I am sitting here in the harbor at Sapodilla Bay, Providencials (Provo) in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI). I have been here for close to two weeks now as I wait for some parts to get my engine back into shape. I made it down here from the Bahamas and as the engine kept dying on me, I made the decision that I was going to track down and fix the issue before moving on. Provo is the largest city I have seen in the Islands since leaving Nassau. It even seems a bit more viable for provisioning than Nassau with bigger stores and a better selection of items.
Clearing in and out of TCI was not overly difficult, but it took some exploring and a number of trips to complete. The primary facilities are on the north side of the island while Sapodilla Bay is in the south and a bit isolated. Noonsite noted that the customs office was located at the commercial dock right around the point from where I was anchored, but when I went to explore by dinghy, I found there was no dock and security requires you to enter by land. My second attempt took me to the beach in the bay where I left the dinghy and walked about a mile up to the facility. Being a Saturday, I was told the offices were not open and that I would need to return on Monday but they did not think I would have any problems in the interim so I flew the yellow quarantine flag until then. Returning with my paperwork on Monday, the officials took my money for cruising permit, stamped my passport and I was set. Clearing out was much the same except that I ended up needing to chase down the immigration officer by taking a cab up to the next harbor and back to get final clearance and my departure paperwork. The one major downside for having to stay here waiting for parts is that while TCI provides for a 1 week permit that is only around $50, I ended up needing to get a 3 month permit which was quite a bit more expensive at around $200.
Since Sapodilla Bay is a few miles from most of the shopping areas, I spend several hours one day using a taxi to get around. I was able to negotiate 4 hours for around $60 which I thought was a lot, but individual trips would have cost quite a bit more. There was no secure place to lock up the dinghy so I ended up leaving it on the beach in front of the access road by a couple of small resorts. I was able to get to a chandlery, hardware store, and grocery store and delivered back to my dinghy which was still there. I even found a local IPA. It was OK, but better than some of the options.
On dinghy safety, I learned another critical lesson while returning back from the beach here. The bay here has a very shallow bottom for quite a ways off the beach and so when I launched the dinghy to return to the boat, I paddled it out about 100 feet or so in order to lower and start the engine. As I drifted slowly out, my first attempts to start the outboard failed but I wasn’t worried, I figured it was just flooded and continued to work to get it started. After about 15 minutes of this, it was evident that something was wrong but now I had drifted quite a ways from the beach and although I was heading generally towards the boat, I was a little worried as to whether I would be able to paddle it the rest of the way before I drifted out past the bay. Fortunately, another dinghy from the boat Sea Light started heading my direction and I was able to get a tow back to my boat. I did the honorable thing and invited him over for beers..
Turns out there was a problem with the line from the fuel tank that I was able to fix using spares but I really kicked myself for allowing the dinghy to drift away from the beach before I was sure I had a working engine. I also realized that I did not have an anchor on board which would have allowed me to at least stop the dinghy from drifting out to sea. This was a good lesson in not casting free until the engine is running. In the future I will make sure that I have a few basic items in the dinghy at all times: Anchor and line, portable vhf, and some basic tools (screwdrivers, vise-grip pliers). This is in addition to the safety rule of always tying dinghy with two lines.
An unfortunate event happened while I was here that I later found out is very common. I had the VHF on one morning and started to hear coast guard chatter about bodies in the water. I could only hear one side of the conversation due to signal strength, but the next comment was that they were noting that there were numerous sharks as well. It turns out that a small sailboat of around 28 feet had sunk right off one of the western islands. There had been 50-60 people on board and they managed to rescue most of them but 6 were confirmed drowned and 2 or 3 missing. This boat had come up from Haiti with people trying to escape the poverty there. I never found out the final details but the official at the customs dock told me that they end up with 40-50 boats like this every year and fatalities are common.
Another day I listened to another cruiser chat with the coast guard as he tried to get assistance with a tow from a few miles out on the banks due to motor and sail problems. As the sun was starting to go down, I watched that same boat coming in just before dark and anchor in the harbor. The next day I ventured over as I watched the crew making repairs around their pulpit. Turned out to be a nice couple guys that had gotten their bowroller smashed when coast guard attempted to give them a tow. The captain was an older guy from Carriacou and his one crew he had hired on was from Exumas. The captain had bought the boat cheaply in Florida and was sailing it back home but had run into all sorts of problems. Rotten sails that had blown up before they left Florida, engine problems, outboard problems, and on and on. Turns out his uncle and brother run the marina in Tyrell Bay.
I did not get a chance to explore much other than my provisioning trip, but on the hike over to the customs office, I found the viewpoint on the hill where it is said that they would place lookouts to watch for incoming ships. There are many sandstone rocks on the hill with inscriptions that supposedly date back to the 18th century.
The major project on my plate was to fix the fuel system for the engine that had plagued me since leaving Charleston. The problem was that somewhere in the system, air was getting into the fuel. After unsuccessfully trying various methods of locating the leak and tightening every connection in the system, my only solution at this point was to replace everything I could with new parts. I ordered a new secondary fuel filter housing along with new fuel hoses and associated clamps from the US along with a few other items that needed to be replaced. I did a full oil change and noticed that the oil lines from the filter to the heat exchange and engine were looking pretty bad so I ordered replacements on these as well.
Surprisingly, it actually took longer for the suppliers in the US to get my orders shipped out than it did for Fedex to get them to TCI and cleared through customs. Go figure. I picked up all my parts on the 13th as well as making a couple other stops including a marine store for some general hardware, a bank for some cash, and the grocery store to stock up on a few more things.
