Log of the sailboat 'Magnolia'

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Sun for a new day  12/18/2008 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Dumped water from jugs into water tanks, with a little added bleach.
Did a bucket of laundry.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of garbage. Relatively quiet in town today, because there are no cruise-ships at the main dock. Walked to the library. $2 for an hour of internet; bought a couple of 12V 39-LED cluster-bulbs on EBay ($17 with shipping); ordered the parts for my GPS-autopilot project ($96 for dev board, programmer board, chip, and shipping). Got a free book from the take-a-book kiosk.

Back to the dinghy, then out to see if I can arrange a dinghy-ride ashore later. First boat I stopped at, Steve and his wife on "I'Lean", agreed to do the favor; that was easy. Back to the boat.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley. Dead cockroach

Stowed rope anchor rode and swept off the foredeck. Hoisted and lashed the dinghy and locked cable through the motor and boat and fuel tank and propane tank. Finished emptying water jugs and put them in cabin. Packed my suitcase. Cleaned the heads. Did the dishes and put them away.

Just before 2, Steve came over. I set off the bug-bomb (what a fountain of poison!), closed up and locked the main hatch, and we headed for shore.

Interesting conversation as we went to the dock. Turns out Steve just came up from Venezuela, and his (or one next to his here, I didn't get it straight) is the boat that was involved in the fatal shooting of a cruiser down there a couple of weeks ago (it was in the news). Another cruiser, a visitor to the boat, was shot by approaching locals, with no provocation.

Then, it turned out Steve is having the same solar-panel problem I had earlier this year: his Kyocera 120 panel has died (puts out 19V at no-load, but 9V and no current under load). So I told him to contact Kyocera, they'll send new panel at no charge and pay shipping both ways, etc.

Caught a taxi-van ($11) to the airport, and the other passenger wanted to know about chartering a sailboat down here, something I know little about. The driver said it's really cold in Philadelphia, my destination. And he says the New Year's Eve fireworks here will be from the marina, not municipal: I didn't have to move the boat yesterday. And he was complaining about the cruise-ship schedule I was noticing in Magen's Bay: two days with no ships in harbor, then a day with 5 or 6 in harbor, then a day with none.

Expected to pay $15 to check a suitcase, but no charge. Maybe they've rescinded those charges now that fuel prices have gone back down ? Or maybe only for domestic flights ?

In the security lines in the airport, chatted with a businessman who had been down here for a 2-day business trip. He was pretty envious when I told him I was retired and living on a boat.

Nice view of all of Vieques and the whole east end of Puerto Rico as we flew out of the area. Was raining over the rainforest, for a change. Uneventful flight, although a pretty bumpy landing in windless conditions in Philly. An evening of 35-40 degrees and no wind in Philly, which is about as good as I could ask for here in December. Expecting snow tomorrow.

Picked up by my brother and off to Mom's place. Very nice to see her. And a whole box of mail waiting for me, including a lot of packages I ordered over the internet several weeks ago: 7 used books, a new AC adapter for the laptop (confirmed that the old one is bad), and a hand-cranked 5-LED flashlight (looks good). And Comedy Central is having a Futurama marathon; bliss.

[Next morning: nice long hot shower, and newspapers. That's a good thing about living on a boat: everything's so great when you get back to modern conveniences.]
Sun for a new day  12/19/2008 - 1/7/2009
Boat's at anchor at Charlotte Amalie; I'm in PA / NJ for Christmas / New Year's.

Did a few chores for Mom: fixed her AOL account, tried to diagnose a hum in her TV set (we ended up exchanging it for a new one), sorted through a pile of hearing-aid batteries, figured out the keypad on her microwave oven, etc.

12/19: Went to Philly with my sister and my mom, saw a house my brother bought and another next door that he plans to buy, and another elsewhere that my sister dreams of buying (but in a place where it's wise to have bulletproof glass in the windows). Lunch at Dinic's in the Reading Terminal Market. Found the downside of my very short haircut: cold rain cuts right through it. Grey and rainy and cool/cold all day.

Squashed a bug (pic) in Mom's kitchen. Didn't tell her about it; maybe it came in with the morning newspaper ? Or maybe I carried a bad habit from the boat to PA. Squashed another one the next day, and Mom says they're harmless beetle-like things that are widespread in the complex. Surprising in an expensive, upscale assisted-living place. (Later, my sister said they're "shield beetles", they often swarm here, they're harmless, they're in lots of buildings. Readers say it's a "stink bug", and if you crush it you'll find out why it's called that.) Dead cockroachDead cockroach

Ordered a BlueProton GSky 500 mW USB Wi-Fi adapter ($26 including shipping). Should improve my Wi-Fi capability.

12/21: Up to Paterson NJ to a big model-railroad exhibit with my 2.5-year-old nephew.

12/22: Rented a car for a week ($325). It's a Nissan Altima with a new-fangled ignition switch: the electronic key-fob has to be inside the car somewhere, but you don't stick a key into a switch, you press a button on the dashboard to start/stop the engine.

Bought various stuff for the boat: galley water filters, new scraper for the hull, spark-plug wrench, 12V plug. Ordered a simple 12v cigarette-plug type outlet-and-plug through EBay; how can it possibly "ship from Hong Kong Post via Airmail" for $1 for the part and $2.32 for shipping ? Ordered a USB extension cable for the Wi-Fi.

Went into a "religious store" so Mom could buy a new rosary; I was relieved when I didn't burst into flame as I entered.

Did almost all of my Christmas-gift shopping in a half-hour session in a Borders bookstore.

Received my GPS-autopilot development pieces by mail on Christmas Day: development board and programmer board. Looks like I need to buy a special cable to connect the two of them. Also received my LED light bulbs.

Had a nice Christmas at my brother's place in Newark NJ.

Received a chocolate Magnolia from my sister in Indiana.

Mmmmmm: went to dinner at Mastori's diner in Bordentown NJ; very nice.

Received my new Wi-Fi adapter, and it picks up more Wi-Fi signals than my previous adapter. Looks good.

The 20 GB hard disk in my laptop is so full that it's hard to install the software for my auto-pilot project, so I went to the other extreme and ordered a 750 GB USB hard disk (through Amazon, for an unbelievably low $92 including free shipping). Won't be any practical way to back up the data on it, of course. [Whoops: after ordering, found out the disk comes with an AC adapter; I had assumed it was USB-powered. Will have to use a DC-to-DC adapter. Looks like I can't find out the DC voltage and current specs until I receive the disk.] Now it will be a race to see if it arrives here before I leave to go back to the boat.

I've noticed that my sleep-patterns are completely different here than they were on the boat, more so than in previous holidays. I'm sleeping like a log for 4+ hours or even the entire night; on the boat I sleep very lightly most of the time, even in a calm, safe anchorage. Probably good for my brain to get different kinds of sleep.

Went to stay with my brother for a few days, and he has broadband fiber-optic internet ! And we went to a Princeton University hockey game, which was fun.

Received my 15-foot USB active extension cable, but it doesn't seem to work with the new GSky Wi-Fi adapter. In fact, it keeps causing a Blue Screen of Death on Windows XP; can't remember last time that happened to me. Probably a bug in the GSky driver; USB errors shouldn't cause BSOD.

Had a pizza on New Year's Eve. My first pizza in 10 months or so; that made it even more delicious.

That "$1 plus $2.30 shipping" cigarette-plug extender arrived from Hong Kong ! How can they dothat ?

Went to the Barnes Foundation (art museum) in N or NW Philadelphia; it was very nice. Chock-full of expensive art: Matisse, Renoir, Cezanne, etc.

Dinner at a good Indian restaurant near Yardley PA; can't remember the last time I had Indian food.

Picked up a multi-day cold and headache.

My new disk drive via FedEx was in Harrisburg PA at 4 PM on the 6th; will it be delivered (in Langhorne at the other end of the state) on the 7th ? I'm leaving at dawn on the 8th !

Yes ! New disk drive arrived at 12:25 on the 7th, and I got it, and it works (but it's really "only" 698 GB, not 750). The AC adapter with it puts out 12 VDC; wonder if I dare connect the drive power directly to the 12 VDC in my boat (which really is 12.4 to 14 VDC) ?

Finally got my will and health care directive witnessed and notarized; I've been trying to get all of the pieces and people together for a couple of weeks.

Bought a $1 ticket for the $105 million Powerball lottery; if I win, I might get a bigger boat. (Didn't win; did worse than random chance.)
Sun for a new day  1/8/2009 (Thursday)
Boat's at anchor at Charlotte Amalie; I'm in PA / NJ for Christmas / New Year's.

An anxious trip to the airport: taxiis were too busy to get earlier train; taxi ($8) was late anyway; later train ($9) was 11 minutes late; found that train let me off at terminal A east when I needed A west. Saved by absolutely zero line at check-in; rushed up 55 minutes before 10 AM departure time and the guy said "I'm surprised the computer let me check your bag onto this flight; you're after the deadline". $15 to check the bag. Absolutely no line at Security either.

Wondered if Security elsewhere freaked when they scanned my suitcase: it contained a disk drive, LED hand-crank flashlight, two circuit-boards and cables, USB extender cable, big putty knife, spark-plug tool, cigarette plug, etc. Probably got hand-searched.

Plane taxiied out onto the field and then sat for 20+ minutes; I saw at least 15 other planes sitting or moving slowly on the taxiways. Uneventful flight to St Thomas, and I had a whole row of seats to myself. Even soda costs $2 aboard now. 80 degrees or so in St Thomas. My suitcase appeared, so everything was fine.

Taxi ($10) to downtown dinghy dock, I can see my boat still afloat, and time to bum a ride out to my boat. First guy had more than a dinghy-full of groceries to take out; didn't even ask him. Second guys were coming in, and busy. Third guy was happy to take me on his way out to his boat; easy. Couldn't have been standing there more than 3 minutes.

Out to the boat, climbed aboard at 4 PM AST, and unlocked and opened up everything. No poison residue or fumes from the bug-bomb I set off as I left, and only a couple of dead cockroaches in a few odd corners. Boat looks fine, inside and out. Harbor is rolly as usual. Another boat is anchored fairly close over my primary anchor, and my two anchor rodes (chains) are twisted around each other a couple of times, but those are problems for tomorrow or the next day.

Changed water filter under galley sink. Installed 39-LED bulb in light fixture over stove.

No cruise-ships in harbor today. They're up to their usual scheduling oddness: six here yesterday according to the taxi driver, zero today, zero tomorrow. The tourist-workers here hate that.

Saw gasoline here for $2.69/gallon; best in NJ was $1.43/gallon.

PB-crackers for dinner.

A bit headachey from the trip; took pills and early to bed.

Sprayed several cockroaches in the galley during the night. So much for the bug-bomb approach. Dead cockroachDead cockroachDead cockroach

Got a little Wi-Fi at 11 PM; new adapter proves its worth.
Sun for a new day  1/9/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Added water to the batteries. Started the refrigerator.

Killed a cockroach in the galley. Dead cockroach

Dinghied ashore after lunch, noticing that "Wandering Albatross" is here. To Radio Shack, and bought a DB-9 connector ($3) for the autopilot project. To the supermarket for groceries, and trundled them back to the dinghy using my little grocery-cart thing; it comes in very handy every now and then. Saw Doug and Nancy from "Presque Isle" on the dinghy-dock and said hello; Nancy looks great, she's lost weight. They're thinking of leaving here in March or so; they've been here a year or so. They said Joe and Wendy from "Off Call" are here too; they're heading up to Canada. Back to the boat and stowed everything.

Did a little Wi-Fi.

Salad and chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran engine for 15 minutes to exercise it.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach
Sun for a new day  1/10/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship in harbor today.

Had hoped for no wind in the morning; I need to untwist the anchor rodes and then raise anchor, cleaning the rodes. But it's pretty windy this morning. Went out on the foredeck before noon, but it was still blowing way too hard. Kept blowing all day.

Installed a couple of 12V connectors to use instead of cigarette-plug connectors. I had done a little of this a while ago, but then changed laptop power adapters.

Tried to do a little Wi-Fi, but the signal dropped right after uploading the log file, and I couldn't get reconnected. Listened to Car Talk.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach
Sun for a new day  1/11/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship in main harbor today.

Rain at 7:50.

Launched dinghy and pumped up the tubes. Wind was light, so used the dinghy to spin the boat twice clockwise, untwisting the anchor chains. This operation is the only time I wish my outboard motor had a couple more horsepower: 6 HP is barely enough to do this.

Brief rain at 9:30 and more at 9:45 and again at 10:30.

Ashore to do shopping, trying to time things to avoid the light squalls that are rolling through every 15 minutes or so. But didn't find anything I needed in KMart, and only half of the stuff I wanted in the supermarket.

Stopped in the marina office to ask about their facilities (pretty low fuel prices: $2.19/gallon for gas and $2.30/gallon for diesel). Saw Doug and chatted with him for 10 or 15 minutes. Bummer: he says St Martin fees have been increased to about $5/day; I'm planning to go there.

Back to the boat.

Started raising the secondary anchor, scrubbing the chain as it came up, but had to keep stopping to let rain squalls pass through. Pretty rolly too. A messy, sweaty job. Got the anchor up, and found the shank bent (pic). Must have happened while I was gone; I'm virtually certain it wasn't like that when I put it down. Didn't think there was anything hard enough on the bottom here to bend it.

Mark from "Mystic" stopped by to chat. I last saw him about 15 months ago in Salinas; he left to try to get work on St Croix. He ended up working in the boatyard in Christiansted, and put a used engine in his boat. He left for Grenada a few months before hurricane Omar hit St Croix. He came back and saw the damage, and told me stories of boats broken up against the boardwalk. He said the eye of the storm went right over the SE tip of the island; I thought the radio said the eye went 10-20 miles SE of the island. His info makes the damage in Christiansted more understandable.

Saw a big marching band go up the waterfront street in town.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed several cockroaches in the galley during the night. Dead cockroachDead cockroachDead cockroach

Didn't sleep well, for second night in a row. Have a sore throat and a cough.
Sun for a new day  1/12/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

I had been planning to leave today. But I don't feel good, then I decided I should use the fuel dock here, and I kind of wanted to go snorkeling at Buck Island on the way out. So I think I'll bag it all and go back to bed.

Felt tired and headachey and achey all day, with some coughing. Napped and read and napped and took pills.

Fuel level 3.25 inches at engine hour 4472; didn't realize it had gotten that low. Lucky I didn't run out when coming here before Christmas (although I have 5 gallons of diesel in a jug on deck for just such an emergency).

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Another night of headache and coughing and little sleep. Around 3 AM, finally found a combination of pills that worked: anti-histamine, Tylenol and ibuprofen. Started to feel better.

Killed several cockroaches in the galley during the night. Dead cockroachDead cockroachDead cockroach
Sun for a new day  1/13/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Feeling mostly-better; still slightly weak. Decided to leave today, stopping at the fuel dock on the way out.

Three cruise-ships in main harbor today.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug to fuel tank. Put out four fenders and two dock-lines on the starboard side.

Anchor up by 8:55. Called fuel dock on the VHF, and they said their diesel pump isn't working, maybe try again in a couple of hours !

Well, I know my tank is very low on fuel, but I'm only going 8-9 miles to Benner Bay, and the 5 gallons I just added should more than cover that. Don't feel like putting anchor down and waiting, and maybe spending another day and night here. So I decided to go anyway (bad decision).

Got out of the harbor mouth, and it's pretty rough out here. It always is on this stretch; the water funnels between St Thomas to the north and Buck Island to the south. Hope the fuel doesn't slosh around in the tank enough to make the engine suck air. Decided to keep going (bad decision). Making only 2.2 knots or so over ground, straight into strong wind and big seas.

Got about 2/3 of the way there, next to underwater Packet Rock, and the engine started choking and racing. No way I'm going to make it all the way, and ahead there's a mile-plus stretch off the nasty lee shore of False Entrance and Cas Cay. Quickly shut off the engine to save some running-time for later (good decision), unfurl the jib, and start sailing back. Before I can get much headway, I almost run over a dive-mooring and get it in the prop; that would be a disaster in these conditions. Manage to skootch around it.

Nice sail downwind, making close to 4 knots. Hard to see where the harbor entrance is; it's sort of around a corner out of sight, and the rocky shore looks so uniform that I can't see where the entrance is. I need to hug the shore so I'm close in when I turn that corner and probably lose the wind. But there are a few shoals to watch out for. So I head in closer (good decision).

I go through one tricky place where there are breaking shoals on both sides, and go a little too close to a motorboat with a diver-down flag flying. If I hadn't, I would have lost some ground downwind, which I don't think I can afford.

Around the corner of Point Knoll, going as close ashore as I dare, about 20 feet away from some seriously shallow rocks. Now I'm in water shallow enough and mostly-sheltered enough to anchor. I start to lose the wind as I approach a smaller unnamed point 100 yards further up. Any thoughts I had of sailing all the way into the main harbor are gone; the wind-shadow of the island would make it too dangerous. I start the engine, it runs, and I furl the jib and nose into Pacquereau Bay just outside the harbor entrance, and put the anchor down. Done by 11:10 at Pacquereau Bay.

What a relief ! Kind of nice here, too; not as rolly as the main harbor. But I'm sure there will be a few huge ferry wakes.

Got Wi-Fi just long enough to upload the log file.

Around 1:30, called the fuel dock on the VHF and confirmed that their diesel pump is running now. Launched the dinghy before 2, went in and got 10 gallons of diesel for $2.31, and back out to the boat by 2:30. Hoisted dinghy and stowed everything, dumped the fuel from jugs into the fuel tank, and got the boat ready to take in to the fuel dock.

At 3:05, raised anchor (just about exhausted myself doing that), and motored in. Heard a bit of a "kling-kling" sound from somewhere, but couldn't localize it. Got about 1/3 of the way along cruise-ship row toward the fuel dock when the engine stuttered and then quit ! Quickly unfurled the jib, made a left turn (good thing I didn't have to turn right: stupidly, the fenders are covering up the starboard jib sheet), and sailed away from the cruise ships. Fortunately the wind is from a good direction and there are no anchored boats in my way. Sailed over to the edge of the anchored boats and put and down by 3:25 at Charlotte Amalie. So, I'm back.

As I tidied up the boat, pulling fenders and such in, I noticed a smoky smell, probably coming from the cruise ships, which run generators all of the time. But after a while I started to suspect it was coming from my boat. Sure enough, the cabin air is fairly smoky, and the engine compartment is the source of it. The engine is hot and the smoke smells kind of dusty/rubbery. I can't remember if I looked in the engine compartment after this morning's fiasco, but I'm sure there was no smoke in the cabin before 3. I know I looked at the engine temperature gauge this morning, and probably this afternoon, and it was normal. Crap !

So, I'm in a decent place, maybe not as comfortable as possible but safe and legal and with access to facilities and people, and with possibly two separate engine problems (maybe a fuel-filter problem and a heat/burning problem ?). Will start working on the engine tomorrow.

But did a quick scan of the hot engine and didn't see any obvious problems: no leaks, no broken hoses or wires, alternator belt looks good.

Chicken-onion-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Watched the cruise-ships leave at sunset. Watched carefully, because I'm the boat closest to the spot they back into to make the turn to point out the harbor entrance. I'm really not too close, at least 200 yards away from their nearest approach and not directly behind them, but they're so big that I seem too close. After the first one left, when it was more than half a mile away, the harbor water where the ship had turned was churning, with strong currents whipping up from the bottom and maybe some air in the water. I watched as it approached my boat and then ebbed out just past me. The other two ships (sister-ships to each other) didn't cause the same effect. As the last ship backed out, a megayacht came out of the marina and dawdled right in their way, making the ship stop and wait; pretty inconsiderate.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach

Slept fairly well, but still taking pills.
Sun for a new day  1/14/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Still not fully well: head aches a little, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, feel a little weak, still taking pills.

Two cruise-ships in main harbor today.

Started investigating the engine. Coolant level fine, oil level fine. Transmission fluid is low; it's at the "L" mark, and in this transmission it's supposed to be above "F" when engine is off. Added about a pint of fluid to it. I remember checking the fluid level months ago, and it was a little below "F", I think. Hope I haven't blown a transmission seal; guess the level would be off the dipstick if that had happened.

Looked at the exhaust system; I'd been thinking exhaust fumes had been getting into the compartment, and assumed the joint between exhaust manifold and exhaust riser was loose. Today, something definitely is loose. I tighten the nuts holding riser onto manifold, but that doesn't fix it. Then I find that the manifold-to-engine-block joint is loose. I tighten the four nuts through the top of the manifold, and now the joints are tight, and the riser is solid (I'm surprised that there seem to be no nuts/bolts underneath the manifold holding it to the block; how is that side of the joint held closed ?).

That explains the smoke in the compartment and boat. Hope I don't need to take the manifold off completely and rebed the joint to the engine block, or buy and install a new gasket there. Looks like some water ran down from loose manifold-block joint and made some rust on the side of the starter motor and solenoid. Might be a good idea to take them off and to a motor shop for some cleanup. I've had some starting problems, so I really should do that.

All wires on starboard side of the engine look good. A little rust on the terminals on the starter solenoid. A little rust on the manual handle on the fuel lift pump: some water got out of the exhaust manifold and down to there.

Loosened the alternator and took the belt off completely, and the belt looks absolutely fine. Alternator and fresh-water cooling pump pulleys spin freely and cleanly. Put the belt back on.

Fuel level 5.1 inches at engine hour 4474. So the fuel I put in yesterday did get into the tank.

Okay, my records show I'm overdue for changing all of the fuel filters.

The cruise ships are doing lifeboat practice today (pic).

Can't get any free Wi-Fi.

Got out the new fuel filters, and then realized my diesel jugs are empty; I have no clean diesel to pour into the filter housings when putting them back together. So dinghied ashore and bought another 10 gallons of diesel ($23).

Replaced the two primary filters, and they were very dirty. And what came out of them looks like mostly black water, not diesel. Washed out the housings with WD-40, put in the new filters, filled them up with diesel, and installed them. A messy job.

Started the engine and ran it for 5 minutes, and everything looks good ! No smoke, no racing or stalling, alternator good, no leaks from the fuel filter housings.

But then I put it into gear, and there was a "chunk" sound and the engine stalled. Started it again, put it in gear again, same thing.

So, I either have a seized transmission, or something solid stuck in my propeller. A bad transmission is my worst nightmare; it's going to be a major job to get it out of there and to a shop. I don't have the heart to dive under the boat this afternoon; tomorrow I'll do that, and do the secondary fuel filter, check the transmission fluid again, and see if the transmission has cured itself miraculously. Crap !

Later, took a quick look at the clearance for getting the transmission out, and it's not quite as bad as I thought at first. I'll have to take a cabinet off the engine compartment wall, maybe with a sledgehammer, and probably take out the engine oil cooler and intake strainer, and rig something to help me lift the transmission and reduction-gear (probably weighs 100-120 pounds ?). Hope I can get the drive-shaft coupling loose, but I got it apart a couple of years ago in the boatyard (with massive effort), so maybe it can be done again here. If that won't budge, I'll have to be towed into a boatyard.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Slept fairly well, but still taking pills.
Sun for a new day  1/15/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Still feeling poorly: coughing, sneezing, stuffed up, headachey.

By 9:45, wind blowing hard. Not an attractive day for snorkeling under the boat, but I have to do it.

So, before noon, lowered the dinghy and went snorkeling under the boat. Not too bad, and I was in and out quickly. But as I feared, no big chunk of something fouling the propeller. And I can't turn the propeller; usually it freewheels easily while the transmission is in neutral or the engine is off. Now I can rotate it back and forth only a couple of degrees before it stops hard. So something in the transmission is munched.

Back aboard and showered off.

Still can't get any free Wi-Fi here.

Headed ashore. First up toward the marina. Long chat with Chris and Mary Liz on "Wandering Albatross"; I last saw them in Luperon in 2005. They spent almost 2 years in Venezuela, and liked it, but there was plenty of crime, and they wouldn't go back now. I told them about my transmission problem, we talked about St Croix and hurricanes and such, and it was nice. I gave them a couple of books.

Doug and Nancy came by, so I went to their boat and told Doug about the transmission; he's very knowledgeable and usually knows all the local scoop everywhere. He guesses one or more of the transmission main bearings has disintegrated, although he suggested a few less likely things such as the shaft binding in the stern tube (no way). He pointed me to a local shop that does engine work; maybe they can handle transmission stuff too.

Then went down the harbor to the downtown dock area. Disposed of garbage. To the library, and did an hour of internet ($2). Looks like transmission rebuild kits and parts aren't horribly expensive (but a new dipstick is $40 ?). Sent an inquiry about swapping my transmission for a reconditioned one, but probably the shipping costs would be prohibitive. My transmission is a Borg-Warner Velvet Drive 72C (or 72CR ?) hydraulic, 2.1 to 1 reduction, serial number 12525, model AS13-72C (or AS13-72CR ?).

Read my book in the park for a while, then back to the boat. It was good to get off the boat for a while, and talk to some friends.

Lots of rain-squalls from 4:30 to 5:30.

Chili for dinner.

Around 5:30, headed ashore, walked through the marina into Havensight Mall (outdoor mall at the cruise-ship docks), and joined Chris and Mary Liz and Doug And Nancy for a drink. The bar is a little shack just inside the entrance that opens from 5 to 8 or so. Sat at an outdoor table with rain threatening, and had a nice chat. I didn't stay too long, just had one beer and was sociable. Then to the supermarket for a few groceries, back to the dinghy-dock, and out to the boat. It's taken a while to get the hang of hoisting the dinghy in the dark, in a rolly harbor, but I've gotten pretty good at it.

More rain-squalls from 8 to 10 or so.

Took pills, eventually slept well, and I think my fever and cold broke a bit during the night.
Sun for a new day  1/16/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Feeling a lot better this morning: still coughing a bit, but my head feels pretty good.

No cruise-ships at the main dock.

Did a small bucket of laundry.

Emptied the cabinet above the transmission, in the engine compartment, so I can take it off the wall. Suddenly realized a big complication of the transmission job: the rear engine-mounts are bolted to the transmission, not the engine block. So I'm going to have to devise a support for the rear end of the 1300-pound engine before removing the transmission. Ugly. I could wedge a bunch of wood under there, but if the engine settles down at all, it would be a chore to get it up again. So I guess buying or borrowing a scissors-jack or bottle-jack might be the way to go. I assume the bottom of the bilge can take the weight, with some added wood down there to spread the load. I might have to sculpt a piece of wood to fit up under the bottom of the flywheel bell-housing, so the jack can't slip sideways while the engine is jacked up. And more wood on the sides to keep the engine in place when the boat rolls, while the rear mounts and transmission are out.

And once I have the engine supported and the transmission out, I might as well replace the rear engine mounts; they're 36 years old and have needed replacement for a while, I'm sure.

If I replace the rear mounts, and have a jack available anyway, then after putting the rear mounts and transmission in, I might as well replace the forward engine mounts too.

Probably should take the opportunity to have a transmission fluid temperature gauge installed.

Service manual says transmission plus reduction gear weighs 153 pounds.

So, now you see why a serious transmission problem has been one of my recurring nightmares. I won't mention the others, lest that cause one of them.

Should take the opportunity to take the starter motor out and take it to a shop.

Removed the cabinet from the wall of the engine compartment. Removed the setscrew-wire from the transmission-to-shaft coupler, and eventually got the setscrews (bolts, really) out. Drenched the area with WD-40. Will try to get the shaft out of the coupler tomorrow.

Dinghied ashore (saw interesting boat), stopping to chat with Doug and Nancy on the way. Found the diesel shop, talked to the guy, and all is well. He says they've been rebuilding my model of transmission for 20 years now, and have all the usual parts in stock. He says it's easy to take the transmission out (and it is, if you gloss over jacking up a 1300-pound engine and then lifting a 150-pound transmission out of an awkward spot). He'd be happy to send a guy out to the boat to do it (probably at $70 per hour). If I need them to send a truck to pick up the transmission from the dinghy-dock, that will cost $55/hour. I didn't even ask the price of a rebuild; whatever it is, I'll pay it.

Back to the dinghy, and headed for the boat with a huge squall bearing down on me. As I went past, Mary Liz said they're leaving tomorrow. Rain beat me to the boat by a minute or so, and I got fairly wet.

The last few days, we've had rain-squalls at dawn and then from 4 to 6 or so. But this afternoon, the rain came in at 3 or so and the grey never went away. Squalls at 3 and 3:40 and 3:55, then damp and grey and icky all evening.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Evening not too bad, but after midnight it started getting rolly, and stayed rolly. Very uncomfortable and irritating, and hard to sleep at all. Wind is light and much more south than usual, and boat is wallowing. Lousy.
Sun for a new day  1/17/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Miserable, rolly, grey, damp morning. Rained hard at 7:15. Not enough breeze to keep the boat motion regular, or to blow away the damp. Constantly threatening misty rain, so I had to keep the hatches and ports closed. Laid in bed and read a book and listened to radio and felt grouchy. One cruise-ship at the main dock.

Dumped about 4 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jug.

Mark stopped by around 9:30, wondering why I was still in the harbor, and had changed position since he last saw me. I told him about the transmission, and he gave me his phone number and offered any help he could give. He too complained about how rolly it had been last night, saying he'd started feeling seasick as he laid in his berth. He's moving to Crown Bay today.

Finally got some sunshine after 11. Put the setscrews back into the drive-shaft coupling, and loosened the bolts holding the coupling halves together. Quickly tired of crouching with head down toward the bilge with the boat rolling, with greasy hands working on half-hidden bolts.

At 12:45, reader Ralph from Hans Christian sloop "Solainne" (pic) nearby came by to say hello, and to give me a spray-can of Avert cockroach gel bait ! He's heading to Culebra tomorrow.

A second cruise-ship came in.

Things to do on the transmission:
- remove bilge pumps to get them out of the way.
- use something to prop up the drive shaft, then undo the coupling bolts.
- take pictures and draw diagrams, then remove hoses and gear linkage from transmission.
- remove engine oil cooler and oil filter and intake strainer to get them out of the way.
- measure clearance from bottom of bell housing to bilge.
- to Home Depot or hardware store to buy scissors jack or bottle jack.
- install wood and jack under bell housing.
- install wood around sides of bell housing to keep engine from sliding sideways when boat rolls.
- loosen nuts on tops of forward engine mounts.
- remove nuts on tops of rear engine mounts.
- jack up rear of engine just enough so engine is holding up transmission instead of vice-versa.
- make some kind of rope sling to lift transmission.
- unbolt transmission from bell housing.
- lift transmission out.

Dinghied ashore and went to the library. Despite having carefully checked the schedule when I was here on Thursday to verify that it was open on Saturday, it's not open today. Maybe it's closed because Monday is a holiday ?

To a cafe and used the tiny book-exchange there, then to the park to read a book for a couple of hours. Turned into a sunny afternoon, and it was very nice to be off the boat, and I felt better. Several dozen Palestinians chanting and protesting Israel over at the bandstand.

Not much breeze this afternoon, so a seaplane came in for landing from the east instead of the west. Showing off, he came in as low as possible, right over Emancipation Park, and started his landing just about at the dinghy-dock. Pretty reckless and dangerous, but he got away with it.

Back to the boat.

Nice-looking schooner nearby.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Loud music from shore for much of the evening; I think Carnival season is approaching.

Biggest megayacht I've ever seen (pic) came in and anchored nearby, and stayed lit up all night; took a picture of it the next morning before it snuck away. Never did see anyone out on deck on it. Maybe 250 feet long ? More ? [Later it was at the marina fuel-dock for a while, and I saw the name is "Rising Sun". And it has a 15-foot-long bow-bulb (what's the name for that ?) mostly underwater.] [Turns out it has a Wikipedia page, and is about 450 feet long !]

Started one of the used books I bought through Amazon, and found the first 128 pages missing ! First time that's happened to me.
Sun for a new day  1/18/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Partly cloudy morning, so better than it's been the last few days. Still not much wind, and fairly rolly at times. One cruise-ship in harbor.

Loafed all morning.

Took some pictures of the approach to the transmission, looking in from the door to the engine compartment: pic1, pic2.

Then took out the engine intake strainer (one hose-clamp broke apart as I loosened it) and the shelf it was attached to, and the approach is a little clearer: pic3.

Took out the primary bilge pump: pic4.

Disconnected linkage and hoses from transmission, and oil hoses from engine. Transmission fluid dripping out of the oil cooler is dark and burnt-smelling; the fluid on the dipstick was fine. Maybe the oil cooler is plugged up, or the fluid pump in the transmission is broken ? What could make the fluid bad in one place and good in the other ?

Tried to get the oil cooler and oil filter assembly off the engine, but it's held on by a couple of rusty bolts and nuts through the edge of the bell housing, and I could get only one nut off. Access is very limited, and everything is rusty. Ended up taking the oil filter off separately. pic5.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit; first one I've seen in a week or so, and I've been looking. Haven't tried that "Avert" stuff yet. Dead cockroach

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Huge fire ashore (pic); took them a couple of hours to put it out. Smoke went from white to black to white again a couple of times. [Found out later, it was a former Red Cross warehouse, maybe used by the USO now, which had a lot of donated old clothing in it.]
Sun for a new day  1/19/2009 (Monday; MLK day)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Pretty clear morning. One cruise-ship in harbor.

Still no free Wi-Fi here; life would be a lot more pleasant if there were.

Loafed all morning; it's pretty rolly, and I'm having trouble getting myself to move on the nasty stuck bolts on the transmission job. Harbor stayed rolly all day.

After lunch, cleaned the bilge a bit (frustrating; none of my oil-change pumps work well. Then took the oil cooler off the engine, and worked on the last stuck nut holding the last bracket onto the bell housing. Maybe I could leave it alone, but I think I want to get it off. Didn't make much progress; maybe tomorrow I'll cut or crack it off.

Tried to loosen an engine mount nut, and it wouldn't budge. I need to buy a 1-1/8" box-end wrench, or I could just cut/crack the nuts off.

Here's what the approach to the transmission looks like now: pic.

Measured the current adjustment levels of the engine mounts. Measured the clearance from bottom of the bilge to bottom of the engine flywheel bell housing, and it's quite deep right there: 24". It's just aft of a big step up in the bilge, and forward of a fiberglass "bridge" across the bilge underneath the transmission. So trying to swing the handle of a jack could be a challenge. The screw-action of a scissors-jack or a hydraulic hose to a jack would work.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach
Sun for a new day  1/20/2009 (Tuesday; Inauguration Day)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Grey, dim, rainy morning. Three cruise-ships in harbor. And the wind made me inhale their exhaust-fumes much of the day. Rolly today, too.

Dinghied ashore. Sun starting to come out around 10. Disposed of garbage. To the library, and the stupid place is closed again ! The sign last week said nothing about being closed today.

Walked down to the Sea Chest hardware store, which turned out to be further than I thought. Kept an eye out for site of that big fire the other evening, but didn't see it.

Looked at jacks at the hardware store, and they had a nice bottle-jack for $28. Has an 8" minimum and a 15" maximum, which I'm not sure will fit under the front end of the engine when replacing the forward engine mounts. And it would be nice to have bolt-holes in the base of the jack so I could bolt it in place on top of a piece of 2x10 or something, so there's less chance of it tilting when the boat rolls. They had a scissors-jack too, but it was a lot wider and longer (but maybe not as tall) and was $55 or so.

Bought a 1-1/8" wrench ($13.50) for the engine mount nuts. Went to NAPA Auto, but it and other places are closed today. Got groceries, then a longish wait for a safari bus ($1) back to downtown. Hot and tired by the time I got back to the boat.

Took the secondary bilge pump out: pic.

A sledgehammer and the new wrench soon got all four engine-mount nuts loose; a couple of them were really stubborn. The nut-cracker and the biggest pliers got the cooler-bracket-nut off. So now I have access to the transmission as good as it will get: pic.

Measured clearance from bottom of bilge to bottom of forward end of engine, and it's only 12" or less, and the bottom of the engine there is oil-pan. So I'll have to do something tricky to raise that end of the engine, and an 8"-minimum jack might be too large.

Cleaned the bilge some more; there's still a lot of oily water down there, and I'd like to have it dry before putting a lot of wood down there for the jack.

Carved an old laundry-detergent bottle and used it to prop up the drive shaft. Then unbolted the coupling halves. Confirmed that shaft turns okay; transmission is seized.

Put a wrench on one of the bolts holding transmission to engine flywheel bell housing, and it turned without too much effort. So I think the path is clear to getting this transmission out.

Need to remove a light metal baffle that is hanging down into the bilge underneath the transmission, to get to the space where the platform for the jack will stand. Don't really understand what purpose it is supposed to serve; the bilge would have to be very full of water for this baffle to affect surges forward and back.

Salami-and-cheese sandwiches and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Miserable night: very rolly all night, and didn't get much sleep. I hate this harbor.
Sun for a new day  1/21/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Three cruise-ships in harbor. More exhaust-fumes. And it's still rolly.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of garbage. To the library, and finally it's open. Asked why it was closed Saturday and Tuesday: "oh, we've been closed on Saturdays for a while since they're rebuilding the walkway outside" and "Tuesday was Inauguration Day"; no apology for the signs not saying so. The signs clearly say "closed on Monday the 19th".

Did an hour of internet ($2). A diesel place says the 2.1:1 reduction units are trouble; hope mine isn't irreparable.

Used the book-exchange. Sat in the park for a little while and chatted with a guy from the Dominican Republic. Back to the boat.

Very grey and humid this afternoon; wind slowly wandering between W and S.

Pumped and cleaned the bilge some more, and finally I can see the bottom of it in a few places.

Got the drive-coupler bolts back in properly; apparently the two bolts are not quite identical, so each must go in a particular hole.

Figured out what is holding that metal baffle on in the bilge, and it's a couple of screws that must have been put in before the engine and transmission were installed. I don't have the short Phillips-head screwdriver I need to get them out.

The reduction gear portion is bigger/longer than I thought at first glance. Looks like removing the reduction gear first (suggested by a reader) would split the 155 or so pounds of weight into maybe 45 and 110. Probably worth doing. Reversing that on the way back in would be trickier: a gasket has to be installed between the two pieces.

Around 3, the grey really closed in, and it started raining. Rained every 45 minutes or so for most of the afternoon and early evening. Wind mostly out of the W and SW, which is unusual.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Still rolly at times, but got some decent sleep this night.
Sun for a new day  1/22/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

No cruise-ships in harbor. And it's not quite so rolly today.

Loafed most of the morning, then got working. Removed the reduction-gear from the transmission and lifted it out (pic).

As usual with such a job, there was a bit of a surprise. Had to slide the drive shaft back much further than I expected: instead of a splined shaft coming out from the transmission, there was a gear and shaft (pic). At first, I was afraid the reduction gear was going to come out in pieces, which would fall into the bilge. But it turns out there's an adapter plate bolted to the rear of the transmission, and that's what I was seeing. A worrying note for putting it back together: there's a small gasket inside the reduction gear that doesn't seem to be fixed in place; it's sliding around loose, around the hole that the shaft goes into.

Lots of dark, burnt transmission fluid came out; I guess the fluid on the dipstick was lying to me. Pumped out the bilge a bit more.

The reduction gear shafts spin freely; the gear and shaft coming out of the rear of the transmission won't rotate.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.

Dinghied ashore. Stopped to chat with Doug and Nancy, and borrowed a short Phillips-head screwdriver from them. Went ashore for a walk and to read my book.
Sun for a new day  1/23/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

No cruise-ships at the main docks, but one came in and anchored right near me. Pic1, pic2. It's hard to tell from aboard, but it looks like we'll come very close if the wind swings them around. I guess they'll use engines to keep from swinging over me.

Dinghied ashore, and caught a safari bus ($1) to Home Depot. Struck out there: their bottle-jack was a little taller than the one at Sea Chest (I want shorter), their hand-trucks were $110, they didn't have any marine caulk. Walked over to Cost-U-Less and bought some bulk groceries, and then had a surprise at checkout when I remembered that they don't provide plastic bags. Managed to get everything into/onto a box, walked out to the road, and caught a safari back to downtown ($2). From the hills, it looks like the cruise-ship won't quite hit my boat if they swing around.

On the way out to the boat, was hailed by Mark and stopped to chat with him and another guy on an anchored sailboat ("Mary G II" or "Mary L II" or something; flowery script that's difficult to read). They offered to help me lift the transmission out, or to help move my boat to a better anchoring spot with dinghies. I may take them up on one or both.

After lunch, headed ashore again. Looked around a little for some scrap wood, then off to the library. Did an hour of internet ($2). Looks like new engine mounts might cost about $100 apiece; will have to see what the price is here. Picked up a free book.

Caught a safari bus ($1) and went to NAPA Auto. They had a slightly smaller bottle-jack than the other places, so I bought one ($33; pic). Scrounged a piece of scrap 2x4 nearby. Caught a safari bus back ($1).

Worked on taking the two screws out of the metal baffle in the bilge. Very tight quarters under the bell housing and transmission and just above a fiberglass "bridge". Got the screws 2/3 of the way out, and picked up a lot of bruises on my forearms. Called it a day.

A number of readers have suggested I lift the engine and transmission from above, instead of jacking them up from underneath. But there's no sturdy lifting point on the engine-compartment ceiling; it's just the fiberglass cockpit sole. And the engine has only one lifting ring on top, all the way at the forward end.

That anchored cruise-ship left at 4, and it was a bit rolly for a couple of hours afterward; I guess the ship was sheltering me a bit.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach
Sun for a new day  1/24/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

Still no free Wi-Fi from the boat.

Worked on the baffle in the bilge, finally got the two screws out, then found a third screw in a totally impossible position. Used a crowbar to pop the baffle and remaining screw out (pic). Pumped and cleaned the bilge some more; I'd like it to be fairly clean before I start building a wood-and-jack platform in there.

Dinghied ashore, disposed of garbage, and walked into Havensight Mall. Tried to sit outside and do Wi-Fi for free, but none of the AC outlets worked. So went into the Offshore Bar and did a couple of hours of Wi-Fi for price of a Diet Coke ($2). A bit of a smoky, noisy experience, but not bad. Lots of people playing electronic Keno machines. First Wi-Fi signal I've seen with "$2Drinks" in the network name.

Salad and a cheese sandwich for dinner.

Saw a cockroach in the cockpit but he evaded me twice. Live cockroach
Sun for a new day  1/25/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

Got ready to launch the dinghy, and noticed some pretty big strawberries floating along past the boat. Maybe they're a bit over-ripe, and the cruise-ship kitchen or someone on a boat ditched them.

Dinghied ashore. Walked toward the supermarket, but found a dozen or so pieces of wood at the big road-construction site, so took them back to the dinghy. Met Jerry from "Carabella" and a marina worker named Bill, and chatted with them a bit. Then off to the supermarket again, and got groceries.

Worked all afternoon on the transmission project. Pumped and cleaned the bilge, then started cutting and nailing pieces of wood to fit in the bilge. Eventually realized that I should crank the engine mount nuts so the rear of the engine is as high as possible, to reduce the amount of jacking needed.

I have to be able to get the wood out after putting the fixed transmission back in, and it may have reduction gear on it when I put it back in. Maybe I should enlarge the clearance around the coupling by cutting out a bit of the engine compartment wall there. Finally got tired enough that I stopped thinking clearly, and quit for the day.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  1/26/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Three cruise-ships at the main docks.

Loafed most of the morning, then got to work. Cut and nailed more wood. I'm making a U-shaped stack of 2x4's, with the bottle-jack standing in the middle. I want to jack up the engine, with the U-shaped stack rising too, then slide another couple of 2x4's under the legs of the "U", ease the jack, and have the engine weight settle down onto the wood (no load on the jack). I made the stack "U-shaped" to minimize the chances of it buckling in one direction or another once the engine weight is on it and the jack is released. Don't want to leave the engine weight on just the jack, partly because it's a point-pressure, not very stable, but also because the jack's manual says it's not for long-term lifting. Put a metal plate under the place where the top of the jack will press, so the jack doesn't just pierce into the wood.

Several very brief rain-showers, and some rolling as tourist boats are darting around today.

But the bilge is not square, there's a fiberglass "bridge" in the way, and everything is deep under the engine and transmission. So my first U-stack was too big to get into place. Chopped it into two pieces and got everything in place. Put the jack in there and started jacking.

The engine came up just fine, taking the weight off the rear engine mounts but still with any sideways motion restrained by the mount bolts, and I stopped jacking. But then I couldn't slide more 2x4's under the bottom of the "U": the lower half that I had to chop off had tilted in the space, and there was no way to un-tilt it. And it looks like I need a few more 2x4 pieces, to slide underneath and to wedge down the sides of the engine once it's completely above the engine mounts (I do have enough 2x4's aboard, but I'm resisting chopping up the few long ones I have).

So I unscrewed the release on the jack (and the engine came back down pronto), and took the wood pieces out. Enough for today; I want to think about this a bit, and scrounge some more wood.

Salad and a salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Just after sunset, the harbor pilot boat for the cruise-ships came by, and told a megayacht and then me that we had to move. A cruise-ship is going to come in and anchor near here tomorrow morning at 8:30. I told the guy that my transmission was seized, and he immediately said "okay, we can call SeaTow" (and they'll charge me $1000). I told him I was getting the transmission fixed, and he said "good, the last thing we need is another derelict boat in here". All said in a friendly way, but I felt like slugging him. I suggested that the ship anchor outside the harbor, which I've seen them do, and he said "oh, we need to accommodate them as much as possible, they bring so much business to the island". And why couldn't the pilot boat have come by in daylight to tell me to move ?

Anyway, I launched the dinghy and looked for help. Went to two big boats with powerful dinghies, but the people were all inside eating dinner or watching TV, and I didn't want to knock on hulls. Then to blue-hulled sailboat "Resolution", where Steve and Marty immediately agreed to help. They just got their own rebuilt transmission back from Hector (he rebuilt it in 2 days for $450, and it looks like a smaller version of mine, but an outdrive so it was easy to take out; it's sitting in their cockpit right now).

So they came over in their dinghy. I wanted them to push my boat from the stern, maybe using both our dinghies, but they insisted a side-tie would be better, saying they've moved their boat a lot this way. So Steve tied his dinghy to my starboard aft quarter, moved the boat forward a little, and I started hauling in slippery, grass-slimy anchor chain from 35-foot deep water. It was a chore, but finally I got the anchor free from the bottom.

Then we found that the side-tie didn't work; the boat turned to port irresistibly. So I had to get into my dinghy and push from the stern, while Marty steered at the helm. Now I can't see where we're going, and I hope they know enough to keep us from running into anyone, and get me to a decent anchoring spot. Steve comes back to tell me to stop pushing in 10 seconds and come aboard and drop anchor. I do, get to the bow, and see that we could have gone much farther forward, into a more convenient area (but the next day I noticed a couple of tiny mooring balls in that area, so it's just as well we didn't go further, and maybe snag the anchor on a mooring). But I lower the anchor, and we're done. Probably moved 300 feet, which is enough to get me into a safer and more acceptable place. I thanked them, they left, and I hoisted the dinghy and tidied up the boat. Checked that the drive shaft hadn't shifted.
Sun for a new day  1/27/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Wind blowing fairly hard this morning.

Three cruise-ships at the main docks, and then one more came in and anchored near me (pic).

Fixed the wires on the anchor-light I dangle from the boom. These very thin wires keep breaking.

Cut and sculpted and nailed wood, tried several times, and finally got the rear of the engine jacked up ! Released the jack and the engine settled onto the wood stack I've made under it. Slid and pounded a couple of boards down the sides to keep the engine straight; the rear seems to want to slide to port a bit. Now no weight is on the rear engine mounts and transmission; the mount flanges are an inch or so above the mounts (pic). Will leave it like this for a day or so, to make sure it is stable. If rolling or something makes the engine fall, it will land back onto the engine mounts.

Just as I finished, Ed and Sue from "Angel Louise" stopped by to say hello; they've been reading my log from Des Moines for a few years, and then sending email as they made their way down to here from the Bahamas, Turks, etc.

Dumped 4 gallons of diesel from jug to fuel tank.

After lunch, launched the dinghy. Went over to "Angel Louise" and chatted with Ed and Sue for a while. Their boat is a 12-meter Catalac catamaran. They came down from the Chesapeake, through Bahamas and Turks and then skipping the Dominican Republic (smart). This is their 4th cruisable boat. Ed seems to have sailed the USVI's quite a bit but has never gone to the BVI's, which I find strange. Nice people.

To "Presque Isle", returned the screwdriver I borrowed, and chatted with Doug for a little while. He gave me a couple of books.

Ashore to the dinghy-dock by the fuel dock, passing the mega-megayacht "Rising Sun" which is docked there. Got rained on a little. To the Offshore Bar for Wi-Fi and a rum-and-coke ($2). The Wi-Fi didn't work so well for me this time. But at least they were playing some decent music, instead of the high-volume action movies they had last time.

[Added a hit-counter to the bottom of the log file. Initialized it to 100K, since the HTML version of the page has 45K hits since it was created 26 months ago, and the TXT version before that was up for 53 months, and maybe readership has increased over time.]

Back to the dinghy, got $5 of gasoline at the fuel dock, and back to the boat.

Watched the cruise ship behind me raising anchors (pic). Took them quite a while, with lots of water pouring out over the chains to clean them, and lots of clanking and pounding inside the chain lockers. I wonder if that anchor weighs more than my whole boat (about 24K pounds) ?

Squashed a cockroach in the cockpit. Dead cockroach

Chili for dinner.

Feeling headachey; having a rum-and-coke in the middle of the afternoon in a smoky bar wasn't a good idea.
Sun for a new day  1/28/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

Fairly squally and rolly this morning.

Engine seems to be staying in place, mostly; a slight twist to port. But it's rolly enough today that I'm not sure I want to try to take the transmission off today.

Got rolled heavily at 11:45 or so, and the engine stayed in place.

Loosened and tightened all 6 of the bolts/nuts holding the transmission to the flywheel bell housing. And finally found the transmission drain plug; it's in a totally inaccessible spot, between engine mount flange and fiberglass "bridge" when the engine is in place. Maybe I can plumb a hose to it, so I can change the fluid properly in the future.

Took out one of the boards bracing the side of the engine and put in smaller boards, to give more room to get the transmission out.

Another cruise-ship came in at 12:30; unusual.

Loafed for a while. Boat still rolly at times. Big squall at 2 PM.

Finally kicked myself into action, tied a 2x4 across the top of the transmission (pic), and started removing bolts. Got four out, but the last two are trapped by the engine-mount flanges, which I don't want to remove because they make such great handles. Loosened those bolts as much as I could, but the transmission remains firmly stuck to the bell housing. Doug told me this happened to him, too. Banged on the transmission housing a bit, but it didn't budge. Doused the joint with WD-40 and quit for the day.

Finally got smart and started sorting the various bolts and nuts into pouches and labeling them, but already I have two big bolts that I can't identify.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

A bit headachey again tonight.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach

Fairly rolly at times during the evening and night.
Sun for a new day  1/29/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

No cruise-ships at the main docks. Fairly rolly today.

Opened a $5 bag of granola and found it full of bugs (not cockroaches); emptied it overboard.

"Resolution" left at 9, so I guess their rebuilt transmission works. I was surprised to see them head straight out; when I get my rebuilt transmission back in, I'm going to motor around inside the harbor for quite a while to test it out.

Got some Wi-Fi from the boat, but it was pretty patchy.

Squashed a cockroach in the cockpit. Dead cockroach

Pounded on and pried at the transmission a bit, but it didn't budge. It's held onto the bell housing by two bolts and four studs; I have the two bolts out, the nuts off two of the studs, and the nuts on the other two studs are out far enough that they're helping press the transmission off. But still no movement; I think the entire joint is frozen together, having been together for 36 years. Doused the joint with some more WD-40, but I'm not sure how I'm going to get it apart. I guess pounding a screwdriver tip into the joint in many different places is the best way. I've banged sideways on the far end of the transmission case with a sledgehammer, but I'm reluctant to pound too hard. Too much massive metal to make heating work.

Launched the dinghy and headed ashore, needing to get off the boat for a while. Hoped to consult with Doug about how he got his transmission off, but he wasn't on his boat. Disposed of garbage. Walked to a Wi-Fi cafe I've never tried, a very upscale one in the marina, but it had only two AC outlets in the whole place and both were fully occupied. Didn't feel like going to the smoky Offshore Bar. Back to the dinghy dock. Briefly chatted with Jerry and Shary from "Carabella" as we both motored out.

Rain at 2.

Did a little more Wi-Fi from the boat, but it was barely usable.

Noticed two sloops anchored next to each other: a 25-footer that probably cost $15K and a 70-footer that probably cost $700K.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed at a cockroach in the galley during the night, but it got away. Live cockroach

Fair amount of rain several times during the night.
Sun for a new day  1/30/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

No cruise-ships at the main docks, but one came in at 7:15 and anchored.

No free Wi-Fi this morning.

After lunch, went at the transmission, pounding a screwdriver down into the joint between transmission and flywheel bell housing, and I started to get some movement ! Slowly forced the joint open (pic), the last couple of nuts came off, and then I was able to slide the transmission off the studs and lift it out. It's pretty heavy, but not fall-through-the-Earth's-crust heavy, and the engine mount flanges make good handles, as I expected. Pic1, pic2, pic3.

Looked inside the flywheel bell housing a little, and can't see much, but it looks okay (could use some oil, maybe). Ditto for the front end of the transmission. But the engine mounts are a different story: the port-aft mount looks like it's tilted aft; it isn't pointing straight up, and certainly doesn't parallel the starboard-aft mount (you might be able to see this in the last picture above). I may have to do some fiberglass work to fix this.

Strange: I can rotate the input and output shafts of the transmission: it's not seized any more ! For a moment, I wonder if maybe I didn't need to pull it out; maybe there was a linkage problem instead ? But I don't think a linkage problem should ever make the engine stop dead, or prevent the prop shaft from freewheeling. And I definitely have seriously burnt fluid. Need a rebuild.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. Did a couple of hours, for price of a Diet Coke ($2). Got info on increased fees for French side of St Martin: will cost me about $7/day to stay there, so I think I'll skip that island. Skype-called Mom but got her answering machine.

Back to the boat after dark, and had fun raising the dinghy while the boat rolled. Pretty rolly evening and night, maybe because there was very little wind.

Salad for dinner.
Sun for a new day  1/31/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks. Wind light and wandering between S and SW this morning.

Cleaned up the bilge and rear of engine and transmission a bit. I had thought of maybe cutting a bit of wood away to make more clearance around the gear-to-shaft coupler, but on closer inspection the "wood" is a 2-inch thick fiberglass-covered bulkhead that is structural; won't be cutting away any of that. Carried the transmission out of the hallway into the aft cabin; messy and awkward to carry in confined moving spaces, but I can carry it a little.

Unbolted the port-aft engine mount from the stringer, and it turns out to have been bolted in, not screwed in with lag bolts; there must be a nut glassed-in inside the stringer. Pried the mount off the top of the fiberglass, and holes don't look quite straight. Fair amount of oil has seeped in down there. So I don't think I'm going to try to re-mount this mount so that it's parallel to the starboard-aft mount; let sleeping dogs lie.

I assume I really should replace all the engine mounts; they're 36 years old and oil has soaked into the two aft mounts. Maybe I'll show them to some friends and see what they think. How can you tell if an engine mount needs to be replaced ? Not a trivial decision; the size I need probably costs $100+ each here.

Worked at rigging some rope and blocks to lift the transmission up through the hatch in the aft cabin. Need another block to do it better; I don't have enough blocks that accept thick line.

Tried setting the transmission onto my grocery-hauling cart, and the cart didn't break under the weight. Might try borrowing a hand-cart from the transmission shop anyway.

Dinghied ashore in the heat of midafternoon. Stopped by "Wandering Albatross" to chat with Chris and Mary Liz, and borrowed an additional snatch-block from them. To the supermarket and got groceries; I needed to get off the boat and stretch my legs. But it's a hot, fairly still afternoon, and I was beat by the time I got back to the boat, stowed the groceries, and hoisted and lashed the dinghy. A shower revived me a bit, but it was hot in the pilothouse and I retreated below for dinner.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind changing to E in the evening.

Saw and sprayed at a cockroach in the galley during the night, but he was unbelievably quick, and got away. Live cockroach
Sun for a new day  2/1/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks. Wind blowing hard from E or ESE today.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Added snatch block to transmission lifting setup, and I think it's ready to try tomorrow, with a friend helping. Getting it up to deck won't be too bad; getting it down into the dinghy, and then from dinghy to dock, will be interesting.

Painted the engine compartment and bilge a bit; I like it as bright-white as I can get it, instead of the original battleship-grey. Need to clean some areas and do some more painting. Before, after. Should paint the bell housing and block too, with engine paint.

Looked through my Nigel Calder book to see what he had to say about transmission problems and engine mounts. Not much about my particular transmission behavior, and almost nothing about engine mounts. The "shaft turning a bit in neutral" problem I had is a symptom of worn clutch plates, apparently. As I read his engine alignment section, it occurs to me that I didn't even check the alignment after replacing the cutless bearing a few years ago, even though that involved taking the shaft out of the coupling.

Made a list for the transmission-rebuild guy, including: add a fluid-temperature sensor to the transmission, and plumb a fluid-drain hose to the bottom of the case.

Figured out where the two mystery bolts came from: bottom of the transmission-to-reduction-gear joint.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Thought of going ashore to a bar to join Doug and Nancy and Chris and Mary Liz watching the Super Bowl, but I didn't feel like it. Wanted to listen to it on radio, and AM 1000 has been talking Super Bowl all day, but at game time they suddenly switched to a baseball preseason talk-show, of all things; no Super Bowl broadcast.
Sun for a new day  2/2/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

A little after 9, launched the dinghy, pumped up a bow tube a little, and went over to "Wandering Albatross" to ask Chris to help me with the transmission. Brought him back to my boat, gave him the 1-minute tour, then we hoisted the transmission up through the aft hatch and onto deck. Waited a minute for a wake to pass, then lifted it down onto the stern deck, then down into the dinghy. I brought the reduction gear (lighter than I remembered) up from the cabin, onto deck, and down into the dinghy. Loaded the old engine mount, the grocery cart, and a board into the dinghy too. Closed up the boat and we headed ashore. That went well !

To the dinghy-dock nearest the cruise-ship docks. Crowded, but we got in. Hoisted my grocery-cart and the reduction gear onto the dock, spilling only a couple of drops of fluid. Trundled the gear off to the repair shop. Left gear and cart there, borrowed a serious hand-truck from them, and back to the dinghy dock. Hoisted the transmission out of the dinghy and onto the dock, using a length of 2x6 to slide it a bit, and onto the hand-truck. Trundled it off to the repair shop, and I was pretty winded by the time we got it up that small hill.

