Green Cove Springs - The Madness Continues

29th March - 5th April 2007


For some small relief from the disruption of our daily life during the major maintenance aboard Anju, we decided to take our Florida driving test.    For a long time, we'd had the idea of buying a camper van and touring inland in the USA and Canada.   We'd heard that the insurance would be much less complicated if we were in possession of US driving licenses before buying a vehicle, so we decided to put ourselves through a little more stress and apply to take the test, whilst we still had the use of Vivian's car.

After taking the UK driving test in the dim and distant past, we feared the worst and after going online to book appointments for the theory and practical tests, we got hold of a copy of the Florida Driving Regulations and set to work swatting.   Once we'd overcome the initial language barrier, particularly in the use of the word pavement in America for the part of the road on which you drive your car, as opposed to the part of the road on which pedestrians walk in the UK, most of the regulations were plain old common sense.   The main differences we found were in such matters as school buses, where everyone had to stop if a school bus was off-loading passengers and right turn being permitted on a red light.   Some things just wouldn't sink in however, such as the facts and figures relating to punishments for DUI (drink-driving) offences and we found ourselves wondering why we needed to know such things, when surely, so long as you knew it was not allowed, the judge in court would know what punishment you deserved.   Still after a final evening of cramming, we set off for the theory test.  

We were greeted by the friendly receptionist, now well acquainted with the crazy foreigners, with the words, "What's a pavement?"   Apparently we passed that first test, as we were allowed to queue (or should that have been line up) for our theory test proper.    Our details were taken, our eyesight was tested, we were photographed and then we were let loose on the computer generated, multiple-choice tests.    Christine aced her test and was followed by Phil who almost stumbled at the first question, a practice question, in which you had to select your date of birth from four choices.   Phil was somewhat perplexed to find that all the answers to that question were wrong and that there was no "none of the above" option but went on to pass the rest of the test with flying colours and to be assured that his details would be corrected before a license was issued. 

Our practical tests were scheduled for the early afternoon and despite the fact that we have around sixty years of driving experience between us, we were very nervous.   We were particularly afraid of walking to the wrong side of the car at the beginning of the test!    Remembering the rigours of the British test, we set off with the examiner with trepidation.    

First we had to demonstrate that we could park the car in a forwards-in parking space and get back out again without denting the neighbouring cars.    Next we were off on the main road, a tricky left turn onto a dual-carriageway (OK, a divided highway), which was made somewhat easier by the fact that there is very little traffic on that particular road in Green Cove Springs.    Five hundred yards down the road we had to make a right turn and stop in a side street.   Next came the emergency stop from 20 miles per hour, without skidding, a three point turn and then off back to the test centre.    We were both pleased to learn that we had passed our Florida driving test and our licenses would be delivered by post within 30 days, once that Homeland Security had checked out that we were legally in the country.

In celebration we gave ourselves the following day off work to visit the Jacksonville RV show at the football stadium.    It was intended as an information gathering trip about camper van options.  We found ourselves particularly interested in the "slide-on" type of camper, which sits in the back of a pick up truck and has its own legs, so you could leave it in situ and go off in the truck, without the hassle of dragging your camper along too.    Anyway we had a fun day and it seemed that RV folks were as friendly as cruising folks.    RV salesmen were a great entertainment for us and seemed intent on selling us what they thought was wanted as opposed to what we thought we wanted.   Anyway the camper van project would have to wait, we had more work to do aboard Anju.


The cracked weld below the forepeak


Once Harry, our welder, had finished the repair of the hole in the hull, we asked him to take a peek at another worrisome spot.    Since we'd hauled out, we'd noticed a white, limey substance building up on a weld near the bow.   This was in the same spot where cracks had appeared in the concrete ballast inside the boat on our previous yard visit and we wondered if maybe this mysterious substance was seeping out of the concrete, which could mean another area where sea water was getting into the hull.    Of course, for Harry to be able to work in the area in question, all the concrete ballast in that section of the hull would need to be removed.
Luckily our friend Cole at Green Cove Springs Marina had a compresser which we could borrow and by using this with an air powered chisel, chipping the concrete into small chunks for removal was much easier than it would have been by hand.   That being said, it was no easy task, made more tricky when Phil came across something very solid, which was encased in the concrete.   As he painfully chipped away the concrete surrounding the mystery object it slowly became apparent that the encapsulated objects were old shell casings, which Anju's builder had used to add extra weight to the ballast.    This was pretty ironic after all the torpedo jokes we'd made during our cruising.    Eventually seven of the heavy shell casings emerged from the concrete and were removed by Christine for a rust-preventative paint job.    In addition to the shells, a large amount of scrap steel pressing offcuts had also been added to the concrete and where the sea water had slowly seeped into the concrete and these small steel pieces had rusted, they had expanded, causing the concrete to crack in the first place.   

