Friday, December 16, 2011

Passage to Fajardo, Puerto Rico

The ocean was kind of rough with high swells, so we decided to keep motoring. I was not up to dealing with the sails anyway. We came all the way to Isla Palominas, which was very close to the marina, without much difficulty. Then it started to rain, the sea got dark, and I had a hard time locating the green marker, where we were to point up to the next green, and turn around the island before getting to the entrance on the southern side. Anyway, we did it after some apprehension and safely entered the bay, where many deserted sail boats were moored or anchored. The marina looked like a prehistoric sea village, surrounded by pillars in the water, marking the two sides of the boats tied on the slips. There were pillars on the docks as well.

Al chose a spot close to the docks, and gave the order to drop the anchor, so I did. I was dead tired and a bit queasy, since the wind was blowing the engine exhaust from behind onto us all the way. In the meantime, Al phoned the marina administration, and learned about the dock to tie for water. So we pulled anchor and maneuvered in a narrow area to turn to tie. Of course the wind was on the wrong side, pushing us away from the dock. I was scared watching Al, and made him a bit nervous too. At last we got tied up, looping the line around a pillar on the dock; and filled our tanks. I’m telling you, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, so could not help crying a bit to shake the feeling.

The first night on anchor was not bad I thought, but early in the morning I heard the wind blowing really hard. I sat at the cockpit and looked up, but the sight startled me. We were almost next to another moored sailboat! Of course I hollered and urged Al to come up. He said he had checked about two hours before, and everything was fine. When I insisted, he came up, and immediately started the engine. The anchor had dragged about 50 feet in the two hours. So we tried to get to our previous place and tried several times, but the wind was too hard, and the bottom seemed to be just mud. I had spotted a mooring ball earlier, and suggested taking it. I got hold of it with some difficulty, and both of us worked in tying one of the lines, but pulling the mooring line close enough to tie the other one seemed next to impossible, so Al got into the dinghy, and went to the hoop to push the line through. I tied the line, and felt a bit secure, but we saw that the mooring line was flimsy next to our lines. Al was quite uneasy that it was going to give way, since we measured the wind as 29 knots.

Later in the day the wind subsided a bit, so we got the dinghy down and went into the marina. At the shore we stroke a friendship with an ex-marine, who called himself Ranger, who was a very nice Puerto Rican, about our age and enjoying a similar lifestyle. He was retired and started living on a 50 foot motor boat, tied at the marina. He offered (insisted) to drive us to a shopping centre and marine store, and back. It is uncanny how friendly people are here.

During the night, the wind was relentless, and we could not sleep. Early in the morning, Al decided to dock at the marina. He tried to get close enough to the dock several times, to get the line around the pillar, but no can do. Wind was very strong and constantly pushing us away. At a crucial moment, a young man came along to help, and was able to tie the back line with a lot of difficulty, while getting soaked from the rain. But he persevered and tied us securely from both ends, and Al got two more lines from all the cleats available. At last we were fine! Last year I had read somewhere that any fool could move the boat with the help of the wind, real skill was to keep it in one place. It shows that we need a lot to learn. I think we will be tied up for a while, until our friends Deniz and Zeynep arrive in San Juan in about two weeks. We will explore the land for a while.

The other day we met a very nice man, Ricardo, who offered to drive us to a marine shop. After shopping we invited him for lunch, so he took us to a fish restaurant at the beach. While we were going through the door, the French couple from Culebra, Ananda and Yvonne walked in. I asked if they were following us, and we all sat at a table together. I think Ricardo was a bit surprised, knowing that we arrived at Fajardo very recently, so I explained. We had such a blast that day. We learned that Ananda was composing and performing folk music. Al had so much to talk about, being a guitar player himself in his youth. Life is so interesting, if one has time to explore it!

The Culebra Experience

We did some last minute shopping in Charlotte Amalie and repaired our dinghy, which had a small hole, and resumed our voyage towards Culebra, Spanish Virgin Islands. When we had checked the charts and read the book about it, it became obvious that entering Culebra would be tricky. So we made an exact sail plan, as well as marked way points on the two GPS devices that we had. The hand held one is a bit small and confusing with too much information, so I was occasionally checking the big one inside, and Al was checking the small one.

