November 2010 ~ Florida to Grenada
Day 48 ~ Douglasville, GA to Gainesville, FLNovember 1st, 2010
After three intense days of play, the girls slept like rocks all night despite the 1:00am commercial dumpster pick up right outside our door, and the 7:00am sewer pumper that ran for half an hour with a tornado like crescendo (picture a van size shop vac sucking up a swimming pool's worth of jello and you'll get the general idea). Perhaps noise sensitivity is a touch higher while you're trying to sleep but, in any case, it was really loud.
We were up and rolling in surprising good time, saying a last farewell to our own little corner of Walmart real estate. It was cozy, what with the trees and all.
After the stunning vistas of the west, it's hard not to notice the contrast here in the flat lands. Miles and miles of very little. Mind you, it could be worse; there are trees, and some modest hills to break things up.
In need of a dump and fill, we made our way to Topogee State Park. It look like a truly marvelous place, wonderful camping sites, surrounded by water and grassy valleys. We could have stayed there for a week, I suspect. But, plane tickets are nasty things.
The last RV wash was was more than 4000 miles ago, in Seattle, so it was high time. We found just the perfect spot nearby, AAA was a fantasic facility, clean, and most importantly, with a high clearance for our 11 feet worth of "car". Staff were there, imagine that, and they were helpful; we were shocked. The whole experience was so pleasant we had to document it for posterity. When's the last time you felt that way about a car wash?
Having faxed our absentee-by-fax request from an Atlanta Office Depot, with delivery to one 250 miles away, we had a natural stopping point for dinner.
"No good deed goes unpunished" was a fitting tribute to the evening. One and a half hours, several dazed Office Depot and Division of Elections workers later, we finally had the ballots faxed, not to our cell phone as they tried to do, twice, but actually to Alaska. And, after a three phone call chase between Anchorage and the Valley, a real human being finally acknowledged that they had been received.
Only the saline taste of disgust for certain candidates drove us on while Cactus Buddy was sighted throughout the Office Depot and documented by our faithful team...
We made chicken tacos in the parking lot, swung by Target for some breakfast fodder, and hit the road again, ticking of nearly another 2 hours closer to Orlando where Grandma and Grandpa were anxiously awaiting our arrival.
Now we sit in another Wally town parking lot. It's nearly 11:00pm and the tree trimmers are out with their generator and chainsaws working their way around the various plant life and palm trees. Trimming here, sawing there. Who ever knew the secret night life of parking lots?
(29,343) 361 miles
Day 49 ~ Gainesville to Orlando, FloridaNovember 2nd, 2010
Our day started at 12:33am with a loud rap on the door. I opened to door to the spectre of a burly Florida tree expert, about as wide as he was tall, buzzed hair cut, three day stubble, drink in one hand. He had a nice rosette of sun burn and that swarthy complexion that's only possible with a lifetime of UV radiation.
"I am really sorry, man", he said, raising his voice over the din of his truck, but trying to not yell. What? For fear of waking us up? "But we have to trim this palm tree here and you're parked right under it."
What was there to say?
I fired up the rig and did what any real man would have done at the first sound of a chainsaw. Moved. We found a wonderfully quiet corner on the backside of Wally's. About an hour later the ambulances rolled out of the station just across the street.
For some reason, we were up and moving in pretty good time. Gainesville's charms were somehow lost on us and we beat feet to Orlando and a waiting Grandma and Grandpa.
Not 10 minutes after we turned the engine off, Grandpa, the girls and I proceeded to unload every storage area the RV had to offer. It was amazing the weight and sheer volume of material we had hauled all the way from Alaska.
Grandma took the girls swimming, while Lisa and I ran to Costco for Typhoid vaccines. I also finally found a sign shop and ran a few more last minute errands. We returned before dark, got the RV parked in the Wycliffe RV lot, grilled some burgers for the famished kidlets and had fun catching up on all the home news with Mom and Dad.
Wycliffe, Orlando, Florida (29,427) 129 miles
Total: 6,588 miles traveled
Day 50 ~ Orlando, FloridaNovember 3rd, 2010
The girls stayed in Grandma and Grandpa's spare bedroom, which gave Lisa and I a quiet morning. The day broke sunny and we ate a quick breakfast before starting the various tasks that related to picking up this family and their gear and moving them another 2,000 miles south. Considering the temperature today, moving further south doesn't sound all that attractive, but I guess we're committed at this point.
I borrowed Dad's car and ran errands in Orlando for most of the day; a few things here, a few there. Most of what I need now is pretty esoteric stuff so I wasn't too successful. Ended up ordering some stuff over the phone from the parking lot of West Marine who had "heard of that part, but haven't actually seen one".
The girls helped Grandma stuff envelopes at the office and enjoyed lunch at the cafeteria. I remember when that sounded fun, in a jumping on the bed kind of way; it really was fun, but somehow I just haven't got around to it lately. I guess I should try it again, just to be sure I am not missing out on something.
Made it back before dark and found the RV interior mercifully free of the piles of clutter that have crammed in every corner for the last couple of months. The hallway is surprisingly spacious, actually.
The girls had Costco pizza with G & G, to their delight, and Lisa and I enjoyed some bottom of the freezer salmon and rice. We have done surprisingly well eating ourselves into more space. The freezer is just about empty and the shelves are now haunted by things like Sweet Pickles, Thai noodles and a single can of cream style corn. I am never sure of how we acquire some of this stuff, but I am sure it made sense at the time. Like the 10 pack of diced tomatoes I found in one of the outside bins. Oh, and 10 pounds of sugar. What were we going to do with 10 pounds of sugar in 6 weeks?
The girls talked to the Herrens (friends from home) for an hour or so, and then hit the hay. Having spent 3 hours in the pool today, their eyes were getting pretty heavy after dinner.
Day 51 ~ Orlando, FloridaNovember 4th, 2010
It was a perfectly still night and very humid. So, we opened all the windows and set up a fan.
About 3:00am it started raining as only it can in a subtropical environment, with prejudice. Sounded like a someone was standing in the road with a fire hose.
Being the big virtuous man of the house, I laid in bed thinking, "I should really get up and close the windows" about the time I felt Lisa launch out of bed and start banging around doing the very same. It as just one more confirmation that I married up, and married well.
I rolled over and went back to sleep the sounds of the deluge.
It broke sunny for a few hours then rained most of the day on and off. That didn't stop the girls from swimming for several hours, nor Lisa from deep cleaning the RV and starting once more on the painful packing process. She hates making decisions and this is one more trial of figuring out what to pack and what to leave for later pick up.
G & G distracted the girls with a dinner at Cracker Barrel, followed by a movie, while Lisa and I heaved and stuffed and weighed and adjusted. It's really hard to look into the crystal ball and figure out what you can and can't live without. The Bahamas experience is useful, but nearly every choice is still a gamble. Can you fit your life in 500 pounds worth of baggage allowance? Not sure we can either, give that it must include 6 months of schooling materials, clothes for multiple environments and tools and boat parts for every conceivable circumstance.
By 9:00pm we were both whipped. But 6 of our 10 allotted boxes were packed and sealed, ready for Sunday's trip on the silver bird. It felt good to make progress and see the piles getting smaller.
After a skype call from Nana's best friend Isa, we got the girls down and headed back to the RV were we both had just enough energy to decompress some and catch up a little.
Day 52 ~ Orlando, FloridaNovember 5th, 2010
The temperature dropped about 20 degrees last night. We had all the windows opened when a wind picked up. Before we knew it, we were back in the Yukon, bundled up with the heater going. Lisa is sure it's a plot to deny her the heat that I assure her is coming. In a couple of days, I suspect we'd pay dearly for a cool breeze.
We were up with the sun in anticipation of a hectic day. It's amazing how many things you keep remembering that you forgot. Wal-Mart (4 duffel bags, $80), Home Depot (small plexiglass panels, $10) , Costco (dental floss, $10), Guitar Center (strings and action adjustment, $65), Fast Signs (boat lettering, $110), AutoZone (Red Loc-tite, $6), etc. Small things to be sure, but they ate up the entire morning and afternoon.
Well, wrong turns onto Toll Roads with few exits didn't help much either.
Grandma and the girls made Lefse for Grandpa, toured the museum, again, and swam for more hours.
By 5:00pm Lisa and I were back at the ranch, exhausted, but still facing more packing. Six bags down, four to go. G & G's apartment is a wreck with barely a square foot of floor space available.
We did burgers and such about 6:30pm and then were back at the packing, wrapping up about 10:00pm with 9 out of 10 bags in the van ready to roll. That's a good feeling, but somehow I suspect we'll burn yet another day tomorrow, finding more things we forgot and trying to squeeze in another pound here and another item there.
Day 53 ~ Orlando, FloridaNovember 6th, 2010
We were up and moving in time for me to join G & G and the girls for a breakfast at Waffle House. We then got sucked into another slew of final stops including a dive shop where we found masks, fins and snorkles that fit the girls well, in the 50% off bins no less. Should be considerably cheaper than in the islands.
