Hello from Aquataurus in St. Lucia…again!!

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Aquataurus anchored in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Since our return sail to Martinique from St. Lucia in February, Gregs sister Janet arrived for her 2nd annual vacation on Martinique! We had some lovely days in St. Anne, doing beach time and water time off the back of Aquataurus-I even bought 2 noodles for us to use in the water. We found that the beaches of St. Anne are ideal for her vacation, and spent many afternoons in the water there and drinking Planteur Punches (rhum punches).

From St. Anne (south) in Martinique, we sailed to Anse Mitan (north) with Jan, also located on Martinique-on the south western shore. It was a beautiful sail, about 6 hours. We got a good anchor set (on the first try!) and we have been set here since.

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We’ve taken the ferry from Anse Mitan to the large city of Fort de France, across the bay. Janet was able to do some souvenir shopping, AND I found knitting needles! I’ve been without since getting here, and haven’t been able to find any. But in a very tiny, obscure little fabric shop in Fort de France, I found the ONLY set of double pointed knitting needles! BUT…they are about 12 inches LONG!!! Really long! But I’m working with it, and am making yoga socks with them. It can be a bit clumsy, but they are working. I’ll be leaving these here so I have them when I need them.

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Another thing I found while in St. Anne, is a guitar! YES!! Three times a week on the VHF is an English “Martinique Cruisers Net” for about 30-45 minutes, where English speaking cruisers can provide useful information, help, or sell things. Well, that day, a delightful couple from Canada announced that she wanted to sell her guitar (apparently she converted to a ukelele instead!). So that afternoon after the net, we went over to their sailboat, and I checked it out, and it was fantastic! Not too big, not too small. Now I just have to take the time to get back in to playing it! And bring more music with me from the US next year. I feel good!

Another thing that happened while Janet was here, was a general announcement on the VHF from a cruiser, one evening, for a medical person/nurse to look at theirs sons foot which was cut on the beach while playing in the water there. Being the nurse I am, I responded, and they came over to our boat where I looked at it, cleaned it, and bandaged it up. I suggested they see the doctor in Le Marin, and he needed a tetanus shot. Guess this experience reinforces that I really should take a first aid course when back in the states.  But it looked very clean! He was a young man with his wife, on vacation with his mom and dad in the islands. Bummer, he probably wasn’t going swimming the rest of this vacation.

We also visited our favorite rum distillery in Martinique: La Mauny! We stocked up on some our favorite rums!

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Janet and Greg outside the rhum distillery tasting room

We arrived back in St. Lucia two days ago, on Tuesday, April 3.

And last night, had some stunning sunset views! Some suggest its from the Sahara dust that crosses the Atlantic. It was amazing:

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St. Lucia sunset
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Just before the amazing red sky sunset

And of course, Toto has adjusted well to the life of a boat dog:

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Toto hanging on the aft deck
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WHAT???
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Let’s see what I can find out here!

Every country is different on its laws about bringing a dog to shore. St. Lucia is really strict, so during our time here, he stays on the boat, no shore time for him here. But I don’t think he really minds his time on the boat. The only time he minds it, is when we are NOT with him (when we go to shore). But other than that, he eats, pees and poops and pretty much sleeps ALOT! Getting old, I guess. But still in his prime!

Have met some amazing people from San Diego, Guy and Carin (aboard “Makin Smiles”), who we’ve had some good times with this afternoon, exploring our small area of St. Lucia, hiking, lunch, visiting and just having a good time. We hope to stay in contact and perhaps be able to visit them in San Diego when we are in the US at some point. It’s amazing the people/sailors one meets, from all over. Making for good friendships!

Plans are to probably stay in St. Lucia exploring, for the next few weeks, before we head north to Martinique to prepare for hurricane season and coming home to the US.

Until next time (promise I’ll try not to make it so long between blog posts, but internet is spotty at best in the islands).

 

 

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Sailing to St. Lucia

This past week, we made the trip to the neighboring island of St. Lucia, about 20 nautical miles. But the night before we spent with our friends Sue and Peter, on the boat Lorensu (a lovely couple we met last year, friends of the previous owners of Aquataurus-met them last year when they delivered our newly purchased outboard for our dinghy, from St. Lucia).

