November 1st, 2015

When we started telling people about our upcoming plans to go sailing we were intentionally vague concerning dates and destinations. Not because we were trying to be secretive, but when you tell people exactly where you plan to go and how long it’s going to take you to get there it just seems that you are asking for trouble. If you don’t leave on the date you stated, or have future obligations scheduled, or worst of all–and I have heard of this–have already made moorage reservations in a city 800 miles down the coast, then you have created pressure for yourself to meet this schedule. This is rarely a good thing. You can’t schedule the sea conditions.

I suppose the stories of people who made sailing plans and were able to follow through exactly as planned do not spread as easily as those who were pressured and rushed, made bad decisions, and ran into trouble.

You do, however, need to elaborate at times whether you want to or not. For example, my dentist insisted that I needed to make an appointment for some necessary work. My vagueness and hesitation confused him. I finally promised to call and schedule as soon as the boat was secure in San Diego. We also told others of our tentative plan to leave Puget Sound before mid October, aim for San Diego, leave the boat there and return home for a month or so to wrap things up before returning to the boat to continue sailing into Mexico. Making it sound like we had thought things through seemed to help make others more comfortable, rather than telling them we just planned to sail away.

We’ve been even sketchier when it comes to discussing our ultimate destination. Again, once you tell people where you plan to go it becomes set in your own mind. You imagine all these people wanting to know what happened when your timeline slips. This can unconsciously create immense pressure on yourself to meet those expectations.

Last April we began pouring time and money into the boat at an accelerated rate. As with any older boat, one thing leads to another. We’ve heard plenty of stories, which is why we gave ourselves “plenty” of time. The bowsprit replacement seemed like it was the biggest stumbling block, but not really. We were never sitting around waiting for it.

I have had the luxury of working full time on the boat for the entire month of October. Almost done, it seems, but then there’s more. Hundreds of feet of old, previously abandoned wire has been pulled out. Hundreds of feet of shiny new wire has gone in to replace wire too corroded to continue to be reused. The entire circuit breaker panel has been completely replaced, with all its underlying wiring organized and labeled. What the delay in the bowsprit did do, however, was delay the completion of the rigging. And this caused discontinuity in the project with everyone involved moving on to other things, and months passing before getting back to it and trying to pick things up where they were left off.

More than a day was spent trying to figure out why the staysail furler could not be completely reassembled. A gap between the torque tube and the drum could not be closed. Without closing the gap the screws could not be put back in, and without screwing it back together, it would not work. These were screws that were kept for months in a little plastic bag. There were dozens of such little plastic bags containing small parts removed from the rig at the start of the project. These were the last few reusable parts to go back together.

It didn’t help when I was told to just tap it with a hammer to get it to move, and then told to use a bigger hammer when it still didn’t move. It ultimately took a mirror, a very bright flashlight, even a fiber-optic borescope to determine that wedged inside the torque tube was a pebble, the likely result of the furler spending several weeks in a gravel boatyard following mast removal. The more I hammered, the more wedged it became. Once the jagged little pebble was located and removed (a project in itself) and the screw holes aligned, a bent helicoil prevented one of the screws from going in. It would need a new helicoil inserted to fix it. I do not own a helicoil insertion tool.

And so it is. Almost done, but then there’s more. One little problem after another. All while every day gets darker earlier, and the sun shines less brightly.

I stopped watching the ocean weather. I didn’t want to know.

Putting so many new things into the boat all at once creates a whole different set of problems. The old, corroded cassette tape player no longer has a purpose and so is removed, while the new digital media player needs to be figured out after searching for a detailed manual online. A new VHF radio with all the bells and whistles fails after only a few hours of operation. When something like this happens it requires first figuring out if it really is a solid failure or can be fixed with a simple software reset as suggested and explained by the operator on the technical help line. Then comes the job of convincing the dealer that the best option would be to just let you return it for a refund, rather than wait weeks for a repair. The updated HF SSB radio and associated antenna tuner, email modem and controlling software is not a trivial matter to install. Then there is the task of learning to operate it and how to retrieve weather charts, forecasts and wind/wave analyses. Even the little hand-held satellite tracker has an account to set up, figure out and start an annual subscription to.

On top of it all, you told everyone that there would be a blog with location tracking. As if blogs just magically appear by themselves.

To be fair to ourselves, the expected September/October favorable weather pattern never really developed this year. The first big storm of the season came in August instead of November. To remind us, we still have a downed tree to cut up as soon as we aren’t working on the boat so much.

Our plans still remain the same but delayed from the original schedule which didn’t really exist anyway. We’ll continue working on the boat and working on getting organized enough to be able to spend extended periods away from home. We’ll also be sailing locally, getting through the learning curves of our newly remodeled boat, and establishing sustainable routines for long distance sailing.

And we’ll be ready for the weather window so that when it does open, we can go.


2015 – Late October

With the bowsprit mounted to the boat we could finish the summer’s rigging project and get under way. The next steps are to attach the bobstay, and then the forestay.

The bobstay is a heavy steel cable that runs from the waterline below the bow, up to the end of the bowsprit and serves to counteract the upward force on the bowsprit caused by the forestay, which in itself helps to keep the mast from falling over backwards. Without the bobstay holding the bowsprit down, the force on the sails, and therefore the force on the forestay, could bend the bowsprit or even rip it off the boat.

The bobstay was disconnected when we removed the bowsprit in April and was one of the few pieces of rigging that was deemed appropriate for reuse. It spent some time riding around in the back of the car before being taken to the rigging shop to be stored with the rest of the parts removed from the rig.

At some point in time its whereabouts became unknown. It was likely accidentally recycled along with the rest of the wire rope from our rig.

Without an existing bobstay to simply reattach and tighten, a new one needed to be measured, cut and assembled. The boat was in the water at our “home” marina, at least twenty miles from the rigging shop. This meant scheduling and travel time away from the shop for the rigger to make measurements, and then again to actually replace and adjust the bobstay. Frustratingly, this took longer than expected with unforeseen problems.

On the first drive-by while working on another boat in the area, Brion immediately noticed that the hole for the bobstay attachment on the underside of the bowsprit was in the wrong place. What should’ve been a 3/4 inch hole was swapped in position with a 5/8 inch hole normally used for an anchor snubber. The bobstay fitting would not fit in the 5/8 hole. We rechecked our email to the bowsprit builder and verified that we had specified the holes correctly.

Over the next few days the options were discussed by phone and email, with the decision made to enlarge the 5/8 hole to 3/4 inch.

It took two additional trips from Port Townsend to Port Ludlow to enlarge the hole, two more trips to get the bobstay attached, and another trip to get the forestay, with jib furler, properly attached and adjusted. In total, almost three weeks elapsed from the time the bowsprit was finally bolted to the hull to the time the bobstay and forestay were attached. And the weather window to leave Puget Sound and head south this season is rapidly closing.

At least we have a shiny new bowsprit on the boat for the first time since April, and we can finally get to work installing the new lifelines.Bowsprit rail copyright