Familiar Neighborhoods

A question that often comes up among the “newbie cruisers” we meet (and some friends ashore) is “don’t you get bored seeing the same places all the time”? I can understand the newbies concern. After all, they are out cruising to see new destinations every day. It a big world and there is not enough time to see it all. I’m amused about the question from friends ashore. These people lived in the same house or neighborhood almost their entire life and never complained about being bored with that.

I bring this up as, yes, we did go cruising to see new lands (or islands). Its 12 years in and we certainly only “scratched the surface” of the earth seeking new lands (or islands). But a funny thing happens while cruising, you get to really like certain areas and no one gives you a gold star for the number of places you stepped foot on. In our case, the neighborhood is almost 500 mile long, contains over 10 different countries, various cultures, food cuisines, languages and personalities. And no snow.

So, after 12 years island hopping our neighborhoods, we came to like them all. We just traveled up to St Maarten/St Martin for 3 weeks after a 5 year hiatus. It felt like visiting an old friend. The shawarma vendor, Little Jerusalem is still there, although a new place seems to offer better fare. Lagoonies is still the hangout for cruisers although the Naked Pirate is eager to offer some competition. The same Dutch priest still says the 5PM Sunday mass with a musical track provided by the keyboard player. Other locals are still around, both on the French and Dutch side of the island. Some things did change. The old carousel ice cream place (with a real Carousel) no longer has a Carousel. Some French restaurants haven’t recover from the hurricane a few years ago but Thursday nights at the French town of Gran Cas is resuming after the hurricane/pandemic interruption.

But the point is that far from being bored with the island, it was hard to leave after only 3 weeks. We do call ourselves cruisers but living in a neighborhood nearly 500 miles long is not boring. And did I mention that there is no snow?

The cruising part is the sailing between islands. These sails can last 6 to 12 hours and can entail ocean type seas and weather. Jumping over islands can be overnight sails or a few days. That brings me to our sail from St Martin to Antigua. The winds were again forecast from the North East, but like the sail to St Martin, the wind was more like East North East. This meant we were sailing more directly into the wind and seas. Not terrible, but not a walk in the park. With these winds, sailing further west to the U.S.V.I. is not attractive. As much as we like the U.S.V.I, we will forgo them at this time and decided to head south.

We again stopped in St. Barts overnight to cut down on sailing at night. After we left St. Barts heading to Antigua, Otto (Otto, the Dark Lord of Direction, Ray, the Guiding Hand of the Helm and the Lady of Perpetual Steering, that I wrote about previously) kept tripping the circuit breaker. Remember we had trouble with the breaker after leaving St. Anne, Martinique. This time I couldn’t switch it out for another as I was not sure that was the problem. It only tripped when it was steering, not on standby. In any case, we faced sailing for at least 10 hours hand steering in lumpy seas with head winds.

This was the first time we faced a long passage without the auto pilot (ok, 10 hours is not really that long – unless you have to steer constantly). But I was pleasantly surprised when Kalunamoo decided to steer herself. Balancing the sail trim, Kalunamoo can stay on course indefinitely with only minor tweaks on the wheel. One of the benefits of hydraulic steering is that the rudder is constantly “locked” by the position of the helm. No break or securing the helm is needed to lock the rudder. Turning the wheel can easily tweak a degree or two of rudder angle and keep the boat on course. Actually, our track was much better steering this way than with Otto in control. And it was not tiring at all.

Before arriving in Antigua, I noticed a small diesel fuel leak by the injector pump (we did some motor sailing in and out of port). Our intended over night stay in Antigua and then a sail to Guadeloupe became a formal check-in and two-night stay in Antigua. Both issues were resolved. Gordon on COHO had a spare circuit breaker which was the problem (I hope, as a real test is when we sail “out there”) and the fuel leak was fixed by new copper washers at one of the fuel lines. We are now ready to continue to sail south and meet up with other cruisers and revisit our other neighborhoods. The Salty Dawgs have plans for gatherings in Dominica and then Martinique. Well, welcome to the neighborhood.      

Back on Board

Vacation in New York was wonderful. It was cold, but still wonderful. We are now back onboard to return to the drudgery of relentlessly warm Caribbean sun, the absolute perfect water temperatures, the rhum that’s always smooth and potent, and the pleasures that always flow (mostly).

Kalunamoo received from Santa over 70 lbs. of adornments. These were carried in our luggage and back pack on the flight from New York to Antigua. One of the good things about Antigua, there are no hassles when you bring things like chart plotters, electric cables, diesel engine parts, generator mother boards, propane tanks parts, refrigerator parts, oil and fuel filters, computer printer, can goods, electrical relays, timers and meters, microphones, microphone stands, amplifier speaker, solar panel controllers, and boat fenders. They are all routine personal items in our luggage. Just like what other tourist bring on their vacation.

Other countries are not so accommodating when arriving with stuff like that. Grenada, in particular, was upset one time when we flew in with one small outboard motor propeller in our luggage. Besides the paperwork that is required, an import tax is assessed on things like that. We pleaded that it was just a poor refurbished propeller that somehow got mixed up with our underwear and so sorry we didn’t declare it and hoped that it would not impact the Grenadian economy by not paying the import fee. They let us go through. Trinidad wouldn’t impose any import tax, but the paperwork and procedures is enough to give one pause before bringing things in (although we do it all the time).

