Friday, March 14, 2014

Big Ocean, Little Dog, Old Boats

 I wasn't happy with that last blog post.  Too much DIY and mechanical stuff, and not enough tropical scenery.  I know most of you guys don't tune in here to see photos of greasy diesels, although we do have our share of like minded weirdos. So we've decided to move back toward something nicer to look at.   Starting with a sunrise video:

As you can see, I started playing around with some time lapse and zoom features, and La Gringa found some nice music for that one.

The day after writing the previous post whining about how we never go boating anymore, we went boating. It was  a nice day and the photos came out suitably tropical and colorful, as usual.  It's so easy to take nice water photos here, the place is just so photogenic it's amazing.  I'm hoping you will agree and that these photos are an attractive alternative to what it looks like outside a lot of frozen windows up in North America this time of year.

No snow was shoveled  in the making of this post.

 In the previous post I mentioned that we had problems when we tried to start up the old 1992 model Mercury dinghy outboard that came with the sailboat.  I cleaned it up and changed the plugs and installed some gaskets and worked on the carburetor and got it running.  That's the short version.  This all took days. We finally decided that this past Sunday was a good day to risk taking the freshly patched up inflatable and newly running old outboard outside the marina.  And we wanted to go get another photo of an old ferro-cement wreck up against the rocks just outside the entrance to South Side Marina.  There's not much left of the old hull sticking up above the water these days.

We'd posted photos of this old hull some years ago when it was still recognizable as a hull.    We knew it was a wrecked boat. That was obvious. But we didn't know anything more about it. Since then there have been three hurricanes and a number of tropical storms through here.  The old boat is almost gone now. And we know more about it. This is one of the tales we've now collected after asking the old expats during the study of another sundown from the vantage point of Bob's Bar.

This boat was a ferro-cement sailboat owned by Bob Gascoine, the way we hear it. Some of you boaters out there may know of Bob, or perhaps you know of some of his work.  He and his partner, Jane Minty, are the principals of Wavey Line Publishing. They personally gathered most of the depth data you see on the only decent set of nautical charts for a lot of these islands. Anyhow, the boat was anchored over near South Dock during a storm. A big storm. This storm was worse than expected, I guess, or perhaps there were some other factors affecting decision making on that day.  The way we hear it, Bob Gascoine and Crazy George Taylor and several friends who could also have fit "crazy" in front of their names  decided to try to move the sloop to safety in the canals here.  The problem is that they tried to do it during the brief time that the eye of the storm passed over Providenciales.  And they got this close, before being swept onto the rocks by the returning winds. And here she sits, what's left of her.   

I've been in contact with Bob over the past few months, and it was in one of our email exchanges that I found out that he was the builder of the old wreck in Cooper Jack Bight that we've been kayaking around for years.  We're planning to sail Twisted Sheets up to the Abacos to visit with Jane and Bob on Manjack Cay.   Sadly for the island of Provo and a big part of  this little slice of the world,  George Taylor passed away a few months ago.  He left a heck of a footprint in the sands of the Turks and Caicos Islands.    I know we'll think of him every time I look at those patches on our old dinghy.   The glue that I used to patch the holes in our little boat came from Crazy George.

There are worst places than the south side of Providenciales to spend the remainder of your days, if you're a shipwreck. Or even if you're not. We like this little stretch of coastline a lot.  There are a few small and secluded stretches of beach that are accessible by boat.

I know we've shown photos of this area many times in this blog. We come here quite often.  It's very close to the marina where we spend so much of our time. And we never get tired of the water here. It's one of those places where you can just relax. And it's a very benign place to take a dip. Unless you're a ferro-cement sloop during a hurricane, I suppose.  I'd bet the scene was entirely different on that day.

We ran our new old inflatable and antediluvian outboard back and forth across the bay here up to a good stretch of beach so I could take the cover off the motor.  I needed to run it wide open while I fiddled with the mixture screw on the carburetor. 

Ah, take a look at that beach.   Not a footprint on it.   Not even any dog prints.  And that's unusual.  Dooley the Demented is almost always the first one off the boat into the water, and the first one ashore. And he usually dashes up and down the beach for several minutes until we can get ashore. He likes to thoroughly mess up the sand before we can get a photo of it. But not this time.  We were ashore, walking around taking  photos and we looked around and there was no dog.    

