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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Shore Power Conversion & Electrical Ramblings

Lifted out of the water and propped up on the hard stand here in Trinidad, we find ourselves for the first time having to deal with 110 volt / 60 hertz AC power. Yes, we're in a USA influenced part of the world, but Crystal Blues is a 220 volt / 50 hertz vessel. It's been kind of amusing getting things sorted out, without blowing anything (or anybody) up. Most amusing is the fact that right now we have three (yes three, count 'em) separate shore power cords connected to support our quasi-camping life style here on the hard stand.

Three Different Sockets, All 60 Hz, Some 2-Phase 220v.
First, The Shore Power Supply

Our regular shore power lead is now plugged into a 30 amp 110 volt 60 hertz supply. On-board the boat, this is passes through a Mastervolt Ivet-C isolation transformer to raise the voltage to 220 volts, though it is still at 60 hertz frequency. The transformer provides voltage matching and isolates us from the marina electrical ground system.

Most of the time we can operate from this shore power supply, as (surprisingly) much of the equipment on-board is quite happy with a 60 hertz supply.  We can use our battery charger, power tools and vacuum cleaner, home appliances, hot water heater, media and computer equipment, all without problems.

Only the galley microwave, the refrigeration and the boat's central air conditioning will not run on 60 hertz. This is not a big problem right now - when we need to use the microwave we switch over to the inverter and run it off the batteries. The refrigeration and central aircon are both sea water cooled, so they cannot be run while we are out of the water anyway...

Second, Real Time Conversion

Our second connection is direct to the battery charger only.  In the long term, once we are back in the water, most of our needs in this part of the world will be met by the real time conversion process.  Shore power will go only to the Mastervolt Chargemaster 100 amp battery charger. That charger works from almost any shore supply frequency to feed the batteries up to 100 amps of (nominal) 12 volt DC power - this equals happy batteries.

At the same time, the Mastervolt Mass Sine inverter uses this DC supply to create a clean 220 volts / 50 hertz sine wave power supply (at up to 2000 watts) that will run most of the boat's systems. Once we're out of the boat yard, living afloat again, that process allows us to run even our big water cooled refrigeration compressor - the inverter starts and runs that compressor easily. In fact it will also run the central aircon, but I do feel guilty even contemplating that type of decadence at sea. Also a little embarrassed to admit that I've even tested it (which I have) ... but then again, a Tesla car runs air conditioning from a battery supply - why shouldn't we do the same ? Maybe when our batteries are bigger.

At this point we should really give thanks to Bob Wisniewski who initially opened my eyes to real time conversion and who clearly simplified our life in the 60 hertz world . Back in the year 2000, when we were refitting Crystal Blues for the first time, Bob owned and managed Power Protection Solutions in Queensland, Australia. We wanted to buy a new (single combi unit) Mastervolt Inverter/Charger from him, but Bob asked me some pertinent questions and then recommended against it.

He said that if we were staying in the Australian / Pacific / Asian region then a single unit "Combi" Inverter/Charger would be just fine. However, if we planned to cruise further afield, entering the area of 60 hertz power supply, then installing a stand alone inverter and a separate charger would serve us better - and he's right. Real Time Conversion keeps our systems running at all times, and we don't need to worry about the voltage or frequency of the shore supply. So a big thanks from us to Bob Wisniewski, whose vision is keeping our beer cold in this 60 hertz world! Note : Bob is now working with BLA in Queensland, the current Mastervolt distributor in Australia.

Third, The Air Conditioning

It is damn hot here. Power cord number three is for a rented A/C unit, provided by the boat yard, that operates on that quaint 220 volt dual phase 60 hertz system that pollutes US society.  It has no neutral conductor, so is considered kind of dangerous by us purists. It should be protected by dual pole circuit breakers at all times, but you can guess correctly that it rarely is in practice. In fact the power supply poles here do not have any circuit protection at all - no breakers, no earth leakage devices at all - yoiks. So the boat yard provides the AC unit to sit on the deck, a fiberglass housing to direct the cool air down below and the necessary 220v / 60hz cabling. That's cord number three, keeping us cool while out of the water, but definitely not plugged into the boat thank you very much.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dirty, Dirty, People - Again - Removing The Antifouling Paint

Photo courtesy Peter Laine

Early This Morning, Speckled Progress Is Measured

Crystal Blues is looking like a speckled hyena, sitting awkwardly on the hard stand in Trinidad. We in turn are looking like wet and bedraggled coal mine workers.

