#79: How to DIY Inspect, Repair & Replace Rigging

Thank goodness we went with the hi-mods, as we were able to change these out ourselves and get our (newly-stepped) rig back up and going again on our own, without having to call in a rigger.  Just some fun tips for you all that we learned while trying to drop a new main halyard, stepping the mast to re-configure the mast cap and changing out the hi-mods.  Hope you all find some useful tidbits in here. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions!

BIG NEWS at the end of the video, too. Next week we’ll be announcing our 3rd GIFT OF CRUISING on the YouTube channel, and my Trans-At movie will also be available for rent on YouTube then as well, Oct. 7th.  Ain’t life grand?  If you can’t wait that long, go get an early ticket to view on Patreon.

Posted in 2016 Re-Rig, Boat Projects, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ch. 10: The Shuddering Shroud

“If we snap one of those battens, I don’t have a spare,” Yannick tells the crew after we put in the third reef.

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Thankfully the storm off the tip of Florida was intense but very brief, lasting a grand total of about twenty minutes with peak winds of 32 mph.  We may not have needed to go all the way down to third reef, but after our (very first ever) drop to reef one did not go so well and the winds were still building at the time, Yannick instructed the crew to drop to reef two—for safety as much as for practice.   While reef three was primarily practice, it was necessary all the same as the crew had never done it before and we needed to learn exactly how to secure the sail down to that mark.  The third reef in Yannick’s main does not have a line at the tack (the mast) running back to the cockpit; rather, it is cinched down to the boom at the tack with just a strap.  So, it was good practice to put the third reef in simply to learn the set-up.  With the third reef in and winds holding at 28 mph, it was then just a fun romp in the rain, a nice shower for the salty boat and crew.

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Video Annie was clearly having a good time:

 

However, just like washing your car to make sure it doesn’t rain, Johnny put the kibosh on our rinse by breaking out some soap to take a shower.  I’d say I felt bad for him, all lathered up and sudsy the minute the rain stopped, but he looked so funny.  Like an unhappy cat in the tub!

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Yannick, ever the problem-solver, remained focused on the crew’s poor reefing performance.  “I’m going to write up instructions,” he said as he headed down below right after the storm.  It wasn’t like we had botched the whole thing but reefing can be difficult when you are on a 46 foot boat, cannot hear one another over the wind and waves and you’re not confident, without communication, which lines to release or pull and when.  It needs to be coordinated, rehearsed and performed like a tire change at a pit stop—quickly, efficiently and safely.  In order to do that, you need to know—before sails start popping and snaring and lines are whipping about—in which order to do things.  I was all for instructions.  Type away Yannick.

And type he did.  And printed them too!  Later that afternoon we each had a typed-up instruction sheet taped at each of our designated posts setting out each step of our specific reefing procedure and we started doing reefing drills.

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By the second drill we were all far more comfortable with our respective roles and the communication that needed to occur while reefing.  While our reefing was improving, we were still struggling with the boom.  Yes, the boom.  Or I was at least—having the luxury on our Niagara of a boom vang—having to deal with the added problem of a boom, if not held up by the main sail or topping lift would come crashing down on the bimini.  Whose boom hits their bimini?  This irked me!  Like an entirely new, complicated task stacked on top of all our tasks was just what we needed.  Imagine you’re making coffee in the galley (think of all the things you have to do—fill the pot with water, light the stove, measure the grounds, etc.) and if you let go of the stove, it will fall out of the counter and crash onto the floor.  That’s a little what this crashing boom felt like.  If the main sail is not holding it up, the topping lift must.  Once the main sail is raised, however, the topping lift must be slacked or it will chafe the main halyard.  So, it’s kind of like swapping hands, but keeping a constant hold on the stove while you’re working in the galley.  It was just one more thing.

Luckily, the additional tasks relating to the boom were added to Yannick’s reefing procedure at the mast.  His list was definitely longer than any one else’s.  In case you are curious, here is a rough reconstruction of our reefing procedure on Andanza:

  1.  Phillip turns slightly into the wind
  2. Annie furls the genny in to third reef – with either Johnny on port or Phillip at the helm easing the sheet out  [We did this so it wouldn’t beat Yannick up at the mast while reefing the main.]
  3. Phillip turns back off the wind while the crew prepares to reef the main
  4. Annie checks clutches for tack on deck and for clew on boom are all closed
  5. Yannick at mast tightens topping lift (so the boom won’t crash on the bimini when we release the tension of the main)
  6. Phillip turns slightly into the wind
  7. Yannick at mast begins to lower the main
  8. Annie on starboard pulls line for reef one at the tack down to the mark
  9. Johnny on port winches the line for reef one at the clew down to the mark [while my line could be pulled by hand, meaning if we were on a port tack the genny sheet could remain on the winch, Johnny’s task of pulling down the reef point at the clew was much harder and had to be done at the winch.  If we were on a starboard tack, he had a separate clutch on port that could hold the genny while he used the genny winch to pull down the reef at the clew.  Winching the sail down at the clew was definitely the hardest job as it held the most wind]
  10. Yannick raises the main back up to tension the sail back up (so it can raise the boom)
  11. Yannick then releases the topping lift (and we all hope the boom doesn’t crash on the bimini)
  12. Phillip falls off and puts wind back in the sail and we all inspect sail shape, line tension and check for chafe points

Yannick also liked to use a long Velcro strap at the clew to help ease the tension of the reef line that held the clew down.  As I mentioned, that was by far where the most tension was held.  Listening to that line squeal and stretch to its limit as Johnny winched down the clew point was not enjoyable for anyone.  And, because it held so much tension, it also squealed and squeaked with each slight movement of the boom as the boat knocked around over waves.  Yannick hated this.  He’s not a fan of anything that squeaks.  So, he would always go up on the bimini after we put in a reef point and run a long piece of Velcro through the reef point at the clew to hold some of the tension at the clew and instruct Johnny to then let out some of the line that held the clew down.  Yannick was happy when the Velcro and the line “shared” the load.

In all, it’s a good thing we got our sail tactics rehearsed and operating like a well-oiled machine because the winds were screaming, holding steady around 23 knots for three days!  After our lackluster, glassy days in the Gulf, it felt like Andanza shot like a slingshot around the tip of Florida and up the east coast.  It was fun to see folks who had been clearly watching us on the Delorme (albeit in silence) finally chiming in with comments like: “Now you guys are moving!” “There’s the wind!” and “No more motoring!”  And they were right!

