The act of … I don’t know, cleaning spring? I’ve never understood “spring cleaning”, though my parents certainly did. My dad used to clean the barn and attics twice a year, meticulously moving every box in both attics, from one side to the other, sweeping and discarding six months of dust, debris, the occasional animal droppings, and any items finally deemed to be unworthy or unneeded.
When I moved in with EW, Daddy saw it as his opportunity to finally get rid of my stuff. Of course, he had found and tagged every item and box before we arrived. Two tightly taped boxes were particularly heavy, and I questioned their provenance. “Say’s Barb’s Box,” said my dad. And they did, in large clear letters. I borrowed his knife and opened one to find that for the last ten year or so he had been dusting and moving – from one side of the barn attic to the other --- two hefty boxes containing my eighth grade rock collection. Trust me, the collection wasn’t worth it. He could have tossed both boxes with the spring or fall cleaning at any time and I’d never have missed it. Dad looked at EW and said, “She’s all yours now.” I was never really sure whether he meant me or the boxes of rocks. (Mainahs tend assign gender to inanimate objects in strange and wondrous ways.) He did make EW take both me and the rocks back to Portland.
To me, “spring cleaning” is the time for opening up the home, taking off the storm windows and putting on the screens; or for taking the winter cover off the boat and putting the dodger back on it. Sure, cleaning is involved but only as part of a greater process. So I was a bit flip in answer to a question posed by one of my Facebook friends back home in Maine:
Of course I offered a comment:
That isn’t precisely true, and it implies some disrespect of the friend and her post. In truth, I have a great deal of respect for her. She’s talented, very nice, cooks unbelievable meals and shares recipes, and even cooks interesting meals for herself when her husband is away. She’s impressive, and I am in awe of her, so I was sorry for being flip, but I will probably never look at spring cleaning as she does, nor will my abode, whether on sea or land, ever meet the standards she sets for herself.
That’s OK. But it occurred to me that perhaps “spring cleaning” is a natural human instinct, more finely honed in some than in others, but still present. Because, really, I have been spring cleaning. In the past week, I’ve cleaned the oven and stove top, “deep cleaned” the galley counters, sink, and cupboards, created new containers for flavored salts we had purchased in the Canaries, designed a new configuration for our chart table to make it laptop friendly, and completed all of my regular weekly cleaning.
Furthermore, I’ve been happy about it. Joyful. I’ve been cleaning with glee, gazing up on the newly organized spice rack with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Face it, this is a psych. I don’t do “spring cleaning”, I do projects. I do projects in the spring. I do projects in the spring that require me to clean. I don’t like “spring cleaning, but I do like projects.
EW got caught up in the ritual, He is so delighted with how his varnish work is turning out that he decided to polish our old light fixtures and the Cheoy Lee sign. He does the sign every few months or so whether it needs it or not. (Of course it does.) But we figured the lights hadn’t been polished for eight years. That’s what I meant by saying “I don’t do spring cleaning.” Over the past eight years I’ve dusted and cleaned those lights, but it never occurred to me to polish them. “M” would have done that at least once a year during her spring cleaning with a special non-toxic metal polish. I have a lot of respect for that.
We are delighted with how the lights look. So much so that EW said, “Note to Self and Spousal Unit: we should polish these again in five years or so.”
That’s probably tongue in cheek and we (he) will probably clean them again in three years. I love the way they look and would like to say that I’ll keep them in Bristol condition, with regular seasonal cleaning. We all know that isn’t going to happen Daddy would not be proud of this, nor would he be surprised. Sometimes I want to be more like my parents, my cousins, and “M”.
Ah well. as that great sailor, Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam”.
Since we arrived in the Caribbean, EW and I have been either working on boat projects that are both Urgent and Important or worrying about boat projects that are both Urgent and Important. If you remember the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, then you may remember the difference between “Important” tasks and “Urgent” tasks.
On a boat, “Urgent and Important” tasks are those that jump up and down and say, “Fix me! Fix me! Or you won’t be able to sail/run the engine/pump the head/keep yourself from sinking.” “Important” but not Urgent tasks may nor may not be more fun/creative/satisfying, but they need to be done, sometimes only so they don’t become Urgent. Important tasks can be ugly such as servicing the head or the engine, or creative like making new cushion covers or curtains, or both ugly and creative such as varnishing teak or cleaning the oven.
This month, EW and I have taken the time to set aside some of the Urgent and Important items to work on those that are Important. I’m still working on getting the laptop up and running, and I still had to submit our taxes to the IRS, but it was time to take a break from the corner office; similarly, EW is somewhat patiently waiting for the new jib, and will have to go up the mast soon to attach the new mid-stay, and his Urgent and Important things are still calling, “Me! Me! Me!”– but this past weekend, we started moving away from Urgent and Important, to the Important.
And we found that working on Important is much more empowering. Even if it’s drudgery, such as cleaning the oven. (Cleaning the oven is only urgent if it lights on fire due to the mess. That hasn't happened to me in a long time.)