Then it was back to Grandpa's for final packing of the last couple of bags. We had cardboard boxes packed for a while, but their square corners are unforgiving when it comes time to cram them in the taxi. We opted, instead, for cheap Walmart duffle bags.
While we were at Walmart the power went out. All the lights were down, except the emergency exit lights. Oh, and the registers were still still working. Gee, wonder where their priorities lie.
Once back home, Dad and I did some work on making a waterproof super wi-fi system based on a sail blog I found. The parts arrived a few days ago and now we are to the PVC pipe part. After these pics, I spray painted them flat and let dry overnight.
We enjoyed a chicken-in-the-pot dinner with Grandma and Grandpa and then did more final packing tweaks, crammed everything in the van and stayed up too late editing the blog and adding content.
I taught Nina how to create photo albums, upload images, and tag them with names/captions so she can help maintain the blog. She caught on quick and, before long, you couldn't get her off the computer enough ask her if she wanted a salad.
Gee, wonder where she gets that from?
Makes me wish I would have stuck to the no-computer-until-age-12 policy. Of course, we let them do Photoshop art, etc, but if I had frittered my childhood away in front of a flat screen, then had to stare at one for 20 years at work, I'd be pretty disappointed in my parent's priorities. Thanks guys.
Fortunately, that didn't happen.
Having invested too much of my life in machines, I feel compelled to observe that they take more life away than they give. Allowing a kids to have their childhood energy consumed by them seems like a poverty worth avoiding.
We'll see if I can practice what I preach.
Day 54 ~ Orlando to Miami, Florida then St. David's, GrenadaNovember 7th, 2010
I awoke before the alarm went off. We had intentionally tried to forget Daylight Savings Time, so we were an hour ahead all morning which, of course, proved useful.
After a typhoid vaccine pill followed by breakfast an hour later to allow it to do its magic, we were finally all packed and rolling about 8:50am. The drive was really smooth. Sunday morning means minimal traffic and, by lunch time, we were in Miami. We had gone to great pains to weigh every bag before putting it in the van. Then, at the airport, we borrowed the scale and re-checked everything, taking out a book here, a pair of boxers there.
The agent we ended up with had her head in the clouds. She didn't even look as the bags came on and off, large duffles hanging off the side registering 38lbs that were actually 50. Talk about a letdown. We slipped the books and briefs back in before taking them to TSA and wondered why we had worked so hard.
With our 501lbs - yes, that's five passengers with two fifty pound bags each - of luggage in the system, we took G & G out to the nearby IHOP, that we had visited a couple of years ago after one of our Bahamas trips, for a "last supper" in America.
While we were there, some unsuspecting soul exited through the emergency door and set off the alarms. It took a very long time to find the right guy with the right key. Nothing like a peaceful meal.
Back at the airport we said our goodbyes and headed through security. TSA was unusually smooth, or maybe it's just that the girls are getting older now. In any case, we were at the gate with plenty of time to spare.
Grenada has some pretty aggresive tariff structures in place to encourage people to shop locally. A 30% duty on many items, but there is an exception for boat parts which are only billed at 5%. We had a gazillion knick-knacky things that bridged the gap between boat parts and general household which would face the higher rate. I knew initial Grenadine experience, not to mention our pocketbook, would be on the line. If we got a reasonable agent, life would be good. If we got a Duty Nazi... well I played out that scenario several times with no happy endings.
As it turned out, the guy we got was old enough to be a Grandpa himself and then some. He was taken with the girls, distracted on finding his missing knife and had his assistant begin tallying the costs with a pen on her palm. Lisa was finally able to find two receipts which he handed it to his assistant before hunting in earnest for his knife.
She crunched on her calculator for a while, translating US$ to EC$ and back to US$ again. The grand total of duties owed: $30 US.
Welcome to Grenada.
We found our taxi man, Mr. Boney, patiently waiting outside. He took one look at our bags, and the number of bodies, and started flipping seats around to make room for the luggage. With it all crammed in the back, four girls in the back seat, designed more for two and a half, we took off like a shot thorough the dark winding mountain roads, narrowly missing casual pedestrians by inches. They barely seemed to notice.
With the windows opened the breeze felt great. In February, the humidity was very comfortable. In November it's a different story. Oppressive, Houston-like sticky is a good parallel.
The staff were waiting for us and had three fish sandwiches ready shortly after we arrived. Turned out it was fresh, local caught Tuna. Darn.
We finally crashed well after midnight with all fans blazing to the piercing calls of the water frogs and crickets.
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Day 55 ~ La Sagesse Nature Center, St. David's, GrenadaNovember 8th, 2010
With the unfamiliar sounds, crashing waves, warm-weather creature noises and intense humidity it was a long night. Finally, about 6:00am, I got up and walked along the beach. Of course, I should have been relaxing in the beautiful surroundings and basking in the fact that we finally made it.
Not a chance. I was thinking about the boat and wondering what I would find. Finally, I went back to bed and dozed until 8:00am or so, then meandered around for a bit. Eventually, I found a staff person who knew about another couple heading over to the marina so I could join them. I ran back to the room, grabbed a few things, and crammed myself into a car that wouldn't be marketed in the US if 12 year olds could drive.
The boat yard is less than a mile away as the crow flies, but a several mile drive due to the mountainous terrain. Grenada has the Bahamas licked in that regard; we're on a real mountain, and it's a pain for driving, but much more interesting to look at.
Got to the yard about 9:00am and saw the boat almost immediately. I wanted to cry. When we left in February she was in top form; glossy, spotless, with her mast on and sails ready to roll.
Now, after 9 months of neglect in the tropical rainy season, you can guess how she looks. Green algae streaks everywhere and a nice black and brown composite film -- part boat yard dust, part sand, part biological hitchhikers.
Well, I tell myself, the inside should be fine, fingers crossed.
Some rooms were pretty clean, but most of the cabinets, counters and doors were decorated with nice organically random patterns of mold. Some white mold, some black, in relation, it seems, to the underlying color. Black mold likes white surfaces, white mold likes wood work.
The smell wasn't too bad, but definitely had the scent of a musty library from, say, the 16th century. I started throwing open hatches and in a few minutes it wasn't too bad.
Where does one start? Everywhere I look it's nothing but grime of every flavor. By comparison to the inside, the outside look pretty simple. Some water pressure and elbow grease would certainly go a long way. Out of the desparate need to see one clean surface, I tackled the cockpit table for no good reason, since it would get sprayed numerous additional times later in the day.
To my relief, a little water and a few wipes and the old gloss was back.
Greatly encouraged, I started scrounging for cleaning supplies. After an hour of digging around, fussing with the hose and the like numerous times, I finally had water and rags. I started tackling the inside with a vinegar solution followed with furniture polish (vinegar is supposed to be death to spores, we'll see). The results were very satisfying. A couple of hours later and the starboard side rooms were in much better shape.
Like those Bopper toys, everywhere I looked there was something to clean and never enough hands. The sun was climbing and the temperature was keeping up the pace nicely. I then moved outside and, after another hour, the cockpit was coming along.
Took a lunch break at the marina bar. A couple of quarts of water and a sautéed chicken breast later, I was charged back up for more.
Finally ran out of gas about 5:00pm and caught a ride back to the Nature Center with the same couple on their return and found the girls boogie boarding. Another 11 year old girl had turned up, so the day had gotten interesting for them too. I was relieved to know they weren't sitting around wondering when I would show up.
Nana had found a machete on the beach and was very proud of the fact that it looked like "it came from India or Turkey".
We got them all showered and then relaxed in the room before a fish sandwich and granola snanner (ie: snack dinner).
I worked with Nika and Nana on the guitar some while the others colored in Photoshop. Then, it was lights out. Too bad we can't turn off the frogs.
Day 56 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 9th, 2010
I must be getting used to the water frogs, because morning came quickly. Downed a quick breakfast of peanut butter and leftover oatmeal straight from the fridge. The coolness felt great. Slime you ask? What Slime?
Mike, the owner of the little hotel here, is very helpful so we arranged for him to take Lisa to the grocery store on his daily errand run. I scrambled around the boat trying to get it as much of it perfect as possible before the girls arrived.
Things were in pretty good shape, actually, when they arrived. Hard to say what the girls really thought. Nina says, "I saw it so soon and so fast that I still have to recover. It's like I haven't gotten the fact that I have really seen it." It hadn't been ten minutes before the territorial disputes broke out. Perhaps we should go live in a mud hut for a couple of years in hopes of forming a more realistic appreciation for what they have.
They arrived about 12:30pm, probably the hottest part of the day. Soon they were down to their underwear and I gave each of them a burst from the hose every once and awhile. Getting much done was not really possible, so we did lunch at the marina restaurant and then called the hotel to ask for a pickup.
I sent the girls to the hotel and went back to scrubbing the outsides of the hulls. You don't really know how big a boat is until you have to clean every square inch of it. Seems like acres of fiberglass. Fortunately, most of the grime comes off with a wipe and a spray so, after a few hours, there was real visible progress.
