Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cheap Fill

This is going to be a quick, low-quality, cut-rate, disappointing post to fill in this big blank period between the last post and the next post. I'd call it an interim post, but I think I've overused that term in some of my earlier shallow excuses. We are working on a new post, but other commitments keep splattering on the windshield of life and delaying us. Hence this Cheap Fill of a post to let you know we haven't forgotten you. Nope. Not at all.

We had a visit from an old friend in late June. The "Star of the Sea" stopped by the island on another run to Haiti. Captain Bob Nichols and crew spent several days here, taking on fuel, food, and water. If you have read previous posts in this blog, you have read about the missionary work that the three-masted schooner has been involved in. If not, or if you'd like to read up on the boat in more detail you can take a side trip to that post by clicking here: Star of the Sea.

While setting up that link I noticed that we've written and posted photos of the boat on four different posts. I am hoping most readers know that if you click one of the topics on the list over on the bottom of the right side of this page, you'll be instantly transported to posts on those subjects in a separate window. When you're done, just close that window and you'll return to this one. In the perfect Internet world, that is.

We heard Capt. Nichols on the VHF radio one morning as they approached Providenciales on their way in from the Bahamas. They're once again out sailing the seas to deliver donated food and supplies to orphanages. They sail from Florida to the orphanage in Cat Island in the Bahamas, and then they sail from Cat Island to here. From the Turks and Caicos Islands they go pick up more supplies at the Morton Salt Company on Great Inagua and take them to starving children in Haiti. We published a map in the earlier post. Here's a photo of the ship docked at the Southside marina. This was taken from a little shelter where it's rumored that passing sailors and motor cruisers occasionally put aside their differences and get together for cookouts and happy hours. It's a nice spot to take a break on shore for cruisers who need a break on their journeys between the Southern Bahamas and the Caribbean.

We did have another reason to visit the boat again besides just saying hello. Captain Bob had decided it was time to replace a couple of the main sacrificial anodes on the hull of the Star of the Sea, and this is a good place to do it. For any non-boaters out there, these anodes are just big hunks of the metal zinc. Boats with metal parts in the water (and especially those with electrical systems) generate electrolysis in seawater. The short version of all this is that zinc acts like the weakest link in this circle of electron swapping. It corrodes away first before iron, steel, or aluminum corrodes away. This is useful information to boating people who don't want their boats' metal parts to disappear.

When these hunks of zinc anode are all eaten away, the electrolysis starts eating on the aluminum, iron, and steel parts next. So from time to time someone has to remove old corroded zincs and replace them with new ones.

Captain Bob had located two suitably sized anodes here in Providenciales, but they needed to be modified to fit the mounting studs welded to the hull of the Star of the Sea. He brought them over and left them for me to do a little 'bush machining'. I ended up 'milling' the slugs down and drilling some holes to make them fit. Here they are sitting in the skiff.

I should have put something in the photo for scale, but the line there is ½", if that gives you an idea. I said I 'milled" the ends, but actually I used a reciprocating demolition saw to cut the ends down. This is because the studs welded to the hull only protrude about an inch, and the zincs are too thick. Ideally, with correctly sized zincs, the holes would be drilled in the steel mounting flanges. If you're curious about the labels, "Camp" is the name of a company that specializes in zinc anodes. There are lots of different versions. Painting over the zinc is bad because paint protects it from the sea, and the electrolysis goes looking for something else to eat. Like, a rudder or a propeller shaft.

We took another look at the ship while we were delivering the zincs. I don't think that I ever showed you where cargo is stored in the previous posts. I was trying to think of something new to photograph, and I know that I was interested in where they stacked seven tons of food.

This is the starboard side of the cargo hold. The food boxes are stacked in there between the fencing and the hull.

You can see photos of those food boxes being offloaded in Haiti if you jump to the second half of the post Loose Ends.

I don't know, exactly, what's inside one of those food boxes. I'll try to remember to ask Captain Bob to send us a photo of the contents one of these days.

This is the port side of the cargo hold. Yes, that's a mattress on a sheet of plywood on top of the cargo cage. This is where one of the crew sleeps for the entire cruise. No air conditioning. No television. No room service. No privacy. No kidding.

And not very comfortable in ten foot seas. What holds you on the mattress?

