Author Archives: Randy

About Randy

Airline Captain, USCG 100 ton Master with Radar and Towing Endorsements

Patton

A life well lived, Patton Mowrey February 25, 2002-April 24, 2017ÔĽŅ

Patton and his ball

Patton and his ball

It has been our policy to use our blog to share with all of you just how wondrous our family’s Caribbean cruising experience has been. Indeed, we think it has been a transformative experience for all of us. That said, magical trip or not, we have not been insulated from the ups and downs that life has for cruisers and our land based friends alike. Sadly, this post is not one that is likely to bring a smile to your face. We have kept this brief simply because the grief we are all feeling is something that has left us all without adequate words.

Monday, April 24, 2017, will be entered into the Pilots’ Discretion logbook as the saddest day of our Caribbean experience. We had to have our crew member, and all around best buddy Patton, euthanized at the veterinary clinic on St. Lucia. The specific illness that took our pal from us was a very aggressive metastatic series of mast cell tumors. The truth is that after 15 plus years of a wonderful life, Patton’s little body had worn out.

Our entire family was with Patton to the end. Ryan and Ronan waited in the clinic waiting room as the Dr. called Theresa, Patton, and I into the exam room. After the Dr. explained the specifics of the procedure, it was time to do what we dreaded but understood was in Patton’s best interest. Theresa and I held him in our arms as the last of his life ebbed away. Gladly, I can report that he did not suffer in those final moments. After he had passed, the entire crew of the Pilots’ Discretion took one last dinghy ride with our buddy so that Patton the “boat dog” could have a proper burial at sea. His final resting place is several miles offshore the island of St. Lucia.

We miss Patton terribly but we will never forget him.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

 

Patton, Loblolly Beach, Anegada, BVI

Happy 15th Birthday Patton! (by Randy)

imageYesterday was a pretty important day aboard the Pilots’ Discretion. Patton, our intrepid, world traveling Cocker Spaniel turned fifteen (15) years old. Way back when we initially left the comfort zone of our home marina in Tarpon Springs, Florida (2 and 1/2 years ago) we had some concerns with how well our then 12 year old buddy would adapt to a life at sea. Our concerns were completely unfounded. Patton is the first one up every morning and the last one to turn in each night after surveying the boat to assure himself that the entire crew is accounted for.Patton Kindle

Patton crew

Patton crew

He loves excursions in the dinghy and he has his favorite spot picked out under the Captain’s helm chair for long passages.

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Randy & Patton in front of Tthe Indians, B.V.I.

Randy & Patton in front of the Indians, B.V.I.

The story would not be complete without acknowledging there have been some concessions made due to the decision to cruise with Patton. We do not patronize places along the way that are not dog friendly. We have on rare occasions had more difficulty clearing immigration as a result of declaring Patton as part of our crew but all in all, he has been a very positive addition to our crew and we would not consider having it any other way.

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Reupblic

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Republic

 

For those of you following our blog who are not dog people, I am sure you just scratch your head when you see me acting like a very proud papa when talking about Patton. To the dog people following us, I know that I need to say no more.

Happy birthday Patton, the crew of the Pilots’ Discretion loves you‚̧ԳŹ

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

 

Plan B, Every Cruiser Needs One! (by Randy)

As I am writing this, it is late January and we are secured in our slip in the Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, West Indies. We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in St. Lucia, and we had thought we would be headed northbound by now, working our way back towards Florida. Unfortunately, the only member of the Pilots’ Discretion crew to get back to Florida was her Captain, and that was to see his favorite orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan.

Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan, Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan

My left shoulder had been bothering me since we were in Grenada but I considered it mainly a nuisance and intended to have it addressed when we got the boat back to Florida. This month, I went back to Florida to attend to some of our business issues and thought I would stop by Dr. Moynihan’s office to make sure he concurred with my assessment that I could defer action on my shoulder until the conclusion of our Caribbean trip. Initially, he was quite encouraging, telling me that he had seen the pictures on our blog of our Caribbean adventures and was fairly comfortable telling me that if the shoulder were seriously injured, I would not likely have been so enthusiastic with my outdoor activities.

He did however tell me that the only way to know for certain would be to do an MRI. Two days later, MRI in hand, the good Dr. gave me the news that the MRI looked very good except for that troublesome torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder. He outlined the specific issues as he highlighted the relevant areas of the MRI. Unfortunately, his conclusion was that any significant deferral of the surgery could make a full recovery more difficult. The good news is that Dr. Moynihan is a can do type of guy and a good problem solver. He told me he was confident that he could do the surgery on a Friday and have me back in St. Lucia the following Tuesday to begin my rehab assignment in the tropics.

