Saturday, June 15, 2013

Heading South...

June 7th 2013

Position 17° 17.560’ N
                62° 43.495’ W

St. Kitts (Saint Christopher).

View Larger Map

After a lengthy and frustrating delay with much unplanned expense we now appear to have ‘Stonewall Jackson’ performing like his old self. Shadow, the diesel technician at Bitter End Yacht Club, really help us and worked on his day off to enable us to set sail south on Thursday June 6th to take advantage of the great weather window Chris Parker (our weather forecaster) had been predicting would come. The trades have been consistently at or above 20 knots for a month now and although we can travel in these conditions it is rough and miserable, the idea of passage making for us is to do it in the greatest comfort possible. There is nothing better than to cruise in benign sea conditions and to really savour the gentle ocean undulations and a cool light breeze. Trips like this are so pleasant and we both agree that a trip like I have just described remind us of why we love boating and in particular long distance passage making. A few days ago we were very concerned that we would not be able to make our destination of Trinidad by the required date of July 1st. Well, with a little over two days of cruising and 300 nm further south under our belt would then put us within striking distance of our goal. In fact with three weeks left to cover less than 200 nm we will have time to stop and find some idyllic island for us to rest and explore. Our disappointment of having to bypass so many islands has mellowed a little now as we are so happy that the mechanical problems which have consumed us for the past three months seem to be behind us, for the moment at least, dare I say!

For us to meet our insurance companies requirement of being in Trinidad from July 1st – October 31st for what they consider the worst of the hurricane season, is a big worry off our minds. If we had been forced to be above 10° N there would be an addition premium for the added risk so we are happy we can escaped that if all goes well with this round of travel plans!

 Friday 7th Oh no, no, no! After 24 hours of uncomfortable but successful cruising, battling 12’ – 15’ seas crossing the Anegada Passage we had passed Saba Island to our port and Saint Eustatius (Statia to the locals) lay straight ahead, ‘Stonewall Jackson’ decided to take a break...air in the fuel system again. We are dumfounded, with 24 hours of trouble free operation in pretty rough conditions, we are totally mystified again as to what causes this. When the boat stops the tendency is for the hull to settle thwart ships to the waves, she sits in the wave troughs and then she begins to roll and I mean roll. The Kadey Krogen 42’ is built to be able to right itself from a severe roll of, I believe 65°, we were rolling 35°! The routine in these situations is, I have to go into the engine room to bleed the fuel system and Lavinia mans the pilothouse readying to restart the engine and to get ‘Partners’ back on autopilot and her course, with stabilizers running again. This whole operation usually takes less than two to three minutes and is frantic! Invariably I end up knocking myself or cutting some part of me as I descend into the engine room and traverse across it to where the secondary filters are, which I have done many times, only to wonder at what point and when I did it. The adrenalin masks all else accept one’s mind which guides the body through the many steps to achieving the end result of getting the boat under way again. The plan now was to proceed to the next Island which was Saint Christopher or St. Kitts where we knew we would find some help. I spent most of the next four hours in the engine room standing by ready to bleed the engine as necessary. Finally into the lee of St. Kitts the sea calmed and the tall island provided a shield to the wind. Just having calmer conditions brought a little relaxation to the prevailing tension. The next task as we cruised south east down the south west facing coast of St. Kitts, was to call the town marina on our VHF to see if there was a slip available for us and to advise them of our condition and the fact that we would need assistance in case our engine failed at the wrong moment! The entrance to the Marina was straight forward and was free from navigation hazards. We began our approach, right at that point I did one more very quick bleed of the system but no air, had the problem gone away again? By a little after 10:00 we were safely moored up in Port Zante Marina having travelled the last 30 minutes with no engine shut downs! Phew! The anxiety quickly dissipates as the realization of safety returns. Dare I tell you, after securing the boat, connecting the shore power chords and turning off all the navigation equipment, the first thing I did was to ‘crack’ a tube, or in English, I sat on the back deck and drank a beer! I cannot describe how one feels after being subjected to one of the most frightening episodes an owner of a single engine trawler can experience, it is euphoric, an ecstasy, a rapid deflation of the tension which has been your companion for way too long. Remember boats travel slowly, our trawler cruises, in most weather and sea conditions, at 5–6 knots so to travel, in our case, an additional 25 nm to our selected destination, meant another 4 hours of tension, worry and discomfort. We have been doing this for the last three months and 600 nm! Wow, you say these people must be we are not, the dilemma with this malady is that the only way we can know the problem is solved is to go to sea and see if we can have a trouble free passage!
Basseterre harbour and marina.

