Thursday, March 23, 2017

Patron Saint Of Boat Projects - Part II

First, everything must come out of the v-berth... and go somewhere!
I left off with our spirits on the rebound after a period of darkness.  Boat Projects can do that to you when the list never ends and everything takes three times as much time and money to complete... even the simplest of tasks.  But after that low point, we renewed our devotion to getting things done, and the new attitudes paid off!

Boat projects tend to organise themselves.  The most important thing to be done is the one that makes our lives better... so those rise to the top of the list.  Our next big one turned out to be not so big after all.  We've been making due without our primary water tank for several weeks now.  We've investigated and experimented and all signs point to the draw tube that allows the freshwater pump system to draw water from the bottom of the tank... must be missing.

The hole.  I don't know what happened to the old tube...
We have exhaustively tested theories that there may be a leak in the tank, but the bottom line is that the water we put in there... is still in there.  So there's that.  Fixing or replacing a leaking tank would have been very expensive...

Next obstacle in our path was getting the fixture off of the tank.  It's a small cube with a tube that goes down into the tank.  There was a complicated bunch of parts and pieces attached to this fixture...probably due to some past repair where no proper parts were available.

 For a while this threw us... but when David from Haymede suggested that we bypass all of that and just connect the hose directly... if we could find a draw tube... and IF we could get the old one off...  It would be a relatively inexpensive fix.  Yeah.  If we could get the old one off.

After a couple of days and some soaking with penetrant... and some really loud and violent banging with a wrench... ( I had to resort to girl power) It finally budged, and then came off with no damage done!

A couple of trips to the chandlery and the local Ace Hardware on the Dutch side... which is huge and awesome, by the way... we returned to the boat with the proper fixtures... and plan B's... and spares for all...  If one of these things breaks, it only makes sense that the other three water tanks might be right behind it...

We were able to mark this very big deal off of our list and go back to using our largest and most convenient water tank.

Next up... Putting together our new dinghy ground tackle.  The prices for smaller, three strand line at Island Water World were so good, I was able to talk Bruce into letting me upgrade our dinghy anchoring system.

Some friends of ours made a short video showing how they tested their three different types of dinghy anchors at the beach back in Corpus Christi.  The baby (8lb) Mantus outperformed all competitors... and I had lust in my eyes as I spotted one on the shelf at IWW.

It wasn't cheap, but we bought it... along with 100 ft of three strand line, another 30 ft of slightly heavier 3 strand, and the associated shackles and thimbles for me to create a masterpiece.

Along with the 10 ft of covered chain we already had, I attached the shorter line to the Mantus semi-permanently.  The longer piece will be used for beach landings or docking when we want the dinghy to remain offshore a short distance.

These things are in addition to the 30 ft. of line attached to our simple claw anchor.  It is much lighter and we use it in more benign conditions like simply keeping the stern of the dinghy off the dock in a crowd.

Last item for the dinghy was a diaper for the Baby Mantus.  I used some old straps with connecting snaps from some blown out life jackets...and a piece of fire hose we got at IWW to make a diaper to keep the Mantus from puncturing the dinghy... or me!  AU2 had warned us that the point was so sharp they had actually GIVEN AWAY one of these anchors!

I'm very pleased with the ease of use, and the snap-on convenience of my little creation!  Here is a shot of the other side...

While we had our credit card out on the line aisle... I picked up some awesome new painter line for our dinghy.  It floats!  Our old painter was pitiful.  You can't have a spiffy new bag of ground tackle and sport a raggedy old painter.

I secretly had our lines cut at 30ft each (Bruce wanted them shorter but now he likes the length).  We attached easy-release shackles to one end of each and now we can tow our new dinghy in style... Now the dinghy is all set and we can turn our attention to the plethora of other items STILL on the To-Do list!

We installed a couple of new Hella Fans in our bedroom, the old ones were wearing out...

