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!
There’s a storm brewing out there. You know it’s coming. You often know how fast it’s going and what the sustained winds are. You even have many, many predicted tracks. But, you just never know with 100% certainty where it’s going to hit and what it’s going to do.
Deciding what to do when a hurricane has its sights set on you is always a very tough call. The cone is so large (made even larger by varying predicted landfalls) and sailboats move so slow.
Even if you have purchased a hurricane haul-out plan, which Phillip and I have, deciding whether to haul-out or not is still a tough call. Being on jack stands among dozens of other boats propped up on what look like toothpicks is no guarantee of safety. But, even if you tie your boat up super secure in an anchorage or marina, that’s no guarantee another boat won’t come loose and come barreling into you. It’s just tough. As Phillip and I wait for Michael to make landfall, I thought I would share with you all some of our thoughts on hurricane preparation and some of the measures we took to (hopefully) keep our boat safe. Many of these are passed down from sailors much wiser than us, and you know me, I’m always happy to share. Here’s to the Kretschmers and Pam Walls out there who have taught us so much. We hope some of these tips help you all someday (if not today!) too.
Whether to Haul
The decision of whether to haul is usually difficult because it has to be made very early in the process, when the hurricane is out there with varying predicted landfalls. But, understandably, the shipyards have to be prepared to haul as many people out on their list that want out, so that takes 2-3 days to coordinate and schedule. They cannot allow all owners on the list to wait until the last day and then demand to be hauled out. For Phillip and I, if our marina requires a mandatory evacuation, then that makes the decision to haul-out easier. However, as with Michael, where the marina merely issued a “voluntary” evacuation—encouraging but not requiring owners to leave—that makes our decision tougher.
While it would be (well … nice isn’t really the right word as I’m sure the experience is a wet, wild adventure) but it would be reassuring to be able to stay safely on the boat in the marina during the hurricane constantly checking for chafe or other wind-driven problems, and watching out for other boats that may come loose. Staying in the water, however, does expose the boat to a potential sinking if something collides with her or strikes her in such a way as to punch a hole or cause a break that would allow water intake. Being on jack stands does give you peace of mind that she won’t sink. However, up and on jack stands does create significant more windage. Jack stands can fail, and other boats can topple over onto you.
While Phillip and I believe hauling out can be the safer option, it’s not guaranteed. Some friends offered us a mooring they dropped themselves (a 2,000 lb tractor axle) with a super hearty shackle up in a hurricane hole where they rode out Hurricane Ivan safely, and I would imagine that would be a safer option than the shipyard. However, it’s in a neighboring state where we are not insured. So that would be a huge downside if something did occur and our boat was significantly damaged during the storm. All of these pros and cons were weighing on us as we left Pirate’s Cove in Alabama and made our way home Sunday to our slip in Pensacola.
It was no surprise when the folks at our hurricane haul-out yard called us during our motor back asking us if we wanted to haul-out and, if so, when we wanted to be scheduled. They offered us a 5:30 p.m. slot the following day on Monday, or a 7:00 a.m. slot on Tuesday morning. Debating a not-so-ideal evening haul-out versus the benefit of earlier prep of the boat, we chose the 5:30 slot knowing that would give us all day Monday to watch the storm and make a last-minute decision on Monday afternoon.
Knowing we would strip the boat entirely whether we stayed in the water or hauled-out, we set to that job on Monday morning while we watched the NOAA reports during the day and waited for the final 4:00 p.m. full report that would force our hand. When the report showed Hurricane Michael moving faster, allowing it less time to hook further east before making landfall, Phillip and I decided to haul-out. We did the same thing last year when Nate was barreling down on us (I wrote a piece on that experience here), so we knew the process, we trusted the yard, and we felt it was best.
Photo from our Nate prep, October 2017.
But, the haul-out itself was just one step of the prep work. I wanted to share with you all here a detailed list of the additional work we did to ensure (we hope) no canvas or sails are damaged during the storm, no halyards or other lines come untethered and start slinging around like ball on the end of a chain, and that our boat stays as absolutely safe and undamaged as possible.
First, we start with Annie up the mast! Detailed list with photos below. Prep smart people, and best of luck out there!
Hurricane Prep on Plaintiff’s Rest
We send Annie up the mast to bring down our convertible inner forestay for our storm sail. We know we’ll have to send me up after the storm to bring other halyards and things down, so removing this just to ensure less “whippage” potential during the storm is a no-brainer. I will install it back when I go up the mast after the storm so it will be ready for our offshore sailing season.
