Thursday, July 9, 2009


Man oh man, this week it seems like stuff is breaking, rusting, corroding, or just quitting faster than I can fix it. (I'm starting the post with this complaint because it also happens to be my main excuse for letting a week and a half go by without a new post.)

But it's true! I have been up to my elbows in all kinds of things. More on that later.
I wish I could paste in one of our semi-traditional-when-we-got-'em sunrises, but it seems we haven't grabbed a camera at dawn this week. I don't know why. I think we are going tropical. Hey, how bout a sunset instead?

What we thought was cool about that one was when we went to the other side of the house the sun was just illuminating the tops of the clouds over there, with the bottom ones shadowed:

Well, WE thought it was cool looking, anyhow. Guess you hadda be there. I have another one for the end of the post, anyhow. Maybe you'll like that one, it's from a different location. For a change.

Okay, back to my excuses. In the past week I have been working on a gas grill, dishwasher, refrigerator (all fixed), two Land Rovers and a Yamaha outboard motor (never ending issues), a salt water washdown pump on the boat, and trying to fit some relaxation time in, too. The pump works great and people got to have their relaxation time. I'll try to fit all this in one post without getting too mouthy about it. Not dwell on any one thing for too long. Not go on, and on, and on...

I'll start with the funnish stuff, and save the DIY stuff for the end so certain non techno-geek people don't have to wade through it to see the good stuff.

The offshore, deep water fishing has been lousy. Oh we don't let that stop us, though. And Dooley the Devoted (fishbiter) gets excited when he inspects what we are loading into the bigger Rover. I think some people go through life looking for walls to bounce off of.

For a while I thought our fishing had just gotten way rusty, but we've talked to several other people who are not rusty. They say the same thing. Now, when I say 'fishing' I meant our traditional way of just trolling around with some combination of lures or bait trying to catch some pelagic like a wahoo, tuna, rainbow dolphin, etc. We know the bottom fishing has been okay, and people are catching and releasing marlin. We don't generally do either. BUT as I mentioned in the last post, we have dusted off our jigging stuff. Mixed results so far, but results. I hooked up a teeny grouper:

La Gringa hooked into what we think was about a forty pound yellowfin tuna, but it tore the hook loose just before we could see it clearly enough to be sure. Then Saturday, she caught a Cerro Mackerel and a Red Snapper. I didn't catch anything.

Well, I did manage to catch some ZZZZ's while La Gringa trolled the boat back toward home.

La Gringa has been driving the boat a lot lately. Through the cuts in the reef, and offshore. She's good navigating with the GPS and depth sounder and these days she drives while I rig fishing gear. It's working out real well. Much better than when I was trying to do everything myself. Now I can relax and fish, too.

I know they don't show well in this photo, but Saturday we were surrounded by a group ( a 'pod') of around 20 small bottlenose dolphins.

We first noticed Dooley the Demented whining and barking, and we could not figure out what he was on about. Not his usual obnoxious high pitched bark, the one that makes you want to fling him some distance away. No this was a soft little yip bark. And then a moment later, there were at least 20 dolphin around the boat. We have seen him do this before. We know he hears the dolphin. And they hear him, and there is a mutual interest.

We had some more excitement last week. A Haitian sloop with a reported 180 illegal immigrants came in at Long Bay, a really short distance up the coast. Maybe some of you boating people will enjoy reading this version: Sloop docks in Long Bay

Well, despite some fairly serious outboard motor problems on our last trip, we had to swing by and take a look at this boat on the way in. Can you imagine 180 scared people coming a hundred and thirty miles across deep, serious ocean in this thing, taking a couple days and nights to get here, standing room only, and then to crash on this beach and run up those paths to hide in the bush?

Nobody seems to know how many of these boats leave Haiti never to be seen again. There are no records. We have seen wrecked sloops out on French Cay, and none of these people are going to swim to Providenciales from French Cay. A surprising number of them cannot swim at all. They would have to swim across the exact same water where we saw this guy back in April:

The general consensus on this, by the way, is that it's a big Bull Shark. It was about half the length of the boat, or about 12-14 ft. I didn't climb in there to measure. Some people thought it might be a Tiger Shark, but either way, it's not domesticated.

The newspaper says there were 180 people on that sloop shown on the beach in La Gringa's photo. They caught around 30 of them. So, another 150 people were running around trying to find places to hide. And although the boat came ashore on a small stretch of unoccupied beach, here is a broader view of the area:

I expanded my view of that photo, and I could count eleven homes in that one picture. With more to either side and inland than are in the photo. Must have been an interesting night in the neighborhood. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a hundred unexpected guests?

