Post-Bahamas Projects 2023: Cushions, Boom Vang, Back Stay, Davits, Oh My!

For Ubi, in 2023, April showers brought many project hours.  After all that holiday island-style fun in the Abacos,

Phillip and I planned to spend a good bit of the spring in sunny Ft. Lauderdale—where we were keeping Ubi at a friend’s dock for the season—tackling some long overdue projects.  

Let’s face it.  It’s a boat.  There’s always a list.  But, it has an hierarchy.  Some projects lay hidden, hoping never to be found, while some tend to bubble their way slowly to the top, and others storm to it and crash through like a man on fire.  “Surprise, I’m broke!  Fix me first!”  It’s the boat who gets to decide, really—what projects are safety issues, what projects will get worse if not conquered now, and what can wait.  After the boat makes those decisions, we peons (the owners) get to make our “want” versus “need” decisions and add our desires to Ubi’s needs.  

Here’s the list we had formed on Ubi for Spring 2023: 

  1. Replace the failing shocks in the boom vang;
  2. Rebuild the leaking hydraulic backstay;
  3. Have a new halyard for the mainsail made;
  4. Have new running backstays made;
  5. Replace our sail cover with a stack pack;
  6. Have new hatch covers made and our sagging filler taken in;
  7. Replace the blue ultra-suede interior cushion covers with cream ultra-leather;
  8. Repair our fridge/freezer lids where the powerful shocks were cracking and pulling out; and
  9. Repaired a busted pickling fitting on our Cruise RO water maker.

Nine items.  That’s a respectable list.  Some essentials.  Some simply quality of life and/or sailing upgrades.  You may be thinking, why not add one more to make it a round ten?  Turns out, Ubi felt the same way.  Let’s dig in.

No. 1 – Replace the failing shocks in the boom vang

In the fall and winter of 2022, we had noticed our boom was starting to drop a little lower.  At first, I just felt like I had to keep retightening our tie-downs that hold the boom in place (traveled over to port) when we’re not sailing.  But then, the boom itself started to make contact with the bimini.  Very light, but enough to signal to us that the shocks in our Sparcraft boom vang were failing.  We called on Florida Rigging and Hydraulics to assist.  They took the vang off the boat and sent it away to have the shocks replaced.  Phillip and I opted to re-install the vang ourselves to save on some labor hours, something we had never done before.  

We eventually proved capable, but it took a lot of head scratching and wrestling before we finally realized the boom itself was really the only thing strong enough to push the shocks down to the right fit.  Once we finally raised the boom to an ungodly height—cocked at an angle like a catamaran—we were finally able to get the pins in for the vang install and then lower the boom back down to its normal position.  We learned replacing these shocks is something that typically has to be done every 5-7 years, so it’s now on the rotating list of things to keep an eye on.  

No. 2 – Rebuild the leaking hydraulic backstay

Like the boom, we had noticed while in the Bahamas that our hydraulic backstay—on the starboard side of our split backstay—had been leaking just a touch of hydraulic fluid onto the seat in the starboard corner of the cockpit and, over time, slowly releasing some of the tension we had cranked down.  We knew it was time for a rebuild.  We brought Florida Rigging and Hydraulics back in to assist again with rebuilding the hydraulic component.  However, trying to stay as hands-on as possible, Phillip and I opted to take on the removal of hydraulic piece as well as the re-install, which proved—again—to be doable, albeit with a wild learning curve.  We rigged up several halyards from the top of the mast aft to help support the mast while the hydraulic backstay was off.  For the re-install, we deployed a Dyneema line through several shackles to our genny winch to help pull the starboard side of the backstay down again so we could get the pin in on the hydraulic backstay.  It was a day’s work but we eventually got it done.  

No. 3 – Have a new main halyard made

Our main halyard on Ubi had been chewed up a few feet aft of the shackle, likely caused (we assumed) years ago by a strike with our wind generator on the starboard stern when attaching it to the dinghy davits behind the cockpit.  It also had a shackle that did not have a captive pin, which made transfer of the halyard from the mainsail or forward deck to the dinghy davits a bit trickier.  We called in Florida Rigging and Hydraulics again to make us a new halyard, as we wanted both a higher-tech, no stretch line as well as a shackle with a captive pin.  That decision was a game-changer.  Phillip and I congratulate ourselves now every time we move that halyard (often an every-other-day occurrence) on our super smart shackle choice.  “Kudos savvy sailors!” we say.

No. 4 – Have new running backstays made

On Ubi, we have two permanent Dyneema lines that run from the mast aft that we can rig up as running backstays, as needed, to help support the mast when we’re pumping downwind.  The two lines we had for this purpose had also suffered a few snags and blowouts and had become compromised, so we wanted to have new ones made to be sure they were at the peak of their strength for Ubi.  We had Florida Rigging and Hydraulics make these up for us as well and they turned out rather nice.  

No. 5 – Replace our sail cover with a stack pack

When we bought Ubi in 2021 (can’t believe that’s coming up on almost three years now – time freaking flies!), she had a Dutchman system installed in the main sail (a system we had never used before) and a sail cover that was, unfortunately, far too large.  But, she was turn-key, ready to go cruising, which was our primary goal, so we decided to try the Dutchman system for a while to make up our own mind about it.  We did not end up liking it.  While it promises a perfectly flaked main falling right down onto the boom every time, that was not our experience.  The mainsail would often flake improperly or fall off the side of the boom, threatening to stretch and break our Dutchman fishing lines.  We also did not like all of the openings and potential chafe points the Dutchman puts in the main.  

