Friday, March 26, 2010

Playing 'catch-up' again

I have mixed feelings about writing another post right now. It's been recently and repeatedly pointed out to me that it's been several weeks since the last post. Okay, three weeks. Ok, okay... I realize that. But the situation is that once again we don't really have much that's new and exciting going on around here lately. Being in the Northern Hemisphere, we are still digging ourselves out from the last remnants of an unusually cold and bitter winter. I know for a fact that it got down to around 69 degrees F. one night, and it bottomed out at 70 or 71 on at least three other occasions. One doesn't recover from a harsh climate experience like that overnight, you know. We feel lucky to be alive.

So, although I have nothing exciting to report, after digging into our meager supply of new photos, and without further ado.. I can report that La Gringa Suprema's camera came back from the Pentax repair folks fixed as good as new , and she is taking sunrise and (sometimes) sunset photos again!

And she takes a lot of nice photos. She has the patience to work at it while I am more the offhand snapshot type. Sometimes it's difficult to figure out which of her sunrise photos to choose. I can't post all of them. She keeps striving for good, clean, dramatic images of the prettier sunrises for example,

While I tend to drift over toward the photos with other stuff in them. She would, for example, prefer this one out of a series she recently took:

While I (if left to my own devices) would have picked the one single photo with a lens reflection flaw:

Likewise, she would probably not choose one with early morning contrails in it..

and some might think that an exhaust trail like that basically ruins that particular sunrise for good. But I like it. It makes me wonder where that jet originated and how early those people had to leave their homes and hotels to be flying over us at that altitude at 05:30 in the morning. Are they going home to the USA after a vacation in the Lesser Antilles? Is it a military flight? Can they even see this speck of an island from up there? I think maybe I over complicate things sometimes.

We still are not getting a lot of decent sunset photos. I think it's tied to the season. There are either not enough clouds for a pretty one, or the clouds have been building all day and by sunset they obscure everything to the western horizon. But rest assured, La Gringa is keeping an eye on the sunset most days if we are home and she has a camera near. And it's just a matter of time before we have a few more good ones to post for the sunset aficionados out there.

And it's not easy, sitting here huddled against the cold, wearing all her winter clothing...watching and hoping for a decent sunset photo...

And Dooley the Destroyer...well in the last post we showed y'all what he was doing to the nice new squeaky-duck toy that Todd brought him from Texas. He was systematically working on destroying it. We didn't know what to do to stop him from destroying it. It was, after all as he pointed out, HIS squeaky-duck toy. He didn't seem too keen on the idea of a guardianship arrangement. I thought perhaps he needed to understand it was like a fetch toy. He loves to fetch tennis balls. And they seem to survive. For months in some cases. This duck wasn't looking to make a month at that rate. So I tried throwing the duck, and telling him to go get it and yeah, he would go and fetch it. Catch it in the air, actually. And shake it violently and crunch it, producing a 'squawk' noise. And then he would really crunch on it..and pin it down...and treat it harshly.

Finally, of course, the time came when he crunched it....and it didn't squawk. Because the last violent shake had pretty much de-squawked old Daffy for good. And then, suddenly, he totally lost interest in it. Even when I gathered the evidence into a pile and confronted him with it.

And I think it is his breeding. As long as that bird squawked, he figured he had NOT done his job. And as a Terrier, his job is to locate and permanently neutralize animals that he considers useless pests and undesirable varmints. (A shame we can't turn him loose in the US Senate for a few hours. Maybe if he brought a few spare backbones with him...)

I do have a few new boating-related photos to upload, but not many. And I have a lot of DIY and semi-DIY stuff, much more than boating photos. But the happy news is that we do have some boat-related DIY photos, sort of. I'll let you decide.

As many of you know, every Valentine's Day weekend there is a model sailboat regatta over on Middle Caicos. We have been going over for four years now. It is a bit of an ordeal to get over to Bambarra Beach for the day, but well worth it.

Starting last year our friend Preacher started going with us to the regatta. Last year I remarked that the boats seemed to be having some problems travelling in a straight line. Preacher told me it was because nobody knows how to rig the boats these days...while in his youth they perfected the racing of these boats and making them sail right. So I asked what would be involved in us building a couple boats and competing with them in the next regatta. Preacher explained that we would need to find a 'gum-elemi' tree, shape it while it was still green, and that it was a lot of work. I remember telling him we had a whole year to do it and that I had a shop and tools, and he agreed it was a great idea.

