Tuesday, June 30, 2009

free falling south

When we left Port Antonio at 6:00 on Monday, we knew that the first 25
miles were going to be rough, and they were. We motored against the wind
and a choppy sea over a SE 8 foot swell and were tossed around until we
turned the corner at 11:00.
Then we were able to stop the engine, hoist up the main with one reef
and unfurl the full genoa with the wind slightly behing the beam at 20
to 25 knots. Shortly after, we ran into a rain shower with wind in it
and we double reefed the main. After the shower had passed, we realised
that we were still doing upward of 6 knots, so we kept the main double
reefed and the genoa full. We have kept the same setup ever since and
after 30 hours, we have covered 182 nautical miles. It is a little bit
physical as we have a 9 foot swell on the beam and rolling sometimes
heavily. That does not stop us however to enjoy our drinks before dinner
and to cook decent meals.However, late in the morning on Tuesday, we got
a short but fierce squall with more than 30 knots of wind in it, and
after that we remained with 22 to 28 knots of wind forward of the beam,
which is a lot less comfortable. But we knew all along that the run to
Panama was not going to be a walk in the park.
The only problem comes from the main computer which keep freezing and I
have had to switch to the Toshiba laptop, already setup as a backup, for
navigation and other tasks that does not require an internet connection.
I suspect that the main computer does not like the heat (90 degrees
inside the boat and probably more inside the chart table), and the
temperature is causing something to fail, probably with the hard drive.
For the time being, I will only start that computer when I need it.
If we keep sailing at that speed, we should get to Colon very early on
Friday morning. I am expecting the wind to drop significantly the last
day but we should still make it for Friday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tracking Papy Jovial

We have picked up David at Montego Bay and are now ready to leave Port Antonio tomorrow morning at day break, assuming that we will get customs clearance today.
To track Papy Jovial, once you have clicked on the link "Where is Papy Jovial ?", and once the world map has opened with all STW boats on it, click on "Asset Map". On the next page, select on the pull down menu "asset name" the name Papy Jovial. It will open a world map with only Papy Jovial on it, but also with the past trail since the departure in Norfolk.
You can zoom on the map by dragging your mouse to make a rectangle of the size you want around the icon of Papy Jovial.
Hope my explanations in frenglish will be clear enough.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Port Antonio

Port Antonio is a place where the word "nap" will soon become a major word in our vocabulary.
The day usually starts around 6:00 a.m. when the combination temperature/humidity is still pleasant and after breakfast we can go through one or two projects (swim ladder, third reef, calibration of windmeter, etc...).
At 10:00 a.m. and until 4:00 p.m., better not be too active. A swim or a nap are OK, but nothing violent. After 4:00, it is time to go ashore and into town for shopping.
We finally managed to clear customs last Sunday, and immediately left the marina to take up a mooring. There, we can still use the WiFi, use all the facilities of the marina, but instead of paying 75 cents a foot per day, it is 10 dollars per day. The water is 10 cents a gallon and the electricity 60 cents per KWHd, so, it's a no brainer. We have plenty of water and the solar panels and the genset cover more than we need.
During the day, we usually have a thunderstorm or two, which cool down the boat and the air.
During most of the night and almost all afternoon, the music never stops, from restaurants, bars, open air night clubs, and sleeping is best in the second part of the night.
We are beginning to find our way around town. Next to the marina is a farmers market with a good variety of fruits and vegeta
bles, and close by is a bakery and a supermarket where we can buy meat (mostly chicken, the safest bet), eggs and few groceries that we may need when in port.
Jean-Francois made an attempt at buying wine made in Jamaica. It's called Red Label, is 13.7 degrees proof and costs all of 1.5 dollars for a third of a litre. However, it never made it past the first sip. Obviously, the local beer (Red Stripe), which is basically a local Heineken, is a much better choice.
I was looking to buy a pair of shorts to wear on the boat, as mine are very very near the end of their natural life. But, no luck anywhere. Apparently in Port Antonio, only women and children can find clothing. At least, that is our perception. I wonder where the men get theirs. I asked around but had no luck.
Saturday, we are going to rent a car and drive to Montego Bay to pick up David. There is no public transportation available, unless you are prepared to change bus four or five times, and a taxi would cost upward of 180 dollars. The rental is supposed to run at 70 dollars, with no extras, and includes insurance and unlimited mileage.
If we are lucky enough to get our customs clearance on Sunday, we'll leave on Monday morning at day break, as I know that we will be motoring against the wind until we turn the NE corner of Jamaica. Early morning, the wind is almost non existent which is why I want to leave early. But customs might decide otherwise. We'll see. As usual.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reggae time

