|John and I sat out the last three cold fronts that blew through West End, Roatan which ranged from mildly unpleasant to downright miserable, so when the last front was predicted to be a nasty one, bringing higher winds for a longer period, we cut and run. Well sort of........
I had just untied our lines from the mooring ball when the Captain called me, and I knew by the sound of his voice that it wasn’t good. “I have no steering”, he said, as he climbed down from the flybridge and attempted to steer from our downstairs nav station. Nada.
Steering with only the transmission shifters, one of which only works in reverse, he gradually worked our way against the stiff wind back to the mooring ball and we tied back up so he could investigate the problem. It turned out that the seal in the hydraulic steering pump up on the flybridge had broken. We had no choice but to stay where we were while we tried to replace the part.
John set out early the next morning and took the collectiva/taxi combination to French Harbour, where all the automotive repair businesses and boat yards are. He walked from one to another, checking for the part at 7-8 places with no success.
Not being new to the Island and knowing how slim the chances were of finding the part as a back up plan he had removed the T cable connector which joins the steering from upstairs and downstairs and was able to find someone to weld a piece into the opening for the flybridge steering cable, bypassing it so we could steer from downstairs. If we were lucky we would have time to still leave before the wind arrived because once it does there is NO leaving West End as the small cut in the reef becomes unnavigable.
Ten minutes after John returned the small T was back in place and a few minutes later we were on our way. We drove from downstairs until we rounded the end of the island and then climbed upstairs and set course for French Harbour, at which point the autopilot was steering the boat. We just sat there looking at the hole where the steering wheel usually is and laughed. I was so relieved to be on our way, I really DID NOT want to spend another few days living in a blender.
It was a nice change to be in French Harbour for a few days after two months in West End but after a few days I became anxious to return. My late life career at The Lighthouse Restaurant is on hold until they get busier, even here it seems that the global recession is being felt and I am without work. Oh well, it’s far more lucrative to write for a living than to work for Honduran wages, I’ve discovered so it’s probably just as well.
We have learned a lot from being surrounded constantly by sailboats and decided, at least for now, not to replace our generator. Instead we went out and bought our first solar panel, 75 watts, and hooked it up in a temporary position. While we were in French Harbour John bought some two by fours and material to install the panel on the roof of the flybridge so as to capture the sun for most of the day.
Even with the one panel on the deck as it is now we are amazed how efficient it is. On a sunny day, which most are, the one panel keeps our batteries charged. Of course we cannot use our stove/oven so for now we are cooking on a little propane Coleman stove and our bbq and keeping our eyes open for a gas stove that might fit where our electric stove is now. So we make toast in a frying pan and warm up leftovers in a frying pan, like the old days before microwaves and each day we become more and more like the sailors around us. We still run our decadent fridge/freezer and for hot water about once a day we run the engine.
We will hopefully add more solar panels in time, especially if we can find them here. It is so much quieter to sit with our morning coffee without the generator running, not to mention the savings on the diesel fuel required to run it for 3-4 hours every day.
I am patiently waiting for the new screen for my laptop to arrive on the island so it can be installed, and today we ordered the seal for the steering pump. It seems to be the constant challenge with this lifestyle, repairing or replacing things. Then again I suppose that if you took everything in your house and shook it around and banged it up and down over waves and exposed it to the salt air........ comes with living on a boat.
You know what BOAT stands for? Bring Out Another Thousand!