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The Voyage of Spectacle Boat Maintenance

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Boat Maintenance’ Category

So Far, So Good

Posted by: melissa

Planning and packing to leave the country for 10 months is no easy feat.  Trying to anticipate every need and desire regarding not only personal effects but also possible boat parts and accessories is nerve-racking.  We did the best we could and set off yesterday for a very long travel day … LAX to Houston, Houston to Panama City, and Panama City to Cartagena.  We arrived back at Club Nautico Marina well after midnight.  At first glance, the boat seemed to be intact, so we crashed out without even bothering to make the bed.

We both had some trepidation in leaving the boat, which is now more like our home than anyplace else, for an extended period of time.  Luckily, as a matter of convenience, price and quality of service, Cartagena is a pretty terrific place to store a boat long term.  On the recommendation of marina manager John Halley, we hired a boat sitter named Alberto who was responsible for watching the lines, airing out the boat on a regular basis to minimize mold and rot, scrubbing the bottom to keep nasty barnacles away, and generally acting as project manager for a list of repairs about 50 items long.

After a long sleep, we awoke to find the boat in encouragingly good shape.  We have yet to go through our to-do list one by one with Alberto the boat sitter, but I’m fairly confident that the conversation will go well.  Unfortunately, the one problem that we’ve discovered since our return involves a stowaway of sorts.  Yes, sadly, Spectacle has acquired a minor roach problem.  We don’t seem to be full-fledged infested and the critters are both small and scarce, but it is nonetheless more than a little unnerving.

Club Nautico is just as we remember, and there’s quite a buzz around here as many boats prepare to head toward the Panama Canal and begin the Pacific Ocean crossing.  When we left Cartagena last summer, it was the rainy season – blisteringly hot and intensely humid, interrupted by frequent downpours.  Having returned in the dry season, the days are temperate, breezy, and dry (comparatively speaking).  As I sit here writing this post, I’m looking out on the marina and beyond … it’s a sunny and beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky.  The clubhouse is full of boaters from all over the world … drinking Aguila or Club Colombia beers, playing dominoes and Scrabble, and passing time in anticipation of the passage to Panama.

Upon Further Review … The Play Stands

Posted by: melissa

After closer investigation, the boat seems to be in surprisingly good shape.  We went over our list with the boat sitter and the marina manager item by item, and what they have not already completed, they have detailed suggestions for.  Today and tomorrow will be packed with repairs, maintenance, cleaning, sanding, and oiling.

Emigdio, the electronics guy, is checking out the single side band (SSB) and VHF (very high frequency) antennas.  Although I’m no SSB expert, I have never been able to pick up anything resembling communication on any channel, and the VHF has been spotty at best.  Antenna problems are fairly common, so hopefully Emigdio can save the day.  Although we have two backup, handheld, battery-operated radios, the boat unit is quite convenient (and powerful) to use underway.

In matters less important but highly irritating, the light on the cockpit chartplotter (manufactured by our good friends at Raymarine) has burned out.  We have called the Raymarine reseller in Panama City, who happened to have the guy from Raymarine standing next to him at the time of his call.  Andy said that we needed a new lightbulb for a Raymarine RC520.  The reseller relayed the message to the Raymarine guy, whose laughter was audible in the background.  Apparently, this is viewed as a nearly prehistoric unit.  This “ancient” equipment was new on this boat in 2001 and spare parts now basically can’t be had.  Have we mentioned how much we love Raymarine?

We aren’t buying a whole new chartplotter just for a light bulb, so it looks like nighttime navigation checks will involve either a flashlight or a trip down to the navigation station belowdecks.

The ongoing saga of the boat’s teak trim continues as well.  The former owner of this boat prided himself on the flawless varnish job on the toe rail.  Maintaining a perfect varnish job, however, has proven to be far more effort than we are willing to put into an essentially cosmetic project.  As such, we decided to let the wood go natural.  I sanded all the varnish off of the wood and treated it with teak oil.  As it turns out, maintaining even the natural wood has also proved to be a lot of effort, especially in equatorial heat.  But we think it looks even better than the varnish and it’s not quite as much work.

