#14: Sailing with Bottom-Job Brandon

Come along as our good friend Bottom-Job Brandon with Perdido Sailor, Inc. tries to bury the rails, give us some hell and challenge us to sail right into the slip!  “What would you do if the engine went out?” Brandon asked.  “Tow boat!  Tow boat!”  Gotta love a friend who pushes you.  Enjoy, subscribe, share, and all that jazz!

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In the Hands of Heisenberg

It wasn’t ten minutes after we hung up with Steve that we had the engine cranked and warming.  We were pulling our dock line off of the mooring ball to head over to the SMMR, Inc. shop on Salt Creek so Steve could have a look at our busted Jenny swivel.


We could tell Steve was real sharp over the phone.  He knew immediately what had happened to our Jenny shackle and the likely problem we were going to have fixing it.  The ball bearings weren’t really the issue.  Steve had plenty of them lying around the shop that he could use to replace the ones that had fallen out of our shackle.  The real problem would arise if our shackle turned out to be too damaged to be re-assembled.  If it was in fact broken beyond repair, we would need a new one.  And, while we do have an incredible, sturdy, wonderfully-built old boat, she is still an OLD boat, and the harken furling system that had been put on her was decidedly outdated.  Meaning, a new shackle likely wouldn’t fit on the old foils that were put on our forestay for the old harken system.


The foils are thin metal plates that are fitted on the forestay to allow a snug fit for the Jenny halyard and a sturdy frame for the luff of the Jenny when tacking.  

Our Jenny’s quite the tacky gal!


We were hoping for the best as we motored on over to Salt Creek so Steve could have a look at our shackle.  Now, I will say, I was fully expecting to encounter many a salty sailor-type when we met Steve and his crew.  You know, some old rough-handed, leathered, weathered riggers:


Okay, maybe not that old, but something along those lines.  I certainly wasn’t expecting Walter White.


But, that’s who we got!  I swear Steve Smith was a spitting image of everyone’s favorite close-shaven meth chef:

photo 3 (1)


And, he was every bit as smart and resourceful, too.  Steve was amazing.  He took one look at our busted shackle and knew just what to do.  He was going to have to unpin the forestay from the pulpit to get the shackle off so he could see about repairing it.  Steve had us loosen the backstay to ease the tension on the forestay so he could get it off.

photo 3 (1)

It was strange to see the forestay disconnected from the boat.  While I know Steve is an incredibly knowledgeable rigger, it still gave me a stomach ache to see him unpin her and let her go free and dangling.  She is just such a crucial piece of rigging.  The life of our Jenny was certainly in his able hands.  Once Steve got the shackle off and had a good look at it, he agreed with Phillip that it was possible the sir-clip would be put back on and the ball bearings replaced it might be alright.  He wouldn’t know, though, until he got in there and started re-assembling her and, like I said, he already had several boats lined up that day for rigging repairs.  But, he started eyeing it curiously, turning it over and around in his head, and said:

 “You know, I think I may have one of these in the shop.”  I mean … really??  An old part that nobody makes anymore?  The life-saving swivel piece that could save our Jenny?  Just lying around the shop?  Phillip and I got our hopes up as Steve walked back to the shop.  And, then he emerged!

I’m sure Steve wasn’t as overly dramatic about it as I remember it, but (to me) he looked like the bad boy from the final scene of The Breakfast Club – his hand thrust defiantly into the air.

B Club

Except he had a swivel shackle in it!  Hallelujah!

Steve – likely sensing my budding excitement – to us the shackle he had found was the Unit 2, and ours was the Unit 1, so there was a chance it wouldn’t fit.  (All, I could think, though, was “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance it could!”).

And, despite his already full line-up for the day, Steve rolled up his sleeves and set to work on us immediately.  Steve slid the “new” used shackle around the foils on our stay and it was a perfect fit.  I’ve never seen anything fit snugger (on something that wasn’t a Kardashian).

photo 2

Steve told us, “Now, we’re real proud of our old used crap around here,” as he was re-securing the shackle.  “I’ll have my wife look it up and see what price we can give you for her.”  They only asked $100 for it.  IT.  A part no one makes anymore, that we couldn’t order or buy online.  A part that was going to mean the difference between our hanking on a whopping oversized Jenny the entire trip or furling her – and – that meant we weren’t going to have to have a whole new furling system put on either during the trip or after – and Steve was only asking $100.  We had priced out a new swivel (which may or may not have fit on our old foils, and they ranged anywhere from $400 to $500.  Phillip and I would have easily paid a pretty penny for Steve’s “old used crap,” but we were even more thrilled to pay an ugly one.

“You bet, Steve.  Slap her on there!”

And, so he did.  Within an hour and a half of us pulling up to Steve’s shop in Salt Creek, and even with other boats lined up that day that he had to get to, Steve had our stay put back on, with a good-as-new shackle for the Jenny and we even raised her a time or two and furled her back for good measure.  Phillip and I were stoked!  Steve really went the extra mile.  He noticed the splice on the Jenny halyard was a little thick and caused the line to catch in the throat at the top of the mast, so he cut it off and tied us a halyard knot in it.  He also noticed that the end of the jib halyard we had purchased for the trip wasn’t whipped at the end, which just didn’t sit well with him as a rigger.  He whipped out his whipping line and sodder tool and whipped us right up.  Even gave me a free lesson in whipping that I put to good use later.  We couldn’t have been more impressed with Steve.  We’re almost as big of fans of his as we are of Walter White.