After one idyllic day sailing, we got the photo negative on the next day, with the wind dropping completely at 8:00 when we arrived at the Windward Passage. And we had to keep motoring until the next morning when we were able to help the engine with the main sail, then with the genoa, and it is only 25 miles from Port Antonio that the conditons were good enough for sailing only.
We entered the bay of Port Antonio too late to hope to clear quarantine, customs and immigration. But we found a slip at the new Errol Flynn marina. This is my first visit after more than 20 years and a lot of things have changed, not the pleasant and cordial welcome from the locals.
We tied up but could not get any of the facilities (wifi, water, electricity) as the office was closed. We could still use the bathrooms which are clean and well equipped.
After a good night sleep (although the music never stopped from the various open air night clubs) we started Saturday with the intention to use the day to do the formalities and start provisoning.
Well, that was if the various people involved in the clearance would show up.
The manager of the marina showed up as promised at 7:30 a.m., except that I had forgotten that they have one hour difference and my watch was already showing 8:30. It turns out that the electricity is not at the proper frequency and might damaged the air conditionning, the water is at 15 cents a gallon and the marina at 75 cents a foot. We have plenty of water (we used an average of 3.75 gallons a day between the two of us), we have the genset to run the air conditionning if we wanted to and the solar panels are providing up to 20 amps for most of the day. So, as soon as we are cleared, I intend to go to the moorings across from the marina, which are only 10 dollars a day and we can still use all the marina's facilities (wifi, laundry toom, showers and bathroom AND a swimming pool.)
David emailed us that he will be arriving next Saturday afternoon, so we are planning on leaving Port Antonio for Colon on Sunday morning, unless a hurricane is visiting the area.
Late in the morning, the Quarantine officer showed up andgave us our clearance (against $20 for overtime) but we never saw customs or immigration. I suppose that we will have to wait for Monday morning. Does not matter since the manager assured me that we would not be charged dockage as long as we are not cleared.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A very good day at the office

We left Acklins Island at 7:00 this morning with the best weather
imaginable. Easterly wind around 10 knots steady. As soon as we cleared
the anchorage, we put up the main sail and the full genoa, set up the
windvane Monitor, and off we were. It is now 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday,
and we are still making good way on close haul but under sail and windvane.
As soon as we cleared the southern tip of Acklins Island, I tacked to
make more east and clear the adverse current. We kept the tack NE for 2
hours and then tacked back towards Great Inagua which we should reach
around midnight.
There is no way that we are going to waste such favourable conditions
and we will not stop at Great Inagua, but continue towards the Windward
passage that we should reach probably late morning tomorrow.
I was able to measure how well we are doing against the wind. Not much
change from previous tests. We do around 150 degrees between tacks on
the ground, and 120 on the water.The sinus of 15 degrees being 0.26, it
means that if we are doing 5.5 knots through the water, we are closing
our target at 1.38 knots or 33 miles per day. Better choose an itinerary
that goes with the wind, and this is basically what we will be doing
across the pacific.
We are 275 miles from Port Antonio and we might be able to reach there
on the 19th evening, although I would prefer to make it on the 20th. If
need be, we will slow down as we get closer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oh What a night !

