Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chain Plates

Chain plates are the long rectangular metal plates that hold the mast and rigging on a sailboat in place.  As ours are 32 years old, it was in our best interest to have them inspected while the mast had been pulled. 

Baxter spent several hours removing all of the chain plates and the 10 bolts/nuts/washers per plate - most of them in corners of lockers, over the shower or in other places that are difficult to access. 
Once the chain plates were out, we visually inspected them and aside from some rust and grime, they seemed to be okay.  We were excited!  Baxter performing the labor himself saved us a couple thousand dollars and then if they turned out to be in good condition with no pitting or cracks, we wouldn’t need to replace them.  We asked the rigging shop to polish and dye test the plates.  We came back from lunch and Arthur, the rigger, said “Hey Baxter, can I show you something?” Doh!  That is never good.  Glad we are not the gate keepers for chain plates.  As it turns out – they all have to be replaced.  They didn’t even have to dye test them to see the corrosion. 

After we managed to swallow that difficult pill, the yard came by to let us know our mast was going up the next morning, which means we would need to get the new plates from the shop, rebed (seal) them in the deck and then screw all of them back in those difficult areas – before 8 am.  Not a problem.  Except when they don’t hand you the plates until 5:30pm.  Yeah – it was probably good to keep all impressionable children away from our hatches as Baxter hammered and ratcheted as fast as he could.

Before 8 am, true to their motis operandis, the yard was ready to go.  Crane was on it’s way to re-step the mast (put the mast back on the boat) and thankfully Baxter had all the preparations complete. 

We now have shiny new rigging that makes Terrapin even stronger and gives us confidence and helps us sleep better on every watch. 

Starboard side without chainplates.

The old chainplates. Once polished they showed a lot of pitting.

New pretty chainplate.

The starboard cap shroud chainplate finished.

The nuts and bolts for the chainplates. We bought good quality at Budget Marine here in St. Maarten.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sint Maarten

This small little island in the northeast Caribbean is actually two different countries - One Dutch, One French.  Click here for more details about the origin.  After we explored the french side from Marigot Bay, it was time to give Terrapin a facelift.

We bought Terrapin with original standing rigging - the metal wires that keep the mast up.  It is typically recommended that rigging be replaced every 15 years…our boat is 32 years old, so it might be time.  The rigging may last another 30 years, but who wants to gamble with that bet?  Needless to say, we are back to living in a boat yard.  It is only temporary so we can deal with the dirty dock, disgusting water, and the fact that something huge seems to be missing down below (the mast.)

None the less, it gives us time to explore Sint Maarten and work on boat projects.  Baxter has already worked on the anchor chain, removed the chain plates (the plates that screw into the boat and attach the rigging to the hull), taken off the main sail and genoa (with the tremendous help from Tom and Sabrina on Honey Ryder…thank you, thank you, thank you!!) and we removed the boom so the yard could remove the mast.   There are quite a few other items on the list, depending how long we will be here.  When we are plugged into power and have the ability to run to the store, it is nice to cover as many things as possible.

Living on a dock can be tough, but we look forward to the progress we'll make and the rewards for our efforts.
Dutch St Maarten - home to mega mega mega yachts.  The "small" ones are probably 100 feet.

Going through the Simpson Bay bridge.  Openings are stressful - you have to be quick and ready or the bridge could close and not re-open for 8 more hours.

"Venus" - Steve Jobs' boat.  We saw her in the BVI too - do you think they are following us?

Terrapin - temporarily a power boat (no mast)

Lifting the mast off…the blue spar tite near Baxter's (red shirt) right shoulder is usually below deck.

Precarious position - please don't drop it, please don't drop it!

Our current exit off the boat.  Climb over the bow pulpit (metal rail) with foot on anchor roller and then jump to cleat without falling in the smeggy, nasty water.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oui! Oui!

St. Martin (the french side of the island) is very euro and we are diggin’ it.  Most everyone has a French accent and you are lucky if they understand your English.  Unfortunately, the six years I spent in French class only allow me enough to say “Je parle francais un peu” (I speak French a little.) Usually, that's when the person I’m talking to gives up, rolls their eyes, and just starts speaking English.

For the gourmet foodies out there, this place is a cheese and jambon (ham) mecca!!  Too bad, we opt out on both (the whole vegan thing is really in your face in a place like this.)  We will have to stick with the Caribbean-creole veggie variety that is also everywhere around here and just as yummy.

