I probably had way too much fun writing this one! Go on … ask me how many bags of wine we can stow in our “cruiser’s wine cellar!” ; ) We interrupt our regularly-scheduled Bahamas broadcast for this fun announcement! This was such an honor and a treat for my Cruiser’s Wine Cellar piece to be included in SAIL Magazine’s 50th anniversary edition! Wow! This very fun article I put together at the request of Peter Nielsen with SAIL who asked for some insight into our new “creative stowage in the bilge.” A couple of custom starboard inserts afforded Phillip and I the perfect new place to keep wine cool and stable aboard s/v Plaintiff’s Rest.
There are some fun photos of the project in the article that I hope might inspire some creative bilge stowage on your own boat!
We hope you all enjoy the article! If you pick up a copy and enjoy it, be sure to let the folks at SAIL Magazine know. Then, tell us, where is your “cruiser’s wine cellar” on your boat?
I love wine … Nope, still not big enough! It can never be big enough. : D
Calling all boat project fanatics, this one’s for you! Boy, did we have a time trying to get our engine aligned. While Phillip and I knew we had some kind of issue going on with our prop shaft, the key that fits in the shaft (which was always coming out and we were hammering back in, brilliant plan!), and our coupling, we didn’t know it was quite as bad as it was.
Watch along as Brandon, Shane, and the great team at http://www.perdidosailor.com help us diagnose and solve many issues relating to our prop shaft and how it seats in the transmission. We had a machinist re-engineer our old coupling and make us a new one. We also re-bedded the strut and replaced the gutless bearing.
And, just as boat projects always do, the boat had a lot of extra hidden work in store for us in the form of a rotten engine stringer portion (under the raw water pump on starboard, no surprise) that we had to repair along the way. Fun, fun! Misery loves company! Give it a watch! More photos and write-up available at http://www.havewindwilltravel.com.
I hope you all have been enjoying these shipyard videos while Phillip and I were off galavanting across the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll have plenty to share from that adventure once we get our heads back on straight. It can be hard, at times, to transition from offshore sailors back to full-time lawyers/marketing gurus. But, the work is always worth it. In exchange for all of those photos and videos of us out sailing and traveling the globe, enjoy seeing us here all grimy and greasy wedged down in the engine room on our boat! You’re welcome! B.O.A.T., am I right? : )
Maybe they should change that B.O.A.T. saying to “bonded or about to.” The hardest part of our rudder drop was getting the stinking quadrant off! Heat, impact, cheater bars, nothing would work. So, the creative guys at Perdido Sailor had to come up with a different fix, and boy did they!
Ahoy crew! Shipyard Vid #2 coming at you, from Cascias, Portugal nonetheless! I put this video together a while back so you all would have something fun to watch while we were embarking on our second Atlantic-crossing helping deliver a new Lagoon across the pond from France to the USVIs! I know how you all LOVE boat project videos, so here’s another one for you from our interesting work at the shipyard this past summer.
While I wrote about this project several months back here, some of my followers love to see the video! This one’s for you! Phillip and I always enjoy working alongside the guys at the yard because we learn so much. They point out problems we didn’t even know we had and teach us fixes we didn’t even know were possible.
Watch here as we (finally!) get the quadrant off and make the necessary modifications to do that, check on our G-flexed keel seam from 2016, replace the cables for the throttle and shifter (because, according to Video Annie, they sounded like “Grandma’s panties coming down”), and shared some fun lighthearted joshing at the yard!
We hope you are all enjoying the shipyard videos and having a great time tracking us along while we are sailing back across the Atlantic Ocean. Follow on our facebook page at www.facebook.com/havewindwilltravel for real-time updates and locations via our Delorme!
Is Spam in the Bahamas really $9.00? Find out in the November issue of SAIL Magazine, featuring an article by Yours Truly! Peter Nielsen over at SAIL asked me a while back for a piece with tips on preparing for a trip to the Bahamas. So, Phillip and I put our heads together and came up with a few key factors to consider when prepping for the Bahamas and what provisions and supplies we would recommend stocking the boat with. For us, it all started with the Explorer charts. Those are a must! I hope you all grab a copy of the November issue soon and let me know what you think of the article. Many thanks to the hard-working crew over at SAIL Magazine for putting this one together. We love it!
And, stay tuned next time as we will be announcing our cruising plans this winter in a fun new video next week. You’ll never guess where we’re going!! : D
Many props to our prop for hanging in there with us for so long (even though we were blind to her suffering!). We’ve been battling this problem for several years now and simply did not know what the underlying problem was. We did not know the “key” to the issue was the fact that the key kept coming out. Here’s what we were dealing with:
Our prop shaft and coupler both have a matching notch that fits a key which helps the shaft sit tight in the coupler so it can be rotated smoothly by the transmission. You can see the key here.
Yes, the one with the red goop all over it. That’s Loc-tite, what we thought would be the answer to this problem. You see, this key kept coming out. Phillip and I are pretty diligent (we try to be, at least) about checking on our engine. We always check the oil, transmission fluid, and coolant levels before starting. And, if we are motoring for a significant number of hours while underway, we try to make a habit of pulling back the sink (which gives us access to our engine) and checking on Westie as he is motoring along hour after hour.
We look for oil or coolant leaks, water leaks, any loose parts, etc. And, during our trip down to Cuba and our fantastic sails back up along the coast to Pensacola in early 2017, we noticed this key kept coming out.
Often we would find it halfway out, spinning around like a wild tea-cup ride at Disney, as the shaft was spinning. Or, we would find it spit out about six inches forward of the transmission into the bilge. Phillip and I would start to wager bets as we would be trucking along under motor and heading down to check on the engine: “Do you think the key is halfway out by now, or already spat to the bilge?” (Most times it was already jettisoned by the time we checked.)
Phillip and I knew this key issue was a sign that some bigger problem was likely the cause and that there was something going on that wasn’t right with our coupler or shaft. We just did not know what. I can’t tell you how many times we located and re-Loc-tited that sucker back in place. Dozens, if not more.
While this little key popping out might seem like a minor problem, we were worried, if it continued or worsened, the transmission could potentially lose the ability to turn the shaft. That would be a huge problem. So, the key was legitimately discerning. Our first thought was to have a new key machined that stuck out a little further past the end of the shaft, with a hole drilled through it, that would allow us to run some seizing wire through it to prevent it from coming out. That would solve the problem, right?
If that was the root problem.
As we continued cruising, to the Bahamas this past season in 2017-2018, and watching further changes occur with our prop shaft, we soon learned it was not.
Our first discovery: There’s a set screw for the key!
I’ll just have to admit, we did not know that. For whatever reason, each time we were checking and re-hammering in this stupid little key, we just didn’t see it, or if we did, we did not know it was a set screw for the transmission key. So, “Aha!” Moment No. 1 was making this discovery, finding the set screw had indeed rattled itself far too loose, and re-tightening him down onto the key to hold it in place.
And, of course, we goobed that guy up with red Loc-tite, too. That seemed to be our solution for many boat problems at the time. “Just Loc-tite it. It’ll never come loose.” Right, cause that’s how it works on a boat. Nothing ever rattles. Nothing ever breaks free. At the time, we were using the same method with the three nuts on the back of our rudder post cap underneath the cockpit floor and you now know, from our rudder post reinforcement post, we have since come up with a better-than-Loc-tite solution there as well.
When the set screw, much like the key had, started to break free from its repeated Loc-tite baptisings and allowed the key to continue to spin out, we knew we were going to have to do something else when we hauled out in 2018. At the time, machining a new key was the best conceivable answer. And, in the meantime, we just continued our “locate and Loc-tite” drill to get us back from the Bahamas to Pensacola to really troubleshoot and solve this issue.
But, then something funny started happening. Not only did the key continue to drift forward and come out. Toward the end of our Bahamas voyage, the shaft itself began to move forward. Yes, the shaft. This is not the best angle, but in this photo it is sticking about an eighth to a quarter of an inch out.
This movement of the shaft itself (not just the key) prompted Phillip and I to inspect the coupler further. We found the set screws on the coupler had also rattled themselves a bit loose, so that the coupler did not have a good tight grip on the shaft. Phillip tightened these down. This was during out trip back up the west coast of Florida on our way back from the Bahamas. And, to get us back home to Pensacola so we could haul-out and investigate this further, for good measure I cinched them down with seizing wire.
At least I thought I did. Turns out I’m not the best cincher. Or maybe it would be seizer … I’m sure I’d make one helluva Ceaser! But, knowing what I now know about how to run seizing wire (which I just learned from the boys at the yard – thanks guys!) I know this is a total useless loop. Hell, that design probably helps both screws loosen one another …
Way to go Seizing Wire Annie. Thumbs down. But, I can confidently say my seizing skills have since improved after we got a custom lesson from the boys at the yard. This is why we love working with them. I’ll show you the trick when we get the coupler issue figured out.
