Monday, March 30, 2015

Toil and Trouble

This may well be the thinnest post we've done since we settled down to be intentional 'bloggers'.  It's going to be thin because we had one of those nose-to-the-limestone and by golly keep-the-momentum-going kind of weeks.  That was supposed to be grindstone, wasn't it.  It fits either way. A grindstone here would be limestone.  There are no other kinds of rocks here, unless they were imported. Apparently it's easier for me to keep typing than it is to go back and change it.  I think this pretty much defines some special kind of laziness that happens from time to time.  Maybe it's a form of tropical inertia.  I could do it, you know.  Go back and change it to grindstone.  If I really wanted to.  I've thought about it.  Obviously.  What's the word for things one procrastinates and never addresses? Pending?

I'd rather just post a sunrise photo.  This one was taken this very morning so it should still smell pretty fresh.  And you may well recognize a recurring theme near and dear to our hearts in the silhouetted  sailboat in a tropical dawn after a  night on the hook'.

I suspect that this boat is awaiting high tide to get into the Caicos Marina and Shipyard.  These are tricky waters for boats in general and for large monohull sailboats specifically.   If you are ever sailing a boat that draws six feet or more through the Turks and Caicos Islands,  you would do well to stay to the published routes.  Don't try the sailboat offroad thing.  Not here.  Look at the charts and see many many square miles labeled "unsurveyed" and "numerous coral heads".    If you do go wandering off the beaten path here, plan to use the maximum light and put a lookout on the bow.

 The forecast today is for winds to be increasing and gusting to over 20 knots. This sailor picked a good spot for the night but we'd be surprised to see them still here come sundown.  That reads like the dialog from a bad western, doesn't it? It's a good temporary anchorage in calm winds and anything from the north, and those conditions don't typically hang around for long here.

We've been working on our boat.  I don't really expect this song to change much, if at all, for the next few weeks.  Working on The Boat is what we do now, for now.  It's become one of those obsessions that's difficult to explain to others. And  difficult to explain even to ourselves sometimes. The amount of work we've put into this boat is thousands of times what I had anticipated when we bought it. And I expected significant work.  Just not for over two years.    This might even qualify for one of those life experience stories.  Some day when it becomes funny in the retelling.  Don't you just wish you could jump to the funny part sometimes?

I think this must have some similarities to the last couple of miles of a marathon  to a long distance runner.  The end is approaching, it's starting to look like it might be within reach.  But it's not guaranteed, not by a long shot.  Nor is the amount of time it took to complete going to be known until after it's done.    I never see photos of those marathon runners smiling at the end.   At least we're still smiling.  Usually.  After 5:00 anyway.  I had to look up grimace just now.  I decided to use smile in that sentence, instead.  But it was close.

I stuck a little camera on the boat a couple days ago, and let it run at five second intervals throughout the afternoon.   I had forgotten I bought one of the Sony versions of a Go-Pro competitor a while back.  Thought I would see if it still works.   We're not in frame much, except for a part where La Gringa had to make a cell phone call to the USA shouting her credit card number into her  phone without anyone else in the marina overhearing it.  This is a brief study in an attempt to use body language to affect technology.  Between noise, the need for privacy and bad connections, she was in cell phone signal contortion.   She didn't realize I had stuck a camera there either.  Obviously.

There are other things going on in there, but you'd have to examine it pretty closely.  Sure looks like while things are fairly steady on our boat, the rest of the world is looking pretty shaky from  here.

I'm not qualified to describe the color green, but I'm told that the vegetation here is starting to show more variety as we move from the driest part of the year into the growing season.  We're getting more rain now, and the foliage is responding.

That's what passes for a small tree here on this hill.  It's easy to see that the wind has been constantly blowing over this plant for all of it's life.  All of the branches but one have turned downwind  as they grew above the protective layer of the surrounding bush.  As soon as the trade winds find them, they start pushing them to the southwest.   And the branch that tried to buck the wind got turned back, and completely doubled over eventually.  And now it's half the length of the branches that went with the flow from the beginning.   But it's been rewarded by the morning sun, and the first drops of rain as well.  Life to windward, perhaps?  Tough, but it has its own rewards.

Dooley the Disinterested and I were walking around the house yesterday looking for one of his lost fetch tennis balls when we were reminded of the effects of the trade winds up here on this hill.  It makes for a constant breeze and it is almost always comfortable, but there are downsides as well.   We, of course, are completely accustomed to what might strike some as an alien landscape. Dooley can find things like chicken bones and tennis balls fairly quickly if he keeps his nose to it and runs that crosswind search pattern that all dogs seem to know.  He develops a rhythm, bopping along with his tail up and his nose down.  Wonder what's going through his hairy little mind.

I want to cut one of these branches cleanly enough to count the growth rings, but I don't want to injure a plant.  It takes a long time for things to recover here.  Nutrients and water are in short supply. Sunshine, we got.  I know the wood here is very tough, and brittle.  It looks soft, like you could easily brush past it.  But it's not soft at all.  None of it.  Wandering carelessly through this will produce a number of deep and bleeding scratches to bare legs.  And you would definitely not want to fall down in this stuff.  Think  multiple punctures.   I've just recently failed to relearn this again, apparently.  I was tromping through the underbrush looking for a crashed drone last week. While it was still working.  The drone is no longer still working, but I'm still bleeding.  We try to stay on the edges of the bush.  This is the sort of twisted things that happen to small sprigs when they're exposed to  breaking wind...