We are a couple who have a passion to be independent, to explore and be our own masters. Above all we want to travel and explore the world on our little white ship ‘Partners’, our only home. We enjoy the fact that there are few if no rules out here, no petty infringements to avoid, no traffic lights to obey per se, nothing controlling our every move...such as, we heard this about our home town of Sarasota, FL. Apparently one is only able to park ones car nose in to a parking garage space as opposed to reversing it in, what? I have never heard of anything so ridiculous. We are in total control of our lives and do as we please when we want to do it. Safety issues and the ‘Rules of the Road’ while underway, we observe to the letter but that is only common sense. When in the many foreign countries we have visited and will visit in the future we try to be the best ambassadors, we read about the local people their culture, customs and what they expect as regards dress code and behaviours; we are the visitors and do not want to be view as unwelcome ones so we behave, we believe that this is a common courtesy. 
The Quay
Diverting for a thing we have found out in these months that we have now been cruising is (here we go with the Soap Box) that our Kadey Krogen built trawler certainly possesses the capabilities to endure and enable us to fulfil our dream, it provides the strong safe platform and design to cope with any sea we have encountered so far and we have had some ‘doozies’ I assure you. If only we could solve the propulsion issue we would be fine. Most trawlers have very simple but fool proof fuel systems and our problem is rare. For any of you ‘wannabees’ don’t worry your boat will be fine. If a Kadey Krogen trawler is in your future call John Gear, John is the President of Kadey Krogen Yachts 800.247.1230 and let him guide you through the process, no pressure just kind understanding conversation...remember though, when it is 'your time', that you will be living on your own ‘little white ship’, as we are, for prolonged periods, so make sure the ergonomics suit you, in other words the liveability. It really is the most important thing. Capability is a given and there are a few other manufacturers who, in their designs, can offer that too, but what about a back ‘porch’ a covered comfortable area from which to view the world and a pilot house to navigate the boat which will also accommodate the ship’s crew in comfort during those multi day passages. One spends probably one tenth to one twentieth of one’s time passage making and the majority of the time at anchor, simply ‘living’ on your boat. Your Kadey Krogen has all these things including ease of movement throughout the whole boat, go and see for yourself! Okay, I'm off the ‘Box’. 

Moored in Zante marina we met the owner of a sailing boat in one of the slips just east of us, he was there due to an engine failure, after having some work done in St. Martin the technician forgot to secure the sump drain plug in his engine allowing all the oil to flood into the bilge, when it was started only a few minutes passed before the motor seized and stopped. Being a sailing boat he was able to continue to port with his sails. David from Indigo Marine here in St. Kitts, mentioned in Chris Doyle’s pilot book for the area, happened, quite coincidently, to be onboard. He was installing a completely new engine in the boat. We had intended to contact him and employ him to help us. David worked with Camper and Nicholson as their Chief Designer for 17 years and has a quality background with much knowledge of ship systems. After a quick interruption and introduction we arranged to meet onboard ‘Partners’ to assess the options. It was late on Friday so we agreed that Monday would be the first opportunity depending on how he was doing with our neighbour’s sailing boat project. 

Monday came and went, David was not able to come...we spent four hours of the day walking around Basseterre trying to find an attachment for a pump we have so we could pump up one of our big fenders which is gradually flattening between ‘Partners’ and the concrete wall we are moored against due to the relentless pressure being applied as a result of the strong easterly trade winds continuously pushing us against the dock. We didn't find anything and ended up dragging it to a tire store and got them to pump it up. The four hours were not totally wasted as we had a great lunch at a little restaurant on the sea front called Elfredo's and it was really good, local food prepared superbly and very attractively presented, a definite recommendation.

On Sunday evening a friend’s daughter Sara who is attending the Veterinary school here came over for dinner so one way or the other we are keeping our minds off our frustrating fuel problem. I wrote to Crews Inn Marina, our hurricane season home in Trinidad, today to advise them that we may be a little late. Hopefully they will keep our reservation open; I am anticipating at this point we could be a couple of weeks late. I also heard from our insurance company that we will still be covered being north of 10° 50’ N after July 1st with the exception of tropical windstorm damage. In other words as long as any claim was not as a result of a named tropical storm we will be fully covered which is some relief. We obviously do not want to subject the boat or ourselves to tropical storm conditions so urgency in fixing our problem still prevails, which will enable us to edge south once again and closer to Trinidad. 

We have been in St. Kitts now for a week and still have not been able to start the work on our air in the fuel problem. David who finished the engine installation on the boat just down the dock from us stopped by to confirm that Friday morning the 14th would be ‘D’ day. Well Friday came and Daren, one of David’s employees stopped by the boat to do a minor job separate from the fuel problem job, but also brought us bad news…poor David had hit his head while doing the final check on his engine installation just down the dock and required a trip to the hospital…no starty work today! We are jinxed!  

