Where are we

Sunday 10 July 2016

It's not all sightseeing and socialising

On a good day, I wake up all bright-eyed and bushy tailed not long after dawn, and once the skipper is up with a cup of coffee to hand, I head for the foredeck to follow a half hour of Bend and Stretch Yoga Class with Melissa McLeod (www.doyogawithme.com) on my iPad.  

I have been doing the same class for years.  One, bending and stretching really is a great thing to do, two, with a little maneuvering I have enough space for the whole routine on the foredeck and three, it really is very easy and even if I haven't done it for a while it's not too much of a stretch. Our friend Skipper Tim on Stormbird took this photo of me in English Harbour, Antigua.  He was very kind.  I could have looked much sillier.

On a not so good day, it's either raining or the boat might be rolling too much from side to side, or the skipper might have a lie-in and as we sleep in the forward berth it wouldn't be fair for him to waken to the thumpings and bumpings that is me doing yoga, or I might have overslept and the sun is too high, it's too hot and bright and I can no longer be bothered.

My other exercises of choice are swimming and snorkeling.  English Harbour is a particularly good spot. It is well protected behind a rocky reef and at this time of year it is a fish nursery with schools of juveniles everywhere.  

One cloudy wet morning, I saw a school of maybe a hundred squid sized from barely a bite to a substantial main course. Maybe they are telepathic because I never saw that number or variety of size again.  I did come across four during a later snorkel.  They stood out because when I was close enough to worry them a little but not enough to move off, three of the four splayed their tentacles at me in 'talk to the hand' type of pose.  I have never seen this before and was so intrigued I did some searching and found this Squid Defense Video.  It doesn't mention the behaviour I saw, which I suspect is to make them look bigger and scarier, but it is interesting none the less.  

There is a wreck of an fishing boat sitting on the sandy bottom that is covered in soft corals and the hiding place for all sorts of fish.  I always hope to see the large Porcupine Fish that has been lurking around the wreck or among the rocks nearby for several years to my knowledge. I'd guess it is not much less than two feet long and even though it looks like an astonished baby if it suddenly appears out from under a rock, it is quite startling.

I'm drifting off topic, so back to work now.

My type of snorkeling is a bit tame for Tim, but he does get into the water if there's a chance of free diving or to scrub the hull. The warm waters of the Caribbean and the critters living it it are more than a match for any type of anti-foul you chose to protect the hull and all need attention if you don't want to drag around your own little eco-system. The growth starts with soft green 'grass' that gets longer and thicker in a surprisingly short amount of time.  This provides a home for tiny shrimps, crabs and critters. We do get some barnacle growth as well but that's more in marinas or in very places like the Lagoon in St Martin or Nanny Cay in The British Virgin Islands.  They have little flow of water and a lot of boats and businesses making the water very dirty.

At anchor, Tim dons mask and fins and free dives to give the hull a light scrubbing that clears most of the grass every few days.  If we've been in a marina for a while, we will anchor Larus into clear water and Tim will use a diving tank with a regulator (mouth piece) attached by a 25 foot hose.  The tank stays on deck and the length of the hose lets him do a more thorough job more quickly and easily.  The propeller and propeller shaft, which are bare metal, are barnacle magnets and need heavy duty scraping that's hard to do on one breath. 

Tim also washes (and polishes if the conditions are right) the topsides whenever they're looking a little grubby. Exhaust from running the the engine or generator leaves a dirty trail along the water line. 

There are the one off messes to be cleaned off as well. Bird poop is the most common, but once while swimming around the boat, I found that we'd been inked by a startled squid. Happily it just wiped right off.

We'd been putting up with a constant clicking from the nose cone of the wind generator for a week or so.  It had some how come slightly a drift and was clicking with every rotation.  


So one fine day, Tim scrambled up the mizzen, (in a Bosun's Chair with me taking up the slack on the mizzen halyard) to the wind generator and stuck it back down with a dad bf silicon.  The wind generator bracket is an excellent spot to work from.  It was made by our friend Paul when we were at the Itchen Ferry Boatyard in Southampton, UK.

