08 September 2007 | Espiritu Santo, Pearl Islands, Panama
Yesterday was a bit of a work day as we had a fair amount of small projects to stay on top of. It was a fairly cloudy day with little light, so we figured it was only appropriate. We did venture into a nearby river and explore the area, but the majority of the day was devoted to work. I sharpened the large gaff, which took a nice edge and turned out splendid, filed down every sharp aluminum edge on the solar panel frames (which could have left a healthy mark on someone's head), helped re-lubricate the autopilot (which consisted of me handing Chris paper towels), cleaned a stanchion that needed to be remounted (a crazy Panamanian pilot boat in the canal gave us a little kiss as it picked up the pilot and bent it), and best of all, began the major undertaking of cleaning the latches on all the cabinet doors down below.
Swan yachts are engineered exceedingly well, using all the best materials, parts, and ideas. They are built for speed, safety, and durability, which means everything on the boat is exceptionally rugged, strong, and complexly built. Swan took as much pride in engineering and constructing the latches on the cabinet doors as they did the mast, which I think is quite commendable, but possibly overkill at the end of the day. Each latch contains 11 separate parts, all of which assemble and disassemble with two tiny screwdrivers (Flathead and Phillips) and an Allen wrench the size of a toothpick. I was unaware they made Allen wrenches this small, although was not surprised when Chris had two separate sets, metric and standard. Chris disassembled the fist latch as a demonstrative effort, which turned out almost comical to me, although I kept the giggles to myself. Working like a person on a backed-up assembly line, he hurriedly unscrewed this and pulled that until two tiny springs flew up in the air and landed on the table with the other scattered parts. "So there you go", Chris said. Okay great, now I have 11 miniature parts lying in front of me, all of which are foreign to me, and built in a country where they speak Finnish, a complex, blended, and garbled language, similar to the latches. If you haven't heard the odd sounds and pronunciations of Finnish, you are simply missing out. Of the 11 parts, are 3 screws, plastic brackets, two small and uncooperative springs, plastic clips, and numerous other thingamijiggers. The latches have a small piece of chrome on the front that is susceptible to corrosion, like everything else onboard. The moist and salty air of the sea works its way into the small nooks and crannies, grows a caked white and green crystalline matter, and binds it to the chrome with one of nature's greatest forces, corrosion. Corrosion is most beautifully displayed on boats, especially on boats that sit in salt water the majority of their lives. Anyone that claims stainless steel is rustproof is a poor victim of fallacy, me being the perfect example. Isn't this puppy stainless steel? I give the piece a little rub-a-dub with my thumb and look closely. Man, how is this stuff rusting? I am so naïve.
Corrosion has been redefined to me over the past several weeks. Described plainly and simply, EVERYTHING on a boat corrodes, it is simply a matter of time when it corrodes, and had badly. The trick is staying on top of everything, cleaning and replacing as needed. Fighting corrosion in a corrosive environment is an uphill battle and can be discouraging at times. However, admiring the shine of freshly cleaned and polished stainless steel is rewarding to me, especially when my hands made it that way. For instance, the BBQ mounted on the transom shines brilliantly in the bright sunlight, reflecting the strong rays of light. I appreciate its luster every time I fire it up and cook our day's catch.
I cleaned the corroded chrome piece with Brasso cleaner, fine brass wool, and a rag, then blankly stared at the 11 unassembled pieces in front of me. Each piece of the latch puzzle has a specific function and can be put together 11 separate ways, which brought the different combinations of assembly to about 11 trillion, if my math serves me right. I figured I'd attempt to dissemble one on my own and study the various parts and actions as they came apart. By lunchtime I figured out how the damn things worked and cursed the Finnish engineers and their funny sounding language. Much to my mental insanity, Cisnecito is equipped with 46 of these bad boys, all of which have a bit of corrosion, and need a little sprucing. I tackled 17 yesterday afternoon and can't wait for the opportunity to clean the other 29.
We had a bit of a run-in with Zeus just around dinner time and ate left over chicken in the dark, gawking at the lightening surrounding us. Chris shot some video of the storm, while I decided to refrain in fear of pissing him off. The storm lasted the majority of the evening and I went to bed, with my feet about 6 inches from 300 feet of chain (the anchor locker is directly in front of my bed). I realize Zeus' power and strength, but wondered if he truly had the ability to send a lighting bolt down the mast, through 300 feet of chain, across 6 inches of airspace, and onto my tanned and dinged-up feet. While I don't doubt his abilities, he fortunately spared me last night as I awoke with a beating and vibrant heart the very next morning. Ahh, nothing like cheating death in your sleep.