Anyone that has gone through a rotator cuff repair can tell you that it is approximately as much fun as two root canals followed by a nice nap in a bed of fire ants.

That said, it sucks for me that I will be forced to do my approximately 3 month rehab in the shadow of St. Lucia’s fabled Pitons, being cooled by the ¬†trade winds of the Caribbean.

Cruising Past the Pitons, St. Lucia

Cruising Past the Pitons, St. Lucia

The practical implications of all of this gets us to the Plan B mentioned in the title of this post. Given that the surgery is now scheduled for early February and¬†accounting for ¬†the length of the required rehabilitation program, we will be unable to safely move the Pilots’ Discretion before the beginning of the 2017 Caribbean hurricane season. Plan B has now come sufficiently into view for us to conclude that we will likely be enjoying the St. Lucian beauty and hospitality until the end of next summer. We will of course keep you apprised via our blog as we suffer through the execution of our Plan B.

Hurricane Matthew heading towards Haiti

Phew, that was close! (by Randy)

When we last posted, Tropical Storm Matthew was just northeast of Grenada, headed west. Thankfully, Grenada did not experience a direct hit. Matthew skirted just north of Grenada as a Tropical Storm with maximum winds of 60 knots before exploding into a category 4/5 major hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson scale (so far maximum sustained winds have reached 165 knots with gusts to 195 knots). Our preparations were more than adequate for the weather we experienced from the outer bands of the Tropical Storm and we are now breathing a sigh of relief as we watch what has become a massive storm march relentlessly toward Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and other points north that are not yet clearly defined. Our good wishes and prayers are with our many friends both aboard boats and ashore that are potentially still in the crosshairs of Matthew.

Category 4 Hurricane Matthew

Category 4 Hurricane Matthew

Pilots Discretion being hauled at Spice Isle Marine, Grenada

Pilots Discretion being hauled at Spice Isle Marine, Grenada

We did not want to move on without sharing our experience addressing what should have been routine maintenance for the Pilots’ Discretion. We generally haul our boat out of the water every other year to refresh the bottom paint on the hull. Due to the fact that Pilots’ Discretion lives in a salt water environment, she over time will build up a layer of marine growth on her hull that left unaddressed, results in excessive parasite drag, which in turn reduces her range and increases our fuel bill (ouch). The way that we minimize this is a combination of elbow grease, in the form of a diver cleaning the growth off the bottom (now you guys know why we

Micron 66 and Propspeed

Micron 66 and Propspeed

decided to teach Ryan to dive!) and the application of very expensive, yet effective anti fouling paint to the hull. The only way to accomplish the painting portion of this strategy is to haul the boat, which brings us to the entertaining part of the story that begins at Spice Island Marine boat yard.

Spice Island Marine is one of two major boat yards in Grenada equipped to handle boats of our size and larger. Since renewing the bottom paint is essentially a calendar driven event, we have been planning for this since last summer. We actually made our reservation for haul out months before we arrived in Grenada. The regularly scheduled haul out maintenance generally takes 3-4 days so to be safe we made a plan for 5 days. ¬†The week before we were scheduled for haul out, I made an appointment with the management at Spice Island Marine to go over the specific details of our maintenance to do list as well as to confirm what would be expected from both boat yard staff and Pilots’ Discretion crew upon our arrival at the Travel Lift that would remove Pilots’ Discretion from the water in Prickly Bay, Grenada.

To make sure that we were in position at the appointed hour (originally 9 a.m.), we took Pilots’ Discretion on a short 7 nautical mile cruise from Port Louis Marina southeast to Prickly Bay the night before. We moved our boat in company with our friends on M/V Seamantha, a Krogen 58 who were scheduled to be hauled just before us at 8¬†a.m. the next morning. We settled in for a nice evening sunset in Prickly Bay, looking forward to our scheduled morning haul out.

Our first indication that things were not going according to schedule came when we got a call on the radio from Seamantha around 8¬†a.m. telling us that they were going to be delayed being hauled out by about an hour due to boat yard scheduling issues. They told us that a boat had shown up, unscheduled just as the sun set and had positioned himself in the slip where the Travel Lift works to remove boats from the water. The unscheduled arrival announced that since he was a “regular” that he did not need an appointment and Seamantha would just have to wait (along with everyone scheduled after her). After much chatter back and forth on the radio, the boat yard told us that we would be rescheduled to be hauled at 11 a.m. and they would give us a 15 minute heads up to position ourselves off the slip for haul out. Having heard nothing from the boatyard by 11:50 a.m., I called them to inquire about our status. They politely said, “we are sorry, we meant to call you, you can come on in now.” OK, all’s well that ends well.