And that video still came from our “How to Rig Your Boat for Heavy Weather Sailing” video where we share some other tips on rigging your boat for heavy offshore winds. Feel free to check it out here.
2. Drop, flake and bag the genoa, and put it below. We leave the sheets on it, so they are also removed from the topside as well.
3. Pull the furling line out of the furling drum on the headsail. It’s easy to re-install and it means one less line on the deck.
4. Remove the flag halyards. (Again, we know I will have to go up the mast again after the storm, so anything completely outside of the mast that can easily be taken down entirely and re-installed when I go back up, we remove.)
5. Remove the dodger and stow it below. (We’re getting a new one this year by the way; our old one is “played out!” as Phillip would say. Zippers coming off and falling apart. This might be the last time that old dodger rides on the boat! Sorry Charlie. See you later!)
6. Unhook the solar panels on top of the bimini (usually by marking the right connections with blue painter’s tape and Sharpie).
7. Carefully fold the bimini with the solar panels attached and stow it in the vberth below.
8. Remove the lifeline from the stern rail and stow it below. Now the cockpit is completely stripped and clean.
8. Secure the bars of the bimini and the remaining solar power cords with tape, line, and zip ties. Same with the dodger frame.
9. Remove all other canvas (hatch covers, hand rails, etc.).
10. Drop the Stack Pack and stow it below. I usually take a photo of it and make myself a little diagram so I remember how to re-install it. It’s not that hard at all. But, when it’s a wadded up pile of canvas and lines it looks a little intimidating.
11. Drop the mainsail and stow it below (with the reef line at the tack stored with it).
12. Check the figure-eight knots on each end then pull Reef One and Reef Two at the clew down into the throat at the aft of the boom with the remainder of the lines in the cockpit.
13. Remove the Cunningham and stow it below.
14. Remove the whisker pole and stow it below.
15. Okay, we’re not quite through but in yesterday-time it’s now 4:00 p.m. and time to head to the shipyard. It’s haul-out time! Let’s go!
Last thing to deal with is the lines that are remaining on the boat. Pam Wall gave us some great tips on these.
16. We pull all all halyards in the mast up to the top so the lines are protected and the shackled end cannot come untethered and start whipping everything on the boat with a fury. This includes the genny halyard, the staysail halyard, the topping lift, the spinnaker halyard and the main halyard. (That’s one busy mast!) We run dyneema leads up with the spinnaker and genny halyard (the two lines we often use to raise me up the mast) so those can be pulled back down to raise me up to retrieve the others post-storm. At the shackle end of each line I tie a big figure-eight knot to (while I’m sure it already is, but just to be doubly-sure) it’s too fat to fall down in the throat of the sheave. I then fold the shackle back onto the figure-eight knot and tape it all securely with blue tape (that way the shackle can’t bang and beat itself to death). We then attach a dyneema messenger to those we will pull back down. I tie several knots in the dyneema and tape them with blue tape to prevent the knots from slipping out. (That dyneema is super strong but notorious for un-tying itself. It’s so slickery! Annie word of the day.)
18. The remainder of the dyneema (because we don’t want to cut it, it’s one piece long enough to replace any stay or shroud) I stuff into the boot cover at the bottom of the mast and tape it round and round (to ensure the Velcro doesn’t give during the storm).
17. Here’s the Pam Wall trick. We run the remainder of the genny and the spinnaker lines round and round (tightly coiled) around the base of the mast. The main halyard that is back in the cockpit we run the same way (tightly coiled) around the binnacle. And the other lines (outhaul, main sheets, reminder of the topping lift, staysail halyard, etc.) we stuff in a bag on a port wench and we tape the throat of it shut and secure it to the wench. You can see the bag here:
18. You tired yet? We were. It was a loooonnng day yesterday. Now that everything topside is as secure as it can be, it’s time to reinforce the bottom. We run seizing wire around the handles of each jack stand (a trick Brandon with Perdido Sailor taught us – thanks B!) to help prevent them from rattling themselves loose in heavy winds.
19. We then run chain or dock lines (chain is best) from jack stand to jack stand to create a sort of secure “cradle” for our boat. To make all of the jack stands work together to support our hull.
20. Okay, I believe that’s it (as I’m running through this mentally). We’ll always do one last sweep to make sure all hatches are closed and that we didn’t miss anything. I hope this list helps some of you!
And, we hope this sheds some light for those who do not own a boat on how much work really goes into preparing a boat for a storm. Phillip and I got this all accomplished yesterday and we’re hoping our baby girl is as secure as she can be for Michael’s fury, whatever he may bring. We hope all of you remain safe during the storm, too. We’ll be sending our thoughts to your hearts, homes, and vessels. Hold fast followers!
