09 June 2011 | Port Louis Marina, St. Georges, Grenada West Indies
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - Pete, Ty, Ben, Kristen and Amy watch "Super Fly" dive at Seven Sisters Falls. June 2011
We enjoyed a quiet and smooth run back to Port Louis Marina, and everyone was excited to see Ty again after his trip to the hospital. The prognosis was good and the treatment was simple. Pee on the foot, and wait until you can pull the splinters out with tweezers. No problem, we can handle that.
Unfortunatly, Bo had to return for a meeting and Sunday night was going to be our last all together. I don't even remember what we ate, it has all been a blur. Bo and I made our way to the airport Monday morning and it was tough seeing him go. We were just starting to get into the swing of things as a group living on board. No worries, there will be plenty of opportunities.
The swimming pool and restaurant area were the most popular spots at the marina. Soon the gang found the best table for viewing ESPN on the big screen, and learned that the hamburgers were "awesome", and the waitresses/bar tenders have a soft spot for children with good manners, providing custom made fruit punches and other blended delights.
Monday was spent on an island tour and we were able to see the anchorage in Calivigny harbour. Ty was quickly healing and the spines were slowly working thier way to the surface for extraction. Once we returned to the boat I put everyone to work washing and drying LONE STAR. Ben and I had a chance to walk around a bit and we were invited to board a catamaran and share information with a cruising couple who were considering sailing to southern Chile and Argentina.
Tuesday we enjoyed another day of island touring and we visited a natural lake that was formed in a volcano, as well as a good 25 minute hike to the Seven Sisters Falls. It was a slippery trail, and everyone did fine. Our guide did some spectacular diving off the falls, and soon everyone was lining up to do the same. It was a fun nature hike with a cool dip in the waterfall.
Wednesday we all gathered our snorkel gear and rode the Viking Water Taxi back to Happy Hill for more snorkeling. We split into two groups with Ty and Ben with me. Kristen is a very good swimmer and seemed to really enjoy the snorkling once she adjusted to the salt water and big open spaces. After a 50 minute swim we re-grouped on board the Viking Taxi and re-hydrated. We were about to go back into the water at another spot only 100 yards from where we just swam, when Ben jumped in and saw a jelly fish. Pete was also able to see them. I had a look and sure enough, we were in a swarm of hundreds of jelly fish. Fortunately, no one was stung and we quickly moved to another spot.
The second spot was also great and we all enjoyed another half hour of swimming while searching for sunken statues. We found a few and saw even more fish. Once everyone was back on board, we made our way along the coast, past St, Georges with the fort's cannons overhead, to Grand Anse Beach. Here we found Umbrellas, a beach side hamburger joint with chocolate shakes. After a good load of fuel and sugar we made our way back to LONE STAR and sorted and washed our snorkel gear. It was a great last day and everyone seemed to really enjoy the beauty and warm waters of Grenada.
For me, it was amazing how quickly these children adapted to life on board. They are all great athletes and swimmers and also enjoy the advantage of not being afraid to try anything, well except for a few food items. It was wonderful for me to interact with them all. They all have special traits and have each added to my already full life. I look forward to our next adventure together, especially our next sailing adventure.
Cruising Grenada with The Torpedoes
07 June 2011 | Port Louis Marina, St. Georges, Grenada West Indies
Miles Thompson/photo by Bo Huggins
Photo - Miles and The Torpedoes (Ben, Pete, Ty, and Kristen) June 2011.
At around 5 PM last Wednesday I received a text from Bo Huggins that he and his family were delayed in Miami, and that he would text me again when they were about to take off. It was starting to look as if the wonders of air travel were about to challenge the commencement of the first Huggins Family vacation on LONE STAR.
With only a three hour delay the Huggins Family including: Bo, Amy, Pete, Ty, Ben, and Kristen arrived with more duffel bags than I ever thought could be carried on board. The Torpedoes, is my affectionate nickname for Bo's and Amy's children whom range in age from 14 to 8. I started calling his children this after the first time he brought them aboard LONE STAR in 2003 at the Keels and Wheels car and boat show at Lakewood Yacht Club. With their high energy and curiosity to learn everything by touch and feel, I thought it fit very well. Sometimes you can actually hear a slight wine when they are at full throttle.
With the late arrival it was pretty much get to the boat, everyone pick out a bunk, learn how to use the toilet and hit the sack. At one point I heard Kristen say "I get top bunk, I called it." Not long afterward they were all asleep, secured with lee cloths and curled up against the cold cabin air. I was happy, I have been waiting to share LONE STAR with these guys for years. Having the boat in Grenada with it's close anchorages, fine marinas, and pleasant people we were in for a treat.
Bo and Amy looked tired from a long, long, day of travel and were soon asleep in the aft cabin. I walked my way around the various items of clothing, computers, hats, sunglasses, and dolls that were scattered all over the place and realized we were in for a fun week.
Thursday morning, after a quick breakfast of frozen waffles, Bo and The Torpedoes headed toward the pool to test and fit the new snorkel gear, while Amy and I made a quick trip to the store to purchase provisions for the next week. At some point we had lunch and started to get ready to depart for our weeks of sailing. It was all starting to become a blur, which I understand is very common when you are around young children. I don't have children so this was going to be a learning experience for me.
With all hands on deck and after a few moments reviewing the "do's and dont's" of sailing on LONE STAR, we departed Port Louis Marina and headed the short distance to Happy Hill, a nice cove that offered mooring buoy's to secure to, and some of the best snorkeling in the Grenada area. A short and easy first trip in the lee of the island.
Everyone was excited to be underway and adjusting well to the motion of LONE STAR. I am fortunate that everyone not only listens to me, but follows my requests when asked. I have know these children since they were born, and have enjoyed many trips to the hunting camp, water-skiing trips on BLACK DUCK, dinner at home, and church together. They have become my family and I was starting to feel how very special this trip was going to be. They look after and help one another, work well together, and only scrap and challenge as any healthy sibling would.
Not long after LONE STAR was secured to the mooring, I could hear splashes and coughs as each one adjusted to swimming with a snorkle in salt water. No one was left out, and the group headed toward the shore reef like a swarm. I had three with me and we stayed close together using the buddy system. Another world was opening up to them with the coral, fishes, and various marine life. I could often feel a tug on my shirt to look at something new.
For dinner I made spaghetti using a pound and a half of meat, two jars of sauce, and one and a third boxes of pasta. Every single bit vanished before my eyes and I was starting to realize just how much children eat. The Torpedoes are not fat, they just burn it up and poop it out!
After a good night rest to the gentile swell at Happy Hill, more snorkeling and diving off the deck, bow pulpit, boom and anything else that would offer a platform to create a good splash was in order. Everyone was adjusting to life on board in close quarters, and helping me keep things squared away and stored.
After lunch we slipped our mooring and sailed south in the lee of Grenada toward Pt. Salinis to round the southwestern tip of the island and make our way to Calivigny Harbour. With a rolled out headsail we were easily making over six knots and everyone was taking turns steering and working the sail. It was perfect, and sailing close to the shore offered a great view of the main harbour of St. Georges, and Grand Anse Beach . Rounding Pt. Salinis was easy and we were now forced to motor into ten to fifteen knots of wind and accompanying waves and swell. Conditions were mild and after a one hour slug were were behind the lee of Calivigny Island and passing between the protective outer reefs. We found a wonderful spot to anchor and secured with our trusty yachtsman's anchor and 200 foot of chain. Ty and I swam out to try to find the anchor bouy to dive down to check the anchor, however, we were not able to find it in the fading light. The next morning Pete found the submerged bouy and free dove down 30 feet to check the anchor while Ben did backflips off the bow pulpit!