Six years of accumulated paint is coming off, as we sand back to the yellow tie coat layer underneath. The black antifouling paint is quite toxic, also incredibly tough, so we're using an air powered random orbital sander and wet sanding under a water spray to eliminate the dust.

Along the way we're repairing some deep gouges caused by the (very) nasty net we hooked up off the coast of Suriname. That net dragged paint of the boat in about 20 places, initially around the waterline and then lower on the hull when the propeller twisted it up tight. In two places it went back to the steel, so we're repairing the epoxy base coat as well.

Andy Sanding With Ley On Hose Duty

After the first full day of sanding we hired someone with younger shoulders to share the load.  Our local friend Andy works freelance boat jobs in the yard here and is a practiced hand when it comes to this work.  We rotate ourselves on and off the air tool, totally dripping wet at all times, and gradually the black color is removed and the speckled hyena look takes over.  

The hard stand area here (yard web site here) is not really hard - it's a sandy soil that looks like dredging spoil. Each time it rains the entire area is boggy and soft, and in the tropical downpours there is two or three inches of water under the boat. The only positive side of all this is that we are cool, which is a pleasant change in this hot and humid climate. One more day should see the job completed and we'll move on to less onerous tasks. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Northern Lights - Exhaust Injection Elbow Blues

Looks Good On The Outside, But Completely Rusted Out On The Inside
Our first maintenance job in Trinidad was to investigate why our Northern Lights generator was not coping with larger loads.

Valve or injector problems was the local agent's opinion (and mine), however the freelance mechanic they referred us to knew better. After asking some well focused questions he said he would pull the exhaust injection elbow off first.

I'm glad he did - it was found to be almost totally blocked by corrosion and accumulated soot.  The poor little diesel had been working against enormous back pressure for some time - no wonder it was feeling over loaded.

Now I was warned about this - my friend Dana on the sailing yacht Villa G had a similar experience. It seems that these generators are shipped from the factory with a - wait for it - cast iron injection elbow.  These just have to rust out very quickly and I think we were lucky to get over 1700 hours of service.

We did have a spare injection elbow on board, this one made from shiny cast 316L stainless steel - I'm told it will last three times as long as the cast iron version.  They just cost a little more, which is why they are considered "optional" - not standard equipment. With the new elbow fitted the machined returned to full power immediately, and we breathed a sigh of relief. This was the first part failure on our Northern Lights generator since new, we're still very impressed with the reliability.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Wildlife At Chagauramas, Trinidad

While the water at the docks in Chagauramas can be very polluted, we can still see turtles swimming in the lagoon just a few hundred meters away.

Better still, the local pelicans are very friendly and Ley was able to track and photograph this Iguana right next to the local lunch spot - the Roti Hut.

The birdlife is also prolific in this part of the world, and we'll have to work hard to stop them nesting in our boom and under our sun covers whilst we are hauled out of the water.

Mosquito Bites

At the micro end of the scale, mosquito's are evident though not really bad here.  The dreaded Zika virus is here of course and Ley was unlucky enough to catch it. However it is not as common as in nearby Grenada, where it seems that every second cruising sailor has had it. Ley is fully recovered now, after a week of discomfort, tiredness and high temperatures.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Onward To Trinidad - Preparing For Haul Out & Refit

Afternoon Thunder Storms Welcome Us To Trinidad
After two weeks in Grenada we moved onward to Trinidad, just 80 nautical miles away, in theory.  In practice that distance grew as we first sailed east and then south, avoiding an area known for robbery and occasional attacks on cruising boats - it appears that the desperate social conditions in nearby Venezuela have turned Venezuelan fishermen into opportunistic robbers.

Peaceful Conditions At Power Boats A Dock
Not a problem, we can go around it - so we sailed a large dog-leg of almost 120 nautical miles and arrived in Trinidad relaxed and looking forward to our new home.

Up until this arrival we had assumed that booking a marina berth was like booking a safe, comfortable place to berth our vessel. Not so in Trinidad it seems. Yes we had a berth, but it was a pile berth exposed to the ocean from the south. Waves would break right over the dock we were tied to in any decent southerly wind.  Hmmm - all this and it 'aint cheap my friends. No floating docks, no sea wall - but hey, it's the Caribbean, just chill man. Add another few fenders and every spring line we have, then you can sleep at night. Specially if you drink enough rum.

