Monday, April 9, 2018

Splash and Fizzle - Boatyard Daze Finale

We pushed PAUSE on everything that Sunday. The roller coaster was beginning to make me crazy but we had high hopes and expectations for the final push that began the following Monday morning as we once again continued our wild ride of highs and lows.

There was a bit of a rain scare early, and the relaxation of the winds we enjoyed on Saturday were replaced by gusty conditions.  The crew got busy with the remainder of the bottom prep.  Once they finished the gelcoat, they would be able to quickly finish the bottom and maybe we could even get an early splash date!  It could happen...

We hid inside all day, hoping that this would be the last day we would have to endure the sweltering conditions.  Late in the afternoon the grinding stopped and we crept outside.  The crew was once again preparing to spray the gelcoat.

The bottom was all sanded down to the barrier coat and the jack stands had been moved to expose the last areas to be prepped before the bottom job commenced.

We inspected our bottom minutely and were happy to see no deep cracks (our fear had been that we would find our stress cracks were more than superficial - but they weren't) and zero blisters!  It looked like things were really going our way!
Ready to spray!
Mackey at work again!
The sun sunk below the hills once again as the crew re-prepped for spraying gelcoat on the starboard hull.  Bruce and I stood by watching, mesmerised by the rhythmic spraying technique.  The imperfections in our hull were reduced to the shadows memory as Mackey made his way from stern to bow.

We watched the skies and sent our request for mercy into the cosmos.  NO RAIN!  PLEASE!!!

As Mackey finished, this strange cloud loomed in the distance.  Straight up-wind from us!  Please NOOOOO!!
Brown-dog joined the party!
The guys went over some spots again, but the starboard side was finished!  It looked great!  The color of the gelcoat in the two new gallons had to be re-mixed, and while there was no way to match it perfectly, I couldn't tell the difference!  Not even at the transom or bow where the two colours met!  Good job Anderson!

The atmosphere was festive as the crew began to put their gear away for the day.  And then that cloud ruined our fun!  As with most Caribbean showers, it was short-lived... We huddled under the boat like chicks beneath a giant mother hen as we watched the skies darken and small rivulets of rain began to roll down the hull-sides.

Finished, but it's clouding up!
Rain ran in rivulets as we huddled below!
Anderson was confident that they finished in time.  If it had rained half an hour ago, it would have been disastrous!  But the gelcoat has had enough time to set, so no damage was done! And if any minor sign of rain tracks were detected, they would be easily erased with tomorrow's sanding, buffing, and polishing!  These things he promised me.

Jezabelle weighting her options...
I don't know why I continue to hope.  Perhaps it's my postmenopausal hormone fluctuations, but I am way too personally invested in every little part of this process.  Why couldn't we have just rented a room off-site so that we could just disappear and come back when it was all done???  Note to self for next bottom job!

The next day was a repeat as we hid from the cloud of gelcoat dust wafting up from our hull!  We never went outside, choosing to avoid all risk of dust inhalation. When the day's work was finished progress looked minimal, perhaps even backward.

My spirits plunged once again.  We found marked spots large and small that would have to be sanded and sprayed again.  There were even large areas where they slathered more filler!  I should have felt grateful that they were taking such care to do the job right... but at that point, it just sent me into a spin.
Squint so you can see the areas circled for repair!
More stuff slapped on the sides!
Well the bow is looking very smart at least!
At this point, things started happening in fits and bursts.  The crew worked on the sides, sanding, polishing, faring, sanding grinding, spraying... At the end of each day, there seemed to be things that showed promise and other things that seemed to be a step backward.  The one thing that gave me hope was that they seemed to be genuinely trying to do a really good job.  They experienced some setbacks, but they dealt with them.

