Sunday, December 4, 2016

Early Arrival at Rodney Bay

We have amazed ourselves by getting to Rodney Bay before the first of December.  It was our plan to head north from Grenada early, to stay out of the strong "Christmas Winds", but we certainly got wind.  Here is how it shaped up:

We were launched on the 23rd of November, and spent until the 26th just putting the boat together and fixing small problems.  Except for a couple of trips to little restaurants near the university with Lorna and Brian, we kept pretty low key and busy.  Indeed, instead of running with the Grenada Hash House Harriers, we maintained our exercise regiment hauling heavy groceries back from various locations.  Finally, with L and B, we made the short trip to the shelf outside St. Georges, and I did one last chandlery run.  Both Cat Tales and Peace & Plenty left for Carriacou on Sunday morning, with an anomalous wind from the south-east.  The sailing was beautiful, and Tyrell Bay was made without an extra tack or motoring.

Heading into Tyrell Bay, Carriacou
That does not mean without drama, however.  Peace and Plenty had a seawater impeller problem, meaning no cooling water to their heat exchanger and no water in their exhaust.  We tried harnessing the boat to the side of Cat Tales twice - the first time, we were still in some small waves, with poor alignment, and the heaving was too much for us; indeed the bow line broke.  Brian sailed under jib to calmer water, we reconnected and got them in far enough to anchor.  Before poor Brian had his first "anchor beer", he had to put in an hour as a mechanic, but he got the impeller replaced.

Brian and Laurie connecting our boats together to tow Lorna and Brian into Tyrell Bay.  They are still working on getting the life line repaired after the damage done that day.
Monday morning, we both cleared customs and headed north.  The wind had further clocked around so that we were on a lovely broad reach.  Most of the afternoon we were traveling over 7 knots.  Cat Tales handled beautifully, but Brian spent a lot of time at the helm of Peace & Plenty as she wallowed back and forth with a following sea.  We anchored in Bequia with the intention of leaving at 0300 hours, but we all had second thoughts as the sky darkened, lightning flashed from all directions all night, and we got communication about a dangerous squall line that swept through Martinique and St. Lucia at 2100 hours.  At 0300 hours, we made the decision to pull the plug, and went back to bed.  Dawn and I were awakened at daylight with breaking waves under our boat and our stern terribly close to a rocky beach.  After re-anchoring, we all spent the day in the rain and wind reading and trying to put together a picture of what had happened in Rodney Bay during the storm. 

Rainy day in Bequia waiting to sail north
Apparently, many boats we knew were very much involved.  John Fallon's boat Stopp Knot was blown into the shallows near Sandals, and pounded on her keel for a long time before Sandals dive boats worked together in the dark to get her back into deep water.  He's in the boatyard now, getting some keel cracks patched up.  Robin Unwin's boat had her bowsprit and a shroud ripped when a charterboat blew past, and his wooden mast is now in two pieces.  Steve McMullan and Jenny's boat  Tanglewood was stopped at the last minute when the anchor found a giant hunk of coral, but it apparently loosened the windlass (repairable).  We understand that some boats cut loose their ground tackle and headed to sea to avoid disaster.  At least no lives lost.  I have been snorkeling for John's lost sail cover, with no luck so far.

On the 30th, we finally carried on to Rodney Bay, but the wind and rain were the main event, along with a few freighters coming out of the mist.  These were monsters traveling at 12-13 knots, with bow waves bigger than houses, but they first showed only on our AIS devices (devices that use a combination of VHF frequencies and global positioning systems to provide a radar-like picture of impending doom), and only later appeared much closer.  However, in two cases, in spite of the visual information we had that insisted that death was imminent, the electronic devices determined that they were passing our track at least a half mile away.  ...and they did.  Both ships approached from the west, and the signals indicated that both, one a tanker and the other a container ship, were headed to Singapore.

A single Piton of St. Lucia in the mist.  Where did the other one go??
Both boats had some amazing sailing with broad reaching.  Cat Tales was often doing 10 knots with the smallest amount of sail and only 3 feet of jib, while Brian used only his jib and found his boat wallowed much less and had a great performance.