One item that wasn't on the list but got itself onto the list, PRONTO... was a leaking propane line.  We ended up inspecting our whole setup and decided it was time to replace it all.  We had to order the dual regulator from Defender because they only had the single units here, but we got the rest of the parts here in St. Martin and the prices were comparable to Defender's.

I will admit that between the two of us sometimes I think we only have the equivalent of one brain... We failed to completely tighten the fittings and after hooking up a newly filled propane tank, we leaked it out within a week and had to go find some better stuff than just soapy water to find the leaks.  But eventually we got it all fixed safely... We were appalled to see the condition of our old hoses when we really looked at them closely... People, check that stuff regularly!

We did big projects, and in-between those the little projects seemed to fill the extra time...  Things like changing out the impeller in the Yanmar and cleaning out the strainers for our fridge and water maker.  I always get roped into the impeller project because ours is in a very tight spot and my hands are smaller... Bruce literally can't get his big hands in there... so it's up to me.

We got really lucky and found a leaking fitting in our refrigeration system.  It has been leaking for some time... getting worse and worse.  We were up to topping off refrigerant about once a week.  I began looking around and found an oily spot.  I remembered a guy telling us once that oil on the fittings was a sign of a leak.  Bruce tightened the fitting and we're now on six weeks and counting since last topping off the refrigerant.  That one counts as a MAJOR win because Bruce was becoming so frustrated with it he was ready to rip it out and replace it... cha ching!!!

Some of the boat projects were fun... at first.  OK OK we have been very bad.  We got lazy and left our new dinghy in the water while in the Lagoon... where it grew a mini-reef... that we had to clean off...  It didn't become obvious until we purchased a new 9.8 hp outboard second hand from another cruiser.  We hoped it would plane... but not with that forrest growing on it...

So, we took our scrapers and donned our sun protective clothing and beached it over on Explorer Island in the middle of the lagoon.  At first it was fun... scraping that stuff off in sheets.  But then it got really hot... and it wasn't so much fun anymore.

A lot of that growth did NOT want to come off.  In the end, Bruce outlasted my energy level and finished off the last bit while I languished in the shade...

Oh, and that outboard?  It still won't plane with both of us in the dinghy, but it is a huge step up and goes much faster than our old 8 hp, which we sold.  We think we got a great deal and are very happy!

Somehow, although not on the list but should have been, we launched into a review of our safety gear.  Our old EPIRB is a dinosaur and has an expired battery. We had no intention of replacing it after its recent expiration because it is very old technology.

We have the Delorme In Reach satellite tracker which comes with rescue services and communication.  We aren't sailing very far from land... so we purchased a PLB instead.  Bruce will wear it whenever he goes onto the deck when we're sailing.  That way if he goes overboard, he is trackable.  I guess if I ever go overboard... well, then we've got a whole different set of problems...  Hmmm maybe I should go back and get another one of those little babies...

Anyway, all of that spurred a much-needed review of all of our safety flares and such.  We had some that were expired and ended up giving them away via the morning net.  We had several that were still good, and it was just a good idea to go through it all.

We went to Ile Marine on the French side on the morning of the monthly Jumble sale... we were looking to replace those expired flares.  The only ones they had would expire in just over a year.  They were discounting the price but still... I didn't want them.  Serendipitously we walked into three flares at the Jumble that were newer than the ones at Ile Marine... for LESS money.  So we bought those!  And a whole bunch of other good stuff!

Whew!  Going back through all of this is making me tired!  I've still got a bit to go but I'm going to cut this post off here... WOW we really got a lot done!  How did we ever find time to have any fun?  Oh yeah... we were here for two and a half months!!!

To Be Continued...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Patron Saint Of Boat Projects - Part I

If I were Queen-Of-The-World, I would hereby dub thee, Island of St. Martin, Patron Saint of Boat Projects.  And I don’t think I would encounter much opposition!