This is it! The post you all have been waiting for. Now that the stringers under our engine are repaired, it was time to get Westie back in place and aligned so we could tackle one of the projects we were most excited about this year: PAINTING THE ENGINE!
Phillip and I have had Westerbeke-red visions dancing in our head for weeks. The thought of having a completely leak-free (or even just less-leaky-than-before) engine that would be bright, shiny red, ready to point the finger vigorously and immediately at any leak really pops our corn. Phillip and I were both super excited to get Westie assembled, all cleaned up, and ready for a few layers of sweet Westie red. And, as many of you have asked us about this process (this was probably the most commented-on post from our shipyard Facebook photos), we wanted to share with you all the process in case any of you are thinking of doing the same. To be honest, this paint job, while probably one of the most visibly-rewarding of our projects this summer, was by far one of the easiest.
First, let’s talk a little about why we wanted to re-paint the engine. While a fresh coat of paint would, as I mentioned above, greatly enhance our ability to spot and troubleshoot new leaks from the engine, I later learned this was not the primary goal. What were we really trying to accomplish in cleaning and painting our engine?
As Brandon with Perdido Sailor explained, the number one thing to really rob years of life from your engine is corrosion and decay from rust. Phillip and I were definitely seeing evidence of that in the layers of metal that could easily flake off of our engine, primarily on the backside where it is the greasiest and near the water pump where it suffers the most rust corrosion. This part on our engine, the cradle support on the back, had probably suffered the worst of the rust, so Brandon devised a good plan for us to take the rust head-on and prevent further decay.
Let’s talk a little about this product: POR 15 Industrial Rust Preventer
It’s a three-step process for cleaning metal, prepping it, then painting a rust-preventative coating on it, which chemically bonds to the metal, before the final paint. We special-ordered it from Amazon so we would receive it in time to apply to the cradle before it was time to re-assemble the engine.
That was the plan anyway. Phillip followed the instructions to a “T” using the cleaner, then the prep, then the POR paint, followed by Westie red. We also woke early and were at the shipyard before 6:00 a.m. that day to apply the POR before the humidity rose in the heat of the day. Living in humid, muggy Florida, this was one downside of the product:
POR-15 is cured and strengthened by exposure to moisture and will dry faster under extreme humidity, but moderate to dry atmospheric conditions are most desirable when applying this product, because extreme humidity may cause an immediate surface cure, trapping carbon dioxide gas below the surface. When this happens, bubbling may occur. Extreme humidity at the time of application may also interfere with proper adhesion of the POR-15 coating to metal because it’s almost impossible to keep metal dry under such conditions.
Yep, you read that right. If it’s applied in too humid of an environment, bubbling can occur. For us, bubbling certainly did occur.
Just a few scrapes with Brandon’s knife and both the red and the POR were flaking off back to pure metal.
We’ll have to call this attempt an epic fail.
But, we’re determined sailors. With reassembly of the engine scheduled for the next day, Shipyard Annie was sent in to try and remedy the damage to keep us on track. It was either spend the day stripping all of the paint off of this beast manually (including the areas of mega-bonded POR that did cure properly) or—Option B—whip out this toxic devilish serum for a chemical strip:
Have any of you ever used this product? I mean damn! It will peel the paint off your nails. That stuff was super intense. But, it was our quickest option. Phillip picked up a similar brand from the auto parts store and Annie set to it.
The minute I started slathering it onto our cradle, the paint started hissing and bubbling in violent (albeit futile) revolt!
It literally took me 12 coats of this acid with scraping in between to finally get the POR to let go. Everyone at the shipyard said it looked like a murder scene!
It was also a little painful too. Even through gloves, after multiple applications, the toxic aircraft paint remover began to make my hands feel cold at first, then they started in with a painful tingle. I was honestly worried I might be unknowingly inflicting permanent nerve damage on myself. I checked with the guys at the yard to be sure and they said it’s painful but temporary. So, my murdering continued and finally we were back to bare clean metal for another attempt at the POR.
Brandon helped supervise this time and we applied it initially in his air-conditioned, somewhat-enclosed shop area. (He has what I call “butcher freezer” plastic flaps that hang down, keeping the room cool for the guys but easy to come and go with tools, paints, whatever in your hands.)
Even with Brandon helping with the application we were still getting a little bubbling at the shipyard, so I took the pieces home to our fully-air-conditioned apartment for the final coat and the second time around resulted in a solid cure of the POR under the Westerbeke red.
