Archive for: ‘October 2011’

The Dink

October 30, 2011 Posted by Deb

The dink with a marginal Mercury 15 suddenly became very important. After failing in 3 or 4 prior attempts to get it to run, we took it to Island Water World and the pros. It sat there for a day or two and we finally had to grab it back and attach it to Neytiri as she backed out of the yard. We had a 3-mile commute by dink to get back to the apartment and Simpson Bay and we had a car to turn in and a lot of stuff still to move from the apartment to the boat. Without thinking too much about the hazards of a marginal outboard, we loaded up a few 110 volt projects, our garbage, and Deb’s laptop and took off for a quick run to the apartment. The impeller gave out on the Merc, announced by a tone change in the motor as it overheated and started smoking. I got it shut down right away but we had a fare bit of rowing ahead of us in a dink whose oarlocks are kind of a joke. We took off canoe paddling style for a few minutes when a local came along and offered a tow. He towed us on in and started having his own outboard issues.

Once at the apartment, we had to assess our options. We had a boat bobbing around 3 miles away with a relatively untested anchor set in a area with a reputation for poor holding and no way to get home. Oh, and it was Sunday so everything was closed and I was barefoot. My first choice was to have a burial at sea for the Merc but that would be an insult to the sea. We got creative and rolled the dice that we could find Michael over on the French side living on his boat on the hard while he rebuilt it after hurricane Lenny put it on the bottom. I had visited him once by dink but had never driven to it. He lived with several hundred others packed gunnel to gunnel on the hard and all struggling with boat projects on no budget. He had expressed an interest in the Merc. Our plan was to give it to him in exchange for a ride to our boat and another ride back on Monday a.m.

We got lucky and found the marina but no Michael. As we were trying to figure out a Plan B, I remembered that he had a dink repair project set up under another boat and took a guess as to where it was. Michael was there, took the motor, lent me his girlfriends dink, and arranged to take us the next morning to look at a used Yamaha. Fine so far but we still had to vacate the apartment the next day, turn in a car, and reclaim our deposit on the far side of the island. Deb took off to do that and I dinked out to the boat in the tiniest dink I’ve ever been in. I had to sit in the middle with an extension to the tiller and kind of had to dive to the gear shift lever before water came over the transom.

The next morning we went to look at the used Yamaha but the owner was out fishing. We dropped Michael off and waited for the Yamaha dealer to open. They had a 15 hp four stroke that weighed 122 pounds but no 2 stroke 15’s. We looked at Tohatsu’s and finally, stopped by the Island Water World folks that were supposed to have fixed the old Merc. The guy felt bad that we had burned up our old outboard and quoted us a great price. He also offered to go over and pick up our stranded dink (now engineless) at the apartment. Before noon on Monday we were back in business. We often find out the hard way that we should have included something in our shipment from Chicago and this time it was our small 4 hp Johnston. That outboard won’t go anywhere in a hurry but it would sure be a nice back up. Seems a couple grand here and there can turn a bad day into a pretty good day.

Dinghy security just moved to the head of the list. In a former life I would have swapped Michael the brand new outboard bonnet for the old so it looked like I was driving a beaten up old Merc. I couldn’t bring myself to do that this time. We invested in cables, chain, padlocks, and an outboard knob locking system. Now we’ll be nervous but our engine will be shiny.


October 28, 2011 Posted by Deb

After carefully arranging with the New Zealand yard manager (Roger … a great guy) to put Neytiri in slings on Friday the 28th to finish priming and bottom painting the chock block areas and bottom of the keels followed by a launch on Monday, October 31, the monster travel lift headed our way Thursday afternoon, the 27th, picked up the boat and moved it out of the mud. The yard crew started painting away on the bottom. The captain has the ultimate say as to when a boat is launched and I could have called a halt but we started thinking about getting out of that yard on Friday rather than Monday. We had a through hull or two to slam in, our yard debris to get back on the boat, paperwork to fill out, and dozen or so errands to run but we decided to go for Friday, the 28th.  About then the guys ran out of bottom paint.  We got on the phone, called in a quart of bottom paint and got Michael, the French Canadian, to agree to show up on Friday morning to carefully watch all the engine changes we had made to make sure things were running well and salt water wasn’t flying everywhere.

