End of one chapter the beginning of the next

Well Sephina is sold. This came as a shock to my friends and also to me.

The ARC 2013 was the “Rip up the Brochure” year. We had everything from headwinds to no wind to constant 35 knots. As I wrote in my ARC reflection in 2014 there was a moment when I thought “Why am I putting my wife through this” she had not eaten for several days and had stopped drinking  because the seasickness had become so extreme. Pouring water into her mouth with a syringe knowing we were still 5 days away from land with the seas predicted to get even higher was a wake up call. Unbelievably she still did her night watch. (Video after 3 days of 25 Knots downwind atlantic here) Along with many ARC crews in 2013 we vowed not to cross another ocean. So our plans changed. Initially we booked passage back with "Peters and May" from the Caribbean but we decided to give the Caribbean a season to at least explore its charms as we had come so far. That was the best decision we made. Not only did we have some fantastic times exploring the beautiful islands and meeting some amazing people but we enjoyed living on board. The journey down to Grenada is well documented by my wife in Pink and Fluffy and we were slightly trepidatious at the prospect of 5 months in a marina waiting out the hurricane season. But fate reared its head again. Little Oyster Sephina was opposite a spanking Oyster 53 Amelie. The skipper spotted Ju on the pontoon one day and invited us over for drinks (How forward!). Little were we to know, that simple act would be the beginning of a special friendship with the owners Stephen and Debbie. We partied, worked on maintenance, dined out, hashed and partied some more and the 5 months went by in a flash. The icing on the cake was meeting 4 remarkably special people, Miles a handsome Texan from the beautiful “Lone Star”, Kiwi the constantly happy smiling fountain of all knowledge and the “Beautiful People” in the form of Peter and Wendy, the proud owners of one of the stunning properties on the South Coast of Grenada. The talk on Amelie often came to how we were going to bump Peter and Wendy off so we could take over their house. It’s a shame they were so nice . The days in Port Louis Marina were life changing. The end of the hurricane season came without even a puff and we returned to the UK for a very magical wedding of our youngest Steph and her partner Matt. On our return we set off to cruise in company with Stephen now “Stevie Boy” and Debbie now “Debs” from Amelie.  Again the journey is well documented by Ju but my simple analysis was these were some of the best days of my life, sailing Sephina with my wife and two fantastic friends and making some more great friends on the way.  Stevie Boy’s 60th birthday in Isles de Saints was a gathering of several Oysters from the Oyster World Rally. There were some truly stunning yachts and despite the obvious wealth the owners were funny, intelligent, kind, cuddly, bubbly, worldly and generous.  One even had all 7 traits! The main birthday lasted 5 days, the celebrations nearly a month.  

The cruise north continued as our plans to return to the UK took shape and I started to come to terms with parting with Sephina on our return to Southampton. Alan Mcilroy who sold the boat to me from Berthon the brokers, was so helpful I wanted him to handle the sale again. He was going to list her in May as “En Route UK”.  I worked on the boat specification for the sale and was busy drafting it when I had an email from Peter and Wendy in Grenada.  A friend of a friend was looking for a similar type of boat and would I email the spec to them.  A day later I had an email asking to view her the next day.  We were in St Kitts so not easy to get to, so I suggested Sint Maarten in 10 days time. The prospective purchaser duly arrived, asked the right questions and made an unconditional offer the next day. A bit of to and fro and we had a deal.  Sephina was under offer if we agreed to vacate her in a week!!!! Hasty plans, apartment rental, car hire and we were off!  So as I  write this we are boatless abroad. Sephina has gone to a good home under the watchful eye of Bill Martin an American Health CEO. 

And us (Cats included)… Well we have decided to stay in Sint Maarten for the time being while we plan the next journey.  

I will get my kicks from joining the various Oyster owners on legs of their future voyages and my old mate Jon on Kika.  I’m sure its not for my company that I have been invited but my systems skills!  These big Oysters are complex.

Bye, Bye, Sephina and hello family, grandson and old friends back home.  A great new chapter awaits but for now this one has drawn to a close. Thanks to all the friends we met along the way, the Sephina crews who helped us, the ARC 2013 crowd, the Kika crew and the Caribbean friends and finally thanks for reading. 