After a morning of swimming, dinghy driving lessons, trash dumping, snorkeling, exploring Hog Island, and more back-flips, the gang minus Ty and I journeyed ashore to do some sightseeing and find a hamburger. Ty and I made repairs to the forward head, worked on the shower head, and watched a movie. We were cruising around in the dingy when we saw the gang on the dock waving at us.
They were back and after a few shuttles back and forth in the dinghy we were all aboard again. Bo and Amy told me they found a OK place to eat, however everyone kept asking "When are we going back to the boat?" Anyone who has sailed on LONE STAR knows what that means...they have been "Touched by LONE STAR." Dinner and a movie was the end of day three and I fell asleep in a heap.
Sunday morning did not quite go as planned. The plan was to spend the morning snorkeling and swimming in Calivigny Harbour, before making our way back to Port Louis with a possible stop at Happy Hill for more world class snorkeling. While Ty was running the dinghy in the channel at low tide he ran aground and stepped on a sea urchin while trying to get the dinghy to deeper water. Ouch! Once back aboard, it was decided that Amy to take him to the emergency room as a precaution, and after a quick phone call to arrange a taxi, I was soon dropping them off at the marina dock. Bo and I, with Pete, Ben and Kristen as crew pulled anchor, navigated clear of the protective reefs and made our way back to St. Georges Harbour and Port Louis Marina. While underway Amy called us and told us Ty was fine, and they would meet us back at the marina.
To be continued...
Grenada in May
28 May 2011 | Port Louis Marina, St. Georges, Grenada West Indies
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - Local girls dressed up for Grenada Independence Day celebrations. February 2011.
For ten days I have been back on LONE STAR and she sure missed me. The boat was a bit musty when I returned and the solution was three days of opening cabinets and other hard to reach places and wiping everything down. I had a problem with mildew when I returned to the boat in Trinidad; however, I did not go to quite the extreme to get rid of it. The boat for the most part stayed locked up for four months while in Trinidad, primarily due to the threat of getting stuff taken. It is bad there, you seem like you are chasing shadows. We were hit once while we were there, and the loss was a nice camera , cordless drill, a leather overnight bag, and some tasty Argentina wine. Most likely it was someone who worked on the boat, and it happened when I left the boat unlocked for only a moment.
At any rate, here in Grenada I feel quite a bit more secure and therefore the boat can remain open to the fresh breeze and stay fresh. On reflection, I did not get rid of all of the mold in Trinidad and after my absence for the past three months it returned.
Other projects are to repair the masthead unit for the wind instruments. The bearings are worn on the cups, and I have a replacement coming on next week. We also had a problem with our AC units. Both units were cutting in and out and not blowing cold all the time. It turns out that on 50 cycles the units need more refrigerant to keep the compressor cool. I contacted Dennis at Lakewood Yacht Service and he suggested we add some more R-22. It worked, and now they are both blowing cold again. We had replaced the units in Trinidad and they were filled to operate on 60 cycles, not both 50 and 60 cycles. Learned something new, as did the local technician.
Aside from cleaning and checking systems I replaced both our anchoring buoys and lines. One was lost completely somewhere in Brazil and the other was chewed up and half sinking from all the anchoring we did in previous years. The whole anchoring system seems to be working fine, after a complete rebuild. There are many other little projects I am working on, including replacing the mizzen sheet winch. The winch is fine, I just need the parts from that particular type for another winch and have found a better winch to upgrade the mizzen sheet winch with. LONE STAR is getting of an age where we are starting to cannibalize parts when necessary.
She is clean as a whistle and ready to go. I am going out for a few hours on Monday to test a few systems, sails, and run our watermaker in clean water. Tan-Tan and Sean will be my crew for two purposes. One I want to thank them for all their hard work, and two, give them some sea time in case I need them as crew someday. Tan-Tan and I sailed together to Puerto Rico from Grenada back in 1989.
I had the chance to go to "Burger Night" in Clarkes Court Bay. Sean and I headed that way after a full day of work on Wednesday and enjoyed a live band, home cooked hamburgers by a Texan lady, and mixing and mingling with other cruisers. It was a fun atmosphere and I enjoyed the scene. We plan to stop there next week on our cruise around Grenada.
With "The Torpedoes" coming, my endearing nickname for the Huggins children, I am working on a list of crew assignments for my young crew. I want to spread the various tasks around to have us all work together; which is so necessary on a small boat. I want to put someone in charge of snorkel gear, trash, filling the deck coolers, ice, music, vacuuming the floor, boarding ladder, dinghy securing and cleaning, common area cleaning, etc. If everyone will keep their personal space in order the wrath of Captain Miles will be kept to a minimum. With these tasks squared away I can focus on teaching and practicing sailing and boating skills. I can't wait, I have never has this many eager volunteers. It is going to be a wonderful experience for us all.
Back aboard in Grenada
19 May 2011 | Port Louis Marina, St. Georges, Grenada West Indies
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - Bob Rouner on BOOMERANG arrives back to Clear Lake after a four year solo-circumnavigation of the world. Bob is proof that ocean sailing keeps you young and fit.
Writing for me comes and goes. When things are exciting and moving fast it is as if I can't get to my laptop quick enough to make a blog entry. This was the case for the past four years as we sailed our way around South America. I would start the blog entry in my mind before the event was only half complete. It was a great way to express myself and to share our adventures to our many followers. We were getting over 100 hits a day while sailing around Cape Horn.
Once we finished the trip around South American and sailed into Trinidad several things happened. First of all we finished the trip, therefore there was not much happening with LONE STAR and second, I headed home to Fort Worth to help my family and care for my mother. Those close to me knew what was happening in my life and I never felt that I had to have a reason to retract my updates. I just did not feel like writing in a "grey tone" while I was with my mother, and the months afterward. At the time, out of respect for my mother, I decided to not include her valiant fight for her life against the horrible disease of cancer. My mother, whom edited and painstakingly printed and corrected every page of this blog using her sharpened skills as a teacher, passed away last Thanksgiving Day. Our family was close to her and she passed very quietly. Today is her 74th birthday. Bless her, I miss her deeply.
A very important note is that I had the support of all my close friends during this tough time and my friend Bo Huggins basically said to put my professional life on hold, and go take care of my mother. This was a very generous gift to my family to allow me to drop everything and come to the call of duty. In this day and age of loyalty to employees or lack thereof, and vise-versa, this was huge! Bo thank you, words are not enough.
As many of you know, I wrote a book about our voyage around South America. I started putting the book together while I was at my mother's home in Fort Worth. It took four months to assemble and the results are beyond my expectations. My only regret is that my mother did not see the finished copy. But then again, maybe, she is reading it now and enjoying every page and photo as only a mother can. Doc Hildreth and I shared the task of getting it published and with nearly 70 copies sold it has received many great reviews. Thank you to all that purchased a copy and to all those who did not due to the excuse of not being able to afford it, please ask yourself "How can I afford to NOT have a copy?" Just kidding, buy a copy, you will not be disappointed. Check the side link for how to get a copy and I will be more than happy to sign it.