Cue the haul-out!
When the boys at the yard got their hands on our boat, they noticed several things immediately that were adding to our issues with prop shaft movement. First, they could feel and, actually with their hands alone, re-create the forward and backward movement of our prop shaft inside the coupler. Again, not the best quality video, but it was sent to us from Shane at the yard and you can easily see the movement of the shaft in and out with just Brandon below pushing and pulling it.
This was their first cue that something far more serious was going on with our prop shaft than a loose set screw on the transmission key. The boys could also feel that the strut had a little play in it, as they could physically move it from side to side—just a hair, but hairs can make a mess out of things offshore. They recommended it would be best to remove, clean, and rebed the strut for a more secure fit to the boat and tighter hold on the prop shaft.
That was a fun morning I spent unbolting that guy. Can you find the Annie in this picture:
Thankfully, I will say, almost every single part of our boat is accessible. While it may be uncomfortable and require the talents of an inconceivable contortionist, it is reachable. We can access, remove, and repair just about any part of our boat, because it was designed to do just that—be accessed, removed if need be, repaired if need be, and otherwise worked on! It’s one of the very great features of our boat. I was happy to find our four strut bolts were (with just a smidge of boat yoga) rather easily accessible right behind Westie on the engine room floor.
The shipyard guys, when they disassembled the strut, also noticed our cutless bearing was worn out. While this surprised Phillip and I as we had replaced that cutless bearing only a few short years ago in 2014, if you consider the amount of play we had in our prop shaft, and the number of miles we put under our keel while that play was occurring, it made sense.
Lastly, when Brandon removed our coupler, he found the coupler itself was wallowed out with the movement of our shaft and it simply (tightened down its full capacity) could not get a good grip on the shaft.
When Brandon removed both the prop shaft and the coupler from the boat, he showed us the movement he could exert with his hands on the shaft. Brandon explained the coupler should slide on and have an absolute snug fit with no movement. He and Shane also said we were lucky the shaft was going forward. This happened when we were in forward gear because the propeller is trying to work itself forward through the water. If we had backed down hard enough in reverse, the prop would have been working to move itself backwards through the water and could have worked its way right out of the boat with the condition our coupler was in. Now, I have a new boat nightmare. Thanks boys.
Here is a video of Brandon showing us the movement in the coupler and having fun at my expense. You will be surprised by the play in our coupler. You can hear it audibly in the video. You’ll also enjoy Brandon’s response to my joking that he had “purchase discretion up to $800.” “Oh, it’s $799 then. $799!” Gotta love those guys at the yard.
So, with this revelation, we were in for a re-bedding of the strut, a new cutless bearing, and a new coupler. But, if we were going to replace the coupler, we wanted to re-engineer it so the coupler would not allow the key to come loose or the shaft to try to move forward again after the many more miles we plan to put on our boat. For this reason, Brandon hired a local machinist to create a cap that bolts onto the end of our coupler to hold the shaft in place. He kept a window hole in the cap so we could see the shaft and visibly confirm its location in the coupler. The machinist also included a threaded hole in the center that we could use to twist a bolt down to pop the shaft out if it had, for whatever reason, seized up in the coupler. Overall, it was a better, stronger design for our boat and eliminated all movement in our prop shaft. Here is the new coupler!
And, fun little lesson for all you boat project fanatics today. Notice Shane’s method for fastening seizing wire in the photo above. While everyone can do it differently, I definitely liked his idea of purposefully routing the wire in a way where one bolt’s attempt to unthread and turn to the left would result in a tug on the other bolt toward the right, and vice versa. Meaning, as the bolts try to loosen themselves they are, in fact, tightening one another. Thanks Shane!
Little things like this can make all the difference out there on a two-week passage where you are working all systems so hard twenty-four hours a day. Phillip and I know we will sleep better and have more peace of mind knowing this system, too—our prop shaft, the coupler, the cutless bearing, and the strut—have all been inspected, re-mounted, secured, or re-engineered to be stronger and more stable for our rough passages.
This is the reason Phillip and I decided to devote the time and money this summer to haul-out and do these “mission critical” repairs and upgrades as we have some big cruising plans this fall. And, some big destinations to announce! We can’t wait to share our plans with you (you know, the ones written in sand at low tide ; ). But, next up, we’ve got some more cool shipyard projects to share with you. Hope you all are enjoying our boat labor this summer! You get to pick next week’s topic. Because:
I can’t make heads …
… or tails of it!
Would you like to see our swap to the composting head or re-painting of our Westerbeke engine. You decide. Leave your vote in a comment below!
Let’s talk about our rudder. While Phillip and I are quite pleased with the majority of the systems on our boat and their original design, this was one where—if we could have been there at the factory in Ontario when the Hinterhoeller crew was putting our boat together—we would have asked them to make a slight modification to this rudder design. Here are the components of our rudder:
It is a very sturdy, yet light-weight, high-performance rudder, with a keyway to grip the steering quadrant and a very hearty nut on the cockpit floor that turns and locks down with set screws to hold the rudder tight, the only issue we had had with it is where the rudder post penetrates the cockpit floor. If you can imagine how much pressure is put on our rudder when we are steering down waves in a gnarly sea state, that pressure is magnified at the fulcrum point where the rudder fits through the cockpit floor. And the only thing holding it firm there is a rudder post cap secured with three 1/4” bolts. Here is a photo of the rudder post cap with the nut and plastic bushing, followed by one (with the plastic bushing and nut removed) and the top of the rudder post dropped down a few inches during our rudder drop.
As many of you die-hard HaveWind followers might recall, we first noticed a problem with this rudder post design during our offshore beat to windward when we sailed to Cuba in 2016.
Yep. That’s the one. Try to imagine how much pressure is on the rudder in that photo and how much of that was being translated to those three little bolts on the cockpit floor. It was enough to cause our rudder post to start moving side to side, athwartship. Which, once we saw it, immediately caused Phillip and I to go upside down in the lazarettes trying to stop it.
This is what we found when we got down there:
Just three bolts (the third, on port, is concealed behind the rudder post) with initially only one washer and one nut on each. Adding the additional two is what Phillip and I were doing down in the lazarettes on our way to Cuba. And, while the additional nuts did stop the majority of the athwartship movement of the rudder post on the cockpit floor during that passage, you can see in the photo above where we have tightened them so much they are literally starting to crush the cockpit floor. This is what really worried us: such a small compromised area holding such a critical, heavy, and load-bearing component of our boat.
We knew when we got back from Cuba, we wanted to take some measures to reinforce this area before we sailed to the Bahamas. Our initial reinforcement plan—without having to drop the rudder—was to add large stainless steel flat fender washers to help spread the load of those three bolts. Our buddy Brandon with Perdido Sailor (with whom we usually haul-out) helped us grind the washers down to fit around the cap that sits in the cockpit floor.
Annie making an immaculate cardboard template of the area on the engine room ceiling around the rudder post.
We then used the template to make custom washers to fit around the bolts that go through the rudder post cap on the cockpit floor.
We knew this would be a temporary fix for the season, though, and that, when we got back from the Bahamas and hauled out the following year, we wanted to drop the rudder and really do this project right. And, we knew we would be hauling out again with Brandon at Perdido Sailor because his work is exceptional and he and his guys are willing to allow us to tackle projects there ourselves while they teach, supervise, and rightfully pick on us … that’s shipyard culture. In researching how we were going to accomplish our rudder reinforcement, I mentioned in my Post-Bahamas Projects blog what we discovered when we talked to some fellow Niagara 35 owners through the Niagara 35 Owners Facebook Group. We found one Niagara owner, who was had just finished crossing the Atlantic, and was in the Azores at the time, not wanting to haul out and drop the rudder at the time, decided to add a very substantial backing plate around the top of the rudder post to help reinforce and secure it.
I guess you could call this a topping plate, since he mounted his on top of the cockpit floor. After discussing this at length, Phillip and I decided we wanted to mount our plate underneath the cockpit floor for cosmetic reasons. Either way, top or bottom, we knew a large plate mounted around this hole would help spread the very heavy load of the rudder and help reinforce the cockpit floor. We got with our buddy Mike, who helped us configure the initial custom-washer-fix and who is a talented machinist (and owner of a beautiful 1981 Tartan 37 – boat tour HERE! – you’re welcome! : ), about making a plate for the underside of our cockpit floor. Say “Hey!” to Mike!
And this is the wonderful piece Mike made for us!
Look at that smile. I mean, who wouldn’t be grinning from ear to ear knowing they’re about to have a tough-as-nails rudder rig-up on the boat. Heck yeah!
