Preparations in San Sebastian
October 15, 2002
We packed all our gear into four bags for the airlines, with each bag just under seventy pounds in order to avoid the overweight baggage fees. To make this possible I had to remove a few items including the spear gun, the autopilot, a frying pan, extra bucket, the plastic sourdough jar. Even so, we still had more than we wanted to row across the Atlantic Ocean with.
(In retrospect, we needn't worry about excess gear charge and the weight on the boat. But we sorely missed the autopilot!)
The airport shuttle driver picked us up at dawn on October 15. A few hours of waiting at the Phoenix airport, and we flew to Chicago in three hours. A few hours waiting in Chicago, then a seven hour flight (with a 150 mph tailwind) to Madrid, Spain, where arrived at dawn on October 16.
Day 1: Oct 16
After several hours of waiting in Madrid, we enjoyed a three hour flight to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. The plane landed at the south airport, Aeropuerto de Tenerife Sur, (previously known as Reina Sofia) (Not the north airport Los Rodeos, site of the Boeing 747s collision).
A ten minute taxi on the high speed expressway brought us to the Los Christianos Ferry Terminal. While waiting a couple hours for the evening ferry, we strolled along the beach amidst pretty topless girls. Then a forty minute ride on the fast and enormous Fred Olsen catamaran ferry to the island of La Gomera.
The ferry arrived at San Sebastian de La Gomera
, and while pulling into the harbor, from the ferry's high deck we caught site of Caper straight away. Sitting in the boatyard in one corner of the marina, she really stood out with her bright yellow paint, unique shape, and the fact that she was standing up so high on stands. She looked like a model on display. The adjacent marina bristled with local fishing boats and perhaps sixty cruising sailboats. The "yachties" (people on sailing boats) were there making preparations for the Atlantic Cruising Rally (ACR), held every year in November.
Our first good look at our rowing boat in San Sebastian.
While disembarking the ferry, we encountered a large crowd of several hundred people waiting to board. We waded through them, then as we were proceeding to the baggage claim area, a fellow approached and asked if we were Americans. We replied, "Ah, you must be Peter" (Hogden). Sometime later he told us that we were the only people he asked. How did he know to ask us? we wondered out loud. He replied that we looked like ocean rowers. This didn't really explain the matter because we hadn't rowed any oceans yet. But for that matter, how did we know that the gentleman was Peter?
Peter was from the UK, and was on special assignment with ORS (the Ocean Rowing Society) to help us (and a few others) adjust to the ocean rower's routine. He had overseen the shipment of our boat from Guernsey, (packed on a cradle inside a container) and had later flown to La Gomera. He and the boat had arrived a week ago.
Shortly we met another fellow, Doug Carroll, with whom we had been in occasional contact via email. Doug worked with ORS also. He managed the marina, and owned a small boat Chandlery. He and his wife Anita lived on "Magic Dragon," a boat berthed here in the marina.
The two men grabbed a cart and helped us load our ponderous bags. Then we pulled the cart over to the boat yard, entered through the gate, and had our first grand look at Caper since we had last seen her in Guernsey. She was dirty and had a few nasty bruises and bangs from the trans-shipment, but otherwise looked the perfect picture of adventure!
Peter and Doug then lead us half a block to the flat where we would be staying - the Quintero
. In the lobby we off-loaded the bags from the baggage cart onto a small elevator; then sent the elevator up to the 3rd floor, while the four of us climbed the stairs. Opening the elevator door again, we were pleased to see that the bags were still there.
The apartment was simple but clean. The place was long and narrow, with Spanish tile floors leading past a single bedroom, a bathroom with a shower stall, a small kitchen, and into a small living room with couches and a large, open balcony overlooking more rooftops below. Across the narrow valley to the west were imposing steep hills. To the south was the marina and boat yard, and beyond: the port's turning basing and open ocean. The view from the balcony was rather stunning, and the fresh breeze was warm and inviting.
Peter had been staying in this flat with Kenneth Crutchlow
(1944-2016) and his wife Tatiana (Rezvaya-Crutchlow) of ORS. These two had just left the previous day, and we were sorry to have missed seeing them again. Peter would be staying a couple of more days, and had his belongings spread around one of the couches, where he slept at night.
Peter and Doug were obviously eager to meet us, and likewise, we were pleased to meet them. We had a lot to talk about. They were experts at ocean rowing, and wanted to make sure that we knew what we were doing. But first they suggested a quick tour of the town, on foot.
Waterfront mosaic in town, depicting Columbus's voyage to the new world (departing Gomera Sept 6, 1492).
The town was a pleasant mix of the modern and traditional, with rows of shops lining narrow, paved streets and a few small cars zooming about. However most people were on foot and the cars seemed an exception rather than a rule. Many of the shops would have passed muster in any shopping mall in the US. In contrast there were also small mom-and-pop stores, along with the usual tourist shops thrown in for good measure. But most evident were the interesting assortment of eateries and bakeries, bars and coffee shops - many with outside seating.
We were surprised by the heat of the day. Chicago had been in the low 40's; Madrid was in the 60's; while San Sebastian was positively tropical, almost steaming it seemed to us. In a way, the warmth was a welcome relief, as we had not brought sweaters. But then again, we knew we had a lot of heat to endure, both during the preparation stages and during the actual ocean rowing transit.
Afternoon refreshments with Peter
Doug lead us to the town's well where Columbus had dipped his buckets, and the church where he had prayed prior to his journey. Surprisingly, the church was still standing, over 500 years later, though of course well-renovated. Doug showed us to a few hardware stores where we could buy boat paint and boat parts. And we even made a strafing run through the Hiper-Tripo Supermarket, completed only six months ago - modern and well stocked. This would make a convenient place for provisioning.
Now in darkness, we sat in the outside courtroom of one of the bars, in the company of Peter, Doug and Anita, and a couple yachtie fellows, Jan and Harry. The scene brought to mind similar get-togethers in our experience: at the quay in Papeete and other small marina-port towns and villages we had been to. The talk was mainly of sailboats; and having been yachties ourselves, it suited us perfectly.
Finally Peter dragged us off to his favorite hole-in-the-wall for dinner, a place called Casa Vieja. It was not a place we would have chosen; it was pocket-sized inside with only a few simple tables. But the food was good and reasonably cheap. The proprietor spoke no English, and Peter admitted he spoke no Spanish; but he said he comes here most every night. With a few basic gestures, he explained, he gets along fine in just about any country. To him there were no language barriers. It was an interesting mindset. He simply shrugs off the fear of unknown languages.
Fedor, the Russian rower, had departed just this morning amid a great deal of fanfare by forty some Russians; family and friends and numerous journalists. Peter said he was surprised how quickly Fedor had vanished over the horizon. In a couple hours he was gone from sight. It turns out Peter had been hanging out with the Russians, most of whom didn't speak English. In the next few days we would see that they liked him, and he, them. The underling connection, of course, was that Kenneth's wife, Tatiana, was Russian. And as we had experienced at the Royal Geographical Society in London, all ocean rowers were just one big family.
We returned to our room and fell right to sleep after a long and tiring journey from Arizona, now half a world away.
Day 2: Oct 17
We were up at 6:30 am, ready to go to work on the boat - except that the morning was still dark. Finally around 7:30 am the day was sufficiently illuminated to permit us walking the five minutes to the boat yard.
We had bought the boat from Andy Chapple, who had built her, and named her "Comship" after his main sponsor. We renamed the boat "Caper," but didn't remove the Comship decal until near the end of our voyage.