Other big news is that Bob Rouner completed his solo circumnavigation of the world on Boomerang. I was able to meet him at the dock with several interesting characters, and welcome him to both Galveston and Clear Lake. We had a great sailors gathering at my home in Clear Lake and have decided that between the two of us we have covered more miles than most of the combined boats and sailors of the Clear Lake area. I don't think that is accurate; however, we are both proud of our sailing experiences and proud to be from Texas.
Merv Hartwick is now retired! Again! Merv completed his final flight as captain with his wife Jeannie on COPA Airlines. Panama Merv will be adjusting to his new life aboard his yacht SEACUPS in the Clear Lake area. Several of the gang gathered at one of our favorite Tex-Mex restaurants for a surprise lunch and joined Merv in celebrating his freedom from the bureaucratic challenges of flying and working in South America. Well done Merv!
I am on the big bird at this moment to join LONE STAR after a nearly three month absence. We have a sailing trip planned like none other. The Huggins are coming! Bo, Amy, Pete, Ty, Ben, and Kristen will be making this same trip in just two weeks to spend a week on-board, cruising the beautiful island of Grenada. Bo has of course sailed on her many times and Amy transited the Panama Canal with us in January 2008. The "Torpedoes" are all new to her and with an age span from 7 to 14, I feel it will be nothing but fun. I know them all very well and have been looking forward to this time aboard for years.
We have all kinds of stuff planned...sailing, hiking, nature walks, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, learning about island culture, and just spending time together on a fine yacht in a beautiful spot of the world. There will be spills, thrills, tears, and laughter like LONE STAR has never seen before. Big Joe, I know you will be smiling.
While I was home I made a side trip to Argentina to see the gang at the Yacht Club Argentino. I personally delivered a copy of our book to the commodore of the yacht club and enjoyed a great mid-day barbecue at "Parrillia El Gringo" laughing and catching up with Juan "Negro" Silva, Daniel "Doctor" Tedin, Jorge "De Cordobese", Juan "Laucha" Carlos, Carlos Rosas, "Camba", "Negrito", Carlito, Frankie "Aleman", Juan "Aleman" Klien, Fransisco "Paco" Billoch and some without nick names. To my delight, nothing had changed. These fellas were excited to see me and the feeling was mutual. "Doctor" was my remis (taxi) and we made three trips to the club in as many days. In yesterday's mail, I received a burgee and letter from the directors of the club thanking me for the gift of a copy of our book that "Doc" Hildreth purchased for the club. I was also able to visit with Mr. German Frers while he prepared his fathers design, and recently restored sloop SONNY to have her mast stepped. My Spanish held up to the task after months of non-daily use. It was really great to see everyone and I will plan a return trip soon.
I attended Corrie and Casey Lambert's wedding in The French Quarter of New Orleans. Casey asked Corrie to marry him while they were on board LONE STAR off the coast of central Brazil. It was a fun celebration and I saw many sailing friends from days past. I stayed with Bo's mother Marcia and her husband Barton who live nearby. Good times and I managed to not make a run at The French Quarter. I would like to think it was due to my just getting over a cold I picked up while in Argentina; however, I really think it is because I am getting a little old to be doing an "all nighter" in New Orleans.
After a good nights rest on LONE STAR I am feeling very refreshed. "Tan-Tan", Sean, and the marina staff kept a watchful eye on her in my absence, and she is clean as a whistle on deck. I have noticed a few spots of surface mold, which will easily clean up and with me now aboard I can open her up and enjoy the trade wind breeze.
Thank you all for following us along and I promise to keep this sight updated with more adventures of LONE STAR.
THE BOOK - LONE STAR'S VOYAGE TO CAPE HORN AND CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF SOUTH AMERICA
01 May 2011
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Working with Doc Hildreth I put together a book about our trip around South America. It is 250 pages long, with over 300 photos. So far, we have sold over 60 and it is available at www.Blurb.com. (see side link)
To purchase your copy please order direct at: www.blurb.com (search LONE STAR).
It is getting very good reviews.
Thank you for your purchase.
02 February 2011 | Port Louis Marina, St Georges, Grenada
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - LONE STAR at the Super Yacht Dock in Port Louis Marina, Grenada. January 2011
LONE STAR is back in Grenada for the fifth time in the past 28 years. Many things have changed on this island, and in my opinion for the better. New marinas, new restaurants, resorts, boatyards, etc, have popped up all over the island. However it seems to add to the island, rather than turn it into a concrete jungle. Grenada is geared toward the tourist trade, and is shows with its friendly and welcoming people.
After returning a month ago to LONE STAR in Trinidad, I found her well and secure. There is a presence of theft in the marina area, therefore it was nice to know that LONE STAR was left alone. In the past few months, the local business owners and visiting sailors started an area watch program which so far has seemed to help. At any rate, I am glad to be somewhere I can walk away from the boat for a few minutes without having to worry about someone going aboard and stealing something. This happened in Trinidad, and still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
We had quite a few projects to complete while in Trinidad, and the marina area offers almost every yacht service imaginable. We had our mainsail repaired, refrigeration system repaired, air conditioning systems repaired, life rafts serviced and inspected and a good couple of coats of varnish on the exterior. It was a good opportunity to make the necessary repairs from our voyage from Brazil.
"Doc" Hildreth joined me last week to help me make the 85 mile trip to St Georges, Grenada. He arrived late Tuesday evening and we departed on schedule Wednesday just before sunset. The weather has been a bit windy for the past few weeks and that night proved to be no different. We pounded into six foot seas and 22-25 knots of headwinds. We were able to get a staysail out to help us drive into the conditions, and managed to make an average speed of 5.5 knots. Out arrival in Grenada was easy as we approached in good light and under the protection of the leeward side of the island. It continued to blow hard for the next several days, proving that the decision to go was a good one, rather than stay in Trinidad waiting for a weather window that was not to be.
While I went ashore to clear Customs, Health, and Immigration, "Doc" washed down the deck and recons he removed about ten pounds of dried salt. It was not long before people were walking by and sharing compliments. It was several days before we were settled in our permanent berth in Port Louis Marina. I will say that I was annoyed due to the fact that we had made a paid reservation two months in advance and we arrived on the day that I said I was going to. The marina was full, and we therefore had to tie alongside a long floating dock that is normally used for very large super yachts. All well that ends well, we are now settled in our slip, shore power is hooked up and we also have a hard line internet connection, a first for LONE STAR. It is very nice to be away from a weak Wi-Fi signal that cuts in and out.
Old friends Tan-Tan and Sean stopped by and plan to start varnishing later in the week. Tan-Tan I first met in 1989 and we sailed to Puerto Rico together. Sean was working on boats when we were anchored here in 1998, and both are not only well respected varnishers, but great guys. We have already enjoyed sharing some stories from times past. It feels good to be back where LONE STAR is loved and both we happy to see her still shining and "looking good mon."
Our plans for the next year are to sail and cruise the Windward Islands of Grenada, Carriacou and the Grenadines. Grenada offers some great anchorages and exploring this island is a must.
A week in Trinidad
18 October 2010 | Crew's Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad, West Indies
Miles Thompson/Photo Miles Thompson
Photo - Linda Bregenzer and Laura Myers enjoy an afternoon cruise at the Fort Worth Boat Club on Black Duck, a 1965 Century Coronado.
