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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
08/22/2007, Martin's Marina

We received our mail today. Saint Brendan's Isle is fantastic, no junk mail, all packaging broken down to make bulk shipping more efficient, and flawless service. Our mail arrived in Saint Georges in only two days. It took another two days to actually get it. I used an agent this time which cost about $50 US (in addition to the $50 US I had to pay Grenada). Not bad considering the amount of stuff we received.

We pretty much buy everything on line so there can be a lot of mail. We rarely get any useful service from stores or dealers because we leave the neighborhood shortly after we arrive in almost all cases. If an outfit knows you can't walk into the store they will often ignore you when you email or call for help. For instance, we have some badly rusted links in the new anchor chain we bought from Ropes Inc. in Fort Lauderdale. I emailed Jack, the principal as I understand it, and he asked me to bring it in. I told him that I was in Grenada and heading through the canal. After that, no more responses. This type of thing is fairly common and even if someone wants to help it may be impossible for you to arrange to get the thing that needs service to them or vice versa. For this reason we have decided that we are much better off buying things at the cheapest possible price from online sources. Online outlets tend to provide no service, but seeing as how we rarely get useful service anyway, we might as well save on the purchase.

One of the items we received in our 2 foot cube of mail was the Raymarine Smart Controller, purchased at It is basically a little sea talk RF remote. The transceiver plugs into a sea talk port on your main system and the remote plugs into a charger. Once charged you can walk anywhere on the boat and use the remote to control the autopilot but you can also set custom alarms, check wind speed and direction, view the GPS position, and just about anything else. I am particularly happy to have this access at the nav station and in our cabin. I have Raytech v6 on the nav computer but sometimes it is a bit much to fire up the entire computer for a simple navigational task. Now I can just glance at the remote. We also have no instruments in our cabin. With the remote I can be snug in bed and still have the remote right next to me with various anchor alarms and what not enabled.

09/04/2007 | Blades
If anyone is curious to know, a recent e-mal confirmed that Swingin On A Star and crew are well following Hurricane Felix. Quoted from Randy ...
"Felix gave us some interesting
stories that's for sure. Swingin' on a Star and crew are all fine.
Felix came in harder than forecast but I always prepare for two
degrees of severity worse than expected. W were in south Grenada and
saw 45 knots sustained for about an hour with 55 knot gusts."

Stay tuned ... the next blog update should be intere
Jose and Louise
08/21/2007, Martin's Marina

Martin's Marina is a small marina with one main dock, tees on both ends and a connector dock at midpoint leading ashore. They have fuel, water and 50Hz power but that's about it. The little pub has beer and rum and some snacks but nothing you could call an actual meal. The benefit of this setup is that within a week you know everyone on the dock.

Odyssey is a beautiful traditional cutter with a couple working in construction management. Dickels is a 53 foot Hallberg Rassy that the Dutch owner leaves here while abroad. Kelp Fiction, El Pirata, Blue Star, Monaco and an empty Leopard completes the list.

Monaco is a 130 foot motor yacht with a crew of seven. Jose, the Mate, and I have had a lot of great chats on the dock so we decided to get together for drinks tonight. Jose and his wife Louise, Monaco's stewardess, came over to Swingin' on a Star for a great evening of mixing. Jose was born in Uruguay and grew up in Mallorca. He was a chef on yachts in the Mediterranean for a while and then became a First Mate, traveling the Caribbean. Louise was born in Australia and has also spent quite a bit of time in exotic locals working on yachts. Wonderful folks with amazing travels and stories.

Meeting folks like this is certainly the best thing about cruising. We will be leaving Martin's Marina soon for new places and Jose and Louise will be retiring to tour America and start a family in Mallorca. We hope to see them again when we get to the Mediterranean.

Pacific Planning
08/20/2007, Swingin' on a Star

I went to make a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich today and realized that we had run out of sandwich bread. Hideko to the rescue. In a matter of hours Hideko and mixed, beat up, proofed and what ever other violence you need to do to produce a fantastic loaf of sandwich bread. She had baked a lot of great baguettes over the last few months but this was the first time that she had come to the rescue of the peanut butter and jelly cause.

