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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
250 Hour Service
Randy
02/21/2007, Caicos Boatyard

As best I can tell the North American arm of Saint Francis overlooked the initial break in service and 250 hour service on all three diesels after sailing her up from South Africa. The stock oil and fuel filters painted gun metal grey to match the engines were the first clues. I also haven't been able to get specific fluid types for the engine oil, gear oil or coolant in the boat as delivered, which requires me to change them out completely. If you have 15W-40 in the engine it is probably ok to put some other 15W-40 in there, but I'd rather use the exact same stuff if possible. Gear oil wise, Quick Silver High Performance is the best stuff for a sail drive but you shouldn't mix it with 80 or 90 weight. You definitely don't want to mix dissimilar coolants, because that creates glue more or less. So we were on a track to kill several gallons of Rotella 15W-40, Quicksilver High Performance and Shell Dex-Cool Extended Life.

The ship yard is on the south side of Provo and is the only real marina on the south side. The cruising guides all refer to Cooper Jack and various other marinas destined to open in 2003 or 2004 or 2005, but none of them exist just yet and as far as I can tell they're not all that close to opening either. The whole south side of Provo is reef close in with the exception of Sapadillo Bay. Getting into the ship yard is dicey to say the least.

The yard is really more like a remote full service marina than a ship yard but they do have a medium sized lift and storage facilities, as well as a few workshops. I didn't get any work done in the Bahamas but from what I have seen this is the best place, infrastructure wise, this side of Florida. Nassau might be better but there's just something about Nassau that makes me not want to be stuck there. Here it's quiet at night, everyone is friendly and it is not crowded.

The typical diesel 250 hour service consists of an engine oil change, sail drive gear oil change, coolant change, fuel filter (Racor and engine) change, oil filter change, exhaust water mixer elbow inspection, raw water impeller inspection, belt tensioning and some other odds and ends. Times two Yanmars and a Westerbeke. It was my first time actually doing diesel maintenance so I wanted to get a certified mechanic to work on the job with me, not only so that I could learn the finer points, but also to ensure that we could finish up by Wednesday. Hideko and I wanted to make a Saturday crossing window to Luperon.

Donovan runs the Caicos Marine mechanic shop at the yard and he has lots of experience. He has several young guys working for him. The junior guys are good workers but you definitely want Donovan's know how supervising things closely along the way.

The SF50 really has great engine access with the entire coverings above the motors lifting out. You could see the dread on the mechanics face when the boss tells him he has to work on a sailboat diesel. They were all very surprised and happy when they saw how easy things were to get to.

Once we got the boat opened up the Paul, the mechanic, took the Starboard side and I took the Port. As the Paul would start something on the Starboard side, I would watch and then run over to the Port side and get the same process completed. I have a hand oil pump which works ok but the electrical pump the shop had was much faster, so some of the work got serialized.

Things didn't wrap up until around 8PM after two days of hard work. Most of it was running around looking for the right hose or fitting to make something happen rather than actually getting it done. I think I could do all three motors in a long day now with all of the right tools. My take away is that, while I have every standard tool you might need, there are a few critical things I should order. The most important is a hose connector for the saildrive pump out. Without this part (which we didn't have) it is a lot harder to make a seal on the pump out port and actually get all of the oil pumped out (it's 90 weight for heaven's sake).

We ran into only three real problems. First, the raw water sea cock in the port saildrive was seized. We couldn't close it to check the impeller. We had to kink the hose to keep from getting flooded as we opened the raw water pump. This is certainly going to have to get fixed. It should have been exercised at least at break in and at 250 but I'm thinking it has been open since installation. We bent the tee trying to close it. The other side was tough to close but finally relented.

The second issue was the Westerbeke raw water impeller. As you can see from the photo it had lost a few teeth. The old impeller is on the left and the new one is on the right. As you can see from the bubbled paint on the cover plate it looks like someone ran the pump with the sea cock closed causing it to overheat. My third concern was that the zinc in the Westerbeke was almost completely dissolved.

While I suspect that none of these items would have cropped up if service had been done at break in and the first 250, I will certainly be staying up on them going forward. It was a great experience to work through all of this once with smart experienced mechanics. I am also very happy to now know exactly what fluids are in the boat so that I can top things up without concern. I selected the high end of the factory recommendations for each class of fluid. Now I just need to restock all of my spares and fluids! If I hadn't had all of the parts and fluids on board things might have taken a whole lot longer to get done. I wouldn't want to wait on parts shipment here.

