When we first started cruising, Ryan and I noticed some distinct differences between Hideaway and the boats of experienced cruisers:
- Most boats had much larger anchors and much more chain than we did.
- 9 out of 10 boats had a Honda eu2000i generator on board. Yet we didn’t.
- Jerrycans on deck were a tell-tale sign of a cruising boat. But we didn’t have those, either.
We’d done our research before refitting Hideaway with the essentials for our long trip south, but it seems you can’t always anticipate every single need. Some things required a little “time on the water,” as they say, and rubbing elbows with other cruisers to figure out.
By the time we left Annapolis, we’d replaced our Danforth anchor and 20 feet of chain with a 44 lb. Rocna and 100 feet of chain. And we slept much better for it afterwards.
By the time we left Vero Beach, we realized our solar panel would never cover our power needs and we couldn’t rely on motoring every day to top up our batteries. We needed an efficient and reliable way to charge our batteries without exhausting our engine. So, after asking a dozen cruisers their opinion, we bought a Honda eu2000i generator in December and called it our Christmas present to ourselves.
The jerrycans, however, kept us wondering all the way to George Town, Bahamas. I suggested to Ryan a few times that we just strap a few jerrycans to our deck and figure out later why everyone has them. But he isn’t one to follow an example without questioning it. “Why would we need so much spare fuel when we’re never more than 24 hours away from a fuel dock?” he asked. Plus, we had three 5-gallon jerrycans in our lazarette, which seemed like plenty. Maybe all the other cruisers were preparing to do much longer ocean passages than we were?
When we pulled into George Town with no engine power, though, and we narrowed the possible problems down to a bad batch of fuel or a dirty tank, we finally realized what the jerrycans were for. Cruisers filled them up so they could filter their fuel before putting it in the tank. We hadn’t even considered this, since we were so used to clean fuel in the U.S. Whoops.
Luckily, though, with 300 boats anchored around us and an active cruisers net on the VHF every day at 8 o’clock, we got plenty of advice on how to deal with a dirty fuel tank.
First Ryan and I got down to changing our fuel filters – we have a primary Racor filter, which we could see had collected black crud, so this was a likely culprit for our loss of engine power. It was just unfortunate that changing our Racor required four hands and a great deal of cursing.
The next thing we did was drain the fuel out of our tank and filter it into jerrycans (Aha! So that’s what these things are for!). We weren’t exactly sure how to do this with the tools we had on board, so we were grateful when our friends on Moonshadow lent us their electric pump, a Baja filter and some advice on how to go about the process of cleaning the tank.
It was a learning experience, like every repair we’ve done so far. It’s just that the problem with “learning” while at anchor is that it requires pulling everything out of the innards of the boat and stacking it up in our living space until the project is finished. For about two days, our boat looked like it had vomited its guts into our lounge and cockpit, making me cranky and frustrated that there was nowhere to sit. Boat work has a way of making me see Hideaway as a tiny, claustrophobic life raft, rather than a compact but comfortable home.
The other problem with learning as you go is sometimes you’re nowhere near a West Marine when you realize you have a large and infinitely growing shopping list for parts and tools. And then the question is always (other than “Where will I find this stuff?”), “Where will we put it all?”
By the time we finished the fuel cleaning job, our scrawled wish list looked like this:
- Large Mr. Funnel fuel filter for diesel
- Small Mr. Funnel fuel filter for gas
- 10-micron Racor primary fuel filter x 10
- 2-micron Dahl secondary fuel filter x 10
- Star Brite Star Tron Enzyme Formula Tank Cleaner
- Star Brite Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment
- Replacement Facet electric fuel pump
And that was just the beginning. Once we decided we needed parts for our fuel system, the shopping list began to extend to things we needed for our continuing trip south, like:
- Pencil zincs for heat exchanger x 5
- Zincs for outboard engine x 2
- Impeller for outboard
- Spark plug for outboard x 2
- Garmin chip for the Caribbean (for our chart plotter)
- Maptech Region 10 paper charts for the Virgin Isles, Spanish V.I, Puerto Rico
- N.V. paper charts for the Leeward islands and Windward Islands
- Inline water filter replacement cartridges
- R.V. water filter (attaches to any water hose) x 3
- Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure (for leaks)
- Waterproof padlocks
- New polarized sunglasses (I cracked mine)
And the list continued to grow while we wondered how we’d get all this into the Bahamas without paying a fortune in shipping and taxes.
Then Ryan had an idea. We could use our air miles to fly one of us back to Fort Lauderdale, fill up a shopping cart at West Marine, and use our cruising permit to exempt us from paying the 40% import tax on our already expensive shopping list.
And with the boat looking like it had been tipped upside down, shaken, then turned right side up again, I barely hesitated before blurting out, “I’ll go!”
Problem solved. Fort Lauderdale, here I cooooome!