Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mangled Up in Blue

 I assured you that I'd try to avoid these long drawn-out blog posts.  And I try.  Honest, I really do.  The long posts are time consuming. I much prefer the short ones I can knock off as quick as I can process the photos and write a few captions. And then time goes by and we get caught up in the stuff that we seem to keep getting tangled up in.  And then eventually some kind soul will write and ask if we're okay because they haven't seen any news from us since the last entanglement.  This has now happened again.  My father used to tell us that when we left the television on and went to bed, when we got up in the morning the room would be full of pictures because there was nobody there to look at them. I'd sneak into the living room early in the morning to see this marvel.  But no matter how quietly I slipped up on the room, or how quickly I opened the door, the room was not full of pictures.  His answer to that was that they all leaked out when he had to get up in the middle of the night  to go in to turn the TV off.  He was trying to get us to conserve electricity, of course.  But now I wonder if he was being prophetic. Because with no blog posts for anyone to look at for the past several weeks my hard drive has, indeed, filled up with photos.

We're back in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We spent a  week and a half with our friends Marta and Barry at the Harbour Club Villas while we sorted out some of the things that desperately needed sorting after being ignored for four months.   Sadly we've found that sorting things sometimes gives them a new look without actually solving them. We woke up that first morning with the tropical dawn shining in through the windows and could tell by the very texture of the morning that we were definitely back at sea level.   I think our blood thickened up at altitude this summer and we're now awash in humid sea level oxygen.  Or maybe it's the rum.  Similar effect.   We wandered out to look around the marina  on our first morning back to see what's changed in our absence..   And quite a bit has changed.  One of the more obvious changes was our first view of the fishing vessel "Five Cays".  Maybe I should amend that to former fishing vessel.

We had heard how hard Hurricane Joachim had affected Providenciales.  Friends on the island were sending us photos.  We watch the weather constantly whether we're here or not.  But it wasn't until we saw this boat smashed to bits and ashore that it hit home.  No pun intended.  This destroyed a business in one day.

I recall telling you in a earlier post that my impressions of the TCI are largely the color blue. With a lot of white and turquoise trim.  Editing these photos I was again struck by the photogenic quality of the ocean here.   The palm trees are a big part of it, of course, but I'm red/green color blind and palm trees don't grab my attention like the blue does.  Neither do red lights, but that's a different story.   I don't do well with red things, but  I do know a bit about blues.

Speaking of palm trees (sneaky little segue, eh wot?) These trees at the Miami airport were the first palm trees we'd seen in four months.

We were outside the airport for about an hour, as one of our party was dancing on all four legs when we got off the connecting flight.  He was threatening to christen a newspaper machine at the gate if we didn't get him outside.  And I'm not talking about breaking a bottle of champagne on it, either.  I guess after several hours in a carry on bag a dog sees everything as a fire hydrant.     Miami does have pet relief stations scattered around the airport.   We found one for Dooley but were a bit nervous once we saw the actual facility itself.   I mean, the grass was nice and green and it was as clean as such places can be expected to be.  But WHAT kind of animals come through here that need bags this size for their owners to clean up after them???

We got out of there before we found out.   And we're not sure we even want to know, but do people fly through Miami with water buffalo, perhaps?  I wonder how they fit them under the seat in front of them.  Dooley himself  just about fills the space.  His veterinarian prescribed him some "doggie  valium" for nerves and we have to trick him into his carry on bag just to get him on the flight.   He's okay once we're settled in and I feed him treats from my trail mix stash.  But you know what a hard headed little booger he is.    He got off the plane in Miami, and did not want to hear that there was still another flight down to Providenciales.  None of us like sitting in airports.

But we made it.  He's recovered from the ordeal and is happily revisiting the places that define the only home he's ever really known.  Providenciales.

