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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Dive Master Ed
05/29/2008, Wrech Bay

Ed finished the Dive Master program today. Congratulations Ed!

As usual we had to kick (not literally) several sea lions off of the back porch to make way for diving. The good thing about this is that instead on sleeping on our transom all day they are forced to get in the water and play around while we dive. The little ones are the most playful but the cows are also inquisitive. The big bulls are territorial and usually not found out and about. They're better left alone anyway.

Ed had two dives left to do which we did from the back of the boat. I had to do a six month service on the dive compressor before filling the tanks for the day. Our Brownies YP35 is a great unit. The Brownies team did a wonderful job installing it as well. Everyone is always impressed when they see how clean the setup is. The compressor is electric and located in the hull opposite the genset. Air is pulled from inside the boat and the fill station is mounted in the tank locker and setup to fill all four tanks at once.

Our tanks are in the cockpit coming locker sized by Saint Francis to be a perfect fit for four 80cf tanks. We had to grind out the opening a bit but once you make that modification the locker securely stores all 4 tanks. We have two 80s for deep or long dives and two 63s for those who are easy on air and don't like to tote around a big old 80 (that would be Hideko and I).

I think the Brownies factory put the incorrect belt on our compressor (the belt allows the electric motor to drive the compressor) when they installed it. The brand new belt shredded itself, making a huge mess in the locker, in the first 10 hours. After that it slipped more and more often. They sent me a new belt at no charge however and after installing it I can tell that it is going to be much better. No slipping and no chaffing after the first few hours.

Our compressor is Bauer based (as most small units seem to be) and requires two new filters every six months. These are $90 ach from Brownies. Pricey but it sure is nice to be able to dive whenever you want, dive shop or no. It is also very helpful when working on the boat. So bottom line, the compressor costs $360 a year after the initial investment (installed it was close to $15,000 so not exactly cheap).

We had a celebration dinner at the Miconia for Ed. We were all happy for Ed but also sad because he would be leaving us tomorrow as we prepped for departure.

Dive Training on Man Beach
05/28/2008, Wreck Bay

We spent the day on the beach working on dive training today. Ed is almost finished with his Dive Master course and we're parting ways soon as Swingin' on a Star sails on to the Marquisas and Ed travels Ecuador.

We planned a full day of skills practice on the beach and we were in and out of the water non stop. We rented 7 tanks from Chalo tours so that we wouldn't have to go back to the boat to fill. It was quite an event, a lot of work (especially for Ed) but also a lot of fun.

We wrapped up the day with dinner at the Miconia. They have very good pizza and ceviche, and most things on the menu are pretty good. The Miconia is probably the best place we have eaten on San Cristobal. It is also a hotel, perhaps the nicest on the island, with rooms for $50 a night.

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.


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