Going into the well protected harbour, called Ensenada Honda, was easy, since we knew where to look and turn. Al went all the way and gave me the order to drop the anchor. After that was done, we looked around and saw a sailboat with a Canadian flag right next to us. Would you believe it, it turned out to be Tony, whom we knew from our Yacht Club in Ottawa. Al called him on his cellular, and we had a nice visit afterwards, during which we learned about what to do to get our US cruising permit. The permit is good for a year, and allows cruisers to run around all the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Getting it in Culebra was a good idea, since the place to go (the Airport) is a five minute walk from the dingy dinghy dock in front of El Batey restaurant. In the book about Puerto Rico, that restaurant is classified as a good place to eat, but its general appearance is not very inviting, so we did not stop by.

We spent two days, swimming in the bays long the west coast, but our water supply was getting low. Al was angry with me, for not having the water tank filled in St Thomas, because he suggested to pull anchor and go to the dock of Yacht Haven for the water the day before leaving, and drop anchor again for the night. Al always likes to start early, so he would not do it in the morning of leaving. Anyway, I thought that it would be easier to do it in Culebra, but I was wrong. We asked around, and saw one place which had a hose on a small dock in front of a small hotel. Al went inside, and asked a young man, who turned out to be the only guest of the hotel. The young man (Ananda) got our telephone number, and later reported that the owner/manager rarely came there, and the cleaning lady did not know what to do. Later on we saw the young man and his girl-friend (Yvonne) while swimming, and learned that they had come from Lyon, France, vacationing in the area, and Yvonne was a doctor.

Is it the Caribbean, people at leisure or the general sailing community; everybody that we come into contact with seems to be very friendly and sociable lately?

Anyway, Al checked the weather report for the week, and decried that we should be on our way to Fajardo, Puerto Rico the next morning. It was about 20 miles away, and he wished to get there early in the afternoon, so we decided to pull anchor not later than 08:00 hours in the morning. I looked at the chart and read the book, and we decided to come directly to Isleta Marina (Cayo Obisco), on a very small island just outside of the series of marinas on the coast of Fajardo. The passage was easy until you get really close, and the way into the marina was reportedly well marked.

Early in the morning we got ready, pulled the anchor, and turned around to motor out of the harbour. Oh my God! The sun was glowing right into our eyes, and the whole sea was burning. It was hard to make out the channel markers, and when I looked at the hand-held GPS, I could not see a thing. I urged Al to slow down, and we started towards the markers. I thought Al was pointing too low, but he said he was afraid of the rocks to the port side. I went down to check the other GPS, and saw that our aim was too low. As soon as I climbed next to him, we hit something. Al immediately reversed, and took us out of there. We turned around, headed into the bay in our starboard, and dropped anchor. While Al was getting ready to dive and check the damage, a nice man rushed to our side in his dinghy, and asked if we were alright. He said that he heard us going over the reef, and thought we might have hurt ourselves tripping over because of the impact. He thought we had extensive damage, but said that it could only be repaired in Fajardo, since there was no facility in Culebra.

Al dived after he was gone, but did not see or feel any damage save some scratches on the paint. Well, it remains to be seen with naked eye when we pull the boat out of water soon! For the time being, there was no leakage in the hull, so we pressed on. The sun was still glowing, but we were able to check the small GPS, and saw the blue line that showed our route coming into the harbour. It was obvious that we were way out of it, getting close to the reefs at our starboard. I took the GPS in my hand, and directed Al towards our original route. Then we saw another green marker just before the red and green ahead. Al was trying to steer towards its port, and I was seeing some hazards there, so telling him to go starboard. He asked if he should hit the marker, so we almost brushed it while passing. When we turned around we saw that it was a red! Apparently the authorities ran out of conical buoys and painted a green one red. I think I started shaking after that, but did not think much, we had to concentrate on the trip.

