BACK IN THE USA, HEAT, MOZZIES AND A DEAD BOAT
Fri 3 Jan 2014 00:51
16 October 2013 BACK TO FLORIDA
Sat at the back of the BA Triple 7, aisle seat for leg room, and in the middle of an extended family who made it clear they didn’t mind if I sat somewhere else. So next aisle back for me. We flew the same Atlantic that had taken Alfie and I 24 days to cross, in just a few hours, and unlike that more southerly crossing, already I am forgetting this one. The Customs queue at Orlando was impressive. Organised in that annoying zigzag that airports like, you shuffle round waiting your turn, and being at the back of the Triple 7 also meant being at the back of The Queue too. My guy wanted to know where I was going to live. ‘I live on my boat’ I told him. ‘Do you have an address?’ He was having difficulty with this concept, so I gave him the marina address. ‘You have a return ticket?’ he asked, knowing I hadn’t. I explained again, boat…living on board….leaving by boat. Having the full Visa in the passport helped, as opposed the Visa Waiver Scheme. Finally, I was through.
The chatty Afro US girl at the Avis counter liked me, took her time, and ignored the weary zigzagged queue behind. It was now gone 4pm local and time to be on the road for Indiantown, 150 miles south - a few miles from the impressively named Lake Okeechobee. The problem with driving in Florida, I’d found, is knowing where you are. Flat as a pancake, all roads look identical and each one is referred to on any map in a number of ways – anything up to three different numbers, and on the road signs by their actual name. I had a map which had taken hundreds of miles of blind driving to get last time - no ‘gas’ stations sell them anymore, everyone has satnav – but it didn’t help in the slightest finding the way out of Orlando as the road I drove down bore no relation to anything on the map. Knowing this was likely, I had brought my trusty b&w marine GPS which had the Lat Long of Indiantown in it providing just a distance to go and big pointer for direction…better than nothing, but still managed to end up heading North up the other side of the huge airport until finally blundering into a major road the map recognised. But at least the GPS was telling me I was going the wrong way.
Pinball was still there, up on the hard and tied to the ground with heavy duty straps as an anti hurricane measure. Indiantown was a ‘hurricane hole’. The padlock on the ladder wouldn’t undo, so borrowed next doors to find, on flicking the switch, no power. Nothing. Dead as a dodo. At the dead of night in 40C heat inside I could just make out the dimmest of dim glows from the switch panel. All five 12v batteries were showing around 4v. Groan. With no fans to get some air moving, it was a fitful night surrounded by fenders and deck equipment, and grateful mosquitoes.
Next day I decided to keep the car an extra couple of days in view of the battery problems, and soon had new gel batteries fitted, before taking the car back to Stuart, 20 odd miles up the 76 Highway. At the AVIS office in STUART, I waltzed in and helped myself to the sweeties on the table. The ‘sweeties’ were actually smelling stuff, not at all nice, and were spat out to the amusement of the little boy in front. For much of the cycle trip back I felt sick, and all evening too - sufficent to place Barry the Bucket next to me. But I wasn’t. Slept all evening and all night too despite the heat and mozzies.
I needed it.
A TYPICAL DAY ON THE HARD
0600 or earlier: get up, drink a pint of water. Dress to cover, with socks. Mozzies and knats arrive for breakfast. Write up diary.
0645: dawn. Temp around 28-30C. Greet the day.
0700: work on deck – mozzies have gone after dawn raid. ( love working on deck)
When hungry, unlock bike and cycle to marina restroom. Pick up stored breakfast stuff from communal fridge, milk bread butter maybe eggs. Cycle back, prepare and eat.
PM: work until too hot, usually inside to escape sun. Take siesta.
1700: Tea time. Tea, cake. Back on deck as sun gets low.
1845 Dusk. Put head torch on, get fully dressed and continue working on deck until hungry/tired. Mozzies arrive en masse.
When had enough, cycle to shower unit. Shower with attendant frog leaping around. (one also comes into the boat and leaps around).
2000: eat if hungry.
Work inside/outside as required.
2300: climb inside mozzie net with headtorch, book, read until sleepy.
