Friday, June 13, 2014

Sticking Our Noses Out Again

We made another brief boat trip away from the slip at South Side Marina on Sunday and we took a KAP rig along. You already know what's coming next, I bet.  My kite aerial photography fetish is well documented here. It's become another official hobby in a lifelong list of them. If I wasn't such a namby I'd just face the hard truth that I still like to play with toys and if I haven't grown up by now the chances of it ever happening are getting about as thin as any three-year-old's excuses.

 We went out Sunday looking for a spot with smooth water to 'drop the hook' for a few hours  while we worked on various  boat projects.  We were ready for a tiny taste of cruising on our boat again, if even for only a few hours.  A change of view, and a chance to try out a few things on the boat.  Run the engines. Yank on various cranks, ropes and pulley blocks.  Drop the anchor.  And then retrieve the anchor and see if our windlass is still haunted.  You know, all that nautical stuff that's supposed to prevent things like  mutinies, walking planks, keel hauling, marriage counseling and insurance claims.

You can see that we managed to put a small island between ourselves and the oncoming wind.   Small islands and large rocks can be real handy for that.    It wasn't an exceptionally rough day but just bumpy enough to be annoying when chasing round objects around on the deck.  Or small dogs.  We like this spot and it's only a couple of miles from our home marina.  Nice place for a picnic whether we go ashore or not.  Seen any coral heads or submerged rocks around here lately?

I noticed in these photos  that the wave pattern around the cay is converging  at a spot just  behind where we anchored the boat.  What we'd done in practical terms was to creep up toward the beach until we got to the edge of the smoothest water.  And still have plenty of wind to keep the boat at this angle because the current here is running parallel to the cay.  If we go closer, the island deflects the wind and the current would swing us toward those rocks on the right.  The hatch ventilation on this boat is phenomenal when she's free to swing into the wind. I need to fabricate a bridle.

We hadn't really intended to take the boat out  that morning.  We were planning to loaf around the house for awhile and then head down to the marina  for some more work on the boat.   The weather was finally beginning to moderate after several days of blowing hard enough  to fold eyelids over.  Dooley's ears were beginning to fray at the edges.   Finally, we had a calm day.  We even had an interesting sun to photograph.  Hey!  Something OTHER than a sunrise or sunset.

I don' think that I can properly call that  a sun dog.  It doesn't exactly have the two bright spots mentioned in the Wikipedia article in that link. In researching it I found out that this type of halo is also called a nimbus, icebow, or gloriole and  is caused by ice crystals.   Imagine, no naturally forming ice for thousands of miles in every direction, except for 3 miles directly overhead where we have no chance of reaching it.  We chose to use it as a favorable omen which we quickly translated into a flimsy excuse to do what we really wanted to do anyway.  Which was to take the boat out for a trial run.  Don't you just love self justification?

We've continued to work on our diesel engine issues chasing down the source of an air leak in a fuel system.  And for the first time in two years, we were able to just relax and drive the boat.  What a novel feeling of control to have two functioning engines.   No wonder people like doing this.  It's relaxing when you subtract all the stressful noise and drama that I put everyone through during panicky dead stick landings.  Even after a dozen experiences, each new one is different.

It was tempting to put a photo starburst effect on the glint off this chrome dome of mine, but I resisted.   It's bad enough without my help.

We took Twisted Sheets out of South Side and motored upwind for half an hour with both engines still running.  I suspect that I don't need to tell you why we go into the wind on these trials.  We've found it good to minimize worrisome feelings whenever possible.

So we motored hard for half an hour upwind and things were going so smooth we decided it was safe to turn around and motor back downwind. The engines ran great for over an hour.  Both of them.  It made me highly suspicious, and I was tempted to dive down below decks and to tweak something just out of habit. They did each quit once when I reduced power to idle suddenly.  But they started back up and behaved after that. Even during docking.  It makes boat handling deliciously easy when you can rotate in place.  And on purpose.  

We got brave enough to risk heading out a little further from shore this time.  I mean, we're not really worried about getting home.  This is, after all, a sailboat and it has sails and we've got that first thousand miles behind us.  But this trip was supposed to be all about the newly repaired for the umpteenth time engines.  Anyhow, things were going well . We superstitiously touch wood and we've noticed convenient shiny spots on this boat's wood already. I think it's a naval tradition.   We went out to one of our favorite local cays and picnic spots.  We picked this smooth water in the lee of Bay Cay. Our home sailing grounds.  