Caper was sitting on saw horses made of steel I-beams, so that the bottom of her keel stood three and a half feet off the ground. So first we had to contrive a ladder from nearby wooden plates. Then once aboard, we began to pull up floorboards - and this is when we began to realize how much standing water had accumulated in the bilge. Every locker held a few inches of water, along with sodden leaves and pine needles. All the wood under the water was slimy with black algae and mold. At first impression it was a fetid mess. Of course it was only superficial. However, we couldn't imagine how that much water had gotten into everything. The battery was sitting in water. The water-maker was sitting in water. The EPIRB in its cardboard box was sitting in water - hopefully it hadn't activated automatically. A plastic bag of spare parts for the water-maker was full of black, moldy water. There was nothing aboard that was not waterlogged except the cabin cushions, thank goodness. How glad we were to have taken the equipment instruction manuals from the boat, back in Guernsey. The wetness would have ruined them.
To us, a boat that is not ship-shape is not a proper boat. So we had our work cut-out for us. We began by bailing, sponging, and scrubbing, and this is how we occupied ourselves throughout the entire day.
The day was almost distressingly hot, with high humidity and a relentless sun. We sweated, drank a lot of water, and sweated some more. We also went shopping for paper towels, rubbing alcohol, another eight-liter bottle of drinking water, and fresh baguettes. We met Peter for lunch at a bar with outside seating under the big laurel trees.
By day's end we had the boat nearly back to the condition we had seen it first in Guernsey: a nice looking boat, at least on the inside.
In the evening we went to a special seafood restaurant that Peter knew of, for a fresh fish dinner. The fish were displayed on ice, and you chose which one you liked. We talked for a couple of hours, mainly because I discovered that Peter's business was building rowing boats with carbon fiber, epoxy, and vacuum bagging. Right up my alley. I figured this was a golden opportunity, so I pumped him with questions. However, I soon found out that that his manufacturing methods were rather ordinary. Not much new for me to learn.
However, when it came to ocean rowing, Peter was a goldmine of information. He had made the crossing himself back in 1997, and during the next few days we learned a great deal from him, and from Doug as well.
At the direction of Kenneth at ORS, Peter and Doug were standing by to lend assistance where needed in our preparation stages. They had done much the same with other Atlantic rowers, what few there were. It was an ideal situation for us, and we could not have asked for a more helpful arrangement. It was thanks, also, to Kenneth and Tatiana who had made the trip to La Gomera to help deliver Fedor's boat, and of course ours also. Part of our boat's shipping fees was the cost of Kenneth and Tatiana's airfare, and we had no say in that. But in retrospect, and in light of the many complications, it was worth every penny.
We were fairly exhausted at day's end, so headed back to the room, leaving Peter to join his Russian friends for beers in their final night on the island.
We had been fast asleep when we were abruptly awakened by what sounded like a nearby freight train fast approaching. It was only Peter, sacked out on the living room couch. His snoring also woke some of the people in the neighboring flats, as indicated by their muffled conversations, fortunately in some unknown language. The apartment complex positively shook with each robust snore, and we half expected bits of plaster to fall from the ceiling. Fortunately the storm was interspersed with periods of calm, and we managed to catnap during the lulls. Morning came, but we slept through the beginning of it, and didn't get going until 8:30 am.
Day 3: Oct 18
Today we were intent on painting the boat's hull below the waterline with anti-fouling. First, we had to patch the scrapes and bruises, caused by the shipping and offloading. Nothing very serious but each scrape required careful attention with a sanding-block and alcohol cleaner before applying polyurethane filler. Jenny also sanded the entire bottom lightly and then gave particular attention to the bottom of the full length skeg.
I removed several fittings made of a heavy gauge stainless steel. All these fittings were heavy and situated high above the waterline, and I figured that if nothing else, the boat's stability would improve if I removed them. There were four magnum-sized brackets for holding spare oars at head-height atop the port and starboard bulwarks. There were two super hefty stainless steel brackets for an alternate rowing station that Andy, the previous owner, admitted they had not used. There was an aluminum radar reflector and a genuinely hefty stainless steel mast, and a masthead light mount. Also there were eight floorboards in the main bilge area that seemed to serve no purpose, so we removed those as well.
Peter was in agreement with the removal of these items, and thought they served no useful purpose. All these stainless fittings were beautifully built, but much too hefty for a mere rowboat. I could only surmise that a good friend of Andy's, the previous owner, had built them as a favor, and Andy was obliged to mount the infernal things.
Unfortunately, Andy had used 5200 (3M Marine Adhesive Sealant) to seat the hefty nuts and bolts. This compound is excellent, but had all but permanently glued the fittings to the boat. I actually had to rig and impromptu Spanish windlass to break a few of the fittings free, with a great deal of caution so as not to fracture that part of the plywood boat.
At any rate, these fittings had left bolt holes in abundance, and all had to be patched. So today I filled many of these holes.
Andy had painted the boat yellow, and now we needed touch-up paint to match. Doug had directed us down the streets to a very small hardware store. We went in and asked the proprietor for a small can of yellow paint, with gesturing to indicate a pint-sized can. The fellow led us down the steps into a dingy basement. After rummaging through a shelf of neatly organized boxes, he produced - indeed - a small can of yellow paint. The color of the lid indicated the color of the paint inside. One look, and I knew it was going to be a close match to the boat's color. But it wasn't until we had returned to the boat, and that Jenny actually started dabbing it on to the repairs - that I broke in to actual astonishment. There must be thousands of shades of yellow, but this haphazard can of yellow paint from a dingy basement in a tiny store, on a small island - matched the color of our boat almost exactly. Clearly this was a sign from above, and a very auspicious one at that. Somehow the project took on a little more singularity, knowing that the universe was conspiring to our eventual success.
Since our arrival, we had been exchanging greetings with the friendly people from the nearest sailboat "Nora" from Britain. Our two boats were only thirty feet apart. Mid-day they kindly invited us over for coffee, since we obviously didn't have the means for making our own, they had sympathized. We removed our shoes and climbed aboard, and enjoyed an hour with Ben (from London), Crystal (from Belgium), and their two-year old daughter Amber. We talked about cruising, and they gave us a tour of their boat - a 47-foot gaffer with beautifully oiled Norwegian Pine masts.
We had found two hardware stores, so far, both run by Spanish speaking older gentlemen. One of the stores, called Pepe's, was run by Pepe, we assumed, who seemed easily irritated by anyone who did not speak Spanish, and would rather they not be in his store. The other store, Ramirez's, was run by Senor Ramirez, we presume, and who was very friendly and even tried to help with our Spanish. This is where I bought the yellow paint, previously. So it was to Ramirez that we went to find paint thinner. Senor Ramirez was very helpful, again, but we just could not mange to get across what we wanted. So we simply started unscrewing lids and smelling the contents. In this way, Jenny found some mineral spirits. Close enough. "Para limpio pintura?" Si.
That evening Peter relayed the news of Fedor's progress: 75 miles in his first two days at sea. Fedor Konyukhov
(Fedor would break the current record for the fastest crossing, and would later send Jenny and me an encouraging message during our row. A very nice gesture, indeed.)
Day 4: Oct 19
After a good night's sleep we traipsed down to the marina to begin our day of boat work. En route we stopped by the marina office to study the weather fax charts. The latest chart showed a hurricane brewing mid-Atlantic. This did not bode well for the three rowers out there right now: Fedor, Stein, and Emmanuel. Indeed, the weather here was blustery and the seas were white-capped. The sky was cloudy most of the day with a smattering of rain.
We started by washing the hull above the waterline with soap and sponges, and then a green scrubby and water below the waterline. To our good fortune there was a water spigot and hose located only twenty feet from where Caper stood. After a good rinse and towel dry, we masked the waterline, then Jenny rolled on a coat of blue anti-fouling paint below the tape. Meanwhile, I sanded and painted the rudder, again. I also removed and re-caulked the lower rudder pintel.
We returned to the flat for lunch, then back at the boat Jenny applied a second coat of bottom paint while I sanded and painted the opposite side of the rudder. The wind was sending a chop into the marina; and the boats close to the entrance were bouncing wildly. The yachties had tied lines across the channel-way between slips to better stabilize their boats.
