Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Problem Solving In Nassau

  After our late night on Friday night with Rick, MP, and Danielle at Johnny's nightclub, and our trip to Paradise Beach on Saturday, Sunday was a "down day" for us. The wind was picking up, but we still entertained the idea of going exploring in the dinghy but for one reason or another we just didn't go out.
  But, I hated the idea of sitting around all day and getting nothing accomplished in regard to our windlass and steering problems. So, I grabbed my toolbox and took it to the bow and started messing around with the windlass, checking on electrical connections and just looking at it. I had sent an email to my contact at Good Windlass for them to receive first thing after the holiday weekend, outlining just what was going on with the windlass. The idea came to me that perhaps the anchor chain was jammed up too tight and the gears were bound up. I decided to use a large screwdriver and pry the anchor chain out.
  I was able to move the chain just a fraction, so I hit the "down" button, and the anchor dropped. Retrieval worked just fine too. At this point I thought that even if the chain was jammed into the windlass, maybe on the previous failures, our low battery voltage was not sending enough juice to the windlass motor to overcome the bound gears. I figured that being plugged into shore power for two days certainly charged our house batteries up enough for the windlass to do its job. I was feeling pretty good about the windlass operation, but made a mental note to avoid running the anchor up too far and jamming the gears in the future.
  Another problem surfaced on Sunday afternoon. It was not unexpected. One thing gets fixed and another pops up. This is boat ownership.
  Rosie was on the desktop computer in the office and the GFI in "Holly's" bathroom tripped and knocked out the A/C power on the port side of the boat. Back in Foxtown, we had replaced that GFI because it had tripped and I kept resetting the inverter, not knowing the GFI had tripped, and I burnt that GFI beyond recognition.
  There are a lot of things plugged into the port side of Swing Set, but they are all low wattage devices like chargers, etc., and normally only one thing or two is ever on at the same time anyway, so I feel that we never exceed the amperage limit on that breaker. The GFI tripping on a receptacle that nothing was plugged into was a head scratcher.
  Rosie and I began to systematically plug one thing at a time into that port side A/C system until we found what was tripping the GFI. We found out that the desk top computer was tripping the GFI whenever we plugged it in.
  The baffling thing also was that the GFI wouldn't trip if we unplugged from the shore power and ran off of the inverter. Additionally, if I plugged the computer into the GFI on the starboard side of the boat, that GFI wouldn't trip. I suspected an issue with the shore power, so I switched the cords around but that made it worse, the port side GFI wouldn't reset at all when I swapped shore power plugs. I was stumped.
  We wanted to salvage the rest of our day, so we decided to go to out to eat. But then it started to rain.

  The Poop Deck is a popular tourist destination in Nassau, and it's right next door to our current home here at the Nassau Yacht Haven Marina. In the picture that I took from the deck of Swing Set, it's the building just to the left of the yellow building. It was a short walk.
  At 6 P.M. on a Sunday night, the place was packed. There was a long line of folks waiting for a table, locals and tourists both. A group got up from the bar where they were waiting for their table, and we snatched two seats at the crowded bar. Two ice cold Kaliks please.
  Rosie and I got menus and about choked on the prices on the menu at the Poop Deck. With a name like Poop Deck, one would expect casual fare at casual prices. I would. But, no.
  A fried chicken dinner was more than $20. Came with a side and a salad, just for an example. Rosie wanted to leave, but it was getting dark. We didn't know where else to go and we already had a seat. I told Rosie to ignore the prices and get what she wanted. Because Rosie is practical minded, she ordered a lowly priced ($22) "smothered chicken breast", and because I'm cheap, I ordered the fried chicken. But give us two more of those reasonably priced $5.75 Kaliks while we wait. What, are we at a Cardinals baseball game?
  Our dinners came and we both groaned. Rosie's chicken breast was the size of a slice of Spam. My chicken dinner was three pieces of chicken that could have been mistaken for a canary if I could have seen the feathers.
  Our day had not gone so well, other than having fixed the windlass, so we just made up our minds to enjoy our dinners and not complain. "Yes, everything is fine", is what we said when our bartender asked how our food was. It's like when a man asks his wife how the sex is on their honeymoon...what's the use of her complaining at that point?
  I watched a fella next to Rosie perusing the menu. He kept opening it, looking at it, and then closing it again. I knew he didn't think the prices were to his liking, so I asked him if he had been there before.
  Bruce, as our new acquaintance was named, had been there before over the several years he had been coming to Nassau, but he hadn't eaten there. I told him not to order the chicken. We wound up having a great conversation with Bruce. He's from Connecticut and he and his wife live all summer aboard their Grand Banks Europa, a boat that I admire but never dream to own. His boat runs a lower horsepower version of our engines, albeit as a single, so we traded technical information as much as his intake of martinis and our intake of Kaliks would allow. We stayed much too late, but had a good time in spite of a bill that would knock my socks off if I was wearing any.
  My time at the dock here at Nassau Yacht Haven Marina was not entirely wasted. A dock is a good place to network, talking to owners of other boats and finding out who knows what.
