The splash is imminent.

25th August 2023

Nanajuana Boat Yard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala – Shell Bay, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Deconstruction is quick, construction is slow. Buildings get knocked down in minutes but takes years to build, while computer code can be deleted in seconds after hours or days of thought and optimisation and Ruffian is no different. As we came ashore all those weeks ago she was taken to bits in no time and her reconstruction has taken so much longer.

Marking a new phase of Ruffian’s refit we felt a celebration was in order. This also happened to mark a big milestone in Fiona’s life, but as one never asks a lady her age we’ll not reveal it here. Instead of our usual fare of bargain basement burritos or cheerfully cheap tortillas where stained and dirty clothing attire is almost required, we headed off to somewhere all together more upmarket.

Greeted with tables dressed in white linen, waiters in funky outfits and a stylish welcoming proprietress/chef we could have been walking into into a restaurant in Mayfair or Convent Garden. This however was no urban city setting, as monkeys played the trees above us and crocodiles swum in the water around us, we were truly in the jungle.

Plate after plate of the most delectable cuisine flowed over the table with the ingredients having a vast array of food miles. The lobster ravioli’s could have been measured in meters as they were plucked from the river in front of us where they had the shrimp that sat in the carpaccio as neighbours. The miles vastly increased as bone marrow from Chile and steaks from Argentina delighted our pallets and started to send us into a protein coma. This felt like a fitting way to send Fiona into a new decade and Ruffian into a her reconstruction phase.

Back on Ruffian reconstruction started and every piece of construction turned into a science project. GPS’s that were simply unbolted from the solar arch now needed new cables reeving through the boat, connectors soldering and shielding. Solar panels that simply slipped off Ruffian, when they were refitted needed new holes drilling, new backing plates fabricating and then there was the fun of taking cables through the boat.

Where previously cables had just been pulled out they now needed feeding through impossibly tight holes, through lockers, along conduits and all while ensuring that no twists were introduced making the installation of more cables more difficult. When the cables then got to their terminus, time after time we found that the cables were either a smidgen not long enough and therefore needed re-reeving, or were too long and therefore needed, err, re-reeving.

Slowly all the electronics were installed and it was now time to hide their cables behind the headlining. In the enclosed, non ventilated space of wardrobes, lockers and cabinets Iain covered everything in spray adhesive. It was only after he started hallucinating that he read the instructions which expressly warned ‘Do not inhale. Do not use in enclosed spaces. Ensure good ventilation.’. This was solvent abuse on a massive scale.

Where the headlining wasn’t glued, it was screwed and this presented its very own challenges. We were now having to manoeuvrer pieces of plywood the size of the cabins in the cabins. To add to the challenge they had to be manoeuvred around cabinetry and window hatches, then lights had to be connected blindly where the wires were only just long enough and with no space for arms or fingers.

Ruffian was starting to feel complete and chaos started to be banished but in the banishing we had a nasty scary surprise. A cockroach was exposed to light, scuttled off and disappeared into the dark confines of Ruffian’s bilges. Where there was 1 cockroach there could be 1000’s and 1000’s and so we started hunting for the critters.

From front to back every locker was emptied, cleaned and searched for roaches. For hour after hour we toiled and sprayed ensuring that if any of the critters escaped then they’d soon find their end in the poison left behind. Nearing the stern of Ruffian we’d still not found any cockroaches, but did find a different infestation in our whole-wheat flour. Over the previous weeks where we’d not been making bread, weevils had hatched, eaten the flour and amazingly, sorted all the bran to the top of the jar, leaving the fine flour at the bottom.

On our final stretch we’d still not found any critters but we did find an unknown locker! This locker appeared on no spreadsheets, had no reference in any boat layout and inside it we found hand typed original Oceanlord manuals clearly untouched by hands since Ruffians construction in 1988!

Ruffian’s repair was nearing completion with the final jobs being ticked off, the final deliveries being made and construction reaching a joyous, but slow, conclusion. Suddenly instead of focussing on boat jobs we focussed on launch checklists which would ensure when we did splash Ruffian would float, water would be kept out and we’d successfully float away.

Right on cue, under Edgar’s watchful eye, Ruffian was hitched to the back of a tractor, lifted clear of her stands and started moving through the yard. We slowly backed into the water and all the hard work felt worthwhile. The hull was watertight and water gently beaded on the new paint, the solar arch was straight and upright, the davits were square and firm, while downstairs all the cracked cabinetry was gone. All our jobs* had made Ruffian seaworthy and ready to take on new oceans. We were home again and the construction complete.

* At this point we should mention that the insurance repair work done by Dry Dock at Nanajuana was exemplary. The metalwork top class, the fibreglass work top class, the paint job and final finishing really good. Other than the insurance work, the only job that we’d not completed ourselves, ie the engineers at Marina4x4, proved to be incomplete, shoddy and only through our extensive spares inventory, not disastrous.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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