Monday, February 23, 2015

Storm Surge

We've been watching the Weather news about all the snow and cold up in the high latitudes and we're quite happy not to be shoveling anything other than metaphorically.  But we don't get away without any weather issues here, either.  Oh it's nothing like the blizzards in Boston or the temperatures in Toronto, but we do have these fierce sunrises on the south side of Providenciales.

Somehow, I'm not expecting much sympathy here from people looking out their frozen windows at over two meters of snow with more on the way.  I know it's going to be a stretch for some imaginations, but these days we start feeling chilled when the temperature drops down to levels that I suspect are still warmer than the settings on most home thermostats. The temperatures dropped into the low 70's here right before Jacob went home to New England.   Dooley hauled his favorite Colorado winter sweater out of his suitcase to help Jacob mentally prepare for the cold.

We're just getting to the end of a nice little two day storm that blew through here over the weekend.   The original forecasts were for almost 40 knots of wind, although I don't think we saw quite that much.  Such a storm forecast coming at the beginning of the yearly cruising season produced a bit of a crowd at South Side Marina.  Anticipating strong winds and seas from the north, sailors were looking for places to hide from the storm.  Every single slip at Bob's marina was filled.  South Side Marina is sheltered from the worst of our north and north east winds.  It's a good place to hang out in a blow.  Here's a view looking upwind, into the salina.  You can see what the wind is doing to this protected water.  We heard it was pretty grim on the north side of the island but we were too tied up in our own little world to drive over to look.   It was bad enough here.

We  decided to see if we could get some aerial photos during the storm.  You might remember that I've now got three kites picked for various wind conditions.  I've got a big 12 ft. delta style that will fly and lift a camera in six knots of wind.  This covers me on mild days.  And that kite gets very little use.   Next in line is our standard 9 ft. delta.  This one is good from around 10 knots up to near 20. We use that kite most of the time. But I've also got a small parafoil kite that I've been told should hold together up to 30 knots.   We decided to see how it would handle these conditions.  We had a nice little storm to test it with.  The parafoil kite fits into that bag. Nice package. 

And it worked.  We managed to get some useful photos in driving rain and wind gusts to 30 knots.   Here's South Side Marina full of boats riding out the storm.

I'm  not sure what kind of photos we were expecting in these conditions, but we were pleasantly surprised to get any at all.  I used 200 lb. dacron line, and had to wear gloves to handle it.   The parafoil kite handled the wind, although the rain,  reduced light, and platform motion didn't produce our usual tropical scenery. The strain from the wind and constant gusts got to me very quickly, and I took a wrap around one of Bob's parking lot fence rails to control it.

I was expecting something to come loose from the KAP setup with all the violent motion we were seeing from the ground.  Here's a view from the camera pointing toward the kite. The KAP setup is usually  50 to 100 ft. down the string from the kite itself.    You can see  how everything was tilted at an extreme angle due to the wind velocity.

That's a view looking west from South Side Marina, showing some of the Discovery Bay canal system. Gnarly day. And I am almost certain I would never have been able to get any useful photos if we'd been using any drone that I could afford. There's just something to be said for simplicity.

Now I didn't want you to think that Providenciales looks like those photos for the month of February.  Because it doesn't. We get these storms blowing through from time to time, and then the weather gets back to winter normal for us.

A normal afternoon at South Side Marina is much more laid back than it would appear during a storm.  We often set  up a camera just for the heck of it, but hours go by before any boat action so we never bother to post any of that footage.  I'll show you what  we mean.

Here's most of an afternoon at South Side Marina, with the camera attached to our boat Twisted Sheets.   The dive charter boats all come in shortly after noon.  There's a little story in this video. There was a cruiser aground just outside the entrance to the marina.  It's obscured in the video. The Club Med dive boat, "Batray" fouled on the anchor the grounded boat put out.  The Club Med boat finally had to swing around backwards to get free of the grounded boat's anchor line, helped dislodge the grounded boat and for some reason decided to come into the marina backwards, with  engines in reverse.   They spun the boat around as soon as they had room to do so, and the other boat traffic that was waiting for the mess to get sorted out all came in behind them.  LaGringa sped up the time lapse to make the hours go by quickly, and slowed it when the boats were maneuvering.  So that's what was going on in this video with the boat traffic:

Watching this makes it seem like we're stable when we're on the boat.  It's the rest of the world that's looking a little shaky at the moment.

Last week after the storm before this blew through, La Gringa and I  decided to see if we could get some fun photos by sticking a GoPro camera to the SUPs.  I stuck one camera on my head again and won't bother you with additional images of that ludicrosity.  And we tried using a suction cup mount on the SUP. Of course the first thing I did was attach it to the underside of the surfboard.  I got a few hundred mostly useless images of murky water because it was still stirred up after the storm.   I'm not even going to post any of those photos up here.  They are terrible and not representative of the water clarity here.  We also  tried sticking the camera to the top of the  paddleboard to see how that would work. We got some surprising results, although not what I was anticipating.

