It may seem from the outside that all we do is fix our boat. We’re not hauled out because our boat is a lemon. It’s not; it’s a gem. There is no boat anywhere, of any kind, that doesn’t need to be hauled out and serviced in a hundred ways every so often. How often depends on where the boat is used, what it’s made of, what kind of engines it has, and so on. The hundreds of boats in this yard range from nearly new huge motor yachts to ancient classic wooden beasts you can’t believe will float again. Many of the owners we meet bought their boats from charter companies and are redesigning the interior to change from something suitable for a one- or two-week vacation (“heads and beds”) to something more conducive to living aboard and long term cruising (fewer heads, more storage.)
All over the yard there’s major work being done. The boat right next to us had one engine and the mast lifted by a crane, repaired, rerigged and returned again. It’s a little scary having a Volvo diesel swing by a few feet away at eye level.
The most common sight is the skipper under the boat ministering to the saildrives and propellers.
One of the jobs we’re doing is replacing the droopy headliners. After fifteen years in the tropics the glue let go so down came the boards to be scraped clean and recovered with insulating foam and new vinyl. Turns out it’s a nasty stinky job.
All cleaned up, the boards were delivered to the onsite upholsterer to be recovered. I can’t wait. Living under droopy headliners reminded me of our old Nissan Sentra, The Car That Wouldn’t Die. The headliner eventually let go completely and we just cut it off and went without.
It’s strange not to see the horizon from the porch after a year and a half of glorious sunrises and sunsets. Now we can see the corrugated shed roof behind us and the aluminum forest stretching toward Port of Spain. It’s a different world.
It’s called a double and it’s the national breakfast food of Trinidad. Two chapatis, chickpeas in a sweet and spicy sauce, addicting. This is two on a plate because one isn’t enough and because I can’t seem to eat them out of the wax paper wrapper like the locals do without losing half down the front of my t-shirt.
Life on the hard is always interesting. This is a huge marina with hundreds of boats but there are very few owners here and those who are keep busy all day, as we do, and are largely out of sight. Consequently we sometimes feel like we’re camping in the wilderness and only run into other boat owners at the showers and laundry room early in the morning or in passing on the way to and from the various marine businesses.
Escape Velocity is parked between a rack of runabouts and a covered row of small powerboats owned by locals. On the weekend the owners spend time cleaning and detailing their babies, load up the beer and snacks and friends, then launch at the ramp for a day of fun on the water. When they return they once again clean and detail and put the babies to bed.
We’re doing the same with our baby, but on a bigger and more daunting scale. We are by no means a big boat, relatively speaking, but it sure seems so when you’re stripping old wax by hand on two 40-foot hulls.
The stripper I’m using is working well but it became clear early on that I don’t have enough to take care of the real estate I have to cover. I’ve tried every product I can get my hands on locally but nothing touches it. That means I have to prioritize what we can do now and wait on the rest for another haul out. Still, EV will look so much better when we finish.
Meanwhile Jack took the port trampoline off in preparation for doing a messy fiberglass repair. There is a bit of separation in the joint between the hull and deck in this area. We checked inside and the boat is secure and tightly put together but the slight gapping on the outside could allow moisture to get into the core of the boat. Again, not the end of the world because the core is a material that will not rot, but this is a good time to seal it up well.
Walking around on the foredeck is a little scary without the trampoline and I have that height thing, you know. As sure-footed as we feel on EV in the water, maneuvering on a boat on the hard is a lesson is careful deliberation. Just climbing on and off is a thoughtful step-by-step process involving a foot bath to keep the boatyard grit off our decks.
I had done all I could do. Escape Velocity was perfectly lined up with a custom made trailer designed to pull catamarans out of the bay just like a sixteen foot runabout would be pulled out of a river or a lake. I guess that’s what triggered a childhood memory because as soon as the tractor started to strain pulling EV up the ramp I could clearly hear my dad yell,”Gun it, Myrt!” Myrtle was my mother and it was her job to drive our car with the boat trailer and, with any luck at all, our boat up out of the water while we where occupied pushing and pulling to keep it centered on the trailer. Our car was some model of Rambler and notoriously underpowered so once you got all this mass moving you did not want to stop.
“Gun it, Myrt!” I think she was worried about running over one of us.
It was great to see friends who had gathered to watch the haul-out but soon EV was blocked and sitting high and dry and we were alone with difficult projects to complete.
Life on the hard on a boat is no fun. While the boat is no longer moving I’m still in tune with the rhythm of the sea so moving about the boat for me is a series of lurches, usually into something painful.