Bill has agreed to take over the site as Sephina of Beaumaris becomes Sephina of Provincetown and will continue to have her adventures.

Good luck to all who sail in her…… 

6000nM since leaving Deganwy. 63 Ports visited. 

A Wedding

Steph and Matt
Steph and Matt

Our youngest daughter and her fiancé crossed the Atlantic with us in 2013. Soon after they decided to get married but with us still in the Caribbean we were unable to help plan the event but we could fund it! The date was set for November the 7th 2014. We had no idea where we would be by then but booked a flight to Manchester from Barbados as we knew we could always get a LIAT flight there from any of the islands. 

As it happens we ended up in Grenada and so were able to book LIAT flights. However LIAT, the Caribbean airline, have a reputation for unreliability. It is often said the initials stand for Luggage In Another Terminal or Languishing In Airport Terminal or even Leave Island Any Time. So prudence meant that we booked a hotel in Barbados and flew the day before our Manchester flight. We stayed in the Butterfly Beach Hotel and then caught the long flight to Manchester. As we had no winter clothes we first went to our storage unit to equip ourselves for the two weeks of cold wet weather.

We had some time to spare before some appointments in Prestatyn and you know you have friends when you can drop in unexpectedly and ask to take a shower. Thanks Gren and Elaine. Then off for eye tests and my wife had booked in for the long awaited hair appointment to restyle for the wedding. We stayed with our eldest daughter in her new house in Hope and then set off to see Steph and Matt in their new flat in Southampton. That evening Matt showed us around the Clipper 70’s boats that he was refitting in Hamble. Talk about mean racing machines. They're only 18 months old but are stripped back to remove every moving part for service and then repainted and put back together. I was in my element but the girls were bored!

We then set off to Porthcawl to stay in the Fairways Hotel which was also the wedding venue. As we left the UK in June 2013 we had not met Matt’s parents so we were invited round for dinner one evening feeling a little apprehensive. We needn't have been, they were delightful and easy to talk to and as we like Matt so much it shouldn't have come as a surprise that his parents were a joy.

The wedding rehearsal was a scream. The vicar of Pyle Church is a true star. His humour made us all feel at ease. The big day dawned and the weather turned windy and wet. I acted as chauffeur taking the wedding party to hairdressers and picking up last minute items. One popular request was Ibuprofen and Alka Saltzer! I then put my wedding suite on. I have not worn a suit or shoes for 20 months. I even had to borrow cufflinks from Matt's Dad. Matt wore Port and Starboard ones so I chose anchors!

It was time to go and see Steph in her room and I had to wait a few moments as she wanted me to see her in her wedding dress. As the door opened I was greeted with a vision of Heaven. She looked fantastic and a very proud Dad choked back the tears as we hugged. Ju and the bridesmaids equally stunning then posed for photographs and I ordered champagne. Soon Steph and I were alone and it took me back to the glorious times we had on the ocean passages watching the sun come up together. A very, very special time.

Bridal Party
Bridal party

Soon the moment was gone and we had to make our way to the bridal car. As we went down the staircase Steph tripped on the penultimate step. We both hoped this was the only hiccup and so it proved to be. A swift 15 minute drive and we were at the church. The rain held off as we arrived in the entrance to be met by the calming Vicar. Then the slow walk down the aisle as everybody was looking and Matt welled up. The dress worked! The ceremony was quick and humorous but despite this was full of thoughtful perspectives. The formalities were over and some quick pictures were taken by both the official photographer and myself. Back to the Fairways for a welcome drink of champagne. I had orange juice in mine as I still had to make the speech. The newlyweds went down to Rest Bay to see if there was an opportunity to dodge the rain and snap a photo on the beach. They were incredibly lucky as they had 5 minutes between showers but the sky was a photographer's dream.

The wedding breakfast was superb. Steph and Matt had put a huge effort into the detail and the hotel wedding organiser delivered. The table names were all significant boats in Steph and Matt's lives and of course the top table was called "Sephina". The speeches were some of the best I have heard and now my small part was over I made sure I had a large glass of cold Peroni delivered to the table. 