Santa was very generous and Kalunamoo really appreciated the thoughtful gifts that arrived. Like all other dads and moms, we spent days reading instructions and putting things together so that Kalunamoo could fully enjoy the assembled presents.

While in Antigua, we spent a few days in Jolly Harbor Marina installing those presents . We were awakened at midnight on the 31st as we understand that the New Year brings out those who like to see and hear fireworks at midnight. Odd. We went back to sleep. We then moved out to the anchorage for a few more days and then sailed north.

The easterly trades were moderate but they tended to clock to the south east on the day we sailed. The seas were still running 6 foot short swells from the east from the previous week’s stronger trades. What this meant was that the sail up toward St Martin was with wind well down on our quarter with a cross swell. It was not a terrible sail, but neither was it particularly enjoyable. At times, with the wind shifting dead astern, we needed to jibe to maintain any speed. We anchored in Columbier, St. Barts at sunset and the next morning made the final 2 hour sail to St Maarten (the Dutch side) in the same weather conditions.

Coming from New York, bridge tolls are the norm. Any substantial waterway that a normal car can’t traverse without sinking has a toll bridge. This is not strictly true as the city fathers know that knowledgeable New Yorkers could always find a way not to use a bridge and so not all bridges have tolls. But, of course, New York City is made up of islands and is not connected to the mainland (the rest of the United States). Therein, tolls are ubiquitous and not cheap.

Simpson Bay Bridge

I write the above because when you sail to St Maarten (the Dutch side) there are two bridges that vehicles use to traverse their island. These bridges need to open to let boats taller than about 15’ pass under. The bridge toll, however, is levied on the vessels, not the vehicles using the bridge. Now, remember history. New York City (New Amsterdam) was founded by the Dutch. Somewhere along the way, someone decided to toll cars vs. boats in New York but not here. The British, of course, were involved in this history at some point and the revolution etc. so I’m not sure who’s to blame. In any case, to make a long story short (too late!), you need to pay a bridge toll here, not to go over it, despite the fact it is designed to specifically accommodate vehicles, but to go under it. To add insult to injury, they made it so low that it must be opened so that most boats can go through. In other words, boats pay not to use a roadway but are charged for the engineer’s neglect to make it high enough to go under! It cost us $21 each way not to drive over the bridge. In New York, the Verrazzano Bridge cost $10.17 to drive over it and nothing to sail under it. We have not been here since 2017 but when we paid the toll, the receipt showed that we last paid the toll in 2017. Apparently, they keep good records. But the big story is not the tolls. The bridge is famous for watching the big boys go thru it. It’s a spectator sport.

As you can see the bridge is not that big and yet mega boats have to navigate them. Some of them not so successfully. Here is one video of what can happen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRVWr4sIyCs

Swiming with Lee and Sharon, ALLEGRO

We anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon in St Martin (French side) after paying the toll. This saved us Customs and Immigration fees to the Dutch authorities (after all, they got the bridge tolls). The Lagoon is completely protected from any swells. Unfortunately, it is not recommended to swim in it so we dinghy to the outside to go swimming. The bay on the French side is better for swimming. You have to go under the French bridge, but there is no charge – viva la France. The problem is that there is a very narrow and shallow channel beyond the French bridge to the anchorage area.

We haven’t been here in about 5 years and in the interim there was a hurricane that caused substantial damage. Most damages have been repaired but there are still some businesses that have not returned. There is plenty of restaurants (both on the Dutch and French side) and, ship chandleries with tax free supplies which are always welcomed.

The French bridge

While here we are meeting cruisers that we haven’t seen in years, (Wahoo, Persephone), Salty Dawg cruisers we met recently (Fayaway) in Antigua and the musical family we have known from New York (Stell N Snuggs).

Stell N Snugs
Jam with Dave, Trudie, John, Chris

We plan to sail to the U.S. Virgins but are awaiting a good weather window. We don’t want to replay the down-wind sail that we had to get here. No rush to move on, especially going west which means that we will eventually need to go east – basically upwind! Maybe we will stay long enough to do some Out and About here.

Vacation Time

It’s time for a vacation. We will be flying up to New York for two weeks to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. This vacation from the drudgery of living in Paradise is much anticipated. The relentlessly warm Caribbean sun, the absolutely perfect water temperatures, the rhum that’s always smooth and potent, and the pleasures that always flow is wearing.

We were warned that retirement is a dangerous time. More so because you have more time to do what you will, which apparently, is dangerous. Unless, we were told, you had “something to do”. The “something to do” was a directive that seemed at odds of what “retirement” seemed to entail. Nonetheless, we heeded this advice and decided to live on a sailboat in Paradise when we retired. That was almost 13 years ago. Well, the “something to do” is named Kalunamoo.

I have written extensively about those something and somethings that occupy our time aboard and we don’t hold a grudge against Kalunamoo. After all, we are abiding by the prime directive of retirement – have something to do. No regrets, and we are thankful for the constantly evolving somethings.

But this is not about that. This is about vacations. Vacations are the requisite pursuit of a change of circumstances, temporarily replacing the routine with novel surroundings to reclaim a certain psychological adjustment and acceptance of an otherwise, at best, mundane or at worst an intolerable life venue.

