Our 2002 Hylas 46

Friday, November 10, 2017

Our 2017 / 2018 Winter Sailing Season Starts

Our winter season is now OFFICIALLY under way. We arrived in Antigua on Oct 29th. We had in tow with us 450lbs of baggage. Yup we travel light! As many of you know and helped, we packed up 3 HUGE bins of humanitarian aid for the folks of both Barbuda and Dominica. In the end I have to thank Air Canada for picking up the tab for all the aid bins and then some. Their request process is terribly overburden some and it was 4 weeks of effort but it did pay  off in the end. Upon our arrival even the customs and immigration folks were very appreciative of the efforts that you and we went to in providing aid – thanks Mom for your generous donation!

The number one item after arriving was to check on Ambition and confirm that she made it through one of the very worst hurricane seasons in the Caribbean completely unscathed.  It is almost unbelievable to me that less than 40 miles away on the island of Barbuda (part of Antigua) Hurricane Irma completely devastated the island and its 2000 now homeless inhabitants and in Antigua nothing!. All the residents of Barbuda were evacuated after the hurricane to Antigua and are still living  and going to school here. It will be many many months before they get back to their island. Very sad indeed and the Antiguans feel VERY blessed to have missed the wrath.

For our first 4 days, we stayed in a AIRBNB villa in Jolly Harbour while we prepared Ambition for launch. Our arrival in 85F and humid temperatures is a struggle but still much better than dealing with the cold! We knocked off all the “must do before launch” items in plenty of time and Ambition splashed down on Oct 31st – wow so good to see her back in the water.

Next task was to get all our luggage on board including all the boat parts and project items that we gathered during the summer. Yes as you might have imagined – out came my project plan appropriately titled “Ambition Winter prep 2017”!!!  Once a Project Manager always a project manager!

Race Day!
After 10 LONG days of work our interior project plan is 93% complete and outside we are at 75%. GREAT progress and Maryse has spent hours polishing stainless, fiberglass and cleaning woodwork, treating canvas for waterproofing not to mention getting everything stored in its rightful place onboard.  Best crew ever!

A small stingray swims past at the dock

Retrieving the dinghies from storage!

One job that should have taken me just 15 minutes to complete was the reinstallation of the three blades on the wind generator that makes electricity for free! Well the post that holds the generator is hinged to facilitate the servicing. Blades all attached – all is good … or so I thought! Well about 20 minutes later Maryse yelled that she smelled smoke like an electrical fire on board … this is never a good thing! An all hands or I should say noses try to locate the problem …. nothing found – not good either. Now would be a good time to test the on / off switch for the wind generator – huummm it is warm and doesn’t work????? Kind of answers the electrical smell …. but after I removed the switch – it was melted … another no good sign!!! Turns out that that when I tilted the pole forward, I stripped the insulation off the wire and shorted out the whole system. Well – after 5 hours of shopping for new wire and switches, running the 20 feet of wire through the small spaces and redoing the connections we are now finished with the 15 minute job. This is my life of boat projects!

Smelly melted switch

One of  our major tasks was to prepare the basic work for the installation of our new water maker.  This involves removing all the salon cushions to gain access to the inside of the boat. A couple of pictures of one of our electrical panels to connect the new wiring – thanks Richard! Now the 40 feet of ¾” tubing is run below the floor to connect various parts together!

Electrical panel - a work in progress!

Water maker parts and pieces

tools tools and stuff everywhere
We have reached a point where can now actually drop the dock lines and head out of Jolly Harbour and change our view just a little – not going too far away – just 15 miles around the coast to Falmouth Harbour. Here we will complete the installation of our MAJOR new addition to Ambition – a Spectra water maker – this will allow us to convert salt water to drinking water. What a real luxury to have the ability to be autonomous for fresh water and for washing the salt off the boat. Ambition will be soooo happy!  Thank you ever so much James and Chantal for making this all come together – you are awesome friends. 