EW chose to start The Varnish Job. This will be a Big Important Job as pretty much the whole interior needs to be brought to life. La Luna will be 30 years old this year; she deserves to be babied. I’ve been dreading this job, thinking we’d have to move off in order to sand and strip the wood, but EW has been thinking about it, evaluating the wood, and identifying the problem areas. He wisely opted to work on problems areas first, in little bites. A week ago he began his first project: the forward head, with just a bit of Project Creep to include the hatch surround just outside the head, and he has since expanded the job to include the dining table and a small shelf along the back of the dinette.
There will be more discussion about some aspects of this job as we go along, but let me pause to reveal his superior project segmenting idea. Some teak areas, such as the hatch surrounds, and the dining table, will need to be varnished with poly that provides UV protection. Other areas, such as interior trim and the teak cabinets will not need to be stripped and will receive satin varnish. (This may change as EW learned of and found a satin poly that has UV – something he didn’t know existed.) In any case, the special areas that will need stripping and UV poly can each be easily tackled in a few days. The plan is to identify such areas and work on a few at a time at a time, sandwiching in Urgent and Important tasks, such as moving the boat to the San Blas before hurricane season, and saving the cabinetry for later.
I have a lot of writing to do, and need to tackle a number of on-line Urgent and Important tasks while we have Wi-Fi, so while sewing is on my list, I’m waiting until we are settled for hurricane season to begin major projects. Still, I have a long list of Important To-Do’s and this weekend I opted to clean the stove and oven. We each assembled our tools and protected the surrounding areas, and EW put on some tunes, choosing to play our rather extensive “60’s Mix.”
As EW stripped and sanded the teak, and as I disassembled the stove top and began to clean, we listened to Chuck Berry, Patsy Cline, Duane Eddy, the Everly Brothers, a number of Motown acts, Elvis, and the early Beatles. The Beatles were followed by early Dylan, then more Beatles, who were followed by Peter Paul and Mary. And then I was delighted to hear The Monkees. It should surprise no one that I could sing along with the Beatles and the Monkees, while EW knows nearly every Bob Dylan Song.
And that’s how it went: the scritch of sand paper, the scrub of a good brush on stainless steel, and our off-key rendition of “When I’m 64”; or me dancing and singing, “Then I saw her face. Now I’m a believer.” Peter Bonta, our friend, EW’s guitar mentor, and excellent musician, has said that he has a lot of respect for Michael Nesmith, and I reminded EW of this as I sang along with the Monkees. Of course, I didn’t remember every song, and a couple of lines surprised me. In particular one segment from “She” (written by Michael Dewolf, David Gavurin, Stephen Richards, Jarrod Montague, Philip Lipscomb, and Harriet Wheeler.)
And now I know just why she Keeps me hangin' 'round. She needs someone to walk on, So her feet don't touch the ground.
So we worked and we sang along with more of the Beatles, and a lot more Dylan, and Tom Rush, and Booker T and the MGs, and Joni Mitchell; and we laughed and he made fun of “Bubblegum music” and I told him Dylan couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but that his lyrics were poetry; and we did good work. Important work. Work that wasn’t required because something broke, but because we love the boat.
Lately, I’ve had a few phone, on-line, and Facebook conversations about posting blogs while cruising. Since I am still organizing the new laptop and haven’t tackled photos yet, this is a good time to post one final essay that doesn’t require pretty photos of Caribbean harbors and sights. And honestly, if you aren’t planning to cruise on a boat, you really don’t need to read this post. It’s all about boat stuff and isn’t funny.
While back in Maine, with help from our dear friend Lynnelle, I opted to move my cruising blog from Blogger to the Typepad platform. I wanted more control over it and thought that I wanted the option to make money on the blog in the future. Typepad seemed easier than Wordpress, and I was very pleased with an on-line course they offered. At the time, we were living on the boat in a slip with Time Warner cable wired in, so I had excellent Internet access.
I would write a post and post it.
I would write a post on-line, send up photos one by one, and post it.
Those were the days.
Once we started cruising in 2010, I learned that all Internet access isn’t equal and that it’s difficult to get on-line when one wants to. Connectivity was a challenge as we sailed down the eastern seaboard. I rarely had Wi-Fi on the boat, but usually found bars, laundry mats, and other places where I could gain access to the Internet. Still, writing posts on-line in real time was no longer feasible.
Somewhere along the way I was introduced to Windows Live Writer. It is my favorite Windows program and it’s free. When we first met, Windows Live Writer was a stand-alone program. Now, it’s bundled with Windows Live Esssentials, but you an opt to download only this one portion of the bundle. Windows Live Writer allows me (and you) to write posts, complete with formatting and photos, while off line. In Grenada I would write three or four posts a week, usually on Sunday morning, and post them from the bar on Sunday afternoon during the music jam. Windows Live lets me post them to the blog as drafts, and then I open each draft, check for formatting, add keywords and categories, and post it. Typepad lets me post immediately or schedule it for later. When I’m doing things right (writing three or four wildly inventive posts with photos, sending them up all at once as drafts, and scheduling them) I can have a week’s worth of posts up with less than an hour of actually time on-line. Windows Live Writer works with Wordpress, Typepad, and other blogging platforms. Seriously. Don’t leave home without it.