Turks and Caicos
03/07/2007 | doug vibbert
Randy,

My St Francis didn't have any raw water filter and they REALLY need one. I didn't see it mentioned in your log of maintanence and was wondering if they skipped it with yours as well.

Because of that we had overheating issues, water hoses being blown off and the muffler melted. We finally took off the raw water heat exchange and found plastic bags, bits of old impeller, etc all preventing water flow. Did they make sure they grabbed the pieces of impeller that were sucked int
03/18/2007 | Randy
Hello!
We have sail drives, so the intake is at the bottom of the leg with a screen but no strainer per se. Works well though because the intake is so low, no problems yet. The genset does have a raw water strainer on our boat and it sure does get gunky sometimes.
Saint Francis 50 hull #1
Randy
02/20/2007, Turtle Cove Marina

We ran across Mike and Jeri on Aphrodite, Saint Francis 50 hull #1, in Turtle Cove Marina. It was great to chat with another SF owner. I'm sure that all boaters experience this. Mike and I could have gone on for hours about things that we liked, things we wanted to change, things we had each tried on the boats. They were unfortunatly on the way back to the states so it was likely the last time we would see each other. I am working on a Saint Francis owners group on Google so perhaps the comraderie will go on online.

Turks and Caicos
03/07/2007 | doug
did you ever get that going? granted I have the lowly 44, but I'd still love to here the improvements that you were thinking of ;)
03/18/2007 | Randy
It is up, perhaps you and I can start some useful banter there!

http://groups.google.com/group/SaintFrancis
Caicos Marina & Shipyard
Randy
02/19/2007, South Side of Provo

We moved from Sapodilla Bay to the only Marina on the south side of Provo today so that we could make short order of our 250 hour diesel service (x3). It was a slow 5 knot motor over to the marina past Five Cays and along the South fringe reef just off of Provo.

We had to clear in and I wanted to check the marina out before we tried it so we didn't leave the anchorage until late in the day. As luck would have it this put us right at the entrance at low tide. The entrance to the marina is shallower than the banks leading in! I saw five feet of water at the shallowest spot (we draw 4'8"). Yikes.

The Shipyard is, well, a shipyard. Everything is a drive from here and it is not fancy. That said it is a great yard as yards in the islands go. It's quiet (if you can believe that), there's free Wifi and it is very well protected with absolutely no swell.

We will start our mega maintenance tomorrow, but now it is time for dinner and a movie with the AirCon cranking!

Turks and Caicos
Cookies
Randy
02/18/2007, Sapodilla Bay

Sunday was a little cloudy. It was a perfect day to make cookies. So we did. Caramel chocolate chip. One more day of quarantine before we can clear in.

Turks and Caicos
02/23/2007 | Pablo Ramos
*singing* Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the skype I'm back in the U.S.S.R
You don't know how lucky you are boy
when you got Cookies, Milk, Tea, I'm Back in the U.S.S.R.
02/23/2007 | Randy
The carmel chocolate chips really knock me out, they leave the oatmeal behind, and ice cold UHT milk makes me scream and shout that funky taste is always on my my my my my my my mind.
02/24/2007 | Pablo
To funny Vato!
Sapodilla Bay
Randy
02/17/2007, Provo, TCI

Sapodilla Bay has a low bluff around most of the west side providing a little break from NW winds. There is a beach where you can land a dinghy and access the road in the north corner and the east side of the harbor has a working dock used by a few dive boats and the like. Just around the east point is South Dock, the main shipping facility in Provo, where you will find customs.

We were quarantined on the boat until we could clear in on Monday morning so we spent most of the day cleaning up the boat and relaxing. JeanLuc and Emmanuelle, the crew of the French flagged steel cutter Chogolisa, stopped by for a visit. We had a great chat. They are both experienced cruisers and divers. When we asked them about fishing they told us that after running out of lures they tried an idea a friend of theirs passed on to them. A hook and a Twix wrapper! The aluminum Twix wrapper has a shiny inside with a red and brown outside and they say it works as good as anything they've tried.