Starting to look like a sailboat again!

Even this side looks good! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Preparing for our departure south!

WOW WOW WOW and WOW - So many of our family and friends pitched in to help us collect clothing, footwear, lingerie for the ladies (Thanks Mom 👍😀!), medical supplies, school supplies, personal hygiene items and household necessities. Our goal was to collect one hockey bag full and you can see from the pictures that we have been able to fill 3 LARGE BINS at 50LBS each! Thank you so much for your contributions and support and I am most certain thatch people of Barbuda will be very thankful of your generosity. Considering they have lost everything, every little bit they receive will no doubt, make their lives a little bit easier.

Our next step is to pack up all our replacement parts, spares, and upgrades that we are taking down as they are often difficult to impossible to get in the islands.

Maryse has done a great job in "stocking us up" on some of the essentials of life aboard the boat for the winter .... need to pack this as well! Notice the cans of Quebec Maple Syrup - always a favourite no matter where we travel. Often heard is "It comes drilling holes in trees?????"

Thanks again for your contributions and donations to help in making difference for the folks of Barbuda recover from a record breaking category 5 hurricane.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hurricane Irma

I am sure that many of you have seen the pictures of the devastation that Irma inflicted on many Caribbean Islands. As you know, we choose Antigua as a great location to store Ambition for the summer while we returned home.
The eye of Hurricane Irma fortunately enough for us, passed 50 miles north of Antigua. The result of this path was that Antigua was spared the brunt of Irma's 185 mph winds. The sister island of Barbuda - home to about 1700 people took a direct hit from Irma. Today there is not one soul living on Barbuda, all have been evacuated. This is the first time in 300 years that Barbuda has not had inhabitants.

Here is a current article outlining the situation on Barbuda - 

Maryse and I will be returning to Antigua late October and we will take with a large hockey bag that we will endeavour to fill with items that will be of use to the children and families affected by this disaster. If you would like to join with us in contributing to helping Barbuda, we will gladly cover all excess baggage costs to move your generous donations of linens, new clothes or footwear, personal hygiene products or children's toys. I will pick up your donations if that is the easiest solution for you.

If you prefer to support Barbuda in a different way, our marina has provided us with a link to make your contributions effective and efficient.

Thanks in advance for your assistance in making this corner of paradise livable again.
Maryse and Merrill

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Final Days On Board For This Season

The time has come to put Ambition away for the hurricane season. We feel that we have made a great choice in leaving Ambition in Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua, as we are well above sea level in the storage yard and the yard sits behind a very tall hill protecting us from the east winds. There is an onsite Budget Marine for parts and supplies. The storage yard is all in concrete so the boat will be well supported in the jack stands.  There are tie down points so we can strap Ambition by all four corners, to underground anchors, so that high winds will not cause the boat to fall over.

We arrived in Jolly Harbour Marina on May 3rd - tied up the the dock with the help of a great dockmaster team to handle all our lines. Ambition is tied stern to the dock - plugged into 120V AC power to run the air conditioners. It is so nice to be able to have a cool spot after working outside in 85F+ temperatures.

There are two things that we have as a goal while preparing the boat. The first and most important is to remove from the deck everything that potentially would come loose or fly around in the event of a tropical storm or a hurricane. The second goal is to clean, bag, wash, disinfect everything to prevent mould growing in the hot and humid summer air. After lots or research - vinegar and water - the best for cleaning and once everything is cleaned a wipe down with a mixture of water and clove oil.

Our check list is almost 100 items long just for the mechanical and on deck items and Maryse has an equally long list for all the inside of the boat items. The sails have been removed and sent off to the sailmakers for any needed repairs and for storage during the summer. This gives us a lot more room on board to store stuff inside.

We have had issues with the 8kw diesel generator all winter so the local Fischer Panda technician came on board to find the cause of the overheating and starting issues. Rebuilt the little alternator that seized, overhauled the starter motor, removed and acid washed the heat exchanger, repaired the new water pump we installed in January (&%#%@) and finally bled all the air from the cooling system. Now we can run ALL our 120V stuff on board and the generator hummmmms along very happily!

