Launching a Yacht

We have been playing this boating game since 1982 and the process of launching a boat from land to water is always an exciting process. It is exciting to trailer a boat and use a launch ramp. It is exciting for a forklift to pick up your boat and launch it. But to me, the most exciting process is launching a boat that needs a hydraulic go-cart and then a marine travel lift.  It is exciting because this is the doorway to sailing and cruising adventures on bays, seas, and oceans. Our 20th year of cruising on Island Spirit has started and we are as excited as year #1. Here is our launch process today at Puerto del Rey Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

First Remove the Hurricane Straps

In the Caribbean, our yacht insurance company requires the boat to be strapped down with 2″ hurricane tie-downs hooked into concrete footings. Island Spirit had 8 tie-downs, 4 on each side.  

2″ wide hurricane straps connect to concrete footings
The beginning of setting her free, the straps are off the cleats and dropped to the ground
NOW, that feels good, she says! This GrL is meant to sail.                                                                 Roll in the U shaped Hydraulic go-cart

This yard uses an under-yacht hydraulic lift cart that is controlled remotely by a very skilled operator. The U-shaped go-cart (as I call it) is driven under the yacht. The jack stands are removed, except the front and the two aft stands. VERY DANGEROUS as any wrong moves and the yacht could fall over or, worse yet, someone could be seriously hurt. Once the cart is maneuvered under the yacht, the skilled workers position the massive hydraulic arms, 3 on each side. The operator then remotely lifts the arms to support the yacht. Now the entire frame of the machine raises and 20,000 lbs are lifted off the final 3 jack stands. Next, the operator drives the cart out into the parking lot to the waiting travel lift.

The U-shaped cart going under the yacht
Three hydraulic arms support the yacht
Once supported, the entire frame raises up and lifts the yacht free
The cart is driven to the waiting travel lift

Why use this cart?

Because this process allows them to park yachts within inches of each other, which maximizes the number of yachts stored on the land. (See below!)

This is a Google maps image of the yard, Puerto Del Ray Marina, Fajardo, PR.

The Travel Lift Ride to the Water

After the yacht has been transferred to the travel lift, it is driven through the yard and down to the water. At the water’s edge, this massive machine will drive out onto a concrete reinforced dock with a slot of water between the wheels. Once over the water, the yacht is lowered enough for us to climb up onto the bow over the anchors. With us on board, the boat is further lowered into the water, BUT it is not let go until all systems below are checked for leaks.

Ruben of R.S. Marine and his helper touch up paint from the jack stands.
Off she goes across the yard heading for water
This yacht storage yard is very large. Here are just some of the powerboat racks
Island Spirit is lowered into the water where she belongs
We are always so excited to see this day, as it is the beginning of new adventures

Check the FUEL, Fire it up

With the yacht still hanging in the slings, but in the water, we fired up the engine and checked the fuel system and the cooling water. Remember, the tradewinds are blowing 20-25 knots directly into this launching well. Once they drop the yacht and toss you the lines, you need to HIT IT, and get her moving, In 2017, we were 2 minutes out of the slip when the fuel plugged up and the engine died. We drifted hard back into the concrete dock and tied up. So, today we were remembering what can happen,

Our fuel was spotless and looked great after 10 minutes of running hard prior to leaving the launch slip
The lil’ Yanmar engine (that we installed) is running great. Lucky us!

OFF WE GO

With all systems checked, we hit it hard in reverse and backed out into the tradewinds. We did a full 360 turn for a photoshoot for our surveyor who was there to inspect the yacht for insurance purposes. Off we motored!

See why BLUE is my favorite color?

The marina sent us to the wrong dock twice!

With 1,000 yachts in dock, this is the largest marina in the Caribbean.  We checked our slip assignment every day for three days. While we were motoring to our assigned slip, the marina radioed us and sent us to a different slip. Once docked and plugged in there, they called again to say. “Oops…..you need to move to yet another slip. WHAT?! So tomorrow, we get to do this all over again. Let the adventures begin, at least Island Spirit ran perfectly with no fuel issues! 

Little Island Spirit next to million-dollar yachts. We need to move… the annual slipholder is coming back.