JeanLuc and I talked boats while Emmanuelle and Hideko talked food. We are adding them to our list of potential catamaran converts.

Turks and Caicos
03/02/2007 | Emmanuelle
so... our fishing tip is on the web ! hope it's gonna help taking some mahi mahi though
nice blog !
03/18/2007 | Randy
Hi Emmanuelle! Are you kidding, your secret lure technique is now legendary! Hope you're enjoying the Bahamas
Night into Day
Randy
02/16/2007, Provo

My Nike wrist watch began beeping at 01:15. This is not a civilized hour. Fortunately both Hideko and I had hit the sack at about 8PM the night before. We were amped up with plenty of adrenaline and had no problem waking up. It would be our first night sail without an instructor aboard and certainly the first out in the middle of no where on our own boat. As luck would have it the moon was new (for you land lubbers, that means there was no moon) and it was pitch black out.

We had prepared the night before for our O'Dark Thirty exit with several means to navigate clear of the two entrance reefs. First we had soundings along our track that would guide us out once in the exit channel, tide adjusted of course. The channel runs 10 feet inside the harbor and quickly goes to 30 as you exit. Any shallower and you are going into the anchorage or, less preferably, getting cozy with the reef. Sailing at night by the depth sounder is a tactic highlighted by Bruce Van Sant in his Passages South book and I really see its merits. It is hard to go aground if you're watching the depth, possible, but hard.

Second we had a magnetic heading that would take us all the way out into deep water from our anchor. I used this to line up some stars with our exit heading when the anchor came onto the bow. Neither the compass nor the stars do you any good if you don't start from the expected point. When we brought the anchor up we knew the boat would be pretty much where it was when we dropped it. Any wandering around the anchorage though and the bearing would be useless or even dangerous.

Thirdly we had our chart plotter, and we recorded our entrance track just for kicks. The plotter makes navigating a cake walk of course, unless it is wrong... A bad or slow GPS fix, mismatched datum and several other things that come to mind make me leery of using a plotter for close quarters maneuvers.

It was dark. Really dark. Hideko was taking care of some things below while I brought up the anchor. Then we crept out of the harbor using all three of our tools to ensure everything agreed. Did I mention that it was really dark? Hideko was up on the bow anyway and she could see around us a little. The masthead light made close things easier to see and far things invisible. Even with maximum dimming on the instruments I could not see a thing from the helm.

After a few nail biting minutes the depth, the stars and log, as well as the chart plotter said we were clear. We left the quietly lapping waters of Atwood harbor behind us as we headed out into the greater darkness. A chop had built up during the night and we began to get into a bumpy routine as we moved up to 9 knots under power. It is very strange to have a force, like a moderate chop, working on your boat without having any ability to see it whatsoever.

The radar didn't help much in the harbor but once we were out in the open water the coastline of Acklins came to life on the screen. We had never used our radar before and it was nice to know it worked. It is a Raymarine system and is rated at 24 nautical miles but I found it most effective at 16 nm or less.

We were running without any sails partly because we were nervous about having too many things to cope with on our first night sail, partly because it was too dark to try to get anything flying and largely because it was going to be on the nose as soon as we rounded Acklins and headed down to West Plan Cay. As we came around the tip of Acklins the wind and the chop really built up. The wind was blowing near southeast straight up the channel between Acklins and Plana.

It was a little after 2AM and we were well underway, perhaps making up some for our prior tardiness. We both were really enjoying the new and bizarre nature of sailing, motoring really, without seeing where you are going. For the first hour or two I was checking the instruments every 2.63 seconds. The ocean currents run up to a knot and bend around a lot between the islands. I was glad to have the Radar, Chart Plotter and GPS. The ability to cope with our changing course over ground was important given the substantial currents. Traveling in this kind of dark with just a compass and changing currents would be a very serious challenge.

We always plan our route on paper and then enter it into the ships computer, which then gets downloaded to the E120 chart plotter, giving us triple redundancy. We make passage log entries every half hour with a large set of data. Hideko and I find this far from a hassle. In fact it is a great way to stay up on your plan and keep busy while traveling large distances. We took most of our log ideas from John Rousmaniere's Boater Log. I particularly like his way of plotting the barometric pressure graphically.

