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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
The Devil you know or...
Randy
01/10/2008, Prickly Bay

It is great to be back in Grenada. Hideko is not interested in staying here because we have spent so much time here already but we know all of the good places to eat the fun places to hang out and the great people to know. Things have also lightened up a little on the boat maintenance side and it seems like many of the services that we wanted to avail ourselves of in November may be open to new work now. The other option is to try Puerta La Cruz where we not only know no one, but don't have a good grip on the language. This has never stopped us before but we do want to get some projects completed before we hit the Panama canal in March.

We decided to get our mail forwarded and get the lay of the land over the next couple of days. In the mean time the water is a beautiful blue and the cool breeze from the rain forest above blows into the anchorage at night.

Grenada
Sailing to Grenada from Tobago
Randy
01/09/2008, Caribbean Sea

We weighed anchor in Store Bay at around 6AM, a half hour before the sunrise. The day was cloudy but starting to get light. We were really looking forward to the 15 knots winds predicted to be on the beam for the whole passage. It was going to be a great sail.

The bay was very calm as Hideko pointed Swingin' on a Star into the wind. I raised the full main and tightened things up at the mast. I looked back and asked Hideko to fall off to leeward. She looked back and asked me which way that might be. I looked up and the mast head fly was whirling around in slow circles. Hmmm.

So we motored out of the bay and set out onto the bluster and briny sea ready for the building wind to carry us away at ten knots through the water.

Out of the bay the engines whirred. No wind.

We killed one diesel. No wind.

Tobago faded from sight. No wind.

What a rip off. Tobago to Grenada is a famous beam reach. The gradient wind forecast was for a beam reach.

Never underestimate the power of local conditions. Our trip was a motor trip. We had the main up but I wouldn't even call it a motor-sail. The main just hung there almost the whole way.

The seas were pretty flat so we made about 8 knots on one engine. There were little rain clouds and some taller squalls all around but nothing seemed to be moving. At one point we had a squall ahead to port and another ahead to starboard and neither moved. The port squall had rain angling a little to port and the starboard squall had rain angling a little to starboard but the upper level winds kept the clouds still. We sailed right between them. I couldn't believe that we didn't feel a drop of rain the whole way.

We had a nice visit from two separate pods of dolphins. One group swam along with us playing between the bows for fifteen minutes or so.

As we began to approach Grenada the wind finally appeared. Our ten hour trip saw the jib fly for only one of those hours.

As we closed on Prickly Bay, the southern most port for clearance, the AIS dangerous target alarm went off. I noticed a 200 foot vessel plying the southern coast. Wow, that is a big boat motoring so close to land. Usually they peel off at the point for Brazil or wherever they're going. I watched in disbelief as this one turned into Prickly Bay! Usually the biggest thing in Prickley Bay is the old 85 foot Aggressor live aboard dive boat.

I was further amazed to see the monster yacht backing onto the Prickly Bay marina fuel dock. The yacht turned out to be Blue Moon, the 24th largest American Owned yacht, and her beam took up the entire Prickly Bay Marina dock.

Things are changing in Grenada. The Prickley Bay Marina project is under construction and they are targeting mega yachts as they expand. The Port Louis Marina in the Lagoon at Saint Georges is also moving forward targeting mega yachts. Even Martins Marina is pushing mega yachts and they have three on the dock today as I understand it. This will be good for the economy in Grenada but I think it will change things quite a bit for the cruising public.

We anchored up close to the Calabash Hotel beach in the back of Prickly Bay. It is a beautiful setting a short swim from the beach bar at the Calabash and out of the way of the main dingy thoroughfare. It was also flat calm. Hideko, Roq and I settled in for our first non-rolly sleep in a few weeks.

Grenada
Clearing Out
Randy
01/08/2008, Tobago

We moved back to Store Bay this morning to have easy access to the dinghy beach. Once the big boat was anchored and set we headed in to clear out. Jeremy at United Auto Rental came to pick us up and rented us a car.

As we drove over to Scarborough we decided to take a detour through the Hilton Plantation resort. This is a large chunk of Tobago with murky mangrove ponds surrounded by well manicured grass and greenery. The resort has several flights of condos and a golf course along with the main hotel. The grounds are lovely and the ponds are supposed to have Caymans in them though we didn't see any. Something about this preplanned vacation home setup just seems a little too contrived to me. I guess it suits many well though. You have 24/7 security, expensive but sufficient shops and restaurants, water sports and what have you all right there.

The hotel had the misfortune of being constructed largely of steel. That and a location just meters off of a breaking windward beach makes for a lot of rust. The entire hotel is rusting all about its joints and really looks a little ramshackle for it. Everything is nice inside and the beach is lovely, though vigorous.