It comes to this. Our life venue, as mentioned above includes the relentlessly warm Caribbean sun, the absolutely perfect water temperatures, the rhum that’s always smooth and potent, and the pleasures that always flow. What adjustments are needed? But that is not really important. What is important is the substitution of your routine with novel surroundings.

So with that in mind, we are off on a vacation. We will find that these novel surroundings require quite a bit of adjustments on our side. The first that comes to mind is the amount and type of clothing that is required. I understand that outside air temperatures may actually be below 70 degrees. It will indeed be odd wearing footwear (in itself odd) that you can’t see your toes in. I hope my feet can take the loss of sand as well as I can take the added weight of heavy outerwear. The thought of lying in bed without the possibility of being tossed out of it because it tilts will be interesting. The fact that the house probably will not wander off with us in it may keep me up at night. We are not sure if the sound of rain wouldn’t compel us to close every open window, especially those on the roof.

Of course, we will be with family and friends that we do miss (Disclaimer – the previous statement, although accurate, implies a certain negativity on our part that may not apply at all times). Christmas and New Year’s is a wonderful time that we love sharing with loved ones (Disclaimer – we are flying back before the New Year). But the time we are there, our vacation will recharge our mental state to face the rigors of life in Paradise – the relentlessly warm Caribbean sun, the absolutely perfect water temperatures, the rhum that’s always smooth and potent, and the pleasures that always flow (Disclaimer – sometimes the rhum is not that smooth).

No doubt we will enjoy our vacation and wish we could spend more time with those who live so far away. But, like all vacations, their end is always bittersweet. The return to the drudgery of relentlessly warm Caribbean sun, the absolutely perfect water temperatures, the rhum that’s always smooth and potent, and the pleasures that always flow will be faced with stout perseverance and forbearance. When is the next vacation?

The Antigua Social Scene

We had a good sail up from Trinidad to Antigua although we did take our time – 2 weeks! The cruisers we were meeting in Antigua, the Salty Dawg Rally boats, were delayed for two weeks due to the adverse weather conditions they faced on the sail down from the U.S. East Coast. By November 1, when many cruisers start heading to the Caribbean from up north, the weather systems become more active. Everyone knows about the summer – hurricanes – but the fall and early winter storms by far have delayed sailing and sailing plans by far. Think of the Perfect Storm! This year’s rally was the largest ever and so many plans had to change including who would sail to Antigua, or the Bahamas or even Bermuda. In addition, two weeks of social events scheduled for the rally’s arrival all had to be rescheduled. As of today, at the end of November, there are still a few boats yet to arrive.

Our friend Bob on PANDORA, who is the president of the Salty Dawgs, and along with other organizing members (Lynn on ROXY!) did a good job and managed to salvage most of the activities which we are now partaking in. It is now an active social scene here in Antigua as the “season” started by the mid November.

We have not been with our family for the last number of Thanksgivings but of course video calling does keep us advised as to how their “turkey” day is progressing. As always, we will fly back for the Christmas Holidays as we always try to be there at that time. In the meantime, we did have a great Thanksgiving dinner with cruiser friends at the Antigua Yacht Club. We have been “socializing” with dozens of cruisers, both those we have known and “newbies” since we all arrived here and expect this will continue until we fly to New York in mid-December.

Of course, it is never all social as the boat, despite all the work done in Trinidad, still manages to give us things to do. We had to stop in St Lucia on the way up as our generator decided to give us 150 volts in lieu of our requested 120. This was not appreciated by the battery charger, the refrigeration nor any electronics on board. Fortunately, Egbert at Marintek in St Lucia was able to replace the voltage regulator over the weekend so that worked out fine. It was an unexpected expense, but unexpected repairs are always expected. Stopping here also gave us a chance to catch up with some friends in St. Lucia and even had a visit from our NY friend Elaine who happened to be on a cruise ship docked in Castries. Our daughter and family were also in St. Lucia at the same time but they were all the way on the other end of the island and it was impractical to meet up at that time.

We then sailed to Martinique to deliver some teak wood to our friends who have been in Martinique for quite some time (health issues). The teak wood was much cheaper in Trinidad. That also gave us an opportunity to stock up on some French wines for our wine cellar. Upon leaving Martinique we had an issue with a faulty circuit breaker for our auto pilot.

The auto pilot is our unpaid third crew member who never sleeps and guides us about 99% of the time when we are sailing. Some call this third crew member Otto, the Dark Lord of Direction, the Guiding Hand of the Helm, the Lady of Perpetual Steering, or whatever. We just pray he/she/it works 100% of the time. On the way to Diamond Rock from St. Anne the pilot went blank and Kalunamoo steered a course of its own. In this instance it was not Otto’s fault but a simple faulty circuit breaker. A simple fix – just switch out to another circuit breaker. Of course, the breaker was on a small auxiliary panel with limited access, and when other things removed to get to it, the tiny little screws drove Maureen and I  crazy trying to swap out the breaker. And yes, they dropped out and were easily lost. Then besides losing one screw the other refused to seat. A jury rig wire tie sufficed until we arrive in Antigua and Otto performed professionally. In Antigua I found that same size circuit breakers have different size screw connections. Amazing how ingeniously diabolical some engineers are.

