Clean Bottoms In Between the Tides

When we were kids we used to run around for any possible reason and I guess that must be one the secrets why youngsters are always fit and limber. For us aging, graying and wrinkling folks the need to exercise has to be force-fed into our expanding awareness against the growing desire for lingering versus limbering. It is therefore a blessing in disguise whenever a common chore comes at us that obliges us to strain our bodily temples a good bit over the time of a couple days, past the usual one-day extreme-sport outing with next-day muscle strain whining. Just such a golden opportunity comes towards us always right before heading out to sea for a major passage, right where it is most needed, since you know very well you’ll be a little less miserable if your physical systems are pumping at the healthy rate of overall fitness compared to the slimy laziness of normal tropical comfort.

While staying in place just about anywhere on the salty expanses of the world’s ocean all kinds of critters take advantage of a boat’s lack of movement and attach themselves to its underwater parts to form mind-boggling structures of marine growth. That astounding eco-system takes the shape of slime, algae, seaweeds with barbs extending into the tidal flows within their reach, and provides a sultry environment for all kinds of critters from little crabs and worms to barnacles and other shell-producing beasts. All that has to go if you want to accomplish your watery journey in a reasonable amount of time, and also just to reduce the strain on your rig, which would be much higher if the sails had to pull that zoo of marine life through the water. Remember the formulae of wetted surface that define the potential of your vessel to reach alluring speeds, and then multiply that with all the nooks and crannies of your marine-growth biomass, should you need any further motivation for physical exertion!

Just as last year around this time Aluna a couple days ago let go of her comfortable attachment to the end of the crowded Savusavu mooring field, floated over the coral heads that line the reef shelf around the mangrove islands northwest of Nakama Creek at the times of the kingly high tides before the upcoming full moon, and returned a couple days later sleek and slim and ready for heading out into the blue. In the meantime there was a lot of scraping and scrubbing, wiping and cleaning, prying and sanding, wading and sloshing, sweating and swearing, and huffing and puffing. In the end a nice coat of the local antifouling paint you see on all the fishing boats around here was applied swiftly with a sticky roller, while constantly stirring up the heavy metal solids in the can, just before the rising tide engulfed Aluna’s double bellies anew.

alunabottomcleanpan2 alunabottomcleanpan1If it hadn’t been for the ferociously thirsty mosquitoes invading our living space in the hours of dusk, it would have been perfectly idyllic out there at twice the distance from the thumping of the local nightclub, where every week from Thursday to Saturday the local and foreign high rollers congregate at night to worship eardrum-piercing techno sound with all sorts of ritual contortions and leisurely support the industry of the local alcohol brewing clans. From the verdant hills of close-by Nawi Island a symphony of tropical birds took to the air every night with a lot of gawking, shrieking, whistling, chirping and general singing. The giant fruit bats flew overhead, back and forth to and from the mainland and every now and then the thump of a falling coconut reminded you that it is not a wise idea to have your picnic at the foot of a towering palm tree.

alunabottomcleanpan5 alunabottomcleanpan4 CameraThe copper epoxy applied to Aluna’s hull during construction has turned out to be a real blessing. While not protecting us from the marine growth in an absolute sense, it does make for a very hard substrate, which makes it (relatively!) easy to scrape (most of) it off with a simple metal blade. I made a dedicated hull scraper out of a triangular aluminum plate fastened to the tip of a broomstick, with which we can do our monthly bottom cleaning routine high and dry from aboard the dinghy, and the major cleanings before passages standing up (more or less!) while Aluna sits herself high and dry. Still it is a sequence of some serious physical contortion exercises done in four-hour sessions between tides over a couple of days. It leaves your low back and lateral flank muscles screaming with mercy for a few days after the deed has been accomplished, but that’s all good, isn’t’ it! What worth is life without a healthy portion of physical pain to remind us that reality lives outside our well-groomed imagination?alunabottomcleanpan3 Camera

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