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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
BBQ at Monaco
08/25/2007, Monaco

In our travels we have ended up in the proximity of many motor yachts. Oddly we haven't spent any real time with their crews. Stepping back I think that there are just different circles at work. Cruisers tend to be older retired folks. Professional yacht crew, excepting captains, tend to be very young. Cruisers spend their days on cruising and social activities, yacht crews work 8-5 M-F. Cruisers anchor in places big yachts can't get into and big yacht marinas are usually too expensive for cruisers. Also when the owners or guests are aboard a motor yacht the crews are pretty busy all the time.

The motor yacht Monaco is here in Martin's Marina and she is just waiting out the season until it is time to head to Florida. The crew work hard during the week to keep her in beautiful condition but they have the weekends and evenings off. Hideko and I have made friends with Jose and Louise the Mate and Stewardess and they invited us to a dock barbeque this evening.

It was a wonderful barbeque. Nicky, the chef on board, made a fantastic potato salad among other things, and Jose cooked beef filets on the grill. Blue Star and Kelp Fiction were there as well and a great time was had by all.

I really enjoyed meeting the entire crew, particularly the engineer. The scope of the systems he has to manage is staggering. Jose gave us a tour of Monaco, a lovely, classic Feadship, and very well built. Just touring the engine room and looking at all of the massive diesels will allow me to smile the next time I have to do a 250 hour service on Swingin' on a Star's modest motors. Monaco has a crew of seven and I can see why.

We will miss Monaco and crew when we leave. She is heading for the Mediterranean ultimately so perhaps we will see her and her crew again down the line.

Halyard Blocks
08/24/2007, Prickly Bay

As usual I have a list of boat projects working. One of the things that I have resolved to square away is the swiveling main halyard block we have. Every time I attempt to raise the main I discover that the halyard parts are twisted, or worse, I don't discover this even though it has happened. There's nothing worse than raising a monster main sail and realizing that you can't take it to the top because the halyard is twisted (and it will not untwist on its own). Your choices are; lower the main and untwist the halyard or put in the first reef and leave it as is. I must admit I often choose the later.

I haven't figured out why I would want a swivel on this block yet. I sure as heck know that I want to be able to lock the swivel out though. The Lewmar block that came with the boat is fine but the lock out screws are too corroded to make use of.

Fred and I went to Budget Marine today to see about some parts. They had some blocks that would work but I just wasn't sold on the quality. This is an important and heavily used block. The riggers around back deal in Harken gear so I though I would give them a try.

They had a pretty good selection of stuff and I found a block that had been rated quite highly by Practical Sailor. After looking in the catalog to ensure it had enough working load rating I decided to take it. We are talking about a block here. Not a snatch block or a fancy multipart rig with a jammer, just a block. And the price was: $300 US. It was even scarier quoted in EC ($800). Folks like their Harken stuff and I'm sure that it is a great block, but please! I have it installed and will dutifully report on its performance. I am expecting the main sail to more or less raise itself.

Meanwhile back at the boat, Fred had gone on a mission to fix the Lewmar block. After snapping four or five drill bits he got the seized screws drilled out of the swivel lock out holes. This took some time. He then re-tapped them, which was fairly easy with the aluminum frame. Another trip to budget and we turned up the exact screws. Amazing! Now we have a spare block in reserve, which is always a nice thing. Thanks Fred!!

Touring Grenada
08/23/2007, Grenada

After being in Grenada for three weeks we decided that it was time to see the island. Liz on Aratinga organizes trips to the Friday Fish Fry in Gouyave and also sets up island tours. I have never met Liz but she is very kind in helping out the visiting cruisers through the Grenada Cruisers Net (VHF68 M-S at 7:30AM).

We were joined by two other couples and a single hander. One couple from England on Turtle, the single hander from Saint Thomas USVI, and the other couple, circumnavigators Marvin and Ann, from Saint John USVI. Marvin and Ann took off for the South Pacific from the west coast of the US in a home made trimaran in the 60s! I asked Marvin a lot of questions about his travels. Things were very different then. Have compass and sextant will travel. No one knew about storm season or El Niņo, and GPS, satellite weather and the rest were a long way off. Voyaging to distant lands took an awful lot of courage in those days.

Our tour guide and driver was Chris, apparently filling in for the usual guy who was on vacation. We visited the rain forest in the national park and saw some of the monkeys there along with vistas of the volcanic crater lake and the Atlantic Coastline.

Our next stop was the Rivers Rum distillery which I highly recommend. The distillery operates in exactly the same fashion as it did decades ago. The Rum is made from sugar cane grown locally and crushed by a water wheel driven mill. The initial boilers are heated by bagas (the dried cane husks) and a bit of wood or other fuel. The bagas is heaped into huge piles all over the place. Some of it is tilled back under as mulch. The boiled cane juice is enriched with molasses if need be and pumped into concrete vats (the old wood vats became too expensive to maintain) and allowed to ferment. No yeast is added, they simply allow the airborne yeast (and whatever else is in the vicinity) to take hold and do its thing. After eight days of fermenting the fermented cane juice is distilled using three wood fired boilers. The resulting Rum is tested for specific gravity and if it is found to contain less than 75% alcohol it goes back for another round of distillation. Apparently the 75% stuff is illegal to take on a flight so they make a weaker 68% variety to just squeak under the aviation limits. The vintage process is amazing to watch but I would not want to have to imbibe any large quantity of the results.

We also stopped by the Nutmeg co-op. There are several co-ops of this sort on the island. The one we visited employed eight people. Prior to hurricane Ivan's devastation the facility employed 140 individuals. The country is at 10% of its previous production yet they still rate third in the world.

A high priority stop for the chocolate lovers was the Cocoa plantation. The Grenada Chocolate Company is no longer open for tours but the plantation provides a full perspective of the process from pods on the tree through to the production of chocolate and Coco Tea (a spicy Granadian Hot Chocolate).

We had lunch at a nice little place called Good Food in Grenville. They happened to have Oil Down, the national Grenadian dish, and it was quite tasty. Oil Down is hard to come by because, as I understand it, it is typically made at home and takes a fair amount of effort.

The balance of the trip included seeing various sights and stopping at vista points along the way. Grenada is a lovely island and the people are very kind and friendly. Our day long tour was well worth the time spent.

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.


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