Nigel North
Mon 24 Oct 2016 11:49

22 October 2016 (next bit for Marian)


Meanwhile, ten months later…….here's the catch-up.

Pinball is still here at Powerboats Boatyard. When the reluctant keel finally let go (it weighs 3 tons) it took with it some of the fibreglass of the keel joint, and revealed a large crack. This was repaired brilliantly by the team, whilst the Skipper spent his time polishing off the rather rusty stainless steel water containers removed from inside the keel. Then another domestic crisis blew up at home, drowning out the call of the sea, and so I went back to UK last February having sailed a whole 400 yards. The origin of the crack is unknown, but may date back to a whale strike some fifteen years ago in the SW approaches.

Back to now; after a pleasant summer in UK doing a bit of granddaddying, as well as a wonderful road trip through 5 countries all the way to Stavanger, Norway - pics on Facebook - last week it was time to get back to Pinball. It didn’t go well.

Bought the rail ticket to Guildford for the day before so I could visit Mr Mrs Abes in Godalming, then noticed in tiny print that half of it would be by bus. BUS! Yes apparently the line’s closed. Rosie and lil Charlie waved me off, me having had to drag my big blue bag as it was so heavy. Either that or I really am getting old. Well its got no wheels. Its just a bag. Changing at Andover amazingly there was a bus waiting outside, so chucked the bag underneath and sat next to a zombie for two hours. Fiddling with the phone revealed something awful - the ETA I’d given Abes was complete crap - my departure time no less and 3 hours wrong. Well, I was knackered..brain dead. Yes, as I was climbing onto the train at Yeovil Junction, a rather surprised Abes was patiently awaiting the arrival of yours truly at Guildford’s finest station, surprise turning to annoyance when my wheedling text put him straight.
So Abes finally picks me up, I drag the bag to his car, and off we go. On his nice drive under the bag I discover wetness. Then glass. Lots of it. Yes that nice bottle of red I’d brought them was no more. Probably something to do with that quite large hole I’d worn in the bottom from all the dragging. To avoid further damage to property, the sort out was done in his bathroom, but I still managed somehow to leave a red stain on the nice bedspread in the guest room.
‘Abes. Is there somewhere open on a Sunday that sells bags?’
So for the third time that day Abes drives back into Guildford and we go bag shopping. Realising I had brought our friendship into jeopardy it was time to splash out, so Mr Big payed real money for coffees and a half share in a tart, before buying himself a wonderful super-bag with wheels.
Abes, despite his inner feelings, then got up very early and drove his nibs to Gatwick North, and good riddance to yours truly.

Normally I would look forward to the 8/9 hour flight to Port of Spain as a wind-down from the strain of having to remember everything, but last time I sat behind a East European psycho who kept attacking my legs, and this time was not dissimilar.
Trying out the centre aisle at the back with the cattle on BA 2159 for a change, my seat-buddy was a boot faced female who sat in silence.
‘Would you like my paper?’ I enquired chirpily.
Later she starts chatting to the old guy on her other side, and in minutes its like they’re lost siblings re-found. An hour of this and she is drunk, and I mean drunk, arms everywhere, chirping like a budgie, and worst of all… she is leaning across me every two minutes to call out to her unconscious boyfriend over in the other aisle in the vain hope of attracting his attention. He is too smart for that. He is asleep. Or pretending to be. The routine never changed.
‘Mike?’ said in the way you’d say it if you wanted to know if you were loved.
‘Mike?’. Her hands would now be slowly spreading fingers like opening a fan.
Then giving up for a few minutes, would carry on chatting with the old guy - who carried on feeding her vodka and coke. This went on every few minutes, for hours. 
It got to the point where I was seriously considering going to speak with the hostie to stop the supply of free booze, but by then it was too late. She was well drunk.
‘Mikey?. The hands…
After having had to physically remove an entire arm from my inner space, I decided to stand up for an hour or two.
Eventually the depressant effect of alcohol shut her down, and she slept peacefully, leaning against the old guy, their arms entwined.

Arriving at Piarco Airport, Port of Spain, I joined the wrong queue - residents only - uh oh turned back but was told to stay there by the big guy in uniform. This meant I got through in minutes whilst the sheep pen of non-residents moved not a bit.
I was back!


