January 2013 ~ Boat Yard Fun

Chronological Order

Day 870 ~ New PatternsJanuary 31st, 2013

Given that now I still have major undone boat projects, clients in the digital world who are offering hard currency for geek time, and 3 burgeoning chicks to feed three times a day, I am afraid the blog is going to take a back seat for a while.  At least, that is, until the epoxy era is over.  

My hair has grown out nearly two inches since it tasted the first of the sticky elixir.  Now it's so matted and crispy that just putting a comb in my hair results in yowls of pain.  However, there's really no point in cutting it out until the last epoxy batch has cured.  From the looks of it, that's probably another week or two, at least.

Lisa continued the great purge.  This girl despises mold and filth in any nook or cranny.  I believe it's a dominant trait that has floated to the top of the female gene pool after passing tests such as the Black Plague and Tuberculosis.  In other words, the sloppy moms' kids died, leaving their messy tendencies at a Darwinian dead end.  Thanks to marvels of modern medicine, Nana's kids will probably survive and reproduce, undermining all the genetic gains realized in a sadder time.  I think we call that 'progress'.

I took the kids to the beach for some play time with kids from Samantha and Ooma (who we first met two years ago in St Lucia).


Day 869 ~ Back to the Tar PitsJanuary 30th, 2013

Despite the arrival of princesses, the epoxy world continues.  I sanded and glassed and stirred for a few hours before the temperatures inside make just thinking about work a sweaty undertaking.

Lisa suffered the usual couldn't-get-to-sleep, now-can't-wake-up problems associated with a 24 hour overnight flight and a five hour time change.  Not to mention the sheer eco-shock of going from -20 to +80 and virtually zero sun to a blazing ball of fire.

After a dazed and hazy breakfast at 2pm, she started the slow arduous process of reclaiming the boat from three months of bachelor care (only the best I assure you) and 1,500 miles of sea pounding, some of it rather boisterous.   We never did do a final "lost dishes" count.   What Lisa doesn't know, but sort of suspects, is that some of the "victims" were lost to the epoxy wars instead of rogue waves.  But we'll let the waves take the blame.

In the afternoon, I took the kids to meet Samantha, a dutch boat that swallowed the hook here in St. Maarten nearly a year ago.   They suffered the perennial problem of cash flow, so the Dad took a job here and they don't have any immediate plans for casting off the docklines.  They even have A/C aboard now that they are plugged into the marina.  Ahhh, the ties that bind.


Day 868 ~ Arrival of RoyaltyJanuary 29th, 2013

Us plebians have been slogging away here in the tar pits for what seems like an eternity.  But now, seemingly from outer space, royalty is arriving and the castle must be, well, mucked out to say the least.

I dedicated a couple of morning hours to projects, figuring it would take perhaps 2 hours to tidy up the boat.  Ha.  I started cleaning at 10am and, by 1:45, I was getting panicky.  It was still pretty bad in places and, accounting for the vagueries of local busses, finding a garbage receptacle for bags of boat trash and, in general, just lost time, I needed to get off the boat fast.

Finally rolled out about 2:30p which was cutting it close.  Found a dumpster, got the dink tied up and started hoofing it towards the airport expecting one of the local busses to come by shortly as they usually do.   As I was walking under the beating sun it occurred to me that I had forgotten lunch and hadn't had a drink since breakfast. Argh.  Needs of the body, what a pain.

Finally, after what seemed like a mile of pounding the pavement, I spotted a bus on the horizon and flagged him down as he approached.

I walked into the airport terminal at 3:20p, on the dot, only to find the flight had landed early.  It wasn't two minutes later that little blond Nika peeked her head around the corner and spotted me.  I think she has grown in the last 3 weeks.  They all looked taller, and more adult-like.   But, wow, pale and sickly complexions all around.   I guess they are just white from lack of sun.   Poor things.


Day 846 - 867 ~ Meanwhile in Alaska...January 28th, 2013

By January, the days were flying by and I was frantically trying to complete my to-do list only to keep adding to it.  It seemed as though it would never end.  We've been doing well keeping a school schedule despite all the holidays and visiting happening.  We took a 3 week break while Peter was home and then resumed our routine until a few days before our own departure.

The snow slowly disappeared around town with the warmer weather until the 17th when it snowed for 2 days and left at least 12-14 inches in its wake.  The girls were ecstatic as their sledding hill had been only rocks for weeks.

Since our tickets are not until the end of the month, Nina had the opportunity to attend a Jr. Hi Retreat with our church.  She's wanted to "go to camp" for as long as we could remember.  Since she is very responsible, has 2 friends also going and several clients have finally paid up, we said yes.  She was so excited that she had butterflies in her stomach when I dropped her off.  She returned satisfied and, due to the natural camp sleep deprivation, went right down for a nap.

By the end of the month, my to-do list did actually get shorter to the point of having only a couple things undone.  The packing stress began and the airline now only allows 1 bag each.  After much sorting, rearranging and grief, I finally decided that $40 for an extra bag was worth the peace of mind.  We left the house around 11am and it was 14 degrees below zero.  Our flights went smooth and the layovers in Seattle and Fort Lauderdale weren't all that long.  The one glitch to having mileage and paying tickets is that JetBlue is not a partner with Alaska Airlines.  So, we loaded 250 pounds of gear on a SmartCarte and found out that we had to trek from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3.