Since arriving, we have had a party on the marina boardwalk, and a lovely meal of curried conch with Lorna and Brian last night on Cat Tales.  We'll lay low and recover tonight.  I spent the afternoon swimming around where John had his mishap - apparently, he had a new mainsail cover folded up in his cockpit when the wind hit, and it went over the side.  No luck finding it so far.  Maybe Dawn will help tomorrow.

I should mention that we have been enjoying callaloo, christophene, plantain, green fig, conch, and a little tuna we caught on the west side of Grenada, aboard our boats since we were launched - in a hurry to pick up our culinary skills where we parked them last year.

Brian using our stern shower hose to add water to his Demerera Rum!  How handy is that?

After losing yet another bilge pump, I am rewiring the systems with quick connect plugs to make them easier to test and replace.  I am more than a little disappointed in the short lives these Rule 500gph pumps seem to have, with never an indication as to why they stop working.  I took the pump apart, and it was totally dry and shiny inside - no indication of the cause of the failure, and no way to reassemble.

Cat Tales had a failure to shoot seawater from the starboard exhaust upon being launched, and even after being primed with water, the output was a little light.  Yesterday, I dismantled both the front and back of the heat exchanger, and found a partial blockage in the black section:  apparently a piece of fibrous waxed paper that had been able to pass through some of the exchanger before opening up and covering some of the tubes.

Laurie cleaning the fuel filter

Reading the manual...looking for clews about the oil pressure sensor!

Tearing the boat apart again!!
I had some luck with the cleaning out of a Racor 500 filter assembly, today.  I turned off the fuel, drained the unit into a little pail (cut up vinegar jug), and then used a construction syringe to spray the drained fuel back through the housing with the filter removed.  I was able to dislodge all materials on the vanes and on the bottom of the acrylic bowl without having to dismantle the unit with only six syringe-fulls.  The filter had not been replaced since 2012, and still did not look dirty, but the housing was no longer allowing visibility.  We checked the primary filter at the engine, and it was pristine.  Dawn and I jerry-jug our fuel aboard, apply algae killer, allow the fuel to settle, and then pour the supernatant into our tank.  As well, both the primary and secondary filters are 2 microns.  The system seems to work for us, and contrary to some older texts on the subject, the filters do not seem to be breaking down with extended use.

Presently, I am working on a faulty oil pressure sensor/sender.  I'll post about it next time.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What A Difference A Day Makes

Thursday morning finds us out in Prickly Bay, Grenada, just offshore from Spice Island Boatyard where Cat Tales was hibernating for six months.  It is a beautiful, albeit really warm day, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze keeping the boat straight and giving us some relief from the heat.

Yesterday, we rushed through our last chores before the travel-lift picked us up at 1100 hours and dropped us in the water.  The new through-hull fitting and the new saildrive membranes kept the sea out and both engines ran.  Trouble is, the starboard engine was not spitting water.  The lift and men left us there while we tore apart the raw water pump and traced the lines, and otherwise troubleshot the issue.  Finding nothing wrong but not getting satisfaction, I ran the engine while funnelling water into the pump, until water filled the whole system.  I then put the pipe back together, restarted the engine, and for some reason it worked.  We headed to the bay, got an anchor down, and calmed down.  
Cat Tales ready for the slings!

Laurie was hoisted up the mast by Brian to check all the lights and navigation gear.  Everything passed with flying colours!

I then attempted to get the outboard working, and failed.  It just would not start.  As we had experienced this on past launches, we simply pulled the cord 20 times, waited 20 minutes and repeated, hoping the new gas would soften the varnish-like substance that the old gas had left.  We finally had it working at 17:00 hours, too late to go to Customs for our cruising permit, but just in time to attend an invitation for supper aboard Peace and Plenty, floating 100 m away.

We had arrived in Grenada on November 14th, and had spent 8 nights in a tiny, air-conditioned apartment with "Tiny House" appeal, called Cool Running, just across from the boatyard.  We had worked full days getting things running, and were dead tired most nights.  We had arrived while Dawn was suffering from a pulled ligament in her shoulder, and we were envisioning a difficult time getting many of the "two-person" jobs done.  However, Lorna and Brian actually met us at our room when we arrived (they had talked their way in and had enjoyed showers before we arrived), and with a little effort over the next two days, Brian helped me get the sails on, the dinghy off, the outboard out, and the bimini up while Lorna assisted Dawn in running for basic provisions.  Dawn's arm began to heal and became totally useful by the weekend, so we were able to finish all chores.