When Phil was finally finished with the air chisel and all the ballast was removed from the area, Harry took another look and showed us how a crack had appeared along a weld which, he felt, must have been weak when Anju had first been built.   He set to work reinforcing the area with a steel patch and in no time at all we found ourselves busy painting again. 


Christine bringing new meaning to the expression "prime the torpedos"


Now it was time to start working our way further aft on the port side of the boat and remove the next two tanks, this time both water tanks, in order to check the condition of the hull beneath.   After taking one last wistful look at our galley, we took out the screwdrivers and ripped the whole thing apart.    We had to come up with some kind of solution to live aboard without a working galley.    After a visit to our local propane engineers, we managed to set up our cooker to work in the cockpit.    

Washing the dishes was the other challenge, as we'd already torn the bathroom apart and that had been the only other source of water aboard.    A makeshift sink was set up with a couple of plastic bowls and a long hosepipe from the supply on the ground and once again it was possible to prepare food aboard.    That was not to say that living in that fashion was any fun at all!

Say goodbye to civilised living..........

......say hello to chaos!

Lifting the first tank, the one nearest to our previous repair, proved not to be too tricky.   The come-along could be positioned on a short steel bar over the hatch and in no time at all the tank was out of its hole and in the main cabin.   The next tank was a real pain in the neck.   Not only was the lifting angle impossible using the hatch, the tank was so tight in its hole that for a while we feared it was welded in place.   We had to scour the yard for a suitable piece of steel bar, long enough to pass between the portholes, on which we could secure the lifting mechanism.    Then, once we located a suitable bar, we had to lift the ten foot long, heavy steel bar up the ten or twelve feet onto the boat using a combination of brute force, ingenuity and luck.    

As we began to lift the tank, it became obvious that everything mounted on the wall near the companionway would also have to be removed, to make room for the tank to pass.   This meant dismantling all the instrumentation for the autopilot and the spaghetti nest of wiring attached.    We were beginning to despair that we would never remember how to reassemble everything again and would be forever marooned in the yard.    We resorted to our tried and tested method of photographing everything with our digital camera before taking it all apart.

Down, down in the hole.......


Finally both tanks were out of their homes and we made an executive decision, the second tank, the one which had caused so much trouble, was on its way to the dumpster, to be replaced instead with a watermaker.   Not only would getting the tank back in its original position be nigh on impossible but we'd previously considered replacing our excess tankage with a watermaker, to reduce the weight aboard.    So, the reciprocating saw came out again and another tank was cut in half, small enough now to pass through the door.  Then it was maneouvred through the cockpit, down the ten foot ladder to the yard below, miraculously without mishap.  At least we only had to share our nightmarish living space with one large water tank while we attended to repairs.    



Of course in order to check the hull all the way down to the keel, more concrete ballast had to be chipped away, this time only a couple of inches deep, so Phil set to work with Cole's compressor and the air chisel again and once more the chaotic cabin was filled with concrete dust, covering everything we owned.

This area of hull was in much better shape that our first problem area, however it seemed that water had settled in a couple of spots here beneath one water tank which had resulted in a few bad spots of corrosion.   Harry was called in again and it was decided to cut out the worst section and replace the corroded steel with a patch of new steel.   Oh the joy, we were back to the smoke and fumes of burning paint as Harry cut out the bad area but by now we were familiar with what was involved in raising up the new steel into the hole and adjusting it into position ready for welding.   We were almost fully trained as welder's mates!

Phil at work grinding ready for Harry to weld in the new steel.


By the time the repair was made and the hull section repainted inside and out, we were ready for a break from the madness.  We were delighted to be invited to visit our friends Dan and Carmel at their home in Naples, about three hundred miles south of Green Cove Springs in Florida.    We were excited to be seeing our buddies again, as we hadn't seen them since our last trip to the Bahamas.  Furthermore, we were thrilled at the prospect of spending a few days living in a place without concrete dust and fumes of burning paint, where you didn't have to live in a very cramped area shared with a large water tank, whilst walking around on pieces of wooden floor, balanced precariously over a large dirty hole, making do as best you could with no bathroom and no kitchen - oh bliss!

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