We haven't done much tropical fun stuff this week.  Our days have followed a pattern.  We usually hang around the house for the first  couple of hours after dawn. We begrudge the time but have to take care of non-boat related issues, catching up on correspondence, house maintenance, and things like that. By mid-morning we're typically on our way to South Side Marina with a  cooler packed and a plan in mind for the day.  Sometimes the plan even goes according to plan. I'd guess that happens about half the time.  The other half  of the time is full of mostly unpleasant surprises.  I  remember back when surprises were fun. That was before we started refitting a boat.

At the end of the day we often stop by Bob's Bar to see what's going on.  We're not there every night, but maybe two or three times a week.   We typically head straight home when we're tired and it's late and I'm covered with something that most people would find alarming. Some evenings we just want a fresh water washdown before even considering anything else.

I think Thursdays are the quietest nights at Bob's. Thursday is a big Chamber of Commerce style fish fry on the beach  over near the Department of Boat Stuff across the island.  Vendors, activities, loud noises, music. Best night for a quiet drink everywhere else on the island. There tends to be a splash of activity at Bob's just around sundown as people stop by specifically to watch it. It's a good kicking off spot for the evening.   And cruisers rarely stay up late.  We've heard 9 PM referred to as Cruiser Midnight.

A quick look at the   people in this photo reveals  a mix of nine local residents, four cruisers, two vacationers from a resort somewhere, and us.  There were cars pulling up in the parking lot as we departed, though.  If we had done our little head count a few minutes later it would have weighed   much heavier on the tourista side.   And by 8 pm there were probably 40 people here.  Or so we heard.

It's got an ebb and flow all its own, intricately impacted by the interrelated and undulating yearly variables from which the seasons are formed here. Weather is one of the factors, of course, but there are others. School holiday schedules in far off lands. The time of year. Airfares.  Economies. What's happening elsewhere on the island. There's an irregular but generally repeatable pulse to it all. And then there are the regulars here. Up to a dozen or more, including us, for whom this is the neighborhood bar. We can get to this place without ever touching pavement. Could be worse, eh?

This is a view of the underside of the canvas roof over the bar.  The big panels around the edges swing down and lock for storms. Visitors have been writing messages and signing their boat names and dates to the underside of the panels.  It's encouraged.  And as sometimes happens with bars, foreign objects have started making their way into the fabric of the place.  Some of this stuff even came from us  That fellow in the colorful shirt is from Austin.  He was soon playing a drum La Gringa brought home from Morocco. And he's good at it.

So, while this has not been an exciting week by any means, it's been a typical one. We'll spare you three dozen photos of boat DIY.  It's hard enough for me to look at them and I'm living this stuff. I'm tempted to say that I can hardly wait until the day when I look back fondly and remember the time we refitted an old English sailboat in a small island nation. Let's just say we're not anywhere near the looking back fondly part yet.

I can't post this without ANY boat photos.  Not if I call this a weblog and this a typical week.  But I can go easy on you.  I'll take the good, the bad, and the ugly, and just throw out the ugly one for starters.   There's been enough ugly. The bad is really just following up on an identified issue.  I was crawling under the helm console chasing wire gremlins, when one of them suddenly bit me. I was wearing one of my semi sleeveless ragged old t-shirts with holes where seams were once continuous.  You know the ones, tie-dyed by life.  And whilst (yeah, I know, but I don't get many chances to use that word) I wriggled and squirmed my ancient carcass up under the electrified cabinetry, I suddenly felt a quick and jabbing sensation like a wasp on steroids was tattooing the back of my shoulder with a sewing machine. It was very sudden, that 60 cycles per second muscle spasm.   And I didn't just feel it on my shoulder. I was making great electrical contact. I was aware of the places on my arm where I was touching electrical ground, and providing a clear path for this Damoclean threat made real.   I wonder how many years this has lain in wait.

And I was snugged from the waist up inside a cabinet door. Sudden and involuntary forward motion initiated by the electric shock further intensified my rapidly deteriorating situation here. You should have seen what I wrote first time around for that one.  I reworded it.  Cleaned it up a lot. I think I banged my head, elbow, and knee while biting my tongue.  And they say I can't multitask... ha.

I had posted a photo of the offending connection earlier, but I didn't actually take it apart and fix it until it zapped me again, this week.  Maybe that gives you an idea of how things are going. A potentially life threatening electrical contact is second priority.

Anyhow, when I unwrapped it I found exactly what I had expected.  I've seen this handiwork before.

My nemesis was the little bit of bolt connecting the two black wires on the left.  It was exposed through a hole between releasing wraps of the paper painters tape that was used to insulate this marvel of mechanical connections. Some years ago. I wonder what the electrical insulation value half life for masking tape would be. Paper tape in a marine environment.  Don't you just love it. But don't rub a sweaty bare shoulder against it.  Unless you're into that kind of thing, I guess.  It is exciting.  I will say that for it.

And the good, well, that would maybe include a lot of the new types of things we're doing to make the boat more livable.  One recent example is the closet hanging rods. Closets are called 'hanging lockers' on boats.   And the vinyl coated steel tubes that we had to replace were rusted relics of a mistreated past.  We junked them.   And I made some new ones from things that will never rust.
These are Starboard (TM) scraps and PVC plumbing pipe, put together with stainless screws.   I am never going to worry about corrosion with these.  Never.  It's not elegant, but it will work real good and last a long time. And that makes me smile. We'd like to be at the beginning of that long time part for a change, instead of at the aft end.