I am back on board LONE STAR for a week, to check on her, and continue with some projects. Our plan is to keep her here in Trinidad until after the first of the year. Sailing plans for next year are not made as of yet, however I would expect her to stay close to the Windward Islands, exploring this southern Island chain and base in Grenada.
My past two months at home were very good, I managed to see many friends and enjoy some of the change in weather. I managed to squeeze in one dove hunting weekend, two teal hunts (I did not actually hunt, I just hosted the gang the evening before), and one bay fishing trip (I did not actually fish, I just hosted the gang the night before).
I brought BLACK DUCK, a 1965 Century Coronado to my home town in Fort Worth and worked on it at the boat club and before launching it and taking some friends for a ride. My Mother accompanied me once, however, she decided that lunch at the club, was fun enough. She was not sure how she was going to get out of the boat, once she got in it. I have enjoyed many long weekends with her these past two months.
My projects on LONE STAR this trip included replacing the forward air conditioning compressor and make repairs to the DC freezer. The air conditioner has a locked rotor and must be replaced. The DC freezer was making a banging sound while running, and due to the limited availability of spare parts I was forced to purchase a new compresser and bring it down with me as checked baggage. I separated the cylinders from the crankcase, to remove all oil and to allow for easy inspection. Also on the list is to finish repairs and modifications to the mainsail and bend it back on. The repairs are complete and we plan to have it back on the boom tomorrow morning. I am also fitting a new oil changing pump for both the engine and generator, as well as replacing the windlass shaft. It has been a busy week.
Rick Craigwell, one of the Dock Masters here at Crew's Inn did a great job looking after her in my absence. He and his guys will continue to watch over her until the end of the year while I am away. When I call he says "everything is cool mon." Good guy, yesterday we went for a tour with his fiancĂ© Tasha and enjoyed I tried my first real taste of local street food. We stopped and bought some "doubles" a flour type bread similar to Indian nan bread, and filled with a vergitarian filling. Quite tasty, and "plenty hot mon" with the "slight" pepper sauce.
Crime in Trinidad is running rampant. The newspapers are filled with murders and fighting. There have been cases of cruisers being robbed and items stolen on boats. Just this morning it was reported that a dinghy was stolen last night, that was chained to the dock. It is one of the main reasons we are looking to base in Grenada during the next hurricane season.
I flew to Grenada early Saturday morning to see what facilities were available and how the island had grown. I was a tough trip with me having to check-in two hours before a 5:30 AM flight. This required driving to the airport at 2:30 in the morning and waiting for two hours after checking in. The return was the same, check in at 5 PM for a 7 PM flight. All this for a 30 minute flight! Grenada has changed quite a bit since we were there in 1999, and for the better. New marinas, a large ship's store, new roads, restaurants etc. It looks like a great place to base and I look forward to cruising it's coastlines. I ran into an old friend from 1989 at one of the new marinas. Raymond is a van driver and tour guide and he made himself available to drive me all over the islands checking out the changes. It was fun to catch up after over 20 years, and I look forward to his service and friendship once we get relocated. The people in Grenada were very friendly and welcoming. Sadly, a nice change from some of the people we have met here in Trinidad. Not everyone by any means, but there are plenty of rotten apples to spoil the basket.
Heading to the Texas Heat
25 August 2010 | Crew's Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad, West Indies
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - LONE STAR moored at Crew's Inn Marina after a good clean, polish and varnish job.
I thought I would try to bring some cool tempratures from the tropics. It is only 90 here, and that should be a nice change from the record heat waves that Texas has experienced. It has been "hotter than a half-chewed jalapeńo." at home.
LONE STAR is put to bed for a while and will have a safe home here at Crew's Inn Marina. She is double-tied, double-fendered, double-cleaned, and has just had two fresh coats of varnish to continue the fight against the solar intensity of the tropics.
I have emptied her freezers and all other food storage areas. Anything that is due to expire I have shared with the local dock workers, and my varnish crew. We had quite a bit leftover from our voyage, in fact we over bought in almost all areas. I will need to tweak our provisioning in the future; however it was all appreciated and in some cases I think a supply of food was needed. Business has been slow here, and not that many boats are passing through.
I am looking forward to spending time at home, and with the fall hunting season approaching, it should be lots of fun. My time will be split between family in Fort Worth and my home in Clear Lake. No doubt there will be a few LONE STAR gatherings at my place, with crew and friends of the boat attending. I look forward to seeing old friends and sharing the stories that did not make the print.
Thank you all for following us along, and please check back often for new developments.
Cruising Notes from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Trinidad, West Indies
14 August 2010
Image - National flags of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Trinidad.
Cruising notes from San Fernando, Argentina to Natal, Brazil calling at Punta Del Este, Uruguay, and Rio Grande, Porto Belo, Niteroi (Rio), Buzios, Vitoria, Salvador, Recife, and Natal, Brazil. May - July 2010
LONE STAR is a sixty foot cruising ketch and larger than the normal 40 foot cruising boat. We are not equipped with wind generators or solar panels and our preferred berth is in a marina hooked up to shore power. These are the types of facilities we search and plan our voyage to include if possible. Other facilities are available in these stops, as well as anchorages, we chose the facilities that suited our requirements.
Weather patterns we experienced during the months we voyaged were passing southerly fronts from Rio south. These fronts would pass every five days or so, and would often come on strong, (up to 40 knots) with the wind fading off quickly in the two days to follow. We found it best to leave after the heavy winds that lead the front pass. North of Rio to Vitoria we found the easterly winds dominate, with light southeast winds every week or so. Once north of Vitoria we found the winds to be mainly from the east or east/southeast with velocities in the squalls of over 25 knots. Rain was also common that time of year, often lasting days at a time. From Recife to the equator, we experienced strong 18-25 knot southeast winds with a good push from a two knot current. We sailed a course that kept us 70-90 nautical miles off the coasts direct to Trinidad, West Indies. North of the equator the wind diminished and we found ourselves in fewer than ten knots of wind, from the south/southeast, and often less. The current north of the equator lessened to less than one knot, but still in our favor.
We found the staff at the yacht clubs and marinas and the authorities very helpful, good natured, and friendly in all our ports of call. To avoid making several trips, and getting caught at "siesta time," check with the clubs and marinas about the operating times of the various authorities. As a general rule, they are open from 9-11:30 and 2:30-4:00 Monday to Friday. This varies, and many are open 24 hours as well as weekends. Long trousers and a collared shirt are recommended, if not required. I suggest this practice at every office, in every country. It shows respect to the office. Ask yourself, would you go to borrow money at a bank in shorts and a sleeveless shirt? There is only one chance to make a good first impression.
