The Solo Life Afloat

Well it’s been over a month since Debra flew home and I’m not dead yet. Somehow I survived on my own without any major incidents. I say this but I still have five days until she returns. I’m in the home stretch so I’m being cautious because everyone knows that just when you get relaxed thinking you made it then something hideous happens. Kind of like winter driving up north when you make it to your Neighborhood after a long drive home from work in a blizzard only to go too fast in a turn onto your street and plow into the Neighbors mailbox.

So now it’s time to play it cool. No back flips off the deck into the water to cool off. You use the ladder. No balancing a pot of boiling hot soup up the companionway to the cockpit because eating out of the pan saves dishes. No deep frying anything. No walking to the brewery at the end of the day. Drink earlier. No high speed dinghy runs for fun. NO snorkeling or hiking. No use of power tools with blades. No thinking, “I bet I can squeeze into that space to finally get at that plumbing”. In fact, no plumbing. No visiting a bar you’ve never been to. No eating a burger after being a vegetarian for over ten years. No thinking, “A toke or two can’t hurt”. No eating barracuda. No spilling hot sauce all over your plate and eating it anyway. No walking in the mid day sun to fill your backpack with potatoes, squash and a bag of apples and then humping it back. No helping to pull boats off rocks. No agreeing to go up a mast because you’re smallish. No taking people to “their” boat. No bar chatting with drunks.

So basically I’m going to just clean the boat and play guitar.

Playing the guitar hasn’t been that safe actually. My strumming arm had some shooting pain running through it and I had it go numb a few times. I started asking around if anyone experienced this and I guess it’s kind of rare but possible. I’ve been practicing a few songs involving some heavy strumming by Green Day and Nirvana. It was suggested (Thanks Cousin) that I should stand and play for a bit which may help with the motion of the arm. Change my posture. So, when Deb gets back she’ll have to put up me jamming upright. Wish I had some tight jeans.

I’m actually walking around a bit more than usual and entertaining the goats. Sometimes they follow me. Beer consumption is down and for some reason the island seems to have an abundance of lettuce so eating like a rabbit has been keeping the weight down as well. With the belly, sunken chest and the gray goatee I was looking a bit too typical a cruiser. You know, after a while we all start looking the same. Some of us have the same damn shirts. I don’t know, it bothers me. I’ll see on the news some angry old guy yelling at life and clouds and I’m thinking shit, he looks familiar. I was doing a few workout routines a day until I hurt my arm. Hoping it heals soon as I’m getting that sluggish feeling again.

Taco Salad. That’s not real meat in case you’re wondering

It’s a good thing I have the blog else I’d be talking to myself by now. In a way that’s what this is but I don’t feel as crazy doing it. I really don’t know how some guys do this living alone thing. Judging by some of the radio conversation I’d say they’re not really pulling it off. Some dudes are pretty outgoing and I think you have to be that way to survive floating alone. I’m kind of a social misfit so I tend to need courage to be a bit social. Beer helps. But you know, I go to a bar to hang out and chat and I inevitably meet some weirdo or even a group of them. There are some stories I can tell but I refrain because I’ve exchanged boat cards with some of these people and they’re most likely reading this. Well, maybe. I remember a gal saying, “Oh, I’ve read your blog.” Yikes! Might be time to get the boat name off the facebook blog title. One thing I have only done a few times is google for a boat name but I bet some people do it a lot. Have a boat anchor too close? Google them. See if they had any blog posts like “Our anchor dragged and we slammed into another sailboat so we fled. Some day we’ll figure this whole anchoring thing out but until then, party on!” Might want to relocate after reading that.

