Thursday, January 7, 2016

Masthead work, monarchs, energy efficiency, and charter practice.

Well, life continues. I now need to get ice only once every three days, less than half as often as before. The mast no longer chimes with the motion of the waves. I've tracked down the drain on my battery and took a couple steps to deal with that. My first attempt to raise a monarch butterfly here failed. And I took out a couple nice young folks for their first sail on the open ocean, as well as showing them some of my favorite spots... and a cute shark. Sorry, no pics of the shark..

OK, people first: Emily, a cousin's friend's daughter and Rich were visiting St Thomas and I offered to take them for an adventure. Sailing, lion hunting, snorkeling in a few places... yes, I tend to overload the plate of offerings, but (unlike a banquet of food) ideas don't go to waste. So we sailed from the mooring in Coral Bay to Great Lameshur Bay, hoping to find a lionfish that had been reported there, but the marker and lionfish were removed. Still, we did find a cute lobster, many many interesting fish, quite a few octopus feeding spots (piles of shells), and even a sweet little 3' nurse shark resting on the bottom.

Then we headed to the other side of the bay and scanned the deep reef there, but saw no lionfish, just a ray and small fish. We set sail and discussed all the options remaining, but we reached a consensus that the day had been sufficiently seized and headed back upwind around Ram's Head and back to the mooring, spotting a nice turtle coming up for air about 50' away. 

We finished off the day with them treating me to a delicious burger at Skinny Legs (and we all enjoyed a drink or two), then we made our separate ways home. They seemed to enjoy the sail and snorkel and encouraged me to continue to work toward my captain's license.

On a visit to Cruz Bay, I found milkweed chopped down by road maintenance folks and even found a monarch caterpillar leaving the scene, so snagged some of the fresh leaves and the larva and brought them home. At first all seemed well, the larva ate some leaves and then attached himself to the paper towel I used as a lid and hung there preparatory to pupating. 

Then, instead of becoming shorter and rounder, it went all long and slack. 
I guess it was injured along the road: sad... I guess I'll try to find another when I return from Cape Cod in a month: I want to be sure they are actually monarchs rather than a similar species.

I've tired of the inefficiency of my ice box and coolers. None of the coolers hold a bag of ice longer than 1.5 days (my poor one only holds it 1 day) and the ice box needs about two or three bags per day!!! I bought a sheet of 1.5” styrofoam and, using spray foam, glued it into the inside of the ice box and old cooler. 

While I have not tried the ice box, am confident it will hold a bag for at least two days. The cooler is even better, holding one for three to four days! As long as I don't need much volume (and mostly I just want some cold drinks and ice to chill me on hot days) the tiny remaining volume of the cooler suits me perfectly... and I am saving about $2/day.

Speaking of energy waste, I was having trouble with my battery getting drained. I finally tracked it down to the relay that allows propane to flow... or allows one to shut it off quickly in case of emergency. My tests showed that the relay uses about 9watts: now this may not seem like much, but in 24hrs this adds up to about 3 hours of maximum power production.... or, put another way, means that I need to wait an extra five or so hours in the morning for battery power to get restored! Triumphant, I have been enjoying having my power back to normal... and then found that I forgot to turn that little green switch off last night. So, I've added an LED light as an unavoidable alert: let me try going to sleep with THAT glare!

Speaking of lights, I've been wanting to add a masthead navigation light, but that involved either going to the boat yard and having them pull the mast or some very clever work swaying 45' above boat and water. I opted for the latter and, finding Tuesday dawn nearly windless, climbed up, installed lines as temporary stays, climbed down and secure them, climbed up again and.... well, you get the idea: by day's end I had climbed the mast four times, called for assistance pulling wire from Rick on Long Distance, cleaned and lubricated the masthead bits, fixed errors in the existing rigging that explained a lot of the internal friction I dealt with raising the sail..... and found more I should do soon. 

I also got caught in a downpour (grumbling as rain poured into my open boat below), found my hands kept cramping on the fourth climb, and now have very sore hands, shoulders, and thighs. One thing I discovered was that, as suspected, the manufacturer had installed a pvc tube in the mast for containing wiring.... but the coaxial  antenna wiring had been run outside it and has chimed loudly ever since I owned the boat. Now?....silence... Very nice. And the masthead navigation lights make me legal for night sailing, finally!

And I've dried out the boat (mostly) from the rainstorm soaking.

Now I need to fill some voids in the deck and then re-install the winch, clutch, and deck organizer before I can sail again! Maybe tomorrow or Saturday I'll have my chance.


  1. Ah, Robinson Crusoe Harris, you are a marvel. Happy New Year from David and Janet and little Scout.

  2. You are a master problem solver! Good for you. I see a lot of our brilliant pal Andrew Gelsey in your ability to tackle things and come up with ideas. Andrew also tried to set up a better fly garden in New Jersey but was unsuccessful.