The crack has simply disappeared.

14th August 2023

Nanajuana Boat Yard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

Most people have structure to their lives. Daily routines where everything is ordered rule, lists are created and ticked off in order while the world ticks along, nothing unexpected happens. On Ruffian we’ve come to expect the unexpected with some surprises being welcome and others less so.

With a new week of work dawning we found a totally unwelcome and unexpected job waiting for us on Ruffian. Opening the hatch a smell erupted from Ruffian that would usually be found in a sewage works. This was perplexing as no (solid) smells had been created on Ruffian in weeks and all the pipes that transport such waste off Ruffian had just been replaced, but the smell was there, it was overpowering and threatened to envelop the whole boat yard once released.

Pulling up the floorboards our worst fears were realised. Instead of being greeted with bilges that were as clean as dinner plates we found a swirling mess of brown liquid complete with nasty lighter brown floaty bits and then it dawned on us. This wasn’t recent sewage, this could almost be considered antique barrel aged vintage sewage.

Ruffian is setup so that her anchor locker drains into the holding tank. This is great as we don’t get rusty streaks down the hull however as the weeks went on the holding tank had been filling up with rainwater and mixing with its noxious contents. The week before when Iain had removed the pipes awaiting for the installation of a new seacock and the weekend rain simply filled the bilges via the anchor locker and through the holding tank. We* now had the unexpected job of mopping up litres of poopy water from the bilge and emptying the holding tank cup, by brown sloppy cup.

As all this brown sludgy mess was removed the air become thick with the pungent smell and Iain wasn’t fairing much better. With each bucketful Iain couldn’t avoid the occasional splash and so when Fiona finally returned from her critical admin, hugs were not on the agenda and she really wasn’t going to appreciate the gifts that Iain had lined up for her.

Returning home the unexpected continued and this time Fiona was going to be on the wrong end. After a hard day on Ruffian she sat down for her evening constitution and found that she wasn’t alone in her ablutions. Innocently watching her through 8 pairs of shiny black eyes was a huge hairy tarantula. She lept off the loo and exited the little room, knickers around her ankles, shorts an afterthought and screaming like a banshee. Terrance (as he was going to be known as) took this all in his stride as he just sat and watched and wondered where the next meal was going to be coming from.

Bravely coming to Fiona’s aid Iain was armed with the most manly of tools; a dustpan and a pint glass. The friendly Terrance complied, wandered onto the pan, happily sat under his glass home and looked forward to being re homed outside. Here he could wait for morning and scare Fiona all over again.

Outside the work on Ruffian was progressing with exacting execution. There was more sanding, more filling and more fairing. Decals were applied, stanchions were installed and decks painted. Rubbing stakes could then be screwed on and the toe rails attached to the deck. With the final screws being put in place we were expecting the outside of Ruffian to be nearly finished but we never expected the fix to be barely visible, never expected the work to be so seamless and never expected the skilled craftsmen to simply take all this all in their stride.

Inside Ruffian we continued with our jobs and once again we were we were trying to keep water out of the boat. For the past 2 years and 10k miles we’ve been trying to find a leak in the aft cabin and we were now nearing our quarry. With one last dousing of rain we zerod in on the drip in the most difficult of places. Our leak was coming from the nut that secured the pushpit which was totally inaccessible, next to a wall, on a headlining junction and hidden inside a locker.

We could only get to it if we had double jointed arms, necks that were 3 feet long and shoulders that were mere inches wide. In the absence of these genetic deformities we instead opted for a hole saw, a reciprocating saw and a whole heap of bravery. Within minutes the offending bolt was accessible, undone, cleaned, covered in sika and resealed. A job that had been waiting 2 years was complete in 2 hours; what a big unexpected bonus.

So while coming to expect the unexpected on Ruffian were living both the highs and lows that they bring. Nothing seems to have been routine or mundane but that long list of ours is getting ticked off and order is slowly being restored on the fine ship.

* The word ‘we’ is used in the sense that Fiona suddenly had some critical off-boat admin to do and she knew that this would be a job that Iain would literally revel in.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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