Jun 10, 2024

New blog platform

The cruising life on S/Y IIRIS ended for us in January 2023 when the boat was sold in Australia.

To keep the costs down I moved the blog to a new platform.

Even though my life now is in Finland, the dream is still there. One day, I'll sail away again...

May 12, 2017

DIY Teak panels

N 14° 27.952', W 60° 52.225'

If you have read our previous blog you have realized that we had to find someone to finish the teak work in our cockpit. Unfortunately we didn't find anyone here in Martinique to finish the job, so I had to do it myself.

Fabricating a teak panel begins with making an epoxy fiberglass base. I did it with two coats of very thin fiberglass mat. I put protective plastic under the epoxy stuff, epoxy won't stick to it.

Next step was to make measurements for the panel. I preferred to make cross measurements. Cross measurements give you error management. If measurements don't match you have made an error. Drawing half angles at this stage makes life much easier later.

When you start to arrange your jigsaw puzzle, you should start with the frame.  First you screw in the stoppers for the frame. Then you make the frame. After this it's easy to fabricate the pieces you need for the rest of the puzzle.

The real boat carpenters use this kind of models. I was told that they handle the 3D dimension of deck. Cross measurements do that too...

The real work is making the teak strips. I suggest starting with the longest. If you make a mistake you can still reuse the piece.

Carpenters have big and fancy tools in their workshops. I used these improvised tools. Jigsaw was used to cut the teak strips to correct lenghts. Belt sander was rigged sideways on plywood with cable ties. I also placed two guides to easily sand the right angles. (Note! Rigging your belt sander sideways on a piece of plywood might void the warranty.)

I decided that the seams would be 3 mm wide and bought some 3 mm plastic batten. When the jigsaw puzzle is ready, you rip it all apart. Degrease the base and teak with lots of acetone (use good mask and gloves). Then carefully spread the epoxy resin to both teak and base. Make sure that the epoxy doesn't cure too fast, use the slowest possible converter for it.

I used pieces of plywood and screws to press the teak strips to the epoxy base. Screws must be very thin so they don't scratch the teak. Gluing is a messy job. Try not to get too much epoxy onto plywood pieces. 

Next step is caulking. Try to put that stuff deep in the seams. It's not very easy but you can also repair it later. Over caulking the new panels is preferred. If you are fixing old teak then use masking tape.

After 48 hours the panels are ready to get rid of the extra caulking. I have to say that this phase needs good nerves. It takes time. Do it lightly. After a while you get a nice peace of teak. If you rush it and use too much force you will ruin all your hard work. Doing things yourself you save money, which you can then use to buy more quality tools.

After the teak panels are sanded and perfected, they must be glued in. We had rehearsals for all the pieces before the gluing. Make marks in the masking tapes, to get the panel back to it's right place. 

We thought that the bending of one the of teak panels to a locker cover would be the most difficult one for gluing. We were wrong.

Deck panels were much more difficult. Especially those angled side areas.

I made a special support for the angled panels.

But it was not only the angles areas that were difficult. Everything that you have to glue in with weights and not with clamps are challenging.  If the surface is not absolutely horizontal the panel gets very slippery for at least an hour. If there is a possibility for the teak panel to slide somewhere, it will.

You need to mask the deck and the teak panel. This is important for handling the excess glue and also to mark the right place for the panel. When the panel is put in it's place the glue starts flowing. It's very difficult to see the edges of the masking tape because of the overflowing glue. Using a cocktail pick you can feel the edge of the the tape, but it's not very easy. Be very patient.

This very same cocktail pick can also later be used to determine the readiness of the glue. The time for removing the masking tape is very tricky. If it stays for too long, the excess glue will be very hard and also very hard to remove. If you try to remove the tape too fast, the glue is very stretchy and can make a big mess. For us in the Caribbean climate it was after about 3 hours that we could remove the extra glue. Then it was easily cut with a knife, but it was not stretchy anymore.

