Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Red Letter Day, sort of

It's been almost a month since the new engine arrived in the engine compartment. I'm sure if we had ever done this before, we could have moved more expeditiously. Carefully modelled (by Doug) and less carefully fabricated (by the machinist) motor mounts occupied more than a week of our time. The air has often been blue with aggravation.
Anyhow, the engine started on the first cranking and seems to run just fine. There's an odd noise from the transmission in reverse, more than a hum, less than a whine, but no rattle or clanking. None of the handful of 'dock doctors' could figure it out. We're coming to think 'bearing'. I'm sure we'll get used to the sound, especially if we keep moving forward.

We've almost reclaimed our living space from the cabinetry, tools, bottles of fluids and boxes of hoses. Good thing, because our visas don't have much longer to run and hurricane season's creeping this way. But we're still putting things back together, neatening up, restocking the boat, looking for Universal Red engine paint to repair some chain hoist dings, etc.

it's also been a couple weeks since we dispatched the rat down the river in its adhesive trap. That was Rat Number One. Rat Two was a wilier animal; he/she escaped the glue trap, did a rat-tail veronica with our expensive Victor Rat trap, and began to turn his nose up at peanut butter, in any location. What other bait is there?

No more anthropomorphism from me! This rat opened our foil packs of salsa and refried beans, gnawed at the floor under the fridge, shunned a full strip of fatty bacon, teased us by moving baits he didn't intend to eat. This rat caused us to stand rat watches, in case the glue trap took a hit, caused us to store our vulnerable foods in the oven and freezer and caused us to move our sails and extra lines out on deck. In steamy April Honduras, we sleep with hatches and ports closed or solidly screened, hardware cloth in the dorades, boards in the companionway.

We bought rat poison, warfarin, (can't use that word without thinking of my father, who I think was rather pleased to have his own blood thinned by so generic a product). But the rat turned its nose up at the pink pellets and at the green pellets.

So one day the taxista Javier. told me I needed the liquid poison. That's the 'dead within 2 feet' stuff I'd been looking for. But I didn't know to look in the pharmacy. First Javier bought me a syringe, (15 cents). Then, in another place, he got a little bottle of 'Rayo' $1.25 and indicated that at the first bite something would swell up in the rat's mouth and it would die. I should wear gloves, he said, and wash my hands. But I could wash out the syringe and use it for something else later on!

Everything I know about poisons I've learned from Agatha Christie. It takes only the tiniest bit to kill the vicar, the interloper, or the captain. Rayo's bottle has a skull-and-crossbones, and the indication to induce vomiting and get a stomach pump-out if it's ingested, but seemingly anyone could buy the stuff without any question. Vicars, interlopers and captains, beware!

And rats too. I've got a lifetime (!) supply of Rayo. Today the rat finally started to stink. It must have taken a tiny nibble of an injected Bimbo baguette as it moved it around the cockpit locker. The rat died aft of the cockpit lockers halfway to the propane locker, under a bag of dive gear. Doug grabbed its tail with the 'feely grabber' tool and swung it to the river. Tonight I'm going to sleep well for the first night in weeks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Rat Patrol

What do you feed your rat? We give ours peanut butter on Bimbo bread, on a china plate, as much as he wants. Reminds me a little of courtship: get the prospective spouse (see how carefully gender neutral I am?) used to the good life, and then, one night, spring the trap. Well, that's what's going to happen here in a couple hours.

A rat moved aboard in the midst of a rainstorm two nights ago. I saw it out off the corner of my eye, between me and the meat cleaver, and then it ran back towards the engine compartment. We were warned to button up tight at night, but of course, believing ourselves invulnerable, we didn't.

Rats on a boat are a sorry joke - they're said to eat wires as well as groceries, and if poisoned, may die and fester in unknown and inaccessible places. It only took the memory of my grandmother's Mercedes Benz, which lived near a cornfield in winter and was so badly colonized throughout by mice that it probably was junked despite its little-old-lady-low miles, to launch me into immediate action.