At 10:00 a.m. on Friday, October 28, Neytiri got into the ocean for the first time (with that name). We put a plate with the former boat name near the factory serial number to maintain a naval tradition that few adhere to anymore. Oh, and for good luck.  The parts all worked reasonably well for having not been used in six months and we motored off into Simpson Bay looking for the French side where having no clearance papers is not a big deal (the Dutch clearance papers from the former owner were lost on board) and where you don’t have to pay $50 US per week as a cruising tax. And, ohhhh, the breeze felt good.

Launching in St. Martin

Juggling Act

October 23, 2011 Posted by Deb

Today was a typical day. Deb spent an entire day on hold with various financial institutions trying to track down our last bank wire as well as begging for some shipping information as to how, where, and when to meet our shipment coming from Miami via Chicago. She was on hold for over an hour and 25 minutes with our old bank back in MN, despite having been transferred to over five different people. I made numerous trips to the marina stores, directed traffic on the watermaker and instrument replacement project, pulled all the hardware off the refrigerator door, pulled 85 feet of Raymarine cable through the mast with Richard up top. I raised Richard up the mast by pushing a button on the electric winch. Nice toy.

A Fast Triple

It started out as a day of small victories and small defeats but by afternoon, our shipment from Chicago was not only confirmed but was delivered free of charge to our apartment. The bank wire to pay for the apartment was successfully reversed (Deb drove out to Oyster Pond and paid them with the cash that we had accumulated by emptying every ATM on the island), and our first mail shipment arrived. The boxes from Chicago arrived in almost perfect shape but we used full bug protocol anyway and found one eggshell casing in one box where the plastic wrapping had been torn a bit. Now … how to get all that stuff on a boat that was full of tools from contractors and the former owner and the sails.

Bombed out Resort

I seem to collect bombed out resorts. There is a nice one a short hike around the corner to the northwest from Orient Beach. I’ll try to get the story. Google has several listings under abandoned resorts but not this one. We’ll see.

Bombed Out Resort Orient Beach

On the Hard: Week 2

October 14, 2011 Posted by Deb

I might as well say something about the group we hired try to help us burn through our cash as quickly as possible. We have been fortunate on all of our boats to have found good experts at reasonable rates. They also have deep networks so if a project gets out of scope, they can get the troops lined up quickly.

Michael is French Canadian/American Indian and was on a ship very near the Edmund Fitsgerald when she went down near Whitefish Bay. Richard is a Britt who was a rower (like Deb), is currently a delivery captain, and specializes in electrical and electronics. We kicked off Monday morning with a gathering at Budget Marine in St. Maarten and walked out with a $3,000 order, mostly new AGM batteries for the boat.

The batteries were the trigger event for the real work on the boat. As Neytiri came to life we moved on to new instruments, new transducers, and new wires. As we tore panels apart to trace and run wiring, we noticed other broken bits and small project grew into larger projects. We also serviced, cleaned, and painted the windlass, replaced exhaust hoses, re-mounted pumps, serviced the outboard, brought in a pro to replace the dinghy patches, did oil and saildrive 101, rebuilt two heads, ground off corrosion, replaced all incandescent with LED’s, de-mildewed walls, and generally raised the GDP of the island by making numerous trips to Budget Marine, Island Water World, and Ace Hardware.

The week is over and I’m sitting at the computer with fiberglass stuck in my arms and legs from fighting the exhaust hose and pulling wires through conduits. We generally try to settle up with everyone before the weekend but Deb and I are perpetually cash challenged. Many of the cards have daily limits and some have large cash advance fees. Interestingly enough, my old Credit Union will let me suck $200/day out with no fee. Capitol One charges $10 and we haven’t taken out more than $200/day on it either. Bumfuzzle recently got a Capitol One checking account to get their cash advance fees reimbursed. I’ll be checking into that tonight.