Into the shop, and talked to the man (Hector). I had brought the old engine mount, and got two new ones from him ($75 each). Cash or check only, no credit, but he gave me the mounts without payment today, since I'm leaving the transmission. Pic.

Then we talked about the transmission. I told him about the "shaft turning slowly even in neutral", which Nigel Calder explains as worn clutch plates, but Hector said "ahh, they all do that". That wasn't my experience; my transmission started doing that only a few months ago.

I explained about the transmission seizure stalling the engine, and he insists I use a wrench to turn the engine crankshaft and make sure the engine is not seized. No way that could be true; the engine ran fine with transmission in neutral, but he dismissed that. I don't think I'm going to bother; spinning the crankshaft is a huge ordeal on my 6-cylinder diesel engine, including loosening all of the fuel injectors out of their seats.

I explained about the good fluid on the dipstick but the burnt fluid inside, and how the drain-plug is inaccessible. He asked when the transmission was last serviced, and when I said maybe never (36 years), he was amazed, and said they're supposed to be serviced every 4 years (not likely).

I asked him about installing a temperature or pressure sensor, and he says they're both a waste of money. His shop used to sell them, and stopped doing it. By the time you see that something is wrong, it's too late. Not sure I agree about a temperature sensor, but I decided to skip it.

I told him after removing the transmission I could spin the shafts by hand, and now he's starting to disbelieve that it's seized. Then I tried to explain how I wanted a drain hose fitted, and he didn't understand, so we went back out to look at the transmission. He spun the shafts by hand, and immediately said "it's seized". And I showed him where the drain hose should go.

A few details: I wanted the stuff painted white, but they do only blue or red, so I said no paint (I'll do white myself later). They give me all of the replaced parts (I'm curious). They'll return the two pieces separate, after testing them together. As Doug said, Hector also cautioned me to run diesel through the oil-cooler to make sure there are no metal particles in the fluid lines.

So Chris and I left, back to the dinghy, and I took Chris back to his boat. Back to my boat by 11, sweaty but happy that I got that step accomplished.

Chris and Mary Liz may leave the harbor for a day or two (to go to Benner Bay, mainly to get into a cheap slip and charge their batteries thoroughly ! They have an electric motor instead of an engine.). But I can hold onto his snatch-block, and he'll help me again when I get the transmission back.

I was pleased at how well everything went. Of course, I planned it all out, and did everything I could in advance. Didn't waste any of Chris's time, and I did most of the work, just needing his help in a few critical places.

After lunch, cleaned up some more places to paint, and took out the starboard-aft engine mount.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi ($2 for a Diet Coke). "Angel Louise" sent email a couple of days ago inviting me for dinner yesterday, but I didn't get it until just now.

Chili for dinner.

Did some more painting in the transmission/bilge area.

Around 2 AM, started getting fairly rolly.
Sun for a new day  2/3/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Fairly rolly and wakey morning; uncomfortable, and I'm glad we moved the transmission yesterday. Grey until 9 AM.

Two cruise-ships at the main docks, and a third came in at 11:30.

Something strange going on with the battery monitor: one bank is showing exactly zero current going in or out, which is unlikely. Will have to investigate.

Did some computing for a while, then got around to looking at the battery monitor thing. At first I thought it was just a monitoring wire come loose or broken, but then I suddenly saw that it was far worse. One of the cables has sheared right off a battery terminal, taking the terminal remnant with it (pic). This is a failure of the hack I did last year that I was so proud of: I bought a bunch of golf-cart batteries with damaged terminals for $10 apiece, and used heli-coils to screw bolts into the terminal remnants. Looks like electrolysis has made a bolt disintegrate; not surprising with a steel coil and bolt into a lead terminal, maybe.

Wasn't quite clear why losing one cable would give the battery monitor symptoms; there is another pair of batteries paralleled to the broken pair. Then I looked further, and found another sheared-off terminal on that pair ! (pic) So one pair has been out of the loop for a while, and then I noticed when the second pair broke free last night or whenever. Now I'm down to 4 golf-cart batteries, instead of my usual 8.

Tried to use jumper-cables to grab onto the terminal remnant on the second pair, to make a temporary patch, and the remnant sheared off completely (pic). Crap !

So shuffled the batteries around to make one good pair out of the two bad pairs, and that newly-added pair started charging from the solar panels. Then started drilling into the sheared-off terminal remnants on the two bad batteries, to see if I can repair these batteries, or will have to buy new ones. An ugly job, drilling into corroded lead-helicoil-bolt remnants while the boat is rolling and lurching unpredictably.

But eventually I got the holes drilled out and got new bolts to grip semi-reasonably in the holes. Put the batteries in and cabled them up, and they started charging. Not a very pretty solution, and I'll have to keep an eye on it, but good enough for now. Hope I don't have to buy a bunch of new batteries at $120 or whatever each.

Breathing exhaust fumes from the cruise-ships all day.

Saw a trawler smoking oddly in the harbor; wondered if it was on fire (pic). But the smoke eased, and it motored away.

Decided to get the heck off this rolly, decaying boat for a while ! Launched the dinghy and headed ashore. Stopped to chat with Ed and Sue on "Angel Louise", and they invited me over for tomorrow evening. They're real cruisers now: Ed is talking about raising anchor and moving closer to the marina so he can get a stronger Wi-Fi signal from there.

Went ashore, and had a pretty good hunt to find a photocopier; this place is all tourist-shops. Copied my will and health care documents. Then to the library to exchange half a dozen books in their book-exchange racks. Got $500 from ATM for partial payment for the transmission job. Back to the boat. Still rolly out here.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley, and he got away, but I sprayed him pretty well. Live cockroach

Tested and cleaned the three paths through the oil cooler: seawater, oil, and transmission fluid. A messy job (pic). Other than a little grass in one end of the seawater part, not problems. No metal particles, no clogs.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Rolly, uncomfortable night.
Sun for a new day  2/4/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Very rolly and grey morning; uncomfortable. Three cruise-ships at the main docks.

Painted the rear end of the engine with white engine-paint. Painted part of the bilge in the aft cabin.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. Looked up the new engine mounts to make sure they were the right size (weight rating). Someone suggested I buy a handheld IR thermometer instead of having a temperature sensor and gauge for the transmission; I think I'll do that.

To the post office, and mailed my legal documents to my brother.

To the transmission shop, and my transmission is done ! They found one of the reverse clutch plates completely snapped in two, and the big fluid-pump at the front of the transmission caused the seizure somehow (they can't quite see what was wrong with it, but if they leave the old one in, it's seized, and putting a new one in fixes it). The bill for the rebuild is about $1040 (more than I hoped, but not too bad; $550 for labor, $305 for the fluid-pump part alone, the rest for various parts). Add the two engine mounts at $75 each, and the total is $1187. I gave them $500 cash as the first part of the payment.

Got $700 from an ATM for remainder of payment for the transmission job. Back to the boat, stopping to chat briefly with Chris on "Wandering Albatross". They left the harbor this morning to sail to Benner Bay, but then the wind died and they spent an hour and half stalled just outside the harbor entrance, and gave up and came back. They're going to try again tomorrow, which means I'll have to find someone else to help with the transmission (if conditions are calm enough to do it at all).

Showered and then went over to "Angel Louise" at 4. Nice conversation with Ed and Sue over drinks and dinner. Their boat came with an amazing amount of electronic gear installed; I think they have two chartplotters plus another navigation system on a laptop. They've cruised the NY and CT area, which I never have, and the pictures were interesting. Then we've cruised a lot of the same southern areas, but they went through a lot faster than I did. Lots of talk about the cruising life, some talk about current events, lots of fun. Got back to my boat at 9, stopping along the way to say hi to Doug and Nancy.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley, but the spray blasted him out of sight. Live cockroach

Headachey during the night, but the rolling seems to be abating a bit.
Sun for a new day  2/5/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Headachey. Not so rolly this morning. Two cruise-ships at the main docks.

Loafed a bit, and by 10 it was windier and getting rolly again.

Added oil to the outboard, put the cart into the dinghy, and headed ashore. To the repair shop, through the crowds of cruise-ship passengers in the Havensight Mall. At the shop, paid the balance of my bill ($687), bought two quarts of transmission fluid ($9), and picked up the reduction gear and the replaced parts. To the ATM for yet more cash, back to the dinghy dock and back to the boat.

Transmission parts: $305 pump and clutch plates, gaskets, springs, etc. Invoice says they replaced 3 reverse clutch plates; guess the forward ones were okay. And there's a 60-day warranty.

It occurs to me that the shop must not have put together transmission and reduction gear, filled them with fluid, and tested them using a motor or something. The reduction gear is totally clean and dry, no fluid on it, and you need to attach it to put fluid in the transmission. Wonder if the shop normally tests with fluid in, or not ? Not too happy if they're giving me an untested rebuild.

Added a little more oil to the outboard (it's hard to read the little dipstick, and any motion to the dinghy makes accuracy worse).

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Disposed of garbage, then was crossing the street when someone started screaming "Bill, Bill !" from behind me. I figured it was some friend of mine, but I was in the middle of a busy street, and traffic in front of me was running the light even though I had the "Walk" signal. So I kept going, then turned around when I got to the sidewalk. It was Mario, driving an unfamiliar pickup truck, not his classic CJB, with a couple other people with him. He motioned that he'd turn around and come back. So I waited.

Doug and Nancy came by and stopped and we chatted a little. No sign of Mario, and we figured he'd have to go a mile or so through heavy traffic before he could find anywhere to turn. Eventually I gave up on him and caught a safari bus.

The bus looked more like a cruise-ship safari bus, not one for riff-raff like me, and I think the driver was surprised when I signalled for the stop at SeaChest hardware store. But I got off and paid and walked away.

Bought engine paint ($6), then to NAPA auto. Transmission fluid there was more expensive than at the transmission repair shop ! Didn't buy anything at NAPA, and caught a safari back to town ($1). Traffic was all snarled up, and police were yelling at everyone to move. Back to the boat.

Painted more of the bilge, as far down as I could reach with a roller. The very bottom is too messy to paint. Bolted the new aft engine mounts into place. Pic.

Mark from "Mystic" stopped by briefly to see how I was doing with the transmission job. He told me about our friend Tom, who I last saw in Salinas. Recently, he tried to sail from Grenada to Carriacou with a friend, and ran into a sudden huge squall that caused a disaster. The davits broke, the dinghy filled with water and threatened to tear a cleat out of the deck, so he cut it loose and it disappeared, with the outboard. Sails flogging wildly, a halyard broke, engine stopped because maybe something got into the prop. A real mess. Eventually they limped back to Grenada, I think.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Nice, quiet night; hardly any rolling. Wind from E and even a little ENE.
Sun for a new day  2/6/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Great start to the morning: rolled onto my eyeglasses and one of the corroded hinges snapped. Went to epoxy it as a temporary patch, and a brand-new tube of epoxy is dried and hardened; had to throw it away. JB-Welded the eyeglasses and got out a backup pair that is usable.

Grey morning, not very rolly. Pretty good rain at 8, and more at 8:45. No cruise-ships.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley, but the spray blasted him out of sight. Live cockroach

Launched the dinghy and went over to "Angel Louise", and Ed agreed to help me with the transmission. Headed ashore, taking pictures of a few megayachts as I went (pic1, pic2, pic3; if you look carefully, you can see a couple of peons washing the fiberglass in the 1st and 3rd pics).

To the repair shop. Left a $150 deposit for the hand-truck, got the hand-truck and the guys loaded the transmission onto it for me. The guy confirmed that they test their transmissions by hand without fluid after rebuilding them, so mine is no different. I'd have more confidence if they did some kind of motor-testing with fluid in.

Trucked the transmission to the dinghy-dock. Ed met me there and we loaded the transmission into the dinghy. Then back to the shop, returned the hand-truck, and got my deposit back. We walked up the hill a little further to see the view. Then back through the mall to the dinghy dock.

Out to the boat (Ed zipped out on plane, I did my usual plodding pace, and he had to wait for me). Nice, calm water, so we had no problem lifting the transmission up out of the dinghy and then down into the aft cabin. Gave Ed the nickel tour of the boat, chatted a little, and then he left. All done by 11 or so. Pic.

Turned the aft cabin into a paint-shed, and spray-painted the gear and transmission a couple of times.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Couple at the dock asked me a couple of engine questions, thinking I'm an expert since the guy saw me with the transmission on the dock this morning. They just came up from Venezuela, and 150 miles out, oil pressure on the engine dropped to near-zero. They shut it down and sailed in, using the engine only for the last couple of miles. Added 2 quarts of oil, and suddenly oil-level is over full on the engine. They're a bit mystified, and I wasn't much help.

To Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi (for $2 for a drink).

Back to the dinghy, and to the fuel dock. Bought 10 gallons of water ($2).

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Spray-painted the gear and transmission some more.
Sun for a new day  2/7/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks. Second ship came in at 12:30.

The JB-Weld patch on my good pair of eyeglasses lasted for about 60 seconds.

Spray-painted the gear and transmission some more.

Getting a lot of wakes and some rolly swells by 10 or so.

Dinghied ashore. Found an optician; new eyeglass frames would be $100, but then he said he could replace the broken hinge for $20, so I went for that. Will have to go back Monday to pick them up. Later thought that I should have told him to replace both hinges.

To KMart, and could not find a single thing on my list (epoxy, penetrating oil, sandals, a couple other things). Left without buying anything. Back to the boat.

Spray-painted the gear and transmission some more (pic). Later, spray-painted the oil cooler brackets.

"Wandering Albatross" sailed back in at 2:30, and threaded their way up through the anchorage and sailed onto anchor. It's a Westsail 32 and sails fairly well; I couldn't do that with my boat.

Went to use that $2 12V extension cable I bought from Hong Kong, and found it has an LED that runs continuously while power is applied; I didn't want that. Noticed that the package was declared to Customs as a "gift".

I've been noticing that a fairly big trawler "Alexa C2" anchored nearby has had their main RADAR antenna rotating continuously for 3 days now. I guess they have so much power to spare that they don't notice that they left it on.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Loud music from shore until 3 AM or so. If I'm feeling the bass way out here, the boats close in must be getting pounded.

Lots of wind and rain at 4:15.
Sun for a new day  2/8/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

Had to throw away two more $5 bags of granola; they were completely full of bugs. Apparently very small chafed holes in the plastic packaging led to rot. Not sure if the holes were there when I bought them, or the boat motion created the holes.

If your boat is too small to exercise on, exercise in your dinghy: pic.

More transmission work: cleaned up the read of the engine, put anti-seize in a few places, moved the transmission into the engine compartment, lashed a 2x4 across the top of it, and (with a bit of a struggle) slid the transmission across to dangle behind the engine. Tried several times to get it to slide forward onto the studs/bolts sticking out of the rear of the engine, but failed.

Then did a very stupid thing: straddled the engine, bent far over, and lifted the entire weight of the transmission to try to get it in place. Almost immediately, heard a "pop" and felt a lot of pain in my lower back ! Stupid, stupid, stupid ! Staggered out of the engine compartment in a lot of pain and laid down on my back on the aft cabin sole. Crap !

For the next 5 or 10 minutes or so, couldn't stand up for more than 10 seconds at a time without starting to get faint. Pale and feeling sweaty and clammy; shock. Laid down as much as I could, tried working my legs and back a little to try to ease the pain. Transmission is dangling in a fairly vulnerable position if a big wake or swell rolls the boat, so in little steps I worked to wedge wood around it, and tie a line to keep it from swinging too much.

After a while, stopped feeling faint when I stand up. And the pain slowly eased over the next hour or so. But I still have back pain, and obviously I'm not doing anything more for today at least. Might have to get my friends to help finish the transmission job over the next week or so. I feel stupid, stupid, stupid !

Grey clouds and rain at noon.

Finally wised up and took an ibuprofen; maybe that will help my back.

Weather stayed grey and rainy all afternoon. Hard rain at 2:45 and 3:45. Then rolly afterward. Just what I need for a sore back.

Felt well enough to shift some water around. Dumped 5 gallons from jug to water tank, then 4 gallons from buckets into jug.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Rained off and on all night.
Sun for a new day  2/9/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Back doesn't feel too bad; lots of achey muscles, but no pain right in the spine, no stabbing pain, not bad at all. I may have avoided serious damage.

Totally grey, rainy morning; solidly socked in.

Two cruise-ships at the main docks.

Shifted more water: 4 gallons from jug to tank, 2 gallons from buckets to tank, 2 gallons from buckets to jug.

Rain at 10.

Started getting a little solar power around 10:30.

Trawler "Alexa C2" starting to raise anchor, with their main RADAR antenna still rotating.

Launched dinghy and went ashore. Have to be careful to avoid aggravating my back problem. To Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi (for $2 for a drink). Did a little Wi-Fi, then left the laptop in the bar and walked up the street to get my repaired eyeglasses ($20). Back to the bar and more Wi-Fi.

Found that $305 fluid-pump part for my transmission on the internet for $140. Bummer.

Did a long internet session, then out into a nice sunny afternoon. I had worried that my batteries would get low in all the grey weather. Back to the boat.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Squashed two cockroaches in the aft head. Dead cockroachDead cockroach
Sun for a new day  2/10/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Back feels tired and a little weak, but better.

Three cruise-ships at the main docks.

Worked on the transmission a bit, trying to be very careful not to hurt my back again. Shifted it back and forth and up and down, trying to get it algned with the studs to slide it onto the back of the engine. But too many things moving relative to each other. Took engine mounts off to get them out of the way, but I shouldn't have had to do that. Eventually figured out that the ropes suspending the transmission under the long 2x4 I'm using are tied wrong: they're slowly slipping out further and letting the transmission hang lower and lower. And my back is getting tired. So stopped and went to rest.

A little later, tied new ropes to hold transmission to 2x4, but now I need to do some lifting to snug the new ropes up and then untie the old ropes, and my back is tired. Maybe I'll do it this afternoon.

Around 10:30, launched the dinghy and headed ashore. Returned the snatch block to Chris on "Wandering Albatross". To the supermarket and bought groceries. Hope the walking is doing some good for my back. Got sprinkled with a little rain going each way.

On the boat, my back felt pretty sore and tired; took an ibuprofen.

Starting around 1, the weather blew up. Strong wind, lots of grey, lots of rain from 1 to 2:15. The wind kept going, and the rain came through every hour or so, for the rest of the day. Rolly at times. Ugly. Wind very strong at times.

Salad and apple and PBJ sandwiches for dinner.

The weather kept going all evening and night; lots of strong wind, and occasional rain. Kept checking to make sure my anchor is holding; I'm pretty vulnerable with no engine. If something goes wrong, my only lever is to put out my second anchor.

Killed three cockroaches in the galley during the night. Dead cockroachDead cockroachDead cockroach
Sun for a new day  2/11/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Back feels sorer and more tired than I expected; guess I won't try any transmission work today. More ibuprofen.

Still very windy, and occasionally rolly, but at least it's mostly sunny today.

Two cruise-ships at the main docks, and a third came in at 11:30.

Dinghied ashore before noon, into teeth of howling wind, and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Put out a little tub of sugar and boric acid for the cockroaches.

Wind dying down to normal levels.
Sun for a new day  2/12/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Ship "Kennedy" came in to main docks at 7:30; can't tell what kind it is. Not a freighter or tanker, but it has cranes on the foredeck. Several big lifeboats, and a couple of launches. Maybe a research ship ? [Later found out: it's a training ship for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy; converted Navy freighter.] No cruise-ships at the dock today.

Back feels good, but maybe the pills I took around midnight haven't worn off. Made one last try at doing the transmission myself, and decided it was stupid: I need another set of hands.

Around 11:30, launched the dinghy and headed ashore. Looks like no one home at "Wandering Albatross" and "Presque Isle" (no dinghies), so I headed the other way, to town. Disposed of garbage, and to the library to exchange books. Sat in the main park and read a book for a while. Back to the boat. I see a dinghy at "Wandering Albatross".

But I give the transmission one more try, and finally I get it right and slide it onto the studs sticking out of the rear of the engine. A real struggle to get a couple of the nuts on, the ones hard against the mount flanges. But eventually it's on.

I bolt the port engine mount to the fiberglass, but there's not enough clearance under the flange to get the starboard one on. Will have to jack up the engine to slide it under. Enough for today. Pic.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach
Sun for a new day  2/13/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Training ship "Kennedy" and no cruise-ships at the main docks today.

Into the engine compartment. I check the transmission-to-engine bolts one more time. Then jack up the engine and slide the starboard engine mount under the flange, and bolt it down loosely. Some finagling to get the mount studs to line up with the flange holes, then I pull out a couple of boards and release the jack, and the engine settles down onto the new mounts !

I pull out the jack and wood, which takes a while. Pic.

Looks good ! Pic. I start to think about painting the bilge under the rear of the engine.

Then I see a problem: the fittings on the new drain-line stick out too far, and when I lower the engine on the mounts to line up with the shaft, the fittings will gouge into the fiberglass; there's not enough clearance. Pic. No way I could have predicted this exactly; the fiberglass curves. But I should have measured before I took out the transmission in the first place, and paid more attention to what kind of fittings they were putting on there. The fitting is about 1/4" from the fiberglass now, the flange has to come down 1.5" to 2", and the fiberglass is closing at about a 60-degree angle. Not going to work.

I measure a couple of times, consult the engine-mount-height measurements I made before jacking up the engine originally, think about cutting a notch into the fiberglass, measure again, and finally realize it's hopeless. If everything scrapes by, I'd still end up with the fitting hard against the fiberglass, and the engine vibration would eventually break it off. I have to cut the extra threads off those new fittings, or maybe even get different fittings. The transmission has to come back out. Crap ! At least I won't have to haul it back ashore, but I do have to get it back out onto the cabin sole so I can remove those fittings and take them to the shop.

So I start putting the wood and jack back under the engine. I work for a while, can't get it quite right, and finally give up for the morning. I'm tired and sweaty and frustrated, and my back is tired. Enough.

After lunch, dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi ($2 for a Diet Coke). Snuck out halfway through to go to optician and supermarket. I've been looking at internet eyeglass places, and they're dirt cheap, but if I want an eye exam and new prescription here, that will cost me $80. (Maybe I should start practicing with the eye chart.).

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  2/14/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Training ship "Kennedy" and one cruise-ship at the main docks today.

I notice that trawler "Alexa C2" is anchored nearby again, and this time has both RADAR antennae rotating continuously, at anchor, day and night.

Got the wood under the engine and transmission sorted out. Jacked up the rear of the engine, unbolted the engine mounts and slid them out, then eased the engine down onto the wood. Shoved a couple of 2x4's down the sides to keep the engine in place when the boat rolls.

Unbolted the transmission, slid it off the studs, and wrestled it sideways onto the compartment sole. A struggle to unscrew the drain-fitting out of the transmission body; they really put it in there solidly. Finally got it loose, and it came flying off, with a big spring coming out with a "sproing!" behind it. The spring went flying off into the bilge somewhere, and I couldn't find it even after a long search of both ends of the bilge.

Took measurements, and cutting threads off the drain-fitting will make it 5/8" shorter. Would like to get more; maybe we can do some trickery to gain a little more. The whole thing is 2-1/4" long overall. Pic1, pic2.

Tired and back aching by the time I got done. Back kept aching the rest of the day and evening; took more pills.

Apple and salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit. Dead cockroach
Sun for a new day  2/15/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Back still aching a fair amount this morning. Tried stretching, but I guess it's just going to be slow to heal. And repeated transmission work is going to keep stressing it.

Training ship "Kennedy" and one cruise-ship at the main docks today.

I notice another trawler at anchor with RADAR bar still rotating, as well as both still running on "Alexa C2". But other trawlers don't, and the big ships at the dock and in the marina don't have theirs running. Must just be carelessness.

After lunch, dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi ($2 for a Diet Coke). Brought my external disk with me, to do a backup. Had to wait half an hour for the bar to open, for some reason. Then 15 minutes after I started, a handyman guy pulled the breaker and turned off all the outlets upstairs; turns out he needed to rewire all the outlets. He knew I was plugged into those outlets; no warning, no explanation, no apology. Had to move downstairs, where I was treated to professional bowling on the big-screen ! Yuck.

A friend of mine (John Viera on Pearson 323 "Tyche") is in Oriental NC with a busted engine; he needs to repower with a good used diesel engine. Any readers who live in that area and might be able to scout for an engine for him ? Please email me and I'll point you to him. Thanks !

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  2/16/2009 (Monday; President's Day)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Wind light and circling, then from the W for a while, then from the S.

Training ship "Kennedy" and one cruise-ship at the main docks today. Then the "Kennedy" left.

Started the day with a battery problem. The monitor is showing voltage of 12.10, which is far too low for a morning after all the sun we had yesterday. Voltage usually is 12.35 or 12.40 at this point. Some investigation shows that one pair of batteries is at 11 volts and falling, and one battery in that pair has very low water and a bit of a bulging case. I guess a cell has shorted and the battery is draining all of the others. So I drop that pair out of the system. Lovely.

Took another good look in the bilge for that escaped spring, and still can't find it.

Around 10, dinghied ashore. Stopped to chat briefly with Chris and Mary Liz as they were heading ashore. Then stopped for a long chat with Ed. Finally got ashore. Walked through the marina and the cruise-ship mall, to the transmission/engine shop. Thought they would be closed today, but they were partly open for the morning. Showed the fitting to Hector and told him that it had to be shorter. He said "cut the fiberglass", but I don't think that's a good idea. He looked for a better fitting among their stock, couldn't find one, and suggested I try the hardware store. If I can't get better there, bring this one back and he'll start cutting it. He says the spring that escaped doesn't matter; it really wasn't doing anything.

So back to the dinghy dock, and back out to stop by Ed's boat. He had said he needed to go to the hardware store, and now I do too. I figured we'd go tomorrow, but he called the store and found they were open until 1 today. So we dinghied over to town, caught a safari bus ($1), and went to the store.

Lots of fittings in the hardware store, but nothing that improved my situation. Bought epoxy and JB-Weld and some boric-acid cockroach lures/poison ($17). A block over to NAPA Auto, and I was surprised to find them open too. But they didn't have a better fitting for me either.

Caught a safari bus back to town ($1). To a tourist liquor store, and we bought some rum. By using specials and combining our order to get a 15% discount for buying 4 bottles, I ended up with two liters of Calypso Island flavored rum for $11 (total). Back to the boat by 1:15 or so.

Hmmm, another pair of the batteries don't seem to be charging properly; I think repaired terminals may have worked loose. Sure enough, I find one loose. Not sure how to fix it. The bolt is eaten away a bit. The terminal hole is wide enough to require a thicker bolt, but the cable-connector hole won't allow a thicker bolt. Worked on it a bit, couldn't get a new heli-coil into the hole, stuffed some steel wire down into it, and eventually got the bolt to grab again.

Put out a couple dozen roach-bait tablets in various corners of the galley, cockpit and aft head.

Salad and apple and yogurt for dinner.

Ashore at 5:30 and to the rum shack for some drinks with friends. Chatted and drank with Doug and Nancy, Matt and Jo, Boomer and Christine, Chris and Mary Liz, and later Ed and Sue joined us. Two rum-and-cokes ($5) made me pretty wobbly by the time I headed back to the boat, and I had to be very careful on the dinghy dock, heading out, and then on the boat. Very clear evening with little wind, and the boat was rolling and lurching slightly but continually, and I found myself staggering around aboard. Got the dinghy hoisted and stowed, ate a snack to get something solid in my stomach, and to bed.
Sun for a new day  2/17/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks today. Very light wind from S or SSW.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. Ducked out first thing and took the fitting to the shop. Left it and will pick it up again tomorrow morning. Skype-called my Mom and actually got to talk to her for a while (no answering machine this time).

This is almost the fitting I need: Flare Elbow, 1/2" x 3/8" (need the 1/2" changed to 3/4"). Still might need it to be cut down to make the pipe thread part shorter. And I can't find the 3/4" version on the internet at all; I guess such a big reduction is unusual.

Chicken-onion-rice for dinner.

Wind swinging aorund to W in the evening, then NW and then N. Very gusty and often blowing hard during the night, with low clouds but little rain. Several boats anchored right after sunset, and I think they're sliding around a bit, but no one is threatening me.
Sun for a new day  2/18/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Wind swirling and gusting; boats moving weirdly and pointing various directions; lots of thick grey cloud.

Pilot-boat running around at 6:30 blasting horn at anchored boats to get them to move out of the way of incoming cruise-ships. Three cruise-ships at the main docks today.

Saw a cockroach in the main cabin, but missed him. Live cockroach

Dinghied ashore to intercept a sailmaker who I'm told comes in to the dinghy-dock every morning. Turns out the assistant he picks up is a guy I know from Benner Bay, Timmy. So I sat and chatted with Timmy and gave him the piece of paper with all of the mainsail specs. Said hi to the sailmaker, Manfred, when he came in. Should have a quote for me tomorrow morning. Yesterday I sent for a quote from Lee Sails in Hong Kong. And I have the quote I got 4 months ago form North Sail in Fajardo PR.

Walked to the repair shop, and Hector gave me the reworked fitting (pic). He ended up taking it to a friend's machine-shop to get re-tapped, and he says it's as good as it will get. Looks to me like they could have taken off another 1/8", but I don't want to press, and he didn't even charge me for it.

Off to the supermarket, where they didn't have half of the things I wanted. Back to the dinghy-dock, and my back is aching from all of the walking. Said hi to Doug as I went out to the boat.

Looks like the new fitting is 1-5/8" long, down from 2-1/4" before. There's still some extra thread showing when I get it fully screwed into the transmission. And it ends up at an awkward place: 2 turns is a little loose, but can't get to 3 turns without breaking something. Tried several times, with and without washer inside the transmission in place. Put thread-sealant on it and screwed it in and left it.

Finally started getting some sunshine around 10:30.

Killed a cockroach in the main cabin. Dead cockroach

Worked on the transmission for more than an hour, and almost got it onto the studs 3 or 4 times, but couldn't quite get it. Gave up, sweaty and aching and with my hand chafed from the rope I'm using to lift it.

Patched the battery terminal a bit again.

Weather stayed very windy and rough all day. An adventure to get stuff out of the dinghy and then hoist and lash it.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the cockpit. Dead cockroach
Sun for a new day  2/19/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Grey and trying to rain and windy again this morning, but not quite as windy as yesterday.

I'm a bit depressed this morning, about the transmission and my back and the batteries and the grey weather and not being able to do laundry. Just a normal funk. Maybe because I haven't had a rum-and-coke in two days ?

Launched the dinghy and went to the dinghy-dock to intercept sailmaker Manfred and see if he has a mainsail quote for me. And of course he doesn't: he was too busy yesterday to get to it.

Stopped to chat with Ed, and ask him to help me with the transmission. We'll get together at 1 and see if we can do it.

Back to the boat, and I messed with the battery terminal and then tried the transmission a couple more times; no luck getting it to slide onto the studs.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. Received about 15 emails from readers about the transmission fitting; a little overwhelming ! Several readers found a fitting that would work: Parker 149F-6-12 male elbow. Many others suggested a 3/4-3/4 elbow. (Found a picture that fits my situation: pic).

Back to the boat. Grey and windy afternoon.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  2/20/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Less grey this morning. Did a bucket of laundry.

Jacked up the rear of the engine, bolted the engine mounts in, and lowered the engine onto the mounts. Looks good, and looks like the fitting might clear the fiberglass now. But the fitting definitely is not tight enough into the case; the sealant I used isn't good enough. Will have to find some thread-locker, which I don't think I have aboard. But I can unscrew the fitting (just barely) without removing the transmission again (with the engine jacked up).

Dinghied ashore to intercept Manfred the sailmaker at the dinghy-dock, but he didn't show up. Stopped at "Presque Isle", but Doug didn't have any thread-locker. He said Manfred is already ashore. So I went back, walked the length of the marina, and finally found Manfred. He has a mainsail quote for me: $1700 for a new sail, and he keeps saying I should obtain the wire to go into the luff, so I think that item is extra. This compares to a quote of about $1500 from the loft in Fajardo. Manfred would charge about half of the $1700 to modify a used sail to work for me; that seems high. Making the new sail would take a couple of weeks.

Getting pretty windy. Dinghied over to the fuel dock and got 10 gallons of water ($2). On the way back, stopped at nearby sailboat "Jabiru V", introduced myself to Peter, and borrowed a little tube of Loctite 271 from him. When I mentioned the transmission to him, he said they had to take the transmission out of his boat five times in the last year or so, and had to pull the engine to do it each time. There seems to be a brotherhood going: lots of people have transmission stories.

To the boat. Unscrewed the drain-fitting and cleaned sealant from it and the hole. Applied the Loctite, screwed it in, and will see what I have in 24 hours. Back to "Jabiru V" to return the Loctite, but Peter must have gone ashore. Back to the boat. Saw him home later, and returned the tube of Loctite.

Removed the wood from under the engine and painted the bilge a bit. Having trouble getting out one big assembly of wood; how did I get it in there ?

Salad and apple and power-bar and yogurt for dinner.

Rolly, mostly sleepless night.

Killed two cockroaches in the galley during the night. Dead cockroachDead cockroach
Sun for a new day  2/21/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Two cruise-ships at the main docks today.

Very windy and pretty rolly by 10 or so. Got the last wood out from under the engine. Looked at the thread-locker stuff, and some on the outside of the case is still gummy; maybe it didn't harden properly. Should work on the transmission some more right now, but I feel like getting off the stupid boat.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. The bar wasn't quite open, so I did the supermarket first. Bummer: they're going to renovate this corner of the shopping area, and the bar will be kaput after next Friday. I'll have to find another place to do Wi-Fi.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk. Ridiculously windy and often quite rolly this afternoon.

Then I do almost two hours of pretty solid work on the transmission, lowering the engine down into its normal position and then bolting the reduction gear onto the rear of the transmission. Was barely able to wrestle the gear around into place, because now the transmission has a big gear and short shaft sticking out the back that came out with the reduction gear when I removed it. Had to get the reduction gear on without having that gear fall off, while positioning a big gasket between transmisson and gear. Pic.

Tightened the bolts and poured 3 quarts of fluid into the transmission. Eventually started getting a bit of a drip out of the gasket, even though I swabbed both sides of it with fluid before installing it. Will have to leave it overnight and hope the gasket swells and stops leaking. No leak from the drain fitting.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Had to make spaghetti with low-fat turkey smoked kielbasa; the supermarket hasn't had Italian sausage in weeks.

Rolly about half the night, but some periods of relative calm.
Sun for a new day  2/22/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Fairly windy and rolly again this morning. One cruise-ship at the main docks today.

I check under the transmission, and maybe half a cup of fluid has leaked out of the gasket. The fluid looks clean. I pour it back into the transmission and add another half-quart; now it's up to the Full mark. The slightest bit of ooze underneath the drain fitting; maybe it will hold.

Found that missing spring in the bilge: it's jet-black and has thin wires, and is much bigger than I expected; it must have been under tremendous force inside the drain plug.

Checked the batteries some more. Sure enough, one of them has a shorted cell: a 6-volt battery reading about 4 volts across the terminals. Of course, it's not one of the ones with the damaged terminals; the terminals on it are fine. It's the oldest of my batteries, but not all that old: it's stamped "K5", which means manufactured in Nov 2005, I think. Jury-rigged the damaged terminal on the other battery well enough to get that one working again.

Ridiculously windy and pretty rolly all afternoon.

Transmission still leaking from the gasket, but maybe not quite as much. Poured the leaked fluid back into it.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

"Rising Sun" has moved out from the fuel dock and now is anchored in the harbor entrance. (Doug heard they were paying $10K/month for their berth at the fuel dock.)
Sun for a new day  2/23/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Grey at first this morning, then sunny and a lot less windy and rolly. "Rising Sun" is gone, but a new huge non-private megayacht (or small cruise-ship, more likely) is hovering inside the harbor entrance: Sea Dream II.

Still fluid leaking from the transmission gasket, but I think the leak is slowing. Nothing leaking from the drain fitting.

Messed with broken battery terminal.

Did a little work on the postponed GPS-autopilot project. Managed to get the laptop, programmer board and target board connected properly (I think), built a program and programmed it into the target, and then nothing (no blinking LEDs or clicking relays). Tried many different options and commands in the development environment, and managed to get it to the point where it wouldn't program the target board any more. Time to ask for help on the web.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. Got a mainsail quote from Lee Sails in Hong Kong: $1080 including FedEx delivery and 3% credit-card fee. Price includes a 10% discount for off-season ordering, which expires at end of February, so I have to decide quickly. I think I'll do it.

Several readers have written that the drain fitting is a critical point, and I should get it re-tapped or at least use Teflon tape instead of Loctite. I should mention that after screwing the hose onto it, I wired the hose to the body of the transmission, so it should act to hold the fitting in place. I really did the wiring to avoid having the weight of the hose actively unscrew the fitting a quarter-turn, but the wired position of the hose serves to hold the fitting in place too.

I may end up having to jack up the engine, take that fitting out, and have it re-done. At least I shouldn't have to remove transmission from engine to do that.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  2/24/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Nice morning. Three cruise-ships at the main docks today.

Transmission gasket still leaking a fair amount; not gushing, but it will get worse when the fluid is under pressure. Added another quart of fluid to see if I can get more of the gasket wet and swelling and sealed.

Messed with broken battery terminal a little, but not getting it to connect this morning.

Dinghied ashore a little before 9, hoping to meet a reader named Ron who's here on a cruise ship today. Thought maybe a 1/10 chance, since I sent him email yesterday afternoon picking a meeting place, so maybe he didn't get the email, or his ship wasn't at the main docks. Waited until almost 9:20, was about to give up, and there were Ron and Glenda ! Turns out he didn't get my email; after you pay all that money for the cruise, then they charge you 55 cents/minute for internet aboard ! But he spotted my boat in the harbor, spotted me coming in by dinghy, and I had picked a very good meeting place, the info booth right where passengers come off the ships.

So we went to a cafe and chatted and sipped sodas for a while. They have an Allied Princess sailboat in St Petersburg FL, and plan to start cruising next year. Ron's worked repairing boats for 40 years or so.

After a while, we walked to the dinghy-dock, and chatted with Doug for a few minutes. Ron and Doug seem to agree that I'll need to use form-a-gasket sealant on that leaky transmission gasket; I always thought a gasket should work by itself without needing that stuff. But I guess I'll have to do it. Will be a pain to clean all the fluid off the surfaces so the sealant can get a good grip.

Then up to the supermarket, where they bought rum and snacks and I bought a few things. Back to the docks for a little more chatting and shopping, then they were off for a half-day sailboat trip, and I headed back out to the boat. A pleasant morning with Ron and Glenda. [Later, they sent me a couple of pictures: Bill in dinghy, Bill and Ron.]

In the afternoon, started draining fluid out of the transmission. Got about 2 quarts out of the drain hose, then started loosening the bolts between transmission and reduction gear to see if I could increase the leak there (I've been catching the leaking fluid in a small bucket). Had to work at it quite a bit to loosen it, without suddenly opening the gap and getting a deluge of fluid.

Salad for dinner.

All three cruise-ships left in a space of 20 minutes or so, and they churned up the harbor water into something like dirty dishwater; I could see that area slowly spreading through the harbor. Lots of air-bubbles and eddys and currents, and boats started spinning and pointing in various directions. My boat slowly spun clockwise over about 60 seconds, and a minute or two later spun halfway counter-clockwise over another 60 seconds.

During the night, emptied more than a quart of transmission fluid out of the bucket; it was almost full and I was afraid a roll would spill it.
Sun for a new day  2/25/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Nice morning. Three cruise-ships at the main docks today. Big sailboat nearby.

Messed with the PIC board (GPS auto-pilot) stuff some more, but still can't get LEDs to blink. I need some documentation of the programmer board and target board; they came with nothing, for some reason.

Captured as much of the rest of the transmission fluid as I could: recovered 3.5 quarts of the 4.25 I put in; the rest is in the bilge, wiped up on paper towels, or still inside the transmission. Separated reduction gear from transmission, being careful to retain that big gear that is loose in there, and was amazed to find a big section of the gasket is missing (pic)! I thought I had been very careful when putting the gasket in. I could see maybe having torn it slightly, but how did a section get sliced off ? Felt around inside the reduction gear and transmission to make sure there are no pieces floating around in there, and then found the missing section in the bucket in the bilge (pic). Somehow it must have gotten folded under and sliced off between the two parts when I put the reduction gear on ?

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. Found schematic for my PIC target board, and user manual for my programmer board. Started finalizing the mainsail order.

Ducked out to the repair shop. Hector said "how did you do this to the gasket ?", wondered why putting the transmission back in is taking so long, and suggested I hire one of his mechanics. I think he's doubting my competence, which is okay; I doubt it myself about 10 times a day. He gave me a new gasket for free (I was buying two more quarts of fluid for $9 anyway); very nice. He said don't put gasket-sealant on the gasket (he waved away the tube of PermaTex I was trying to ask him about); just put any kind of grease on both sides (I wasn't clear if it's just to hold it in place while assembling, or to help make the seal).

In the bar, a lady at one of the gambling machines near me won a $1200 payout.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Must admit: that cockroach-stuff ("Harris Famous Roach Tablets") seems to be working: saw a few dead cockroaches here and there several days ago, but no big live ones during the night for a while now.
Sun for a new day  2/26/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Nice morning. One cruise-ship at the main docks today.

Still can't get the PIC board (for the GPS-autopilot project) to come to life; the programmer says it's programming the target chip successfully, but the data really isn't getting into the chip.

Greased the new gasket and put it on, and bolted everything together. Will let it sit for a little while to let the grease soak in a bit before adding fluid. Hmmm: the drive coupling can't be rotated by hand; it could before. Maybe something is wrong, or maybe it just needs fluid ?

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. But their Wi-Fi is down; they're starting to tear the place down to move it. But then the guy pushed a button and it started working.

Sent email to place order for new mainsail. Comes to around $1170; final price may change a little (time-zone to Hong Kong makes email back-and-forth a slow process).

Got groceries at the supermarket, and back to the boat.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  2/27/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at anchor; none at the main docks today.

Tightened the bolts through the gasket some more, added fluid, and no leaks. But bad news: the drive coupling still is frozen, which isn't right. So I'll have to drain the fluid and take off the reduction gear and try again.

Still no joy with the PIC project either; upgraded software, checked configuration bits, tried writing to target board, programmer still lying to me.

Squashed a cockroach in the cockpit. Dead cockroach

Started draining fluid out of the transmission. Carefully propped a fluid-bottle in the bucket in the bottom of the bilge with the drain-hose feeding into it. Got the bottle mostly full, pulled on the rope to pull the bucket up, and the bucket-handle broke and up-ended the bottle and dumped about a quart of fluid into the bilge. Par for this job.

Got the reduction gear loose from the transmission, slid it out a bit, and poked around. Nothing obviously wrong, except the big gear won't spin. Put it back together.

Dinghied ashore and to Offshore Bar to do Wi-Fi. Ducked out and to the repair shop. Hector had 3 other customers in the shop, but said to me "just start the engine and put it in forward and reverse". So I will go on.

No email from the sailmakers in Hong Kong; I was hoping to get a confirmation of my sail order.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ed and Sue stopped by to chat just before sunset. They're probably going to leave tomorrow, heading for St John and the BVI's and then eventually down to Grenada.
Sun for a new day  2/28/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks today. Sunny until 9 or so, then solidly grey all day.

Loafed all morning. After lunch, got to work. Tightened bolts through transmission gasket and filled it with fluid. Bolted bracket onto bell housing, put oil-cooler onto seawater-pump hose, then bracket to hold oil-cooler in place. It's hitting the top of the engine mount stud, but I'll worry about that later. Installed oil hoses and transmission fluid hoses.

Salad and apple for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/1/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks today. Sunny until noon, then mostly cloudy after that.

Installed raw-water intake hose and strainer to the oil-cooler. Tightened all of the hose clamps, turned on the raw-water intake, and the water hoses leak a little. They're cracked at the ends and I need to replace a couple of them. I probably was going to do that anyway, since I want to mount the intake strainer further out of the way than it used to be.

Topped up the engine and transmission fluids, then held my breath and cranked the engine a little. No horrible grinding noises or anything. Checked for massive leaks, topped off the fluids (the oil-cooler and oil filter were empty, so I expected some fluid to "disappear" into them). Cranked the engine again, got it started, and dashed below to check for leaks or problems. Looks good !

Got up my courage and tried shifting transmission into forward, and that worked. Into neutral and reverse, and the shift-arm goes pretty far back before reverse engages, but I think it's okay. Back and forth a few times, let it run for a few minutes, and shut down the engine. No leaks except for the minor water-hose leaks. Wow !

With engine off, still can't rotate the drive coupling by hand; I used to be able to do this. So now the prop won't free-wheel when I'm sailing ?

Shifted the batteries around to try to get a good pair into the number-1 bank, but failed. I have one cell-shorted battery, two with one totally decayed terminal each, and a fourth that is good. And the other bank has four good batteries in it. So I'll need to buy three batteries ($400+).

Later, ran the engine for 30 minutes, mostly in forward gear, to exercise engine and transmission and charge batteries. Engine coming up to temp normally, transmission getting warm but not hot. When transmission is in neutral, I can rotate drive coupling a little by hand, but it's stiff. After running in forward for 15 minutes, then putting it in neutral, coupling is a lot easier to rotate by hand. So maybe the rear bearing just needs to "wear in" or get fluid through it. Will have to check again tomorrow with the engine off.

So now I need to:
- replace water-hoses, maybe re-positioning the oil-cooler slightly in the process.
- jack up the front of the engine and replace the front mounts.
- align engine-transmission-shaft and bolt the drive coupling together.
The batteries will wait until I get to Benner Bay, which has a marine store at the waterfront.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/2/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks today. Pretty rolly in the harbor.

Started working on jacking up the front end of the engine. Uncomfortable, bending down into an awkward space with the boat rolling, and it tires my back quickly. Removed some unused screws in the fiberglass that were jabbing my feet. Had to disconnect the fuel hose to the engine.

As I expected, the complication at this end of the engine is that the oil sump covers the bottom of the engine block, and I don't think the sump is strong enough to bear the weight of the engine. So I have to make some kind of cradle to extend around the sides of the sump and put the weight on the bases of the engine mount flanges. Started working with 2x4's and 2x6's in the cockpit to see what I can knock together.

No free Wi-Fi from the boat.

Saw some kind of floating dry-dock vessel (pic) south of the island. [Later got this from Ed on "Angel Louise":]
That floating drydock was the Dockwise yacht carrier. They move boats from here several times a year. Must have been making deliveries. They flood it to float yachts off and on, and then blow the tanks full to float and cruise to the next destination.

They will take a boat all over the world, even if it or its skipper is not ocean-worthy. I priced them about 4 years ago, and found to go to the Mediterranean from Ft. Lauderdale was $14000 then, and another time earlier they quoted $8000 - guess it depends on how busy they are.


There are competitors of Dockwise too. Now Dockwise is doing about 5 or so trips a year between USVI and Florida for cheaper prices. Kinda takes the skill out of getting here.
Dinghied ashore after lunch, stopping at "Presque Isle" to chat with Doug. Chatted with Rob and Jo outside the Bad Ass Cafe; they said there have been some muggings here lately, a couple on the street outside this marina. Chatted with them for quite a while. And when I told them my transmission story, Rob immediately told me their transmission story: when they first got their boat, Rob saw that the manual said their Volvo transmission used regular engine oil, and he thought that meant it shared the engine oil with the engine. So they motored away with absolutely no oil in the transmission, and within a couple of hours it had welded itself into a solid lump stuck in forward gear.

Then into the cafe to do Wi-Fi, but as I expected, every single electrical outlet was full. Same thing was true last time I came in here. So off through the length of the marina and across the street to an internet place above a Filipino or Indian restaurant; $3/hour there. Authorized the mainsail order in Hong Kong, for almost exactly $1200.

To the supermarket, since I was close to it anyway, then back into the marina. Stopped to chat with Rob a little more, and read my book a little. Then back to the boat.

Trawler "La Creatura" anchored behind me left at 5:15 and headed out of the harbor. I'd been curious about their "flopper-stoppers": big outriggers that greatly reduced the rolling at anchor. I was surprised to see them motor out with the "flopper-stoppers" still deployed in the water; that can't be right. [Later got this from reader Ben, and similar from another:]
The outriggers you saw on the trawler were being used to deploy what are called 'birds'. These are about 18 inches long and the same width and look very much like F-111 swing-wing fighters with their wings folded back. The noses of the birds are typically about ten or fifteen pounds of lead to keep them aimed downward. They work marginally well at rest, but are superior under way, holding the boat fairly upright without any severe wallowing, like both our boats are prone to do when motoring in cross-seas. Of course, the price for this stability is charged in pure horsepower. A boat with a strong engine can afford the drag and additional fuel consumption, which is only marginal if you have 250 HP to play with. If you only have 85 - 100 HP, your fuel consumption may almost double and cruising speed will suffer a bit. Of course, most folks will feel it's well worth it to have the comfort.
Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

Rolly and humid and fairly still and uncomfortable all night. Didn't sleep very well.
Sun for a new day  3/3/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Grey and rolly this morning until 8:45 or so, then sunny and rolly. Two cruise-ships at the main docks; third came in at 10:30. Lots of exhaust fumes from the cruise-ships, too.

Finally got some life out of my PIC board (picture of programmer and target boards) for my GPS-autopilot project ! The problem was with the "configuration word". Got my little C program to blink LEDs and turn relays on and off.

Grey again by 10 AM.

Worked on jacking up the front of the engine. Had to cut and sculpt and glue some wood to fit the contours of the undersides of the engine mounts. Tiring to work, wedged into a tight corner at the front of the engine, bending down to reach underneath, while the boat is rolling. Not much room, and several hoses and cables in the way, even after clearing out a few of them.

Killed a cockroach on the ceiling of the main cabin. Dead cockroach

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/4/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Fairly grey and a bit rolly this morning, but not quite as bad as yesterday. Two cruise-ships at the main docks; lots of exhaust fumes from the cruise-ships again.

I've been noticing that my batteries are charging really well these days, and staying high overnight. I think that shorted battery must have been dragging things down for months or more. That's the downside of paralleling a lot of batteries: problems like that can be hidden.

Jacked up the front end of the engine a bit, and things generally went well, but there's an angle between the bottom of the engine and the bilge, so I need to change something. Will think about it. Also, the oil-pan is not flat side-to-side; it's recessed on the starboard side, which complicates things.

Took the engine intake strainer out, and got out the pipe wrench and other tools (pic), since I need to tighten one of the pipe joints 90 degrees to accommodate mounting the strainer onto the compartment wall. Thought it would be a struggle, but it went quite easily.

Cut and painted wood blocks for mounting the strainer onto the wall.

Dinghied ashore to town. Disposed of garbage, then to library. Deposited about 15 books into their book-exchange, got 6 out, then did an hour of internet ($2). Read a book in the park for a while, then back to the boat.

Chopped and painted another couple of pieces of wood for the intake strainer mount.

Dinghied ashore to the marina and went to the supermarket for groceries.

Salad and salami-cheese-tomato sandwiches for dinner.

Pretty rolly evening, and it rained hard and steady a couple of times. Nicer after midnight.
Sun for a new day  3/5/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Totally grey and a bit rainy this morning. No cruise-ships at the main docks.

Caught 10 gallons of rainwater in the buckets last night, but then a big wake came along this morning and spilled out several gallons of it. Got up (late) and dumped about 8 gallons of water from jugs to tanks, and then several gallons from buckets to jug.

Chopped and glued a little wood to put under the jack. Loosened the front engine-mount bolts. Got up my courage and jacked up the front of the engine. Got it clear of the port mount first, and unbolted that mount from the fiberglass, slid it out, and slid three pieces of 2x4 under the flange to catch the engine in case something slips. Engine is starting to twist a little to starboard. A brief rest, a little more jacking-up, and was able to unbolt and slide out the starboard mount (pic). Put three pieces of 2x4 under that flange and released the jack, and the engine settled down onto the 2x4's. Slid a 2x6 down one side of the engine and a 2x4 down the other side to keep the engine from sliding sideways when the boat rolls.

Dinghied ashore, and off to the repair shop, stopping at the ATM to get cash. Bought two engine mounts ($150) and three quarts of transmission fluid ($13). Had to stand under awnings and wait out some rain on the way back. Fair number of pretty women wandering through the outdoor mall here; I should hang around here more often. Said hi to Doug and Nancy as we passed briefly. Back to the boat.

Put the new engine mounts in, working quickly as the starboard side of the wood-and-jack contraption kept creaking and settling and letting the engine back down. Couldn't get one bolt on the starboard side started into the nut inside the fiberglass stringer, and the hole seems to have a lot of clay-like dirt in it, for some reason. A relief to have the engine back down on mounts.

Chili (with some bacon which was on sale; yum) and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Wind started blowing hard around 10 or so, very gusty and strong and cool. Then wind and horizontal rain often throughout the night. Wind mainly from ENE and NE, but swirling a bit too.
Sun for a new day  3/6/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Totally grey and still very windy and gusty this morning. Horizontal rain several times. No cruise-ships at the main docks.

Drilled wood pieces and mounted engine intake strainer to the bulkhead. Looked at oil-cooler, and decided I have its bracket in upside-down; fixing that should raise it half an inch or so away from the top of the engine-mount bolt.

Started getting a little sun around 11, but it stayed mostly grey and windy all day.

Painted a bit of the bilge under the forward end of the engine. Later eased the engine down a bit more on the forward mounts; a slow job because parts of the mount flanges come right up to the nuts, making it hard to get much of a swing with a wrench.

Less rain and cloud in the late afternoon, but still windy and cool.

Worked some more on getting that last engine-mount bolt into the stringer, but it wouldn't go and I kept digging out more dirt. Can't really see a nut in there; maybe the hole isn't lined up liked it used to be, or maybe I sheared off the bolt when I removed it ? Don't remember any big snapping noise.

NPR suddenly went off the air around 4 (carrier is still there), and stayed off for six hours or more.

Salad and apple and salami-cheese-tomato sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/7/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Feeling headachey this morning.

Mostly sunny but still cool and very windy and gusty this morning; a little rain too. One big cruise-ship and one small one at the main docks.

Did a little work on the PIC autopilot project.

Added water to a couple of the batteries.

Dinghied ashore through strong wind, and to internet place ($3/hour). Skype-called my Mom. Downloaded a couple of pictures from Ron: Bill in dinghy, Bill and Ron. Then to the supermarket, where check-out was very slow. Back to the boat in time to listen to Car Talk.

Added water to the other pair of batteries.

Gave myself a severe haircut and then showered; that always makes me feel good.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/8/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Still feeling headachey this morning. Weather still mostly grey and cool and very windy and gusty. One cruise-ship at the main docks and a small one at anchor near town.

Loafed all morning, then did some work. Reconnected fuel line to engine, fixed ground cable I'd pulled off, fixed oil-cooler bracket, adjusted hose between cooler and raw-water pump so it's on properly. Lowered engine more on its mounts, to the position it was in before I started replacing the mounts. Looked at putting the water-intake hoses together, and realized I needed to do some pipe-work as well as getting a new length or two of hose. Took the strainer back off the wall and worked on it with pipe-wrench and crescent wrench, and got most of it done. But there's a small piece I need to take to a shop, and I need to buy an elbow assembly, and some hose.

Fairly nice afternoon, actually. Sunny with only a few bursts of high wind.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

Nice night; maybe the bursts of high wind have gone away. But then just before dawn they came back.
Sun for a new day  3/9/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Weather again mostly grey and windy with very strong gusts; not as cool as before. Two cruise-ships at the main docks. Sunny after 9 or so; grey again by 10.

Did a little work on the PIC autopilot project: got timer interrupts working.

Dinghied ashore. To repair shop, but turns out they don't do pipe work, and have only 1/2" and smaller in stock. To internet place ($3 for an hour). Bought an Extech IR201 IR thermometer through EBay ($27 including shipping). To supermarket for groceries. To fuel dock, and bought $5 of gasoline. Back to the boat. Sunny afternoon.

Got out the vise and pipe-wrench (pic), and worked at getting a pipe-elbow apart. Couldn't get my ancient pipe-wrench to grip on the pipe; I wonder if I can sharpen the teeth on it, or should just throw it away and get a new one ? Pump pliers did the job. Screwed the straight piece into the strainer.

With a bit of a struggle, worked the propeller shaft forward and bolted the two halves of the coupler together lightly. The drive-saver is still between the halves, and I know I really should take it out, do the alignment, and then put it back in. But I failed to budge the bolts holding transmission side to drive-saver. And I think I'd have to snorkel under the boat and cut part or all of the zinc off the shaft, to get the shaft to slide in further than normal. So I'll give it a try with drive-saver in place. Still feels good to have shaft connected again, even if it's not quite ready to go.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Killed a cockroach in the main cabin during dinner. Dead cockroach

Forward water tank ran empty; switched to aft tank.
Sun for a new day  3/10/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

I think most of the strong wind-burst weather has ended. Three cruise-ships at the main docks.

Did a little work on the PIC project (GPS-autopilot project). Did a bucket of laundry. Messed with the drive coupling a little more; it's a little awkward to work on, down low and partly under a bulkhead. And it's too stiff to rotate by hand, but I was able to use a wrench on the stuck bolts to rotate it. I need to rotate it to adjust the alignment.

Dinghied ashore around 9:15, swinging by "Angel Louise" but without seeing any signs of life there. Walked up to the hospital corner and caught a safari bus ($1) over the hill to Home Depot. Bought pipe parts for the engine water intake ($14; what's the difference between "brass" and "red brass" ?). To CostULess and bought $57 worth of crackers and snacks; that should keep me for a while. Caught another safari bus ($1) back, and back to the boat.

Put the new pipe parts together. Had lunch. Worked on the engine alignment. Got the up-and-down better, but now I need to force the forward end of the engine to port a bit. Tried doing that with a 2x4, it didn't fit right, and decided to think about how to do it (probably a combination of 2x4 and crowbar). I still have the mounts loose, so the motion will move the mounts. After fastening the mounts in place, I might have to loosen the adjustment-slides between mounts and engine block, and get motion in there.

Added a new feature to the log file: now it should scroll you down to the place you stopped reading the last time you looked at it. Hope it works for everyone.

Cut and drilled wood and got the intake strainer screwed onto the wall again, differently now that one of the pipe is horizontal instead of vertical.

Cut hoses and started putting together the engine water intake stuff. I hate trying to get hoses onto pipes; it's always a struggle. Put soapy water on the pipes. A struggle, in tight corners in a few places, and didn't want to put sideways pressure on the intake through-hull and damage it. Got the first two sections of the intake together, but none of the hoses went on as far as I wanted. Got maybe 1-1/2" of hose onto pipe, just barely enough to get two hose-clamps on. In one place, really got only enough for one clamp.

Salad and salami-cheese-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/11/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Three cruise-ships at the main docks.