Phillip and I also know we LOVE a stack pack.  Drop, stuff, zip, you’re done.  No sail cover to haul up and down and snap and zip over the mainsail (a rather large sail on Ubi).  We are aware of the extra attention required when raising the mainsail to ensure the battens don’t snag the stack pack lines and the visibility lost at the foot of the sail when the stack pack is on, but we find the simplicity and aesthetic of the stack pack system outweighs these cons.  We swapped from a sail cover to a stack pack on the old boat early on in our cruising and we’ve always found it was the right choice for us. We were thrilled to see the stack pack that Mack Sails installed on Ubi.  It’s sleek, well-made, and a great improvement to the boat.  

No. 6 – Have new hatch covers made and our sagging filler taken in

We had a fellow cruiser recommend a gal in Ft. Lauderdale to us who does boat canvas on the side, and we got her lined up to start our canvas work over the course of several months in the spring while we would be flying back and forth from Pensacola, FL to Ft. Lauderdale.  One thing we had really been putting off, but that nigged at us daily, were the hatch covers on Ubi.  They definitely served their purpose in keeping the harsh UV rays off the portlights and providing shade inside, but they often did not stay on properly and had not been professionally finished.  Ubi deserved better.  We lined up our canvas contact, Cindy, to make us some new “toast” Sunbrella hatch covers.  What a difference that made.  This was one of the first projects Cindy finished for us, and we were thrilled with her work.  The seams on these covers are a work of art (ignore the bird turds!).  

Our filler also had a sag in it that was aesthetically displeasing and also allowed rainwater to pool and drip right onto the upper seat of the coaming, adding to our wet cockpit.  We had Cindy tack the filler up to fix these issues, and it looked and worked exceptionally better after she worked her magic.  

No. 7 – Replace the blue ultra-suede interior cushion covers with cream ultra-leather 

While the vivid blue ultra-suede cushions original to Ubi were pretty, Phillip and I wanted to go with a more neutral color when we switched to give us more flexibility with colors in our throw pillows, artwork, and decor on the boat.  Like the Dutchman system, we decided to try out and blow out the blue cushions the first few years of our cruising on Ubi before we switched to something that suited us more.  One of the best aspects about Ubi, when we bought her in March 2021—many thanks to her diligent former owner, Jim, she was ready to leave the dock and take us to really cool places.  She was not a project boat.  Ubi was comfortable, capable, and ready to go!  When it came to the cushions, Phillip and I knew we’d spill things here and there and stain them.  It was inevitable.  What we didn’t expect was the speckled black look that began to appear and grow on our saloon cushions over the last two years.  He and I are still not sure whether it was caused by mold or spores from the AC, but Phillip and I spent too much time, unsuccessfully, trying to scrub, rub, even steam clean the black specks off—to no avail.  It was time to upgrade the cushions.  

Cindy did a bang-up job.  This has been one of our favorite upgrades on the boat in 2023.  The ultra-leather is butter-soft and cool to the touch.  The ultra-leather is also quite durable and stain resistant, particularly to red wine.  Ask me how I know that, lol.  We also love the “champagne” Sunbrella material that we chose and purchased from Sail Rite which gives the interior of the boat a lighter, brighter look.

No. 8 – Repair our fridge/freezer lids where the powerful shocks were cracking and pulling out

The shocks that lift and raise our fridge lids are quite strong, which is nice.  They’re heavy lids.  But, the shocks are also so strong they were beginning to crack the underside of the lid and pull out of their screw holes.  Before they caused a large hole and worse damage, we decided to remove them, fill the holes and cover the area with epoxy, then remount the shocks.  They’ve been holding now for six months with no issue and frequent, rigorous daily use.  

No. 9 – Repair a busted pickling fitting on our Cruise RO water maker

Rich at Cruise RO has proven prompt and incredibly helpful to us on several occasions.  We did not have a water maker on our Niagara 35, so we had many questions in the beginning that Rich patiently fielded and handled.  Phillip and I also had to replace the water maker’s membranes when we first bought Ubi, and Rich’s videos walked us right through that job.  When we pickled the water maker in preparation for our plans to leave the boat in Ft. Lauderdale for a bit to fly home for family visits, work, and play, we found the fitting that feeds the pickling material in was busted.  Rich hooked us up.  Sent the parts we needed and—with a quick Annie fix—we were back in business.  Thank you Rich!

No. 10 – Replace our busted davits … SAY WHAT?!  

Poor Ducky (our dink).  

I can’t imagine what that terrifying rainy night was like for him, watching torrential rains pound him merciless for 24 hours as the 2” steel arms that hold him up slowly began to bend and fail, threatening to send him crashing, which they eventually did.  Phillip and I were back home in Pensacola on April 13, 2023 when Ft. Lauderdale was hit with an unprecedented rainstorm, dropping nearly 26” (TWENTY-SIX?!) of rain in 24 hours.  The winds were also howling.  It was a wicked storm.  When the owner of the dock where we were keeping Ubi sent us this picture of our boat after the storm passed, Phillip and I were shocked.  How the hell did that happen?

