Sunday, October 11, 2009

Checking out Grace Bay

The summer of 2009 is over. The warmer temperatures of September are behind us along with historically the busiest month for hurricanes. Oh we are not 'out of the woods' for this season just yet. Storms come in October, and even November. But with every day between us and September we get a little closer to the finish line for this hurricane season. I would like to be able to relax and stop haunting the weather websites. I can stop looking at satellite images of the West Coast of Africa first thing every morning. "StormPulse" and "Weather Underground" will eventually take a backseat to Fox, CNN, and BBC again. Not yet, mind you, but we're on the downside of the Hurricane Season of 2009. Knock on wood.

We're not really superstitious, but I figured that if we put the boat in the driveway this year, came up with a way to chain it down, and bought an emergency backup generator....well, that all combines to be the best hurricane prevention I can think of. They won't come if they think you are prepared for them, right?. Is that superstitious? Maybe so. But so far it's worked.

And the weather has been pretty good lately.

October is traditionally the second 'rainiest' month of the year here, with November the wettest. These islands are what is termed 'marine tropical desert'. That means that the sun shines 350 days a year with an average temperature of 83°F (28°C). We get about 45-50 inches of rain a year on Providenciales. Much less on Grand Turk.

We get great electrical storms and squalls blowing through from time to time in the autumn and Dooley the Demented hates it. We had to move his 'crate' from the attic back into the bedroom so we have a place to banish him to when the thunder starts and he insists on crawling under our pillows shivering and slobbering. The wimp.

We keep looking for opportunities to continue exploring the coast of Providenciales with our little rubber boat "Low Cay". By now we've pretty much seen all the easy-to-get-to stuff, and have started taking it to other islands. We've been as far in one direction as Pine Cay, and almost to the Amanyara Resort in the other direction. We've done every canal we can find, some of them twice. Some more than twice. Those are good places to go in a small boat when the wind is howling. And it do howl from time to time here. In fact, last weekend it was blowing pretty darned good from the Northeast. So looking at the Google Earth image we figured if we hugged the coast of this island staying in the lee we could still boat out of most of the wind and wave action.

This worked out okay, because for some time we have been thinking of seeing Grace Bay from the ocean. For those who don't know much about this little country, Grace Bay is the tourism center of the Turks and Caicos. It is a nice long stretch of beautiful beach facing outward from the islands. The reef is offshore about a mile, and the water is beautiful. The majority of the multi-room hotels and condos are along this beach. This is the path we took:

We found a little section of beach in Leeward to put the boat in. At this end of Grace Bay the developments have not encroached on the area, yet. We paddled past a private residence called "Coral House". This is the first time we have seen it up close from the water. Now, this is my mental image of what a 'beach cottage' can be:

We were a little saddened to see that the land just next door to the Coral House has been bulldozed flat, with For Sale signs on it. I mean, I can understand someone wanting to sell it for development, but my question is.....why not just leave it in it's natural state until someone buys it and starts building? With the economy the way it is right now, this could easily sit here for years, scraped down to bare rock with no vegetation. I don't understand it. Would have been cheaper for the seller to NOT destroy all the trees and native plants. Oh well. The beach is still nice.

And then the resorts start.

Those two buildings on the right were under construction when we moved here. We thought they were huge monstrosities at the time. Now we realize that they were only medium sized monstrosities.

I am going to just post the photos in the order we took them as we cruised along in our little rubber boat. I don't really have any way of identifying all of these by name. It's easy on the street side of course, with big signs telling you the name of each resort. But I am betting those of you who have stayed here will recognize some of them.

I noticed way later that starting with this photo I had a drop of water on my lens. Sorry about that.

Not all of the resorts are big multi-story buildings. The original business on this beach was Club Med. Before Club Med, there was nothing at all on Grace Bay, and only a few hundred inhabitants for the entire island. I have heard numbers like 600-800 people. So, the entire population of Providenciales would have fit into one of these new buildings...comfortably. Anyhow, Club Med is much, much bigger than it appears from the road in front of it. I was quite surprised. Their property starts about where that dock is in this photo:

And the little restaurant on the sand there is the Flamingo. We have been there a time or two to watch the sunset and listen to music. It's a great little place.

That dock is also where Club Med ties up their diving and excursion boats. Nice:

They have certainly done a better job than most in blending into the island's natural appearance.

I am guessing this is the main center of activity at Club Med. Well, public activity, I mean. We saw tennis and basketball courts nearby, and of course the boats all pulled up on the beach here.