The weapon of choice was a poisonous instant killer,('they'll immediately die within 2 feet of the bait') but we couldn't find it anywhere in town. So we came home with a giant glue trap, 'peanut-butter scented', instead.

If I were marketing a rat trap like this, I would show a fiendish beast ripping open my chocolate bar, peeing on my potatoes, vandalizing my computer cable. Instead, the package shows a perky, winsome little fellow that I am expected to torture before killing. The Rats Rights League at work?

Right now, this not-quite-bushy-tailed raton is probably lying dreamily in his hammock, looking forward to his day, just like I do!

Meanwhile, the humanoids are strategizing their campaign, arguing about the placement of the Final Sandwich, contemplating the worst case scenario, selecting a coup de grace modestly less cruel and unusual than the tangled-foot torment envisioned by the trap manufacturer. Overhearing our debate, I think it's about time for us to get away from the dock.

UPDATE: The deed is done. The rat was the one who left the dock, not the humanoids. Raton was last seen in his well-caulked plastic barge, floating downstream; vessel not under command. We didn't need the 4x4 or the hammer, can re-use the second trap if necessary.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Red letter day -Beta!

After measuring the come-along (in Honduran Spanish, a 'senorita')against the engine compartment, I pedaled back to the ferreteria to exchange it for a fine Chinese 1-ton chain hoist.I also bought myself a crowbar. Then we scavenged the shipyard perimeter for strong-back and blocking materials. Doug cut some plywood to line the hull. Our strongback, a 4x4, needed some bracing, and so did the battery shelf which held up its starboard side. With this motley crew, we awkwardly inveigled the Westerbeke toward the companionway, then through the companionway. The biggest problem is that the companionway is not on the centerline of the boat where the shaft and engine are. The pros don't do it the way we did it! I don't know how you spent the first weekend of spring, but we surfaced on Sunday night looking like coal miners.

On Monday, the yard said 'no problema' to everything we asked, but in the end we towed our own selves around to the lift slip. Thanks to that delightful chain hoist, we didn't need the 'four strong men' who were supposed to physically lift the 500+ pounds out of the tiny space. Removing the hard dodger simplified matters significantly. The travel lift operator, the only English speaker in the crew, sent down his 'brazo' and we cranked the Westerbeke up and out with the chain hoist as the 'Hyster'(fork lift), moved the Beta into lift-off position.

Kind of like a baby arriving (as if I'd know!) via stork, the Beta flew in and slowly squeezed down the companionway. Our 'four strong men' in the cockpit echoed our 'arriba's and 'abajo's and the more urgent 'stop!'s to the lift operator. The Beta will be named Stan- if the name sticks - for Beta's US rep who has been a prince to deal with. Its first official act was to gush its very clean motor oil onto me. It sat on the first step while Doug unbolted a few more bits. We climbed in and out of the boat gracelessly through the forward hatch as we adapted to the new crewmember. The re-engining ceremony was accompanied by degreaser, a toilet brush and a toothbrush for buffing around the shaft log and stringers. White epoxy paint in the engine compartment would have been lovely, but let's be realistic!

Meanwhile, outside it's Semana Santa - Holy Week. The shipyard workers fled Wednesday at noon; Javier the taxista told me only the poor people like him had to work. Today we watched a lancha loading a dozen or more people, bags of groceries, bottles of water, a yapping dog, and a parrot in a cage, for a trip to the beach.
But we've also met people who are afraid to go to the beach - swine flu/gripa porcina still concerns them. I saw three security guards at a bank, dressed like storm troopers, but for their white surgical masks - didn't have the nerve to take the picture, though!

Next up - shaft alignment - woohoo!

I forgot to mention some clever engine shifting ideas I came across online. One was the use of a partially inflated basketball as a roller under the engine. The other was a long lever arm, which would have enabled a pivot point where there was plenty of headroom (in the companionway for example). Thanks to a French boat with deep lockers, we were able to upgrade our strongback to a 2 1/2" pipe with a 1 1/2"shaft inside; using the crowbar for leverage, the new engine is responding well.