Monday, April 27, 2015

Tanks, But No Tanks.

This blog-a-week schedule has  caught up with me.  And left me in the dust. The sun popped up into clear skies this morning and woke me with a tropical slap to the old optic nerves. I think I prefer cloudy dawns to the solar icepick-from-the-cosmos alarm clock   But  I suddenly realized that today is Monday and that we did absolutely nothing of any interest whatsoever this week.  We had no new adventures. We did not go anyplace exciting.   We even had a hard time going to anyplace old and boring. We spent the week between the house and the boat working on both.  I have  absolutely nothing at all to write about here.   

 I could tell you about the bonefishermen.  I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye a couple days ago. 

I stopped and cast an eye through the bushes to see what was going on in the salina.  There were a couple of people out there fly fishing.  I stopped to watch for a moment.  And had the camera in my pocket. Good thing, too.


Otherwise I wouldn't have diddly squat for this post.  It's been that boring.

I've mentioned the bonefishing here before.  And we see people  in the salina quite often this time of year.   This whole country is a great spot for a quick fishing trip.  And one of the really nice things about bonefishing the salina  is that you don't need a boat to get here.  A  rental car will do nicely.  Or if you were staying at the Harbour Club Villas just down the road, you could walk to it.
Wouldn't even need to rent a car.


I think that fly fishing done correctly is approaching art.  There is a graceful symmetry to it.  A simplicity of motion with a singular purpose.   Watching people who know how to do it right is relaxing.  And watching people who don't know what they're doing can be humorous, but these guys knew their stuff.

We haven't taken this sport up, and it's almost a pity.  We live here literally across the road from free, decent bonefishing.  I could be standing where those guys are within two minutes, if I wanted.  Every day of the year.   This would be a great property for someone who likes to salt water fly fish, that's for sure. Every tide.

We haven't taken this sport up,  as we were always meat fishermen, but we've learned a lot about bonefish just by living here among them.  For one thing, we found out a few years back that bonefish are not particularly bony fish.  No more than any other fish.   The reason bonefish are called  bonefish is because they have a hard palate bone in their mouth.  This helps them to feed on bottom mollusks with shells that need crushing.  It also makes a barbed hook almost  useless, since the barb won't penetrate the shell crushing bone in their mouth.   So to keep one of these guys on the hook takes some finesse and knowledge.  Fun to watch.   It also makes it easy to release them unharmed in most cases.

Speaking of fishing (another of my amazingly suave segues, you'll notice) we've noticed that this recent spate of calm weather has got the local commercial fishermen going out on the Caicos Bank a lot.   We were watching a boat coming in with a load of fish and traps just Thursday afternoon.


I know when most people look at that photo they'll see the fishing boat.  But when I look at it, I see the terrible job someone did of cutting a hole in the plywood hard top to facilitate the back stay. I think that's going to be something like "Boat Project # 687, paragraphs 8 through 43, replace entire hard top, solar panels, and dingy davits with something designed intelligently from the beginning."  Unfortunately, this isn't a particularly good place to get this done, so I'm probably going to be grousing about that lousy plywood for a while yet.

I probably should have just shown you the fishing boat and kept my thoughts about the hard top to myself.   That would have looked like this:


There.  That's better.

But you already know I can't get away from the subject of S/V Twisted Sheets if I'm going to talk about what we did this past week.  I am sparing you most of it. I've replaced fuses, wiring, sockets and fixtures this week.  I cut a new piece of cabinet top for a vanity, and we bought a stainless sink. I opened up the compartment where the air conditioner is located so that we can get a service man in to get that checked out and repaired. I painted the inside of  lockers.  I ripped up the floor of the port head, and pulled out #3 of the four big stainless steel water tanks on board.  It was very difficult to get this tank out.  And it's a mess.   While the tank is out, I have work to do in the  bilge under it.  That probably hasn't seen daylight in 30 years.  I'll spare you that photo.  Trust me on this one.