Exhaust elbow in pieces!!!
While all of this was going on outside, the work on the inside was starting to happen.  We had two other vendors working on things.  We hired Palm Tree Marine to do an inspection of our engine.  We knew that we needed to replace some hoses that had not failed yet, but it was only a matter of time.  Sim looked us over really well and recommended replacement of not only the hoses, but also an oil cooler and an exhaust elbow that were on their last legs...  We ordered all the parts - which was WAY more expensive than I expected... but when the guy came to install everything, my buyer's remorse dissipated quickly.  The old parts were practically falling apart in our hands!

Bruce dug around in these holes and found pieces of impeller!
Not sure how long those had been in there...
I'm glad he's skinny!  We had to buy a wrench to cut in half so he could get a bolt off!  
Although Palm Tree was expensive, it wasn't their fault the parts had to be sourced off island, then shipping and duties paid... Their hourly rate was less than we pay in the US, and they were very resourceful in getting the job done.

Replacing the hoses and these other big-ticket items were tough when added to all the other things, but this was the right time to do it.  Much better to eat beans and cornbread now, rather than go West and have a failure of some sort with no parts or help available!

After all was said and done, we wish we had hired Palm Tree to do the work that Waterfall did...  It just so happened that we were talking to a neighbour about the shaft boot failing on their boat, almost causing them to sink... we decided to have someone look at ours as well.  Their guy - Graham came by and took the measurements and started ordering parts from Trinidad.

After days and days of returns for more measuring and more head scratching, the boot was done!

And boy was it beautiful!
The old parts were pretty shabby looking, as was the bronze packing housing.  Graham took that away some days ago saying he would clean it up a bit before repacking it.  Wow!  He returned with it looking like new! (Imagine our horror when we got the bill and found out that he spent two and a half hours shining that bronze - to the tune of $150 US!!! CHOKE! And in a month it will have that nice patina back again! Swallow.  Breathe.  Think about something else.  Think about rainbows!

Pretty dried out and crusty

Yeah, better replace that pronto!
While Graham was at it, we asked if he could also tighten the leaking nuts on our rudder shaft.  He took those parts away as well for some cleanup and packing while we did some tidying up at home.  He also advised that we needed to replace some missing bonding wires.  Bruce went to work on that project which stretched from the rudder post, to the shaft area where bronze thru-hulls were missing the wire, to the bilge!  We have no idea where these all went or when they were removed, but there were signs that there had once been wires attached.  Mysteries of second-hand boat ownership!

I won't go into the details, but if we had it to do over again, we would not have hired Waterfall.  Palm Tree Marine could have done these jobs as well, and we felt that we paid dearly for Graham's education.

But that stressful episode is over, all the work is done and we feel good about the preventative maintenance jobs that give us some peace of mind as we prepare to travel to parts unknown!

While all of this mechanical stuff was happening, we were also visited by the bilge fairy!  There were some surface areas down in our bilge that were lifting and flaking - something that I've been complaining about to Bruce since we bought the boat.  He has poo-poohed me about this for the last time!

Rodney came in, suited up like an astronaut, built a tent over the bilge to contain the dust, and climbed inside.  When he came out, it was all sanded away and fibreglassed.  Later in the afternoon he came back and applied a layer of gelcoat over it all to make it look like new!

Unfortunately, he didn't add the hardener correctly and the gelcoat never set.  So a couple of days later, they had to sand it all out and reapply.  Why is nothing ever easy???

The days were blending together in a blur.  My mind seemed to have taken all it could and went into an altered state.  Somehow the setbacks seemed to be less dramatic - due in no small part to Anderson's repeated reassurance that they would get it done and everything would be alright.

Gelcoat is sanded smooth and it's time to work on the stripes!

Applying primer to the ratty old red stripes in preparation for the shiny blue Awlgrip!
My spirits are lifting! Even the primer grey looks nice compared to the ratty red!
Peaceful moments of beauty in the Saharan Dust sunset
Saharan dust haze dims the full moon!
Huge treat!  I got to take the shopping bus to town for a grocery run!

