Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Nations

I constantly have to remind myself that many of the eastern Caribbean islands are fairly young countries.  You can see the list below for the specifics but self rule has really only come about in the last 6 decades.

Antigua and Barbuda - November 1, 1981
Barbados - November 30, 1966
Dominica - November 3, 1978
Grenada - February 7, 1974
Saint Kitts and Nevis - September 19, 1983
Saint Luca - February 22, 1979
St Vincent and the Grenadines - October 27, 979
Trinidad and Tobago - August 31, 1962

Shocking right?!  Some are so young.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

More Sight Seeing in Trinidad

Check out the old and new bridge in the background
After Asa Wright Nature Centre, we took a different road back to Chaguaramas.  This lead us through the rain forest and along the north shore of Trinidad.

We stopped to stretch our legs and take in the scenery a couple of times.

Our rent-a-wreck car made it back down into Port of Spain and then to the Movie Town complex where we stopped for an errand and dinner.  

We arrived after dark back in Chaguaramas safely (thanks to John's expert driving skills) and worn out from our day exploring.
No celebrating?  No jumping?  Bridge - oh, I get jumping from the bridge

Asa Wright Nature Centre

Joanne, John, Sabrina and Jean Louis
We shared a rental car in Trinidad with John and Joanne off s/v Out of Africa and Jean Louie off s/v Sagarmatha for two days a couple of weeks ago.  The car was basically a rent-a-wreck but it got us around.....however there was some question/worry of that at various times.  Ha!
Stretching our legs and wondering if the car will make it
The first day was spent running errands.  Day two was spent sight seeing.
Look closely, do you see it?
As a South African, John is used to left hand driving and expertly drove us up into the rain forest to Asa Wright Nature Centre (their spelling, not a typo).

The former estate house and grounds were donated and eventually in 1967 became a protected conservation area for the protection of wildlife, study and enjoyment of all.

The main house veranda makes an outstanding viewing platform.

Numerous hiking trails and a cave are on the grounds.

The big focus at Asa Wright Nature Centre is the birds.  There is something like 17 different types of humming birds.

I know very little about birds (nothing really) but there were guides to help us spot and indentify the many, many, many birds there.

We saw four toucans as well as parrots in trees further off through high powered scopes positioned on the veranda for our use.

Tom and John went for an hour hike with one of the guides.

Joanne, Jean Louis and I opted for the veranda.

We all ate lunch on the veranda.  It was so peaceful with the sounds of all the birds as our lunchtime soundtrack.

It wasn't just us and the birds having lunch, an agouti came out for some lunch as well.

Leftover hanging bird nests (sacks) were visible in the distance as well.

Listen to the sounds on the video.  It was like that the whole time we were there.  Bird sounds non-stop.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SmartPlug Follow Up

I contacted the SmartPlug people late this afternoon via email.  I had an email response back in less than 15 mins.  Terry explained that the plastic clips are vital to the design.  Since our SmartPlug came with two of the three clips broken, this caused the failure.  As I stated before, we had to install it since we were departing and WM didn't have any more in stock.  SmartPlug has offered to send us a new one (to US address) as this is covered by their warranty.  I am impressed with the customer service.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

SmartPlug - Maybe Not

July 2013 we purchased and installed a SmartPlug.  See the blog posting details here Dumb Plug SmartPlug.  We got this based on the recommendation of another Caliber couple - no names, eh Jason and Christie!

This morning after flipping a couple of switches on our nav station panel, Tom noticed something wasn't right.  He started checking a couple of items.  Shore power plugged in at power source?  Check.  Shore power plugged in at boat?  Visual look? -Check.  Physical inspection? Check, wait.....WT.....the cord completely fell out of the head of the SmartPlug when Tom went to physically check it.  Not good!

On further investigation, the rubber seal that helps secure the cord into the plug head completely failed.  This along with the two broken, plastic clips inside (see previous posting Dumb Plug Smart Plug) leads us to question the overall value of the plug itself.  The concept seems good but the quality inside the plug seems to be seriously lacking.  I plan to contact the company and I will let you know what they say.

