Monday, March 28, 2011


Refuelling before leaving St Martin

It was now early August and we needed to leave the relative safety of St Martin and the Lagoon.  In our early days (read inexperience) we did not really take the weather into account.  A rough crossing to Antigua became apparent (large seas on the nose) and forced us to rest at St Barts for the remainder of our day. Just before nightfall, while we still had visibility, we took advantage of calmer seas and headed off.  After a pleasant stay in Antigua (and no sign of our rudder) we moved on to Guadeloupe getting as far as the Isle de Saintes before heading across to Pointe-a-Petre, a secure mooring and an airport (with customs office) to take delivery of our rudder.

Thru wind & rain....

Self Steering Rudder.  Taking delivery of our self steering rudder from the customs office at the airport in Pointe-a-Petre meant having to use a taxi.  Getting out there was easy but getting back to the dockyards near where we were anchored was not!  I made the mistake of getting into the taxi before agreeing on a price for the taxi fare.  The driver just took off at a great rate of knots and then tried to rip me off by demanding I pay an outrageous fare.  I asked him, rather enthusiastically, to stop and let me out but he just kept on driving like a maniac.  I directed him to the Port Captain’s Office where I rushed out (with my rudder) and sort refuge therein.  One of the staff stepped in and sorted things out for me so that I did not have to pay the ridiculous amount demanded by my ‘kidnapper’.  They were nice staff at this office and also allowed us to refill our water tanks before eventually departing.

Generator. Our generator has been well mannered since first using it in 2008.  However, we needed to have a leaking/damaged rubber elbow and also some rather large fuses (which started to blow) replaced with circuit breakers. No generator meant no fridge and no food!  Replacement was undertaken by a French electrician in Pointe-a-Petre (Waypoint) and we can’t recommend them highly enough.  They are a major electrical shop at the yacht docks.  After diagnosing our generator’s problem he then directed us to a supplier (on the other side of the city) and loaned us his car to go and get the required circuit breakers.  Our first experience of driving among the Frenchies turned out okay and we returned his car undamaged an hour or so later, now with full fuel and with said parts, which he duly installed.  Everything worked perfectly so what can one say.  It is this sort of experience that makes the cruising life so enjoyable and restores the occasional loss of faith in some marine technicians/businesses. 

Port of Pointe-a-Petre

Our first Caribbean fish (inedible)
We enjoyed our stay in Pointe-a-Petre.  Supermarkets, restaurants, a bakery and laundry line the docks and within walking distance was a larger supermarket and marine equipment suppliers.  Best of all, we enjoyed our first really good pizza!

While I'm making general comments, I'd like to point out how thoroughly the French take their maritime security.  We were boarded in St Barts, questioned in Isles des Saintes and watched in Martinique.  It was not intrusive and we welcomed their presence and efforts to make anchorages safer.  (We also think they wondered about our flag and strange accent! Go you good thing!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Be Informed from the Getgo!

Whilst in St Martin we started to explore and develop our “local” knowledge of the Caribbean.  We began to appreciate the importance of weather, cruising guides, and security to our voyage planning.  Needless to say, we used the internet where-ever and when-ever we could for information updates and home communications!  Isn’t Skype marvellous?

Trying to get a connection, any connection

Weather:  If we could pick up an internet connection, our first search was always for weather - hurricane reports as well as local weather.  This is far superior to listening to local anchorage “gossip”. We had a few favourite sites such as Jeff Masters, NOAA and CaribWX.  Later we discovered a few more that were locally specific and quite helpful – windguru and ibiseye.

Cruising Guides: We added to our collection of local cruising guides.  Chris Doyle’s are very good – you would hardly need charts, the descriptions are so clear.  We purchased others to fill in a few blank spots and importantly to get another point of view.  French for Cruisers” by Cathy Parsons is also money well spent, particularly when you find yourself in a supermarket in French St Martin or trying to negotiate laundry costs in Guadeloupe. 

Guard Iguana at a fuel depot St Martin

Security: We found a monthly newspaper, the Caribbean Compass, gave us an eye on the cruising community.  It made for good reading although we were concerned about news of killings and robberies, especially in Venezuela and even St Vincent.  We chose to just be cautious, lock up and ask locals questions.  We left our dingy strapped firmly to WJ3 & out the water in Dominica.  In St Martin and St Lucia we waited to launch until confirming with marina staff that dingy theft was not an issue.  The crew decorated our outboard with paint and removed evidence of its horsepower.  We also invested in hefty chain & locks.  The Safety & Security net is also a helpful compilation of reported crime, which makes for interesting reading & useful advice.  Lastly, we came upon regular cruisers’ nets (eg in Trinidad it was VHF Channel 68).  This is a daily update for cruisers on weather, security, general information, equipment swaps/trades and social happenings.
St Martin/Sint Maarten was a great place to take stock simply because it caters for all us cruising and/or racing sailors.  There are plenty of well stocked chandleries, all easily accessible and a willingness by staff to assist customers no matter how big (or small) your budget. Then there's the hardware stores but don't get me started....

