2nd May '08
It's great to be away sailing again & although a night exit out of Chaguaramas Bay and on between the islands to its NW wasn't exactly stress-free, it all went reasonably well. As I write this, the Venezuelan islands of Los Testigos have just faded away into the haze due north of us. They were named as being 'witnesses' to confirm the existence of the west-going Equatorial current: present boat speed through the water: 6.6kn, SOG: 8.3kn!!
Chaguaramas is an excellent place to get repairs and boat work dealt with, and I did enjoy meeting cruisers and Trinidadians alike, despite only managing to get away from the 'compound' once, into Port of Spain, when Jesse organized a Steel Band evening outing soon after my arrival.
My list of repairs was quite long enough before I found problems arising both to complicate existing work and to add in to them... that's boating for you. I've been thinking that maybe if I'd done a non-stop circumnavigation, life would have been far simpler for me - by stopping in so many (previously unknown) places on the way around, there's navigation inshore, tides, anchorages, checking in & out, etc, etc, to sort out... over and above simply sailing well offshore across oceans!! Because it
naturally takes that much longer, still with long ocean passages, mostly with big swell and occasional heavy weather, the boat has taken quite a pounding since March year ago & many things on board have needed repair (or simply their regular maintenance) on the way.
I kept thinking last week I was almost ready to leave... no chance!
The Windpilot service/repair was finished and it was to be fitted in place... when we discovered that the guy who had re-glassed the auxiliary rudder had dropped the stock down inside too far... so it wasn't fitting together as it should .... a piece of tubing had to be welded to the top of the rudder stock... another day lost.
The Raymarine parts were delayed over a week due to inefficiency by the Raymarine US dispatch department and DHL & Customs delays this end. Then the guy who should have installed it all got 'sunstroke' and was off work for two days... But I must give Raymarine UK all due credit for being so supportive - the old course computer turned out to be the problem and so was replaced and they also agreed replacing the drive with the new one sent and my keeping the old one (working OK) as a back-up.
The Kiss wind-generator service and blades replacement would have been a 2-hr job - but the 'mouse' got lost inside the tubular support & that turned into a major problem. For a time, I thought all the steelwork on the stern was going to have to be dismantled to resolve the problem - an absolute nightmare! Fortunately, a plumbing 'router' and Doug Billings' expertise did the trick the next day... so all ended well.
I'd taken the badly-leaking seawater pump off the engine & taken it in for seals to be replaced. On replacing it and going to start the engine - starter clearly not happy... ends up with me taking start motor off the engine & taking that in for repair .... "don't have parts", have to "get them in" - an immediate week's delay! "Don't bother - I've a spare motor on board," say I..... but it was really well buried - took me half a day to get to it... and when I put it on the engine, having confirmed
I'd got the wires all connected OK, it wouldn't start - a brand new 'spare'... oh, no! To cut the story short.. it was a ground problem, solved fairly easily.. but only after the weekend break...
Of course, during all the time work was being done, 'Nereida' was in chaos. I had trouble several nights running finding somewhere to lie down to sleep because I'd had to empty under the aft cabin bunk (and later the forepeak) and various lockers for access to areas of work and to find spares and bits & pieces... "That's normal with boatwork," said people seeing it, but living with it is not easy!
Typical is what happened on Tuesday, when I was certain I would finally leave. The plan was to calibrate the new autopilot course computer and speed display starting at 7 a.m., followed by a visit to the fuel dock at 8 a.m., followed by paying my bill at Crews Inn marina & clearing out with Immigration & Customs... and be away by around midday. Seemed like a nice simple plan.
What actually happened is: 7 a.m. off to calibrate instruments.... problem calibrating speed display - 'expert' didn't know what to do so muggins here had to read up and sort out how to do it & carry it out. By good luck, I soon discovered we'd coincided with slack water, so although that didn't cut down the time I'd needed to get to that point, it did simplify the matter somewhat. By the time we'd then done the other calibrations (fluxgate compass and autopilot), it was already well after 8 a.m.
After dropping off the 'expert' on one side of the Bay, having now discovered the GPS input to the chart-plotter was missing (!) with 'expert' not knowing why, I went over to the fuel dock expecting a starboard-to tie ..... both sides were taken and only the opposite side of the dock would be available quite soon.... all fine, except that now I had to go back out and change all mooring lines and fenders over! Back to fuel dock - diesel in Trinidad (oil-rigs close offshore) is very cheap - TT$1.50
per litre (at TT$6=US$1) so I wanted to fill everything possible - all took a time before returning to my slip ... no sign all day of guy coming to fix GPS input problem. Eventually, I decided to check inputs to chart-plotter - the relevant one was loose - good news! Simple fix, so why did our 'expert' not manage it??!!
I finally got to filling up with water ... left hose running and was surprised to find tank not full some time later. Turned off and got on with another job... looked into bilge - full of water - fresh!.... Major problem...!
Now I have to find out WHERE it is leaking from .... pipe eventualy turns out to be OK, but after lifting and re-laying several bits of the cabin sole (floor), I find the cause... an old 'sender' (water gauge part) had corroded where it screwed into the top of the tank - so now I had a BIG hole on the tank top.... Forget leaving Tuesday....! And Wednesday...!
But here's the good part.... and why cruising can be so good compared with sitting watching the bad TV news at home each day.... Boat friends came to my rescue! Dieter on 'Amazon' (met in Luderitz, Namibia) and Peter (& Joyce) on 'Matarua' (met in Richards Bay, north of Durban) had both sailed up from S. Africa and we'd chatted to & helped each other in Chaguaramas. Peter found a piece of steel - just the right thickness & amount for a 'lid' - which he cut for me. I found some rubber for a 'gasket'&
Dieter had just the right size of self-tapping screws and a tapper to complete the job of fixing it in place. So by Wednesday evening all was fixed beautifully! Phew!
Of course, I've omitted to mention that in constantly taking away the companionway steps for engine compartment access, the catch screws finally fell out and I had to fix new ones to hold the steps safely in place and in going to pump out the water from the bilge using my electric bilge pump, nothing much happened so I ended up having to take out all the pipes and the strainer down there and clean them thoroughly of the accumulated gunge I found - after which the pump worked well.
Now a problem I have to look at on passage is my AIS not getting GPS info - so no use to me. I hadn't thought to check it out after the course computer was replaced - and it gets its GPS NMEA info from there - so maybe there's 'simply' a bad connection ... but access, as usual, is difficult! That IS a problem I must look at urgently since my AIS is a great aid to my being safe overnight... Back to cat-napping over short periods, plus radar use, in the meantime.
At midday today, distance to Colon was 1047 n.ml. - possibly 9th May, if I can keep up a reasonable speed. As I finish writing this, I'm close to Isla Margarita (off to port) and some small islands, Los Frailles, are off to starboard with boobies, frigate-birds and pelicans heading in to roost. Once I've rounded the northernmost point, Cabo Negro, of Margarita in about 2 hrs' time, I've 170 n.ml. to go to a point just S. of Los Roques - a big reef area with lots of anchorages that I'll be passing