October 2013 ~ Grenada with a Dash of Trinidad
Day 1143 ~ Winding Back UpOctober 31st, 2013
Morning lessons as usual. Lisa left for noodling (water aerobics) first thing and Dean stopped by to help me pull the wind generator off the pole. This is a tricky maneuver as the unit tips the scales at nearly 60 pounds and the pole is just a little bit beyond reach. I mean, you can get your hand on it, but it's a stretch. When the halyard pops it off the pole it tends to take off on a trajectory of its own.
Nana cranked on the halyard slowly, while Dean kept a hand on the control line. Sure enough, it popped right out, and immediately I could see that the wires right below the base of the unit were completely cooked, melted into the twisted equivalent of a burned hot dog, all charred red and black stripes.
With Dean feeding the new wires up from the engine room below we were able to slowly lower the unit while pulling the new wire up into the pole with the old. We got about halfway when the works jammed. Dean couldn't get the second #8 wire to feed into the teeny tiny hole the original installer drilled. I had used a crimp butt and copious amounts of electrical tape to tie the old #10 to the new #8. The hole was so small that the second butt connector simply would not pass. There was room for two #8 wires, but not a single #8 wire and butt connector. Thanks guys. Did it really have to be a 3/8" hole?
So up the wind generator went again, this time with Dean holding a 60 pound block of metal over his head while I cut off the butt connector and went for a straight tape connection, wrapping as well as I could and hoping for the best.
As Dean slowly lowered the unit inch by inch I fed the wires back up the tiny hole, this time the electrical tape passed, but just barely. At last the chunk of metal was safe and secure on the deck and the new wires were through the pole. There were blobs of bubble wrap around the wires about three feet apart. We stared at them in bafflement for a long second before Dean figured it out. "Hey, I bet that bubble wrap keeps the wires from clanking against the inside of the pole in a cross swell. You might want to keep those in place." Duh, how obvious.
The good news was the #10 wire was cooked and melted together in charred chunks all the way along. It's good news because that means, hopefully, the wire was the problem and not the guts of the D400 itself. I cut out all the bad stuff, and connected up the new #8 wires. It only took two minutes and we were ready to do the entire dance in reverse. Nana cranked on the halyard and we slowly raised it back overhead. Miraculously, it went like clockwork, Nana cranked just right, stopping at the right moment with just enough slack for me to muscle it up and into the hole.
Then came the acid test, would it make power? We unleashed it and I felt my stomach go sick. It just sat there, slowly spinning in brake mode indicating that there was a short circuit somewhere between the positive and negative.
Once again Dean, the disinterested third party, was thinking more clearly. "You never cut the wire." Sure enough, having learned the hard way in the past, I had left the #8 wire as one long piece, looped at the bottom. This way, if the positive ended up needing to be longer than the negative, or visa versa, the cuts could be made appropriately. You can buy 50 feet of wire, and cut it into two 25 pieces, and still have to go back to the store and buy another 28 foot piece. Sure enough, in this case the negative needed an extra 5 feet, so I made the cut an arms length past the midpoint making 22 and 28 foot pieces out of the original 50 feet I had purchased. I guess not all experience is lost into the abyss.
I cut the wire and heard the blades kick up a notch whirring steadily. Music to sore ears. Sam, Dean's dog, had been waiting patiently in the dinghy this entire time. Waiting for his morning walk. Now he was standing there giving Dean the sad eye dog guilt stare. So, they both went off for a walk while I tidied up the wiring, labeled, looped, zip tied and tested things. I also ended up installing a spare 25 amp breaker to prevent, hopefully, some future meltdown.
After a quick snack, I headed over to Secret Harbor for a two-hour teleconference and an afternoon of mind numbing web work. Girls and Lisa puttered over to What If to retrieve the last of our treasures which we stashed there during the boat yard experience.
Girls played at the beach and then got dressed for Trick or Treating around the anchorage. Kids piled in four dinghies and stopped at a few boats in each bay then ended up at Secret Harbor for their party. Kids ran around and played 'til late - one of the kids came as a homemade C3PO, complete with a hand washing machine morphed into R2D2. He won the best costume prize, hands down.
We stayed for their pizza special and were just getting ready to head home when a squall blew in driving rain everywhere and drenching the dinghy. They never last long, so we decided to just wait it out. We waited, and waited. It rained steadily for 2 and a half hours, until 10pm. Poor Nika was in a dazed stupor by the time we finally gathered all our stuff and shuffled down to the dock. We puttered back under the twinkling stars in the calm after the storm.
Day 1142 ~ The Swarm DescendsOctober 30th, 2013
Lessons in the morning. The #10 wire scraps I patched into the wind generator aren't long enough to replace all the existing wire. It must be charred together inside the pole as well just as it was in the engine room.
One thing lead to another, and it was nearly 10am when I finally roared off towards Whisper Cove to catch a local bus to Island Water World. I was only a few hundred yards from our boat when I saw a rain line charging straight for me. There was a little Lagoon 38 straight ahead with no dinghy, but a hard top and solar array. Just the ticket for tucking under until the squall passed. As I puttered up I saw movement inside and a gray head and glasses popped over the side. "Hey, come aboard, you're about to get drenched." It was a tough offer to refuse.
Rick and Miriam hail from Toronto where they bought their boat new in 2010. They took the mast down and navigated river, canal and lock to get from Toronto to the Eastern seaboard, then sailed south finally making it to Grenada this season. We exchanged stories and favorite places and soon an hour had passed. It was still raining, but lightly now so best to get moving. Turns out they were the boat that launched just before us yesterday.
A local bus snagged me within two minutes of making it to the road and, in another 10 minutes, I was haunting the halls of IWW once again. The shelves are nearly bare. Their container doesn't come in from St. Maarten until November 4th; with all the boats launching and getting ready for the season, demand is high. They didn't have #10 duplex, or #10 single, or #8 duplex, so I went with 50 feet of #8 red. Such is life.