We could have taken the shuttle, but after 9 hours in airplanes we found it nice to get some exercise.  Unfortunately, the carts aren't designed for large duffels in family quantities and chivalry is dead in Fort Lauderdale.  The first crash and tumble happened right as 3 men passed.  They paused, but then resumed their hands-free walk.  The second crash, though not as spectacular as the first (we caught the pile before it fell off completely), happened in front of a man listening to music while sitting on a bench.  He paused and acted as though he might get up, but decided that it wasn't necessary since the bags didn't actually touch the ground...maybe.

Well, we managed to get the bags rechecked at JetBlue and successfully got through an interrogation about our return plans (I only had our boat's Coast Guard document as proof).  Of course, carts aren't allowed past security and our gate was just about to the end of the concourse, so we had to heft our ever-heavier carry-ons the long passage.  When changing planes in Puerto Rico, the gates were again far apart but just about the time my arms felt like they were about to fall off, a young man on his way to St Maarten as mega sailboat crew offered to carry my bag.  I warned him, but he held it as if it weighed 5 pounds.  Nice to know that chivalry exists in other parts of the world (turns out he's not from Fort Lauderdale).

The plane was early and we were the last ones off the plane and through Immigration (no Customs to be found).  Of course, carts don't exist in this part of the world and the man wanted $2 a bag to haul each 30 feet.  We just dragged the beasts and hoped the gate keeper would allow multiple returns across the "line" to retrieve the other bags.  Peter, who had just arrived himself, was there to greet us.  Of course, we managed to get the smallest taxi available, not the large van, but the station wagon.  The driver assured us that we all would fit since we had duffels and not suitcases.  After loading, there was not 1" to spare; poor Nika was wedged into a very back seat amid most of the bags.

From the yacht club dinghy dock to our last bag transfer to the boat, we had arrived 25 hours after leaving Mom and Dad's house.  The temperature?  85 degrees.  Ahhh.


Day 867 ~ SplashdownJanuary 28th, 2013

The day broke sunny and warm, but I guess that isn't news.  I woke up about 5:40am and was up and moving by 6am.  So many last minute details need attention.  In a flash it was 8am and the yard crews started hammering and sanding.  I dashed to the chandlery down the street for a last few odds and ends and noticed that a large French Coast Guard/Customs boat was moored in the slip into which I would be launched.

Every yard on the planet enforces a "no cash, no splash" policy.  This makes collections really easy.  They have your boat captive and both parties know it.   I swung by the office on my may back to the boat.  No big surprises, which is always a good thing, and a flash of plastic was all it took to have everyone smiling.

I wanted to make the 9am Dutch bridge opening to get away from this terribly trapped feeling.   The inner lagoon of St. Maarten offers a tempting protected anchorage, but the reality is a lot of wakes, traffic and water that, well, I wouldn't swim in it anyway.   I guess some people do.

Roger went over and conviced the French Coast Guard boat to cast off and hold station nearby so I could get out of their way.  Being from England, Roger had a few choice words of love and flattery for the French boys who weren't supposed to show up until noon.

We hit the water about 8:40 and the port engine fired instantly.   The starboard one just clicked.  Argh!  I suspected that with all the work we did something had gotten bumped or jostled.  Fortunately, the yard called Simpson Bay Diesel and Gordy, the tech who worked on it in the yard, was sitting around enjoying a cup of Joe.   He hoofed it right over and popped down below.  Turns out it looks like our brand new from Oriental, eight-month-old ignition switch has succumbed already.  Er, perhaps it was the multiple salt water submersions it experienced during the Night of the Howling Banshee that did it in.   I seem to recall lights flickering after the second really big dousing.   Ya think?

To get us out of the chute, Gordy hot-wired the engine with the standard Yanmar screwdriver trick and she fired immediately.   Considering that the French navy was waiting, a wave of relief rippled through the lift crew.

The winds in the morning are generally calmer and this held true for this morning as well.  It proved simplicity itself to back straight out of the chute and then, using two working engines and transmissions for the first time in nearly a year, flip a nice 180 in our own radius.  I grabbed a handheld VHF and called the Dutch bridge to let them know that I was headed their way.   The operator called back immediately and informed me we had plenty of time as there were 4 boats in the queue ahead of me and he wouldn't open for another 3 minutes.

By the time I rounded Isle de Sol, I heard the horn.   It was just a matter of clicking the throttles out of forward for a minute and a half and then, zip, we were out, at long last, from the world of grinders and grit.

Got Bruce down in a pretty decent spot and did what I have dreamed of doing for nearly 7 months -- just jump in and swim out in tropical water to check the anchor.   Haven't done that since May while in the Bahamas.

It was then back to boat projects.  Even though I am entertaining no hope of getting them all done by tomorrow, at least I can make some progress today.


Day 866 ~ Big AspirationsJanuary 27th, 2013

I had big aspirations for today.   This should be the last day on the hard.   Mixed feelings about headed back into the water with so many projects unfinished.   The big on is the top of the port water tank.   I need a couple of more solid days to wrap that one up and it's just not going to happen before the girls return.

