Year 9 Day 239 The Big Debate
26 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
One of the reasons we have decided to extend our stay here in Sint Maarten was to watch the first of the 2016 Presidential Debates. Being cruisers, who rise with the sun and go to bed with the sun, I thought we would have a hard time staying up to watch it. It started at 2100 our time which is a bit past our usually bedtime. However, neither one of us yawned as we sat and watched it live on our computer. It was most interesting and was really the first chance for us to catch a live viewing of the two candidates. We found it to be most interesting as each candidate spewed forth their differences in ideology and repeatedly attacked each other. We try not to get into our political persuasions in our blog. Political beliefs and preferences are a personal matter and we all come from different backgrounds that influence our perspectives. We feel that everyone is entitled to their position, and their position should be respected. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have strong positions on this election, we just do not believe this should be the forum to discuss them.
While we waited for the debate, Mary Margaret spent the afternoon making her great meatballs and for dinner we enjoyed hearty and sloppy meatball sandwiches. Oh, were they yummy! Meanwhile, I kept a sharp lookout on the weather as the nasty tropical wave is getting closer and closer to the southern part of the West Indies. It certainly looks to me that the system will turn into a tropical storm and once it passes the Windward Islands, should turn into a hurricane. It should track right over the ABC islands as it intensifies. The last hurricane to attack Bonaire was just weeks after we left it in August, 2008. Here we are again in the Caribbean and it looks like it may be hit again. That would be a shame as Bonaire has some of the most remarkable coral formations we have seen anywhere in the world and hurricanes can do a lot of permanent damage to reefs.
Year 9 Day 238 Thoughts About Old Cruiser Friends
25 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
Mary Margaret/Mostly Sunny
This is Mary Margaret! Yes, I know I have not written the blog in a lonnggggg time but I did not have much to say! (in the blog!!!!) However, being here in the marina, I once again discovered an A-HAH moment and thought it was worth sharing with you.
When we first started cruising, just about everyone we met had sailed longer than we did! Easily accomplished! But we noticed that most really liked to stay in marinas. We could not understand why. Some said they found it easier to accomplish their goals of living on the boat. Others could not tell us why, they just did. Well, now being older, and having accomplished our dream of circumnavigating the world, I think I understand better. Living in a quite marina is just EASIER!!!!!! This marina is basically empty and so it is quiet. It is near the center of town, so we can do our shopping very simply. The food is good. The internet is GREAT! Also, we just enjoy for now kicking back and relaxing! Quite and simple works right now for us. Next year I will want to explore and sail to the Mediterranean but just being settled and comfortable is perfect!
Yesterday, we spoke with all of our children and grandchildren. It was great seeing and hearing everyone. There is nothing more comforting to a parent than seeing all of their children doing well. That took care of 4 hours, the rest of the time we watched the Michigan play on U-Tube and watched the MSU game on U-Tube as well.
It looks like we may end up spending another week here. The US presidential debate is tonight and a nasty storm is brewing its way toward the Windward Islands part of the West Indies. That is to the south of us so it makes no sense to sail toward a nasty storm until it is well past us. This will not be until the latter part of this week. By then, the next Michigan football game will be whispering in our ears to stay a day or two longer to watch it. Michigan, who is No. 4 in the country will be playing Wisconsin, who is No. 8 in the country. It should be an epoch showdown between two great teams. How can we even think of missing that????
Year 9 Days 236 and 237 More On The Weather, Saildrive and Football
24 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
We are still looking to leave Sint Maarten next week and start our return passages back to Grenada. We will be parking good ol’ Leu Cat there in mid-November to return to the States for the holiday season. However, as we start looking forward to moving on, the weather may actually delay our departure. Up until now, there really has not been any nasty weather impacting the Lesser Antilles this summer. But, as we look at the weather picture for next week, it looks like a tropical depression may be heading toward the Antilles and arriving mid-next week. The graphic that I have posted to this blog shows the expected track that this storm should take. The weather projections that I am tracking indicate that the worse part of the storm will be passing over Grenada by mid next week. That is well to the south of us but we could get 25 to 30 knots winds as we start our passage making. We will be watch this system closely to determine if we just sit here to wait until it passes by or make the short run to Ile Fourchue, a little island that lies between us and St. Barts. It would be an upwind passage of just 10 or 15 miles but those miles would not be much fun as we would be bashing into the wind and waves most of the way. A smarter move would be to just sit tight in our protected lagoon here in Sint Maarten, enjoying the great Internet until the storm passes us by.
