Again a long time since the last post, and again mostly boat work, which although engaging to us doesn’t seem like it would be of much interest to readers. (Please let me know if I’m mistaken!)
We had another family visit, this time with Dan’s family in New York. We spent the weekend spanning September and October along with 15 others in Maine, staying near Acadia National Park in a small group of cabins. For us this trip will serve in place of the Thanksgiving gathering that we have been attending for the last several years, so on the way up we spent the night at Dan’s Aunt Nancy’s farmhouse, where that gathering happens. We initially thought that this would break up the journey into two smaller segments, but when Dan’s sister Beth said “look at a map” we realized that it took us far enough west that it cancelled out the gains made by being further north. Hmmm, how’d that happen? So we turned our one day’s drive into two! But it was nice to see Nancy, if only for one night. The gathering was partially a celebration of the life of Dan’s father David, and it was great to see his wife Shlomit again. She organized the event, remembering a previous trip there that happened during the New England Fall. Although the colors this year were not at their peak, we did nonetheless keep an eye out for all of the lovely displays of red, orange, salmon, gold and yellow – and were not disappointed! We all enjoyed some hikes and strolls, wandering the spectacular coastlines of this island park. A few people got up very early one morning to watch the sunrise over the fog, but we chose to stay snuggled deep under the heavy covers of our bed. I think our blood has gotten a bit thinner after spending 5 years south of the border! We enjoyed meeting Davis, the (no longer so) new partner to Dan’s youngest sister Aria who, some long-term readers may remember, was with us when we first left Oregon in 2011 on our way to Alaska. They are threatening – but not yet promising – to join us on the next big passage, when we cross the Pacific next spring. But she is also whining about being busy as she works on a PhD at MIT. Sheesh! It was also a treat to see Eve, the sister from Washington (State) that we can never get enough time with, and both of Dan’s sons Jesse and Evan – at the same time! The winner of the (non-existant) photography competition was of Jesse on the coast (sorry it’s small here; it’s the only copy we have!). In addition to the 5 days in Maine, we spent another 10 days in New Jersey staying with Dan’s mom. We popped into New York City once or twice to get some culture, but it also served to remind us just how much we enjoy the quieter life on the water. We came home again with full bags and a renewed energy for tackling our many projects that will help us get across the ocean.
Back in El Salvador, we began laying the groundwork for another fairly major project. Our rudder, which we built in 2011 before leaving Oregon, has developed a number of holes (we have several inconclusive ideas about just what caused them). We found a tiny marina nearby which has a space that was suitable for doing the sort of welding work we needed, and we purchased some sheetmetal in town. Two days before we planned to move down there – for a week of hard work (how naive! ) – our generator stopped, and in what turned out to be a dramatic manner. So we moved in a day early – and negotiated a monthly rate instead of daily. The marina’s staff disassembled the generator for diagnosis and found that a valve stem had broken, causing the valve to get caught in the cylinder and get crushed into the piston. None of those parts were better for the experience. Given the high costs of repair parts for Westerbeke generators, we are now in the process of buying a replacement. We will have it shipped down from Florida by a local man named Pablo, who we worked with last February. As long as we have that shipment coming, we are coming up with lots of other large (and small) items that we need at the same time. It turns out that our (spare) outboard motor was stolen off of Lungta while we were in New York. Shortly before that trip, we damaged one of our solar panels when something unbelievably small fell while we were working up the mizzen mast. And our freezer keeps acting up, making us think that it is a good time to change out the 50 year old motor. We began work on our rudder, but quickly ran into troubles with our welding system because a number of the accessories were damaged in May when they got covered in salt-water. Although we were able to find a few items in San Salvador, the cost and ability to work with the welder we already own (rather than buying a whole new one!) inspired us to order parts from the States and have them shipped – delaying our rudder project by maybe as much as a month. Yikes – these are some big-dollar items for our budget!
Getting the rudder off the boat was a project of its own. Kathy dove three or four days in a row, whenever the current was slack, first tying a rope securely around it and then trying to remove the boot that holds the rudder’s shaft to the skeg of the boat, a finger of cement-encased stainless steel which extends from the trailing edge of the keel. It’s been a bit more than 5 years since it was last removed, but the marine growth added a lot more work separating it. Once it came apart, Dan hauled it up on the halyard and deposited it on the dock. Then 6 men from the marina tied it to a long pipe and scraped/hauled it down the length of the dock and up onto the main pier – fortunately it was high tide and they only had to negotiate 3 or 4 stairs! They left it for us in a small covered workspace, where we’ve spent a number of hours cleaning it up and fitting a new skin. We’ve amassed quite an assortment of tools up there, which they’ve allowed us to keep in their storeroom so we don’t have to lug them to and fro every day. The work is coming along nicely, and is now essentially on hold until our freight shipment comes in with the TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding parts.
It will probably be another three weeks before this shipment arrives, but in the meantime we have a number of “smaller” projects that we can make progress on. We removed a portion of our main engine’s exhaust stack and had a local machine shop build a stainless steel water jacket around it. The idea is that this will channel *much* more of the engine’s heat out of the boat, which would be a welcome relief whenever we have to motor. We also replaced a very rusty bow roller, which directs the anchor chain out to the point on the bowsprit where it goes down. We made it from ultra-high molecular weight (UMHW, or something like that ) plastic, which is super slippery and easy to machine. We had a carpenter install some brass latches into most of the floorboards on Lungta, each of which has a finger that hooks under the joists to hold the board in place even if turned upside down. We bought these before we left Portland in 2011, but weren’t able to do a nice enough job ourselves to want to make a permanent installation to the boat. Once we heard about this carpenter we took advantage of the situation to have the work done. The price was great (we paid him double and were still pleased), and he turned around 16 boards in 3 days. (He would have done them all in one day if we’d agreed to being without a floor for the whole time!) We installed a water-level sensor in our tanks and wrote up a new program for an Arduino computer, like we have monitoring the power consumption from our fridge and freezer. We’re becoming quite enthusiastic advocates of this gadget, and have envisioned half a dozen more projects that could use them – whenever we find the time…
The move to this marina has been a little bit of culture shock, in that our “regular” place is much more developed and this place is much sleepier. We moved from a mooring ball where we were totally self-sufficient, to living on a dock where we have all the power we need from shore and a hose that dispenses (brackish) water at the turn of a knob. All of our friends (which at the moment only means three boats) are at the other marina, so our social life has changed dramatically. There’s a cool stretch of mangroves immediately next to the marina where a large number of egrets congregate every evening. We had no idea that egrets were social animals, since you always see them standing still and solitary along the shore. They gather together with a lot of squawks and cackles, somewhat reminiscent of a coffee-clatsch, and sometimes sounding like squabbling children. They are easily spooked by people make noise on the docks and a dozen or more may take flight, only to circle back around to find a new perch. The manager here called them their “avian watchdogs”.
We have the sense that we’ve entered the “chute” in preparing for our next passage. Much of the work we’re doing now is to make Lungta sea-worthy again, after being stationary for almost two years. We’re both excited at what’s coming up and daunted at the long to-do list. We’ve updated our web-site and started actively looking for boatmates to join us. While the timing is related to having company during the 30 day crossing of the sea, we are really hoping for people who become family and end up staying for several months or even years. If this sounds like someone you know, please point them at our web-site, www.lungtalife.com. We’re enthusiastic about communicating with anyone who expresses interest!