St Matin/Sint Maarten in July

Is it Hurricane Season yet?

Marigot Bay, St Martin

We stayed almost four weeks in St Martin, firstly anchoring in Marigot Bay, then moving into Simpson Bay Lagoon when a decent blow threatened and then finally had a quiet time in a small boatyard, TOBY (Time Out Boat Yard), filled with character boats, friendly Frenchies and their not-as-friendly dogs.  We took advantage of duty-free prices and haunted Island Waterworld, Kooyman Hardware and Cost-U-Less. 

Generator Overheating.  During our stay in TOBY, the generator overheated, causing us some alarm.  Yes, we were in a marina but unable to use the 240v power, so relied on our trusty generator to keep our batteries full and refrigerators cold.  But weed & other nasties in the lagoon water soon blocked the raw-water intake strainer causing the generator to overheat, sound alarms and stop (thank goodness).   Fortunately no damage was done but it was a close call and not one I’d care to repeat.  We now check the intake strainer much more regularly if the water is in anyway dirty or weedy.

TOBY at the dock

High Pressure Water Cleaner.  We purchased a small one of these cheaply at Cost-U-Less.  It uses a fair bit of fresh water but saves an enormous amount of time; cleans deck, cockpit, cushions, etc quickly and easily.  We’ve learnt to clean the barbie at the end of each season too with our water pressure gun, a highly recommended bit of kit. Don’t leave home without one.

BBQ.  We installed a gas barbecue mounted on the pushpit railing –marvellous.  Great in the tropics as it relieves our galley slave from working in a very hot cabin.  Luckily we have two gas bottles mounted in stern lockers so it was a breeze to connect the barbie and still have the main stove connected.  As an added bonus, both use gas conservatively. 

Rainbow over TOBY

GPS and Charts.  We use our laptops with Software on Board (name of software program) with CMaps.  I made sure these can be integrated with an autopilot – just thinking ahead.  I also purchased a Raymarine fixed GPS and integrated this with the chart plotting software.  Again, just great until a subsequent lightning strike in 2009 fixed the GPS and made the wind instrument unserviceable.  A backup Garmin GPS works manually with the chartplotter -  you plot the location reading off the GPS and plotting on the electronic chart.  It can also be connected directly to the laptop and used the same as the fixed GPS ( We couldn’t do that after the lightning strike - to be discussed further in our 2009 stuff).

Log.  We replaced the display (to be able to see details clearly) on our old Autohelm speedo & log. 

Self Steering.  We installed a Hydrovane windvane self-steering while in St Martin – well almost all of one.  The rudder didn’t arrive with the rest of the kit and we subsequently had to chase it around a couple of other countries before finally picking it up at the airport in Guadeloupe (having to pay customs fees, unlike St Martin’s duty free port).  This occurred because the rudder was made at a separate location to the rest of the kit and also the courier service was less than efficient - they did not deliver to the right place and on time.

We had time to relax & celebrate a birthday in Sint Maarten

Radar Reflector.  We installed a radar reflector up in the rigging, just in case it worked…… 

Boat Safety Gear.  Amongst other things I purchased a Plastimo four man liferaft – an offshore type in a valise which was light and compact enough that we could keep in the large cockpit locker.  It only needs to be serviced every three years.  My wife would be able to get it out and deploy it by herself if she had to.  A fibreglass canister one would have been too heavy and, if stored down below, then impossible for her to get upstairs by herself.  I did not want to have a liferaft mounted on deck as there have been many reports of these being washed overboard in storms and/or automatically inflating on deck when whacked with a big wave. 

Wakeboarding on the Lagoon
Dodger Bows.  While we waited at TOBY, I decided to use down-time to have a dodger custom made.  First we zoomed all over the lagoon and Marigot Bay taking photos of suitable designs.  Then we asked MCJ Fabrications (Sandy Ground close to Toby) to make it up.  We wanted a couple of stainless steel bows, one with a handle.  I also wanted it to be as low profile as possible yet still provide access down our "huge" companionway.  To all this, I wanted to be able to see clearly over the top.  The frames were welded up quickly and were well made in top quality stainless.  They fitted perfectly. 

