Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tots to the Queen

While waiting for dinner at the Life Bar & Grill near Falmouth Harbour in Antigua, we notice a group of English expatriates toasting the Queen.  We had observed such behavior before when we had stayed at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, but did not realize that Tots to the Queen was a mobile organization.

Peter, pictured on the right, is the current “Rum Bosun” for The Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda.  He explained that occasionally the location of the tot was moved due to the closure of the normal hosting establishment.  However, he explained the Friday night’s tot would be held at their normal digs in Nelson’s Dockyard, and that we were invited as his guests.

Nelson’s Dockyard

With its place in British Navy history stretching back to the 1670’s, Nelson’s Dockyard is a fitting home to a club that requires a test on Royal Naval history for its aspiring members.  Prior to the daily tot there is a reading of Royal Naval history pertinent to that day.  An especially good day includes a reading whereas the English were once again victorious over the French.

A tot at 1800 hours to signal the end of the working day was a proud tradition of the Royal Navy until 1970 when sadly it was discontinued.  The Tot Club, however carries on the proud tradition, “To confirm daily allegiance to and/or respect for the Crown by proposing the Loyal Toast to Her Majesty, the Queen.”

Picture by permission of the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda

After the “Reading” the Queen is toasted.  There is a toast for everyday of the week. 

Friday’s toast - “To a Willing Foe and Sea Room and the Queen, God Bless Her.” 

Guests are then required to drink a full Tot (1/2 a gill of Pusser’s Blue Label Rum).  Lady Guests may drink a half measure, however all aspiring members (lady or gentlemen) must drink a full Tot.  An aspiring member is required to drink seven full Tots within 14 days.  Should your liver hold out, after the sixth Tot, an aspiring member must take a verbal test on Royal Naval History.

Picture by permission of the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda

Being more than merely a social club, The Tot Club engages in many activities within Antigua including donating funds and “Destroying Nature to Preserve History.”  The Tot Club was once listed in a UK magazine as the world’s second most prestigious yacht club.  Hmm, I wonder what was first.

Friday, May 24, 2013


The “Cathedral of Rum”

Originating in Cuba, Bacardi Rum expanded to Puerto Rico in 1936 building a distillery in San Juan.  Later the distillery was relocated to its present site in Catano, Puerto Rico, outside of San Juan, and facilities in Cuba were nationalized by the Castro regime.

Visitors’ Center and Tasting Pavilion

We visited the home of “the king of rums” with our friends Chris and Michele who were guests on Motivator while we were in Puerto Rico.

On the Bacardi tour, Michele was wearing a T-shirt that is a testament to my docking abilities.

As close as we got to actual production facilities

From its humble beginnings in Cuba in 1862 with fruit bats in the rafters (hence the bat for their logo), the Bacardi family has owned the company for the past seven generations.  It now employees 6,000 people with sales in more than 150 countries.  Company sales in the US for 2007 were $5.5 billion.  

Rivers Rum Distillery in Grenada

So now, I think it is safe to say we have visited the distillery with the largest (Bacardi) and the one with the smallest production (Rivers Rum).  I think the cases in the foreground are Rivers Rum’s production for the week or maybe for the month.

Photographs only in foyer and outside

But unlike Rivers Rum that let us see the down and dirty of rum making (see: posting November 19, 2012), Bacardi was very protective of proprietary information and would not allow photographs of even their crude mockups of production facilities.

Inscription: “Thank You 2013”

Bacardi did however, have a very nice gift shop with reasonably priced souvenirs, bar supplies, and product.  Before returning the US, our guests presented us with this limited production of blended rums that have been aged an average of 12 years or more.  We are saving it for a special occasion and hope that the inscription means that they will visit us again in 2014.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Repair vs. Replace

Normal Presentation

Upon arrival in St. Maarten our autopilot died.  By the time we left, I thought I had it resurrected.  But, 10 minutes into our crossing to St. Kitts it went out again.  We hand steered for the next 7 1/2 hours.

