Friday, April 8, 2016

Bahia del Sol: Beaching the Boat, Leaving Soon

Yesterday, I beached Intermezzo for the first time to clean the bottom, check the saildrives and replace the anodes on the props and saildrives. The new moon brings with it a bigger range in tide, which I took advantage of to maximize my drying out time.

Unfortunately, the timing of the tides was not as advantageous as their range. In order to be able to work while on the dry during daylight, I had to get Intermezzo into position just after a high tide at around 3:00 am.  I had arranged for Denny, a local boat service guy, and his two amigos to rendezvous with me in the anchorage at 4 am. I didn't get a great night's sleep as I kept going through all the steps required to safely beach the boat and then get all the work done properly before the tide came back in. I got up at three, made myself a coffee and got puttered around getting things ready until about 3:45 when I raised anchor and hovered until Denny and crew arrived spot on time.

I followed Denny's panga in the new moon darkness, following the bobbing lights of three headlamps towards the shore.  I watched the depth sounder carefully and as the depth drew close to Intermezzo's draft, I slowed down so that when the keels touched bottom, it was a very gentle grounding on firm, relatively level sand.  I let the engines run in forward for a little while to dig the keels in a little so that they would be supported along their entire length.

The orientation of the sand bar required that Intermezzo lie perpendicular to the tidal currents, not an ideal arrangement. I had Denny set the kedge anchor about 60 feet "upstream" of Intermezzo's beam, and rigged a bridle to secure it to bow and stern cleats. It was a good idea. As rate of the falling tide increased, the ebb current exerted quite a strong force against the broadside of the hulls.  The anchor stabilized things nicely so that Denny and crew could get to work putting sandbags under the hull so that the keels would not need to bear all the boat's weight when the water receded.

By sunrise, there was less than a foot of water over the bar, the boat was sitting nicely and Denny and crew got to work scraping barnacles off the hull. Meanwhile, I got all my tools and parts ready so that as soon as the water receded completely and I could access the saildrives to drain the lubricant, I would be ready. I also made coffee for the guys to have with their breakfast.

Denny and his guys left after finishing the bottom cleaning and would return just before high tide just after noon. It was pretty much dry under the boat when they left and I got to work on the saildrives and props.

I'm pretty good about diving the boat and keeping the props and saildrives reasonably free from marine growth but, somehow, things got away from me. The saildrives looked like little coral reefs with barnacles, oysters, slimy, wiggly things and aquatic plants. Fortunately, everything seemed to be held together by a sort of membrane that was more wrapped around the aluminum casing, rather than adhered to it, and it all sort of peeled off with some firm persuasion with a putty knife.

The moment of truth arrived...was there water in the saildrive lubricant or not? I cracked open the drain plug at the bottom of the starboard casing and...yay! Not a drop of water, just old, oily, smelly gear oil.  I did the same on the port side water! So the gushing and leaking of the lubricant was indeed due to temperature, not water intrusion. A much easier problem to solve. Instead of refilling the saildrives with lubricant to the top (high) mark on the dipstick, I only filled it to midway between the high and low mark, to give more room for expansion when it got hot.

I spent the rest of the morning removing the sacrificial anodes that protect underwater metal from galvanic corrosion, replacing them with new ones and cleaning the props. There was a nice breeze blowing, the boat provided shade and wet sand was cool to work on (in). I started working at a comfortable, deliberate pace so that I wouldn't make a mistake or drop something in the sand. Then I noticed the tide coming back in. At first, it just brought awareness that my time was limited. But then the rate of at which the water's edge was advancing increased and I realized I had to get a move on. By the time I was replacing the last couple of zincs, I was working so fast, I felt like I was on a NASCAR pit crew. I finished the job sitting in about eight inches of water.

As the tide was coming back in, I had moved the anchor to the opposite side of the boat and angled it slightly astern, so that it I could reverse into deeper water to retrieve it.  Denny had misjudged the tides slightly (these guys have lived on the water their whole lives and don't look up tide tables), so he arrived a little late, after Intermezzo had already floated off the bottom. The anchor and bridle worked great, holding the boat in position until his guys got there to dive under the boat to get the sand bags out of the way.  Once there was a clear path, I reversed out with one of the guys on board to pull up the anchor. It all worked out great.

I think I paid about double the local labor rate for Denny and company, but their services would have been a bargain at double that again. They were punctual, careful, quick and worked really hard.

Today I moved Intermezzo to Paradise Fishing Lodge. John has finally arrived with my parts and is ready to help with the 1,000 hour service work on the engines. That should get buttoned up tomorrow, Sunday at the latest. I just need to pick up a few groceries, pay my bill at the hotel-marina, top up the tanks, take care of official formalities and then it's out across the bar, back in to the ocean and south to Nicaragua.  Thank goodness!

Renee's mom is still having a tough time. Renee's being there is a big help. Today it sounded like things might be improving a bit from how they have been.  I hope so.

Intermezzo beached on a san bar at sunrise, getting her bottom cleaned.

This is not what your saildrive or propeller should look like. Quite the ecosystem.