Thursday, March 15, 2007
Update Status Message To Crew.
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Editor's Note: This isn't very interesting, but thought you might like to see the kind of issues and correspondence that took place between the captain and crew. The real challenge of sailing is not the actual sailing, its getting everything to the boat you need in the first place. To quote General Patton, "Strategy and Tactics don't win wars...Logistics wins wars." Well, by the time this was over we'd have liked to have seen him attack Trinidad, but we'll leave that to your judgement.
Sorry, this is long but I'm sending it from the local internet shop so i figure I should give everyone as much info as I have to date.
I trust everyone is well and looking forward to our trip. I arrived on Sunday, couldn't get into the yard (it was closed) so I booked a room at the Crews Inn for a night. I was pretty exhausted on Sunday night (I'd been averaging 3 hours of sleep a night) so most of the next day was spent either sleeping late or working on setting up a Skype or HF Radio communications link with AnnMarie.
Unfortuntely, her laptop crashed during this process (she unknowingly accepted an update from Microsoft - curse you Bill Gates) which crashed her machine, which meant we couldn't ever get it working properly. Basically lost another day. I extended my stay another night at the hotel to take advantage of their internet, so I didn't really get started working on the boat until Tuesday, what with various logistics and such of dealing with customs, the boat yard, etc.
Tuesday sucked. I lugged a lot of equipment to the yard, didn't have anything working on the boat yet (no water, sewage, communications, nothing) so I did the best I could but accomplished little. Mostly I figured out what had broken, rotted or otherwise stopped working during my absence, and went about fixing what I could. It was hot, I was sweating and I didn't have any water or clean cloths to change into. I had been counting on there being cloths already down here. What I'd forgot was that they weren't washed. I couldn't actually do anything about it because it was past closing time so everyone had gone home, and it is somewhat unsafe to walk the streets t night, so I was pretty much trapped on the boat. Oh, and I hadn't had an opportunity to buy anything to eat. Did I mention that Tuesday sucked?
On Wednesday I decided that the lack of food, transportation and communication was going to be a real inconvenience, so I rented a car and purchased a quad band phone. This means I will be picking each of you up at the airport when you arrive, and that you can reach me directly anytime before then. The cell phone number is 1-868-463-3453.
Wednesday was far more productive. Over all the boat seems in good shape. It's dirty, needs a lot of cleaning, there were some leaks where rain got in, and some stuff got molded, but overall I was surprised at how little damage there was. I've heard stories of folks coming back to find their boat trashed by rats, or roaches or racoons. Or that the yard forgot to close the top hatch and the interior filled with rain water. Wierd shit like that happens. It was nice to find everything still where I left it, and the boat still in one piece.
I've got the water tanks refilled. They looked great - I'd left them pretty much empty and what came out of the tap seemed fine. This had been a real worry of mine. I had taken all the precautions I could when I put the boat up, but you just never know with water tanks. It sucks to drink icky tasting water, but everything worked fine and there was no problem!!
I shock treated them with chlorine anyway, just to be safe. The water is potable here, no worries about critters now either way. I did discover that one of the two water pumps (redundant system) has failed, so we'll need to replace that before we leave. Hopefully that can be done before you all arrive, but there are several other more important tasks ahead of them and we are slipping schedule a bit.
The refrigerator seems to be working just fine (which has improve my mood considerably as I can now have cold drinks) and I've made arrangements to have the local expert check it out and recharge the freezer components once the boat is in the water, and if possible to install an additional 12 volt compressor for the freezer. The current system is driven off the engine, which means having to run it at least twice a day. It might not be possible to do this in time for our trip, I need to go over this in further detail, but if we can do it, it is definitely worth having the quieter system. A redundant way of keeping the food cold is also a great idea.
All this babble is my way of saying that the schedule is slipping more than I wanted it to. I believe everything can be done before you all get here, but its getting tighter. To that end, be prepared to work (cleaning mostly) on the boat when you arrive. My hope and expectation is that the bulk of the effort will be done before anyone gets here, but things like cleaning the decks, bilges, polishing, etc. are last on my list. They may become first on yours.
To compensate everyone for this potential drudgery, I've booked a slip at the Crews Inn from March 26th until March 31st. This means we will be staying dock side at the nicest hotel in town. I had to spend big bucks but I figure it will make any last minute craziness easier, and it is always safer to sleep at dock than in a crappy anchorage. Getting good sleep before the trip is important. Plus, there is a beautiful pool, restaurant, gym, wi-fi, etc., for us to use for free, so if you did pack your laptops you will be able to send off emails and surf the web the last few days before we leave.