In Scarborough we stopped in at Immigration first. The Immigration office is above the gateway building for the ferry and cruise ship docks. After filling out the three obligatory forms in triplicate we waited a short bit before getting to see an officer. When we informed the officer that we wanted to clear out he asked for our clearance into Tobago. When we checked in with Customs they told us that we didn't need to check in with Immigration. Apparently not the case. The officer was fairly unhappy and told us that he would have to call Chagaramas. Our punishment was to wait for twenty minutes for this process to commence. Once everything was in order again we were clear for departure anytime within the next 24 hours. No fees or penalties.

Next we made our way to Customs up the street a block. The one way street at the water front makes this a "you can't get there from here" situation. You must drive into town, head back up a few blocks via a street where you drive on the opposite side from usual, and then come back down upwind of the customs office. When we stepped into the office we found the same guy who had been there to clear us in on duty. We said hello and told him that we wanted to clear out. He asked when we were leaving and I told him that we would sail for Grenada at or before dawn. He looked up, promptly checked the clock on the wall which read 3PM and said, "you'll have to come back".

After some discussion he informed us that you must clear out of customs and then immediately return to your vessel and leave. I told him that we were only a crew of two and that a good night's sleep was an important safety consideration. I also told him that it was unlikely that if I got up at 2AM, dinghied ashore for a night time beach landing in uncertain conditions (it can break pretty big on the dinghy beach), it was not likely I would be able to acquire a cab or other transportation to Scarborough, many miles from Store Bay. Even if I could it seemed a little draconian.

He kept referring to Scarborough harbor, indicating we should anchor out there. I told him no sane small boat captain would anchor out there right now (see picture above looking out to Scarborough). Finally another officer came by to listen in on our discussion. She exchanged some hushed words with our officer and a resolution was made. He agreed to clear us out as of 11PM so that we could leave at first light. That of course meant that we would have to pay overtime for clearing out after hours! I happily paid.

In the end it didn't cost too much to clear in to Chagaramas and out through Tobago. I can say that the Trinidad and Tobago bureaucracy is not really streamlined for small boat however. I have been nowhere else in the Caribbean where you have to clear in and out of ports within a country other than the Dominican Republic. T&T also gets top marks for requiring the most forms of any nation we have been to. The people were mostly very nice (Tobago) or at the worst simply aloof (Trinidad). If T&T could take a few pointers from their neighbors in Grenada and put Customs and Immigrations for small boats in one office and put everything on one form, then allow one check in at the first port and one check out at the last port it would be a pleasure to visit in every way.

Back in Crown Point we returned the rental near the airport and walked back to Store Bay. This turned out to be an unfortunate decision and it began raining cats and dogs. We sheltered at the Pizza Boy restaurant and ended up getting a pizza for dinner (not recommended). Once it let up we headed back to the dinghy and bailed it out on the short hop over to Swingin' on a Star. In an hour or so we were stowed and ready for a beam reach to Grenada.

Trinidad and Tobago
Solenoids
Randy
01/07/2008, Mount Irvine

We woke up to the sound of crashing surf and hooting surfers. The point was really breaking and we discovered that the surfers had been at it since before sun up. Michael on Andromeda was out and dropped a board off for me on the way. I never ended up getting to it, which may have been the healthier outcome.

Instead Stian, Bethn and I did a dive deeper out on the reef. Due to the surge the visibility was not good but the deeper part of the reef closer to the point was even nicer than the shallow area we explored yesterday. The sand bottom is at about 60 feet and the reef rolls gently up from there. We swam out along the bottom of the reef and then came back up a bit higher. Using our compasses Stian and I were able to get us back to Swingin' on a Star's anchor chain which allowed us to surface right at the stern of the boat. That's always nice.

Back at the boat I hooked up the tanks and got ready to fire up the genset, click. Hmmm. Click. Arg.

So off into the lazarette I went. I removed the side sound shield so that I could easily access the starter. It is tricky to hold down the preheat, which keeps the engine from shutting off due to low oil pressure, while things are starting up. When you press the start switch the engine shakes violently. Not this time though. Ok so it wasn't the wiring to the panel at the nav station. In fact everything sounded right, even the lift pump was clicking, just no starter motor to smash things up and make fire.

I checked Peter Compton's Troubleshooting Marine Diesels next. This book has a great branching question graph that helps you narrow down problems areas. This book is geared more toward auxiliary motors rather than gensets and wiring damage was the best diagnosis I could get. Didn't seem likely. Next I went for the heavy artillery, Nigel Calder's Marine Diesel Engines. This book doesn't spoon feed things quite so much (and I like the spoon feeding) but it does have more detail and information. Nigel suggested I try shorting the solenoid incase it was dead.