We continue to learn things about attaching cameras to moving objects.  For an example I can illustrate one of my own "duh" moments right here.   I had moved the suction mount from under the board to the top of the board.  I tied a piece of paracord to it as a safety line should it fall off.  Or in the more likely event of a big bald headed oaf falling and knocking it off.   This has been known to happen.

Can you tell how murky the water is?  It typically takes about a day or a day and a half for the sand to settle out after a storm blows through.  This was only a few hours after unsettled weather passed through.   If you look at that photo above you can see the shadow of the GoPro camera on my head that took this series of photos.  You can also see that the camera is not pointing just exactly straight ahead on the board.  I wanted it pointed straight ahead.  I thought I would just scootch up on the board and turn it. Wrong.

You see, moving my considerable weight that far forward on the paddleboard caused the front of the board to go underwater, raising the back of the board into the air.  And dumping the dummy firmly and completely into the ocean. The GoPro on my head was on a two second repetition rate and it caught this image as my grasping hands slid completely past the camera I wanted to adjust.  I think this is about when I got that unmistakable and momentary "Ah Oh!!" feeling...

You know the one where you suddenly realize what's going to happen and that there's not a danged thing you can do about it.

We all knew what kind of situation I was going to be in two seconds later, I suspect.

I mentioned earlier that we got some surprising results with the camera on the SUP, but what I didn't say was that these results were not in the water.  The results we want to show you were from the trip home from the beach.

If you're not familiar with these cameras, you should know that they have a firmware /menu  setting that  flips the image upside down.  This is so that the cameras can be attached to the underside of things and still record video right side up.  I had the camera set to be shooting upside down.  I didn't worry much about the images being reversed because I can easily change that with the editing software. When we loaded the SUPs on our vehicle to take them home, we left the camera in place and turned on. This is what it looked like on the board:

And this is what the ride home looked like with the camera in the inverted mode:

Yes, sure, we could have flipped it back over in software, but then it would just be like a zillion other 'SUP with camera on top of the car on a dirt road on a tropical island" videos, wouldn't it? I like this  better. And if you really feel the need to view it right side up, well, you do have options.   You might look silly doing it, but hey, your choice.

Other than little things like that, it's been a quiet week.   We got some some of that crystal clear weather that often comes the day after a weather front blows through and I tried the little pocket digital camera to see how it would do with night photography.  This is the night sky from our patio.   Now there's a view you haven't seen before, and now that I know the camera can handle it I might be able to get some more of this.   We have some incredible starry nights when the moon is away.   I just haven't tried to talk about them here before.

Other day to day mundane things include getting another flat tire fixed. That doesn't sound like such a big deal, does it? I mean, EVERYbody gets a flat tire from time to time, right? Sure.

But do you average one a month?  For ten years?  With five different vehicles?

This is bad country for rubber tires.

That's bordering on DIY so I'm going to grab this opportunity to show the sailors among us another little project that might be useful.   Rust stains on sails.  We had the sails off of Twisted Sheets recently to try to eradicate ugly things.

Needless to say, this takes a calm windless day.   We found out the hard way that things get real complicated when trying to lay out a big sail on a patio on a windy day.  Don't do it.

But for this experiment we managed to  grab a calm day.  This is our jib on the patio.

Apparently one of the previous owners of our old boat had rolled up the sail with some metal shackle or something similar in contact with the dacron.   The metal thing rusted, and left a series of stains on our nice white sail.   We didn't like that.   We had a bunch of stains like this:

There were a number of rust removing compounds included with the boat equipment, and I had already tried a number of them with mixed results.  Finally I noticed that the main active ingredient in the ones that worked the best seemed to be oxalic acid.  I needed to get the well set rust stains out of dacron sails.  I didn't need all the conditioners and lubricants and greases and oils that some of the rust compounds include.  I mean, after all, they're mostly formulated for iron and steel objects.   Sails don't need oil.  I bought a jar of the active ingredient without the marketing additives.

We weren't able to find a lot of information on relative strengths so with typical oafish overkill I mixed up a small batch and saturated it with as much oxalic acid powder as would dissolve in hot water.   I used a toothbrush to scrub it lightly into the rust stain.

And it worked immediately, if not sooner.   This is that particular set of stains after about 30 seconds of contact with the acid:

And this is the stain after a minute.  Notice all the small stains to the left of the main one are practically gone, and the main one is getting close.  I applied one more little splash of the acid to the stitching and about thirty seconds later the stain was just another fading memory. The next and important step is to scrub the entire area down with a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and water. This neutralizes the acid. You know you're done when the bubbling stops. Then rinse it with water and let it dry!

I could show you the last photo, but you already know what it would look like. A white bit of sail with no stain.