After measuring underneath the cockpit floor and assessing the sufficient space we had down there (the closest item to the rudder post is our rudder indicator on the port side), we decided on the following fix:
An8 x 8” stainless steel 1/4” reinforcement plate
After playing around with the plate down below in the engine room, we found sitting it in a “diamond” fashion with one corner toward the bow, one to the stern, one to starboard and one to port, would allow the plate to sit centered on the hole and not touch any other instruments on the engine room ceiling near the rudder post. Like this:
You’ll notice those holes on the cockpit floor by the binnacle base. Those are for the rudder post stops. I was in the process of re-bedding them when the plate came. We do a thousand things when we’re on the hard!
Here is the design, after the center hole in the plate was cut, mocked-up on the top of the cockpit floor:
While this fix (i.e., drilling the three necessary bolt holes through this plate and mounting it underneath the cockpit floor) seems like a pretty easy fix, Brandon spotted another issue when we were dropping and disassembling the rudder.
Pssst: This is why we love this guy and always trust him with any boat repair.
When we pulled the rudder cap from the cockpit floor this was the hole we found that was cut for our rudder post.
Does that look perfectly round to you? Hardly. That’s an amateur Annie cut right there! Not something we expected to find on our blue-water Niagara, but, as the boys at the yard said, our rudder install must have been done on a Friday shift, before a long weekend. Humans are just that. Humans. Someone at the Hinterhoeller facility didn’t really take their time making this cut. But, even if it was round, Brandon also found it was about a half inch too wide for our rudder post cap. Meaning, not only was the cap itself only secured with three 1/4” bolts, it also was not supported in this hole with solid 360-degree contact all the way around.
“We’re gonna fix that,” Brandon said, and he ingeniously came up with the idea to mount the rudder cap upside down (from the engine room ceiling up through the cockpit floor), so it would reveal the gap we needed to fill on the cockpit floor. This photo really highlights, too, the poorly-cut hole and the gap that we wanted to fill.
Brandon then advised us to coat the cap with TefGel (that way the 610 would not stick to it) and fill that wayward-cut gap with 610. That is what I am doing here:
Annie’s got her gun!
We then waited for the 610 to firm up enough to hold its shape (about four hours), then popped the rudder cap out and now found our hole in the cockpit floor for the rudder cap was a nice, snug fit, way more supportive than what was there previously.
This way, as Shane with Perdido Sailor explained, the hole for the rudder post cap, along with the cap and reinforcement plate will all “operate as a system” to hold the rudder secure in the hole, even with the tremendous amounts of pressure that are put on it when we are offshore.
After we sanded our 610 filling and smoothed everything up, we then bedded the rudder cap down with butyl. Love that stuff!
We mounted the plate underneath the floor with our three bolts, using our custom washers from last year’s temporary fix and secured it all with locking nuts. This is the complete rudder reinforcement fix:
Pretty schnazzy huh? As Phillip said to me: “Aren’t you going to sleep better when we’re underway offshore knowing this bad boy is holding everything together?”
Yes, yes I am.
And, added bonus for you Phillip fans out there. I snuck a video of him explaining to a boat neighbor of ours (ironically both in the slip and then at the shipyard as well!) how we discovered this problem and our thought-process in designing the reinforcement. Enjoy!
Phillip and I are both very grateful for the help and guidance shared through the Niagara 35 Owners groups, particularly the input from Larry Dickie, as well as our buddy Mike for the machine work, and the hard-working shipyard repairmen at Perdido Sailor, who helped us engineer and accomplish this feat. We hope sharing this fix helps some of you analyze and upgrade your own rudder systems. As always, if you have any questions about what we did here or just want to talk about it more, feel free to comment or share! Happy sailing folks!
And, don’t worry … we’ve got plenty more project posts to come this summer. Here’s the (short) list! The ones with an “A” beside them are my babies!
Pffhhhhh … I have to let out a long huff even as I read that. It was so hard to leave our boat behind. I feel like I’m still apologizing to her, but I also feel like (or hope at least) that she understands. Somehow we have to pay for all this Bahamas fun, and more importantly, pay for all the work and maintenance she requires. B.O.A.T. right? You all know what that stands for. So, we had to leave our baby behind for a bit (January 21st – March 10th) during our Bahamas trip and fly back home to Pensacola so Phillip could handle some things at the office. While my job, thankfully, goes wherever we go (HaveWorkWillTravel! : ), his does not, although he is able to do a good bit of work remotely via emails and phone calls. Although it may not appear from our photos and posts, we do spend about 30-40% of our time while cruising working remotely. We are incredibly thankful for our phones and laptops and the internet which allows us to do that.
While we were planning our trip to the Bahamas, Phillip and I knew that we were going to have to leave the boat there for some stretch of time to fly home for a bit, so we chose Marsh Harbour because it is a pretty protected harbor with a marina where we could keep the boat tied up secure for a month or more and it also has an airport for flying to/from the states. While Marsh Harbour was a solid choice and proved a good decision, we did not know at the time (back in November when we were making plans) there was another good option in the Abacos: Treasure Cay. It’s amazing the things you learn when you actually go somewhere and start talking to the locals. While at Treasure Cay, we learned from some other cruisers who were staying there that they offer a November-through-February special, offering cruisers a monthly rate at the marina for only $500. Five. Hundred. I know. Don’t ask me what we paid at Marsh Harbour. But, we didn’t know about the Treasure Cay option, and we had to make a decision ahead of time. But next time … Treasure Cay is a fabulous (safe, protected) place to make “home base” while cruising the Abacos. Several cruisers we met booked a month or two there while they sailed around and gunk-holed all the wonderful islands in the Abacos, knowing they always had a safe place reserved for them at Treasure Cay so they could duck in and hide when the northern fronts came fast and fierce. The next time we do the Abacos, if that deal is still running at Treasure Cay, we will likely do that.
But, we were very pleased with the staff and amenities at Harbourview Marina. The dock master, Ron, and owner, Troy, were exceptional. They are very hands-on and they make sure every cruiser feels welcomed and has everything they need for a comfortable stay at the marina. Ron helped us dock up to the fuel dock and move to our permanent slip in some pretty heavy winds and he was very calm and competent and made sure our boat never suffered a scratch. He also checked on us every day as he walked the docks to make sure we had power, water, wifi and knew how to find groceries, restaurants, a cab, etc. We learned when we returned to Marsh Harbour in March that Ron had also boarded our boat many times while we were gone to adjust the lines to make sure our boat was always floating safely right in the middle of the slip and that none of the lines suffered any chafe. That’s service. Troy was also a pleasure to work with and the minute we told him we were planning on leaving the boat for a month at the marina, he immediately asked how to get access inside in case he needed to check the batteries or bilge or move her in an emergency. You could tell these were “boat people” who truly cared about boats the way we do. Troy, Ron, and the entire staff at Harbourview, we can’t thank you enough!
Here is a pretty cool video, with some great drone footage, showcasing the marina at Harbourview:
We got a very good slip, too, at the marina that was seated back away from the T-dock (where the winds cause the boats to romp around a bit) and was wedged in between some monster yachts, which also helped to block her from wind.
Phillip and I were also happy to find we were surrounded by several long-time Marsh Harbour liveaboards who would be living aboard their boats while we were gone, walking the docks every day, and who said they would keep an eye out for our baby while we were gone. To Dave on Southern Heat, if you’re reading this (you and Rocket Man!), thank you! Dave is actually a fellow writer and wrote a rather harrowing account of his own passage across the Gulf Stream in his book Summer Heat. But, I must share a story with you all that showcases how generous and compassionate cruisers really are.
Our last day aboard the boat (January 21, 2018) we were doing all of our final checks, cleaning things, packing, etc. My last chore was to empty the fridge, and I hate to see food go to waste. So I shoved all of our very enticing fridge food (think half-empty jars of salsa, mayo, and other condiments, some cheese, butter, milk, sodas, etc., I think there was even some salad stuff, carrots, cucumbers, etc.) into a trash bag (making it even more enticing) and began knocking on nearby boats to see who wanted to be the winner of my food charity for the day. While I tried, first, the several boat owners we had already met (so I wouldn’t seem like such a crazy person), for whatever reason, that morning they were all off and away, their boats locked and empty. So, I started knocking on new boats! And, the first boat-owner to heed my call was the infamous Bob aboard he and his wife’s beautiful trawler, Islandia.