All in all it’s been kind of boring living alone. You will see or hear something funny but you have no one to share it with. This Sucks. Like the other day when on the radio I heard Momma Cow calling Fat Susan. Hahaha. The funniest was a boat called Douche Canoe from last season. After their radio call I damn near fell over laughing. I saw the boat later. It’s actually Douche Canoe. This stuff is hilarious but it’s even more fun together. Walking to the store last week there was a traffic jam. Lot’s of impatient drivers honking their horns. When I got closer to the accident I saw a car with it’s left wheels over a small barrier and hanging over a drainage channel. I stopped to look not thinking about the car next to me with the windows down. “Holy shit! How the fuck did he do that?” I heard laughter from the driver of the car I was next to. I guess I was thinking out loud again. If Deb was with me I would have said it to her and not the car in traffic. On one of my walks I found a little secluded beach. It was nice to get my feet cooled off in the hot sun and a perfect spot to sit and watch the ocean for a while but it’s not the same without Deb. Aww. I know what you’re thinking. Pauly is sucking up a bit now that wifey is on her way. Ha! Maybe she’ll go easy on me when she sees everything out of place. Women don’t like their stuff messed with. I had to though. It was in the way of a project. 😀

A quiet little spot. Just perfect after a nice walk in the sun

So safe travels my dear and hopefully I can hold out until Sunday without going bonkers. I’ll make sure the boat is as clean as it can be…maybe. I found some relatively tight jeans and some hair gel and I’ve been practicing “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols. I think you’ll like it.

Cheers!

P

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A nice break

Ahoy! Nothing new to report. The engine awaits work. I want to attempt some things myself but hate to throw more variables into the mix right now while the guys screw around with it.

I took a ride into St. George’s to meet my friends Karen and Henry who were on a cruise ship in port. We met for drinks and a snack and some fun chat. Good times! I have not seen Karen since our GM/Delphi days together. Seems like forever ago but damn it some people just are not aging. I’m not so sure this cruising life keeps you young. Maybe I should go back to hell work?

I wandered around St Georges for a bit and checked out the public market. I think all the prices were up because of the cruise ship in port. I’m not much of a wheeler dealer when it comes to food. I try to listen to what the locals are paying but they don’t even mention prices. Money just changes hands. Sly 🙂

I was only yelled at once by some guy who was yelling at everyone I think. One dude stepped in front of me to divert me into a stall but I did my best rolling away from a tackle move and kept walking. You want to wear faded clothes and hats when out and about so they don’t think you’re cruise ship material. My Buffalo Bills hat was busted and my only other hat was a new NASA hat with the flag on it. Oye. I stapled the Bills hat together. It held!

Getting a bus back to the dinghy dock was a little rough. Several drove right past me but one finally stopped. It was the maniac driver we had before. Yikes! No wonder the bus was half empty. My fingers still hurt from the grip on the seatback.

It was ime for a cold one after all that and a slow ride back to the boat as the sun was setting.

Cheers!

PJB

A rough week. My brain hurts.

I have this sinking feeling (not good on a boat) that we may never solve this vibration issue and we’ll sell her super cheap just to get rid of the problem. Some old Scotsman who was once a mechanic will jump with glee at the deal of the century and promptly fix the problem in five minutes.

“Took me fife minutes tae fin’ th’ problem. Feckin Yanks ur a bit dumb”

I’m not going to go into any of the details because it’s just insanity relived for nothing more than torture to my brain. I will just tell you that the latest “fix” actually made the problem worse.

Last weekend was a rough one. Actually is was the end of a rough week. Deb is still in the States and I’m not liking this alone time. Of course it’s fun at first. You get stupid a little bit, play the music loud, spread out, sleep diagonal, leave dishes in the sink, etc. It was nice for a few days but then you realize you don’t like living in a junk yard and you smell. Now comes the boring part, picking up after yourself and showering regularly.

Besides strumming the guitar and annoying nobody but people anchored too close I thought I would get some writing done as well. I had started on a blog post about a friend of mine who had died while I was away. Nobody told me he had died. I found out about it by searching for his work email one day after finding a pocket knife I had lost. The pocket knife was worn and scratched but it was on the table when the sun hit it and I saw his old company logo. I wonder how he’s doing? A search showed his obituary. Damn.

