Friday, 7 March 2014

Back at it

       And we’re back at it again. Pounding the waves and carving the seas with our 11m washbasin we call home. Last Friday we made our first Caribbean passage in over a year. We “made it through” it is more accurate, actually. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, because in hindsight it wasn’t so bad. Both Rodeo and the crew performed as well as could be expected for a shake down sail, but in the midst of the first 36 hours of the 3 day run I couldn’t help but wonder if we really have what it takes to pursue our goal of crossing the Atlantic. What we have been contemplating for the last year is getting across the pond to explore Europe. We would stage ourselves in St. Martin, where we could prep Rodeo: install missing pieces of equipment, replace others, rebed the leaky port light seals, reupholster salon cushions, refresh the tired wood interior and provision really, really well in well stocked European-quality supermarkets. We knew the crossing would be a challenging three weeks at sea, a non-stop run for better or worse, a test of our skills, as well as emotional and physical stamina. We psyched ourselves up for it. We came back to Grenada with resolve and a clear plan in our minds and our hearts. Those 36 hours, however, put things in perspective for us.
We slipped out of Mt.Hartman Bay, Grenada on a heading N at 8AM Thursday morning. Our sail plan took us several miles off shore, on a course due for Martinique. There we would meet up with our fine friends from "Sea You", Georges and Ria, who are also northbound for St.Martin and then Europe. For most of the passage we sailed up against head winds and a moderate chop on the beam, and winds of 20-22 Kts. Nothing too overwhelming, but the swell nudging Rodeo on the starboard side sent her into a swirling motion that gave my stomach a workout. Lying down below in the bunk during my off hours I pitied myself. It felt like my insides were doing the Hula. Gabe felt miserable, too. But we powered on, knowing that sea sickness doesn’t last forever. Eventually the body adopts and stops complaining. In the meantime I tried to lift my spirits by reading Steven Callahan’s “Adrift, 76 days lost at sea”. A fine read for a pre-atlantic crossing ball of nerves that I was. It cheered me up some, though, knowing that things could always be worse. While Steven Callahan kept me somber company Rodeo ripped ahead, healing on a starboard tack, cap rail in the water, sea spray everywhere. Rodeo is a very wet boat. We’re low to the water and the deck, even the cockpit sees a lot of it. I started to worry about her ability to get us across the Atlantic safely and comfortably. In that state of physical and mental discomfort I became discouraged. 
Every move made on board took laboring effort. Eating was an obligation we felt compelled to fulfill only because we find that food settles a sea sick stomach. I had prepared some meals in advance, to cut our time in the galley down to a minimum (any time spent down below, other than laying down, only increases our nausea). We were well prepared, but some trips below deck couldn’t be avoided, like going to the bathroom or to make a fresh pot of coffee. It was on one of those trips that I noticed a large pool of water sloshing about the forepeak sole. I remembered that we had fixed a Sunbrella curtain inside the anchor locker door, at the head of the bed, to keep spray from leaking through the locker doors. I climbed up the bunk to roll the curtain down and closed the anchor locker door. I was certain that it would stop the water from coming in, but that wasn’t the case. We later determined that the overhead locker in the v-berth was flooded, its contents soaked in salt water. Rodeo must be making water through a compromised fitting in the cap rail, and to suss out this problem will be time and money consuming. We cleaned out the lockers, mopped up the floor and brought all the wet items on deck to dry out. I wrung out the wet cloth I used to soak up the puddle and watched our ambitious plans drip overboard. They swiftly got absorbed by the very sea that brought us this far and tempted us with the idea in the first place. How ironic. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Introducing the new crew member

After a tedious long selection we have decided to go with Heather Beige as our sumbrella collor.  She's brown with a spec of black and white looks very sexy when the sun shines on her.  All of our canvas will be this colour and we think this combination will work really well.
We are excited to have Heather shielding the sun and the salt water from our faces.  We will post pictures once the project is finalized.

                                                         The sexy Heather Beige

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Work in progress

The work continues going strong despite the extremely hot temperatures.  It’s been around 40C for the last two weeks and it’s very challenging working under this heat.  Monika has arrived and we are both working hard to get as many projects as we can before relauching in early December.  We managed to strip the entire deck from it’s hardware, we are epoxing all the holes, redrilling and rebeding all the hardware.  But before we can do that we will paint the deck.  
Monika also took the cabin sole as a project and we stripped the entire varnish of the sole and now have sanded to 320 grit.  We will use Cetol for the sole (up to 8 coats).  
We have also decided to redo the entire bright work on the boat (outside wood) we are now well underway to finishing up stripping and sanding the wood.  We will be ready to apply epifanes varnish the outside wood, something along 8-10 coats.  It’s a long tedious process but it will look very sharp when all done.  We can only apply one coat a day and they have to be wet sanded in between coats so as you can see 8-10 coats will take some time.  
We have decided to redo the entire canvas on the boat (dodger, bimini, sail cover).  Unfortunately the canvas is a job that we will not be able to do on our own and had to hire a company here in Trinidad do undertake the job for us.  We are also redoing most of stainless steel work.  This will include solid stainless bars as our lifelines, a new bimini with a solar panel bracket mount on top of it and reworking of our wind generator mounting bracket and location.   This work is also being done by a local Trini contractor and we should have the stainless and canvas done with in three weeks.  
The bottom have now been stripped of it’s 10 coats of antifouling, this job needed to be done as the antifouling was peeling from the bottom.  We will apply two coats of epoxy primer and than three coats of fresh new antifouling paint.  

