Bonaire to Curacao
September 1, 2015
A frustrating day. I had assumed that I could swap the breaker in the main power control panel in 10 minutes or so. When I dove into it, I discovered that all 12 breakers are mechanically fastened to a single terminal bar and wired onto a single harness. This job would take a couple of hours and the new breaker wouldn’t fit the existing terminal bar anyway since it is not exactly the same brand. OK then, move on.
We finished taping and sealing all of the holes we had made in the fly-bridge roof for solar panels, antennas and the like, cleaned as much of the the surplus silicone sealant off hands and clothing, returned the motor-scooter to the rental store and rented a small car in its place. Not as much fun but more practical for hauling groceries, laundry etc. While Annette disappeared off to the super-market, I decided to wire the AIS equipment by slaving the power from the chart-plotter. An hour later it was done and I threw the switch. Nothing. The new fuse I had used was bad. Another fuse was substituted and this time the red power light came on. The manual says that the red light was supposed to change color to orange and then go green. An hour later, it was programmed and my laptop showed that the unit is receiving information from nearby shipping, the internal GPS is working and it knows where we are but there is something wrong with the VHF antenna for transmitting. Logically a bad VHF antenna would mean that it could neither send nor receive and yet this antenna is receiving. I looked online and discovered that this is most likely a “firmware” problem and that I need to update the software in the unit. To do this, I need a memory card and internet access to download the firmware. I have neither.
Well at least I should be able to see the other vessels on my chart-plotter display, right? The chart-plotter display steadfastly refused to acknowledge the existence of an AIS unit. It needs a firmware update and that again requires a memory card and internet access to download the firmware. I still have neither.
OK, I can at least reassemble the davit winch that has been sitting in pieces in a plastic bin, awaiting a tiny pawl spring that does not exist on the island. An hour or so later, it had been cleaned, greased and reassembled. Unfortunately I dropped another of the pawl springs into the sea below our stern as I mounted the winch drum back onto its spindle. It has been assembled and feel really smooth but only has a single operable pawl instead of the three it is supposed to use. Another success story!
Having done enough damage for the day, we settled down to watch the second half of the movie Amadeus.
September 2, 2015
Annette has been music deprived since her iPod died of extreme old age (it had been a gift in 2002 and had circumnavigated both planet earth and planet Australia) so we drove over to the Bonaire “Super Store” to look for an MP3 player. The store owner offered me an iPod Touch and when I complained about the cost and the fact that Apple don’t make iPods anymore, he knocked $25 off the price. Slightly mollified we set off again on a tour of hardware stores looking for something to shade the big sloping saloon windows on DoodleBug. These windows have “eyelids” that is, a they have three horizontal steps that provide shade from overhead sunlight and also give the boat a look that identify it distinctively as a “Leopard”. I had searched the owner’s website to see what others had used but had come up empty. At the hardware store, we bought a pair of “Roman Shades” made from thin strips of bamboo. These are roll up blinds and by deploying them at 90 degrees to their intended use, they fit perfectly underneath the Leopard “eyelids” as though they were made for the job.
Annette drove off to the laundry and I settled down to bring her “new” iPod to life. Of course the version of iTunes I have, refused to recognize the iPod and I reasoned that it needed to be registered over the internet. The laptop only connects to the marina internet in the very early hours of the morning, when all sensible people are asleep but the iPad we have has a cellular connection. I linked the two Apple devices and presto, the iPod was registered. Back to the laptop where the music backup resided. When I connected the iPod to the laptop, not only did the iTunes connect and load her music but the laptop connected to the iPad’s cellular internet, a task it had steadfastly refused to perform. This is called “tethering” and although is common amongst Apple devices, it is usually blocked when you try it with a Microsoft device into the connection.
Triple success! We have music, internet access on demand and a good looking solution to our “at anchor” window shading.
I used the opportunity to catch up on a stack of paperwork that had been awaiting communication with the rest of the planet and I also downloaded a firmware update for the AIS. When I installed this, the unit now passes all diagnostics. It sees and registers other vessels, it finds its position from its own GPS and it transmits our position. At least that is what the diagnostic claims. The red “failure” light stayed lit however. I now need the firmware update for the chart-plotter. This is near 1 gigabyte in size and I had purchased the 2 gigabyte data option for the iPad cellular connection. Now I am well prepared to pay to increase this but I would certainly “run out” of data in the middle of the download. This will be a wee hours of the morning download from the marina’s wifi.
September 3, 2015
The Roman Shades we bought yesterday had metal fittings that are unused by our application. We were concerned that they might both rust and scratch the windshield so this morning we drilled out the rivets and replaced all with nylon electrical ties. The modified blinds fit even better than they did before!
Next I updated the chart-plotter from version 8 to version 14 with the 1 gigabyte file I successfully downloaded last night. The unit is now completely up to date but still doesn’t recognize the AIS unit. I tried turning off the transmit option which removed the “fail” warning light but it still would not communicate with the plotter. This was becoming tiresome so we set out on a tour of the southern part of the island to see the “slave huts”.
Bonaire was “discovered” by the Spanish in 1499 and they named it the island of Brazilwood. Since we have only seen about three of these trees since touring the island, we can assume that the rest were logged about 500 years ago. (Wikipedia says that Brazilwood is commonly used to make violin bows). The Spanish decided that the island was worthless and shipped all of the natives off to work as slaves in Hispaniola. The Dutch conquered the island in 1636 and built a fort. Nearby Curacao was the center of the slave trading industry and Bonaire was used as a plantation with a limited number of slaves. In 1862 the Dutch government declared emancipation of the slaves and freed 607 government owned slaves and 151 privately owned slaves. (for perspective, slave ownership was banned in 1802 in the British Isles, 1848 the French and Danish colonies, 1865 the United States, 1962 Saudi Arabia)
One of the most valuable products produced in Bonaire was and is sea salt and slaves were used to surface mine the salt and transport the salt to waiting wooden sailing ships. The heat while working on corrosive salt pans without a stick of shade must have been incredible. One of the few remaining artifacts from this period are the “slave huts” - stone built shelters along the coast at the locations where the waiting ships would load salt. The four different pans would produce different grades of salt and so the loading areas were marked with colored obelisks to guide the ships to anchor. The slaves would set out what today would be interpreted as saw horses over the shallow portion of the reef and two lines of planks were laid over these. A line of African slave women would walk one plank carrying a basket of salt on their heads to be dumped into a waiting lighter and then return to land on the second plank.
The slave huts were used for overnighting and also for storing what few possessions they had during the heat of the day.
We continued our tour of the shallow salt pans and came across one that was crammed with flamingoes. Some watched Annette warily as she approached with her camera but the bulk thought they could take her on if push came to shove and continued to feed. Picture sated we headed around the coast road but had to slam the brakes on for a dead flamingo by the side of the road. It looked a fresh kill and I demurred as Annette tried loading it into the back of the rental car we are supposed to return tomorrow. She grumbled a little and then began pulling handfuls of feathers from the corpse while I watched for helicopters and SWAT teams. Finally she had what she felt she needed for her project and we escaped.
In late afternoon Annette went shopping in anticipation of our departure to Curacao while I researched the chart-plotter communications problem. At one place in the manual, it claimed that the “new generation” bus needed a separate power supply (obviously a vast improvement over the previous generation which operates perfectly well without the separate power supply). A second part of the manual claimed that this was not necessary if the device to be connected was a low power draw. Since my device was low power draw and not working, I decided that statement one was true and statement two was bull. My fallback plan was to go back four generations of technology and connect using an older method, equivalent to “COM” ports on a 1970’s PC. I researched the wire color combos and twisted the pairs together, fired this up and immediately the chart-plotter began to recognize the AIS data and to display nearby ships. Progress! The remaining problem is when we transmit our position and this is perhaps a bad antenna. I will need to “borrow” a reflected wave meter or another antenna. This must wait until we get to Curacao.