We're going to a cooking class this afternoon with Esther and Omega at Blue Bay and well, here I pause, and here is the report!

They provided every detail and a couple of cheats for cooking a greenfig/vegetable salad and a fantastic chicken dish using local spices.  We sat, got entertained (with Lorna and Brian), fed, and beered. A fun afternoon, and quite a change from yesterday! 

I took on a fibreglass job as part of the recommissioning work this year.  The Fountaine Pajots are assembled from a series of manufactured mouldings, which are primarily held together with fibreglass  patches on the inside of the boat, thick enough to provide the required strength.  The cracks are filled with epoxy from the outside, and are either gel coated over or hidden under rub rails or other fittings.  When the decks were installed on the hulls, the rub rails covered some of the cold joint and gelcoat covered what extended to the rest of the hull.  In previous years, I had ground out cracks at the sterns and layered in fibreglass, and this year I did the same with the port bow.  It was not an easy job for a number of reasons:  1.  I have a mini-belt sander with belts, but the unused belts had dried out, and would break after just a few revolutions; 2.  I have a small oscillating palm sander that had also been affected by the heat.  When the pad sped up, the deteriorated disk disintegrated, throwing a black, tar like substance all over the deck and hull; requiring a 3-part cleanup process;  3.  My colour-matched gelcoat had been baked by the heat over the last few years, and would neither spread easily nor cure easily.  Regardless, I got the work done but for the sanding down of the gelcoat.  The high heat of the tropics really can make a mess of plans, tools, and materials.

We have installed a flexible 120 Watt solar panel on our Bimini to compliment the two12-year old 240 Watts on our stern, and now have an increase in amperage through our Bluesky regulator.  We should now have better luck equalizing the battery bank.

Here is a picture of our home at Grand Lake, NB, taken by Hugh with his drone!!

Friday, November 11, 2016

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation 2016

For the purposes of continuity, and before we get back on the plane to Grenada, I think it is appropriate to include one weblog entry on how Dawn and I kept busy (or not) during summer, 2016.

We've been home since early May, and are just about ready to leave for the sunny south in mid-November.  The cottage was pretty much as we left it, thanks in great measure to the watchful eye of Hugh Whalen.  Besides the regular home maintenance chores that most people have, I stayed out of major projects.  Even neighbourly assistance was just routine this year.

I enjoyed a great canoeing adventure when I joined my brother, Ken, and two of his friends, for a 5-day trip down the Nepisiguit River, in early June.  As the trip also entailed two nights in Scott Kennah's fishing camp, enjoying Scott's hospitality, it was even more special.  The trip included trailer trauma, excitement, dangerous rapids, outrageous portages, amazing food both inside the camp and on the river banks, snowy riverbanks, cold and rainy weather, and a total lack of edible-sized trout.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat - on a kinder river.

A group photo after all survived the Nepisiguit Narrows Gorge, no small thing!
Dawn had her trips as well:  to Grand Manan, and upriver for a cross-border shopping trip; both in the company of friends.

Neighbours Liz and Judy standing with former neighbour Pam on a foggy Grand Manan beach.
Sailing the Hobie 21 was all in light winds, and barely eclipsed the time to commission and decommission the boat, but still enjoyable.

Hugh and Debbi, two neighbours, join our catamaran by powerboat on the water for a snack.
A notable event was the transition of Dawn's mother, Jean, from her condominium to a retirement home,  It was a lot of work, especially for Dawn, but resulted in a lot of enjoyment with Jean, and Dawn' sisters Kathy and Lorna (and husbands).   The work included significant paring down of clothing, furniture and household items, finding and refinishing furniture, moving itself, and accommodation for the workers (Lorna and Brian visited at our cottage for a fun time).

Dawn searches the stores for the perfect chair for her mother Jean's new home.
We hosted other guests from time to time, and were also involved in weekly parties among our neighbours - so it was a major social season.

