070503; 1331 UTC,
Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, La Libertad, Ecuador
S 02 degrees 12.91' / W 080 degrees 55.24’
We have passed the first month of our boatyard sentence here at Puerto Lucia in La Libertad, Ecuador and it seems, some days, endless. On the most frustrating days when it appears little has being accomplished, we feel a sense of desperation as our livable cabin area continues to shrink, our cabin is hot-sealed each day to reduce dust and dirt-and boat pieces continue to be stripped off of our lovely Carina. We are doing our dishes from a bucket at a faucet nearby and showering at the marina. We negotiated to rent a pair of old but serviceable mountain bikes, left to a local marinero by a cruiser, so we are able to get around town for basic supplies without using taxis. Jake isn't particularly happy about the disruptions and is being a brat, having discovered a means of roaming by jumping from the boat onto a mast of another vessel that is lying next to Carina's stern. (We've put a stop to that!) Eventually, and for about a week, we will be forced to leave our home and seek other accommodations while layers of paint are being sprayed. We have investigated a number of small hotels nearby and after a bit of negotiation concerning "el gato problemo", settled on a selection up the street where, for $25 per night, we can get a clean, air conditioned "suite" with a refrigerator and small hotplate.
Until recently the professional crew we have hired has been otherwise occupied working on other vessels, so we have worked on Carina ourselves from breakfast to supper, seven days a week. We pulled off our chain plates fore and aft, which for you non-sailors, are critical straps bolted to the hull that hold up the mast. The fore chain plate assembly is a massive, thirty pound, single unit that combines the fore chain plate, stem fitting for the fore sail, and bow roller for our primary anchor. During the chain plate removal process we suffered quite a bit of chipping damage to the gel coat surface on the hull, but damage or not, it turned out to be prudent to remove the chain plates and inspect them as it appears our aft chain plates must be replaced due to stress fissure cracks in the stainless steel. Since no 316 grade stainless steel is available in Ecuador, we are forced to import raw 316 grade stainless steel stock from the US and fabricate the steel into chain plates here in Ecuador. With shipping, customs fees, taxes, license and gratuities and (possibly) small bribes, we may easily double the basic cost of the steel.
We've also stripped, of paint and varnish and stain, and then sanded every bit of teak and sealed it again with two new coats of varnish. The new varnish is to prevent paint overspray from getting into the pores of the teak while the hull, deck and cabin are painted with a two-part, linear polyurethane paint. After painting, we will apply an additional eight coats of varnish and then try to maintain it with a new coat every 4-6 months or so. We've pulled our handrails, the smokestack of our heater (which hasn't been used in years), pulled up our stainless steel deck prism plates, removed the stainless steel portlight (window) plates from all 10 portlights, wiggled our instruments away from the bulkheads, and stripped off most hardware.
During the past week, work by the local professional crew has accelerated and our optimistic moods surface more regularly. Each day, a team of cheerful young men, dressed in long sleeves, long pants, socks and wearing t-shirts engulfing their heads (showing only their eyes), and looking a bit like Middle Eastern terrorists, climb our ladder and sand and fair every square inch of Carina with tiny pieces of sandpaper - and intense concentration-for eight hours per day. This is in preparation for painting. Our mainsail boom is now suspended on its topping lift and wrapped in bright white plastic stabilized by halyards and looks a bit like a broken limb encased in a cast. A few recalcitrant parts (that could not otherwise have been repaired) have been forcibly removed from Carina through power tool surgery, leaving blemishes for the diligent ding repair team. The supervisor of this amazing team is Nico, who is a tall, angular man with coffee colored skin, a pointy chin and a smile that radiates warmth. Nico is popular and intense and you hear his name being called across the yard many times per day as the team communicates from boat to boat across the concrete and over the sound of the afternoon onshore westerly wind as it whistles and moans in the spars and rigging.
Our temporary home, La Libertad, is the working class sister to neighboring beach resort Salinas, and as such offers, particularly along it's chaotic dusty main highway, dozens of tallers (workshops), ferreterias (hardware stores) and oddly, vulanizadoras that sell and repair used tires from almost invariably sagging, brightly-painted wooden shacks. Right up the street from the marina is the El Paseo Mall, with a Walmart-ish superstore of basic hardware, groceries and sundries. Here, you can buy anything from mangos to motorcycles. Incongruously, to reach this thoroughly modern mall, you pass a public beach where men in antique wooden pangas paddle away from the beach with long nets and slowly surround schools of foot long fish. Afterwards, a team of men drag these enormous nets, hand-over-hand style to the beach. Then, couriers on bicycles attach strings of gilled fish to their handlebars and pedal through town to the local mercado de mariscos. This mercado is only a short bike ride away in downtown La Libertad, where in the sprawling market area a slow moving mass of humanity squeezes through a maze of tiny streets filled with hundreds of tiny shops, kiosks or walking tiendas. Standing along the curbs are men or women who hang their goods from their outstretched arms, hawking toilet paper, disposable razors, bras, etc. Pedicabs, bicycles modified to carry loads of materials, slowly squeeze and weave through the crowds; cars and buses, loaded with bright gold, newly-plucked chickens-complete with feet-crates of whole fish or potatoes and stalks of plantains. Amongst this maze of narrow streets, is a large open-sided market building entirely dedicated to mariscos (seafood), while a second and larger building houses separate stands selling fruits such as strawberries, achitolla, chirimoya, maracuya (passion fruit), pitahaya and tiny sweet finger bananas, plus herbs, vegetables, pirate CDs, thrift shop clothing and a plethora of plastic junk or as Philip calls it, "CPS" (Cheap Plastic...Stuff).
Here at the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, weekends swell the resident condominium population and power boats (many which are put into the water each week by Travelift for the benefit of their wealthy owners) race into and out of the blind entrance to the small yacht basin, nearly colliding with jet skis, sea kayaks, lasers and the tiny fleets of "Escuela Puerto Lucia" Optimists (sailing dinghies), piloted by enthusiastic child captains. The cruiser's lounge, where three computers allow internet access, becomes home to waves of fast moving teens who arrive by overloaded ATVs and instant-message dozens of their friends while giggling and talking with each other in rapid fire Spanish. Sport fishing boats roar away to fish out in the Humboldt Current that sweeps close to shore here, and arrive back at dock in the early evening with truckloads of large game fish-tuna, marlin, dorado- that they sell to local vendors who arrive in pick up trucks, and distribute amongst the marina employees. By Sunday evening, the place empties out, and those here in the boatyard seem to be the sole residents of this sprawling complex, at least until the next weekend arrives and things, once again, get livelier.
We hope soon to be again cruising but "when?" is the question we ask ourselves each day. When our projects are completed, we will splash and move on up Ecuador's coast until reaching Bahía de Caraquez from where we hope to launch other inland travel excursions.
Sus amigos del velero Carina,
Leslie, Philip and el gato diablo, Jake