Logs – 2023

HomeLogs – Logs 2023

Jan 2023

As stated in Dec 2022, we dropped anchor in Secret Harbor, St Thomas, USVI, and Lee started working for Aqua Action dive shop here. But the boat projects have not stopped. We’ve replaced the autopilot and the fresh water pump, so far. Also, Gabby passed away the latter part of Jan 2023. We think she had been sick for the last few months, as she had been slowly losing weight, but otherwise had no symptoms.

Feb 2023

Not much to report, Lee is working at Aqua Action Dive Center as an Instructor/ Divemaster and Beach Attendant while not diving. Every couple of weeks we take the boat out for a spin to dump the black water tank and work on boat projects – in this case the Autopilot. The autopilot is not behaving properly so we’ve been hand steering.

Mar 2023

Continuation of working at Aqua Action and some diving as we go. 3 notable events:

  1. Brownie completed dive #300

2. We finally got the autopilot commissioned. See the refit part of our webpage for the details

3. Lee received and started commissioning the replacement Olympus TG-6. First pictures (17 Mar 2023):

Arrowhead Crab
Feather Duster Worm
Smooth Trunk Fish

Apr 2023

More of the same – doing Try Scuba/ Basic Diver instruction for Aqua Action Dive Center

Brownie made a trip back to FL to spend some time with Lee’s sister and bring back a big duffle of items for the boat.

May 2023

Some notable events:

  1. Lee completed Free Diving Level 1. This is the next step towards becoming a freediving instructor. Right now Lee is looking for an SSI Free Diving Instructor Trainer. More to follow.
  2. Lee is working on studying for completing the USCG OUPV (6 PAX Charter Captain) license. This will allow us to operate small commercial vessels with passengers for hire. Unladen Swallow might become a real dive boat.

June 2023

Sunset in Secret Harbor – SV Unladen Swallow is the Sailboat 2nd from the left

Concluding our time in Saint Thomas.

Lee passed the OUPV exam and is submitting all of the paperwork to get the license.

Brownie is working on becoming a Divemaster as Lee can’t captain and lead dives at the same time.

We are headed to the island of Curacao for hurricane season.

All total while in St Thomas, Lee completed Dive # 700 – he wasn’t paying close attention and blew by it without taking the picture. Lee also lead 19 2-tank boat dives from Aqua Action’s dive boat, and lead 70 students through Try Scuba/ Basic Diver. Most students > 90% successfully completed the training. He also completed one student’s SSI Open Water Referral course.

Finally he got a chance to dust off his Advanced Point and Click Photography course.

He also brought his trade of being a beach bum to new heights while working on the beach hauling and fixing beach lounges around, umbrellas and water toys. Lots of fun making tourists smile and feel like they made the right choice on where to spend their 1 day on a beach on Saint Thomas.

We made lots of good friends and plan to come right back here in November.

Curacao Passage and start of a new adventure

It’s now hurricane season and we needed to beat feet (as we were leaving the first named storm from Africa made its presence know) on the 16th of Jun we set out with just the 3 of us (Brownie, Lee and Loki) for the 450nm trip from St Thomas to Curacao. This was the shakedown for the new autopilot. It worked pretty well, but we started having rudder calibration issues underway especially as the boat powered up. We were sailing on a beam to broad reach in mid/high teens most of the way and then low 20’s when we got down to Curacao.

We are all checked in – note if the gate to the road along the seawall is closed go have lunch and wait for it to open to go to the Harbor Master. The walk around is not worth the effort!!!! The check-in process is not bad, but we got really confusing directions so we did several things the hard way.

Otrobanda, Willemstad, Curaçao
Queen Emma Bridge – Koningin Emmabrug
Handelskade, Williamstad, Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge opening
Iguana Café

Jul 2023 Updates

After getting the boat settled, the dinghy motor to the shop, car lease arranged, and a bunch of stuff ordered, we jetted back to FL to visit family and gather parts and pieces to continue working on the boat.

Aug 2023 Updates

Dinghy motor is now working great – sometimes it’s just better to pay someone that knows what they are doing

Our main engine monitoring project has taken a significant step forward with the installation of an AlbaCombi unit. We think we now have a digitally instrumented diesel motor.

We had been seeing odd things going on within parts of the 12DC system to include our stereo. After lots of troubleshooting we discovered that bluegreen copper dust (corrosion) doesn’t conduct electricity very well. We also discovered that 3 out of our 4 speakers were toast. So that’s all been updated and corrected.

