Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #18 Ready, Set,… (cont.)

This anchorage is heavenly. We have constant breeze, gentle swaying, and the sound of the surf. We’re both delighted that we made the effort to get in here. We should be able to get several things accomplished this week. But there’s still so much to do before we leave. And there’s still a few needed equipment items to get shipped.

Tranquility at False Entrance

I started entering routes for the trip north into the computerized charts. But I must be doing something wrong, because it really can’t be as easy as it seems. By clicking in the right places I can make lines on the charts to show exactly where the boat will go through the water. Then when we’re actually traveling, the autopilot (“Otto Helm”) will steer the boat by the entered courses, and the image of the boat on the computer screen will follow the lines. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway. We’ll see. “Otto” is pretty reliable when it comes to steering a course, but he’s really blind when it comes to seeing the reefs.

This felt like a very productive day. We got almost all of the parts of the SSB installed. No, it isn’t a case of plugging it in to an outlet like a regular radio. This one has several components that all need their own space and need to be wired together. Holes need to be drilled where there is not room for an electric drill! And then there’s the antenna connection to the backstay. After it’s all put together we get to learn how to use it! What fun that will be!! Our learning curve on so many things already has felt as steep as some of the hills on Tortola, and there’s much more to come.

Guess what? We won’t make it out of St. Thomas by Lauri’s birthday. I’m sure another delay comes as no big surprise. The appointment for the watermaker isn’t until next Thursday, and the installation will probably take several days. Paying someone else to do it will be well worth it. Today we took the pieces and parts out to see where they might fit, and started to panic. We bought a boat big enough to accommodate all the goodies we wanted, but we’re not sure it’s big enough for the watermaker! Hopefully, the installers will have some good ideas on how to make it all fit. By the way, in case anyone is wondering how mere mortals can make water, it works on a fairly simple principle called reverse osmosis. It takes in sea water and compresses it under high pressure to extract the salt. Then it sends the excess salt water over the side and the distilled water into the water tanks, and voila!—unlimited fresh water for washing, cleaning, cooking, and drinking. Of course, it takes some electrical power to accomplish this bit of magic, but that’s why we enlarged the battery bank several weeks ago.

Happy Mother’s Day! Jim cooked breakfast, as usual, and this afternoon we took some time for an exploratory walk on the small island in front of us. And the backstay with the insulators got put on today. That’s part of the SSB connection. Skip, the rigger, had taken the backstay off yesterday, but was uncertain about when he would get it reinstalled with the insulators on it. He’s quite a character, and apparently very much in demand. He seems to work 7 days a week, and we were grateful for the time today. Now when we get the rest of the cables in the mail (tomorrow, hopefully) we’ll be able to get the radio up and running. All in all, a very nice day!

Alice and Jim Rutherford in the Virgin Islands

Another hurdle overcome. Jim was really hesitant about changing the fuel filters on the engine. If not done correctly and air entered the system the engine wouldn’t start—a very bad thing! It would be fixable, but only with time, patience, know-how, and the right tools. So he requested consultation and assistance from Jim on Vantage Point (another Catalina 42), who graciously spent a couple of hours overseeing the procedure. All went well, and the engine started right up—a very good thing! This evening Nori from Sea Dreamer spent time with us going over our routes and charts for the trip back. We are so grateful for the assistance of other cruisers. What a great group of people!!

We had to leave the idyllic anchorage at False Entrance to come to Great Cruz Bay, St. John, for the watermaker installation. We didn’t run aground coming out, so maybe we can get back in sometime. It was the first anchorage we weren’t ready to leave after a week. But now we’ll be able to get the watermaker going in the next few days. And, fortunately, the installer Tracy said that all the pieces should go into the space we had picked out in the engine compartment. Whew! What a relief!

Coming over here we tried out “Otto’s” ability to steer the boat from a computerized route. He failed the test. He kept trying to turn us into the rocks! We think that’s because his compass is off by 10-20 degrees. So that’s something we definitely have to fix soon. We want Otto to be in tip-top shape for the L-O-N-G trip north!

Lauri’s birthday, and what was supposed to be our departure date. We spent the day doing errands instead. Oh well. Other cruisers say that a target departure date is only to help keep the projects on track until the next target departure date. Our next one is 5/21/03. Let’s see if we make it.

The watermaker is about half done and the SSB is working. The first time we turned on the SSB I got a real flashback to my childhood. The whistles, buzzes, crackles, and pops coming out of the SSB radio were exactly the same as I remember from my dad’s HAM radio when I was a little kid. And the voices sounded the same, too! We heard people from all over the Caribbean, and maybe on various continents as well. What a treat! There really isn’t any difference between a SSB radio and a HAM radio. We can listen to HAMs, we just can’t talk to them unless we get a HAM license. I never thought I’d be interested in doing that (especially because it means learning Morse code at 5 words per minute), but maybe in memory of my dad I’ll do it someday.

The SSB is working well, and we’re starting to get the hang of finding the right frequencies to hear and to talk to other cruisers. It will be a great way to stay in touch with the cruising friends we’ve made here.

The watermaker installation got finished today. Tracy has done a fantastic job. As an experienced cruiser himself he has some fascinating stories, and he has a great sense of humor. Much about him reminds us of our son Mike, so he has endeared himself to us. Being so far away from Mike, it has been a real treat to spend a few days with someone very much like him. After first starting up the watermaker and getting a few glitches worked out, it seemed to be running like a charm…until we realized that all the water being made was going into the bilge instead of the water tank! That certainly won’t do. So tomorrow Tracy will have to rerun some of the plumbing to get the water where it’s supposed to be. We won’t be leaving on the 21st.

We got water! Lots ‘n’ lots of water! The watermaker works great—15-17 gallons per hour. As it turned out Tracy didn’t need to rerun any plumbing. The glitch was due to one of the connections he had put in, so he fixed it with no difficulty. However, with the extra energy draw we’ve discovered that the alternator isn’t working properly, and the new batteries are in danger of an early death. So Jim ordered a new alternator that should arrive in the next few days. Tracy will install that for us, also, as well as an external regulator for it. At least the list of things to do is getting a little shorter! Tomorrow we’ll return to St. Thomas to pick up our mail, send and receive e-mail (which we haven’t done in over 2 weeks!), and continue knocking down the list.

Fair winds and following seas until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford

Posted Thursday May 22, 2003

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