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

How can you make the ultimate device of leisure, a sailboat, with no cup holders? I need a place for coffee before noon and beer after noon. Our boat has beautifully clean decks and a great cockpit, but no cup holders!

You don't need a cup holder, it's is a cat, I hear you say. This is true 59 minutes out of every hour. It's the one minute that dumps your Joe on the non skid that concerns me.

There's a wood working shop right next to FKG and in a last minute fit I asked them to make me a set of cup holders for the helm (the mug set) and the port cockpit (suitable for beer, Coke, Perrier or whatever turns you on).

After a little discussion of size location and materials they went to work. Two days later we have two perfect teak (hey now I have teak on the boat too!) cup holders.

Saint Martin
Halyard Tune Up
06/05/2007, Rigging Roundup

Every boat that we considered during our selection process had the option of bringing all of the sail controls back to the cockpit. Except the one we bought. Given that this safety feature was a very high priority for us you can guess how much we like everything else about the boat.

I had to go forward to put the second reef in during a squall with 35 knot sustained winds recently. No big deal to the old salts I'm sure. For my part, having to reef the main sail down with no luff line in big wind and seas from the fore deck is not my idea of fun. It is very hard to communicate with the helm in high winds from the fore deck and you are a lot more exposed which makes everything more difficult. If you're putting the second reef in you should probably be jacked in which complicates movement. It can also be difficult to make the reef point tack reach the clip if the sail doesn't come down flaked the way you want it. I have had to use a bit of line with a bolin on the reef tack to winch the ring down enough to clip in the tack.

Double handing means single handing much of the time and it would be great not to have to wake Hideko up every time I have to reef or shake one out. You just can't beat the comfort and safety of the cockpit for boat operations. Some say, "what if there's a problem at the mast, then you have to go forward anyway". True, but only then. The other 50 times you pull down the luff line while slipping the halyard, then bring in the leach line, tighten up the halyard and voila. All while staying nice and dry in the cockpit and having full control of the helm in case you get a big wave or whatever.

I had extensive discussions with the guys at FKG in Saint Martin about this matter and I believe that they are highly skilled riggers. Unfortunately their frank advice and my detailed examination of the options caused us to abandon the goal of bringing reefing capability to the cockpit at this juncture.

It would be complex to keep everything fair and I am guessing that the deck would need to be built up in areas where standing blocks, organizers and other hardware would end up. That said, the main set back was the rig itself. Our boat has three reef points with luff rings that clip in and leach lines that run through the boom to jammers at the mast end of the boom. Adding luff lines to bring to the cockpit was not something the current rig would accommodate easily. Switching to single line reefing would also require big changes. Defeated, temporarily, I fell back to an intermediate position.

To make reefing somewhat easier I had a reefing winch added to the back of the mast directly below the boom where the reef lines exit. Our boom originally had winches on port and starboard. The third winch has made the path for the leach lines much more fair than when running to the side mounted winches. It also allows me to leave the leach line on the winch which is nice because the boom jammers are hard to set under tension and not super reliable unless they have loaded up while set. The other benefit is that I can have the halyard on the starboard winch and I can use the port winch as a come-along to bring the reef cringle down to where I can clip it (another reason I'd prefer luff lines).

Our boat was designed to allow the windlass capstan to crank the halyard when raising the main. I'm not keen on the windlass solution for raising the main. The windlass is designed to haul rode and it burns the lines due to the capstan design and imperfect human tailing (perhaps I'm just not good at it). It is also hard to look down to keep the line from wrapping while also looking up to see that the battens are clear of the jacks and that none of the reef lines are tangled, etceteras. I don't like having the anchor locker hatch open if it is bumpy. Perhaps I'm biased but it just seems like another job that should be done from the cockpit.

After a short discussion with the riggers we came up with a simple solution. First we swapped the main halyard with the storm jib halyard. This put the main halyard on the helm side of the mast. Then we added an eye to the mast at a spot that would allow the halyard to lead fair back to the primary winch at the helm through a snatch block.

The main halyard is not living in the cockpit as I originally wanted but I now get 90% of the benefit. To raise the main I go forward and pull the sail up as far as possible by hand with the clutch closed (I can skip this bit if single handing in winds too tricky for the auto pilot). Then I clip the halyard into the snatch block on the new eye and bring the halyard back to the helm. I put the halyard on the self-tailing powered primary winch and press the button with my foot. This allows me to steer the boat with both hands, watch the sail with perfect visibility and let the winch do the work. When the sail is close to the top I bring the halyard tail forward, put it on the starboard mast winch and tighten it up leaving the halyard on the mast winch with the mast clutch closed. Perfect.

P.S. We've done 500 miles with this new rig setup and it is great. Previously if we were had an hour hop I would often motor even if the wind was good just because it was too much work to raise the main for such a short trip. I have used the windlass a few times but I think it is more hassel than it is worth, so I switched to the manual mast winch. This is hard work. Cats have heavy main sails with lots of roach, full battens and big square footage. The main is the power sail on most cats. Ours is 947 square feet. I never timed myself but it took quite a while to get the main all the way up the 73' above the water stick. If we just motored we'd be there.

Now we put the sails up every chance we get. Hideko can raise the main easily as well. Just go forward and grab the halyard, snap it in, bring it back, put it on the winch and press the button. You have great visibility and control of the boat so you don't typically get hung up when raising the main from the cockpit. The benefit has just emboldened me to continue to look for a way to bring all the lines back!

Saint Martin
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

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