Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St. Maarten, December 2012

St Maarten December 2012
Tuesday 4 December – Wednesday 26 December
We had a wonderful fast sail from Barbuda to St Maarten on a beautiful sunny day. We had originally planned to stop for an overnight anchorage at Colombier Bay on St Barts but we were making such good time it was only 2:30 when we reached St Barts, so we kept going all the way to St Maarten. Passing by Philipsburg the Dutch side capital 4 cruise ships were in. We make it to Simpson Bay by 5 and have to circle around to wait for the 5:30 opening so we can enter the lagoon. As we go thru the bridge and pass by the SMYC (St. Martin Yacht Club) we see friends George & Jan Todd, who are there using internet and watching the boats come in. For tonight’s 5:30 bridge opening, only one mega yacht behind us coming thru. We get in and anchor in “our old spot”, which is luckily open, we have arrived a day earlier than planned and as the sun is setting we do not want to look around for another spot to anchor. George & Jan come by in their dinghy to welcome us to St Maarten. They are going to drop their computers off at their NEW boat and then come back to pick us up so we can go to dinner and catch up on the last weeks happenings. Between our boat problems and their purchase of a new boat, a lot as taken place since we saw them in Guadeloupe. They are now the proud new owners of a huge 57 foot Catamaran and have been transferring all their “stuff” from their old boat Wild Thing a 473 Beneteau (now for sale) and trying to learn their new boat and all its systems. We make plans to go into Lagoon Marina which is right next door to Maintec the company that will be replacing our “windows” but another boat is in our spot so we have to wait until 4 before getting to the dock. During the day Steve is running around making contact with several of the vendors we would be using to see when we could set up jobs. The sail maker is free so we take the main down so it will be ready to off load when we get to the dock, his shop is right at the marina. The leech line always seemed to be to loose so Steve wanted it fixed (again). This time the main is being re-cut to a better shape and then fixing the leech line. In the meantime we have now also discovered our freezer is NOT working. We call Jan & George to see if they can turn on their freezer so we can store our food. I start putting things in coolers and cleaning up the melt while Steve goes to check in with the marina. While checking in Bernard, the marina manager says there is an excellent refrigeration shop on the ground floor below the marina office, and the owner is in at the moment. Steve zooms downstairs to find the guy just closing up, and at his request for help says he is booked thru the 1st of the year. Steve just starts talking about our system and problem and the guy gets intrigued as he had not heard of it before. So he comes out to take a look, we are only 50 yards away from his office. He helps diagnose the problem which turns out to just be the thermostat and he gives us a replacement to be sold the next day when his computer is back up. His shop has a freezer so he turns it on and we just leave our things in there. Call Jan & George who have finally learned how to turn their new freezer on to tell them we won't need it after all. When we docked we noticed the boat across from us was the same one that was next to us down in Trinidad over a year ago and had a small fire. We say Hi and ask for no fires this time. Get the water tanks filled and get cleaned up, by this time it is after 7 and we are too tired to launch the dinghy to join Jan & George at a pizza place by their marina so we just eat at Lagoonies the restaurant at our marina. Thursday Dave from Maintec shows up to show us how to start taking the hatch plexiglass out and cleaning up the windows. He tells us a great tip to tape up a garbage bag under the window so the debris falls into it. We are taking the “windows” out and getting all the Sikaflex, a black sealant/ adhesive removed from the plexiglass to use as a template to cut the new ones and then we have to clean it ALL out of the frames. A VERY messy and painstakingly slow task. The frames must be totally clean of all residue from the old adhesive. As much as we tried, it was very windy during this time, stray black flex’s went everywhere even the vacuum could not get them all. As Steve and I were cleaning the frames the guys in the shop were cutting the new “glass” making sure of the fit. Next they helped put the new seals in, the ones we got right before leaving Grenada. Had to put blue tape around the plexiglass and the frames then put primer around the plexi – also black and messy then put new Sikaflex in around the “glass” and the frame letting it harden overnight. Cleaning all the hardware (handles & hinges) re-bedding them and cleaning up the excess Sikaflex that oozed out. We only got 2 a day done except the last day when we did 2 small ones and the big one over the front storage area. In between we were doing a few other things like putting in the new thermostat