He was still on the boat. This was surprising. I think what happened was that he isn't accustomed to us beaching the boat.  When we take the Hobie Tandem Island or  the skiff we always anchor in about a meter of water and wade ashore.   This time there was only a thin layer of water to jump into.  It seemed to give Dooley pause.  Yes, I know that's a bad pun.

We were  not in any hurry to help him solve his little dilemma.  It was nice to actually be able to take a photo of a nice beach scene without a dog in the middle of it. This little bay is known as Cooper Jack Bight. Dooley has been trying to figure out a way to get it changed to Cooper Jack Russell Bite.  I don't think he's been getting much traction on that with the local dogs.

And speaking of Dooley's lack of traction, it seems that faction is out of action. We watched in some amazement as he moved around the boat, wanting to get on the beach but afraid to just jump down into the water.  I think he could tell it was too shallow to dive into, but he hadn't worked out the physics of just ignoring the thin layer of water entirely. If it had been dry beach, he wouldn't have hesitated. Some insight here into the mind of a Jack Russell.   They apparently think they can sleep through physics class because they know it all already. Dooley the Indecisive:

La Gringa and I were having a fine time of it. We were able to walk up the untrammelled beach and get some pristine photos. The scenery here is some of my favorite on this island. This board across the top of the rocks is a ladder cobbled together from driftwood planks and bits of flotsam. I am guessing that the locals who frequent these beaches from the land side store the ladder like this to keep it from getting washed away from high tides and storms.  It would be easy to just pull it toward the land and let the end of it fall to the sand.  

We were still surprised that the silly dog who lives with us hadn't figured out that he could easily just hop down onto the beach. We've never seen him so flummoxed over something so easy and simple.  I think he was just over analyzing the situation.

Here's another look at that DIY beach access ladder.   We had plenty of time to examine it without suddenly finding a small dog standing in the middle of the photo trying to see what we're so interested in.  Refreshing, for a change.

We wandered along for a while enjoying what worked out to be a very nice winters day. La Gringa had the camera and was taking some photos of the waves and beach. It was very quiet, with no one around to interrupt us or kick sand.

We'd only intended to take the dinghy out for a shake down cruise when we started this little jaunt. I pulled the boat up  onto the beach just to take the cover off the engine and get my tools ready to adjust the carburetor while we ran it at full speed. We had brought it over here to do it instead of racing up and down in the marina. There are a few cruisers in at the moment, and this is a two stroke outboard. That means it's loud. Over here we had nothing but clear sailing for running a noisy boat. Well, except that we spotted another cruising catamaran heading into the marina.  Can you see the mast just to the right of center there on the horizon?

We weren't planning a beach combing day, but it sort of worked out that way for the next half hour.  I found a nice blue boat fender to add to our collection of boat fenders we don't particularly need and will probably never use. It was strange to be able to dig into a pile of seaweed and have it to myself to explore undisturbed for a change.

We found a better spot to frame that approaching sailboat for a photo.

This reminded us of those times when we've left the dog at home while we went sailing or beach combing. It seems quiet without him underfoot. The universe just seems to operate at a slightly lower frequency when the Jack Russell is at a distance.

We weren't worried about the dog. He was never out of our sight, and there's not much here for him to get into that could harm him here. Nothing for him to get  excited about. Just a single boat on a deserted beach.  Again.

That photo was actually taken after he'd gotten out of the boat and raced up the beach to join us.  He seemed to have come to some decisions one way or another about getting out of the boat.  In any case, he didn't say much to us about it.  I think he was still a little bit miffed about being left to handle it by himself. Maybe when he sees these photos he'll see how ridiculous he looked. He reacted as though he had a huge leap down to the beach. I'm sure his imagination made a lot more out of it than it deserved.  What a character.

This shot was supposed to be a good one of the rubber boat sitting there in the background.  But it turned out to be a better photo of the wooden ladder than we had before.   So I'm including it for that value, such as it is.   

We explored up and down the beach for a while.  None of us was in any particular hurry to get back in the boat.  It was just about a perfect beach day.   Dooley soon found his stride again and was checking out all the little sea caves looking for something to annoy.

