Ok, so now we know we are cruisers when G’s Christmas wish was a water maker. Actually we have a water maker but it didn’t work very well not connected up. Yes our busy summer and deadline departure from Annapolis left a few things dangling – like the water maker and a solar panel that showed up the day after we left despite having cancelled the order. Tommy at Sailaway Catamarans is kindly holding the solar panel until our return next summer.
Feeling no pressure from this Christmas wish, I carefully unpacked everything, read the instructions 3 times (very uncharacteristic of me) and set about to produce some salt free water. Only problem was one hose was short 3 inches in the configuration that Lindsay and I had mounted everything in a last second panic before leaving Annapolis. So it all came apart and was installed in an alternate configuration. Only problem is that parts are a bit scarce here in Virgin Gorda and some critical connections I thought I had packed away failed to materialize. To cut to the chase, I became cruiser creative (I will omit the details because it was ugly but worked) and after rewiring the power a second time (still unsolved problem with the pump demanding 50 amps on start-up) we started producing water – before Christmas.
This was indeed a good thing because we were just about out of water and the location where we were moored was jammed with boats – we were afraid to leave to get water for fear of not finding a spot to come back to. But it all worked and we are feeling quite posh. Gee, the clothes get washed in the washing machine and we don’t have to panic about 10 drops of water not being put to the best use(s). With this thing we even “have” to make water every 4 days so I guess we “have” to use it up. A whole different concept from our miserly water ways the past couple of months.
So flush with water, we got inspired and celebrated Christmas on Blue Sky with a pot luck inviting couples from four other boats to join us (John and Anne from Folie á Deux, Richard and Diane from Endorphin II, Jill and Tony from Nychea, and Jim and Sharon from Somewhere). It was delicious and the company was fantastic. We discovered that Anne’s mother, Louise, is in the same residential complex as P’s mother, Twin Lakes, and Louise connected with Edna last Friday! Small world.
Charlie here – these parents of mine decided they needed some sort of Christmasy picture. And guess who got to wear the ‘elf’ hat. You guessed it, me. Do I look happy about it. At least I obeyed and sat for the darn photo op. Not my best shot, but hey, for you to have a look at the life of a true salty dog, here I am.
While P works on installing our water maker (all I want for Christmas is a working water maker), I spend my time making things like ginger snap granola and oatmeal cookies (vegan style). When I get bored with cooking, which happens less often than I ever expected, I move to what else I can do with my time on a boat. As we near the peak of the holiday season, I put up a set of Xmas lights (solar and LED). It looks pretty good off the back of the boat, but I wish I had bought a few more strings, but it does help get us in the mood to put on the music of the season and sit and gaze at the full moon on the water. Along with that I had to get a little creative regarding a Xmas tree. What do you make a tree out of when you live on a boat that is in the tropics. It took a few days and nights of exploring around the boat, but I finally came up with an piece of old line and turned it into the shape of a tree. Next I had to find something to decorate it with. Out came a scrap of green felt and the sewing pins. Lastly, I had in my jewelry some shell necklaces, these became the garland and a shell from the Bahamas worked perfectly as my star. So there you have it, I spent some time creating our 2013 Xmas tree.
Having thoroughly enjoyed Norman, we decided it was time to go back to North Sound and settle back for the rest of our free mooring time – and frankly to get some down time, reading time, fixing up small stuff time, looking at the moon time – well you get the idea. But our sailing pixie had a mischievous grin. Shoulda known. Wind was from a reasonable direction and P was all excited about the 0.5 knot to 1 knot speed increase we were seeing in the winds with the new folding props. They made a significant difference in the lighter winds. It kind of got our fine little sailing condo on water from the speed of a Clydesdale up to a frisky carriage horse – still a ways to go to make Arabian or thoroughbred – actually I don’t think that is even possible, but we are not here to race but be comfortable, and Blue Sky does that well.
So happily laid back with speeds wandering between 8 and 9 knots in 15 -20 wind close reaching – life was great. At least until the gunshot sounded followed by the whale hitting our boat. Well I exaggerate a bit but that was the first impression. Actually it was the D shackle casting off its pin and contorting enough to release the boom from the mainsheet which flew to the leeward side of the boat, stopping abruptly as the blocks on the mainsheet all gathered for a conference on our bimini (with significant damage from the abrupt meeting) – it actually did sort of feel like we hit a whale or something. P kept his calmly and loudly shouted “something broke” – ohhh my, just brilliant!
To shorten the story up a bit, boat was brought under control, sails doused, situation assessed and we headed to Roadtown for repairs after determining the spare D shackle was too big. Unbelievably, being a cat, the expired D shackle was still on the Bimini when we arrive in Roadtown.
Sailors, bear with me a bit. The sailing community has all sorts of interesting terms, almost a secret language, so that the non sailor reading the above might as well be reading ancient Greek. So I will digress and do some explaining while talking about some of our “challenges”.
D shackle – a piece of very strong stainless steel to connect something to something on a boat. As you can see, it is shaped like a D and has a pin that screws in to allow you to open the D to attach stuff. In our case, the miserable excuse for a D shackle on the right at one point tied a mainsheet block to the boom. Oh dear.