On top of all that, the boat is still a complete wreck.   I did manage to finish up the salt water pressure system including wiring the pump into the master circuit breaker panel and fitting the strainer which protects the pump from any little bits of barny that get sucked in.   That took all morning.

The rest of the day seems like a blur.   I know I was busy all day on the boat, but sitting here at 7pm, stiff, sore and dazed, it's hard to remember any details.

Tempted to delay the drop a day if we can, but I think the yard has already booked my spot for another boat coming in tomorrow, so for better or worse I think we'll get wet first thing tomorrow. 


Day 865 ~ Epoxy Madness IIJanuary 26th, 2013

Today was the day.  The port tank baffle was cut and fit and there was nothing left to be done but mix up a big batch of goo and slap it around.  I tried really hard not to get any in my hair this time, but failed miserably.

By the time I realized I had a big smear in my hair I didn't have much choice but to cut it out with scissors.  I went easy though, just removing the largest and most painful pieces.  While looking in the mirror with everything in reverse, I noticed a fairly large smudge of epoxy on the tip of my nose.  Icing on the cake.

Overall, the project went well, I definitely learned some lessons the first time around.  This time it should have gone faster and cleaner.   Cleaner yes, faster, maybe.   Still took two hours before I could stop for a moment and take a breath.


Day 864 ~ A Lifting ExperienceJanuary 25th, 2013

Well, today could have been the day.  We lifted the boat to put the starboard rudder back in (the shaft is really long so can only be inserted back into the boat when the boat is about 10 feet in the air).  Roger offered, "Hey, we could drop you in right now."  It was tempting, but I had just installed a new through-hull fitting for our speed sensor and the chalking hadn't even cured yet.   Probably not a good idea.

So, after getting the rudder installed, we were set gently back down on dry land for another couple of days.  Days I hope to turn into 100% boat days, no computer interruptions.  Well, that's the idea anyway.  So much to do before the girls come.  The port water tank is now topless and endless, that should probably get some attention.  The starboard tank needs a lid and a pick up, at the very least, so running water can be restored.  The demands women make.

I did make major progress today in getting the old speed through-hull fitting cut into pieces and hammered out.  The new one was, thankfully, the exact same size so was fairly quick to install.   Had to cut the tube of 4200 open from the side.  Once one of these puppies is opened you may as well kiss the entire tube goodbye; no matter how thoroughly you think you seal the tip, it never works.

With a taste for red meat I fell hard today and went back for another Whopper.  Two in a row.  Now it's going to be back to egg salad and cereal.   Found a local place with mangos for $1.50 so splurged and tried one.  It was excellent and helped all those transfatty acids slide by.


Day 863 ~ Judging too QuicklyJanuary 24th, 2013

Much better day today for lots of little reasons.   For one, the canvas lady finally surfaced.  She's a Dutch lady who does canvas work on her boat and has been down with a sore back for the last week or two.  She called and then came by about 8:30am.  Turns out she and her husband have lived on their old custom Scottish steel monohull for 30 years.   They came to St. Martin for a week to "visit our son", 7 years ago.

She seems very professional and thorough.  Her hourly rate is $25 for top grade canvas work.   Tough to beat that, unless it's your mom who sews dinghy chaps for free.   Thanks, Mom.

The canvas lady was just leaving when Mason, from Out of Africa arrived.   He spent nearly 6 hours ripping apart and reassembling our D400 wind generator which has always had a nasty "wrong" scraping sound to it.  It's been so bad that guests frequently request that I rope it off for the evening so they can sleep.

Well, he found bad bearings so replaced those, put it back together and there was still a wrong noise.  Hours later he found that three washers had been put in the wrong place by the people who last worked on it.  This caused the heads of three internal bolts to rub against the housing.

So Mason showed up and we got the generator mounted again with the help of a halyard and boat hook.  This is no small feat as the unit weighs in at over 33 lbs and is mounted above the head.  Imagine holding a four gallon pail of water over your head and trying to pour it into a straw attached to your ear.  You get the general idea.   No wait, you have to be doing this with a crystal bucket because if you drop it, serious damage and personal injury may result.   No, will result.   No pressure.

Anyway, we got it mounted on the first try and she spun up in a breeze, silky, smooth and silent.   Ahhhh.  Mason's rate is also $25 an hour.  Considering the last repair place charged me $65 an hour and it returned it in worse shape than when I took it in, that's a steal of a deal.

Things just got better from there.   The guy who is fabricating a new cabinent for the salon had me stop by the shop to check things out.  We got to chatting and it turns out he has a Fein vibrating cutting tool ($450) which is just the ticket for cutting out the water tank lid.  I hate borrowing tools from people, but just had to ask.  He was low key, no problem.  Thirty minutes with his magic little gizmo and the tank top was cut out, cleanly, squarely and with no injuries.  Tough to beat that.

I was returning the tool to Paul when I realized I had forgotten something back at the boat.  Since it's only a couple of blocks away, I zipped back on my bike and found a guy walking away from my boat.  Turns out it was Andrew, the B&G guy.  He had come to troubleshoot the new speed sensor.   In 3 minutes he changed my wiring arrangement and, Shazaam! speed readings started spitting out of the display for the first time in over a year. I guess I judged him a little too quickly.

To top it all off, I stopped by a car rental place to inquire about the cost of renting a car to pick up the girls at the airport.  

