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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Relaxing Aboard
08/28/2007, Martin's Marina

We had planned to leave the dock today but it just didn't work out. I got up early to listen to the weather. Everything looks good but there is still a high amplitude wave on the way Thursday night with an embedded low. Nothing problematic expected but something to keep an eye on.

I paid up at the marina office so that we could take off if we got around to it. We are a 50 foot catamaran and so I expected a little more than the mono hull rate. The bill was astronomical. I couldn't believe that a place this small would charge so much. Then I noticed the name on the bill. They were charging me for the 130 foot motor yacht Monaco's tab. After sorting that out I got a corrected bill. We had been here for two weeks and they wanted to charge us for 14 days. This was a bit more expensive than the monthly rate. So after a third computation I finally got the correct bill. About 1,400 EC ($525 US). Not bad at all for a month on the dock with a 50 foot boat, even though we didn't use power or water. The rate worked out to $0.70 US per foot per day for us and it would have been only $0.35 per foot if we'd have used the whole month.

Back at the boat Hideko and Atsuko had decided to go to the grocery store. There were grocery stores in our future travels but the biggest and best (the IGA in Grande Anse) was the only one that would do. So off they went for groceries. This pretty much ended any hope for departure today. Just as well though because Razmig and I were happy to get some rest in.

Once back at the boat, Hideko proceeded to dominate all contenders in Risk. We wrapped up the day with dinner and a movie (Jacob's Ladder) on the dock. Tomorrow we're really leaving...

Jumping off Annandale Falls
08/27/2007, Annandale Falls

This is the day I made Haro (my older brother, who always beat me at machismo games) proud. I'm not sure how I even ended up at the top of a 50-foot water fall (looked so much higher standing up) but when Randy took off his t-shirt for the climb, I knew that my manhood was challenged.

In Randy, I saw Haro, and thought, crap, I might have to jump. When we reached the top, to my relief, Randy sat down and was the first to say, "I don't know about this." Like a little Rooster, I thought here is my chance, and urged him on, knowing full well that I wouldn't jump. Our "instructor", who had a mysterious long scar on his face, helped our case by telling us that jumping off a bit to the left or forward would land us on the nice and shiny rocks. To top it off, we couldn't even see the water below, had to jump through tree branches, and to acrobatically kick our legs up as soon as we hit the water (too shallow apparently, nice).

The rooster in me kept pushing the envelope. To my horror I found myself convincing Randy / Haro to jump. I took my shirt off and held my breath, trying to at least match Randy's cut pecs and hoping that I might at least scare him away. It didn't. I approached the slippery edge of the cliff, looked at Atsuko (who seemed very small at this point), kissed her and our yet to be born daughter goodbye (man, I'm such a sucker for drama), and took forever to jump. Then, I jumped. Free fall sucks, and the impact (close your legs), really hurts.

I hoped Randy / Haro wouldn't follow, so I could be the only bona-fide Rooster. But alas, Randy followed, hitting the water pecs and all ; ) What a day and what a rush. Wouldn't have done it without Randy. No machismo here, but I did wonder if Haro would have done this jump. I just wanted to face my fear and see if I could do it. Plus, it was our five year wedding anniversary on that day, and Atsuko was cheering me on ...

Hog Island BBQ
08/26/2007, Hog Island

Our friends Razmig and Atsuko arrived late last night. They are one of the reasons that we have been hanging around in Grenada. We knew that they were coming to visit and we wanted to show them Grenada and the Tobago Cays, some of our favorite spots in the Caribbean.

The marina seemed like a good base to operate from while exploring inland so we decided to stay here at Secret Harbor until after our island tour. There was also a disturbance brewing out in the Atlantic that we were keeping our eyes on.

Razmig and Atsuko are from the west coast of the US and after more than a day of traveling they ended up comatose until around 10AM. Once conscious it was, "which way to the beach?" Grenada has nice beaches but I don't think of it as a "beach" island, like say Anguilla. The south coast is particularly short on beaches, having more rocky coves cutting deep into the island with mangroves lined bays.

There are, however, some nice islands set into the southern fjords that are quite hospitable. Nearby Calviny island has a nice beach so we dinghied over to swim and relax a bit. The island is private and the new French owner of Martin's Marina also owns the island resort at Calviny. They are doing some upgrades for the next season and it looks quite nice. Even though the island is private the beach, like all beaches we have run across in the world, is public. Here in Grenada you are allowed to roam within one cable (whatever that is) above the high tide mark.

After a bit of fun at Calviny we headed over to Hog island for the Sunday Barbeque. Hog island is a pretty little island set into the south end of Clarks Court Bay. The Kelp Fiction, Blue Star and Monaco crews had beat us there. The weekly Sunday barbeque at hog island packs with cruisers and locals. Tasty food, a beach bar and a local band on an otherwise deserted island usually makes for good fun.

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

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