USVI, Here We Come

As it happened, we decided to clear out a day earlier and start the crossing from the “Bight” at Norman Island the next morning. I wrote my extensive plan on a notebook, which my dear friend Jose had given as a parting gift. I will remember her every time I use it. She and I connected at the lowest points in our respective lives some time earlier, although we are two completely different individuals, with no apparent common ties. She claims that I had some influence on her rebound, and I know she had on mine. We both are now at much better places thank God, so hail to you Jose!

Anyway, I made my plan for our first target, Cruz By, St John, and we let the mooring buoy go at about 07:00 hours. The US Virgin Islands, here we come. It was a smooth ride with no winds, so we motored there for about two hours. Al used a trick we had learned from our dear friend Balamber a month earlier, who owns a much bigger an newer version of our catamaran in Turkey; we turned only one of the engines on the way, which reduced our speed a mile an hour, but cut our diesel consumption to one half. I think it makes sense in calm waters, when one is not in a hurry to reach somewhere. It was a short ride anyway; “smooth sailing” so to speak, until it was time to anchor. I think I gained some more gray hairs on my head, looking at the close proximity of the sail boats around us, while dropping the anchor according to the skipper’s instructions. I could feel the sweat running down my back, not because of the intense heat, I assure you. We looked at our position for half an hour, after which, Al decried that we were just clearing the new and old boats around us, while swinging wildly after each passage of the small ferries blasting their ways through the narrow canal just in front of us. We lowered our weathered dinghy down, and rushed to the US Immigration at the end of the canal. We did the paperwork, learned about the places to approach for detailed information, and found ourselves in a small mall to buy the most important commodity in our lives; a US SIM card for the cellular, Al’s life line to the world. If you ask me, I think I can live without it, but I know it is a necessity, albeit a very expensive one, mind you. We called our daughter and send text messages to our son and friends, to give our new number for US and maybe Puerto Rico, and returned to our boat. On our way back, I saw a sailboat anchoring at the area reserved for hourly anchoring. You know, it was clearly marked in the chart I had looked at, but who can trust it, if all the boats are huddled at the other side? It would have been much easier to anchor there, but we like living dangerously. I spent no time pulling the anchor, and we found a very nice bay (Caneel Bay) where moorings bounded. We stayed there two nights, took the dinghy to a resort at the beach for drinks the first day, and breakfast the next morning.

It is interesting to note that, after my first impression of the Caribbean people as being unresponsive and aloof towards strangers, I think I started to understand them a little better in time. They only need a point to connect with others for opening up. We observed this in many occasions, first at the AT&T store, where the clerk was from St. Vincent, and of course Al stroke a conversation about the area, where we had sailed before. The poor young man tried his best to find the cheapest deal for the telephone chip and the data plan Al bought. Same thing happened at the resort. The head waiter, who came to serve us, was from Road Town, BVI. We almost exchanged imaginary cards, convinced that we would see each other in the future. At the end, he causally pointed out that we only had the cold breakfast (only true for me), and charged half the price, which was considerable. By the time we realized what he said, it was all over, so Al could not correct him. I think for what we had, it was a fair price!

St John has nice beaches, and the moorings are cheap, but not very exciting for us, so we headed to Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas after two days. It was a very smooth motoring / sailing trip of about two hours, after which we dropped anchor close to the Yacht Haven Grande. I think when they made the huge investment in that marina, they were having grand dreams. It does not seem feasible for a “very” mega yacht and a smaller one to shoulder the expenses of running that monstrosity. The free anchorage at the bay was full of sail boats, but the rows after rows of concrete docks, with full service, were completely empty, except the two megas. Of course, the dinghy dock was overflowing.