This is now screwed to the overhead inside the cabinets.  The two long cross pieces are overkill for the closet rod, but they also help support the hull liner. Total  hardware is four stainless screws.

That's it for this post.   We'll cast an eye about for some fun stuff to photograph going forward, but we can't promise a hurricane every week, ya know.

Sunsets, we can manage.

 Mama said there'll be days like this.
There'll be days like this my mama said.


Monday, March 23, 2015

March Mix

That was one fast week, as fast weeks go.  And go it did.  I'm hoping this is just my 'magination (humming) 'running away with me'... but have the weeks been flying by quicker than usual lately?  I think maybe it's because I want things to be completed here, and they take many times more time than I have time for.  If you know what I mean.   We are finding ourselves spending time on the boat even when we're not working on it.  It's making that transition from the boat to our boat.  Or maybe we're the ones making the transition.

This morning was a real corker of a sunrise.  Not that this is something unusual, as we get a pretty good string of sunrises here.  Speaking as experienced sunrise observers.  But some just seem to have an extra drop of vivid in them.  Like whomever was putting them together had an exceptionally generous morning with the cosmic paintbrush.  Do cosmic paints have solvents in them?

This one was changing quickly even while I was snapping away. We had near clouds heading east, and high clouds heading south. And the sun was flicking the water up and down the scale.  I didn't know which photo was going to be the good one.  So I turned on the timed interval function on the little Pentax and just left it clicking away at one minute intervals.  This is not the way we usually do it.  But it sort of worked.  Here's a one hour sample of this morning's sunrise:

We still find ourselves oohing and aahing sunrises like we did when we moved to this island ten years ago.  And we all still grab our cameras for the nicer ones.  Well, two of us grab cameras.  One of us is still miffed about the  whole opposable thumbs allotment thing.  He feels slighted after he saw some chimpanzee documentaries on the nature channel.  He immediately saw the applications possible with thumbs, and I don't think that he realized that some animals could operate a can opener.  Oh my.  I don't even want to imagine a world of Jack Russell Terriers with working thumbs.  It could be worse than a huge tribe of psychotic raccoon.

This week followed one of the two familiar patterns we've fallen into lately.  We have one pattern for windy days, and one for calm days.  We are just now coming to the end of a week of very calm weather.   Also known as bug time.

When the trade winds give us a break for a few days, the seas calm down and all the sand suspended in the roiled waters settles out and becomes sea bottom again.   We see the clarity of the ocean just driving down the road to town.  The water is about two meters deep  just  off the shore.  When it's stirred up it's a milky turquoise color.  But on days like this we can see every detail of the bottom from fifty meters away.

 When the seas are calm and the winds take a break from buffeting and shoving La Gringa and I like to take the paddleboards out for a quick run.   This week we were at it again.  The paddleboarding, I mean.  The skies were doing their best to try to intimidate us.  But the water was calm and we decided that after two lightning strikes within ten meters of us in a year the chances of a third were pretty slim.  Statistics, right?

I am not even going to attempt to tell you what Dooley the Disgusted thought of this entire idea.   I thought we were going to have to tape his feet to the board.  I kept telling him "Dooley, look over in this direction.  See?  It's nice and sunny to the east!"  Unfortunately, the weather was coming from the west.  Which is the direction of that photo above.   And the dog knew it.

So we didn't make a morning of it but settled for an intense little workout while we paddled madly out to the little cay where we always turn around and head back.   I thought about bypassing this one and heading upwind to the next little cay but it would double the trip and I figure even suggesting it would have cost me at least of third of the crew.   Maybe next time.  That's our next goal, there in the middle distance.  We've taken the Hobie out there a few times, but haven't quite made it on the paddleboards.  Yet.

We've saturated you guys with SUP photos over the past two months so I'll try not to dwell on that again.   Unless something interesting happens.   It's pretty much the same thing over and over that we wrote about before.   Like my old West Caicos diatribes. I have noticed that the trip is taking less time these days. We're becoming more comfortable standing on the boards. La Gringa took to it immediately, but I'm pretty clumsy and have had to work at it.  It's amazing how much faster that I can get to my destination when I don't fall off every fifty meters , bashing something organic and painful against the board, snorting sea water while bruising body and ego.    Ah, those were the days.  We've made it to the first stage of eventual enlightenment, or something.  Practice, I guess.

This is approaching the little cay still standing on the board, for a change.  I'm usually walking in the knee deep water and pushing the SUP by now.

And this is getting all involved with standing up and holding a camera with forward momentum up to the point where I suddenly realized that this thing really doesn't have much in the way of brakes.

I don't remember actually taking that photo.  I had intended to take one, and then suddenly realized that I was about to merge much more closely with my suddenly changing environment. I do remember what happened about two seconds after I must have pressed the shutter.  Ouch.

Turning around and paddling back to the island of Providenciales looks amazingly like this.  We're aiming for the little stretch of beach to the right of center.  .

You can see that the weather from the west is almost directly overhead by this point.  And we still had a bit of distance to cover.   I didn't mess around with the camera much after this.  For I had promises to keep, and miles to paddle while I weep.  Or something like that.   In the future we'll probably not bother stopping for photos unless we see something really interesting or different.

