*** When Andrew read Sonrisa's post from Monday, he griped that there were no pictures. If you are among the contingent demanding pictures, well then, I say to you. Sonrisa and I are sorry. We don't blame you, a picture is worth a thousand words. The thing is, boat work pictures are ugly! Between the heat, dehydration, work clutter that makes Sonrisa into a construction zone, and my impatience, I just struggle to take good creative pictures. But, ask and ye shall receive. Enjoy this post along side some ugly pictures.***
Where DOES one put a full sized mattress inside a little boat whilst the captain is working beneath it's usual location?
I’m doing the 2:30 a.m. one hundred yard dash from the foot of Sonrisa’s ladder to the bathroom when suddenly I hear a large animal snort. It’s a deep, round, wet snort that starts from the echo chamber of a giant stomach and escapes through two steaming nostrils. It stops me in my tracks and sets my previously sleepy heart racing. My shoes aren’t quite on right, as I had just slipped my feet through some of the straps, but not all, in the interest of time. Now, as my mind runs through fleeing as one option for escaping this beast, it berates me for not taking the time to put my shoes on the right way.
“Hhuuuwwwonoonnk….ppssshhhhsst” Another snort directly in front of me, ends with a whooshing “sniff”. Under a spotlight full moon, I can see the round shape and four stumpy legs.
I give one sharp clap and whisper-hiss, “BACON!” The four stumpy legs take off moving away from me. The round blob gathers up a second round blob in approximately the same size, and together they move over to a much smaller oval previously hiding in the grass beneath the trailer used to move boats. I clap again and walk a few steps in their direction. They are still between me and the restroom. A stampede of hooves lumber further….toward the restroom. I clap again. “BACON!” I say even more insistently. And now they flee, scattering between boats on stands. I am free to run again, and run I do. Per the usual, I dozed for an hour longer than I should have, delaying my inevitable need to climb out of my bunk, down the ladder, fight the pigs and eventually reach the restroom across the way.
When I return, I stop in Sonrisa’s galley to take a sip of water. I carefully avoid the tangle of extension cord that leads from our small electrical inverter (the kind you might plug into the cigarette lighter in your car), across the countertop, up through the galley hatch, and over to a fan perched inside the square of our bedroom hatch, pointing downward. Once I am back in bed, I stare up at the buzzing fan for just a minute. Thank goodness for this fan. It sucks cool air from the night and blows it directly down on my face. A second fan mounted on the wall blows more air sideways, making sure Andrew gets his fair share while tucked in the corner of the bed. We sleep on top of the bed, no top sheet, blanket or cover of any kind. I can feel the heat coming in waves from Andrew as he sleeps. I shove a pillow between us to insulate me.
Just as the sun comes up, the mosquitos return. I wake to them nibbling my toes. Time to get up! We have from 6 a.m. until noon to get any meaningful work done. I pop open my computer to write or toy with photos from the day before. Andrew boils a pot of water for coffee and pours two owl-mugs full.
“How’d you sleep?” Andrew asks.
“Like a log!” I say, and it’s true except for the ten minutes I was scaring away three wild pigs.
We drink our coffee in the cool morning air, and check the weather. The big decision we made last fall between "cyclone safe New Zealand" and Tonga is just a few weeks away from turning out all ok. But, as we prepare to take down Sonrisa's cyclone cradle, put up sails, solar panels and other wind catching implements, the tropics suddenly have several lows swirling in circles here and there. Cyclone Cook forms over Vanuatu and we watch carefully every day. It is so far West, it seems its Southerly track will miss Tonga. And it does. Instead, it heads directly Southward and hits Coromandel in New Zealand! Luckily, all of our sailing friends in New Zealand avoided the brunt of the storm.
In the meantime, we get to work. We only have a few hours each day before Tasman the Adventure Kiwi and I melt into a puddle of sweat.
After more than a week in the yard, Sonrisa is coming together nicely. In the days after opening her up and peeking in, we are going through her systems confirming they survived the corrosive sunny and salt water environment for the six months without us. We inspected her nooks and crannies, making sure we did not have a nest of pests move in. Rats, mice, cockroaches, termites, can all do serious damage. Metaphorically, we approached each task with our hands covering our eyes, peeking out between the slots of spread fingers. “I don’t want to look!”
We have read and heard horror stories of people returning back to their boats to find mold and plants growing from the ceiling, fuel ruined, the engine corroded and rusted, a cooked and completely dead bank of batteries, the electrical system eaten by rodents, wood turned to dust by termites, canned goods exploded in the heat providing a smorgasbord for maggots and cockroaches. Boats are funny creatures. They are like teenagers. They need a lot of attention, a lot of love. When you live on a boat, you listen to them chatter away at you day in and day out. You learn the sound of their voice over time, and just like a mother knows her child, you start to hear when something is a little “off”. So, putting a boat on the hard is always a risk. You leave her for six months and almost anything can happen. These little changes happen without you there to notice or fix them; the boat wastes away, problems growing bigger every day.
Sonrisa looks after herself pretty well. In the four years we have owned her, she has never allowed a problem to fester for the sake of attention alone. She trusts Andrew and knows he will fix a problem as soon as he sees it, so she usually tells us pretty early when something is going wrong. But, she can also hide a problem for a while when she wants to please us. She has been known to hang on and keep herself together until it was a “good time” to fall apart — i.e. a month or two after we have purchased her (that’s a story for another day), or on a calm day 700 miles offshore on the Galapagos Passage she really didn’t want us to chicken out on. (www.oddgodfrey.com/oddlog/galapagospassageleg1) I am suspicious of her good condition after this layover, because I know she would want us to be happy upon our return. Sonrisa, I’m on to you.