You can see in the photo the plug on the dinghy was clearly out.  But, the rains were relentless and the wind had the boat heeled over pretty hard to starboard for a 24-hour period leaning against the dock, also dropping twigs and leaves and debris into the dinghy.  We believe a combination of the drain hole clogging from debris and enough heel of the boat to starboard to allow the body and bow of the dinghy to fill to a point that the starboard davit began to fail and bend.  Once the weight tipped enough the dinghy could not drain, the relentless rain just kept filling the dinghy with thousands of pounds of water that the davits simply could not hold.  It was kind of a freak accident, but we did blame ourselves in part for not putting the dinghy on the deck.  Lessons learned.  

The real take-away from this story was the comradery of fellow cruisers!  Phillip and I were in Pensacola, hundreds of miles away from Ft. Lauderdale, and couldn’t really tell from the photo whether the hard aluminum bottom of our dinghy had fallen and cracked Ubi’s stern.  Was Ubi taking on water?  Was she in need of immediate, urgent help?  Being away from your boat when you believe she’s in trouble and needs you is a sickening, gut-wrenching feeling.  I know boats aren’t people, but I akin them to pets.  Imagine if someone sent you a picture of your dog, clinging to a rock in the middle of a raging river and you are hundreds of miles away.  To us, it feels a bit like that.  

We needed someone to go to Ubi as fast as possible to make sure her stern was intact and get the dinghy down and secure.  At first we tried Boat U.S., but were having trouble placing a call for a rescue of our dinghy, not the actual boat, but either way they were going to charge us a hefty price.  Boat U.S. was working it up the chain of command when Phillip had the brilliant idea to utilize our new membership in the Ocean Cruising Club, a community of fellow, qualifying cruisers (the qualifying passage is a continuous ocean passage of at least 1,000 nautical miles) poised to assist and advise one another.  After years of coaxing, and a generous offer to sponsor, from our incredible cruising friends, Russell and Lynne on s/v Blue Highway, we had finally joined the OCC (ironically) just a couple of months prior, but this is a testament to not only good friends and luck, but also timing.  Phillip remembered the OCC has a Members’ Fleet Map on their website where members can search and find other OCC members.  This can be helpful to reach out and ask questions about the port you’ve just reached, or seek assistance with boat projects, or just connect with fellow adventurous, like-minded cruisers.  On this day, we wanted to use our OCC connection to call in a big favor – one we would be happy to pay forward three times over, but that we needed to cash in for ourselves today.  

On the OCC Members’ Fleet Map, we found John and Alexis on s/v Ashling, a stately, impressive Atlantic 47 that we had met previously in Annapolis.  They were in Lake Sylvia, a spot we had frequented numerous times during our east coast travels.  Lake Sylvia was also just a short dinghy ride from where Ubi was docked in Ft. Lauderdale.  We didn’t know John and Alexis well, but that’s the beauty of OCC members.  Whether you’ve met them yet or not, you can bet they’re resourceful, smart, capable people willing to help.  Our instincts were right.  We emailed John and he responded immediately, with an offer to help.  Even though a squall was about to come through Ft. Lauderdale—that Phillip and I were sure John would have preferred to hunker down on his boat for—John offered to leave Alexis on the boat and quickly dinghy over to Ubi to assess our situation and get Ducky secure if he could.  John even offered to grab a friend of his, a fellow cruiser, on a nearby boat in Lake Sylvia.  Who would that be, but our very own friend, Jamie (and Sheryl) on s/v Pacific High—whom we had crossed wakes with several times up and down the east coast and had just spent time with in New England the past summer.  Hell yeah!  Somehow we had scored!  Now we not only had a team going to Ubi’s rescue, we had managed to round up two smart, cruiser savvy sailors who would know how to handle the situation probably better than Phillip and I might.  This gave us confidence that no further unnecessary damage would occur in the rescue.  These were smart guys.  Ubi was a lucky gal!  

Phillip and I were thrilled when a friend at the dock was able to get us all on Face Time when John and Jamie arrived, and we could watch and see John and Jamie work through the situation on our boat.  How it all happened—exactly—was still a mystery, but Ducky had definitely severely bent both davits, primarily the starboard davit, before breaking his bridal and crashing down.  But … Ducky hadn’t struck Ubi, just scuffed her on the way down.  “Just a scuff,” I heard John say and my thumping heart immediately slowed.  John and Jamie were able to get Ducky down and secure and assess Ubi.  Her davits were busted for sure, but that was her only injury.  She wasn’t taking on water.  She was sound, dry, and safe.  Surprisingly, other than a terrifying night I’m sure, even Ducky hadn’t suffered any permanent injury in the ordeal.  Phillip and I immediately agreed: we could deal with the davit repair/replacement and make a new lifting bridal for Ducky once we returned.  All was safe for the moment.  Ubi and Ducky had survived 26” of rain in 24 hours alone with only minimal damage.  