Melted insulation on main 12VDC line to panel – original gauge was too small

We took another swing at the 12VDC conversion of starlink – our 12-48 vdc power supply was toast. So we are awaiting a replacement.

We scored 2 gently loved big deep sea trolling reels while in FL. Looking forward to trying them out.

We’ve also been diving a few times. Next up trying to finally commission the scuba compressor – I have reached out for wiring instructions to install a soft-start so we have a chance of using it with out electrical system.

We also did several other minor projects that have been sitting there awaiting parts or motivation – lots more to go.

In the mean time, we have gotten involved in the local cruiser community. Very international flavor – Dutch, German, Brit, Swiss, Fin, French, Argentinian, Brazilian, and others. English seems to be the common language, but we are often embarrassed that everyone else speaks 2 or more languages, and here we are with English. Not enough French, Spanish or German between us to get our faces slapped.

Oct 2023

The time is rapidly approaching for us to get ready to leave. We have been diving, doing a few boat projects and trying to enjoy just having fun in Curacao. We have moved the boat a few times to outer anchorages Fuikbais and Klein Curacao, taken part in a lionfish hunt for profit (not profitable) and generally enjoying hanging out with other cruisers.

Lionfish waiting the fillet knife

Lee’s USCG Capt’s license was also approved – now he can work in the USVI as a day Captain also.

taking break while exploring Hato Caves – Grotten van Hato

Nov – Passage from Curacao to PR

3 Nov – end of Hurricane season and time to say goodbye to Curacao.  We had a great time and have made lots of friends and really expanded our cruiser network.  We also took on the crew – April & Jack to help with the passage north.  While the crew was with us we did some sightseeing in town to include the slavery museum – must do and the largest of the caves on the island.  We got all checked out and made our way back to Klein Curacao where we got the boat ready and enjoyed some clear water.  We used the water maker to fill our tanks only to discover the RO membranes where shot.  We knew they were not happy but this time we definitely had a salty taste in the product water. We made sure to have plenty of drinking water on board so non potable in the tanks wasn’t a problem – still fine for cleaning etc.

Finally flew new Asymmetric Spinnaker
Fuikbais was much nicer anchorage

Before leaving Curacao, here are some lessons learned:

1. Don’t sit in Spanish Waters any longer than nessessary – bottom growth and the general environment with the local commercial traffic isn’t great.  Next time we will be a week in/ week out (Klein & Fuikbais).  This will also keep the boat exercised.

2. If you go to Curacao (or any other islands where Budget Marine exists), register as a Yacht in Transit so you avoid taxes etc. They can also act as a freight forwarder.

3. Rental car is worth the effort – we did a 3 month lease.  Was a bit of a luxury, but it was only $450 per month. Probably worth going in with at least 1 other long-term boat to split the costs.  Getting to the Harbor Master, the hardware and the nonlocal grocery stores all require dedicated wheels. Also, there is 1 place to get US standard bulk propane bottles filled (10lb or 20lb is the same price and they want NAF not USD) Taxis are quite expensive.

4. Scuba diving is great. A good size dinghy engine is necessary to get outside to the dive sites.  Make sure you have proper lights and a prominent dive flag to alert the many day boats to your presence in the water. A good anchor and rode (at least 10’ of chain (protect the rode as it turns up across hard/sharp coral as well as hold your anchor securely on the bottom)) and then rope to anchor safely in 20’ of water is absolutely required.  You will be anchoring in sand so the folding grapple type anchor may not be the best option. We have a coated Danforth Fluke type anchor, about 15’ of 1/4” stainless chain and then another 30’ of 3/8” nylon triple braid.  We were very happy with its performance.

5. There are both WhatsApp (Spanish Water) and Facebook (Curacao Cruisers) groups for the cruising Community in Spanish Waters. Join them and participate.  Living with and getting to know other couples from all over the world was great. They were able to help us out and we were able to lend assistance to others many times.  There are also several businesses that host happy hours/ cruiser discount dinners, etc,. via the WhatsApp group. Participate to get to know everyone and have fun.  Also allows you to maybe unload your bilge treasures…

6.  A small BTU air conditioner will make Sept/Oct more livable at night.  When tropical storms move North of the island, they disrupt the trade winds and you lose the natural air conditioning.  Also, the rainy season starts in early October.  We had some pretty uncomfortable nights without a/c.