From a cruiser’s stand point, it’s a very simple island with most everything you need.  Check-in to the French side via a computer, get your passport stamped, they don’t care if we have a dog…there are wi-fi cafes everywhere, grocery store within dinghy walking distance and great chandleries for all the boat projects on your list.  We haven’t even made it to the Dutch side (Sint Maarten) yet….

Shrimpy's - your dinghy dock for all cruising necessities.

Tres Euro

Pomme de Terre (on the red bag)…Isn't that the island from Capt'n Ron?

The bridge to the lagoon from Marigot Bay is currently in pain (En Panne=not working)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Passage Therapy

Over two months have passed since we left the Chesapeake Bay and with all the island hopping around the Virgin Islands, we are out of “shape” for passages.  BVI to St Martin is a simple passage, only 80 miles, only one overnight…we usually don’t bat an eye at such a distance, but we were slightly scarred from our previous squally 12-days on the North Atlantic.  We went out expecting the worst, despite the forecast for less than 15 knots of wind (though still on the nose, of course). 

Everyone (at least 5 people) we have met said this passage “just sucks.” due to usual strong trade winds  from the east and strong current in the Anegada Passage between the BVI and St. Martin. No one said, “Hey, sometimes you get lucky and it’s mellow and you sail…” Since we were expecting the worst, we were able to deal and manage better.  For the first 60 miles, I did feel like a load of wet towels in a small washing machine and had to take a couple of antihistamines to settle my brain.  Poor Kala agreed with me, so I slipped her one as well.  After about midnight, the fuzz started to lift and the passage slowly convinced me things would not be so bad…it was it’s own therapy in a way. 

Our ETA for St Martin was actually sooner than we expected (around 3 am) so we turned off the motor and sailed for about 8 hours back and forth across the rhumb line with lots of traffic (cargo ships, unlit fishing boats and other sailboats making the trip east) in the area and lots of light from a waning moon.  As we pulled into Marigot Bay, the sun was rising over the hills and we were happy to start another beautiful day further south and east in the Caribbean. 

It has been exactly one year since Baxter and I moved out of our house in Utah and decided that we would live aboard the van or the boat full time.  Since then, the boat has changed, the plans have changed, but we have still covered approximately 35,000 land miles, 2,500 sea miles and we are only getting started.  

Sunrise over the east side of St Martin as we pull into the anchorage.

Terrapin in Marigot Bay. (Thanks to Steve for the hat!)

Friday, January 17, 2014


Baxter and I had a great time with Verne, Keri and Steve touring the USVI and BVI quite a bit.  We are now waiting and preparing to head further south east through the Caribbean, which will probably be within the next week.

As we wait for the weather window*, we have spent the time catching up with Logan and Gillian on Stella Blue, as well as Sabrina and Tom on Honey Ryder.  Kala also had the chance to see one of her old friends, Luna.  As we sit, we find projects to work on and we have to remember not to start something that can't be finished and put away quickly when our weather window opens.

*By weather window, we mean anything blowing less than 20 knots and preferably north of east.  Since the Christmas Winds arrived early in the north eastern Caribbean, it has been consistently over 25 kts from the east for the last two months.  It looks like the winds might be moderating to less than 15kts, still on the nose, but less so.  If we don't get what we are looking for, we will probably go anyway and maybe change our course to something a bit further south to get a better wind angle.

Kala's friend Luna
Baxter & Kala enjoying the view.
Terrapin and Stella Blue finally in the same mooring field in the BVI!
Rocky shore, reef break, choppy surf, foreign country… guess it's time to wax the board and go out. What could possibly go wrong?!?!? :>)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bound To Cover Just A Little More Ground... (or sea)

The old saying is that cruising plans are written in sand and that definitely seems to be the case with our sailing.  We usually have a general idea where we want to go but never feel the need to be hamstrung or limited by ideas of where we are headed from one day to the next and often let fate or chance play a big part in the direction of the bow.

Take for example our trip to the Bahamas a few years ago. We initially thought that we’d head offshore and be deep in the Bahamas before Christmas.  This was a funny recollection to us as we enjoyed a Christmas day beer at Schooner Wharf in Key West after a leisurely sail down the east coast to a free mooring off of the Conch Republic. Or how about our ill-fated trip to Maine with a "short" unplanned detour to New York and New Jersey. 

As we sit here at the north end of the BVI, we have begun to think about where we will spend hurricane season. We have friends headed south to Trinidad and Grenada, some headed back to the US and others to Panama, Bonaire or the South Pacific.