Escape Velocity Is equipped with sail drives that look like the bottom half of an outboard motor. Keeping the the saltwater out and the oil in is the full time job of two little rubberish sort of donuts called lower shaft seals and because we didn’t know when they were last changed we decided to change them. Now, I don’t know how to do this and I’d like to take this opportunity to say to YouTubers that I don’t want to hear your favorite music tracks. Just leave the camera’s audio in. You might say something useful.
So, as I say, I don’t know how to do this and Volvo has not deemed it necessary to show their disappointed customers how. It seems the best one can hope for is one of those exploded views, you know, with all the bits and lines going every which way. Just as I was about to throw in the towel due to the shiny-pants folding propellor which was turning out to be problematic, can-do friends Kris and Dean showed up and after a short consult parts flew. They were on their way to a birthday party, now quite dirty, but unfortunately after a circumnavigation EV’s bearings and seals didn’t look anything like those YouTube videos. Maybe I was distracted by the music.
Well, the frustration level on Escape Velocity has peaked at eleven and not much has changed except for the boatyard classic plastic bags taped over the sail drives, the toilets are still 200 feet away and the only people working like dogs on their boat are Marce and me.
Chaguaramas is boatyard heaven, if you can use the words “boatyard” and “heaven” in the same sentence. Shoulder to shoulder they line the shores of Chaguaramas Bay and every one of them is packed with boats of all shapes and sizes. Many have been stored all summer while their owners return home for the hot months. Many more are hauled out for shorter periods for bottom jobs and other necessary out-of-the-water maintenance and upgrade work that all boats demand every couple of years. That will be us, too.
We hauled Escape Velocity soon after we bought her to replace rudder bearings and seals and paint the bottom with antifouling. We would like to have compounded and waxed the hulls but we had just dropped a bundle buying the boat and decided to let that job wait until next time. Besides, our boat had been repeatedly coated with Poli Glow, a preparation that had not aged well and which we didn’t want to continue. By all accounts we would have to either chemically strip it or sand it off before we could do the traditional compound and wax protection on the fiberglass. At the time we were not in the mood.
Trinidad is legendary for boat work. The legend seems to cycle between terrible and great, and lucky for us it’s in its waxing gibbous period. Labor is reasonably priced and high quality and we decided to haul a few months earlier than we really need to and take advantage of it. Generally boaters want to get two years out of antifouling paint and we’re only at a year and a half, but we’re heading for the Pacific soon and we figure it would be good to do it before then. Plus we want to service the engines and sail drives and maybe tackle the fiberglass on the hulls at last.
We had recommendations from friends on the yards they used and quotes from the most likely candidates. After we rested up from the passage south we dinghied ashore to check them out. We picked a yard based on the purpose-built trailer they use to haul out catamarans instead of the usual TraveLift, which always make me nervous. They scheduled us for 4pm Wednesday. That gave us a day to visit with friends and languish in an air-conditioned cafe drinking coffee and enjoying fast Internet for a change.
Wednesday afternoon we watched from the deck of Escape Velocity as the marina launched two big catamarans as easy as if they were little runabouts on a public boat ramp. Then our VHF sprang to life as they called to ask us our centerline width, and a few minutes later to say they were ready for us. This time our anchor chain came up with no problem and we motored toward the ramp.
This method of haul out is totally new to us. Jack was waved forward by the man driving the tractor as three men handled the trailer and the boat. They had never lifted a Manta before so they took a long time making sure the supports were in the right place and that EV was securely settled on the pads.
It was at this point that we noticed someone taking photos of us. It was Kris and Dean from What If who came to offer moral support and to see this method of haul out. To boat owners, a haul out is often a spectator sport. By the time Escape Velocity was blocked the peanut gallery doubled with the addition of the skippers from Moana Roa and Daydreamer.
Once we were safely on the trailer the real challenge began, driving a 40-foot catamaran through the crowded boatyard and squeezing her into a space just barely wide enough. We were blocked and leveled and power washed, ready for work to begin.
I had to smile at the thought. We’d been anchored in the same spot in Clarkes Court Bay just as you turn into the cut between Hog Island and the mainland for so long that I could imagine people missing the turn because Escape Velocity wasn’t there anymore. We were looking forward to an overnight sail to Trinidad. Several of our friends raved about a very pleasant sail south and that’s just what we were hungry for.
We had checked with three different weather resources who agreed that we would have moderate seas with 10-15 knots of East wind. The day had been odd with sudden gusts and periodic rain showers which always makes you wonder but today was the day so off we went. Our anchor chain came up well despite being very twisted from us swinging on it for three months, but when we got to the last fifty feet the twist finally got the best of the windlass and we had a righteous jam. I had to haul the last bit and the muddy anchor up by hand, and since we were heading out to sea I lashed the chain on deck as best I could and decided to unjam the windlass once we were in port.