Getting My Hands Dirty in BVI

I had spent a week on Ruyam II in Road Town, BVI at the end of May, 2011 to celebrate my 60th birthday, when we took it out of charter, but had not tried much sailing before. The day after I arrived, we left the marina, to explore the islands around BVI, and get me started on getting my hands dirty with using the helm. It was a great few days of mild weather, which allowed me to get the hang of directing the beast while moving along slowly. I wonder if anyone had tried to tack while the helm was under auto pilot. Well, I did, and panicked that I could not turn it. I hope it was not Alzheimer’s, but just the excitement of a new thing. We shall see in the future. That happened on the first day, and I congratulated myself on the next for not doing anything stupid, but time will tell what I am capable of.

After almost a week, we are now anchored in Road Town harbour, waiting to clear out of BVI, and set sail to the island of St. John, USVI, on December 1st, 2011. This is a real adventure, because Al had not done it either, so we poured over the guides and the map, and made a rough plan about the approach. Tomorrow, I will write down the navigation plan, and see what happens.

The Admiral of Ruyam II Finally Arrives

Nel arrived in November and in addition to her position on the boat as the Admiral (which was assigned to her by my friends as you can see in the picture of the retirement gift I received), she took over the responsibility of keeping the blog up to date. So you will hear her side of the story most of the time from now on. Because we had some difficulty finding WiFi connections, the first update is a bit late but it is comprehensive. There you go, you can follow our Caribbean Odyssey as the Admiral sees it:

At last the long awaited day arrived; I found myself on the plane flying to St. Maarten. I was not excited in the least, since I had been holding my breath until that moment, and was probably convinced that it was not going to happen, so the truth had not sunk in.

Anyway, when the plane landed in St. Maarten, I had a brief conversation with a fellow passenger, who suggested that I took the earlier flight to Beef Island, BVI, where Al was waiting for me. Of course, he was going to be at the airport five hours later, but I thought it would be easier to contact him in Tortola, after I landed. I called him at the airport with the help of the porter, and took a taxi to the marina, rather than waiting for him. He was both excited and disappointed that he could not be there (it is our family tradition to take leave and meet at the airport), but hey, all in all, I was at the end of my journey five hours earlier, but equally tired.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back in the Game in BVI

Hello friends, it has been a long three months since I updated this blog. I apologize for this but I was not sure if you would be interested to hear about my days traveling back to Canada, then to Turkey and finally back to Tortola via Canada. After all they are not really part of the Caribbean odyssey, and could only be side notes.

Nel is coming to join me next Tuesday finally, just before we set sail towards Puerto Rico where we intend to spend Christmas with friends Deniz and Zeynep who are flying in from Ottawa to join us.

With that introduction here are short side notes on the missing three months:
I spent a few weeks in Ottawa in August to tidy up things back home. The house and the car needed attention, the phone, utility and cable companies needed to be dealt with, with difficulty I must add, for suspending services or making auto-payment arrangements for the winter season, and had time for a few business contacts for consulting etc. All boring stuff really, with the exception of getting a chance to spend some time with my son Devrim.

Fun started when I went to Turkey, primarily to be with my daughter and Nel. Nel had been there since the beginning of August. Ayse was still teaching at Sabanci University in Istanbul, and we spend some time with her and at our cottage on Sedef Island, just off the east coast of Istanbul, where Nel had already been staying with my brother in law and his wife. We got a chance to have some old friends and family over for some fun island time.

In the beginning of September Ayse, Nel and I started travelling, zigzagging west to East, south to North around Turkey. We attended a friend’s nieces’ wedding in Eskisehir and stayed in Ankara to see one of Nel’s many cousins.

We continued down to the south coast to Mersin-Kizkalesi, to spend time on beaches and among ancient Roman ruins. We had the most amazing seafood dinner at a restaurant built right on the rocks on shore, overlooking out to an ancient castle which was built on a rocky island less than a mile from the shore.

Then we moved on to south-east Turkey, to Gaziantep-Kilis area, to attend the continuing celebrations of the wedding that took place earlier in Eskisehir; this time at the groom’s home town.

We returned to Istanbul, and after a brief rest we went over to Safranbolu in central northern Anatolia, where a documentary film festival was being held among the most amazingly restored buildings of the old-town. We stayed in one of the old mansions that was restored to be a boutique hotel. One of Nel’s cousins, Suha Arin, who is revered in Turkey as the guru of documentary film making in that country, had made this old town famous and contributed to its preservation through his documentaries some 25-30 years ago. We attended a special ceremony held during the festival to honor him, who had passed away some years ago.