for the freezer – we did that first thing Thursday. Picking up and installing a new hot water heater !! Another messy and hard job. Finding a new computer for me so I can now type with the letters E,R,D,& X :). Had the broken feed pump for the water maker removed and ordered a new one. Got the main sail back and put it back up, should have waited on a less windy day for that job as I almost got launched off the boat holding the end when we had to retie the out-haul line. We later replaced that out-haul line with a smaller but stronger line as the old one was stiff & swollen and did not go thru the rope clutch as easy as it should. After replacement the clutch was still very hard to work, and Steve discovered the problem was a roller bearing encrusted with salt and calcium that wasn't rolling any more. A generous dousing with water to dissolve the salt followed by vinegar to dissolve the calcium got it working freely again, and then he did the same for all the other clutches. We did manage a few fun things during all the work. Shopping at Ace, Jan & I went over to Marigot one afternoon for a little lady shopping. We went out to dinner several times as the boat was such a mess with all the on going work and Steve was too tired to cook. Jan & George were busy setting up their new boat and cleaning up Wild Thing to get hauled out and put on the hard until she sells or gets moved back to the states. They still managed to have time to cook 2 dinners for us in their big new kitchen and salon area. One place we went is a new Thai restaurant - PanLaan, that we found right here in the lagoon with it's own dinghy dock and GREAT Thai food. This all took place in our first week here in St Maarten !! Thursday December 13 Jan & George fly back to Texas for the Christmas holiday, we finish up with the hatches. Friday we start on the portholes, these are the much smaller side “windows” and since they come out easier Steve is able to take them over to the shop to work on them, we get 4 done on Friday. FKG a marine fabricating and rigging company is working on our security grate for the companion way, so they are back and forth to the boat getting it fitted. Feel really good about this extra security measure we are taking. That evening FKG had a company holiday party for customers and staff, free drinks and food, a lot of really good food and plenty to drink. Saturday Steve had to change out the heating element in our new water heater, they had given us a 220v instead of a 120v , so it worked, just not as fast or efficiently as it should. Luckily this was an “easy” task, especially compared to installing the water heater. We went for a late lunch then caught the bus to Philipsburg to look for a 2 TB hard drive (computer stores nearby only had 1TB's) to use to back up my new computer. Only 2 cruise ships in today so shops & streets were not to busy, and it was nice to walk around have a drink on the boardwalk before catching the bus back. Sunday another late lunch then a dinghy ride around the lagoon enjoying the fresh air and a relaxing day before the work starts up again on Monday. Monday & Tuesday we finish up with the portholes. The boat is still a MESS from workers and us going on & off and Steve's tools he has been using still all out and needing to stay out for a few more days to be used before we can start to clean up. Wednesday & Thursday the days blurred together as we finish clean up on all the hatches & portholes and try to start putting away some tools. We had sprung a leak in the hot water hose that runs along the back of the boat to the cockpit hose. NOT that we have a hot water connection there, but in case we ever do the hose is ready. It leaks down into the engine compartment, so when we went to fix the insulation around the engine we had to first fix the leak then mop up all the water. The insulation was flaking and getting really messy, it needed a new rubber coating painted on so we could reattach the noise reduction material we had put on and was peeling back. Thursday morning on the cruisers net we hear that friends Jan & Larry on Sea Bear have arrived in St Maarten. I try to call them later to say Hi but get no answer on the VHF radio, later as we are finishing lunch at Lagoonies they come up in their dinghy. We switch to a bigger table and spend some time catching up with them. Back to the boat to finish up whichever mess we were working on before lunch. Friday we start working on the anchor chain, we had decided to get new chain while here so went by IWW to pick up the new chain. Back to the boat, unload the 120 feet of new chain from the dinghy onto the side deck of the boat and measure out and mark 50, 75 & 100 foot spots (so we know how much chain we have out) . Guys from FKG came by for our rigging inspection, good news we do not need to replace that yet but they did say in the next year before going into the Pacific to get it done. While up the mast Steve had him replace our anchor light that had burned out our 2nd night in Barbuda. That done we use the halyard line to lift the anchor off the boat and onto the dock and start handing the chain & rode over