With any job, big or small, the hardest aspect is finishing and wrapping up the “punch list” of loose items and redo items. That is where we have been for the past 10 days! The mast was pulled Feb 5, the new mast installed Feb 28. The final jobs are outlined below as we enjoy living here on mooring ball #2 at Sunset Bay Marina. Yes it is far cheaper to be out cruising and anchored out on our 55 lb Rocna, but until we can raise a sail and shakedown this new rig, we simply keep plugging away on the remaining jobs.
Job #1 Install the deck collar mast pin. This is 3/8″ stainless steel pin that goes through the bolted down deck collar and all the way thru the new mast. The purpose of this mast deck pin is the stiffen the deck and prevent it from flexing upward when you tighten down the wire rigging. The new wire rigging is loose when installed and then it is tensioned to the published factory specs. The proper tension is measured with a PT-3 Loos Guage. For our Island Packet 35 these settings are 25 for the uppers, 18 for the lowers and 10 for the backstays. It is easy to do, you simply snap on the PT-3 to the wire and then tighten the Sta-Lok until the gauge reads the proper number. Here is a photo of my PT-3 at 25 on the upper shroud.
But first, lets get back to this mast pin. Many Island Packet Yacht owners do not know about this pin and some yachts do not even have one because it was left out when rigging. Some people think the pin is to keep the mast in place if the yacht flips upside down at sea. NO, that is not the purpose. The sole purpose is to add strength to the deck. Imagine if you pull and push on the sides of the boat just abeam of the mast. Push hard inward and upward, What will happen to the center of the deck? It will flex upward due to the upward arch of the cabin roof. Now, add a solid bolted down metal collar around the mast, centered on the deck. Drill a hole, insert a heavy pin and now push in on the edges. The deck will flex upward against this pin and the deck will be solid with zero flexing. This pin basically creates a triangle between the two upper shrouds and the deck collar. Once the rig is put under full load and tensioned, this pin is locked into place and can not move. The deck will not move when bashing offshore in heavy seas. It makes the boat really solid. Here are photos of how I drilled the deck collar and fit the pin into place.
After finishing the mast pin I now returned the rigging wire to full loads and re-tuned the rig for the 2nd time. I like tuning the rig, I do it every year before we set sail for sea. The final task on the rigging is to add the cotter pins into the turnbuckles and then, finally, she is ready for a shakedown sail.
Our other punch list item we have been working on far longer than we like, is the wiring in the mast. We bought and had installed the best wire and very expensive wire for the VHF and the digital TV antenna. The wire is called LMR 400, and it is very thick and very heavy. This wire requires special end fittings in order to mate the thick core to the proper antenna. The LMR- 400 is very thick and it was run to the VHF antenna. The thinner wire core is the 75 ohm and it was run to the digital TV antenna, all new antennas. The issue became that we discovered, after a few hours of troubleshooting, that the bottom fittings were reversed. TV on VHF and VHF on TV wire. Form the job photos we could tell that they proper wire was connected to the proper antenna on the masthead, so that seems good. We just need to cut off the bottom wire fittings and install new fittings with TV fitting on the TV antenna wire and a VHF fitting on the VHF antenna. An easy mistake to make because the wires look the same, but the core diameters are different.
During these little punch list jobs, we celebrated Radeen’s and Alan’s birthdays together. Something we have done for years. Thank you, Alan and Kathy for diverting to Stuart to make this happen…
Of course, I spoiled Radeen with a gift of a new Propane Regulator which was still in the original package. Then after installing this, I made her scones and homemade bread. To top it off, I took her out shopping and then to Bonefish Grill. In all, it was a very fun birthday bash for a few days.
One more job accomplished is our replaced B&G Zeus2 chartplotter. Our national B&G rep, Steve, was so kind to replace our 2 with a 3 because the screen was not as clear as we expected. This has been in the works for nearly a year, and now, we finally have received our replacement with a Zeus3.
So, as you can see, we are working thru the punch list. Soon we should be able to go sailing and test out this new mast. For now, we do not mind being in Stuart, Fl. We have missed two shipping dates so far, for shipping back to the Caribbean, and the longer we are stuck here, the more the Caribbean sailing season is slipping away. We are not sure what we are doing related to sailing out, sailing back south, going to the Bahamas, or sailing for home. Who knows. One thing is for sure…..we need to finish this job and shakedown…..then we can start our 2018 season!
Thanks for sailing along…even if we are not sailing….yet….
Team MACK SAILS has completed our hurricane Maria repairs with the installation of our new Charleston Spar #S622 and all new wire rigging with swagged tops and Sta-Lok stainless steel fittings on the bottoms. This team is so professional, and it is very obvious they all have done this hundreds of times before. With Colin Mack leading his team of 5, and the expert crane operator on site for 3 hours, the mast installation and rigging was flawless.
Last week the deck opening was cut larger and a new mast collar was bolted down to the deck to allow this new section to fit into our boat. They no longer make the NG-60 Isomat Spar, so this is the recommended replacement. Jeff, the master craftsman, cut the deck and seated the new keel step. Now it was time to step the mast.
Overall, the cutting of the deck and the mounting of a new keel shoe was not that big of a deal. We were worried about this part of the job, but Mack Sails has 31 people on their team with everyone is skilled in different areas, so the work was easily handled. Great job, Jeff!
In with the mast, let’s go! The crane picked up the mast 55+ feet overall, 500 lbs, and lifted it from the new spreaders which have a solid bar thru the mast. The crane rotated around as Colin and his team positioned the mast over the deck. Jose and I went below deck to help guide the mast down into the keel. The 7 wires coming out of the bottom of the mast needed to be fished through a side hole, then fished into the keel and forward thru a chase to the junction boxes. The final process was directing the crane fore, aft, left and right to position the bottom of the mast onto and over the shoe. The mast shoe has a groove and a raised metal ring that matches the profile of the mast. This locks the bottom of the mast into the keel and secures it. At this point, the mast was through the deck collar and onto the keel shoe, so it will stand on its own now.