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We agreed to sail “together” to St. Lucia. But that term is relative because we really can’t sail together. It just means that we would leave in the morning and meet each other again at the anchorage in St. Lucia. Here is a photo of Aquataurus heading to St. Lucia under full sail:

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It was a beautiful sail and took us about 5 hours. It was good to get to learn sailing on AT. We didn’t do much of that last year because of the windy conditions. It was VERY windy here as well, most of January and February! But the wind finally died down enough to allow us our sail to St. Lucia.

While there, we needed to fill our propane tanks so I can cook! Martinique does not allow propane, they have butane gas tanks. We could convert to butane, but that is another whole process to convert and we think we have enough projects going on, we didn’t want one more. And we had to pick up our new custom ordered stack pack. This is put on the boom so that the main sail can just drop into it and there is no need then for a mainsail cover. It was delivered from Barbados to the customs office in St. Lucia, where we picked it up.

So the process from going to a different country (St. Lucia) is interesting. First, on Sunday (planning to sail on Monday), we needed to clear out with customs in Martinique (taking our passports and boat documentation to customs and immigration and printing the paperwork that we have left Martinique). Then we need to leave within 24-48 hours (conflicting information from different people!). We have a “flag” of the country that we have cleared in to (Martinique-a French country, thus the French flag), flying off our starboard (right side) of the boat. When we arrive to St. Lucia, we need to change that flag to a yellow “Q” flag, meaning we haven’t cleared into the new country of St. Lucia yet. So upon arriving, Greg needed to take all our boat documentation and passports to customs and immigration in St. Lucia. Once we have “cleared” into this new country (getting the paperwork at customs), we need to fly the St. Lucia flag. We repeat this process when we returned to Martinique.

Our anchor set in Rodney Bay, Gros Islet allowed a beautiful first sunset.

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Aquataurus in Rodney Bay in St. Lucia, she’s so beautiful, our “home”:

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And Toto has returned to being a “boat dog”, loving the anchoring life:

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We returned to Martinique (same customs process as before) on Thursday. And we are currently docked at the riggers docks for final (we hope) work to be done. On Friday, the necessary workers were all over trying to get things done: headstay and forestay taken down to shorten (they were too long when put on a few months ago), electrician pulled line so the new solar panel can be connected, and yesterday, the new solar panel was put on the back new davit system that we had made in November. Greg is happy with the energy being put out with the new solar system, when the Captain is happy, everyone is happy!

The only thing left (the reason we are still at the docks) is that the rigging needs to be tuned yet, and today is Sunday and nobody works on Sunday! So hopefully everything will be done by tomorrow afternoon and we can head out to anchor on Tuesday morning early.

We don’t want to head out to the anchorage in the afternoon because the sun is starting its descent to the west, and we can’t see the bottom of the sea clearly enough to set a good anchor. We usually anchor in about 4 meters (12 feet) of water, and plan to motor over to the area of St. Anne, which might take about an hour of motoring. So we like to have anchor set by 2-3pm at the latest. Then, after we set anchor, we let it sit for about an hour to see if we are dragging at all. If we are, we need to pull up the anchor, and “re-anchor”! So this whole process might take some time. We do have an app (iNavx) on our phone that alerts us if we move outside of a circular perimeter, extending about 1 boat length beyond the length of our anchor chain to the anchor. This is pretty handy and we, so far, have had great and solid anchor sets!

Today, we plan on putting on that new stack pack onto the boom. Might be an all day job, we shall see. Usually if we think a job will take 2 hours, it’ll usually actually be 4-5 hours! It’s just the way it is living on a boat.

Not sure what I did to deserve this look! Maybe “mom you interrupted my beauty sleep!”:

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Our boat could dissolve-if it weren’t for anodes!

So this is pretty complicated but I’ll try to make what I learned this week simple.

First point is our boat is steel. Most sailboats are constructed of fiberglass. One of the many benefits of a steel sailboat include safety (hard to puncture a hole if we hit something). One of the not so great things about steel in salt water has to do with chemistry. Let me see if I can get this right (I’ll need Greg to proof this before I post, to be sure I get it!).