And we're definitely back in the land of boats.   This is all about the boats without the mountain goats. We spent a big part of our first morning back just looking around.  We noticed how much of the shrubbery had been blasted by hurricane driven salt water.   A lot of brown leaves around here.  They recover fast, but the fact that they are still brown shows how recent the storm was.  One month ago.

We were comfortably installed in the Harbour Club Villa # 5. I managed to get a couple of better photos of the interior this time.   I had told you before that it had a nice little kitchen setup but I didn't have any substantiating graphic evidence.  This is a view of the two sitting areas and kitchenette, taken from the dining area:

The air conditioned bedroom is through that archway and then on the left, with the bathroom and tiled shower on the right.

That big bag on the floor under the ukulele contains our main sail.  We have another larger roll on duffle bag that contains our genoa.   There's a little story with that.   We had the sails repaired by the High Performance Parachute Rigging company in Golden, Colorado.  When I asked Federal Express in Houston how much it would cost for them to ship a sail back for us, they weighed it at 45 lbs. and came up with the  astonishing sum of  $550 dollars to ship it back.  One sail.  And we had two of them.  Ouch.

Didn't take us long to figure out that we could buy a brand new rolling duffle bag for a hundred dollars.   And even if we use the bag once and then throw it away we come away from it all about a thousand dollars ahead.  So that's what we did.  Two sails checked as baggage on American Airlines.  I'm not going to bore you with tales of horsing two sails, our normal luggage and a recalcitrant canine through  the airport.   We all made it home, finally, and that's about all I can say positive about the flying part of this adventure.                   

Here's another view of the kitchen setup at the villas.  That television screen under the bar faces the sitting area.  It all works out very well. 

It's got a full size fridge, double sink, microwave, coffee maker, blender, stove top, full set of utensils and kitchenware.  It only takes about an hour to feel like home.  And we save enough money cooking our own meals to essentially pay for the room when compared to Providenciales restaurant prices.   No kidding.

Now back to the tangled up part, we were very much saddened to see what happened to the "Five Cays".  We've posted photos of the boat and its owner here over the years.   We've  since learned that he's not quite the friend we had thought he was, but we still wouldn't wish this kind of bad luck on another boater.  He told us a chilling story of being aboard  as the storm smashed it repeatedly against the rocks until it holed, and sank.  With him aboard.  He said there was nothing he could do. The boat did not break up like this while in the water.  It fell to pieces after a crane lifted it after the storm had blown through.  It was in one piece, for the most part, until the day after they set it down.   This intrigued me.  We wanted to know what happened to make it fall apart if it was intact when they lifted it.

This boat is pretty well toasted.   Now it's somewhat of a blight on the landscape.  We don't know who will be responsible for cleaning this mess up, either.  Should be interesting.  The TCI government has disposed of a lot of wrecked Haitian sloops over the years, but  this heap belongs to a citizen.           

Dooley the Demented and I took a close look at it. Trying to imagine what it was like to be in the boat, unable to get ashore without risking life and limb.  It must have been terrifying, wondering  could this truly be the end? To be stuck inside of "Five Cays" with the Caicos blues again.... (sorry, couldn't help myself.  It's related to the post title)

This hull is in so many pieces that massive fracturing is the only thing I can come up with.  A combination of brittle fiberglass and a balsa cored hull.    I think you've read my cored hull rants.  We've posted photos of broken up  cored hull pieces here in the past.   And here's another one.

I think the primary advantage of balsa cored hulls is a much lighter hull.  Which is faster, with more load carrying capability, and needing less power to move.  But putting something that expands when wet between two layers of non-expanding fiberglass has some risks associated with it.  And wood expands when wet.  I think some boats were not meant to be made lighter.  That would include work boats or those that people tie alongside rocks during storms.  Oh, and add our boat to the list.  Our hulls are solid fiberglass. 

