I would have never thought I would use the word “inundated” when describing the Berry Islands, but unfortunately, one of them is. Have any of you seen Coco Cay? Formerly Little Stirrup Island, the island was purchased by Carnival Cruise Lines and turned into just that: a carnival.
We’ll get there.
Thankfully, many of the other islands of the Berries remain untouched and exude the quiet, serene calm that Phillip and I love about the Berry Islands. The one we stopped at first after leaving Warderick Wells Cay on a nice overnight run to the Berries was just that: quiet and picture-perfect Little Harbour Cay. Proof, we had the place ALL to ourselves:
And, it was a place we had never heard of before and likely never would have stopped at had it not been so heartily recommended by a fellow cruising friend (shout-out to Pensacola sailor, BaBaLu!).
That is one of the very cool things about meeting new cruisers: they often help you find new tucked-away little anchorages you might have never found otherwise. So, before I tell you about Little Harbour Cay, let me tell you a little about the sailor who recommended the place to us: Captain Bob Fleege, better known to Pensacola locals as “BaBaLu.” (Seriously, you say that name in cruising circles around here and everyone knows who you’re talking about.) BaBaLu sails on an exquisite Catalina 34, s/v Partager (which means “to share” in French and boy does he!). And, just like the French, he kisses, too!
This is Bob greeting me in front of his boat at the shipyard. While we knew BaBaLu in passing (as the Pensacola cruising community is delightfully small), we got to know him much better (as you always do) when we were both on the hard in the Pensacola Shipyard back in 2016 when Phillip and I spent a grueling three months re-building our rotten mast stringers and changing our old rod rigging to wire. Whew, that was some serious time on the hill! Bob was hauled out, too, replacing his auto-pilot and some electronics and he was gracious enough to let me film a tour of his exquisite Catalina 34 while we were there. BaBaLu’s was Boat Tour No. 2 at HaveWind!
Bob was cheering there after having just crawled out of this hole … if you can believe it.
Believe it …
BaBaLu also appeared in our Second Annual Boozer Cruiser when we picked him up aboard s/v Partager to dinghy him around for a night of boat-to-boat, boozing fun! Bob had just come out to drop the hook for the night—with no idea that we had a Progressive Boozer Cruiser, costume-required, evening at the anchorage planned. But, that didn’t deter him one bit. As a cruiser, Bob is always prepared. (I couldn’t NOT share this clip with you : ). According to Phillip, the First Rule of Cruising is …
Good times! Aside from seeing him often in Pensacola out at Ft. McRee, Red Fish, and Pirate’s Cove, we’ve met up with BaBaLu down in Key West in 2014, as well, when he was there when he was down for his annual cruise staying at A&B Marina.
Bob sails his Catalina down the west coast of Florida to Cuba, Mexico, and often the Bahamas every year. So, he has a lot of great recommendations for anchorages, marinas, restaurants, and (his favorite) tiki bars along those parts. Following and texting us via our Delorme last year, when BaBaLu saw that we were leaving the Exumas to head back to the Berry Islands, he told us we had (“simply had!”) to stop at Little Harbour Cay, drop the hook (“for the day at least!”), and dinghy up the inlet to Aunt Flo’s Conch Bar for “the best cracked conch in the Bahamas!” That’s a pretty bold statement. One Phillip does not take lightly. Or, at face value. We decided we needed to verify Bob’s promise for ourselves. For … scientific accuracy, not because we love cracked conch.
Little Harbour Cay is one of the long narrow islands in the Berries between Chub Cay to the south and Great Harbour Cay to the north.
Phillip and I would likely not have stopped there if it hadn’t been for Bob’s recommendation because we didn’t know there was an anchorage there and we had no idea there was a restaurant. But, after a nice, peaceful overnight from the Exumas across the Tongue of the Ocean, we meandered in to Little Harbour Cay and were thrilled to find this little gem.
It was a beautiful blue-water spot with gorgeous green and navy waters, a protected little anchorage with plenty of depth, and some fun inlets to poke around in on the dinghy. Not to mention Flo’s Conch Bar just a short dinghy ride up the way.
