Monthly Archives: May 2013

Baby’s got a new dress

When we bought Escape Velocity we were happy that most of the canvas work was in excellent shape because this stuff doesn’t come cheap. The more we lived aboard though, the more we felt that all the yellow just didn’t express who we are. As artist-types we are super sensitive to color and there are some colors in this boat we can’t do anything about, like the 50s turquoise laminate countertops everywhere. The yellow never looked good with it and we grew to hate it. We replaced the cockpit cushions so at least we didn’t have to sit on yellow. We are very happy with our choice there because its more neutral and because it doesn’t show dirt like the solid yellow did.

But we are not neutral people and we needed punch. So orange became the basis for our redecorating project. I made the boom cover a while back but in sewing that and the jib cover it became clear that my ex-husband’s grandmother’s 40s Singer sewing machine was not up to the task. Nor did I have the confidence to sew replacement saloon window covers, which went to the top of the list after being torn asunder on our long windward passage to St. Thomas.

Enter Janice of Virgin Islands Canvas. We talked her into putting us at the head of the queue and doing up the window covers and sun awnings and finishing up the jib cover in short order. Short order island time, of course. She was not happy to learn that we aren’t at a dock and she’d have to brave the dinghy ride to come fit the window covers. Twice. She managed, though, and by Saturday it all came together.




Does that not look awesome!? We still have a lot of touches to add, we’re stuck with the yellow line bags for now and we have an additional surprise accent color up our sleeve for down the road apiece, but we delight every time we return to EV in the dinghy. “Look!” we say, “We’re not the yellow boat any more!” We could probably have spent the money more wisely on equipment or supplies, but the redecorating gave us a big lift and makes us feel that EV really is our home.

After a few days we decided the awnings need a few more grommets to be able to use them effectively as our rain catchment system. Unfortunately Janice’s grommet setter is bench mounted so we had to take the awnings back to her shop Monday morning. That delayed our departure by six or seven hours and that meant we couldn’t achieve a daylight arrival at our next destination, but that’s another story.



By the way, Janice was delighted to hear about my family research. “You have Caribbean blood!” she said, and she gave me a big hug.

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Our personal guru

We invited our local friends Ron and Jane to visit us aboard Escape Velocity on our last day on the island. Jane was busy with yoga class but Jack picked Ron up in the dinghy and ferried him out to the anchorage. He and Jane had been mostly off the island during our entire time in St. Thomas so we were glad to have this last little bit of time together before we left. Jane sent along a little Buddha; she remembered that I was wanting to find a small lightweight one for EV.

We gave Ron the grand tour and he checked over our watermaker. Ron makes reverse osmosis water for a living but on a big commercial scale. He isn’t familiar with the small units aboard yachts but he puzzled out our system and gave me some tips and advice on the care and feeding of it.

We retired to the cockpit and sat enjoying the view and the company. Ron is so experienced in sailing the islands, cruising in general, circumnavigating and the boat life mentality that every word out of his mouth was to Jack and me a pearl of wisdom to be meditated on and lived by.

Our conversation eventually turned to our non-working SSB radio which we had not got around to addressing during our stay in St. Thomas. Ron jumped up with the no-nonsense do-it-now attitude we’d come to appreciate from his emails to us and fiddled around with the radio and its connections. He confirmed that it wasn’t working and that it wasn’t me.

“Hmmm,” he said. “At this point I’d want to open it up and see what’s going on inside.” He looked at his watch. It was Sunday. He had other things to do.

“Aw, let’s do it.” And he and I set about disconnecting everything and pulling the radio from its cradle at the bottom of the electrical cabinet. We opened it up and were pleased to see that it’s clean and new-looking inside. He checked all the connections, Jack tested the fuses and even though it all looked good we are back at square one. It still doesn’t work. At least we’ve eliminated any obvious electrical failures. Ron suggested the next step will be to schlepp the radio and the remote control panel to a shop for bench testing. I’m not looking forward to that in a wet dinghy and with no car. It’s heavy!

We reluctantly said goodbye to our cruising guru. It’s impossible to overstate how much he’s helped us in adjusting to the cruising life, from offering practical advice on systems or course routing, to more nebulous boosts to our confidence from his obvious belief in us, and just the very fact that he, who has sailed around the world, is following our journey of discovery. We think of him as virtual crew and we’re glad to have him with us.


