We have just learned that the Panama canal pilots have banned together and are in the midst of what is being refered to as a slow down. They can't strike so they are deliberately slowing the number of vessels down per day in an effort to get a pay raise. Jean and I are in the midst of scrambling to see what we can do in the mean time. As many of you know our trip is driven by the hurricane seasons and the delays will put us in Panama durring the N Atlantic season. This is something we have hoped to avoid. The panama area is safe enough from storms but a late season canal passage puts us in danger of a Pacific cyclone on the west side.
We are speaking with experts on what this may mean for the rest of our trip this year and will keep you informed here on our site.
It is always exciting to have friends come to visit and when the Peltons come it is no exception. We had planned months before that they would come down for an exciting week of Sun, water, sailing and exploring islands.
Dave, Dorothy and Greg arrived in Canouan a small island in the Grenadines. They had traveled 2 days to get here and Ben had asked about 1000 times when Greg was going to arrive. After packing some 50 lbs of stuff (including the new pc I am writing this on) for us we picked them up at the airport and ferried them out to the boat.
What a week of adventure this was to become. The anchorage in Canouan is so rolley this time of year we decided to anchor just North of there. But as fate would have it each time we set the anchor it dragged. So our only option was to move to a different island for the night. As we had intended to see the Easter regatta in Bequia later that week we set sail for Admiralty bay and motored most of the way into strong head winds and seas. Dorothy was a real trooper and the trip passed quickly as we caught up on old times.
The next day we awoke to another bad anchorage and decided to move. Crossing the harbor we settled in a tightly packed group of boats. We spent the day relaxing and getting our guests comfortable. The Morning of the second day we decided to find a little more space to anchor the boat but the main engine would not start. What we did not know at the time was that the rough seas had stirred up sediment in the fuel tanks and clogged the filters. Dave and I worked on the engine on and off for the next four days trying to get it started. Beginning with the starter motor, which was turning slowly, we had it serviced. When that did not fix the problem we went through the fuel system and changed filters one by one. Only through some miracle of miss ordering did the shops here in Bequia have multiple filters we needed. Yet the motor would not start. We decided to take a few days off and play. Jean, Dorothy, Dave and the kids went sightseeing with "Creamskin" a friend here that owns a taxi.
Despite the engine we had an excellent visit with our friends. We could not ask for more congenial guests and fun was had by all. Dave and I told each other all our stories. Dorothy got roped into uncountable games of Go-Fish with Stevie. Those two had so much fun together. Greg had the chance to put mask & fins on and go swimming. He did really well.
We were very sad to see them leave. The morning they departed we dropped them off at the ferry dock so they could catch the boat to Canouan. Many of the local racing sloops were on the dock waiting to be loaded and taken back to Canouan as well. About an hour later Jean and I went in to run errands and find a mechanic when we heard our names being called. It was Dave & Dorothy. They had almost taken the ferry to ST Vincent when they discovered that a more direct boat was coming to Bequia and then on to Canouan. We spent another hour talking and checking the ferry schedules to make sure they could reach Canouan in time for their flight the next morning. And then Jean and I had to return to check on the kids. As the ferry left the dock we waived to each other and Ben blew his conch in farewell. They are sorely missed here aboard the Omarsea and we look forward to seeing them again in the not to distant future.
Post Script: The day they left we were able to get a mechanic to look at the engine. With a whiff of starting fluid that ole Perkins fired up and ran as good as new! It also began the wet season. Our friends had left the much needed Oregon gift of rain with us and hopefully are headed home to a sunny Portland. As we often say Cruising is cruising!
During our trip down the leeward island of the Caribbean we tended to be uncomfortable in the cockpit with no dodger and very poor cockpit cushions. As all cruising sailors can attest to this is a lifestyle that challenges the conventional concept of comfort and convenience.
Being now well out of my twenties I tend to look for more comfort aboard these days. So when we reached Bequia Jean and I finished the Dodger. But the hard bench seats still kept us out of the cockpit. We had seen other cruising boats with cushions made of 2" closed cell foam. This is the standard in the industry. But we had also seen the Dashew's (Steve & Linda) use thicker foam on their Deerfoot boats and decided to make what would later be compared to couch cushions. They are extremely comfortable.
Our boat has 5 cabins the forward one of which has 2 crew bunks. The bunks make better storage than sleeping berths so we pulled the covers off the foam and recut the bunk foam to use in our cockpit cushions. This is 4" open cell marine grade foam. We reasoned that if it did not work out well we can always buy new foam. As it turned out the open cell foam has worked perfectly and is a wonderful addition to our cruising comfort.
The first day we had both the cockpit cushions and the dodger in place we spent hours in the cockpit reading, eating meals and watched a very magical sunset unfold. Cruising had just moved up a notch or two in our books.
