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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hopkinson

Boat Work in Exotic Places

We’ve been having a blast sailing around Roatan and Cayos Cochinos in our Beneteau Oceanis 393 monohull sailboat, hanging out with our friends on S/V Doc Sea, snorkeling, diving, and having a drink or two while watching some pretty epic sunsets here in the Bay Islands of Honduras. We caught another fish (a good sized Spanish Mackerel) going over to the Cayos Cochinos marine park about a week ago and we lost our lucky lure coming around the point of West End back up to the East side of Roatan just a couple days ago when something big bit through the leader and took everything. We don't know what we had hooked, but it was big. And we saw dolphins again.

It’s not all fun and games, though. On City Dogs, we like to think of it as doing boatwork in exotic places. Because something always needs to be looked at, fixed, taken apart, put back together again, lubricated, greased, replaced, etc. We haven’t been having much luck with out outboard motor of late, something that’s fairly essential to have when cruising around the Western Caribbean. At least we didn’t end up getting stuck on a dive mooring -- this time. Instead it ended up seizing gears at the end of the day during a quick little night time pee and poop walk for the doggies in West End. Engine runs fine, the lever works fine, but the engine won’t actually turn the prop and it makes a sound like the gears are grinding, definitely not engaging properly.

So we’re back to not having a dinghy engine. Great! At least we had oars and were able to row back out to the boat without too much effort. We couldn't have done it without Russel, pictured above diving with Andrea! Many thanks!

Thankfully we’ve got great friends like Sterling (pictured above diving with Andrea) who happened to have a spare dinghy engine-- so after a few trips to see the mechanic we’re back zooming here and there in our dinghy, Paw Patrol. Alas we’ve got to get a bunch of parts from Honda, who don’t sell direct to customers, so we need to go through a dealer in the US, then get them shipped down to Honduras, so we’re looking at some time before our old Honda outboard is up and running again. So it goes.

Regardless, we’ve had a great time being out with our friends. The feeling of living on the water in some of the most amazing places on Earth is something that can’t be bottled, canned, or expressed in a succinct fashion. It’s something you can’t even really buy. It’s something that just has to be experienced. Waking up to crystal clear waters just outside your window is priceless. Now, being at anchor overnight during a particularly nasty series of thunderstorms isn’t great, right. Like we said before, it’s not all fun and games, even if it looks like it on Instagram (or whatever they want to start calling it now).

Sometimes we're up for hours, all the hatches closed to keep the torrential downpour out and it’s hot, muggy, really uncomfortable inside, and there’s not much space up in the cockpit that isn’t getting wet, the rain coming in almost sideways at times. We’re swinging around on the anchor or mooring for hours, watching lightning bolts arc across the sky, at first hoping they won’t hit our mast and eventually settling into a dull state of awareness, unable to keep up with the sheer amount of lightning tearing through the sky as minutes turn into hours. You don't so much fall asleep as you simply give in to exhaustion.

Like lots of things at sea, spending nights at anchor during prolonged thunderstorms is a humbling experience (to say nothing of sailing through them), an experience that reminds us, quite plainly, of our real place in relation to nature. At home, inside a big house or nestled inside a cushy apartment building, it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that nature is something we can keep at bay, something we as a species can control, tame, and dominate to our collective will. Truth is, we’re no match for the power of natural world. We’re tiny little porcelain figures bobbing in a nicely shaped wedge of fiberglass by comparison.

We've also been doing some fun SCUBA diving, hitting up some new sites like Key Hole with our friends at Splash Inn and diving at Pelican Point over in Cayos Cochinos from our dinghy. We absolutely loved doing some fun diving in Cayos, we got to try out some new sites and see some of the amazing marine life in this protected area. The coral, the fish, the sights were amazing, worth hours of intense study.

We ate at some nice, friendly places in West End where we’re always treated like family, and in general had a great time. Then we came back up to Parrot Tree, because it turns out when we’re not getting good solar power (a rarity here in the tropics), the alternator on our Yanmar diesel engine (4JH3E) produces too small of an output (40 amps) to effectively charge our battery banks, leading to some issues with our freezer defrosting overnight. Le sigh.

It looks like our alternator was incorrectly sized by our initial “boat guy” who sold us on the “sweet chrome job” on the front of the alternator he sold us (which may or may not have been hot), not bothering to accurately size it for our power needs at anchor (which are not excessive at all). So now we’re gonna have to get a higher output alternator if we’re going to be out for extended periods of time without adequate sunlight. As cruisers say, It’s always something.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, because it goes right back to the beginning of City Dogs, when we should have known better and insisted on a higher output alternator up front. It goes back to the first chapter in the Nigel Calder diesel engine Bible. The silver lining, I suppose, would be that at least now, we know better. We don’t know everything. Hell, we don’t really know anything, even now, but we know a lot more than the couple who packed up their bags in NYC a couple of years ago and drove down to Florida to start an adventure together on a 39 foot sail boat.

Only thing we need to keep doing is to remember what we’ve learned and try to do better in the future. Since we’re in Honduras, we’ve been doing most of the work ourselves, anyway, but once we get the right alternator, somewhere in the neighborhood of 125-150 amps, we’ll be sure to post an update on how fun the process of replacing our sweet chrome alternator with one that’s actually corrected sized to power City Dog’s electrical load. We’ve also got a ton of maintenance to do because we operate in Central America where the salt,the UV from the sun, and stress do a remarkable job of destroying just about everything.

So we’ve got some things that we need to fix, some we need to replace (like our GoPro Hero 5 housing, which is sadly no longer working meaning no more SCUBA videos until we get it replaced), some that just need to be cleaned (like the salty City Dogs who are starting to smell a bit rank) and others projects that need a whole lot of love. In between sailing excursions, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing: boat work in exotic places.


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