I started doing what I should have done from the get-go, reminding various marina people of the things I need to get done by a certain date. Mast up next Tuesday, lettering on next week sometime and various other details. Need to find a way to start the engines (requires water for coolant). Since they haven't been run in a quite a while, that might be interesting.
Everywhere I look there are other projects. The rudders are out of alignment and the steering seems overly stiff. I am sure there is lots more.
There's another Lagoon 47, same year, in the yard. So, I went over and talked to the guy. He is from France, I think. His English is pretty minimal and I speak no French so we weren't able to get too far except that he is really happy with boat. We chatted for a bit in broken English with lots of hand motions.
Later, just as we were leaving the yard, the French guy comes over. I wasn't able to follow everything, but the point of it was that he has an extra Spinnaker he doesn't use anymore. He said to come by and pick it up in the morning. Did I hear that right? I wasn't sure, but the other guest in the car overhead the conversation, and he agreed that's whay the guy was trying to convey. If it's in good shape, that's worth like $3K. I guess we'll see in the morning.
Day 57 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 10th, 2010
Didn't sleep too well so finally got up about 5:30am, popped a typhoid pill (vaccine) and got in some good time on the blog. So many details and tweaks.
Finally headed to the boat with Tim and Val (fellow boat people who are staying at La Sagesse). They have a potential buyer coming to see their boat tomorrow, so are straining to get everything cleaned up and working right before he arrives.
I had just got ramped up to scrub down the deck, the only area still looking really rough when the water pressure dropped off, as it does routinely throughout the day. It's much better early morning, during lunch, and in the evening.
So, instead of dribble my way through 1,128 sq feet of dirty deck and trampolines, I headed down below to inventory and organize the tools and parts we had inherited. There turned out to be quite a spread of power tools in various stages of succumbing to the marine environment. About the only thing missing is a jigsaw, as far as I can tell.
Lisa and the girls arrived about 11:00am and Lisa toured the boat for the first time. I think she likes it in general, but she seemed more concerned about what I thought. At this point we are committed, honey, so does it matter? I suppose so but, overall, I am satisfied. Yes, it's older and yes it needs some cosmetics, but I am glad we found her.
After the girls were picked up, it was time to head into the depths. Off came the cushions and up came the floor boards. I started the painful process of trying to figure out how the various systems work. Started with the bilge pumps. The bilges are actually amazingly clean, which is nice to see.
I couldn't seem to find where they discharged so, after some poking about, settled on a suspiciously small orifice. I flipped on the breaker and poked my head under to take a peek.
As I craned my neck to see better and leaned out farther I felt, more heard, the rush of tasty bilge discharge blast right past my hair from well above me. And, as the one-inch fitting spewed several gallons, I considered the pros of not taking a shower in bilge discharge.
It was a near miss.
I then watched the identical boat to ours being launched, in hopes of picking up a few things for which to keep a keen eye peeled.
With the sun getting low, I tackled the salon deck and windows before the biting insects drove me in. Can't wait to get out to an anchorage where we'll have more breeze and fewer bugs.
I rejoined Lisa and the girls back at the ranch for a snupper (snack supper). Lisa did some school stuff and I read them some stories. Then it was beddie-by.
P.S. Turns out the French guy thought more about it in the night and decided he wanted $1500 USD for the spinnaker. That's a good price, actually, but not quite the same as free.
Day 58 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 11th, 2010
Still haven't quite got used to the frogs, but finally did drift off late last night. Was up and rolling in time to just miss the 7:20am pickup for Tim and Val (other boat people). They are meeting their buyer today so they are pretty focused.
Caught another ride about 8:00am. Our mast is off and sitting next to the boat, so this is my big chance to make any adjustments without hanging from a rope while swinging 65 feet in the air. It makes sense to get things right the first time, but I continually have this nagging feeling that I am forgetting something.
Still in the discovery phase boat-wise. Found a sewing machine yesterday and, today, I discovered the plumbing gold mine as well as a wide selection of paints and fiberglas repair chemicals and tools. Knowing nothing about fiberglas, it's all a bit like voodoo at the moment but also about time to learn something new.
Our mast really could use a complete new paint job, but with the cost in the thousands of dollars it's just not a priority. The rigging guy says it's safe so I sanded a few places where the paint is peeling. Then, having found some three-part white paint earlier in the day that looked about right, I poured the first part into a cup. Once parts two and three were in, I realized I didn't have a way to stir it.
After shuffling around a bit I managed to find an old strand of wire. That ought to do.
Picked up the cup and, to my shock and dismay, felt the bottom melt away from it on the first stir. White paint everywhere: on tools, Lisa's nice leather backpack she bought pre-marriage and more.
Obviously, three part paint is a little different than the stuff you find at Home Depot.
After a little searching, I did find a real mixing dish - right next to where I got the paint. Hmmm, should have taken that hint. The second batch went much better.
Time and again I am finding myself making really dumb mistakes like that, and more. Working hard under the sun in the middle of the day, only to run out of water. Come back at 5:00pm and wow, it's a lot cooler. Hey, I have an idea! Maybe, during the hot hours, I should do the stuff shaded by the tree and tackle the rest in the morning and evening. Yeah, there's an idea fer ya! Well, Alaskans don't usually exactly think of sun position when planning daily tasks.
With some mast touch-up done, I headed over to the little marine store there to pick up the distilled water I ordered. Well, they didn't have it so, instead, I had to order 12 quarts of special 'battery water'. It's just water with a yellow tint, but this way they get to charge more for it.
The store has the A/C cranked up, so I ended up loitering around a bit and buying a few more odds and ends, which is the goal of the cooler temperature, I am sure.
While I was topping of the batteries, the yard's technical guy and project manager came over and discussed some of the things that make sense to do now, while everything is accessible. Some (hopefully) minor: engine tune-up, filter installation, test fire with a supplied water source, steering lube and check, etc.
Since it was still pretty warm, I headed underneath for some grinding on the zinc anodes. These are sacrificial strips of metal through-bolted to the inside of the hull that serve as the ground for the boat. They were fairly heavily encrusted, but not too pitted, so I just attacked them with a sander and wire wheel. Man, barnacles are hard as nails. I ran through two sanding pads with barely a dent. The wire wheel is getting shorter, and I am seeing some progress, but a half hour later the barnacles were still winning.
By this time, shade had fallen on the deck so it was time to take advantage of it and finish washing up the top sides.
The yard sent over a gelcoat expert to make a minor repair and we ended up talking for awhile. I pumped him for information and am getting a better sense of how this whole plastic boat thing works.
Got back to the hotel in time to swim for a few minutes with the girls. Lisa had struck of a conversation with some locals who had come to cool off at our beach. One thing lead to another with the end result being that they will come fetch us tomorrow so we can sample a local restaurant that the locals actually frequent -- the hotel's great, but set up for American tastes and American vacation budgets.
Right afterward, Mike, the hotel owner came over and said, "hey, I know it's expensive here, let me have the kitchen whip up something simple and affordable for you all tonight -- say some pasta and red sauce?"
They threw in some fresh tuna as well. What can you say to a gracious offer such as that but, thanks.
I fixed Lynn's (owner's wife) laptop after dinner as a way of making that more concrete. Veterinarians, doctors and geeks find work just about anywhere.
Lynn was taken with the girls and they all ended up sitting around on the floor swapping stories until everyone was yawning.
Day 59 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 12th, 2010
Up and going as usual today. Caught a ride to the boat pretty early and continued the seemingly endless array of minor projects that need attention. Still haven't even looked at the engines yet; focused on getting the mast instrument array and halyards (ropes that pull up the sails) arranged in the way they should be and trying to plan for every contingency in hopes of preventing a trip up the mast for as long as possible. It's like trying to prevent tooth decay ahead of time. There's only so much you can do.
About 10:30am the kids and Lisa arrived and, an hour later, we had the dinghy's sun cover off and lowered it to the ground below. Wow, she was in pretty sorry shape with a heavy layer of grime and mold. So nice.
With the hose, cleaner and "toothbrushes" fit for a dinosaur the girls tackled the muck with surprising vigor. Occasionally we catch flashes of real teamwork and stick-to-itive-ness that reaps plenty of praise and encouragement. Sure, they missed a few spots, but that's not the point.
The locals we met the evening before, Gordon and Jean, arrived to take us out for a driving tour and dinner stop at their favorite local restaurant, the Little Dipper. It was good to see more than our little mile of the island and I am starting to get a feel for the place. Rent is amazingly cheap, a few hundred dollars for a two bed, two bath cottage, for instance.
The Little Dipper is perched on a steep hill with a sweeping view of picturesque bay, sprinkled with anchored boats.
The owner, Joan, does all the cooking and serving. Her husband catches all the fish on the menu. A nice arrangement. The food was excellent and the conversation fun and wide-ranging. Gordon lived in England his entire adult life and Jean had retired from the HR business in Toronto. While they had both been born in Grenada, their time away allowed them to see and understand how things looked through American eyes.