September 4, 2015
At last! The day we receive our air conditioning supply pump has arrived! Annette disappeared with the rental car to run errands while I began to prepare DoodleBug for departure. I soldered the the AIS / Chart-plotter connections I had made yesterday and tidied the wires up before hauling our accumulated trash from the boat, into the dinghy, across the marina and from thence to a dumpster. Two marina dock workers watched me carefully as I separated the recyclables (I should have done this at night without witnesses!) into the various bins. When I was just about finished, one stepped out of his air-conditioned truck and indicated that I should just throw the recyclables into the main dumpster.
The dinghy outboard motor is still “running in” and enjoying double strength oil to gasoline mixture – it’s a two stroke – thus I needed to ensure that all of the gasoline stored on board was suitably mixed with oil. It’s a really bad thing to forget to do this, particularly with a new engine. I checked both of the main diesel engines for their oil level, transmission oil level, the fuel water separators, the fan-belt tightness, bilge pump operation, raw water intake free of debris etc. when Annette returned to say that the marine supplier had not received the promised air-conditioner supply pump. Gosh Darn!
We climbed into the car and set off on a tour of the northern half of the island, following the leeward coast road. This is one of two surfaced roads on this end of the island and follows the beach along a step, perhaps 10 feet higher than water level. The drop-off from the step is undercut by the waves and the beach is rounded coral shards. The sea is crystal clear, cleaner than most swimming pools and you can see the shallow sea bed for 20 to 50 yards until it drops off abruptly into the dark blue of the deep. The landward side of the single lane road was edged with tall spindly cactus, skinnier than the Arizona organ pipe cactus and bearing a small reddish fruit. We met but a single oncoming vehicle on the entire drive along the northwest coast of the island. Just as the southern half of the island is virtually uninhabited, so too is the northern half of the island.
Our road terminated at the oil storage facility we had noted upon our arrival last week and then headed inland to the tiny town of Rincon. The latter was the site of the first Spanish settlement as its central location in a sort of bowl was safer from predation by pirates (English and Dutch). The road that returns from Rincon on the northeast coast was two-lane and within minutes, it seemed, we were back in Kralendijk, beloved of Scrabble players. We now know that almost all of Bonaire’s seventeen and a half thousand inhabitants live here and we have driven every paved road on the island at least once. Annette had found an Italian restaurant, “Sonia Home” and we enjoyed the best meal of the trip here. Their business card has the address as 12 degrees, 10 minutes and 4.454 seconds north, 68 degrees, 17 minutes and 8.429 seconds west. Sounds about right.
September 5, 2015
I decided that I would make another stab at the radar power supply and looked at putting in a secondary power panel at the navigation station. Here I was distracted by the windlass controls. The windlass is electric and because this was a rental boat, the Moorings had modified the wiring with the addition of an interlock to prevent raising or lowering the anchor unless an engine was running. This may have made sense for renters but occasionally we want to let out more chain or just check the windlass operation without the necessity of starting the engine. I downloaded various manuals from the internet but could not decipher the wiring method for the interlock. Then I realized that they had put the cut-off on the ground or return wire. This means that they were using a relay (somewhere) and it further meant that the windlass controls were essentially un-fused since the installed fuse was on the supply line to the unseen relay. The windlass uses a lot of power and there was also a large on / off switch but upon examination, only one terminal was being used. In other words it was inoperable. I metered the switch and it seemed to work fine but both power cables were wired to the one terminal. I decided to move the second cable back to where it was supposed to be located when all became clear to me. The nut was missing from the unused terminal. It had obviously been dropped so instead of finding another, the electrician chose to simply by-pass the switch.
Now we had a quest and we climbed into the rental car to find someone to sell us a single metric nut on a Saturday afternoon. We found a NAPA car parts store open and bought a replacement nut plus a few other connectors. Now we have a windlass with a working on / off switch and without an engine interlock. The radar power supply can wait until tomorrow.
Annette had been looking forwards to barbequing but the boat is moored stern into the wind. This is the opposite of what we would experience at a mooring or on an anchor. She couldn’t find a spot where the wind wouldn’t blow out the flame on the gas BBQ. Poor baby! We ate a healthy mixture of fruits, pickles, smoked meats etc. instead of the fat, salt and nitrites we really wanted.
September 6, 2015
Sunday morning in Bonaire and I awoke determined to wire up the radar system that I had installed two weeks ago in Puerto Rico. With Annette’s help, we ran the power cable in just over an hour and fired the unit up. It works! We finally have both radar and AIS – two devices we could well have used on our recent night passages.
Annette has been carefully monitoring the social activities in town and several people had told her of the special celebrations in the town of Rincon. We set out towards Rincon along the scenic coast road and arrived in the town for the promised food, drink and dancing at around 11:00 a.m. The town was just as dead as when we visited on Friday. I almost expected to see “The Man with No Name” slowly riding his mule down the main street with the stub of a cigarillo in the corner of his mouth. We did see a couple of stray dogs wandering through town however, the first we have noted on the island.
Blowing this pop-stand off we headed back down the coast to the petroglyphs at Onima. These are more accurately described as rock paintings and they seemed in amazing condition since they are alleged more than 500 years old, situated below a cave ceiling overhang on an exposed coast. The artist used a red dye. I looked around and saw nothing that might provide such a color amongst the blinding whiteness of a former coral reef. Perhaps they used dyes from sea urchins and the like from the nearby sea. The information sign at the site did not clarify this, although it went into great detail as to the meaning of the symbols. This was patently crap. The authors are alleged to have been Caiquieto Indians, a race the Spanish pretty much exterminated over 500 years ago. The Caiquieto had used the caves for shelter, although what they used for fresh water remains a mystery. Who could possibly know the meaning of their artwork? I immediately identified one pictogram as the wiring diagram for the stern windlass on a flying saucer. This is a lonely and fascinating place on a lee-shore with near constant wave action crashing on the reef. The only life was an abundance of lizards. These were up to 18 long, with bright green and blue polka dots, patches or socks on their feet. They were everywhere although what they lived upon was again, not obvious.
The town of Kralendijk was dead we we drove through, no closed off streets, no dancers, no BBQ’s sending clouds of blue smoke in the air with the wonderful scents promising near certain cardiac arrest. Seeking lunch, we headed over to the hotel paired with our marina and after clearing two levels of security, arrived at their restaurant. Our meal was good and we thought to short-cut around the security since we could see our boat across the marina. We soon arrived at a barrier that was spiked wrought iron topped with razor-wire - the only part missing were the guard towers and search-lights. Needless to say, we walked the long way around.
Annette needed some donkey paraphernalia and we next headed over to the donkey sanctuary to buy a sign that proclaimed “ Overstekende Ezels”. This means something like, “Caution Donkeys” and such signs are plastered all over Bonaire. Clutching our “Ezel” sign and avoiding any possible donkey collision we gave up on the phantom celebrations and headed home, via the ice cream parlor.
Back at DoodleBug, the afternoon quiet was shattered by the passage of a hundred plus motorcycles – mainly Harley Davidsons. The parade passed our marina, looped the traffic circle and returned. How can an island with this size of population have so many Harley’s? The internet reported that the promised “Rincon Day” was actually celebrated last Easter. What the island was celebrating today was their Flag Day. Still no BBQ.
September 7, 2015
Just like Lucy and Charlie Brown, another day dawned for the delivery of the air conditioning coolant supply pump we ordered two weeks ago for “two day” delivery. Annette took the rental car over to the laundry to get caught up on her chores, while I began the checkout dance. I drove the dinghy the mile or so into town and hit Customs and Immigration. The Customs clearance was pretty straightforward but the Immigration guy wasn’t there and I was told to return at 5:00 p.m. that afternoon for his blessing. Back at DoodleBug I tidied up the the few items that were laying about loose, so that we would be ready to sail tomorrow. Annette unloaded her clean laundry and then left to run a few last minute errands and return the rental car. Next I called Budget Marine to ask the status of my pump. “Not arrived”. What a surprise! I ignored the usual apology and asked for a refund on my deposit which was agreed to. At least that slow drip torture is finally over and I have re-learned a cruising fundamental. “If they’re not holding in their hands, don’t expect to get your hands on it either”.