Notice the boat's eye view of the water off the tip of Bay Cay in this photo compared to the bird's eye view in that first image.  Perspective makes a huge difference in the ability to see into the water.   That's why sportfishing boats have towers on them.  And seabirds can spot their next fish so easily.

 I hopped over the side to make sure the anchor was  set and that we could relax and work on the boat. Dooley our diminutive drooling dingo derivative was downright depressed, disgusted and dejected  that he didn't get to jump overboard with me. He has appointed himself permanent Dive Master and Official Worry Wart and he keeps a keen eye on us when we're in the water. We have a problem on this boat getting him into and out of the water easily. We hope to get a swim platform some day, but in the meantime we'll have to come up with something else. Dog Rescue Drill right now consists of snagging his life jacket with a boat hook and hauling Dooley the Diving Dervish back onto the boat at the end of a pipe.  He's terrible at climbing vertical ladders.  He blames it on useless thumbs.

I swam around the boat with a scrub brush and cleaned off the raw water inlets for the engines, refrigeration and plumbing.  The boat has been tied at the dock since October, except for our one previous outing.  And we didn't get into the water that time.  It's way overdue for a hull scrubbing. Stuff grows on hulls in marinas. Some of it moves independently.

After we finished up the few things we wanted to accomplish on this Sunday afternoon we decided to put one of the kites up with a camera and see what all this looks like from a more lofty perspective.  We'd never tried deploying a  kite from the back of this boat and it was much easier than anticipated.  Unlike being tied to the dock, at anchor the boat aligns itself with the breeze. The wind took the kite immediately, and it rose as fast as I could let out string.

The photo reminded me that we still have a solar panel to install. We left the kite up long enough to get about 250 images of the area in a circle around us.  The boat is about 40 ft. long, to give you some perspective. The relatively narrow 17 ft. beam of this type of boat becomes apparent from this angle.  We like the narrow beam, it has some definite advantages where we live.  We've recently been told that there are only about a dozen of these boats still floating out of the original 27 that were built.  We're happy to have found one of them.

You can get a bit of an idea of what the local sailing grounds are like from this next photo.  We have coral heads all over the place around here. Most of them are uncharted.  This aerial should also help explain why we were so keen to get a  boat with a shallow draft.  This lets us tuck up into places like this.  The water color is  a clue to depth. . Not all dark spots are dangerous, but some are. Brightly colored rocks are almost always dangerous.  It means that they're shallow enough to get the sunlight that colorful things need to grow.  

I won't post all the photos here, obviously, but I did want to show you this next view looking westward toward South Dock on Providenciales. Those are the Five Cays there to the left.  But what I was interested in was the wave pattern. The waves behind us were crossing at near right angles to each other. Nature's own grid pattern in brush strokes by the wind in the lee of Bay Cay.

I won't claim that this trip went perfectly smoothly, but then boat trips rarely do.  We had some issues with our anchor windlass and will be making some changes there. Just what I needed, a new boat project.

We've got several major hopeful plans for this old sailboat.  I had a few more boat DIY photos here, but then decided you'd probably like a break from the nuts and bolts for a while.  The biggest single thing going forward will be replacing the hard top and dinghy davits. Another dream is a swim platform for easy access to the water, and safety.   I've just removed the second marine head from Twisted Sheets , and ordered a second composting toilet.  Now we've got two and a half Baby Blake marine toilets left over  if you know anyone rebuilding antique boats.

We're still working on a lot of small upgrades to the boat in addition to outright modifications and repairs. 
 Slowly, over the months these little jobs have been getting done and the accumulative effect is that the boat is getting livable again.   We're thinking that we're not too far away from our next overnight trips on Twisted Sheets.  

Until then we try to get down to the marina for at least a few hours on most afternoons.  And we watch the weather a lot more closely this time of year.  It's a bit early for the big storms, yet.  But within a couple of months we'll have to have the boat hauled out of the water for the worst part of hurricane season.   We're hoping to get several more small trips in before that.    

We're looking forward to the time when we can publish these sunset photos with the foreground shifted a few more miles each time.  In any of several directions.   As long as it's different.