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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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Discussion Starter #1
We are in our 5th year of cruising on Moondance (Catalina 445) in the Caribbean. I thought I would update the readers on what works, lesson learn and what we have seen in this international community.
The first thing I want to chat about is weather. It dictates everything; anchoring, where to anchor, dockage, travel days, non- travel days, sailing/ motor-sailing, good days and bad days. We get weather twice a day from a variety of sources, SSB (Chris Parker, Waterway Net, NOAA grid files), email from Chris Parker, computer apps, Predict Wind and WindGru. Best app by far is Predict Wind. For us, wave height and spacing is our major go/no-go decision along with major fronts. We started at less than 3’, 6 secs, now 8’ is our max comfort. We have sailed in 10’; not much fun. Wind speed can be a factor because it drives wave heights, especially steepness of the face. We learned to read clouds and east coast thunderstorms. It is an art form. Down in the islands, wind speed and direction can vary depending on the mountains in some countries like Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Chris Parker has a good book on this. Remember there are only 3 kinds of wind; on the bow, to little or too much.
Equipment:
Rock Stars – Honda generator, Spectra Watermaker Cape Horn Extreme (12 volts), Solar panels, Ronca with 3/8 G4 chain, Icom 802 with modem, Solar lights.,12Vdc Bora Fans in all the rooms, Raymarine Lighthhouse chartplotter with radar, anchor washdown system for the ICW and Fridgeboat keel cooler freezer. Also custom Mack Sails (main, jib and Code0).
Good Boys – Lifeline AGM batteries, battery monitor system, LED anchor light.
Bad boys – Rule pumps and float switches by far my biggest issues. Underwater light.
What I have seen from the sailing community.
It is a very close community. All of society is represented here, as well as most of the social issues that one sees on land base community. I will say the “$5,000 boat on a $500 budget are by far the most needy. The Caribbean (south of Turks and Caicos) one needs a good solid boat that has good rigging and sails. The Europeans rock this. The winds blows constantly here over 20 kts, and wave heights are always at least 5 feet. To make matters worse one is always beating into the wind base on direction of travel and weather patterns. I have seen more rigging failures than I can count, plus tons of torn sails.. I get my rigging and sails check every year. They really do take a beating down here. I have not sail without a reef in the main in over a 1.5 years.
What I don’t like that I have seen. International rules not followed; night light system not use/don’t have. This is especially true for anchor lights. Rules of the road/right of way. Anchoring etiquette or the lack thereof. French are the worst. Anchoring to close, cross anchoring, not setting the anchor (not knowing how to anchor at all), not knowing how to pick up a mooring ball. It is definitely my favorite entertainment in an anchorage. The credit card captains (charter boats) are by far the worst and I try to avoid them at all cost. Large wakes in anchorage by dinghies and ferries.
Spare parts – Number one rock star by far is my hardware of nuts, bolts, washers, cotter pins collection in 3 fishing bins. All SS and from Fastenal hardware (https://www.fastenal.com). Second is 18Vdc cordless multifunction drill/LED light. Electrical supplies to include complete connectors, crimpers, multimeter and spare wires. I have 4 tools boxes; 2 with hand tools , electrical and plumbing spares. I have 6 small containers and 2 large containers with spare parts for most things on this boat. I am in the boxes daily.
I could write a book and might one day if this journey ever ends.
Fair Winds :2 boat:
Melissa
Currently in Bequia , Grenadines St Vincent.
 

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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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840 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
On the subject of Navigation : We carry 3 different chart topography's on Moondance; Navioncs on the Raymarine ( can put most any chart programs now on Lighthouse 2 or 3), IPad with Aqua Map, Garmin BlueCharts and Navionics and paper charts. I am old fashion, I carry paper charts. I know crazy. With 3 different topography charts when coming into a place I figure out which one is best and accurate for the application at hand. Almost never are they the same in any one anchorage. Eye Balls and Depth gauge readings rule mostly for us when figuring out what charts are accurate.