Did a little work on the PIC project (GPS-autopilot project), working on serial port interrupts.

Dinghied ashore to fuel dock and got 10 gallons of water ($2). A bit dicey at the dock, with a charter sailboat trying to come in for fuel, and making a bit of a hash about the docking. While I was there, one of the cruise ships gave eight short blasts on the horn; I often hear one of them do that around 9:30 each morning; why ? It's not exact; sometimes more like 9:15, this morning around 9:45. Maybe it means "cocktails being served in the main saloon" ? Back to the boat, and did a bucket of laundry.

Worked on the engine. After several tries, figured out a way to slide a couple of pieces down the starboard-front quarter and then hammer a crowbar into the gap between them. Levered the front of the engine to port, tightened the engine-mount bolts, and now will have to see if it stays there. Checked the alignment at the coupling, it looked good, rotated the coupling 180 degrees, and it still looked mostly good. Later loosened the rear mounts and re-tightened them, in case they were fighting the engine twist a little.

Dinghied ashore. Saw a couple of guys painting around the anchors on a cruise ship (pic1, pic2). To post office, where the woman behind the counter gave me the hardest time possible, but finally accepted my package and sent it out. To internet place ($3 for an hour), then supermarket. To the fuel dock and got 10 gallons of water ($2). Back to the boat.

Cut the last piece of hose for the engine water intake system, and managed to cut it an inch or two shorter than needed (hard to estimate, with a bit of curve, and not knowing how far I'll be able to force each end onto the pipes). Put it on anyway. Checked everything and then ran the engine for 5 minutes, keeping the transmission in neutral. Nice to have it running again, and no leaks or other problems.

Opened up the instrument panel and ran wires to the GPS for the auto-pilot project.

Mark stopped by for a short chat. He's done plenty of drive-shaft-alignments; he used to work in a boatyard. He says it's really not too critical on a sailboat, where the shaft RPM is low (if I run engine at 1900 RPM, after 2.1:1 reduction my shaft is turning at 900 RPM), as compared to a fast powerboat. So cheating by leaving the drive-saver on should be okay. And I have several feet of shaft between stern tube and coupling, so I think that helps too.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Brilliant full moon tonight.
Sun for a new day  3/12/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

No cruise-ships at the main docks.

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs to forward water tank.

Worked on that engine-mount bolt that won't grab. Removed dirt from the hole using half a dozen wetted Q-tips, and eventually convinced myself that there's a sheared-off bolt-end in the nut in the bottom of the hole. So I need to replace it with a lag screw. I want to do this before I finish the alignment and do any motoring with the prop turning, so the engine mount stays in place.

As I was launching the dinghy, Doug swung by in his skiff. Turns out he was going to a neighboring boat to help them lift out the engine, put it in his skiff, and take it ashore, maybe to the same repair shop I've been using. The boat is a Morgan 36 or so; don't know how big the engine is or how much it weighs. I think they have water in the oil in the engine. I offered my help, but he said they already had three people, which was enough. And Doug's done this sort of thing before, so he knows what he's doing.

Dinghied ashore through rain-sprinkles. Walked up to the hospital corner, and stopped in an optometrist's; turns out an eye exam and bifocal prescription here is only $35 as compared to $80 at the other place I asked; I think I'll do that soon. Across the street and caught a safari bus ($1) over the hill to Home Depot. Bought a seat-cushion, paintbrushes, paint rollers, battery-terminal bolts, and a lag screw for the engine mount. To CostULess and bought some food. Caught another safari bus ($1) back, and passed Doug and Nancy trudging up the hill on foot (I'd rather pay $1 for the bus). To the fuel dock for water, but no attendant appeared, so I gave up on that. Back to the boat.

Did a little work on the PIC project (GPS-autopilot project). Put DB-9 connector on wires from GPS, plugged it into the PIC board, and eventually got serial port interrupts working. I'm getting NMEA data from the GPS into the board, although I'm getting a framing error with each character, so something's not quite right. But it's progress !

Looked at the engine-mount. Dry-fit the lag-screw in, and wished I'd bought the one a half-inch longer and then filed it down a bit. Mixed West System epoxy and filled the hole. Will decide tomorrow whether to make yet another trip to Home Depot to exchange the screw.

Checked the shaft alignment, unbolted the coupling halves, rotated them 180 degrees relative to each other, bolted them together loosely, and checked again. Looks good, so I bolted them all the way together.

Salad and salami-cheese-tomato sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/13/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

Did a little work on the PIC project. Now receiving legible NMEA characters from GPS in my program on the PIC board ! You can see the test programs I've written at GPS-autopilot test programs.

Dinghied ashore and caught a safari bus ($1) over the hill to Home Depot; driver tried to charge me $2 for such a short trip; I just walked away from him. Bought the lag screw and some decent hacksaw blades. To CostULess just to buy some food and make the trip a little more cost-effective, but there were huge lines of unhappy people at the registers, so I turned right around and walked back out. Caught another safari bus ($1) back. To the fuel dock and bought 10 gallons of water ($2). Back to the boat.

Drilled into the epoxy in the engine-mount hole, but it's spongy, not as hard as it should be, and I couldn't get the screw to grab; gave up on it for now.

Reattached the drive-shaft collar that keeps the shaft from sliding back too far if the coupling separates.

Reattached the shift linkage, testing carefully to see that the throttle settings result in the transmission fully in each gear; I've heard you can burn out your transmission with a mis-adjusted linkage.

Checked fluids and intake valve, and then started the engine. Ran okay, and after a minute I tried forward gear. Boat actually moving ! I'm still at anchor, so I couldn't do it for long, but I did a few shots of forward and reverse, and everything seems good. Ran the engine for 20 minutes or so to exercise it. Tomorrow, I think I'll try raising anchor and motoring around the harbor a bit !

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs to forward water tank.

Dinghied ashore and to internet place ($3 for an hour).

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Saw a cockroach in the galley during the night but he escaped. Live cockroach
Sun for a new day  3/14/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Two big cruise-ships and one small one at the main docks.

Big plans for today: start engine, raise anchor, motor around, to fuel dock to fuel up, then anchor in a better spot.

So, of course, I loafed in the morning, playing with the computer. And by 10 the wind was blowing hard, and by 10:30 it was howling, with whitecaps coming past, the boat slewing around and rolling a bit. I'm not going to raise anchor in this mess. I need to scrub the chain as it comes up, I'm in 30+ feet of water, there's a boat behind me, and I don't know how my back will hold up.

So I did little chores: tied fenders on, got dock-lines out, measured fuel level (6.0 inches at engine hour 4475), dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug to fuel tank, checked engine and transmission fluids (bottom of transmission still a bit wet; tightened bolts and wiped it clean), cleaned up cockpit a little.

In the afternoon, the wind and seas started easing a bit.

At 3, started the engine. After checking for leaks and such in the engine compartment, started raising anchor. It was a struggle, in wind and wakes and with the anchor stuck very firmly in the bottom, and a 45-pound anchor with another 50 pounds of chain in 30-35 foot deep water. Tried using the anchor windlass, but it's extremely slow, and the handle has corroded to the point where it doesn't fit well. So I had to raise anchor manually. I managed to get the anchor free without hurting my back. Exhausted myself a bit, but by 3:15 I was able to motor clear of the boats around me, with the anchor dangling on 10-15 feet of chain off the bow. Rested briefly and then raised the anchor onto the bow.

Motored back and forth a little, and everything seems good. So I headed for the fuel dock, hoping nothing would go "clunk" and force me to sail back to anchor.

Got to the fuel dock okay, and needed to do a quick turn and a downwind docking, because the fillers are on the starboard side. Didn't time the turn quite right, ended up a little downwind of the pump on the dock, and the attendants struggled a little to get me into the right place. But got done around 3:30.

Loaded 142 gallons of diesel, including 5 into a jug. That took 45 minutes or so; I can't pump too fast because the tank vent-line is only 1/4" diameter, and I'll get a geyser out of the filler if I pump too fast. And the builder ran a bulkhead right across the top of the fuel tank fittings, so I haven't been able to replace the vent line with a bigger one.

At $2.20/gallon for diesel, total was $312. Gasoline is $2.19/gallon here today. Loaded 53 gallons of water; I had wanted 110 gallons, but the attendant left while I was pumping, I had no idea how much I'd loaded, and I stopped when one of the tanks seemed to be full. At 20 cents/gallon, $10.60 for water.

Got off the dock around 4:35. Motored through the anchorage, and found a decent spot and got the anchor down by 4:50 at Charlotte Amalie. Nice to be in 15-foot water again; I hate anchoring in deepish water, where the scope is much less and raising anchor is so exhausting.

So, that was a success ! Engine and transmission seem okay; will have to check transmission tomorrow morning for leaks and loose bolts and alignment. And then will have to snorkel under the boat and scrape the prop, before heading for Benner Bay some time in the next few days. But I'm feeling good !

Salad and salami-cheese-tomato sandwich for dinner.

Sun for a new day  3/15/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

Still no free Wi-Fi from the boat.

Dinghied ashore at 10 (wind starting to blow hard) and met Glen and Pam on the dinghy dock. They're here from Vancouver Canada to look at an Island Packet 38 to buy. In fact, they surveyed and sea-trialed it a couple of days ago, and decided not to buy it. They're disappointed; they were sort of counting on buying this boat, and even have a lot of stuff in their suitcases to move onto the boat. But now they're staying an extra week in a cheap hotel (I'm surprised how cheap: $200 or so for a week; I thought this island was a lot more expensive than that). They're fixed on Island Packet's, and still looking.

Dinghied Glen and Pam out to my boat, gave them the nickel tour, and we sat and chatted for more than an hour. Very pleasant. Then we went back ashore, and they treated me to lunch. We went to an all-you-can-eat Filipino or Asian place, downstairs from the internet place I go to. The cash-register girls were impressively built and good-looking, and the food was good. More nice conversation.

We parted, and I headed back to the boat.

Fuel level 16.0 inches at engine hour 4476. Front end of engine has stayed in place, side-to-side; I was wondering if it would twist back to starboard under load. Engine and transmission fluid levels good, but bottom of transmission is wet again. I'm not sure the gasket in the middle is leaking; could the fluid be coming from the front end of the transmission ? Will have to monitor it.

A little rain at 1:15.

Dinghied ashore and to internet place ($3 for an hour). Glen and Pam were leaving as I arrived.

Looks like weather is best (wind is lightest) for going to Benner Bay on Tuesday.

After internet, got groceries at the supermarket and then back to the dinghy-dock. Just as I got off the dock, it started raining, and I was pretty wet by the time I got to the boat and got everything out of the dinghy.

Salad and PB-sandwich for dinner.

Rolly around sunset.

Fairly heavy rain at 4:30 AM or so.
Sun for a new day  3/16/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship at the main docks.

Checked engine and transmission fluids. Loosened coupling bolts and checked alignment again.

Solid grey and cool and rainy from 11 onward.

Put the bilge pumps back into the bilge.

I need to snorkel under the boat and scrape the prop, but it's such uninviting weather. Finally gritted my teeth and did it at 2:30, in light rain. Scraped just the prop and got right back out.

A little sun from 3 to 3:45, then grey and rainy again.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach

Pretty calm by midnight; looks good for leaving the harbor tomorrow.
Sun for a new day  3/17/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Charlotte Amalie.

Up at dawn, getting ready to leave. Fairly grey weather with light wind (inside the harbor). Started engine at 6:30, and all looks good. Anchor up by 6:35, and motored out. Wasn't sure if I heard a slight thumping noise in the drive shaft, but it looked okay and I decided I was just being a bit nervous. Out of harbor and started east toward Benner Bay.

A long, slow slog into wind and swells and current, as usual here. More anxious than usual because I kept wondering if something would go wrong with engine or transmission or whatever. But the boat kept chugging along, pitching and rolling and slowly making forward progress. A big sigh of relief when I finally turned the corner and the wind and swells now pointed me toward Benner Bay.

Not many boats here this time; only 4 or so in False Bay, and only 1 anchored outside the inner bay. Was much more crowded last year.

Into the inner bay around 8:35, and unfortunately it's still more-than-full and someone is occupying the nice little niche I anchored in last year, where I was aground 1/4 of the time and had to use a stern anchor to hold myself between two boats. Turned around and headed back out, seeing Woodie in his dinghy and saying hi on the way past.

Got the anchor down outside the entrance by 8:45 at outside Benner Bay. Very exposed to swells here, but it's mainly pitching, which is okay, and I've anchored out here before. Still, I'd much rather be inside.

No free Wi-Fi from the boat.

I take it back: it's pretty uncomfortable here. The swells are making the boat corkscrew a bit, and that's irritating.

Dinghied ashore, and found the old half-torn-down marina still in the same shape, with the same guys hanging out. And the Wi-Fi still working. Chatted with Gary and Gary and Gary and Woodie, and did internet for several hours. Not much has changed around here except that the DPNR finally chased just about everyone out of False Bay, as they'd been threatening to do. Didn't see Mario, but he's still around somewhere. Email'd my brother, asking him to send my mail to me. Used the book-exchange, and later went to the boatyard and used their book-exchange too. Back to the boat, where getting everything out of the dinghy while the boat was pitching strongly was quite an adventure.

Salad and salami-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Suddenly realized I have a lot of welts on my back on the left side; got bitten while snorkeling under the boat yesterday.

Uncomfortable night: very rolly all night, headachey, and didn't sleep well. The rolling didn't ease until almost dawn.
Sun for a new day  3/18/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Headachey. Did a bucket of laundry. Checked engine and transmission fluids, and the levels are fine, so nothing went wrong during yesterday's trip. Bottom of transmission is a little damp, but I think it's coming from the engine flywheel area.

Loaded up the dinghy with a ton of stuff and headed ashore. Saw Glen and Pam on the dock at Compass Pointe and chatted with them for a little while. Then to the boatyard, where I disposed of garbage and left my rusty bike leaning against the dumpster; someone should recycle it. I hadn't used it in a year or two, and it was so rusty that I was afraid to try to use it.

Over to Pirate's Cove and did Wi-Fi and chatted with the guys.

Sounds like the scene here is getting bad. The authorities are chasing people into marinas (or moving them to abandon their junk boats), and word is that they're going to start checking holding tanks next year. But only three marinas on the island have pump-out stations, and they're probably a lot more eager to sell fuel than to pump a holding tank.

Cornedbeef-onion-noodle for dinner.

Headache pretty bad all night.
Sun for a new day  3/19/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Headache still bad this morning.

Removed the microwave from the galley and unscrewed all of the mounting hardware from the galley counter. I've been carrying the thing around unused for 7 years now; might as well get rid of it. Maybe someone ashore can use it.

Dinghied ashore to Pirate's Cove at noon. Left the microwave ashore. Did Wi-Fi and chatted with the guys.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Still have bad headache.
Sun for a new day  3/20/2009 (Friday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Head finally starting to feel better. In fact, headache's gone ! Good to feel human again.

Changed secondary fuel filter on engine, and it went very smoothly. Caught almost all of the diesel out of it (a good trick, since it's mounted in the middle of a lot of bracketing and piping). Ran engine for a few minutes to test it.

Cleaned up one of the damaged battery terminals and managed to seat a Heli-Coil into it, so I guess I'll try putting it back in. Don't have the energy to do it this morning.

Dinghied ashore to Pirate's Cove at noon, stopping first to leave a gallon of used oil and fluid and bilge-water at the oil disposal. Did Wi-Fi and chatted with the guys. Someone grabbed the microwave last night. Put an ad on Craigslist for Woody to sell his son's sailboat. Got 5 gallons of water ($1).

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/21/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Head hurting a bit again; took more pills.

Hauled out the damaged battery from the engine compartment, put the newly-repaired one in, and the pair started charging. So I'm back up to 6 golf-carts batteries in use. Cleaned the damaged terminal on the removed battery and screwed a new Heli-Coil into it.

Dinghied ashore to Pirate's Cove and did Wi-Fi. A quiet day there, since the marina isn't open on weekends. My brother says the IRS wants $1300 from me for some reason; a letter from the IRS is never good news.

Across the street to the supermarket, where some of the prices were high ($3.89 for a 24-oz loaf of bread). Back out to the boat; on the way out, saw maybe the fastest and definitely the loudest dinghy in the harbor: pic. (A couple of readers told me you can get hang-glider wings for them, for flying, and Gary here said someone tried to start a tour business here using a couple of them a few years ago.)

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.

Wind stalled out and circled after 2 AM, putting me sideways to some swells and causing some rolling. Fairly still after that, very light wind from N.
Sun for a new day  3/22/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Very light E wind; nice, sunny day.

Tightened bolts on transmission and coupler; looks good. The wetness on the bottom of the transmission definitely is not transmission fluid; it is rusty water coming from the back end of the engine somehow.

Sawed the terminals off that shorted-cell battery; I might be able to use them to repair the other batteries.

Dinghied ashore at noon, and took that shorted battery to the disposal. Then to Pirate's Cove for Wi-Fi. Skype-called Mom and talked to her for a while.

Crap ! Hard disk in the laptop died. And of course I don't have extensive enough or recent enough backups; I've lost a bunch of stuff. Ordered a new drive through Amazon; will be off the air for a while.

Salad and roast chicken for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/23/2009 (Monday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Rain at 9.

Tried everything I could think of to revive the hard disk on the laptop, but there are loose parts jingling around inside it: it's toast.

Dinghied ashore, but the marina was closed.

Rain at 11:30.

Replaced engine heat-exchanger zinc at engine hour 4478. Had to sculpt the new zinc a bit to make it fit.

Dinghied ashore again at 2. Used Gary H's laptop to order a new hard disk from Amazon. Got rained on while heading back out to the boat.

Weather stayed grey all day.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/24/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore (saw interesting boat in the boatyard; also, out on the road, looks like someone lost their drive shaft and just kept on going) and walked over the hill to Red Hook. Exchanged 15 books in the marina office, bought a throwable PFD ($17) in the marine store, and walked back over the hill. Good exercise. Over to Pirate's Cove, checked email, bought 10 gallons of water ($1.50).

Back on the boat, I dredged up 100 feet of old rusty anchor rode from the V-berth bilge, used the Dremel to cut off and save the good 15-20 feet off one end, and cleaned up all the rusty bits out of the bilge.

Dinghied ashore, and gave away the remaining rusty chain to a guy. Mailman delivered a box for me: my new IR thermometer and a bunch of letters. To the supermarket for groceries.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/25/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Did some work on my income taxes.

Cut and drilled and sculpted a small piece of dowel, then epoxied it into the hole for the engine-mount bolt.

For giggles, tried to open the laptop hard disk and see if I could dump out the bits flying around in there. But it's sealed closed with star-drive bolts, and I don't have the right tool to get them out.

Pumped out the bilge a bit.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rain from 6 to 8, then strong NE wind all night.
Sun for a new day  3/26/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Drilled out the dowel a bit and then screwed in the lag screw for the engine mount. Seemed to grip fairly well; not as good as the other bolts.

Dinghied ashore, checked email, bought 10 gallons of water ($1.50). New disk drive made it from CA to FL in a day and a half, but Gary H says it'll take quite a while to make it from FL to here.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Strong NE wind eased during the night.
Sun for a new day  3/27/2009 (Friday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Lots of sails out in the bay at 9:30; it's a race weekend.

Bucketed out the bilge a bit.

Salad and chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/28/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Wind now strong and from E; getting some pretty good swells onto my boat, causing a lot of pitching.

At 9, a race buoy put down near the little cluster of boats I'm anchored with.

Dinghied ashore and walked over the hill to Red Hook. Exchanged 12 books, bought an AC 1-3 plug, and walked back over the hill. Good exercise. Back to the boat by 10:30, and the race buoy is gone; guess they changed their minds.

Bucketed out the bilge a bit.

Saw a bit of the racing offshore; lots of colorful spinnakers.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/29/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Strong E wind started suddenly at 10.

Saw more racing offshore (pic).

Did an engine oil change at engine hour 4479. But my Tempo pump isn't working any more; got only 1.5 quarts of oil out; should be able to get 8 or so.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/30/2009 (Monday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

A grey morning.

Fiddled with the damaged battery terminals and got continuity going again. But the current is eating the bolts.

Bucketed out the bilge a bit.

Dinghied ashore, and the Post Office says my disk drive is still sitting in FL. But an hour later, the mailman delivered it ! (And someone here promptly said "you could have bought it for the same price in store X in the main harbor"). Got groceries and back out to the boat.

Started reinstalling software, but now my CD drive is acting up, preventing me from booting from the OS re-install CD.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  3/31/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Grey, windy, rainy all morning. Boat still pitching heavily in big swells.

Fiddled with the CD drive and got it working enough to boot the CD and re-install Windows onto the hard disk.

Dinghied ashore at 2, connected to the Wi-Fi, and started loading software onto the laptop.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/1/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Engine start at 6:40, raised anchor, and moved about 200 feet closer in, hoping to get a little shelter from the swells. Probably not much use, and I ended up in uncomfortably shallow water, but I'll see how it works. Done by 6:55 at outside Benner Bay. Wind is supposed to go ENE for next few days, giving me some relief from the swells.

Dinghied ashore. Did Wi-Fi, installing Windows SP2 and lots of other stuff. Got an email that my new mainsail is shipping today, from Hong Kong or wherever !

Back to the boat for lunch, and the tide has fallen to the point where the keel is bumping on the bottom, in swells. So raised anchor and moved halfway back out to where I was before. outside Benner Bay.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi, and loading Windows SP3. Wow: Fedex got the sail in Hong Kong today (or maybe yesterday; on other side of international date line) and says they will deliver it here tomorrow. Ordered a new (refurbished) CD drive for the laptop ($16 including shipping, through EBay). Watched Gary B working to fix a collapsed section of the dock. Wasn't able to get SP3 downloaded.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Rolly all night: the wind has gone light and ENE, and the swell is small but from the SE.
Sun for a new day  4/2/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Tried to remove 3Com Wi-Fi card from my laptop, and the antenna part snapped off in my hand; will have to throw it away. Good thing I have another Wi-Fi card, and also my GSky USB Wi-Fi adapter.

Dinghied ashore for more Wi-Fi. Michael flagged me down as I passed his boat, and I gave him a lift to Compass Point marina. Ordered a new oil-change pump ($57).

Back to the boat for lunch, and it's rolling like crazy. If my sail arrives today, I'm going to head out to Christmas Cove for a few days.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi and more software-loading. Gary B is working on the sinking section of the dock, and as he started pulling up boards, he found that the sinking dock is built on top of an older sinking dock ! But this is the dinghy-dock section, so the water is only 6 inches deep there, and if worst comes to worst he can put down concrete or pilings or boards or something to make a base for the repairs. But it's just like a kitchen remodeling job: every time you take one thing off, you find the thing behind/under it needs fixing too.

New mainsail arrived on the FedEx truck at 1:40; two days from Hong Kong ! Won't open the package until I get it out to the boat. Pic.

Finally had enough Wi-Fi, and headed out to the boat, which is rolling and pitching as usual. Heaved the mainsail (shipping manifest says it weighs 19 KG) and everything else up into the boat, hoisted and lashed the dinghy, and started getting the boat ready to move.

Engine start at 4:05, and watched for any oil gushing, since I'd done the filter change recently. A tiny ooze of oil, but acceptable. Anchor up a little after 4:10, and motored east into the usual wind and swells and chop. Monitored engine and transmission anxiously; need to rebuild my confidence after all of that down-time in the last few months.

But no problems, and slogged to windward. 5 or 10 minutes after engine came up to temperature, I got out my new IR thermometer and took some quick readings. Engine block reads 180 (at least in a couple of spots), so I guess the temperature gauge at the helm is accurate. Intake water strainer reads 75, aft end of heat-exchanger reads 110, forward (fresh-water) end of heat-exchanger reads 140, and that all seems good. Transmission reads about 120, which is cooler than I expected, but it probably heats up a lot slower than the engine (and its fluid is being cooled in the oil-cooler, which is right after the intake strainer). Very top of the exhaust riser (a dry riser, and top is 6 inches before water-injection point on the downward-sloping part of the piping) reads 270, which seems reasonable. Will have to take measurements some more, on longer trips, to get a good sense of the baseline readings, but this all seems good.

Up across the bay, and got into some nice clear water, seeing bottom-colors in water almost 30 feet deep. Eased into the anchorage, and anchor down by 4:55 in Christmas Cove.

It's great to be here ! Water is calm (except for an occasional wake) and clear, and it feels great to be in a nice-cruising spot, instead of the rolly for-business harbors of the last few months. Pic, pic (taken Friday morning).

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Very still here during the night; slept soundly.
Sun for a new day  4/3/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Out on deck at 7:30, and started opening the new mainsail package. It does come in a sailbag; I told the guys yesterday that I specified "no sailbag" because the sail will live on the furler, and why pay for a bag, and they said "oh, you HAVE to have a sailbag, to carry your laundry !". Slid it out of the bag (pic).

Attached the big swivel to the head of the sail (pic), and hoisted the sail 10 feet or so. Then straightened the luff, which contains a very thick-feeling 3/8" wire, found the tack, and attached it to the furling drum.

Went aft and dealt with the aft end of the boom, which has been sitting unrigged on top of the pilothouse for ages. Untied all of the lashings. Rigged the topping-lift to lift the boom off the top of the pilothouse. Attached the mainsheet to the end of the boom. Lashed the boom lightly to keep it in place if the boat rolls.

Sorted out the mainsail outhaul; it parted in the middle when the old sail shredded. Replaced it with an old jib sheet for now (I need to replace much of the running rigging). Ran that from mast to boom-end and then forward again. Went up to the mast again.

Hoisted sail another 10 feet, then found the clew and attached the outhaul. Hoisted the sail some more, and it started flogging a bit, as I struggled to crank the winch and keep the sail from snagging on anything. Finally got it hoisted all the way, and I'm very relieved to see that it fits; I'd been having nightmares that I screwed up the measurements somehow and it would be a foot too tall, and I'd have to send it back to Hong Kong.

Tightened the outhaul, and started admiring the sail. Looks good (pic), could have made the foot 6-9 inches longer, but it's fine. Triple-stitching on many of the seams (pic), nice workmanship at the corners (pic, pic). One biggish kink in the wire in the luff, about 3 feet above the tack, where it must have been folded for shipping, but that should straighten out.

Went to furl the sail, and found I had the furling line onto the furling drum improperly; it's always confusing. Should line feed to port or starboard around the drum, should drum be full or empty when sail is furled or out ? Furled the sail by rotating the drum by hand, and that went well. I had been worried that 8.6 Dacron would be too stiff to roll, since 9 is used for storm sails, and the guys in the marina, who happen to be riggers and ex-riggers, had told me it would be extremely stiff. Now I'm wondering if I should have gone to 9.5 or something, for more durability. Maybe the stiffness of storm sails comes more from extra layers than from the heaviness of the fabric.

Tied off the furling drum, figured it out, cut off a bad end of the furling line, and got it rigged. Rolled sail out and back in again, and it looks good. Wound a line across the furled sail to keep it from thumping against the mast while at anchor, added some lashings to the boom-end to keep it from swinging back and forth at anchor, added the jibe-preventer line to the end of the boom, and called it a morning ! Done a little before 9.

Got a Wi-Fi connection from the boat; first time I've gotten that here. The GSky Wi-Fi adapter is great !

Loafed all day, doing a little Wi-Fi here and there.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

After 8, well after dark, trawler behind/next to me started raising anchor, with its engine running. Odd to be leaving after dark. But after pulling in most of their chain, and ending up a bit next to me, they didn't pull the rest and leave. I had noticed that their cabin lights were on, and dimming each time they ran the anchor windlass. And someone was working on something inside the cabin. After a while I figured they must be having problems. Then I looked over and the boat had gone completely dark, with the engine still running. A few minutes later, they had a few lights on, then went dark again for a while, engine still running. Eventually I gave up and went back to bed. They stayed all night, with almost no anchor chain out, but it was a very still night and we had no problems.
Sun for a new day  4/4/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Loafed most of the day. Fiddled with the mainsail outhaul a bit; needed to move a block from the clew of the old sail to the new sail, and re-run the outhaul.

Did a little Wi-Fi.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

During the night, went out on deck, and saw something I noticed last night too: with very calm, clear water and a half-moon, in about 9 feet of water, I can see the bottom-colors and pattern by moonlight. Never saw that before.
Sun for a new day  4/5/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

On deck at 7 to mess with the mainsail some more, to make sure the sail and outhaul and topping-lift interact properly. Gave one outhaul block a half-twist to make the line run fairer, but I really need a swivel in the big multi-block at the aft end. Can't figure out how it worked right before; maybe it always had a chafe-spot there.

Then tried to bring down the halyard carrying the line I wrap around the furled sail, to replace the line with webbing (pic) so the new sail doesn't get chafed. Had a devil of a time trying to get the winch brake to release properly; had to keep tapping it from various angles, getting only an inch or two of travel each time. The brakes on two of these three wire-winches are very sticky, and I took them apart a few years ago and couldn't solve the problem. But it looks like this winch is coming loose from the mast (pic), which is strange because there's really been no load on this winch for years; it's a spare halyard. Got the halyard 2/3 of the way off and ran out of energy.

Rain at 12:30.

In the afternoon, got the wire halyard off the winch, and the winch drum off (pic1, (pic2). Looks like the "gap" is not a problem; the winch was mounted that way, and I just must not have looked at the base of the winch in years. Cleaned off the old grease with WD-40, applied new grease, and put the winch back together. A struggle to get the wire inserted again, but finally got it through. Replaced the rope with the webbing, hoisted the halyard, and wound the webbing around the furled sail.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/6/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Started filing my incomes tax return online. Always kind of a surreal experience, sitting on a boat in a lovely place and filing income taxes.

Took apart the old broken disk drive from my laptop, under less-than-laboratory conditions (pic). Hoped to see what loose bits fell out, but couldn't find any. Threw it away.

A couple of tall sloops here: 4-spreader sloop and 5-spreader sloop. The hulls aren't all that long or big, but the masts are tall.

Had trouble with a power connector on the helm, so got out the voltmeter and started investigating. Narrowed it down to one connector, so cut it off and replaced and soldered a new connector on. That didn't fix it. Replaced the other half of the connection; that didn't fix it either. Now I'm really confused; maybe I have a wire hanging on by one strand, where voltage looks good but current won't flow ? Give up for today.

Bummer: on top of the 3% charge Lee Sails added for paying with a credit card, my credit card company added their own 3% charge for a foreign payment transaction.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/7/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Someone's up the mast of that 5-spreader sloop here: pic.

Just got email from one of my bank accounts: tax info has changed ! Talk about last-minute changes.

Added water to the batteries.

Worked some more on the helm power connector, and got it fixed.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/8/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Anchor up at 7:25. Motored out of the anchorage and then shut off the engine and sailed with just the mainsail up. Making about 1.5 knots, since the wind is light (8-10 knots) and I'm trying to sail straight downwind with only the main up. But it's nice to use the new mainsail.

Gave up at 7:50. Started the engine and made 4 knots straight toward my destination instead of 1 knot at 45 degrees off my destination.

Into the inner harbor and wedged my boat into the spot I was in last year. Tighter now, since an additional boat has been wedged in. So it's really tight now; about 20 feet between me and the boats on each side. I put a stern anchor out; done by 8:35 at Benner Bay. This spot could be dicey if we get strong wind from the north, but the wind is supposed to be fairly light and east for the next week or so. And it's wonderfully calm in here, as opposed to all the rolling and pitching I'd be doing if I anchored just outside the harbor.

Lowered the dinghy and pumped up the bow-tube. Dinghied ashore, stopping to chat briefly with Michael on a nearby boat. The dinghy-dock-section is still under construction; as Gary feared, every piece removed revealed another problem further down. Did Wi-Fi. Received mail: an IRS letter wanting money, new CD drive for my laptop, and new oil-change pump. E-filed and e-paid my federal income taxes, e-filed my state taxes and need more info to e-pay them.

To the supermarket and got groceries. Back at the marina, starting to pack up to go back out to the boat for lunch, feeling a bit headachey, and Woody says "I'm going shopping; want a ride ?". I'd love a ride to the big low-cost stores in the middle of the island, but not right now. Too bad, one-time offer.

Back to the boat for lunch.

Got a bit of Wi-Fi from the boat: several signals working intermittently.

Installed new CD-ROM drive in laptop, and it doesn't work (door pops open only about 1/8" and won't go any further). And I really wanted a CD-RW drive; ordered the wrong thing.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Took my 960 GB external disk with me, and found it had some backups I'd forgotten. So I didn't lose quite as much as I thought in my disk crash.

E-paid my state income taxes. So, not a bad process: was able to file and pay both federal and state taxes over the internet for a total charge of $10. If it all works.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Feeling headachey.

Very still night here, almost too still. Rain at 2:30.
Sun for a new day  4/9/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore. Threw the old mainsail into the dumpster. Did Wi-Fi.

Woody sold the boat I helped him advertise on Craigslist, and I towed it over to the boatyard for him and the new owner. Little green sloop with very short stanchions, new/used engine sitting inside (not mounted), rudder "doesn't work", etc. But it floats and the mast is up. Too bad I didn't have my camera with me. Wonder how much he got for it ?

Mailed a check to the IRS to pay the extra money they're demanding for my 2007 income taxes.
Reminded me of a joke from "Shoe":
- The IRS is demanding $X from me; what can I do ?
- Well, you have a choice. You can pay them what they want, or you can hire a lawyer.
- You call that a choice ?!?!?!?!

Salad and PB-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/10/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.50).

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/11/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Smeared lithium grease on the dinghy-tube valves, in hopes that the slow leak I'm seeing is coming through the valves.

Changed the outboard's engine oil. Spilled a bit into the water, when the old oil came out faster than my funnel could handle. Fortunately no police going past at the time.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. After a while, dinghied over to the boatyard to see if any interesting boats were there. That big wood boat I saw a couple of weeks ago is being sheathed in an additional layer of wood, it looks like (pic). Found Woody and the boat he sold (a 1967 Westerly Nomad 23 with twin-keel), and the new owner and a third person working on the boat (pics). Woody said something about how he used 5200 to glue the wooden rub-rail on years ago, and now he regrets it: the rub-rail is rotting in places and has to come off. [Later, he told me the boatyard made them take down the "work for beer" sign.]

Saw an odd-looking tubby boat (pic). Also found a sister-ship of my boat, "Western Star"; don't know if it's the same year, and the propeller and strut and rudder are different from mine. No pilothouse, and they have modern roller-furlers on the main and jib.

Ran into my friend Mark, and gave him a dinghy-lift over to Compass Point marina to find Brett. As I left the Compass Point dinghy-dock, found that the fuel-truck guy fueling up the ferry had spilled a bunch of fuel on the dock and into the water, making a good-sized slick, and lost the fuel cap for the boat too. Guess I shouldn't have worried too much about the little bit of oil I spilled from my outboard. Back to Pirate's Cove for more Wi-Fi.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk and loafing.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Exchanged a couple of books.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

I was thinking that I haven't seen anyone run aground in that big shallow patch on the other side of the channel, where as you come in and the harbor opens up, it looks like you could turn left, but you can't. When I was here last year, there was a whole spate of groundings there.

But then at 5:30 or so, a ketch came out, towed by a skiff and accompanied by a couple of dinghies, and they ran solidly aground right in the middle of the channel, well inside the open area of the harbor, nowhere near the shallow patch. They just have too much draft for this place. Fortunately it looks like low tide, but the tidal range isn't much this month. They were stuck there for at least an hour. [A few hours later, they were gone.]
Sun for a new day  4/12/2009 (Sunday; Easter)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Did one of my less-favorite chores: changed the gear oil in the outboard lower unit. Lowered the dinghy, hoisted the motor (pic; nice to have a 55-pound motor instead of the old 112-pound one). Loosened the lower (drain) bolt and caught most of the oil using a funnel into a jug. Of course, various dinghies and boats started coming by, making small wakes. Smelly oil dripped various places in the dinghy.

Then found that my oil-pump bottle doesn't fit my new motor; the old motor used a bigger bolt size. And even my smallest funnel is too big to fit into the upper bolt hole. Found some tubing and spliced it to the oil-pump. So, as usual, I ended up filling the unit from the top bolt hole instead of the (proper) bottom bolt hole. And spilled more smelly oil in the process.

I don't know why they design these units this way. You're supposed to open top and bottom holes, screw the oil-pump into the bottom hole, and pump the oil in until you see the top hole filled. Then fasten the top bolt, unscrew the pump from the bottom hole, and desperately try to thread the bottom bolt in and tighten it before all the oil can escape out of the bottom hole. I'm sure it's designed to avoid air-bubbles inside the unit, but it's a lousy design. How about some extra "reservoir" space at the top instead, and fill it from the top as you do with engine oil ? I always end up doing it that way anyway.

Got it done and the motor back onto the dinghy transom, and spent a while cleaning up and trying to wash the oil smell out of my hands. Why does the gear oil have to be so smelly ? Is it because it's "heavy" (80-90 weight) ? Does "heavy" have to mean "high-sulphur" ? [A reader says "It is because of the sulphur chlorine and phosphorous that are used as EP (extreme pressure) additives." I believe him, but I find it hard to believe there's "extreme pressure" in my outboard lower unit.]

Ate lunch, loafed a little, then headed ashore. Stopped to chat with Michael, my nearest neighbor, for 5 minutes or so. Got ashore and started doing Wi-Fi, and then a guy named Jean showed up with money for Michael. I offered to dinghy him out to Michael's boat, but he was in a hurry, and gave me $100 to give to Michael. He left, and five minutes later Michael had come in and I gave him the cash.

Skype-called my Mom. To the supermarket and got a few groceries.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/13/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Loafed all morning. Then put together the new oil-change pump, ran the engine for 10 minutes, then pumped about 6 quarts of old oil out of the engine. Probably could have gotten one more quart out, plus the one in the filter, but good enough for now (I replaced the filter a couple of weeks ago). So the new Jabsco pump works fairly well (certainly better than the old Tempo pump). Added 6 quarts of new oil to the engine.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Installed firewall and virus-checker on Gary H's laptop. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.50).

The seagulls have come back to the harbor. Gary B says they arrive around April 1 each year, and leave around Labor Day.

A picture of me in my natural habitat: pic. Forgot to smile for the camera; I was busy telling Gary H how to work the camera.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/14/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Did a small bucket of laundry.

Took off the engine oil filter and got a little less than a quart of old oil out of it. There's been a drip from the bottom of the bolt through it (it's not a screw-on filter), and I want to fix that drip. Finally figured out what's going on: the washer is old and has been compressed, and now when I tighten the bolt, the metal around the washer hits the metal of the filter housing before the washer has been compressed enough to seal. But I can't get the washer off or get a new one on: the bolt has a filter base attached to the other end, and I don't want to mess with that and maybe break it.

So I carved an additional washer, with a cut through it so I can slip it onto the bolt from the side. Put that on below the existing washer, so the existing (uncut) washer is the one to seal against the housing. Put it on, tightened it up, added a quart of oil to the engine, and ran it for 15 seconds. Looks good. Added another quart of oil, ran the engine for 5 minutes, and it looks fine.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Hoping to get a ride to the big warehouse store today or tomorrow.

I've been thinking of getting new bow navigation lights. My old ones are down low, on the sides of the toerail, where an errant anchor chain can tear into them, and the green one keeps getting water in it; I can never keep that one going for more than a week. And I think mine were legal when the boat was built, but aren't now (I think they're 1-NM lights). So I'm thinking of an LED red/green combo to mount on the front of the bow pulpit. I'd take the old lights off, and run the wire from further back (so I'd have to drill a new hole through the side of the toerail), and run the wire up onto the bow rail as quickly as possible to keep it out of the water as much as possible. I'm thinking of making the fixture detachable, so it's on the bow only when I'm actually using it (not sure if that's legal, but the Navigation Rules just say "carry", "show" and "exhibit", and don't say anything about "permanent" or "removable"). Found the best price for Attwood 3540-7 is $40, at Amazon, of all places. Waterproof connectors are expensive; will have to look around for a source for cheap ones.

To the supermarket for a few groceries, and then out to the boat for lunch. Arrived at the boat to find a small gaff-rigged schooner anchored right smack in the middle of the channel, with a kayak tethered to the stern to increase the size of the obstacle (pic). What the heck is going on with that ? A few minutes later, a guy living on a nearby grounded powerboat paddled out to the anchored sailboat, took a couple of boxes off it, and paddled back to his powerboat. Then he was in no hurry to get back to the sailboat; he left it there in the channel for at least another half hour. A couple of big charter catamarans came in, and were able to get past it, although they churned up some mud in the process. Finally the guy went out and sailed the boat away. Weird.

When I removed the microwave, I got better access to the filler necks for my water tanks, and found a busted hose-clamp on one of them (not that the hose is loose; it's been on there for 36 years and will take a nuclear weapon to pry it off). Replaced the hose-clamp. Sure looks like the old one needed replacement: pic.

Back ashore in the afternoon. Ordered the new bow light from Amazon ($46 with shipping), but for some reason (and for the first time), they won't ship to the USVI. So I had it shipped to my brother in NJ.

Michael is hurting today: he was getting up off a boat onto a dock, and the board he was grabbing broke off from the dock, and somehow he hit or twisted his arm or shoulder, and now his right arm is mostly numb. I think he has a little feeling in his fingertips. Scary.

And Michael drew me aside for a private conversation; he said "hey, man, are you looking for some ... work ?". It sounded like a drug deal or something. I said no, he must have me confused with someone else, I'm happily retired. I supposed I could have asked what kind of work, but I'm sure it was some nasty boat-work stuff.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/15/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore. Did Wi-Fi, chatted with the guys, the usual.

Back to the boat for lunch, then back ashore again.

Another guy showed up, he's running a business out of the marina "motel" here, and his name is Gary too. That makes five Gary's here so far. I told them it seemed everyone in Marathon was named Dave, and we had to give them adjectives to keep them straight: Big Dave, Little Dave, Diver Dave, Political Dave, Crazy Dave, etc.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/16/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore.

One of the guys (Gary something) was talking about his twin-diesel sportfisher boat; he says it burns about 6 gallons/hour at 10 knots, and more like 40 gallons/hour at 16-18 knots. Top speed is 22 knots. [Later, I read in a book that aircraft carriers get about 17 feet/gallon, which at 20 knots would work out to about 6200 gallons/hour. The book is from 1992; don't know how to measure the mileage of a modern gas-turbine aircraft carrier. Found another source that says "USS Independence, at its top speed of 25 knots per hour, consumed close to 5600 gallons/hour".]

Another guy was talking about his new $500K catamaran (he got it new a year ago), which has lots of problems with the interior. Apparently just before his boat was built, the factory redesigned the interior and then fired all the workers and replaced them with cheap foreign workers. The cabinets were fastened to wood pads that were hot-glued (not fiberglassed) onto the hull. So everything's coming loose. Lots of other problems too. [Found out the next day: he asked for $35K back from the builder because of the problems, they compromised on $17K, then the builder sold the business to someone who looted it and liquidated it, and then the builder died of cancer, so the owner didn't get any money back.] This all came up in the course of a discussion where we all agreed that you should never buy a brand-new boat; let someone else deal with all of the problems and then buy the boat from them (used).

Ashore for lunch, loafed for a while, then back ashore. I'm looking for Gary M to show up and offer me a ride to the food store, but no idea when he'll show up.

Gary M did show up briefly, but he looked tired and was eating lunch, then left quickly. So I didn't bring up the subject of a ride.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/17/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore and caught a safari bus ($1) to TuTu Mall. Looked in Office Max, but they didn't have a USB CD-RW drive. To the Post Office and sent the CD-ROM drive back to the vendor for a refund. Into KMart, but no swimsuits for sale, and no shorts at a decent price, and no USB CD-RW drives. To Western Auto, where I bought a switch for the auto-pilot project, a trailer power-connector for the bow light, and 3 gallons of engine oil at a good price ($13.39/gallon). Caught another safari bus ($1) home. Out to the boat, had lunch, and loafed.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Chatted with the lady who bought the boat from Woody; the boat is still in the yard, planning to splash on Monday, had a few misadventures and wrong priorities, but not too bad for a first-boatyard experience. Biggest surprises: the unmounted engine sitting in the boat doesn't actually fit onto the engine beds, and the rudder post was severely corroded.

Bit of a misadventure later. A guy appeared and asked me to tow him in his dinghy, out to his boat. Started doing that, then Gary B saw us and called us back in. Turned out the dinghy had been abandoned in the marina, and Gary B is the dockmaster, so he considered it his dinghy. So he was very mad at the other guy, and fortunately not really mad at me. Turns out a somewhat-flaky woman in the harbor had sold it to the guy, so now Gary B is going to tee off on her, too. So I kept my head down for the rest of the afternoon, while Gary cooled down.

Salad and PBJ sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/18/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Put batteries in the old backup GPS (pic) and tested it; may use it today to record a mooring spot for the lady who bought the boat from Woody; she needs the GPS coordinates for a mooring permit.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of garbage, exchanged books, did Wi-Fi.

Over to the boatyard, and admired the new look of the boat Alicia bought from Woody. Woody got sucked into doing a lot of the fix-up work on it, which is only fair since I think it had a few more problems than he advertised. Looks quite different now: before pics, after pics.

Then Alicia and I took Woody's handheld GPS and my backup GPS and went in my dinghy out to the spot where she'll anchor. Woody marked it with an anchored milk jug; we grabbed onto that and took several lat/long readings with both GPS's. My old GPS wandered a bit more than his newer GPS, and they disagreed by a few hundredths of a minute (I think that's the right terminology: in a display like NNN.NN.NNN, only the last digit differed and wandered a little). [Reminds me of that joke: "If you have a watch, you'll always know what time it is. If you have three watches, you'll never know what time it is !"]

Out to the boat for lunch, Car Talk, loafing. Messed with the broken battery terminal, put a wooden peg down into the hole and drove a wood-screw in, and got good continuity. Hope it doesn't start a fire.

Dinghied ashore for more Wi-Fi.

Chicken-corn-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/19/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

At noon, dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Unusually, marina office is open today, and so the place is hopping, with people drinking and yakking away.

Brisk wind from the north in late afternoon, blowing the boat sideways and putting a lot of pressure on my stern anchor. Had trouble hoisting the dinghy, since the taut stern line was running right through where the dinghy needed to be. Waited until the wind eased a bit, later in the evening.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/20/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Finally got the development tools for my auto-pilot project all working again on my laptop. I've lost the program I was writing for it, but still have the test programs, and the work I'd done on top of them is easy to re-create.

Had to pump up the dinghy bow tube again; definitely have a leak somewhere. A couple of days ago, I tried to find it, squirting soapy water over the valve and tube, but no luck. Will have to try again.

Dinghied ashore. Woody says Alicia got someone else to help her move her boat from the boatyard out to the mooring, so I don't have to do it with my dinghy. Went to the boatyard to check with her, but she wasn't there.

Got a few groceries at the supermarket, then out to the boat for lunch and loafing. Then back ashore. Found I don't have to tow Alicia's boat out. Jennifer stopped by with her basket of three kittens, about a week old; they just opened their eyes today. Pics.

Headed back out to the boat around 4, and found a local guy, Willy, and Alicia towing her boat out from the yard into the anchorage. So I tagged along, in case they needed help making a turn or something. They didn't need help, but they went to a totally different mooring than the one for which we carefully took the GPS coordinates. And for some reason they tied the boat bow and stern, leaving it partly sideways to the prevailing wind, for no good reason I could see. I didn't say anything about it. [The next day, Woody was a bit exercised about it, but it's not his boat any more.] Later, Alicia sent me a picture of me that she took.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/21/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Loafed all morning. Wind blowing fairly hard from the east today. Messed with the broken battery terminal a bit; it's getting battery acid up into the socket for the screw, so I'm fighting a rearguard action that will fail at some point.

Dinghied ashore after lunch to do Wi-Fi. Bought 10 gallons of water ($1.50) and ferried it out to the boat.

A couple of nice-looking women in the marina today; they're working on that big catamaran. One of them told a bit of a story: the boat was built in USA for about $1.5 million, then the delivery crew abandoned it at sea in the middle of the delivery, the jibsail flogged so badly that it "melted", someone put a grapnel through the roof trying to salvage it, an anchor chewed a hole in a hull, someone boarded and stole EPIRB and other instruments, eventually it got back to USA, there's a lawsuit or two going on, now it's down here a year late and they're scrambling to get it into charter service. [Unfortunately, she was too busy to give us any more details.] One touch: phosphorescent paint mixed into the non-skid, so the deck glows at night, and by putting out cardboard during the day you can make it glow with words or drawings at night.

Woody lent me a bottle of refrigerant-leak-finder (looks like thick soapy stuff) to use on my dinghy tube. But I tried it right at the dinghy dock, and couldn't find any leaks. Gary B suggested the Hypalon is just thinning with age, and maybe I could paint the tubes with special paint for Hypalon.

Got a ride from Gary M, to a couple of stops on the island, and then the Cost-U-Less warehouse store. Bought $213 of groceries (pic), but they were missing some staples such as cans of beans. So I'll have to make another grocery trip to fill the gaps. And I didn't buy any perishable stuff today, such as meat and cheese, so I need to get those too. The four bottles of rum were $4 per liter.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/22/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Defrosted the refrigerator.

Dinghied ashore, pausing to avoid being in the vicinity of a hovering Customs boat. Did some Wi-Fi.

Back to the boat for lunch and loafing, then back ashore again. Big spill of diesel in the harbor.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/23/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Had planned to go to the big supermarket this morning and buy a lot of food, but never got started, loafed all morning, and decided to do it tomorrow.

Wind blowing hard from NE and NNE by noon. Put out a second stern anchor, because the line on the other one creaks alarmingly under the strain every now and then. If it let go, I might run aground before hitting the boat close on my starboard quarter, but I might hit the boat instead. In fact, I'm aground right now; it's low tide.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Received my Customs decal in the mail. The other day, I mentioned to Gary M that I'd finally ordered one, after going a couple of years without it, and he didn't even know what a decal was: he's been here for years without one. So I probably wasted my money ($28). Maybe I won't bother to renew it next year.

One of the guys says there's some kind of big algae bloom or something going on, turning the seawater pea-soup green near the NE end of St Thomas, and in Charlotte Amelie harbor, and around St John. Weird. [Four months later, I read in a magazine that it was caused by a plume of brackish water that came up all the way from the Orinoco River in Venezuela ! Apparently this is a known phenomenon: somehow the plume stays intact until it gets all the way up here, and it carries strange critters with it and feeds an algae explosion. Bizarre. Apparently Anegada in particular has a lot of life originating from South America that isn't found on any of the other Virgin Islands. It's rare that such a plume makes it all the way up here, and remains for so long. This plume was a layer about 80 feet deep.]

I guess all things come to those who loaf: Woody offered to give me a ride to and from the big supermarket tomorrow.

Fueled by lots of beer, the guys and Kim had a really raucous session in the marina this afternoon. I told someone that I heard a radio segment about how polar bears might be extinct by 2030 or 2040, Kim said polar bears covered their faces with their paw so prey couldn't see them, and that set the guys off. They made bear jokes and "can't see me because I can't see you" jokes and various others until they were all helpless with laughter. Then I looked it up on the internet and found she was right.

Saw "Bel Ami" leaving the harbor at 4:30; I think that's the boat that Chris Parker broadcasts the weather forecasts from. I haven't been able to receive that, or tried to, for quite a while now.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/24/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore before 9, and 20 minutes later, Woody and I went to TuTu Mall in his truck. We stopped on the way at a laundromat, so he could drop off a bag of laundry to be done ($25 for a not-huge bag !). Bought 4 quarts of transmission fluid ($12) in Western Auto. Bought $38 of stuff in KMart. Bought $95 of food (including about 75 cans of various beans) in the big Plaza Extra supermarket (could have bought more, but Woody wasn't buying much, so I hurried). A stop at a refrigeration parts place (Woody is a refrigeration guy), back to the marina, and hauled it all out to the boat.

After a quick lunch, dinghied ashore again.

Grey sky by 2:30, and some decent rain at 3:15; people here have been saying this is supposed to be the rainy season, April and May, but there hasn't been any rain. And they say that presages a bad hurricane season.

Wind fairly strong from the NE or N, putting a lot of strain on the stern anchors.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/25/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Grey morning, sprinkling rain early.

Ran engine for 15 minutes to exercise it and charge batteries a little.

Dinghied ashore after an early lunch. Skies still grey and threatening. Stopped by Alicia's boat for 5 minutes to capture the new GPS coordinates for her.

Woody told me the "Limnos" fast ferry had an engine problem and crashed into the dock yesterday evening; they snapped off a thick pole (with a security camera on top), which sounded bad until he said the pole turned out to be 2/3 rotted away.

"Carnival" is happening downtown this weekend and week. I saw some of it last year, and don't think I'll bother this year. Gary B (who lives here) says the last time he went to Carnival was about 15 years ago.

I've been thinking lately that it's been 3 solid years since I hauled out and painted the bottom. But I think I'll let it go until next year. I have epoxy paint, and stuff is growing on it, and I'm losing speed to that, but I don't have much speed even with a clean bottom.

And I've started thinking of buying a propane stove/oven to install inside the boat: a "Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven". But shipping it to here is problematic: it weighs 35 pounds, which is too much for normal Post Office, and any other shipper is expensive. Maybe I could convince a vendor to ship it Parcel Post ? Or ship normal to my brother and then Parcel Post to me ?

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/26/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore, disposed of used engine and bilge oil, and went to marina to do Wi-Fi.

I'd like to get out of here in a couple of days, and start heading for the BVI's, but the weather will be staying too strong until at least Friday.

The big-catamaran people are back, doing Wi-Fi. Had a nice chat with the cute blond girl, Shauna, talking about the various islands and such. She's young and blond and easy on the eyes, and I really enoyed chatting with her.

Back to the boat for lunch. Wind really blowing hard today; lots of large whitecaps out in open water. Back ashore for more Wi-Fi in the afternoon. Skype-called Mom but got her answering machine.

Bummer: measured the existing (AC) stove/oven in my boat, and it looks like the "Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven" is too wide to fit in the cabinet space. So I'll have to find some other propane stove/oven. Maybe I could go with a simple and cheap "on top of propane grill" thing, such as a Coleman Camping Oven. I just want to be able to make a lasagna, a homemade pizza, a casserole, etc.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/27/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore to the boatyard and caught a safari bus ($1) to TuTu Mall. Into KMart, where they had a half-aisle of just about every Coleman stove, lantern and accessory made, but not the Coleman folding oven-on-top-of-grill I was looking for. Walked up to the big Plaza Extra supermarket. Was at the cooking-oil section when a woman walked up next to me, looked at the price on a bottle of oil, and gasped out loud. I said "sticker shock", and she said "I've been off-island for 10 years, and I had no idea how much prices had increased!". And this supermarket is one of the cheapest on the island. Bought $38 of stuff and caught a safari bus ($1) home.

Dinghied ashore after lunch, for Wi-Fi. Andrea came in, saying she and friends sailed around to Magens Bay this weekend. Sailing back, conditions were so rough that they ripped a chainplate out of the boat, and a sheet block came apart. Fortunately the engine ran fine.

Salad and cheese sandwich and PB-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/28/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Grey, breezy, occasionally rainy morning.

Pumped up the dinghy bow-tube. Dinghied ashore and walked over the hill to Red Hook. Used the book-exchange, looked in the marine store, bought a couple of bolts at the hardware store. Walked back home. Good exercise; a 3- or 4-mile round-trip.

Wind howling by 11:30 or so.

Dinghied ashore after lunch, for Wi-Fi. Made a Car Talk parody page, which I think came out pretty well.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Around 6, three giggling teenage girls came past, joyriding in a charter-boat dinghy. They ran aground in the shallow spot in the middle of the anchorage, and giggled madly as they shut off the motor, tilted it up, and then tried to paddle upwind with a pathetically small paddle. Eventually they were drifting down past my boat, and grabbed onto the side of my boat, waving to me as they went past the opening on the starboard side of my pilothouse. They ended up grabbing onto my hoisted dinghy, and clung there as they put the motor down and tried to start it. A guy in a skiff offered them a tow to the dock, but they declined. Then they got the motor started, and waved to me as they motored off triumphantly, giggling.
Sun for a new day  4/29/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Bucketed out the bilge a bit.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Heard from my friend John in Oriental NC with engine problems: he took out his old Volvo, and a brand-new Beta Marine engine is arriving next week.

To the fuel-dock and bought a gallon of gasoline ($3). To the boat for lunch, then back ashore in the afternoon.

Starting to look for a new (preferably free) web-hosting service. My site is taking about 250 MB right now, so some of the free ones have limits too small for me. Looked at one service, but their new-account stuff doesn't seem to be working, their forum isn't working, most of the sites hosted seem to be empty. Looked at another service, but they don't allow registration with a Yahoo Mail email address. So I created a GMail account, then got a site there. Uploaded some files to it, and then things stopped working.

Salad and PB-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  4/30/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Did a bucket of laundry. Dumped 5 gallons of water from jug into water tank.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Andrea misplaced her reading-glasses, and finally found them inside the ice-machine.

Soon the cute young blond, Shauna, showed up. I had promised to help her fix the Wi-Fi and anti-virus and such on her laptop, so I dinghied back out to the boat and fetched my backup drive and the GSky install CD. Plugged the GSky into her laptop, and I used another Wi-Fi card in my laptop. We installed anti-virus and firewall on her laptop, but couldn't get her Wi-Fi fixed. A pleasant morning anyway.

Back to the boat for lunch. Looks like the various grey clouds and rain-sprinkles this morning missed my laundry drying on the lifeline: it's almost all dry.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Got the site moved to a new web-hosting service. And the "remember last scroll-position of the log file" feature I added a while ago magically works now ! Guess the old web hosting service was making it fail, as I had suspected. [Wrong; still doesn't work.]

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/1/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. More work on the web site.

Out to the boat for lunch; wind fairly strong from N or NNE today.

Back ashore after lunch; still a few pages I haven't seen yet on the internet. Skype-called Mom and had a nice chat with her.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/2/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Grey and raining.

Started to do an engine-coolant change, then realized I didn't have nearly enough new antifreeze on board; stupid.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. But the Wi-Fi failed around 10:30.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk. Watched Andrea come out in her kayak and a kite for propulsion. I didn't think it was going to work very well, and soon she ended up in the mangroves: start and finish. [Later she told me she had been drunk, too. But I'm impressed by the long kayak-trips she takes (without the kite): she sometimes kayaks from here to Cruz Bay on St John, a little more than 4 NM each way through open, rough water.]

Back ashore, and the Wi-Fi is working again.

Saw this small motor-sailer a few days ago.

To the supermarket for some onions.