Time rolls around, and a year later we find ourselves once again at the Valentine Day Sloop Regatta at Bambarra Beach. And once again I comment on how I think the boats could be improved and Preacher walked right into the trap. I let him explain how they built model sloops back when he was a boy...and then at the appropriate point I interrupted to remind him that the two of us had the same exact conversation, standing in the same spot on the same beach at the same event a year earlier. I really laid it on thick.

Well about a week ago Preacher called and said he was on his way over with something to show us. That in itself was a surprise because Preacher had not driven out here since the last time one of the front wheels fell off his car and headed out into the bush. (This is not that uncommon around here, by the way. Rough roads, oxidation, and minimal inspection requirements let a lot of marginal tie rods slip into the mix.) So I was expecting him to show up in a new vehicle, probably something suited to towing his boat "Cay Lime" around with. And he did have another vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee. But that was only part of what he wanted to show us. Here just a month after the last Middle-Caicos model sloop races, Preacher had secured a length of gum-elemi wood, and had already shaped the hull!

He was bringing it over to my shop to build and rig the rest of the boat. I was very surprised. I mean, the next race is not until February of 2011. But when Preacher gets a burr under his blanket...well you see how he can move when he needs to. ( speaking of Preacher moving...I have a little video I am debating whether to post here or not. I need to think about it for a few minutes...)

So 'yours truly' benefited from some one-on-one instruction from the supposed master of Providenciales Model Sloop design. First I used my table saw to rip a piece of wood which I then shaped with a jig saw...

The pressure treated spruce is heavier than the gum-elemi wood so this becomes the keel. It is also a lot tougher than the light gum-elemi wood. This wood resembles a kind of brittle balsa. It doesn't compress like balsa, nor is it as soft. When it's green and damp it's fairly easy to shape. As it dries it becomes brittle.

Preacher sketched out a rudder and I cut that out of another piece of wood.

That pretty much ate up the rest of that morning. A couple days later Preacher came back to start on the standing rigging. Starting to look like a sloop:

Another few hours to finish the rigging, build a weatherboard (or lee board) and Preacher took the boat home to finish the fine points and cut the sails. And within about a week and a half after starting she was ready for some sea trials.

And does it sail? Oh yeah.

I am pretty sure this boat, with the paint still fresh, would have out-sailed any of the boats we have seen competing in the Middle Caicos regatta. We have a few little 'secret weapons' and tricks from Preacher's experience to incorporate but basically I think that the previous champions in the Forbes family on North and Middle Caicos better enjoy their last year as reigning champions of the Valentine's Day Regatta. There's a new kid in town.

(there. think that will pull Danny Forbes out of retirement?)

Okay, on the video, I decided to post it. This is Preacher trying to keep up with this boat to change the heading. This is how these boats are sailed, with the captain following along behind to tweak the tiller as needed. Well, in this case, the boat accelerated so fast that Preacher was in danger of letting it get beyond him. Even he didn't allow for the speed he had told me about in his 50 year old design. If he had not caught the boat in his one-last-chance lunge... it would have been headed for French Cay and I am not sure what we could have done to stop it.

I can hardly wait til next Valentine's Day. We're gonna be a contender..

Now that was a DIY that is boating-related, after a fashion. And as far as real boating goes we basically have not done any. I met up with Robert Van Kampen of Nantucket at the hardware store recently. Robert comes down to Provo about this time most years and reads this blog to keep up with some of the going's-on around the island. Robert says we have been lazy! Not enough boating and not enough fishing. Well, dang. I am going to have to see what we can do about that, Robert. But as I told him, La Gringa and I are really starting to move away from power boats in our hearts. We KNOW we were born to be sailors. And our luck fishing has been abysmal the last several times we were out. And at $ 4.50 a gallon for fuel, it's fairly expensive to run a boat all day. So our boating tends to be of the rubber kayak variety. Including this past week. We like being able to just throw the boat in the back of a Land Rover and be where we want to launch in a few minutes. Like here, at Heaving-Down-Rock:

This rock, at the Caicos Bank end of Leeward-Going-Through , should be a national landmark or historic site for Providenciales. People have been landing boats here for hundreds of years. Before the modern marinas and canals were cut into the island this was one of the few places where you could even get a boat close to the land without having to worry about the waves smashing you against the shore. The very first vehicle (a jeep) was landed here in 1966.

Preacher was a teenager himself back then and remembers it well. Back in 1966 the population of Providenciales was estimated at around 400 people. This was also about the time that the people here saw their first outboard motor. Boy, has this place changed.

Dooley the Disinterested doesn't care about the history of the place, though. He has his own priorities..

This time of year we try to stay as far to the edge of the channel as we can squeeze. There are a lot of boats using Leeward-Going-Through during this busy part of the season. Fortunately, we can fit into very shallow water. Unlike the boats that left their rudder marks on the suddenly shallow bottom.

