Monday, November 17, 2014

Home Improvement Projects

We are rapidly crossing off items on our to-do list.  We hope to have them all finished by the time we leave for the Galapagos, but if you've ever lived on a boat, it seems that every time one thing gets completed, there are a few more that have been added.

For once, we had a really fun project to do, not like cleaning the hoses for the head, or changing the oil in the engine, or repairing a sail cover by hand.  This one had me gleefully rubbing my hands together with visions of happy hours dancing around in my head.

A few years ago, I happened to notice that when reaching for a can of club soda, or a coke, or anything that was fizzy and in an aluminum can, I had a 50/50 chance of actually pulling out a can that had something in it.  The combination of salty air, and an ever decreasing thickness of aluminum in making the cans, caused pinholes to develop, allowing the liquid inside to seep out.  Not so bad with club soda, but anything that might have a syrup base was a royal mess, as I had to clean up the goozing remnants.  The cleaning pissed me off, but even more so was the thought of the money wasted, and all the squandered effort it took to get cans of tonic, sprite, and soda onto the boat.  "There has to be a solution...", I said to Ron.  "I hate cleaning to begin with, but combining it with a reduction in my fun during happy hour.....NOT GONNA HAPPEN."

I began researching Soda Streams, but the proprietary gas bottles and fittings made them an option not worth considering, due to us not being in the states.  I needed something that I could use around the world and that could be adapted to wherever we happened to find ourselves.  A bit of googling came up with this link.... and we were away.

Now it is a bit technical, but if you are relatively savvy, you can decipher what you need and adapt.  I wasn't too interested in some of the more homemade aspects of this build, and as long as we were going to do it, we'd do it right.  Nothing worse than going to all the effort and then not having it last (seems this happens constantly on a boat, tho).

The regulator, on/off switch and carbonater cap fittings were purchased from Amazon months ago and I brought them back with me during a parts run to the states.  A couple bottles of tonic and lemon/lime syrup also found their way into my suitcase.  The tank, being so heavy and bulky, we thought we'd just buy in Panama while we were there.  Think again!  Heading to Ecuador months later, didn't fill us with hope either.  In the end, we solved it when another cruising friend had to go to the states for a bit of business, and offered to bring a new 5 pound tank back with him.  The critical factor in getting it back here, was to convince TSA that it was empty, and this was only possible with the valve not being attached.  After 2 weeks of fighting, I finally got a great company to provide me with the valve separate from the tank, and a month later, I was cradling my shiny new aluminum tank like a baby.  The process was about as difficult as childbirth, and it did in fact last for 9 months from conception to fruition.   

The location we chose to store the tank was in a cupboard used by the trashcan.  Ron was able to fashion a cutout from the existing shelf, which he then fiberglassed onto the hull, making for a level stand.  The strap will always be in place, due to heeling or swells.  

The process:

The "Ingredients"
Mmm, looking a bit rough
White paint fixes EVERYTHIING
Ready to roll - cocktails anyone?
With tank in hand we walked to the local fire department, told them what we needed, and $25 later, we had it filled with CO2.

Who wants a white wine spritzer?  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Don't live on a boat, if you don't like to work

Just because we are ready to head off to the Galapagos, doesn't mean that we don't still work on the boat.  This 'living on a boat' business is a lot of work, as it seems something is always breaking.  A friend of ours, on another boat here in Bahia, had an unexpected trip back to the states, so all of his fellow boaters took the opportunity to have a Christmas Run.  He stood back and proceeded to watch package after package after package arrive from all points around "the land of plenty" (also known as the US of A).  His only job was to unpackage everything, put it all in Salvation Army type suitcases, and make it through customs without getting dinged too bad.  He was able, through sheer charm, to make it through only having to pay $260 (on over $8000 worth of goods).  We are all dancing the happy dance, although what the goodies mean is that the work begins.  Thanks to Kim on're a lifesaver!

I had safety gear ordered, in the form of new parts for our stove and oven.  Flames had been shooting out of holes not intended for fire, and I was sure that this wasn't safe.  Three new burners for the stovetop, and one for the oven, in addition to a new liner for the inner door arrived in our shipment.  When rust has eaten away bits of the door, and insulation stuffing begins to be seen, it can't be good.  With everything put back to together again, and working perfectly, I felt compelled to clean the rest of the unit.  Babysteps, babysteps, people.

Pretty and shiny new burners
My life is reduced to blogging about oven door liners - pathetic!
Our freezer has also gotten a facelift with new fibreglass in the corners (after 2 months of not being used, it finally stopped weeping water, so there was obviously a leak somewhere), and a new bright, white, glossy paintjob.  The better to see the "yuck" that is sure to bleed out of meat packages in the upcoming months.

Ron got a new alternator, and yes....MORE generator parts.  By now, after close to 5 years of replacing parts, we must have a new generator.  It actually HAS been working well these last few weeks, so we hate to jinx it, but the oily smoke that discolours the hull has got to go.  I'm tired of cleaning that too.

What else....?  Thanks to my mum, I can now cook meals again with some flavour and spice.  Ecuador (and Panama for that matter) don't ascribe to the spicy food movement.  There isn't a bottle of chili powder anywhere in this country, although I have found cayenne.  A fragrant bag full of 5 different chile powders, plus fennel, and celery in North America spoils one for "stuff".  There is so much stuff there, that it's hard to erase the ability to buy what you want from your memory, let alone just sufficing for what you need.

Ron has been promising to make me a knock-off Soda Stream system.  The last time I came back from the states I brought everything with me to make carbonated drinks with the exception of the canister that holds the CO2 gas.  Try buying one here!!!!  Not a chance.  So when Kim delivered a 5-lb tank and it was handed over to me, I cradled it like a baby.  I can now have white wine spritzers again, without paying $1 for a small can of club soda.  It's the small things that make me happy. Yes, I know it'll take a while to have it pay for itself, but nowadays, the aluminum is so thin in making cans, that with the constant movement of the boat and the salt air, pin holes are worn into the cans and you end up with lockers full of sticky syrup from soft drinks, not to mention the waste of money.  A couple of bottles of lemon lime and tonic syrup, and we are back in the cocktail hour business again.

I've sent a few emails to the French Embassy, but the visas are not back yet.  In 2 weeks, it'll have been 8 weeks since we applied, so bummer, it looks like we've time for more projects.

Now, about that wine spritzer.....