Friday, March 28, 2014

Late Winter Blues

That post title is not about a miserable winter in North America.  It’s about our first experience with these two SUPs we just bought.  “SUP” is an acronym for “Stand Up Paddleboard”.  The blues part is the clear water and skies of the Turks and Caicos Islands.   And the multiple blue bruises I now have from my first two SUP outings.  I should also mention that these boards we bought are third hand.  They started out as rental boards with Big Blue Unlimited, who are one of the better diving and eco-adventure companies here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. That's a lot of blues in one paragraph.

When you’re as new at this as we are, stand-up paddleboards become sit-down paddleboards a lot of the time.  In many of my early trials, it was bounce-off paddleboard, and splash and chase paddleboard for much of the time.  I think that's the way it goes when you take off with one of these things and absolutely no instruction whatsoever. Unless you’re like Dooley. With four wheel drive. He can stand up on just about anything. He didn't have much to say about the paddleboards. But I assume he was having his usual fun.  He seems relaxed in this photo, doesn't he?  Who knows what he thinks of anything.

Here’s a sight I had not seen since around 1969.  Surfboards on an automobile of mine.  Kind of takes me back to those days when the Texas Gulf Coast surf report was somehow tied in to my weekly class attendance record. We've both always been beach lovers.

I haven't gotten to the point where I can stand on this board and take photos at the same time yet.  I can sit on the board and take photos of La Gringa and Dooley.  Or my version of a 'selfie'.  You know, it's amazing how much you miss your knees when you don't have them.  Fortunately for me, I have another set these days and things like paddle boarding are back in the line up.  I would love to try my hand at surfing again, too, one of these days.

It just occurred to me that I am, in fact, on my fourth knee. I'm halfway to qualifying as an arachnid.  Or a bobsled team.

La Gringa is much better at this SUP stuff than I am.  I can rationalize that she’s younger, smaller, and had a head start on me because she tried out a SUP in the marina a few weeks back.

Okay, in the interest of truth-in-blogging, she’s also in better shape than I am.   She's been riding a bike up and down this off-road we live on for years while I was limping around mumbling about bad knees. 

I’m going to stick a little note in here earlier than I had planned in case you notice some glitches and rough spots in this post.  I’m trying to make the whole thing using just a camera and laptop, with no internet connection.   I’m using Windows Live Writer for this post instead of Blogger.  I want to come up with a way to generate blog posts while on the boat far away from internet connections.  It’s working well so far, but I do expect some glitches.  So this is a dry run, yuk yuk.

So, back to the story.   

I realize that the above photo looks like it was raining when I took it.   But that’s not the case.  I had just fallen off my board again.  I don’t know how many times I fell off that board, that day.  I stopped counting somewhere around a dozen.  My best guess is that I did my own personal splash-down at least 20 times.  On the first day.  So, my whining aside, that drop of water is sea water.  Not rain. Or tears.  Despite the fact that some of this early SUP stuff feels remarkably like pain, only it hurts worse.

I fell on the board so hard once that the corner of the camera in my pocket knocked a hole in the top of the board. Tough little camera, that Nikon.   Me and the board.. not so tough.  We've sure gotten intimate, though, if body contact counts.

I don’t want you to think that La Gringa had to bear the weight of Dooley the Delirious on her board the entire time.   She had no problem with him riding on her board.   He did tire of it, and seeing me floating peacefully on my own SUP while spitting up water and counting bruises, he decided to swim over and hang out with me for a while. La Gringa was okay with that.  Taking twenty pounds of nervous little chubby dog off her board made it perform better.  Gave me an opportunity to spend some quality time with the dog as a loose cannon on my own board.  That blind trust and absolute respect is so refreshing.

We were surrounded by squalls and thunderstorms for the entire time we were in the water, but it all managed to miss us.   We had a great time of it.  I could tell that the dog was Dooley impressed, too.

He did seem to get a bit nervous after I did one of my outstanding wipeouts.  The board shot out from under my feet, and I experienced the unbridled joy of hitting the board, water, paddle, and sand all in one spectacular splash.  I had to leave the dog and go swim after the SUP. Nervous may not be the right word.   He abandoned ship.

