Nigel North
Fri 13 Jan 2017 23:06


BEEN BUSY, TOO BUSY, and missed the fact that this earlier BLOG never got posted.  Here it is, late, followed by the latest.  


A month has quietly slipped away in the sunshine and warm rain, together with hopes of a quick turn round and early re-entry into the dark waters of Chaguaramas. Of the three stainless steel water tanks removed to access the keel back in January, only one is back in place, the others are at Chaguaramas Metal Works for repair. For the vast majority of humanity with no interest in yacht water tanks, you can skip this bit.

Refitted the three tanks, having finally located (thanks to Tim Lort) some tough rubberised matting for the tanks to sit on inside the keel, filled them with water and discovered a small leak on one. To confirm, took the tank out again and hung it a eye level from the mizzen, and filled it up.
Drips from the welds.
Asked Boss Lincoln of Chaguaramas Metal Works to take a look, with a view to re-welding. He arrives and takes it away on his Ford 4x4 truck, welds it, pumps it full of air to test, returns it. I repeat the mizzen test. Fails.
Maybe I’ll just scrap it. Meanwhile, Lincoln is manufacturing some stainless steel security bars for me to fit in the companionway, and also forward hatch, in view of the rising level of thefts in the Eastern Caribbean.
The third, large tank, which I have re-plumbed separately from the others with a view to becoming a drinking water only tank, I partially fill with a chemical wash to sterilise it. It goes straight into the bilge. What is going on!
I remove this tank, which is awkward to get in and out, and discover the supply nipple has been bent upwards and broken the weld. This is not funny. I must have done the damage when refitting it, the excuse being how awkward it was.
Lincoln drives over and spends ten minutes complaining about his workforce, how they don't turn up. I say they're lucky they’ve got jobs. ‘But they don't want to work!’ Lincoln retorts. ‘They just want to take the money on Fridays and not do any work.’ Getting back to the tank, I explain carefully that this tank - generally in good condition, much better than the other tank (which sits in the bilge) - is really important and must if at all possible be saved, said looking suitably serious. Trouble is, replacement. They are all odd shapes, bespoke designs to fit the various holes in the boat. The only tanks available, subject to importation, are American Vetus plastic tanks, all rectangular and none but the smallest would fit anywhere.
Another week has gone by. Still 2 tanks down, awaiting Lincoln. The security bars have been made and fit, just waiting on the final locking piece for the hatch. Ooh…well talk of the devil, Lincoln had just been and spent a while here adjusting the precise geometry of the final piece for the security bars before final welding, then gone back and collected both water tanks for me to try. I’ve now hoisted the worst of the two, filled it with water and….no leaks! However, the more important of the two does leak still, now in a different place of course. Tomorrow I’ll see if Lincoln is prepared to have another go. He has been very helpful to date.

The dinghy:

Left deflated on deck under an awning all year and covered in dust, I haul it over the side and lower it for inspection. It has 3 air compartments, plus an inflatable floor with 2 more. On pumping it up, all 5 compartments leak, two quite badly. Buy a repair kit from Budget Marine - £35 - consisting of a tube of glue and some PVC patches, and have now repaired 3 of the leaks, and discovered the fourth, which will be repaired tomorrow. The last, very small leak, refuses to reveal itself, and may just have been some dust in the valve, but I don't think so. We will see. After repair it will be left for 24 hours before pumping it up again. Actually, this dinghy has done really well. It was just a cheap one, relatively speaking, and being PVC and not that expensive Hypalon stuff, was not recommended for the tropics anyway as, they said, you couldn’t repair them. Well I’ve repaired it four times now, all successfully, with two of those repairs now needing replacement after five years. Not bad.
But Perky looked a right old mess, blackened, yellowing sides, not nice. However, a bottle of dinghy cleaner worked WONDERS! Almost good as new no less. Very pleased with that. Well done Nig.. A similar attack on the faded glory of the fenders was not as impressive; a bit better though. Might try some Acetone next. Just have, and it works.

Otherwise, tanks excepted, all going well. In exasperation at having no table in the cabin whilst tanks were out, refitted it, but also repaired it, and moved the port side lifting leaf further forward, which substantially improves ease of sitting on that side, which Marian and Kate will appreciate soon when they arrive in a few weeks. Fitted the new smart brass ship’s clock I’d brought with me. Replaced the fluorescent light in the heads with a new unit. Sorted out the drooping ‘Westerly’ headlining over the cooker and elsewhere - a perennial problem. Moved the 2.5HP Suzuki outboard out onto the pushpit ready for servicing. Sanded, rust treated and two part painted the bottom of the iron keel. Bought an electric bilge pump, switch and high level water warning system to supplement the two big manual bilge pumps, to be fitted later. Removed, stripped and replaced all rubber parts for one of the Gusher 30 manual bilge pumps. Well that was interesting wasn’t it.


