Monday, April 18, 2011

Underwhelming Post

I'll warn you up front that this is not a real blog post. It's a temporary post to fill in this increasing blank spot until I can put together a real one. You know how life sometimes sneaks up behind you and gooses you when you least expect it? We've been feeling like we were just a half step ahead of the gaggle for weeks now. But enough of my whining and excuses. I'll give you a brief rundown of what we've been up to. But first here's one of my favorite 'La Gringa sunrise' photos in a long time. This was yesterday morning:

Looks almost biblical or something, doesn't it? I was standing there in nervous awe waiting for some kind of cosmic announcement. You just never know.

And let's face it, we're long overdue.

Looking at that photo reminds me of how much a part of our lives this stretch of ocean has become. It's our local stretch of ocean, for a while anyhow. Just a few hundred feet away. It's constantly changing. We see it every day but I know sometimes I don't even glance at it unless something is moving out there that catches my eye. And stuff does move across it almost all day long. We get to see a lot of boats. Power and sail. Big and little. Local and foreign. This is the only boatyard with a travel lift that I know of between Florida and Puerto Rico. Maybe there's some in the DR. Probably. Oh, and we see lots of aircraft here. And birds. We have raptors here. Osprey and the zippy little American Kestrels. Those are like a cross between a seagull and a fighter plane. And we also get to see a whole lot of weather. There has never been snow or ice here in the history of geology,  of course, but we get  sun and wind. And those two elements alone make for some massive effects on the sea.   Frozen water is a lot more stable.

The next photo is pretty much the same view on one of our few cloudy days. The sea goes from crystal clear blues and turquoise to slate gray. In this photo, a squall is coming right at us. It's about six miles away and will be here in about half an hour. We have gotten pretty good at estimating which ones will hit us. Of course it helps when you can see them coming from fifty miles away.

This is the same general view at another time. The sky is clear, as it usually is, but the light source is the full moon. This photo was taken at night, with almost no wind.

I know we've posted photos of that ocean when the waves were crashing way up onto the rocks, and the spray was blowing hundreds of yards inland, too. It's always changing. Every dawn is different in some way. This is a real good spot for people who like the ocean. And don't get too nervous about water spouts. Or hurricanes.

Now, back to some of the mundane stuff that's been occupying our time recently. If you read the previous couple of posts you know we just imported another boat. This one is a small, easily trailerable skiff. Anyone who has been following our story knows some of the hassles we have had to deal with in hauling our other power boat, the Contender, up and down this hill and on these dirt roads. We like the ability to trailer the boat to the ramp nearest where we want to go. We also like keeping the boat out of the water. It's incredibly convenient to keep a boat in the water, but it adds a lot of complications when you can't keep it close enough to get to in a hurry. Ask us how we know about that.

Anyway, a lot of people have written to ask about this one and since I need some 'content' for this post anyhow, here it is:

This is just about a 'bare-bones' skiff, although not completely. A truly basic skiff would have a tiller outboard and just a gas tank and hose in it. A place to sit would be an option. This boat has a little more than that of course, but compared to the Contender and the Andros, this one is simplicity itself. All the options are in that one photo. We have a console, hydraulic steering, a jackplate, and trim tabs. That's it. Oh, and the bimini. I forgot we added that for some shade. The motor is a four stroke, which is a new experience for us. Just when I was learning all I could about two stroke HPDIs. Oh well. I have already bought the manual for this one, and four strokes are very familiar to me already.

You probably can't really see it clearly in that image, but the trailer hubs are the new oil bath type instead of the old grease glob approach. I like them so far. Trailer hubs have been a big impact on my life lately. (I had to replace all six of them to get the Contender to the water) I can lift the tongue of this little XO rig and walk it around a little. This is very useful when hooking up to the truck. And no, not just for the exercise.

We've had the new boat out twice so far. We did the quick shakedown cruise out to look at the Lionfish. I wrote about that in the last post we did before this one. Since then I have made two hand spears for the Lionfish, but we haven't had the chance to test them yet.

After the first shakedown we made another longer trip up along the reef, through Pine Cay channel and back around to the Dellis Cut. We needed to put a few hours on the motor to complete the break-in period. Like we needed an excuse to go boating. One thing I have noticed is that the gas mileage for this outboard is so good I am suspicious and want to check it again, more carefully. It couldn't have come at a better time. Fuel just hit $ 5.70 per US Gallon here.

Dooley the Drowsy was trying out various snoozing-in-the-sun spots. He likes this boat. He can see over the gunnels from anywhere on it. He's wearing his life jacket because there's nothing to keep him from going right off the back of the boat when I hit the throttle and he's up strolling around. He doesn't mind the jacket, and it has a great handle for snagging the little booger when he falls overboard.