I was first in Florida back in 1978, on the best ship in the Fleet, the old but formidable fixed wing carrier Ark Royal with its Phantoms and Buccaneers. Joe, the Ship’s anaesthetist and I had spent our considerable time off – Ark was having her boilers scrubbed up near NAS Jacksonville - scouring the hot spots for live music with considerable success, and being back here 35 years later the overwhelming impression is….nothing has changed. People look the same, act the same, speak the same, the music is exactly the same, the clothes are the same. The only difference is occasionally, not often, a cyclist can be seen. The vehicles have changed, its true, but they are still massively overpowered gas guzzling monsters with automatic everything that sound like tanks when they start up, and mainly 4x4 pickups often with doubled wheels at the back and several feet wider and longer than anything seen in Europe. America is in a time warp, unaffected by the rest of the world. And you know, I quite like that.
NOW AND THEN
When I asked Ali – last crew – what American men were like now she said ‘Oh they’re so macho’. Dead right. Everything about the American male is macho – expressed in speech, value, wealth, demeanour, all alpha male stuff. Vehicles are a big part of that, no American is going to be seen dead in a Ford Fiesta. So its big, noisy stuff, Easy Rider bikes no helmets, monster trucks, massive Winnebago’s – the marina is full of them. How they would have laughed at my little 13’ caravan I lived in for 8 years. Its like being on a movie set being here, it is like we’ve seen it at the pics. Compare that to Britain. How it has changed in 35 years, why we even had a Navy then!
I listen to ‘Gator 97.8’ – a Floridian hard rock radio station. The music is 60’s, 70’s classics and still great, but oh..the adverts. Full on, in-your-face bossy stuff with all prices ending in :99c. Its unbearable, condescending rubbish that just wouldn’t work in UK and its every 5 minutes for 5 minutes. But the radio presenters in between are good communicators and interesting (imagine that!) and every now and then they have an ‘advert free’ hour. Great joy. So, to survive, you channel hop. A lot of channels are god channels - big business in the USA. When I went with a friend to a local church up near Daytona Beach last year it was packed, lively, good modern music with a proper band on electric guitars, and fun. I enjoyed it. No wonder UK churches are nearly empty. So the standby channel to fill in is where to go, but hop back once the hard sell religious advertising comes on. God is, apparently, good for selling insurance! Handy..
Friday, October 25, 2013 Cooler day in INDIANTOWN MARINA
Day 2 of sanding – trying to get those little creatures off the hull, but gave up tonight. The shells are gone, but they leave little round circles of concrete where they used to be attached to the hull. I had thought the sander was duff as it didn’t rotate, so complained yesterday and had another one arrive today at midday only to find it the same. They don’t rotate, they vibrate. Well whatever, at $30 per day to hire, they are rubbish..
Much much cooler today and last night. No sun, overcast. Think a small ‘norther’ has come through. Wonderful!~ ~And the big news is the lash up of an insect screen over the hatch is a massive success! No more spraying everything in sight all night with horrid chemicals… So, I will make a better job of it sometime soon.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 THE WEAKEST LINK
Yesterday spent all day organising firstly the paint for the bottom – Antoinette in the office has done a good job there and came to see me about it. I had asked Eric – man in charge of the boatyard bits – if he would get me some anti-fouling paint and he said yes, and quick as a flash did absolutely nothing, ever. He just liked talking to people and looking good. So this wasted a week. Then it was sort out the anchor chain – which took the rest of the day. Hauling it all out of the cable locker, most of it was ok, with just the ends looking rather corroded. Except that is for two links. Smack bang in the middle of the chain. If I cut them out, what’s left of the chain will be too short for bad weather/deep anchorages no matter which half I use. So really, it has to be replaced.
American chain is not metric, its in Imperial sizes. 5/16 was the nearest to my 8mm chain but to be sure it would work on the gypsy on the Lewmar windlass I ordered just a foot each of BBB and G40, as the dimensions show that both are quite different ie about 10% longer links than 8mm.
Once again, third time now at least, after tea – fried pots with onion, garlic and cheese plus a tomato – I just completely zonked out and had to lie down, slept like the dead, woke at midnight and read for a bit. Reading an excellent book – A Bridge Too Far, by Cornelius Ryan. My fascination with war never seems to recede. Increased if anything. What a horror story. Monty should have known better..
Monday, November 4, 2013 ON MEETING SOME PORTUGUESE..
