Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Goodbye Mr. Perkins

This blog entry is dedicated to a topic far from our normal descriptions of traveling adventures and focuses instead on the month-long engine upgrade for Atalanta. Atalanta is one of six 44’ Little Harbors built that are center cockpit.  She is a semi-custom made sloop built in 1983 by Ted Hood, one of America’s iconic yachtsman.  Atalanta was, in fact, owned by Ted for her first three years and like all his boats bore the name Robin Too and was painted with his signature hull color of Stars and Stripes Blue

Ownership of a boat like Atalanta brings with it an obligation to maintain her and to keep her in good if not great “Bristol” condition.  There are two aspects of maintenance: cosmetic and mechanical.  We try to make sure that all is maintained by us unless said maintenance requires a level of expertise that we don’t possess. 

After 31 years of service, Mr. Perkins (as our 4154 Perkins Engine is fondly called) has met the end of its usable life.  Although we are a sailboat, the auxiliary engine is critical to our ability to do the kind of travel that Atalanta is designed to do and that we are doing with her.  Mr. Perkins began requiring more frequent and expensive service so we decided it was time, while in Trinidad, to have him changed.

We opted to purchase a Yanmar 4YH-4HTE which is a 100 HP engine.  While the new engine is 35 HP more than Mr. Perkins, it is physically smaller.  It was always felt that the Perkins was a bit underpowered for Atalanta.  The Yanmar should be better suited to pushing the boat through more difficult sea conditions.  It will be more efficient and use less fuel and of course be more reliable.
Re-powering a center cockpit boat is a complicated, difficult job.  The engine is tucked deep in the center of the boat under the galley.  In order to pull it out, one must remove the gen-set (another diesel engine, that generates 110 volt electricity), remove galley cabinetry, slide the 500-pound engine and transmission forward into the main salon of the boat and then lift it with a crane out through the companionway and off the boat. 

The new engine must then be hoisted by crane, maneuvered through the companionway, slid under the galley, and attached to engine mount rails.  Then the shaft has to be refitted, prop re-pitched, new exhaust system installed, and new instruments connected. 

This work is being performed by Gittens Engine Sales and Service company.  Adian Gittens is overseeing the job and has proven to be a master at figuring out the many details. 
We are looking forward to Atalanta’s return to the water the first week in January and continuing on with our adventure.  With her new engine, we will be able to be far more confident in her reliability and safety.

Thanks for following.

Richard and Kay

Mr. Perkins being extracted from under the Galley

He's out and in the Salon
This was the amazing part

On its way out the Companionway

And Mr. Perkins see the light of day
 for the first time in 31 years

Ready to be installed
(starboard side)

(Port Side)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Goodbye South America - Hello Caribbean

Checking out our washing machine 

We left Suriname on October 24th with our friends on Argosea, Tony and Anne.  It was a bittersweet departure as we felt comfortable and welcome in Suriname.  We have to send out a special thank you to Noel, owner and developer of Waterland Marina and Resort for being the best host one could imagine.  

Beautiful Waterland Marina
His warmth and care for us as guests went so far beyond anything we have ever experienced.  To say farewell, Noel and his wife Rika prepared two pots of delicious local crabs, spiced to perfection.  By 8:00 AM the tide/current of the Suriname River was ebbing and flow was in our favor.  We rode the tide 35 miles to the Atlantic and began our four day sail north back to the Caribbean. 

It is hard to describe what passage making is like in a 44-foot sailboat.  The idea of it seems a bit romantic.  

In fact it is challenging even in the best of conditions.  Long hours with watch changes every 4 hours.  When or if you are able to sleep, it is only for four hours and then it is your turn to take another watch.  Someone is ALWAYS on duty. You might think that there is nothing to watch for when you’re 100 miles off shore in the middle of the night.  You would be mistaken.  One night at about 3:30 we were contacted by three ships doing seismic research asking us to alter our course and stay 6 miles off to their east.  You cross paths with tankers and cargo ships and yes, occasionally another yacht. The boat has to be run and sails adjusted in the dark so safely becomes a primary concern.  We wear life jackets at night and “tie in” whenever we leave the cockpit.  It’s a rule that no one leaves the cockpit at night without someone else having eyes on them.  

