16 February 2020

More Boat Projects in Paradise

After an indulgent extended weekend in Saba, attention was quickly re-focused on Argon. We had a few more days tied to a dock at Simpson Bay Marina on the dutch side of St. Martin thus a perfect time to tackle our latest nautical to do list.

Captain Linda Perry Riera


Back to Cruising Life - More Boat Projects in Paradise

Just few weeks ago we were feeling accomplished when numerous projects and chores where completed while docked at Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbor. But alas, the new list started to form even before we left Antigua.

Topping Lift

The topping lift runs from the top of the mast to the aft end of the boom. Most of the time it hangs a bit slack and does nothing. Sometimes, such as when motoring in sloshing seas, the topping lift is important for holding the boom up off the bimini and dodger. Recently (ever since bending the new main sail in Grenada) the topping lift has caused us trouble periodically by fouling in the leech cleat, batten pockets or reefing rings causing angst and mild terror when struggling to drop the sail including once when approaching dangerous reefs in Barbuda. The assessment, options and solution will be a topic of a separate blog coming soon.

The topping lift has been causing problems - getting caught in the leech cleat, Antal rings (for reefing) and the batten pockets. This has been quite frustrating and a bit scary when it interferes with getting the sail down. Bob has been thinking a lot about options. A detailed sailing geek blog dedicated to the topping lift is forthcoming.


Getting ready to be hoisted up the mast to check out the topping lift and re-run the lazy jacks.


View from just above the first set of spreaders to re-run the lazy jacks. Also removed the connection of the topping lift at the top of the mast

Boom Pad Eye and Backing Plate

It's just a little pad eye... what's the big deal?

We were awoken suddenly in the early morning dark while anchored near St. George, Grenada, back in November to a crash and loud rhythmic squeaking as the boom thrashed back and forth violently, its inertia accentuating the sounds in the swell. The dock line that runs from under the boom, normally attached snugly to a midships cleat to keep the boom stable and quiet while at anchor, lay slack. Quickly we found the culprit - a busted pad eye. This pad eye also attaches the boom brake (which made the crashing sound when falling on to the deck). @#$%! We re-fasten the boom temporarily and commited to making a more complete assessment at day light.

Argon's boom is a carbon fiber pocket style. Inside the V of the boom is a flat base allowing for a long hollow chamber for the out haul and reefing lines to run through in addition to the backing plates for the head of the vang and several pad eyes with backing plates to attach various blocks and run lines. After considering options, we decided to move an existing extra pad eye to the recently opened hole. That extra pad eye is normally the attachment for the Wichard Boom Brake. We knew we had mostly upwind sailing in the near future until at least Antigua so this wasn't that urgent as the boom brake is more instrumental when sailing down wind. We planned to fully address the busted pad eye situation in Antigua a few weeks ago, but our time at dock there was during an especially windy spell which prevented us from doing anything that required removing the boom from the mast. But now that we are in St. Martin at a dock with low winds, with more down wind sailing for the next few months, it is time to get this fixed appropriately.



Back in November (Grenada) a pad eye under the boom busted (strangely, while we were at anchor). Now that we are in the cruiser's shopping mall of the Caribbean and on a dock, it is time to get this fixed properly.

Main sail taken off on a low wind morning in preparation to try to get the busted backing plate out of the boom. Good time to also inspect the sail track cars and replace any missing ball bearings. We wanted to use the broken backing plate as a template to get a new one fabricated and remove it to prevent it from perhaps fouling something someday.


First, let's retrieve the broken backing plate from the boom by tilting the boom up...


Ok, tilt it more; shake it around. Nothing. No sign of the backing plate.

Let's try removing the boom completely and hanging it vertical. (What can go wrong?) Ugh - still no backing plate! Bob said it must have gone in to another dimension.

Ok, now dinghy across the lagoon over to FKG Rigging to get a new pad eye and backing plate fabricated (and a spare). $200 and a couple days later - voila!

New pad eye and backing plate; and a spare.


Messenger line attached for the patience-testing activity of getting the new pad eye through the boom, pulled in to the slot in the carbon, and re-fastened.


After several tries and permutations with messenger lines and a metal hook...

Almost... now to get those fasteners in.



FKG did a very nice job fabricating the new backing plates without one to use as a template, but the threaded holes were just a tiny bit off center of the clearance holes in the carbon.  We opened two of them up just a bit.


Ta-da!!! Phew, that was quite the project. Now time to get the main sail back on.

Dinghy Scrubbing

Algae and barnacle growth on the bottom of Argon as well as the dinghy requires regular attention. Argon has ablative anti-fouling bottom paint which helps control the growth but still requires us (and occasionally a professional diver) to scrub and scrape. The growth on the aluminum dinghy bottom and hypalon inflated pontoons is particularly stubborn. I have been unable to get the dinghy bottom clean with a scrub brush while she has been in the water. This is going to require a more concerted effort and chemicals.

Dinghy bottom before: The stubborn algae was impossible to scrub off with a stiff brush in the water. Time for more concerted effort (and chemicals).

The outboard, bench, and all contents removed; dinghy hauled up on to the dock, Calbert and I attack the dinghy with diluted On-Off, Simple Green, Magic Eraser, regular boat soap and elbow grease.

