We continue to enjoy our times here in the US Virgin Islands aka USVI where the weather has been in that Goldilocks zone where it gets cool enough at night 25C/77F) for comfortable sleeping and comfortably hot (30-32C/88-90F) during the day. The easterly Trade Winds are blowing about 15 knots most of the time, sometimes dying down to 5 and sometimes gusting over 25 kts when we are out in the channels when on the move and the water is a consistent 27C/81F. Hard to ask for much better and easy to understand why this area and the whole Caribbean is so popular at this time of year.
It was Christine’s birthday on the 15th and our wedding anniversary on the 21st so we treated ourselves to some time in places like this idyllic beach in Honeymoon Bay. This was a particularly special treat for Christine as she had spent lots of time anchored here in Honeymoon Bay on her sailboat Sunrise which she and her husband Jim had built and then chartered for several years out of the USVI in the 80’s and then again in the 90’s with Tim aboard.
The far end of the beach you can see in the photo above had a small bar where everyone was hanging out but to our delight we found this old wooden picnic table at the other end of the beach and enjoyed an extended B’day lunch all to ourselves. Then we moved back to Brewers Bay which is tucked in behind the extended runway of the St. Thomas airport creating the ideal breakwater to keep us well protected from the swell. The runway is the length of rocks you can see in the background here. Brewers Bay is is part of the University of the Virgin Islands UVI so the beach is part of a park area of the campus and is a very peaceful spot being on the far western side of the island with every little traffic or population. While in Brewers Bay we had another terrific treat in the form of a visit with a high school friend of my daughter Lia who has been living and working here in USVI for over 20 years. She reached out to us when she read that we were coming here and came out to spend an afternoon with us aboard Möbius. Trish was a very impressive young lady and we all thoroughly enjoyed our conversations about times old and new. Thanks Trish! Brewers Bay was also the perfect spot for us to wait the last few days before our Grandson Liam (7) and Christine’s son Tim and wife Ashley flew in from Florida. I took Christine ashore the day they arrived and she walked over to the airport to meet them. If you look closely at this photo (click to enlarge) you’ll see what I mean when I say that while I was back on Möbius I could also watch their plane come in and land right beside me! At last! We have a real pirate aboard and a very modern one who also a space pirate as well apparently. Here is a map of the routes we took with Liam and family. Brewers Bay on St. Thomas Island over on the far Left where we started and Francis Bay on neighboring St. James Island over on the far Right where we ended up. With no time zone change and a relatively short flight from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Thomas everyone got a good night sleep aboard Möbius and next morning we headed out on our first trip seen in Red on the map here. We stopped and anchored across from Crown Bay marina which as you can see here is also beside one of several cruise ship ports here on St. Thomas. Christine took Tim ashore so they could do the grocery shopping for the rest of their visit. Then we continued on to Francis Bay which is another spot that Christine and Tim had been to when Tim was a young boy aboard Sunrise. It was a real treat for Tim to be able to show Ashley and Liam this part of the world where he spent several years when he was about Liam’s age. Hard not to have a good time on secluded beaches like this! And watching sunsets from the aft deck. Although you probably can’t top the ultimate combo of a dog, an iPad, Mac’n Cheese and Goldfish! At least for a seven year old. We spent two very fun days and nights anchored in Francis Bay doing what one of the big motor yachts beside us we called “Chillaxing”. Everyone got time to swim, snorkel and suntan and had fun doing a whole lot of nothing. Just what vacations are for. Much to Liam’s delight, Christine got the drone out and showed Tim how to fly it off the foredeck of Möbius and they were able to get some super aerial shots just before sunset. On Saturday we pulled up the anchor and headed back over to St. Thomas Island to our next anchorage in Christmas Cove, the Green route you can see in the map above. In spite of this being the USVI Yacht Race weekend, there are not too many boats on in the bays. Christmas Cove is particularly well known as being the home for the famous Pizza Pi boat Tim & Ashley treated us all to Pizza Pi last night. Thanks Tim & Ashley! No surprise that pizza was also a big hit with Liam in particular and a fun way for us to spend our last night together.
As I type up this blog post, Christine is ashore taking Liam, Tim & Ashley back to the airport as sadly their time with us here is up and they have to fly back to Ft. Lauderdale later this afternoon. Christine rented a car so she could take them on a bit of a tour of St. Thomas and she took them up to Mountain Top overlooking Megan’s Bay on the North coast of St. Thomas. As you can see, it was a great day with an incredible view of all the surrounding islands in the background.
Safe trip home Tim, Ashely and Liam. Can’t wait for our next time together.
That’s a wrap for now folks.
Next week we have our good friends Sue & Bob from Victoria BC flying in to spend a week with us and they will probably join us for the passage over to Culebra and Puerto Rico which is where they fly out from. So Christine and I will enjoy a few days to ourselves and getting the Guest Cabin on Möbius ready for our next guests and our next set of passages. I’ll have all the details on that in the next update here and till then our sincere thanks for taking the time to join us on these adventures and hope you’ll be back for the next update in about two weeks as we get another new month started. Yikes! How did that happen so fast??!!
Thanks to Christine’s forecasting with PredictWind we had a super smooth ride all the way from where we left you last week in St. Martin to the US Virgin Islands. We left SXM out the drawbridge on the northern French side (Green on the map) for its 17:00 opening and then anchored in the outside bay to enjoy dinner and the sunset. We got underway about 20:00 for our overnight 103NM passage timed so that we would arrive in USVI after sunrise. Mother Nature not only gifted us with calm flat seas but also a near full moon to light our way. As you can see it was a very exciting white knuckle ride for the crew! Our timing worked out just right as we arrived at the southern coast of St. John Island just after sunrise. We headed for Cruz Bay (Red on map below) to check in at the US Customs & Immigration office and anchored just off shore and launched the Tender to go ashore and do all the checking in formalities. That all went well so we headed back to Möbius to go find a nice spot to anchor for a few days. Found a great little spot in a small protected harbor on the West side of Great St. James Island (Green on map). Crystal clear water, not too many neighbors and the Pizza Pi boat anchored nearby. We stayed there till this morning (Sunday) and then headed over to Yacht Haven marina (dark Blue on map) on the East end of Charlotte Amalie to fill up our water tanks (more on that later). We blend right in with the other boats on the dock don’t you think??!! The dock hand was super helpful and we enjoyed chatting with him as we whiled away the few hours it took to fill up two of our water tanks.
