Gee, where to start. We're still in Colorado and will be for maybe the next week or so. Sort of stuck really. We've toyed over the last few weeks about getting an "International Health Certificate" from the USDA for the kids(Blue & Snowshoe). I'd posted questions about it on two different websites--both cruisers related sites-and asked the question of do we really need it. Now these health certificates are geared to shipping animals to foreign countries more than having them on board with you as you cruise the world plus, they are only good for a 30 day period. Many of the answers we got back was that it was a rarity for anyone to even ask about pets when they checked in to another country. Some did, most did not and that a valid rabies certificate would normally keep everyone happy. In the end, we decided to go ahead and apply for one.
We took both our cats into our local vet and got their shots updated and started the application process. The vet had done it before and it had taken quite a bit of time(according to the receptionist) to get it(filling out the forms) done right(you know those government bureaucrats). We called the USDA to see about picking up the forms. "OH NO, we can't give you the forms, they have to be mailed to the vet and we need a list of what countries you are planning on visiting". Apparently, each country has its own set of regulations(not that they get enforced). So we made a list of the countries we "think" we will be visiting and then faxed it to the USDA from the vet's office. We sat down and waited--and waited --and waited for the return fax(God forbid they get in this century and simply email the forms)with all the assorted regulations for each country. One plus is that the vet has at least 25 cats that prowl around the office for us to play with. One plunked her self down in Tracy's lap and refused to budge. About 90 minutes later, the fax started us and out came the forms-page after page. We took them home to read and try and fill out. Some want rabies tags and that was about it. Not to many even mentioned the "International Health Certificate". Even though it is only good for a 30 day period, we decided to go ahead with it. Tis better to have it and not need it than to not have it and need it. We called the USDA as we had a question about the form. It is normally for shipping animals so there were boxes for the "consigner" and "consignee". As they live aboard. there would be no "consignee". After getting transferred three times, I finally ended back at the first person I had talked to that had started the transferring around the department. She put me on hold while she checked with the "Doctor" that inspects all the forms. The answer was to put our name in both boxes. How simple is that. So back we went to the vet with the decision made to only apply for the certificate for French Polynesia since they have the reputation to be the toughest. The 6 part form(still done with carbon paper no less) has to be faxed back to the USDA--oh--don't tear off the top copy of the form as it may invalidate the form. Off to the copy center to have it copied and back to the vet so they can fax it. It has to come from the vet--not us. Once the "copy" of the original was faxed, we left with the originals in hand to await the health certificates. When we got home(about 1605) we found a message on our answering machine that we had filled out the form wrong by putting our names in both the "consigner" and "consignee" boxes!! Yes, that's right, we did as instructed by them and we had done it wrong. As it was after 1600, the office was now closed for the weekend and we would have to wait till Monday(tomorrow) to get it all straightened out. Then there is the waiting time to get them processed and the call to come to their office with the "originals" to pay the fees and get the certificate. With luck we may be out of here by the end of next week.
I had a trailer hitch put on our car to make it easier to get everything back to Zephyr. We figure to load up everything in one of UHaul's small "Sport" trailers. It looks like an egg tipped on it's side on wheels. We've inspected them and it should allow us to take just about everything back all in the one trailer with hopefully little being crammed in the poor Mazda. There was no way we would get it all in the car. Renting the trailer from UHaul gives us a good perk that they throw in a free storage space at the end of the trip for a month. That will allow us to unload in Tucson and reload into the car the most important items we want and then come back in a week or so and get the rest. Having the car practically empty will make the kids much happier.
Yesterday, we both took our exam for getting our Ham license. We both passed with flying colors. It's a 35 question exam where you have to score at least a 75% to pass. Tracy got a 100% and I didn't bother to ask. Now there are three levels of Ham licenses--Technician(first), General(mid level) and Extra(top level). With Tracy getting a 100%, the proctors encouraged her to take the "General" exam. I begged off. She got about 1/3 of the answers right which was pretty good not having studied any of the requirements for that grade. We should receive our official license later this week and be good to transmit when we get back aboard. Tracy found a great website--Hamtestonline.com--for studying for the exam. If you are looking to get your license, we both can't recommend it enough.