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Ahoy is a happy sound

Jack called down to me from on deck. “I think Mark and Sue are here!” I ran outside. Sure enough, there was Macushla right next to us. Mark and Sue were busy anchoring but we waved, then stopped by on our way to shore to make a date for happy hour at the Greenhouse. It was a library day for me, and one of my last ones because I knew we’d be moving on soon.

We congregated at our two-for-one spot and caught up with Maculsha’s adventures since last we met — Key West, Cuba (we are envious), Jamaica, Isle a Vache, Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins. When Happy hour wound down they invited us for curry aboard Macushla; we never turn down curry, and we were glad to extend the evening. We have found kindred spirits in Mark and Sue and enjoy every minute we spend with them.


The next day we gave them the Schulz tour of historic Charlotte Amalie and had lunch at a little Jamaican place that had a completely vegan menu. It was great for me to be with fellow vegetarians and for once I didn’t have to puzzle out what I was going to eat. I told Mark it’s a rare delight to be in a restaurant and know that I can eat anything on the menu.


We rounded out our reunion celebration with the cruisers’ equivalent of pilgrimage to Mecca: provisioning at a warehouse store. We were all able to find some good bargains, and I was surprised to find a large selection of Field Roast products so we stocked up. Like I have any more room anywhere in this boat for more food.


Two days and another dinner together and Macushla was gone, but this time we knew it wouldn’t be so long before we saw them again. Next stop, St. Martin.

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Ships that pass in the night

We knew they were in the area. For one reason or another we’d missed hooking up with friends from several boats so when I went out on deck with my morning coffee and heard a familiar cheerful “Ahoy, Escape Velocity!” with that distinctive British accent, it was hard to believe our friends from S/V Macushla of Shannon had found us.

They had been all over the Carribean since we’d last seen them and even to a few places that Americans aren’t allowed to go. We originally met them in Charleston at a delightful little cafe in the old section of town and I thought those people are sailors so we sat down and just hit it off. They are Brits like our friend Alan and I liked the no-nonsense way they had setup their boat. It was good to see them again.

Like all cruisers we had all gone our own way after the impromptu get together In Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale. In fact they were in attendance at my wishful “no recurrence” pre-surgery party aboard Escape Velocity in March. Maybe they’re my good luck charms.

We quickly got together and toured Charlotte Amalie in which I would point at an old building and say “I might have played some music there in that building or somewhere around here some forty years ago.” I think they were impressed.

Then Marce would say that her family owned this building and we think that building as well. We went provisioning together at a box store called Cost U Less, where we introduced them to the charms of the dollar safari taxi truck, which is two dollars to “the country.” St. Thominians call anything that labors up over the mountainous switchback roads the country. It was just too hard to explain how to get there on the Safari taxi truck.

We invited them for a soirĂ©e aboard Escape Velocity and as they climbed the stairs up to deck level I was able to welcome our first guests aboard the new orange Escape Velocity. Janis at Island Canvas had worked her magic and after many months of planning all of EV’s major canvas is a handsome burnt orange, and the front window covers that were crumbling have been replaced with new see through sun reflecting fabric. We love it and we are more distinctive than ever. After all, yellow boats are a dime a dozen here in the Caribbean.

They left at dawn heading for St Martin, another eastward slog to windward. I don’t know who keeps coming up with these rough eastward passages but we’re about out of eastern Caribean Islands. Weather is supposed to be coming in and we have to wait for some last minute adjustments from Janice so it’s going to be close, but we have a plan. Stay tuned Escapees.


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Get the scissors

We were finally able to visit the historic preservation society’s museum in our last week in St. Thomas, which, like the rest of the town, is only open when a cruise ship is in port, as if other visitors or locals are not worthy. It had been recommended as having a good display of historic photos and artifacts, and I thought I could find some information about the buildings my ancestors owned. You have to be buzzed in and we were greeted at the top of the steps by the director. First she had us sign the guest book, then as we started to look around at the displays I noticed a beautiful tree outside the window with bright plum-sized fruit.

“What’s that tree?” I asked.

