Barnacles

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The seabed in the lagoon has a gentle slope up to the beach at Great Key, a small island in the lagoon unofficially known as Explorer Island, which means I have to step out of the dinghy into the water before I reach the shore. What is this growth under the water, does it sting? I don’t want to get my shoes wet. I step barefoot out of the bow and I pull the Dinghy up to the sandy beach – all’s well. The small beach faces west and is enclosed by shrubs that make it fairly private. A wrecked wooden fishing boat lies 20 metres to the south in the water as does a cosy looking barbecue area, under a single palm tree, separated by the waterline. If I wasn’t alone, I’d be making more a more leisurely use of this hideaway.

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The sun is quickly gaining in ferocity since I failed to set off at dawn for taking advantage of the most comfortable temperatures. What is it, about 10.30? It must be 80F/26C in the shade already.

I unload the dinghy placing the fuel tank into the shade of a shrub on the beach, take off the outboard and flip the dinghy upside down half in the water and half up the beach. The cooling water on my feet counteracts the effects of wearing a black t-shirt in direct sun.

There are not many weeds but lots of barnacles across the hull. Oxalic acid and a wipe, the Google search told me. Spraying the oxalic acid got the sea lice scurrying from under cover of the weed and the bottle only just about covered the hull.

“I want to clean the underside of my dinghy” I said to the folks at Budget Marine. “You need this.” handing me a giant green scotch-bright pad.¬† The weeds wiped off fairly easily but the barnacles were stubbornly ripping the pad to pieces. The oxalic acid hadn’t touched them at all. They were still welded to the hull.

The edge of a screwdriver was slow but effective. rotating my cap to shield the sun from burning my neck, I set about dislodging the shellfish. A sweeping sideways movement of the screwdriver shaft dislodged 80% of them but the other 20% needed a diligent chiselling motion to avoid the screwdriver going through the soft fabric.

Thirty minutes later, I was onto the outboard. The outboard is heavy and I am feeble through inactivity but I find an old Mercury outboard cover used as a seat in the barbecue area and invert it to use as a cradle. On the end of the leg, just above the propeller is a delta wing. Underneath the wing was a wing shaped colony of barnacles with no view remaining of the surface they clung to. Patient chiselling with the screwdriver cleared it in about 20 minutes and another 5 minutes on the propeller had that clear too. It was hot work and I had soon finished my water bottle. After reassembling the outboard and reloading the dinghy, I steered out into the lagoon. I was on the leeward side of the island so the water was almost mirror flat. I’d earned myself a reward and started off toward the causeway and then south to the Dinghy Dock to get something to eat. The dinghy was up on the plane in no time and skimmed along the surface like a pebble across a pond, what a difference. How much fuel had I been wasting by dragging this sea life around with me?

Out of the lee of the island I was against the wind on a rough chop which made the extra speed bouncing from crest to crest with the dinghy  contents jumping up and down uncomfortable and dangerous. Three quarter throttle was just about right for the rest of the way.

Cafe Atlantico is a French bakery on Airport Road, Simpson Bay. Approaching the cafe, Mike from Quinn spots me passing the neighbouring mini-mart and calls out from the check out. The attention from people makes me feel popular and I spend enough time alone to enjoy company when it’s available and gladly amble together with Mike onto the cafe’s wooden veranda. The breeze is perfect for helping me cool down. I take off my cap and put it on my lap to feel the cooling effect of the sweat evaporate from my forehead into the breeze.

For $10, I get a carton of coconut water to quickly rehydrate myself and wait for my Mexican omelette to arrive. Mike had already eaten so he sips iced tea and updates me on his latest project whilst watching me eat. Somehow, being watched feels uncomfortable and I find myself eating faster than usual.

Mike’s an interesting guy: a single-handed transatlantic sailor who alternates between St Maarten and the Canaries each season. He created the Nimble Navigator Navstick which is a USB stick that plugs into a laptop and contains a GPS and all the charts of the world so you can see and plot your position in real time from your computer. He was telling me about his new project of integrating Automatic Identification System (AIS) which shows ships in the vicinity of VHF range. Collision in the ocean from freighters is a serious risk so having ships visible on your plotter is a big bonus when you’re out in the ocean. His claims of laziness aren’t well founded – he just does what interests him to generate an income from his peeling boat, which doesn’t include painting. Whereas, I think about what might interest me for no income at all, which also doesn’t include painting. I win.

Tip for the day: As soon as you’re aware of procrastinating just do one small thing for five minutes to stop the barnacles from dragging on your mental to-do list. Do it if it’s likely to get worse with time, delegate it if necessary. Ditch it if it isn’t important but whatever you do, get back to living a life you love. And if you aren’t doing that then you need to find out what that is and start navigating toward it.

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