At three we had arranged with Sara to go to the ‘strip’ at Frigate Bay and watch her play volleyball. The ‘strip’ is a line of bars and restaurants that stretch a good quarter of a mile of more down the beach and all cater to the college students that attend the veterinary school as well as the locals, cheap booze, food and free music (loud).
The 'Strip'

Having fun with Sara 
We had so much fun and by 19:30 had had enough! Three buckets of beer later and a burger each we were sated. (6 beers to a bucket, and there were three of us!). A bucket of beer by the way was $9.25 US. We had to go home but Sara was going to the airport to pick up a friend flying in for a weekend visit…then the plan was, they would go home to shower, change and go back out for more fun, dancing and more of what young college kids do, oh to be young! We really had a super afternoon and evening and only wish we had the stamina to continue on into the night.

St. Kitts at this time of year still has two cruise ships visiting per week which is a huge boost for the local economy. Between the two ships the town of Basseterre is flooded with a total of 6,000 extra people every week all spending a little here and there. The country realizes the value of tourism and is very friendly towards tourists and cruisers like us. We have received nothing but warm hellos and helpful answers to our questions as we have toured around. The majority of the population are descendants from the slaves brought here by the British although now there is an established Asian and Indian population, all integrated quite happily. There does not appear to be poverty the population is well dressed and ‘busy’ I don’t know the employment details but most people seem to have a purpose to their step as they move around. There is industry here; the grocery shops, three very close to the marina, are all well stocked and, in fact, have most of what one would find in the USA plus in addition some things from Europe and England. This was the first island we had stopped at where I found Heinz salad cream, a product synonymous with the famed tea time cucumber sandwiches, yum, we bought some!
Although we wish we were further south at this time we are making the best of our stay here and feel lucky that we have found qualified help in a country so welcoming to foreigners; visit St. Kitts you will remember the experience. From the point of view of the cruiser the marina is very reasonably priced at .75c US per foot per day and reliable 110v electricity is .30c per kilowatt, water is a $15 onetime payment for an unlimited quantity. It is easy in and out and right in the town of Basseterre the capital. St. Kitts has both English and French achitecture and is a thriving vital town...

The National Museum
The Clock - modeled after Piccadilly Circus, London

The 'Clock'

Wild Green Monkey

Across the bay at night
There will be more to come from St. Kitts next week…

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"If we are not moving forward then we are going backwards!"

June 5th 2013  

Position 18° 29.839’ N
                64° 21.603’ W  

Still at Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda...I had a good conversation with FOJ (First Officer John) back in Sarasota last evening as I was sitting with the FM enjoying a beer and pizza at the Crawl pub. Conversation ensued as to whether we should scrub our plans to move south towards our originally planned destination of Trinidad, scrap our cruising all together and return to the US or just cruise around the Virgins for a while, we thought six months. So many choices! We left the pub and walked back to ‘Partners’ still mulling over a decision that must be made and quickly. We retired for the evening and after a restless night I rose at 05:00, made a cup of tea and started the thought process all over again. The prospect of going to sea and embarking on a trip of at least 130 nm, which would take us to St. Kitts, possibly 260 nm, if weather permits us to continue south to Dominica, all with an engine that thus far has been unpredictable and plain unreliable, is a frightening prospect and a very difficult decision for me to make. I am making decisions’ for Lavinia too and that is a huge responsibility. While drinking my morning cuppa these thoughts were being processed over and over again. I was miserable and emotional. No one wants to be perceived as a failure or quitter and above all, most importantly, we are really enjoying the cruising life, we are having the time of our lives seeing all these wonderful islands. However, common sense and good judgement must be displayed too, my nature is one of bravado so this emotion I must control. When HT surfaced and had her first cup of coffee in hand we started to talk once more. The conversation didn’t take long and Lavinia uttered the words “if we are not moving forward then we are going backwards”, so...the decision was quickly made, we are moving east and south to the Leeward’s and on to the Windward’s, in other words we are sticking to the original plan and are prepared to suffer the consequences if any. The right decision, we don’t know? I listened to Chris Parker, our weather guru, and he confirmed that an early departure tomorrow would be the best time and from there we should have three reasonable days to cruise south, seas are forecast to be 6' with a 7 second interval with a 4' - 6' wind chop on top, pretty good for these parts. Winds are forecast to be in the 15 - 18 knot range reducing to 10 - 15 on Saturday.