Tropical Storm Matthew Passes North Of Us
Some two weeks after our arrival here hurricane Matthew passed to the north of us, then unfortunately grew to Category 4 status and proceeded to tear up the island chain and threaten the US south east coast.

Local advice was to leave the dock when southerly winds were possible, so we did just that and anchored up in nearby peaceful Scotland Bay, for a relaxed evening as Matthew (thankfully) turned north and accelerated away from us.  Bless his very dark, black and stormy Force Four heart.

Trinidad is below the accepted hurricane zone, which is why we're here - however, big rotating storms passing just 100 miles north of us tend to focus our attention somewhat. Jeez....

In The Slings, Michael Driving Crystal Blues To Ground
Two days ago we hauled out of the water - at predictably great cost to the management, Crystal Blues was lifted by a sixty ton travel lift using double slings at each end. I felt good, specially after I dived in the filthy dock water to check the sling positions myself. "No Sir, we don't have divers" was the boat yard response - so in I went.

I pumped detergent into the water for a minute or so before diving, just to break up the oil slick on top. Not a tropical paradise here at the dock ....

Ah, but now we're really here - propped on the hard stand in a nice position, immediately adjacent to SV Tegan, friends from more than 12 years back.  Only problem is that they (Janet & Joe) are not here ... they're home in Canada ... so we'll watch both boats.

The daily regime is now up at 6:00am, and get into the work before the heat arrives. Breakfast and coffee are handled quickly, as we contemplate a job list that is probably too long to be completed in the time we have available. Such is the cruising life.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Compass Installation Made Easy

Recently I came across a cruising sailboat with a beautiful new compass installation - problem was, it just didn't work. The compass had been installed in a location where the local magnetic interference was very strong, consequently the compass readings were sadly inaccurate.

A boat's compass uses the earth's magnetic flux to drive the floating card - any local magnetic forces can distort or even dominate at the compass, ruining the compass accuracy. Loudspeakers, engine blocks, electric motors, electric cables and the like can all distort the reading and in the case of steel boats the hull also has an effect.

We faced similar challenges when positioning our Raymarine EV-1 Sensor Core. This unit contains a fluxgate electronic compass, a multi axis solid state gyro and a GPS receiver.

The Sensor Core is the real intelligence that drives our autopilot system - it was important that we found a satisfactory location for the unit - the same goes for any magnetic compass. Raymarine's installation guides said it should work fine where our previous electronic compass was mounted, but we wanted to check alternate sites. In the end we measured the lowest magnetic flux field right where the old compass was mounted - out on the stainless davits mounted on the stern. Unfortunately this meant running the STng network cables another 10 meters through the boat and out onto the davits, but that's another story...

Multi Measures App

To test possible compass installation locations we used two software tools that run on the iPhone / iPad operating system. Multi Measures, by Skypaw, is an app that includes a basic Tesla meter - it graphs the field strength and gives x/y/z orientation for the magnetic flux field.

Incidentally, Tesla is the name for a measured unit of magnetic flux density, named after Nikola Tesla, a Serbian - American physicist and engineer.

What makes a good Sensor Core or electronic compass location ?  It should ideally close to the vessel center line, with access for the required network cabling and with a decent view of the sky so the internal GPS can operate. However the real driver here is lack of magnetic interference - that's the fundamental requirement.

Using the Multi Measures app we were able to wander around the boat, watching the display in real time and testing all the possible installation locations. When testing each location its a good idea to operate all the boats electrical systems, to make sure that no interference is generated when say the genset is started or when the water heater is switched on. The Multi Measures app also includes a tilt measuring function, truly useful for mounting things horizontally or vertically on boats that often have no useful reference lines.

Gemeco Marine Installers App

We also used the very capable Tesla meter included in the iNstall marine installers app by Gemeco. The Gemeco company distributes a wide range of marine electronics and NMEA network products in the USA, so this app is clearly aimed at marine electronics technicians.

iNstall includes a generous number of tools, references and calculators to make marine electronics installation a little easier - transducer details, cable sizing tools, tilt measurement and a "mix'n'match" guide for sorting out product compatibility.

The Tesla meter within the app allows you to zero the meter scale once a background level is established, then see the differences as electrical systems or machinery are activated.

Sadly for us, these handy Tesla meters proved that our inspired "alternate location" choices were not so good after all, and the Sensor Core ended up installed back out on the davits, where it works just fine.

