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Full Moon Party

The Jackster’s showed up and anchored next to us around midday. We soon had them over to share our experiences of the last few months as well as abandoning our plans to hoist the main sail in favour of a few beers.

Around 6pm we headed ashore to Ano Beach for the ferry service to the Full Moon Party. Sadly, the ferry service was the weak link of the whole evening requiring some folks to wait over two hours for their turn to board and make the passage round to the party. Fortunately we made it over on the second one out so we didn’t have to wait too long.

The party was a lot of fun. A lot of the people we have previously mentioned on our blog were there. Most people on their way to New Zealand this year are either now in Tonga or soon to be arriving. I’m probably missing a few but those that we can put our heads together and remember are : A Cappella, Anthem, Bamboozle, Callisto, Delos, Freezing Rain, Imagine, Inspiration Lady, Jackster, Kamaya, Mojo, Paleides, Passages, Scream, Sea Mist, Trim, Tyee & Visions of Johanna. There were many others and we made some new acquaintances along the way.

A lot of effort had been put into things including three 10 minute shows of which Ben played a part (dressed as a skeleton) in the first and third. Not everything went smoothly but it was all appreciated.

We didn’t get back until after midnight. We didn’t see Ben until the following morning around 11am which I saw him on the ferry. I dinghied over and he jumped in the water to avoid the trip to the beach. He hadn’t slept at all having had the beer and food go free around 3am and partying into the morning followed by helping to clear up.

We have some pictures, courtesy of Ann from Callisto, which will be posted when we can get a connection.

Tomorrow the fun continues so we’ll be off early round to Neiafu.

All at sea

This morning we exited Simpson Lagoon through the 8:15 bridge opening on the French side. We waited outside for a final top off of cheap St Martin fuel following some o/n charging performed by Scott. We also filled the dinghy tank and a spare gas tank. Then it was back to Marigot Bay where we anchored to have breakfast (fresh croissant) and in order to perform our final prep and final provisioning.

Customs were closed from 12 to 2 which I learned having arrived at 12:10 so this delayed things a little. I bumped into Des and Sue who were doing their laundry. I also found Eddie to pay him for his work installing the radar. Back at 2 I checked us out and by 3 we were off.

We stopped at Tintemarre where we all went ashore. Helen, Sam, Ben and Jess all made mud and plastered themselves. We then swam back to Dignity where we had supper before setting sail for Antigua.

We have chosen to go when the wind speed was low and the direction a little too far south to sail. Therefore we’re motor sailing. The forecast did suggest a better sailing window in 2 days time but one never can tell. In two days we may be back to the Christmas winds blowing in the high 20s from just the wrong direction. Folks got pinned for weeks last year so we’d rather motorsail than get stuck – particularly given our recent experiences.

We instigated a watch system of two hour shifts. John -> Helen -> Sam -> Ben/Jess. Jess being the only one without sailing experience was paired with Ben. I don’t get a shift either as I’m on call to everyone for any questions, concerns or maneuvers. This keeps me rested as much as possible.

Right now it’s shortly after 2am on John’s shift. We’re on course due west of St Kitts. 3/4 of an hour or so ago the wind shifted 30 degrees right onto our nose. Ben woke me to discuss. Tacking and pointing the boat to Barbuda was tried but speed was no better so we dropped the head sail and soldiered on to Antigua. I used the radar and spotted a squall about 5 nm ahead of us which maybe the cause of the windshift. We again adjusted direction to make our way around this. Perhaps the winds will shift again as we pass.

It would have been nicer to have sailed here. If the wind had been stronger but from the wrong direction our plan B was to have sailed to Montserrat, visited the volcano there then performed a big tack upwind via Guadeloupe. Not to be. We have plenty of places to visit mapped out in Antigua from feedback from other cruisers so all is well.

Another lesson learned yesterday. Our dinghy performance has been gradually decreasing which made me suspect the motor had an issue. I’ve been given all sorts of suggestions until the one (so obvious) that nailed it. The dinghy has two hulls and has a bung accessible from the outside to drain any water collecting between the two. We opened this drain today and it took nearly 5 minutes for the water to drain out. Brand new dinghy afterwards. Also explains why we thought it was getting difficult to lift it recently. Duh.

Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance

It seems to be never ending. A quick account of the last few days.

Friday was all batteries. After topping up my house batteries on Wednesday I they were now appearing to discharge from being fully discharged far too quickly. I’ve been concentrating so far on the possibility that adding water caused the problem. Hours blown on that and still not solved. Got to generate some new hypotheses for possible cause. I’m the first one to advise others not to get tunnel vision when advising others. There’s a possibility I’ve succumb to it myself. Don’t know. We also noticed some reduced performance on the charging of the drive banks. Looks like there’s a common issue out there and there’s a while batch of new battery chargers on their way to the Caribbean for the L420s with this issue. This will be good and bad. Always good to get equipment refreshed. Bad in that this may tie us to St Martin too close to Xmas. This will require us to fly the kids here rather than meet them there. Will know more tomorrow.

Friday evening we took a break by visiting Ann and Jim in Bees Knees for some excellent hospitality and to meet their friend Bonnie with whom Jim is currently writing a book. In cruisers fashion we all brought part of the dinner. The theme was our usual for Fridays. Curry. Delicious.

Yesterday was more battery activity with further support from CatCo (big thanks guys). With relief I learned any replacements are still warrantied. Further house battery investigations and activities included swishing the water around inside using my hydrometer in case there was a poor mix.

Rather more successfully I installed fins on our outboard. These help keep the bow down and improve the dinghies ability to plane with higher loads. It involved drilling through the metal which always ends up with the odd shard making it’s way into flesh. Nevertheless the results were great. Helen and I went to the supermarket yesterday and loaded up (including lots of beer for the boys) and the dinghy got out of the water fairly easily which we know it couldn’t do before. It needs some fine tuning as the dinghy now pulls to the left. Out of the water it’s obvious one of the fins have slipped. Just need to get it adjusted.

Helen has been equally busy preparing the boat. She’s made some curtains for the salon area which we hung yesterday. This deals with the low sun in the late afternoon quite effectively.

I’ve also been taking advice on the interference issues coming from my SSB. Consensus right now that my grounding is lousy. We’ve got a radio head (meant nicely) visiting this afternoon to take a look at the setup and advise. That will direct some of my activity next week.

This afternoon we’re going to have Des and Sue (from Desue) come aboard. They’ve finally come out of the marina after their genset repairs. This means they are back to being mobile as they could not lower their dinghy while in the marina. I’ll use the opportunity to discuss batteries, etc with Des who, like many round here, is an engineer.

Eddie swung by just now. He’s going to pop round tomorrow morning to discuss radar installation. This we need his help for even if I end up running lots of the wires before he does the difficult stuff. I’ll also talk to him (and probably all the others) about yet another issue I have. My VHF radio keeps dropping into low power complaining the voltage is too low. I have metered it’s power supply and it does drop through the floor when transmitting on high power. Could be I have poor cabling. The wires are quite thin but advice would be welcome before I start running thicker wires to the console area.

In between all this we get time to relax and read. Just not much yet.

Tomorrow we hope to make the decision about Xmas. Chances are we will be flying the kids here. I think, from their perspective, this will improve the vacation. St Martin will add a variety and provide them access to cheap local beer on land which they won’t get in Antigua. (They’ll get beer but I understand it’s not cheap)

That’s all for now. I have an idea about my batteries so I’m off to fiddle.

Wed-Fri morning

Wednesday afternoon we decided I should go alone to pick up my parents from the airport. I initially went to the wrong place. Coupled with the fact I had to pick up some oil and fuel on the way I was a bit late. Hey – it’s da ilonds mon. I think they enjoyed the 2+ mile trip back to the boat. I was able to show them were we loaded the boat when our gear finally arrived.

We stayed aboard the boat for the rest of the day. Tom and Pat from Lone Star popped over to say hello. It was nice to get together again and relax and chat.