After filling up with fresh water, we motored over to the south end of Hassle Island, which was NO hassle at all, and we we are currently anchored here as I write. (dark Blue on map above) This is the reason we had to go fill up with water today; our watermaker high pressure pump is broken. Both the Low and High pressure pumps were not wanting to work when I went to start using the watermaker after many months sitting dormant but I was able to get the Low Pressure pump working with just a good cleaning. However I wasn’t so lucky with the HP pump as one of the ceramic pistons was broken and so I’ll need to find a way to get some replacement parts sent over. With a water tank capacity of 7300 L/1900 USG and only Christine and I onboard we can go about six months but with family and guests arriving soon and now ability to make our own water, we needed to head over to the marina to get some fresh water and took on about 2500L/660 USG which should be more than enough till I can get the watermaker working in the next month or two. Charlotte Amalie is the “Big City” here on St. Thomas and the airport is not too far away so we will be checking out this area for a good spot to anchor when our Grandson Liam and parents fly in on the 22nd. May head over to check out anchoring spots off of Water Island which Christine has fond memories of in her days chartering on her boat Sunrise when son Tim was just a young boy so fun for him to revisit this and share with his son Liam.
So that brings you up to date with the Good Ship Möbius and thanks so much for taking time to join us on this latest leg of the adventure. Hope you’ll be back for the next update and in the meantime please leave your comments and questions in the Join the Discussion box below.
When we left off in the last update, we had arrived in SXM aka Saint Martin (France) or Sint Marteen (Netherlands) on Valentine’s Day. We anchored for the night on the south side in Simpson Bay (Red on map) and then headed inside to the large “Great Pond” lagoon through the Bridge on the Dutch side, then over through the Causeway Bridge to where we have been anchored ever since.
We are anchored about equidistant from the dinghy docks on the French side to the North and the Dutch side to the south so our location has worked out well and we’ve spent time eXploring SXM by foot and pretty much circumnavigating this fascinating island by rental car. SXM is home to many super yachts as well as being a popular tourist destination so we have been enjoying the largest supply of groceries, marine supplies, postal services we’ve had since arriving on this side of the Atlantic. There is even a Costco-like Cost U Less which was a bit overwhelming for us but we recovered long enough to stock up on wine, meat and groceries. And as if that wasn’t enough, next door was a very large French based Carrefour store as well so Möbius is now very well stocked up. On our drive around the island we eXplored some of the smaller town that dot most of the coastal roads. Up on the North side we found this spot right on the water and enjoyed a good BBQ lunch in the soft trade wind breezes while watching the boats anchored out in front.
Starlink Internet has arrived on Möbius!
As you can see from the smile, the BIG news aboard Möbius is that we have now joined the Starlink community! Christine spent a LOT of time figuring out the rather complex logistics of just how and where to get this satellite based internet solution registered and sent to us and SXM was her choice and it arrived without too much complication on Friday. For those who may not know, Starlink is a relatively new way of getting a pretty fast internet connection via a constellation of Low Earth Orbit LEO satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. This enables us to now have a solid internet connection from pretty much anywhere we wander and anchor in this awemazing world of ours. For nomadic people like us, this is an eXtremely BIG deal! You might think that such an advanced new solution would be very complex, but you’d be wrong. There are really just two parts, the dish itself, apparently officially called “Dishy”, that goes outside on the supplied mounting stand and then a wireless router which goes inside. Only two wires required to complete the setup, one being the power to the router which for now we are using 240V AC but will change to 24V DC in the future. And then a second cable to connect Dishy to the router. Dishy has a set of motors which automatically move the rectangular dish for the best direction to capture the most satellites streaming in the sky above which is mostly North in our current location. The aluminium stand nicely jammed itself between the handrail and the triangular walls of the front of the Salon roof so I have set Dishy up there for now. We will bring him inside when we are on passages until I decide how and where to mount him more permanently. Given that Möbius will sometimes be at all 360 degrees of the compass, I will be doing a “hack” that will remove or disconnect the alignment motors and allow me to mount the dish flat and solid most likely up on the front of the SkyBridge roof. This solid flat mount should be much more robust mount and long lasting. It turns out that with more and more satellites being launched and with so many nomads like us in RV’s and boats, some bright minds have figured out that because the phase array antennae inside Dishy can pick up satellites in about a 100 degree wide cone above, the dish will work very well when permanently mounted flat. Seems too good to be true but there are enough other nomadic Starlink users who have done this and kindly shared their setup on blogs and YouTube videos, I’m quite sure this will work fine for us. Starlink has also done an eXcellent job of creating an app that allows you to setup your system in a matter of minutes which was also very impressive. Once I had Dishy mounted and temporarily ran the cable back inside the boat to the router, it took less than 5 minutes to have it all working and record this quick speed test that is built into the app. We’ve now been using this new internet connection for the past three days and so far we are both very pleased. The app also has a full set of stats that it records and we can see that there have been some brief outages but so far nothing that we have notices performance wise when using the connection for streaming, Email, web searching, etc. I will track and update our performance, use and modifications to our new Starlink setup and share them in future posts so stay tuned for more.
Meanwhile, back in Wayne’s World….