September 8, 2015
Around 7:30 this morning we dropped our lines and motored carefully over to the fuelling dock, towing our dinghy alongside. There were no marina employees around and so we enjoyed an unassisted “landing” which went smoothly despite the absence of witnesses. We even had time to tidy away the lines and lift the dinghy on its davits, remembering of course that the starboard winch has but a single working pawl. Nevertheless it too performed smoothly and flawlessly, its gratitude at a few drops of lubrication, tangible in every sense. The marina guys showed up to work and sold diesel to refill the tanks plus 241 gallons of water (at ten cents per gallon). We were just about sucking dust when we escaped from the marina and even Annette had resorted to using the marina’s cold showers on the last night. The fuel guy asked me if Annette was always this, “angelic”, so the shower must have worked. 0900 hours had us bursting at the seams with fuel and water and pointed west towards Curacao. I am surprised that I didn’t hit anything, so absorbed was I playing with all of the tweaks, knobs and whistles on our newly working AIS display and radar.
I didn’t see the big military helicopter on the radar, I was doing something else and as it came by, I wondered if it was Dutch or Venezuelan. Annette waved like crazy and the big Huey did a double circle around us. The rest of the trip was less exciting. We motored with the wind from astern, three to four foot waves, about 5/8 ths cloud cover and rain pods all around. It was really cool seeing all of the commercial shipping as colored triangles on the chart plotter but when the proximity warning kept going off, I failed to discover the menu item to turn the bloody thing off.
Our radar showed a huge rain pod fast approaching from astern and in the distance we could see lightning. Ignoring the electronics for a moment, the eyeballs confirmed a fast approaching squall line and we just had time to grab all of the water sensitive items on the fly-bridge, hustle them below and close the big double door on the Saloon deck. Rain lashed us fore and aft whilst Annette danced with glee as the accumulated muck from the marina was washed overboard. She even began scrubbing the worst spots with a sponge to help things along. I in turn was pleased that I had allowed Annette into talking me into removing the drain plug from the dinghy.
With the passage of the squall, the winds picked up and so too did the seas. We were fast approaching the hidden entrance to Spaanse Water, our chosen anchorage and as yet there was no sign. It was not until we were about a quarter mile away were we able to see the narrow entrance channel with rocks to port and a sand bank to starboard. The DoodleBug has a lot of windage and lacks a keel, thus makes a lot of leeway in a crosswind. We shot into the winding channel at near 8 knots and were flying by moored vessels before I remembered to slow down.
We dropped anchor at 1410 hours at 12 04.8 N 068 51.8 W – we are in Curacao!
Later that afternoon, a RIB passed with four uniformed Customs officers and I waved at them to query whether we had anchored in a designated area. The officer asked me what time we had arrived and whether I had checked in with Immigration. I told him that we would do that in the morning to which he expressed displeasure. “Hey man, it was pissing with rain”, I said. “OK then”, his response.
September 9, 2015
It was pretty clear that Customs knows we are here following yesterday’s boat visit, thus our priority today was to formally clear in with Customs, Immigration and the Harbour Master for an anchoring permit. We dinghied over to land where we had been told that we could catch the city bus to downtown for the princely sum of $1. Curacao also has lots of mini-buses that run an informal service and we instead grabbed one of these for the added expense of $2 each. Our destination was Punda, suburb of the capital Willemstad. The downtown area reminded us immediately of Amsterdam with its roadside canals, low bridges, barges and solid, blocky looking buildings.
When we left Bonaire, our documents showed that we were a French registered boat named “Seconde Chance” with a home port of “Nice”. Last night we had finally received provisional documents by e-mail showing that we have magically become a USA registered vessel named “DoodleBug” with home port of “Santa Fe, New Mexico”. The Customs folks were very friendly but carefully examined our documents showing the alleged change of Nationality. Only a problem the first time this is presented, thereafter we will have consistent documentation that even matches the name on the stern. The Immigration person was a surly and unresponsive individual who curtly demanded papers. Nevertheless we passed this barrier too and our final stop was at the Harbour Master’s office where we met another customer, Tariq, who is associated with one of the marine supply stores, Caribbean Nautical. The Harbour master granted us an impressive looking permit to anchor in Spanish Water and we were done!
After Tariq had completed his business, he gave us a ride in his SUV to his store, helpfully on the opposite side of the road to Budget Marine. There they had the long awaited air conditioning pump in stock, boxed and dusty, sitting upon the shelf. They also had the needed winch pawls although I had to find them myself. The recommended grocery store was half a block away and after providing a few groceries we rode their “complimentary” bus service to Caracasbaii, the name used for the terminus of the coast road where we had left our dinghy.
Back aboard DoodleBug we installed the pump and celebrated with a couple of hours of generator powered air-conditioning. A busy day.
September 10, 2015
Today I serviced both davit winches which took up the morning. The first just needed the two missing pawl springs and the second thankfully was in better condition that the first had been but still required considerable effort and liberal application of WD-40 to dismantle.
The anchorage here in “Spanish Water” is like an inland lake with fjord-like arms edged with mangroves. There are four designated anchorage zones and in excess of a hundred anchored yachts scattered amongst these. This is a favored spot for cruisers “waiting out” the hurricane season with the dual advantages of both being outside of the storm track hazard zone and free. Many cruisers simply leave their boat for friends to keep an eye on, or use a local marina for storage while they fly home. Others just live aboard and we met a group of these at a Happy Hour and dinner special at a nearby bar / restaurant “Pirates Cove”. The group was a mixture of German, Swiss, Belgian, English, Australian, Dutch etc. and it was fun to chat about their experiences and travel plans. Some crews had been in Venezuela, some in Columbia and some bound for Haiti. Our insurance policy specifically excludes those destinations from coverage and I have to assume that there remains a good reason for this.
It was dark when we returned to DoodleBug and although we had remembered to turn the anchor light on, we had no form of lighting for the dinghy. We are not quite in the groove yet!
September 11, 2015
Yesterday afternoon was spent in determining just how the water maker was to be installed. It is a “distributed” system which means that there are some five components scattered wherever they can be fit. Some have to be near the water-line and others need clearance to change filters. By day’s end we had a plan and the next step was to locate the appropriate fasteners. This is an easier process when you have wheels and we had received a recommendation of a local car rental company from another crew. I called “Sergio” and spoke to a sleepy, slurred sounding voice who agreed to pick us up at 11:00 a.m. at the dinghy dock. The man who met us was only about fifteen minutes late and spoke non-stop in “Papiamento”, on a hands free cell-phone during the fifteen minute drive to his “office”. (Papiamento is a melange of African, Dutch and Spanish words that became the lingua franca of the African slaves brought here). Sergio’s “office” looked like a suburban family home with a dozen or so cars jammed into the area behind the house. Here we completed paperwork with “Terrance” the younger brother. The car itself was a Ford Escort of indeterminate age although it had been freshly painted with red paint. The head-liner was absent, the seats had led a hard life, the air-conditioner was not working, the odometer was on 100001 miles but never moved beyond this accomplishment during our journeys. The radio worked though. The rental cost was $23 per day - the adventure continues!
We headed back down the highway but were immediately diverted into a housing addition due to road-works. Hopelessly disoriented, we used the “force” to guide us back towards the coastal highway when we spotted a hardware store and backed into their lot through the exit. Inside the store we found every item on our list – an amazing experience. We hit the grocery store again since we now had the luxury of “on-demand” transportation. We also made a visit to the local sailing club and bought a temporary month long membership for 30 guilders (US$17). This allows us the right to park both our dinghy and our rental car in an area with some security. Our final stop was to visit S/V Selah out of Houston, Texas and home of Jeff Heck, a long time cruiser and circumnavigator. Jeff’s family lives in Albuquerque – small world!