Things move slowly here, but the girls kept a good attitude through the deep sugar low that the hour-long wait provided.
Gordon is into fishing, so he picked the husband's brain for awhile. The fisherman's grammer wasn't too refined, but his point was clear. These fish are smart and you have to outfox them:
The best way to do it is to catch a little fish and set a hook through its tail, then set it "free". "Free", I thought, "in the same way a traveling salesman is free to experience liberty."
"Chancezes are", he says in barely discernable creole, "a big feesh, say tuna or snappa going to cum long and take it". He stroked his weathered jaw with a meaty caloused hand.
The impression that you were getting the scoop straight from the horse's mouth was hard to miss. Gordon asked him about artifical lures but was met with a scowl.
"Thez trouble with those tings" he asserted, "you have to keep dem movin' all the time, in and out. Too mooch work. Jist let the leetle feesh do da work."
Here I was, in a rough hewn house converted to three table restaurant getting expert management advice from a veteran fisherman. Jist let the little people do the work. Every CEO would agree.
On the drive back, we stopped by the La Phare Bleu marine development. It's all very nice, but it was a still evening and the moored boats were bouncing around just as I had read on several blogs. It didn't look like a fun place to spend the night. Oh, and dinner is $95 EC, about $40 a plate. That's a tidy way to blow your budget in a hurry.
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Day 60 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 13th, 2010
In search of boat parts not available at the little outpost of a store at the yard, I was up early and looking for a ride to town. John, the restaurant manager, was headed to the fish market to stock up on local catch. He agreed to drop me off and pick me up again on his way out of town.
We stopped and picked up several sets of hitchhikers along the way, stopping when prompted by knocks on the side of the truck or other seemingly meaningless noises.
Got to Budget Marine about 9:30 and quickly learned some bad news. I had talked to other sailors who told of 15 or 20% discounts if you "got an account" set up. I asked about an account.
"Did you bring your boat documents with you?"
"Er, no" -- wondering why a person would bring their marriage license, or boat documents, on a shopping trip.
"You have to have your documents otherwise we have to charge you 30% import duty + 15% tax + something else, so 51% more than all the prices you see"
"Ahhh, wow, that's pretty severe."
I stumble around for awhile trying to decide what to do. I gather a few things I need, but wonder what the point really is.
The lady sees my dazed expression and sympathizes. "What's your boat name", she askes.
"Duppy Conqueror", I reply, using the old name in hopes of a connection.
"What!" she exclaims, "That's Alan's old boat".
"Yes", I replied, "I bought it from Alan"
"But, but Alan was JUST here, like 5 minutes ago; you just missed him."
Seeing light at the end of the tunnel, "So Duppy already has an account?"
"Yes, of course." She beckons the manager over and explains the situation.
The manager comes over with his hand out and a big smile, "So, you bought Alan's boat? Sure, no problem, just put it on that account and bring in your bill of sale the next time you come in".
I start shopping again in earnest. A few nuts here, washers there; teak deck cleaner, distilled water (yes, more), a radar reflector (makes you more visible to the big guys, which is a good thing) and other paraphernalia.
A few minutes pass and then I hear the cashier's voice rising and falling. I look up. She's aiming her animated gesturing in my direction.
There's Alan, back for one more thing.
It's good see him again and we catch up on where in the world we have been, etc. He is able to answer a few odd questions I had nagging me and, based on his plans, we are sure to cross paths again in the next several weeks.
Afterward, it's a mad ride back to La Sagesse with a Mahi Mahi and a 40 lb section of a what must have been a massive tuna. The cost? 7 EC$ per lb, or about 3 US dollars, for fresh tuna right off the boat. Hmmm, I could handle that.
The girls joined me at the boat a little while later and Lisa starts the long awaited exploration of the forward cabins. In Feburary those areas housed large quantities of towels, sheets and the like. They were still there...
The girls filled the dingy with water, and played for awhile. When the bickering started, it was time to put them to work scrubbing the decks. They did pretty well actually.
We pulled all the anchor rode (chain) out in the merciful shade under the bridgedeck (part that connects the two hulls together). We have about 140 feet of chain, so measured and marked it in 25 foot increments. The spray paint won't last, but it will help for awhile.
We got back in time for a quick swim. The warm salt water is amazingly refreshing. A tonic, really.
We followed our showers with fresh tuna sandwiches and fries for dinner then retired.
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Day 61 ~ La SagesseNovember 14th, 2010
It was time to take a day off. What with all the packing and scrambling, it's been a couple of weeks since we had any down time. This 'escape' thing is a ton of work it turns out.
It rained hard last night and we had the first cloudy day in recent memory. A relief actually. We did a "Morning Oocereal breakfast and then walked about a bit enjoying the cooler temperatures.
I walked up to the main road and found a couple of local food shacks which should allow us to eat at more reasonable, local prices. The restaurant here is great, but they're priced like a gourmet spot back home, not the kind of place you can take a family of five every day.
We met another couple from Alaska, Ketchikan actually. They had come to Grenada for sailing certifications which gave us plenty to talk about. Nika, Nana and I swam around for an hour or two while Lisa and Lynn, the owner's wife, made a grocery run into town.
We then all ate another great, but expensive, dinner since most local places are closed on Sunday. Tomorrow should give us more options.
Worked on the blog a quite a bit, we're just about ready to launch, while Nika and Nana practiced and put on a little dancing show...
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Day 62 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 15th, 2010
It rained off and on throughout the night and the day broke cooler, which is a relief. Caught a ride to the yard about 8:30am and started tackling projects again.
Hashed out the ordering of new halyards (lines to raise the sails). Several need replacing, and we need a longer one to allow the use of a pulley at the top of the main. Gaining a 2:1 purchase should allow me to raise the sail most of the way without a winch, or a second guy.
The girls arrived about noon and set in a-scrubbin'. I was really impressed with the tenacity both Nina and Nana showed. They scrubbed for 3 hours+ and really made great progress. The entire cockpit teak floor looks 100% better. Nika did help some, but just didn't have the focus for more than a few minutes of help. She sprayed and squeegied and hauled tools for me which was helpful.
We had a short, intense, squall mid-day which served to turn half the yard into mud and thoroughly soak a few tools which I wasn't able to grab fast enough. It's going to take some time to get used to this dynamic environment. Sun one minute, rain the next and back to sun a few thereafter.
I am such a clutz. I am troubleshooting the secondary backup windlass. The selenoids look great, but when I opened the second control box I found a brass nut sitting at the bottom. That came from somewhere.
Reversing the natural course of gravity, there was the selenoid stud, denuded of it's nut. No big deal, put it back on. But wait, perhaps I should clean it first, and find a washer.
I wiggled out of the confined space, that takes a good solid minute just to contort yourself into. Then an interruption or two later, where's the nut?
A half hour later and I am at the end of my rope. Where could it be. If you are searching for a water jug, or a garden hose, the boat's not that big. But if you are searching for something the size of a dime, the boats endless nooks and cranies become a labryinth of impossibility.
My attituded didn't improve, and I am afraid the girls suffered the brunt of my shortness. I wouldn't get a stellar dad gold start today, that's for sure. Hunger was setting in and that didn't improve things any either. A dark cloud descended.
I had ordered a late lunch from a local restaurant I had found on my Sunday walk. It was the first really authentic Grenadian food yet. The girls were underwhelmed, but Lisa and I enjoyed the interesting mix of pumpkin, breadfruit, fresh tuna and pigeon peas and rice.
While I want to teach the girls to embrace some new sights and sounds AND tastes, I decided that in addition to ripping them from their friends, subjecting them to endless heat and humidity and then having them swab the decks for two days, I should probably just humor them with some burgers and fries tomorrow.
We got back "home" just in time for a quick, cool dip in the ocean. Another passing squall drove us indoors, despite the logic of "staying dry" in water.
We had an apple, peanut butter and cracker snack and then I let Nina choose a movie as a thank you for her efforts while Lisa compiled the email list of people to add to the blog access list.
I hope your name was on it.
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Day 63 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 16th, 2010
More rain last night, but the morning broke sunny. Took a quick breakfast and headed out to the yard. Started getting ready to run some new halyards but when the 660-foot spool of line arrived, it was the wrong size. You would think 12mm line would be 12mm in diameter, but you'd be wrong. It's 10.5mm. So, I hauled the entire 40lb spool back to the store and returned it, and then ordered the correct 14mm line, which should in fact be 12-13mm, the correct size for the clutches (things that grab the rope to hold it in place).
The engine and prop guys showed up about 10am and things really started to happen. Off came the first folding prop while I watched closely and pumped the guy for information. Then the engine room covers were up, the hose was run, and we took a crack at starting the port engine.
It didn't even click.
Got a charger on the battery. Waited. Still nothing. Gerald, the yard tech, dove in and had the issue nailed in 2 minutes. A bum relay. He took off to get a replacement part and, in no time he was back and had it installed, we took another crack at it.
She cranked for a bit; nothing. Gerald cracked an injector supply line. Plenty of fuel.