I had never met Bob before but he is a cruiser through and through. “A trash bag full of half-eaten food? Sure! We love food!” was his immediate response. He was a lot of fun to chat with and had actually raced years ago on a Niagara up on Lake Ontario so we gave him a fun little tour of our baby, exchanged boat cards, and asked if he wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on our Niagara while we were gone. Bob said he’d be happy to and he graciously accepted our food and helped us get off the dock. Bob’s wife, Diane, was not on the boat that morning but, after returning later that day and finding the food we had left her, she took it upon herself to start sending me pictures and updates on our boat. These are the kinds of people that await you out there: cruisers who will open their hearts, their hands, their fridges, and their boats to you, for the simple reason that you are a cruiser, too, and we all “get it.” There are no distinguishing titles, no type of boat that is seen as better or greater than another (not in earnest anyway, only in jest), no importance placed on what we do for a living (or don’t do) or how much money we make (or don’t make) or the types of clothes we wear (or don’t wear!). We are all just cruisers, owners of boats that cause us lots of angst, cost us lots of money, and afford us the tallest tales and sweetest memories. Boats equalize people in a way I have never found any other common thread to do.
And this amazing stranger, a fellow boat-owner who knew Phillip and I were anxious to leave our boat behind unattended took it upon herself to send me these numerous email updates and keep a watchful eye on our boat the entire time we were gone. Mind you, this is a woman I had never met, and these are the actual emails and photos she took the time to send me while we were back in Pensacola and our beautiful baby was staying all by herself in Marsh Harbour. Not at my request, just of her own accord. I was shocked and thrilled when I received an email, out of the blue, from Diane just a few days after we left. And the photos and updates continued to roll in.
Diane, this tribute is for you!
Hi Annie, took this picture a few minutes ago. All is well. We are expecting quite a blow for the next 4 to 5 days, so we will check your boat every day. Diane and Bob
Hi Annie, you guys did a superb job of tying off your boat. [We subsequently learned this was also mostly due to Ron, who continued to board our boat and adjust lines accordingly.] The wind has shifted 45° and it’s pretty much been blowing a steady 15 to 20 and sometimes 25 kn. And yet your boat is right in the middle of the slip looking great! Bob and Diane
Good morning Annie and Phillip, Thanks in advance for the dinner invite. That will be fun! Today a rainbow landed on your boat! Cheers! Bob-Diane
Later that same day: Yes, that was so cool that the rainbow landed on your boat. We are in the middle of a power outage on the dock, don’t know how long it will last. Any special instructions for your boat once the power gets turned back on?
Hi Annie, so your boat is doing well in strong winds and extreme tides. Most of the sailboats are aground here. Once the super moon passes the tides shouldn’t be so extreme. We are leaving the marina for a week, so I’ll send you another update next Wednesday. Cheers! Diane and Bob
Hi Annie, we are back at the dock. Your boat is still looking pretty darn good! Cheers! Bob and Diane
Hi Annie, That’s crazy about 60 mph winds! Fortunately it’s becoming calmer here. Winds are slated to hover here around 10 to 15 for most of the week. I was out on my paddleboard today, so I thought I would snap a shot from a different perspective. Diane
Subject: “Waving at You!”
Hi Annie, you’re too funny, going out to dinner will more than suffice. We are headed out of the marina for 4 or 5 days, taking advantage of the nice weather coming up. I’ll be sure to send you an update as soon as we return. Fair winds! Diane and Bob
Here is your boat on Wednesday and again today. She continues to look great! We are headed out for a week so I’ll send you an update on the 24th. Cheers! Diane
Hi Annie, These photos were taken a week apart. She’s looking fabulous. We fly home on Feb 27 and return March 7. I’ll send you another photo on Tuesday before we depart. Cheers, Diane
Subject: “Sunset at the Marina”
March 9th (the day before we flew back!)
Hi Annie, we were delayed a day getting back due to the snow. Got in yesterday to very strong northwest winds complete with whitecaps at the dock. But again you [meaning, Ron] have tied the boat so perfectly it never touched the pier. Had a gorgeous sunset last night and now the winds are finally abating. One of our guests may not make it in today so it’s possible we will still be on the dock when you arrive tomorrow. You must be getting excited to return to the Bahamas! Diane
Finally it was time for Phillip and I to fly back to the Bahamas and reunite with our beloved boat and I got to wrap my arms around this amazing woman (whom I had never met) who gave me such peace of mind and comfort the entire time we were away from our beloved boat. (Who did fabulous on her own by the way! She was charged up, dry, not moldy, thanks to our Kanberra, and ready to crank right up and go! Way to go little boat!)
Thank you Diane! You were a God-send. Phillip and I (and our boat!) will forever sing your praises! One cruiser to another, we can’t thank you enough!
Schadenfreude. I know it’s German, but I have no idea how to say it. A good friend of ours taught it to us when he was telling us what great pleasure he took in seeing Phillip and I knee-deep in boat projects instead of wading in crystal green waters, cocktail in hand. “Somehow I like the idea of you two working hard instead of playing in the Bahamas. That must be the German side in me coming out. And, did you know that Germans are the only culture that has a word to express joy in another’s discomfort or pain? Schadenfreude. Says a lot about the culture doesn’t it?” He’s a funny guy, that one. So, for Conrad and all the other brutal Germans out there who would take great schadenfreude in our boat project phase, this one is for you. Misery loves company! Although I wouldn’t say Phillip and I are anything near miserable when we’re doing boat projects. Seriously! We’re usually smiling most of the time. I know. We’re those people. Don’t you just hate those people?
We don’t! We are those people!
Ahoy followers! Following our awesome voyage to the Bahamas this past season, Phillip and I definitely (as we always do) racked up a pretty extensive list of boat projects to tackle when we got home. Some were necessary repairs that we had been watching for a while and knew we finally needed to get serious about (think hauling out and dropping the rudder). Joy. Others are just for cosmetic or comfort reasons—some inspired by our cruising this past season—but we’re eager to get on those just the same.
And, if you’re starting to think we might just have a bit of a falling-apart boat because we sure spend a lot of time every year doing boat projects and maintenance, we’ll I’d have to say you’re just crazy. Plumb cRaZy. Boats require a ton of maintenance and upkeep. Even ones (well, I should say especially ones) in great condition. It took a lot of work, time, and sweat to prepare our boat this past year to take us comfortably to the Bahamas, but it was all totally worth it. Phillip and I feel privileged and lucky to own such a fantastic, old blue-water boat that we’re honored to get to work on her. At least that’s the word we use when we’re stinking, hot, sweaty, and cramped into some ridiculously-uncomfortable places while working on her. “I’m sure honored to be here pretty gal,” I will whisper. But our Niagara has definitely earned all of our spare time and money each time she cranks right up, pops out her sails, and whisks us away to another fabulous distant shore, usually steering the entire time all by herself.
With plans this coming season to likely head back to the Bahamas to truly enjoy the Exumas, which we did not have time to explore this past winter, Phillip and I are eager to dig our teeth into this summer’s list and get it knocked out so we can start the long and arduous process of provisioning and packing for our next adventure. Hooray! Who’s on board? Let’s get this party started already! Here is the actual (always growing) list:
Project No. 1:The Rudder
That’s a pretty important part of the boat, right? Next to hull integrity, a sturdy keel, along with solid rigging and sails, the rudder is one of the only things that, without it, the boat simply cannot go. In fact, without it, the boat might easily sink. I have to admit that’s one of the things I really dislike about the rudder. Its cruciality to both the ability of the boat to both navigate and remain bouyant makes it almost too connected and powerful. Like a frenemy.
If you recall, we first noticed an issue with our rudder during our voyage to Cuba.
Yeah, that passage. Bashing our way to windward for five days. That was fun. (Okay, it was, actually, but it was exhausting, too, and very hard on the boat.) That much heel and that much wind puts a lot of pressure on the rudder and, after a few days of it, we started to notice some athwartship movement in our rudder. I know what you’re thinking. That’s not a part you want to see movement in. It makes me think of the keel and how gut-wrenching it might be to watch it bend, even just slightly, from starboard to port as we heel over. Uggh. That seriously gives me goosebumps. Unfortunately, that’s what we were noticing. Each time the boat would heel with a gust of wind and climb to weather, the top of the rudder post in the cockpit would move about a quarter to a half inch from port to starboard. We had a Rudder on the Loose!
Phillip and I both spent a good part of that voyage hanging upside down in each of the lazarettos adding extra nuts to the three bolts that hold our rudder cap in place on the cockpit floor.
For this reason, one of the projects on our list last summer while we were preparing to travel to the Bahamas was an interim reinforcement of our rudder by fitting some extra wide fender washers on the three bolts that hold our rudder cap in place.