September 12, 2015
We had invited Jeff over for the premier performance of Annette’s BBQ this evening and while I began the install process on the water-maker, Annette began to defrost the refrigerator and freezer. I am not sure which one of us made the most mess. I began my task by using a hacksaw to shape a piece of plywood donated yesterday by “S/V True Blue”. The irregular shaped piece was then epoxied to the side of the bilge to provide an anchor point for the feed pump. The glue would take 8 hours or so to set and I moved on to the main high pressure pump that will live under the forward “Vee” berth next to an auxiliary water tank. A hot cramped exercise but it was temporarily installed until I can find some more appropriately sized bolts.
Marine refrigerators are comprised of distributed components. The insulated box we are familiar with but the “cold plate” is a separate item, as is the compressor. In some vessels, the compressor is driven from the engine and by running the engine daily, the fridge gets enough of a boost to keep the beer cold for a few hours. However, our fridge / freezer combo is electrically powered from the 12 volt house battery bank, operating day and night but unlike “land” refrigerators, the energy required for a circulation fan to make the unit “frostless”, is considered a frivolous waste. Thus the units already had acquired a two to three inch thick coating of ice over the “cold plates” thereby drastically reducing their efficiency. While I had tools, wood and glue everywhere, Annette had food, drinks, coolers and melting ice spread liberally around. We decided that it was time to tidy up our respective messes and make a pilgrimage to the grocery store for the raw materials of this evening’s promised repast. By the time we returned to DoodleBug, the fridge was about three inches deep in melting ice slush and the contents could be dumped overboard to scare the fish.
The evening’s meal, our first hosted aboard, was a resounding success. The pistachios we nibbled were easily recognizable but the unfamiliar pate’s labeled in Dutch were a gamble. As it was they were delicious and segued into the main meal of BBQ’d pork chops, grilled green beans, pilaf rice and Romaine salad topped with cranberries and orange with a port / vinaigrette dressing. The “bakery bought“ supposed apple cake for dessert did not seem to contain any apple but was tasty and well received nonetheless.
We discovered that our guest Jeff had begun his career as a J.O. (Junior Observer) for geophysical contractor Teledyne in Houston, Texas thus he knows all about doodlebugging, jug hustling and the like. Jeff was a casualty of the Enron collapse (we met several others during our circumnavigation) and he has been sailing the world in his immaculate, cutter rigged, Pacific Seacraft since those times.
September 13, 2015
The glue had set on my mounting board thus my excuses for inaction had expired so this morning I mounted the feed pump for the water maker. I now have three of the six components in place and can begin plumbing it all together. I still need some more fasteners for the last few items, plus a couple of plumbing connectors and this wasn’t going to happen on a Sunday. We jumped into our rental car to go touring.
Curacao has an entirely different economy from its neighbors. The Spanish and Dutch had originally tried agriculture but the lack of fresh water had foiled that idea. The salt pans in the east end of the island had provided some income but in 1529, Holland was a Spanish territory and King Charles V of Spain, granted a license to a Dutchman to operate the slave trade from Africa to the New World. However, by the 1492 Treaty of Tordesillas, the Pope had assigned the territory eastward of a line through Brazil, to Portugal and so the big slave trading centers in the Pernambuco region of Brazil were now off limits to the Dutch. Their solution was to use the nearby Island of Curacao which became the main trading center for the slave business in the region. In the 1920’s, oil had been discovered in nearby Venezuela and Royal Dutch Shell oil company built a refinery here at Willemstad which was once the largest in the world. Today the refinery is operated by PDVSA, the Venezuelan national oil company and it is one of the few in the world that can process the “heavy” Venezuelan oil. During the 1940’s the Dutch headquartered their multi-national companies here during the Nazi occupation of Holland and even today this is a regional center of trading, insurance and like financial organizations.
Our auto tour took us on a wide loop around the city of Willemstad and its population of around 150,000. Although there are plenty of shuttered businesses and buildings for rent, there is still an aura of prosperity and vibrancy here that is missing from the other islands we have visited and whose economies depend almost entirely upon tourism. As we crossed the 185 feet tall Queen Juliana Bridge that crosses St. Anna Bay, the Willemstad refinery lay before us amongst the clear skies and blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.
September 14, 2015
Monday morning and we had a shopping list. We hit the marine supply for the needed fasteners and plumbing parts and then set off on a treasure hunt to locate the gas station on the island that refills propane tanks. DoodleBug has two tanks to provide propane for cooking and they are constructed of aluminum rather than the steel which would swiftly rust in a marine environment. This means that you don’t swap the empty tank for a full one ($350 apiece internet pricing), you must find a place that will fill yours. Finding the gas station was a little like a treasure hunt since most roads seem to lack signage as to their name and to further complicate the search, this particular station lay beyond an area of extensive road works with multiple diversions through a housing area. We did find the place, the filling process was relatively painless and we were charged 20 guilders, a little less than US$12, to fill a 10 pound tank.
Annette needed art supplies and the internet provided the only listed source as a store called “Diamond”. We found the place eventually plus a hand-written sign on the door to say they were closed until 12:30. Lunch then. We found a small Chinese restaurant and although the parking lot was perhaps half filled, we seemed to be the only customers. Nevertheless, the meal was good and we returned to “Diamond” to discover that the hand written sign now read, “Closed until 1:30”. Fifteen minutes later, we were gratefully admitted to the air conditioned interior and Annette found her supplies.
Back at DoodleBug I installed the remaining water maker components while Annette crafted a template so that I can cut the necessary hole for the final piece. We are getting close to completing this project but we have an appointment tomorrow to visit the Ostrich farm that will likely cut into our construction timetable.
September 15, 2015
Annette had made me a template in order to cut a hole for water maker’s feed pressure and flow rate gauges, so this morning found me struggling to get the template lined up properly and cut through the paneling. The material I was cutting was a type of formica layer on top of plywood and thicker than I expected. It was definitely full of holes by 9 o’clock but more like Swiss cheese than the desired shape; however it was time to see the ostriches and the construction project was temporarily shelved.
The ostrich farm lies some distance from our anchorage at Spanish Water and with signage that must have been more consistent in years past. Nonetheless we did find the place, a far more elaborate facility than I expected. While we waited for the tour to begin, we were entertained by watching the peafowl, chickens, iguanas, ducks, pot-bellied pigs and their litters wandering at large. Our tour was from the bed of a converted Ford truck and we drove in a circuit around the facility where we could see the ostriches and emus in their different pens. The huge birds were separated by age as it is not possible to sex them until the male ostriches display black plumage at around a year old. The two year old male ostriches become “dangerous” and would not allow our guide into its pen. It showed an elaborate aggressive display by “kneeling” (except “those” joints are ankles not knees!) with wings extended. We have never seen this display before and it was definitely the highlight of the trip.
The ostriches in this facility are raised for both eggs and meat and we supported the operation by having lunch in the restaurant. The unused parts of the ostrich carcass were supposedly fed to three Nile crocodiles in a pond near the gate. We saw a snout poking out of the water but compared to the Australian “salties”, these looked pretty tame.
Our next destination was the Kura Hulanda Museum of Slavery (Kura Hulanda is “Dutch Courtyard” in the Papiamentu language). Unfortunately we chose to hire a museum guide and he grossly exaggerated the history and description of the exhibits, long past the point of foolishness. This was a shame because there was an element of truth buried in his statements and this is an interesting museum, covering an important part of the history of the Americas. The horror of what occurred needs no exaggeration. For example, at one point he asked if anyone knew how many slaves had been transported from Africa and I responded that according to the museum’s website, it was estimated that some 12 million Africans had been so captured and transported. He responded that the museum’s website (his own employer’s museum) had been written by “white people” and the true number was 200 million. This would be around four times the entire estimated population of the continent of Africa in 1500. The balance of his spiel seemed to rest upon slavery in the USA, Martin Luther King and the 1921 Tulsa race riots, a tiny fraction of the story.