This is what is left of the belt on the alternator for the generator! 

Lots of black dust! 

The electric furling mainsail system has been pulled out as it stopped working this winter. We implemented a workaround, using my electric drill and a special fitting to open and close the mainsail. This repair is not a surprise as the unit is supposed to be overhauled at least every 3-5 years - ours has not seen any servicing in 14 years!

While in storage the main engine will also undergo a substantial maintenance which is way past due - not based on hours of usage but simply years.

Instruments tucked away
We removed over 1500 feet of lines from the deck so that the summer sun doesn't burn them and left  tracer lines in place so the reinstallation in the fall is simple. The dinghy and engine are not stored on the boat due to added windage and wear and tear. The dinghy is stored in a covered shed and the outboard gets placed in a shipping container. They will be much better in storage, than hanging on the back of the boat.
Dinghy and outboard gone - wind generator blades removed and tied down

Mainsail gone

Sails and furling lines gone

No lines on the deck

Cockpit cushions and enclosure gone
Ambition all stripped down!

Down below, Maryse has washed and packed in airtight bags, just about everything we have on board. Batteries removed from all our electronic items, water tanks emptied and left open to dry, cupboards washed and treated for mould. All the canvas cushions and cockpit enclosure has been washed and retreated for water resistance.

Closets and lockers all packed up in bags

Some stuff to come home with us and some just packed up
Vacuum bagged cushions and linens

Getting her bottom washed ....

Ambition is back out of the water. Considering the last time she was out was in January - looking good!
Really the end of the season now 

Looks like an aquarium - need to re-coat with PropSpeed! 

We have engaged the services of a Yacht Guardian - neat title eh? He will visit Ambition every month, air the boat out, check batteries, empty any water in the bilge and generally keep an eye on everything for us. Also in the event of a named storm he will remove the summer cover and then reinstall it after the storm has passed. The yard demands this, so that covers do not become loose and flog around in a storm beating and causing damage to other boats.

Under the covers

All buttoned down ....

Looks good and will help protect her while we are away

A pat on the bum and a wish that her summer is UNEVENTFUL

After Ambition came out of the water, we moved into an AIRBNB villa in Jolly Harbour ....sweet!

back deck and dock


The days have flown by and we are both anxious to get home to family and friends however we are also sad to leave our winter home after a fantastic 8 months on board.

We sure hope that our blog has allowed you to share a little bit of what we have enjoyed this winter. Perhaps it will also inspire a few of you to follow in our wake and play in warm waters all winter.

Merrill and Maryse
S/V Ambition

Until next November!

Monday, May 1, 2017

One Week Later

One Week Later

What a difference a week makes!!! As fast as the Classic Regatta reaches its finale, the Antigua Race Week starts to crank up. This year is the 50th anniversary of this prestigious event. Since the late 70’s I have been reading in sailing magazines about Antigua Race Week and now we are here – right in the middle of it all! AWESOME.

It is interesting to see the comparison between last week and this week. Classic Regatta is very subtle, laid back and conservative. Race Week is all about race teams, competition and hired guns as crew for the races. Varnish and billowing sails has been replaced with carbon fiber and high performance yachts. I think that there is a difference between the two groups – one is a spirit of participation and the other is a spirit of WIN at all cost! The docks are now piled high with equipment that is removed from the boat for races – interior tables, anchors, life rafts and heavy weather sails. Repair teams are on board fixing broken equipment from the trip to Antigua. Like bees around a hive!

The evening festivities are also very different – laid back music performances have been replaced with DJs and live high volume reggae bands playing well into the night. Beer and rum are served in huge quantities to coincide with the party atmosphere. Yacht teams stand out in their matching shirts and hats! This is amazing!

We feel very privileged to be able to be part of all this!