Hey hey crew! As I write from La Rochelle, I have a confession to make. I’ve been saving a treat for you! I was holding this for when I knew we would likely be shoving offshore, so you all would have a fun video to watch as we struck out tomorrow into the notorious Bay of Biscay. We’re planning to head out tomorrow for either a short hop to a new port or a quick shakedown and turn-around. Either way, we’ll get water moving under the hull, learn a lot about the boat and crew’s capabilities and quirks, and hopefully make it to a new port in southern France or even Spain. The adventure begins! And, to celebrate the moment: a gift for you all! Your favorite, a (drumroll please) … SHIPYARD VIDEO! : )
I know how much you guys loooove our boat project/shipyard videos. Misery must love company, although I will say Phillip and I are far from miserable when we’re working on our boat. It beats sitting at a desk any day! While I wrote about this project previously (Shipyard Project #1: Reinforcing Our Rudder), this will be a very fun “catch-up” video for my folks who are strictly YouTube followers as these videos will bring you up to speed on all of the very cool work and upgrades we’ve been doing on our boat this past summer while Phillip and I attempt to complete our first Atlantic Circle this winter by helping some new friends deliver their new Lagoon 42 from La Rochelle, France to the BVIs. You’ll meet Kate and Cyrus with CruiseNautic soon, a very fun, adventurous pair. I guess you have to be to willingly hop on a small boat and sail across the Atlantic, am I right?
When we finish that voyage, Phillip and I will fly home to Pensacola, work for several months and then shove off on our baby girl, the beautiful Plaintiff’s Rest, to sail her as south as possible for hurricane season next year. Likely Grenada. We are not riding out another season in the corner pocket or the Gulf. It is horrendous to see what hurricanes can do.
I’ve got several more Shipyard Videos coming over the next few weeks so you all will have some fun things to watch while we are crossing the pond. Be sure to follow along on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/havewindwilltravel) where we will be posting via satellite through our Delorme. That way you can track us in real time across the Atlantic. Giddyup!
“Go, go! To the Bahamas you must!” said our good friend Pam. As she went on and on about their fresh Bahamian bread and jam. So “go, go!” we decided: “To the Bahamas or bust!” But first Phillip and I had to break out the boat projects list and blow off the dust.
Hello followers! I hope you like green eggs and ham. I like it on a boat with a side of Spam. I also like, nay love, Dr. Seuss, which is why I’ve written a few ditties here in true Seuss-style, and I thought a recap of the many, many projects Phillip and I have been knocking out this summer to prepare our boat for some more extensive cruising in the Bahamas and beyond this winter would be more fun with a Seuss spruce.
So, do you want to know how many projects we were able to squeeze in? Kick back, grab a snack and let the project roll begin!
A leaking starboard water tank simply won’t do. When we found the crack, Phillip said, “Out with you!” But wrestling that tank out was a monstrous feat. One I’m sure we won’t want to soon repeat. As Phillip scratched his head and went about ordering anew, we thought the re-install would definitely go smoother if we spared an inch or two.
Once the water tank was out, the diesel tank was as accessible as could be, so we thought why not pop it out, too, and have a look-see. We knew we’d had a wee leak that Phillip had previously clogged with JB Weld and we wanted to see if it had held. An air compression test by a local welder told us it was no good, so have the tank professionally patch-welded we decided we should.
If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk. And it seemed our diesel tank was of the same ilk. Because not only did she demand a professional weld repair, once out and exposed she also wanted some Rhino-liner as protective wear.
Our cookie theme continued as we kept saying “While we’re in there,” and promptly decided, with both tanks under the starboard settee out, to glass it up and Bilge-kote down there.
With Westie nearby saying he wanted some love too, we decided to go ahead and dump the old engine oil and pour in new quarts, just a few.
Some of you may recall the movement we noticed on the way to Cuba in our rudder post cap. We reinforced the bolts with big thick custom washers to stop the wobble and called it a wrap.
Work, work, work. Now you get the gist. Clicking off projects left and right. What’s next on our list? Old flaky varnish? That simply won’t do. Not for our gal, she deserves every percent of our work, one-hundred-and-two. Time to strip, clean, sand, and coat anew!
The brightwork was about a three-week job, a sweaty one for sure, but rewarding too!