We brought the tank back to the house so I could work on it.  The first thing I noticed was this big blob of hardened epoxy putty on the very bottom edge of the tank.   The pointy side goes down into the hull. You can see the blob of putty there in the photo.  With all kinds of dried mineral deposits around it.  I'm no chemist, but I'm pretty sure that's indicating a leak.  For a long, long time.


Of course the first thing I did was grab a hammer and chisel and knock away the putty.  Sadly, it wasn't very hard to knock away.   In fact I wish it had been tenacious and difficult to dislodge.  Alas, it was loose and crumbly.  This is what it looked like under the blob:


As is the case with so many other little things on this old boat, we've once again found the remains of some long ago emergency repair.  Working on this boat is like some kind of forensic marine archaeology.   I'd bet that by now I could tell you which of the three previous owners did any given repair on this vessel.  I've come to know their handiwork that well.   I could cheat on this one, as his hand print was preserved in the glob of epoxy.  I've probably watched too much CSI on television.

In this case, the previous McGeezer-du-jour put a screw into a leaking hole and slapped an entire fist full of epoxy putty on top of it.  It's obvious that this has been another source of the constant moisture issues we've had with the port hull. I've got my fingers crossed that cleaning this one up will pretty much take care of the last little bit of that.

This is what that area looks like after I ran a sanding disk over it all.  The corrosion of the stainless steel along the side of the welded seam is worrisome.  There is pitting and small holes developing the entire length of the bottom of the tank.  Horse feathers. Excuse my French. Which that wasn't. But I want you to excuse it anyway.  I don't often stoop to strong language like that.


I do sometimes stoop to strong language, but not like that.  I inadvertently blurted out "Fiddsticks" one day last week for example.  At least I think it was fiddlesticks.  It started with a F, anyhow.  That much I remember.

I'll be leaving those sanding marks in the steel.  In fact I'll be making more. LOTS more. One of the reasons that antediluvian blob of epoxy let go early in life was the smoothness of the stock stainless steel.   The guy (and I will assume this was a guy) who put the screw in didn't take the time to prepare the surface of the steel so that the epoxy could get a good grip on it.  I'm sure it was smooth steel, that had been in place for fifteen years at that point, covered with a film of everything that can stick to the steel in a bilge on a sailboat.  Under a marine toilet. Let's don't even go there.  Well, it's too late for me personally, but you don't have to go there.

Lets just say that I'll be running sandpaper over this entire tank.   We don't want this top layer of molecules in the boat with us.  I've already done it, in fact.  I had started on it immediately, even before I remembered that I had the camera in my pocket.  This might give you an idea of the surface of the steel, before I cleaned the blob and that bit in the middle.   Lets play Guess the Stains!


I'm pretty sure you can see why slapping a handful of epoxy putty onto that dirty surface was pretty much a temporary repair.  Which got closed up back into the bilge, and got covered over, and which has been quietly sitting there dripping water into the boat for a million years.  Well, not a million, but you get the idea.  A whole lot of drips.

I can look down the length of the bottom of the tank and see a lot of patching stretching out before me.  I have to fix this tank up to get us through the next few years.  But I think I have a system that will work.  I've used it on two other tanks already.


This is a macro shot closeup (yes, that was redundant) of the pitting.  I will use a product called JB Weld that is a marine epoxy with steel in the mix.  I have repeatedly found this to be real good stuff.    I'll fill all of these holes  all over the tank with JB Weld. Then I will fiberglass the entire bottom of the tank.  This should buy us some time. I'm hoping my repairs will last at least as long as the last guy's.


See the little scratches caused by the sanding disk I used to clean this up?   That's what I'm counting on to make my epoxy kluge better than his epoxy kluge.  Ha.

I'll tell you one more little issue with this tank, and then I'll leave you in peace for another week.  Okay?   Bear with me for a bit.   This is all part of our education in what happens while refitting an old boat in a remote location.