When we flew back to Ft. Lauderdale and returned to Ubi a week later, we were thrilled to have Collection Yachts (the company that bought Outbound around the time we purchased Ubi) completely had our backs.  They were responsive, resourceful, and prompt in assisting us with having new davits shipped from China, and custom welded to fit on Ubi.  By the end of May, Phillip and I had completed a pretty extensive repair list—with our biggest, and final, repair: Item No. 10!—coming as a complete surprise (welcome to boating!).  We were now super eager to get this boat moving and start heading north back up the east coast in June.  New England was beckoning us for the summer again.  

Next up on the blog, we start our jaunt north and face some of the worst offshore weather we’ve endured on Ubi and the east coast.  Stay tuned!

Happy Holihamas!  Experience a Holiday Vacay in the Abacos

With as many winters—Christmases and New Years’ included—that Phillip and I have spent in the Bahamas, including this past holiday season in 2022, I figured it was time for a little Bahamas tribute, a rhythmic ditty, if you’ll indulge me, an Annie Seuss treat, as we wish you “Happy Holihamas!” and share with you what it is like to shirk the cold, ditch the snow shovel, and trade your egg nogs for Goombay smashes with a holiday season in the Abacos.  

December 22, 2022

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 5:03 a.m.

We weigh Ubi’s anchor and point her bow towards West End.

Just a 10-hour voyage before us, we don’t care we have to motor-sail,

Any day spent in bikinis in a calm Atlantic makes us feel rather swell,  

Particularly knowing we would arrive in West End mid-afternoon in full daylight 

With a wide, easy entrance, a spacious fuel dock, and a slip that would suit us just right.

As we secure our happy yacht in Bahamian waters, a blinding crystal green

I find myself mesmerized—again, every time!—by the clarity I am seeing.

The colorful scales on each fish, I feel I can count.

The jewel tone of the water, I feel I can reach in and scoop out.

Walking the docks I’m reminded of equally happy days coming here on Plaintiff’s Rest

When we checked into the Bahamas for the first time in 2017 as virgin guests!

Walking over to the beach on the north shore, the view looks too perfect to be real

A white beach, bending palm trees, Bahamian waters, it’s surreal!

Feeling drunk already on simply the sights, to the tiki bar we claim it’s time to dash

Egg nog be damned, we want their famous Bahamian drink, a Goombay Smash!

We trade turkey and canned cranberry dressing in for fresh, tangy conch salad

And savor the tiki bar’s reggae style Bob Marley version of holiday ballads 

Christmas Eve still brings us dazzling lights, a mesmerizing purple, yellow, orange, blue

And I fall asleep in Ubi’s comfy vberth thinking Papa Noel might just find me here, too.

Christmas Day brings us a gift: a cool northwest wind that we sail right to Mangrove Cay

Phillip cracks his usual: “Someone’s spending today shoveling snow in Milwaukee”

It’s another serene night spent at Great Sale Cay before we set our sights on Green Turtle

Keeping Ubi scrubbed and clean during our travels remains my constant but rewarding hurdle.

No sleigh or reindeer at Green Turtle we choose our holiday chariot, a ramshackle golf cart

With the way it carries all our picnic, beach, and kite gear, we find it quite smart!  

Spending the languid days between Christmas and New Years kitesurfing in the ocean

Makes it feel like we put the stress of holiday flights and last-minute shopping in slow motion.

We don’t have any of the traditional holiday décor aboard, no tall tree, on top a shining star, 

But a stately mast we do boast, and when I’m sent up to check the windex it appears quite far!

As December 31st approaches, our excitement grows for the celebration of the year anew,

However in the Bahamas they do it rather differently, with a lively tradition called Junkanoo!

Locals dress in bright, homemade garments and elaborate costumes, paint on their faces

They beat steel drums in rhythm, their enthusiasm and joy rallies every onlooker, all races.

I’m always in awe of their sheer pleasure, Bahamians sharing their beautiful homeland

In ways they appear to have so little, but when I look around and appreciate it all I understand. 

One thing Phillip and I had been really looking forward to, in addition to the Junkanoo glitter

Was the hope that locals would fry up many batches of their savory island gem, conch fritters!

After Junkanoo, we take to the Atlantic again, our sights next set on the Town of Hope

Whose dazzling flora and fauna and neon colored buildings we find supremely dope!

On the way, we dropped a lunch hook at Johnny’s Cay to take in the jawdropping water

Happily reminded that some locations you can still choose by sight, no need for a chartplotter

After grabbing a ball in the harbor, we were thrilled to get a special Hope Town invite from Muffin and Bill

To their weekly game of Bingo: “At Cap’n Jacks, ‘round happy hour, grab a table, it’s a big deal!”

In Hope Town we got news some long-time friends would enter the Bahamas within a week

We turned around to head back through the Abacos to meet them, Annie giving a squeak.

We stopped in Munjack Cay, not wanting to miss a stroll along the trail of recycled art

Delighted to find it had grown extensively since our last visit, many more cruisers playing a part.

Making our way into the anchorage at Great Sale Cay, we took in a wondrous sight

Our sistership, another Outbound, s/v Serendipitous, looking ship shape and right.

With our amazing Annapolis friends, Peter and Patty aboard, waving brightly from their bow

As well as Spandana and Dev on their Cal 40, Turtle, making us grateful for the hear and now.

As it had been months since we’d seen these hearty sailors, each with many stories to share with everyone,

The last time the six of us had been together on Ubi was Fourth of July, 2021.

