Building a Better Boat Day 2–I’m the only guy working in the Marina…
24 Sep 2018
This morning I awoke to a dry, lovely day on the east end of Puerto Rico. What most people don’t realize is that the front and tail ends of Hurricane season are very pleasant in the Caribbean. The winds are calm, the ocean’s flat, and the water temperature is somewhere between “Oh, that’s nice” and “Damn–that’s bath water!” The crowds are small and the beaches pretty empty. As long as you can live with the risk of a Cat 5 barreling in, it’s a nice time to visit.
To that extent, Marina Puerto Chico was buzzing with activity as boat owners took in the first weekend of Fall. The marina is basically a weekend culture–something I’m very used to from my time in Penasco. Most of the owners live and work in the San Juan area and make the 45 minute drive out east after work on Friday in time for Happy Hour at the bar. On Saturday, they put on their expensive PFG (Performance Fishing Gear–Yes, it’s really a thing…) and skimpy bikinis and rocket out of their slips between 8 and 10 on their way to Vieques, Culebra, or the barrier islands a few miles east of Fajardo.
This is a “power boat” culture. I am one of only a handful of sailboats on the dock. When the owners come back, you can hear their amplified stereos across the water blasting catchy Latin beats while their blingy hull LEDs light up the water underneath the boat in neon blues and pinks.
The only downside is that with the Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor-MORE-POWER community comes speed, and, sometimes, reckless boating. We’re at the end of the Marina, just behind the breakwater, and when a 40-foot Fish Killing Party Machine roars in open throttle it throws a wake that shakes all the boats–even those with a 24 foot beam….
Fortunately, this is only a weekend thing. But Sunday at 5, the owners are filling up their dock carts with trash and 1/2 drunk bottles of rum on their way back west for work bright and early on Monday. Tonight, the Marina was again quiet and I was the only one onboard any boat on the entire dock.
My first day of boat work started–late. With the AC working well in my cabin, the gentle rocking of the boat against the slip, and a serious sleep deficiency from the night before, I rolled over to acoustic Enrique Iglesias from my neighbors and a 10 AM late morning sun shining. I had skipped dinner the previous night and made a nice breakfast of eggs and sausage with sofrito (Puerto Rico’s version of salsa) and good, local coffee.
Fully fortified, I jumped into my electrical project. For months I’ve been working on trying to find a ground fault that trips the shore power breaker every time I turn it on. With me I’ve brought a new battery charger which won’t do any good if it can’t get any Kuuurent-Mon from the dock….
Last week I broke down and shelled out the 20 bucks for the Kindle version of Nigel Calder’s Boat Owners Electrical and Mechanical Manual. It’s basically the Bible of boat work (now it’s in 5th edition) and from here on out, I shall refer to as the Bible, the Word, or the Book.
The first 200 pages of the Book are wholly dedicated to learning and troubleshooting the electrical systems on large cruising boats. Nigel is very informative–if a little long winded in his writing–and I spent breakfast and 2 more cups of coffee educating myself on how not to get electrocuted when testing the thousands of feet of wire on this catamaran.
(Seriously, I’m not kidding–he EVEN SHOUTS IN CAPITALS every other page about how I could die by just looking at a cable the wrong way. And it gets better. Apparently, If I get shocked and fall in, or otherwise end up swimming around the boat, I could drown from stray current in the water. I’m glad my insurance is paid up because I’m still going to play around with it….)
Now fully caffeinated, I spent the afternoon re-learning how to use my multimeter (Can you say high school physics?) and completing several voltmeter and resistance tests on various parts of the electrical system. I’m happy to say I only got shocked once! And that’s when I was putting new ends on some cables that had been submerged during the sinking so I supposed it was to be expected.
By 7 I’d had enough of testing, testing, testing and completed two other small projects. I rewired some lights in the master bathroom so now I can actually see when taking a shower or trying to find the little boys room at 2 am. And I fixed the shower door which had come loose. The final project of the day was to clean the bathroom which is bright white and shows every single piece of dirt in it.
I’ve decided that this will be my daily cadence for the trip-I will continue to invest time in the electrical odyssey, try not to die, and then switch over to one smaller project and then clean at least one area of the boat. This way I won’t be super frustrated at night when I write my daily dispatch and you’ll have something interesting to read.
For now, it’s time to relax with some You Tube because tomorrow is Monday and there’s more boat work–and real work–to be done.