Much less exciting update is that I continue to make progress on getting Möbius more and more seaworthy and working my way through the always growing job list. Our Bosch washing machine stopped working part way through its latest cycle and I spent several hours trying to figure out why without much success so far. Unfortunately and like most modern washing machines it seems, they are all now “smart appliances” with everything run by LED touch screens and automated sensors that shut things down as soon as they detect a problem.
All well and good except that once they turn off they won’t turn on again until the problem has been corrected so you can’t do anymore diagnosis. Real smart! Grrrrrrrrrrrr
I’ll take another run at it by removing it from the cabinet which takes time but I suspect this will need to wait till we get to a larger country where I can have better choices and options for assistance.
I spent time this past two weeks working on getting our Maretron N2K View monitoring system reporting more and more info on our main monitors at each helm as well as on our phones and tablets. This past week I was finally able to get some of the key engine data from Mr. Gee converted and sent to our N2K View Maretron system so that we can have things like engine RPM, loads, EGT, oil & water temperature, oil pressure, etc. now configured as new virtual gauges on any screen on the boat. This screen is from another boat but will give you an idea of the kinds of gauges I am creating with the N2K View program. It is slow and tedious work, in part because I’m needing to figure out how this process all works and getting all the senders and gauges in synch and talking nicely to each other so I spend a LOT of time staring at fun screens like this, but I am making progress however slowly and should have all of Mr. Gee’s data on these screens by next week.
Solar Panel Roof Update
As many of you know we mounted 8 of our 14 320Wh solar panels on top of the aluminium frame of the SkyBridge roof which has worked out very well. This shot a few minutes ago in the late afternoon so there is some shading on the rear panels from the overhead arch with the Radar and other antennae on it which reduces the output, but we have much more solar power production than we need so very happy with the overall performance. Here is the graph of solar performance for the past 7 days. The solar output is regulated by the MPPT charge controllers as the batteries charge and tapers off till they are fully charged and then stops charging so there is much more solar capacity than we use each 24 hour day and typically our batteries are back to 100% by noon. Looking up from inside the SkyBridge you can see how the solar panels have been attached directly to the AL frames using adhesive/sealant to form the roof itself. The white undersides with a bit of light coming through keeps things very bright but shaded. Unfortunately the sealant/adhesive that was used was not the correct UV resistant required along the ridge line which is fully exposed to the sun and was starting to break down and we had two small leaks inside the SkyBridge in heavy rains. The ridge is the only point of attachment that is exposed to UV as all the other surfaces are between the bottom of the AL frames of each solar panel and the 200mm wide AL roof frames underneath so the majority of the seal was fine. Using a putty knife and box cutter blade I was able to remove all the old sealant along the ridge line joints, clean them all with acetone and then mask them off. I purchased some 3M 5200 which has eXcellent UV resistance in my past experience with it and was able to inject it deep into the crevice running along the ridge where the two solar panel frames butted at a slight angle. Just for added insurance, I masked off the glass about 5mm past the AL frames to add an extra layer of sealant so I think this should now be fully sealed for many years to come.
St. Thomas here we come!
My Weather Wonderwoman aka Captain Christine tells me that there is an eXcellent weather window on Tuesday March 7th and so if the forecasts hold we will pull up the anchor and head out through the French side bridge to the north of us, Green on the map here. This should be a relatively short passage of about 110 nautical miles, 200km/125 miles, and we’ll make this a night passage so that we arrive in St. Thomas with good light the next morning for navigating and anchoring. As you can see from this larger scale map of the whole Caribbean, we will now be turning Westward for the next few passages as we make our way over to the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and then likely continue NW to eXplore the Bahama islands.
Kling a ling a ling
Most excitingly though, we are heading for St. Thomas because our 7 year old Grandson Liam is flying there along with his Mom & Dad aka Tim & Ashley on March 22nd for their first time aboard Möbius! We will have a few weeks to get well setup probably around the East end of St. Thomas and figure out how everything works there so we can maximize the precious time we have with our family.
I will bring you the details of our passage over to St. Thomas in the next update and thanks so much for taking the time to join us once again here as our adventures continue.
We don’t set out to do so on purpose, but it seems to just regularly happen that our passages coincide with holidays. This has been the case for many years now and has continued to be the case this year with some of our most recent passages which have included:
Halloween Kalymnos Greece to Sicily
Remembrance Day Bezerte Tunisia to Saida Morocco
Our “First Kiss” anniversary (Dec 21) Tangier Morocco to Las Palmas Canary Islands
Xmas Eve Tangier Morocco to Las Palmas Canary Islands
New Years Day First day of Atlantic Crossing from Canary Islands to Martinique Caribbean
Groundhog Day Martinique to Dominica
Valentine’s Day Dominica to St. Martin
No particular significance to this, just a bit of synchronicity we find interesting.
However we have been on several non holiday passages the past two weeks and wanted to provide you with an update on those so here goes.
When I left off in the last blog Update we had just anchored in a small bay off Portsmouth on the NW cost of Dominica. Dominica was a particular highlight for Christine as she had sailed into Dominica back in 1994 with her husband Jim and son Tim (9 years old at the time) aboard their 54′ sailboat “Sunrise” so it was great fun to travel around this small formerly British island and revisit some of the same sights she had seen back then. Dominica is quite different from most other Caribbean islands as it is one of the youngest to be volcanically formed and so it is much more mountainous and covered in verdant jungle. It is also one of the least populated with a population of about 74k and mostly underdeveloped island but this is a plus for us as we prefer these kinds of locations, cultures and people. We drove down parts of both coasts and through the capital city of Roseau.
If you look closely (click to enlarge any photo) I think you won’t have any problem spotting Möbius anchored amongst the other sailboats in Portsmouth Bay.