I’m the moustache next to the goalie. My old pal is the tall dude behind me under the beer sign. Champs!

So as I was wrapping up the post on my old pal I got a message from my sister and then my cousin that my Uncle had died suddenly. Ugh. He was more like a big brother to me. Only 8 yrs apart in age and this news hurt. You start thinking how much you hate this lifestyle when shit like this happens. The disconnect from family and friends starts to bother you.

Me and Uncle Rog. He was a sweetheart. So many laughs.

So with all that bad stuff out of the way I can report that some things have been just fine. I changed the membranes in our watermaker with success and very little swearing except a few tirades as I tried to lower the thirty pound assembly from the top of a cabinet. My face was right in a port while my right forearm and hand was underneath the cabinet holding the whole thing up while I slowly removed a nut off of a screw. I had to use a screwdriver to hold the bolt when the boat rolled and my screw driver slipped and rolled away from me. I cursed at life straight out the port and at my neighbors enjoying lunch in their cockpit. My face must have been all contorted from the strain of the weight on my arm as I scrambled to reach the screwdriver. I laughed thinking my face looked like the old King Crimson album cover. It was some very loud and unique cursing. They don’t wave anymore.

I eventually got smarter with some line and a few extra holes in the cabinet top and this kept everything in place nice nice. It all went together slowly and with much thought and patience. No runs, no drips, no errors. She runs fine. Beer me.

With all that’s been going on I’m taking a break today. No projects. I’m going for a walk. At the end of the walk I’m having a beer. I have a good movie to watch tonight so I might pick up some horribly unhealthy snacks to munch on while I’m entertained. On one of my previous walks I found a beach. How many people can say they found a beach on their morning walk? Life is still good, frustrating and sad at times but still good.

Cheers!

P

Note: I reference Scotsmen in the 1st paragraph because I worked with many who were the best machinists and mechanics I ever saw. They also had the dry, biting wit that I find amusing. Many times they looked at me like I was dumb as a rock and told me just that. At least I think that’s what they said.

Paulie Goes Solo

While in Grenada and waiting on parts and service we got a call from home. There is a need for grandmotherly assistance in handling a daycare dilemma. Debra, being always ready and able to assist with those lovely Grandkids, has hopped a flight to the USA for a short stay while I remain in the floating workshop.

There she goes! She flew right over me.

The first night without the 1st mate was pretty strange though I slept better than I thought I would. I did wake up diagonally across the bed and all the pillows tossed about. That would never happen with Deb here. I would have been swatted. Getting out of bed and tip toeing about trying to be quiet and I’m like, what the hell am I doing? Put some music on! 
It’s odd not having Debra here. We’ll see how this goes. I’m not sure how long she will be gone but I might be talking to myself before this is all over. I may become one of those old sailor dudes who mumble to themselves and laugh too hard at shit that really isn’t all that funny. I promised myself I wouldn’t just sit in a bar the whole time she was gone and I’m sticking to it. Even yesterday after I got her in the cab in the pouring rain I waited outside a restaurant and not at the bar for the rain to stop. Will power is what I’ve never had got.
I woke up today wondering what I will do my first day alone. I should keep an online diary for fun. It could be interesting reading. A look at what happens to a man left to fend for himself on a boat. Will he survive? What will he eat? What will happen when all his clothes are dirty? Will he cook nice meals or eat spaghetti out of a pan? Can he change a roll of toilet paper? Make the bed? Clean anything? Will he wake up hungover at the bottom of a dinghy drifting to Central America? Stay tuned.

Cheers!

PJJB

Floating Condo

I guess Grenada is our home now. I think we’ve traveled about 130 miles. Those miles include our trip from Trinidad and the hopping between bays. We’re falling way short of our usual 600 or so. It’s the way it goes sometimes. We can be miserable about it and make life worse or embrace the situation and make the best of it.