With the mast NOW in place, it was time to cut the standing rigging wires and tighten down the rig. The wire tops had stem balls swaged onto the wire using hydraulic presses back at the Mack Sails Shop, and the bottom fittings were cut on-site using Sta-Lok fittings. What a great way to rig the wire. These Sta-Lok fittings are easy to repair at sea or in a remote site. They are expensive but they are strong, if not stronger, than swaged fittings. Sta-Lok info here.
The mast installation wrapped up with the mounting of our B&G 4G radar antenna just below the spreaders. This needed to be drilled and tapped into the mast and wired. They waited to do this to make sure the mount did not hit the rigging wire as it exited the mast. We like the radar up the mast, even though it is more complicated to wire. One IP owner said, mount the radar as high as the highest waves you want to see over. So, it is up the mast for us. We want to see over 10-15-20 foot waves!
At the end of this afternoon, the Mack Sails team had the mast installed, radar mounted, all wiring rigged and cut, new Tides Inn Strong Track installed, new boom gooseneck and new boom vang fittings mounted to the mast. This was an amazing process. Working with a team of people who hustle and simply know how to get it all done was a joy. Again, we cannot imagine trying to do this job in Puerto Rico. Our decision to ship back and to hire this company was the right decision. We have ZERO concerns with their work. Thank you, COLIN MACK and your entire team. WE HAVE A NEW MAST.
Thank you also to Ed who shot video and photography material for use on the Mack Sails website and their YouTube channel. This added even more excitement to the entire job. Great job, Ed!
The next day, we installed sails and Richard returned to complete the spinnaker car track mounting and winches and cleats on the mast. At the end of that day, we backed out of the service slip at Apex Marine and hosted a Jib and staysail and we sailed down the river. It was wonderful to be sailing again! IT HAS BEEN A LONG PROCESS….but now we can begin the shakedown, stretch in this new wire and begin our 2018 season.
Team ISLAND SPIRIT is BACK…..Hurricane Maria knocked us down and Mack Sails rebuilt us back to better than ever.
Now, time to buy Radeen a nice new present, I think a new CODE ZERO would be very nice for her……..go MACK!
As with any major yacht repair job, challenges come up that are unexpected and this mast replacement job is no different. The challenges stem from the fact that the new mast is 1 inch larger in profile front to back. This one inch increase has caused the need to replace the deck collar and the keel shoe. Not only do these items need to be replaced, the fiberglass deck and fiberglass headliner, along with the embedded metal plate, need to be cut to allow this mast to fit into our boat! So, off with the old deck collar, out with the old keel shoe and off to the welding shop and powder coating shop they go. Of course, the mast came with a new shoe and a new deck collar, but these are being machined and worked into our design. Here are the two items we are working with…
The next challenge this week has been the inspection of the port side chain plate. WHAT?! Did I say, “CHAIN PLATES!” YES, We took out the bathroom cabinets and hull liner to inspect and verify that the welds and chain plates installed in 2013 by the Island Packet Yachts factory were all OK. This meant that I had to remove the teak plugs, unscrew the teak cabinet and remove the hull liners. The trick to removing teak plugs is to first drill a 1/8″ hole into the center of the plug. Next drive a screw into this 1/8″ hole and, when it hits the screw head, it will pull the plug out of the hole. Very easy to remove all the teak plugs.
With the teak cabinet removed, we now could remove the shelf….
Once the shelf was removed, we could remove the hull liner. This is the whiteboard with the teak trim making the inside of the cabinet look so nice….
Looking up under the deck, we can now see the port forward chain plate. These are NEW chainplates made by Garhaurer Marine and installed by the Island Packet Factory in 2013. We wanted to make sure the welds were not cracked and that the structural fiberglass was not damaged.
While we were in here with the chainplate fully exposed, we decided to add some more epoxy putty around the hull, as suggested by the factory. This was not necessary, but while here, and with everything opened up, why not? We used Pettit Epoxy Putty.
With the satisfaction that we had zero chainplate damage, we reinstalled the bathroom hull liner, shelf, teak trim and cabinet. This all simply screws together, with zero glue used. It is incredible how the original Island Packet Yacht craftsmen hand cut compound angles and chiseled custom fits for all these trim pieces and supports. I was amazed as I took this all apart. No wonder an IPY costs so much $$$!
While working on these inspections by us on the boat, the Mack Sails Team (Jeff) was working on our mast wiring and new mast building. Jeff is wiring in a new Digital TV antenna and a new VHF antenna, wiring them with LMR 400 wire. This new wire is massive and has very low loss due to the size of the solid center copper core. Of course, this requires LMR 400 end fittings and soldering and crimping to make the proper end fittings. All halyards and lights were installed and wired, along with the blocks needed on the spreaders for the stack pack and flag halyards. The mast is finished and ready for install.
We entertained ourselves with a spur of the moment drive to Miami Beach to attend our 10th Wallcast. These are outdoor symphony concerts in “Soundscape Park” and are considered the #1 venue in South Beach. We always try to attend these events. With a rental car, we were able to drive down and enjoy the concert along with 1,000 other people….There were pieces by Stravinsky and Debussy, plus Stravinsky’s early work from 1910, “The Firebird.”
The final job we accomplished while waiting for our mast install, was repacking the chainplates. This requires sealing the chainplate tangs with silicone. There are two ways to do this, and we did both.
#1. Remove the cover plate, pick out all the old silicone and inject new GE Silpruf to reseal. The problem with this process is that it breaks your varnish seal around the cover plate. I do not prefer this way.
#2. The other way to seal chainplates is to simply apply more silicone GE Silpruf around the tang above the plate. This requires no removal of the plate and it maintains the varnish seal around the plate.
So, we have been working on the rebuild as we await the mast install and new wire rigging. As soon as the deck is cut and the new keel shoe is installed and the wire rigging is made, then the mast will be installed and we can add the boom and our sails. Hopefully, NEXT week we will raise a sail. Until then, we have been enjoying our friends and this dream marina, Sunset Bay Marina, Stuart, Florida.