When we arrived here back on February 15th, after three months of wandering around the Virgins, we had a long list of things (already) that needed to be addressed.  The Island’s reputation for “duty free shopping” was well known and our dreams were filled with dancing images of finding plentiful and inexpensive boat bits and major items galore!  

Island Water World
The Patron Saint of Boat Projects did not disappoint.  Our first purchase was new batteries.  We dinghied over to Ile Marine and to clear into the Country and met the owner there who was very nice and helpful.  He gave us an earful about batteries for Cruisers.  He convinced us that the expensive Lifeline brand we requested would last no longer than the Numax Dual XV60mf-180ah Batteries he had in stock.

We were swayed by his vehemence... and the price... so we took a chance and bought three of them.  Will we live to regret it?  Who knows???

Why did we need batteries?  We have had a difficult time keeping the old mismatched, no-name 4D AGMs we had, charged up enough to make it through the night.  We figured they were going bad.

Our Yamaha 2000 portable generator has been unable to charge all three batteries at once.  We understand that you should never charge the batteries in a bank separately... but when they are below about mid-level, we've been forced to do so in order to keep the Yamaha from tripping.

Unfortunately... when we finished installing the new batteries and tried to charge them up after a discharge... the Yamaha still tripped. 

To say that morale was low at this point would be a serious understatement... 

This, plus the fact that we've been struggling with Gremlins due to random corrosion issues, led us to the decision that we just needed to hire a consultant to come aboard and review our entire system.  We found a cruiser who contracts through a local business here in St. Martin and scheduled a visit.

Tabling that project we turned to another that we've been putting off until parts could be obtained.  There has been a wet spot near our nav station seat that has been growing slowly since we purchased the boat.  I know... we've put it off thinking that it was a major project we just weren't ready to tackle.  But the size of the wet spot has increased more rapidly recently so we got brave and took a look....

Our first thought was that our toe rail was leaking but we could find no evidence of this. It could be coming from the non-opening port in the hull nearby but we've already investigated that and secured all possible entry points.

So our next option was to remove everything from the closet behind the wall.  We removed an access panel inside and found a large hose running engine exhaust up through a vented loop.

We identified a trail of water running down and traced it up to the source! Ah-HA!  We found the culprit!

There is a fibreglass loop with a hose leading out of the top to vent.  The fitting that joins the hose and the fibreglass loop was leaking!  All we had to do was replace the fitting and we'll be all set!

Long story short, we found a product called Cold Weld, a two part epoxy that will join fibreglass and plastic and be impervious to salt water and heat...The photos are not great but you can see the new fitting in place with the Cold Weld around the bottom.  While the epoxy was curing, we moved on to our next project... Anchor chain!

Now why would we need anchor chain... we've been cruising almost four years?

What's wrong with the anchor chain we have??? Nothing.  Except that it's too short!  

Let me back up a bit... to the summer of 2014.  We had to replace our windlass that year and the old chain wouldn't fit the new windlass.  So, we bought new chain.

Bruce and I disagreed on how much chain to buy.  He is, let's just call it "frugal"... and I am more practical.  I was the one who did all of the research on what we would need for cruising in the Caribbean.  It was my understanding that we would need no less than 200 ft of chain, and probably even 300 ft just to be safe.  

Bruce steadfastly balked at buying that much chain.  He didn't want the weight on the bow, and in his experience... 100 ft of chain spliced to the 180 ft of 5/8 inch rode we already had would be appropriate.  I lost the fight er um...discussion...and we did it his way.  

Come to find out, he never really thought we would make it past the shallow Bahamas where we didn't need that much chain.  Oh HE of little faith!  The discussion ended with the agreement that should we ever reach the Caribbean and need the extra chain... we would buy it. 

Now it's time to cash in that chip and NOW... it's gonna cost you!  Prices for chain here are about twice what we would have paid for it back in the states.