That piece was easily the hardest part of this job. After the cradle was in place, and the engine reassembled (with a successful alignment check by Brandon and Shane), Phillip and I were finally given the go-ahead to paint. Say it with me: “Whoo Westie Hoo!”
Our first step was to clean the engine thoroughly with Zep. That is some awesome de-greasing stuff. Perfect for this situation. Simply spraying Zep on and rinsing alone took off the majority of our oil and grease for painting. This is the difference in the engine from merely dirty to clean.
We then scraped off any paint that was ready to jump ship. Our goal was to get as much bare metal as we could exposed so we could start fresh with primer coats there before the final red coat.
Our next step was prep. Shane with Perdido Sailor gave us a good tip to cover all of the hoses and wires and other fittings on the engine that we did not want painted with aluminum foil. It was nice because it was easy to work with and would wrap around pipes and fixtures and (for the most part) just hold itself there, which made the prep work much quicker, albeit still a good three hours. We were also careful to tape and cover caps, dipsticks, the throttle and shifter cables, the intake, etc. When we were done, we had an odd-looking foil monster in the engine room.
Then it was time to paint. A follower on Facebook captioned this photo Boat Project Magazine’s August Centerfold. I’ll take that! : )
On Brandon’s recommendation, we started with green zinc chromate on all areas that were bare metal (which were a good bit!). The fumes were pretty intense in the engine room so we donned a mask and goggles. A follower later recommended I probably should have thrown on a Tyvek suit for skin protection, which would probably have been much smarter. We’re told the chemicals in that zinc chromate are pretty harsh. If I start growing a third eyeball, I’ll let you all know. But, you can see the green areas in the photos below.
Outside near the Perdido Sailor shop, Phillip was also painting the heat exchanger before we put it back on as well.
The next step was a grey primer over the green zinc.
The fumes were pretty intense, particularly down in the engine room. But with a mask and goggles, the job wasn’t too bad.
Finally everything was ready for our favorite shade of red. And, I can’t tell you how many times this awesome scene from Kinky Boots was repeated at the yard when we were getting ready to start spraying the Westie red! I mean “Reeeeeeddddd” (with a hiss).
“Red is the color of sex! And fear. And danger. And signs that say “Do not enter.”
But, all of our signs say “Yes, indeed, do paint!” Let the Westie Red fly!
Now you see grey. Now you don’t!
Yeah baby! We were tickled red to pull the foil and tapes and drapes all finally away from the engine and admire her new coat. I dare say Westerbeke red and Bilgekote grey are my new favorite color-combo.
Westie sure does look good! Not only will we now be able to easily spot and trace all leaks of oil, water, or coolant, our engine also now has been given a few more years of rust-free health that we hope to continue. Brandon recommended after we run the engine for 5-6 hours once we’re back in the water, which will give it time to “burn the paint off,” that we then spray the whole engine down generously with anti-corrosion to continue with our rust-prevention plan. It will feel good to know we’re taking steps to proactively fight the rust down there.
But, one word on our prep, in case any of you are planning to paint your engines too. We did not prep near enough. While we did cover everything in the engine room that we did not want to be forever converted to Westerbeke red, and we did drape what I felt like were an exorbitant amount of sheets around the engine area, what we failed to do was successfully contain the red dust that fumigated from our engine room while we were painting, the entirety of which traveled all over the boat. Read that again.
All. Over. The. Boat.
Look at these photos here. I have circled the areas that are coated with a pink dust.
When we finally pulled all of the sheets and looked around, the entire boat, going forward to the bow, had a fine layer of pink dust on it. Thankfully—knock on a freaking jar of acetone—that stuff dries so quickly that by the time it was airborne and ready to drop, it was merely a powder that could be wiped off of the floors and acetoned off of the gelcoat.
Meaning, we did not permanently stain our entire boat pink for good. But, we should have done a much better job of somehow “caging” the entirety of the air around the engine room. Perhaps with more sheets taped over and above, or plastic drop cloths taped all around. I’m just pontificating here because we sure did not contain it enough. We probably should have had better ventilation to pull the “red air” directly out of the boat through a lazarette and draped and taped that exit hole as well. Thankfully, while we were able to remove the red by wiping the wooden floors with a wet rag and all of the gelcoat inside the entire boat with acetone, this did not make it an easy or quick job.
The fans, in particular, took a while to clean because they pulled so much “red air” through them.
You can see in this photo the red sheen on the gelcoat. Each section like this—particularly the sections that were textured like nonskid—took about 15 minutes to wipe clean. We turned twenty rags red just from wiping our boat down after our poor prep job for the engine paint.
