Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mechanical Issues

No matter how well you maintain your boat, it's just not a good idea to leave it idle for two months here in the tropics. Since we have come back we have had numerous mechanical problems.

First and foremost we have been unable to get the generator running. We knew there was a problem with the injection pump and we had it rebuilt, but the generator still won't start.

Because our refrigeration only runs on 110, this means we have no refrigeration; only ice. Finding it, hauling it back to the boat, loading it into the box, and wedging small amounts of food on top of it really limits our food choices. But this is the Bahamas and food choices are already quite limited, so it's not that big a deal.

Our watermaker is also powered by the generator, so no watermaker either. No more daily fresh water showers. Instead we bathe in the sea and use lots of deodorant.

On our last passage the nut fell off the gooseneck pin and the front of the boom flopped down onto the dodger. We were able to lift the boom with a spare halyard and get the pin back in within minutes, but now the fabric is scuffed up and the paint is damaged on the boom.

And just today we noticed that the dinghy transom is coming apart from the pontoons. It's not even two years old! We'll contact Zodiac and ask their advice and try to patch it up in Georgetown.

When we were hit by lightning last August in the San Blas, we lost our wind indicator (and a lot of other stuff too) and that's never been replaced.

So now we guess at the wind speed, pay for water in 5 gallon jugs, drink warm beer, eat moldy cheese, probably stink a bit, and we just might be swimming ashore soon. Isn't cruising glamorous?

Assasin's Creed IV, Black Flag aka Matthew Town

When I Googled "Matthew Town", I discovered that it is one of the locations in Assasin's Creed IV. I had no idea.

In real life, this small island is home to a large Morton Salt plant and not much else. The population of 1000 people either works there or provides support services for those who do. There is virtually no tourism, so very few restaurants and not a pirate in sight.

A huge generator runs 24/7 to provide power for the town. There is a general store, a library, an abandoned prison, a police station, a gas station, an ice house, an airport, the Customs and Immigration building, and acres and acres of saltpans.

In the past the people used cisterns (seen below) to capture rainwater for household use, but now they all buy their drinking water from the icehouse. It's made from seawater using reverse osmosis.
Things are different here from the Caribbean islands we've visited, but that's what makes cruising so interesting. And the beauty of the water is just astounding. So, so clean and blue.

Location Map - Bahamas

Arrived May 29, 2016 after a four day passage from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Matthew Town, Bahamas

It's mail boat day in Matthew Town. The basin is an ongoing party and everyone is invited. The forklift unloading pallets of supplies is supervised by the Customs official, the dockmaster, and anyone else who has an interest in the cargo. Under the shade of umbrellas Momma sells cold drinks from ice chests and the locals socialize as they wait for their names to be called.
Everything comes on the mailboat: food, supplies, packages from friends and relatives, and even, I imagine, mail. We see bicycles, lumber, dogfood, cement, tires, produce, and appliances coming ashore. After buying two sodas we regretfully leave the action and try to walk down to the Customs office. I say "try" because we get offered a ride from someone almost immediately. When we start to walk back another ride is offered. Later in the day we get yet another ride across town back to the basin. Matthew Town has to be the friendliest town we've ever been in.
Back at the basin, cargo is still being unloaded. The last items come from the cooler box; an old refrigerated truck box that sits permanently on the ferry. As fast as the pallets are unloaded, other forklifts, pickup trucks and human hands carry the cargo away and by 3:00pm the party is over until next week. At 4:00pm the mail boat motors past us headed back to Nassau. The quay is clean and quiet again until next Monday when it will all happen again.
I think we are going to love the Bahamas.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Haul Out Recap

Just for my records, we accomplished these goals during our haul out:

Polished and Waxed Topsides
Had Generator Injection Pump Rebuilt
Raised Waterline 1 1/2"
All New Zincs: prop, keel, bow thruster
New Galley Sink Drainpipes
Sanded Four Floorboards for Easier Fit
Washed Settee Back Cushion Covers
Serviced Outboard Motor
Cleaned Joker Valve
Painted Bottom with Primocon and Micron 66

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Seventy Nine Days!

