Monday, November 28, 2011

Update from St. Thomas

Hi Everyone,
It’s been Thanksgiving Holiday here in St. Thomas, so everywhere has been closed since last Wednesday, but I’ve been going to the boat every day and trying to keep up a steady work rate so I can get the big Clean up finished. Another three big black bin bags of mush yesterday – to give you an idea of the mess, I had a pack of 12 toilet rolls in my store, this has gone to a mulching mess and is absolutely everywhere. Mixed in with it is all my bits and pieces of documentation and memorabilia from the places and people I’ve met.
There are still two more compartments to open, and the biggee, the electrics compartment, which I’m scared to open because I know it’s just going to be a mangled rusted mess. Where to start there I won’t know. Now I’ve managed to run the engine the water has come out of the diesel tank, gallons of it, and the engine is now running on proper, if somewhat dirty diesel again. The renewed alternator is working great, starts first time to recharge the batteries, the propeller is working, so I’m power independent again.
My next priority is to get the hull back to some sort of condition so that GL will be able to float again, but to do this I have to also buy a completely new windlass and anchor, as during the first failed recovery attempt when all the bad damage happened this was shattered and was lost to the sea.
The cost is scary for just that one item, about 2.800$US. Lost many of my tools to salt water too.
I’m trying to make a deal with the boatyard so I can stay here in an out of the way corner for the time it will take to get the planking stripped and repaired.
To get to the damaged hull will need to take up all the tongue and grooving, remove starboard bunk, door down aft, pull out paneling, dismantle toilet and all fittings. The hull is in worse shape than when I first got Guiding Light, but at least I won’t have to do the mast , rigging and sails again.
Some good news is, today I finished washing all my flags and pennants, so they are neat once more, also my waterproofs and clothed are also OK after a wash.
My camera did turn up, guess where? In the motor of the recovery vessel pump! The girl from the crew said they had heard something rattling around and found my camera inside. It’s in working condition too, except it must be shorting on the rust in the battery compartment as it runs out of battery in about 5 minutes. Haven’t been able to do anything about posting pics on my blog because it’s been Thanksgiving Holiday and everywhere is shut…
Hoping to be able to replace my computer again very soon so I can get communications going to everyone under my own steam.
All for now, more later.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Progress Report

Working this week on fitting replacement parts to repair damage to alternator. Hoping to post some pics of GL on the blog very soon - my replacement specs are on order too. Working out what needs to be done as a priority, and settling down a bit after all the trauma of the past couple of weeks. More later

Friday, November 18, 2011

Main engine saved and working!

Hi everyone
Yippee! Extremely hard work this week resulted in being able to see if engine would come back to life – it did and was able to run it for a couple of hours. Not connected to any electrics yet of course, as that has to be completely renewed with new cables and wiring, so it’s just a temporary battery connection for now. It’s a start though, and it made me feel very much happier about things today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cleanup cont.

Hi all again,
Have to say thanks for all the comments and support I have been receiving, I felt very alone for a bit but have rallied myself into gear again. Managed to open up the battery locker yesterday, what a mess, melted cables everywhere and an inch or so of corrosion on the batteries themselves. I spent all day getting them out to see if any could be 'fixed-ish', a good clean up later, and a borrowed battery charger, and to my surprise three of them are in pretty good condition, one though is kaput. I have them on charge I can continue with the engine and trying to start that. I have saved the starter motor and I am trying to save the alternator today, using all my knowledge. Also the new battery charger I bought was full of SW but after a complete overhaul I will try switching it on and see what happens. I am expecting a spectacular big bang.
On a lighter note. About a month ago I bought a local car bumper sticker. It reads 'WELCOME TO ST. THOMAS' USVI, underneath it says 'YOU CARN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP' I found the sticker under the fuel tank, took it outside and stuck it on the worst damaged bit of GL's hull! Its made everyone laugh and say that at least I haven't lost my sense of humour.
I have still to find my camera, it was suposed to be waterproof, but as yet no sign, it could have been washed overboard of course, but have not finished searching everywhere yet, so still hoping.
More later