Girls played in the afternoon and then I went to Secret Harbor to do some computer work. The winds were fickle today and, with considerable cloud cover, I knew the bugs were going to be bad. Within 30 seconds of sitting down I felt the first bite, but I had come prepared. DEET works wonders and, after slathering every square inch of bare skin, I settled down to a productive few hours. When the sun dipped behind the hill about 5pm, things became untenable. There were so many little biting no-see-um sand flea thingies, they obscured my vision of the screen and got caught in my throat and nostrils with every breath. The swarm had descended. Ahhhh! Time to beat tracks back to wonderful, virtually bug free Hog Island anchorage. I was jittery until well after dinner just thinking of those little suckers out for blood.
Day 1141 ~ Splash and DashOctober 29th, 2013
Today's the day, at last. We've only been hauled for 5 days but it already feels like a month. Did a few last minute paint and gelcoat touch-ups, rolled up our hose and electrical cords, and washed the same. Gathered the piles of boat chemicals and left over sanding pads and got them aboard, raised the dinghy, etc. Managed to slam down a quick breakfast at some point in the pre-lift chaos.
Really pleased with how good the Gelcoat looks after a sand and buff this morning. Not a perfect match, but very, very close. "Inconspicuous" is what the solid surface guys say. Just a little less brown and a light touch of yellow will do it for larger repairs. Just like fiberglass and water heaters, Gelcoat is intimidating because it's unknown. A few experimental batches and the fear is gone.
Lisa went to pay our bill as the first boat of the morning rolled past, a cute little Lagoon flying a red maple leaf. The yard says they are "so busy" this time of year but the lift sits there for the first hour of the day without even moving. These guys should work at a real yard for a few months.
First boat started just after 9am and the lift got to us around 10:00am, pretty close to our estimate. Dean came by bus to help us out just in case the yard got behind and Lisa and the girls had to take to the road system to make their 2pm dental appointments. But, we soon concluded, we could sail to Hog Island and still have time for them to make it to town from there.
Once they lifted us, I painted the underside of the keel, but then all the workers stopped, most left and one started eating as if the slightest delay deserved an extended coffee break. Eventually, they got moving again and rolled us to the slipway. We got crosswise a little on the way out but Dean saw it coming and we managed to get a couple of bumpers in place, just in time. Lisa motored us slowly out of St. David's bay while we got the instruments on-line and navigation software loaded. We were on our way by 10:30am. Really good to be out of the yard and feel the boat moving with the seas.
Large swells and decent winds outside though we motor-sailed downwind. Made it back on the mooring ball by Noon. Girls lunched and left at 1pm for the 2pm dentist. I stayed behind to get some long-awaited client work done.
Girls returned around 4:30p and found Pollux and What If on the beach. We're back in play land again and happy as clams at high tide.
Day 1140 ~ Playing with ChemicalsOctober 28th, 2013
Sanded the props and went to get primer only to find they had sold their last cans a couple days ago. So much for trying to get out of here a day early.
Sent Nina up the mast to re-thread the halyard - again - while Lisa called around to find an alternative primer. Since it's a 20 minute walk, 2 busses and another 15 minute walk to Budget or Ace, Lisa took on that task while I tackled Gelcoat chemistry and pigmentation experiments. Gelcoat color matching, mixing and polishing is the one area of boat repair that still remains shrouded in mystery. The girls and I did a test sample as I'd eventually like to replace the deck cleat that ripped out two years ago and want the finished result to look a little better than amateur.
To my pleasant surprise, Nika took to Gelcoat mixing like a moose to a fresh stand of willow. She mixed and stirred and spread and asked intelligent questions the whole time. In the end, I would call for her to mix another batch on her own as needed. "Hey Nika, give this one 20 drops of MEK" and she would do it with the pride that comes from actually being helpful, and not just pretending.
I tested Gelcoat adhesion to epoxy both while the epoxy was still sticky and after it hardened. Nothing really stuck. So, I flipped it over and lightly sanded the epoxy/glass with 220 grit paper and then gave it a thorough acetone wash. That seemed to do the trick as the next batch stuck so well I couldn't get it to pop off, even with the point of a knife.
Lisa's adventure of hiking and bussing stretched on hour after hour. Fortunately, after hiking nearly an hour total, she made it to Ace where she recognized a fellow boatyard inhabitant who had, get this!, a car. She begged a return ride to the boatyard thus trimming off another hour of bussing and hiking now laden with heavy shopping bags. She was mostly successful, and returned with a few necessary provisions as well.
Primered and painted the propellers and painted the hull areas under the support stands. Tomorrow, while the boat is in the sling, I'll get the keel bottoms and hope it dries enough before we splash. We're number 2 to go in the water, supposedly.
Cleaned up and prepared for one last night on the hard. Aside for the mosquitoes and no-see-ums, it really hasn't been all that bad. The extra cloud cover of late has kept temperatures down some and the breeze at night is cool.
Day 1139 ~ Moving Back AboardOctober 27th, 2013
Moved out of the hotel in the morning and back on the boat. Lisa hates moving, even in such a modest way.
Lisa tackled the rest of the dinghy scrub down while I took advantage of our dry status to re-patch some tiny leaks in the starboard sugar scoop stairs area. Just means more epoxy, and yes, some did manage to find its way to my hair, again. Lisa tells me "it's near the top, so don't worry".
I applied the Graphite powder epoxy fix to our lower starboard rudder bearing. Once it hardened I realized I didn't remove enough of it when it was soft so removing that bearing a year or two from now is going to involve some heat gun work. Sigh.
Girls played with some other boatyard kids. Lisa re-sewed our top hatch screens and finished those for the side port holes in order to somewhat protect us from the land bugs which we assume will swarm us in the evening. The no-see-ums are bad on the ground any time of day and manage to find the smallest area that has no bug dope. We all have bites around our toes and ankles, their favorite dining areas.
Made Swedish pancakes for dinner since we were at the hotel this morning with only a little fridge and unable to keep up the tradition. To our surprise we were able to dine in the cockpit with little to no bug trouble. It seems our location this time, right next to the water offers more breeze and fewer insects. Mental note to self: request spot near water in next boat yard.
Hoping to pay up and squeeze into the lift somewhere tomorrow. If we can't do that, then we'll have to wait for our scheduled time on Tuesday.