The food is decent though. I certainly wouldn't begrudge them a good meal. We can also verify that in addition to being an old-fashioned modern-day sailing missionary, Captain Bob is an excellent cook. That's another oxymoron, isn't it? I had already decided not to call him a swashbuckling Christian, and then let old-fashioned modern-day slip by me. I'm leaving it in because it comes as close to saying what I mean as I can think of right now, if you know what I mean.

Capt. Bob and his crew were out at the house playing catch with Dooley the Dervish. Well, it was 'catch', or 'fetch' if he missed the catch. Dooley loves it. And Bob noticed that all the fuzz was chewed off Dooley's favorite tennis ball. He said he had about 500 used tennis balls that he was taking to Haiti. He figured he could probably spare one for Dooley. So I asked him why he was taking all those used tennis balls to Haiti. Bob told me the majority of these kids in Haiti have never in their lives owned a rubber ball. If they want to play 'catch', they have to use a rock. If you've ever played catch by throwing a rock back and forth, you probably know that it's a totally different experience than playing with a bouncy rubber ball. There's something missing from the fun of the game when you have to catch a rock thrown at you. A single used tennis ball would be the equivalent of the best gift these kids ever received. Probably the only gift they ever received that wasn't immediately eaten to survive. Things are pretty bleak in Haiti.

We try to help where we can. Like, getting the word out that the mission still needs donations to pay their expenses to make these life saving trips to the orphans. When the accumulated donations add up to five thousand dollars, and the donated food is ready, they can start planning the next trip. The food is donated by churches in the USA. Bob donates the ship, and the crew are all unpaid volunteers. The money goes for diesel fuel, food, and supplies. Using a sailing ship is about the cheapest way there is to transport tons of cargo. I thought I would show you guys that donations to the ministry are not going for luxury ship accommodations.

We took a tour of the ship again when we dropped off the modified zincs. While we were down below decks, Dooley the Detective was searching the deck for the kinds of things he's interested in. Every time I looked up, he was pacing past the portholes, and peering in to see what we were up to. I thought it made for some good photo ops:

I was also playing around with some of the effects built into the photo software, looking for a frame that would complement the round porthole:

Dooley really wanted to come down below with us, but we decided it best to leave him up where he couldn't get into much trouble. If he had smelled rats on board, it would have been a different story. It's very, very obvious when he gets on the trail of a rat. I'll spare you the ugly details, but suffice it to say that rats use Dooley stories to scare their kids into behaving.

We didn't abandon him on the deck, of course. We wouldn't do that to him. We'd have to pay for any damages. Anyhow he was in good company with one of his new buddies. This is 'Sharky', from Cat Island, Bahamas.

Did you notice that anthropormorpologically speaking, Sharky and Dooley have assumed the same pose in that photo? Is anthropormorphologically even a word? I doubt it. And if it is a word, there's a better than even chance I am misusing it. I am trying to say they have settled into similar sitting positions, given their obvious differences. Dooley is the one getting his ribs scratched. Looks to me like they are both enjoying it.

Sharky is sixteen, and is the son of the director of the Cat Island orphanage. He is making his first big sailing trip away from home. Nice way to start. Sharky brought us a watermelon from Cat Island. We iced it down and shared it with the crew. Delicious.

We noticed that the ship is starting to show the effects of all the wear and tear of constant traveling in the tropics. This boat gets tied up next to some pretty marginal docks and wharfs and quays and, well, rocks. She gets a beating. Bob told us that she is going to be hauled out at a shipyard in Florida after this trip, and the hull will be cleaned and painted. I'll try to show you some before and after photos the next time she comes through 'town'.

Speaking of beatings, I really don't mean to beat you up about donations but we believe that what these guys are doing is just one of those worthwhile things in life. It's very basically just the right thing to do from a purely humanitarian aspect. These food donations are not just a big box of candy bars. Those kids are starving, literally. And it's not just the children who are helped by this. Bob was telling us that on the last trip they were in Haiti during the cholera crisis. The survivors of the cholera are intended to be put on specific diets in order to let them recover from the ordeal of being completely cleaned out of nutrients and the good kind of intestinal bacteria. But the right food is seldom available to most of them, and continued dehydration and starvation are very real threats to their continued existence. The donated food is the ideal mix for cholera patients. So in addition to that seven ton cargo feeding hungry orphans, it is also being used to increase the chances of survival of the adults that are taking care of them.