We spent hours laughing and talking the evening away, sharing news, lessons, and crazy tales

The next day bidding our friends adieu as they headed happily into the Abacos, raised sails.

As Phillip and Ubi and I, satiated with our island trip, made our way back to West End

For other duties called and our glorious time this year in the Bahamas had come to an end.

But the crystal green memories remain, the sun and the rum and the incredible fun

Headed back to Florida we felt grateful and content, our 2023 east coast adventures having just begun. 

BBQ to Bikinis – Cruising Down the East Coast 2022

Esteemed HaveWind fans, where did we last leave you?  Ahhh … Portsmouth, VA where we spent an unanticipated month (nearly) having some serious work done on our Fischer Panda DC generator, where he earned the title “Rocky” for stepping back in the ring and conquering all odds.  With a fully functioning generator at last, and an approaching winter, it was time for Phillip, me (and Ubi makes three!) to get headed south as quick as safely possible in the fall of 2022.  Ironically, the right weather window came to us, once again, around Halloween (the same time we rounded Hatteras headed south in 2021).  We happily dubbed it “Happy Hattereen” ( … again! : ) and started our journey south for the winter, making four memorable, mentionable stops along the way.  Off we go Ubi crew—BBQ to Bikinis: Cruising Down the East Coast 2022.  

BBQ

We made the sail from Norfolk to Charleston (about a 400 nm run) in roughly 62 hours.  The wind was light at first allowing us to motor-sail around Hatteras—a significant obstacle to put in our rearview mirror.  I am totally okay with motoring around that treacherous patch of the Atlantic.  We can sail later, you know … where the depths and shoals are actually charted.  It was a little unnerving watching some thunderstorms off the port bow during our voyage but they, thankfully, never approached us.  

We rigged up the whisker pole for the last 24 hours and, overall, had a nice downwind run into Charleston, even coming in at night (not a problem in such a big inlet).  

We dropped the hook in the anchorage by the Yorktown, where we had spent a little over a week in 2021.  

We like that anchorage as it’s a fairly short dinghy ride in across the Cooper River—although it can get a bit wild with massive cargo ships coming through and a little wet in wind and chop—but then you’re right in the heart of downtown Charleston.  That’s worth a wet dinghy butt any day.  And, while Phillip and I thought we had really gotten the lay of the land in Charleston in 2021, there was one HUGE culinary piece we found this year we had been missing.

If it hasn’t yet been clear here on this blog, we’re pretty big foodies.  We like to eat. We like to drink. And, we LOVE to eat and drink at the same time.

Phillip, our Chief Trip Planner and Restaurant Sommelier (yes, that is a thing) has a pretty meticulously culled “travel list” for each city we’ve been to—or plan to go to—of restaurants to check out (or hit up again), cool bars, neat theatres, landmarks, sights, tours, or just cool things, in general, to do and see there.  And, we’d spent several weeks total in Charleston during our voyages up and down the East Coast in 2021 and thought we had a pretty good handle on things.  Turns out we were wrong.  It took a feisty little grandma Uber driver to prove it to us.  

When we get a rideshare driver who is a local and gives us a good “I’ll bet he/she knows some good spots” vibes, we’ll ask for a recommendation.  This has often taken us to little-known places, typically off the tourist path, that have afforded us a supremely “locals” experience.  This day in November, this Uber driver did not disappoint.  “Do you like BBQ?” Uber Granny asked.  Do we?  “Ahh … well, then.  You need to go to Lewis.  There’ll be a line out the door.  Don’t let it deter you.  There’s a bar where you can get a drink while you wait because you’re going to have to make some tough decisions about what to order.  Personally, I like the brisket.  It’s the best I’ve ever had.”  This coming from a 30-year Charleston veteran.  That’s saying something.  “All the sides are incredible, too.  They have a limited menu for a reason.  Every single thing has been perfected.”  Uber Granny caught my eye in the rearview mirror.  “Perfected,” she reiterated.

That’s all we needed to hear.  Lewis BBQ for lunch it shall be, Phillip and I determined that day.  Uber Granny was right.  There was a line out the door.  But we did not let it deter us.  Phillip and I got a beer and a coke at the bar and promptly got in line.  We knew we were going to get the brisket, but I also wanted to try their pulled pork with the three different BBQ sauces.  Phillip wanted to give their ribs a shake.  And, I remembered what Granny said about the sides—we decided on the collards (obviously), coleslaw (I love veggies), and their fries. 

What we didn’t expect, though, was the freebie.  When we got to the front of the line, a professional “carver” said hello and promptly handed us a piece of meat.  Just handed it over.  Like it was a totally normal thing.  “It’s the brisket,” she said.  “You won’t be disappointed.”  What other response is there?  Phillip and I put it in our mouths.  Jesus, it was good.  Fatty, salty, flavorful meat filled our palettes.  We were definitely getting the brisket.  We ordered up – by the pound: quarter, half, and (for Annie) upwards.  The cashier dude asked me how many “plates” I would need.  Turns out, at Lewis, a “plate” is a strip of butcher paper.  Nice.  I could really get used to a place like this.  