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Yannick got some great panorama (i.e., GoPro on a stick) shots during those days:

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We had a Mahi grab onto the line the day after our Key West stop and I had to wonder if the line actually grabbed onto him, because we were hauling at 13 knots.

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I had never caught a Mahi before and I was mesmerized by the colors.  Brilliant yellows and shiny greens, followed by a kaleidoscope ripple across her scales as she gulped her last breaths.

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While I said previously that I didn’t feel bad for the tuna we had caught in the Gulf, that it felt like a gift, that did not ring true here.  The Mahi was so beautiful.  I really hated to pierce its stunning skin with my knife.  Then Johnny says, “Throw the hook back out quick.  You can often catch the mate.”

Ack!

Apparently, these amazing fish mate for life and, once the connection is made, they swim together for the remainder of their piscine years.  Now, not only had I stripped this sad fish in the water of his lifelong, by his side, every-day mate but then he had to watch me slaughter her before his very eyes.  I know he was just sharing some probably very helpful, valuable marine-life knowledge but Jesus Johnny!  I did not need to know that.  The Mahi was succulent, light, fluffy and white and I hated every bite of it.  Poor fishy.

The sailing those days was some of the easiest I’ve done in my life.  It was Brandon, back home, who had told us this many times in the days before we left.  “You’ll get on a tack and stay there for six days,” he said.  “Chafe will be your biggest problem.”  That Brandon, he knows his stuff.

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He was so right.  Once we had steady wind in the sails, with the auto-pilot holding like a dream, there was really nothing to do as far as the sailing went.  While Yannick continued (continued! continued!) daily to work on boat projects, the crew kind of fell into an easy routine.  Books were devoured.  I recall specifically Johnny starting one, finishing one and starting another in one day.

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Phillip and I found ourselves doubled over one day watching Johnny napping one days in the cockpit.

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Sleep was absolutely indulged.  Can you spot Johnny in this pic?  That was his favorite sleep spot!

I distinctly remember Johnny had Phillip and I doubled over in laughter one day when he woke up from a particularly-deep nap.  Sure, he’d had his mouth wide open, jaw dropped, overcome with sleep.  We’ve all been there.  You wake up on occasion, acutely aware your mouth is ajar, subjecting anyone around you to whatever funk is coming out, yet you find the weight of your jaw is simply too heavy to lift.  So you just leave yourself wide open and let yourself drift happily back away.  That wasn’t the funny part.  What was funny was this.  So he’s out.  Mouth open.  Heavy breaths of his chest up and down.  Phillip and I were sitting on the other cockpit benches reading and we both watched as Johnny stirred.  Pulled his heavy jaw up, smacked a few times, blinked around the table and let his gaze fall on a little bowl in front of him.  It had been Phillip’s and it had been once filled with cookies.  Now, only little cookie bits remained.

Johnny eyed the bowl, reached a lumbering hand toward it, dumped it into his mouth, closed his eyes while he chewed and swallowed (as if the act of consuming crumbs was so tiring he had to rest his eyes while he did it).  Then he eased on back, laid his head against the boat and was soon back in his blissful, slackjaw slumbering state.  Having both watched the entire scene in silence, Phillip and I busted up, snickering and giggling and joking about how now, at least, Johnny’s breath would smell like cookies.  Johnny was funny.  I made him post the group Delorme message that night where he said the trip was affording him “Days of undeserved rest.”  Some moments like that, as well as Yannick spitting his words at us in the rain from the mast, talking about the third reef and battens snapping, will stick with me.  Some moments from the trip are crystallized in my memory where other periods of time, days on end even, feel like a blue water blur.

Comraderie among the crew grew like vines.  First it’s just a seed in the sand.  Two things put together but not really connected.  Then over time, as the two are exposed simultaneously to elements and experiences, little shoots start to emerge.  A joke is shared, a frightening moment, a hand lent out with just the tool you needed, a story from one another’s past and before you know it, you’ve connected with the person.  Roots have reached out and the dirt has welcomed their hold.  You start to understand the person in a way you didn’t before.  You’ll start to sense when they’re content to be left alone, when they may need your help but haven’t yet asked for it, when they’re in the mood to hear a funny story, but more importantly, when they’re not.  Case in point:

When Yannick’s sitting in a pile of tools, frowning at the broken end of the windex: NOT a good time to tell him a funny story about your high school prom (he cares not).

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When Phillip’s searing steaks on the grill on the transom, smiling and salivating: PERFECT time to strike up a rousing rendition of Son of a Son of a Sailor.

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When Annie’s staring at her computer screen, tapping her lip trying to write something brilliant: NOT a good time to strum up a political conversation about Obamacare.  (She cares not.)

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When Yannick’s splayed out in his berth, asleep, drooling with Breaking Bad play on his laptop: BAD time to tell him there’s a screw loose on the bimini cover.

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When Johnny’s looking for the tonic water to go with his swig of gin: GREAT time to ask him to write the crew message for our bottle.  The message Johnny came up with:

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Andanza was here, with its ruthless crew.  (Give the date.)

You were lucky, you weren’t here too.

It is fun the moments you share out there.  Phillip spent those days cooking up a storm every day with often a fun, creative bite for lunch (egg salad sandwiches, sushi, seafood pasta, BBQ) and, often, a rather gourmet dish for dinner (pork curry, beef stroganoff, shrimp alfredo).  Thankfully, we were sailing then, no longer motoring, so Johnny finally got his days of deserved rest, reading and relaxing.  I read and wrote and filmed and created and ate Phillip’s wonderful dishes.  That man can sure cook!  We make a good team ’cause I can sure eat!  

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And, Yannick continued to work.  We all stayed out of his way primarily, with the long-standing premise that if he needed or wanted our help, all he needed to do was ask and we would jump to his call.  Rarely did he.  This system worked well, until two worlds collided.  When Yannick started cutting into Phillip’s cutting board (literally) to construct a new base for his windex (which he had to mount on the port side of the mast) to account for the Freydis’ rotating mast.

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Yannick and Phillip bartered and negotiated and it was decided Yannick could have a chunk, not the whole thing and Phillip was granted free reign of the cutting board that came with the Magma grill.  It’s all about coming to understandings and respecting each other’s space.  This is how you all get along on a boat.

