Day Sail!! and with Wind Vane Steering

    Yesterday Lynn and I did something on Celebration that we haven't done since we started cruising full time. No not that! Our kids might read this!!  We went for a day sail. Yes, pulled up the anchor from the clay of Charlotte Amalie St Thomas and are now on a mooring in Christmas Cove St James Island.  We had a beautiful, slow, comfortable sail in between as we tacked and tacked windward to get here.
    Why? Both why; as in why don't we day-sail more? And why; as in why today? Why not more day-sailing? Well it seems like every time we anchor somewhere, things just appear. Things from in cabinets come out....like tools, spare parts, project lists, lots of stuff like that. Then there are things that in a place like Charlotte Amalie appear from off the boat...like the 1.75 liter bottles of Cruzan Dark rum we found for $9.95 each, a few extra groceries for the next trip, and always a couple of bits needed to keep the good ship operating properly i.e. ready for the next voyage. So to leave even for an afternoon, all these things have to be put away. Otherwise when the boats heels (leans) with the wind, they will noisily find their own temporary home at the lowest point below. Not a great sight or sound and definitely not fun to clean up afterward.
    Why today? After a couple nights in Charlotte Amalie which we love for the people watching, restocking, and finding needed parts and pieces, we need we also needed a little break. Carnival is gearing up thus so is the music in both hours and loudness. We love it and the party atmosphere. But Sunday night it was loud and going until 0200 in the morning. The day before 0345, the same on Friday. Nice, but with a break.
Line routing and Quadrant driving rudder post
   But the real reason Lynn was able to get me to break the anchor loose is that we needed a test of the new (to Celebration anyway) wind vane steering. After years of looking, setting the boat up for it along the way and not being able to afford one, not liking most of the commercial solutions, I found the "perfect" match. An old Aries lift up unit which needed a LOT of work. I often say "I have more time than money" so it wound up on celebration courtesy of a fellow cruiser/guitar player in Grenada for the tidy sum of $200 and a bottle of Clarks Court Dark. Weeks, actually months later, all the parts were broken loose (hammered in many cases) reshaped, refit, modified, Teflon coated, assembled and appeared to be working. A couple of custom brackets and a self designed quadrant for getting the unit connected to the rudder and we were ready for a test run. The journey from the bottom of someone’s bilge to the stern of Celebration, to even include the recast of the lead counterweight using a tin can and the BBQ grill,  I'll cover in some detail on another blog dedicated to maintenance and refit stuff. Today we'll settle for a photo of how it's rigged to the rudder post and hopefully a brief video.

    I have to say that I had never sailed with one before so really didn't know what to expect. Surely there would be some tweaking with my "one of" design, and I'd heard and read all about the wandering course many of the wind steering units take. So I expected the worse, probably a whole day of figuring it out, followed by some redesign and reworking parts. Well to make it short, we headed out, set sails, Lynn held a course while I tensioned and cleated off the control lines. Next I heard from Lynn was "it's steering isn't it? Lo and behold it worked! What, can't be that easy. So after an hour we tacked with no problem, tacked again and again. Eventually we sailed along relaxed and trusting this new thing to steer. No beeps, no clicks, no whirr of the linkage, nor whine of the motor, best of all no amps consumed and no squiggly little lines on my weather fax. Tonight we will christen it after we come up with a suitable name over cocktails. We'll let you know.


Thar She Blows

No, not a tale of whales, but two tales of volcanoes and the destruction they cause.  The Eastern Caribbean islands where we've been living this past year are mostly volcanic.  They have the same MO as we sail by: lush green hills crowned by a perfect volcano crater, topped with fluffy white clouds, quiet and peaceful.  We got a chance to see the other side of the mountain, so to speak, the destructive, uncaring, violent side.

Mount Pelee, above, stands above the town of St Pierre on the NW corner of Martinique.  It erupted in 1902, sending a "fireball of superheated gas that flowed down over the city... All that remained were smoking ruins". Almost 30,000 people burned to death, leaving (depending on the reports) only 2 or 3 survivors.  The new city of St Pierre wasn't rebuilt until 1923 and is built around and on the old ruins.  The ruins are visible throughout the town, old walls that are now part of new structures.