In this photo of the local day-charter boat "Atabeyra", please look at the little white lines on the distant horizon ahead of the schooner.

Those are ocean swells breaking on the reef outside the protected waters of Leeward. I mention this because after we left the deceptively calm waters in this photo we found ourselves in a good honest 3-5 ft. swell outside between the island and the reef. With our sail up, and a combination of the sometimes breaking swells and the wake of large power boats, things got real busy for us for the next hour while we made our way up to Pine Cay. Bottom line, I didn't take many photos. I was too busy with the rudder control in one hand, the main sheet in the other, and both feet pushing pedals. We did notice an unusual amount of seaweed floating on the ocean on this trip. More than we have ever seen here before.

Still photos never seem to capture the perspective of waves coming at you in a small boat. It always looks calm in the pictures. There were a few exciting moments on this trip, like when we looked to seaward and spotted a good 5-6 footer starting to break about thirty feet from us. We barely had time to turn the kayak down and let the wave pass under us from astern. It was exciting.

Finally, a stretch of calm water and a good run to Pine Cay:

It was also exciting when we 'surfed' the boat onto the beach. Neither of us was of a mind to be the designated photographer, with things getting real busy. In fact it wasn't until later that we wished we had a video of that landing. But that's the way it goes... we only pull the camera out when things are calm and we think of it. And of course we had Dooley the Debauched grabbing the calm periods for his catnaps. (Don't tell him I said he 'cat'napped. He doesn't think cats should even be allowed to nap.)

When we saw the weed patches we realized that we should have been fishing offshore around some of the larger ones. Rainbow Dolphin love to congregate under floating mats of cover. But alas, we didn't have what we needed for offshore trolling on this day.

We spent several hours visiting on Pine Cay and then boated back to Provo. The wind and the waves had died down considerably by the time we headed back. And of course since the sea was calmer it was easier to remember to take some photos. But they just don't convey the movement of the boat and the water, although video looks a little better.

This is riding over a smaller, 2 ft. wave on the way back to Leeward:

Even though the ocean was a lot more mellow on the way home we still had to deal with the wakes of large boats zooming by us. I think people tend to swerve out of their path toward us just to check out the funny looking kayak with a sail. When we get a large wake coming at us we either turn into it, or if we have enough room sometimes we turn away from it and ride it in toward the shore a little. This is what it looks like when we turn into a wake:

So, if you will, imagine a wake like that on top of a 3-5 foot swell from the same direction and you might get an idea for what our trip over was like earlier in the day.

Next time we'll try to remember to pull the camera out of the waterproof bag and take some more dramatic photos during the fun parts. I promise.

We tried boating without Dooley one afternoon. We didn't have much time and just wanted a quick little workout in the kayak. We realized we had never been in the boat without the dog and wanted to try it out. So we did a quick trip up the local canal. It was very strange not to have him there. We had nobody to yell at except each other and the neighborhood dogs didn't know what to make of this boat coming up their canal... without Dooley. They didn't even work up the energy or enthusiasm to run down to the water without Dooley shooting his mouth off about their heritage and immediate family members.

Now I am at the last part of this post that involves boats in any way. Last week we received an email from some cruisers who are passing through here on their way South. They had decided to stop at the boatyard here to get some repairs done to the keel of their catamaran. Crystal and Mike found this blog online and dropped us a note inviting us to stop by and meet them and see their boat. Of course since we are salivating for our own little cruising sailboat we lept at the chance. Well, perhaps 'lept' is too strong a word. We are too old for leaping. It might be more accurate to say we 'moseyed' over to the boatyard and found them.

Here is the "Dancing Dolphin" on the blocks while the boatyard is doing some fiberglass work on the hull.

"Dancing Dolphin" is a 35 ft. Victory catamaran. This is a different boat than the one we are interested in but it also has a lot in common. It is only slightly longer than a Gemini, and has a totally different hull design. The Victory draws a little over 3 ft. of water and has fixed keels. There are some advantages to this design. Gemini's draw half that much but we will have to constantly deal with pivoting centerboards while sailing. In our case, living where we are living and considering where we want to cruise, we are willing to put up with the extra hardware hassles to be able to get over shallows and to anchor close in to the lee of small islands. Sometimes that is the only place to get out of the wind in remote areas without harbours or marinas and boats with deeper drafts are not able to get close enough to a really, really small island's wind footprint to utilize the shelter. There is sometimes only a small cone of calm water behind a small rock or island. We want to be able to duck into those places when we need shelter.