After the Club Med complex the newer resorts start again:

And they continue all the way along Grace Bay:

We decided to swing out away from the beach to get around their swimming area markers. Those are the white buoys in the photo:

This is a very safe beach to swim from, with not much boat traffic and protected by the reef offshore. It has a nice sandy bottom, which means not a lot in the way of marine animals to bother sensitive toes. Still, we were interested to see that even on a nice day like this the beach was almost totally empty. Part of it is the economy, with hotel bookings way down. And part of it is the season. Not that many people come here this time of year. Many places close down until late November.

This is the largest single resort complex on Grace Bay, the Seven Stars. It is my understanding that the property was bought from the original developers by a group of property owners. I am not sure if it is still operating as a public resort or if it has gone private:

We continued to cruise along, and our plan to hug the coastline here to stay out of the wind was working well. There were six to eight foot waves just offshore from us but as long as we stayed in the shelter of the island we were fine.

We turned around at a point of land that was putting us out into the wind a bit more than we liked. We knew we had an hour's peddling to get back to where we launched the boat. On the way back we swung by a spot we had seen when we first started this trip. It looks like something was once constructed here against this little bluff. There are some small concrete block walls still standing:

It's not a hotel location, so we assume it was the beginning of a private residence. Possibly another victim of the double whammy of Hurricanes Hanna and Ike last year?

Thirty or forty yards off the beach we could see three or four dark structures on the bottom, in about 8-10 ft. of water. We didn't have any snorkel gear with us, but I stuck the little camera over the side of the boat and snapped some photos as we went by them. I was hoping that the photos would let me figure out what these are:

I can't view the little LCD on the camera in direct sunlight so I had no real way of knowing how the photos came out until later. Here's another one, different object:

I still don't know what they are. They are about six to ten feet long, and stick up off the bottom around three feet. I guess we will have to go back with faceplate and snorkel at some point and take a closer look. But that will have to be another day and a special trip. We don't spend much time in the Grace Bay area.

We tend to like the views on our side of the island better.

We don't just use the kayak to explore. Our vehicles are pretty well suited to be able to handle a lot of bad roads. And in the past week we have been doing a little of that. We took off yesterday to look for a good spot to launch the boat in one of the most remote areas of this island out near the western end, miles past the nearest pavement. We followed this little "road" as far as we could, for example. Then 'guess who' had to get out and walk through this stuff barefooted to make sure there were no surprises under the muck.

'Cause I can tell you right now, there is NO way La Gringa is going to voluntarily wade through this kind of stuff barefooted. She did feel safe enough to drive through it, though.

"See? I told you it was easy.."

Unfortunately not far after this we ran into water and mud so deep that even I wasn't going to wade it feeling for the bottom among all the little critters and slimy things that slither between toes. So, "guess who" got to get out and direct traffic backing up until we could find a place wide enough to turn around?

Yeah, you guessed it. The barefooted guy with the camera and several unidentified species crawling over his feet.

Eventually, though, we managed to work our way to the coast. (That's one of the things you can pretty much count on, when your on an island.) And we were glad to see this bit of blue through the trees at the end of the trail:

I know plenty of people who come someplace like this on vacation want the nice smooth beaches, the spas, masseuses, restaurants, pools, and bars of the posh resorts. And that's fine. That's what Grace Bay is all about and it's a really nice place for that kind of thing. But this is more our style:

Not a soul to be seen as far as we could see in that direction, or in the other direction either:

We had planned to put "Low Cay" in the water and explore some interesting features I spotted on Google Earth, but the ocean was a bit uneasy yesterday. And this rocky coastline was just not the kind of place to launch this boat. It is filled with places like this, where the waves swoop around circular holes in the shoreline and polish rocks into piles:

We'll just have to re-group, re-plan, and approach this from another direction. Gives us another goal in our little quest to explore the entire coastline of Providenciales by kayak eventually. We're getting there.

And in the meantime, La Gringa is getting pretty good at doing three point turn-arounds in some pretty 'iffy' places.

Man, I really need to get a spare tire for this truck. So far, I have not been able to find a wheel on the island that fits.

Back at the house the DIY stuff continues. In fact the rest of this post is pretty much about DIY stuff, so if you only tune in for the pretty pictures of the tropics...that part of the program is over for now.

I know that I have mentioned my ongoing war with corrosion several times here. It continues. One of the earliest issues we faced when we moved to this hillside facing the ocean and trade winds was what happens when some well meaning but metallurgically clueless company puts brass grommets on aluminum screen. The electrolysis between the different metals in the presence of salt steals material from the weaker material. In our case, it's the aluminum screen wire. Within three months (3 months!!) of moving into our then-new home, we noticed that the screen wire was getting completely eaten away around the brass grommets. The grommets are there to line the hole where the window cranks go through the screen. I wandered around the house last week looking for a remaining example of the process in progress, and could only find this little-used window in our pump room.

