February 2014 - Ecuador to Galapagos

1 February 2014   Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador
I had an admin day catching up on our bank statements after our two week spending spree.  I paid our marina bill which added up to over $850, which was a little painful, but not too bad for two months’ worth of mooring fees, laundry, customs fees, etc.

Glenys just pottered about for most of the day – she’s got a cold and is feeling sorry for herself.

Back in the market in Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador

In the afternoon, I continued to sort through and edit our photos, which is turning into a right mission.

2 February 2014   Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador
I couldn't bring myself to start any jobs this morning, so I messed around sorting out music for some of the songs that I'm going to learn to play on the guitar this year - it’s not a simple process.  Having decided on a tune, I search on YouTube for lessons on how to play it.  Then I search for guitar tabs which basically show the chord progression and the lyrics.  Unfortunately, most of the time the guitar tabs are in a different key to the lesson and the lesson might be in a different key to the original song, so I end up having to rewrite the tabs into the correct key – it’s quite time consuming.

Glenys was feeling better today and got out her sewing machine. She altered the Hydrovane vane cover after I'd had the frame shortened by two inches.  She then made a start on some covers for our jerry cans that are being stored on deck. Hopefully the covers will stop the plastic being degraded by the intense sun. 

I spent some time in the afternoon working out where and how to mount the jerry cans on our deck. Up to now we've just had them lashed to the guard rails wires with a bit of rope.  This won’t be good enough when we sail across the Pacific because they’ll end up chafing with the constant motion - we've got about 10,000 miles of sailing ahead of us this year. 

3 February 2014   Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador
Glenys went off to Chirije with a group of ex-pats who live in Bahia.  It’s an archaeological site with a small eco-lodge and was an ancient seaport occupied by the Bahia culture between 500 BC and 500 AD. These seafaring merchants traded Spondylus shells and crafted ornaments and as far north as Mexico and as far south as Chile.  Unfortunately, with typical Ecuadorian organisation there was no one around in the eco-lodge and the small museum was shut, so all they did was to walk around on the beach for a while hoping to find some artefacts – no chance.

I managed to motivate myself enough to do some jobs.  About eighteen months ago, we had the cupboard doors replaced in our front heads.  I foolishly had them made from one inch thick, Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF).  The carpenter in the USA said that he had some professional primer paint that would seal the doors, but after four months they were starting to swell because water had soaked in.  They are now in a terrible state, swelled up to 1½” thick with paint flaking off.  I started to make two new doors from ½“marine plywood, cutting the basic panels and gluing them together.

Shocking state of the cupboard doors in our front heads

Three weeks ago, I emailed some drawings to a fabricator in Manta to get a quotation for a stainless steel bowsprit for our spinnaker.  I’ve not heard anything back despite sending him a couple of reminders over the past couple of days, so I printed off the drawings with the intention of sending them to the fabricator with Geovanny, the taxi driver who does a lot of work for the marina and cruisers.  A couple of boats arrived yesterday, so I knew that Geovanny would be coming to the marina to collect their passports and take them to the Immigration office in Manta, which is 60 kilometres away.  

As usual, nothing is that simple.  There’s no one who speaks good English in the office and I didn’t trust that they’d understood exactly what I wanted, so I thought it best to speak directly to Geovanny.  I ended up wasting about two hours going ashore and trying to meet Geovanny, but he didn’t show up.

4 February 2014   Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador
Apparently, Geovanny turned up at about eight o’clock last night, picked up the passports, but didn’t take my bowsprit drawings.  He’s allegedly going to pick them up tomorrow.  Anyway, I finally received an email from the fabricator, who says that he’s had computer problems and he’ll get me a quote tomorrow – I won’t be holding my breath.

Glenys finished off the two covers for our jerry jugs and I finished off the two cupboard doors for the front heads – I just need to paint them now.

We were invited over to “Albion” for sunset drinks with George and Tuuley, who arrived a couple of days ago.  Steve and Patty from “Armagh” were also there – we last met them in the Perlas islands in October.

Over dinner, we watched a brilliant film called “Captain Philips”, which is about a container ship that was hijacked in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates.  It was very scary to see how four armed men in a panga could so easily capture a huge ship with 20 crew.  A small boat like ours wouldn’t stand a chance even if we were armed – I might not sleep tonight. 

5 February 2014   Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador
We took off main sail and genoa, so that Glenys could do some maintenance work on them.  She removed the webbing at the tack and head of the sail and shortened the loops, so that we can get some more tension onto the luff of the sail.  Her Sailrite sewing machine did a sterling job, stitching through 10mm of webbing and sail. 

I dug out the paint for the cupboard doors, which we’ve been carrying around in a bilge for 18 months.  Unfortunately, the tin was very rusty and when I tried to clean it up with a wire brush, the metal just collapsed, so the paint is useless.  