Our dodger canvas work story is not so cheerful.  Let me just say that we were sailing to a schedule and could not wait at the convenience of the canvas shop. We terminated the contract and sailed away.  Before you contract for work, make sure you ask around, not only about quality of work but also timeliness and professional attitude. Be prepared to walk away if you have to.

Additions to the Tool Shed.  My tool boxes keep expanding and filling as I continue to voyage.  I have four boxes now with a number of electrical drills, saber saw, heat gun, and grinder – very handy with the generator – plus a range of hand tools.  I'm not sure if I mentioned that we converted the cabin behind the galley into our tool shed & storage area - best thing we ever did! 

Fishing Lures.  Fishing gear to supplement the lone lure!  We continue to steadily purchase different lures and other fishing kit as we variously deposit them in fishes’ mouths across the sea.  We have caught the odd fish but apparently not nearly as many as all those other cruisers that display exciting photos of landed fish on their respective blog sites.

Work Completed Underway: BVI to Trinidad 2008

Potters Bar on Anegada, BVI.  So!  Where are the lobsters? 

You would think that having worked solidly for two months in the BVI, there would be little left to do.  There's nothing like experience, so being on the water with sails hoisted or engine purring away highlighted one or two more little gaps in my workplan.  Many a truth is said in jest and Break Out Another Thousand is not too far from reality. 

The need to move on from the BVI was dictated by the weather….and insurance requirements, but WJ3 was now starting to take shape.  We did a little break-out cruise or two around the BVI, enjoying the clear waters and plentiful bars.  The BVI it seems is out to be hospitable to the large chartering fleets that nose about in every nook and cranny.  Despite large numbers of sail and motorboats on the water, picturesque bays remained accessible and there always seemed to be a spare mooring or more available if needed, and of course competent marinas.  However, I couldn’t in all honesty say that the government officials we reported to as we cleared in & out, were as friendly in dispensing their duty as many of the tradesmen and restaurant/bar staff we had come to know in our time there.
Local Racing Boats in Marigot Bay, St Martin 

Our first overnight sail involved getting from Anegada (BVI) to Marigot Bay, French St Martin across the much discussed (for all the wrong reasons) Anegada Passage.  A strong current pushed us slightly off course which added a few extra hours to our trip but that’s not too bad considering we didn’t have a GPS linked into our CMap charts.  Hourly readings on a hand-held GPS are for the birds!  Guess what one of the first things we did when we got to St Martin?  Yep, buy a BBQ!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Getting Work Done Overseas (And Home Perhaps)

It isn’t easy and in fact it can be downright difficult to almost impossible at times to get work done, especially in a foreign country.  I’m sure, like me, you have read stories of boat owners giving up on getting work done in a particular locations.  Alternatively, the work has been shoddy, promises made but not kept, etc.  Herewith some lessons I learnt, sometimes the hard way.  This sort of project is not for the feint hearted and if you intend to do something similar then I recommend following the three ‘P’s’ as someone kindly passed on to me in BVI - use Patience, Politeness, and Perseverance - always.

Obtaining Quotes.  By all means try to follow this most basic of rules.  In BVI it was impossible because (when I was there in May/Jun08)  there were large charter fleets which get priority for work, for obvious reasons, as do local boat owners and, of course, super yachts.  There was a great demand for available tradesmen.  I found just getting work done was a major achievement so I forgot all about trying to get quotes.  Of course, I became more adept at judging who to use and who not to (more on this later).   In Trinidad you could get quotes for work to be done and make the appropriate selection – note that there aren’t any charter fleets there to compete against and the industry is geared towards the cruising sailor.  Even in the USA it has been difficult to get a straight quote.

Cheap Labour.  It might exist but I never found it unless you took on a local worker, after hours.  Some of them are quite good, some are less than good.  How do you know the difference – ask around and get firm opinions from fellow cruisers who you know personally that have had satisfactory work done for them.  Get several opinions if you can, it might save you a lot of time, money and heartache later on – a good investment early on.  I often found the more expensive tradesman was cheaper in the long run – a $70 per hour guy who takes one hour to do what you want rather than two hours by the $50 per hour guy.  I also found some tradies were happy to explain to you what they were doing and so you were receiving ‘free’ tuition at the same time – this was invaluable.  You are often charged high rates for time worked but much of the work might be undertaken by semi-skilled labour contracted out.  Labour is not cheap in the Caribbean, anywhere that I went.  The hourly rate for labour in the BVI was around $50-70 (with some notable exceptions) and it was very similar in Trinidad. 