We undid our mooring lines and idled the 1/4 mile to the haul out slip. As soon as we positioned our boat in the slip, the yard foreman came out and inquired what we were doing in the slip as he was scheduled to launch a boat at 1¬†p.m. and we would have to wait. I politely explained to him that he must be confused since we in fact were scheduled to be hauled out at 9¬†a.m. and since it was now after 12¬†noon, we were going to do our best to help him get back on schedule. I also explained to him that the Pilots’ Discretion would only be leaving the slip one way and that was by Travel Lift to be placed on her maintenance stands. Now you see, we are getting off to a bad start with a guy who would soon be my new best ¬†pal.

After a whole bunch of grousing, my new pal correctly came to the conclusion that it would be in our mutual best interest if he spoke less and hauled more. Pilots’ Discretion was safely secured in her maintenance blocks just after 3 p.m. Did I mention to you that the yard closes at 4 p.m. and it was becoming apparent that the yard crew begins to prepare for that event about 3 p.m. Day 1 in the yard slips by with little work to show for it. On day 2, we were unable to be at the boat yard in the morning as “Patton,” our 14-year-old Cocker Spaniel, had a series of appointments at the St. George’s University veterinary clinic. Fortunately, the crew from Seamantha stood in for us at the boat yard to see that work began on Pilots’ Discretion. When we arrived at the yard mid afternoon, the preparation and painting process was well underway.

Sanding and painting the bottom

Sanding and painting the bottom

Day 3 began with the arrival of additional outside contractors that we needed to address some minor electrical issues (we were adding a replacement underwater light for our transom as well as changing our bow thruster from its original design 3 bladed propeller to a new, more efficient 6 bladed design). Zinc plates were replaced and the anchor chain painted and marked. At the end of the day, it appeared doubtful that we would complete the project in the planned 4 days. Did I mention that we were hauled on a Tuesday, now we are coming up on the weekend.

Propspeed looks good, but the new LED underwater light casing still needs anti-fouling paint

Propspeed looks good, but the new LED underwater light casing still needs anti-fouling paint

 

Bottom paint nearly done, now to get under those chock blocks!

Bottom paint nearly done, now to get under those chock blocks!

Friday was spent adding the second coat of 3 planned coats of bottom paint. Given that each coat of paint must be allowed to adequately dry prior to the next coat being applied it was becoming impossible to launch before the weekend. What the heck, it is only money and the view from our temporary home at Mt. Cinnamon resort was spectacular! We will be in the water Monday for sure.

After a weekend of rest, everyone arrived back at the boatyard refreshed and ready to accomplish great things. My new best pal proudly walked me around Pilots’ Discretion to show me what a fine job they had done.

When I mentioned to him that the dinghy lift had been stripped to bare metal but had not been repainted he feigned surprise and said ” you wanted us to paint that too?” “Yes we did,” and did I mention that in addition to not painting things that did need painted, they did manage to paint a lot of places that were not supposed to be painted. After another trip to the front office and much grousing, it was determined that we were actually the customer and if we did not think the job was complete, the job was not complete. In the end, we got all of our issues addressed adequately.

It was not easy and the process ended up taking 8 days instead of the usual 4 but Pilots’ Discretion is back in the water. Next stop, additional electrical system modifications and a complete overhaul of the boat’s sanitation system. Did I mention that maintaining Pilots’ Discretion at times feels like a full-time job?

Invest 97L track

We were going to write about our experience at the boat yard but the very real likelihood of an encounter with a tropical weather system has changed all of that! (by Randy)

We shared our great experience at Mount Cinammon Resort while our boat was being hauled in our last post. Our plan was to utilize this post to share our experiences with the boat yard. Sometimes the best laid plans have to be altered due to some unforeseen event. What will likely become Huricane Matthew in the next week is just such an unexpected surprise for folks in the Southern Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Matthew approaching the eastern Caribbean

Tropical Storm Matthew approaching the eastern Caribbean

This time of year, the West Coast of Africa spits off massive amounts tropical energy known as waves and a lot of these waves develop into tropical storms. Due to a number of meteorological reasons, most of the systems that turn into tropical storms make a more northward turn towards the Greater Antilles chain of islands, leaving folks like those of us in Grenada in the clear. Not so this time! The best forecast models available are showing that what the National Hurricane Center is now calling Invest 97L will likely develop into Hurricane Matthew. They are predicting a track that will place it just slightly north of Grenada when he passes.

