Cruising and Death

I write this blog in an effort to share the cruising lifestyle with others of the same interest; it’s not written to put forth my personal values and beliefs although I’m sure those do creep through.  I endeavor to share the  positives and negatives while I’ve made some effort to avoid bringing my non cruising friends and family into it.  I know some cruising blogs are a sales effort, that is their purpose is to ensure that others see their post and want their boat or their lifestyle and when the current cruisers decide to sell out they’ll have a ready market. I’ve never been that smart. I prefer to tell it like I see it. Cruising is  not a vacation. Cruising is not a fantasy, Cruising is  not Disney World.  We live much as others except we live often farther from others and we have an opportunity to experience  life from quite often a different vantage point. Here however I must break with my self imposed conventions and share with you my most recent experience.

An avid blog reader might remember my post of when a loved one was first diagnosed with stage 4  Prostate Cancer. I’ll say now that he was my step father. We were in Granada and I thought I might have to travel back to the states then. That time came and passed.  I needn’t return because although it was stage 4 no one thought George was on his last legs.  Since that time my mother and stepfather moved twice and went out to lunch most every day. My stepfather had entered Hospice also at  that time and a year later my family and I joked (what else could we do) that he was going to be the longest living Hospice person ever. He may have come close because he lived almost two full years after entering Hospice.

Finally his time had arrived. W/ and I and the boat are in Sapzurro, Colombia ; where there are no cars, no airports, there is phone service, a few restaurants and just a few stores.  Approx 3 days ago I received an email from my sister that George had been taken to the hospital.  We emailed back and forth a bit and I offered to fly back to Florida.  I figured at the worst it would be a 5 day one way  trip, clear Immigration in Colombia, a small boat ride  to Obaldia Panama (again no roads in or out of there), if lucky a flight out that day or most likely the next  to Panama City, then if lucky fly that day or most likely another overnight, then to Orlando then with my niece or nephew to moms place.  Wendy would have had to stay with the boat.

My mom said to stay she’d be ok. Her adult grandchildren are there, my sister is on her way and she’s a farm girl. The farm girl doesn’t rid one of grief but does IMHO provide one a  healthy perspective on life’s cycle.  So I stayed.

My stepfather passed in the night. My mother and he had been together for almost 38 years, my entire adult life. They had become more then a couple. They were a single working being. Early in their marriage they traveled N. America in their Motor Home. Later they commuted to Texas and back home to Iowa . I remember when mom told me that as George’s eyes weren’t as sharp anymore, and they wanted to built a small wooden porch on the back of their place in Texas how she helped.  George’s brain stayed sharp to the end.  While in his head he could design the steps he just couldn’t see well enough to start and hammer a nail in alone. My mom held the nail while he started it and then finished hammering it home; I’m thinking by then that mom didn’t have her hand on the nail as she still has all her fingers!  That’s trust, that’s working together. That’s a unique marriage and a unique couple.

About two years ago mom was driving George to the Doctor.  On the way from the car to the office George fell in the parking lot and I really don’t remember how bad of a fall; bad enough that one the Dr’s assistants came rushing out to help. However;  when they next had an appointment George commented that “He’s the first Dr he’d ever fallen for”!  Always a sense of humor, sharp as a tack till the end.

He loved cars, planes, life and people. When he was younger he earned the Carnegie Medal of Honor by saving a boy’s life in the Mississippi River.  He was a good man, and by extension a good human being.  Anyone, choosing to emulate his life could only help to improve humanity.

I’ll miss him but I too know that we all travel his path.  He died relatively quickly and quietly with my mom at his side.  Can we wish for anything better during our last moments on this Earth?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Playin

We’ve left Cartagena. Gone is the breeze filled with greasy dust, gone are the sounds of the city, gone is the constant boat traffic. We had a pleasant sail 15 nm S to Chalon.

Anchored Chalon
Anchored Chalon

We’re anchored here waiting on weather to head to the San Blas Islands, about 150 miles W of here.

So while we wait we play. Robert (an ex – pat) has a house and a converted Shrimp boat that we’ve spent a couple of evenings on telling tales.

We’ve met some more cruisers that are slowly moving to Cartagena or on to the San Blas. We’ve done a little laundry as well as a few of the constant maintenance items all boats require.