A few posts back we showed you some photos of  boats tied up in South Side Marina waiting out the bad weather.    And now after a week of good weather the marina is again full as all the cruisers who were trapped somewhere else for the bad weather head south in clumps.   I think they formed friendships while waiting out weather in Mayaguana and Luperon.  Now they're traveling together. It's been so busy we ran up to the top of Jim Hill to get some photos of the marina while it had a boat in every available slip, and two anchored off the beach waiting for slips.

The empty spots in the lower right are reserved for the day charter dive boats that operate here, and those spots will be filled by about 15:00 hours when the divers get back from West Caicos.

Here's another view, same day.  There are two sloops rafted together at the fuel dock.   And the bar has been doing a booming business throughout it all.  Bob told us he had his biggest night ever this week, judging by the amount of liquor that was dispensed.

We're working on our own boat  here on most afternoons, and if we finish up whatever project we're on early enough we'll make the new stair climb up to Bob's Bar while telling ourselves this is exercise and it's good for us.  This has been Spring Break week in many places and there are a lot of people stopping by to check out the marina.  And the sunsets from here are pretty nice, too.  La Gringa is usually happy to take photos of visitors who want a 'selfie' with the sunset behind them.  Knowing how she juggles sunsets and cameras, I'll bet they got a surprisingly good photo of themselves.   And it didn't even cost them a rum punch.

We saw the rare sight of another ancient English catamaran coming into the marina this week.   This is a Prout, about the same age as our Catalac.   These boats are very distinctive catamarans, as they have an area in the hull called a nacelle.  You can just make it out in this photo although it was close to the end of the daylight.  The nacelle is a large bulb in the bottom of the bridgedeck between the hulls.  I'm no expert on them, but have read how they increase interior space and can be used to break up wave slap between the hulls.  We watched them come in with some interest.

We found out later that they were watching us with interest, too.  We spoke with Gary, the captain of the Prout and he knows a lot about Catalacs, too.  His family has been living on that boat for eleven years, spending the past four deep in the Caribbean.   We spoke of storm seasons, and what to do with a boat when hurricanes threaten.  We heard tales of tying up in mangroves and riding out storms that destroyed boats in marinas.  This info is not lost on us.

We are starting to feel very much at home on our old boat these days.  That's a result of spending hundreds of hours on board scrubbing, painting, ripping, cleaning and sometimes just relaxing.   I don't think there is much of the original interior surface left.   So everything we touch these days, or rub up against, has never been touched or rubbed up against by anyone but us.  If you get my drift.   I'll talk more about the boat in a minute, for those of you who follow that part of all of this.  Of course the rest of you have long recognized that I've developed an unhealthy obsession with the thing.  It keeps me out of the pool halls and bars.  Well, except for one bar, of course.  Bob's is not a typical bar.  It's more like a back porch with a fantastic view, cold beer, and rum punches.  And a cookout every Wednesday night for the cruisers.

Meanwhile back at the ranch..... I bought some UAVs, which are mistakenly called drones these days.  I figured that these little flying beasties would come in handy on our trips.  We should be able to get some great photos with the kites and drones.   I've got one with some fairly serious horsepower, GPS, a brain, etc. but I also bought a little cheapo to practice with.  This is so that I could learn to crash with a $50 toy and save the expense of crashing one that cost ten times that.  This is on advice I received from some teenaged wizards that live and breathe multi-rotors.  I rarely take advice, unfortunately, and it's even rarer yet that I would take it from someone a quarter my age.  But this time I did.  Kid made sense.  Go figure.

The little quadcopter I'm using as training wheels does have a video camera in it, but of course for fifty bucks total the quality of the camera is not anything to write home about.    I'd been flying it inside the house and garage for the better part of a week because the normal winds here would eat this little thing for breakfast on most days outside.  But as you've already read, we've had some calm days lately.  I decided to take the quadcopter outside and see how badly I would do.  It wasn't the best of weather for tropical photos, but it did have the makings for a potentially fine sunset.

Dooley the Disturbed doesn't know what to make of this little buzzing flying thing.   He followed me into the garage while I did a couple of warm up flights to make sure it was all working .  These next photos are screen shots from the video camera on the drone.  That's why they are low resolution.    This is Dooley watching me fly it under a table saw.   I like to think that he was amazed at my new skill.   But I don't think so.  He knew I never actually intended to fly it  under the table saw. I was hoping to hover over the Honda.

After I got the feel for it, we waited until we had light winds just before sunset.   Light winds here are still 5 mph.   We took it outside up on to the patio.  I worked to get it upwind, and on the way back I was hedge-hopping back to the house.  Literally.   And if the camera resolution was a bit better, you could see the concern in the worried fellow's beady little eyes.   The dog was  pretty nervous, too.

We grabbed our little drone weather window and took it up above the house.  I did manage to point it at the sunset for a moment or two in the grand scheme of things.  Makes me wish I had a better camera up there.

The experiment was not without incident.   The onboard camera managed to catch the dog's response the moment it crashed next to him on the top of the garage.   Color him surprised when this thing suddenly dropped out of the sky next to him with the noise of  four motors whining while I struggled to get it under control and back into the air.  I gotta say, the old boy still reacts well and the footwork is exceptional under duress.  Dooley, I meant.  

The under control part is important here.  Because La Gringa was also standing just a few feet away shooting sunset photos.  Made a convenient place for the little booger to find some long skirts to hide behind.  What a namby.

 Well, I did manage to get it back into the air.  This is from a hover downwind and above the house.   The crash from here was spectacular.   That little drone made it almost a week.   Now I need another one.