It was a good day to be on the hard, although we felt none too secure with our boat being so high in the air, and seemingly precariously perched on a couple of metal sawhorses. We tried to shift one of the stands by lifting the bow, but we could not budge the boat; so the boat seemed secure.
With the painting done and the masking tape removed, the exterior was beginning to look ship-shape. We spent the remaining three hours of daylight on deck, working on odd jobs: filling bolt holes, re-caulking a locker lid, scraping off old 5200, removing more unnecessary hardware, then securing the boat for an evening's blow. Not long after we returned to the flat, the sky let loose, and this discouraged the usual Saturday evening revelry in the town square, a stone's throw from our flat's terrace.
Also, Peter had departed La Gomera, and returned to the UK.
Day 5: Oct 20
Heavy rain during the night seemed to be making a mockery of the local's claim that "it hardly ever rains here." Indeed, the landscape is arid with cactus, at least here at sea level. The island is almost a mile and a half high, and this coastal town lies in the rain shadow. Higher up is a rain forest, they said. The present rain is from a large hurricane some 900 miles north. Fedor might be on his sea anchor in strong Southwest wind, or more likely on his autopilot.
We traipsed into town for a quick visit to the hardware store, but being a Sunday, found most shops closed. This seemed odd because a cruise ship had arrived and the place was thronging with tourists; and the people were complaining that not much was open.
Back at the boat, we found two inches of rainwater in everything. So we spent the first couple of hours drying everything, using balers, sponges, and rags. The egress of water was actually a beneficial turn of events, for it showed us where the leaks were. Just about every wooden boat has small leaks, usually by the hundreds, and this boat was proving no exception. but we were glad the boat had not been afloat, because surely we would have thought the hull was leaking. However, we also found many places where the paint was delaminating, however slightly, and capillary action was drawing the water into the plywood.
Peter had commented that these boats last only two or three trips. With the kind of neglect we are witnessing, we can see why. This boat had been well on its way to becoming a rotting derelict. Her plywood is still sound, but in another year or more of such inundation, it would not have been. We had to think not only of our crossing, but of the boat's resale value. But even more, we could not bear to let this beautiful ocean rowing-boat rot.
So we spent the day scraping the delaminating paint. The most problematic area was the bottom of the foot-well. And at the lowest part of the foot-well was a through-hull fitting for the water-maker intake. Like just about everything else fitted to this boat, this thru-hull was many times larger and heavier than it needed to be. It was a substantial bronze inlet and had a flange connected to a heavy bronze strainer and a rusty old ball valve. The flange was backed by a piece of plywood that was not even painted. I pulled everything apart and found water under the backing plate. Dry rot here we come. The builder had been all but asking for a dry rotted section of hull.
We removed a couple more handfuls of useless nuts and bolts, and found almost every hole wet inside. Every time I found something that could be removed, I proclaimed out loud, "Don't need. Don't want. - Attack!" By the end of the day this had become something of my working-on-the-boat mantra. In addition to the four brackets for the spare oars, the two steel plates for an alternate rowing station, the radar reflector mast, I had removed the lower track, the foot rest with shoes and steering plate, the drinking cup holders, the sponge holders, some fasteners near the forepeak, speakers and speaker wires running through pvc pipe, the old plumbing for the water-maker, and a hundred and fifty liters worth of old plastic water jugs.
We took a late lunch at the ferry terminal café, just next door. Today's bill of fair was Spanish Omelets (eggs and potatoes) and octopus salads - very tasty. We sat enjoying our quick meal on the upper level, overlooking the ferry dock and marina, which also afforded a good view of Caper.
Every since the start of our work project, we both have experienced a pitching and rolling-seas sensation, both while on the boat and off. Today, while enjoying lunch - seated in chairs on a hard floor - it felt like we were at sea. On the boat, it feels the same. The sensation is not actually nauseating, but we sometimes have difficulties maintaining balance, and we joke that we are getting our sea legs early. We attribute the phenomenon to a couple of factors: The other boats nearby are pitching and rolling, and we tend to look at them a great deal, during the course of our day's work. And because we have spent so much time aboard our erstwhile sailboat Suka and our kayaks and canoes, our minds seem to be associating with the motion of these nearby boats. So for example, when we are aboard Caper, and are watching the other boats pitching and rolling, our minds tell us, logically, that we should be doing the same. At least that is our theory. The sensation is not a mild one. Sometimes I can hardly get from one side of the boat to the other without worrying about falling over. What would people think if they saw us wearing our safety harnesses in the boat yard? And actually this is not such a joke because a tumble overboard would land one on the rock-hard ground.
We worked for several more hours, scraping paint away from troublesome areas in the rowing deck area. We then covered the bare wood with tarp to protect it from the afternoon smattering of rain. Even though the sky was cloudy most of the day, we became more sunburned, especially to my back.
We quit at five pm, very tired, and went for an enjoyable walk along the sea wall, then returned to the apartment for cold showers. Cold, because the propane gas bottle for our hot water heater had run out three days ago, during our second day here. After a hot day of work, the cold water felt good, once you quilt gasping.
We enjoyed another walk around town, had a pizza, and went to an internet café for emails. So far we have found five internet cafés in town. Most of them are nice, with ten or fifteen computers each. And most customers were youths playing computer games, not using the internet. We also found another hardware store and will visit it tomorrow.
Day 6: Oct 21
We began our day by cleaning and mounting the GPS antenna on the aft deck. We then pulled out the GPS display, re-caulked it using a tube of Sikaflex Polyurethane Sealant we had found yesterday on the street. The end of the tube had been smashed, so it could not be used in a caulking gun; but when we cut a hole into the tube, we found some good caulk. Amazingly, the color gray closely matched the boat's cockpit color.
We used the Sikaflex to seal the rowing deck midship hatches, too. Then we used Bondo to fill a bunch of screw and bolt holes. From there, we scraped away old paint in the foot-well, and wet-sanded the rudder to a smooth finish.
We walked into town twice, found acetone, epoxy in tubes, and a coupling elbow for the water-maker inlet plumbing. And we bought some groceries. For lunch we each had cappuccinos and a sandwich in the ferry terminal café.
Back at the apartment we enjoyed a quiet dinner of baguettes with cheese and pate and cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, followed by baguettes with butter and jam, followed by tea and biscuits. One last walk in to town to the internet café, and to check our satellite phone for messages, but none yet.
Our flat has hot water again. The propane bottle went empty four days ago, so we have been taking cold showers, which actually felt wonderful after a hot day in the sun. But the cold water never left us feeling clean. I asked at the front desk again today, and the woman said yes, she now had bottles available. So we carried one up to the room, swapped it for the empty, hooked up the new bottle but then couldn't figure out how to start the pilot flame. The woman drew us a diagram: "hold down this button then hold this button for ten seconds until you get the flame." Voila. Hot showers!
We noticed at the ORS website that Anne from France is planning to depart the week after us. So we are watching for the arrival of her and her boat.
We still have not decided what to do about a stove. The Force 10 Sea Cook that we brought with us, is gimballed and weather-proof, but is such a heavy beast, and we cannot seem to find propane canisters for it. Some of the hardware stores sell small, compact camping and hiking stoves. None are stainless or gimballed, meaning that we would have to devise some way of securing a small stove in the foot-well during use.
Day 7: Oct 22
We got started at dawn, filling holes in the foredeck and after-deck where Andy had removed a stainless steel roll bar antenna mount, and I had removed the radar reflector mount. More scraping and sanding in the foot-well led to re-caulking and reinstalling the thru-hull fitting for the raw water intake for the water-maker. We then patched a hole on the outside eyebolt that holds the grab line.
From the deck of Caper we could see the turning basin, so we have been sort of watching the ferry's arrivals, thinking that Anne may be arriving soon, with her boat.
We had a nice visit with a gentleman from the Netherlands with his sailboat on the docks. He seemed familiar with rowboats, but probably had talked to Fedor when he was here. He wished us well, and blessed our boat with a kiss.