As we made our way down toward Plana Cays we picked up a target moving our way on the radar. Shortly thereafter we began to make out a complicated cluster of lights on the horizon. A lot of lights usually means a fishing boat or a tug and barge. It was too far out to make out but we hailed the skipper just to make sure that we stayed clear. It was an ocean tug with a barge in tow. After a short chat with the skipper we agreed to stay on our perspective sides of the channel. He also alerted us to two other targets he had picked up. We never saw the other boats on our screen but we heard one of them on the radio. This is another vote for always having your VHF on 16 when underway, especially at night. You learn a lot about what's around you by just listening to the radio traffic.

Other than the image on the radar screen we never saw the Plana Cays. By dawn we were approaching Mayaguana and I could just make out the thin line of the low lying island across the sun rise. The island disappeared as the sun rose higher in the sky.

As soon as there was decent light we raised the main and pulled out the jib. We have a two part main halyard (thank God) with a block attached to the head board of the main. Unfortunately the block has a swivel base and it seems to want to twist the halyard lines up over night. Raising 60 some feet of fully roached and battened main sail is a chore. I can use the electric windless but it is tricky to tail and hard to watch the tailing on the windless and the main battens, etceteras, at the same time. Hideko always wants me to use the winch to get a work out anyway. As I got the main up near the top I noticed the halyard was twisted again. Ug. You can't raise the sail all the way with more than one or two twists in the halyard and I had a good five. So, lower the main all the way and straighten out the halyard or take it up to the first reef and call it a day. One reef it was.

I brought the jib in as flat as possible moving the block all the way back on the track and I flattened out the main with the traveler a little to windward. The sails gave us another half knot or so but we were very close to the wind. We didn't have time to tack so we just hunkered down at about 10 knots and continued on toward the Sand Bore waypoint at the entrance to the Caicos Banks. I dropped our Bahamas flag for the first time in over two months and raised the quarantine flag.

Hideko and I traded off at the helm as we used up the last bit of the morning. West Caicos came into view first and then Providenciales shortly there after. We had an ETA of 13:30 at the Sand Bore, surprisingly, right on time. It is about eight miles east over the banks to the Sapoldilla Bay anchorage so you want plenty of light to get in with. If the trades are blowing this could take a while. We had the luxury of a southwest wind and good light with only a few clouds in the sky. We dropped the sails at the way point and headed for the light green water.

Entering a new bank is always nerve wracking to me. The charts show rocks and shoals everywhere and the deep water is 12 feet. We were both a little tired so we had to really focus to keep on top of things. Hideko went up to the bow to spot and I motored us into the cut. It was a beautiful day but very hot and Hideko cooking on the bow. We motored in at 5 knots and after a half hour of seeing eight to ten feet on the sounder we got used to the skinny water and moved up to 7 knots.

The islands looked beautiful as we approached. Unfortunately the south side of Provo is not quite the same as the north side. It is pretty from afar with low rocky headlands and there's a large rock on the way into the main anchorage known as turtle rock but as you approach Sapodilla Bay, the only real anchorage on the south side of Provo, the luster begins to dim.

All of the other cruising boats were anchored on the north east side of the anchorage in the area of the beach. We drove around the anchorage checking the depth and noticed a sunken sail boat in the middle of the bay with a red bouy on it. There were some dodgy vessels in the anchorage. A couple looked like they were barely floating. There were also some very nice sailboats and a custom schooner that was particularly pretty.

The entire area seemed to have six or seven feet of water as long as you didn't get too close to the shore. We decided to anchor by ourselves over in the north west part of the anchorage due to the 20 some knot winds expected from that direction. We were hoping the small bluff would afford us a little lee. We also wanted plenty of swinging room because we just put down one anchor.

The government dock is just around the point and it has container barges going in and out and forklifts running all day. The beach at Sapodilla has houses all across it, making you feel a little like a trespasser when you go ashore. Once ashore I discovered that the locals had also decided to use the beach as a dumping ground. There was trash everywhere and stray dogs wandering about. I was sad to see the odd plastic wrapper or piece of wire here and there in the Bahamas, but compared to this the Bahamas is pristine. I would not go ashore without shoes here. Provo is supposedly the Nassau of the TCI so perhaps the rest of the island is nicer.

