Time flies when you’re working on a boat!

I can’t believe it’s been a month since we packed up our lives in Grenada and flew to Florida to meet our new boat. Time sure does fly!

It was much easier clearing our big blue barrels of household goods into the US than it was on the Grenadian side. Less than a week after we arrived in Stuart, Florida we had all of our things and just needed to figure out where to put it all.

The town of Stuart is absolutely lovely, but we didn’t get much opportunity to enjoy it at first – we had too much to do…. We bought a larger, used dinghy from our friend Bill Roy and Capt. Mike spent a few days getting the outboard running smoothly. For his next trick, he installed dinghy davits – arms that allow us to lift the dinghy out of the water at night for safety, and to carry the dinghy out of the water while we are sailing. They turned out great!

Next, we went to work on solar power. Our boat has a nearly-new inboard generator which efficiently sips diesel to generate power. But it takes about two hours in the morning and another hour and a half in the evening to keep the batteries full while running the fridge and lights and keeping things charged. That’s a lot of noise! Not the way we want to live off- grid long term. Mike worked with Alexander to build a stainless steel structure above the shade Bimini and installed three 200-watt solar panels. After pulling loads of cable and installing a Victron MPPT controller, we have power! On a sunny day, our batteries are full by noon.

We have many more complicated systems than we had on simple little Sanitas. Lots to learn! For example, Mike said on this boat we’d be able to drink the water right out of our tanks because we have a built-in filtration system. But because the boat had been sitting unused for a while, the water initially tasted gross. So … we dug into every cupboard, found the water filter system, ordered new filters and voila! Yummy, great tasting water.

Then, the first night we venture out to socialize with other Island Packet owners at a Marina happy hour, we returned home to find a flashing red light illuminating the interior. Apparently our “magic head” (electric toilet) wasn’t so magical at the moment. We’ve got this super cool space age Electro-Scan head that uses electricity to sanitize waste so you can legally eject it overboard… when it works properly. We had to do a lot of investigating and eventually send a few emails back and forth to the extremely patient previous owners before we figured out how to add extra salt water to the system.

After a week of perfect sunny Florida weather, a week of rain set in, and we discovered that our hopefully dry cockpit… wasn’t. With enough rain, the Sunbrella fabric quickly got saturated, and the rain just flowed straight through. So we ordered a gallon of 303 waterproofing and went to work. Did I mention how grateful we are that Amazon delivers to Sunset Bay Marina, and how equally grateful I am that the marina employees didn’t shame me for the number of packages I picked up in one month?

Eventually, we came up for air and started to enjoy the marina lifestyle. And we had friends! Beth, on Stargazer, was moored only two balls away from us. And Adele and Herman, on Willful, made it safely back from Puerto Rico via The Bahamas and joined us in the mooring field. We met new friends, like Ray and Amanda on Elysium who bought their beautiful boat the same week we did. And Matt and Brooklyn on TwoCan who work hard on yachts in Fort Lauderdale all week, and then spend the weekends in Stuart working on their own boat. We even had the chance to finally meet up with Hayden and Radeen on Island Spirit who helped us buy our Island Packet and who serve as the gurus and cheerleaders for the IP community.

And, better yet, we had two different visits from family during our month in Stuart! My parents came to visit just before they started their big road trip back north to New York for the summer and Mike’s Mom was visiting a neighbor on the west coast of Florida so she made the trip over to Stuart to visit us and to see our new boat! It’s so nice to know that our parents can picture this life we are living and our new home! It’s very special.

It’s Alive!

At long last, Sanitas has a working motor!

After two weeks of recovery from Covid and two additional weeks of waiting for our fuel injector pump to be rebuilt (and a lot of stops by the mechanic’s office, asking if there was any news) our diesel engine is back together!

Monsieur Rubin of Mechabat told me that the clean and shiny refurbished fuel injector pump is “bijoux” or jewelry for Sanitas. He spent two hours contorted into the tiny engine compartment grunting and swearing, finding the parts that fell to the bottom of the space, bleeding the fuel lines… And finally telling Capt. Mike to start her up. She started on the first try! Apparently, mechanics in France have the same saying as they do in the USA, “There’s always one part left over” and Rubin explained that the one bolt remaining in the Tupperware containers wasn’t that important. I hope he’s right 🤪

We had already taken advantage of our proximity to Le Marin to buy groceries, do laundry, and take lots and lots of warm showers. All we needed to do was pay for our mooring ball (€110 euros for the month) fill up our water and fuel tanks, and we were free!!! Where to next, Sanitas?

No more holes in the roof!

Remember when I said we may have bitten off more than we could chew with the boat yard projects this year? (Catch up here) Well, the decision to remove both of our hatches, take ‘em apart, and refinish them, wasn’t even on our project list so that might have been a big, big bite.

Early days, still smiling

Five or six weeks ago, when we scheduled the boat yard crew to sand-blast Sanitas’ keel, Capt Mike had the brilliant idea to have them sand-blast our aluminum hatches at the same time. So we disassembled both hatches, leaving two large gaping holes in the “roof” of our cabin and salon, and threw a tarp over the holes. It really was a good idea to address the blistering paint and fix any small leaks. Except…

  • The yard didn’t get around to the sanding for two weeks (Island time!)
  • And we learned they couldn’t sandblast until after we manually removed old adhesive and glossy paint
  • Rainy season started immediately
  • And the project was much, much harder than we expected! 😳
So much for machine sanding
How do you paint all sides of a 3-dimensional object?
This is what Sanitas like like in the middle of a big project

Six weeks later, we’ve survived sanding, torrential island rains, and oh so many coats of paint. After a bit of swearing, we even figured out how to put it all back together again! What a relief. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that simply writing this brief summary is bringing on a few PTSD flashbacks. I am so relieved to have Sanitas waterproof again, and I hope I never have to do this particular project again!