I spent the rest of the day preparing plans for our South Pacific Crossing. Hideko and I have been totally focused on getting far enough south to be out of the hurricane belt and in the insurance zone since the British Virgin Islands. Once here we began to realize that it won't be long before the longest crossing in our circumnavigation will be before us.

We have done a fair bit of pre-planning for the crossing of course. That said it is amazing how much work you really need to do to properly vet a real solid crossing plan. Jimmy Cornel's World Cruising Routes is always a good place to start planning any route. From Jimmy's work you can get the best routes and weather windows. This is really just the start though.

It has been about a weeks worth of work to get all of the data together to field our first draft of a plan for the South Pacific Crossing. We have decided that we would like to have six aboard for the trip. This means soliciting participation from four sailing friends. Here's the draft we're working with:

While route and timing specifics can not be determined precisely at this point, a general framework is in place targeting the Spring of 2008 using a well defined route from Colon Panama to French Polynesia. A crew commitment of two months would involve transit from Panama City, Panama to Papeete, Tahiti. A three month commitment would allow for transit from Colon through the canal and throughout the length of French Polynesia, perhaps returning from Bora Bora. A one month commitment risks becoming overdue on the return side but could be possible for crew wanting to make the ocean crossing only. Crew preferences will weigh heavily on the specific anchorages and durations of stay.

The tropical storm season in the Northern seas begins in June. The tropical storm season in the Southern seas ends in March. Our transit targets the month of April in an attempt to acquire the best possible conditions for the crossing.

Week 1: Second Week of March - Cristobal, Panama/Canal Preparations
Week 2: Third Week of March - Panama City/Canal Transit
Week 3: Fourth Week of March - Las Perlas Islands/Crew Shake Down
Week 4: First Week of April - North Pacific Crossing
Week 5: Second Week of April - Galapagos
Week 6: Third Week of April - South Pacific Crossing Week I
Week 7: Fourth Week of April - South Pacific Crossing Week II
Week 8: First Week of May - South Pacific Crossing Week III
Week 9: Second Week of May -The Marquesas
Week 10: Third Week of May -The Tuamotus
Week 11: Fourth Week of May -The Eastern Society Islands
Week 12+: June -The Western Society Islands and onward

Our goal is to make this crossing with 6 crew and a dog aboard. We have three empty cabins and couples are certainly welcome. Minimum crew for the crossing will be three and maximum will be eight. Crew will be responsible for a watch each day while in transit and will also share in the operational responsibilities of the boat. The watch plan with 6 crew would involve 2 hours on and 2 hours stand by, followed by 2 hours on and 2 hours standby. This puts each member of the crew at the helm for 4 hours a day and standing ready to assist for 4 hours a day with 16 hours off. Cooking, cleaning and maintenance tasks will also be shared amongst the crew.

08/19/2007, Southwest coast

Fred has been making us awesome espresso almost every morning so I though I would try to return the favor today. I made a Hollandaise sauce, the way my Dad taught me, and poached up some eggs for Eggs Benedict. Cindy has an overt dislike for anything associated with eggs so it was breakfast for three. Fred brought the coffee and ate at our boat, perhaps because Cindy wouldn't let him aboard with a plate full of eggs in an egg sauce.

Jay and Tami on Blue Star had rented a car so we all hopped a ride with them over to Aquarium on the West coast for lunch. The Aquarium restaurant is a really fun spot with good music and a great beach. We had great food out on the patio and got in a swim or two as well. We watched a beautiful sun set over the Caribbean sea from our table prior to heading home.

Blue Star
08/18/2007, Mount Harman Bay

We met Jay and Tami from Blue Star, the last Lagoon 570, today. We first talked to Jay in Saint Lucia. Fred and I were tooling around and we stopped to say hi, particularly because I noticed that Jay's boat didn't have the steering out on the quarter like all of the other big Lagoons. I'm not a fan of being exposed out at the corner of the boat, particularly in trying conditions when you don't feel comfortable leaving everything up to the autopilot. Jay had highly customized his boat, to the point of having the helm moved to the bulk head.