Right now, we have some ideas of where to go but have not settled on a firm plan though, when talking about our most exciting option with our friends on Skylark, we did receive a very nice present from them. Guess this might really help make up our minds… for now…

Thank you S/V Skylark!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Long White Sandy Beaches

With only a couple of days left for Verne in the BVI, we wanted to maximize the fun.  We spent a long rolly night at Cooper Island and then sailed over to Guana Island the next day.  When we had been to Guana on New Year's Day with Keri, it was mega yacht city, with no less than 10 huge monstrosities (my term for multi-million dollar, 100+ feet of motor yacht, complete with crew and dinghies the size of Terrapin) anchored around us. This is one of our favorite spots, so who can blame everyone for wanting to start the year off right.  As we pulled in with Verne, it was a different place.  At one point, we had the entire bay, with soft white long sandy beaches and great snorkeling, all to ourselves. This is also Kala's absolute FAVORITE beach!  She swam, she dug holes to China, she rolled in something stinky (thank goodness she's a bad aim), she ran, she played with sticks.  Needless to say, there was some pouting going on when we left.

Verne had a long journey back to Hawaii beginning on Sunday starting with a sail to Trellis Bay, which is walking distance to the ticket counter at Tortola's airport (Beef Island).  We beat straight into the wind, but thankfully it was only 3 miles away.  Previously, on NYE, we tried to get into Trellis with Keri but there were no mooring balls available (thank you to the people who "save" moorings with dinghies and paddle boards) and instead we went to Marina Cay.  This time, we found a ball and went into town.  Trellis Bay is a cute little eclectic "city" with art galleries, a market, and a couple of restaurants.  We dropped Verne off (after buying Terrapin a present) and while we made way for a different location that had some sort of protection, Verne had a trip from Tortola to St Marteen, St Marteen to New York, New York to Atlanta, Atlanta to Honolulu and Honolulu to Hilo.  We had 2 hours to go, he had 23 hours to go.

We are back in North Sound, Virgin Gorda and it feels comfortable since we have spent some time here.  But algae doesn't grow under our keel and we will be moving again shortly as soon as we get a decent weather window to move ESE down island in the Caribbean.  We have promised Kala we will take her to new wonderful beaches and we can't let her down.  As a side note, Stella Blue left Bermuda on Thursday for the BVI and it would be really great to see Logan and Gillian before we leave.

All in it together

Sundowner's on Guana

Verne with FOUR devices!  Staying connected

New look for the Captain

Kala rolling her eyes but watching closely as Daddy prepares her Kong

Seargant Major City at Vanishing Rock

Friday, January 10, 2014

BVI Verne

The day Keri flew back to the US, our friend Verne who lives in Hawaii, flew into St Thomas.  Verne joined us aboard Stella Blue a few times (click here for Verne's SB adventures) but this was his first introduction to Terrapin.

Unfortunately, Delta Airlines welcomed Verne with the message that they had lost his luggage and it was going to take 24 hours before he could have it.  When you're on an island, that means if you want your stuff back, don't go too far or it might arrive the day you're leaving.  So, we stayed at the dock in American Yacht Harbor for an extra night.  We worked on quite a few projects and enjoyed the advantage of proximity to chandleries and restaurants.

The next day, Verne, Steve (from Chandara), Baxter, Kala and I headed over to Maho Bay on St John. As it just so happened, SV Georgia, SV Meander, and SV Honey Ryder were all in the mooring field with us.  We went for a snorkeling jaunt to Whistling Cay and Little Cinnamon Cay and invited everyone over to Terrapin for sundowners.  As it turns out, all of us were part of the Salty Dawg Rally (with Honey Ryder leaving from Beaufort, NC) but none of us knew each other before the passage.

Wednesday through Friday have been a bluster of activity since Verne was already a day behind due to the luggage delay.  We have been to the Bight at Norman's where we snorkeled the rock pinnacles known as The Indians, Ocean Bay at Peter Island, and now Cooper Island.  Verne rented scuba gear and he and Baxter dove the RMS Rhone (which is basically the Titantic of the Caribbean) and next dive on the list is Wreck Alley.

