Equipping own boat in the Caribbean

s/y Space, purchased in the Caribbean. This is the boat I was to skipper from Caribbean to the end of Pacific.
At St Maarten I would be equipping the boat I bought in the BVI, and make all the necessary corrections and fixes. Everything is much cheaper here, and the variety is greater. My plan was to get ready within 2 weeks, and then continue to St Barths, and further. Anyone who had spent a bit oif time in the Caribbean would have laughed at the naivité of that, as I do myself nowadays. It’s Island Time, baby. Nothing happens in a rush. What takes an hour to do back at home might take a week here. A day is equal to a month or two. I had no idea that I was destined to stay at that lagoon for several months…

The first days were busy. Making the basics work; looking for spare parts, attaching them to where they belong, cleaning, sorting out, and fixing problems. Also hoping to get a dinghy and outboard from the local hasslers. Until then, I needed to go by foot or by bus around the bay area, and that took too much time. While anchored, it is very complicated to get around without a dinghy, and I did not want to swim in the foul waters of Simpson Bay Marina - but nothing is impossible as long as you have a bit of fantasy! I hitchhiked with other dinghies, got a ride with water taxi, scuba diving boats, a boat with no-nonsence Caribbean road construction workers getting back home for the weekend (very colorful and friendly experience), and once I even got a luxury ride back to the boat with a jet-ski.

However, as time went by, the Island Time got under my skin, and a lot of time was spent sitting around with an ice-cold beer to battle of the heat. There were endless sailors-get-togethers, Friday or Wednesday or Monday nights here and there, barbecues and happy hours, and those kinds of things steal time from work. In retrospective, next time I would do anything like this, I would not be having a drop of alcohol, nor partake in the sailing hangouts (there is a reason why they are sticking around here for years, it’s all the rum punch…) Most sailors here rarely spend a day without drinking, and that’s lousy both for the health, for the sailing budget, and for the sailing progress.

Also, I would probably choose another place to do the fixes; the US for example. It might be more expensive, but it might be worth it considering the time and frustration it takes in the Caribbean where social contracts never include time limitations. Getting spares to a non-US place is also more difficult, especially when you do not have a permanent address. My dock neighbor was a very nice young Swedish lad, and it happened so that he had an account at a shipping company that would deliver the goods almost to my front door... or hatch. Very useful for spares and gear, and happy to find this kind of a connection. However, all the days spent just on trial and error are the days that I could have sailed instead.

I have had a bit of bad luck with buying a dinghy and outboard - it's taken a bit too much time and energy. The one that I bought first got "sliced by a knife" before I fetched it, and when I got another one, the engine on it did not work properly - I found myself rowing in the middle of the Simpson Bay lagoon, several km across, with a head wind and waves splashing over the sides of the dinghy, wet and tired and very pissed off. Luckily, the seller cancelled the deal and already on the same day I found a newer, nicer one to buy from a French sailor who was going in the same direction as I did.

Here is a somewhat chronological list of some purchases and fixes:

- Weber barbeque (having some fantastic dinners onboard!)

- Fixed and gimballed the stove after getting all the needed spareparts.

- Fixed the water supply onboard by manually cleaning the tanks (time consuming and tedious), washing it off with clorine and water treatment, anti-odor, and finally filling it.

- Fixed the engine! The fix from Saba got removed, fixed properly, and it is working as it should.

- Bought a dinghy, an outboard, a sea anchor, a wire cutter, a trolling rod, a few tools, fishing and snorkelling accessories, extra winch-handle, and a sextant.

- Solar cells bought and installed with possibility to turn them to the sun

- Fixed stowing place under the sofas

- Fixed the master electrical panel (now nicknamed Hal)

- Fixed radio and speakers

- Air filter change on engine

- Anchoring chain (a bit of an adventure. My dinghy was soft-botom and so was the seller’s, so putting two people and a piece of heavy chain of 40+ meters would mean sinking the dinghy with all hands. Lucky again, there was a very nice guy who works at Turtle Pier, who had a larger rigid bottom dinghy, with a 15 HP Yamaha (woho!), the only thing was that it had holes in it and looked miserably flat and laughably unseaworthy. I promptly fixed the airleak with duct tape, and set off for the chain! I pumped the airpump like a madman all the way, and managed to get there and back, with the chain, in time before the daily rainshower).

- Second anchor

- Life raft

- Autopilot. This took the longest time - due to Heineken Regatta all the mechanics were busy. At the end, it got fixed - for more than 25% of the boat's price, but it had to be done. I could have installed a windvane, but it doesn't work as good when the wind is on the back - which is usually the case when travelling Westwards. Also the autopiot allows for more exact navigation – and leaves the beautiful bathing platform uncluttered. A certified person did the work, giving a guarantee. Little did I know that it was going to malfunction and force me to hand-steer through a third of the Pacific… but that’s a story for later.

Now, I was ready for some cruising - see the posts about my circumnavigation here!