I went out to buy more from a paint shop on the sea front, but it wasn’t easy.  The guy wanted to sell me some “lacquer” at first, but then he realised that I didn’t have a spray gun and I wanted to brush it on.  I managed to explain that I wanted matt paint, so the guy nodded wisely and said “enamel”, which didn’t sound right either.  So I bought a small pot of top coat and a smaller tin of primer, to try out – it only cost $5 for the lot.  Back on the boat, I painted a test piece of plywood with the primer.  It’s weird, gloopy, transparent stuff more like varnish than paint.  I thinned it down and brushed it on and we’ll see how it all works tomorrow.

Chain before and after galvanising

I’ve still not received an email quotation for the bowsprit, so in desperation, I sent a text message to his mobile phone and, surprise, surprise, I got a reply back within ten minutes.  Apparently, he’ll get a quote to me soon. 

6 February 2014   Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador
We were up early and went ashore to pick up our anchor chain.  I was in the dinghy fending off the rough sea wall, while Glenys lowered the chain over the wall down to me.  Even at high tide, I was bouncing off the rocks below the water.  Back at the boat, we dragged the chain out of the dinghy and laid it out on the deck in 5 metre loops so that I could put markers on the chain at ten metre intervals.

We’ve read that many of the anchorages in French Polynesia are very deep, some places being 30 metres, so our 60 metres of chain won’t be enough – we’ll need at least 90 metres of scope at 3:1 ratio.  Rather than buying more chain, which is heavy, expensive and probably unattainable here, I spliced a 40 metre long rope to our 60 metre chain.  What a mission – it took me a couple of hours, but now we’ve got 100 metres of anchor rode which will allow us to anchor in most places.  

We put the main back on the mast.  Glenys has done a good job and it fits perfectly – I can now get enough tension on the luff, which will hopefully make the sail easier to furl away and give us slightly better performance upwind – not that gentlemen go upwind...

Glenys moved onto the genoa and made a new Velcro flap to allow us to tension the foot of the sail.  Unfortunately, our brilliant sewing machine couldn’t cope with the extreme thickness of the new flap on the thick sail, so she had to hand-sew a few bits.  She also hand-sewed a new leather protection strip around the grommet in the clew of the sail.  This was made easier with a fantastic little device called a Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl – it’s got an incredibly sharp hollow needle that easily pushes thread through 10mm of sail cloth.

I put a couple of coats of top-coat paint onto my test panel and the paint is rubbish.  It’s more like an emulsion and I can scrape it off with my finger.  Why on earth can’t I buy good old oil-based wood paint here?  There’s one other paint shop in Bahia, but that looks more chaotic that the one I went to, so I’ll have to try to get some in Manta when I go in next week.

I had a text message conversation with the fabrication shop about the bowsprit.  I think that he’s finally looked at the drawings because he’s telling me that he can’t get hold of any Grade 316 stainless steel, but can make it from Grade 304, which is not as corrosion resistant to sea water.  I’ve told him to give me a quote for it made in Grade 304.

Sail takes over our saloon

Communicating by text messages in Spanish is a pain in the neck, but the guy doesn’t seem to be able to work with email.  With an email, I can copy and paste his replies into an on-line translation tool, but with texting I have to laboriously type it out.  To make matters worse, when I send him a message, I have to work out the Spanish on-line and then type it into the phone.  Predictive texting is great when working in English, but the bloody phone doesn’t like Spanish words – “por” becomes “porn” and “quiero” becomes “quiver” – nightmare. 

7 February 2014   Bahia de Caraques, Ecuador
I finally got a quote from the fabrication shop (by text).  It’ll cost $250 for the bowsprit, so I told him to go ahead and make it and hopefully, it’ll be ready to pick up at the end of next week.  After congratulating myself on arranging all of this, the fabrication guy then texted me to tell me that I needed to pay a 50% deposit before he would start – how on earth do I do that when he’s 60 kilometres away?  Eventually, he texted me his bank account details and I had to spend over an hour going to the bank and depositing $125 into his account.

We pulled the genoa out onto our deck and did a detailed inspection. It’s looking a bit worn in several places, so Glenys spent a few hours reinforcing the zigzag stitching and repairing a few worn patches.  The sail is massive when it’s unrolled and it was a real mission to manoeuvre it in our small saloon without scratching all of our lovely woodwork.

While I was running around this afternoon, I managed to get bitten three times by damn mosquitos.  The little buggers always get me on my lower legs and their bites itch like mad on the thin skin around my ankles.  Fortunately, our little bite zapper seems to sort it out.  I bought this little device in the UK - you hold it over the bite and press a button a few times which generates small electric shocks on the bite.  Sounds weird, but it really works (especially with some anti-histamine cream rubbed on as well.)