Chicken-onion-mushroomsoup-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Headachey and sleepless first half of the night.
Sun for a new day  5/3/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore. Did Wi-Fi. I'm invited to a small barbeque/pool-party this afternoon, but I might not be able to get a ride to it. It's somewhere on the north side of the island. Had hoped to get a ride from Kim, but her car threw its timing belt yesterday. Asked Virginia, but she and Mike might have a full car already.

Back to the boat for lunch. Watched the guys in the small sloop next to me try to sail off anchor, and end up getting pressed against the boat on the other side, and have to hand themselves down the side of it until they could get free.

The tide is high and the wind is ESE. Decided to raise anchor and move out of the inner harbor; ENE wind has been pressing me sideways and very close to a neighboring boat, so I can't raise anchor in ENE wind. And this might be the only ESE for a while.

So started engine at 12, and it seems to be running okay. Hopped in the dinghy, and quickly got both stern anchors up and onto deck. Alarming grinding sounds when I put the transmission in forward, but it's just barnacle-growth on the prop and shaft being broken free. Nosed forward into shallow mud, and got the bow anchor up by 12:15. Bow came around in the wrong direction, so had to motor further into the harbor and do a U-turn there. Motored out, towing the dinghy, and anchor down by 12:25 at outside Benner Bay.

Gathered up my pool-party things and dinghied ashore; Virginia had said they'd be leaving around 1. But I found her cooking lunch on the stern rail of their boat, in no hurry to leave; odd. And they have an over-full car: 4 people and a dog in a smallish sedan. No other ride in sight. Read a book for 20 minutes. No activity at all in the marina; gave up and went back out to the boat.

Cleaned up the stern anchors and washed the rodes a bit; put the secondary anchor back on the bow and stowed the third anchor at the base of the mizzenmast.

Salad and cheese sandwich and PB-sandwich for dinner.

Fairly rolly at times during the night; hope I can get to Christmas Cove tomorrow.
Sun for a new day  5/4/2009 (Monday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Wanted to go ashore and get groceries and go the Christmas Cove today, but it's grey and raining; this wasn't in the weather forecast. Rained at 7, 8:45, 9:20. Thought of going ashore around 9:45, but then it got even darker and greyer and I saw more rain approaching. Rained steadily from 10 through 2 and more. Should have gone to the supermarket yesterday. Caught 15 gallons of rainwater; could have caught 100 gallons if I had more buckets.

Added coolant to the engine, checked the coupling bolts, checked the stuffing box, and all looks good.

Ran engine from 1:30 to 2:15 to charge batteries.

Watched a charter-type monohull trying the inside entrance to False Bay around 1:50. Not a good idea: the entrance is shallow and mostly unmarked, the police have kicked all but a couple of boats out of there, pouring rain so the wife getting drenched on the bow can't read the water ahead, and the tide is falling. At least the approach is partly upwind at the moment, since the wind is light NW or so right now; usually it's strong E, making it a downwind approach. Looks like they ran aground; will have to watch to see if they stay aground. Still aground-looking a little after 2; could be bad if the wind is blowing hard from the E after the rain stops.

A little after 3, that monohull got moving again and moved into the False Bay anchorage and to a safe spot.

Rain stopped around 3:15, and a little sun even came out ! Dumped 14+ gallons of water from buckets into aft water tank. Thought of dashing ashore for groceries so I could leave and not spend another rolly night here. But I'd have to dash ashore and back, then make the trip to Christmas Cove, and not get dinner started until 6 or so (I usually start cooking around 4:45). So I stayed put.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran engine from 7:15 to 7:30 to charge batteries a little more.

Woken up by a distant shout around 12:15. The wind has picked up dramatically, to E 20+ with 2-3 foot swells coming into this exposed anchorage. The shout was from a nearby anchored Westsail 42 (I think); their anchor is dragging. And they had a stern anchor out too, which complicates things. I watch them slide backward, yelling from bow to helm and back, until they finally get the anchor up (after sliding 50+ yards) and motor away. They're hard to see, with only cabin lights on.

By 12:45, the wind is howling, maybe close to 30 knots, and swells are 3-4 feet with whitecaps. (Now that boat that bumped it's way into False Bay this afternoon is looking smarter than I am.) I start the engine, in case I start dragging anchor and need the engine in a hurry. And just as I do, the other neighboring boat, a big catamaran that's been parked here empty for a month or more, starts dragging. I watch it drag right past me, about 50-70 feet away. Good thing the wind is from the E; if it had been NE, that boat would have dragged right into me. I watch it drag about 100 yards back, into shallow water, and stop there.

I turn on the navigation lights (but only the stern light works) and several cabin lights, so I'm visible. And then sit there from 12:45 to 2 AM, watching my position via the channel-entrance lights lining up with some lights ashore. I'm thinking over my options: put down a second anchor (would have to motor forward on an angle to get it somewhat next to the primary anchor), raise anchor and try the channel into the inner harbor (unlit except for the first two buoys), raise anchor and go to Christmas Cove (a longish way away, and unlit, and plenty of boats in it), or wait. I wait, and the anchor holds fine, and the engine runs fine, and the wind and swells never get too horrible.

I turn on the VHF WX radio, and they say there's a low north of us, and all boats should head for safe harbor immediately. There was nothing about this on the internet weather Sunday morning. I was stupid: should have listened to VHF WX while anchored in such an exposed place.

By 2, it's easing a bit, to the point where I'm confident that the anchor will keep holding. I shut off the engine and try to get some sleep, looking out every 15 minutes or so to check my position.
Sun for a new day  5/5/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor outside Benner Bay.

Today is my 8-year anniversary: bought Magnolia and moved aboard 8 years ago !

Before dawn, the wind has eased quite a bit and moved to the NE, with swells coming from ESE, which means the boat is rolling heavily. And lots of ugly grey clouds on the horizon east of here. I've had it with this, so at first light (5:35) I start the engine.

I see the guy from the Westsail 42 out in his dinghy, fetching his stern anchor from where they abandoned it in the middle of the night. They've anchored in a fairly aggressive spot, on the north side of the channel; not much room there, and it's still not very sheltered.

I get my anchor up and motor into the inner harbor, and get the anchor down by 5:55 inside Benner Bay. Can't stay here more than a day or so; I'm right in the middle of everything. But I plan to stay only for the morning. Extremely calm here; completely different from the situation outside. I go back to bed and try to get some rest.

Dinghied ashore to the marina to do Wi-Fi. Everyone's bailing out dinghies and trying to dry out after yesterday's rain.

Did Wi-Fi, chatted with Gary B and Andrea, and got a few groceries from the supermarket. After all the grey earlier, it's turned into a fairly sunny day. And the weather forecasts on the internet are completely different than they were two days ago; it's going to blow hard for a couple of days now, with seas up to 8 feet. Back to the boat.

Anchor up at 12 and motored out. The big catamaran has been moved back to its original position. The Westsail 42 looks like it's in trouble: I think it's aground, and a dinghy-full of owners and divers was coming out to it just behind me as I left. Maybe they have a line in the prop ? It didn't look aground when I motored in this morning, and it's high tide right about now. [Notice the rope anchor rodes; maybe they have a little chain near each anchor, but maybe not. I'm a big believer in all-chain rodes, and the heavier the chain the better. I have 100 feet of 3/8" BBB chain on each of my bow anchors.]

Just as windy and rough outside as I expected, but there's no help for it. A long slog to Christmas Cove, straight into the wind and with swells on the starboard quarter, making the boat roll and plunge, and cutting my speed by 1.5 knots.

But I got into the shelter of the islands, and into the nice anchorage, keeping an eye on a group of snorkelers. Anchor down by 12:55 at Christmas Cove. Nice here. Good to open up the boat and let the breeze through, and spread out stuff on deck to dry it.

Nice sunny afternoon, then sarted getting grey. Strong wind and low grey clouds from 5 to 6.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Lots of strong wind at 11:30. Glad I'm in this sheltered anchorage, with 3-inch chop from the wind, instead of last night's place, with 3-foot swells from the wind. Watched my position for a while to make sure my anchor was holding.

From 1:15 to 2, tons of high wind and rain. Really strong.

More wind and some rain around 5 AM.
Sun for a new day  5/6/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Totally grey and rain-sprinkling morning.

Cleaned engine intake strainer; it was full of gunk and seaweed.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

Dumped 3 gallons of water from jug into water tank.

Fair amount of rain starting at 7:20. Some sun by 7:50. Stayed that way all day: mostly grey, getting some solar power, occasionally just barely sprinkling rain. Rain at 4.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A quiet night: no big squalls.
Sun for a new day  5/7/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Much sunnier this morning, but still plenty of grey. VHF WX says E15-20 and seas 5-6 through the weekend.

Did a bucket of laundry. Did some Wi-Fi.

[I was wrong about the "scroll to last read position" feature of the log file working now; still doesn't work.]

Totally grey by 11 AM, and stayed that way the rest of the day. Tried to rain a few times.

Salad and cheese sandwich and PB-sandwich for dinner.

Ran engine for 20 minutes to charge batteries.
Sun for a new day  5/8/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Grey and windy at dawn. Grey and calmer later in the morning. Grey and raining at 8:45. I detect a pattern.

Day turned sunny around 11; stayed breezy.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Pretty quiet in here; I'm starting to realize that a lot of the boats here are parked; probably some moved out when the police closed False Bay. A few years ago, this anchorage was all transient boats.

Did watch a catamaran come in, try anchoring 6-8 times in a couple of different places, then leave.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Plenty of rain and wind at 3 AM.
Sun for a new day  5/9/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Beautiful sunny and breezey morning.

Grey by 11 and raining at 11:15. Fairly sunny again by 1. Grey again in late afternoon. Saw a windsurfer, a stand-up-boarder, a couple of snorkel boats.

Dumped 3 gallons of water from jug into water tank.

Added water to the batteries.

A couple of small one-class sailboats came through in the early evening; the kids aboard are still learning how to tack: pics. But they're pretty good at righting the boats: the first time they went over, they had it back up before I could get the camera started and take a picture.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and a yogurt for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/10/2009 (Sunday; Mother's Day)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Did some Wi-Fi. Skype-called Mom but got the answering machine.

Chicken-onion-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/11/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Dumped 2-3 gallons of rainwater from buckets into jug.

Totally grey morning, with rain starting at dawn (5:30) and continuing half of the time all morning. VHF WX says it's going to stay like this for the next several days.

So, I decide to head for the BVI's. I had been hoping for a nice day, since I like to stop halfway between here and there and do some snorkeling, at Trunk Bay. But no snorkeling today.

And I'm going to have to run the engine today to charge batteries, so I might as well move the boat at the same time.

Anchor up by 8:10, unfurled the mainsail, and motor-sailed out. Through Current Cut (no current right now), and up across Pillsbury Sound. About as smooth a trip as I've had across here; usually it's very rolly. But the rain and low clouds have kept the wind more NE than usual, I guess. Got rained on a couple of times as I crossed. Almost no boat-traffic.

Up through the Windward Passage, and headed toward Jost Van Dyke. A couple of big squalls came through, with lots of rain and a fair amount of wind. Kept the mainsail up; the wind never got too hard to have to furl it. But the continuing wind set up a pretty good swell, with whitecaps. More boat-traffic appearing, as the charter-boat people get going, but White Bay is pretty empty (only about 6 boats) and Great Harbour isn't crowded (maybe 12 boats). Took a couple of pics.

Got across, nosed into Great Harbour, rounded up and furled the mainsail. In further, and anchor down by 10:25 at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. Wind still blowing into here from the ESE somewhat, but I'm in the most-sheltered part of the anchorage, and it's comfortable here. Good to be in a new place.

Tidied up the boat, shaved, launched the dinghy, and went ashore. Saw a Customs officer out on the dock as I approached, and realized he might not like it that I have several small bags of garbage in the dinghy; they generally frown on bringing garbage into a country. So I covered up the bags with my foul-weather jacket when I left the dinghy.

Into the office, filled out the forms, and did the Immigration part. Then the Immigration lady called the Customs officer in from the dock, and he definitely looked into each dinghy as he came in. Did the Customs part, and paid $25 (a couple of dollars more than last year, I think). I asked about doing multiple trips here as I did last year (stay a month, leave for a couple of months, come back for another month). I'm not planning to do that this year, but I was curious. And they didn't give me a straight answer about it; that's been my experience here, the rules often are unclear.

Back to the boat. Still pretty windy, but starting to get some sun. Every now and then I can hear a goat baa-ing on the hillside.

Got a mostly-usable free Wi-Fi signal.

Typical charter-boat dinghy: pic.

Mostly-sunny and very windy afternoon.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.

During the night, realized I'd anchored badly. The nearby trawler is a) unoccupied, and b) on two anchors, unlike everyone else in here. So if the wind is unusual, which it is because of all the rain, I'm too close. Had to get up at 11 and motor away from the trawler, straightening out my chain to get away from it. That worked fine until 4 AM, when I had to raise anchor (easy in 7 feet of water) and move the anchor about 100 feet. No problem after that.

Developed a headache; took pills.

Sprayed a cockroach in the galley during the night. Dead cockroach I think it flew into the boat.
Sun for a new day  5/12/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

Another grey and rainy morning. Rain at 7:15. Some sun by 9:30. Rain at 9:45; heavy rain at 9:55. Then rained almost continuously from 10:15 to 11:45.

Feeling headachey; loafed a bit. Had been planning to move to Cane Garden Bay today, but between the rain and the headache, I think I won't bother.

Lots of boats coming in around lunchtime, to eat and drink at the bars here. The people in the mostly-open skiffs are drenched but laughing; the ones in the big catamarans are drier but not so excited. I'm sure they want a nice, sunny day.

Strong squall at 2:45. Lots of wind and rain at various times.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Nice rainbow.

Still have a headache.

Batteries getting too low during the night, so started engine at 12:45 and ran it for 30 minutes to charge batteries.
Sun for a new day  5/13/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

Another grey and rainy morning. And my headache is worse; took more pills.

Engine start at 7:05 and anchor up by 7:10, but then wasn't thinking and promptly ran aground at shallows. I knew it was shallow on this side of the harbor, but didn't think it was quite so extensive; turns out I was anchored just about on the edge of it. Ran engine in forward and reverse, walked to bow and stern to see if my weight would make any difference, but couldn't get free. Boat is rocking slightly in the wind, so it's not totally firmly stuck.

Shut off the engine, lowered the anchor, launched the dinghy, and carried the anchor out to starboard. Back to the boat and hoisted the dinghy.

Hauled on the anchor rode a little to get it tight. A few minutes later, the boat was rocking some more, so started the engine and tried to get free. Might have moved it a little, but gave up after a few minutes, by 7:55.

Not in a bad position; a good squall from NE or E or SE might get me free. Boat rocking and bumping; it's trying to get free.

Tide program says Magen's Bay (station closest to here) is at mid-tide and falling, with total tidal range about 15 inches, but there's an upward bump in the middle of the tide, right about now. But generally the tide is falling all day, with a high-high at 1 AM tonight. Good news: I didn't run aground at high tide.

I suppose I could launch the dinghy again and try pushing the bow to starboard, but I think I'll just wait.

Fired up the laptop, updated the log file, and did a little Wi-Fi.

At about 8:20, the boat suddenly pivoted. Shut down the laptop, started the engine, and was free and anchor up by 8:25.

Motored out of the anchorage, unfurled the mainsail, and headed east. Straight into strong wind and current; soon furled the mainsail. A long slog E and ENE, across the sound, and up to Cane Garden Bay.

Found a nice anchoring spot, put down two anchors (the wind gust and swirls a lot in here, because of the high hills), and was done by 10:40 at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI. Noticed that one of the bow rollers is badly chafed through.

Still have a fairly bad headache; took more pills.

Weather stayed grey all day. Some strong wind-bursts in the early afternoon, then just light wind and lots of grey.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

A little enjoyable to see a skiff come out to collect the $20 or so mooring fee from each of the nearby boats; I'm anchored 100 feet away for free.

Very calm night. Still headachey, but after a while I switched from pain medicine to sinus medicine, and that worked much better.
Sun for a new day  5/14/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Grey and rainy morning; light rain at 5:30 and heavy rain at 7:45. Then the sun came out !

Did a little Wi-Fi. Have to get up every now and then to chase seagulls off my bow pulpit or dinghy; if I let them get used to perching there, it will be ugly.

In late morning, dinghied ashore. Disposed of 5 small bags of garbage. To the grocery store for a few items. Walked back on the beach, which is damp and mostly empty and has a couple of bulldozers moving some sand around.

Back to the boat for lunch and some more sinus pills. Heavy rain at 12:15, then grey all afternoon.

Dinghied ashore again, and exchanged 8-10 books at the two book-exchanges. Chatted briefly with a guy, who said he's been here since Saturday and the beach has been empty every day; where are the cruise ships ?

Lots of equipment noises in the afternoon: still moving sand around on the beach, a scoop and dump truck working by the gas station, and some other work going on ashore. Chased the seagulls some more.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Headache finally went away in the evening.
Sun for a new day  5/15/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Mostly sunny morning. Did a one-item bucket of laundry. Looks like the beach will be lively today: the vendors have put out a couple of hundred lounge-chairs.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. But about 5 minutes after I got there, it started sprinkling rain. Five minutes later, it started pouring. Everyone headed for shelter, and I was lucky to snag a spot on a bench outside a store, and read my book a little. It rained heavily for half an hour or so, paused, then rained gently for another 10 minutes or so. I chatted with a nice lady from a cruise ship; she was here from the LA area for her 20-year wedding anniversary. She was a bit irritated at the rain, wishing she was back on the nice ship with a book in hand and free food nearby. And I'm sure some of the people I'd just seen pay $5 for use of a lounge chair were not too happy either. A few nice-looking women, but everyone was covering up and piling onto safari-taxis to go back to the ship.

The rain slowed to a sprinkle, I took a brief walk on the beach, then back to the dinghy, which had several gallons of water in it. Out to the boat, bailed and hoisted the dinghy, and dumped 5-6 gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank and jug. Rain-sprinkles kept going on and off for a while.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

Salad and PB-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/16/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

Rain at 8:30; sunny later.

Construction going on at the gas station / fuel dock. Beach almost totally empty today.

Did some Wi-Fi. Listened to Car Talk, and heard a good one: a caller said "on the pain-scale, is this repair job closer to a scraped knuckle or a ruptured spleen ?" I'll have to use that one.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Started sprinkling rain as I chatted with a local guy who was fixing a fuel problem on a boat. Disposed of a bag of garbage. To the grocery store, where I got a couple of apples and a couple of mostly-okay bananas (the cashier didn't even charge me for the bananas). Read my book and walked down the beach.

Repaired a wire on the power adapter for my Grundig FM/shortwave receiver.

Chicken-onion-pesto-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A bit rolly during the night; the wind has gone light and N. Weather forecast say wind and seas will start easing Tuesday, so maybe I'll leave here on Wednesday.
Sun for a new day  5/17/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Did some Wi-Fi. Rain at 10.

Beach pretty empty again today. Sprinkles of rain at 12:45 and 2:30. Rain at 3 and 6.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

Salad and cheese-sandwiches for dinner.

Woke at 2 AM to find a catamaran that anchored nearby had swung pretty close to me. Not a problem unless we get a strong squall and they drag. Got up every hour or so to check, but the weather stayed calm and we didn't have a problem.
Sun for a new day  5/18/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Grey morning; some sun by 10:30. Mostly grey again in the afternoon.

Used the dinghy to spin the boat once, to untwist the anchor rodes. But it took a long time, and there are about six twists in the rodes.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. A couple of oddities: someone has sunk a lounge chair off the dinghy-dock, and there's a dinghy abandoned in the surf (don't remember seeing it there yesterday): pics. Nice walk on the beach, then sat for quite a while reading a book. A few pretty women today. To the grocery store for some food.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran engine for 15 minutes to charge batteries.
Sun for a new day  5/19/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Around noon, a couple of BVI Marine Safety boats came in and installed two more buoys in the entrance channel, so now there are two reds and two greens.

In mid-afternoon, watched a charter catamaran come in right over the reef, ignoring the entrance channel. They got away with it; the reef here has a fair amount of water over it (and so doesn't provide much protection from swells).

Salad and cheese sandwich and apple for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/20/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Started engine a little after 6:30, then had a huge struggle getting the two anchors up. The rodes were twisted 5 or 6 times, and they fought me every step of the way. Took about 50 minutes to get them up and get going.

Motored out, and up around the NW corner of Tortola under mostly grey skies. Wind on the nose and current opposing me, as usual. An uneventful trip.

Finally pulled into White Bay and anchored by 9:30 at White Bay, Guana Island, BVI. No swells here, but for some reason the wind is often out of the S; strange. Where was that wind when I was motoring E over to here, and seeing E wind ?

Did a little Wi-Fi; some fleeting signals here.

After noon, the VHF WX still is saying E, E, E, but the wind here is S, S, even SSW. Probably shouldn't stay here tonight if it's going to stay S.

Around 2, started to get short periods of SE or even E wind.

A bunch of locals came out in boats and wetsuits and set up a net on the reef near me. They slowly tightened it, diving to see what was trapped in the circle. They spent a couple of hours at it. Wind cycling weirdly, sometimes even W.

Chicken-onion-pesto-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

A couple of boats stayed overnight on the moorings at Monkey Point; I should have done that. I'm not clear on the rules for the moorings in the BVIs.
Sun for a new day  5/21/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at White Bay, Guana Island, BVI.

Very grey, hazy, humid day.

Struggled a bit to get the anchor up, in fairly stiff S wind, with lots of chunks of coral on the bottom. Got going by 10:50. Motored past Monkey Point and over to Trellis Bay. Went in, and found that some jerk has installed a mooring right where I used to anchor. I really liked that spot; it was so shallow that it was always free. I nosed into another area, backed out, dropped anchor near the entrance, picked it up and moved slightly and dropped anchor again, and finally done by 12:25 at Trellis Bay, Beef Island, BVI.

Got a pretty nice free Wi-Fi signal here.

Boring here, especially since NPR reception has faded out. But I'm reading a nice book, Stephen Ambrose's book on D-Day. That's the best thing about retirement: having the time to read books. I have about 100 to-be-read books piled in the shower in the aft head, about 130 to-keep books in the main cabin and forward head, and a pile of about 25 trade-away books on the settee in the main cabin. I know where most of the book-exchanges are in the BVI's and USVI's and southern Puerto Rico.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

That new mooring ball stayed empty tonight; all it's doing is keeping me or some other boat out of that space. Irritating. This place is just about full of moorings (at $25/night).

Got some decent BBC reception on the AM station from St Croix after midnight; haven't been able to get that for a while.

Heavy rain at 2:15 AM.
Sun for a new day  5/22/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Trellis Bay, Beef Island, BVI.

Sunny in the early morning, but getting greyer by 9. Did a little Wi-Fi.

Sunny again by 11 or so. After noon, wind is from the S and edging me into too-shallow water.

Dumped about 4 gallons of rainwater from buckets into jug.

Crap ! My GSky Wi-Fi adapter fell on the floor and broke. Pried the case open, and found that the main connector was surface-mount soldered onto the board, and has broken off. Played with it a bit, and managed to clamp the connector back on and get it working again ! Pic. Not likely to last too long. Guess the moral of the story is: don't drop these things.

Cornedbeef-onion-noodle and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/23/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Trellis Bay, Beef Island, BVI.

Anchor up by 6:35 and motor-sailed out. Totally grey sky, air, water; damp and low grey clouds hovering. Water fairly calm, but a current running from SE to NW. Wind just about on the nose; had to keep an eye on the mainsail to keep it from flogging. Got across to south of the Dogs, furled the mainsail, and motored. Into the bay, found some water a little shallower than I liked (and couldn't read the water color; the water and sky are grey), but got through it and put the anchor down by 8:40 at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI. Sun came out a bit just as I put the anchor down; good omen, what ?

Looked around and realized I probably didn't come in far enough before turning left/north. That shallow water probably was part of the barrier reef.

Getting a little NPR reception here, if I hold the antenna just right. Sunshine coming and going; still lots of damp and grey.

Sunny by 10:30. Around 11, two sportfishers came in and rafted up, stern to the beach. And a skiff with some guys and a couple of nice-looking women in bikinis came in too.

Too much static to listen to Car Talk at noon.

By early afternoon, about 10 boats anchored off the beach, and most of them have Puerto Rican registrations, so I guess they came the 30+ miles to here for Memorial Day weekend. Several other boats anchored elsewhere in the bay, too; more boats here than I've seen before. Then more skiffs and go-fast boats came in; about 20 here by 3 PM.

Launched the dinghy and went snorkeling under the boat, scraping the hull. Got about 1/3 of it done. Hundreds of small fish congregating to investigate the stuff I scraped off. Then I got back into the dinghy, and went off to the barrier reef to do a little snorkeling there. Not very interesting; didn't stay long. But very nice to be in the water.

Between 4:15 and 5, every one of the skiffs and go-fast boats left, taking the noise with them. Taking the pretty women, too.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Two sportfishers and three catamarans staying the night here with me.

No Am/FM radio reception during the night, so I'm missing all of the NPR stuff this weekend. I'll live.
Sun for a new day  5/24/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Did a bucket of laundry. Messed with a couple of damaged battery terminals. Laid out some carpeting to dry in the sun.

Just after noon, a sportfisher came in and put their bow anchor down right on top of mine, then backed in toward the beach. Will be interesting to see what happens when they leave.

I'm amazed: got a free Wi-Fi signal here. Did some Wi-Fi, and Skype-called Mom and chatted with her for a while.

A couple of go-fast boats came in, stayed an hour or so, then left. Pic. Later saw them racing around, back and forth to the north of here.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Four powerboats and four sailboats staying the night here with me.

Some nice stars out during the night.
Sun for a new day  5/25/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Sunny, breezey morning. Fairly cloudy by 11. Half a dozen more boats arrived by 11:30.

That powerboat whose anchor I was worried about left at 1:45, and didn't snag my anchor when they raised theirs.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

One powerboat and seven sailboats staying the night here with me.
Sun for a new day  5/26/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Big squall at 4 AM.

Grey, wet, windy morning. Started getting some sun by 8:30, but soon it went away.

Anchor up by 9:05 and motored out. Around the corner, and anchor down by 9:45 at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, BVI. Rolly and wakey here, as I expected. Grey and humid.

Launched the dinghy, pumped up the bow tube a bit, and headed ashore. Disposed of 4 bags of garbage, exchanged a dozen books in the book-exchange in the marine store, and bought groceries (2 loaves of bread, 3 onions, a dozen eggs: a little over $10). Back out to the boat, dodging a fast ferry coming in.

Couldn't quite get connected to Wi-Fi here. And no NPR reception either.

A bit of fan-belt squeal when I started the engine; will have to check that. Anchor up at 2:15 and motored out. After 15 minutes or so, the sun came out ! Fair amount of construction going on around here. Back up to the old place, and anchor down by 2:55 at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Sausage-onion-bread-cheese-3eggs omelet and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

One other sailboat staying the night here with me.

Big squalls at 3:15 and 3:45 AM, with plenty of rain for 45 minutes or so, and some lightning and thunder.
Sun for a new day  5/27/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Dumped 3-4 gallons of rainwater from buckets into jug.

Did Wi-Fi.

Tightened engine fan-belt. Messed with damaged battery terminal.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/28/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Fairly grey morning. Anchor up by 7:20. Unfurled jib and mainsail and motor-sailed out of the bay. Shut the engine off at 7:35 and sailed ! Wind is almost astern and fluky and gusty; speed varied from 2 to 4 knots. Abreast of Spanish Town, got into open water and steadier wind more on the beam, but more current too. Made around 2.3 knots for a while, then closer to 3 knots on the second half of this leg. Very pleasant to be sailing, for a change.

Started getting some NPR reception. Sun started coming out around 9:15. Down to Cooper Island, and started the engine at 10:15. Into shelter, rounded up and furled the sails, then looked for a place to anchor. It's deep here, and full of moorings. Lowered the anchor into 20-foot water, but was in 40-foot water by the time I was done. Swinging close to a mooring ball, but not too close, and there are plenty of empty mooring balls. Finished by 10:30 at Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island, BVI.

Maybe I could have picked up a mooring, used it for a couple of hours, and then left without paying. But I don't want a hassle if someone comes out in a skiff and demands money.

Had some lunch, then found a free Wi-Fi signal ! These signals are everywhere these days. Used it for 15 minutes, then bang, it was gone.

Launched the dinghy and headed over to Cistern Point for some snorkeling. Lovely clear cool water. Several hundred small sergeant-major fish schooling around underneath the dinghy-mooring. Swam around the point toward the south, but there were breakers on the south side, so I didn't go all the way around. Back to the north side. Some nice fish, a few medium-sized fish (parrotfish and yellow stripers), and a nice tight school of blue fish (french grunts, I think) swarming over the coral. Very pleasant.

Back to the boat. Hoisted and lashed the dinghy, washed off the snorkel gear and myself, and got ready to go. Engine start at 2:30, then got quite a workout heaving the chain and anchor up. Got going by 2:40, unfurled mainsail and jib, engine off at 2:45, and started sailing. Had to re-run the end of the mainsheet; it pulled through while I was unfurling the sail.

Sailed along the north side of Salt Island, then it got pretty rolly as I sailed across the open water between Salt Island and Peter Island (Salt Island Passage). Finally got tired of sailing at 2.5 knots while rolling heavily; started the engine at 3:30 and furled the sails. Still rolling heavily (should have left the mainsail up), but now I'm making 4 knots. Into the anchorage and anchor down by 3:55 at Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI. Feeling hot and tired.

Bummer: no NPR reception here.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Then, for dessert, I made a "Yorkshire Pudding" from a packet of mix that has to be at least 10 years old, left by a long-gone Canadian girlfriend. I don't usually have eggs aboard, so I wanted to try this while I did have some eggs. Came out okay, especially considering the recipe prefers that you use milk, but I had to use water.
Sun for a new day  5/29/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI.

Got a free Wi-Fi signal here !

Chartered sailboat "Drumbeat I" came in, anchored close to me, and then the wind blew at right angles for the two of us, putting us very close together. But they stayed there, and we kept swinging within 20 feet or so, in a T-formation. Wind never did clonk us together. They left around 4.

Squall with light wind but lots of rain starting at 4:30.

Salad and apple and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.

Small squalls at 7:45 and 11:30.
Sun for a new day  5/30/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI.

Sunny, breezy morning. I'm hoping to snorkel over the wreck of the Rhone today, but it might be too rough out there.

Did Wi-Fi.

Decided to stay put today.

Dumped about a gallon of rainwater from buckets into jug.

Sausage-onion-macaroni-cheese-eggs concoction and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  5/31/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI.

Anchor up at 11:50, motored out, and unfurled the mainsail. Motored across to Salt Island, to snorkel on the wreck of the Rhone.

Got there, and found the mooring balls very close together. They're supposed to accommodate 50-foot boats, but the two available were so close to a catamaran that I wondered if that boat was anchored in the field instead of moored; I asked the guys aboard if they were on a mooring as I hovered next to them, and they said they were (the ball had been pulled underwater). So I took the mooring in front of them (the one behind was about 5 feet off their stern), and found myself swinging very close to them. Finally decided to pull the mooring pendant up onto the bow and cleat it (you're not supposed to do that; you're supposed to run your own line through the eye on the end of the pendant). That gave us just enough room to swing without hitting each other. Lee Bay, Salt Island, BVI.

But it still wasn't very comfortable, so I decided to snorkel and leave. Launched the dinghy, went over to the wreck, and realized I'd left my camera on the boat. Went snorkeling anyway, and there really wasn't much to see. Hull and deck of a freighter smashed down onto the bottom, about 20-30 feet down. Not many fish, but I saw a couple of nice ones: a sea-turtle, and a 8- or 10-pound striper, and a 3-foot barracuda. Everything was grey, and the freighter wasn't that impressive (maybe there were better parts of it in deeper water; most people SCUBA here).

Back to the boat, hoisted dinghy, washed gear and myself, and got going.

Slipped the mooring at 1:35, motored away a little, unfurled jib and mainsail, and engine off at 1:40. Had a lovely little sail north, across the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Made around 3 knots in a close reach. Fairly calm water, wind could have been slightly stronger, listening to music on FM radio. Very pleasant.

Got to harbor, started engine at 3, rounded up and furled the sails, and motored in. Quickly found a nice spot at the edge of the mooring field, and anchor down by 3:15 at Fat Hog's Bay (East End), Tortola, BVI.

Hot afternoon with light wind. And the local guys here are flying around in speedboats, booming right through the harbor to the docks, flashing very close to moored and anchored boats, including mine, at 3/4 of full throttle. Really irritating.

Salad and cheese sandwich and PB-crackers for dinner.

And the speedboat nonsense kept up even after dark. There's some moon in the evening tonight, and visibility is good, but it's still very reckless to drive through here at fairly high speed, so close to other boats. The idiocy didn't stop until 9 or so.

Boat rolling during the night, because the wind is very light and has gone NE. Thought I'd have more protection from the barrier islands, but the SE swell is curving in. And I have a bad sinus headache, and the air is warm and still; didn't sleep well.
Sun for a new day  6/1/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Fat Hog's Bay (East End), Tortola, BVI.

Rain at 4 AM, then a strong squall full of rain and wind at 5:30.

Still feeling headachey. Boat still rolling: very light wind out of NE, and the boat has swung just enough to expose me to a slight swell from SE coming in the harbor entrance.

Got a free Wi-Fi signal, but it wasn't very solid.

Dinghied ashore. Disposed of two bags of garbage, exchanged a dozen or so books at two book-exchanges, and got groceries. Got some exercise, too; fair amount of walking, in warm and still and humid air.

Back out to the boat, nearly getting run over by a speedboat and a work-barge that did their best to converge on me so they could chat to each other.

Still rolly here, so I think I'll leave. A lot of work to get everything stowed and then the boat ready to sail. Anchor up by 10:35 and motored out. Unfurled the jib and mainsail. Motor-sailed to near E end of Buck Island, shut off the engine, and tried to sail. But there's not enough wind to sail my boat today. Restarted the engine and motor-sailed SSW.

Halfway across, wind picked up a bit, and the sails started doing some good. But I kept on motor-sailing.

Into anchorage, furled the sails, found a spot, and anchor down by 12:05 at Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI.

Did a little Wi-Fi, but feeling tired and headachey.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 5:45, squall with lots of rain.

Took apart and glued hinge-to-frame joint on eyeglasses.

Sun for a new day  6/2/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI.

My 51st birthday ! Too bad I'm still feeling headachey; took some more pills.

Sunny over me, but lots of big grey clouds all around, and the entire island of Tortola keeps disappearing under big grey squalls. At 7:30, it was our turn: brief heavy squall with rain coming sideways through my pilothouse somehow.

Couldn't get a Wi-Fi connection.

Turned into a sunny and very windy day. And somehow a big swell is coming into here from the north, which seems impossible. It must be curling in from the SE, curling around the point.

Headache all day.

Big squall and lots of rain and wind from 2:45 to 3.

Rain at 3:50.

Salad and a few PB-crackers for dinner; headache pretty bad.

Windy all night, and often rolly. Headache finally started going away.
Sun for a new day  6/3/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Deadmans Bay, Peter Island, BVI.

Still windy and gusty and rolly, and lots of grey clouds. Squall at 6:45.

Engine start at 7:30, anchor up by 7:40, and unfurled the jib and mainsail. Motor-sailed out, sailed for 5 minutes, and then a monster squall started looming up from astern (pic). So soon I rounded up and furled the sails, and then motored west. The squall took a long time to overtake me, and never did develop very high winds; I probably could have kept sailing. I never have figured out which squalls are going to rip my sails and which are safe to sail through.

Anyway, this squall covered a huge area; for a while, 3/4 of the horizon was greyed out. Motored along with wind and current and swells in my favor, making 4.5 knots with low engine RPMs.

Saw an interesting-looking schooner.

Turned the corner at Soper's Hole around 9:45. As soon as I started heading NNE up the W side of Tortola, wind and current and swells turned against me, and I made 3 to 3.2 knots for a while, 3.6 knots later.

Into harbor (odd: the two channel markers added while I was here a couple of weeks ago are gone; only the original two are in place now) and got the anchor down by 11:05 at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI. Nice and calm here. Feeling tired and still a very slight headache, but not bad.

Getting NPR reception here; I really missed that. And some Wi-Fi, though it cuts in and out every 30 seconds as the boat swings.

Looked up at 1 PM, doing Wi-Fi, to see a Moorings monohull coming in right across the middle of the reef. A few seconds later: bang ! They hit hard. Do these people have no charts aboard, or not look at them ? Admittedly, this reef is underwater and therefore deceptive, but the entrance channel is marked (it's all the way up at the north end of the reef). The sailboat backed off; they didn't get stuck. They felt their way along the outside of the reef, up towards the entrance markers, but well inside them, and apparently just did not see the marker buoys at all. Came into the harbor, and I hope they look in the bilge, and snorkel under the boat to look for damage.

Later, I saw a power-cat come in right across a different part of the reef, and I've seen catamarans come across before. With the right draft and maybe some luck, you can do it. But not a good idea.

Headache got bad again in midafternoon; took pills and went to bed. Felt a bit better by dinnertime, and a lot better after that.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/4/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Plenty of grey clouds, mixed with sunshine. Rain at 8:25. Headache is gone.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Found that some bird had taken a really impressive dump on one of my solar panels; I'm sure you all want to see a picture of it.

Salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Rain at 6:50, again at 11:30, and then lots of wind and rain starting at 12:30. Saw a quick series of green flashes ashore that looked like an electrical explosion of some kind, but didn't hear any noise, and no lights went out.
Sun for a new day  6/5/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Sunny morning. Looks like beach will stay empty again today; cruise-ship business here really must be down. I guess it's the off-season.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Dinghied ashore in early afternoon, and 2 minutes later it started pouring rain. Stood in a restaurant-gazebo and waited it out.

Disposed of garbage, bought bananas at the grocery store, and exchanged half a dozen books at the two book-exchanges. Walked on the beach briefly, but not much of interest today. Back out to the boat.

Salad and spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rain at 5:30 and 8:30.
Sun for a new day  6/6/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Grey, damp morning. Heavy rain at 6:20; more rain at 8:05, and brief heavy rain at 8:55.

Fairly sunny day later. Little activity on the beach. Did some Wi-Fi.

Tom from nearby sailboat "3/4 Time" (pic) stopped by to say hello. They've been up and down from Florida to Venezuela a couple of times and now want to go to the San Blas islands; owned the boat about 25 years; from Cape Coral FL. Nice guy. I forgot to ask him about an odd feature I noticed on their boat: it has two RADAR antennae, one on the mast and another on a stern pole.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/7/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Did some Wi-Fi. Rain at 11:45.

Weather stayed greyish all day. At 3:30, noticed that despite solar panels and wind-generator, "3/4 Time" was running their engine to generate power. Maybe they have engine-driven refrigeration, or a watermaker, but maybe they just needed to charge batteries.

Sausage-macaroni-cheese-eggs concoction and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rain and lots of wind around 9. Rain and strong wind at 2:45. Heavy rain and wind at 3:45.
Sun for a new day  6/8/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Sunny and fairly still morning; at times can see every detail of the bottom, 8 or 10 feet down.

Dumped 5 gallons of rainwater into tank and jug.

Need to get out of here pretty soon; my BVI visa expires on Wednesday.

Loafed all morning. Weather turned fairly grey by 9.

Anchor up a little after 12 and motored out. Unfurled the sails and sailed for about 10 minutes, then the wind mostly died. Tried to wait it out, but there's something of a swell on the beam, so the sails were flailing around. Every time the wind came up a little, I eased out the mainsail to catch it, then the wind went away, and the boom banged back and forth. Gave up and started motor-sailing, with the mainsail up.

Grey, grey and more grey. Into harbor and anchor down by 2:10 at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. Ended up close to a moored dinghy; hope no one comes in and tries to replace it with a big boat.

Did a little Wi-Fi.

Decided to move, and raised anchor at 3. 30 seconds later, a big dive-boat came in and anchored where that dinghy had been, 15 feet behind me. Moved up and anchored in somewhat-too-shallow water at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. At least this is dead low tide.

Hot and humid afternoon, with not much breeze, and the light wind is circling around.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Took apart and glued hinge-to-frame joint on eyeglasses again.

Heavy rain from 4:55 to 5:15, more rain until 5:45, then rain from 6:15 to 6:45.

Fairly heavy rain at 2:10.
Sun for a new day  6/9/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

Dumped 5 gallons of water from jug to tank, and 5 gallons from buckets to jug. Rain at 6;45.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Dinghied ashore aroumd 10:30 and checked out ($1). Back to the boat, and anchor up by 10:50. Motored out, and wind is mostly on the nose, so I didn't unfurl the mainsail. Headed south to St John. Halfway across, wind came around enough to sail a bit, but I didn't bother. Two tries to pick up a mooring; done by 12:20 at Trunk Bay, St John, USVI.

Lowered the dinghy and then went for a nice snorkel, swimming over to Trunk Cay and down the side of it. Some nice fish, and half a dozen cute snorkelers in bikinis; quite pleasant. Not the huge schools of fish I've seen here in the past, but maybe they're seasonal.

Back to the boat, hoisted and lashed the dinghy, washed off the equipment and myself, and then got ready to go. Slipped the mooring at 1:45, unfurled the mainsail, and motor-sailed west, around the NW corner of St John, and south to Cruz Bay. Put the anchor down by 2:30 at Cruz Bay, St John, USVI.

Feeling headachey; took some pills.

Launched the dinghy and went in to the Customs/Immigration office. Checked in, and signed up for the local-boater-option program, so I can check in and out by phone in the future. Should have done that a while ago, but I kept thinking I'd be heading south for a while, and also I don't have a phone (but now Skype-through-Wi-Fi is available more).

Back to the boat, anchor up by 3:15, unfurled the mainsail, and motor-sailed W and SW. A bit rolly as usual through Pillsbury Sound. Through Current Cut and into the anchorage, and anchor down by 4 at Christmas Cove.

Nice and calm here, not too crowded, very nice.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/10/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Quiet, sunny morning. Did a bucket of laundry.

Did a little Wi-Fi, but the signals were very unreliable.

Salad and cheese sandwich and sort-of-Yorkshire-pudding for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/11/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Grey, windy morning.

Anchor up at 9, and motored west. Into harbor and anchor down in my old spot by 9:40, inside Benner Bay. Put out two stern anchors; finished by 10.

Dinghied ashore to Pirate's Cove Marina. Chatted with Gary B and did some Wi-Fi. Hmmm: wanted to order several things through Amazon, but every item on their site is saying "currently unavailable / out of stock". An hour later, Amazon was working, so I ordered: a camp-stove-oven, a CD-RW drive, and three Wi-Fi adapters (two guys here want ones too).

Back out to the boat for a late lunch, and bummer: wind has shifted a bit, and one of my stern anchors dragged, and now I'm extremely close to small boat moored next to me. Added more line to that stern anchor, took it out much further, and now have to try to work the boat over in that direction.

Had some lunch, loafed a bit, reset the stern anchor again, and back ashore for more Wi-Fi.

Around 3, a storm started blowing in. Thought of waiting it out ashore, but then got worried about my boat getting loose, so headed back to the boat. No problem, but that one stern anchor still isn't right.

Eventually the wind shifted back to have more north, and I reset that stern anchor.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Fairly buggy after the rain; had to burn a mosquito-coil.
Sun for a new day  6/12/2009 (Friday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Sunny morning. Ashore to do Wi-Fi.

To the supermarket for a few groceries.

To the boat for lunch, then back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Ordered latex tubing to use as port gaskets. Got 5 gallons of water ($1).

Salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/13/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Did a bucket of laundry. Woody went by; he's moving the boat over to the main harbor today, after many years living in one spot here. Dinghied ashore. Chatted with Woody at the dock as he was waiting for Gary. Did some Wi-Fi.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk, then ashore again for more Wi-Fi. Having trouble buying a bow roller on the internet: price $4, shipping $8, sometimes penalty for small order another $7; will have to look in other marine stores here. Skype-called Mom but got her answering machine.

Dinghied across to the boatyard. Got a couple of books at the book-exchange. Wandered through the yard to see any interesting boats. Into the marine store, but they didn't have my size of bow roller.

Chicken-onion-mushroomsoup-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Managed to bash my right little toe into a piece of wood in the cockpit, and it hurt, but I don't think it's broken.
Sun for a new day  6/14/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Sailboat went aground in the channel almost behind me around 8:30, but they were able to work their way free in a minute or two.

Messed with the damaged battery terminal some more.

Dinghied ashore to do some Wi-Fi. Trawler at the dock was having its engines worked on, and there was a lot of smoke when they started the first engine (pic). Found out later that the boat sank a while ago (the engine intake strainer came apart, and the intake hose is 2-3 inches in diameter, so it sank fast), and although this isn't the first time the engines have been run since, they've been running very roughly.

Back to the boat for lunch and loafing, then ashore for some more Wi-Fi. Chatted briefly with Gary H; he said he thought of buying diesel the other day, waited one more day, and overnight the price went up 30 cents/gallon.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/15/2009 (Monday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

After lunch, dinghied ashore and walked over the hill to Red Hook (about 2 miles each way). Used the book-exchange. Bought a bow-roller in the marine store ($13, but I think it's a lot nicer than the $4 ones I was looking at on the internet). Got rained on a couple of times on the walk back, but took shelter under trees. Good exercise.

Back to the boat, all sweaty. Cooled down, and eventually gave myself a major haircut and then showered.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/16/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Heavy rain and dark clouds from 7:25 to 7:45. More rain at 9.

Dinghied ashore for some Wi-Fi. Lots of clouds, threatening rain. That bow roller I bought sells for $8 plus shipping on the internet, so paying $13 here wasn't too outrageous.

Rained a little at 10:30, then rained hard at 11:30.

Got 10 gallons of water ($1.50).

Back to the boat for lunch. Dumped 5 gallons of water form jug to tank, then 4 gallons of water from bucket to jug. Watched rainclouds go over, with just a little rain, and some thunder.

Eventually went back ashore to do more Wi-Fi, despite the looming rain. Rain at 2:40. Grey, humid, still air and low clouds hovering most of the afternoon after that.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Ran engine for 45 minutes to charge batteries.
Sun for a new day  6/17/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Sunnier this morning, but still plenty of grey clouds hovering around. Then heavy rain at about 9:30, then a gorgeous sunny morning after that. Pumped up the dinghy bow tube and went ashore to do some Wi-Fi.

To the supermarket for a few groceries. Back to the boat for lunch. Dumped 9-10 gallons of water from jugs to tank.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.50). Two of the things I ordered (including three GSKy Wi-Fi adapters) came in the mail; that was quick. Ordered another book through Amazon.

Gave one of the new Wi-Fi adapters to Gary; he'll pay me later.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/18/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore to the boatyard, and caught a safari-bus ($1) to TuTu Mall. Bought a gallon of anti-freeze ($11) at Western Auto, and groceries and supplies ($63) at Plaza Extra supermarket. Another bus ($1) back home.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Gave a new Wi-Fi adapter to Chris, and he paid me $20 of the $25. I'm going to end up eating the extra shipping charges; should have told the guys a higher price.

Crap ! The new Wi-Fi adapter I gave to Chris doesn't work, on his laptop or mine.

To the boat for lunch, loafed a while, then back ashore. 2nd new Wi-Fi adapter does work on my laptop, which is good.

There has been a lot of talk here about after-dark problems in this small, beat-up marina. Apparently it's a completely different place after dark, with a few problem drunks or druggies, both male and female. Some violence, with boyfriend beating on girlfriend, and at least one woman pulling a knife on someone else, and sometimes beating on someone's boat while screaming at them. Pretty ugly. I'm glad I don't come ashore after dark, in general.

Apple and salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Heavy rain a little after midnight.
Sun for a new day  6/19/2009 (Friday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Fairly heavy rain at 7:50; lighter rain a couple of other times. Dumped 5 gallons of water from jug to tank, and 3-4 gallons of rainwater from bucket to jug.

Loafed all morning and then dinghied ashore after lunch.

Chris told me the authorities are no longer issuing mooring permits for the inner harbor here; apparently they'd like to clear it out. The USVI's are getting more and more regulated; might be time to start thinking about moving elsewhere.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rained several times during the night.
Sun for a new day  6/20/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Sunny morning. Dumped 5 gallons of water from jug to tank, and 4-5 gallons of rainwater from bucket to jug. Pumped up the dinghy tubes. Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. As often happens, the cat "Alabama" helped me surf the net (pic).

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk and loafing, then back ashore for more Wi-Fi.

They're finally starting reconstruction of the bar/cafe here in the marina. They started to demolish it when I was here almost exactly a year ago, then didn't get the permits they needed. Recently, someone who knew the local officials and how to deal with them got all the licenses and permits they need, and they're starting construction.

To the supermarket for a couple of items.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Boat's swinging too close to a small sloop on my port side; need to move a stern anchor, which must have dragged a little. Can't do it with the wind as it is now.

Fairly heavy rain at 2:45, 3:10 and 3:45.
Sun for a new day  6/21/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Sunny morning. Launched dinghy at 6:45 and moved one of the stern anchors. Dumped 5 gallons of water from jug to tank, and 4-5 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jug.

Loafed all morning, then dinghied ashore after lunch to do some Wi-Fi.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rain at 2:45, and a lot of rain at 5 AM.
Sun for a new day  6/22/2009 (Monday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Mostly-grey morning, sprinkling rain a little.

Dumped 3 gallons of water from jug to tank, and 2-3 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jug.

Rain at 8:40.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. Gary B says his new Wi-Fi adapter works, so only one of the three I ordered was dead. Have to return it.

My brother mailed a package to me, containing my mail from NJ. But he picked a slightly small box, so left out a couple of items, including the new bow navigation light for my boat. Wanted that one more than most of the other stuff ! Oh, well, I'll get it when I get back to NJ myself.

Around 4:30, it suddenly clouded over and became very humid; uncomfortable.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/23/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Still very humid this morning, but sunnier.

Had to pump up the dinghy's bow tube again, so it looks like I'll have to pump it up twice a week. Someone suggested painting the tubes with Hypalon paint; the original paint/fabric gets permeable after a while.

Dinghied ashore after lunch, to do Wi-Fi.

Today's excitement in the marina: throwing chunks of bread to the iguanas, and putting out chunks of rat-poison and seeing how quickly the rats grab them. A thrill a minute around here !

Looked up sealants to put inside the dinghy tubes to seal slow leaks. It seems that cheap fix-a-flat automotive stuff doesn't dry and makes a mess. Apparently $60/quart marine sealant (such as Inflatable Boat Internal Sealant Kit or Bixler's ToobSeal) does dry and is the right stuff to use. Painting the outside of the tubes seems to fix cosmetic problems, but not leaks.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Fairly still, warm and humid night. Slept poorly.
Sun for a new day  6/24/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Still very humid this morning; windy and sunny.

Ashore early, and caught a safari-bus ($1) to TuTu Mall. Mailed the bad Wi-Fi adapter back ($8; realized later that the Post Office ripped me off, probably by bumping it up to overnight service without telling me; should have been more like $4). Into KMart, and found nothing to buy (no sandals, and only $30 swimsuits). To the big supermarket, and bought various stuff ($41). Another safari bus ($1) back to home. Stopped in the marine store, and found that they do have dinghy-tube-sealant on the shelf ($51 for a pint or a little more, I think).

Out to the boat, stowed everything, then to the fuel dock for $3 worth of gasoline, then ashore to do Wi-Fi.

We had a bit of an argument about electrical stuff. A couple of the guys here were proposing that the output of the alternator can drive only the batteries, not any other loads such as windlass or lights. Complete nonsense, but hard to persuade them. Eventually someone called an electrician buddy, and that person agreed with me. Later, we started another argument about how a "power surge" from shore power could blow out someone's TV; they somehow think the power company can "force" extra amps down the wire, which isn't true (in the case of the TV, it was a voltage surge which caused the TV to draw more current than parts of the circuit could handle).

Back to the boat for lunch. Saw Chris in his dinghy as I went out, so we bumped together long enough for him to hand me the final $5 payment for the Wi-Fi adapter.

Salad and apple and PB-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/25/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Added a little antifreeze to the engine.

Pumped up the dinghy bow tube and then went ashore.

One of the iguanas was stung by a hornet, we think, and was staggering around for 10 minutes or so, his right legs dragging. He recovered after a while.

By noon, it had turned into a gorgeous, sunny day. Humidity has eased a bit.

Back to the boat for lunch, then ashore again for more Wi-Fi and chatting.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Put the new bow roller onto the bow (pic). Managed to do it without dropping any important parts or tools into the water; dropped only half of the chewed-through old bow roller.

Largish sailboat ran aground right in the middle of the channel, near me (pic). But he got free in 5 minutes or so.
Sun for a new day  6/26/2009 (Friday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi.

Around noon, dinghied over to the boatyard. Into the marine store to take another look at that inflatable-tube-sealant, because I couldn't remember how big it was. Turns out it's $52 for 500 ML; what's that work out to, $400/gallon ? Got a couple of books at the book-exchange.

Getting hazy and humid again in the afternoon.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  6/27/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Still hazy and humid. Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. Online, inflatable tube sealant is $59/quart for one product and $50/quart for another, $55/quart for another.

Michael stopped by briefly, and said he's been passing kidney stones the last couple of days. And said something about keeping away from alcohol for the last last few days, and being so low on money that he has to choose between buying food or buying alcohol anyway. There are a lot of people with problems hanging around here.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk, then back ashore. Mailperson came (on a Saturday!) and had a package for me: my mail from NJ, including gaskets for my opening ports, and a USB CD-RW for my laptop.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Still, warm and humid night. Slept poorly.
Sun for a new day  6/28/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Still hazy and humid. Loafed all morning, listened to Car Talk at lunchtime, then dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi.

Hmmm: my new USB CD-RW drive takes up both USB ports simultaneously, so I have to remove the Wi-Fi whenever I want to use a CD. But at least it does work.

Kase and Brett and Andrea hanging around this afternoon and bitching about various people. Some cliques and feuds have developed around here, as they do in places where people live permanently on boats and never cruise anywhere. And they wanted me to listen to their bitching and agree with them; I did my best to ignore it.

To the supermarket for a few groceries.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.

Two boats on my starboard side are rubbing together, and sliding out into the channel a bit. I've been watching this for a week or so, as one of the boats seems drag anchors a lot, and neither has been attended. Hope they don't snag my starboard stern anchor, which is running just past their sterns.

Some rain and wind at 3:30 AM, then heavy rain around 4 AM. And the wind has moved to the south, and suddenly those two sliding boats are sliding close to me. Got up and went on deck when the rain eased, and the stern quarter of the blue sloop is within 5 feet of my stern quarter. I put out a fender, got out a boat-hook, and adjusted my stern anchor lines a bit. We swung back and forth a bit, as the wind went very light and fluky. Eventually I got worried that the other boat might snag on my dinghy and damage it or the davits, so I launched the dinghy and moved it around to my port side.

As I watched, I decided to get out of here at first light, and go to Christmas Cove for a while. I've been here a bit long, need a change, and need to get away from this anchoring situation. I do need to come back here to pick up one more package coming in the mail; will look for that in a week or so. But have to wait for a little daylight to start raising anchors.
Sun for a new day  6/29/2009 (Monday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Went out in the dinghy and brought up the starboard stern anchor. Waited for some daylight.

Started engine at 5:10. Went out in the dinghy and brought up the port stern anchor. Hoisted and lashed the dinghy, then went to the bow. Wind still almost zero, and boats pointing a few different directions.

Eased the boat forward and started rising the bow anchor, and soon found myself very close to Tommy's blue catamaran in front of me, which brought him onto deck. Got the anchor chain vertical, and boat swung a little to put the blue sloop next to me about 20 feet directly behind me now. Got the anchor up enough to see the shackle at the water's surface, but it wouldn't let go. Hiked it a little higher, and found I'd snagged a mooring chain from the very small sloop on my port side.

A little work with a boat-hook lifted the chain off my anchor, and I raised the anchor the rest of the way and stowed it. Now have to ease out, but the blue sloop is 15 feet behind me and the very small sloop is 10 feet off my port bow, and I'm almost aground.

Working slowly and carefully, I alternated between forward and reverse, using the prop-walk when in reverse (pulls stern to starboard) and the rudder when in forward to pivot the boat. Tommy watched, as I came pretty close to the nearby boats, but I got out of there without bumping anyone. Out and moving up the channel by 5:40.

Out of the harbor and motored east to Christmas Cove, through very calm conditions, as the sun rose. Into the anchorage and anchor down by 6:20 at Christmas Cove. Still very calm, and I can see every detail of the bottom, under 6-7 feet of water.

Washed off the deck and the former stern anchor lines and the cockpit, and tidied up the boat after the short trip. Done by 6:45 or so, and went back to bed.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Surprising number of charter-snorkel boats in and out of here today; it's busier than I've seen it here in a while. Probably 5 or 6 boat-loads today.

Did a little Wi-Fi.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Quiet night, and nice to have the boat on one anchor again, with breeze coming straight through the boat. And no neighbors too close.
Sun for a new day  6/30/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Around 7, heard paddling near my boat, and looked out to find the guy from a nearby small sloop paddling his hard dinghy. I met him once; his name is Talmadge Carter, I think. Thought he might be coming to my boat to say something, so I went on deck and talked to him. Turned out his outboard quit, and it was taking a lot of effort to paddle back to his boat. So I launched my dinghy, which took a while, and gave him a tow for the last 100 feet or so back to his boat, and he thanked me. By the time I was back on my boat, he had his outboard started again, and was heading over to St Thomas to buy cigarettes and other supplies.

He's a gruff and crusty old guy, but he has some interesting original poetry recitals as videos on YouTube (such as this).

A little trouble downloading photos from my camera; it's starting to act up a little, just a couple of weeks before I'm going to Ireland for some vacation (in the middle of a trip back to NJ/PA; my brother wants to celebrate his 50th birthday at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, which sounded like a fine idea to me).

Did a little Wi-Fi, but the signals are unsteady.

In midafternoon, went for a snorkel around Fish Cay. Immediately encountered the resident barracuda, about 4 feet long and as thick as my thigh. Plenty of tiny and small fish, and several clusters of squid, including a school of about 20 of them. Then encountered the same barracuda after coming around the other side of the island. Water warm and clear. A very pleasant outing.

Salad and PB-sandwiches for dinner.

Replaced the gaskets in four of the opening ports with new latex tubing; should stop the leaks. One of the ports was so stiff that I was afraid I'd break it in the attempt to open it. Two similar ports are broken and fixed shut; these plastic Fuller ports are a bit fragile.
Sun for a new day  7/1/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Clouds at dawn, but then a sunny and breezy morning.

Loafed all morning. Did a little Wi-Fi in the afternoon, but the signals were very faint.

Only a couple of charter-snorkel boats today.

