Showing posts with label grenada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grenada. Show all posts

28 November 2019

Working Day Jobs While Cruising

Unlike most long distance cruisers, we have retained day jobs while sailing. The cadence of our days is a bit different from many of the other sailors around us as we plan our boat projects/maintenance, land excursions, and sailing schedule very much around work commitments and the ability to secure reliable internet.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

What Do We Do?

Linda:  Clinical Operations and Clinical Research Scientist

When on land manages studies for investigational drugs for rare and neurological diseases in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. When cruising cannot (and does not want to) be available to the extent needed to do this work well. Therefore shifts to document writing (e.g., standard operating procedures) and document review (e.g., study protocols) related to clinical research when cruising (about 10 hours/week).

Bob: Software Engineer

Primarily hands on coding in support of the internal business processes for a corporate travel and technology management company based in Massachusetts, USA. Able to do the same type of work when living on land or a nomadic aquatic lifestyle (but decreases to 25-30 hours/week when cruising).

Typical Daily / Weekly Schedule

The pattern of our lives maintains a Monday through Friday cadence centered around day jobs, as when living on land, followed by a change of pace on the weekend. However, we enjoy more flexibility than when we are working full time on land. A typical midweek schedule is:

5:15 Alarm goes off, perhaps a snooze or two.
5:45 Bob is working. Linda makes coffee and takes in the sunrise from the cockpit; reads.
7:30 Linda goes for a long exercise swim (if anchorage is safe). Bob continues working. Both bathe off transom followed by a quick cockpit freshwater rinse.
9:00 Linda begins working. Bob continues working.
11:00 Bob does some boat projects.
Linda jumps in the dinghy and goes ashore; walks to a bus stop, finds a couple of markets, buys only what can be comfortably carried back.
14:00 Both jump in the water to cool off, scrub the bottom of the dinghy or water line of Argon while in the water.
15:00 Dinghy back ashore to work somewhere that laptops can be powered (so we do not drain Argon's batteries too much) and with free WiFi (to ease off on our usage of paid data).
While access to free WiFi may update apps, download podcasts, books, videos, do life logistics on line (personal emails, studying weather and where to sail to next, reading articles).
17:00 Dinghy back to Argon. Do some boat tinkering. Cook dinner.
19:00 Final swim off transom to cool off. Relax in the cockpit.
20:00 Last check back in to work. In bed reading, listening to a podcast, or watching a downloaded video. 
21:00 Usually asleep.

Of course the above is just an example. There are all sorts of permutations including sometimes getting on to land for part of a day to hike or explore, but that is normally reserved for the weekend. Or a significant boat issue may need attention. And, when we are actually sailing, there is time to prep the boat to weigh anchor, then perhaps several hours or most of a day or more actually sailing to the next harbor or island which is sometimes done midweek depending on work commitments. If the new island is in a different country there is quite a bit of added time to check out of customs & immigration of the departing country, and then check in to the new country.

Once re-anchored, there is a myriad of small items to attend to that have become quite routine including organizing lines, covering the main sail, deploying the dinghy from the davits, snorkeling on the anchor to check the hold, setting up the forward hatch awning, monitoring the swing on the anchor (and re-setting if needed). And, critical for our day jobs, confirming data / reception and connecting to WiFi (see below) so we can get back to work.

Ultimate in Open Office Design and Flexible Workspace

Argon is mostly at anchor while we are cruising and we spend much of our workday on board. However, we regularly get to shore seeking free WiFi and to couple working with some land errands, or just for a change of scenery.

Below are photos of some of the places we set up shop for our day jobs while cruising.

Linda's favorite workspace:  Argon's cockpit in a breezy, beautiful harbor while at anchor.

Most common workspace: On board Argon in the salon.
Although working at home (on board Argon) is often easiest, it can be difficult to stay comfortable. Temperatures in the salon are often in the high 80's or low 90's.

This on shore workspace has everything: Breezy restaurant with access to power, free WiFi, cool beverages and feathery company (perhaps he's someone's dinner).

Finding shelter from a downpour. (Bob is on a teleconference.)

Modern coffee shop with not only power, WiFi and great lattes, but also the rare air conditioning!

Tiki Bar restaurant Prickly Bay, Grenada. Lots of power outlets but non-ideal due to music playing and/or TV on.

Bermuda. Another great find: comfort, power outlets, WiFi, air conditioning and quiet!

In the cockpit of Argon early in the morning, Grenada.