The party began and a “Line Dancing” caller got everybody up on the floor and even had the lads in a conga that went through the hotel, in the lift, around the bar and even across the road to go through the hotel next door l! One of the ushers provided the disco and really had the mood of the guests. He was gracious enough to allow us a few Caribbean numbers that we “made” our friends dance to! It was a wedding we had no part in organising but turned out to be one of the best days of our lives. Thanks to Kim and Jan for being there, Matt and Steph for the attention to detail that paid off and all our friends and family for a fantastic time back in Wales.

To top off the trip we had tickets for the Wales v Australia rugby game in Cardiff which we watched with Matt's male family, Steph and our French friends, Maureen and Thierry who always wanted to see a match in the Millennium Stadium. 

Now back in the Caribbean we are happy people. 


Hookah Dive System

Ju using the Hookah When we planned the trip we realised we needed the ability to dive under the hull in case of emergency to free a rope for example. There were numerous small dive systems on the market but their small size meant limited underwater time. They were also bulky to store and needed dive certification to refill. On passage there was no way to refill the tank so this seemed a poor option. We then found the Hookah system. I have read many posts on the forums of people asking why can’t you just have a long snorkel tube and breath through that. I will not go into the physics here but below about a metre it is almost impossible for the lungs to suck air. The Hookah system uses a small compressor to pump the air down the tube and a low-pressure regulator for the diver to breath. We imported the Canadian system from Sea-Breath. We tried it out today and it is easy to set up and we have both dived to inspect and start cleaning the hull. For some reason the motor seems reluctant to start so requires a little tap to get it going, but once started it sings along nicely. So our hull should be nice and clean for our arrival in Port Louis Grenada on Tuesday.


Dinghy Plane

Nissan 9.8HPSephina has an Avon RIB as it's tender that allows us to get ashore from anchorages. Talking to people and reading a lot told me that in the Caribbean it is your taxi, so it needs to be quick. For it to be quick it needs to be able to "plane" and this is defined as "the mode of operation for a waterborne craft in which its weight is predominantly supported by hydrodynamic lift, rather than hydrostatic lift (buoyancy)”.  In simple terms, when the forward motion is enough, the majority of the hull lifts out of the water and only the back part is touching. This reduces drag and the speed increases. The trick is to get the dinghy out of the water first and this needs a powerful engine or a light dinghy. The Avon RIBs are not light, having a ridged base with blow up tubes on the sides and front. The original engine fitted was a 8HP Yamaha. This would not quite get the dinghy on the plane with one person aboard. I therefore ordered a 20HP Honda 4 stroke motor with electric start. Bliss. It duly arrived and at 56kg was a handful to mange for the two of us but we managed to get it on the RIB and off we shot. It did get on the plane with the two of us on board but only just. We used it for the 2012 season in the UK and fitted a crane to the transom of Sephina so we could store it for the Atlantic crossing. But.... It was so heavy the bracket on the transom was not big enough to hold the weight. As there were so many jobs to do and it was fine on the back of the dinghy lifted up on the davits, it fell down our list of must do's until a week before departure. We decided to weld a bracket to the side of the davits but when James the welder looked at it he was unhappy with the loads the welds would have to support. With only two days to go we cut our losses, left the 20HP at home and went to the chandlery to get a lighter motor. All that was available was a 5HP Honda, it would never get us to plane but It would at least get us on and off the boat, was significantly lighter and would fit the existing mounting on Sephina. My mate Jon knew it was not really powerful enough but time had run out. So here we are in Grenada and now we need to sort this properly. We have had enough of pottering around in a slow dinghy and taking ages to go anywhere. Reading around and looking at what other cruisers have led us to the Nissan (Tohatsu) 9.8HP two stroke. (2 strokes are a lot lighter than 4 strokes but are banned in a lot of countries as exhaust emissions are too high). Talking to the supplier, he assured us it would get the RIB on the plane with two people aboard. We purchased it and mounted it and we set off from the dock full of anticipation. Dinghy TransomeIt was a lot faster than the 5HP but it would not plane. Ju got out and I set off to see if it would plane with one. It just about did and when the forward part of the hull was out of the water the speed increased and I was flying. More reading and the addition of “Dole fins” which add a wing just above the prop seems to help get on the plane. These were fitted and certainly made it quicker to get on the plane one up but it was still tantalising close with two. More reading and a finer pitch prop would give more initial power to get up to planing speed, this took two weeks to arrive. In the mean time we had met another couple on a fabulous Oyster 53 Amelie who were bemoaning the fact that as another boat had parked next to them they could no longer lift their dinghy onto the davits to drain it of water. I asked them if they had a simple plastic bailer which could do the job just as well! The owner looked at me quizzically and said that would not drain the space between the floor and the hull. What space between the floor and the hull I asked? He showed me a second drain hole just below the main one which drains water out of the ridged part of the hull. It is known as the inner hull drain plug. I had never seen this drain plug and when I went to look at our dinghy sure enough there was a second plug. It had never been opened and the washer had perished. I hoisted the dinghy onto the davits opened the normal drain plug to let the rain water out of the floor and the asked Ju to get on the paddle board to reach the newly discovered drain plug. She ventured forth and unscrewed it to a sudden shriek as foul smelling water shot out all over her. She bolted to the shower block not best pleased. The water continued to pour out for at least 10 minutes and was so foul our friends on Amelie thought we were draining the toilet holding tanks!  The new prop had now arrived and it was a five minute job to fit it. So with new prop and a lighter dinghy Ju and I set off to see if it would plane. It was like a bull out of a gate.  It sprang onto the plane in seconds and sped off at what seemed lightening speed. I suspect the removal of that foul smelling water was the major factor. 