But, let’s talk for a minute about how the boat gets along.  Have any of you made an offshore passage on a catamaran?  If you have, please chime in in a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.  The bashing on the catamaran shocked me.  Stunned me.  It was teeth-jarring at times. When water trapped between the two hulls rumbled, thundered and finally bashed its way out, I had to convince myself each time that we had not just hit a whale.  While I had felt our 1985 Niagara 35 slam into a wall of water plenty of times and suspected a hull breach, this was different.  It was a special breed of bashing, a violent, shrill collision that made me sure, not just suspicious, the boat had cracked in half.  The bashing on the cat stopped sentences.  It stung bare feet on the galley floor.  It was like a nervous system message so strong it bypassed your brain.  Muscles flinched without instruction.  The crew grew accustomed but never comfortable with it.  With the bashing, however, came a great deal of speed.  With winds of 23+ holding steady, we were averaging 10 knots most day, even clicking off a record 243 nautical miles in one day.  We were flying, bashing, sleeping while sailing into the heart of the ocean.

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We were also shuddering.  Once the wind found us and we started to do some actual very sporty sailing on the trip, the shuddering began.  We heard it first on the port side because we were on a starboard tack.  With each lurch and bash of the boat into eight-foot seas, the lazy shroud on the port side would let out a shrill metallic ringing.  It vibrated like a plucked guitar string with each romp of the boat.  The sound (as all sounds on a boat are) was amplified below and in mine and Phillip’s berth on the aft port side.

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Annie trying to record some of the wicked sounds of the boat.  Folks who have seen the movie, was I able to capture them?  Did it sound like you were there?  Do tell!

While I could try to find the words to describe it, the best way to truly convey our concerns would be to say it sounded like it was damaging the boat.  Imagine a sail flapping, snapping and popping.  Even a non-sailor would likely cringe and think to themselves: Make it stop.  As a sailor, you know the sound means trouble for the boat and your immediate instinct is to fill the sail with wind or drop it, to rescue the flailing part somehow.   With the shuddering of the shroud, the entire crew felt that way, but Johnny, Phillip and I, as strictly monohull sailors, had no experience sailing a catamaran offshore.  We had no experience with a boat that only has three stays or, better yet, one whose mast rotates.

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Once I found out we were dealing with a boat rigged up with lines to pull on the lazy shroud to lessen the vibration when on an opposite tack, I knew I had nothing to offer.

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What is the proper tuning of that rig and what vibration is permitted or intolerable with a rig like that was an impossible question for the crew to answer.

While Yannick had the most offshore experience with the boat, it was limited to a sixteen day run bringing Andanza from Martinique up to Pensacola and he said he didn’t recall as much shuddering on that trip and didn’t know exactly how tight was the right amount of tight in light of the rotating mast.  He sent out texts and emails to various professionals back in Pensacola via the Delorme (another benefit of having available satellite communication) but it was late in the evening when those were sent out and the crew knew we likely would not hear from anyone until the following morning.  In the meantime, the shroud continued its murderous shudder with each romp of the boat.

Yannick worked tirelessly to tighten the slack line for the shroud and checking the chain plate on port.  It looked solid at the time, but every time the boat went head to head with a wall of water, the wave would bash into the hull with a thunderous slap and immediately the metallic ring of the shuddering shroud would follow.  Slap.  Shudder.  Slap.  Shudder.  Sleep came in fretful snatches that night.  I woke around 2:00 a.m. to find Yannick checking the chain plate (for the fifth time) on the port side.  He just looked at me sitting up in my berth and walked back up, his face telling me nothing had changed, but that meant nothing had improved either.

When Yannick is checking the chain plates because the shroud is clanging itself to death: NOT a good time ask him if everything is okay.

 

Fun story?  I hope you all are digging the Atlantic-crossing saga because I’m sure having a helluva time telling it.  The full-length movie from our voyage is up now for Patrons on Patreon and coming to rent on YouTube Oct. 7th.  If anyone has already seen it, let folks know what you thought of it in a comment below!

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First Reviews of the Atlantic-Crossing Movie!

“We were sat on the edges of our seats, prepared for the worst, when the body bag came out on the deck (a bit of a cliffhanger), but without giving a film spoiler a few minutes later we were sat back relaxing and enjoying the rest of the film.  Well done Annie.”

Hey Crew!  Bonus blog post for you this week.  It is such a cool feeling to put a piece of work out there for folks to look at, watch or read.  You’re going to get some critiques, some praise, some responses you never expected, but that’s the fun part of being a creator.  I had many people email me this past weekend after watching the initial Patreon release of my movie from the Atlantic-crossing and I wanted to share a few of their reviews with you here.  Uncut!

Carl Walters

Carl & Jenny’s Sailing Adventures

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“Well the film was released for Patrons yesterday.  Guess what we decided?  Yep, a movie night watching Video Annie cross the Atlantic along with the rest of the crew.  Jenny and I settled down to watch the film, we decided on a nice cup of English Tea to go with the movie.  Well I can honestly say, we didn’t budge from the screen from start to finish.  Well done Annie.  The film covers their trip day by day, the good, the bad and the ugly!!  The trials and tribulations that confronted the crew on their long journey and the satisfaction when they overcame them.  Jenny and I sat on the edges of our seats and prepared for the worst when the body bag came out on the deck (a bit of a cliffhanger) but, without giving a film spoiler, a few minutes later we were sat back relaxing and enjoying the rest of the film.  Although at times, because the footage was filmed on the GoPro, the sound loses a bit of quality, it did not spoil our enjoyment as Annie’s style of editing overcomes this with her humorous narration.  

Overall, this was a well put-together video and highly watchable.  If you are put off by the length of the film, please don’t be.  Put aside a couple of hours to watch this in one go and you won’t regret it.  I, for one, would like to download this to my hard drive and add it to our sailing film collection to watch when we will be spending nights on anchor without internet connection.  Great job Annie and thank you for a great night’s entertainment.  (I hope the cheque’s in the post!  Lol.)”