to the dock. Steve works at undoing the shackle and tries to get our swivel off with no luck. The anchor is free from the chain so we lift it back onto the deck of the boat for the night for safe keeping. Steve goes to budget Saturday morning to get a new swivel. We decide to go make a grocery store run before boat work so get our cart out to go up to Grand Marche. Taking the dinghy to the dock at PDP (Port de Plaisance) the grocery store is a short walk up the road the cart will help bring the heavy stuff back. Back to the boat, groceries put away, have lunch and then get to work putting the anchor & new chain back together. New swivel attached, new shackle and we had switched rope ends so Steve had to splice the rope back to the chain then we had to put length markers on the line also before feeding it back into the anchor well. Once we got down to 20 feet of chain we used the halyard again to lift the anchor up and drop it in the water right in front of the boat using the windlass to bring it up the last few feet. Sunday we sleep in and get up to a cool cloudy day, high temp of only 80° and it took till noon to get that warm, the afternoon is spent CLEANING / scrubbing the deck of the boat. We were worried about some of the black marks coming up but with a little scrub pad they did and it felt so good to have a clean boat again!! Monday Christmas Eve Day, hard to believe it is Christmas. We had been so busy with all the boat work did not get out to see the towns at night to see decorations. Lagoonies the restaurant by our marina did put up some lights and decorated a plant like a Christmas tree and had some Christmas Carols & Santa for the kids one night BUT we have not had time to visit the more festive areas. But it is a sunny day and we are happy to be on the beautiful island of St Martin. Steve replaced the steaming light that we had discovered the lens was gone and not sure when but some time ago based on the corrosion on the old one. I cleaned the inside of the boat, between being in the yard in Antigua and our boat work as well as others around the dock it needed a good cleaning. With the holiday's no one was sanding or sawing wood creating more dirt in the air so a good time to clean even if it is a holiday. Christmas Eve night we went over to a local restaurant & bar, Barnacles, with Jan & Larry from Sea Bear and Dana & Wayne from Journey. Barnacles is a popular cruisers place and they have great happy hours BUT the food they had this night was really bad, a Greek lasagna that was really JUST macaroni, cheese & a little sauce. We were with good company so it was still a fun evening. Tuesday Christmas day !!! One more boat project that of course took longer then planned. The rig inspectors had told Steve to put in 2 plastic washers at two stress points on the boom hinges. NOT so easy lifting the weight of the boom to get the washers in but we finally managed. Then called it quits to enjoy the rest of the day. Making Skype calls to family and preparing a dish to bring to Sea Bear for dinner. We go over around 3:30 to enjoy a few cocktails and horderves with Dana & Wayne also. Our hostess Jan & Larry have made a turkey and stuffing along with carrots potatoes and brussel sprouts (she's English) Steve made a wild rice, leek & butternut squash dish and Dana made a wonderful banana rum raisin desert. It was a wonderful meal and great company to share the day with. Back to the boat and a few more Skype calls before the end of the day. Wednesday, 12/26 AKA Boxing Day, and it has been a busy three weeks since we arrived. We had a nice easy morning and early afternoon then just when I thought there would be no boat projects Steve informed otherwise. He just needed to tighten the bolts where the arch connects to the boat on the starboard side. They had worked themselves loose, over the last year. This was supposed to be a quick easy job, don't really think there is such a thing on a boat. Steve had to crawl down into the stern hull of the boat to get to where he needed to tighten the nuts and put lock nuts on. NOT an easy spot to get to or to work in. He had trouble getting them tight until he found some metric size ones that fit better. Semi cleaned up and tools put away, we went over to a small island in the bay on the French side to join fellow cruisers gathering there for an afternoon BBQ & HH to watch the sun set. A nice time meeting some more people from boats, we head back to our boat just after sunset. Since we were not really hungry before 6 we opted to just bring a snack and cook dinner back at the boat. Our list of To – Do is almost complete, main thing now is waiting for the water maker feed pump, the one that came in was the wrong one so another should be here by the end of the week. So that is boat maintenance in paradise for sure. Our first 3 weeks in St Maarten have been busy and very productive. We are hoping the next 3 will be more about fun things and look forward to seeing some of the beautiful anchorages around the island. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guadeloupe, Antigua & Barbuda

Guadeloupe, Antigua & Barbuda