My little camera was not at its best on this day. There was moisture inside the lens, which makes the photos blurry and uncrisp. I picked out a few of the clearer ones to show you and I apologize in advance that they are not up to our usual efforts. We normally take two cameras.

This is where the half billion dollar Dellis Cay five star resort seems to have coasted to a halt. We don't know the details, other than what's been published. The charges filed are that the developers spent several million putting up these concrete shells, while taking deposits and payments for these and future condos. Lots of money is involved. Meanwhile what was once a hive of construction and fast talking activity is now largely silent. We did see some workers there in one small boat and what appeared to be a couple of security guards.

I wonder how these open shells will fare should they still be incomplete when the eventual hurricane comes through here. The concrete is good, the roofs look solid and well designed, but I doubt that it was intended that the wind could ever get under them. Those roofs sure do look a lot like potential wings to me.

The government here would dearly love for someone to take over this massive project and complete it. I'm sure they would be very easy to work with on permits and taxes. Anything to get this project completed so it can start generating income. So if you have any friends with deep pockets who always wanted to own an exclusive resort on a privately owned island an hour south of Miami, here's a chance. Building permits all approved by a former Minister. With the blessing of a previous Governor.

This is where the previous developers had their real estate office. As I recall, there were some floating docks here, and that framework was covered with some pretty fancy canvas. Well, hopefully, someday it will again be moving forward. Great location. We would like to see it either finished, or returned to its former, natural state. Since that's going to take more than one hurricane, it would be better to just finish it so that people can enjoy this water.

After anchoring off Dellis Cay for lunch, we boogied on back to Leeward over the Caicos Bank. We wanted to establish a good route for the new boat. This is pretty easy navigation on a clear calm day. The area is riddled with sand bars, coral heads, submerged rocks. And some of the rocks are not so submerged. At least this one has a pole and light to mark the edge of one of several shallow channels.

There are far more unmarked rocks than there are rocks with lights here. I'm not sure at what point a rock gets promoted to island. Or in this case, a cay. What I do know is that it could be downright unpleasant to run into one of these unmarked ones at night.

It would be almost as unpleasant to run into one in broad daylight, too. Now that I think about it. I guess it would be a lot more colorful in the daylight...

Since this is a 'hit-and-run" kind of post I am going to just briefly touch on some of the other stuff we have been getting involved in over the past month. We still drop by the Southside Marina from time to time for happy hour. Usually when there are a lot of sailing cruisers in town. A couple weeks ago we got to meet Debbie and Ed from Ontario. They had read about the place in this blog and emailed us when they were in town. They decided to change their normal routine of taking their boat, Ariel, back up to a shipyard in Georgia for the summer. This year they are going to leave it stored here in Provo. This should give them a real jump start on heading further south into the Caribbean when they come back in November.

We got to wish them farewell as we were exploring the canals in our Hobie and saw them at the Caicos Marina and Boatyard. We can see Ariel from our patio, as I type.

We've managed to fit in probably another half a dozen sails in the Hobie since our last post. Of course we've taken photos of Dooley the Deranged nervously trying to stay on the trampolines, and movies. But until we make some changes in the way we take photos from the Hobie, they all start looking the same, don't they? I figured you guys had seen enough of the standard Hobie sailing kayak images from us by now. So I am not going to post up another dozen of them here.

I did want to show you this one, for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that this photo of my GPS is showing that we have been sailing for 2.20 nautical miles since I turned it on. The top number is showing that when I took the photo, we were sailing along at a brisk but comfy 4.6 knots (5.3 mph). And that other number says that at one point since I turned the GPS on during this trip we hit 10 knots. That's a lot more 'brisk' and 'comfy' and then becomes a topic for discussion. There are different types of 'comfy'. Ten knots is about 11.5 mph. Most typical sailboats sail in the 7-8 knot range on their best day. To do 11.5 mph with your rear pockets at sea level is quite exhilarating. And wet.

Oh, the second reason I wanted to show you that photo is that it's the last known image of my beloved Garmin GPS 60CSx. I don't know where I lost it, but it was at the end of this sail. I think at the ramp. Hopefully, someone somewhere is benefitting from it.

Now, I am almost out of nice colorful tropical scenes for this post. And we think you can hopefully look forward to some new video capabilities from us. We recently picked up one of these little Hero HD video cameras. You know the ones, look like a little camera in a clear plastic cube that people stick onto their helmets and jump out of airplanes and off mountains with? (Was that a run on sentence? Ending in a preposition? Forgive me Mrs. Rizzo and LiteracyLady. I'm trying to illustrate by example. Yeah, they may be bad examples.) But this camera shoots good video and reasonable stills and can be stuck onto boats, Land Rovers, foreheads, and maybe even small dogs if they can be coerced into cooperating. We'll see.

