Day 1 sailing from St Thomas to Key West on board sailing vessel Simpatica was not without excitement and new challenges. Simpatica is a 41 foot Jeaneau and for a guy who sails a beefy Aluminum cutter made to sail in the Antarctic and delivers mostly full keeled Island Packets she has taken a little getting used to. For example, as I speak the wind is blowing dead downwind at only about 8knots, in an Island Packet we would be motoring but this light little boat is actually sailing wing on wing at an average of 4.5knots. Being a delivery skipper I take pride in getting the boat to the destination as fast as I can, so why don't I kick on the Iron Genny? These boats are not really meant for long ocean passages and so they don't waste a lot of extra space for things like... fuel... she holds 37 gallons and we added another 40 in jerry jugs. Even with our fuel conservation we will have to stop in the Dominican Republic to fuel up.
Sailing dead downwind is a challenge by itself but Simpatica doesn't have an autopilot so we get to hand steer the whole way. While sailing wing on wing has its advantages, (balanced helm and good boat speed) it takes a great deal of patience and concentration to keep her from Gybing. We have the boom prevented out but a full on gybe can still put enough pressure on the gear to damage something... it's just better not to have an accidental gybe.
Deadheads... now some of you might be thinking we have run into a boatload of Grateful Dead fans in tie dye with long scraggly beards... I wish... they wouldn't put a hole in the boat like the deadheads I am referring to. A deadhead is a huge log (tree actually) that floats straight up and down in the water... we have seen a few of them in the past 24 hours here on the North Coast of Puerto Rico along with any number of rather large logs and branches floating with birds perched on them. The danger of deadheads is that they are almost impossible to see and certainly are impossible to see at night. If you hit one just right while coming down from a rising wave you could hole a light boat like this... keeps us vigilant.
On a trip like this, especially in a boat that is unfamiliar to us we check the bilges regularly, usually only to find a little water in the bottom. Yesterday when we checked it the second time the bilge was full, the engine well was full, and the well by the packing gland was full. Nothing gets a sailors heart pounding like a new and significant influx of water in the bilge. Richard and I began pulling up floor boards and beds trying to track down the water. We pulled out a bucket and a kayak bilge pump to help get the water under control as the little bilge pump couldn't keep up with it. My fear was that we had either hit a deadhead or the drippless packing gland was no longer dripless (not much you can do if those go out that's one reason I still use flax packing on Wandering Dolphin.) Once the water was all pumped out we could tell that it was coming from somewhere aft of the engine... we had just filled the water tanks (located aft of the engine) before we left St Thomas, so I decided to taste the water to see if it was salt or fresh... to our relief it was fresh water. One of the tanks must have a leak high on the tank so when we heeled over it leaked into the bilge. It has since stopped so the leak must be above the water level in the tank now.
We went from near panic looking for a hole in the boat to laughing in the cockpit and fixing steak for dinner within about 30 minutes. That is actually pretty typical offshore. Things are either really great or really terrible with very little middle ground.
I have the 6:00am watch and within moments of taking the wheel from Richard a pod of spotted dolphins showed up and, as if to announce themselves, or maybe just say "hi" one of them jumped at least 8 feet out of the water and did a full back flip just for me. I have never seen anything like it outside of Sea World. They zipped up to the side of the boat like 8 or 10 torpedoes and proceeded to play in the bow wake for Richard.
It's all quiet on the boat right now; Jimmy is at the helm on watch and Richard it playing with his iPad.
Hope Your Day is as Beautiful as Ours is Right Now,
Captain Tofer, Richard and Jimmy
03/15/2010, Honeymoon Bay, St Thomas, USVI
A lot of the people I have talked too, who dream of sailing and cruising as a lifestyle, seriously underestimate the amount of time and money they will need to maintain their boat in a "ready for sea" condition. I am flabbergasted at the constant repairs and maintenance our boat requires. It is almost a full time job just to keep up with it and requires a full time job to pay for it.