The good news is, we had planned to wipe her down regardless—bow to stern—as we always do when we have all of the soft goods out. So, this wasn’t too much of a setback for us, but definitely an extra day of cleaning we added to our own list by not covering as much as we should have for the engine paint job. But, lesson learned for sure.
Our engine paint project, however, did not stop with painting our engine. We had planned from the start to also add bright LED lights in the engine room after we completed the painting and replace our old engine room insulation, for several reasons. One, our old insulation was all rag-tag, duct-taped-on in multiple colors and always falling apart, crumbling, and making a nasty black mess every time we accessed the engine.
We primarily wanted to remove it because it was filthy. And, two, we were sure in that crumbling condition it was not performing at its optimal heat-and-sound buffer capabilities. We also wanted to install engine room lights so we would have excellent visibility in the engine room without having to hold flashlights in our teeth. (Okay only Annie does that, not Phillip, but I would like to break the habit.) The entire goal with this mini-engine overhaul was to make our engine run better, cleaner, and better enable us to work on her, troubleshoot, spot leaks, and repair issues underway. So, cue the lights!
Phillip installed one on the front of this bulkhead over the engine, as well as on the back.
We also installed a third, larger one, that runs bow to stern, rather than athwartship, in the engine room itself behind the engine. Phillip was sure to install them all in a way that the “on” switch can be reached from our easiest access point, the front of the engine in the galley. I can’t show you the big one in the engine room, yet, because it will ruin the NASA insulation reveal. Savor the intrigue!
For the insulation, we ordered four boxes of big thick rolls of Soundown insulation from the internet along with their sealing tape, and this became an exclusive Annie project.
While some of the pieces were easy to template, others were not. These pieces under the sink were rather large, and mostly square, so I started there, with construction paper templates first, then cutting pieces out of the insulation.
This monster, though … I can’t tell you how many days at the shipyard I found (mostly legitimate) reasons to avoid starting on this wall. With all the wires and mounts and stuff, it seemed impossible to template. It was hard enough to rip the old insulation out of there, much less make a precise pattern to put new insulation in.
But, a project will never get done if you never start it. So, I bucked up one morning and set to it, first with construction paper taped together to (in hopes) make the entire piece out of one template. This was my awkward masterpiece.
I had no clue if it was actually going to squeeze in behind the small gap in the gadgets and wires I had created to work construction paper through, but Shane and I gave it a shot. His words as it slid into perfect position: “I’m going to lose my damn job!” : ) That was a really cool feeling for me. Never had I done that before, but I’m confident I can now lay down engine insulation with the best of them.
But, that was just the initial “mounting” (I will call it) of the insulation to the bulkhead with the 3M 77 adhesive spray. The tedious and very time consuming “seaming” of the insulation is what had me down in there for hours upon hours. Shane told us the trick to keeping this insulation in good shape is to prevent any water entry into the foam. You do this by tediously taping every exposed foam seam. This often takes layer upon layer of tape (much link shingles) to get the tape to push the foam down, wrap, and hold. Let’s just say I went through a lot of tape. We also secured the insulation with screws and fender washers, and I was tickled platinum pink with the results. Our engine room now looks like a NASA launch pad.
And, what do you see there? Our new 21” LED light in the engine room. Lighting up the insulation like a Christmas promenade. It is quite the dazzling display down there now. Westie feels like a show horse at the County Fair. I feel bad for any drop of oil that even thinks about inkling out of our engine. Like a prisoner trying to escape from Alcatraz, we’ll shine a spotlight on it so fast he’ll run back to where he came from and never come out again. There will be no leaks from this engine people. Nada.
Hope you all enjoyed the engine projects. Guess what’s next! Our swap to a composting Airhead. That became a bit more of a puzzling project than we had initially anticipated. Trust me, all of this weirdness will make sense soon!
What do you think I’m installing here? Give it a guess! And 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!
I’ll have to admit, this is one part of being a cruiser I really don’t like. You thought I was going to say docking, didn’t you? Admit it! While that is definitely one. That and de-docking (Annie term). I also loathe the threat of hurricanes. As a cruiser, you don’t just own a boat. You love her. She’s not just fiberglass and wood to you. She’s a friend, a member of the family, your home, your ticket to world travel. And she holds so many memories.
I remember the day Phillip and I shoved off the dock, April 17, 2013, with our new-to-us Niagara 35 and saying goodbye to her previous owners. Jack and Barbara had spent twenty-four amazing years sailing her along Florida’s west coast, as well as the Keys and Caribbean, Jack even single-handed her in the Mackinac race several times, and now they both had tears welling up in their eyes as we waved goodbye. It was like they were sending a child off to college, a mix of hope for an exciting new chapter in her life, but also the pain of watching her leave. Seeing how tough that decision was for Jack and Barb, I cannot even begin to imagine what it feels like when that precious element of your life is ripped from you without choice, and not to set sail on a new adventure, but smashed to bits, never to be enjoyed again. By anyone.