The former entrance to the Theatre.

The ruins of the Police Station/Prison where Louis Cyparis survived the eruption .

Louis Cyparis, he had an interesting life,
go to here for the story.

Statue and inscription at the entrance of the old Theatre.

Volcano #2 is the island country of Montserrat.

Soufriere, from outside the 2 mile maritime exclusion zone, showing the ash flows. Plymouth was on the far left.

The Soufriere eruption is a much more recent event, so with more modern seismic equipment, only 19 people died when it blew in 1995, burying the capitol city of Plymouth. It continued to spew ash, making living conditions very difficult, and during the next few years nearly 2/3 of the population left the country.

Plymouth houses surrounded by the ash flow.

The third story of a home buried by ash.

The ash continues to fall, bird tracks on a stair rail.

I don't know if it was the ash in the air or just the time of year,
but the sunsets were spectacular.


Taxis, Busses, Rum and New Friends

    St Croix: We have some friends Pablo and Tatia (s/v Borealis) who wondered why there were no cruisers in St Croix. They had all great things to say after their visit. Since it was one of the islands we missed last year and we were going with the wind and current this time, we thought we'd give it a taste. We loved it and too are surprised there are few cruisers. Checking in was a breeze, especially as US citizens and having registered with the local boater option., getting around was not hard. Pueblo supermarket is within walking distance from downtown Christiansted where we anchored and $2.50 busses available if you need to go farther. The busses can be a bit confusing but a little time talking to a local clears it up quickly.

    The $2.50 bus: Well more like full-size US vans, they are really taxis, and they say taxi, but some are taxis and some are busses, pretty clear eh?

    Well...you just put your hand out and ask when they stop if they are a two-fifty bus. So what you really have is a taxi, but if its driver is willing to play like a bus and you're willing to go along, then it can be a bus. The difference, ahh...the only difference is that as a $2.50 bus you'll share your "taxi" with as many folks as are willing to get in/out along the route, all only paying $2.50 vs the normal fare. And you will get off and on a main route...no deviating down a side street for a door side drop or pickup.

    So there we were... another distillery to visit in our one year circumnavigation of Caribbean Rum tasting but a really long walk away. A taxi at $25? Nope the two-fifty bus with an easy half mile walk down the side road right to the Cruzan Rum Distillery front door.

A nice tour although a bit superficial, (perhaps a result of us getting the one tour guide/host who doesn't drink!) followed by a bit of sampling in their indoor/outdoor host area. One of the most interesting points is that while ALL the rum is made right there in St Croix, it is ALL shipped in bulk to Florida for spicing, flavoring, and bottling. Then we looked at the prices. Yes you can buy a bottle of Cruzan from the distillery for far less than in Florida even after the trip there and back. Hmmm? Oh yea prices...Cruzan dark aged two years was $6.00/750ml bottle. So how much of that can we stand to backpack out to the road for our taxi/bus back to Christenstead? Unfortunately not much.

   We made our meager purchase and packed it up for the trek. So on the way out one of those great cruiser moments occurred as we met a wonderful couple Jorgen and Nonne (s/v Luna) from Denmark. We chatted and shared information, where we're from, where headed all that when I noticed they had several cases of the good stuff. By then I already knew their boat was in Christiansted near ours so I asked if they had a spare seat we could hook a ride back to "Fredrickstad" with them. The second I said that I realized (confirmed by a gentle kick from Lynn) I didn't mean Fredrickstad at all...we weren't going to Fredrickstad. Too late as Jorgan had heartily agreed so yes we were indeed going to Fredrickstad and off we went.

We toured the Dutch fort, after which we shared a picnic lunch on a hillside and a drive back through the forest and countryside to Christiansted. At one point Lynn commented that we didn't want to mess up their plan for the day only to be told "you are now a part of our plan". We could not have asked for a nicer afternoon and a chance to meet another set of friends. Sharing ideas, talk of kids, pets, sightseeing, past and future journeys, sailing weather for the next days and the afternoon was over all too quick. All due to a slip of the tongue, which by chance and the graciousness of new found friends, suddenly became "the plan"