That Was A LOT of Work!

Yesterday, we finished a two-day painting marathon, completing the main cabin and galley, and the results make us wish we had done it a lot earlier.

Yesterday, we finished a two-day painting marathon, completing the main cabin and galley, and the results make us wish we had done it a lot earlier.

The whole boat is so much brighter and cleaner-looking.

The whole boat is so much brighter and cleaner-looking.

We used Glidden water- and mildew-proof indoor-outdoor paint from Home Depot instead of springing for the marine stuff. Not bad for less than fifty bucks in supplies!

We used Glidden water- and mildew-proof indoor-outdoor paint from Home Depot instead of springing for the marine stuff. Not bad for less than fifty bucks in supplies!

We celebrated with a dinner with our friend Tom, who's leaving tomorrow.  All in all, a very long but wonderful day!

We celebrated with a dinner with our friend Tom, who’s leaving tomorrow. All in all, a very long but wonderful day!

 

Swimming under a Rainforest Waterfall

Friday, Kacy’s last day in Puerto Rico (sads!), we took her to the El Yunque rainforest. It was a bit overcast, so we didn’t try to hike up to the top, but instead opted for a shorter hike that followed a mountain stream down to a waterfall. It was eerie how much this tropical rainforest hike reminded both Philip and I of the walks at Swallow Falls State Park in Garrett County (where I grew up).

Ok, yes, I look utterly ridiculous (a bit like a chipmunk, if you ask me) but I’ve been in the Caribbean for a year, and that water was COLD!

I LOVE this picture of Kacy laughing in the pool beneath the falls!

Old San Juan, Again

Our friend Kacy arrived yesterday from snowy D.C., and we spent the afternoon wandering around sunny Old San Juan.

The bridge to the airport is flanked with huge, gorgeous U.S. and Puerto Rican flags; I think DC should do this on all their bridges!

Yesterday was Epiphany, which they call Three Kings Day here in PR, a big public holiday. The park outside the Fort was packed with picnickers and dozens of people flying kites in the brisk trade winds.

There’s a fantastic cemetery outside the northern city wall just by the fort; I guess that’s some sort of mausoleum in the center.

In the fort lobby was a gingerbread replica of the fort. It smelled FANTASTIC. I was hard-pressed not to taste.

The triangular staircase in the fort — rather Escheresque.

For dinner, we decided to grab some street food, and stopped at a truck selling something called Tripletas, which ended up being huge sandwiches of pork, ham and chicken (thus, the tripleta…) smothered in squeezy cheese, mayo, bbq sauce and mustard. Seriously, each one weighed about two pounds. They were amazing. We each ate half a sandwich, and then felt kinda dirty.

Halloween on a Boat

OMG, squeeeee! Trick-or-Treaters in a dinghy!!!

Filia Maris is a small boat, so it was endearingly crowded with 11 people!

This is the moment at which the Halloween crazies possessed me. Under a rising orange full moon, me and the boys from the windsurfing school started doing back flips off the rail. It was totally awesome, but I’m paying with many, many jellyfish stings at the moment. The evil buggers don’t bother other people, and even I can’t tell when I’ve been stung, but I get a nasty allergic reaction for days afterwards and itch, itch, itch. It was totally worth it, though. Maybe.

After the water gymnastics, the evening progressed as parties do, with Flo and Esther serenading the group with toothbrush mikes. We, for the most part, ignored them.

No. Comment. Needed.

Windsurfing!

YESTERDAY, I learned to windsurf.  It was AWESOME!  Peter of Filia Maris gave me a long lesson – we covered the basics — tacking, gybing, etc., and since the wind was really light, he taught me a few freestyle tricks as well, including the 360 and helicopter.

Sailing close-hauled before the tack…

Tacking.

Boo-rah! Going in the other direction!

The windsurf center. Check it out if you’re in Curacao – great place to learn to windsurf.

So, yeah, I’m going to do THAT again — Too. Much. Fun.  And perhaps there will be more wind next time.

Of course, I’m going to have to wait a couple of days because, after the lesson, I was fooling around on their pull-up bar and doing all sorts of flips and shit and I screwed up my back.  Because I am an idiot.

Crash! Boom! Bang!

LAST night there was a tremendous thunderstorm at midnight – thunder and lightening and wind, oh, my!  I am normally not scared during storms; we’ve been in this spot for four months now (!!) and the anchors are well set, but since Pip is back in the States, I got a little wigged out.  When there are two of us on the boat, I’m pretty confident we can handle whatever happens, but I’d be totally screwed if the anchors started dragging when I’m alone on the boat.  So I popped a valium, threw the GPS and the computers in the oven (a natural faraday box – keeps electronics from being fried by a nearby lightening hit) and watched the nearby anchor lights for signs of movement, then collapsed in bed with two scared kitties at one AM.  Thankfully, the storm wore out the cats, too, so they didn’t wake me up at 7AM for food like they normally do, and I got to sleep ‘til 10.  W00t!

