While many old school or small boat sailors are comfortable with the wind information they get from a piece of yarn tied to their rigging, ZTC came with a wind speed instrument and I like it. On our boat, and many others like it, a masthead wind transducer sends both speed and directional data to a display at our helm. Working together with an underwater speed transducer (which frequently does not work), it tells us both true and apparent wind speed and direction. The unit has served us quite well and has only stopped functioning on maybe 3 or so occasions, each for no more than a day. Why did it stop working? I never did find out. Such is the difficulty with troubleshooting an intermittent fault. I suspect the problems are caused by a loose or corroded connection at the mast step which I tend to clean up when faced with issues with the device but I never did prove that conclusively.
Anyway, before we went cruising, I read on one of the techie websites about a masthead wind unit that worked with no moving parts. That sounded like a great idea and much less fragile than the little spinning cups that most people have sitting on top of their mast. I had expected that in the 3 years that have passed that this technology would be more widely used but it doesn’t seem as if that’s the case, at least not that I have observed. Our friend Bob just posted about a similar product not too long ago so I know that the technology is still available for purchase. If I was outfitting a boat from scratch I think I’d seriously look at this. As both ZTC and the Leopard that we’ll soon be upgrading both have a normal masthead wind transducer, I think I’ll have to wait a while before I personally get to test one of these guys out.
Speaking of Leopard upgrades, we finally settled on an engine for our new tender: a Yamaha F40, 40 HP 4-stroke. Both tender and engine should be waiting for us at Budget Marine in St. Maarten when we swing through on our way to Grenada with the new boat.
Our recent trip to Fort de France, Martinique marks our third stop in that anchorage. I have never been to France but if my imagination is accurate, that Martinique city is very much like one in their faraway kinsman’s country. As Rebecca and I prepared to head to town to shop and explore, I commented to her that she seemed to be a bit dressed up for such an excursion. She replied by saying that she always feels underdressed when walking around Fort de France and to tell the truth, I can see why she would feel that way. Most everyone there looks tres chic!
One of the items that we were both shopping for in town was a new pair of sunglasses. Rebecca’s had recently broken and I left my old and cracked pair on a bus in Roseau (I swear that I did not do so on purpose just so that I would have an excuse to buy a new pair). A comfortable pair of sunglasses is a necessity here in the tropics, especially for someone like me who tends to squint even on the cloudiest day. When we first left Canada to go cruising we had onboard a box full of various pairs of sunglasses, all collected from our gym’s lost and found. That supply has all but vanished though, each pair having been lost to the rigors of our active lifestyle. Fortunately, there was no shortage of sunglasses to choose from in Fort de France. Every street corner sported a vendor with a rack of cheap ones to sell and in addition to those, several optical stores stocked all of the latest name brands. We each chose something that we felt comfortable with and our eyes are much happier because of it. They question now is who will be able to hang on to their glasses the longest, Rebecca or I. Considering that I spent a fair bit more on my pair than she did, I think we’re both really hoping that I’ll win out.
New sunglasses purchased in Fort de France. Guess what though…
this is an image taken from a previous trip to that city.
In contrast to Fort de France, we’ve spent the last couple of days in Grand Anse d’Arlets, a touristy little beach town. This morning we’ll be raising anchor to move around the corner to Le Marin, a trip of about 13 miles or so, 10 of it being dead east. Because of that last part, our plan is to depart at 6:00 AM before the trades pick up. That will hopefully make the trip a tad easier.
On numerous occasions I’ve mentioned the website Active Captain. We consult the Active Captain anchorage reviews when planning all of our stops and have chosen charting software (Polar View, Garmin Bluechart Mobile) because of their seamless integration of that data. In spite of AC’s success (or perhaps because of it), the website’s founder, Jeffrey Siegel, has not been at rest. In addition to continuing to improve and promote Active Captain, he has just introduced his latest brainchild, eBoatCards.
Our original boat cards.