Before leaving the anchorage and Rocky Point, we did the procedure to
recalibrate the wind instruments from factory default, which had not
been done by Smith Electronics. Hopefully this will be it.
We then motored through the bank towards Nuevita Rocks, which is not
difficult if you followed the recommended tracks on the Explorer Chart
book for the Far Bahamas. We exited the bank at 17:00, and shortly after
that, I put up the main, hoping to attract the wind. We did not get much
until after dinner but around 20:30 we were able to stop the engine and
sail on almost a direct course, on a close haul but at 5 knots.
At midnight, coming on deck to take my shift, I decided to set up the
Monitor windvane. While at the back of the boat, I discovered a giant
bamboo, probably 8 feet long and 6 inches in diameter. At first, we
tried to shake it off underway with a hook with no success and the loss
of the hook. I then tried to heave to, but we were still making too much
headway. We dropped the sails completely and then hanging from the
windvane mount, I managed to put a line around the bamboo. Jean-Francois
was then able to move it forward to a point where it was perpendicular
to the boat and it freed itself. I checked the rudder best I could
inside and outside and found no apparent problem, so I set up the
windvane and we restarted the boat.
For a while, it worked very very well. We were doing again more than 5.5
knots with around 12 knots of wind and on an almost direct course.
Around 3:00 a.m. we had to reef down to 2 reefs with thunderstorms in
sight but were still OK. And at 5, the wind disappeared, the sea became
quite choppy and we had to go back to motor sailing.
Since we had Acklins Island nearby, I decided to stop there for the
afternoon and the night, in part to check the underside of the boat. We
anchored at 12:30 and I went below the boat to find a few scratches on
the rudder but no real damange otherwise.
We will probably leave tomorrow afternoon in order to arrive at Great
Inagua during the day and anchor there for our last night in the Bahamas.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rocky Point

Quiet day today. We left Sampson Cay at 6:45, with, as we knew, a light
breeze in the nose. All day we had to motor, sometimes with the help of
the main, down to one reef to avoid flapping.
Got to Rocky Point shortly before 4 p.m. and anchored in 9 feet of water
in front of a desert small island. Nobody around, no flies, no
mosquitoes, we are in for a super night.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


At first, I was going to title it "No free lunch". It looked like Staniel Cay was going to have to be earned. As soon as we entered the bank on Friday morning, around 1:00 a.m., we got a continuous queue of heavy thunderstorm, with rain and lightning, all the way to Staniel Cay where we arrived around 4:00 p.m.
I went to the dock there to learn that they had no fuel and did not know when they were going to have some. I then turned around and went to Samson key that I had never visited before.
They had fuel, and showers, and a restaurant, and WiFi, and a nice anchoraged with good holding opposite the fuel dock.
So we took about 35 gallons of diesel (I won't tell you the price), I bought a 10 dollars wifi card valid for 24 hours and we anchored just across the fuel dock in 7 fweet of sand with extremely good holding.
Obviously, the firt thing I did after anchoring, was to try and get on Internet to post on the blog, get the mail, get a grib, and so on . . . No luck, no matter what I tried, I could not connect. I then concluded that I was probably doing something wrong, which is easy when trying to connect on a secure connection and decided that we would go back to the dock on Saturday morning and find out what I was doing wrong.
I then proceeded to prepare a "Ratatouille nicoise", together with some german sausage, which we helped down with californian wine, and we went to bed, as we were a little tired after this first overnight trip of some 190 miles.
Saturday morning, after a very very good night, extremely quiet, and after breakfast, we worked on the emergency ladder and on the odometer, which had stopped working after Fort Lauderdale.
We found out that my idea of putting the ladder on the transom did not work, but it would work on the side. It actually did for getting in the water and out of it at anchor, but I doubt that it would do for someone falling in the water at sea underway, and trying to get back.
Anyway, we drop the idea of the emergency ladder and kept the one of a swimming ladder which was working just fine.
We then went ashore to clear the mystery of the Wifi. It turned out that the Wifi was down, but if we would come with our computer, we could connect with an Ethernet cable to a connection ashore and do what we have to do. So, we visited the island, found out that on Saturday they had a beach party, with beer at $3. So, no brainer, we will come back for internet and beach party.
Back on the boat, we worked on installing the First Aid kit on the side of the companionway, tighten up the stuffing box and the packing on the rudder post, installed the sun shower and went swimming.
Then lunch and nap. Well deserved. This afternoon, it will be Internet (for grib files and blogger and mail), beach party and beer. Tomorrow morning, we will proceed to Hawksbill Rock and anchor for the night before exiting the bank on Monday through Nuevitas Rocks.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Away we are . . .