If you are interested in the details please email Jean at [email protected] . She has put together an instruction kit that will help you measure, cut and walk you through all of the intricate thoughts that must occur while making your own cushions for a nominal fee.
Upgrading the living room. On a sailboat your living room is called the cockpit. Here you sip coffee watching the sun rise and later you eat dinner, listening to the sounds of the conch being blown signaling the setting of the sun. When you are offshore traveling between tropical destinations the cockpit is the center of activity. Here all watches are taken, books are read, navigation discussed as well as all great stories told. In short the cockpit is a place of adventure.
When we first bought the Omarsea she had several small folding cushions and a Bimini top. While this was fine for the weekly charter trade it was not going to work long term for a family of five. The first order of business was to make the cockpit better protected from the elements. Few people realize how cold it gets in the tropics offshore with a good wind blowing. Salt spray soon covers everything when going to weather. So it is imperative that a spray shield or as we Americans call them a dodger be employed to keep the occupants of the cockpit warm and dry.
Dodgers come in two forms. The classic is a self standing windshield that may be folded down in good conditions. More popular today is what is commonly referred to as a California dodger. This is a windshield that is integrated into the Bimini with lots of windows for good visibility.
When Jean and I looked at buying our boat we knew it needed a dodger. We chose to build our own as we considered it a project that we could work on over several weeks and come up with a reasonable product . The end result was a really good quality dodger with many features that we would not have had by having the dodger built by a shop in the states. However it should be noted that if you and your spouse have any difficulty working together that you will want to forgo the extra features and have the dodger made to save your marriage. *Note the large zippers that allow great airflow to the 2 aft cabins when open.
We were very fortunate in that Jean being infinitely smarter than myself chose to enlist the help of Chris @ Bequia canvas. Chris was able to give us the confidence to get over the initial fears of such a big project and she sewed the really tricky stuff for us.
I will say that though the sewing machine remains a mystery to this engineer I did manage to learn enough to be a big help in our next cockpit project -cushions.
We are getting lots of questions about Home school and how the kids are getting along.
Jean as you know has spearheaded the process and done a bang up job of it. All the kids are great readers and spend 2-3 hours a day reading anything they can get their hands on.
This has helped their English Grammar, spelling and writing skills immensely.
This week we enacted the habit of journaling. Each of us writes for about five to ten minutes, about the things that they remember from that day.
I found working with Ben today we were able to define some of the basic ground work that is Algebra. Likened to the balancing of a mathematical set of scales the equals sign being the pivot point. Ben quickly grasped the knack of this and was able to make inferences about several equations I threw at him. Our home school lasts from 09:30 until 11:30 M-Friday each week.
Several times each week we are able to take field trips. Our goal is to meet local people on each island we visit and learn from them what it is like to live there.
We are also studying the stars. Our friends Jeff and Phylis were kind enough to give us a wonderful book on identifying the constellations. This book has helped us recognise many of the more obscure groupings of stars.
It is very interesting to note that we have noticed the North star is already very low on the horizon and within a few months we will no longer be able to see it as we will have sailed over the equator.
This photo shows Celine a friend of Julianna's cutting up coconut. There are a variety of coconuts here, some are for drinking being filled with liquid. Others are for eating and have a thick layer of "meat" inside the nut. These nuts were collected by my friend Narrel and I on the ground and broken open with a heavy stick. I learned there is an art to not only selecting the right nut but also in opening them. When the nut is ripe the tree will release it and you can just pick them up. This is a great way to spend a Sunday. Hiking into a remote palm strewn beach. Having a picnic in the shade of the coconut palms and swimming in the warm surf.
Somehow I just can not seem to get it across to the kids that this was not how their Mom and I went to school.
This photo shows boys from Clifton Bay , Union Island. As you can see the boys wear uniforms to school. We were having ice cream at a small outdoor shop when these rowdy youths stopped and began haranguing us about our cold treat. We asked them lots of questions about their school and how old they were. They were very articulate and bright. Quite a pleasure to speak with actually. As we headed back to the boat they followed us asking us questions.
We discovered Portuguese Man of War Jelly fish on the beach. These posses powerful stinging cells called nematocysts in their tentacles and a gas filled chamber that the Jelly uses to propel itself across the water just like the sails of the Omarsea.
For those of you who have not yet heard the story. Stephen and the other kids were playing in shallow surf a few weeks ago and he was stung by the Man O War on his legs. There was only a single tentacle about eight inches long. It caused red welts on his leg and upper thigh. Fortunately a neighbor came down with rubbing alcohol that relieved much of Stevies pain. He was a real trouper going back into the water a while later. I too have been stung by these floating time bombs and can tell you that the only thing I have heard it compared to is being doused in gas and set on fire. Not having had that experience I can only say that it hurts like the Dickens and Stevie handled himself well.