Upon my return, the crew immediately began carrying in my groceries!  I love these guys!
A shopping bus picks up the unlucky souls living the hard life of life-on-the-hard, and whisks them away once per week for a super-exciting excursion.  Everyone was all smiles and laughter as we compared boat projects on our way to anywhere but the boatyard!  I grinned in delight as my eyes took in the sights outside.  It was like I had been in a prison as I saw - and remembered the beauty of Grenada - too long denied me.  It gave me renewed hope that if we could just hold on - just get through these last days - it was all still out there waiting for us to enjoy!

Marlin hard at work in my absence
All too soon I was ripped from this technicolor wonderland, and deposited back to my one-dimensional world.  I could almost hear the sound of the prison door clanging shut as the crew welcomed me back to the fold where - without being asked -  they picked up my pile of groceries and handed them up to Bruce waiting topside.  It was like silent empathy for my failure to escape this place. Bless these sweet boys!

In my absence, the work had continued and the visible results soothed the scab of worry that had crusted my soul.  The hull was beginning to shine little-by-little as the wet-sanding progressed.  Gone was the dry, dust-producing job.  This wet sanding meant that we could leave the ports and hatches open to the fresh, life-altering breeze.

More little imperfections corrected!
The primer doesn't look too good, but I trust these guys. That's what I keep repeating to myself anyway...
Looking good from afar!
The bow repair looks nice!
No more scars!
Just as we seemed to be gaining forward momentum... the holidays descended upon us.  In my Island Head, I really can't fault these guys for taking a much needed holiday.  But in my American Heart, I can't help but wish they had just a smidgen more drive or perhaps a tiny hankering for the Almighty Buck!

It's EASTER for heaven's sake!  OK, OK!  I forced a tight smile as I arranged for a transfer of funds to arrive before the end of work that day, so that Anderson could send his crew off on holiday with the whisper of cash in their hands.  I imagined little kids hunting easter eggs, when in all likelihood, it would be adults kicking back, smokin' a fat one while the Reggae blasted the neighbourhood.

It is what it is and to be honest, after these last frenetic days of workmen coming and going at all hours, I was ready for a stretch of peace.  The boatyard would be deserted and that meant there would be no dust in the air to settle on the boat.  I could do laundry in the machines and hang it out to dry on the lines!  Whoop!  (pathetic, right)

Wouldn't you know, TODAY... it rained!  It didn't rain all morning when we were doing other things, or mid-day when I was sweating my ass off in the laundry room.  No.  It rained the moment I hung the clothes out to dry.  (I hear you!  "Suck it up, sistah!  You're in Paradise!" Well screw you!  Life out here is HARD! and I just want something to go right... and maybe some ice-cream!)

Four days.  Good Friday.  Then uh- Saturday-between-Good-Friday-And Easter-Sunday.  Then Easter Sunday.  Then because the holiday was on a Sunday, there's Easter Monday.  Four. Days.

We are scheduled to splash on the 9th of April.  That's one week away and we're a MESS!  Panic is setting in again and I can't even relax and enjoy this workman-free days!

It didn't help my attitude when the boatyard was NOT deserted.  Workmen came to work on Saturday.  Workmen came to work on Monday.  And workmen came to work on Tuesday.  Wait!  WHAT?  Of course they came to work on Tuesday!  Holiday is OVER!  Back to work, full force.  Knock this bitch OUT!  Home stretch!  Time to wrap it up!  We're READY!!!

I left Bruce at the boat and went on another grocery run.  Imagine my surprise disappointment incredulous disbelief when I returned to the boat mid afternoon and there were no workers!

They just didn't show up!

I think the problem is that Anderson and his crew used to be co-workers.  He broke out and went into business for himself and hired his former companions as his crew.  It's a new business and Anderson seems to be making some classic rookie mistakes.  He sits and chats with the owners while his crew works.  He doesn't realize that he has to work twice as hard now that it's his business, than he did when he was simply an employee.  My heart broke watching him struggle with his crew.  Yes.  I understood.  But it didn't keep me from feeling let down that the crew didn't show up for US.