In addition to those boat trips, in the past month we have had a lot of other things going on. I somehow crashed my computer big time. La Gringa got online with Dell Customer support, and they sent a new CD with drivers to a US address, who sent it to us. She got it running again, but I lost a lot of information. My last backup was in July. Ouch. I also have found that I have to learn new versions of software for programs I had stubbornly refused to update over the years. Oh, and I lost a lot of my photos.

We also decided that it made sense for us to move the Contender from our driveway to someplace next to a boat ramp. The obvious choice was the marina where we can see it from our house. You would probably not believe the string of DIY projects I went through to get this rig from this driveway to the boatyard 900 yards away. That's over ten miles by road, by the way.

I've just decided that I am not going to bore you with all the DIY stuff that it took to get this boat running and in the water again. We went through an incredibly stressful day-before-April-Fool's-Day. That was the day I discovered I lost my GPS. And we got the Contender to the water, but three wheels came off the trailer while doing it. And with water in the fuel it took me a long time to get to the boatyard with the engine dying every few feet. And I had to jump in the water and swim to the back of the Contender to climb aboard the ladder, forgetting that I had my cell phone in my pocket. Does your cell phone battery make crackling noises when you dunk it in the ocean? And the oil filter on one of the Land Rovers rusted through where a stone had dented it, and it sprayed all the oil out. That was March 31.

In the last month we also had a house guest. And we spent last week in Texas visiting family. And I'm leaving out some parts, no doubt. But you get the idea.

But we DID manage to move this rig from this driveway.....

...down to a ramp, and over to the marina, and back on the trailer 900 yards away. Looks pretty out-of-proportion to the little Defender 90, doesn't it? Well, we didn't tow the boat over on the trailer. Our limited tow vehicles are another reason we wanted to move the boat over to the yard.

Did I mention that moving that boat from the trailer in the driveway to the same trailer less than 2 km away took us four days? I won't go into the details of replacing six sets of bearings on tapered spindles. It wasn't much fun.

I know I keep saying I am going to spare you all the trials and tribulations of the ongoing Contender and Yamaha HPDI saga, and I will. If I let it get out of hand, I could find myself posting very long DIY blogs every three or four days. I know that not everybody reads the DIY stuff. It's boring to those who are not into it.

Heck, I would avoid it too, if I could. But I can't. It calls to me every morning. Like some sadistic rooster screaming 'Fix ME! Fix ME! It's a crock of doodle, toooooo!'

Well, for y'all who avoid DIY stuff, this is a warning. The next few photos are involved in just ONE of the little projects it took to get this boat floating again.

The motor wouldn't crank. That's the sole symptom I had of something being wrong. Everything else on the electrical circuit worked. I spent months puttering around with various ideas, concentrating on something within the Yamaha, or the ignition switch. Of course I kept taking things apart, a few things here. A couple circuits there. Removed two of the four pumps and fixed them. I ended up fixing everything on the boat.

I also found the starting problem. The direct lead from the battery to the starter had a splice in it. Still does, come to think of it. Battery cables are as thick as one of your fingers (no, I don't know which one of your fingers. Heck, it's probably two of your fingers now that I think about it. Or a toe. 2 toes.)

The cables are too thick for me to solder with what I have here. I'm actually not sure what it would take to solder these cables. I think mechanical connections seem to be the norm when it comes to heavy wire.

So, I determined that this break was indeed the demon that had haunted my Contender DIY nightmares for the past few months. A few notes here. This was NOT a Yamaha HPDI problem. It was a five year old crimp lug that had completely corroded. And rumors that chasing this down made me want to turn in my McGyver card are not true. Well, not entirely.

But back to defending the HPDI, I jumpered the battery directly around the break and turned the key and the HPDI fired up within seconds. After sitting outside unstarted for almost a year. On old, but by-golly some finely filtered gasoline.

Okay, now just the one DIY project for this post... I could NOT find a crimp lug big enough for this cable on this island. And I tried, and I tried, and I tried, and I tried.....

Nope. Although everyone I spoke with agreed that it would be a great idea to have them in stock on an island where electricity returns to the earth via many paths. Maybe some day someone will stock them. But for now, nada.

So I bought about a three inch section of copper plumbing pipe and made a crimp lug. First, I just hacksawed out the piece that looked the most like a crimp lug.

After I cut out that little section, I turned it and sliced it lengthwise, so that I could spread it slightly and get the cable ends into it. I have a hand swage tool from another project that worked great to crimp it once I got the cables in.