The rudder got a third coat of yellow; and in retrospect we should have sprayed on one coat of primer, then sprayed one coat of yellow. We then scraped, sanded, and filled with epoxy the small cracks in the track box near the forepeak.
We bought some Hemple brand epoxy filler, and it worked really well for filling a drain between the starboard after locker. We then discovered a crack in the starboard longitudinal frame. The frame had snapped in half where a water jug tie down strap goes through it. There was no apparent damage to the hull, so we sanded and repaired fracture with a splint bonded with epoxy.
We cut out plywood patches for where we had removed the two speakers from the forepeak bulkhead. We gave the waterproof speakers to Doug.
The sun roasted us again today. At four pm we took an hour's break, and went back to our room for showers. Then back to the boat for more work until the advent of dusk at 7:30 pm. We found a nice place for a quiet dinner, then made a stop at a cyber-café.
Its hard to believe we have been here a week. We are anxious to get the boat in the water and to be on our way. We could spend the next month finding all sorts of little repair jobs. But we need to stay focused on the major jobs, get the boat ready for the crossing. Yet we really like it here, and are in no hurry to leave. And we want the boat to be in good re-sale condition for the next buyer, not only cosmetically but structurally.
Day 8: Oct 23
First thing this morning we made cuppas on-board, using the small camping stove. We would like to figure out a way to put this stove on gimbals.
We sanded and coated with epoxy the area under the aft berth, where the water-maker lives. I also programmed the GPS with our route and way-points.
We walked to a distant hardware store, over by the diesel plant, and bought gray paint and a rasp. Back at the boat, we used a piece of marine grade plywood for making plugs. We finished cutting out plugs and a splice. The boat had come with three sets of spare oars. We took one set to Doug's shop for him to sell. (We later donated them to another rower.) Again we sanded and painted the rudder with yellow paint. Four coats now. We mounted the water-maker, and applied Bondo to a few unnecessary drain holes.
We went to the ferry terminal café to get out of the sun and for cuppas and sweets, then back to work. Sanded inside the lockers, installed the plumbing fittings on the water-maker raw water inlet. Removed rubber flappers from the alternate rowing station. Worked on the circuits in the electrical junction box. Back to the apartment for tuna salad sandwiches. Then walked to the internet café for email.
Day 9: Oct 24
An early start today. As we were walking toward the boat yard, we could see someone closely checking out Caper. We watched from a distance, but he appeared only inquisitive, with no ill-intent. So we approached and said hello. He was full of questions. A Brit.
The morning air was chilly and we made cuppas on the boat. We worked on the water-maker, cleaning parts, putting them back together, and hooking it all up. We sanded the stowage compartments in the hold, which had lots of rough edges and fiberglass points.
Juan and his helper came with the boat lift, and raised Caper from her stands and shifted her over about a foot. Now we could paint to the keel where we could not get to before.
The wind was gusty today, with strong williwaws funneling down the gorge and assaulting the marina. One particularly fierce gust slammed Caper's aft and forward hatches down from their fully open positions. My head took the brunt of the aft hatch on its downward swing. I joked that it was a booby trap waiting to happen. I tied the hatch open, and returned to work, right underneath it.
We took a lunch break next door at the ferry terminal café.
The boat had come with rubber flappers covering large holes in the hull for an alternate rowing station, one on each side. I had removed the rubber flappers, and now I made two patches of the marine grade plywood, for plugging the holes. These holes were rather large, approximately 6" by 10". I glued the boards into place using the Hemple epoxy filler. I then cut-out a block support for the water-maker. While sawing at this piece of wood, the saw blade jumped out, and the teeth came down hard between two of my fingers. We hasty made first-aid run to the room.
We applied the last touch up to the rudder, and with that we are ready for bottom paint. We decided to quit early to avoid any further accidents. Back to the apartment for showers, clothes washing, a snack, and a nap, then out to the cyber-café and grocery store.
For dinner we found a nice, quiet, low-key, out of the way place. It did not look like restaurant, except for the menu on display out by the sidewalk. They had rabbit, so that, again, is what Jenny ordered. I joked that the "rabbit" was actually "cat." There are so many feral cats here, and we haven't seen rabbit number one.
Day 10: Oct 25
Another early start. I proceeded directly to the boat while Jenny headed to the nearest market for drinking water. We were completely out and had been feeling dehydrated.
At home, we had made a series drogue, to serve as a sea anchor. I had also designed a method of attaching the drogue to the boat, such that its load would be spread out between the frames. I needed something that didn't stretch, so I chose wire rope. I knew that I could not reach the frames inside the boat, just below the gunnels, so the attachments had to be mounted externally, on the hull.
Today I got to work on these sea anchor attachments. But before mounting them, we first needed to finish several patch jobs that would lay under the wire rope. We filled, sanded, filled some more, sanded again, until we finally ran out of Bondo. To buy more, we had to wait until the stores re-open at four pm. The stores typically closed for siesta from one pm to four pm, then closed for the day at eight or nine pm.
We walked into town, bought more Bondo, hunted for water hose for the water-maker, and picked up more groceries. I headed back to the boat, and Jenny called in at the marina office to let Jose know that we wanted to be put into the water on Monday, in three days time. Then I went down to the dock to visit Doug and Anita aboard "Magic Dragon." Doug said he could order the hose. And, in answer to another question, he said the easiest and cheapest way to send things back to the states is through the mail.
We sanded on the boat's bottom in the areas where we could not reach previously, and then masked off the rudder in preparation for bottom paint. We took an afternoon lunch break at the ferry terminal café. Each day we go there we remind ourselves not to order "tapas" or "main dish" because it is more expensive than in the restaurants in town. They look good, and we are hungry, so we buy them anyway.
Late afternoon we started installing the sea anchor attachments. Earlier, we had painted the two backing plates for the aft-most attachment fittings. We used the gray Sikaflex. What a godsend find that tube of Sikaflex has been. And so as daylight faded we wiped the last bit of excess goop from around the fittings. The day had been a long one, and we felt that we have accomplished a lot. And now we were even more anxious to get the boat into the water. Once in the water, we could take the boat out for practice rowing sessions.
Again we walked the marina docks to determine the best place for Caper, depending on slip prices and availability. We went to the cyber-café, then back to the apartment where we ate a quick and light dinner. Then after showering and washing clothes, we collapsed into bed.
Day 11: Oct 26
We had brought with us the wire-rope for the sea anchor attachments, but no wire-cutters. So this morning I went looking for a pair. Reinhardt on the German boat, "Grete," moored nearby, happened to have such a tool. So with much thanks, I was able to cut my wire rope into the appropriate lengths. Then back at the boat I fed the wire rope into the fittings fastened to the hull, and swagged the copper ferule stoppes into place. The wire ropes were now firmly anchored to the boat, one on each side. I then swagged a loop with a ferrule at the aft end of each one. We had made the sea anchor with a yoke bridal, and this would attach to the ferrule loops.
(in retrospect, my wire-rope arrangement was overkill. The series drogue was very stretchy, and so the forces it applied did not need to be spread out between frames. Still, a failure during a storm could be catastrophic, so better safe and sorry.)
The boat is almost ready go into the water, so I turned my attention to the rudder steering system. We will steer the boat with a pair of thick cords attached to the rudder, one cord on each side of the boat. These cords will lead to a mid-ship tiller. But of course the tiller cannot be operated by hand, in the usual fashion of a sailboat. We need to use our hands for rowing. So the tiller must be foot-operated. The boat had come equipped with such a system: a wooden plate on a swivel, onto which a pair of shoes were fastened. I experimented with a number of different arrangements for making that work better. Meanwhile, Jenny painted the rudder below the waterline, and touched up spots on the bottom.
We also worked more on the patches on the sides where the auxiliary rowing station was. This required lots of Bondo, sanding, Bondo, sanding. the day was hot, the sun roasted our backs, and there was very little cooling wind. We took a shade break over by the beach, on the cool rock wall, then continued working until nearly dusk.