But, I do have to break some sad news to you. We didn’t get any conch at Aunt Flo’s Conch Bar. I know … it was a travesty! But, it was entirely our own faults. Bob had told us in a text to “call ahead and order the cracked conch.” We figured Bob just liked to have his lunch hot and ready when he got there. He’s quite organized like that. Not being as particular—and happy to wait for home-cooked food in a fun, new place—Phillip and I just dinghied in, planning to order when we got there. Well … we can’t fault Bob for it. He tried to tell us. We just didn’t know “call ahead” meant “if you don’t, they won’t have conch for you.” At least for us they did not. We got there around 2:30 p.m. and chatted a bit with this guy in the kitchen who was trying to fix a flashlight with some wire and duct tape. He wasn’t very talkative, but he was friendly and nice enough to let us know they only cooked conch for you if you called it in by 11:00 a.m. Like the Seinfeld soup kitchen, it was “No conch for you!”
But, as I mentioned, that was our fault. Aunt Flo, we’ll be back!And, we’ll call ahead next time! What was really cool, though, was the little surprise I found there on the wall at Aunt Flo’s. Here, I’ll give you a little 360 of the place so you can see what Aunt Flo’s Conch Bar looks like.
There are so many of these little Mom-and-Pop type fried conch restaurants in the Bahamas, and many of them have lots of local memorabilia tacked up on the walls—shirts, boat flags and pennants, signed dollar bills, you name it. And, I was just moseying around while Phillip was sipping his rum drink talking to the Flashlight Fix-it guy and look what I found on the wall!
BaBaLu’s boat signature that he had left there about a month before us in April, 2019! S/v Partager was here! : )
Little Harbour Cay was definitely a fun little surprise and a nice welcome back to the Berries. Our first time there, back in 2018, we had pulled into Frazer’s Hog Cay, just because it looked like the most protected spot for a blow we were expecting, that was all, but it turned out to be the most memorable stop of our Abacos cruise in the winter of 2017-2018. Why? Because of the people! It’s always the people! That’s when we met the infamous Pat and Steve who I wrote about on the blog and in SAIL Magazine.
Steve and Pat made the Berries an unforgettable special stop for me and Phillip back in 2018, and we were excited to now log a new Berries story in our belt. “Aunt Flo, Conch No” we’ll call it : ). Despite our Flo flub, though, Little Harbour Cay was our most isolated, wonderful stop in the Berry Islands this past year.
Leaving Little Harbour Cay, however, and making our way north toward Great Stirrup and Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, Phillip and I encountered the most inundated island in the Berries. We had a nice sail up north that day and decided to get the stainless polished up while we were underway.
I didn’t know if it was the Collinite fumes or the heat, but I thought I was seeing things. As we were sailing on the Atlantic side past Devil’s Cay then Hoffman’s Cay, we were stunned to see what looked to be an alien monstrosity start to materialize on the horizon. I really didn’t know what I was looking at for a while. It looked like a County State Fair right there on the Atlantic. There was a looping, towering structure that mimicked an amusement park ride, a hot air balloon in the air, lots of flags flailing, what appeared to be towers with zip lines. It was insane!
As Phillip and I began to make our way closer, we realized we were seeing exactly what we thought we were seeing: a carnival on the water. Carnival Cruise Lines bought this island and converted it into exactly what you would expect a Carnival island to look like. I’m sorry, but as a purist and fan of natural Bahamian beauty, I felt like Coco Cay was an absolute monstrosity in the Bahamas.
I’m sure it’s fun. I’m sure the drinks are tasty (and pricy). And, I’m sure many people have a great time there. But, it’s all so … concocted. It’s taking American ideas of “fun” and “vacation” and imposing it on what was once a beautiful, pristine island landscape. Little Stirrup and Great Stirrup are now private islands that you can’t event dinghy up to and simply step ashore and enjoy, which is sad. I honestly thought a good bit about Terry Jo Duperrault and her mesmerizing Alone: Orphaned at Sea story (which I had read during our passage over to the Bahamas that year) because her family, while cruising the Bahamas in 1961, had stopped at Little Stirrup Cay, when it was an untouched Bahamian gem of an island. If only Terry could see this now, I thought. Coco Cay is quite shocking.
Phillip and I circled around Little Stirrup and headed into the inlet on the Atlantic side of Great Harbour Cay to drop the hook for the evening. Unfortunately, the anchorage did not offer the same serene charm as Little Harbour Cay with all of the Coco Cay “excursions” that were running about. We had jet skis circling us all afternoon and power boats zipping from island to island, chock full of Carnival cruisers. But, Phillip and I were there for a reason. We needed to scrub the bottom. We had been doing the bottom on our own while cruising in the Bahamas, which proved to be a rather easy, gratifying project. We only have to do it once a month or so. It only requires a couple of Scotch Brites and some healthy lungs. Or our Mantus Snuba set-up, which gives us each 15 minutes on either side to scrub the bottom and is a great portable little dive rig. We call it “snuba” because it’s a nice hybrid between scuba-diving and snorkeling. Thank you Mantus for another great product!
