Week #2 in St. Augustine
Man, what a week…you know, I’ve always admired ants…when a group of them swarm together, they can make short work of tasks far greater than their individual size would suggest. With Southern Wind up on dry land, she looks like the project of some giant ant colony, with people crawling all over grinding, sanding, epoxying, building, wiring, and finally checking off all the thousand projects we have had aboard since we started this rebuild.
Once again, our work is flying ahead because of all the support we have received out here from the community–the Rotary club here is providing funds for the extra fuel we will burn in a powered run to Haiti with a full load, and even up in St. Augustine everyone in the boatyard and the folks in the marine industry here have given us materials and hours of their time and experience to help us solve the various challenges we faced in our dry dock repairs.
For example, Rick, Tom and Cheryl at Polaris Marine continue to host Ryan in their workshop almost daily to let him crimp wires and help him decipher the complex wiring solutions necessary on Southern Wind, Sinclair from the Sailor’s Exchange is looking for red hull paint for us, and Bobby and Steve in the yard helped us get our old diesel generator out–after we removed all the bolt-ons (everything we could take off the generator in place), the core and block still weighed around 2,000 pounds–kind of hard to get out of a small space in the engine room!
After much discussion (thanks Don Capo and everyone who pondered this problem with us), we decided to bite the bullett and cut a hole in the hull, unbolt the generator from its mounting and lift it out with the yard’s crane. So we cut a hole (that now we have to patch, of course) and the next day, in a cold heavy rain, Bobby and Steve hauled the generator out the hole…it sounds so easy when I say it like that, but I guess all in all it was pretty easy (because we had their expert help and a crane). We literally pulled it out; there was not QUITE enough clearance in the hole we cut and the generator slid out of the hole tightly strapped to the crane above. I’ve been waiting 8 months for this moment–and now we can install the much more efficient and lighter generator Polaris Marine are donating and close up the hole.
Speaking of holes, today Noah and I finished the patches on the port side and put the outer piece on the starboard side patch…what a day–the hull is sanded and faired and repaired and we are nearly ready to paint, but because everything has been sanded the boat looks awful…can’t wait to paint. Once again, we have expert help. Just as Ryan has had an intensive marine electrics crash course with Polaris, Sky and Noah are getting one in working with epoxy and composites from Dana in the yard–he is the guy to go to for any answers on the hull repairs we have done, and he has taken Sky and Noah to his shop to show them examples of materials and to give them cloth and resin, tools, and finally to come by the boat and actually work with us to make sure the repairs we do are up to his standards for safety and strength.
The only bad spot has been the weather–it was 42 today, pretty cold to do epoxy work outside, and the engine room was a meat locker! It has rained a lot, but when it rains or is howling wind, we either tackle the long list of smaller oddjobs inside the boat and check things off the list, and once or twice some or all of us stayed home to organize the medical supplies and gear. One thing we had to get rid of is all the cardboard that most of or supplies came in–not only do we not want any water or humidity to mildew the cardboard, but cockroaches and rats EAT cardboard (and cockroaches LOVE to lay their eggs in it) so we had to (finally) unbox and re-stow all our supplies in plastic tubs. Of course, as soon as we took the tarp off our big pile, it started to rain so we worked quickly to shuck all the cardboard, temporarily bag the supplies in black plastic bags, and move everything into the house.
The volume of waste packaging is staggering…about 400 pounds of cardboard (wet, too so REALLY heavy). It took Noah and I about 5 hours to break down the boxes and stack them on a big blue tarp to get rid of them. So much waste! There is so much abundance in the world, and so much of it gets thrown out every day (Rob Phillips from Clean the World told me that over a million bars of soap (hotel soap) are thrown away EVERY DAY in the US…I still believe that all the resources are there for everyone to get enough to eat and enough medical care without destroying our world…we just have to find a way to manage it a little more elegantly. The weight of our medical supplies dropped a few hundred pounds (now we can carry a more soap from Clean the World (thanks Rob!). Even so, stowing everything onboard will be tight on the way over, primarly because we will be carrying thousands of pounds of lumber and building materials in addition to relief and medical supplies.
The main problem in Haiti is not really FINDING donated supplies, but finding a way to get the supplies to Haiti–especially anywhere outside the main port cities and airports. We will be setting sail to Haiti from West Palm Beach on February 27th, arriving in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic by March 12, picking up volunteer doctors and builders at Puerto Plata in the DR, and sailing west around Cap Haitian before turning south to the towns of Petit-Goave (right near the epicenter of one of the quakes) and Miragoane and delivering supplies and our efforts to the hospitals there, as well as building two 20 x 40-foot school rooms to replace the damaged concrete school building. We are working in Petit-Goave with Hughes DeChambres, Ministre du Cabinet and director of the health center and school, and his niece Tania (an anesthesiologist in NY who has arranged another 650 cubic feet of medical supplies for us to carry to Petit-Goave. In Miragoane, Dr. Ted Kaplan and Dr. Ralph Gousse from the Cap Haitian Health Network will be coordinating our docking and relief efforts. We will likely divide our time between the two towns, although Andrew MacCalla from our partner Direct Relief International will be in Haiti when we are there and has a load of supplies in PAP; after we unload our cargo in Petit-Goave and
Miragoane we might be available to help deliver cargo or run personnell salong the coast, as much less of the aid makes it outside of the busy urban centers. Relief materials that make it to Haiti are getting bottlenecked in PAP and Cap Haitian, so if we have the opportunity to help the more rural communities receive some of these supplies, we will definitely do so.
Our whole project is designed to deliver health care and supplies where there ARE no ports, so the devastation at the deep water ports of Port au Prince and Cap Haitian is not a barrier to us delivering relief. This is what Floating Doctors is made for, and I can’t wait to set sail with full cargo holds and volunteer team.
Everyone is driving themselves very hard, but finally the realization of all we have worked for is imminent, and the work is flying ahead. All the lessons of boat building, repair, logistics, navigation, radio procedure, weather interpretation, clinical work, language practice and everything else we have learned the hard way over the past months have manifested in an impressive work output…at the end of every day so much has gotten done by everyone that I can’t wait till the next day, because so much is checked off and in place at the end of each day I get excited to see what the end of the next day will bring. However, at least one full night’s sleep would be nice!