Day 1138 ~ Applying the Nasty NastyOctober 26th, 2013
I went to town with Mike and Lynn to see about getting some flooring finishing items. Completely struck out at Island Water World. No varnish, period. Totally sold out. So, I came home with just a few grocery items and miscellaneous things, like an extra roll of blue tape. Mike dropped me off at the boat to tackle the bottom paint application while the girls stayed at La Sagesse all day. Managed to get the masking taping and painting done despite breaking two cheap paint roller handles in the process. Had to finish the last two-thirds of the port hull with a tiny 4" roller. It takes a bit longer that way, and half the time you are crouched down and painting upside down.
Found that one gallon covers one hull almost exactly. So, my two gallons really only make for one topper coat on each hull. Shoulda bought more, I guess. Ah well, the stuff on there was still working good, so the situation wasn't desperate.
Made some chicken for dinner at the boat, packed it in a snap lid container then called Mike for a pick up. Quick "dinner" of lukewarm chicken chunks, wheat dinner rolls and bananas.
Shoulders are tired and sore, ankles bitten and I am sporting two splotches of high copper bottom paint that found my bare feet beneath the Tyvek body suit. Guess I won't be growing any barnies there anytime soon. On the plus side, it never rained and it proved to be a cool, breezy overcast day which is really nice in the tropics when you wearing a mask and covered head to toe in Tyvek. Otherwise the sweat starts dribbling out the valves in your respirator, which is always unsightly.
Day 1137 ~ Diving for PartsOctober 25th, 2013
Slept in a bit then headed to the yard. Girls came later in the morning. Kris met me at the boat when I arrived and delivered the bad news. They had a miserable night at anchor and decided to leave first thing this morning. While they were towing Sea Pearl into beach to leave her for us, she was swamped by a rogue breaking wave and flipped. She didn't sink, but emptied her contents, including the boom and rudder, which promptly sank. Why you would design a rudder for a club racer boat to sink is beyond me, but that's the way it is.
Fortunately, Kris had the presence of mind to immediately throw her dinghy anchor over and tie a dinghy paddle (that floats!) onto the anchor as marker. I grabbed my mask and fins and headed out with Kris to see if I could find anything free diving. I made it down into the darker regions, but the visibility was terrible, less than a foot and I hadn't even seen the bottom when my ears were screaming at me to rise, buddy, rise.
When Lisa and the girls appeared about 10:30am, I already had her tank and dive gear out and ready to go. Dean took her out and watched her bubbles while Lisa swam around the murky depths. She soon recovered the rudder, and then a few minutes later found the boom as well.
I suited up and tackled the bottom sanding job while the girls played and Lisa sewed insect screens.. The guy here did a fantastic job power washing the bottom; he was very careful, very thorough and worked it hard. The bottom looks terrific and could probably be painted just as it is. But it seems wise to open it up a bit with a light scuffing. Using a 6" orbital sander and 120 grit pads, I hit every square inch in a quick but firm pass. There was a little dust, but I tried to take very little off since it still seemed to be working well. Rain bursts slowed things up from time to time but, by 4:30pm, the job was done.
Ate a meal at the La Sagesse restaurant, our patented Tuna pasta which we first discovered there three years ago.
Day 1136 ~ Sea TrialOctober 24th, 2013
Cleaned, scoured and tackled last-minute prep for the potential buyers who arrive first thing this morning.
I ran a load of garbage in about 7:30 and recognized Bob, the surveyor, hanging out waiting for my pick up. He wanted to get an early start. Buyers came around 9am, followed by a guy who will check out the engines. Everyone poked and prodded and asked questions until about 11am when it was time for a short test sail. The yard told us to be ready for a 1pm haul, so it was time to get going.
I went to turn the key and the port engine wouldn't even turn over. It didn't even click. Great, what timing! There was an embarrassing 5 minutes while we fumbled around pulling up beds to get to the starter battery and then the cut-off switch. Just grabbing the wires on the back did the trick and, boom, it started right up. Obviously the cut-off switch is going to require some attention.
Went out for a short test sail with the buyer and their crew and got hit by a squall on the way back. We had the full main up and, sure enough, the winds went to 34 knots. I decided navigating back into the narrow channel with that much sail up was a bad move, so we just motored slowly into maelstrom while holding the main in a semi-luff position, just enough pressure to keep the boom from flopping around like a 100lb aluminum telephone pole.
Lisa nailed the mooring ball on the first pass, and everyone headed ashore for lunch. We called the yard by radio and were informed they couldn't haul us until 3pm or later. So, we hung out on What If until the lift was free. Finally, around 4pm, we approached the chute with bumpers out and dock lines in hand. We just about had our bows inside when the operator hollered at us to come in backwards. Thanks, Man. Really?
Lisa, as nonplussed as ever, executed a perfect 180 rotation in position and backed in smartly with nary a touch. What a pro. A few minutes later we were in the slings with the roar of a diesel engine announcing our exit from the salty brine.
The guys did good job power-washing and blocking us. It seems to me that Grenada Marine is running a little tighter ship than they did a few years ago. However, memory is a fickle thing and I am certain my perceptions have changed as well.
I had arranged for us to stay at La Sagesse, the hotel in the next bay over, for most, if not, all the time the boat was out of the water. It's the same one at which we started our Day Dreamer adventure two weeks shy of three years ago. What If took the girls to the yard's restaurant for burgers while I washed down the areas covered by the sling and Lisa packed all our stuff. Called La Sagesse to pick us up. It was good to see the owners, Mike and Lynn, again. Staying here, in our old room, we've come full circle.
Day 1135 ~ The Day BeforeOctober 23rd, 2013
Crazy day of work and insanity getting the boat ready for a showing. I finished up the water heater installation, which actually went pretty smoothly considering what could have been. The newer, smaller heater fits nicely in the space and even has all the plumbing on the same sensible side.
I replaced the guts of the starboard aft toilet hand pumping mechanism which has been frustration for what, a year or more? The 'new' pump is really just the pump from one of the toilets we removed when we turned the forward heads into storage rooms. It doesn't really work much better than the last one, so a new completely new pump is probably in order.