Supervision.  I prefer to be present when work is undertaken as workers are often unsupervised.  There are prolific stories of workers simply not doing anything when found by the owners yet, at the same time, owners are being charged for their time.  I had the rudder replaced by a local contractor in BVI and the guy didn’t appear to fully know what he was doing; his philosophy seemed “hit the quadrant hard enough with a hammer and it should fix the problem”.  The casting was broken, had to be welded (twice) and I eventually complained to his boss to come and supervise the work.  I also had to suggest that they place shims around the top of the rudder shaft as the new stainless shaft was slightly smaller than the previous shaft that held the rudder quadrant.  I shouldn’t have had to do that.

Keep Your Yard Informed.  Boatyards generally want their customers to go away happy and prepared to recommend them to other boat owners.  Many marinas have their ‘favourites’ (contractors) that they recommend to you for work to be carried out – they will be those based at the yard or have satisfied some other criteria that allows them to be contracted while still being based elsewhere.   Yards don’t want to employ/recommend contractors that are not giving good service.  This was very entrenched at Power Boats in Trinidad and part of the culture.  It was also very helpful when I was at Nanny Cay Marina in BVI – on one occasion when I was not happy I raised a concern with the yard manager there and he was very supportive and helpful ie he ‘discussed’ the work being done by the contractor to sort out my problems.  Nanny Cay had just employed a full time manager when I was there to look after their customers’ interests. They have a similar system in place at Power Boats.  I wished I had known how important this was when I first started work on my boat.

Check the Paperwork.  Workers will often exaggerate their time on the job and you will pay for it, because they’ve skived off to have a smoke, have a chat with their mates, etc.  On other occasions, they will be scrupulously honest and get you to sign their time sheets.  Check the arrangements first with your contractor.

Getting Work Done When You Are Not There.  I have found it extremely difficult to get work done successfully in our absence.  Generally, things happen when you are there and probably need to be since one often has to make decisions on the spot which aren’t apparent initially eg when there are several options to be considered – difficult to do via email really.  If you are planning to have work done, include time to stay up on the hard or on the dock (at least a week or two) before launching so that you can be there to supervise any work.

Good Contractors.  In BVI my top contractor/technician was a Canadian, also an active sailor at the Bitter End Yacht Club.  Even though his boss charged top dollar, he provided top quality work, talked to me about what he was doing, did more than I asked for and willingly passed on to me other information to help me learn about my engine, plus plus.  My BVI Yacht Sales broker and his fellow staff members were also very good and extremely helpful whenever I bothered them for advice, which was often and wide ranging.  In Trinidad, the expert riggers (local and expat) from Trinidad Rigging were very helpful and professional.  The canvas man, from The Upholstery Shop in Power Boat’s compound in Trinidad, was very cooperative and did excellent work.  In Guadeloupe, when I had to get the generator fuses fixed, an electrician (Waypoint) even went as far as to lend me his personal car so that my son and I could purchase a few bits and pieces on the other side of town. This was exciting for us – driving around a large city on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.  He also explained things as he worked on the generator.  The two marinas - Power Boats in Trinidad and Nanny Cay Marina in BVI - have been great and very helpful.  You just have to find the good people and avoid the not-so-good, a challenge but don’t be afraid to trust your instincts.

Deliveries & Orders.  I would have to advise against picking up bits & pieces along the way as you cruise unless you really have to – let me explain.  Initially, our main constraint was weather (it was the start of the hurricane season and we needed to keep moving on to Trinidad) and our order for a windvane self steering device came (from the UK) in 2 boxes, separately.  We picked up one box and fitted the contents in St Martin – duty free and waited for the next delivery, the all important auxiliary rudder.  We had to move on before the second box arrived so stopped in Antigua then in Guadeloupe; finally the rudder arrived and we could be on our way.  Not before paying duty and being hijacked by a local taxi driver – a most unpleasant experience, which fortunately, the marina staff helped me sort out.  In another instance in BVI we ordered some spare parts.  As they hadn’t arrived before the date we were due to leave, a fixed date we had originally passed onto the contractor, we let the business know we were leaving.  Some four months later, he was still demanding payment for an item we never received, even going so far as to importune the yacht broker staff for the money.  So, keep records of everything – what & when you order, especially who you speak to and what was said!  And remember those 3 P’s…..