Thursday we felt like relaxing – we all deserved it. So first thing in the morning I dinghied into town to get fresh croissant and bread. Then we realized we still had a bit of a leak in the starboard aft transom. The previous day we’d tried recaulking the seals which appeared to have a crack and could be letting in rain water. Wednesday night had presented little rain but the water ingress was abundant. To trace the source I went into contortion mode to try and get my eyes into the area the leak could be coming from. Well, the source was the dock water inlet – quite curious when one is on anchor. I wondered if the watermaker setup was somehow pushing water back into this line. We had rigged it so that the feed from the starboard tank came from the starboard vent and over to the port tank. The thinking being that the slow input of water from the watermaker would push water over to the port tank but a sudden overfill from the dock would correctly rush out the vent. Worrying that we’d buggered something up I then went to check the valve that switches between internal and external water sources. I found it slightly misaligned and correcting that fixed the problem. It was the pressure from the internal system forcing the water back out the wrong way that caused the problem.

Ursurla the dodger maker arrived to fit the dodger. I ended up having to help her attach (by drilling and application of 5200) all the poppers. She took the dodger away again to clean it up and complete the stitching knowing it was now a good fit.

We all went into town on the dinghy developing our elderly people dinghy entry and exit procedures as we went. We visited the mall and walked around a bit before sitting for lunch. I rather regret choosing a cheeseburger but it was exceedingly nice – washed down with a beer.

Back on the boat we arrived just in time for Ursula’s return with the dodger. This will make a big difference. The rain, until now, has made the back seats wet. Also, when it rains when one is at the helm, wetness is the outcome. Hopefully no longer. The dodger has a couple of panels than can be opened to allow air to flow when needed. All good stuff.

The talk on the cruisers net for the last couple of days has been the potential impact of the incoming NWerly swells. We would be protected from a northerly swell by Anguilla to the north but a NWerly was concerning. Pat and Tom swung by to let us know they had been talking to a few locals who had swung their opinion and were heading into the lagoon for the next few days. I’m pretty sure Dignity will handle the swells ok but getting my parents on and off would be a challenge so we commited to making the 5:30 bridge opening.

Before then we had a visit back to Desue to attend to. We’d been invited back there by Des and Sue, the owners, as they knew my parents had arrived and they were keen to meet up. We had to keep this one short as we had to make it back to the boat for the bridge.

Heading to the bridge we discovered about 15 boats had all arrived at the same decision so it was a bit of a scrum. Not just that, a flotilla of dinghies, it seemed, came out to watch the fun as one doesn’t normally see this many boats coming through at this time of year. As we waited for the bridge to open, the first swells began to arrive. Amazing to think this was due to storms over a thousand miles to the north.

I was a bit frustrated as the boats in front went through the bridge quite slowly. We don’t have much clearance either side and I prefer (having had Eddie’s tuition last week) to have maneuverability that comes with higher speed as a sacrifice against to potential impact should I get it wrong. A wind gust at slow speed could be disastrous. So I held back a little then pushed it forward when I could and popped straight through. Mum, sitting at the front with her camera, was so enthralled she took no pics at all. That’s ok.

Helen cooked a great meal which we’re now digesting. It’s 8pm. They call 9pm the boaters midnight. I feel it. No internet so no surfing. Time for bed.

Friday morning.

This morning I dismantled a motor cooling fan that appeared to have seized. One of the brushes looked dislodged and quite to my amazement, the motor ran fine when I finally reassembled it.

Unfortunately, when I reassembled the motor I had somehow left the wires coming out of it a little shorter. Now they don’t reach where I need to plug them into. Darn.

This morning we shifted the boat a little nearer town. I now have an internet connection. News from back home seems grim. Our thoughts are with everyone back home and the stresses that come with these times. We continue to evaluate our future options too.

On the fixing front my attention now goes to my single side band radio. We need to get this going in order to receive weather forecasts. Here in St Martin we have a net where forecasts are shared each morning. When we can access the internet we can view the weather online. The internet is a luxury we can’t rely on. We need something more reliable. I’m hoping I can get the receive side of my SSB setup going fairly easily. The send side will come later as this is more complex and needs proper grounding.

Looking ahead, the NWerly swells are not going away for a while. This is going to curtail our roaming. No probs. We’re enjoying ourselves just where we are.