We saw them prior to that in the anchorage in Dominica. We had a longer chat today and I found out that they had just bought property in Dominica to build their dream house on. Not a bad plan. Dominica is a beautiful island and certainly one of the less traveled in the Caribbean.

Blue Star came to Port Egmont from Dominica to get out of the possible path of Dean two days ago. Once Dean had moved on they came into Mount Hartman to relax and do some work on their boat. Jay was tirelessly working above and below deck and up in the rigging. Jay was not very happy with his boat from the factory and had done a lot of fairly expensive work to get it the way he wanted it.

South Wind
08/17/2007, Martin's Marina

We stayed around the boat all day today just to be safe. Dean was wracking Martinique this morning but we saw little of his fury. The wind came around all the way to the South which was interesting. The southern harbors of Grenada are all open to the south with the exception of a few which are deep enough that they bend around providing 360 degree protection. Most also have reefs breaking up the entrance.

A large (I'm guessing 70 foot) Swan came in today from Prickly Bay. The captain said things were getting untenable on the dock there. Both Prickly and Hartman are open to the wind from the south but Hartman has a reef across the entire entrance. We definitely saw some chop coming in at Hartman but nothing concerning. It was overcast and we had a good sea running from the south but the wind never got over 15 knots in the harbor.

I was woken up at 2AM with the wind howling in the rigging and the boat bucking gently on her tethers. I got up to look around and noticed the wind sustaining speeds of over 30 knots. I got a drink and waited to see if things were going to get any more interesting. The rain was hammering down on the deck for a good hour but then things settled. That was it. One weak squall and Dean was off to the Central Caribbean.

Calm before the calm
08/16/2007, Mount Hartman Bay

I think Tom Petty said it best, "The way ay ay ting is the hardest part". Ber ner now ner ner now neeeer ner.

When I got up this morning things just looked ominous. I know it's probably because I am aware of Dean burbling out there somewhere but the feeling is there all the same. Everyone around the dock is busy securing things or doting on the latest weather forecast.

The Internet at the marina is still down so I have been pulling information in over the SSB every 6 hours when the national weather service updates it. Dean has performed as advertised so far and continues on a 280 degree track heading for Martinique.

Hideko and I finished all of the little jobs on our list and got everything on the outside of the boat secured. I have taken to tying a short piece of dock line in a large loop around a stanchion base and then clipping the halyards to this. It has worked great because the halyard is away from the mast and all clanking is eliminated (not very innovative) but the great part is that the shackles and blocks don't squeak and chafe on the stanchion bases. I decided not to take the jib down because we should see nothing more than 25 knots gradient. The squalls coming in may get up to 40 or more but they go by pretty fast. I checked the furling line and made sure that I had two really good wraps on the jib. I secured the main sail bag and zipped up the front plate that keeps the bag from acting like a parachute. We took all of the gear off of the rail and stowed it below, Rolled up the windscreen, cleaned up all of the lines and tails, among other tasks.

We left the dingy in the water because we wanted to have access to it if there was a problem or if someone in the anchorage needed help. Our dingy and Kelp Fiction's are secured on their own cleats on what should be the leeward side of the dock for most of the day. About mid day we took a break and went out for Chinese food with Fred and Cindy. It was a short but welcome respite from the monotony of waiting.

When we returned I decided to put out an anchor to the northwest. As far as I could tell our key wind directions were going to be southwest in big squalls and south in the strong gradient wind after Dean passes. We are on the north side of an east/west dock specifically because the data was pointing to southerly winds as the heaviest. I know what it is like to be mashed onto a dock and I don't like it. We could certainly have big winds from the northwest if things change. Having an anchor out is probably superfluous but if we need it I'll be glad it is there.