Some of these little caves are naturally lit by sinkholes in the tops.   They let the sunlight shine through into the interior.

Another fine late winter day on the south side of Providenciales.

The water is so warm that we really don't feel any kind of thermal shock when stepping into it.  It's certainly cooler this time of year than it would be in September, but even now it's manageable.  I think I need my sand shovel and pail.   If this next photo doesn't make you want to kick off your shoes and go wading in the ocean....

Then maybe this video of the same spot will do it

How's that? A full minute and a half of waves. With a little dog at the end.

The whole stated purpose of this trip was to wring out the outboard motor and make adjustments as needed. It's just coincidental that this mission required us to zoom up and down the beach for a few hours.  I did adjust the jets on the carburetor. This is what the trusty steed in rusty need looks like with it's battered cover removed. It's battered  underneath the cover, too.  It actually looks a lot better these days than it did when we first opened it up.  We considered junking it on the spot.  No kidding. I've cleaned it up considerably.  This is after a half a can of WD-40, a lot of cleaning, lubricating, adjusting and tightening, two new spark plugs, and a carburetor clean out can do.  Sometimes.  If you're lucky.

Doesn't look too bad for an outboard that is probably older than most of your children and all of your automobiles, does it?

Dooley the Delighted really enjoys zooming back and forth and back and forth just out of reach of the nearest beach.  He doesn't share much of what he's thinking.  Sometimes he just goes into his blank stare mode and I wonder if he's thinking about anything at all. The dog zones out.  I've caught him mumbling to himself.  He lets me know that he'd rather be on the beach.  I can see it in his face.

We  must have made several dozens runs back and forth in the smooth protected water.  I had the throttle wide open while adjusting the mixture jets on the carb.  I can move the "smooth spot" up or down the RPM range, but can't seem to make it run smooth throughout.  So I compromised and stuck the rough spot right where we accelerate onto plane.   We never stay in that RPM range for long.  She runs real smooth at idle and full bore now.  Good enough, until we can find another outboard. I'm getting interested in the light little Suzuki two stroke 15 hp. I don't know that I will ever trust this one completely.  It still has some issues and local parts availability is around zero by whatever means I measure it.

I didn't want to get too far away from the marina until we built up some confidence that the old thing would keep running.    Eventually we stuck our noses out and went up further to the north.  All our playing around was in this general area:

You can see how this spot is protected from the prevailing northeast winds.  A good spot to test little outboard motors.  Big ones, too, come to think of it.   

As we rounded the point we spotted something colorful draped on the ironshore rocks.  We turned the boat around to go take a closer look.  You literally just never know what one might find washed up on the shore around these islands. Personally, I'm expecting an aluminum briefcase full of money. Any day now.  

But in the meantime, this caught our attention.

Someone has stitched fabrics from a number of different sources together into one large sheet of material.  We didn't try to untangle it, but our best guess is that it's a patchwork sail.  Handmade boat parts of this nature usually mean that there is another abandoned Haitian sloop in the area.  Now, in the area could also mean underwater.  We didn't spot a sloop on this day, but then we didn't get very far away from the marina, either.  It could easily have been just around the next rock. This area is not far from where we last saw an abandoned Haitian sloop just recently.  We took photos of that one and they are on the post in this link.  But I just went back to look at the sail on the boat in those photos, and I don't think it's the same one.  This one is much more colorful. The sailmakers in Haiti must be scratching for material.

We continued onward along the shoreline for a bit further.   We wanted to see if perhaps some other bits of wreckage were washed up under the overhanging rocks. The bright spot in the water in this next photo is  sunlight shining down through an open sinkhole in the limestone.

La Gringa tried her hand steering an outboard  with a tiller for the first time.   She did great handling the little boat, except for letting go of the controls to study the chart she was wearing.   Wearable charts.  What a naval idea!

I've managed to keep the boat DIY stuff completely out of this post so far, but you know that won't last.  I'm all about boat repairs these days. Well the entire RIB trip was about checking out the outboard, but that was mainly an excuse to go play for the afternoon. This doesn't mean the boat work has come to a halt.  Oh no.  We're still working on it just about every day that something doesn't preempt us. For those of us following the saga of the senile sailboat, here's some quick snippets about that stuff.  This has been one of the places I've been spending  a lot of time lately,  my new office cubicle:

And I have another one, even more crowded, on the other side of the boat.   This starboard engine is actually pretty easy to get to.

