After a few long flights I landed in bocas and quickly made my way to a transfer boat out to the marina trying to beat the darkness of the afternoon. Rain was falling lightly and the sky was a dark grey and laden with clouds, not exactly the welcome back weather I had hope for. It all happened so fast, plane landing, trying to keep all my gear dry from the rain and spray of the ride over, jumping off at the dock as the boat sped off, and then there I was, standing next to Kuhela again. She looked just as I had left her, with the exception of the tarps that were fraying and sagging a bit, but here she was, I was back. It felt great to step on board, feel her rock gently from my weight and to see all the familiar things I had grown so used to on the previous trip. I got hold of the keys and opened the hatch, that’s I think when it hit me, that smell, something I had not even noticed that I had missed but here it was. The familiar smell of home. Things inside looked as if I had just walked out yesterday, everything exactly as I left it, neat tidy and clean. I had been worried about what I would find, here in the tropics it doesn’t take long for mold to set in and I've heard horror stories of coming back to green, furry boats after time away. The dehumidifier I bought worked perfectly, a great investment. My clothes, sheets and cushions all still vac packed and sealed, smelling a lot fresher than I after my days of travel. It was late, I was alone with Kuhela and slowly it all sank in, how much I had missed being on board and how I loved my simple life on here.
That began the busy days that lead up to now. I got back and got stuck back into work, and it’s been non stop since that first night on board, but I've been making good progress and have got a few big jobs seen to. The issue with the stern gland is still an issue but is under control for the minute. There must be some stray current in the marina and there is a lot of electrolysis on the nut and stern gland itself, the worrying thing is the pinkish tinge to the bronze. This means that the zinc has been eaten out of it and the structural integrity is now in question, not something you want in a piece that keeps a 2” hole below the water line plugged. I've ordered a new one and will replace when I haul out sometime in the new few weeks or so. Should be ok till then. I also got the new batteries installed so Kuhela now has a brand new bank of “lifeline” AGM batteries, a great upgrade from the lead acid ones I had on board before. If you ever wanted to know how you do yoga and keep fit on board, this would be one of the jobs that show you the way. Twisting and contorting myself in and out of the engine room while moving 30 kg batteries around, was a full days work by the time I got them all out and new ones back in and adjusted all the chargers to accommodate the new AGM batteries.
I did have Sunday off to go for surf. Needed to get wet and needed to step back from everything and have some fun. In the past I would have just kept bashing away at the jobs till either they were done (which is just something you joke about on a boat) or till I got so frustrated I started breaking more things than I fixed. Definitely an improvement taking the time to walk away and recharge a bit. Wish I could say that it was an epic first surf, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be, the weather here has been markedly different to last year, when I got here in November last time the sun was out and the waves were pumping. This year in December the rain hasn’t let up yet and the surf hasn’t really arrived either. There is talk of el Nino next year, something I'm keeping an eye on as it will affect my Pacific crossing. Nothing I can do now though, just get Kuhela and I ready and go from there. The marina I'm staying in is a bit far from town, which isn’t a bad thing maybe, there are no distractions and I can get to work and get things ticked off the sizable list I've written up since getting back. Its also been nice as I know people here from the last trip so been good catching up with them a bit and good to have people around when I need an extra hand.
Have been working hard on the install for the navigation and auto pilot system; the last system had a few gremlins in it that I just did trust for the longer legs in the pacific. What I have to ensure is that when I take the old system off, the gremlins go off with it. So far it’s been a trying process, having to remove the old wind instruments on top of the mast and install the new one was just the start. Thought it would take a few hours, but after maybe ten trips up and down the mast and swinging around for hours up there I only just managed to get it down as it was getting dark. Beware of any job that starts with “all you got t do is” these always take way longer than you think. The great thing on Kuhela though is that she has steps going up the mast, if I had to continuously chase people around all day to haul me up and down, I would certainly have worn out my welcome. This way I could work away up top and only ask a hand when I needed someone down below to feed cables through as I pulled them up. Next i had to remove all the old cabling inside the boat, which is rune behind panels, under seats, through holes that are just big enough to pull the old wiring out, but not to put the new one through, that kind of fun stuff. Took a couple days but i finally got it all run and in place to move onto other issues. Got a guy at the marina who has done a few Raymarine installs to give me a hand once id run all the wiring and done the inside work, which sped things up quite a bit. I had to install new backing plates for the ram and also fabricate a base for the rudder sensor, which is attached to the ram and gives feedback to the computer. Its come up really good though and the fit out looks up to the quality that Kuhela and I find acceptable, so pretty pleased with that.
Still hoping to be out of the marina just after Christmas, but there’s still a lot of little jobs to do. aside from the install there's still all the other jobs that are making their way onto the list, the toilet started leaking ad had to fix that, have to dive on the hull to clean the bottom, still have halyards and sails to go up and my fridge stopped working the other day, never a dull moment. I’ve got some friends coming out to visit at the end of the year and desperately want to be out at anchor and feeling Kuhela move naturally again. Did have one night off the boat and in town last weekend, needed to take a step back, great to catch up with a few friends and have a look around town. As much as I enjoyed it though, it was a bit of a shock to the system, sleeping on my mates boat you could hear all the music from town and it’s the exact same CD from the last time I was here, i could list off the songs by heart. Being out here at red frog, away from town and being able to walk over to an amazing little deck overlooking the water for my morning yoga, looking at monkeys and birds play in the trees above the path or going for a swim after work on an almost empty beach, that is what I really enjoy. Like everything though its all about balance, and every once in a while you need that loud pumping music too.
The work continues, and i am enjoying it even though its long hard hours. What more could you want than to get to tinker and play and work on something you love, your home and your boat. Well, maybe someone else paying the bills would be nice actually. Wouldn't trade it for the world though.