We knew this would be a temporary fix for the season, though, and that, when we hauled out the following year, we wanted to drop the rudder and really do this project right. After doing some research (which we are always thankful for the helpful and insightful fellow Niagara 35 owners on the Niagara 35 Owners Facebook Group who share lessons learned from projects like this) we found other owners head dealt with this play in the rudder as well and decided to reinforce the backing for the rudder cap on the cockpit floor. It really is a sh&*-ton of pressure to all culminate at one very small round hole on the cockpit floor, secured by three small bolts. For this reason, you will see in the photo below, one Niagara owner decided to add a very substantial backing plate around the top of the rudder post to help reinforce and secure it.
Meet Larry Dickie! Ironically named after my own people, the infamous Alabama Dickeys (albeit a slightly different spelling). After Larry posted this photo and a brief write-up about the project, we reached out to him and he proved to be a treasure-trove of information for this particular project and many, many others. Here is what Larry had to say:
“A couple of days ago I posted pics from the N35 rudder rebuild I did. I neglected to add this critical piece, applicable to all versions of Niagara (IMHO). The area in the cockpit flooring is, where the top of the rudder post exits, simply not strong enough to take the very severe and continual torque associated with long passages (or possibly even much shorter passages). I had been warned about this by another N35 owner, years ago. But this repair/upgrade somehow fell off the hundred-job list before we departed. Even though I had placed straight thickened epoxy for several inches around the area when I recored the sole, it was still not strong enough. A few days off Horta, during a dismal night watch, I noticed the top of the rudder post moving slightly as we came off each wave – boy, not a good feeling in the pit of my stomach there.
Now, let me be the first to admit this is not the prettiest fix. But in the Azores, you can only really get good boat work assistance in Horta (Mid-Atlantic Yacht Services). They made this plate for me, as per my napkin drawing; it was based on the fact that there was limited space undernearth to place thru-bolts. Yes, those hex-bolts are not the prettiest, but all that was available. If back in Canada, I would most likely have buried this whole plate within the sole and epoxied over it. All things considered, I’m more than happy with the end result – top end of the rudder now does move at all, even in heavy seas.
All this to say to other N35 owners who are, or contemplating heading off: shore-up the rudder post at the top end (assuming many of you already have).”
Did you note Larry’s location when he posted that? Horta, Portugal! That’s right. The Azores. Those magic islands Phillip and I were exceedingly lucky enough to be able to visit and enjoy during our Atlantic-crossing with Yannick. There is something special about that place, I tell you. Something indescribable.
We certainly plan to sail our boat across the Atlantic someday, stopping at both Bermuda and the Azores again, so it was nice to see another Niagara 35 making the trip. Larry was very generous to share his experience with this issue with us and his extensive upgrade. When we haul-out this summer, we plan to drop the rudder and install a similar wide backing plate in the cockpit floor, likely glassed in, to reinforce and further support the rudder post, particularly at the potential pivot point here where it is secured at the cockpit floor. Our buddy Brandon with Perdido Sailor, Inc. also advised us he has seen this issue before where the rudder post also actually becomes worn down from use and is not as tight in the bushing, allowing for play. If he finds that is the case with our rudder, he recommended we add a thin layer of epoxy along the post to literally “widen” it back up so that it is a snug fit in the bushing preventing movement. This will be an extensive project. Likely our most complicated and costly of the summer. But we never want to see movement in the rudder post again. That is a very frightening thought when your boat is pitching and tossing, trying to hold course in heavy seas. Stay tuned.
Project No. 2: Prop Shaft Key
This is key. We’ve been battling this guy for a while. And, I have to laugh because at times I have to really feel sorry for our boat. It’s like she tries and tries to gently show us there’s a problem. She wiggle a nut loose, squeeze out a few drops of fluid, or let out a repetitive thud, thud, thud which should translate to “look here,” “hey, check this out,” or “I need tightening here,” and what do we do? Wipe the drips and turn up the radio! Not really. Honestly, Phillip and I are pretty diligent boat owners, but it still surprises me at times even when we were looking and listening, as we always try to do, that we still miss the very obvious cues. So, this key. It is kind of hard to see in this photo, but it is about a three-inch long square rod, basically, that slides into a slot along the prop shaft.
In our boat, we have a v-drive transmission where the engine sits in backwards and the transmission is actually in front of the engine. When we pull the hatch back (which is actually our entire galley sink and countertop (it’s pretty freaking badass if you ask me, one of my favorite design elements of our boat for sure!), the transmission, coupling, and end of the prop shaft are immediately visible.
And, at the end, we have a key that fits in a slot on the prop shaft and helps the shaft grab and turn the coupling (in addition to a set screw and two bolts on the coupling that tighten down onto the prop shaft. All fascinating stuff, I can assure you. But, this stupid little key.
My God, the hours Phillip and I have spent dicking around with this key. The thing would not stay in. I can’t tell you how many times we have spent watching it wiggle out, sometimes halfway, other times entirely and we would have to fish around in our super clean bilge to find it, all to then hammer it back in with some Loc-tite and hope for the best. It seems like such a terrible design. Eventually we watched as the prop shaft itself began to—much like the key had—inch forward toward the bow of the boat and actually protrude a quarter-to-half inch in front of the coupling. Those were good times. And, I’m saving for you the story of what happened when the shaft creeped too far forward. My point in all of this is to hopefully get you chuckling as much as we were when we finally realized what our amazing boat was trying to tell us with all of this key business. “My coupling is loose!” she was screaming. Poor boat. She’s such a trooper when it comes to us, I tell you. While the two bolts that tighten the coupling down onto the shaft had seizing wire on them, which is why we did not suspect they could loosen, we have learned anything that rattles on a boat can loosen (and wire can stretch!). After we finally tightened the bolts on the coupling back down, the key hasn’t given us any further trouble. But! We’re thinking about having a new key machined that has a hole for a seizing wire so we can prevent any further “rattle out” issues in the future. Rattle is real, people. We’re taking measures!
Project No. 3: Some Westie Love!
Boy does he deserve it. “Westie” our 27A Westerbeke engine in the boat. He’s been performing like a champ.
While we try to take very good care of him, always looking for leaks, tightening screws and bolts that rattle loose, keeping a very close eye on his coolant system, and changing the oil every 50-75 hours, Westie is getting up there. He is the original 1985 engine on the boat with about 3,600 engine hours on him. Plenty of life left for sure, but we do need to replace the exhaust elbow that goes to the manifold and the manifold gasket, give him a super scrub down (knocking off the flaking rust) and perhaps re-paint him and reinforce his stringers as they have spread and deteriorated a bit with water leaks (particularly on the starboard side under the water pump).
We will probably also drain the coolant system and change out the coolant and replace the gaskets around the thermostat as those tend to leak often.
Project No. 4: Forestay Maintenance
As many of you are aware, we replaced our original rod rigging with universal 5/16 wire rigging when we spent three months in the shipyard back in 2016 re-building our stringers (and doing a hundred other things). Those were good times. Videos for you here if you haven’t seen them (Raising the New Rig, Part One and Two).
Brandon said we deserved a “Boat Yard 101” training certificate when we splashed back because that was an absolute hard-core crash-course in boat maintenance and repair. But, while it definitely sucked finding out the very important stringers under our mast were rotten and that it was going to cost several thousands to fix, those three months (and all the money) we spent in the yard in 2016 was the absolute best thing we could have done as boat owners. There is no way we could have learned as much as we did from dedicated, knowledgeable boat repairman, craftsmen, experts, had we not spent that time side-by-side with Brandon and his crew at the shipyard. So, we don’t regret it. Ever. And, it was time to replace the rigging anyway, so the timing actually worked out.
But, although our rigging is new (or, better yet, because it is new) during the course of our sailing the past two years, it has stretched. Phillip and I noticed a little looseness in our forestay that caused it to (for lack of a better word) “warble” while we are furling the headstay, particularly our larger 135 genny, and particularly during the last 5-6 rolls of the drum. So, we contacted Rick over at Zern Rigging and his guys came out to check our forestay tension. While one of his main guys, DJ (we love you!) inspected it and said our forestay was actually tighter than most, he found we could afford a bit more tension so he and his guys tightened it up for us.
He also noticed immediately the grinding and difficulty in turning our furling drum (something Phillip and I have noticed for a while but figured it might have to do with the looseness of the stay). DJ, however, explained that it would be easy for us, and quite prudent, to re-build the furling drum and replace the bearings inside as they just age and wear over time with salt and dirt build-up in there. So, Phillip and I will plan a day while we’re in the shipyard to do that as well and I know that will work wonders when we’re furling in heavy (or any, really) winds.
Project No. 5: Swap to a Composting Head?
We’re hoping to. At least I’m hoping to. We are definitely keen on the idea of gaining the additional storage space where our 25-gallon “turd tank” currently resides under the v-berth and the theoretical convenience of no longer having to pump out or worry about holding tank leaks (been there, done that, gross!).
