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The Adventures of David & Alexandra
The Mystery of the Runaway Anchor Chain
Alex, windy and gusty and rainy with a chance of WHATDUNNIT?
January 14, 2015 , Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten

A quite popular WHAT done it type of Mystery wrapped in an Enigma brought to you via this blog. What you will read below is all based in real-life, in real-time, by two very unsuspecting characters and a wonderful boat named Banyan.

Whom, may we add, thinks she's entitled to more than her fair share of new toys since we've been anchored in Simpson Bay, Sint-Maarten, the land of Everything.


It was a dark and dreary and rainy type of morning when the cast of characters woke up,

Don't all WHATDUNNIT type mysteries start on a dark and dreary and rainy type of morning? In fact, it was so dark and dreary and rainy that you could barely see the Causeway bridge just abeam of us.

And when the Capt'N sleepily clambered into the cockpit, trying to not get wet as the rain pelted in sideways, this might have been what he would have seen behind him.

His eyes did a quick scan to triple check we were still held in place despite the incredible gusts that had both of us awake at all times during the night, turned the engine on, and went about making his lovely wife her morning cup of coffee.

And that is when the lovely wife, heard quite the noise as she was clambering out of bed.

She knew right away WHAT the noise was. But she didn't quite know WHY the noise was happening. And why now, of all times?

It was the sound of the windlass running away with the anchor chain !!

In that split second she thought perhaps we'd come un-anchored, and her honey had rushed to the bow, brave man that he was, in the gusting winds and pelting storm of sheets of cold, wet rain, to do whatever it was that needed doing. But no, he was coming down below, quite unaware of the noise.

"The anchor chain is running-away", I yelled excitedly, "Quick, the anchor chain..."

And for all the sailor-tekkie type of folk, the Capt'N repeated, as he ran forth "The anchor chain is heaving in?"

Now that, dear readers, is how the WHATDUNNIT mystery began.

The clues as we knew them were are as follows. There was no-one on the bow. There was no one playing with the remote control. The only clue was that the engine had recently been turned on. It was gusting and storming out, but abating, and we could see small wisps of blue as the storm dispersed.

And so the brave and intrepid Capt'N, put on his red-hatted type of hat, and went to work solving the problem. As we both knew we didn't want a malfunctioning, unfunctioning windlass in these stormy conditions, or any conditions, really.

The first suspect was the remote control. We'd been having a few issues with it in the last little while. The Capt'N had rewired it way back when. It worked fine. And then a few weeks ago, after the ShitStorm passage, the "down" button stopped working.

Which in the process of anchoring, we may all know, or might possibly guess, is the perfect button to stop working as it's much easier to drop the chain down manually, and push the "up" button when weigh-ing anchor, than vice-versa. And so life on Banyan continued as per normal, we just adjusted our "way of doing things", as one always tends to do, right?

After a few tests and trials, it was decided that we needed to buy a new remote control. Which required a trip to Budget Marine between the incoming and outgoing squalls.

While at Budget Marine, the Capt'N ran into Jack, from SV Kathrian who indicated that they had the same Remote Control and before spending some boat dollars, we were welcome to test ours, on his.

We did. It didn't work. Dead it was.

Back to Budget Marine to purchase the new one.

Which, when installed, also didn't work. Mm-hmm. No up-juice on the UP button. No down-juice on the DOWN button. Dead. Deader than a dead. The brand new remote control? Now what?

It was a sunny but gusty type of morning, as the Capt'n sat down to his morning coffee and analyzed some of this, to re-confirm some of the wiring, and re-wire his steps, in a logical, analytical type of manner.

You see, to complicate matters some more, Banyan has an Interloc system installed that requires us to have the engine on for a few minutes and producing amps and power before using the windlass, so that we don't, by accident bleed our batteries dry as we're anchoring/weighing anchor.

Which makes all the wires that much more complicated and confusing. Which, by the way, the Capt'N is itching to remove, as really, it's not necessary, or needed.

The next step in this Puzzle wrapped in an Enigma type of Mystery was to check the Solenoid Control Box.

Upon removal,as you can see for yourself, it all looked pretty beat-up and quite used.