Once our tray was put together, Phillip and I could barely stop long enough to snap a couple photos before we dug in and demolished that beautiful spread.  The pulled pork was exceptionally tasty.  Almost didn’t need any BBQ sauce at all, and that’s saying something.  The collards had this meaty backbone to them.  Phillip’s rib sandwich was incredible.  Everything was incredible.  Lewis is hands-down the best BBQ we’ve ever had.  

I don’t know how we had never heard of this before, but add it to your Charleston list.  Charleston, Lewis, we’ll be back.

Beatdown

Our next sail was a much shorter leg from Charleston to Fernandina Beach, FL, roughly 150 nm.  We were expecting a nice 10-13 knots of wind to push us down the coast.  

Unfortunately, we got battered.  The wind was a steady 17 knots through the night, very close to our stern forcing us to sail a tight line to avoid being pushed to shore.  At one point in the night—during my shift, of course—the wind shifted fiercely, throwing the auto pilot off.  By the time I got back to the helm to clear the auto and take over, we had gybed.  Thankfully, we were under a reefed main and we had our preventers on, so it wasn’t too violent, but I had to gybe us again to get back on course.  By the time Phillip came up (after all that clanging, banging ruckus) we were secure, but my nerves and confidence were shattered.  It was not a fun night, followed by not a fun morning.

The wind picked up to a steady 20+ over the course of the morning.  It was also right behind our beam.  Probably about the best place for it at that speed so it wouldn’t accidentally gybe us again, nor was it in our face.  But, with a 3-4 foot swell pushing us, too, we were really moving, making 7.5 to 9 knots pretty steady.  

Thankfully, Ubi is strong as hell and she was handling it very well.  It was unnerving, however, hearing clatter on the radio of other boats taking on water or having run aground in those conditions.  It made us incredibly grateful for our powerful, capable boat and her competent captain guiding us in.  

But, the wind would not let up.  We had to slice into 24 knots of wind when coming into the channel to Fernandina Beach.  When we finally anchored in the Amelia River, we were thrilled to get the sails down and tuck Ubi in for a well-deserved rest.  Whew.  

It was our first time to Fernandina, though, and we found rewards in store for our intense passage in the form of a quaint, clean eight-block radius of really cool shops, restaurants, and bars.  We were kind of wishing we had planned to spend more time there, but the weather was affording us a nice window the following day down to St. Augustine.  But, on a recommendation from a fellow cruiser, we split a tasty and beautiful paella at Espana that was worth the salty passage.  

We would like to spend more time in Fernandina Beach during our next transit up or down the coast.  Just … minus the wind next time.  

Bottom Job

While we had cranked “Rocky” (our newly anointed generator) several times to charge the batteries while we had been underway, we hadn’t yet used him to accomplish the goal we had set out to do when we first found he wouldn’t crank (back in Coney Island).  That is, use our brand new Brownies Third Lung unit to clean our own bottom.  When we finally settled in West Palm Beach (warmer water), we were excited to fire Rocky up to give Ubi a well-deserved bottom scrub.  I wouldn’t want to think how fast she would have rocketed into Fernandina Beach if she’d had a slick bottom.  9 knots is plenty fast for me.  

In West Palm, we performed our generator checklist and sang our now iconic song to get Rocky fired up. “Duh-uh-uh, duh-uh-uh!  (Gonna Fly Now/Bill Conti)  Let’s go Rock-OH!” we shouted.  With that intro, Rocky turned over like the champion he is and we were very pleased with the easy setup and user-friendly use of the Brownies.  Just turn on the inverter, set the unit up on deck, plug it in and turn it on, and *voila* we were able to jump over with our respirators and breathe underwater.  Phillip and I took turns going down and scrubbing each side, able to give Ubi’s bottom the attention and time she deserves.  We were comforted to know our time, money, and efforts spent in Portsmouth, VA back in October had not been in vain.  

Bahamas Bound

After West Palm Beach, it was a quick hop to Ft. Lauderdale where we planned to rent a dock and set up a “home base” for Ubi for the winter.  I highly recommend, if you’re even in Ft. Lauderdale, take this seasoned sailor to lunch! We got to meet up with Pam Wall while we were there and show her Ubi for the first time! I think her face says “Quite posh!” don’t you? : ) Having Pam aboard … what a treat!

While we’ve raved about Ft. Lauderdale and all it has to offer before (which includes the amazing Pam Wall), one of our favorite things about Ft. Lauderdale is that it’s just a short day hop from the Bahamas.  In the right conditions, it’s only a quick 10-hours or less trip from the States to the Islands.  Leave at daylight; dock in time for a goombay smash.  Can’t beat that.  It was time to trade in our beef for conch, big winds for Bahamas breezes, and our stinky, fat foulies for bikinis!  Who else has spent Christmas in the Abacos?  

Turns out Papa Noel likes goombay smashes, too.  Next up on the blog: Holiday in Tropical Heaven.  Stay tuned!

Meet Rocky: Generator Valve Replacement and Repair in Portsmouth, VA

Where did we last leave you?  That’s right.  Brooklyn NYC!  Boy was that a posh stay at the new One-15 Marina there in Brooklyn.  

It was super cool to step foot off the boat right onto the waterfront piers and parks of Brooklyn.  Not to mention either taking a quick sub ride—or even walking across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge!—right into NYC.  We spent an incredible couple of weeks there in September-October last year while Hurricane Ian unfortunately rolled over south Florida.  Once the remnants of Ian cleared and allowed us to get back offshore, we were planning a two-day offshore trip from Coney Island, NY to Norfolk, VA.  

