Friday, September 25, 2015

It's All In Our Head . . . We Think . . .

The Exhaust Manifold and Mixing Elbow, Pulled and Laid Out on Our Floor
(These Had to Be Pulled Before Pulling the Head)
    So we finally think we've made some progress on our engine.  After going though several mechanics, countless no-show appointments, and more money and time than we ever thought we'd spend . . . we think, think, we're almost done; we think we've found the problem.

   The mechanic that we are currently using, Gary, was first acquainted with our problem when our last mechanic simply stopped returning our calls . . . (It is sooo hard to find a descent mechanic around here and the work is slow at best).  The staff here at the marina suggested the diesel mechanic that they use.  We were pretty iffy about putting our hopes in yet another mechanic but, we were pleasantly surprised.  Gary was of the same mind as Bill; Bill had thought all along that something in the engine head might be to blame.  The other mechanics suggested everything from pulling the entire engine and rebuilding it to buying a whole new one.  For whatever reason, they refused to believe that it could be the head.  This guy was different.  As soon as the situation had been explained and a few preliminary tests had been run, Gary suggested we check the head . . . no drastic engine pulling until every other option had been exhausted.

   Sure enough, as soon as Bill and Gary pulled the head to be rebuilt, they found the first problem - a cracked head gasket (that explained a lot).  The next issue came when, in the process of giving the head a good once over, Gary's guys found so much gunk in the valves and seats that they needed replacing (I'm sure that didn't help our previous efforts).

   After a few weeks of trying to coordinate schedules, running tests, and replacing parts, Gary showed up yesterday to do one more check before bringing back our newly rebuilt head.  He added oil to the tops of the cylinders.  If the oil level held, the rings were ok and we could proceed with putting the head back on.  If the oil level didn't hold, well , . . . the engine would have to come out . . . However, when he came back this morning, he saw that the oil level was just fine; No ring issues.  Whew!

   On Monday (the next day that Bill has off), Gary will be back with our head.  They'll put the head on and check the the timing on the injection pump (the other possible branch of our compound issue) at the same time.  Hopefully, . . . Hopefully  . . . I will come home on Monday afternoon to a running engine.  

Clips on Our New Lazy Jacks
   In case you're wondering how we've been dealing with being grounded during all of this, I can tell you that we would much rather be out exploring new waters but, it has afforded us the ability to work on our ever-growing project list.  The money we're having to put out to be here (slip rental, electricity, bus fare, etc.) is a bit painful.  However, our jobs at West Marine give us great employee discounts.  This, combined with the fact that Bill and I are doing all the labor, means that we can afford the get the projects done at a quicker rate.

The Red Lines are the Lazy Jacks
   I mentioned the leaky port hole in my previous post and that is still in progress.  Bill has also made new lazy jacks (a system that makes it easier to get the mainsail down), replaced almost all of our navigation lights, fixed our air conditioner that temporarily refused to work due to barnacle growth, and is working on fixing the handle on our main hatch . . . I have, as you know, given the boat a full bath, sewed a tote bag for storage (and picked up a few ideas for future projects) . . . and that's just the most recent stuff.

My Newly Sewn Tote

   Well, we're getting things done, working on reviving our finances, and are hopefully nearly done with our engine problem . . . hopefully . . .        


   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Soggy Situation

The Port Hole, Frame Removed For Reseating
The Frame
   In case you haven't been checking on the weather in this part of the world lately, it's rainy.  Really rainy, as in multiple thunderstorms every day.  All this water (ironic since not too long ago we were in a state of severe drought) is producing some not so pleasant side effects.  Flooded streets make walking and commuting more difficult.  There are a few leaks (We're working on fixing them) that have made themselves known to us by way of a soaked pillow, a damp settee cushion, a drippy port hole, and some drenched clothing  . . . The standing water is a mosquito's dream. . . If I had my way, mosquitoes would be wiped off the planet.  I HATE MOSQUITOES. . . .  but, I digress . . . anyway, you'd think that our torrential downpours wouldn't necessarily have an up side for a boater but, that's where you'd be wrong.

The Soaked Wood Removed, Port Hole Covered For Rain 
   Now, I know that the rain is great for all things green but, for someone who lives on a boat (and, therefore, doesn't own a lawn), this is not an enormous concern.  In fact, I sort of dread heavy rain because it means pulling out the extra towels and strategically placing them under the drippy spots, hoping that it doesn't rain long enough to soak the towels through.  So, what is the silver lining to this soggy problem?  A cleaner boat.

   I am certainly not the only boater to make use of our H2O surplus.  At work, I have seen quite a few people buying sponges, brushes, soap, and rags all with the intent of using the rain to assist them in their cleaning efforts.