Most of the rest of the marina seems to have weathered Joachim fairly well.  Pun intended.  Bob's former sailboat, S/V Valhalla, has changed ownership and the hull has been moved to the other side of the marina while slowly being stripped  for salvage.  It's become somewhat of a floating dock for the fishing fleet, it seems.   We notice it made it though the storm, though.   Now that's a tough old hull. Still floating after all it's been through.  We're sad to see it slowly disappearing from view, but that day comes for all boats.  And everything else including us, come to think of it.  I'm betting this boat has some tales it could tell in the 40 years since it came down to the islands with a young Bob Pratt at the helm.

And speaking of Bob Pratt.. (I gotta find another way to do this segue thing) for those of our readers who know Bob from  cruising through South Side Marina, we're  happy to report he's healthy and doing quite well.  With some big plans for the marina.

I was playing with my new telephoto equipped pocket camera just yesterday, and  I was watching Bob explaining in some detail exactly what he had expected a couple of workers to have accomplished.   I thought it was a good subject test for the new camera.

In addition to being partially color challenged, I'm about 50% deaf.  Too many years of unprotected gunfire noise, long hours of diving, and rock and roll music I guess. Not all at the same time, of course.  One of the upsides of being half deaf is that I've gotten pretty good at reading lips.   And there's big chunks of this conversation I am not going to repeat here. I'll let your imagination supply the script sections that I won't.

Bob expressing dismay in work that did not meet expectations  that he had considered largely self explanatory:

Bob explaining what he actually wanted to be accomplished, with thoughts on reasons for repeated substandard performance:

And finally, Bob walking back to his office exhibiting his disappointment that he even had to have this conversation in the first place:

I would have taken a video of this exchange but it occurred to me that there might be some others out there who are also good at lip reading and this is a PG rated blog, after all. And of course I could have gotten it all wrong.  They could have been discussing what a nice day it was to be working outside at the marina.   Or it could all have been in Creole and I don't lip read a word of that.   Nah.  He was miffed.

Those photos were taken with the little Nikon pocket camera I bought after being disappointed in the distant photos I tried to take in the mountains a few weeks back.  These were taken with me standing on the stern of Twisted Sheets about 150 feet away. And I wasn't using the full 20X zoom. A shame this little Nikon isn't water proof, but we'll get what we can from it during what we anticipate to be a truncated life span in this environment.

Elsewhere the marina survived.  Bob says that the four days of that storm took a year off the life of the floating docks. They are fully functional but battered and worn and he'll be replacing them within the year. When we got back two weeks ago the marina was mostly empty where cruisers usually tie up.  Everything to the left of the big boat is where visiting boats dock.  The boats to the right are mostly dive boats working daily charter business.

That big boat in the middle is the M/V "Sea of Love" and Bob now owns it.  There's a story about why it's here, and another story about his plans for it. I'm hoping to get inside the boat in the near future to take some photos, and I'll do another blog post about it once I get the full story from Bob and his permission to talk about it. 

We've noticed some changes in the bottom topography around here while we were gone.  There has been dredging going on for a new development planned for the beach here.  That little jetty thing sticking out beyond the original jetty here at the entrance to the marina is new. We've heard that the plan is to keep dredging sand into the space between them to build a point.   We're glad to hear it's not pointless, I guess.

When we saw that there was some roof damage to the dive center across the marina from the storm winds we started getting nervous about our house out at the end of the road.   We had left it closed up during our absence, and left the keys with the Realtor in charge.

We needed to get our car out of the garage where we'd left it for the duration of our US trip.  We well understand that oxidation is an insomniac.  We knew the car would be showing some rust issues in the parts that were not undercoated.   Before we left I had backed it into the garage and sprayed all four disc brake assemblies liberally with a rust protectant.   We were hoping the wheels would still turn after sixteen weeks. Well, they did turn, but not easily. I wish I had thought to take some photos of the little Kia before we moved it.   It had two flat tires on one side, and all four disc brake rotors were frozen up despite two cans of CRC's best rust goop.   I can at least show you the marks where it groaned its way out of the garage.   That floor was clean when I parked it there in June.  The rust streaks came from the disc brakes.   The tear stains are mine.