I speak near fluent Spanish; however there were many moments of confusion with the local Portuguese. I did find that in almost all cases the people of Brazil very willing to communicate. The food is great, the coast line is beautiful, and facilities good. We were fortunate; we had no problems with theft or mugging. We kept a low profile with no flashy clothes, cameras or jewelry, and we kept hatches locked with loose items off the deck. When we used our dinghy with outboard, we locked it to the secure dinghy docks, or hoisted it on board for the night. Crime and rough areas do exist, as they do all over the world, we just kept our situational awareness at a high level, especially going to and from a bank or ATM, and did not take any chances such as walking around at night. We tried to pay by credit card to avoid having to carry cash. All supermarkets we visited, except some of the small markets, all took credit cards. Provisioning costs and eating out was about 20 percent less in Argentina than in Brazil.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
The very exclusive Yacht Club Argentino - San Fernando, Argentina is about six hours by boat, or one hour by train from Buenos Aires. It is a private club and limited to visitors. We were a guest of one of the senior members. Potable water, electricity, and limited Wi-Fi is available at the slip. Other marinas are in this area, and it is best to go from marina to marina asking to stay. The Prefectura and Aduana are both located in Tigre, only a short taxi ride away. Here formalities are carried out for clearing in and out. An extension to our original eight month Admision Temporal was granted for another eight months with the help of the yacht club. All facilities are available here including a 70 ton Travel Lift. This is the sailing area of Buenos Aires, and here you will find chandleries and service representatives available for almost everything.
Clean fuel is available at their fuel dock, and payable by credit card. I did not inquire if it was available to non-members or non-guests of the club. ATM's and banks are in San Fernando, as well as good provisioning and laundry service. The central area of Buenos Aires is only a 45 minute train ride away. This is a good place to stock up on good meats and wine.
PUNTA DEL ESTE, URUGUAY
Contact Control Maritimo when arriving and departing on VHF 16/13.
We were required to get a slip here rather than use a mooring buoy. Facilities are excellent, and you secure to a mooring buoy and to the concrete docks. Potable water and electricity is available at each slip. Price was 40 US per day (low season).
Formalities are in the marina complex and include Aduana, Port Captain and Prefectura. Immigration needed to be called (the Aduana lady did this for us) and came to their marina complex office. Wi-Fi is available at shore side restaurants. Provisioning, ATM's, banks, Internet cafĂ©'s and laundry service are walking distance from marina.
Fuel is available at the fuel dock; however, we did not purchase.
There is a great walking tour of the point, and we felt safe at all hours.
RIO GRANDE, BRAZIL
Contact Rio Grande Pilot Station VHF 16/09 when outside of the outer jetties. This entrance can be very rough under certain conditions due to tide and wind conditions.
We stayed at the Museo Oceangraphico near the yacht club. You will first enter the main port than proceed another ten miles to the city center. Once past the large ship wharf you will turn to port at the naval station. Do not wander too far to the right once you have made the turn to port at the naval station, it appeared to be shallow. From here you will pass numerous fishing vessels and their respective wharves until you see a dock with a green house on stilts next to it, which is one of the museums docks. There is another dock slightly beyond where you can tie or raft to other sailing vessels. Limited power and both potable and non-potable water are available. Wi-Fi is also available on board. There is no listed charge; however, we made a donation to the museum comparable to what we would pay in a regular marina.
Fuel is available at the fishing boat wharf; however, we did not purchase. Provisioning is good in town; however, we did not feel comfortable walking around at night.
This was our first stop in Brazil and we hired a taxi to go to the Policia Federal, Capitania Dos Portos, and Receita Federal (Customs). At the Receita Federal we were asked for an insurance policy to establish value of the vessel. Both Policia Federal and Capitania Dos Portos exit papers were required to depart. Go to the Policia Federal first, then to the Capitania, and then to the Receita Federal. This took all afternoon.
PORTO BELO, BRAZIL
We stayed at the Iate Clube Porto Belo and here we moored to a mooring ball and tied to the outer harbor pier. At first they tried to have us tie alongside the outer wall, however the pier is tall and the lower freeboards of sailing vessels make this not a good choice. There are slips available to members only inside the pier. Potable water and electricity on the pier.
Security in the club was great, and we felt very safe walking around the neighboring areas. Rate was US $75.00 per night, paid only in reals. There is a good mechanic there, and we had our transmission overhauled at the nearby Hurth Repair facility. Wi-Fi is available at the clubhouse and the restaurant was open Thursday-Sunday. Laundry was available on site. We checked in with the Capitania Dos Portos in Itajai, about 45 minutes away by car.
Provisioning is fair, and we liked the quietness and beauty of this area. Clean fuel is available at the club's fuel dock, paid only in reals.
We moored at the Club Naval Charitas where most boats around 40 feet are tied stern to the pier from a mooring buoy. We were lucky, the Commandant saw our boat and gave us permission to tie up to the loading and unloading T-head for our stay. Here we found potable water and limited electricity. Wi-Fi is available in the clubhouse or pool area. I don't recall the nightly rate; however, it increases based on the number of days. We were able to pay by credit card.
We set a breast anchor to keep us off the wall from wakes of ferries that run during the week to Rio. Suzy, a fellow cruiser in a yellow sloop, is very welcoming and helpful to visiting sailors. She can arrange gas bottles to be filled and often put together "Pot Luck Dinners." We checked in with the Capitania Dos Portos in Rio not far from the ferry dock. We were not asked to check in with the Policia Federal and we were told that this was not necessary by fellow cruisers. Security was good and we felt comfortable walking around outside the club. Provisioning is excellent in Niteroi and there are several nice restaurants near the club. There is a chandlery on site and in Rio you can find several, as well as service representatives for engines and electronics. We arranged a service agent from Rio to have our software updated on our Furuno autopilot here. We did not require fuel here but understand it is available at the Yacht Club Rio De Janeiro, but difficult under surge conditions.
The twenty minute ferry is a five minute walk from the club, and runs to the main port near the domestic airport in Rio, weekdays. The Capitinia Dos Portos is located near the terminal. We were not required to take a number in this busy office, I just showed my papers to the duty clerk at the entrance, and he brought it to the attention of the personnel responsible foreign recreational vessels.
We tied to a mooring buoy in front of the yacht club for 50 reals a day, paid in reals. The club manager took photo copies of our papers, and no other check-in was required. The club is nice and has a good and secure dinghy dock. Wi-Fi is available in the restaurant area.
We secured with anchor and stern tied to a mooring ball inside a concrete dock apart from the main club docks. We passed between the yellow buoys and the dock and found 14 feet of water. The dock is condemned and you are not allowed to walk or secure to it. It looked to be in good repair, so who knows why it is not being used? We found the club very friendly and welcoming. I checked in with the Capitania Dos Portos and they also signed us out due to our anticipated stay of only four days. The yacht club staff called the Policia Federal and two officers came the next day. They were confused as to why they were called, and told us everything is in order and that it is not necessary to check in with them. Guest charge was 5 reals per day. Good facilities with both Wi-Fi and laundry service available. The fuel dock would be okay at high tide of up to 40 foot vessels, and it is cash only. We used our dinghy to transfer fuel back and forth. We were told that the dock water was non potable. The area surrounding the club is nice and safe to walk around. Vitoria was one of our favorite stops.
ABROLHOS REEF, BRAZIL
We contacted the park ranger on VHF 16 upon arrival, and we were instructed to anchor in sand on the north side of Iila Santa Barbara. The wind was southeast and the anchorage was not comfortable. The winds later shifted to the east making it more uncomfortable. During an east wind there is no anchorage that is protected. Against the advice of the park ranger another vessel secured to a mooring on the south side of Isla Santa Barbara, and broke free during the night.
