Ship's Log

November 1st, 2010 - St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands:

Hi, everybody!  

We’re in a holding pattern around here, and our days are filled with preparation for all the stuff that’s just on the brink of happening:  SARABANDE goes back in the water tomorrow, the baby’s due soon after, and the busy tourist season is about to crank up again.  Our quiet summer hibernation is drawing to a close.  As Navin R. Johnson says in “The Jerk”, upon seeing his name in print for the first time, “Things are going to start happening to [us] now!”

Brian's been working hard night and day.  Earlier in September, he decided to up our street cred by enrolling in the Captain School.  After 80 hours of classes in two weeks, he aced the exams and scored himself a 100-ton Masters License!  Now he’s a bonafide, US Coast Gaurd-approved captain, which will surely give him an edge in the navigational “discussions” that take place between him and The Admiral sometimes when SARABANDE’s underway.

Brian studying before the exam.

Brian moments after passing the exam.

While he was taking the captain’s course at night, Brian busted into the fuel tank project during his vacation days from work.  To make things clearer, here’s some quick onboard geography:  SARABANDE’s got two identical diesel tanks of 75 gallons each under the floor in the main cabin.  The one on the port side is located underneath a dry storage area, and the starboard tank is located under the stove and refrigerator. 

We knew the tanks were leaking and degrading from day one.  They’re 45 years old, black iron, and constantly exposed to salty air - duh!  SARABANDE’s previous owner warned us about them, plus whenever we topped up our tanks, fuel would inevitably end up in the bilge.  Yet we learned if we only filled the tanks to 2/3rds full, the bilge would be fine.  Clearly, fuel was sloshing out of little holes in the tops of the tanks.  But how bad off were they?  Were they about to fail, or did we have some time to play with yet?  How to replace them?  There were lots of troublesome questions to be answered. 

One of the inevitable chemical processes that creates trouble aboard a boat.

For the moment of truth, Brian donned his surgical gear and his jigsaw and cut away the plywood over the tanks, then into the tanks for samples of the metal.  Here’s a shock:  the two tanks were as different as night and day. The protective paint on the outside of the port side tank looked a little beat, but there was not a hole in sight.  It was sturdy and sound.  On the inside, the tank was shiny and beautiful.  It looks almost new, in fact.   Not at all what we were expecting to find!  Brian put fresh paint on the outside of the tank to protect it from rust, and then installed an inspection port so we can continue to monitor the state of the tank’s inside.  Keeping the tank full will help protect it, since diesel itself is a rust-inhibitor.

Surprise:  not too shabby!

The starboard side was a disaster.  As soon as the top of the tank was visible, it was obvious that this was our diesel-leaking culprit.  The metal flaked off in big sheets at the slightest touch, and the rust was extensive.  The starboard tank is toast.  We had expected both tanks to look like this, honestly, but it was still a shock to see.  And it was upsetting to realize things had been this bad and up until a couple of months ago we were still relying on that tank!  Failure clearly wasn’t far off in the future.

Ugh.  The exposed top of the starboard tank, with some of the huge rust chips
Brian chipped off with mere finger pressure.

Why such a difference in the two tanks?  Our only guess is that condensation from the refrigerator dripped down, accelerating corrosion that over the years took its toll.  And what to do now?  Well, Brian’s surgical explorations revealed that in order to remove the bad tank, we’d have to either hoist the engine out of the boat completely, or cut into the joists that support the cabin sole and add overall strength to the hull.  Neither of these are ideas that make us feel warm and fuzzy, not this far from home, not without the guidance of a marine architect we trust, and not when we’re about to move back aboard the boat. 

So, our solution for now is to simply not use the bad tank.  We can isolate the port tank and use that one only, and we’ll buy a few more jerry jugs for diesel.  We lucked out with the port tank being in such great shape.  With the good tank and the extra juggage, we can still carry around 100 gallons of fuel, which is still really quite a lot of fuel for a sailboat to carry.  Years in the future, when we can do a proper, extensive refit for SARABANDE, we’ll replace both tanks.  But for now, she’s a cruising vessel in the tropics, and that means some compromising.  We always listed to starboard anyway; maybe the new plan will help us sit a little straighter.

Accentuate the positve: SARABANDE's half full, not half empty.

Along with delving into the whole fuel tanks issue, Brian also repaired the cracked porthole in the head (take that,
broken window theory), replaced the shore power switch that’s been non-functional since the Bahamas, fixed a busted companionway step, and nipped a potential weevil infestation in the bud examining our stores.

From no good.... so good!  Yay!  Brian made the new frame from scratch with an aluminum scrap scored at work.  
And don't even talk to us about
trying to find 1/2" thick Lexan on this island.

So, factor in the fresh coat of bottom paint and the new stack-pack sailcover, sun awning and bimini waiting for us at the sailmaker's, and SARABANDE's gotten some nice presents this season.  Once the boat’s safely floating on our mooring again, Alicia’s giving Brian a no-nag guarantee, good for several months weeks at least!  The poor man deserves a little rest.