“That’s a mango tree! Would you like one?” I had never seen tiny mangoes like that and I eagerly said yes, but she was already moving an antique rocking chair away from the window. She squeezed an office chair into the space, grabbed a fruit picker, maneuvered it through the security bars and plucked a few little mangoes for us.


I asked if she had any information about the age of buildings in the historic district but she looked puzzled as if no one ever asked that of the director of historic preservation. Just then someone else arrived who seemed more important than we were and she parked us in front of a video about the history of Hassel Island. It was interesting at first, but what we thought would be an 8-10 minute video went on and on and on, with guest appearances by many notables whose only reason for being there seems to be an ego stroke to the participant. We know the signs; we used to be in the business. Non-media-savvy PR folks who produce videos often think they have to include every person involved in a project to lend legitimacy or to get funding or sometimes just to get the go-ahead for the project. After a few minutes we stopped paying attention to the story and instead discussed how the program could be massively edited to keep it interesting and avoid the dead spots of the “VIP” segments. It was also unbearably hot in the room, with only one small window and no cross-ventilation.



Eventually we abandoned the video and went back to the hallway to continue our tour, but Ms. Director had retreated with the other visitor into the air-conditioned sanctuary of her office. Left on our own we didn’t know what we were looking at, as the displays weren’t for the most part self-explanatory. It was the first museum fail in recent memory and we took to the streets in search of more accessible St. Thomas history, which we found at the Old Danish Cemetery.





I think maybe the historic preservation people might want to consider that there may be visitors with an actual interest in St. Thomas history and not assume everyone is a cruise ship passenger to be guided only toward the gift shop. Just a thought.

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Nothing but air

The leak in the closet was a reminder that just like in a house — more so maybe — I have to empty the closets and storage areas once in a while and let things air out. Our boat is very dry but moisture does creep in to every nook and cranny. Now that the watermaker is back on line I’ve caught up with the laundry and washed the cold weather clothing that we used most recently on our passage here. I packed it all away again in vacuum bags and had to think where a good place to store it would be. I decided on a very large cabinet in our bedroom that’s accessible but not too convenient because you have to crawl up onto the bed to get anything. Before I put the vacuum bags in I figured I’d empty it all out and remind myself of what’s in there and found most of the stuff was getting a little musty. No mold or mildew, but just not too fresh smelling. So out it all goes into the cockpit for airing.

I also discovered a few things that can definitely leave the boat. Like a portable CD player; don’t think we’ll be needing that any time soon. And a portable heater; we have another one so out it goes. Little by little we prune down our clutter but at this rate it’ll take a long time before we have empty drawers or shelves.

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Sand, bricks and shells

I’ve continued to spend every possible moment at the Caribbean Genealogy Library hoping to completely document the comings and goings of my various family groups here on the island. But genealogy doesn’t work that way. Every fact you confirm raises two more questions to be answered. I’ve been fortunate to have some guidance from Lani and Dr. Caron. I only wish I could stay longer. 20130519-170943.jpg

In between library hours Jack and I wandered the streets of Charlotte Amalie exploring alleyways and visiting historic sites that my ancestors may have frequented. We found this compound that was owned by my great-great-great grandmother from 1805 to 1824. 20130519-171634.jpg20130519-171733.jpg20130519-171844.jpg

We climbed the hill to the Harmonic Lodge, a Masonic Hall that was built by another of my ancestors, Alexander Liggett. I’m definitely starting to feel like I own the joint. 20130519-191138.jpg

After we exhausted my legacy we visited most of the houses of worship that were here during the beginning of the 19th century, starting with the lovely synagogue. 20130519-191457.jpg

The marble floor is covered in sand, and a video we watched suggested a few possible explanations. There are even more possible reasons here. In any case, this is one of only five sand floor synagogues in the world. 20130519-204216.jpg

We made our way to All Saints Episcopal Church, where my Liggett family were baptized. It’s a beautiful building in the classic style we’ve come to appreciate. The yellow bricks were brought to the island in Danish ships as ballast and the dark gray stone is local. 20130519-213424.jpg

From the street it wasn’t apparent to me where the entrance was but there were school kids at recess in the playground so I walked over to a teacher in the doorway to the cafeteria and asked if it was possible to visit the church.