Nearly a week later and I’ve been busy, and too tired to write. Boat’s back in the water and in the best spot in the marina – happy! Made two new friends – Patrick and Chantal on ROUMA (amour anagram) French Canadians who I managed to convince myself were Portuguese. This clearly they found very confusing, especially when this strange Englishman went and got his Times Atlas out and starting asking how come they’d never been to Cascais! ‘And you’re Portuguese!’ The funny thing is, apart from the obvious, I know what French sounds like. Yes, I speak it, sort of. But when Patrick and Chantal chat amongst themselves it sounds nothing like French. More like Portuguese to my mind. Asking around, apparently French Canadians are unintelligible to the French. Yes, really!
I have no crew for the coming trip, yet. Have been putting up netting for the mozzies with considerable success, as long as its up before they arrive at dusk and dawn. Still haven’t ordered anchor chain yet. Have washed the sides, painted below and washed the decks. Fridge is barely working, oven door needs fixing, radar wont switch on, 12v DC socket seems burnt out, and all 5 batteries replaced. Checked the through-hulls and managed to open all of them, but need to keep them freed up. Fortnightly checks I reckon. Will buy more bottom paint here as it’s a lot cheaper than Trinidad’s…$85 per gallon as against $300 pg.
Thursday, November 7, 2013 MORE PROBLEMS
Dream: I am cycling up a busy street that is unfamiliar to me, crowds of people everywhere, its a high street and I’m cycling uphill when I’m physically stopped by a big guy who makes a grab for my watch. He has his hand over it and is trying to get it off my arm but I am fighting him and it’s a sort of stalemate. I’m not going to let him have it. It’s a trial of strength. After a long tussle I finally win out as the watch is still there on my arm, but then realise in horror and anger than my bike has been stolen whilst this is going on. I am really really angry – its my lovely touring bike – and I set off running up the hill looking for it everywhere. I’m aware that it’s a low chance I have of spotting it but I do it anyway, and I’m looking for a copper too to report it to. I spot a copper across the road through the throng, but find it difficult to get to him. Wake up.. !
Yesterday I put the genoa on, got the fridge fixed – nice old guy from Dominica, used to Skipper an 80’ yacht in the Med – who topped up the refrigerant gas. But he was a nice old greedy guy who charged a massive $200 for his 25 minutes chatting. I was about to put the mizzen sail on when I noticed the halyards were a complete mess and needed sorting out. This reminded me I had to fix the radar too – then saw why! The mizzen halyard was abrading heavily against the radar cable. Groan. So went up the mast on the mast climbing kit and had a look. The radar cable had been sawn through nicely, with 2 or 3 wires cut or badly damaged. The other thing I couldn’t quite understand was why I couldn’t hoist the halyard fully – the last few feet were jamming somehow. There seemed no reason for it. When I looked carefully at the sheaves from below, it looked like there was either a pulley missing, or the halyard had been misrouted across a pin in the top of the mast. Weird. But it was difficult to sort as I couldn’t get right to the top of the mast (pretty wobbly and scary) as the halyard was jamming. Hmm… To reroute the halyard was difficult as I needed it to hoist myself up there whilst hanging on the halyard itself, as nothing else is strong enough. So how do I reroute a halyard that I’m hanging on! I find it difficult to believe that I’d been stupid enough to misroute a halyard attached whilst the mast was down back in Portland. Possible, but very unlikely. I took a lot of trouble making sure all was right. So was there a secondary block there once? I don’t remember one.
In the end, after sorting out the halyards and finding the main halyard hoisted the mizzen sail just fine as it was, I decided to leave the problem of the possible missing sheave until I could drop the mast, as it wasn’t safe to fix it if it needed fixing in situ. But the severed radar cable had to be fixed. The mast-climbing kit got me up there, and I rejoined the two broken wires, insulated a third, and did the best I could binding and sealing the lot. It didn’t look pretty but it was waterproof. But would the radar now work?
Not a sausage.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013 INDIANTOWN….still!
Yesterday the satphone data socket fell apart. This morning I mailed it to a one-man business in California called Northern Axcess to be fixed, express service. Its never ending, and the marina is charging $36 per day. Also bought two US Propane cylinders, had them filled – cost per filling, an incredible $7.50 the pair – 10% of the cost back in UK - plus anti ant stuff for the ant invasion, wood for the mozzie net. Drove Diago’s car to do it, with a lizard on the bonnet.
Today Kirsi the female American skipper came round to say Diago had phoned – as planned although I don’t know to what purpose – and asked me what the flares box was. Her dog is Captain Jack. Diago is a really nice Argentinian guy, Skipper of the 30’ ‘Solera’, who had come round chatting, and quickly became friends – even though I had personally invaded his Malvenas.