We've even brought in a case(36 cans) of canned cheddar cheese as it is very tough to get any cheddar cheese once South of the border. It comes in cans just a bit larger than a tuna can. Mexico has lots of cheese, but nothing even comes close to a nice brick of cheddar. When ever we do find it, we get several packs and plunk them in the bottom of the frig. These at least don't have to be refrigerated which is a definite plus when out cruising.
So now we wait for the last of the things we have on order--sail stuff from Sailrite and our health certificate plus a few more odds and ends and we will be ready to go.
09/25/2010, Still in Colorado
Well, the procurement of parts continues with the living room getting fuller and fuller. We've purchased and downloaded new charts from Nobeltec and Garmin for our computer and our chart plotter so at least we will know where we are. Of course, the GPS doesn't always agree with the charts so we end up looking like we are aground some times on the screen while we sit quietly at anchor. It's not like the good old USA as far as charts go down South.
We are thinking of crossing to Tahiti next spring instead of simply going South from Panama towards Peru. Once we get back to Zephyr next month, after some more repairs and upgrades, we will be heading for the Baja to drop off some things to friends and then work our way South along the Baja coast till we make the leap across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan. Once there, we will head South to Puerto Vallarta. There, we will meet up with other sailors that await Spring for the leap across the "puddle". They(the local marina) has seminars on making the leap starting in late January that we will be attending. A magazine for sailors out of San Francisco(Latitude 38) puts together several seminars helping cruisers prepare for their journey. If we find people to go with(few sail the course alone)we will plan for the trip. If not, we will simply head farther South for Panama and see what it is like there. Perhaps making the leap from there. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the purchasing continues for more things to take back. We will probably have to ship somethings to Tucson and pick it up later after dropping off what is in the car in San Carlos. There is not going to be much room in the car for the cats.
09/10/2010, Miami Airport
Well, we're back in the good old USA after a fast cruise around Bahama.
We left last Monday afternoon and headed for Freeport in the Bahamas. A total of maybe 105 miles with lots of time to get there. Leaving port a 1700 and getting in at 0800 the next day was a bit of a stretch as to what speed he had to make to get there on time. Gee--Zephyr could have just about made it in the same time. He must have been motoring in circles all the way across! I forgot our little GPS so I couldn't track his course and speed. Same with going from Freeport to Nassau. May be 100 miles and lots of time to do it.
On Tuesday, we were delayed leaving port after one of the crew fell ill and needed medical attention. The Captain wasn't about to leave port till she was alright. We left about an hour late.
On Wednesday, we were notified that there had been a small fire down on the third deck. All was aright but they had to evacuated lots of people from the area. Later in the day(about 1500), as we sat in our cabin all the power went out just about throughout the boat. OOPS!!! We thought that maybe they had pulled out the extension cord on shore? Oh, that's right, we have our own generators. No lights--no air conditioners--NO FOOD! It took a good hour to get everything back on line and almost 40 minutes to just get lights back on. Being in an inside cabin, let me tell you it was BLACK in that room. Glad I'd just gotten out of the shower. We were delayed another hour that night to just make sure all was well before we headed out.
Thursday was spent at NCL's own private island--Great Stirrup Cay. Not a bad place but shade was at a premium.
All in all a nice trip. It was good to get away for some R & R instead of working around the house every day.
Now back home and back at getting everything in order or on order for our trip back to Zephyr next month.
I'll post some pictures and a video or two once we get home.
09/05/2010, Maimi, Florida
What's a sailor to do when he gets stuck on land for a while doing projects at home? You get back on the water on a cruise ship. That's right--Tracy and I are headed for Miami for a four day cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Ship Sky. We got a call a few weeks ago from Norwegian asking us if we would be interested in taking a very much discounted trip. Well we have been aboard Norwegian a time or two and since we were just about done fixing things around the house and I would be back from my diesel school in New Jersey, what the heck. Let's go!!
