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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Marking the Chain
06/04/2007, FKG Dock

We hauled all of the primary anchor chain out on the dock today to mark it off. I've though about getting an automatic chain counter. They look really slick. Press the down button on the windlass and get a digital readout of how much chain you have out. How cool is that? Unfortunately everyone I've talked to that has one is fairly non plussed.

We decided to spray paint our chain fluorescent orange every 25 feet with unique markings every 100 feet. We also found these cool little chain markers at Island Water World so we're using those with the paint. The markers are colored so we have created a scheme that allows you to tell exactly how much chain is out by just reading the markers.

It seems like such a simple thing but the first time we anchored with the new set up we both were so happy to be able to tell exactly what we had out. I must say that the paint is a lot more visible than the markers but then again the paint won't last forever and the markers look like they might.

Saint Martin
Hanging out in Marigot
06/03/2007, Marigot

We spent the day today with Fred, Cindy and Jill in Marigot. We ate lots of pastries and crepes. A great day in my book.

Hideko has located all of the good pastry shops on the Dutch side so we actually eat pretty good back on the boat as well. We are plowing through the Alias episodes rapidly with plenty of quiche and eclairs to keep us conscious.

Saint Martin
Onto the FKG Dock
06/02/2007, FKG Riggers

We moved onto the FKG dock today. I have been stopping in every day to see if they're ready for us and I think it has helped. They can't start on the boat for another few days but at least we're in front of them. If we're going to sit in this water at least now we have shore power and dinghy-less shore access.

A boat called Rush showed up in the anchorage today. I really dig their paint job. They took off before we had a chance to meet them.

There is a cruisers net on the VHF in the mornings in Saint Martin. This morning several cruisers were getting info on wind generators. They decided to head over to Budget Marine to consider some options so I joined in. It turned out to be Seeyamanana and Lone Star. We had met SYM in the BVI and had heard Lone Star on the radio all the way back in the Bahamas but had never met them. No one actually bought and I think I have talked myself out of the concept. We have a great solar panel set up and the down side on the wind generator isn't overcome by the marginal extra power we would generate. At least that's my stance for the next 10 minutes.

Patrick from FKG repaired the main breaker on our Inverter Charger today. The breaker was burned and was acting like a resistor. The Charger saw a volt more than there was on the batteries (i.e 13 instead of 12) so never charged and the Inverter saw a volt less (i.e. 11 instead of 12) and thus always shut down. We had a 150 amp breaker on the circuit which we replaced with a fuse. The Inverter/Charger went from boat anchor to useful device.

Patrick also put a rush on our new shore power cables allowing us to hook up to 50 amps for the first time. We had a 30 amp service previously which prohibited running both AirCon units. This boat is a bit too big for one AirCon to cool. Two work great though. Another great improvement.

I've been working on my own list of projects as the electronics guys do their thing. For the first time I can actually imagine a state of completion where I am actually happy with the state of things. Its a bit off still but I can see the light!

Saint Martin
06/01/2007, Phillipsburg, Saint Martin

We took one of the local buses over the hill to Phillipsburg today. The buses are very inexpensive and run constantly around the island. There's some pretty massive traffic between Marigot, Simpson Bay and Phillipsburg, reminded me of LA.

Phillipsburg is a beautiful beach town. The anchorage looks great. I wondered how so many great little shops and restaurants could be supported by what seemed to be a fairly sleepy environment. Shortly there after I was informed that Phillipsburg was a cruise ship stop. We were lucky to be there on a non cruise ship day.

We had sushi at a little place right on the beach and it was actually pretty good. Hideko even approved (and wanted to go back every day for the next week).

Saint Martin
05/31/2007, French Saint Martin

We dinghied over to the French side of the lagoon today to join the Kelp Fiction crew for lunch. We have had no problem keeping in touch via VHF in the mornings. I have been keeping up with the weather on the SSB seeing as how hurricane season starts tomorrow. I have tried to listen in on the French weather reports on VHF but I just don't have enough of the language together to make sense of it.

The lagoon side of Marigot has a little wharf where everyone ties up stern to right in front of the shops and bistros. Lots of boats are anchored in the lagoon close to the Marigot wharf. Boats are anchored from one end of the lagoon to the other but the density seems greater at the ends. The basin also seems to emptying out a little more each day as the cruising boats head south.

Marigot is a very quaint little town. Most of the town is squashed into four or five streets that run between the lagoon side wharf and the marina and beach front on the Atlantic side. There are creperies, bistros, wine shops, ice cream and gelato stores, and every other kind of gastric indulgence you could imagine.

I had been craving a crepe for some time so we ate at a little place right on the wharf that served a late breakfast. A nice espresso, cheese omelet crepe and a fresh squeezed glass of OJ, perfect. Hang out on the French side and work on your boat on the Dutch side. I'm getting the hang of this Saint Martin/Sint Maarten thing.