Lisa scrubbed the scum line, vacuumed, made beds, washed down walls among many other chores. The girls did help in hauling stuff over to What If and tidying up their rooms, but were mostly interested in playing. Go figure.
Anchorage a bit calmer this evening so at least we can get a good night's rest. Tired of cleaning.
Day 1134 ~ Ripping out a Water HeaterOctober 22nd, 2013
Horribly bouncy and squally night of little sleep. Winds were gusty, rain came in bursts, followed by calm but we seemed to always remain side-to the swell, pitching with the perfectly timed waves. They seem just the right period to maximize discomfort.
Morning came late and Lisa and I didn't get up until 8am, though still not rested. Around 9:30am, Dean and Lisa headed in to see about clearing in and the guys told them it was good timing as they were just about to leave. Nice hours, perhaps you, too, could find a job where you work 8am to 9:30am.
Now that we are official, we can turn our full attention to boat projects. There just never seems to be an end.
I began by removing our hot water heater made of steel, now a bulging, rusting hulk. I can't believe some clown thought making a marine water heater tank out of mild steel was a good idea. I also can't believe it still held water, I could probably stick a screw driver right through the bottom of it with ease.
Of course, underneath, I found soggy wood as some past genius owner had cut a 6-inch diameter hole in the plywood floor panel...which, of course, stayed bone dry and perfect. Hardly. When on passage and bouncing, this would give the bilge water an opportunity to splash up quite nicely. All this means is...more epoxy.
Another L47 owner had bemoaned the same situation, so it wasn't exactly a surprise. I dug out the old mushy wood, by handfuls, and fabricated a Nyda-Core panel to replace it, then glassed and epoxied it for rigidity. After giving it some time to cure, I top coated it with bilge paint and stuck in place. The entire thing took a few hours.
While the girls did some lessons, I continued to rip the boat to shreds. A little bilge paint here, cutting fiberglass there. We took a load of stuff to What If to make the salon look more roomy and presentable to the potential buyers coming in a couple days.
Kids finally went off to play. Wild Vanilla, a cat that was on the hard near us three years ago, is now in the water and has two kids. They all went off to play in the river and beach for a while while I continued to make a mess. Removing the old water heater involved losing some anti-freeze into the bilge. Argh.
The girls have been quite helpful during our boat project state, washing dishes, cleaning up cheerfully, etc. So, we arranged to watch Lord of the Rings, Part 2, as a reward, or at least the first half. A rain squall hit part way through so we paused to close everything. The rest of the day had thankfully been dry and not as bouncy.
Day 1133 ~ Still UnofficialOctober 21st, 2013
The anchorage is a bit bouncy as there's no protecting reef and we're somehow always side-to the swell. Having crashed early, we slept pretty well with other than an occasional rain squall passing overhead.
Lisa and Dean wandered in to see if Customs had arrived. Dean had called ahead while we were in Trinidad since, other than a couple of regular days, they only come by appointment. The yard's office manager, however, told us that they called and won't be coming in until tomorrow. So, we still aren't technically allowed to go ashore. Oh well, we tried. Despite Customs' officials in smart looking uniforms, no one really seems to care.
Returned for Dean's propane can and then headed back in. Almost made it to the dock before the rain squall hit, but not quite. Stopped in Island Water World for parts they didn't stock and then headed back to the boat again.
Cleaned and did projects the rest of the day. Girls and Derek went off exploring and found a new beach with a 'cool stream'.
Day 1132 ~ Night of Magic, Day of TanglesOctober 20th, 2013
Lovely, moonlit night ghosting along under a nearly full moon and blanket of stars with gentle winds and virtually flat water. One of those incredible nights at sea that make you question why we spend so much time in anchorages. Lisa relieved me around 3:30am.
Trouble came in the morning when the wind kicked up to 16, then 19 knots. My rule is to take the genoa down once the wind stays above 18 knots; I'm especially gun-shy after two recent line failure incidents.
Went to roll it up and the top didn't even twist once. We tried to drop it with the bottom half rolled and the top half virtually wide open so we were headed downwind to lessen the apparent wind speed. However, with so much sail catching air, the drop was a complete disaster, sending the sail trailing off into the water ahead of us. In 10 seconds, like a huge parachute in the water, it was under the boat dragging along behind us.
Thankfully, the engines were in neutral, so we didn't have a propped line to deal with. I had heard about these instances, but never actually experienced one. The sail was under the boat and our forward speed, while modest, was enough to make pulling the sail back aboard impossible. The only thing that seemed to make sense was to turn upwind, luff the mainsail and just drift as slowly as possible. Amazingly, it worked like a charm. As the boat drifted side to the breeze and downwind at about 1.5 knots, the sail, heavier than water sank below the hulls and then trailed gently upwind of us pulling along a trail of rippling water. Slowly, hand over hand, we were all able to bring the sopping sail aboard one salty fistful at a time.
Crisis averted. Once back on course, we saw that our fishing lines were entangled with each other and under our starboard rudder. Once again I reached for my knife, but since we were moving so slowly, I decided to try a boat hook first. After several failed attempts we managed to untangle the lines from the rudder post so now all we were dragging was a mass of tangled fishing line.
Just as we finished, the wind abated back to 10 knots the rest of the way until we got within a few miles of St. David's Harbour. We motored in and dropped anchor around 2:30pm near What If.
Took a dip now that we are back to clean water. Kids also burned off some energy by swimming.
Day 1131 ~ Night DepartureOctober 19th, 2013
Lisa went with the ladies to pick up her new custom made swimsuit. It's amazing the difference in quality and fit. She stayed at TTSA with the kids so they could swim for a while. Since there were boat kids all around, Elin decided to have a birthday party for their youngest who will be 7 in a month. Another excuse to eat cake and snacks. Evenstar, Moana Roa, What If also were there and the kids had a great time playing and swimming. Overcast and cooler day. By 5pm most of the smaller kids were blue lipped and shivering.
I caught a maxi taxi into the big West Lake mall. Culture shock. It's nicer than any shopping mall I have seen in the USA, very upscale, polished marble floors, artistic lighting and completely useless, unless you really do need a $300 pair of jeans.