When one type of metal is exposed to another type of metal in an electrolyte (salt water), the salt water can create an electrical circuit through the water and electrons can flow from one metal (less “noble”) to the other (more noble) metal through the saltwater.  This can essentially dissolve the less noble metal! So to prevent the steel of our hull (or prop and prop shaft) from “dissolving”, as well as corroding, there needs to be a less noble metal in contact with our hull that gives up its electrons more easily. The “other” (less noble) metal is zinc. Zinc gives up its electrons much more easily than steel (our boat). So we need to bolt about 10 anodes to the hull, rudder and propeller on our boat. We did that while it was on the hard in the boat yard. So here is a photo of the type of anode we put on our hull:

There are many different shapes and sizes of anodes. Even fiberglass boats need anodes for their metal propellers and prop shafts. Because if they didn’t, the props would corrode and dissolve!  We have a friend who lost the anode on the prop shaft, and after 3 months, the propeller was ragged where it had dissolved and the prop shaft was covered with corrosion from the brass prop dissolving (several $1000 of repairs!).

Here is a photo of an anode that has a little dissolving that has happened (and what ours kind of look like this year):

Every year, we need to inspect these after we take the boat out of the water to determine if we need to buy new anodes for next season. Rule of thumb, I think, is that it is 50% deteriorated, or you can’t read the writing “Do not paint”, then it’s time to replace the anode.

So, something I learned this year! And your chemistry lesson for today!

Aquataurus has launched!

We are finally in the water! After much delays around much needed work to prepare for launch (as well as personal medical issues), we are finally anchored in the bay of Le Marin. A good anchor set because it’s blowing 25-35 knots!

We hauled in on Friday, but stayed at the well overnight on Friday night because we had more finalizing work to be done. So to the anchorage yesterday!

Feels REALLY good being back on the anchor.

We have arrived! FINALLY!

Long story short, I ended up having surgery to decompress the ulnar nerve in the wrist and a juxtaposition (moving) of the ulnar nerve at the elbow on January 11!

So once we KNEW what the plan was, we were able to rent an AirB&B house in Rochester. Only minutes from the hospital where day surgery was to take place, with a week of recovery there as well. So, recovery was during Gregs birthday, so needless to say, we enjoyed his 60th birthday at our little AirB&B (notice the big cast!):

While in Minnesota with frigid temps, I captured this unique ice sculpture on the window of the house when I opened the curtains one morning. I thought it was pretty!

One week after surgery, we had a follow up appointment with our good friend and hand surgeon, Dr. Dave. He had the big immobilizing cast removed, and the incisions looking good, put on some steri-stips and a compression sleeve, and gave us his blessing for us to head south.

After about 7-10 days, it seemed like the right decision, because the numbness and tingling seemed to be decreasing, I could tie my shoes and knit again! And it seems to be getting progressively better. I just still need to be VERY VERY careful with movement until full recovery (about 10-12 weeks).

So it took us 3 days of driving (visiting parents along the way) but we arrived in Naples, FL, to Gregs brother Steves 2nd home.

That is where I “recovered” in the sunny, warm weather. It was nice to be in weather where we didn’t have to be in layers of clothes, and could be wearing minimal clothing again and flip flops! Next we had to find somebody to remove the stitches the next week. The Naples area has many “walk in” clinics and Urgent Care Centers. Which to pick? (Ended up finding a nice Walk In clinic). I think the removal of the stitches was the most painful thing of this whole process! EW!!!

While in Naples, we noticed how many “older” folks lived there. Every restaurant we went to, I believe we were the youngest ones there! The Naples area is notorious for older folks moving there, with a very nice retirement savings (majority of cars were BMWs, Mercedes, Audi’s and even saw a Rolls Royce!). And it was also obvious when I took Toto in for his health exam for international travel! When in Minnesota, our local vet typically “signs” the international health certificate without a charge. In Naples, I was given the bill to pay and they charged $400 to sign this piece of paper! I was speechless and didn’t think to contest this charge. But next time I’ll know to ask what they charge for this “service” (prior, I didn’t know there was such a charge to this “service”!).