When we arrive at places where people need work and labor is cheap, we’ve been hiring people to sand and treat the rail, which is what we did last summer here in Cartagena.  Another boat in the marina recommended a kid named Carlos.  They said he did great work for them, and he’s learning English at night while manually laboring during the day to support his wife and young son.  After striking a deal with the eager young Carlos, we were informed by the marina manager that we had committed an infraction of sorts regarding the workmen’s pecking order.  There are guys who work here at the marina on a regular basis taking on any project available … no matter how difficult or unglamorous.  In their view, Carlos is inconsistent … highly visible and very charming when a lot of cushy jobs are available and disappearing when the hard work starts.

Evidently, Carlos pulled another disappearing act right after we prepaid him and left the country last August.  Now, on our return, Carlos is back but continues to be in especially poor favor with the regular workmen for a variety of reasons:  1) for skipping out on our project, and 2) taking off to Panama for a month and returning with T-shirts and souvenirs and stories of fun and adventure.  And of course, Carlos is in pretty poor favor with us since it’s clear he failed to complete the work for which he was commissioned.  But our boat sitter, Alberto, is holding Carlos’ feet to the fire, and a couple of days ago, Carlos returned to our doorstep with hat in hand.  After some negotiation, we struck a compromise and agreed that Carlos owes two days of work.  Because of his extended “vacation,” he pleaded for more work, but at that point, we didn’t really have any more work for him or any real desire to fork over any more cash to him.  In any event, we felt a bit bad that we had contributed drama to internal marina politics.

Back in Cartagena, we have been excited to revisit some of our favorite hotspots, especially the fantastic El Santisimo.  Additionally, a new French bistro – “Oh-La-La” — has recently been opened by a French husband/Colombian wife team, and its pretty impressive value for money — delicious French specialties made with a nod to local Colombian ingredients and flare.  Three courses plus wine ended up under $50 for the two of us the other night, and everything but the wine was pretty darn good.

Although we are quite sad to leave beautiful Cartagena, I am really excited to get this show on the road.  We should pull out of here on March 5 and be in Colon, Panama, about two days later.

The Big Crossing (With Ian)

Posted by: andy

We are running around like chickens sans heads today as we prepare to begin our Pacific crossing tomorrow (yes, this all came on very fast, we know).  Alas, as of just this hour, an unexpected final repair has just arisen and may delay our Pacific departure (for you excessively curious mechanical nerds, it is a busted diode in our inverter that is causing the batteries to charge erratically … this may or may not be quickly fixable, but it is sort of looking like not).

Repair permitting, we will depart Flamenco Marina about noon local time tomorrow and expect to arrive in the Galapagos in about one week’s time.

Ian Is PyschedIn bigger news, we have added a crew member for the Pacific crossing … he is a 57-year-old Brit turned Canadian from Toronto named Ian McLean, our line-handler during the Canal transit.  He has crossed the Atlantic twice (but never the Pacific), once going eastbound in the North Atlantic in a 29-footer.  Although his politics are going to drive me absolutely insane, he is a very funny guy (especially when ridiculing French/Dutch buffoons) and we should all get on well.  For those of you who have seen too many Nicole Kidman/Billy Zane movies, take some solace in knowing that his passport both appears authentic and bears the same name he told us …

Holy Week A Curse for Spectacle

Posted by: andy

Holy Week here in Panama has proven to be an insurmountable cultural obstacle to our attempts to leave for the Galapagos.  We have not made it off the dock, and Spectacle will remain in Panama City until at least April 9.

A bit of explanatory background is needed here.  Having long ago (as was required given the preposterous lead times with which these trips sell out) booked a god-awfully expensive SCUBA adventure in the Galapagos, we have known for weeks that yesterday was the last possible day to depart Panama City for the Galapagos without resorting to Plan B (i.e. flying there and back from Panama).  We need to be there on the 29th.  It’s 900-950 miles away.  Our boat does about 150 miles a day (and will easily do that if we motor 24/7).  The math is not hard.

