Monday, March 30, 2015

Toil and Trouble

This may  be the thinnest post we've done in  years.  It's short because we had one of those nose-to-the-limestone, keep-the-momentum-going kind of weeks.  That was supposed to be grindstone, wasn't it.  It fits, either way.  Apparently it's easier for me to keep typing than it is to go back and change it.  I think this pretty much defines some special kind of laziness.  I could do it, you know.  Go back and change it to grindstone.  If I really wanted to.

I'd rather just post a sunrise photo.  This one was taken this very morning so it should still smell pretty fresh.  And you'll recognize a recurring theme near and dear to our hearts.  A sailboat at anchor at dawn after a  night 'on the hook'.


I suspect that this boat is awaiting high tide to get into the Caicos Marina and Shipyard.  These are tricky waters for boats in general, and large monohull sailboats specifically.  The forecast today is for winds to be increasing and gusting to over 20 knots. This sailor picked a good spot for the night but we'd be surprised to see them still here come sundown.  That reads like the dialog from a bad western, doesn't it? It's a good temporary anchorage in calm winds and anything from the north, and those conditions don't typically hang around for long here.

As for this past week, well,  we've been working on our boat.   This is what we do now, for now.  It's become one of those obsessions that's difficult to explain to others. And  difficult to explain even to ourselves, sometimes. The amount of work we've put into this boat is thousands of times more than I had anticipated when we bought it. I think this must have some similarities to the last couple of miles of a marathon  to a long distance runner.  The end is approaching, it's starting to look like it might be within reach.  But it's not guaranteed, not by a long shot.  Nor is the amount of time it took to complete going to be known until after it's done.  And don't you just seriously want it to be over and done with at that point?  I never see photos of those marathon runners smiling at the end.   At least we're still smiling.  Usually.  After 5:00 anyway.

I stuck a little camera on the boat a couple days ago, and let it run at five second intervals throughout the afternoon.  We're not in frame much, except for a part where La Gringa had to make a cell phone call to the USA shouting her credit card number into a phone without anyone else in the marina over hearing it.  This is a brief study in an attempt to use body language to affect technology.  Between noise, the need for privacy and bad connections, she was in cell phone signal contortion.   She didn't realize I had stuck a camera there either.  Obviously.



There are other things going on in there, but you'd have to examine it pretty closely.  Sure looks like while things are fairly steady on our boat, the rest of the world is looking pretty shaky from  here.

I'm not qualified to describe the color green, but I'm told that the vegetation here is starting to show more variety as we move from the driest part of the year into the growing season.  We're getting more rain now, and the foliage is responding.


That's what passes for a small tree here on this hill.  It's easy to see that the wind has been constantly blowing over this plant for all of it's life.  All of the branches but one have turned downwind  as they grew above the protective layer of the surrounding bush.  As soon as the trade winds find them, they start pushing them to the southwest.   And the branch that tried to buck the wind got turned back, and completely doubled over eventually.  And now it's half the length of the branches that went with the flow from the beginning.   But it's been rewarded by the morning sun, and the first drops of rain as well.  Life to windward, perhaps?  Tough, but it has its own rewards.

Dooley the Disinterested and I were walking around the house yesterday looking for one of his lost fetch tennis balls when we were reminded of the effects of the trade winds up here on this hill.  It makes for a constant breeze and it is almost always comfortable, but there are downsides as well.   We, of course, are completely accustomed to what might strike some as an alien landscape. Dooley can find things like chicken bones and tennis balls fairly quickly if he keeps his nose to it and runs that crosswind search pattern that all dogs seem to know.

 
I want to cut one of these branches cleanly enough to count the growth rings, but I don't want to injure a plant.  It takes a long time for things to recover here.  Nutrients and water are in short supply. Sunshine, we got.  I know the wood here is very tough, and brittle.  It looks soft, like you could easily brush past it.  But it's not soft at all.  None of it.  Wandering carelessly through this will produce a number of scratches to bare legs.   I've just recently failed to relearn this again, apparently.  I was tromping through the underbrush looking for crashed drones.  I'm still bleeding.  We try to stay on the edges of the bush.  This is the sort of twisted things that happen to small sprigs when they're exposed to  breaking wind...



We haven't done much tropical fun stuff this week.  Our days have followed a pattern.  We usually hang around the house for the first  couple of hours after dawn. We begrudge the time but have to take care of non-boat related issues, catching up on correspondence, house maintenance, and things like that. By mid-morning we're typically on our way to South Side Marina with a  cooler packed and a plan in mind for the day.  Sometimes the plan even goes according to plan. I'd guess that happens about half the time.  The other half  of the time is full of mostly unpleasant surprises.  I  remember back when surprises were fun. That was before we started refitting a boat.

At the end of the day we often stop by Bob's Bar to see what's going on.  We're not there every night, but maybe two or three times a week.   We typically head straight home when we're tired and it's late and I'm covered with something that most people would find alarming. Some evenings we just want a fresh water washdown before even considering anything else.

