“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Autour du Rocher – St.Barts

Saint Barthélemy (often abbreviated as St-Barth in French and St. Barths or St. Barts in English)
Saint Barthélemy (often abbreviated as St-Barth in French and St. Barths or St. Barts in English)

Long before Kenny Chesney popularized drinking on Jost Van Dyke, there was the original guy that sang about sailing and partying in the Caribbean, Jimmy Buffett.

Being that we are Parrot Heads (fans of Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band), we have gone to many concerts and have been inspired by Jimmy Buffett’s lyrics that entice listeners to sail away to the islands in search of that One Particular Harbor and to have a Cheeseburger in Paradise with a good, cold beer.  All that being said, the island of St.Barts is one of Jimmy Buffett’s favorite hang outs and where some of his most legendary songs were inspired, so we had to check out this rock!

LeSelect Bar

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cocnut telegraph
…Baby put it on the coconut telegraph (telegraph)…In twenty-five words or less ~Jimmy Buffett – Coconut Telegraph
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…You can hear ’em on the coconut telegraph (telegraph)….Sayin’ who did dis and dat  ~Jimmy Buffett – Coconut Telegraph

street view

The anchorage we stayed in, Anse du Colombiar, just north of the main city of Gustavia, is beautiful. There were more turtles in this one bay then I have ever seen in one place (which, of course, I didn’t get any good pictures of). The beach is a perfect soft, white sand and has a couple of small natural pools.   There is a spot on the beach with a rock wall that blocked the east wind that was coming across the peninsula off the Atlantic Ocean and was a great spot for a beach fire.

The hiking was easy with very pretty views, as well as many goats and tortoises.

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View of the Atlantic Ocean side of St.Barts and the trail to hike to the other beach.

 

sunset from beach
…Listen to the night birds cry…Sit and watch the sunset die…Well I hope you understand I just had to go back to the island ~Jimmy Buffett – Back to the Island
I Love Saba


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Walking on Clouds: Saba

Located just 50 miles southwest of St.Maarten is the volcanic island of Saba. Although this little island is only five square miles it rises to an amazing height of about 3,100 feet, making it the highest elevation in all of the Netherlands Kingdom. The entire island is steep and you will not find a flat road or sandy beach. But the views are just breathtaking!

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The Ladder                                                                                                                                                    Before the harbor was build the only way to get cargo to and from shore was via “The Ladder” which consists of 800 steps that were cut into the steep rock wall.

The best way to see this island is to take a tour and hike. So we hopped a cab and headed up the steep island to The Bottom, the island’s capital.  

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The Bottom

Hells Gate plague

Hells Gate

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Looking down to see the airport runway.

However, the most spectacular views on the island have to be earned by climbing to the top of Mt.Scenery. The hike includes 1,064 steps and then climbing over some large boulders.  The climb feels like you are in a fairy tale as you ascend into the clouds/mist, when a cloud passes under you get the sensation that you are walking on clouds.

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Peggy hiked the trail in flip flops.

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Pictures from around the town called The Windwardside:

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Clogs of the Netherlands

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All buildings on Saba must have a red roof per the law.

We ended our island tour with some sundowners and a nice sunset back on Smitty.

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Rum Tank … and new water heater but no one cares about that

The factory 20 gallon water heater was rusting out and leaking.

To remove the tank there were a couple of obstacles. The factory had the aluminum L bracket on the port side of the heater. But the starboard side was in a slot cut in the fiberglass that makes up the shelf the refer compressor sits on. So we started with removing the L bracket and the pressure relief valve. It then took 3 people to move it over to port enough to get the bracket out of the slot. Then I had to cut some of the fiberglass from the opening. We were able to turn the heater and get it out but it took a fair amount of effort.

Once the heater was out it was easy to put the 6-gallon heater in its place. It was shorter and narrower. We used the same L bracket on the port side. Then secured the starboard side down on the platform that was made for the heater.

This left an approximately 10-inch wide area between the back of the water heater and the fiberglass shelf for compressor. We did some searching at a couple of local chandleries and found a 6 gallon water tank that was 8 inches wide and the same height as the water heater. We secured the tank down with padeyes and nylon straps.

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I plumbed the tank to a small, 1 gallon per minute, 12 volt pump that I mounted on the shelf next to the compressor.

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The fill for the tank is just capped off in the starboard rear laz for now. I have the tank vent and effluent hose from the pump loosely installed for now at the opening of that laz, just above the cockpit shower head. Both are capped when not filling a use bottle, the Angels already got their share they don’t get seconds. The pump is controlled by a momentary switch that is also mounted by the cockpit shower.

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Now I will say that I want to install a tap at the sink labeled “RUM”. But my Bride is afraid we will drink more if it’s that easy. Probably rightly so. So instead we have a two plastic 1.75 liter bottles (one Mount Gay and one Captain Morgan. We fill the bottle from the tank and then keep them on the shelf behind the settee.

We left St. Thomas with just under two cases of Cruzan Dark Rum in the tank. It’s our go to rum and in the USVI you can get if for under $8 a liter.

Now if I could only find a deck fill labeled RUM I could really finish the installation.


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New Lifelines

Today I finished our new lifelines. As a quick disclaimer, we haven’t used side gates since the ICW, so this wouldn’t work for others.

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Our lifelines were the original coated steel wire. They had rust spots, saged, were unsafe and unsightly. We replaced the top gate with a solid bar to assist with solar mounting. These are schedule 80 stainless steel. The stern side are secured to the old welded attachment point with a split end connection. On the gate stanchion side it’s a 90 degree elbow. I had to remove the tube going through the stanchion for the lifeline to get the elbow to fit. All set screws are aggressively spotted and secured with red loctite. The spotting was the hardest part of the project, took 2+ drill bits. In addition I put two part thickened epoxy in each fitting prior to securing the set screws.