Me: "What's it cost to rent a small car for a day?"

Guy behind the counter sporting a red "Sunshine Car Rental" shirt: "All our cars are small (smiling). About $40 plus optional insurance and non-optional taxes."

Me: "Have taxes ever been optional?"

Guy: "Well that depends.  Do you know from where the word 'taxes' originated?"

Me: "Ahh, no."

Guy: "The Vatican."

This ignited a half hour conversation ranging from the reality of death, taxes and government bulimia to Caribbean culture, or lack thereof, European lawyering practices, lawsuits as hobbies and the need for quick capital punishment for certain heinous crimes (his opinion).  A refreshingly well-read conversationalist is a rare gem in the "jewels of the South Atlantic" (Caribbean).   I might go back tomorrow just to pick his brain some more.  And to think I just about turned heel and walked out after the first sentence.   There was just something in the way he said the word "taxes" that got my attention.  Once again, I judged too quickly.

Haven't had a piece of red meat for going on two weeks now, so for some odd reason I craved a burger.   A homemade mushroom burger sounded perfect, but with no running water and the galley a complete mess I settled for the $4.55 whopper with cheese at Burger King.   Sorry Dan.   I avoided the fries and milkshake though.  That and a 12 pack of pita pockets, which should last me a couple of weeks, brought the day's food total to $7.54.


Day 862 ~ Avoidance BehaviorJanuary 23rd, 2013

Another tough day but lots done.  Bottom paint is finished, applied by the yard.   With taping and such, it's about a 4 hour job all told and they charge $172.   Given all the other pressing projects that can't be delegated it made sense to let them do the work.   Antonio, the guy who applied the paint is probably the sharpest and most diligent guy I have seen working here, besides the manager.   He was very thorough and careful.

Port tank is still ripped up as I now realize that the top of the tank is also made of plywood with some kind of plastic lining.  Of course, they drilled holes through this for the tank level sensor, among other things and, guess what?  It's mostly shot or just mush in places; other areas are solid, but it's pretty clear all will have to come out.

Bought a new speed sensor sending unit here from the local intrumentation guy and I can't get it to work despite connecting all the colored wires like a kindergarden matching game.   Green to green, red to red, yellow to yellow, etc.  Very frustrating as there is a B&G sender unit on eBay that I am 99% sure is the right part, but I don't want to buy that one too if this one is workable but just not connected correctly.  The guy who sold it to me, cash of course, is really slow on email.   Kind of feels like he's avoiding me now.   Go figure.


Day 861 ~ More of the SameJanuary 22nd, 2013

Hard to say anything new about today.  There was dust, sweat and progress.   Got the port water tank baffle fitted nicely and ready to epoxy in place.   All told this went about twice as fast as the first side.

Spent a good portion of the day doing final bottom paint prep work, sanding down a rudder and spot priming areas where the yard guy sanded through all the previous layers of bottom paint.  Some day those are all going to have to come off, but today wasn't it.

Roger, the yard manager came by to say that they could squeeze me in to splash first thing Monday morning.  This is good news as they previously said I would have wait until Wednesday, after the girls arrived.

Rendezvous'd with the B&G electronics person at the Yacht Club.   Our speed and temperature haven't worked now for over a year and I was finally able to narrow it down to the sending unit, no surprise.   The price was right on this one, but it's a different version, so will require ripping out the other through-hull adapter and gluing in a new one.   This turns what should be an hour job into a 3+ hour task, with a healthy sidedish of unknowns.

Speaking of sidedishes, after the goat curry extravaganza over the weekend, food expenditures for the last couple of days total $8.30, most of that for places that offer "free" internet.


Day 860 ~ Tank TimeJanuary 21st, 2013

With the girls' impending arrival just days away, I focused hard core on the port water tank.   It was dusty, sweaty and messy but I got quite a bit done, at least 4-5 days worth of progress on the first tank.   Partly due to the better access, partly because I know more what I am doing, but mostly it's just a good old-fashioned deadline staring me square in the face.

Got the existing baffle about 70% sanded and prepped and modeled the new part with cardboard (it was probably 97% identical to the first one so the old cardboard template just required a few minor tweaks).  I can cut out the new 3/8" fiberglass panel with a 4" angle grinder and a Dremel for the sharper curves.

I made it most of the way to fitting the new panel.  This means sliding it in, noting places where it's too tight, penciling them while hanging upside down, pulling the panel out, taking it down below where the tools are set up (no dust on the boat!), sanding or grinding on it, then trying again.  I probably made 8 round trips before just plumb running out of steam.  By then it was 4pm, the hottest part of the day.

Did a short stint at the Taste Factory and managed to get a small amount of work done amid the grind of CNN blasting live coverage of the inaugaral ceremonies.   Obama's popular around here because the locals have carefully studied his philosophy and agenda and believe his policies are the wisest course for America.  Ahem.


Day 859 ~ Reality StrikesJanuary 20th, 2013

I was looking at the calendar, which doesn't happen too often, to see how many weeks I had left until the girls join the boat in whatever form it lays.  Yikes!  They are slated to be here in 8 days.  Panic time.

The boat is completely thrashed.  There is, literally, not a single place to sit down under shelter.   I read in bed each night because there isn't any place to sit.  We have no running water and none sighted on the immediate horizon.   And cooking?   Shall we say, impossible?   The kitchen counters are covered with plumbing tools and parts, epoxy saturated papertowels pretending to be ninja throwing stars.

