Monday, August 19, 2013

We Splash at Peakes

Preparing the boat to go back in the water was easier than getting it ready to haul out. We basically just put all the food back in the cabinets, took the protective covers off everything, and brought all our valuables out of their secret hiding places (I'm sure there's still some stuff we forgot hiding in some nook of the boat.)

On Aug 19th the crew came with the blue hydraulic lift truck, picked up Flying Cloud, and moved it the 1/8 mile back to the big Travel Lift, which lifted it off the hydraulic truck and gently plopped it in the water.

We wanted to stay at the dock again, but all the inside berths were full so we were forced to do a Med-moor on the outside of the dock. A Russian boat had lost his anchor in the stormy weather the day before and had taken both outer buoys to tie his boat off, so we were forced to drop our anchor and back into the main dock, something I’m not very good at. We couldn't seem to get the angle right so we tried to reposition the anchor but it was stuck to something on the bottom.

Making a good situation out of a bad one we figured the anchor wasn’t going to move so we wouldn’t have to worry about smashing into the dock. We took another couple of tries backing in against the side current and thanks to some very patient dock guys we finally got our two stern lines tied to the dock.

The next day a French single-hander tried to Med-moor next to the Russian but managed to bang into him several times as he attempted to back in against the current. Made for some interesting international relations.

We ended up calling our old friend, Eric off of Gabber, who rescued Meryl’s glasses before we left for Seattle and asked him if he wanted to try to rescue our anchor. Eric loves a challenge and spent 40 minutes with his dive knife trying to untangle our anchor from a mess of large lines littering the bottom.
Again he wouldn’t take any money so we just forced it on him with a smile.

Once all that was sorted out and we were feeling fairly good about our new bottom paint, polished topsides, and newly varnished hatches and companionway ladder, I made the mistake of trying to start our genset. Unbelievably it was seized, meaning the piston was rusted in place inside the engine and wouldn’t turn. This was the genset that we spend hundreds of dollars rebuilding just a few months ago in Puerto Rico. I made a couple of calls and found some local guys who work on gensets and asked them when they could come over. “Sure mon, how about in10 minutes?”  Now no marine vendor in my lifetime has every said he could come work on my boat in 10 minutes. As the British would say, I was flummoxed.

Two Trinidadians showed up and spent the better part of an hour trying to get the engine to budge. Finally, Ricardo, the tall thin one, asked me if I had any Coco Cola. Thinking he was thirsty I went to fix him a drink but then I found out he wanted to pour it into the engine. I quickly said “Hey Ricardo, we have all sorts of parts looseners like PB Blaster, WD-40 ….”  He cut me off mid-sentence, stared at me and in his best Barry White voice said, “Get me some Co--Co--Co--La,” pronouncing each syllable like a third-grade teacher. Not having any Co--Co--Co--La, I jumped off the boat and was prepared to run one mile to the convenience store when I saw a big sport fishing boat offloading some fisherman on the dock next to us. “Excuse me, skipper, can I borrow a Coco Cola?” He laughed and said “Are you that thirsty,” and I replied, “No, it’s for my engine.” A plastic bottle of Coco Cola came soaring through the air with me back pedaling down the dock like an NFL defensive back going after a one-handed reception. Richard smiled as I handed him the Coke. Turns out Coke has phosphoric acid, which does a great job of dissolving rust without ruining the surrounding metal.

So for the next week we went through daily soaks of Coca Cola, with the engine moving just a little bit more each day. After several more exotic concoctions involving motor oil, ATF fluid and God knows what, Raymond, the chief mechanic, threw in the towel and said they had to remove the engine and take it back to their shop. I was getting fairly good at taking gensets out of my boat so we had it in the dingy in less than 30 minutes. It helped that one of the helpers was from Guyana was built like a NFL tackle. He could lift the genset by himself for short distances.

To make a very long genset story short, the guys took the genset apart (again), used a metal torch to free the frozen piston and rings, reground the cylinder walls, and put it all back together. More importantly they discovered the cause of the problem:  from Day One the exhaust riser (which I had rebuilt twice) was designed wrong. The riser takes the exhaust gases from the engine and mixes them with the hot cooling water and pushes them out the side of the boat (that’s the water you see splashing from the sides of boats). On the original design the exhaust water entered the downhill side of the exhaust loop, so salt water would drip down on the valves and into the cylinder head causing rust to build up. As long as you were using the genset everyday, the rust would be burned off, but leave the boat for a month and it would rust itself shut. The new (third) riser was built with a higher loop to prevent water from backing up and with the water intake on the downhill (farthest from the engine) side. The genset now runs great and reliably, but something tells me this isn’t the end of the genset saga.

After a long day working on the boat in the Trinidad heat we looked forward to a cold beer and an outstanding hamburger.
To help mitigate our trauma over the genset issues we retreated to the Zanzibar Restaurant at Peakes Boatyard. Normally a restaurant in a boatyard would be terrible, but this one had a great view and a great chef.  As Americans who know their hamburgers, we complemented the chef on one of the best hamburgers we’d ever had. As I’ve always said: a great hamburger dims the anguish of a broken genset.

I had become fond of drink called Sorrel, which is made from the red flowers of the Sorrel plant. It's usually brewed during Christmas time as a celebratory drink, but I found out they also made a beer out of it. I was in seventh heaven.

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