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For the life lines I used 7mm New England Ropes STS-WR2. This is dynema with a double braided UV and chafe cover. It’s designed for wire replacement for things like lifelines and rigging. It is difficult to splice because of the bonding between the core and the cover. But, unlike straight dynema, it can hold a knot. So I used constrictor knots to attached the lines to hardware and to put thimbles in for lashing. I cleaned up the bitter end and used heat shrink to cleanup the look.

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Then it was just a matter of pulling the lashings tight. The first try did have too much stretch and knot creep. But I retied shorter and was able to pull it tight enough that my Bride could stand on the lifelines with minimal deflection.

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Unlike other dynema lifelines we have felt, the 7mm is thick enough to feel comfortable in the hand.

This project was completed in a day but we waited another two weeks to cut the bitter ends and do the heat shrink to see if there was anymore stretch.


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Smitty 2.0

Over the past couple years, while we were working to refill our cruising kitty by working in the Virgin Islands, we were also working to improve our boat to better fit the type of cruising we enjoy and to make her more seaworthy. During this time we even considered if we wanted to sell our beloved boat and get something larger. We looked at a couple of storm damaged boats from Irma and Maria but ultimately concluded we didn’t want to trade a cruising ready boat for a project that would require time and money that we could instead put into Smitty to make her better suited for us.

These improvements included:

  • Adding a 12 volt water maker
  • Installing solar wings to give us more power generation
  • Changing from a single solar controller, that was damaged by corrosion from sea spray thanks to Hurricane Maria, to two controllers that give us better feedback
  • Installing a high output alternator with an external regulator
  • Replacing our old and hurricane damaged electronics with new
  • Replacing our worn-out vee berth mattress
  • Removed the main hatch, bedded with butyl tape and through bolted instead of screws
  • Changing our mainsail handling from the Dutchman system to a stack pack
  • Ordering a new headsail better suited to sailing in the trade winds
  • Replacing the “Berry” our hurricane damaged stolen kayak and making a rack for it
  • Adding more chain to our anchor rhode
  • Installing an arch to hold additional solar and lift the dinghy out of the water
  • Replace our leaking water heater and install a rum tank
  • Refinishing the cockpit cushions
  • Installing a lithium ion primary battery bank and AGM reserve bank
  • Replacing fuel lines and switching to the Racor 500 filter
  • Replacing the leaking cockpit bimini and improving the connector for better shade and rain protection
  • Giving the dinghy a refit too with chaps and nonslip floor
  • Rebedding and potting all of the stanchions and rails
  • New lifelines
  • Inspecting and rebedding the chainplates
  • Laptop stand and set it up for use as a backup navigation
  • Replace the interior cushions (Soon Come)
  • Shedding extra weight to improve Smitty’s sailing characteristics
  • Tweaking the sail handling to make single handing easier

It will take us some time to get caught up on posts for all of these improvements while also posting about the places we are visiting. We won’t be putting them up in any particular order. If there is an improvement you are considering or want to know more about, please let us know. We will work on those first. We already have a request for the writeup on the stack pack conversion, so that one will be coming soon.


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See Ya Virgin Islands – Heading South to St.Martin/St.Maarten

After spending the last couple of years working in the Virgin Islands, surviving two Category 5 hurricanes (known as Irmaria in the Virgin Islands), and having added many upgrades to Smitty, we said see ya and headed south from St.Thomas in order to explore the rest of the Eastern Caribbean!

We sailed to St.Croix, hoping this would give us a better angle to sail to St.Martin. But alas, it was not in the cards. As usual for us, there was no sailing to be had, just choppy, confused seas. Unfortunately, due to the boat bouncing around, we had issues with our fuel filters getting plugged-up with the gunk that had gotten stirred up from the bottom of the diesel tank. The good news is, Jesse has become a pro at quickly changing the filters and we have many spares because we have run into this particular challenge in the past.  He changed out to a new filter, we bleed the fuel, started the engine, and away we go. This issue happened a couple times on what should have been a 24-hour passage. About ten miles outside St.Martin (French side), when we went to restart the engine there was a pop noise and then she wouldn’t restart! After several hours and still no resolution, we made the decision to sail into the port (note: we were sailing, well trying, while Jesse was down below trying to figure out the problem).  The wind was not in our favor (very slow sailing with long tacks back and forth to make any progress forward) and it was dark by the time we entered the port, which we had never been into before and there are unlit buoys and boats to keep an eye out for. Thankfully, this bay is very large with a nice sandy bottom, we dropped the anchor and hooked right away.

It took a couple of days of tracing wires, checking batteries, testing all engine components, to finally find a loose ground wire!  Yes, after all that, the issue really was that simple and didn’t cost anything to fix!  As you can imagine, we went out and celebrated after that! Time for good French wine, cheese, and baguettes!

We spent about a week or so checking out this half French (St.Martin) and half Dutch Island (St.Maarten). You can take a dinghy or car (we did both) from one country to the other without having to check in or out of either country.

Marigot, St.Martin

Marigot, St.Martin

Fort Louis

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cannon – Fort Louis

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Jesse on the receiving end of a cannon!

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Fort Louis

Random Scenes from Marigot Bay:  Local Art and a Horse “parked” outside the grocery store.

And no trip to St.Martin is complete without a stop at Maho Beach to watch the planes fly very low overhead to land at the Princess Juliana International Airport in St.Maarten.