                                          Bottom scrapped and ready for primer and antifoul

                                                The tedious process of varnish scrapping

                                      Deck with most of it's hardware off and wood stripped

                                                                          Wood masked off ready for sealer 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The refit

I managed to arrived in Trinidad on Wednesday at around 02:00 after a full day and a half from my previous scheduled time.  You might ask, did I sail over here? Why so slow? Well, hurricane Sandy and a mechanical problem with the Planes spoiled the trip.
The only job I had previously arranged to get done while the boat was on the hard and I was away working, did get it done and it looks really sharp.  Allen a local Trini painter, painted the hull, raised the water line by 6 inches an did a very good job.  I ended up using awlgrip 2000, a little more expensive but the final result is impressive.  It's nice to have different people coming by and asking what type of boat this is, the year.  Rodeo is loving the attention.
I'm now slowly working away on a few other projects and I'll try and post here what I end up doing while being here in Trinidad.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy, messing up with my plans

So here I was sitting inside the plane and almost ready for takeoff, already day dreaming about Rodeo, the warm weather the very large ever growing to do list.  But now the pilot has come over the PA to announce that we will not be going anywhere and that the flight is cancelled.  You can see on my watch the barometric pressure was at 981 which is very low and we are still 300nm from the storm center.  On the left you can see the proposed track for the hurricane, looking at that picture makes me think I'll be stuck here in Toronto for at least two more days.   Oh well, it's time to seat back enjoy the hotel and wait until the hurricane passes.

30 hours of flying to see my Rodeo

Well the day has finally arrived, it’s the 29th of October 2012 and I’m at the airport in Toronto awaiting my flight to Port of Spain.  It’s been a while since I last posted and many of you have no idea why it has been so long.  During the four months of hurricane season I was offered a job part in Canada and part in Africa.  So after 4 gruelling months I’m very excited to be ready to head back to my floating home my safe haven the place that will always be there for me my beloved boat Rodeo.  Ohh how I miss her, her smell, her curves and her lines.  
The plan is to work on her for the next four weeks, installing a much needed new watermaker, new autopilot and a bunch of other projects.  I’ll work 10 to 12 hour days and will do everything I can to be back sailing by the first or second week of December.  
You may ask whats next? Brasil? Panama? Europe? At this point everything is a possibility I shall know better in the next few weeks what the plan is going to be.  

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hanging tight

Rodeo is on the hard. Several things about that sentence make me feel wretched. We're leaving her behind for nearly four months while we travel back to Canada to work.  It will be an unwelcome separation, but very much a necessary one because our budget has run low and going back to Canada will give us a chance to save up for some long coveted upgrades. Nevertheless Rodeo has been a home to me for over a year and much longer to Gabe, and it is hard to imagine spending time away from her now. Time away from Rodeo will also be time off from our travels and this vagabond lifestyle we've come to love so much. It means adjusting back to life on land in the hustle and bustle of a city. It means being part of a stable society as opposed to our transient community of fun seeking cruisers. It means going from constant state of fluid motion to hard, solid ground. There are many benefits to going back ashore. One of the top ones is catching up with family and friends. Can't beat that. Another one is the change of pace. Going back to work will allow us to keep a routine, something that can be difficult to maintain while moving around from place to place. Being back in civilization also means I get to take bubble baths, something I've been without since the last visit to my parents' house last October.
For many reasons getting hauled out in Trinidad marks an end to a chapter of our lives. It is a destination many set out from North America to reach, but for various reasons never do. We made it and we feel a sense of accomplishment in doing so. It has been a great journey and an incredible learning experience, the sort of which we're not likely to relive. We want to continue to sail of course, but our first year cruising will always be our first. Filled with uncertainty, self doubt and fear we have made mistakes and learned from them. The lessons we've learned this first year will guide us through all the consecutive passages and we will certainly do a lot of things differently in the future. A lot of what we've been through is behind us. Also, depending on what we decide to do once we get back to the boat it may be the end of cruising in the Caribbean. If we chose to sail to Brazil directly from Trinidad it will be a short, but challenging passage with very few, if any, stops in between. This route is more difficult because of opposing currents and trade winds, but if done right could bring us to Brazil in a matter of weeks. If we chose to do the great loop, which would take us back through the Caribbean, across the Atlantic, down the west coast of Africa and back across the Atlantic again, it would be a longer but more comfortable sail with the trade winds. Regardless of our future plans we chose to bring the boat to Trinidad to keep her safe during the hurricane season and to get heaps of work done to her once we return. Leaving Rodeo here is like leaving a piece of ourselves behind. What's even more agonizing is that we had to leave Pickle with friends in Grenada for the time being. We contemplated bringing her back to Canada with us, but Trinidad's Department of Agriculture makes the process very difficult and we've been told that she may not be able to come back with us without going through a 3 month quarantine. We couldn't bear the thought of putting her through that. We miss her more than we every imagined possible. She has been part of our crew and a part of this experience, and not having her around has left a quiet, hairless void behind. Now that the decision to go back to work for a few months has brought us to Trinidad we await our arrival in Canada with mixed emotions. There is a great deal to look forward to, but a precious lot of things we'll miss while we're gone.