 What I'm concentrating on here is the other fitting. The one on the left.  Can you see that I ended up cutting the tubing off because I couldn't get the hose clamp undone?


This was  at an arrm's length underneath me when I was doing it, and it wasn't until I got the tank out into the light of day that I realized that someone had covered the entire fitting, hose, and the hose clamp with the same epoxy.  Ah oh, thought I.  

So I demolished the hose clamp et al and got to the outlet pipe underneath the glob.  Oh my.  This thing looks like a corroded piece of Swiss cheese.  And the interior of it is all caked up with sediment from the tank.   This is the fitting through which all the water from the port tanks flows into a pump which then pushes it throughout the boat's plumbing. I haven't even showed this to La Gringa yet, but I'm pretty sure what her reaction is going to be.   I have to come up with some way to fix this.   I suddenly starting to think the plastic through-hull fitting approach is not all that bad an idea.  Plastic on stainless, with no welds.  A low pressure application, where some flex would be beneficial.  Hmmm.

But this?    This ain't going back in the boat, either.


My present plan is that the ultimate solution to this is to replace all four stainless tanks with smaller plastic tanks, and a really good water maker.   But this will have to wait until we can afford it. We'll be selling stuff right and left over the next couple of months, so who knows. Meantime, I'm fixing this as though it needs to last me ten years.

Okay that's enough about grungy old water tanks. This blog is supposed to be about how our life here is going, and days of slogging through this stuff is exactly how it's going right now.  What we see is what you get, I suppose.

And it's not all drudgery.  Sometimes I will be in the boat, covered in sweat, dirt, sanding debris, and have to come up for a break.  I'll look around, and for a moment realize that I'm working on a boat, floating in a nice marina, on a tropical island.... and suddenly it just doesn't seem all so bad, ya know?   Sometimes these warm lucky feelings last for several seconds.

We still often finish up the day by stopping by Bob's Bar to check out the sunset.  It's become a tradition among some of us.   We never stay late, but we like to see who's around and check up on the news of the day. A couple of nights ago I  sat the camera on the bar top and snapped a lackadaisical sunset with no ambition whatsoever.  Neither me nor the sunset. Notice the limp flag on the MOB buoy (Man Over Board) that Bob has stuck down at the end of the bocce court.


Limp flag means no wind.  No wind at sunset here means bugs.  In fact  La Gringa and I refer to this time of day as 'bug-thirty'.  So while there were a few patrons down at the open end of the bar watching the sunset....


Some of us old timers were sitting upwind and near the insect repellent.

And that's about it for this week.   We do have a lot going on, but it's not photogenic.  We're having to look at everything we own here, and make some real hard decisions.  Each item will either be taken on the sailboat with us, or shipped to storage in the USA, or disposed of here on the island.    There's not much room on the boat or in the storage, so long time possessions are being looked at very critically.  We're disposing of things we've carried around with us for forty years in some cases.     It's not that easy sometimes.    I try to remember what my grandfather used to tell me.  He said ".. you don't own stuff, son.  Stuff owns you."

La Gringa just decided that her china and crystal is going to be sold here, for example.   There's a place for this on the Russian billionaires boat...but it wouldn't see much use with us.  We're more the plastic cup kind of crowd.


Oh, and a house.  As soon as we feel the boat is ready enough to live on full time, this house will be listed with the local realtors as available for sale.  We built it, and have been living in it for seven years now, and we hate to sell it.

But we cannot afford to keep a house this size and sail around for six to eight months a year at the same time. We thought long and hard about turning it into an island rental property, and it's already permitted for a swimming pool.  But in the end we decided that we just cannot keep that going here when we're out of touch a thousand miles away on a sail boat.  So be it.  Wanna buy a really cool house with some great views?


Kinda like this one.


We could include a car, a skiff and the furniture.  And a Hobie sailing kayak and workshop full of tools.   We're going to keep the dog, though.