We're enjoying the pristine views and natural settings here in St. John. We're in National Park territory, and got a Lifetime Park Pass and trail map when we checked in. Mooring fees are 1/2 price for us! ($13.00, they've gone up double since last year!)
And another fun surprise: our friend Richard on the sv SeaLevel came into the anchorage. We haven't seen Richard for years, since we cruised Tulum, Mexico in 2003. He's doing AirBnB charters aboard his Durbeck 46' monohull, based in St. Thomas. It will be fun to reconnect with him.
Pic: Michael and Sonja; it was a long dinghy ride to Gunn Creek to check into the BVI's. Calm (downwind) on the way there; a bit wet for the ride back (to windward).
It's been a few weeks between postings, mainly because of slow or non-existsnt internet. To summarize, we left Trois Islet when the weather settled down and had a good run to Portsmouth, Dominica. We anchored for the night and departed at 0545 for Deshaies, Guadeloupe, anchoring at 1500 hours. Another early start put us on pace for an easy overnight run to St Maarten. Winds were, for the most part, 10-15 knots on the aft quarter. The sky was clear, the stars were bright in a moonless sky, and we reduced sail to slow down in order to arrive St Maarten at sunrise. Great stuff. We went through the Simpson Bay Bridge at 0930 and anchored in the Lagoon in 7' water. Since the island is divided by the Dutch and French sides, we cleared in with the Dutch Officials, and will clear out with them before moving about a mile to anchor on the French side, St Martin. It's a bit confusing for the newcomer, but everything soon falls in place. The entire island us duty-free, and cruisers flock here to outfit their boats and provision. We were on a different mission of sorts, and I arranged a quick haulout at Bobby's Mega Yard so I could reset the pitch of the MaxProp propeller. That went smoothly enough, and I took that opportunity to change a SW ball valve that I hadn't changed out in Trinidad. A few hours later we were back in the water; all's good. We've met up with Bas and Agnes of sv Ti Sento, as well as Jo and Greg of sv Serenade and Lee and Sharon of sv Allegro. We've also met new friends; Mike and Nancy of sv Chasseur and Henry and Catherine of sv Mowzer. Unfortunately, our 15 year old Aquapro dinghy finally gave up; there was just not a lot of integrity left in the hypalon, whose life span is typically 10 years. Our new ride is a 9'6" Highfield aluminium RIB. At the price of a used small automobile, at least it was tax and duty free...
Pos: N14deg32.8min/W061deg02.3min. Fortunately,we're not in a hurry or on a schedule. The weather around here has been challenging. We had a great sail from Rodney Bay to Martinique, but changed our destination from St Pierre to Trois Islet. Why? The weather was predicted to change radically as a low pressure system formed nearby and the trough was tracking directly overhead. Trois Islet affords really good protection, and winds were forecast to go southwest to west, which, indeed they did. Torrential rains and wind to 40 knots came through. We had no problems at all. Can't say the same for those boats anchored in St Annes; lots of drama. Boats dragged; one boat went aground; same story in Rodney Bay. The westerly swell was 3-4' there, hitting the fleet with standing waves and making for a really horrible night. We were thinking of heading up to St Pierre, but a secondary low is forming nearby the first one, and the weather experts aren't quite sure what's going to develope; the next 24 hours should clarify the situation. Meanwhile, we had a lovely game of dominoes aboard sv Gosi (Tom & Barbara) along with Bill & Tracy of sv Zephyr. Good times, dreary weather; patience, grasshopper...
Pic: I caught a nice 2’ wahoo the first morning, sailing along at 7.5 kts, so we had ceviche and have a few meals to look forward to.
Pic: Infini with a black bottom for the first time ever.
Lots of projects have been completed this past week. Our go-to engine guy, Falco, came by to further service the Perkins. The dodger went out to Sean at Superb Canvas for replacement of the old, sun-damaged, clear vinyl windows with Stratoglas; a huge improvement. Mitchell, the welder, finished another engine part that needed replacement, and today, Falco returned to check everything out. We started the engine after first having bled fuel through the injection pump and injectors. The start battery needed replacement; it was purchased in Thailand a bit over 3 years ago and gave good service, but wouldn't hold a charge so it was time. The yard here at Peake's has sanded the bottom, put on a tie coat, and several layers of anti-fouling. This is the first time we've used Seahawk bottom paint, and in black no less. Sue flew in yesterday and returned to find the caprail varnished and the boat looking pretty spiffy (at least I thought so!). She went on a shopping run with Jesse (Members Only Maxi-Taxi Service), easy to arrange over the VHF net which comes on daily at 0800 local, channel 68. So...it's been an exciting week; I think at least as much as went on in the States...Btw, launch is scheduled for Monday, 11-14.