So, tell us are you liking this spin on green eggs and ham? Do you like it as much as a new Garhauer Cunningham?
While we were on the rigging, Phillip and I knew there was something else that needed our touch. No one likes a clutch that won’t clutch. We had a few on the coachhouse that were losing their grip, so we swapped them out for new Spinlocks with no slip!
Are you tired yet? Perk up! We’ve much more to do! Time to knock out and re-bed some port lights that were letting rain water through.
Phillip asked of Annie: “Speaking of water, how’s that original 1985 pump in the head sound?” “Like a wailing rat that’s about to drown!” We’d had trouble with this guy not holding pressure and sucking our power, so we decided to replace him and save our amp hours.
And if we ever, God forbid, took on water out there, we’d want to pump it out quick. Better get a few bilge pumps to spare. “Stick your head down there Swab,” Phillip teased. “Try to read the model number upside down, without bumping your head!”
A solar panel, sitting useless, scratched and giving no power? Unacceptable! When you can rip the old one off and pop on a new, in under an hour.
A dirty toe rail all scraped and scuffed? Nuh-uh, no way, not when we’ve got Acetone and time to polish that stuff!
It seems almost every inch of the boat needs some unique form of care. Some Iso-shield here and Armor-all there. On-and-off went the mustache as we cleaned and polished everywhere.
And nothing shines like stainless steel. Bust out the Colinite and polish that shit for real!
Man, look at those ratty old shifters, all wax-dipped and peeling. I conspired with Brandon to surprise Phillip with shiny new ones, it just took a few free beers and secret dealings. But I think we’re both going to enjoy driving the boat more with these on there, I’ve just got a feeling!
Speaking of driving, that’s been our great goal of the summer! Get this gal behind the wheel more, so she won’t think docking is such a bummer. And, it’s a good thing those shifters make it clear how fast you go, because I’ve been getting better and better following Brandon’s rule: “Go slow, hit slow.”
Enough with the plumbing and steering and everything else that so often fails, let’s talk about the one thing that you can always rely on, the sails! Phillip and I knew we wanted a much broader sail plan this year to allow us to sail comfortably no matter the wind or weather, so we finally busted out our spinnaker to see if we could sail in winds light as a feather.
And when the winds, as they often do in the Gulf, want to stay above fifteen, we had a 90% working jib made so we can sail more comfortably out there and reduce our lean.
And, while we never want to find ourselves in blue water when it really starts to wail, if we do, we’ve got the 35% storm jib we had made this year in case we find ourselves in a gale.
And what’s that you say, Phillip? Our whisker pole is in a funk? With a dent that prevented it from sliding we were considering throwing it out as junk. But, in a pinch, I decided to ask an auto body shop if it was something they could fix and Coastal Body Works here in Pensacola did it for this little gal just for kicks!
Chore after chore, have you yet grown weary? That’s right when Mother Nature will throw you something frightful and eerie. Twice we braced for hurricanes this season, Nate forcing us out of the water and up on the hard without reason. While we were incredibly grateful to come through unharmed, it was a great lesson in storm boat prep so next time we’ll be more practiced and less alarmed.
Once we were out of the water, the cookies continued to fall. Because you know the first thing you’re going to want to do, if you have to haul.
A bottom job, that’s right! If her hull is out of the water it’s what you must and should do! And, our pretty gal is so lucky she got a full-boat buff too!
But with our boat safe from the storms and ready to be floating again, that didn’t mean our boat chores would end. Once she was splashed back, the reassembly began. To retrieve the halyards, First Mate Annie (I wasn’t a Captain yet ; ) had to climb the mast again!
But it was a fortuitous hoist as it gave me a chance to inspect and give our new 5/16 wire rigging a polish. It’s terrible to think of what simple sun and salt can quickly demolish.
Too many projects? Is your head spinning yet? We just got word, the new water tank came in! We must go get!
Boy, was she pretty and sturdy and our eyes she sure lit. We were quickly disheartened to find, however, she simply did not fit.
We wrestled and struggled and scraped knuckles and cursed. And soon we were starting to fear the worst. Perhaps we would have to order another new tank, this one even more slim. Thankfully, before we made that decision, our buddy Brandon found another way to slip her in.