The last two days have been spent getting the shift lever back into the port side saildrive. When I took it out to replace its oil seal and O-ring, I discovered that I needed to knock out a spring pin to get to the seal and O-ring. I did not have the proper tool to do that so I ran it over to Peter of the Engineering & Marine Service Center who removed the pin and slipped on the seal and O-ring for $40 US. Not a bad deal.
I then took the shift lever back to Leu Cat and re-inserted it and tested it. It did not leak any oil but, instead, the saildrive kept slipping out of gear. Grrrrr. As it turned out, the shifter, which is a metal piece that presses into the gearbox to shift the saildrive to forward, neutral or reverse is slightly worn and would now slip when I shifted gears. To adjust for this wear, I had to now move the cylinder pin forward. This, again, took a special tool to measure the needed tolerance so Peter returned to work his magic. The result is everything is working now, even though this simple job took two days and some special tools and more help than I would like to admit.
Today, Mary Margaret and I listened to two football games. In the first game MSU lost to Wisconsin and in the second game our alma mater, Michigan, beat Penn State to stay unbeaten. Yea! We had hoped that MSU would have won so both MSU and Michigan could have been unbeaten when they play each other next month. However, that is not to be.
Year 9 Days 234 and 235 Keeping The Weather Watch
22 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
Dave/ Mixed Sun With Rain
We are still watching the weather closely even though nothing is too threatening. There are a couple of storms battering the North Atlantic right now. The first is Tropical Storm Karl, which is projected to turn into a hurricane within the next 72 hours, after it passes Bermuda. The other is Tropical Storm Lisa, which is supposed to downgrade to just a Tropical Depression within the next 36 hours as it heads north. A new tropical wave is forming off of Africa and is supposed to move quickly across the Atlantic to impact the Lesser Antilles by next week. However, it is not supposed to be much of a storm, just a bunch of rain and some wind in the 25 to 30 knot range.
Before we started our passages north from Grenada at the start of this year, I had read one prediction that the Lesser Antilles should not have any hurricanes this years as it was predicting that they would all head to the north. So far, that prediction has been spot on. We still have a couple of months left into this season so anything can still happen. However, since we will be heading south next week, the concerns I had regarding being in the way of a hurricane or tropical storm will be decreasing with each mile we move south.
Besides keeping a close eye on the weather, not much is happening right now as we putter on some minor boat projects to help pass the time until Monday, when the first US Presidential Debate will be. We have opted to stay put until then so we can watch the debate on YouTube. We have such great high speed Internet here at the marina that we wish to utilize it to the max while we have it.
Right now I am puttering along making a number of anchor chain makers. These are short lengths of 10 mm blue line that I am cutting and then inserting into the chain links. They will mark every 25 feet of chain. These will be my visible markers of how much chain we let out each time we anchor. We do have a meter readout on our handheld chain counter but it tends to go blank at times: thus, the need for the visible chain markers. The old chain markers I have been using for the last so many years are finally wearing out and need replacing.
I am also puttering with our port saildrive. The gear shifter is slowing leaking some saildrive oil. I have bought a new oil seal and O-ring to replace the ones that are worn. It is my hope that replacing these will stop the slow leak.
Year 9 Day 233 It’s So Nice To Have Your Better Half Back
20 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
Last week Mary Margaret returned from spending a week with her oldest sister. She is having some health issues and Mary Margaret wanted to go and see her. While she was gone, I stayed on Leu Cat to keep an eye on the weather since it is the heart of hurricane season and we are in the middle of the hurricane area.
However, last Thursday Mary Margaret returned to Leu Cat and life is now back to normal. It is great to see her face, feel her touch, hear her little laughs as we play cards and… to eat the great meals she makes. Mary Margaret is such a wonderful, creative cook that each meal is an epicurean delight. In the last three days she has made her special pizza with a phyllo dough crust, her special pasta sauce which is choked full of fresh vegetables and today she made a fantastic beef stew. With the last two dishes, she made enough to freeze so we are swimming in good stuff and can have it whenever we are in the mood.
Oh, it is so great to have her home where she is so needed!
