Saturday, January 28, 2012


When you first launch a sailboat, or relaunch one after a long period of storage, you have to go through a process known as “commissioning.”  This simply means going through the boat, system by system, to ensure everything is working properly, and fixing everything that is not (or at least every important thing).

Callisto had a particularly challenging commissioning period this year.  Even some things that were working at first failed before we could get the other problems fixed.  Here’s a partial list of the repairs

  • Battery bank – this was a problem that we caused, but a big one.  We depend on these batteries for all of our electricity.  We checked the water level in our batteries when we first got on the boat.  As is normal, the water levels were down a bit, so it was necessary to add more.  The boatyard had been doing this on our behalf through the summer and fall.  On the galley counter was a big bottle labeled “Battery Water.”  Usually, you just use distilled water, but this is hard to find in the islands, so there are some commercial brands available in the chandleries.  Distilled water, naturally enough, is colorless.  This water, though, had a green tinge.  Hmmm.  I guess the manufacturer tinted it to make it “special” and worth the high price.  WRONG.  This was a 50:50 mixture of distilled water and engine coolant.  Putting it into the batteries was a BIG MISTAKE.  It ruined them.  Fix: Replace all four batteries.  These are big batteries, and expensive.
  • Fresh water pump.  This provides pressure to all of our faucets.  It took longer than usual to prime, worked fine for a day, and then quit.  Fix:  Replacement.  Another significant expense.
  • Dinghy Outboard Engine.  Wouldn’t start.  At all. This is a big problem, because your dinghy is your only way to get to shore.  We have oars, but rowing an inflatable boat against a strong wind is very slow and no fun.  At first we thought it was lack of spark to the spark plug.  No replacement parts for the ignition system could be found on the island, ordering them meant a two-week delivery time.  But we hired a guy to look at the engine, and he found that the problem was actually the float in the carburetor.  Fix:  Clean the carburetor.  Now we have spare ignition parts, in case we ever need them.
  • No hot water.  We had had the engine coolant changed while we were gone.  We usually get our hot water from the engine cooling system (like you get heat your car by circulating the water from the radiator).  When the coolant was changed, we got an air bubble in the circulation system, and no flow to the hot water tank.  We needed help from the yard in diagnosing this, but it was an easy fix.
  • Galley Faucet.  This broke right off, on day two after launching.  No idea why.  Fix:  Replace.  Fortunately, rather inexpensive.
We needed to stay very close to the boatyard, in Prickly Bay, until we had all of this taken care of, since we needed access to parts and advice.  So our plan to cruise the southern part of Grenada was abbreviated somewhat.   But Prickly Bay is very nice, and has lots of cruisers.

We did move over to Clark’s Court Bay for a few days.  This was a delightful spot.  We found a great little restaurant/bar at Whisper Cove Marina, and as a bonus they had their own little butcher shop with a great selection of high-quality and reasonably priced meats and sausages.

We finally left Grenada on January 26, finally got our sails up, and had a very boisterous sail to Carriacou.  We are currently in Clifton Harbor, on Union Island.