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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Transom Stand Off
Randy
06/01/2008, Wreck Bay

This morning we caught Roq and a sea lion cautiously observing each other across the iron curtain. It was pretty comical to watch them. Today would be the last day for the barbed wire barrier though.

For every day you are at anchor you will need one half hour to prepare your boat. Thus after one night you can get underway in a half hour. After two weeks you will need seven hours. This assumes no projects. It took us all day today to get the dive gear tidied up and stowed dry, all of the tools and parts stowed, last minute shopping done, books, magazines and all manner of other things ship shape. We were here 15 days so 7.5 hours sounds about right.

You can of course keep your boat more ship shape than we do at anchor. This is also not a bad idea. If something unpredictable occurs you may need to leave quickly. We always try to keep the boat in reasonable condition so that in an emergency we could move out quickly but when you open up a dive shop on the back porch and have the dinghy in the water, a certain amount of minimum effort is involved.

At then end of the day we decided not to rush. We had also decided to try to visit Isabella, one of the western most islands in the Galapagos. Isabella is about 80 nautical miles away and has a trickier entrance than San Cristobal. We wanted to arrive during daylight so we planned to get up early and be out by daybreak. With our plan in place we made an early night of it.

Ecuador
More Repairs
Randy
05/31/2008, Wreck Bay

More repairs. We knocked off the first 7 items on the list by the end of the day. Numbers one through nine are priorities but not musts so we wrapped up the repair program at the end of the day..

Often, if not always, working on the boat is fun. It is a labor of love, especially when you can improve something.

We have gotten much utility out of our Wind Surfer while working on the boat. Our old dinghy could fit under the bridge deck but it didn't leave much room to work and the new dinghy can't really make the squeeze. The board makes a perfect platform for underbody repairs.

Ecuador
Repairs
Randy
05/30/2008, Wreck Bay

We spent the day today prepping the boat for our crossing. We have an unusually long list of projects. There's always a list of projects on a boat. When we were researching boats I told myself, self, we'll buy a new boat and then we won't be fixing it all the time like all of these other people I keep hearing about. Nope. It doesn't work like that. If you leave your boat in a yard, things break from disuse. If you use your boat constantly thing break from use. If you use your boat half the time you get both angles. A new boat may break a little less but it is still a boat.

We purchased our boat from the factory as a 10 month old demo. She is now two and a half years young. We have maintained her as best we could with the services available to a circumnavigator, sparing little expense for quality. This typically means buying the best parts and doing things yourself. If you are not already, you must quickly become a skilled mechanic, electrician and even possibly an electronics specialist.

Our condensed version of our present list looks like this:
1. Figure out why 2 solar panels are not putting out
2. Service the genset (just ate another impeller)
3. Replace dead engine room and head sump RuleMate pumps (unused these fail in 3-6 months for some reason)
4. Reinstall jackline under port bridge deck (mysteriously vanished in the San Blas)
5. Reinstall one backing plate for boat rack (nuts welded to plate to give a clean look have been hard to mate to bolts), plate is not holding two bolts and is not bedded properly [this was an after market addition of course]
6. Install some snaps for cockpit enclosure (last of 3 canvas folks did not work on the boats, only the canvas) [also after market]
7. Finalize temporary Water Maker repairs [after market]
8. Figure out why the AIS isn't working [after market]
9. Figure out why the NEMA output to the VHF and SSB isn't working
10. Figure out why the fridge is dripping lots of condensation onto floor
11. Repair a broken head faucet
12. Replace a broken draw string on one of the saloon blinds
13. Install new stripes (factory stripes were incomplete and fenders have taken their toll on what we have)
14. Replace anchor light and tri color fixture with LED unit (current one burns through anchor lights every 6 months)
15. Replace dive flag (Westmarine purchase corroded in about a year an a half) [aftermarket]

This of course doesn't even mention standard maintenance and cleaning. Though this stuff can get you down sometimes, we, of course, love out boat and we love cruising. The key is to not to let these repairs get in the way of your travels and experiences. Have fun, enjoy where you are and the people you meet. Make separate time for repairs and then close the book when it is time to enjoy the world.

Preventative maintenance is very helpful. Almost every time I'm in the engine room I find broken hose clamps and what not. I have found shackles barely attached that hadn't been seized in the rigging when walking the deck. It pays to be observant and to repair little things that are awry immediately.

We have an admittedly complex boat. There are those with no auxiliary and a bucket for a head. I think we're on the other end of the spectrum and have the large list to go with it. That said, from what I have seen, our list is short by the standards of some. We like to have everything working. Some don't bother with anything that is not critical until the annual haul out. Either philosophy is fine. I'm going for an empty list though. We still have plenty on a seperate list for our Australian refit in 2009.

We shut down at the end of the day to enjoy another spectacular sunset.

Ecuador
Dive Master Ed
Randy
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.

Ecuador
Dive Training on Man Beach
Randy
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.

Ecuador
Fried Water Maker
Randy
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...

Ecuador
Marine Iguanas
Randy
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.

Ecuador

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