It's been a while since we communicated via the ole blog but better late then never as they say, whoever "they" are. According the the Chinese zodiac 2017 is the year of the Rooster but not here in SeaSparrow as we are definitely operating under the year of the dog as the lead pic of our newest crew member, Piper, indicates. Those of you that have followed us throughout our previous seasons will remember our first dog crew member was Stella who began this sailing odyssey with us from day one but unfortunately passed away in the Bahamas due to cancer despite only being 2 years old. After that difficult blow we are now ready to try the dog on the boat thing again, which isn't something that should be taken lightly as a dog does add another level of complexity to boat life. Despite the potential difficulties we know Piper will add, we feel the benefits of having our beloved dog with us far outweigh the negatives. So far so good, well sort of.
To illustrate that having Piper with us this season will require some extra consideration we begin on the way to the airport in Halifax. Of course the day we want to leave, Sunday January 8th, just happened to coincide with Halifax's first real blizzard of the season. Being proactive we called Westjet on Saturday morning to check on the situation but were assured that since our flight was the first out on Sunday we would be fine. Despite that info and with the snow scheduled to really start Saturday evening, we decided to book a room at the airport hotel to eliminate the potential of bad roads screwing us up so all was good. On the way to the airport, as brother in law Mike was so graciously driving us, I decided to check the flights one more time and lo and behold Westjet had cancelled our Sunday morning flight. After the seemingly endless period on hold we finally got through to Westjet's customer service and were informed that yes the flight was cancelled and they would be sending out an email shortly telling me thus. The guy on the other end of the line seemed to think this would suffice however, unfortunately for him I didn't quite have the same view of the situation. After a very frank discussion mister customer service came around to my view of the situation and began doing his job, like you know Customer fu$#%ing Service.
The big problem in our case was that if we missed our connection out of Toronto to Puerto Rico on Sunday we would have to wait another 6 days for their next flight to PR. This was not good as many other plans were already in place for rental cars, Air BnB, the marina, etc. The thing that really pissed me off was Westjet didn't bother sending their planes down to Halifax from Toronto and that was the reason for the flight cancellation despite the fact at this point all other airlines were still flying. After about an hour of now more civilized talk with Mr. Customer Service, the impossible became possible and we got rebooked on an Air Canada flight on Saturday night. The drawback was the dog couldn't come with us and we would have to spend the night in Toronto in order to catch our flight to Puerto Rico on Sunday. After a short discussion Debbie and I decided to leave Piper behind and go on our own and figure out how to get the dog to Puerto Rico later. Mike thinking that one trip to the airport would rid himself the extra burden our sailing life put on him was not free and clear yet, as Piper went back to Mike and Wendy's until we sorted out our first doggie complication of the season.
Fortunately for us Debbie's friend Tina is a great sport and volunteered to transport Piper down to us in Puerto Rico the following Saturday. Due to airline regulation we couldn't just put Piper on the plane and send her to us, but rather someone had to accompany her on the flight. Tina was SeaSparrow's first guest in Season One. At that time I was still working and had to leave the boat to go to a meeting in Washington, so Tina came to keep Debbie company while the boat was tied up in Marineland, Florida. Once again Tina was coming to visit while the boat was tied up in a marina, this time Puerto Del Rey, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Del Rey is where we stored the boat at the end of last season and it is a mammoth operation with over a thousand wet slips and countless storage space for sail and power boats. Below is a panorama of the wet slip area as it is too big to fit into one normal picture.
In the end, the fact the dog was delayed in coming to the boat was a blessing in disguise as it eliminated one factor in trying to get the boat ready for the water. The inside of the boat survived very well again this year as there was minimal mold and no bad smells. The exterior was a different story to say the least. It seems our boat was the choice party spot of the birds around the boat storage area as can be seen in the pic below.
That is our normally clean cockpit and helm area after the birds partied on SeaSparrow for 7 months. If you are observant you will notice the little white thing which is the eggshell remnants of a hatching that took place God knows when. Although the boat was disgustingly dirty on the outside this is minor stuff that was rectified with a couple of days of heavy cleaning.