Back to the boat to pack up and rest. Did a nice easy dinner and tried to catch a few winks. I am not a huge fan of leaving at night, mainly due to all the crud in the water near shore, but about 10pm we pulled anchor and motored quietly out on glassy water under a full moon. Hit a wall of 3 knot contra-current just before the channel, but once inside the channel, we were going with it and were squirted out into the open sea at nearly nine knots.
Motored the first hour or so, then sailed for a bit, then had to motor before finally shutting the engines down about midnight. Once we were under sail, What If and No Rehearsal, running no lights for increased safety, ghosted past us in the dark.
GPS location Date/Time:10/19/2013 23:01:10 AKDT
Day 1130 ~ Carting FuelOctober 18th, 2013
Trinidad produces far more oil than it domestically consumes so, as a matter of public policy, they sell fuel to locals at just over production cost. Guess what that means? It's like rolling the clock back to 1981. Diesel fuel works out to 88 US cents per gallon. That's right, per gallon. Gasoline is a bit more, but comes in at just over a dollar per gallon. With prices like that, why not have a V8?
The catch is, though, it's illegal to sell domestic fuel to foreign boats (ships used to come with a bunch of extra tanks, then take that fuel up the islands and sell it on the sly. So, if you pull your boat up to a fuel dock they look at your flag and set the price accordingly, to the tune of 7 times more. That's right, they change the price from 1.50 TT per liter to around 7.25 TT per liter (1 USD = 6.38 TT).
However, the grapevine carried tasty rumors of alternative methods. There's a pump attendant at this dock who works late. The boss goes home at 4pm, you show up at 4:20, you pay to "make the guy happy" and everything works out.
I don't like tying up to docks in the first place, so after maxi-taxiing past a local gas station numerous times, it seemed worth a try. For 15 bucks I hired my own Maxi to take me and my jerries to the gas station and back again. What If loaned me a jerry jug and, by using all the ones I had, I managed to get nearly 30 gallons of fuel for a whopping $25 dollars. Wow, that's like free money, or the closest thing to it.
Lisa did five loads of laundry and filled our water tank on the return trips. Waited 'til after 1pm and took all the crew to check out since, so far, only the US and Trinidad require all crew to show up in person. Snagged lunch at the local hot dog place along the way; managed to resist the Häagen-Dazs. Were kicked out of Coral Cove for waiting under cover as the rain cloud passed then got a ride with Evenstar across the channel from another dock. You never know what to expect.
After we were back at the boat, I realized that I forgot to pick up our windscreen so had to dash back across the peninsula. You see Maxis all day every day, by the dozen, but when you need one really bad, like the copier back at the office, they just don't show up. I ended up jogging half the way there only to find they were just starting on my project. To their credit, all three guys worked late, to about 5:30, to get it done. In most other islands, that would just never happen.
Day 1129 ~ Quit Smoking!October 17th, 2013
Rain all morning and heavy cloud cover all day. It was actually cool for once. Lisa and I were going to look for a few remaining items at the big mall, but I realized that I had a few things yet to do in Chaguaramas before the weekend. By the time I returned, the mall trip was out as I had to do a teleconference at 3pm.
Kalle from Elin came over to visit, along with kids from other boats, so ended up hanging out and talking boat electrics. Kalle brought our alternator over to try out as he is pretty sure he has the new brushes in and it should produce power once again.
We got it on and connected but when he put 12 volts onto the coil, the engine bogged way down. He brought over a cheap regulator which he wired up; when we fired up the engine and he flipped the switch, the engine bogged down and started working. Soon the belt was smoking, so we de-powered it pending a belt cleaning. It's never one thing. In any case, it's pretty clear the internal regulator is toast so a new external smart regulator is in order. Fortunately, they're about $100 so the bite to the old wallet isn't quite so bad.
Day 1128 ~ Lisa Paints AwayOctober 16th, 2013
Girls did their lessons in the morning motivated as only the promise of boat friends and a large swimming pool can do. For some reason, just telling them to "do your math" isn't quite the same.
A few of our friends went on the official (chartered) shopping bus to PriceSmart (similar to Costco) so Dean and I took the cheaper maxi taxi and met them there for some corporate provisioning. Corporate in the sense that when you cross paths with them under the glare of gymnasium style lighting, they look through your cart and you look through theirs, "Hey did you find the 5lb thing of chocolate chips?"
While I was gone, and the rain seemed at bay, Lisa painted the cockpit storage in hopes that the rains will hold off until the afternoon by which time the paint should be dry. She did a great job and I must say the entire area looks a lot less like the underside of a forgotten mobile home.
Day 1127 ~ Chasing the SkunkOctober 15th, 2013
While kids did lessons, I painted the water tank and then Kalle came over to work on my alternator. Maxwell, the repair guy, showed up at 10am sharp to fix our dinghy plug. He worked like a surgeon. What would have cost 350EC ($130USD) and taken all day in St. Lucia, took him 40 minutes and 220TT ($35USD). A good deal all around. And most importantly, the new valve actually works.
Lisa chased down more stink from the punctured evaporated milk can. The tool cabinet smells a little less potent, but something is still clearly amiss. Lisa ended up having to partially disassemble the cabinet to get underneath the edge where nice, slimy, mildewy residue was percolating in the afternoon's mid-90s warmth. Of course, that wasn't all. It had dribbled down and run amongst various tools and pouches where it had partially soaked in leaving a gooey slick of bacteria utopia. Sugar, water and warmth. Love those smells. Yum!
While Lisa tackled the foul stuff, I took the girls to the pool and I did some computer work under the nice covered area. We have free water at the yacht club so Lisa stayed behind to clean out the under-cockpit storage area in prep for a long overdue bilge paint job. Several kid boats came over to play at the pool so I had nary a single interruption. Darn.
Day 1126 ~ Germ WarfareOctober 14th, 2013
Lessons in the morning while I worked on the engine to liberate the port 100amp Balmar alternator from her mounting so Kalle, the Ericsson cell phone engineer turned drop out sailor, can "tinker vit it coz I like dis kind ov verk, you know."