Often our field trips involve snorkeling the corals reefs here. We carry fish ID field guides with us that show most of the species of reef fish we are seeing. The children have their own mask fins and snorkel sets. We often call out to one another that we have found a new fish. Everyone swims over and watches the behavior of that fish for a while and after the dive we use the field ID cards to learn the name of that particular species. Just three days ago Julianna sighted a large octopus moving along the reef like a brown ghostly figure. Normally quite shy this animal allowed the kids and I to get right up to it and even touch it gently. Ben was fascinated by its siphon. Used as a water jet to move quickly when frightened, the octopus is truly a diaphanous chameleon.
We are beginning to receive email from people around the world who are looking at extended cruising and are interested in the Beneteau series of boats. In response to their questions I have decided to provide as much information as possible about the Omarsea and the many modifications we have made. We looked at four criteria when we purchased the Omarsea.
First: The boat had to have the basic accommodations we needed. Not everyone is going to be sailing with three kids onboard. We needed four staterooms and both the 505 & 510 series have 4 queen staterooms. Other boats that we looked at included Dufour 46's , Beneteau 46's and Jeaneau 51's. The 46's were nice but we chose a larger craft because of the large crews quarters forward we use for storage. Additionally the vessel had to have space for all the items we would need to cruise with a modest level of comfort. This included, not only storage compartments, of which there is an abundance, but the ability to easily run cabling, hoses plus install electronics both in the electrical panel and in the cockpit.
We installed a small diesel genset with water maker and engine driven refrigeration. The engine and its associated components fit well within a nicely designed space under the companionway stairs. We elected to build this unit from plans available from Ebay to reduce costs but I would highly recommend the Aquagen product from Seattle, WA. It took so much time and effort to collect all the needed components that at one point all I was doing was surfing the Internet looking for the finer electronic components that come standard with the professionally made product. Besides, Aquagen owners rave about their efficiency and the great service they receive. Http://www.aquagen.com . Sorry if this is beginning to sound like an infomercial but after 5 years of in depth research, having spent many hours speaking with the owners of these companies on the phone, I am very comfortable referring them to you.
We also wanted a large cockpit with easy access to the water. The stern of the Beneteau 510 makes for extremely easy water entry even if you only like to swim. Other features we liked were that all lines lead back into the large cockpit so that in heavy weather no one was going forward to handles sails. We do have a spinnaker but we only rig it in lighter wind with the ATN sleeve and Tacker combination. If you are looking for a great way to fly your spinnaker but are short handed see the following link. HTTP://www.charlestonyachting.com Randy had the best price on the internet and their service was extremely fast. Please tell them Scott sent you if you place an order.
Second: The boat had to sail well. Many roomy yachts today just do not go to weather. The vessel we wanted had to cruise at 6 knots and not bash ourselves to pieces doing it During sea trials the speedo registered 3.5 knots in 20 knots of wind and I was surprised given the very nice hull shape, 44.5' of waterline. It turned out that the Raymarine instrument needed calibration and after that we were seeing 7-8 knots close-hauled to windward. It needed a beefy rig were made by a reputable manufacturer. The spars are all top notch Z-spar with 1x19 wire, double spreader with oversized shrouds and split backstay. One of the features that drew me to the Omarsea is that she already had the SSB antenna, tuner and cabling installed. We simply purchased an Icom M700 pro SSB and plugged it in. Our choice of the M700 over the newer M800 series was strictly a function of cost. The M800 is much more friendly in its installation and has richer features. We were fortunate in that we located a radio on ebay that was a demo and effectively new for less than half the cost of new.
Third: The boat had to be ultimately repairable. By that I mean that every facet of the vessel had to be accessible for inspection and service without tearing the boat apart. These Beneteau are built for the charter trade where fast turnarounds make or break the bottom line. Each pump is located where it can be easily serviced/replaced. The engine is centered amidships under the Galley island and has fantastic 360 degree access. The Moorings even specked a manual oil pump be mounted on the engine for rapid clean oil changes.
Steering is a consideration with these boats. The Maintenance manager of the company I purchased the Omarsea from said that the cabling had to be serviced regularly. This involves lubricating the twin steering cables and the associated sheaves. I have had to adjust the cables for proper tension once so far and will be replacing the cables in Grenada next month.
Lastly: Because this was to be a cruise with a well defined timeframe the boat we selected had to maintain its resale value and be of such demand that it would sell very quickly when the time came to put it on the market. At the time we purchase the Omarsea there were several 510's on the market all fetching strong prices.
Getting a good look at Nurse sharks. Just down the dock was a fisherman cleaning his days catch. The waste he tossed to the schooling nurse sharks some of which were nearly six feet in length. The sharks moved with grace and caution around each other with none of the feeding frenzy we so often hear about. STephen in particular was facinated by the creatures and leaned over the edge a little too far for Mom and Dad's comfort. Fortunately we were able to keep him from being eaten. All the kids talk about this day as though it were something very special. It was of course!