Electrics, electronics and communications are Tim's baby and he's always working to improve our systems.  Recently he changed our radio setup so that the radio now has a permanent GPS position signal. This means it the instruments are off or stop working we can still use the radios, (VHF & HF), to make DSC calls. The 12 volt charger in the cockpit for the anchor light stopped working, which meant the headlining in the galley coming down and a lot of fiddling with wires to get it working again. 

Tim has changed the keel cooler that cooled the refrigeration compressor to a water cooled system which cools it by circulating water from our fresh water tanks. This is great but the next step is to get the compressor out of the hot engine room and into a locker in the saloon where it will be cooler.

Latest and greatest, he's been working with Dr John, and SSB expert (among many other expertise) to improve the quality of our Single Side Band Radio reception and transmission.

We're due a laundry day but need to start early in the day.  We hand wash everything in a large bucket and although we wring out every drop we can it's still much wetter than anything spun in a machine.

There is a tropical front passing through bring lots of rain at the moment so I've rigged some lines in the cockpit for drying.

Once a month we clean our three fans.  One is in the main cabin and can point into the galley or into the saloon. (Strangely enough, Americans call it a salon while Europeans call it a saloon.)

The other two are in the fore peak where we sleep, one at the head and one at the foot of the bed.  We look after our fans lovingly because it could be an awfully long night without them. 

Another important bit of kit that needs monthly cleaning is the pump for the Lavac Toilet.  Scale builds up inside making the pump less and less effective and efficient.  Cleaning the scale requires the pump taken apart and treated with an acid.  This is one of the jobs that has the skippers name on it.

Almost a year ago, Tim surprised me with the sewing machine I've felt the need of for a while.  I'm definitely a novice seamstress and some of my clothing repairs have been ropy at best, but I am getting some things done and improving all the time. We don't like spending needlessly, however, and I'm getting pretty good at recycling.  

Flags always take a beating and we tried to repair rather than replace.  The green of St Vincent and the Grenadines courtesy flag and the yellow point of Ocean Cruising Club burgee had all but disappeared.  
I picked apart one of our two Ireland courtesy flags and used the green portion to repair the V&G flag. I've saved the rest for future repairs. 

The OCC burgee just got a trim and a hem to make it shorter, but less likely to wear and, to be truthful, I didn't have a big enough bit of yellow.  Will keep my eyes open.

Our cushions in the saloon were squashed pillows. No matter how you pummeled or shook them they scrunched down into an uncomfortable lump, so  I cut one pillow in half.  I remolded it into two plump rectangles.  I stitched these back into their respective half of the pillow cover and looked around for something to make cushion covers. 

I'm loath to get rib of worn, faded, stained, holed articles of clothing.  We use them for work clothes, patching, rags and now custom cushion covers.  I searched online for instructions on how to make cushion covers and it really is very easy, particularly if you chose the 'pocket' type with no zip. So a 20 year old fleece (Mark Warner circa 1990 used wrong side out as the right side had epoxy resin on it) and an faded navy golf shirt became to cushion covers. 

Tim finds them very comfortable.

I have one more pillow that needs become a couple of cushions and I've been eyeing up our various t-shirts trying to decide which ones to be given a new lease of life.

UV light isn't just hard hard on your skin or eyes it also kills fabrics, sealants and varnish dead.  

We recently had our sprayhood restitched in Antigua when every thread exposed to the sun failed. The canvas is still good but we need to get out the bees wax to seal it where water leaks through the new seams. 

The zippers on both out sail covers are perishing and will be replaced, hopefully in Bequia where we are headed next .

The covers on our inflatable fenders are getting chaffed and torn and need replacing as well.  This is something I'll turn my hand to as one is already unusable so I can''t make it any worse.  We need to find the right sort of fabric and thread (UV resistant) and we hope that Trinidad will be the place for that.

We have lots more chores waiting for the right time and place. 

UV light and salt water doesn't do the vanish on the interior wood any good either and there's work to be done there.

The curtain tape on that the curtain slides go into is just crumbling away due to sun exposure through the window.  

The caulking around the windows has shrunk/cracked and has been leaking.  The starboard side, which is the sunny side of the boat when at anchor due to the prevailing Easterly winds,  was replaced shortly after a particularly wet passage,  The port side windows aren't as urgent but are top of the list of things to do.

The cruising life is by no means a case of all play and no work, but at least for us it is heavy on the side of play. 


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