But none of that works when we are truly At Sea. For that, I use the SSB, a Pactor Modem, and Sailmail.
The SSB radio was one of the items that was “in the box” when we left Maine. As in, folks would ask, “Do you have a wind generator?” We would reply, “Yes, it’s in the box.” Same thing for the SSB, the Pactor Modem, and a myriad of other important boat items EW honestly didn’t have time to install before we left. The Wind Generator, AKA Gramps, became one with La Luna while we were in Hampton, Virginia. The SSB/Pactor Modem did not truly become a part of our life until EW got help with the final part of the installation in Georgetown, the Bahamas.
While we used the SSB/Pactor/SailMail combination for weather, emailing, and the occasional blog post prior to our Atlantic Crossing, the system truly became the heart of La Luna while we were really at sea and at anchor across the Atlantic.
The SSB and Pactor Modem are units one (such as EW) purchases, installs, and connects on the boat.
Sailmail is our chosen hub, because we don’t have HAM licenses and we sometimes must email for business. Many folks who have their license and don’t need to email editors opt for Winlink.
In either case, post no photos, keep the emails short, and try to teach friends and family to forget that there is a “reply” button on their email page. Typepad provided my blog with an email address for posting, so I simply have that address in my contacts list on the installed Sailmail software and write posts while at sea. The subject line becomes the title of the post. Easy-peasy. Family and friends are given our Sailmail address so we can receive email – something that is very important to me – and we can order daily weather reports and Grib files.
If we had installed the SSB/Pactor combination prior to getting stuck in the Berry Islands, I might not have panicked.
I like being connected.
Next on my list here in St. Thomas: 1. Making photos happen on the new laptop. 2. Editing posts from the crossing. 3. Editing posts when I was without laptop.
Unfortunately, we may be here longer than anticipated. The past four days have been interesting – mostly in a good way, and when not in exactly a “good” way we can resort to “Thank Goodness it Happened Here!”
Fortunately, we had a great sail for the first 24 hours from Graciosa, and we and our sailing friends (and extra weather support) believed that we had a shot of making our way west and south to beat the nasty front moving in.
Unfortunately, the front came early, and the winds shifted two days sooner than had been predicted by all sources. On Wednesday morning, we found ourselves beating north of Tenerife, which should have been a clue, especially when we had to tack to avoid getting too close to the island. Shortly after noon I was able to get the day’s GRIB files and realized that we were skunked.
Fortunately, we were only 40 miles from Marina Santa Cruz in Tenerife.
Unfortunately, the wind and waves increased immediately after we had tacked to our new course, and we found ourselves beating in 20-35 knot winds and 6-8 foot seas.
Fortunately, we main and jib were already reefed.
Unfortunately, Casey, the auto-pilot does not like (is not set up to like) handling a beat in strong seas, so we had to hand steer. EW took the first shift and I worried about being able to handle it when he tired. We had to prepare for 4-5 hours of this.
Fortunately, EW dumped the main (let out the mainsheet so that sail wasn’t pulling – much) and we were still able to sail at 5.5 – 6.5 knots though it was much easier to steer the boat. When my turn came, I held her just fine for over an hour and a half until we had gone far enough past the point of the island for the waves to diminish. At that point we used the autopilot again and tootled along for another hour or more. (It all runs together.) At some point I opened two cans of chili and served it up with butter bread. We felt better.
Unfortunately, we would have to motor the last 12 miles as we had not been able to hug the coast on the way south. We took in the jib and turned to the west in 40 knot gusts. The winds come off the mountains and do strange and amazing things in the Canaries.
Fortunately, we were close enough for cell coverage and I was able to call the marine before they closed at 1900 (7:00 PM) and confirm they had a slip.
Unfortunately, EW realized on our way in that the alternator wasn’t charging the batteries. We are once again on a European dock with no access to local power.
Fortunately, locals told us about Jose, the alternator expert who is amazing.
Unfortunately, he may not be able to find the needed part on the island.
Fortunately, all of our neighbors are OK with us using the generator in the afternoon because ..
Unfortunately, while we are in the midst of a storm and very glad not to be outside, there is no sun and the wind swings from 8 knots to over 30. The wind generator doesn’t charge the boat with fewer than 15 knots and it cuts out when the winds top 30.
Fortunately, all Spanish, French, and German sailors – most of whom hardly hear the generator over the wind – were very forgiving.
Even more fortunately, of the two boats we would bother most, one is not living aboard and we’ve already made friends with and broken bread with the captain and crew of the other boat.