I wanted to end this post with some nice local water images instead of rusty sails, so I picked a few more from another little scenario that we witness quite often here lately. We live very close to the Caicos Marina and Shipyard.  This is one of the very few marinas between Puerto Rico and Florida that have the ability to lift a boat out of the water for repairs.  So it's not uncommon for boats with engine problems to get themselves close to us using their sails.  They  typically drop the anchor just outside the marina and call for help.  The marina will send someone out in a power boat to tow the damaged vessel in to safety.

This sequence is just another example of exactly that very scenario.  This sloop was unable to start their engine, and the forecast was for bad weather.   They managed to get themselves here by sail alone. In this photo, Jamie from Caicos Marina is  discussing the towing operation with the stricken sailboat.

He passed them a line and secured it to the transom of his boat and the bow cleats of the sloop.

And after a few minutes of adjustment he was able to tow the boat into the marina for some welcome repairs.  And you might ask why I bothered to include this.  Well one reason is that it's just another of the little vignettes that make up our typical days around here.  

And the other reason is that Jamie's boat is our former Contender 25 with the 300 HPDI Yamaha outboard that I am so intimately familiar with.  It's great for us to see "Off Cay" still out working and boating.  So many boats here seem to break, get parked on a trailer for repairs, and stay there.  For years.  For ever.  But not this one.  We're glad to have found a good home for the Contender as we moved further and further away from power boats and into sail.

We're continuing to spend the majority of our time working on the sailboat.  Most of the major systems are up and running, and I'm finishing up small projects and cosmetic issues.  I had already shown you photos of how a friend solved his engine access issues using mast steps.   I had decided to do something similar because it let me get rid of two aluminum ladders.  I won't go back and revisit that whole boondoggle.  I liked Frank's solution better, although I didn't choose the same kind of folding steps.   Frank used mast steps, and I used folding steps from a firetruck supply company.   A third of the price, two fewer holes to drill, I ordered a handful of these:

From what I have seen, this step is going to be  a lot friendlier to bare  feet.  It doesn't stick out into the area so far, and it's not pointed on the end.   I think this is going to work out well:

Those rust stains on the left are from the recently removed water maker.  I decided that I didn't like sea water that close to our solar controllers.  And they're slated to be moved as well, as soon as I figure out where to put them.

I've been meaning to post this photo for some weeks now, and it keeps getting put aside because it's unrelated to the other things I'm working on at the time. But I'm not going to let it slip any longer.  

Bob's Bar is surrounded by drop-down hurricane shutters.  People who gather at the bar often use one of the marking pens that Bob and Nevarde supply to write their names, boat information, or messages on the inside of these shutters.  When we returned from our trip to Colorado last year, we found  that some visitors to the island had stopped by to say hello to us.   We missed them, dagnabbit, but they did leave us a message written on a storm shutter:

Neil and Terri, thank you for taking the trouble to try to look us up.    We don't get that many visitors in this little out-of-the-way place, and we're sorry we missed you.  We hope you had a great time in the TCI and that you'll try again if you ever come back through.

Well that's it for this Monday's post.   We have a lot going on right now and I don't anticipate any problems filling this blog up with photos going forward.  In fact we're a bit excited about some of the trips we have planned.   And soon.

Monday, February 9, 2015

High at Southside Marina

I bet that post title got some attention.   But of course that's the whole idea of a post title, from what I read.    And then, after a title like that to start it off with, my first photo has absolutely   nothing to do with  the subject of this post.

That's a photo of the subject of next Monday's post, if things go according to plan.    I'm waiting for La Gringa to put together a little video, and while that will be done fairly quickly, it's not in time for THIS Monday blog post. So I shifted gears and will just talk about other stuff.

Yes, it's true.  I did get high at South Side Marina this week.  And here's the proof. That's my foot desperately trying to stick to that mast like a panic stricken gecko, there.

I have an unavoidable collection of repairs that I have to do  up the mast.  It's one of the last places on the boat where the lightning strike damage hasn't been fixed. Yet. And the reason it hasn't been fixed is me.  I accept full responsibility and admit that I don't like climbing up tall skinny aluminum poles that are moving in the wind.   I also don't like the idea that if I fell off of here I'd probably put a big ding in the boat.   I would be so annoyed to be lying in a full body cast thinking about a big hole in that cabin roof.

I started slow, and made this first climb only up to the spreaders.  I think it was kind of like an acrophobia vaccination.  I'll give this a little while to settle and then go back up continue to work my way up the mast.  I had some stuff to do at the mid-mast level and this was a good opportunity to try out the bosun's chair that's been evilly grinning at me from within a darkened locker for several years now.  Our signal halyards were in bad shape.  Someone needed to go up and replace the lines and blocks and the oranguatan's big talking bald headed simian cousin  was the logical choice.  I've got the longest arms in the local zoo here,  unless La Gringa was just feeding me a line...