 

Jenny Walters

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“I enjoyed Annie’s perspective on things as they made their crossing.  I particularly loved the fact that I was able to connect with a woman’s viewpoint as there are certain things we look for and do differently than men.  I was amazed at the variety of meals they had on board.  (I can’t cook at home and they ate better than I could have imagined.)  It was fun to watch Annie and her partner showering on the back of the boat (and strangely enough, seeing how Annie coped with “women issues” like where to shave your legs?).  Annie did things that I love to do — silly dancing as she listens to her music, etc.  Just trivial things like this made the movie so “real” to me.  I learned how critical it is to have a man like the Captain on board who knows how to identify problems quickly and be able to put them right whilst on the move.  I found her happy all the time, which was strange!  I can understand she didn’t want to document bad things but I like to see that, too.  As someone who hasn’t experienced much sea sailing I was surprised how much the auto pilot is used.  Now I know, my Kindle needs a few more downloads to pass the time!  I liked the happy ending.  It was a very uplifting movie for me, an informative and eye-opening film.”  

 

It was so cool to find this in my inbox the day after the movie went live.  A BIG thanks to Carl & Jenny for taking the time to watch and write a detailed review and a little more about these two crazy wildhearts:

Carl and Jenny Sailing Adventures is about, yes, you’ve guessed, Carl and Jenny and the adventures they get up to in their sailing lives.  Carl has been a keen sailor for quite a few years whilst Jenny is relatively new to the sport. However it has been a dream for both of them that one day they would sell up and buy a yacht and move onto it as liveaboards. Well after serving Queen and Country for 30 years, as one of the boys in blue, as well as running their own businesses, Carl finally retires in March 2017, so the dream is coming to fruition.  Over the past few months they have been doing as much sailing as possible, doing training courses and chartering boats ready for the adventure starting. Their plans are to spend a couple of seasons sailing around the Mediterranean, before making their own Atlantic crossing down to the Caribbean. They have started a Youtube channel documenting their journey. http://youtube.com/c/CarlandJennySailingAdventures.  To assist in their preparation they have subscribed to quite a few sailing channels of cruisers on YouTube, “Have Wind Will Travel” being one of their favorites, as well as becoming a Patron to Annie & Phillip’s channel.  

What appealed to us was the fun way in which Annie presents her videos, and at the same time in an informative and entertaining format.  Even better as a Patrons we get a sneak peek of Annie’s videos before they go on public release so we had notification of the forthcoming “Crossing the Atlantic” video some time ago.  Jenny and I have been looking forward to watching the full length feature film after seeing the trailer a couple of weeks ago.”   — Carl

 

Captain Ryan Rayfield

Offshore Sailing and Adventure Cruises

SailLibra.com

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“Annie, the movie is really great.  I really have nothing bad to say, and no criticism.  I was entertained the whole time.  There was never a dull moment.   You captured all of the stuff that really happens out there and the mechanics of keeping the boat moving forward while everyone maintained a positive attitude.  The Azores were great.  That boat is smoking fast!  Even the Captain explaining the dynamics of the rotating mast were dead on.  He was second guessing himself a little, but it’s all physics and you could tell he knew it well.  You have captured the reality of a voyage like this and that is what people want.”

Joe Howell

Self-Proclaimed “Video Annie” fanatic

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Chuck Klima

HaveWindWillTravel Die-Hard

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Many thanks to Carl, Jenny, Ryan, Joe and Chuck for sending me these early reviews.  If you are now (as my Dad would say) “chomping at the bit” to watch the Atlantic-crossing movie, too, jump on Patreon for an early viewing.  Otherwise, she’s a-coming out for rent on YouTube Oct. 7th!  Hooray!  A heartfelt thanks to my followers and supporters who motivate Phillip and I to keep sharing our journey, our lessons and our experiences.

Get inspired.  Get on board.

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#78: How to Budget (and Brace) for BIG Boat Repairs

Unexpected mast pulls can happen to you!  While we’ve dealt with our fair share of boat projects here at HaveWindWillTravel, it’s good to be reminded there will always be more and you need to know “How To” be ready — both mentally and financially.  Have fun watching Annie go up the mast (I lost count how many times!) trying to solve this problem and stay tuned next time when we show you what we learned during this whole fiasco that Phillip and I are sure will serve us well during our Cruising to Cuba days this winter.  Enjoy!

 

And, for those lucky Patrons out there who have already indulged on the Atlantic-crossing movie, let me know what you thought of it in a comment below!!  So exciting to know it’s up on Patreon now for you all to watch.  I hope you LOVE IT!  Coming out for rent on YouTube soon!

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Cuba Prep Update!

ERRNNGH.  ERRNGH.  We interrupt your regularly-scheduled program for this important announcement:

Phillip and I just filed our Permit to Enter Cuba!

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Hey crew!  I thought I would take a short break from the Atlantic-crossing saga to get you all a bit up-to-date with our current planning for the Cuba trip this winter and what’s been going on with the boat.  Patrons are already aware of this through their weekly “Patron’s Extras,” but since they’re getting the complete 2-HOUR Trans-At movie tomorrow, I figured they wouldn’t mind me sharing again with you all here ; ).  Let’s dig in.

Our New Rig:

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So, the second mast pull.  That’s coming out on the video this Friday, the reason for it and what we learned in the process.  While it was very disheartening news for Phillip and I to hear, just a few short weeks after we had splashed back from spending the winter on the hard, it ended up (as most things that initially appear to be set-backs) being a not-so-devastating hurdle and another great learning experience for the two of us.  I had a lot of fun making this week’s video on it and watching Video Annie go up the mast time and again as well as flail and kick and curse at the top.  That’s just pure fun.  I hope you all enjoy the video and learn a little in the process.

Going through all of that footage also inspired me to make another video for you all soon covering everything Phillip and I have learned both in the shipyard and with the second mast pull about how to DIY inspect, repair and even replace (if necessary) your rigging.  Wait till you see what happened with our new hi-mod mechanical fittings …

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You’ll see in the next two videos that, unbeknownst to us, our re-rig was not yet complete when we left the shipyard back in March, but after some more sweaty DIY hours were devoted, she is NOW officially done, stronger than ever and ready to take us to Cuba and anywhere else we want to go over the next ten years.

