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Missing Tracks from St Martin

As best I can I have reconstructed the tracks from last year. The trip from the BVIs and the first few weeks in St Martin was in my old GPS so they’re accurate. The trip to St Kitts, Nevis & St Barts is all made up from old records and memories as is the first half of the trip to Antigua.

View 2008 St Martin in a larger map

I have also updated the route page on the main site showing all the tracks to date as we have sailed down the Caribbean.  This leaves the forward planning section on that page a little out of date.  Right now our plans are to transit the Panama Canal some time Q2 2010 and head out into the Pacific from there.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting a little more meat into this plan and publishing the result.

Leaving Gustavia, St Barts

Things didn’t go to plan when leaving Gustavia. Around 3pm on Thursday we prepared to leave. Helen was at the anchor, I was at the helm. Before the anchor was fully raised, the windlass stopped working. We were left in a crowded anchorage with a dangling anchor and no plan B. This left Helen to figure out what to do with the anchor while I held position. We couldn’t motor out as we could snag anything with the anchor and make things worse. Obvious fixes such as flipping the circuit breaker did not work as it had not tripped. Helen was unable to haul the anchor manually using the windlass and winch and ended up having to haul the anchor chain by hand. A neighbour saw we were in difficulty and came aboard to help at the end. He arrived in time to help Helen tie the anchor down.

Having secured the anchor we motored out of the anchorage to assess the situation hoping for a simple answer. None was forthcoming so given the time of day we decided to try and find a mooring ball. In the end we had to call the port authority to provide us one right in the harbor close to all the megayachts. This required a front and rear tie which we would have struggled to perform had it not been for the immediate offer of help from the crew of “Wild Horses” next to us.

So began the long process of troubleshooting the issue. Starting with no knowledge at all of the windlass circuit this involved having to deal with a lot of potential unknowns. In situations like this you don’t know what you don’t know so you’re often plagued with the possibility you’ve overlooked something.

The symptoms were confusing. It was straightforward to verify voltage was coming into the controlling relay but nothing was working. When I figure out I was dealing with a relay, making a manual connection to bypass the relay didn’t accomplish anything so it suggested the motor had an issue. It went on. As it went dark I was no closer to the answer so I cleared up, sent an email to Catco with my observations and slept on it.

On Friday I couldn’t get an internet connection so I was on my own. After four hours, having pulled apart practically everything, I found the answer. The cause was a poor connection at the circuit breaker. The connections were close enough for capacitance to carry a voltage to the motor but nowhere near enough to perform any useful action. My troubleshooting had been compounded by the fact that the negative wire to the relay (but not to the motor) was disconnected when I turned off the hybrid motors. I had had them on on Thursday evening but had switched them off overnight so this had given me new variables to contend with on Friday morning. I had managed to deduced the negative wire wasn’t connected but initially I was left with the unnerving possibility I had had two simultaneous issues – something one always has to question.

Along the way we also managed to ease the stiffness in the manual system and to remove a safety bolt which prevented a latch from engaging – probably useful for charter but not for us. We also rehearsed manually lowering and raising the anchor so we have a plan B for the future. The whole episode has provided us quite a few lessons learned and we’re all the better for it.

The really good news was when I went to the port authorities to settle up for the mooring they said there was no charge as this was the result of an ‘emergency’. Kudos and thanks to the Gustavia port officials.

We decided to skip Anse de Colombier and get back onto our original timetable by spending a quiet afternoon and night at Ile Fourchue. This we managed to get. Helen and I had our first snorkel together of the trip. Friday evening we barbecued chicken. Mmmmm.

It’s now Saturday morning. Skies are overcast and it is gusty. Looks good for a sail around the east coast of St Martin back to Marigot. This morning I compiled the project list – there is much to do. I’d like to get the remaining electronic projects completed before the parents leave as my father would be interested to see them work. The three core projects are the SSB install, AIS and radar. This is not the complete list by far but enough to keep us busy for a few days.


Pleasant but slowish sail to St Martin. Often we find that if the heavens only open once on a trip it’s when we’re anchoring and Helen is out front. It happened again today. Checked in then zipped off to Budget Marine before closing to pick up some antenna and mounts so I can get cracking tomorrow.

