Can you hear me now? Mole says no. dAs I sit down to begin this post, it’s blowing like stink which I understand is the expectation for the next several days at least.  We had hoped to head down to Guadalopue this week but with the very strong winds that will have to wait.

But, that’s only one of the reasons that we will have to stay put for a bit as “whack-a-mole”continues to rear his ugly head or “heads” as it were.   As I have written of late and more times than I can count, it seems that there always something to fix on a boat and sometimes the problems take years to develop and suddenly…up pops another mole.

Since installing the SSB from “old” Pandora onto our “new” Pandora, I have had nothing but problems with the reception on the unit.  It worked last season mostly and sort of on my way south this winter.  However, since being here in the Caribbean, the performance on the unit as gotten worse and worse.

Finally, about a month ago it got to a point that I wasn’t even able to communicate with anyone, even in the same harbor.  So much for “world wide” communications.  And, NO, you can not HEAR ME NOW.

I had someone look at the unit in St Martin and thought that it was fixed but nope.  So, now that I am here in Antigua, I decided to go to an electronics repair place and have things checked out once and for all.

So, here’s the deal.  On “old” Pandora, on occasion, when we were in some particularly heavy weather, I noticed a leak over the nav station, perhaps from a leaky deck fitting.   Unfortunately, and mostly unbeknownst to me (you tend to see what you want to see), some salt water dribbled into the control unit for the SSB which was mounted behind the instrument panel.   Well, it turns out that some salt water had gotten inside the unit and had done some major corrosion to the sensitive electronics.  The problem is that the corrosion was a progressive thing so the unit worked for several years, but not now.  When the repair guys took the unit to the shop and opened it up.  Not good…

So, no repair possible and now I need a new unit.  And, it’s going to cost several boat dollars.  Painful.  I know that I generally post photos of damaged or destroyed equipment, a sort of before and after deal.  However, in this case, the whole “before” thing is just to painful (read, expensive) and I don’t even want to put up any pictures.  You will just have to imagine “rust” and one of your favorite electronics thingies and you’ll have a pretty good feel for the whole deal.

Anyway, the part/parts are on order and will be here in a few days.  Ha!  It’s only boat dollars.

As you can imagine, yesterday was a painful as the extent of the damage became clear but I won’t share the blow by blow of the diagnostic process.  However, as they say,” it could have been a lot worse”, although it’s plenty painful.

While I was running the electronics guy/guys back and forth to Pandora in the dink to deal with the SSB, I spied a rigging company and stopped to talk to one of the guys.   I asked him if he’d be interested in teaching me and Brenda how to do soft shackles.   Yes, I know that your first reaction to such an opportunity is bound to be something like “Bob, Bob, I want to learn too!”.  Well, sorry but hold that thought for now.

So, at 17:00 yesterday I met Bishop the soft shackle expert at the dinghy dock, a very nice guy from Antigua Rigging, who had agreed to come out to Pandora and put on a “soft shackle thingy making class” for me and Brenda.

I took a sort of step-by-step series of photos of the process but believe me when I tell you that the final or stopper knot isn’t for sissies.  However, Brenda, with her deep history in fibers, caught on much faster than I did.   Sorry, but you moght not be able to look at the photos that follow and exclaim, “Bob, I get it. Now I know how to make soft shackles”.

First of all, a soft shackle is a short, spliced piece of high tech Dyneema yacht braid.  It’s very flexible, soft but stronger than steel.   used in many applications aboard where line must be very strong as well as UV resistant and also non abrading.    This sort of shackle has a loop in one end and a stopper knot on the other end.  The idea is to put the knot through the loop and tighten it up so that you can attach things to the shackle.   Dyneema braid is used in an application where the attachment point must be very strong but flexible.

First, perhaps I am getting ahead of myself but this is what we wanted to make.   On pandora I use these to attach temporary blocks to things as they are easy to attach and remove.  In particular, I use them to temporarily attach preventers and snatch blocks, lines that help manage the boom when we want to be able to control things in the event of a jybe when conditions are rough.   Anyway, just trust me, they are handy to have on board.

This is they…So, here’s our teacher Bishop, a lifelong resident of Antigua, beginning his lesson. with “Now, boys and girls, pay attention”.The first thing you do is to decide what size you want the finished product to be, say 12″ long and measure out four times that amount. Then you use a fid, or wire to pull one end of the line inside the line itself.   You end up with a loop at the end where you pulled the line into itself.
Then you take one end of the line and make a loop.
Then put another loop with the other end. Pull that end through the other loop,  Then you end up with something that looks like a pretzel. After that, well you just had to be there.  It’s not easy to explain but you put the lines through and through like some sort of demented snake or rabbit running in and out of a hole and around a tree…  Got it?  Don’t feel bad, I didn’t either.You pull it tight and put the knot end into the loop end and you have a soft shackle.    Remember the photo of what it looks like from earlier in the post?  Now, wasn’t that easy?  “Bob, your instructions suck.  I have not idea what you did after the first few moves”.  Not to worry, come to my SSCA Essex Summer Solstice event the weekend of June 17th and sign up to learn yourself.  We have Chuck Poindexter and yes, that’s his real name, from Sound Rigging Services who will be running a workshop so you can learn to make them yourself.

So, there you have it.  After a frustrating day spent listening to a loud sucking sound from my bank account because of a little salt water on the SSB that happened years ago, Brenda and I needed to actually accomplish something.  So, Bishop came to the rescue.

Now we know how to make soft shackles or in Brenda’s case, some very stylish and super strong bracelets.  You too can have a tiny bracelet that you can tow a large SUV out of a ditch with.  Handy, right?  She even made a “belt” for Pandora’s mascot, Louis.  Actually, it looks a little bit well, you know.  Oh Louis!Enough of that.

The other night, before we were feeling SSB poor, Brenda and I had dinner at Nelson’s Dock Yard.  It was beautiful.  While we had a cocktail a lovely little hummingbird entertained us.  Actually, is there any other type of humming bird han “little”.  Then he turned to face us and showed off his iridescent green head.  It looked like a beacon. The view from our table of the tiny harbor.
As the light faded, the place looked more and more beautiful. The restaurant was named Pillars after the pillars, remains of a building that once stood in the dockyard. After dinner we went for a walk through the boat yard.   It was a beautiful winter, Kimbe shirt sleeve evening.   “Bob, don’t rub it in.  We get it.  Warm and lovely”All and all, visiting Antigua has been wonderful if expensive from an SSB perspective at least and with the strong winds we won’t be going anywhere until things settle down a bit and the new SSB is installed.  I understand that it will arrive in Antigua within a few days.

However, I also need a special power supply to convert the 24 volts that my system has to the 12 volts that the SSB needs and that won’t come in until the end of the week, at least.   I won’t bore you with all that except that I really want the unit to work and that’s what I am told I need.

So, while we wait for “stuff” and weather, we will continue to explore the island and perhaps rent a car for a day or two.  As luck would have it, the electronics guy has a friend who rents cars.  Who knew?  I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until then, and in lieu of yet another sunrise photo, how about an amazing rainbow from early this morning.    I have to say that as photos go, this one “looks like a million bucks” or at least like way more than a few boat dollars.   Let’s hope that there’s a pot of gold at the end, we’ll need it.

So, for now, sans SSB, absoulely nobody can hear me at all.   Hopefully, with a new unit and a lot less “coin”, I’ll be able get an answer of “yes” when I key the mike and say…”can you hear me now?”

I guess it’s up to the mole…

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