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  • Writer's picturePeter

Time to Cast off – Hurricane season 2023 is finished !

After 3 months on the road through Europe and South America, we felt it was really time to head back to the boat and get ourselves ready for the winter sailing season in the Caribbean.

We only had a few jobs planned for the boat and so we were looking forwards to a good and relaxing time as we put the last items together in the 6 weeks before the end of the Hurricane Season (December 1st).

The projects included:

1) Re-installation of the retrofitted Watt& Sea Hydrogenerator

2) Installation of new guard rails on the back half of the boat

3) Completion of the sun and rain shade

4) Sports, running and lounging on the beach – we had gained a few extra kilos on our long road trip and needed to get back into shape.

The plan was good, but the execution was a little more complicated as, surprisingly enough, other jobs cropped up and many things did not really go according to anyone’s plan!

In the beginning, it was really all to do with the weather and the high activity in the marina as we returned to Curacao. There were too many boats wanting to go into the water and insufficient berth space once in the water. Consequently, we had to wait for an additional 2 weeks before re-launching our boat. It was also very warm with daytime temperatures well above 34 degrees C. Little wind in conjunction with lots of rain results in high humidity and a million mosquitos.

At this time, there were between 5 and 10 boats on the hard with people living onboard doing various jobs from waxing, anti-fouling to general maintenance. It is a good little community, but I think that we are all suffering from the heat, humidity and the mosquitos. What is “funny” is that this is our choice of lifestyle, so we suffer quietly and can’t complain. Though everyone (including the locals) says that it has been unseasonably hot this year.

After two weeks of waiting on the hard, it was time to get our Deva back into the water. In the water there are around 15 boats with liveaboards and all preparing for either going up north (The Dominican Republic to St Martin) or west toward the Panama Canal (and the Pacific beyond).

The high humidity also resulted in a number of thunderstorms, one of which had the effect of frying a part of our electrical system. This was not immediately obvious as things were generally working, but on closer examination I saw that the shore power was not charging the batteries and the only charging came from the solar power. Deeper examination showed that we really did have a problem with many items not working and nothing being displayed on our network viewer. I quickly came to the realization that we could not take the chance to sail away until we found and fixed the problem. It would be a little like driving a car for a long journey without a working fuel gauge.

The power management system and components are supplied by a company called “Mastervolt” who have many dealers and installers in Europe, but much more limited here in the Caribbean. The best local electrician who was a “Mastervolt Expert” understood even less than I did, so I felt there was really a big problem looming. Along with the heat that makes you drip and create a pool of water that you sit in whilst working and the countless mosquitos that enjoy fresh food and a comfortable, luxury boat, things were not looking very happy. I knew that in the end there would only be one person to find and fix the problems so the outlook was a little overwhelming and for once depressing.

Fortunately, we had some assistance from Karst who is a “Mastervolt Super Installer” (Karyvo) based in the Netherlands. We explained our “problems” to him and he gave us some homework suggestions on what to check. I had no idea that data cable checkers existed nor how I could manipulate the data network to identify the non-functioning elements. Over a period of about a week, we found that our batteries were working well, but our Isolation Transformer and Inverter were the source of our problems. A few thousand Euro’s later the new items were ordered with an “Express 3-day delivery”, for a considerable additional surcharge. We were even offered a “1 Day Delivery” for even more money but thought better of this idea. Now, more than two weeks from our order we are still waiting on delivery, but at least safe in the understanding that delivery to Curacao has been made and it is only a question of the time required for customs clearance.

It was a real mental relief to identify the problems and put a solution in place in such a remote location. I think that swapping out the units will be quite straight-forwards, I just hope these are not my famous last words ! It was good to work my way through the electrical system and as ever I learnt a lot from the hands-on trouble shooting and fault finding.

With “nothing to do” until the new equipment arrives, we could safely close this chapter for the time being and start work on the other projects. Unfortunately, we used up almost 2 weeks of time to come to this point.

The Watt& Sea Hydrogenerator was probably the simplest installation with a few new holes to be drilled into the back of the boat and attach a universal bracket for deployment. An additional hole for the power cable and the system was arranged that it can be raised, lowered or totally removed, should we wish to do so.

The deployment seems a little complex with a series of ropes and pullies to be manipulated while the boat is in motion. We practiced a few times and we have managed to do this quite well while tied up in the marina – I just hope that it is as easy while we are sailing ! Needless to say that I am really hoping that this generator will live up to expectations and make a significant contribution to our solar power generation.

The sun/rain cover was a major work for our Sailrite Sewing Machine. Getting many meters of heavy-duty fabric to be lined up and neatly sewed together was a fantastic achievement from Ingrid, I could only wonder at how well it was all done. In the end we have almost 40m2 of sun-cover for the rear portion of the boat. It is so essential to have the boat in the shade to reduce the internal boat temperature. The additional benefit of keeping the heavy rain off, whilst allowing the hatches to be left open is a really fantastic way to keep the temperature under control.

