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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Plip Plop Pluup

This post was actually written before leaving Trinidad in February (five countries ago) but it was unable to be completed before that voyage.  Therefore, be advised, we are currently in the Dominican Republic, not in Grenada as the post suggests.

You might envision a sailboat at rest to be very quiet and peaceful. The wind gently moves the boat from side to side. Maybe there’s the sound of an errant halyard that wasn't lashed down with a bungee. Easily remedied. Once again, calm returns. But sometimes one hears this soft little sound. 
Such an innocent little sound, almost playful. But “plop” is never a welcome sound on a boat.
"Did you hear a 'plip' sound?" "Shhh, I'm  trying
to listen, and stop breathing in my ear."
A few days ago, while we were installing battens in the mains’l I heard that sound. It was more of a “pluup” really. The sound of something heavy heading for the bottom of the sea. It was Carl’s short screwdriver, my personal go-to favorite. Sigh. Well, these things happen.

"Humans have a propensity to
drop things into the water." 
The next day we got out on deck early, hoping to get some work done before the sun’s heat would become oppressive. “Oppressive” tends to settle in by 9:00 AM in Trinidad, give or take an hour. As usual, the job took longer than planned so that by the time we had finished, we were both drenched in our own perspiration.  Afterward, Carl stood talking to a boat neighbor at the lifeline when I heard that sound again.  A very faint “plip.” His left hearing aide simply slid off his wet head and gravity did the rest. There is now one lucky crab in the harbor wearing Carl’s state-of-the-art hearing aide. It was brand new three months ago.  In another two years and nine months it’ll be replaced by insurance. I guess we’re back to shouting to each other once again.
"Did you know that there is
a lot of trash in the ocean?"

You see, the philosophy to acquire with sailboat living, is this. When you need one screw or bolt or whatever, always buy a few extra so that you have some to offer up to the sea. That philosophy is what I am sure, explains the huge amount of nuts, bolts, washers, screws, cotter pins, burrs, clips, shackles, and other such paraphernalia that was onboard when we bought Northern Star
"And big stuff, like this huge pipe, for example.
Why is that here?"

Of course, as previous boat owners, we had brought our own supply of nuts, bolts, et al with us when we moved onto the boat. I have organized them as best I can and then yesterday I came across another 20# box of nuts, bolts, et al. Some of them are undoubtedly destined for life underwater. If I knew which ones they were, I’d toss them overboard now in order to decrease the extra weight we’re carrying in advance, but alas....
"If I only knew which
things could be
pitched overboard now."

We have lost all sorts of things to the water. The most memorable was my new iPhone 6 a few years ago. I was carrying it in a pouch around my waist and when I threw my leg over the lifeline to get off the boat, the pouch handily flipped upside down and I saw my phone doing a graceful backflip on its’ way to the bottom. I can still see it, as if in slow motion. That was a particularly sad day for me. We have lost many screws and bolt type things before and after that. Once, a boat cushion floated away in the night, sight unseen.  It’s probably living happily with the boater that found it—and is just waiting for the day it will make another escape onto the water.
"What is a hearing aide, anyway?" "WHAT?
What did you say?"  "I said....oh, never mind."

"Why is that human lying on the ground?" "
"She's taking pictures of us. Oh, fer cute."
Last Thursday we were ecstatic to receive the package from the U.S. containing the *auto-pilot controller as ordered. The workman at Power Boats returned promptly and got the auto-pilot working properly again.  This was cause for celebration because it meant that we were ready at last, to sail away from Trinidad. Finally! 

So, late in the afternoon, we backed out of the slip which had been our home for nearly three additional unplanned weeks in Trinidad.  We motored out to the mooring field and picked up a mooring for the evening. We would clear out of Customs early in the morning and be on our way to Grenada. Yea! At last!

"And what is that crap over there?"
Using the pulley system, Carl lowered the bale which is the large U-shaped structure attached to the stern. The two legs of the bale articulate so that it can reach down to pick the dinghy up out of the water. The bale carries the dinghy up high when we’re under sail on big water. It is essential for ocean passages.  After the dinghy was in the water, he attempted to raise the bale once again. Instead we heard a “Ka-JUK” and loud “Scra-a-a-pe” at the stern. 
"I, for one, am getting tired of finding
human's junk in the ocean."

The bale would not come up.  He yanked it harder which only produced more interesting sounds, “Skwakz--SkEEEk-k.” That was the sound of the broken bale leg jamming itself even more decidedly into the gelcoat of the boat.  Deep gouges were raked across the surface of the port side. I was, shall we say, displeased to say the least.

Would we never be able to leave Trinidad? We have 450 nautical miles ahead of us to Curacao by Feb. 24 in order to catch our flight to Bogotá.  And now we have this large cumbersome stainless steel piece of hardware threatening to fall into the water. How to get it safely off the boat and to a stainless steel fabricator? The bale is longer and wider than our dinghy. It seems to be quite heavy, or is it just that the broken end has dug itself so tightly into the side of the boat that it’s immovable? Who knows?
The bale is that long stainless tubing that
picks the dinghy up from the water. 

We slept on it. Next morning, Carl says, “I think we can do this, Ardys.” 
“If you’re wrong, we lose it to the water,” was my helpful comment. And you’re the one who recently lost a screwdriver and then a hearing aide to the deep. One more and you’ve met the “bad news comes in threes” rule of thumb. Of course I didn’t say any of that out loud, following the old adage that “some things are better left unsaid.” But I was thinking it so loudly, he might have heard it vibrating off my brain waves.. 

"Can we talk? I'm gonna ask real nicely.  Please keep trash
out of the ocean. Even little stuff can kill guys like me."
Carl magically rounded up a young, well seasoned sailor from South Africa to help us. He  brought a cool head as well as a strong body to the project. Both invaluable. He seemed to know just how to go about removing the stainless steel structure, as well as how to prevent it from being swallowed up by the water. 

Somehow, Carl and I ended up in the dinghy, holding this unwieldy “U” with one leg extending off the back and one off the front. We schlepped it to shore, found the stainless welding shop and the skilled workman who was able to weld the hardware back onto the one broken leg. We were back on Northern Star with the repaired bale reattached and the pulleys restrung all by 10:30 AM! Sometimes we are amazed at our good fortune. I was so prepared for a huge “Pluupsh”

So, we made it to Grenada on Saturday in an uneventful 12 hour passage. There will always be the occasional unpleasant sound aboard Northern Star. “Aw….shit!” is one of them. This time it was heard when Carl recognized that he had poured salt into his coffee and breakfast cereal instead of sugar.  Well, these things happen too.

*We would not want to make a long passage without an auto-pilot. When there are ocean swells and a lot of chop, an auto-pilot can steer the boat better and more safely than we can. And it won't fall asleep on the job either. 

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