Invest 97L approaching the Lesser Antilles

Invest 97L approaching the Lesser Antilles. We are right in the predicted cross hairs

The hurricane experts are estimating that Matthew will not gain hurricane strength until after he is northwest of the Spice Island. That is good news for us but it is by no means a certainty so all of the prudent mariners in our neighborhood are kicking their hurricane preparations into high gear. A number of Mega Yachts, including Steve Jobs’s 257′ “Venus,” have arrived today with an unscheduled stop at the Port Louis Marina seeking the security of the most stoutly constructed docks within several hundred miles.

Ronan & Ryan in front of Venus, Port Louis Marina, Grenada

Ronan & Ryan in front of Venus, Port Louis Marina, Grenada

For our part, we have taken our antennas down, added additional mooring lines and fenders, taken our dinghy out of the water and secured it to our tender lift with multiple stainless steel straps.

Preparing for the storm

Preparing for the storm

Once we accomplished all of that, we had drills to make sure the entire crew knows the routine to get off the boat safely should the need arise when the weather system arrives. As this is being written at 3:45pm, the weather has begun a subtle change. It has been unusually hot and still today with very light breezes. Just in the last hour or so the breezes have begun to stiffen, making it extra challenging for all of the last minute arrivals as they are trying to maneuver into the remaining open slips to ride out the storm.

Port Louis Marina staff wrestling with arriving sailboat as the winds pick up

Port Louis Marina staff wrestling with arriving sailboat as the winds pick up

We will post a follow up to our story as conditions and opportunity allows.

 

Improvise, adapt and overcome! (by Randy)

Vessel Vanguard

Vessel Vanguard

GENERAL MAINTENANCE

We have been utilizing our boat as our floating home for over a year now. In addition to living aboard her, we have travelled approximately 3600 nautical miles since we left Florida. One of the constant and ongoing requirements for an active vessel at sea is a rigorous maintenance program. We have been utilizing the Vessel Vanguard program to track our ongoing maintenance and it has proven very helpful. We have access to an interactive website that follows all of the routine maintenance schedules for the Pilots’ Discretion. It provides us alerts to upcoming maintenance as well as maintaining a parts inventory and equipment utilization records for all of the various systems aboard. We have tried to be very proactive in anticipating the potential for equipment failure and it’s implications for our operational readiness.

Despite our diligent attention to the Pilots’ Discretion maintenance, occasionally we are confronted with an unanticipated requirement for technical support. Usually, it turns out that we need to find a part in an out of the way spot or get a second opinion on some minor equipment malfunction. A couple of days later we are on our way with the offending system back on line.

DINGHY ISSUES

During our passage from St. Kitts to Antigua, we encountered a potentially catastrophic failure with our dinghy. We took the dinghy to shore in Majors Bay, St. Kitts for Patton’s morning walk and I noticed that the fuel gauge moved very quickly from full to nearly empty in the course of 20 minutes (we had just fueled the dinghy). In addition, the smell of gasoline was extremely strong and upon inspection, the bilge had two inches of raw gasoline floating in it. Anyone with any boating experience knows that gasoline in the bilge creates a very hazardous and potentially explosive situation. I checked all of the fuel lines throughout the boat and motor and could find no leaks. We elected to drain the bilge, clean it out as best we could and bring the dinghy aboard, not to be run again until we found some competent help to track down and repair our mysterious fuel leak.

Ryan, Randy & Patton securing the dinghy in Majors Bay, St. Kitts

Ryan, Randy & Patton securing the dinghy in Majors Bay, St. Kitts

We communicated with our cruising friends,  John and Paulette Lee aboard M/V Seamantha (via our Delorme satellite communications system) and they volunteered to do some online research regarding options for us for our arrival in Antigua. Before we had Antigua on the radar,  John had gotten back to us with the recommendation that we contact the folks at Seagull Inflatables (www.seagullinflatables.com) in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua.

 

Seagull Inflatables, Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Seagull Inflatables, Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

As soon as we had the Pilots’ Discretion safely secured at Nelson’s Dockyard, I reached out to Seagull Inflatables owner, Mr. Dino Bruschi, and explained our issue. Dino told me he would be at our boat within an hour to evaluate and advise. True to his word, Dino was onboard Pilots’ Discretion and hard at work evaluating our fuel leak within the hour. The bad news was that he felt the integral aluminum fuel tank had failed. Ordinarily, that would not be a big deal but the engineering drawings of our dinghy showed that the tank had been put in place with no access points for maintenance. In fact, the tank had been installed and then fiber glassed in place. The net result to us was that the only way to access the tank was to literally cut it out of the boat. This was going to be major surgery for our dinghy with it’s still shiny new 40hp Yamaha outboard. I was having visions of the entire thing ending up on a scrap heap in Antigua. To his credit, Dino was not quite as pessimistic as I was. He assured me that he had a first rate shop and could complete the repair in a fashion that would meet our requirements and our budget.