Year 9 Day 232 Great Internet
19 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
It simply amazes me what a difference having great Internet has on our lives on Leu Cat. Most of our readers probably have a hard time understanding this as it is just something one takes for granted when living on the land. Typically, our Internet is via WIFI through our cell phone’s SIM card. We set it up to act as a hot spot so our computers and e-readers can connect to the Internet through it. However, this year most of the Caribbean islands we have sailed to had very poor bandwidth availability, which greatly slows down the response time. So many places we have been to result in us just staring at our computer waiting for our request to go through. It can be very, very frustrating. Plus, a few of the islands that we have sailed to we just stayed on Leu Cat under quarantine for the night as we made our way north to Sint Maarten. Thus, we did not have a SIM card that would connect us to the Internet for that night. Instead, I had to rely on our Iridium Go to do emails, get our weather reports, and post our blog. While the Iridium Go works pretty darn well, it is even slower than the original phone modem connection we had back in the late 1980’s. Plus, you cannot readily surf the Internet using the GO.
Here, in the Simpson Bay Marina, we opted to rent their high speed router. It is like having another world open up to you! The speed of this Internet connection is so good that I can usually watch some football games in close to High Definition clarity. It is so wonderful!
Because of this we are considering staying in the marina for another week. If you have been following us for very long, you know we usually hate being in marinas because we and our boat are tied down to one location which means that we are not off to explore unknown lands and islands. Plus, marinas tend to be very hot as they are built to protect you from the wind. This means you live in air conditioning to stay cool. Plus, they can be expensive. We are paying close to $500 a week for the luxury of being tied down here. Sigh.
However, with this great Internet and the first of the US presidential debates coming up next Monday, we just may stay here so we can watch it. We are simply amazed by the US presidential race that is going on. While neither candidate is especially strong, we are at a loss to explain how the US public can support the things that Trump says and what he has done in the past. Yet, it appears that since his new campaign team has put a muzzle on him, he is gaining the in the polls. Meanwhile, Clinton keeps on doing dumb things that create doubts on her ability to lead a country like the US. Thus, the conundrum that the US voting public is facing in trying to select a president.
The debates, for the first time in a long time, may actually be demonstrative in helping the public select a leader. For this reason, we are very interested in watching the debates. Thus, we may just sit here in the marina for another week so we can watch the first debate.
Year 9 Day 231 Plans Are Changing
18 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
Dave/ Mixed Sun With Rain
The nice thing about being cruisers is that we are not locked into any definite plans. We make plans to help guide us move forward but such plans are really written in the sand and with a higher tide or a bigger wave, these plans get washed away and we get to make new plans.
We had planned on leaving here early this week to sail over to the British Virgin Islands. They are just about 90 nm away and we can get there with an easy overnight sail. We wanted to go there for a couple of reasons. The primary reason was that Sunny Caribbee is located in Road Town, on the island of Tortola. Sunny Caribbee is a special spice store where we have been buying their spiced sea salt for the last 10 or so years. We have run out and want to buy a few pounds of this very flavorful seasoning. Plus we wanted to buy some for gifts for a few of our friends. We have been buying this spicy goodness using the Internet since we left BVI 9 years ago. Since it is just a hop, skip and a jump from where we are now in Sint Maarten, we thought we would just sail over there and stock up.
Alas, today we discovered that they are closed for the summer and even if we sailed there, we still could not buy any spiced sea salt. We also discovered that BVI is banning yachties from bring in any meats. The BVI Tourism website states that they are concerned about the world wide problem of hoof and mouth disease and mad cow disease. We still have lots and lots of wonderful US beef on Leu Cat and don’t want to have it taken from us. Thus, we will no longer be sailing to BVI.
With BVI no longer in our sights, we have decided that in a few days we be starting our slow return to Grenada. We have no extensive itinerary for making our return. However, there are a few places we definitely wish to explore. The first is a little island that is located between Sint Maarten and St. Barts. It is called Ile Fourchue and it is part of the St. Barts Marine Reserve. Few people go there this time of year so we are expecting to have the place just about to ourselves. It is reported to have some excellent snorkeling reefs. It is just a few hours sail south of us so it should be real easy to get to. The picture posted to this blog is of this island.