With a snip by the Dremel and some more cursing and prayer, we got the new water tank in (finally) with just inches to spare. As with every minor refit, there is always one particular project that stresses you to the max, and this water tank, being the most costly and irritating, was definitely that. But, despite our tired state and our water woes that we thought were through, our boat whispered: “I’ve got something else for you.” Just when we were crawling out of a boat project slump, we discovered we had a leak from our raw water pump.
So Phillip and I rolled up our sleeves and decided to replace that too. We might as well do everything here at the dock that we can possibly do. While a summer spent on projects is definitely not what we’d call great fun, it’s better to knock them out now than trying to handle them during an offshore run. So, little Sherwood, we’ll fix you too. In fact, we’ll put in what we learned is a better pump, a Johnson that leaks less and is new.
While the water tank still holds the gold as the most frustrating project of the summer, the injuries Phillip and I received during this water pump replacement were quite the bummer. A nasty burn from the heat gun to my right calf that thankfully resembled a heart, and a huge ripped blister on Phillip’s hand sure did smart.
Okay, I believe that covers the biggies. Here’s our completed list! Although I can already see there are some that we missed.
But, in comparison the remainder are minor and probably qualify more as routine care. If you ever think you’ll get “finished” with a boat, trust me, you’ll never get there. There will always be more polishing and whipping and cleaning and fixing to be done. If you don’t think you’ll like that, then I’d say, a boat, you maybe shouldn’t get one.
For Phillip and I, while we enjoy much of the work that we do: lawyering, writing, marketing and all the rest. It’s really the work we do on the boat that we like the best.
Hope you enjoyed the hammy recap – ha! We’re Bahamas bound now! Shove-off date is a little flexible (as it should be, right?) But, it will be sometime in the next 3-4 weeks. In the meantime, we’re poring over our Explorer charts and Steve Dodge Abacos guide (thanks again for the recommendation Pam Wall!) and planning our possible stops and routes. We can’t wait to share this next adventure with you all!
The wind chicken did what? Another really fun article here for you guys that was just recently published in SAIL Magazine’s July 2017 issue about our five-day voyage across the Gulf of Mexico this past December to Cuba. As I mentioned … I’m so glad we went when we did. It was a little comical, though, watching us plan for all sorts of calamities out there and then ironic to find the ones we worried about never occurred, but what did happen, we could have never guessed. “If it’s gonna happen … ” right? Full article below. Hope you guys enjoy the salty read! A big thanks to SAIL Magazine editor, Peter Nielsen for commissioning this one from me.
Wind Chicken Gone Wild
“I don’t think the rudder post is supposed to move like that,” I told the Captain.
“It turns with the wheel” he said dismissively. “Starboard to port,” eyes still closed, hands clasped on his chest.
“I didn’t say turn. I said move. Athwartship.” His head snapped up. That did the trick. Severely nautical terms usually did, although they still surprised me when they would occasionally tumble out of my mouth. As if I didn’t know the person who was talking. It wasn’t long ago I thought sailing was only for people who wore blue embossed blazers and said things like “halyard, forestay and yaaarrr.” Barely three years a sailor now and I still feel very new to it because new things seem to happen every time we go out.
Five days. Four filthy long johns. Three rudder nuts. Two sailors and one wayward wind chicken and we finally made it to Cuba. This was our longest offshore voyage, 500 nautical miles across the Gulf of Mexico, just the three of us—Phillip, myself and our champion, a 1985 Niagara 35—and while we had many expectations and preparations in place for what might go wrong, the things that actually did go wrong on that passage could have never been predicted. If this voyage taught me anything, it’s that sitting around trying to dream up predicaments that might occur out there is a foolish man’s game because it’s the things you cannot predict that will teach you the most.
“Athwartship,” Phillip repeated involuntarily as he leaned over and watched what I had been watching on the cockpit floor. The rudder post cap was moving athwartship about a half inch to port, another to starboard with each pitch of the boat. If you thought your eyes were playing tricks on you, the grey scrape of butyl it left behind each time confirmed they were not. While offshore voyaging undeniably increases your tolerance for wear and tear on your boat, a wobbly rudder post in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico is not something I think I will ever develop a stomach for. The rudder freaks me out. It’s the only thing that steers the boat and if it falls out, it leaves behind a gaping hole that sinks the boat. I hate the rudder. At least I hate when it’s moving. Athwartship.
