Mrs. Rabun's 10th grade geometry class, this would result in a shorter passage). Once achieving around 65W longitude a port reach should then lay the Windwards (no Cal, it's not naughty). So even if willing to cast aside their angst, crows, not having the stamina, just wouldn't attempt the headwinds or potential 1800 NM that could be necessary.
*** Warning *** Those offended by scatological commentary and children under 13, who would enjoy it too much, should skip this paragraph. This is a public service announcement for those who take to the sea in small ships. Crew breakfastage has typically incorporated various coalitions of bacon, eggs, butter, real Canadian Maple Syrup (Canadian crew insists on this verbal formulation and, although generally a kind and gentle soul, considers Vermonters a benighted lot who scam the world with a similar, but scandalously inferior reduction) and toast. Given culinary incompetence of non-lame hand, raisin bran has been preparation of choice more recently. Be advised that while tasty and good for one's regularity, this product regrettably gives one's emanations somewhat more character than associates within boat distances may fully appreciate and should be consumed with caution. As an aside, isn't it interesting that one's own gaseous effusions are significantly more enjoyable that those of others?
Merlion on Sentosa
Sunday 23 June 2013
Outboard motors are the spawn of Satan. Headed over to Georgetown for supplies enveloped in a fog of hope and misplaced confidence. Manually adjusting nearly full choke while playing with throttle was necessary for return. (This marvelous display of multi-tasking, a typically female domain, may now be added to an ability to drink beer while doing something else). After twice more cleaning out clumps of fibers from every restricted carburetor orifice, motor would run well for about 2 minutes. As it was too early in the day to fix problem with mass quantities of adult beverage, removed fuel pump and, as now suspected and after basically destroying it to confirm, a gasket's underside had begun shedding. Motor now runs OK (hoping crew won't notice 3 x 4 inch cutout in thin, plastic cookie dough sheet), but would likely do better if one of 2 mounting nuts (irreplaceable 1/4" fine thread - Sunday right?) had not gone walkabout. No worries due supreme confidence (see above) that finicky Johnson will get us to Budget Marine or Island Wally World in Sint Maarten for replacement parts before temporary gasket dissolves into sticky goo from exposure to gasoline.
Considering trip will take perhaps 10 days making precise timing impossible and with no desire to arise early, had swim and full brekkie before shipping dink to venture into the great beyond Monday around 1100. As east wind wouldn't allow course to clear south end of Cat Island, motor-sailed most of day and through 2 squalls until just before 40 knot thunder storm whacked us around for awhile (although really neat, being immediately surrounded by thunder, lightning and strong wind is way more fun in a structure on land). Remained heavily reefed as wind stayed in 20s all night with meter and a half short period sea. Karma, fickle rascal that she can be, recovered to give us beautiful sailing all day yesterday and so far today. Now looking forward with complete confidence that forecast wind velocity and shifts will allow perfect, if slightly roundabout (we're currently pointed at Bermuda) passage devoid of the slightest hint of a tropical wave (see above.. again). Persistent gullibility is a wonderful anxiety reducing tool and besides...
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." - Herm Albright
Anthem, Diastole and Italian Looking Jobbie
Thursday 20 June 2013
Exercise, SSB weather, coffee klatch with mates, swim to beach and back, shower, all by 1030. Plan late brekkie then walk across to Sound side of Stocking Island for view. Only thing now idling properly is the Johnson (no Cal, shame on you, it's an outboard motor).
Big Italian looking motor yacht came in alongside 2 days ago to drop anchor and slide back within touching distance between us and an open fisherman other side. Figured the captain had finally let the owner steer so we glared at them for awhile. Turned out, after another try, they were rafting with the other boat. Eventually had 4 abreast including a Scarab, tender for the big guy. After everything we did for them (staring menacingly is hard work) there was no invitation for champagne and caviar. Ingrates!
Don't want to make a habit of this kind of shi.. er, stuff, but arose early to clean outboard carb for 37th time (possible slight exaggeration), climb mast twice to replace fried anchor light and to LED (one can turn almost any noun into a verb with a little imagination and disregard for proper grammar) Tri-color light then repair windex (like a weathervane one might see atop a barn, Cal, without the rooster.. or the barn) after strobe capacitor tasered me into spasmodically whacking it. At least incipient heart attack temporarily removed all thoughts of death inducing fall for which only hope is that spreaders (2 horizontal spars each side of mast that angulate (real word) shrouds (wires to prevent mast from falling over sideways) slow descent or redirect body past the side-rail, into the water. Anyone who knows sailboats realizes that this is total horse manure and those who don't probably don't care (this went on way too long and you didn't need to know any of that did you?). Whatever.. spent morning in productive activity.
Rigged Rube Goldberg deal to use electric winch for elevating inert-with-fear-of- falling carcass the 63 feet to masthead rather than inchworm contraption (Mast Climber) employed on previous boat or Jan power. Way, way easier. Powered primaries are like garage door openers and TV remotes, don't want one 'til you get one then can't live without one.
Friends on Diastole departed at 0830 for (eventually) Florida due to something they referred to as "work". Vaguely recall hearing this word in a previous life and it seems to mean something unpleasant. Jan had the 4 of them plus Dave (great guy from a Pacific Seacraft "Dana" 20) over for drinks and dinner last night. Hated to see them go, but we'll probably also be on our way Monday. Better reason though.
Eagerly anticipated crossing of Elizabeth Harbour for breakfast, water, trash dump and groceries was rudely thwarted by dinghy motor again choking up and dying. The thing is starting to piss me off. Disassembled and cleaned every bit of carburetor, fuel pump and hose (apparently getting all the springs, seals and push/pull thingies back in the right places), performed appropriate incantations and invoked the ghost of the inventor of internal combustion engines to make the thing run. Next go-around plan to invoke the ghost of Alfred Nobel and send it into the after-life in little tiny pieces.
With Buddies on Stocking Island
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Day one to Sint Maarten, NOT. "What up, dog?", you may ask. OK, here's the deal. Friends on "Diastole" sailed in yesterday afternoon and induced our libation participation at the Chat 'n' Chill (it was only, really, a matter of common courtesy). During earnest conversation that became more logical as Goombay Smash progressed to plural, it was revealed they would inhabit the neighborhood for a few days and be wretchedly disappointed and desperately heartbroken (something like that) if we departed. We are, after all, not uncompassionate. Some consideration was also given to further healing of fetlock and latest weather forecasts. Both latest GRIB (Grimly Ridiculous, Insane Babble) and router Chris seem to envisage a shorter, easier and faster passage by waiting several days. Chicken Harbour rules.
Additional time here also allows fabrication of imaginative excuses for not wiring wind generator, not assembling dive compressor, not working on gas generator, not mounting and connecting AIS transmitter, not replacing tri-color bulb, not... All in all a wonderfully sagacious and enlightened decision that, moreover, embraces refinement of mental and social skills.
Sadly, however, but as anticipated, outboard's carburetor again requires gentle ministrations to effectuate (huh?) proper idling. Holy grail of universal idling remains an unachieved aspiration.