In other news, the local diesel mechanic, Jo, noticed that our engine alignment was off when he was on the boat a few months ago, and the other day he came by to fix it.  Turns out the idiots at Port Annapolis Marina (the same guys who took twice as long and charged twice as much as estimated for our re-rig; didn’t tighten the jibstay enough, causing us to almost lose our rig; forgot to put the screws in the port side of the bowsprit platform, causing it to splinter in our first storm, AND crashed our boat into the dock, crushing the bowsprit platform) didn’t re-install the engine mounts correctly when they last worked on the engine, and one of the mounts was grinding metal-on-metal because the moron who replaced the bolts put both on top instead of one on the bottom for the mount to sit on.  So Jo came by, and in 6 hours, not only re-aligned the engine but made two entirely new mounts — for only $265 of your earth dollars.  Just so you have an idea how awesome this is, we probably would have paid that much just to have one mount created in the States.  Go Jo!!

He says that we’ve been losing power because of the mis-alignment (not to mention putting the entire prop shaft at risk of snapping…) so the boat should get higher RPMs now.  Double w00t!

I haven’t made much progress on the decks and hatch rebuild because it’s been raining almost every day, not all day, but the decks have to be dry for 3 days before I can caulk, so that’s been out.  Instead, I finished about 500 loads of laundry (you’re welcome, Philip) and prepped the teak for the hatch for gluing.  THAT was a long and nasty job, scraping off old glue, plywood and nasty caulk.

Last night, I went over to a new friend’s boat for dinner, which was nice, but the highlight of the evening was playing Uno, with people who believe that CHEATING is ok.  For instance, you can try to slip a card that doesn’t match in, or place down two or more cards at once, or not draw as many as you are supposed to.  Anyone who gets caught has to take two extra cards and forfeit their turn.  Now, this is a really lame thing to be excited about, but it made the game too much fun, and even more evil.  Of course, I was totally lame at it; I really suck at cheating.  There is just something in me that insists on following the rules.  But I was really good at catching people, so it all worked out.

We also, as yachties do, talked way too much about boat chores, but I learned a handy new trick I’m looking forward to trying.  I’ve been trying to keep the bottom of the boat clean here, diving on the bottom about once a month — a massive task because when you sit in one place for a long time, you end up with a coral reef on the bottom of the boat.  I’d been using a simple paint scraper to do the job, which takes FOREVER, but they recommended doing a little bit each day, and using a stainless steel joint taping knife, which like a scraper but about a foot wide, instead of the little 3-inch painters’ scraper I’ve been using.  Totally going to buy one of those on my next trip to the store.

The Continuing Adventures of Feathers and Phil

WHENEVER we’re sailing, Pooks is one unhappy cat. He refuses to go below and insists on sitting with us on the lazarette seats, which he finds as uncomfortable as we do when the boat is heeled because of the UTTER LACK of any way to brace yourself. In preparation for our upcoming passage north next month, I figured it would be a good idea to build him a cat bed that we can stick under the dodger to provide him a snug haven.

I snagged some fantastic fabric in Willmestad for only a couple of dollars and managed to sew the bed in only a couple of hours, inserting cardboard in the sides to provide some structure. But then I had to stuff the thing — and didn’t have any polyester fiberfill on hand to do so. After considering, and rejecting, torn up t-shirts, I realized that we’d just replaced our manky old feather pillows and had the old ones sitting up in the forecastle. Voila!

Now, let’s pause a moment here to consider the implications of opening a feather pillow on a boat in a gusty anchorage. From the first moment I grabbed a handful of stuffing, huge billows of fluffy down filled the air, circulating on the erratic gusts and covering everything. No, really. Every surface, nook and cranny on the boat was coated in fluffy white stuff.

It built up in drifts in the cabin, settling on the napping Pip and cats in white speckles and sticking to the stovetop and any other tacky surface — including my entire body. It looked like I’d slaughtered chickens all afternoon, and was slowly becoming one myself.

Nonetheless, I managed to cram enough feathers into the bed and proudly presented it to the cats, who wanted nothing to do with it. Of course. I think if we strictly informed them that they weren’t allowed to sit in it, they would. Pooks thinks it’s a good chin rest, though.

 

One last note — Feathers and Phil is the moniker given to us a few years ago by Rory, the adorable 3-year-old son of my dear friend when he visited our old boat.

This morning, Philip sang:

This is the story of Feathers and Phil:
She’s pretty cool,
But he’s a pill.

That husband of mine makes me laugh, which is a good thing, because it keeps me from keelhauling him when he’s an ass. (Have I mentioned how small a space a 40-foot boat is for two people?)