We anchored in English Harbor, for a few days until the Salty Dawgs and others arrived. English Harbor is a beautiful, cute anchorage but notoriously swirly. Nestled close to the high hills, the currents swirl the anchored boats hither and there when the wind dies. Last year we found ourselves butt to butt at 2AM with our friend’s boat, Roxy. In other words, when it gets crowded, we move over to Falmouth.

In Falmouth, the scene of last year’s lost anchor adventure, we felt secure. That is until we were ashore enjoying an evening “happy Hour” during a strong squall. We dinghy back to and noticed it slipped back about 5 boat lengths and was close to another boat. Sure enough, we dragged but seemed we hooked up as backing the engine didn’t move the boat. No use resetting the anchor at night unless we need to (did that, done that). The next morning, I raised the anchor and saw a chunk of the coral bottom of Falmouth Harbor a whale could have chocked on. After some time it was finally dislodged and we were able to reset our anchored position.

The work continues as I repair a one-foot square of cockpit enclosure overhead. It is being re-cored and glassed over (think a leaky roof) as the plywood core was rotting. The Furuno navigation station chart plotter is being pulled and FedEx’d to Virginia for a new screen. We will bring it back when we fly back to the boat after Christmas. During this time we will be without a chart plotter or depth indicator. We only need to sail to Jolly Harbor, which we have dome many times, and is not a critical navigation problem.

But we are enjoying the social scene here. Dinner with the Minister of Tourism at the World Heritage Sight of English Harbor, Thanksgiving with all the trimmings at the Yacht Club, Happy Hour and Open House gatherings at the sail loft with a live Jazz Band, and the Big Arrival Dinner at the Admirals Inn.

Boat repairs in Exotic Places never displaces The Social Season.

Sailing Voyage Number 13

Well we really don’t know anyone like Madam Ruth,
And never liked tattoos or any golden tooth.
Well, we left our family home and were really really keen,
On starting the voyage with
voyage number thirteen.  

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain’t got time to take a fast train.
Our shore side days gone, we are a-goin’ home,
My sailboat, just launched in the water.

I don’t care how much money I gotta spend.
Got to get back to my baby again.
Our shore side days gone, we are a-goin’ home,
My sailboat just launched in the water.


In the Sea where Thor is King,
When cold meets warm, here is what we sing…

When the warm meets the cold,
Like a poke in the eye, that’s a squally.
When the sea seems to rise,
Like you had much too much rhum, that’s a squally.

Sails will slap, slappy, slappy slap,
And you will moan, Oy Maria
Things will crash, never will they last?,
Like a drunken sailor.

When the stars hide their eyes,
Just like the black bottom paint, that’s a squally.
When the rails are in the sea,
And the sea at your heels, that’s a squally.

When you sail in a dream,
But you know you’re not dreaming oh sailor.
Pardon me, but you see,
On the Sea, that’s a squally.
That’s a Squally!!!

Well, it’s not far up to paradise, at least it’s not for us.
And if the wind is light there is the engine to push us frequently.
Oh the boat does provide miracles when nothing really fails.
Believe me.

Well miracles never happen, no reason to pretend.
And repairs are just a way of life so just learn again.
That paradise is a state of mind, just wait and see.
Believe me.  

Wise men say
Sailing is a dream.
But I can’t help,
Sailing with my love of life.

Shall we go?
Would it be unwise?
If the weather really does not provide?

Like a river flows
Surely to the sea.
Darling we will go
Somethings are meant to be.

Take the helm
Pull the sheets up tight.
For I can’t help,
sailing with my love to night.

With thanks to Harry Warren, Jack Brooks, Wayne Carson Thompson, Si Siman Christopher Doheny, Hugo Paretti, Luigi Creatone, George David Weiss, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It is people like them that give song to the heart, even if we adopt our own lyrics.

And if you can’t recall the singer, you can still recall the tune, Neil Diamond, Robbie Robertson

Diwali, Doubles and Departures

Our extended stay in Trinidad is rapidly coming to an end. The boat has been here since May 9, and we have spent 3 months in New York, but now it’s almost the end of October and we are ready to cruise again. The boat projects have been completed, although there is no end in seeing other projects looming on the horizon. Already a short “to do” list for next summer is already forming.

Ready to Splash

We launched from Power Boats and motored over to Crews Inn after Stephen finished the hull and anti-foul bottom paint and Raymond put the engine back together. We took a slip, plugged in and started up the reefer and A/C. It’s so luxurious not to have to get a bag of ice for refrigeration every day. Between splashing and docking we gave the engine a good workout to ensure all the work that was done on the engine actually worked. It did exceedingly well. At full RPM’s, we were motoring at over 8 knots through the water. Although diesels like to run flat out, the fuel consumption is something we watch carefully but it is reassuring how fast it can go. Under sail, we can also hit 8 kts if conditions are perfect.

Crews Inn

We call our stay at Crews Inn a “vacation” as the Inn has a great pool and is a very convenient marina. It is the only time we run our air conditioner on the boat as this is still Trinidad and during the day the sun is very hot. At night we don’t need to run it. But it is also the rainy season, so clouds and afternoon rain showers are a daily occurrence which makes it more bearable. Some of those showers dump a lot of water that leads to flooding. Living on a boat, the only flooding we are concerned with is if the bilge gets flooded.