Another few minutes of battery charge and, pow, she took off.
The starboard engine had the identical relay problem, but I bought the last one in stock earlier, so we had to take the relay from the port side and use it on the starboard. That one took right off, once I had found the battery cut-off switch and toggled it to the 'on' position.
Felt great to have two running engines.
Then Gerald swapped out the impeller on the port side. The old one was pretty knarly looking so this was definitely a good move. This particular model requires removal of the starter to get to the impeller, ridiculous. I watched carefully and believe I can do it in a pinch, starter and all.
In between times, I tried to get the number two windlass working. The wiring is in the very bowels of the boat and requires multiple neck- and torso-straining contortions just to get a view of, much less work in. What possesses these boat designers? Made some progress but still no dice. Have a theory so we'll see if I can get it to roll tomorrow.
We left in a mad scramble as Gordon and Jean had invited us over for dinner at 5:00pm and it was 4:00pm when we called for a ride back. It was a lovely evening of conversation and real home cookin, which is a wonderful change from PBJs and whatever some restaurant is serving.
Gordon brought us back in a downpour and the girls just about fell into bed.
It's really humid again, ick.
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Day 64 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 17th, 2010
Well, it was cooler today so that was a plus. Otherwise, tough day. The girls came over with me in the morning, and more cleaning magic occurred. Scuba gear was organized and inventoried — 13 pairs of flippers ought to be enough — and the insides and undersides of niches and storage bins was scrubbed and flushed. One dead frog was accounted for (the other was tossed to the ground the day before).
On the heavy side though, a discouraging day. Something just didn't feel right with the steering. Had the yard's technical expert come run it from stop to stop. "Nothing to worry about", he said. Still not convinced, I took to the narrow, recessed, grimy spaces for a look-see. Call me cynical.
Well, sure enough, the plates which hold the entire steering assembly to the framework of the boat were loose and shifting with every turn. Not a lot, but some. And where there is any movement, more is sure to follow.
No big deal, the 14mm bolts where right there, nice and accessible. I reached up to find the head of my first target. It came off in my hand. One might call it a thunderbolt because that got my full attention.
That was the start of a long, hot, sweaty frustrating fore-noon, which lead to noon and then afternoon. Hours later, many bolts had been tightened, and the movement was reduced, but two bolts are corroded in-place, and unable to be tightened or removed. Chemical warfare ensued, but the stubborn rascals didn't budge.
The good news is that I also found some unused holes. I consulted with Gerald, the mechanic who I have been very impressed with. He agreed that running new bolts in the unused holes was the best approach. But what are the chances – pray you – of finding four, 4-inch properly-threaded stainless 10mm bolts.
I walked with dim hope down the little chandlery outlet on the marina grounds. A minute or two later: Eureka! They had a little tray with a handful of 4" stainless bolts.
I took them back and tested each, a perfect fit. It should be relatively easy to get them in place tomorrow and, hopefully, that will restore things to proper fit and tightness. The alternatives are not pretty. Live with it the way it is or tackle some major surgery, the latter of which wouldn't sit too well with the current family situation, living on PBJs and such.
Ran the new main halyard in the fading light, enjoying the cooler evening. After getting a ride back to the Nature Center, I did a quick swim and shower and tackled a bowl of leftovers while the girls played dress up.
Then it was story time and lights out. And I mean out.
Day 65 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 18th, 2010
We all agreed the girls needed a break today, so I headed over the yard as usual about 8:00am.
In the dream section, I reference Lisa's and my different approaches to praying for things. I can't stand the image of God as a cosmic vending machine who dispenses what I want when I want it. I am not easily offended, but that view of the Big Guy really grates on me.
So, we have a lost nut. I have gone begging at the electrical shop, the engine department and every store I can get to. No dice. It's a funky metric bronze nut with a fine thread. I considered having one FedEx'ed from the states. Of course, the astute will note that things have been working fine for years without the nut and wonder why this is a problem.
Because, if something can go wrong it will go wrong at the worst possible time. The night will be dark and blustery, the rain will be coming down sideways, we really need set or retrieve the anchor and it will quit working. That's the way things go on boats, and in life. Cut corners and you pay. The problem on boats is that you usually pay double, as everyone knows.
At the end of my rope yesterday, I finally uttered a half hearted plea for help. That darn nut has got to be around here somewhere, please!
This morning, as I opened the windlass compartment, I sat down to face to the reality of my dilemma. I had a sudden, powerful sense that the sought-after object was in that compartment. It was as strong as the feeling you get when you know someone is looking at you from across the room. You can't articulate it, but you know it and you know it is real.
I froze. Not wanting to move a muscle, I slowly scanned every nook and cranny of the compartment with eye movement alone. There it was! Tucked neatly and safely under the windlass itself. What a good place!
I didn't waste any time getting it affixed to its proper post. To top it off, I found the problem with the second backup windlass, ran a new wire, tied it all together, shrink-tubed the connections, mounted the receptacle for the windlass remote and confirmed that it all worked.
Down one day, up the next, I guess.
I got home and told Lisa the whole story. "I'm not surprised", she replied, "I prayed about it last night."
Hmmm, I wonder whose prayer was heard? I really don't like where this is all leading, but the facts are getting hard to deny. Guess we'll change the subject.
The mast is supposed to go up tomorrow. Well, it was supposed to go up on Monday, but 'dis is da islands, Mon; we take it slowly". We'll see if it gets up tomorrow, but the base had to be set first anyway which happened today, at last.
We wrapped up the day with a pasta dinner at the restaurant and a little guitar practice.
Day 66 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 19th, 2010
Today should be mast raising day. Kind of like a barn raising, I guess. Butterflies and all, if it's your barn anyway. For the rigging guys, it's just another day at the office.
I headed over to the yard early, carpooling with Rob and Natatlie who arrived last night and also have a boat on the hard. He built his own boat starting in 1978. Guess when they got done? 2000. That's right 22 years in the making. That's what I call perseverance. By then the kids, for whom it was designed, were grown and out of the house.
Gerald showed up first thing, got busy on running new throttle and shifting cables.
The mast guys showed up about 10 to do a few more prep details and to say they had to set one other mast first. We'll see how that goes. Not too stressed about having to wait as there are so many other details that need attention before we are ready to splash ourselves. I don't even know if the dinghy outboard will fire, the state of the port engine starting battery is not looking good and I can't get the propane on in the galley due to a mysteriously wired safety solenoid.
Lisa arrived with the girls about 11:30am and started in cleaning. It was pretty hot and the boat is a wreck so the girls were getting snipped at just about every turn. They weren't too happy after an hour of it, so we followed Norm the Storm, a boat that was in harnesses headed for the water, then stopped by to visit Rob and Natalie on Wilhelm. The girls enjoyed seeing a new boat and, when we got back, it was time for lunch. Food always seems to help.
The rigging guys showed up a couple of hours later and things started to happen. To my amazement, they didn't check to see if the electrical worked or do taping, etc., that was needed. Guess they'll just troubleshoot things in a climbing harness. It must be more fun that way.
Overall it went really smooth, despite a few nervous moments for me, and they just kind of yawned and went back to work. Friday afternoon at 3:00pm probably wasn't the most strategic of timing.
Lisa took the girls back for a swim while Gerald and I wrapped up the cable running.
We had the kitchen here nuke us some leftovers. For some reason the girls appetites just weren't up to the three-day-old rice and potato salad. Poor things. They didn't get much sympathy from their parental units.
We discussed the relationship between human stature and nutrition and the changes that have occurred with both in the last century. Lisa wrapped up the evening with origami projects with Nana and Nika. At one point, Nika asked if I could help her. Nope, sorry, these fingers don't do origami quite like mom's do.
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Day 67 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 20th, 2010
We all headed to the boat today first thing. The riggers were coming to put on the sails and sailbag. It went pretty smoothly, but I wasn't able to find a few miscellaneous parts. My not really knowing the rig doesn't help any. I think I sailed it for a total of 5 hours, 9 months ago, so am still reverse engineering just about everything.
The day started hot, but soon dark clouds were rolling in. We were putting up the head sail as the system approached. Sure enough, the winds hit us just as we were rolling it up, so things were a little exciting at the end.
Then the wall of water hit us. Wow, it lasted a full half hour this time.
We've been here long enough now that I am starting to pick up on some of the Grenadian cultural nuances. Americans often assume that because we have mastered the economic front, we don't have anything to learn. Hardly.
The Grenadians have some endearing traditions. For instance, they always greet one another, every time, all the time. Sometimes it's a honk, or a hoot or a gesture, occasionally a nod, but no one goes ignored.
Everyone gives rides to everyone. Most people don't have cars and those who do, and clearly have room, are often flagged down for a ride just up the road a piece or to "the gap" (a small road that breaks off the main road). I haven't been with a driver yet who didn't stop when prompted. If you have a truck, they just give you a thumb up, hop in back and tap the roof when they want off. When Lisa went to town, they picked up a whole truck full in one stop and the dropped them off at the gap with a knock on the roof.