Now this next part, I will try to make it short and sweet... but it happened over the course of about a week...  We priced chain at Island Water World and it was not so bad... but they didn't use the same grading and measurement system as we do in the US so they wanted us to come in with our windlass gypsy to actually run their chain through it before we confirm a purchase.

OK, we moved on to Budget Marine to check their prices.  They were almost twice as high but they DID have the 3/8" G4 chain we already had.. so we know it would fit in our windlass without having to remove it and bring it in.  We decided to bite the bullet and buy the the same chain we had.  We ordered it and went back to the boat to await FREE delivery!

The boat arrived bearing our huge pile of new chain and the boys began to hand it over onto our deck.  Good news!  The boss had given us an additional 5% off of the chain because it wasn't as pretty as the showroom chain ....  Thanks!  They were almost done when I picked up a length of the chain and read the stamp.  3B.  

That's BBB chain.  Cheaper and not the same size as ours... and definitely not what we paid for!  Operations were halted, the boys removed the huge pile of chain from our deck and promised to return later with the correct chain.

They never returned and by the time we dinghied in just before closing, the boss was already gone.  We would have to wait until Monday!  

Monday came, we were on their doorstep at opening time.  The Boss said that he was sorry but they don't have enough of the chain we ordered.  Now he had made a huge deal about our ordering the right chain... so for THEM to have the wrong chain was a cosmic bite in the ass...  Well, how long until you get more.  No more.  They refunded our money but wanted to give us a store credit for the extra 5%... NO! Finally after some more waiting we were back to square one.  

I researched a bit more and found no other way to get chain here... we didn't want to return to Puerto Rico for it... we decided to take our gypsy in and see if the chain IWW had would fit.

Thankfully, it DID fit very nicely and they DID have the 200 ft. we wanted.  But they wouldn't deliver it.  They wanted us to bring the big boat over to the Dutch side (clear out of the French side, pass through the causeway Bridge at one of only three opening times and then dock in their tight space that would be very difficult and stressful for me to get back out of).  No.  Not going to do it.  We returned the next day and talked to the Boss... I told him I would just take it in the dinghy... he acted like that was unheard of... they were going to bring the chain to us.  

I don't know what changed his mind but suddenly they were fine with it.  We led the delivery boat back to ours and they transferred the chain to our boat.  

The following day we got up early and I went to work splicing our anchor rode to the new chain.  We measured out some lengths on the deck to lay the chain out for marking... and when we got to the end we were 18 ft short.  WTF???  

Thinking we shorted ourselves on the loops, we measured it again as we laid it into the chain locker.  This time we came up 15.6 short.  I almost lost my mind... This must be why they suddenly had no trouble delivering the chain!  

We went back up there and I was very good about not going off on the guy.  There was still a small chance that we had mis-measured and I wasn't going to bring the chain back in for them to verify it...  We eventually agreed amicably that they would refund the difference in the chain shortage in the form of a store credit....  

So, I may or may not have got my 200 ft of chain... but we were tired of messing with it.  We returned to the boat and pulled up the anchor.  I drove around the anchorage while Bruce hooked the anchor to the new chain, then we reanchored and got the old secondly anchor detached so that it could be taken in for repair. (It needed welding after the Derecho)

Moving right along... we took a look at the exhaust hose repair, now fully cured and tested by my running the engine around the anchorage...  There was fresh salt water running down the hose!!!! 

This was the straw that broke the camel's back.  Bruce went into a meltdown.  He told me that he didn't want to go to Panama... he didn't even really want to continue on down to Grenada.  He was tired of boat projects.  He wanted his old life back, the one that was easy, the one in which he chose what he did each day instead of being a slave to this boat.  

We had a couple of really dark days.  I'm not ready to quit cruising but of course we can't continue if Bruce isn't in it...  We were really close to the end of our cruising career. Eventually I talked him back down off of the ledge and we're going to keep cruising... but it was pretty much because he couldn't come up with anything else he would really rather be doing...  