I think he was wondering why I kept standing up when I invariably  just fell again.   From his standpoint, life would be a whole lot smoother for all concerned if I just stayed seated.  And I did, for long stretches of time.  I was getting exhausted from climbing, standing and falling, while whining about climbing, standing and falling.  I think I swallowed more salt water than Jonah.  I could see Dooley's nervousness about the safety of being on a small vessel while I wildly swung a paddle in frantic arcs when hitting the water.  I could appreciate his point of view.  Which he moved to a safer location, by the way. 

After his experiences on MY board, he decided to swim ashore and watch the rest of the show from the beach.  Wimp.   

That was okay with us, too.  It let me get some good photos of La Gringa without the dog rocking the boat.

We managed to get in several hours of playing around with these things, and eventually I started getting the hang of it.  You know how the experts in these things always tell you that the trick is to bend your knees slightly?

I wish I had listened to the experts. Because apparently, the trick is to bend your knees slightly..

That’s not the only position, though.   We spent a lot of time just floating around chatting about dogs, life, surfboards, boats, and tropical islands in general.   This is starting to sound like an old Annette Funicello movie. With some more practice, maybe we can make it look more like Endless Summer.  If we could only find some surf, and in my case drop about forty years.

I thought La Gringa looked pretty relaxed after a few hours.  She got her workout paddling the SUP. 

I got mine through constantly exploring zero crossings through sea level,  plus/minus about six feet.  This was a welcome change to our recent routine of working on the sailboat, where I was getting most of my exercise chasing my tail and jumping to conclusions.

As a change of scenery, and with the same Blue theme as the post title, we recently needed to run down to Blue Haven marina to meet a boat from Pine Cay.   We hadn’t been down there since that post we did about Blue Haven.  The marina was fairly quiet back then.  That has changed, now that we’re at the height of The Season here. There are some sweet boats in there at the moment.

See that sleek thing on the end?   We had to take a walk down there to check that one out.  On the way we walked up to a sportfishing boat while the captain was in the water cleaning the hull.  I saw the hailing port and said to La Gringa “What are the chances of seeing a boat from Refugio, Texas down here?”

And the crew overheard me.  Jimmy in the blue t-shirt told us that they were taking the boat from Florida to the Dominican Republic where the boat’s owner would be joining them.   The captain, John, said that the owner had told them that they wouldn’t find anyone on this trip who would pronounce “Refugio” correctly.   And he said “What are the chances that as soon as we get settled in here, the first guy to walk down the dock is a Texan who knows how to pronounce it?”   He was amazed.  I have to admit, it was a pretty small chance to begin with.

We found out that the crew is from Houston, and so we were required by Texas law to go through our  secret Texan handshakes and code words about how much bigger everything is there.  John said he was eagerly anticipating telling the owner about it.  Jimmy still didn’t have it pronounced right when we left.   (Hint, Jimmy:  it's NOT Ree-fuge-i-oh.)

I didn’t bother to tell Capt. John of the Cinco that we’ve seen 9 ft. sharks here. I was diving here for a dropped fishing pole some years back.  No reason to alarm him.  Besides, I was hoping for some  colorful photo ops.  But nope.  Only thing we saw in the water was a school of needlefish.   I could be wrong, but I think I usually see these guys swimming alone.  I’m sure there’s a reason for this.   Me being wrong, I mean.   It’s not the first time.

We saw one familiar boat out of the dozen or so boats in the marina. Pirate Boat belongs to friends of ours from the TCI.  You’ve seen photos of it elsewhere on this blog if you’ve looked around over the years.

Remember that slick boat I pointed out earlier?  We did go check it out.  The name of the boat is Polly.  It’s a former charter out of the Cayman Islands.   It’s a thing of beauty, with nary a scratch, gel coat chip, tarnish, or duct tape to be found.  They had two of the fat tire beach bikes on the dock for local transportation.  A few sat antenna for entertainment and communication.  Oh, yes, what’s not to like about this boat?

Most of you  know La Gringa Suprema’s real time nickname is Polly, right?   I’d love to buy her this boat for our birthday, but after a quick inspection I calculated that I could save my money for a year and maybe afford their shore power cables.  Plural.  

Perhaps she’ll settle for a bike and a stand up paddleboard?

Okay the rest of this post is boat DIY stuff.  Boring, but it's a huge part of our life here at the moment.

This isn't going to be one of my marathon posts.  Or at least not when compared to my other marathon posts.  I've received enough emails to know that some of you are following the trials and tribulations of my education in old boat repairs,though.  I think I've hit some common nerves.  I've found out that those who are interested will contact me to discuss this stuff, which I really like.   And those who are not interested in this stuff sure don’t need to have to read about it in great detail.

