Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Week of Mishaps (April 10-17)

I’ve been incredulous at our luck over the past week – or rather, our lack of it! Mishap after mishap after mishap after mishap after mishap after mishap after mishap. Yeah, there were that many!

Mishap #1 – Serenada’s engine failure

It started with the engine sputtering out on us (at 2:00 or 3:00 AM!) while passaging from Salinas, Puerto Rico to Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands, which we never made. The issue was something completely different than what we had initially thought. What happened that night was that the tap which allows fuel to flow from the fuel tank to the engine had vibrated almost shut! Thus, only a few drops of fuel were getting through, and the engine sputtered out. Had we known what the true issue was at the time, Gil would have had it up and running in no time, and we’d have arrived in Culebra with Jorge & Kim.

I, however, had been concerned about our fuel levels prior to the engine sputtering out, so we both thought that was the issue. Therefore, Gil went through the arduous tasks of transferring fuel from our jerry cans into the fuel tank (while underway), and then bleeding air from the system …. during which the bleed screw broke, and as Gil put it, “#^!/%#….we’re f****d.” In other words, we were not going to be able to restart the engine without first replacing the bleed screw, and because we didn’t have a spare on board, we had to get one first.

Plan A to Culebra became Plan B to Roosevelt Roads, an anchorage on mainland Puerto Rico that we could safely sail into, which we did. We arrived in the predawn hours of Thursday morning, and stayed there until late Monday afternoon; almost 5 days that didn’t need to be lost.

Mishap #2 – What’s that smell?

When we awoke from our slumber on Thursday morning, we could both smell diesel. As Gil had refilled the fuel tank from the jerry cans just a few hours prior (in the dark), we figured that some must have spilled on deck. We cleaned the deck area around the fuel intake. ‘Had our coffees. The smell persisted? We tracked it down …. our bilge was full of diesel?!  What had happened was that fuel was leaking slowly from the broken bleed screw. We filled an entire 5 gallon jerry can with the fuel we cleaned out of there. That’s no way to start your day L

After our clean-up and after breakfast, our task for the day was to source and order the replacement bleed screw, needed to restore Serenada’s engine back to health. Puerto del Rey, touted as the Caribbean’s largest marina, was about 30mi. north of us. We started with their service department. They could offer no help, but referred us to a Yanmar dealer in San Juan, who was able to source and order the part for us.

The following day, our challenge was to figure out how to get the part to Serenada. We hoped it could be shipped, but we needed a shipping address. So, we lowered the dinghy to get ourselves to shore, in search of our shipping address.

Mishap #3 -  Serenada’s going without us?

Roosevelt Roads is an abandoned old US Naval Base, and is a designated “restricted area.” It’s an incredible place in that there is much $$$ infrastructure here, including piers and docks enough for a fleet of megaships, housing and offices (all with solar panels) for a navy; but all unused!

abandoned infrastrusture at Roosevelt Roads

There isn’t much else on shore here, but there is a Ministry of the Environment office. They gave us permission to use them as a shipping address for our part. As I was sitting in their office, emailing the Yanmar dealer …….   Gil rushed in, and without saying a word, his message was clear: “GOT TO GO!” What the…?

Serenada was on the move! A gust had come up, and she was dragging anchor! Not having use of the engine when we did anchor, we weren’t as able to properly set it. Such was our luck. She hadn’t moved at all the day before, so we felt her anchor was fairly secure. Nope. Serenada was headed for the shoal behind her. Not good. It was ever that much more frustrating because we just couldn’t get to her fast. Our dinghy’s outboard couldn’t do much more than idle (I guess that should count as mishap #0 or #4!) without pooping out. Oh boy. Anyway, we did get to her in the nick of time; but our adrenaline was running, and she ended up with all three anchors down. They held her off the shoal J. Close call.

Mishap #0 or #4 – The dinghy’s 1 HP outboard motor

I almost forgot this one – there have just been so many mishaps lately! The outboard’s been misbehaving. It has no pep. It goes, but not past an idle. So, it’s very slow. Not good for situations such as the one above. We didn’t know why, of course; which is why it took us some time to finally fix it. We think now that it was a dirty carberator, from not having used it (while in marinas throughout the DR) and the gas evaporating from it in the heat. A Mercury dealer in Ponce had suggested a product to help clean it, and it seems to have very recently resolved itself.  It would have spared Gil a few grey hairs if it worked a little quicker though (before Serenada dragged anchor at Roosevelt Roads).

Mishap #5 –  The stereo & the back-up VHF radio are both down?!

While we were stuck at Roosevelt Roads, we at least had occasion to rest (LOL). Wine and dinner should be accompanied by music, but as luck would have it …. and you’ve probably guessed it….  the stereo quit! Give me a break. Our back-up VHF radio, which is underneath the stereo, was also down. Troubleshooting revealed a leak, originating from one of the stanchions, which caused salt water to drip onto and into the stereo housing, and short out a couple of connections. We’ve since repaired the leaky stanchion, but it’s too late for the stereo L. We’re still working on the spare VHF – ‘haven’t written it off yet.

Wait, there’s more!

 So, we got the replacement bleed screw, and Serenada was healthy again. By that point in time we were itching to go again, and the weather window we were missing out on hadn’t completely closed yet. So, we chose to make maximum use of what was left of it – we left late Monday afternoon and arrived in St. Thomas very early (predawn) Tuesday. It felt great to be in the US Virgin Islands.

Mishap #6 – Ouch, my toe!

We anchored for a short while at Flamingo Bay, and for a short while at Christmas Cove, both on St. Thomas; before heading on to St. John. It was here in Francis Bay where I closed the anchor locker door against the side of my big toe. I won’t describe it, but I left a blood trail behind as I scurried below to tend to the wound. I don’t know what hurt more – the toe, or knowing that snorkeling was now off limits until the wound closed. I need my snorkel fix! It’s been too long, and now that I’m in a great snorkeling spot, I do myself in. Aargh!

Mishap #7 – A nighttime scare

Francis Bay has mooring balls for boats to tie on to. This protects the sea floor from damage caused by boats’ anchors. I’ve always preferred being at anchor to tying on to mooring balls. Though we have dragged anchor a couple of times (both when we were off the boat!), I still feel more secure when at anchor.

Gil was up in the middle of the night, and happened to look outside. Why didn’t the other boats have their anchor lights on? You could see the anchor lights of the boats in the anchorage across from ours…. or was that ours?!  Adrift?!  We were adrift!  I awoke to noises on deck. I wondered what Gil was up to?  He ran forward to check our line. It was there, but minus the shackle. The line had come undone from the shackle, which was presumably still attached to the mooring ball. One of us didn’t tie the bolan knot correctly  =:0   Thankfully, Francis Bay is huge, and the winds had been light. We had drifted quite some distance, but had not gotten into trouble (we didn’t hit any rock or shoal, or other boats). We motored back to our mooring ball and retied onto our shackle. In the morning, only we were aware that there’d been any drama in the mooring field.

Believe it or not, this all happened in the space of a week!  Way too many mishaps.  What ever happened to things coming in threes?  So, there you have it. Even in paradise, stuff happens (see, I can still be polite).

things should brighten up for us

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