Sunday, March 28, 2010

Smiling Again

My electric toothbrush died today. I'm not smiling. Yeah, not a big deal and not that I need one anyway, right?? I only bought it because I have a poor history dealing with fighting cavities. The cavities usually win most of the battles and, hey, I thought, every other American has an electric toothbrush and they all say they really "do" help fight cavities, so I thought, ok, I'm not "that" old school, I'll get an electric toothbrush too and my teeth will be extra happy. And that's what I did before we left Sausalito 3 1/2 years ago and started this journey. And, to tell you the truth, I kind of grew to like it. Until today. Now it's dead and I'm back to old school tooth brushing. More my style anyway I think.

But the reason I bring the toothbrush up is because something much more important to us died the other day, our Yamaha dingy outboard. Yeah, not cool, old school or new...having a good reliable outboard for your dingy is just kind of paramount out here. Especially if you want to get off the boat when it's windy and you can't row safely anywhere. Or if you want to "do" something fun off the boat like hiking on shore, or snorkeling, diving, or kite-surfing. I mean don't get me wrong, Nicole and I can hang tough on DK like any good cruisers: reading, doing boat projects, watching a good TV series on the laptop, baking bread or cookies...we do it often, hunker down and live simply on our boat for sometimes days or weeks without touching our feet on land. But it's really really nice to have the choice, especially if we are in a sweet cruising area like the Red Sea; a place that beckons to the adventurous. And, must I remind you all, we are super remote and also in a very poor country. We are still days away from a town, any town, and even when we are there, do you think there will just be a reliable and competent Yamaha mechanic there? You never know, right, but I wouldn't count on it.

Hanging in Khor Nawarat bay (March 25), just across the border into Sudan from the country of Eritrea, we were off on another snorkeling adventure. Nic and I took along a couple of our Dutch friends from the boat, Halfskip, and we were off to visit "fish town" again. After an hour or so of exploring the reef full of schools of sweetlips, rainbow colored parrotfish, and the assorted cornucopia of tropical reef beauties, and me unsuccessfully poking around the coral heads in search of a lobster dinner, we loaded back into super dingy and started back across the outer reef channel towards the anchorage. "Weeeeyyyy," goes the reved up engine with no power as I try to accelerate. I look at the prop and search for the telltale tangle of an old fishing line or other foreign object stuck around the blades. Nothing. "Weeeeeeeyyyyyy," it goes again. Oh Shit. We look at each other knowing full well we have at least a mile to go and need to cross two reefs and a current-swept channel.

I put it in forward slowly and it moves us forward, but no more then 1-2 knots. Phew, at least we can move. 45 minutes later and we make it home. Nic and I raise the engine and I start on the process of diagnosing the new problem. Prop looks fine, so it must be a "gear" issue inside the engine itself. Lower unit, I think. Turning our cockpit into my workshop begins. Tools come out, old greasy work towels get spread out, and the dismantling begins. Attempting to remove a couple of seized on bolts from the water pump housing creates a whole new problem. Two of them snap inside their tapped holes. Nice. Now my project has doubled...welcome to the world of boat projects.

For the rest of the day and all the next one, this is my world. I have taken apart all of the lower unit of the outboard, drilled out old broken bolts, stripped the threads, and then attempted to use some JBWeld to fix my disaster. JBWeld doesn't work too well, part of it breaks off and I have to re-tap a hole with a size bigger bolt to make it work. Thankfully I have a bolt that will work. Lots of gasket-sealer, sweat, and cursing later and, hopefully, I get the water pump issue fixed. Remember, this is only the second problem, I still haven't figured out the main one yet.

We have both our Dutch boat friends from the yachts "Halfskip" and "Alexandra" onboard for sundowner drinks that night, and Hans on Alexandra tells me about his exact same past issue. It's the prop, he says. No way, I say, the prop looks fine. He shows me how the interior bushing will break apart from the prop itself when the prop hits something or too much force is generated. It makes sense, but I never would have been able to understand or see it without him explaining it to me. I am utterly relieved. Hans is my new best friend! I start to smile.

I email my dad. He has been on a mission for me in Washington State to talk to the outboard guru's in the shops close by he knows of. He comes back with the same prognosis and we are both relieved that at least we have hopefully figured out the issue. Thanks Dad!
Now I need to put it back together again.

We left Khor Nawarat yesterday morning at sunrise (March 27) heading north to our present anchorage, Long Island, at the beginning of the Shubuk Channel. The wind and seas were up and we left the protected group of islands in some big 2-3 short steep seas and around 15-20 knots of wind, thankfully still from the west. Motor-sailing out the pass with Halfskip in the lead we made our turn to the north and took off under full sails on our 45 mile day hop. The day cleared up nicely and blue skies and a warm African sun graced the sky. The winds kept clocking to the NNE by early afternoon and we ended up making good time, dropping the hook at the southern bight of Long Island before 3 p.m. Halfskip came in safely a couple of hours later.

Long Island looked pretty enticing from the deck of DK, but because it was windy and the outboard still not together, we stayed onboard for the evening and watched the sunset over the mainland of Sudan in the distance. Osprey's fished the bay close by and we could see egret's fishing the shallows on shore. Tuna jumped in the distance and we crossed our fingers that the next morning I could get the Yamaha back on its feet.

This morning (March 28) after a tasty cup of Bali coffee, it was back to work. I successfully reconfigured the lower unit of the outboard and the new spare prop and gave it a go. Success!! Oh man, can you believe our relief.

We celebrated by having a nice walk around Long Island exploring the place and enjoying the numerous osprey's fishing, yellow and pink sea crabs scuttling around the mud flats, and watching small brown-dotted sting rays swimming through the shallows. We were on a search for the flamingos that supposedly reside here when in season, but no luck there.

After our walk we went out on a snorkel adventure on the SE side of Long Island with our friend, Joost, on Halfskip. The water was murky and the coral and fish ok, but nothing special. Nic got cold and we dropped her off on DK and then Joost and I took our spear-guns out to a pass a couple of miles away. We dropped in to the much clearer water and poked around while drifting the pass a couple of times searching for big edible fish and lobster, but no luck. Turtles, small barracuda, and the usual reef fish were in abundance, but no bigger pelagics or schools of red snapper we were searching for, nor a single lobster to be seen.

On the dingy ride back surfing the wind-waves at full throttle I was once again super thankful that at least one current boat project has been successful. In the last month we have had our autopilot go out, our VHF stop working, our wind generator die, and, today, my toothbrush. But having the outboard up and running again is, by far, the most important of the lot.

A mile from the boat, Joost and I watch a flock of birds in V-formation coming towards us from the west. They look different. When they fly directly above our heads we can clearly see the pink color and the long curved necks. 9 flamingos are arriving to Long Island.
I am smiling again.


Land Gofer said...

Mr. Yamaha lives to see another day. Way to go, Mr. Mechanic.

loanna said...

Nice to read your blog and know you are safely in the Red Sea. We had a nice visit with Skip and Judy. We told Dave and Dottie about your website. They have spent time in the Red Sea.

Happy journeys.

Bob said...

Hey kids - so nice to be reminded of what it is to be on the move with all the trials and challenges and joys. Glad you're still enjoying that Balinese dust coffee. Miss you guys.

Bobby on Barraveigh

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