Installing a new mast that is a new design and a new profile into a 1994 Island Packet Yacht is not an easy task. All we can say is, thank goodness we are not trying to accomplish this in Puerto Rico. If I had known that the mast profile was NOT the same and that our mast was not an exact replacement, then maybe, just maybe, I would have repaired my original mast in Puerto Rico. But we are here now and we made the decision to replace the mast.
Onward we go….New Mast installing SOON…..thanks for following our misadventures!
We are so glad that we invested the extra effort and expense to ship our boat back to Stuart, Florida to work with the team at Mack Sails. Colin and Travis have built a great company and with a good team capable of rigging and installing anything on yachts. Everyone thinks of them as sails only, but in reality, they are a serious rigging shop and also they do fiberglass, electronics, and millwork. So, anything you need they can take care of and complete the job. If you can’t get it fixed here, then you are in serious trouble. Thank you Team Mack Sails.
Within a day or two after shipping our boat into West Palm Beach, we removed the remaining gear, boom, vang, and loosened all shrouds and prepare for pulling the mast. On Monday, Feb 5 Colin pulled the old mast out at Apex Marine with ease and set it on the ground. Now with the old mast on stands, we could inspect the damages at the spreader even more. Whatever hit the mast was very large, heavy and forceful because it broke the spreader base and tore open the mast, above and below the spreader. The spar company said it could not be repaired, so we are here to refit with a new Charleston Spar section #S622. Here is a photo of the damaged area at the port spreader welds.
Now that the mast was pulled and on the ground, we could strip off items like the VHF, Digital TV, Lightning Protector, Winches, and all spare ropes, etc. The new Sparcraft / Charleston Spar Section #S622 is at Mack Sails and we will next rig the new gear onto that mast. One surprise came up and that is that the new mast is 1″ larger front to back than the old mast! That does not sound like a lot, but it is. The mast is the same width, but being one inch larger front to back means that the deck mast collar now needs to be removed and laser cut and the new deck collar welded onto our plate. Then we will need to cut the deck around the mast hole larger, as well as the headliner underneath. This will all need to be re-fiberglassed and sealed where the deck and headliner gap open. The keel step, at the bottom of the mast, needs to be removed and a new mast shoe, as they are called, needs to be lag screwed into the concrete and lead and fiberglass keel. All of these changes were not noted on the insurance settlement as no one knew the new mast section was so different. So, we are now dealing with these new challenges as we make the repairs. Note: They no longer make our old mast section, it was from 1993.
Here are some photos of the deck collar.
The next challenge turned out to be the Kato Radar mount that we had made in 2002. These cost about $1,200 and we wanted to reuse the mount. Well, from last year when we mounted the new B&G 4G radar antenna, it did not fit properly. So, with this mount off, we wanted to solve this and move the new B&G antenna to the center of the radar guard. This project went thru all kinds of bids to re-weld it and then we even ordered a new Kato Mount which would have cost $,$$$, so we stopped that. Then Radeen and I designed a simple solution of adding two 1/4″ stainless steel bars to the bottom of the B&G radar and simply bolting down these bars. Well, thanks to the best welder in Stuart, Mike at NATIVE WELDING, we will have these bars. Now, all we have to do is remount the B&G onto these bars and bolt it down. EASY.
So the B&G radar / Kato radar mount was a bigger project than expected, but we solved that. Now onto the new VHF and Digital TV antenna and wire. As recommended by Chris and others, we will be using the best coaxial wire, Times Microwave LMR-400 cable and end fittings. With this coaxial cable, loss to the antennas is less than 12% where normal RG-8 and RG-59 are near 30% loss. Yes, the LMR-400 is more expensive, about $1.00 to $2.00/foot in bulk, plus the good end fittings, but we hope to never have to do this again! So we decided to put in the best wire. Thank you, Chris of s/v Temerity for the info. I was not aware!
During this time we also had some Island Packet Fleet fun where Radeen and Terri (IP 38 SAILBATICAL) organized an Island Packet Minivous. We gathered together 19 owners and 10 yachts here at Sunset Bay Marina from 2-4 pm on Feb 10th. We shared stories of cruising plans and yacht systems, enjoyed a few drinks together and really had a fun time. Of course, we hung up the IPY Battle Flag (5′ x 9′) and shared stories, some true and some exaggerated 🙂
Week one of the repair was removing the mast and removing the gear and identifying challenges. Week two is building the new rig and solving these new challenges. Next goal is to finish the rig and step the new mast, that may be week 3 if all goes well. Again, Radeen and I are so happy to be here in Stuart, Florida and to be working with Mack Sails. We made the right call shipping the boat here. This team will solve all these challenges. Imagine this in Puerto Rico…..that would have been a real issue.
Welcome to Florida, West Palm Beach, for that matter! Our Island Packet 35 arrived safely there on Wednesday morning, salty as salty could possibly be. We now can move forward with our mast replacement and new rigging, working with Mack Sails in Stuart, Florida.
We learned a great deal about this process. The most important thing we learned is that it was far easier than anticipated, with the support of great friends who pitched in and supported us! We were homeless from the time we put the boat onto the ship in St. Thomas until 4 days later where we received her at the port of West Palm Beach. Between these days we flew from St. Thomas to Miami, where we were graciously hosted by Reuben and Molli, our good friends and boating buddies of IP 380 PRIORITY. They totally spoiled us…..
While with Reuben and Molli, we enjoyed staying in their high rise condo in North Miami Beach, swimming in the pool, touring Vizcaya and taking in some mighty fine dining experiences with great conversations and fine red wines! This was a 5-star vacation for us, after being on the boat since Dec 5th in the Caribbean. Thank you, Reuben and Molli for the wonderful hospitality and for our dear friendship. We really treasure our times together.
On Tuesday, we learned that we would be the first boat off the ship! To show their ultimate support, we all got up at 0500 and departed for I-95 at 0530 for a 1.5 to 1.75 hour drive to West Palm Beach to meet the ship. Now that is true friendship! THANK YOU, Molli and Reuben!