Finally! After 79 days of being on land, being on the hard, and being held hostage by a broken travelift, we are sailing again. (Still working on our sea legs though.)

We just turned past Cabo San Juan at the northeast corner of Puerto Rico. We drove out to visit this lighthouse Saturday, but it's closed on weekends, so we'll have to be happy with this photo.
After we launched yesterday morning we had to set up the boat for sailing again. That meant reconnecting the backstay (which had to be removed for haul out), running the sheets, inflating the dinghy, testing the outboard motor, and putting all the tools and supplies away. Then we went to the grocery store, which takes three hours here, had dinner, and went to bed early in preparation for our 8:00am departure.

And we couldn't be having a nicer re-introduction to cruising; the conditions are perfect and we are scooting along at 7 kts downwind. I'm thinking the fresh bottom paint is helping our speed.

It's good to be back.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Old San Juan

As the hostage situation drags on and on, we continue to invent boat chores, but also find time to be tourists here in Puerto Rico. Yesterday we visited Old San Juan, which was settled almost 500 years ago.
The premier tourist destination is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the fort on the point of land guarding the entrance to the harbor. (If we ever get back in the water, we will sail past it on our way into San Juan.)
The views are stunning from the fort, and one can see for miles in all directions; exactly what the Spanish had in mind when they chose this site for the fort.

San Juan is also called La Ciudad Amurallada, the Walled City, and we wandered along the base of the walls for at least a mile taking in the sights.
We turned inside at San Juan Gate, the formal gate that was used for dignitaries. This photo reminded me so much of the one I took at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Click here:


and tell me if you agree.

In many ways San Juan reminded us of Cartagena; settled by the Spanish in the 1500s, an important fort and center of Spanish culture in the Caribbean, exactly the same style of fortifications, loaded with art and history, and a popular tourist destination. We loved Cartagena, but San Juan is more laid back because there are no hawkers trying to sell you stuff.

The city is full of regular citizens walking their dogs, flying kites, socializing, and going out to eat and drink. The food here was okay, but I still dream of the food in Cartagena and would visit there again in a heartbeat just for the great food.

Observatorio de Arecibo

Do you ever wonder what lies beyond our solar system? Are you ever curious if there is other (and I use the term loosely) intelligent life out there somewhere?

Since 1963 the giant radiotelescope at Arecibo,  Puerto Rico has been searching for answers to those very questions and more. As part of the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) program, they have also sent information out into space about life here on Earth.

Constructed in a natural depression in the karst-filled landscape of northern Puerto Rico, the giant aluminum dish gathers radio signals from stars, planets, distant galaxies, and even our own atmosphere.

Karst landscapes can be found all over the world. This landscape reminded us of the Li River in China. The cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula are actually sinkholes in a karst landscape. Here in Arecibo, the area is full of caves and underground rivers, typical in a karst landscape. But I digress...

After a steep walk up from the parking lot, we arrived at the Visitor Center. We enjoyed a video on how the telescope was built and several hands-on displays. Then we walked out to the observation platform to see the telescope.
The 300 meter wide dish is constructed out of perforated aluminum panels that focus the radio waves up to the receiving antennas and ultimately to computers that store the information for later analysis.

You can read more about it here:
Since the dish is perforated, jungle plants can grow up through it and although they don't interfere with reception, eventually they could damage the panels, so now and then maintenance workers have to walk out there and "weed" the dish.

Maintenance workers also inspect this equipment on a regular basis. See the catwalk? How would you like to walk out across that?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Movement on the Hostage Situation

In a surprising turn of events here at Isleta Marina, there is finally some movement forward in the hostage situation. Sources at the site of the crisis report that demands for parts have been met and it looks like the hostages may be released later today. We will be reporting the latest updates as they arise.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Now We Are Hostages