Pinball had been moved. No longer within sight of the launch ramp and open water, Pinball was now propped up on stands right smack bang outside the heads/showers facility, and rather too close to the plastic covered boat next door for my liking. But heh. No damage visible. Hurricane Matthew had passed about 60 miles north before flattening poor Haiti, so I was grateful. Thats why we’re here, hurricanes rarely come this far south.
Tim bless him had been coming in regularly to check on the state of play, and had renewed one of the tarpaulins which shade the deck from the fierce sun. Many of the boats left are ‘cocooned’ in plastic, like the one next door, but as Pinball doesn’t have a wooden deck, and as the Skipper isn’t loaded, we do without. Apart from being covered in fine dust - someone had been sanding down a lot of fibreglass nearby - Pinball was looking ok; the cooker and kettle were as bright and shiny as I had left them, hardly any mould in the cabin, and only three dead ‘cockies’ found so far. Not bad! A quick hosing down sorted out the dust.
But inside was a bit of a mess. Of necessity of course. Apart from the usual stuff, there were three large stainless steel water tanks sitting there after they’re removal to get at the keel, still nicely polished; and the large heavy cabin table was loose and up-ended now, waiting for the tanks to be put back.
There are a few lessons to learn about leaving a boat in the tropics; don’t leave books out, they get damp in the high humidity of the wet season - our summer. Exposed woodwork goes a dull grey in the sun. Cockroaches will have any food that is accessible, which must be kept in containers. Have more than one charging source for the batteries - connections regularly corrode out in this climate. (Cost me 5 new batteries in Florida) Ropes left touching the deck will be covered in black mould next time you see them.
So I’m pleased with the state of Pinball, its just kind of messy living for a while.

I wasn’t wild about living next to the block. For one, its like Wembley stadium at night under the arc lights, and then everyone walking out of the showers looks straight in my cabin. But its growing on me; its so light you can work easily on deck at night, and night time is cooler time. Its been HOT this week, around 38C by 1000 inside Pinball, dropping to 30C after midnight. I really flaked out the first few days. Then there’s the flies; normally we would be battened down behind mozzie nets at dusk, but here I’ve not seen a mozzie yet. Thats not to say there aren’t nasty little biting things - ‘no-see-ums’ as they're called here - but some repellant works ok, mostly. Then there’s the showers; Tim’s suggestion to put a plank ‘tween Pinball’s stern and the shower block I rejected on safety grounds, as I’ve fallen off Pinball once and didn’t like it. But now have a ladder down and a ladder up, getting off one to the other halfway down. Simple! And thats not all; the one and only grouse I had against Powerboats Boatyard was to do with not having heated showers. But I’ve found one, and even though you’re supposed to put a coin in first, I’ve found that being a Trini building, the whole thing leaks and if you put the hot tap on without any money in, you still get a certain amount of hot water coming through which mixed with cold at half pressure is the bees knees.
Its the little things in life that matter. Right?
And its social. Old guys with white beards say hello, and stop by for a chat; rumbustious Trini cleaning ladies joke me. Its what makes this boatyard the best in Chaguaramas.

Without wishing to bore, these are the main jobs to do:-
Find and fit a suitable electric bilge pump in the keel underneath the water tanks that also need to be replaced. Pinball has two large good quality manual bilge pumps, but if you’re sinking, you can’t be pumping out and fixing the leak if you’re single handed, as I found out in Turks and Caicos.
Paint the keel with anti-fouling. (already sanded down from before. Yippee..)
Grease the sea-cocks
Service the inboard Yanmar 45hp engine (oil change filter change) and test run it.
Check dinghy for leaks and service its outboard (oil change)
Design and order security bars for the companionway and forw’d hatch.


All the rest of getting ready for sea etc can be done in the water - a much more pleasant environment with cooling breezes, no sun on the keel and cooled by the water (28C)

Barring any hiccups, should be afloat in a few weeks, but the bilge pump might be tricky..

No not much achieved this week, just getting used to the humid heat - our body temperature - making the boat liveable again, gas on, electric, finding things, shopping for food, thinking.

Good to be back..