It's difficult to be cool about these things when one has a peanut gallery of witnesses watching   Correction:  make that a highly amused peanut gallery of witnesses.  I noticed no one is standing under the mast.   Especially after I dropped a shackle pin.

I managed to get the signal halyards sorted out on this first excursion aloft.  I still have a lot of other changes and repairs to make.  The radar antenna is totally useless, for example, and I am going to remove that dead weight from the mast.  I also have to replace a VHF antenna and remove a bunch of other junk up at the very top.  This boat still has several obsolete antennas installed up there, along with the electrically fried stuff  that needs repair. 

I managed to get a good look at the hard top and solar panels that we're itching to replace.  Doesn't look that bad, from a distance.  Without eyeglasses.

So that was my first excursion up the mast.  We used this as a little training exercise, and to be sure I didn't turn into a quivering 200 lb blob of sticky Jello up there drying in the sun.    It would have been extremely embarrassing if La Gringa had to climb up alongside me to pry my fingers loose from the aluminum.  It was actually very secure feeling with the mast steps to cling to and a sturdy bosun's chair hanging from a halyard.  I think we can have some fun with this.  And now I have an inkling what kind of a view these guys have.

I also have a bit of respect for what these things think is a normal everyday stroll up the side of something vertical.    Ha.  I've been looking for an excuse to use these two photos.

This is one of our first real attempts to step up the posting frequency  to something every week on this blog.  This means that some weeks there's really not going to be any kind of a 'theme' to it, per se.   Just a collection of photos from the previous week.

And this past week was yet another boat-work intensive week.  There's just no easy way around some of it.   We added another hundred feet of chain to our anchor setup, for example.  Our old sailboat, Twisted Sheets, only had 30 ft. of chain, and then an unknown length of nylon line (rope) which is also called rode, when it's spliced to a chain and used to anchor a boat.  Strange  how that works out, isn't it?  If I bought a new spool of 5/8" nylon rope, it would be called "rope" as long as I kept it on the spool on the boat.  As soon as I pull a length of it off and cut it to use it for something on the boat, it's no longer rope.   Oh, it's the same exact stuff as before, twisted nylon filaments.  But now it's gone from being rope to being line.  

UNLESS.... I use that line to tie to my anchor.  Then the same bit of rope  transforms once again, this time into "rode". I appreciate tradition when it serves a useful purpose but I confess that I find a lot of the nautical lingo a bit silly and needlessly complex.  I think there's no good purpose inherent in confusing terminology that adds an air of perceived complexity to sailing that doesn't need to be there.  But then I feel the same way about port and starboard.   If you're ever on our boat, and feel the need to yell out that there's a rope dragging in the water on the right side of the boat.... go ahead.  We'll appreciate it.   And we won't try to 'correct' you, either.

Hey I didn't intend for this to turn into a mini rant against confusing nautical terms.   It was just what popped into my head as we flaked out just over a shot of chain there on the quay before using the  windlass gypsy and after fetching some seizing, shackle key  connecting link and a fid from the lazarette...

Getting chain safely from the car to the wharf to the dock to the boat takes a little care.  If this stuff gets away from you, it loves to head straight to the bottom of the water.  I guess that's part of what makes it so well suited for anchoring.

When I was picking which of the dozens of photos we have to use here, I couldn't help but notice that this one has one of our latest 'dream boats' in it.   That nice white new catamaran  Shangri La  is a Leopard 44.   We like the Robertson and Caine Leopards.   If you remember our post from December 2009 called The Busman's Holiday. you might recall that we were chartering a Leopard 42.  This boat in these photos is an updated, larger version of that boat.  We liked the "42" for two and didn't want for more, but what we've seen has turned us green for the lovely "44".  

 We first spotted Shangri La as she came into the marina.   The very distinctive front cockpit design is apparent from a distance.   

We've now had several days to look at the Leopard 44, and it's a nice one, for sure.  Of course we can think of about three quarters of a million reasons we will never own one.  But hey, it's not a bad dream to work on for a while, is it.

Meanwhile, back at reality, we managed to get the hundred feet of new chain attached to the existing short 30 ft. section and loaded it onto Twisted Sheets.

Wow, I actually managed to post two photos in a row without writing any extra words to complicate the whole thing.  Maybe I should start using that 'technique' more often. Sure would speed things up at this end.

 By now you'll have realized that our lives lately continue to revolve around getting this old boat ready to sail.   And when I write sail, I don't mean out and back in time for happy hour.   I mean sail as in different languages during happy hour.  Maybe we could do a blog series on Happy Hours we have known.

 It can be a little frustrating not to have a bunch of our normal tropical photos to show you, but we really are putting most of our free time into this.  And it's starting to show.  Jacob has been concentrating on interior improvements and that's a huge jump forward for us.  I don't have an exact before-and-after photo just yet.  Mainly because I stupidly forgot to plan ahead again, but I can illustrate the improvements just in the past week by showing you these two photos of the same cabin during the process.   In the first photo, Jacob has already scrubbed most of the interior glue off and taped the windows to get ready for painting.  This still  has the ugly  30 year old headliner in it, although I didn't specifically try to photograph it.  And if you could smell the accumulated effects of thirty years, you'd understand why.  That stuff developed a life of its own in places.  We need stuff that's ready for new places, if you know what I mean.