And having two flat tires was a problem for us.  I have one new spare, but I couldn't get either flat wheel off the car.    So I borrowed a compressor from Barry, and borrowed Barry's car to get it to the house.   Uh... then Barry's car went flat, too. In the three miles between Harbour Club Villas and our place.   So we now had a total of three flats to deal with.  Insert big sigh here.  This was NOT how I wanted to spend my first day back.  I seem to spend an inordinate amount of my life lying in a dusty road somewhere with rust falling into my eyes while skinning my knuckles on yet another automotive issue.

We used Barry's compressor to pump up all three flat tires with the idea that they were slow leaks and we could drive both vehicles down to the tire store and get the holes plugged before they went flat again. If we hauled butt. And that plan worked for the most part.

The part that didn't work was when I pumped up the last tire to 30 psi. There was a small impact and hissing noise as I was hit in the chest by a flying valve stem.  That's the part sitting next to the now open valve.

I had a spare, but could NOT manage to get this wheel off the car.  All my tools are long gone from this garage. We could have called a towing or tire repair service, but our experiences with such things here make us pretty much consider that the last resort.  Or next to last.  Right before torching the car.

I did manage to come up with an idea that I had never tried before.  I saw that the hole in the middle of the metal stem is really pretty small.  A small fraction of an inch.  And 30 pounds per square inch divided by maybe a 20th of a square inch means that this little piece was not seeing anywhere near the forces that keep the tire inflated.  I found a short piece of electrical wire and stripped the insulation off.  I roughed up the parts to increase the friction by using a small piece of limestone.   There's plenty of that around. Then I put the stem back in the hole and wrapped the wire around it.  I did have a pair of pliers in the car, and used those to wind it up pretty tight.  Like this:

(can you believe those alloy wheels are only two years old?)

I pumped it back up to about 35 psi and we drove the two vehicles to a tire place on Leeward Highway, down five miles of bad dirt road and another two miles of pavement.  I was expecting another catastrophic flat any moment. When the repairman there measured the pressure in this tire it was still 35 psi. So, if this ever happens to you maybe you can use this.  It worked great as a temporary fix.  Just remove the goopy gluey stuff from the stem first. You want to increase the friction between the metal tube and the rubber part.

And yeah, I have slipped into DIY mode again. Sorry for not warning you.  It comes up suddenly here, just about every day. We are back in the Land of MakeDo.

You  should have heard the noise when I started that Kia up and drove it out of the garage with four frozen wheels and a totally gone exhaust pipe.

After we got the three flats fixed (Thanks Barry!) I turned to the subject of the now totally disconnected muffler.  When I scooted under the car in a convenient parking lot I remembered that I had "temporarily patched" a hole in the pipe before we  had left.  It had slipped my mind.  Well, as you can see, I had another muffler hole to deal with.  Ever try to cut an aluminum can when your entire took kit is a pliers?  

Other than the Kia issues the house was in good shape.  And to be fair I should add that the Kia started right up after sixteen weeks. Two flat tires. Four frozen brake rotors.  A collapsed exhaust system, and the windscreen was covered in salt spray....inside the garage.  But it started up instantly like I had  just driven it just the night before.   We'd buy another Kia in a heartbeat.  One tough little AWD.

The hurricane shutters at the house were all secure and we opened it up. We're really hoping the realtor can find a new owner for this place and we wanted it opened for viewing  despite  another month of hurricane season to go. Now that we're back on the island we can close it up pretty quickly under threat.

The views from the property continue to impress us, even after all these years.  We missed this.   We're water people, after all.  We love the mountains, too, but this feels a lot more like home.   Maybe we just needed a break. We've heard that this happens to expats here. The island fever version of the seven year itch. Time will tell.  