Friday, 23 September 2016

A Record Flying Fish Haul

Carnage On Deck
Our night passage from Tobago to Grenada was memorable for setting a new record - that is, a record number of Flying Fish on deck in one evening. Ley counted 34 of the little devils initially, then we continued to find more over the next few days, secreted under lines, behind cleats and hidden by turning blocks.  What a mess they made.

To add insult to injury, one flew right into the cockpit and hit Ley on the back - lucky fish, she threw it overboard right away for another chance at life. 

As dawn broke our viewing of the beautiful Grenada coastline was interrupted by the discovery of slimy carcasses all around the boat - and in these numbers they quickly became very smelly in the sun.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Boat Shopping In Grenada

Loading The Important Things In Grenada - Italian Wine By The Box Load
Two weeks ago we sailed overnight from Tobago to Grenada, an overnight down-wind romp for 80 nautical miles that had us approaching the south coast of Grenada just after dawn. By 07:30am we were anchored in Prickly Bay and by 10:00am we had completed the friendly Immigration and Customs formalities - which then let us get down to the nitty gritty of this voyage - the shopping ! We had pre-ordered a range of spares and equipment from Budget Marine in Grenada, as they were around 25% cheaper than here than in Trinidad.

New Walbro Fuel Pump Installation
It took some days to gather all the parts, and we were able to farewell our good friends on Ceilydh, who are heading for the Panama canal and the west coast of Mexico As our parts trickled in to the dealer we started work, installing what had been delivered.

So, a new Walbro FRB-13 electric diesel fuel lift pump was fitted, the old unit had done 3500 hours and was starting to fail. With associated plumbing changes, this took a couple of days to complete. The pump is used for priming the fuel system on the Cummins main engine, and for transferring fuel to an aft tank that serves  the Northern Lights AC generator.

Another two days disappeared installing a new Raymarine digital radar cable in the mast, not an easy job, but essential since the old cable had become intermittent. Note to Raymarine - your original analog cable lasted over 13 years, the new digital cable served for only 20 months. Not good enough !

We also continued another project that had started back in Tobago, which was refinishing and painting the front of the mast where the spinnaker pole track is fastened. Corrosion had set in around the pop-rivet fastenings, so we had removed the track and sanded back where necessary to bright metal, then epoxy primed the surfaces.

In Grenada I started on the high build and finishing priming, a tricky task as most of it had to be done sitting in a bosuns chair, hanging on a halyard from the top of the mast. Of course the anchorage was quite rolly, so bruises and strained muscles were the order of the day, every day.

Ley is getting plenty of shoulder exercise winching me up and down the mast.

We found Grenada to be quite sophisticated, certainly compared to Tobago, yet it remains friendly and quite laid back. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of cruising boats anchored around the island, and probably several thousand more stored for the season in the many boat yards around the coast, packed in like sardines with only inches between them. I honestly have never seen so many boats in one place in all my life.

Remora Attack - More Information ...

My experience being hassled by 12 desperate Remora fish in the ocean off the coast of Suriname is apparently not so rare . Our friends on the catamaran Ceilydh came up with some research that shows it is common when a large shark kill has happened in the area - basically the lack of shark hosts means the Remora fish outnumber the hosts, and the results are not pretty.

The BIG One- Fast & Hungry
We commented on the problem after I was hassled between Suriname and Tobago - then our friends on Ceilydh were prevented from swimming off their boat in Tobago - one even bit Evan on the toe.  By this stage we were both still "hosting" just a few Remora. Just google "remora attack" to learn more about this.

Unfortunately for us we still had with us the BIG One, lurking under the boat and definitely not afraid of us. I did think about starving the critters out (surely they'd leave?) but the thought of not pumping the heads for a few days was not a good one (yes, they eat everything that comes out of the host).

Fortunately, by the time we had sailed from Tobago to Grenada we had lost the aggressive creatures and were left with just one smaller, shy creature that disappeared whenever we swam off the boat.  About time - at last we could swim and enjoy the water.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Diverging Wakes

Ceilydh anchored in Prickly Bay, Grenada
Crystal Blues and Ceilydh sailed away from Malaysia bound for Sri Lanka within a few days of each other, back in February 2015. Since then our wakes have crossed many times, across both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Onward we sailed, sometimes diverging, other times sharing anchorages, marinas, cultures and each others lives. Last week we sailed overnight from Charlotteville in Tobago to Prickly Bay in Grenada - our last passage together. What great friends and companions the crew of Ceilydh have been.