From the boat we went directly for a pizza and a cyber-café, and found that this evening, it was plagued by the racket of kids yelling while playing their computer games.
Day 12: Oct 27
This morning we sanded and applied the final layer of Bondo to the two side patches. We wet-sanded them, along with several old bolt holes, to a nice smooth finish, then put on a coat of yellow paint.
As I was applying the first coat, I discovered a way to obtain a smoother finish. I called it dry brushing. The method was to dab on just a small amount of paint, then brush and brush until the brush has nearly dried.
While I worked on that, Jenny cleaned out the bilges, again. There was a week's worth of sawdust, grit, crumbs, etc; and also she checked carefully for anywhere that needed sanding and or painting. she found, still, several rough areas, sharp points of fiberglass, and rough epoxy fillets to sand down. It was quite a contortion act for her to get two thirds of her body inside the hatch so that she could reach the furthest corners.
Again the day was very hot and windless. Even with a light cloud cover we both sweated heavily. While pushing and pulling herself out of the bilge, with much grunting she emerged with sweat running into her eyes and off her chin. Her shirt was soaked. But the job got done and she discovered there is very little that needs painting. Only the splice we made for the broken longitudinal frame. In the aft two lockers there is a lot of bare wood, but we are concerned right now with the areas where the water ballast will go.
Meanwhile I wet-sanded that first coat of paint. Then we took a mid-morning break for cappuccino and pastry at the ferry terminal café.
I installed the fittings for the steering lines; Sik-Flex again. Then later that afternoon, Doug and Anita stopped by to invite us to a potluck BBQ at their dock in a couple days. They said to bring whatever we want to BBQ, drink, and whatever. Sounded fun.
By the day's end we had five coats of paint. Each coat goes on thin, and we wet-sand between each coat. The patches still show faintly. Jenny suggested a Canary Islands flag decal as attractive addition.
We quit a bit early so that we could walk the docks, once again, to find the best slot in the marina for Caper, tomorrow.
In the evening we climbed the steep walkway and steps behind our apartment, and soon reached the high lookout on the cliff side. The views were outstanding, not only of the town below, the surrounding valleys, harbor and beach, but also of the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The ocean looked calm and inviting, and we longed to get started with our adventure.
Back to the apartment for showers and a round of laundry, Jenny washed t-shirts and shorts in the bathroom sink, and hung them to dry on the back balcony. I took a short nap on the couch while Jenny washed the second pad-cover for the aft cabin bunk. She had washed the first one yesterday. Then we went into town and checked for sat-phone messages.
Day 13: Oct 28
Launch day. We rose early, intent on finishing a few last minute jobs: connecting the hose to the thru-hull fitting, and applying a coat of epoxy filler in the foot-well to seal the wood, just in case we got water in that area during the launch. Fenders tied to the port side, dock lines ready, rudder cable pulled taut, oars ready, cameras ready. Then we rehearsed the entire launch procedure, just like a skydive dirt-dive, in order to avoid confusion, mis-communication, and flat-out panic.
It took a bit of urging to get Juan, the lift driver, into action; but he eventually fired up the massive fork lift, maneuvered it to Caper's bow, and lowered its huge limbs. I assisted Juan while Jenny videotaped the whole affair. The boat was lifted from its perch, and driven to the dock wharf. While the boat was still airborne, I climbed aboard, then Juan lowered the boat into the water.
What a great occasion for us! Jenny took photos, then at my beckoning, climbed down the dock wall and got aboard. We slowly paddled the boat to our slip alongside "Misty", a steel boat.
Caper seemed very tippy without her ballast, so we needed to take care of that. After securing the boat in her slip, Jenny headed into town to buy 150 liters of drinking water. Five liter bottles times 30 bottles, at 69 cents per bottle would come to 23 Euros. She didn't buy them, because the clerk explained that "free delivery" was only for purchases of 90 Euros or more. So She bought only a few food items and returned to the boat.
We borrowed a marina cart and wheeled it to the store, then wheeled it back to the marina with 300 pounds of bottled water. The cart actually worked pretty well, but then we had to take it back to the store.
Before loading the water bottles into the hold, we found that seven of them had leaking caps. So I used Teflon tape to seal them. With the bottles loaded and tied in place, the boat was no longer so tippy.
We opened a rusty tin of Blakes wood sealer, and found it nearly full of clear liquid. It looked in good condition, so I painted it onto the bare wood in the two aft lockers, and onto our splice on the longitudinal frame. It appeared to be an excellent product. Jenny was a little concerned about fumes contaminating the ballast water, but we figured we probably would not drink that water anyway. (wrong about that. Near the end of the voyage that bottled water would save our bacon.)
Jenny was working on the dock when she tossed a wad of cord into the forepeak deck. But she made a minor miscalculation; it went into the drink instead. her aim was off. She ran back to the apartment to get her dive mask and swim shorts. She reported that the water was chilly at first, but then very refreshing. However, it was none too clean. Once she got about five feet down, she could see the cord sitting on the rocks, ten feet below the surface. She grabbed the cord in her fist and surfaced triumphantly, fist-first - Arnold Schwarzenneger style.
This evening we enjoyed a string of visitors stopping by. A German girl, Astrid, from her sailboat "Aziz" moored nearby. We met our next-door neighbors from "Misty"- Barbara and Peter from St John, US Virgin Islands (they were very friendly, but tended to keep to themselves). And a few others who we didn't catch the names of. Christine and John from Sheffield, England aboard their catamaran "TimeNTide," came by and invited us over to "TimeNTide" for drinks at six pm.
We finished our jobs, and went back to the apartment for showers, and to try to remove a nasty sliver from my thumb, gotten from the dock. Then we made a quick run to the stores, and arrived back at the dock in time for the get-together on "TimeNTide." Before long their son and his girlfriend showed up, a young and equally adventurous couple.
The evening was well spent when we closed Caper's hatches and walked up to the cyber-café. While Jenny wrote in our journal, I wrote to Poly, our beloved house sitter; but the computer crashed during the sending. Dang. It was too late in the evening to write a duplicate, so we returned to the flat and collapsed into bed.
Day 14: Oct 29
It is hard to believe we have been here two weeks.
Jenny woke up with a dreadful headache and a nauseated stomach. Perhaps a combination of too much sun and breathing fumes from the wood sealer. Or she might have picked up a bug from the swim in the dirty marina while retrieving the cord, or from eating the leftover Chinese food.
Whatever the cause, she felt like going back to bed. But I was super eager to take the boat out into the turning basin, so she helped me load our dry food into two large dry bags - fifty pounds of corn pasta plus another ten pounds of dry beans and potatoes, spaghetti sauce leather, parmesan cheese, and trekker treats. We carried the bags to the marina and stowed them onboard.
Untying our dock lines, quietly to avoid waking our neighbors, we paddled Caper canoe-style along the narrow slipway. Then with enough sea room, I began rowing out past the pier. How great it was to be out on the ocean, bobbing in the gentle swell. Soon I gave Jenny the rowing seat and oars, and I opened the aft cabin and switched on the water-maker. It worked! With a muffled buzzing-hum it began generating clean water. We didn't taste the water because we were flushing the biocide from the filter element; but it was encouraging to see fresh water flowing into a bailer at a fast rate - about one cup in five or ten minutes.
After half an hour of rowing, we turned around and headed back towards the marina. But before long we had inadvertently drifted into the ferry turning basin. Woops! Realizing our error, we made a quick turn to get out of there. But too late. As we rowed past the end of the pier, we were sufficiently chewed out by a ferry official - in Spanish, of curse - but we got the message: Stay out of that area. Go rowing over there, by the beach! Ok. Muchas gracias.