Drivers communicate. Every pass or transition that might be dangerous is preceded with a quick honk like the ones a car makes when the security system is turned on. Just a quick beep. You soon learn to count on it and it's nice to know what's happening behind you without having to look.
There are some downsides. The British tradition is very strong here. Employees act like servants, saying "yes miss" and "no sir" with downcast eyes. It rankles the Yankee side of me. We have found that if we say, "Hi", we get the down cast eyes. Our accent has established that we are of higher rank.
But, if we follow up with, "How are you", and make eye contact, they instantly brighten and answer with a big smile.
After returning to the hotel a little after noon, the girls and I went swimming. Nana asked to talk more about trench warfare and, 45 minutes later, we had made it to the growth of fascism in post-war Germany, the rise of Hitler, the Blitzkrieg invasion of Poland and France, the bottleneck at Dunkirk, the 4 day reprieve that saved the British Army and the initial motivations behind the bombardment of London instead of military targets. I knew something was getting through when Nana said, "So Hiter was really a terrorist."
Yes, I guess he was.
Once again, I was astonished at the attention spans. I asked questions along the way and was surprised to see real comprehension, if a bit truncated, on all sides. It was pure joy.
Gordon came for a swim and we talked some more. He had expressed an interest in fishing, so we arranged a fishing trip for tomorrow (Sunday) evening. I told him of my plans to walk up the road in search of Roti, the local street food.
He offered to drive me there and back and, after a detour through St. David's, we ended up back at the end of the La Sagesse road to a little pink shanty.
The owner, a lady I had talked to last week, was holding a new baby. A "how are you" and then genuine interest in the new one brought all smiles, all around. No downcast eyes, no isolation. She then wandered to the back of the shop and whipped up 4 Roti at about a pound a piece. The price was quoted at $10 EC ($3.70) each. The floor was uneven, but clean. The flies buzzed about, Caribbean be-bop music blared in a high tinish tone from a tiny stereo, dishes clanked in the back.
After 10 minutes she motioned to me and handed me four hot packets in paper leaves.
"I's sorrie", she said, "iz late tonight, I ran out of filling, so they a leettle small, so I only charge $9 for dem. I hope you come again."
I smiled and said I hoped so too then dashed to Gordon waiting in the car as another downpour started. I was *really* glad for his patience and not having to walk the 1/2 mile home in the rain only to arrive with soggy dinner. Roti, as it turns out, is curried meat (chicken in this case, bone and all) and potatoes in homemade tortillas. They were promptly devoured with relish. All 4 pounds, minus the leg bones, gone.
The rain intensified as the girls face-timed Grandma and danced in the background as Lisa tried to get a few words in edgewise. We wrapped up the evening with dessert at the restaurant. I see now that we have been missing out on the local social network in our attemt to spare the budget and expense. Lots of people talking, rotating tables and filling in the missing links. We found out that Tim and Val, who were here our first week, did succeed in selling their boat and now are looking for a new home for their kayak. Hmmmm, that might be useful.
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Day 68 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 21st, 2010
With the potential for a fishing trip in the works, Nina and I headed off to the boat early to retrieve the tackle boxes and my pole. Once there, it was fairly cool so I snuck in a few minor projects. A potentially problematic one was getting the propane to stove to work. Remember, it's been sitting here unused for 9 months, not exactly what they are designed to do. A bug might have nested in the line, the solenoid (electronic valve) had a good chance of being seized, and several other potential problems were in line.
But, no, it worked on the first crack. Knowing I can cook now is a great feeling, even if we don't do it right away. There are some other propane issues to resolve, such as adding quick disconnect fittings to the cylinders, but they can wait.
Nina and I went over to the cafe to use the phone and call for a pick up. No one knew the number and neither did we. It took 5 minutes before I suggested they just use the internet computer to check. Such precious innocence. We got back to the hotel and went swimming. On the walk out we met up with one of the "crazy Danes" to whom Mike had referred the day before. Finn is the boat owner and we got to talking. One thing led to another and I mentioned that I hadn't been able to order any quality chain and it was a real frustration.
"Chain", he queried, "vat size do you need?"
"Ten millimeter" I replied.
"Vell", he says with a heavy accent, "I upgraded to 12mm myself and I haf one hundred meters of 10mm sitting in pile in vront of my boot. Vhy don't you come by today and pick it up?"
I stumbled a little, remembering the "free" spinnaker that turned into a $1,500 one over night. There is so much room for error when you aren't working with your native tongue so I wasn't sure I had heard him right.
"OK", says I, trying to keep my jaw in place, "I am taking the day off with the family so I'll come by tomorrow and take a peek".
One hundred meters of good chain is worth $6.79 per foot. Do the math on that. It's $2,240.70, to be precise. I had decided to settle for half that, 150 feet, but more is better. Guess we'll see tomorrow how "free" it really is.
We swam and boogie boarded for a few hours then took a little snooze with the fans on high. Then, Nana and I spooled line onto my reel and got some snacks pulled together, bug dope, water bottle, etc., in preparation for the night's pursuit.
Gordon had meant to pick us up at six, but had said he might be late. We all learned a little patience waiting until 7:30pm; Gordon apologized up one side and down the other. We dropped the non-fisherladies off at the house and headed out to Gordon's favorite night time fishing bridge.
Under a full moon, we baited hooks and cast this way and that. Nana even managed to cast over a power line or two, which obviously were more like telephone lines, since no electrified bait ensued. Standing on the uneven bridge, only 1 of the 5 street lights worked consistently. The third one winked on when a car passed, then off again in an "I have an electrical problem" sort of way.
The soft evening breeze was warm on our faces, the moon sparkled over the water. An anchored sailboat moved slowly from left to right and back again, her curved form showing softly with each clean patch of sky that allowed the moonlight through. It was all so surreal.
A chorus of whistler frogs sparkled in the silhouetted trees, dogs barked in the distance. Cotton ball clouds skittered under the jasmine moon rushing "to Alaska" as Nika said. I finally understood the bumper sticker that says, 'the worst day of fishing beats the best day at work', but this wasn't the worst day. Other than being completely skunked, it was a fantastic evening.
Day 69 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 22nd, 2010
Up and going with the sun, about 6:30am, as is the custom here. It's so much cooler in the morning and just a natural thing to do.
Upon arriving at the yard, I immediately went over to visit Finn of Privateer, who had offered me his old anchor rode (chain) the day before.
There it was, 100 meters of 10mm chain, exactly what I had tried to order only two days before, and for which I was prepared to pay dearly, only to find that there is none in stock on the entire island. Funny to think that now there was a huge pile just fifty yards away.
Just another episode in the harder-I-try-the-less-good-things-happen saga, and another entry in the making-friends-is-good-for-you log, in more ways than one.
Since it weighs in at 1.5 pounds per foot, that's nearly 500lbs of chain, not something with which you pick up and walk away. I made arrangements with the yard to haul it over to our neck of the woods tomorrow, after Privateer gets splashed (and the chain is accessible by truck). To top it off, as I was leaving, Finn handed me a WASI anchor swivel, made in Germany. I knew immediately what it was, having just priced them on the web and decided the $500 wasn't worth it. I had gone to great lengths in Seattle to secure two inferior ones.
The drumbeat is getting hard to ignore.
We need a new starter battery for the port side engine; not sure why, but the current one which doesn't look that old will hold a grand total of 4.4 volts. Nice. I got my order in before the 10:00am cutoff so it was supposed to arrive about noon, GMT. That Grenada Maybe Time. It didn't, of course. Sure glad we aren't on a fixed time schedule.
In addition to the piles of linens, the boat had a full gourmet set of cookware, times two. Lisa organized the girls in to a dishwashing assembly line and they washed and rinsed through probably a hundred gallons of water while Lisa deep cleaned the drawers and shelves. There were a few "She sprayed me!" incidents, but overall it went pretty well and Lisa is relieved to have the galley cleaned up.
On top of all that, there are probably two dozen coils of lines aboard, all of various lengths and sizes. Nina and I labeled most of them, in part to figure out what's there and also so we can find what's needed when it's needed at some point in the future.
Lynn from La Sagesse came and picked up the girls about 3:00pm. Nina stayed behind and supplied me with things as I went down deep, one more time -- hopefully the last -- to wash out the some inner lockers with vinegar water in hopes of keeping them mildew-free in the future. Not sure what we'll store in there because it's so inaccessible, but they are fairly large spaces and will certainly be useful.
At some point during that process the 12 pounds of miscellaneous nuts, bolts and washers fell from the refrigerator, where it shouldn't have been left, and exploded across the starboard (right hand side) hallway. When I came in I was greeted with the surprising sight of thousands of tiny metal parts blasted into every nook and cranny.
Not the way to end the day. A half hour later Lynn was back, honking outside, while Nina and I were down to the final fistfuls. I had told myself that the bin should be organized sometime to make parts easier to find but, alas, I hadn't planned on that day being today.