My chest aches writing this and thinking of all those, many we know, thousands we do not, who lost their boats in the recent storms. Hurricanes are just a horrible reality cruisers and boat-owners have to deal with. And, while many can plan to stay outside of the hurricane box during the season, or haul-out every time a tropical storm watch develops, many simply cannot get out of the path due to other obligations: work, family, money, time, etc. So, they have to strap their baby down as best they can, say a prayer, and hope for the best as a hurricane barrels down on her, whispering “Hold fast, girl.”
Others find their only option is to try to sail away from the hurricane. Many—who are unfamiliar with offshore sailing and the impact weather, wind and gear failure can have on the speed and success of a voyage—when they see hundreds of boats destroyed from a hurricane think: “Why didn’t they just sail to somewhere safe.” It’s not always that simple. Hurricanes often form quickly and can cover a span of hundreds of miles. Irma was 400 miles wide. Four. Hundred. Even in favorable conditions, sailboats just don’t go that fast. On a boat like ours, if you’re averaging 5-6 knots an hour, you’re doing great. But, that still means you are only traveling roughly 130 miles a day. If a hurricane the size of Irma is set to hit you in three days, that doesn’t give you a very comfortable window of time to get out of the path, and that’s assuming the path holds, which is always a gamble. You may find yourself out there in 10-20 foot seas and winds over 120 mph. It’s rare any live-aboard sailboat can survive that.
Phillip and I recently watched a fellow cruiser and friend from Marathon, along with her boyfriend and dog, who had tried to sail north away from Irma, and they had to be rescued off the coast of Clearwater by the USCG. (Article here, and I hope to be able to speak with Pamela and Sebastian once they have more fully recovered and learn what happened so we can all benefit from this harrowing, but thankfully life-saving, event.) Phillip also told me I needed to read John Kretschmer’s At the Mercy of the Sea, before writing this. While it is the next book on my list, I felt too strongly about this now, while we’re all bracing for, and still recovering from, so many vicious storms. But if any of you have read that book and would like to share, please feel free to do so in a comment.
I will also admit, having grown up in the middle of New Mexico, I am, thankfully, very new to the horrid reality that hurricanes bring to living on the coast. Ivan was the first hurricane I experienced. I was married at the time and my husband’s parents lived in Perdido Key. He kept watching news footage of weathermen and women, shouting in the spitting rain, picking up twigs and overturned road signs, and satellite image after satellite image for two days, and I really didn’t understand why. How is watching that going to change anything? You just board up your house and leave, right? Then come back and assess the damage. Little did I know. Hurricanes do not just cause damage. They decimate. I did not know houses could be leveled to mere slabs, with not a scrap of wood or even a personal belonging in sight. My husband and I drove far west through Mississippi, then down south—literally rounding the west wall of Ivan as it came up through Alabama—to get to Perdido Key.
We waded through water in thick underbrush to try reach his parents’ neighborhood from behind because the roads were blocked. I did not know at the time the dangers of wading in open water after a hurricane. Had I, I would have never followed him. But, I did, and I cringed each time I saw a snake drop from a tree near me while I carried my small black lab, blue heeler mix, Dixie, in my arms. It was a horrible experience. When we reached his parents’ street, we found two feet of water in the house, four in the garage. It was a mess. Soiled, filthy, wet remains of what once was a beautiful, warm, welcoming home. And this was just a house with water in it. Over the course of the next few days, we walked the streets along Grand Lagoon and Perdido Beach Boulevard and that’s when it really hit me. Washers, dryers, chairs, pillows, and framed photos were piled up on the street in dunes of debris taller than me. Houses were slabs. Huge pine trees were mulch. Condos on the beach looked like they had been eaten. Whole floors bitten away by some giant monster. Entire swimming pools, surrounded by concrete and tiled patios and gates were literally gone. Only sand was left. That’s when I learned what hurricanes can really do and how easily the ocean, if she’s angry enough, can take whatever she wants. It is a simple and undeniable fact. You cannot predict or control the weather and sometimes she’s just going to win. She’s just going to take.
