Where are we

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Trinidad Update from Grenada - Part 2

Just to finish off the work done on Larus, welcome to the galley.  :)

Exciting for me was upgrading our battered and lifting Formica counter top with the a white granite coloured Corian work surface.  We replaced our two bowl sink with a single deeper under counter hung sink.  We have a beautiful new stainless steel tap with a hose for filling the laundry bucket in the cockpit.  The new tap fits between the tap for the freshwater foot pump (left) and the saltwater foot pump (left).


We have a small low wattage kettle, which we use on a good charging day - sunny for the 4 solar panels, windy for the wind generator or when there is neither, running the engine or diesel generator.

On super duper charging days we should be able to use our new induction hotplate. So far we have only used it on the hard or in the marina where we were plugged into shore power, and we haven't tried it using only the battery via the inverter.

Another of the perks of a lithium battery is that, 'the battery voltage remains constant regardless of how much we are drawing from it', said Tim. This means we can use appliances that would have damaged our lead acid batteries.

To go with our induction hotplate, we needed to replaced our old pots and pans. We had first used in our flat before moving them onto Larus in 1998 when we first bought her.  With their mismatched/damaged lids and wobbly handles, I was very excited to get a set of Magma  induction cookware with Ceramica non-stick interior.

I had used the stainless steel version of Magma pots working a charter on another yacht, and was really impressed with them.  I had no experience of the Ceramica interior and was a little apprehensive, but not anymore.  I love it and this is despite having to buy, or be gifted, in the case of the potato masher from Leslie on Ocean Blue, non-scratch utensils.

Even the cheese from my faux Ruben Sandwich  (pastrami, sauerkraut, the mild cheddar that is often all you can get down here, mustard, bread buttered on the outside and fried until the cheese oozes out) did not stick to the pan.  Omelettes just slide out and I find that the frying pan and smallest pot meet most of my needs.

The pots are very heavy, which is great for retaining heat and cooking evenly.  The pan surfaces heats uniformly using induction or propane.  The removable handles allow them to be used in the oven.


My first try with it was making my breakfast of steel cut oats, sliced almonds, pumpkin, flax and sunflower seeds, raisins, cinnamon, turmeric and a grate of black pepper as that is reputed to increase turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties.  Yum.  Its good cold too.

We think we have worked out a method of using the pots with the induction hob while underway in reasonable conditions thanks to plastic trays I bought from a fruit and veg vendor in Gibraltar way back in 2012.  The tray would keep the hob on the cooker but there was still a danger of the heavy pots to sliding around on the glass surface.  We hadn't figured that one out until Derek and Leslie told us they used silicon matts.  I use them for making galley surfaces non-slip, but the induction hob heats straight through my silicon baking sheet and the pot doesn't budge at all.

We hope to have the right conditions eventually to see how our setup works.

Maybe it will be over the next three days as we are heading to Curacao tomorrow.  We will leave about noon tomorrow and arrive on Sunday.  We have a good forecast and are raring to go.  We will meet up with the Suzy 2 Rally which starts mid November and which starts in Curacao and visits Aruba, Columbia, the San Blas Islands, Panama and Belize.  A number of boats, of which we are one, will leave the rally in Panama to head through the canal into the Pacific.

So its all go here and we'll keep you posted.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Trinidad Update from Grenada - Part 1

Greetings All!

Tim and I are now both back on Larus and in the water.  We have finally moved on from Trinidad and arrived in Prickly Bay, Grenada on Thursday the 25th of October.  We had a wonderful first sail - light winds, flat sea, and a full moon - after being out of the water for nearly 5 months. We also caught and passed another sailing yacht that had had a 5 mile head start.  Very satisfying. :)

While in Trinidad, Tim orchestrated a huge amount of work on Larus. I have helped of course, but the lion’s share of the boat and system upgrades and maintenance will always be down to Tim. 