I posted a link to the Star of the Sea mission on that previous blog post. This time I am posting a link to their Facebook page: Star of the Sea. There are more photos and information there for you Facebook fanatics. If you can spare a few dollars for a good cause, please help. And it doesn't always have to be just money, although space on the boat is somewhat limited. I've already told you about the tennis balls donated to liven up life a little for the kids of Haiti. While the crew was in town here, we also took them to rendezvous with a local businesswoman who was sending a pile of donated clothing back to Haiti with the ship.

Now I'll get off my soapbox, and back to our own little privileged world, where nobody starves and where children are never even asked to imagine living a short miserable life in a hungry world without toys.

Ah, speaking of toys (how's that for a segue?) I thought I should make some modifications to the skiff after our experiences in some squalls a couple of weeks ago. As captain of our own little boat it behooves me to make sure we don't get caught offshore in those conditions again without a radio, a compass, and something to hang on to. I know, I know, it would also work if we just stayed close to land. We'll take that under consideration, but in the meantime, I have made some modifications to the boat.

This is what the little console looked like before I started. I have already installed three grab rails so that people have something to hang onto, and I have ideas for a much more substantial frame and seat. I want to have one fabricated that incorporates a seat and windshield frame in front of the console. That project is still in the design phase. I also needed a compass and radio. The compass is easy, and I bought one of those on a trip last month to Pittsburgh when I stopped by a West Marine store. Mounting the radio was a bit of a challenge. I just could not find a good place to mount one on this little boat.

I wanted the radio protected and out of the way. We only need it when we need it. I decided I had to make some kind of a mounting bracket. I used a scrap piece of marine plywood for the prototype. Easy enough to screw the radio bracket to a strip of plywood:

All those shiny shavings and dust are zinc particles left over from me sawing up Captain Bob's anodes, in case you were wondering. I should have taken some photos of that. I had zinc shavings in places that should only see zinc oxide. I cleaned all this up after this project, but at the time I knew I was going to be sawing some more metal to mount the radio. Sure enough, I added aluminum and 316 stainless shavings to the pile before it was all over.

I had some aluminium angle left over from the modifications I did to the Hobie Tandem Island trailer (photos in that same Southside Marina post) and I just used two pieces of that for angle brackets on each end of the plywood. I drilled two holes in each side of the skiff console that match up with the two holes in the brackets. This way, the only mods to the console are four little holes that are nicely covered by stainless screws. I might even be able to engineer up some drink holders that use the same screws.

I did run into a problem in mounting the radio antenna. I didn't have any stainless quarter-twenty bolts that were threaded all the way to the head. I needed four bolts that would hold the antenna bracket to the fiberglass console. It was a Sunday when I was doing this, so I couldn't just make the always exciting trip to the hardware store for the correct bolts. And not being a disciple of delayed gratification, I couldn't wait until Monday. So I just continued cutting the existing threads with a ¼-20 die. Which added to my pile of metal shavings. I did vacuum it all up once I put the hacksaws and drills away.

Here's a before and after photo. You can see that the top bolt would not let me tighten up a nut enough to hold this antenna mount (the thing in the top of the photo) to the thin fiberglass. The bottom bolt is the 'after' version. A tap and die set is one of those tools a DIY guy will find very very useful in a place like this. It sits unused for long periods of time, true, but when you need to cut new threads or clean up old corroded threads (which is called 'chasing' threads, by the way).... there's nothing better than having the correct tools. And for me, nothing rarer.

So anyhow, here is the 'after' photo of the skiff console with a compass, grab handle, VHF radio, and a short 4' antenna installed. A four foot antenna won't give us the range of an 8 ft. antenna, but it should cover us for most of the places we'll be taking this little boat. I had to cut out two places on the plywood strip so that it cleared the hydraulic steering and the bottom of the shifter/throttle assembly. If it works out okay, I plan to replace the wood with Starboard or some kind of plastic, using the prototype plywood mount as a template for the finished bracket. What I'll end up using for that will depend upon what I can find locally. An added benefit of having the VHF is that now we can register the boat and fish legally.

How would you like to have to haul your boat up that driveway? And the driveway is MUCH better than the road to the nearest pavement, four miles away. We do a shake, rattle and impact test on the boat and trailer every time we leave the house.