Scrubbing the bottom ourselves also gives us comfort laying hands on our own hull and making sure she’s in good shape, i.e., there are no blisters forming, or big paint patches chipping off. I honestly rather enjoy it. And, I knew it would be a while before we would be doing it again, so it was kind of like giving Plaintiff’s Rest a little love pat on the bottom before leaving her. Phillip and I were scrubbing the bottom that day because we knew our next stop was going to be Plaintiff’s Rest’s home for hurricane season and we wanted to park her with a clean bottom.
Yep, you read that right. We did not sail our Niagara 35 back to Pensacola this past summer. While it was hard to do and a tough decision, it ended up being the right one for us and our boat. Thankfully … Next up on the blog, we will tell you all about the protected little hurricane hole in the Bahamas where we kept our baby girl this past season, where she weathered a massive storm that ravaged the Abacos only sixty miles to the north of her (Hurricane Dorian – uggh), and where she remained in incredibly-capable hands and under the watchful-eyes of amazingly gracious cruising friends. New ones at that! Cruising is most definitely all about the people. We have much to share about hurricane season this year. Stay tuned!
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!
Three months in the yard and we are finally (in video time) ready to raise the new rig. Watch as we assemble the shrouds and stays, put our first hi-mod mechanical fitting on the forestay and complete all of the leg-work in order to (finally!) step the mast and raise the new wire rig.
If you’re digging the videos, be sure to subscribe on YouTube, give our video a thumbs-up and join our Give the Gift of Cruising campaign on Patreon in time to be eligible for our Bareboat Charter course giveaway. Get inspired and get on board!
That’s right. Blood. These boat christenings are serious business. It’s like Fight Club.
Rule No. 1: There must be blood. Alright, that’s not rule number one (it’s number 12!). Rule number one is The bottle must break. And, that is true. It has to be. I read it on the internet (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2506&dat=19650701&id=3lVJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EwoNAAAAIBAJ&pg=4384,289846). And, you gotta love that captain for being quick on his feet. The boat slips out into the water on its own before the ceremony, and he shrugs and says “Everyone knows the christening comes after birth.” Perfect. “Now, strike up the band! I want to hear God Save the Queen.”
We didn’t have quite that degree of pomp and circumstance. (I don’t think it made the paper.) But, in the early morning hours of June 7, 2013, we certainly did christen her. The Travelift was scheduled to come at 7:00 a.m. to pick her up for the haul-in, I guess you would call it. So, we got there a little early to close and check all the seacocks and through-holes and ready her for the water. We checked all the fluids. Yes, the transmission fluid, too. I checked that first actually, while the boys were commiserating in the cockpit.
This is the Grand Trio: that’s Kevin the Broker on the left (the buddy who helped us find our gem, the most amazing sailboat ever), Bottom Job Brandon in the middle (the buddy who helped us polish her up and ready her for any voyage) and, on the right, our faithful Captain and Leader, the reason for all of this, the infamous Phillip.
The Travelift came right on time, and the guys and gals at the shipyard started strapping her up.
And we have lift off!
Thankfully, Houston, there were no problems.
Phillip looked about as proud as I’ve ever seen him, watching his boat, his dream, his vision, hovering right in front of him. Finally, a reality. We both walked alongside her, broad smiles and big chests, pointing, nudging and whispering to each other: That’s our boat!
It was a big day for us.
Kevin and Brandon, both avid sailors themselves, and having owned and lived on and around sailboats all their lives, knew what it felt like to put your boat in the water for the first time. They brought us champagne to break (and drink!), slapped us on the back and shared our excitement.
Kevin: “You’re going to spend your best days on her.”
Phillip: “I hope to spend every day on her.”
They brought her over the water and dipped her down just low enough for me to smash the bottle on the bow.
This was the big moment. You know, plagued for all eternity and what not. But, I was ready. I’d been practicing. I wasn’t going to let that bottle bounce back unscathed. Uh-huh, not on this boat. I reared back and smacked her good.
Ahhh! What a glorious moment. The bottle smashed into 932 pieces and champagne went everywhere! I made a big scene and acted like a superhero (I tend to do that in moments like this).