Time to focus on out of the water projects.  Many of the inside projects, like the saltwater pressure system and port water tank fix, can be done at anchor.   Not as convenient but totally do-able.

I spent the morning priming and painting the sail drives and props and doing some final sanding before bottom paint application can start.   Ripped into the port water tank after lunch, getting the old fill and pump feeder lines removed.   In some ways this tank is in better shape or, at least, easier to reach.  The access hole is actually large enough that I can get my legs and hips down in the tank.   This will make the sanding and preparation a lot less taxing on the old shoulders.

After blowing my eating out budget on $9.50 goat curry last night, decided to stick close to home this evening and subsist on tuna fish, peanut butter and boiled eggs.   Oh, and a pita pockets for carbs.   Now there's a varied diet for ya!

Turns out the boat next to me sunk at a dock during a storm.   The captain had gone to the bar, or something.   The insurance company paid out to the Italian owner who then sold the hull to a buddy for $1.    That guy is here now, with a crew of 13 Italians from the factory who started the process of gutting it a few days ago.   It isn't a pretty sight.   Oh, and the Italians brought their own container with a generator, tons of parts and cases of wine.  Naturally.


Day 858 ~ Goat CurryJanuary 19th, 2013

Wrapped up the saildrive sanding today, and got the stubborn water fill problem cracked.  A $31 Italian bronze 2" elbow did the trick, just turning past the hull with a millimeter or less to spare.  Huge relief.  No grinding or cheeseballing this thing together; it's now done tight and right.

Also found and fitted a new through-hull for the tank pickup.  This means the pump should no longer lose its prime when the water tank gets below X level.  That is, assuming, the pump is still good.  It's only a year old, but hey, you never can tell.

No progress on the port tank today.  Yes, I am avoiding it again.  Lots of other minor progress though.

Did the usual afternoon computer thing.  Then decided I needed some protein in my diet other than peanut butter and yogurt.  Turned of the beaten track and found a little Indian place above a pretty rough looking conveniance store.  The proprietor was a small, nervous, balding man with a curious habit of twitching his hands while he talked.  I arrived right at 6pm when they re-opened for dinner so the place was empty.  After taking my order for goat curry and wheat naan, he entertained his fidgeting hands while repairing fans.   Yes, he had 4 or 5 household style fans disassembled and in pieces on a couple of tables.   He managed to reassemble one and set it up near me, which was thoughtful.   Today is rare in that there seems to be no breeze at all.   It's not really hot or humid, but the air felt good.

My goat curry arrived a few minutes later, piping hot and just the right amount of spice for my pathetic American palette.   It was outstanding, the goat was anything but stubborn.


Day 857 ~ Prop PolishingJanuary 18th, 2013

Not much new happened today.  Usual things.  Went to screw on the final piece to hook the water tank fill up to the retrofitted starboard water tank and found that the 2" elbow fitting was too large to rotate past the hull.  Who engineered this thing anyway?  If I had put it on before the epoxy hardened I could have spun it tight.  Now, there will have to be more fittings involved and more cost.  Repetition is tiring, I know, and hard on the wallet.

Managed to get both props nicely sanded down with a palm sander and 180 grit paper.  They look just about like new.  Did the sail drives as well, all the way down to bare aluminum.  Just need to be sure I get the right primer on them.

Spent the balance of the afternoon at Taste Factory doing computer work.   Cold shower.


Day 856 ~ Tankage ToilsJanuary 17th, 2013

Started on the port tank today.  It's amazing how much simpler it feels having done one side already.  That doesn't mean that blood and sweat aren't involved in just getting the top cover off.  Presumably, it's been glued in place for years, perhaps two decades.   I had all the tools this time, however, and an hour and a half later, it was off.

Spent a good hour sanding the port prop and saildrive housing in preparation for priming and bottom painting, which in theory could happen this week.  Something tells me it won't, though.  The yard hauled a brand new Lagoon and set it right in front of us.  It had no bottom paint at all, just plain gel coat.  I am not sure how I would feel about plunking down half a million and then having to haul and bottom paint it right out of the gate.

More web run around today.  The USB device that was supposed come in tomorrow has been "unfortunately delayed and we have no idea when it will arrive."  Ahhh, life on the islands.

Followed the usual day pattern of nasty boat projects before breakfast, moderately disagreeable boat projects from brekkie to lunch and then shopping and computer work after until dark.

Oh, and don't forget the ice cold shower.


Day 855 ~ More Run AroundJanuary 16th, 2013

Today should have been the day to get some cellular based internet that would preclude me having to ride a bicycle just to check my email.  The guy delivered the SIM card right on time today.  As I was in the middle of a project it wasn't until later in the afternoon that I sat down to get online.  First off, the card was too large being a mini sim instead of a micro sim.  No problem, I quickly learned that you can cut them down with scissors.  That done but still no dice.  It turns out the USB device we have is locked down a specific network.  And it happens to be Cricket, a local San Diego provider.   Not going to do too much good here.

So, another day, another bike ride, another pastry from the Taste Factory.  I guess it could be worse.  I tried their Almond Croissant today for the first time.  It was fantastic, probably the best thing I have had there the entire trip.  Having no internet, I'll just have to go back again.