Once I got all my parts in, it took most of a day to get everything on the engine swapped out and back into running condition. I had also completed a few other projects while waiting for my parts to arrive.
I honed my skill at whipping lines by referencing a few books and online sites. Whipping lines is the method of using waxed twine to securely wrap a dozen or more loops around the end of a piece of rope to keep it from fraying. This is the time-honored method of treating line ends from when most lines were made of natural fibers. With modern lines, most people now use tape and either a hot knife or lighter to melt the end together. I still melted the ends after whipping because I am not fully confident yet in my skills, but I thought they came our pretty good and I got quite a bit of satisfaction in learning a new skill.
I also was forced to replace a small piece of hardware that came off one of the blocks that pull the dinghy up on the davits. It came loose and because it wasn’t wire wrapped, the pin the shackle holding it on the davit fell out and went to the bottom. I took the opportunity to re-rig the blocks correctly so they no longer bind or rub when used. I am just waiting now for the wind to die down a bit so I can attached them with the new shackles and wire wrap them.
I got a new US flag and a new TCI courtesy flag as part of my online order. Despite all the fancy clips, etc. that are out there, I am really starting to lean towards using some basic knots. They tend to work better and I don’t have to worry about having the right piece of hardware. Same for snubber lines on the anchor. Rolling hitch on ¾” triple strand line directly to chain.
Oh, and a really big one. I went through the process of bleeding the hydraulic steering system again because the wheel at the pedestal continued to cycle back and forth with any wave action at all. It was not only noisy, but I was worried it was going to wear something. Well, I got finished and there was still the annoying cycling of the wheel. I spent some time going through manuals and I found notes specifically for Nefertari showing the position of the two bypass knobs on the pedestal to allow for auto-pilot control. When I turned the valves to the helm position, the wheel was a little stiff at full turns either way, but when I put them into that position later, it immediately stopped the cycling. This leaves me much more confident that this is the correct position for the valves and it is wonderful not to have that noise all night long.
I found a better position for the swim ladder, just at the back end of the bimini. In this position, there is less interference with mainsheets and it allows the ladder to be tied up with only bottom folded while underway. This last part is still to be tested, but it should work.
I also fixed watermaker so it only takes a couple minutes to get quality needed as opposed to the hour it was taking. Tech support at Spectra helped walk me through trouble shooting the system and it turns out the pressure relief valve needed to be tighter. Easy peazy.
I hope to be able to get all this shopping done and then when I get back to the boat, install the new parts tomorrow afternoon so I can be ready to leave on Saturday morning. We’ll see what the weather looks like. This coming Tuesday-Thursday is looking good to get across to DR so I want to get over to Big Sand Cay by Monday so I am positioned to leave at the first opportunity. This means the latest I’d like to leave is first thing Monday morning so I will need to check out prior. They are closed on weekends so… I am going to try to check out tomorrow.
OK then. Just got finished with installing all the new parts and hoses. Quickly, let me first write down a few notes (Boring stuff)
Things to repair or address:
- Gasket for oil output/input port (backup)
- A couple of rubber lined hose fasteners to secure fuel line to bulkhead
- Fastener to secure cockpit drain to bulkhead (starboard)
- New hose to replace worn section on cockpit drain (starboard)
- Rewire main ground line so it doesn’t go under engine block on starboard side
- Replace return fuel line to eliminate T intersection from old system.
- Need more oil absorbent towels – white, black & blue
- Need more oil 15W-40 or for hotter temps. Enough for oil change or two.
- Need another anchor up front along with chain and hardware so I can add it to primary for big blows or attach to rope rode.
- Need to store rope and emergency anchor together – pushpit or locker?
- Need to tighten the hydraulic arm to the bulkhead under aft birth as the connections are loose. Will need to take it apart to fix.
- Fix steaming light – get day signals
- Roller furling for staysail
- New windvane and anemometer for mast top.
- Check inside of mast next time it is down to secure conduit as I think that is what is banging around.
Repairs done in Provo:
- Replaced all three hoses for oil to cooler, filter and back.
- Changed engine oil
- Changed oil in injector pump.
- New oil filter installed.
- Tried to remove the existing oil pressure sending unit but it does not want to come off. Instead of risking breaking it, I decided to leave it. This is something I want to replace in the future. Removing and re-securing the sending wire, and now the pressure on the gauge is steady where before it was fluctuating all over the place. In fact, when I started it up this morning after finishing the fuel system portion, there was no pressure showing at all. It is now showing about 50 psi at idle up to about 1500 rpm, but no info yet on what it shows with load.
- Replace secondary fuel filter assembly – Racor 230 series, new filter. Old filter is only a few months old and can be re-used at next service interval.
- Re-routed fuel lines to remove the polishing/transfer lines that were set up. Got rid of the 3 way switch prior to the priming bulb.
- Replaced fuel line from tank selector to primary filter, including new priming bulb.
- Took electric pump out of circuit that was between primary and secondary filters.
- Left the second 3-way selector that also goes to the return line as I don’t have a plug to close up the T into the return line. Want to do this in the future.
- Replaced hose from secondary to inlet hose.
- Replaced lift pump, new gasket.
With this combination of fixes, I am very hopeful that the air leak is finally dealt with for good. I won’t really know until I put it under load and run it for an extended period, but I think I got all the critical points.