Crews Inn

And that was a concern after we docked. As soon as the boat is launched, a routine check of the bilges to make sure there are no leaks is done. There were none and we motored away from the launching well. After we docked, I checked again, and all was well. In the evening I checked the coolant level of the engine (after it cooled down) and was surprised to see the bilge filled with water. At first, I thought a thru hull was leaking. If that was the case, we would need to be hauled out the first thing in the morning to get it fixed. It was not a big leak but I did check it a few times during the night to make sure the bilge pump took care of it. The next morning, after looking closely at the thru hull, valve and strainer, it was actually just the strainer cap that was leaking. A simple fix of cleaning the gasket solved the problem.

As far as the “vacation” goes, the first week in the water is taken up with putting the boat back together again and cleaning things that can’t be cleaned when on the hard. We are also waiting for our new mainsail cover to be completed and the new mainsail installed. This should be done in the next few days. We already mounted the new jib. The new chaps on our car (dinghy) look great, thanks Sean of Superb Canvas!

As I have mentioned many times before, we enjoy our time here in Trinidad as it is a good mix of boat work, meeting other world traveling cruisers, friendly locals, and experiencing the Trinidadian vibe. Where else can you meet and talk to a sailor who was born in the Far East but adopted by a Swedish couple and lost his boat to an Orca attack on the way to the Canaries from Spain. He survived and is looking for another boat. 

Trinidad is not your typical East Caribbean tropical island, set up to cater to the northern visitor’s all-inclusive vacations, but it is a tropical country set up to cater to its inhabitants. We have yet to stay for the big Trinidad Carnaval in February but we try to celebrate other events, one of which is Diwali – the Hindu festival of Lights. On Monday, Jesse James will organize a trip to the town of Felicity where we will visit a Hindu Temple, eat some roti, and walk the neighborhood with all the Deyas lights decorating the houses. We did this a number of years ago and was impressed with the displays. Pictures will be posted on Facebook after we return.

This year, because we spent more time away, and had plenty of boat work to do, we didn’t take many road trips in Trinidad. Maureen, along with other cruiser friends, did go on shopping trips into Port of Spain and we actually organized a small Meet and Greet for the SSCA with Jesse James. He invited two locals, an officer from the T&T Coast Guard and Naturalist Photographer Roger Neckles to give us some local knowledge of Trinidad. Roger pointed out the diversity of birds here as equal to any in South America. Next year, if we have an opportunity, we would love to go on one of Roger’s tours. It was a good evening and added to the gatherings the cruisers have between their time doing boat projects.

Gordon, on COHO, had an interesting project going. He built a composting toilet for his boat as he and Louise are heading back home to New Zealand and with all the sanitary and pollution regulations, composting makes sense on a boat!

Gordon and his Composting Toilet
Cruisers t Power Boats

We will miss the Trinidadian Meat pie or Doubles for breakfast, the weekly jam session with Ian, a local guitar player, Shake and Bake at the Wheel House Pub, Thursday Night’s Pot Luck at the Roti Hut, the flavorful water melons, the bountiful mangoes in the early summer and the other traditions that Trinidad offers. It is time to depart and head north, well not too far north, as we keep within the warm Trade Winds and clear topical waters. Thanksgiving will be spent in Antigua and the plan is always to fly to New York for Christmas. After that our sailing will be weather dependent. Eventually we will be back in Trinidad next summer. I hope the boat project list is much shorter than this year!        

Thursday Night BBQ at Power Boats
Friday with Ian

“It’s only when the Trade Winds blow that I wish my hair was long…” Joan Baez

Gestations

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 1PM issued the following information for the Tropical Wave now at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles.

A 1007 mb low pressure center is analyzed along the wave near the southern Windward Islands at 11.5N 61.7W…there is a medium chance of tropical cyclone development over the next 48 hours and a high chance through 5 days.

Today’s Weather

The day saw strong winds from Grenada to St. Lucia while heavy rains fell from Grenada to South America. Parts of Trinidad had torrential rain and flash floods have occurred. Here in the boat yard in Chaguaramas, rain has stopped all outside work. Stephen and crew have a few more details to work on the deck and hull but they should be completed by the weekend. Then next week the bottom anti-foul painting will be done and we will be ready to splash the following week. The engine runs and we are just awaiting a new fuel lift pump from the States (being brought down by our cruising friend Rob) next week to button it up. The engine has been extensively worked on – new injector sleeves, injector servicing, injection pump rebuilt, new lift pump – so It should run “like a new 40 year old”.

The rain today gave us the opportunity to go through lockers that accumulate “stuff” that needs to be reviewed every once in a while. Small dumb bell weights that only adds weight to the boat will go. TV coax cable used for cable TV will go. The old chart plotter, and keyboard amp may be on the chopping block. Large paper charts from Maine to Trinidad and dozens of burgees have been deep stored. Maybe someday they will be museum pieces. Maureen has been re-stocking the galley in anticipation of cruising again. Five-year old emergency water? Dump it!

The new sails arrived in Trinidad Customs so they will be available soon. Dinghy chaps are fabricated and fitted, the sun awning for the mizen is being sewn and so we find ourselves on the final stages of cruise preparations. It is as if Kalunamoo goes into a cocoon and then through a gestation period to venture forth into the azure Caribbean seas. Like a butterfly if you like. Again.  

