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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
SD50 Drive Legs
10/26/2007, Grenada Marine

The Yanmar diesel is an impressive piece of gear. I have been very happy with mine and I have found few folks who don't speak highly, if not reverently, of them. The Yanmar Saildrive is not quite of the same status.

Perhaps it is just my perception, but Saildrives in general seem to need a little more polish to achieve the levels of reliability and low maintenance of the diesels they are attached to. Among the lot the SD50 seem to be some of the better out there. Ours have served us well so far but there are a few distinct issues that seem to be universal which I thought I would try to address during our annual service session in the yard.

The first thing that seems a little under engineered is the rubber flap that is designed to streamline the hull area around the cut out that the drive leg comes through. Many factories simply glue this to the hull. In my experience this is fine for about one good passage or perhaps a month of hops. I can't recall seeing it any other way than as pictured here, hanging on the leg.

Some outfits make their boats with a bracket that screws the flap onto the hull. This seems like the only durable way to keep it on. So I was faced with a choice, just get rid of them, or come up with a bracket of some sort. Apparently this issue is common enough that Granada Marine has fiberglass brackets premade. I decided to go with the brackets. Time will tell if this was the right choice.

The rubber flaps cover a rectangular hole in the boats hull. The top bezel of the drive leg is circular. If the Yanmar template was circular the existing flap and bell housing attachments would still cover the area perfectly but you could drop the leg down from under the boat rather than toting it through the interior. Per previous blog, a friend rounded out this area to allow the leg to come straight down and it made installing the drive leg (which we hauled out from above) quite easy.

I talk to the factory about this and they did not seem completely comfortable with the modification. I am going to try to get a hold of Yanmar to see if there is any real practical reason not to make the rather small circular expansion in the center of the existing rectangle's sides. I have decided to leave things as is unless I need to pull the drive legs. If I get the green light from Yanmar and need to pull the legs I think I will do so from below with a marginally widened opening.

I changed the zincs out on our drives. I had considered going with the two part kit but several factors changed my mind. First and foremost was the fact that our Varifold props were so easy to remove; three hex nuts to remove the blade bumper, three more to free the hinge pins and one big nut on the shaft and she's loose. Add to those fasteners the blade bumper, the three blades and their pins and the hub and you have everything in hand. Given the fact that the one piece zincs are cheaper and easier to come by and may make better contact with the drive leg I decided to stick with the one part zincs.

The existing zincs both had more than 50% of their material but not by much. I believe that the zincs were stock and if so they lasted almost two years. They did not wear completely evenly which I found interesting. More interesting however was the fact that the factory paint seems to have completely pitted out in some small shallow patches where it looks like aluminum was exposed and gnawed at a bit. Someone suggested that the last haul out paint shop used copper paint. I find that hard to believe (copper paint on an aluminum drive leg?!?) but who knows.

I was going to have the yard do the drive legs with the bottom paint but seeing as how there was still no activity at the end of week one I decided I'd better start knocking bottom prep items off myself. I used an Interlux solution to get things in shape. If this fairs no better by our next haul out I'll have the drive legs pulled and stripped so that I can do a complete set of coatings from scratch.

This time around I used an Interlux solvent to strip most of the nasty bits down to the metal or factory paint at least, and then sanded things clean with 80 grit. There was still a bit of factory paint on the legs but it looked fair and free of aftermarket stuff. I then used the Interlux etcher (a little heavily from what I hear). Followed that with two coats of Primocon Primer (almost ran out as well because someone stole one of my cans from under the boat). I finished the drive legs off with Trilux. It looked good on the hard, we'll see how it fairs in the corrosive sea.

La Sagesse
10/25/2007, La Sagesse

Happy Thanksgiving Granada! I decided to take half a day off today seeing as how it was a holiday. The boat yard is pretty out of the way and unless you have a car and are ready to go for a considerable drive there are few dining options. You can eat at the bar and grill on the boat yard beach but I can't recommend the food, the beach or the smell in the general vicinity. Stuck up American? Perhaps. You can get good food there sometimes, I just wouldn't count on it.