Here's the same cabin a few days later, with two coats of paint and new hull liner.  It's getting better.   

We have a lot of wooden trim work to do.  The foam and vinyl we ripped out left gaps between the internal fiberglass and the edges of the cabinetry.  I know I don't even have to tell you that we are extremely limited as to sources of decent wood to make the trim.   We're exploring a few potential places for either mahogany or ipe wood, but it's still undetermined how we're going to address this one.  We might have to wait until we can get the boat to a more 'checkbook friendly' location.     And no, that location would not be anywhere within a day's sail of here.

I was just searching for something else in our pile of photos to show you, hoping for a nice island image like the very first one I put up here.   NOW you know why I primed you with that one, right?  So I could sneak all these DIY things in while you were still marveling in the contrast of that SUP photo.    

And I decided to show you one of my screw-ups.  I won't go into any of the really massive ones, but we have the room here to quickly explore one of the smaller ones.   

This started when I went charging down into one of the engine compartments recently to fix some thing that was misbehaving.  I don't exactly recall which component was giving me fits at the time, but it was enough that I was moving with some force.  And when I stepped onto the ladder assembly that a previous owner installed in this boat, it shifted underfoot.  If I hadn't already been panicked and grabbing things so hard they splintered I would have fallen.  Falling down engine room hatches is generally considered to be a really bad idea for a number of reasons.    I don't like ladders that shift under me.  So I looked into what this was all about, and this is what the bottom end of those ladders looked like:

I have chosen to remain uncharacteristically quiet right about here.  I will just let you ponder this image, knowing me as you undoubtedly do by now.   My fingers are just straining to zip off several sentences here concerning previous boat owners.  But I won't.   I won't.

So my first inclination was to address the immediate and apparent problem.  I saw this as coming up with a non-corroding mechanism to replace that steel hinge.  Or what's left of it.   At this point I was looking for fast and simple.  I thought that if I just cut some slots just so into a proper piece of aluminium angle, and then bent them just so... Well, Bob's yer uncle.  Right?

Well, he isn't, as it turns out.   Oh I had some great ideas here.  Fast and simple and strong.  I considered using the 3D printer to make some plastic gizmos, but alas, my 3D printer is currently undergoing an amateur heart transplant, and the amateur is waiting for parts.  And inspiration.  And knowledge.  Really what I need is a new printer, one that is plug and play and will ride well on a sailboat. 

All thoughts on a good, enclosed 3D printer for offshore life would be greatly appreciated, but I need to get back to the subject at hand.  Which is my little false start on the engine room ladders.

So, I drew this up in  case I got the printer fixed.  Looked like this on a cad program:

I know that you guys can look at this drawing  and at that photo of the bottom of the ladder up there and you'll see where I was going with this.    Yep, just junk the junk and drill a hole through the ladder, and we're back to being on familiar terms with Uncle Robert ( please see "Bob's yer Uncle" above).

I realized that this wouldn't work in plastic so went back to aluminium.  It was easy to lay it out and I made the cuts and then the first bend.

And it was no good.  That's not the complete version of the term no good that I actually uttered, but it gets the idea across.  Waste of time, thought, and material, and here's why:

I cannot bend the aluminum like that without a stress fatigue crack.  I tried several bends.  I heated it, I beat it with a hammer to compress it before bending it, I spoke to it nicely.  No use. I was unable to elicit it's cooperation on this project. 

Looked like this up close:

So then, for some strange reason, I got fixated on making this ladder swivel.  And this is my real mistake.  I was working to extend what was probably not a great idea to start with.  Flimsy moving parts hacked out of something else.  But at first I just wanted to 'fix the problem'.  The so-called "band-aid" approach.  Do people in the UK have a "sticky plaster" approach?    You can see what living in this place is doing to us, can't you.  

I'll make a morning's labor seem like a moment's thought and just say that I came up with these.

Do you see where I'm going wrong here?  Things are getting MORE complicated, not less.  This is not moving more toward simple.  Fun, yeah, I suppose so for someone twisted like myself, but it's in the wrong direction.  This approach now has me re-inventing the hinge.  To be fair, I did re-invent it all in aluminium.  And the solid bars were to be pop-riveted to the aluminium ladder, keeping all my materials in one big happy but frugal electron swapping family.

Then in a rare moment of clarity I thought to ask someone who knows what they are doing how they were handling this.   I have this friend I've never met whom I'll just refer to as "Frank" here.  Because that's his name, by the way.  Makes it easier to remember what I called him, yuk yuk.

