Well, it's been a time consuming, exhausting and expensive week but we have finally left the boatyard and marina with all our jobs completed. Maunie now has a very tidy and shiny arch over cockpit carrying two 100W solar panels and, as we sit at anchor off the village of Ste Anne, the batteries are charging very nicely in the afternoon sunshine, in spite of the fridges running. The conversion of the forward fridge has also been a great success – hot air no longer wafts into the galley from it and it's running for about half the time it did before – and the unexpected job of having a new base welded into the holding tank has been completed and it's now re-installed with all new pipework for good measure. All the engineers we worked with proved to be very competent and in particular Bruno the Electrician proved to be excellent – he not only wired up the solar panels and control system but he reorganised the slightly haphazard wiring in the battery compartment for better safety and energy efficiency. We chatted as he worked and found that he has no fewer than ten transatlantic crossings to his name (one of them solo) so he was full of good tips.
The work wasn't without its snags, however. The initial construction of the solar panel arch was just far too flexible and it would have wobbled around alarmingly in a bumpy sea so we had to take Maunie back to the boatyard for two days (at least we could stay afloat) for additional strengthening tubes to be added. Graham and Franc the Welder talked engineering in Franglais, with pencil sketches and hand-waving. It's important with engineers to make the final solution feel like it was there their idea so we were glad that Franc adopted Graham's thought of a pair of buttresses on the tall vertical tubes and his top welder then did some really excellent work with his TIG welding kit and angle-grinder. By the end of the two days he was definitely one of the Maunie crew (though he spoke no English at all) so we presented him with a Yeo Valley cap which he wore with pride as he clocked off on Friday evening. We returned to the marina to scrub the cockpit clean of all the grinding dust and then had friends Tony, Anne and Mike (who sailed a very smart Broadblue catamaran called Serenity across the Atlantic at the same time as us, but not in the ARC) over for drinks in the evening.
So, whilst the engineering work and its associated mosquitoes was hard work and frustrating, we are very pleased with the end result and it has made Maunie very much ready for the next part of our adventure. Whilst at the boatyard we experienced a lovely random act of kindness from the French crew of a small and very racy trimaran, just when we were feeling a bit fed up. We helped them with their lines to keep her in position whilst they were hoisted out of the water on a giant launching trailer and afterwards one of them came back to us and explained that they had just completed a 15 day crossing. They were leaving the boat so would we like some food and drink that they had left over? He presented us with two black bags of assorted tinned foods and a nearly-full bottle of rum and would accept no payment. It was a lovely gesture at a time when we needed a bit of good news.
We now plan to spend the weekend at anchor – time for some swimming and relaxing – before sailing south to Saint Lucia on Tuesday. After a few days there we'll head further south to the Grenadines which sound fabulous – proper little Caribbean islands with coral beaches.