There's been a smell growing stronger in the starboard hull. I figured it was just some sweaty tools that needed some air from my tool bin but, no, that would be simple; that would be true on land. As Nina was getting something out of the pantry cupboard, her fingers brushed against some goo. Looking further, we discovered a rusted through evaporated milk can that must have fallen on the passage and become dented, allowing a slow dripping leak. The milk had seeped out along the edges of the bottom of the cupboard. Of course, there is a small ventilation hole down into my tool cabinet below to where some had dribbled down. Hoping that both won't have to be completely emptied, Lisa wiped up that which she could see, poured a bit of vinegar around for good measure and hoped for the best.
I then headed to the boat yard side to get some price estimates and knock out a few things on my project list. I found the prices surprisingly high. Further inquiry showed that Trinidad doesn't offer duty-free goods like Grenada. More often than not, Grenada would have the better price. They wouldn't even tint my bilge paint even after offering to buy a can from them for the service.
Moana Roa's port engine won't drop into gear, so they needed to hit the boat lift dead on, in a crosswind and with one engine. Dean brought their dinghy and I ran Laurie's. We positioned ourselves to help push this way or that as needed. Thankfully, Laurie hit it dead-on the first go and they were soon pressure washing the bottom.
Lisa and the girls headed for the pool after lessons and I joined them late afternoon. There was a cruiser potluck in the evening and Elin and Moana Roa came over for that. Derek hasn't been feeling well for several days now. Kris suspects food poisoning so they stayed behind. At the potluck Moana Roa had invited a German expedition kayaker. She started her circumnavigation of South America from Buenos Aires in 2011 and just arrived in Trinidad on Saturday having already gone around Australia several years ago.
While hers is an impressive feat, I came away with the impression that she's desperately striving, seeking something that won't be found in a kayak.
Day 1125 ~ Sticker ShockOctober 13th, 2013
Day of rest. Made Swedish pancakes in the morning and then we gathered our swim stuff and headed ashore for some pool time. Very pleasant floating around under the shade of generous tree canopy.
Spent all the rest of the day piddling around on computer work, downloading the charts we lost on the passage when the iPad caught some spray.
It rained really hard for a while so cooler day. I took the maxi taxi to the local IGA, but found it to be much smaller than it appeared yesterday as we passed by on the bus. Not even as well stocked as IGA in Grenada. Got a few things, but the prices aren't all 'great deals' as several led us to believe. However, there is one exception. Items made in Trinidad, like ketchup, salsa and canned beans were dirt cheap, 1/3 the price of Grenada, and half that of North Carolina. A jar of salsa costs 9 TT, or $1.40.
Elin and Moana Roa walked over later in the afternoon so we had a lively game of Mexican train dominoes with plenty of guilt tripping and name calling (all in good fun).
Headed back to the boat just before dark but after the daily land breeze driven swell had tempered.
Day 1124 ~ Checking out TrinidadOctober 12th, 2013
Rumor has it that there is a lady here who has sewn custom swimsuits in Trinidad for 20 years. She comes to the boat yard area every Saturday to take orders and uses a better quality material that will last longer than your average Walmart variety. The cheap ones are meant to be worn a few days on vacation. Wearing them every day soon rips them to shreds.
So, Lisa and some of the other ladies headed over to get measured first thing this morning.
Kids and I followed afterward for a shopping trip to PriceSmart, a warehouse store. Moana Roa, What If, Lisa and I left Dean in charge of the kids and the pool and took the bus (maxi taxi) to check out provisioning options. The Movie Theatre mall is huge and very similar to the US, your standard generica complex. It sported brands like KFC, Starbucks, Cold Stone, a large movie theater and several familiar chain restaurants.
PriceSmart, curiously fitted above the parking garage, is a mini Costco that carries many familiar Kirkland brand products. They carry such seemingly esoteric things as Jasmine rice in a bag larger than a tea packet. There are even hair netted workers dishing out product samples at the heads of the aisles.
I had a flash moment when I expected to walk out the door and get hit by a wall of cold, but no, a blast of 90 degree heat hit instead. Thank goodness the humidity is modest, 60% or so.
Day 1123 ~ Mixed SuccessOctober 11th, 2013
Bussed across the isthmus to hang out with What If who is soaking in the A/C that being hooked up to shore power provides. It was nice, I must say. Trinidad is definitely warmer and more humid than Grenada.
Kids played around and in the pool while the ladies caught up on latest events/news. I pounded the pavement to try and knock out my list of boat project estimates. Mixed success. There is definitely a different, better, attitude here. When you walk into a store an employee will actually set their cell phone down and ask, "May I help you?" Imagine that.
Reconvened at the pool gazebo and chatted with the gang until close to dark. Bussed back to our side of the peninsula for dinner aboard.
Day 1122 ~ A Random WaveOctober 10th, 2013
Lisa had gone below for some much needed sleep. Since the seas were benign, she opened her top hatch for a precious flow of fresh air. The entire deck was dry as a bone.
Not three minutes later, I heard the distinctive thump-SLAP! of a wave hitting us square on, followed a second later by the sound of a crashing chandelier reigning down. Wait for it.... "NOOOOOO!" Lisa wailed as 3 gallons of salty water cascaded into our bedroom, soaking the bed, pillows and a sleepy Lisa who was just relaxed enough to drift off.
About 6am Lisa asked for relief, so I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and surveyed a wonderful peaceful sunrise scene. A dark wavy line showed Trinidad much closer now, behind us the oil rigs slowly sunk into the horizon as a morning sun lit the scene in a golden glow. The winds were light, 10-12, so I waited for Nina to stir. Then, working together, we got the genny up smoothly and started making tracks.
As were were setting up the sail, Nina had asked, "Papa isn't that squall coming our way?" I had been watching it for a half hour and it appeared to be fizzling out. "Nah, we'll be fine..."
Dumb. Very dumb. It wasn't fizzling at all, it was waiting for me to make a mistake. With the huge genny up, it immediately darkened into a dense wall. Hmmm. Our increased boat speed should allow us to out run it to the south, right? Watching, too late. The wind burst onto us shooting from 12 to 22 in a heart beat. I started to desheet the genny and tabbed the autopilot 20 degrees downwind. BOOM!
The genny halyard failed, again. This time, with no possible time to chafe through. It had only been up 10 minutes and had zero signs of chafe when we raised it.