There is a very nice restaurant in the little resort, Bel Air Plantation, a short walk down the bay. This is a great place to eat but pretty pricey and not a place to go in your painter's suit. Your third option is to hit up one of the local folks that bring in sacks of rotis and whatnot to sell at lunch time. You typically have to be on the list or they won't have anything left for you though. Instead I had breakfast at the resort that we were staying at and left early enough to have dinner at a reasonable time with Hideko and Roq. The yard is not a good place for a dog to hang out so Hideko and Roq have been staying at the hotel while I try to get the boat back in the water.

Due to the short notice on the haul out we were scrambling a bit to find a place to stay. Getting a room somewhere is not too difficult unless you introduce a quadruped into the equation. The Bel Air is very nice and a very short walk to the yard, but no dogs are allowed.

After a few more calls we came across La Sagesse. The add read: private bay, beach front open air restaurant and bar, large rooms, dog friendly and free transportation to and from the boat yard at your designated interval. It sounded too good to be true. Hideko and I were both amazed when we got there. It was better than too good to be true. The owners were fantastic and made us feel like part of the family. The bar and restaurant are casual but elegant and beautifully situated. The secluded beach and bay is one of the prettiest in Grenada. The two resident dogs and one cat wander the grounds greeting everyone and taking people on beach tours (if you go for a walk on the beach one of the dogs will escort you). The rooms are gigantic with huge showers (nice for soaking after a nasty hot day at the yard). This place has got to be the best kept secret on Grenada.

After being picked up from the yard by John the La Sagesse bar tender, I enjoyed an exquisite Thanksgiving dinner overlooking the ocean with Hideko and Roq. La Sagesse almost makes me like being in the boat yard... not quite though.

Two Hose Clamps Please
10/24/2007, Granada

Our third day on the hard has gone by. I have spent 10 hours a day here, mostly trying to wrangle management into deploying resources to get our boat painted. When they informed us that they could haul us I asked if we could be back in the water Wednesday (that would be today). The response was maybe. The boat is not even prepped for painting much less painted. I have also learned that tomorrow is Thanksgiving in Grenada so no one will be at work tomorrow. It's looking like we'll be here until next week.

In the mean time I have hired the mechanical shop to help me with engine maintenance. I'm going to do 250 hours on both Yanmars and annuals on the sail drives while, hopefully, the shop does the 1,000 hour on the Westerbeke genset. The young man doing the work is Neron. I have a good feeling about him, the kind of feeling you get when you talk to someone who has a good attitude, can communicate clearly and seems to have the knowledge and experience to do a good job. All of these attributes do not come together in one boat contractor very often.

Neron found one of the two hose clamps rusted through on the exhaust hose while pulling the heat exchanger for cleaning. Can you imagine an engine exhaust hose coming off inside the boat while in operation? Just think about that one for a second and then decide if every hose on every boat should be double clamped or not.

Siphon Break or Suction Pump
10/23/2007, The Hard

When you live on a boat you always have a todo list. An item I've had on my todo list for a while is "trim siphon break drains". I had done the starboard one on the last 250 hour service but just hadn't gotten around to digging in on the port side.

I was talking to a charter skipper on a Leopard 47 across the yard today and he relayed a story about his boat. It was one of those tales that moves one to immediate action. In particular that part about his engine room bilge getting some water in it one day, whereupon his engine sucked water in the siphon break drain hose (which was under said bilge water at the time), causing his engine to cease and desist permanently. No warrantee provided by Yanmar or Robertson Caine. One of those he said/she said deals that becomes particularly heated when several thousand dollars is involved. Amazing what a 48 cent piece of hose can do to a diesel.

I promptly trimmed the port aux and genset siphon break drain hoses.

Haul Out at Grenada Marine
10/22/2007, Grenada

We had originally planned to do our annual haul out in Trinidad due to the variety and concentration of services found in Chagaramas. I was however impressed by the speed and quality of the work done on Blue Star. Jay managed to get hauled one day, have his boat painted the next, and then he was back in the water on day three. In the Caribbean, that is beyond impressive.