I can hardly believe it, but at last, we can now say that the big trip
has begun.
We left Cooley's Landing at 8:00 on Wednesday morning, forgetting that
the bridges on the New River are restricted until 9:00.
Never mind, this gave me an opportunity to show Jean-Francois the New
River by sailing up to the Davie Blvd bridge at slow speed, and then be
back in time for the opening of the 7th avenue bridge and the following
We briefly stopped at the Lauderdale marina to top up the fuel tank and
went thru the 17th street bridge at 10:00. Free at last ! No more
bridges, no more restriction, we are going to Jamaica.
The crossing of the Gulf Stream was probably the smoothest I have ever
experienced. Flat sea, a light breeze from the NW allowed us to motor
sail, with full main and genoa and anchor at the back of Bimini around
North rock around 8:00 p.m.
The only small worry was to find out that the odometer of the main
engine was not working. Probably, when the electronician went in the
back of the electric panel to change a breaker, the connection to the
odometer became loose. I will check that once in Staniel Cay.
At 6:30 on Thursday, anchor away to cross the bank towards the NorthWest
channel. We got there (I mean the exit of the bank) at 5:00 p.m. and
after having to take two reefs on the main because of a thunderstorm, we
are now motoring towards the south of New Providence Island hoping to
get back on the bank around 1:00 a.m. If all goes well, we should anchor
outside Staniel Cay around 5:00 p.m. on Friday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

All systems go

Now this time, it is for real. Jean-Francois arrived as planned on Sunday and has adpated to the boat rather quickly.
Monday and Tuesday, we have been very busy putting the finishing touch, doing the provisionning, helping fellow sailors from the french cat
 "Ti Moun" who arrived on Monday and needed repairs to their watermaker.
We took advantage of it to have a nice lunch together at 
The water catchment has been installed, the proper mast fitting has been installed by North Sails Fort Lauderdale on the boom vang, all administrative things, like customs clearance, mail, banking and all that have been taken care of.
Now is time to enjoy it. No matter how hard I tried to look for what I forgot to do, I think that the boat is as ready as it can be. Now is time for CRUISING !

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wet, wet, wet, . .

Since I arrived Sunday afternoon, everyday has seen thunderstorms and lightning, sometimes severe, and a lot of rain.
Monday morning, I was able to play 17 holes with David before being rained out by a heavy downpour. And it has been much of the same everyday.
However, I have been lucky enough to find people here who performed like true professionals, and the few problems that I still had, mostly in electronics, have been solved. I have received the new part for the boomvang and it will be installed on Monday. The zipper on top of the lazy bag which had reached the end of its natural life has been replaced, and the webbing on the third reef which was 5 inches too short, has been replaced by one of the correct length.
For the computer, the breaker on the circuit where it is connected has been upgraded from 5 to 10 amps, the connection itself which was shaky has been corrected, and a fan has been installed on the side of the chart table to keep it well ventilated. And the connection between my coax and the wifi antenna has been repaired and replaced by a connector which is supposed to withstand my own weight. And the electronician showed me how to share the internet connection with the other computers without using a bridge but just an ethernet cable to the router.
All that is left now is provisionning and making an inventory of what we have.
On Wednesday, I was invited for dinner by John and Sara, and Frank and Mary joined us. As always when we are among brothers, nice and pleasant evening.
Today, I was supposed to go and play golf with Frank, but rain again made it impossible. Maybe on Monday. Otherwise, I will have to wait for Ecuador.
With Jean-Francois arriving on Sunday, I will concentrate tomorrow on house cleaning and laundry.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Last dash to Fort Lauderdale