Phillip, however, is a little skeptical about the size and fit of a composting head in our rather small (and awkwardly-shaped) head compartment, as well as the comfort of sitting on and using a head so tall. We’ve done a lot of research and talked to many boat owners who have switched to a composting head and have heard really awesome pros (like the ones I mentioned above) and the ease of dumping and cleaning the unit, no smell, etc. with just a few cons: the inability for urine to drain when on a particular heel, overflowing of the urine bin (if you don’t monitor it closely enough) and, to reinforce Phillip’s fear, the size and “comfort” of it. Overall, we are on board if a composting head will comfortably fit, but our floor space in the head is very small and triangular-shaped. I have been going back and forth with the Airhead guys (we believe they offer the right balance of look and fit that we want) and they actually drew a pretty to-scale CAD drawing for me showing how the head might fit (cocked slightly at an angle) and we will likely have to build a small shelf to support the urine bin.
A friend of ours (you recall Phil who bought his first live aboard sailboat, a 1992 Catalina 28 which we helped him deliver last year) recently switched to a composting head so we’ve been learning a lot from him (always good to have a boat buddy make all the disgusting mistakes first, right? ; ) and he let us borrow his head to get a feel for whether it is going to fit in our boat.
It’s going to be a game of Tetris for sure, but I would really like to make this change this summer so I hope it works out. Phillip has put this item exclusively on my list. We’ll see how Boat Project Annie does. Things might get shitty … : )
Project No. 6: The AC Inlet
The “AC Power” on the list. We honestly had so many projects piling up, I forgot what this one was and had to ask Phillip. I was worried we were going to have to re-wire our AC power system on the boat or something equally major that Boat Project Annie had decided to selectively forget because she knew it was going to be financially and physically painful. Thankfully, it’s not too bad. On our boat, we are always chasing leaks. All. Ways. And, we believe we’re getting some water in from behind the AC power inlet on the outside of the cockpit on the starboard side.
Phillip tells me it looks like a “mangled rat’s nest” in the back all gooped up with silicone and other adhesives. So, we’ll be popping that out and re-bedding it anew with butyl.
Project No. 7: Re-Bedding Stanchion Posts
While we’re on re-bedding (which it seems we are always doing). We’ve got a few stanchion posts that are looking a little red around the bed. Once we start to see rust streaks leaking out around the base, that’s a sure sign that puppy is leaking. We’ve re-bed approximately six of the ten on the boat, so this will be another 2-3 and will hopefully seal those up for the next 2-3 years. I can’t stand having unknown leak sources on the boat! We’ll keep hunting and re-bedding till we have a dry bilge darnit! Boat Project Annie is no quitter!
Project No. 8: Jib Sheet Turning Blocks
Our previous owner (Jack, you fantastic boat-owner you!) re-routed the sheets for the headsail to come through a set of blocks mounted on a stainless steel plate to improve his ability to trim and tack the sail single-handed. If you recall, our previous owner used to single-hand our boat in the Mackinac race. Pretty awesome, right? Our boat has such a cool history. We are very pleased with the upgrades he made, this being one, but over time the bearings in the blocks for the genny sheets have failed and we need to have these blocks and their brake levers re-built.
We’ve been very pleased with the products we have ordered previously from Garhauer so we will probably send them a photo or the block itself to allow them to rebuild blocks for us.
Project No. 9: The Fridge??
Hmmpffh. What to say here. Honestly, we’re not quite sure yet what we’re going to do here, if anything. Bottom line is our fridge is original to the boat, which means it’s now thirty-three years old and operates on an antiquated Freon system with inadequate insulation.
We’ve had the Freon refilled and we’ve spent some awesome Saturdays wiggling ourselves into that torture chamber squirting Great Stuff around the seams to try and improve the fridge’s insulation and ability to hold temp.
The fridge, particularly in the hot summer season, is easily our biggest power suck while on anchor. We’re going to debate dropping in a new Freon fridge this summer or upgrading to a more efficient, more modern model that fits in our boat. Stay tuned.
Project No. 10: Switching to LEDs
This has been an on-going project, but one we want to continue pursuing until we have converted all of the lights on the boat to LED. We swapped out a few of our reading lamps and fluorescent lights to LED before we left for the Bahamas and we were thrilled with the minimal output.
Think 0.1 amps an hour to light the boat. Ummm … yes please? So, we’ll be ordering and installing LED lights throughout and adding more red options where we can for better lighting options during night passages.
Project No. 11: Canvas Work!
If our time in the Bahamas during December and January taught us one thing, it’s we do not like to be wet, drizzly, and cold on our boat. Thankfully, we were not, mostly because we spent those wet, chilly, super-windy days toasty warm in our wetsuits kite-surfing! Heck yeah!
But, it did show us that the more comfortable cruisers were the ones who still had a warm, dry “living room” they could enjoy despite the wet bitter weather. They just had to zip up their enclosures in the cockpit and *bam* it was a toasty day on the boat. While we may not use them often, Phillip and I decided when you need them, you really need them, so we’re going to get a quote and consider having a full enclosure for our cockpit made so, on those occasional cold, wet days either on the hook or especially on passage, we can zip up our cockpit and stay toasty! We’ve already put in a request for a quote from our trusty local canvas guy, Tony with Coastal Canvas, for a complete enclosure (which we are sure will run us a couple thousand, if not more …. but it is what it is) as well as having him fix some of the snaps on our hatch covers that have ripped off.
Project No. 12: BOTTOM JOB!
And, of course, what do you always do when you haul out? That’s right, you got it! Unfortunately we had to scramble and pull of a bit of an emergency haul-out last October for Nate, we feel incredibly fortunate, however, that Nate was just a tropical storm. Do NOT ask me how I’m feeling about this coming season. Makes my stomach turn … But, it was a very good hurricane prep drill for us (thankfully just a drill) and also a chance to scrub the bottom, scrape off a few obstinate barnacles, and slap a few coats of bottom paint on for the cruising season, and we plan to do the same when we haul out this summer. A bottom job has to be my absolute favorite job on the boat, you? ; )
We may throw in a little buff job, too, while we’re there. She always looks so pretty when she’s all shined up!
Let’s see … what else. That’s quite a bit. You guys are going to have a mighty fine Schadenfreude feeling watching us work our tails off this summer making our beautiful boat even more comfortable and getting her ready for more cruising this coming season. While all plans are written in sand at low tide, the vague plan is to go back to the Bahamas and spend our time really enjoying the Exumas and then maybe heading south toward Grenada to keep the boat there next season. We will see. Either way, you know we’ll find a dozen other boat projects to add to the list once we get in there and that we will share with you and conquer.
It’s a boat, right?! Broke Or About To. But that’s why we love her!
On the first day of packing, my Captain gave to me (must be sung in true partridge manner): “A spare bilge pump for the aft cubb-beeey!” Okay, so the packing took WAY more than twelve days, but we’ll get back to that bilge pump just you wait. ; )
Ahoy HaveWind followers! I’m so excited to start sharing tales from our Bahamas Voyage with you. When Phillip and I make plans and start setting our sights on foreign shores, it always ignites in us a flame of excitement that burns all while we’re doing the 1,243 chores that have to be done to fully prepare the boat, ourselves, our co-workers, family and friends, our budget, and, more importantly, the boat (even more!) for the trip. At first it’s just a flicker, that gets brighter and hotter as we near our departure date, but I can always feel it, roaring like a furnace when we’re finally out there—off on our voyage, underway, and I can take a thousand pictures but it will never do it justice. “It’s all right here,” Phillip and I say, as we tap on our temples. But, for you all, it’s all right here, on the HaveWind blog as I share with you our voyage, our adventures, our worries and concerns and lessons learned as we sail to the Bahamas. First up? Bahamas Voyage One (“BV1”): Packing, planning and weather routing (as this all plays such a huge role in when we leave and how prepared we are when we do) and our first day on passage.
As you know, our planning for this voyage began early this summer when Phillip and I made an extensive list of all the boat chores we needed to accomplish before we would feel our boat was as ready as possible to spend a winter island hopping. Fun recap of our summer chores for you here. Once the chores were done, the next step was packing and provisioning the boat. That means stocking the boat with the necessary supplies, tools, fluids, spares, etc. to efficiently repair, troubleshoot and maintain her both while we were underway if necessary and then more extensively as we stop from port to port. Boat projects never stop. Even when you’re cruising. Or, more accurately put, especially when you’re cruising because if you’re actually using the boat day to day, you’re likely spotting more issues ahead of time and you’re more inclined to jump on repairs, leaks, squeaks, etc. to keep your boat and, more importantly, your cruise going! I’ve put together an extensive list of our boat supplies inventories if you find it helpful here.
