The date is Thursday, January 19th, when I wake up in my own bunk for the first time in over half a year. The temperature is surprisingly pleasant this morning, and as I peek my head through the deck hatch, I notice the sky is cloudy. “Looks like there will be rain today,” I think to myself as I haul my still jet-lagged body out of bed.
As usual, I boil some water and prepare a big mug of coffee. My favorite morning ritual. I got a lot of work to do on Ellidah to prepare her for the cruising season. The rain and humidity throughout hurricane season had taken their toll on her exterior and deck gear. There is mold absolutely everywhere. And not just a little bit. Actual fungi are growing on my cockpit table!
While sipping the coffee, I start writing down a to-do list from the top of my head in my notebook. I’ve made countless of these lists before and know from experience that they usually grow with two new points for everyone checked out. If you missed out on the previous post and wonder how and why I got to Trinidad, check it out here.
The to-do list of boat work in Trinidad
I like to take time before every season to make the boat ship shape and ready to cruise. The more I get done before I set off, the less I have to do underway. At least in theory. Things have a terrible habit of breaking in the harsh salty environment at sea anyways. But I like to be as prepared as possible.
The first few points on the list were obvious: Ellidah desperately needed a scrub. A proper scrub and clean from bow to stern and everything between. I left a de-humidifier inside throughout the hurricane season to prevent the interior from molding, and it has done its job.
Maybe too good.
I may have set the humidity percentage to low (20%) cause the bench top had become so dry it had warped. Same with the chart table and a few cupboards. Nothing I could do about that other than hope it would return to its original shape without the de-humidifier running. Luckily it did.
Here is a copy of my rough to-do list:
- Wash and scrub the deck
- Wash and clean the cockpit
- Fit the sprayhood and bimini
- Scrub all running rigging that was left outside (they all had a thick fur of mold growing)
- Polish all stainless steel
- Wash and polish ship sides
- Replace leaking backing plates for the portlights in the front cabin
- Repair bent drive shaft strut
- Replace cutlass bearing
- Polish propeller
- Sand the bottom and apply new antifouling
- Replace anodes
- Inspect and clean all seacocks/through hull fittings
- Re-mark the anchor chain (One mark every five meters or 16,4 feet)
- Replace propane bottles
- Sand and oil teak details outside
- Replace cockpit table
- Service the diesel engine
- Flush black water tank
- Flush fresh water tanks
- Mount the Genoa and Mainsail
- Fix the autopilot (dead display)
- Service steering mechanism and quadrant
- Clean the dinghy
Obviously, more things kept popping up, and I would be busy in the coming weeks. I planned to be ready to lift Ellidah back in the water before February 5th, when my crew was going to arrive.
Scrubbing, cleaning, and tidying
I spent the next four days scrubbing, cleaning, and tidying. Inside out. And I struggled to work in the heat for too long. When I left Norway, the temperature was on the cold side, and there was plenty of snow and ice. I know I can handle the heat, but it always takes a bit of time to adjust. But it got easier and easier every day.
After hours of scrubbing with various chemicals and soaps, the deck went from yellow to bright white. The ship sides are painted with polyurethane paint, so I went on Google to figure out how to best attack the salty stains.
Turns out, vinegar mixed with hot water and a little dose of concentrated citrus worked brilliantly after experimenting a bit. And it was cheap!
DIY Boat Cleaner – Perfect for polyurethane-painted surfaces
What you need:
- 50% white vinegar
- 50% hot water
- Optional: A dash of concentrated citrus
How to use:
- Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake thoroughly.
- Rinse off the surface with water and give it a light wipe with a rag or sponge.
- Spray your freshly made cleaner onto the surface and wipe it off with a microfiber cloth before it dries.
- Repeat until all the salt and stains are gone.
- Rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
- Admire your fresh, clean boat!
Waterbornemag has written an article about adittional DIY cleaners you can check out here.