Natural Air Conditioning died and that made for very uncomfortable sleeping

7.  Food on Curacao is readily available w a local market providing free buses 2 mornings a week.  If you want more options a car will be required.  The stores have a unique mix of US and European brands so if there is something you really must have you might consider stocking up and bringing it with you.

8.  Spanish Waters is a large shallowish lagoon where waste dumping is allowed. The tide is minimal, so the water is not the cleanest.  Also, the water temperature almost broke 90 degs.  Several other cruisers regularly used their water makers in the lagoon, but they definately went through lots of prefilters.  We chose to wait till we were in cleaner water.

9.  If you do not have a water maker, potable water is available from several sources in Spanish Water so have a few Jerry Cans and the hoses are long enough to reach them in the Dinghy. We paid about .07 NAF per liter. It worked out to about $7.00 for 3x6gal Gerry cans.  We used this for our primary drinking water.

Anyway – back to the passage…

Our sticky rudder was also very stiff – so no autopilot.  We weren’t looking forward to hand steering, but we were able to balance out the sails and the boat was happy to move along at 60 degrees apparent wind w the rudder essentially locked in place.  If a gust came, the boat naturally rounded up a bit and then settled back to 60 degs.  We used a lot less power and the watches went along w little manual input.  Having said that, the last day we needed closer to 90 deg apparent and couldn’t get that balance so there was about 10 hours of minor adjustments to keep us mostly near to our desired course.  The passage saw us pass through 7 squalls – we saw 35kts a few times, but fortunately no lightning.  We managed to land 2 Mahi Mahi to the crew and cat’s delight. We did lose some tackle when a small plastic box containing a handful of lures made its way overboard and we got one solid strike with the line on one of the rods fouled and broke the line right at the rod tip instantly.  Once again though the Cedar plugs were the lure of choice for the fish. 

One of the 2 Mahi Mahi we caught

We didn’t break anything else so let’s call that a great passage – abt 6knt average speed over ground working East and north against the trade winds.

Just another squall filled sunset

We arrived in Boquerón, PR after 3d16hrs underway at 0030. As we were making our way in and sorting out where we would drop the hook, a Customs and Border Patrol boat decided to pay us a visit. They boarded us and after a pleasant and professional interchange sent us on our way with a few scuff marks on our hull.  Their RIB wasn’t as nice to our hull as we would have liked. We had tried to use the CBP Roam app to check in, but apparently, it’s not manned 24×7 in PR.  We reached out to CBP in the morning once we had gotten some sleep and about that time, we got e-mails from the local agent saying he was trying to get ahold of us. We got back on the app, and he initiated the video call and got us all checked in.

South coast of PR – Isla Caja de Muertos – Coffin Island

Now that we were safely done with the passage it was time to start jumping Eastward across the S coast of PR. We stopped behind an extensive reef system to play and explore the first night. The 2nd night was dedicated to crew visiting family, so we entered what was basically a commercial anchorage for a big refinery (Guayanilla) and got the crew to shore.  The next day was the final push to Salinas to make sure the crew could make their flight home. 

Crew of SV Unladen Swallow in from of the I Love Salinas sign

We drove them up to San Juan and after saying good bye at the airport, we headed over to old town San Juan for some sightseeing.

Looking along the coast from an observation point in Ft Castillo San Cristóbal

We decided that the noise and congestion were not to our liking so we backtracked to Coffin Island where we spent 3 wonderful quiet days (days 2&3 we were the only ones there) before going back to Salinas.

Lee coming to shore at Coffin Island – we are the only boat here
Windward side of Coffin Island


We needed to go do the family holiday visit and get a bunch of personal appointments done in the US, so we had arranged for a boat sitter through a wonderful Salinas, PR based couple we met in Curacao.

While we are visiting family, all of the scuba gear is going to VA for its maintenance to include our newest BC going back to the Manufacturer to be repaired – the bladder is leaking/ burst.  We will likely have VA Scuba and Hollis direct ship the refurbished items direct to STT as our old mailbox is getting reactivated.

Dec 2023 – St Thomas, USVI

As of 16 Dec we are back in Secret Harbor. The passage from Salinas was not real pleasant as we had to motor the whole way against low/mid teens wind and because of the rudder issue, we alternated hand steering for 25 hours.

We will be back working with Aqua Action Dive Center for the season unless things have changed given the change in ownership.