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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Water in the Bilge: Meltdown of the Blue Lunchbox Thingie
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Tuesday, February 3, 2004: Marigot Bay, St. Martin
    When last we left you, we were feasting on fresh tuna caught on the way back to Culebra after dropping Emma off at the San Juan Airport.
    I realize that we have been remiss in our narrative but our silence means we are busy having fun and aren't sitting below typing on the computer. We spent a couple of days out at the reef on Culebra cleaning up and getting our limited space ready to take on new guests, Sarah and Quincy of "Mostly Harmless". They had picked up a puddle jumper from San Juan to Culebra hailed us from outside the airport. They were trudging down the road from the Airport to "El Batey's" as per instructions when we intercepted them by dinghy and ferried them out to the boat. These are our boat partners from home and they were raring to go despite the overnight flight from SFO. We went out to the reef for a swim and a sharing of the goodies: chocolate, Peet's, Latitude38 (the free Bay Area sailing magazine), refrigerator insulation., and a truly cool solar rechargeable lantern. Christmas came slightly late to the Caribbean this year but it was good.
    Our guests are sailors and had been with us in the BVI last year so we were bound for new horizons right away. The next day, we took off for the US Virgin Islands and made it to Lameshur Bay on St. John for the second night. The next morning we were off and running for Norman Island in the BVI where we spent a couple of hours snorkeling the Caves. Great snorkeling and a fast reach from there to Nanny Cay on Tortola (where we bought Eaux Vives last year) for water and fuel. Late that afternoon we were outbound between Cooper and Salt Island bound for the overnight crossing of the Anagada passage to St. Martin. We organized ourselves into 4 hour watches of which 2 hours were steering and 2 hours were for keeping the Helmsman company and serving as lookout. There was no moon but a rich canopy of stars and we sailed most of the way under light winds. Crossing statistics: 112.2 miles avg 4.2 Knots in 26:14 hours. To put things in perspective, this is a lot faster than walking and we carry considerably more stuff than one could reasonable carry otherwise.
    We checked ourselves in to St. Martin on the French side (where there is no charge), and made a beeline for the boulangerie "Cafe Parisienne" where pain raisin and pain chocolat were washed down with latte's and hot chocolate. When we got back to Eaux Vives, we hoist the French courtesy flag and slept the sleep of just. St. Martin is still not new ground for the capable captain and able admiral of the fleet (see the end of last year's journal for pictures and details) so a single day of sightseeing was allowed to the men and women of "Mostly Harmless" before weighing anchor for St. Barthelemy. Although also part of the French West Indies, St. Barts (as it is affectionately known) is a little more upscale and requires separate checkout/checkin procedures. We made land fall in the evening after another 26.6 miles on a close reach on a single starboard tack. Our able admiral noticed water above the floor boards on the low side of the boat while attending to ship's affairs below but the captain recommended running the manual bilge and convinced all concerned that a little water in the bilge was normal and it had all been pumped overboard and there was no sign that we were sinking or even leaking anywhere. Landfall in Anse de Columbier was uneventful and we found a fine mooring up under the lee of the edge of the encircling arm of the north end of the island. A marvelous dinner in the Eaux Vives tradition and a fine sunset was followed by the second of the twice daily running of the engine. For the uninitiated, the dirty secret of the sailing trade is that, for all our rhapsodizing about harnessing the power of the wind for propulsion, our refrigerator, radio, lights and even the very computer I am typing on are all ultimately powered by the diesel engine. This selfsame engine is used for motoring into harbors or driving upwind when we are in a hurry or used to supplement the wind when it is lacking. We were all down below, trying to ignore the hammering engine noise when the beep of an engine alarm brought us racing to the helm. After shutting off the engine, we realized that we were overheating and, to conserve energy until the problem could be resolved, we should go to bed and deal with it in the morning.