“Yes,” she said. “The entrance is on the other side” and she pointed to a middle school-age boy. “Show the lady where the door is.” Immediately his face fell and he sunk deep in embarrassment.

“Awww. He doesn’t want to do it,” I said, mostly to myself.

“It’s ok,” he said, but his head hung low as we started off through the groups of kids in the playground. A wave of silence followed us as we walked, especially when we turned a corner and interrupted some boys playing basketball. No one said a word but I had the feeling the poor kid would have a hard time living this humiliation down. He took me right to the church entrance though, even when I could clearly see the way myself. I thanked him and he smiled a little, then made a beeline back to the playground.


I loved the conch shell on the table behind the last pew and I imagine maybe it’s blown to call the faithful to prayer.


There were more churches and graveyards and general wanderings around a town we’re really enjoying in all its steamy, crumbling chaos.




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The view from the back porch



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Bad day in paradise

I woke up at 5am and looking back I should have stayed in bed. Instead I got up and did last night’s dishes, made coffee, started the generator, put in a load of wash and turned on the watermaker. I sat down with my coffee and the laptop figuring I’d get a full backup going. Last night we had sundowners and a book and movie exchange with a neighboring cruiser and it occurred to me at the time that I hadn’t backed up for a while. So that’s this morning’s chore. Except that the computer won’t start.

I initially thought it was hard drive failure, but I don’t even get to the BIOS screen. I went online on the iPad and searched for any troubleshooting tips but got nothing helpful. If anyone can point me in the direction of full revival of a dead computer, please chime in. Power button lights up for a second, no other activity, then the light goes out.

So I have a computer that won’t boot up with a hard drive that contains a lot of photos and genealogy data and personal records that haven’t been backed up for about two months. Great. I decided to use the other laptop and put the hard drive from the first one in there to at least effect a backup. No, the hard drive is a different configuration, or at least I don’t have the necessary cabling to make that happen. Besides, it turns out that laptop isn’t working either. Well it’s working but the keyboard isn’t. The Bluetooth keyboard that I have to use with it because the built in one doesn’t work. Man, the marine environment is so hard on laptops! Thank goodness for the iPad, which doesn’t seem to be affected by anything.

So, I can’t access genealogy data, financial records, photos, music, movies or anything else on with computer. What to do?

I took a break and did a little cleaning. That’s when I noticed that a dehumidifier bag of water absorbing crystals had burst in my closet soaking half the clothing. My half. And the cedar closet walls and floor. So in this dense humidity I have all my clothes out on the bed, and I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that the closet will dry out any time soon.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s the humidity that’s affecting the computers. I only hope the day improves from here.


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My Brothers de Merde

So…Marce is staring at microfilm again today and after collecting all the bits needed to create a shutoff valve between Escape Velocity’s holding tank and the offending Jabsco pumpout pump, I was hoping to come up with a new reason to postpone the inevitable merde-in-the-face rebuild.

Personally I blame my friend Craig on Anything Goes. After seeing another photo on their blog “Three Kids and a Boat” of still another head rebuild, and this one looked bad, I felt shamed into giving it a go.

The last post concerning the high-pressure washdown featuring an inch and a half hose full of holding tank “product” in my face proved so popular that many of my fellow sailor brothers wrote in with their own hilarious misadventures, and the heretofore secret Brotherhood de Merde was revealed. The initiation isn’t much fun but the secret handshake is hilarious and features, for obvious reasons, no actual physical contact.

This time I cleverly pumped out the holding tank before taking off the one and one half inch hose to the leaking Jabsco Macerator pump. Ok, it stank to high heaven but even Marce’s overly developed olfactory couldn’t smell anything where she was (at the library) but the question now is would it dissipate quickly enough? Probably not but I always feel that one’s mate should share and be aware of one’s suffering on behalf of the team. Seems fair.

I’ve always maintained that the longer one postpones a project the longer one has to assess what’s needed and the best order to accomplish the task, especially an odious one. Well south of a tenth of a boat unit, here they are.


Nice and tidy. Now I can repair our needy macerator pumps without contemplating a face full of you know what. I just hope that they let me stay in the Brotherhood. I’ve already paid my dues.


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