"Dancing Dolphin" also has the same drive leg that our chosen boat would use so of course I was very interested to talk to Mike and Crystal about how they liked the single diesel setup. Many small catamarans this size have either a diesel in each hull, an outboard on each transom, or in some cases a single outboard instead of a diesel and swivelling drive leg. We had a lot to talk about.

That's Mike up in the cockpit, and you can see the drive leg in this photo as well:

One of the things we have found out about boatyards is that they typically take many times longer to finish a job than they tell you they will take to finish a job. As of this writing, Crystal, Mike and the Dancing Dolphin are entering their third week here waiting for what they were assured was a five-day job. So we hope to be able to enjoy their company for a few more visits before they sail off into the sunrise heading for some newer adventures.

And this whole visit really whets our appetite for a small sailboat of our own. And we are happy to report that we expect to be buying a brand new, sumptious, colossal, luxurious sailing yacht any day now. Just as soon as we can find a yacht dealer that accepts Zimbabwe Dollars as payment...

yes, it's real. Near worthless, but real. Gets your attention for a second there though, doesn't it?

Hey! Maybe we can use it to scam the widow of a former Nigerian government minister on the internet!!

Warning: DIY about to start.

Okay that's about all I have for this post about boating. Everything from here on is about a couple little DIY things going on. This notice is to serve as a warning to those who are not interested in the nuts and bolts of living in a place like this. You can go back to your own more productive life now. The pretty tropical water photos are finished in this particular post. More to come later in the week, hopefully.

One of the aspects of living in a fairly remote island location that we never really considered was the simple matter of warranty repairs. Back in the USA, for example, if one were to plunk down their cash for a new gadget or doodad they typically get some kind of warranty as part of the deal. In most cases if you have a problem with a new purchase, you return it to the store for a refund or replacement. In some cases you have to mail the misbehaving device back to the manufacturer to be fixed and returned. Some companies, such as Dell Computer, will even dispatch a local repairman to your home to fix one of their products. Well, this whole warranty thing changes when you move to a place like the Turks and Caicos.

Since we purchase a lot of our supplies and equipment via the internet, when it goes bad things get complicated. In most cases sending an item back to where we purchased it just doesn't work. Internet catalog companies don't seem to typically have repair facilities. They refer us to the manufacturer. In the case of a malfunctioning Pentax camera, we had to send it to the Pentax repair facility in Nevada. Or was it New Mexico? Someplace far away from here, that is what I remember. And it gets more complicated in that we quite often cannot just order something from a company in the USA and have them send it to us here. Many, many companies in the US are unable to figure out how to ship things internationally. Or for some reason they have a policy that they only ship to other US states. Try filling out one of those online "Add to my Cart" forms without a US state to put into the "checkout" boxes in the billing/shipping section. And even the companies that do ship internationally frequently do not have "Turks and Caicos Islands" on the pre-approved list. "Turkey"? yep, they will ship to Turkey. Or "Turkministan". Oh yeah, I could order a laptop and have it shipped to Turkministan (wherever that is) but in most cases not to the Turks and Caicos. So we have to do a little thing where we have it shipped to someone in the US who then ships it to us. This works fine, as long as there are no repair or return issues. Then it gets complicated. And expensive. Just sending something small from here to Pennsylvania will cost us around $ 60 each way. And it still has to get from Pennsylvania to the repair depot and back. So a camera like the Pentax will take three weeks or so to get repaired and returned to us, and it will cost us well over $ 150 in shipping costs before it's all over. And the shipping and return customs paperwork? It's a real pain. I'm sure you can imagine where.

Now, Dell Computer is a good company. We have found their customer service to be first rate. But we have this shipping foreign thing going on. So when La Gringa's new, ruggedized laptop started misbehaving I had to get online with Dell's customer service people and come up with a solution. Her mouse cursor developed a mind of it's own, and started deciding what to highlight, what to delete, and it was maniacally double clicking like a bad set of false teeth. This would never do.

Dell's first response was to just send it back. Well, we didn't want to do that. We knew the problem had something to do with the pointing device (the touch-pad) and Dell agreed. Their second choice was to send a repair technician to fix the computer. "Well, that's great!" I replied...."tell him to pack plenty of sunscreen and his flip flops.. and we'll try to have him back in a week..."

By the time we sorted that out, obviously the Dell Technician was NOT going to get a round trip flight to the tropics out of this. So we finally agreed on the solution that they would send the parts and I would install them on the computer. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Dell sent us an entire 'palm rest' assembly, that includes the touch-pad circuit board, fingerprint reader, and some other stuff. This is basically the entire top surface of the computer that is not keyboard. And some instructions on how to replace it. Well, I have replaced three or four laptop keyboards by now, and fixed a couple of misbehaving LCD screens, and even the odd cooling fan. But this was a new one.