Just to put you in the picture, here is a list of the big items that have been accomplished:

  • New spray hood for the cockpit (though this was made in Bequia in the spring).
  • Replaced the standing and running rigging on the main. Standing is the wire that holds the mast upright and the running is the rope used to haul things up and down.
  • Craned out the engine to change the timing belt.
  • Replaced bank of golf cart batteries with one beautiful lithium battery and all the systems needed to use it, which are many.
  • Replaced the windlass, which drops and raises the anchor.
  • A new work surface and sink in the galley.
  • New cushions for the cockpit (and  for Tim's poor bony bum).

The new sprayhood is a great success but there were a few surprises.  We had looked at getting the sprayhood replaced in a number of places and it was always going to be expensive, but Avell at Grenadine Sails, Bequia was a little less so.

We were impressed by Avell's appreciate of quality of our old sprayhood which had been made in the UK by guy in Southampton.  Tm can't remember the gentleman's name now, (it was a long time ago), but when he came to make the paper templates, it was such a windy day that he had to resort to 'doing it the old-fashioned way' by taking the measurements by hand.  A good sprayhood is tight as a drum.  All the fabric and plastic windows should be smooth and ours was, although the fabric leaked like a sieve due to age and sun damage.

Avell mentioned wistfully that he wished that he could have learned from the UK cover maker as the quality was obvious. When he asked to take the sprayhood away and use it as a template, we were more than happy to accommodate him.  

We specified the colour we wanted, silver grey, to match the bimini (cockpit sunshade) and asked him to make up an additional piece that zipped between the two to keep the cockpit drier in wet weather and heavy seas.  Certain points of sail can result in a wave catching the bow just so, with the resulting spray leaping over the sprayhood and drenching the person on the leeward side of the cockpit. You might have gotten wet anywhere in the cockpit but sitting on the leeward side was special.

The first thing we noticed when the new cover arrived was that it wasn't silver grey, it was 'linen', and there was not a lot that we could do about it. Avell had told us that he had the silver grey in stock. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how we ended up with a 'linen' cockpit cover, because it was a big risk for Avell. We could have said, this is not good enough, take it away and do it again, but we didn't for a number of reasons.  The sprayhood fit really well after a little tweaking by Avell, the additional piece we ordered was exactly what we wanted, he might not have had the right colour and no way of getting in in a reasonable time and it would have been a financial disaster for Avell's small business.  We actually prefer the new colour and have cockpit cushions made in the same colour here in Trinidad, by Kay Upholstery, a two sister team who did a very good job.   


And here they are, doing a great job of keeping us and the cockpit dry as a tropical wave passes over Trinidad.  There are a few things that I would like to change.  The side panels that are rolled up in the new section that zips in (and out) between the sprayhood and the bimini are tied with some light webbing.  In a perfect world, I would replace them with parachute clips if I could find the in the right size and colour. You can get black clips by the bushel but the white ones are harder to find and much more expensive even on Amazon.  I have bought press studs in Canada but once down here, I found I'd have to replace the webbing with something a little wider and that is harder than it sounds.  I will just be patient and see what comes up.

Changing the standing rigging - the wires that hold up the mast - on the main and lifting out the engine were the two big jobs that the planning of had kept Tim awake at night.  Some of the pressure was taken off him by Jonas from …..Rigging who we contracted to replace the standing rigging.  This meant that Jonas hired the crane and did all the work lifting off, replacing the wire rigging and then putting it all back together again.


On the same day, we also made use of the crane (and all the extra hands) to lift out the engine so that Tim could change the timing belt.  This was a job that had been earmarked for last August in Deltaville, Virginia, but despite completing numerous work orders, the yard never got around to it.


Lifting out the engine took a lot of preparation.  First the cockpit floor and steering pedestal had to be removed.  Then the generator which sits aft of the engine was then removed and the engine detached from the engine mounts, which keep the engine in place and have shock absorbers to reduce the noise and vibration when the engine is running.  The trickiest part, and where we sorely missed the expertise of our friend Paul in Southampton, was arranging the ropes that would be used to lift the engine so that the engine came out level.  'Level' is important because the engine only just goes through the opening in the cockpit floor and if the engine is tilted at all from port to starboard it will catch on the sides of the opening and that would be bad.  It also needs to be level fore and aft so that the engine will lift cleanly off the 4 vertical bolts on the 4 engine mounts.