As we motored out of Clarkes Court Bay it was obvious that the predicted 10 to15 knots of wind were instead a gusty 25 to 35 knots uncomfortably close to our destination which was south southeast. More headwind work for us but we would have a nice moon to keep us company and could make reasonably good time. We raised the sails and set our course in a chaotic sea state and that’s when we discovered the autopilot had decided it would not work again. That meant we would have to hand steer the beast all the way to Trinidad. And that meant two hours on watch and two hours off without a break, all night long, which is tough. We’ve had five “experts” tell us that they’ve fixed the damn thing only to have it fail as soon as we were far enough away that we wouldn’t want to go all the way back to have it refixed. One of my universal truths states that all autopilots work great in harbor and you can always tell an “expert” by the size of the bill.
The moon didn’t last long and soon after it set a nasty squall hit us with lots of lightning and sustained 45 knots of wind with rain. We forereached into the tempest but EV always handles this stuff better than we do. We were back to 25 – 35 knots but now it was on the nose leaving us little choice but to motor sail or tack. We choose the “iron genny”. By daybreak the wind had clocked around so that we just had enough angle to sail, which we happily did until we had to douse sails and motor through the cut into Chaguaramas Harbor.
As we entered the harbor Marce took the helm and I grabbed a medium sized persuader and an even bigger pry bar, walked with a purpose to the foredeck and got to work on the windlass chain jam. I really wanted that anchor available should the unthinkable happen. The odds against both engines stopping are not as high as you might think. I made quite a racket but got that sucker freed up and ready to deploy.
Friends had given us the skinny on the layout of the harbor so we sniffed around until we found Customs and Immigration right next to the fake lighthouse. As soon as we stepped off the boat Trinidad’s harsh sun smacked us and turned us into puddles but we found Haagen Das ice cream on the way to Immigration. Things were looking up. Now it was just a matter of finding a place to anchor because there were no empty mooring balls and very little space to anchor with reasonable depth. After weaving through the anchorage four or five times, Marce finally found a spot she liked and soon the engines were switched off.
Trinidad! Land of tiny TT dollars. Way too much math for my tastes but what can you do? We sussed out the Blue Machine ATM which is in a 6′ by 6′ cement block extremely well air conditioned hut and took out $500 TTD and felt like that would hold us for awhile until we did the math. That’s $78.12 USD. It’s going to take awhile to get used to these numbers.
Escape Velocity will be pulled out of the water on Wednesday. We have much work to do in the coming weeks.
You’ll remember we bought new chain in July and once it was onboard we promptly dropped a large part of it (and our anchor) into the bay where it’s been for the past three months. We’ve stayed put at first because we couldn’t use the mainsail while we waited for the replacement universal joint for the folder furling gear, and then because Jack was recovering from unexpected surgery on our Miami trip. It’s been a safe and secure hook but oh my! the mess on our chain and anchor bridle was the laughing stock of the anchorage. We’d had a few recommendations to let out 20 feet or so of chain once a week and let it drag back and forth on the bottom, then reel it back in. Supposedly that scrubs up the part that’s closest to the surface and the sunlight where the marine growth adheres. Did we do it? No. Lesson learned.
We finally steeled ourselves and attacked the mess. It was so bad we had to go link by link to dislodge the shells and weeds, pulling the chain on deck two feet at a time. We got the chain up and cleaned as far as where the anchor bridle attaches by a chain hook. It was a particularly big mess at the chain hook and Jack leaned over the bow with his giant screwdriver hoping to break off chunks of shells and muck. He dug the blade in and pushed and the chain hook came off the chain and we watched as the hook, the bridle and Jack’s favorite defensive weapon flew through the air and into the sea. Damn! Jack ran to the stern and came back with the boat hook.
“What are you doing?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine he thought he could retrieve a screwdriver lying on the bottom 25 feet below with a 10-foot boat hook..
“I think it might still be stuck on the bridle!” And with that he carefully hooked the line and eased it up, slowly so as not to dislodge the blade of the screwdriver if it was still there. I leaned over the bow and we watched as the line came into view. Yes! We could see the screwdriver, the point still stuck in the ball of muck, the handle hanging down precariously. Jack continued to coax the line up and I reached down as far as I could until finally I could snag the handle. Success! And teamwork!
It took a few hours to finish up the job and today our hands are sore with a gazillion tiny little cuts from the razor-sharp shells but the chain is all clean and ready for us to weigh anchor. Except for the anchor, of course, which we fully expect to be the beginnings of an artificial reef when we haul it up.