From Safranbolu we continued over to the Black Sea coast to Bartin and Incekum, to visit another cousin of Nel’s.

After returning to Istanbul to close off the cottage on Sedef for winter, Nel and I travelled to western Turkey. We first visited Iznik, the home of the famous Turkish ceramics that once decorated the old palaces and homes across the country and abroad with amazing tiles and porcelain artifacts. The skills of producing dark blue and crimson reds on these ceramics that were prepared with local cobalt minerals in those days had been lost for generations. The art is again continuing currently with local artisans, and the city is promoting the craft by supporting them in every way. (Pics from movie)

Then we traveled to Canakkale, on the Dardanelles, to visit some people we had met in Ottawa, who finally settled back home. We continued down the Aegean coast, to visit my Brother in Izmir-Urla, my cousin in Cesme, and a friend whom you have all met on this blog, Ergin in Mordogan, near Karaburun. To my envy, they are all living right on or very close to the beautiful blue Aegean waters.

By this time it was Mid October, and it was time for my annual South Aegean regatta sail from Fethiye with my high-school buddies. We drove from Izmir to Fethiye, where Nel took a “pension” room in a bed&breakfast place in town in order to do the tourist thing in the region,

while I moved on to a 40ft mono-hull, which would be my home on water in South-Western Turkish coast and on some Greek islands for the next 6 days.

These sailing trips that I take every year in the Aegean are always wonderful, and I will tell you all about them on another day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Back in Ottawa – A short break of the Odyssey

Hello again friends.

I am sorry it took me a while to update the blog. I spent the last week in Tortola getting Ruyam II ready for the hurricane season and arranging summer storage with BVI Yacht Charters. I also cleaned and repaired the dinghy and designed and rigged a small awning, hanging by the spare halyard, to be used for shade and shelter at anchorage over the trampoline up front.

The boat will be stripped to bare bones, and in case of a “named” storm reaching the BVI, it will be moved to the Paraquita Bay, a “hurricane-hole” two miles east along the south shore of Tortola, which is one of the places approved by my insurance company for hurricane coverage.

So, I packed my bags and head back to Ottawa on August 1st. It was both a welcomed break from the last several solitude weeks I spent stuck at the marina, and a happy homecoming. Unfortunately (fortunately for her) Nel has already took her retirement and went to Istanbul to spend some time with our daughter Ayse.

Ayse is working as a visiting professor at a Turkish university before she returns to Canada to start her new job at McMaster University in Hamilton in the New Year. They are now at Sedef Adasi, (40”51’02.75N:29”08’39.03E) a small exclusive island in the Marmara Sea, just a few miles off of Istanbul’s Asian coast, not too far from Ayse’s work place, where Nel and her brother jointly own a summer house.

I will join them for the months of September and October before returning to Tortola and have a “vacation”, a break from the Caribbean Odyssey.

In the last weeks of October I will be sailing with my high-school buddies in the south Aegean, along the Turkish coast and the small Greek islands nearby. I have been doing this every year in the last few years and really enjoy the mono-hull sailing in these gorgeous waters, and luckily in a quiet season after the summer rush of local and European sailors.

I will continue my blog during this time with occasional stories of our time in Turkey,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Challenges of Single-hand Cruising

While I was waiting for work to be done on Ruyam II, I was mostly docked at the Joma Marina at the Road Town harbour. It gets quite hot, it is full of bugs, and it gets really boring at night and during the weekend since there is nothing or no one around. Besides the water inside the harbour is not for swimming at all. The town is a 20-25 minute away on foot, and it is not very safe to walk alone at night. Since the radar installation was delayed until after the past weekend, I decided to sail out of the marina and spend a night at Peter Island, at the Great Harbour, where there is wonderful swimming opportunity at and around the beach club and the restaurant stays open late during weekends. Saturday morning I left the marina and sailed directly south across the channel. With winds at 15-18 knots on the beam it was a very pleasant 1.5h sailing.

