We have had a very busy couple of months getting lots of maintenance jobs done and are gradually getting things back together ready to continue our travels. The inverter finally came back 8 weeks later, fixed and at a very small cost as most of the parts and labour were covered under warranty. In September we commissioned a local welding company to build us some custom stainless steel davits to lift our dinghy, combined with solar panels above along with wind turbines. All to make life a little easier when on passage, as we currently have to manhandle the outboard engine and dinghy up onto the aft deck which isn’t always easy as we are very high-sided. With more solar and wind power we hope to run the freezer and all our electronic equipment when on passage and not have to rely on the generator. So Jez drew the designs and ‘Professional Welders’ based close to Curacao Marine, a large haul-out yard with small marina based in Willemstad, quoted to make and install the structure.
When they were ready to start work we upped anchor and left Spanish Water, motoring just a couple of miles further west and in to the busy channel which splits the town of Willemstad in two. The floating bridge was away having maintenance so we had no holdups getting in to the large industrial harbour and onward into the small marina belonging to Curacao Marine. Jez had a little bottom scrubbing to do before we left, Spanish Water is teaming with life and I couldn’t resist a photo of him when he emerged in his scuba gear covered in billions of shrimp and sea lice.
Nils from Professional Welders made most of the structure in just over a week in their workshop and then it took another week and then a bit of tweaking to get it together and fitted. Jez helped with installation to keep costs down (ok, I know it doesn’t look like it in the photo below, but this was before the fun really started), and it has been a bit of trial and error getting hoisting points in the right place. When we came to install our first wind turbine it got stuck half way into the collar, they had left a small burr inside which prevented it slotting onto the mounting pole, rather awkward in 20 knots of wind balancing on top of the structure over the solar panels. It also seemed very wobbly with lots of movement as the turbine weighs 18kg. So we had help the next day to get the turbine unstuck and down again, Jez cut off both poles to a more sensible height, and Nils returned to re-weld the collars back on. Our expected 2 weeks in the marina soon turned into almost 4, as we decided that it would be easier for us to wire up both solar and wind from the pontoon rather than at anchor. They have a chandlery on sight too so it has been a lot quicker just to pop and get something rather than spend a whole morning walking and waiting for buses. It’s also been nice to pop to the marina bar and meet other cruisers, there are a lot of German and Dutch here and they are all so friendly and good fun.
Last week there was a very bad accident in the yard, a German man fell off his ladder whilst working on his boat on the hard. I heard the crash of the ladder and looked across the yard from the marina and saw him land on the ground feet first and topple back into a sitting position on the ground. Two members of staff were close by and ran for help, Jez and I ran down the pontoon towards the yard but by the time we arrived there were others on the scene so we went back to our jobs. We heard a day or two later that he had broken both legs, one bone coming through the flesh, has had the bone plated and pinned, but has lots of complications due to the damage to his feet, so his insurance company have flown him and his wife home as his rehab could take up to a year. Poor man.
On a lighter note, we have had four ospreys hunting right by the marina. I am assuming that two are offspring as they all seem to stay together calling to each other. We watched one catch a fish right in front of the boat, he tried several times to take off from the water with his catch, then gave up and swam ashore. A funny sight watching a bird with a huge wingspan spread-out over the water doing doggy paddle until he made landfall and then walked it out of the water, the fish firmly in his talons on one foot, a comedy walk as if he had a club foot. A few more attempts at take-off from land also aborted, he was so exhausted and wobbling all over the place. He eventually gave up and ate his catch on the shore right by the marina.
Preparing our escape from the convenience of our marina berth, Steven from ‘Amaris’ appeared having just flown in from Seattle to check on the status of his catamaran which has been out of the water here for almost a year, since we last saw him in fact, a lovely surprise. We motored against 25 knots of wind on the nose and arrived back in Spanish Water and dropped anchor in the exact same sheltered spot as before. We met Steven in the Pirates Nest at Caracasbaii that evening for a few beers and steak and chips which was excellent and it was great to catch up with him. The solar and wind turbine are working well, even after a very cloudy (but windy) day today we were fully charged by lunch time with our freezer full and my sewing machine running most of the morning. I have made up some straps with canvas sleeves to go under the dinghy and secure it once it has been lifted. We have a few more small jobs to do now and a rig inspection next week before we can finally head to Bonaire for some diving, only 7 or 8 feet longer than we used to be.