Anyhow, Frank is also presently in the process of rebuilding one of these same boats.   A sister ship to Twisted Sheets.  One big difference between Frank and myself is that Frank has done this before.   He's rebuilt and refurbished a number of boats.  I have not.  We've become email correspondents, as we each have information and ideas that the other is interested in.  Frank has completely renovated his boat's engine rooms, and when I asked him how he got down into them he sent me this photo:

One step, one moving part.  No big swiveling ladder.  No clutter.  Solid.  Duh.
Now, our engine room bulkhead doesn't look like that.  We have a LOT more stuff in ours than Frank has in his so far.  But that only further supports this concept.  So I just totally declutterred this little part of my life.  Thanks, Frank.

We now have one of these folding mast steps in each engine compartment. Ours in the middle of that rear bulkhead, not low like Franks.  One needs to be about six feet tall to get out of our engine room, unless one has a prehensile tail.

Okay, that's enough for a Monday morning.  I didn't realize I had that much to type. Must have been the second cup of coffee.  Looking back over it I see that we didn't start out with a sunrise photo.  I'm thinking that blue water one will serve as an acceptable stand-in for anyone north of about 35 degrees latitude right about now.

How about a moonrise photo as consolation?

And this one, of course, is  a sunset.

We'll post the rest of those SUP-around-the-island photos next, unless something else interesting happens in the meantime.  And it sometimes does. 

See you Monday.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Random Bits

We had a short and unexpected trip to Massachusetts this past weekend. A three day visit.  New England.  Deep winter.  Record blizzard.

Stepping outside the hotel in Boston felt like being dropped naked into ice water.   And I can actually make this claim with some authority.  I know what I am talking about.  I have been dropped naked into ice water before.  Several times.  I found out that  people in Finland  cheerfully do this to visitors from North America, for example.   It might be a national hobby.  I don't know.  I haven't been back.

Now that I think about it, that's pretty close to what actually happened when we stepped off that airplane at Logan airport. Except for the naked part.  If that part had happened in Boston, you probably would have already read about it.  It's not news when it happens in Finland.

I've  been standing at a hotel window looking out at Cambridge Massachusetts. We arrived as the airport reopened after a blizzard, with another one scheduled already.  Although I just posted  fresh photos a few days ago,  I'm thinking that maybe another post might go well with some folks in the northeastern USA right about now.   If ever a place needed a few tropical scenes to break up this gray scale snow monotony.... this place does.  I don't have much in the way of fresh material as it's only been a few days since I uploaded what I had and we've been traveling since then.   But I do have some more photos taken during the past two weeks that I could put up for your viewing pleasure.  Or your derision, if that lifts your spirits. So this is another photo fresh from just last week, on the southern shore of the island of Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands.   I didn't want anyone to think I took these photos in Cambridge Massachusetts in February. Or anywhere in Finland at any time.

Jacob is one of those solid, compactly constructed guys with a phenomenal sense of balance who took to the SUP  easily.  He's been like that since he was  kid.  Skateboards, skis, inline skates, doesn't matter much.  He'd be a good surfer if he wanted to be.

If I had booted up the camera a few minutes earlier that photo would have included Dooley the Demented standing on the board with Jacob.  But Dooley had decided that whatever I was doing over on the beach looked more interesting than riding around on a surfboard.  So he'd jump ship and was doing his Dooley doggie paddle over to where I was trying to get some artsy looking photos for this blog.   He was just cruising around swimming in big circles, eyes half closed in some private reverie of his own.  I never know what this dog is thinking.  I'd be surprised if it's got anything to do with swimming, although, again, I just never know.  What we do know is that he loves the water.  

I was standing in that water   near the spot where I took that little video that we posted in the previous blog post.   If you click on the "older posts" button way down at the bottom right corner of this blog, it'll take you back to that one.  If you want to see the video.  Or if I weren't so lazy I'd post a link to it like this.

I was hoping to maybe get another video without an unplanned dog swim through  it.  He's got a habit of interrupting peace and quiet wherever he finds it.  Unless it's during one of his quick lap power naps, of course.  

I was at that same rock formation but this was  at a different time of day than before.   The tide was high and the rocks were underwater.  La Gringa and Jacob were now well out on their trip around the little cay, so I just basically relaxed and explored the local ironshore.  Found a cave.  Crawled around with a camera looking for something worth recording.  

If you look at the photos on the previous post  you can easily see the difference between that low and this high tide.   We have about a foot and a half, or roughly 50 cm of tide here, normally.    If you look carefully at this photo you can see the rest of my immediate family on their paddleboards, heading for that little cay offshore.  I think Dooley the Tropical Disturbance was on the paddleboard with La Gringa.

We have two paddleboards and three paddlers, along with a single non-contributing quadruped, so one of us (me) was marooned ashore while the other two were out exploring.   The dog rode with them.  I roamed around the beach looking for interesting stuff.    This is not unusual behavior. Saw the usual collection of sand, shells, rocks, salt water.   You know.    This is probably the same type of stuff you see  in New York or Montreal this time of year, too.  