Boat cards, like business cards for cruisers, are very common for those on the water. With the increasing prevalence of laptop computers, iPads and smart phones, eBoatCards seems like the natural evolution of the paper product. I encourage readers to visit the site and read the documentation online there but the basic idea is that cruisers (boaters, businesses, wannabes) can create a user profile with all their particulars. Using a downloadable smart phone app, users can exchange “cards” with other users who they come into contact with. All of this data can then be searched, accessed, etc. on other online devices. While what I have described may seem like a novelty to some people, there is much more to it. In addition to its current functionality, I know that Jeffrey has much more in store for this product as he appears to always be thinking 10 steps ahead. I asked him for a quote on his new release and this is what he had to say:
Your chartplotter tells you “how” to get from point A to point B. We always thought of ActiveCaptain as helping you with “why” to go to point B (reviews, features, details). Now we see eBoatCards as helping you with “who” is at point B or who is moving around you to create a more social environment while cruising. Through groups it’ll also help to give identity to each boater and learn more about what is at different destinations.
eBoatCards adds to ActiveCaptain to create something that we call “Social Navigation”.
I would encourage everyone to visit his site, create a new profile and after doing so, look up Zero To Cruising and link up with us. I think it’s only a matter of time before this new site becomes as valuable to cruisers as Active Captain is presently.
The last couple of days we have been observing our friends John and Kathy on s/v Oceana deploy their dinghy outboard engine each morning and then re-store it on their rail each evening. The job is made relatively painless for them with the help of the nice outboard engine hoist that they have permanently installed on the stern of their boat.
We do not have such a crane but a year and a half ago, I uploaded a video that demonstrated how we use our boom and main sheet to take care of this task. Although our procedure works for the most part, because the boom is not quite long enough to reach all the way back to the rail, it still does require me to muscle the engine up onto and off of the storage bracket, something that a smaller or weaker person might have difficulty with. I know it’s a challenge for me, especially in less than calm water!
Our friends’ nice system has me putting more though into streamlining our technique. The question is, how to do it without spending a bunch of money on a dedicated crane? The image below saved from the blog Toast Floats illustrates one method which could work, a homemade boom extension with a block and tackle on one end. I’m sure the extension will work like a charm but I’d prefer to have it built out of something a bit less bulky than the 2×4s shown in the image. While I’m brainstorming here on how to best do that, I’m open to comments and suggestions.
We haven’t had a lot of luck with the passage between Dominica and Martinique. Rather than risk 10 hours of bashing into the wind, last year we ended up doing a 180 degree turn to head back to port. This time around, buoyed by reports of moderate sea conditions, we, along with our friends on Oceana and Nahanni River, cast off our mooring lines at 6:00 AM yesterday and set sail south. What followed was anything but a calm sail, as the video at the bottom of this post attempts to illustrate.
Even though the image above shows that our destination is St. Pierre, we all opted to continue on further south to Fort de France, an anchorage which we were confident would be calm.
You’ll note in the radar image below that while some rain is shown by Dominica, points south of there appear clear. We heard that even a certain famed weather guru failed to see the squalls which would lord over the seas yesterday. Were we in any real danger? In our minds, no. We sailed conservatively with much reduced sail area. The seas were large and confused though and the frequent downpours reduced visibility so much that we often lost sight of our friends. In other words, not too much fun.
Do you see any precipitation south of Dominica?
If you have the bandwidth and a few spare moments, check out the video to get a small taste of what the ride was like. Bear in mind though that photos and video always fail to convey what the actual sea state is like. To really get a feel for it, you’d have to come along for the ride and I’m pretty sure that most would not enjoy it. We sure didn’t!
Bonjour Fort de France
As promised, I have included a ton of pics from yesterday’s hike, probably more than those with limited bandwidth care to see. It’s very tough for us to choose which pics to post though, especially when we come back from such a special hike with close to 250 shots!
The weather for yesterday’s excursion to Boiling Lake was less than we had hoped for. We have learned not to let a few (try five!) torrential downpours spoil our day though. When one hikes in the rainforest, one must be Ready To Get Wet. On the bright side, we made out much better this time around with our transportation to and from the trailhead, something that we were both very thankful for (especially me). And having done the hike only just last season, we both still had the route near memorized.
All in all was a great day, and we returned with time enough to clear out of customs. Because of that, we’ll be sailing to St. Pierre, Martinique today, a new port for us. Let’s hope the weather cooperates for us a bit better today than it did yesterday.
Think you’d enjoy this hike? All the details are included in our hiking guide, Ready To Get Wet.
Now don’t you think you’d enjoy this hike?
Remember, the details are included in our hiking guide, Ready To Get Wet.