Year 1: Work in BVI 2008 (Part 3)

Minor Repairs.  Included:
  1. Small Crack in Hull Gelcoat.  Repaired, with epoxy filler, small crack in hull surface gelcoat about a foot above the starboard waterline. 
  2. Timber Repairs.  Numerous bits of furniture, floor lamination, etc were cracked, had come apart, floor laminate lifting, etc and these have generally needed simple ongoing repairs.  The floor panels, teak and holly, are often different shades and, one day, will need replacing.
  3. Stanchion Bases.  A couple of stanchion bases needed to be removed, re-welded and refitted.
  4. Some hairline gelcoat cracks around gunwales, to be repaired.
  5. Navigation lights on mast needed repair ie wiring or globe replacement.
  6. Purchased/fitted safety gear like liferaft, lifejackets, lifesling, flares, etc.
That's right - the refreshments were cold on Virgin Gourda too!

All these repairs, replacements, etc took two months for 2 people plus various contractors.  It was an intense time and we worked all day most days but it resulted in my feeling confident that WJ3 met many of our initial, important priorities.  We could safely sail away to St Martin (& its duty free marine goods) and then on to Trinidad to get out of the hurricane belt (at my insurance company’s insistence). 

It’s important to realise that although you are now in the water and sailing, there are still things that need to be tweaked or added to make life a little less “thrilling” or perhaps just plain common sense.  I’m not advocating for a reckless assault on boys’ toys to pimp up your yacht, just handy gadgets that add to efficiency, safety and comfort.

Crossing the Anegada Passage to St Martin

Year 1: Work in BVI 2008 (Part 2)

Plumbing.  One of the starboard water tanks had ‘sunk’ a bit in its recess and an inlet hose had come adrift, so it was leaking a lot of fresh water.  Very difficult to get to so I bunged the whole lot up with a bronze screw in plug.  It still does its job – just takes a little while longer to fill via the shared breather with a neighbouring tank. Replaced main cabin shower sump. Added additional length of hose to automatic bilge pump so that it sat on bottom of bilge – some plumbing lines appear to have shrunk a little over the years. Water tap to galley sink leaking and repacked with plumber’s tape.  Replaced washers in sink drains as they were leaking.

Fridge and Freezer - 110 Volt.  Repaired in BVI with new thermostat, plus one or two other things – worked fine afterwards.  Fridge compressor appears to be quite new.

Thankfully, the fridges at Josiahs Bay Bar worked well

Air Conditioning/Cooling Units.  New air conditioner fitted in port aft cabin to replace one that was heavily corroded and unserviceable.  Very expensive but earned its keep whilst in tropical ports. I made the mistake of throwing away the old computer card that had all the wiring coming to it – big mistake, as the technician was more than happy to remind me on several occasions.  I assumed that he would have known what to do but apparently that wasn’t so. 

Fans.   I’ve also added Hella fans below which are great – use very little electricity and they are very quiet – I wired them to the lighting wiring, easy and I just copied what the techhy did when installing the first one for me.

Hot Water Heater.  The hot water heater was internally corroded and had to be replaced completely – contractor did it but I would in future as it isn’t difficult and, of course, it would come with instructions, plus you would have the old set up to use as a guide.

As they were at Bomba Shack....

Batteries.  The original batteries were all well down on fluid and some cells in the house batteries had no battery acid in them at all.  In 2008 replaced the two 4D house batteries and the starter battery.

Tank Gauges. Several of these did not work. They will need fixing/replacing eventually.

Year 1: Work in BVI 2008 (Part 1)

After purchasing WJ3, I followed the surveyor’s report (made prior to purchase) to address those things that needed to be fixed.  Most of this work was carried out in BVI by me, my son (when not surfing or generally schmoozing) and contractors where necessary.

Bow Fitting.  Condemned in the initial survey, there were supposed to be hairline cracks in the bow fitting. I tried to replace it. Hunter sent me the wrong fitting though, so I had to send it back.  Eventually we had the original bow fitting stain tested; no cracks found, so we put it back on after reinforcing the bow area with more fibreglass.  This included replacing two damaged plastic rollers @ $200 each (wow!). Got my money back from Hunter after a lot of mucking around and wasted time. 