Saint Martin
Do it yourself, or hire out
05/30/2007, The Fen

I like to work on our boat. In a perfect world I would do all of the work. Unfortunately not having access to the resources of a contractor causes projects I handle to go a whole lot slower. For instance, it seems I have to get a new SIM every couple of islands to keep the GSM cell phone running. We have no cell phone at the moment, which makes any kind of part chasing an all day affair. In addition there is so much EMI in the lagoon that it is hard to get usable Internet for any duration, even with our antenna. This brings my communications system down to dinghy & sneaker levels. Access to parts, tools, a workshop, knowing who to call and where to go to get things done, not to mention having a team of multiple folks allows you to get things done much more quickly.

We were developing a pretty long list of projects on several fronts and it seemed the only way to get ahead was to deploy the contractors. We had waited for Saint Martin to start things because we had read and heard that there was no better place in the Caribbean to get work done on your boat. We were also coming at a time when most of the shops were slowing down work wise.

Boat contractors are a bit like car mechanics, or maybe worse. I can safely say that I would not let more than half of those I have hired in the past back on my boat. Unfortunately this means that hiring a new contractor is a risky affair. You never know what you will get. It becomes very important that you supervise the work for a bit at the beginning to ensure that you have someone who knows what they're doing working on your boat. If you find a good one, load them up to the max!

Kent Grimbeek at Just Catamarans in Fort Lauderdale took care of a lot of work on our boat before we left. We got really spoiled working with them. I would have preferred to have Kent's team do everything we were contemplating but in some cases the projects weren't identified, in others we didn't have the parts, and, in the end, we just ran out of time.

FKG had come highly recommended by a friend in the BVI so we felt pretty good about them. My choice of Electec was just based on the fact that they were the most capable looking outfit and I had a good feeling after meeting with one of the managers. I discussed my projects with a gentleman named Jan, one of the principals at the shop, and I was impressed by his knowledge and his demeanor.

Patrick from Electec arrived today to start on some of the electrical and electronics work. It was nice to have them get started within two days of our first meeting. I certainly had a list for them.

Repair bad breaker on Inverter Charger
Upgrade Xantrex MS2000 Firmware
Upgrade shore power to 125v 50a w/ 60' cable and pig tails for 125v/30a & 250v/50a
Install Windlass Remote
Install AIS receiver
>>> Install VHF antenna
>>> Run coax cable
>>> Install Sitex AIS brain
>>> Connect antenna to AIS brain
>>> Connect AIS to E120
>>> Install Raymarine Seatalk bridge
>>> Move NEMA for SSB & VHF Radios to bridge
>>> Connect Sitex to E120 on free NEMA port
>>> Upgrade E120 firmware
Repair loud hailer
Replace anchor light

Patrick, an EE from Wisconsin, is not only a great guy but a very good tech. He did first rate work and we were very happy with everything he did. It was nice to get a winner on the first try. It would be almost two weeks before everything would be completed.

Saint Martin
05/29/2007, The Saint Martin Lagoon

Day two in the fen, as we have come to know the lagoon. It is always nice to be in a totally protected anchorage but this lagoon is a little too protected. I would suggest anyone falling into this water take a full course of penicillin.

I spent most of the day doing recon on the two chandleries ashore, Island Water World and Budget Marine. Both are pretty good sized and together they probably have a better selection of stuff than your average West Marine. Things turn south if you have to order something however. Shipping can take a week or more and everything is air freight pricing (even if it takes forever to get here). I needed a Yanmar part that runs about $20 and by the time I checked out it was about $50 with shipping. Saint Martin is duty free though so that is a help. You would really get worked over in many other Caribbean ports.

I bought a few things that I was sure we needed and that were cheap enough to not require comparison shopping. When I got back to the boat Hideko and I put together a complete list of all of the spares that we needed. We had to replace the fluids and parts used for the 250 hour service work in Provo and we also wanted to get some more pump spares.

I'm not sold on the pumps installed in our boat at this point. We have four RuleMate 500 sump pumps. These are principally for pumping grey water from the shower drain overboard. I have the aircon condensation run offs directed to the aft sumps and the forward sumps also handle the sinks in the forward heads. "Shower sump" may not fit into the RuleMate function sweep spot. Our dealer replaced one sump pump at the time of delivery and I have had to swap out another.

The port and starboard bilge sumps and the engine room sumps use RuleMate 1100s and one of those has gone up. This is concerning because you don't want to find out that your bilge pump doesn't work on a day that you need it. We test ours buy dumping a bucket of fresh water into the bilge sump on a maintenance schedule but you can't replace reliability with maintenance.

Our port water pressure pump failed also. It was treated badly for a bit (long but entertaining story that I will not post here so as to avoid being beat about the head and shoulders by my spouse). However, given the robust claims on the box one would expect to have no problems.

All of these pumps are made by the same folks, ITT Industries (aka. Jabsco, aka RuleMate, aka Shurflo). If you go to a standard chandlery (i.e. West Marine) you are not likely to find much else. Four (or was it five, hard to keep track) pump failures in the first eight months of ownership seems a bit excessive to me. It is just the two of us. I know many folks who go to exotic maintenance extremes to protect these delicate resources. At several hundred dollars a pump I don't really see why you should have to, they're only being asked to do what they're advertised to do and less. I have a spare for everything at the moment but I am carefully considering a more robust solution than ITT.

Saint Martin

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