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Thursday in the yard

First thing after waking up was to look at the power supply / video problems for the new stereo. I didn’t want to lose any length on the wire so I had a tedious time picking away at the crimps with my wire cutters so I could release the wires intact. Once apart I tested an alternated idea with the positive wires to switch the unit on and off via an external switch. That idea worked but for the time being I left the wires simply twisted together. I then installed a relay which would ground the brake switch detector after the unit was switched on. That worked too. Now the unit will play videos and show pictures. Not essential functions but may as well have them.

Next I had a trial run with the dye penetrant. It’s a three stage process. First the stainless steel has to be cleaned. Then the dye has to be sprayed on and left for 10 minutes. After cleaning it off, a developer is sprayed on to draw the dye out of any cracks. When I sprayed the dye it went everywhere including all over the gelcoat nearby. So it ended up being a rapid clean up job. I got my lessons learned. Next time we need no wind and lots of protection for the nearby surfaces. As the weather was deteriorating rapidly, I postponed the rest of this work.

Through this time, Helen started cutting out paper templates for all the items that will be going onto the new nav station. This was to allow us to move them around and design an ideal layout. Helen did a good job of this and ended up with a pretty good solution I think. I dread cutting out all the holes as one mistake will require a restart. Don’t fancy that.

We’d promised Sam a new laptop while in the Uk and while chatting with him online we found a good candidate via the Dell refurb site – something we’ve used a couple of times before and have been very happy with the results. Being refurbs one has to pick from what’s available without customization and what’s available can change over time so if you see something you like, it’s worth ordering. So I did. Another item off the list. Or so I thought. This morning I found an email from Dell saying the order had been cancelled and not saying why. When I check on line there is no trace of the order. I called the customer support who couldn’t help. They put me onto someone else, who also couldn’t help. They put me through to sales to sort this out. Turned out this was accessories sales. At this point I was a bit pissed off and explained they were the third person I’d spoken to and I felt I was getting the run around. They promised to have someone call me back. We’ll see.

The French technicians, Joel and Bertrand, showed up in the morning. They had a walk through of the boat to check things out. They then needed to buy tools so I went as passenger taking them to the local Bunnings (big DIY store) to get the tools they needed. On the way back we popped into a marine store then we talked to the yard manager, Peter, to understand services available from the yard. Despite the late start the techs are still targeting a launch on Saturday, March 3rd. They’re going to be busy.

The next job for me was to fit the AIS transponder and antenna splitter. It took a while to decide where to put them but in the end I decided on behind the lounge seats where we currently have a fuse box. This meant moving the fuse box too. The fuse box used to have all six connections used up for various items at the nav station. Because I’ve now gone for fused switches on the nav station the fuse box behind the lounge seats now will only have a couple of connections – one going to the nav station switches. So it doesn’t matter if it’s a little out of the way.

In the end I got everything in and accessible. I needed a power source for the two AIS components and decided to wire up the new switches panel prior to installing on the as to be cut out panel (which Helen has been designing). That meant hooking up the inverter to the panel, the new radio (finishing that job off) and the two new components.

Next was testing. I first tried the AIS transponder on it’s own, connecting it to the VHF antenna without the splitter in the circuit. Using the provided s/w and connecting it to my PC I was able to detect one boat up in the Town Basin Marina. So I know it’s receiving which is good. But I don’t have a read on sensitivity as I don’t know how many boats I could/should be seeing. One disappointment was that on checking the configuration, I discovered the supplier has got the boat length wrong and the boat width set to zero. The configuration s/w says the unit can only be configured once so I’ve sent an email to the supplier asking for suggestions.

Next I tried the transponder in line with the splitter. That worked too. I then hooked up the VHF radio to the splitter and tried a radio check while the AIS was running. That came through loud and clear too. So all the vital functions are good. An annoyance with the boat spec to sort out. And I need to buy a longer cable to join the splitter to the VHF radio as the one we have isn’t quite long enough. Pity. I also need to get a cable that will join the splitter to the new stereo so we can also use the mast antenna to listen to the radio. I think Helen is getting fed up with my playlist.

By now it was getting close to 5pm so it was time to tidy up the immense amount of mess I’d created. As I reached the end of the tidying we cracked open a beer each to celebrate a good days work. At this point we were greeted by knocks on the boat. Dave and Elana had found us. We were due to meet in town but they’d decided it might be fun to scour the local boatyards and find us first. As it was now passable inside we invited them in to sit around on toolboxes and the like. We subsequently went out for a Thai meal in town and then went for a walk along the waterfront. It was nice to catch up with them, find out what they’ve been up to in the last three years and to share some of our experiences.