It’s been a busy week, but progress has been made. I suspected a few small leaks we had below were due to old sealant at the stanchion bases so decided to fix that issue. Of course, there was little uniformity about the sizes of the fasteners which held the stanchions to the rail. The biggest job was removing all the stanchions, drilling out the few odd sized machine screw holes, then filling same holes with West epoxy, and finally drilling and tapping these holes for the 3/8-16 SS helicoils (threaded inserts) for the new 3/8 SS machine screws I brought back with me from the States. The machine screws were available here in Trinidad, but very expensive; forget about the price of the helicoils. Anyone who has ever drilled and tapped a hole knows how exact the alignment has to be, in this case through the SS base plate of each stanchion. Working on deck in the 90-95 F degree heat didn’t help matters but everything worked out fine. Other projects: I removed the dodger to have the sun exposed vinyl replaced with Strataglass (Sean of Superb Canvas). After much deliberation, I made arrangements for the yard here (Peake Yacht Services) to do the bottom job. Their price was fair, I supply the paint and primer, and this will avoid the fiasco experienced last year at Power Boats where I ended up doing the job myself. After 30+ years of doing bottom work on our different boats, I figured I deserved a break. I took the MaxProp to Chris Maclaran’s shop here on campus to have it cleaned up; another beautiful job by his crew at a very good price. I wanted to double check the settings recommended for the MaxProp install, but have received confusing phone and email responses from PYI, Inc. I’ve heard similar stories from other cruisers and their MaxProps, so head’s up about that outfit. Hopefully, the settings advised will work out; if not, it’s an expensive haul-out to remedy. I had arranged with Mitchell, the welder at West Coast Fabricators, to fix our aft SS pulpit base which had developed a crack around its round base to the vertical tubing. To weld this, Mitchell needed the pulpit freed up to lift it up from the caprail. Here we go: empty the lazarette, figure out which nuts go to which machine screws on each stanchion base (3 per base), and working alone, get those damn nuts off which appeared not to have been touched since their installation when the boat was built. I must say, access was a bit easier than getting to those nuts at the base of the foot blocks, but I was on my back stretched out in the lazarette, reaching overhead with a headlamp on, but was able to put a vise grips on each nut so I could use a screwdriver up above. Fun and games; the pulpit’s ready for welding. On to the next project...
It was like entering one of those storage lockers you see on Storage Wars. Stuff was everywhere; I struggled to find a place to sit. Fortunately, having had six months to think about things and prioritize, I had a plan. The first thing was to get those foot blocks remounted; a two person job. The amount of room between the hull and the inner bulwark is really, really tight, and in the Westsail, the footblocks are through bolted in a very difficult area to access. Drilling the holes into the new teak pad and down into that space has to be exact; if the hole is off 1/8”, it hits fiberglass; that’s no good as a washer and nut have to go on each of the three bolts. I hired John Francois, the local woodworker here as Peake’s to help me. His shop is fully equipped and the man knows his way around tools. As I expected, with his guidance, the holes were spot on, and then it was up to me to clear out both areas that I needed to squeeze into, reach up over my head with a socket extension (actually, two), and get those washers and nuts on. Mission accomplished, each block was bedded down and it was on to the next project. One of those things I had meant to do four years ago in Hawaii when I designed and installed the expanded PVC bimini was to put in an integral rain catcher. I decided on an eyebrow design, and the pieces, which I had cut and routed beforehand, needed to be held in place above while screw holes were drilled from the bottom, through the bimini, and into each piece. Again, a two person job; between John and I, it was short work. I had already taped off the top as the pieces are glued, then screwed from the bottom onto the bimini, a barbed through hull was placed into each corner, then the seams were sealed with bedding compound. It came out just as I had envisioned and looks great. The really good news is that after John left, I was able to start putting together the port quarter berth and move stuff from the salon back into that area. Now you see why those foot blocks had to be installed first off; everything else got stuffed onto that berth! Things were looking up. I had to manhandle the large mainsail out of the salon and up the companionway myself; another two person job that got done by one person, me! The staysail is much smaller, fenders and oars followed up to the deck, more "stuff" was moved onto that quarter berth and, voila, there was a lot more space in the salon. Even the V-berth has now been organized. The air-cooled refridge has been working well, and that cold beer was well deserved; not a bad pace for the first couple of days back.
Unfortunately, from Tampa to Port of Spain, Trinidad on American Airlines there are only two flights daily, one in the early morning, which means you have to get up about 0300 to get ready and get to the airport, and the other in the early afternoon, which lands late enough to get to the boatyard near midnight. The connecting flight goes through Miami either way, and the only reason I mention this is that the layover between the early morning flights is about one hour. Yes, if the plane is delayed, or you sit towards the back of the plane and have to wait for everybody to get off, chances are good that you’re going to miss that flight to Trinidad. So…I found myself walking at a really fast clip, checking the flight board to make sure the gate hadn’t been changed (that’s happened before), and making it to the departure gate with less than 10 minutes to spare to boarding. Not too bad, especially dragging along one carry-on bag, a very full backpack, and a large laptop computer case. The $11 extra charge for that seat on the aisle toward the front of the plane was money well spent. The line through Immigration at Port of Spain is always long, but the very nice Official stamped 3 months in my passport, and I was off to luggage claim and Customs. Boat parts for Yachts in Transit aren’t taxed here, which is one reason to haul out in Trinidad. However, again there are long lines and wait times, and it’s necessary to go immediately from Customs at the airport to Customs at Crews Inn, Chagauramas (as an aside, this is where you check in when arriving by yacht into Chagauramas) to declare the boat parts you’ve brought in (you need a copy of original invoicing) and where your baggage is inspected; then you’re officially cleared in. It was late afternoon and we encountered the daily rush hour traffic back to Chagauramas but again, the Customs Official was very accommodating and in about 15 minutes I was all set to go to the boatyard. Infini was sitting where I left her in June and looked pretty good, but I forgot to ask the office to have a ladder waiting, so didn’t go aboard. I’m staying in the hotel at Peake’s for a few nights while I organize the boat to be habitable again, so I put all my bags in the room, went upstairs to the Zanzibar Restaurant to get a beer to go sit downstairs by the water, and called Sue to check in. It’s been a long day but it’s good to be back. Work starts tomorrow.