We soon befriended the local “character” who goes by the name of Cobra and we hired him to take care of our whole check In/Out paperwork and then spent two other days having him show us around the home he was so proud of. One of the trips we took was on a relatively small rowboat that took us up the small river estuary that empties into Portsmouth Bay. This was something that Christine & Tim had done when they were here.
We also spent a very full day with Cobra driving through much of the island of Dominica and one of the stops was for a swim to some water falls inside a very narrow fissure in the cliffs. Can you spot Christine swimming back through the narrow inlet? Hint, her lifevest is red. Here is a bit more zoomed in as she was just entering the shot. What makes this area particularly interesting is that there are geo thermal hot springs everywhere. Some small little boiling mud pots like this and others creating whole heated streams and pools.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is home to the volcanically heated, steam-covered Boiling Lake. The park also encompasses sulphur vents, the 65m-tall Trafalgar Falls and narrow Titou Gorge so we made stops in all of these. Apparently we aren’t the only ones how like these mineral rich waters. The younger topology and abundant rainfall also creates some spectacular waterfalls. This beauty was particularly fetching to me and the the double waterfalls were pretty great to see as well. Dominica benefits from the abundant sources of hydro electric power generation. No dams required when you have a vertical drop of water from the top like this example. Most of the pipes they use for this are created of wood strips held in a cylinder like a wooden barrel with large steel clamps to hold them all together. Amazing to see up close.
After a week in Dominica we took the next weather window to make the relatively short 40nm hop North to the Guadalupe. These French Caribbean islands all use an automated DIY check In/Out system which consists of a PC setup in a marina office where you fill in the fields in a form and is then printed out. You show your passports to the person at the store, give them 2 Euros and they stamp and sign the printed form and you’re done! So we stopped first at the SW end of Guadalupe and anchored out in front of the marina to check in . Unfortunately their computer system was down so I took a taxi into the main town a few kilometers north and went through the process at the Government office there. That only took less than two hours and we weighted anchor and went up to a lovely little anchorage off the small town of Bouillante. Not to be outdone by their neighboring island to the South, the Bay here at Bouillante has a large inflow of geo thermally heated water that creates a large section of the rocky beach that heats the seawater to hot tub temperatures up to 45C/115F and a big hit with the tourists as you can see. As with many of the other Bays in this part of the Caribbean, there are frequent Karibatic winds that funnel strong gusts down the Western lee side of the mountains ashore and usually bring a lot gusty winds throughout the day and night and bringing a lot of the wet mist and rain with them. So after enjoying the big little Festival parade in Bouillante, we decided to move on and took the next good looking weather window to make the larger jump up North. This next passage would be a bit longer as we started to turn on the arc Westward to take us to the island of Saint Martin. This would be about 150 nautical miles and weather wise it was best to do this as an overnight passage so on the Lucky 13th, we left blustery Bouillante in the morning and took a short 10nm jump to a much quieter anchorage on the NW end of Guadalupe and enjoyed a very peaceful day at anchor there. Anchor up about 22:00 and we were off to St. Martin.
To help put this all in perspective, here is a map of the overall Caribbean on the Right. We wove our way through the islands of Montserrat, Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis and Barbuda and completed the 150nm trip at an net average speed of just under 8 knots.
** NOTE: I’ve received a few questions letting me know I have caused some confusion about these boat speeds I’ve been posting. To clarify, these speeds are calculated by taking the total distance travelled anchor to anchor and dividing it by the number of hours from departure to arrival. Therefore this is what I refer to as our “net average speed”. With stops along the way to clear sargasso weed or dodging other ships, our typical boat speed at any given time is usually a good bit faster in order to produce this net average speed over the whole distance. For those wondering, our typical cruising speed is usually between 8.5 to 9 knots which we are think is the sweet or Goldilocks just right combination of speed and fuel economy. We continue to consume an overall average of 1.8 to 1.9 Liters/NM. As we make more passages we will continue to try out different engine RPM, propeller pitch and boat speeds to see how these affect the fuel economy and I’ll continue to update you here as we gather those data points.
Saint/Sint Martin aka SXM
We have both been to SXM several times before on different boats so this was somewhat familiar territory for both of us for a change.
This is another quite unique island as the southern half is Dutch and the Northern half is French. SXM is also unique for the large bay captured inside the island with two entrances, one on the SW corner at Simpson Bay for the Dutch end near the large airport and then another entrance over on the North side of the Lagoon by Marigot Bay for the French side. There is a draw bridge over each of these narrow entrances and so there are set times each day for 2 to 3 openings for inbound and then another set for outbound ships. We arrived on the South coast of St. Martin in Simpson Bay but were just a few minutes too late for the last inbound opening of the bridge at 15:00 so we anchored for the night outside. Worked out just great as we had a lovely view from our chairs on the front deck watching the planes take off and land literally right beside us as Best of all, we popped a bottle of Champagne, (well OK, Prosecco) to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2023 and remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to have found each other and be sharing this life of love, laughter and learning. Our latest Holiday Happiness at sea!
First inbound bridge opening the next morning was at 09:30 so we picked up the anchor a few minutes before and joined the lineup of boats waiting to enter into the lagoon. Here is a quick look back at the boat behind us just as we were approaching the bridge. It can look a bit narrow at first but we have been through before and our narrow beam (5m / 16.5ft) gave us plenty of room to spare. Just to put that in perspective, here is a shot as we entered into the lagoon and all these other “little” boats/ships had come through before us so there was LOTS of room for us! After entering we needed to go through one more bridge where the causeway from the Dutch side to the French side crosses the lagoon. We preferred the quick and easy check in/out process the French have compared to the Dutch. This is a newer bridge that is a causeway that goes across the lagoon and it was supposed to open at 11am but after holding position for over an hour they informed us that the bridge wasn’t working and would hopefully be fixed by later in the afternoon. So we anchored just off to the side of the bridge and waited and fortunately they got it working and we were able to cross over to the French side just after 14:00.
