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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Finished floors

After many years, we finally had the chance to refinish our floors. It's one of those jobs you just can't do while living on the boat, especially with cats jumping all over the place.

I'm really disappointed in the results; you really can't see a difference at all between the "Before" and "After" photos....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

IVY ROSE on the beach

An aging and neglected 38 foot Alajuela has been moored in San Juan del Sur for several years. At one time it was probably a beautiful boat, but lacking attention for a few years it quickly deteriorated. The owner paid someone to watch the boat nightly and it was cleaned once in a while, but on 4th of this month everything changed.

In broad daylight the mooring chain parted and Ivy Rose broke free. Dragging the mooring chain along, Ivy Rose began a slow drift towards the beach and the pounding surf. This short trip lasted about 20 to 30 minutes but the struggle to save the boat would go on for days. Our friend and boat guardian, Juan, saw the boat drifting and ran to inform the Port Captain. He just shrugged and said it’s not his responsibility. When I asked him later why nothing was done he just rubbed his fingers together in a universal gesture for “pay me.” Juan also asked the Navy to do something and they just said it wasn’t their responsibility either. Many people who could have done something, didn’t. And Ivy Rose slowly flung her aging body into the surf.

When the boat reached the surf it was quickly pushed up on to the beach as large waves broke over the decks. At this point another cruiser arrived on the scene along with several locals and they began putting together a plan to pull the boat off the beach. Unfortunately a very drunk expat arrived on the scene claiming to be a friend of the owner (who was still 2 hours away by car) and tried to take over. He paid some guys in a panga to pull the boat using their little 40 horse power engine. About this time I heard about the boat and showed up to witness this panga pulling and Jim (the other cruiser) and the owner’s brother-in law on the boat trying to arrange the tow lines. It was quite clear that they were underpowered and needed more pulling power before the tide started to drop.

Locals were volunteering their help, including ropes and a larger boat, but this guys “friend” refused anyone and even told a smaller boat to go away. Needless to say their efforts failed and many of the locals were pissed because the gringos wouldn’t listen to them. Unfortunately they couldn’t understand the English well enough to see that the gringos were pissed at the drunk guy who had taken control of the scene. We can only assume that he was trying to salvage the boat for himself because it turned out the owners couldn’t remember ever knowing this guy.

Surprisingly the boat survived the pounding, loosing the dinghy, the dodger and other things on the deck. There was a big hole in the deck from where a stove pipe used to be, along with a few other leaks that couldn’t hold back the tons of sea water being dumped on the decks every 40 seconds. Laden with water there was no way to get it off the beach. So a team of volunteers, including ourselves, set to emptying the boat of water and removing everything that didn’t float. We scrambled for hours. The owner rented a gas pump and they set to work emptying the boat while we tried to remove gear and garbage. Once the boat was clear of water there was very little time to locate the leaks and try to fix them.

High tide was in the dark, and of course it was raining. But the owner got a bigger boat (the guy who tried to help in the first night but was chased off by the greedy gringo). This boat hooked up and began pulling. They managed to get the stern pointed back towards the waves and the boat started to float up off the beach, however the constant waves managed to fill the boat and it was soon wallowing and impossible to move. The little wooden tug boat pulled and pulled for hours, but the boat was too heavy. So it was left again to suffer another night in the surf.

By this time I figured the boat was lost. There was no way it would survive grinding sand and pounding waves for three days. But when I went back down there at the next low tide, I was shocked to find that a group of nicas had completely emptied the boat of water already using just buckets. The same group of people were there helping to the boat ready for another pounding. Our goal this time was to make the boat water tight. Someone had found foam, plywood, screws and nails. I set to work fabricating covers and gaskets with foam for the blown out instruments and ripped out winches. I couldn’t believe how tough this boat was and I along with others became driven to save it. The boat was so strong that it broke 3 drill bits, it bent just about every nail I tried to pound into it and it withstood the intense pounding that the ocean was giving it. It was incredible. Imagine not being able to pound a nail into the fiberglass; this boat was solid.

With literally minutes to spare I made covers for some the holes and we sealed up the boat, jumped off and kept our fingers crossed it would stay dry until high tide. After three days of heavy work, I really wanted to get back to working on our boat and I didn’t hold out much hope the little tug would have enough power to drag the boat off the beach since it had worked it’s way further on shore each day.

We were just getting ready to do some varnishing on our boat when we noticed the tug seemed to be moving Ivy Rose slightly. At first it seemed impossible, so we stared and stared. Then it seemed to move again. The waves were crashing over the boat and the boat started to ride them – the patches were holding! Bit by bit the little tug pulled the sailboat through the raging surf with two very crazy Nicas clinging to the mast. White water and spray completely buried the boat and I thought those patches weren’t going hold.

Damn if that tug didn’t do it. The tug drug Ivy Rose out of the surf and into open water! We cheered from our boat and rushed down to the docks to try to get a ride out to the boat to help bail. In no time I had the 10 inches or so of water out of the boat with a 5 gallon bucket. A pump was brought down to empty the water out of the bilges and now the boat is back out at anchor waiting for space in the boat yard. I still can't get over how tough that boat was, it became something we had to try to save and we did it!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hurricane Felix

We’re in the SW corner of Nicaragua and sometimes hurricanes cross over from the Carribean and come to the pacific side as a storm.  Hurricane Felix hit the NE corner of Nicaragua as a Category 5 (nastiest of the bunch -- imagine a 160 mph breeze) and is heading across the country into Honduras.  Since that area remembers Hurricane Mitch from 10 years ago which killed over 11,000 people, they didn’t waste any time in trying to get people out of the way.


So far no fatalities have been reported, but they are just now starting to get soaked with rain.  And they are going to get a lot of rain.  Hopefully luck will hold out for Nicaragua and Honduras.


I don’t think we’ll see much here in San Juan del Sur, maybe a rain band or two but that’s par for the course this time of year anyway.