You Do NOT want your boat to stall…

This is the marina. All these yachts are VERY EXPENSIVE. We do not want to have engine trouble driving around here!!!

HAPPY Hayden

OK, ISLAND SPIRIT, it is time to RUN, and RUN she did!

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We are BACK on Island Spirit Season 20

WE DID IT! We returned to Island Spirit in Fajardo, Puerto Rico after a long challenging 16 months away, with our boat stored on the hard.  Lucky for us, we hired Ruben of R. S. Marine to manage our boat and take care of the maintenance while we were away. Ruben and his team did an amazing job, and we are pleased to see our boat in better shape than ever….but first, let’s get here and share the story.

American Airlines to SJU

Spoiling Radeen with a nice seat in 2D
Of course, this seat comes with included Bubbly served in real glass, not plastic….at 9 am!

Hello Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic Ocean

Love this view as we fly into SJU and see the blue ocean and the reefs and beaches

We travel Light!

We usually travel with carry-on bags and a backpack each, but this trip we needed to bring boat items and that required two additional duffle bags. So, we each hauled one duffle on top of our rolling carry-on bag and one backpack. Not bad for a trip of 6 months!

This is what traveling light does NOT look like. Take away the blue duffle bag and that is more like it. Overhead bag and a backpack.

Puerto Rico COVID-19 clearance

Puerto Rico is doing a great job with covid management and with accepting tourists safely.  The process is very detailed. First, you need to be vaccinated to fly here or be tested upon arrival.  To pre-check into the country, you go to Travel.Safe.PR and upload your vaccine card and your travel info. Once approved, you are sent back a QRC code to your email. Upon arrival and after you gather your bags, you need to present this QRC code to exit the terminal. Once you do, you are free to go. It works very well. From when we read, 88% of people in Puerto Rico are vaccinated plus it is the law to wear a mask anytime in public. Guess what? EVERYONE IS DOING THIS and the positivity rate here is low. 

In this photo, you can see people in white jumpsuits with scanners to whom you show your QRC to exit. It works!

Off to Check into our Timeshare

Yes, Radeen loves her timeshares and she has owned hers since 1979. Back then you bought DEEDED timeshares so what she owns is a very good unit with great trading power. So, we booked a unit at the Coco Beach Club, which is at the Hyatt Grand Reserve. This place is AMAZING!

Our living room and dining table with a hot-tub on the balcony overlooking the Atlantic.
Our pool where we go after the boatyard and do some laps before cooking dinner

Our first Caribbean Selfie of 2021-2021 Season #20

The required selfie when we walked to the beach at our condo
The Hyatt hotel lobby with coffee shops, restaurants live music and more

OK, Off to see the boat

But FIRST Cafe con Leche at Panaderia El Timon, “Our” fav lil’ coffee shop.

We arrive at the boat…after 16 months of storage!

WE DID IT, we are back and it feels so good. We really have a history with this boat. She has pulled us thru some life challenges and she has sailed us to places of pure beauty….
The hull wax job was beautiful and she looks great. This is a 1994 Island Packet 35.
Radeen and BIG Island Spirit, 20,000 lbs, w/8,000 lb keel, 39 feet 6 inches, and 5-foot draft with a 49-foot mast. This boat is just big enough to sail the ocean and small enough to easily handle. Perfection.
Our old solar panel array managed the 6 AGM Lifeline batteries for the past 16 months
We have 7 coats of varnish on the teak toe rails and handrails. It was covered with a white tape called CapWrap. When removed, the varnish was still in good shape. AMAZING.
Sometimes when you store a boat in the tropics, the inside teak will have mold and mildew. Here is the teak table /wall and there is none! Thanks to R.S. Marine for managing this for us.

Now, what’s the PLAN?

The boat will be launched Wed Nov 17th, 2021 and we will dock her for one month as we tend to all systems and repair whatever we find not working. We also have some very exciting “family” weddings to attend back in Florida and also in California. So, we will be flying back in early Dec. After that, we plan to sail to the USVI and the BVIs and Sint Maartin, and then Antigua. We hope to spend nearly all of January in Antigua and Barbuda. Then, we might sail south a few more islands or we might head north or west. The ultimate goal is to sail our boat back “HOME” to Chesapeake Bay. There we will have access to her all summer long or we might ail up to New England for the summer. The only real goal is to get this yacht sailing again, and service all systems, and ENJOY this wonderful cruising lifestyle. We will sail with an Attitude of Gratitude, that is our goal.