The next day:
7:15 AM Troubleshoot autopilot
8:00 AM Decide with 90% confidence the electric motor on the pump is out
9:00 AM On the way to breakfast we ask Charlie, the dock master if he knows where there is an electrical motor repair shop
9:05 AM Charlie doesn't know so he calls Percy, the taxi driver
9: 10 AM Percy arrives to take us to Neil, the electrician
(It's a small island and Percy drives fast)
9:15 AM Neil is not there, but Debbie, Neil's girlfriend/business manager says bring the pump in and he will take a look
9:30 AM Percy drops us off at the coffee shop for breakfast
10:30 AM Return to the boat and remove pump
11:15 AM Deliver the pump to Neil via bicycles

Neil Jeetlall

11:30 AM Neil says the good news is my diagnoses is correct; it's the motor.  The bad news is that it is the armature in the motor is shot.
1:00 PM Neil delivers the armature to Roderick, the only guy on the island that can rewind armatures
3:45 PM Neil picks me up at the marina
3:50 PM Neil picks up Brandon, Debbie's son from school
3:55 PM Roderick demos the rewound armature
(Neil drives faster than Percy)
4:10 PM We return to Neil's shop where he reassembles the motor and pump
4:30 PM Neil drops me off at the boat with the rebuilt pump

Total cost for the rebuild was $200 USD vs. a new pump from the US is $619 + shipping (apx. $120) + customs fees and a few days waiting if we were lucky.

We probably could have escaped customs fees by declaring "boat in transit" and providing the necessary documentation.  However, the locals pay upward to 85% import duty on repair parts.  Therefore, it is cheaper to repair rather than replace.  Might not be such a bad thing compared to US where everything is becoming disposable.

Should you find yourself in St. Kitts needing an electrician, contact:

Neil Jeetlall
1 (869) 668-4444

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Plugging Leaks & Catching Fish

A fellow boater once told me, “all boats are sinking; it’s just a matter of time.”  But, this article is not about water leaks.  Someone with firsthand experience can write that article. 

This article is about electrical leaks.  When a boat is “leaking” electricity it has to go somewhere.  Usually it is into the water through underwater metal components such as the propeller shaft and propeller.  Besides destroying metal components and eating up zincs, a leaking boat can repel fish.  If you are not catching fish, it may because your boat is leaking electricity, but more on that later. 

Upon arrival at Marina Bas-du-Fort, on the south end of the French island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies, we plugged in to a 220 volt, 50 amp outlet and promptly blew the circuit breaker on the power pole.  French islands use European standards which include very sensitive Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) circuit breakers.

An electrician had me turn all the boat’s breakers off, reset the GFCI breaker at the power pole, and then he watched as I individually turned the equipment back on.  It turned out that we had two offenders, the inverter/charger and the oven.  The First Mate’s solution for the oven was that we could eat out. 

 Pollie’s Valentine Gift
(she was so happy)

The inverter/charger was replaced, and that cured the problem.  The breaker at the pole quit having a hissy fit when we plugged in.  But, that got me thinking; does Motivator have other electrical leaks?

Without the advantage of a finicky French marina, checking for alternating current (AC) leaks can be done with a clamp-on amp meter clamped around your shore power cord.  The current flow is really in two directions, it is alternating.  It must cancel itself out, or be a sum zero situation.  So if your boat is not leaking the amp meter should read close to zero.  One amp is way too much and could fry a nearby swimmer.

A check should also be made for Direct Current (DC) leaks and stray current in general to ensure your boat is not driving fish away and eating zincs.  This is best performed away from the dock so that you are not reading your neighbors leakage.  A silver chloride electrode available from BoatZincs.com (no affiliation with Motivator) that plugs into your multimeter for ease of taking readings is just the ticket.  Again, do as the electrician in Guadeloupe taught me, turn off all components and then turn them on one at a time to find the culprit.