Arriving in West Palm Beach, we entered the security zone at the shipping terminal where I had to get a guest pass and clearance to enter the port. Meanwhile, Radeen, Reuben, and Molli remained outside the fence until I returned. This part of the shipping is a bit odd. I was required to board the ship and remove the backstays. This allows the crane to place the slings under the boat without hitting the rig. Once this was done, I got off the ship, we left the port and drove around to Riviera Beach Marina, with a minor delay due to a train stopped on the tracks.
Well…..here came our next surprise. As we walked up to the tender, there onboard were our good friends, Ed and Sue of sv ANGEL LOUISE! These are the world sailors who just finished the American Great Loop and also the European Great Loop. They are the first boat in history to have completed these two voyages. Of course, to do this you need to cross the Atlantic twice and also lock up to 1,330 feet in elevation. These guys are amazing boaters. Well, here they were from Stuart to help us receive Island Spirit away from the ship in very windy weather. THANK YOU, Ed and Sue!
Waiting is what we did! After racing to the ship by 0800, boarding the ship around 0830 and removing the back stays, then racing around to meet the tender, we ended up standing off the ship from 0845 until about 1030 hrs. The problem was that Customs did a virtual check out via online, but the US Coast Guard decided to inspect the ship. So, with our boat hanging in the slings up on the crane for over an hour, we waited in the tender wondering when she would ever be lowered over the side. The winds were blowing 20+ knots into the marine terminal while we were bouncing around and waiting.
Now the excitement began as we watched them lower our 17,500 lbs 40 feet LOA sailboat 30 feet down to the water. We were not allowed to approach until the slings were removed and the crane lifted out of the way. So, they splashed her and tied bow and stern straps to the railing of the ship and we simply hoped that the engine intake hose would not come off and sink the yacht. That was the only open thru-hull as we wanted her ready to start up ASAP. If I were doing this again, no thru hulls would be left open until we are onboard. The workers can just wait for us to properly prepare the boat to be started and driven away.
With our unexpected crew of Ed and Sue, we had help loading our two rolling travel bags and two backpacks onto Island Spirit. Then the four of us boarded her and prepared her to drive away from the ship. The wind was blowing 15-20 into the terminal onto our stern. We needed to back away from the ship as they were offloading another yacht right over our heads. They yelled down to us to move on, and get going! We wanted the engine to be running for at least a few minutes, but we backed away quickly. WOW, talk about exciting and lots of crazy action.
From the ship, we had decided to take a dock at the Riviera Beach City Marina. This turned out to be another exciting process as the current runs thru this marina at about 3 to 4 knots. Of course they placed us, a transient, in the far back corner of the marina with a difficult current. Lucky for us, this current was running out of our slip but across the fairway. The slip was to my port. PERFECT. So we planned to back into the slip to port as I turned downstream to starboard. Island Spirit will spin clockwise to starboard in reverse and she did. We hit reverse and powered backward into the current and into the slip. ONE SHOT was all we would get! Miss this and we could do damages to other yachts. Finally, WE WERE DOCKED! Thank you, Ed and Sue, for being onboard to help with the lines and docking.
After docking at 1100 hours, we caught our breath, happy to be back in Florida to begin our repairs. We went out for a quick lunch and then, of course, to a PUBLIX grocery store for some provisions. All this made possible because Ed and Sue drove down from Stuart, Florida to help us out. This entire shipping process has been supported by our dear friends. Radeen and I really appreciate all they did to help out. Big thank yous to Reuben, Molli, Ed and Sue!
We learned that shipping a boat is a very detailed process with many steps along the way. It costs around $10,000 from St. Thomas to Florida for 17,000 lbs and 40 feet LOA. It is fast, only 2.5 days of sea time. Your boat is saltier than ever before when it comes off the ship. The shipping companies are pros at doing this. Overall, it was an exciting process and we may, just may, ship back in March….who knows. But for now, we need to see to our repairs and get this boat sailing again. Then we will decide on how we will get back to the Caribbean Sea. Thanks for following along.
What an interesting experience, shipping your boat has turned out to be! WOW, very exciting, very interesting and challenging working with the salespeople, the local shipping company, local colorful captains, import/export people, and then preparing your yacht for ship transport. All of these components make for a very challenging activity from the customer (us) as we navigated the process from Nov 1 when we wired $10,800 to Amsterdam to Dec 10th when the canceled our ship to Jan 15 when our ship was delayed to Jan 20th, then 25th then 26th then 27th. Finally, on Jan 27th at 1500 hr we placed Island Spirit up alongside the ship Named DIAMANTGRACHT.
Our adventures started when we arrived in Puerto Rico Dec 5 to prep and launch Island Spirit so we could motor here over to St. Thomas to meet the ship Dec 10th. We met that schedule and upon docking at the Crown Bay Marina, we were told that day, that our ship had been canceled and we would be picked up one month later on Jan 10th. At first, we were very disappointed, but then we accepted the new schedule and decided to enjoy our one month stay in the Virgin Islands. Imagine that, one month in the Virgin Islands, how great is that? So, after our USVI and BVIs review tours, we returned to Crown Bay Marina to prepare for shipping.
Once we had Island Spirit stripped down and all items secured for ship transport, we departed the docks at 1400 to stand off the ship and be ready for lifting. One of the most frustrating aspects of this stage was the fact that we were told to be off the ship at 1300, then 1400, then 1500 hrs! With the winds blowing small craft advisory at 25-30 knots and 2-3 foot waves in the harbor, we needed to know EXACTLY when do you want us alongside the ship? So we phoned the ship and spoke with the loadmaster and he asked us to be ready around 1400, so we departed the dock at 1400. We had hired a captain, one who had done this before to guide us and help us, and Radeen would stay back on shore with our bags and backpacks, but that really did not work out well. Long story, but eventually we did it all on our own, no captain for us. Yes, we still got billed for this “said” captain, but it just did not work out. So, off to the ship we motored and we placed Island Spirit right where they needed her. High winds and waves and all.