Melissa
 

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I appreciate Melissa Renee's write up... some good real world information there. I do find it hard to believe that they never get wind behind the beam and can sail with a full hoist main. 5 years of beating! WOW.. My experience down there was the winds were ENE or there abouts so sailing south from Antigua to Trinidad was a beam between and in the lee of the islands.

Anchoring by experience sailors is a complete different thing than the pay to play community. Yea the French are a trip on the water... but they cook good ;-)
 

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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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840 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Lets talk about dinghies especially dinghy davits system. Big strong dinghy davits systems rule down here in the Caribbean. By strong I mean big towers like from Atlantic Towers in Florida or other custom heavy duty SS tubing and transom reinforcement systems that can cost over 10K. 6-10K in the Caribbean.

The small Kato, Garhauer and other cheaper systems do not. Dinghies weigh on average over 100 lbs for a good dink. Engines weigh another 80-100 lbs. Boats move a lot while sailing and sailing in open water E=MC square comes to mind. Two hundred pounds of dinghy moving on your stern will break the small systems. This plus the push pulpit seats, and other accessories on the transom puts a lot of weight back there. Even just raising your dinghy at night still puts a lot of stress on the system. We broke our system twice already. Once my bad for carry it on the transom in big seas vs hauled out on the fore-peak and one not our fault. The welders in Grenada have a 6 month minimum wait list for fixing broken transoms systems or building a heavy duty system.

Dinks - We have seen all kinds. It is your car. Like cars back home everyone has one that suits their budget and needs. What we find is important is a dry ride, dry floor and plane ability. Your motor needs to be reliable and be able to push your dinghy with a full load in 15-20 knots of wind and moderate chop. Otherwise you rely on your neighbor to get you to shore. Need to know how to rebuild your carburetor and service the engine. Otherwise very $$$ to get someone to fix it.

Lock it, alarm it or lose it. It is not just the islanders that want your dink it is also other cruisers. There is talk now in the anchorages that cruisers might be more responsible for theft vs the islanders. Number one reason Bolt cutters. Very hard to come by in the islands from what I am told. Most cruisers have some form of cutting the rigging down in case of demasting (BTW 3 this week alone here, bad wx and seas this season). My vote is still pending on this discussion.

Fair winds
Melissa
 

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Master Mariner
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You're in your 5th year down here and you still find value in paying Chris Parker for weather information? With everything available online and with 5 years of experience, I find that a bit odd.
 

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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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Discussion Starter #7
I appreciate Melissa Renee's write up... some good real world information there. I do find it hard to believe that they never get wind behind the beam and can sail with a full hoist main. 5 years of beating! WOW.. My experience down there was the winds were ENE or there abouts so sailing south from Antigua to Trinidad was a beam between and in the lee of the islands.

Anchoring by experience sailors is a complete different thing than the pay to play community. Yea the French are a trip on the water... but they cook good ;-)
It is the East direction that kills you. ENE winds are good for heading south but once in Grenada heading NE for the season until Guadalupe not so good during the winter ENE winds. The winds switch around late April early May heading back south to ESE winds when heading back to Grenada or Trinidad for hurricane season. When one adds the 18 degrees of magnetic variation to the wind forecast it can get interesting very fast here plus fighting the Equatorial current and tidal current between the islands. :cut_out_animated_em
Melissa
 

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Davits are not necessary if you can tow. I've towed for 33 yrs except in ocean where the dink is stowed. Motor is on the rail. I found a 6hp was fine, now with a RIB I am at 8hp. If you go fast in an anchorage you kick up a wake and that's not something you want to do.
 

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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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Discussion Starter #9
You're in your 5th year down here and you still find value in paying Chris Parker for weather information? With everything available online and with 5 years of experience, I find that a bit odd.
Yes I do.Talking to a real human being is invaluable. I get more out of him that the other wx apps don't give me, like weather routing, island weather patterns especially around DR and PR, current strength, wave patterns (confuses seas come to mind). Mona passage, Anegada passage (OhMYGoda) routings (like Gulf Stream crossing), daily rain patterns for example. When I see conflicting reports I can ask a question which happens a lot.
 