Watching our FIRST sunset of Season #20. THANK YOU for following along!

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Adventures Resume Soon

We are very excited to resume our sailing adventures after 16+ months at home while Island Spirit waited on the hard in Puerto Rico. Yes, we did go down to Marina Puerto del Rey in May to service her and to run every system. Many systems needed attention but after a full 5 days of service, everything was working. We hope this was enough to maintain everything! We will find out soon, as we will be there mid-Nov and launch her back into the Caribbean Sea where she loves to be in the deep blue waters. Once we launch and begin to prep all systems, we will take a fun diversion to attend two family weddings, one in Florida and one in California. After celebrating at these lifetime events, we will return to Island Spirit and provision her for sailing. Our general outline is to move over to the USVI and then if possible we want to move into the British Virgin Islands, where we are hoping to spend Christmas at the Bitter End Yacht Club. We have spent many vacations here and our hearts were broken when we sailed in to see the destruction from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. After the BVIs we hope to push east into the tradewinds and return to Antigua for January. From there, who knows? At the end of this season, we hope to be in Annapolis MD by the middle of May 2022. 

So, we are on THE LAUNCH PAD as we call this time period. This is a graphic of what the outline looks like!

2021, Let the Adventures Begin…soon

The Bitter End Yacht Club before hurricane damage

Here is my photo essay of our happy place, the Bitter End Yacht Club, as it was in April 2017. This is before it was destroyed by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

http://svislandspirit.com/bitter-end-yacht-club-photo-essay/

LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN SOON….

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Facebook Page

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Caribbean Sailing Grenada to USVI

Sailing across the entire Caribbean Sea, north and south is a passage of 400-450 nautical miles. We sailed this course, as we ran from Grenada and the COVID-19 lockdown. We sailed north to the USVI where we could find a working and open airport.  Most of the Caribbean Islands were closed to incoming sailboats, but the USVI was open. Tradewind sailing is fantastic with steady 20-25 knot east winds. This course was a broad reach for 200 miles to Isla Aves, and then a turn to the north on a beam reach for another 200 miles. We sailed 400 nautical miles in 60 hours which is an average of 6.7 knots with only one hour of engine time to make hot water for showers. The MK450 wind turbine and solar panels provided all the 12-volt power for the ship’s systems. Enjoy this 5-minute video which shows our helm set up, wind data, and the sounds of sailing.

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Service Call to Island Spirit

After leaving our boat in Puerto Rico, July 2020, we have finally made a trip back to spend a week servicing all her systems and checking in on her storage jack stands and hurricane tie down straps. We hired Ruben of R. S. Marine Services to wash and wax the hull and deck. He has been so helpful in taking care of our boat while we have been at home. So, here is the photo essay with captions showing the process we went thru. 

NOTE: We wrapped the teak, again, with Caprail Protective Tape and this is the second year we tried this. IT WORKS WELL. If you are looking for CAP RAIL TAPE, then see this link to buy what we are using:

https://nationalsupplydirect.com/maintenance/damage-prevention.html

Hayden and Radeen at PHL airport outbound for SJU

Welcome to San Juan

The iconic for of San Juan
Look at this! Two Horses in the back of a Ford F-150

We traded an RCI Timeshare

We booked a three bedroom 2 bath timeshare because we thought we might have guests

Arrival to Island Spirit at Puerto del Ray Marina

There she is, still standing and fully waxed decks washed and decks waxed as well
The cover was removed and tied back for deck waxing
The shine on the cabin top was obvious and the teak was well protected by the Caprail Protective white tape
https://nationalsupplydirect.com/maintenance/damage-prevention.html
The cockpit teak table varnish was still looking new

Lets Go inside

Happy Radeen is back aboard “her GrL” Island Spirit. This boat means so much to both of us. We cant wait to sail again in Nov.
The battery bank is full and the display says it all

Happy Selfie

Hayden and Radeen onboard

OK, Job 1, restore the dinghy

The 10 ft 6 in AB fiberglass dinghy was up on its side so the team could wash and wax the deck. We needed to inflate and store this back on the bow.