Dirt is an easy problem to solve, the real question that worries us when we return to the boat after an extended layup is which of our systems are still working? Boats are a funny thing in that although everything was working properly when you were last onboard things break even though no one has touched anything. After a week of hard labour I am pleased to say we were able to get everything onboard back up and running with minimal major issues. The biggest issue was the steering cable for our dinghy was seized and had to be replaced. After about a day of running around we managed to find a replacement and cable and get it installed correctly first time - a bit of a record whenever we do something for the first time.
The only other major issue that had to be dealt with related to our standing rigging. For those that don't know there are two types of rigging on a boat - running and standing. Running rigging are the halyards, line and sheets that are used to manage sails and need to be replaced on a fairly regular basis. Standing rigging consists of a series of steel cables that hold your mast up. A failure of this cabling system is catastrophic as the result is your mast falls over. Not a good scenario at anytime but when boats' demast it is usually at the worst time in rough seas and high winds. This event obviously creates major damage to the boat and can easily become life threatening. SeaSparrow is now over ten years old and that is the timeframe when a boat's standing rigging should be inspected to ensure a problem isn't lurking. People can be reluctant to have their rig fully inspected as this stuff is expensive - very expensive. In SeaSparrow's case, if the worst case result of the inspection occurred you are looking at around $12K to replace the entire standing rig. The problem comes when unscrupulous riggers tell boat owners that the entire rig needs to be replaced when in fact it doesn't. There are many stories of this occurring so as with any type of contractor work you need to get someone good and trustworthy. In our case we found just such a person in the form of "Quino" Sanchez. In the end we needed to replace two cables and add a couple of terminal extenders that permitted us to properly "tune" the rigging, which is a fancy way to say tighten. The rest of our rigging was deemed in good shape and we can now proceed with a much higher degree of confidence that SeaSparrow can handle what is thrown at her.
This is a pic of Quino and his apprentice Daniel working on our rigging. Appropriate picture of Quino as his phone rarely stops ringing which is a testament to the quality of his work and reputation. Quino and I got along very well during his work onboard as he is a big Patriots fan so we spent a long night together at the bar last weekend watching the football games. Quino may even make it to St Maarten this year and we have discussed putting SeaSparrow into the Heineken Regatta if he promises to sail with us as my right hand man - i.e. Quino whispers into my ear what to do as besides being a first class rigger, his real passion is racing and he has been flown around the world to race on other boats. Stayed tuned as the Heineken could be real interesting this year.
As always on SeaSparrow it is not all work and no play. Puerto Del Rey throws an annual party for boat owners and this isn't just a small get together. There are invites for about 1200 people and if you don't have one you don't get in. They construct something more than a tent and just less than a barn to hold the party complete with a pig roast, live bands and free drinks. Awesome party that must have cost a crazy amount of money but I guess that explains the high price of storage.
Following the party it was time to get down to business once again as we were back in the water on Friday, January 13th. Friday the 13th I know but all went well. We had final cleanup and system checks before we could leave the marina and one of those jobs was a rather dirty one of cleaning the bilges in each engine compartment. Normally this is one of my tasks but this year Debbie was keen to tackle this one so fully believing in equal rights for all I supported her in this endeavour by taking her picture. Save this one as I'm not sure she will be quite so keen next time.
We were able finish up with Quino on Wednesday the 25th and headed out of Puerto Del Rey on the 26th. After spending one night at Isla Palominos we made our way to Culebra where we are now anchored. This is one of our favourite spots and the weather has been beautiful - blue skies, light breeze, 85-90F. We managed to actually move the boat while Tina was onboard however, she has returned to the mainland via ferry today and will return home to Halifax on Tuesday morning. Tina was a great help in getting our "Year of the Dog" underway and of course she experienced the beanbag drink and photo before departing.
It has been a busy couple of weeks since we left so it is hard to capture everything in one blog. Piper has been doing great and has adapted well to the boat so far. She's been in for a swim most days and is losing the "What the Hell Are You Doing to Me" look that was very evident in the beginning. We plan to spend a few more days in Culebra then on to the USVI's, BVI's, St Maarten for Heineken Race Week, and Antigua for their Race Week and the Classic Race Week. We have many guests planned as we head east so it will be a busy Year of the Dog in SeaSparrow.
A final shot of the dog's life as it now exists.
SeaSparrow Musical Selection - Brave L'il Fighter - JJ Grey and the Mofro