I really didn't have to look too far to find a nice shady   spot on the beach to wait.  This little Casuarinas tree made a really nice goof-off spot once I cleared out a couple of sticks and branches.   Nice soft layer of  leaves that look like pine needles, although they are not. If I had another one of these trees, and a hammock.... I could have tried for a Corona commercial.

This section looks like it could have been gouged out by a machine of some kind.  Maybe a bulldozer with a comb on the bucket.  I was surprised to see it, though.  Would a contractor here really drive a machine that expensive on the edge of salt water?   It doesn't make much sense, but apparently that's what happened.  I'm not totally sure about it, as I couldn't find any of the heavy metal tread marks a bulldozer would have left.   Makes for an interesting beach though.  Traps stuff  that get washed over the ridges into the ruts.

If you read much of this blog from the past you already know we hang out a lot at South Side Marina. Bob, the owner, has been  making a lot of improvements to the marina recently.  We stopped by a few days ago to check on the boat and saw yet another project underway. Men with jackhammers and shovels were hard at work carving a stairway into the rock.  We took some photos.  

We've noticed concrete and stone steps carved and poured into various slopes all over this island and I was interested in seeing how it's done.  I've finally discovered that quite often the local methods end up being what I end up with after wasting a lot of time and effort arriving at the same conclusions someone else arrived at after going through the same processes.  Duh.

I wonder how Einstein would have characterized that behavior.   It's sounding scarily close to how he defined insanity.

They use a combination of techniques for these stairs.  They carve the shape of the steps into the rock face with a combination of electric jackhammer and chisels, and use those carved, partial stairs to position the wood framing they use to form the concrete portions.  They use mortar to position limestone blocks in the stairs, too.

Notice how the end of that bubble level is resting on a stair carved into the rock face in this next photo.  This is how they get their rise and tread dimensions all correct and uniform.  And that's one of the few things that is uniform around here.

I wasn't sure if this was some kind of ceremonial bug stomping hatchet dance  for the stair gods, or maybe the guy just needed to use the bathroom.  Good shot of the stairs, though. Some of us are undoubtedly impressed by the sartorial splendor of the TCI stair builders, and I admit... it IS impressive.

Looking at that photo might lead one to believe these guys are working in a harsh  dusty environment, but that's just the stuff that these islands are constructed of. Limestone.   They don't have to walk far when they need a refreshing drink. Grab a coconut off the tree with a rake, and chop it open with a machete.  Sort of a tropical version of a vending machine.    

When I start writing about construction techniques I know that I am dangerously close to falling back into DIY mode here.   I'm going to shift the subject back to boats before that happens.   Don't worry, I'll warn you non-DIY types beforehand.

This is essentially our second "season" of spending the majority of our spare time at the marina working on a boat instead of being out exploring.  We're starting to see a pattern.  We meet a lot of cruisers passing through on their way either north or south and now we're starting to recognize friends  on their return north from their cruises.   Last season we met Jorge and Kim as they headed south from Canada to the Caribbean on their long-planned, two year sabbatical Caribbean cruise.  Last week they were here again, passing through this time on their way back home to Canada. Back to a life ashore in the frozen north.  They spent the 2014 hurricane season down in Grenada.   Jorge is from Argentina, and we found a mutual interest in things mechanical.  Last season, Jorge and Kim and s/v CS'ta Time  were at South Side Marina for a couple of weeks while Jorge completely rebuilt the V-drive transmission on his boat.   This guy is the most meticulous mechanic I have ever met. He taps a roller bearing into place the way a Swiss watchmaker handles the tiny gears in a Rolex.   You could safely serve salad inside one of his crankcase housings.  It's that clean.  This year, nothing on their boat was broken so it was a short visit.  Too short.    I briefly considered sabotaging his fuel line or something just so they'd stay a few days longer while Jorge repaired each individual molecule of the damage.  It's a joy to watch, if you're patient.  But of course I wouldn't do that to him.  And they have a schedule to keep, friends to meet up with in Nassau.

I am very interested in the way the radar/solar panel arch is attached to CS'ta Time.  It's attached to the toe rails, instead of being bolted to the fiberglass.  We also have toe rails on s/v Twisted Sheets.

(I thought I'd give you non DIY readers and recovering Super Bowl fanatics a two minute warning.)  

I was taking photos of Jorge's arch setup as he was fueling up for their departure from the marina.  At least, that was my excuse for walking over to their boat again as they were warming up the diesel and getting ready to depart.  They had to catch a weather window to Mayaguana.  They have no plans to come this way again.   We have no plans to ever be in Toronto. These kinds of good byes have some weight to them. Handshakes and hugs last just a second longer than they might have on another day. Emails and "boat cards" are exchanged. But we all know that's more for the scrapbook memories than it is for any real kind of future planning.

