Sunday, June 23, 2013

Just a perfect day...

For this post we'd like you to sing 'perfect day' by Lou Reed to yourself as you read.  If you don't know it or would like a little help, here it is from you tube.  Just click on the play arrow and Lou will serenade your experience of our day...

Roger, our carpenter landlord and Ivan, our Bulgarian friend who is working on another Alajuela 38 nearby, have both been instrumental in the success of our project.

Ivan is a fount of knowledge on all things Alajuela; particularly on design and history; he has loads of books and has done a lot of research which we draw upon often.  Roger has been there with us day in day out whilst we were on his land; lending an ear for our conundrums, offering helpful advice, lending us tools and on plenty of occasions outright teaching us how to do stuff.

We have learned so much from them both that this was their day...

We called Ivan this morning to tell him that today was the day and his reply was characteristic;

'I've been to check; there is no wind',

He can be a bit of a glass half empty kind of a guy.

Then we called Roger; his reply was also pretty characteristic;

'Great, we'll meet you at two, can I bring my boys along and should we bring anything?  Perhaps some ice?'

So it was sorted.

Roger kindly picked up our new (old and battered) spinnaker pole for us at the junk (sorry 'Texas boaters' resale) shop and then picked me up at Blackburns, our marine wholesaler to give me a lift back to the boat.  We'd decided to splash out on brand new jib sheets as our older ones were not long enough for our immense genoa.

We headed out around three and motored out of the channel flagged on all sides by roaring 'cigarette' boats which had been racing and playing poker in Galveston this weekend.  These things have typically two to four engines in them, go up to 80-100mph and make a colossal racket (oh, and consume upwards of a gallon of fuel per minute flat out).

As we pointed our way out of the channel, these powerful boats were all over and were being photographed by a very low flying helicopter.

Once we set our sails it calmed right down, the engine was off by the second channel marker and we were whizzing along at 6 knots.

Then followed an absolutely blissful few hours of sailing.  We weren't really going anywhere; just sailing about, trying her out and enjoying the afternoon sun.

There was just the right amount of wind...

Just the right amount of warmth...

Just the right amount of sunshine...

The right company...

Oh, and just the right amount of wind.

I was unceremoniously dumped (my idea) in the dinghy to bob around and take these photographs while Duncan and the others sailed her on all points of the wind.

 Everyone had a go steering her and a bit of rope handling but mainly we all just sat around beaming at what a beautiful day it was to be on such a beautiful boat.

Then eventually we felt it was getting later and we should head in, so we sailed right the way back up the channel and across the lake back to her mooring.  We did the last 30 meters by engine as it required us to turn around in a tight spot, then we came to a nice peaceful rest.

Rogers' wife Lynn brought us Mexican food and we all sat together in the cockpit as the last remnants of sunlight fell out of the day and up rose the full moon.

It could not have been more perfect.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The last job...

I always get a little excited with the prospect of a new project.   Usually I've thought about the next project for a while before hand, so I embark upon the new task like a puppy dog on speed.  Our fridge was no exception.

From the out set let me make absolutely clear this is not the last job Ruth or I have to do.  But it is the last job that I have to start whilst in America.

Why ? 

Insulation. The better our insulation the better our fridge will perform. We have chosen what we would refer to in England as Celotex (a brand name) its r value (if you are in to these technicalities) is around 7 per inch.  We have gone with the recommended dimension of six inches around the fridge with a lesser amount around the top.

Despite the heat, and need for insulation in homes here in Texas, insulation thicker than ½'' is hard to come by.   Ivan, as always, had done the research for this in advance, having sourced a supplier where we could purchase thick insulation.  A kindly offer of a lift there saw us collecting insulation before the true heat of the day was upon us.

Having collected the insulative board, we drove back discussing the merits of the respective designs we had conceived.  Also the insanity of it.  Though substantial boats, in the grand scheme of things our boats are tiny; onboard our 38 feet must go everything we have, from tools to provisions.  Yet when we consider how much insulation to have, we opt for six inches.  This, we fear, is a far cry from the insulation in a typical household fridge; or for that matter within the walls of houses here.  Why?  The reason, of course is energy.  We will have to make all the electricity used by the fridge, so despite the space we have on board in comparison to a house; energy efficieny drives our decisions.

The process of fitting the insulation is a laborious one.  Measuring the size for one face, cutting an apropriate piece then repeating until the desired thickness is achieved.  It gives me time to wonder whether fridges with six inch insulation would ever catch on in households...  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Our First Sail!