Materials used: Epoxy resin, acetone and fiber glass mat can be found in any marine chandlery. Glue and caulking were products of Teak Decking Systems, these might have to be ordered in.

This project is not the easiest DIY project, but it's still far from the most difficult ones.

Mar 3, 2017

Grenada Marine - Boatyard from hell

N 14° 27.952', W 60° 52.225'

This story starts and ends with teak. 

Our 27 year old cockpit teaks were in bad condition and needed to be renewed. We were also worried of the aluminium under the teak panels.

We found Ben Jefferies who was doing teak work in Grenada Marine. He also had recommendations on Facebook, so we contacted him.

We got a proposal of teak work, which didn't cover treatment of aluminium. Blasting, filling, rectifying and painting. It was our error not to ask for proposal and recommendations of this work. We were stupid to trust Ben.

We made a deal and paid for the teak. We were supposed to go to the boatyard as soon as the teak arrives and they are ready to start sand blasting. That day came and we sailed to Grenada Marine. The first problem with the yard was when they tried to haul us out with double straps, which are too wide for our bottom. They didn't fit between the rudder and the propeller.  After a long argument they got a diver to help with the straps.

Over a week passed and sand blasting didn't begin. Then we got two proposals. US$2.500 for the areas under the teak panels and US$6.500 for the whole cockpit. The price was much higher than we had expected. The whole cockpit really needed painting and Ben said that the painters are very good, so we accepted the offer for the whole cockpit work.

During blasting and painting we couldn't live in the boat, so we moved from the boat for a few nights into a hotel. Because it was only for a few nights, we chose a nice hotel nearby, where they took us by car to and from the boatyard. If we had known that we would spent 24 days in the hotel, we would have chosen a much cheaper accommodation.

They did the blasting. We could see that they didn't blast all the old paint and they also blasted things that they shouldn't have.

It was not so dustless as they promised and the masking work was very badly done.

Days went by and we waited for the paint job to be finished. It was also raining very often. Well, that's not boatyard's fault. Then one Friday afternoon they told us that this was the last paint coat. Next day we could move back on board. We did not check out from the hotel the next morning, because we knew that there was a lot to clean up after the blasting. Our plan was to clean the boat for a day or two and then move back home. We were in very good spirits and full of energy on that Saturday morning. But when we entered the cockpit and saw the paint job, we were chocked!

I started marking paint runnings, but after more that ten I gave up.

There was an unfilled hole on the bottom the cockpit.

Surface was not smooth.

Old paint was not sanded before painting.

When we arrived to the yard the following Monday morning they were already working on the boat. Sanding and preparing to paint once more. Ok, that was the right thing to do.

After the second "final" paint coat there were still few paint runnings.

Paint quality was still very bad.

Now that the maskings were taken off, we could see all the places that were blasted.

It was obvious that we couldn't accept the job. It was very very difficult to get them to paint for the third time. Now I wish that I had checked all the possible things that still could be wrong. 

After third painting we didn't find big problems with the painting. They polished the stainless steel tubes that were blasted. We were so tired of complaining that we let many things pass through.

It was a happy moment when they started to bring new teak panels to the boat.

Oh no! They didn't rectify the floor! There is quarter of an inch gap at the center of the floor. It was filled before, but the blasting removed the fillings.

We wanted to discuss this with Ben. It took two days. 

It's normal. Whenever they smell that something is wrong, they start to avoid you. They get their lunch pack from backdoor, when we are sitting in the front etc.

Ben said that he is disappointed that the surface is not rectified. They cannot bend the teaks. They could fill the area under the teak and paint the edge. It would be "almost good". 

We had already paid for the rectifying and were paying a lot of money for this project. We cannot accept "Almost good". At least not without a compensation.

We demanded that they rectify the floor. Ben told that he had to talk to his boss Jason Fletcher. Next thing Ben told us was that Jason doesn't put any more money in this project. 