After checking out the sloop we headed back to the marina. We are having some major issues with the boat, which I will talk about more, later. Here's Dooley the Disadvantaged standing on one of the few spots on this boat where he can see over the rail:

Or he can see, until someone with a mean streak jinks the boat sideways a bit to avoid a coral head. Then he has to scramble a little bit for some traction on the fiberglass:

This is probably the trickiest part of our normal trip, getting back into our slip. It's just the delicate handling of fitting a single engine, 28.5 ft. long boat between the bow of that catamaran and those three Honda props. We have to go right through that opening:

Then two boat lengths in at a 45 degree turn to the left and then a hard 90 degree turn to the right to fit into about a twelve foot wide slip. The wind is typically from the right in that photo, averaging 12-15. So far, so good.

We've been enjoying the kayak when we can fit it in. Weather is a big factor, of course. But we've had some really calm days again, similar to a couple weeks ago when we loaded up on conch. We managed to pedal our way out a couple miles or so onto the Caicos Bank. This is the farthest we have been from shore in the rubber boat so far. Dooley the Diligent drives us nuts on days like this. Oh it's not the distance from shore. He doesn't care about that. Blue skies, he's happy.

But he scans the water for ANYthing. Everything. Whatever. He is immediately suspicious of anything that doesn't belong there, in his opinion. And he's got a very conservative opinion. Mr. Zero Tolerance for STUF (Suspicious Things Unsubmerged and Floating).

You can imagine what something bizarre looking from a distance, like this palm frond, looks like on a flat calm day:

Sure, it's easy to see what it is up close, but logs slowly roll in the slight swell, and seem to move. And from a distance, once he spots it Dooley the Dedicated lasers in on it, giving it his complete and undivided attention. He even goes into a little alert pose, ready for action. He'd dive in to bite it with half an excuse:

Of course he looks back to make eye contact with the skipper and to make sure we see it, too..

And then he's on it, full time. Might be a threat. Or something to eat. Or play with. Whatever it is, it's not being ignored. And the tension in his little muscles become visible as we slowly pedal closer, and closer to this mysterious (to him) sea thing:

By bracing his hip against La Gringa's foot, Dooley the Detective is ready for anything. He knows where his people are. He's braced if he has to move suddenly. And he knows just about exactly where the nearest lap is located if things suddenly go south on him. This thing could be violent...

At the closest point, he is about as focused as he gets. His hackles are up (yes he's wet. He got thrown overboard the last time we went through this). If looks could kill...

"Relax folks it was just a log. Hey! Wait a minute..What's that over there? You see something? Let's go check it out!"

And of course he pays no attention at all to the things that we find most interesting. Like seeing some of our countrymen flying by in a US Coast Guard helicoptor:

Sometimes we tend to forget that there are three of the southernmost Bahamian islands within fifty miles of us. The USCG participates in a joint patrol effort with the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It was called "OPBAT", although I am not sure if that is still the operative name. We still do see the Coast Guard down here from time to time, reportedly intercepting things that must need intercepting. Just a thought, but they could start with the Haitian sloops if they're not too busy looking for drugs.

Okay, we are through the pretty photos for this post. Now, it's time for the ugly ones. The DIY section! If you don't care about nuts and bolts type stuff, this would be a good time to leave.

The major and ongoing DIY projects on my calendar these days are the two Land Rovers. The smaller, soft top one is in the worst shape. I've used this photo before, but it says so much about a basic fact of living in a place like this. Exhibit A:

Looks like something left over from an "Indiana Jones" movie, doesn't it? Check out the nice expensive canvas top. How 'bout them rusty headrest supports? Can you believe this is a 2005 Model with only 20,000 miles on it? These things are supposed to last fifty years! Reminds me of an old joke about the best ax an old farmer ever had... lasted fifty years. (He only changed the wooden handle four times and replaced the ax-head twice..)

Well, the top's gotta go. It's going to rip off some day and drape itself across the windshield of the vehicle immediately behind us doing 50 mph and things could just really, really go ugly for a while after that. I also shudder to think of the drama of it separating from the Land Rover, and it's effect on Dooley the Delerious. Bet that would make more noise than a flappy kayak sail, too. Lots more.

So, I have started the first major rehab for the rag top Rover. The problem with the interior is that the sides of the top have been rolled up for a year and a half, and that's what happened. We needed the ventilation and access to the back. Corrosive dust and salty air have had their way with it:

I am planning to make a truck cab out of it. With a roll up rear window. Hopefully this will keep the salt out of the inside and give us access to the back. Moved the rear hoop forward, got rid of the middle stuff:

I cut the middle parts out of the part I removed, because they have some welded, galvanized attachment points on them. I have a bunch of photos of that procedure, but will bore the guys over on the Land Rover forum with those (They're really into this kind of stuff!)