While we have certain cubbies we often use for boat fluids (i.e., the propane locker in the cockpit and a locker under the aft berth because they are fully-sealed and will not allow toxic fluids, if spilled, to leak to the bilge), one very big difference we made in our stowage plans this year has already proven super helpful, and I will give the credit to our hearty French Captain from our Atlantic-crossing in 2016: Yannick!
Yeah … that guy. He’s funny. Like a clown. And he likes Joe Pesci.
On Yannick’s 46’ Soubise Freydis, in his “captain’s berth” (the starboard gunnel), he had an entire shelf system as well as a deep compartment under his vberth where Yannick had filled Tupperware after Tupperware bin with every kind of boat supply imaginable: tapes, glues, Loctite, sewing kits, electrical repair kits, heat shrink, odds and end hoses, epoxy kits, varnish and sandpaper kits, etc. I could go on. But, each bin was filled with certain types of materials and labeled accordingly: “Tapes & Adhesives,” “Electrical,” etc. And it turned out to be a super-efficient way to pull the necessary tools and supplies for a particular job. So, upon examining our boat this year to find better ways to stow and stash supplies such as this, Phillip found ourselves eyeing a very convenient locker under our own vberth that I believed could serve a very similar Yannick-inspired purpose. It is this locker here:
It is the access to our macerator thru-hull and our previous owner had built a very sturdy shelf in the locker to stow gallon water jugs on. While we had followed suit for years and stowed water there as well, we found they sloshed around and sometimes punctured and they also took on the slight smell of macerator hose. Not my favorite flavor of water : (. But now we had an entire empty section for what I was now going to call our “Supplies Cubby.” We measured and were able to easily fit four rather large Tupperwares in this section labeled: 1) Tapes & Adhesives, 2) Epoxy, 3) Electrical, and 4) Engine Spares.
This has already proven to be a very accessible, very organized compartment to store the many, many boat supplies we access often while cruising. So, thank you Yannick!
Another revelation while we were packing this year: The locker in our aft berth that is fully-sealed can fit not only the spare two gallons of diesel oil (in addition to the one in our propane locker and in our oil-change kit in the hanging locker), as well as spare transmission fluid, outboard oil and Sea Foam but also (and I kid you not), six additional bags of wine. Six. Wow. That’s what? 24 bottles of wine! Two cases?! I love bagged wine. Have I mentioned that? With the first six stowed, the other six were easy. Ha!
They also fit nicely around the aft locker compartment just forward of that one which houses our starting battery and MPPT controllers for our solar panels. That was a lot of heavy, spillable weight stowed aft and low and, for the most part, in lockers that would contain the spill if any. Although we desperately hoped for no wine spillage on the trip. (Okay, or oil spillage … I guess that stuff’s important too ; ).
One of our goals in packing and provisioning the boat this time was to find new, previously-unused cubbies and compartments of the boat that were being under-utilized. In addition to the new “supplies cubby” under the vberth, we also decided this time to stow as many soft, light goods as we could under the very large compartments under the vberth. Trust me, I can fit completely inside the larger bin. See?
I spent a lot of time personally in these when we were in the shipyard both painting every square inch of the bilge (which I can still report is a clean, sanitary Bilge-Kote grey in virtually every locker I look … sniff … ahhh) and in glassing in the anchor chain locker to run the anchor runoff water rather than anonymously to the bilge to mingle and mask other potential leaks but, rather, to our new sump box.
Any of you who have seen our shipyard videos know what a monster chore the sump box was. Not the most difficult project of the re-fit, mind you, but still a very extensive project to capture and route water from five different sources and channel it to the sump box, then plumb the sump box to pump overboard via the head sink. But, one of the absolute benefits of doing this, particularly with regard to the anchor chain runoff was that funneling the anchor water through a hose to the sump box would make each of the three very large, very useful compartments under the vberth now dry storage areas as opposed to wet. Thank you Sump Box!
For this reason, and to continue our efforts to move weight aft and low on the boat, Phillip and I decided to use the two rather sizeable cubbies under the vberth mattress directly aft of the anchor chain locker for stowing spare halyards and lines, spare sails (our storm sail, namely) and canvas, as well as spare domestic soft goods (e.g., quilts, blankets, long johns and foulies that would be needed for the cold voyage across the Gulf, but not after we reached the Bahamas). Then it’s strictly bikini time, baby! We also fit many additional work sheets and work towels in there, a spare set of sheets for the vberth, as well as two kites, two wetsuits and my aerial silks. I told you it was a big compartment. We decided to use vacuum bags for stowing these items both to shrink them to reduce space and to protect them as well in case there was an unexpected leak in these compartments. I put a post up on Facebook about these bags and most seemed to love them; however, several followers said their seals often failed or they were somehow compromised and they “puffed back up again.” Phillip and I will let you know after the season if we experience this as well. So far, we are super pleased with the ease of use and utility of the vacuum bags.
Other areas we found we were able to use for food and supplies storage were three cubbies under the central floorboard in the saloon.
We also noticed two forward cubbies that we eventually plan to add a few L-brackets and a fiddle of wood (to prevent items in the bin from slipping down into the bilge) which will convert those to storage cubbies as well. All in due time. Phillip also had the very good idea to buy a box of the super industrial strength black contractor dumpster bags and we wrapped many food items with the potential to spill (or explode) in these in hopes of containing spills in case any cans, bottles, bags, etc. became punctured and started to leak. This proved an exceptional idea as we contained several spills we found after crossing the Gulf, one of which was four exploding beer cans in a contractor bag in the port lazarette that contained every drop of that stinky beer. Thank you Hefty Bags!
What’s next? I know, I know. The packing and provisioning can get a little tedious. And, Phillip and I truly did spend the better part of the month before departure double-checking lists of necessary fluids, spares, supplies, food, drinks, etc. to make sure we had in fact packed everything we needed and wanted for the trip and it’s a darn good thing we did because—as it always tends to happen—as you get into the handful of days or weeks before your trip, emergency-type errands come up, or friends and family you haven’t seen in a while confess they simply can’t let you go without a goodbye dinner, or whatever other agenda item you can imagine that will occupy your time crops up and, if you’re not already packed and ready, you can suddenly feel overwhelmed. Phillip and I actually had some very consuming, stressful work things we had to handle in the weeks before we left and had we not spent months preparing for our departure before-hand, I would have pulled a couple clumps of hair out I’m sure. Luckily for Phillip, he has no hair.
The last items on the list were, of course, food, food and more food.
While Phillip and I had created and maintained a very tedious digital inventory of food for our Cuba passage (completely cubby-located and word-searchable), to be honest, we found trying to keep up with this (by pulling out the computer and crossing off every single can, packet or pouch used as it was used) proved far too tedious. We decided this time rather than choose what you would like to eat before-hand, instead we’re going to play the “food lottery.” Now, we simply choose the locker we’re going to eat out of, and it’s like a smattering of random Christmas groceries that you now have to get creative with and make a nice meal out of. It’s really rather fun, and we’ve been excited each time we open a new locker (or look behind a new box or bag) and find something we bought and packed long ago that we’d been excited to eat for months. “Ooh, the laughing cow cheese! Hell yeah!” Annie squealed often. That and Sriracha peas were always a squeal-worthy find in my book. As a hint, however, we have since had another cruising friend tell us they used taped notes in the interior door or lid of each locker with each food item listed and they scratched it off on the pad as they remove an item. I can see this working far better, although some lids are harder to lift and write on than others and some of our compartments would have a list 182 items long.
I’m not kidding.
Speaking of (and last mention of packing, I promise, although it is quite important!) where did 75% of ALL of our non-perishable food items go?? This was a new place for us to discover and utilize and I was shocked (stunned actually) at the sheer quantity of food this one compartment swallowed whole with a mere shrug. Pssshhh … that’s all you got? Where is this magic black hole food cubby on Plaintiff’s Rest? Under our port settee. This is an area we have never used before and we would have never thought to have used it had we not replaced our starboard water tank this past summer.
Having done so and (as many of you know) having spent weeks wrestling, cursing, kicking and squeezing our new water tank back in place next to our diesel tank under the starboard settee, we became very familiar with the space and size of the cubbies located under each of our saloon settees. Once we saw we could fit many long spare hoses and pieces of wood and starboard (“construction materials” we call these) by the starboard water tank, I started to wonder what else we could fit all around the portside water tank. 75% of our food, that’s what. I’m serious. We packed the shit out of this compartment. It’ll be Food Christmas in there till 2019. Now, we did Ziploc EVERYthing.