Crystal Blues anchored out the back in Prickly Bay, Grenada
Diane's work as a writer opened up many interesting opportunities in the countries we visited together. Evan is a naval architect, so there was always a lot of boat talk. Maia blossomed in the time we knew her - changing irreversibly into the beautiful and confident young woman she is today.

It did help that we are all passionate about live music, fine wine and good food. We shared the same simple pleasures when discovering a market where there were more than a few choices for foods we craved. Here in Grenada the five of us roamed around the two world class chandleries, like children in a toy shop, ogling over boat stuff that we had been looking for several countries back. We also shared the same culture shock when anchoring in Prickly Bay, Grenada - looking at the forest of masts in the bay, with even more spilling onto the crowded hardstand.

Most of all we just spent time together. Laughing, cooking, exploring, shopping, swimming, celebrating birthdays, helping each other out along the way. A fine and lasting friendship blossomed across two oceans.

Ceilydh sailed away yesterday to Curacao. Diane, Evan, Maia and the feline bosun Charlie are excited to be slowly heading home to Canada. Crystal Blues remains anchored in Prickly Bay, Grenada, waiting for a few boat parts, before we sail on to Trinidad and haul out. Next year we plan to explore the USA via the inland lakes and waterways.

We remind ourselves how lucky we are to have shared this special time together, for it was a bitter sweet parting. Our wakes may have diverged, but not our hearts - we'll meet these special people again.

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie preparing to depart Prickly Bay, Grenada. Maia, we are going to miss your Key Lime Pies!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Limin' in Charlotteville

Our last sunset swim at Pirates Beach Tobago, with Diane and Evan from Ceilydh                                   
Cruisers are well practiced in the Tobago/Trinidad tradition of "limin" - getting together, relaxing and having fun, mon. Don't come to Charlotteville if you want cool cocktail bars, fine dining, retail therapy and an air conditioned supermarket.  Charlotteville has none of these, but has so much more to offer - friendship with the locals and serenity being high on the list. Provisioning is adequate, with excellent fruit and vegetables available in the town, and fresh fish at the market every day.

We spent over 5 weeks in the anchorage with Ceilydh as our neighbour.  Other cruising boats came and went, and an average of 10 to 15 boats stayed in the safe, uncrowded anchorage inside Man of War Bay.

In this early part of the wet season the weather was very mild and dry. Cool breezes blew down over the mountains and through the open hatches all day and night.  We saw no mosquitoes during our stay in Charlotteville, and only 6 cases of Zika have been reported on the entire island of Tobago. The sandy beach provided a fantastic spot for sundowner swims late each afternoon.  We saw so many beautiful sunsets, even a few with "green flashes."

On the beach we enjoyed weekly beach barbeques.  Wood was collected, dinghies beached, cruisers gathered and many fish were cooked on our grill.  We also refined cooking breadfruit in the coals - cook till done (3/4 hour on hot coals), peel off the burnt skin, cut into small bits and serve with hot garlic butter. So delicious. Joe the fisherman and Mohamed from Customs regularly joined us, sharing in the history and local island gossip. How privileged we are as cruisers to welcomed into this community.

Attack remoras and friends under our hull
But all was not perfect in this relatively cyclone-free piece of paradise.  We still had attack remoras living under our boat.

Before departure Neil dived on the hull to clean the propeller and found two of them, the big one circling him, the other suctioned onto the starboard side of our keel.

There was minimum  growth on our 22 month-old antifoul paint, however the first 10 meters of anchor chain were covered in very fuzzy seaweed. Ley spent a hot hour on the foredeck pulling up a meter at a time, scrubbing and rinsing off most of the growth.

We departed Charlotteville on August 29 for an overnight sail to Grenada.  Mark came by in his boat Expect The Unexpected, and waved us off.  Joe the fisherman, his uncle, was working as a carpenter in town and Irwin, the fruit and vegie man, was at his stall.

Sad to be leaving, but happy to know that we will be back in late January.

 Mark and friends seeing us depart.  Image by Diane Selkirk

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Stainless Hose Clamp Failures

Hose clamps seem to be such simple things - yet choosing the wrong types can sure mess up an otherwise perfect sailing day.