Drinks on the deck at Waterland

People do like to play dominos in this part of the world

Sunday Brunch with our friends from S/V Argosea

Kay and Elaine

Richard and Don

Dinner to be - thanks Noel

Rika and Noel prepared a great crab fest for our goodbye dinner

Our trip north found mild winds and moderate seas.  At times there was not enough wind to steady the boat from waves coming in on the beam.  This resulted in some hours with excessive rolling and an uncomfortable ride.  We sailed offshore about 75 miles to where the sea reaches a depth of 300 feet to in order to maximize any benefit from the equatorial current.  This moved us along nicely as we passed Suriname, British Guyana, Venezuela, and finally Trinidad.  We rounded the north shore of Trinidad and headed for the NW corner to enter a 5-mile Boca and enter our final port of call at sunrise.

After four days of 4-hour watches, we were tired.  When the boat is tossing about, everything is a challenge:  spending time below deck can wreck havoc with a queasy stomach. Cooking with food sliding across the counter, showering while keeping your balance, and even brushing your teeth is a trial. There is great beauty in the open sea and plenty to occupy your mind, but it is not the same as a weekend cruise to a favorite cove.  It is, however, one of those life experiences we wouldn’t trade. 
The plan is to stay in Trinidad for a few weeks, haul the boat and head back to the States for a month of family and visits.  

We will post again in 2015 when we are once again on the move - to where we do not know.

Richard and Kay

Monday, October 13, 2014

Off the Path

Our month in Suriname has passed so quickly but we’re feeling the itch to move on. It’s time to prepare for our next leg of this journey.

From this point, we will be moving northward and progressively closer to the US.  Suriname and French Guiana mark the southern-most point for us on this multi-year adventure so we made it to 4º.  Suriname should by all accounts be a destination for travelers but is not yet on the map of most journeymen.  Atalanta is berthed at the Waterland Marina, owned and operated by Noel, who has been the most amazing host.  In fact we nominated him for a TripAdvisor award! Not only is he building a lovely garden-like small eco-resort, he has been more helpful and kind than one could imagine.

Our berth at Waterland for the past month
 Upon our arrival, he chauffeured us in his van to acquaint us with area.  He suggested places to visit and events to attend and if we were unsure how to get there, he personally escorted us.

Kay on her way to provision
In the Butterfly Garden
When we had our 4-day rainforest excursion, he took Murray home and returned him 5 pounds heavier claiming that Murray now loves Surinamese food.  We can’t thank Noel enough for his support and friendship. He has even started calling those of us docked here his “floating family.”
Wednesday evening we attended a concert by Sabrina Stark in Paramaribo. A Surinamese-Dutch singer/songwriter, she presented a tribute to American soul legend Bill Withers. We attended with Tony, Anne, John & Deb and all enjoyed a “cultural” night out.

Just a short drive from Paramaribo in Lelydorp is the Neotropical Butterfly Park founded in 1996 by Amira and Ewout Eriks. In addition to a guided tour enabling us to view the wondrous process of butterfly metamorphosis in their nursery, we visited an insect museum, a beautifully painted 360º panorama room, turtle and red-tailed boa breeding areas, the Butterfly Garden, and finally lunched at Kaperka Cafe. Twenty different species of Surinamese butterflies are grown from egg to caterpillar to pupae at which point they are packed and exported to Europe and North America. My favorite area was the Butterfly Garden where we walked along narrow paths among fragrant, flowering plants surrounded by dozens of fluttering butterflies.

We will spend next week preparing for the next part of the trip . . . either to Trinidad or Tobago. It was a long, challenging 6-day trip to get here against the Guyana Current, but we anticipate that favorable winds and that same current will send us back in the opposite direction in only 4 days. 

To prepare we will:
1.     Re-provision
2.     Prepare meals in advance since cooking at sea can involve   chasing flying items around the galley 
3.     Assure mechanical systems are working
4.     Check bilge for leaks, clean salt water strainers
5.     Top off fuel tanks, fill jerry cans
6.     Fill water tanks
7.     Change filters in water-maker
8.     Check safety equipment (jack lines, life jackets, flares, etc.)
9.     Plot course on chart plotter and iPad, Share sail plan with fellow sailors
10. Review weather charts and GRIB files
11. Check sails and lines
12. Check engine and generator
13. Secure boat for rough conditions

Stay tuned for more as we return to Trinidad and Tobago.  Thanks for following. 

Richard and Kay

Misc. Pics form our time in Suriname

Our Guide
Maroon village house on Maroni River

Tony and Ann off for a ride up the Suriname River