Even anything already bagged or even double-bagged. We omitted as much cardboard and packaging as we could (keeping the identifying information and cooking instructions) and, by doing this, the compartment under our portside settee now houses the majority of our food stores for the entire winter. We darn sure aren’t going to starve (or want for Spam!) in the Bahamas! We also weren’t going to run out of Irish Spring or Arm & Hammer toothpaste (Annie’s favorite) either. We packed probably four months’ worth of toiletries (including paper towels and toilet paper, mostly in the hanging locker) aboard, as well as a huge bag of travel-size toiletries as goodie giveaways for the locals (in exchange for fresh-caught fish, we were told : ).
Alright, so with the non-perishable packing complete, the last stop was one to the farmer’s market (Bailey’s in Pensacola is phenomenal) for a bunch of the heartiest produce we could find (beets, carrots, cabbage, spaghetti squash, onions, apples, potatoes, etc.) which we wrapped and labeled in brown paper bags and stuffed along the shelves of our aft berth, our produce hammock and the bookshelves in the saloon, being careful to stow onions and bananas far away from the other produce so as not to speed their ripening). We intended to get non-refrigerated eggs, which we like to have aboard (just remember to rotate them upside down once a week), but apparently the chickens we usually get them from didn’t have a productive winter. But c’est la vie. With the non-perishables, the rest of the wine and mixers and the alcohol finally aboard (8 handles of various rums, vodka, gin, and Kahlua, primarily in the port lazarette in a contractor’s Hefty bag), we simply had to cram three weeks’ worth of clothes on the boat and go.
So, once the boat is ready to go, what’s next? Do you just go? Whatever day you want to? Tell all your family and friends and have them all planning to come to the dock for a big send-off? Unfortunately (and I’ll admit Pam Wall was the first to tell us this), this usually never works out well and can often put you in a very tight pinch trying to pick a departure date in advance and stick to it. Pam always advised us not to tell friends and family specifically when you expect to leave or arrive as it will inadvertently create a schedule that will stress everyone if it is not met. Once you’re ready to go, you then have to look for (AND WAIT FOR) the right weather window.
Most cruisers understand this and won’t expect you to state before-hand what date specifically you are planning to leave or when you’re planning to arrive in port. Family, friends and co-workers, however, who worry about you taking to the high seas, often struggle with a flexible plan, but trying to alter your schedule or commit to a window that’s not as favorable to perhaps ease their fears or fulfill promises perhaps in hindsight you feel you shouldn’t have made, may force you to leave on a day that is not the best for your voyage plans. I know I’ve preached this before, but I do so because Phillip and I made this very mistake on our first offshore voyage and it cost us considerably, so it is worth repeating. If you’ve read Salt of a Sailor, you’ll know what I’m talking about: A SCHEDULE IS THE MOST DANGEROUS THING YOU CAN HAVE ON A SAILBOAT. Friends, family and co-workers simply have to learn that departure and arrival dates must remain flexible and weather-dependent. Keep training them, and you’ll have better cruising days ahead, I promise. Never try to sail according to a schedule.
So, Phillip and I had planned (weather permitting!) to leave on Saturday Dec. 9th. It was ironically going to be a very fortuitous date to leave as the big “work thing” I mentioned that we had to take care of took place on Dec. 7th (so getting that behind us was a big “Whew!”) and then our buddy Brandon with www.PerdidoSailor.com was having his big annual Christmas party on Friday, Dec. 8th. Can you say Happy Holiday Sendoff for Plaintiff’s Rest?! Hell yeah! And with a tacky Christmas Sweater Contest and an often rowdy and risqué Dirty Santa exchange to boot? We were stoked. What a way to go! Roll that delightfully-tacky footage!
Seriously, I found a sweater with a unicorn vomiting sprinkles. Can you GET any tackier (or awesome)?? The answer is no.
Good times, right? Our joke that night, when everyone and their dog asked when we were planning to leave, was “As soon as we sober up from this party!” Ha! (You see? Keep it vague. Then there’s no commitments.) Although I will note our buddy Kevin, a fabulous Pensacola broker who helped us find our beloved Niagara, said, in response to that and in all earnest: “Oh, that’ll be Sunday then.” Turns out he was right. But, not because of our hangovers. (Pssshhh … I never get hangovers. What are those?!). It’s because the weather window wasn’t right. But, a word on weather predictions.
They are just that. Predictions. Often close, often off, and just as reliable as you would surmise any “prediction” to be. Now, while they do get more reliable the closer you get to your ETD, they still are not fool-proof and we have often found their predicted strength of the wind is often 5 kts less than it should be in the Gulf and often 20-30 degrees off on the direction. That is almost to a “T” what we experienced this time. So, feel free to weather route along with us. This is the window we were looking at if we left on Saturday Dec. 9th. There was a front that was passing through and we were hoping to catch a nice few days of north wind on the back side to ride across the Gulf.
Looks a little gnarly huh? That’s what we thought. Jumping out in 20-25 knots of “stuff” didn’t sound like the best way to make the passage. But, we did debate leaving Saturday afternoon (from our dock that wouldn’t put us out in the Gulf, actually experiencing offshore conditions for another 6-7 hours), so around 10:00 p.m. The forecast then seemed to show a bit of heavy winds (20-25) decreasing to 18-23 after midnight then to 15-20 over the course of Sunday morning and even lighter Sunday afternoon. That sounded like a pretty good window to ride the last of the front. We were expecting some light winds the first few days and a potential front that would pass over us about mid-way across the Gulf but it looked like 15-20 kt winds, all on the stern with following seas, so that seemed doable. From my experience, at least, if you’re planning to cross the Gulf in one passage, which is a great experience, it’s likely, if you’re going to get any “good wind” at all, you’re probably also going to run into some “stuff” (and by that I mean 15-25 kt winds potentially) either at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or at the end. Otherwise, you might be looking at three days of glass, which is beautiful, but as sailors, we’re not too keen on three days of motoring. It’s just rare to see five straight days of steady winds, holding speed and direction. While we never intentionally choose to sail in dangerous weather, a predicted 15-25 (which could be less or more) on the stern with following seas is a circumstance we were willing to accept for an expected fun, sporty sail across the Gulf.
With our window chosen, we spent one last lavish evening at the condo with Chef Phillippe whipping us up an exquisite bacon-indulgent cassoulet. YUM.
We then woke bright and early Sunday morning carrying our last packs to the boat. Bahamas-bound Annie was actually excited to be donning her fashionable offshore bib. Who doesn’t love overalls?
One sure-fire sign it was high time to leave Pensacola and sail south? There was ice on the boat. A light frost had fallen on Pensacola that evening and we had to crack everything on the deck apart to get the boat going.
Phillip tossing our last line!
We had kept a heat light on in the engine room to keep Westie warm and he purred right up. Annie de-docked like a champ and soon we were on our way. Our boat fully packed, our lists crossed off and nothing but big blue water ahead. That is one of my favorite feelings. The stress of preparing for the voyage seems to melt off and pull back toward shore, like fingers once gripped, now leaving your shoulders. Ahhh …
And, remember those 18-23 kts of wind, predicted to lay down on Sunday afternoon? Well, it seemed they decided to take a nap early, because by the time we got out in the Gulf—around noon on Sunday—we were motoring along in 6-8 kts of breeze. You see? The weather. Just a prediction. But, it was a nice window of opportunity to throw up one of our favorite sails. Our spinnaker, better known as “Spinny!” This is our first year to fly the spinnaker (I know, bad sailors!) and we have really loved hoisting her up and watching her beautiful, blue, white and red belly billow and fill. She really is a gorgeous sail and it’s a lot of fun to see, and feel, the boat flying under spinnaker alone. Even in two layers of long johns, our foulies and three hats (yes, three!), we were thrilled to be out there on the water, sailing our magnificent little boat. It was a fantastic kickoff for the passage.
As Phillip and I eased into our offshore routine and doled out night shift assignments, we knew the days ahead would include some very tiring moments, likely some equipment failure or other boat issues, for sure, many wet, uncomfortable hours, but they would also include the sound of nothing but water lapping the hull, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets and moments that can never be re-created ashore. And, we can’t wait to share them all with you.
ERRNNGH. ERRNGH. We interrupt your regularly-scheduled program for this important announcement:
Phillip and I just filed our Permit to Enter Cuba!
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:
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Ain’t she a beaut? Thanks again B!
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!).
Remember they’ll give you a 15% discount if you use Promo Code HWWT2015! Woot! Woot!
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,
and even trying to float the bottom with GFlex in order to stop the leaks. (Brandon thought that was pretty funny.)
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!
Phillip cracked me up trying to row away from the couch! Row, Phillip, row!
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!
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!
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.
That’s also when we made the “Phillip’s Famous Mojito” video that I hope you all got to check out on Facebook!
Great opportunity to check for leaks!
Behind Paradise Inn (love that place)!
Rain could never slow our “good times” train down. No sir!
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:
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.
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!
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.
Otherwise, this is our last “short list”:
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.
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.