The winds have been relentless the last week with gusts over 30 knots and a consistent 20-25 from the east.  Sometimes you wish there was an off-switch for even just thirty minutes.  I'm not trying to be wimpy, but maybe just a normal trade wind of 15-20??  Sleep has been continually interrupted with thoughts of chaffed mooring lines or dinghies that drift away at night.  Ugh!  According to the forecast, the winds are here for at least a week, so I guess I just need to find a way to deal with it, i.e. Mother Nature sees this as MY problem :)

Kala Selfie
Happy Hour on Terrapin
The Indians (The rock pinnacles, not us)
Diving the Rhone
Big boat, Little boat

The Rhone

Rhone Propeller (still intact and mounted)

Monday, January 6, 2014

All Dressed Up!

We picked up Keri in St Thomas 10 days ago and we've been having so much fun playing around the VI that it doesn't seem right that she is already going home.  She doesn't necessarily want to go home, as it is forecasted to be 4 degrees tonight in Atlanta.  Ugh!  That's a 76 degree drop!!

After New Year's Eve in Marina Cay, we took a trip around Jost Van Dyke, going to Foxy's - which was way too crowded for our taste, and then attempted to visit Soggy Dollar Bar, but didn't even come close to joining the chaos of crowds on that beach.  Instead, we opted for Little Harbor to spend a quiet evening.  We finally made our way over to Cane Garden Bay where we picked up our friend Steve (S/V Chandara).  We all had a great time hanging out at Quito's and listening to live reggae by Leo (our rasta friend who actually lived in Logan, UT and went to Utah State.)

The day after Cane Garden Bay was packed full of chores and travels.  We sailed over to Soper's Hole to check out of the BVI and then over to Caneel Bay to pick up a mooring.  We all jumped in the dinghy and went over to Cruz Bay to check in to the US (including Kala) and have lunch.  Shortly after checking in, we had a wet ride back to Terrapin since it was blowing about 25 kts and then we went over to American Yacht Harbor for a slip since Keri was flying out of St Thomas the next day.

We accomplished quite a bit in just 12 hours with laundry, diesel, groceries, and nice refreshing showers!  One of the best parts about coming to St Thomas is we were able to have our bimini install completed.  Having canvas work down on a boat can be difficult.  The canvas makers are usually booked for weeks or months and there is usually price negotiation and compromise on what you would like versus what your budget allows.  We found Dave at Neptune's Loft and we have to say that everything fell into place perfectly!  Within three weeks, he was able to measure the cockpit, install the frame for the bimini, make the canvas and complete the install without any compromise on schedule or price.  What more could you ask for?  Anyone in the VI who needs work done, let us know and we will send you Dave's contact info.  He comes highly recommended!

With the bimini installed, we now will have more protection from the elements in the cockpit.  The bimini also completes the look and it's like Terrapin is all dressed up with lots of places to go!

We went, we got the t-shirt. A BVI must-see but for us, it was crowded and touristy.
Little Harbor, JVD.  Terrapin between our heads in background.
Abe's By The Sea - our kind of bar.
Just our type.
So sad to see Keri go.  Kala wanted to walk her out and say goodbye.
American Yacht Harbor in St Thomas.
Bimini frame install
Final product!  Terrapin's new duds.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Monkey Point

On January 1, 2013, it was about 15 degrees in Salt Lake City, Baxter and I were both working for corporate America, saving for our cruising kitty.  We owned a house as well as Stella Blue, our 37-foot Tartan sailboat.

What a difference a year makes!  On January 1, 2014, we woke up on Terrapin (our Valiant 47) to 80-degree weather with a view of Trellis Bay, BVI as we sat on our mooring in Marina Cay.  We no longer own a house or Stella Blue (though we stay in touch with Stella Blue.)  Our home is where our anchor lies (or the mooring lines are fixed.)  Instead of heading up to Little Cottonwood Canyon to go skiing today, we headed over to Monkey Point to snorkel.  We found Guana Island and decided we liked it and we would stay for a day.

We knew our life was changing last year but we didn’t know where our dreams would take us.  Not all of it has been glorious, we have had serious challenges that  sometimes make us question our direction, but those challenges make us stronger. We celebrate and are thankful for the good times and they stand as a reminder to us to always be grateful. 

Who knows where we might be on January 1, 2015 but we will do our best to make every minute of every day count. 

Last sunset of 2013 - Marina Cay, BVI

Wrapping up a great year with smiles all around.
Snorkeling Monkey Point…millions of fish in the sea

"Es-Tarpoon" (Tarpon) as they say in Bonaire

Yeah, this is o-k!!

Snorkeling Selfie