Reaching our slip, we tied back up and walked into town for something to eat. Jenny soon became genuinely sick, and had to return to the apartment. I returned to Caper, and got to work, taking apart the aft-most hatch, for cleaning and re-caulking its rim. Jenny slept until about noon, until I showed up to see how she was doing, and to cool off. She still wasn't feeling well, but wanted to help, so after lunch of bread and pate for me, we went back to the boat.
I continued working in the hot sun, with sweat pouring off my brow, while the first mate sat in the shade on the dock and half-heartedly cleaned hatch parts. Visitors would stop by to say hello and ask questions, and she tried to look enthusiastic for them. A couple of fellows in their 30s, perhaps, seemed very interested in the boat. She took them for Spaniards, but It turns out that one of them was Pedro Ripol, a Tenerife local who had rowed the boat "Martha 2" with his partner to Barbados the year before. What an honor to talk to him, and get his advice and tips. He was an affable guy and very encouraging, and the conversation really lifted our spirits. For the past two weeks we've had to deal with the yachties who don't quite understand why anyone would want to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. But Pedro was on the same wavelength as us. In fact he said he would love to make another crossing.
Here is what we learned from him: He really liked our our water-maker installation, and also thought our foot steering arrangement was a good idea. He said the New Zealand team had such a system and they went straight and fast. He said "Martha 2" had lots of spares - at least two of everything - and that much extra gear proved unnecessary. Pedro kept saying they had too much. He recommended a white bed sheet for an awning, and white pants and long sleeve shirt for sun protection. The two men had delineated the boat down the middle; Pedro's half was the starboard side, and his partner's was port. Pedro always clipped-in his safety harness on the starboard side. This system worked well to keep them out of each-others way. They did the crossing in 60 days. Their trip was very enjoyable. They had a trainer who had set up a revolving rowing schedule:
Day 1 Rower A: 2.5 hours, Rower B: 1.5 hours
Day 2 A: 2.25 hrs, B: 1.75 hrs
Day 3 A: 2 hrs, B: 2 hrs
Day 4 A: 1.75 hrs, B: 2.25 hrs
Day 5 A: 1.5 hrs, B: 2.5 hrs
Pedro said their aft cabin was often too hot to sleep in, so they had set up a sleeping platform just outside the aft cabin, thwart-ship. He had the same brand of cooker as we, and said that if we came to Tenerife he could get some fuel canisters for us. Also he invited us to come see "Martha 2." They had caught a lot of fish just trolling a line. They swam a lot. They had three weeks of cloud cover at the end of their trip, otherwise very nice weather. We were really pleased to learn all this, and to share Pedro's enthusiasm. We asked both Pedro and his friend, Hector, to sign our Guestbook.
Jenny was starting to feel better, but continued working in the shade. Then towards evening we installed the hatch cover, and re-caulking all the screw holes. We also took apart and lubricated both seats. The rollers were very dirty.
Jenny was not sure if she was up for the BBQ get-together on Doug and Anita's "Magic Dragon," but I was keen to go, so we made a quick walk into town to pick up steaks and other things to bring.
"Magic Dragon" was already crowded when we arrived, with Peter and Barbara of "Misty," Jan and Harry, and several others. The evening was very enjoyable, although we had to leave early because we wanted to say goodbye to our friends Christine and John on "TImeNTide." They were leaving early the next morning for Tenerife, headed for Cape Verde and eventually Brazil and the Caribbean. We exchanged logbook signings, and wished them well.
After collecting a few items from Caper, we headed for the cyber-café. There, we received a surprise email from a fellow named Sam Knight who expressed interest in buying Caper. He wanted to come to La Gomera next week to see the boat. So it looks like we might need to delay our departure. It would definitely behoove us to show the boat to a potential buyer. Besides, we have lots of work to do on the boat yet, especially cosmetically.
Day 15: Oct 30
After sleeping in, just a bit, this morning, we managed to get Caper out of her slip without making too much noise, although by time the neighbors were already up. We both felt much more comfortable rowing and maneuvering the boat today. The water-maker generated eight-tenths of a quart in ten minutes. So far we have been steering the boat by hand-pulling the steering lines while the other person rows. But today I rigged the steering lines to the swiveling tiller-board with the shoes mounted on it, and we tried using our feet to steer. The arrangement worked somewhat for me, but not for Jenny. With her feet in the shoes, her knees were too high, and got in the way of the oar handles. She would have preferred to have her feet free, and somewhere lower between the rails. Anyway, while rowing she had to constantly remind herself to sit up straight, take shorter strokes, let the legs do the work, and especially relax the grip. I can see how quickly blisters could develop.
We contrived a good system for returning to our slip. Jenny rowed into the marina entrance with me steering, then when we got to the narrow stretch near our birth, I simply started padding with one oar while facing forward. We tied up, then walked into town. We wanted breakfast, but we didn't find any appealing possibilities so settled instead for a quick round of donuts. After buying groceries, we received another email from Sam Knight, the potential boat buyer, who said he will try to fly out soon. Jenny made a quick run to the bank to exchange dollars for euros then stopped by Doug's office to pay for another week's rent on the apartment. Being market day, She decided to buy fruit and vegetables there instead of at the supermarket. She found cherimoyas, one of our favorite fruits but expensive at $1.90 each.
We headed back to the boat for another round of work in the hot afternoon. Jenny cleaned out the forepeak and discovered a couple of broken support braces; wooden pieces that support the floorboards. they had broken at the fillet. I grew very concerned, but eventually realized the damage was not structural. I decided that they could be safely epoxied back into place.
We tested the aft-most hatch for leaks and found none. I removed the small red locks from the main aft hatch, and adjusted and lubricated the hinges. We will need to come up with a way to latch the hatch open, when needed, so there is no danger of it slamming shut at the wrong moment, like what happened last week.
I was feeling sapped by the sun, so worked in the shade, cleaning oar handles and seat parts. My foot is quite swollen where I banged it on a big dock cleat. Jenny sanded then applied Bondo to the scars left on the foredeck from the splash guard. she also put more epoxy on the scrape on the bow, caused during the shipment.
Barbara, from next door, offered the suggestion of painting the foredeck scar-area with a blue diagonal stripe. We agreed that would be a good idea, because trying to match the yellow and have it look nice would be problematic. Actually, we think a blue-yellow-blue stripe scheme would look even better.
We were fairly exhausted, so we quit a bit early and went off in search of blue paint, WD-40, and some small cord. After shopping we went to a cyber-café and received another message from Sam Knight. He had booked a flight to Tenerife on November fifth, in six days. So he appeared quite serious. We certainly hoped he decides to buy the boat, but unfortunately he said he will need to raise sponsorship money in order to make the purchase. Meanwhile he wanted to get photos of the boat, in order to help elicit sponsors. So it seems like our departure might be delayed several days, but that was ok with us.
On the boat today Jenny organized the cockpit lockers somewhat, by making a list of what is in each locker. Now she can at least know were to look for whatever is needed at the time.
Day 16: Oct 31
Rather than our usual morning row, we decided to work in the cool of the morning. The cool didn't last long. I spent the whole day in the aft cabin, getting the electrics in order. Jenny started in the forepeak, cleaning and preparing the trouble areas for epoxy. We had found a rather sloppy job of filleting way up forward at the keel joints. It was tough work, with no ventilation, awkward position, and dealing with nasty fiberglass strands. Applying the epoxy was messy work too.
A chap named Bert Coalson from the large 58-foot sailboat "Natoma" came along and offered us his well-used hand-held VHF radio. We had debated several weeks (and months) ago about taking a VHF, but decided - no, we don't need one. And basically, we had grown weary of people (ORS mostly) telling us you gotta have this, and you gotta have that. More and more junk on board, and all we wanted to do was keep it simple. But sure enough, the other day Doug had asked us about a VHF and flares. "None, and none," we replied. He looked shocked and said we needed to have a "safety talk." Sheesh. Anyway, Doug had placed an ad on the marina's bulletin board on our behalf, and just a few hours later Bert showed up. So now we have Bert's old VHF and Doug's outdated flares. We were very appreciative of Doug's and Bert's concern and generosity. (And the VHF later proved invaluable.)