So, for those who might be interested in doing some of their own laptop repair, here is a little primer on what this particular DIY repair-in-the-field-by-a-totally-unqualified-dummy involved.

After removing batteries, external devices, and grounding the system board, you flip the laptop over and remove 21 (!) screws to start removing the bottom cover.

A dozen "gosh darns" later, this is what it looks like.

And I started thinking "hmm.. this is going to be a little more involved that just replacing another keyboard.." Then I got to remove the display. Then I got to remove the keyboard. I was removing stuff like an unsupervised Republican editing one of Obama's health care bills. Now at this point I had already exceeded my previous record for how far I ventured into a laptop computer. But this one calls for further exploration and the language even started changing. It had been simple English phrases up til now. Stuff like "remove the 16 M2.5x8mm screws attaching..." and "While still applying pressure to the left, use a plastic scribe to pry up the left corner of the LED cover". Use a plastic scribe? Do you know how hard it is to find even a decent amateur journalist in a place like this?

But now the language changed to something Dell must assume people who do things like this must speak. They mistook me for somebody competent! But I had to slog on. I now had to carefully disconnect such things as the LVDS connector, the WPAN cable, the WLAN cable, and of course that pesky WWAN cable. Hey... I don't have a clue what these are, other than the internal vital organs of La Gringa's very expensive and vital new computer. And we are talking about these little bitty delicate connectors in the hands of a real klutz... I didn't have a lot of hope from this point onward.

Then it got worse. I found myself rolling up wiring harnesses and pulling them completely out through hinge connectors. And yes, I DID have to use the tweezers from a Swiss Army knife..

By this point I was starting to wonder what I had gotten myself into here. When I removed a couple more assemblies and the handle fell off I thought "NOW I've really messed it up.." but no, the handle does fall off at this point. I just wish Dell had warned me in the first place that this was going to happen. NOT "Lift the Palm Rest from the Computer". (GASP! Oh Jesus it's falling apart! Turn the page, quick!) and then finding on the next page "Note: The handle will fall off when the palm rest is removed." They could have warned me. I was nervous enough at this point that some soothing assurance that I would not screw up the handle assembly would have been appreciated. I don't know diddly about WWAN cables, but screwed up handle assemblies.... now THAT I can comprehend.

I think they tend to forget that I am not one of their factory trained and highly competent Dell technicians who is accustomed to removing zillions of tiny screws and having major subassemblies fall into his lap as an everyday occurance. Oh well. Onward.

Mopping the nervous sweat from my (considerable) brow I was starting to feel like a bomb technician with the shakes.. but since I was in this far I pretty much had to continue. Like the pig compared to the chicken in the old ham and eggs joke, I was committed.

And I admit that at this point I was already mentally composing some strategy for my likely explanation to Dell. I figured they were going to have some questions about a box of loose and somehow familiar parts showing up at their door in a battered cardboard box covered with colorful tropical postage stamps and multiple postmarks.. but I continued. Just in case it all started to make sense at some point. I mean, I would hate to have sent it all off admitting defeat only to find I was one more connector shy of finishing what I started.

And you are never going to guess what happened at this point. Never. So I will tell you. I discovered the problem with the computer. And it was not the touch-pad sensors and electronics. Nope. I got all the way into the very middle of this $ 4,000 laptop while disconnecting subassemblies, and when I gave a very, very slight tug at a little ribbon connector it almost fell away from the circuit board. This stuff is so small compared to the tie-rods and outboard motor parts I am used to dealing with that it's hard to get a decent photo of it. But it looks like this:

How small, you might ask? Well, see that screw hole to the left? that's for a M2.5 mm screw. Which is so small a mosquito would have trouble crawling into that hole. I can't even see these screws without reading glasses. And see that little plastic thingum sitting on the flat spot? That is supposed to be a little latch that flips down and holds the ribbon cable into the connector, and the little pin that should secure it as a pivot point is gone. Long gone. Broken off and unrepairable. Shoot.

The cable in question is not the multicolored one on the left by the way. It is the dark one that goes straight down from that white connector and makes a 90 degree turn to the left, with the camera flash glare on it. It doesn't show up well in this photo. All of this hassle because of a connector latch that costs next to nothing. I do have to question Dell's choice of connectors for a 'ruggedized' laptop. (This thing has not been in a war zone. The only abuse it has ever suffered was verbal.)

Well, this left me in a bit of a quandry. I am sure Dell would be glad to know the problem was not this obviously very expensive palm rest assembly with touch-pad. Nope. Nothing wrong with the touch pad. But I also knew they were NOT going to send me a new motherboard (that complicated big circuit board you can see two photos back) to replace this one with. So I was faced with giving up and sending the whole mess back to them after all, even after waiting almost three weeks to get these parts down here and get their permission to repair it myself, under warranty.

