Friday, May 24, 2013

St Thomas, Boat Repairs and Some Random Thoughts of Mine…..

You may wonder how we could be so happy with cruising, when it seems we are having a somewhat frequent “job list” – with often critically serious jobs…..

Well – the answer is:    This is all part of the adventure!
Dixie IV - Now our "Partners"
We bought a 28 year old trawler and – although we were glad she was well “broken in” –we expected some parts to be needing attention at different times. That’s just part of boat ownership – like buying an old house and finding all the things that need to be done. Most cruisers plan for this, by buying and stocking aboard numerous “spares” (spare parts). We were lucky, because Chet and Dixie – the former owners left many spares with our boat when we first took possession of her in October 2011, but I have since found out that you can never have enough spares.  And of course – Murphy’s Law – whatever you don’t have is what you will need!
In previous blogs I spoke about different things we replaced electively and systems that went haywire and needed work or replacement. Mostly these are what I like to refer to as “Blue” jobs. I’m not mechanical and when there is a crisis with a non-functioning system, Captain Richard (Cap) likes me to keep my thoughts to myself! I seem to confuse him during an apparent crisis – if I start shouting out possible tactics to fix this or that (such as – “Did you turn it on? Off? Close the valve? Tighten the clamp?”) –When Cap knows I really don’t have any idea of how these systems function. And I don’t blame Cap for not wanting to give me a full technical education in ten minutes during some crisis where he is sweating bullets in a 110 degree engine room to save our asses from some pressing problem. So I shut up and hand him the tools like a good First Mate.

Cap wanted to call me “The Admiral” – many boaters give that moniker to their spouses. But after a while, I started to feel patronized by that name and asked Cap if I could just be demoted to First Mate. In my mind the Admiral has the last word – in a sort of petulant way – but the First Made is a real partner – helping on a more equal level – but bowing to the superior knowledge and experience of the Captain. I felt we were mates in married life– partners – and our boat is named “Partners”…..So it made more sense to me. Cap caved and agreed – but he did say the job I was applying for was much more difficult than Admiral! ..... My point exactly!
I’m guarding our boat right now, while Cap goes to his first Virgin Islands medical visit. He’s fine – just routine. We are expecting workmen on the boat today to see if we can correct the problem with Genny – an 8kw Westerbeke generator. Genny decided she was working too hard and gave up the ghost on getting our inverter charged. She actually had an all out fit and blew up, smoking and fuming, while we were moored in Culebra. That’s when Cap realized we’d better “vamonos” and get to shore power quickly – before all our prized provisions turned to soup!

This one is 165 feet long!
That’s how we ended up at Yacht Haven Grand in St. Thomas – amongst a myriad of Super Yachts that make ours look like a dinghy! We had a great diver – Tony – clean our badly barnacled prop, shaft and rudder. The waterline wasn’t bad, because that we could clean – but neither Cap nor I like diving on the barnacles. Even our dinghy had barnacles from being tied to our stern and kept in the water for a week!  Then we got Tracy to come assess the Genny and he spent half the day getting nowhere – so I’m thinking this is going to be a lengthy and costly fix…. He is supposed to be here at 10 am today (crack of dawn Caribbean time!) with an assistant to help him. Let’s hope he’s not too late – every day in this marina is expensive…. Oh! He’s here and it’s only 12:15pm! Now the mess starts – they are completely tearing apart poor old Genny (Faraday – as Cap calls it) and the mess is hard to take….better bury myself in a book till Cap returns…

Meanwhile, I have been walking every day and checking out the town of Charlotte Amalie. I’ve also gone on a “reading binge”. I have read a book a day for the past week. I want to wait for Richard to do some of the touring - but he hasn’t been able to leave the boat because of the workmen. We will leave the marina as soon as we can and tour around St. Thomas and the rest of the Virgin Islands. It’s May 3rd now and we have just less than two months to get to our Hurricane destination - Chaguaramas, Trinidad.
                                               May 10, 2013 –
We moved from the expensive marina with the adjacent mall with Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. and Bad Ass Coffee (we loved that place!) and moved over to a marina in what they call “The East End” – Compass Point Marina. It’s a real local boater’s area – and very inexpensive compared – albeit more “au natural St Thomas”. We toured the area by dinghy the first day we got here (May 4th) and were amazed at how many derelict boats were left scattered around this lagoon – some half sunk – others with holes in the hull….years of barnacles and grass growth on their hulls. I was shocked – I’d never seen that on any of the other islands in such quantity as here. So it’s not glam here – but we have to be at dock for the electric until they fix our generator – which is a whole other worry – because everyone here seems to be on “Island Time” and the job seems to be unending and much more complicated than I had previously thought!