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I've given your post a lot of thought because I didn't want the reply to be snarky.
It seems to me your problem is in an overload of information, at least in the winter. We use one source, Passage Weather, and generally for wind only. It is fairly accurate for 3 days and becomes less so as the time goes on, but with 24/7 internet, that is no longer a problem. Personally, I don't waste my time with rain or cloud forecasts, as we are in the islands and there's no amount of forecasting that will accurately predict the squalls, and I've got a good set of foulies if I can't miss one.
But you can't take what you see on the screen at face value. Interpolation is the key. A light blue 10-15 from the east day is not going to be that if you are sailing along. Your forward speed will affect both the apparent wind speed and direction. That will turn your lovely 10-15 on the beam into possibly 18 to 22 somewhat forward of the beam, especially if you have a boat that will foot along at 7 to 8 knots. So, ALWAYS add around five knots or a bit more to the forecast. Then you must consider the lees and gusts created behind the islands and you could easily find yourself rail under in over 40 knots that came screaming down some valley. This is why we often choose to go windward side of some of the islands, turning a Deux Pitons to Bequia into a daylight run, for instance.
There are a goodly number of anchorages in the eastern Caribbean where the conditions inside give little indication of what you'll get out there. Some, like Admiralty Bay, will exaggerate the wind and others will do the opposite, but a quick look at how fast the clouds are moving over the hills surrounding the anchorage will give you an excellent idea of what wind direction and speed to expect out there. You can't get that from a forecaster either.
Now waves. The Caribbean isn't like sailing the Pacific. You can literally do half your sail in 100 feet of water and the other half in thousands. Water depth, current and the proximity to land do more to affect the waves in the EC than the thousands of miles of tradewinds that blew them there. The shape of the waves will show you the direction of the current a lot more accurately than any forecast.
When we leave Canouan for Bequia, as we approach the north end of the island the winds can easily rise to 25-30 knots as they curve around the end of the island and the seas to 6 meters or so. I've known folks to turn around and wait for the next day. And the next, etc. But it's a short (½ hour to an hour) local phenomenon that is easily motorsailed through and very common on many of the islands, both on the north and south ends.
My point being, you can sail through waves from 3-5 feet and waves of 5 meters plus on the 16 nm trip from Canouan to West Cay Bequia, and no amount of internet or personal talk will have any worthwhile contributions on these sorts of local weather situations.
Anyone preparing to cross the Mona Passage should have been told a dozen times or more that they're gonna get their a$$ kicked. You can wait months for a 'weather window', but you will still probably get your a$$ kicked.
Same with the Anegada Passage from Virgin Gorda to St Maarten; 80 miles of hell, except in the dead of summer, then it's a fun run from Stt to Cheeseburger in Paradise on St Barth's and back for lunch in a 38-foot cigarette.
Relax and enjoy. The Windwards and Leewards are some of the easiest and most pleasant places to sail on this planet. There are good days and tough days, but rarely, IMO, bad days.
 
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Nice opening post.
Would give thumbs down to the Honda and a big up to Northern Lights.
Have learned to approach the next island a mile or three up wind from rhumline and fall off for the last 3-5 miles of the approach. That way you have wind and waves behind the beam.
Have learned once you get past St. Bart’s it’s a totally different world. I haven’t even seen the first reef let alone a full main. Using only the solent /reefed main with at least two pumps on the backstay.
The $250/year for Cris is worth it. Other than that use passage weather, local radio station if I understand the language and that’s it.
C/w leewards it isn’t about the sailing. You pick the best window. Prepare like you’re going on passage as otherwise things go flying and go. In the lee of the islands it goes from dense wind shadow or mid twenties so not worth doing anything but main and varying amount of solent or motoring.
However the islands are fascinating. BVIs St.barts and Fort de France are Miami Beach knockoffs but the rest is magnificent.
Our hassle has been internet. Orange sucks, digicell isn’t much better and Flow is useless. Other hassle is noise. Anywhere there’s coastal bars they play obnoxious “music” late into the night. Carnival is just starting so the noise is constant.
Surprisingly in the French islands see more French Al than French grp.
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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On the topic of weather I use Windguru to plan my passage but on the morning of departure pull up the weather radar from meteo France or Barbados and have a look. Then as a final check on what is ACTUALLY happening not what is FORECAST to happen I have a hard look at clouds on the mountains tops for an idea of speed and direction.

