While We’re Away, Boat Issues …

Usually at some point of the summer, leaving the boat comes back to haunt us.  Until this week, the biggest problem from this summer is that one of the tent poles for the Shadetree shade cover broke in a south Florida thunderstorm — so what else is new, that happens regularly.  Of course, the Shadetree is almost 10 years old and has alot of use.

Stuff It & Insure No Birds Nests While You Leave the Boat!

Winterlude's Forward Sun Awning Broke a Pole

This week, we might or might not have an elusive short in our electrical system somewhere in the engine room.  We had an electrician check it out and all he found was a loose ground on our shore power cord.  But our caretaker, who identified the problem by getting shocked while adding water to our batteries in the engine room, says there’s still an electrical issue.  Unfortunately our usual electrician is out of the state visiting family for a couple of months.  So who knows.  Our diver says our zincs are fine and the other electrician can’t find anything, so I guess we have to wait until we get back to get this one figured out.  Luckily with nothing getting outside the boat, we’re not affecting anyone else around us.  Frustrating.

But the good news is, the varnish test project that I did on the caprail last winter is holding up great.  WooHoo!

The only other worrisome thing is all the rain – they’ve gotten 4 inches so far this week and that’s just this week.  Apparently it’s raining non-stop – glad I’m not there – but I sure hope the fix David did on the leak over our starboard window is working!

Since every year we leave the boat, there’s some sort of issue, I thought it might be enlightening to share!

Year 1 – Rio Dulce Guatemala – almost right after we left, the smoke alarm in the engine room was going off … no one could locate the alarm and it was making other boaters on the dock nuts with the piercing noise.  Our caretaker Skyped me asking if I had any idea what the alarm might be… it took a few minutes before we diagnosed the issue and she sent her husband down the dock to search for the culprit.  No problem,

Winterlude - Dark Hull to Left, in Catamaran Marina, Rio Dulce

Catamaran Marina, Summer Storage, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

dead battery.  Turned out our investment in the stainless steel dehumidifier had an extra benefit that we didn’t know we were buying!  The electricity is off frequently on the docks in most 3rd world marinas.  Our dehumidifier comes back on without having to be reset when the electricity comes back on.  Many boaters wanted to buy our dehumidifier because the regular home style versions wouldn’t come back on without being reset … which sometimes could be weeks after the electricity blipped turning them off.  Depending on how often the boat owner’s caretaker was checking on the boat, the delay often meant mold!  We politely declined to sell the dehumidifier that quickly became one of best investments as commuter cruisers — even if it was by accident!  Other incidents that first year … we had ants, but the caretakers had it almost solved by the time we returned.  The other issue was the bilge pump running furiously but not discharging anything.  That turned out to be a stuck check valve which despite being completely replaced has been one of our biggest continual headaches.  We can almost guarantee that if a caretaker calls because the bilge pump is burned out, it’s not the bilge pump at all, it’s the check valve.

Year 2 – Rio Dulce Guatemala – This was the first time the Shadetree pole broke, the stitching was disintegrating too.  No problem, the caretakers jerryrigged the shade cover for us.  Then there was that lightning strike across the bay – “shouldn’t have any impact, almost not worth mentioning”… yeah right.    When we returned, we couldn’t figure out why our smart regulator wasn’t regulating … guess why?  Yep, lightning strike. The C-30 charge controller that diverts power once the batteries are full to the water heater was also toast.  There were many other “minor” casualties.  And we’re pretty sure that our TrueCharge 40 battery charger was also damaged, although not fatally, but we should have replaced it then rather than suffer through years since then.  Our charging system hasn’t worked correctly for years – causing us to replace the batteries twice in 7 years.  An expensive problem if it turns out it was a lightning damaged battery charger!

Preparing to Leave, Bocas Del Toro Marina

Preparing to Leave, Bocas Del Toro Marina

Year 3 – Bocas Del Toro, Panama – woohoo!  No issues this year.  Although it might have been because the marina/dockmaster’s office was our caretaker and they simply cannot check the boat as often as some of our prior caretakers.  The boat was fine other than the lines covered with mold when we returned. But it was a good thing we had the prop bagged – because of the unusually warm and nutrient rich waters, the barnacle growth was amazing!  The other “issue” we had didn’t occur over the winter, but when we were getting the boat ready to leave.  We always remove the spinner for the boat speed instruments and use a plug.  This year, we found that the overzelous bottom painters in LaCeiba Shipyard (LaCeiba Honduras, where we had our blisters fixed) had painted the spinner into the boat and all the coaxing in the world would not free it, so it had to stay in over the winter, not in our plan.  But the worst part is that now every time we stay at anchor for more than a day, the silly spinner has to be cleaned or the boat speed instruments don’t work.  Not the end of the world since we have the GPS, but we liked seeing the difference between boat speed through the water and over the bottom, it let us know how the current was impacting our speed.  Oh well.