Most fortunately of all … on Thursday morning, I scooted to one of the most wonderful food markets we’ve seen and purchased everything needed to create a Thanksgiving for two: grande pollo, butterflied by the butcher, potatoes, squash, apples, fresh herbs, and white wine. I made a small feast, the first Thanksgiving I’ve commanded since the year we moved aboard. We shared two pieces of pie for Jose to take home to his wife, and invited our new best Irish friends, Kevin and Irene over for pie and wine after dinner. I’m going to keep feeding them because they are closest to the generator.
So on this day after Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things:
The opportunity to seen many parts of this side of the world on our boat with the love of my life.
La Luna once again offered up a broken part where we were safe and able to get a repair or replacement – someday.
Tenerife is a lovely island, with public art, some greenery, and if we lived here we would have a dog.
In fact, we have a neighbor dog, Canello who is a beautiful, multi-lingual, 9-year-old Golden. He likes to have his ears scratched. I like doing it.
We are tied to the dock in a protected marina. (We heard one sail boat battled 30 foot waves off of Lanzarote and called for assistance. They were safely towed into the harbor.)
Family and friends who love us from far away, and keep us up to date on what’s going on in Maine, Florida, Buffalo, Boston, California (hint, Favorite), the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
Someday … someday … we’ll actually leave the Canaries and sail west to the Caribbean.
In the meantime, we wait to hear about the availability of parts, make new friends, and – once the weather clears – visit a bit of this island. This town has a tram! How cool is that?
POST SCRIPT: Yes, you will note that we have not moved the bed back. We thought it was too much work to remove the dinghy motor from the master stateroom, and move the mattress, and put it back in four days. We take turns. Last night I had the lovely sea bunk and EW had the settee. Tonight we swap. We occasionally meet each morning for a cuddle in the sea bunk. (Once again with the oversharing.)
POST-POST SCRIPT – Finally getting this up on Sunday morning here (0940 my time, 0440 your time). Storm, rain after the storm and spotty Wi-Fi as a result prevented getting on-line at the marina. The alternator is working perfectly. Jose is brilliant! We plan to leave for Guadeloupe on Tuesday, December 2. Today, we are sight-seeing in two cities (One just a tram ride away.). Won’t get to the mountains as they are horribly clouded over still. Next time. If we visit the Azores again as planned, we will head straight for Tenerife after Santa Maria –despite the ridiculous tax.
If we knew how easy this would be, we’d have installed solar panels years ago. What stopped us? We thought we really needed an arch over the stern in order to get enough power from the panels and having an arch built increased the cost by a whole bunch of lots (as cousin Jeff says).
Installing a simple arch would probably still be less expensive than installing a real transformer, and one of our main goals was to find a safe way to get power in at least some situations while on the dock. I think back on our time in the Azores when we had to tie up due to weather or harbor rules. Solar would have helped us in every port except Sao Jorge, where we went into the marina due to bad weather. There was no sun, and the high cliffs and break wall prevented gramps from performing. In every other marina we’ve visited on this trip, we could have generated enough power to forego the transformer. (And we did so on the last two days at Marina Lanzarote.)
Still, while we made the decision to go solar in the blink of an eye, we worried, fretted, asked questions of our new boating friends, and did a lot of on-line research. John and Gill, on S/V Petronella, a lovely old ketch, don’t use as much power as we do (i.e they don’t have freezer) and they never plug in to the dock. I was greatly interested in that their solar panels are also attached to steel bars on the aft quarters of the boat – not high on an arch. John told us about his system and “introduced” us to HandyBob. We did our own research and relied on these three blogs/websites: Handy Bob, Roads Less Traveled, and S/V Hotwire.
We had passed a solar office on our long, fruitless trek for butane, so we knew there was a provider who had provided panels for boats. Fortunately, while his office manager speaks no English, she was able to convey that Antonio, the owner, installer, and all-around good guy, would be in “a las quatro”. We visited Antonio many times “a las quatro” over the rest of the week. He was very patient.
Antonio only sells two brands of panels, and only one in the size we wanted. We talked with other boaters, read the blogs and articles, and decided not to focus on the kind of panels – other than making sure they’d still work if part of the panel was shaded. While we researched, EW met Manuel, a clerk at the Inox (stainless steel) shop, and we plotted, measured, purchased parts and rod, and EW quite easily installed the steel rod in place of the top lifeline. Both of us had thought that would be a much more labor intensive and much more expensive project than it had been. As soon as we were done, we went back to Antonio for the final purchase. (At left, EW and the 12-foot poles.)
We relied most on HandyBob and RoadsLessTraveled. RoadsLessTraveled actually made some of the mistakes HandyBob mentions when they first installed solar panels on their boat. They should have slogged through HandyBob’s posts. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon with an ax to grind, who has lived in a RV with his wife, traveling the US for many years, totally off the grid and rarely, if ever using a generator. He has little respect for those who sell and install solar systems in the RV market, and doesn’t care who knows it. Every article of his starts out with some version of “I know this is too long, deal with it.” Every article is too long, and every article rants about difficulties he or his friends have had with solar installers in the RV market. Reading HandyBob is a bit of a chore, but worth it; he provided good information and it was backed up by our friends on both sides of the Atlantic, and the other sources.