On passage I am always looking upwind for hints that something might be changing for the worse. Any hint that it might be will see me shortening sail.

Re davits mine get used for security at night and never on interisland passages For those the OB is on the rail and the dink on the foredeck.

Something I didn't see mentioned but I regard as essential is a pair of polarised lens sunglasses. These help you read the water on reef navigation. Much safer than relying on some electrons.

As for which is better Honda or Northern lights why not have sufficient solar ot do with out either. I HATE the sound of a generator whether it be on my boat or someone upwind polluting the air.
 

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Mel, do you (or anyone else) ever use a bridle to pull the dinghy half way up the topside, via a mast halyard? Seems a common anti-theft approach.

I've never done it, rather I pull it up the davits, when I'm concerned. However, it is more of an exercise than I'd like and wonder if a bridle and halyard is quicker/easier.
 

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Minni, I saw this when I lived down in the Caribe. It was mostly done by big sailing yachts with very large tenders and heavy OBs... I think they were crewed charter boats. That size yachts don't have davits. They may have a stern dinghy garage. It's not a bad idea to get the dink out of the water if you are going to not be using it for some time... But most people at anchor are using their dink from early AM to late in the evening after a night at a local watering hole.
 

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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
I agree about a good discussion. I try to provide one when I post. I or anyone here offering advise is doing that, "Offering Advice". Nothing is in concrete or the exact way of doing things. Everyone out here sails their boat differently. My only goal is to offer a BUFFET of ideas that readers can pick and choose from to see what works for them, their boat and their crew. Keep it up boys and girls. I always learn from others. I am just an average sailor that is bless to be able to do what I do.

On the subject of my Rock Star Honda.. I know there is a current thread out there on this subject but here is my one penny worth.. When I built this boat 5 years ago a diesel generator was going to cost between 15-20k depending on which model I choose. I love Northern Lights.. but expensive. I had this Honda generator on my previous boat and it worked great. I paid $850 for it new in 2008. I can buy about 18 new Honda's for the price on one diesel generator. So I used that money I would have spent on other needier items to go cruising. I use the Honda only at anchor and usually when we are here for more than a few days. My solar panels amperage is about 40 amp hours short in a 24 hour period while at anchor. If sailing we are about 120 amp hours short. That is on a good sunny day. So best I can do is about 2.5 days on just solar before I need to charge the batteries. However on this boat we are princess. We love coffee and toast in the morning, hot croissants and hot shower in the evening. We also use it for the microwave and rare occasion air conditioning during dinner time. So when I get up I start the Honda to make coffee and toast and charge the batteries for about an hour or two depending on our needs. I need to make hot water every other day and that takes about 20 mins. Now lets talk about our other Rock Star the 9/18gal an hour watermaker.. It runs off of 12Vdc. I run that every third day or so. I can run it off the solar, engine or Honda. Dealers choice depending on what we are doing that day. Furthermore every now and than I need to break out a power tool and the Honda works great here too.
Managing power can be an art form on a boat. I would rather run the Honda any day vs running the engine to just charge the batteries or make hot water. The Honda does that well enough. I do have a small inverted (600 watts) to power/charge small devices and TV at night if we want. Most important it powers my guitar amp so I can jam and terrorize the anchorage. It also keeps the boats from anchoring too close to me. Trust me,, nails on a chalkboard sounds better than how I play.
I am not sure if I am going to upgrade my solar panels or put a wind generator on. My cruising days are getting numbered due to health concerns. So might not be worth it especially if this is my last season. Time will tell.
On the subject of dinghy carriage.. I was not clear on that. I almost always carry it on the foredeck when ocean sailing. I use the back dinghy davits to lift it out of the water at night. The one time I didn't I sheered a transom bolt. My bad. The other time, I got severely wake (rolled the boat almost rail to rail in the water) by a tourist boat and Bertram fishing boat in a anchorage with dinghy and motor on. Bent a support bar. Probably also weakened said transom bolt.
Weather - Wind Gods hate me.. I know that is a cliche but I have proven that true over 35 years plus sailing. They are just plain are mean (bastards). I have tried everything to appease the Wind Gods; rum, good rum whiskey,great whiskey, bourbon, beer, champagne, Bahama Mamma craved out of dead wood, Evil eyes, and even hired a witch doctor in DR. Nothing has worked so far. I have many choice words for the little sh.... ts.