And we took a walk to the town of Baru Village (for more pics look at Valentina‘s site and scroll 1/2 way down).  About 4 miles distant we went with Sonny and Kay

Main Stree Baru, Colombia
Main Stree Baru, Colombia

(sv Valentina)  as our tour guides,  and two other sets of cruisers.  As we traversed the rutted rock hard road, best called a super wide path or trail; we stopped at all the establishments along the way, a small Tienda (store), two resorts (Sport Baru and Playa Scondida ), met a few of the Colombians that Sonny and Kay know, watched a dog fight (not planned), dodged all the motor cycles and eventually made it to town.

The motor cycles are the principal mode of transportation along this coast, that and boats. Chalon is really an island and to get from the island to the mainland one either takes the ferry or a water taxi. A few cars take the ferry as well as anyone with a great deal of supplies. The water taxi will take individuals for about $8 US one way and if you want to make a return trip from Cartagena you have about 2-3 hours to do your shopping or you stay overnight.

Exotic Food, Baru, Colombia
Exotic Food, Baru, Colombia

In Baru we had  a palatable dinner for W and I along with drinks for approx 11 bucks US. Then we strolled some more till we found a house that sold ice cream for 50 cents US.  We passed the school,

Chicken Arena, Baru, Colombia
Chicken Arena, Baru, Colombia

strolled by the new Chicken Fighting arena, observed that everyone does have a job in the community,  and met another local who runs a large water taxi that moves goods from and to the Rosarios (a tourist island -park) , Cartagena, Chalon, and Baru. He’s having new planks put in his boat and expects to be up and running again this month.

Lunch or Dinner?
Lunch or Dinner?

We stroll back the same road, tell more tales, we travel a little slower and I actually ended up with a blister on my right foot!  I’m not really use to wearing shoes, even tennis shoes for that long or that far.

We ended up at Jaime’s (Himey’s). He’s the caretaker of some property that a reputed drug (note: reputed) lord owned. The owner hasn’t been seen in almost a year and a half. How properties continue then to be cared for, taxes paid, and caretakers paid is beyond me. I’m guessing that the rent is free and what ever they earn off the property is theirs right now.  But Jaime and his family are pleasant and cruiser friendly. They even do laundry for cruisers should one need that service. If we stay long enough we’ll have them do our towels and sheets.

Hopefully we’ll be heading to the San Blas in a day or so. Our internet connection will be no more when we leave so blog updates will not be as frequent as they’ve been. I know I can set up the blog to read an email act that I have,  but I confess I’ve been too lazy to do that. For you and  I, I’m thinking the break will be good. I’ll write next in the San Blas if all goes to plan.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Day O, Daaaay Uno

As we began to pull the anchor W/ said the engine sounded funny when she put the boat into gear. Up to this point she (Elysium) had purred like a kitten! We had added fuel about a week ago and when we moved her to the fuel dock and back she purred then too. How things on a boat can literally fall apart when not in use of beyond me.

Ok!  I had only pulled up half of the chain and we had been stuck for 10 days with quite a breeze blowing through the anchorage. So; feeling that we would still be stuck for 30 minutes or so I left the bow and went to investigate.  After listening  to the drive train and W/ putting the engine in gear then back out of gear I discovered that the noise was from the Shaft Lok.  I figured the set screws had worked their way loose. Find the right Allen Wrench and tighten them up (there are two) and we’ll be on our way.

Elysium, Elysium, Elysium …. you’re moving” we heard on the VHF as Kaija’sSong called us. I stuck my head up the companionway and indeed we had moved 100 m downwind. I ran forward and let out some more chain till we stopped moving.  Thanks for good cruising friends. Good, now back to the Shaft Lok.

I struggled to find the right size Allen Wrench. Although we put the lock in an  accessable place that

Is it there or is it not?
Is it there or is it not?

doesn’t mean all parts of the unit are easy to get to. After 10 minutes of struggle I came to doubt that the set screws actually were in the holes. Holding a mirror there, it was next to impossible  to twist and see so I did what any 21st century man would do; I took a picture of it. I held a camera over the spot and viola! I had the info I needed.  Oh how lucky I was, the set screws were still in the hole. Now to find the correct Allen Wrench, then get the wrench to drop into the socket to set the screws, tighten and we’ll  be on our way.

We ended up having to get the Shaft Lok manual out to find the correct size Allen Wrench. I couldn’t see the set screws and trying to feel upside down, reaching aft with one hand and trying to get the wrench to drop in was proving more difficult then ever. (Note to self:  Write on the unit the size of the Allen Wrench needed).