After some investigation, we found the nuts on the three bolts that hold the rudder post cap to the cockpit floor had somehow wiggled loose. Why call them lock washers if they don’t? Our first attempt at fixing this problem was a sweaty upside-down hour, hanging head-first into the port and starboard lazarettes slipping in the only thing that would fit between the cockpit floor and the quadrant—a flat wrench in a flat hand—and tightening each nut one millimeter of a turn at a time. This held for about eighteen hours then the dreaded rudder post movement returned. Now it was time to get serious. Or crazy. Where once barely a hand and flat wrench fit, we now wanted to get a nut in there too. And some Loctite.
“Get me the doo-dads box,” Phillip said. Believe it or not, that is its official title. It’s an old fishing tackle box full of odds and ends. The land of misfit nuts.
Finding nuts, however, to double up on the bolts was a far easier task than actually threading them on, hanging upside down again, single-handed, this time with slippery Loctite fingers. It was like adding tricks to a circus performance. Now walk the tightrope while juggling knives and balancing a sword on your chin. We can totally do this! You see? Crazy. You have to be. Just a little.
“Maybe we can steer it down.” It’s hard to believe even looking back on it that the “it” I was referring to was our Windex, better known on our boat as the “wind chicken.” This was another wild card the Gulf dished out for us on our way to Cuba and definitely falls in the “I can’t make this stuff up” category. Our second night on passage was a tense one, battling steady 19+ headwinds with heavy heeling and bashing into four-foot seas. With the rails buried on starboard and waves cresting up and soaking the genny, we were heeled so far over the wind actually climbed the mast and lifted our windex arrow up to the top of the VHF antennae and began whipping it around like the bobble end of a kid’s bumblebee headband. This is the exact type of outlandish situation you can never dream up ashore.
Phillip and I … begging with the wind chicken to come down.
One stupid piece of plastic—probably made in China and probably worth about ninety-eight cents—was now thrashing around violently port to starboard, up, down, around in circles, threatening to snap off our primary portal for communication, our eyes and ears on the horizon and our solitary method for finding, tracking and contacting other vessels in the blue abyss. If the arrow snapped the antennae off, our VHF and AIS would shut down like a light switch. All because of a ridiculous piece of plastic. You see? So crazy you can’t make it up.
Phillip and I weren’t sure if there was supposed to be some little stopper ball that was intended to prevent wind chickens gone wild and perhaps we had missed it in the package or failed to install it correctly when we stepped the mast after rebuilding our rotten stringers earlier that year. Or perhaps the thought that the arrow could be lifted up and turned into a bull whip on the end of the VHF antennae is so far-fetched no wind chicken manufacturer has ever thought to design around it. It was such a wild, crazy, stupid thing to be happening—threatening to disengage some of our most important systems—yet there was nothing we could do but sit, watch and curse it. Until we had the idea to “steer it down.”
Phillip kind of shrugged his shoulders, shook his head but took to the wheel anyway seeing no better option. And, thankfully with some creative sail trim and steering we were able to reduce the heeling of the boat enough to change the angle of the wind on the mast. When the severity of the whipping lessened, the wind chicken finally started to shimmy its way down, like a grass skirt on a hula girl, to its resting place at the base of the antennae. Whew. Down. What now?
That was actually a common sentiment out there. With the boat moving twenty-four hours a day, using many systems and running them very hard every hour of every day, the likelihood that something might break, start to wiggle, or even whip around like a disoriented bat was actually pretty high. One of the best things about voyaging with a partner is the sense of accomplishment you feel after you’ve tightened the rudder post or fixed the bilge pump or rigged up a new halyard or whatever other thousand things you can tackle together out there. Because that’s exactly where you will tackle them, is out there. It takes a little crazy to get you to go and, after that, just more and more wind chickens gone wild until nothing completely freaks you out anymore. When you feel an odd thump, smell a strange burning scent or hear an alarm go off, often your first thought is: What now? But your next is usually: I can do this. Upside down. In the lazarette. With Loctite. Totally! “Get me the doo-dads box.”