Tuesday, July 17, 2012

St Thomas to Trinidad

Our sail from St Thomas to Trinidad was great.  We motored out of Crown Bay Marina and pulled up a double reefed mainsail, hauled up the stays'l, pulled out the Genoa and shut off the engine.  I was mildly concerned by the fact that there seemed to be a little exhaust smell down below but shrugged it off because we really don't use the engine for much.  In fact, we set sail for the west end of St Croix and forgot about the engine.

Wandering Dolphin, true to form, kicked up her heels and began to beat to windward with a big grin on her boat face.  EmilyAnne and I smiled at each other, both of us thinking the same thing, having just spent weeks on board Sweetest Thing, "Now we are sailing!"  With the double reefed main our angle of heel wasn't to bad and she was cutting through the seas quietly, no Cat banging, slapping, groaning, and creaking.  Wandering dolphin is very quiet because she is metal so she doesn't flex and bend like even the best fiberglass boats, and her compartments are shoved so full of the stuff a family of six need to live that there's no room for stuff to shift and bang back and forth.

We rounded St Croix and set a waypoint for Grenada.  Emily and I had just done this passage on Sweetest Thing and it was totally cool to see Wandering Dolphin grab a 33 degree wind angle and still haul along at 6.5 to 7 knots in 15 to 18 knots of wind with her double reefed main, full Genny and Stays'l.  By midnight we pulled down the stays'l and reefed in the Genoa.  Our Genny had a foam luff which we added back in Oriental 5 years ago and it is wonderful.  When you reef in the roller furled Genoa with a foam luff, the middle of the sail rolls in tight and so the sail still keeps a great shape even reefed.  I am really not sure why everyone doesn't have a foam luff.

The rest of the sail to Trinidad was pretty uneventful.  We never started the engine, just sailed.  The boys watched movies when the solar was pumping during the day and even Beck says,
"It was better than most!  Everyone worked hard and treated me like the princess I deserve to be!"
This simply means that Tofer reefed in the sails at dusk so we didn't have to do it in the dark and we kept the sails reefed enough at all times to keep the gunnel out of the water.  We even heaved to just for supper one night!
                                                    (current in the Dragon's Mouth)

We approached the Dragon's Mouth on Friday morning and I had an uneasy feeling about the engine.  This is one of those places where you really want a working engine, the tide rips through the narrow cut and the wind almost disappears between the mountains of Trinidad.  Atlantic swells meet rushing current and a boat can quickly become a play toy with these forces at work.  My concern for the engine must have been a subconscious thing that had been working on me for the five days of the passage.  I had been mulling over the exhaust smell and when I did an inspection it all looked ok but I noticed the oily color to the coolant... my head started thinking head gasket.  I also noticed a lot more oil on the engine... if you have ever had a Perkin's 4108 you will realize that noticing "more" oil is often difficult as they are known for leaking out of their gaskets like water out of a battered bucket.
                                                    (standing wave generated by current)

We decided to test the engine while we were still 10 miles offshore.  Good thing we did, it started but kicked up a billow of exhaust into the cabin, spewed oil and a huge chocolate colored cloud rose from her ass like a fat mans fart.  No power.... We shut her down.
                                                              (our little "tow" boat)

Now what to do?  I got on the sat phone and called Bob (the owner of Sweetest Thing) and he came to our rescue arranging with Peakes Yacht Services for someone to come out and tow us to the dock.
                                                      (Wandering Dolphin - Flying)
Wandering Dolphin was hauled out Monday and we have been stripping her decks and getting her ready to pull out the old engine.  The next big question we were faced with was... do we now repower her or rebuild the Perkins.  After getting bids on a rebuild it seemed a pretty obvious choice to get a new engine.  The Perkins is original to the boat, 1989 and has been in salt water cooling operation all of her days and even rebuilt it would only be a few years before we probably faced block issues.  The new engine will be more fuel efficient and much lighter and smaller.  After a lot of reading on the internet and searching for the best replacement we will be replacing the old blue Perkins with a fire engine red Beta Marine engine.  The new engine will bolt right into our existing power train (Borg Warner Velvet Drive).  This whole process will give us the chance to clean out the whole engine/battery area, set it up more efficiently, replumb the formerly unreachable extra water tank and throw out an old 8-D battery that is buried under all of that stuff and couldn't be removed without the engine being pulled.
                                                (clean bottom after 8 months in the water!)

The engine is a whole new unexpected expense.  The engine added to the other work she needs done this year and the work done on her bottom last summer makes for a complete refit and by the time this is all done old tired Wandering Dolphin will be like a new boat ready to face the Atlantic next year!

Just a note, have a look at the bottom when she was hauled.  She has been in the water for 8 months!  We had NO barnacles and didn't even need to pressure wash her!  Gotta love this Island 44 bottom paint we can put on her down here!

Well I'm off to WORK!
Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny


  1. Glad you guys had a nice trip! Can't believe how clean your bottom is, ours is 12 months old and we have lots of barnacles! I believe I noticed our first barnacle after 3 months! Sorry about your motor, but it will be nice to have a new one! Take care - wish we were there! -Jamie (Zach & Hooch)

  2. I am the original owner of The Wandering Dolphin and pleased to hear that you are enjoying her so much. We put in a deck plate for access to the engine. Would be interested to know how that worked out. The Borg Warner V-drive is a nice piece of kit and am pleased it is still serviceable after over 25 years of service. You need to check the transmission oil cooler and make sure it is still good. I would be surprised if it is still the original. I also wonder if you still have the 3-bladed folding max prop.

    All the best


    1. Mitch!
      Way cool to hear from you! The newest blog shows the work we are doing and the Velvet drive has been great the cooler works well we still have not used the new spare! We just fitted the foam for new cushions today she is going to look GREAT! Thanks for commissioning such a fantastic sailboat.