So maybe we shouldn’t stay in one place so long. We’ll take that under advisement.
We spent a comfy evening aboard Macushla and returned to Escape Velocity about 8:30. We tidied up and read for a while and just as we were both dozing off a deep rumbling sound traveled through the anchorage and our boat quivered and vibrated for about twenty or thirty seconds.
“What was that?!” Jack rolled over, unconcerned. “It’s the wind.”
I wasn’t convinced but by that time it had stopped and I went to sleep. In the morning as I was reading the news and checking email I saw a post on the Grenada Cruisers facebook page: Did anybody feel the Venezuelan earthquake?
Aha! That’s what it was. An earthquake! So that’s what it feels like on a boat. We were less than 100 miles from the epicenter; our friends in Trinidad are much closer. I fired off an email asking if they felt it. Nope, they said. Then a little later: well, maybe. They thought it was a powerboat leaving the marina.
So without feet on the ground it’s very hard to know that the earth is moving. This was a 6.0 quake but for us, it was nothing but vibrations.
You look at that photo and see a guy with a long box in a dinghy. I see sixteen months of dogged relentless determination.
Before we even found Escape Velocity we saw another Manta catamaran with a screen door that was the perfect solution for keeping bugs out of a boat. It’s called a Phantom retractable screen door. No problem. We’ll find one and buy it. Just finding out who is supposed to be selling these things was hard enough but no one we talked to seemed to have ever seen one, let alone have one in stock. The company website claimed they were available at Home Depot but every Home Depot we tried had never heard of it. Eventually we found it by flipping through the thick in-store catalogue and discovered that not only was it insanely expensive but it could only be sold and installed by a factory-certified installer. Add to that the order and shipping lead time and we were out of luck. It went on the back burner but Marce periodically searched the usual places nonetheless.
On July 14th she struck gold by finding one on eBay for $79US, and we pulled the trigger. We had it shipped to our good friends in Miami because we’d already been introduced to the joys of trying to import anything into Grenada. Maybe we can bring it back when we come home from our visit with my doctor in Florida. That’s when we found out that the five foot high screen door was in a seven foot long box. But it only had 1,200 miles to go.
I apparently was overheard complaining about shipping into Grenada when a fellow cruiser told us about the GPC global postal program which gives you an address in Miami for stateside shipping, then consolidates everyone’s packages into one big shipment to Grenada. Sign me up! We tested the system by ordering some boat parts and everything worked as advertised. The problem with our door was that it had already been shipped to a different address. A quick email confirmed that we could hand deliver the package so while we were in Miami we navigated our rented Fiat 500 through a network of back alleys to the Pakya warehouse and met Jorge, who introduced himself as our GPC Grenada man in Miami. We gave him the door. He gave us a receipt. No problem, no worries.
It didn’t take long before it was time to worry. The usual email saying that your package is in at GPC cryptically said that our package wasn’t in. What does that mean? They weren’t sure either. It was on the manifest, but it’s not at the post office. We stood at the GPC counter and looked blankly at the clerk. He said it was put on the plane in Miami but didn’t come off the plane in Grenada. Because of its size it wasn’t bundled on the shipping pallet with the rest of the packages but was just loose. They were working with the airline to find out where the plane was now. Marce asked, you mean it could be in the Philippines? Well, yes. We left the PO emptyhanded.
As time wore on we began to have that sinking feeling. Marce started to make insurance noises. I don’t want insurance, I want my screen door! I admit that I may have a superior stubborn streak that can get me into trouble on occasion. It’s just that we had come so close to having our own Phantom Sureview Retractable Screen Door With Track-Away System and Self Adjust Control.
Thats when Richard called with what he said was wonderful news. It’s here…here in Grenada? Here in the Post Office! Unbelievable. After making sure that I had my C-14 for customs and all pertinent papers I hopped into Catnip and tied up at the Woburn wharf, walked up to the bus stop, grabbed the #2 bus to St. George’s post office and there it was.
They seemed very happy to have come through for us but there was one last hurdle to negotiate and that was getting this seven foot long box into the #2 Woburn minibus. Three #2 Woburn buses passed me by without a glance when normally every bus stops and tries to talk you into going with them whether you’re going their way or not. Finally a bus with twenty-six school kids pulled up and the “conductor” — he’s the door man and fare collector — helped me stash the box and I climbed in. The school kids in Grenada all dress in uniforms and are for the most part delightful. In the US this would’ve been dreadful. They all wanted to know what was in the big box.
So dear Escapees any kind of victory is still a victory and I’d say this is another well-deserved victory for the home team. It was three months from purchase to delivery. Now we just have to install it.