We almost never open this window, we don't use this room. It's where the water pump and filter for the house are located so this crank has probably been used twice in a year and a half. Once to crank the louvers down for the hurricanes, and then once again a week later to open it back a crack for ventilation. But you can see that the screen has been completely corroded away around the brass grommet. And this is a protected one. Imagine the ones that get used daily.

The problem with this is up in the main house where the corrosion has left holes like this in all 26 of our doors and windows that have aluminum screens.

These things each have two cranks for louvers in them. That means 52 holes big enough for a squadron of mosquitos to fly through on a strafing run without even having to break formation. We don't have a lot of mosquitos here, generally. The wind keeps them away. But when we do have those rare calm mornings and evenings we would dearly like to be the ones who determine upon which side of the screens the bugs will be located. If we leave it up to them, they show no restraint at all.

Replacing the screens doesn't fix the problem. Well, it does for about 90 days or so but putting new aluminum screen and new brass grommets in, basically, approaches Einstein's definition of insanity. I even have a nice supply of grommets, barely used. In my early enthusiasm, I even bought spares!

These would be okay for putting tie-down holes in canvas or plastic tarps...but keep them away from aluminum screens in a high salt environment. Trust me on this. It's a temporary solution. Which is not really a 'solution' per se, is it. I have even been told by a friend on Pine Cay that brass grommets in plastic screens have not solved the problem. I suspect that's more an issue of fatigue than corrosion, but I digress.

After fighting and re-fighting this particular battle for over a year now, I think I may have found a solution. I had come up with plans to cut round washers out of thin plastic and sandwiching those between the brass grommets and the screen to electrically isolate the two materials. And I still think that would work, although it would be a lot of hassle to cut 104 plastic washers. But in the search for pre-cut plastic washers online (forget finding them here. That falls under the heading of "Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!" accompanied by maniacal laughter) I discovered.....Plastic Grommets!! Yes! I won't go into what I had to go through to import half a gross of them here, but I did it. About two weeks ago I received six packets of these things:

They're cheap. Twelve grommets for about ten bucks. It cost me more to UPS them here than they cost to buy. I chose these because they are small (3/8" diameter hole) and because they came in metallic colors. I found some other plastic grommets, but they were bigger, triangular, and bright blue. Naaah... Putting these in is fairly easy, although time consuming. This is where the post really bogs down into the minutiae of this DIY stuff. 'Cause of course I am going to explain it. I need blog photos.

First step is to strip the old screen out. You pull the rubber spline out from around it, and the screen comes out easily.

Can you tell there's absolutely nothing wrong with that six month old screen except for those two $#@*&#! holes from corrosion?

Then you stretch and mount the new screen by using one of these spline replacing tools. There are a number of things that can go wrong at this point. Those of you who have replaced screens will already know about them. Those of you who have yet to replace your own screens will learn them as you go. (The rest of you won't give a rosy red rat's patoot one way or another) You can use a screwdriver to do this instead of a screen spline tool. This will accelerate your education as to the list of little things that can go wrong. It doesn't show in these photos, but I found it a good idea to cut a couple pieces of wood to put across the frame to keep the long sides from getting pulled inward when pushing the splines back into the grooves. It keeps the frame rectangular. This is a good thing later when you try to put it back into the window or door. Concave or hour-glass shaped screens just don't quite get it when it comes to keeping bugs out.

Then you trim the excess screen off:

Yes, this is another place where things can go very wrong if you let your mind wander. Or even if your mind lets you wander. And starting over at this point....well...just pay attention. And be careful . But do this for about fifteen minutes and....

and you have a new screen. Without crank holes, as of yet. But we will get to that. I also found out that it's a good idea to clean up the cranks a little while you have them apart. the corrosion caused by the brass and salt extends even into the crank shafts themselves. They get bound up in the mechanisms, and make it very hard to get them out without destroying the screens. Best to clean them up when you can. I had to scrape aluminum oxide off the shafts. I used a chisel.

The shafts also have these little spring-loaded ball bearing things that are supposed to snap into the mechanisms. It's the same system that socket wrenches use. I found about half of the shafts were frozen up, as well. I used Vise Grip pliers (Mole Grips for you UK folks) to compress these things so that I could dribble oil down inside them onto the springs.

This freed up all of the stuck ones without too much trouble.

