Tuesday, November 17, 2015


At the end of last season, we left Ruyam II in water, docked at Secret Harbour Marina, Grenada, after securing a promise from the dockmaster to start the engines for a short while every month. We also asked our driver Richard to take a look once in a while and make sure the engines were operational.

Al was in constant contact with the marina and Richard, and everything was in order until it was time to come back. Richard sent a message in October, complaining about the starboard engine. Oh well, we were going to take care of it. It sounded like the age old problem with the starboard battery draining when not in use, and reviving after the port engine generating enough juice.

We arrived in Secret Harbour around 10:00 am on Tuesday, October 27th, 2015, after flying red-eye to Trinidad. We were very happy to eliminate staying the first night at a hotel, which was not possible when flying during the day.

Everything was great, there was a bit of a moisture inside, but nothing major. I also saw some dust on all the doors, inside and out, which was odd. I had never witnessed dust when Ruyam II was left on hard at Grenada Marine, in the middle of a ton of dust and mud. I reasoned that the dust must have come from the marina, undergoing some renovations close to where we were tied.

During the night and next morning, I heard some noises coming from all over. At first I thought water was dripping, but soon realized that the sound was like the one coming from popping bubble wrap. It was strange, but we had a lot to do, no time to dwell on it!

I cleaned our side of the boat, emptied our three huge duffle-bags, and settled in. After all the work inside, I took the last bag to the outside locker, where we also store the water hoses, fenders, plastic stools and some other odds and ends. There were some old suitcases which we wanted to discard, so I took one out, and saw some white worms wriggling on it.


Poor Al was busy with the dinghy engine alongside the handyman Devon. They both rushed to the bow, and after inspection Devon declared that we had termites. It was very interesting actually, the insects made tracs like highways from black, sand-like mud on the floor of the locker, as well as all around the top crevice. What's to be done?  Devon thought that the tracks were going under the water tanks, so we should dismantle the tanks to see where they were heading. That did not  seem like a good idea to me, and I thought we could find a bait or poison to get rid of the colony, like ants. So we took to the Internet, but what we found was quite disheartening, and outright scary. My spirits hit the floor, and I lost all interest in furhter clean-up.
Since we were hearing the clacking inside, which seem to be coming from the hulls, we started to think that they were eating away the wood of the hulls, sandwiched in the fibre-glass. As usual, we thought of the worst possible scenario, and almost got convinced that our boat was damaged irrecovarably, and we would have to leave it. That was such a heart-breaking moment! We literally could not think of any other thing that we would do, if Ruyam II was out of our hands.

However, we came to our senses and talked to some people and learned that there was a remedy, only in Trinidad mind you, which was guaranteed to deal with them. Stephan, the carpenter working at the marina, stongly urged us to make the trip to Trinidad. Stephan said that even if the procedure should cost US$10,000.- we should have it done, speaking from experience. But  he assured us that the insects would definitely be eliminated by the poisonous gas. Generally, the boat would be completely covered and sealed in a tent, and the gas would be applied to the inside under pressure.

We took to the Internet again, to find a company around Port of Spain, Trinidad. I dictated the telephone number of Trinidad and Tobaggo Pest Control (TTPC) to Al, and he immediately reached Luke to get an estimate. When Al explained what we had encountered, Luke  confirmed that he would make the tent on hard, and suggested we contact Peake Marina in Chaguaramas, Trinidad to make the arrangements to haul Ruyam II out. Luke's  ballpark estimate for the tent was US$2,000.-; hauling out, living off the boat at a hotel for at least 48 hours etc was to be extra. Who cares, as long as we could get there before it was too late.

In the meantime, Al was trying to find Mike, the mechanic to check the starboard engine. Al connected the portside starting battery, but was not able to start the engine. So he was convinced that the starter or something else was not functioning properly. We felt trapped, and were not sure about the integrity of the hulls to withstand the 14 hour journey to Trinidad.

The next day, we checked the other locker, where the anchor and some unused lines were stored. Despite being quite full of stuff, the presence of the insects there was more pronounced than the other locker. When I looked, the front of the locker was almost covered with mud. I refused to look at it, so Al went in, and started to pile the coils of lines on the trampoline. While I was inside, he discovered their main nest among one of the coils, and immediately threw it into the sea after tying the end of the line.

Later on I helped him to clean the mud from the locker, and dosed it with a lot of sea water, as well as break up the wooded partition between the anchor chain and the rest of the loker. When I threw the wood into the sea, I could see the insects floating away. Creepy!

However, the clacking sounds persisted, albeit somewhat subdued. We could not think of anything else, waiting for Mike to show up. He did come after two days (an eternity), and after tinkering with the engine a little, declared it to be perfectly operational. Starter was fine, nothing had to be changed, but he said that the engine choker was a bit stiff and hard to release. Al speculated that dockmaster and Richard must have tried to start the engine without fully releasing the choker, using up the battery (mistery solved).

Now that we were almost ready to sail, it was time to check the weather, and hoist the genoa etc. We got ready to sail overnight on Friday, November 5th., and sent out e mails to family and friends, got our clearance from Grenada, even prepared the sandwiches and tea, and sat to wait for the nasty rain to stop. It got worse instead. We had a window of an hour to get out of the harbour in daylight,  which is almost covered by reefes and we had passed through it six months previously the first time.

It is not advisable to attempt a blind passage as experience had taught us. Both of us decided to wait the night, and make the passage the next day. Al had to notify everybody, including Luke, and got a promise from him to check the boat on Saturday afternoon. I felt relieved that we would not be miserable trying to deal with the sails in the downpour. Sitting at the helm in the rain is also not very pleasent. As I have mentioned before, we are in this for enjoyment, and any preventable hardship is unwelcome. I guess we are getting old and not up to too much adventure (and proud of it).

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