With the manual out we found the correct size Allen Wrench and I proceeded to match the wrench to the hole, tighten for all my twisted up mite, then switch to the other screw. The manual says to tighten to 28 ft lbs. That will have to wait till Colombia. We started the engine, checked for the noise – gone – time to go.

An hour later then when we initially started the anchor is  now up and we’re on our way out of the harbor. After saying goodbye to our friends in the anchorage we motored slowly offshore. When we hit deep water and lost our soundings we turned to about 290 degrees magnetic and rolled out the Yankee. The boat soon reached her stride and we went screaming away at about 8 – 9 kts.  Finally the water and the wind will both be at with us for this trip.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Damn I’m MAD, MAD, MAD!

When sailing or cruising you read a lot. If you’re not a reader and you spend much time on a boat you will become a reader.  How many times can you watch Waterworld or Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons (a really fine movie BTW)?  So you read.  We heard tell of a fight that erupted on an extended ocean passage. A thousand miles from any land one of the crew threw out an empty cereal box!  The crew member on watch went ballistic!

“Why did you do that” they yelled?

“Because it was empty!”

“But I hadn’t read it yet!!!!”

When we were in the US for a wedding a few months ago we ordered over 30 books. Now that’s not all we’ll read because cruisers have an active trading community whereever we go. But when we find an author we like by trading we’ll often fill in the missing books by purchasing them. So we did. And once we have the books I’ll go and read all from the same author. I’ll read in the order published because sometimes authors like to keep characters active in newer novels and I enjoy having the knowledge of what’s happened to that character in the past.

So I’m currently reading all the Steve Berry books we bought. They’ve been for the most part fun reads although it seems like none of the stories start till almost 100 pages into the book.  Fortunately the books are narrow tall and thick so one hundred pages of those books is really somewhere about 50 pages in a real book. (Must be a new marketing tool to make consumers think they’re getting real value for the buck).  I’m on my 4th or 5th Berry book; The Third Secret, and  just getting into the story. I finish chapter 17 and read the fist page of chapter 18 BOOM! On the next page the sentence doesn’t match. Nor the next, nor the next.  I figure; hell, they’ve added a section accidentally and skip ahead to find where my sentence sees the light.  I go from page 130 to 83, then count up to page 130 again and BOOM!  Page 179.  Where are my missing pages.  Currently I’m not a happy camper. I’ve looked on Amazon’s site and find a couple of my missing pages in their book teasers but not 25!  So what do I do. It’s Sunday.  I can send off some scathing emails, they won’t get them till tomorrow, I can buy  (again) an electronic version  – that may tick me off more; I can see about finding a site to download it; that takes too much time; or I can just skip 25 pages and continue reading hoping I’ll be able to fill in the missing pieces. Damn!

Notice I didn’t link to any  sites related to my dilemma; not Berry’s not Amazons, and nothing on The Third Secret. It’s my big act of defiance today.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

AquaGen Followup

The offending Bolt
The offending Bolt

Well, she’s back together.  At least 98%. I”m not satisfied with that so when we’re in Trinidad I’ll have to take it apart and put it 100% right.

Monday went as follows: Started out locating and getting some 6mm SS  bolts at Budget (not) Marine in Grenada.  I rode a friend’s bicycle to town and just so you know; I walked up a couple of the hills or what they refer to as mtns. Wanted  to get some of the stronger steel bolts  but couldn’t find them. Tried the Toyota dealership the BMW dealership (have found what I’ve needed at auto dealers before) and Ace Hardware.  I ended up with 10   6 mm x 3/4″ and 2  6mm x 5/8″  SS A-80 bolts. I wanted all 5/8″!

So once back on the boat I spent a goodly amt of time in the engine room using a hack saw and cutting  the

Me and My Long Arms
Me and My Long Arms

longer bolts down ! Then I filed  the ends so the threads would be good. Now remember it is hot here and the boat doesn’t have AC and even if it did with the generator down we wouldn’t have AC anyway. So I’m shirtless cutting the bolts in the engine room and after every 30 minute or so I  take a 5 – 15 minute break.

Once the bolt lengths were all correct I went about cutting a new gasket out of the cork gasket material with the black stuff embedded in it.  I used the gasket silicone on it. What a PITA on the Aquagen.

When the Aquagen works she’s a dream, but working on it isn’t.