Powerboat came in and anchored nearby.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

That nearby powerboat started a very noisy generator at 7, and ran it for 90 minutes or so. Wonder if the water-cooling pump on the generator's exhaust isn't running right.
Sun for a new day  7/2/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

That nearby powerboat started their noisy generator at 6 AM, but ran it for only half an hour. And they left an hour later.

Did a little Wi-Fi, but the signals are very flaky again today. And it looks like a partial copy of the log file got uploaded yesterday, causing problems.

Went for a snorkel in the early afternoon, around Fish Cay again. Very nice again. Not so many squid this time, and didn't see that big barracuda.

Big catamaran came in and anchored next to me.

Salad and PB-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  7/3/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Raised anchor at 9:15 (it was pretty close to Tal's dinghy; had to drag it out a little before raising the last 20 feet of chain). Motored down to Benner Bay, and into the inner harbor. Didn't like either of the tight spaces available; don't feel like putting out 3 anchors just to stay 3 nights. Anchored out in the middle, which people do every now and then for a couple of days, and I've done before. Shouldn't get rousted if I stay only 2 or 3 nights. Anchor down by 10 inside Benner Bay.

As I was doing a little forward and reverse to straighten out the boat and back down a little on the anchor, something in the drive-train made an alarming rubbing/grinding noise briefly while I was in forward. Went down and looked, and nothing obviously wrong with engine, transmission, shaft, stuffing box. Did a little more forward and reverse, and no more noises. Will have to look again later.

A little rain at 10:05. Then dinghied ashore. As I went by Gary H's boat, he said I had a package in the mail at the marina; should be my new Wi-Fi adapter. But he said something else I couldn't catch, and when I got to the marina, I wasn't surprised to find that they're closed early for July 4th weekend. So I won't be able to get my package until Monday, and I may not stay here that long. So it may stay here for a month, along with another package that should arrive in a few weeks (my campstove-oven). No problem.

Wanted to buy some water today, but won't be able to.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Soon Tommy came by and asked for help bringing one of the charter-trawlers ("Arawak") from a mooring in to the marina fuel dock. Apparently the batteries are dead and he needs to hook up to shore power and charge them. So I went out to my boat, pumped up my dinghy's bow-tube, and then went over to the moored trawler. Lots of confusion as he tried to rig a bridle from the bow of the trawler to his dinghy. I got behind the stern and pushed with my dinghy. We got going, and eventually another guy came over to help. Of course, my dinghy with my 6 HP outboard ended up providing most of the power, while their dinghies with 30 and 40-HP motors seemed to be doing just some steering. But we got to the dock and didn't crash into it, so the operation was a success. Now Tommy has to find a battery-charger and a live socket on the dock.

Back to the boat for lunch and loafing.

Then back to the marina, and now it's open. Gary B has a package for me, and to my surprise it's the camp-oven, not the Wi-Fi adapter. It looks good; won't get a chance to try it out until I get back from my trip to USA and Ireland. Of course, Gary H promptly told me he had one of these years ago, and it didn't work very well.

Asked the guys about a fish I saw while snorkeling, and Gary B identified it right away: a Queen Trigger Fish. Said it's good eating, which is why they're rare around here now; there used to be a lot of them.

Bought 10 gallons of water ($2).

The usual amount of nonsense going on around here: this morning a woman was screaming at some guy about some conflict on the dock the other day, and this afternoon Gary B and Kees had a brief angry exchange with Michael about salvaging abandoned mooring tackle from False Bay.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Warm, still night.

Speedboat came booming into the channel at 4 AM and went full-speed to a dock. The guys here say it's drug-smuggling; you'd think the police would be well aware of it if it was. Similar kind of late-night speedboat activity seems to happen a couple of times a week here.
Sun for a new day  7/4/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Grey, humid morning.

Dinghied ashore to do a little Wi-Fi.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk, then back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Nobody around today, but few of the boats are out either. Quiet.

Apple and PBJ-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  7/5/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Grey, humid, and trying to rain in the morning.

Dinghied ashore to do a little Wi-Fi.

Gary something was moving his powerboat (Silverton 48 or so, "Plum Crazy 2") around to the fuel dock, and enlisted me to catch lines at the dock.

Interesting web page: Things to be Seen Underwater.

Back to the boat for lunch and Car Talk, then ashore again for more Wi-Fi. Weather getting greyer and greyer, and trying to rain. Fairly still and very humid.

Lots of thunder around 2:15, somewhat to the S or SE of here; looks like a thick grey wall of storm approaching.

Skies opened at 2:40, and it poured rain and thundered and lightninged for 20 minutes or so, then just rained after that. The power went out and came back, but the internet didn't come back up. Rain kept going for another 40+ minutes. Internet never came back. Around 4:15 I bailed out the dinghy and went back to the boat. Wind pushed my rain-catching buckets out of position, so I didn't catch much rain.

Saw one sailboat aground slightly to one side in the channel with SeaTow attached to them; they soon were free. Later another sailboat went aground very close behind an anchored boat, and it took them several minutes working with dinghy and main engine to get free.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rained every hour or so all night.
Sun for a new day  7/6/2009 (Monday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Totally grey and humid and trying to rain. Dumped 4+ gallons of water from jug into water tank, and 4 gallons from buckets to jug.

Anchor up at 6:35 and motored out. A slow slog to the west to get around the point, very rolly as I was sideways to the swells, then a long motor straight downwind with big following swells to the main harbor. Never did bother to unfurl a sail; at first I was straight into the wind, then it was a bit rough to consider going on deck, and I was getting plenty of push from swells and current.

Into harbor and had one anchor down by 8:25 at Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie. Took a while to attach the second anchor to the second chain rode, but had that anchor down by 8:40.

Very rolly here. Weather still totally grey. Two cruise ships in the main harbor today. Fewer small boats here than usual, probably because the police have been pressuring the local boats to get registered, and making them buy mooring permits, and denying them mooring permits in the popular places. There's a lot of pressure on liveaboard-boats here now.

A relief to get here successfully; I'm flying out on Wednesday.

Starting to get a little sunshine around 10:15.

Rain at 11:30.

After lunch, I was loafing and reading and listening to radio when I heard a shout and a bang, and looked up just as there was another louder bang. The Sunsail charter monohull that had been anchored a couple of hundred yards away (in shallower water, where I really wanted to be anchored), had raised anchor, and then motored right onto the rocky shoal by the Coast Guard station. There aren't many places to run aground in this harbor, but they found one of them, and hit it motoring downwind at 3-4 knots. They were firmly stuck. A SeaTow boat appeared within a minute or two, and couldn't pull them off. Pics. After a while, the SeaTow boat left, and later I saw it hip-towing another sailboat up near the cruise ship docks.

Fifteen minutes later, I launched my dinghy (after pumping up the bow tube) and headed ashore, and as I looked back, I saw that Sunsail boat get free and motor away.

Stopped by Woody's boat to chat with him for a little while; he moved here from Benner Bay a week or so ago. He hates it here (too rolly). I didn't realize he's been having serious heart pains; he's flying out to the VA hospital in PR on Thursday.

Went ashore at Yacht Haven marina. The marina is almost empty, maybe a dozen boats in it, but the dinghy dock is as jammed as ever. Walked up the street to an optometrist I'd scouted when I was here a couple of months ago. Walked in, got an eye exam and bifocal prescription for a total of $35; can't beat that. And I told the doctor my eye-exam joke: a Polish guy goes in for an eye exam, the doctor says "can you read the chart", and the guy looks at it and says "sure, I know all those guys !".

Into KMart, and found almost nothing I needed, but bought some toilet tissue just to make the trip worthwhile. Back to the dinghy-dock and back out to the boat.

Couldn't get a free Wi-Fi signal.

Around 4:15, suddenly realized the strange smell I'd been smelling was a fuel slick on the water around my boat. Dashed around checking to make sure it wasn't coming from me, and eventually decided it had come from a charter-sailing-pirate boat ahead of me. It soon blew away past me.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Turned off and emptied and cleaned out the refrigerator.
Sun for a new day  7/7/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

Calm in the early morning, but wind howling by 11. Two cruise ships at the main docks today.

Got a late start, but then got busy. Tested the bilge pumps. Closed the engine intake through-hull. Took down the jib, rolled it up, and stored it in the main cabin. Later did the same for the mainsail. Took out a third anchor more to the south, placing a weight in the middle of the line to keep it down out of the way of passing boats. Was feeling pretty overheated; kept guzzling water to keep from getting dehydrated. Between the breeze and the very hot sun and the humidity, a little hard work is stressing me.

Dinghied ashore to town. Got cash at an ATM. Checked the book-exchange at a cafe. Saw a few pretty tourist-ladies, which was nice. To the library, and exchanged half a dozen books at their book-exchange racks. Read a couple of newspapers, lingering in the air-conditioning. Walked down the street, and listened to a steel-drum band in front of the post office for five minutes (pic).

To the Market Square, and the vendors there. I've always ignored this place; it's a tourist-magnet. But I've decided to get some souvenirs for my family. So bought eight T-shirts for a grand total of $20. Probably should have bought a dozen.

Into the dinghy, headed back toward the boat, and looked for someone to ask for a dinghy-ride tomorrow. First and nearest boat, catamaran "X T Sea", was a success. Diego not only promised me a ride, but offered a car-ride to the airport !

Back to the boat. Still overheated and sweating freely. Eventually cooled off, after drinking lots of water and sitting in the breeze and shade on the foredeck for a while. Hoisted and lashed the dinghy, moved fuel jugs from deck to cockpit, stowed stern lines that had been drying on deck. Did some packing.

Finished up some olives, ate some pickles, then PB-crackers and a totally warm rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  7/8/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

Mostly-sunny morning; one (Disney) cruise ship at the main dock.

Dumped 9 gallons of water, plus a little chlorine, from jugs into the water tanks. Cable-locked the outboard, dinghy, fuel tank and propane cylinder to the boat. Put locking grate into the aft hatch and locked it. Added water to the batteries. Turned off the fresh-water pump. Packed my suitcase some more. Bagged up my mattress pad to discard it; I think it has some no-see-ums in it.

Five minutes before Diego showed up in his dinghy, the repair-job on my eyeglass frames broke again. Ended up taking my glasses off and putting them in my pocket; I can get along without them as long as I don't have to see details.

I was running a few minutes behind schedule, so Diego went away for 5 minutes and came back. Then I locked up the boat and he gave me a ride to the town dinghy-dock (no car to the airport, bummer). Caught a van to the airport ($10), and had a nice conversation with the driver.

No lines at airport check-in or security, but they did charge me $15 to check a bag (they didn't do that last time). Into the departure lounge 75 minutes before flight time. Found a working AC outlet to plug in my laptop, a rare thing in this airport. No Wi-Fi. Time to read a bunch of web pages I've saved onto the hard disk, from times when I had Wi-Fi.

Heavy rain at 10:15. This end of the island gets more rain than the east end.

Uneventful flights to San Juan and then Philadelphia. Got to NJ, and had an Italian hoagie for dinner; delicious ! Afterward, saw a doe and two biggish fawns walking right across the main street, in daylight in the middle of traffic.
Sun for a new day  7/9/2009 - 7/30/2009
Boat's at anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie; I'm in NJ, PA and Ireland for some vacation.

Ah, a stand-up hot shower with lots of hot water ! Wi-Fi about 10 times faster than I'm used to. Digital cable TV. A bed that's wide and stationary. Living on a boat makes me appreciate the modern comforts more when I get back to them; most people take them for granted too much.

Ordered a new set of eyeglasses: $84 for progressive bifocals (frames, lenses, and shipping) from http://www.39dollarglasses.com/ through http://glassyeyes.blogspot.com/

Put a 2 GB chip into my camera, and now it says I can take 3158 pictures when I'm in Ireland.

Super-glued my eyeglass frames; maybe that will work better than epoxy. And it's okay if I have re-glue the frames once a week or so.

A birthday card my sister's family sent to my brother: it shows a crying baby on the front, and says "Celebrating a birthday is a lot like being born". Inside, it says "You start off crying, but then someone gives you a bottle and all of sudden life is good".

Started reading an Ireland guidebook and trying to learn some Irish; let me lay some on you:
"Top o' the mairnin' to ye, ye little leprechaun ! Whair's me Lucky Charms ?"
(That should get me far in Ireland. Probably deported.)
(A reader suggests that going into a local pub and yelling "F*** the bloody British!" will get me a free pint; don't think I'll be trying that one either.)

Had one of my multi-day sinus headaches. Fortunately it seems to be fading well before I leave for Ireland.

A reader wondered if I was relying on insurance coverage while leaving my boat in St Thomas during hurricane season. The answer is no, I haven't had insurance on my boat since about 2003, when premiums started going up 30% each year. And St Thomas is inside the "hurricane box" and wouldn't be covered by most insurance anyway. I'm calculating that hurricane season really doesn't get going until August, usually, and that hurricanes don't come to the USVI's very often. And if there's a direct hit on St Thomas and I lose the boat, well, it's not the end of my life or even a huge financial disaster for me. I don't have most of my net worth invested in the boat, as some people do.

I'm staying with my Mom in Langhorne PA for a few days, and took the opportunity to stroll around the town a little. Some very nice buildings and houses (pics) and nice murals on an abandoned gas station (pics).

Finally got a response about that dead Wi-Fi adapter I shipped back on 6/24; they finally shipped a replacement to me on 7/14. I guess the RMA got lost in their system somehow, and they didn't respond to my emails. The replacement is going to St Thomas, so I won't be picking it up until early August.

Got my new progressive bifocals, and at first look I don't like them. The field of vision left-to-right is very narrow; I can't read a whole line of text on a book page without moving my head, for example. I'll give them a try, but this isn't good.

To Ireland on 7/16, and back on 7/25. As expected, Dublin was fun and expensive and we walked our feet off. Good to be back home (in NJ).

For a while, I've been looking to buy a few simple items: new sandals, and a new swimsuit. Can't find them on St Thomas or even in a Walmart here, unless I go to a specialty shop and pay a high price. Crazy. Guess I'll look online.

Created a web page about my Dublin trip: Dublin Ireland Trip.

I'm still using my new eyeglasses, and I've gotten used to them. But I still don't like how narrow the in-focus field of vision is in the near-vision part of the lenses (maybe due to the fact that they're progressive-bifocal instead of with-line bifocal ?).
Sun for a new day  7/31/2009 (Friday)
Boat's at anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie; I'm in PA.

Didn't sleep well; I have a sinus headache.

Picked up by my brother at 5:45 and off to Philly airport. Flights went fine. Saw a cop on a Segway in the Charlotte airport. Free Wi-Fi in the Charlotte airport.

Arrived at St Thomas around 4; long wait for them to roll stairs up to the airplane and let us out. Temperature is 87-89 here. Brief hard rain as we were waiting for baggage to come out. Took an airport taxi-van ($12) to the downtown dock. On the way, I was able to see that my boat is afloat; that's good. No cruise-ships at the main dock today.

No dinghies at the town dock, and not much activity; started thinking about options if I couldn't get a ride out to my boat. But after 15 minutes or so, a couple with a little daughter arrived in an SUV and started unloading groceries and such, and the guy agreed to give me a ride out. Turns out they've lived on Water Island for 8.5 years. But first he has to park the SUV elsewhere, and get the skiff from elsewhere. So more waiting.

Just as the guy arrived in the skiff, another guy arrived in a dinghy, so I switched to the dinghy and the second guy took me to my boat. Arrived at about 5:15.

Opened up the boat, and everything looks fine. No water in the boat, and no extra water in the bilge. Dinghy bow tube has deflated a lot. While exercising the aft head toilet, which I haven't used in a while, something went "crunch" and all of the (clean) water in the bowl ran out onto the sole. Shut off the intake (although I don't think anything came in from there), mopped up, and left it for later.

PB-crackers for dinner.

Took pills for my headache and went to bed.
Sun for a new day  8/1/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

Still headachey.

One cruise-ship at main docks today.

Lots of stuff to do, so of course I loafed all morning.

Listened to Car Talk on NPR; didn't hear much NPR while I was on vacation.

Got going after lunch, and my head felt better, but felt a bit weak and wobbly, probably because of the heat. Kept drinking water to keep hydrated.

Replaced galley water filter.
Turned the refrigerator on.
Went to launch the dinghy, and found that one of the hoisting-wires had snapped (pic); fortunately I added a redundant wire to each leg a few years ago (but unfortunately the one that broke was one of the ones I added !).
Launched the dinghy.
Pumped up the dinghy bow-tube.
Went out in the dinghy and brought the third anchor near to the bow. Stowed all of the anchor line back onto the reel in the chain locker, raised the anchor, and connected the line back onto the end of the primary anchor chain.
Added water to the batteries.
[Had to take a break to cool off between each of these operations.]

Dinghied ashore to the big marina, swinging by Woody's boat (but he wasn't home). Got gasoline and water ($7) at the fuel dock. Disposed of four bags of garbage. To the supermarket for groceries. Back to the boat to stow everything.

Felt good after a nice shower on the stern deck.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/2/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

No cruise-ships at the main docks today.

Sewed a strap onto my new eyeglasses, to keep them from sliding off my head when I get sweaty.

No free Wi-Fi here, as I expected.

Checked the engine and started it up, and it started and ran fine. Went to the bow and started scrubbing the secondary anchor chain so I could raise the anchor; the amount of growth on the chain is pretty impressive (pic; secondary chain is pulled in about 10 feet). Fortunately the growth covers about 20 feet of the chain, not the whole 100 feet.

Wind blowing a bit hard for this job. Motored forward, pulled in 2 or 3 feet of chain, then scrubbed it with wire-brush and soapy water. By the time I had all of the growth off, I was tired and sweaty. Motored forward and took in most of the secondary anchor chain, but it's wrapped once around the primary chain, and I couldn't unwrap it. Got myself totally exhausted, and decided to give up for today. Shut off the engine, and went to drink some water and cool off and rest.

In the afternoon, put the mainsail and jib back up onto their furlers. Pretty hot and tiring; it's 88 and fairly humid with strong sun, and the boat rolls often enough to make things a little more difficult.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/3/2009 (Monday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

Two cruise-ships at the main docks today.

Tried to listen to Chris Parker's weather at 7, but it was very faint. I think shortwave reception is going to be bad this year.

Dug into my locker full of old rigging-wire, looking for a small piece to replace the dinghy-hoisting wire. But it's an odd size, 1/8" or 5/32", so I don't have any that size. Probably don't have the swage-sleeves for it either.

Loafed all morning. Grey day, with a little rain at 11.

After lunch, started the engine and worked on getting the secondary anchor up. What a pain in the a** !!! Turns out the anchor is stuck on the primary anchor's chain, pretty far down, so I'm lifting a 40-pound anchor and probably 50 pounds of chain, when the rodes are slack. Temperature is in upper 80's, humidity is high, the wind is gusting and swinging around quite a bit, and every now and then a wake comes along and rolls the boat. I motored forward and managed to haul the anchor up above the surface; took a while to rest after doing that.

With the primary chain knotted twice around the secondary anchor, and not much chain left from there to the primary anchor on the bottom, it was hard to deal with. Took over an hour, leaning over the bow and trying to lift sections of chain with a boat-hook. I'd get about 15 seconds to work on it, then the boat would be falling back and taking up the slack in the chains, and my face and eyeglasses would be all sweaty. Back into the cockpit to rest and cool a little and wipe off face and glasses, then motor forward and try again. Wasn't sure the primary anchor was holding, with so little scope out, so I had to watch my position relative to a couple of nearby boats and the shoal well behind me. Did a fair amount of swearing.

Tried to think of other approaches, but most of them involved a second person, at the helm, maybe with me launching the dinghy and dealing with the chain from water-level. Last resort: I could put out a third anchor, taking the strain off the primary, and then go out in the dinghy. Don't want to go out in the dinghy with so little scope on the primary anchor; if the boat drags, I'd have to hustle back aboard.

If this work doesn't give me heat stroke or a heart attack, I must be pretty healthy.

Finally got the stupid thing untangled, raised and stowed the secondary anchor, and was hanging on one anchor. Shut off the engine, gulped a lot of water, cooled down, then shaved and showered.

That's it for today; I'm exhausted. Had thought of going ashore for internet or groceries, but that will wait until tomorrow.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Delicious: chili made with bacon, onion, noodles, chili powder, salt, black beans and then with cheese on top. I make chili about 12 different ways, but I've been doing it this way recently.

Fairly rolly at times during the night. Brief rain once.
Sun for a new day  8/4/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

Two cruise-ships at the main docks today.

Dinghied ashore to the town dock and caught a safari-bus ($2) to Cost-U-Less. Had to wait 5 minutes with a bunch of people for the store to open at 9. Bought cereal, snacks, crackers ($91) and caught another safari ($2) back to the dock. Out to the boat and stowed everything.

Cleaned the engine intake strainer; it was about 1/4 full of really stinky dead clam and barnacle bodies.

Brief rain around 1 PM. Wind blowing a bit hard the last day or so. Supposed to be a tropical wave coming through last night or today, but it probably won't amount to much.

After lunch, ashore to the marina dock. Through the cruise-ship outdoor shopping mall and to the diesel place, to ask about selling my genset for scrap. No chance; will have to dumpster it. Hector says no one here buys these old Onan gensets for parts. And to sell the metal for scrap, I'd have to haul it to the scrap place myself, and I'd have to separate anything good (copper, aluminum) from any steel (which they won't pay for). I've been carrying around this 35-year-old 400-pound monster for years without using it, and it leaks oil and runs noisily and is hard to start, and I've turned the boat into a DC-and-propane boat. So when I get some energy I'll start taking the genset out in chunks. Should have done it four years ago.

To "Crew Station" for some internet; tried this place, new to me, because it's $2/hour. Probably should have gone to the $3/hour place; that one has air-conditioning and this one is outdoor with a fan, and the link here seems slower.

To the supermarket for a few groceries. I'm stocking up here, before (eventually) going to Culebra, which has limited and expensive stores. Back to the boat, hot and sweaty.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/5/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

One cruise-ship (Disney) at the main docks today. Saw a cruise-ship schedule in the newspaper later, and they're getting about five ships a week here (in hurricane season). In prime season last year, with a good economy, they were getting 3-4 ships a day.

Again, dinghied ashore to the town dock and caught a safari-bus ($2) to Cost-U-Less. Bought tuna, pbutter, sausage, snacks, parmesan cheese, spaghetti sauce ($96) and caught another safari ($2) back to the dock. Out to the boat and stowed everything.

Ashore to the town dock again. To the library, to exchange 4-5 books at their free book-exchange racks, and read the local newspaper in the air-conditioning. Then to a tourist store to buy rum (4 liters of Calypso Island flavored rum for $26). Back to the boat.

Well, I've spent about as much money as I can here, so it's time to move ! Anchor up by 1:10 (not much to scrub off the primary chain), motored down and through Haulover Cut, and anchor down by 1:35 at Crown Bay. Looks like this anchorage has thinned out a little, so I was able to find a nice spot, behind a little reef, and right across from the marina entrance. The water in this spot is only 15 feet deep, not 30-40 feet deep like most of this anchorage. Should be much less rolly here than in the main harbor.

No free Wi-Fi over here either.

One of those steel-hulled "pirate" boats went past, full of cruise-ship tourists (pic). Several of those boats were moored near me in the main harbor.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Nice night; slept well.
Sun for a new day  8/6/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor in Crown Bay.

Rain at 6:30, 7, and 7:15. Nice to have some decent rain, to wash off the deck a little.

Wind blowing pretty hard today, as forecast. I was going to leave tomorrow morning to go east, but maybe I'll linger one more day to let the seas settle down a bit.

Launched the dinghy and pumped up the bow tube.

Main task for this morning was to get my 20-pound propane tank refilled. But after I untied the tank from the stern rail, I found it still has a fair amount of propane in it, maybe 4 pounds or so. So I tied it back on.

Dinghied ashore through very rough and sloppy water, but at least it's downwind. Crown Bay Marina is emptier than I've ever seen it; about 3 commercial boats and 3 private boats here, and the rest of the slips empty. Dinghy-dock area still is pretty full.

Asked directions to the propane place, and it turns out to be closer to the next cove over, a very industrial cove I've never been into. To the supermarket, and found prices to be higher than I remember from last year. Got $20 worth of stuff and back to the dinghy. A very rough ride upwind back to the boat.

After lunch, dinghied down the length of Water Island and to the ferry dock on the NW corner of the island. Exchanged half a dozen books at the book-exchange there. Long dinghy ride partly upwind back to the boat.

Apple and salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/7/2009 (Friday)
At anchor in Crown Bay.

Warm and very grey and humid, and still blowing fairly hard most of the time. VHF WX says seas will still be fairly high tomorrow, but maybe I'll try going anyway. Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather on the shortwave; lots of static on the VHF too.

Pumped bilge a bit.

Wind blew hard all day. Should have snorkeled under the boat to scrape prop and hull, but it was too rough and grey and cool for me.

Still no free Wi-Fi here.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/8/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor in Crown Bay.

Anchor up by 6 AM and motored out East Gregory channel. But by 6:20, the engine temperature was too high: running at 190+, when it should be at 180. The aft end of the heat-exchanger was pretty hot; it should feel lukewarm. Briefly considered going on anyway, but sensibly decided to turn left into the main harbor instead. Anchor down by 6:50 at Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

Loafed all morning.

After lunch and Car Talk, launched the dinghy and went ashore. First internet place (above Wendy's) didn't exist any more, although the sign still did. Second place was closed, and so was the third place ! Turns out that they don't open unless there's a cruise ship at the docks, which there isn't today. So I got some groceries at the supermarket and went back to the boat.

Cleaned engine intake strainer. Took the end-cap off the heat-exchanger; no problems there. I think I'll look for a clogged through-hull, before taking the cap off the raw-water pump (which probably will tear the gasket; I think I have a couple of spares aboard) to look at the impeller.

Got a little free Wi-Fi from the boat ! Signal very tenuous; took a while to get anything done.

Went snorkeling under the boat. Scraped out the through-hulls with a screwdriver. One of them (probably primary bilge-pump outlet) was fairly clogged, but the engine intake seemed to be mostly okay. Prop wasn't badly fouled, but needed some scraping. Did about half of the hull, which had thick growth on it. Boat kept swinging back and forth at me. Got myself just covered with little itchy brine shrimp. Took a while to shower off.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/9/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor in Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie.

Started the engine, and there's a drip out of the end-cap of the heat-exchanger, but it's not bad. Anchor up at 6:20 and motored out. Engine came up to 180 or so and stayed there; looks good. Easy trip east to Benner Bay, with the usual swells and rolling as I turned north around the point. Engine temperature got up to 182-183. Into harbor, and a chater-trawler is in my favorite spot. But I anchored close to it, and was done by 8:15 at inside Benner Bay.

Pumped up the dinghy bow tube and dinghied ashore to do some Wi-Fi. But can't connect to any of the free signals, for some reason. Looks like they've made more progress on rebuilding the bar/cafe. Maybe they've changed the Wi-Fi too. Ahh, got connected eventually !

Wow, just found out that a friend of mine I worked with a dozen years ago died a couple of years ago. Contracted some serious disease in India (I don't know what), somewhat recovered from it, and later died in his sleep. He always was rail-thin and smoked like a chimney, and apparently had a drinking problem too. But I'm still a bit shocked. Maybe because he was my age, or because he was such a nice guy.

Exchanged a couple of books at the bookshelf, and back to the boat for lunch. Rained hard but briefly just after I got aboard.

Dinghied over to Compass Pointe marina, and exchanged a couple of books for a stack of magazines over there. Then to Pirate's Cove marina to do some more Wi-Fi. Threw away some chunks of lumber; since jacking up the engine and transmission, I've had a lot of chunks of lumber cluttering up the boat.

Somehow the AC power got turned off (maybe when the bar builders left), and I didn't notice until my laptop said "almost out of battery power". So I had to turn it off to charge for a while. Went to the supermarket and bought soda; prices are high ($5 for a 12-pack of Diet Coke) everywhere on the island, it seems, but they're only going to be worse on Culebra, so might as well bite the bullet and buy now.

First potential Atlantic hurricane is forming off west coast of Africa; all models have "Invest 99" going fairly well north of here, but who knows ?

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/10/2009 (Monday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Was thinking of catching a bus to Plaza Extra supermarket today, then getting out of here and heading for Magens Bay. But that storm's going to pass north of us, making Magens Bay a bad place to be. And a reader is coming through next week, wanting to meet me.

Dinghied ashore to the marina and did Wi-Fi and chatted with Gary. Received new Wi-Fi adapter in the mail; it's been sitting here for a couple of weeks, waiting for me. It seems to work, although I had one BSOD while installing it.

The computer models for storm "Invest 99" have spread out; one or two of them have it coming pretty close to here.

Rained several times.

Back to the boat for lunch. Dumped 3 gallons of water from jug to tank.

Back ashore, and bought 10 gallons of water ($1.50). To the marine store, but they have NO rigging wire in stock; you have to go find the boatyward rigger, who is never in the yard and has to be reached by phone. I looked in the dumpster, but no luck there.

Caught a safari bus ($1) to TuTu Park Mall, and went to the Plaza Extra supermarket. Got $30 worth of beans and olives. Pouring rain when I came out, so I had to wait 10 minutes for the rain to ease a bit. Caught a safari bus ($1) back home; water flooding across the road in several places, but we didn't get rained on much. Out to the boat, then back ashore to do Wi-Fi. I don't think it rained at all here while I was gone.

Salad and cheese sandwich and PBJ sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/11/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor inside Benner Bay.

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs to tank.
Loosened and tightened heat-exchanger end-cap, to try to stop the dripping.

Pumped up the dinghy bow tube. Dinghied ashore to do Wi-Fi. An entertaining morning: a blondish woman I don't know has been living here, recovering from surgery, and this morning she put on a thong bikini to catch some rays before leaving the island (she's flying out today). Very scenic.

Went to the boatyard. Used the book-exchange. Looked for the rigger or some discarded rigging wire, with no success.

We watched an iguana dangling headfirst off a mangrove-tree branch before falling off. Very odd; usually they cling pretty tightly as they feed, but this one went beyond the point of no return. No harm done; those things are tough. Pictures.

Bought 10 gallons of water ($1.50). To the supermarket for a few groceries. To the boat for lunch.

Back ashore. Just in time to have the bikini-woman give us a giggling model-show, with Gemma and Kase and Gary and I all taking digital pictures with our cameras and cell-phones. But she made us promise not to put the pictures on the internet, sorry.

Well, that was a lovely finish to my stay here; I'm planning to head to Christmas Cove this afternoon, Magens Bay in a few days, and then Culebra a week or so after that. Looks like that tropical depression is going to stay well NE of here; might get some swells in Magens Bay from it, but probably nothing too bad.

To the supermarket for a few more groceries, then to the boat.

Got boat ready to go. Started engine, and still have a drip from heat-exchanger end-cap. Anchor up by 2:40 and motored out. The usual slow, rough slog to Christmas Cove, mostly into the swells and straight into the wind. Engine temperature too high again, up into the 190+ range. And about 3/4 of the way there, I looked at the engine and found a small geyser of hot saltwater coming out of the top of the heat-exchanger end-cap, and getting the hallway carpet wet. Tightened the cap some more and stopped the geyser.

Into the anchorage, avoiding a water-skiier in the water just outside it, and anchor down by 3:25 at Christmas Cove. Let the engine cool down a bit before shutting it off. Dragged the wet carpets out onto deck to dry in the sun; lost a small piece of carpet overboard but snagged it with a boat-hook. Sat in the cool shade of the foredeck and cooled off and relaxed.

For dinner, unfolded my new camp-oven (pic) and put it on top of the propane camp-stove I cook on in the pilothouse. My Pyrex baking dish is too big to fit in the oven, but I have an alumininum bread-loaf pan that fits. Mixed up some biscuit-batter while mostly-cooking a sausage in the oven. Cut up the sausage and some cheese and placed them in the batter, and baked the whole thing as one big "pigs in blankets" type of thing. Recipe called for baking at 450 F, but oven temperature gauge never got over 250 F, even with flame reasonably high. So the dough didn't cook thoroughly, but was done well enough to eat, and certainly was tasty, with a rum-and-coke too. Not sure this oven is going to be very useful. Probably works a lot better over a big camp-fire.

Set my alarm for 3:30 AM, and when it went off, I pried myself out of bed, dressed, and went on deck to see if I could see the Perseides meteorite shower. Laid back on the foredeck and fully expected to see nothing, but almost immediately saw a meteorite ! It was very fast and very brief, flickering by quickly. Saw half a dozen more over the next 5 minutes, then none for a couple of minutes, saw a couple more, another pause of a couple of minutes, then saw a couple more. Called it a night and went back to bed. Pretty cool; I've never seen them before.
Sun for a new day  8/12/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Heard a little of Chris Parker's weather through the static, and it sounds like a second low has come off Africa and may develop into a "significant storm", arriving early next week. Will have to keep an eye on it. Better sort out the engine overheating problem.

Got a little Wi-Fi from the boat, just enough to upload files, but not enough to get weather info.

Opened up the engine intake strainer; no problem there. Took the end-cap off the heat-exchanger; upper tubes look a little crusty, but no obvious total clogs. Rodded out all of the tubes as best I could. Used lots of form-a-gasket sealant to put the end cap back on; shouldn't leak.

Watched as a police boat went over to Tal's boat and talked to him for 15 minutes or so, maybe checking papers or telling him he had to move out (he's been anchored here for a couple of months, I think). I figured they would come to me next, but they passed by me, talked to the huge catamaran "Paradiso" behind me (also a fairly permanent resident) for a minute, then took off. I was relieved. My papers are in order, but nothing good ever comes of an encounter with officials, and in the worst case they could tell me I have to register my boat here, or get out. I try to keep moving around, from anchorage to anchorage and country to country, to avoid problems.

Sewed a new flag onto the flagstaff, to replace my wind-shredded flag.

Worked on the damaged battery terminals.

Rain at 1:40.

Opened up the engine raw-water pump (pic). Don't see anything wrong; didn't take the impeller out, because it's a pain to re-install. But I poked all of the vanes, and none seem torn or loose. Installed cap and new gasket with plenty of silicone lube.

Will test the engine tomorrow, but I haven't found a cause for the overheating. Maybe gunk has accumulated in hoses between heat-exchanger and exhaust manifold, or from there to exhaust elbow ?

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

Thought of getting up before dawn to look for meteorites again, but it was cloudy, so I didn't.
Sun for a new day  8/13/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Grey and humid and very windy, with lots of whitecaps on every bit of open water I can see.

Loafed all morning. In the afternoon, messed around with engine and battery terminal stuff a little.

Finally got a weather web page through the Wi-Fi. 11 AM computer models have TD 2 bracketing us; we're right in the middle of the tracks. But in 120 hours, wind speed of the storm is supposed to be only 41 MPH. It's some 1400 NM away, traveling at 9 MPH, which means 180 hours or so to get here, so who knows what the intensity will be then ? The "combined" forecast says it will get here Monday night and have maximum 40 MPH winds, so that's fine, and we'll be on the "good side" (less wind).

Jeff Masters on wundergound says TD 2 is "near death, but still worth watching". Apparently lots of wind-shear destroying it.

So, what to do ? Don't want to go to Magens Bay; it's a deepish anchorage and open to the NW and no help/facilities nearby. Could go to Fish Bay on south side of St John. Could head to Culebra. Could go back to Benner Bay. I think I'll wait and see.

Wi-Fi very flaky: could read a couple of emails, but not reply to any of them. Gave up.

Later, listened to the VHF weather radio, and heard something weird: the Spanish-language text being read by the English-language voice (with English pronunciation rules). Sounded very strange, maybe like a non-French-speaking Texan speaking French.

Ran engine for 5 minutes to test it; no drips or leaks from heat-exchanger or raw-water-pump housing.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

VHF WX says seas still fairly high tomorrow; maybe I'll go to Magens Bay on Saturday.
Sun for a new day  8/14/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Got a little Wi-Fi at 9:30. Now (5 PM yesterday) the computer models all have TD 2 going north of here, not bracketing here. But not north by much, and getting up to 55 MPH wind. Maybe I won't be going to Magens Bay tomorrow.

I guess it's named Hurricane Guillermo now. That's funny; that's Spanish for my first name, William. And why is it being called that ? The wind-speed isn't up to hurricane force. [Wait a minute; it disappeared from the web and now I see "Invest 90". Later, a reader told me Guillermo is a Pacific storm.]

Just received a couple of pictures of me in Ireland, taken by my brother: pic1, pic2.

At 10, Jeff Masters on wunderground says "TD 2 may rise again". Wunderground 8 AM models showing it as "Invest 90", heading every so slightly north of here, and wind-speed up to 105 MPH five days from 8 AM today. Not sure how fast it's moving or exactly when it would get here.

As suggested by a reader, I took off the hose between engine intake through-hull and strainer (could get only one end off). No clogs, and then I realized I didn't have to take it apart anyway; I have a valve near the strainer that dumps intake into the bilge (actually, it's intended to let you use the engine raw-water pump as an emergency bilge pump, which always sounded like a terrible idea to me). Put everything back together, opened that valve, and a thick stream of water poured into the bilge. No problems there.

Went snorkeling under the boat around 1:15. Found a lot of mussels and barnacles in the exhaust pipe, obstructing maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the cross-section of the pipe. Don't think it could be causing the overheating, but every little bit helps. Scraped the hull and prop, accompanied by half a dozen fairly excited fish feeding on the clouds of debris. Saw a stingray cruise by on the bottom. Got the hull about as clean as it ever gets. My faithful putty-knife finally rusted through near the handle; I have a spare on board. Water started getting rough; getting windy, and some current opposing the wind.

After finishing the hull, went for a snorkel around Fish Cay. More fish than I expected. Pretty strong current in a few places; got some exercise. Saw a nice-sized sea turtle, shell about 18 inches long. Back to the boat and washed everything off and showered. Boat lurching a bit weirdly in the wind and current and chop.

Did a little Wi-Fi. 2 PM forecast on Invest 90 says it's coming straight here, maximum wind up to 109 MPH by 120 hours from now. It's at about 30W, we're at about 65W. I couldn't find a speed, but calculated 12 knots from some position data. This looks bad.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/15/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove.

Rained several times from 3:45 to 5 AM.

At 6 AM, FM radio says the storm heading for us is now named Tropical Storm Ana.

Got a little Wi-Fi; two storms in play, Invest 90 and TS Ana. 5 AM models for TS Ana show it coming here and max wind of 66 MPH 120 hours from now, arriving here Monday morning. 2 AM models for Invest 90 show it also coming here or near here and max wind of 105 MPH, arrival date unclear. How can two storms be active in the same place at the same time ?

I'm going to head to Culebra today. If storms look really bad, can go to hurricane holes near Salinas Puerto Rico from there.

Anchor up at 6:50, and motored out. As I went by, guy on "Radio Flyer" called across and asked if I had heard about the storms. He said he was on the internet this morning, and they're all supposed to go north of us; that's not the info I have.

Unfurled mainsail and jib, but there's not much wind. So I motor-sailed for 45 minutes or so. Finally sailed, and it's rolly, with wind and swells coming from behind. Made 2.2 to 2.8 knots; not great. Near the main harbor, started the engine and motor-sailed for another half hour or so. Then got some wind.

At 10:30, the VHF WX said TS Ana is forecast to pass within 50 miles north of the NE coast of Puerto Rico on Monday afternoon, with tropical-storm force. Of course, it's probably 1500 miles away right now, so there has to be a lot of error margin in that "50 miles". At 11, VHF WX said TS Ana is moving at 16 MPH, which is fairly fast. Looks like I'll be staying at Culebra; I guess I could run south to Vieques in time, but not to Salinas. And I really should check in at Customs on Culebra on Monday, although with a storm coming I could skip that and probably be okay if the police caught me later (unlikely).

Had some decent sailing, with speeds in the 4 to 5 knot range, at times. But always big swells coming up from behind, making steering a chore. And once clear of the west end of St Thomas, swells coming from two directions, port stern quarter and starboard stern quarter. So the boat is slewing around, spoiling the wind in the sails, and making the trip rough and tiring. But making 4 to 4.5 knots fairly steadily.

Around 11:45, suddenly saw something loose in the rigging. Went forward in very rolly conditions. At first it looked like a broken halyard, but both sails are okay. Turned out to be the mainsail's topping lift, which flops around with no tension on it while the mainsail is flying. Too rough to re-tie it out here; in fact while I was on deck, the boat jibed and got very rolly, and I almost lost a couple of nice buckets overboard. So I tied off the topping lift somewhere temporary and kept going.

About 4 miles out from Culebrita, much of the wind went away, and sailing 2.7 knots in this slop is maddening. Started the engine and motor-sailed in, with sails popping irritatingly as the boat rolls.

Finally made it into some calmer water, furled the jib, and re-tied the topping lift. Motored across north and west sides of Culebrita, and around SE corner of Culebra. Into the anchorage; half a dozen Puerto Rican powerboats here for the weekend.

Two frustrating tries to pick up a mooring, before I realized someone had tied the pennant to the main line underneath the ball, probably because the whole thing is overgrown and unreliable-looking.

Went to another mooring, picked up the pennant on the first try, and found both loops on it half-chafed through. Ran my line through the loops twice (took a lot of little shots of forward gear to take tension off the lines, then dash forward to mess with them, then bow would blow off, and back to the helm). Started sprinkling rain. Got the mooring done, moved the bow over, and lowered the anchor and half of the chain, in case the mooring fails. Could have anchored elsewhere in the anchorage, but it's 12 feet deep here, and 25 elsewhere in the anchorage. Done by 2:25 at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

I should have Wi-Fi here; did last year. Yes !

I plan to stay here tomorrow, then move to the main harbor on Monday, check in with Customs, and wait out the storm there.

TS Ana 11 AM forecast: agrees with what I heard in VHF WX: moving at 16 MPH, be here Monday afternoon/evening. Models say it will have 60 to 70 MPH wind, just below category 1 hurricane strength. Looks like it could hit us dead-center. Yikes ! Two models have it south of us, two north of us, and one coming right over us. This would affect which anchorage I pick, or where to be in the main anchorage.

There's a TD 3 several days behind it, on the same track. Still an Invest 90 listed too, but I think that's bad data.

Sprinkled rain a few times. Boats moving in and out. Saw half a dozen sailboats coming from St Thomas to Culebra, fleeing the storms.

Rum-and-coke and a sausage-onion-cheese-batter concoction (not entirely successful) for dinner.

Heavy rain at 5:50.

11 powerboats and 3 sailboats here for the night.

Caught the tail end of Chris Parker's 7 PM weather broadcast. Didn't hear his direct info about the storms, but got some. TS Ana is at 14.4N 50W (further south than I expected) moving W at 16 MPH, wind 35-45 MPH. TS Bill (another storm named after me !) is 2 days behind Ana and may follow exactly the same track. But 7:30 PM info shows Bill shifting northwards.

Heard radio traffic to Chris Parker from a boat that plans to travel from here to Salinas tomorrow. Probably a good idea, and maybe I should do it, but I just can't. It's about 75 NM, three times the mileage I did today, probably in exactly the same kind of conditions, and I'm too tired to do that. And if something goes wrong, I'd be caught halfway, with two storms coming.
Sun for a new day  8/16/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Did Wi-Fi at 6:45 AM. Now there are five storms being tracked in the North Atlantic (on wunderground): TS Ana, TS Bill, TD 4 (off west Florida), Invest 90 (just a bit behind TS Bill), and Invest 91 (same as TD 4). 5 AM forecast has TS Ana going south of here at 2 PM Monday (so heading for Salinas not best idea), just brushing us with edge of TS-force wind. Max wind 40-50 MPH, moving 19 MPH. All models have center going well south of here. A relief, if true ! 5 AM forecast has TS Bill going fairly north of here on Thursday or Friday. One model has it coming right over here; other four models have it well north of here. Wind-speed up into 105 MPH range.

Tons of static over Chris Parker's 7 AM broadcast; all I could hear was that he agrees TS Bill is turning north and will miss the islands. Someone nearby doing email through Marine SSB or Ham radio; I can hear machine-gun-like static bursts as the digital packets go out.

I noticed that my refrigerator produces tons of RFI on 8104 KHz (one of Chris's frequencies) and a lot less on 8137 KHz (another of his frequencies). Why such a big difference ?

VHF WX at 8:15 said tomorrow we'll get wind NE 13-18 in the morning, increasing in afternoon until gusts of 50 to 75 knots ! I've found I should trust the VHF WX for this kind of wind direction info; if I try to calculate wind direction using the circle of the storm and which way the wind is going around the circle, I'm wrong.

The NE direction is good for me; plenty of protection from the NE in the main harbor. I plan to go there this afternoon, after which I probably won't have Wi-Fi access.

Too much static to hear any of Chris Parker's 8:30 broadcast. But I did hear one of his subscribing boats calling in from Montserrat and asking where TS Ana will cross the islands; the answer is: Montserrat, tomorrow morning ! I've never been there, but I think there's no protection there, just an open roadstead anchorage. How can this guy be sitting there with no advance warning ?

8 AM wunderground forecast for TS Ana looks same as 5 AM forecast.

11 AM wunderground forecast for TS Ana has it turning more north just after it brushes by here, and hitting central Cuba. Movement W at 23 MPH now; it's sped up, and maybe that will keep it from turning any more toward us ?

Anchor up and slipped the mooring by 11:45, inbetween rain showers. Motored out, unfurled the mainsail, and motor-sailed around the corner and up into the main harbor. I think I saw "Nonesuch" in the back of Dakity; no sign of "Buddy" or "Adios".

Harbor looks pretty normal; still boats in Dakity, boats on the west side (bad if expecting NE 75 wind), boats on moorings and no additional anchors up by town. I went far up toward the airport, into water about 7 feet deep, and put two anchors down by 1 PM at Ensenada Honda on Culebra. A houseboat to the ESE of me is the only threat if wind blows from anywhere from W to N to E to ESE. If the wind blows from the S, everyone here is a threat to me. A good spot (unless someone else comes in later). Will be interesting to see what happens to the various other boats if it really does blow NE 75; some of them could be in trouble.

I think I'll put out a third anchor tomorrow morning, probably to the SE, which is the direction of the harbor entrance.

Later in the afternoon, I took down the mainsail and jib and stowed them in the main cabin.

At 5 PM, the VHX WX forecast no longer has NE wind gusting to 50 - 75 knots tomorrow. Says NE 30-35 in the afternoon. So I probably won't bother with the third anchor.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner.

Couldn't get a free Wi-Fi signal.

Heard Chris Parker's weather at 7 PM. TS Ana center at 15.1N 58.8W, moving 280T at 20 knots. So it definitely will go well south of here, probably 30 miles south of St Croix and Salinas, and so 60-80 miles south of here. Wind 30 - 40 knots. Interesting explanation of difference in paths between TS Ana and TS Bill: Ana is more of a surface-storm, while Bill is a much stronger all-altitudes storm. Central pressure of Ana is 1008 (normal atmospheric pressure is 1013), central pressure of Bill is 994, I think. Bill expected to become Category 3 or higher, but not make landfall (except maybe Bermuda).

Pretty good rain at 8:30.

Occasional light rain starting about midnight and continuing all night.
Sun for a new day  8/17/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda on Culebra.

Just before 6 AM, totally grey and lots of rain and wind, from ESE and SE and SSE. One huge lightning strike. Rain and wind kept going and going. Around 6:50, two huge lightning strikes a minute or two apart, and the second one took out most of the lights ashore.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker at 7 AM; too much static. St Croix AM 1620 is off the air; NPR from St Thomas is very hard to receive. That's the problem with this NW end of the main harbor even in normal weather: no Wi-Fi and radio reception is terrible.

Lull in the rain around 7:15, so I went on deck and dumped 2-3 gallons of rainwater from buckets to water tank. Light rain started again.

At 7:20, on the VHF WX, one channel has a strong signal of all-static, and another channel is giving last evening's forecast.

At 8:30, all I could hear from Chris Parker's weather was that Ana is disintegrating, maybe all the way down into a tropical wave.

By 8:45, AM 1620 is back on the air, and NPR reception is better.

Around 9:45, wind is up to 25+ knots from the ESE. Around 9:55, wind SE 30+ with horizontal rain and wind-driven swells and chop. Started easing 10 minutes later, but still very windy and choppy until well after noon. [So much for trusting the VHF WX for wind direction, although I assume they would have been right if TS Ana hadn't been disintegrating.]

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries. Also good to have it warm in case there's an emergency.

Wind slowly eased through the afternoon. Got a few glimmers of sunshine starting at 2:20, and more after 3. Dumped another 3-4 gallons of rainwater from buckets to water tank.

Big bacon-onion-cheese omelet and a rum-and-coke for dinner, and it was scrumptious !

Nice clear night; no rain, so I was able to keep the hatches and ports open and get a nice breeze through the boat.
Sun for a new day  8/18/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda on Culebra.

Beautiful, sunny, fairly calm day.

Raised and stowed the secondary anchor.

Hoisted the mainsail back up.

Got a brief flicker of Wi-Fi, just enough to upload the log file and do nothing else.

Pumped up the dinghy bow-tube and dinghied ashore. Disposed of two bags of garbage, then walked to the airport to do Customs/Immigration. Cleverly arrived while they were closed for lunch, so had to wait half an hour. But the airport building was reasonably cool and comfortable, so that wasn't bad.

Checking-in went smoothly. Walked into town and used the book-exchange in the gift shop, getting 10 or 12 books, including 5 books by Robert B. Parker, a detective author I like.

Chatted with the lady who runs the shop, and she told me about a huge resort development proposed in the south edge of town, about 130 buildings on 80 acres of land. There are protest signs around town. Apparently there is a general development push around Culebra, Vieques, and Ceiba on Puerto Rico, with resorts and casinos planned. All of the government is in favor, and a big chunk of the population is opposed.

To the Milka grocery store, and bought bread and bananas. Wanted a couple of packets of yeast, since I actually have all of the other ingredients to bake bread or pizza-dough aboard, but they sell yeast only in one-pound packages ! That's probably a lifetime supply for me.

Back to the boat, hoisted the dinghy and stowed everything.

Anchor up by 2:40, unfurled the mainsail, and motor-sailed out of the harbor. Wind blowing pretty well, and quite strong outside the harbor, opposing me. I'm doing this at the worst time, mid-afternoon, but I want to get back to my favorite anchorage. Slogged out and around the corner and finally inside. Onto a mooring and lowered the anchor by 4 PM at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra. No one else here.

Salad and a crab-salad sandwich for dinner. Used a very old can of crab-meat, to get rid of it, and wasn't quite sure if it would stay down (it smelled okay when I opened it). Not the most appetizing dinner; I probably should have just pitched the can. But it stayed down.

Strong squall at 3 AM, and more rain at 4:30 or so.
Sun for a new day  8/19/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Breezy and partly-cloudy day. Heard Chris Parker's weather at 7, and Hurricane Bill is E of here and heading WNW, at category 3 or 4, wind at 130 MPH, but will pass 200+ miles from here and not really affect us.

Did a bucket of laundry. Did some Wi-Fi.

Took a seawater pipe off the engine, between the heat-exchanger and the exhaust manifold. No problems in there.

At some point (I didn't see them), someone brought out a tiny sloop (maybe 16 feet long) and put it on a mooring far out by the entrance. Nobody aboard, they're just storing it there.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/20/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Tried to get the raw-water hose off the exhaust elbow (pic) to look inside, but it's really on there solidly. Will have to keep working on it.

Trawler came into the anchorage just before 2.

Hot afternoon, with very light wind slowly backing around from N to NW to W. This is the effect of hurricane Bill.

Apple and salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/21/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Wind from S; still getting effects of hurricane Bill, far north of us.

Loafed and read and did Wi-Fi all day. Untwisted the mooring line and anchor chain.

Chris in Benner Bay does kite-surfing, so I wondered if it might be fun to get into that. Did a little research on the internet, but it looked a little hard to do. Maybe windsurfing would be better for me. Started doing some research on that. Shipping costs from USA to here on new equipment are high. Someone on St Thomas has a set of used equipment for sale, but everything I read says take lessons and then buy new equipment, unless you have an experienced friend look at the used equipment first. Will do more research.

Heard from my friend John on "Buddy"; he's back in the Dakity anchorage here, just around the corner from me. Turns out he left for Salinas just before I arrived in the main harbor. Halfway to Salinas, he realized he was heading parallel to TS Ana instead of away from it, but kept going because he wanted to use the laundromat in Playa Salinas ! He has such a fast boat (a gorgeous big trimaran he built himself) that he can do things like that.

Finally got that hose off the exhaust elbow, and what little I could see inside looked fine. Water path into big-diameter pipe looked clear.

Sportfisher "Tere" came into the anchorage around 4.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Hot afternoon; ate dinner in the shade on the foredeck.
Sun for a new day  8/22/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Just before noon, a couple of sportfishers from Puerto Rico arrived for the weekend.

Took water hose off forward end of engine exhaust manifold; not clogged there.

Started taking apart the aft toilet (pic), and quickly found the problem. All four screws on the intake plate/valve have sheared off, and the stubs are stuck into the body of the pump. Will have to drill at least two of them out; the other two I might be able to grip with pliers and rotate out.

Soldered wire back onto DC-DC adapter (pic) for my little AM/FM/shortwave radio.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

Three sportfishers, a trawler, and me staying the night here. Wind blew fairly hard all night.
Sun for a new day  8/23/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Various boat-traffic in and out during the day, but nothing interesting. Loafed all day. Unbolted some more of the aft toilet. Wind blowing fairly hard all day.

Rum-and-coke and a sausage-bacon-onion-cheese-batter concoction for dinner.

Only one other boat, a big sportfisher, staying the night here. After dark, I had a good view of their big flat-panel TV inside their cabin, but they weren't watching anything interesting.
Sun for a new day  8/24/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Rain at 11:45.

Got a response from a USA windsurfing store about shipping to Culebra or St Thomas: "Unfortunately it is not possible to ship a windsurfing board to either of those places. The only way to actually have that done is via shipping container which is very expensive and a service that we do not provide."

Loafed most of the day. Worked a little on the aft toilet: pried and drilled and scraped and got the remnants of all four sheared-off bolts out. Found four replacement bolts and nuts.

Rain at 4 and 4:30, then a huge storm moved in at 4:35. Lots of wind and heavy rain until 5:15 or so, then light rain until 6. Water leaking down mainmast compression post. Dumped 11 gallons of rainwater from buckets to water tank.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/25/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Put the aft toilet back together, with new intake bolts and a new pedal-spring, turned on the water, and looks good so far.

Skype-called Mom.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/26/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Cut and glued some wood to mount new bow lights on top of bow rail.

Launched the dinghy, pumped up the bow tube, and went out into the entrance to snorkel. Anchored inside the south side, and had a nice snorkel. Water pretty rough, but lots of fish, including a big school of 12-15 inch blue stripers. Went over to the north side, but no sheltered place to anchor the dinghy, and the reef looked less interesting, so I didn't stop. Back to the boat.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/27/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

A bit headachey this morning.

Drilled and glued the bow-light wood some more.

A reader sent me a link to the "Aquaglide MultiSport", an inflatable kayak/windsurfer/sailboat/towboard. Looks interesting.

Can't find some supplies I need for a couple of projects: a reel of electrical wire, and some old sail-cloth remnants. I know they're both aboard somewhere, but can't find them.

Chicken-onion-rice-mushroomsoup and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Ate out on the foredeck to beat the heat.

Two big powerboats spending the night here with me.
Sun for a new day  8/28/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Drilled and painted the bow-light wood some more.

Moved all of the clutter out of the starboard-aft berth and looked underneath for the sailcloth remnants, but no luck. Found a big package of paper towels I'd forgotten I stashed under there. Took the opportunity to exercise the aft toilet outlet through-hull valve, which is under there.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/29/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Painted the bow-light wood some more.

Found the sailcloth remnants hiding in a locker under the port aft berth. Cut and stitched and grommeted a piece of cloth to make a small "sock" to give sun-protection to the foot of the mainsail while furled.

Rum-and-coke and a sausage-bacon-onion-cheese-batter concoction for dinner. Propane connection leaked, so had to make a new rubber gasket for it before I could cook.

Nine powerboats of various descriptions spending the night here with me.
Sun for a new day  8/30/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Brief heavy rain just before 8 AM.

Painted the bow-light wood some more. Searched some more for that reel of wire, but it's nowhere to be found. I know I've seen it somewhere, but can't remember where.

Tropical storm may be coming this way. Computer models divided on whether it will go north of here or come here.

Garbanzo-corn-olives "salad" for dinner.
Sun for a new day  8/31/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Heard a bit of Chris Parker's weather at 7 AM, and he says that storm is coming here, either as a tropical storm or a category-1 hurricane, and should arrive Wednesday or Thursday. Not good news, but good timing: I was about to move into the main harbor anyway, to get some groceries.

NPR from St Thomas is off the air this morning, for some reason. Suddenly came back to life just before 1.

Did some Wi-Fi after noon, and for some reason only the 8 AM forecast models for storm Invest 94 are available. All but one of the models have it going north of us now. And it's still listed as "has potential for development", not a sure thing.

At 2:20, wunderground still showing 8 AM data. At 2:40, they finally started showing 2 PM data. Not much change; one model still has it going slightly south of here, and the rest north of here. They seem to have it arriving about Thursday. Wind speed well up into 80 MPH range by then.

Chicken-onion-rice-egg and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/1/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Bahia Almodovar on Culebra.

Heard Chris Parker's weather at 7 AM, and he said Invest 94 is disorganized and mostly a couple of big areas of strong squalls, with no circulation. But it may come together in a few days, and jump quickly from tropical low to tropical depression to tropical storm. Sounds like it's going to pass north of here, and we may get some 40-knot squalls, and wind backing around from E to N to W to SE.

Did some Wi-Fi after 8 AM. Wunderground's 2 AM forecast shows the models bunching closer together, and bringing the storm closer to here than they did before. Jeff Master's blog says lots of wind-shear on storm's west side, and most models have it developing after it's well past here.

By 9 AM, Wunderground had 8 AM data. Storm still coming close to here, but maximum wind forecast is down into 70 MPH's instead of 80's. And we won't see anything near that.

Started the engine and checked it for cooling-water leaks, since I took apart some of that system since the last time I ran the engine. Looks good. Checked it a couple more times as I got going.

Anchor up and slipped the mooring by 10:40. Motored out, unfurled the mainsail, and motor-sailed out.

Third or fourth time I checked the engine, I found water squirting out of the hose-to-pipe joint near the aft end of the exhaust manifold. Tightened the hose-clamp there, and it broke. Leak actually diminished after the clamp broke.

Kept going, checking the cooling leak every five minutes or so. Not much more than a fast drip.

Around and up into the harbor. About a dozen boats in the Dakity anchorage. Up to town and anchor down by 11:45 at Ensenada Honda on Culebra.