Brian sanding after hours, prepping for fresh bottom paint.

Alicia’s finished with her work at the veterinary clinic and now uses her time mostly for obsessive cleaning/baking/nesting behaviors.  It frustrates her to not be down at the boat helping Brian, so she takes it out on our bathroom, cleaning the grout with an old toothbrush and wailing along to Aretha Franklin songs.  Brian’s a little worried about her sanity, but knows better than to say anything.  In the early mornings, she walks the beaches and the waterfront, or dunks herself in the ocean.

As far as baby preparations go, our kid has now been thoroughly and ceremoniously “showered”, both from afar and locally. 

Here in St. Thomas, our incredibly generous buddies Alyson and Chris Lundstrom pulled out all the stops for a beach party in honor of our little sprog.  It was a beautiful day of barbecuing, games, paddle-boarding dogs, gifts, and an incredible cake!  We were really touched that so many people came, since at times this pregnancy has made us really miss our support system of loved ones at home.  But looking around on the beach, we saw that in the short time we’ve been here, we’ve been lucky enough to make a bunch of really thoughtful, funny, deep-down good people our friends.  Thanks, guys!

Everyone met down at Hull Bay, a popular locals' beach on the island's gorgeous north side.

Gabe admires Brian's baby bump, which he wore so AMC wouldn't be the only one at the beach with a huge belly.

The lovely and talented Lundstroms, aka Team Commish, survey their awesome hard work from the water.  

Cynthia is one amazing baker!  Here's the cake rendition of our boat sailing along....

....complete with (edible) little baby contentedly sleeping on deck!

In the States, Alicia’s mom and Aunt Barbara put their heads together and used technology to bring us face to face with a whole slew of relatives!  With a lot of help from Alicia’s brother, we all connected on an iChat video call.  While we watched and listened on our computer, everyone took turns unwrapping lovely baby gifts at Aunt Barbara’s house in front of her webcam.  Then we showed them Alicia’s big belly, which elicited lots of excited shrieking and an encore.   When you team up Alicia’s mom with Aunt Barbara, thousands of miles don’t stand a chance of getting in the way.  Thank you, ladies!

AMC shows off the basketball for the folks back home.

Based on all the advice we’re getting from experienced parents, it seems as though preparing for the arrival of a newborn is not unlike preparing one’s crew for a major ocean passage.  From cooking easy-to-digest meals ahead of time, dealing with sleep deprivation, making contingency plans, and the importance of maintaining dry underclothes for the health and comfort of one’s nether regions, all the tips sound very familiar.  Maybe our experience in dealing with one unpredictable force of nature will help us with this new, smaller one we’re about to meet?  We can only hope!

We're reading this book with new eyes.

In other news, Steve’s been causing lots of drama in the jungly bush outside and keeps bringing us big dead moths, tarantulas, and mice.  One night he sauntered in for dinner sporting a “blown” pupil - it was way dilated and unresponsive to light.  Fearing massive head trauma, a brain aneurysm, or other such horribleness, we checked him over for wounds or signs of distress, but nothing was out of the ordinary.  We gave him some medicinal heavy cream, and called Alicia’s vet.

"Steve!  They say you've got crazy eye!"

The verdict:  he ate a black-tailed gecko.  The Doc told us not to worry and that it would go away on its own  And sure enough, Steve’s eye was back to normal in a couple of days.  Apparently, these lizards contain a mild neurotoxin, causing the condition locally known as “lizard eye”.  He celebrated his return to health by getting stuck up a tree like a moron.  Our condolences and apologies to the gecko’s family, and to our herpetological enthusiast friends.

Oh, how could you?

Louis T, as expected, has re-adapted to life on land with a lot less mayhem.  But then again, Louie’s adaptable to most situations provided he gets to hang out with us a lot.   

Play with him a bit and the little guy's happy anywhere.  

Healing thoughts to Alicia’s poor Gran, who broke her leg in October.  Also, happy birthdays to both our dear Pops - Dad Collins’ was back on 10/2 and Dad Nisbett’s is on 11/4!  Happy birthday, too, to Aunt Pat Izzi (11/14), who's undoubtedly in the running for Nicest Lady in the World.  Congratulations to our cousin Tony and his wife Julia, who just revealed they're expecting a baby this coming spring, and to our cousin Karen and her lady Phyllis who tied the knot last month.  

Fair winds and safe travels to Scott and Kitty of TAMURE and Larry and Ann-Marie of LOAFER'S GLORY, and a deep bow of gratitude to Doug, our most understanding and generous landlord and friend.  And lastly, a special shout-out to Katers McGGs:  thanks again, girl, for going absolutely nuts :)

Alicia & Brian

P.S. - we've added a new PSA for sailors with pets, a tasty new pregnancy recipe, and finally  The Orange One has been added to our official crew roster.


 *home        *who we are        *our boat        *the plan        *photos        *misc        *contact us