The new top will come that far back, with a clear plastic window between the cab and the spare tire. And although you can't see it in that photo, the two hoops (they call those 'hood sticks' in the UK. No kidding.) were not equally bent. Probably from me carrying a load of 2x10 lumber on top some months ago. But bottom line is that I had to push the rear hoop up to match the curve of the front hoop. Okay, front hood stick. I found that a properly-braced, six-ton (tonne, for some of you) hydraulic bottle jack worked just fine for that:

Hey, living here you gotta improvise. I took the old top completely off and found out that the material used for the top itself is perfectly fine. It has survived the climate really well. The problem is that the nylon material used to cover seams, and finish the edges, and to make the straps has totally disintegrated in the tropical conditions:

And not only the nylon, but the thread used to sew the top has totally fallen apart. It is literally coming apart at the seams.

My "Plan A" was to just cut the top and sew the back portion with the clear window to the shortened version and voila, a modified truck top. Then I ran into the realities of sewing this material by hand. It is slow and laborious, pushing a big needle through this stuff one stitch at a time. I took a piece of wood and drilled it out to make a sort of an awl:

It looks strange in the photo because the needle in one hand is lined up with the awl. They are two seperate pieces. The sharp part of the awl is actually an unpopped pop rivet, sharpened on a grinding wheel. It's cheap and replaceable.

I know someone must make a device to sew this stuff, but for one project like this, it's probably not cost effective to buy one. Maybe if I started making canvas covers for things it would be worth the investment. I am using 30 lb. nylon kite string for the thread. It's ugly and white, but boy, is it tough.

When I realized that I was going to have to re-sew every seam on the top, I went to Plan B, which was to just buy a new top. I contacted the leading maker of these tops in the UK and explained what I wanted and my concerns. The problem here is that they cannot guarantee me that they don't use the same materials that fell apart here in four years. So, Plan C is to buy a new top from the UK, and still fix this one as time allows. I figure at the rate I am going, it would take me a week to finish this one. And I still might do that. I haven't ordered the UK top, just yet.

I finally received the first part of an order for Land Rover replacement parts after weeks of trying to put the order together. Both vehicles are showing the stress of the constant corrosion here. I have decided to take a more aggressive approach to rust prevention, and am planning to buy a small compressor, a sand-blasting enclosure, and some spray paint guns. I will just have to remove rusty parts, blast them shiny smooth, and then paint them properly. I see no other way unless I just want to continuously buy new repacement parts from companies in the UK who are TERRIBLE at customer support. Sorry, England, but that's been my experience so far.

I won't bore you with more Land Rover photos just yet, but I just yesterday added front mud flaps to the longer one. And I am replacing the headlamp bezels on both of them. When was the last time you had to replace the steel rims that hold your headlights in place? I have never had to replace one in my life. I find myself replacing four of them on four year old vehicles. That should tell you something. If I can sand blast, prime, and do a good paint job, it might work to keep these things running a while.

I won't go into all the appliance and other DIY stuff going on at the house. It would be an exhaustive and never ending list. This week alone I fixed a dishwasher and refrigerator. The fridge had a spring break on the little door that keeps ice in and warm air out. Took a couple weeks to get the part. I didn't photo that.

Now the problem with the dishwasher was a new one for me. I never realized that you cannot mix two different types of dishwashing detergent together in these things! There are enzyme based detergents, and bleach based detergents. Well, now I know, but at one point a few weeks back the local store was out of our usual brand and so I grabbed another brand thinking 'soap is soap', right? Well, actually, no, it isn't. Mixing the two together produces this strange conglomeration of blue and white glops full of hard little crystals. It will totally clog up the soap dispenser on the dishwasher. I had to finally disassemble the thing and remove the soap resovoir and clean the whole thing out.

This is what the inside of the front door looks like on one of these things:

And after you finally manage to remove the detergent dispenser resovoir, you have to shake, break, rinse, scrape, and get all the congealed soap out of the thing. It's not just a simple dump it out and rinse it deal:

THIS is what was left after most of the liquid drained away. You can see the hard lumps and globs in this stuff. None of this washed down the drain with the hot water, and those top pieces are hard and crunchy. Can barely break some of them with your fingers.

And believe me, it will clog up your dishwasher big time. If my experience has saved even ONE other mystified DIYer the grief, it will have been worth it. Bottom line, DON'T mix enzyme and bleach dishwashing detergents. Nope. Don't do it. Read the manual. Of course I didn't read the manual. We don't have the manual. The people here who install things like to throw away the manuals, we have found. I guess either they are embarassed by not being able to read it, or perhaps they see it as job security. But it's a real hassle.