But we still have to sell the house and live on the boat if we want to stay in the tropics. Our financial plans have been impacted by forces out of our control and we can no longer afford to keep both the house and the sailboat. Hey, it was fun while it lasted.

And we know we're really going to miss this view every morning, but life does move on.  And we're ready for some new adventures on this old planet.  This will be a good home for the next owners, if their pockets are slightly deeper than ours.

As soon as we had the car moving again we headed for the boatyard where Twisted Sheets has been sitting.  I've posted lots of haulout and launch photos here before so I won't add that to the visual burden of this interminable post.  This is where the boat rode out the storm, strapped down and tucked in between  someone's Dream and the Ocean Devotion.

We'd  had some paint touch up work done while we were gone, and had all the corroded sacrificial zincs replaced.  Or so we thought.

We launched the boat and once again La Gringa drove back to South Side Marina while I brought the boat around alone. I just simply have got to stop doing that. She was anxiously looking for me after an hour. She drove to the top of Jim Hill here and spotted me bobbing merrily along out on the big blue ocean. Well, 'merrily' might not be all that accurate. I had my hands full. That speck under the arrow is Twisted Sheets.  I was an even smaller and somewhat worried speck on that other small speck.

I don't make much of a speck, do I. The ocean has a way of making large human things look pretty insignificant. Oh well.  I had my hands full. I heard a new funny noise amidst a cacophony of funny noises. The sound of running water on a boat can be a good thing, if it's intentional.  This was not intentional.  I opened up the port engine hatch and discovered that a hose clamp on one of the raw water hoses had given up the ghost. Gee, thanks, former boat owner. Glad you saved a few bucks on cheap hose clamps. I had to drift while I fixed it. That's why the boat was so far out this time.  I needed plenty of safe bottom around me so I could  go into the engine compartment and work on the problem without  hitting a coral head, shoal, rock, or island.  You know, those hard non-water things that are so troublesome to boats. 

I got the leak repaired with three nylon cable ties and some blue vocabulary. See, there's that color blue tie-in again. I had just settled back into the helm seat and started toward South Side Marina again when the port engine stopped.  I took my elevated blood pressure back below to bleed the injectors and it ran again for a while.  Then it started misbehaving to the point that I shut it down and re-primed it and made the rest of the trip on the starboard engine alone. I waited until I had to start maneuvering into the marina before I started it again. Right about when this photo was taken. There are some tricks to driving a catamaran on one engine.  I guess it's a good thing I have some experience at it.

I managed to make the dock without further ado, and that's the only "do" I'm going to talk about here.

We  still had a lot of work to do to get the boat livable.  The freezer didn't work.  The air conditioner didn't work.  I had to install a shower, a wash basin, fix this, replace that, etc. etc. I didn't take photos of it all. I'm not fully back in blog mode yet. We finally moved out of the villa and onto the boat on Sunday, November 15.  These days we wake up to new neighbors.  A French Canadian monohull on the port side:

And another Canadian monohull on the starboard side:

That two person crew just did seven days sailing from NC to Provo. They plan to leave here headed for Panama, the Pacific, and then the rest of the world in a three year circumnavigation.  We're meeting some pretty interesting people these days. I would call them like-minded souls.    

Oh, before I forget, we managed to get our mainsail back up before the winds picked up the past couple of days. It's tricky to do in a cross wind in the marina. The repair job that Amy did for us is outstanding. And here's a photo of the wine carrier she made for us from sail material scraps.   Walt and Amy are great people to work with.  If you have any reason to have any parachute or sail repair work done in Golden CO, we cannot recommend them highly enough. We'll get some photos of the newly repaired sails up and filled at the first opportunity.

The wine, alas, is already gone.  But take a look at that bag.  Complete with its own little UV strip, like we just had replaced on both sails.

So we're now living aboard our boat. We're telling people we've left the earth. We're back in the land  of ocean people.  Boaters. Sailors. Divers. These are the folks we're most comfortable with.