This was not going to be an early departure. We got up probably around 7:00 and took our time to have breakfast before we cast off for the last leg of this transit down to Fort Lauderdale. We passed the locks and the bridge around 8:30, but then found out that the zipper on the top of the lazy bag was stuck half way. After some time and a pair of pliers (actually two of them) we managed to open it and get out of Cape Canaveral. As soon as we were clear of the channel, we were able to put up main sail and genoa and for a few hours, it was great sailing at around 5 knots with less than 10 knots of westerly wind.
It was time to test the "guaranteed to catch" fishing gear that Stew had 
put aboard. David set it up and after less than an hour, zzzzzzzz the line went out in a hurry. Followed a good half hour of fighting on the part of David to try and get in whatever was at the end of the line, that we only saw at the last minute. We got it on board with 
the hook I purchased at the last minute before leaving Portsmouth. It was definitely a big fish, and David paid for it with a big bla
ck patch on his groin. I will have to buy a fishing belt if I want to do something similar.
Anyway, with the fish on deck, I took out the bottle of spice rhum and delicately poured some of it in the gills of this Amber Jack which as a result died peacefully and happy. David says it probably was a 40 pounder. You can judge from the picture. Out of the fillets, we got some sushis for lunch, grilled fish for dinner and fish sandwich for lunch the next day. And there was some left over.
After lunch, I kept switching between motoring and sailing until the wind died out for a while. Then, around 4:00 in the afternoon, we got into a monster storm off Vero Beach, with 55 k
nots of wind in it and very heavy rain. It did not last more than 25 minutes, but with the lightning very close (at some point it was less than 100 yards away) it was uncomfortable to say the least.
Then it was all over, and the rest of the trip was motoring and no wind.
As we entered the channel into Port Everglades, we sailed across Rhumboggie with Sam and Carol, on their way back to Norfolk and we had a chance to chat for a while.
As we got to the 17th street bridge, we were told that the bridge was malfunctioning and to wait. I dropped the anchor right there, underneath the bridge and at 11:40, was able to heave away and get through the bridge which had been repaired. At noon we anchored into L
ake Sylvia as I wanted to wait for the slack at high tide before going into the New River. This is what we did at 3:00 p.m. and we tied up in Cooley's Landing marina at 4:00. Almost immediately, Roland and Gary arrived to pick up Justin and drive back to Cocoa Beach.
And then it was Miriam who arrived to drive us back to Miami, as I was going to stay the night there and play golf on Monday morning with David. That will be the next story.

Monday, June 1, 2009

In port

Once you are in the care of Gary, you can bet that you will not have much time for the boat. Gary is a wonderful host who likes to take you to most of the good places that he knows.
So, that first evening on Thursday, once I had taken my fuel and tied up at my dock, we were off first to take care of a few items on "the list", and then to Melbourne where Gary showed me the historic downtown, before visiting a busy irish pub to sample the beer of the day (I settled down for a draught Killian) and then going for dinner to a very nice restaurant in the area. After dinner, we got to visit another bar, with music (not too loud) and patrons covered in tattoos. And then, back to the boat, much later than my usual bedtime.
Friday morning, I had a late morning and took care of a very few items aboard, before Gary was back to take me for a little more shopping and then lunch at Cape Canaveral. In the afternoon, nap time while Gary went to Melbourne to pick up David who had taken the bus from Miami.
That evening, Gary had organised dinner with friends, some of whom might form the nucleus of a new group of brothers in Cocoa Beach. There was Roland and his son Justin, Dave who had sailed on Papy Jovial on her first outing from Jacksonville to Cape Canaveral last year, Daphne, friend of Gary who owns a travel agency in the area, and of course David, Gary and myself.
After dinner at Roberto's, a very good cuban restaurant in Cocoa Beach, Gary tried to drag us to the "Inner Room", his favourite top less bar. In the entrance, I could feel that the air conditionning was set a its max, and I turned away, for fear of getting too cold. So, instead, we went to a bar on the beach for a couple of "night caps" before returning to the boat.
Friday morning, I could take advantage of David's presence to get a few things done on deck, like installing the new VHF in the cockpit, securing the attachment for the 1st and 2nd reef line on the boom, installing a guide for the spinnaker halyard, which tends to stay to far away from the mast and does not sit properly on the winch. When it came to install the third reef, I discovered that the strap for the rings that go on the hook at the head of the boom was at least 2 inches too short which means that I could not take the third reef. When I called North Sails in Hampton, I only had to say one or two words before they described the problem back to me, which means that they are used to it and where aware of its possibility. Yet, they delivered to me a main sail not fitted properly. That coupled with the fact that they had sent back to me the lazy bag with no opening for the third reef does not say much about their professionalism.
For lunch, Gary took us to "Hooters" in Merritt Island, before we tried at Radio Shack to find a coupling to replace the one that failed on the coax fitted to my Wifi antenna. No luck ! I will have to try and see with the electronician in Fort Lauderdale if they can help.
By the time we got back to the boat, it was almost time to go out again, this time to Roland's, who had prepared a wonderful "chili con carne". After dinner, Gary and David headed out for the "Inner Room" and Roland took Justin and myself back to the boat. I had invited Justin to sail with us down to Fort Lauderdale, and this nice 14 years old kid was very excited and very much looking forward to his first outing at sea.
After I showed him the basics on the boat, we went to bed in anticipation of an 8 o'clock departure tomorrow.