I think Thursdays are the quietest nights at Bob's.  That's the night that there is a big Chamber of Commerce style fish fry on the beach across the island.  Vendors, activities, loud noises, music. Best night for a quiet drink everywhere else on the island. There tends to be a splash of activity at Bob's just around sundown as people stop by specifically to watch it. It's a good kicking off spot for the evening.   And cruisers rarely stay up late.  We've heard 9 PM referred to as Cruiser Midnight.



A quick look at the sixteen people in this photo reveals  a mix of nine local residents, four cruisers, two vacationers from a resort somewhere, and us.  There were cars pulling up in the parking lot as we departed, though.  Would have weighed it much heavier on the tourista side.   And by 8 pm there were probably 40 people here. We heard.

It's got an ebb and flow all its own, intricately impacted by the interrelated and undulating yearly variables from which the seasons are formed here. Weather is one of the factors, of course, but there are others. School holiday schedules in far off lands. The time of year. Airfares.  Economies. What's happening elsewhere on the island. There's an irregular but generally repeatable pulse to it all. And then there are the regulars. Up to a dozen or more, including us, for whom this is the neighborhood bar. We can get to this place without ever touching pavement. Could be worse, eh?

This is a view of the underside of the canvas roof over the bar.  The big panels around the edges swing down and lock for storms. Visitors have been writing messages and signing their boat names and dates to the underside of the panels.  It's encouraged.  And as sometimes happens with bars, foreign objects have started making their way into the fabric of the place.  Some of this stuff even came from us  That fellow in the colorful shirt is from Austin.  He was soon playing a drum La Gringa brought home from Morocco. And he's good at it.


So, while this has not been an exciting week by any means, it's been a typical one. We'll spare you three dozen photos of boat DIY.  It's hard enough for me to look at them and I'm living this stuff. I'm tempted to say that I can hardly wait until the day when I look back fondly and remember the time we refitted an old English sailboat in a small island nation. Let's just say we're not anywhere near the looking back fondly part yet.

I can't post this without ANY boat photos.  Not if I call this a weblog and this a typical week.  But I can go easy on you.  I'll take the good, the bad, and the ugly, and just throw out the ugly one for starters.   There's been enough ugly. The bad is really just following up on an identified issue.  I was crawling under the helm console chasing wire gremlins, when one of them suddenly bit me. I was wearing one of my semi sleeveless ragged old t-shirts with holes where seams were once continuous.  You know the ones, tie-dyed by life.  And whilst (yeah, I know, but I don't get many chances to use that word) I wriggled and squirmed my ancient carcass up under the electrified cabinetry, I suddenly felt a quick and jabbing sensation like a wasp on steroids was tattooing the back of my shoulder with a sewing machine. It was very sudden, that 60 cycles per second muscle spasm.   And I didn't just feel it on my shoulder. I was making great electrical contact. I was aware of the places on my arm where I was touching electrical ground, and providing a clear path for this Damoclean threat made real.   I wonder how many years this has lain in wait.

And I was snugged from the waist up inside a cabinet door. Sudden and involuntary forward motion initiated by the electric shock further intensified my rapidly deteriorating situation here. You should have seen what I wrote first time around for that one.  I reworded it.  Cleaned it up a lot. I think I banged my head, elbow, and knee while biting my tongue.  And they say I can't multitask... ha.

I had posted a photo of the offending connection earlier, but I didn't actually take it apart and fix it until it zapped me again, this week.  Maybe that gives you an idea of how things are going. A potentially life threatening electrical contact is second priority.

Anyhow, when I unwrapped it I found exactly what I had expected.  I've seen this handiwork before.


My nemesis was the little bit of bolt connecting the two black wires on the left.  It was exposed through a hole between releasing wraps of the paper painters tape that was used to insulate this marvel of mechanical connections. Some years ago. I wonder what the electrical insulation value half life for masking tape would be. Paper tape in a marine environment.  Don't you just love it. But don't rub a sweaty bare shoulder against it.  Unless you're into that kind of thing, I guess.  It is exciting.  I will say that for it.

And the good, well, that would maybe include a lot of the new types of things we're doing to make the boat more livable.  One recent example is the closet hanging rods. Closets are called 'hanging lockers' on boats.   And the vinyl coated steel tubes that we had to replace were rusted relics of a mistreated past.  We junked them.   And I made some new ones from things that will never rust.
These are Starboard (TM) scraps and PVC plumbing pipe, put together with stainless screws.   I am never going to worry about corrosion with these.  Never.  It's not elegant, but it will work real good and last a long time. And that makes me smile. We'd like to be at the beginning of that long time part for a change, instead of at the aft end.


This is now screwed to the overhead inside the cabinets.  The two long cross pieces are overkill for the closet rod, but they also help support the hull liner. Total  hardware is four stainless screws.

That's it for this post.   We'll cast an eye about for some fun stuff to photograph going forward, but we can't promise a hurricane every week, ya know.

Sunsets, we can manage.



 Mama said there'll be days like this.
There'll be days like this my mama said.