And the DIY jobs are back in my face in force.  I didn't realize how easy I had it living in that travel trailer this summer.  Remember my comment about the zincs? Well, while I was swimming under the boat to dig the leaves out of the raw water strainers I discovered that the boatyard had not, in fact, replaced all the hull zincs as I was told.

This is a photo of the spot where one of them was supposed to be.  Underwater.  Notice there is a stainless steel bolt sticking out of the hull. This is not supposed to happen.  If I had hit something hard like a floating log while coming over here, and it had impacted that exposed stud, it would likely have torn a hole in the bottom of the boat. This was my first time replacing a zinc anode myself  with the boat in the water.

La Gringa might tell you that I'll take any excuse to jump overboard with a faceplate and flippers.  I'm not sure I would argue that, either.  I've been in the water every day since we moved aboard.

Other little projects are taking up most of my days now. I managed to cut a new piece of countertop to mount a new basin in one of the heads.  With all my power tools gone I'm getting real reacquainted with hand tools.  And blisters.

We've got an issue with these old hatches staying open.  We've been propping them up with wooden sticks.   I contacted a Lewmar dealer and have been told that they stopped making these hatches in 1987, they don't make or stock parts for the hinges, and their best advice to me is to just buy about $4,000 worth of new hatches from them.  Can I say ouch here? That's not the first four letter word that came to mind, but it's one I can print.

By the time we imported ten new hatches the cost would be a bit more than $4K.   I think my answer is going to be that if I have to buy new hatches, I'd sure be a fool to buy them from Lewmar.   I'll have to see if I can't figure out a way to hold these up in the meantime.  It's just not a $4,000 aggravation at the moment.  It looks to me like these have some kind of shim pushing a rubber friction bushing upwards. Do any of you other ancient mariners recognize these old "Super Hatches" from the early '80's?

On a hopefully happier note we've bought a desalination system.  We'd been thinking about it for a long time.  Finally we made the plunge and DHL delivered it from Australia this week.  Here's the DHL carrier sitting under the gazebo at South Side marina. I just wanted to use this photo because it shows Twisted Sheets back at home.

This is a better photo of the DHL truck.  Cute little van.   He got it stuck in our driveway once, and we almost had to push him out.  Or lift it and carry it out.

There's another view of the delivery van, with our new toys inside.

Now we should be able to make all the fresh water we want from sea water.   This one is a little bit different from the usual RO (Reverse Osmosis) systems.  This one is portable, and uses a Honda 50 cc gasoline engine to power it. It's rated to make 30 gallons of water an hour. I had to take it apart enough to see how it all works, of course.

Everything looks good on it, and is pretty much self explanatory. This system differs from the usual yachtie RO system in that it doesn't get installed on the boat. It's totally self contained. It has a pickup tube dropped in the ocean and will make fresh water anywhere. We thought long and hard about it before buying this.  If anyone wants to explore our thought processes on it, please email us and we'll be glad to discuss it. We haven't used it yet, we've had too much other stuff going on lately.   But it sure is a pretty blue, isn't it?

Okay, just about done here. I wanted to show you one more thing that we've discovered that's changed in our absence. The wednesday night potluck cookouts at Bob's Bar have been upgraded a bit.   There is now live music, courtesy of a variety of local expats who also play music. And the place is definitely lively on Wednesday evenings. I snapped this quickly last night and intended to take more photos but I got caught up in an intense conversation about boats, if you can imagine it.    We'll elaborate on this new development along with Bob's plans for the "Sea of Love" in the next post. I owe Doug, David, Jeff and Bob a better shot than that.

So finally, I'd say "see you next week, good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise".   But if you look at the previous post you might understand why I use that term carefully these days.

Let's just end this one with another sunset photo from our new home on the water.   Whew. This has taken a long time to get to this point.  In many more ways than one.