Heavy Weather Sail Planning:

Once we got all the new rigging in order, our next step was our sail plan.  We wanted to make sure we had all possible options for sailing in heavy winds in case we found ourselves in a serious storm out in the Gulf, this was primarily important as we recently decided to sail straight to Cuba when we toss the lines this December.  Cuba is the destination we want most to reach and explore this winter and while we’ve hopped along the west coast of Florida before (and love it), this time Phillip and I want to undertake and accomplish our longest offshore passage just the two of us.  We also want to get to Cuba as soon as safely possible, so it is the destination of priority.   If the Atlantic-crossing did anything for me and Phillip, it was to confirm our mere belief at the time that we would enjoy long offshore passages.  We LOVED each of the 4,600 nautical miles we covered from Florida to France, and we are excited to put those kinds of blue-water miles under our own hull, just the two of us.

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So, we’re going to do it.  Toss the lines in Pensacola and shoot straight for Cuba in (hopefully) a safe, smooth five-day run, our longest yet on the Niagara.  The best way to ensure we have a safe passage is to make sure we, the boat and our sails are ready for whatever Mother Nature sees fit to throw out us out there in the sometimes tumultuous, unpredictable Gulf.  Hence, the heavy weather sail planning:

Our main sail on the boat is rather new.  We replaced it in early 2014 in anticipation of our sail to the Florida Keys that spring.

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We had two reefs in the main, rigged with one line at the mast that pulls the tack down to both Reef 1 and Reef 2 from the cockpit, as well as two separate lines that pull the main down to Reef 1 and Reef 2 at the clew, also operated from the cockpit.  We have been very pleased with this system as we marked each of the lines the spot for Reef 1 with blue tape and Reef 2 with red tape.  That way we just drop the main to its mark then pull the reef lines to theirs, all from the cockpit, making the procedure fast and safe.

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One additional option we wanted to add, however, was a third reef point in our main sail for the Cuba trip.  It was actually John Kretschmer—in a seminar he gave at the Miami Boat Show we went to back in February, 2015—who said: “The first thing I always do when I’m prepping a boat for delivery across the Atlantic is have the owner put a third reef in the main.”  That has stuck with Phillip and I ever since—as did many things Kretschmer said (like how much fun it is to cross the Atlantic going east on the northern route, that particularly influenced Phillip’s decision to join as crew on Andanza this past June).  Once again, thank you Kretschmer for sharing your sailing knowledge and experience.

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With this advice in mind, Phillip and I got with our local sailmaker—Hunter with Schurr Sails in Pensacola—and talked to him about putting a third reef in our main.  I also got a really cool tour of his sail loft in the process.  Don’t worry, this will all be coming out in a “How to Rig Your Boat for Heavy Weather Sailing” video soon.

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We got the main back from Hunter two weeks ago and took it out to Ft. McRee where we raised her up to the third reef to get a feel for how much (or should I say how little) sail that is and re-ran the reefing lines back in ourselves (a good lesson).  It was cool to truly understand how these systems work in order to repair or re-configure them if need be while we are underway.

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Case in point, one of the things Hunter told us about the third reef he put in the main was that (in anticipation of heavy weather) we could re-run the reefing lines to be able to pull down to the 2nd and 3rd reef from the cockpit (as opposed to the 1st and 2nd as it is run now) and we can do that now that we have learned how the reefing lines are run.  Alternatively, Phillip and I have also discussed merely using sturdy nylon straps or ties around the boom to tie in the 3rd reef, a fool-proof time-tested method but also one that must be executed up on deck, potentially in heavy weather, so we may follow our sailmaker’s advice and run the 2nd and 3rd reef ahead of time.  These are all contingencies we are trying to think through and plan for ahead of time in case we do find ourselves in heavy weather in the Gulf, but it is neat to see some of the things we are learning while merely out-rigging our boat for offshore sailing that will translate to some seriously-handy skills when we’re out there cruising.

We also had Hunter make us a new storm sail.  In 2014, also in prep for the trip to the Keys, we had our local rigger make us an inner forestay—out of rugged, durable line—that we can rig up for heavy weather (enabling our sloop rig to convert into a cutter).  We merely have to hoist Annie up.  (It’s a good thing she loves to climb the mast!)

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I attach the inner forestay at the mast, then we attach it here to the foreward D-ring on the deck via an adjustable turnbuckle to really tighten her down.

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After we had the inner forestay rigged up in 2014, we raised our “storm sail” (from the previous owner) for the first time and Phillip found it was really far too big and flimsy to be considered a heavy weather sail.  We were surprised to find it stretched all the way back beyond the mast and seemed to be too thin of a material to proclaim itself capable of handling heavy winds.  When I took it to Hunter at Schurr Sails, looking at it and the bag, he thought it was a genoa for a Hunter 30, not in any way a “storm sail.”  Go figure.

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But, as cruisers we try to never waste!  So, Phillip had the ingenious idea to see if Hunter could convert this sail into a back-up genoa that could furl around our forestay by taking off the hanks at the luff and sewing in a the proper bead that would enable it to run up our foils on the forestay.  We knew from experience (when our genny halyard exploded on our way to Ft. Myers in 2014 and our genny fluttered uselessly to the deck) that it can be very frustrating to lose the ability to use such a powerful sail.

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While that incident was the result of a failure of the halyard, we know there is always the possibility our genoa might get snagged, ripped or otherwise irreparably damaged during our sail to Cuba and, if that occurs, it will be good to have a sail we can hoist in her stead, even if it’s not near as big or powerful.  It’s like having a spare in case you have a blow-out.  It will at least get you home (or to port).  Hunter said this would be no problem and he whipped it up for us, so we now have a back-up genny.

Regarding the storm sail, we had to decide how big (or I guess the real question is how small) we really wanted it.  Did we want a (as Hunter called it) “God Help Us” sail that was only 25% of the inner forestay triangle, or a 50% sail that would make us more comfortable in 20+ knot winds but still afford us enough speed to control the boat to get the heck out of a storm?

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Decisions, decisions …  It was a tough call as Phillip and I are definitely—after our incredible first ocean-crossing this past June—planning on crossing the Atlantic in our boat sometime in the next couple of years, so we do want gear for our boat that serves us well both on our voyage this winter as well as longer, more blue water voyages in the years to come.  We decided on a compromise and had Hunter make us a 35% sail (10oz Dacron cross-cut) that we hope will be just what we need for the Gulf-crossing this December as well as ocean-crossings in the coming years.  We haven’t pulled and tested that one out yet, but Hunter finished it last week and Video Annie was obviously excited to have it in the backseat of the car.