We were quite pooped when we returned to the boat. We did well avoiding opening a bottle of wine, our usual habit. Perhaps this is the first sign of our progress towards Helen’s target of four bottles per week.

I did get a response from the email that NZ Garmin Customer Support gave me. Turns out it’s for returns. I’m pretty sure I’m not still under warranty so this is a dead end.

Wednesday in the yard

We’re starting to get busy though, in hindsight, perhaps not busy enough.

In the early morning I spent some time researching travel options for Sam. In the end, the best flight I could find was via Fiji of all places. That’s now booked. He leaves Sunday, April 22nd and arrives around midday on the following Tuesday. We have promised to buy him a new laptop. Spent some time researching that with some input from John in the UK. Got some ideas but not yet bought the kit.

Helen spent a lot of time throughout the day cleaning the outside of the boat. There are a lot of tiny fungal spots all over the surface of the boat. This all needs bleaching to kill off. Round 1 is done but it looks like a second round of bleaching and washing will be required.

I spent the morning dismantling the old nav station labelling all the wires as I went and securing them so they didn’t disappear into the void behind. I also replaced the broken exterior speaker.

Looking ahead I have booked a service for our life raft. That’s down in Auckland and there is a waiting list of about 3 weeks. We are now on the list and need to drop the life raft off next week. I’m also trying to arrange a service for our chart plotter as
the cooling fan is noisy and the unit overheats if the display brightness is on full. I was given an email by the local Garmin support but have yet to get a response to the request I sent. Right now I have an external fan wired in which provides some cooling from behind.

After lunch I was picked up by the car hire company and taken to their depot. For NZ$40 we’ve got quite a large, air conditioned automatic which feels like a sedan to drive. With 140,000km on the clock it’s not spanking new but it does the job.

Once in the car I visited a recommended car radio specialist to try and sort out some sort of bracket to hold in the new radio I have. While there I spoke to him about how I might install it given that it was not going to be put in a car. I got some advice re wiring which I hoped would be useful.

While out I also picked up some ‘dye penetrant‘ which I’m going to use to inspect the load bearing stainless steel around the boat. We have noticed a small crack on one of the bimini supports so we really should do the works and check it all out while we’re in a position where repairs can be made.

Back on the boat I cut the connections to our old radio and crimped on the connections to the new one. In hindsight I wish I’d simply twisted on the power connections and tested first. With the way I have currently wired the unit, I can’t turn it off. There is a button labelled off but if I press it and hold it down, the unit goes into demo mode. I also made a mistake with how I wired the brake sensor (which disables the video functions). Obviously, in a car, watching video while driving is a tad dangerous so the unit has a brake sensor that enables the video when grounded. However, it turns out the video is only enabled if the brake sensor is grounded *after* the unit is switched on. That means I need to wire in a relay to delay the grounding.

My final task of the day was to fit new blinds over the two read berths. The starboard blind broke last year. Ours is ok but the starboard forward shower is totally broken and seized up. We get the new one and the shower will get our old one. Helen wants me to do a more complicated switcheroo involving the blinds over the forward starboard bunk. All that area is full of junk at the moment and I can’t get there so I’ve done as much as I can of this project for now.

At this point I left resolving the two radio issues until the next day as I was feeling a bit tired. So I pulled out a new toy I’d ordered from the US and brought to us in the UK by Ben. It was an XBox 360 with the Kinect motion sensor. The latter enables one to interact with certain games using body movements and gestures. Despite all the clutter and restricted floor space (our bed is currently in the main cabin keeping the bunks clear) I managed to get it going. Both Helen and I spent a fair amount of time ducking, dodging and jumping. We both worked up a bit of a sweat and it was fun. And that is the idea of it. Sometimes, when we don’t get off the boat, we don’t get a lot of exercise. Maybe this a way to do it.

I actually felt a bit guilty postponing the radio work for a bit of fun but after writing this blog I think I had a busy enough day.

When I was out and about, I ran into (not literally) David from Sidewinder. Turns out they’re on the hard just down the road. We should be able to meet up with them this Sunday as there’s going to be a presentation here in Norsand in the evening by some folks who have been sailing the Pacific on traditional catamarans.