Swung by Simpson Bay Diesel to settle up our bill.   Wasn't sure what the damage was, but knew it wasn't going to be cheap.  I was guessing about $950 so when she handed me a bill for $740, I was, as you can imagine, pleasantly surprised.  After the snafu with the snap ring, I think they went a little easy on me.

Made progress today on several fronts.  Was able to diagnose that our B & G Water Speed and Temperature sending unit is toast.  The trick will be finding a replacement.  I believe they have been out of production for some time.  We'll see.  Made progress sanding and doing some minor epoxy repairs.

I guess I have to admit to putting off tackling the second water tank fix.  Now that I have some idea of what I am doing, it really shouldn't be that hard; it just involves a lot of hanging upside down with sweat dripping in the eyes kind of thing, and that's an easy thing to put until mañana.  Tomorrow, I promise, I'll get started.   It doesn't help matters that this tank is in the kitchen, which means anytime a meal rolls around, I either have to levitate over the open tank or put things back together, only to have take them apart again next time.  Hey, wait, I know, I'll just live on pastries.


Day 854 ~ Gritty Grimy GreasyJanuary 15th, 2013

Tough day today at the boat. Started out good, I sold our old inverter on the Cruiser's Net for $50. Considering how old it is and its questionable condition, I was surprised it went so fast.

As I was talking to the couple who came to pick up the inverter (they, husband and wife, had the most darling Scottish accents. At times I could hardly understand them when they talked to each other, it was so sing-songy. "Noooo, I doun't think sooo").  As we were wrapping it up in trash bags, the engine guys showed up.   I knew if I helped it would go a lot faster, so I dropped the sliding door project and dove into the engine work.

It went fairly smooth for the first hour and I was thinking, "Wow, this is great, we'll have this back together with just a couple billable hours of time...."

Yeah right.  We hit a snag, and then another. Fortunately, my smaller hands (yes smaller than the mechanic's) fit in a really tight place and I was able to thread a key part into position. We finally overcame what I thought was the final obstacle.   Then it was just remounting the engine itself and replacing the seal band that keeps the water out.  As the guy was putting that on (half hanging upside down) I heard a string of expletives. The band had broken. It was factory new, right out of the bag.

"I have never seen one do that before!" he remarked incredulously.

Great, just great. There had been only one in stock (which just broke), and the real doozy is that you can only put it on when the engine and transmission are separated. It took us about 4 hours to get them apart, and we were at about 3.5 hours getting it back together. So, a fix would have meant re-doing virtually EVERYTHING we had done the entire time ashore (with the exception of replacing the little parts in the saildrive which had been done in the shop).

He decided to walk back to the shop (just a block and a half from the yard) to talk to the boss/owner of the company. I decided to go along and make sure he knew I wasn't paying for that part or whatever time it took to implement some other fix.  The boss came out of his office and heard the whole tail of woe. He wasn't happy either, but made it clear that I wasn't on the hook for the part and he would get it refunded from Yanmar directly.

So we kicked around other ideas. They were going to opt for zip ties (which is common) when I had another idea. An hour and a half later, I had juryrigged the original, broken strap, back in place in a manner that is actually better than the original. Everyone was smiles when they heard that and it felt great to have it done.

Things went downhill from there. By the time I was done wrapping up other loose ends, that I didn't want to pay $65 an hour to have done for me (finish bolting down the engine, fill the saildrive with oil, etc), it was close to 4pm.  I was supposed to meet the local cell network internet guy to get a sim card so I don't have to drive my bike places just to check email.  So, I scrambled around getting all the tools out of the engine room and out of the way of rain in case it comes while I was gone.  It's AMAZING how fast all organization descends into madness.  I was exhausted from 7 hours of engine work, the parts scramble for the juryrigging and the late afternoon sun pounding right into the cockpit.  As I was attempting to neatly heap tools at least in the general area where they belonged, I bumped a drill gun which fell and, of course with its only shap edge, landed on my toe.  It hurt like the dickens and started bleeding at a decent rate.

I couldn't help emitting a nice yelp followed by some hopping. I am sure the guys working next door wondered what in the world was going on.  I was supposed to meet the internet guy at 4:53, but by the time I stopped the bloodflow, got it cleaned up and alcoholed, changed clothes, packed my bags and got going, no one was there. I asked around. "Oh, they JUST left about one minute ago..."

Welcome to the islands, Mon!


Day 853 ~ Epoxy MadnessJanuary 14th, 2013

Today was the long awaited culmination of what feels like a month of preparation for the starboard water tank fix. In fact, it's probably only been 10-15 hours of prep time, but stretched over a month while doing the work upside down hanging by your elbows, it seems to drag on a little.

Epoxy is dicey stuff, really sticky and in these temperatures is subject to "go off" if you aren't careful.  Epoxy generates heat as it begins to cure and it cures faster when it's warm.   So, guess what?   If you mix too much, don't stir it enough or don't use it fast enough the inside of the batch gets warmer causing its chemical thing to go faster which makes even more heat.   It's like a little nuclear reaction gone berserk.   Well, sort of.   Just without the radiation and resulting thyroid cancer.