Busy Week!

The Fein Multi-Tool with teak deck bit. The newly-finished deck is at the bottom of the photo, the newly-cut grooves ready for new caulk at the top.

PHILIP left for the U.S. about a week ago, and I’ve keep myself well and busy since. Between leading yoga and hikes, attending the Monday potluck/game night, learning to play Mexican train dominoes and many visits with our friends from Filia Maris, D-Jay, Sinbad and Apparition, it’s amazing that I’ve found time to get work done on the boat — but I thankfully have! I’ve spent most of my time working on the deck re-caulking project, a monster of a job.

First, Philip replaced the loose screws and any of the teak bungs that were missing/leaking, re-bedding the screws and bungs to make sure they didn’t leak. Then, I remove all of the old caulk with the Fein multi-tool with the teak attachment, a nifty little device that allows me to not only easily remove the old caulk, but also cut the groove between the planks deep enough to hold caulk. The decks were worn down enough that most of the grooves were less than 1/8 inch deep, so I’m actually cutting through the teak and creating new, deeper grooves. Removing the caulk and cutting the grooves takes me about an hour per foot of side-deck, and involves hunching over on hands and knees in the hot sun – an arduous chore! Then, have to sand off any remaining caulk, sand the insides of the grooves, vacuum out the dust and use acetone to clean the grooves. Finally, I tape the deck with masking tape section-by-section and put in the new caulk. We’re using Teak Decking Systems caulk, which gets rave reviews for it’s longevity in internet and boat-repair magazine reviews. I’m hoping to finish the starboard deck before Philip comes back from the States so he can replace the deck hardware, including the stanchions and lifelines, before we leave in late October/early November to head north.

In other news, we’re about to bid farewell to good friends, Claude and Rolf of Tikka and Randy and Diane of Sinbad. These guys have been faithful hiking companions and playmates the past few months, and it will be sad to see them go — though I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future. Speaking of, our old friends Gail and Peter from Jabiru will be arriving next week to join the Curacao party — woo-hoo! It’s funny how boat life is a continual process of meeting new people, saying goodbye far too soon, and bumping into old friends in unexpected places! You make friends fast in this life, but say goodbye often, only to find them again in a new harbor. It’s sad and delightful at the same time.

Vacation Wrap-Up

WELL, that was an awesome week!

Didi’s awesome Curacao adventure continued Tuesday with a hike around Jan Thiel lagoon followed by Italian gelatto, to replace all the crazy calories we’d been burning.  Tuesday evening, we broke out the bottle of blue Curacao I’d picked up at the supermarket on a whim and designed new cocktails of rum, lime and Curacao — absolutely and surprisingly delicious!

After our evening adventures trying Curacao, we thought a trip to the distillery was in order.  It’s located in an old plantation house, and the free “tour” (show yourself around and grab a taste of the liqueur) was massively underwhelming; the actual distillation equipment would fit in a small garage. But we learned that real Curacao is made with a base alcohol infused with the dried, green peels of local bitter oranges — basically the same thing as Cointreau. Because Curacao is a place name, it can’t be protected, so any old liqueur can call itself Curacao, but the real stuff is much better than the crappy imitators.  The distillery’s experiments in making coffee, chocolate and rum raisin versions weren’t as successful; the rum-raisin in particular was pretty vile.

Afterwards, we headed out to the west end of the island for another visit to Shete Boca, where the barren landscape and booming seas were no less dramatic, and a good deal prettier, in the bright sun instead of our last visit’s grey skies.  We particularly enjoyed watching the waves ricocheting back off the cliffs hit the incoming waves, exploding into the air in a massive blue plume.

Didi had booked a villa in Westpunt, where we marveled at the incredible view of a perfectly calm, turquoise sea — a far cry from the violence of the north coast we’d just visited.  If anyone’s planning to visit Curacao, the West Hill Bungalows are charming and perfectly quiet, and our dinner of local sausages and sauteed veggies on the balcony under bright stars was the perfect end the day.

Thursday, we tackled Mt. Christoffel Park, the major national park on the island.  Mt. Christoffel is about 1,000 feet high — the tallest peak on the island.  The hike to the top, through Curacao’s desert forest in the mid-day heat, took about an hour of climbing what seemed like a never-ending stairmaster, but the view at the top was spectacular and well worth the climb.

We spent an hour or so marveling at the 360-degree view of the entire island before scrambling back down the rocky trail.  After hiking every day for the past five days, my legs were toast after that climb!

It was fantastic to spend time with an old friend, not just because of the awesome adventures, but also because I’d forgotten how nice it is to just have an easy conversation with someone who already knows everything about you.

Didi, thanks for coming to visit – you’re welcome back anytime!