So, we agreed that we would continue on to Grenada and then re-evaluate.  We put some more Cold Weld on the exhaust fitting and after another curing period we tested it again.  It was still leaking but only a whisper that I dabbed off with a tissue..  no more running water.  Unfortunately, we have now discovered that it wasn't really the cause of our problem after all... so we still have a leak somewhere that we will address at some later date.  

On a brighter note, we heard someone advertising on the morning net... a portable generator.  We bought it.  It charges all three of our batteries at once and things are now much less tense aboard Dos Libras!  

(Now having two generators onboard, we needed to name them...  We chose Hillary and Donald.  Guess which one is which!)

We had our energy consultation and were pleased to learn that we had everything set up as it should be.  We even made some headway on tracking and resolving our minor corrosion issues... although that is a continuous process on any boat.

We got our secondary anchor repaired for only $30 and set it up with the 100 ft of chain off of our primary anchor.  I spliced the rope rode and we got it all settled into the anchor locker.  It ended up being an upgrade for both anchors in the end... both had new chain and now we have a much better secondary anchor tackle and the secondary anchor's chain will also work with the windlass should we need that option.  

So I will pause on the boat projects while things are looking up.  We still have a long  and ever-growing To-Do list, but we are actually marking some off as we complete them....small successes that made Bruce feel much better about life.  He realised that this was all coming together because we had saved all of these projects to be done here... where we can get parts and the prices aren't bad.  To be continued...

Part II Here
Part III Here

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Harmony Night

High Season in St. Martin is punctuated by a weekly event called Harmony Nights.  There are organised "busses" that will take loads of Cruisers from Marigot to the nearby town of Grand Case for the event.

Grand Case is the undisputed culinary centre of the island.  It is an unassuming looking strip of restaurants, shops and bars that come alive every Tuesday Night during the season.

The streets are closed off and all of the shops remain open long past closing time to take advantage of the many tourists who come from all over the island for these evenings.

We left our bus and joined the throngs of people just walking about... We were looking for one thing.  We had heard from other cruisers that there would be home-made ice-cream available... and that it wouldn't last long.

Ice-cream is very difficult to keep on the boat so we don't have it often... homemade ice-cream is hard to resist!  We found the vendor and had dessert first!

Walking along with our treats, we took note of the other delicacies offered.  We wanted to see it all and then decide what to eat, so we continued on past pastries, patties, and several restaurants...

A low sound began to build into music and we wondered if there must be a band down the road... Soon the sound grew to almost unbearable heights as we discovered the crowd parting to allow the source to come through.  A band was leading groups of feathered ladies and behind them walked locals and tourists alike.  It was just like the Carnival Parade only on a much smaller, and more personal scale.
We were right in the middle of it all!  
Soon we found a suitable place to eat.  I have no idea what it was called because one restaurant seemed to morph into the next with little to distinguish where one stopped and the other began.  Our noses led us to a pit with delectable BBQ sizzling in all flavours.  Of course this was Bruce's choice.

We stood there looking confused until one of the stressed out servers pointed us to a table in the back... where we joined two ladies on vacation from Canada.  We became fast friends as conversation flowed about the differences between our two countries with all that's going on... Health Care came up, of course and we had a fascinating discussion... ending with us thinking it would be really awesome to have National Healthcare...
This might have been our place... or maybe the one next door... I don't know!
Eventually we got food... the staff was overwhelmed with orders and it's a wonder we ever got noticed at all...  But the food was good and pretty cheap... we had fun.

It was time to head for the rendezvous with our bus so we left and meandered back up the street... stopping here and there for another treat... Benets, not as good as those from New Orleans, but still pretty good.

Our tummies were full and our eyes were drooping as we thankfully collapsed back into our seats on the bus.  It was a fun night and one we hoped to repeat during our stay... There were still a few things we missed!

Click here to see the rest of the photos taken on Google!