Now we were tied to the ship, it was rather easy. You pull up to the side of the ship. They toss down 2″ yellow webbing with a loop on the end. Radeen connected this to the bow cleat and I connected on to the stern. With fenders on the port side, we rode there along the side of the ship for 45 minutes until they lowered the crane and the straps. The massive crane, 100-ton limit swings over a cradle and two straps. The loadmaster climbs down a ladder of about 20+ rungs to board our deck. A snorkeler is in the water to verify where the straps go. I explained the keel shape and the fact that the front strap needed to be on the FLAT part of the keel. They placed the forward strap too far forward, the driver did call that out, but they lifted at this point anyway. With the boat lifted to be tested, and inspected by the diver, they then lowered use back down so we could get off our boat and into this Boston Whaler snorkel boat along with our 2 bags and 2 laptop bags.
Well, of course this all was happening during a full our squall of 30 knots and driving rain. Needless to say, we all were soaked, our bags and laptops getting soaked. We grabbed some trash bags from below, closed up and off to the snorkel boat we climbed! From there we could see Island Spirit being lifted to the deck as we were taken back to the dock. HOW EXCITING!
Once we were returned to the docks, we hauled our wet bags around the port to the place where Radeen could wait while I boarded the ship to re-attached the backstays. Climbing up the gangplank to the ship was exciting and then working my way around the ship, alone, climbing ladders and steps to get up onto the deck of the ship was very very interesting. I finally found Island Spirit and there I spoke with the loadmaster about the front strap and the angle of the keel. He understands. I then climbed a ladder up to the stern and secured the backstays. I checked below decks and I made sure the transponder was pinging our position. Closing up and locking the boat, I was then able to stay on deck and watch the loading of another 65-foot sport fishing yacht.
The really interesting aspect is how they weld corner brackets to the deck of the ship to hold our cradle to the deck. Then the 3″ webbing straps are ratcheted down to tie downs on the deck. I was there to see them welding us to the deck! Very cool.
After watching then load the 65 foot sport fish, I then climbed down off the deck to the side walkway, and found my way to the exit and back down to Radeen waiting with our bags. From the docks, we caught a cab to a hotel the closest to the airport, popped a bottle of red wine, and reflected on the excitiment. The winds are blowing 25-30 knots. The seas are up to 15 to 20 to 25 feet. Island Spirit is on one WILD RIDE out there in the ocean.
We are LIVE tacking here, via our Garmin inreach system. It pings the position every 10 minutes! Very cool.
Next step is to fly out of St,. Thomas, Sunday, Jan 28 at 1630 to Miami. There we will meet up with dear friends Reuben and Molli, owners of IP 380 PRIORITY who are spending time in South Beach, Florida. They have an extra bedroom and bath and they have kindly insisted that we stay with them a couple of days until Island Spirit arrives in West Palm Beach Tuesday late. We are told we will be able to receive her Wed morning. So, upon arriving in South Beach, our mission #1 is ICE CREAM, as Reuben and I LOVE ice cream more than anyone. Then it will be some relaxation and visiting and some fine fine meals out and about South Beach, Florida. We are really looking forward to this time. Thank you, Reuben and Molli.
After we receive the boat in West Palm Beach, we will motor north up the ICW to Stuart Florida and base at SUNSET BAY MARINA, our #1 marina in the USA. There we will be working with Mack Sails and they will pull out this mast, replace it with our new one that is waiting for us, and install new rigging. We plan to spend all of Feb in Stuart because we LOVE IT THERE. Then, back to the Caribbean starting in March. Shipping??? Maybe….Sailing back??? Maybe…yet to be decided.
We wrapped up our USVI, St. Thomas and St. Johns travels as we await the arrival of mv DIAMANTGRACHT, the Sevenstar ship that will transport Island Spirit back to Florida for our new mast and rigging at Mack Sails. Departing the BVIs last week, we spent 4 days in the Red Hook area and Great St. James Island (aka Christmas Cove) where the Pizza-PI boat is moored. What a fantastic area with lots of services in Red Hook and with plenty of protection from the east tradewinds at Christmas Cove. We can see how cruisers make this a base of operations because it is so nice with crystal clear blue/teal waters, free moorings, and room to anchor. Here is a map of the islands of St. Thomas and St. Johns:
Let’s back up to St. Johns for a minute, and you will notice how close this is to West End,Tortola, BVI. The tradewinds blow from the east and this funnels the winds between Tortola and St. Johns along with a 1 -2 knot tidal current, so the winds curl around and into the bays on the north side of St. Johns. This fact makes one of our favorite spots very rolly unless the winds are light, which is rare. That spot is first bay on the NE corner of St. Johns, Leinster Bay, where we love to snorkel Waterlemon Cay and hike the trails to the Annenberg Sugar Mill Plantation. This is one of our favorite spots on St. Johns. The next bay, where we spent many nights is Francis Bay, which wraps far back around the point and then deep into the east making for a great anchorage. Deserted sandy beaches line this bay and every day we hit the beach and had it to ourselves. St. Johns has National Park mooring balls in every harbor, making it even easier to spend the night. These photos below show the beauty of these harbors.
Life onboard while waiting for the ship has been peaceful. We have been working on boat services like waxing, and spotless stainless removing rust, and the endless varnish service. The day breaks around 0600, we listen to weather on the SSB with Chris Parker at 0700, then we have breakfast of egg whites and toast or oatmeal and cottage cheese along with french pressed coffee, of course! Then we do some boat jobs until midday, and then it is off for a swim, a snorkel or a beach walk or hike around town or a trail. By midday 1400, the sun is so intense that we return to the shade of the boat and make our main meal of the day, pasta, fish or stir fry with a salad. We relax, read, use the internet until late afternoon, 1630 and it is back to more boat chores as the sun goes down. We watch the sunset around 1800 and check into the Crusieheimers SSB network. Next, we enjoy some wine, cheese and crackers and read, write, and talk. We hit the showers every night around 2000 and then read and surf until bedtime 2200. Notice, no TV in this mix, maybe the news if we feel like it, but we can get that off the internet, our cells or satellite radio. With the nighttime temps around 75F and the hatch open over our bunk, we need a sheet to be comfortable. Imagine that. Wake at daybreak 0600, and repeat. Welcome to Team Island Spirit days….or should I call these Island Spirit Daze?….