And then all too soon our part in their life's journey is behind them.  Once again we've been honored to become part of  someone else's cruising memories.  We know their two years on the boat have been very exciting for them, and that they're also glad to be on the homeward leg now, with only the Bahamas and US to traverse.  

Of course we all know that all good things must come to an end.  This seems to be one of life's immutable lessons, and we are getting accustomed to saying goodbye to friends way before we're ready to say good bye to them..
I guess that could be a simplified analogy for life in general.

You know that mixed emotion, bittersweet kind of feeling you can sometimes get when you're both happy and sad at the same time? 

Watching good friends sail away forever is kinda like that.   

Goodbye, Jorge and Kim. It was a four star, blue ribbon, Olympic class pleasure to meet you guys. We wish you fair winds home on CS'ta Time.  

Warning.BOAT DIY SECTIONNon technical and the otherwise bored can bail out right about here. There are no pretty tropical photos past this point.

Okay, now that the tropical scenery stuff is out of the way I can talk about the boat again.   If the blog is supposed to be about our life here (and it is) then this has to be in it, because for the past couple of years this old bateau has been a big part of what we're focusing on.   

First I want to explain my interest in Jorge's arch attachment points.  We are looking at options for replacing the structure that came with the boat. This includes the hard top, solar panels, dinghy davits, and maybe the dinghy too.  The design that I'm looking at includes a big radar arch like Jorge's, but ours would be connected to the cabin roof with a series of 2" OD schedule 80 aluminum tubing.  In general, an outline of what I have in mind would look something similar to this:

If you look at some of the photos of the boat we've posted you can see that what's on the back of it now is pretty ugly.  This new design should address a few of my objections to the previous owners' solutions.

This would be a big project for us.  I've been looking at the pre-fab "arch in a box" concept that Atlantic Towers sells.  Of course we've also considered having one custom built here, but suspect it would be cost prohibitive.   

That project is on hold until we secure some more funding.  Anyone want to buy a Hobie Tandem Island and a Mojito skiff? How about a nice, almost new three bedroom home on a hill overlooking the Caicos Bank? I'm serious.  Meanwhile, we're actively working on a number of other projects that we can afford at the moment.

For example, notice that in this photo there is a big hole where a window is normally located. We continue to chase down leaks.  We're getting pretty good at it, but sometimes we still have to pull the entire window and scrape out all previous attempts.  

Makes a bit of a mess inside the boat when we do, too.

Jacob has been concentrating on the painting and carpet work while I've been finishing up myriad little electrical and mechanical issues.   This is the overhead fiberglass in one of the forward cabins. The window frames are taped prior to painting.  

This is all area that was smothered under an inch or more of foam rubber and vinyl wall covering when we bought the boat.   We haven't yet decided what we want to replace the vinyl/foam with, but in the meantime we wanted to make the boat more 'livable' by making the raw fiberglass cloth look a little softer inside.

Our thoughts are that someday we'll take the boat to someplace like Honduras or Columbia and have the entire interior remodeled in tropical wood.   Meantime, we've been looking at scenes like this, except of course normally there are bolts in those holes around the window.

 And don't get me started on these bolt holes.  Because I am of the firm opinion that one should not be able to look out through holes in this type of installation.  I think it's a horrible design, but then I'm probably biased against it because I've spent so many long hours dealing with it. But I'm operating on the basic premise that holes and hulls are at cross purposes when it comes to water management.

Even thought I suppose one might consider the boat itself just a big expensive hole in the water. A squall moved in just as we got the bolts all removed from the window.  This is what it looked like through that window about fifteen minutes after that photo above was taken.

 Great timing, eh?  And yeah, we had some leaks.  Some of them could have been named Niagara.  Thank goodness for bilge pumps and sedatives.

Our friends at TCI Paint and Supply have mixed up some latex paint that matches the buttery color of our boat.  This is a high quality latex from Benjamin Moore paints. We've used a variety of methods to prep the inside fiberglass, and are still having a lot of trouble getting the old glues off.  We're using some Goo Gone type of citric solvents, but honestly, they are not working worth a tinker's damn.  So we scrape by hand, dig into the weave with knife points to dig out little globules of glue, apply a wire brush in some spots, and we always finish up with sanding sponges to remove residue and to rough the surface enouth to give the paint some teeth. It's not a two part paint, but so far it seems to be pretty tough stuff.   It sticks well and dries to a very durable coat.  It fills some of the weave effect of the fiberglass cloth. We're seeing a lot of cosmetic improvement with the very first coat.  And it's all getting at least two coats, or more.  I'll use fiberglass body filler to fair the rougher sections prior to painting.

Well I think that's more than enough for this one.  I could ramble on a bit more and I have tons of photos of various bits and bobs of  boat boogers, but  I've got this new plan to post something every week going forward, and if I'm going to get this posted on a Monday, well.... it's Monday.

See you next week.