FINAL PREPS, A FIX AND A SAIL
POSITION: CHAGUARAMAS, TRINIDAD
There's a gas man comes to fill up your gas cylinders for you - they have to be marked up and left with the guard on the gate. I was just fitting them on the bike when an American voice I recognised called to me; it was Ed on Skylark, back at Coral Cove. Why? They should have been on their way north or still in Tobago at least. But a missing backstay gave the answer - it had sheared at the isolator (thick cylinder of ceramic to insulate the backstay so it can be used as an aerial with SSB radio) This was of interest as I had one fitted too, just in case I won a lot of money and wanted to get SSB (long range HF radio). Hmmm.. But it was good to see Ed and Elizabeth again, and an undamaged mast.
My gas containers should have arrived refilled the following day, but it took a few days for some reason. Camping gas cylinders are not supposed to be used over here as they are Butane, and its all Propane here, but lots of people do so I'm trying it out. There is a pressure difference..
Sunday, 2 December 2012
Dream: I'm high up on a ledge of rock at the top of a sheer cliff. There is something on the ledge that they want down below - about 500' below - and I'm thinking about chucking it over and what will happen to it. There is something wrong with whatever it is so I'm thinking it won't make it down to the bottom. But I'm suffering from waves of vertigo and don't like being near the edge like this. I am lying down..
OUTBOARD MOTOR FIX
I couldn't find the right spark plug - the main suspect for the conking out on Union Island back in May. So emailed a company in Port of Spain, who replied promptly with suggestions on where to go, and one saturday morning set off from Tim's place having memorised the route from google maps. It was a fair old walk, which I needed, but as it was the day after the night before, managed to en route mis-remember the name of the business premises, and even better, the number of the plug. I found the road ok, which is probably a surprise to you, but found it to be wall to wall motor dealers with no obvious choice of target.
I decided to ask 3 local lads lolling around chatting, but of course asked for a non existent place. After some teeth sucking and head shaking they suggested a place back down the road I'd just come up, which just happens to be the right place, I find. Lucky! By then there's only 5 minutes to go to closing time but fingers crossed.
I go in, give the man the wrong number for the plugs and get given the wrong plugs, of course. He quickly loses interest and starts serving another as I stare helplessly at the oversize plugs. Why oh why didn't I WRITE IT DOWN?! Two minutes to closing..
In desperation I tell him how it was I that phoned earlier, and a small Indian lad pipes up with the correct number straight away. I get the plugs.
I am using a website to see if I can pick up some crew, and company, on the way. For the past couple of months there has been only a trickle of interest, but suddenly in late November - when northern winters start to bite I guess - I have 6, 7, 8 people all interested, all in one day. Replying to them all in a useful and positive way took a whole morning.
Most are not going to happen as they are still the wrong side of the Atlantic and I suspect are just testing the waters. Why not! But there are quite a lot of mainly younger folk who do their travelling like this, and its a cheap way to do it - the travelling and accommodation comes free. I have spoken with quite a few who would make good crew I'm sure, but the difficult bit is fitting it all together time and place wise as cruiser boats don't run to agendas and timings are variable - being able to choose when to sail is one of the most important safety factors.
But I am hopeful and optimistic that we can get something sorted here. Brother Stu is coming to sail up to St Lucia, so needs are met that far, but I will be hoping to pick up crew from there to BVI - where I intend to spend some time loafing about before heading for Florida.
THE AUTOPILOT FIX
Received the Hydraulic ram back having been cleaned up, but the pump had to stay in place, as to get it out I would either have to take out half the sole (floor) of the lazarette, or drill a large enough access hole to get my hand in there to undo two nuts. Neither appealed. The autopilot is a no-go-without item for a single hander as although I dont use it much, sometimes I can't be in two places at once and need it - usually when there's a problem with a sail up for'd. The only other bit was the reservoir, which looked ok, but when I took that out it had a nice thick brown sludge settled hard on the bottom. A bit of research on the net to find out what to clean it out with, and a whole days work and that reservoir was good as new.
Put it all back together, topped up with new hydraulic oil (more research), bled it (yes more research) and tried it. Lots of noise from the pump, erratic movements from the wheel - but at least it was doing something now. A couple of days later after more bleeding, a check by a lad from the Raymarine shop (who left a nut undone, thanks) and it was working beautifully again.
Emptied the forecabin of sails thus compounding the mess having had the cockpit full of spare anchors and stuff out of the lazarette whilst the autopilot was being worked on, and completely removed the headlining that was 80% hanging off anyway. Reglueing with contact adhesive spray is an interesting experience in a confined space like that, ok as long as you dont breathe.
Filled up the difficult to get to locker stbd side in the forecabin with items unlikely to be used, like the double bed conversion!
Even better, wrote down what was in there!
Next was the fairly useless forecabin wardrobe. Currently a small unused hanging space, I made a good solid shelf halfway down out of spare wood, and fitted a piece of elasticated netting higher up, so for the first time I had somewhere other than a bag to keep my clothes. Painted out, wood varnished, I am ridiculously proud of this improvement which would go unnoticed by anyone else, and like to have a look at it daily. Saddo. No more moving my bag around whenever I needed to get at a cabin locker. Well, its the little things in life..
Got a nice piece of teak from the woodman to roll the back screen of the bimini cover in. Looks great!
..and then there's the cleaning. Always things to clean, clean, clean..
Still to do: mainly the cockpit - clean - and all the teak needs oiling apart from the rubbing strake which I've done. However, it needs to stop raining first.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
GOODBYESMidday Ed and Elizabeth in Skylark left. I helped with their lines.... its always a bit sad when friends leave, no matter how you dress it up. But thats the life of Cruisers, here today gone tomorrow. They left their mat on the pontoon, a neighbour rang them but they didn't want it, they said. Or couldn't be bothered to come back more likely. Would you, after 5 months, and a false start?
Sunday 16 December 2012
Tim, Steve, Kerry and Mike pitch up pm to go for a sail, our last chance this year as they return UK on friday, and I'll be leaving soon after. We set off at 1430 and soon found plenty of wind - strangely northerly - but this gave us a wonderful reach west out to the first two Bocas (entrances to the Gulf of Paria from the north coast). Normally there's not much wind at all, but today it was a good force 4 increasing 6 as we passed the Boca entrances, making PW heel a good 30 degrees with full mainsail and genoa out. And the autopilot behaved perfectly. The only thing that wasn't working was the Philips GPS - no satellites received. Pretty sure its the connection to the aerial.
But it was a great sail. Afterwards we went to Sails restaurant by the water's edge for a meal.
This is the end of a most enjoyable time here in Trinidad, which I will be sad to leave, and hope to return to one day. If possible I will come back for the Carnival in February - an amazing event by all accounts. By air.
Just loading lunch on board..
SAIL ON!NEXT EDITION: RETURN TO ST LUCIA