Whack-a-Mole in St Martin

It is often said that cruising is nothing more than boat repair in exotic places and sometimes it feels just like that.  However, I heard a fellow cruiser last night desribe it even better. She called it “whack-a-mole”.   You know, the game where a “mole” pops up through a hole in a board and you “whack” it with a hammer?   The goal of the game is to hit the mole before he drops back into his hole and when the the next one pops up, well, you wack that one too.  And, to make the game even more diabolical, the faster  you “whack” the faster the Mr. Mole does his thing.

Well, that almost perfectly describes boat repair.  No matter how fast you “whack away”, more moles pop up.

Let me give an example.   As I began to better understand Pandora, I realized that all was not right with the first batten on the mainsail which always seemed to look, well, not quite right with wrinkles appearing in odd places.  After my first “sporty” offshore run, the receptacle that held the luff end of the batten (Pandora has full battens) broke out.  I ultimately replaced the entire receptacle only to have it break yet again on the run down to the BVI.  However, I didn’t know that it had broken until I removed the sail to repair a stressed (read: almost torn out) sail track lead and a fist sized hole in the main from one of the spreader tips.    The “whack-a-mole”  pops up yet again.

So, although my plan was to pull the sail only to have some sewing done, it turns out that I needed a new batten piece flown in from Newport RI.   However, as the piece in question had broken twice already, the loft suggested that I upgrade to a more “heavy duty” version, which I am.   And, to make things even more fun, the airports in the NE are closed due to a blizzard.   Another “whack a mole”.

No problem, the piece will be here in a few days.  However, the weather window to head to St Barts looks like it’s going to open up in a few days and now I may miss it do to, you guessed it, “whack a mole” and shipping issues.

Anyway, it always seems that things are more complex than expected so perhaps it’s “whack a mole” behind that too.  And to think that I thought it was Murphy of “Murphy’s law” at work.  You know, the “it can always get worse”, and it does Murphy’s law?

So, yesterday morning was taken up getting the main off of Pandora and out for repair.   It took three of us, me and two other cruiser friends, to get the sail down, battens out and sail into the dink so I could deliver it to the loft.   Now, I know that we will be delaying our departure for St Barts because of snow in New England and not getting the new part until sometime in the middle of next week.

And, speaking of the “whack a mole” I have also been having trouble with my SSB not having good reception for the last year and a half, since I first installed the unit.   I can hear pretty well but my transmissions don’t carry very long distances.   “whack a mole!”   So, I hired Dave another cruiser who is supposed to be pretty good with electronics to have a look.     After about an hour of troubleshooting we discovered that one of my wire crimp connections was loose and we believe that is a big part of the problem, meaning that when I transmit the radio isn’t getting enough power due to the loose wire not conducting well.   Happily, after fixing that and a few other “tweaks” to the system, we measured much greater transmission power with Dave’s “transmission power measuring thingy”.

I am hopeful that his “fixes” will indeed solve the problem and I’ll be able to be heard better.  I’ll know later this morning when I try to contact Chris Parker in FL.  Fingers crossed… No more radio “whack a moles”.

But wait, there’s more.  I wrote a post a while back that talked about the havoc that RO water caused on some metals and that I planned to install a “re-mineralizer” on the watermaker system to make the product water less acidic and taste better too, as a bonus..    I ordered the parts, well most of them anyway, before I left Beaufort NC to head to the BVI.   However, I have been so busy “whacking” moles, that I have not had time to install the new unit.  Yesterday, with most “moles” whacked back into their holes for the moment, I decided to install it.  It was actually pretty simple and only involved one additional trip to the “RO water parts store” on the Dutch side for some additional hose.  Amazingly, those sorts of stores are very well stocked here in St Martin so I was able to get the parts I needed very easily.  Voila… re-mineralizing unit installed.  “Down you pesky mole, down boy, back in your mole hole now”.   Hopefully, when I start up the watermaker today it won’t leak.  However, you know those moles…

Oh yeah, another mole that I punched down recently.  Remember the broken pin on the autopilot?   The one I replaced in 20′ seas?  Yea, that one.   Well, here’s a photo of the failed “pin”., the one on the right.  The one on the left, the “new” one complete with a set of washers designed to spread the shear load and keep the pin from breaking.  That’s the way it has been set up till now. However, Pandora’s previous owner told me that this pin had broken about once a year.  Not a great design if it’s breaking that often.  My solution to the problem was to put on larger washers to fill the gap between the quadrant attachment point and the autopilot attachment point.   By putting on larger washers I hope to spread the load more evenly and thus reduce the sheer force on the pin.  Time will tell if that works.   Here’s what the new install looks like.  Fingers crossed.   If it doesn’t work….Well, I have three spares on hand.

As I have mentioned, we are anchored in Simpson Bay, between the Dutch and French sides of the island.  We opted to enter on the French side as it’s more open and it costs much less to clear in here than on the Dutch side.   Besides,  we have a hankering for French food.   My friend Roger says, as do others, “shop on the Dutch side and eat with the French”.  Indeed.

When we entered the lagoon, we went through this impossibly narrow draw bridge.  I felt like we just squeezed through. A popular sport here is to have a drink at the St Martin Yacht Club near the Dutch bridge and watch the mega-yachts come and go through the bridge.  We watched Jade make her way toward the bridge.She looked enormous as she approached. A VERY tight fit.  I heard that sometimes they don’t make it without a scratch.  Get out the lube captain, she’s a VERY tight fit.   Can you imagine how fast the “whack a mole” game is played on a boat like Jade?  No wonder these boats have such large crews.  It takes a lot of them “whacking away” to keep up with everything that breaks on these “big girls”.   Mega yachts have mega moles, I’d expect. I can’t imagine how this tri-hulled yacht fit through. She’s a looker though.  I’ll bet she goes pretty fast through the waves. And speaking of eating, which I alluded to a few paragraphs ago.  How about this shot of Brenda’s lunch at a beach side restaurant the other day?  Not likely you will see food like this on most small beaches unless they are French.    The cup on the right has bean sprouts, caviar and crab meat.  Under that guacamole.   Yum…I won’t lie.  Brenda didn’t eat the snails. I happily obliged.  This was the view from our table.  We took our time and somehow stretched lunch out to about three hours.  What’s the rush?  “Can I get some more bread with my glass of wine please?”  “Of course, sir. Right away, sir.”   I forgot to mention, those French…Well, topless applies on this beach too.
So, I can not tell a lie,  it’s not all “whack a mole” aboard Pandora.  We still are somehow finding a way to enjoy ourselves.  I hear it’s snowing at home, like 15″ snowing.   I’ll have another glass of chard please, and a baguette.

5 responses to “Whack-a-Mole in St Martin

  1. Let’s consultant philosophy… I loved this book many years ago:. “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
    ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.

    Enjoy the search for tranquility, eh?

  2. Whack a mole might replace fixing boats in exotic places as phrases go. Good blog.Maureen

  3. Yeah Bob, but (A) you love whacking moles (a/k/a fixing things), admit it and (B) If you have to get stuck somewhere for a few days, you couldn’t find a nicer spot.
    I forgot to mention that our order of frogs legs at Chez Nous was large enough that each of the cats had one, from the “kitty bag”.

  4. Your mother says glad you a able to make all the needed repairs. She sends you her love.

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