In panels, brand doesn’t seem to matter, but purchase ones that don’t totally crap out when a little shade is present . We have two 140 watt panels. We’d like three. We probably don’t need more than that as long as we (EW) installs them correctly.
Cable matters. Cable matters a lot and bigger is better, especially from the controller (some call it a regulator) to the batteries. Length of run also matters and cable size must increase with a longer run. (Even I know this is simple electrical stuff. According to HandyBob, most RV solar installers don’t get this.) We have a run of about 12 feet from each panel to the controller, and only 2.5 feet from controller to the batteries. This is important. We used 4 guage cable from the controller to the batteries. This is also important.
The controller matters. For our purposes, we didn’t need an MPPT controller, but did need one that would allow us to set the charge level for the batteries. This is another of HandyBob’s pet peeves – battery charging levels in many solar panel controllers are pre-set, and they aren’t set as high as the battery manufacturers suggest. The point of charging the batteries is to maintain them at the highest level suggested by the battery manufacturers – not the level suggested by the controller manufacturers. We opted for a Steca brand Tarom 45/45 controller.
HandyBob foams at the mouth when installers insist and persist in using small cable; running long runs of cable and coiling the extra cable instead of cutting it, and using a less expensive controller. The result is poor output, encouraging folks to purchase more panels than they need. Antonio seemed to agree with all of this, and sells a brand of controllers made in Germany that seem to be very good. Unfortunately, he did not sell the more expensive model that allows us to set the battery charge point at 14.6. The installer Antonio sells comes with a pre-set of 14.4. It took a bit of convincing, but we managed to convey to Antonio that we would spend the extra 220EU (ouch) for the 45 amp controller that would allow us to set the system for our AGM batteries. He had to order it from the mainland and will get it to us while we are here at Graciosa. We expected we’d have to wait to use the solar panels, but he surprised us by loaning us the smaller controller until the proper one arrives. I love Antonio.
He and his crew came to the boat three times to make sure the welder attached the mounts to the right place. EW (bless his heart) cut the holes in the deck, did all the wiring, and walked miles seeking parts. The result: 14 days after we started the quest, we were living off the grid, cranking out power. When there is full sun, the wind generator stops working automatically, when we have a bit of a cloudy day, both solar and Gramps work to boost the batteries. (Above, Antonio, EW, and Fausto installing the starboard panel.)
EW is tickled and obsessive. If I lose him, he can be found hunkered down on my side of the bed, reading the amps being produced by the solar panels. Cloud events are now known as “Cumulous Interruptus”, which sounds slightly nasty. Jenny, the Honda generator is now safely installed in her below deck home and we haven’t used her in 6 days. (At left, a sunny day in Graciosa. Woo-hoo!)
Some of the European boats have simple (read less expensive) arches, mainly used to hold their solar panels. When we do that, we’ll add another panel, and bigger wire from the panels to the controller because it will be a longer run. (We had trouble finding wire as big as we would like to use, but what we have is fine.) When we upgrade, we’ll install a 12 volt water heater element so that once the batteries are charged we can heat water. That idea came from our friends Keith and Jaime on S/V Kookaburra. They and I are now persona-non-grata with a number of men from Europe since I told their wives about the hot water option. Oops.
This post is too long. You’ll just have to deal with it. (HandyBob is contagious)
More photos from the project.
EW spent a lot of time learning about wire size in Europe, and using “Spanish for Cruisers” to plan his shopping trips each day. The book was invaluable to him. He had breakfast with it nearly every day.
First, he had to remove one wire holder from each side, cutting and filing the metal to allow him to attach the pipe holder.
We were able to use the end attachments at right on both ends of the pipe. Once they were in place, we walked back up to the Inox place and purchased pipes cut to size.
Sort of. They were a tad long. Fortunately, when we had asked the marina to move us to a slip where we could run the generator without bothering folks, they put us next to Pablo and Marco who had recently purchased this workboat for their dive business. Pablo immediately offered EW a grinder and the cord to use it. For the win!
EW adjusting the slant on the panel for our time at the dock, where Gramps and the solar panels worked well together to provide us with power.
At the top of this post, a sunny day in Graciosa with solar panels cranking out juice.
Lots of juice.
Moonset over Graciosa. Looks like a sunny day in the offing. If I can’t find EW, I’ll look for him back with his new best friend, the Steca Controller.
Here are some multiple choice questions for you sailors and cruisers out there.
1. If you need to repair the dinghy, using various forms of toxic substances and goop would you..
A. Wear quality shorts – the kind that have zip off legs and become pants?
B. Change into work shorts that have been stained and torn?
2. If you opted for B and gotten white 5200 Fast Cure on both legs of the shorts, would you?
A. Ball them up and place them in the sun in the cockpit in a manner that does not allow the 5200 from adhering to the wood?
B. Tell the half of the crew that is adept at removing stains so that she may work on them?
Note, in both cases, B is the right answer.