I though we were tight!  Every evening we sat with them and shared beers and pizza and laughs.  We shared our lives and I just couldn't believe that they would let us down like this.  I was distraught!  I was losing my shit!  My mind couldn't handle thinking about what would happen if our boat was not ready to splash.

My inside voice said: Whatever.  If it's not ready, it's not ready.  What are they going to do?  MAKE you go back into the water unpainted?  While that might sound ridiculous, I had already gone to the office and told them that it didn't look like we would be ready in time, and asked if we could push back our splash date.  They told me NO!

While there is a part of me that sat back, watching this drama unfold thinking It's not the end of the world...

The part of me that was in "control" (insert laughter here) was experiencing an uncontrollable sinking spiral of doom.  Honestly, I really think it's the hormones!

I put away the groceries and texted Anderson.  "We were really hoping to see you guys today..."

See, I can hold it together.  I remembered back to my days managing a medical practice - dealing with the almost daily duty of hearing the excuses of employees calling in sick, child sick, mother sick, parent-teacher meeting, car broke down, fire, water-main break, natural disaster... and death in the family.  I felt that familiar internal struggle as I read the reply. Anderson told me that the Auntie who had raised him from teen-age after his mother's death... was sick.

Breathe.  OK Anderson, take care.  We'll see you tomorrow?  He didn't know.  And the crew?  He would try to find them.

This is life on an island folks.  Islanders live a different way.  They value their family time and their leisure time far more than they value money.  To the American brain it just does not compute.  But I'm trying to understand.  That was a hard night on Dos Libras.

They're BACK!
Our joy knew no bounds the next morning when we heard the sounds begin outside.  Someone is HERE!  They CAME BACK!

The crew dove in with gusto!  Now and then we exchanged glances, theirs expressed unspoken volumes.  There was a struggle going on around us.  We understood.  They were appreciative.  They would get this done for us.  THEY HAD TO!!!

An artist at work
A new neighbour - Hurricane boat motored all the way from St. Martin!
And the yard parked it almost directly in front of us!  How will we get OUT in just FIVE DAYS???
Meticulous work.  
This tiny boat crossed the Atlantic! I think our crew could have carried it out of here!  
Finally, working on the odds and ends!
And yes.  Anderson got busy with his crew!
Exhaustion sets in
A lot got done that day, and the next.  The sides of the hull were sanded and smoothed and polished to a shine.  The guys made comments like "If we had more time we could do a better job."  I had to literally bite my tongue!  I couldn't afford to let my American Mouth go for fear it would cause another mutiny.  And besides, the boat really was looking good.  Except for this.

They rolled-and-tipped the first coat of Awlgrip paint on the boot stripe.  It didn't cover adequately and it looked "orange-peelie".  But Anderson and the guys hurried to say that they would go to plan B.  They would have to tape everything off again and apply the rest with spray, including starting over on this side.  It was a huge amount of extra work and they were now, even MORE pressed for time.  But Anderson said they would get it done right for us.

The next morning, everyone showed up... EARLY!  It's a MIRACLE!!!

Work on multiple sites began early the next morning!
Rodney gets the worst jobs!
Marlin is the bottom painter!
Anderson has learned his lesson
EVERYTHING had to be taped off again!
My major concern was the keel.  Would it crack again?  They reinforced the fiberglass where it joins the hull...
I'm very nervous about this spot - We shall see...

We had to buy more supplies from North Yacht Supply.  Local school-kids off for Easter holiday worked for tips!

They sanded the Awlgrip applied by brush.  

Bottom is done, ready to commence spraying the stripes!
Starting at the stern
It does look more shiny when it's sprayed on!
A couple of runs happened.  Anderson got to work repairing them!
It's getting late but they're hard at work on the other side now!
They returned to touch up the dry side-back and forth-back and forth until they were satisfied.
Working by the headlight!

The crew worked through into the night.  This was their longest day ever, but they HAD to finish!  Even so, they continued to perfect small problem spots.  There were only two more days between now and splash day.  I was tentatively optimistic that it would all get done, but needed constant reassurance.  There was SO much left to do!