Launched the dinghy, pumped up the bow tube, and went ashore to the town dock. Dock is full of boats that look like they've been there a while (pic); I've often wondered what the rules are for docking here, not that I would. Disposed of 6 bags of garbage. To nearest grocery store, bought groceries, and back to the boat for lunch.

Later in the afternoon, went ashore again. To the gift shop, exchanged half a dozen books at their book-exchange, and chatted with the lady who runs it. She had the weather page up on her computer, so we looked at the 2 PM data. All computer models now have it going north of us, and maximum wind speed is down to low 70's. But the text forecast says likelihood of "organization" and "development" is higher now. But, but: they seem to say it is partly a surface storm, which is less powerful than an all-altitudes storm.

Walked down to a bar that supposedly has a windsurfing shop behind it, but it's not there and the bartender knows nothing about it. Lady at the gift shop said it was just one guy and lasted only a few months, a couple of years ago, but I wanted to check anyway.

Back to the gift shop, bought an ice cream ($3) and chatted some more. The lady told me that one of the two gas stations in town closed suddenly a couple of weeks ago, because of unpaid taxes or something. This is a major inconvenience for people, since it was the bigger and more-accessible of the two stations. The other one has run out of gas a couple of times (and the one that closed has full tanks !). Not so bad right now, but will be worse when tourist season comes. The closed one is the only one easily accessible by boat/dinghy.

Found a snorkel-rental shop, and a snorkel/kayak shop, and wanted to ask about windsurfing, but both shops were closed, and don't seem to be open often. To a grocery store for more food, then back to the boat.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

Heard most of Chris Parker's weather at 7 PM, and he said the storm is now TS Erika. Models that have it getting stronger have it going further north, and ones that have it weaker have it further south. Says we may get 50-knot squalls here.
Sun for a new day  9/2/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda on Culebra.

Heard most of Chris Parker's weather at 7 AM. He said TS Erika took a turn to the SW overnight, and is heading W, which would make it head for us. But then he said a lot of things which make it sound like the storm is fragmenting: there's a "center of convection" far south, at 15N latitude (we're at 18N here), and multiple "centers of circulation" in various places. We will get it on Friday, and we should look out for "gusts up to hurricane-force, from any direction". Same thing for most of the Leeward Islands, so it sounds like it really has shifted south from yesterday's forecast.

Replaced the hose-clamp on the engine raw-water hose. Got out one of my boxes of clamps, most of them used clamps. First one I tried snapped while I was tightening it. Next one was broken already. But third one was a brand-new solid (not perforated) hose-clamp, and it went on fine.

Got a little Wi-Fi. Wunderground 11 AM data has the 5 computer models bracketing us here, so the forecast track shows the storm going right over us, starting about midnight tomorrow, with maximum wind-speed about 55 MPH.

Decided to move into a more sheltered place, one of the side-coves here. I've never been in there; might as well try it out. Anchor up at 1:35 and motored over there. Checked several times: no water leak on the engine. As I expected, several boats in the cove ahead of me, in the good spots. Anchored anyway, in a pretty acceptable spot. Put down two anchors. Ended up a little too close to the east side, maybe 15 feet closer than optimal; if wind blows hard from the SW or WSW, I'll swing a bit close to shore and a boathouse, but won't hit anything. Done by 2:10 at Ensenada Del Coronel on Culebra. Nice protection here from every direction except SE, but most places in this harbor are exposed to the SE, and the few that aren't are full of boats. As expected, radio reception is even worse over here than in the main harbor.

Got a little Wi-Fi. At 3:30, wunderground says it has 2 PM update, but all pictures show 11 AM timestamps.

Saw half a dozen boats coming into the harbor over the course of the afternoon. A few more moving around inside the harbor. But still plenty of boats in the Dakity anchorage.

Rain at 4:30.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker's weather at 7.

As I expected, less wind and a warmer, muggier night here than out in the main harbor. But not buggy, which is nice. I'm so close to two mangrove shores here that I thought it would be buggy.
Sun for a new day  9/3/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Del Coronel on Culebra.

At 6:30, VHF WX says tropical storm conditions possible, but otherwise wind NE 15-25 and SSW 10-20. The SSW is not a very good direction for me, but I'll be okay.

Heard most of Chris Parker's weather at 7 AM; it started up in the middle with him saying "oops, my antenna tuner was tuned wrong". Maybe that screwed up last night's broadcast too. He says TS Erika is fragmented, with the "center" S of here, but there's no surface circulation, and the whole thing is really more of a broad wave plus squalls and a few scattered circulations. Expect squalls with very heavy rain, with wind gusts of 30-50 knots. Lots of flooding expected on land, because of heavy rain and slow motion (7 MPH) of the storm. Very little if any W-component wind, which is good news for me. Sustained 20 knots, mainly from E, SE and S.

Rain sprinkles at 7:30 and 8:45, then a fairly big squall at 10.

Got a little Wi-Fi at 10:50. 9:45 satellite image shows a big mass of cloud about to engulf us, covering 60 miles to each side of us. 11 AM computer models show 40 MPH central wind, gusts to 50 MPH, while it passes over us. "Center" will pass about 30 miles S of here.

Rain sprinkles at 10:50 and 12:05.

My furled mainsail is still up, behind the mast; I'm not going to bother taking it down. Jib has been down and stored since the last storm.

At 1:30, wind shifted from ENE to E and picked up a bit.

Several pelicans here, and they're diving on fish all day long. They never seem to take a break.

Wind light and back to NE by 4 or so.

Six people on horseback clattered down the road toward town.

Salad and cheese-tomato sandwich for dinner.

Couldn't hear Chris Parker at 7.

Aorund midnight, realized I'd turned off the refrigerator at 7 to listen for Chris Parker, and forgot to turn it back on (I've done that before). Turned it on; no harm done.

After midnight, some heat-lightning started up. Pretty thick grey clouds, but every now and then a brilliant full moon shines through a gap.

Rain and a little wind from the E from about 2:20 to 3 AM.

Rain from E starting at 5 AM, getting heavy after 5:20, and stopping by 5:45 or so.
Sun for a new day  9/4/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Del Coronel on Culebra.

Chris Parker's weather too faint to hear at 7 and 8:30.

Dumped about 3 gallons of rainwater from bucket to jug.

Grey, humid morning with light wind from E. I think the storm may be over ! Saw one sailboat go out the harbor entrance.

Got a little Wi-Fi at 9. Wunderground says "center" of the storm was about 70 miles due south of here at 11 PM last night, and about 100 miles SW of here now. Max wind 30 MPH with gusts to 40 MPH; it's down to a tropical depression.

Around 9:45, lots of low dark clouds, windier from the SE, and rain for a couple of minutes. Stayed windy afterward. I had been thinking of raising anchors and moving to the Dakity anchorage, but now I guess I'll see how it looks in the afternoon.

Blowing pretty hard from SE by 11:45.

Around 12:45, more dark low cloud and brief rain, from SE.

By 1, wind is fairly hard from the S, a bad direction for letting me raise the anchors. If I did the usual (let out rode on primary, motor up to secondary and raise it, then long motor-and-raise operation on primary), I'd end up very close to shore while raising the last 50 feet of the primary.

Wind went back to SE and light by 1:40, so I started the engine and started raising anchors. Almost immediately, wind started blowing pretty hard from the SE, but I kept going. Got them up without running aground or blowing onto the shore next to the primmary anchor, by 2 PM. Motored out into stiff wind, and E down the harbor. Halfway there, engine temperature is 190 degrees; I think I need to open up the whole heat-exchanger and rod it out from both ends. Into the anchorage, picked up a mooring on the first try (not easy in strong wind and singlehanded !), looped my pennant line through it twice to avoid "sawing", lowered the primary anchor down to save me in case the mooring fails. Done by 2:30 at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra. About 10 boats here, including "Buddy" and "Adios".

Good NPR reception and good shelter. Got a little Wi-Fi, too. Wind still blowing hard from ESE.

Saw 5 or 6 sportsfishers arriving from Puerto Rico, to various anchorages, over the course of the afternoon and evening. Pretty rough seas to be out in, and not much prospect of a sunny weekend. A couple of boats even came into this anchorage well after dark.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Had to pick a few bugs out of the spaghetti noodles before cooking them.
Sun for a new day  9/5/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Feeling a bit headachey.

Totally grey and windy in the morning. Then less windy and darker and raining from 8:15 onward. Very heavy from 9:20 onward. Lightning strike close by at 9:35.

Ran engine for an hour to charge batteries. Primary bilge pump seems to be stuck "on"; turned it off.

Rain less heavy by 10:30 but still steady. Didn't really stop completely until 1 or so.

Around noon, some powerboat roared through the anchorage, making a huge wake that hit me on the beam and rolled my boat wildly.

Headache got worse as the day went on.

Saw "Nonesuch" leave the anchorage around 1, but he came back later and picked up a mooring not too far from me.

Dumped about 12 gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank and jugs.

Saw "Buddy" leave the anchorage around 3, heading around SW corner of Culebra.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner. Headache is pounding.

At 7, wind suddenly started howling from SE, and kept howling for hours; must be a tropical wave coming through. I think it eased a bit around 10 or 11, and slowly eased more through the rest of the night.

Half a dozen sailboats came in around 8, in high winds. Four of them rafted together on a mooring next to me, and two more rafted and anchored behind me. They seemed competent; did a pretty good job of it in difficult conditions.
Sun for a new day  9/6/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Grey but less grey this morning; getting some solar power, and no rain.

Looks like about 26 boats stayed the night here. Now the powerboats are roaring in and out, half of them making big wakes through the anchorage.

Suddenly realized this is Labor Day weekend; that's why so many boats roaring around.

Still have fairly bad headache; stayed in bed most of the morning, taking pills.

Galley sink drain is clogged up; have to wait for dishes to dry in the other half before I can use a plunger on it.

Rainsprinkle at 2:20. Headache starting to ease, maybe.

Got the galley sink unplugged.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/7/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Sunny and breezy morning, and my headache is gone !

About 25 boats spent the night here. Saw SeaTow hip-towing a small boat out of the anchorage.

Did a very small bucket of laundry.

Steve from "Nonesuch" swung by to say hello. He has Brigitte from South Africa aboard; met her over the internet. Sounds nice. He's 58; she looks to be in her 50's, maybe. She's into stock day-trading; I didn't think anyone did that any more. We chatted a little, then he had to get to his boat to put away groceries.

Boat after boat leaving here, or passing by from other anchorages, on their way back to Puerto Rico.

John on "Buddy" sailing through the anchorage and the harbor on his big trimaran, as he enjoys doing about once a week (pic). He enjoys cutting close to his friend's boats and saying hi, and cutting close to the edges of the harbor and the mooring balls. In the picture above, he just went between my moored bow and the edge of the reef, a space of not more than 40 feet, and is skirting the edge of the reef on his port side. He keeps the speed up and has great control, and knows this harbor and anchorage very well. He built his boat himself, and it's fast and gorgeous. He has almost zero hours on his engine; he sails everywhere.

Salad for dinner.

SeaTow came in at 7 PM, and towed a sportfisher out in the dark. Sportfisher had lights on, so the problem must have been more than just dead batteries. Hope they have a towing membership; that SeaTow boat probably took more than an hour to get here from Puerto Rico, then 2-3 hours to tow them back. Could be a $5K bill if they don't have a membership ?

Started to feel headachey again in the middle of the night.
Sun for a new day  9/8/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Headache again; I think it's somewhat of a cold/sinus headache. Was going to walk to town for exercise and groceries today, but I don't feel well enough.

Head felt better in the afternoon, but still a bit weak. Did some Wi-Fi.

Rum-and-coke and a sausage-onion-parmesancheese-noodles concoction for dinner.

NPR from St Thomas went off the air at 5:30 or so and stayed off the air most of the night.

Fairly big squall at 6 or so.

Headache mostly gone after dinner; felt good during the night.
Sun for a new day  9/9/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Feeling mostly-okay this morning.

Lots of low grey cloud, and thunder in the distance. Rain at 7:30, and at 8.

Launched the dinghy and pumped up the bow tube. Headed ashore at about 8:45. Disposed of 3 bags of garbage. Walked 2+ miles to town, through warm and muggy weather, over three small hills. Felt good to get off the stupid boat and get some exercise.

Caught up with John from the blue-hulled boat and asked him about windsurfing equipment. None for sale here that he knows about, but he'll keep an eye out. He was getting a propane refill; price hasn't changed from last year, $15 for 10 pounds. Met Ken, who runs the bike-rental shop, and chatted with him a bit. He's not selling any of his used kayaks yet; they still have some rental life left in them. He also doesn't know anywhere to buy used or new windsurfing equipment, except in Puerto Rico.

To the grocery store, then walked back to the dinghy. Hotter and still muggy; worked up a good sweat and got good exercise. Back to the boat by 11.

Did some Wi-Fi. There's a hurricane Fred, but it looks like no threat to us here. I was telling Ken, I think we may get another "wrong-way" storm like last year's Omar, starting up near Colombia and heading NE. Lots of warm water down there that hasn't been disturbed by any storm yet this season.

Tim from nearby catamaran "Jet Stream" came by, asking if I had a spare Racor fuel filter; he was surprised to find that he's all out. But my engine uses Fram filters; couldn't help him. He went around to the half-dozen other boats here, asking the same. Saw him come back later with a filter in hand, but I think it's the old filter.

Around 3, I had a shave and much-needed shower, then headed over to "Adios" to say hi to Paul. He was happy to see me, and I ended up spending almost 2 hours chatting with him and petting his little poodle "Maggie".

Found out Paul sprained his ankle badly 8 weeks ago. He's not sure how; he was awkwardly moving around an anchor on the foredeck, and the next morning when he woke up, his ankle was all swollen and hurting. Doctor gave him a paper to get it x-rayed in Puerto Rico, but the ankle started feeling better, so he never went. And now it's just refusing to heal. Adding to the problem is that it's his "good" ankle that's hurt: his other ankle was crushed in a motor-scooter accident when he was young, and never quite recovered from that.

I offered to get groceries for him if needed, but he actually welcomes opportunities to get off the boat, even though he has to use crutches. He just wishes the stupid ankle would heal.

We chatted about hurricanes and St Thomas and St Martin and some people we know and my trip to Ireland and my transmission repair, and anything else we could think of. Very pleasant.

Something interesting about St Martin: I know that they're now charging high fees to anchor in Marigot Bay, and none to anchor in the Lagoon. I always assumed the Lagoon was full, and only the (huge) overflow of boats anchors out in the (more exposed) Marigot Bay. But Paul says the Lagoon is not full; people anchor out in the Bay because the water is cleaner, maybe more breeze, don't have to go in through the bridge, can day-sail, etc. So maybe I could go to St Martin and leave my boat in the Lagoon over Christmas, instead of in St Thomas as usual. That means getting across the Anegada Passage in November, before the "Christmas winds" start up. And sitting exposed in the BVI's during late hurricane season, waiting for a weather-window to cross the Anegada Passage. Wouldn't want to commit to plane tickets from St Martin until I can be sure of getting across the Anegada Passage. Plane tickets from there might be more expensive. I had been thinking of hauling out to paint the bottom in Benner Bay; might have to skip that. They do have boatyards on St Martin; could haul out there. Will have to think about this.

Paul said he did a lot of windsurfing years ago, and the sport never "clicked" with him; he suggests a sailing dinghy instead.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/10/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Feeling good this morning; just a bit of tension in my jaw remaining from my headaches.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Did some Wi-Fi. About windsurfing, a reader says "When we started our first cruise we had a windsurfer and never learned to sail it after playing with it for 6 months, and sold it to another boat. I suggest that you find a hotel or some place and get a lesson to try out the sport before buying equipment. The guy I sold the windsurfer to fell in love with it. It is a bit of a hit-or-miss sport."

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/11/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did some Wi-Fi. Looks like flights from St Martin to Philly are about 30-50% more expensive than flights from St Thomas to Philly. And the St Martin flights are less frequent and sometimes involve more stops.

Started investigating sailing dinghies on the internet. Looks like inflatable ones are expensive, and most (except for Tinker) are just normal inflatable dinghies with a sail and rudder stuck on. Will have to look for hard sailing dinghies.

Around 11, launched the dinghy and went ashore. Docked at a little board into the mangroves that I saw John use; had a chore finding a way from there up to the road. Cut 1/4 mile and a hill off my walk to town by landing there, but still almost 2 miles into town on a fairly hot day. Exchanged books at both book-exchanges, and chatted with the lady at the gift shop and Ken at the bike shop. Hot walk back to the dinghy, and back to the boat by 1. Good exercise.

Late in the afternoon, took another shot at investigating the leak in the dinghy bow-tube. Years ago, I bolted some dock-fender type material to the side of the dinghy to stop chafing from the dinghy davits; maybe one of the screws I used has chafed a hole in the side of the dinghy. So I took out several of the screws, doused the area with soapy water, and looked for bubbles. No luck. Then I pumped up the bow tube until it was very hard, and tried again. No luck. But then I sprayed the soapy water on other likely parts of the bow tube, and immediately found a leak bubbling away on a chafed spot on the top-forward of the tube ! Completely obvious, easy to see, will be easy to fix. Why didn't I find this when I first started looking for the leak, back in Benner Bay ? All I can think is that I didn't have the tube pumped up extra-hard when I was testing for leaks. This makes my day !

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/12/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Launched the dinghy and got out the repair kit. Scuffed up the tube, cut a patch to size. Found that my kit (which I haven't used in 6 years or more), has no jar of glue, and a jar of "toluene-based solvent/cleaner" which looks and smells like water (it's dead). Threw that away, and looked for some appropriate kind of glue on the boat. Found a couple of tubes of "athletic-shoe repair gloo" which have been aboard since before I owned the boat; always wondered why it was there. Decided to try it. So I applied glue and patch, let some air out of the tube to ease the leak, hoisted the dinghy, and left it to dry in the heat today and overnight.

Later, searching for that missing reel of electrical wire, found another inflatable patch kit, with new bottles of glue. Dimly remember buying it 5 years ago in Florida. That happens a lot on the boat: I buy parts or tools, stow them, and don't need them for 5 years, so forget them.

At 4:30, good-sized squall with plenty of rain, and it lasted a while.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/13/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Dumped 2-3 gallons of rainwater from bucket to jug.

Touched up that dinghy patch with some more "Gloo" around the edges. Will pump it up and test it tomorrow.

Did Wi-Fi.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/14/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Skype-called Mom and chatted with her for a while; very nice.

Guy named John from trawler "Hanco" stopped by to ask some advice about the moorings here, and what things were like in St Thomas and St John (snorkeling, marinas, etc).

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/15/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

A little breezy this morning. Feeling a little headachey.

Launched dinghy, pumped up the bow tube, and went ashore. Disposed of two bags of garbage. Saw Steve coming from town, and chatted with him for a couple of minutes. Hot walk into town. Chatted with a guy from "Meander", and "MJ" at the gift stand on the corner. Got groceries, and a hot walk back to the dinghy, and back to the boat. Good exercise. On the way back, passed a boat that looks like it's been here a while: the dinghy hanging on the stern is all deflated (pic).

Saw "Meander" coming into the Dakity anchorage from the town anchorage.

Around 2:30, went snorkeling under the boat. Water is cloudy and pretty rough. Lots of short grass on prop and hull, and scraping it raised a cloud of debris and biting sea-lice that hovered and swirled around under the boat. Got bitten a bit, but kept going for a while. Water very warm. Surprising amount of grass growing on the anchor chain, too; didn't think that happened here.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.

Itchy during the night: big welts on my chest and arms near my underarms; those sea-lice got under my shirt and bit the heck out of me. Put some vinegar on the welts, but it didn't seem to help much.
Sun for a new day  9/16/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Saw "Meander" leaving harbor at 6, probably heading for St Thomas. Not a good day for it: it was blowing pretty hard all of yesterday (and by 9 today it was blowing hard again).

Did a little Wi-Fi, but it's been pretty unreliable the last couple of days.

John and Sandy from "Hanco" came by to invite me over at 4:30 for drinks. They'd like to socialize and also pick my brain about St Thomas and other places.

Around 11, checked my dinghy bow-tube, and it seems to be holding air okay.

I have a couple of deck-leaks I want to fix, but both of the tubes of Life-Calk I had aboard turned out to be completely solid; had to throw them away. Will have to try the (small) marine store in town. Caulk just doesn't last very long in the tube, even unopened; guess I should buy small squeeze-tubes instead of big caulking-gun cartridges of it.

Launched the dinghy and headed for "Hanco" at 4:30, alongside Steve and Brigitte in their dinghy. Had a very nice time with John and Sandy and Steve and Brigitte. Turns out Brigitte is from Belgium, and has spent time in Spain and South Africa and elsewhere, and she's a fitness trainer. Both couples met through internet dating services, so they talked about that for a while. John and Sandy are older, both widowed, met through a service, and married. Steve and Brigitte met through a service and have been together on the boat for a month or so now.

"Hanco" is a 61-foot trawler with tons of space and lots of gadgets: twin engines, bow-thruster, watermaker, air-conditioning, satellite email, icemaker, fancy center-console dinghy, also a big skiff with huge outboard, etc. Alarm systems on the dinghy, skiff, and the big boat. Recently repowered (engines replaced) in the Turks and Caicoes, which seems an odd place to do it, to me. Twin 400+ HP diesel engines; they burn about 7 gallons per hour at 8 knots.

They have guests arriving in St Thomas in a couple of weeks, and John and Sandy have never been there, so John was asking Steve and me about where to take them in the USVI's. So we told him about the various anchorages and where the good snorkeling was, and so on.

At one point, we looked at a couple of sailboats on moorings way back in the far end of this anchorage, and Steve said they've been there, unoccupied, for up to 5 years ! These are public moorings; he says the police are a bit upset about people using them to store boats.

John's from Ohio, and had a variety of interesting jobs, including Coast Guard, running tugboats, volunteer firefighter. We talked about cruising, various places, people, etc. Could have talked all night, I think.

A couple of vodka tonics had me feeling pretty good. The party broke up at 7:30 or so, and driving back to my boat through the pitch-dark anchorage took a little care, but I found the boat without mishap. Hoisting the dinghy in the dark took some care too.

PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/17/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Lazy day (as usual), just doing Wi-Fi and reading and listening to radio. Dinghy bow-tube is holding air.

In afternoon, long line of dark clouds from St Thomas passing just north of me, all afternoon. Sprinkled a tiny bit of rain a couple of times.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Put some spiral noodles in the chili, and had to pick a couple dozen bugs out of the box of noodles. Down here, pasta often grows bugs like crazy.
Sun for a new day  9/18/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Around 11, launched the dinghy and headed ashore. Paul was heading ashore too, so we rafted together and chatted for a couple of minutes. His ankle is no better. He was eading straight into town by dinghy; I docked in the mangroves so I could get some exercise walking in.

Disposed of a bag of garbage. Hot walk into town. Said hi to Ken in the bike shop. Looked at the nearby small book-exchange. Walked to the big book-exchange, but the gift shop was closed. Got cash from the ATM. Got groceries (looked for meat-tenderizer to apply to my welts, but they only had powdered form, not liquid). Walked back to the dinghy, a hot and sweaty and tiring walk. Back to the boat by 12:45 or so.

A few powerboats from Puerto Rico coming in or passing by around 4:30, but no huge weekend crowd showing up.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/19/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Boats coming in and going out all day.

Chicken-onion-breadbatter concoction and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

About 20 boats spending the night here.

Lots of low dark clouds coming over in the evening. Started blowing hard at 6:20, but never did rain on us. Wind blew hard all night, easing by dawn.
Sun for a new day  9/20/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Very threatening skies (pic) by 10:30 or so, somewhat to the S of us, but the edge of it will hit us. Lots of wind and some horizontal rain from 10:45 to 11:15 or so. A little more rain at noon.

In midafternoon, launched the dinghy and put a couple of bags of books and magazines aboard. Headed over to "Hanco" to say hi and see if they wanted to trade books. Went aboard and had a nice chat with them, but John is not a book-reader, and Sandy reads on a Kindle DX, which she loves. Gave them a few magazines and chatted for a while.

Then to "Adios", where I traded a couple of books and magazines with Paul, and chatted with him and petted his dog for a little while. He said this morning's storm was not predicted by any of the weather forecasts he saw, and he checks six weather-sites each morning ! His ankle is still bad, but he's still resisting going for an X-ray (which is not easy to get here; he'd have to take the ferry to Fajardo and then a taxi to the facility, I guess).

Salad and an apple and cheese-and-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/21/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Quiet day, as usual: reading and radio and Wi-Fi and loafing.

Lots of wind and rain and dark clouds at 5:15.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice-beans and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran engine for 10 minutes to exercise it.
Sun for a new day  9/22/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

John and Sandy stopped by to give me a solar-garden-light (pic) they're getting rid of because it's getting a bit rusty; I'm delighted to have it. They say it works; I'll put it on my dinghy.

Around 11, dinghied ashore and walked to town. Saw Steve back down the road and yelled hi, but we were going opposite directions. I've started thinking of building my own sailing dinghy, so as I walked, I looked out for scrap wood I could use. Passed one building site where they're throwing out a bunch of wood, but of course no big nice plywood sheets like I'm looking for.

Into town, and went to the "Mini-Mas" marine/hardware store. Turns out they have no lumber, and only very expensive glue ($18.50 for a small tube of 5200). There is another hardware store, with lumber, but it's way over by the airport; I'm not walking there from my current anchorage.

Looked around this store, and started thinking outside the box. They do have blue polyethylene tarps, about $10 for a 12x16 tarp. And PVC pipe, about $10 for a 10-foot length of 2-inch diameter. Maybe I could make a tarp-and-pipe sailing dinghy ? Four pipes to frame the hull, a pipe for the mast, two pipes as boom and forward edge of the sail ($70). Two layers of tarp for the hull, and another tarp as the sail ($30). Various elbows and glue and such might cost another $50 or so. IT ... COULD ... WORK ! (from "Young Frankenstein")

Got a few groceries, and walked back. Got rained on briefly, but no problem. Stopped at the building site, asked the guys if they were throwing away that heap of wood, and snagged the two biggest pieces of plywood. They're not very good, of course, but I'll see if I can use them. Got them back to the boat. One piece is 1/4" thick, about 14" x 8 feet. The other piece is sort of 1/4" thick, about 19" x 4 feet. Chipped some concrete drippings off the second piece.

Did some Wi-Fi. Looked at a couple of sites about building PVC-and-tarp boats, and some more general PVC-pipe-project sites. Maybe I should use more lengths of thinner-and-bendy pipe, instead of a few lengths of 2"-diameter pipe. Bends would give a more pleasing shape, more pipes would distribute the weight more evenly, and the thinner pipe probably is strong enough for my purposes. And one site suggests a heavy-duty tarp (for the hull) would be much better than the cheap-o tarps I was looking at.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner.

Patty from nearby blue-hulled sailboat "Lutra" swung by at dusk, looking for a copper washer for her fuel system. Couldn't help her.

The solar-light John and Sandy gave me worked fine all night.
Sun for a new day  9/23/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Started ripping out the control parts of my 35-year-old non-working auto-pilot. I've been trying to get going again on building the new auto-pilot, so this is a step in the right direction. First had to move everything out of the unused berth and the storage compartment underneath. Lots of sweaty work, sticking my head down into compartments in the aft cabin, unscrewing wire-clamps and pulling out wires and components. Finally got the aft-cabin parts of the auto-pilot out (pic), except for the wires running from rudder area to engine compartment. Checked the hose-clamps on the exhaust pipe going through the transom; they look okay. Put everything back into the compartments and unused berth, and salvaged what I could (screws, terminal strips, etc) from the old components.

Dinghied ashore in the afternoon. To the nice dinghy dock, and disposed of a bag of garbage and 3 or 4 loads of auto-pilot remains. Then to the board-dock in the mangroves, walked 1/4 mile to the building site, and scrounged a couple more pieces of plywood. Back to the boat, sanded off the various pieces of plywood, and stowed them in the main cabin. Now I need to take the big boat to town and buy some PVC pipe. Maybe on Tuesday. (Fresh produce arrives in the grocery stores on Tuesdays and Fridays here.)

Chicken-onion-breadbatter concoction and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Before dusk, three people in a dinghy came around. I heard them inviting the guy on the boat next door (catamaran "Ripple") to a party, and thought "cool, they're inviting everyone in the anchorage to a party on their boat, great idea". But then they came to my boat, and gave me a handbill for a full-moon party at a restaurant in town, with buffet and live music, for $25/person.
Sun for a new day  9/24/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Received email from a reader who wanted the old auto-pilot parts I threw away yesterday. So I dinghied ashore at 11 and looked in the trash can, but it's been emptied already; the parts are gone. That was fast !

I feel bad: turns out the reader has a compatible old auto-pilot, and could have used those parts.

Saw "Hanco" moving from one mooring to another, probably to try to get better Wi-Fi and cell-phone reception. The Wi-Fi has been pretty sporadic for me in the last couple of days.

In midafternoon, got in the dinghy and scrubbed the big boat above the waterline with a muriatic acid solution, to scrub off a lot of scum and algae; it really looked bad. Washed off myself and the dinghy with a lot of saltwater afterward, to get rid of acid drips. Hope it rains tonight.

Pulled out a little more of the auto-pilot wiring running from engine compartment to rudder area, but it runs through some tight spots, and is hard to get out.

Salad and cheese sandwich and PBJ sandwich for dinner.

Rain at 6:30, 7 and 7:15.
Sun for a new day  9/25/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Light SSE wind and some haze this morning; looks to be a warmer day than usual.

Dumped a couple of gallons of rainwater from buckets to jug.

John on "Buddy" came sailing in around 11:15. As he went past (pic), he said he'd been to St Croix, the BVI's, and all over the place.

Military-colored helicopter went over at about the same time (pic).

Sailboat sailed through the anchorage around 2:30 (pic).

Chicken-onion-rice-beans-egg and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/26/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did some programming work on the auto-pilot program, and got it fully written and mostly working. Has one serious coding bug, where every now and then it freezes for a while, then recovers. Will have to work on it some more. [Aha ! Was unplugging the NMEA wire to the GPS, and it did it again. I think I'm not handling serial port errors correctly.]

Did some Wi-Fi, loafed, read, listened to the radio. Added water to a couple of the batteries.

Salad and leftover chicken-rice for dinner.
Sun for a new day  9/27/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did more work on debugging the auto-pilot program. A bit hard to debug when the only visible outputs are 5 LEDs, and you're trying to use them as the real outputs as well as the debug-signalling outputs. But I got the program working to the point where I think I need to test it with the boat moving, to get valid steering data from the GPS.

Loafed all afternoon, as usual. Added water to the rest of the batteries.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Had to pull a couple of bugs out of the raw pasta, even from a sealed/unopened plastic bag of it.

Watched a trawler leaving harbor to head back to Puerto Rico, and their engine(s) did not sound good at all. Sounded like clogged fuel filters. Hope they make it home okay.

Sky becoming solidly grey and very humid in the evening; uncomfortable. I think a tropical wave is coming through soon.

Rain at midnight-30.
Sun for a new day  9/28/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

"Hanco" left around 8:30, heading for St Thomas.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers and PBJ-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Very quiet night: only about 6 of us cruising sailboats here, and I noticed only one boat running an anchor light, plus my garden-light running on my stern. "Hanco" used to run lots of lights all night, since they were running a generator.
Sun for a new day  9/29/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Engine start at 8:10. Took some effort to get anchor rode untwisted from mooring lines, but anchor up by 8:20. Motored toward town, doing some zig-zags to get the GPS to say "steer left" and "steer right", and tried to get the auto-pilot program working. But still something wrong: keeps saying "steer right" no matter what GPS says. And a mysterious "steer 045" message popped up on the GPS screen if I got radically off course to the waypoint. Had the laptop running, tried channging the program logic a few times and running the program again, but couldn't figure it out. Not easy to program while motoring along, especially with a sailboat tacking up the harbor past me. Gave up. Got to town and anchored by 8:55 at Ensenada Honda on Culebra.

Worked on auto-pilot program some more, but couldn't find the problem.

Launched the dinghy and went ashore to the town dock. Disposed of two bags of garbage. Walked to the gift ship book-exchange with two bags of books, but it was closed again ! I thought their off-season schedule was closed Wed and Thurs, but twice now they've been closed on Tues. Dumped the books back in the dinghy. To the Mini-Mas hardware store. Smallest PVC pipe they have is 1/2" diameter, and it's not flexible enough for what I want (to make a curved dinghy hull). To the Milka grocery store; got everything I wanted except onions (smallest they had were softball-sized). So to the Mayra grocery store for onions, and then back to the boat.

Got a little Wi-Fi after lunch.

I've been meaning to mention: I'm on Facebook, too. I don't put any boat-related stuff on there, just various other stuff (jokes, political stuff, etc). If you're on Facebook, I'm Bill Dietrich from Trenton NJ.

Around 2, dinghied ashore to the dock across from the El Batey bar, and walked to the hardware store near the airport. No marine caulk at all, and I didn't see the wire I want for the bow light project. But they had two kinds of 1/2" PVC that would work for the sailing-dinghy project. The CPVC hot-water pipe was a bit thinner and bendier, but cost almost twice as much as the Schedule-40 PVC pipe. So I bought ten 10-foot lengths of the 1/2" Schedule-40 ($36), a 12x16 tarp ($13), and 100 feet of cheap cord ($9). Total with tax was $61. Got pretty sweaty hauling it back to the dinghy-dock (pic), then out to the boat.

Reading the GPS manual, I think I've had my auto-pilot program reading the wrong part of the NMEA sentence for the steering data. I've been using the cross-track error (XTK); I should use the turn (TRN) data. I'll have to find an NMEA doc online to figure out which part of the sentence that is, but this should be easy to fix.

Did some Wi-Fi. Hmmm, the GPS turn data isn't quite what I want, and this doesn't explain why the program wasn't working right this morning. Will have to look at this some more. But I found how to display the data on the GPS screen, so I will be able to debug a little more directly.

Chili (with noodles) and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Picked a lot of bugs off the pasta before cooking it.
Sun for a new day  9/30/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Honda on Culebra.

Into the cockpit early, and started cutting, drilling and sanding the wood for the sailing dinghy. Went a bit slowly because I didn't want to overheat my inverter, or let the ersatz AC from it overheat my power tools. I know I have a pack of new blades for my jig-saw, but I can't find them. The cutting and drilling went fine, but then my orbital sander had a problem. It's probably been 4-5 years since I last used it, and somehow the foam/Velcro pad that holds the sandpaper disc to the sander has disintegrated. The foam or whatever it was has turned into wet goop; scooped it out and then cleaned the sander off with rubbing alcohol. Hand-sanded the wood. Here's the progress so far: pic. The holes are so I can lash the PVC pipes to the wood; cheaper and easier than using bolts.

Started the engine and raised anchor by 11:20. Motored up the harbor, and tried out the GPS and the auto-pilot program some more. Maybe I was setting a waypoint too close to my actual location (the GPS behaves differently once you get within 1 NM of your destination waypoint). But the program still is not seeing the steering directions properly: it should be getting a "R" or "L" character out of a particular NMEA sentence, those characters are appearing on the GPS display (now that I have it set to display "turn"), but somehow the program is always seeing "R".

Into the anchorage, and this time picked a mooring further in, to see if I can get better NPR reception. Might get worse Wi-Fi signal. Finished mooring and lowering the anchor by noon, at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

NPR reception here is okay, maybe slightly better than at the other mooring I used here, which is about 100 yards away.

After lunch, started painting the wood for the sailing dinghy. Wow, this stuff is just soaking up the paint ! Spent a couple of hours painting.

Did a little Wi-Fi; signal seems good.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

During the night, thought more about the dinghy project. One of the pieces of wood is smaller than I wanted, but I used it anyway. Now I realize that was a mistake: it's going to distort the hull shape badly, and it would be best to fix that now, before drilling any holes in the pipes, instead of later. Maybe I can splice more wood to it temporarily, while looking to scrounge a bigger piece.
Sun for a new day  10/1/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Paul from "Adios" swung by to say hi. His ankle is still bad, but he refuses to go get an X-ray, saying there's no point doing it now. I told him about my sailing-dinghy project; I'd told him in email a week ago, but he forgot to respond to the email. He joked "it's a fine state of things when you have to build your own dinghy", and "make sure you test-sail it in here, so I can pick you out of the water when it sinks". I told him I already planned to wear a swimsuit.

He said one of the moorings pulled up right out of the bottom a day or two ago while a charter-sailboat was on it. Fortunately they realized they were moving, and didn't hit the shore. He says "Hanco" (61-foot trawler) was on it for one night a week ago, snorkeled on it and found only 2 out of 3 strands of the line were intact. But the rod (not a screw; apparently they use some kind of rod with an end like a pop-rivet, that expands after they insert it into the bottom) pulled out of the bottom; I saw the mooring ball over near the mangroves as I came in yesterday, and didn't think about what I was seeing. [This is why I always lower my anchor and all of the chain, after picking up a mooring around here. If something about the mooring fails, the anchor will grab after I drift back a bit.]

Skype-called Mom. Told her about my dinghy project, and she laughed at it a bit. At least she didn't call it a "redneck dinghy", as one reader did.

Around 1:20, big rainstorm passing about a mile north of me; no need to take in my laundry drying on the lifelines. But it would be nice to catch some rainwater.

Cut and sanded some wood for the dinghy project.

Rain at 2:30. Painted the wood, stopping a couple of times as rain blew into the pilothouse.

Rain from 3:40 to 4.

Rum-and-coke and a sausage-onion-batter concoction for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/2/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Light rain at 9:20.

Planned to go ashore this morning, but by 10 the wind is howling, and I don't feel like taking a long dinghy ride in these conditions.

Drinking water pump started acting funny this morning, turning on and off repeatedly when faucet is open. Looked at the strainer between tanks and pump, and cleaned it (pic), but that didn't fix the problem. Looks like a problem with the pressure-switch, or a clog in the hose on the output side of the pump. Or maybe the water tank is running low, although that usually gives a different symptom.

Painted the dinghy wood some more.

Rain at 12:20. Then rain most of the time from 12:40 to 3 or so, with brief heavy rain at 1 and then very strong wind and rain at 2:30. Lots of rainwater leaking down the mainmast compression post. Sky stayed totally grey all afternoon and evening.

Dumped 10 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jugs.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/3/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Still windy and cloudy, but much sunnier than yesterday. Nice to get the breeze through the boat and start drying out.

Dumped 2-3 gallons of rainwater from buckets to aft water tank. Did some Wi-Fi.

Painted the dinghy wood some more. Did some Wi-Fi.

Saw someone using a brush as a boat-hook to pick up a mooring (pic). They took about 10 minutes and 10 tries to get onto that mooring, trying it from the bow, the side, the stern, all over the place, with and without the brush.

Chicken-onion-rice-mushroomsoup and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Switched over to the forward water tank, but that didn't fix the problem with the water system.

Feeling headachey in the evening.
Sun for a new day  10/4/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Drilled and screwed together sailing-dinghy wood pieces. Drilled holes in ends of the PVC pipes (pics). Then hauled everything out onto the foredeck and assembled it (pics; hard to get far enough away to get a good picture).

Well, at least it's starting to look a little like a boat ! There are more pieces to go: next is a keel/floorboard. And the cross-piece in the middle looks funny because I didn't have a big enough piece of wood, so spliced together three pieces.

But the bow is sagging; I want the gunwales to be level. If I lift the bow up to the right level, the shape of the boat is pretty good. Will have to think about how to cure the sag. I had been hoping to shorten the top two pipes to pull up the others, but now I see this will just twist the bow-plate; no way the top two pipes can overcome the weight and push of the other eight pipes. Could run lines from top of bow to 1/3 of the way up the mast, but then the dinghy wouldn't lie flat upside-down on the foredeck when stowed.

Lashed it down on the foredeck and left it there; I'll do some more painting on it there, and work on the keel/floorboard, while thinking about the bow sag.

Light rain at 11:35.

After lunch and Car Talk, did more painting on the dinghy wood.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Cut the end of a 2x4 for the dinghy keel. Jigsaw didn't make much of a dent on it; a handsaw worked much better.

Apple and salad and PB-crackers and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Brilliant full moon.
Sun for a new day  10/5/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Pretty windy this morning.

Painted floorboard and keel pieces for the dinghy project.

Reworked and fixed the GPS-autopilot program ! Was making a basic mistake in parsing the NMEA sentences; fields are comma-separated, not fixed-width. Should have been obvious, but since all the specs use the same examples, and all use one example per sentence type ...

I think my GPS hiccups briefly if you switch directly from "goto waypoint A" to "goto waypoint B"; even though the display changes properly, I think the NMEA takes a couple more cycles before it starts giving the new steering directions. Maybe you're expected to cancel the first "goto" before commanding the next one.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Watched John trying to kite-surf for a while; it didn't go too well. He got the kite flying (pics), but never got himself up out of the water.

Painted dinghy floorboard and keel pieces some more.

Around 1:30, Andrea and Paul came in from St Thomas on sailboat "Brightness"; found out later it's a 1968 Morgan 30, I think.

Around 2:30, launched the dinghy. Went over to "Brightness" and chatted with Paul and Andrea for a while. They're delighted to get away from all of the hassles of St Thomas for a week or so. We saw a 3- to 4-foot shark swimming on the surface between our boats while we chatted. They complained about the prices here; they're big consumers of beer and cigarettes (Andrea has a bad cough, and is switching to chewing tobacco), and should have stocked up on those in St Thomas. But other than that they're delighted with the clear water and empty anchorages here. They're heading to Vieques soon to meet some friends.

I went over to big trimaran "Buddy" and chatted with John for a few minutes. He's waiting for parts for his outboard's carburetor, and both outboard and dinghy are on their last legs anyway. But he just spent $4500 on a new mainsail, $3500 on insurance, and something else, so money is a bit short.

Then I went to "Adios" and chatted with Paul for a few minutes. His ankle is healing a little: the swelling goes down if he elevates his leg for a while. He was helping Patty on the blue-hulled sailboat with her engine, a Yanmar 3-cylinder. Apparently she ran it out of oil, and the oil alarm was disconnected, and it seized. Paul managed to get it un-seized, rotating the flywheel by hand. Apparently when rotated forward, it would stop at a certain spot. Rotated backward, that spot was sticky but he managed to force through it. Eventually he got full forward rotation working, but there's still some friction, and some bad noises as the engine runs. He thinks maybe something is damaged in the middle cylinder.

Back to my boat. Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Lots of strange lightning from about 7 to 9. Most of it was upper-cloud lightning, and silent, but there was some thunder. Seemed to pass mostly to the south of us.
Sun for a new day  10/6/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Feeling a bit headachey this morning. Took a pill.

"Brightness" left around 9, I think. Thought they were going to stay another day or so.

Launched the dinghy after 10:30, and headed for town. Went all the way by dinghy, instead of walking most of the way. Up to the El Batey dock. Disposed of 5 bags of garbage. To the hardware store near the airport, and bought four lengths of 1-1/4" PVC pipe ($45), paint thinner, paint rollers, and wire. Back to the dinghy.

Up through the canal and docked at the ferry dock. Chatted for a few minutes with a woman who noticed my "Bill Inside" T-shirt (with the "Intel Inside" logo). To the post office, and mailed my application for an absentee ballot. Got $3 of gasoline at the gas station. Halfway up the canal, docked at the bankrupt gas station, and to the grocery store. Got groceries, and then had a long choppy dinghy ride back to the boat, upwind into pretty stiff wind. Took probably 20 minutes from boat to town, and maybe 25 from town to boat. Back aboard by 1.

Watching a tropical wave, 91L, on the internet. Computer models totally disagree with each other. Lots of high-level wind-shear, no high-level circulation, but there is surface circulation. May go NW until it's north of us, then go SW ?

Drilled and screwed together floorboard and keel for sailing dinghy.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/7/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Drilled some holes, then started attaching the keel/floorboard part of the saiing dinghy.

Did a little Wi-Fi. That tropical wave is now TS Henri, but is forecast to weaken to a depression and pass north of us late tomorrow.

Sawed and drilled and installed four cross-pieces of 1-1/4" PVC pipe in the sailing dinghy. It's looking pretty Rube Goldberg.

Pretty hot and humid in the late afternoon; only light breeze.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/8/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did a little Wi-Fi. The 5 AM data on Henri says it's a tropical depression, being ripped apart by wind-shear, and going well north of us.

Leftover pieces of PVC pipe from yesterday happened to be exactly the right length for struts inside the bow of the dinghy. So I drilled them and installed them. Now the hull shape is right, and it's mostly stiff. Pics. Looks done to me ! Wait a minute, needs something else, what could it be ?

Unwrapped the tarp I bought and put it onto the dinghy frame. Pics. Hmmm, a problem. The tarp nominally is 12x16, actual size is supposed to be 11'4" x 15'6". My dinghy should be 10' long (length of a PVC pipe). I was expecting to keep the tarp folded in half, so it would be 11'4" x 7'9". Hoped to have a couple vertical inches at the bow and 12" vertical at the transom. But the length looks shorter than that; looks like zero at the bow and 10" at the stern right now.

Will have to think about this. Tarp is too thin to use just one layer of it. I have couple of old poly tarps aboard; maybe I can use one to make a "bow cap" and another to add a layer of thickness ? Another possibility: make the dinghy 6 inches shorter by recutting all of the pipe-ends at the bow.

Saw Patty in "Lutra" sailing in through the unmarked gap in the reef; she had a couple aboard, and it looked like they were charter guests. Pics. I've never taken my boat through that gap, but it's deep enough.

In the afternoon, dragged out another blue poly tarp I have aboard, for painting, and found it's pretty big, probably 20x12. But it has a few thin spots. Then I took the new one off the dinghy, and found that even it has a hole or two. Maybe if I double both of them (4 layers), I can bail fast enough to keep the dinghy afloat.

So I pulled both tarps into the cockpit and installed grommets along the new edges formed by doubling them. A hot afternoon, and the old tarp is shedding tiny particles of blue plastic everywhere. Got the grommets in; will try installing the tarps onto the dinghy tomorrow.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/9/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

We've had no effects from TD Henri; I think it should be N or NW of us by now.

Onto deck before 8. Tied a rope to the sailing dinghy as a lifting harness, and got some tension on it to make it easier to slide tarps under the keel. Installed both tarps, and it was a sloppy job. The right tarp size for this 10-foot long, 4-foot wide dinghy probably would be 14x16, folded to 14x8.

Got that blue plastic dust from the old tarp all over me and the foredeck. Ran out of cheap cord, so finished off with some nicer line I had aboard, without cutting it into chunks. Not the neatest job. Pics.

I suspect the first sea-trial will be an exercise in bailing, mainly (if not swimming). So, in honor of the occasion, I made a new bailer (pic).

Now have to get it over the side without tearing any of the tarp, and lower it into the water.

A bit before 10, put on a swimsuit and got the swim-fins, and launched the powered dinghy. Rigged a snatch-block to a spare halyard on the mainmast, and lifted the sailing dinghy. A very awkward load, bulky and heavier than I hoped, and I don't want to snag it on something and tear a hole in the tarps. Got it over the side, lowered it a bit, and then suddenly the harness shifted and the dinghy tilted far to one side. Left it with one side touching the water.

Into the powered dinghy, and took a few quick pics. Then over to Paul on "Adios"; he'd said he wanted to be there at the launch, to take pictures and laugh as I sank. But he's running his generator and watermaker, and can't leave the boat. Then to John on "Buddy", just to say hi. Then back to my boat, and lowered the sailing dinghy into the water. Pic.

Then the other John arrived in his sailing dinghy, with his dog. I got into my sailing dinghy, and it didn't sink ! A bit tippy, and a little water in the bottom, but it's okay ! I tried to get John to get my camera out of my powered dinghy and take some pictures of me, but first he wanted to chatter about maybe turning my powered dinghy into a sailing dinghy (not a bad idea, actually). Sun is hot this morning; I'm getting hot, but the boat isn't leaking too badly. Finally got John to get the camera and start clicking away. Pics. I bailed a bit, but not as much as I feared. I did see that the tarp has chafed through in one spot, up on one gunwale.

Eventually got out, and chatted with John a bit. Wanted to get out of the sun, but he wanted to chat. He showed me how some Lysol toilet-bowl cleaner he had would do a great job cleaning the side of my hull. Then he gave me a boating magazine, and I gave him about 4 magazines and a couple of books. Finally I got out of the sun, and started to cool down a little. Sailing dinghy still afloat. Pic.

I notice in the pictures that the sailing dinghy bow is drooping. A successful launch, but I'm not sure this design is worth pushing further. Maybe John is right, I should switch to adding a mast and sail and daggerboards to my powered dinghy.

Around noon, John from "Buddy" zipped over in his dinghy. He just installed a rebuilt carb he's been waiting 2 weeks to get, and it's made his outboard act like new again. We joked a bit about the sailing dinghy project; I've decided to give it up and try the sail-on-RIB-dinghy thing. John said he's built about 150 small boats, and many of them were semi-disasters. Just have fun doing it.

Around 1:20, big boom and a smoke-cloud from Vieques; they're still blowing up unexploded ordnance on the bombing range down there. Pic.

Water is pretty still and clear on this hot afternoon. Saw a 4-foot barracuda cruise by, several feet below the surface. When I got into the dinghy later to move the sailing dinghy slightly, I saw that barracuda hovering under my boat. It's a pretty thick fish, maybe 8-inch-diameter.

Around 4, boats starting to arrive from Puerto Rico for the weekend.

Chicken-onion-rice-egg and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/10/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Paul stopped by to have a peek at my sailing dinghy.

Loafed most of the day, doing Wi-Fi and listening to radio and reading. Another hot day.

In the later afternoon, launched the inflatable dinghy and went around to the sailing dinghy. Too much water in it to lift it to the foredeck; started disassembling it in the water. Got the tarps off and into the inflatable. Back onto the boat, and raised the sailing dinghy frame up. Lots of water poured out of the PVC pipes. Even after that, the frame was heavy enough that lifting it onto the foredeck was a struggle.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Good crowd of boats spending the night here, probably 25 boats. One of them shot off some fireworks around 8:30. Wonder if it's a Puerto Rican holiday; they have a lot of them. (Later, heard it's Columbus Day weekend.)

Warm, still night. Hard to sleep.
Sun for a new day  10/11/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

I've been reading an interesting book, "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman, about ecology and a thought-experiment of what would happen to the world if humans suddenly disappeared. I hadn't realized how suddenly so many of the coral reefs had died; I thought it had been a gradual process. The book says:
A 1998 El Nino temperature fluctuation, ratcheted even higher by global warming, knocked out 90 percent of the sea urchins in the Caribbean. Unusually warm water shocked coral polyps into spitting out friendly algal photosynthesizers that live in tight symbiosis with them, trading just the right balance of sugars for ammonia fertilizer the corals excrete back, and also providing their color. Within a month, more than half the Caribbean reefs had turned to bleached coral skeletons, now coated with slime.

Sunny in the morning but then solidly grey all afternoon. Rain at 2:30.

Took apart the sailing dinghy frame; came apart a lot easier than it went together !

John on "Buddy" left around 4; guess it's too crowded for him. Rare to see him motoring anywhere; he usually sails. Pic.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Pretty strong storm from 5:40 to 6:20 or so; low black clouds and a fair amount of wind and rain. Some lightning.

Sprinkled rain all night, off and on.

Strong storm at 11:45, with some lightning. Ran engine for 15 minutes to have it ready in case the mooring failed, and to charge batteries a little.
Sun for a new day  10/12/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Solidly grey morning. Brief strong squall at 7:45.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries. (As usual, I try to take as much advantage of that as possible: run the refrigerator, run the camera-battery charger, use the laptop).

Grey and sprinkling rain from 9 to 10:30, and lots of boats leaving. Huge squall at 10:30, with lots of wind and rain.

Started getting some decent solar power after 11.

Dumped a couple of gallons of rainwater from buckets to jugs.

Got some decent sun in the afternoon, but then some cloud again.

Salad and PB-and-bananas for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/13/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Dinghied ashore around 10:30, to the board-dock in the mangroves. Disposed of the old tarp by laying it down to improve the path through the weeds. Disposed of 3 bags of garbage. Walked a mile or two into town, getting there just ahead of the rain. Looked in the Mini-Mas hardware store to see if they had parts I could use to make a "solar still"; no luck. Got groceries and walked back to the dinghy. Back to the boat by 12:30.

John came over and borrowed a couple of C-clamps from me. He and Paul are going to Fajardo on Thursday, and I said I'll join them. We'll take the ferry over, rent a car from John's friend, and go to West Marine, Walmart, etc.

Crap ! One end of one of the fabric handles on the dinghy snapped off as I was pulling on it. Will have to see if I can glue it back on.

Rum-and-coke and a meat-onion-cheese-egg concoction for dinner. Used some of a lump of "cured turkey, tastes like ham" meat that I bought pretty cheaply in a supermarket somewhere. Also an almost softball-sized onion I bought this morning; the grocery store had only huge onions.
Sun for a new day  10/14/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

In the middle of the night, I suddenly had an idea for improving my rain-catching system; should have thought of this years ago. I position buckets under the aft corners of the pilothouse roof, to catch the rainwater that runs off. On the starboard side, this works pretty well; usually the bucket probably catches half of what runs off (because wind blows the drops around). But on the port side, results are much worse; maybe the bucket catches 1/20th of what runs off. Not sure why; I guess because of the shape of the pilothouse roof.

So this morning I made a triangular rain-catcher to put near the top of the bucket, to catch more of the runoff. Cut and drilled some PVC pipe, and cut up a poly bag that my new mainsail was shipped in. Got it together and in position, and we'll see how it works. Pic. Might have to play with the positioning a bit. Probably will make one for the starboard side too.

Took a look at that Hypalon glue kit I have, and it's not a refill, it's a different animal entirely. It's a two-part glue that requires at least 24 hours to set, preferably more. So I guess I won't be gluing the dinghy today.

Big storm around 12:15, with lots of rain. Pics. New rain-catcher worked somewhat, but after the rain I moved it around to a different position. A little rain later, but not enough to test it.

John came by twice, to borrow and then return a spark-plug wrench for Paul; his outboard suddenly won't start. The second time, John mentioned that he couldn't get a car for tomorrow; we'll have to take taxicabs in Fajardo, which will be more expensive. And he told me the main reason for the trip: he needs some WEST System epoxy to repair a damaged bulkhead in his trimaran. Apparently on his trip up to the Bahamas, he hit some rough weather, including some rogue waves. And he looked out to find his dinghy, stowed up on the netting on the port side, full of about 1300 pounds of water ! Later he found a crack in the hull/wing, cut an inspection hole there, and found a bulkhead broken/loose. Sounds nasty.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/15/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Alarm went off at 5:45, and I decided not to go to Fajardo with John and Paul today. Don't feel like getting up, and I don't need anything badly enough to pay for all of the taxicab rides I think we'd be taking. Yesterday I had told John not to be alarmed if I didn't show up.

Solidly grey morning, threatening rain.

Made another rain-catcher triangle, for the starboard side.

A little sun around 11, but gone by 11:30. Sunny later in the afternoon.

Glued the two handles on the dinghy. The glue was the consistency of ectoplasm.

Chicken-onion-saffronrice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Saw Paul and John get back to their boats from Fajardo around 6:15; a long day.

Around 3 AM, batteries getting pretty low (12.20 under load), and I couldn't sleep. So ran engine for an hour to charge batteries, while running refrigerator and using the laptop.
Sun for a new day  10/16/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Sunny and breezy morning. Did some Wi-Fi.

John stopped by around 10:30. He returned the C-clamps he borrowed from me. He says I'm very lucky I didn't go with them yesterday. The ferry from Culebra to Fajardo went fine, and they did their shopping, and then the ferry employees went on strike ! And they were told to stay close by the ferry dock; the strike could be settled and the ferry could leave at any time. So they sat there all afternoon, from noon or so, eating expensive snacks out of vending machines, waiting for the strike to end. And I guess the ferry didn't leave until 4:30 or so, since they got back to their boats at 6:15.

Paul's outboard is running again; it was some fault in the kill-switch.

John told me that the mooring that failed last week failed because a pin (on a shackle ?) came out, not by pulling the rod out of the bottom. A couple of guys put it back together and it's in use again.

Apple and salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/17/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Launched the dinghy and headed for town a little after 8. Met John and Paul for breakfast at The Dinghy Dock restaurant. Very pleasant, nice conversation. Coffee and juice and a big egg-cheese-bacon-croissant (smooshed a bit flat, but tasty) for $5 including tip.

A woman stopped by our table; she's on a sailboat in the anchorage. She was complaining that a big powerboat came in last night at 1 AM and anchored close in front of her boat (no need to do that; there's plenty of room and free moorings), and played loud music for an hour or so, and ran a generator upwind of her boat. [Later back in the anchorage, I looked at that powerboat. It's not dangerously close to her, maybe 80 feet away, but unnecessarily close in a spacious anchorage, and directly upwind of her.]

Then walked to the hardware store near the airport, mostly for exercise. Bought some clothespins. Back to the restaurant, then to the grocery store. Then a long, rough, slow slog upwind in a stiff breeze back to the boat, by 11.

Pretty windy afternoon.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/18/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Still sunny and windy.

Loafed all day.

Worked a bit on damaged battery terminal.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.

Around 9:30, heard air-horns blaring. Looked out to see that a powerboat anchored near the other sailboats had started playing loud music, and several nearby sailboats (probably including John and Paul) were retaliating with air-horns and spotlights. The music cut off, and I heard someone yelling at the powerboat. The music stayed off. I'm surprised I could hear everything so well; they're almost 100 yards away, crosswind in a decent wind. That music must have been pretty loud.
Sun for a new day  10/19/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

That loud-music powerboat was gone when I looked out around 8 AM.

Added water to the batteries. Took apart the keel-floorboard from the saiing dinghy project.

Worked a bit on auto-pilot wiring. I've been mulling over where to mount the new auto-pilot control head: in the helm binnacle (where the old controls are), or in the "dashboard" in the front wall of the cockpit. Trying to minimize wiring runs, make controls convenient, avoid electrical interference on the NMEA wires, etc. Finally decided the most important factor was to move things out of the helm binnacle; the wiring inside there is already too congested, and some immovable hydraulic pipes make dealing with it very difficult. So I'll mount the new auto-pilot board in the front wall of the cockpit.

Big wall of rain and wind arrived at 4:15, and the rain didn't taper off until 4:50 or so. More rain from 5 to 5:20, then some more at 5:25. Dumped 8-9 gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank and jug.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Huge storm with high wind and lots of rain from 9:15 to 9:30.
Sun for a new day  10/20/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Sunny and fairly calm morning. Supposed to be very light winds this week, and I'm tempted to start heading east toward St Martin, but it's still really just past the heart of hurricane season.