I had met the owner of a 450 Sea Ray that is docked two slips over from us. John Neely is a trauma surgeon here in Nassau and lives on his boat. He had lots of questions about some issues he was having with his Sea Ray, and I had questions about services that we might need in Nassau. He, and George, his captain and mentor in matters of the boat, were very nice and John offered as to how he was off on Monday, he could take me to a local battery and tire supplier who he had done business with and I could get a price on new batteries for our house system. He said we'd meet around 9 A.M. on Monday to go visit Albert the mechanic, as he was needing some work done too, and then we'd to the battery store.
  I called Albert the mechanic first thing Monday morning as it wasn't Memorial Day in the Bahamas,  and he said he would be in his shop in about an hour. He knew John and I told him we would both be there by 10:30.
  Meanwhile, John and I walked up to some close by marine suppliers where I bought some steering fluid and a filler hose for the Sea Star hydraulic steering system to replace my Rube Goldberg system that I had previously devised. I learned that two local shops had seal kits for Sea Star steering systems, but no one had the one we needed for Swing Set.
  John and I then walked over to Albert's shop. We had just missed him by five minutes. One of his staff called him and he promised to come by the dock at Yacht Haven to see both of us that afternoon when we got through with a job he was doing.
  Instead of waiting like sausages for Albert to show up, John and I went to get his car and he drove me to the local battery and tire shop so I could price some batteries.
  The drive to the battery shop took us through downtown Nassau. Now, John is a trauma surgeon, but the drive through downtown Nassau made me think John was trying to garner some new customers, but one wouldn't think he'd be bucking to be one of them. Here it's right turns in front of you at the last moment that make you grip the seat. I'd describe the ride as being "hairy", and I've raced motorcycles for years.
  At the battery store, John saw the owner who greeted John with a "Hello Doctor", and then John introduced me as his friend Mike, and then the owner went to get his son to wait on me personally. I was shown the battery that they sold that met my specifications, and then quoted me a 30% off price that brought the total into the realm of something I would have paid in the U.S. Darren then took my credit card and said the batteries would be delivered and if I had the old ones out, they would pick them up to dispose of. We agreed on a delivery two hours from then and John drove back to the marina where he had to get ready for work, having been called in on his day off. At least he or I wasn't to be the patient.
  I pulled out the old batteries and set them on the dock. Soon after our new batteries were delivered to our boat and the driver helped me get them into the cockpit. They weigh 70 pounds each. I felt the effects of that enterprise that evening.
  I called Albert again. He promised to be at our boat by end of day. So the time waiting for him was taken up by installing our five new AGM Group 31 batteries.

    The skies darkened as we waited. We are docked on a main thoroughfare here on the dock so we get lots of other boaters walking by. We talked to several of them and met some nice people. Since there was obviously some mechanical issues going on, we were approached by a couple of "mechanics" wanting to help us out on our steering issue. I held out for Albert. I asked these applicants how they would feel if I had scheduled them to come look at our boat and someone else was aboard giving us an estimate, or even working on our boat? They understood this logic and gave us a number to call if Albert didn't work out, or show up.
  We were still waiting as the skies got more threatening. When the rain starting pelting down, we retired to the salon. I still held out hope that Albert was going to show up.
  It was after 7 P.M. when I finally closed the blinds and gave up on Albert showing. It was similar to when people turn off the porch lights on Halloween because even though there may be more trick or treaters out there, they should have shown up by then. My optimistic side gave Albert the benefit of the doubt, blaming the weather on his failure to show, but a phone call would have been appropriate, if not mandatory. My pessimistic side decided to find another mechanic.
  I had also put a feeler out about our GFI tripping problem. Our friend, Darryll Weil, back in St. Louis, suggested that I install the desktop computer plug with an adapter that would eliminate the ground plug from the receptacle. I found an adapter on the boat and tried it. Worked like a champ. One more issue resolved.
  This morning, Tuesday after Memorial Day, the U.S.A. was open for business again and I hit the ground running. I sent an email to Sea Star, telling them to expect a phone call once they got their day going. I also browsed the Internet for suppliers of Sea Star products for availability of the seal kit. I also read some technical reports of replacing the seals on our cylinder and started having second thoughts.
  Some people found some difficulty in replacing the seals, and actually found that cylinders were getting ruined in the process of rebuilding them. Rosie and I talked and we decided to take a new tactic. We decided to order a whole new hydraulic cylinder for our steering system, and a seal kit to possibly repair the old cylinder once it was swapped out with the new one, in order to have a spare on hand. A good plan.
  When I called Sea Star Solutions I was told that I would have to call West Marine, or another supplier, to obtain items from their company as they were wholesale only. Thank you very much.
  I was placed on hold no less than three times when I called my Marine Max dealer in Lake of the Ozarks, normally my go to Marine Max parts dealer. (Morgan has always been very helpful.) But I wanted to get something shipped today, so I had no patience for waiting for a return call after leaving a voicemail.
  I called Marine Max of Miami and was put on hold again before my call went to voicemail.