The next place we are anxious to explore is also off the well beaten path. It is the island of St. Eustatius. It is immediately north of St. Kitts and we sailed between it and St. Kitts on our way to Sint Maarten. It is just a small volcano island and most cruisers sail on by it. It has an interesting history as it once was one of the wealthiest islands in the world. During the mid to late 1700’s, when France and England were at war, England barred its colonies from trading with its enemies. The Dutch, who owned St. Eustatius, turned the island into a free port which resulted in everyone flocking there to purchase whatever they needed. For example, in 1770 the island only produced 600,000 pounds of sugar but it sold over 20 million pounds. The Dutch basically were officially sanctioning smuggling and in the process where using their little island as a staging ground and making a lot of money doing so.
Year 9 Day 230 Just A Chill’n Day Listening To Football
17 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
Dave/ Mixed Sun With Rain
Since it was Saturday, we just chilled the day away and in the afternoon we listened to U of M beat Colorado in football. It was an interesting game as Colorado came in with two blowout victories under their belt. They had a great quarterback and he was hot, hot, hot in the first quarter, scoring three touchdowns and just ripping our defense to shreds. Michigan had no offense and was able to score just one touchdown in the first quarter by blocking a punt and returning it into the end zone. It was a very ugly start to the game.
However, once that horrible quarter was behind us, Michigan took control of the game and won 45 to 28. Whew! I must admit, our saving grace was when Colorado’s great quarterback was injured and eventually had to leave the game. Without him, Colorado had no offense.
We then tried to stay up and listen to the Michigan State vs. Notre Dame football game but by halftime, it was late and we were just too tired to stay up and listen any more. Michigan State ended up winning the game 36 to 28 so we were happy with that outcome also. I grew up in East Lansing and my dad was a MSU professor for many years. I still have fond memories of going to the games with him and my older brother. We were there 50 years ago for the famous 10 – 10 tie between Notre Dame and MSU when both schools were ranked 1 and 2 respectively in the Country. Since that game, I have always disliked Norte Dame because their coach, Ara Parseghian, chickened out at the end of the game. His team had the ball on their own 30 yard line with over a minute to go in the game. Instead of trying to move the ball up field for a last second field goal attempt to win the game, he had his team fall on the ball for each of their last few plays to run out the clock and take the tie. He knew the pollsters favored his team over MSU and he would maintain his number 1 ranking, which he did. Notre Dame ended up winning the mythical national championship while MSU came in second. In my opinion, it was a gutless thing to do but it worked for him and his team.
Year 9 Day 229 Making Progress
16 September 2016 | Simpson Bay Marina Sint Maarten
This morning, before the air conditioning tech came to our boat, I decided that I should check the strainer on the thru-hull that is the source of the cooling water for the salon’s heat pump. This heat pump has not been putting out the normal amount of cool air that it should be. The unit’s symptoms have been that the compressor gets very hot and shuts down for a while to allow it to cool down before snapping back on. When it is operating, it is putting out cooler air but it is not operating as often as it should. I had checked the filter that protects the cooling fins from clogging with dust and it was clean. If the fins are impacted with dust, they cannot dissipate the heat that the heat pump is trying to get rid of and the result is that the compressor overheats and shuts down.
This morning I was thinking that the same thing would happen if not enough cooling water was getting to the heat pump, so that was why I wanted to check the thru-hulls screen. When I did open up the thru-hull’s port and checked the screen, there was some seaweed in it. However, I did not think it was enough to block the water flow.
Apparently, I was wrong. With the removal of the seaweed, the heat pump worked better than it has in a while and kept the salon cool all day long, even in the afternoon’s hottest portion of the day.
The tech arrived shortly after I had removed the seaweed, checked on everything, and declared it in good condition. He refused to bill us for his time saying that he really did not do anything. He did recommend that I buy this foaming goop that helps remove any dust and dirt that accumulated in the cooling fins, which I readily agreed to do.
Later in the day, the hydraulic tech arrived at Leu Cat and re-installed our auto pilot’s hydraulic ram. He had installed new seals on it to stop the small leak that it had.
Thus, after today, we are only waiting on the water sensor to arrive and we will be good to go. We are planning to sail to BVI next week once the water sensor arrives and I install it.
Regarding our sailing to BVI, we are watching Tropical Storm Karl as it makes it way west across the Atlantic. It is projected to build up into a hurricane next week and is thought to be tracking just to the north of us. We should not be impacted by it but because of its close proximity, we are watching it with extra care. I have posted to this blog a picture of its current position and the projected track it is expected to take. As you can see, it will be to the north of us and we should be just fine.