The current weather can also be called a gestation period for a tropical depression, then a tropical storm and then a hurricane. Although I have a hard time envisioning a tropical depression. How can you be depressed in such a “paradise”? In any event, perhaps in a few days when this wave moves hundreds of miles west it may be named and officially be born to run wild over the horizon.

The NHC predicted (guesstimated?) that 14-21 named storms would form in the Atlantic this season. Well, we do have a good month of the season to go, and storms can form through late November but, there has only been 9 so far. Only one tropical storm (not a hurricane) affected the Lesser Antilles so far this year (the average is about 2 per year). Of course, the location of any particular storm is very important. Puerto Rico and Florida can attest to that. I don’t lessen the destructiveness or consequences of any storm that may pass wherever they are. Are they getting stronger? Linger longer? More disruptive? Individually, it’s impossible to say. Collectively, time will tell. Although I think it can be safely said that the more people and developments there are, the more “targets” there are for major disruptions.

This tropical wave will move on, as all waves do. Gestations of all sorts will continue as nothing springs fully formed in the ether of life on earth. Be it storms at sea, preparations to cruise, anticipating floods or sending armies off to war, it is the mark of wisdom to take note of these gestations and act accordingly.

Back on Board and Boat Yard Work

We flew back to Trinidad, the day after Labor Day, to see how the Labor on Kalunamoo was doing. Well, it was as expected. Work tends to slow down when the owners are not around. Stephen, our contractor for the deck painting was just about finished. A few more days, touching up, buffing and cleaning up and the deck will look great. Of, course, any paint does not last indefinitely but we think this will be the last paint job that we will oversee. The new glass for the 4 large ports were replaced by Tony and Amos and the installation of the exterior frames were installed. That will also take care of the small leaks around the glass.

New Ports
Amos of Perfect Finish working on the large ports

Stephen and crew have begun on the hull where a few spots have to be refinished. The rub rail will be stripped and then either we will apply Cetol or be repainted. A new copper or stainless steel strip will be looked at next year. Eventually he will also do the antifoul bottom coat. That should bring us to the middle of October (the announced “work completion date”) when we plan to splash and go over to Crews Inn for a two week “vacation” before commencing voyage #13.

Stephen working on the hull

We carried about 75 pounds of boat parts down with us from New York (including a small amplifier for the keyboard) and checked all that through Trinidad Customs with no problem. One of the good things about Trinidad is that “boat parts” for foreign boats “in transit” are not subject to any duty or taxes. No broker is needed to clear Customs but the typical Trinidad paperwork must be filled out. The parts must also be inspected both at the airport and the port where the boat is. “Boat part” is a broad definition of anything that goes onto the boat and is not used ashore in Trinidad. Previously we brought down a keyboard which was fine. A cruiser friend brought down a bicycle to be used on the boat (when ashore). The Customs officer innocently asked if he intended to use it around the boat yard. Our friend said he might. He was charged import duty! Lesson learned – be very careful of what you say to Customs.

The new Tides main mast track and new Ullman main and jib sails have yet to arrive. The track is “stuck” in Customs due to some paper-work and broker issues (that is why we carried stuff down). Hopefully all this will be delivered before the end of September.

Besides the deck work, the work list is long. We did get things started before we left for New York: an eye was welded to the boom for the vang, the dinghy was taken to have “chaps” made, I did some rewiring of the mast and mizzen (both have been un-stepped), the compression post for the main mast was stripped and painted, and new Main and Jib sails were ordered.

We brought down a refurbished Furuno chart plotter (bought on E-Bay) for the cockpit which was really an exact drop in plug and play replacement for the old one. Plugging it in was simple but took two days to “configure” it to talk to the network with the other navigation instruments. The reconditioned Raymarine auto helm head unit worked great and we can actually read the LCD screen again!

The “new” Furuno
The holding tank removed

Simple jobs usually take a few days. Case in point was the chocker valve on the forward head. This simple “rubber duck” item prevents backflow to the toilet bowl. Two bolts are removed and the valve is easily replaced. Of course, what happen was that one bolt’s head broke off and so time was spent digging that one out. Then looking at the hoses that connect it all together, I realized it was time for their replacement. The thing with saltwater, which is used for flushing the toilet, is that it reacts with urine to form calcium deposits in the hoses. Much like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, it builds up to form rock hard deposits which eventually (a few years) totally block any fluid flows. Sixteen feet of inch and a half of sanitation hose, various fittings and new hose clamps later, all hoses were replaced. But that was not until the cabinet holding the holding tank was partially taken apart, the holding tank removed (to gain access to one hose) and the removal of about an inch think calcium slab that was inside the tank. Oh, and the bronze elbow on the through hull had to be replaced which, as anyone who knows, is located in a compartment that only a midget can reach and an Atlas can unscrew. Thanks to Gordon on Coho (who is not a midget or Atlas), it was replaced.