The port side (west wing of my office complex these days) is not so easy to get to. Especially for a lazy old fat man. If you peer down into the darkest depths of the engine room, that big greasy bilge rat thing peering back at you, well, c'est moi.

I'm not going to describe what it takes to climb into, and back out of, that spot. And that's not the worst spot, either.  Getting my hands on the inboard side of that engine is a real trip.  It's located one floor under the red compressor tank.  I've been bleeding a lot lately.

Since this post is obnoxiously long already, it won't hurt much more to stick in a few more greasy diesel photos. I'll show you just what kind of things I have been spending my days on.  While wriggled up claustrophobically next to a greasy Yanmar.  My spell checker says that claustrophobically is not a word.  I think I should take that spell checker down into my port engine room for a few hours.  Spend them with one arm wedged helplessly  while working blind with the other one. Dropping nuts and washers and tools into the bilge and having to squirm to retrieve them.  Yeah.   Then we'll see if spell checker thinks claustrophobically fits any better.

On that particular trip I was figuring out and fixing the bilge pump and switch.  I won't bother you with the details, other than to show you boaters out there what I did.  You'll already know some of the bilge pump issues.   I attached the float switch and pump to a little box I made from the tank we salvaged on West Caicos.   It's made things a lot easier for me.  No more chasing stuff around the bilge blindly, and the slots keep the floating debris away from the pump inlet until it's deep enough not to foul it.

And while I'm squirming away down there I am too frequently finding out the solutions to little mysteries on this old boat.  Like, for example, when I was staring stupidly at an injector pump fitting when something else caught my eye.  An explanation for why our starboard engine idle is unsteady. And has been for years.  It's been subject to cable flex.

And now, of course, you realize I have to go climb down into the worst spot of all to inspect the same idle stop on the other engine.  One of the downsides of catamarans with two engines.   Everything is also two potential problems to fix. Twice the moving parts.

I don't want you to think that all of our little problems are big parts.  Nope.  Lots of our big problems are little parts, too.   As in one of the little lingering kisses I recently discovered from our brief meeting with that lightning bolt.  This pc board explained the refrigeration issues. Totally fried and conformal coated.   Adios two hundred bucks plus plus. Pidgin Boatish?

Did you know that this kind of hose clamp is frowned upon by boaters who know what they're doing around hoses and engines?  The hose clamps with the slots cut all the way through the band are not the best ones. They fail more often under stress. The good ones have the grooves for the tightening screw cut into the stainless band, but not all the way through the band. It's a solid band. Cutting the holes all the way through weakens the band.  Just like it did this one. This one failed, says Capt. Obvious. He's the genius with the burn on his thumb, by the way.  Did you know that the flame from a propane torch is almost invisible in direct sunlight?

As long as I was wedged uncomfortably in the bilge covered with oily water and filth I thought it was a good idea to pull out the water pump and take it apart, too  I mean it was right there in my face.  Literally, in my face.  I still have the bruise. It was leaking and needed a new gasket.  I've gotten to the point where I'm always a little nervous taking things apart on this boat.  I never know what kind of surprises I'll find. And very few of those surprises have been good ones. This one was manageable.  And cheap.  

And as long as I was checking out the whole cooling water thing on this engine, I  decided to take a look at the thermostats. Good call. The two on the top in this photo are a couple of working ones from the spares. The ones on the bottom are the ones I just took out of our starboard engine.  They were frozen in the partially open position.  This means that this engine would have run rich when it was cold, making it smoke and run rough until it warmed up.  The frozen thermostats were also unable to completely open.  This means that the engine would be running on the hot side once it was warmed up. These were indeed some of the symptoms that caused me to keep digging into this engine.  Those little problems have now been rectified.

The replacement thermostats that I used were of unknown quality.  They were obviously used, but I really didn't have any options other than flying some down from the USA.   I thought it made sense to just test these and see if they were any good.   Did you ever test a thermostat?  It's pretty easy to do.