The park ranger offered us a tour of the only island we could visit, IIha Sirba and we enjoyed the tour. He charged us 50 reals per person, which we found was a bit of a gouge; however if it helps keeps the place clean, then it is worth it. I would agree on the cost of staying or touring beforehand to avoid this surprise. Nice place, very clean and worth a visit.
We stayed at the Bahia Marina and enjoyed it very much. We were tied alongside at a cost of 200 Reals a day. Good shore power and water available on the dock. I am not sure if it was potable or not. Marina staff was very helpful with helping us find a few things. Visa card accepted including at the floating fuel dock which is very easy to access at all tide levels, and where we found clean fuel. Good provisioning in town; however, we never felt comfortable walking around, and we took taxis everywhere.
You will be required to check in with the Policia Federal before you proceed to the Capitania Dos Portos. The Policia Federal is located next to the Receita Federal in the main port, ten minute walk from the Capitania. You will need to enter the water front side of the port at a terminal for passengers, that is about 200 meters further down and then back track along the water side of the port to the Policia Federal office which post its hours a 9-12 and 2-5 Monday thru Friday and only 9-12 on Saturday. This was the only port that checking in with the Policia Federal was mandatory. The Policia Federal lady also told me that is was required in all ports and my mention that the other ports did not require this fell on deaf ears. The Capitania was adamant that I check in with her first, and would not check us in or out without her paperwork.
We anchored in front of the Iate Clube Pernamaco, due to all the moorings being full. The club is open for lunch and offers security day and night. The mooring field is in poor holding and we drug once in the strong current. Fuel is available at the Iate Clube Recife at high tide only. It is clean, but they only accept cash. We transferred with dinghy due to depth restrictions. No Wi-Fi was available at the club. Plenty of trash floating around depending on the tide.
Check in was easy at the Capitania Dos Portos and we were told by the Policia Federal and checking in was only necessary when we leave the country. Our stay here was short due to there being no facilities for our seven foot depth, or good place to anchor. Pontoon docks are in the plan and hopefully, they will come soon.
We enjoyed our stay here at the Iate Clube Natal where we anchored and secured to a mooring. Club is nice with cold water showers. The pool is not available to visitors. We received the first three days free. Wi-Fi available in the club area as well as laundry service. The club secretary was helpful in helping us rent a car, find stores in town, and she checked us in via fax to the Capintina Doc Portos. Provisioning is great at several supermarkets in the city. The area around the club was a bit rough, but we found Punta Negra, the tourist area, very safe and fun. The Dune Buggy tours are a must.
This was our final port of call in Brazil, and we were asked to go to the Policia Federal in Natal, half an hour away by car, because no officers were available to come to the club. We were also required to go to the Receita Federal Office and Capitania Dos Portos, which are in the nearby port.
Note: we fueled at the yacht club using their tanks and hose on the transit dock by jerry can. We later discovered that the fuel was very dirty causing us to change primary filters many times. When we first asked where to get fuel, we were told it was not available at the club because their pump was broken. At any rate, if you get fuel from the hose on the transit dock, check it carefully.
TRINIDAD, WEST INDIES
Customs and Immigration:
We arrived late in the afternoon on a Friday and tied up to the Customs Dock which is located next to Crew's Inn Marina, at the eastern end of Chaguaramas Bay. Look for the red striped light house and the dock is located at its base. This is a "T" head about 90 feet long with a sign saying "Customs Dock." Here the marina security guards walked by and "gave us a visual check."
Customs and Immigration are located in two offices. You first proceed to Immigration with all crew and present passports; fill in crew lists, etc. There was an overtime fee of US $ 16.6 dollars, paid in US or TT dollars, because it was after 4 PM. The Immigration office is located upstairs and is open 24 hours a day. There are signs showing you where it is located, which is within Crew's Inn Marina.
Customs is located very close to Immigration in a single story light green building that has a carved and varnished sign outside. Here you will complete the ship's entry to Trinidad, and we paid a harbour master's fee, as well as a boarding fee. The total was US $42.00 paid in TT dollars after changing money at the grocery store. Customs is open twenty-four hours a day.
I was leaving the boat in the marina and departing by air, therefore I was required to first fill out two forms (there are separate forms for both Customs and Immigration) provided by Crew's Inn Marina, have it stamped and signed, and take three copies each to both Customs and Immigration, twenty-fours prior to my departure. After having them stamped and signed by Customs and Immigration I returned a copy to the marina office. I also kept a copy for myself which will be required to be shown when I return by air. Any crew departing, but returning by air, will require the same or similar. Immigration also asked me to see my "E" ticket.
Note: I wore long trousers and a collared shirt as I always do. In addition, the first question I was asked in the Customs office was "where was the boat?" If I would have told them it was in our marina berth, then I would not be surprised if I would be told to move it to the Customs Dock. They want all visiting boats flying the "Q" flag to go directly to the Customs Dock, not to your reserved slip, even though it is within the same complex of docks. This was the same eleven years ago, and it still holds.
Crew's Inn Marina/Hotel
We had a berth reserved at Crew's Inn and the night duty Dockmaster met us at the Customs Dock, and told us to call him on VHF 77 when we were ready to move the boat. I walked over to the Marina Office, and check us in to our slip.
The dockmaster on duty was very helpful on helping us find our slip and making us secure. He also helped us change shore power plugs, and get our electricity hooked up. We have found all the dock staff at Crew's Inn very friendly and helpful.
Crew's Inn Marina has changed very little since my last visit 11 years ago. The prices are high and I understand the rate was recently raised. We are paying US 50 dollars a day on a monthly rate for a 60 foot boat. Plus electricity, which I have not paid yet, but expect it to be high, The pool is nice, although the pool bar, once a favorite place to gather, is closed and the exercise room only has exercise bikes and a Stairmaster. No free weights or exercise mats.
Security is good and very visible. I was originally moored on "D dock" the only floating dock. I later moved to "C dock" which is not floating, but has both a finger pier and pilings to secure to. "D dock" has a tendency to catch all the floating debris of Chaguaramas Bay, which during the rainy season can be quite heavy. "C dock" is also closer to the marina facilities, pool, dock masters office, security, etc. All in all I feel that the vessel and her crew are safe at Crew's Inn Marina, enjoying the nice surroundings.
It is mid-August and the marina is only 40 percent full. You can tell they are hurting for business during this normal high season. Shore power and water are both good and they also have cable TV at each slip. Wi-Fi is available, but it is often not working for one reason or another. The laundry room at Crew's Inn is excellent and you can do you own laundry. You buy tokens at the marina/hotel office. There is also a small grocery store located near the Customs Dock where you can buy soap, change money, etc.
In the Chaguramas Harbour area you will find every possible yacht repair and service facility available. Business seemed slow overall, and there were many boats on the hard. I understand that many have not been launched in several years. The abundant restaurants are quiet, the ship chandleries are quiet, and I have found no problem finding quick service for my water maker, sails, battery system, varnish work, dinghy repair, etc. Everyone seems hungry for work and feeling the recession. I have a guy walk by everyday looking to wash the boat.
The papers are filled with murders everyday, and unfortunately desperation has seeped into Chaguaramas Bay. I understand that is has improved in recent years; however, one should be prudent and careful walking around. Most of the dinghies I saw were always locked up with a heavy chain, whether secured to your own boat, or secured to a visiting dinghy dock, day or night. Security is visible everywhere, especially at the entrance to the various repair yards. I don't want it to sound like it is a war zone; however, one needs to be careful and keep stuff locked up.