So when we contacted Grenada Marine and they said they could take us, we felt it was worth the wait. We had originally planned to be in Venezuela or the ABCs by now but that is the nice thing about cruising, you don't really have to adhere to your plans. There are also only so many places that can haul us and having one that can haul us offer us a spot and bottom paint in what is peak season for boat yards was motivational.

Hideko had rented a car so that we could be mobile while at the yard but she would need to drive the car over to the yard. That left me to single hand Swingin' on a Star over to the yard. I was not too worried about the prospect but it is always easier with at least one crew aboard to handle lines while you drive the boat. Jay on Blue Star had a friend, Andy, from Canada aboard. I asked Jay if I could borrow said friend.

So Andy and I set off to Saint David's Bay. You always have a knot or two of current running west on the south side of Grenada but the trip was fairly eventless and Andy was a great help. We anchored up in Saint David's Bay less than an hour after we departed. Jay and Hideko had driven over so we picked them up with the dinghy and relaxed on Swingin' on a Star waiting for the yard to hail us on the VHF.

When our number was up Hideko took the dink ashore and went to the slip to help from the dock and Jay and Andy took up positions port and starboard. The slip is about 31' wide and we are just over 26', a little tight but nothing like what Jay had to deal with (Blue Star is 30' wide). We dropped the topping lift and backed in to make sure that the lift cross bar didn't tangle with the rigging. There was a bit of a cross breeze but not too bad so getting in was pretty easy. There are certainly conditions occurring here within which it would get interesting.

The haul out was uneventful. The yard crew pressure washed her and chocked her up in a nice spot. It was the second time we'd seen her out of the water. It made me think of how some folks in more extreme climes never see the bottom of their boats except for once every year or two when they haul them. When you sail in the tropics you see the bottom of your boat several times a week, and typically give it minor inspection each time. This is, upon reflection, quite a luxury.

The yard is pretty large and full of catamarans. It was very interesting being able to inspect so many different types of cats in one place. The yard has the usual services, mechanical, fiberglass and paint, rigging and sail loft, as well as electronics. There is an Island Water World branch on site also which is very convenient. The bar and grill on the beach is a little dodgy but they have very cold beer. It seemed like a good place to work but I was looking forward to getting out already.

Splice Lab
10/20/2007, Grenada

Splicing rope is a great skill to have if you are an outdoor type person. I remember many Boy Scout outings as a kid with my Dad working on rope-craft. Splicing was certainly an advanced skill for the 13 year old contingent. Even so most of us mastered the short splice, long splice, end splice and eye splice. Albeit on three strand Sisal. Now perhaps I'm just old, or perhaps we just used Sisal because they didn't want to ruin the rustic feel of camping and hiking. Either way on a boat you have nothing but synthetic lines and few of them are three strand.

When I first tried to sort out double braid splicing the list of exotic tools stated as mandatory by the various references I considered was daunting. I also found the instructions I dug up somewhat vague. Several references and many bits of double braid, greatly reduced in length, later I think I have gotten the hang of it. I have a habit of explaining difficult things to myself. If I can explain it to myself, as if I were someone else, I feel pretty good about my understanding. In the process of trying to really own splicing double braid I ended up with a pictorial process that I thought might be useful to others. If you are interested you can find the link on the Links page of our web site.

The Lightship
10/18/2007, Le Phare Bleu

We have been lingering in Grenada to see if Grenada Marine could haul us for our annual out and bottom paint. We were impressed by how fast and thorough they were with Blue Star. They told us they could on Monday so we will be in Grenada for a bit longer.

Andy, Jay's friend from Canada, flew down for a week and we all decided to go to Le Phare Bleu, a new marina in the process of opening, for dinner. They purchased an old Lightship which serves as the marina's office and restaurant. Tonight though they were having a BBQ on the dock with live music from Mad Violet, a couple of Canadian Girls.

Oddly enough Andy had tried to catch their show in Canada a few weeks back and now was going to get to see them, ... in Grenada? What are the odds. Turns out the owner of Le Phare Bleu met the girls in Switzerland, where he owns a music shop. Small world


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