Speaking of the cables, I learned something in this DIY that might be useful to someone, someday. You other boaters out there will likely know what the wiring in your bilge looks like after it's been exposed to salt water. All the wire surfaces develop an oxidation. I'm not exactly sure what it is, probably cupric oxide. I read that cuprous oxide is red, while cupric oxide and this corrosion are both black. Anyhow, normally one would replace all the wiring in a boat once you discovered that the wires inside are covered with this black coating. And if you are a realist, you will also recognize that the temptation is there to make do with the wiring on hand.

I couldn't replace the wiring in this boat with what is available on this island even if I felt like dedicating the next six months of my life to it. I decided that in this case, an easily identifiable (yeah, NOW it's 'easily identifiable') mechanical splice would be acceptable with clean wires to make the contact. I thought of using my Dremel tool and a little wire brush to clean it, but then I decided to take the lazy approach and try to dredge up some memories of chemistry classes of days gone by.

I figured with something this simple, copper and oxygen, I could find something in the house with something in it that would eat cupric oxide. First I tried the green stuff in the bottle in the photo. The teeth in that one are phosphoric acid. It didn't do diddly. Except to make a spot on my arm turn bright red. And the top of my feet.

Now, here's the part you can use. I found out that toilet bowl cleaner works great to remove the corrosion from the copper wire. The one I used has hydrochloric acid in it, but I suspect that any brand would probably work. The blue stuff in the bowl in the photo above is "Sno Bol" cleaner.

This is what a formerly blackened cable end and a former piece of copper plumbing pipe can look like with some tender loving care. If the definition of TLC includes acids and hacksaws, that is.

Anyhow, I put it all back together, turned the key and fired that puppy up.
There's a lot more to the Contender story, but since it's now running great and located just a few feet away from a paved ramp at the boatyard, I am not going to dwell on it all again. That's old history now.

Did I tell you I hacksawed the entire tongue off our new trailer to fit it into the garage? Well, I will save that one for the next post, too. I gotta stop this one somewhere so that I can get it posted. Or to be more precise, so that La Gringa can get it posted. She will have already taken all my major screw ups out by the time you read this!! (thanks, honey)

Speaking of La Gringa Suprema.....what do you think of this sunset photo she took?

Not too shabby, for a girl.


Victor said...

Another good one. Sure had to wait on this one, but you did have your hands full. We are spoiled now, and can not wait. LOL

Thanks for the info on the Hydrochloric acid. Good to know.


d_pattee said...

Gotta love a "temporary post"! Can't wait for the "rest of the story". :-)

My new trailer has oil bath hubs, good so far.

Great pics!!!!


Anonymous said...

Love the Contender and Rover. Totally out of proportion. No doubt the power of 4X4 and low-end torque.

Come to think of it, a perfect match.

All you got to do is master the following:

You guys would be set. Touring all over the Caribbean, both land and sea. Totally self-sufficient! :-)

satbeachbill said...

Yeah, I started checking your website several days ago to read the next episode. We are living the dream with you, through your postings.......of course without all the rust!

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA....I got a good chuckle out of the "Hacksawed the entire tongue off". The new boat looks great! Good to hear from ya'll!


Anonymous said...

That "biblical photo" and the moon-shot are awesome shots.

And I couldn't help but giggle a time or twice at the DIY exploits.

Now I'm jonesin' for the rest of the story...

Anonymous said...

can't wait to go out in the new boat pops, good post did you get a new phone yet, text me or email
luv ya -j-

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. I could have probably done a post every three or four days for the past month, but every one of them would have been yet another greasy, dirty, no-way-out-of-it DIY project without much fun stuff. You wouldn't have liked it. And I don't want the blog to become just DIY. New readers would look at it and think it should be called 'Grease Monkey in the Caribbean' or something.

Things are starting to get back on track now. Did I tell you I made two different styles of short pole spears specifically for Lionfish? We haven't tested those yet.

jeeperman said...

Ya but in the Caribean, grease is your anti-rust friend.
Did you remember to slide the heat shrink tubing onto the cable BEFORE crimping it together?
The first time? LOL.

Anonymous said...

I didn't have shrink big enough or I would have. I dosed it with 3M liquid tape, filling in crevices. When that was still just slightly sticky wrapped it with a self amalgamating tape. A Chinese made version to Scotch 23. Then over that a layer of Scotch 33. The last crimp splice had nothing on it, and it lasted five years. This one should go awhile.

Joy said...

Thank you for the new post. Those photos ARE exceptional. Bummer about the GPS. We'll be down 31 May if you'd like us to bring one- or anything else you need from the States. Flying JetBlue, so free checked bags, woo-hoo!