As we departed from Suriname three weeks ago we found that our salt water pump was sucking some air - water was still flowing, but each time the pump started it took a few seconds to prime.  That pump feeds the deck wash system and the toilet, so it wasn't a major inconvenience.  However we then found that the water maker was also sucking air - more of a problem, because it then produced fresh water with a lot of air, and the tanks were not filling as fast (it's also not good for the RO water maker system).

We eventually found the culprits - two failed hose clamps on the salt water manifold - they had cracked right through but still looked just fine. 

Back in 2001 we had replaced all of the perforated hose clamps on board with stronger and more reliable non-perforated types. It was a real chore at the time but it proved worth while as the systems became more reliable. I remember running all over Surfers Paradise, Sydney, Darwin and even Singapore chasing up my favourite Norma brand "Torro" type hose clamps. However after more than a decade in service some of our clamps are now starting to fail, where they have been exposed to saltwater drips or spray.

Of course they are all made from 316 stainless steel, with 316 stainless screws, so what is going wrong ?

It seems that our failures are not the Norma clamps - they are other brands including ABA, that have a fairly large perforation hidden inside the clamping screw mechanism.

The Norma "Torro" clamps have a more robust screw attachment and a smaller perforation in the band. To see non-perforated hose clamps failing is unusual, specially when they made of 316 grade stainless steel, however when you look at the failure  it's predictable - they failed at the perforation hidden inside the clamp mechanism.

So, we'll keep using the Norma Torro clamps whenever possible, in the "W5" 316 stainless steel grade. They are now available with Philips "cross" drive, as an option - how many gouged and bleeding fingers would that avoid ? If you want to see basic hose clamps done properly, check this link, specially the options on the last pages. I'm quite sure that other good quality brands exist - I just haven't found them yet.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Caribbean Summer - Hurrican Season

This is our first time in the North Atlantic with Crystal Blues, and also our first time to be watching for hurricanes. Here in Tobago we are below the "normal" track of these storms, and at a latitude of 11.19 degrees north we are below the 12 degrees 7 minutes north navigation limit imposed by our insurer for the summer months.

So we can cruise in Trinidad, Tobago and southern Grenada, but the rest of the island chain is off limits from June 1st to November 30th.

Friends and family back in Australia have asked how much warning we would get and how we know if we are in the path of a storm. The answer is shown here - the US Government NOAA National Hurricane Center publishes an excellent information site with data updated every six hours. Weather disturbances and low pressure systems are shown clearly, with detailed analysis and probability of storm formation in the forecast period (5 days).

If we hover our mouse cursor over one of the identified disturbances a complete analysis is provided, as shown at left here.

Of course this is only one of the forecasting tools available to us, which include regular HF radio broadcasts from experienced forecasters. However this is the one we turn to each morning and evening for an update of activity in the region.

Outside of these reports we still download daily GRIB files from the Sailmail "saildocs" server that give us a seven to ten day forecast based on standard weather prediction models. In theory these various services give us the information we need to decide on staying put or moving, if a tropical low does develop.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Charlotteville, Tobago - Just Chillin

We arrived in beautiful Charlotteville just 12 days ago - and it's everything we wanted in a Carribbean anchorage. Very friendly people, very few tourists (excellent..) plus good supplies of fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood right on the waterfront.

The local customs and immigration team are wonderfully helpful, and clearance procedures are handled in a spirit of friendship. Most importantly, the water here is clean - we're anchored in 16 meters just a little west of the town, directly off Man Of War Bay.  We can swim off the boat - if you like being chased by Remora fish - but each afternoon we meet with other cruisers on the beach for swimming, chatting and telling the usual friendly lies over a cold beer ...this is not a difficult place to just chill.

Crystal Blues Bottom Left, In Man Of War Anchorage

The locals are a big part of the happiness plot - this is one of those places where the local folk actually invite you stay longer and they really mean it - where the fisherman deliver live crayfish after breakfast in the morning, where everyone is friendly, no pressure at all mon. However, the singular gas station is always out of gas - both diesel and petrol. OK, that's a little unfair, as it is usually available at least one day a week, but hey, ain't that enough ? Of course they NEVER run short of beer or rum - or crayfish.

On average there have been 15 or 16 boats in here since we arrived. It seems the number of boats is increasing, and we're told there were 60 boats here this time last year. I'm sure the bay can handle them, though I'm not sure my French and German is up to scratch for that crowd - this is the first place we've been (since New Caledonia) where the majority of cruising folk do not speak English as a primary language.