We took a lunch break back at the room, and Jenny cooked a pan of steak and frites. Then we went back to the boat for more work. We both crawled into the aft cabin to see how our net bags will affix to the sides of the cabin. Jenny worked some more on the old scars, topsides. I stretched out for a short nap in the aft cabin and Jenny lay down in the half shade of the forepeak. It was very pleasant. Then I rewired and installed the cabin light.
By 5:45 pm we were ready to head out for a row. The wind was blowing about eight to ten knots directly into the harbor entrance; but we managed to row out without problems. We wanted to go much further out, but soon realized that darkness was falling fast, and we lacked navigation lights. So we turned the boat around and started heading back. We tried double rowing and it worked ok although my seat was hitting the back end of the track, and Jenny didn't have room for her feet. It was awkward, and will take a bit of practice to row in sync.
About then we saw the ferry coming in, and started to worry that we would be too close to her approach. We stayed between the red buoy and the rocky shoreline, and all was well until a local fisherman nearly ran us down. These men seem to follow their set routes, and we were in the way. Still, that's no excuse for not slowing down and using a bit of caution and courtesy. Oh well.
Jenny rowed us back in to the marina with me steering. Our speed was a bit too much, and we nearly glided past our slip. As we were trying to maneuver the bow into the slip, yet another local fisherman bore down on us, and we couldn't believe it when zoomed past Caper with less than an inch to spare between gunwhales. Once I had the boat tied up, I headed for the fishing boat dock, and explained to the guy the obvious truth that these rowing boats are fragile and costly to repair, and that visitors are not to bulled. The guy could not be bothered.
Meanwhile Jenny was getting the boat cleaned up, the oars stowed, and the hatches shut; and when I returned we went back to the apartment with plans to relocate Caper somewhere else in the marina with more elbow room. And also with the feelings that After two weeks, we are ready to get going.
Jenny cooked a dinner of frites with egg and vegetables, then we headed to a cyber-café for email. I wrote to Poly while Jenny wrote in her journal and also gave me things she wants me to include. Sam had written also, saying he will be here on Tuesday evening.
Day 17: Nov 1
We worked in the cool morning hours on the boat, me again in the aft cabin, making progress on the floorboard latches. And we also installed three netting bags in the cabin. Jenny did more sanding, filling, Bondo, and painting - cosmetics mostly. At noon we headed out for a stint of rowing and running the water-maker. We had to return sooner than we would have liked because we could see a wind line approaching, and we didn't want to get clobbered.
The the solar panels are working very nicely, as is the water-maker: 1.25 quarts of water in the first fifteen minutes; 1.3 in the second fifteen minutes; and 1.35 in the third fifteen minutes. We managed to avoid close encounters with the locals, except when we approached the harbor entrance. A guy on a sailboat came straight at us, as though he didn't see us. He had plenty of sea room to maneuver, but seemed to be playing a game of "might is right."
We made a smooth entrance into our slip, tied up, then went back to the apartment. We were hot and tired, so we took showers, and made steak sandwiches. Today was a bank holiday, so a lot of shops were closing early. I returned to the boat while Jenny went to the cyber-café, but found that all three were closed. She needed to look up our bank's phone number, and call and find out why Andy has not received his last wire transfer. Meanwhile, the supermarket was about to close, so she picked up some food.
More of the same boat work in the afternoon hours. The wind piped up and we spent the last few minutes of daylight securing Caper with more dock lines and checking our neighbor's lines too. "Misty" is a steel boat, and it is noisy in a blow. So we are glad we are not sleeping onboard Caper.
Jenny had hoped to load our canned goods into the forepeak today, but I didn't go to the store with her and she would prefer if we shopped for provisions together.
We are so anxious to get going, but have several major jobs on the boat, still, as well as all the cosmetics. We'd like to have the two rowing stations set up and ready to go; we'd like to have the foot steering set up and ready to go; we need to work on our sun awning. The awning needs to be higher so that we can row comfortably under it. We need to figure out where the sea anchor will ride and install some tie down hardware. We need to figure out where the life raft will ride and install tie down hardware for that. We need to install the EPIRB and GPIRB. And so on.
We ate a quiet and relaxed dinner back at the apartment. We much prefer quiet and serene to the loud and in your face local scene.
Day 18: Nov 2
We finished the latches on the aft cabin floorboards. Jenny swept and mopped the sawdust out of the aft cabin and sanded the rough spots, while I removed the corrosion from the battery hold-downs and electrical connections.
The tiller-board was connected to the boat with a stainless steel mount, bolted to the deck. The swivel had no bearings so I made a donut-shaped wafer of plywood to act as a spacer between board and mount. We cleaned the mount and the bolts, but the nuts needed replacing. So we walked into town to look for the hardware, and also we needed fuses for the electric panel, and a lamp socket for the mast head light. Ramirez had the nuts, Auto Reposte had the fuses, but we struck out on the socket. I would have to solder the wires directly to the bulb.
We were concerned about the typically gusty conditions here in La Gomera, and so we asked Doug. He explained the key points of the meteorology. As the prevailing northeast tradewinds hit the high mountain peaks, the air compresses, cools off, then spills down the back side of the island like an avalanche. These avalanches of cold wind are called katabatic wind, and when they hit our coastal town of San Sebastion, we could feel the temperature drop. Doug explained that this gusty wind is an indication that all is normal. No wind is not normal. It means the trades are disturbed for whatever reason.
Also, Doug told us about the "acceleration zones." As the northeast tradewinds sweep past the islands, the air funnels and speeds up between the narrow gaps between islands. Between San Sebastian and five miles out, he advised us to expect winds up to 35 knots. But further out from the island, we would get free of the funnel effect, and the wind would slack off. He drew us a diagram:
35 | 15 | 0 | Island of Tenerife
The 35, 15 and 0 are the knots of wind found in those areas. Doug photocopied a page from the Canary Island sailing directions, for studying later. He also suggested that the windy conditions off shore would be a good opportunity to try out our sea anchor.
Back at the boat, Jenny sanded the foot-well and got a coat of paint on the starboard side, and a couple of touch ups on the gunwhale deck.
Late afternoon we returned to the apartment for a snack and a shower, and short rest, then carried the life raft and sea anchor to the boat. The sea anchor fitted nicely in the foot-well, and the life raft would probably be lashed on to the rowing deck. And now that our storage compartments are ready, hopefully on Monday morning we will buy the provisions.
Doug gave us a bunch of rusty fuel cans, of the type that fit our Force 10 stove. these were a godsend, but needed work. So I began by sanding the rust, applying WD-40, more sanding, and using the point of a screwdriver to scrape off the rust on the threads. What a mess. In fading daylight Jenny spread more Bondo on the splash guard scar. she has have finally figured out a good Bondo technique: build it up high and over the edges, then take it down carefully.
Sebastian from the sailboat "Aziz" stopped by for a chat. He's a Brit, and both he and his wife Astrid are very nice people. The guy reminds me of John Fairfax with his laid-back attitude. The girl is fit and young and Jenny says she is easy to talk with.
We installed a padeye on the foredeck to hold the forepeak hatch open with a cord attached.
Day 19: Nov 3
I serviced one of the rowing gates, taking it apart, and cleaning each piece with WD-40 and paper towel. We made a donuts run, then Jenny greased and wrapped the fuel cans. We had brought two bags of gear from the apartment and most of it we loaded into P3 locker. We went to the Hyper-Treble supermarket, but learned that they would not deliver today, on a Sunday. We spent an hour comparing prices and getting an idea of what we would buy. Then we went to the second largest store, Torres, and found that their prices were considerably higher.
Back at the boat we had lunch on the dock, in a tiny bit of shade, while feeding scraps to the tropical menagerie in the water. The same fish are there every day, and they seem to be getting to know us, and we them.
