The Year It Took Over Our Lives, Part 2

Holy shit, we just bought a CSY 44 in St. Maarten. Are we nuts? Or brave? Maybe both? When the paperwork was signed and the funds were transferred – this was the reality that hit. We connected with some resources that the marina and the broker provided. We signed a new contract with the boat yard and mapped out our first of many “operation Marionette” plan.

We planned a trip for both of us to go to St. Maarten to take inventory, do what we could on our own, make determinations as to what needed to be done and in what order, and hopefully make some connections with contractors that we could trust the projects. We were planning on sailing Marionette back to the US over Christmas. We shipped our first pallet of tools and materials to St. Maarten. The trip was amazing. The island is stunning and I fell more in love with Marionette (didn’t know it was possible to feel this strongly about a sailboat). We inventoried EVERYTHING and found lots of goodies – a bosun chair, winch handles, electrical pieces and parts, etc. We scraped off varnish that was so damaged by the sun you could pick it off with your fingers. We borrowed a pressure washer from a local for $50 and pressure washed 2 years of grime and dirt off the decks. We replaced all of the batteries and had to devise a pulley system to get them off the boat. Bringing the new ones aboard involved a case of beer, $20 and a borrowed forklift. We measured literally everything that would hold still.

We met a couple of contractors and I got used to being given, what I can only assume, are fake names – Marlon Brando and Kunta Kinte were both apparantly boat yard employees. On this island, traffic signals and speed limits are non existent, beer is a beverage acceptable with breakfast, and road floodings of 2-3 feet during the afternoon rainshowers don’t cause anyone to bat an eye. One of the contractors, I will call him Pete, came out and inspected the boat. In all fairness to the rest of my comments about Pete; we were warned. By MANY. But he was quirky and I can appreciate quirky. So Pete was… thorough in a very Rain Man kind of way. We learned very quickly that he liked no one, would work with no one, thought everyone did a terrible job and was very convinced that the world was out to get him. Including us. On the upside, he sent us VERY detailed lists of things to buy. I am learning lots of new words now like ‘scuppers’ ‘bushing’ and ‘right angled barb’. We are buying and sourcing and shipping and paying. Oh, and Pete, didn’t have a bank account, so we were having to use a prepaid debit card to pay him. Which, in case you find yourself in one of these situations, come with LOTS of limitations. Each obstacle that we encountered along the way with payment, sourcing, ordering, shipping, or general questions that we had along the way was met with hostility, paranoia and doubt. Pete’s quirkiness got old faster than the time it takes for my avocado to go from perfect to rotten.

The projects were not going very quickly and we were anticipating an end of year launch. Husband and his brother decided to make another trip down at the end of October to do some of the work themselves. During this trip, Pete (quoting here) “got his feelings hurt” when husband met with a new electrician and quit us (which was admittedly frustrating because how dare he quit before we had the opportunity to fire him!?). The is after Pete says he doesn’t really do electrical, he is more of a GC. This has ended up being a blessing.

He met and hired a new electrician who could also act as a general contractor and a new plumber. It is now the beginning of November and we are 8 weeks from anticipated launch. The remaining projects and contractors were working quite well. We had secured a crew of 2 with a great deal of sailing experience and knowledge. We are exhausted with thinking of Marionette, paying for Marionette, stressing over Marionette, talking, eating, sleeping and breathing Marionette.

Weather wise, we needed to avoid hurricane season (June – November). Since we were crossing the Gulf Stream, June – August was the safest time with the winter allowing only short and sporadic weather windows for a safe passage. The combatting safe windows and busy work schedules during January and February and crew availability got us to the Christmas time frame. But on Thanksgiving Day, we were exchanging messages with our contractor and there was a LONG list of things that still needed to be completed. Way too long to complete in our remaining 4 weeks. We made our toughest call yet – to put the passage on hold. It was heartbreaking and felt like a huge setback. This was the right call to make – the safety of our crew and our home is not something to be taken lightly.

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