Anchored back in St. Thomas off the cruise ship docks near Havensight, we just received word that we will be loading onto the ship this Saturday at 1500, Jan 27, 2018, at Crown Bay Marina. Our ship, mv DIAMANTGRACHT, is arriving from Italy, it will offload 9 yachts, then it will load us onto the deck of the ship. Sometime on Sunday or Monday, the ship will depart St. Thomas and in3 days we need to meet the ship in West Palm Beach Florida. There, our dear friends Reuben and Molli of IP380 PRIORITY have offered us the guestroom in their Miami Beach condo and a ride from Miami up to West Palm to meet our ship. This is so kind, and this is one more example of our well connected and worldwide Island Packet Fleet of owners. Thank you Reuben and Molli, this is all so very kind of you. See you soon!
We will create a full ship blog post about the loading process next,. For now, this is what the ship looks like. Three massive cranes that will load us from the water!
So, for now, with 3 days before shipping, we will finally move over to Crown Bay Marina and down-rig Island Spirit once again. We need to prepare the boat to take 50-60 MPH winds as the ship travels at 15 to 20 knots and ocean storms and squalls can be 30-40 knots, so Island Spirit is in for another another wild windy event. She took 200 mph winds from hurricane MARIA so this 50 mph winds should be nothing. (she rode 70 mph down I-75 in Florida on a truck back to the Island Packet Factory, this will be easy) Knowing this, we will take off all the canvas, our only sail, the staysail, strap the dinghy down on the bow upside down again, and remove all gear from the deck. Then for loading, we will drive our boat to the side of the ship. The straps are lowered via cranes, these go under our boat from the stern, we get off onto a tender, and they lift Island Spirit 30+ feet to the deck where she will be placed in jack stands welded to the deck or a cradle. Then hurricane straps are added to hold her down to the deck. We must board the ship and then reattach the backstays. She will have her mast up and we hope she arrives the same way. Then in Florida, the process will be reversed. She will be lowered to the water, we get onboard via a tender and start her up and drive away. 1,000 nm in 3 days, at a cost of $10,800. Remember, this is all part of our insurance settlement, as the shipping price for our mast was $9,500, so we paid a little more and we are shipping the boat back to Mack Sails in Florida. Below is a picture of Island Spirit on the anchor, St. Thomas.
St. Johns and St. Thomas have been a fun place to wait for this ship. We learned the harbors, the towns, and the busses to get around. We met up with our Island Packet Dealer, Skip and Andrea owners of Island Yachts and we met Island Packet 38, Salty Shores, owners Jim and Anechy who drove us around the island and showed us the Independent Boat Yard where they rode out the hurricane at the dock! It really has been peaceful and a very enjoyable time. We still feel that returning to Mack Sails is our best option as we will be positive the rig will be properly set up and we will have zero worries about the repairs. It has taken time, but we have plenty of time.
Here are a few more photos of our time in the USVI. Enjoy:
We sailed (actually motored as we have a damaged mast) from St. Thomas to Christmas Cove on St. John’s, with free, new park mooring balls. There we met the lively girls who run the Pizza PI boat on Opening Day of Season #4. After sharing a pie with Sea Star, we continued to the BVIs. We always check into the country at Jost van Dyke, home of the world-famous FOXY’S. We made it there a day ahead of the famous New Year’s Eve Party (locally called Old Year’s Night) and secured a mooring ball. Let the fun begin. This was a wonderful way to kick off our 2018 BVI return tour. We even were so lucky as to snap a selfie with Foxy. What an icon and what an accomplished man he is. In 2018, Foxy will turn 80 and the restaurant will celebrate its 40th anniversary….sounds like another epic party on the horizon. It was interesting to learn that in his 20’s, Foxy raised cattle and took them by sailboat to Sopers Hole on Tortola. After inspection, he would sail them to St. Thomas to be sold. Thank you, Foxy, for checking off one of our bucket list items – a very memorable New Year’s Eve!
After recovering from the wonderful party at Foxy’s we motored to North Sound to see for ourselves the destruction caused by hurricane IRMA at the Bitter End Yacht Club.We posted a full photo essay on our facebook page here. It is really heartbreaking to see the power of this storm and all that is destroyed. One cannot fully grasp this until you see it for yourself.
After the tour around North Sound, we moved down to Leverick Bay where we enjoyed the Michael Beans pirate show, after all its a PARrrrrrr-Tay and really a good time. Michael lost his beautiful boat in Spanish Town and he is now working on repairing another boat so he can move back aboard. For now, he is performing his outstanding show from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mon, Tue, Wed at Leverick Bay, and we feel it is a must-attend event.
From there we motored past Spanish Town and observed the many yachts laid over on their sides, still 4 months after the storm. We hear that the insurance adjusters and insurance companies are not moving too fast on all these damages and people are still waiting to hear about settlements. Onward to THE BATHS where we have been 10 times before, but this was the first time we ever saw a RED flag hoisted. There was a large north swell running of maybe 3 to 4 feet and that was enough to make it nearly impossible to swim into the beach. The waves were crashing onto the rock and running 20 feet up the beach and into the trees. We decided not to body surf those conditions and sadly we moved.
Next up was Peter Island, one of our favorite places to simply hang out in beautiful blue, blue water. Then to Norman Island where we really enjoyed PIRATES BIGHT beach and happy hour. This owner really went out of his way to rebuild and make the place even better than it was last year. Well, guess what? The boats were there. Many many charter boats filled the harbor and the bar and the restaurant because so many other places are still closed. Cooper Island Beach Club shows nearly zero damages to their buildings with damages to their boardwalks. Yes, their docks are gone, but the site looks like it could be opened. It is closed until April. So, Norman Island and PIRATES BIGHT is THE PLACE to go.