Hey! I thought that I was putting money into this project. Even though they have done a lot of warranty work, I am still sure that Jason makes profit out of this. You might have guessed, so far, that the painters are not professionals. They don't really pay them much.

We spent more than half a year in Grenada and hardly ever met any unfriendly people, until we came to Grenada Marine. Most workers were very friendly, but the management was either aggressive or passive. They did not say "Good morning" and they never took eye contact. We found out the reason when we met the yard manager and owner Jason Fletcher. He is aggressive and behaves like a gangster.

We were just chocked about the way they deal with their customers. Our case was that Jason Fletcher told us that we are complaining too much and that's why they are not finishing the work we have ordered. They are charging everything, even they did not do the work. We have to pay or they don't launch us.

It was also obvious that Ben had told Jason a different story than he told us.

Jason should think about the sailors who are not complaining, are those that are hardly using any yard services as we did. We have used rigging, mechanical and woodwork services without complaining anything. We spent more than $10.000 US. Still Jason treated us like scum.

The minute you are hauled out, you are robbed!

We were defeated and we started minimizing the losses. I told the boatyard that we stop all ongoing work there. We pay the ransom and leave.

Of course we took all the unfinished teak work with us.

The very nice guys who had been doing our teak work, were sad that they could not finish their work. However, Ben was smirking: "Are you going to finish that yourself. We woodworkers know each other and no one is finishing this work for you on this island" 

There were also some serious problems with the teak work.

This is the cover of the port locker. It's damaged but never been glued in. We have seen the locker cover ready with the glued teak on it. But not this one. Something has happened to the first one and also to the second try. The aluminium cover is now repainted. So they had build two teak panels and destroyed them both. They also might have been very close to Jason whistle the work finished. We had payed for the teaks beforehand but we never got any of it with us. So they must have spend it all already?

The main reason for bad quality is that they do have professionals in every department, but the professionals don't do the actual work anymore. We had recommendations for Ben and Ben recommended painter Jimmy. Neither did any work on our boat.

Ben was right about no one finishing this job in Grenada. We tried to get Driftwood to finish the job, but I guess the owner was too good of a friend to Ben and declined on doing the job.

Dec 31, 2016

Cruising life, one of those days...

N 11° 59.971', W 61° 45.864'

Here is a story of one of our day in cruising life. This is not the best nor the worst, just average...

My plan was to catch the shopping bus from Prickly Bay Marina in the morning. It's a weekly ritual for me. The bus is cheap and easy. It takes me to the best supermarket on the island, to a veggie shop, to a box store and if someone needs to go, to the best hardware store on the island.

While we had our breakfast it was pouring rain. I packed my waterproof backpack with some extra waterproof bags. Usually normal shopping bags are enough, but we are out of kitchen towels and such... those things don't like rain. Fruits and veggies don't really care...

I was just about to put my rain poncho on, but it stopped raining when I was climbing down into our dinghy. I pulled the cord to start the outboard and of I was... wait... I wasn't. The outboard engine did not go into gear, I tried everything, but nothing helped.

Our dinghy is the most important thing after the boat that we live on.

I climbed back on board. Here goes our New Year eve's dinner, we'll survive on canned food...

More than a year ago we varnished most of the woodwork that is to be seen on the boat. But, we did not have time to varnish all the cupboard doors. Now we have been taking care of those. I'm over sensitive to all chemicals and smells. Paints, varnishes, aftershave, perfume, scented everything. Today I was supposed to be shopping while Timo was doing all the varnishing. Well, I stayed home and tried to stay alive.

It's worth all the suffering, they look good :)

Later in the day, it was not raining anymore, and Timo fixed the outboard. Before this. he watched about two hours of Youtube videos. Now he knows everything about our small outboard engine. 