We were also contacted by Elana who we first met, with partner Dave, in Antigua while watching Obama’s inauguration. That seems a very long time ago. Turns out they’re here in New Zealand and the upshot is we’re meeting in town this evening. Should be nice to catch up.

On the subject of bumping into people, the day we arrived at the yard we bumped into Dave and Alison from Kalida. They’re here in the yard somewhere. We never did get to meet them in Fiji so we’ll just have to make up somehow.

In the evening Helen and I went on our first provisioning run. While we have the car we need to get all the heavy stuff onto the boat as it will get a lot harder later. This included everything Helen could find on special offer plus a trolley load of wine. With respect to the latter we are essentially loading up to last from March to December. Even with Helen’s reduced weekly target of 4 bottles a week that’s still quite a few boxes. We’re now about 20% done on that front.

After provisioning we picked up some noodles in town and made our way back to the boat. We loaded the food aboard but left the wine in the car. We finished the day sampling one of our wines, eating our noodles and watching an old Bruce Lee movie. Helen didn’t make it until the end.

This morning I woke up about an hour and a half after yesterday so I’ll count that as progress. Helen, having woken for a while, is back asleep. It’s still dark outside even after writing all this.

You may have noticed no mention of the French technicians. That’s because there was nothing to say. I do have communications the strongly suggest they’ll be here today. One thing I’ll need to do is have them work out a new splash date and get this arranged. With a three day delay to the start of work I doubt we’ll hit the original target.

Looking like Saturday

It looks more and more like we’ll be leaving here on Saturday. Beginning then is a sustained period when the wind is forecast to be east or north of east which is what we want to get to Port Louis. If it’s not Saturday then surely we’ll be off shortly after.

Yesterday we took the offered shower in the apartment Elana and Dave are renting. We ended up staying far too long and drinking their beer and liqueurs. So in return we’re inviting them back to Dignity this evening for curry. Normally Friday is our curry night but we’re bringing it a day forward so we can have a beer or two. As we intend to sail on Saturday we’ll want to be dry on Friday night so we are fully ready for the sail to Guadeloupe and alert.

That meant we failed to send our hookah which we must do this morning.

We also took a dinghy ride and walk to the town of Falmouth. Turned out to be a grocery store. Well worth the trip as I found a packet of chocolate hobnobs. Result.

Not sure what we’ll do today yet. Maybe we’ll go for a walk.

Waiting for a weather window

This seems to be what I read about on a number of occasions. Each day we’re looking at the weather looking for winds the following day to be from the East or North of East. Like a carrot on a stick the weather window we’re waiting for always seems to be 2-3 days away. We were pretty sure, until this morning, that tomorrow was the day we’d leave for Guadeloupe. Now it’s looking like Friday or Saturday. We’ll need to think of things to do – more later. We’ve decided it’s ok to wait a few days more. If we don’t get the wind angle we want by earl next week we’ll skip the north side of Guadeloupe and head for Deshaies directly.

Last night was a great success. I picked up Ed, Peg, Elana and Dave at the Antigua Yacht Club dinghy dock. They brought food. Elana had some delicious homemade goodies. Ed brought steak from New York which he cooked on the grill – heaven. We had a great evening together. They are all holidaymakers with rented accommodation on land. In return, Elana and Dave have offered us use of their shower. Can’t so no to water you don’t have to switch off – so that’s one of the things we’ll do today.

Apart from that we have our scuba tanks to collect. We’ve had them inspected and filled ready for our visit to the Cousteau Marine Reserve off the west coast of Guadeloupe when we arrive there in a week or so (weather permitting).

Today. I am proud. To be an American

Wow. That was moving (Obama’s inauguration). I sincerely hope the leadership of the American people and the people themselves can seize this moment in history and begin the building of the better future that appears possible to attain. It was amazing to sit in a Caribbean bar with locals and US citizens and still feel the immense power of this moment. Very moving.

We shared the moment, and table, with a two American couple, Ed & Peg and Elana and Dave. We’ve invited them over for nibbles, beers (and some flag waving) this evening. Should be fun.

In 2007 we became US citizens. At the swearing in session we had to listen to a very cheesy song : “I am proud to be an American”. For many in the room the occasion was evidently intensely moving as this must have been the culmination of many years of effort. For us, I have to say, it was a mere detail.

Today though I finally feel I really can say I am proud to be American. In some ways it feels frustrating to be excluded from this (hopefully) historic renewal. We know our trip will end much sooner than we originally planned. Perhaps we’ll have our part to play sooner rather than later. Funnily enough, that doesn’t feel at all bad.