The Brothers Corbett and Wives got together on the occasion of Paul and Lida's visit from Calgary

In September, we traveled to Prince Edward Island to attend Emma Cabel's wedding to Ryan Seymour, a truly enjoyable experience that included many old friends.  While over there, we stayed 3 extra nights and enjoyed bicycling for three days, just the two of us.  The seafood meals everywhere over there were amazing.

Bill Cabel, "giving away" daughter Emma
So, now it is over, you are caught up, and we'll attempt to write as soon as we can from Grenada.  We'll try to blog from the boatyard, before launch.  We'll be staying on dry land, recommissioning the boat for at least a week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cat Tales on Hard, Crew in Canada

Well, it was a whirlwind after St. Georges, mostly involving the work of decommissioning the boat and putting it away.

We managed a few meals with friends, a second HASH (walk/run), and a cooking demonstration, though.  Interestingly, the cooking demonstration at True Blue resort turned out to be about cooking conch, so we have finely tuned our cooking conch protocol, and are ready for next year.  We'll save you from the rest, however.

Haulout on May 4th went well at Spice Island Marine in Grenada. The work on the water and in the boatyard was difficult for us; and we put in very long days.  It was not too bad with evenings in air conditioned comfort at our little room at Cool Running Apts. 

Laurie's birthday was celebrated at Timbers with friends for a lovely meal out after a hot and sweaty workday on the boat!  Timbers is the restaurant in the boatyard, only a 5 minute walk from our rented apartment.

The flight home on May 9th was also comfortable and without significant event, although customs and security lineups in Toronto were outrageous, and we had to stay over one night in Toronto unexpectedly  due to a flight change. 

All was found to be well at the cottage, with no failures or problems with any systems or the structure.  As well, as a result of a rather mild winter, we found all our friends to be in good spirits.  A special thanks to Hugh and Liz who checked on our place and picked up our mail for 6 months!  Laurie has been thrown into the chores at the cottage and within the neighbourhood, and Dawn is setting up to assist Jean, her mother, in a major move from condo to retirement home.

Poor Laurie in over 40 degree temperatures on his birthday!
 The big story with the boat was the changing out of the old diaphragms in the saildrives.  The diaphragms keep the sea out of the boat while allowing the engine and drive leg to vibrate and move.  The primary one is a very heavy piece of reinforced rubber in a disc with a hole for the leg, held in place against the hull by the bolts of a retaining ring, and against the saildrive by being sandwiched between the upper and lower assembly of the leg and related transmission.  The secondary one is a thinner rubber membrane held onto the upper portion of the retaining ring and the upper portion of the transmission by special steel rings not unlike giant hose clamps.  Between these is a screwed in sensor that tells if one or the other has allowed water into the interstitial space.

Removing these suckers was hard work, involving the unbolting of the engine from the saildrive and moving it forward (onto bits of lumber scrounged in the boatyard), the complete removal of the saildrive, and the dismantling of the saildrive on a scrounged table under the boat.  It was heavy, hot, dirty, hard work; and I am proud that we were able to do it.

Now here is the bad part.  There is no difference in the new and old diaphragms.  I could wipe off the old ones and sell them as new, even though they are 20 years old.  The manufacturer said they should have been replaced 15 years ago, but in fact there seems to be little known history of failure from fatigue.  So there we are, a job done well that maybe shouldn't have been done at all.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sitting Outside St. Georges, Grenada

Internet, the Caribbean way!

We have been sitting here near St. Georges since Tuesday, six days ago.  We've been rather consumed with chores since:  laundry, cleaning and waxing, cleaning and boraxing (inhibits mould), and working through any chores that need not be done on the hard.
Hey kids, put your devices away and talk to each other!!  The gentleman on the right, Chris Doyle, is the author of the guide books we all use here in the Caribbean. He updates his guides on a regular basis and is always working!  He's a bit of a celebrity here as he sails his catamaran, Ti Knot! (Petit Canoe) up and down the island chain.
Shortly after writing a weblog from Tyrell Bay, we began a friendship with Al and Brenda of s/v Haven, who we got used to hearing on the FOD weather net and felt we ought to say hello.  They had sailed into Tyrell specifically to be hauled out for a repair - their welding, inside of the rudder, had parted; and their rudder was slipping around on their rudder-post pretty badly.  Well, they had been chumming around with our new friends Gil and Diana of s/v Sarenata, with whom we had explored parts of Dominica.  Days later, Saronata arrived with another boat, s/v Harmonium Cays with Phil and Krista.  Suddenly, we're part of a bigger group again, with eating, drinking, and long hikes.  Oh, we also maintained a previously-made relationship with two interesting Brits aboard s/v Inga.  Our quiet time in Tyrell went by much too quickly, and not at all quietly. 