After we got the coolant  top  that the compressor attaches all gooped up  I began to put the new gasket on the engine with all the gasket sealant. About  half way installed, I discovered there is one bolt that won’t naturally turn down. It’s the one by the SS tubing Aquamarine added to  hold the compressor. I have to put that bolt in first and then turn it down, then put the others in. @#$%^#$^. to say the least. I removed what I had already

It's the bolt behind
It's the bolt behind

installed; lifted the gasket with the goo off and proceeded to put the single PITA bolt in and turn it down so the gasket all fits correctly. I proceeded to install the other bolts and once they’re all in, put the compressor back on. I notice the compressor fits  snug (physically touching) to  the bolt that was broken off. DAMN!  Maybe that was the cause of the broken bolt.  So I remove the compressor and take the locking washer off the offensive bolt (yes I considered it offensive by now) !  If the bolts are torqued properly the locking washer shouldn’t be needed anyway. Off it comes –  change out the washer and put the compressor  back on. Put it all back together and an hour or two later start it up.

What I started out to do was simply replace the gasket on the water pump with one made out of a waterproof chart paper and tighten down one bolt on the coolant cover that was leaking coolant (I was afraid the cup seal wasn’t the perfect size).  I’m not getting any water out of the gasket  but the cup seal is still leaking.  And with the cup seal leaking I”m getting a small amt of saltwater spray sent all over the front of the engine room. Then too I see a little green up by one of the bolts for the coolant at the top of the engine!  DAMN and that wasn’t all I said. So like a good sailor I jury rigged a fix. I wasn’t interested in taking it all off and starting over, I’m tired and it’s a been a long day. I don’t have the bolts I would prefer and I don’ t have  perfect replacement gasket. I used a fender washer for a  1/4″ bolt and cut a gasket out of the same cork material and gooped it up to and then installed the bolt.  Finally it’s not leaking but it ain’t pretty.  When I torqued the bolt down (BTW I looked it up and they’re only torqued to 7 ft lbs or so and I may easily have over torqued the others the last time when I had this off to put the vent plug in that Aquamarine suggested) the cork with the gasket goo squeezed out quite a bit!

Thus I’m wondering if I wasn’t to not use the gasket goo on the cork impregnated with something gasket?  If W/ had pulled out the  gasket paper I would have used that instead.  As luck would have it she pulled out the cork gasket material.

When we get to Trini I’ll  redo the top plate. The generator will be 100%. Right now it’s holding the coolant  but I don’t want to remain this way on a passage. That would be a bigger PITA should it fail there. And I fear that if I leave this for any length of time the antifreeze will react with the bolt, the cover and the Aluminium block  making  the bolt much more difficult to remove.

Go Slow
Go Far
Stay Long

Cruising . . . Death and Dying

Weird how visual acuity changes while  out here cruising. You see all the magical hooks and lines that attach you to  places and people much more clearly. While involved in work, or play  in a place you’ve stayed for any length of time the hooks and lines weave around you; psychically, and often physically , surrounding you as a spider does with its prey. But as you begin to cruise all the ties that bind you become more apparent. The farther you cast your selves from shore the clearer they become.

I’ve tried to not post a lot of personal family stuff here as I’m of the thinking that some of the  people I may write about don’t wish to end up on a  public forum.

But; right now a family member  has stage 4 cancer. When you go cruising; life doesn’t stop for those that are land based.

Years ago; 30 years or there abouts, we were cruising the N loop in the Caribbean and the two forms of communication were snail mail and land lines. There was no internet, no cell phones, no pactor modem.  In the approximately 15 months we were out we picked up mail maybe 6 times. That left a window of  4 to 10 weeks between communication with back home.  We phoned the US maybe 4 times. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive in the Caribbean then and we had tried to cruise on about $10 / day (it ended up at about $15 / day if truth be told). During our year one of W’s favorite aunts died.  She passed away, had the funeral, and was buried weeks before we knew. Out there; sailing in the deep blue,  30 years ago, you grieved alone.

Now a  near and dear  relative is close to the end of their life’s tunnel. What to do? How many trips can a cruiser make back to family in any given time frame?  We just went back for my nephew’s wedding. Should we return again? Will a return effect our transiting the canal at the right time of year?  Will it hold off our leaving he Caribbean? Will we regret not going back? Questions bounce around in my head like a pin ball being played by an experienced player. Questions  with no clear cut answers.

I’ve always bragged that I’m socially illiterate. In some ways I honestly am and others not. But I try to be conscientious. And what my conscious tells me is all a mess.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long