With the many snorkeling sites around Norman’s Island ,we enjoyed a couple of days here. Yes, the poor WILLY T ended up on the beach and she will RIP there forever more. (We fondly remember the first Willy T, a wooden sailboat which sank in the harbor years ago. In 1984, we sat at the bar, with our feet dangling over the hold and ate warm chocolate cake under the stars.) I wish the owners were required to remove it, but who knows how that works. Imagine if someone crashed their car or truck onto your front lawn and then just walked away, leaving it there. Oh, sorry, it crashed here, and here it will stay. I have a problem with that. So many boats are wrecked on the beaches and their owners seem to be absent. Who should pay for this clean up is the question? Maybe, it just takes time.
From Norman’s Island, we motored over to Sopers Hole because we heard that OMARS Coffee shop cafe was open. YES, IT WAS, but everything else around it was destroyed and/or gone. The Dive Shop is gone. The Latitude 18 boutique is gone. Gone, as in the buildings no longer exist. Pussers bar is obliterated, they are open upstairs. The customs building is leveled and replaced with an open tent. The marina and charter docks are gone. This was one of the hardest hit areas we toured. With the customs building gone, the ferries from the US no long stop here. Only private yachts can check in here. No water, no fuel, no Pusser’s Landing. But, I will say, OMARS IS GREAT, and it is well worth the stop for coffee or for breakfast or lunch. Congrats to them for opening up and serving great food. I also posted a photo essay of Sopers Hole on our Facebook Page here
With one loop now completed around the British Virgin Islands, it was time to loop again and see places we missed. No trip to the BVIs would be complete without a Painkiller at the SOGGY DOLLAR BAR on Jost van Dyke. Here we go again, let’s motor over there and swim into the beach and enjoy some painkillers. Why not? WOW, does this place ever look different. no more trees and a new Soggy Dollar Bar was built. The only thing left was the sign and the bar and the concrete slabs, Everything else was leveled! The good news is the beach is still spectacular and the drinks are great. Thank you, SOGGY DOLLAR BAR, you and your ring toss game are legendary!
From Jost van Dyke, we wanted to head up to Trellis Bay and see the LAST RESORT. When motoring on the north side of Tortola, you are mostly in the lee of the island. Even when you round (aptly named) “Rough Point” and head east, you are still protected by GUANA Island. Passing thru MONKEY POINT (where there is great snorkeling) you head towards the Beef Island Airport and into Trellis Bay. We have spent many, many vacations at this spot, including New Year’s Eve 1986 at The Last Resort. The harbor is very protected and with the wind 25 gusting 30, we decided to stay here 3 days until it settled down. Sadly, Hurricane IRMA hammered this harbor with a 20-foot tidal surge along with the high winds. People on Great Camanoe reported seeing this single massive wave/surge going over The Last Resort and into the bay. This wave took every boat in the harbor and drove them all up high and dry onto the beach. Some are 10 feet above the normal tide line and into the trees.I posted a full photo essay of the 35+ boats up on the beach and the scene on Trellis Bay and the Last Resort HERE.
While in Trellis, we took a taxi to Fat Hogs Bay to see the East End area. We enjoyed meeting the manager of Penn’s Landing Marina and shopping at a great marine chandlery and a small Rite-way market. The fabulous smell led us to a wonderful bakery, where we tried a coconut tart and a rock bun….it looks like a rock and is full of coconut and raisins. The next day, we took a taxi to Nanny Cay for lunch on the beach and to find our friends’ boat IP40 Bonavista, nearly unscathed amidst the terrible destruction.
After the high winds returned to normal, 15-20, we motored out of Trellis and around the corner to Road Town, as we needed to fill a propane tank. Taking one of the free town moorings in 3-foot waves, 20 feet off a rock wall to leeward always is a challenge. Then lowering the dinghy into the water with the bow going up and down 4 to 5 feet will nearly rip the dinghy right off the davits. This is always a problem at Road Town, but with the harbor full of sunken yachts it is about the only option. We waited for a calm in the wave train and got the dinghy unhooked and free without damages. Needless to say, it was NOT going back on the davits in this sea state, so we planned to tow her to Peter Island. Into the Moorings docks we tendered, where we were shocked at the number of damaged yachts, all with insurance claim numbers on their port bows. Hundreds of damaged yachts on every dock. Piles of masts and rigging stacked up at the entrance to The Moorings. With no trees and piles of debris, the entrance is nearly unrecognizable. Skids of new pulpits and ladders and rigging stacked up. I cannot imagine the amount of work it will take to rebuild this Moorings Fleet of yachts. OH MY GOSH! Simply heartbreaking. It was surreal to see.
Departing Road Town ASAP, we towed the dinghy across Sir Francis Drake Channel in 3-foot beam seas. That was NOT fun. It is not a good ride running a 17,000 lb sailboat with an 8,000 lb keel and NO SAILS hoisted. The boat swings like a large pendulum and rolls from side to side so strongly that most dishes and pots and pans and books go flying off the shelves and out of the cabinets. So after a simple 1 hr crossing of the channel, the boat is a wreck because we cannot put up a sail. This is what we have been doing as we wait for our ship to arrive Jan 26 to ship back to Mack Sails for a new mast and rigging. Yes, we could have motored home, but imagine 1,000 nm under motor with no sails, then imagine running into a Bahamian cut without sails. NO WAY. we will not take that risk. If all goes well, we will be offloaded in West Palm Beach on Jan 30 and at Mack Sails being fixed the beginning of February.
Back at Peter Island in Buttonwood Bay, Great Harbour we once again enjoyed the peace of a flat calm anchorage, 20 knots of wind and no worries. Life is good on a sailboat…..when all is working well….
From Peter Island, we departed the BVIs after 2 weeks of motoring around to review all the great places. We headed downwind back to Francis Bay on St. John’s where we have high-speed 4G internet (to post a blog like this) and we even receive NBC HD from St. Thomas on the TV. We shot thousands of photos and processed the best ones which we are sharing in this collection below. Each photo will blow up to a larger photo, but then you must back up to select another one.