You don't often get a chance to have to all of the engine within reach and Tim took the opportunity to give it a good clean and change the timing belt, which would have been completely impossible into the boat, but as easy as taking the old one off and putting the new one on.

Once the rigging was ready to go back up, the engine was craned back in and Jonas got the mast and rigging back in place.

Another big job that Tim accomplished on his own was installing the new lithium ion battery as well as the management system that controls and monitors all aspects of charging and discharging.


Lithium-ion batteries have many advantages. They weigh less than a bank of lead acid batteries, but the most importantly for us is that they charge in 1/4 of the time of lead acid batteries.  They also provide more usable energy. Lead acid batteries should not be discharged below 50% while lithium batteries can safely provide energy down to 20% of their capacity.

I will leave it to Tim to tell you how it is working out for us.

The new battery gives us higher power usage, which has added another option than propane of cooking.  More about that and a tour of our refurbished galley and tools in the next blog.

Friday 19 October 2018

Better Late Than Never - Barbuda


Barbuda took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in 2017.  Tim and I spent a number of weeks on charter there in early 2018 and this is what we found.

There was a lot of concern that following the destruction of hurricane Irma, the frigate birds might not have returned to Barbuda. Tim and I took a dinghy ride around the north coast of the island to go and see for ourselves.  From a long what off you, could see hundreds of them riding the air currents over the mangroves. From what we could see, the frigate colony birds seem to have recovered far better than the human habitation on the rest of the island.

Pre Hurricane Irma the lagoon used to be a body of water open only from the sea on the northern side of the island via mangroves and the frigate bird colony.


Post Irma, the strip of sand, formerly Barbuda's 13 mile pink sand beach, was breached in two places.  The current coming out through the largest gap is about 2 knots and the standing wave you see is caused by swell passing over a shallow point as it heads into the bay against the current and wind.  We took the photo from the dinghy in the relative calm of the now currently navigable channel. The breach has made the Lighthouse Resort accessible only by boat.

So when workmen using a blow torch accidently set fire to a building to the right of the resort, it was a matter of getting people from Codrington on the far side of the lagoon by boat to fight the fire.  We got a call from Devon, our guest's water taxi driver who we used, when it was too rough for Tim to take them through the cut into Codrington, asking, 'what's burning?'  The plume of smoke would have been visible from much of 'flat as a pancake' Barbuda.  Tim and our guests went ashore and helped to extinguish the fire with a garden hose and buckets of saltwater before it could damage nearby plant and equipment.

Codrington, Barbuda

The World Food Program in Codrington, which supplies the basic necessities to the 200 or so of the Barbudans currently living on the island.  It is a strange state of affairs.  While we were in Barbuda, the seas between were up and the ferry was not able to make its regular deliveries to Barbuda from Antigua.  This resulted in gas and diesel rationing.  Not only where fishing boats unable to go out, but cars were parked and bicycles used instead.  Just behind the white tarp building is the Fisheries building.  If you click on the photo you can see a person sitting at a table. This is where the people of Codrington charge their phones.  They don't have electricity, unless they have access to a generator, or running water, but depending who you were speak to, this is not so different from pre-Hurricane Irma.

The damage to the homes and buildings was a different story.  Months on people were still living in tents and getting supplies and fresh water from Aid agencies.

Cocoa Point was a high end resort on the southern most tip of Barbuda and is very exposed.  It would have been evacuated at the time of the hurricane.


Palm trees wrapped in corrugated iron roofing; Inside on of the holiday units; palm trees with their tops snapped off - we didn't see that anywhere else on the island; Damaged but still standing buildings; Tinned and canned food were scattered across the sand, many intact but now badly sun damaged.

It really is hard to see how they will get Barbuda up and running again.  All the islands devastated by Hurricanes Irma or Maria will continue repairing and rebuilding, and hope that the next hurricane season is kinder.