Porch in St. Lucia with a lovely vista.

Corner office on the Dutch island of Saba.

At anchor somewhere in the US Virgin Islands.

Turks and Caicos.

Turks and Caicos. Overcast to allow Bob to barely see his screen.

Dominica. Another beautiful view.

Satiating a Voracious Appetite for Data


Our appetite for data is huge compared to any other cruiser we have encountered. We chow down 1-1.5G/day mostly due to our day jobs. Needing this generous amount of data, as well as reliable connectivity daily, have been major challenges. Many people will offer advice related various methods but we usually find out that the thresholds for data usage are way too low for our needs. During our first extended cruise (2016-2017) we learned that WiFi options in anchorages (as well as on shore) are massively unreliable causing tremendous stress as we needed connectivity regularly to deliver on work commitments. We made many data-related mistakes and spent an average of nearly $500/month! A prior blog post outlines our approach and many learnings.

Shroud Cay Exumas, Bahamas back in 2017 during our first cruise. To my dismay, we stayed only a few hours because we had no data and Bob needed to get back on line for work. There were too many times that we skipped over an interesting place or minimized our stay because of data issues.

Our second extended journey 2018-2019 brought improvements all around including decreasing our spend to about $300/month. Our main strategy was an unlocked cell phone (separate from our two regular personal phones) with stripped down apps (to avoid any inadvertent data usage). Then securing local data SIM cards from the current country. Some key challenges included:
  • Sometimes having much difficulty finding or getting to where local SIMs could be purchased (would require a long and expensive cab ride and/or the store had scant business hours, especially on smaller islands)
  • Figuring out how (or remembering to) top off balances before the data ran out (especially difficult in some of the French islands where all info/apps were only in the local language)

Some of our collection of local SIM cards: Chippy (St. Martin and Saba), Orange (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Les Saintes, Marie Gallante), French Digicel (Guadeloupe but crazy expensive; Orange is better) and Dominican Digicel. We also have SIMs for Flow (Antigua) and BTC (Bahamas).

Now at the front end of our third extended cruise, we think we've got things figured out. Fingers crossed anyway. Our approach is to combine the local data SIM card method with Google Fi leveraging 4 cell phones now:
  • Bob's personal and Linda's personal (roaming off of course, and settings set to no automatic updates when connected to WiFi... as our WiFi is usually metered)
  • Unlocked stripped down with GoogleFi
  • Unlocked stripped down with local data SIM card - for both data and local phone calls
Having two cell phones to use as hot spots (local SIM and GoogleFi) also allows me to take one with me when I venture to shore while Bob remains aboard. This affords the luxury of connectivity as I do errands or go on land excursions. 

Four unlocked Androids: 2 are our personal phones, the other 2 are for local SIM cards and GoogleFi to serve as hot spots.

GoogleFi is a great option but only up to 15G in a month, then it's less attractive due to the cost:
  • $10/G up to 6G, then free up to 15G. Once 15G is reached, the data speed is slowed waaayyyyy down (unusable for our needs) and it is back to $10/G. 
With our voracious data appetite (35-40G/month), GoogleFi would be well over $300/month. Therefore we aim to keep the GoogleFi data usage to 15G/month with the remaining data from SIM cards and on-shore free WiFi. And GoogleFi has worked well so far but we have only been in Grenada... let's see if it is as reliable as we make our way up the Caribbean chain. A back-up option (or two) is prudent and will surely be needed at some point.

The cost of data through the local SIM cards varies widely from country to country anywhere from $3-$15/G but will often be less expensive than the cost post 15G through GoogleFi, and will provide a back-up method.

Here is one of our cheap Androids with a Digicel and a Flow card.

Thus our monthly data usage and spend is likely to play out as follows:
  • 15G through GoogleFi at $90 (includes direct data cost plus fees)
  • 10G through local data SIM card at $30-$150
  • remaining 10-20G onshore free WiFi
We very much hope to decrease our average data spend to $150/month!! Status report in six months.

Flexibility and Supportive Employers are Paramount


Linda: I converted to an independent consultant in my field of clinical trials and clinical research mid 2017 with the objective of flexing up my work when in land-life mode, and throttling back when we are cruising. It is working out wonderfully thus far. When cruising I work about 10 hours/week on document writing that, while less interesting perhaps, affords much flexibility requiring minimal scheduled meetings/telecons and I can mostly make my own schedule. The more interesting assignments will resume (along with heavier hours) when back on land. 

Bob: Before our first trip to the Caribbean back in 2016, Bob told his boss over dinner one night: "Linda wants to sail to the Caribbean. I can either go with her, or I have to move in with you". That settled it. Bob switched from full-time salaried, to full-time hourly to allow flexing down of hours while traveling (a bit), gave up health insurance and paid time off and has remained in this status with his employer ever since. Bob works 25-30 hours/week while cruising, and full time when on land. Note: We both must buy health insurance privately which is an important financial consideration.

Both:  We take our work very seriously and do our best to not leave our work colleagues waiting on us for anything. We are able to be very productive, and yes, it does cut into the fun part of cruising a bit, but it also makes this wonderful cruising lifestyle possible.

The perfect combination of work, adventure and pleasure.

24 November 2019

Go Up! A Bit More on Grenada

Advice for cruisers, or other travelers, looking to detect the essence of cultures on these islands: go up, venture in.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

It is easy and comfortable to stay in the cruising neighborhoods of the islands. Semi-manicured marinas  and beach fronts with pruned palm trees, restaurants with pizza and wings, activities and socials for cruisers, lots of people that look like me. And although these nooks usually have a sprinkling of culture and evidence of the complex dichotomies that come with island living, we were reminded recently how rich the experience can be when we venture beyond the surface and just walk up the hill.

Anchored Off St. George's

After anchoring in Prickly Bay for the first 9 days after launch and spending much time still working on getting Argon and ourselves ready, we weighed anchor and enjoyed a leisurely short test sail along the southern coast and over near the capital city of Grenada, St. George's.

Simple, luxurious inaugural 8nm sail in very light winds. Enjoyed seeing dozens of turtles, a large sting ray, and even a small shark along the way in the calm, clear waters.

There is an expansive anchorage area just south of the capital of St. George's on the west coast. The holding is precarious as small rocks and dead coral are abundant with surprisingly scant sand and mud for a secure holding. It is not uncommon to have to try a few times to get a good set in this area.

Urban Hike

After enjoying the Hash through a beautiful, rugged, hilly (and muddy) 3 mile hike on the eastern coast recently, Bob proposed we do an urban hike. We had been admiring from afar the bright white pillared Parliament building perched high up above the city of St. George's and decided we would set out for a vigorous climb winding our way through back streets.

The city of St. George's is inviting with it's colorful facade climbing up the mountainside. Upon closer inspection on foot, grit and hardship are evident.

Hillside overlooking St. George's.

View of St. George's from nearby the Parliament building after an invigorating walk up. The anchorage (and Argon) is to the left just out of view off the peninsula.

So many interesting buildings and sites along the way. The infrastructure is good for a poor Caribbean island but extremely meager compared to standards back home. Sidewalks are rare and walking along the road takes much attention and jumping out of the way of vehicles whizzing by. We have learned to carry a flashlight when venturing out late in the day as streetlights are uncommon and the paved terrain is abundant with ditches, holes and other obstacles.

Flowers and produce are commonly sold on the street. My favorites include christophine (aka chayote), papaya, avocado, mango, potatoes and passion fruit.

More street vendors.

Grenadian traffic signal in the capital of St. George's. (There are no electric traffic lights.)

Popular weekend street market downtown St. George's.

Tending to the Tender - With Help from Patrick

While making one of the many lengthy dinghy rides in to the city from the anchorage, we noticed that the raw water cooling had restricted flow (even though the outboard was just serviced this past summer... argh!).

We were no longer near the shipyard where the outboard was recently serviced. But we were able to get connected with a local mechanic, Patrick, to help with figuring out what was causing the restricted raw water flow.

Partially in a torrential downpour, Patrick and I got the outboard to his work boat. Patrick was kind enough to give me a bit of a lesson in outboard servicing.

Replacing the impeller on a Tohatsu 6hp 4 stroke is extremely tricky (much more difficult than on our Volvo 55hp diesel). The crank shaft needs to come off (and, the more difficult part, is getting it back on).

The impeller was changed (although the original one looked good). We also inspected the thermostat which was extremely corroded (removed it - not needed with in the warm water); and cleaned out the area around in-take and outflow. The outboard ideally needs a bit more of an overhaul (including a new base gasket) which we will arrange to have done in the coming weeks further up the island chain.

