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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Fried Water Maker
05/27/2008, Wreck Bay

I spent the better part of today working on our Spectra Newport 400 water maker. Having a water maker you sort of get used to not hunting around for fresh water. You also don't stress out about using water for showers and things like that. Out boat has 360 gallons of water tankage so if we have to we can stock up but it is nice to not have to drag all that weight across the ocean.

Our board overheated, may have caught fire briefly, and burned the circuit board to a cinder in the area of the high current power connection. The nut that secures the high current wire has no lock washer or nylon threading. This nut was lose when I found it and the poor connection caused the heat. The controller is mounted on top of the high pressure pump which vibrates when it is running.

I am not sure if this connection was made at the factory or by our installer. Our installer was a factory authorized dealer that the factory directed me to. The authorized dealer violated most of the rules for through hulls laid out in the factory installation manual. The intake was installed on the side of the keel with only outlets (all clearly marked) and right between the two head outlets. They hole sawed right through cored hull and made no effort to protect the core. They ended up trying to do the through hull the day before the boat went back in the water and used slow cure 5200. They installed single hose clamps on everything below the water line, I could go on. I suppose I should have checked the wiring too. It took an entire day to put in a proper through hull on the inlet side of the keel, remove the core and fill with epoxy and HD filler, set everything with fastcure 5200, fix the through hull they installed, add hose clamps, etc.

The Spectra technician has been helpful and courteous. Unfortunately at 18 months from purchase (at a total price installed of about $13,000) I am going to have to pay to purchase a new board and install it. I asked a few times but so far wholesale (full profit at the factory´s bottom line) is the best I have been offered, which will be about $500 shipped to Tahiti.

On the bright side, after cleaning out some of the carbon and removing the burned wire bits, re-terminating and hooking things us, it worked! I couldn't believe it. It is still scary but it is working. We ran it for a while with an Infra red thermometer and a fire extinguisher handy. It ran for 5 hours. The board got up to 150 degrees in spots near the burn area but compared to the surface of a Pentium chip this is mild.

The tech also gave me a hot wire technique to just run the pump straight off of the power line. The bummer with this approach is that the unit will not flush automatically and the brine at the start of the cycle (1000ppm) will go into your tank unless you divert it manually.

So we´re going to leave the beast as it is and make water in big closely supervised batches until we get the replacement in July. Such is life on the high seas. It sometimes feels like everyone knows that a sailor can not show up in their office to complain, and is thus without real recourse, or at least they act as such. Sadly my list of favourite yacht product vendors is getting thin as we approach the two year mark. My Rocna anchor is about the only thing I can think of off hand...

Marine Iguanas
05/26/2008, San Cristobal

The Marine Iguanas here are awesome. They are some really hardy creatures. You can find them on the coast west of the air port. To find one just follow the deep grooves in the sand with scratch marks on each side. The groove inevitably leads to a large tail attached to an iguana under a bush. These guys are big so you won't miss them.

You can also climb over the big lava rocks that make up the coast line and find them sunning right near the break. They need to warm up in the sun in order to operate in the cold water (being reptiles and all). Once charged up they scramble into some pretty harsh surf, bounce around on the sharp lava rocks a little and then rudder their way out to the vegies with their tails. Every once in a while they pop their heads up for air and then dive back down to take another pass at the salad bar.

Relaxing and EFR
05/25/2008, The Boat

We had a mellow day today. The whole crew worked on CPR and First Aid skills for most of the afternoon. Before we left the US we purchased a really great EMT trama kit with O2 for the boat from Galls ( We have only used it for training so far (happy about that) but it has been great in that capacity and a comfort to have aboard.

Ed completed his Emergency First Response certification and is one step closer to dive master. Nobu, Hideko and I will also now have fresher skills for the road ahead.

It rained a little today but the sunset was wonderful.

Diving Kicker Rock
05/24/2008, Kicker Rock

We went for a dive today on kicker rock (aka Leon Dormido - Sleeping Lion). It is a big vertical hunk of rock sticking out of the ocean a ways off of the west coast of San Cristobal. There is a cut in between some of the chunks that you can SCUBA through. Ed led a dive for his dive master cert which was fun. We saw lots of fish and some sharks, a turtle or two and a lot of neat rock structure under water.

The water is pretty cold when the Humbolt current kicks in from Chile. It starts coming this time of year. We were getting temps around 75 which is 5mm full suit water for me. Vis was not great but it was a must dive for us.