The TEAK WHITE CAPRAIL TAPE

We have been experimenting with CAPRAIL PROTECTIVE TAPE. This is placed over the varnish and sticks down. This was down for 10 months and it pulled off clean.
https://nationalsupplydirect.com/maintenance/damage-prevention.html

Replace Dinghy on Bow

Moving a 100 lb 10 foot RIB was a task, but we got it back into position so the shade cover could be re installed
Yes a 10 foot AB RIB will fit fully inflated upside down on the bow of an Island Packet 35. Removal of the silly and useless staysail boom required.

LUNCH TIME with BUDDIES

Some of our sailing buddies where here. John and Lisa were hauling out and storing and Steve just launched and is preparing for a sail directly to Panama!

The Teak Varnish Looks Good

We are very happy that our teak varnish is still looking good after 10 months of storage. Unreal

The JACK STANDS need attention

Jack Stands after a while will punch thru the plywood board placed under the legs. This then causes the stand to become loose. Then you know what happens when the hurricane blows. ….well this yard, Puerto del Ray is run by 3 LAWYERS, and they have you sign docs that holds them not responsible for your boat in their yard. So, they NEVER EVER EVER come out and look at your boat, they do not tend to your boat, and they surely will never tighten your jack stands or service them. Welcome to PDR…..hence you need a “BOAT WATCHER” that you pay monthly to “monitor” your boat. Their job is to #1 Look at and tighten your hurricane straps. #2 Look at and tighten your jack stands. #3 Look at and make sure the boards under the jack stand feet are CENTERED and not punched thru. We trust Ruben and he tends our boat and we pay him when he does a job. Thank you RUBEN!
This is what it should look like. Centered boards under the jack stand legs. many times we see boards on the corners or nearly out.
Island Spirit has 10 jack stands plus 8 two inch wide hurricane straps tied into concrete footings. When 100+ MPH winds arrive, we hope this will keep her upright

Onto Replacing the Cover

This is the 90% UV blocking Coolaroo Shade fabric. It is fantastic. We have covered out boat with this 4 years now. It keeps the sun off the boat and it keeps the temperature lower inside. This costs about $300 and is well worth it. See www.CoolarooUSA.com

We used T-9 Boeshield Protective Spray

This is the typical situation. Rust and mold on everything. So, we spray this with Boeshield and wipe it off leaving a film of protection behind.
Boeshield was invented by Boeing and it really works

Let’s FLUSH the engine

We did this in July, but lets do it again. We use Salt Away and connect a hose to the sea water intake line. Now start up the engine and let the engine run and it will suck in the solution and flush out the engine cooling side. Yes you can run an engine on the hard for 5 minutes with no problem
I had to add a funnel and then hold the hose up high to prime the sea water pump. I ran two full buckets thru the engine. I also ran the transmission F & R to lube that as well.

Let’s Buff and Wax the NEW Force Ten Stove

This brand new Force Ten Propane stove and oven we installed last season. Heck, this cost way more than a new one for the house, so we waxed the stainless steel to protect her as well.
The New Force Ten Stove with the old original teak top over the burners
The inside of the oven is all stainless steel and super clean.

Look at the WAX JOB on the Hull

This is a 1994 Island Packet 35 with 40,000+ nm under her keel. Look at this shine

The CAPRAIL PROTECTIVE tape

This is the teak as we pulled back the white caprail tape. Not bad for 10 months of storage in hot Caribbean sun, July to May!!!
We re-taped all the teak with a new layer of Caprail tape. We even taped over some ports and hatches, why not?
I taped over the windlass and the entire bow
This is the 12″ wide roll and I am pulling it out over the caprail. I can run one piece from Bow to side gate gutting in around the stanchions.
https://nationalsupplydirect.com/maintenance/damage-prevention.html
This is our varnish job from Grenada over a year ago, now getting re-covered this May until Nov!
Everything gets taped. It is just too easy

Let’s finish the cover

We use our whisker pole to make a ridge pole from Mast to Davits. This allows us easy access to the cockpit and below
The cover goes past the stern and reaches from side to side because our boat is only 12 feet wide. This one roll is 12 feet wide by 50 feet long. It costs about $300 See www.CoolarooUSA.com
You can see at the bow it hangs down with the 12 foot wide. The cover is simply zip tied to the life lines and zip tied together
Once this is all zip tied, the cover is bar tight and does not flap in the wind. It does not tear and it will not rip. We will leave this on in a hurricane.