Just about every week Tim invites me back to his lush penthouse pad for ‘a break’ in one of the three towering high rise apartment blocks in Port of Spain, ten miles away. Monday I left to go there by maxi taxi at dusk, sitting with a few locals at the bus stop opposite the boatyard entrance, waiting for a bus. They are all 9 seat minibuses emblazoned with a big yellow stripe, and you hail and hope. Air con is open window variety. No one speaks. If you’re lucky you get a seat at the back. Unlucky and you get the jump seat by the door, and spend your time opening and shutting it, even getting physically out if there’s a large lady involved. You will witness the van driver suddenly swerving erratically way over the other side of the road (they drive on the left) quite frequently, this is to avoid potholes and even trenches after heavy rain has washed the road away. To stop the van to get out you press a wee button which beeps, and learning exactly when to do this is critical. As soon as its pressed the driver is likely to swerve violently into the curb and stop so anything earlier than your estimate of his skill will ensure a much longer walk. Payment is in Trini dollars - for me its $5TT, about 60p (50p before Brexit) - to be added to his handheld wad. No coins are used, which is great, as a paper dollar is worth just 8p. Quite how these drivers make any money is hard to see, as a full van over half an hour of driving will give them just $45TT - about a fiver. After my drop off its a walk up from Movie Town, passed the small sports stadium, through a residential area of tin-roofed bungalows, across Ariapeta Avenue - scene of much partying and ‘liming’ on a Friday night - and then down into the underground car park beneath the 14 storey block. This leads to stairs back up to an expansive front terrace with pleasant outdoor bar and restaurants, then through glass doors into reception. To get beyond you need a plastic electronic card to open the doors into the building itself, and thence the lifts. There are two side by side, one is very lift like, the other one, curiously, like a trademan’s lift with scuffed up cheap wood panelling and no nice bits at all. Its always the scruffy lift that comes down. How does it know?

On the way back today with big Tim we went via Peakes shop where I bought some rubber matting to sit one of the dreaded tanks on, to prevent abrasion of the hull. I have just re-fitted one of the two tanks, dammit. If it starts leaking again now, I’ll…I’ll…I’ll…
I will, you know.

A couple of days ago I met a guy sitting on the steps up to the wifi room. He was friendly, Swiss, and had just arrived in his boat Papillon from Suriname which he has owned for nearly 40 years. 4 foot smaller than Pinball, he has circumnavigated two and a half times, once with this much younger wife who is otherwise busy busy in Switzerland. Five years my senior, ‘Valter’ looked about 50, tanned, all his hair, twinkly eyes. ‘ I like to be alone at sea’ he admitted. ‘But I like to be at home too. I am looking forvard to going home’. He sounded almost apologetic. ‘I like it best to sail with my vife, but… verking is very important to her’.
He is a semi retired vicar he informs me. ‘How’s that?’ I ask, trying to figure it. ‘Vell I work in hospitals, with the sick. It is a good thing to do. I am on my boat on the ocean..they are sick in hospital…it is a good thing, yes.’
I’ll visit tomorrow. We can talk about vater tanks.
Talking of which, the personable Lincoln from Chaguaramas Metal Works came round after breakfast, bringing the final bits of the security bars - beautifully polished - but also the large water tank with the leak at the corner, having re-welded it. I said ‘you must be sick to death of me’ as his smiling face appeared over the transom on my ladder. He was complaining bitterly about his workmen - not for the first time. ‘I’m on my own today’, he ranted, explaining how his men haven’t turned up again. ‘Its so infuriating’.

After he’d gone I slung a line down from the mizzen boom - refitted last night, and suspended the tank from high enough above the ground to see underneath. How many times had I done this! Filling it with water, it didn’t take long to spot the drips. This was the second attempt to seal it, would there be a third? Don't think today is a good time to ask Lincoln for another try.
So onto the dinghy. Five leaks in it, fixed three, can’t find one and one to go, so time to test those that were fixed. I pumped, and I pumped, and I pumped, and nothing much seemed to be happening. Checked the valve was set right, yes, tried pumping up the other side, no problems there, back to this side, ah now its going up a bit.
Then I saw the bulge. Across the bulge was a seam. My hand slipped easily into the gaping seam and inside the dinghy!
This is NOT a good day.