Honestly, I almost daily curse the Australian education system that decided I didn't need to study any languages - though it graciously did give me a taste for music, something I've lately learned to cherish very dearly.

So, despite our Anglophile upbringing, we manage to share food, wine and opinions with those from other nations - principally because they all speak great English, of course. As do the Tobago locals, so we have no problems with market, transport or even buying rum. Perfect, except I still need diesel...if only I could chill a little more, mon, like the locals.

Warm Clear Water At Last
Yesterday we rented a car and drove to the other end of the island, which became a significant disappointment. Too many tourists, way too many sales folk, and no real local community spirit. If I see another T-shirt, T-spoon, sunhat or recycled coconut shell for sale I'll scream.

We were very glad to return to peaceful Charlotteville in the north, a one hour drive over winding mountainous roads. It seems that 90% of the tourism on this island is concentrated within 3 or 4 kilometers of the airport, where flights from Europe deliver white skinned Brits and many others. Long may they stay in the south - right now, Charlotteville is heaven.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A Course For The Caribbean

Ley In The Galley As We Beat To The North West At Sunset
After three weeks in Suriname we set sail again for our first Caribbean landfall - Tobago.  It was a 500 nautical mile north westerly voyage that started with very nice light northerly winds - we had flat seas, a favourable current and seven knots of boat speed.

That all changed in the middle of the first night watch, when we snagged an illegal fish net about 30nm offshore. We were motoring at the time, the wind having died out completely, and the net brought us to a standstill while also stalling our Cummins diesel.

With lights on deck we could see the net trailing aft, now twisted into a thick rope by the rotation of our propeller. Using the boat-hook we snagged the net and pulled it to the surface, then cut it free with a serrated blade knife. The top rope of the net was at least 14mm diameter, with floats directly attached, so there was no way we could ever pass over it.
Net With Top Floats
Now drifting free, we unfurled the genoa and slowly pulled away into the night, sailing on a very slight breeze at around 3.0 knots. Six hours later I came on watch again after sunrise and prepared to dive under the boat to clear the propeller and running gear and check for damage.

Preparing to enter the water I was startled by a large fish that appeared from under the boat - a Remora of course, only this one was much bigger than I had seen before.  Once under water I found myself out-numbered by eight large Remora, with another four visible hanging on the keel, plus a larger dark colored creature that I wasn't quite sure of, circling out beyond them. OK, I've chased remora around the boat before, but these guys were bigger and had a different attitude - they wanted to chase me...

As soon as I was underwater they were at me, and by the time I got to the propeller and net I was fending them off with a knife! After cutting away some of the net the fish did get the better of me and I came back to the stern - but then realised we were badly handicapped without an engine, and went back again to finish the job.  It wasn't fun ... for every few links of net that were cut I was fending off the damn fish again.  That larger dark one kept circling and coming in behind me, with just enough aggression to keep me distracted and dodging behind the rudder and skeg. I now believe it was a small Ocean White Tip shark, the rounded fin tips and white mottling being quite obvious. A rare creature, who fortunately backed off when I directly challenged it.

Eventually the remaining net was cut free from the propeller, and floated free off the stern where the image above was taken.  I then quickly checked the propeller blades and rudder and levitated out of the water pretty fast. This sort of behavior from Remora is unusual I think, though earlier this evening another Remora chased our friend Diane, of the yacht Ceilydh, as she was swimming off the boat here in Tobago. Her husband Evan was bitten by one just a week or so back. A Caribbean hazard perhaps?

The other notable feature of this passage was the large amount of Saragosso weed that was drifting on the ocean surface - we'd never experienced this before.  Sometimes very large rafts of weed were spotted, and it was constant enough that Ley wasn't able to troll a lure behind the boat without fouling the hooks with weed.
Saragosso Weed

The remainder of our voyage to Tobago was more relaxed, though we did manage to lose an impeller on the Cummins and had to change out the sea water pump the day before we arrived. Good winds and awkward arrival timing found us off the Tobago coast fully 16 hours before we could approach the land - Tobago Customs being fussy about arrival and reporting times, so we spent the final evening lazing around offshore in almost a flat calm.  Next morning we motored in and were welcomed into Tobago by a very friendly customs and immigration team in Charlotteville.

Tobago Appears At Sunset