These gadgets use wax to regulate whether they are open or closed.  When a thermostat gets to a pre-determined temperature the wax inside it melts and turns to liquid.  This lets one of the springs open the valve, which lets water flow through, which cools the engine.  To test them, one simply puts a thermostat into hot water.  If it's in working condition, it should open up as it warms up.   Just like this:

My remaining issue with our starboard Yanmar is that when it is idling I have problems shifting it from forward to neutral to reverse and back again.  This is the kind of thing we do when docking the boat.  The engine acts like it just doesn't quite have enough power at idle, and shifting from forward to reverse loads it up enough to stop the little diesel.  It acts like it has a breathing restriction, or a line wrapped around the prop shaft, but it doesn't.  I think we can live with it, although it means I will sometimes be coming into a dock on one engine.  Again.
Eventually I'll figure out what's going on with it.  For you Yanmar  mechanics out there, I've already cleaned the foam air filter, cleaned out the mixing elbow (another big ugh)

I've adjusted the intake and exhaust valve clearance, and the governor seems to be working fine.  I have only slight wisps of white smoke and sometimes not even that after the engine warms up.  The prop shaft turns freely by hand in neutral. A Yanmar mechanic took the clutch etc. apart and there are no problems there.  It's as though the engine just needs about 5 more horsepower at idle.  Idle speed is in spec, although I might increase it a little.    I really don't want to pull the head off of it, and I am not seeing the smoke I would expect from a stuck or broken ring.   Maybe a valve issue? Any useful ideas gratefully examined.  

This next photo really doesn't fit in here, but I thought some of Dooley's correspondents would like to see a photo of a wet dog that just barely missed jumping onto the boat by about an inch.   He figured he could just hop up, but fiberglass doesn't have much traction and he fell back into the ocean.  Where we fished him out.  Which is why the dock and the dog are wet.   Since he got a nice swim out of the deal, I have to wonder if he did it on purpose.    He sure doesn't look ashamed to have missed the jump.   There was a temptation here to write that he missed the boat.  But he didn't miss it.  He hit it a pretty good lick, in fact.  He just didn't stick to it very well. Kerplunk.   He's using his poker face, but I can tell that inside, he's grinning.

Coming to the end of this post, I was looking around for some recent sunset activity to finish up with.  I thought some of you might appreciate this next one. Reminded me of an alien invasion book cover. Or perhaps someone trying to doodle a crescent moon onto a photo.

Of course a slight change in perspective and directions clears it all up.  It was a flock of kite boarders.  A gaggle of kites? A herd of borders?

This isn't one of the flashier sunsets we've seen lately.  But it's one we saw when we had a camera in hand.  Most of our sunsets lately have been from the deck of Twisted Sheets in South Side Marina.

My favorite sunset photos are the ones with just the sea, the clouds, and the shifting light as the sun outruns my horizons.   But I don't mind the odd palm frond now and then. It brings me down to earth and home to a little island nation so cool that some people will spend twelve million dollars for a beach house here just like those three. And there are bigger.


Anonymous said...

Excellent pictures. I could fall asleep fast just listening to the water on the second video. That box for the bilge pump and switch looks neat. I had a neighbor a the marina that installed a new bilge pump and switch, and the pump was running all the time. Went over, and noticed that the switch was too low near the pump, and because the pump was too high it would run out of water to pump out, but there was still water under the switch to keep the pump running. I am using the hoses from the pump to the through hull out the smooth ones inside , and out. Water flows out faster.

Anonymous said...


Gringo said...

Well if we're going to get one word comments, "Excellent" is one of the ones we'd choose. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Bill said...

Greasy diesels and deserted beaches, why yours has become one of my favorite blogs!

Jason said...

I am sure you have checked the fuel lines, but I had a similar problem on my monohull with a Yanmar 2 GM. New crush washers on all fittings, new fuel pump( diaphragm, lift style on my engine), and all new fuel lines cured my problem. I also believe I had a restriction in the return line. I would also try it without the foam filter once to make sure it is not a breathing restriction. I have noticed a lot of these Yanmar are ran without an air filter. Not something I would want to do permanently, but some seem to get by with it in a marine environment.