Hideko and I loaded our FX37 Fortress and the chain leader into our dinghy and paddled out to the edge of the mangroves. This anchor serves as our stern anchor, we have about 25 feet of 3/8ths chain on it and the rest is 5/8ths nylon. Back on the boat Hideko feed the rode out as I paddled. I lowered the Fortress to the bottom where it landed nicely in the black mangrove mud. The whole time I was hoping I would not have to go down there and mess with it. Back on the boat we put the rode on the port primary winch and cranked it in until it quit wanting to crank. Fred was in the dinghy at this point watching the anchor. It disappeared into the mud early in the process. Perfect (until I have to retrieve it I guess). The anchor cleanly pulled the boat to the limit of the dock lines in 15 knots of wind. I was hoping that it would do the same in 40.

Danforth type anchors like the Fortress foul easy, they trip when you swing around them, once tripped they often don't reset and they have other short comings. All that cataloged and noted, they are amazing when properly set in mud or sand and pulled from a single direction. They are also light and fairly inexpensive. A boat anchored in the middle of this harbor rode out Ivan on a Fortress. Once dug in it stayed right where it was set. After the storm they tried to retrieve it and could not. A diver found the tang 3 feet down in the mud and could not get it out. It is still there today. I hope ours is not quite that buried.

After setting the Fortress up Fred, Hideko and I sat on the deck surveying the set up. It was exquisite. We were tied up to the windward dock six ways to Sunday and we had nine fenders out with an anchor off to port in case the wind did anything but light and variable from the north semicircle. Then we all began to ponder the possibility of folks blasting by in dinghies. The nylon line ran straight out from the winch at about seven feet off of the water angling down into the harbor at the edge of the channel. The marina is accessible from the main channel to the south but a fair amount of local boats head around the north end by the mangroves too.

As we considered the hazard to navigation a skiff came blasting up the east side of the dock. Yikes! We all jumped up and down and tried to get him to slow down. He didn't. But he did duck and zig a little to the left as he came around the end of the dock. In stride he sat back up on the other side of the line and motored into the marina. We realized that this was the dock master whom we had informed of our anchoring operation in advance. I decided to lower the shiny new anchor rode down into the oozing mud all the same. If we needed it in the night I could just winch it up and hang a strobe on it.

I have another anchor, a 66 pound claw, that we prepared to deploy off of the Port bow if need be but after the 11AM weather report I am fairly optimistic and don't think it will be necessary. We left the Rocna on the bow roller so that if we need to leave fast we can drop all of the dock and anchor lines and still have our primary anchor ready to go.

The conditions at the end of the day were light and variable, but with diabolical looking dark clouds all around the horizon. Fred and I were walking around the dock just to see what was happening in the bay around the marina. Less than 24 hours before landfall boats were still coming in. It started to rain. There is a really nasty bit of reef across the entire entrance to Mount Hartman Bay. Part of the reason we picked it. Not the kind of thing you want to navigate in failing light and a building squall however.

As we looked out we could see 8 Sunsail boats trying to enter the bay. I suspect that they were from the Blue Lagoon on the south end of Saint Vincent but I'm not sure. Some looked like charter clients but others were obviously Sunsail staff.

There are three ways into Hartman: the long way with a deep channel and fairly wide access all the way in, the long way with a short cut, where you have deep water but have to run a little bit of a gauntlet, and the short way that goes through shoals and narrow draws with breaking waves all about. The first five boats split between the short way and the long way with the short cut. Boat number six picked a fourth way. I saw the boat sort of stop, then turn beam to the wind, then show her bottom paint. Not pretty.

It started to pick up in the bay and was obviously getting going out near the reef. Fred and I thought to go out and see if we could help but the Sunsail team was already in action with one boat anchored near by and at least five dinghies darting to the scene. They ran a halyard out to the largest dinghy, put a captain on board, heeled the boat hard over and spun her slowly into deeper water. As the rescued boat and the last of the Sunsail crew dropped anchor it began to pour.

I went back to the boat to wait things out. Hideko and I listened to Chris Parker at 7PM and things were progressing as expected, which was good news for us. As I was thinking this though a guy anchored in Rodney Bay Saint Lucia came on the net. It was sort of eerie to hear the forecast for a boat directly in a possible track of Hurricane Dean. I went to sleep feeling a bit of dread and sympathy for our sailing comrades in Martinique and Saint Lucia.


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