One drawback of the location I chose was that anchoring was not really an option on the beach club side of the harbour. It is a very deep bay and doesn’t get shallow enough until you are literally yards away from the shore; however mooring is provided in front of the beach club. I had never done this before, but I was ready for the challenge and pick a mooring ball without any other crew on board.

Well I tried and missed the first time, stopping a little early and being carried back away from the ball by the wind and the current. The second time I overshot the ball, that was between the two hulls and decided to slowly back onto it and run forward to catch it with the boat hook as it passed forward. The ball was nowhere and I noticed that we were not moving back anymore. I returned to the helm and looked to see where the mooring ball was. It was at the starboard side stern and stuck to the hull. The boat was slowly turning to port, pivoting at the mooring ball. It was obvious I had the mooring anchor line caught at something below. I immediately went to the windlass and started to drop anchor, at around 25-30 feet. I had to, because I was alone and I was going to dive and have a look at what had happened below. I put on my goggles and dove off the starboard stern. It looked worse than I thought. The mooring anchor line was wrapped around the prop. While I was trying to back I must have been a little bit too late putting the engines back into neutral. I could hold on the last step of the stern and inspect the situation. It looked like it was only a few turns and was quite loose, except the last round of loop that was stretched by the pull of the boat with wind and current. I decided to use the port side engine in reverse briefly to actually drive the boat on to the ball to loosen the stretched line and quickly dive to dislodge the last loop from the prop. It worked. The rest of the loops came off easier and after about six or seven dives to the prop all the line was off the prop and we were free.

I took a few deep breaths, a drink of water and started to assess the situation. The anchor was holding at the moment, but I did not have sufficient scope on the chain to spend the night at anchor at that location. I decided to weigh anchor and try again to get the mooring ball. All this time a family of four were watching me from their deck, comfortably tied at the next mooring ball. When they saw me attempting to get the ball again, they offered help. The skipper and her daughter hoped on their dinghy and came over to take the port side dock line, and passed it through the eye of the mooring ball pennant, giving back the bitter end so I could tie at least one side of my bridle. I thanked them and said that I could fix the second line myself, saving a little bit of dignity.

Once the ordeal was over, I had a wonderful weekend at Peter Island. But I don’t think I will try to take a mooring ball singe-handed again, except in absolute calm weather in a very safe harbour.

An Electronics Installation Story Worth Telling (Part-3)

They were back the third day. A one day installation job turned into three days, and I started wondering if I would be asked to pay for the for the lost time due to these technicians’ incompetence and lack of experience. The one, that spent two days at the top of the mast was happy to be finished there, went about his job of drilling through the bulkhead, bringing the cable into the cabin, then working it through the storage lockers under the seats, behind the stairs on the port side, and behind the chart table up to the back of the helm navigation station. In the meantime the second technician, who spent the last three days just hoisting his friend up to the mast, standing by the winch to occasionally lower or rise his position slightly, and once in a while send a tool or part up to him by means of a continuous loop line they had rigged for that purpose, repositioned the cut-out template on the nav-station according to my suggestion. Then he started cutting the fiberglass panel. However, this time he had placed the template’s left edge a bit too close to the existing instruments, such that his power jigsaw would not fit. He had to remove the wind indicator display unit in order to complete the cut. After all was done, they hooked-up the power and antenna cables and tested the unit. Both were very happy with their accomplishment and left with smiles. I was sitting at the helm, looking at a my new toy, also with some joy because it was finally installed, in spite of the fact that the display unit was placed slightly crooked, and the bottom edge did not perfectly follow the bottom edge of the panel.

Two days later Laura, the BVI yacht Charters manager informed me that the invoice from key electronics was in. When I walked into the office she said, “I think you should sit down for this” while handing me the emailed invoice. It was over $4,000. They had charged a total of 2x20hrs of labour at $90/hr. in addition to the cost of the bracket and the extra cable with customs duty added, some small parts and the $250 Fedex bill for shipping the parts express from Florida.