And, then … there was BLOOD.
I didn’t notice it at first, in all my flailing and flaunting, but Brandon did. I’m surprised I didn’t get it on my white shirt (I can’t keep a white shirt clean to save my life). But, she was gushing. That bottle obviously found a way to get back at me. A nice shard of it jammed right into my knuckle upon impact. We didn’t have a band there playing God Save the Queen, but I have a feeling the queen herself would have been proud of my bloody good smash! Perhaps I swung a little harder than necessary. I tend to do that at times, too. But, it was totally worth it. The bottle shattered, and Plaintiff’s Rest was assured a long, lucky life at sea. We wrapped my bloody appendage and hopped on board while the boys eased her out of the dock.
Plaintiff’s Rest was back in the water! To ensure a future of fair winds and following seas, we performed the obligatory splash ceremony ritual (http://www.boatnames.com.au/boat-naming-renaming-ceremony.htm) in which we called on Poseidon and the four Wind Gods (north, east, south and west), reading the script out loud, pouring generous amounts of champagne in each direction, and drinking a generous portion ourselves. Plenty of champagne was consumed during the ceremony, I can assure you. We had a lot to celebrate!
Phillip was beaming.
The wind was blowing, and we were sailing!
And, you know what happens when we go sailing …
Clothes come off! I’m kidding. They do, but only the outer layers. We love the sun. Phillip went top-side to enjoy the view from the bow, and I (of course) followed.
“You looking for a mate?”
It was a big day for us and a beautiful day on the water. We knew, then and there, we would spend our best days on her.
Yep. That’s the final product. Ain’t she a beaut? And, we got there with just a little soap and a credit card.
But, that’s the finale. Let’s rewind (imagine that veed-viddit-viddoop sound a VCR makes), and play it from the beginning, shall we? Now, I’m not tech-savvy enough to make one of those amazing time-lapse videos, so we’re going to do this the old-fashioned, flip-pad way.
Scroll really fast!
Wasn’t that fun? But wait. I still see a little fox soot on there. Let’s see if we can’t buff that out. “Brandon!”
Perfect. A clean slate! Now, where’s that fancy new boat logo, and my credit card?
I started sticking the logo up there, scooching it one way and then the other, trying to get it in just the right spot. (Although I had saved us some dough by opting to apply the logo DIY style, I was sure the Captain would not be pleased with a crooked, shoddy job). But, I was struggling to get it right.
Until I had the brilliant idea to bust out the level. I’ve hung plenty a-picture frame in my day. Surely that would do the trick? Right? But, as I went to measuring and leveling, the boys at the shipyard started to chuckle and sneer and get a big kick out of it. I knew something was up.
“Come on guys. LEVEL with me. What’s so funny?”
Our bottom-job guy finally had to break it to me. I had made a real ass out of myself by ASS-uming the boat was level on the jacks. Surely that was the case, right? Wrong. That’s what the guys thought was so funny. The boat is just propped up so it won’t fall over. They certainly don’t take the time to “level” a boat when they set it up in the shipyard. What was I thinking …
So, Bottom-Job Brandon stepped in to help this blonde and make sure I got it lined up right. Turns out, he was a master of the old “eyeballin’ it” method (patent pending).
With the logo finally in the right spot, we started the long, laborious process of scraping (with the credit card) and peeling (also using the credit card, our hands, elbows, a toe here and there, and just about anything we could get up there when the corner or edge of a letter began to peel off of the boat). We used the soap (half water, half Dawn) in a spray bottle to tame unruly corners and tips back into place.
Once Brandon felt he had passed on all the knowledge he could, he let me at it unsupervised (scary thought) while he went back to work on the hull.
So, the credit card and I kept at it and got the job done. (Thankfully, I am a master with the credit card! Cha-ching!).
“Ahhh … time to rest.”
Nope. We still had to do the hailing port. I called Brandon back in to lend his special “eyeball” technique for the “Pensacola, FL” portion of the logo and we went back to peeling and scraping.
The hailing port portion of the logo was the toughest because of the through-holes on the back of the bilge (where the bilge pump drains out). Some of the letters had to come up and over these fittings, which was tough. I seriously thought we were going to lose the tail end of the “a” on Pensacola. I had to cut it off and stick it back up there and it kept falling off. It’s like a 2 cm piece of green sticker that dropped like 5 times to the dirty, asphalt parking lot of the shipyard. It finally stuck and to this day, when I scrub the stern, I am amazed to see it there.