What we did not plan on, however, was our generator going kaput right before we were set to head offshore.  

October 2022:

The last chore we were going to undertake before we headed offshore NY to VA was going to be a bottom scrub (you know, to get that extra knot of speed!).  Phillip and I had invested in a Brownie’s Third Lung air compressor dive unit to allow us to scrub Ubi’s bottom (more meticulously than by free-diving, which I am not good at … at all … add it to my bucketlist), as well as perform prop and shaft maintenance and/or other bottom repairs, as needed, or perhaps dive deeper reefs when we find them.  We found the Brownie’s was a solid investment for the promise of regular DIY bottom jobs.  Simply crank the generator, turn on the inverter, plug the Brownie’s (110V) unit in and *BAM* you can breathe underwater and take all the time you need to make sure your boat’s bottom is safe, smooth, and pristine.  Only there was no *BAM.*  No nothing.  When we tried to turn our Fischer Panda 4000 DC generator over in Coney Island to do the bottom, it would not crank.  

My hmmpfh face after getting Brownies all rigged up and suiting up, ready to dive overboard with my Scotch Brite and get to it!

Full disclosure, we’d had some difficulty with our generator from the beginning.  He wasn’t a 100% consistent cranker, which earned him the name “Gremlin” (courtesy of me).  Other times when he had given us trouble, we had thought we’d tracked it down to low voltage and a loose connection on the starting battery (which we use to crank him).  He had refused to jettison exhaust water one time when I was manning Ubi alone, and I found he had chewed through his own impeller.  A relatively easy fix, but it definitely instilled his “Gremlin” nickname in my book.  

Meet Gremlin: Our Fischer Panda AGT 4000 DC Generator

On Ubiquitous, we have a Fischer Panda AGT 4000 DC generator, installed in the “workroom” (Annie’s shop) on our Outbound in the starboard lazarette.  Ubi’s former owner selected the DC generator—over an AC generator—to provide a quicker, far more efficient charge to Ubi’s 12V lithium battery bank, as needed, to supplement power she receives from her 200 watts of solar, the wind generator, and our Yanmar 80hp engine. I’ll be honest.  I wasn’t a huge Gremlin fan at first.  On the old boat, our 1985 Niagara 35, we never had a generator, and I wasn’t initially a fan of this second (teeny tiny) engine that required our attention, maintenance, time, and trust.  I like simplicity.  

But with the comfort that Ubi’s many gallant systems provides, an occasional super-charge of her batteries via the DC generator is a must.  Phillip and I are fans of the DC generator (over an AC generator) because we don’t typically need AC power.  We’re not air-conditioning people.  We don’t have or typically use a microwave, toaster, hair dryer, etc. on the boat.  As elegant as Ubiquitous is, at heart, Phillip and I are still simple sailors.  Elegant campers, you might say.  Which means we liked the idea of a quick 45-50 minute run of the generator every 4 or so days as needed.  When the water maker is commissioned, we need to make water (or freshwater flush the system) every 4 or so days.  Making water requires we run the generator, so it times well.  That is, when the generator is running well.  

On this day in Coney Island, our hopes that Gremlin’s occasional crank problem was a low voltage issue (that we thought we had fixed) were quashed.  Our generator had plenty of voltage, yet he was not able to get the necessary combustion, for some reason, to turn over.  With winter encroaching, we knew we needed to get somewhere further south, where we had more resources and time to troubleshoot our generator issue.  While heading out on an offshore passage, with such a critical component of our power generation system on Ubi impaired, was not ideal.  We knew we had plenty of fuel to motor the entire way (or at least enough of the way to keep the batteries charged if needed), so our plan was to get to Norfolk and then—#1 priority—get Gremlin figured out.  

Our Voyage, New York to Norfolk

In all, we had a chilly but exciting sail from Coney Island, NY to Norfolk, VA—an approximate 300 nm run—that we made in about 50 hours.  Thankfully, we sailed a good bit of the way, making good time, with minimal power needs.  

We anchored off of Hospital Point, where we stayed for a bit in 2021 while preparing to round Hatteras the first time.  

Our first day on the hook, we got the Fischer Panda folks on the phone to begin troubleshooting.  Their initial thought was a problem getting fuel to the cylinder.  We checked the fuel lines, cleaned the injector, and ensured we had a bright pink stream of diesel pumping in.  It didn’t seem fuel was the problem, although it’s an important first place to start.

While Phillip was on the phone with the Fischer Panda guy, I had Googled around the Norfolk area, looking for a small engine repair guy and came across this Lafayette Marine shop that was highly rated in the area.  I called.  Got a guy named Charlie on the line, who could hear Phillip and the Fischer Panda guy running down fuel issues while I was talking to him on speaker.  From overhearing their conversation and from what I’d told him about the generator not turning over, Charlie told us “you’re probably waterlocked.” 

Water what?