  I called Marine Max of Fort Lauderdale and hit pay dirt. Anthony in parts understood our plight and was more than willing to help and knew the ins and outs of shipping to the Bahamas. He only asked that I hold tight until he found out if he could obtain the items we needed. Once he agreed to not leave me hanging, I promised to wait for his return call.
  About a half hour later the phone rang. I expected it to be Anthony from Fort Lauderdale, but it was Morgan from Lake of the Ozarks Marine Max. No sooner than I began to explain to Morgan that I had something going with Marine Max of Fort Lauderdale, my phone beeped to tell me that Anthony was calling back. I had to let Morgan go.
  Anthony said he would have our parts in hand within the hour. I got a price and we traded information over the phone, with expectations of backing up everything via email. I had to send our cruising permit to him anyway, so we traded email addresses.
  Rosie and I then went on a walk to find a hardware store. I still wanted to find a bolt to use as an impeller puller, plus we wanted lunch.
  We walked towards the downtown area. Not a good idea. There isn't much in the way of sidewalks here in Nassau. A pedestrian is taking their life in their hands walking along the streets of Nassau. Rosie later told me that our walk made her nervous. I told her that our walk made me petrified. Not only that, we didn't find anything we wanted and it started seriously raining once we got as far from the boat as we were willing to walk.
  We returned closer to the marina in one piece and decided to have lunch at a local place called Nassau Stadium, a local place off the beaten path that is owned by the cousin of John, our doctor friend.
  We stepped into Nassau Stadium and the few customers in there were having breakfast and it was already noon. We asked when lunch was served and was told it wouldn't be for another half an hour. We about to leave when the owner said that we could order "snacks".
  "What are snacks?"
  "Chicken, fries and slaw, or conch, fries and slaw, like that", we were told.
  "That would be great", we said, and ordered a conch snack and a fried chicken snack. Me and my fried chicken.
  It took a half an hour, but our food came out. Rosie's order of a conch snack was piled high with cracked conch and a small salad instead of slaw. The plate was piled high with fries too. My chicken wouldn't have won any prizes at the state fair for size, but it still beat anything I had been served outside of the chicken plate in Governor's Harbour. I got a nice salad too. Our only complaint was that we could have used the grease from our fries on our steering system, but they were hot and there was plenty of catsup. Our bill was only $21 which included a grape soda and a Goombay Punch. A pretty good deal and we couldn't even finish all of it.
  As I paid I saw a photo of a boxer behind the bar and I asked the owner if the boxer was him. He said he wasn't a boxer, but a promoter. He went on to add that he had promoted one of Ali's last fights that was held in the Bahamas. My dad's first cousin, Classy Freddie Blassie, knew Ali, so I asked if he had ever heard of Freddie Blassie and he said that he had. He threw in a decent imitation of "The Greatest" and we promised to return before we left Nassau.
  Rosie and I were glad to get back to the boat having dodged water puddles and vehicles. We retired to our favorite places on the boat; me on the sofa and Rosie at the dinette where we read our books and I grabbed a nap with Holly on my lap.
  After my nap, Rosie and I did some recon on our steering system and determined that even after tightening a suspected possible leak source, that we did indeed have a leak on the cylinder and still didn't have anyone lined up to swap out the new one coming with the present one. Rosie made an attempt to tighten one of the bleed valves on the cylinder and that experience made me realize that if our marriage was going to survive, I better find a small person knowledgeable with a wrench that could swap out our steering cylinder.  I decided to go on a fact finding mission. I left Rosie on the boat and set out on foot.
  I inquired at several places, and even went to Albert's shop, but the door was locked. That was his last chance. I was mulling over my options as I entered the guarded gate to Yacht Haven, and then I met one of the staff here that I had previously spoke to about our need for a mechanic.
  Howard, a young fella who had worked in Marsh Harbour, and knew Troy, the owner of Harbour View Marina, said he had a semi-retired uncle who was a more than capable mechanic and so he got him on the phone.
  I spoke to Howard's uncle Don and he understood what we needed. He told me to call him when the parts came in and he would not only swap out our steering cylinder, he would rebuild the old one with the seal kit we were getting. Sweet.
  I returned to the boat and Rosie said she had gotten an email from Marine Max of Fort Lauderdale and our parts were on the way. Next day via FedEx was going to be $175, but this would allow our parts to be installed by the weekend even if "overnight" turned into "over two nights".
  We have to stay here in Nassau, but no one is leaving anyway. Not only has it been raining nonstop, but the wind is predicted to gust over 30 miles per hour the rest of the week. Even the big sport fisher boats are staying put. Most of us are setting our sights for Monday to leave. It's OK here, but it's still a city atmosphere and the rent here isn't exactly cheap. We really want to get back to the Exumas with a healthy boat.
  It's hard to believe I've been retired two years and here we are in Nassau, having been away for over a year from our friends and family back in St. Louis, and other places too. Don't think for a minute that we didn't think of everyone over the holiday weekend. Ours was not so special, but we still hoped that everyone we hold dear to us were able to enjoy themselves.

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