In last Monday's post I mentioned that we'd seen some photos from our long time  friend Trish.  She just won a local fishing tournament with a fairly respectable wahoo.    If you know these fish, you'll know that this one is plenty big enough to take an arm off.

We've written about Trish before.  She's one of the more experienced fishing charter skippers here on the island.  She managed to hook up with this monster from the sportfishing boat "Gwendolyn".  The wahoo was officially 103.5 lbs.  That's a lot of fish and chips.

When was the last time you caught a fish that took two of you to carry home?

Okay we're getting near the end of this week's post and I can't stand it any more.  I have to put in at least a couple photos of the boat.  I mean, this is mostly what we do during the week.   The SUP was one hour of the week.  Boat work is 30 hours plus.  So for those readers who like to bail out of this blog before the boat DIY stuff, this is your cue:


I bet that got your attention.  And it's true.  I think everything in a blog is graphic content, isn't it?  Funny how the media controls our language.  Or tries to.  I just caught myself using the term 'drone' repeatedly.  Even though I know it's wrong.

I've been doing a bit of fiberglass work lately.  The boat doesn't need much in the way of patching.  Most of what it does need  is cosmetic.  This was  a repair that was poorly done by someone else.  A cracked bulkhead had been globbed with a compound known as 5200, which other boaters will recognize immediately.  This is like the glue Superman would use.  If Superman used glue.  Someone glassed over the 5200, but with polyester resin.  Which I think is fine for auto body repair, but not the best patch on an epoxy resin hull.  I re-fixed it.  This was taken during the re-fix.  I didn't take an after photo. Just imagine it all smooth and strong and done right and checked off a list of endless pages of similar projects stretching into my future.   I hope.  It's good to have a future of some kind.

I've found that I can get a limited quantity of decent fiberglass down here, the West Systems 105 for those of you who also get into this stuff.   The local boat supply store has some limited stock.  For example, they have the resin.  And they have the catalyst.  But they do not have the special pump that mixes it in a 5:1 ratio.  Great.  I had to come up with something simple and workable.   I'm going to mention it here just in case anyone reading this finds themselves in a similar situation.

I  cut the top off of an aluminum can and marked it inside.  This makes a good disposable small-batch mixing container.  It gets hot when the epoxy is kicking over, but it doesn't melt.    For the 5:1 ratio, I made a mark at 50 mm up the side of the can, and a second mark 10 mm above it.    

For the 5:1 resin to hardener ratio I filled the can to the 50 mm mark with resin, and then topped it to the 60mm mark with catalyst.  I used the bottom of the top mark because I wanted the mix a little on the cool side in this climate.  Worked, too.

Here's another example of why this old boat is taking me forever to refurbish. It's all the unanticipated little things that pop out when I start poking around.  This is what typically happens:

I am in the starboard head (right side bathroom)  just doing a general cleanup.  Looking for any little things that might need attention.  I notice that the overhead light is in good shape.  It's a quality fixture and works just fine.    I wanted to take a look at the wiring, anyhow.  I've found a lot of bad wiring and connections over the weeks.  So I thought this would be about a three minute job.  Take the light off, check the wiring, replace the light, move on to next project.  No biggie, right?

Wrong.  It is a biggie, to me anyway.  This is what I found when I removed that light. The heat of the incandescent lamp that some bozo installed in this fixture had melted the vinyl and set the plywood behind it on fire.   I mean  fire as in smoking, blackened generating actual flames kind of fire.   Unintentional fires are really bad news on boats.    There's no place to run from which to fight a fire. Imagine standing in the middle of a bonfire you're trying to extinguish.   It's not good.   We shall strive to eliminate potential sources of unwanted fires from the boat.

What really got me about this one was the previous owner's "fix" for this.  He used plastic tape to hold pieces of aluminum foil over the burnt hole, but he replaced it all the same way.  Think about that one for a minute.  If it was hot enough to melt approved marine vinyl, what would it do to a piece of Scotch Tape?  yeah, exactly.

So, my anticipated three minute job is a pipe dream.  I'll have to make some changes here. It will take time and money I had not planned on.  And this is just one little example.  I have to  wonder what else this marvel of a modern handyman might have repaired that I don't know about yet.  I mean have to as in am now required to.   I could do without surprises like this.  I do suppose it's good that I am finding these things now, at the dock.

We're also still removing things that we don't want on the boat, but  the rate has slowed somewhat.  This is as the decisions have gotten a lot  harder.  Last week I took the single sideband radio off.  Yesterday, it was the life raft.   This was added by the second owner for his two trans-Atlantic trips in this boat.  The third owner liked the idea of having a life raft in Jacksonville's St. John's river, I guess, because he left it onboard, too. For six years. We'd never use a north Atlantic style enclosed life raft here in the tropics, and we didn't want the weight or clutter on board so we removed it.  And now we need to figure out what to do with a never-used, $ 4,000 life raft.   Had a good time getting it off the deck, too.   It turned into one of those late afternoon jobs that kept us on the boat until after dark.  Again.

"Hang on, babe.  Just ten more minutes...." said thirty minutes ago.

I guess there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than working on a sailboat on a tropical island with a patient beautiful woman for advice and support.

On a different note here's a photo that I have no reason to post other than it made me smile.   This is a Lincoln Continental with a custom paint job.  I don't know that I've ever seen a Lincoln with yellow flames on it, before.  I wonder if Ford is going to offer this as an option?