The gas tank was sealed beneath the fiber glass & had to be cut out

The gas tank was sealed beneath the fiber glass & had to be cut out

Once the suspect fuel tank was removed, we found the source of our mysterious fuel leak. The fuel tank had been part of the boats electrical bonding system (a robust bonding system prevents a condition known as galvanic corrosion, a form of corrosion of metals that can present itself in the marine environment anytime salt water and electrical current are present) Somewhere along the way, the bonding strap that was attached to the fuel tank broke off.

The bonding strap on the fuel tank was missing which caused galvanic corrosion to occur

The bonding strap on the fuel tank was missing which caused galvanic corrosion to occur

Once that occurred, it was just a matter of time before galvanic corrosion would take its toll on the aluminum tank.

A tiny little hole in your gas tank can really ruin your day!

A tiny little hole in your gas tank can really ruin your day!

We found the corrosion holes, replaced the tank and installed a more robust bonding attachment to the new tank. After all of this, the magicians at Seagull Inflatables still had to reconstruct our tender in a way that was both cosmetically flawless and resulted in a stronger boat than we had arrived with. Throughout the process, Dino was diligent about communicating with me 3 or 4 times a day to make sure that I had the opportunity to participate fully in the development and implementation of the repair. Our dinghy is once again operational and if I do not show you the improved structure around the fuel tank, you would not be able to tell that there had ever been a problem. We cannot say enough good things about the way the folks at Seagull Inflatables go about their business. Thank you Dino and crew for an outstanding repair on short notice. For any fellow cruisers that require any attention to their tender or safety equipment while in Antigua, we would urge you to contact the folks at Seagull Inflatables. Dino can be reached on his cell at 1 (268) 725-4466. Thanks again Dino for a first rate repair.

Randy polishing the dinghy

Randy polishing the dinghy

Technical Services in the British Virgin Islands

Given that the BVIs lie approximately half way between Florida and Grenada, it is a logical place to plan to stop to attend to the inevitable maintenance issues that come up on a cruising boat. We have encountered several mechanical issues that required the help of well qualified technicians both on our way south last year and again this month as we cruised the British Virgin Islands. As has been our policy in the past, we are not going to focus on the vendors that we have encountered that did less than satisfactory work but rather provide you recommendations for companies and individuals that we have found to be both honest and competent.

Welding and Westerbeke Genset

Our list of reputable firms in the BVI has to begin with BVI Marine Management in Nanny Cay. Mr. Tim Brown is the Service Manager there and he is a tremendous resource to call upon if you need anything boat maintenance related. We utilized BVI Marine Management to do some stainless steel fabrication and welding last year when we were redesigning our tender lift to better deal with the sometimes rough conditions that we have encountered in the Caribbean. Additionally, they have helped us obtain parts for our Westerbeke Genset (BVI Marine is a Westerbeke authorized dealer). BVI Marine Management can be contacted at (284) 494-2938.

Cummins QSM 11s

Sanchez Christopher

Sanchez Christopher

When we arrived in the BVI earlier this month, we needed to have some work done on our main engine heat exchangers and after coolers. I called Tim Brown at BVI Marine Management and asked if they could do the work and he informed me that they did not have the capacity to work on QSM 11s but he had a solid recommendation. I was referred to John, the Service Manager at Parts and Power, in Road Harbor, Tortola, (284) 494-2830. Again, we were dealt with honestly and the work performed was excellent and more than met our expectations. The technician assigned to our boat was Mr. Sanchez Christopher.  Sanchez is a very knowledgable and hardworking diesel mechanic and it was a pleasure working with him.

Air conditioning and Refrigeration

Our final recommendation for the BVI is Mr. Alfred August , Manager at Marine Cooling Systems. If you have any refrigeration or cooling issues while in the BVI, Alfred is the guy to call. Alfred can be reached at (284) 441-6556 or email at marinecoolingsystems@gmail.com.

We recognize that there are many other well qualified technicians in the BVI and this list is in no way intended to be all inclusive. We have always felt more comfortable calling on someone whom we have had a favorable recommendation from a fellow cruiser; someone who understands the lifestyle and the resulting demands on our mechanical systems aboard our floating home. If our recommendations can provide you with that little bit of extra comfort factor while trying to address mechanical issues in unfamiliar territory, we are happy to help out. We will keep our list updated as we establish relationships with other vendors and technicians along the way.