In the meantime, Richard and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary on May 5th. This was extra special this year celebrating in the Caribbean, as we were married in the Caribbean – at a fabulous private island resort off St Vincent called “Young Island”.  Every year we usually celebrate by going out to a special restaurant and we both wear our original wedding clothes! Crazy – but fun! This year – things were a bit topsy-turvy with the engine room all gutted and the generator being worked on – so we opted to stay in and spend a romantic evening aboard Partners. Even if we had decided to go out – there aren’t many places near us here at Compass Point Marina where you could actually get that dressed up and wear our wedding clothes – so we knocked that tradition on the head and wore our favorite boat clothes and grilled on our Magma grill. We had a fabulous filet mignon with béarnaise sauce, scalloped potatoes and fresh broccoli. I even made a wedding cake – which for us – since we were married on an English colony – was a fruitcake! Richards’s favorite! We hope to be able to spend our 20th – next May – back at Young Island – but aboard Partners.
We spent the next few days touring the island via the Safari Bus –
Cap at MooMoo's BBQ
an open air, multi-seat jitney that will take you all over the island – up and down the mountains – for $2! Mostly the locals ride it but it was really fun. We have been back to Charlotte Amalie and over to Red Hook and also took some dinghy rides to some beautiful beaches. But we are stuck here on our boat most of the time with workmen until the parts come in and this problem is fixed. We got a chance to drop in for coffee at Patsy’s and dine at the local marina eatery – “MooMoo’s” for their famous BBQ.  Doesn’t sound too bad really….I suppose there are worse places to be “stuck”!  Tracy is a certified Westerbeke Dealer – but the job is taking a long time – which doesn’t inspire hope of being a “cheap fix”.  But as I said before – I really don’t know anything about these workings. So day after day Tracy and Al come to the boat and work on the generator. They had to
air freight a major new part and it took a while to get here. But it’s all a bit of a downer, and as days turn into weeks our spirits dampen. It’s hard to make dinners – no place to eat – everything is torn apart. I can’t clean – no sense until they leave. We feel like our life is on hold – which it is. Every day I hope for the news that it’s done and works. It’s coming soon – I know – it just has to….

Then Cap decided to look at the tide charts. Not good news. It’s very skinny water here and high tide is at midnight now! The owner of the marina has decided to add some more docks since our arrival - so now there is a floating barge with a piling hammer right next to our boat and it is surrounded by yellow floating tubes to outline where the new docks are going to be added – right into the middle of the existing channel. Cap and I watched a deeper draft sailboat leaving and it got grounded four times! UhOh! But luckily – all turned out well in the end – as it always does……we just have to soldier on through the hard parts. The generator project was completed and working like new again, and Tracy and two of his friends helped get us out of the marina at around five thirty pm (on a rising tide – but still low). It was really wonderful how everyone in the marina cheered us on and helped us to get out. We did plow up some mud along the route – but Partners carried on without a hitch – and into deeper water. Gary – one of the locals –rode alongside us in his dinghy and suggested we use a mooring at Christmas Cove – a short trip away. He actually led us there (it was getting dark now) and picked up the mooring for us – to make it all easier in the twilight. I tried to offer him dinner – but they were having a group barbeque back at the marina and he was returning for that. No one could have been kinder!
Cap and I were “back in the saddle” again and loving being on the mooring in open sea – there’s just nothing like it! We had a nice dinner on the aft deck – took some photos and turned in for a good night’s sleep. The next day we had a leisurely breakfast and cast off for St John. I couldn’t wait to see all the beautiful National Park areas and swim off the boat! We toured the island and ended up in Maho Bay, because a friend of ours – Caron Morgan – had said it was beautiful – and was she right! Again it was a mooring – don’t want to damage the coral and ecosystem. It was an honor
system of payment into a little box - $15/night and well worth it! The water was crystal clear and had a beautiful long beach. I immediately jumped off the swim platform to cool off - Cap joined me. Then we let down the dinghy and motored around to play and see the area. It was breathtaking! -Just pure natural beauty all around. This is why we do this – seeing God’s beauty – meeting wonderful people – meeting challenges that end up making us feel accomplished and fulfilled, and keeping us active and healthy with this lifestyle. I can’t recommend it enough – and if you’re inclined for anything like our adventure – weather by land cruiser or sea – don’t wait – it all seems to work out financially - and age and health are the main limitations – so get in as much as you can –now!