We’ve moved into a cash intensive environment and we’re getting a refresher course. Filling up a rental car is a cash only transaction, eating out when the power is out or the credit card machines are down is cash only. Paying many items with a credit card can incur a large surcharge. We declined to use Visa for our apartment rent because the surcharge was $165. The bank wire left our account on the 7th and has not arrived here yet. We’re half a month into our lodging and the landlady hasn’t received a dime yet.

The Dink 

Dinghy PatchA celebration event was getting the dink launched. That cuts our commute time from one hour to five minutes. Michael had is local pro show up to do an on-site repair, we threw a final coat of paint on the motor, Deb went to the yardmaster and requested a truck and some strong guys and we drove our new toy to the nearest launching spot which happened to be the muck hole just outside the MegaYard. We were up to our knees in sandal stealing mud but we got the motor on and we were off. The engine still needs work and is a bit too big for the boat but it’s our car number two now.

Pic Paradise: Second attempt

We tried to hit a gym but they were closed on Sunday. Seventeen years ago I told Deb we’d be here for a day or two and she got a 2-week membership at a health club. That club is gone now and we will be doing workouts at some hotel whenever we get enough energy in reserve from boat work. The boat work is tough but I have a feeling I’m off about 25% on cardio already and at least that on certain muscle groups.

Pic Paradis RevisitedTo combat the atrophy, we went to our original Plan A and climbed from Loterie Farm to the top of the island at Pic Paradise. That is no slouch of a hike and with a little rain, the rock hopping can get treacherous. Deb went down hard right at the beginning and made it to the top a little bruised but declined the slippery downward leg. She took the road back and beat me by over a half an hour. We ate at Loterie and the food and setting were great but they do know how to charge over there.

Pic Paradise and Orient Beach

October 9, 2011 Posted by Deb

We declared Sunday, 10/9/11, a day off and hiked to Pic Paradise. This is the highest point on the island and a challenging climb. We cheated today and drove most of the way up. Next Sunday we’ll start at the Loterie Farm and make a day of it.

We then moved on to Orient Beach. I biked there 17 years ago but you’d take your life in your hands to do it now. Orient Beach was a famous nude beach 17 years ago with signs saying no cameras and a mixed bag of clothed, naked, topless, and gay people of every shape and size. Looks like a family beach to me today with some kite surfing thrown in. Of course, it is the off season.

Flashback to the Voyage of Sanity (coming soon, under construction)

Arrival: St. Maarten

October 7, 2011 Posted by Deb

We were happy to get a confirmation, just minutes before we left Florida on October 1, 2011, that we had an apartment. We had been struggling with bank wires and had not paid for the room or the deposit. That process is not complete as of October 7 but that is another story.

View from apartmentWe have a walk-out to Simpson Bay, nice but weak to non-existent wifi. Our commute to the boat is one hour by car, about a 30-minute walk, or a 5-minute dinghy ride. The traffic jam from our apartment to the first round-about out of Cole Bay is brutal. It is truly one-half walking speed. Update: make that one-fourth walking speed now that the drive time is over an hour and we’re walking faster.

Faxes, e-mail, and communications

I switched from an iPhone to a jailbroken Samsung 4G when I retired and bought my first island SIM card on day one in St. Maarten. Deb mailed her Droid Eris HTC off to her relatives before she left Florida because it was on a Verizon plan and was CDMA. It took her quite awhile to convince Verizon that she had no further use for their phone and it was cheaper for her to pay the early termination fee than to keep paying them for nothing until the end of her contract in December. She now has a $50 cell phone that will take SIM cards up and down the islands.

We had a few outstanding paperwork problems, problems that would take minutes to deal with in the States, but take days on the island. I had a Visa charge that I wanted to protest requiring a fax, we had the beginning volleys in a bank wire battle, and the Chicago shipment was “on hold” because they needed copies of Deb’s ID and credit card (again) despite her sending them ahead of time and presenting them at the freight-forwarding warehouse.