Beach Bums for an Afternoon

We spend surprisingly little time hanging out at beaches while cruising. However, nearly three weeks after arriving in Grenada, we both enjoy an afternoon at Grand Anse Beach, just south of St. George's. I swam and we both indulged in an afternoon cocktail.

Surprisingly rare beach hang out.

And on to Carriacou, or Not....

We have been itching to start to make our way to the next island north all week but the winds have been uncharacteristically light (and often non-existent). With favorable winds finally forcasted we weighed anchor Sunday morning and, despite rain moving in, happily set sail up along the west coast. After a bit we had to fire up the motor, keeping the main up for some motor sailing, as the wind was light and on our nose when Bob heard a strange loud boing. It was pouring rain but we soon realized that the upper battens along the leech of the sail were hitting the back stay making a loud vibratory plucking noise and shaking the rig. We realized that the roach of the sail was jutting beyond the back stay... not good for the back stay, sail or rig.

Pic of the over-extended roach through the bimini window in a rainstorm. Fingers crossed that the sail maker will be able to quickly re-cut the roach of the new main sail so that we can finally, really, no kidding this time start our journey. We were surprised not to have noticed this the prior week during the initial test sail. But we had been sailing mostly down wind and in hindsight should have headed upwind more and done several test tacks.

After a quick conversation on what to do next, we agree to turn around and head back not to St. George's, but even further to Pricky Bay near where the sail maker is located. Ugh. Back where we began several weeks ago. But this is not a bad place to be stuck.

10 November 2019

Week One of The Third Half - Grenada

What a week it has been as we embark on our third extended cruise: The Third Half. Aptly named since our second cruise was not intended to stop in Grenada, thus this voyage is a resumption of #2. Huh? No matter.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Argon is finally back in her natural habitat happily swinging on the hook. This comes after several summer projects by the boatyard and intense attention over the past week as Bob and I spent very full days attending to just about every system and surface.

Argon happily back in the water after being hauled out since late April at Spice Island Marine Services, Prickly Bay, Grenada. Almost ready to set sail... but still no main sail or bimini (see blow).


The new custom carbon gooseneck looked terrific but was unfinished due to frustrating confusing and scant communications. Once we were here in person to triangulate messages, Ron from Driftwood was fantastic in working with us to do the final assembly, and fabricate custom bushings and gooseneck pin. The final assembly completed just hours before we splashed! One less important but frustrating aspect of this was the boatyard's shoddy (and expensive) paint job on the mast around the new gooseneck and some other touch-ups.

Boom remained on deck until the gooseneck was complete.

Ronny testing the fit of newly fabricated pin machined at a local shop the prior day.

Ronny and Ron from Driftwood carefully working on setting the bushing and testing the fit.

Gooseneck complete. Just need to wait 24 hours for epoxy on the bushings to cure.

Linda with Ronny and Ron from Driftwood. These guys did nice work!


Connect, Clean, Scrub, Put Away, and Clean Again

After mast was stepped, Bob connected wires for the anchor light, steaming light, windex light, deck light, tricolor light, and anemometer.

To do list for Wednesday.

Organized chaos below. We are actually making progress although it is difficult to tell.

Messy, dirty cockpit. But not for much longer.

Corrosion and Mold

Much time was spent last April cleaning surfaces with diluted vinegar and bagging up lines, clothes, and bedding that remained on board. Once a month during the scorching heat of the wet season, someone from the boatyard would open up Argon for some ventilation, inspect for leaks (were none) and change the desiccants. Argon's interior was generally in great condition and even smelled fine. There were just a few issues including minor corrosion on cabinet latches, light switches, shower and sink fixtures and guitar tuning knobs. There were a few areas of light mold on surfaces that was likely due getting missed from the April vinegar cleaning.

Several buckets of desiccant were placed throughout the cabin and changed each month over the summer to help keep the moisture levels down and decrease the risk of mold and mildew.

The interior surfaces and stored clothes / bedding were mostly in great conditions. A few casualties including this handbag that succumbed to mold and corrosion.

Before pic:  corroded bow light.

After pic:  Bow light after scrubbing away corrosion and replacing the bulb. Yes, it works!

Cleaning the depth / temperature transducer and speed paddle wheel.

Argon has two water tanks (one under the starboard settee and the other forward under the V berth) holding a total of 135 gallons. Fill caps are out on the deck to take in water from a hose but we can get direct access to the tanks down below through large caps. This allows us to reach in to scrub the tanks and rinse out some gunk. We also were able to clean the float gauge to get a semi-accurate reading of the tank gauges. Water is a precious commodity across all of the islands so we are always judicious with it's use. And at 0.15 USD / gallon the cost can really add up when trying to clean a dirty boat and flush and fill the water tanks.