I know the flames are not that easy to see on that photo, so I cropped that part:

To paraphrase a song from my distant past... " Son your Momma must have sure been drinking when she gave you a paint brush and Grandma's Lincoln...."

And on that light note I'll finish with the photo that La Gringa was trying to take while I crashed my first drone behind her scaring the bejesus out of the dog, who promptly dove for the skirts.  The wimp.

And now that Monday morning blog post is out of the way, we're off  to the marina to go work on the boat.  Surprise surprise.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Terrier of the Tropics

Wow, a week goes by fast when you have a deadline.   Even though it's pretty much self imposed it's still there, ya know?   Nipping at my heels, slapping at the back of my head.   Fortunately we seem to have had a fairly busy week when I look back at it.   Plenty of material.  Not hectic, not slow, somewhere around mid-throttle as our lives have gone lately.  And the deadline bit actually seems to help, somehow.  I think I just need direction.  And adult supervision.

I have a sunrise photo I took yesterday morning that I was going to post here, but then today La Gringa took this one.  A nice sunrise at the last moment just as I was writing this post. I liked it better than mine.

We had this great thunderstorm going on between us and the sunrise.  Well, two of us thought the thunderstorm was nice.  We do have one small quadraped in the family who sees no value, no use, and absolutely no humor at all in thunderstorms.  He was nowhere to be found while these photos were being taken.  This dog will hide from memories of thunderstorms.  He'll run from a rumor if it has lightning in it.

This is the shot I was going to use, until my better half trumped me with her better eye and fancier camera.  pfttt.  Maybe I put too much weight in the departing sloop.  A lot of that going around in my head, lately. Envy.

I'm just kidding, of course.  I liked her photos better and that's the long and short of it.  My masculinity can handle the fact that my wife is quite often the better photographer.   She zoomed in on the sunlight on the water just under the cloud.   That's a little break between squalls.  Like this:

Okay that's enough sunrises for one morning.  Some might say more than one sunrise in a day is cause for alarm, come to think of it.   Unless you're an astronaut, I suppose.

Anyhow, moving onward, we had a busy week again at South Side Marina.   We're there a big part of most days as has been the pattern of our lives now since the beginning of the year.   We're working on our boat, and we haven't been doing anything of a fun nature for what seems like centuries.   I guess we could say we're committed.  Or should be.

We do get breaks from the drudge work.  This week was a nice surprise for me personally. Once again we've been fortunate to get to meet an internet pen pal in person.  And this was a good one.  Not all of them are, you know.   I suspect you've discovered that on your own already.

John Pederson and I have exchanged messages on a variety of boating related issues over the past several years on a multihull sailboat forum.  John lives in England and also sails a small catamaran.   Usually in England.

This is the view from Bob's Bar three days ago.

If you look out onto the Caicos Bank, just above the railing you can see two catamarans anchored just off the beach here.   The wind was blowing 24 knots from the east, and Sapodilla Bay was getting bumpy.  So some boats moved over here for some calmer water.  And to take on fuel and water from South Side Marina.

The yellow boat in the foreground is John's boat.  It's a Richard Woods design called the Sagitta model.  That is the s/v Scrumpy.

My British internet pen pal just sailed that little boat alone from England to St. Lucia.   He'd never done a trans-Atlantic crossing of any kind, and his first one was in a small, non-production catamaran.  With no crew. It took him 21 days to cross the Atlantic, 2800 miles in storms that had him surfing down waves at 20 knots while doing everything in his power to slow the boat down.   He has some interesting stories to tell, and we were fortunate enough to hear a few of them when he visited us on Twisted Sheets at the marina.

For example, in addition to the howling winds and heavy following seas, his two old outboards had finally given out, and he sailed into Providenciales with no other form of propulsion whatsoever.   He picked up a six hp motor while he was here, and that's all he has on the boat in addition to the sails.

Now here's an even better story, he's leaving here bound for Nassau and Bermuda and then he's sailing s/v Scrumpy back across the North Atlantic, alone, for the second time. I'm not sure I've met anyone who was doing two solo trans-Atlantic sails in one season before.    Certainly not in a 30 foot boat.       There's hope for us all.    The crazies, I meant.

We'd hoped to get together again before he left,  I wanted to hear more about how you sleep when you have to sail for 24 hours a day.  He wanted to know more about putting a 3D printer on a boat.  But the winds changed to briefly favorable and we looked up from our boat work yesterday afternoon to see John's mast moving away from the anchorage.   I dropped my  globby old glue scraper and belatedly checked my email and saw  that he was grabbing the weather window to head up to Mayaguana.   On the move again.  La Gringa and I hopped in the car and charged up to the top of the nearest hill to try to get a good photo of  him leaving under sail.  He goes everywhere under sail.  No kidding.  This is the road at the top of the hill.  We've shown you views from up here before.

We've flown the kite up here a few times for aerial photos, too.   This time we drove to the end of the road and I climbed up as high as I could get for a good vantage point another couple of meters above La Gringa there at the end of the road.

And we were too late to get a good photo.  The wind was buffeting me and I only had my little handheld pocket camera.   And the boat was getting smaller by the minute,  so I only got crummy photos, but hey they're better than nothing.  Besides, I promised you guys some blue water photos last week as I recall.   Here's Scrumpy heading out, with Bay Cay in the background.  Big ocean out there for such a little bitty boat.

If you want to follow John's progress, he has a pretty good sailing blog going at
Sagittacatamaran.  Some great photography, too.