There is lots of room to anchor all over the lagoon and we found a good spot in about 5m/14ft of water with good holding sand below for our trusty Rocna anchor.
The gusty winds seem to have followed us throughout this trip and continues here in St. Martin along with short bouts of rain mostly at night. But we are very comfy onboard and have taken the Tender into both the French and Dutch sides to refamiliarize ourselves with this unique spot in the Caribbean. Christine has several sailing friends she knows here and we’ll get in some visits with them as well as some larger shopping expeditions for groceries in the well stocked Carrefour store as well as boat parts in the large marine stores here in this popular spot for all the super yachts so there are lots of amenities for us to take advantage of.
We will probably stay here for another week or so before we make our next jump over to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands so stay tuned for that in the next update in a few weeks.
As you may recall from reading THIS previous post, we had a very successful passage across the Atlantic from Las Palmas Gran Canarias and arrived in St. Anne on the South end of the French island of Martinique in the early morning hours of January 15th. After 14 days at sea it was an abrupt but enjoyable transition to life on anchor and we spent the next two weeks in the huge anchorage beside the small village of St. Anne. There were literally hundreds of other boats taking advantage of this unusually large shallow sandy bottom anchorage area which makes for ideal anchorage in about 6 meters/18 ft of water. This sundown photo from shore only shows about a quarter of the anchorage so difficult to capture in one shot.
Martinique and Guadalupe to the North are what are referred to as “overseas departments” of France meaning they are technically considered a part of France which provides them with many benefits compared to the other Caribbean islands. Martinique has a land area of 1,128 km2 (436 sq mi) and a population of about 370k with a great variety of terrain from near desert to high mountains. Philip had a rental car and so we spent several days driving around the island to get a better feel for its diversity. First settled by the French, Dominica became a British colony in 1805, though a much neglected one that led to their independence in 1978.
If you look at the bottom of the map above you can see that the bay we are in just off of St. Anne continues a long ways NE and you find several hundred more boats anchored in the neighboring bay off of the larger town of Le Marin where there are also several large marinas and charter boat facilities. So we didn’t exactly have this all to ourselves but the island treasures more than made up for it. We took the Tender all the way up this bay to check out the facilities in Le Marin and Philip kindly drove us there several times so we could stock up on what we needed from the large chandleries, grocery and hardware stores in this much larger town. We had changed course part way across the Atlantic to land in Martinique rather than our original destination further south on the island of Grenada when we found out that our long time sailing friend from Switzerland was going to be in Martinique enjoying his latest passion of kite foiling. It had been over two years since we were last with Philip so one of the many gifts of the past two weeks has been time with him. Here we are tasting some of the local artisan rum at a distillery we toured. The history of many of the Caribbean islands is mixed with the creation of rum as sugar cane was such a major crop on most islands. This particular distillery is trying to capture the variety of different sugar cane using the traditional manual processes and made for a very fun tour. This is all located on the grounds of an old historical site that provided a dramatic setting for the distillery with all its now well restored old buildings.
On one of our many outings with Philip we went over to the area where he kite foils and timed it to be on a Sunday afternoon when there is a weekly jazz festival which made for a very chill afternoon. Being so close, we took several walks along the southern end of Martinique which had its own diversity of idyllic sandy beaches. and ocean vistas like this looking South over to the island of St. Vincent. As you can see, the Sargasso weed we encountered all the way across the Atlantic, is very prevalent here as well. On January 23rd, I reached my own milestone during our time at St. Anne with my very own embarras de choix of gifts including time with Philip and a surprise virtual B’day party that my Beautiful Bride secretly orchestrated. Over 35 of my dearest friends and family called into the group video from a vast swath of the planet stretching from Auckland NZ to Switzerland to make this an eXtremely memorable birthday. My thanks to all who gifted me with your time on this very special B’day call.
RIght now, our thought is to make our way North from here as we wander our way through many of the other Caribbean islands and then follow the arc of other islands East over to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. We will start our Northern journey by going up to the next island of Dominic which has a special place in Christine’s heart from her previous time there on her sailboat Sunrise in the 1990’s. We keep our eye on the weather forecasts every day and on Thursday (Feb. 2nd) the constant Easterly Trade Winds were down a bit so we hoisted the anchor and headed up to the NW corner of Martinique for a short overnight anchor before heading out into the straits between Martinique and Dominica. After relatively short sail of about 30nm and we arrived in the small roadsted at Le Prêcheur (see map above) late in the afternoon after leaving Saint Anne about 2pm. This map will give you a better sense of this string of Caribbean islands that we will be cruising through in the coming weeks. After a good nights rest anchored off of Le Prêcheure we weighed anchor on Friday morning and headed North to cross over to Dominica. The forecasts for lighter winds didn’t prove to be very accurate as we had average winds of +25 knots with gusts to 35 and 2 meter/6.5ft swells on our Starboard beam aka right side. The constant higher winds on our side helped to reduce the roll a bit and we put the paravanes out for the whole crossing which smoothed the ride out considerably. We passed a number of charter catamarans heading south and they were having a very rough ride in these winds and seas as the swells were quite short periods. As soon as we got in the lee of the southern point of Dominica the swell disappeared and we pulled in the paravanes for a lovely smooth ride up to the NW corner of Dominica to an anchorage off the small town of Portsmouth. Overall trip from St. Anne to Portsmouth was 86nm and we continued to motor through lots of Sargasso weed so we had to slow down and clear the paravane lines two times but our overall speed averaged about 8 knots in spite of the more boisterous winds and seas so we were quite happy with this performance.
