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

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