I did want to tell a typical story about this boat rehab thing, though.  I've shown you some photos in previous posts  about the state of the propane (LPG) delivery system we uncovered.  One of the things that I had to change was the active gas line running along the outside of the boat.  I picked a day last week to  cut and remove all this corroded copper tubing.   Some of the boaters who have written me were a bit shocked that the boat had a thin, corroded copper tube carrying flammable gas along the port side.  Which is also our preferred docking side, by the way.  Well, it’s true. Here’s the first cut in progress to remove it.  (Note to self, do NOT leave those two holes  unpatched that some previous idiot drilled through the hull.)

This copper tubing was in bad shape.  Worse than I thought.   The  cheap plastic clips that secured the gas line to the outside of the boat literally fell apart in my hand after we removed the screws.  No kidding.  I am not jiving you.  UV does that to cheap plastic.  And the copper tubing broke in my hand when I was bending it later.  It was that brittle.  just the kind of stuff you want filled with explosive gas and pinched between you and something hard, isn't it.

I bet you thought that was the story, about the corroded tubing.  Nope.  That part was just another typical old boat surprise.  A gift down through the decades from an unknown previous owner.   The story  continued when I went down into the lazarette to further disconnect and remove the internal components of this inflammable installation. I realized it was ankle deep in water.  I was really, really, really hoping that it was not sea water.  The whole point of having a boat is to keep the sea water on the outside.

I decided that the quickest way to pump out the water so that I could find and fix the leak, before I removed the rest of the copper was to use the manual bilge pump attached to the inside of the starboard engine compartment.  I thought that this would be a good exercise.  We could go through what’s involved in having to quickly set up and use the manual bilge pump that is meant to cover both engine compartments if the electric pumps fail. Sheesh. Are you going to be terribly surprised when I tell you the pump didn't work?

So I found a partial repair kit that still had a valve in it, and fixed the pump to drain the water so I could find and fix the leak before removing the rest of the  copper tubing that I had almost forgotten about by this time.

So about four hours into the twenty minute job I had described to La Gringa, I was mopping up the last of the water in a newly swabbed out lazarette.   That t-shirt was clean when I wore it to the boat.  And I normally have  clean, spare t-shirt on the boat, but I used that one to mop up water.  

The good news was that the hull is solid.  No sea water leaks.  I had La Gringa shut me up in the compartment with the hatch closed.  And then she sprayed water over all of the deck above me and I found the leaks almost instantly.  They were where the other wind generator used to be attached to the toe rail before the ocean tore it off and ate it in the Exumas.  Sloppy eater.  Easily patched with putty until I can get the right hardware. 

An hour after that photo the old copper tubing was all out.  My intention is to replace it with some approved flexible tubing.  But so far I can’t find it here, nor have I been able to source it online yet.  Not in those lengths. 

That’s the story I wanted to tell you.  I started out planning to spend an hour on the boat pulling copper tubing off.  And I did accomplish that.  With some detours along the way. And as we drove away from the boat that day, I felt that funny feeling some people sometimes get when something is staring at the back of their head.   Yeah, there are still some big jobs waiting for me.  Like the entire top of the mast.

None of the electrical stuff in that photo works.  Not the wind measurement system on the left, not the tricolor navigation light in the middle, not the blasted stub of a VHF antenna you can just barely see  behind the mast, and most definitely NOT the lightning suppressor thing that looks like an exploded metal cotton swab next to the light.  

I was puzzled by the white antenna on the bracket, until I checked with some long time sailors on the Cruiser’s Forum.  Some people tell me that that this is supposedly a satellite navigation antenna from back in the middle of the 1980’s. I haven't been able to confirm that but if true it would mean this has been obsolete for twenty years.   Well I have no trouble believing that at all. And it can glare at the back of my head as long as it wants, it’s coming off this boat.  I think it attracts lightning.

Okay, enough whining for one post.  I hope you enjoyed the blue parts.   I don’t have a sunset photo at the moment, and can’t process a time lapse on this backup computer.  My fancy new high-end Lenovo didn't even make it a year in this environment.  I've done this entire post offline, with no internet connections just to see how it works.  If you’re reading it, it worked!

Oh, and here’s a  grainy full moon shot to end it.  That sounds strangely redundant for some reason.