NOT to be confused with the Dominican Republic the egg shaped 300 square miles of Dominica is very undeveloped compared to the other Caribbean islands with very few sandy beaches and instead filled with spectacular geological wonders; canyons, hot springs, mountain trails, jungle, ocean cliffs, thriving reefs. The weather has been unusual for this time of year with high 25+ knot winds constantly blowing out of the East and bringing misty overcast skies across the island to where we are, pretty much all the time. Not at all uncomfortable as we are well protected by the mountainous island with almost no fetch between us so even though the winds come racing down the slopes the waters are flat and the boat is very comfy just swinging side to side in a wide arc on the anchor chain as the gusts come through. Our 110kg/240lb Rocna and overall anchoring setup is another of our better decisions and really helps us SWAN, Sleep Well At Night. Since we arrived in Dominica two days ago, we have been getting short bursts of rain with a few bigger downpours from time to time so it is one of those “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes” kind of situation. Ideal time for us to rest up and catch up with our various jobs and projects. We were able to get a very good SIM card from Digicel when we arrived in Martinique and it is supposed to work all the way through the rest of the Caribbean all the way North just short of the Bahamas so we’ve got quite good internet connections which have become about as basic as electricity for us. So that is the latest sit rep for you. We will probably be here in Dominica for the next 3-5 days keeping an eye on the weather looking for the winds and seas to calm down a bit to cross over to what Christine refers to as “the butterfly island” of Guadeloupe, another French island. Stay tuned for that and the update on what else happened here in Dominica.
Thanks for taking the time to join us on these latest adventures and please put your comments, questions and suggestions in the “Join the Discussion” box below.
Sorry for the delay in posting this update of our Atlantic crossing but …………………….. we made it!!! and that is TAXing as in Trans Atlantic Crossing which was definitely NOT “taxing” as in difficult.
This is a quick and dirty sat view of our crossing.
I’ll provide more details below, but short summary is 2718 Nautical Miles/5033km/3127 miles in 13 days 23 hours. Zooming all the way out, here is a truly global view of our passage.
That’s a LOT of blue water! This is our GPS track since leaving Turkey/Greece back on Oct. 31st with 5766 NM/10,678 km/6635 miles
Zooming back in to provide some context of the Caribbean Islands that we will be in for the next few months. OK, now that you have all that for context, I’ll do my best to provide a summary of the passage and some of the more detail stats that many of you have been waiting for.
When we left off in the last update back on New Year’s eve, we were tied up in the Las Palmas marina on Gran Canarias Island all ready to head out New Year’s Day for our Trans Atlantic crossing. After going through the check out process New Year’s Day, we headed we cast off the dock lines at 11am and motored out of the well protected bay on the NE corner of Gran Canarias Island and put Las Palmas in what little wake we produce. Timing worked out great as you can see from the SkyBridge helm station as we we sailed into setting sun and more flat seas.
Passage and Paravanes Overview
As the nautical miles and days ticked by, we got into the typical and predicted Tradewinds that would help propel us across the Atlantic. Wind speeds averaged a bit more than 20 knots and swell averaged a bit more than 3 meters. All downwind sailing with both wind and swell coming from behind us and we had blue skies for almost the entire passage. Following seas are great because we get to surf down them as the pass under the hull and adds a bit to our overall speed. However, following seas also produce some side to side yawing and rolling that creates what Christine refers to as “corkscrew” type motion as the boat crests the top of the swell and can turn to one side as it surfs down the wave. It is really difficult to capture this in photos and video that conveys what it is like in person but here is a short video looking back from the Aft Deck to help show a bit better. For reference the top of the AL entry into the Workshop where the White LED light is mounted, is about 3m above the waterline.
This is pretty much the same physics in following seas for any monohull so nothing new to us just not the most comfortable and so we deployed the paravanes in these conditions, learned a lot and developed techniques and rigging to improve their performance and ease of launching, retrieving and clearing. When not in use, we stow the paravanes upright and tied to the aluminium gate stanchions which worked well. Deploying them is a simple matter of slowing the boat down to under 4kts and then I lower them over the side and into the water. I use the White nylon retrieval line you can see here connected to aft end of the AL fin. This suspends the Paravane in a vertical position and makes it very easy to raise and lower. As soon as they are in the water and trailing aft, I can just let go of the retrieval line and the Paravane immediately dives down in an arc the radius of the fixed length Orange/Black Dyneema lines that each Paravane is suspended from the outer end of the A-Frame boom. You can see the White triangle of the Paravane flying through the water about 6m/18ft below the surface. I shot this short video to try to do a better job of showing how our Paravane rigging works and how they fly along through the water.
I came up with this method of running the White retrieval line through an AL low friction ring embedded into the Orange/Black Paravane lines. These White retrieval lines run slack and if you look at the photos above you can see how they trail out behind the Paravanes so as not to have any effect on the position of the Paravanes until I want to retrieve them. Christine grabbed this shot from up at the bow looking aft which makes it easy to see how the Paravane lines run off the A-Frame booms on either side. We have not ever had a boat with active stabilisers so we don’t have any experience to compare the performance to. However I know enough from reading and talking with those who do have active fin stabilisers that they tend to reduce the rolling by about 80-85%. Based on our limited experience with Paravanes so far and in talking with others who have them, the estimate for more like 60-65% reduction. Plus of course each hull and boat is very different in its ride characteristics taking into account hull shape, boat speed, displacement, length, beam and a long list of other factors that determine how any given boat reacts to various sea conditions. Whatever the numbers there is no question in my mind that active stabilisers would reduce the roll more than passive Paravanes and I think we would all take less rolling and motion underway than more. So it becomes a matter of setting expectations and so far for me I have been very pleased with the degree our Paravanes improve the ride. Overall I would say the most accurate description is that they dampen the roll by making it much slower and less number of degrees and we have been very glad to have them as an option to deploy whenever we wish. On this downwind Atlantic crossing I would estimate that we had the paravanes in the water about 60% of the time. By having them in and out multiple times we were also able to get a much better sense of the speed reduction from the drag they produce and this ranged from .5 to 1 knot of overall boat speed.