Well, I waited a few days to fill this in and now it just seems like a typical day. But, I took a little boatyard break at about 9 a.m. to send 3 faxes, check on e-mail and bring a sandwich back to the boat for lunch with Chuck. That shouldn’t take much time.

I went to the Simpson Bay Marina business office (a couple miles away) to send the faxes. The lady behind the counter kinda laughed and said she could try it, but faxes don’t really go through. She did make some copies of my passport and credit card, though, that I could try to send off to the online shipping company if I could get a fax. Then, I headed about a mile down the road to the Mailbox that had a big sign outside saying faxes, internet, etc. The lady behind the counter said she would fax for me, but I would have to pay whether they went through or not. That seemed strange at the time, but after about 20 minutes of waiting around hearing the machine trying to make that little fax jingle and nothing really happening, I understood why. So, Plan C was to have them scan my information and I could send the faxes by e-mail. I didn’t have a flash drive with me, though, so I headed back to the apartment to get one of those and to see if I could check e-mail and make a Skype call back to my old office. The apartment is only about ½ mile away and it took 45 minutes to get there in the traffic. I picked up a flash drive and had to walk down the street to a juice bar for WIFI. Of course, you can’t use their WIFI without ordering one of their high-priced glasses of juice. Now Chuck and I have figured out when they close and sit outside their store using their WIFI at nights and on Sundays. Skype decided to bomb out on my computer, so the call was out, but I was able to send off a few e-mails. Then I headed back to the mailbox and got my documents scanned to the flash drive. Another 45-minute drive back to the juice bar, and another juice drink, to send everything that should have taken 5 minutes with a working fax machine. I ran across the street, picked up sandwiches and got back in my car to head back to the boatyard in another 1-1/2 hour traffic jam for the 3-mile drive. Needless to say Chuck was a little hungry when I got back at 2:30, five and a half hours after my little errand started. But he did like my little story.

From Their Boat to Our Boat: Week One

I’ve linked a project list (link to Project List One) from week one. Some of the projects were part of the allowances when we purchased the boat and some are upgrades based on our prior three year cruise as well as “nice to haves.” The folks at Multihull have a local rep on St. Maarten who is French and knows enough English to get by. He was instrumental in lining us up with the right local talent for the work. We had a cockpit full of contractors by Day 3. We’re not bad at boat systems but I’ve found that bringing in a pro on a new (to me) boat is a great way to learn a strange boat quickly and thoroughly. Besides, we want to splash the boat by the end of October.

I remembered the feeling of living in a boat yard and working on a boat from morning until you drop. Morning starts a little later here due to the traffic jam and we drop sooner because we’re 17 years older. Deb overheated badly today and I got a touch a few days ago. We climb out to the cockpit often to cool down and grab liquids. I have to force myself to drink water but am up to two liters per day. Today, 10/7/11, marked the first of the big purchases and today was just a warm-up for the really large numbers.

We’ve ripped the batteries out of the boat and are struggling with the AGM versus golf cart issue. The Privilege has a great battery box system but it is designed around a battery that is shallower than a golf cart. I am also struggling with bottom paint, thru-hull, and head issues. The boat had a recent bottom job but it has been on the hard for five months. The bottom paint looks great but is ablative. The heads are a mixed bag. One can be fixed with a rebuild kit but the second head is a candidate for replacement.

We are trying to get our dink in the water to cut our commute from 1:15 to 5 or 10 minutes. We can also lose the rental car which has accumulated a ding or two and will be an experiment in frustration to deal with the paperwork on that. Stay tuned for how well Visa covers us. The dink has a couple of patches where gobs of 5200 were used. The 5200 is starting to come loose, and I have a feeling I may learn a lot watching a pro do it. We haven’t found anyone yet who can get to it in anything short of geological time so ….