The day that was planned came and went due to weather and not quite being ready...

A few tears and disagreements were had in front of our friends, but they understood.

Then the day really did come...

We borrowed our friends fancy rig tension tool and tightened ourselves up.  After the thunder storms had cleared again, we headed out.

I can only say sorry, it wasn't a very picturesque day, but it was very very very special for us.

There was breeze around 10 to 12 knots where we sailed happily and steadily on three different courses from and to the wind and then it died.  So we had to motor home.  She's a beauty though.  

All performed wonderfully and we got up to 6 knots on a close haul, as though it could have been any other way...

This is that same bridge we were videoed going over on the truck, there's definitely plenty of clearance but it didn't look like it...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Raising a mast...

'Its up', said the bishop to the actress; phew...  

Generally all went well; well...i mean, it went up.  I remember pushing Star Shells' mast up with a bear of a friend of mine once. It went up too, but god know's how.

So our principle problem was that we'd prepared the mast the wrong way round, front to back.  Easily resolved by turning the mast through 180 degrees.  

This roll Ruth found most alarming, not being yet accustomed to our mast bending so much, since all the weight was being taken in one place.  

Now done, the ropes for steadying the mast whilst it was to be lowered were the wrong way round.   As were the ropes for securing once in place, as, was for that matter, everything! 

I had spent hours detailing this little assortment of lines to avoid the snakes picnic that ensued.  Let it be known that in this yard masts are suspended from the fore; that means the choker loops around the mainsail track. Even if its been flown from England and looks so beautiful that one wouldn't be naturally inclined to load the masts' entire weight upon one portion of it.

Problem one surmounted; turn through 180 degrees.  The next wee deposit of strife was our copper sulphate solution; wood preserver.  

This poured out of the lower portion when the mast was upright. We'd poured it in a week prior and had been rotating the mast periodically to encourage it to soak around.  We had not however anticipated that it would still be present and would pour out all over poor Jose' as we moved the mast.  It got out through a gap next to the wire conduit and accounts for any green splatters you may see on any subsequent photos.

We walked it across the yard with our willing helpers along with the crane without incident and then...

Does the mast fit in the hole?  Regardless of its propensity to ooze green goo everywhere... Not quite.  We had padded the mast too well.  Like a fat father Christmas we had to shed a layer before the mast would slip down its proverbial chimney.  So slide down it did, the base located easily and did NOT destroy anything in its path.  Now to secure....

The mast coming indoors to stay...

Ok this is an opinion, but here in the States things cost by the hour or multiples there of.  So if; like us, you think you'll use an hour, thats cool, right???  Not quite, they get bored quick and then give you looks like 'shouldn't this have only taken twenty minutes.... '  

No is our perceived wisdom as we scatter around our boat picking up the pieces of Medussa's ultimate bad hair day... remember our mast is new, as are our wires. The only way to be sure of the length is to cut the length in place.  We were reasonably confident of our maths but did not want to be wrong...

So the crane guys were itching to go and as soon as enough ropes had been secured sufficiently, we de-craned the mast.  We wanted not to be hurried when it came to wire chopping time.  All is good; it stays up! 
The next trick is to remove the crane from the mast.  We'd originally put a rope on the crane hook and the choker for just this problem however during the move someone had seen fit to remove these.  A ladder came in handy for this but a less rusty one that did not jump would have been preferable.

With the crane gone we could relax a little.  Thats' code for 'time for a beer'.   The mechanical ends went on in only slightly more time than all the ropes were tensioned.  Angle grinders whirring and sparks flying.

Before long my third beer soothed the final application of hi-mod fittings and we were ready to move.  Remember beers here are small; we're talking less than a proper pint (for all three).  Those of you who know Ruth and I will appreciate, that's quick.

Oh I forgot there was a third problem, or was it fourth.. the roller furling slipped off the forestay during the lifting process despite being supposedly secured with a rope.  Actually this was a blessing.  We were then able to tweak the length of the roller furling more accurately once we had a definite length for the forestay and it wasn't too bigger deal to fit it retrospectively. 

This is our homemade high tech bosuns' chair complete with lots of tool retaining strings.

Finally, Ruth having gallantly scaled the mast three times (she actually likes it!) we have roller furling and all stays and shrouds. 

What we also have is a beautiful mast.  Really beautiful.