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Big Clean Up

Hi Everyone,

Haven’t managed to search GL completely yet – you wouldn’t believe the time it’s taken to try to get through the gunk left by the sea water flooding through. Add to this the water levels coming and going during each of the tides while on the reef, then finally being pumped out, and you have some idea of how much flood chaos there has been to try to clear up. I’ve been finding things in very odd places – eg my shaving brush under the electric box. I even found my computer hard-drive back up, thought that had been washed overboard. Don’t know whether it will work or not. Can’t try it in the lap top of course, that’s sitting there completely useless encrusted with dried salt, as is all my radio and sat nav electronic gear . So have very limited access to the internet at present.
Yesterday managed to remove the saloon table to access the floor-boards, so am finding more things washed down below too. Have filled lots of black bags with sodden equipment no longer any use. Including waterproof torches, hmmm.
A few brighter notes to end – Fred survived intact! The new reinforced mounting that I fitted last month has certainly had the mother of all sea trials and passed with flying colours.
The solar panels are giving some output despite not working properly. Also, although the dingy was lost I managed to recover the outboard motor and have managed to repair it except for one small broken piece which I’ll order after the holiday weekend. St Thomas US VI has been celebrating Veterans Week (from 11.11.11).
Friends here are helping me keep positive, and as you know, I haven’t lost my sense of humour either. Thanks everyone.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Reef Rescue - in Pictures

Guiding Light last week in October, 2011, in fantastic
Guiding Light on the Reef at 'False Entrance'  Benner
Bay, US Virgin Islands.  
Picture used with kind permission Gerald Singer

Guiding Light coming in through the entrance with
assistance, but afloat and un-holed.

Sea Tow recovery vessel with GL being made ready to put ashore

GL  Safe in the boatyard - 'Fred' the windvane still intact.

In the cradle sling, water being pumped out with heavy duty pumps

After all the stress and excitement Skipper Roy being
revived by medicinal brandy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Facebook Page now up

Very quick update. Have asked my niece to help me out in getting the word out about what's happened to GL. So many people who have admired her in the past.
Please go and like it and we will try to keep that up to date along with blog to keep everyone informed.
Here's the link
 Yacht Guiding Light Facebook Page

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hi Everyone,
It was suggested to me after I described my difficulties that I could
put a Donate Button on the Blog if anyone wanted to help me get
Guiding Light back to a seaworthy state. Thank you for this advice,
the button is there,and if anyone would like to do this they have my
gratitude. Any help will be extremely appreciated by myself.

The terrible sight - Guiding Light on the reef:( - Courtesy of Gerald Singer - Blog about life in St. John US Virgin Islands

More later

The prognosis for repair

Hi Everyone again,

And now my and GL's quandry, it concerns my finance's as much as anything else, also the estimated work and time/materials required to carry it all out.
The main damage is to the starboard side when she was pulled over. Morgan the Shipwright has been aboard for a quick look, and we discussed what needs to be done, and a rough time scale for completion. It doesn't look good for me. All my budget for the next 5 months was used to get her off the reef and into the shipyard. Over $10,000. Right now I am out of funds. I had to spend that amount as I just couldn't stand by and watch as she was battered into matchwood by the relentless waves on the reef. I spent all day yesterday searching the reef and the mangroves for all the items washed overboard. I found them scattered all over the mangroves. And recovered:- outboard motor/washboard/cockpit floor/cockpit cushion/aft hatch cover/salvage pump/bottle of washing up liquid/petrol can/life jacket/dingy oars and dingy which was shreaded and useless. I recovered all except two anchors and my boathook, so luck is still with me a bit.
More news later

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sink or Swim

Hi again,

Saga continues,

Monday 31 Oct

I had arranged with my friends to meet very early the next day at Bottoms up 'Carigues Bar and Restaurant'.

We were going to attempt to board GL. I needed my documents, and most important my insurance information to authorise a salvage of GL. We arrived on the inside of the reef about 07:45 and I attempted to walk out to her. The waves however were too much for me to reach her, I kept getting knocked over, I already had fire coral stings on my feet from the previous evacuation in bare feet the night before, I didn't fancy getting anymore, but did on my hands trying to steady myself in the surf.

I had no phone or numbers and needed communications. This was only achieved at about 13:30 to late to find info in the uk it being 17:30 there.

My sister went to my house to get the documents required. I wouldn't receive this until the next morning. Meanwhile I put the word out to those I knew here as to my predicament.