Later that afternoon we returned to DoodleBug and the construction project continued. I have run out of suitably sized hose clamps but all of the water-maker components have now been installed and and most of the plumbing completed. The race is on to see if will we be making our own water or will we have to purchase water to refill our on-board tanks!
September 16, 2015
This morning we made the regular run to to the parts store to buy more hose clamps and this was followed by a hard day’s plumbing, running hoses and connecting the puzzle together. By the end of the afternoon we were down to three items; a plumbing issue – I had bought the wrong sized “Tee” connector for the waste drain, a “design” issue in that there doesn’t seem to be a way to run our product line to the fresh water tanks without major engineering modifications and finally the electrical wiring needs to be run to the water-maker supply pump. We solved these issues by setting off in our dinghy for “Happy Hour” at the Pirate’s Nest bar, where we found fellow boater Jeff trying to connect to the internet. Supper was a balanced meal of beer and french fries. The balancing was done on bar stools.
September 17, 2015
Our daily expedition to the parts stores turned up no “Tee” plumbing fittings in the correct size. This is one of the problems of living on an island. Yesterday we had found two of liter cartons on the grocery store shelf labeled in Dutch, “lactose vrij”. I asked the store manager if this meant “lactose free milk” and if they had any more. Yes to the first question and “maybe” next week they will get some more. We bought a fitting at an irrigation supply store that might work in a pinch for our water-maker, at least until we can find the correct part.
Last night I had decided to properly address our several electrical issues. Our 100 ampere windlass breaker has a cracked body, our anchor light is dim and we are afraid of getting hit by night-time traffic such that we have been leaving extra lights on and finally, we really need an electrical sub-panel with 6 more breakers for radar, water-maker, fly-bridge refrigerator, wash-down pump, inverter etc. I had been short-cutting the component installations by slaving power off other devices but now needed to do the job properly. Fortunately we were able to find a sub-panel as well as the needed windlass breaker.
Back at DoodleBug I installed the windlass breaker as a first priority. We can again raise the anchor and move the boat if needed! The sub-panel was installed, the radar rewired to use one of the new breakers and I put in a terminal bus-bar for the ground wires. The positive lead for the water-maker pump was installed but the cable for the negative was too short. Another trip to the parts store!
We had also purchased an LED (light emitting diode) replacement bulb for our anchor light but not only would it not illuminate, it was too tall for the enclosure. We had swapped this for a halogen bulb but when tested, neither it nor the original bulb would work. This was getting frustrating! We had power to the socket and the original bulb tested good – the problem must be salt corrosion. There was now a high wind and late afternoon found me perched on the fly-bridge roof with my ladder tied to a support to stop it blowing away. The socket had to be carefully dismantled, the tiny brass parts filed to remove corrosion and then reassembled without the lighter pieces wafting away in the stiff breeze. The original anchor light bulb is now working again; the new halogen bulb was bad.
September 18, 2015
Today at 0945 hours, history was made. We made water!! We have yet to connect properly to the water tank and instead output the product to a pair of gallon jugs but we filled both of them. A whole two gallons of water test run before we shut it down. We even drank the water – tasted just like water. The flow rate meter showed that the unit was producing about six and a half gallons per hour and should fill our 60 gallon tank in nine or so hours. This will be tomorrow’s test run after the sun is up and the solar panels are doing their thing. What a relief that this project is about wrapped up.
Of course we lost internet connectivity immediately afterwards. Here is the history of island dealing with the main cellular company Digicel. We had found the store on Bonaire and it looked like a regular cell-phone company - you know, example phones on the wall, little pedestals displaying phone covers and gadgets etc. After I arrived at the front of the line, I had explained that I wanted a pre-paid cell card SIM for my phone plus another data SIM for my iPad. The girl added up $14 each for the SIMs, $10 pre-pay on the phone, $30 pre-pay for 2 Gigabytes of data for the iPad, total $68. I handed her my credit card and complained when the receipt to sign was for $96. She added the numbers three more times, apologized and handed me back a bill for $20. OK, I was still short $8 but I didn’t want to hurt her brain so we left. No receipt. When the 2Gbytes expired, I had been promised that I could buy additional Gigabytes online. Not so. Back to the Digicel store. This time there was a different girl who demanded, “How much did you pay last time?” I pretended to not recollect and she announced that it would be $30. So far this was working and I paid her cash so as not to trigger any arithmetic problems. She grabbed my iPad plus the $30 cash and disappeared into the rear of the store, re-appearing minutes later and announcing it was done. And it was. Again, no receipt.
My third attempt was to preempt the trip to the store by downloading the Digicel “App” to the iPad and buying a $30 upgrade on-line and before the current one expired. Which brings us to today. I called their support “team” and spoke to a lady who insisted that their was no record of my transaction. I responded that fortunately, I had a complete record of the transaction, including an electronic receipt bearing the transaction tracking number. She demanded that I email this to her and was unsympathetic to the fact that I would no longer have e-mail capability. To beat this one, I said I would e-mail the receipt using my satellite server and did so. That was the last we heard from the customer care team and we will probably need to seek a Digicel store on Curacao.
September 19, 2015
The water-maker was fired up in earnest and we ran it all day long manufacturing about 60 gallons of fresh water from seawater and sunshine. Annette was doing laundry and every time she turned on a faucet, I chided her for using up my precious water. We did not want to leave the water-maker unattended on its first day on the job and kept checking it for leaks thus this was a slow day just catching up on small boat chores. Annette re-arranged the food storage lockers for the twentieth time – I think she she does this so I can’t find the cookies. Actually we have suffered from a mysterious water leak into her food storage. Was this a rain-water leak? Fresh water from the plumbing? Salt-water from the air-conditioning coolant lines? We had scoured the areas under the salon couches after a couple of heavy rains and had run the air-conditioner just to see if we could find a leak. I believe that today I finally found the culprit and repaired it – a loose fitting in the air-conditioning condensate drain line. In the past seven weeks we have moved the boat about 800 miles out of the hurricane risk area, upgraded the instrumentation with the addition of radar, AIS, auto-pilot remotes and made ourselves independent of the dock with the addition of solar power and water-maker. It is near impossible to fix everything on a boat but by now we believe that we have completed the major repairs and modifications.
I asked for information concerning the location of a Digicel (the cellular phone company) office on the cruiser’s radio net this morning and was discouraged to find that it is some distance from our anchorage. I tried one more time to call for technical support. I still have no clue as to why we lost internet service but the lady I spoke to said she could fix it this “one time”. She asked for my cell phone number and about an hour later actually called me back. The internet is working again!.
Yesterday, fellow cruisers Mike and Jean of S/V Tomorrow’s Dream had anchored next to us. We had gone out to supper together and they directed us to a third dinghy accessible restaurant. This one serves real food! We will delegate the other two establishments for the times when we just need beer and french-fries whilst perched on a bar-stool.
September 20, 2015
Today was tourism day and we invited our neighbors Mike and Jean along for a road-trip in our rental car, warning them in advance of its foibles and eccentricities. Of course our first stop was at a giant “hypermarket” store where Mike bought a coffee-maker. Annette loves shopping and I can see that she will need to return here for an extended visit, maybe camping overnight. Moving along we arrived at the “Cave of Hato” that lies just opposite the east end of the Curacao airport runway. This cave is visited via guided tours but the the tour in question was much better than I had expected. The guide was animated, giving his spiel in both Dutch and English, although you would probably have guessed what he was saying even if you had been stone deaf. The cave is also active, fed by rain water and had several chambers with interesting “live” formations as well as a small bat colony. The bats were “long tongued bats”, tiny insect eaters and although we walked beneath them and could smell the coffee-like smell of guano, there was no evidence of it below our feet. Good idea to keep your mouth closed in any event. It wasn’t “Carlsbad Caverns” but a fun visit nonetheless.
We passed the sprawling and modern looking airport and headed northwest along the coast road, cutting west to Santa Cruz just as we passed a clutch of windmills. This is one location that can boast high and continuous winds and is perfect for wind generated electricity. Once the electricity storage problem is solved, they will be a viable source of power.
At Santa Cruz there was a “Padi” dive hotel, bar and restaurant where Mike and Jean had eaten previously. The hotel perches on a cliff top with sea cliffs forming a notch with a sand beach at the bend in the notch. The sea is crystal clear and obviously a great spot both for diving and snorkeling. Iguanas strolled casually between the tables, displaying that arrogance that only million year-old reptiles exhibit. We also watched multiple people pass by, laden with scuba gear and looking physically tired rather than arrogant as we ate an excellent lunch.
September 21, 2015
Monday dawned and while Mike went off to town to visit the dentist, Annette and I took Jean over to a huge supermarket, called “Mangusa” in the suburb of Santa Rosa. Here was a store that had lactose free milk for Annette and Six Grapes port for Ed. I always get hungry wandering around grocery stores and was grateful when we returned to DoodleBug for lunch on store roasted chicken. However, I still had not achieved any of my shopping goals so I scooped up Mike and headed out again looking for boat parts. I needed to add a fresh-water flush line to my water-maker and this needed specialized plumbing parts. It was at the fourth store, after I had really given up, that I found the needed parts. What was amazing was that this store carried all of the pieces I required, not just a few tantalizing connectors. Tomorrow I will cut into the pressurized fresh water system on the boat and see if we still have a water system by the day’s end.
September 22, 2015
In the mornings there is a VHF radio “Cruiser’s Net” for those vessels who wish to participate. The formula is usually the same around the world, they begin with a call for any boats having medical or like emergencies and then move on to weather, social events, help needed with services etc. This morning we were shocked out of our usual caffeine deprived torpor by the report of the murder of a fellow cruiser near the town of Cartagena, Columbia. We may even have met this Dutch couple when we attended a “Happy Hour plus meal” event at the local restaurant about ten days ago. The initial report was that the vessel was boarded by six masked men who clubbed the wife to death whilst her husband was blissfully taking a shower. This could have been a CNN report in that the only thing they got correct was that the wife was dead. As the news has “firmed” and morphed over the next couple of days, it looks more and more suspicious that this was actually a domestic incident.
I used yesterday’s plumbing purchases to run a fresh water flush line to the water-maker. I had finally identified that the plumbing system this South African built vessel employs was produced by the “Whale” pump manufacturer. Although the marine supply store stocked the required tubing and connectors, nobody had the slightest idea as to what you do with them. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I found a vendor that described the assembly method but none of the several U-Tube videos on the various websites would play on this internet connection and the downloaded instructions maintained the importance of using only the “Whale” brand of special pipe cutter. Of course I don’t have such a gadget and the local store doesn’t sell them, so I “gently” used a pipe cutter designed for cutting galvanized steel pipe on the soft polyethylene tubing until there was a significant groove, then finished cutting it with a sharp razor blade. Unbelievably it all went together and so far it hasn’t leaked. We can now flush our water-maker with the recommended fresh water whenever we have finished making our “product”.
Mike had loaned me his giant cable “crimper” and I used these to make up the connector cables for our inverter, wiring it into the battery bank. We have now installed the very last of the equipment we purchased six weeks ago in Sint Maarten!
September 23, 2015
Every time we have dinghied from DoodleBug over to the dock we have passed an interesting beach house with an easel set up on the balcony and occasionally a lady painting. Annette was determined to track her down to ask questions about media and how she deals with the humidity and today we took the rental car on a search through neighborhoods until we arrived at the home of Curacao artist Hannah Uyterwijk. We called out from the yard below the house and introduced ourselves. Hannah is a sculptress as well as a gifted painter in acrylics. She shows her art at various restaurants as well as her home gallery. A charming and talented lady.
Our destination was the Digicel office across from the mythical floating bridge. The latter is a famed tourist attraction and is supposedly being repaired someplace - very inconvenient when people insist on giving directions as "across from the floating bridge". Meanwhile I needed Digicel to add some more internet capability to my iPad. We found the office, it was open, I had remembered to bring the iPad with me but unfortunately forgot to bring the card with the SIM information on it. Try again tomorrow!
At least we were near the post office and Annette wanted to buy some stamps for collection purposes. The lady behind the armored window got up, walked half the length of the building, came out from behind the armored door, locked it and walked Annette out of the building and around the corner to point out their philatelic office. The last time that would have happened in the USA was before the Constitutional Convention. Annette pored over stamp catalogues and finally selected the ones she wanted. What a racket! They charge stamp collectors for a service they know perfectly well that they won’t have to perform.
Our next goal was the coin museum and we zig-zagged all over the downtown looking for it. We finally learned that it had closed at the indicated map location and moved elsewhere and across town. By now we were at the Jewish museum but it was closed for Yom Kippur. Lunch then.
Lunch brought us to the Academy Hotel, Curacao, a restaurant training organization for young cooks and waiters. Lunch was a four course “tasting” menu with the first course of island goat meat served sate style and marinated in honey, garlic and sweet soya. The next course was a trio of fried yucca stuffed with cheese, plantain stuffed with spiced beef and sweet potato stuffed with chicken. Each course was elegantly presented in “Nouveau Cuisine” fashion. The third course was pan seared red snapper with polenta and banana chip. The dessert was an ice cream made with cactus, basil and cream cheese. Unlikely but delicious!
We now had an alleged location for the relocated coin museum but the one way street system simply defeated us and we gave up for the day.
Back at DoodleBug, Annette made banana bread from daughter Marian’s recipe using her bread-maker powered from the inverter I installed yesterday. The bread smells wonderful but she says I have to wait for breakfast (sigh).
September 24, 2015
The water-maker was beginning to flatten a hose connection due to too tight a bend in the flexible tubing and I began the day by re-plumbing this. I hate to mess with something that works but I ripped it apart and put it all back together so that the hose connections were straight. Naturally one of the joints developed a pin-hole leak – punishment for breaking the, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. We left the water-maker running nonetheless and headed back downtown to Digicel, the phone company. I could sign up for a monthly “plan” but we expect to be out of here in a few weeks and we just need internet service for a short period of time. It took perhaps forty-five minutes at the store to achieve this but we left with a renewed internet capability.
That evening we dinghied ashore for the weekly cruiser’s get together at a restaurant that sponsors “Happy Hour” followed by a “Prix Fixe” meal. The proprietor of the restaurant recognized us immediately, knew us as “DoodleBug” and promised us that the evening meal was not cooked with garlic. Wow! I have trouble remembering my own name let alone my allergy / dietary needs. This turned into a great evening, visiting with lots of other cruisers of different nationalities.
September 25, 2015
The morning began with a dinghy trip to the Seru Boca Marina to appraise possible slips for boat storage. We looked at several and then returned with a tape measure to exclude those we are too wide to fit into. We finally found a slip that will fit us and and negotiated the quoted price down a little. The “new” plan is to move DoodleBug into the slip early tomorrow morning before the wind picks up.
We were determined to find the coin museum and headed back downtown into the labyrinth of canals, inaccessible over-passes and one-way streets. We found a parking spot and backed into a space on the side of a road fronted by large buildings, set behind walls and sporting security guards. When we asked for directions, we discovered we had parked just feet from the sought after museum.
We rang the door-bell at the coin museum and entered its interior, which was blissfully air-conditioned. The man who had admitted us then disappeared into an interior office and we were left to explore. There were no other visitors and the signage was all in Dutch, a bit of a disappointment. Nevertheless it was fun to see the development of coinage over the centuries, how the silver pesos were cut into “pieces of eight” (actually five segments) and to see the modern forgeries of Curacao banknotes. Annette saw some collector’s proof sets of coins on display and rousted the man from his office to ask where she could buy some. Just like the post-office experience, he locked up the museum and escorted us down the street to show us the National Bank of Curacao, less than a block away.
The national bank was another entertaining experience. The place is built like a fortress, with massive hydraulically operated steel gates and security guards behind armored glass windows. We began by asking for coin proof sets and turned over our driver’s licenses. We stood there in the sun whilst they decided whether we were a threat or not, before allowing us to enter the compound beyond, with a long walk over to the bank building. More security, cameras and electronically operated doors before Annette got to peruse the various coin sets. Buying the sets reminded us when we went to the Treasury building of West Samoa to buy a courtesy flag. Again the tedious drafting of elaborate receipts after we had made our purchase.
The final museum of the day was the Jewish museum. Holland had declared independence from Spain in 1581, mainly because they wanted to practice the Protestant religion and the new regime was tolerant of Jews. Holland therefore became a haven for European Jewry, fleeing the various pogroms and oppression and this lasted nearly four centuries until the Nazi holocaust. Many Dutch Jews came to Curacao centuries ago, as employees of the Dutch West Indies Company and thus the island had a large Jewish population, declining today as the young people are choosing to live elsewhere. The museum was rich in artifacts donated by the various families and I could not help but be fascinated by the portraits of people wearing stolid Dutch clothing and wondered how they survived the heat and humidity of living 12 degrees above the equator so garbed. The museum was associated with a synagogue and we we toured the latter, claimed to have the oldest congregation in the Western Hemisphere, marveling at the chandeliers and elaborately carved woodwork. The floor of the synagogue, between the pews was covered in sand and I when I looked this up on the internet, discovered that this is one of five synagogues in the world that have a sand floor, four of which are in the Caribbean. The reasons given for the use of a layer of sand on the floor are varied and since the origin of the practice goes back centuries can be considered as “forgotten”, although the most credible reason suggested is as follows. The streets in Amsterdam centuries ago were unpaved and thanks to the climate, usually muddy. The synagogues may have used sand on the floor to make it easier to keep the place clean. There are still churches and taverns in the Netherlands that continue this practice.
September 26, 2015
We were up bright and early to move the DoodleBug to the marina. This meant raising the dinghy, laying out fenders and lines, turning on the instruments and securing loose objects. It was about a mile and half from our anchor point to the marina but we have learned in the past that you need to do a pre-flight check. Mike had volunteered to help us move into the marina and just before he arrived with his dinghy, I had started both engines. I checked the gauges and saw that both starter batteries showed 11 volts or less and no amperes flowing from the alternators. Crap! In a moment of carelessness, I had accidently “sparked” between the house battery terminals a couple of days ago when I wired the inverter in. Had I burned out a fuse somewhere? I hastily ripped off equipment covers and probed around for a fuse, metering those close to where I had shorted the cables. Everything looked OK and Mike helped me measure starter battery voltages directly. Not great but still more voltage than the engine gauges were showing. Finally I decided to move the boat and sort the problem out from the marina.
Annette and Mike worked at raising the anchor and removing the bridle that was attached to the chain, Mike gallantly handling the accumulated muck and slime that was clinging to the chain. When I touched reverse on the port engine, a howl came from the transmission. What now! I yelled at the deck crew to hold off on the anchor lift while I tried both engines in forward and reverse and the noise seemed to diminish. Further the props were turning – perhaps this was just something wrapped around the propeller shaft. With my “wa” now completely shattered, we raised the hook and moved east down the expanse of Spanish Water towards the marina. After about a quarter of a mile, the port alternator showed that it was charging properly and the engines were now quiet, admittedly with both drives in “forward”. The rest of the short trip was uneventful. We backed into the slip without hitting anything and were soon tied up and had a power line attached from the dock. The charging problem I attribute to a pair of switches called ACR’s (Automatic Charge Relays). They are intended to prevent a charging fault from draining the engine starter batteries thus they control the charging of multiple batteries. Perhaps I hadn’t run the engines fast enough for them to kick in or perhaps, as my former business partner used to say for undiagnosed problems that fixed themselves, “They had snot up their nose”.
Mike gave us a ride back to yacht club where we had left car and we set off to find the marina where we had just abandoned DoodleBug. The marina is associated with “Country Club Santa Barbara” on the site of a former plantation. It was a twenty minute drive by road and we were allowed to pass through the guarded gates after careful examination of the scrap of paper the marina manager had given us in lieu of the photo-identity cards we will obtain on Monday.
We tidied up the boat and jumped into our dinghy for a long ride to dinghy dock where were were to receive a lesson in playing “Mexican Train Dominoes”. There were seven wannabe players and our instruction was given by intense eleven year old Dutch boy. He was well versed in advanced strategies and corrected his father on the game rules on several occasions. His younger brother must hate him.
Back again across Spanish water in the dinghy, a distance nearly two miles to marina. This time we had to clean ourselves up for a Saturday evening art showing at the Déjà Vu restaurant. We drove over to pick up Mike and Jean; Mike and Ed wearing unaccustomed long pants instead of the shorts and sitting on plastic bags to deflect some of the rental car’s grime. This was like a Santa Fe Friday night on Canyon Road, clutching a glass of wine and looking at artist Hannah’s display of sculpture, paintings and furniture and chatting to her friends and family. We ate a pleasant meal at the restaurant before the long drive back to dinghy dock to drop off Mike and Jean, then another long detour around the island to the marina at the far east end of Spanish Water. The second half of the trip was made easier after I cleaned the layers of muck from the windshield so that I could actually see the road.
We have made plane reservations and will return to the USA in ten days time, leaving DoodleBug here at the marina for the balance of hurricane season.
September 27, 2015
I finally decided to attack the AIS antenna problem and dismantled half the kitchen so that I could access the wiring. I eventually found a bad connection behind the panel in the fly-bridge and after some degree of cursing and singeing the little hairs on the backs of my knuckles, I got the thing re-soldered with a new connector. When I re-tested the system again we could pick up an AIS target some 30 miles “inland” from the Venezuela coast (obviously not a ship and it wasn’t moving!) plus the Raymarine unit is now showing a green light, with the computer diagnostic indicating that it likes the repaired antenna.
Having crossed off an item from my “todo” list and with the freshly washed laundry drying in the cockpit, we felt entitled to crash in front of the TV watching the movie, “The 13th. Warrior” - the selection we felt appropriate to our Dutch experience here.
September 28, 2015
Monday morning and I motored over to the “security office” of the Santa Barbara Country Club complex to receive my promised “picture ID”. They took my picture but after a ten minutes wait, I received a crummy piece of cardboard saying I was a “temporary worker” – no picture and no food stamps. Meanwhile Annette had scouted the laundry facilities and completed a biological and scatological survey of all the poop in the parking lot. This she determined was from the large iguanas and stray donkey we see basking there.
Mike and Jean are sailing next Thursday for Columbia. They have been hangin’ in Spanish Water for weeks, awaiting a new cap for one of Mike’s teeth and it appears that dentists here operate on the same business principle as the marine suppliers. For “manana” substitute “next week”. We offered them a grocery store / propane run in the rental car and they accepted with alacrity. Visiting grocery stores is no hardship for Annette and I assisted by locating both pinon nuts and Tahini for Annette’s Hummus recipe.
By the time we had returned to DoodleBug and cooled down with a couple of beers, it was getting dark and Mike and Jean loaded their groceries for the return trip to “S/V Tomorrow’s Dawn”, at anchor in the sound. Their dinghy sank noticeably lower into the water but fortunately this would be a downwind trip. Mike has a propane powered outboard motor and he has made muttering noises about giving it away. I looked had looked at these but decided to go with the conventional 2 stroke, gasoline powered motor but at double the power of our previous motor / dinghy combo. Our “new” outboard is breaking in nicely and is idling much smoother than a few weeks ago. Furthermore, when we open up the throttle, the motor howls with authority and the “RIB” takes off on a plane quite nicely.