We continue our motoring around the BVIs including a run to North Sound to see first-hand the power and destruction of Hurricane IRMA and MARIA to our favorite place in the entire world, The Bitter End Yacht Club. First, we stopped into Road Town on Tortola to pick up CCT sim cards for data and cell services and for a few supplies. Taking a free town mooring right off the Moorings stone seawall, we could see into the harbor where there were sunken yachts and flipped over 50-foot catamarans. With total shock and disbelief, we dinghied thru the harbor looking at the destruction. Right on the fuel dock, there is a 60-foot cat upside down! OH MY GOSH! These people have been thru hell and back and are still suffering the damages of a CAT 5 hurricane 4 months ago.
The people we talk to are trying to get back to normal, whatever this new normal will be, and they express pride in their progress. There is so much more work to be done. At the CCT cell store, all the windows were blown out and plywood with temporary windows covered the 3 story office building. Construction workers were offloading more windows and more plywood. In the midst of this destruction, we witnessed kindness and optimism. Everyone we talk to about the storm and damages to their homes simply says, “We are ALIVE, we are still here, Thank GOD!” To hear their stories and the horror that they endured is really heartbreaking. One waitress described losing the roof on her house, moving during the eye to a friend’s house and losing that roof. She and her children went into a closet and she held the door against the wind. It makes our simple little damages to our mast so trivial. We count our blessings!
4 Months After
After getting fuel and a few provisions and a sim card in Road Town, we headed off to North Sound to see the remains of the Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock. Motoring into North Sound, where we have gone 10 times before since 1986, was a bittersweet trip. We already knew what we would find, but we had to see this for ourselves. Out of all the places we have traveled, this place, The Bitter End Yacht Club, has always been our #1 happy place. We have many, many happy memories from here, of birthdays, Christmases and even a wedding. As we motored past looking at the total destruction, tears streamed down our faces. Everything is destroyed….the clubhouse, restaurant, marina, sailing center, gift shop, conference center and wedding cabana. The homes on the hills are blown apart. The Estate House we rented during our friends’ wedding is blown off the face of the earth. Nothing is left. We simply cannot believe the destruction. The eye of this hurricane came right over the entire BVIs and that meant they had 200 mph winds from one direction, then a clearing during the eye and then 200 mph winds from the opposite direction. It is this reversing of the winds that will destroy buildings and do total destruction!
After motoring past Saba Rock and looking at the destruction there, we turned south towards Leverick Bay and realized that this may be the last time we ever sail to the Bitter End. Thirty one years of happy times spent here and then one hurricane levels the entire resort. The family that owns this property will keep this closed for one year as they graciously work on rebuilding the homes of their many employees who have lost it all. They started a donation fund to which we donated right away. You can read about that in the Bitter End’s website here: http://BEYC.com You can also go directly to the donation page here: https://www.youcaring.com/bitterendyachtclubemployeesthevirgingordacommunity-944198
We ended our North Sound tour with a night at Leverick Bay to see Michael Beans Pirate show. This is the best show in the islands and he gets everyone involved in the show. Michael is a great man and even though he lost his home/boat in Spanish Town in the hurricane, he has restarted his show. Of course, he had to totally rebuild his stage and set and sound system and is back up and running. He is a one-man show and he is very very popular. We always enjoy his show. Leverick Bay Marina is rebuilding and they are open with the beach bar and pool and docks. The market is open and stocked, but the Pussers Store is closed for rebuilding. Overall they were hit hard also, and they are rebuilding fast.
From Leverick Bay, we motored south past Spanish Town, another location where many boaters store their yachts for the offseason. As we motored past we could see many yachts on their sides and leaning over. Several of our friends lost their yachts in this location. We hear the harbor is closed due to sunken yachts. Again, there is so much destruction and it is heart breaking.
From here, we pulled into the Baths, where we have been at least 10 times. Today there was a north swell running due to the large storm off the USA east coast. We have never been here when there is a RED flag hoisted. This means that it is very dangerous to swim into the Baths. The swell was causing large waves crashing up onto the beaches and then pushing 20+ feet up into the trees! WHAT? I have never seen this. So, we decide to not swim in. The park has roped off the beaches and you have to take your dinghy to the perimeter rope, tie off then jump in and swim into the beach or the rock. With these waves crashing on the beach it would have been dangerous to body surf in, so we sadly motored past.
We motored back to Peter Island, Great Harbor where there is lots of protection and then move down to Norman Island for Pirate’s Bight as we meet our Team Six Knots, Fezywig and Sea Star. Then we will move over to Soper’s Hole and base there as that too is very protected. We hear that Omar’s coffee shop is open!
One last topic:
OUR SHIP to SHIP to FLORIDA!
We are watching the ship we are assigned to, and it is still in ITALY! What? Yup, Italy, that is 4,500 nm away, it is to be in St. Thomas Jan 18-20 loading us. At 15 knots of speed this ship needs 13-14 days to make it here. That means it needs to depart Italy in the next few days. If it does not, then I am betting this ship will cancel as well. If that happens, then we will need another new plan. Oh well, so it is. At least our motor is running great!
Happy New Year everyone, Radeen and I wish you all, happiness, good health, and adventure in the upcoming 2018 year. We enjoyed celebrating new years eve on Jost van Dyke, at Foxy’s in the British Virgin Islands. It was an amazing and enjoyable party that lasted well into the new year. We were proud to have made it to 1:30 am. This party is considered one of the best places to celebrate the new year and it really will be one to remember. We had this on our bucket list for many many years!
From Jost, we moved over to Road Town, Tortola and then on to Peter Island. But, while anchored off St. Johns, we captured these amazing moonrise photos in the valley at the same time while the sunset to the west was creating a show of its own as well. What a special scene to enjoy from our boat. Remember, we are motoring around between St. Thomas and the BVIs waiting for our ship to arrive (Jan 20th) where we will be loaded onto the deck and shipped back to Florida for our mast repair and new rigging. We thought this was the best solution, and we still think it is the best solution, we just did not count on a one month delay of the ship. With that said, we are happy for the delay as we can now return to the places we saw last year and assess the damages from the hurricanes. More on that sad news in another post, for now, I just wanted to share these great photos of the moonrise and wish you all a Happy New Year.
Moonrise over St. Johns, USVI Click images for full-screen picture