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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies


Making Queen Emma Seaworthy

This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

Ste. Anne, Martinique 05/09/2010

New Trojan Batteries

Our fine new Trojans

Life on a boat, is not what its cracked up to be,
there's a million things you have to do to keep her seaworthy

-----The Mighty Yachtie

The plan is to let Queen Emma venture further from civilization again. Let her stretch the sea legs a little and maybe stretch us as well. This means hopefully next year at this time we will be starting across the Atlantic. Or something.... such plans are written in sand at low tide. We've gotten quite comfortable with inter-island hops but open ocean passages ask a little more of the boat and crew. There is an amazing amount of stuff to do before you go on a passage which takes you far from the repair shops. Everyone tells us that you never reach the end - finally, you just go. I think we are gaining on the list and beginning to learn about how some of this stuff works. We are making water! Stop it. I mean making fresh water from sea water. We even filled the tanks from captured rain so that's two possibilities for avoiding dehydration. We came down to Martinique to get some expert work done on the electrical system, the electronic autopilot and to get the rigging checked and tightened. The latter proved to need no tightening (thanks to Tiger Lily, we had tightened the new rigging already) but an investigation of the mainsail furler caused the main to fall down surrounded by a hailstorm of ball bearings. The good news is, Caraibe Greement had the circlip which had failed and a set of torlon bearings and had the furler working again that day. We rationalized the charging system and got new house batteries and we had the mechanics tune the engine and fix the fuel delivery problem. Diginav fixed the autopilot brain (again) for his usual modest fee. However, we decided that this 15 year old autopilot is going to be the backup and we will invest in a new one for the longer trip. Jacques can still get the "old" style brain which is one generation newer than ours but being discontinued in favor of an even more outrageously priced new model. Monday, we hopefully pick up the box and leave for St. Lucia where we will put Queen Emma in a slip to have her refrigerator re-insulated and the nav station rebuilt. The refrigerator is working well but the insulation is waterlogged so it runs nearly all the time. The nav station needs to be redesigned so that I can get to all the wires on the backs of the electronics without having to dismantle everything. Plans beyond that: we will go home for the wedding season and return toward the end of June. Then we'll take Queen Emma south enough to be out of the real active hurricane belt and install all the bits and pieces we have accumulated. Things like hatches, deck refurbishing and canvas can be done down south while we keep one eye on the weather and just remain prepared to dodge anything that spins up.

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Sea Fresh watermaker

Part of the watermaker

An even bigger part of "getting ready" is thinking about what we need to keep ourselves fed, watered and up and running in reasonable comfort for 3 weeks at sea. I've started listening to Herb Hilgenberg who does Atlantic weather routing to get a notion of how to work with him. He's a legendary wiz at steering boats safely across but does not suffer fools lightly. Definitely someone you don't want to offend with a newbie faux paux. I'm also reading about offshore sailing and we picked up a good guide to the Atlantic Islands. We are loaded with stuff to install, old stuff to get rid of and lots of plans and notes. We will probably not have the life raft "certified" until we are in Antigua next April since the "certification" is only good for a year. Some of the toys to try are: storm sails, sea anchor, towing generator and manual water pump. Some of the things to buy are: EPIRB, tools, spare parts, charts, guide books and offshore insurance.

Queen Emma is getting to be quite the little space capsule. We are definitely not of the Keep It Simple Stupid school of sailing but more the-all-American gadgeteer gone to sea. Everything is working right now (knock wood) and jobs are mostly just improvements and reliability engineering. For example: today we went motoring out on the protected south side of the island to calibrate the knot log. One mile out and one mile back to neutralize effects of current and we are now reading accurate boat speed. Such a simple task but it took all morning. Up anchor, motor away from all the traffic, start the GPS for the distance measure and drive away. Circle back while we reread the manual. Hit the start line and start the process. On the way back we were shoo'd away from a dinghy race which seemed to have hundreds of participants. We encountered a brief squall and got ourselves organized and anchored shortly after it passed. We are celebrating VE day in Ste. Anne, Martinique. Lots of old guys dressed in white with chests full of medals and the tricolor everywhere. We bought Mahi Mahi from a charming fisherman/yachtie and grilled it for lunch. Veggies and fruit from the market, bread from the bakery and we are dining once again al fresco in Chez Reine Emma, our favorite waterside diner. We'll have to get out of here before we grow too large; the French paradox doesn't seem to work for visitors.
Susie reading

Hardworking sailors at rest

Sorry for yet another "workingOnTheBoat" missive but that really is the main occupation. It's not all suffer-suffer though. The sea is turquoise, the sky blue and the clouds cotton ball white. Tradewinds keep us cool and power this computer and if we overheat ourselves in our heroic toils, a cooling dip is just a few steps away.

This ship, which was to be our house and our street, our home and our garden, for so many days to come, seemed so tiny in all this wide water-- so tiny and yet so snug, sufficient, safe.

----Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, Hugh Lofting.

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