Blue Haven Marina, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands
Date: Wednesday 4th February 2015
Blue Haven Marina is only a couple of miles away from our house in Providenciales so it was a home from home for the duration of our stay on the island. We had some overdue business matters to attend to, but the main highlight of our stay was the opportunity to catch up with our friends on the island who we had not seen for too long a time.
Here is a picture of the marina showing how well it lives up to its name:
The marina is well-run with very wide, stable pontoons, a completely open environment that allows glorious fresh air to blow through the boat, fast flowing, tidal, clean water that stops marine growth from accumulating on the hull, and open use of the attached resort with pool, gym, deli, bar and restaurants. And the cost was significantly less than any other marina we had stayed in either Bahamas or the US E Coast. The waters around Providenciales are mostly too shallow for us to venture very far, and the marina was quite accommodating so we stayed for the entire duration of our stay.
Here we are doing the tourist thing:
Every week there is a fish fry where an eclectic mix of residents, tourists and even a few salty sailors get together to enjoy the food and party atmosphere. We went along with Tina and Dean & Sally from nearby boats. It was a very cool evening but we all had a good time anyway. There was one guy, dressed to the nines in three piece suit, gold lacquered top hat and a large Turks & Caicos flag (on a small flag pole) sticking out of his, ahem.., back pocket, who was determined to give lessons in playing the rip-saw. I just had to have a go:
Here he is in all his glory:
Everyone wanted to play along with the band:
Sally, Dean, Tina & Eileen
Whilst in the marina we had a curious problem with the boat, which for a while looked as though it could be quite serious. I noticed that water was pooling in the small well that was placed beneath the stern gland. My first thought was that the stern gland was leaking so I placed tissue paper around all of the points where water could be seeping in. The paper stayed dry but the water was still pooling through from somewhere. Eventually I dried out the area where the water was accumulating, donned my reading glasses so I could see close up and with a powerful light placed myself somewhat precariously in the engine room with my head just a few inches away from the stern gland so I could see what was going on. After a few minutes I could see a small bead of water seeping through the paint that had been used to seal the fibreglass at the bottom of the well and close to the stern tube. The water was coming from the lowest point in the bilge so it I looked very much as though it was entering the boat through the hull, possible through a micro crack in the tube that held the propeller shaft.
If this was correct then I had a serious problem. Although the water ingress was currently very small and well within the capabilities of the bilge pumps to cope with, if there was a crack then over time it could only get bigger. Its location would make plugging any leak very difficult, if not impossible, and the thought of having to do this at sea and many miles from land was not one to entertain for too long. This was a problem that would have to be fixed before we continued our journey. Unfortunately any further investigation would probably require the boat to be lifted for the leak to be found and repaired.
There was no travel lift at my current location so I spoke to James Pollon at Caicos Marina located on the south side of Providenciales. Their boatyard has a lift that could take my boat out of the water and he kindly came over to see me and look at the problem. He could see water seeping into the bilge and he agreed with my diagnosis and said that he would probably have to cut away from the point where the leak was entering the bilge until he could trace its source. Angle grinders cutting through my boat was not something that I felt good about, but I didn’t know what else to do!
It should also be mentioned that all of the time that this was going on I had been talking to the UK Hallberg Rassy agent for advice. They were responsive but had in turn passed my problem to HR back in Sweden with a request for urgent feedback. During the entire episode HR did not contact me once. They just didn’t want to know. Such excellent customer support!
Reluctantly I made an appointment with James to lift the boat and begin the work. The next day I spent a long time looking at the problem and trying to think of a way to fix it without such major surgery. It was then that, almost absent mindedly, I tasted the water that was pooling in the bilge, even though it was a rather disgusting cloudy brown colour. It was fresh water! I was ecstatic as this meant the water could not be entering the boat from the sea. But where on earth was it coming from as the fresh water tanks were nowhere near the stern tube and the water appeared to seeping through from the lowest point in the bilge. I checked all of the fresh water system and could find no leaks. In frustration after many hours climbing into places almost impossible to access and finding no source for the leak I even started to think whether it was possible for a thick layer of GRP to act as a reverse osmosis filter and remove salt from sea water as it leaked through the hull under hydrostatic pressure, even though my knowledge of physics told me that this was impossible.
The next day I started to lift the cabin sole in the area of the boat astern of the propeller shaft. Curiously the bilge at this point was wet. Eventually I found the problem. I had stored about 10 gallons of distilled water (used to top up the batteries) under the aft cabin berth. This had been supplied in two rather brittle plastic bottles, and over time they had split and were leaking their contents into the bilge. But it was far from clear how this water had managed to work its way through the bilge under the stern gland. I could only conclude that the drainage from the aft cabin to the main bilge under the saloon was blocked somewhere along its route so the water had pooled and slowly percolated through the GRP into the area where I had seen it.
I fired off another email to HR asking for plans of the drainage route from the aft cabin to the main bilge (it was impossible to determine this by looking without cutting away sections of the bottom of the boat). Again HR’s response was a grand silence, Nada!
I removed the water containers, dried as much of the bilge as I could get access to and over a period of three or four days the accumulation of water in the bilge slowly reduced to nothing. After several days of a dry bilge I felt confident that the problem had been resolved.
Before we left we took the dinghy across to a small nearby island called Little Water Cay, where a small population of iguanas indigenous to the Turks & Caicos live a protected existence. Whereas other island we have visited seem to have a large population of iguanas that have become numerous enough to be pests, the local animals are threatened and left to their own devices would soon become extinct. Here’s a few pictures: