Click for more pictures here
Her Vital Statistics
November 2015 -- Website Update: DoodleBug has been "reloaded" and has made the transition from rental boat to cruising boat. I have moved the first nine weeks "blog" to "trip logs" which you can accessing by clicking the catamaran picture to the right. No pictures yet but I'll get to it eventually.
May 2015 -- Website Update: We have bid Australia a sad farewell for a while and our Toyota Coaster RV is on the market to be sold (see www.koolahkampers.com.au). Meanwhile, I have re-ordered the daily entries into time order, moved the trip-logs to a new page and ADDED PICTURES!!. You will find the link to the right (click on the white bus picture).
The logs of our sailing circumnavigation were moved down a level and you will find the link to the right (click on the S/V DoodleBug picture to get to the "old" web-site).
We have also "cleaned up" the sailing logs and reformatted them into .epub files, so that they may be downloaded and read at your convenience on an iPad or Kindle reader as "e-books". Because there are about 6,000 embedded photos in the original website, I needed to split the log of the cruise into 18 "volumes". To date, I have tested these eBook files on both a "Kindle Fire" and an "iPad3". Click right on the "books" icon to access the files for download.
November 24, 2015
We know that the Thanksgiving celebration Thursday coupled with our departure plans for Friday, allow but two days for the balance of our holiday shopping. Simply put, the next Sam’s Club or derivative that is east of here would be the Asda Superstore in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While Annette was loading up on groceries, I stayed aboard working on boat chores.
We hadn’t used the dinghy in months and it took a while to find the drain plug that transforms the hull from a leaf strainer to a boat. Next the outboard wouldn’t start and since it is still on “double strength” two-stroke oil during its run-in period, I assumed the plugs were oiled and swapped them for new plugs. That did the trick and after I checked the Coast Guard web-site to determine what safety equipment would be required to satisfy the mandarins in Washington, I donned a life-jacket and buzzed off in the dinghy to stretch its watery legs. Strictly following the speed limit on my return to the harbor, I noticed a couple of uniformed officers waving at me from a nearby dock and being a law-abiding and notorious international smuggler, I wandered over to see what they wanted. “Sir, have you checked in yet?” It was the same pair that had begun the torture process on Friday and they hadn’t recognized me, despite our four hour proximity. Perhaps the cutlass and eye-patch distracted them.
I had a couple of minor technical issues to resolve and as I was multi-tasking, I was simultaneously picking a place to mount a remote monitor for the fridge / freezer wireless thermometers and find the electronic compass that supplies the boat heading in digital format to the autopilot. Somehow it had wandered off about 20 degrees since I had calibrated it the last time we were in Ponce. Notwithstanding the big words used like “electronic” and “digital”, it is still based on the technique discovered by Chinese navigators during the Han Dynasty. That is, it has a magnet in it. The unit was not located where the boat manual indicated, so I began pulling panels off and following the wiring until I located it, behind the kitchen sink splash panel. This is precisely where I planned to mount the refrigerator display (see how I tie this stuff together!) and the latter display unit allowed me either to fasten with screws (as planned) or simply utilize the four giant magnets built into the casing. Oops! Just for entertainment’s sake, I tested the autopilot display by moving Annette’s battery powered, touch-less soap dispenser off the shelf at the same location. It changed the auto-pilot heading by one degree.
The fridge problem has sort of resolved itself. I had been logging the temperatures of both freezer and fridge, coupled with thermostat settings and could find no sensible correlation. The pattern suddenly emerged that the issue was the supply voltage. The manual says that the units shut down if the voltage drops below 10.5 volts and this may be true. What is not written is that if the compressors stop, they won’t restart unless they get a full 12 volts. The port air-conditioner’s problems had also resolved themselves. By running the units on 110 Volts / 60 cycle “American” power here at the marina, instead of Curacao marina power of 127 volts / 50 cycles, the terrible noise and motor shutdowns simply went away. It’s an older unit and the other two air-conditioners had been more tolerant.
Annette arrived back at the boat with a huge dock kart loaded with groceries, made a second trip to the car to unload the balance of her purchases, ate lunch and took off again to continue her shopping marathon. Meanwhile, I had spoken to the marina manager regarding the formal letter of complaint I had written concerning our treatment by the Customs inspectors upon our arrival. I had been holding off posting my blog entry for that day (I wrote it the same evening) and I was trying to decide if I should perhaps tone it down a little. Daughter Helen, who is a kindergarten teacher in Houston, said I should go ahead and post it anyway because, “People who do bad things must face the consequences”. Kindergarten wisdom indeed!
November 23, 2015
After retrieving the kayak paddle and adding two water balloon catapults to the inventory of weapons we carry aboard (we also have a six “shot” rubber band gun that is still justly feared by house-flies around the planet) we continued our journey north to the capital city of San Juan, a drive of maybe an hour and a half.
I need to preface my next comments. We have loved being in Puerto Rico. The people here (Feds excluded of course) have been overwhelmingly friendly. The girls are gorgeous. Annette says the guys are too but I don’t check out the guys thus as far as my blog is concerned, this remains hearsay. The food is fabulous and when we meet new people, their third sentence is invariably, “Do you like our food? Have you tried Maduros?”. Yes to both questions and Annette purchased her own plaintain smasher during our first sailing trip here in 2009. The second sentence has been, “How do you like Puerto Rico?” and our answer is that we truly love it.
OK, I have set you up for my comments on the driving experience. The scenery across the island is stunning, verdant hillsides with the brilliant glimpses of the Caribbean sea in the distance. Stands of towering bamboo along the roadside, flame trees (maybe not - we will have to look it up) palms and all of the tropical flowers we love that have been nurtured by the moisture bearing trade winds. Then you arrive in San Juan. What chaos! Cars and trucks double parked, seemingly at random. The Mall parking lots are jammed and people circle, waiting for someone to pull out. The roadways may be built three lane and “one way” but this is effectively single lane, since vehicles will be parked on both sides, utterly ignoring the yellow paint on the curb sides and signs proclaiming “No Estacione” posted every few feet. The impression is of total mayhem, with many traffic rules seemingly regarded as mere “guidelines”, however......nobody seems to get upset! When you are waiting to pull into traffic, or change lanes (most drivers were totally confused by the little blinking lights on the corners of our rental car that we mainlanders refer to as “turn signals”) they let you in!
Annette wants to continue painting but the logistics of flying with tubes of acrylic paint and canvases are overwhelming. Real art supply stores are a rare commodity east of perhaps Miami or west of Paris but we had used the internet to locate “Ofi-Arte” in San Juan. We actually found the place, it was open and had a great selection of paints, canvases, sketch pads, easels and the like, the result being that both the trunk of the car and my credit card were groaning when we left. Our next destination was “Bed Bath and Beyond”, which presented a more challenging navigation exercise, however fortified by an intermediate stop for lunch and body function restoring beverages, we did find the place.
The store had a familiar layout and I rapidly located the men’s room followed by the “demonstration” massage chairs, while Annette did all of the heavy lifting such as buying pillowcase covers and the like. All too soon, the time was approaching a quarter before the hour of four and although we haven’t really experienced “rush hour” traffic, on-line descriptions were sufficient to make us want to split. Amazingly, we found a highway heading south within minutes of leaving the mall parking and were soon zipping along back to Ponce. During our drive, Annette began to have misgivings on the selected size of a couple of her canvases and felt she might have been perhaps a little ambitious. I consoled her with the reminder that she had purchased these well before the luncheon beers, so that they would probably fit through the saloon doorway.
November 22, 2015
Another day of shopping for water toys and the like, only this time we ended up with an adult sized kayak that is rated at 230 pounds. This will support even my weighty thoughts but unfortunately the task of loading this into the back of the rental car distracted us from the fact that we had forgotten to load the paddle and it was left at check-out. The necessary sea-trial will have to be postponed until tomorrow when we can retrieve it.
This afternoon I was hearing what I thought was some fool trying to start an outboard motor without priming the fuel supply when I realized that the sound was actually that of Annette, catching up on laundry with the use of her amazing washing machine and helped along by the sound of “Te Vaka” a New Zealand group that specialize in “South Pacific Fusion”, played at shall we say, “moderate” volume over the boat sound system. The marina manager stopped by and at first I thought we had an issue with our sound level but in fact he had heard about our clearance experience and wanted us to write a letter detailing our experience. This we were pleased to do and we popped this out in an hour or so, aided by the fact that notorious international drug smugglers always carry printer / scanners and lots of paper and printer cartridges aboard.
November 21, 2015
After four hours of taxpayer funded entertainment yesterday we were finally “cleared” by CBP into Puerto Rico but by the time the time the goon squad had formed formations and marched in unison off the boat, the marina office was closing and the dock employees had left. This meant that we had to power ourselves off the inspection dock and re-moor ourselves to our designated slip without assistance. This wasn’t particularly difficult since we already had the fenders and lines rigged and Annette’s prowess as a Texas cowgirl (she has the boots and hat!) enabled her to lasso the dock cleats as we edged slowly in. The problem we have been experiencing, which adds spice and unwanted excitement to close maneuvering of an 18 ton vessel, is that the electronic engine controls keep going into a shutdown mode. The throttles and gear shift for forward and reverse are connected to the respective engines by a long electrical cable that has controllers at each end to manage the mechanical bits, like actually moving the shifter on the gearbox. Just at the critical moment you shift to reverse and touch the throttle and nothing happens - except all of the error lights begin to flash at the steering position. If you then shift to neutral, wait a little and try again, it might work the second time or maybe the third time. Disconcerting, especially since by now you have hit a 4 million dollar custom built Swan (BTW that’s a boat) or maybe just the power pole on the dock as happened in Bonaire. The control unit has a built in diagnostic display but this is conveniently mounted behind a large panel held by 16 stainless screws and then the display is visible if you can reach to remove a dust cover and use a mirror. We are still working on this but it has meant that we are super cautious when docking and definitely prefer to anchor. Today the docking was successful and although the controller did go into failure mode more than once, we were ready for it and just let the wind blow us gently against the pier.
We were tired. We shut down all of the instruments, hooked the power cables up to the dock and headed over to the marina restaurant that had been under renovation the last time we were here. We were the only customers as Puerto Ricans are late diners but we were waited on by a really, really pretty waitress that is waiting for the results of her bar examination and I don’t mean for a liquor license. Annette wouldn’t let me keep her and besides which, lawyers can be very expensive to feed and clothe.
This morning we had arisen with multiple tasks. Annette spent the morning vacuuming up a drug dog, washing jack-boot scuff marks and paw prints from our floors and decks (I’m really going to milk this one! Wha, ha, haaa!) before washing the salt from the decks. Meantime, Ed spent the morning catching up on communications and writing up our blog. As we had sat around yesterday waiting for the security apparatus of the United States to grind its way through the clearance process, I was already thinking, this is great material for my writing. The officers had begun their task by asking if we had security or surveillance equipment aboard, so this morning I fired off a note to the ACLU in Houston, Texas asking for their guidelines and advice. I also arranged for a rental car and we headed over to the mall to pick it up. Now I have been married to the same lady for near 45 years and I knew perfectly well what the combination of “wheels” and “shopping mall” meant. It was too early for lunch at the various restaurants and the movie theatre wasn’t open either, thus our first stop was at the sporting goods store. Here we bought two six foot long “youth kayaks”, plus some quantity of water pistols in anticipation of the upcoming grandkid’s visit. Somehow the kayaks were jammed into the rental car with just a foot or so peeking through the open window.
Back at the marina it was obvious that the kayaks needed to be tested to see if they floated and as they were labeled “maximum weight 130 pounds”, it wasn’t gong to fall to me to test same. Annette paddled all around the marina and pronounced them as “lots of fun!”. Back to the mall, only this time we stopped in at the movie theatre to watch the Hunger Games Mockingjay part 2. About five minutes into the flick I realized that I haven’t seen part 1 yet but nevertheless the movie was slow, the ending entirely predictable – a disappointment.
November 20, 2015
And featuring the remake of "The Boys from
Brazil Puerto Rico"
We watched the dramatic moonset around midnight. The moon ducked in and out of towering storm clouds, illuminating them as though with flood lights. Unfortunately it was hard to hold on as DoodleBug was bucking violently into a head sea with six foot waves. This motion is foreign to sailing vessels since they can’t sail directly into the wind as we were now doing. Our speed had also dropped, such that it was impossible to make our destination before sunset today. Around 0100 hours we made the call and switched our course by 30 degrees, heading for the closer port of Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Dawn showed a sky again heavily overcast with rain cells all around and six to eight foot waves, frequently sweeping the foredeck. I was amazed that Annette’s job of cleaning the deck hatch covers and lubricating the rubber seals with silicone grease had really paid off. The only hatches that were leaking were the small ventilators in the main cabin that we had overlooked in the servicing. The ride was still very uncomfortable and DoodleBug crashed, banged, twisted and groaned through the waves. The waves were also hitting below the bridgedeck and sounded like someone was hammering below the saloon with a really big hammer. Surprisingly the boat was much noisier than our previous mono-hull which would have shrugged off such conditions as we were experiencing.
Finally we were within 30 miles of the south coast of Puerto Rico and the wave action died away. We motored in to Ponce and tied up at the Ponce Club Nautico fuel dock at 1325 hours. In our final approach hours we had seen no other shipping and even the Ponce harbor was empty of commercial vessels.
Within five minutes of our docking, I telephoned the Customs / Border Patrol people to report our arrival. While I was on the phone with the officer, a police boat tied up behind us and two officers came on board. They began to ask the same questions that I was already in the process of responding to the officer at the other end of the phone connection and finally Annette ran interference and talked to them. Once I had completed the usual litany of registration numbers, ports of call, passport information, the telephone officer said he would call me back with the status of my clearance but that I had “reported in” as required. I now turned my attention to the two officers already on board and realized that these were harbor police and not customs. They were very polite and were shown the boat registration when they wanted to see our “license”. They seemed shocked to learn that a 47 foot catamaran can be bought and driven by Americans, without the possession of any kind of operating license and were totally underwhelmed by the Federal registration certificate I gave them. “Is this it?” they asked; “That’s all you get” I responded, “impressive isn’t it?” I gave them a copy of an auxiliary list of equipment I have compiled and it has always been a big hit with officials across the planet. It lists in excruciating detail (including model numbers and serial numbers!) all of the safety, communications and like equipment we carry, plus details of physical dimensions, engine types, horsepower, emergency contact numbers and they seemed perfectly happy to copy this stuff down into their notebooks.
By this time their sergeant had arrived and while we were introducing ourselves to him, the first two customs officers arrived. We now had five people on board, the latest pair being basically agriculture and drugs (although the latter didn’t identify himself as such). Up to this point the conversations had been cordial but now the “drug thug” began to throw his weight around. It went downhill after he asked me if we had been to Venezuela. I said “No”. He then repeated his question and I said, “No, it is dangerous to go there”. He responded tersely that he hadn’t asked my opinion and I retorted that that didn’t alter the fact that it was a dangerous place to go. He then turned up the heat with a lecture to me that lying to Federal officers was a prison offence. This really pissed me off. The S.O.B. has just called me a liar and was now trying to bully. What a cretin! Obviously raised on too much day-time television! I muttered to the effect that his statement was, “Hardly a big surprise”. By now two more officers had arrived and I recognized Officer Colon, the guy who had stuck us with $5,500 worth of “import duty” the last time we were here. They began to pepper me with questions, interrupting me while I was still answering and asking the same questions, over and over. “Had we had major work done on the boat? Had we made any repairs?” I said, “It’s a boat. You are always repairing it”. “What was the last thing you repaired?”. “Well I just fixed the chain counter on the windlass”. “That’s nothing”. “No, the chain counter is something. It’s pretty bloody important when you want to anchor”. And so on.
Meanwhile, the agriculture people were pissing off Annette. They found a can of pineapple slices and shook it at Annette exclaiming, “This is a product of Israel, where did you get it?” Annette was already thoroughly riled by the uninvited invasion of her home by hostiles, who were covering her floors with heavy black boot marks and said, “I got it from the grocery store in Curacao, where did you think I got it?” “It’s a product of Israel, how did you buy it?” Annette tartly responded that she doesn’t read the labels to see where stuff comes from. “If I need pineapple, I buy pineapple”. The lady then gave Annette the usual droning statement that all of our waste was a “bio-hazard” and had to be taken out of Puerto Rico with us when we leave and had Annette sign a form to that effect (couple of empty beer bottles and some plastic wrappings). Annette slashed her signature on the form and cast it down on the table. “Is that your signature?” the lady exclaimed. “Yeah, I developed that so my kids couldn’t forge my signature on their school reports”. After they had all left, Annette noticed that her can of Israeli pineapples had gone. They didn’t mention they were taking same, so Annette considers it outright theft (and since when was Israeli pineapple a prohibited item along with blood diamonds and Cuban cigars?. I thought Israel was one of the few allies we had left!)
Meanwhile Officer Colon had wound up his spiel and informed me “again” that the laws on clearance have recently changed and that “again” I was subject to a $5,500 import fee on the boat. When I reminded him that he had already raped us for such an amount during our last visit, he asked if I had a receipt. I assured him that indeed I had and that the amount in question was engraved on my heart. He then remembered us and began to lose interest in the proceedings. This still left the other nine officers who now asked if I had a GPS aboard (No way! We just guessed Puerto Rico might be north – oh wait a minute, we have at least six....), if it was accurate and if it ever gave false readings. (Ed thinks – “Oh my God! They are setting a trap for me!!!”) When I offered to show them the main GPS, they assured me that they could handle it themselves. These guys had watched too many NCIS reruns and where is Abby when you need her anyway? We are using a Raymarine model that is old and the only reason I am using it, is that it came with the boat. It really is a POS and lacks many features of the older design. I had to update it from software revision 7 to revision 14 and one of the chip readers is bad. There is probably a “bread crumb” feature that stores your track (shows where you have been) but I haven’t got around to digging it out yet and if it exists, it is well hidden in a deep and dark place amongst a plethora of poorly laid out sub-menus. Needless to say, about a half hour later I was asked to show them the track info, which I stated we hadn’t been using. I had however handed over our “Ship’s Log”, a hand written log we update every couple of hours, which details our position the old fashioned way. The crack technical team initially declined this log, even though, as I reminded them, this has been a legal document for at least the past couple of centuries. Needless to say our paper log was all they were able to “ferret out”.
These guys were either totally bored, on a victim crusade, or had to be some of the dumbest cops on the planet. Could you imagine “real” drug dealers calling Customs within minutes of their arrival at the main port on the south side of Puerto Rico and leaving packages of dope scattered about in various cabins? So far Annette hadn’t killed anyone with her bare hands and the import duty guys had become bored and left. This just left the crack (excuse the pun) Keystone team. They never checked the engine rooms. They never even “found” the starboard crew cabin although they unscrewed and looked behind one bathroom shower. They next informed us that we would have to sit outside the boat on our back deck and wait twenty minutes for the drug dog team. After thirty minutes or so, Annette asked loudly if the dog had stopped by the groomers to get its nails clipped. “Goebbels” (we will name him such, since he hadn’t bothered to identify himself) turned on Annette that this was a serious matter and he required Annette to respond in a serious manner. This was a mistake. Daughter Marian says you can always tell - those brown eyes go totally black, with bright red centers and red flames start coming out. He never received the “full Vivian” (Annette is the nice one - Vivian is her evil twin) because Annette had been sea-sick and was exhausted after a rough three day passage but nevertheless Vivian Annette lectured Goebbels that she in turn required him to act and treat her politely and pointed out that he was the one who had come on board with the edgy attitude. She again asked her question, even more forcefully, as to how long we had to wait for the dog? This time Goebbels’ response was noticeably more muted and he provided a formal statement that it could take up to two hours if the dog team had to come from San Juan. If Vivian had gone to Munich instead of Chamberlain, history would have been different.
I begged “Agriculture” to let me hit the fridge for a couple of beers, as a “matter of life and death” and she agreed (possible feeling guilty over the stolen pineapple). Over an hour later the dog and his handler showed up, the only true professionals in the bunch and their presence markedly increased the average IQ of the inspection team. The officer was courteous, the dog a very large and friendly Labrador, which badly needed a bath and after it left, Annette found enough dog hair on board to knit a new dog. As he left, the K-9 officer mentioned what a nice boat we had and to enjoy our visit in Puerto Rico. Finally they all departed and Goebbels dictated our clearance number to me, which I pointedly wrote in the Ship’s Log. As Agriculture stepped off the boat, she had asked Annette what the large object was that was wrapped in a blue tarpaulin and lashed to the deck - they had been stepping around this for the past four hours. “It’s my washing machine”, said Annette. “Wow, this has everything, just like a house!” exclaimed the officer. “This is my home” said Annette emphatically.
We are here! Puerto Rico!
Arrived 1325 hours: tied up at position N 17 57.890' W 066 36.986'
November 19, 2015
Position N 13 55.1' W 067 50.0' at 0155 hours local time.
We had seen several freighters off the coast of the ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) and our new electronic toy, the “AIS”, announced these as oil tankers heading for the refinery at Curacao or ports in Columbia. We have an iPad at the “navigation station” in the main saloon and this device both repeats the screen display of the radar / chart-plotter at the helm above and also enables us to switch scales, apply rain filters to the radar and monitor the AIS reports. The latter not only identifies the various ships but also provides their speed, heading and how close they will get to us. This takes a lot of stress out of marine encounters because instead of having to interpret the “range lights” of the large ships and then estimate whether they will hit you or not based upon relative motion (imagine driving a car and approaching a railroad crossing with an express train similarly approaching – who gets there first?). The AIS computer tells you how close, when and whether the approaching ship has changed speed and direction as an immediate read-out. Of course you have to be awake for this to happen. The other electronic gadget we added was a remote for the auto-pilot so that we can change course from the womb of our saloon navigation station. Our visibility is much better from the fly-bridge above but then you really can’t see much on a dark and stormy night and certainly not as well as radar.
Position N 14 25.0' W 067 32.4' at 0645 hours local time.
All night long the lightning had flickered across the sky and rain pods had danced around us, occasionally lashing us with rain but morning found us, still cloud covered, having distanced 172 miles in the 24 hours since we left Curacao. Not as far as I had anticipated, since we were driving the boat with both engines at 1750 RPM, however as the wind dropped, our average speed should increase. The contrary current was also having an effect. We had to assume that we were cutting this at an angle and by now our leeway was decreasing, indicating that we were possibly clear of the current for the moment. Sure enough the wind dropped as forecast and by 1100 hours we were enjoying a slight chop on maybe 3 foot swells and even the sun was trying to peek through the clouds.
For a couple of hours we picked up speed to 8.5 knots or so and the glimpses of blue skies made watching the flying fish scatter away from us a fascinating pleasure. I never get tired of watching them, they seem such unlikely creatures. This morning I spotted a dorsal fin in pursuit and assumed it was a shark in the eight foot range. I found one unlucky hitchhiker on the floor of the fly-bridge and as he was about ten inches long and had landed some 12 feet or so above sea-level, I was thankful he hadn’t collided with me, as both of us would have been suffering.
After sunset, the wind shifted so that it was now directly on the bow and increased in strength. This was not as originally forecast but unfortunately matched an updated report I had downloaded from the internet an hour or so earlier using the satellite phone. We had expected and planned for very light winds and smooth water for the balance of the passage.
Position N 16 18.9' W 066 40.0' at 2305 hours local time.
November 18, 2015
The early morning wind was characteristically light and we dropped our lines and motored gently out of the marina at 0645 hours, bound for Vieques, some 435 nautical miles to the northeast. The wind forecast was for lighter winds from the east, becoming lighter by evening and we expected the waves to be just ahead of the starboard beam, again dropping in height by evening. This part of the forecast held true but the sky was three quarters overcast and the waves larger than expected, in the range of 6 to 8 feet producing an uncomfortable “twisting” motion. By 1040 hours we passed the eastern tip of Curacao and made a 60 degree turn that made the ride more tolerable. By 1400 hours the sky was gloomy and totally cloud covered, the wind had dropped, the whitecaps were mostly gone but we still experienced a lumpy confused sea that put water over the bows, sweeping the decks. Just before sunset we were overflown by a low flying turboprop, however by the time I found the binoculars, I couldn’t tell if the paint job was US Coastguard. The waves still very choppy and a strong west setting current was pushing us off course and forcing us to turn our bows into the wind and waves in order to maintain our course.
2200 hours, it was still completely overcast but a ghostly half moon could occasionally be glimpsed, casting a glow on the clouds above. Rain pods began to crop up on the radar, growing in size and intensity as the night wore on and the flicker of lightning between the clouds drove me from my steering position on the fly-bridge to our alternate watch position below in the saloon. This provides physical protection from rain and wind, plus important psychological protection from lightning strikes.
Position N 13 30.3' W 068 03.5' at 2200 hours local time.
November 17, 2015
The final day before our departure. We drove downtown and made our first stop at the central Post Office in order that Annette could mail her post-cards from a box within the facility – she doesn’t trust “street” boxes and certainly no longer trusts a hotel / business to drop them in the mail for her. Next was the Customs office where the official exclaimed that our inbound documents were all “hand written”. This was followed by an, “Oh yes, and I did it” (the result of computer problems on the day of our arrival). A very pleasant grandfather type who meticulously completed the various forms and wished us a safe trip. Next we perambulated the famous Willemstad floating bridge – the bridge decking is supported by multiple barges and it rocks and heaves slightly with the ocean swells. Believe it or not, Annette was without her camera. On the far side of the channel we found the commercial docks and deep within these, the Immigration department. More forms, including one we needed to exit the port facility and we were stopped on our return by a film crew security man. We then had to detour around the warehouses so as not to appear in a Dutch movie being shot there. I am sure the Dutch taxpayers will be appreciative.
We returned our rental car and became pedestrians again but decided that we would have supper at the resort marina some two or three miles away. When we told the marina office lady that we planned to walk, she became very concerned about whether people our age should attempt to walk so far. She locked up the office and drove us over to the restaurant in her own car. We did not demur. The restaurant is set on the banks of the entrance channel to Spanish Water, thus we got to watch the various sundry vessels entering the channel and tomorrow, we will pass that way and get a reciprocal view of the restaurant.
On our return journey we faced an uphill walk for the first mile or so, thus we bummed a ride on a luggage-bearing “valet” golf cart back to the main resort where we got a second ride from a security man, uphill to the main road on his golf cart. Once his back was turned, we shortcut across the golf course in the darkness. The great thing about golf courses at night is that the grass has been cut and the sand-traps and water obstacles are easy to spot by moonlight. Navigating to marinas is also an easy task, you just look for the masts. We are now ready to sail at first light tomorrow morning.
November 16, 2015
This morning we discovered that the freezer was not working! Most of our frozen food was defrosted and had to be either eaten or discarded and to make matters worse, the individual cooling units seem to be working fine. What is going on here? We will need to have the compressor units checked for freon charge and then get the thermostats tested. This won’t be done here, we will attempt this at our next port of call.
The good news was that I finally found the missing cutter and completed the installation of the anchor chain counter. It hasn’t been “calibrated” yet but looks close enough. We have gathered and updated all of our boat documents and the weather still seems reasonable for a Wednesday departure.
November 15, 2015
The fridge / freezer seemed heavily frosted so perhaps this was the problem and we began the day by defrosting the units. During this process we were at least able to identify which of the unlabeled thermostats allegedly belongs to the freezer. It now has a label. The weather forecast still shows lighter winds for next Wednesday and we needed to tidy the boat anyway. The missing cutter still stayed missing however but the fridge / freezer was restarted and began cooling again.
Sunday is the day that native Curacao folk take their various boats, families, wives, girlfriends and mistresses out for a drive around Spanish Water. The wind was blowing fiercely so none stayed out too long but we watched a steady parade from the deck of DoodleBug as we enjoyed a slow afternoon. We ate dinner at the main resort which is pleasantly located on the entrance channel to Spanish Water, with a great sunset view and you get to watch the hardy few who ventured beyond the sheltered confines of the inland lake, struggling through the waves to make it back inside. The experience was only slightly marred by our bread rolls blowing off the table.
November 14, 2015
Not a terribly productive day. We made the pilgrimage to the car rental company in order to extend our rental through next Tuesday. Our next destination was the marine supply where we bought the needed wiring terminator for the chain counter electronics, a couple of cases of beer and then back to the boat. This is when the productivity began to decline, although not due to the beer. We have a side by side freezer refrigerator that have separate compressors and separate controls. Their cooling behavior had been unfathomable until we supplied a pair of wireless remote thermometers and now they are still unfathomable but at we least we have proof that they are messed up! These units are of typical of marine construction in that they have insulated cabinets. Inside are cold plates that are screwed to the walls of the cabinets and outside the units, buried behind wall panels are the thermostats. The compressors themselves are four or five feet away under a food storage bin. We had been trying to set the fridge / freezer thermostats so that the freezer stayed frozen and the beer in the fridge didn’t go solid. This was not working well and my log of settings and temperatures was not making any sense.
To add to the technical misery, I failed to find my cutter to make hole for new windlass control wiring. I had hoped that it would be all “plug and play” since it was all made by the same manufacturer and I had believed that I was simply adding an optional component. This was not to be, so in disgust we read paperback books while the beer was still cold.
November 13, 2015
This morning we spent on an extended treasure hunt for a WiFi amplifier / extender. Bob and Jerry or S/V Freestyle had loaned us theirs and it worked well. In addition they had explained where they had purchased it and although we had visited that very store yesterday, we were now armed with a photo of the device and written specifications. The store clerk was just as useless today as yesterday but eventually it was determined that they normally carried the devices but were out of stock at both of their Curacao stores. We bounced all over the the island trying other electronics stores but to no avail. We bought a different gadget as more of an act of desperation at a downtown store in the heart of the old city and paused for a pizza lunch so that the effort was not entirely wasted.
Back at Doodlebug I spent an hour or so removing extra drivers and adding new drivers, trying to get the new Wi-Fi extender to work. It did see slightly more signal than the built in receiver but not enough to make any real difference. We will need to continue our search elsewhere and discard todays purchase in an environmentally responsible fashion.
We finally got around to painting our Federal registration numbers with “clear resin”. The US Coast Guard / Homeland Security or whatever they call themselves, require that the vessel’s registration number be painted on an internal hold bulkhead, just forward of the largest hatch. I don’t remember if we are carrying bales of cotton, barrels of rum or slaves but nevertheless we seem to be lacking internal bulkheads and cargo holds. We had affixed our numbers in our stern locker since it is the closest thing we have to a “cargo hold”. The marking instructions further required that we coat the numbers with multiple layers of “clear resin” in order to make them “permanent”. We had shopped around for “clear resin” and had finally settled on a two part epoxy that is supposed to be used for table tops, since none were sure as to what “clear resin” is. This afternoon I had liberally slopped several coats of this stuff over the numbers and blessed the fact that it was now dripping all over the discarded cardboard box that the washing machine had been shipped in. You really don’t want to slop epoxy around more than you have to.
I did get around to running an extra ground wire for the new anchor windlass controller but couldn’t find a connector for one end of the wire. Another item for tomorrow. Annette did another load of laundry – almost as much fun as yesterday!
November 12, 2015
One of the really cool features of our new washing machine is that the power draw is low enough that it can run from our solar panel powered inverter. The local power at the marina is 130 volts at a frequency of 50 Hertz, as compared to the household power in the USA of 110 volts and 60 Hertz. Although the dealer had assured us that our washer would run fine on the local power, we didn’t have to risk burning out electric motors or timers with the wrong power, we could just run it from our ship’s power. This we did. Annette had a small load of clothes, water and soap all loaded and we turned it on. When dock neighbor Bob came by, we were gazing in wonder at the clothes sploshing back and forth, just as they do in certain parts of Arkansas.
We had a short shopping list of last minute parts and while the clothes were drying on the line (we didn’t stay to watch) we headed out to find sealant and spare anodes. The forecast for next week still shows light winds on Wednesday and Thursday and if this holds, we plan to leave for the Spanish Virgin Islands at that time.
November 11, 2015
Our boat has no chain-counter and by this I mean, there is no mechanism to measure the amount of chain that has been released when you drop the anchor. This is important because too much chain used in close confines and you might swing on a wind change and collide with another anchored vessel; too little and a gust of wind might cause the anchor to lift from the sea bed and “drag”, i.e. cease to an “anchor”. The usual formula is to use five times the water depth when anchoring for the night. If you are in 20 feet of water, you would have 20 times 5 equals 100 feet of chain laying on the sea bed, with the anchor hopefully dug into the sea bed on the end of the chain.
I had purchased a chain counter display that is built into the controller for the anchor windlass. The latter is a “Quick” brand, an Italian made device and the brochure claims that all Quick brand windlasses feature a built in chain counter “sensor”. OK then but where was the wiring for the sensor? A couple of days ago I had dismantled the windlass and discovered a mystery pair of wires exiting downwards alongside the power cables. Further searching and I tracked the wires to a bundle jammed behind the battery compartment. The wiring had been cut and had obviously been actively used at one time. This morning I sat down to translate the seven color coded wires of the new controller I had purchased in the USA with the “built in” chain counter display and match these to the three wires currently in use, plus the two discarded wires from the unused sensor – total five. After scouring the wiring diagrams (Italians don’t seem to be big on wiring diagrams) I realized that two of my five wires need to be paralleled for power and I need an extra ground wire for the controller.
By this time Annette was in the water cleaning the hull, so in the spirit of solidarity, I abandoned my wiring project and joined her in the water with me cleaning the propellers. In the past I have used scuba gear to do this but now I lack the necessary breathing apparatus and had to rely on a snorkel and holding my breath. About an hour later, Annette had cleaned the hulls and I had most of the gunk cleaned off the props. Not exactly to “scuba” standards but enough to get by.
We have been checking the weather daily and now that tropical storm / hurricane “Kate” has passed by and gone out into the Atlantic, we see that next week, we might have two days of very light winds. Unlike the first DoodleBug who would not lift up her skirts until you had at least 15 knots of wind, this DoodleBug likes either a dead calm or a following wind. Of course the weather forecast this far out is hardly reliable so we will have to see what transpires with the forecast this coming week-end.
After the physical effort of cleaning the hull (By the way, we had been quoted $500 to have this done by a commercial operator) we were sufficiently exercised to cover the balance of the day and we went out on an expedition to buy a clothes washing machine. Our dock neighbors had lauded theirs, a design targeted at “third world” countries, that can be filled with water from a bucket if necessary and boasts bullet-proof construction. Instead of the marinized “built in” marvel of stainless steel that costs about $2,000.00, these machines are mainly plastic and cost upwards of $200. The one we purchased is by Samsung, a sturdy, reliable brand and the dealer delivered it to our boat. Of course the delivery lads had never been on a vessel like this before and we gave them a tour, whilst they took dozens of pictures of themselves, posed at the engine controls or languidly slouching at the rail. They were going to e-mail pictures to family in India in celebration of tomorrow’s Hindu New Year and you have to wonder how they will title these.
November 10, 2015
Sheltering the marina is “Table Mountain” that provided mostly shelter from the trade winds, unpredictable gusts occasionally and dust from the blasting and quarrying operations that we hear. On the week-end we had chatted with a fellow boater, “Dave” who has his Boston Whaler moored just feet from DoodleBug. I had commented that I have an identical Boston Whaler under my deck on Padre Island but that his is cleaner. Annette had asked Dave if he knew anyone who worked at quarry because she wanted to ask for a tour. In turn Dave has said that he did indeed know someone and that he would see if it could be arranged.
Yesterday, Dave had phoned to say that “Peter” would give us a tour and we would meet Peter at the Sales office next to the Santa Barbara Plantation security gate. This we did and discovered that Peter is the engineer in charge of the property management of the Santa Barbara Estate and we had been talking to Dave, the General Manager.
Peter explained that mining operations began at the turn of the last century, around 1905. The landowners of the Santa Barbara plantation believed that Table Mountain contained commercial pockets of mineable phosphate, derived from bird guano but had been unable to locate it. They sold the mining rights to an English mining expert who began to produce and export the phosphate. Eventually the deposits were played out and the quality of the remaining phosphate had declined to the point where the operation was only marginally commercial, when a Dutch company purchased the mining rights to produce building materials from the underlying limestone. Some of the limestone was mined, cut and polished for building blocks, and other rock was crushed for use in making concrete. The crushed rock is very pure and is exported for making glass bottles for “Carib” beer, the balance has to be mixed with imported sand from Surinam to create a mixture with the necessary physical properties for construction concrete.
We toured the old crushing mill and dock facilities and the cottages of the early miners. The latter still retain occupation rights to their respective homes throughout their lifetime but the homes are demolished upon their death or abandonment and revert back to the Plantation owners. During our tour it had bucketed with rain and it was not possible to enter the quarry itself. The current mining operations are being performed by hollowing out the interior of “Table Mountain”, leaving the familiar landscape seemingly intact. As you can imagine, the cost of importing building materials to a remote island like Curacao is huge and thus this operation has a marked impact on the island economy.
We visited an abandoned operation where limestone had been quarried, cut into thin slices, polished and sorted by color. This stone had been used in the construction of the hotels and the tailings were now available to Annette as she pored through the rocks seeking the best souvenirs. I shall have to check the waterline level on DoodleBug before we leave.
Later that evening we had been invited to supper with Hannah the sculptress / painter and her husband Jan. Annette had brought Hannah a stack of magazines and art brochures that Annette had collected from the art galleries on Canyon Road, Santa Fe. Hannah was besides herself with excitement as she and Annette pored over the brochures at the top of the pile, whilst Jan and I sorted out the problems of humanity, the European immigration crisis and the energy economy.
Jan has been completing the pyramid house that he began constructing over a decade ago and since we were here a month ago, the pyramid has been sheathed in roofing material, tar papered and lathed ready for the shakes to be installed. Jan maintained that the construction was begun on a whimsy - because he liked the idea of living inside a pyramid. He maintained that it is not a particularly practical shape because of the lost space at the perimeter, but since they have no children living with them, they don’t really care. Jan said that Hannah had recently asked when the house would be ready to move into and he had said “Christmas”. He told me that he never specified which Christmas, as he is retired and once it is finished, he has nothing to do.
November 9, 2015
The Expedia dance began last week before we had even departed Santa Fe. Our son Matt had cancelled his visit with us over the Christmas holidays and we had already purchased the airline tickets. Southwest Airlines took about 12 minutes to recast the flights with the name of daughter Helen’s co-worker and I needed Expedia to do the same with the leg from Puerto Rico to Tortola. I phoned Expedia and I couldn’t tell if the lady I spoke with was from Calcutta or Budapest but I knew I was in trouble, ‘cos it sure as hell wasn’t Dallas! She said she would telephone the airline office at Seaborne Airlines and then put me on hold for perhaps 25 minutes. When she came back on line, she said that she couldn’t reach the airline but that the tickets were non cancellable and non-refundable. The fact that she did not offer to contact the airlines later and then call me back, told me that I had been scammed, she had simply put me on hold to deal with another customer and then bullshit me.
The following morning I called the airline myself. The Seaborne folks were pleasant enough to talk to. The outbound ticket was fully refundable, the return leg not. They couldn’t help me because the tickets had been booked via Expedia and only the latter could access the computer files to change the booking.
Back to Expedia. This time the (different) lady told me that when there is a return ticket, Expedia treats them as a single entity using the most restrictive rules. They could and would do nothing to help me. I was to forfeit the $560 fare and needed to buy another ticket. I complained that this was patently unfair since they had nearly two months to re-sell the seat, hardly a problem near Christmas and .the Expedia lady from Khartoum insisted that it was not their fault, it was the “airlines policy”. I corrected her saying that she had just told me that it was Expedia’s policy to ignore the refundable ticket and treat it as non-refundable, Seaborne was perfectly willing to make an accommodation. To this she could only keep repeating that it wasn’t their fault and I was stuffed. No, I couldn’t speak to a manager.
I next “escalated” my complaint which had to be done by e-mail. I would hear from their team in about 24 hours. Three days later I sent another e-mail providing our local cell number and indicating I had heard nothing. Which brings us to around 9:00 a.m. this morning.
I stood outside the marina office to use their internet and “Skyped” the International access number for Expedia. This time I got to speak to a guy whose primary language might have been English. He sounded fair and reasonable and after spending 45 minutes in brief conversations punctuated by long periods on hold, counting the iguanas in the marina parking lot while Annette weeded the marina flower beds, the Skype connection terminated. The parking lot iguanas bobbed their heads vigorously as though they would laugh if they could. Bugger! Five minutes later he called me back on the cell phone. Wow, I thought he was in the bar with his buddies by now. He passed us over to his supervisor and they had both assured me that they would cancel the non-refundable return ticket and re-book the fully refundable outbound leg. After 20 minutes, the cell phone broke connection and the “supervisor” did not call back.
It was now well past beer time and Annette went back to the boat to get a couple of bottles - just to maintain life support. I Skyped back to Expedia and after negotiating with Khartoum’s sister I got back to Budapest’s sister. She began telling me the Expedia policy and I cut her off saying, “We did this part last week. We are now up to the part where you fix the reservation for half of the ticket”. I don’t know what nationality or culture spells the name “Mary” with the letter “J” but I was talking to her. After 40 minutes of this, the Skype connection broke contact. Annette returned with sandwiches.
When I called back, the next Expedia agent ignored the case number I had been given and asked me what State “San Juan” was in. Mercifully the Skype connection broke again. The final attempt was even worse in that the agent explained that since I was buying a new ticket, she didn’t need the case number. How was my name spelled for the ticket? At 2:30 p.m., on day 5 with just five and a half hours invested today, the Skype connection broke again.
Two hours later I booked a new ticket for the same flights using Priceline. It was $40 cheaper than the price quoted by Expedia. I also learned from Seaborne that the forfeited $560 is retained by Expedia.
That evening we hosted a BBQ for the two “live-aboard” boats on our dock. Bob and Jerry brought a fine salad and the two French lads crewing a fast catamaran, brought healthy appetites and inhaled their burgers in anticipation of their leaving for Martinique tomorrow. All in all a fun evening, some small compensation for today’s torture.
November 8, 2015
This morning there were no rain showers to be seen, blue skies with sunshine and noticeably lower humidity in the air. A beautiful day for boat chores!
My major task was to check the engines and after doing all of the usual things like checking fluids and cleaning the raw water intake filter, I checked the anodes that live inside the heat exchanger. Land based engines remove the surplus heat by passing the coolant through a “radiator” which has air passing through its fins. Water is a much more efficient conductor of heat than air, so marine engines typically use a much smaller “radiator”, in the form of a double jacket without the fins. The engine coolant passes through the inner jacket and sea water is passed through the outer jacket. To prevent stray electrical current from eating away the soft metals, the heat exchanger has a chunk of zinc based “sacrificial” metal that will be eroded first and Cummins recommends checking this every 90 days. It has now been 90 days since the engines were installed but I was still shocked to see that the anodes on both engines were near completely eroded.
