Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sunbeams and Sanding

“It’s snowing sunshine!” We were standing in line at the Roti Shack for lunch and our Trinidadian line-up mate smiled as he joked about the recent weather change. It felt more like a blazing blizzard to me. After a few days of cool breezes and rain, the scorching heat stormed in and pounded down yesterday as we made our daily pilgrimage to chandleries (boat supply stores) and machine shops. I welcomed the respites inside as we slogged from building to building for shelter from the sunny squalls, leaving blinded as my sunglasses fogged up each time I walked outside. White Christmas and Silent Night playing on the loud speakers sounded absurd. I don’t expect much sympathy from my northern folk who are plowing through the first snow storms of the long winter, however, living in heat can require as much diligence as living in cold. At the other end of the thermometer where weather reports tell me that 31 degrees (90F) feels like 38 (100F) with humidity, I attempt to stave off the rays with a wide-brimmed hat, long pants, and sleeved shirts covering sunscreen-lathered freckles. Mr. Mediterranean laughs off the high UV index readings, defying the warnings with his shirt-free daily uniform. Soon he will again be mistaken for a local and will need to pretend that he speaks “Trini”.
The temperatures were higher in Brazil than here but we were in the water at Ilha Grande and able to swim as much as we wanted. We also followed local human and animal behaviour, living well with the weather by staying still during the hottest parts of the day. We don’t have that luxury living in a dirty, industrial boatyard and facing long job-lists. Although our boat is new, there is still work to do before we splash. Boats have layers of bottom ablative paint that ride about a third of the way up the hull and need to be removed and repainted every year or two. Ablative paint is a soft, sloughing layer meant to prevent marine growth from making our boat bottom a home. It wears off quickly which is one of the reasons boats haul out every year. We have to remove the old paint layer first by power washing and hand sanding. With two hulls and over a thousand square feet of area to sand and paint, I am building muscles I didn’t know I had. Although double the work, the duel hulls at least provide shade on the interior sides. The ocean water and air are remarkable and efficient decomposers of anything metal so we are checking our propellers, replacing zincs (sacrificial anodes on the propeller shafts that absorb electrical currents and decompose, therefore saving the propellers), and removing rust on rails. Our work is minor compared to that of our neighbours who are replacing water makers, masts, and transmissions on top of extensive body work.

Our plan is to splash the boat on November 24th and move back to the marina across the harbour for final preparations. We are hosting an Antares University ( in Grenada, a short overnight sail of 80 nautical miles from Trinidad. It is best to arrive at any destination during the day for visibility so we will leave Trinidad at around suppertime on the 27th, weather permitting.
Our reward for lunch yesterday was worth the 45 minute wait at the Roti Shack. As a popular Trinidad dish, the roti combines East-Indian curries with Caribbean spice. The pizza-sized flour wrap is fried on a tava (cast iron grill), filled with curried vegetables and meat stews of goat, chicken, or beef, and topped with hot sauce. At under five dollars, it makes a hearty meal for hungry sanders.

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