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A New Dinghy:

Phillip and I have been in need of a new dinghy for quite some time.  For those of you who have read my first salty saga, Salt of a Sailor, you know all-too-well what happened to our first dinghy—a fantastic 6-seater Caribe model WITH a 2-stroke, 15 hp outboard that we never got to use.  For those of you curious, check out the book on Amazon or email me for a free eCopy.  It’s a whale of a tale.

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All I will say is we will never do davits …   Thankfully for our first summer on the boat, our buddy Brandon with Perdido Sailor (he’s been there for us right from the start) loaned us a 4 person collapsible Achilles that has served us very well over the last few years for coastal cruising.

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Ain’t she a beaut?  Thanks again B!

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After our never-doing-that-again experience with davits and our experience with the loaner from Brandon, Phillip and I have found that we like a dinghy that can broken down and stowed below decks, particularly when we’re making a long offshore passage.  We like clean decks (as we spend a lot of time sitting up on the deck while underway, most often in our awesome Sport-a-Seats!).

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Remember they’ll give you a 15% discount if you use Promo Code HWWT2015!  Woot!  Woot!

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We also like the fact of not having another item we need to strap down and secure on deck in case we get into rough seas.  Having a dinghy that travels below decks is definitely preferred for us, so far.  When we start traveling and island hopping more (with the ability to tow our dinghy more often) we may change our minds, but at this juncture Phillip and I believe the stow-able dinghy suits us best.  And, the one Brandon had lent us—while it was a little small, probably would have suited us just fine for our cruising this winter—but the floor of the darn thing kept leaking.  Keep in mind, this dinghy is 15 years old, has been packed and unpacked (by Phillip and I alone) and run up on the beach more times than I can count.  So, she’s definitely paid her dues.  Trying to prolong her “borrowed time,” however, Phillip and I spent the better part of last summer patching her eighteen times at one point,

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and even trying to float the bottom with GFlex in order to stop the leaks.  (Brandon thought that was pretty funny.)

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No dice.  She was still taking on water.  So, we knew it was time to upgrade.  With everything I have mentioned previously about our needs and desires when it comes to a dinghy.  We decided on a 9-foot, 6-seater Achilles that collapses and stows below decks.  We debated for a while between the slats that remain in the boat when rolled up or separate floorboards that you insert while assembling.  To keep the various pieces lighter, enabling easier transfer from our aft berth in the cabin topside for inflation, we chose the floorboards.  Phillip was really excited the day the new dinghy came in!  So much so that we blew her up right there in the middle of the living room floor!

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Phillip cracked me up trying to row away from the couch!  Row, Phillip, row!

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The instructions also cracked me up depicting a very detailed “downward dog” move necessary to snap the floorboards in place.  Phillip and I found this was a pretty accurate portrayal, though, when we first blew the new dinghy up on deck and started fitting the floorboards in.  Don’t knock the downward dog!

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We tested our new dinghy out over the long Labor Day weekend and found she worked great.  We even towed her behind the boat for the first time and left her inflated at the dock when we got back.  I’m afraid we’re getting lazy!

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It was a fun rainy weekend but we had a great time anchoring first for a solitary night out at Red Fish Point, one of our absolute favorite places, then towing the dinghy west to anchor out behind Paradise Inn for a little bit of crazy beach night life.

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That’s also when we made the “Phillip’s Famous Mojito” video that I hope you all got to check out on Facebook!

 

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Great opportunity to check for leaks!

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Behind Paradise Inn (love that place)!

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Rain could never slow our “good times” train down.  No sir!

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Documentation:

Once we felt the boat, rig and safety items were pretty much handled it was time to file our Permit to Enter Cuba!   This is the permit (USCG 3300) you have to file with the United States Coast Guard to get permission to enter Cuba:

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There are twelve designations you can travel under as your purported reason for wanting to travel to Cuba, ranging from humanitarian aid and education to journalism, professional, etc.

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After speaking with several cruisers who have traveled to Cuba recently (thank Wally Moran, with SailingtoCuba.blogspot, for the chart above), many of whom have arguably far less writing credentials or intentions than me, I have decided to travel under “Journalistic Activity,” as I do plan to do many write-ups, articles and videos documenting our voyage to share with others who plan to make the same trip.  Phillip and I will let you all know as soon as we hear back from the USCG with (hopefully) approval to enter.  Do note the 3300 form is only needed to RETURN to the U.S. from Cuba.  I have been told by several sources that all you need to ENTER Cuba is a passport and boat registration.

It does make things a little difficult, however, as you have to “declare” your departure and entry dates on Form 3300 so far in advance.  We’re cruisers.  All plans are written in sand at low tide.  Apparently, the USCG doesn’t think this saying is so cute.  They want dates and final answers, and they want them now!  We’re planning to pick a date in mid-December and hope all works out.  I had a great Skype chat with Wally Moran about our plans to sail to Cuba.  Wally has co-authored a cruising guide on sailing to Cuba, Cuba Bound, and manages a VERY helpful Facebook Page (Sailing and Cruising: Cuba) devoted specifically to helping cruisers navigate their way to Cuba, and he gave me some great tips on documentation, registration and getting through Customs.  I hope I can piece together enough from that conversation and other resources to make a video on “How to Get Your Permit to Enter Cuba.”  Thank you again for taking the time to chat with me Wally!

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Life Raft:

One of the last big items on our list is the life raft.  Phillip and I are actually having Captain Yannick help us with that from France as, if you recall, he had to really scramble to buy a new one and have it shipped to Pensacola in time for our shove-off date of May 28th and, in doing so, he came across a very good deal overseas.  We’re still working out the details on that and have not yet ordered, but we are grateful to Yannick for the help and the money we will likely save due to his savvy online shopping skills.  It never ceases to amaze me the many diversely-talented people you meet while cruising and their willingness to help you along the way, and vice versa.

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Otherwise, this is our last “short list”:

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There is not too much left to do now that the boat is ready.  It’s mainly ordering and testing out some navigational aids and new communication devices.  After seeing the convenience (and pleasure) of having a Delorme on the boat for the Atlantic-crossing, with unlimited texting, enabling us to chat with friends, family, even professionals if needed, along the way, Phillip and I have decided to purchase a Delorme with likely the same or similar package as Yannick did as well as an iPad for this same purpose during our cruising this winter.  We will be sharing the tracker link as well as messaging capabilities with Patrons.  If you have enjoyed this update and would like to stay current with us as we prepare to cast off in December as well as see our movements in real time and chat with us along the way, please Become a Patron.