I was outraged, not only at the charge out rate, but also for asking me to pay for the two man to fool around for a day and a half just to figure out how they would do the installation.

The bill is still in dispute, I will let you know when we settle. But the moral of the story is that; never get any work done on your boat by the locals without agreeing on a final total price beforehand.

Well, this was really a frustrating story, but I did not forget about my promise to tell you an exciting and a merrier story. Please wait for the follow-up blog.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Electronics Installation Story Worth Telling (Part-2)

They came back the next day, immediately started pushing the cable down from top, and pulling from the bottom the line that they had put through the day before by disconnecting the streaming and deck light cable and pulling that cable down with a line tied to the end. After quite a few tries they declared, “your conduit is too small” and offered to de-step the mast!!, or alternatively cut open an inspection hole at the foot of the mast!!! To inspect and find out what was wrong.

I would not allow them to cut a hole on my mast and god knows how much ruin the integrity of the aluminum mast. I would not spend two more weeks and thousands of dollars to take the mast off either. I suggested dropping the line through the mast outside the conduit. Their response was; “That is not something we do. We need the approval of the office, which will probably want to talk to you about the consequences etc.” Then they said we will try a bit more.

Then pulling real hard, the cable started to slide down, encouraged, the two stooges pulled even harder on the line, until they dislodged the conduit from where it was fixed inside the mast, and it came all the way down, out the opening inside the salon, where they were pulling. Of course, without the conduit limiting, the cable also came down all the way. Now, they wanted to pull the end, the terminal of the cable that was taped to the end of the line. It would not budge. It was stuck somewhere at the foot of the mast. After inspection and guess work, and to their surprise, they concluded that; the cable had dropped outside the bulkhead, down below the down-comer tube that is at the bottom of the mast and at the top of the stepping support column, which is inside the boat at inside of the bulkhead where the wires come through. The two-technician crew obviously had no idea about the construction of the mast stepping and the wiring systems of Lagoons. But, happy with their “accomplishments!”, they said “we will drill a hole through the bulkhead tomorrow and bring the cable through a sealed system.” That afternoon they continued to install the bracket and then the antenna on the mast.

The saga continues!!. Look for new blog updates.

An Electronics Installation Story Worth Telling (Part-1)

Hello again friends, it has been a long while since my last blog. I have to apologize, but like I said the last time, I would report back when something exciting happens. Well something exciting happened.

Keeping the suspense and the juicy part for later, I want to first go about telling you chronologically what happened, rather what did not happen in the last couple of weeks.

The installation of the radar unit that I had bought in St. Martin was a painful and very expensive ordeal. According to the nice people in BVI Yacht Charters the “only” outfit in Road Town capable of doing this job is Key Electronics, located in the same area and between the Sunsail and the Moorings charter company marinas. BVI Yacht charters offered to arrange the installation and put the work order for me, (with small mark-up) because the technicians are very busy this time of the year when all charter companies start getting their maintenance and upkeep of boats for the next year. It took them five days just to get a possible date for the installation that was still a week and a half away. Then they informed us that the proper bracket for the Fruno antenna was not included in my package and the cable is probably too short at only 10m, and an extension for the cable and a bracket had to be ordered from the US. They did. On the day they were supposed to come for installation, they told us that they were late finishing the job they were on, and would come the next day. No show on Thursday, nor on Friday.

Finally two technicians showed up on Monday around 10:00h. The first thing they said: Ooh! This is a brand new installation, from scratch!” This was the first sign that may be these guys didn’t know what was going on; they were not prepped, or prepared for the job. One mean was hoisted up the mast right away, with the bracket in one hand, and a cordless drill in the other. He positioned the bracket, marked the drilling positions for the bracket and then started to drill the main hole for the cable to go through before mounting the bracket. 15 minutes later, he said, “I cannot see or feel a conduit inside this mast. There should be one”. Then, after poking into the hole he drilled with some tools plastic ties etc. he announced; “Yes there is something here, but I can’t get to it or grab it” This was the second sign that these guys were not the competent technicians that I expected, with experience on Lagoon boats or installation of electronics on these boats. They tried many things, the BVI Yacht charters technicians had suggestions for them, I had ideas and offered them some of my tools etc. No luck, they could not get the cable through. That day all that was accomplished was that they got a line down through the mast. At 4:30 they packed and left, with the bracket dangling on a short line from the port side spreader of my mast.