September 29, 2015
I have never finished installing the remote monitor for our solar power system and after much analysis and studied procrastination, I decided that today is the day. Of course it is easy to get sidetracked when attacking these projects and I simultaneously ran wiring for a remote switch for the invertor while determining that the radio was recently part of a network with the navigation instruments and that one of the channels in the audio system is out. By early afternoon it was all put back together and we tidied the boat in anticipation of hosting a dinner party tonight, only the second time we have done this aboard this DoodleBug.
Annette has washed everything aboard that will stand still and set off this afternoon in search of mangrove shoots for a flower arrangement. She added red bougainvillea blossoms to these and the combination now resembles a fledgling Triffid. I will probably lie awake tonight listening for the shuffling sounds.
September 30, 2015
We are getting the boat ready for its one month storage and I have a list of items to check. As I have noted many times before, sailors always have lists, usually lots of lists. I checked the generator for oil level, fan belt tightness, coolant level but did not find any “anodes”. Boats usually protect mechanical parts such as propellers and engines with sacrificial metal, so called zinc “anodes”. If stray electrical circuits combine with sea-water to make a sort of battery, the hope is that the replaceable “anode” will erode rather than something important. Our engines have large anodes bolted into the coolant heat exchanger but since the installation is only two months old, the maintenance schedule does not call for inspection at this time. I will need to dive under the boat to inspect the anodes on the propellers and propeller shaft but couldn’t raise the energy today. This week-end will be a quiet time in the marina to do this.
We made a pilgrimage to the marine supply store to buy “stick on” numbers for our federal registration. These have to be made “permanently attached” to the boat by covering with multiple layers of clear-coat resin and although we now have the numbers, there was no resin available for this purpose. We bought extra dock lines for mooring the vessel to the dock, probably superfluous since this marina seems particularly well sheltered in the lee of the huge limestone outcropping that is the source of quarried building material for the island.
Daughter Helen finally “closed” on the Houston house she has been selling. She was supposed to have achieved this a month ago but on the day of closing, the buyer discovered a husband she hadn’t seen in ten years and had forgotten about. He wouldn’t sign the necessary papers and the deal fell through. It is generally a good idea to keep track of spouses, particularly when you share credit with them.
October 1, 2015
A final grocery store run and I wandered the store while Annette did the serious shopping. She usually gives me a task to keep me out of mischief and today it was finding pumpkin seeds and instant cous-cous. Sort of like a treasure hunt. Our final dinner party was another success and the wind dropped in the evening to make the gas fired barbequing less of an adventure.
October 2, 2015
Another slow day. We awoke to rain and distant thunder, the first time it has rained in weeks and the day we were to wash the rental car. It was to be returned today and the contract called for it to be washed and the interior cleaned before delivery to its owners. We had covered the seats with plastic trash bags when travelling to social events in order to reduce the transfer of grime to our limited supply of dress clothing. No, we didn’t wash the car.
The wind has reversed course and is blowing lightly from the west. Supposedly the hurricane up north has disrupted the normal trade wind flow and very light winds are expected throughout the week-end. Our concern is that in the absence of steady winds, the bugs might find us. So far we have been free of both mosquitos and “no see ‘ums”, visiting us at the marina. The yacht basin is surrounded by mangroves, usually regarded as bug condominia. Curacao had an outbreak of Chikungunya last year, described as “Dengue on steroids” and definitely not something you want to be infected with.
Today, daughter Helen closed on the house she has been in the process of buying, the deal having been delayed by the fiasco selling her previous house. She is back to being a homeowner and since it is now her house (she had to take a temporary lease), she can repopulate it with pets as well as kids.
October 3, 2015
Today the wind stopped blowing. Our neighbor on the dock, a resident of Curacao, told us that this was the first time this has happened this year and this end of the marina has been alive with folks taking advantage of the calm seas to venture beyond the confines of Spanish water with their various watercraft.
I however, put on snorkel gear to check the condition of the anodes on the propeller and propeller shaft. Both had heavy marine growth and required cleaning before I could see their condition. I had intended to clean the propellers but besides the poor visibility, I soon realized that I will need some kind of breathing apparatus, either scuba tanks or a “Hookah” dive system. This might seem obvious to the reader but I had optimistically hoped that since the propellers are shallower than our previous vessel, I could get away with just the snorkel. In the past it has taken me up to an hour to clean a single propeller and this boat has two. Just no way I can hold my breath for over an hour.
The second job I have been procrastinating over was to check the stern locker for water ingress. This was first noticed during our overnight passage from St. Martin to Puerto Rico and caused me such alarm when the bilge pump started running during big seas and at night. I had isolated the problem to this locker but needed to be at a marina with access to water in order to investigate further. I began by pumping, cleaning and drying the compartment using my “wet and dry” vacuum and then Annette sprayed water from a dockside hose while I lay full length in the steering compartment, peering through an inspection port and using a flash light. The procedure was successful in that we were able to identify the source of the leak. There is a wooden rubbing strip across the stern of the vessel and when Annette sprayed water below the outer corner of this bar, water began to trickle down the interior wall of the locker. To fix this properly we should likely remove the wooden rubbing strip but this isn’t going to happen until we are dry-docked. We will attempt a temporary fix with caulk.
Another issue has been that the steering ram in this compartment is seeping hydraulic oil. I had hoped that it was something spilled during routine maintenance but this fiction is no longer sustainable. With the miracle of the internet I have now identified the brand and model of the French made steering ram and ordered a rebuild kit for delivery to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am hoping that replacement seals alone will fix the problem but this issue is to be resolved after our return to DoodleBug in November.
October 4, 2015
This morning was the time to pickle the water-maker. These marvelous gadgets use a space-age membrane similar to the Goretex material that created the fortune for the Gore family. (This was before Al Gore turned to organized crime, or as we call it today, “politics”). The membrane in the water-maker has “holes” in it that are large enough to pass water molecules but too small for the larger salt molecules. Sea water is pumped at high pressure into a membrane with a porous ceramic backing to maintain its structural integrity and fresh water passes through the membrane. The problem arises when you let sea water sit in the membrane for an extended period of time because then “things” start growing in the seawater and the resulting organic slime clogs up the necessary “fresh water” holes in the membrane. To prevent this from happening, the pump, membrane and plumbing must be flushed with a biocide to sterilize everything and that was today’s task.
The water-maker uses a mild acid biocide, similar to what is used to clean brewing equipment. Since it is the first time I have done this on this equipment, it was a learning process to get all the hoses, buckets and chemicals lined up but eventually it was done and will be much easier on the next occasion.
The marina is surrounded by a golf course and as the afternoon drew to a close, the golf players disappeared and Annette and I took a walk along the fairways and water traps. We are of course expert golfers, having played the Nullarbor Links golf course in Southern Australia at only about 200 stokes above par - provided you ignore the blatant cheating that might have occurred. The ponds lining the greens were edged with crab holes and large iguanas glowered at us before scuttling away. There were crab carapaces scattered about but these must be from the shore birds. The crabs were starting to creep from their holes as dusk approached but seemed to know exactly when Annette was about to press the shutter on her camera. Fortunately the iguanas don’t speak English and there were no small children about.
October 5 - 6, 2015
The last two days were spent in typical boat preparation, removing screens and shades and lifting the dinghy onto its davits. DoodleBug looks secure in its slip and we look forwards to returning to Curacao in November to begin our 2016 Caribbean cruise. The past two months have seen a transformation from “rental boat” to “cruising boat” and although we still have a substantial “wish list” of goodies that we would like to equip her with, those wish lists never seem to go away. Annette reminded me that the most important task accomplished was re-stocking the refrigerator with beer so that we will have cold beer available upon our return. True.