We returned and swam a bit then enjoyed a pasta dinner at the restaurant and some cruising tips from Finn afterward. His choice offerings were, "On St. Lucia, be sure to use the taxi driver named Michael, otherwise you'll get ripped off" and "when you get to such and such bay, call Alexis on channel 16 and she'll set you up with the best tour in town", etc.
Not sure how much of this kind of advice to take. Part of the reason we are here is to discover things for ourselves, but learning the hard way is, well, hard.
Day 70 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 23rd, 2010
Up with the sun again today. We all decided to head over first thing, but first thing with three kids really means mid-morning.
No firm agenda today, so many projects are half started and half baked, some waiting for parts, others for tools, others for a mental breakthrough.
Modern psychology tells us that "undoneness" is a primary stressor of modern man. Well, if that's the case we should be stressed to the gills. Everywhere, and mean everywhere, you look something is torn out of it's place waiting for just a few more minutes of your attention.
But alas, actually, it's not too bad. Since we don't have a time table, we just get done what can be done and leave at that.
And today, more pins were knocked down. The sailbag installation was finished, the dingy outboard started on the 9th pull (after a little throttle and choke tweaking), the port side engine starting battery was replaced, the old corroded cutoff switch was replaced with a new one and the 100 meters of 10mm high test chain was successfully acquired, at no charge, from Finn of Privateer
In fact, right before they were getting picked up and dropped, one of the Danes came over and said, "Ve are aboot ready to go in vater. You come geet chain now, before somevone eels does. Two oder guys asked aboot it this morning already, so we put in barrel. Better come and see."
Needless to say, I took his advice and dropped everything. Sure enough, there was the chain, in excellent condition, piled in an old Tomato Paste barrel that had left the Port of Spain on July 30 of this year, and somehow ended up in Denmark, where it got re-purposed as a chain container and sent to Privateer in Grenada.
As we were walking up to the barrel, I noticed an anchor sitting there. A big one.
"You can just tak zee anchor too iv you vant." said the Dane.
Hmmm. Did I hear that right? I wasn't sure, so just nodded and checked out the chain. Finn was standing a way off watching the slings being wrapped around his baby. I waited for a good break, then thanked him again for the chain. As we strolled over for a better view, I said, "You friend said you were leaving your anchor..."
"You vant anchor?" he replied, leaning closer and lowering his voice. "Jeest take it.", slicing his hand downward in an a cutting motion to punctuate the offer.
Let's see. $2,200 worth of chain, a $500 German fitting, and now a 30 kilo genuine Bruce anchor. I wasn't sure what to say, but "thanks" and that emphatically.
"But", he added in a low tone, "you'd bedder get it moved quivck, as soon as vee are in the vater, it's going to disappear."
I got the message, placed the anchor in the barrel with the chain, and put the top on. The whole package weighed in at 560 lbs, so wasn't something a guy could just walk off with and besides, it was labeled as Tomato Paste.
Privateer was placed in the water without incident, Finn chain smoking and sweating bullets the entire time watching his 44 ton baby rocking and swinging around.
I returned to our boat and worked with one eye out for the Bobcat loader, which normally hummed by every hour or so. The next time I spotted him, I commandeered the thing and 15 minutes later, the "Tomato Paste" package was sitting in our slot. I ran the chain out under our bridgedeck just to get a look at it.
The girls did some laundry by hand, Nina particularly being very industrious. I am starting to see a lot of Lisa's and Dorine's get up and tackle it attitude in her and it's a real joy. She doesn't balk at tough jobs, even if there is a touch of drama involved. She's tipping the balance well into the positive side these last few days, and while it's not quite the same as having three adults around, it's getting close. At least until Nika comes by and sticks a hot stick in her eye. Then we are back to kidville.
We stayed late, at the boat and returned even later. Got a quick swim in the darkness with the landscape lights of La Sagesse illuminating the incoming white caps as puffy clouds raced past dimly illuminated by the newly risen moon.
We had ham sandwiches for dinner, and then did some English and Biology lesson work before an early beddie-by. We are all, fingers crossed, going to go to the boat at 7:30 tomorrow AM.
Day 71 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 24th, 2010
Tough day today. Got the girls up and going in good time to meet our 7:30am ride. Turned out Rob and Natalie were long gone by then anyway.
It was cloudy and breezy most of the day, which is ideal for boat work, so we dug in hard. Lisa deep cleaned some of the deepest, moldiest territory known to man. There are several sealed storage areas that needed attention. Everything came out, then Lisa went in. It was a dark day for spores.
Between bleach, Shout, Mr. Clean and "Rodalon", a Danish cleaner that Finn swears by (and donated a bottle to our cause), the fungi had no place to hide. Poor things.
I re-tied one side of the port trampoline and threaded in a new anchor pipe that will protect it from the new chain, I hope.
One of the things I love about our boat is that it has multiple watertight compartments, particulalry in the bows, where you are most likely to run into something. The idea being that the first 8 feet of boat or so can be full of holes but we can still float away.
Well, with the forward storage areas empty, I dived in and sealed off the watertight crash compartments that had inspection ports cut into them but had not been sealed back up. Even a landlubber knows that a water tight compartment with a 6" x 8" hole chopped in the top of it won't keep you afloat. Go figure. Of course, it took hours more than I expected partly because I kept having to go back to the store for more screws and different washers, etc. On one trip, the store was closed for lunch, so we stopped by Privateer still waiting in the splash shoot. Finn invited us aboard and showed us around. A million and a half dollars buys a lot of boat, but it really doesn't have that much more room than ours, and I saw similar construction techniques under every floor board.
By the time we got back, the graphics guys were just about done with our name. My heart sank. Graphics are my thing and if they put them on crooked, by like 1/32 of an inch, it's going to eat me alive. I know, I should just relax, but it's my field and, yes, I get picky.
Well, thankfully, the large graphic on the back is pretty much dead on. The port front lettering is off some and the starboard I had a chance to correct before it got set. Whew, dodged a bullet there. I must say, overall, they look pretty good. We'll have to get some pics tomorrow when we remember the phone...note to self.
The girls did pretty well; Nina was particularly helpful again, doing laundry, tightening a second set of aircraft nuts on the mast bolts and generally playing the part of gopher.
Gordon and Jean stopped by with their Canadian guests. The boat isn't much to see with laundry hanging all over it and every cushion off, but it was fun to see them and their guests.
It was a first, but by the time the 5:30pm pickup hour arrived, we were ready to leave. It was a long and productive day, but one that I am glad is over. The list of critical items to do in the yard is getting shorter so, hopefully, we'll splash and dash before long.
Day 72 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 25th, 2010
Another grind. Wow, we were up and going in good time, the whole crew at the boat while precious shadows still fell on deck. Nika and I attacked the new anchor chain piping while it was do-able in the shade. She did really good actually, stayed focused and was a real help.
We loaded the starboard windlass with the original 150 feet of 10mm chain and the 60lb Bruce that Finn gave us. It doesn't fit the anchor roller well, so not sure we'll be able to use it routinely.
The only major item to do now is to get the steering bearing wheels remounted, but that requires a some special drill bits. Lynn picked me up on on her errand run to town where Ace is the Place. I found some that I thought would work but, back at the ranch, discovered they were too long to fit the narrow opening I have to work with. An hour of love with a 4-inch grinder did the trick. It was a bit touchy, having had to regrind the hex head on them as well, since the only tool I have that will fit the space has a hex fitting, and that's it.
Rob and Natalie splashed today, so we had fun watching them and saying goodbye, for now. I think Monday is our day, which means it's only 4 days away. We could extend longer, which is a nice option to have, but patience is running short I fear and we need to get out of the yard and on the water for awhile, even if something remains undone.
Didn't remember it was Thanksgiving until sometime in the afternoon. So we went out to the yard's restaurant and had angus burgers and fries to celebrate. It was fun, and there was considerable french fry swapping, er...stealing.
We got back to the room and crashed pretty hard. Haven't felt this tired in a long time.
Day 73 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 26th, 2010
The toughest day yet. A mix of constant rain, at times torrential, stupid mistakes and non-functioning gear.
Nina and I arrived at the boat about 9:00am. It rained in the morning, which is typical, started to clear off and then a new system moved in. It was higher, grayer overcast with constant rain, just like Seattle. It is cooler, which is a relief, but there's water, water everwhere. Clothing that should be drying are drenched and, when the wind was blowing the rain in sheets, we had a few dribbles here and there inside the boat as well. Not too motivating.
To top it off, my custom made drill bits fit the hole perfectly, but my little Bosch angle drill was too tall to fit in the space and still get the bits into the chuck. Well, after the hole is drilled, there will be room, but the point is to make the hole.
I think it might be possible with a combination of sockets and knuckles, but I didn't have the setup on hand. In a moment of pure stupidity, I left my most prized bit in the hole, then got distracted and started working on the other side. Later, I had Nina turn the steering wheel. It has immense mechanical advantage and the armiture swung across and snapped off the bit.
Back to square one. This will require another trip to Ace Hardware and a half hour of very careful grinding to create my fourth customized drill bit.