That pretty much brings you all up to date.  As you can see, Phillip and I are incredibly excited to be embarking on this next voyage now on our newly re-built and re-rigged boat, just the two of us.  The Atlantic crossing has only fueled our desire to travel sooner and further on our boat.  I hope the movie I made from our first ocean voyage does the same for you.  I will put it out for rent on YouTube soon for those who want to see it but would prefer not to go the Patreon route.  Watch for the announcement here.
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Oh, oh, one more exciting thing that happened this week!  Annie got her wisdom tooth pulled out!  This time NOT by pliers.  Phillip and I had to see it as fortuitous that she decided to only start painfully piercing her way through the fragile tissue of my gums once we were back onshore, although we got some good laughs imagining how the wily and resourceful Captain Yannick might have handled that at sea.  “Get me some epinephrine, some Novocain and the vice grips.”  I can assure you, he would have done it.  Thankfully, it was only four days of irritating turned intense pain then one hour of wide-eyed, wide-mouthed Annie watching needles, rods and forceps being passed before her eyes before this puppy came out.  Good times.

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Boat #10: 1985 Alberg 37 (Rigged Up for Cruising with Kids!)

You may know these two sexy sailors: Jeremiah and Brittany from Lazy Gecko Sailing. Now you’re going to get to know their “sexy boat,” a beautiful, solid, well-built bluewater boat, a 1985 Alberg 37.  Watch as Jeremiah gives you a detailed tour and shows off Brittany’s ingenious below-decks configuration for the kids.  If any of you are hesitant to cruise with children, the Lazy Geckos are hard-core proof it is possible and it can be phenomenal.  Thank you again, Jeremiah and Brittany for putting this awesome boat tour together for us.

Also, catch my video message at the end talking about my 2-hour Atlantic-crossing movie which will be premiering SEP. 22ND on Patreon.  I’m incredibly proud of this piece of work and hope you all will get on board to watch and learn what it truly feels like to cross an ocean on a catamaran.  Get your ticket to view on Patreon.

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Ch. 9: Reef Early, Reef Often

The cruising community is really very small.  Meet cruisers in one port and you know you’ll likely run into them somewhere on the other side of the world.  It’s also a very giving community.  Lend some cruisers a hand here, and you’ll likely have a hand held out for you in the next anchorage.  As the salty crew of Andanza hopped off the boat in Key West, we were greeted right there at the dock by a couple of cruisers we knew from back home in Pensacola.

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Amanda and Saunders are live-aboards who had just started their cruising adventure a few months prior.  They were living out on the hook in Bayou Chico while Phillip and I had our Niagara on the hard during the big repair/re-fit earlier this year, and it was cool to see them now actually out there, doing it—exactly what Phillip and I would soon be doing—living on their boat and cruising to different ports and cities.

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Amanda and Saunders were definitely earning their good “cruising karma” that day by making the two-hour run with us n Key West like pack mules, lugging bags, schlepping supplies, even offering their bike if we needed it as we made our way quickly to the local West Marine, the grocery store and the hardware store.

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We tried to grab lunch at one of mine and Phillip’s favorite spots in Key West.  Phillip and I discovered it when we cruised down to the Keys in 2014 and it was the only place in Key West we were willing to sacrifice two meal cards for and dine at twice: Paseo’s.  We kept talking it up to Amanda and Saunders who had only been in Key West for a few weeks and hadn’t experienced this gem yet for themselves.  “The bean and rice bowls are as big as your head!” I assured them, “with gooey melted cheese, fresh tomatoes, avocado, corn, sour cream, like eighteen different ingredients in every single bite.”

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I was getting a little carried away.  But it is an awesome little Caribbean joint.  And, they have whole roasted ears of corn slathered with butter and dusted with salt, pepper, paprika and fresh parsley.  Easily the best corn I have ever had (even over my grandma, Big Mom’s, famous BBQ corn).

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Paseo’s is also (although Phillip hates when I use this word) super cheap!  A $12 bowl can easily be split between two people and have you both waddling away absolutely stuffed, which is why I knew Amanda and Saunders, as cost-conscious live-aboards, would LOVE it too.

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But I think our desperate Caribbean love jinxed us because when we finally made our way to Paseo’s, it was closed that day.  Dag nabbit!

But we grabbed some samiches at another little bistro, “To go!” Phillip said, and started lugging all of our goods back to Andanza.  Then a guy with a golf cart pulls up and asks if we want a ride.  We had ventured about 8 blocks out chasing the Caribbean cuisine so we said “Sure!” and hopped in.  He seemed so excited to play even just a tiny role in our offshore adventure when we told him we were about to cross the Atlantic.  Amanda and Saunders felt the same, like they were sharing in it just a little by joining us for a brief moment in Key West.  It was heart-warming to see people so ignited by our journey and willing to help.

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When we made it back to the boat, we found Yannick had just completed the daunting fuel top-off back at the boat, having filled not only the two fuel tanks, but also the additional jerry cans we had brought along that we had dumped in while motoring across the Gulf.  He was a hot, sweaty mess, but sporting a smile as he helped us bring the goods aboard, stow them away and get ready to toss the lines and head back out.

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We waved goodbye to Amanda and Saunders and the folks at the dock and were back out in the Gulf in a matter of thirty minutes, munching our sandwiches and talking about our next waypoint.  The stop in the Keys was so fast, it almost felt like it didn’t even happen because we were excited to be back underway.  Out there, holding our shifts, traveling across a bounty of blue water, is where we wanted to be.  The crew of Andanza had been five days at sea and it had only fueled our desire to stay out longer and sail further.  “To France!” we cheersed that evening over dinner in the cockpit.

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I held the 2:00 a.m. shift that night and learned, or I guess taught myself, a good lesson in offshore sailing.  While I had considered myself a fairly alert sailor, before setting off on this voyage, I realized I was fooling myself.  I would often read during my night shifts, listen to music, write stories in my mind, which is fine, intermittently, but you should make yourself—for the entire shift if you are able, but at ten or fifteen minute intervals at least—focus entirely on the boat and your surroundings.  Entirely.  You got that?  Ask yourself: How is she doing?  How are the seas treating her?  How is the sail trim?  Where is the wind coming from?  What has its pattern been the last half hour?  Are you on your heading?  Is she holding steady?  If the engine is running, what’s the temp?  The oil pressure?  What is the sea state?  Do a 360 around the cockpit, looking in every direction.  Check for chafe on every line.  Force yourself to not be complacent, not for one minute.