On the Hard, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

On the Hard, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Year 4 — Shelter Bay, Ft Sherman/Colon Panama on the hard.  The boat was fine, but the bugs were not!  On the hard, the ants simply crawled up the jackstands and invaded.  Even though we had a paid caretaker, apparently he missed the invasion.  When we returned I had my work cut out for me pursuading them they didn’t want to co-habitate with us!  Plus because the boat was on the hard, we decided to utilize the full cover we had made in Annapolis before we left.  We’d never used it before and it turned out to be a really bad idea!  While our usual teak and deck wax was still intact, much of it, especially the teak, was under an inch of black mold.  And I had the surveyor coming the next day to do the out of water insurance survey so we could splash the boat & get going.  Yikes, what a mess!  We’ve never used the full cover since and it ranks right up there with useless purchases.

Year 5 — Shelter Bay, Ft Sherman/Colon Panama in the water.  The only problem this year was that dang stuck check valve – the e-mail said the bilge pump was burnt out because it was running but not pumping anything overboard… this sounds familiar!  Sure enough, once they banged on the pipe where the check valve is located, everything worked fine again.  Because Ft Sherman is a

David with Winterlude Almost Ready to Leave, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

David with Winterlude Almost Ready to Leave, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

national park, no one is allowed in the water to clean the boat’s bottom.  It’s not as bad as Bocas, but that doesn’t mean in six months it isn’t a problem.   The irony is we wouldn’t have been able to move with all the growth on the propeller.  I won’t tell you what happened, but it took literally three hours just for the prop.  Luckily the new bottom paint from being on the hard six months before, performed marveously and teh hull was barnacle free… just a bit of green slime.  Oh, and the black sludge along the waterline.  We’re still not sure what happened.  It looked as if there had been a black oil spill right in the marina and it all decided to cling to our, now white again, waterline.  It’s a mess and it’s still a mess.  But that bottom paint is still holding up great.  We’ll have to redo the bottom paint (and fix our white waterline) again this winter, but we haven’t had to do it in the meantime.  Think it had anything to do with the fact that bottom paint outside the US can contain stuff that makes it actually work as opposed to the environmentally correct stuff we’re allowed to have here?  I don’t mind being green and I wouldn’t mind if I thought it actually did any good, but I’m not sure it does and at least in Panama, apparently neither is the Smithsonian Institution.   They were doing studies in our marina for something similar, not sure exactly what.

Splash, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Splash. Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Year 6, last winter — Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda, Florida.  Back to the USA.  We were having a bunch of work done, including replacing all the faulty pieces of the charging system that took that lightning hit back in 2005.  Sure enough the bilge pump/check valve was an issue again — despite replacing the check valve, it still sticks because of the crud in the lines/bottom of the bilge.  We’ve tried and tried to scrub the bilge, but can’t reach the farthest depths and using a yardstick with a rag ducktaped to it doesn’t seem to get it clean either.  Other than that we chose not to have a diver clean the bottom regularly because we didn’t want our white ablative bottom paint scrubbed off and wasted.  The theory worked OK, the bottom itself wasn’t bad other than slime, but the prop was a mess.  Not as bad as Shelter Bay, but it still took a concerted effort to free it … and since it’s a MaxProp, with the growth, it “stuck” making it difficult to free so it moves appropriately.  We’re still having problems with that.

Year 7, this winter — as I mentioned above, my varnish is holding up beautifully, we have an electrical issue that’s causing our caretaker to get shocked randomly when he waters our Trojan T105 batteries, the Shadetree shade awning pole broke again and who knows if all that rain is creeping in that leaky window. It’s not visible inside the boat or our caretaker would have noticed it.  But I know where to look in the back of the liquor locker to see if it’s dripping down the inside of the hull!

So as you can see, nothing major happened to Winterlude while we were away.  The biggest problem we had was the year we left the country and Hurricane Charley made a direct hit as a Cat4 hurricane on Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda, FL literally 2 months before we were scheduled to throw off the dock lines.  That’s another story and you can read about it by clicking on Hurricane Charley.

Any other commuter cruisers with other experiences out there?  Leave a comment and let us know what you experienced when you left your boat.   THX!  Jan

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