Don’t worry I will eventually get to the exciting story, keep checking the blog.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lazy Summer Days in Tortola

Hello again. It has been a while since my last blog. But there was not much to talk about. I have been "stuck" in Joma Marina for the last 10 days, partly by choice. I wanted to get some of the upgrades I planned for Ruyam II completed, before I take a break from cruising during the hurricane season.

Well, like many things, getting people to look at your boat and give a quote on the work takes some time, island time! Getting the necessary parts and materials, and actually getting work completed takes even longer. I think you get the picture. When they say “we will come to talk to you tomorrow” may mean “someday this week, if possible.” Therefore you are stuck there docked waiting just in case they show up.

Also, they let me dock at the sea-wall right across the road from the main office of BVI Yacht Charters, where I can get on my boat their WiFi that is actually meant only for their office use. I am afraid I will lose the “cyber access” advantage that I have if I leave the dock for a day sail or for a short trip.

The only thing that is left for me to do is take the dingy to closeby shores, for a quick swim, or just drive it along the shore to explore the coastal line of Tortola.

Lately I have been taking the 2 mile daily trips to the Brandy Wine Bay for a swim, which is a fascinating cove so close to Road Town on the east side, well protected by reefs on both side. Coordinates are (18⁰24’53N & 64⁰35’06W) for those who want to explore the bay on GoogleEarth.

I will report back when more exciting things start to happen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Week in BVI with a Friend

After a short rest at the BVI Yacht Charters’ marina at Port Purcell my friend Ergin I spent a week, sailing in the Sir Francis Drake channel, zigzagging among the surrounding islands, visiting picturesque anchorages, all the tourist spots of the BVI and enjoying ourselves in the sun between summer showers and thunderstorms.

Our first sortie was a short trip over to Norman Island, passing by the “Indians” a few peculiar rocks, visiting the “Caves” and spending the night at the Bight, a protected cove at the west end of the island.

The next morning we set out to go up to the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda to see the Baths, and then spend a night at Spanish Town. Well by 10 o’clock winds had picked up to 20 knots and gusting to 25 knots during storms, all coming from the direction that we wanted to go. The channel was filled with white caps, and sailing was not fun anymore. We were not up to a bumpy motor ride either after our recent 13hr crossing. So, we decided to take refuge at the east end of Tortola, at Trellis Bay instead.

Early next morning we motored across to the “Baths” where we spent most of the morning, visiting the Devil’s Bay after an “adventure” walk through the pathway among giant granite boulders where the sea washes in between forming unusual caves and ponds. We explored every crevice, every hole and every little pond that lay on our path. On the back track we had become such experienced explorers, so that we became tour guides to the “tourists” who had landed at the Devil’s Bay and were trying to find their way to the entrance of the “Baths”, where a small souvenir shop and a snack bar called “the Poor Man’s Bar” were located. The price of beer at the bar did not reflect the namesake, however.

In early afternoon we set sail to go to the North Sound (also called Gorda Sound) to spend the night there. Again the wind direction was not favourable and we would not make it to the safe harbour on time if we spent a lot of time tacking. We entered the North Sound through a narrow passage between reefs after rounding the Mosquito Island and the dangerous Mosquito Rock. We settled for the night at a mooring at the beautiful Bitter End Yacht Club.

It was a perfect sailing weather the next day. 15-18 knot south easterly winds, fairly calm seas in the channel (2ft waves with no white caps) and 8-9 miles to go back to Rod Town, most of which we did in one long tack and finished the course with a final starboard tack right into the harbour.
A few pictures below will tell part of the story of this wonderful week.