To the east of Crew's Inn is a very rough section of fishing boats, etc. I was warned to not walk in this area, day or night. I was also warned to not walk down the main road behind the repair yards (where the restaurants are located) at night. During the day the main road, and the road to Crew's Inn, seemed safe.
There is a water taxi service available; however, it does not run everyday and often you call the boat and he says he will be there in a few minutes, only later to be found sitting in the restaurant nearby talking to his mates. A neighbor of mine said he has been stranded at night twice. I tried calling him on VHF 68, but doubt if he can hear over the music. He will answer his cell phone, but not always. If you use this service, especially at night, I would make darn sure he is going to pick you up. I was going to try to not pay him until he brought me home, and see how that works. This is a shame, it is a great service; it avoids you having to use your own dinghy, and it is only US $1.60 per trip.
Note: I had dinner with several other cruisers one evening, and the comments were that the repair yards are charging equal if not more than the service yards at home. It might be prudent to compare prices before heading this way. I understand that Grenada, 100 miles to the north, has recovered well from the past hurricane, and is very anxious for the cruising yacht business. It is also located below the "hurricane belt," and offers new and or improved repair facilities, marinas, etc. I plan on giving it a look for our hurricane season base and will report my findings.
Miles Thompson/23 August 2010
S/V LONE STAR
A few days in Trinidad and the Trash
12 August 2010 | Crew's Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad, West Indies
Miles Thompson/Image from Crew's Inn Website
Image - The Light House Restaurant at Crew's Inn Marina.
It was a race to get cleaned up and make it to the Light House Restaurant before they stopped serving food last Friday evening after checking in, moving from the Customs Dock to our assigned slip, and getting everything hooked up to shut down the boat for the first time in a long time. The last time we were in a marina and hooked up to water and electricity was Salvador, Brazil, back in mid-July.
The Lacks made a quick departure for a hotel after helping us move to our slip while "Doc", Matt and I headed for the marina restaurant. Here we enjoyed a couple of racks of ribs, a rack of lamb and a nice bottle of red to meld the flavors. "Doc picked the wine, so I have no idea what it was. We somehow missed the dessert cart before heading downstairs to the night club. Ten or so minutes were all I needed of the boom-boom of the music before I was headed toward my bunk. We all departed and shut it down for the night after eleven days of active sailing.
The next morning, after "Doc" commented that I "slept the sheets off my bunk" we changed headsails from our light weight reacher, washed the deck, sorted trash and discarded our fuel jugs, and made order of the deck and added a few more lines to make her secure. Early afternoon, in the heat of the day, we decided a hotel was not a bad idea, and after booking on line we headed out in a taxi to downtown Port of Spain. Here we checked into a boutique hotel that did not have any twin beds. No one wanted to share a king, so we opted for another room. We all enjoyed the nice accommodations, showers, bubble baths and cable TV.
I was presented a very nice bottle of Malbec from a friend in Argentina, and had been saving it for this special occasion. A crew dinner with the primary men who made it possible for us to sail around South America. Only one problem, we were absent Bo Huggins, who missed the last voyage from Natal, Brazil. Sorry Bo, we will have to celebrate another time in your honor. We picked a nice Indian Restaurant, which I knew the Indian population in Trinidad offered, and ate like it was our last meal. The wine was spectacular, and the company of Matt and "Doc" was perfect. We have all shared several meals together in the past and all of them have been memorable.
Monday morning Matt and I moved to the fuel dock to fill our empty tanks. We returned to our assigned slip and installed all the awnings, and continued to sort and organize the ship. Matt departed early Tuesday morning leaving me alone on board for the first time since late April when Casey Lambert arrived.
I have spent the last few days arranging to have the boat varnished, sort out a local phone, wash sheets and towels, and otherwise make myself at home. Sleep has come easy at night; I am still catching up from three months of being on the move.
Today I had a local electrician come aboard to test our batteries and charging system. I know we were having a problem with another battery, or possibly two on the last voyage. We also were draining our engine starting battery which is designed to be independent. After several hours of testing, we found that one isolator was shorted thus causing the engine to be connected to the house battery bank. Easy repair on that one, we just moved the engine alternator output to another unused input. We have a spare isolator in storage in Houston which I will bring back when I return and exchange it with the faulty one. We also found one battery that is not passing the lad test and it is also showing lower voltage. In the next few days we will decide what is the best course of action to get us back to a reliable DC system.
Chaguaramas is dirty, and the harbor is filled with trash and floating junk. There have been several months of flooding due to heavy rains, which add to it, however, it makes you sick to see all the plastic bottles and plastic bags floating around. It would be nice if people would just care a little more about what happens to their trash. We will move again tomorrow to hopefully be in a slip that is a little less filthy with floating debris
South American Circumnavigation
07 August 2010 | Crew's Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad, West Indies
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - Trinidad in the distance as we near completion of our circumnavigation of South America. August 2010.
We arrived yesterday afternoon at 1645 local time after an 11 day, 45 minute sail from Natal, Brazil. Except for a few mornings, we were under power in the very light conditions for the past seven days. Our fuel tanks are near dry from the 265 gallons we started with, leaving us a 14-18 gallon reserve.
Everyone is fine, and ready to enjoy Trinidad for a few days before returning to Houston.
I will post some photos and update more about our voyage later, I just wanted everyone to know we are safe.
Thank you all for following us along on this multi-year voyage.
Birthdays and under 24 hours to go!
05 August 2010 | LONE STAR
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - One of many beautiful sunsets we enjoyed off the coast of Brazil. August 2010.
Our easy fix to the main engine was not so easy. Just after I wrote our last blog entry, the engine temperature started to climb to over 190 degrees. Matt and I, after shutting it down, checked the raw water circulation side of the cooling system including the impeller, heat exchanger and assorted hoses finding nothing that should cause this problem. We then decided to change the thermostat with our on-board spare, and after two and a half hot hours, we were back in business and have been running ever since. How nice it is to have the spares, tools, and know-how on board.
We missed celebrating LONE STAR's 28th birthday on the 31 of July. Perhaps this is why she was testing us with repairs and problem-solving scenarios.
Today Matt Fanning turns 33 and we are celebrating a combined birthday with LONE STAR. Matt has been a very integral part of our circumnavigation of South America and very close to LONE STAR since first working on her ten years ago when we replaced the freezer and refrigeration systems. The success of our circumnavigation of South America is a tribute to his hard work, dedication, and many, many hours on watch.
The past few days have been very calm with only limited chances to sail. We continue to advance to the drone of the engine and it now looks like our diligence has paid off in regard to fuel. We are looking good for a late afternoon/early evening arrival in Trinidad tomorrow afternoon with a few gallons to spare. The wind has started to fill slightly off our starboard beam and we are once again in a favorable one knot current. If the forecast is true, we should have this wind all night and part of tomorrow morning.
Early this morning while sipping coffee, Matt hooked a monster Blue Marlin. I would estimate this fish at around 300 pounds. It gave us a great show of jumping behind the boat as it stripped off yards and yards of line. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, the line parted and it was set free with my favorite lure. We use high carbon hooks that will rust out over time leaving her to feed again. No photos, it all happened too fast.
Fix this, fix that...