So we made flight arrangements for a few days after stitches were removed, and arrived in Martinique on Saturday, January 27. American has direct flights from Miami to Martinique, and Naples is only a 2 hour drive to Miami. So leaving from Steves home at 6am, we were in Martinique by 4pm that afternoon. A nice trip.

So here is our girl, Aquataurus. We are glad to be here (today in Minnesota it is, again, below 0 degrees F!). This is our arrival photo, since then Greg has applied 3 layers of paint to the bottom (a primer and 2 anti fouling) and has one more to go (tomorrow). He says this is the last time he does it, next time this needs to be done, he’s hiring it done!

We found an AirB&B in the countryside of the town of Riviere Pilot in Martinique Link to Riviere Pilot-Wikipedia. A nice little bungalow, very humble and simple. But nice accommodations while we work on Aquataurus.

We were hoping to have her in the water by tomorrow (I know, that is REALLY optimistic considering we just arrived on last Saturday), but it looks like maybe next Friday is more realistic. I’m being VERY careful with using my left hand when doing boat chores. I’ve been “working” many of the days, but yesterday went to help out Greg (he’s doing the bottom painting: 4 coats!), I cleaned with my right hand (with vinegar) the aft cabin (it’s ready to be slept in!), and the cockpit (ceiling, walls), as well as put netting on the lower rails on the deck  (so Toto doesn’t fall in!).

I felt very accomplished, and it felt good to be out in the sun and breeze, even though it was working on the boat. We leave this bungalow on Monday, and plan to stay on Aquataurus until launch (whenever that will be).

So, until next time!

Unexpected delays and Happy New Year!

So we are still in frigid Minnesota, with no flights scheduled yet to Martinique and our Aquataurus. So this happened: while in Martinique working on AT, I woke one morning to numbness and tingling on my ring and pinky finger of my left hand, that didn’t go away. So as soon as we arrived back in Minnesota, I proceeded to get diagnostic exams (x-rays, EMGs, ultrasound, MRI) to determine the cause. Luckily we have a good friend who is a consultant hand surgeon at the clinic (Mayo) and a racing sailor. He has moved mountains to get my workup tests expedited and we are so grateful for everything he has done for us to get us to Martinique as soon as possible.

Unfortunately all the testing hasn’t resulted in any definitive diagnosis. This is pretty frustrating! But in between all of the scheduled tests, we had Christmas with my daughter, Sheena, and her family.

We stayed with them (after her youngest, Kendra, had her tonsils out, we were able to be the babysitters).

Then drove to my moms (in southeastern Minnesota) for a few days for Christmas Eve,

and to Gregs parents for a few days (in Illinois) for Christmas Day. While in Illinois, we were blessed to spend an evening with good friends.

All of this travel hasn’t been without a bit of excitement! On our way back from Illinois to southeastern Minnesota, the weather decided to turn for the worse and we got light snow covering the roads. The temperature for the past 2-3 weeks has been 0 degrees F for a high, and -20 degrees F for a low at night (tonights and tomorrow nights lows are only suppose to be -12 degrees F). So with the cold weather, we usually don’t get a lot of snow, but we got enough of a dusting on our way home. I took over driving from Greg, and the car was sliding all over the interstate! I could only go 30 mph and got pretty freaked out, cars and semi’s passing me going much faster! I knew we needed new tires, so this was probably the reason (original tires with 48,000 miles on them). Greg took over driving and I started calling around where we were (maps on my iPhone) to see if anyone could put on new tires! Everybody I called was busy (because of the weather) and getting people out of the ditches, etc. So we did limp along, VERY slowly, and got to my moms, finally. Stayed there a bit then proceeded to Rochester, Minnesota (hour drive, in good weather), but the roads were much better and we got to our friends home within an hour and a half. Needless to say, 2 days later we got new tires and it is a HUGE difference!

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So we are staying with friends and family, until it can be decided what to do with my hand! Surgery? No surgery? Further workup. Not sure at this point.