All I could think of was to fall back on a tried and true repair strategy that many of you will appreciate.

Yep. I used duct tape.

That seemingly massive repair is actually a little piece of the stickiest duct tape in the garage, about a quarter inch square. (The multi-colored ribbon cable goes into the white connector on the right. It's not the problem. Not that anyone cares, come to think of it.)

Did y'all know the thin black duct tape works a lot better than the thicker gray duct tape when it comes to home computer repairs? It does. It's more flexible and sticker. Try it out next time you are in a hardware store. The gray duct tape is more for....well....taping ducts. Use the black stuff for your computer repairs. It's more expensive. That outta tell you something right there.

I pressed the new ribbon cable into the busted connector, fitted the broken hold-down clamp in place, glared at it in admonishment one last time, and taped it all down. Then I put the whole thing back together, back-tracking through sixteen typed pages of instructions. I got it all reassembled some hours later using the new touch pad even though it didn't need it. I figured that it might hurt Dell's feelings if I never used the expensive new parts they sent me.

And bottom line? It's now two weeks later. This computer has not missed a beat since I reassembled it. So now what do I do about Dell and the warranty? All I know is that right now that computer is working fine, and the only unplanned double clicking I hear from that side of the room has to do with ice cubes.

Duct tape. Nature's answer to busted anything.

Okay, that whole explanation got kind of longer than I anticipated. But still shorter than the four hours this particular repair took.

On another front, I have decided that our second automotive muffler repair justified buying, and learning to use, a DC arc welder. I have wanted to learn to weld for some time, and the first project I complete down here (re-attaching a tail pipe) will pay for the welder.

I bought the only one in stock at the local Do-It Center and yes, it was made in the People's Republic of China. I won't go any further into that, now. I have said way too much about P.R.C. quality control in the past. Let's just say that I am giving them another chance since they are so much bigger than I am anyway.

The operation manual, in English, for this arc-welder is an absolute collectors item. I am learning English words that I never knew existed. Unfortunately, I am not learning much about arc welding from their manual. I am going to keep it for chuckles, anyhow. Maybe if things get a little slower in the blog post department I will quote some passages from Chairman How.

So, I am learning welding totally on my own and it's pretty interesting. I started sticking together odd bits of steel I found laying around the shop, trying different things until I can get to the point where my welds look okay and hold with some strength.

Here are my first couple dozen practice arc welds:

There are nine seperate pieces of steel involved in that monstrosity. And the welds are getting slightly better with practice. Not prettier, but they don't break apart. I judge this good enough for mufflers that cannot be seen from the street by anyone not lying on their back under the vehicle. And those are not the kind of pedestrian observations I expect to be soliciting. I will keep at welding practice until I can produce something that I will not be ashamed of. I am obviously not there, yet.

It was painful to even show you this photo. But at least I am trying.

Oh, and I learned something else about arc welding, and this is a valuable lesson I hope to pass on to any other DIY practicioners who want to learn to weld:

You will need to wear shoes while welding. Gloves are a given, since the steel gets hot, but who would have thought you would run into complications welding while barefoot? This process puts a lot of white hot, molten sparks all over the place and they start small fires on nearby wooden benches, cardboard boxes, in the fur of small, suddenly yipping dogs, and on the tops and bottoms of unprotected feet. In fact I think some of the erratic welds I was producing on my first few attempts might have been due to my inability to keep my hand steady while my feet were on fire.

So learn from my mistakes, future welders! Cover the holes in your welding boots!

I have found that duct tape works. I suspect the gray duct tape would work even better.

Okay, okay.. this post got a little out of hand. This is what happens when I let a lot of dull photos accumulate for too long. We have several of our offspring down this week, and Mike and Crystal are still here with their catamaran and we were out on the Contender yesterday taking photos. So within a few days I hope to have another post that is more appropriate, not as wordy, and hopefully, more interesting.

In the meantime, here's another one of La Gringa's sunrise photos to close this one out. And remember, every silver lining has a dark cloud somewhere in it's heart...


Anonymous said...

What is it with you guys and cameras?

Everytime I read here, your cameras are broken or being repaired.

Splurge a little and buy yourselves a basketball to dribble, instead of bouncing your cameras off the floor all the time.


By the way, I do not believe I have ever seen such a collection of hammers in my life.

I mean really, how many hammers does one need? It does one task, and one task only.


jschieff said...