Jeff had expressed some concern about having only one source of power generation, and the more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that getting some solar panels makes sense. I've ordered two, they should arrive in time. The advantage to this is that we won't have to continually run the engines while sailing (which saves diesel and is much quieter) except at night.
Everyone I've spoken with has confirmed what I'd suspected. The best strategy is to sail as far from Venezuela as possible. At least thirty miles off their coast. This adds a few hours to the trip, but I think it makes most sense. There haven't been any incidents lately, but I'd rather be conservative about this. I'm still working on the firearms issues, if I find anything else out I'll let you know.
I will begin installing the new diesel filters tomorrow, and the SSB once the remaining parts arrive - hopefully by Friday. The radar unit is behind schedule, but that is next on the list. These are the big ticket items that I'd like to have tested before we leave.
MaryAnn had asked about email addresses while we are sailing. The best answer I can give is that you should assume that AnnMarie's email will be the contact point (have everyone send any mail for you to her) and she will send on to me. She can also receive emails from me, and forward them on to whomever you want as well. Unless you have a General Class HAM license you won't be able to use the email system directly.
There is an alternative option, which is purchasing a "SailMail" SSB (not HAM) subscription (they cost $250/year) but would allow you complete (and private) email access while we are at sea. It seems a bit steep to me, but if that is important I'd be happy to explain exactly what you need to do to set it up - which is trivially simple. It takes about two weeks to get it going, so if this is something you are considering, let me know ASAP.
I've researched the legal details of what you will need to do bringing gear into the country. It goes like this. I will be sending you all four pieces of paper. The first is a letter from Aikane's boat yard saying that the boat Triton (formerly TerraNova) is at their yard and crew will be coming to pick it up. Second is a letter from the Immigration folks here at Crews Inn, telling the immigration folks that you will be arriving and to allow you into the country to come to their offices to check in. The third and forth letters will be the bag manifests containing a list of everything in the suitcases. One possibly sticking point is if the bags also contain your own personal possessions. The customs folks don't like this, because then they have to determine what, if anything is boat parts from taxable items. If you are adding things to the luggage put them in a separate pouch with your name on it, and don't put in anything that isn't obviously used or anything that might be construed as resellable. ( i.e. Don't bring a brand new camera still in the box.)
Tomorrow morning I will go to immigration to get the various letters stamped and then fax/email everything to AnnMarie. She will have all the bag manifests as well, so please wait another day or so before getting in touch with her. Also, I will be at the airport when you arrive (providing I'm not killed by the maniacs who insist on driving on the wrong side of the road...oh wait, that's me) and will have my phone on me. If there is any question about anything during customs or immigration (there shouldn't be) you should be able to ask them to bring me back to the area and I can deal with whatever issues come up. If they make you go over and sit on the group W bench, expect to be there for a few hours. If you are planning on bringing a cell phone, find out if it will work in T&T, if so you can call me and I'll try to intercede.
Once you've cleared customs and immigration you'll need to go to customs and immigration. Welcome to the islands man! We will get in the car and drive straight here (to Crews Inn), and you'll repeat the entire process for the nice folks all over again. Once that is done, you are added to the crew manifest, surrender your passport to me, and can't leave the country without getting Trinidad's permission and having a few more stamps placed on a few more documents.
I've also arranged to have a wireless account (all problems can be solved by the application of either enough money, or a plastic bag of the appropriate size), so I can get on-line anytime for the next thirty days. Send me an email when you get to Miami (or which ever is your last stop before T&T) and let me know to expect you. If you're delayed, try to call me. Below are the dates/times I think everyone expects to arrive.
Please review the check lists I originally supplied and make sure you have everything you need. I'm going to be a bit preoccupied and I'd really like to not have to deal with anything unexpected once you arrive.
I look forward to seeing you all shortly. Please let me know if there are any other problems, concerns, or roadblocks. Also, if you get a chance, try to gloat over your coworkers so that when you're away it makes picking up the slack you've left behind that much more annoying. Right now I'm sitting a the restaurant that overlooks the bay, it is about 90 degrees, not that humid, the sky is a golden yellow fading into umber with deep purple clouds off coast. There is a pan music band playing behind me. The music mixes and flows with a marching band that rehearses at the fire station, not far from here. All music played below twenty degrees of latitude has exactly the same bass line. I think its some sort of maritime law.
Anyway, if you need anything let me know, I've got access to phone and computer pretty much at will now.
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