As you may have surmised, EW opted for A. In both cases. At least he prevented anything else from getting gooped.
I was nearing the end of my laundry morning, and was heading up to put the final load into the drier, when I discovered the shorts. Truthfully, EW had mentioned that he’d gotten stuff on his shorts and “should have changed before starting this job.”
He also said that he was planning on throwing out those shorts on his next trip ashore. First, he was going to make and eat his lunch.
I, being the consummate sailing partner stopped everything, got out some work gloves and towels, and used toluene (proffered by EW between bites), to get almost all of the goop off the shorts. (In fact, if he had been able to answer “B” in question 2. I might have been able to remove all of the goop. Then I put them in my small bucket to soak in a lot of water and a bit of Amazing Roll-Off.
I am reminded of when Favorite lived with us. Early in his high school years he opted for the low-hanging, three- sizes-too-big, and six-inches-too-long pants. As girls became more important, he developed a desire to not look like an idiot and chose a great pair of jeans that actually fit. (His three parental units were thrilled.) Unfortunately he wore them to work at the chandlery (not a bad choice) and spilled a can of bottom paint on them (An accident, but not a good move), went home and called me immediately. (Excellent choice.)
I directed him in soaking the pants until I got home from work. It took three washings and a huge amount of an organic cleaner we had on hand, but those jeans looked like new when I was done. Favorite did it right. EW knew all about it, but apparently didn’t learn from Favorite’s example.
Good thing I love him.
There are three reasons I wrote this post:
1. It seems on this cruise that we have been getting along so well and acting so in tune that I find little to complain about in my usual funny manner. I miss that – and I can think of a few friends who miss it, too.
2. When I nominated Neil Strenge and his blog Mishaps and Memories for the Liebster Award he was very kind in mentioning my book and blog, saying: Barbara is living the dream, and set off from Maine for life aboard. Barbara writes with a witty, easily read style that will have you laughing our loud!.. and has a book, Harts at sea, that I highly recommend. Her descriptions of the obviously, ever so patient, EW are entertainment in their own right!
That “ever so patient” description of EW is a lie. EW is loving, talented, and good-looking; he has a great sense of humor, has only once ever complained about a blog post, and is resigned to being “the topic.’ He is not patient. (Neither am I but I haven’t been described as such in a popular blog.)
3. I forget the third reason – guess only two were important.
I’m not sure whether the shorts will be entirely 5200-free, but they will be wearable in public and will not yet become boat project only shorts. That’s the important thing.
As I write this, the boat is pretty much a mess, with only two seats available in the main salon. There’s a vacuum cleaner on the galley counter; tools on the port settee, the bed, that same galley counter, and on the sole of every room; the non-working fridge/storage unit and the old inverter are in the cockpit, as are two large duffels of clean clothes; and one whole set of drawers are spread out in the forward cabin. In short, the only unaffected space on the boat is the forward head.
EW is finishing the Inverter/Charger Project and it’s a project of some size.
(We pause in this report while I assist EW – again. Over an hour ago, he said, “I’m going into the engine compartment and will have to call on you when I need help with something.” So far, I’ve delivered a screwdriver, the vacuum cleaner, and some weird corrugated tubing that wraps around lots of wires.)
Herman, a highly recommended marine electrician visited our boat a couple of months ago and convinced us that we needed a new inverter/charger. We ordered one, and asked my nephew, Brian, to pick it up in Fort Lauderdale and mail it to us. (Thank you, Brian and Colleen.) EW’s cousin Jeff received said package, and EW retrieved it and successfully delivered it – all 40 pounds of it – back here via dollar bus and hoof.
The old inverter. Worked for 28 years inside the engine compartment.
EW hates working with electricity. Still, he gamely plotted his attack on the system and installation. Herman had suggested that we install the new inverter/charger in a new location, rather than in the often hot engine compartment. EW and he found a space, where our old, unused Lectra-San had been installed, under one of my set of drawers in the master stateroom. That’s why all drawers drawers are in the forward cabin.
Yeah, it’s been fun.
(Now I had to find four pan had screws, one roll of the perfect electrical tape, and add gas to the Honda generator.)
Above: The drawer space, with and without the new inverter. On Sunday EW installed a fan to cool the unit.
EW had to take an extra day off this week in order to install the inverter. Thankfully, Peter from S/V Two Much Fun gave up his Wednesday to help. Peter likes wiring and working with electricity. When I arrived home on Wednesday, EW picked me up at Crown Bay Marina, triumphant in their success, bloody but unbowed, and cheerfully let me know that, “The inverter is in, but the boat is a mess.”
Since we both worked through Friday, the boat remained a mess, and got messier today. I vacated the premises using the time to tote water, gas, and propane, and to do three loads of laundry. The laundry is still in the cockpit and the only section of the boat to which I’ve had access is my safe seating area at the table. So I work on-line and write and help EW.
(Had to set the clock on the inverter because he had to turn off the main switch. This involved starting the Honda generator twice.”