That “a” was a real pain, but I kept at it, and finally peeled the whole thing back. And … voila!
Boat logo done. Now that she had her new name, we were ready to splash her back in the water. We had scheduled the splash ceremony for June 7, 2013.
I did not know at the time, but in the world of cruising, a boat re-naming ceremony (also known as a “splash ceremony”) is kind of a big deal. This will give you a clue (http://www.boatnames.com.au/boat-naming-renaming-ceremony.htm), but note the instruction: “Buy a bottle of good Champagne & invite your friends to witness and party.”
I was definitely excited.
Of course plenty of other extremely critical and exciting things happened while the boat was on the jacks but I, naturally, focused primarily on my logo job. I am the center of this universe, you know. But – let’s get a quick recap:
Blister and pockmarks and abrasions abound! She was covered with them:
Tons of small ones,
And, even some oozing ones,
Thankfully, we got lucky (which is rare) with the monstrous one in the back that we thought was a potential core leak.
Turns out the low-pitched, “thud” our surveyor heard when he was giving our girl a “good banging” during the sea trial, was not a leak to the core, just a blister in the fiberglass coating on the hull. Where some sailboat hulls are completely fiberglass, we have a balsa core on our boat which is covered by fiberglass. If you were to take a core sample of our hull, it would look something like this:
Meaning, had that leak near the strut joint on our hull made its way to the balsa core, our repair job could have looked something like this:
But, like I said, we were extremely lucky. Our fiberglass turned out to be super thick. Bottom-job Brandon said he was afraid to keep drilling because he started to think we didn’t have a balsa core after all, just fiberglass. But, he finally reached wood and found it to be completely dry. There was no leak to the core. He gave it the seal of approval and filled her back in.
We checked all the through-holes to make sure they were clear and fully-functioning. This is the paddle wheel that spins to register speed on the electronics panel.
We ran through that system and checked the electronics.
She was good to go.
We gave the plastic rub rail a hard-core acetone rub-down and polished up the stainless steel stanchions and pulpit.
We removed what was left of the warped, worn davits brace that caused us to lose the dinghy in the middle of the Gulf during the Crossing.
We lost Phillip to a lazarette.
He thought it was best he go in to check on the bilge pump through-hole. After he spent 10 minutes wriggling and writhing and birthing himself from the lazarette, he learned to next time always send me into tight, cramped spaces on the boat. Don’t worry, you’ll see me in the same, humiliating, compromising position soon. Lazarettes are scary!
On top of ALL that, the boat was fully-primed and painted.
And, with the new logo on the back, she was ready to make a splash!
As were we!
But, I had some more work to do. Either because I’m the first mate, or the only lady that would be there for the splashing (probably the latter), I was told I was going to be the one to smash the bottle on the hull for the re-naming. While I was flattered, I was also a little nervous. The guys at the shipyard made a big deal out of telling me what bad luck I would bestow upon the ole’ Rest and all of her progeny if the bottle didn’t break (into a million pieces!) on the first swing. I headed to the store that night and scooped up a dozen bottles of champagne – some for sipping, and others for practice “smash” swings on steel poles and road signs around town (yes, that was me). I was going to be sure my bottle scattered into oblivion when she struck the hull. I had to be ready!
Ha ha! Again, I write the blog. I get to include corny jokes (and laugh at them) if I want to. It’s my party. Be glad you were invited.
I got some very good guesses on the immigrant-smuggling, wine-toting, big, honkin’ backpack of a gift. Kudos to those of you who wagered a guess. The prize will have to go to my most faithful-of-followers, Casey, who fancied the backpack housed an inflatable dinghy. While it wasn’t a dinghy per se, as you all know, we had to hack our dinghy clean off the davits in the middle of the Gulf Crossing to save the boat (http://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/06/24/april-17-23-2013-the-crossing-chapter-five-a-harrowing-debacle/), so this gift did, actually, become our new “dinghy.” 500 points to you Casey.
It was an inflatable stand-up paddle board!
Yeah buddy! That’s what’s SUP!
Because you only live once, right? Phillip ordered it through Kevin Cook with Coastal Paddle Company (http://www.coastalpaddlecompany.com/), a good friend and our local, self-proclaimed “Ambassador of Adventure.”
Gotta love that.
Phillip picked me out a beautiful blue 10 footer that (conveniently) packs down into the stylish black backpack you saw me sporting. Complete with a break-apart paddle:
It’s super light and strong and snaps into action the minute I’m ready to hit it! Like nunchucks:
But WAY cooler!