Tense moments and lots of yelling. We fell off the wind and were once again dragging the genny through the water. Again, much of the sail stayed on deck, so we managed to get it back aboard without a full stop. All this, of course, in the middle of 30 knots and driving rain. The funny thing is, in the midst of the maelstrom, you could see tranquil blue and sunshine both behind and in front of us. This thing was tiny, but packed a nasty punch.
In all the craziness, the iPad was left out in the cockpit where it took some fairly heavy rain. A protective case encloses it, but the power plug was exposed. When we got it dried off and rebooted we started up the nav software only to find that every single electronic chart was gone. Now, I have full duplicate charts for the USA East Coast, Bahamas and Caribbean on the laptop, but not Trinidad, which some bureaucrat in a cozy office somewhere had decided was actually part of "South America".
Thanks guys. Now we have no chart for Trinidad, period. We called ahead to What If who generously offered to wait for us so we could follow them in (they had been motor-sailing for a few hours so were still well ahead of us). They confirmed what I remembered, that the entrance was wide and easy, so we told them to steam on and we would call them with questions if needed.
After the squall, the wind completely died. Nada. Flapping sails and banging boom. Freeze or fry, I guess.
We motored along slowly for a while and then finally saw a sail coming up from behind us. It was Moana Roa. We had heard that Trinidad customs charges a wicked overtime fee for checking in at lunchtime (12 - 1pm) so we both slowed down and puttered along at 3 knots so as to arrive after the sacred eating schedule was satisfied.
You are supposed to tie up to the customs dock. Lisa did a great job of maneuvering us right it. There were guys hanging around. We hollered and asked if this was the customs dock. They just stared back and ignored us. Finally, I just tossed a line, and at least that was understood. Turns out they were Venezuelan fisherman, who spoke not a word of English. We know a few basics but didn't know the word for Customs. Ah well.
Customs went smoothly and $10 USD to check in. Tried to anchor near Moana Roa (found Elin and Evenstar there too), but deep water and crowded. Second time we got too close to a French boat and, when we brought our anchor back up, we ended up hooking another anchor with it. Not sure if it was left by someone or belonged to the French guy - he just shrugged when we tried to explain. Gave up at that point and motored around the point to the bay on the other side. Found TTSA yacht club sells week passes to their pool, showers and wifi so will have a place to cool off and hang out. The anchor is exposed to land breezes and chop, but is nearly flat calm in the evenings, nights and mornings. Huge relief to set the hook and feel Bruce bite hard. Ready to catch up on some sleep.
GPS location Date/Time:10/10/2013 02:40:36 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:10/10/2013 05:55:41 AKDT
Day 1121 ~ Off to TrinidadOctober 9th, 2013
Busy day of last minute preparations for our overnight sail to Trinidad tomorrow. We took some water, scrubbed and stashed all the things that find their way out during cat condo days, or weeks as it can be.
What If pulled their hook about 5pm and we dropped our mooring about 6pm, motoring out, getting the main up and navigating out of the narrow exit channel with the last vestiges of daylight. GRIB files say we'll have nice winds, 10-15 knots all night, then lighter in the morning which might mean some motoring.
Of course, within 20 minutes we had 20 knots of wind from well ahead of the beam. Naturally. Once we cleared the underwater shelf that defines Grenada's eastern topology, the seas flattened out. Shortly thereafter the winds settled down as predicted.
About 10pm we heard a vessel calling a sailboat, but their range was so great we figured it wasn't us. It turned out to be What If. There were two vessels 4 miles apart dragging a sonar array for underwater oil finding work. Since they were restricted in their ability to maneuver (i.e it takes them 3 hours to flip a U-turn), it was our duty to avoid them. Sure enough, a half hour later they hailed us and directed us to turn to windward about 20 degrees, which we did. Thank goodness for AIS. We could clearly see each vessel, along with their trajectories, and could tell we were well clear of them when in the distance with the naked eye, all you could see was a confusing array of twinkling lights.
I took the first watch until about 1am, then Lisa took over. There is a ripping current running westward which squirts between Grenada and Trinidad at up to 3 knots. Lisa thought she was well clear of the offshore oil rigs, but ended up passing within 100 yards of one despite constant course corrections.
GPS location Date/Time:10/09/2013 15:01:05 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:10/09/2013 21:01:57 AKDT
Day 1120 ~ More EpoxyOctober 8th, 2013
While the girls did lessons I cleaned out the starboard aft storage bin area. I have been intentionally ignoring this area for months. I know it's nasty dirty, with plenty of rusty grime. Nana found a "treasure", an old cutlass (machete) when we first started the trip three years ago. It was so rough looking that I told her she could stow it in there, out of sight and with no potential for rust stains to streak visible areas.
It was promptly forgotten. When I saw it next, about 6 months ago, it had completely disintegrated into a pile of rusty goo. Today was the day.
Out it all came. None too surprising, there was a nice wet mushy spot in the floor, about the size of an orange. Some genius had stored something sharp in there that had cut through the coating and allowed water to get into the plywood beneath. It didn't take much water, just enough to get trapped under a long forgotten quart of oil for instance, and it did its business. Nothing to do now but cut it out and mix up some of the good stuff. Fortunately, there was never the quantity of water to really do damage.
A few hours and couple of tricks later and there was nothing to do but let the chemistry do its work.
Day 1118 ~ Jumble ManiaOctober 6th, 2013
Cruisers, like people everywhere, accumulate junk. Lots of it. It collects in the bilges, and takes over those odd shaped spaces under bunks and settees. Eventually, the pressure builds and something has to give to keep the boat from exploding.
That something, in Grenada, is called a Jumble Sale. A huge garage sale of bilge treasures. One of the local marina restaurants, shrewdly, offers their space for free once a month. Tables are provided. But of course, sailors being a thirsty lot have to have beer, and other elixirs. The bar was doing a hopping business, creating thirst with salty french fries, and quenching it with cold bottles. That might not qualify as viral marketing, but it's certainly a golden circle.