03 August 2010 | LONE STAR
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - Matt and Miles pump dirty diesel fuel from the starboard tank and filter it through a t-shirt to remove the sediment. August 2010.
We have had a busy past few days working sails and trying to make the most of the very light conditions. We sailed a few hours Sunday morning and again this morning. We have had it from every angle, and I could not count how many times we have reefed, set a pole, jibed the mainsail, and set the mizzen staysail.
Today we left the grey/green color of the Amazon/Atlantic to return to a deep blue. The weather has been a mix of thunderstorms, with heavy rainfall from time to time. We have enjoyed the coolness of the rain showers, and we were quite the sight all lathered up on deck laughing like a bunch of kids playing in the rain. It brought some needed comic relief.
The first thing that needed repair was the main sheet winch. During a jibe the winch locked and would not turn in either direction. The problem was two bronze surfaces on the two speed drive sticking together, almost galled. I was able to clean the surfaces and reassemble with a fresh coat of grease.
Next was the necessity to change the starboard fuel filter. The filter was packed with grit and starving the engine of fuel. About twelve hours later, we had the same problem. "Rut-row," we picked up a load of dirty fuel. After changing the filter again we started to try to figure out how much of the dirty fuel we had on board and from where did it come from. A few hours later the engine started to bog down again, letting us know that we again had a dirty filter. It was now time to change the secondary filters on the engine itself. This is no easy task and we had to pull apart half of the galley to gain access. Once changed, we were up and running again.
The following morning we decided we needed to somehow pre-filter the fuel before it reached the primary tank filter, which we only had seven elements left. After a bit of head scratching, and concluding the dirty fuel was from the yacht club in Natal, we decided to pump the fuel from the starboard tank, about 60 gallons worth, using our electric fuel transfer pump through a t-shirt and into the empty fuel deck tanks. This took about an hour to do and the result was the removal of lots of fine dirt and crud. After pumping it back into the tank, we did the same to the port tank. It was a hot and messy job, but the result was us running over 24 hours without having to change filters.
After a mid day rain shower to cool us all off, we noticed that our freezer temperatures were starting to rise. I found that the unit was low on 134A gas and after a few hours of charging we were back in business. It is so nice to have the tools and the supplies to repair things at sea.
After trying to reset the mizzen staysail we found that two of the mizzen winches were acting up and not functioning. I tried to repair one yesterday, and so far have not been able to get it back in service. We will make do without, and repair in Trinidad.
Not long after the afternoon rain storm Matt noticed that our engine was rising in temperature. Now what??? In this case the fix was easy, we had picked up some junk in the strainer, and once clean, the temperature returned to normal.
Today has been a little easier, so far... Matt cleaned up the speed impeller and we now have boat speed working again. He also cleaned out the bilge pump pick up hose that was clogged with assorted crud and causing the pump to work harder than normal. I had to adjust the striker plate on the aft head door to allow it to better latch shut. Matt and I worked on the galley sink drain that was interfering with a drawer opening and closing.
For excitement we caught a nice bill fish which I believe was a Short Billed Marlin, also know as a Spearfish. I think? Matt fought it for about 20 minutes before getting it close to the stern. I was a fun hook up; we had noticed that a small fish was skipping behind the boat and soon thereafter the drag took off and the fight was on. The Spearfish hit the fish we had not yet pulled in, and hooked itself. We shortened sail a while Matt muscled it in. We were about to cut it free when the hook pulled out and it swam away with a sore jaw. Stephen was filming the entire time with his video camera. I would estimate this fish weighed about 80-100 pounds.
We are 475 miles from Trinidad and we should arrive Friday or Saturday morning. We may just have enough fuel to make it, but a few more morning of sailing will give us the insurance we need.
The Sea Changes Color
01 August 2010 | LONE STAR
Miles Thompson/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - The change happened when we were changing head-sails, therefore I was a little late taking this photo. Note the slightly visible color change and the white caps. August 2010.
After our nice light air sail yesterday afternoon, which put some needed miles under our keel, we started the engine and powered toward Trinidad. Last night was beautiful on deck, cool, clear, and very calm. We still have a partial moon to keep the late night watch company, and combined with a star filled sky it really could not be any nicer. We saw a few ships, mainly large cargo vessels headed for The Panama Canal.
Early this morning, the winds started to fill from our port beam and soon thereafter we were sailing under full headsail, full staysail, full mainsail, mizzen staysail, and mizzen. As Big Joe would say, "we had everything open but the tool box." Our speed often reached nine knots in the moderate conditions. Not long after we started putting up sail, I noticed a very distinct line and color change in the sea. It was a change from a deep blue to a green gray. I yelled out, "hey guys, here is the Amazon." What we were seeing was the mix of the Amazon and the Atlantic. We were 150 miles from the nearest land, and over 250 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. We have been sailing in this altered color all day. I snapped a few photos; however, I doubt the change will show.
Our afternoon watch ended with huge thunderstorm system that our RADAR showed was over 25 miles wide. We lowered the mizzen and mizzen staysail just as the wind shifted and the first gusts hit us. We saw winds of 20 with gusts to 27 for over an hour with heavy rain. With all on deck we made quick time reefing the mainsail and head sails before starting the engine in the dying winds to get back on course. The rainfall was very heavy and we all took showers on deck and enjoyed a good few laughs. Now LONE STAR has had a good, and well needed rinse as has her crew.
Our fuel situation is good. We should, with careful use, have enough to reach Trinidad. We have had to change our primary fuel filters twice in the past two days which indicates we picked up some dirty fuel, most likely at the yacht club in Natal. We have seven spare filters to change, which should be sufficient. If not, we will find a way to recycle our used filters and keep on going.
The weather forecast today showed a bit more wind forecast for the next few days, which should help our speed and time under power. We are hoping for a Friday noon arrival in Trinidad, which is over 800 miles away, lots of things can change between now and then.
Halfway there, long way to go
31 July 2010 | LONE STAR
Stephen Lack/Photo by Miles Thompson
Photo - Matt works the mast during one of our numerous change of sail configurations. July 2010.
Yesterday's fuel measurements have driven the rhythm of the last 18 hours. Whereas we thought we were burning one gallon of fuel an hour, our calculations last night suggested either a leak (which we heavily discounted) or a case of inaccurate measuring from a tank that is sloshing back and forth, or consumption at 1.5 gallons per hour. Whatever the case, a rationing plan was devised after the weather charts indicated that the light winds might continue for some significant time. It even forced us to be sailors this morning as Captain Miles pulled a play out of a 15 year old playbook the poor man's twins. With the heavy genoa poled out to starboard, a lighter weight genoa , a Lonestar original, was hoisted on the other head stay track and poled out to port. The mizzen staysail was added to the unorthodox configuration and after an hour or so, Lonestar was moving again without motor in the 7's and an occasional 8 handle. We were clearly benefitting from having moved through the "Cone Do Amazonas" and the resumption of the prevailing current. But we were also sailing smarter, out of necessity of losing our creature comforts. We were all pleased with ourselves for today's lightair sailing performance, until the iron genny was once more needed when winds dropped below 5. We will forgo the genset tonight. We are just over half way with a lot of sailing in front of us.
The waning moon is rising later each evening, allowing a beautifully star rich sky to bless us for parts of the night. Under my watch last night, Stone joined me and fell asleep in my arms under the milky way, another special time that will be remembered very differently by father versus son.