The compactable board and paddle were perfect for storing on the boat, and, since we were dinghy-less at the moment, it was due to serve as our “makeshift” dinghy until we got a new one.
But, a new dinghy was mighty far down on the list of boat projects while she was up on jacks at the shipyard. We needed to get started on any and all projects that could only be done while she was out of the water. One of which was putting the new name on the back. While we were certainly fond of Foxfire, Phillip had apparently been dreaming of someday getting a sailboat and calling it Plaintiff’s Rest since he was in college. Seriously, one of Phillip’s old college buddies guessed that’s what we’d call her before I even told him, saying “Phillip’s been babbling about Plaintiff’s Rest since the good ole’ days.” Boys and their boats …
So, I set to work on it, sketching out some potential logos for the name:
I know. Kind of blows your mind how good they are. I got some mad skills. At least that’s what my teacher told me when I won the “arts & crafts” medal at the local Funfest back in 1988!
I was kind of a big deal.
Alright. I’m kidding. I certainly was more of a rough-and-tumble type kid than an arts-and-crafts one. That medal was for rocking it in the potato sack race. Uh-huh, that’s right!
So, graphics and doodles aside, we decided to just go with text, no images.
I think it was the right call. It just looks cleaner. Better. Not as busy. But, the next step was finding someone to print the design and apply it to the back of the boat. I started making calls. Most folks quoted me around $500 to print the logo and apply it. Ouch! Have I mentioned how expensive boats are? A time or two? Well, it bears repeating. But, thankfully, I finally got a gal on the phone from DigitalNow (http://www.digitalnow.net/) who said she could print the logo for around $75, then (with a wink a smile): “Darlin, you can stick it on yourself with a little soap and a credit card.”
You’re darn right I can!
It sounded like a Dasani-and-duct tape kind of job to me. My favorite! I was all over it. We put in the order and headed on down to the ship yard to check on our boat.
It was a bit of a disturbing sight to see her propped up on stilts, her bottom dry as a bone and and all scuffed up and sanded in patches.
She looked so uncomfortable. Like a dog on the vet’s table.
“This is not going to end well for me.”
But, we knew it was for the best. She was definitely in need of a bottom job. When we got there, Brandon had already started sanding her down and working on some of the blisters.
And, of course, the dreaded core leak! I’ll just warn some of you now:
SOME OF THESE IMAGES MAY BE DISTURBING AND NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG ADULTS OR CHILDREN.
But that’s not what happened. We had been at sea for five days, which means? You guessed it. More time away from work. I’ve already told you how expensive boats are. We had to get back to the daily grind. So, I went to work. At an office, with unflattering florescent lighting and stale coffee and copiers …
You’re right Javier. Youdo make the best copies!
Boy was that a wake-up call. After the best sail or our lives, work felt like a slap in the face with a cold, dead fish. Smack! But, I mustered through while Phillip and his Dad and the infamous Mitch (he really is a good friend) took the boat to the Pensacola Shipyard so she could be hauled out to have her bottom work done.
Roll that fabulous footage:
“Watch that dock Paul! We don’t want a scratch on her!”
“Careful now boys! She’s expensive!”
You’ll notice she was still Foxfire at the time. Having the new name put on was part of the bottom job that needed to be done.
There she comes!
I have to say, every time I see her come out of the water like this, her “bottom” all exposed for everyone to see, I feel like she’s showing her undergarments or something. Like she should cross her legs and blush as if the wind blew her skirt up.
“Oh my … what a terrible, terrible, yet highly profitable mistake for me to have stepped on this air vent like I did … ”
But, you see, Marilyn just happened to have some little matching white hot pants on underneath her billowy white dress that fateful night. Classy lady? Or well-planned? My guess is the latter. Because I’ll tell you, not every woman would happen to be wearing such showy undergarments when the wind blows up her bottoms. I’ll tell you what some of us got under there.
That’s right. Spanx. I said it. Some of us are afraid of what might come “popping out” (Melissa McCarthy is my hero!) if we don’t suck it all in with those magic stretchy wonders. And, I’ll tell you, Bullock was lucky, because it’s the not-so-embarrassing nude-color ones that sell fast, leaving the rest of us left to scrounge through the plus-size, leprechaun green and neon blue leftovers.