This is the risk you sign on for when, knowing this, you decide to still buy a boat and set your sights on exotic locations. Everything has its risks and nothing is guaranteed. If you drive a car, you risk an accident. If you buy a home, you risk losing it to a fire or flood. If you fall in love and give someone your heart, you risk getting hurt. But you do it anyway. Why? Because that’s life. Not going or giving because you are afraid of loss is not a way to live. The one thing that is guaranteed in life is that you’re only going to be here for a certain period of time. It’s finite. And you’re going to suffer loss, whether you try to avoid it or not. You will lose things, pets, and people (even the boat equivalent) whether you decide to live your life fully or not. So do it anyway.
This is at least what I tell myself when I see so much devastation and loss recently from Harvey, Irma, and Maria and when I feel, now, Hurricane Nate bearing down on Louisiana and the panhandle and it knots my stomach. While I hate the feeling, I try to remind myself it is only because I have such wonderful things in my life to lose, which makes them worth all of the stress, work, blood, sweat and money. So, with that in mind—as I sit and type this on Friday morning, October 6th at 9:42 a.m., waiting for the 10:00 a.m. NOAA update on Nate and deciding whether we are going to haul-out today or not. That is such a heated question.
No hurricane plan is a guarantee. No matter how well you secure your boat, if you’re not there (which you shouldn’t be in any storm too dangerous to ride out), you will not be able to stop another boat, (or barge or tree or a hundred other things that are tossed around like bath toys in a hurricane), from colliding with your boat and causing damage. You can tie up ultra-secure in a hurricane hole, but your anchor may fail or your boat may begin to take on water and eventually sink. If you haul-out, your jacks could fail, the boat next to you could topple over, or they can even drop your boat while in the straps. If Plaintiff’s Rest can stay in the water, Phillip and I would prefer it.
Currently, however, we have a mandatory evacuation from our marina and with not a lot of time or hurricane holes around here that are not probably full already, Phillip and I decided to use our hurricane haul-out option and at least schedule a haul-out for 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. We also got some great advice from fellow boaters on how to secure our boat even further once she is on the jacks which we’re happy to share with you:
Tie all of the jacks together with wire, chain, or strong line to form a reinforced cradle rather than independent jacks.
Tie seizing wire around the cranks for the jacks to ensure they are not able to rattle loose in the intense vibrations from the storm.
If possible, e., in a non-paved marina, embed earth anchors and strap your boat down to those as well.
If Nate’s path continues to track east and our prediction holds as merely a tropical storm warning and if the marina lifts the mandatory evacuation order, we would like to stay at the dock. If we did, we would secure extra dock lines with chafe guards (we use strips of fire hose, with little dyneema tie-downs to keep them in place in the chalks). I also did a post recently on Facebook showing all of our prep (including Pam Wall tips!) on dropping all of the canvas and pulling all of the lines up into the mast with photos, which you can view here. Whether our boat rides out Nate at the dock or on the hard, she will ride with as little windage as possible.
We welcome anyone else’s tips on best hurricane prep measures and best practices you have found in the past to make your boat more secure for a storm. Feel free to share.
Phillip and I will be as ready as we can be. After that, we just have to remember how awesome and fulfilling this lifestyle is and hope for the best. We hope you, and your boats, all remain safe in the eye of this storm. If Mother Nature decides it’s our time to suffer a loss, Phillip and I will bear that and be thankful we’ve still got very full lives ahead of us to live and we will rebuild together. We’ve done it before.
UPDATE: We hauled Plaintiff’s Rest out this afternoon. She’s stripped, tied down and as ready as she can be. It’s all we can do. I gave her a kiss and told her good luck. Hold fast girl.
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?
So, after Dasani bottles and duct tape, what do you think the next most important item on a boat is? A plunger? No. Unfortunately, if the head stops working, that glorious contraption of wood and rubber is not going to save you. Try again. Something incredibly important, like transmission fluid or oil? The infamous ” Johnson rod,” maybe?
George Costanza: [about mechanics] Well of course they’re trying to screw you! What do you think? That’s what they do. They can make up anything; nobody knows! “Why, well you need a new johnson rod in here.” Oh, a Johnson rod. Yeah, well better put one of those on!
You’re right. I’m sure it’s something incredibly important. But, during those early morning hours of May 27th, as we were coming into the marina in Pensacola, I’ll tell you what it was. Paper towels. Strong and brawny ones!
Mmmm … ain’t he a beaut?And, just for fun – it appears they cleaned old Mr. Brawny up over the last decade. Apparently today’s “modern woman” just wasn’t digging the 70’s ‘stache and blonde shag, so we get the preppy, shaved, PC version. Sad times.