Life was good again. it's very windy here and we are so far away from the dinghy docks that it's almost impossible to row there. In theory it's possible, but anyone who has tried to row an inflatable dinghy knows that it's only possible in real emergency to row it for almost a mile. So, it was a big relief to be able to motor around again, 

Now that the outboard was working again, I was able to pick up our laundry, two huge sacks of them.

Later in the day I was chatting online with a dear friend of mine. I'm so glad of the modern world when you can actually be in contact with the loved ones from the other side of the world. It was only 20 years ago, when this was still impossible.

In the evening we did what we have done almost every Friday, while we have in Prickly Bay. We went out for dinner, because there is a steel pan band playing. We love what they can do with their pans.

Now we are back home and the best thing that can be done is to go to our bunk and fall asleep in each others arms.  

Sometimes cruising life is hard work, but at the end of the day it pays off. We are still living our the dream in paradise.

Oct 26, 2016

Our life in the Caribbean

N 11° 59.975', W 61° 45.859'

We have been enjoying our life here in the Caribbean so much, that I haven't had time to write. Not really, that was a lie. I have only been writing our blog in Finnish. No one reads this blog, so it's kind of frustrating to write. But I also know, that if I don't write anything, then for sure no one is going to be interested of this blog. When I get this blog up to date, I just might have more interest updating it in the future. At least that's my intention. Even though I know that my non-Finnish friends know how to use Google translator for the Finnish blog.

I'l tell you briefly what we have been up to since January. 

Most of the people we know, try to see as many islands and anchorages as possible. We also like to see new places, but we also like to take it easy. We feel like if you don't stay at least a week in a place, you don't really get to know the place.

We spent one and half months in Martinique, but we did see quite a few anchorages. We also had very big problems to get our dear old CQR to get a grip on the bottom. I'll get back to this later.

We kind of had a dead-line to go to Sint Maarten. A friend of mine, who works on a cargo ship, brought us a bunch of stuff from Finland. The only island we visited betweeen Martinique and Sint maarten was Dominica.

All the countries in the world have different procedures to check in and out of the country. Dominica had it easy. We were able to clear in and out at the same time, as long as we stay maximum 14 days. Well, we stayd exactly 14 days. We enjoyd Dominica a lot. It's maybe the poorest and less developed country of the Lesser Antilles, but I think the people were the friendliest we have met so far. The reason they are less developed is that there is no room to expand the airport. They can not build a runway long enough for the big jets. This keeps the big tourist crowds on the other islands. 

We took a rain forest tour in Dominica. This is whrere Dominica wins. There are not too many tourists which means the island is not too spoiled. Here you can really enjoy the nature.

We were planning on sailing to Guadaloupe, but we wanted to go through it. The bridge in the middle of the butterfly island was broken. This make our decision easy. We'll skip it.

I wanted to go to Antigua a lot. I have very fond memories of it being the first land fall after crossing the Atlantic in 1999. For a couple of reasons we had to skip it. One was the direction of the wind, the next one was the dead-line to get our stuff in Sint Maarten and the last one was that we had a bit of a head cold. So when our time was up in Dominica we just sailed straight to Sint Maarten. 

We achored in Simpson Bay lagoon. It was nice to be out the ocean swell. But everything have at least two sides. The bad side here was that the water was quite dirty.

At this time our plan was to sail to Cuba and after that head for the ABCs for the hurricane season. It was already kind of late in the season so we had to consider our plans again. The result was that we'll head down to Grenada and Trinidad for the summer. 

We ended up staying in the Lagoon for almost two months. In this time we did quite a bit of shopping. Our most important new items were a new anchor and a new outboard motor for the dinghy.

We had had enough problems with our old CQR. CQR is a good anchor when the bottom is nice and sandy. It seems that all the bays just have more and more growth in the bottom and it can not dig in. We had read good reviews on Rocna, but there was no way we could fit an anchor with a roll bar in our bow. We went for the newer model and chose Rocna Vulcan. It's been about six months and so far we are very happy with it.