Calcium buildup in the head hoses

The big engine job that Raymond (Raymond Engineering) was tasked with was to replace the four injector sleeves on the engine. He also had to replace the broken transmission cable that failed just as we were bringing Kalunamoo into the well to be hauled. I brought the new engine parts down from New York so he had to wait for us to fly in. A few days after we arrived back, he and his helpers removed the engine head and had it cleaned up. A few days later they came back on board and reassembled the engine. They only dropped one rachet into the bilge (the pit of doom) under the engine which was recovered with a long grabber claw. I’m always terrified working on the engine as anything dropped into the pit of doom stays there for eternity.

But that was not the end of the engine work. Upon reassembly there was a coolant leak. That didn’t surprise me as there is one rubber seal between the thermostat housing, block and heat exchanger that is very, very difficult to install. The first time I did it, it took days to get it right. The next time a mechanic worked on it (In Antigua, replacing the circulating pump) it took hours to get it right. This time it also took some time, but the mechanic eventually got it right. Unfortunately there was another leak found at the exhaust manifold which meant disassembling that. We are now waiting for that to be removed and worked on to fix the leak.

The exhaust manifold being removed

The next phase here is the removal of the boat cover, and re-stepping the masts, (next week) installing the new main sail track, the new mainsail, and jib. Also, a new larger winch on the mast will be installed – hauling up the main sail should be must easier – and reconnecting all the wiring and cables in the mast to the boat. After that, measurements can be taken for a new mainsail stack pack, a new sun cover for the aft deck, refinish some exterior teak and some other minor things to work on.

Most of the work, other than the painting and engine, are routine M&R stuff. Since it has been three years since we have been here, the work piles up. We have about a month and a half to finish up and then we should be good to go. In the meantime, other cruisers from around the world are here, and it is good to get together, swap sea stories or just comment on how much work must be done just to look like we lead a carefree life in Paradise. The video is the Rhythm of Work in Trinidad:

And What Shall I Do Then?

We left Kalunamoo in Trinidad and flew to New York in early June in time to attend the wake and funeral of my father. It was a hectic time. The boat was hauled and put on the hard. Masts were unstepped, a cover installed. We arranged vendors to start the multiple M&R jobs on the boat, ordered new sails, find engine parts and then, we contracted covid a week before he passed. Fortunately for me it was a relatively mild case, Maureen had even a milder case, but it still took a week after the symptoms were gone that we tested negative and were able to board a plane back to the States. We arrived in New York very early on the morning of the wake.

Dad was 101 and two months old and, by his own reckoning, was ready to move on to his next stage, rejoin his wife and continue to fish in the heavens above. With a heavy heart we gathered together and bid him farewell while retaining all the great memories of a full life and the great luck we had knowing him as our father, a relative or friend.

The Home with Mom, Grandpa and my sister circa 1950
Me, dad, and my sister cica 1955
The Home today

Since his passing, we have been busy closing family affairs with the home my parents owned in Brooklyn for 75 years. It is chock-a-block with both memories and artifacts gathered over ¾ quarters of a century. It was a bit of a time capsule. Down in the basement I found my old Erector Set from the early 50’s. Amazingly it is not rusted at all. Meanwhile, any metal on a boat seems to rust within hours. A couple of my mom’s old Hollywood Movie magazines from the 1930’s were found along with my father’s handwritten journal of every fish he caught since 1938. Old hand carved wooden shoes from the Philippines from WWII, phonograph records including an original Sun Record’s 78 of Carl Perkins singing Blue Swade Shoes, R&H Breer tray (1888-1953), tons of fishing gear, letters I wrote to my parents when I was on a training ship in Europe, and many other artifacts that only have value for the memories that stir and the times that have passed.

My dad was an avid (compulsive?) surf caster fisherman. See https://www.littoralsociety.org/blog/family-and-friends-remember-fish-tagger-bill-woodroffe

Dad at 18 (with his Model A), always with a fishing pole.

Among the piles of documents, and paperwork that was never disposed of was a clipping of “fishing humor”. It goes something like this:

A fisherman was sitting on a beach fishing when a businessman walking along the beach approached him and asked what he was doing. Obviously fishing, was the reply. But no fish, said the businessman?

The businessman then said that he should use a net to catch more fish. The fisherman replied, “And what shall I do then?”

“Well with more fish you could sell some and make some money” he replied.

“And what shall I do then?”

“Well, if you have some money, you could buy a boat and go out and catch more fish”

“And what shall I do then?”

“Well then you could sell more and have many other boats catching fish for you.”

“And what shall I do then?”

“Well, by then you will have so much money, you wouldn’t need to work at all, and you could just lie on a beach watching this beautiful water!”

To which the fisherman replied, “But that is what I’m doing now.” 

Dad at 94, still fishing.

Well, that seems to summarize how life evolves for many. The journey of our lives, the complexities that we construct, the efforts we exert, the paths we choose, have as the goal a place that doesn’t have those complexities, efforts or paths. Eventually if we are lucky and find that place, we find it filled with the artifacts and memories of that journey. And no need to ask, “and what shall I do then”.

Well, I can’t say we are at that place now, although the great work years are behind us. The work of living and cruising on a sailboat always has an answer to “and what shall I fix/mend/repair then”. The next blog, after we return to Kalunamoo will list some of the answers. And of course, there is always the search for the next beach.

