Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #17 Ready, Set,…

Over a week has passed since writing anything further in this log. Getting through Easter was one of the toughest times we’ve had since being here. We desperately missed both our church family and our birth family on such a special holiday. The rainy morning didn’t help, and we were both relieved to see the day come to an end. We probably felt more of the resurrection when the sun rose the next day. Since then we’ve accomplished many little things to get the boat ready for our trip north—such things as improving our electronics for navigation, upgrading our ground tackle, acquiring charts, and rigging a system for hauling our dinghy and engine out of the water for traveling extended distances. We’re still waiting for our watermaker and our SSB radio to arrive.

Our projected date for departure from the Virgins is May 14. That’s Lauri’s birthday, and we’d like to be able to wish her a Happy Birthday from somewhere else. Of course, weather and being finished with our projects will dictate our exact departure date, but at least we now have a target. We hope to make the trip through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas to Ft. Lauderdale in about 6 weeks. Again, the weather and equipment gods will largely be in charge.

Communication with equipment manufacturers and distributors always seems to absorb an inordinate amount of time. One day this past week we spent several hours on e-mail and 800-number phone lines to get needed information. In retrospect, we have become painfully aware that, rather than staying in the Virgins for the winter, returning to Florida to do our outfitting there might have been a better choice. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20.

Today marked another first. I cut Jim’s hair for the first time! It wasn’t exactly the way Michelle used to do his hair, but he was satisfied, at least. Actually, he did half of the job by holding a mirror and comb and telling me where to cut, so it wasn’t exactly a Samson-and-Delilah moment. After getting a haircut slightly longer than Marine length a couple of months ago (a BIG mistake!), my hair doesn’t yet need a trim. But Jim intends to reciprocate rather than let me have anyone else down here touch my hair again. I guess hair-styling is another skill we’ll be adding to our resumes!

Several small projects in the last few days have been completed successfully, and with minimal frustration. That’s been a real boost, since it has seemed that many projects have been monumental hurdles. We got word today that the watermaker should arrive by the end of the week, but the SSB has gone underground and incommunicado (not literally, I hope). If it can’t be located in transit, they’ll send out a new one. We’re counting the days.

Okay, so at least some of the projects have gone off without a hitch, but not today’s. Jim wanted to install the remote VHF radio/microphone in the cockpit. So he took apart the instrument panel on the binnacle guard, but wasn’t successful in getting the maxi-sized plug through the mini-sized space around the other wires. So now we know what tomorrow’s project will be.

Despite what often seems like gargantuan frustration, this morning as I gazed at the beauty around the boat—the water, the sky, the islands—I couldn’t help feeling enormously fortunate to be spending time in this place. Truly this must be one of the places where God goes for a little R&R from the stresses of Creation.

Well, the remote microphone got installed in the cockpit, but not with the other instruments. After several fits and starts it became apparent that further dismantling of the binnacle guard could wreak significant havoc with our time table for leaving the Virgins. So instead we chose a “down and dirty” half-installation in a locker. It will be temporary anyway, since we plan to replace the binnacle guard when we have radar installed. The folks on Laughing Pelican notwithstanding, we’ve chosen to wait until returning to the States to get the radar. That installation will probably be somewhat complicated, and we really don’t need further complications presently. Anyway, we seem to keep getting them without inviting them!

It occurred to me today that, except for occasional swims off the back of the boat, we haven’t been off the boat for 6 days. We’ve been in Christmas Cove anchorage, and it’s too remote to go anyplace by dinghy. So it’s been just us and the boat. And, yes, even amidst frustrating work projects, we’re both still alive!

We needed water again so we pulled up to the fuel dock in the marina close to our mail service, expecting to tank up, then go anchor and return to the mail service by dinghy. We weren’t happy to learn that the marina’s water pump was being fixed so we couldn’t take on water. Since it was only supposed to be a half-hour wait we stayed at the dock. Of course, the half hour stretched into an hour, and the attendant was very apologetic. When I mentioned the irony that waiting for water was keeping us from picking up our watermaker at the mail service, she graciously offered to let us go pick up the packages while the boat remained at the fuel dock. How fortunate we were that the marina’s water system was on the fritz at that time! In addition to several other packages (including the AWOL SSB radio), the watermaker package was HUGE and it weighed 133 pounds!! There was no way we could have gotten that box into the dinghy and then onto the boat at anchor. As it was, it took the dock attendant’s help for all of us to wrestle the box out of a dock cart into the cockpit, and that was as far as it went. Now all the pieces and parts are sitting strewn around the cabins, and the box made it to the trash at the dock. We never did get water there. After another two hours had gone by we gave up and went to another dock and anchorage. Now if we can just get the watermaker and the SSB installed in the next two weeks…

The SSB (Single Side Band) radio requires some work to the backstay which requires the services of a rigger. We managed to get a confirmation from a nearby rigger on getting that work done this coming week. And, hopefully, we have a date for the watermaker soon after. In the meantime we’ll work on getting the radio components installed.

Anyone out there wondering what exactly is an SSB radio and why do we need one? It’s a special kind of radio (similar to a HAM radio) that transmits and receives over very large distances. Cruisers down here who have them can have conversations with other cruisers in the Bahamas and in the U.S. Pretty amazing, huh? It also is valuable for getting weather info, and that’s the main reason we need one. And it will eventually give us the ability to send and receive e-mail on the boat. No more cyber cafés—whoo, whoo! But I’ll kind of miss eavesdropping on those captivating conversations.

h3, 5/4/03
According to some cruiser friends, we have now passed the shallow water test. The anchorage we were in for the last couple of nights (Jersey Bay) is one we have been in several times before. Part of its appeal is location, and it’s also very reminiscent of anchorages in Florida. At its best it is a quiet and deserted bay bordered on two and a half sides by mangroves. At its worst, however, it’s a bucking bronco open to a two-mile fetch when the wind blows over 10 knots out of the east. Our most recent experience has been of the bucking bronco type. At night sleeping (if you can call it that) has been like sleeping while sailing on the open ocean! Just at the back of the bay and behind a small island lies a small, consistently tranquil area (at which I have often gazed longingly) called the False Entrance, so named because, except for the protective reef, it is open to the sea. Sounds ideal, huh? I’ve always thought of it that way. Except for the shallow passage in, known only to locals. Fortunately, some live-aboards living inside graciously explained the way, and after sounding it with our dinghy we took the plunge. When we ran aground in the sand and grass Jim was tempted to give it up. But I think he visualized my mood if we returned to the bouncy, rolly spot we had left and decided to persevere. (Jim: I know which side my bed, …er, bread is buttered on!) With a little extra push from the engine we left the skinny water behind and made it into the best anchorage we’ve had in St. Thomas. We have plenty of breeze with very little motion, a lovely view, and the sound of the surf on the reef. We’re “parallel parked” (with anchors at bow and stern) next to friends Don and Nori on Sea Dreamer. They’ve been very generous with their encouragement, support, and time in helping us with our plans for our cruise north. This afternoon they spent several hours with us going over charts and giving us the benefit of their experience from their cruise down here. The time for leaving is getting closer, but we’ll enjoy this anchorage for the coming week.

Reef at False Entrance

Fair winds and tranquil waters until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford

Posted Monday May 5, 2003

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