Friday 23 November - Tuesday 4 December

We are under way by noon for a short sail over to Iles de Saints, Guadeloupe and are moored off Terre de Haut by 3. Steve & George go to clear in, a nice afternoon swim before showers and into dinner. George had asked for a recommendation from the customs guy then took a walk to find the place to make reservations. It was a great place called Les Petits Saints and we all had wonderful meals. Saturday Jan & George went in early to the veggie market and we passed them as we were going in, me to browse the stores so Jan climbed into our dinghy too come with me. Steve went to market while Jan & I had a few hours to shop. The French shops are so much fun to look through!! Steve comes back to pick us up at noon when all the stores close for lunch. We go back to our boats for lunch and another swim. Dinner Saturday night at Les Amandiers NOT as good a choice as only 2 out of 4 meals were okay and setting not as nice either. A pleasant evening for a stroll through town. Sunday we are under way by 7 to head to Deshaies on the north west end of Guadeloupe. We have a great sail across the channel towards the main land hitting 10.6 knots surfing down a wave in a 26 knot wind gust. Then just north of the capital Basse Terre the winds die, soon after we get the sail rolled up, the winds pick back up but now from the north west so we get to sail on the opposite tack the rest of the way into Deshaies. We get anchored by 12:30 shortly before the heavy rains start. We get a few breaks in the rain, one we use to go into town to stretch our legs. Just after dark a charter catamaran comes in and picks up a locals private mooring next to us. They are too big to be on that mooring and too close, but we wait to see what will happen. Jan & George come over for another joint dinner, afterward the catamaran winds up moving after drifting almost onto our bow between their hulls. Luckily even though they were French, they spoke good English and understood to move. Monday we are under way by 7 as we both have long trips ahead of us. Ocean Star headed to Antigua and Jan & George on Wild Thing headed for Nevis & St Kitts. Winds & waves are greater then predicted so we have a fast and not so comfortable trip. Arriving at Jolly Harbour, Antigua Monday at noon after a "frisky" sail from Guadeloupe. We check in & get anchored and then wonder why the bilge pump keeps running so often. We'd taken quite a bit of water over the bow plus some heavy sprays that found their way into the companionway BUT not enough to have the bilge pump running. So we started looking and cleaning but it took us until Tuesday morning to find the leak, which turned out to be a cracked through hull fitting, between the hull and shutoff valves. It was small, only about 4 liters/hr, but we were concerned it could become much worse on a beat to St. Martin, so we opted for a quick haul out Tuesday to replace the fitting. It broke in half with just a minor amount of effort once we were hauled,so we were quite glad we had the haul out. Then as boat maintenance in paradise works things snowballed, Steve decided to replace the zincs, even though the old ones looked pretty good, just because it was easy. But a check of the shaft revealed the cutless bearing had to be replaced. The easiest way to do that was to remove the prop, which turned out to be not easy at all because of one frozen bolt. We ran over our quick haul sling time and had to be blocked and chocked in the yard to finish. The prop finally came off around 5, too late to finish for the day. Plus a crack was found in the rudder that needs to be ground down and fiber glassed. An expensive day. It took another two days plus the weekend to finish repairs. On the plus side, Budget Marine & Laundry are right here in the yard & it's a nice view despite the mosquitoes!! and it is a short walk to the stores and restaurants. Yes we still love this life. Wednesday the prop job gets finished and the rudder started. I get the laundry done (small load as this is one of the more expensive places) and work on the blog (still w/o letters E,R,D,X) NOT easy typing! Steve changes the zincs on the bow thruster and gets the generator pulley back to re-install. Oh that G word again, forgot to mention we had to have the generator worked on again. The pulley we had made in Grenada, while a great idea was not done with the best material so we had it upgraded and it is now working great again (for now/knock wood). The marina put us in touch with a very nice young man, Anthony Duncan(720-6884) who came out to look at my keyboard. Steve had opened the back up and just shaking it, got the keys to wok ONCE more, but then they stopped again. Anthony took the keyboard out and cleaned the connections but informed me on Thursday when he brought it back that those letters still won't work, so I am using the on screen keyboard for the letters E,R,D,X & now #'s 4&5. Thursday morning Steve got a little panicked when Tony, the guy doing our rudder repair did not show up, and did not answer his phone. Long story short, he had told several “others” he had to do something else in the morning