The bottom of the boat had become terrible in the lagoon. We didn't realize it until we hoisted our anchor and headed out. We thought that the antifouling we applied in the Canaries would be a bit better. It was pretty much waste of money. Our boat speed was terrible and we could not sail anywhere near the wind. We had made plans to sail to Guadaloupe, but there was no way to make it. We ended up in the lee of St. Kitts & Nevis. We stopped for one night in a very rolly anchorage in the northern end of St. Kitts. When we anchored when it was dark already and we continued our way after breakfast. We never went ashore.

Next we tried to get to Dominica. There was no way with our dirty bottom to aim that high. The next island was Martinique. We really had hard time heading there. If you have never experienced a really dirty bottom, you won't understand. We had the same thing in the Canaries. If our speed should be 5 knots, it's 3 knots.The main problem is not the speed. We are not in a hurry The problem is that the boat looses all it's features. A sailboat needs to maintain certain speed for the keel and everything to work like they are supposed to work to be able to beat to the wind.

We finally fought our way back to Martinique. There we started to clean the underwater growth. It was hard work and nearly impossible without any diving gear, I have tried scuba diving once in Thailand, almost 15 years ago. Timo has never even tried it. In the Canaries we had once seen one of our Finnish friends to clean the bottom of his boat with a hookah diving system. Now, a year later, we started stuyding this option. This seemed like a perfect solution for us. 

When we decided to head south our plan was to spend the most active months of the hurricane season in Trinidad.  It was a sum of many things that we ended up staying in Grenada for the whole summer season. There is still one more month left of the hurricane season, y the chances are getting smaller every day. We had one close call when hurricane Matthew came this way. It was not a hurricane yet, but he was given a name right before hitting the Lesser Antilles. It first looked that it was coming straight at us, but then it took a bit notherly route. We never experiences winds more than 30 knots. The center went over Martinique, but lucky for us it didn't have it strenght yet. Later this same hurricane hit Haiti very hard. It left total devastation on it's path there. Whole towns were distroyed and at least 1000 people died.

We still have a few things to do here in Grenada. We'll be going to a boatyard later this week. We have two important things to get done. One is painting a new antifouling that would actually keep some growth away. An other thing is something we could not do in the Canaries where we did all the other major refits. We are getting our 26 year old teak in the cockpit redone. We could not do this in the Canaries, because it was illegal to import any teak into the islands.

After this work has been done it's already pretty safe to start travelling back north. A lot of boats have left already. Actually a lot of people stay on the northern islands for the hurricane season. It's not a death sentance, if you stay there. It's just basic math, the propability of a big storm gets smaller the further south you go. Trinidad is supposed to be out of the hurricane area, Grenada is right on the edge. The last hurricane Grenada got was in 2004 but it was very devastating.  They say that 90 percent of the building had some damage. They are still collection money for some of the schools and churches that got hit hard.

When we are ready to head north in a couple of weeks, the risk to get hit by a hurricane is close to zero.

I've made this promise before, but I'll do it again. This time I mean it. I promise to write you more often.

Jan 24, 2016

Back in the EU

N 14° 26.374', W 60° 53.104'

Lucky for us this is only an Overseas Department of France and we are not back on the continent of Europe.

But first I'll write something about our visit to Bridgetown, Barbados.

I'm not really a beach person, but I sure like to looking at one. 

There were plenty of these places in town where we could tie our dinghy.

I know that there comes a time when we have to take our dinghy to the beach, we even have wheels in the dinghy for that. Lucky for us they had these landings. because there was quite a large swell which would have made it very difficult (and wet) to land on the beach.

For some reason I seem to be unable to take any pictures of the streets, only of the water.

The view to the other direction.

After about two weeks it was time to change scenery and we sailed to Martinique.

Clearing in and out on the French islands is very easy. We go into a marina office and fill out a form on a computer and then print it out. Staff stamps it and we are all done. The most difficult part is using a French keyboard. If you've ever used one, you know what I'm talking about.