I added an extra line to prevent DoodleBug from hitting the dock and ran each engine slowly in forward and reverse. The port engine “screamed” when first put into drive and I have to assume that it is something to do with the transmission. It quieted down after it had run for twenty seconds or so and after switching between forwards and reverse a few times, the noise disappeared entirely. Since this is not “normal” behavior, it will bear further investigation but I will need to find a transmission specialist.
I had been shocked by the condition of the engine anodes and decided it would be prudent to check the generator anode(s) and removed what looked like an anode from its heat exchanger. Fluorescent green fluid spurted everywhere! Apparently I had opened up the wrong “jacket” and spent the next five minutes cleaning up the mess. The twin facts that I did not find an an anode and the spare parts kit did not contain any spares, leads me to the conclusion that maybe there aren’t any.
The heavy rain yesterday had produced two hatch leaks so Annette spent time cleaning all of the hatch rims and lubricating the rubber gaskets with silicone grease. After cleaning the boat and tidying away her household items, she decided to test the ice-maker we had brought in our checked airline luggage. It is a so called “portable” unit and runs from an inverter, producing ice cubes in about ten minutes with a usable quantity of ice in a half hours operation. All afternoon long we were entertained with the sound of ice cubes rattling into the collection tray. This put Annette in a party mood so she installed various kites flying from the flybridge, consisting of a pig, a man wearing a bathing suit plus “rubber ducky swim ring”, a fish and a red, rotating sea serpent. Sunday afternoon is the time when the locals climb into their boats and cruise around Spanish Water, checking out the marinas and back yards. We were well photographed today by several boats and will probably be featured in the upcoming issue of the magazine, “What’s wrong with Curacao?”. One of the boats that swept around us sported a full scale TV crew as well as a drone operated camera that hovered and zoomed all around the marina. It appeared that they were perhaps interviewing someone aboard the boat and we watched the show with interest trying to fathom what was occurring.
We had discovered another live-aboard catamaran at this marina and after the departure of the TV crews, we shared sundowners with Bob and Jerry from North Carolina. Annette served Jerry’s drink with freshly made ice-cubes. No paparazzi's please!
November 7, 2015
This morning the sky had a forbidding look as though rain were imminent. One of my projects was to link an iPad to the built in chartplotter via WiFi and see if the charts, radar and controls could be operated from the iPad. If we could achieve this, the vessel could be navigated and steered from just about anywhere on the boat, using the wireless remote for the auto-pilot. In real terms, if it was bucketing with rain outside, we could keep watch from the sheltered inside navigation station. After a few minutes, the various pieces of electronics connected and I tried the radar. The radar showed a huge rain pod rapidly approaching. I replaced covers on the instruments, grabbed everything I could and retreated inside the main cabin as rain lashed the marina and removed the balance of fine dust from the nearby quarry that had settled over DoodleBug at her dock.
OK then, inside jobs this morning as the rain continued to hammer down. There is a tropical disturbance heading for Puerto Rico that has a 50% chance of becoming a “named” tropical storm and we are catching the southern edge of this.
At 3:25 p.m. , the statutory 25 minutes late, our rental car ride showed up at the marina. The marina security had lost the note authorizing the driver Terrance to enter the “Santa Barbara Plantation” property but let him anyway. Now we were instructed to exit in the opposite direction because the community was running a bicycle race and so instead of us navigating past the two or three bicycles between us and the gate about a mile and half away, we had to go counterflow to perhaps a hundred cyclists on the eight or ten miles to the other exit to the property. Stupid and hazardous for the cyclists but fun for us.
This rental car had a better interior than the previous rental but the exterior was amazing. Every body panel had been dented, including the roof but inside there is headliner and the seats aren’t torn. Tires are a little bald and the speedometer is not functional - you sorta’ guess how fast you are going. All part of the great adventure!
November 6, 2015
There was a bright light glaring into my eyes from the hatch above as I awoke at 0900 hours Curacao time. This isn’t fair! My body whinged that It is supposed to be still dark at this time. We have travelled three time zones to the east and are now about 12 degrees above the equator. Bummer! Time to get up and find the coffee cups. It is always weird returning to a house / boat after an absence of a month or so. Age or senility dictates that it is hard to remember where stuff is. The best technique I have found is not to think about it but to just open the the cupboard / drawer. My hand remembers better than my brain.
Last night the boat smelt like a boat, rather than a sewer - thanks to Annette’s precaution of using the hand-held shower to fill all of the toilets with fresh water and then seal the toilet-stools with seran wrap. You just have to remember to remove it before you sit down. Daylight also showed the boat was covered with a thick layer of dust and Annette hosed this off while I connected the umbilicals of power, cellular access and internet. We unpacked our suitcases and stashed the contents but anything requiring actual brain power will have to wait for the morrow and the abatement of jet-lag. Fortunately we have enough beer on-board to make it through the week-end.
November 5, 2015
A long day but crisis free. We awoke to the alarm at 3:00 a.m. and left the house in blackness, with just a sprinkling of snow and an outside of temperature of 32F (0 C) at our elevation of 7,000 feet. The rental car was 2 wheel drive and liberally caked with mud from climbing the hill up to the house yesterday. We blessed the fact that it was mostly downhill to the black-top and we slid our way to Albuquerque and the first leg of our flight. Albuquerque to Dallas, then to Miami and finally landing in Curacao at 10:00 p.m. The Customs man stared at our cardboard box emblazoned with the words “ice-maker” and asked if we were “on holiday”. This is a trick question to which I answered that we were on a boat at Seru Boca Marina. He waved us on. You can bring in a nuclear reactor as long as you say “boat”.
I had “Skyped” the taxi company and our driver was waiting outside of the security zone and whisked us across the island to the darkened marina. Our driver regaled us with the tale of a couple who had forgotten their security cards and spent four hours negotiating with the security people at Seru Boca, to finally gain access to their boat in the pre-dawn. Not us! We found DoodleBug still safely at her mooring and were aboard with all of our luggage at 11:20 p.m. We are here! Temperature about 82F.
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.