The girls were prepared. They had broken out their considerable stashes of sea glass and created an assortment of necklaces and earring sets. And the market proved accepting of their creative offerings. All told, they pulled in over 100 EC, enough, I commented, that they could start buying their own smoothies when we go to town. This, I thought modest, suggestion was met with disapproving eye rolls. NO WAY! I must be missing something here.
There were screaming bargains at every turn. If only I had found this before we left. There was a bag crammed full of inflatable lifevests, some were manual pull to inflate, others were auto versions, some with harnesses and some without. Take your pick. In the states these are $220 - $300, in the St. Maarten they are $300 - $400. Today, one day only, as many as you want, 20 EC ($8) each. They weren't even moldy.
And one it went. I resisted, mostly, buying only a couple of small hardware pieces.
We rounded up the gang including a few stray boat kid friends and headed back for some swimming and sailing. Another warm one today, but low humidity, 62%. Not quite Arizona dry, but amazingly comfortable considering how close we are to South America.
Day 1117 ~ Hooked on FishingOctober 5th, 2013
Kids making crafts for Jumble Sale tomorrow. I went on shopping bus. With breeze, we're able to tackle a few more boat projects we've been procrastinating. Kids to play with Derek in Sea Pearl. What If stopped by for a visit. Plan to head to Trinidad later in the week.
Just about end up with a hook in shoulder as I sailed around a boat in Sea Pearl.
Day 1116 ~ Another Sailing AdventureOctober 4th, 2013
The wind and waves have a way of sending you the message, repeatedly, that a weakness will be found and exploited, heartlessly.
I purchased a brand new line in Newport, its partial carbon fiber for low stretch and high strength. We were ghosting along nicely in about 16 knots of wind while making good time with the genny up when BOOM! it slithered down like a sheet knocked off a second story clothesline. It was beautiful in an odd, but artistic, way.
One moment later, and we felt our boat speed plummet as we started to drag a really large piece of sailcloth through the briny deep. Fortunately, once our boat speed was down, we were able to hand-over-hand the sail back aboard. This was only possible because the bulk of the sail had stayed dry, with only the top third trailing behind. We had a spare halyard already in place, so lifted the sail back up shortly. Rethreading the new one, which goes through the inside of the mast, will be a trick for another day.
The winds tapered off as we rounded the southern end of Grenada and started working our way west. Ended up having to motor the last hour.
GPS location Date/Time:10/04/2013 10:40:40 AKDT
Day 1115 ~ Midnight VisitorOctober 3rd, 2013
I generally wake up in the night a couple of times. Sometimes I just roll over and go back sleep, others require a trip upstairs. Sometimes I lay there and just listen to the multitude of tiny words the boat is speaking to those with the ears to hear. A slight gurgle as current sweeps past the hull. A gentle tic-tic as the anchor bridal comes up tight and then relaxes. A gentle orchestra of woodwind sounds in the rigging telling of the wind direction and speed.
I awoke this morning about 5:00am to something different. I was awake at first, but not sure why. Something, somewhere wasn't right. I lay there, absolutely silent, heart rate thumping, slightly on the rise.
There it was again, a funny clunk sound from the back step and then what? A gasp? Was some swimmer trying to come aboard? I was out of bed in an instant. I grabbed the most powerful flashlight we have and worked my way quietly to the cockpit. No silhouettes against the canvas of starlight. I crept forward and leaned over to the port side. No crouching shapes.
CLUNK! pause GASP. There was no mistaking the sound of a mammal gasping for air. Was a baby dolphin on the back step giving its last death flop? Click went the flashlight. The beam swept back and forth, nothing but black water and empty steps. CLUNK, gasp. It was definitely coming from the port side and very low.
Gingerly, I worked my way down to the very last step and peered into the water. A swirl and then a head came up. A gasp. A HEAD! A dog head, snout whiskers and all. He was swimming, or trying to. Despite being thoroughly entangled in the dinghy painter and swim ladder (which was mistakenly left down), he was doggy-paddling away with conviction.
He had a collar and was amazing docile considering his plight. Short of intervention, exhaustion and drowning were his only options at this point. I was concerned he might bite my hand as I tried to untangle him, but no. In classic Carib dog fashion, he soundlessly assented as I unwound lines and got one out from under his leg. His eyes rolled up to mine and away, pleading and thankful.
The moment the last line ran free, the legs started a-paddling again and he lit out for the opposite side of the bay, clearly with a goal in mind and direction firmly set. For a long minute I watched his receding ripple trail work its way north, straight as an arrow.
I mulled over the unlikely situation of catching a swimming dog. What were the chances? And how had he felt there in the dark, suddenly trapped. Swimming, but going absolutely no where regardless of his most resolute paddling. Can cubicle life ever be liberating?
There are times when, even with your direction right and your efforts true, one is doomed to failure by forces beyond your control, and often invisible. A quote came to mind:
"When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked on a line and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins with a fight which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape. Often, of course, the situation is too tough for him.
In the same way the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; sometimes they are too much for him. His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them.
It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one." ~ Karl Menninger
Nika is feeling better today. Nice to see her bright face smiling again, even if it means super silliness is on the way.
Day 1114 ~ Cooler DazeOctober 2nd, 2013
Rained on and off throughout the night. Much cooler today with heavy overcast, a nice change. I broke out more varnish and got another coat down. It looks better with every successive pass. It's amazing how long quality wood can last when it's cared for.
With the cooler weather, Lisa removed and cleaned window screens and covers without baking the inside of the boat. The kids played for a while at the beach, but poor Nika just wasn't up for anything. When this girl does come around, she's going to have some serious silliness built up in the bank.
Day 1113 ~ Varnish KingOctober 1st, 2013
Started the day with the lessons as usual. I tackled more varnishing of the cockpit teak. It's coming along nicely, actually. I am picking up a few tips along the way - thin, thin, thin. This Epifanes stuff is really high solids, which is good, but it can be just too thick to be workable.
There was a painting company in San Diego which dubbed itself, "The King of Painters". At first a bit taken aback, but after a while I came to like the name. If you are going to be grandiose, you may as well go the entire way.
Tyrrel Bay isn't really a great kid hangout. They did manage to find something to do together, except for poor Nika who isn't feeling so well.