I also took the set screws out of the handles and coated those with anti-seize compound so that they are easy to take out. The little allen head screws are steel. The handles are aluminum. Need I say more about that? Finally, I put a piece of shrink tubing over the shaft where it would contact the screen. These haven't had my greasy fingerprints cleaned off of them yet, but you get the idea:

I also took the crank mechanisms apart and repacked them with grease but didn't get any photos of that. Mainly because my hands were covered in grease.

Now, to be logical, with the plastic grommets I really shouldn't need the shrink tubing to isolate the aluminum shaft. But this is what I had planned to do if I went with Plan A using the brass grommets again and isolating them from the aluminum. I hope these are superfluous but it's a good opportunity to find out if they work out in case I have to go back to the brass again someday for some reason. "What reason?" you might ask? Well, availablilty of plastic grommets, for one thing. I had a hard time finding and procuring these. I can get brass ones anywhere. And these are plastic after all. There is no guarantee that they will survive this environment, yet. They could well get brittle and shatter in a few months. Or weeks. Or 'in days' is not inconceivable. Thank goodness we have made it past the 'in milliseconds' part already, but I am keeping an eye on them. I don't trust plastic here unless it's UV proof. (Which as near as I can tell doesn't really exist.)

Next step is to put the screens up where they want to go, and I used a screwdriver to punch holes where the cranks fit.

Take the screens back off and then trim the holes so that the new plastic grommets fit. I found out that a toenail clipper works pretty well for this. Don't ask.

I also used a few drops of Super-Glue to hold the two grommet halves although they do snap together fairly easily. And when it's all assembled it looks like this:

Sure looks a lot better than the first photo in this little DIY exercise, don't ya think? And while it might not keep all the bugs out, it will surely slow down the taller ones with short attention spans.

Oh, and of course in additon to all this stuff I keep working on the Yamaha outboard trying to get our boat to work again. This week I received a box of new filters, o-rings, spark plugs and diagnostic software from our friends at Shipyard Island Marina in Wisconsin. This software lets me check all kinds of parameters in this complicated motor in my seemingly never-ending quest to figure out why it doesn't run worth a darn. Using this software requires me to start and run the motor. I got it all set up this week, and used our industrial strength trash bin as a test tank. I was just barely able to fit this big outboard motor into it and fill it with water. But I did it. I had to put a hydraulic jack under the back of the boat trailer to raise the motor up enough to fit it in the trash bin. I had to cut blocks to put under the wheels, and the jack. Wow, took about ten seconds to write that. About two hours to do it.

The motor is running in this photo. The white wire is the connection between the Yamaha's Electronic Control Module and my laptop. And my laptop was sitting on the tailgate of the D-90

in the garage..

And yes, that's a washing machine in the back of the Land Rover, and no I don't want to talk about it. Still too painful.

This was going great, I was getting all kinds of test data and engine parameters from the Diagnostic software..

There's pages of this stuff. And I was learning my way through it quite nicely, with the motor idling along behind me in its nice tank of fresh water...

When suddenly things started making loud funny noises. The exhaust of the outboard was suddenly uncovered where it had been underwater before. I also noticed a fair bit of water seemed to be splashing all over the keyboard, on the back of my neck, etc. This was not part of the plan.

After closing up the computer, spryly clambering aboard the boat in a hasty fashion and turning the motor off, I was able to determine what happened. My makeshift test tank water had warmed up to 138 degrees F circulating through the motor. I would never have known about this 138 degrees F thing, you see, without my Yamaha Diagnostic Software. Well, as I am sure many of you know, when plastic warms up it gets soft. And in this case, the sides of the trash bin softened up enough that the water pressure distorted it. The solid fiberglass handle that the garbage truck uses to lift these bins came completely out of its mounting. Most of the excitement had settled down by the time I got the motor turned off and remembered to grab the camera. But this is what the final bit of that whole little episode looked like:

And when that water was about two feet deeper and the motor was running, it was splashing much better than that. oh yeah. The prop turns slowly even when the motor is in neutral. It turns a bit faster when it's suddenly only partly in the water. This all adds to the excitement.

So, after quietly figuring out how to get the trash bin back together and smuggled up the hill without La Gringa realizing I trashed it, I realized that I have to put the boat in the water to do this right. And that is basically where we are at the moment. Waiting on a calm enough day to trust my laptop to the open sea. oh boy.