(Not that I would have read the manual even if I had it. I mean, that's almost as bad as stopping to ask a complete stranger for directions! Real men don't do these things with manuals and asking directions! )

Okay, I have whined about the vehicles and appliances, but the DIY thing going on now that concerns me the most is the boat. The outboard has been fouling spark plugs, and I finally managed to locate the problem. After taking this expensive big motor apart WAY more than I ever wanted to..

(Pretty, isn't it? Nothing wrong on this side of the motor) I finally found out that this thing called a water control valve cover had failed, allowing seawater to get into the exhaust ports of the Yamaha. This is the little busted metal piece sticking out on that spring like a maniacal Jack-in-the-box head..

(I probably over anthropormorphized that a bit. But this has gotten personal now)

I managed to get that part off, and to say I was somewhat dismayed would be a huge understatement. This part, with less than 150 hours on it, has completely fallen apart:

While getting some online advice from one of the boating forums, I found out that all of the bigger two stroke Yamaha motors have the same part on them. I suddenly remembered the motor from "Cay Lime", last seen lying forlornly in Preacher's yard. I called him up, and asked if he still had the motor. He did, and invited us over to take a look and also to eat some fresh conch and turtle. So we went.

Here's the motor from "Cay Lime" that was wrecked during Hurricane Hannah. It kinda hurt to see it, actually.

But there below the center of the photo, peeking out from behind a vine, is a ussable water valve cover! I took it.

Also, Preacher showed us something else that amazed us. After nine months in the ocean, he spotted the front anchor locker hatch from "Cay Lime" on the rocks in Leeward last week. He recognized it, and brought it home to have a copy made locally. I am not sure I even would have recognized it myself, despite having opened and closed it a thousand times:

And no, those are not my feet. I am not nearly that tan. Yet.

Well I was pretty excited about having the part to fix the boat, or so I thought. When I returned to the marina the next day and really looked into it, I discovered that the mating surface for the corroded part was just about as corroded as the part itself:

I have ordered all the parts to replace this, but it will require me to disassemble the motor even more than I already have. I am not looking forward to it.

But at least we got to enjoy another good meal with Preacher. And we got to see the flamingos that congregate in his back yard almost every day:

And this post's final sunset photo is also from Preacher's house:

Next post: photos of the Bottle Creek Lodge on North Caicos, even MORE Kayaking! (oh boy!), La Gringa's conch chili! (yummy!) and probably, if your luck runs out, even more DIY stuff. Plus whatever else comes up in the next few days.


Anonymous said...

Loved the picture of the Flamingos. We have a house on Long Bay and are coing down next week. Where is the best place to find Flamingos? Looking forward to snapping some images of the Haitian boat, I have some great ones from Xmas morning 2006 on long bay

Wakey said...

Love the stuf acronym..

It took a few days but I read the entire blog, what an adventure!

Anonymous said...

From Sir Reel:

Good stuff as always. Not sure what is going on with the dishwasher product (soap) but having replaced two units and one pump myself, I'd really be looking into changing the soap product your using. It looks like your using a liquid, perhaps trying a dry soap product would be the answer. I've never seen the result that you have in yours using a dry (cascade) product. With respect to your vehicle top, you would certainly know better than I but I would think that, somewhere in that region, there would be someone who repairs shoes, bimini tops, tarps, tents, etc. I would suspect that they would have a sewing maching of an industrial strength that would handle re stitching your material...but then again, your there and I'm not. Thanks again and good luck with the Outboard.

Anonymous said...

Great keep me entertained wether it's DYI or boating. I haven't posted in a while but, I still check the site every other day or more. Can't wait until your next update!


Wakey said...

To expand on what Sir Reel mentioned about the "jeep" top, look into a Sailrite sewing machine. He who wants a Cat and is a pathological DIY'er would get allot of use out of it. :-)

Buddy Stockwell of Indigo Moon swears by them. He repairs his sails and made a new trampoline and a also a cover to block out his cabin windows while he lives in various marinas during hurricane season.

Just me, thats all said...

Gringo: I know this is well after the fact, but have spent some time reading the old posts, catching up as best I can. My comment is this: I have never, in all my years seen a soap dispenser on a dishwasher like that. Never. Not that I'm worldly and have seen every model out there, but I've seen a lot. I've seen rinse dispenser reservoirs that look alot like that, but not powder/gel reservoirs. Do you not have little trays in your dishwasher door that have a spring loaded door? Or two trays, one with a door and one that is open? I would have loved to see the inside of the dishwasher door just to see the model and make of this one. In any case, this post isn't one of those you need to put on the blog, this is just a question I had.
Take care, and love your blog!