Dumped 9-10 gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Crap ! Connected wires and a switch to the motor-pump box of the old auto-pilot, the part I'm keeping, and couldn't get the motor to activate. Not much there to go wrong, just a few relays, and there's power to the box. Something simple must be wrong. Will have to mess with it.

Feeling headachey in the afternoon.

Apple and salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Went to bed early, feeling headachey.
Sun for a new day  10/21/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did a lot of Wi-Fi.

Aha ! Figured out the problem with the back-end of the old auto-pilot. Fortunately, the problem wasn't with my reading of the schematics (pic), or with the actual equipment (pic), but with the stupid test-switch I'm using (pic) ! The switch has simply stopped working; why ? Connected some wire-ends together and the auto-pilot back-end relays and motor work fine.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/22/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Need to run three 20-foot lengths of wire for the auto-pilot, but I don't have anything long enough aboard. Will have to go to hardware store (tomorrow).

"Finished" the program for the GPS-autopilot project; now it's ready to connect to the back-end and do a live test.

Did some Wi-Fi. Found out my absentee ballot arrived in NJ yesterday; it and other mail should arrive here next week. I've been waiting for that.

Fair amount of boat-traffic in and out and passing by today; very light wind, so it's easier than usual for people to move east. And calm seas.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/23/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did a little more programming on the auto-pilot board: figured out how inputs worked, so maybe I could add hand-steering via wired remote, later.

Did some Wi-Fi. Used to do a lot of stock-trading, before I retired; now I do very little. Put in an order the other day to sell Amazon at $100 or better; was selling at $95 and they were about to announce earnings. I guess they announced last night, and my order executed at $111 ! As I get older, I'm slowly working my way out of the stock market. Lots of clunkers to sell, to balance off the gains from stocks such as this one.

After 10, launched the dinghy and headed ashore. Disposed of the three big boards I cut and drilled and painted for the sailing dinghy; put them down in the woods to improve the path to the dinghy-dock. Disposed of several bags of garbage. Hot, sweaty walk into town. Looked for wire in the Mini-Mas hardware store, but they had even less available than in the bigger hardware store. Guess I'll have to wait until I get back to St Thomas to finish the auto-pilot and test it. Got groceries. Started back toward the dinghy, and a guy in a truck offered me a ride, which I gratefully accepted. Back to the boat by 11:30 or so.

Did some Wi-Fi. Amazon stock up to $116. No problem. (Closed at $118.50)

A little rain at 12:15. By 12:45, big storm passing just south of here. But then the wind came from the south, and we had plenty of storm from 1 to 1:30. Lots of wind and horizontal rain, and later less wind and more vertical rain. Afterwards, dumped 3-4 gallons of water from jugs to tank, and 4-5 gallons from buckets to jugs.

In the late afternoon, into the dinghy and scrubbed the stains on the hull with a solution of muriatic acid. Didn't make much of a dent in them. I have phosphoric acid aboard; might try that. John's toilet-cleaner that worked on my hull was hydrochloric acid; is that stronger than muriatic ? Maybe I shouldn't have diluted the muriatic with seawater.

Spaghetti (with mushrooms, yum) and a rum-and-coke for dinner. What a treat: no bugs in the pasta.

Light rain several times during the night.
Sun for a new day  10/24/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Sunny and breezy. Loafed and did Wi-Fi and read and listened to radio.

Cut and drilled a couple of small pieces of PVC pipe to improve the rain-catchers.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/25/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Heard on radio that the big fuel-tank fire in San Juan is still burning. Blew up Friday morning, with about 18 fuel tanks involved now. Too far away from here for us to see, about 80 miles maybe, and downwind. I wonder what effect it will have on fuel prices in the islands. Many of them have their fuel shipped in through Puerto Rico.

Opened up the helm binnacle and removed the last vestiges of the old auto-pilot: the wired remote and the control panel (pic). Nice to have much more access to the wiring inside the binnacle, and less stuff congesting the insides. Will try to use the remote on the new auto-pilot, but the control panel will go into the trash unless someone else wants it.

Cut and drilled and painted a wood panel to cover the hole left in the binnacle by removing the auto-pilot control panel.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-mushroom-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/26/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

More painting (several times) on the wood panel for the helm binnacle.

Worked to pull the unused old auto-pilot wire out of the binnacle and engine compartment.

Starting to look for a good weather-window for heading back to St Thomas.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/27/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

After 10, launched the dinghy and made the long ride into town. Disposed of garbage and then went to the mail-store to pick up my mail, containing my absentee ballot. Got to the store only to find it's not a mail-store any more ! It looks mostly the same from the outside, but has a new owner and is a health-food store now. I've walked past this place a couple of times recently, but foolishly did not go in and confirm that the business was still there before having my mail sent here. So where's my mail ? The lady in the store said the previous owner is out of town on vacation.

To the post office, and they say the previous owner came back from vacation yesterday, and picked up mail out of her PO box this morning. Back to the health-food store. The lady called the previous owner on the phone. She does have my mail ! Will bring it to the store in an hour and a half.

I don't want to sit around that long; there's nothing to do in this town. Told the lady I'll be back in a day or two. Got some groceries and back to the dinghy. Long, slow, rough dingy-ride upwind into swells, back to the boat. Will have to do it again tomorrow.

Did Wi-Fi. Weather very windy all afternoon.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/28/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Rain and wind at 4 AM, then lots of rain and wind at 4:30.

Storm approaching from far away at 6:30 AM (pic), but then it mushed out and just gave us grey overhead all morning.

After 10, launched the dinghy and went to town, downwind through fairly rough conditions (got a pretty wet butt). Disposed of some wood-scrap garbage and such. Went to the health-food store to pick my mail, and found out there'd been a misunderstanding yesterday. I thought they were telling me the previous owner had my mail, but now she's saying she has no mail for me (yet). Went to the Post Office, and they told me there's new mail in her PO Box, but they won't look at it to see if anything has my name on it (probably a law against that). Back to the store and got the phone number of the previous owner, so I can call her late tomorrow and check again. Left town and headed back to the anchorage. Ride back not so bad; the wind has eased a little and the swells are further apart. Or else I'm just getting used to the trip.

Stopped by "Adios" to say hi to Paul and pet his dog Maggie (who just got a very short haircut). Ended up staying almost two hours and trying to help him with a BSOD ("blue screen of death") on Windows Vista when he uses a charting program with a GPS. We made some progress, but he's using an ancient pirated copy of a charting program, so we finally came down to "upgrade to latest version" or "change to latest version of a free charting program".

Chatted with Paul a bit about other things. He can walk a bit without crutches, but his ankle still swells up on one side and is painful. Found out that the people from a boat he's watching here are living in Lahore Pakistan right now; couldn't pay me enough to be a Westerner living over there these days !

Back to my boat by 1:30. NPR from St Thomas off the air until almost 4, for some reason.

Changed galley water filter.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Batteries getting a bit low in the evening; guess this morning's grey was pretty thick. Ran engine for an hour to charge batteries, while running refrigerator, laptop, and camera-battery charger.
Sun for a new day  10/29/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did a bucket of laundry. Did Wi-Fi.

After 2, Skype-called the former mail-store lady. She was very nice, but nothing had arrived for me as of yesterday's mail. She'll pick up today's mail in an hour or so, and leave anything for me at the health-food store. I'll go to town tomorrow and check there.

Installed wood panel on helm binnacle; looks okay.

Finally managed to download and watch that Mythbusters duct-tape sailing dinghy from YouTube. Their boat looked a lot nicer than mine. I guess a hull-frame made from welded metal instead of tied-together PVC pipe will help do that for you. Were they adding a couple more strips of tape to the hull just as they were launching it ?

Gave myself a severe haircut; feels great. That $15 haircutter-kit from Walmart has paid for itself 50 times over.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Had to pick a few bugs out of the pasta before cooking it.
Sun for a new day  10/30/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Good weather-window for going east, especially tomorrow. Hope I can take advantage of it.

After 10, dinghied into town. Met Paul and John at the dinghy dock. As soon as I said I wanted to go east, eventually to St Martin, Paul said I should go now and do it in one shot ! Perfect weather-window for it, but it would take me about 40 hours. And without an auto-pilot. No, I'm going to do it in hops, here to St Thomas, to the BVI's, then wait for another window to do the hop to St Martin.

Disposed of a bag of garbage. To the health-food store, and she had my mail ! To the post office, filled out my absentee ballot, and mailed it. But only about a 1/3 chance it will arrive in time; ballot says it has to arrive by Election Day (next Tuesday), not just be postmarked by then. And I didn't feel like paying for Priority Mail ($5 for a simple letter-sized envelope !).

Got cash at the ATM. To the gas station for a gallon of gas, but half a dozen cars in line, so I skipped it. To the gift shop, exchanged a dozen books in the book-exchange, and chatted with the lady. Back out, saw Steve on the street, and chatted with him for a little while. To the grocery store for groceries, back to the dinghy, and back to the boat a bit before 1.

So, I'm planning to leave here tomorrow morning, for St Thomas. Need to scrape the prop and some of the hull this afternoon.

I'm looking at a little unmarked gap in the reef right near me. People go out it all the time, but I've never done that in my boat. Going through there tomorrow would save me half an hour. Went through there on John's trimaran once, and I seem to recall it was 5 feet deep. Guidebook says it's 9 feet deep; chart says up to 20 feet deep. Doesn't look nearly that wide or deep to me. I think I'll try it tomorrow; conditions will be calm.

Into the water around 3:30, and scraped prop and about 1/5 of the hull. Lots of grass and slime. Got bitten a little by those brine shrimp or sea-lice.

Hoisted the jib back into its place behind the forestay; I've had it down and stored inside for the last month or more. But if something goes wrong tomorrow and the engine quits, I'll want every option available.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  10/31/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Ensenada Dakity on Culebra.

Did a little Wi-Fi, checking weather forecasts and such. Got email from John saying the depth through that cut in the reef is 8 feet.

Lots of stuff to do to get the boat ready to go: lashing things on deck (including new raincatchers and leftover PVC pipes), and unlashing the sails and such. Anchor up and slipped the mooring by 8:05.

Through the cut and into open water by 8:10. The cut itself was 11-12 feet deep, but water inside it was about 8 feet deep. The approach was trying because the sun was reflecting off the water and right into my eyes. So every time I stopped looking ahead and tried to read the depth-sounder, it took 5 seconds or so for my eyes to adjust before I could read it. The cut was narrow, so I wanted to keep a sharp eye on the course, but I also wanted to keep a sharp eye on the depth.

A long, slow, rolly slog for several hours, motoring almost straight upwind, with more than 1 knot of current against me, and swells mainly from ENE but some from ESE. Making about 3 knots over ground, with throttle at a fairly low setting. No point in unfurling mainsail; it would just flog.

Paul called me on the radio, asking where I was. Told him I was going to St Thomas, as I told him yesterday, and he said I should shoot straight for St Martin, as he said yesterday.

Engine running fine; temperature went to 181 degrees and stayed there. Tried to get my IR-thermometer to check various spots, but couldn't find it.

Finally got into some protection from St Thomas, and current eased to 1 knot or less, and I made 3.5 knots over ground. As I approached the anchorage with no current against me, made 4 knots at a reduced throttle setting.

Anchor down by 1:50 at Honeymoon Bay, Water Island, St Thomas, USVI. Let engine cool for 5 minutes before shutting it off.

Super-glued VHF radio knob to try to repair it.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Launched the dinghy, and went around the corner to the book-exchange at the little postal station here. Exchanged about a dozen books. I love book-exchanges !

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Watched cruise-ship "Caribbean Princess" go by at dusk, heading out. Always fun to watch.

Rain off and on from 6 to 6:30 or so.

Well after dark, heard someone zooming out to a nearby boat in a dinghy. Then they yelled a bad word, turned around, and zoomed back in towards town. Guess they forgot something ashore, and it's a long ride back and forth.
Sun for a new day  11/1/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay, Water Island, St Thomas, USVI.

Rained a couple of times around dawn.

Feeling a bit headachey.

Watched a cruise-ship (pic) and then a freighter (pic) come in past me.

More super-glue on VHF radio knob to try to repair it.

Did some Wi-Fi, but wind is shifting, making boat swing back and forth through 120 degrees or so, breaking the signal.

Still have some itchy welts from snorkeling under the boat to scrape the prop and hull.

Rain starting at 1:30, off and on until 3 or so. Dumped 5 gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank and jug. Afterward, raining in all directions around the anchorage, but not on us. Wind swinging around to odd points of the compass.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Very odd sunset through the distant rain (pics).

Heavy rain starting at 5:50.
Sun for a new day  11/2/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Honeymoon Bay, Water Island, St Thomas, USVI.

Defrosted the freezer.

Dumped 10 gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank and jug.

Did a little Wi-Fi. Forgot to check the wethar forecast; should remember it's still hurricane season.

Cleaned engine intake strainer. Fuel level 13.0 inches at engine hour 4551. That's about 140-150 gallons, so I don't need to take the boat to a fuel dock for a big fueling before going to BVI's and then St Martin.

Anchor up by 9:45, and motored around and through Crown Bay. Saw one interesting boat: pic; a reader says "it's a 'diesel duck': one of a series designed by George Buhler. There is a company in China making them out of steel on a semi-custom basis". Through Haulover Cut (hard to see the narrow center, in the morning light and fairly high tide) and into the main harbor. Did one small loop and then anchored by 10:25 at Long Bay, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI.

One cruise-ship at the main dock today.

Dumped 6 gallons of water from jugs to tank.

Couldn't get a free Wi-Fi signal here.

Totally grey and windy and lightly rainy from 11:30 to 12:45, then grey and threatening most of the rest of the day.

Suddenly had a sharp pain in the ball of my left foot; feels like a pinched nerve or something; I've had some tenderness and something like "plantar fascitis" in there from time to time.

Launched the dinghy and pumped up the tubes. Dinghied to town. Disposed of garbage. Walked to the library, but they're closed. To a cafe with a book-exchange, and exchanged half a dozen books. To a tourist shop, and bought 4 liters of rum for $26. Back to the boat.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug to tank, managing to spill a little.

Dinghied to the fuel dock at Yacht Haven Grande. $30 for 10 gallons of diesel, and $2 for 10 gallons of water.

Pain in left foot is much worse; can't walk on the ball of the foot on firberglass or cabin sole. Didn't bother me when walking around town, wearing sandals.

Chicken-onion-saffronrice-mushroomsoup and a rum-and-coke for dinner. (Can of mushroom soup from Publix in Florida, which means it's 5 years old.)
Sun for a new day  11/3/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Long Bay, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI.

Three cruise-ships at the main dock today.

Loafed all morning.

Dinghied ashore and walked up toward KMart. Was careful of my left foot, but it really didn't hurt at all. Forgot to take my reusable shopping bags out of the dinghy (CostULess doesn't supply bags); decided not to go back for them.

Caught a safari bus ($1) over the hill. Walked to Home Depot. They didn't have much of the kind of wire I wanted (stranded, 2 or 3 wires in a weatherproof sheath, ideally marine-rated). Got one wire 18-3 stranded for the auto-pilot connections; decided to use something I bought on Culebra for the bow light. They also didn't have any marine caulk; decided to use acrylic latex tub caulk (it's water resistant, flexible, paintable, interior/exterior, and cheap). So bought wire, caulk, water filters, toilet cleaner for the hull ($26).

Walked across to CostULess. They don't have the granola I came for; all other kinds of cereal on this island are twice the price. Bought snacks and peanut butter ($35). Lugged everything out to the road, and caught a safari bus back to near the marina ($2). Lugged the stuff to the dinghy, and back to the boat. Hot and sweaty work.

Later, sprayed toilet-cleaner on the stains on the hull sides, and scrubbed a bit. Worked on some of the stains, but not the worst of them. This toilet-cleaner has some acids I've never heard of: sulfamic acid and glycolic acid. At least it was very cheap.

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs to tank.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  11/4/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Long Bay, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI.

No cruise-ships at the main dock today.

Still no free Wi-Fi here.

Dinghied ashore to town. Walked to the library and found it open, for a change [found out later that Monday was a local holiday, something about some freedom-fighter]. Exchanged 6-7 books at their book-exchange racks. Read a local newspaper, a treat. Back to the boat.

Spent almost an hour trying to snake the new auto-pilot wire through from the cockpit to the engine compartment. I knew it was going to be a pain; the route (follows red arrow, inside the fiberglass: pic) goes through a couple of blind turns and pinch-points, and is crowded with other wires already. Couldn't get it to go through. (Several readers said: use a "tag line" to pull the wire through. I didn't mention that I do have a couple of tag lines through there, and used them, and it didn't work.)

Weather totally grey and threatening rain, from 11 or so through the rest of the day.

Dumped 10 gallons of diesel from jugs to tank.

Ran the auto-pilot wire from engine compartment into main cabin, on a temporary path, so I can test the whole thing tomorrow. Will work on figuring out a permanent path for it later.

Dinghied to the fuel dock at Yacht Haven Grande. $30 for 10 gallons of diesel, and $2 for 10 gallons of water. Then to the Pueblos supermarket and got $43 worth of groceries. Back to the boat.

Dumped 5 gallons of diesel from jug to tank. I keep 5 more gallons in a jug on deck, for emergency use.

Feeling headachey.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Headache worse in the evening.

Ran engine for an hour to charge batteries.
Sun for a new day  11/5/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Long Bay, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI.

Engine start at 7:30, anchor up by 7:35. Motored out and unfurled the mainsail. One cruise-ship coming in after I went out. Freighter coming in too.

Outside the harbor, fired up the laptop and auto-pilot program. Had a struggle getting the auto-pilot board started; loose power connection, I think. Then of course, given a 50-50 chance of having guessed the steering direction right, it was wrong, so I had to switch two wires. Lots of fun doing this in rolly conditions and watching out for other traffic.

Turned on power to the old back-end of the auto-pilot, and nothing blew up. Got the program to react to the GPS and steer the boat a little, but it's steering too aggressively, and conditions are rougher than I hoped, so any turn off course makes the boat roll heavily and the sail flog. Not good debugging conditions. Will have to test some more at anchor and then in calmer seas. But, it's a start.

A long slog, but made it up and around the point and into the harbor. Anchored by 9:50 at Benner Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Dinghied in to Pirate's Cove Marina. Chatted with Jim and Gary and did Wi-Fi.

After lunch, dinghied in to the boatyard. Disposed of garbage. Caught a safari bus ($1) to TuTu Mall. Got cash at ATM, groceries at Plaza Extra. Bus ($1) back to dinghy. Out to boat to stow groceries, then back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Still feeling headachey, still taking pills. Turns out Gary H will be driving to airport on Tuesday, and taking his tank for a propane refill too; I'd love to send my tank with him, but I don't want to stay here that long.

Weather is good for crossing the Anegada Passage tomorrow, but I'm not ready to go, and I want to go from east side of BVI's, not from here. Bummer.

Salad and PBJ sandwich for dinner.

Headache all night.
Sun for a new day  11/6/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Benner Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Still headachey and taking pills.

Dinghied over to fuel dock and got $5 of gasoline. Then in to Pirate's Cove to do Wi-Fi. Got 10 gallons of water ($1.50).

To the supermarket for a few groceries, then out to the boat for lunch.

Dumped 10 gallons of water from jugs to tank. Aft water tank starting to act like it's full.

Back ashore for more Wi-Fi. Got another 10 gallons of water ($1.50). Still have headache.

Rum-and-coke and sausage-onion-parmesancheese-noodles concoction for dinner.

Headache mostly gone after dinner, and gone by later in the evening. Slept well.

Loud drunken argument on the nearby dock around 10:30, and it's a very still night, so the sound carries. Lasted for a while but didn't bother me.
Sun for a new day  11/7/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Benner Bay, St Thomas, USVI.

Tweaked the auto-pilot program a little, but again had problems downloading it to the board. Some loose connection somewhere, I think. And a wire-pin connection on the RS232 connector has broken; don't feel like dealing with it now. Gave up.

Dinghied ashore around 10:15 to do Wi-Fi. Sprinkled rain a little. My external hard disk (for backups) is refusing to start up properly. Things are not going well this morning. [Eventually figured out that the Wi-Fi adapter was preventing the external disk drive from working; had to unplug from Wi-Fi for a while to do a backup.]

Was planning to go to Christmas Cove this afternoon, and to BVI's on Monday. But weather forecast is for NE 15-25 wind late Sunday through early Tuesday. Guess I'll wait for the BVI's until Wednesday. Need to get out of here this afternoon because I'm in a spot where anchoring is tolerated only for short times.

Left my laptop running at Pirate's Cove and dashed over to the boatyard to use the book-exchange there briefly. My timing couldn't have been worse: started pouring rain as I left the boatyard, and I got pretty wet getting back to the marina. And my laptop wasn't as protected as I hoped; it got a little wet but kept running. Decided the best thing to do was to keep it running, so the heat drives out some of the moisture. Then a corner of the tarp roof tore loose under the weight of accumulated water; fortunately, none of it landed on any of my stuff.

Rain eventually stopped, and around 12:45 I bailed out the dinghy, packed up, and headed out to the boat. Barely got everything out of the dinghy and into the boat when it started raining again. And it poured and poured, as I ate lunch and listened to Car Talk. Will have to bail out the dinghy again before hoisting it.

As the rain stopped, the wind was from the W or N, which is not a good direction for me; it moves me out into the middle of the harbor. Not quite "blocking the channel", but out in the way, when I want to be unobtrusive here, so the police don't kick me out. And blowing me toward the big marina; if the wind got strong, it would blow me right into the slips. Not likely, not a problem, but I need to get going.

But first, I want to take care of the 12 gallons of so of rainwater I just captured in buckets on deck. Can't leave it in the buckets; they'll slide around and the water will slosh out as the boat rolls when I leave.

So, started the engine at 1:25, and used it occasionally to move the boat away from the marina and out of the middle, as I dashed around the deck scooping and pouring about 12 gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank. Finally got it done and then anchor up by 1:40. Motored out and then east, soon getting rained on again. Saw a guy out in pretty open water, board-paddling and wearing a knapsack, looking like he was on a long-distance trip, maybe from yacht club to somewhere down the coast towards the main harbor ? Pretty amazing, out in open water among ferry wakes and rainstorms. Pic. At least he's going downwind and down-current today; the other direction would be tougher.

Up and into anchorage and anchor down by 2:25 at Christmas Cove, St Thomas, USVI.

Cloudy and rainy most of the afternoon.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Dumped 5 gallons of water from buckets to tank.
Sun for a new day  11/8/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove, St Thomas, USVI.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Worked on auto-pilot a bit. Fixed wire-pin connection on the RS232 connector. Got the program downloaded and running. But turned on the auto-pilot back-end, and the program behaves differently with the back-end running. That should be impossible; the only connection between the two is the relays on the board, which should serve to isolate one from the other. Nothing the back-end does should be able to affect the front-end (control) behavior. They have separate power, separate everything. Looked at the digital battery monitor, and it's not like there's some huge voltage drop when the back-end is steering. No change on the GPS display. But when the back-end is powered on, the program "steers" in quick bursts of four (totally wrong) and stops receiving NMEA while doing that, and often hangs. Completely insane.

Looked out at 9:15 and found a Moorings charter monohull had anchored a little too close to me, and the swirling breeze and current here had us swinging a little too close for comfort. But they left an hour later.

Got a free signal and did some Wi-Fi.

Someone asked: "what happened to all the cockroaches you had ?". Got some pellets a while ago that cured the problem completely ! I think they aren't much different from the sugar-bread-boric-acid thing I was trying, but they needed to be in lots of places and there for weeks.

Heavy rain at 11:30. Had to dash around to close hatches, get laundry in, set up rain-catchers. More rain at 11:45 and 11:50. More at 12:10 and 12:30. Kept going until 1 or so.

Dumped 5-6 gallons of water from buckets to tank.

Got some sun, put the laundry out again, had to watch as dark clouds came over periodically.

Heavy rain from 2:30 to 2:40.

Dumped 3-4 gallons of water from buckets to tank and jug.

Nice sunshine by 4. Rain at 4:40. Never did get the laundry completely dry.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

At 2 AM, sudden very heavy rain, with a little lightning. More rain at 2:45.
Sun for a new day  11/9/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Christmas Cove, St Thomas, USVI.

Dumped 6-7 gallons of water from buckets to tank.

Very grey morning. Wind isn't nearly as strong today as forecast, so I think I'll head to the BVI's.

Put the still-damp laundry from yesterday into the engine compartment, on shelves and dangling from shelves, to dry.

Started engine and anchor up by 8:30. Motored out and through Current Cut. Not too bad in Pillsbury Sound; wind right on the nose as usual, but maybe 12 knots. But after I went through the Windward Passage and headed north toward Jost Van Dyke, the seas got very rough. Large long-period swell coming from north, and smaller swells coming from a couple other directions, so lots of pitching and a fair amount of rolling. Nice-looking sailboat going another direction: pics. A long, slow, uncomfortable ride. But got up to the harbor and got the anchor down by 11:15 at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

Looks like the laundry got pretty dry in the engine compartment.

Went ashore quickly to check in, so I didn't hit the office at lunch hour. I was chatting with someone recently about how the costs seem to be different here every time, and this time was no exception. I've paid $25, $20 and $15 to check in here before; this time it was $11 plus 10 cents for an Immigration form. [I asked to stay for a month, as usual. Not sure what the maximum is, or if it would cost more. If stay more than 30 days, have to pay a $200 temporary boat-import fee.] And this time I was asked a lot of questions about where I planned to snorkel, and if I would be in a National Park area (I said no; maybe that's why it was cheaper). Never been asked that here before, and the very first time I came here, when I asked about permits for that kind of thing, they didn't know what I was talking about. Just tried to be very cheerful and polite and innocent, and got through without any snags. The usual Customs/Immigration strategy.

Strolled down to Foxy's and back just to stretch my legs and see what was new. Chatted with three guys who just sailed down from Hampton VA as part of a 60-boat rally; they checked in just ahead of me. Motorboat with a funny name at the dock: pic.

Back to the boat by noon.

Got a free Wi-Fi signal.

Some sunshine from 1:30 to 2:30 or so.

Heard goats bleating on the steep hillsides; I've always liked that sound.

Lots of charter boats pouring into here to stay the night and go to Foxy's bar. And a couple of serious sailboats that look like they came in from that rally from Hampton VA; their crews look happy to be in harbor (pic).

Apple and salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.
Sun for a new day  11/10/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

Did some Wi-Fi. Today sunnier than yesterday, but still plenty of clouds. Thought the wind would be howling, per the forecast, but it isn't, at least in harbor.

A reader sent me this photo of my boat, in Culebrita ! Not a picture I took, since you can see my dinghy hoisted on the davits. From June 2007. Looking closely at the big version of the photo, I can see the outline of myself sitting in the cockpit, reading a book. I usually sit next to that opening on the port side, facing aft. Cool !

Rain at 9:45.

Tightened engine fan belt and cleaned intake strainer.

Dumped about 3 gallons of water from buckets to tank.

Raised anchor by 11:15 and motored out. Wind on the nose; motored along south side of island and then up to Sandy Cay. Saw a bunch of power-cats (pic); those seem to be more and more popular. At Sandy Cay, unfurled mainsail and motor-sailed close-hauled across to Cane Garden Bay. Big long-period swells from north, as forecast. Made it into the harbor, and found it pretty rolly, as I expected. A couple of guys surfing outside the NW corner of the entrance. Maybe I should have stayed another night at Jost. Only two other cruising boats here at the moment; never seen it so empty. Anchored by 12:50 at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Noticed that the mooring ball behind me costs $25/night.

Wow, the beach is crowded today ! Launched the dinghy and headed ashore shortly after 1.

But it's a pretty old crowd here today. Looks like mostly British, with some Germans. Surf is pretty rough and coming far up the sand. Had a nice walk along the beach (pic). Hardly anywhere to sit and read my book, so I didn't. So many safari-busses in the parking lots and on the road that there's a traffic jam. Saw some of the local wildlife in its native habitat (pic). To the grocery store and bought bananas, then back to the boat by 2. A couple more cruising boats have come in.

Did a little Wi-Fi.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Boat is rolling and sideways to hot afternoon sun, so I shelter in the main cabin.

Several charter catamarans came in for the night. Watched two of them pick up adjacent moorings, then try to tie themselves stern-to-stern; I've never seen that. Not a good idea, especially with the swells here. After 10 minutes of trying, they gave it up and stayed separate.

Rain at 9:15.

Horribly uncomfortable night. Conditions got very rolly after dark, and what little breeze there was kept me broadside to the swells. Didn't get much sleep.
Sun for a new day  11/11/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Still rolly.

Found that a swage broke on one of the dinghy-hoisting wires during the night. Pic. I've never seen a swage-sleeve cracked right in half like that.

Dinghied ashore. People on the beach, but I'm not in the mood to wander. Disposed of two bags of garbage. Went to the two small book-exchanges here, and found only one book I was interested in. To the grocery store, but ended up not buying anything. Back to the boat.

Anchor up at 11:05. Unfurled the mainsail and motored out. Still very large long-period swells from N or NNW. Headed SW to the SW corner of Tortola, making about 4.5 knots, motor-sailing in very fluky wind. Went past Soper's Hole (looks crowded as usual; pic) shortly after noon, with speed dropping to 2.7 knots and wind suddenly on the nose and thick grey clouds threatening. Furled the mainsail.

Started east along the south side of Tortola (nice view behind me, looking west back toward St Thomas at about 12:20: pic), making 3 to 3.5 knots in occasional rain. Huge storm passed to south and west of me as I went along. Nanny Cay looks pretty full (pic); that's where that 60-boat rally [found out later, it's the "Caribbean 1500"] was heading for; masts on the left are in the marina, masts on the right are boats in storage "on the hard".

Storm edged toward me and rained on me a bit. Eventually made it up and into harbor. Found a tight but fairly-protected corner, one of the few tenable spots left by a large mooring field. Rain almost stopped; good timing. Anchor down by 2:15 at Road Harbour, Tortola, BVI. A relief to be at rest, in a calm anchorage.

Hmmm, this spot is a little too tight. Wind supposed to be SE 8-13 today and tonight, so I wedged in here and counted on that wind direction. But soon it was "blowing" NW 1-2, because of the storms and rainclouds. Sweated it out for a while, hoping the normal wind would return before I started edging aground and had to move.

Thought I was set by 3:30 when the normal SE wind returned. Then the guy on "Corus" behind me informed me that a big charter boat would be coming soon to use that mooring ball next to me (I had thought it was an old abandoned mooring). And the nearby boat-ramp (probably part of the marine police station) meant I was "in their channel" and they'd probably tell me to move. I'm pissed, but there's no help for it. So, anchor up by 3:40, and motored to the other, less-protected, side of the mooring field. Anchor down by 3:50 at Road Harbour, Tortola, BVI. Not a bad spot; I've anchored here before. Should be okay.

Watched a colorful (or maybe that's "colourful") cruise-chip leave. Pic.

Took apart that solar-garden-lamp that "Hanco" gave me; it stopped working a week or two ago. Surprised to see that it does come apart, and that the batteries are replaceable. Cleaned the terminal of one battery and put it back together.

Refreshing shave and shower. Kids in four little prams having a sailing lesson nearby. I'm on the side near the ferry dock; ferries coming and going, making wakes, but at least I'm catching them as they're going fairly slowly.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Never did see a charter boat arrive and pick up that mooring, in my previous anchoring spot. Stayed empty.

Sudden rush of ferries at dusk, between 6 and 6:30. Must be the last run of the day, and half a dozen of them come in and then go out, waking me each time. Finally it's over.

Second cruise-ship left, having to back out a fair distance before they had enough room to turn around.

Slept very solidly.
Sun for a new day  11/12/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Road Harbour, Tortola, BVI.

Huge rainstorm starting at 4 AM, with tons of rain and lots of cloud-lightning, but not a lot of wind (but from odd directions, mainly W and SW and NW; good thing I had to move out of that other spot). Had to catch water from deck-leaks, one from a chainplate on the starboard side, and another into the V-berth. Also leaks down the mainmast compression post, but I let that one go. Rained very hard until 4:30, less hard until 5, and didn't completely stop raining until almost 6.

Dumped 12+ gallons of rainwater from buckets to tank.

Fairly grey and still morning. Rain from 8:55 to 9:10.

Got a free Wi-Fi signal.

Hmmm, a possible weather-window for going to St Martin on Sunday: ESE 5 to 10 knots, seas 2 to 4 feet. But: WindGuru shows a better window next Tues-Thurs.

Added water to the batteries.

Rain at 12:30.

Poked at the auto-pilot program a little. Used a simple little program just to blink the LEDs and activate the relays; no GPS, no serial port, no interrupts. Works fine with the auto-pilot back-end off; goes insane as soon as I turn on the back-end and it starts driving the motor. Confirmed on the board schematic that the relay outputs are completely isolated from anything else on the board; nothing I connect there should be able to affect the board. Looked at the digital battery monitor and confirmed that system voltage is not spiking way down when the back-end motor is running (I think it draws about 5 amps). Then had trouble getting the board to accept a new program, again. Finally got it to download. Still no luck.

I guess the next experiment is to unplug the motor and just have the board's relays make the back-end relays click, and see if that's enough to cause the problem.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Half as many last-minute ferries this evening as there were yesterday evening.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.
Sun for a new day  11/13/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Road Harbour, Tortola, BVI.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Anchor up by 8:55 in gusty conditions. Motored across the harbor and out, heading east. No point in unfurling sails: wind is right on the nose, as usual. A bit rolly: swells on starboard bow, and later on the beam. Overtaken by a car-ferry (pic).

Up and around the point at Buck Island (always thought this house was great: pic) and into anchorage. Got the anchor down in lovely shallow water, where I've anchored before. Done by 10:30 at Fat Hogs Bay / East End, Tortola, BVI.

Did a bucket of laundry (first non-rainy day we've had in a while).

Did some Wi-Fi. Anegada Passage forecast for next Wed/Thurs still looks good. Sent email to a couple at the marina here, telling them I've arrived (we've been corresponding for a while), and they invited me to their boat for lunch. Looked at plane flights for Christmas, and found that fares out of St Martin aren't as bad as I feared; the key is that while St Thomas has good flights to Philadelphia (where I prefer to go), St Martin has good flights to Newark (which will work for me).

At 12, dinghied in to Penn's Landing marina and met John and Donalda on "Afternoon Delight", a 1993 Hunter 42 (I think). They're from Saskatchewan. Nice people, but they're having a "bad boat day". Apparently shore power went on and off several times yesterday evening, at some point the fan in their inverter died and the inverter overheated, and now they find that their entire AC power system is down. So they can't cook for lunch. Even the electric solenoid on their propane grill is not working (would think that would be DC).

John and I dinghied over to a grocery store for some last-minute supplies; I was surprised at how good some of the prices were (rum, cranberry juice, for example). Store was full of noisy kids on lunch-break from school.

Back to the marina, and we had a pleasant lunch of Caesar salad and cold barbecued ribs with lots of good conversation. We chatted about boats and the BVI and their boat-breakdowns. They bought this boat here recently, and brought it to this marina mainly to get settled in and have the staff polish the hull for them. But then electrical things started breaking, starting with a VHF radio, I think, and now they wonder if they'll ever get out of here. They're pretty experienced sailors, but I think this boat has a lot of electrical and electronics stuff, and it's going to take them a while to get used to it. Generator, microwave, air-conditioning, etc. I've discarded a lot of that stuff out of my boat; I should start disassembling and discarding my genset, too.

Turns out John removed the inverter this morning, a $3000 Freedom 25 that's less than a year old. I asked if maybe he left a wire loose in the process, killing their AC system, and he allowed as how there were one or two dangling wires left over. In the meantime, the shop on the island says they have a replacement fan for $33, he'll have to pay for taxiis there and back, and the shop technician is out for a week.

The marina is small and tight-knit, with many people living here year-round or at least every winter. I've been here before; some people here put their boat on the hard at Nanny Cay (about 6 miles away) for the hurricane season, bring the boat out and to the marina here to live on it for the winter (non-hurricane) season, and then back to Nanny Cay again. Comfortable but not very exciting, I would think.

As we split up, Donalda gave me the leftover salad and ribs from lunch; very nice. I headed over to the gas station next door to ask about propane refill, and the news was good. So out to the boat by 2:30, stashed the leftovers in the fridge, uncoupled the propane tank (probably had 1 or 2 pounds of propane left in it), and took it back ashore to the gas station. Will take a day or so to get it refilled, 20 pounds for $28. Exchanged 4 or 5 books in the huge book-exchange at the marina, then back to the boat by 3:15 or so.

Noticed that mooring balls here are $25/night. Plenty of empty anchoring room in the harbor. I think most of the boats on the moorings are a charter fleet, and the others are paying (much less) by the month.

If I heard John right, this nearby boat (pic) is an Oyster, for sale for $360K. (Found it on yachtworld: 1992 Oyster 49 asking $380K.) Was sailed over from England by the English family living aboard it now. I'm sure it's a fine boat, but I think I'd rather have my clunky boat and the extra $300K in the bank. John also told me about friends of his who bought or are looking at a 54-foot catamaran, a 2007 model, for $600K (new $900K). Outrageous !

Hot, fairly still afternoon. I think it's going to be this way for the next week or so; very light wind conditions.

Opened up my Grundig SSB receiver, and mostly fixed the FM antenna. But still not really any reception of NPR here; I'm out of range from St Thomas, given the hills in the way.

Salad and a PBJ sandwich for dinner.

Last time I was here, it was a holiday weekend, I think, and there was a lot of dangerous high-speed speedboat traffic through the anchorage before and after dark. Very little of that today and tonight.
Sun for a new day  11/14/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Fat Hogs Bay / East End, Tortola, BVI.

Tried the auto-pilot again, this time with the electric motor disconnected. So it just has the program running on the microcontroller board, turning the board relays on and off, which makes the motor-box relays turn on and off. And that is enough to make the program go insane. So it's not the motor, or current or voltage spikes from it, that's causing the problem; just activating the relays is enough to cause the problem. And the relays do click, and system voltage doesn't drop, so I don't think I'm doing something ugly like shorting power to ground. Program runs fine with power to motor-box turned off, so the back-end relays don't click. Mystifying.

Did some Wi-Fi.

Getting pretty cloudy and grey by 11 or so.

Cleaned and straightened up the boat a bit; John and Donaldo might come aboard today.

Dinghied ashore after lunch. To the other marina, but their book-exchange was locked up in a laundry room with a sign "no water pressure - laundry closed". To the grocery store for a few things, then back to the boat.

Ashore to Penn's marina. Said hi to John and Donalda and chatted with them a bit over remains of lunch, and got invited aboard for half a grilled-cheese sandwich that was going begging. John is really frustrated: today their DC system seems to have died. Was working this morning, but voltage was dropping. Now the DC meter on the electrical panel is pegged at zero. Their inverter/charger is still out; technician should be back in town on Monday.

Eventually, John dragged me below to look at the electrical system. Their electrical panels must have 50 or 60 breaker/switches on it. Another panel has two big battery switches and assorted other stuff. Also a control panel for the inverter/charger.

Nothing we did showed any life on the DC panel. Got out a voltmeter, and found out John is not very fluent with it; I had to set the range for him. Started at the battery, and found 13.15 volts there. A big charger he's borrowed is charging the battery at 15.5 volts. Changing positions on the big battery switches seemed to do nothing. Best guess is that the inverter was tying the whole system together, and nothing will work until it's back in place.

Walked out to the road. Disposed of a bag of garbage. To the gas station next door, and it's what I half-expected: no one has touched my propane tank since I dropped it off yesterday, and I'm told "come back MOnday afternoon". Well, there's a small chance the weather forecast will change and I'll want to leave here Monday morning. So I grabbed my propane tank back and left.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner. Lots of ribs in the chili; delicious.

Rain at 5:15 or so.

Speedboat boomed into the harbor at midnight, not particularly close to me.

Got some good reception of NPR, and listened to Car Talk from 1 to 2 and another show from 2 to 3.
Sun for a new day  11/15/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Fat Hogs Bay / East End, Tortola, BVI.

Speedboat zoomed into the harbor at 6:15, passing ahead of me within 100 feet of my bow. (Picture of one in this harbor, taken at a different time.)

Rain at 7:45. Then very light S wind edging me aground on the grassy bottom; ran engine for 15 minutes to charge batteries and motor myself into deeper water. Probably will slide aground again.

More rain from 9 to 9:30 or so. And more after 10. More at 11:20. Very grey day now. Wind very light, as forecast; this would have been a decent day to cross to St Martin.

Dumped about 5 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jugs.

Did some Wi-Fi. Anegada Passage forecast still looks good for crossing on Wednesday.

Got several suggestions from readers about my auto-pilot board problem. And response from tech-support for the board. Tech-support seems to focus on protecting the power supply to the board, with caps and inductors, but does say that relay EMF can get into anything on the board. Readers focus on the relays, adding quenching/clamping diodes and caps. So I'll have to read up and try something. Thanks for the info !

More rain at 12:20.

Just realized: I think the back-end motor-relay box in my auto-pilot already has "protection diodes" to dissipate high voltage when relay is turned off and its magnetic field collapses. Will have to double-check, and maybe test the diodes.

Dinghied ashore at 3:30 to see if John and Donalda wanted to come out and see my boat. Soon back to the boat, with them following. Had a nice visit, showing them the boat and chatting for an hour or so.

Salad and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Rain at 6:45.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.
Sun for a new day  11/16/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Fat Hogs Bay / East End, Tortola, BVI.

Low dark clouds and breezy from 4 to 8+, with occasional rain. Fair amount of lightning with the 7 AM rain.

Ran engine for 45 minutes to charge batteries.

Steady rain starting at 8 AM. Then at about 8:15, rain and wind came howling from the S, maybe 40 knots or so, and starting sliding me a bit aground. Within minutes, it had shifted to the SW and W, a very bad direction for me, and gusted to 50+ knots. Unbelievable ! Nothing like this in the forecast; yesterday had looked like a decent day to cross the Anegada Passage, but it would have been nasty to meet this halfway across.

It's pushing me further aground sideways, and heeling the boat 5+ degrees. Fortunately, going aground in this very shallow water is keeping me from hitting the rocks. I'd have no chance if there were deep water right up to the rocks; I'd have been on them in a heartbeat. You'd think after doing this for 8.5 years, I'd have learned not to assume a certain wind direction.

Nothing to do about it now; rain is slashing sideways through the pilothouse, and if I tried to get up there and motor off, I'd just work myself further aground, or find a deeper spot that let me get blown closer to the rocks. I don't see any boats coming loose off the moorings. Time to huddle below and mop up after deck-leaks. Wind and rain so hard that it's blasting in around the edges of closed ports. I've been through conditions this bad in hurricanes, but not aground and sideways.

Wind and rain howled sideways for quite a while, slowly easing to 20+ knots, but still heeling the boat and keeping it aground. I'm not too worried; this boat grounds very cleanly and has a solid full keel. If the rudder hits a projecting rock, that would be bad. But I don't think there are such rocks in the bottom here.

By 9:15, wind is down to S 15 or so, but rain is heavy.

By 9:35, wind is lighter, still raining. I'm waiting for wind to go back to a normal direction, E or SE, before seeing if I can motor off ground. Boat is back to an even keel, and is gently bumping and swaying: it's not firmly aground. And I think the tide (such as there is here) is rising all day. But the wind is staying in the SW and W, with some S and NW. And I found a nice deck-leak right into the middle of the mattress in my berth.

By 10, little wind (still W) but plenty of rain. Still totally grey.

By 10:45, rain has eased, wind is light but still NW. Decided to give it a try. Started the engine, tried to motor off, and the boat wouldn't move. Walked around deck to shift my weight, got a few ripples of small wakes in the harbor, and the boat started to slide an inch or two at a time. Kept going, with throttle at a moderate setting, and a few minutes later the boat was free and into deeper water. Wind still at NW and N, not great directions for me, but now if I go aground again, it will be a very light grounding, easy to get off.

Some rain starting again at 11. My water-buckets have been full all morning; could have caught 40 gallons if I pleased. But my tanks (230 gallons) are just about full, and I'm not going to do laundry with no sun out, so the water will mostly go to waste.

Did some Wi-Fi.

NE wind and rain at 11:30. Heavier rain at 11:45. Light SE wind and rain at 12:15.

Did a swage-fitting on the dinghy-hoist wire that failed a while ago.

Dumped 2 gallons of water from bucket to tank.

A very cool, grey afternoon.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  11/17/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Fat Hogs Bay / East End, Tortola, BVI.

Feeling a little headachey.

Off to Spanish Town this morning. Got the boat ready (found a crack in the bottom of one of my nice water-catching buckets). Thought of waiting for some rain to pass by, but then saw a huge wall of grey storm approaching from the SSE, and decided I'd rather be in open water for that. So engine start at 7:15, anchor up by 7:20, and motored out.

Soon had lots of wind and rain from the storm, but I was east of the worst of it. (Pictures of same spot before and during, looking back; the anchorage is just off the right side of the pictures.) Soon afterwards had wind from the WSW, but not very strong. I don't think it would have been nearly as bad in the anchorage as yesterday morning's storm, but still probably would have blown me aground again.

VHF WX forecast sounds great for crossing Anegada Passage to St Martin tomorrow: today light W wind with seas 2-4, tomorrow light SSE wind with seas 2-3.

A bit rolly on the way across, with wind and swells from SW or so competing with normal current and swells from SE. Odd weather. Saw a hefty piece of lumber, maybe a 6x6, floating past very close by; would have been bad to get that in the prop. Got to Spanish Town, and I've never been here in a SW wind; not sure I want to stay here overnight. Will decide that later.

Anchor down by 9:20 at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Got a free Wi-Fi signal.

A couple of guys going ashore in a dinghy swung by and one said "hey, was that John's boat ? John from St Thomas ?". Well, the first owner was named John, but he lived in Miami and I doubt the boat ever got down here. I said the first owner was John, and that was 20 years ago, and he nodded and took off. I'd have liked to hear more.

After lunch, dinghied ashore. Disposed of a bag of garbage. To the marine store to use the book-exchange (only found one semi-interesting book) and free Wi-Fi. Then over to the Customs/Immigration building to check out.

When I said I was leaving early tomorrow morning, the Immigration officer said "okay, you're checking out now, at 2:30, and you have to leave within 12 hours". I said okay, but the heck with that. The office is open 8:30 to 4:30; can't always leave within 12 hours. And I've talked to friends who checked out and then waited for days for weather. But never argue with an officer, just agree.

No problem with Customs, but then at the cashier a local lady ahead of me was paying some enormous fee, well over $1000, in cash; she had stacks of $20's, with at least a few $100's on top. So I had to wait 10 minutes for them to count and count again. My fee was $5.13. Last time here it was $1, I think.

Back to the dinghy and back to the boat.

Snorkeled under the boat; had to watch out for big wakes rolling the boat. Prop and hull not bad, but I got the prop as clean as I could, and did some of the hull. Some scrapes on the bottom of the keel and rudder from various groundings, but nothing bad. Screw working its way out of the front of the shoe on the bottom of the rudder-post; I screwed it back in with the corner of my putty-knife. Back aboard and washed off.

Later, a big catamaran "Seas The Moment" came in and started to drop anchor very close to my starboard side. I already wasn't happy about them coming so close to my boat, and I went out and said they were anchoring too close, and made a shooing motion, and said there's plenty of room here, no need to get so close. The guy at the helm said they were going to drop back and end up well behind me. He's right, but I'm a little gun-shy after all of these storms we've been having, and the unusual wind direction. They kept anchoring and dropped back, and ended up too close to another catamaran. So they raised anchor and moved away and picked up a mooring. Soon they had all piled into the dinghy and gone ashore. [During the night, the wind flipped from S to N a couple of times, and I was glad I had no one near me.]

Cleaned out the engine intake strainer.

Salad and PBJ-sandwiches for dinner.

Listened to NPR; fairly good reception here.

Headache went away during the evening, helped by a pill.

Quiet night; no strong wind or storms. Looks good for going tomorrow.
Sun for a new day  11/18/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, BVI.

Feeling good. Calm morning. But a big rainstorm approaching from the south. Better get moving.

Engine start at 6:20, and anchor up by 6:25. Paused for a ferry to pass, then motored south across the channel and toward the south edge of the BVI's. Started raining very quickly, and soon was pouring, with visibility down to 1 mile, and even 1/2 mile for a minute or so. Good timing: didn't get wet while raising anchor, and storm should pass before I have to see the gap I want to go out. Saw both ends of the rainbow: left and right.

Debated whether to go out past Round Rock, or take the shorter but riskier gap near the Baths. Storm passed, little wind, still some rain, visibility good, so I headed for the gap. Saw both ends of a nice rainbow, looking west. Slight current in my favor; made 4.6 knots or so going through. Had to look sharp (into rising sun) to avoid the unmarked rocks called "The Blinders".

Out by 7 AM and into open water. A little lumpy, with swells from a couple of directions, but about as calm as I could possibly hope for in this Passage. And the motion got a little better as I got further away from land. Unfurled the mainsail to help reduce the rolling. Making about 4 knots at fairly low throttle setting.

At 7:15, saw two small cruise-ships (pic) heading west, then turning north and going in via Round Rock, then up between Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Odd; wonder where they're going ?

Listening to NPR for a while as I went along; very nice.

At 8:25, passed a catamaran coming west, probably from St Martin. Not much wind in their mainsail; they're essentially motoring too.

At 8:30, making 4 knots at 106 true with no wind. Stuffing box is running cool; no problem.

At 9:30, saw a sailboat far behind, maybe coming out of Coral Bay, and maybe crossing east as I'm doing.

At 9:30, NPR fading out. Weather gorgeous: sunny with scattered small clouds. Water a beautiful shade of deep blue.

Around 10:45, that sailboat from Coral Bay has drawn even with me; they're motor-sailing quite a bit faster than I am. Doubt they can make it to St Martin before dark. I'm doing 3.8K on course 117T. I can see a trawler behind me, also heading east.

At 11, that trawler passed me, making maybe 10 to 12 knots.

Feeling headachey; another pill.

At 12:15, saw two trawlers, one heading E from St Croix (probably) and the other heading W from St Martin (probably).

At 12:45, saw a schooner motoring west. At 1, a sloop motoring west.

At 1:50, heard French being spoken on VHF 16.

At 2, saw a big ship to the south of me, and looks like our paths will cross. Kept an eye on it, and by 2:45 it crossed 2 or 3 miles ahead of me (pic). Looks like a tanker, heading NE, probably from Venezuela to Europe.

At 4, still can see that big hill on Virgin Gorda, through some haze. It's so tall that you probably can see it halfway across the Passage on a clear day.

Had some salad as part of dinner. Nibbled PB-crackers the rest of the night as the rest of dinner.

At 5:30, sun getting ready to set. Just about at the halfway mark of the trip, I think. 40.5 NM to go to the destination waypoint in Marigot Bay, but speed has dropped (to 3.6K) from what it was at the start.

At 5:35, saw a ship to the south of me. Turned on the RADAR, which shows it 7-8 miles away on almost a parallel course. But eventually it went away; maybe it was going the other direction ?

At 6:20, saw apparently-motionless light off starboard quarter. Figured later it probably was a fishing boat.

Searched the boat for the Leeward Islands chartkit I bought, before remembering I decided to buy two different guidebooks instead of a guidebook and a chartkit. For the Leewards plus Windwards, the charts add up to $300; the four guidebooks came to $120 or so. And the guidebooks have more useful charts in them. All they don't have is "see the big picture" charts.

At 7:05, saw the light-glow of St Martin, 35 NM from the destination waypoint.

At 7:30, furled the mainsail. Not doing much good, and I think I see dark clouds ahead (but not sea-hugging nasty dark clouds).

Headache really bothering me. Another pill.

At 8:45, making 3.3K and noticed engine temperature is 185 instead of normal 180. By 9:30, temperature is 190. Throttled down, but still making 3.3K.

By 10 or so, headache eased. Starting to feel pretty reasonable.

Half a dozen fishing boats scattered around in the middle of the Passage. But I don't see any with bright floodlights on deck. Maybe they're drifting and sleeping until the pre-dawn fishing hour ?

At midnight, can see a few lights on St Martin; I'm 18 miles from the "destination" in Marigot Bay. St Martin has some pretty good elevations, so it's not too surprising to see lights from a distance. Making 3.3 knots.
Sun for a new day  11/19/2009 (Thursday)
In transit across the Anegada Passage from the BVI's to St Martin.

Another set of fishing boats to avoid, closer to St Martin.

Rain at 2:15. I really want to be able to keep the hatches open, with the engine-compartment door open, to get air-cooling into there.

At 3:30, back onto soundings; about 95 feet deep, 6 NM out from the destination waypoint.

At 3:55, encountered a ship about 150 feet long or so, made up as a Christmas barge, I think, with lights all over it and float-like stuff on deck. Looks like they're doing exactly what I'm doing: heading for Marigot Bay, but slowing to wait for daylight. I tried to dodge around the ship, couldn't do it, and ended up shadowing it.

At 4:30, idled the engine and drifted, waiting for daylight and letting the engine cool a bit. About 3 miles from the destination waypoint, but I think there are a lot of anchored boats in there. So I need daylight. Certainly lots of lights in the harbor; confusing.

Feels good to be here ! Glad I got across the Passage this time. But I'm not quite safe yet. And I don't feel like shutting off the engine; who knows, maybe it won't restart for some reason and I'll drift all the way back to the BVI's !

Straightened up the boat a bit while drifting, then got out the laptop and tried to get a Wi-Fi signal. Couldn't do it.

By 5:45, getting enough light to start heading in. Can't see where that Christmas-ship went to. And as I head in, the picture changes. Most of those confusing lights were on shore, not boats; this place is mostly empty, and it's bigger than I expected. Where's the bridge I want to go through ? Finally see some anchored boats, and head for them. About 20 or so anchored here.

Anchor down by 6:20 at Marigot Bay, St Martin. Feels good to be at rest, but I'm sweaty and wrung out. And there are two more steps to do today: I want to get inside the Lagoon, and then I have to check in with the officials.

Dammit: fired up laptop, and refrigerator ran at same time, and battery voltage goes to 12.30, after engine ran for 24 hours ? I know the system voltage was up to 14.50 while the engine was running, and was charging at 30A or so when engine was first started, but I didn't look at amps after many hours of engine running. Something's wrong. Checked for loose fan belt, but it's fine.

Couldn't get a free Wi-Fi signal.

Tried hailing people on VHF 14, the cruiser channel here, to ask about the bridge opening. Couldn't get any response. Later listened to the 0730 cruiser net on VHF 14, and they couldn't hear me when I tried to introduce myself (and ask a question). Though I might have a USA/foreign VHF problem. But after the net, some experimentation showed that the VHF radio in the cockpit is not transmitting, and the one at the nav table below works. I hope maybe the microphone in the cockpit got soaked in the recent rains, and I can fix it. Glad I didn't have to try to talk to any big commercial traffic last night.

Tried calling the marina that runs the bridge, and calling the bridge itself, and got no response. (Try saying "Marina Port La Royale" several times quickly.) Guessed they don't open until 8, and that proved to be the case. Cuts it close for an 0815 opening; the next one is at 1430. Started engine, got through to the bridge-tender on the VHF, raised anchor, and headed toward the bridge (which is very hard to see; it points in an odd direction and is recessed).

Outgoing traffic has priority, and then I saw that there is a traffic light, but I had to hang close by the entrance to see the light and make sure the tender knows I'm there. The boats coming out, half a dozen of them, probably didn't appreciate me lurking so close by the exit, but I was watching a shoal on one side and that traffic light WAY down a channel that's a one-way trip for me; once I start down there, I'm committed.

Finally got the green light, and headed down the channel and through the bridge (pic taken later, from inside). The bridge opening is not overly wide, but catamarans came out, so no problem for me. Through it, then carefully stayed in the middle of the shallow channel as I turned right.

Wow, the Lagoon here is bigger than I envisioned ! Goes on for a couple of miles, and lots of empty room to anchor in. Very still right now, so I think I want to anchor out in the middle to avoid bugs from shore. But there's an invisible line dividing the Dutch and French parts (it's on the sketch-charts in my guidebooks), and I want to be on the French side (much cheaper fees, although maybe that's mainly for checking in, and not where you anchor; don't know).

Anyway, pulled off into a fairly central spot and put the anchor down by 8:40 at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin. Big relief to get in and find this place is good: I need to leave the boat here while I fly out for Christmas. So if this place had been untenable, alternatives would be riskier and more costly. Very calm here; I've had enough motion for a while after that anchorage at Spanish Town and then the Anegada Passage crossing.

Not done yet; have to go check in with the officials. Supposed to be easy on French islands; I'll find out.

So, launch the dinghy and head toward town of Marigot. (Man, my butt is sore, from perching in the cockpit of a rolling sailboat all day and night !) Saw one boatyard dock with some dinghies tied to it, and a lady heading in with her dog said we aren't supposed to use it, but there's no alternative and the cruisers all use it. So I landed there and walked out to the main road through the neighboring gas station. (Fuel prices: pic. Guess I'll see lots of new words here; "essence" must be gasoline. That's $1.35/liter, so $5-something per gallon ?)

Longish walk to "town", maybe about a mile. Big puddles of water, so they do get decent rain here. To the ferry dock, and a taxi driver helpfully pointed out the Customs/Immigration door I needed to knock on. A couple behind me was looking for the ferry to St Barts; as they turned away, I realized I've met them somewhere, they're cruisers too. Didn't get a chance to reconnect.

Nice air-conditioning in the office, and I sat down at a computer to fill out the clearance form. Very straightforward, except that they're French ! Both the keyboard and the application were French. Enough keys in different places to make it interesting, and the application mixed "USA" and "Etats Unis" in various ways and sorted them in different ways in different places. My previous port was "Iles Virges de Anglais", I think. The guy printed it out, I paid the €5 fee (which he converted to $8; should have been $7.50, but I didn't care), and that was it ! He didn't look at any of my documents (later, I questioned my memory of this; I think he did look at my documents, and my brain was so fried that I forgot that); I typed in all the info. Didn't look at my clearance out of the BVI; I've heard they really want you to clear out of the previous country properly, and won't let you in if you didn't. Asked where I was anchored, and I said "the Lagoon" (there are hefty per-day fees for anchoring in Marigot Bay; I can't imagine why anyone anchors there, unless they want to swim, or can't face going through the bridge, or want to day-sail to other anchorages or St Barts). I said I'd like to stay 3 months, and he smiled and said "stay as long as you like; no problem". Great !

Took a picture of the bay, from the ferry dock area: big pic. Came out better than I expected.

