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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