Once EW clears the master stateroom and galley, I’ll start on tonight’s home-made pizza. No one deserves that treat more than EW.
I love him – and our new Magnum MS 2012.
Boating is fun.
ASIDE: There’s a very old wedding shower game during which one of the bridesmaids writes down everything the bride-to-be says about each present she opens. Afterward, she then announces what the bride is likely to utter on her wedding night. Yes, we used to think this was funny.
I thought of that when EW was ensconced in the engine compartment. A lot of interesting grunts and sentences emanated from the opening left by the displaced fridge/storage compartment. I admit I chuckled, but am glad EW couldn’t hear me. I don’t think he’d have found anything funny at that point.
Time to make the pizza!
At left, EW’s expression when working and making strange noises. At right EW when he knows I’m taking photos. Both are the real EW – but I don’t see the one at the right often during projects like this.
I love our cruising friends, and am thankful that EW finally purchased the batteries before nearly every cruiser had left St. Thomas.
First of all, Peter and LeeAnn, our cruising friends from Two Much Fun told us how to receive a shipment into St. Thomas. Now, all of you who are thinking, “Aren’t they in the U-S-V-I?” Well, it depends. Here’s a short list of the challenges/conveniences we US sailors experience in this little bit of United States in the Caribbean:
The mail takes 7-10 days to get here or get there – but it is the US Postal System. Same stamps, priority boxes and everything.
Many companies won’t ship here, “Because it’s not the US.”
US cell phones work here just as they do in Maine or any other state.
Some companies, like D C Battery, won’t accept credit card payments from here for major purchases, “Because you’re not in the US.”
It only cost $81.00 and took less than a week to ship five very large batteries from D C Battery in Miami to St. Thomas.
I had to go through customs to receive them, even though this is so the US, darn-it!
Such is the cruising life. Again, since EW is working and I’m not, I handled customs. Here’s what you do.
Take paperwork with shipping number and go to Tropical Office - a short walk from Crown Bay
Get more paperwork from Tropical, and walk in the other direction to Customs.
Fill out a form, get more paperwork, and head back in the first direction, walking a couple of blocks past the Tropical office to their warehouse and arrange to receive your stuff.
I did all of this on a Thursday, with the intention of setting everything up to hire a truck to get the batteries to the marina on the following Monday, which was – of course – Memorial Day Weekend.
So then I went back to the Marina and talked with them about a slip for a night and day and about storing the batteries from Friday to Monday. No problem. On Friday, I hired the truck and driver, and helped him cart the batteries into their temporary storage area.
Then we went about our nearly normal lives with sick batteries and no freezer. In fact, I had purchased some beef for a dinner we were hosting for the folks on Two Much Fun and Kookaburra and had to have cousin Jeff meet me at the dinghy dock and take our meet for safe keeping, returning it to me on Saturday for the dinner.
I swear, I never meant for that dinner to be an “invitation” to help us with the batteries. We’ve installed a full set twice now. The first time, the two of us handled half of the project until a sailing friend on the dock jumped aboard to help. The second time we had an able-bodied young man help us. It’s not fun with only two but it’s possible. Regarding our most recent installation and our cruising friends: I never pretended it was fun, I never offered them the brush with the whitewash on it; but if they insisted, who were we to stop them?
So Sunday morning, we took La Luna into the dock bright and early, and EW immediately began removing floor boards and taking the bed apart. We have two batteries under our bed and four under the sole under the companionway. EW has developed a system using blocks tied to the boom, and we lift all the batteries out the back hatch over our bed. Before we had gotten the first one ready to go, Peter, LeeAnn and Mimi showed up to help. First, LeeAnn took photos at my request. When I started trucking the batteries over to the boat, she took over on deck. EW floated between deck and working below to help Peter move the batteries.
Keith and Jamie joined us before I had returned with the first two batteries, so Keith joined the team on board and Jamie and I carted new batteries to the boat and old ones to a place where they would be transported for safe disposal. All the batteries were in their new homes before noon.
Of course, EW had some hooking up to do – and there were a couple of minor glitches, but all in all It was a good day. We stayed on the dock overnight, charging everything up, did other maintenance and cleaned the deck while we were on the dock with water, and went back out to the anchorage on Monday.
We like our new batteries.
We love our cruising friends.
Photos, top to bottom:
1. EW and me removing the first battery. Peter was in the boat.
2. Peter and EW working on the bank under the companionway. Peter looks like he’s having fun.
3. Mimi – VCID – Very Cute Important Dog – supervising.
Bad batteries are contagious. One bad battery will infect the next, which will infect the next one and so on. Until you have five large 4D AGM batteries and very little power. We know this to be true.
EW now suspects the following:
The batteries we purchased new in Maine in 2010 were not the quality of the Lifeline batteries they replaced.
A wiring mishap weakened or “infected” one battery and it went downhill from there.
While 99.9% of our experience at Peake’s Marina in Trinidad was outstanding, when we tied up to their dock for one night, the power post had huge problems, further weakening the batteries.