Once we made our way around the tip of Florida and started to turn north up the east coast, the winds finally found us.  They were on our stern during my shift that night and threatening to kick the boom over into an accidental jibe.  I had brought my book up with me to the helm, out of habit, but that is the last time I believe I will ever read on a night shift at the helm.  Because I was worried about a jibe, my thoughts crystallized into acute focus on the boat and I found myself, early during the morning hours of June 3rd, asking and answering all of those questions, quizzing myself almost, on the status of the boat.  Once I was able to answer all of the questions, it was time to start the inquiry again and after six or seven rounds of this, I found an hour had passed rather quickly and I had thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being intimately connected with the boat and her surroundings the entire time.

The thought of then picking up a book and reading while on watch felt a bit like driving and texting.  Like I was going to miss something and cause an accident.  I am not in any way saying reading during a night shift is dangerous or should not be done.  What I simply realized, for myself that night, was that I enjoy my shifts more when I direct all of my mental efforts toward the boat.  Time passes quicker and I feel safer.  This discovery came to me merely the fifth night of our passage across the Atlantic and it marked a mental milestone for me as I spent each of the dozens of night shifts I held after (as I am sure I will hold each night shift on a boat in the future) in this fashion—in complete fixation on the boat.

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After my shift, I crashed hard in our berth.  Another benefit of exerting significant mental energy on the boat is exhaustion.  I never found myself struggling to fall back asleep after my night shift was over, even in surprisingly noisy or rough conditions.  When I groggily came to the next morning around 9:00 a.m., I found Phillip cheerfully making toast in the galley.

“We caught a mackerel,” he said with a smile.  “It’s in the fridge.”

“Sweet!” I replied and thought I could sure get used to this lifestyle.  But it’s all encompassing.  My first cup of coffee in hand and I stepped out into the cockpit to find Johnny and Yannick had dissected the starboard engine once again.  Rusty, greasy pieces were laid out on a tablecloth on the cockpit floor like they were playing the game Operation.  Yannick turned to Phillip with a little stone that had come out of the elbow in his hand and said:

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I admired Yannick for his resilience and his sense of humor, even in the face of what might seem to many a daunting boat project.  Hearty are the French.

Johnny and Yannick were trying to solve, yet again, unsatisfactory performance of the cooling system in the starboard engine.  Johnny said the flow coming out of the exhaust was too light while the stream coming out of the pisser was too strong.

And, I don’t know if I can take credit for that one as an “Annie term” as it seemed everyone called the tiny squirt stream out of the engine the “pisser.”  After a few days on passage, and multiple conversations about the coolant systems in the engines, I found myself simply saying it, not knowing when or how I had learned it.  While I did learn some French on the voyage, the first language I started to pick up was Diesel.

Johnny believed, because the pisser was strong but the exhaust was light, that there might be a clog between the two, so he and Yannick had removed the exhaust elbow from the engine and were now taking turns blowing through it, the grease from the piece leaving crusty black marks around their lips.  I could tell Yannick knew I was trying not to laugh at them when he handed the dirty elbow to me saying I might be the most well-equipped crew member to “give it a blow.”  Ha ha.

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We were surprisingly able to have a pretty good time doing most anything on that boat, even greasy projects.  I’ll spare you the days and details spent dicking around with the coolant system on the starboard engine as it seems it was a multitude of issues that converged into one big problem: the engine not holding temp.  Once the elbow was cleaned out (as it was found to be partially clogged), Johnny also discovered the cap on the water pump was not fastening down tight enough to enable the system to seal.  Having heard good things about them, Yannick had put SpeedSeal fast caps on his water pumps, in case the impellers had to be changed often or quickly during our passage, but it seemed the screws on the cap weren’t holding well enough to allow the pump to draw water in.  Think of a straw with a hole in it.  The suction was compromised.  However, after some creative tapping in the cap and creation of a few “magic bolts” Yannick was able to fix the issue and the starboard engine had no more coolant problems after that.

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Notice I said no “coolant problems.”  Engines are such fun.

Thankfully, we were able to undertake all of this engine work while still making great progress up the north coast as the winds were holding steady and strong.  It was somewhere off the coast near Ft. Lauderdale when we first broke the 10-knot barrier on the boat.  Some fun raw 10-knot footage for you here:

 

Yes, it required a Whoo Hoo!  You’ll hear plenty of Annie “Whoo Hoos!” in the 2-hour MOVIE.  We’re only one week out now from the premiere!  Get your ticket to view on Patreon.

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The fastest I have seen our Niagara go is 8.3, and that was surfing down a wave.  I’m confident I never want to see her go faster than 10 knots.  Moving so fast on a sailboat was a wild feeling.  It seemed no matter how much wind you put on her stern, Andanza could take it.  No heeling, no groaning, she just went faster.  It was strange, almost frightening to watch the wind climb to heights that would tighten my throat on our Niagara—15, 20, 25 and upwards—and the cat held fast.  And it was a good thing, too, because a thick, blue wall was forming off our starboard bow as we sailed around the tip of Florida and right into our first storm of the trip.

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“Let’s go down to second reef!” Yannick thundered from the mast.  In the slick, glassy waters of the Gulf, we had barely raised the sails, much less had any need to reef them so this was our first time running a reef drill.  Looking back, I’m sure every member of the Andanza crew will tell you we should have done this sooner, even if just for a drill.  Or better yet, intentionally just as a drill.  Safety was definitely a very high concern for the Captain and crew and we had talked many times about reefing often, every day at sunset, etc. but we had missed the all-important need to actually DO IT, several times over, so that we as a collective crew could reef quickly and efficiently, like a well-oiled machine.  Now here we were, in 28 knots of wind, watching it increase and preparing to execute our first reef drill.

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Many thanks to my followers and Patrons who make sharing these adventures possible.  Become a Patron for access to our weekly, Patrons-Only content: Cuba-Prep Updates, Trans-Atlantic Exclusives and a Sneak Peek of each Friday’s video:

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