Fuel Polishing

The polishing machine
Clean fuel is important for all engines.  That is no different on boat.  Making sure you get clean fuel can be a challenging at times.  This is true even at marinas and fuel docks in the USA.  Worldwide it can be a interesting challenge as well.
The assistant keeping an eye on things
Tom is very careful to monitor our duel Racor fuel filters, especially after a bouncy passage.  To date, they have done their job well by keeping water and gunk out of the engine.  However, we know that we have water in both fuel tanks.  While changing the drinking water filter under the sink, water spilled and flowed on top of the fuel inspection ports and eventually some seeped in.  Additionally, we have been purchasing fuel from various places throughout the Caribbean and living in warm, humid conditions.  It seems crazy to me but microbes can actually grow and thrive in diesel fuel.  Many seasoned cruisers get their fuel polished professionally every so many years as a good practice.
Getting into all the nooks and crannies of our unusually shaped fuel tanks
So, for these various reasons, Tom decided to have our fuel tanks professionally cleaned while here in Trinidad.  There is only one company that does this here and as you can imagine he is swamped with requests as all the cruisers return to their boats and prep for departure.  After a week of back and forth contacts, Sean Boddean of Chute D,Eau Marine, Ltd showed up around 5:30 pm at our boat.  Tom had done all the prep work of filling the tanks to near fully, calculating the amount of fuel in each tank and opened the inspection ports for easy access.  *Those two bilges smelled of diesel fuel that day as we waited Sean's arrival- ugh!  Wisely Tom had covered each port with a bucket so nothing could be accidentally dropped into the fuel tanks.  Sean laughed and said he was impressed as he has too often dropped things into the tanks on his own boat.  He quickly measured out some FluidKleen (I think) and dumped it into each tank.  He said it needed to sit in the tanks for at least 24 to 48 hours and they would be back in  2 days.  The slight movement of the boat in the slip actually assisting in the mixing process. 

Dirty fuel out, clean fuel in
2 days later, Sean and an assistant showed up with the cleaning machine.  A long hose was run through a portlight down into the aft fuel tank.  On the end was a long tube that resembles a long vacuum cleaner hose attachment - the one for reaching corners and vacuuming drapes.  Sean Velcro'd a white cover over the hose to protect the interior of our boat.  Another tube ran out of their machine and back into the deck fill for the aft fuel take.  He switched on the machine and began polishing the fuel - basically sucking out all the fuel, running through the machine aka a big, giant, special filter and then back into our tank.  The long attachment allowed him to get into all the nooks and crannies of our odd shaped tanks.  After two mins, they took a sample of what was coming out of our tank.  The sample showed some water and gunk consisting of sludge / dead microbes.  Then he showed us a sample of the cleaned fuel going back into our tank.  He would only guarantee 95% but it looked darn clean to us.  The color made it look like the artificially bright colored pink grapefruit drink that we make with our Soda Stream.  After an hour, they finished the aft tank and switched to the front tank.  It showed a bit more water but less gunk.  However there were a few living microbes in that tank - which still blows my mind.  Have you smelled diesel fuel?  How can anything live in that!  Yeah, I skipped that day in science class.  
Close up of tank 1 dirty fuel, tank 2 in background
During the two hour process we chatted away with Sean learning all about fuel polishing and the many clever modifications he has made to the two machines he has.  Additionally we talked about the major boat rebuild his company is working on here in the yard, fishing, boating, his 3 boys and various other topics about life in Trinidad.
Clean fuel - looks like pink grapefruit drink
While this wasn't an inexpensive service, we feel it was well worth it.  Thanks Sean.  
Bonus - (a week later) Sean stopped by the boat yesterday afternoon.  He had taken a Saturday off to enjoy his own boat and went out fishing.  He had success and presented Tom with some Wahoo and Mahi, Mahi.  Yum!  Thank you very much Sean!