When we arrived in Le marin, we achored in a nice spot very near the dinghy landings. It also showed on the chart that it was forbidden to anchor in that spot, but since there were other boat too , we did it anyways. Today we had to move, because they are having a sail race there tomorrow. No problem, we moved to the anchorage in Sainte-Anne. We stay here over the weekend and then we return, maybe to the same place. The water in Le Marin is not very clear and there are also so many boats that I don't believe the water is very clean. Here the water is clear and we can swim again. We kind of got to used to swimming already in Barbados.

We don't know if the race tomorrow is on these traditional boats or something else. When we were told to move, Timo was also handed two sheets of paper about it, but all the text is in French...

Jan 17, 2016

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

N 13° 5.430', W 59° 37.049'

When we were leaving Mindelo, the weather forecast for a week showed that is was going to be sailing with the wind astern. We rigged our two poles already while in the dock. The new cutter jib is either on or off, but the size of genoa can also be adjusted even with the pole attached to it.

We actually bought this new cutter sail with furling system to get better performance on the beat. Now we used it for the first time and it was on a 2000 miles run.

We don't have sat phone (well tecnically we do, but we haven't bought a sim card, yet). We try to manage with the SBB-radio as long as possible. We used it a lot on the European coast. Back then our winlink email worked very well and we used it to get GRIB-files and to update our blog. Now we couldn't get good enough connections for email. We had to try something new. Every night we tuned our radio to receive weather fax. Some nights we got really clear pictures, some night we got nothing. We still don't know the reason why the quality of the reception changed so much.

I would say this is a pretty good picture even though we also had some that were much more clear. This is anyway clear enough to read. 

On this leg I didn't even try fishing. There was so much of this Sargassum that it would have fouled my lure and line instantly.

This guy (and I don't mean my husband) scared me in the middle of a night watch. This particular flying fish landed on top of our pilot house right above my head and started to make a real racket up there when it tried to find it's way back to the water. In the morning Timo threw it away, it was not fresh anymore so we couldn't even put in on the skillet.

Our life on the water was very easy. We ate, slept and kept watch. We did not have any "written" watch system. We did what felt the best at the moment. During the first few nights we took 2-3 hour turns, in the end the longest night watch was 6 hours. When it's just the two of us, life is very simple. On most days we had a warm meal, on some days we did not feel like it. Still we discovered some new dishes. We replaced all pasta with cous-cous, it's was so much easier to prepare. Other new favorite included tuna from a can rolled into a tortilla with various spices and other incredients such olives and dried tomatos.

Here I am just taking things easy. We have some very good lee clothes for some of our bunks. When we really slept we were in one of those. But when relaxing during the day we used our regular bunk for that, (we still did have some pillows stuffed under the side of the mattress). One thing in this picture is very unusual. I have a paperback in my hand. We read all our novels as e-books, so this does not happen very ofter. I was trying to learn about corrosion on boats, and, well, fell a sleep after 10 minures. The same thing happened on an other day when I took my French text book and tried to go over some basic words for the French islands

Since we have a pilot house, we keep watch comfortably inside our saloon. In the colder climates it's nice and warm inside. Now that we are in the tropics it's nice and cool. Well, the temperature does rise, but at least we are out of the sun. We can easily see to all directions with our own eys so we don't really need the radar to see other vessels. During the night we kept the radar on to see approaching squalls.

Some rain shower making an approach, Some only rained a little, some shifted the wind and some made major increase in the wind speed. Usually we just had to close our companionway to prevent the rain coming inside and after 15 minutes everything was back to normal.

Our windwane was for sure the hardest working crew member on this passage. It practically steered the whole way. We also have an hydraulic autopilot, but it takes a lot of juice from the battery. Windwane works for almost free, sometimes it wants some WD-40.

Our trip from Cape Verde took 16 days and we arrived on Barbados on New Years Day. What a way to start a new year!