We had a fabulous dinner on our ‘aft cocktail lounge” and after a day of swimming we were both hungry! We sat back and just marveled at how wonderful this lifestyle can be. Genny all fixed – Life is Good………Until the next morning….Inverter charger quit! Here we go again!
We packed up the loose items and motored to the West End of Tortola to Soper’s Hole – the nearest marina with repair capabilities. As disappointed as I was that we had yet another “glitch” in the system, I couldn’t get over the charming marina and store complex! It was right out of a travel brochure! Gay multi-colored painted shops and buildings made it a photographer’s dream! It’s the first time I was tempted to buy things that I don’t need! It also had a superb Market right there just off the dock – how convenient! Prices were fair and selection was great! We were lucky to get a great and knowledgeable technician, Compton and his assistant – a handsome young Brit - to fix our inverter. The bad news: They were so good it took two days to get them to the boat. The good news they fixed it better than new in 3 hours. As a side benefit, Compton answered a lot of Caps questions about our Xantrex Inverter System, and in the end we have much more battery charging capability than previously! Plus – Compton checked out our batteries and said they were fully functioning – something we had been speculating about.
Episcopal Church in Road Town
So with the boat repaired we set off for fun and touring of Road Town – the capital of Tortola. The local boatyard people told Cap about a marine supply store there called “Parts and Power” and so we took a walk to the- ferry dock to get a taxi to Road Town. We were lucky to find a share ride – supposedly its $27 one way – but we paid $12 each! Then we had to get a bus after we realized the store was miles from the center of town - $3 each. I can’t say enough good things about Parts and Power. They were extremely helpful and actually supply most of the Caribbean with parts – it was huge! Tony gave us a tour and highlighted some of the items that may interest us. He had to be the most professional business person we have met so far. He had such an enthusiasm about his business- it was really refreshing to see. They had the parts Cap wanted –rubber o rings and 
some kind of special washer for the engine (Stonewall Jackson as Cap calls it!) - $0.60! Then we waited for another bus to take us back to town to grab some lunch- but it was Saturday – not many buses…..we waited what seemed like a millennium, since it was hot in the sun…. and finally succumbed to getting a taxi ride - $10 – but Cap talked him down to $6. I remembered Road Town from when we took an Oceania Cruise there several years ago, and remembered a quaint and cleaver gift shop I liked – So I asked Cap if we could just check it out. (He doesn’t have the “shopping gene”!) The shop had changed somewhat over the years and instead of just gifts – they’d added coffees and sandwiches and bakery items – sort of like a Starbucks with Island items. So we had a coffee and a BLT Panini on foccacia bread and it was delicious! - $25. The day was fun and we walked back to the taxi stand and Richard negotiated for $10 /person ride back to the Marina. The taxi driver was so nice and we talked and asked him questions about local things. Richard gave him a $20 – plus a $5 tip and started to walk away and the taxi driver said –“Wait – you gave me a $50 dollar bill!” Can you believe that? I was so impressed with the people we have met on this tiny island – it has really been a pleaser. All in all we spent $86 to get 60 cents worth of parts! The fun was just a side benefit!

Cap spent a half hour in the engine room – First Mate HT (Honky-tonk-one of Cap’s pet names for me) assisting and hopefully one more thing has been done to prevent our engine from sucking air and stopping in mid-stream. All the jobs have been done now – the pocketbook is empty and HT will be cooking every meal until we make up the shortfall! But that’s okay – I love cooking and I’m already thinking of what we’ll have for dinner tonight as we head towards Virgin Gorda………

In Memory of my son-in-law - Joey Harrison -One Love!


  1. Amazing, Venie and Richard!!! Iam trying to read each of your blogs(you each have one going ,right?) and it's so fabulous that you can be on this adventure together!! Happy Anniversary and please keep posting the beautiful photos and writing to tell us every detail. Stay safe and enoy! Wish we could do the same thing but not sure Rich could handle the boat as well as Cap and I am not sure I could be as brave as you have been ,Venie! Keep in touch! love,Robyn

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