Electrical Systems

It is always nice to see friends and you can read more about it in Pink and Fluffy but the arrival of spares and the ability to return faulty items is also welcome. So since completing the ARC a number of systems have needed maintenance or fixing. The RedBox wifi and router unit from Mailasail has been great until it went wrong and the wifi Bat systems (designed to extend your wifi range so you can pick up wifi in anchorages) have not lived up to their reputation. Getting the internet has been very important for us, not only for weather but to stay in touch with friends and family. As I installed two wifi Bats I thought I had it covered. One was at the top of the mast and failed after 2 months, water ingress into the USB connection. At great expense involving an engineer and a rigger the cable was replaced and a new wifi Bat installed. It lasted a year but has also failed. After the first failure I installed a back up on the SatCom pole at the stern. This would be easier to get to if it failed. And sure enough it has. To be fair it was a wifi Bat clone from Crucial wifi but as both wifi Bats proper have failed I am either unlucky or they are not up-to marine installation. I can’t be bothered to get another rigger and engineer up the mast but will have a look at the stern one later.  For the time being our friends brought another Crucial wifi system with a directional antenna and that connected directly to the Mac indoors seems to work. We can aim it at restaurants to pick up their free wifi. Other success are the mast head camera, videos currently being edited and will appear on the site soon, A65 small plotter and AIS under the spray hood, Sat Phone, water maker, washing machine, fans and galvanic isolator. Failures are the deck LED lights and the already mentioned WiFi Bat.  Another important system is the shower. The heater element in the water tank failed and the shower drain pump sounds like a coffee grinder. The element brought from the UK turned out to be the wrong size but the spare pump is at hand if the primary one fails. All this requires battery power and the 750Ah AGMs have proved their worth. So far we run the generator for 3 hours a day and the engine for 30 minutes, in reality for cruiseing the 140Ah solar panels are a bit superfluous with a generator.  Interestingly to monitor the batteries we installed the swishest battery monitor by BEP marine, nice colourful display and great readouts, however the cheap and easy to fit smart gague is far more accurate despite it only having simple connections monitoring voltage.  The other systems all seem to be working for the time being and now having spent many weeks away from marinas I cannot speak to highly of some of the electrical upgrades I made. The aircon sounded a luxury. It is essential. The generator is fantastic and keeps my Espresso Coffee machine at the ready. The upgraded alternator puts lots of juice into the batteries on passage and heats the water while we sort out the electrical heating element. The 32 inch smart TV is great, we can stream films from my Mac book directly to it. The water maker is a dream and keeps us in daily showers. The pure sine wave inverter keeps our phones, laptops and camera charged and powers the TVs. The keel cooler element for the fridge keeps the beers cold on very little energy. We are not slumming it!