        The morning found the captain busily peering into the engine compartment trying to look sanguine about the situation. Sarah notices some pinched hoses running seawater through our brand new heat exchanger for the refrigerator and the captain noticed a fitting on that selfsame cylindrical device had partially melted and come out of the housing. The impeller appeared to be shot and some other small parts of the seawater pump were also in
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need of replacement. Fortunately, the prudent captain had Click for a journal entry listan impeller rebuild kit, tools and steel determination. With lots of Teflon tape, the melted part was inverted and made to perform its job with only a small leak. The pinched hoses were reinforced with spare hose clamps and the seawater pump rebuild went well and swiftly. Sadly, ship's Quality Assurance Officer noticed that despite the only minor leaks at the heat exchanger, and vastly improved water flow through the rebuilt pump, no water was coming out of the boat's exhaust. Attentive readers among you may already be thinking, "Hah, what about that water in the bilge?" The ship's crew was thinking the same thing and discovered a blue plastic lunch box sized thing that was leaking copiously from several holes. The captain had not provided Eaux Vives with a spare blue lunch box shaped thingie. The captain really didn't know he had one in the first place.
    Nothing for it but to sail back to St. Martin which is boat parts central for this part of the world. Our intrepid crew jumped into action and we sailed off our mooring, back across to St. Martin and up to Marigot Bay and on to our anchor without resort to our untrustworthy engine. 26.6 Miles at an average of 6.7 knots (which is more like a sprint than a jog) and we made it in time for the 45 minute dinghy ride across Simpson Bay Lagoon to the parts place before they closed. We made it there before they closed and held up the partially melted blue plastic lunch box thingie and said "we need a new one of these" in our most professional manner hoping no one would notice our damp clothes from the wet ride nor our complete ignorance as to what the heck it was. The poor clerk was sick as a dog but was really sure he didn't have one. He did consent to go upstairs to the same storeroom where last year he found our lost winch cover plate and came down with a much cleaner but gray lunch box thingie. It came in a box labeled "Water Lock" and the advertising on the side of the box said that (among its many virtues) it would melt when your engine overheated instead of letting more expensive stuff melt. It also claimed to make the engine run quieter and do other good stuff and held the same amount of water as the old one despite its different size and shape. We bought it. If any of my sailing students are reading this: 1) Examine the cooling flow of water from the engine EVERY SINGLE TIME you start it 2) check the floorboards for water in the bilge - and if you find it DO SOMETHING. Yet another entry in our upcoming volume: 101 Stupid Boat Tricks.
    Mission accomplished but now we are low on food and high on dirty laundry. After another day of errands, we head back out for St. Barts. This time we stopped at "Ile Forchue" a very small anchorage which appears to be the submerged caldera of an old volcano. The encircling rim looks more like a lunar crater as the island was badly overgrazed by goats who ate nearly everything but the rocks and left a kind of lunar landscape behind. Underwater, however, things are much lusher and we all enjoyed a long snorkel. Our new underwater housing got a work out and many of the underwater photos are from this location. We did finally get down to St. Bart's capital city and main port, Gustavia and took fore and aft mooring balls in a very picturesque, very busy, and very crowded inner harbor. Eaux Vives is a name all the French customs officials seem to have no problem with and she seemed right at home among the gleaming yachts of this tres chic playground of the extremely wealthy. St. Barts has even more spectacular food, drink and boats than St. Martin. I am sure we could have spent more time (and money) sampling the restaurants of St. Barts but we had to get back to put Sarah and Quincy on the plane back to home. This time we decided to sail up over the top (north) of St Martin and, as the winds were accomodating, we sailed up to Orient Bay. This long beach seems to be the capital of all the naked Frenchmen (and women) one sees throughout the island chain. In addition to having much better food than the Spanish, British or American Islands, the French Islands are a good deal more liberal in their views on the need for clothing in a tropical climate. Yet another reason to add France to the Cheney/Rumsfield sh*t list. At bare minimum, it should be looked into by the proper authorities.
    As this is an unauthorized voyage, we anchored at a discrete distance and left in the morning to complete our circumnavigation of the Island and struggled awake at 4:45 to load the dinghy with our tired (but happy) guests and luggage for the pre-dawn dinghy ride to the airport where they were deposited in a reasonably dry state for their journey home. As they are on this mailing list, you may all appeal to them for the true and unbiased story of cruising in the caribbean and uncover the reason for their mutinous mutterings that they wouldn't want to do this for 6 months.
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