Another aspect of living here is what I've learned about fuel and outboard injectors. Using unfiltered fuel from the local marinas has caused me a fair bit of grief over the years. These days I tend to buy gasoline from the automobile stations and top up the skiff's 25 gallon tank before leaving the house. I think the automobile fuel stations have cleaner fuel, because it's fresher. They have a higher turnover than the marinas, and they tend to use more modern pumps with better sediment filters. The fuel at the local gas stations also is less expensive than the marina fuel. We just filled up the Land Rover last week, and diesel is presently running $ 6.30 a gallon here, to give you an idea.

I now use a little Racor fuel filter when I fill the skiff's tank. I use this even with fresh fuel straight from the gas pump. And I'll show you why.

I wanted to top up the tank for a recent trip up to Water Cay (more on that in the next post). This is the fuel filter when I started. No water, no dirt.

I drove the Land Rover to the nearest Texaco station and filled up two clean six gallon containers with gasoline. I just siphon the fuel from the container to the tank. This is easier than pouring it, and doesn't splash all over the place. Also, the filter is limited as to how fast it can pass fuel through the filtering screen (2.7 gallons per minute max) and using a small hose works just fine. It also lets me carry on with other stuff while the siphon is going on.

After siphoning six gallons of fresh, new gasoline, this is what was left in the little Racor. This was filtered out of the fresh gasoline:

About two tablespoons of water in six gallons of new gas:

There were also particles of sand and what appeared to be rust in the fuel. And this is the clean stuff fresh from the pump. Of course we also have an even better filter between the tank and the Suzuki, and I have started trying to keep the tank in the skiff topped up to minimize the condensation inside the tank. It's also a handy place to store gasoline for the generator, but that's a whole 'nuther story for another day. Our generator gets used a lot.

Well, despite my initial description of this as a short post, I see my long windedness has stretched it out about as far as I feel I can get away with. We have another post with some nice photos and videos coming up. All these mods to the skiff and filling it with gasoline were, of course, preparations for a trip to another island. I managed to cobble up a way to mount the new GoPro camera to Dooley the enDuring... and here's an advance photo of him after swimming ashore with the camera attached:

Just editing a few minutes of video from Dooley's view makes me feel like taking a nap, but we'll get it done. Actually, La Gringa takes over from this point on the videos, and we recently generated a lot of footage to go through and edit. We have also just returned from a 4th of July trip to Austin to visit family last weekend, and on the way back to the airport we stopped by an electronics store and bought two sets of anti-fog inserts for the GoPro camera. So we should be able to improve upon the quality of our videos using that underwater housing by preventing the lens from fogging up. Hopefully. We'll soon know about that, as I have several ideas for some different videos and more of the still photo montages and time lapse stuff we've been doing. For example, I am thinking of attaching the GoPro to a rock or anchor and lowering it down to deeper water outside the reef. That outta be fun. And of course we have scads of ideas using the Dooley DogCam approach. He doesn't seem to mind being a camera platform. I am drawing the line at buying him his own director's chair and a beret, though. Hmm.... Dooley the Director...?

I'll close this one with a short time-lapse from the GoPro camera. We were hoping for one of those nice, dramatic, tropical sunset scenes. We didn't get one of those because we were in a typical summer hazy day situation here. But I am hoping we can compensate for that with the neat effects of the clouds reflecting on the salina as they head for the sunset and the horizon.

Cool, eh?


Sabrina and Tom said...

Nice time lapse.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. We're learning what we can, and can't do, with this GoPro camera. Some of the stuff we are getting with it mounted on the dog is pretty funny.

Ashworth said...

Great to see you guys are surviving the hard life on Provo. Byron, did you ever get up to the sphere underwater off the northwest point? Enjoy the summer.
New Jersey
Lil Provo

Anonymous said...

What do you mean google adsense is blocking your site? Doesn't sound right, should be able to put adsense on board.

I'd register a domain if I were you guys, e.g on quick checking .tc TCI;s domain for 2gringos exists:

or even

and either transfer the content of this blog (or pay a few dollars for someone to do it) or simply start blogging on your own domain once set up. You can redirect this one to the new one.