Delivered Diago’s car back to him at Sunset Marina, Stuart, where he had sailed the day before. But the sight of him sitting in the bow of his dinghy, doggedly paddling the mile from his boat to meet me with just one paddle was entertaining. The other had come apart. I fixed it for him later.
We stopped for a burger on the way back to Indiantown – just dreadful – and coffee. He always eats out he told me, as his cooker is dodgy.
Gave up trying to get the radar fixed after the radar man announced that no one was prepared to come out to me as they would have to go up the mizzen mast. How pathetic. I gave him a roasting….’the Chinese would do it, you Americans better watch out!’ I ranted, continueing on the theme of forthcoming Chinese domination. But anyway, the rates the Yanks charge for labour is a joke. I’ll get it sorted in Trinidad…if I ever get there.
Still no suitable crew. Cant wait to get out of here, feels like a dollar trap now. Have to wait for the anchor chain to arrive, and the satphone. Groan..
Diago is a nice old bugger. High blood pressure, twice divorced and likes it that way, two kids both in Canada, born there. Hopeless with practical things he admitted: ‘how should I tie the dinghy on?’ he asks. Always a sweaty brow. I hope he makes it to Cuba! Hope also to meet up again. I liked him.
Mizzen is back up, cockpit given a thorough clean – ants washed off, but were back in an hour, ladder stowed, dinghy inflated. Still needs a good clean below, and untidy. Looks like I’ll be going alone again…
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
New anchor chain arrived, and now installed. Hope it works on the windlass.. But what to do with 300’ of old chain! Laid it out on deck for now.. (not a good idea, I discovered)
Monday, November 18, 2013 LAKE WORTH, FL
Finally left Indiantown in drizzle late pm on Saturday, with no one around to say goodbye to, even the office was shut. I would have liked to have said goodbye to Antoinette and Debbie, who had been helpful and friendly. Not sorry to be leaving.
Motored down to St Lucie Lock at a fair old lick, glad to be on the move, and managed to run hard aground whilst up on deck fiddling with fenders. A bit of tail wagging got us out, arriving at the Lock in the pitch dark. But a full moon lightened the overcast sky and I didn’t need the searchlight I’d got out in case. Called the lock on VHF but got a ‘think it’s a bit late’ response, even though my notes said it shouldn’t close until 2130. So anchored smack bang in the middle of the approach area with my gleaming new chain to await the opening at 7am local (8am Ships Time). Still have the old chain laid down the side deck.
Sunday morning was bright and sunny, locked down first thing and had a good trip all the way down to Lake Worth. The shallow bit I was worried about didn’t even exist – the posts had been removed, and the other one – the Crossroads at St Lucie inlet – had been dredged as it was around 3m deep now, as opposed to the 1.1m I had found trying to come up. In fact the dredger was right there when I pitched up, me struggling to believe the depth guage and ready for the impact. But it didn’t happen. There were to be no more groundings – as opposed to seven coming up in May.
Now back on the ICW proper, found myself leading three other boats but was soon overtaken by all of them, becoming tail-end-charlie. The woman in the other yacht was super friendly, giving me the thumbs up etc, and even chatting a bit later, but her husband didn’t join in. Why would he?! But lost her at the Lake Worth turnoff – by which time I’d had enough for one day, and especially as I only went to bed at 0330 the night before.
Sitrep: Radar not working. AIS not working. Navtex not working. Outboard wont run, keeps cutting out or wont start at all. Satnav data download taking far too long, and often cuts out. Regard AIS as a no go item, and satnav. Radar is difficult to fix, but what if we are in fog or heavy rain? I do not have a radio that can pick up US Weather transmissions – they are on different frequencies to our pre programmed VHF sets. This trip is just one long catalogue of duff kit.
Go to bed thoughtful.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 DECISION TIME
I’ve come to a DECISION. NOT to go anywhere until the boat’s FIXED. Then we’ll see. The Caribbean will prob be out, as I will have missed the window for a transit south, but there are still the Bahamas, and the ICW and Florida to explore. First thing I need to do is get the outboard working. It’s a fuel problem – it runs for 3 seconds then cuts out. Then the electronics. Also investigate getting a radio that picks up the weather here. GET ON!