AnotherTask, Spectra Watermaker Storage

We stored the watermaker in July, but that was 10 months ago, so we needed to reflush the system ad then flush new Spectra storage chemicals into this expensive desalinization machine. We do not want this system to fail, so she needed new service as well
To flush a Spectra watermaker you simply connect a pick up hose to the pump and add a discharge hose to the machine, Now simply cycle the flush thru the system. it takes about 10-15 minutes to service this. Very simple. This is the Specra Venture 200t watermaker

Have we run out of tape yet?

Well then, lets cover the speakers
Tape over the speakers

Buddies delivered to SJU Airport

Our good friends John and Lisa we offered to take them to the airport. Why not, we had a car. Fun times with buddies

A quick tour of Old San Juan

Old San Juan is so beautiful
A required selfie at Casa Blanca, the home of Ponce de Leon

Final Day at the boat

Radeen says…..that is a WRAP….boat is serviced and we will let her stored another 6 months!

Wait…tie down that Wind Turbine for hurricanes

This is a challenge. Hang off the stern and toss lines over and around the turbine to tie it down so it can not spin in 100 mph winds

Wait….what about the electrical system?

We check the panel, we check the battery bank and we spray it all with Boeshield

What about the Engine???

The Yanmar 3JH2e 38 hp engine that Radeen and I installed, looks clean and no rust.
The grounding lug looks clean, and so does the alternator

So….Let’s call it finished! OMG, another week of work.

So, here she is, ready for storage May 2021 to Nov 17 2021
We even shade cover the stern and the rudder as well

OFF TO THE BEACH! Finally

We took the last afternoon and found a nice beach to enjoy

Goodbye Island Spirit….til Nov 🙁

A very sad view with Puerto Rico off the tail of airplane as we fly back home leaving out great sailboat to ride out yet another hurricane season in the cross hairs

Conclusion

Sure, looking back on last season, when we ran from Grenada lock down  and sailed north to St. Thomas and St, Croix and St. John, we should have kept sailing north and returned home to the Chesapeake Bay. BUT….our plan and our goal was to only store the boat July til Nov and then we thought we would be back sailing in a few months, like NOV3!.

Well, that did not happen with the craziness of COVID, with no vaccine, and with CDC saying no travel to Puerto Rico, and MORE….we decided to stay home at our Saltbox13. 

Well we stayed home, all of…. Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, April, May and now, we thought we would go and launch May 26th and sail June and some of July on Island Spirit. Well I tried to get our Markel USA yacht insurance extended into July so we could keep sailing but they said no, haul out July 1 or sail north of Florida or south to Grenada. We said no, they said then haul out July 1. 

At that point, we decided that it would be insane to launch this boat, set her up with sails and canvas and rigging to only sail a month in the USVI. So we gave up on this dream plan of sailing and cancelled our May 26th launch date. Then we flew down to service the boat because our flights were paid and room was paid, so we did not want to loose that.

Final thought….yes, we could have launched May 26, set her up and prepared for a voyage.  We could have and we even talked about these options….

      1. Sail for Panama 10 days
      2. Sail for Grenada 2.5 days
      3. Sail for A B C Islands 3-4 days
      4. Sail for Florida / USA 7-10 days
      5. Sail for Chesapeake Bay 10-15 days 

None of these sounded good to us because…. ONCE AGAIN….we want to be sailing the Eastern Caribbean Sea one more season, THEN hopefully then we plan to accomplish one of the above.

20/20 hindsight says, should have sailed home….but so it is. We will now wait and we will look forward to Nov sailing once again. Until then, we will take road trips, we will visit friends and family, and we will bum rides on other boats. This is the first time since 1986 we are without a boat to easily sail or play on.  🙁

Thank you for reading and thanks for any and all comments.