Going from project to project with hardly any break or even the semblance of a sense of control can get frustrating at times. I have read somewhere that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is all in your attitude about it. So I find myself looking around where we live, at these beautiful waters, and these great people, and these acceptable sunsets...and I just tell myself 'tomorrow is another day'.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oxidation is an insomniac

A late September sunrise:

As I explained in the previous post, this one will be largely about some of the seemingly endless DIY stuff that takes up a chunk of just about every single day here. At one time I think I had it in my head that if I just knuckled down and spent more hours on maintenance, repair and corrosion prevention, eventually I would be 'caught up'. Now I realize that this will never happen where we are living. We pay for these nice views and constant breeze in trade goods, and those trade goods are everything we own that has any steel or aluminum in it. There is just too much metal in our lives. If it were all titanium, or low carbon stainless steel..then maybe it would last. But it isn't. And it doesn't.

But before I get on to 'Gringo's Interminable War on Corrosion' I thought I would post some photos taken last weekend. Because we had a great weekend.

We have wanted to make our way over to Pine Cay for some time now. In our other summers here we spent weeks out on that little island during the summer when it is almost deserted. But our power boat has been basically unreliable for over two months now. We have been essentially stranded on Providenciales - except for our kayak excursions. I just realized that I could say that we have just spent two and a half months stranded on a desert island! It sometimes feels that way. Boats cure island fever.

Our longest stretch in the kayak to date had been maybe four or five protected miles in canals. But we had been thinking of using the kayak for the trip to Pine Cay for some time. We had kayaked to Pine Cay the first year we were here over the Caicos Bank, and between the tide in our face and the wind from the then-forming storm that would become Hurricane Rita, well we refer to that trip as the "Death March". We have not tried it again in four years. Until now.

But since we have gotten this awesome little inflatable kayak, we have been thinking of trying it again. And this time we would take the open ocean route, which is the dotted line in this image:

(Funny that the images for here on Google Earth are from April 2004. Been a lot of changes since then - a year before we moved here.)

So, this weekend we finally got fed up enough with island fever and desperate enough for some boat time to give it a try. We loaded up the dog, a cooler, remembered the sail this time and launched the boat near Big Blue in Leeward.

There is a nice little boat ramp there which Big Blue gave us permission to use. The floating docks in the background are part of the whole Leeward/Nikki Beach development abomination that was allowed to go on here over the past couple years. Notice the docks are all empty. As they usually are. (We all heard the news last week that the marina and the Nikki Beach resort went into receivership.)

The water is still absolutely beautiful if you crop the Leeward Development out of it:

Saturday afternoon we made the decision to head up out of Leeward-Going-Through along the coastline. We wanted to see how difficult it would be should we decide to head on up to Pine Cay some day. And to our delight, we found out that it was not very difficult at all. We went about two thirds of the way on Saturday (about 8 miles round trip) and then did the whole thing for real on Sunday (a little over 12 miles clocked on the GPS).

Knowing from previous experience that our backsides tend to get a bit numb after an hour or two sitting on the thin kayak seats, I cobbled up an idea I had. I took some 'noodles' (those cheap foam floatation toys) and cut them up into sections. I punched holes in the sections with a (rusty, of course) piece of metal and laced them together with some nylon line to make additional seat cushions. It worked out really well:

They weigh almost nothing, are dirt cheap, are very comfy and would serve as additional floatation if we needed it. Whoops...drifting into the DIY here, I digress...

We didn't really time our trip to take full advantage of the tidal flow, not because we don't know any better, but because the tides were just not convenient. And we have used this little boat enough now to know that we can power through a lot of oncoming current. We just had to slog it out for a mile or so against the flood tide. Once we got out of Leeward and made the turn up the outer shore of the islands it became a nice pleasant summer day's outing. Going slow like this we were able to really look at the shoreline, much more than we do when using the power boat. This is just about in the middle part of Water Cay:

With the wind just off our starboard bow, the sail wasn't much use on the way up. Oh, when I tacked the boat back and forth we did pick up a little help from it. But the little lift we got from the sail in this direction was more than offset by the extra mileage we had to travel during the tacks. We experimented with it and ended up picking a nice compromise. The pedalling was not hard. We did stay right on the edge of some developing rain showers, but even Dooley the Diminutive was pretty relaxed about it. He tried to keep a watch on the shoreline in case a cat or an iguana might show up and need some attention...

But he couldn't seem to stop himself from dozing off in the warm sun to the sound of the water lapping against the boat.

And there wasn't much to see. The reef a mile out to our NW, and the undisturbed beach we were following to our east. Very relaxing. This is the little point that is the SW corner of Water Cay. There is a nice beach now between it and Little Water Cay.

So, after about two hours of more or less leisurely pedalling with some small sail assist, we were able to pull up exactly to where we wanted to be on the beautiful beach at Pine Cay. Notice, nobody to the north..