Didn't have the energy to do anything other than go back to the boat. Did stop at the Tourist Info Center to grab some brochures; they had a terrific mural on the ceiling of a very nice building (pics). Back to the dinghy, and decided to tour the NE end of the anchorage. It's very crowded with boatyards and other businesses, and lots of boats are moored fore-and-aft to pin them in place (pics; there's a boat under the flotation bags in the third pic). Some interesting boats, some bad ones (pics).

Back to the boat a little after 10:30. Typed in the log file and did the pictures.

Some high-speed skiff traffic right through the middle of the lagoon, roughing up the dinghy in the water a bit. Big powerboat came through at high speed, making a big wake.

Shoot: no free Wi-Fi in this spot, too. And no decent radio stations (found some later, but nothing like NPR).

Decided to loaf for the rest of the day. Hoisted the dinghy and read guidebooks about St Martin.

Good rain from 3:25 to 3:50, followed by a lovely strong cool breeze.

Can see goats, and hear them bleating, on the hill charmingly named "The Witches Tit" (pic). At dusk, heard lots of crickets ashore ?

(When in France, do as the French do ...) Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

No high-speed traffic after dark.

Slept like a log.
Sun for a new day  11/20/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Big rainstorm from 6 to 6:25. Then another from 6:55 to 7:15 with strong wind and tons of rain. Then mostly sunny.

Managed to connect to the 0730 VHF 14 cruiser's net and announce my arrival. Several other boats have arrived in the last couple of days.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Fuel level 12.0 inches at engine hour 4597. All engine fluids look good; oil is pretty black (normal, but I'm sure all that motoring really dissolved any sludge into the oil).

I want to get closer to the Dutch side of the anchorage, where there are more cruiser services, including (paid) Wi-Fi. So: Engine start at 9:05, anchor up by 9:10, motored up to French/Dutch line, and anchor down by 9:25 at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Explored the from-boat Wi-Fi situation. One signal from CaribServe; costs $95/month ! Another weaker signal from SmartWi-Fi: $90/month. Another from NETstar whose home page won't give rates, just phone numbers to call.

So, launched the dinghy and headed ashore. Found the marina I wanted without too much trouble, and then stopped a boatie-looking guy and asked him where the boaters-bar, Shrimpy's, was. Alas, it no longer exists. Walked down the street and found The Mailbox, where I signed up for five 2-hour blocks of Internet time, for $25 total. Would have been $5 per half-hour otherwise. Good to be back online.

Started looking at plane flights for Christmas. $730 round-trip to Philly. $320 round-trip to Newark. I think hefty taxes plus a $30 departure tax are added to those.

I asked the people at the counter if such a thing as a bus-route map or schedule existed, and they laughed at me. Of course not. But they do have a decent bus system here, it seems. Nice map of the island for sale here, for $15.

Tried to Skype-call Mom, but it didn't work. The people here say it should work, but Skype itself was having problems the other day.

Made plane-flight reservations for Christmas. Came to $425, and that doesn't include baggage fee and departure tax.

Finished my 2-hour chunk of internet, grabbed a couple of free newspapers, and out of the air-conditioning into the heat and humidity. Busy street, lots of car-traffic, lots of stores. Wandered for a few minutes, but I'm hungry and carrying a heavy computer-bag, so back to the dinghy.

Saw an expensive sailboat in a marina (pic). Something went thump off the hull of the dinghy, then got trapped in front of the outboard; turned out to be an empty bar-bottle of Johnnie Walker Black scotch, which I retrieved to put in the garbage later. Back to the boat for lunch.

JB-Welded the crack in the water-bucket.

Worked on the deck-leak on one of the starboard chainplates. Pried off the teak finishing, scraped and cleaned the old caulk out, applied new caulk, and put the teak back on. Pics. Not the neatest job.

Took apart the microphone on the cockpit VHF radio (pic). Didn't see anything obviously wrong; doused the internals with "electronics cleaner" (does that stuff really do anything anyway ?), and put it back together.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwich for dinner.

At dusk, a boat behind me, which had two wind-generators running merrily all day, was running a gas generator too. What can they be doing to need so much power ? Not a huge boat. [Later found out it's a family with 2 or 3 small kids; probably running a watermaker ?]

A little rain at 11:50, but not enough to test the deck-leak on the chainplate.
Sun for a new day  11/21/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

10-minute dinghy-ride down to the SE corner of the Lagoon, to a marine flea-market at The Lagoon Marina, AKA "Lagoonies". Figured it would be a good place to connect with some cruisers.

Right away, met a woman selling a table full of boat stuff, and it turns out she's Theresa, on the boat right next to mine, a Tatoosh 42 sloop "Revelator" (pic), which is for sale. She works at the sail loft here in the marina. I asked her a bunch of questions about where cruisers hang out, the bus system, book-exchanges, etc.

Disposed of two bags of garbage and that scotch bottle. The book-exchange here is closed today because the office is closed. A guy was very interested in the old Mercury 20 prop I had for sale, and took it away to try on his motor, but I guess it didn't fit because he returned it while I was out walking around. (We discussed having him bring the prop back to my boat later, and when I said I was on "a Gulfstar 44 with a pilothouse", he said "nice boat !". I don't usually get that reaction, but it turns out he really wants to add a pilothouse to his boat, so that's why he said that.)

Walked a couple of blocks (neighborhood is surprisingly tough-looking; lots of barking dogs, and one apartment complex had a security guard in a booth out front) over to a big marine store, Island Water World, just to see what they had. Got very interested when I saw a 15%-off sale on KISS wind-generators; I've been thinking about buying one. They're out of stock right now, but will have more in a couple of weeks, and a deposit would lock in the 15% discount. $1295 minus 15% is about $1100, plus I think 7% sales tax makes it $1177, plus I'd have to have a mounting bracket made, for maybe another $150 ? Wiring and maybe a fuse would add another $100 or so. So maybe $1450 total. The salesman has one of these on his boat, and says it connects to batteries with no regulator needed; never puts out more than 14.2V, makes up to 25A in strong wind. I think I'm going to do it. I'd mount it halfway up the mizzenmast; running the wires into the boat will be a bit of a pain.

Back to the marina. Theresa is trying to get rid of stuff, and I paid her $2 for some stuff she offered to me free: a small LED lantern that's a little flaky, three rolls of plastic packing tape, a couple of coils of wire. Later she gave me two multimeters for free; they measure current, which my good Fluke multimeter doesn't do.

We talked a bit about selling boats; I dread ever having to sell mine, because the process can be long and painful. Told her I have about $100K into mine after almost 9 years aboard, so suppose I have $120K in after living aboard for 20 years ? Could afford to abandon the boat if I had to, although I'd try to sell. She's selling because she broke up with her boyfriend and doesn't want to sail any more, and she bought it for $135K and added $50K more, and has been aboard 5 years. And of course her boat is much nicer than mine. So her numbers are a bit different. [Later found her boat ad; asking $85K, and new engine and transmission and fuel tank and paint and hatches in 2000; a steal.]

The Anegada Passage crossing I made in about 24 hours of motoring (in almost no wind), Theresa and her then-boyfriend sailed on one tack in 14 hours. Wish my boat could do that. Actually, in about 20-25 knots of SW wind, my boat could do it, probably. They waited 3 weeks in the BVI's to get their weather-window.

I took a walk down the other direction to Budget Marine, just to check it out. They don't have the Tohatsu high-thrust prop I'd like to try on my outboard; probably would cost $100 plus shipping from USA to special-order it. Probably not worth it. Lots of stock, but prices may not be good: saw 3/8 BBB anchor chain for $5.55/foot. Maybe heavy stuff is high-priced, because of shipping costs ?

Back to the marina, into the dinghy, and back to the boat by 11:30. Tired.

A lot of small-boat traffic today, being the weekend.

After lunch, put another coat of JB-Weld on the crack in the water-bucket.

Tested the cockpit VHF, and got a successful radio-check back from Simpson Bay Marina, so it seems to be working. Don't know if I fixed it, or just was out of range or something the other day. There is some funniness about USA versus international VHF channels that I don't understand; maybe that's a factor. My backup VHF has a USA/not button, but my cockpit VHF doesn't, and a little "U" lights up on channel 16 on the cockpit VHF.

Had a quick visit from Sean and Siggy, on a nearby boat. They dive and clean hulls (for money), and wanted to know if I needed their services.

I'd really like to hear NPR FM from St Thomas, but that's 90-100 miles away. Would a special or directional antenna work ? Not sure I've ever heard of long-distance FM radio reception (not satellite or HD).

Fixed the solar-garden light by sanding the batteries and battery terminals.

Dinghied north to the French side, landing near the canal/bridge. Walked across the bridge (pic; notice the gang-tag on the bridge-tender's roof) and down the street a bit, but it's not a very interesting area. There seem to be a lot of rough-looking neighborhoods on this island; wouldn't want to be ashore much after dark.

Back across the bridge and into the Grand Marche supermarket (AKA "US Import Sandy Ground"), a nice small (by USA standards) supermarket. There's a security guard at the door, and wandering through the store every now and then. Prices not too bad, but converting from Euro's and grams or kilograms to dollars and ounces and pounds took some work. Some of the French names on the products were a bit hard to translate (my French doesn't go much beyond "Holy merde !"). Bread very expensive (around $5 for a US-style 20-oz or 24-oz sliced sandwich loaf); maybe they expect you to buy that at a bakery ? No fresh milk, but many varieties of UHT milk (bought a liter for about $2). Exchange rate they used was €1 = $1.48, which is okay. They (like everywhere here) accept US dollars, but are a little light on US coins for making change. Saw a couple of very pretty women in the store; I should hang out in supermarkets more often.

Back to the dinghy and back to the boat. (Passed a boat tied up in the classic "between two wrecks" style; they taught us that one in sailing school; pic).

Heavy rain from 4:25 to 4:45, with light wind moving around from SE to NE to SW to NW and on around. No leak from the chainplate I caulked ! Dumped 4 gallons of rainwater from bucket to tank. Didn't bother to empty the other bucket; I have more water than I know what to do with.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  11/22/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Loafed all morning.

After lunch, started working on deck leaks. Found a corner broken off the anchor windlass (pic); that's not good. Little sprinkle of rain at 1:45. Took the interior finishing ring off a leaking fixed port in the galley, but couldn't see how to get the rest of the port apart without probably breaking something. Ended up caulking it from the outside; that might well fix it. Renewed the caulk around the base of the mainmast.

I've had an engine exhaust leak into the engine compartment; found several loose nuts on the studs holding the exhaust manifold onto the block, and tightened them.

Noticed Theresa on "Revelator" on deck in a bikini, listening to an iPod or something, singing at the top of her lungs, sometimes dancing around. Entertaining.

Took down the jib and stowed it in the main cabin. No point in letting it sit in the sun for 3 months while I'm anchored here.

Salad and PBJ-sandwich and cheese sandwich for dinner. Those somewhat-expensive rolls (briochettes) I bought at the supermarket are delicious.

Heard some BBC on a couple of the local FM stations at 4 AM or so.
Sun for a new day  11/23/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Headed ashore at 7:30 to do propane refill at Island Water World. Turns out the guy doesn't show up until 8, so I waited, chatting a little with one of the store workers, then with a cruiser from "Tabascocat" who also had his propane tank. He's spent a couple of seasons in Venezuela, and says the place has really gone downhill and he wouldn't go back. He's generally heading to the Bahamas and then USA.

Paid $20 to get 20 pounds of propane, which will last me 9 months or so. Filled tank will be back at 4 PM.

Into the store, and turns out they do have the wind-generator in stock; they found it after I left the store on Saturday. Signed up for an account, to avoid 3% sales tax. So the bill came to $1100.75 (and then my credit-card will tack on 3% for a foreign transaction).

Lugged the wind-generator box back to the dinghy, and then almost lost it into the water getting it into the dinghy; got a corner of it a little wet. Stupid.

Over to Lagoon Marina, and turns out they have a big book-exchange. Exchanged 9 books and a couple of magazines.

Back out to the boat. Passed a serious salvage operation (pic) with several divers and a couple of cranes that's been going on for a couple of days; wonder if a boat sank in the slip ?

Opened the box to see if I really got a wind-generator for my $1100. Looks good (pic), but some assembly required.

Early lunch, then dinghied in to Palapa Marina to go to the internet place. Did a two-hour chunk of time. Received this picture of my friend Ed trying to change the impeller on one of the engines in his catamaran; gives you an idea of boat-work: pic.

To the ATM for cash. Back to the marina, and the big sailboats here are so big it's hard to get back far enough to photograph them (pics). Exchanged a couple of books and got magazines at the marina book-exchange. Back to the boat (passing another cruising boat with two wind-generators and the main engine running; maybe these people have engine-driven refrigeration or something ? Or they're running an air-conditioner through an inverter ?).

Spent some time reading the wind-generator manual and measuring and sketching how to mount it on the mizzen-mast.

Dinghied ashore to pick up propane tank at 4; ended up waiting a while for it. As I went through the anchorage, looked for boats with wind-generator mounted on the mizzen-mast, and didn't see any. Then realized I wasn't seeing any ketches; no mizzen-masts. Eventually saw one ketch with a wind-generator on the mizzen-mast.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  11/24/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Launched the dinghy around 10 and headed for Marigot. Wind started howling from ENE, so I'm heading straight upwind, but at least that way I'm not getting wet. All the way up into the end of the water, to dock at a lagoon surrounded by shops and cafes.

Walked back a bit to the Tourist Info Center. Got a map of the island, and got someone to show me where there's supposed to be a very nice supermarket. Forgot to ask about the bus system.

Off through town to Fort Louis, and climbed a hundred steps or so to get to the top. Wonderful views (big pics). In the first picture, can see island of Saba faintly in the distance, to the SSW of St Martin. In the last picture, can see Anguilla close by to the N of St Martin. Can't quite see my boat in the first picture; it's barely hidden by the NW corner of the "Witches Tit".

Back down into town, and a long walk along the south side of town. Found the home-and-garden center I was looking for, and they have lots of good tools and supplies, but no aluminum pipe for the wind-generator mounting. Forgot to look for rubber mat to use as vibration-damping. To nearby Madco, which turns out to be a marine store, not a hardware store. So I don't know where to get any pipe; guess I'll have to have a machine-shop get the pipe and cut and drill it. Probably just as well. Back to the dinghy, feeling hot and tired. Back to the boat by 12:30.

That sailboat behind me is running two wind-gens plus the main engine again (pic). I had thought all of those fuel jugs lined up on both sides of the deck were for a long-distance passage, but maybe they're for power at anchor !

Took down the mainsail and stowed it in the main cabin. No point in letting it sit in the sun for 3 months while I'm anchored here.

Added water to the batteries.

Drew up instructions for a machine-shop to cut and drill the pipes for the wind-generator mount onto the mizzenmast (pic).

Rain at 4:35 and then heavier at 4:55. No longer have a leak down the mainmast compression post, but the fixed port in the galley still leaks, from the bottom. Took the finishing plate off again.

Salad and PB-sandwich and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries; it was totally grey after about 2 PM this afternoon, so the solar panels didn't do quite enough.

Woke up in the middle of the night realizing the dimensions of the wind-generator mount had to be a bit bigger than I had thought. Forgot to allow for blades hitting mizzenmast when generator is facing sideways.

Rain at 1:30 AM and 5:30 AM.
Sun for a new day  11/25/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

On yesterday's VHF cruiser's net at 0730, I asked if people were doing anything for Thanksgiving. On today's net, a couple of places announced they would do special meals and get-togethers. I signed up for one at Lagoonies.

I've been struggling with the design of the mount to attach the wind-generator onto the mizzenmast. There are a lot of factors: want to have the generator on a pole with no obstructions within reach of the blades, so even if it spins a circle relative to the boat, nothing bad happens. And I want to bolt the mount onto the mast, not drill holes into the mast. And use big sturdy pipe and bolts, because the thing is pretty heavy and it will move a lot when the boat rolls.

But the blades are about 29" long, so I end up (after the increases required by my middle-of-the-night realization) with a 5-foot vertical pipe supported by four 3.5-foot horizontal pipes and two 4-foot diagonal pipes. Will stick out 3 feet in front of the mizzenmast. And it would have to be pretty high up the mast, to clear the main topping lift. But you want the generator within reach of a boat-hook, or even by hand when standing on top of the pilothouse roof, to turn it sideways to lash it down in heavy weather, or to take it down in case of hurricane.

So, I did a revised design (pic), not allowing the wind-generator to swing more than about 45 degrees off forward. This results in a 2.5-foot vertical pipe supported by four 2.5-foot horizontal pipes and two 3-foot diagonal pipes. Will stick out 2 feet in front of the mizzenmast. Smaller and lighter and sturdier than the previous design, and can mount it a bit lower on the mast. The downside: if the tether preventing the generator from swinging more than 45 degrees ever breaks, the blades will destroy themselves against obstacles. Maybe I'll install two tethers. More downsides: generator won't run while sailing more than 45 degrees off the wind, or while boat is in a marina slip or pinned with a stern anchor and wind is more than 45 degrees off forward. [Found out later: the mast-mount sold by KISS has the same limitations, although at more like 130 degrees from forward. And their site says trying to allow 360-degree swinging might result in something too big and heavy and weak on the mast.]

Headed ashore around 9:30 or so. Halfway to Island Water World, saw a cruiser rowing an inflatable dinghy; looked like his outboard had quit. Before I could get to him, someone else was giving him a tow. When I reached the dinghy dock and saw him there, I lent the toolkit I carry in my dinghy to him. I always carry a couple of screwdrivers, spark plug wrenches, swiss army knife, some line, some spray cleaner. He started working on his outboard while I went into the store to measure some bolts and look at various things.

Came out of the store, and he was having no luck. I left my tools with him and headed to Lagoonies next door; he was going into the store to buy some new spark plugs.

At Lagoonies, disposed of two bags of garbage. Then I went to the machine-shop, where the guy turned all my plans upside down. Can't get 1-1/2" aluminum pipe here; comes in metric sizes. And it's $20/meter, and my design uses 6 or 7 meters of it. But mostly he doesn't like my idea of bolting all the pipes together (which I chose mainly because I can do it myself, without paying a shop). He says the soft pipe will crush and I'll never be able to keep those bolts tight. He wants to weld everything together. I think he's right.

He also wants me to make a cardboard cutout that shows the exact shape of my mast cross-section, so he can make close-fitting clamps for it. I think that's a bit of overkill, but I'll do it. And next time I'll bring in the wind-generator pipe collar that's sized for 2" stainless steel pipe; maybe he'd rather work in that material. He's a bit happier when I tell him I was planning to run lines from the bracket to the rigging, to provide lateral support.

As we talked, and I told him the wind-generator seemed to weigh 30+ pounds and had 29-inch blades, he said "why don't you buy an Aire-X ?" (or some such name), because it's smaller. I didn't think much of that, since I've already bought the KISS, which is top-rated, and also bigger blades generally mean more power.

To the marina office, to get them to look on the internet for starting time of a big boat-race starting here on Friday. Surprisingly hard to find on the race's web site.

Back over to IWW, and the guy I lent my tools to is having no luck with his outboard. He has a Mercury 15 very similar to the old Mercury 20 I threw away. I told him I think he needs to disassemble the carburetor and clean it out. In the meantime, I said his only hope is to buy some starting fluid here in the IWW store and see if that works. He gave me my tools back, headed into the store to do that, and I left.

Back towards the boat, looking for a place to land and try to get to a supermarket I've heard about. Picked an abandoned dock just N of a fancy marina, paddled in through very shallow water, and walked out to the main road, through a guarded gate. Turns out I've landed in a quiet corner of the property of Hotel Princess resort and casino (there are 9 casinoes on the Dutch side). Hit it perfectly: the supermarket is right there !

Into the Grand Marche supermarket, which is on the Dutch side, and which my friend Ed calls "the best supermarket in the world". I can see that he has a case for it: the supermarket is big and loaded with lots of high-quality stuff at okay prices. And it turns out they're having an "anniversary sale" on various items until 12/8, so I get a few good deals. Time to start sampling the European experience a little: instead of the bargain-basement cheddar cheese I usually buy, I get some Emmental Couer de Meule and some Coulommiers Presidente. Good prices on sliced bread and fresh milk. I'm too tired to really explore the store and load up, but I'll come back soon. A bit of confusion at the register: I've been converting prices to US dollars and remembering them, but the register is showing only NAF's (Netherlands Antilles Florin, AKA Netherlands Antilles Guilder). But the total in US dollars is reasonable. Supermarket on the French side used only two currencies, but this side uses three ($, €, NAF). As well as all of the metric stuff: grams, kilograms, liters, etc.

Back to the dinghy and back to the boat by noon.

Made a cutout of the mizzenmast cross-section (pic). Not exact, but pretty good.

I have an idea that the deck-leak in the fixed port might be coming from a line of screws holding on some teak trim above the port (pic). So I spent some time starting to get that trim off. It's a pain of a job, because the manufacturer thoroughly caulked the whole length of the trim, not just the screw-holes. Lots of work with a putty knife and a hammer, trying to be careful not to damage the fiberglass. Used some rubbing alcohol to try to weaken the caulk. Got one end loose a bit, gave up for today, put the screws back in.

Ashore around 2:30 again, to the machine-shop. Gave the guy the pole-top parts for the generator, and the various diagrams and measurements I've made; he has to think about what pipe he can use and what the design should be. I'm going to have to come in and prod him every day, I think.

While I was in the shop, I explained Thanksgiving to him (he's Dutch, I think). And when I said the whole thing hadn't been so great for the Indians, an Australian guy who'd just come in said the settlers killed more Indians than Hitler or Mao killed people. I said I didn't think there were ever a total of 6 million Indians in America, but I'd have to look it up.

To IWW, and bought 2 gallons of gasoline ($8.25).

Did a little exploring. Over to Simpson Bay Marina, walked around, found a book-exchange, sat at the dock reading a newspaper for a while. Saw a nice figurehead on a boat (pics; as sometimes the case with women, looks a little better from a distance !). Then under the low bridge to Snoopy Island, past the Dutch bridge, past a couple of megayachts (pic), and back to the boat.

Dumped 2-3 gallons of rainwater from bucket to tank.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  11/26/2009 (Thursday; Thanksgiving)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Dinghied in to Palapa Marina to go to the internet place. Did a two-hour chunk of time. Skype-called Mom but got her answering machine. Found the nice cheap Ozark sandals I like are back in stock on walmart.com; ordered two pairs. Back to the boat for lunch.

Took down the mizzen-sail and stowed it in the main cabin.

Dinghied ashore at Lagoonies around 3:30. Early for the Thanksgiving dinner, but I had a couple of things I wanted to do. Stopped at the machine-shop to see if there was any progress. The guy is vacillating between aluminum and stainless, but the main problem is figuring how to clamp the mount to the mast. Maybe it's my problem: somehow I've decided I don't want to drill holes in the mast, I want to clamp around the mast. A few reasons for this: drilling the holes high up will be slightly difficult, I don't want to hit radio or RADAR wires that are inside the mast, and I want to fiddle around with the exact mounting height with mount and generator and blades all in place. But I may have to give in and drill holes.

One thing that I don't like about this shop: he seems to be thinking only in terms of what materials he has in the shop right now. Maybe it's hard to get materials here (as I suppose I've found out by looking for pipe). And he is pretty busy with other jobs. But he'll be there through the weekend, which is good.

Out to the street and walked inland, mainly to explore, but also because I've heard there's a hardware store somewhere up here. Longish hot walk up busy side-street with no sidewalks, to main road. But there's the prize: an Ace Hardware Megacenter! Lovely big store, maybe half as big as a Home Depot. Lots of great stuff, but no pipe and no rubber sheets (for vibration-damping). Across the street to a small TruValue hardware store that seems to be in a clearance sale, but no joy there either. Back down to the waterfront.

Timing was good: chatted with some guys for a minute, and then the food was ready. The full Thanksgiving spread, and it was good ! Sat at a long table and ate and chatted with a bunch of guys. $15 for the food and $1 for a Presidente beer. Lovely desserts too. No pretty women, really, but you can't have everything.

Three guys were from a Tayana 37 "Kameloha", and had just arrived as part of a rally. They started in Rockport ME, went to Newport RI, then Bermuda, then here. The Newport to Bermuda leg was hideous: nice in the Gulf Stream, but a gale before it and a gale after it.

Another guy just bought a Sparkman and Stephens boat here, a neglected boat that needs a lot of work. He's just done or had done a lot of work on rigging, engine, etc. Now comes lots of cosmetic work. Then he invited me to come sail on some sort of race-boat on Sunday, on a casual test-sail to Anguilla and back. The boat broke its mast last year, and they're still tweaking the replacement. He's not sure the sail will happen, but if it does, he'll stop by my boat to contact me.

He's an experienced cruiser, and we started talking about hurricanes. I've been wondering if this place is a decent hurricane hole, but he says no. He says the only decent hole here is Mullet Pond, but it's tiny so you have to beat the crowd. [Later, I see that my chart shows most of it being 1 foot deep, but he said it's deep, just avoid the shoal on the right as you go in. And my chart and Google Earth disagree by a hundred yards or so.]

Another guy is a diesel mechanic here. He's from Michigan, and arrived here in 1996 or so in the aftermatch of hurricane Luis, a category 5 hurricane which destroyed about 1000 boats here out of 1400. He mainly works for a salvage company, and worked at salvaging engines out of those 1000 boats. He said when he first landed here by plane, there was a wall of destroyed boats about 3 boats high along the shoreline in many places; they had bulldozed openings through the wall so you could get through. His company is the one working on that salvage I photographed the other day at the corner of the Yacht Club marina; he says a work-barge sunk in the slip there, loaded with an excavator, a small crane, a welder, maybe a generator, and some other stuff. They've raised the stuff off the deck of the barge, but floating the barge itself is giving them fits.

The dinghy-ride back to the boat in the dark was a bit scary; should have brought a flashlight with me. Stayed along the less-traveled edge of the harbor, but still had one close encounter with another dinghy; we saw each other and veered away. At least half of the boats here don't use anchor lights, and there are lots of unlit channel markers and unused mooring balls. But you still hear some reasonably fast dinghy-traffic at night. Back aboard around 6:45.

Very still and warm night; made sleeping a little difficult.
Sun for a new day  11/27/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

A reader suggested I get Sirius satellite radio; my understanding is that it doesn't work here (and I tried it on south coast of Puerto Rico a few years ago, and it didn't work there). So on the morning VHF net at 0730, I asked if anyone could confirm it here. Got conflicting responses: one boat said the Sirius weather service works but the radio doesn't; another boat said the radio works most of the time but cuts out for 5 seconds or so intermittently, sometimes every 5 minutes, sometimes not for hours. Wish I caught the boat-names; I wonder which exact models of radios they're using.

Also on the net, the guy I lent tools to yesterday gave me a public thank-you for the help. He said eventually someone found something (probably the needle-valve ?) in the carburetor was sticking; "beating it to death" fixed it.

Headed ashore around 9:30. Stopped in the middle of the harbor to watch megayacht "Trident" ease in through the Dutch bridge very slowly. Didn't look like the width was so much of a problem; maybe the depth was close. People on another megayacht in the Plaisance marina were watching with interest. While I was watching, my outboard stalled and I couldn't get it restarted. So I paddled over to a nearby moored boat, tied onto the mooring, and got a very close look at "Trident" coming past as I worked on my outboard. Pics. I guess the outboard was flooded; got it going after a while.

On into Lagoonies, disposed of a bag of garbage, and walked next door to FKG rigging. I'd had a bright idea that maybe they sell something that clamps around a mast, and I could use it as the basis of the wind-generator mount. But the rigger who came out to the office was thoroughly unimpressed with me or my ideas, and said that nobody made such a thing because it would interfere with a sail-track (I have behind-the-mast roller-furling, so not an issue for me). So no luck there. Guess I'll be drilling holes in the mizzenmast.

Started raining, so walked over to Lagoonies. Didn't see my machinist at a quick glance, and didn't have much to say to him anyway, so I just sat in the bar area while it rained for a while.

When most the rain had passed, into the dinghy, across past Simpson Bay Marina, and out under the Dutch bridge into Simpson Bay. There's a race starting this morning, the Course del Alliance from here to Saba to Anguilla to Marigot, I think (maybe St Barts is in there somewhere). Looks like I've just missed the start; some boats heading off in the direction of St Barts, but others are milling around a bit, then following. Pics. None of the boats look like anything special; disappointing. Interesting day-charter boat moored out here: pic.

Back through the bridge (against some current), across the harbor, and back to the boat. Saw a dog on the usual position in a dinghy: pic.

Weather stayed solidly grey and threatening rain all day. Actually rained a little a couple of times.

Spent a couple of hours getting a long section of teak trim off and scraping caulk off fiberglass.

Wild goats ashore behind my boat (pic).

Smoke blowing across the harbor from a fire ashore around 3:30.

Checked outboard's spark plug (it was fine) and added oil to the motor.

Salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner. One sandwich with Emmental cheese; it was okay. The other with soft Coulommiers Presidente cheese; it was fabulous. Served with a lightly chilled 2009 Diet Coke with a shot of $6/liter rum in it. Magnifique !

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries; fan belt sounds bad.

Very still and warm night; made sleeping a little difficult.
Sun for a new day  11/28/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Loafed a bit, feeling tired. Then dinghied ashore to Lagoonies around 10. I guess they have a flea-market every Saturday; they're having another one today. Chatted with a couple of people.

The machinist was busy with someone else, so I skipped him and walked down to IWW. Asked them about ordering a mizzen-mast mount from the same company (KISS) that makes the wind-generator I bought from them, and got all kinds of foot-dragging. Gee, we've never ordered or stocked that, not sure how we'd get it, there's no part number, don't know what the price would be, I guess we'll call them next week and ask. You'd think they'd want to sell me a $250 item, but no. I was hoping IWW could handle the ordering and shipping and Customs instead of having to do it myself, since they buy the generators from KISS anyway, but it's not looking good.

Back to the machine shop, and that was equally frustrating. Tried to describe a simple mount, three aluminum pipes and some aluminum sheet, all cut and welded together, and just could not get the guy to give me even a ballpark estimate. He charges $70/hour plus materials, and whatever it comes out to is what it will be. And he's busy with other jobs. Got back the pieces and drawings I had left with him, and back to the dinghy.

Irritating to have this $1100 generator sitting here and getting no use out of it. But I guess it's hard to hurry things.

Over to Simpson Bay marina, and to the book-exchange. Found them throwing away a bin of hardcover books, because they have too many. So I ended up leaving 3 books and getting 9. Had a little trouble starting the outboard: took 5 or 6 pulls. I'd better get a carburetor rebuild kit and a service manual for it; no service manual for it was in print last year.

Headed back to the boat. That barge-salvage operation is still going strong, with several divers and several big pumps going full blast. And passed a boat slowly towing something sunken (pic); I guess my problems aren't so bad.

Scraped caulk off the teak trim, cleaned up the fiberglass some more, then put the trim back on, with caulk on the screw-holes only.

Looked at my outboard to see how hard it would be to take the carburetor off and disassemble and clean it. This 1-cylinder Tohatsu has a much simpler layout than my old 2-cylinder Mercury; much easier to work on. Carburetor and fuel-pump are separate, not together, don't have to remove choke to get at carb, etc. Did notice that rubber boot on ground-wire to bottom of engine block is cracked and torn.

Tightened engine fan belt, but it still is a bit loose. Something in there is a bit wobbly.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

No word from that guy about tomorrow's possible sail to Anguilla; guess it's not going to happen.
Sun for a new day  11/29/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Finished reading up on long-distance FM radio reception (I'd like to receive the NPR station from St Thomas), and it doesn't look good. I'd need a high-gain and directional antenna placed high up, and would need to keep adjusting it to keep it pointed in the right direction. Not feasible.

Squirted a lot of water on the outside of the fixed port in the galley, and it still leaks. So it wasn't the screws on the trim, or at least not only from there. Let the port dry, scraped old caulk off the starboard-aft corner of the pilothouse, and then caulked both areas.

Pumped a couple of gallons of rusty water out of the forward bilge.

Salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner.
Sun for a new day  11/30/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

On the morning net, someone announced a flea market and BBQ with beer at a boatyard on Saturday at 8. BBQ and beer at 8 AM ? Maybe they meant 8 PM ?

Dinghied in to Palapa Marina to go to the internet place. Ordered a wind-generator bracket from KISS in Trinidad. One part of web site says it costs $245 plus shipping, order form says $145 plus shipping. Skype-called Mom but got her answering machine.

To IWW, to tell them not to bother getting the KISS bracket info, I've ordered it myself. Then to Budget Marine, where I had no joy: the carb-rebuild kit I need is overpriced and out of stock, and the outboard service manual exists (it didn't last year) but they don't know a price for it and of course don't have it in stock. Back to the boat.

Squirted a lot of water on the outside of the fixed port in the galley, and it doesn't leak any more. So the caulking around the outside of it worked. Probably should caulk all of the other ports for good measure.

Pumped out the main bilge.

Sailboat "Vertoso" came in and anchored between "Revelator" and myself, a little close. Later they moved, and ended up too close right in front of me. But it shouldn't be a problem unless we have a nasty storm.

Chicken-onion-cabbage-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  12/1/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

On the morning net, "Vertoso" said they needed a puller to get their steering wheel off, so I called them and lent them two pullers I have, a too-small impeller-puller, and a NAPA Auto puller. The second one worked for them. They invited me for drinks in the evening.

Worked on terminals on damaged batteries, but no luck.

Caulked outside edges of all fixed ports.

Dinghied in to Lagoonies. Noticed that the salvage company has raised that sunken work-barge; took them more than a week.

Disposed of 2 bags of garbage. Exchanged 4 books at the book-exchange. Diet Coke for $2, and used their Wi-Fi for about 3 hours. Chatted with Gary from Beneteau "En Route", who says Sirius satellite radio is working fine for him here.

No email response from KISS about the bracket order; that's the main reason I did Wi-Fi today, to look for that. Sent them an email to try to poke them a little. Ordered an outboard service manual ($40) through an EBay store. Tried to order a carburetor repair kit from another site but it kept giving me an error message (eventually got it to work; $34 including shipping for a pretty skimpy little kit). And a fuel-pump diaphragm for my outboard would cost $25 plus shipping; didn't order one. At this point, I'm having all of the small stuff shipped to my USA address; simpler and cheaper than trying to have it sent here.

Back to the boat. I think there are a few more big boats accumulating in the marinas. Today marks the official end of hurricane season, and probably a lot of boats are free of insurance restrictions that kept them out of the area.

Around 5 or so, dinghied up about a hundred feet to "Ventoso" (Ventoso) for Happy Hour. Ended up staying until after 9. Very nice people, John and Janet. They're Scottish, have been living on this steel sailboat for about 10 years, and have sailed about 40,000 miles in that time, using an Ares wind-vane for self-steering. Crossed the Atlantic at least once, had the boat down to Brazil and Uruguay, and up to Nova Scotia. And Janet has been to some other interesting places, such as Afghanistan and Ecuador. They say Venezuela has really gone downhill; the out-islands are okay, but they wouldn't go near the mainland now. They've been up rivers into the Amazon region a bit, but not on the Amazon itself. I had a couple of gin-and-tonics and we nibbled some Pringles and some olives. Nice conversation about boats and politics and various things.

Somewhere down in South America, they had a bad grounding (no damage), due to trusting a local pilot that they took aboard. Reminds me of a story I read years ago: Dennis Conner was bringing an America's Cup sailboat into the Chesapeake, decided to be safe and hire a local-knowledge pilot, and the guy ran them aground.

They've been to Cuba, and liked it. When they came out of Havana, they'd been told to avoid Florida, mainly because of hassles due to the Cuba embargo. So they spent 3 weeks sailing from Havana all the way up to Beaufort NC before clearing in to the USA (not sure that's legal). And still got hassled by officials when clearing in. And got boarded by a USA warship and shadowed and monitored by USA forces all the way up.

They're not sure what their plans are. They've never really had a plan, and much of their cruising has been kind of rushed, often forced to move along by time-limits in visas or cruising permits. Right now, they just arrived from Antigua, have about 2 weeks to get various boat-work done, then need to get back to Antigua to meet someone. They and I have been to some of the same places, and know a few people in common.

Back to the boat, and cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Brilliant full moon tonight.
Sun for a new day  12/2/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Around 10, launched the dinghy and went exploring toward the airport. Jeez, this is a big harbor ! Went and went, and then turned upwind and went along the shore, looking for anywhere interesting to land. Only interesting place was Bobby's marina and boatyard. Went in there and found the office, which was full of dogs snoozing on the cool tile floor, and a few cats here and there (pics). There are a couple more dogs under the desk that you can't see in the pictures. The office-lady collects strays. They have a big book-exchange, too; I'll come back for that some other time.

Got a quote for hauling out here: $1300 for haul, sanding, painting. Materials and paint not included; I can buy the paint elsewhere if I wish. No charge for lay-days or yard-days.

Wandered through the yard. One boat looks like it's been here a while: pic. Another was having a holed section of the hull cut out: pic. Back in the dinghy, saw an unusual boat in the marina: pic.

Across the harbor to the abandoned dock, avoiding some guys in a skiff floating out an anchor for one of the newly-arrived megayachts in the marina. Marinas definitely are starting to get more arriving megayachts.

Walked up to the main road. Saw a new temporary security booth going in: pic. Walked along the road a bit; I'd heard there was a NAPA Auto up here. No sign of it, so walked back and got groceries in the Grand Marche supermarket. Liter of Jamaican rum for $6. No pretty women in the supermarket. Back to the dinghy and back to the boat.

Repaired a davit-fender; the other one disappeared, maybe during the Anegada Passage crossing.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Rain around 6.

Ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries. Was fairly grey this afternoon, after 3 or so.

Brilliant full moon again tonight.
Sun for a new day  12/3/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Windy by mid-morning, and stayed windy all day.

I'd like to move my boat to a lower-traffic spot, and put two anchors down, well before flying out on the 16th. But "Ventoso" is right on top of my anchor. Guess I'll wait a couple of days and then deal with it.

Worked on bow-light wiring. Took out the old bow lights (pic), which were much-patched and broken and mounted too low and in the way of mooring lines that go through the chocks. Caulked the old holes closed, and drilled a new big hole. Threaded a wire through it and inserted a rubber sheet to keep the wire from chafing against the edges of the hole, and finished it with lots of caulk. Working on the wires in the anchor chain locker was the worst; had to remove the big shelf and reel of line in there, and it's cramped and awkward and dirty in there.

Dinghied in to Lagoonies. Chatted a little with John and Janet in the bar. I had noticed that they had four propane tanks hanging on the stern of their boat; turns out they have a propane-powered refrigerator.

Bought a beer ($2; thought it might be cheaper than a soda, but it wasn't) and did Wi-Fi. Laptop is giving problems sometimes, maybe because of something I installed the other day; uninstalled it. Still no confirmation of wind-generator bracket order. Skype-called KISS in Trinidad, and it sounds like the guy has been out for a couple of days, and has been avoiding his email today, and hasn't looked at the order queue. So he said he'd get to it. Price of the bracket is $140, which is good news.

Headed back to the boat. Marinas here definitely are filling up with megayachts. Plaisance marina seems to be filling up fastest, maybe because they have a casino on the property.

Salad and tuna-salad-sandwiches and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

Brilliant full moon again tonight.
Sun for a new day  12/4/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Net this morning said the "Christmas winds" have started; will blow E 15-20 for a while. Glad I got across the Anegada Passage when I did. [Next day, net said these may be pre-"Christmas winds". But seas are around 6 feet, with some days up to 8 feet, so I'm glad I made it across earlier.]

Listened to an MP3 of Car Talk's latest show, which someone sent to me through email. Very nice; I guess I'll start downloading these myself.

Feeling tired this morning; can't be from that one beer I had yesterday. Made myself get going around 11, went on deck to work on the bow light, and promptly bashed my right little toe into a port. Hurts like hell; might have cracked it.

Finished the bow-light work. Recut the wire a little, did all the connections, slathered caulk over all of the connectors. Put the anchor chain locker back together.

Looked up prices of bottom-paint in the stores here, and got a bit of a shock. The price of Pettit Trinidad 75 has just about doubled since the last time I hauled out, to $243/gallon. I need about 3 gallons of it. So a haulout and bottom-paint here would cost over $2000. I think I may skip it. Just keep snorkeling to scrape the hull, and also replace the prop-shaft zinc.

Occasionally grey and sprinkling rain during the afternoon.

Just finished reading a book about a couple who built a restaurant on Anguilla, the island north of here. Last chapter was about hurricane Luis, and the guy rode it out here on St Martin, in the marina about 1/4 mile south of me. Reading the chapter really freaked me out a bit; I can see everything he's writing about, and most of the boats here got pulverized, and a dozen or so people got killed (total on the island). That was a direct hit by a category 4 or 5 hurricane, and the central travel slowed down to 4 MPH as it got here, maximizing the damage. Scary.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

I think those batteries with damaged terminals are draining my other batteries a bit. Switched to just the good batteries, and ran engine for 30 minutes to charge batteries.

Wind very gusty all night, often quite strong gusts. Sprinkled rain quite a few times.
Sun for a new day  12/5/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

My little toe looks bruised and feels a little sore, but I don't think it's broken.

Launched the dinghy around 8:30 and headed for the French side. As I approached the canal, saw a big wooden boat anchored there (pic). As I took the picture, the couple aboard waved me over, and asked for a ride to shore. Coming next to their boat, I saw it had big chunks and holes rotted out of the hull; really looked bad. As I ferried them in, they said the boat was Turkish, had been in fresh water, and the hull had been built out of non-treated wood, so now it was falling apart. But they said it was very nice inside.

In to Time Out boatyard, where they're having a flea market and barbeque. Looked at the stuff for sale, into the office for a haulout rate sheet, and exchanged five books at the little book-exchange. The haul-out rate for my boat is 460€. Can't figure out if there's a yard-day charge; the rate sheet is in French (later used a French-English dictionary on the internet, and even it couldn't translate a couple of the words: "grutage" and "calage"; maybe "haul-out" and "storage" ?). And painting and materials would be extra; have to find a contractor to quote that, unless I want to do it myself (no, for the sanding at least). Paint store on-site is closed today, so can't see paint prices.

Then John and Janet and I dinghied to the far corner of the harbor, toward Marigot. Got rained on briefly, and caught a bus to Phillipsburg ($2). Lots of fun looking for stores and views and such on the way there: "oooh, there's Cost-U-Less ! there's a NAPA Auto !". On these islands, a good store with parts you need to fix something is a real find.

Into town, and started walking, looking into stores. The streets and sidewalks are narrow and fairly busy, so it wasn't a very relaxing experience. Didn't get much chance to take any pictures; just one of semi-interesting trim on a house (pic). Some pretty women here and there.

John and Janet spent some time looking at buying a notebook computer, then looking for a sewing machine. Eventually we ended up at a beachfront cafe for lunch ($13 for my burger, fries, soda and tip). Nice beach view, one cruise ship at the dock, but this harbor lacks the character and interest the Lagoon has.

Yesterday I had noticed several dinghies in a cluster a hundred yards or so behind my boat. John and Janet said a guy had been flying along in his dinghy when somehow the outboard came loose from the transom. It went overboard, and several other dinghies converged to rescue him, and someone dove down and recovered the outboard (probably in 10 feet of water).

Back to the shopping; I bought a hat ($5), and John and Janet bought the computer they had looked at. Eventually, back onto a bus and back to Marigot ($2). The buses were nice, air-conditioned, and we never had to wait more than a minute for one to appear. Traffic was heavy in our direction, but it was completely stopped much of the time in the other direction.

Back to the dinghy, and gave a French guy a lift out to his nearby boat. Back to my boat by 2:45.

Salad and cheese sandwiches for dinner.

From midnight to dawn, rained several times, with lots of wind.
Sun for a new day  12/6/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Dumped 3-4 gallons of rainwater from buckets to jug.

Dinghied in to Lagoonies around 9:30 to do Wi-Fi. Still no email response from KISS in Trinidad ! Helped John and Janet install anti-virus and firewall and Skype on their new computer, and learn how to use it a bit. Did about 5 hours of Wi-Fi; paid $4 for two Diet Cokes. Skype-called and chatted with Mom's answering machine for a while. Then John and Janet treated me to the barbeque dinner here as a thank-you. Ribs and fish and salad and a side-dish and another Diet Coke and melon for dessert.

At the dinner, we chatted with two couples who had quite a cruising history. They'd been in the Mediterranean together, one of them had cruised up the Seine to Paris, they'd both crossed the Atlantic to get here, of course, cruised up the USA east coast to Maine, etc. All over the place. Made me feel like a piker.

As I headed back to the boat, saw lots of activity related to a boat-show at Plaisance marina, I think. Big megayacht "Trident" was leaving. A helicopter kept making low passes through the harbor and almost right over me. Pic. Later saw a skiff with a professional-type cameraman over near the Witches Tit, filming it.

Back to the boat by 4:30. John and Janet appeared at their boat, towing in a older French guy on a jet-ski that had broken down. They left the jet-ski tied to their boat, and John gave the guy a dinghy-ride over towards Marigot. Janet called over to me and asked if I wanted a jet-ski; she seemed a little irritated that they'd gotten involved.

PB-crackers for dinner.

Light rain off and on all night.
Sun for a new day  12/7/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Very grey and damp at dawn, but sunny after 8.

That broken jet-ski is still tied to "Ventoso".

Cut and drilled some pieces of PVC pipe to improve the rain-catchers that guide water into the buckets.

Kept looking at the wind and sky and placement of "Ventoso"; I want to raise anchor and move to another spot today. I want to get out of this high-traffic area and find somewhere to leave the boat while I'm in the USA for Christmas. Preferably somewhere with nice shallow water and lots of room. But there are lots of boats here, and I have to stay on the French side of the Dutch/French border, and I can't be somewhere remote or I won't be able to bum dinghy rides when going to/from the airport.

Strong wind and rain around 11.

Around 11:45, the wind shifted a bit south, "Ventoso" swung away and my anchor was clear. So started the engine and motored up and raised the anchor with no problem. Then started looking for a new spot. Did a loop along the south edge of the Witches Tit and then back through the middle of the anchorage. As usual, every possible-looking spot has a mooring ball in it, some of them probably unused for years. Found an open spot in the middle, but it looks a bit deeper than I hoped, probably is a bit grassy, and it's surrounded by moored boats. Tried it anyway; primary anchor down around 12. Backed down on it a bit, seemed to be holding, put down the secondary, and done by 12:10 at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

But about 10 minutes later, wind was strong, and I realized I was dragging. So started the engine again, and raised secondary and then primary anchors (in blustery wind, took a while, got pretty tired). Motored up to the east edge of the anchorage, and found some shallow open water that seems to be right about on the Dutch/French line. There are boats south of me, and I doubt anyone enforces the line very strictly. Biggest problem is thick grass on the bottom. Put the primary anchor down, backed down hard, and done by 12:50 at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin. Left the boat on one anchor; if it still looks good tomorrow, I'll put out two more anchors.

At 2 PM, all of the megayachts in Plaisance marina started blowing their horns at the same time. Not sure why. Maybe it's the end of the charter boat-show (not sure what that was, anyway).

This spot is nice and calm and quiet. Hope it doesn't get buggy at night. And hope we don't get strong W wind (unlikely) before I put down the additional anchors and pin myself in place. I'm pretty close to shore to the E.

Dumped 1-2 gallons of water from buckets to tank.

Wind is pretty swirly here. Put down the second anchor by 3. Managed to step too hard with my right foot, and the hurt little toe started throbbing again.

Chicken-onion-rice and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

The anchors seem to be sliding on the grass; I'll have to deal with it tomorrow.

Walking through the main cabin in the dark, snagged my hurt little toe on one of the stored sails, and howled with pain.

Plenty of strong gusts of wind during the night, but the anchors mostly held.
Sun for a new day  12/8/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Calm in the early morning, so launched the dinghy at 7 and put out a third anchor, pulling the boat forward as much as I could. Then lifted the primary anchor into the dinghy and moved it forward as much as I could. Probably will snorkel on all three anchors this afternoon and see if I can dig them into the roots of the grass.

Rain at 7:45.

Dinghied in to Palapa Marina to go to the internet place. Limping as I walked down the street. Traffic was piled up for half a mile because the bridge was open.

Still no email response from KISS in Trinidad, so I Skype-called them. The guy apologized, said they'd had some breakdown that has stopped their production line. And while he's dealing with it, he's been letting the incoming orders and emails slide. He promised to start looking at them today, and at least send a "there will be a delay" confirmation of orders. I'm ordering a bracket, not a generator, so he might have them in stock (I didn't quite ask). No chance it will arrive before I fly out of here, so I will pick it up in January.

Skype-called Mom, and didn't get even her answering machine this time; she probably turned it off by accident again.

Back to the boat. Feeling a little headachey.

Around 2:30, went snorkeling around the boat, to check on the anchors. Water 6-7 feet deep, visibility about 15 feet, lots of grass but it's not long and slippery. Bottom seems very loose and fine particles. Anchor chains have sunk into it and become invisible. Anchors nearly invisible. As soon as I disturbed the chains, clouds of fine grey soot rose up and hung around for a long time, with no current to push them away. Tried to follow the chain to the primary anchor and couldn't. Followed the rope line to the third anchor, and it's buried very well; didn't mess with it. Back to the bow, held my breath and followed the chain hand-over-hand until I found the primary anchor. It was on its side, and I tried to right it and bury it, and managed to stick its point into something a bit solid. Tried to find the secondary anchor, couldn't, and eventually did the hand-over-hand thing along its chain. Found the anchor well buried, would like to move it a bit further W or SW, but decided not to disturb it. Back to the primary anchor, buried it better, and called it a day.

Wind is very swirly here, at least this week. Boat is circling a lot and anchor chains and line are getting twisted. Going to be a chore to untwist them and raise anchors when I get back.

I'm in the unfashionable, long-term end of the anchorage. A few nearby boats: pics.

Salad and cheese-and-crackers for dinner.

Lots of wind and rain during the night; anchors seem to be holding fine.
Sun for a new day  12/9/2009 (Wednesday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Still feeling slightly headachey.

Oatmeal for breakfast, using packets of flavored oatmeal that are left over from my long-departed girlfriend, about 7 years ago. Didn't kill me (the oatmeal, that is).

Dinghied in to abandoned dock and walked up to the supermarket. No pretty women today. Got a few groceries and back to the dinghy and back to the boat. Feeling tired.

Plenty of rain at 12:30. Again at 1:45.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.

At 7, high wind and then rain. Occasional high wind and rain throughout the night.
Sun for a new day  12/10/2009 (Thursday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Still feeling slightly headachey.

Did a bucket of laundry.

Dinghied in to Lagoonies to do Wi-Fi. My Wi-Fi adapter is failing (eventually got it to work; problem may have been simply that they changed the Wi-Fi password here). Still no email response from KISS.

Did a couple of hours of Wi-Fi while nursing a Diet Coke ($2). Back to the boat with rainclouds threatening, but they blew over. Back aboard by 12:30 or so, turned the laundry on the lifelines, ate lunch, brought the laundry in, and a little rain at 1.

Around 3:30, out in the dinghy again. Nearby dismasted sailboat has three wind-generators on it: pic. Realized that another nearby boat I photographed a few days ago (pic) has remnants of three wind-generators on it: one on stern with blades, another on stern with no blades, and a mount up the mizzenmast with no generator on it. Saw a salvage boat with diver in the middle of the anchorage, raising a sunken motorboat; I've never seen so much salvage activity as I've seen in this harbor. Swung by "Ventoso" to say hi, but no one home.

Across to "Bobby's at the airport" to use the book-exchange. This is the marina and boatyard with all of the sleeping dogs in the office, but late afternoon is feeding time, and all of the dogs were up and frisky this time. Large book-exchange in the laundry room, but the books were very dusty and linty, and a swarm of gnats bit my ankles as I dug through three layers of old books on high bookshelves. Got 7 or 8 decent books and left. A couple of dogs followed me out onto the dinghy dock, and one of them got aggressive when I sat down and then got into the dinghy. Had to yell at it and stare it down as I untied and left. Back to the boat.

Salad and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. New cheese "Le Bonne Vache" isn't so much to my liking. Maybe I shouldn't be buying cheap cheeses that seem to have no "type" name, only brand names. (Later, noticed that the ingredient list starts with "fromages", and somewhere else on the package in tiny letters it says "fondu", so I think it's a mixture of various cheeses, and maybe is intended for melting into a fondue ?)
Sun for a new day  12/11/2009 (Friday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Finally heard the BBC shortwave station Janet told me about; she had the time wrong by an hour. I had been trying slightly different digits in the frequency, single-sideband or not, AM and PM, etc. 9740 at 0700 not-SSB is the right thing. I really miss NPR, and free Wi-Fi on the boat; had them both in Culebra.

Tried a small experiment with the auto-pilot program: ran the power into the board from a small DC-DC converter, on the theory that the converter might filter out power spikes caused by the back-end motor-box relays. Didn't change anything. Suspect the surges are coming into through the board's relays, but need to run the board from a completely independent power source to confirm that.

Chili and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  12/12/2009 (Saturday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Read something that made me laugh for a while. From a travel book about Australia, "In A Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson:
In the 1950's a friend of Catherine's moved with her young family into a house next door to a vacant lot. One day a construction crew turned up to build a house on the lot. Catherine's friend had a four-year-old daughter who naturally took an interest in all the activity going on next door. She hung around on the margins and eventually the construction workers adopted her as a kind of mascot. They chatted to her and gave her little jobs to do and at the end of the week presented her with a little pay packet containing a shiny new half crown.

She took this home to her mother, who made all the appropriate cooings of admiration and suggested that they take it to the bank the next morning to deposit in her account. When they went to the bank, the teller was equally impressed and asked the little girl how she had come by her own pay packet.

"I've been building a house this week," she replied proudly.

"Goodness!" said the teller. "And will you be building a house next week, too?"

"I will if we ever get the f*cking bricks," answered the little girl.

Tried running the auto-pilot board off a 9V battery, and the program ran, but the two old batteries I had were too weak to make the on-board relays click. So I need to buy a new battery.

John and Janet stopped by to say hi. Good thing I had shaved earlier. We sat in the pilothouse and chatted for a while. I gave them a hardwood-plywood board I had; they've been looking for a piece of hardwood to make a cockpit table. They told me a boat fell off the stands in "Bobby's at the airport" boatyard, an aluminum-hull boat, and it got badly damaged. Details were scarce, something about them moving the stands so they could paint where the pads were, they took a break for lunch, someone borrowed one of the stands, and the boat fell down. John and Janet said they'd been told about two other boats that fell in that yard a year or two ago.

Rain at 4:30.

Apple and salad and PBJ-sandwich for dinner.

Long horn blast from a megayacht at 7 PM; went on for 45 seconds or so. Don't know if it was deliberate.

Heavy rain at 4:30 AM.
Sun for a new day  12/13/2009 (Sunday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Dinghied in to Lagoonies. Noticed five four-spreader sailboats in Plaisance as I went by; expensive sailboats. One was a ketch, with 3 satellite domes and two RADAR antennae up the mizzen-mast: pic.

Disposed of two bags of garbage. Couldn't connect to Wi-Fi at Lagoonies (no one could). Kids running around playing noisily in gladiator costumes. Tried to fix an old laptop for John and Janet, and couldn't get any life at all out of it. They invited me to their boat for dinner, but I'm trying to eat through food in my refrigerator before leaving, so we changed it to Happy Hour tomorrow evening.

Eventually got a little Wi-Fi, just enough to upload the log file and do a couple of emails. Still no email from KISS. Then the Wi-Fi got worse again, it was lunch time, and more kids arrived, including one blowing a whistle loudly. Brief chat with a couple I'd met before, then into the dinghy and out to the boat. Interesting views of a forest of satellite domes on the boats in the Yacht Club as I went past: pics.

Spaghetti and a rum-and-coke for dinner.
Sun for a new day  12/14/2009 (Monday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Dinghied in to Jimbo's restaurant at Simpson Bay marina to do Wi-Fi. Restaurant was empty except for a couple of other people doing Wi-Fi. The wait-staff started showing up, and didn't mind that I was plugged in to AC power. But then the boss showed up, minded it, and said that'll cost me $3. So after doing about 90 minutes of Wi-Fi, as they were starting to put out place-settings around and under me, I paid the $3 and left.

After lunch, dinghied ashore to Portofino marina, narrowly avoiding a double-decker excursion boat that seemed intent on running me over; I gave him the finger after I was safely out of his way. Walked across the main street, down a couple of side streets, and out onto Simpson Bay beach. Nice, long, curved beach (pics) with few people on it. Walked the length of it W or NW or whatever, and my hurt little toe was complaining a little. But the sand and water and sun and exercise were good. The beach runs along the S side of the airport, but the terminal and such is all on the other side; just a fence on this side. At the far end of the beach, found a way to get off the beach and onto streets again, and walked through a neighborhood and out to Maho Beach.

This beach is at the W or NW end of the runway, separated from the runway by a fence and narrow road. Nice-looking beach (pic). But why bother with a beach when you can have extreme bodily harm: pic ? Some of the excitement here is to watch planes pass right overhead as they land. Plane. Ahem, how about Plane !

But the real fun is to get blasted by the jet-wash as a plane floors the engines as it starts the takeoff run. So I loafed here for an hour or so, watching the fun. Finally had a takeoff that did some damage: pics as plane taxiis, jetwash on beach (center to left edge), jetwash tumbling people, sandals floating out to sea.

[Later, I read that some people even cling to the chain-link fence with their hands, as the jet-wash blasts them out horizontal, as if they were flying. Seems that this would be extremely dangerous: if you lose your grip, you'd going flying and land on concrete or asphalt or hit the concrete wall.]

As I left, hurrying across the impact area and watching out for a plane that had been sitting on the taxiway for a while, a big plane landed almost across the top of me. I quickly got the camera ready, worked on the zoom, and then ... pressed the wrong button, turning the camera off instead of getting the picture. I'm not good under pressure.

Walked home along the other side of the airport. Very industrial and high-traffic, as I expected, but I wanted to see what was here. Saw a harbor-tour sign; what the heck do those prices mean (pic) ? Back to the dinghy-dock without getting run over, and back to the boat. Pretty tired; probably walked 3 miles.

A few cheese-and-crackers for an early dinner, then dinghied over to "Ventoso" at 5. Chatted and nibbled and drank a couple of rum-and-cokes with John and Janet, and had a nice time. Nice mix of talk about boats and St Martin and politics and ideas. Back to the boat by 8, and had some more cheese-and-crackers to finish off dinner. Feeling tired and headachey.
Sun for a new day  12/15/2009 (Tuesday)
At anchor at Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin.

Feeling tired and headachey.

Loafed all day, napping and taking pills. Headache.

Sausage-onion-noodle-cheese for dinner, using up the last of the refrigerated items. Turned off the refrigerator and cleaned it out.

Slept poorly. Headache and pills all night.

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