The upgraded guard rail around the back of the boat looks really good – like as if it has always been there. There is extra strength and rigidity that is good for safety and it is also a place where we can add extra solar panels to complement the ones that we have already got. We will not know what additional power we will need until it is all checked out from our first sailing trips. The installation went well, but getting the job finished to our satisfaction was more complicated. We were accused by a quite irate supplier of not trusting him to do his job …….. Oh well, with a bit of pushing it was all completed a few days before our planned departure.

These “little” jobs have taken up so much time that all our plans of sport and recreation have been grossly neglected. In a way it has just been too hot to do any sport and almost any movement results in a soaked T Shirt. Fortunately, as the days of November run by, there is a slight cooling of the temperatures. The evenings are perfect, but during the daytime the sun is just relentless, bleaching, burning and destroying anything that is not UV proof.

We did manage to meet up with one of our Viking boats and spend a lovely day exploring around the island with them. Victor Langerwerf, the port representative on Curacao for the Ocean Cruising Club, kindly showed us all the hidden gems of the island. We visited the original island water wells, a cave with bats and beautiful natural limestone art, blow holes, arches and a shoreline that "breathes" as the sea surges through the cracks and fissures in the rock.

We also have been having “trouble” with various battery-operated items over the last weeks to help compound our problems and complicate our life. The first was the engine starter battery – this had run down to 5 volts due to our power management problems. There was no choice here but a new starter battery.

The electric outboard motor from our dinghy was also giving problems. At the end of last season, we “suddenly” ran out of battery power and had to be rescued by a nearby boat. Which was quite an adventure in itself - and we made some new friends, Karen and Gerry from “SY Paraiso” in the process. Although you may think that taking apart a lithium battery is dangerous, this is not the case and this did not lead to the battery failure either. I needed to replace the battery housing as the original housing became cracked in the sunshine. E Propulsion kindly replaced the housing at no cost to me, as long as I was prepared to do the replacement myself. They are also working with us on the failed battery and hope that we will eventually get a good result from them.

I think that what was most disappointing was that we try to do what we think is best for the environment and end up being in a dangerous situation. In this case, with the strength of the wind at the time of battery failure, we would have been blown a long way out to sea where manual rowing could not get us back to land.

We tried to stay with an electric outboard and I visited the Mercury dealer numerous times (Mercury having just released a great electric outboard with more power than our current model).

“We are interested in the new mercury 3HP electric outboard”

“Yes, we have one on order”

“Great, When is it coming ?”

“Don’t know”

“Can’t you ask ?”

“I will call them next week, I have a weekly conference call”

“Will you call me and let me know ?”

“Of course”

2 weeks later

“Hello, did you get any news from Mercury about the electric outboard ?, I did not hear anything from you”

“Oh yes, it is on order”

“When is it coming ?”

“Don’t know, Mercury will not tell us……..”

So, the story went on and on. As we need some form of outboard we decided that a petrol engine was the safer and more reliable option. Interestingly enough, the Mercury dealer here in Curacao did not even respond to my request for a quote for a standard petrol outboard. It seems that business for some on this island is just too good.

We have now ended up with a nice little Suzuki from our

Curacao Marine Zone – the only problem is where to keep it when not in use as our guard rail is quite full at the back of the boat. They were very good in getting the outboard ready and set up for a trial on out dinghy. Though we are disappointed to have to go back to a petrol engine, we feel safer and more secure with this option, especially for longer distances from anchorages to shore.

We love our boat carpets, but after 3 years on the way with tea stains, red wine stains, chocolate, oil and most things that you can think of, it was time to find a replacement.

I have been chasing CR Yachts and their carpet supplier for a set of replacement carpets. After numerous messages, CR finally passed on the contact of their supplier, Textila Båtinredningar. Unfortunately, the Swedish supplier had no interest in responding to my requests for help. Not even a simple, “sorry we are too busy” just no response at all, very disappointing.

Ackerman, our local Dutch Carpet Shop, agreed to do the work for us. Not exactly marine grade carpets, but good solid industrial carpets.

Lengths were cut and picked up for checking before they were finished off with a nice trim. On installation of the cut pieces we noticed that the patterns were not aligned and things did not look right. Patterns running in different directions looked psychedelically unbalancing – not something we wanted to mix with boat motion ! Daryl, our carpet salesman kindly came out to the boat to check it out and agreed to recut some sections of the carpet to keep us balanced.

Everything is heading to be ready, fixed, and delivered by the end of this week – we hope this may coincide with a weather window so we can actually go sailing and get away from repairs and maintenance – I hope we are not dreaming too much !

Our last weekend in Curacao now and we are busy getting the boat to be sail ready after several months of only living on board.

We are happy to say that the carpets are delivered and look fantastic .

Our Mastervolt equipment finally arrived and installed with the help and programming of Karst. Everything seems to be working very well !

Christmas and the Christmas Lights are illuminated in Willemstad and it is time for us to move on. We don't know where we will be at Christmas, but we will checkout on Sunday 3rd December and head north to where the wind will take us. We plan for Puerto Rico and anticipate a roughish sail ahead, but we know that if we don’t leave now then it will only be with more wind and bigger waves as the trade winds start to blow.

Follow us on our live blog as we set sail on the morning of the 4th December.

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