We had been told by people who know things that the typical wait for a Panama Canal crossing is about 5-9 days, and our research pretty much confirmed this.  We began the process on March 1st (while still in Colombia) and were admeasured in Colon on March 7th.  For whatever reason (and there certainly isn’t a good one), there are presently HUGE delays at the Canal.  So when we were told that we wouldn’t be crossing the canal until late March, I pretty much threw a fit (although others have had it worse — a boat that came in two days after us was given an April 14th transit date).  At this point it seemed pretty unlikely we’d be making the March 22 cutoff.

Employing my litigator training, I pretty much table-pounded and screamed my way into a March 19-20 (“maybe”) crossing appointment.  So at this point, everything had to go right — not only did the March 19 appointment date have to be “real,” but we had to have the boat otherwise completely ready for the Pacific crossing 48 hours later.  This involved about 7-8 non-trivial things going right.

Slowly the pieces began to fall into place.  Sure enough, we made it through the Canal on the 20th and pulled into the Flamenco Marina late that Thursday afternoon with three items left on our checklist.

Well, to make a long and not very interesting story short, these fairly simple jobs have been rendered extraordinarily difficult by virtue of the subsequent Friday being Good Friday.  The entire city is basically shut down from Friday through Tuesday, booze is not being served (the horror), and people are not working.

After a great deal of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, we managed to get two of the three simple jobs done — they took 30 hours and should have taken three.  But, alas, we could not find a single marine electrical store anywhere in town that was open to sell us an inverter diode (not a particularly hard part to find), which was the part our electrician determined is causing problems with out batteries.  There’s literally one boat store in the whole city that was open either yesterday or today, and it specializes in fishing gear.  Without said diode, we can’t guarantee proper, consistent charging of our batteries and that wouldn’t be a particularly enjoyable thing to live with for 90+ days.

So, alas, we have tripped over the final hurdle and will have to move to Plan B, but no big deal … we’ll fly in about 5-6 days, come back, and then cross the Pacific.

Type I Error

Posted by: andy

For any of you who had the pleasure of taking Statistics 150 at Mizzou or its equivalent elsewhere, you might recall the concept of Type I and Type II errors.

Basically, a Type II error is, in boating as in most walks of life, the more common mistake:  underinclusivity, the failure to include relevant data, or, if you will, the failure to recognize a particular extant problem — a false negative.

A Type I error is a mistake far less common in boating:  overinclusivity, the inclusion of irrelevant/erroneous data, or, if you will, identifying as extant a problem which does not in fact exist — a false positive.

Let’s make this simple –

Not knowing that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor — Type II error.

Erroneously assuming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction — Type I error.

OK, even more simple.

When the pregnancy test says you aren’t pregnant and you actually are – Type II error.
When the pregnancy test says you are pregnant and you really aren’t – Type I error.

See the difference?

Not being the most experienced sailors, we commit Type II errors all the time.  The Tale of the Twin Fiascoes was basically one Type II error after another – not filling up the gas tank, thinking we had a handheld VHF but not actually having one, not turning off the electronics once we were out of fuel, etc., etc., etc.

Well, I’ve finally committed my first major Type I error.  And it was a doozy…

For about the last two weeks, I’ve been convinced that our batteries were, for whatever reason, failing adequately to retain charge.  Following test after test, the reading of endless manuals (probably could have done some more of that earlier) and even the hiring of a largely clueless electrician, I have now diagnosed the situation:  there is nothing now wrong, nor has there recently been anything wrong, with our batteries.  Instead, there is something wrong with my powers of diagnosis.

This episode would be at bit more humorous if it weren’t so badly timed.  Having improbably cleared every hurdle in our mad scramble to meet our deadline, we actually found ourselves all set – the boat was all ready to go to the Galapagos and we could have left on time in ideal conditions (the weather was absolutely perfect), saved ourselves a couple of thousand dollars in airfare and attendant travel hassles and had an extra two weeks in the South Pacific.  So, yeah, um …


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