The brave and intrepid Capt'N went on about taking it apart. One of the posts was crooked and loose. The contacts were checked and somewhat cleaned but before that became too long and tedious a process, and after a few mm-hmm's and mm-how's, it was determined that one of the solenoids was indeed defective.

And shortly thereafter we had two.

Would you believe that this time, there was no rain as he dinghied to Budget Marine, that the store was still open, and that we purchased the very last one of this kind on their shelf, perhaps even on this island? Phew.

Back to the process of installing and re-installing, wiring and re-wiring, screwing and re-screwing...

All correctly and properly done, turn the engine on... wait a few minutes, and then let there be...

Nothing. Nada. No juice. No UP, no DOWN, no noise, no movement, no nothing.

This, dear readers, was the culmination of two days of wiring and unwiring, swearing and cajoling, sweaty, laying upside down while installing, very large WTF moment.

Back to the beginning. Back to the charts, back to the diagrams, back to following the color-coded wires, back to listening to the clicks and clacks of the working solenoids.

Until the brave and intrepid Capt'N remembered that, earlier that day, he'd had a contact moment with some wires. Which led to a smile, which led to a "could it be?" query, which most definitively led to this,

Out comes the electrical box and we had ONE left in our stash, which was quite a good thing as it was now past five o'clock and Budget Marine was closed for the day.

It was quickly replaced. One last run up to the bow, one last crank of the engine, and just as the sun went down, and the tummies were growling for supper...

The juice to the UP button had the anchor chain whirring up through the windlass. And the juice to the DOWN button had the anchor chain purring back down.

Banyan should now be happier than a you know what in you know what. She's armed with a new remote control, and a new Solenoid Control Box.

And that dear readers is how that Mystery got solved and how this case got closed. And how this blog got wrote by the recently very active "go-fer" girl.

The Capt'N, now knowing the whole system is working, re-installed the old remote control just for "shits and giggles", and determined for a fact and without a doubt, that the Remote Control is somehow shorted-out in a permanent "power on" and UP position. Which is why our chain ran-a-way (or "heaved in") that particular wet and dreary and rainy morning. And why it promptly did it again as soon as it was re-installed.

So, riddle me this then, why was our remote control totally dead on SV Kathrian's windlass system, and yet running-away our anchor chain on Banyan? Might there be some more mysterious puzzles afoot ?


Which all led me to wonder why the word "windlass"? This has been brought up a few times amongst friends, and I just had to google it.

As defines it, a windlass is : "device for raising weights by winding a rope round a cylinder, c.1400, alteration of wyndase (late 13c.), from Anglo-French windas, and directly from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse vindass, from vinda "to wind"."

Innaresting says she. Mmm-hmm, says he. Maybe it should be called a WINDLESS?

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January 14, 2015 | Dan
Just a quick line. Did you know you can get both automatic reset and manual reset breakers that could replace that/any fuse? It can sure speed things up when all you need do is reset an existing fuse...
January 15, 2015 | David & Alex
Thanks Dan... we do have a circuit breaker that is installed in the system for the high current side. This small fuse was in the interloc control panel which prevents the windlass from being used until amps are being outputted by the alternator. We are considering disconnecting this whole interlock system... a lot of boats put it in to prevent people from draining their start battery, especially if the configuration has their windlass on their start battery.
Pic Paradis
Alex, hiking with a chance of Going from Paradise through Hell
January 12, 2015 , Sint Maarten

Pic Paradis. Or, if you prefer to say it in English, Paradise Peak. This was the beautiful beginning.


Couple days ago we heard the following on the morning net.

"This Saturday we'll be doing a Hike" came the announcement from Mark on SV Sea Life "I call it The Hike from Hell. We'll be taking the bus up to Pic Paradis, and follow the ridges back down to Marigot".

He continued to brief any would be hikers that it would last about four hours, to bring at least 2 litres of water, a lunch perhaps, long pants to avoid the scratches and stinging nettles, and sensible shoes, and he did repeat the Hell word a couple more times.

"Let's do it!!" says the Capt'N and I in excited unison as we radioed Mark with our reservations.

