Projects in Santa Marta

Knowing that Villa would be parked in a marina for at least a couple of weeks meant that we could commit to some projects. But before anything else, we had a project to do ourselves: being in the marina meant that we would have to keep the windows closed to contain the Cat-ptain, so we needed a way to manage Santa Marta’s sweltering heat. We’d done this before, in Brunswick, but finding the materials was slightly more complicated in Santa Marta. Our neighbors had the setup we wanted to build, though, which meant it was possible. And so Jazz got it done, and we were air conditioned by day three. The hood went through a couple more iterations before we were satisfied with the flow, and then stayed with us through our yard time in Cartagena before finding a new home in Panama. But that’s another story.

Labor in Colombia is relatively cheap, so it made sense to offload some things we might have otherwise done ourselves. First up, we found a canvas guy, Rafael, who could make some new chaps. Our old ones had seen a few too many repairs, even before Dinkus got stuck under the dock in Bonaire and ripped them up further. Here’s Dinkus being carted away, and then the finished product back and parked safely on Villa’s davits. The difference between these and the first set is night and day: the guy in the DR had made chaps that technically fit, but had substandard material, ugly stitching, unsealed seams, and a number of design flaws. Most notably, they scooped water into the boat whenever we tried to plane (a rare event with a 6hp engine.) The new ones fit more snugly, have interior reinforcement in vinyl, and have removable patches in the places the davits rub. And the price was about the same. This is, hands down, the project we’re happiest about. (Even though the new engine cowl cover didn’t actually fit.)

We also asked Rafael about replacing the foam in our couch cushions, which were starting to sag under their relatively new covers. Fuzzy-brained from some returning-to-land colds, we figured we’d just fix the ones where we always end up sitting. But as we should have been able to predict, new foam is stiffer than old foam, so the repaired cushions didn’t line up nicely with the old ones, so we ended up getting the rest done as well. Andrew was immediately happier with the new cushions, while Jazz was slightly miffed that her feet didn’t touch the ground as well; hopefully a few months of break-in will resolve that.

We also got our freeboard waxed. Since Dinkus was off at the tailor’s, NautiLife loaned us their dinghy for a couple of days while the guys worked. Not a perfect job, as they basically skipped the waterline, and we had to explain an uncomfortable amount about how waxing works to “professionals”. But at least the end product was better than the start: you can see the difference in shine even without blowing up these before and after shots. We’d planned to haul out soon, and figured that this would give us enough protection for the couple of months until we could do a more thorough job on the hard.

Coming back from Minca, we had food poisoning, which led to some major sweating, and prompted us to wash our mattress toppers. It turns out that wringing foam out isn’t great for its structural integrity, so we went shopping for replacements. We were not successful. (If you’re visiting from the states with an extra suitcase…)

Not exactly “projects” per se, but a lot of times people ask us what we do all day. A lot of it’s boat work, but also, things that come easily in a house or apartment on land can be complicated. Did you want drinking water? The marina has water, but it’s not drinkable, so we had to arrange delivery of five-gallon bottles and pour them into our tanks. Laundry at the Santa Marta marina is easier than many places, as there are token-operated machines that mostly work, only a short walk down the dock. But drying delicates still takes up the whole cockpit; this is the view out the front door, our only exit from the boat, on laundry day (which was also post-dive day).

Also in this category, clothing management can be a project of its own. Here’s our warm-weather gear, broken out for our trip to Bogota, then washed, hang-dried, and vacuum-sealed again for safe, dry storage up front. “Just grab a jacket and let’s go” oh if only things were that easy.

When we bought Villa, she had a kind of shoddy repair, and over the past year it had grown uglier. The marina found a fiberglass guy for us, who chipped away the damaged material, filled it in with glass and polyester resin, and sprayed gelcoat over the top. We were pretty pleased with how the repair came out, though as usual the communication wasn’t great. We’d arrange a time for the worker to come, and we’d wait around, and nobody would show. Then we’d contact the yard manager, and get told “oh yeah, it looked like rain so they decided to come tomorrow instead.” Thanks for telling us! And then we’d have a conversation with the worker, and she’d email us a synopsis of that conversation three hours later. Yes, Karen (actual name), we were there, but what’s the status on our chain?

We also had the marina orchestrate getting our anchors and primary chain re-galvanized. This involved sending them off to a shop in Barranquilla with the appropriate hot-dip equipment and chain shaker. We were glad to have it done, but not as happy as we’d hoped with the result. Our Rocna had been in pretty bad shape, so maybe it’s understandable that the finish had some holes in it. But we found more unevenness in the chain than we’d have liked, and we were disappointed that the Mantus looked like someone had dragged it along concrete between the hot-dip and getting back to us. Working through the marina, and their absolutely useless yard manager, meant that we had very little recourse, though; in hindsight we wish we’d gone directly to the shop.

Karen at the yard told us that this would take one to two weeks. (She also promised she could find us materials for other projects, like starboard, which then never materialized…) We agreed to the quote, and the chain got picked up the next day. A week later we get radio silence. When we finally manage to make contact, she tells us it’s at the yard waiting for us, and we arrange a date for delivery, and clear our plans to be present. No chain arrives, and Karen is unreachable. Her assistant takes over, knows nothing about where the chain is, but promises it will be ready Monday. Well, we won’t be there Monday, but we agree on delivery for Wednesday, which of course doesn’t happen, but does delay our trip to Minca. We disappear on our several-week journey with the Hinks, during which time we manage to find out that our chain not only isn’t in Santa Marta, it hasn’t even been dipped yet. So we’d expected to leave Santa Marta on our return, but now we’re going to have to stay through Christmas. And of course, when we packed it up again, we neglected to run the chain through the windlass, and ended up with a bunch of twist which we would later have to work out at anchor. Thankfully we have a backup anchor and that chain hadn’t needed treatment. Somehow, three years in, we’re still making beginner mistakes, but our beautiful beginner-friendly boat rescues us every time. Messed up your windlass or anchor? Walk three feet to the left and there’s another fully redundant system. Villa, we love you.

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