Nobody to the south:

Nobody to seaward:

Just the beach, the sun and, of course, the water:

Not too shabby, as far as beaches go.

After an hour or so on Pine Cay we saddled up for the pedal home and discovered that now the wind was workable for our little sail. We could make a couple miles an hour with no effort at all. Except for the bald-headed old guy steering and trimming the sail from the stern, the rest of the crew was even able to turn around in the boat to relax and just enjoy the ride back:

See, no pedalling at all. And we had Dooley the Diligent keeping an eye out for sharks, dolphins, or whatever. He's learned to pay attention to things under the surface after the shark incident.

It got even more relaxing as the lazy afternoon drifted by..

We were able to just stretch and out catch a few late summer rays, with the wind and the sail doing all the work.

Eventually Dooley the Drowsy was able to grab the second half of his afternoon nap..

When we got to Leeward we had to fire up the Mirage Drive pedal power again, but all in all it was a very encouraging trip. It makes some of the other longer trips we have been contemplating seem even more feasible after this. All in all, a very nice day.

And this concludes the laid-back tropical portion of this post!

Now, on to some of the reasons why I have not been posting as often lately. It's because I seem to constantly have my hands full. Between working on troublesome motors and trying to keep up with the corrosion inherent in living here it's to the point where it takes planning and effort to get a day off to go kayaking. This summer it started with the Yamaha outboard on our boat. I am going to try to synopsize this in a few photos, just to give you an idea and knowing that most readers are not really interested in outboard motors.

So, here's the warning to those not interested in greasy, dirty jobs. The rest of the post is about just that aspect of living here.

In early July we were motorvating back from a fishing trip offshore when the motor started running really rough. I thought we had blown a piston or something. We limped back to our slip at the marina at the time and over the next few days, and then weeks, I kept trying to figure out what was wrong with it. One of the first things I noticed was that the lower sparkplugs had suddenly gotten very fouled by seawater in the cylinders. Now, THIS is a fouled spark plug:

This is what they SHOULD look like, more or less:

Only the lower two were this bad, but that is pretty bad. Over the next few days I discovered that a thing called a water control (or poppit) valve had corroded away on the engine. This is a motor with only 150 hours on it. Finding this problem took time, as this part is well-buried in the motor. I ordered the parts online from the US. Most annoyingly (that's a very polite way of putting it) the company that I bought the parts from charged me the premium for UPS three day delivery and then put them in the US mail!!! It took over a week and a half to get the parts to replace all this:

And needless to say, I will NOT be doing business with a company called "" again in this lifetime. In fact, I will happily pay higher prices to one of their competitors, to someone with a customer service function. They basically ripped me off and kept the extra shipping money they charged me. It was totally their error.

Well, replacing the corroded parts on the motor didn't fix all the problems. I halfway figured that I would have a compression problem from the water getting into the cylinders. But a compression check showed all six of them to be fine:

I kept removing more and more stuff from this motor, and got down to the fuel injectors expecting them to be corroded, but a visual inspection showed that they didn't really look at that bad at all.

So I continued to check everything I could think of on this motor. I got a lot of support and help from people on some of the online boating forums I frequent, especially from a company called Shipyard Island Marina up in Wisconsin. I think that's great - a guy with a motor on a small island in the Caribbean getting technical help and assistance from an outboard expert on a small island in Wisconsin. Thanks Andy!

Now, I should say that this is a special kind of motor by TCI standards. In fact, it is the only one of its kind here that either I or the Yamaha mechanics here even know about. The Yamaha people here don't work on these, don't know much about them, or stock parts for them. They told me that the problem with HPDI (High Pressure Direct Injection) motors here was that the local fuel was just not good enough for them. Great. Just what I needed to hear. Well, anyhow, we hauled the boat out of the water and moved it to the house where I could more easily work on it. Please keep in mind that I am condensing twelve weeks worth of troubleshooting and aggravation into a few paragraphs here.

In the course of all the things I tried, I discovered that the marina-bought fuel in the boat's tank looked a lot different from the fuel we bought at the local Texaco station:

Marina fuel is on the left, and you can see the difference. This led me to really concentrate on fuel issues. As in get rid of the old stuff and look at how to filter the new. One question I had was how to dispose of around thirty gallons of gasoline in the boat tank. I wanted it out of there. I did not want to dump it on the ground, or burn it. That's pollution, I figure. I would like to avoid that where I can. Neither of our other vehicles use gasoline, since they are both diesels. But we finally thought up with a way to dispose of the gasoline and to help some other people out at the same time.