It really helps to have watched the Deltaville crews closely while we were in the boatyard last year.  I made a few mistakes, had one epoxy batch go critical on me (where its own internally generated chemical heat causes a cascading chain reaction and the entire cupful goes from mayonnaise to rock hard in a minute. Burns are possible, I have been told. It did start melting the cup.

It all went pretty smoothly, actually, although now I have quite a bit more epoxy in my hair than is recommended. It's specifically designed to be absorbed in the hairs of fiberglass and to bond those hairs together. So it's juicy enough to absorb, but stiff enough to cling. Needless to say, it will not, never, ever, comb out.  I now have rock hard plastic hair.

Nice eh?  It's even designed to be completely waterproof once cured.

Managed to contain all the gooey mess pretty well, which was a relief. All told I was epoxying from 8:30 to about 1pm and used half a box of surgical gloves and more than a few paper towels.   Ahhh, the disposable age.

The transmission is all back together in the shop and they are hoping to come out and install it tomorrow morning or the following morning. Once that is in place, we only need to get the bottom painted and then we can go back in the water.  Can't wait.


Day 852 ~ Slow SundayJanuary 13th, 2013

Awoke naturally about 7:30am so this must mean the jet lag is wearing off.   Decided to take it easy today and organize the boat in preparation for tomorrow's Epoxy Day.  Once a batch of the gooey stuff gets mixed, you don't want to be fumbling around looking for missing tools or parts.   Besides, there's hardly any floor space left for working.

Decided to move all the tools and parts out into the cockpit to make room for doing the work inside.   Only took about an hour, but it's amazing how much more space there is.  Ahhh, much better now.

Got the itch to do some more plumbing.   I was just about to cut into the sink plumbing to run the salt water supply connections and lines when I realized my nippers were poised over the wrong side, the hot water side.  Yikes.  Then I realized my next move would have pushed salt water into the drinking filter.  Argh.  

It seemed wise to put the nippers away and study things for a few minutes.  Turned out everything I thought was one way was actually the other and, again, half the parts I had prepped for the operation wouldn't even be needed.   Clueless seems to be a common theme.  Perhaps plumbing isn't in my future.  I biked up to Ace for a few needed parts only to find it locked up tight for the Sabbath.  As was everything else in town.  Perhaps I should take the hint.

Did some email at Island Water World's free outdoor wifi, then headed home for an egg salad pita sandwich.


Day 851 ~ Boat DayJanuary 12th, 2013

Spent all day on boat projects since it's Saturday and clients won't be too anxious for things.   Wired and finished plumbing the new bilge pump then worked to install the salt water pressure system which will give Lisa some respite from having to be so water conscious when washing dishes.    

Running new water lines in a boat means cramming into tight little spaces, hanging upside down or jamming your hands up into little holes over your head that you can't really see in hopes of feeling the end of line shoved in from the back side of some other partition.   Tiring, dusty, scratchy, sweaty work.

Ready to epoxy in the tank baffle now.   Could have done it today, but decided I should do some fiberglass practice with small batches of epoxy and small pieces of glass before attempting the big one.  These went really well, and thanks to YouTube, I am fairly confident that I am doing it right.   Things they said would work did and came out as expected, very strong as well.  I think my first project once we are back on land, and with a shop, will be a carbon fiber table that seats 8 and weighs 8 pounds.   Now that would be cool.

Thought I had it all figured out, then stumbled onto a valve I didn't recognize.   A light bulb came on, and I realized half of what I was doing didn't need to be done.  We don't actually need a second hose at all, we can just have a set of valves that toggles the washdown hose supply from fresh to salt and back again.   Duh.   Half the parts I bought at Lowe's in Anchorage are now not needed.

Live and learn.


Day 850 ~ PlumbingJanuary 11th, 2013

On about Mountain Time now.  Finally drifted off at 1am and managed to drag myself out of bed about 8:30am.  Tackled more on the starboard water tank doing the final sand and grind down prior to epoxying on the new baffle.   Removed the old through tank drain that was a silly design in the first place.  Plumbed in the new bilge pump which will now be required.  Found an old unused through-hull fitting well above the waterline, so that saved several hours.  Used to be the drain for the air conditioning.

Spent the balance of the day at the Taste Factory enjoying their fairly fast wifi connection to get some paying work done.   Another cold shower.


Day 849 ~ Slow ProgressJanuary 10th, 2013

Up half the night with jet lag and felt groggy this morning.  Finally found my feet about 9am.  Spent the morning on the starboard water tank fix, epoxied the fill fitting and plumbed in the forward bilge pump which will now be needed.   Things went pretty smoothly, although the epoxy ended up in too many places it didn't belong.  Sticky things seem to work that way.

Spent a good hour tracing instrumentation wiring and taking voltage readings.  Our speed sensor hasn't been working for nearly a year and it's time.  Turns out it's supposed to be generating a 5-volt pulse.  I should be able to check it tomorrow and confirm if the sensor is good or not.   A new one is only $169; as boat parts go that's pretty cheap.

Worked on the computer from about 3pm to 8pm at the Taste Factory, my new favorite haunt.

Another chilly shower and balanced dinner of peaches, yogurt and peanut butter.  Yee-haw.  One of these days I'll figure out a way to trap the solar shower's heat when it's hot at about 3pm.