That night saw me with my mind basically shot away. With everyone telling me 'that boats don't last very long there, 2 hours 6 hours, some a bit longer', I was trying to come to terms with the fact that GL just can not survive 2 nights and a day on that reef, by everybodys reckoning.

Tuesday 1

Rang UK very early and speaking with my sister found that we had both missed receiving insurance renewal info due to both our computers having been hacked last year. I was now on my own.

I went to the office (Bottoms Up Bar), put my professional hat on and sat at a table, with a coffee, in front of me a pile of contact numbers. After seeing my mast still there in the distance I assumed the boat was still hanging in there, so rang the towing company to arrange to be taken to the boat to retrieve a few personal items and for them to give me an estimate on how much cash, if possible to extract her from the reef. I was taken to the boat at noon, they had already put a pump on board and were seeing if she would pump out. They helped me across the reef and I got aboard. I retrieved most things I was looking for and they put this in a small boat. After dumping this back ashore I returned for the prognosis. They gave a couple of scenarios and knew I had no insurance. It was very expensive. But sitting alone in the tow boat, looking at GL, who it seemed to me was doing her best to stay in one piece, I decided I had to at least get her off the reef, even if she sank in deep water. They waited with the cell phone ready to call the shot while I looked at the forlorn aspect and sight of GL high on the reef. "I'll commit to a try" I said. A call was made and a bigger tow Boat immediately left Tortola BVI bound for our position and the process swung into action. It took time for Huskeys salvage tug to arrive, then pumps were manhandled across the reef and set up aboard. A bridle was made up so both boats could do the pulling when there ropes were shackled up. They were allowing me to watch but said I could stay in the dingy when they went round to seaward to do the towing. All was ready and approx 1600hrs they were ready. I asked if I could come with them and they said yes. So about 1610hrs all 4 pumps running the pull began. Both boats slowly applying more and more power. I had been given there mobile phone to take pics. GL wasn't moving yet then more power then more power, I saw a swell wave running in and as it hit GLs bow she suddenly leaped upright and catapulted foreward towards the deep water. I was saying " come on girl come on girl" a second swell came in, she did the same again. And again and she was off. WWWOOOWWWW. It had taken maybe five minutes tops. They decided to tow her immediately round the point into 8 feet of calm sandy bottom water to assess how many holes needed patching, and how many air bags it would take to keep her afloat. They did this and at 1640 told me amazingly there were no holes on the starboard side, and only one small pump was keeping her afloat. With a bit of persuasion, I convinced Indipendent boat yard manager at 1645hrs to arrange an emergency liftout of GL. He said be quick you only gave me 15 minutes to stop my men going home. 25 minutes after that I had been towed through the moorings with people cheering and was being lifted out on the travel lift. What a result. I was shell shocked and when all secure went to the bar for a beer. I had enough adrenalin in my blood to fly to the moon.
More about the assessmeant of damage later, but for now the hull isnt to badly damaged, 8 or 10 frames have been cracked, a lot of surface deep scuffing marks, but how on earth did a 75 year old survive 48 hrs battered by the swell on such a trrible reef?
more Later

GL face's her greatest lifes Challange

Hi To Everybody (with a lot of sadness in my hart.).

I have a bit of a Saga to tell you all. There is a lot of stupidity involved on my part in this story, and also a lot of events that individually wouldn't have meant a lot. But, putting them all together equals a disaster.

As you all know from my last blog post, GL, now all fixed and tested, (looking better than she ever has) was ready for my next adventure 'down island', with only one more promise to fulfill.