These Guys Also Like The Rain
   Our boat has needed a good scrub down for a while, too long really.  Before all this rain started, it was just WAY too hot to get out there and spend several hours scrubbing down the boat.  However, today (since I had the day off) I decided that today was the day to swab the deck.   When I first started scrubbing, I had our water hose at the ready to rinse down one section of the boat at a time.  It wasn't raining, just overcast.  It didn't take long, however, for the thunder and storm clouds to roll in.  Soon, I found that the light rain was helping me to rinse as I went but, . . . you can have too much "help".  There were several times when I had to stop to take shelter under our bimini because the rain was coming down so hard that standing out in the open would have been a little ridiculous.  At one point I crouched under the dodger because the bimini offered no cover from the rain coming down sideways . . . Yes, I'm sure I looked rather silly sitting out there but, the heavy rain didn't last too long . . .
The Cats Like Checking Out The Deck
   Now, you might be wondering why I felt like I "had" to get this done today.  After all, I could have waited for another day that wasn't rainy and simply used the hose for the whole thing.  I could have but, honestly, the fact that the boat's exterior (the cockpit in particular) desperately needed a bath has been bugging me for weeks.  I hadn't done it before because it was raining, too hot, or I flat out didn't feel like it.  I was not going to put this off any longer. . . boy am I glad I didn't.  I don't have before and after pictures for you and that is because some areas, frankly, were embarrassing. . . most of the problem areas were under our cockpit cushions.  I like our cushions but, the fact that they are good at hiding dirt is not necessarily a good thing.  Looks can be deceiving; I didn't realize how badly the boat needed my attention until I moved the cushions to clean underneath. . . . Let's just say the boat is now CLEAN! Ahhhh . . .

Can I Go Outside Now?

Kookie Approves

   I realize that my methods were not the most conventional  but, since when am I concerned about that?  I mean if I wanted conventional, I wouldn't be living and traveling on out sailboat full-time with my husband and four cats  . . . I found a way to be happy with the rain and use it to our benefit; exactly inline with our attempt at back-to-basics living . . . Now, . . . if I could just find a silver lining to the the mosquito problem . . . hmmm . . . maybe not . . .      

Beautiful Sunset Over Our Marina

     Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Taste of Cuba

   A few years ago, when Bill and I started discussing the destinations we'd like to sail to, lots of interesting spots came up.  We researched and marked locations on an old world-style map with stars.  The stars were (and still are) all over the map.  However, Cuba never made the cut.  The diplomatic problems between the U.S. and Cuba combined with the fact that Bill's military service wouldn't exactly make him a favorite with the Cuban government, meant that it would be best for us to pass on checking out this neighboring country.  Unexpectedly though, we were recently able to get a little taste of Cuban culture.

    We first met George and his family when we were still in the City of Hollywood Marina.  His boat was next to ours and it didn't take long for us to start spending time together; swapping stories, having a few drinks, and checking out events around town.  When we moved our boat to its present location in Dania Beach, George moved his to Miami but, we still kept in touch.  George, knowing that we're here trying to fix our engine and revive our cruising funds, offered Bill some work fixing up his boat. Bill has even been helping out with some work at his shop (George owns his own business), offering his experience and expertise.

  A few days ago, I spent the day cleaning up our boat and working on a few projects.  After working seven days straight at West Marine, the boat desperately needed a good once over.  Bill had gone with George for the day  to help with some work on his boat.  Around 4 o'clock, Bill called me to see if I wanted to meet them for dinner but, not just any dinner; a pig roast. Now, I certainly wasn't ready to go out but, I didn't want to pass up the unique invitation. So, I called a cab, quickly changed and threw on some makeup, and headed to the tri-rail station.

  Once I payed off my rather rude cabby and purchased my ticket, I hopped on the train headed for Miami.  After about a half an hour, I got off at my stop and was met by Bill, George, and his five year old daughter, Ava. While we drove to George's shop, Ava showered me with questions about my train trip (Ava is pretty attached to me and makes it her mission to chat me up and vie for my attention whenever she sees me).   She showed off her Frozen (Disney movie) necklace and even, in an attempt to show me how "grown up" she was, offered to babysit for us if we ever had a baby.

The Pig on a Custom Made Spit
   When we arrived at the shop, we were greeted warmly by a bunch of George's family and employees.  The pig was roasting away on the spit along with beans and rice, and yuca (aka cassava, not yucca the cactus) with peppers and onions.  Spanish, of course, was the dominant language and it made me wish I'd had more time to progress through my Rosetta Stone Lessons.


   After being given a tour of the shop by my sweet, little tag along, I pulled up a chair next to Bill outside and was promptly offered a beer.  After a while, a few of the guys brought in the star of the meal.  The pig was placed on a large table and, after being carefully removed from the spit, was carved up; everything was served up family-style. We each, in turn, spooned out what we wanted of the sides and waited for George's cousin to dole out the meat.   As my turn came up, one of the guys from the shop struck up a conversation with me.  I held out my plate and, as we kept talking, unbeknownst to me, George's cousin keep placing slices of meat on my plate.  When I looked down at my plate, I saw that I had PLENTY of pork.  "Oh! That's more than enough.  Thank you.", I said.  He simply grinned and moved on to the next person . . . I sat down laughing off my inattention and wondering just how much he would have given me if I hadn't looked down when I did.

   The food was, needless to say, delicious.  The meat was more tender than any pork I've ever had.  Bill especially enjoyed the crispy skin; roasting it on  the  spit had allowed it to take on a bacon-type flavor . . . I think he would have eaten only that if he could.  The rice had a ton of flavor (a pleasant surprise).  Neither Bill or I had tried yuca before but, we liked it's potato-like taste.


   Once we had all had our fill, George's mother began packing up the leftovers.  Jenny, George's wife, after hugging us and thanking us for coming, took Ava and her younger sister home for the evening.  The rest of the family started to close up the shop.  We helped to get things put away and, once the shop was locked up, George drove us home.

   Bill and I were a bit itchy the next day at work thanks to the mosquitoes that decided to grace us with their presence during the meal but, it was worth it.  It was great to be able to spend time with friends and have unique meal.  I guess it just goes to show that you don't always have to travel far to have a far flung experience.

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)