That day was an unusual break in what's been a very windy season so far. After John and Scrumpy left there were two other boats who departed for various scattered destinations.   We met all of these cruisers while they stayed at South Side.  We get to know a little bit about people passing through, as most of them stay several days to a week or so.  And we get together at the bar, and we talk thoughout the day and often help each other with lines and fenders and advice and parts.   We know where they came from, some of their  thoughts and experiences, and in most case we know where they plan to go next.  

In this  next photo, for example, you already know that the boat on the left is heading north up through the Bahamas to Bermuda and across the Atlantic home to England.    The middle boat, a Beneteau monohull, is heading south to Luperon in the Dominican Republic and then down the Lesser Antilles into the Caribbean.  The trailing monohull under power on the right is heading east, skipping Puerto Rico to avoid paying US taxes on the boat he bought in Panama, and planning to cruise the British Virgin Islands for a while.  That's all I'm going to say about that, but you get the idea.  They sail in, hide from the wind for a few days and get replenished.  Then they scatter and it all reorganizes, and it happens again.  We'll have a new batch of neighbors in the marina shortly, and they will all be different but with commonalities as well.  Like minded people.

 I think someone should start writing a regular column about this place, Tales from the South Side or some kind of thing.  The marina gets a pretty reliable stream of interesting people coming through.  Especially this time of year.  People are starting to head back north after a season in the islands. Things have shifted in their worlds, as many return to corporate and community lives after a sailing hiatus.   There's plenty of material. And it's constantly changing.  I didn't even tell you guys about Trevor and the Princess, or the Russians, or the drowned dog.  Maybe some of this stuff needs to wait for the book.  After we're safely away.

After these three boats left on the favorable departure winds the marina was just about emptied out for the short term. It's never completely empty this time of year of course.  There are fishing boats tied up, several dive charter boats in and out, and there's our old boat still there being refitted.  Slowly.

Breaks in the weather generate a sort of sailing peristalsis up and down the Bahamas and Antilles.  Boats  leave here bound for their next destination, and in a big slow game of musical nautical chairs other boats leave places like George Town, Gt. Exuma, or Clarencetown, Long Island, or Luperon D.R., headed here.  And it continues throughout sailing season.

Not everyone who comes here stays in the marina the entire time.  Many sailors are on very tight budgets.   These guys spent several days tied up at South Side and then moved out here to save a few dollars by staying 'on the hook' in a protected  anchorage.  It's a good way to live on a boat that's largely self sufficient to begin with.  They're also only a short dinghy ride to the dock if they need help or supplies.

There's a young family with three pre-teen boys on that boat. A floating version of a tuning fork.  I'm surprised someones' not in the water, yet.   I'd be.  It might even still be this water.

We hear rumors that things might be changing in that view in the photo above. And soon.  Plans for dredging and building apartments on the shoreline.  Oh boy. Lots to write about.

While  up on the hill I snapped a photo of "our" hill off to the east.   We live in the little house with the white roof right in the middle of this image.  Not the big house on the right.  That belongs to the artist formerly and now again known as Prince.  Our part-time neighbor.

And you, too, can be Prince's neighbor for a while, if you like!  No kidding, it's the once in a lifetime opportunity to live next to a rock guitarist's vacation cottage.  Our house here will be going on the market  shortly after we move onto our sailboat full time.  Quiet neighborhood.  Smashing views, to boot.

I've heard from some readers that they miss the more frequent updates on Dooley the Demented.  I can assure you he's presently out on bail and doing his usual Dooley routine.  I was working on some shiny metal stuff for the boat this week and decided to take some photos of it in case I desperately needed some DIY to fluff up a section of this blog.  This was my backup in case nothing else happened to write about.   The dog has a love/hate relationship with the camera.  He gets nervous when I aim it at him.  I think this is related to the automatic flash, which sometimes goes off during a photo.   I also use it for fill sometimes when the sun is causing me shadow problems.  And I think he relates that flash of light to things like fireworks and lightning bolts.   Remember this is a dog who gets the vapors watching Boston weather forecast reruns, and he's never even been to Boston. But anything that reminds him of his storm experiences with us scares him and the camera makes him nervous.  But at the same time whenever I pull it out and hold it up he knows that something has caught my interest.  And that gets his interest.  He will invariably come over to see what I am so absorbed about.

It becomes difficult to get a photo without the dog in it, sometimes.  There was absolutely no doggie reason for him to give this anything more than a cursory sniff and  then move on.

And telling him to go away doesn't work.  THEN he gets suspicious about whatever it is I don't want him to see.  He knows something is going on.  He just can't always figure out what it is.   We have different scales on what constitutes 'interesting'.

I find very little of interest in a dead lizard or the lower foot and a half of a tree, for example.   And Dooley just can't get into close ups of flowers or boat parts.

So typically I just have to be patient and hope that something else comes along and distracts him for long enough for me to get the photos I actually wanted in the first place.

While we're on the subject of Doolance Winchester McDog I wanted to ask you for some advice.   See, we're planning to start exploring quite a bit of a wider area once we're moved onto the boat and mobile.  This has long been a plan of ours.  We just got distracted.  For ten years. 

 It's common for cruisers on boats to have little business cards printed up, called 'boat cards', that have the boat name, some contact info and that sort of thing on them.  They exchange cards with other cruisers, and keep in touch via email and radio and telephone.  We've got quite a collection already.