So far, our tally of problems is as follows: (1) the flexible solar panel left on deck to help keep batteries charged was cooked by the sun and rendered inoperable; (2) the two forward sails, though tucked away in Sonrisa’s bow for the full six months, have succumbed to sun rot from their time aloft last season and have several rips that need repair; and (3) a swarm of bees buzzed their way into our mast a day ago.
We were sitting in Sonrisa's cockpit one evening, relaxing once the afternoon finally cooled off when we heard a deep hum approaching from the right. Soon, a low black cloud swung its way into the boat yard, headed straight for Sonrisa. "What in the world?" Bees circled her mast en mass. At first, we just thought they were looking around to find a spot and would soon leave, but no. Later that night, Andrew opened a floor board looking for a tool kept in the bilge and about twenty five bees flew out, filling Sonrisa's cabin with their stinging, buzzy honey bums. Luckily, we recently learned one of the boat yard guys is a bee expert. So, we will seek his help if this problem doesn't resolve itself soon. We would rather not kill the bees and let them leave on their own.
One pleasant surprise was the working order of our little outboard motor Kitty. You might recall she and Grin were sunk in a minor “incident” in November. (www.oddgodfrey.com/oddlog/nerves) We prepared her for her long layover best we could, giving her a good rinse, driving her around to dry her out, covering her in WD-40 and oil in her cylinder. But, you never know. Salt water is a fickle mistress. So, the day we hoisted her down from her perch, attached her to Grin, and scooped the two of them up in the hauler to take them to the sea, we were keeping our fingers crossed. A few pulls on Kitty's cord with the choke on, a squeeze of her fuel bulb, and she fired right up! Purring like her namesake kitten. Grin was pretty excited to be zipping around the bay, too. Grin and Kitty were ready to take us on multiple trips to town to keep us stocked with food.
So, on it goes, one system after the other. Any time we test a system and receive good results, we breathe a sigh of relief. Anytime we test a system and find only minor problems, we breathe a sigh of relief. And, like anything else, whenever we find something wrong, we make a plan to fix it.
Each day around 1 p.m., we give up the gusto and either go swimming or lay down to read. Swimming sounds nice in theory, but there seem to be a lot of jellyfish in the water right now. They don't hurt too badly, but even if we don't touch them, something in the water is giving us little stings. Such strange little critters. The have four lights in the center of their body that light up then go dark, one after the other in a circuit. The float around, and it puzzles me. Where are they heading? Do they care? Maybe they just float around wherever the sea takes them.
When I choose to read instead, I stretch out on Sonrisa’s salon bench in the lightest cotton dress I can find, point the fan directly at my face and sweat it out until the mosquitos return. Inside Sonrisa, it is a sauna, but at least I am in the shade. Outside, there is nowhere to hide from that brilliant tropical sun. We were counting down the days to Thursday, April 13 when we would put Sonrisa back in the water and things would cool off a bit.
On Monday the yard kicked away Sonrisa’s cyclone cradle and began sanding her bottom on Tuesday. New paint on its way! Then, we received a knock on her hull. Poking his head above the companion way, I heard disappointed mumbling coming from the Captain. Seems we are going to have to wait five more days to splash. The paint needs 24 hours to cure. Thursday, the wind is predicted to be the wrong direction, Friday is Good Friday, and no one in Tonga is working. This leaves us sweating it out over the weekend. Maybe Monday. I organize the spice closet and get all the books back on the shelf to grasp onto my small bit of control in this world.
In the evenings, we always start with good intention to get back to work, but a combination of factors lead us to engage in boondoggles of any kind instead. Heat, lack of a meaningful deadline, and better options always seem to take precedence: Tuesday night poker night at the Rooster, Pub Quiz night at the Bounty Bar, a cold beer and pizza at the Aquarium. In town, we all share that odd sensation of trying to figure out where we have seen each other before. we are like ghosts who arrived six months ago, moved some things around, evaporated, and now have returned. Although our faces are vague and hazy, we have been around long enough now that we know people, businesses and that the crickets start singing every night, just one minute later than the night before. When they start up just as predicted at 6:41 p.m., we smile. Tomorrow it will be 6:42 and so on. We don't know when they turn around and go the other way, though.
(Binty, the new owner at the Bounty Bar)
One night, while we were digging around in Sonrisa’s cubbies to try to find the wind vane blades, we happened upon a bottle of rum we had previously hidden away. “RUM!” Andrew exclaims, holding his prize in the air.
“Ooh! Where did that come from?”
Whirring through the storage file in my brain, I realized this was a cast-off gift from one of Andrew’s friends we call “Garden Tim” due to the overpopulated status of “Tims” In our network. We cracked it open, and poured ourselves nip. Vanilla, papaya, and a hint of warm butterscotch, our pirate palates were shocked into a state of transcendental joy. We click on Ella Fitzgerald and retreat to Sonrisa’s cockpit to relax beneath the cooling stars. Nestled into the freshly washed bean bags, we recount the ways this trip has been a good idea so far.
Once Cruisers' Midnight rolls around (9:00 p.m.), we take turns dragging the shower bucket over to the yard shower. I try to stay under the water until I get goosebumps or feel cold…but it never happens. So, I soap up, wash the salt and sweat out of my hair, then turn the valve to off. The grass tickles my feet as I traverse the way back to Sonrisa - already on lookout for the wild pigs. None yet, but a few hours later, when I climb down the ladder I am terrorized by another snort.
“SCAT HAMLET!” I clap. And the whole process starts all over.