In the mean time lots of competition to google adsense, no reason you can't put other ads up and generate a little bit of coin:

Anonymous said...

Yes, we had Adsense on here when we started. They had several ads on the blog, all appropriate to tropical vacation type things. Then some of our sons came down over Christmas holiday, I think it was four years ago. They set up their laptops at our place here, of course. And they clicked on some ads about something that caught their attention.

Next thing we know, Google AdSense cut us loose, and said we were clicking on the ads on our own blog. To make money. I think the clicks in question were worth a few cents. Anyhow, we quickly figured out that when they connected to our network here, they got our ISP address, and Google said the clicks were coming from us. I can see why. The blog and the ad clickers were on the same wireless network, or however that works. It never occurred to us that someone visiting us couldn't read the blog and click on an ad.

Google refused to budge or accept our appeal and explanation, and that was the end of that. We're not talking much money, here, but it added to the fun of keeping the blog going.

d_pattee said...

Always enjoy the DIY stuff.

Great time lapse!

Cudo's to Captain Bob, crew and all those that donate!!! No matter what our problems may be, we sure do have it easy.

jeeperman said...

Happy 251st blog entry.
Does it seem like that many to you?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, jeeperman, and actually, no. It sure doesn't seem like 251 entries. It seems more like a couple dozen posts.

I do like to think we are slowly improving, though. At least we try to. La Gringa is having fun with the videos and time lapse, so I am trying to take more of those. Very time consuming, editing video.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures of the Dooley Meister through the portholes.

I note with interest his dog tags. From all the entries here, rust never sleeps!

Are those originals, seconds thirds, other? Seems to be holding up well with all his cavorting in the salty ocean and runnig around the house with the salty air?

Is it because you guys are on a hill across from the ocean you are so saturated with salty air, brought in by the winds? I recall walking inland from grace bay and it being dry as hell, zero wind, hot and dry very much desert like. At the same time having lived on the Atlantic ocean, one road away, the wind and rain and waves and mist, would coat our cars windows (and everything else) with a fine deposit of salt when ever the weather played up. Only benefit there was sublime free natural skin care!

But is your woes with rust due to the high locale of your perch on Provo?

Anonymous said...

What's in the big black box strapped, inside the console?

Battery bank? Can't tell if it's fixed and OEM, but with that strapping must be a very safety precaution of some sort?

Anonymous said...

That is his original TCI dog tag, and he's had it over a year now. Since the government here instituted the program. I just checked it with a magnet, and it's magnetic. So it's chromed steel.

It hasn't rusted, but then he's not still long enough for rust to form.

We get eaten up by the salt because we built on a hill overlooking the ocean, and facing directly into the Trade Winds. We get salty air just about every day of the year.

Another complication is that there is a dirt road between us and the wind. The dirt here is just pulverized limestone. Since it was formed at the bottom of the sea, the very dirt has salt in it. There's no escaping it!!

The upside is that we have never needed air conditioning.

Anonymous said...

the big black box is the battery. There's tons of room for it under the rear deck, but I have been trying to take weight off the transom. My personal feeling is that the Suzuki 90 four stroke is too heavy for the boat. I think something like a good 75 horse two stroke would be perfect.

d_pattee said...

Smart Tabs worked great for my skiff

Anonymous said...

I've seen those Smart Tabs in video. Looks like a good idea. But we've already got a set of Lencos on our skiff. We have the hydraulic ones on the Contender, and we also had Lencos on Cay Lime, our Andros panga. We're pretty used to using tabs. But I don't like to have to use them while cruising to maintain trim, because sticking the tabs out in the flow like that creates drag. We're slowly getting this boat fine tuned, a bit at a time. I'd really like to replace the entire console with something a little bigger with a light leaning post behind it ( like a padded bar) and a seat in front of it. Shift some weight forward.

I love the hull, by the way. It's really, really good in chop and wakes. It's like a 'fat panga' style. This particular boat just needs the center of gravity moved forward.

Anonymous said...



talk about island time


how about just uploading the raw footage of the GoPro Dooley videos, and we'll sift through it ourselves.

d_pattee said...

I should have remembered that you already had tabs. I got mine because I had a problem getting up on plane and they were cheap (less than $100). In shallow water, I had to have someone get on the bow to get up on plane. The Smart Tabs don't seem to create any drag once underway.

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