Tuesday, December 19, 2006

But Does It Work?

One of the joys of returning to Vagus after leaving her to swelter in the tropical sun for 6 months is discovering what works. The sun and humidity do their best to provide little surprises to the returning cruisers. In November, with the first winter winds making their appearance up North, Chaguaramas quickly fills with returning boat owners. All are plagued by the question - what works and what doesn't?

Soon the morning Cruiser's Radio Net fills with questions during the "help wanted section" - Where can I get this? How do I replace that? How do I start whatever? Owners pass each other on well-worn paths to the local chandler's. Like ants, they take their dollars to the nest, and return with boat bits and pieces, and things that go beep in the night grasped firmly in their sweaty hands. They know they will return tomorrow. It is part of a daily ritual. Yachties contribute an estimated $200,000,000 dollars to the local island economies. Boat parts ain't cheap and don't last long.

This year, we appeared to get away lightly. The diesel engine roared into life when Vagus was first lowered back into the water. This was followed by a deep sigh and much rejoicing. The fridge (new last year)dutifully cooled, and the electronic bits crackled and hummed, making generally happy noises. It took several days to check out all the systems - sailboats are a lot more complicated now than in days of yore. I have a long checklist that I go through to ensure everything is working. I smile quite contently when I can check off another item.

Of course there is nothing like getting away from the dock and bouncing through waves for 24 hours to really check everything out. Well, the engine and sails worked. However,just as we were leaving Chaguaramas, I found out that our cockpit microphone for the VHF radio didn't. It wasn't on my check list. Obviously it felt hurt at not being included. Then, as we were leaving the Boca, the chart plotter/radar unit shut down. I rebooted it. It ran for 20 minutes and shut down again. This was really frustrating as we like to use our radar on a night passage. After much fiddling about while bouncing along, I found that the back light to the display was overheating the unit and, when it got hot, it quit. Off went the back light and on went the chart plotter - so far so good. After 12 hours, we were in the lee of Grenada. The winds dropped and we decided to motor sail. I switched on the autopilot - nothing! I had checked this unit before leaving dock, but it decided that enough was e
nough. Eight hours of hand steering later we were in Carriacou.

Now we sit in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. The cockpit microphone is now working - a bit of cleaning of it's contacts and being included on the list made it happy. The autopilot is really dead and will be offered up for parts at the next swap meet. And I just got the water maker going! It is now happily turning sea water into beautiful drinking water. Life is good! Well, come to think of it, I have not checked the Honda generator. I wonder if it works?

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