Sunday 30th October I decided, was a good day for a relaxing sail to Water Island and Honeymoon Bay.
With two Local friends, beautiful weather, and calm seas, we had a really really nice day out.
On our way back beating into the wind, it was a magic sail, GL effortlessly riding the swell, but darkness was beginning and we knew it would be completely dark before our arrival back. With only about a half mile to go to rounding the point to spot the unlit green marker buoy, we decided to stand off, start the engine and drop the sails. With this all done I handed the tiller to one of my guests, an experienced local charter skipper, and went down below to switch on the charging circuit from the engine to the service batteries. What happens next is a bit hard to recall, I might have spent a bit to long down below I just don't know, BUT, I felt a bump on the keel! As I shot out of the cabin with thoughts of what could we have hit out here in deep water, the other skipper jumped on deck to get a better view ahead, as I looked foreward I could see a reef with a line of terrible looking rocks blocking our way, and they were only just about 300 yards ahead. The engine still in gear was just ticking over but the boat was still doing 3.5 knts straight towards these rocks! I grabbed the throttle control and threw it in astern at full speed, the boat began to stop, then, another sickening and heavier bump occurred, GL shuddered, then a large swell wave lifted her stern and broke just behind, at this point with engine at max astern we had little astern speed and the wave pushed GL forward. When we grounded again this time hard, the sound was more like a crunching sound, I was making no way astern and now being on the wave break line of the reef every wave was pushing her further, we heeled over and GL I knew, was hard aground. During all this I was shouting "were the hell are we", "I don't recognise anything" the other skipper said "we are on the reef at False Entrance."
I had heard of this place of course, but didn't know it.
It would take to long to narrate the next half an hour, and I'm sure typing the words used by all would be banned from being posted.

'Mayday-Mayday-Mayday' words I have never wanted to utter. I broadcast these words for the first time in my life, giving all the info as to GL and our position and situation. Each approx 3 to 4 foot breaking wave was pushing GL further and further up on the reef .

The response was quick and the emergency services were soon in contact. Speed was of the essence, this reef has claimed many many boats. I was in shock. I couldn't understand how this had happened. I kept myself detached however and concentrated on calming my guests, and making sure, No One did anything stupid as to endanger themselves any more than that we were already in. GL wasn't leaking, I had the engine running and as I had fitted an engine driven bilge pump, this was on standby in case it was needed.

The small harbour Coast Guard rib arrived and stood by as we waited for the local salvage towing boat to arrive. I was in constant communication with frequnet updates as to our situation, and everyone knew what was going on. The sea was washing over and being night time in only shorts and t shirts we were all getting very cold.

After this tow boat arrived we discussed the options to attempt a tow off the reef. When this had finally been agreed and a rope attached by myself, an attempt was made. The tow only managed to turn the bow a small amount. The second pull managed a full 180 with the bow now pointing out to seaward. The third pull moved GL about 4 foot towards the deep water. Then the bigee pull. GL was scraping with horrible noises coming from below were I was, she was moving a bit then she lifted nearly upright and dropping back, then she lifted again...teetered on her balance point and went over onto her starboard side and crashed down hard on the rocks. I saw and heard wood splinter inside and at that moment a loud crack from up forward some where. When I got there I found the anchor windless, middle one of three tow fixing points had sheared of its mounting feet. As it had pivoted on the one remaining foot it had guillotined the tow rope. The tow boat with this sudden release had catapulted foreward swamping the boat to the gunwales. and also her massive outboard engines. Now with no engines they drifted backwards and ended alongside about 30 feet off are portside, hard aground! Inside GL were I was, the water level was rising so rapidly even with the engine bilge running it was obvious that was that. With the cooling intake above water and overheating I shut the engine off. Two minutes after that the water hit the batteries and switch panel and all lights power and of course radio died. After shouting questions to the tow boat they said they would be getting a tow off attempt when a line could be taken from the coast guard boat. I then told my guys we get off now onto the tow boat and leave GL on the reef. We did this half drowning in the breaking waves and were all aboard when the attempt was made. It was successful and we came off with a lot of scraping banging bouncing cursing and god knows what else. Halfway to Redhook we were transferred to the big Coast Guard boat which had a cabin we could get in to get a bit warm. 20 mins later we were on the ferry dock Safe.

My thanks go to the Purto Rico rescue center...The USVI Coast Guard...St Johns USVI Rescue Service and Sea Tow for their combined efforts in rescuing my crew and myself.
GL now had to survive a night on the reef enduring the crashing waves.
I found shelter from the owners of Custom Canvas and Sails on Fabians Landing.
My crew went to the skippers yacht.

For everyone to note
Imeadiate family know the complete story, but this is my first opertunity to keep my readers informed.

The next blog will be titled
'Sink or Swim' and will describe what happened to GL on Monday 31, Tuesday 1 Nov. and Wednesday 2 Nov..

Still a very sad person