Back in the lazarette I notice the solenoid is cracked. It is shaped like a cylinder and the round bottom area looks to be popped open a bit with a 360 degree crack in the nice red Westerbeke paint. Hmm, suspicious. So I got out my nice steel screw driver with the very large rubber handle and chipped away enough paint from the high current contacts to make a connection. Here goes nothing... ZAP! Rurrr rurr, runk. I had shorted the terminals just long enough to freak myself out and almost start the engine. The sparks and jolting engine were a bit too much for me to maintain composure.

Next try I decided to hold down the preheat. After a short pop with the screw driver she was up and running. I hate solenoids. I climbed up from the lazarette to find Stian smiling, "First try scared you?" I twitched and added "buy new solenoid for 8BTDA" to my growing parts list.

After the SCUBA tanks were full Hideko made us a nice lunch and we prepped the boat to sail back to Pigeon Point. Once the hook was onboard we raised the main and pulled out the genny. The wind was light just behind the beam yet we managed about 10 knots in 12 to 15 knots of wind. We could not steer any further down wind and needed to clear the reef anyway so we jibbed once we could lay the anchorage on the port tack. It was nice to have Stian aboard. With Hideko Stian and I all working the sail operations (particularly jibbing) certainly ran faster. We cleared the last reef marker and charged into the back of the anchorage under sail. In one smooth operation we furled the jib, hung a 90 degree left turn, dropped the main and anchored.

It was only an hour but it was a great sail. I am glad we have a sail boat.

Trinidad and Tobago
Mount Irvine
Randy
01/06/2008, Tobago

We decided to take an overnight trip to Mount Irvine today. There are supposed to be some good dive sites there and a nice point break for surfing. A north swell is on the way also so it seemed like the place to be. Andromeda headed up earlier in the day and the Doris crew joined us for the trip aboard Swingin' on a Star.

Mount Irvine is a short straight shot from Pigeon Point. Unfortunately there is a rather large reef in the way. Once you sail out and around the cardinal marks the trek is about 5 or 6 miles. The cardinals, there are two, have correct markings on the chart but in real life the top marks are not quite right and the stripes are also funky. Any marker in the Caribbean is a good marker though I always say.

There are a lot of moorings for small boats in Mount Irvine and the northeast part of the bay is all a marked "no anchor" zone due to the reef there. If you can navigate all of this, and get in as close to the beach as possible in the northeast end of the bay, you should be pretty happy. Like all Tobago anchorages is can be a little rolly, but not too bad.

Around noon we took the dinghy out a couple miles off shore and tied up to the mooring for the Maverick wreck. Hideko, Michael, Stian and I dove on it. She lies in 100 to 80 feet of water and at the time we were there we had little current. It is a nice wreck with some fairly good growth and the expected troupes of fish teaming about.

In the afternoon we dove the reef near the boat. The reef begins inshore of the no anchor zone and heads north west out to the point. The viz was not too good but the coral heads were beautiful and healthy.

Everyone gathered aboard Swingin' on a Star at the end of the day. I refilled tanks and cleaned up the Scuba gear while Hideko served a nice meal with Churasco Steak and pasta for the kids. It was a nice day and we managed to get lots of activities in even though we had a bit of rain here and there.

Trinidad and Tobago
Tobago's Best Anchorage
Randy
01/05/2008, Pigeon Point

We moved back over to Pigeon Point today. I can safely say after viewing all of the islands anchorages from shore and having stayed in a few and talk to folks who have stayed in all of them, Pigeon Point is the calmest of the lot. The Caribbean anchorages are all nice but they can get rolly. Even Pigeon Point can be a little rolly, but less so than any other. I would rate Tobago very highly as a destination but the one draw back is the lack of highly protected anchorages.

Trinidad and Tobago
RuleMate Swap Out
Randy
01/04/2008, Store Bay

Hideko and I traveled into town today to grab some groceries. We also stopped by Latitude 11 for lunch (which was as good as dinner). After some other errands we headed back to the boat. The beach was breaking which made it a little interesting getting out. The glass bottom Reef tour boats that anchor off the beach were in full swing with a new batch of tourists.

I replaced two more RuleMate pumps today. I am about as disillusioned as you can get with these pumps. Unfortunately ITT seems to own all of the pump brands that you can find in the Western hemisphere. There really is no choice. I have tried to find alternatives in Europe but have not turned anything up yet. I did get an encouraging email from the factory (I finally sent them a quality complaint). They seem earnest and ready to help. I find it hard to believe that there is an installation problem though. It is a pretty straight forward setup (water goes in bilge, pump pumps water out of bilge, repeat...). As fragile as these things are I can't feel very comfortable about their ability to protect the boat should a problem occur. We'll see how discussions with the factory go.

Trinidad and Tobago

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