Passage to St Barts

Tuesday afternoon I dinghied into Charelstown and checked out of Nevis. This put us in quarantine and nixed the idea of an early evening walk along the beach. Ho hum.

Tuesday evening we were treated to a spectacle of nature. Towards dusk we heard some splashing outside the boat so we went outside to investigate. Turned out we were surrounded by many shoals of small fish which were desperately trying to evade the predation of larger fish by leaping out of the water all at once it seemed. On a few instances dozens of small fish would land on our transoms successfully evading predation but not an untimely demise. Initially I thought we could collect them to fry up but the idea waned and I simply scooped them back into the water. The predator fish did their own fair share of out of water acrobatics but none landed where they could be kept.

Overnight I was woken to bumping on the side of the hull near where we slept. Turned out the wind had completely died and we’d drifted up against the mooring ball we were on. I was able to oh so quietly reverse the boat by doing nothing more than turning a switch, pushing a button and pulling back on the throttles. Nobody woken. Nice.

6am Wednesday we set off for St Barts. We set off on the electric motors to find the wind which we met within 30 mins. We couldn’t quite make The Narrows between Nevis and St Kitts on one tack so a couple of turns and a close approach to Cow Rocks were made. The sail was a close reach all the way so we were 10 degrees off where we could raise the Code Zero. We therefore sailed the entire way on our regular sails. Winds varied between 12 and 22 knots. Sea height was between 6 and 12 feet except for when we were sheltered by Nevis or St Barts. As the day progressed wave frequency decreased (length increased) so sailing became smoother.

The whole trip was accomplished without running the genset. Along the way we recharged the house battery bank, the drive battery banks and filled our water tanks. I believe I’m getting better and managing the energy sources. I continue to believe that running solar and cross charging together is not efficient. While making water I kept half an eye on the cloud cover. When solar generation was minimal I would turn on the cross charger to continue the house bank catch up and water maker running. Thursday morning I am cross charging to put some of yesterday’s regen’d power into the house bank.

As an aside I looked back at some of my previous maintenance logs. I know that over the last 16 days I have run the genset for 21 hours. In this time we have moved the boat in and out of Simpson Bay lagoon a few times, we have kept our clothes laundered, we have used the microwave cooker a few times. We also vacuumed the boat in preparation for my parents. We’ve done some coastal cruising in St Martin, St Kitts and Nevis. We’ve only had the two big sails for proper regen. In hindsight I’m pretty sure I could have used 2-3 hours less but I’m pretty pleased all the same. Even so, I do look around at the folks with wind gen and wonder how much less we could use if we had one too. However, budget is tight and this would require a lot of careful thought. Right now we are close to the shortest day of the year and probably seeing the most wind. As we go into next year, the sun will get higher in the sky and be out for longer – all of which will make our current equation better. I also understand the winds may subside too.

Back to St Barts. Upon arrival I went ashore to check in. Much simpler than St Kitts. Filled in a couple of forms and was done. Then it was off to hunt bread. The supermarket was closed Weds afternoon so I had to go to the tourist office to be told of a boulangerie that may just have some baggettes left over. I was able to get two for dinner.

It’s now Thursday morning. We plan to go ashore later this morning and explore the town of Gustavia. We will have lunch at Le Select which is allegedly the restaurant in the song ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise.’ From our last trip here we know the burgers aren’t the best but it’s worth going to. Mum was recommended the place and can’t leave without eating there. Tonight we plan to anchor off Anse de Colombier with another lazy day planned for tomorrow probably spending tomorrow night off Ile Fourchue.


We went into town (Gustavia) this morning just before 10am and separated agreeing to meet at Le Select at noon. Helen and I shopped, took food back to the boat, looked for open wifi connections with the Canary, climbed a hill and explored around town and were ready for lunch. We all had bacon cheeseburgers and fries with a beer. We decided to walk over to shell beach for another beer. I had a fit as they were 5 euros each but the view was good – very french – very caribbean. Helen and I had a paddle.

Mum and Dad are now back on the boat and we’re using on of the free wifi spots to catch up with things before clearing out. Next update in 2-3 days.