But I digress. So, we were nearing the marina and our Dasani catch bin was full to the brim with pink fluid jostling around, just waiting to drip over and spill into the bilge. While transmission fluid in the bilge is not a huge deal, it’s certainly not an ideal one. If it gets down there, it’s got to be pumped out and cleaned up and otherwise dealt with. Needless to say, it was best for us to catch the fluid if we could. So, I wedged myself down near the open engine and held up a wad of the old Brawnies under the transmission shifter arm to catch the drip until we got just a few minutes away, then I wadded up the biggest bundle of paper towels I could (about the size of a basketball) and shoved it down in the bilge to catch whatever dripped while we docked. A mighty fine ‘sorbant pad if you will.
And, you laugh, but I now know that the standard-issue oil absorbent pad, which we now keep under the engine at all times, really does look just like a wadded-up Depends undergarment.
So, with my make-shift “Depends” in place, I was ready “get back into life” and get topside to help Phillip. But, now we’re docking again, and we all know how exceptionally great I am at that. So, of course, my heart is beating and thumping out of my chest. My hands are all sweaty and I keep stubbing my toe on things as I’m scrambling to tie lines and hang bumpers. We were coming in here to the Palafox Pier in Pensacola:
Here’s the birdseye view:
We were planning to just tie up at the fuel dock while we got our things together and wait for the dockmaster to find us a temporary slip for the day. Our first plan once we got the boat to Pensacola was to have it hauled out for a bottom job. That’s where they pull it out of the water with giant straps and set it up on jacks in a shipyard to sand and re-paint the hull. We knew that would mean a couple of weeks out of the water, so we didn’t have a permanent slip lined up yet. If you recall from the survey, we knew we were going to have to have a bottom job on ours done as soon as we got her home as our surveyor (you remember the ever-charming Kip):
“Every gal loves a good banging first thing in the morning!”
had found the potential leak in the core where the strut is fastened to the hull as well as several blisters in the paint on the hull that were allowing sea water in (http://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/05/12/april-3-2013-the-surveysea-trial/). Saltwater is just rough on everything, and every sailboat needs to have its bottom work redone once every 3-4 years. We knew it was time for ours so we had scheduled her for a paint a polish as soon as we got back. But, if you’re checking the calendar, you’ll see the day we pulled into that fateful dock was, unfortunately, Memorial Day (May 27, 2013), so she was scheduled to be hauled out the next business day – May 28th. As luck would have it, we had arrived a day ahead of schedule this time but if the initial Crossing taught us anything it was to never try to sail anywhere in a hurry. Always build in a few days’ cushion for weather, wind, boat problems. transmission leaks, complete engine failures, you know – the usual boat stuff. So, we just needed a temporary spot at Palafox Pier for the night. A transient slip they are called. But, the guys that run the marina don’t tend to open up shop at 5:30 a.m. just in case some rogue midnight traveler needs a transient slip, so we planned to tie up at the fuel dock while we waited for the dockmaster to arrive at 8:00 a.m.
This was our path in to the fuel dock:
Now, while I’m sure you may have tired by now of my many harrowing tales of our numerous docking debacles (docking is scary!), I will try your patience for just one more, because the true hero here was Phillip. The wind was strong that morning (of course!), blowing about 12-15 mph right out of the east:
Which meant it was blowing our nose right off the dock:
As Phillip began pulling the boat up alongside the dock, the wind kept pushing us off and the gap between the bow, and even the midship, and the dock kept widening. I just couldn’t make the leap (without losing a limb or two or my teeth when I hit the dock on the way down – and, to be honest, I’m kind of fond of all of those appendages – particularly the teeth). I had a line clenched tight in my hand, this time, but it was just too far to jump. I didn’t know what to do, but thankfully Phillip did. He was still close enough to the dock at the stern to leap off, stern line in hand (smart man!) and tie it quick to a cleat. He then ran forward and shouted at me to throw him the bow line. I wadded a few loops in my hand, gritted my teeth and tossed it up in the air. Phillip and I watched breathlessly as it snaked out, slowly unwinding and floating toward him. It was like Rookie of the Year pitching the famous “floater”:
You can imagine the dramatic Hollywood score playing in the background and the bright clang of the cymbals as Phillip caught the tail end of the line. Trumpets blared! He pulled the bow of the boat to the dock and told me to go back to the stern and kill the engine. I did, and the silence of the moment suffocated us. Everything was suddenly so inordinately quiet. There was no motor running, no shouting, no water or waves. Just silence … and safety. Phillip and I just sat for a minute on the dock, staring at her in disbelief. There she was, our boat, tied to the dock in Pensacola. She was safe, secure, home. We had finally done it.
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.