One thing we got done in Carriacou was the acquisition of some conch (called lambi in these regions) and an attempt at cooking it.  What we finally decided to do was:  1.  Rinse and clean conch in lime juice;  2.  Beat the conch to make it less chewy;  3.  Cook it in a pressure cooker with garlic and a little lime and water for 20 minutes;  4.  Dice and apportion it to use it in different recipes.   We have stewed it with coconut milk and curry, and have had it on a pizza.  It has been great, but next time we will beat it less and cook it for a shorter time - it was actually not chewy enough.  We now will not pass Carriacou without purchasing 3 pounds of conch!
Not too pretty at this stage.  We had to ask a marine park ranger if there was anything we should cut off these nasty looking critters!  The guy told us that all parts were to be left on, so we did!
After beating it with the end of a wine bottle for a bit, we pressure cooked it with lots of garlic.
Once cooked, the conch was cut into tidbits to use in any recipe we desire.

Last night, we stopped work and went on a Hash with Phil and Krista.  Great fun as usual:  strenuous hiking, good socializing, and excellent Grenada scenery.
Last week on another hike along the coast of Carriacou, part of the Grenada Grenadines
 Tomorrow, we hope to find light winds to allow us to get around the corner and into Prickly Bay.  We will then tidy up our last chores and await our haulout, scheduled for May 4th.  However, tonight, it is conch pizza with guests, Phil and Krista, who are anchored just behind us.
After Brenda blew out a sandal, MacGyver (aka Laurie) was on the job with a bit of line, carried in our knapsacks for just this purpose!
Ta da!!


Just before we left Tyrell Bay, the windlass came apart (which was the idea.  I have been trying to get it apart for a decade).  Although the solvent was expected to deal with the ceasing in a week, I worked at it for six weeks:  banging and spraying at least once per day.  Finally the spool came off, and I began working on the gypsy.  I actually took the gypsy off one half at a time; the second half even required a couple hours of digging between the parts with a drywall knife.  Ultimately it all came off, to reveal how it is supposed to work.  The shaft holds a flange, and a rough disk fits between the flange and the gypsy.  When the spool is tightened onto the shaft, it drives the gypsy and the rough disk hard against the flange, allowing the motor to spin the gypsy.  When loosened, the gypsy spins free to allow a manual working of the assembly.  All the time we have owned it, the gypsy has been frozen to the rough disk and the disk frozen to the flange.  Finally it is free, and we can take the gypsy off when we want and see if it needs to be replaced.  There is a suspicion that it has worn, and that we have to replace the chain prematurely to allow it to work without problems.
The windlass (device used to bring up the chain and anchor) was causing us troubles.  We think the gypsie is worn making the chain slip.  Consequently, the chain bounces all over the place while hauling up the anchor making it a dangerous situation!  We have been buying new chain every 3 years at 1,000.00 US a pop!

The windlass half-way taken apart.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Grenadines of St. Vincent

Cat Tales landed in Tyrell Bay again yesterday, and is sitting over clear water on a beautiful patch of sand.  The boat motion is diminished once more, and sleep is deeper.  The trip over from Frigate Island was lovely, with little water on deck, and the boat flying under jib alone at 6 knots.  No fish!

Laurie and I have given the small islands in the Grenadines limited time over the past few years, but because we have a little time on our hands, we decided to leave Bequia and visit the islands of Mayreau, Union, and Petit Martinique.