The morning of we had our sandwiches ready, our Camelbak's filled with water, and misc other "just in case" type of supplies tucked away.

Introductions all around as the first bus group gathered,

and the drive up was short, a scant 25 minutes or so, before the driver dropped us off at a dead-end. We paid our $6 U.S. pp as we disembarked, eager to start our adventuring and found the signpost indicating "Pic Paradis" with an arrow pointing up, that-a-way.

Up and up it was and before long, just a little out of breath, we were at Paradise Peak, enjoying the view.


the tall grasses everywhere,

and we even had a celebrity with us. Chris Doyle, author of the Cruising Guide Publications was the Guest of Honour.

We chatted with everyone while we waited for the next busload of adventurers to arrive and then walked around a bit,

checking out the various viewpoints at the Observation Deck, got hungry and ate half of our lunch.

A couple of hours later we had all assembled and Mark gave us a brief intro of what lay ahead of us,

and armed with smiles off we went.

A few minutes into our hike, Mark exclaimed, "Wow, you have to see this" as he offered me the lead, and I ventured forth in a total awe moment, as the multitudes of butterflies flitted and fluttered all around me, like snowflakes on a cold wintery Canadian Snowstorm,

It all felt surreal, almost as if I was entering another world,

just me, myself and I, surrounded by total green-ness, butterflies.


Soon however "the barely visible path" disappeared into the depths of the taller than me grasses,

and thus the descent began.

This trail winds itself along the mountain peak ridges, linking them on a downward spiral,

and after a few false starts,

we finally located the right path to follow,

stopping for a photo-op every now and then.

The bush was so thick and overgrown that even the butterflies had stopped flitting about, but we did spot one of these brightly coloured creatures resting on a leaf nearby,

Shortly thereafter though the bushwhacking began, the scramble to make our way through the dense and tangled vegetation suddenly very serious.

There was no path that we could see. We were surrounded on all sides by a canopy of green and brown, larger than life leaves and a mess of tangled vines, fallen tree trunks laying atop of moss covered rocks and boulders, and we had no clue to guide us as to where to go.

"Find the ribbons" was the resounding outcry, and all eyes were now tasked with scanning behind every leaf, branch or trunk to try and locate a plastic ribbon tied around a tree.

Looks like this might have been a proper signpost at one time or another but today it offered no sense of direction,

and no visible semblance of what might once have been a well-trod path. The ribbons were so hard to find, some laying on downed branches and dead tree trunks, others still fluttering in the wind at eye level.

At one point, one member of the group had come across a couple of locals, tending to their garden, and they confirmed what we had been discussing among ourselves.

Hurricane damage a couple months ago had totally destroyed a lot, but more importantly to us, what was once the path was now gone. They didn't quite think any of it was passable.

A group meeting was held, and two options were offered out. The locals indicated that there was a path out of their garden that eventually led to a road where we might be able to grab a bus that would bring us back. Or keep going. We all opted to keep going.

Oftentimes a few of us went ahead in separate directions, instantly disappearing behind larger than life shrubbery and it would be a few moments before cries of "this way" or "that way" were heard, and the group once again began moving in the direction of the positive voices, singing the way ahead.

Not only did we have to find the ribbons that would confirm we were on the right path,

but in order to follow one ribbon to the next, we had to fight the obstacles in our way. From thorny bushes that grew everywhere just blowing precariously in the wind, pricking you with their pointy ends to remind you of their presence. Or forcing us to scramble on all fours to go under their dense coverage to avoid them. Or getting our feet caught in vines that wrapped themselves around our ankles if we didn't lift our feet high enough off the ground. To clamber over tree trunks that might break if stepped on or contort under them at incrementally awkward angles.

At one point we climbed up and on what could best be described as a ten foot trampoline of intervowen vines, branches and leaves, that somehow miraculously held us suspended five feet above the ground, as we sought out the ever elusive path underneath, to the eventual ThankGod cries of "I've got a ribbon".

Hours later, there was some clear direction of where to go,

but only on the tree trunk. Nowhere was the path visible or easy to trace.