and would be at the yard after lunch. Would have saved Steve some aggravation if he had told us, but he finally showed up an continued the job. Friday morning the rudder gets primed & painted and we get launched back into the water at 11. Quick stop at the fuel dock and store and we head out and over to the next bay, Five Islands Harbour and are anchored by 2 for a late lunch. It feels so good to be back at anchor we have a nice breeze that helps chase some of the mosquitoes away, but I am still tying to hunt them down and kill them Friday night. Saturday we are under way by 7:30 and have a nice sail up to Barbuda. This is our fist time here, and we are reminded why we love this life so much. The thrill of seeing some place new, coming into a beautiful anchorage makes it easy to forget the frustrations of things breaking and making repairs or finding someone to do the repairs. We are anchored by 12:30 with 4 other boats along 11 miles of white sand beach in turquoise water. Barbuda is a a good size island, about ½ the size of its sister nation island Antigua, BUT with only 2000 inhabitants compared to Antigua’s 80,000. One main village of Codrington, with a HUGE lagoon about 5 miles long & 2 wide BUT NO access for big boats. It is mostly miles & miles of white sand beaches and a lot of coal reefs. It is flat & limestone like the Bahamas with shallow waters, the sandy bottom making it hard to determine depth. Shortly after we have anchored, using the binoculars I see the next boat up from us is S/V Toodles, friends we met down in Grenada Kate & Gary. Call them on the VHF to say hi, and they are going on the frigate bird sanctuary tour at 1:30. By now it is 1 so we eat a fast lunch and meet them on the beach. They have a HUGE frigate bird rookery on Barbuda, and our timing is good as this is mating season so we get a good show of the males inflating their red pouch and making all kinds of noise to attract the female who does the choosing. The lagoon is also home to strange upside-down jellyfish that the bottom is covered with. Steve asked our guide, who is standing in the water barefoot, I guess they don't sting? Wrong !! they do but our guide (Solomon) said they the locals are used to it and use Vaseline to prevent the sting. I got the creeps just looking at them. The sanctuary is part of the lagoon and you can only go in with a guide, who also act as water taxi to take you over to town. If you have a small light weight dinghy (like our old one) you could carry it across the thin strip of land and use your own dinghy to cross the lagoon to town. After our frigate bird experience Kate & Gary go back to their boat but Steve & I use the guide to go across to town (NO WAY are we carrying our new dinghy across). Does not take long to walk through town, as it is a small quiet place. As mentioned in the guide books all the homes and businesses have fences around their yards. This is to keep the wild donkeys and deer out of their yards, and it is quite evident that they roam free as you must also watch where you step as you walk the streets. Back to the boat where Steve still has time to see if he can find out why the water-maker is not working which was discovered on our trip over from Antigua!!! We had been waiting to make water until the generator was repaired so did not realize it was not working until underway to Barbuda. Steve can't fix it so we are in conserve water mode, on an already low supply. Where is the rain when you want it ?! Sunday we have a relaxing day and just swim off the boat and take the dinghy over to a reef to go snorkeling. Barbuda is known for its good snorkeling but either due to the weather or maybe just this location the visibility is very poor. As I mentioned, this is a sandy bottom and this kind of sand gets stirred up and floats in the water greatly reducing visibility. The reef was a good size one and if we could have seen might have been fun, as it was we had a hard time maneuvering, all of a sudden you would come up to a high spot you could not swim over and have to find a way around it. It felt good just to be in the water! On the way back we stopped by the beach in front of us, where they are trying to sell some lots. Not sure about the selling part as our understanding is only Barbudians can own land on Barbuda. BUT can't think of a worse location if a hurricane came through and the sand fleas on this part of the beach were really really bad!! Monday we go over to "town" and rent bikes to ride across the island to the high spot, The Highlands, at 125 feet. This is a perfect island for bike riding nice and flat :) except if you take a wrong turn and go off road to a trail it can get a little bumpy. We make it to over to Two Foot Bay and the "caves" have a nice picnic lunch and some great views before riding back. There are 2 other main anchorages, one we could easily go to the other not but we have a water shortage situation and decide to cut our visit short and leave Tuesday 12/4 to sail over to St. Martin where we will add fix water-maker to our list of to do projects to do while there.

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