Loved the sunrise photo you almost deleted with the jet contrail -- great color contrasts. Amazing how some clouds POP with reflected sunshine and some fade out. I thought the jet contrail added greatly to the composition of the photograph and liked your linking to curiosity about the flight, people aboard etc.

As a northerner sick of endless sub 40 degree gray drizzle and lifeless trees, I find myself resenting your woeful complaints about a 71-degree "cold snap" down there in la-la land, even though they are meant in jest.

But then I feel better as I read about how your battle to keep with with all manner of stuff that decomposes/self-destructs/disintegrates in your salty, moist clime, with no way to repair it and no easy source of replacement parts. Everyone in the USA complains about how "big box" stores have zapped the ranks of small independent stores. I love big box stores because they offer a huge array of choice, instant availability and decent pricing.

Good luck with the sailing. I still don;t see how you can resist frequent outings in the Contender -- if nothing else a good center console is FUN to drive, just like a motorcycle is fun to drive.

Thumbs UP!

Anonymous said...

Uh, I am guessing you are one of those folks with one hammer, one flatbladed screwdriver that doubles as a pry bar, and never seems to get things fixed....ha ha...I think I would recommend you stay right where you are, in a nice location where you can hire a handyman who knows the differences between a tackhammer, a framing hammer, and a three pound sledge.

And I don't even own a brick hammer, or a ball peen hammer...

and I forgot to list conch hammer...and I need a wooden mallet for the chisels...

Hey, look at it this way, I have a spare so I can loan a hammer out to people who don't know the difference.

We DO go through a lot of cameras. I have four broken digitals right now, and am looking to buy another underwater one shortly.

We have been going through 1.5 laptops a year since we got here, too!!

Anonymous said...

Seriously though, the clarity of these pictures is astonishing. Night and day between all previous blog entries. So much so, I keep re-looking to see if they are real and/or photoshopped.

They're all astoundingly clear crisp and sharp as hell.


ps: on a 24 inch LCD screen.

Anonymous said...

We DO like driving the Contender! But it's no motorbike. Those three hundred thirsty horses are guzzling $ 4.50 worth of gasoline every two miles. Ouch.

And it draws just under three feet of water at slow speeds. That effectively locks us out of many of the very places we want to explore. We think we need a seagoing RV. The wind is free. And we have a LOT of it.

Debbie the Deranged in NJ said...

Polly - you're actually letting Byron INSIDE your laptop? I can't believe it. *shake of the head*. I simply can't believe it.

Are there NO boundaries anymore??

La Gringa said...

Debbie the Deranged in NJ: Hey, what can I say? He's hardware and I'm software! It's a match made in paradise, baby! :-)

Joel said...

All I can say is Asbestos Crocs.

BTW, Photo #1 gets my fav vote.
-- Joel

bsmit24 said...

Make sure you wear protective clothing when welding. In addition to the sparks, you can get a pretty bad "sun burn" on your face/neck/arms. A heavy cotton button up should be fine but absolutely no synthetics.

Anonymous said...

I might go a little heavier on the protective gear. My sons-in-law are welders by trade, (building barges), and many's the time they've come home wearing duct tape suits after going in that morning in jeans and denim jackets.

Great pics and a great read, again. Please, be as wordy as you'd like Gringo.


Didier said...

My english is not enough good to appreciate all the funny steps of the repairing of your computer but it was very pleasant to see you in a great moment of lonlyness! If my computer breaks down, I'll call you! Sure!
And I'm please to be the first in San Francisco on Virtual Regatta!!! Now, I know why... Your repair your computer yourself and it works bad !

AmitiƩs de France.

Brent said...

I know why you really bought that welder - for the CHIPPING HAMMER you need now ;-)

Although you will find it handy for many repairs, it is not much good for exhaust work as you will find out.

Dont ask me how I know...

For work on mufflers & light pipe work you will have to use oxy-acetelyne gear. Even then it is difficult due to the acid etched into the metal from the exhaust gasses. As a further bucket of cold water, mufflers are mostly aluminised as protection againt said acid. When they finally go they are stuffed.

Have had success riveting a patch over holes in conjunction with an exhaust paste. (google it)

The first page will answer a lot of questions you havent thought of yet.

Congratulations you have just starting an addictive mini journey.

Love ya work guys - DIY & all.


Brent said...

An addendum to exhaust welding..

When you have schmoozed, bribed and otherwise gained access to oxy-acetelyne, you will have to learn to control a flame.

More bribes are required. Perhaps the promise of being made famous thru this blog may do it..

This can be done!!
For me, it required alcohol.

When you have reduced your self
to Dooly size(bite bite-squeak squeak)

I will be very happy to release the secret that enables aluminised metal to be welded.