Anchor & Anchor Well. I purchased a larger anchor as one of my first purchases (a Rocna) – use it all the time with 300+’ of 5/16’’ tested chain (equivalent to 3/8’’ normal chain) – holds very well and digs in quickly -  great peace of mind, especially when you leave the boat on its own.  Anchor Well reinforcing bracket needed fibreglass repair as it had partially delaminated – did it myself. Enlarged drain holes to make them more flush with bottom of anchor well. Put plastic grating down to raise chain a bit above floor where there is often water sitting. A couple of studs in the anchor winch needed to be loosened as they had seized in place, needed to remove the winch to do it in a workshop.  Winch appeared to be fairly new but I had the electric wiring serviced and refitted.

Lifelines.  Replaced with all new wire and terminals by rigger.

Mast and Standing Rigging.  Replaced all wire with new.  Had mast-steps fitted all the way up tot the top of the mast.  Spinnaker pole purchased and a mast track attached to the front of the mast, new wind instrument, main topping lift and halyard added, goose neck fitting re-bushed (plus a spare one purchased), repaired Selden boom vang fitting on bottom of boom by fixing the vang in place (rather than it sliding backwards and forwards which in effect meant it didn’t work), plus serviced mast and jib furlers.  Fitted new luff feeder for jib. 

Rudder.   I replaced the rudder that originally came with the boat – it had a fibreglass/carbon stock and there have been a number of failures on other boats.  Mine had a bit of water leaking around the join of the stock to the rudder indicating a crack perhaps.  Whether fibreglass rudder stocks are good or bad  (since some other boat manufacturers also use fibreglass stocks) could be debated perhaps however I wasn’t going to take any more chances than necessary and also Hunter sell stainless-stock rudders, which must indicate something.  Another Hunter 460 at the yard where I bought the boat also replaced his rudder for the same reason and the new rudders and their stocks appear to be very substantial – clearly a major improvement on the fibreglass ones.  Makes for peace of mind when sailing. 
Main Engine.  Changed oil, fuel filters, etc and had engine checked (twice).  Primary fuel filter also used to get a bit dirty and has needed cleaning but seems to have fixed any problems with regular engine running, turnover of fuel, and regular inspections/cleaning/changing of primary filter.  Cleaned up engine and sprayed with CRC heavy duty corrosion inhibitor – great stuff. Engine mounts may need replacement in future but appear to be ok for now.

Propeller Shaft Strut.  This needed repair as a line appeared to have wrapped itself around the prop shaft and bent the strut.  Prop shaft withdrawn, checked for straightness, and then put back.  Prop strut bent and needed removal and straightening before being refitted.  New cutlass bearing also fitted at this time.  Prop also needed a blade repaired.  All have worked fine since being repaired and put back together.

Engine Throttle Control.  This had to be replaced with a new one.  I employed a local guy to help me do this and it turned out to be the wrong way round ie when the throttle/gear lever was pushed forward the engine engaged reverse.  I fixed it myself in the end.

Northern Lights 6kw Generator.  Initially, new filters, oil changed.  Raw water pump bearing replaced by contractor as pump leaked. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Repairs, Replacements and Upgrades

Our priorities were fairly simple and dictated where our money went when it came to deciding what would be purchased.  Yes, we had a bargain boat but there were numerous repairs to be done and we wanted improvements that met our needs and that meant taking a month or two of each cruising season for the first few years to make our adjustments, and importantly to keep them affordable.

Safety (and security).  The first priority was to ensure the boat was sound and seaworthy.  We intended to live on board for 6 months each year and travel widely for at least 10 years.  That meant leaving the security of our purchase cruising-grounds (as lovely as they were – check out the BVI on the internet!) and see something of the world, albeit ever so slowly.

Comfort.  This covers a couple of concerns.   Firstly, we must have room to live comfortably for 6 months each year – WJ3 is our “home away from home”.  That means good mattresses, nice showers and loos that work.  It means room to store lots of books and space to sit and plonk away at the computer. 

It also means having room to share with family and friends and not having to worry where to store sails, fishing rods and other gear that one accumulates on a sailboat.  Secondly, we are not getting any younger.  We don’t want to be overtaxed handling sails in big seas and strong winds or struggling to store the dinghy on deck at night (just to make sure it’s there in the morning!).

DIY.  I like to get to know my boat(s) at a personal level and that means being prepared to do-it-yourself.  Obviously there are some things best left to professionals – like replacing the rigging or setting up an autopilot – but on the whole, the more you are prepared to do yourself, the better.  Firstly, you get to know how systems work – always good when they break down (usually in the most remote of anchorages) and secondly, you can save yourself some serious money.  Professional rates can come in at more than $70 per hour.