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.

02 November 2019

Boat Projects in Grenada

Argon summered in Grenada. Well, "summered" sounds much too leisurely considering the harsh conditions and the generous number of projects that took place. Soon I will fly south and check out the work first hand as we prepare to resume sailing for the winter.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

It was with mixed feelings that we left Argon at Spice Island Marine Services (SIMS) six months ago. Although she was secure at a reputable boatyard and strapped down in a hurricane cradle, summer at latitude 12 can be brutal. The heat and UV can damage even the highest quality port hole stripping; torrential rains can work their way through the tightest seals and dorade covers; high winds that come with tropical storms will peel away anything not well secured. A positive aspect of these lower latitudes of the Caribbean is that hurricanes roar past to the north. Usually.

We normally tackle boat projects ourselves. However, there were quite a few projects we had on our list and returning to Grenada over the summer for any length of time to tackle these jobs would not fit in with our work schedules. In addition, Grenada and SIMS have a strong reputation for yacht services and some particular expertise that matched our needs.

The photos below have been sent to us courtesy SIMS over the past few months.

Special Projects

Sexy Gooseneck

While sailing off shore, I often stress about the gooseneck. I have heard several stories of this important joint between the boom and the mast breaking while under sail which is dangerous on so many levels. To our surprise and dismay, we discovered a bit of play in our gooseneck last spring while anchored in Grenada, shortly before being hauled out for the summer.

Before:  Screws loosening from the carbon creating a bit of concerning play. Could have tried threaded inserts (may or may not have worked) or insert a backing plate up the mast (potentially not possible due to 12 feet up from base).

After consulting with the fine folks at Turbulence, Ltd we opted for a permanent high end solution... a custom fabricated carbon gooseneck leveraging the carbon expertise at Driftwood Yacht Services.

Carbon fabrication is a special skill and not available many places. Grenada has some great expertise so we decided to go with what many sexy racing sailboats have... carbon gooseneck. This creates an incredibly strong attachment point between the boom and the mast.

After:  New carbon fiber gooseneck now painted.

Sleek Sail Track

Okay, another splurge. We did not really need a new sail track. But the mast was coming out and down for the gooseneck. The old Tide Marine sail track had tremendous use during her 5 short years and had a few areas showing a bit of play.

New Harken sail track.

In addition to raising the main sail more smoothly, the new track may also allow the sail to completely drop and fold on itself when the haylard is released. The prior track was a bit sticky requiring one to go out on deck to completely pull it down and flake on the boom.

Crisp, Shapely Main Sail

Our main sail has a tremendous number of nautical miles to its name and was starting to loose shape negatively affecting performance. We considered trying to get through this coming winter with it but felt a tear during heavy weather might potentially be not only inconvenient but dangerous if well off shore. Thus a new main sail made the project list.

512 sq feet of crisp, shapely Dacron made by Doyle with five full battens, four friction-less Antal donuts, two reef points and a partridge in a pear tree.

Nice new cars for to glide up the new, smooth Harken track.

Routine Maintenance Projects


Back in February while docked in St. Lucia, we took advantage of the local expertise to have Argon's teak completely stripped and new varnish applied converting from the prior Awlwood (Awlgrip product) to the more common Epiphanes. A bit of this varnishing work is in the video below.

A few more maintenance coats were needed to keep the finish strong.

Varnishing with Epiphanes.
Varnishing work in St. Lucia:


Bottom Painting

Anti-fouling bottom paint is a must to prevent a sea garden from sprouting greatly reducing the speed. We regularly snorkel along and under Argon to brush and scrub off grown that the paint does not prevent. Argon was last painted in Portsmouth Rhode Island at New England Boatworks in April 2018 at that time using Petit Hydrocoat.

Scrubbing the bottom of the keel.

New bottom paint: Islands 44TF deemed compatible with Argon's prior Petit Hydrocoat but better for warm Caribbean waters.

We will still need to regularly snorkel and scrub to keep the bottom clean, but fresh paint will greatly facilitate the job.

Waxing of Topsides and Deck

Ok, this project was me being totally lazy. I normally do the waxing but decided to splurge and have Argon nice and shiny for when I arrive.

New shiny wax.

Bimini - in progress, critical for our solar panels

The bimini is an important piece of canvas needed not only to protect from sun and rain, but also as a platform for 250 watts via the flexible solar panels. Argon's bimini has had a few patches and repeat waterproofing treatments but, alas, it no longer protects us from getting wet and soon would likely start tearing.

Solar panels zip in to both the bimini and dodger.
No photos of the new bimini since it is not yet done and our canvas guy is off island for a bit. I am a bit nervous about the timing as Argon will soon be launched and we will be back out at anchor and in need of power. Stay tuned.

Dinghy Tending

The dinghy is critical as we spend so much time at anchor and need a way to get to shore.

Argon's shuttle craft:  AB 9"foot aluminum V bottom hypalon dinghy with 6hp Tohatsu outboard.

The UV is brutal on dinghies so we decided to outfit Argon with some protection.

Sunscreen for the dinghy.
SIMS will also spruce up the outboard motor: clean the carburetor, check the impellor, change the zincs.


A major frustration all summer has been trying to get information on the plans and status of projects. The laid back island pace combined with a culture heavily reliant on in person communication has been a hassle and even led to a few projects coming off the list because we could not get anyone to confirm any details (re-fabrication of bow chocks, minor repair to stern rail, and head cabinet modification). A response to an e mail would normally come only after 2 or 3 attempts and 1-2 weeks. Several times I received 4 figure invoices via e mail with no explanation of specifics or photos of the work performed.

Bob has recently arrived in Grenada and has started to assess the work. Preliminary reports are mostly good but with some issues. I look forward to soon seeing the above projects first hand in just a couple of days.