We've been off the water for the last three months and the call was to go back to the water again and hey--we'll even let them pamper us for a few days.
As I type this, we're sitting in a U.S. Airways jet headed for Miami after a nice flight to Charlotte. The beverage cart is getting wheeled down the aisle and we are raring to get back out there. Now this time the circumstances will be a bit different. No more getting up at 0 dark thirty to up the anchor and head out for another cove or hoping that the engine starts when you turn the key. This time, we will let someone else do it and we will sit back and enjoy ourselves.
We leave Miami on Monday afternoon for Freeport on Grand Bahama Island then over to Nassau on New Providence Island. The last day is at their private island of Grand Stirrup Cay for a bit of fun in the Sun, well maybe some rain. At least that is what is forecast for the next few days. I guess time will tell. We did pack some rain gear just incase but being sailors, what the heck, a bit of water won't hurt us.
Any way, that what we are up to so stay tuned for more of our little get away. I'll post some pictures as soon as I can.
I tried to upload some pictures of class, but I screwed it up and now I'm locked out of that ability. I'll try and get this problem corrected and get them up as soon as possible.
08/26/2010, Union, NJ
For those of you that have been following my blog, you might remember that I signed up for a diesel school in Newark, NJ. Well, I just finished my three day class and it was GREAT!!!
I set out for New Jersey on Monday to make sure I got here easily in time for class on Tuesday. Only one delay--getting out of Denver which almost made me miss my connection in Charlotte, NC. Got in to Newark, NJ and took a taxi to my hotel--Garden State Motor Lodge Motel a couple of miles from the school. Not the best, but nice and clean and off the BUSY Route 22 with all its trucks and cars. It's also $30.00 less per night than the Holiday Inn the school recommended. I skipped renting a car as I was going to be in class all day and at over $100 a day for the car, I could take taxis to the hotel($42.00) and the New Jersey Transit goes right past the school so for $1.50, they practically dropped me off at the front door in plenty of time for class. Our teacher(Larry Berlin) even dropped me off at the hotel after class each day. Larry has been with Mack Boring for 41 YEARS!! He knows his engines inside and out.
The first day, we covered the basics of diesel engines. There were six of us in class with 5 sailers and 1 power boater. As the class was geared to sailers, the power boater only stayed for the first day and is returning for the power boat class in October.
All of us brought our own owners manual and parts books. Now Mack Boring specializes in Yanmar engines but the class covers just about every type of engine which is why we all needed our own manuals. We were each referring to them all through each of the classes. The classroom has at least 8 different models(from a single cylinder engine to a 6 cylinder model) We covered EVERYTHING on the engine(part by part) the first day with lots of question and answer sessions. Only one of the students had a Yanmar engine, but what the heck, a diesel engine is a diesel engine. The cases and arrangement of the different things on the engines may look different, but an engine is an engine. While I have taken at least two beginner classes while in Washington state and have lived aboard our boat for the last two years, I still learned a lot not only during the first day but lots more during the second two days.
During the last two days(class getting up close and dirty with an engine) we took off the raw water pump, as well as the fresh water pump. On to the heat exchanger and on and on. Take it off, inspect what we had in our hands and put it back on all with Larry right there showing us what we had to work on and what to do to take it off and how to put it back on(the right way). Today, we took off injectors(plus he showed us how they work and what makes up an injector, as well as working on tightening the cylinder head bolts. On to adjusting the valves with wrenches and feeler gauges. Heck, I even got to wear long pants for the first time in almost 6 months.
For all of you out there that have a diesel engine and want not only a "how to" if you are feeling insecure about your engine or are new to this type of engines, I can't say enough nice things about this school. Now you can take one at the Annapolis School with it's two part school as a bigger price or take this two part class as back to back over just a three day period and get knowledge as well as nice and dirty digging into an engine that if you screw it up, what the heck, it's not your engine and Larry will show you what you did wrong. It's a win win school.
I've added a few pictures of the school and the classroom. If you have any question, please feel free to leave me a comment and I will get back with you.