La Gringa contacted the guys who bought the Suzuki from us and told them that if they wanted to come siphon the fuel out of the boat, they could have it. Oh my. The next day we had several Filipino carpenters here, happily siphoning about 30 gallons of gasoline out of the Contender tank. It was fine for their purposes, and will burn okay in non-injected motors. They filled the tanks on two Suzukis, and still hauled several five gallon jugs of fuel away. That should last them a month, at least, and saves them $ 4.30 a gallon. Every time we see these guys on the road now, we get big smiles and a lot of friendly waves. Hey, it got my boat tank emptied. The gasoline is being used. It helped some people out. I feel good about it.

This motor has been very, very frustrating. I have removed and cleaned some fuel filters:

I bypassed one that was not really doing anything to see if the air leak in it was the problem. The ethanol in the fuel had made the plastic of the filter housing swell up. Filter in place:

And bypassed:

Didn't matter. I let the swelling go down and re-installed it. What idiot decided that putting alcohol in gasoline was a good idea, anyhow?

I have checked ignition coils, spark plug wires, caps, etc....

We have re-launched the boat and tried to run it after every little thing I changed or cleaned up. There is a very rough ramp just a few miles from the house and we are getting pretty good at running the boat down there with the Land Rover:

Some of the tests need for us to be able to run it wide open, and we found out we can do that here:

(Remember the little jellyfish I posted a photo of in the last post? Well, I think I lost some of the good environment karma from not dumping the gasoline when we cuisinarted a dozen jellyfish during this runup. I guess we basically just shortened their trip back into the food chain)

Since there are apparently no injector-testing services in the country, I had to make up my own test jig to be sure the injectors are firing and not clogged:

And by golly, it works!

But I couldn't find anything obviously wrong with any of the injectors. I guess that's a good thing, in that they are about $250 each and there are six of them.

We have drained the old gasoline out and bought fresh new gasoline to put into the boat:

We have put it through a special filter funnel that removes water and debris even before it gets into the tank:

After the freshly bought, filtered fuel goes into the tank, it goes through no less than five more filtering levels before it gets to the injectors. And I am about to add another one. Sheesh. This is turning into a lot of trouble.

The last thing I got to before this post was to open up the high pressure fuel pumps (the motor also has five fuel pumps)

And clean these little bitty filter screens that the Yamaha technical manual does not even mention. There are four of these little boogers in there:

(...the screens, not the penny or the bolt. The penny is for scale, and the small bolt is what I used to get the danged screens out )

No good. Didn't fix it.

Drat. Gosh darn. Fiddlesticks. Dang it. Oh Pshaw. Horsefeathers. And some other words that I am not going to print here.

Well, now it's early October. I have gotten very, very familiar with the Yamaha 300 HPDI outboard motor. I never intended on getting this intimate with an outboard motor. It just happened. But it's still not fixed.

The boat has now essentially been out of commission for three months. I have just ordered some diagnostic software to try to pinpoint what's going on with it. Locals tell me to junk it, and buy a motor that is happy here. They tell me that it will never run right on the local gasoline. That is not such an easy thing to do. Outboard motors in the 250-300 horsepower range are not cheap. Even if I could find a decent used one. So we continue to put time, money, and frustration into trying to get this to run reliably. The last time La Gringa and I took it out, the motor quit entirely and I got to enjoy the experience of jumping overboard and towing it back down a canal and into a slip in about a knot of current. No kidding.

Guess all the kayaking did a pretty good job of rehabilitating the new knee. The problem this time was a loose fuel line, and I have gotten pretty handy at fixing fuel lines this summer.

I have to admit, though, that the more I mess around with high tech outboard motors.... the more I like the idea of sails. Add the cost of fuel, and oil, and thoughts of the environmental impact of these motors...and we have tons of free wind here. Constantly..

Maybe a new day is dawning in the boating department.

And as time consuming as the boat has been, oh, this is not ALL that's been going on. Oh, no no no no no no no... not by any means. There's more.

I continue to metaphorically beat my frustrated fists against the corrosion and rust issues here. You may have noticed, we do NOT give up easily on things. Toward this end, we added some new stuff to the arsenal. La Gringa snapped a few photos of Jon and I bringing a new toy home in the little Defender:

And no we did NOT buy a telephone booth. Wouldn't work half the time here if we did, anyhow. Trust me on this.