Well, with the rain still coming down, it was time to tackle the starboard bilge, make sure the pumps are working, etc. The Port side was pretty clean and working fine, so I expected the same here.
No dice. Four inches of, what appeared to be, pure sludge. Black, grimy and smelling like the county dump, or worse. I used a old piece of wire to pull up the float switch. The pump hummed on. Great. But wait, nothing really moved.
Hmmm. The thought of having to bail out the bilge by hand was repulsive at best. Tried the breaker-controlled bilge pump. Heard the hum and then the stream of water. Whew.
Turned out it was mostly water, with just a nice algae layer on the top. Using the breaker controlled pump, we were able to empty it out and then flush it multiple times with a steady flow of fresh water from the hose and bilge cleaning orange soap from the bottle. In the plus side, the one bilge pump was able to pump water out faster than a garden hose at full bore could put in.
There's still the nasty task of extracting the old float switch controlled pump and figuring out why it doesn't work. That won't be fun, but at least it won't be an underwater task. Since it has power, the intake or line being clogged are the most likely culprits. Wait, it could have a broken impeller as well; been there and done that with the last boat.
Don't boats sound like fun?
Day 74 ~ La SagesseNovember 27th, 2010
The weather forecast called for a 3-4 day rainy spell, not exactly what we came here for. It rained hard last night, but dawn saw the clouds breaking up and it turned in a beautiful day, cooler than our first couple of weeks which is a relief.
Having broken the key bit yesterday and needing a specialized 10mm bolt, I tackled some computer work this morning while waiting for Mike to head to town. Fortunately, our goals aligned as he needed to go to several of the same places I did. For once, I got my head screwed on straight and let my fingers do the walking. That ruled out several stops and led to a productive run.
Budget Marine had precisely the bolt I needed for the steering system, a big win. I bought two more bits at Ace along with some socket joints that should allow me to drill the needed holes.
We swung by the IGA supermarket, which is pretty much a dead-on duplicate of 1,000 others you would find in small to mid-size towns across the U.S. Prices are very close to Alaska, some things cheaper, some steeper, but overall about the same. Cereal is $4-6 a box, decent bone-in ham is $4 a pound, milk $6.25/gal., bananas 86c/lb., etc.
Got back about 3:00pm. It was warm, and the daylight wasn't going to last very long, so decided to take the rest of the day off and give the girls some much needed Papa time. We swam around for a while and did some history discussions. Not sure the significance of the Battle of Britain really got through, but they got the general idea.
Day 75 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 28th, 2010
Another boat day. At times I feel like this will never end. Not that anything much really happens, or doesn't, but I feel like we are becoming fixtures in the lives of people and in places where we don't really belong.
The yard isn't dirty, per se, but it certainly isn't clean either. It's an industrial work zone and it's starting to seep into every pore. The workers are friendly and respectful. I know many of them by name. Too many.
La Sagesse is wonderful; the owners, Mike and Lynn, are fantastic and flexible. But it's out in the sticks. We are trapped here, effectively at the mercy of someone with a vehicle that happens to be going where we want to go. Every grocery run, every socket or drill bit is a multi-hour affair.
Make no mistake, the list of completed boat projects is pretty long, new throttle and shifting cables, new impellers, new intake valves, new fuel filters both pre and primary and secondary windlass re-wired. I've cleaned the water tanks, the bilges, the inside, the outside, the better parts of all lockers and nearly every surface, re-ran halyards and lines of numerous sizes, inventoried piles of stuff, cleaned some more, new sail bag on, new lazy jacks, new starter battery on the port side, new battery cutoff switch, and those are just the things I can think of in the first breath.
There's easily another week of projects that would be easier to do in the yard than in the water. However, reality says, like leaving the house in August, the time has come. We need to move on and get in as soon as possible.
Nina did really well today alone with a hot and grouchy Papa. After weeks of barely to no water pressure, there was so much today that it literally blew the end off the hose. I repaired that and it blew off again. I repaired it again, ths time with my super-duper wire twister, only to blow a hole in the hose itself. Probably spent an hour today just repairing garden hose. That gets old, fast.
On the plus side, I was able to successfully drill four 1.25" deep holes to accept the 4" stainless 10mm bolts that will secure the steering plate. The space was so tight that I was never able to get a power tool to work, so I ended up ratcheting the paddle bit in, 1/5 turn at a time with my hands crammed in a tiny space, knuckles taking a thrashing.
I can now identify, if only slightly, with so many prisoners of old. Small chisel, huge stone wall. It looks impenetrable, but time is on your side.
One precious tick at a time. After 3+ hours of "drilling" by fractions of a turn, we were done. Of course, at home, it would have been a 20-minute trip to Lowe's for an angle drill and 2 minutes of electric motor work. But, alas, when you want to work to the accompaniment of exotic whistler tree frogs you are going pay, and pay dearly.
Oh, that bilge pump issue ended up just being a circuit breaker that was off. Sometimes you win with the easy fix.
Day 76 ~ Grenada Marine & La SagesseNovember 29th, 2010
Lisa and the girls came along today. Lisa dug deeper and scrubbed harder than ever, finding mold in many a nook and cranny.
Cloudy and intermittent rain today made working in the deep recesses a less miserable experience. With the holes drilled it should have been a fast fix but, of course, that wasn't how things actually go. The bolts that fit in the first hole easily were too long to fit in the subsequent holes since the gas tank slopes up slightly. A few minutes with the 4" grinder and another 10 filing here and there by hand had it singing a different tune. But, there were more in line and, before I knew it, lunch was here and gone.
Decided to epoxy things in place as well, so that added some complexity but, hopefully, will keep everything in place. You know how it goes with sticky stuff, it's tough to keep the stick where it belongs and keep it off where it doesn't, like hands and door knobs.
I had other plans for the day, but 5:00pm came along and the second steering plate is just about ready to glue. Not wanting to want to rush things, we'll wrap that up in the morning.
Enjoyed a swim and then some great chicken curry at the restaurant and face-timed Grandma and Grandpa for an hour. Nana caught the homesick bug and had a good cry. Times like that make me feel like a clod, but they seem to pass pretty quickly. She's surfing our blog now and making comments about Nika's restaurant with her usual New York attorney approach.
Day 77 ~ Splash DownNovember 30th, 2010
Well, the day finally came. I wonder if this is how the peasants in northern France felt when the troops landed in Normandy. "What took you so long?"
Okay, so that's a bit dramatic, but it does seem like the entire launch process has taken a really long time. Ironically, I first made a reservation at the La Sagesse (hotel) for one month, thinking it could easily take that long. It certainly could have.
There are innumerable minor projects yet to be done and a few of those would benefit from an endless supply of fresh water, and say some 120v power thrown in on the side, but we came to the point where enough was enough. The kids are climbing up the walls and down each others throats. Lisa needs a couple of weeks to recover from the packing, the flight, the unpacking and all the mold attacking.
She was feeling pretty low last night about how many places there were to clean and how much effort it takes to get to them. Today, she talked to the mom from Wiki (German family with a 6 year old girl) and now she feels (a bit) better. They arrived late at night, exhausted from a 9 hour flight from Germany after being gone for three months, only to find both hulls half-filled with moldy scum water. All the linens, their clothes, even the books, were spore proliferation experiementation zones, not to mention all the interior surfaces. She couldn't sleep just thinking about the air they were breathing. And it was raining, to boot. It took three full days just to launder everything; they've been here a week and are only 60% there. To add insult to injury, they left a hatch open a couple of days later and flooded their salon with 3 inches of water.
So, things could be worse, a lot worse.
The office told us to be ready at 1:00pm for the lift, but they didn't roll in until about 4:30. Which was okay, actually, since it gave me time to check off a few minor tasks.
The electricians, who were supposed to reconnect the mast, arrived about 30 minutes before the lift did. They had to get off while the boat was being carried, so ended up working until sundown. I told the rigging guys over a week ago that the electrical should be checked while the mast was on the ground and they actually replied, "That's not our department." I had a déjà-vu moment – was I back in government work again?
Oh well, it's not my problem either, I guess, but silly nonetheless.
Seeing the boat rocking around in the slings gave me a funny butterfly feeling. What with the recent rivers of rain water, the yard isn't exactly smooth, so things bob around and sway back and forth, like a child in the cradle.
It's all academic and rather amusing, until it's your dream hanging in the slings.
But things went smoothly. We set her in the water and checked the bilges for obvious trouble. Didn't find anything, so they backed the lift out and Gerald arrived to put in the new relay and dial in the steering and shifting cables. That's when things got interesting. The starboard engine wouldn't start. Gerald jumpered the wiring harness and she fired right up. So, now we have to do more electrical work to get a new connector on the wiring harness. To top it off, there is an exhaust leak as well. This could be interesting, because, if there's no hose in the right diameter on the island, we're going to be driving like a unicycle for awhile. Not exactly ideal.
By the time we found all this, of course, the stores were closed. Guess we'll find out tomorrow. I am reasonably confident we can motor out on one engine and anchor in the bay right by the yard if necessary.
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