Small but tasty tuna

Success!  Once the electrical leaks were plugged, our previously dismal fishing performance ended and we started catching fish.  The first was this Black Fin Tuna caught leaving Guadeloupe.

Barracuda caught and released off Culebra

I know what you are thinking - coincidence.  Scientific research has proven that fish are both attracted and/or repelled by electricity.  Commercial fishermen have effectively used electricity to help herd menhaden and shrimp into purse seines.  There are even electric lures available see: www.magnabait.net (not a recommendation, merely an example). 

This 4’ 4” Bull Maui Maui was caught in the Anegada Passage.  Coincidence?  Motivator had suffered a long drought, but now her freezer is full of fish.

This guy had to be filleted on deck then released because it was too big for my cooler and cleaning table.

Special Note:  The First Mate managed to gaff this 25 to 30 pound angry Maui Maui and fling it into the cockpit in one fluid motion.  Then she held it down and applied “fish killer” (cheap Vodka) to its gills.  The whole time she was apologizing to the fish.  Very impressive!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Castillo de San Cristóbal

Built by Spain to protect against land based attacks, Castillo de San Cristóbal originally wrapped around the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Beginning about 1539, several different fortifications were constructed on the hill known as San Cristóbal on the east side of the harbor entrance.  The fort as we see it today was completed in 1783 and covered about 27 acres.

In 1897 after the English and Dutch interlopers were ejected from the island, about a third of the fortification was demolished to allow for the expansion of San Juan. 

Chris and Michele, our friends from the Washington, DC area joined on this excursion.  Chris, a military history buff, was able to provide insight on many of things we were seeing.

At various points the fortified walls have guerites or sentry boxes.  Legend has it that soldiers randomly disappeared from various guerites, but especially from “The Devil’s Guertie.”  Chris’s theory is that the soldiers would climb on the wall to relieve themselves and get blown off falling to their deaths on rocks and sea below, otherwise known by boaters as “the half-mast syndrome.”

Prison Graffiti

Captured sailors drew pictures of their ships on the walls of the fort’s dungeons.

Executing drawings must have been difficult because light was barely pumped to the prisoners.

Flags of the United States, Puerto Rico and the Spanish Empire

On May 10, 1898, Castillo San Cristóbal's cannon batteries fired on the USS Yale thus marking Puerto Rico’s entry into the Spanish-American War.  Six months later Puerto Rico became a US territory by terms of the Treaty of Paris.

Castillo San Cristóbal was still an active military base in 1942 when World War II began.  Concrete pillboxes and an underground bunker control system were added to the fort’s defenses.

In 1961 the US Army abandoned the forts of Old San Jaun, and they entered the jurisdiction of the US National Park Service.  In 1983 the San Juan National Historic Site was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

Friday, May 3, 2013

El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque visitors’ center

Having friends visit got us away from boat jobs and out seeing the sights in Puerto Rico.  Located in northeastern Puerto Rico, El Yunque forest is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. 

 View from the visitors’ center

With over 200 inches of rainfall per year, the forest is home to lush foliage.

There are also numerous waterfalls in the forest.

Yokahu Tower

The best view of the forest is from Yokahu Tower.

Michele at the top

Constructed in 1939, the tower provides an unobstructed view of El Toro, the highest mountain peak in the forest at 3,494 feet above sea level.

Because Puerto Rico is south of the Tropic of Cancer, it has a tropical climate with no distinct wet or dry season and the length of daylight remains fairly constant throughout the year.  These factors create an environment that allows over 200 species of trees and plants, 23 of which are found nowhere else, to thrive in the forest.  It is also home to the critically endangered Puerto Rican Amazon.

Our visit to El Yunque included a hike to this waterfall that has pools of reportedly very cold water.  After what seemed like a fairly ambitious hike, we were surprised to see that many people at the falls.  Of course, most were younger than us.