Even with worn out baggy sails, Joy roared her way down to Trinidad from Martinique, I think she knew she was headed for some pampering and a new wardrobe (I mean sails). Usually we are tweaking this and tweaking that, trimming sails to speed her up, but this passage was spent trying to slow her down so that we didn’t arrive ‘out of hours’ and incur customs overtime fees. By late afternoon on day two, the huge mountains of Trinidad were almost in view and after a pretty quiet couple of days with the occasional fishing boat and a brief encounter with dolphins, we were glad to be entering an area with abundant commercial traffic as this would help keep us awake on watch during the night. During the day we noticed that our Force 10 cooker had sheared one of the two bolts it gimbals on, leaving the cooker tilted and hanging on by the one remaining bolt. Could have been catastrophic had we been cooking on it at the time, lucky it was only homemade pizza to reheat for dinner….delicately. Another job to add to the list. With two large ships showing up on AIS, one either side of us, our 5 o’clock popcorn ritual was delayed (holding the pan over the flame now the cooker has a 30° tilt and is no longer gimballed). The strong current was pushing the tanker off our port side closer to us whilst the cargo ship to starboard was passing well behind although it looked like he was aiming straight at us. After a brief call to the tanker on VHF to inform him of our intentions, we rolled a little more headsail away to slow down further and allow them to pass in front of us. Relying on the wind to maintain its strength when in close quarters with such large craft is not a fun game of chicken.
Shortly after dark a 65 metre research vessel called Fugro Brasilis popped up on our screen, he was moving in front of us and on AIS we could see he was towing and required a 2 mile clearance. So we changed course a little and just as we were passing sufficiently behind him he suddenly made a complete u-turn and headed straight back towards us. Jez called him on the radio, they agreed for us to pass ahead of them as they were towing a sonar surveying the sea bed and could not change course, it wasn’t difficult to speed Joy up to get ahead. Just as we were passing their bow they called us back, a pod of dolphins had joined them to investigate their sonar and ruined their survey so they were turning around again to repeat it! Made us chuckle, such inquisitive creatures.
Our early Friday morning arrival in glorious sunshine soon turned into a wet and soggy weekend in the grim commercial anchorage at Chaguaramas, getting ready for our Monday morning haul out at Peake Yachts.
What an efficient and professional haul out (other end of the scale completely compared with St Kitts 2 years ago) within an hour and a half we had been lifted with the help of a diver in the water placing the strops in the correct position, pressure washed, transferred to the trailer and trundled off to our spot at the other side of the yard and chocked on stands ready to be worked on. The facilities are excellent here, it’s a clean & tidy yard with modern air-conditioned bathrooms (and I don’t mean a gap between the roof and the walls..St Kitts), laundry, snack/BEER shop and large chandlery, as well as a variety of workshops where you can get just about anything repaired.
After almost five weeks on dryish land, what have we achieved other than blisters, bruises, paint in hair, bat nesting in through-hull, zillions of mosquito bites, aching muscles we never knew we had and plenty blood, sweat ‘n tears – but not necessarily in that order. Up and down the ladder a hundred times a day, up and down the staging, shifting the staging around, sanding and painting as well as Jez’s favourite and most frequent phrase “grab hold of the other end of this, sweetheart” has all taken its toll and I am so stiff I am about as agile as an arthritic 90 year old. Well here goes in a nutshell in case you are wondering what has taken us so long:-
Propeller off/serviced; rudder off using borrowed forklift and Jez’s home-made/farmered frame work out of gypsied scraps of wood, to keep it upright whilst off; prop shaft out/discovered to be bent 😦 /straightened in hydraulic press 🙂 ; stern tube out/repainted; cutlass bearings replaced/fun getting the old ones out; blisters on hull back to bare metal/lots of barrier coats/Coppercoat antifouling back on; waterline raised a couple of inches as we sit a little lower in the water with all our ‘stuff’ /Coppercoated; white stripe now on the waterline repainted; sanded fresh Coppercoat to reveal the copper only to discover large patches on the hull with virtually no Coppercoat left and back to barrier coats; give up on Coppercoat antifoul as poor Jez is fed up scrubbing and we don’t have the time/product/money to reapply all over; 4 gruelling days sanding the whole hull and keel; Jotun tie coat and 2 coats of nice toxic antifoul applied to hull and keel (sorry environment); discovered we have stray current on the boat which has caused the blistering on the hull; electrician took 5 hours to trace 3 culprits (ceilings down, floors up, cooker out, fridge out, cupboards apart) causing stray current 1) stereo/radio antenna 2) fuel gauge sensor, hasn’t worked properly in ages 3) WIFI antenna not isolated from mast; starboard anchor, chain and bow roller out/repainted under bow; alternator out/condemned/replaced; hydraulic ram on autopilot out/new seals; hydraulic pump for anchor windlass out/serviced & new seals; Jabsco water pumps serviced with repair kits from UK (UK £23, US & Carib $120!); cables run for new wind turbine; engine room floor repainted; area under stern tube/prop shaft repainted; forestay unattached/chain plate painted; plus lots of other little jobs and a fair bit of head scratching. Thank god for the two “B’s” – Beer and Biscuits.
We have an equally long list of things still to do, but have finally turned a corner with the hull almost finished. It takes a lot of time having to do all these jobs ourselves on our limited budget, we did ask for help once from ‘Mafia’ a local worker in the yard who has offered his services on numerous occasions. After two days sanding the starboard side with one worn out sander that won’t grip its pads and one newly acquired, we went to find him for a price to do the other side (end of tether moment) but Mafia was suddenly nowhere to be seen, I think he must have had a sense of what we were going to ask. When Jez eventually found him a couple of days later he was working on another boat and would be busy until the weekend, we couldn’t wait that long so with a stiff upper lip and equally stiff muscles we soldiered on and got the job done. On Monday the blocks and stands are being moved so that we can paint where they have been, then the stern tube and prop shaft can go back in with the new prop shaft seal that has just arrived, propeller and rudder can then go back on. Then we need to install some of the other parts we have received We are very excited that our new main, mizzen and stay sails arrive in Trinidad on Sunday from North Sails UK so we should take delivery of them by the end of the week, can’t wait to get sailing again and try them out. So there is at last a glimmer of light at the end of this very long tunnel.
So how come I have time to sit and write this blog? A day of torrential rain has meant I am on my list of ‘indoor jobs’. The weather has actually been pretty good up until now with the dry season in full swing, mainly sunny with occasional light showers which dry up quickly. Not today though.
Living in a boat in pieces on the hard is challenging and the mosquitoes and other biting things are quite immune to a bit of toxic Deet spray but on the plus side we have a wonderful chorus from all sorts of beautiful bird life signalling our early morning starts and of course beer o’clock, although only a quick beer of course as we carry on until 7-8pm. Apart from a very loud cricket who took up residency in the dorade vent above my side of the bed and kept me a wake all night with his chirping (lucky for Jez he is so deaf he didn’t hear it) it has been very peaceful here in the yard. I forced him out with a stick the next day, no spray required so it was a happy ending for us both. Who said boating was fun or relaxing? But we know better things are to come.