Sometimes we zigged, sometimes we zagged and all the time we searched for what could possibly be an opening large enough to allow the group of us on and through to the next cluster of what might be impassable growth, to find that elusive ribbon on a branch.

As with all hard tasks, we all sighed and worried and fretted, hoping we would not really be lost, hoping we would make it out, and home, before darkness fell. We had gone too far to turn back, indeed at this point, there was no turning back. Jokes of B-rate horror movies were thrown back and forth, as was the idea of a new Survival Series, anything to keep our minds off the bloody ouchie-bits.

And on and on we went.

During all this time there were exclamations of the four letter kind, as yet another forearm, or thigh became a bloody victim to the razor grass, or the thorns that lay hidden behind some leaf or branch, or ankle got yanked back by a vine that wouldn't give way.

Eventually, as we reached the Mont Saint Peters Antenna, the confidence of the group returned as the trail became much easier to follow, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Perhaps the sigh was sighed a bit too early, as what looked like an easier to follow trail,

soon became evident that it might be even worse than the one we just came front. The taller than me grasses had been replaced by taller than me cactii,

that grew like tall armed soldiers lining the very narrow ledge we were on, where we all carefully aligned our already weary and shaky feet, one in front of the other, on a downhill descent.

Keeping your balance was paramount, your total being focused on testing each rock and pebble and boulder before the entire weight of your body gingerly stepped on it. Should you trip, as you tried to safely side-step a mess of dead (but still very spikey) cactii laying on the ground, covering the rocks like a carpet of the thorny kind, you knew you could certainly not put your hands out to steady yourself on either side.

A stop as one group member did step on some thorns that went through his shoes, and the shoes and socks came off to remove the offending intrusion.

Finally a level path to follow,

until a few more short scrambles through the woods, and we emerged,

having successfully scrambled through a mess of a mountainside. In the photo you can barely see the Antenna that is Mont Saint Peters, and somewhere in the unseen background is the height of Pic Paradis.

We were hoping this would be the final exit, onto a certainty of a paved road,

that eventually led us back to our dinghy in Marigot.

This is us, BEFORE the start.

Four and a half hours later, I certainly didn't have any energy to grab an "after" photo-op as we all sat at Spinnaker's for a refreshing Cold One.

Our legs were sore, our thighs screaming at us and it felt good to just sit, although we knew if we did sit, for too long, we wouldn't easily get up. Our thighs and arms scratched and bloody. Our clothes soaked with sweat. Many memories made, shaky smiles of relief and yet an exhilarated wonder and adrenaline charged excitement at having done it!

A hot shower later had us Peroxiding all the cuts and using some Nutmeg Cream to offer up some relief on our achey muscles. Although we both drank lots of water during the hike, neither one of us had used the washroom at any point during the day which shows how much we sweated and how quickly you can get dehydrated (how important it is to bring, and drink, LOTS of water).

We cleaned out our Camelbaks, put our first-aid medical pack away (grateful it hadn't required using), washed our running shoes, and picked the last few thorns off our stinky sweaty clothes before they went into the laundry bag. And we sat back in Banyan's cockpit with yet another glass of lime-water to hydrate, thinking we hadn't quite been to paradise at any point after standing on the tip of Pic Paradis, or Paradise Peak, but we had come through one Hell of a Hike.

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January 12, 2015 | Dan
Was there a mutiny ? Did Mark survive? I normally would be reading about nice cold beers and fellowship after the hike.........
January 12, 2015 | Mark
Great write up! Great photos! Thanks for comming along. You will feel much better for it in a few weeks time when the blood has stopped seeping from the wounds! Lol
January 13, 2015 | David & Alex
LOL, nope no Mutiny Dan, we did sit and have a cold beer at Spinnakers. In fact we all bought Mark a cold beer :)
January 13, 2015 | David & Alex
It was an adventure of a hike Mark, thanks again for leading us through Hell. Looking forward to the next one...
January 14, 2015 | el jefe Rogers
Alex....can we be on your good-friends list? If so, I will buy you an ice cream when we get to St Martin. St Lucia today, heading north Friday, Antiqua by Sunday.

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