Working, sweating, and expensive problems
The days went by surprisingly fast, and I was getting a lot of things done. Eventually, I was left with some major tasks that I needed help completing.
My autopilot display didn’t want to turn on, even if it was only five years old. Someone recommended I take it to a local Raymarine dealer, so I did. The dealer looked worried, put the unit onto his workbench, and gave me devastating news.
The display unit was dead beyond repair. And he didn’t have any in store. He could order one, but I could expect to wait at least two months for it to arrive, which wasn’t really an option. Next, I went to Budget Marine, and they didn’t have one either. Ordering from them would take at least as long as the Raymarine dealer, so I gave up.
Island Waterworld in Grenada had one in stock, which seemed like my best option. Oh well, we’d just have to steer manually for a while, and with two onboard, I figured it wouldn’t be an issue.
Bent drive shaft strut
Last season I managed to get the painter line for the dinghy into my propeller while setting my anchor. I usually tighten the line before reversing, but not this time, of course. After that little incident, I noticed a vibration in the drive shaft that worried me.
A closer inspection after lifting the boat out of the water revealed a bent shaft strut, and I was unsure how to deal with this issue. Between all the work in the yard, I made friends with two brothers on another boat, Roderick and Simon, from New Zeeland.
We spent evenings together with food, beers, and salty stories from our adventures. It was good to socialize between all the work and sweat. Rod knew a guy called Mark that could help me out with the strut, and not long after, we had come up with a solution involving a jack, some chain, and a big thick plank.
The biggest job, however, was to get the drive shaft out. I suspected it might have been bent, but luckily it was still straight as an arrow. Mark, Rod, Simon, and I turned the strut straight with a good chunk of elbow grease and force. With the help of a local contractor with fancy hydraulic equipment, we also replaced the cutlass bearing.
The next big task at hand was to remove the two portlights (windows) in the front cabin. The portlights are mounted on a wooden backing plate, which had started to rot and leak on the port side. The starboard side looked like it was also about to fail, so I decided to replace both.
Getting the portlights out was a nightmare. They were glued in by an impressive amount of Sikaflex or something similar. I battled for a full day to get them out, and my hands felt like they were about to fall off afterward. The wooden plates came out in a million bits…
Rod knew another guy who could make two new backing plates out of plexiglass, which was perfect as it obviously doesn’t rot. The next day, the plates were ready, and I glued everything back into place again. My fingers were crossed that I did a good job, and it later turned out that it was. No more salty water sipping into my bunk. A huge success!
Getting crew onboard
As I mentioned, I planned on finishing the boat projects and lifting Ellidah back into the water before my new crew member Hedda arrived on the 5th.
And I almost made it… Ellidah was shining like never before, and her new fresh coats of antifouling made her look pretty sharp! There were some minor things I had yet to do, but I scheduled to splash the following day and was super excited.
Peake’s Boatyard has a free shuttle service to the airport, and I joined the shuttle in the evening to go to the airport and welcome Hedda to Trinidad. We got her mustered on board, and the next day we were both ready to get water under the keel again.
The launch went smoothly, with no issues, leaks, or scratches. Success! And boy, it was great to be back in the water. I was offered to stay for one week on the pontoon since I had been on a long-term storage contract for 7 months. I wanted to take advantage of this to sort out the rest of the tasks that didn’t require Ellidah to be on land.
Leaving Trinidad and setting off for the Cruising Season 2023
A week later, we were ready to leave. Ellidah, Hedda, and I were excited to start cruising, and the first destination was Tobago. Now, Tobago lies a bit northeast of Trinidad, and we were prepared for a rough upwind motor sail to get there. After waving goodbye to our new friends and re-checking everything onboard for probably the fifth time, we set off into the night.
Imagine the feeling. Seven months of working to save enough money to last through the season. Three weeks of hard work to prepare the boat. Now we were finally cruising again. And we were headed to one of the islands that excited me the most this season!
To be continued…