Atlantic Ocean should be called Sargasso Sea!
A new challenge we literally ran into on this crossing was an enormous “bloom” of Sargasso seaweed that began part way through the first week of the crossing and continued all the way over to the Caribbean. Everywhere you looked all you could see were these yellow/green masses of Sargasso weed and all their “grapes”. Some of these were the size of small lakes and there was no avoiding them, you just held course and went through them. No harm to the boat but over time we started to slow down as these masses of seaweed started to wrap themselves around the Paravane lines. We evolved a technique for clearing these lines that worked very well. Christine would slow the boat down to about 3-4 knots and I would then hand pull the White retrieval lines through the hand winches on either side. The retrieval line would pull the Paravane into a tail up vertical position and as I kept pulling in a bit more line the Paravane would “pop” up out of the water like you see here. This would whip the two lines attached to each Paravane as it surfaced and jumped up out of the water and shake off most of the Sargasso. If there was some still remaining, I could quickly repeat the process by letting the retrieval line out until the Paravane dove down in its arc and shed a bit more Sargasso and then pull the line back in until the Paravane popped out of the water again and shook of the remaining Sargasso. Worked very well and the whole process of clearing both sides would take less than five minutes and the Captain would bring us back up to our regular SoG (Speed over Ground) of about 8-9 knots.
There were a few times when we noticed that we did not return to full speed after clearing the lines so we knew that we must have also fouled either the hub of the prop or more likely the top front edge of the rudder where it is close to the hull. When this happened we would stop the boat completely and run in reverse for about 30 seconds and also disengage the clutch so that the CPP prop would come to a full stop and then take the boat back up to speed and continue. First time this happened I dove down off the aft end of the boat by the Swim Ladder with my mask on to confirm that the rudder and prop were clean and clear, which they were, and so we brought the boat back up to speed and continued. This added procedure to clear the prop/rudder was only needed about 3-4 times in the two week passage and the rest of the time we only needed to clear the Paravane lines.
About the only breakage we had on this crossing was a SS shackle that attached the Paravane fixed length line to the outer end of the Starboard/Right boom which meant that we were down to just the one Paravane on the Port side. In these sea conditions it would have been a bit risky to bring the A-Frame into its vertical stowed position and climb all the way up to replace the shackle with a new one so instead I simply tied a bowline loop into the end of the Dyneema line and was able to climb up on the Arch and loop it over the end of the boom with our long boat hook. These Dyneema lines I had purchased were made to go on electric winches on the front of off road vehicles and if you look closely (click to enlarge any photo) you will see that they had some very tough reinforced anti chafe tubes wrapped around each which worked out just perfect for my use and no visible chafe by the end of the passage.
That was about the extent of the “excitement” on this passage so I am very happy to not have much else to report. All four of us quickly settled into our rhythm and the 14 days slowly ticked by until we arrived off the SE corner of the French island of Martinique where we anchored off of the small village of St. Anne. When we left the Canary Islands we thought we were going to head for Grenada but a good friend and long time sailing collegue from Switzerland, Philip, had flown into Martinique for a few weeks of kite foiling and we had not seen him for several years so we changed course to land here in Martinique. I’ll provide more details and photos of this lovely spot in the next update and now go back to providing more details on the passage that many of you have been asking for.
Passage by the Numbers:
Along with many of you, we have been looking forward to compiling some of the real world data of the boat’s performance as we put more and more nautical miles under the keel and more hours on the engine and all the systems. Easy to skip over for those not interested, but below is my summary of the overall performance of Möbius so far. I’ll try to keep it simple and just list all the measurements that I think will provide the best overview. We do everything in metric units but I’ll provide some conversions for US and British as well.
Total Passage Distance, Las Palmas Gran Canarias to St. Anne Martinique: 2718 nm / 3128 miles / 5034 km
Total Elapsed Crossing Time: 13 days 23 hours
Average wind speed & direction: 19kts @ 160 degrees to boat (almost behind)
Average seas: 0.8M surface waves + 3M Swell @ 165 degrees to boat
Overall Average boat SoG Speed over Ground: 8.1 kts/hr / 9.3 MPH / 15 Km/Hr
Average NM per 24 hour day: 195 nm
Total Diesel Fuel consumed: 5072 L / 1340 USG / 1116 Imp. Gals
Average Exhaust Gas Temperature EGT: 335 C / 635 F
It is worth noting that all these numbers are actual directly measured units, not estimates or calculations. Fuel totals for example are the sum of every refill of our Day Tank as measured using a sight glass tube. Distances are as measured by our GPS. Elapsed times are from the time we left the dock in Gran Canarias until we arrived at the anchorage in St. Anne Martinique.
To my way of thinking, using such direct measurements throughout the passage and totaled at the end of the total passage time frame and distance provides the most accurate and realistic numbers possible.
Our design goals for Möbius included being able to average 8-9 knots SoG enabling us to cover 200 NM per 24 hour day while burning less than 2 Litres per NM and so we are very happy with these real world numbers. Our sincere appreciation to our brilliant designer and NA, Dennis Harjamaa at Artnautica Yacht Design in Auckland, NZ for designing our hull and boat that met and exceeded all our design goals so well. Thanks Dennis!
I will continue to keep logging all the extensive amounts of measurements for every nautical mile we cover and will update these as the months, years and nautical smiles go by.
Mr. Gee v2 Performance
I’m also delighted to report that Mr. Gee v2 performed flawlessly. We’ve never had a power boat before and so having an engine running 24/7 for two weeks was also a new experience. In total Mr. Gee’s hour meters recorded 337.3 hours and he purred away every one of those hours without a problem. Needless to say we are particularly delighted about that performance figure!