With our Jenny fully repaired, raised, furled and ready to go, Phillip and I motored back to the Vinoy Basin with smiles the size of Texas.  It was around 2:00 p.m. when we got back, and we cracked open a beer (okay a cocktail for me), and kicked right back there in the cockpit to admire our furled Jenny.


All in a day’s work!

The View From Up Top

April 14, 2014:

You guessed it.  Another mast climb.  After we let our hair down and painted St. Pete red on Sunday night, Captain was quick to wake on Monday morning and put this crew to work!


Thankfully, this time we were able to use the main halyard to raise me, which is faaarrr more reliable that the spinnaker halyard we had to use last time to retrieve the main halyard.  That thing scared the Bejeesus out of me.  (Yes, that’s a word – quite the fitting one here).  I think we stretched her three times her length last time.  And, having the boat tied securely to a mooring ball while I ascended (as opposed to swaying like a treetop in the wind mid-sea) made the climb infinitely more comfortable.

“Look Ma!  No hands!”

photo 1 (1)   photo 1 (1)

In light of the vastly improved conditions, I took some time this time to get some footage!  I give you … the view from up top!


Such a great shot!  I love the view of this boat from up top.  She’s beautiful from all angles!

Thankfully, I made it up this time without any issue.  It was a nice, easy ride using the main halyard. As part of our preparations for the Keys, we had replaced the old main line with new VPC hybrid braid and what a difference!  I don’t think she stretched one bit while hoisting my heavy bottom all the way to the top.

I even got some footage from up top!


Video HERE.

What I find incredibly entertaining about this clip, though, is while I’m up there is Phillip’s one-line dialog: “What about the piece that broke?”  I mean, I’m up there risking life and limb climbing this mast (what seems like day after day on our sailing adventure) and the one time I try and take thirty seconds to capture it on film, Phillip is still all business.  “What about the piece that broke?” he says.

NOT:  “Man what a great climber you are, Annie.”  “Wow, you look like a real pro up there, Annie.”  “Go ahead, take all the time you need up there, Annie.”

NOPE.  It’s “what about the piece that broke?”

Like I said … a real slavedriver.   Yeaaahhh … He’ll regret that later … 


Much like the piece of the shackle that had come down (the swivel portion), the “piece that broke” (the part that connects to the Jenny halyard), it didn’t seem to have any obvious defect.  I shimmied it down and Phillip inspected it down on the deck.  He said it seemed the sir-clip (aka c-clip) had just popped off, which caused the shackle to come apart, allowing the swivel part to fall, and the halyard piece to remain at the top of the mast.  But, we were still missing some bearings, so repairs were certainly in order.  I also pulled off what looked like some marred black plastic at the top of the foil on the forestay.

We also put the inner forestay back in on the way down.  You’ll love this …  So, if you recall, our inner forestay busted during our initial Gulf Crossing when we were sailing the boat back from Punta Gorda, FL home to Pensacola, FL and we had a new one put in as part of our Keys preparations.  Well, the darn thing banged around like a banshee the first week of the trip and drove us crazy.  For that reason we decided to take her out when I had to climb the mast the first time to get the main halyard down.

Yeah, I can just imagine what you’re thinking (and saying to yourself with an imaginary pat on our heads):  “Poor little novice sailors.  You will learn.”  


Don’t worry.  We were doing that to ourselves.  When Jenny had her crack-induced fall-out and busted, we said the exact same thing to ourselves.  “Oh, no worries.  We can just hoist the staysail and keep on cruising.”  Except that we had taken down the forestay for the staysail.  I know … real brilliant like.  But she was banging!  And, I’ll tell you, with sailing, if you’re not out there screwing up and learning from your mistakes, then you’re not really sailing.  So, we chalked it up.  “Might as well put that back up while you’re up there.”  Which we did.  Lesson learned.  Make sure all of your safety and back-up gear are always ready, rigged and in working order.  You never know when you’re going to need them.

The great news was, we made it back up and down the mast a second time, safely, and we now had both busted parts of the Jenny down, as well as the Jenny halyard.  Done and done.  Hopefully no more mast climbs this trip.  But, we had even better news.  Once we got down and situated, Phillip got on the horn with the folks at Embree Marina who our previous owner had recommended in St. Pete, and they referred us to a local rigger – Steve Smith of SMMR, Inc.  We gave him a call and, while he had a few boats already lined up to work on that day, he asked us if we could motor over that morning so he could have a quick look at our Jenny shackle and give us a diagnosis.   We told him we were tied up to a mooring ball in the North Vinoy Basin and, turns out, he was just a short hop out into the bay and around the bend, up Salt Creek.


“Uhhh … you bet Steve.  We’ll be right there!”  We readied the boat and headed out.