After:  Much better! We are now going to be more disciplined about hoisting the dinghy on the davits more often when not in use to keep the growth at bay.

Hull & Deck Waxing, Stainless Polishing, Teak Cleaning

The salt and sun wage constant assault on a boat. I set my sights on polishing the stainless steel, waxing the gel coat decks, and cleaning the teach cockpit. Help is employed to clean and wax Argon's hull.


I splurge and hire Calbert and Pete to clean and wax Argon's hull while I work on the waxing, polishing and other cleaning.

Some of the products used to help keep Argon shiny:  Scotch Guard and 3M for waxing the hull and gel coat. And some Awlgrip wax (not pictured) for a finishing touch on the hull. Flitz for polishing the stainless steel along with OsPho and Spotless Stainless for the more stubborn rust spots.

Cockpit teak scrubbing.


Deck waxing started in St. Martin and finished while at anchor in Anguilla. Well, is it ever finished?


Water Treatment, Tank Filling, Strainer Cleaning and Laundry

Argon carries 135 gallons of water between two tanks. We have no water maker nor a sophisticated water treatment system. To keep the tank water potable, we flush the tanks periodically (difficult with scarcity and expense of good water in the Caribbean) and the add chlorine. When there is enough fresh water to spare, I can do some laundry by hand. Raw water filters for the refrigerator, diesel and air conditioner are checked and cleaned regularly.

Water tanks were low so we decided to give them a good shock with some extra bleach while we were away in Saba. Then inspect to ensure all looked fairly clean and clear, followed by a good flushing. Having access to good potable water at the marina (at 20 cents / gallon!) allowed us to have full water tanks upon departure. We can last up to 3 weeks with very careful usage.

Good time to check the refrigerator and diesel raw water strainers. In addition to needing a cleaning, this one is getting corroded and will soon be replaced.
 
Several loads of laundry were done at a nearby laundromat but some items were best hand washed on board.

Jib Furling Drum Repair

The Harken furling systems are mostly very well designed. The weak spot is the top and bottom platters inside the drum. They consist of semi-circles of plastic held together by two fasteners. The problem is that the attachment for these fasteners breaks over time. More than a year ago in Bermuda, Bob did a "hack" to hold the platters together after this breakage. The problem if they separate is that they can no longer spin freely inside the drum. And spinning freely is the main thing a furling system is supposed to do.

While sailing from the dutch to the french side of St. Martin, we noticed that the jib was getting difficult to furl (again) and upon inspection, the Bermuda hack had failed and the bottom platter had separated. It was time to re-hack it. Always the engineer, Bob was saying something about a re-design and buying a 3D printer when we get home.



After departing Simpson Bay Marina en route to Marigot on the french side of St. Martin, we realized that the jib furler had an issue. Luckily Bob was able to fix it at anchor without taking down the jib as the winds were up.

WiFi Router - Failed Attempt to Resuscitate

Our beloved ArgonAfloat network is served by a Ubiquity Bullet Titanium router mounted up on the radar mast. The router has been getting flaky over the last few months sometimes working great, other times not so much. Normally cleaning connections and chanting incantations has solved the issue, but now it seems, the Bullet itself is really dead. Bob unmounted it from the mast and did some testing down below and declared "He's dead, Jim". It's been baking in the sun and freezing in the winter for five years, so we don't feel too badly about it. Fortunately, we are at a point in the cruise where we can primarily rely on mobile data from here on out anyway. We're shopping for replacement solutions (maybe another Bullet), but won't buy anything until we are stateside again.



Resuscitation of the WiFi router failed.

Vented Loop and Engine Check

The sump has been periodically kicking in even when no water is being flushed down its drains. If no water is flowing in to the sump, the only other source is that the discharge is siphoning back. A couple years ago, we added a vented loop to the sump discharge which solved the issue until recently. While in St. Martin we purchased a new vented loop and a spare. Time to crawl in to the aft bowls of Argon and replace. And, while back there, we also opened up the access panels to the starboard side of the diesel for an inspection revealing a broken air intake filter laying on the floor of the engine room. The foam was pretty much disintegrated. Another item to write on the shopping list (and we'll get a spare of course). In the meantime, we fabricate a new temporary one.

After clearing out the aft cabin (that functions as our storage closet for all sorts of stuff) Bob crawls back behind the cabin to replace the vented loop for the sump.


Upon peering in to the engine compartment I see the air filter has broken off.


We decide to sacrifice a linen top of mine to make a new air filter.


Jerry-rigged air filter. And one less white top.

Fishing and Sailing

Although maintenance and repairs are continual, and demands of our day jobs are constant, we feel pretty caught up and will be able to spend more time sailing and exploring for the next week or so.

Experimentation with different fishing lures continue as we troll between islands with recent activity. And we eagerly await the arrival of dear friends as we round out our stay in Anguilla.


Switching up lures off the coast of St. Martin.

Landed and carefully released modest sized barracuda.


First time using a simple cedar plug en route to Anguilla catches this marlin but only after his hind third was chomped by a shark or some other big fish. I was able to fillet a fair amount of delicious meat off the remaining part.



My office while at anchor in Road Bay, Anguilla.


Bob's office for a bit at Sunshine Shack, Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla.



Johno's, Road Bay Anguilla.


Our neighborhood for a little more than a week - Road Bay, Anguilla.

Even time for some music making now.


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