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.
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.
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!)
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.
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,
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!
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!
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
Hello Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic Ocean
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!
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.
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 first Caribbean Selfie of 2021-2021 Season #20
OK, Off to see the boat
We arrive at the boat…after 16 months of storage!
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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:
So….Let’s call it finished! OMG, another week of work.
OFF TO THE BEACH! Finally
Goodbye Island Spirit….til Nov 🙁
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….
Sail for Panama 10 days
Sail for Grenada 2.5 days
Sail for A B C Islands 3-4 days
Sail for Florida / USA 7-10 days
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.