Hi all! Our time back in the States is winding down and we're making preparations to return to Infini soon. We've had a few changes we'd like to share. First off, we no longer have a SailMail email address. To contact us, please use the svinfini email address found in the header to the left side or our other email addresses many of you have, as we expect to find internet wifi throughout our next cruising season. We may also be reached by email at our HAM call sign address: KJ4IHF at winlink dot org, but SSB radio connection issues occasionally do occur, so please be advised we may not be able to retrieve your emails as expeditiously at that address. Next, for the last 10 years, Sue has used Picasa web albums to share our pictures on this blog. Google+ has recently integrated the Picasa platform, and unfortunately, no common url was found to transfer those 200+ albums as they were. What that means is that Sue has had to transfer each album separately so that each may be viewed in this blog, but the sequence of the albums has been reversed...the oldest is now the first album viewed, and our most recent albums are found at the bottom after much scrolling. If any of you know how to change that on Google+, please let us know. As far as following us along by pressing the button to the left which activates Shiptrak, that function seems to work pretty well with one notable exception; our passage from Australia to Thailand. Some cloud based snafu resulted in all those positions being permanently deleted and they are unable to be retrieved; we'll just have to live with that one. Also, please note that we intentionally did not use Shiptrak regularly throughout various portions of our Indian Ocean transit due to security concerns present at that time. As usual, we'll continue to update this blog and wish you all safe travels wherever you are. Please keep in touch and let us know how you're coming along. Cheers!
Pic: The view from our mooring of the Power Boats complex.
Pic: Andy blowing the conch shell at sundown; M giving it a good try. More practice needed!
Pic: Even before our anchor was set, Gregory was by with his veggie boat....we always need something!
Pic: Infini's the only sailboat here. View from the 4 Seasons Restaurant.
Pic: Always entertaining watching the different classes of sailing instruction. Amazing how they maneuver amongst the moored boats and many fast ferries.
Pic: Arriving Hermitage Bay
Pic: On one of the beaches at Great Bird Island; our morning excursion waiting for the sun to be overhead.
Pic: Sonja having a go at the helm.
Pic: Showing Sonja around Nelson's Dockyard (The Pillars)
You Tube video link: https://youtu.be/9r2qWBjCmzg
Pic: It was great seeing Stuart and Shelia again, as Imagine is heading back to the states.
Pic: Can't get enough of the beautiful sunsets...
At anchor, we stared across at Fort Berkeley, so started our day by walking there. Back-tracking just a little bit, we took the path that leads up and over to Pidgeon Beach. This is a billy goat path, up some fairly slippery rocks and narrow areas. We reached our objective, but since I really don't enjoy billy goat hiking, I wouldn't do this hike again, albeit the scenery and views were awesome. Later in the afternoon, David, Marion and ourselves walked up from Galleon Beach to the Shirley Heights Lookout Restaurant. Not such a bad hike, vertical but not slippery, and the views from the top across English Harbour were impressive, as were the 10 EC beer prices. For dinner, we decided to forego the crowds at the Lookout and hiked back down, dinghied to the dinghy dock, and walked the main road until we got to the Le Cap Horn Pizzeria Restaurant where we had delicious appetizers (salad with scallops and bacon) and pizzas. A wonderful way to end the day.
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The Cheeky Marlin on Galleon Beach was closed when we checked it out.
Pic: VC Bird Monument near the central market, downtown St. John
Pic: The entrance to English Harbor and our anchorage in Freeman's Bay, taken from Fort Berkley
Pic The west coast of Guadeloupe was a pleasure to behold
Pic: An awful design for a mooring. We added a line from the end of our bowsprit to hold the buoy off when slack tide/no wind.
Pic: The Boat House, built in 1942, now the residence of a medical doctor.
Pic: Michael enjoying the blast of water from the falls.
Pic: We found great free internet at the Schoelcher Library; quite an impressive building! The library was first built in France back in 1889, then shipped piece by piece to the island as an exquisite monument to Victor Schoelcher the French abolitionist writer from the early 19th century.
Pic: You'd never know Hanne was a rookie at snorkeling...not anymore. Another natural fish in the water!