We have set our sights on Hawaii for next winter and the boat needs a bit more attention than normal when facing a non-stop offshore passage of 4800 nautical miles. Here is our list:
- Haul Out with bottom Job, new zinks, and cutlass bearing
(we will do this in Trinidad it has been 2.5 years since our last bottom job)
- Rebuild fuel pump and new seals on engine
(though it is still running there is a small fuel leak that would not be prudent to have for long)
- New mainsail
(we have needed a new main for years but with our smallish passages we have put it off with 4800 miles ahead in one leg we know it won't do)
- All standing rigging checked and replaced as needed
(I suspect we will need some of the rigging replaced)
- Replace liferaft
(we are in the process of checking our raft to see if it will be Ok but suspect we will need a refurbished used one to replace the one we have)
- Bow pulpit repaired
(In November a boat dragged down on us and damaged the bow Pulpit it will need to be repaired or replaced in Trinidad)
- Solar Panels installed
(because we will be sailing NOT motoring a solar panel will be essential to keep the batteries charged so that we can use our auto pilot)
- New Galley stove
(our old 1989 stove is down to two working burners and no working oven the rust has eaten through the oven wall)
- New Batteries
(we replaced our batteries just 2 years ago in Oriental but with our alternator failure last summer they took a beating and are now refusing to hold a charge.)
- Recharge Iridium Sat Phone Sim card
(on a passage of 30+ days we will need our sat phone to send and receive e-mails and in this day and age it is my opinion that a sat phone is required safety gear.)
- New RO membrane on water maker.
(Our boat carries 160 gallons of fresh water in 3 tanks + 30 gallons on deck in jugs but with 7 people on board we will need to be able to convert seawater into drinking water. Our water maker makes 1.5 gallons of water every hour but only draws 4 amps so it can be run using the solar and wind power alone. We also have rain catchers that are very efficient when it rains.)
This list may seem daunting but believe it or not I have a list almost as long as this of things I have finished in the past two months. And as you can see from the picture above, today I am rebuilding the water maker and replacing the membrane. So I will be able to scratch that off my list.
These constant repairs and little fixit jobs can really get you down if you let them. I started cruising with a little bit of a fixityourself mentality, living on a farm in the middle of Montana 100 miles from town will do that to anyone. Now I find real satisfaction in taking something that is broken and making it work again. I think anyone who aspires to live this life either has to start with that mentality or develop it... or be rich enough to pay someone A LOT to work on your boat... a LOT. If you are waiting to cast off the docklines AFTER the boat has EVERYTHING fixed you will probably never go and just as soon as you make your first passage you will be putting back into a marina to repair something yet again.
03/07/2010, Honeymoon Bay, St Thomas, USVI
REMEMBER: to see this blog with lots of pictures go to our main blog site at www.blogspot.wanderingdolphin.com
So when you live in a small space what do you do when you wake up on the weekend to rain and "cold" weather? (ok cold in our case means any temp. in the 70s or below.)
The rain started yesterday and the wind began to shift from it's normal E or SE direction all the way around to W which usually means a Norther is blowing in. Honeymoon bay, while very protected from the East, is not protected at all from the West so when that happens most of the boats move out but we generally stay knowing it will only last a few hours at most. The waves build up and our comfortable little anchorage becomes a rolly bumpy place to live for a while. Then when the wind shifts to the North the temperature drops. Our bodies are used to a constant temperature in the high 80s and when it drops into the 70s, believe it or not kids start pulling out their polar fleece like its winter time. The water is warm but the wind chill in the low 70s makes swimming too cold for sun ripened kids to find fun. Charlie the dog looks for a little hole under the table to snuggle into with a couple of the kids stuffed animals.
Today the kids woke up to the same weather and all of the little guys decided to tough it out at the beach with Jimmy. EmilyAnne decided to invite her friends over to play board games. So here Dad is trying to write and read on a boat with 3 13 year old girls doing their silly giggley dancing to loud Avril Lavigne music while they play "Quelf" which also makes them act like crazy people just to win the game. (EmilyAnne has to wear a snorkle until the end of the game... for example)
What a hoot! Think I might abandon ship for a while though, maybe I will brave the weather and go for a swim.