Keep sailing
Keep posting
and always chase sunsets and sunrises. God does amazing stuff with just one light bulb in the sky.
 

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Crazy Woman Boat Driver
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Discussion Starter #17
Mel, do you (or anyone else) ever use a bridle to pull the dinghy half way up the topside, via a mast halyard? Seems a common anti-theft approach.

I've never done it, rather I pull it up the davits, when I'm concerned. However, it is more of an exercise than I'd like and wonder if a bridle and halyard is quicker/easier.
Yes, it is very common to see that here. Canoe stern boats and boats without swim platforms are were I see it the most often. However, any boat can do that. Hoist bridle are also used to hoist the dinghy on the foredeck as well. I believe a good thing to make up and have. I went to West Marine to make up my bridle system out of SS cable.
 

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You're in your 5th year down here and you still find value in paying Chris Parker for weather information? With everything available online and with 5 years of experience, I find that a bit odd.
When we sailed the Carib we used Chris for my gosh for 6+ years and when we return we will use him again. Why? We met Chris and had a long talk and he said hey you need to do your own forecast and then call me to verify. We did and became a quite good at it. And having your forecast in hand before talking to Chris gives you some confidence in your ability or something to discuss with Chris on why yours varies from his.

When we were ready to cross the pond we were sitting Antigua and talked to Chris daily along with our own forecast. There was a front coming across the USA and the question was how far south it was going. If it did not go to far south it would be a great sail to Horta if it went south it would not be a good day - We watched daily and it was 50-50 right up to departure day and we sat. 2 boats left. We waited and the front came south - we left behind it and on the way over we had 2 boat alerts for both boats that left - never heard from again.

Chis is a great tool but only a tool to be used with others. Everyone has their favorities ours are Windyty, WIndfinder, Windguru, Passage Weather and gribs from our ssb. YEA we use all of them when we prepare for a passage of more than a few hours - if only a few hours we use gribs, Windyty, windfinder and passage weather. What we are looking for is not only current and potential weather but what is causing the weather - where are the hi and lo pressure sytems and how are they moving -

just what works for us
 

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Full time cruiser
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Mel, do you (or anyone else) ever use a bridle to pull the dinghy half way up the topside, via a mast halyard? Seems a common anti-theft approach.

I've never done it, rather I pull it up the davits, when I'm concerned. However, it is more of an exercise than I'd like and wonder if a bridle and halyard is quicker/easier.
We sailed most of the Caribbean - east and west - and do not have davits - we carry our dink on the foredeck for ALL passages period and the motor on the rail. We have had a few times when the prevailing wisdom was get the dink out of the water and we made a bridle and used a mast halyard- same one to put the dink on the deck to raise it way out of the water.
 
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We do not have a gen set nor see the need for one. We run 550w of solar and it meets all our needs with the 6 house batteries we have. There may be an occasion that we need to run the engine but with a 150amp alternator we do not have to run it long.

We did look at wind but the cost of the wind gen is so high and a cost benefit analysis of wind vs diesel is way in favor of diesel and running the engine.

so far it has worked well for us but then we are not someone else -
 
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