We've got our own boat cards, but I also wanted to print up some t-shirts with the boat name on it.  Just something a little different.  Printing t-shirts is not that big a deal if you want to go through the trouble.   So I had this mental image of a cartoon Dooley the Demented, Terrier of the Tropics thing going on.  But I need the graphics.   I'm not a good artist, although I can eventually work my way though a sketch.  No natural talent there, though.   So I found out about this Fivver thing, where artists and suppliers will sketch your pet for five dollars.  Supposedly.   I contacted an artist in India based upon examples of her work on Fivver and good reviews.  I sent her a link to Dooley's Facebook Page and told her I was interested in a drawing of Dooley standing on the bow of our boat.   I cobbled up some pirated (no pun intended) bits of clip art to show her kind of what I had in mind:
I can't use that really, because it's someone else's work that I sliced and diced, as an example of what I had in mind.    I wanted something original. I was thinking of Dooley with a caption, and I could come up with a new one every six months when the old ones wore out.  A series of unique t-shirts.  This kind of thing appeals to us. I was expecting a drawing for five bucks  within a day or so.   It didn't work out that way.  Probably due to my own naive inexperience dealing with Fivver.  I sent the link, a bunch of photos of the dog, and  I also sent the artist a rendition of a Catalac 12M boat.  And we only need the bow, with the dog on it.

And I thought I was pretty clear that what I wanted was something that looked like our dog, standing on the bow of something recognizable as our boat.  For a t-shirt.  I'll do the words and design, I just need the dog drawing.  I'm getting redundant again, aren't I?   Well, it didn't work in India.

 We eventually progressed to this point, with this being her first sketch back to me that we thought looked promising.  But it took a long time, and I started to get the feeling that I wasn't doing a very good job of communicating.  Still, this is workable.  

Finally, three weeks and fifty dollars into it we agreed that she'd drawn a caricature of Dooley.  What do you think?
Yes, me too.  I have mixed feelings about it.  Not exactly what I had in mind, but I don't want to keep this exchange with India going any longer.  I played with the eyes a bit and discovered that I can change things pretty easily as for expressions. 

So if I can get the colors right and a sword in his hand or a bandana and pistol or some pirate stuff on him, it might work.  Oh, I did finally ask about the dog on the boat, and when I saw the final work I realized just how deep my communication problem with artists in India is running. Well, this is what we have so far:

That doesn't look like our boat.  And this is when we decided we need some artists who are more familiar with our intended lifestyle.   

I think I am going to send photos of Dooley to four or five other artists and see what they come up with.  For $5.  

But one way or another, we're planning to eventually have our own t-shirts with the dog and the boat.  Or a cartoon strip.  Do any of you guys know a graphic artist that likes to do dog caricatures, by any chance?  Will trade ya a t-shirt....

Okay, that's  it for this post.  We have just seen some cool photos of our long time friend Fishy Trish with a huge wahoo in a tournament here, and I wanted to use them but I'm still waiting for permission.  And well, it's Monday.  I have a commitment here.
And a sunset.   See you next week.

That is.....

Unless you also want a boat DIY update.  This is the DIY section, with nothing but toil and trouble and not a single pretty tropical photo to be seen.

If you read this far you saw the piece of aluminum that Dooley was sniffing around in the post.  What happened was that I needed something to cover up the hole left when I removed that nasty old holding tank pumpout fitting from the boat.  We don't have a lot of choices down here on the island for marine hardware, and sometimes I just decide to make my own.  Like now.    

I have several hunks of various materials in various configurations.  I save junk, to put it bluntly. And sometimes it pays off.   I used a piece of glue encrusted aluminum to make a deck plate.   A three inch hole saw on the drill press cut the soft metal well enough.

I'm not sure what the mist around the piece is, in the photo. It might be a cloud of the lubricant I sprayed on the metal to cut it.  The hole saw was spinning in the photo.

I hit that disc with some various grades of sandpaper to clean it up a bit.

It looked like it would do  the job at this stage, but I decided I didn't want that 90 degree sharp edge right where my bare feet would be slipping and sliding as I run from one end of the deck to the other in blind barefooted panic.  Should that ever happen.

Besides, when you look at it close up like that, it still looks ugly and sharp and un-smooth.   I wanted to take the un out of un-smooth.   That's not even a word, is it.

I cut a hole in a piece of scrap plywood and hot glued it to some 45 degree plywood supports.  This made it pretty easy to get a uniform bevel on the aluminum.  This drill press has become my machine shop several times now.

I polished that up a little more, and it really wasn't that much longer before I had a suitable (to me, anyway) deck plate.  I think it looks a whole lot better than the one that says, and means, 'waste'.   I know it's a whole lot cleaner.  And with a fresh history.   

In addition to this little deck plate job, this week I completed installing the port water tank we fiberglassed, and adjusted the pressure on a new water pump for it.  And we keep working on the interior.  That's finally starting to pay off.  We're now working in the other main "guest" cabin.  La Gringa finished painting the cubby holes in our cabin just last night.  And this is how it looks as the ugly old stuff comes off and the new hull liner and paint go on.

The white light and fan fixtures are new and I'm upgrading and replacing a lot of wiring as we go.  But we're starting to see the light at the end  Two weeks ago there is NO way I would ever have sat in this particular locker.  But now it smells like a new car.

Or as John Pederson said, like a brand-new boat.   

And us DIY guys don't needs no stinkin' sunsets, right?
or do we?  I guess some of us might, when nobody's looking. Oh well, better safe than sorry.

and now I can say 'see you next week'.