Similarly, our Nogva CPP or Controllable Pitch Propeller and Gearbox also exceeded expectations and performed flawlessly so our overall propulsion choices continue to be one of our best decisions in designing this boat. This propulsion duo has given us a “set it and forget it” kind of combination where we pretty much just set Mr. Gee’s RPM at 1450 and let his governor keep it there, adjusted the Pitch until the EGT was at about 340 degrees C and didn’t need to change it until we put the anchor down in St. Anne two weeks later.
Answering more Questions:
To answer a related question I’ve received a few times about drive line noises and vibrations we might have given that the Gardner engine is directly bolted to the Nogva Gearbox and then a direct connection between the output shaft of the Nogva CPP gearbox and its propeller shaft.
This is in contrast to many boats which have a constant velocity universal joint or CV arrangement in their driveline but this is not possible with a CPP as the pitch adjustment rod needs to travel all the way from inside the gearbox through the center of the prop shaft and back to the hub of the CPP prop.
Instead, the Nogva gearbox input connects to the Gardner crankshaft via a large flexible rubber CentaMax coupling like this.
The loudest engine related noise we have is actually that of the extraction fan which runs at all times and is part of our fire suppression system and this is something I am looking into replacing with a quieter fan. The Gardner itself cannot really be heard at any speed from either helm station. There is no audible sound from any driveline vibrations but if you really focus on it you can feel a slight vibration when we are underway. It is very steady and smooth so not something either Christine or I have noted.
Difficult to know how to measure and better answer this question and I don’t have a similar hull with a fixed prop and CV setup for comparison but I can say that one of the features we have been most impressed with and appreciative is just how quiet Möbius is both underway and at anchor. Indeed one of the most common unsolicited comments we get from our guests and others who come aboard is the almost complete lack of any noises on the boat and just how quiet is is while on board.
However, I too was curious about noise overall and so during the passage I used a sound meter app on my phone to take some readings at various places on Möbius and found the following averages all taken while cruising at 9 knots in 22 knots of following wind and about 3 meter seas:
Inside Engine Room 80db
Workshop 73db with ER door open
Guest Cabin 57db (which shares a bulkhead with the ER)
Main Salon 55db
Master Cabin 50db
Aft deck 64db
This chart will help make some sense of these db decibel numbers. As another frame of reference, right now, sitting in the Salon typing this message with the door open while at anchor with about 21 kts of wind outside my sound meter is showing 21.5db
You can draw your own conclusions from these numbers but one of our better decisions was to put in so much EPDM and acoustic panel insulation in Möbius and we appreciate this literally every day we are aboard.
Observations from this Atlantic Crossing
Many people ask about a day in the life when we are on these passages and about our watch schedules. During the daylight hours we are quite informal about our watch schedules and just take turns being on watch and at the helm until we feel like a change and a break. In these mild weather conditions we spend most of our time up in the SkyBridge as it has such great views with its height above the water and 360 degree views all around. We have super comfy helm chairs from Llebroc at both helms which are fully adjustable to recline, change lumbar support and have a good foot rest so spending hours in these is a joy. We are both voracious readers and so we probably spend the most hours reading our wildly diverse range of book genres from romance and murder mysteries to quantum physics.
We find 6 hour night watches work best for us so we tend to have dinner around 6pm and then I start my watch at 19:00 and Christine comes on at about 1am through 07:00 when I get up and take over again. Christine will often go down for a few hours in the morning and then we settle into our relaxing day mostly lounging about and reading.
For me the biggest surprise of the passage was how much I missed the challenges that come from sailing. It is just little things like the satisfaction of adjusting your sail trim and getting a bit better boat speed. The drill you have to go through to adjust or douse sails when you see a squall up ahead and then put them back up after it passes. Or that calm that comes over you when you turn off the key after having to motor for some time and the sounds of just the water on the hull takes over your whole audio spectrum. I just felt a degree less personal satisfaction at the end of the passage having not faced those sailing types of challenges I had for so many years. However this is also the very first passage under power I’ve ever experienced so time will tell how this evolves and what new challenges lay ahead as our world voyage continues.
One thing that did not change was one of the things I have always marveled at and enjoyed about ocean crossings; being alone in the world’s vast ocean expanses for days or weeks on end. Where every one of the horizon’s 360 degrees is nothing but water meeting sky. We saw less than five other boats the entire crossing so we had these vistas all to ourselves and you truly felt blissfully alone. I am so grateful for these experiences where I feel like I am the most insignificant teeny little speck of dust on the planet and yet simultaneously also the most significant bit as I am all the only speck there is. I had that profound joy for almost all of this passage.
At night, the complete lack of any other light sources meant that I once again had night after night of stary stary skies that not even Van Gough could have captured. One interesting difference this time though was that I did become much more aware of the increased number of satellites taking over the night sky so I was glad to have this chance to take in all those stars against such a black background the likes of which I may only see in reduced degrees in the future.
Our timing worked out such that we had a lot of moonshine the whole passage so that was an extra bonus we both enjoyed on our night watches.
As well as our first crossing under power, this was also a first crossing of the Atlantic for both of us and so that felt great to add these experiences to our lists. I think the only other major ocean passage neither of us have done is now the Indonesia and the Indian ocean so we still have those adventures ahead.
Not sure how well I have been able to capture and convey our latest experience but I hope you found parts of it interesting and worth reading. If you have other questions or topics you would like me to cover in future posts please just put those in your comments below and I’ll do my best to cover these in future posts and comments.
We have now been at anchor here in St. Anne for almost two weeks and so stay tuned for an update on that in the next post. Until then, thank you VERY much for your patience with me in providing you this overview of our Atlantic crossing and I look forward to your comments and questions below.