The work continues on KN. We replaced the engine mounts and the vibration got worse actually. We now shimmy and shake all the way up to 2000 rpm. The whole drive train was realigned again, yet still we shake. Scratching our heads I finally just stopped the process and asked for the coupling to be removed and checked. They pounded the damn thing off the shaft and took it to the shop. When it came back it came with the guy who owns the shop. He re-installed the coupling and left the set screws out. We ran the engine and she was smooth and quiet. He tightened the set screws and the vibration came back. Huh.

We figured out that the original shaft and coupling were mated and balanced. When we replaced the shaft and shoved it into the old coupling we got out of alignment. This is the theory anyway.

We have an old style coupling. One with a keyway that had no key but just two set screws to hold the shaft. Looking at it you see the set screws are on one side of the shaft. Who the hell designed this? You’re pushing the shaft to one side of the coupling if it’s not a perfect fit. Opposing set screws would be better in my opinion but I’m not a mechanic.

We have on order a new coupling. A two piece coupling made to center the shaft within it. I think this will work but I thought the mounts would work as well. So KN continues to mystify and stump the experts though I think we’re getting closer because we’re running out of parts to order.

I am usually hate to be negative but I fear with all this vibro action going on that we may have fucked up the cutlass bearing but that’s just Paulie Paranoia talking.

So, who’s up for a party in Grenada! Looks like at least another two weeks here if not more. Fly down and join us but you can’t stay on the boat. Get your ass into a hotel. If that V-berth gets cleaned out again it’s definitely becoming a man cave guitar bar rock center. Sorry. The noise from the anchor snubber would drive you nuts anyway.

One concession I did get from the mechanics was they will finish(?) the work here in Prickly Bay so that we don’t have to move the boat again. Not that it’s far but sometimes those waves can be large and you head right into them. With the drive train the way it is it’s kind of nerve wracking doing 4 knots at 2700 rpm and the bow submerging on occasion and tossing water into the air. You start looking at the reefs wondering what your game plan is if the engine stops. I kind of do this all the time anyway. One thing I learned was to stop doing this out loud. Apparently the other people on the boat do not like to hear your disaster planning.

That’s all I’ve got for now. We’re going to start some “make her pretty” boat projects while we’re here. As long as we’re sitting around we might as well get some things done. It’s what retirement savings is for. Sorry kids.

Cheers!

P

Oh, Deb has been taking all the pictures lately and she doesn’t share so I have nothing unless you want to see old stuff. When we’re out and about I just walk around in a daze while she snaps shots of flowers and fire hydrants and examines the utility wiring. Eventually I’m scouting for bars while she tries to capture the perfect cactus shot which is actually an Aloe Vera plant. She does take nice photos but apparently she does the publishing.

I felt guilty not putting a photo on here and yes, it’s another boring rainbow shot. For some reason rainbows make me run for the camera. Must have been all those Lucky Charms I ate when I was a kid. My Dentist mentioned something about that while drilling.

Our First

This might be the first time we’ve been immobile because of an unplanned boat related issue. I don’t like it.

We’ve had boat problems but nothing serious enough to kill a sailing season. Other stuff was recognized early on and a planned repair was initiated. This was a surprise. What was a little vibration last year has become bad enough to make you stop in your tracks. 

This is Prickly Bay. From here you can hop a bus to anywhere on the island. It’s a bit rolly but convenient.

We’ve been lucky until this point. All the boats we’ve owned have been trouble free until this weird vibration thing started. This is no ordinary vibration we have. It’s more like a shimmy. The engine is literally dancing on it’s mounts when we’re accelerating slowly from low RPM. You know the second you feel it that something is very wrong and taking her out to sea would be a dumb move. So, here we sit pecking away at the problem. 

We’re now looking at new engine mounts. The next and probably last thing to change would be the damper plate on the transmission but that’s fairly new (2 yrs) so that’s a last straw I guess. I don’t know what to do after all this. Just shimmy away to other islands? If anything it forces you to sail more often.