I removed the starboard solar panel. and re-drilled it's six mounting holes to take 1/4" bolts. I enlarged the six corresponding holes in the coach roof. then I epoxied the bolts in place from inside the cabin, with the studs pointing out. Wing nuts on the outside will allow us to remove the solar panel and re-locate it in the cockpit, facing more directly at the sun, on a cloudy day. This was a long, fiddly job, getting all the bolts right.
When the solar panel is in the cockpit, in windy conditions I figured that it would need a backing plate. So using a tiny hand saw, I cut the 3' x 4' plywood in half, to fit the back side of the solar panel. It took at least half an hour to make the two cuts. Then I used the rasp to smooth the edges. Jenny sanded the board and then applied a coat of Blake's wood sealer.
(in retrospect, this did not prove necessary. The solar panels were larger than needed, and they supplied more than enough juice to power our electrics, even during cloudy days.)
We spent quite a while experimenting with ways to stow the spare oars. In the end, I simply drilled a couple holes in the gunwhale decks, and through these holes lashed the oars in place. Jenny sanded the Bondo on the foredeck scar, then painted with the blue bottom paint. We installed two more net cabin bags.
We met Doug at seven pm and the three of us walked to a cyber-café to use the internet. Doug showed us some good weather sites and explained how to read the wind and wave charts, and how to interpret the lows and high cell movements.
Tonight, the town square below our apartment became the site of much revelry, with an all-night live band. But we somehow slept through it all. Our friends at the marina complained about the noise, and figured we had been blasted. Astrid said the noise had died-off not until four am. We didn't hear it; we must have been extra tired.
Day 20: Nov 4
Provisioning Day. I was up at 5:30 getting the epirb ready, and testing the VHF two-way radio. At the boat we made cuppas, then I rigged up a make-shift hatch holder, comprising a simple cord running from a solar panel wing nut to the hatch. This would secure the hatch in the up position, when needed. I later thought of a better solution: simply tightening the hinges.
Jenny filled and sanded some holes and scars on the gunwhale. She had run out of gray paint, otherwise she would have painted the filled-in holes.
About 9:30 we set off to the Hyper-Treble with one of the marina's dock carts. We didn't want to wait around all day for the supermarket to deliver our provisions, so we figured we would make several runs. But while there, we decided to use a grocery cart to wheel our bags of groceries back to the boat. Our first load was mostly canned goods. Eighty-one cans in all. Eight (one-kilo) bags of powdered milk, a bunch of boxed cereal, flour. The total was 137 euros. I muscled the grocery carts along the bumpy streets, sidewalks and dock. The tide was high so it was easily for me to hand Jenny the bags of groceries, which she then stacked on the slip. Then we piled the bags into the foot-well, covered them with the tarp, and placed the two rowing seats on top of the tarp to hold it down in the gusts.
I wheeled the grocery cart back to the store and started with Round Two, while Jenny made a quick detour to the bank, and to double check the price of chocolate at the Torres market. Round Two consisted of cookies, crackers, salami, cheese, candy, potato chips, and scone fixings (baking powder, sugar, cinnamon) - for a total of 106 euros. So far we have a 60-day supply of food for 244 euros.
We followed the same routine of loading the new bags into boat. Then while I returned the grocery cart, Jenny began peeling paper labels from cans, and writing the contents of the cans on the lids. I returned to the boat, and helped with this job. Before before stowing the cans into the forepeak lockers, each can was added to Jenny's list of what went where, so that later, at sea, she would know exactly what we have, and where it is - without having to dig around for things.
The canned food went into the forward cockpit lockers. We removed fifteen liters of water ballast (three five-liter bottles) and replaced the weight with the canned food.
Into the forepeak went crackers, cookies, cereal, toilet paper, paper towels. Into the aft cabin lockers went the remaining food stores: powdered milk, rice, more cookies and crackers, flour and sugar, potato chips and chocolate bars.
By late afternoon we were dog tired, but had all our food stowed (so far). We returned to the apartment, took refreshing showers, then strolled up the hill to the hardware store by the diesel tanks. There we bought a few more things: more gray paint, some thin cord, paint brushes, boxing tape and an adapter that we hoped would match our two stoves. We had given up on this idea, but the this adapter looked like it just might work. But when we got back to the boat we found the sizes were not correct for our stoves and fuel cans.
Earlier this morning I had drilled holes in the foot-well for lashing down the sea anchor, and had epoxied in the eyebolts. Now that the epoxy was cured, we lashed the sea anchor in the foot-well. Then we found that the life-raft would also fit width-wise in the foot-well, just above the sea anchor. So we lashed that in as well, and also rigged up a webbing foot strap for Jenny's aft rowing position.
We made one last evening run to Pepe's ferroceria for cord, then we went to the cyber-café. Tomorrow Sam Knight arrives, the potential buyer.
Day 21: Nov 5
We both woke up at 5 am, but of course it wouldn't be light until 6:45 am. We made a run to the boat anyway, carrying a couple heavy bags of gear from the apartment to the boat. It was still too dark to work, so we returned to the apartment, organized our remaining gear, then with the advent of daylight, carried empty water bottles to the boat.
I worked in the foot-well, installing tie down straps, and drilling a hole for the bilge pump hose. Jenny finished sanding on the Bondo repairs, then after cleaning all the grit from the surfaces, she started painting. It was mostly touch-up in the rowing cockpit areas. After the last bit of painting we left the boat for another grocery run.
The boat had extra room so we decided on another month's worth of provisions, to bring our capacity to 90 days total.
When we returned with Round #3 - another cart-full of groceries, we found that in the hot sun, warm air and stiff wind, the paint had dried quickly, although it was still tender. This time Jenny returned the grocery cart.
Our next job was to send two boxes of belongings back home to the US. One box contained the spare water-maker (in retrospect, this was a huge mistake to send that home) and the second box was various and sundry boat parts: bilge pump and hose, fasteners, extra shoes, power drill and extra battery, charger and converter, etc. We hauled these boxes the courier office "MRW," up the steep road from the church and cyber-café. I returned to boat, leaving Jenny to fill out the paperwork and pay the shipping bill. Half an hour later she came back saying that that cost of sending the two boxes would be 337 euros! That was much too high. The post office had closed for the day, so we had to haul the boxes back to the apartment. They were pretty heavy, about 40 pounds each (14 kg and 18 kg). The thought crossed our minds of abandoning much of the excess gear, and taking only the valuable items with us. But we could not bare to do that, ether.
Sam had been able to catch an earlier ferry, so we finally got to meet him. He was young and not too talkative, but he seemed very interested in the boat. He was a rower, so his main interest was the rowing set up. At dinner we made it clear that if he wants to buy, then he would need to come up with the money by the time we reached Barbados; After that, we would be open for any other interested parties - with money, hopefully.
Sam was tired from his travels, so he retired to his chosen pension, nearby.
Back at the boat, Jenny and I lashed the spare oars into place, stowed the last of the groceries, and finished a few other odd jobs.
Day 22: Nov 6
We woke early to a windless morning, and went to the boat and got to work on a few last remaining jobs: bilge pump hose installed into the aft cabin, and other odds and ends. We paid our marina, drydock, and lift fees of 55 euros total.
Sam showed up mid morning, and he and I took Caper out in the bay for a demo. He knew much more about rowing than we did, and gave us lots of rowing tips. I took pictures with his camera that he wanted for eliciting sponsors. Meanwhile, Jenny moved us out of the apartment and took our two boxes of surplus gear to the post office to mail home. By ship, the water-maker cost 50 euros and the larger box cost 60 euros.
Sam confirmed my feelings that the steering footboard was about six inches too far forward. We had already sent our electric drill home, so I went off to borrow one from Doug. We worked on that into the evening, finishing up by flashlight.
We went into town for a pizza with Sam, and then one last session at the cyber-café.
We slept aboard and got bitten to smithereens by mosquitoes. Our aft cabin cushion had small blotches of blood near the legs.