After a lovely stay in sweet Bequia, we picked a weather window and headed south for Mayreau.  We covered our visit to Mayreau in our last blog.  After leaving Mayreau, we headed over to Union Island to the west side and spent 3 nights in Chatham Bay.  Chatham Bay cannot see the phone towers, so we enjoyed the days and nights of total isolation.  We did share our time with Eric and Jackie of s/v Compass Rose, with whom we hiked and had a couple of meals.
A view of Chatham Bay from our hike
Eric and Jackie from s/v Compass Rose

One meal in particular actually haunts us after the fact.  Chatham Bay isn't just isolated by phone and internet; it is difficult to drive into and is a long motorboat ride as well.  Still, there are now five different restaurants offering barbecuing services as well as a few fishing families that have thrown up rather squalid shelters.  We have mentioned in past years eating at these barbecue spots, but as the prices became rather affected by what a group of charterers might pay, we stopped patronizing them.  Well, Jackie, being rather challenged to find a good deal, went ashore and arranged a barbecue lunch from one of the fishing shacks, not the regular barbecue shacks, for a significantly lower price than the going rate.  The four of us showed up, paid for nice cold beers, and sat at a dirty plywood table under a tree as our meal arrived.  Nice rice and potato salad, and rather skimpy ribs and chicken, but not bad.  Only afterward did we start thinking that we had broken some rules - not with the community - just our own.  If they don't have a bathroom, we don't go; if they don't have running water in which to wash vegetables, pots and pans, and their own hands before preparing a meal, we don't go.  If they do not have constant refrigeration, we shouldn't go, and certainly shouldn't eat potato salad.  Well, we did get what we paid for, and we are not ill; but we did get nervous after that meal.  It was fun, too.  We sat among goats, chickens, cats, and a dog; all very interested in our food.  One goat had to be shooed off regularly - they said he was a problem in that he often jumps onto the table during the meals.  So, yes, we kept our eye on him.  Old men sat and watched us, and one brought out a drum and insisted on entertaining us (for tips). 

From Chatham Bay, the two boats motor-sailed upwind an hour or so to get to the two little islands of Petite Martinique and Petite St. Vincent.  Although barely a half mile apart, one belongs to St. Vincent, and one belongs to Grenada.  In between is a beautiful sand bar that holds anchors like it is in love.  We are in love with the views and colours, and have been there often.  However, the spring "new moon" brought outrageous currents through the anchorage such that one would fear swimming, and choppy waves that had Cat Tales dancing day and night.  We hiked Petite Martinique the next day, and had a lovely lunch at a place called Melody's (fantastic conch roties); then we abandoned the anchorage for a downwind run back to Frigate Island at Union Island.  After two days of hiking and visiting Clifton, we checked out and sailed here to Tyrell Bay. 
Getting to the end of our hot and hilly hike on Petit Martinique...cold beers are almost in sight!
The water in the anchorage was so beautiful, it was difficult to leave!
Anchored at Frigate Rock in Union Island.  Laurie, Dawn & Eric checking out one of the last pieces of pavement we have hiked.  All uphill to get to the end of the road, of course!
Laurie and Eric walking the concrete road downhill back towards the anchorage.  This is a section that we didn't share with goats or cows!

We have time to kill, high winds coming, and a low wind opportunity to visit and snorkel at Sandy Island on the north side.  Laurie wants to buy some raw conch and try to learn how to cook it - I, of course, encourage that!  We probably will not leave here to go to St. Georges for a week. 
We see these spots from time to time on Union Island, where people set up a sunshade and make aggregate for concrete by hand!


(Laurie)  I am still attempting to free up the corroded windlass to allow the removal of the gypsie.  Every day, I spray with PB Blaster, tap it with a hammer, then install the manual handle and beat it with a rubber hammer.  What should have taken a week has stretched on to a month - but who would argue that my stubbornness might not prevail.  I may try a torch on it, but that will wait another month for the boatyard, when I can have a water hose by my side.

I have been attempting to equalize the new batteries.  My only tool is the solar panels and the Blue Sky regulator.  The 2005 solar panels used to give me 16 amperes, but now they provide only 12.  I was able to bring them to a boil by separating them, and now I can get them to bubble as a group - but it happens at 14.5 volts, which is rather low.   Oh well, they are never below 12.5 volts when in use, except for minutes.

All other systems are working dandy!