When we bought the boat we knew she was a little rough around the edges. That was OK. We weren’t looking for pretty. We were looking for sturdy and fast. We were also looking for a solid engine/drive train and we found it but this environment is harsh and sooner or later all things fail. The engine mounts look good but maybe they are a little worn. They’re starting to collapse a wee bit so maybe it’s time we replaced them and with any luck the tune the engine grooves to will be Good Vibrations and not Twist and Shout.

We do have some other chores to attend to like taxes and my favorite boat project, the watermaker. We blew up two valves and I am unplugging and plugging hoses in order to run the thing. Trying to decide if we should ship new valves in or reconfigure with what we can find down here. Our membranes are also geting worn out as our PPM is inching towards the unhealthy drinking water level. Not sure we can make it to July with what we have. We have to decide soon as it takes a week to get the parts here.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks but at least we are somewhere we enjoy hanging out. Grenada is so cruiser friendly and beautiful and many sailors just hang around here all year long. It’s interesting the places where sailors congregate. Grenada, Martinique and Antigua are all places to relax for months at a time and enjoy the season. Our plan was to get to Antigua this season but that looks sketchy now. Dominica is still in view, for now. Fingers crossed.

Just some pics of our surroundings. We can hear the swell rolling over the reef and hitting the shore. Perfect sounds for sleeping.

I think today we’ll go get those taxes done and then head off to the Container Park for some brunch/lunch. Maybe over a few brews we can decide what to do with the watermaker parts or possibly come up with a brilliant solution to the engine issue. No matter what happens here in the next few weeks we are still in paradise, far away from the rat race and all the other crap that goes with it. 

Cheers!

PJB

Up with the Sun

I have good mornings and bad. Nothing to do with pain fortunately, just with how I feel.

When I get up before the sun it’s a better day then when I sleep in. I’m not sure why. It just is. I’ve been an early riser most of my life. When I was a kid I would be up in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal waiting for the test pattern to go away and the national anthem to start. My working life had me turning the lights on in my department and waking up the machinery to start the day. I was having my first cup of coffee before the rest of the employees were out of bed.

These days there are no test patterns and the only machinery lays quiet in the engine room unless we need an early start. My morning routine starts with opening up the breaker panel and switching on the propane and turning off the anchor light unless I’m really early. Next I look at the battery voltage to make sure it’s not too low. These days we’re locked in at night so I have to remove the hatchboards and I enter the cockpit for a good stretch and suck in the sea air while looking around at my neighbors. Everybody is in the same place they were last night. Cool. Off to the stern to open the propane bottle, tilt the solar panels to catch the first rays and then move forward to check the anchor chain and snubber. Standing at the bow and looking out on the anchorage I hear the roosters crowing. The slight chill to the wind blows off any cobwebs I might still have and I start to think about what our day will bring. Back in the cockpit our position on the chart plotter looks good. Tea time! In the dark of the cabin the blue propane flame is the only source of light as it heats up the old stainless camp stove coffee pot. The percolating noise let’s me know it’s ready.

With a hot cup of tea or coffee I sit and watch the sun rise.

We have some nice pinks and blues this morning. What will today bring? Moving  day? The last few nights have been adventures in rolling side to side. I was up at one in the morning the other night stopping a pan from skating back and forth on the counter slamming into empty beer cans as they rolled around. I can’t even explain that noise to you. There was also a cabinet opening and closing and the onions on the shelf were all moving and crinkling. Inside a cabinet a bottle of olive oil was in a mosh pit with the salt, pepper and soy sauce. I call it the fun house. You wake up to all these confusing noises and you try to maneuver through the boat finding the source. Craziness.

So I have been sleeping in a bit and waking up to a bright sky with a hot sun. The tea doesn’t taste the same and my mood is dull. I was meant to be up before the sun and here it comes. Feels good.

Have a fantastic day everyone.

PB

The fisherman have come out and are on the move. The loud ferry boat is moving workers from the main island to the private island to work on the resort. Some cruisers are already moving in their dinghies and a sail just went up, flapping in the breeze. Dogs are barking. Time for another tea.