Main sheet – the line (rope to landlubbers) that connects to the boom (metal thing at the bottom of the main sail) which allow a sailor to move that boom and thus the main sail to be aligned with the boat or to be almost perpendicular to the boat so that you can maximize your sailing performance depending on the wind direction. No main sheet attached = no control of the sail (bad).
Leeward – the side of the boat that is closest to the water (on a monohull) or where the wind appears to be coming from the other side of the boat (monohull or catamaran) – also known as the least likely to get a massive amount of saltwater spray in your face (any kind of boat).
Windward, the side of the boat that is not Leeward and a bit breezy and damp.
Blocks – some people think pulleys. For our purposes the same thing – ropes go around wheels ending up increasing your mechanical advantage.
If you look at the photo of 3 things to go wrong, the green line going back along the boom to 3 blocks at the far left is the main sheet. I you blow the photo up a bit you will see that the top block attaches through a shackle to a line attached to the boom. That shackle went to shackle heaven mashing the 3 blocks at the end of the boom into each other and allowing the boom to fly out – no so obvious in this photo with everything pulled in tight and no mainsail up, but use your imagination.
The 2 other things inferred are other failures. At the very back of the boom you can see a line going up. This is called the topping lift – I guess because it “lifts” the boom so it doesn’t hit your “top” or in our case the bimini. In the middle of 45 knot winds and 13+ foot seas, our topping lift chaffed through the line that attaches to the boom due to a manufacturing flaw in the D shackle (sharp edge). This had the rather nasty consequence of sending a piece of metal wildly flailing about at the end of a 50 foot line in heavy seas trying to punch holes in our mainsail or anything else it could take aim at. King Neptune must have intervened on our behalf because when the seas moderated to 12 feet and 35kts and I ventured up top, it had tightly wrapped itself around the lazy jacks (those little lines you can see at the top of the photo that hold up the blue sail cover. The bad news is that without the topping lift I could not drop the mainsail (which I badly wanted to do) without having the boom beat the hell out of the bimini (also not good). So we sailed forth and survived.
Number 3 failure is a small little pin seen on the boom in the lower right of the folder. Without the pin you cannot control the size of you mainsail (called reefing) and are thus in a very dangerous position in high winds. You also lose control of your mainsail (called an outhaul). The gods were merciful in a round about way. On a routine daily inspection, I discovered the outhaul was almost chaffed through. While trying to sort out why, I discovered the cap on the pin holding it in place had decided to take a swim despite my and a professional riggers attempts to identify any weak points in the rigging. It was missed. As I said, we were fortunate in that the pin only came partially out and nothing separated. But now I have to have a pin fabricated and the outhaul replace. Oh yes, it was brand new but was put in to a track on the boom that it was not in before (2 tracks available). Result was that there were sharp edges on the boom causing chafe (cutting) on the outhaul that almost separated it. Thanks goodness that didn’t happen.
Last in this long post is the clutch. No, not a hen’s clutch but a device that acts like a brake on a line (aka rope) seen at the left. So the little spring in the clutch at the far right in the first pic decided to abandon springiness. In the second photo you can see the clutch removed and the little piece that goes inside ($25 west marine, $70 in BVI). So without the little spring, what happens? Well whatever the line the clutch is holding starts free falling so to speak. In our case, the genoa (sail at the front of the boat) started getting wrinkly, then shorter and shorter until it was about to become a mess. P diagnosed the problem and we cranked the gennie back up and resumed sailing but consumed a winch to do so. P is now expert at removing clutches (hates silicone) breaking them open, replacing pieces and remounting. Skills are improving every day.
So this is a long post. Lesson is that if it can break it will. Coastal sailing is a whole different world – a few fixes a season. Although P read in many books the challenges of ocean sailing, the reality seems to be coming to roost in the form of foolishly sticking P’s hand in the fire. Ok, get it now. Things break – often when you put big waves, strong winds and 1800 miles under your belt in a few weeks.
So we finally got back into the water but ended up staying dockside for the weekend while waiting for our bow roller to be straightened. Unbelievably it arrived back looking like new and P happily paid the modest fee for correcting his blunder of letting the boat get a bit sideways while anchoring. The good news is we know the new anchor is very strong and P now knows all about taking bow rollers on and off. So Monday with the new roller installed, we both found our selves eager to go somewhere else – now. So we thought Norman Island would be a joy to revisit. Unfortunately the prevailing NE trade winds decided to be SE trade winds (in our face) blowing at 25 to 30kts, so we had another bash into the wind to get to Norman. I guess we are getting a bit salty, literally and figuratively. Literally because on a bash like that, the boat, you and everything else ends us nicely salted – so much so you are happy to greet the next rain cloud. But we were (figuratively) happy to be underway rather than fighting mosquitoes and lots of dirt during our sojourn ashore. What’s a little salt? Besides the sunset was worth the trip in and of itself.
Then there is all the stuff we enjoy at Norman – snorkeling, the caves, critters on shore. Stuff that puts a smile on your face and helps you forget about the bad weather and stuff that breaks.