In the midst of everything else that has happened, Sheena’s oldest daughter, Tessa, ended up have an emergency appendectomy done on New Years Day, having such severe pain that a morphine drip couldn’t even touch it. Finally, after surgery, she feels much much better. We are currently staying with them (watching Tessa during recovery).

So this has pretty much been the last month. We are still waiting, and anxious to make the driving trip to Florida, where we will fly from Miami to Martinique.

Caribbean work finished and home for the holidays

We finished all of the grinding and painting on AT, and returned home last Thursday to spend Christmas with family and friends. I honestly can say that I was dreading the cold and snow, but I am seriously enjoying it! It wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it. The chilly nip in the air, the white snow on the ground (albeit there isn’t a lot, just enough to barely cover the grass), the beautiful bright sunny cold days. It just wouldn’t be Christmas for me without these things.

So, to share some “working” photos during our time in the Caribbean. First we ground/sanded out all of the spots of rust that we could see on the steel part of the deck (top part of the boat), to bare steel, then we had to wipe it down and paint on a 2-part primer. The next day, a 2-part white paint to those spots on the deck. You have to mix these paints 2 to 1 (so 2 paints, I guess one is a hardner). This needed to be done twice (so 2 separate days). After the white was painted on the deck, the non-skid needed to be done. The non-skid is the part on most of the deck and is called “non-skid” because it is painted with a paint with sand-type particles to make it rough, so you don’t slide or “skid” on the deck.  So after all that white was dry, I needed to tape the white, so the non-skid paint wouldn’t get on it, and then Greg briefly sanded down these big areas. After that was done, I painted the non-skid, twice, on 2 subsequent days.

This was a lot of work over many days!

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The finished product looks pretty good!

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So once we got the deck done, we needed to start on the hull (the part below the water)! Well first, Greg had to wet sand the entire blue part, what a job he will never do again! All that blue is really soft paint, so he ended up looking like a smurf, for about 3 days worth of work, and dang if I didn’t get a photo! So after all that wet sanding, again, had to find all the spots of rust on the hull. Greg ground them down to bare steel, and I came behind him and wiped them down and painted them with a silver paint for under the water. This will prevent any more rust from forming. We will need to do this every year because she is a steel boat and we need to keep the rust under control.

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So between the deck and the hull work, it took us a little over about a week, with all that grinding/sanding, taping and painting.

These were the biggest projects this year! After we got all this done, we went to the smaller projects that had to be done: sanding and painting the anchor,

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cleaning out the diesel filter, etc. During all this time, Greg was in constant daily contact via email, with the previous owner, Peter, asking questions to be sure we are doing everything right! I’m not sure what we would do without him! He’s a gem!

Despite all the hard work, we did find time to enjoy the beautiful weather and beaches, and came back with a pretty good tan!

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On one of our favorite beaches in St. Anne, we saw this sailboat from hurricane Maria. Luckily Martinique wasn’t affected too badly by her, and had minimal damage to land and boats:

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We weren’t without days of rain, however. We were lucky, though, that we had warm sunny weather for our painting! We had only 2 days of constant rain.

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We took Thanksgiving Day off and drove to hike Mount Pelee, which is an active volcano and the highest spot on the island at 4,600 feet. In 1902, it erupted and killed 30,000 people in the town of Saint Pierre, within minutes of its eruption. It was the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. This is NOT a photo of the top…the top is under those clouds!

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One of our favorite places to eat, getting ready for Christmas, just had to take this!:

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The challenge this past 3 weeks was our wifi access. We were suppose to have wifi at our unit, which we did, for a time. But it was super slow, then non-existent! And because I was still doing work while there, I needed the internet access so I bought internet access from the Marina across the street from where we were staying.

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But this was intermittent as well, and I found was the fastest at about 5am! So that was our biggest challenge. I’m thinking that perhaps the hurricanes have affected this, since I don’t recall this being the case when we were here in Jan-April.

So we are finally home for the  holidays! Downtown Rochester, MN:

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We are planning to spend precious time with our families, and hoping to find some time to see some friends as well before we head back down for the sailing season.

Next steps when we get back down to AT is for 4 more layers of paint on the hull before she is put into the water! More work to be done!