Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Repairs & Trials, But the Real Excitement is Coming Up

12 June 2011
I spent most of last week on dock, fixing (rather getting fixed) many small things that either didn’t work were missing, in poor repair or looked too much used-and-abused.
Most important was the badly needed service of the three winches I have. Also, the single-line reefing, lazy-jacks and stacker were all in poor repair. Add to these fixing of some comfort elements, installation of a new pump unit for one of the heads, some lights and 12 volt power outlets etc. they all kept me at dock most of the time.
I got a new 9.8 HP Tohatsu outboard for my dingy, brought over from St. Martin. They were not readily available in the BVI, but when they are they usually cost a bit more (20% or so) due to customs, shipping and local handling charges over and above the catalogue price at Budget Marine at St. Martin. Luckily a charter boat was being delivered from a sister club of the BVI Yacht Charters in St. Martin this week, they picked and brought over one for me for about $1,850, even $200 less than the list price.
Yesterday by noon, since I had most of the work done, the new outboard installed and tested, I found some time to venture out into the Sir Francis Drake Channel and have some fun. The winds, typical of summer months here, were from the east-southeast and light at 10-12 knots, gusting to 15. With a very nice sunny day with a few puffy white summer clouds, I went up and down the channel, both sails up full, tacking and gybing to gain more confidence with the new boat. Single-handling in this weather was no problem at all. It was a very pleasant sailing for a few hours on a picture perfect Caribbean afternoon, when I proudly showed the Maple Leaf, as well as the RYC burgee and the Power & Sail Squadron insignia on these deep blue waters.
A short un-edited video is uploaded to YouTube for you.
Note: Poor sound quality and camera angles are all due to being all alone on board without any deck-hand; not because I did a poor job with my little Canon digital camera!

Today, I tidied and cleaned the boat. The inside gets quite messy if you let it go for a few days. The dishes pile up, articles are everywhere and the wood floor gets sticky. In a small space one has to learn to be tidy I guess; although Ruyam II is quite spacious like most cruising catamarans.
Tuesday is the big day for me. I will cross over to St. Martin, a 90 mile beat against the Easterly trades. It will take 14-15 hours in open sea, and most of the time I suspect we will be motor-sailing.
I certainly would not attempt to do this alone, and even I had crew, I would not do my first crossing without the help of an experienced local captain. I hired a captain, a Canadian airplane pilot who lives here and occasionally delivers boats for the charter companies and private owners. I have been told that he has done this passage way too many times, which gives me comfort and confidence in his skills.
This will be a very valuable experience for me, because the crossing from the BVI to St. Martin is a tricky one. First, like I said, you are beating almost always against the weather. Second, the deep ocean gets very shallow almost one quarter of the way into the direct route from Round Rock passage in BVI to St. Martin, called the Barracuda Bank. The depths get from +500 feet down to ~20, in a very short distance and the seas “hump-up”. The whole passage can be rough due to the relative shallows of the entire, so called, “Anegada” passage between the BVI and St. Martin, compared to the depths on either side of it. The tide floods crossing this passage cause the seas to swell.
I will talk to you again, when I safely arrive at St. Martin.


  1. Go Ahead Captain Al..
    Wish you lots of luck...


  2. Hi Al,

    I liked your little video despite the audio quality.

    I used to have sound problems like that with wind noise on my old camcorder until I found a simple, low-tech solution. You can tape a piece of soft foam about a half-inch or so thick over the mic grill/hole. Depending upon where the mic is, you could also hold it in place with elastic bands. It will look awful, but it works great!

    The foam breaks up the strong air streams that rattle the diaphragm while still letting regular sound through. That's why all the professional mics you see have those big fluffy socks over them when they are being used outside. If necessary you can also put a piece of paper over top of the foam as well.

    My old Sony camcorder had a stereo microphone that protruded, and the least little breeze from any direction would roar like a hurricane in the sound track. I made up a sheathe of foam to enclose the mic assembly when I was using the camcorder outdoors, and usually put a small Dixie Cup over top of the foam as well. It looked terrible, but there was very little decrease in sound sensitivity and minimal wind noise.

    Colin S.

  3. Thanks Colin. I am glad you liked the blog and the video. Thanks for the advice as well. The video was captured using by little Canon digital camera, which has a pihole for a mike. I will try placing a tiny sheet of foam over the hole and see if it works. You will see the result in one of my next postings. Please say hi to eveyone at RYC.