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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Howie the Second

August 6, 2014

Those who have been paying attention may remember our friend Howie the snake.  Howie climbed into Holly’s dive gear and scared the crap out of her.  Today his pal Howie the Second made an appearance.  (Apologies in advance for the shameless teaser!)

There’s a long list of stuff to get done before we go.  One thing we’ve been worried about is mold growing in the cabin while we are gone.  We plan to leave some open bottles of Clorox aboard as other boaters have reported good luck with just a bit of chlorine in the air preventing any mold from growing.  In addition, we have a dehumidifier, but it sucks a lot of electricity and it’s not clear whether the solar panels will keep up with it if it runs 24 hours a day.  Killing the batteries is problematic because if you get a leak and the sump pumps don’t run, the boat might sink while we are gone.  Moreover, the dehumidifier doesn’t come back on if disconnected from power.  You have to physically hit the “on” button to turn it back on so plugging it into a timer that runs it a couple of hours a day won’t work.  But neither will leaving it running 24 hours a day either.  What to do?  But MacGyver has an idea.  The solar panel controller has an output that only turns on when the batteries are fully charged.  Essentially it’s a port you can use to run things when you have “excess” solar power.  Problem is that port is 12 volts and the dehumidifier is 120V and needs to be run off the inverter which is powered by the batteries.  So he hooked up a relay to the 12V circuit from the solar controller and wired it to the “water bucket is full” shutoff switch on the dehumidifier.  The water bucket never actually fills up because the water that the dehumidifier creates as it pulls water from the air goes into the sink drain and goes overboard.  So Dave can wire into that shutoff switch to control when the dehumidifier runs. 

In addition we have some 12 volt fans that he wired up to the same 12v line from the solar controller.  That way the fans also run circulating air throughout the boat when the dehumidifier is running.  Clever boy.

Because the 2.5HP engine is causing such issues, we decided to put on the 20 HP engine today to go ashore for lunch.  Melissa was below when she heard Dave yelling, “Snake!  Snake in the engine!  Get the camera!!”  At first she thought maybe Dave was kidding, but something in the tone of voice… she grabs the camera and heads up on deck. Sure enough there is what we think was a boa constrictor curled up in the 20 HP motor.  Last time we used it was 12 days ago.  Did he come aboard then at Bahia Honda?  Frightening to think that because Dave bends over the motor with his whole upper body when we lift it back aboard and he is attaching it to the side rail.  Or did Howie find another way aboard in the dingy somewhere along the way?  No way to know for sure just how he got aboard and how long he’s been a stowaway.

Getting him out was not trivial.  We grabbed the kitchen tongs thinking we would pull him out and put him in a Tupperware container we could use to transport him to land and let him go.  A discussion then ensues as to how we will accomplish the extraction and still manage to take pictures of the process as Dave needs Melissa to hold the engine steady as its still hanging from the boom.  We do have our priorities after all...

But Howie had other ideas.  After snapping at us menacingly several times to show his dislike at being poked with the tongs, he dropped out of the motor onto the deck.  Melissa might have made a few small screeches at this point despite continuing to take photos.  Howie promptly made his way to the aft deck, down the stairs, and leapt into the water.  Suicide?  Did he swim to shore?  Still clinging for dear life to the bottom of the dingy?  No one can say for sure.

When we finally managed to calm down and get the motor on the dingy we headed ashore for lunch.  And yes, a few beers.

We came back to the boat and Mike and Holly came aboard because we were trying to help Mike set up an AIS system on his laptop.  They plan to make their way across the bay to a mooring at Panama City this week and its totally intimidating to cross the entrance to the Panama Canal without knowing which of the giant shipping container vessels and oil tankers are anchored and which are underway.  A few technical issues with the install the boys are still working on…

Meanwhile Melissa noticed another email from USAA.  She’s been arguing with them for two days now.  When we left a year ago we put our cars in “storage” status because its way less expensive to put them in “we aren’t driving them” status while we are gone.  We put them into “driving them” status when we returned to visit Seattle in January.  Melissa returned them to storage status when we flew back to Mexico on Jan 29.  Alas, somehow the last change to return them to storage status didn’t take effect.  Though USAA reissued the insurance ID cards on January 28th (the day that we stored the cars back in the hanger and friends took us to the airport hotel and Melissa put them back in storage).  Melissa suspects another website bug similar to the Verizon issue.  Someone should probably hire her for full time website customer testing as she seems to find all the weird ass website bugs.  And yes, Melissa probably should have noticed that the monthly billing was higher than it should have been.  But seriously, one expects things to just work these days!  Anyway, Melissa went on line to look to see about returning the cars to “drive” status for our trip home to Seattle next week only to discover they weren’t in storage status.  The difference is probably around $1000 over 7 months.  So it’s worth putting up a fight over.  The first round was “we have no record of your request so you are screwed”.  Ok that wasn’t verbatim.  Melissa’s response was to send them a link to this blog showing we’ve been out of the country since January, and to point out that she has been a customer for 25 years.  What we got back was one of the best customer service letters ever, and USAA totally deserves kudos and will have our continued patronage for years to come:  I received your message regarding the auto policy Vehicle Storage Discount. Thank you for providing the website to reference to showing you are out of the country. What an exciting time for you and your husband. Such adventures. As a valued member of USAA, I have processed your request to backdate the auto policy and have added the Vehicle Storage Discount effective January 30, 2014 as this is the date after you left the country.  You will shortly receive all the adjustment paperwork and a new billing statement will reflect the credits and adjustments to the account. I have also removed the vehicle storage discount for you effective on August 11, 2014, as you mentioned you will be back in Seattle by then. Your next billing statement that generates on September 3, 2014 will reflect all of the credits and adjustments I have made to your auto policy today.  Way to go USAA!!!  Great example of doing the right thing!

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