Here's a map of La Isleta where we are hauled out. It's a tiny little island with the condos taking up most of the real estate. They occupy the upper right part of the island and the marina and haul out facility occupy the lower left part of the island. The yellow line represents the fence that divides the two parts and we can only go on the condo side to do laundry. Our boat is the little blue dot just to the left of the yellow fence line. The ferry route to Puerto Rico is shown as a blue dotted line.
Tiny little La Isleta isn't a bad place to haul out as long as you bring everything you need with you. With no roads, no stores, no restaurants, no cars, and no action, it's a quiet place to work on your boat with no distractions. And even if you need something, there is a free ferry every 30 minutes to the big island of Puerto Rico, where you can find everything you need.
However, if you are done with your boat projects and the travel lift is broken, you start to feel like a hostage. That was us today, so we decided to rent a car and be tourists. We caught the 9:00am ferry and called Thrifty for a rental car. They picked us up and took us to their office at Puerto Del Rey, the fancy marina about three miles south of Fajardo.
 We decided to visit the El Yunque National Forest. It's the only rain forest in the US National Forest system. (I'm pretty sure Hawaii has some rain forests, but I guess they are not technically in the US National Forest system.)
 We have visited many rain forests since we arrived in Central America about a year ago and, to tell you the truth, they all look about the same to me. I guess I'm just not a rain forest kind of girl. Sure, the views are spectacular, the vegetation is dense and varied, and the coolness is refreshing, but it's just acres and acres of ferns, palms, and noisy tourists. We saw absolutely no animals and heard only birds. Do they have monkeys here? I really enjoyed the monkeys in Central America, and was hoping to at least hear some here.
This is Yokahu Tower, a lighthouse-like structure built to give views out over the jungle. We dutifully wound our way up the many stairs and saw, surprise!, more rain forest. Acres of rain forest. Miles and miles of rain forest.
After paying $20 for burgers and sodas, we drove up to the trailhead for Mina Falls. Being a Tuesday, we thought it wouldn't be too crowded, and the walk down to the falls was nice. However, when we arrived at the falls it was like Grand Central Station. I tried to get a nice photo.....

  but this was the reality of the place. I wonder what this place looks like on a weekend?
We did a little grocery shopping on the way home, and soon the ferry arrived and we chugged back to La Isleta. We had a nice day out, but whatever will we do tomorrow to occupy ourselves?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Haul Out at Isleta Marina in Puerto Rico

We hauled out yesterday here at Isleta Marina. Having no information on this marina, we were a bit apprehensive, but so far everything has gone well.

They did an underwater inspection to make sure the straps were just right before lifting Thistle even though we have sling marks on the hull.

We had quite a colorful tapestry of growth after only two month of not scrubbing the bottom.

And the prop was horrible. We could barely make 3 kts on the way over here.

But the yard had her scraped, washed off, and blocked up by 11:00am.
The next day the yard worker sanded while the Captain polished the topsides, then we waxed it. It looks pretty good from a few feet away, but the old girl really needs to be repainted. 
Tomorrow the priming and painting starts.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Photos From The Boatyard

We see some interesting, and sometimes beautiful, things at boatyards. Here are some of the pretty colors and textures I saw today at Isleta Marina.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Mold and Mildew Battle

All boaters face a constant battle against mold and mildew and we are no different here aboard Thistle. Locking your boat up tight and leaving it for weeks in a humid environment only exacerbates the problem. We were anxious to see if our boat would be mold-free when we arrived back aboard Thursday afternoon.

Before we left we washed and dried every surface inside the boat with a solution of tea tree oil. It has a pleasant, clean scent and inhibits mold growth. Then we opened the chain locker door and left two portholes (facing aft under the dodger) open. We didn't leave a light or a fan on, and we didn't use any desiccant.

When our taxi driver picked us up at the airport he told us it had been rainy for the last three weeks, so we were expecting the worst, but what a relief to see that we had no mold anywhere. Could it be because our boat has so much wood down below and it helps to moderate the moisture? Could it be the tea tree oil? Could it be the flow-through vetilation? We don't know why, but we will keep using the tea tree oil.

Unfortunately I missed a couple of items in my cleaning frenzy; the top of the trawler light and this fan. Realizing the whole interior could have been this bad if I hadn't cleaned it makes me really glad I took the extra time to do it.