I hailed the Dockmaster on 16 per the cruising guide to await instruction on entry. It was 15:30 on Friday. No answer. I tried again three more times and by 5PM gave up. We were quarantined until Monday morning! Hanging out on the boat was not exactly our plan for the weekend but with the in climate weather predicted it would be a nice break. A dingy with three kids aboard came by to say hi and see if we wanted to buy some necklaces they made with twine and shells. They were very impressive and Hideko bought a nice one for $5.

It had been a long but fun day and our first at over 100 miles.

Turks and Caicos
Hideko and the Mahi Mahi
Randy
02/15/2007, Atwood Harbor

We left Flying Fish late (see a trend here?) and with a long day ahead. The problem is that I listen to weather on the SSB at 06:30 and it lasts for an hour. If we try to leave earlier, say 6AM, so that I can listen underway we have to leave in the dark. The sun is rising at about 6:30 these days. If we leave after the weather it is 8AM before we get going, and that's if everything is already ship shape. I know, excuses, excuses...

Our goal was to get to West Plana Cay for a short anchor so that we could get a nap and make Provo by 1PM the next day. Getting to the Sand Bore entrance to the Caicos Banks by 1PM was important because the bank is a 2 hour transit marked with language such as, "numerous shallow coral heads", on the charts. As we got under way I started to do some ETAs. Plana was looking like a pretty serious stretch. If we could get a bit of lift from the wind we would be able to average close to 11 knots and then it would work out. Otherwise, Plan B. We always have a plan B and often a plan C, D and E. You have to have ditch anchorages for various eventualities when cruising (weather not as forecast, lazy crew, etceteras).

We were clanging along, motor sailing, at marginally better than 9 knots and the wind was not doing much of the work. I love just sailing. It's nice to be able to motor fast and get there when you need to but there's nothing like shutting off the racket and just sailing. The racket continued and as the day drew on we began to consider Atwood harbor more seriously. Atwood is a great little harbor on the north east end of Acklins Island with perfect protection from everywhere but North and North West. We wanted coverage from the South to South East but in reality the wind was so light we could have hove to in the middle of the Atlantic and slept like logs. The problem with Atwood is that it left us with a 112 mile day on Friday, and that with an arrival target of 1PM.

As we were discussing whether to shoot for Plana or not, Hideko caught her first fish! While getting ready earlier that morning Hideko ran across a sport fisher skipper. As always she grilled the poor guy for fishing tips. He basically said, "put something in the water and the fish will bite it out here". Florida and the near Bahamas are hammered by fishermen year round. The fish there are gone or have evolved in such a way as to not bite lures much. In the far Bahamas there's no one much fishing. He said 9 knots was about perfect for trawling, we were doing 9 knots. The guy she cornered in Bimini said to use a steel leader so that the Barracuda and Wahoo don't take your lure, check. The guy she drilled in Great Harbor said to try areas between 60 and 100 feet, we were in just such a place off of the north coast of Acklins. We had 150 feet of line out to keep the lure well back of the clanking coming from the engine rooms. Everything came together.

We put the boat in neutral so as not to tear the hook out of the fish and Hideko reeled him in. When I saw it jump I knew it was a Mahi Mahi, one of our favorite fish. As Hideko got it near the boat it looked like a giant blue and green flash in the water with polarized sunglasses. I grabbed the gaff and after a couple 7 attempts finally got the fish on board. We popped him in the dinghy and got back underway. Atwood Harbor was the only sensible choice at this point.

What an amazing place. There's an outer reef that you can't see and an inner reef that breaks the surface around the opening into a perfect white sand crescent bay. We anchored smack in the middle of Atwood Harbor and had the entire place to ourselves. I took a snorkel to ensure the anchor was well set while Hideko got ready to cook dinner. Our Rocna was well buried in 10 feet of sand. When I got back aboard I cleaned Hideko's prize and threw the scraps overboard and watched a barracuda eat the big pieces while a nurse shark snarfed the little bits up off of the sand.

We watched the sunset in a flat calm with our wonderful fresh caught meal out in the cockpit. It was a magical night.

The Bahamas
02/21/2007 | Pablo Ramos
"...caught her fist fish!" Ummmm fist fish? I thought you said Mahi-Mahi?
02/24/2007 | Randy
Now that's embarrassing, you spell checking for me!

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