The crew got started early again.  Prepping to finish the Awlgrip stripes.  There were repairs that needed to happen.  Bruce was ready to live with the minor runs, but the crew wan't having it.  They wanted their work to look GOOD.  I was secretly happy that I didn't have to have that discussion with Bruce.

Could there BE any more drama???
Then it rained.  Rain was the worst possible case scenario.  They could not paint the Awlgrip if there was rain.  It would be ruined.  We waited.

Then the rain stopped.
Unaffected either way.
The bottom paint!  We used Seahawk Islands 44 Plus Hard.  Two colours. They mixed to make a lovely shade of deep ocean blue!
Meanwhile, Anderson went to work compounding and polishing the new gelcoat!
Jack stands got moved so that primer/barrier coat could be applied to the pad spots
That's a lot of boat!  Rodney waxed on - then Anderson waxed off!
Meanwhile... Marlin went to work applying the antifouling paint. Two coats, plus a third at the waterline. 
Our ladder had to be moved to the side, causing me great mental stress.  I'm somewhat afraid of heights.  And ladders!

By the end of the day, Marlin was adding the finishing touches to the bottom. 

The next morning, the crew showed up again.  It's sad that I have to say that.  But my fear that something will go wrong was growing stronger by the minute.

Also causing me stress was the application of our boat letters.  I didn't know if the guys were going to splash us and we would have to do them ourselves, or if they were going to do it.  My questions were answered.  Anderson and I worked together to place the letters.

The crew had taken some measurements before removing them.  Between the two of us, we knocked it out... I was sweating buckets by the time we were done, but the relief washed over me as I stood back and viewed our work.

The guys weren't happy with the runs.  They sanded them down for yet another round of spraying!
The last spot!  Prepped and ready!
The last bits!  We have a NAME again!
Rodney, Anderson, Me, Sweet Mackey, Marlin and Bruce.  Love these guys!

At the end of the day, everything was done except for the painting where the jack stand pads rested and the bottom of the keel.  Those things are routinely done when the boat gets lifted in the morning right before we splash.

Everything that was getting done, was done.  Bruce and I bought pizza and beer for the guys and we all sat around into the dark, chatting and laughing.  The guys had worked so hard these last couple of days.  Bruce and I were happy and relieved.  Sort of.  Our splash time was moved up from 10 am to 8 am!  This didn't give the guys much time to do those final touches.

Final inspection - Jezabelle gives her stamp of approval!
Mr Neils came by early on splash day to tell us how it would all go.  All too soon we saw the yard crew coming our way.  They were reminiscent of the Wild West days when a group of cowboys met for a showdown with our guys in the dusty streets at dawn.

Rodney painted as soon as the jack stands were moved.  The yard crew went about their work getting us ready to be lifted using the trailer instead of the slings.

I was secretly glad of this because with my history of bizarre things going wrong, I half expected that the patches beneath the new gelcoat would simply pop out and fly across the yard when the boat flexed from lifting.   I KNOW!  Pity me!

I was more nervous than ever.  It goes against nature that everything could just work out fine today.  I paced nervously as the crew did their work.  I held my breath in the long moments before they gently lifted the boat off the keel blocks.

I couldn't watch.  I turned away.  Suddenly there was an awful sound and then silence.  Then yelling! Stop! Stop!

I asked "What was that sound?"  Answer:  "Nothing".

Mr. Neils, the yard owner(?) was called in to take a look at the "nothing" that had made such an ugly sound.  In a slow-motion dream I drifted over to peer at the object of interest in this little tableau.

All of the blood drained to my feet and I felt like I would faint.  I found myself sitting on a nearby concrete block next to the yard dog as the speed of life went from slow-mo to hyper-speed.

OK now, in hind-sight... it doesn't look THAT bad!

Mr Neils assessing the situation while Bruce tries to disappear.

