Tackling Projects in Curaçao

First thing after getting back from Klein, we turned our attention to the dinghy engine. It had been acting up a bit, so it was time for a carburetor cleaning and an oil change, plus a little bit of skin care for the humans.

Since the negative post snapped off our alternator in Bonaire (after only 20 hours on our brand new Balmar), it’s been a bit of a saga. We’d managed to get that repaired, but in the process the technician destroyed the internal regulator. We had a spare, and got a different technician to put that in, but they managed to destroy that one as well. The day before our friends arrived from California, we’d bummed a ride to a specialist, who diagnosed these dead regulators, and swapped in another one he’d had on hand. At this point, the alternator worked, but only partly: it would only turn on when the battery voltage dropped below twelve volts. Some back and forth with Balmar revealed that the part he’d installed wouldn’t work, and we’d have to order a replacement from the US. We figured we should do this in Curacao, since at least here we had access to a technician who could put the part in without destroying it. So we placed the order, which meant we would have to stay a couple more weeks.

With all that time, we figured we could do some other projects as well! Our brand new autopilot system had been sitting on the front bed for several months, waiting for us to find a hydraulic shop that could make us the hoses we needed. We called up The Hydro Shop, promisingly located right by the biggest marina, and the guy there assured us that he had all the parts we needed. We emailed him with all the specs, just to confirm, and he said yeah, of course, just come into the shop, it’s a 30 minute job. So we arranged a rental car, and called a final time. He promised the parts the next morning, he just needed pictures of the fittings to be absolutely sure. This would require us to take our system apart and drain the hoses, leaving us without steering until the new system was in, but hey, he had the parts.

So we took it apart, took all the measurements, and came into the shop to find he wasn’t in at all that Friday morning. After leaving us hanging over the weekend, he informed us that actually he didn’t have any of the fittings or hose sizes we needed, that he was sure nobody else on the island did either, and that he would get back to us with a quote to order them – but no worries, it’ll ship fast, maybe ten business days. We’re still waiting for that quote. The best thing we can say about that shop is that they have a great slogan on their table.

After quite a bit of driving around between different shops, we eventually got a recommendation from a guy at Budget Marine to check out a place called GISS. They had the fittings we needed, and were able to make our hose assemblies with just a few more adapters than we’d originally planned. Here’s Andrew returning victorious from the hunt.

With the hoses in hand, we finally had everything we needed, so we pulled out the old parts and put in the new. The hydraulic bits are less exciting to look at, but here’s the new display going in, and all the old bits we took out. We were even able to find some other cruisers who could use the old parts as spares!

Of course, we put it all together, flushed hydraulic fluid through the system, and found that one of the NPT fittings leaked. So we took it apart, cleaned it, re-sealed it, waited for it to dry, flushed again… and it leaked again. After the third try, we swapped in a new fitting, and that seemed not to leak for a while, though the jury’s still out.

Our next “major” project was adding new cockpit lights. We’d ordered a couple of spools of LED lights and a dimmer in our USVI pallet, but hadn’t gotten round to attaching them, mainly because we didn’t have the right power adapter. After a thorough search of the local electronics stores, we were able to find one, though we had to cut off a cheap power adapter that came attached. So we ran a bunch of wires, stuck the lights on, plugged it all together with heat-shrink over the top, and sat back and marveled when it all worked the first time. We’re very happy with the result, as we should be since this is our third iteration of cockpit lighting. (Though it’s our first one plugged into our boat batteries.)

And still our parts hadn’t come, so we changed the oil, and serviced the winches, and spiced the ropes we’d bought in Bonaire into a new bridle for our anchor. Common theme: it’s simply too hot here to work with a shirt on.

Eventually our part did come in, and we took it back to the alternator shop. They fixed it, but they charged us for the labor and wouldn’t take back the old part. So, lukewarm recommendation for E&K: they may not know what they’re talking about, and they won’t take responsibility if they sell you the wrong part, but they can solder sensitive electronics without destroying them, and that puts them in the top place out of the three shops we’ve dealt with.