I had to settle for the flaming pink pair:
But I digress …
The boat was hauled out, her “bottom” exposed for all the world to see, and the boys (and hairy women) at the ship yard set to work, getting her propped up on jacks in the yard so they could get to painting and sanding her.
Lord it scares me to see her being transported around in that thing. I keep imagining one of those big fat straps snapping and the boat crashing to the pavement, her keel cracking clean off. Uhhhh … like a parent watching their kid take off on a bike without training wheels for the first time, except WAY more important. For the most part, kids heal for free, or at least just at the price of a Band-aid and a “kiss to make it all better.” Although I don’t think that would work on the boat, I would certainly fall to the pavement and cover her in both all the same.
But the boys at the shipyard did a great job getting her all secured. Apparently, they’ve done it a time or two.
Our broker-turned-friend, Kevin, had recommended we use Brandon Hall with Perdido Sailor to do the bottom work. http://www.perdidosailor.com/. Brandon is actually the one we called when our surveyor found the potential leak in the core when she was hauled out for the sea trial, and he was able to give us a rough estimate of the potential repair over the phone that we then used to negotiate the price down. Certainly a good man to have in your corner. And, like most boat people, he’s just a great guy, super knowledgeable about all things sailboat and willing to come help with any project, so long as we offer him a beer or three. That’s pretty much standard “code” anyway. “Hey man. Want to come have a beer on the boat?” pretty much means I’ve got a project I could use your help with, and well, let’s just say, we’ve kept the boat fully-stocked with beer provisions since we parked her in Pensacola, and Brandon has helped out with many a-project.
So, with the boat propped up safely in the yard, we started making a fat list of all the things we wanted to do to her while she was out of the water: repair the suspected core leak, check and repair, if necessary, all the through holes and sea cocks, polish all the brightwork, have the name put on the back, etc. As is always the case with boats – there’s always plenty to do.
But, it was still a special day for you-know-who. That’s right, the big THREE-ONE (God, I’m old!) and Phillip the Magnificent had planned an exceptional dinner for us that evening: succulent filet topped with lobster tail along with lobster rissoto and (my favorite) sauteed spinach. We, of course, started with a bread and olive oil course:
Paired with an exquisite GSM blend.
And then threw the steaks on the grill.
I mean, really? Is there anything this man can’t do? I am one lucky girl. Trust me, I know.
He even managed (amid all of our planning, packing and provisioning for the last leg of the Crossing) to surprise me with a gift.
So, what say you? A roll-up picnic in-a-bag? A handy ruck-sack for us to backpack across Europe? A durable bag to transport dead bodies? Or smuggle illegal immigrants across the border for a little extra dough, perhaps?
You’re probably thinking: Finally … screw the food and wine and Miami broads , I want to get back to this whole boat-buying business. Trust me. I get it. We felt the same way. It seemed like ages passed before we saw that beautiful boat again.
Totally gratuitous shot, I know, but when you own a boat this beautiful, you have unfettered bragging rights. (And I doubt I’m ruining any surprise by telling you we do, now, own the boat. If I did, you’re a terrible blog reader. Clearly you’ve been indulging only on the spoon-fed “front page” posts, while failing to dig deeper to the other, equally-entertaining tabs, namely, the one titled “The Boat.” Go ahead, check it out. I’ll wait . . . http://havewindwilltravel.com/the-boat-2/).
So, the time finally came for the survey/sea trial. For those of you unaware (don’t worry – I was head of that department when we began this whole business), typically, when buying a boat, you put in an offer contingent on a satisfactory survey/sea trial, meaning contingent upon the boat passing inspection and proving it truly is sea-worthy. The survey is meant to uncover potential problems with the boat that you perhaps cannot see or test upon gross inspection, like issues with the hull or engine or the electronics, for example. Things you could not uncover when you first looked at the boat because you either (a) couldn’t access them, or (b) wouldn’t know how to test them even if you could. I’ll let you guess which of these two categories we fell in. Hence, the need for a trusty boat surveyor. But, I’ll get to Kip in a moment.
In order to do the survey, they had to do a “haul-out,” which is just about as technical as it sounds. They hauled the boat out of the water so we all could have a look at her.
Our boat came glistening out of the water. Fin keel and all. She was huge! And, I mean that as a compliment. Little did I know at the time how important it is to have so much counter-weight under the water. I learned that when I found us heeled over to the tune of about 80 degrees during the crossing back. But, that’s a post for another day.