I sat there next to the dog, trying to will myself to be somewhere else... anywhere else but here watching my worst fear materialize.  I sort of drifted in and out of consciousness as the voices of the men bombarded my mental block.

I could hear snatches of words and phrases and none of it sounded good to my tortured mind.  Tears slid down my face as I struggled to put on my big sailor panties and face our problem.

I needed to get in there and ask questions.  I needed to know what our options were.  Of course we would just go back onto the stands so the guys could have another crack (pun intended) at fixing this! The "I-told-ya-so's" were clamouring to get out but I held them back.  Maybe not entirely.  Poor Bruce came over and put a calming hand on my shoulder... it turned into a hug... but I got little comfort from it, and in that moment, I had no comfort to give in return.

I wanted this recurring problem to be fixed.  For whatever reason, my mind filled in the blanks in my knowledge bank about why this kept happening, and it grew into a monster.  I kept wondering WHY none of the boatyards seemed concerned.  This little thing is even in our prior surveys and is just perfunctorily mentioned - like it is no big deal.  But to me, it was growing larger by the second.

I stood by as Mr. Neils explained to me that some boats simply flex when the weight is placed on the keel, and that when the faring where the keel and hull join gets flexed upon lifting, it is rigid and it cracks.  He explained that it is not dangerous, but that if it would make me feel better, we could haul out again and have a surveyor take a look at it... they could get us out again in a couple of weeks...

Wait, WHAT???  We're still going into the water???  Anderson jumped to it and hastily found something to smear into the crack to keep my head from exploding before we continued on our way to the ramp.  Mr. Neils assured me that it was fine and that we didn't need to do anything about it at all... purely cosmetic.  Water wasn't going to gush into the boat and sink us....  I took small comfort in his confidence, but was more than a little pissed off that he was tossing us out!

Poor Rodney literally walking along beneath the boat applying paint to the makeshift "repair".  GET OUT OF THERE!

At least we didn't test my "sling theory"
I followed the boat as it trundled along.  I had to go into the office and pay the yard bill.  I guess that's how they keep from having to quibble with owners.  Have the boat in the loading bay while you hastily pay to splash.  If I had been smart, I could have just refused to pay and let them hold us for ransom!
My last look at it.  Doesn't look so bad.  I must keep this photo on my desktop for when I start to spin again!

I was starting to feel a little better with a hug from Jerry, the yard foreman.  Yes... he gives hugs!
Amphibious tractor?
We waited while the boat was checked - no water gushing in from anywhere!  Well... there's that.
We're floating and all final checks are GO!
Mr Neils waived us on our way after everything inside was checked for integrity.  Now confident that we were holding air, I went to the dinghy dock to fetch the dink, then I jumped aboard and took the helm while Bruce and the shore crew handled the lines.  With shaking knees I backed us out and turned the bow toward Benji Bay.

After a month on the hard, it felt good to be back where we belong... even with the trauma of the day's events heavy on my mind.  We anchored in pretty water and tried to relax and just enjoy the moment.  There were so many thoughts shooting around in my head like comets.

I wanted this to be FIXED!  I wanted assurance that it was going to be alright.  Over the next few days, we formulated a plan.  Suggestions from friends were welcome and went far to save my sanity.

In hindsight, even just looking at these photos again has given me more of a sense of inner peace about it all.  It really wasn't that bad, mostly it was just my insistence for perfection.  HA!  Try THAT with a 23 year old BOAT!  Those of you who follow our Facebook page and blog, will now understand the long dark period.

Spoiler alert:
Things are good now and we're completing our expensive maintenance projects here in Grenada.  Thanks for making it through that with me.


  1. So what was the final cost?

    1. I don't actually have a grand total because of the way I do my accounting. A lot of it went into the Miscellaneous category, and because it's spread over more than one month, nothing obvious pops up. AND we haven't paid for the rigging replacement yet. Estimate in my head including the rigging: $25,000. ish

  2. Geez I got all nervous again just reading this. Good post but now I need something in my tea to relax :D