Nope, we have struck out in a new direction tool-wise. This is our new compressor which only took around six weeks to order online and receive in the TCI. Once again we got a lot of help from a friend here in getting this down to us. Brenton Berry runs TCI Paint & Supplies on the island and he ships a container of new merchandise down every two weeks from Florida to supply his store here. The containers are not always totally full. We had the compressor shipped to Brenton's family business in Florida, and they kindly transported it in their container to Providenciales for us. The shipping companies don't care how much weight is in a container, they charge by the cubic foot, or essentially per container.. Thanks Brenton!

Dooley the Distracted seems to be asking... how you gonna get that thing out of the truck? And that is a very good question. It's top heavy and with the pallet it's strapped to, weighs almost 400 lbs. And I am old and cripple, etc. And our driveway, such as it is, is always somewhat of an expedition experience whether you are going up, or down.

(This thing needs a proper roll cage for this kind of stuff, I think.)

Well, after considering and discarding several schemes and ideas what we did was use a ladder for a ramp, and just slid that sucker down into the garage like it was on greased rails:

See, my thinking on this is that I will start standardizing on air tools where I can. I have pretty much gotten discouraged with the choice, quality and price of electric tools here. We pay top dollar for low quality. When we can get it. Each power tool I buy has an electric motor. Electric motors have a lot of steel in them. Iron does not last long in this environment. Exposed, spinning parts and bearings also don't do very well. Salt environments and electricity are mutual enemies, as well. And the salt always wins. Friends here have told me that if you get two years out of a new power tool, you have done well. This is kind of hard to accept for someone who had tools routinely last fifteen or twenty years before. Oh, not here amigo. Not here.

Then I thought of air tools. There is a good selection of them, even here. I know of at least four places in Providenciales that stock air tools. They are very inexpensive. And since they are simple and sealed up air tight, they are relatively impervious to water, salt, and the other environmental factors here that seem to kill electric motors on a regular basis. And compressed air ties in nicely with my ongoing skirmishes with corrosion.

For example, now I can start with something that is merrily corroding itself into oblivion, such as one of the folding steps on the Land Rover:

I now have an air hammer that will definitely twist the rusted bolts off one of these things. And an air chisel that will cut them if need be. Then, I take the rusty part and put it in the electrolysis gunk and apply some low voltage to it for about 24 hours. This breaks up all the rust to a remarkable extent.

One of the Land Rover steps is in that blue plastic bucket. No kiddng. That's how much stuff comes off it in this solution. I have found out that steel rebar makes a good, cheap cathode.

Then, I take the formerly rusty piece out of the bucket and dry it off and put it in the new sand-blasting cabinet, which is hooked up to the new compressor:

It takes just a few minutes in the sand blaster to bring the formerly rusted metal down to shiny steel. Then I take it outside, and hook up one of the small paint spraying guns I bought with the compressor, and start with a good primer coat of fresh paint. These are trailer hitch parts, and one of the four formerly rusted up Land Rover steps. Waiting for the top coat of paint..

And blasting rust down to shiny metal is so much fun I am getting kinda carried away. I have even been blasting and painting some of my iron tools that had been corroding silently, hidden away in the bottom of tool boxes:

I picked up an air-tool called a "needle scaler" for stuff too big to fit into the sand blaster. For example, I was able to clean and paint the rear cross member on the small Defender in a day:

I have managed to clean up and put fresh paint on such things as the front bumper for the Land Rover:

I think that if I can spot the rust early on and deal with it with sand blasting and paint, I can probably prolong the life of some of these tools and vehicle parts indefinitely. And if things work out as I hope, when an electric power tool fails I will replace it with an air tool. The only power tools I have not yet found air-driven replacements for are saws. Just about everything else can be replaced with an air tool for about a quarter of the price of a new electric tool.

Speaking of the small Defender... it's in the process of getting a facelift as well. In additon to the new heavy steel front bumper with trailer hitch (which has a fresh coat of shiny new black paint on it) we also had a local upholstery shop start sewing up a new soft top for it from the remnants of the old one:

I had started sewing this myself, but doing it by hand with a needle was taking way too much time away from other projects. It needed a sewing machine.

And this week, I received a shipment of plastic grommets and am excitedly attacking the aluminum screen problem we have been having. And I thought of including that in this post, but looking back I see that this DIY stuff has gone on far too long already. I'll include what I have done for the screens in the next post. Here's a hint: it's working out great.

But hopefully, you can see that we are not just sitting in a hammock somewhere like this was some kind of a Corona beer commercial. No sir. That ain't it at all. We've been busy.

So I will stop this post for now, but there is more on the way. And we are just moving into the time of the year when we get the best selection of sunsets, and electrical storms, and maybe even the odd waterspout. I can hardly wait.