She hung there on straps, her underside exposed for all the world to see. She certainly wasn’t shy and, apparently, neither was Kip. He began digging around and rattling through his things and getting to work on her.
Now, Kip was quite the character. I’m sure my efforts will only offend Chaucer, but I will attempt regardless to give you a glimpse of the man. Kip clamored up to us that morning, pot-bellied and boisterous, lugging a large, seemingly vintage, toolbox of sorts, a satchel and a rolling briefcase. He began sweating profusely the minute he exerted the slightest amount of energy opening the latch to his case and he extended a wet, meaty paw to each of us, introducing himself only as Kip. I didn’t even know he was the surveyor (and wouldn’t have taken him for one with the two silver, pirate-like loops he bore in each ear and the incredulous, over-sized gold ring that hung heavily on his left hand) until he handed me a card, adorned only with the name “Kip.” Like he was more famous than Madonna. And, he was full of lewd jokes and inappropriate humor, most of which fell only on light chuckles and awkward shuffles. W didn’t know what to make of him. Phillip and I stood in bewilderment as Kip pulled out tools and began beating the bottom of the boat with a hammer, talking about how “every gal loves a good bangin’ in the morning!”
See Kip bang. Bang Kip bang.
But, our broker assured us Kip had a reputation for being extremely thorough and brutally honest, which is just what we wanted. If there was anything wrong with the boat, we wanted Kip to find it and give us the run-down. And, find it he did. At each point Kip accosted the hull of the boat with his yellow hammer, we heard a high-pitched, ringing “whack.” It appeared this noise pleased Kip as he would continue along un-phased by each shrill note, until he reached the area where the strut is fastened to the hull. When Kip struck near this area we all heard a dull, sickening, thud, much unlike the shrill, high-pitched sounds that had preceded it. Kip immediately stopped, struck the area again. Another deep, low thud. He struck the area to the left and right of it. High-pitched shrieks. He struck the area again. Thud. He started writing feverishly on his clipboard and he circled the area with his hammer. We all came around and examined the spot, a bit disheartened.
Kip explained it seemed there had been some water intrusion in the hull and there was a small pocket of water just above the strut joint on the starboard side. Thankfully our broker got his best “bottom-job” guy on the phone and got an estimate for a potential repair. For those of you wondering, a “bottom job” is simply that – work done on the bottom of a boat – cleaning, resurfacing, repainting, etc. – about every three years. (I’ll admit, I was shamelessly a little saddened to find that a “bottom job” search on Google (even images!) renders only nice, clean, kid-friendly things relating to bottom work on boats, other than this gem – which I include for your reading pleasure:
Thankfully, the estimate for repairing the “thud” didn’t give us too much heartburn and it certainly wasn’t a deal-breaker. The seller, Jack, even came around to investigate as well and seemed equally surprised by it. He assured us he had not noticed it when the boat had been hauled out in July of the previous year, which also gave us comfort. We determined later the fact that we had hit that speed bump early on actually turned out to be a good thing because it seemed the sting of it was quickly forgotten once we got out on the water and into the wind. The rest of the day was then left open for a beautiful sail and only thumbs up and smiles from Kip. Kip even told Jack himself what great shape the boat was in given its age. Apparently flattery gets you everywhere with Jack because this warmed him so much that he grabbed the helm and took us out himself for the sea trial.
It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky and just the right amount of wind. We hoisted the sails and felt her take off.
Phillip and I were happier than Richard Simmons at a fat camp (that’s right, you heard me, I went there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhZ2fYQj6IM) and we did a very poor job of hiding it. I don’t think smile is quite the word. Goofy, child-like grins were more like it.
After the sea trial, we pulled back into the marina and Kip packed up his bags and satchels and told us he’d write us up a “real good report.” Aside from the small issue with the hull, the boat had passed Kip’s rigorous test with flying colors. Phillip and I shook hands with Jack and Barbara and told them we’d be in touch (each of us feeling as though the day had gone well and the boat would soon be ours). For Jack and Barbara it seemed bitter-sweet. While they appeared to like us and felt the boat was going to good home with Phillip and I, they were also sad to see her go. They had sailed and cruised and enjoyed that boat for more than twenty years. That’s a long time to love a thing. And a boat is not an easy thing to let go. But Barbara and Jack hugged us warmly and waved back heartily as they left the marina to head home.
Phillip and I stood on the dock, breathing mightily, watching her go, thinking it would now, and forever, always feel like too long before we found ourselves back at that helm.