Dinghy and Outboard

Tropical Canvas fabricated protective chaps for the dinghy which will protect the hypalon from UV damage. Brian and Slade also were kind enough to give me a lift to a nearby gas station to fill the gas can. SIMS did a tune up to the 6hp Tohatsu.

Slade from Tropical Canvas delivers the dinghy with her new chaps.

Dinghy bench seat had succumbed to the harsh UV last winter. We had forgotten to arrange for repairs of this over the summer.

Brian from Tropical Canvas quickly made a new bench seat cover. Our 9 foot AB aluminum V bottom is critical for land access while at anchor thus we aim to take good care of her!

Final Night on Land



After just over six months on the hard in a hurricane cradle and the mast down, Argon is ready to be back on the water with a newly painted bottom, varnished cap rails, and waxed hull and deck.

As soon as Argon was back in the water and secured in the lift bay with lines, we eagerly tested the engine. The 55hp Volvo diesel started up immediately with raw cooling water quickly spitting out the exhaust - wonderful! We soon motored out of the travel slip and tied up just on the other side of the cement wall so that the boatyard could continue launching other vessels and we could continue with preparations - most importantly getting the boom attached and sails on.

Bob adjusting the tension on the inner stay.
Inner 90% jib and 150% genoa (both with new UV shields) now rigged by Bob and I. Guys from Turbulence arrive to mount boom and rig the brand new Doyle main sail.

New Main Sail... Whoops!

At this point we feel so close to having Argon ready and can hardly wait to see the new main sail up, even if it is only a test hoist while tied up. Turbulence cut the new round battens right at the dock and installed them as it went up.

Boom is attached by the guys from Turbulence. Yes, it's hot and Bob needs a shower.

Smooth Antal rings to minimize friction on the reefing line.

New Harken cars to slide up the new track. This will facilitate hoisting and dropping greatly. However, one of the challenges is that bearings sometimes come loose, like on this car already. We will need to get some spare bearings and be sure to inspect the cars whenever the main is taken down off the track.

New Harken head car.

Argon tied up on the cement wall next to the travelift slip while her boom gets re-attached and main sail is rigged.

Although the new main glides up the smooth track and the sail looks beautiful, the luff is too long!

The cars along the luff get fed carefully on the track as the main is hoisted. She is beautiful. But... the luff is too long and cannot be tightened enough as the top car abuts against the top of the track. Down she comes for a modification in the sail loft.

Main sail back to Turbulence to reduce the luff length. This is done by cutting and re-sewing the head.

Take 2 with the adjusted new main sail.


Oooph! #@$%*&!! Even after reducing the luff length by 9cm, the top track car almost abuts against the track head. Too close to allow for any stretching. Down and back to the shop again for another adjustment. But it's Friday late afternoon by now... so this will continue next week.

Teak Cleaning

The teak cockpit sole and coamings are extremely practical as a non-skid surface. Raw teak can be left to weather naturally, but I like the warm tan of clean teak even though it comes with maintenance. In addition, the tropical conditions turned Argon's teak to a mottled grey with black mildew. So out came my preferred product: Snappy two part teak cleaner. It's a difficult job that has a bit of technique to it but I love the results.




Awaiting Main Sail, Improvising with Solar Power and Enjoying an Iceless Sundowner

After one night on the cement wall, we had to move on to the anchorage despite no bimini or main sail yet. We expect to have a re-re-cut sail within a few days. Rigging and hoisting at anchor may be a bit more tricky but we will aim for early morning before the easterlies kick up.

Tropical Canvas will finish our bimini within a few days (hopefully) so that we can have some shade in the cockpit and, even more importantly, mount three solar panels. In the meantime, we are sparse on electricity having to ration what we use carefully. One solar panel (135W) is generating good amperage from the dodger. We are continually adjusting the placement of two of the bimini panels (one 100W and one 50W) in the cockpit to catch some rays and not get blown away. We are generating just enough power to feel comfortable turning on the refrigerator (low setting only) but generally being even more judicious than usual about energy consumption.

Improvising with energy production while we await the new bimini.

Enjoying an evening cocktail (without ice!) at the end of week one of The Third Half. Feeling grateful.