The Diagnosis: Seawater in the Cylinder

I’m sure my blonde was showing.  But, once Charlie explained that we likely had seawater that had come back into the generator somehow and had started to corrode the valve and cylinder, preventing it from creating the combustion necessary to turn the generator over.  Charlie even told me he’d seen the exact same problem on another Outbound 46 about a year prior and he fixed that one.  While I had no idea who I was calling at the time, it seemed like I had reached the dude around those parts for the type of repair we needed on our generator. 

Once Charlie mentioned the other Outbound owner, Phillip and I jumped on the Outbound forum and—sure enough—found a fellow outbound owner who’d faced this same problem with his generator and had stopped in Norfolk to have this guy, Charlie, repair it.  That was enough to tell Phillip and I we were in good hands.  One problem with cruising (i.e., repairing your boat in exotic places) is it’s sometimes hard to find trusted marine vendors in ports you’ve never visited and where you don’t know anyone.  So, having a fellow Outbound owner vouch for Charlie meant a lot to us.  Tentatively, we asked Charlie if he could meet us somewhere near Hospital Point to come aboard Ubi and assess our generator.  

“It would be best if you could get a slip at a marina so I can come and go as needed.  Do you know Tidewater Marina?” Charlie asked.  

I Googled.  500 feet.  I looked out our portlight.  “Yep.  I can see it from the boat.”  

Phillip and I weighed anchor and got settled into a slip at Tidewater that day with Charlie scheduled to come the following morning to assess the generator.  As soon as he got Gremlin torn apart and a vice grip on it that he could use to manually turn it, Phillip and I both could hear it.  A distinctive slosh when Charlie turned it.  That sealed it.  We were definitely waterlocked.  

How Did This Happen? 

Charlie saw it all quite clearly the minute he looked at our install, saying it was very similar to the other Outbound he had repaired the year prior.  The muffler for the generator wasn’t installed low enough to prevent seawater from traveling back up the exhaust hose and into the generator, particularly in a sea state where the boat is pitching.  We had definitely been in some sea states since we started sailing Ubi one year prior.  Heck, Brooklyn alone had enough wake in the marina (despite their wake-dampening attenuators) to have rocked Ubi back and forth to allow the water backup.  Charlie showed us the diagram in the Fischer Panda manual showing the requisite height that should be allowed between the muffler and the generator to prevent the ability for seawater to travel back into the generator.  For whatever reason, our generator had not been installed to these specs.  

Charlie was sure he would see corrosion in the cylinder and valve when he took it apart, telling him the valve was likely unable to create the necessary seal for combustion. However, he was hopeful he could replace the valve and clean up the cylinder and walls enough to create a seal and get our generator up and running again.  Otherwise, we were looking at installing a new generator—which sparked a whole chain of research and questions on our end that had our heads spinning.  To avoid all that research, decision-making, and expense, Phillip and I were equally as hopeful Charlie could get Gremlin back to fighting condition.  

How Charlie Fixed It

Even if we could repair Gremlin, we still had the faulty install to deal with.  How were we going to prevent the same thing from happening—raw exhaust water traveling back into the generator—the next time we got in a sea state (or even a big wake in a channel)?  Thankfully, Charlie had a fix.  His plan was to cut a hole in the floor under the generator (that was about 15” above the hull in the bilge) where he could install, essentially, a second, lower muffler, that would prevent seawater from being able to make the journey up that high to get back into our generator.  While cutting more holes in the boat is never ideal, we didn’t see another option for Gremlin, assuming he recovered from his surgery.  

Charlie dismantled Gremlin and took his cylinder off.  When he removed the cylinder, Phillip and I both could easily see the corrosion.  

Charlie took the cylinder to his shop for cleaning and replacement of the valve which we all hoped would revive our generator.  In the meantime, Phillip and I made good use of our time in Portsmouth and Norfolk, VA.  

Making the Most of Our Time in Norfolk

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Wine festivals tend to find their way to us.  Turns out, there was one that very weekend in Norfolk—the annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival.  Ummm … yes please?  Charlie actually recommended it to us.  Likely because he sensed we like wine and also (we suspect) he, wisely, wanted us nice and distracted while he worked diligently on our generator, because our stint with Charlie actually left us stuck in Norfolk, at a marina which we had not originally planned for, and additional two weeks.  The Wine Festival was a much-welcomed distraction.  

Another bonus?  Our friends and fellow Outbound owners, Peter and Patty (first introduced on the blog here) were also in the Norfolk area.  So, we used the time wisely to spend a few very fun nights with them, including one right around Halloween where we all dressed up for the occasion.  Phillip and I pilfered this awesome thrift store in Portsmouth and were actually able to put together a pretty spiffy Genie costume and Firefighter getup for a total of $12.00.  

Peter and Patty, however, won the costume prize with their original Operation rendition.  Very clever.  That night, we also found an outdoor concert headed up by a Talking Heads cover band that was pretty out of this world.  Now, whenever Phillip and I hear “Psycho killer, Qu’est-ce que c’est?” we think of Peter and Patty and our fun Halloween in Norfolk.  

Make the most of it, right?  That’s pretty much what cruising is all about.  We did see some pretty sunsets and rainbows while in Portsmouth.

MEET ROCKY

After a few unexpected, pricey (but fun!) weeks in Portsmouth, VA, Charlie came back with some exceptional news.  The newly repaired cylinder head (complete with a new valve) was ready.  Charlie brought it to the boat and the visual was telling.  It looked super clean.