Day 848 ~ Locked OutJanuary 9th, 2013

Slept great from 10pm to 2:30am, then wide awake.  Finally gave up, tackled some computer stuff and finished my first and last Clive Cussler novel.   I should have figured out based on his popularity that he's light reading.  Worse than light actually, contrived, trite and shallow are the first words that come to mind.

Worked all morning on boat issues and took on computer projects in the A/C and bug-free cafe environment.  Time got away from me and I returned to the boatyard about 9pm only to find the towering front gate locked down with a huge padlock.  Knowing a guard is posted 24/7, or supposed to be, I hammered on it for a bit and hollered to no avail.   He's probably sleeping in his car.

Looking around, I soon found that by wading across a sewer drain and edging along a ridge in the concrete barrier I could get around the gate to the open access of the waterfront.  That nasty razor ridging was installed at key points, but really?   If sailing has taught me anything, it's to take the bull by the horns.   Three uncomfortable minutes and me + bike + groceries + computer bag were inside.   Feet were a little slimy, but nothing a cold shower won't fix.

Never did see the guard.


Day 847 ~ Back on the Hard AgainJanuary 8th, 2013

Arrived at the boat yard about 2:30pm after a near picture perfect string of flights.  Some delays, but no missed connections.  Really odd feeling coming back to the boat after time back at "home" following a 2+ year gap.   Terrible sinking feeling just seeing all the half started projects and total chaos I left in the scramble to get to the airport.

I think, for the first time, I perceived the boat the way Nana and Nina must.  I know logically that it's been a great vehicle for fun and adventure, but I felt scared, intimidated and overwhelmed by it all in those first few minutes.

The smells were the worst.  Smells work that way, seemingly hard-wired to memories.  The faint vinegar odor, the closed in vault-like mixture of fiberglass, vinyl and wood.  I was back in Grenada again and those early fears were as real as ever.  Was I certifiably insane?   But then rushing into the void were good memories as well.   The long days with Remi De, Jaru and Yindee, the fishing, the fun and the many meals and laughs together.

I guess this old boat is a complex creature now, roving wildly among the currents of memory bringing back flashes of fear and fortune.   It's my dream, I know, but sometimes the sheer weight of it sometimes sits heavily.

To avoid slipping into a funk, I tackled the only project that seemed immediately do-able, install the new inverter.  In theory, this is a trivial undertaking, a few wires here and a few there and it should be done.  Of course, it still took 2 1/2 hours, but it went smoothly and, in addition to producing clean Pure Sine power, it has enough umph to get the big fridge going.

After a cold shower, I slipped on a clean shirt; it smelled like Grandma's house.  I miss those girls already.


Day 840 - 846 ~ Happy New YearJanuary 7th, 2013

We did the usual new year's things and visited friends, ate leftovers and read stories.   We read the Princess Bride book which was, predictably, much more interesting than the movie.   The girls enjoyed it immensely.

Looking at the calendar there seemed to be plenty of time, but in living it out day to day there just wasn't enough time to see everyone and do everything a person ought to do after having been gone so long on the heels of an impending departure.

The overall impression was, I believe, reality.  Life went on just fine without us.  The usual people did their usual things.  While being "home" felt safe and comforting, I see it all now with different eyes.  The overwhelming impression one has at every turn is how rich everyone is, from their cars to their bathrooms.  I guess we were and are just like our friends, but having nothing in contrast, I was previously blind to it all.

Passages change you in ways not easily undone.  The sheer scale of the open sea, the uncontrollable forces that ride roughshod on the simple plans of man.   The ion charring energy of salt driven spray during that long and howling night, the towering waves.

You wouldn't believe how shallow bling looks in comparison.


Day 845 ~ Final Prep for DepartureJanuary 6th, 2013

Last day here.  Final prep, hair cut, packing, etc.

Went outside with the girls to work on their fort.  The snow is almost gone, ice covers the side roads making for treacherous driving and walking.  I helped them build walls and then played a game of checkers that the girls had fashioned out of thick branches.


Day 844 ~ Birthday SurpriseJanuary 5th, 2013

Lisa and I worked through some dreaded, but necessary, invoicing.  In the afternoon, we spent a couple hours at our house meeting and chatting with our renters.  The house looks great; we couldn't ask for better renters.

I hatched a plan to celebrate Lisa's birthday early while I was home.  I told her that a friend was loaning us her house for the evening while she was at hockey.  Coordinating peanut butter pie making, cover stories, decorations and guest list was challenging, but I managed to pull it off under Lisa's watchful eyes.  We were the last to leave.

I promised the girls we'd watch the Princess Bride movie after finishing the book.  Time is running out and tonight is it so we opted to make it a marathon day of fun.


Day 840 ~ New Years DayJanuary 1st, 2013

The night before we were invited to join our friends and their families in the festivities with eating, playing, visiting and the annual burning of the Christmas tree to usher in the new year.  A good time was had by all despite the frigid temperatures.

After some sleep, we passed another client-free holiday to chill out with my family.  A peaceful day at that.

I awoke first and took Nika with me to town.  I needed plumbing parts and Nika needed a date with Papa.  With her, there is no other option but IHOP.  Without her sisters present and between pancake bites, it was fun to listen to her chat the entire time.

In the afternoon, the girls went sledding and then put together gifts received for Christmas.