Back in Maine, my wise in-house electrician, with help from the real marine electrician at the boatyard, installed 6 batteries, the last – or first – was a starter battery wired separately from the main bank. In fact, the original starter battery was just as big and expensive as the others, but when one battery failed in Grenada, EW pulled it, replaced it with the starter battery, and replaced the starter battery with a smaller, cheaper one. Sometime between Trinidad and April, EW took another bad battery out of the system, leaving us with four infected ones to keep everything running.
At left, EW is removing our original Lifeline batteries and replacing them with a different brand. The Lifelines were 5 years old and he didn’t want to head to the Caribbean with bad batteries. Yeah.
We left Maine in the fall of 2010 and have had battery problems for at least the past year. Finally, they started falling like dominoes and we had to get new ones.
At this point, EW went into research mode. What batteries should he purchase? What batteries could we afford? How will we get them here? Should we take the boat to St. Maartin and buy batteries there? Or should be go to Puerto Rico? Each month he has three days in a row off and we were actually considering that kind of a “vacation” – leaving here in the evening, sailing overnight to Farjardo, having the batteries delivered to the dock, installing them and sailing back. Oh joy.
I mostly stayed out of it because .. well, because I could. My role was to be sounding board, supportive, and helpful, and to conserve power. During the last few weeks of this saga, we had turned off the Cool Blue refrigeration system and were charging the engine driven system twice a day. The freezer didn't freeze, but it kept milk for a few days. In the end, EW was able to make a case for spending money on five 4D Lifeline AGM batteries. He had decided against the marathon sail/battery installation in Puerto Rico, and the cost of shipping the slightly less regarded batteries from PR to here was nearly three times the cost of shipping the highly coveted Lifeline batteries from Miami to here, justifying the more expensive batteries.
I was OK with the more expensive batteries because I’m a power freak. Seriously, I do conserve as much as possible, I just don’t want to lose batteries when we’re crossing an ocean. I’m that kind of power freak.
EW’s machinations took on the essence of that tired line from "pick any sitcom” about the woman shopping for shoes and justifying them by insisting that she is saving money because they were “on sale”. Buying batteries isn’t about saving money. That is partly what got us here. Since these new batteries are like the first ones we installed on La Luna and they never caused any problems, and these new ones should actually last 5 – 7 years, then this all sounds good to me.
Of course choosing the batteries, paying for them and getting them here was the prologue to the Main Event: Installing the Batteries.
With EW working five days a week, we essentially had a day and a half to:
Move to the dock in Crown Bay.
Get the batteries delivered to the marina
Remove and safely dispose of the old batteries
Install the new ones.
Charge everything up with electricity at the dock.
Yeah, doing all of that in Farjado and then sailing back would have been an excellent adventure. Not.
Tune in for the next installment when we find out how many cruisers it takes to install five heavy batteries.
If you have a boat – or renovated a home – you are familiar with Project Creep. When we were renovating the home, I called it the “As long as were doing this … let’s also do that” mentality. The biggest project creep for the home went thusly: We needed to have the roof shingled – so we decided to do the siding, too – which led to have all new windows installed. Now that’s expensive Project Creep.
Part Creep is just as inevitable, but more stealthy than Project Creep. Back at the house, I was often unaware of Part Creep because we had a shed, full basement, and attic and EW could hide a lot of stuff. On the boat, not so much.
When we bought her, La Luna had been owned by a sailor who didn’t sail as much as he liked, but who purchased every spare part and doodad he wanted. The boatyard workers were in awe of the boxes of things removed before the sale and had to stack those boxes on a pallet and use a forklift to get them off the landlocked boat. Still, on the day we closed I went aboard with a friend and inventoried the hundreds of spare parts and tools that had been generously left behind.
I took one look at our galley and its two small cupboards and informed EW that if he wanted to eat I was appropriating the port side of the main salon for food and dish storage. He likes to eat and readily agreed. A few years later, he humbly requested one-third of the under seat storage for his heavy tools. I graciously relinquished that space – taking the aft cupboard behind the dining seat in return -- and he ultimately remade the port lift top to open for each of the three sections, making my life a lot easier.
More recently, when he finally decided to make the unused AC/DC fridge into a storage compartment I had to remind him that I would need him to give me some storage space for the vacuum bagger and bags that had been stored in the fridge for the past three years. “No problem,” he said, giving me the center cupboard behind the dining seat.
So imagine my surprise when I delved into that cupboard this week and found – sitting in plain sight – a small stack of paint mixing containers.
“This is not your space,” I exclaimed.
“Since when?” EW asked in a tone of voice that implied, “Is too!”
“Since you gave me this spot to make up for the fridge storage space.”
I tossed him the containers, which he then stored with all their little friends in the forward head.
I am the Queen of Project Creep, but I will not tolerate Part Creep. Those of you who generate Part Creep may notice that I have not filled this cupboard , and may even suggest that I share it with EW. Not going to happen. When we cross the Atlantic this cupboard will be full to the brim, so in the meantime, I will continue to defend “my” space.