You MUST experience the pain.

This is part of the brotherhood of DIY.

Looking forward to hearing from you in six months mate!

Regards from NZ

Ashworth said...

You constantly amaze be with your island fixes. The welding will come. Remember little circles when welding!

Been working on the boat getting her ready for your May splash. The weather in New Jersey has been raining for two weeks. They are calling for it to stop and get into the 70's this weekend. One can only hope it will be close to that.

Keep up the blog. Enjoy.
New Jersey

Anonymous said...

Gringo -

Your not alone in your thinking when you look at those contrails. I ALWAYS wonder the same thing!

- Kevin
Boston, MA

Willie said...

Cold? This isn't cold, why in the olden days on Pine Cay (which is to say last year) it got down to 63 degrees (on March 7th), and this year it only got down to 66 degrees, though that _was_ for 3 days (March 7th, 8th, and 9th).

And in the ancient {scrolls, dataset} there are several excursions into the 63s, in 2000, and again in 2004. 8*)

And we had to boat to school, uphill both ways, and [...]


Anonymous said...

We saw it get down to 63 here in February, 2006. We were on the beach at Grace Bay, and noticed it was colder than usual. Of course, still being in our first full winter here it still felt warm to us. We laughed when we saw locals wearing leather jackets and hats.

Now, in our fifth winter here, we no longer laugh! We are absolutely freezing when the temp gets down into the low 70's. It would be very hard for us to go back up to the USA in the winter time, although we have made two trips to the Rocky Mountains and one to Alaska since moving here. Brrrr!!!

Willie Smith said...

I'm missing weather data in 2006 and 2007, after the base rusted out of the weather tower my favorite wife wouldn't let me put it up in front of the house again. 8*) but I'll take your word for the colder temps.

_LOVE_ those Dell laptop repairs, keep up the DIY stuff!


Anonymous said...

Willie, you are not going to believe this. Well maybe you will, but I got on the live tech chat with Dell this week. NOT about this repair. But about the vacant GPS board slot I found in the laptop. I started out asking them (online live chat, I love that about Dell. Really.) And the tech I was talking to originally obviously didn't know anything much about GPS. He ended up quoting me some seperate GPS systems Dell fronts. TomTom and stuff like that. So I contacte the "UnResoved Issues" people and said I wanted the GPS card for inside the laptop. The Head Unresolved Issues guy was telling me similar stuff...said I needed a SIM card and a subscription to AT&T and stuff like that. Well, I got a bit short with them and tried to explain that AT&T, despite their near god-like powers, do NOT own the GPS system and a receiver to tell this laptop where it is does NOT have to involve AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc. (None of which have any thing of any kind of any authority down here, anyhow) Anyhow, in the course of all this I mentioned the duct tape, and that I considered this a temporary fix, and that this is still under warrenty....and I sent them a link to this blog post, and told them to look at the gosh darn photos and see if they agreed with me or not....and jumping Jehosophat if they are not sending me a new mother board!!

Whew. i am nervous even thinking about it. But it's already on it's way. I got a Fed Ex tracking number and everything.

We have had more issues with this ruggedized Dell than any laptop we have ever owned. But I also want to say I have NEVER seen customer service as good as Dells. I will keep buying their products.

Joy said...

Another funny, interesting post. You even make the DIY stuff entertaining.
BTW, I'm the same way with pondering airplanes overhead- origin, destination, the people one them...
And your funniest bits are the Dooley anecdotes.

Anonymous said...

It will be very interesting to see what they send you. I'm wondering the CPU, vid card etc, are hard-wired particuarly on a buld like this. If so, you basically half-way there with this old one and can build a nice server with it. But. And if so, what is the replacement cost of this motherboard. Bare Delll can be 300-500on average. If this is loaded, easily 1000 ++. If so, you'll get zapped by import duties, unless you can ask them to under invoice it, 100 dollars or "sameple no commercial value" etc. Unless you pay for it and they credit you.

It will definitely be finicky surgery. But not too bad for the first time now that you have already cracked it one. That's the hardest step (fear factor) the first time. Just always always (as I am sure you know) discharge static when going in and touching it inside.

Absolutely document this for us each and every step of the way. It will be fascinating. I'd hazard a guess upon successful completetion you may be bitten to get into this. Hardware is hardware this is just minute detail. See if you can find on island in the meantime one of those big magnifying lamps with bolt on articulating arm. It will help tremendously.

What's the ETA of the board?

[and of course back up all the data before you begin]

Unknown said...

Enjoyable read as always Gringo. I guess that glass of wine was keeping Polly warm since you weren't in the picture cuddling up next to her.