Besides family affairs this summer, we managed to get together with cruisers that either came ashore after their cruising life or spend time ashore in the summer. This included the cruisers from Rum Runner, Judith Arlene, Hippocampus, Merlin, Allegro, Nada, Pandora, Star Shot and Moya Mreeya. We had road trips to Maryland, Massachusetts, Toronto, and the Adirondacks. Overall, it was an eventful summer and quite a change from life aboard in the Caribbean. In a few weeks we will return to Kalunamoo and finish up the M&R and get ready for the winter cruising season. “Winter” sounds too harsh to apply to where the temperature never drops below the 80’s during the day and the question that comes to mind often is, “and which bathing suit (if any) should I wear then”.

Trinidad

We sailed directly from Union Island to Chaguaramas in under 20 hours. In fact, we had to slow down for two hours so that we could arrive after sunrise. It was, like the many times before, an uneventful sail. The concern that many have when we say we are going to Trinidad is the fear of piracy. That fear, from events many years ago, seems to be propagated more by other islands to attract cruisers than any factual basis.

The last time, we were in Trinidad was the summer of 2019. The pandemic hit in early 2020 and Trinidad took the very cautious approach of closing its borders for almost two years. The result was that they did control the spread, but still had high number of cases. It, however, affected the cruisers who could not come for two seasons. Trinidad, unlike the other East Caribbean Islands doesn’t rely on “tourists” for the majority of their foreign exchange, but the loss of the cruising boats did have an effect on the local workers in Chaguaramas. We were concerned that when we returned, what the situation would be as far as getting boat work done.

The view from the mooring to Power Boats

What did we find when we arrived? Well, besides the pandemic procedures before entry – covid test and approval to enter – not too much has changed. These pre-arrival permissions will be eliminated next month. The entry procedure, after getting health clearance, was the usual long paperwork of Immigration and Customs. It is amazing that in today’s computerized world, multiple forms (at least a dozen) with carbon paper copies need to be filled out by hand (all with the same information) for Immigration and then Customs before you are legally entered into the country. Well at least there is no charge (unless you arrive or depart “after hours”).

We took a mooring on arrival and stayed there a few days to pull the sails down and get ready to be hauled. There was no problem arranging a haul date with Power Boats Boatyard and it was great seeing familiar faces in their office and the workers in the yard. The morning, we arranged to move from the mooring to the haul-out well was going fine until we started to back into the well. Since we have a long bowsprit we back into the well as most travel lifts are two small to position correctly unless we do. This is no problem as the boat backs to port so we actually come up perpendicular to the well and just pivot back into it in reverse.

All was well until I put it in reverse. Well actually I did put it in reverse but the transmission never got the word. Running down to the engine room revealed that the cable was broken somewhere between the cockpit control and the transmission. I could manually engage the transmission in the engine room but that would be impossible with only Maureen and me aboard. Fortunately, cruiser friends on Roxy, Allegro and Miclo 3 answered our calls for help and in short order they were out in the dinghies ready to “tug boat” us in. Rob on Miclo jumped on board to help with lines and after some maneuvering we were safely on the well. That marked the official end of our voyage 12.

Well, add the transmission cable to the list of M&R. Boats, and especially those operated 24/7 demand constant maintenance and repair. Our friend Mark on Roxy reports that everything on the boat is broken, you just don’t know it yet. You usually learn it at the most inconvenient time.

On the Travel Lift

Since we have not been in Trinidad for two years, the list of M&R is exte onesnsive. The major work will be done by contractors and vendors. That is what is good about Trinidad, there are many very good contractors and vendors and we are pleased to see most of them still here. One of the reasons is that there are many local boats in the yard, both private and small commercial ones, that supported the marine community while the borders were closed.   

So let the work begin. Of course, you have to remember this is all on island time. We have been in the yard for two weeks and are still arranging work to be done. The masts have been unstepped and the shrink wrap boat cover is in place (we look like a Conestoga Wagon) so the on-board work will soon commence. This will entail replacing four large glass windows, repairing a small section of deck, painting the deck, rewiring the mizzen mast, hull buffing, bottom painting, engine work, new main and jib sails, new aft sun canvas, new stack pack sail cover, new mainmast track, new mainmast winch, new dinghy chaps plus a bunch of interior work. And Maureen bought a new Smart TV!

The Kalunamoo Conestoga

Our “summer season” has started and the social scene with cruisers, between boat work, has been reactivated. Thursday’s pot luck dinner at the Rotti Hut, Friday’s music jam, Sunday Dominoes, local restaurants are opening and the community of cruisers helping cruisers began. Other cruisers will arrive to add to the community. Many will fly off, as we will in July and August, to spend time “back home” and return in September or later. Pandemic restrictions are still in place as the virus is definitely still around and so precautions must be taken.   

At the Wheelhouse
Friday Noght Jam

Voyage 12 covered 800 miles and 6 countries in the Eastern Caribbean. Since covid restrictions were easing it became easier to call different ports this season. We hope this will continue and we can get back to revisiting islands we haven’t been to in a few years. Until then our base is in Trinidad, which welcomes cruisers from around the world. In this sense Trinidad is the welcoming port for boats coming from their round the world voyage and the gateway to the islands of the Lesser Antilles. Since the National Hurricane Center just announced their hurricane season forecast – above average – it is also a good place to “get out of the path of hurricanes”.