We also snorkeled at Los Lobos, some rocky little islands just off shore that the sea lions own. As soon as you jump in the water several of the little ones come to play. The little guys are so cute and energetic. They are very curios and love to chase and be chased. The big cows pretty much ignore people and the big bulls ignore folks most of the time but if they feel you are intruding you better look out because they will defend their turf.

We went with Chalo tours (Fernando´s brother´s outfit). They used a nice size power cat for the trip and it was comfortable and a great time.

Hiking San Cristobal
05/23/2008, San Cristobal

We hiked all of the trails around the Interpretation Center today. The trails are really well done and have several wonderful vistas to look out from. There is a particularly enchanting little bay at the end of one of the paths with sea lions playing and rocky caves beneath steep cliffs peppered with sea bird nests. There´s also a great view of Wreck Bay (pictured).

There are two lovely beaches in this area as well. One is just east of the anchorage in the main Wreck Bay area. The other is just around the point to the north on one of the trails. Nice sand and gentle or no surf most of the time. Keep the 9 foot spring tide in mind however when you leave your stuff on the beach.

Another beautiful day in paradise.

The Interpretation Center
05/22/2008, San Cristobal

Projects. We have some projects. When you live on a boat, something is always broken. You just can't fix things fast enough. The sea is a tough environment for anything but I think many marine venders just don't have a clue how tough. If you wanted to you could create things that would last much longer than most marine products do. In particular electrical components often are not properly protected against corrosion.

Our largest immediate concern is that our Spectra water maker (1.5 years new) has just gone on the fritz. This is an important piece of gear for folks getting ready to leave for the South Pacific! We have 360 gallons of water tankage and will go regardless but it sure would be more convenient with the use of the water maker that we paid $15,000 to have installed. From what I can tell there is an electrical problem within the pressure pump assembly. So I will be tearing that apart shortly. We have a list of other things to attend to but these are more routine and can be easily dealt with given local resources. If we need parts for the Spectra it will probably have to wait until we reach Tahiti.

We visited the Interpretation Center today. It is basically a visitors center for San Cristobal. The buildings are beautiful and set back into a park area with very natural surroundings. It provides a nice historic overview of the islands. There is a collage along the way set right on a beautiful beach. Local folks can take courses here and many international students come to take a 3 month program.

We have yet to find a place that is what I would actually call "good", to eat. The Mockingbird café has good brownies, great fresh juices and yummy fresh home made French Fries (papas fritas) but no real main courses other than a mediocre burger. I have been enjoying their grilled cheeses but the rest of the crew doesn't consider this a proper meal. It is still our favorite hang out.

05/24/2008 | margie
We are truly enjoying your tour of the Island and the pictures. Sea Lions are also a problem for our local fishermen and boaters. Wishing Ed success with his scuba upgrade. Thank you
SCUBA with Sea Lions
05/21/2008, Under the Boat

Today we spent the morning working on dive training. Ed is getting close to completing his Dive Master certification but we still have some work to do. The water here in the Galapagos is getting colder as the Humbolt current from Peru begins to take control so everyone wore wet suits.

Dives in the park require a local guide but we simply did a dive under the boat to work on skills which the local dive shop said we could do without concern. The visibility was moderate, perhaps 20 feet or so. The bottom under the boat was perfect sand and made a nice training spot.

Within five minutes of our decent a playful young sea lion showed to see if he could incite us to run off and chase him. We would diligently try to practice scuba skills and he would spin around us, bump us with his nose, nip at our fins and anything else he could think of to get us to play. After a fun dive with our sea lion friend we returned to the boat to clean up and head ashore.

We have divided the boat into a sea lion napping area and a humans only area. By the second day, left uncontrolled, the sea lions we all over the boat. They were on the fore deck, in the cockpit and perhaps only because of Roq, not quite in the cabin. Our concern for old Roq's odds against a large sea lion and our desire to keep the sea lions from getting into a dangerous spot caused us to segregate the boat. Everyone we asked informed us that barbed wire was the only means to keep them out of a place they would otherwise like to go. So we now have a coiling barbed wire fence between the lower two steps on our boat and the upper swim platform. The sea lions can still hop up on the lower steps and sun themselves or sleep at night (we had a mama and a suckling baby last night) and yet if they try to go higher on the boat they are stopped by the wire barrier. They seem quite smart enough to avoid the barbed wire and we now have a peaceful coexistence. That said they do make some rather loud gargling and burping type noises at all hours. They also seem to enjoy playing between the hulls. They are pretty carefree critters.


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