Why doesn’t it fit back together again?
Finished! Even the captain is smiling!

Sanitas gets a Makeover

Stuck in Grenada for hurricane season, this is the time of year we GET STUFF DONE! Each year, we invest time and money into a few big upgrades or maintenance projects that will make sailing life safer or more comfortable in the years to come. This year’s big project….replacing the canvas!

When new sailing friends ask “Which boat is yours?” in an anchorage, it’s kind of hard to answer. “Well, she’s the beige boat. With a beige sail bag. And a beige bimini and dodger. Never mind. She’s the cutter-rigged double ended of no particular color.” That’s practical – light fabric is cooler in the tropical sun, and it won’t fade. But that same strong sun has taken a toll on our canvas nonetheless, and it’s been right on the edge of falling apart this whole season. A couple of times a year, we hand sew the zipper back on the sail bag….again! And the metal frame that supports the dodger is showing right through the fabric there. We’re one tropical storm away from everything ripping right off!

So we made it a priority way back in July to meet with Ever After Canvas in Prickly Bay for an estimate and to take measurements. Because, we can’t just drive to Joann Fabrics to buy the supplies for this big job. Instead, to acquire Sunbrella fabric, plastic zippers, and 100% UV-proof thread that can stand up to the harsh marine environment, I ordered everything from the US and shipped it from Miami to Grenada using the EZone freight company. No free two-day-shipping here! I placed the order; got a C-14 form from Customs and Immigration to certify that all items would be leaving Grenada on our boat, and therefore I’m entitled to lower import duty; and eventually picked everything up almost four weeks later.

Jules and Frank, of Ever After Canvas, run their business from their boat, powering their sewing machine using a Honda generator. So we picked up a mooring ball just behind them in Prickly Bay and prepped to spend the next couple of weeks measuring, fitting, and installing. Frank’s a true artist; he tweaks each fabric panel and fitting until it fits perfectly. He was able to do most of the work on our sail bag before we even arrived, so we had the first piece of canvas installed quickly.

That gorgeous new sail bag whetted our appetite for progress, and we couldn’t wait to see the finished product. Along the way, we’d even added a few upgrades to our current system, such as shade panels on all sides of the cockpit, a water catchment system built into the bimini, and better rain protection. You know how you drive to Home Depot at least once a day while you’re in the middle of a big DIY project? Well Capt. Mike dinghied ashore just as often to buy new stainless fittings from Budget Marine, or added a mile-long walk to Ace Hardware for pvc pipes and bungees. And he and Frank worked together to get each piece installed perfectly. Frank worked his butt off, and got everything completed and installed within the two-week period we had free before we were scheduled to haul out at Spice Island Marine for the worst of hurricane season. Hooray! Finishing on schedule almost never happens! (Island time, and all 😁)

I think everything turned out great! Sanitas looks better than ever, and Capt. Mike and I are really looking forward to a more comfortable cockpit. Bring on the sundowner cocktails, and beautiful tropical sunsets!

Stainless Steel really isn’t

So this is going to be a boring post for the landlubbers out there. It’s basically just about cleaning. But you boat owners know that there are at least two boat projects that never end: varnishing the teak, and polishing the stainless.

And unlike many (many) boat maintenance projects, I actually tried to keep on top of the stainless steel hardware on Sanitas last cruising season. Especially on the bow, which is constantly covered in salt water and gets incredibly rusty incredibly fast, I spent several otherwise lovely afternoons scrubbing. But I never really got it perfectly clean, and I just assumed I was doing it wrong.

So while we were in the boatyard, and time and fresh water were plentiful, I decided to go all in. I RESEARCHED. Reading articles on Practical Sailor, YachtUnlimited, and Boatlife, and went down the rabbit hole of way too many discussion threads. I weighed the relative advantages of “Best Value” cleaning products vs highly rated cleaning products, and you always need to consider environmentally friendly options. I may have gone overboard on buying cleaning products.

I didn’t do the greatest job of capturing the full extent of the rust problem, but here are a few examples of how terrible it looks:

So I spent the next three days scooting around on my butt on the non-skid deck (ouch) attacking every bit of rust with a microfiber cloth or a toothbrush. Are you curious which stainless product worked the best? NOT the super expensive Flitz polish I could only find on eBay. NOT the super cheap turtle wax automotive polish I could find at Walmart. (Although it wasn’t half bad) but the Miracle Cloth is truly and totally miraculous. No waiting, no scrubbing. It even took the rust off the bow sprit. And even off the standing rigging and life lines. I’m sold. Not to mention that it is made with coconut oil that smells so…. good… every time I open the bag. Do you think if I write enough good things about it they will sponsor me and send me a lifetime supply? In theory, you can use the miracle cloth over and over again, but I may have pushed it to the limit. The white square in this picture is a new, pristine miracle cloth, and the crumpled black blog is one that I used for a few hours one afternoon. it still kind of works, but it isn’t much fun to touch.

Checkout the fashionable outfit that all the cool kids wear while polishing the stainless steel with a toothbrush! As an added bonus, you can see how bad the teak woodwork looked before I refinished it. It’s a great reminder. I’m already used to how much better the woodwork looks, and I’ve forgotten how much it needed all of those long hours of effort!

I’ve heard other boat owners describes as “she’s so meticulous at keeping her boat pristine. She’s out there every day with a toothbrush.” Huh. Maybe I have become that boat owner?

Here are a few photos on the shiny stainless post-polishing.i don’t think they do it justice. Maybe I will post a few more, just to capture the one moment in time that all of Sanitas’s stainless steel is shiny and clean, before we untie the lines, head into the waves…….and start accumulating rust once again!