A Travellerspoint blog

Preflight 2010

Well, after a nice summer and Fall at the house, we're back on the boat. Last year, our time on the boat seemed to me to have started in farce: how many really stupid things can one 63-year old man do? The answer, not wanting to be prideful or to brag about large numbers, was, qualitatively, a lot. The good news is that the question is self-liquidating: I am now 64 and and my aspirations for this year do not include breaking any more body parts or challenging any brand, large or small, of SUV.

This year, for a new trick, rather than destroying my body, I have focused on detroying the boat.

  • The alternator belt has always been difficult to change since the new alternator was added in 2009. So, I discovered that if I removed a single bolt and a couple of nuts that I could increase the swing, maybe 2-inches, and put on new belts easily. I neglected to notice that on the back of the alternator were many wires, 5 actually, that only had enough slack to move 1-inch. They were all ripped out. Fortunately, the repair was not too difficult once we located an electrician with a wire stretcher. All is now well.
  • The boat has always had a leaking problem around the propeller shaft, never critical, always annoying. One of the hose clamps, stainless steel no less, rusted through and broke. In tightening the new hose clamp, so it would not leak, I crushed the fiberglass tube onto which the packing gland went. HAY UNA GRANDE PROBLEMA! We are dead in the water, waiting for parts.

If the sailing year started in farce it ended on a more somber note when we returned to the house. Once again Carol and I were both reminded of two of life's ineluctable truths: the number of our days cannot be known and none of us is promised any tomorrow. It's strange the way that these messages have always seemed to come to us in pairs, one addressed to her, one to me, always very close together in time. These events seem to focus the mind on what matters and what doesn't, creating a sort of pellucid Pareto chart, as if one were needed, with only two columns: the people we love and the miracle of one more sunrise.

We have owned the boat for three years, having bought it in August, 2007. If the romance of boat ownership faded after the first two years, the romance of cruising similarly passed this last year. The boat is now, simply, a thing having no real intrinsic value as such. It has become for us a medium, a way to live out a shared dream, doing something together, sharing new experiences, making new memories while we can before our bodies betray us in part or in all.

Cruisers, at least while on their boats, are placeless people. So, when they congregate in an anchorage or a marina, propinquity is a good enough reason to form an ad hoc community. Our dock #4 was a good example of such a community, one which we celebrated and enjoyed on our return to Brunswick this past May. To our regret, the ad hoc part has happened. Bruce and Dawn sold their boat and bought a house in Bentonville, AK. Larry has also decided to sell his boat and is in Antarctica, as if Brunswick was not really cold enough for him. Alejandro, new to the dock, was going to sail for his home, Columbia, on June 1st, then July 1st and then August 1st. His boat is still here but we haven't seen him in a while, maybe visa issues. Ray, a dock #4 boat neighbor, is another reminder of life's lessons. He had two dreams: to live in a log cabin and to sail his boat in the Caribbean. He had moved from his cabin to Brunswick on his boat, which he and Susan had just finished painting and preparing for his retirement and sailing south. Ray was just diagnosed with cancer. Ed, who lives in Bozeman, MT, has been on his boat a lot. As a United Airlines retiree, he flies around the country about like Scotty beamed around Capt. Kirk. But, in total, walking down the dock has become a less happy experience.

We have made a lot of changes to the boat this year, the benefits of two years of cruising and getting some major stuff wrong and other stuff not right.

  • After the engine problems last year we had a Westerbeke trained mechanic look at the engine, primarily to address the starter issue. We did change the starter which, maybe, needed to be changed. The old one was rebuilt an kept as a spare. As a throwaway, I asked him to look at he cooling system, always a concern. Lucky thing! Several small problems and one major one that would just have shut us down.
  • We put new canvas on the boat, green again. It has 100% UV protection, good for Carol, and it goes all the way around the cockpit, a boon for cold weather. It's like having a solarium added onto the boat. For all the good it does, I don't know what we'll do when we get to warm weather; it does restrict access and movement.PC150488.jpg
  • Since the proximate cause of the "troubles" in the Berry Islands was the dinghy, I installed a davit system to hold the dinghy. For two years we tried every other possible solution, none of which worked well, most worked not at all. This is going to be great but it is one more new thing with which to deal.PC150487.jpg
  • We got a larger O/B motor, 8-HP, the largest size our dinghy can accommodate. The small one, which we sold, just could not conquer currents or distance. This year, we hope, we will be able to anchor the boat and use it as a base with the dinghy to explore other islands a mile or three distant. A good theory, anyway.

The amount of electronic stuff we have on the boat is, almost, overwhelming. We have top side and in cabin navigation stations that also do radar; for emergencies we keep two hand held GPS units. The radios are: a SSB (single side band) which is, more or less, a short wave radio; there is an installed VHF radio with a cockpit remote unit; we also have an hand held, battery powered VHF radio. We also have an AM/FM/CD/iPod "car radio." Phones are fun so we have three: a cellular for stateside use and another for the Bahamas; given the problems last year, we added a satellite phone. Computers, one for XM Weather the other with a data card to receive data over the cell network. An iPod and an iPad round out the collection. Of course all of these are thirsty suckers so all of our 12vDC outlets have one-to-many adapters each adapter servicing one thing or another. Since the boat is small I like to keep it fairly uncluttered to keep from getting claustrophobia; but with all of these gadgets, as well as other appliances, and their cords it seems like we have cabin kudzu threatening to take over the boat.

We waited for a part for the boat, made in France. It was late in arriving so Carol and I drove to Marion, SC to pick it up at the Beneteau factory. They offered a tour of the plant which we enjoyed. There is a massive amount of floor space, but this is not apparent from the outside. I have walked lots of factory floors the world over, but I was surprised to see an indoor pool big enough to accommodate two 50-ft. boats. It has not been a good couple of years; their production is down about 60% from 2007.

Boating can seem a very small world. In October we were in Oriental, NC to visit and have lunch with friends there. While waiting for them to arrive I was walking on the dock in the harbor, looking at boats. There was a man topside on his boat and we struck up a conversation. A few minutes later he gasped, "Are you the guy from the Berry Islands?" My reply was, "Is this the Fine Lion?" Yes to both. Steve was the guy who called BASRA on his satellite phone when our boat went dead electrically. We were both at the same place many months and many miles later.

Carol and I have adapted fairly well to the living space on the boat. The first time we stayed on the boat it seemed like we were in a broom closet, mostly, because it is about the size of a broom closet. Now, it seems, if not comfortable, familiar. If living space is not a problem, then storage space is. Accretion is an issue and only some of the accretion is core to the boat. Regardless, the more stuff that we lard onto the boat, the more difficult it is to access any other thing, since the thing we need NOW is ALWAYS behind or beneath some other thing. The imbrication involved in reaching anything is frustrating.

Today, Thursday, 12/16/10, was the weather window for which we waited 10 days. We should be slashing our way south in 15 knot winds, close hauled, warm and dry in our new canvas enclosure. Instead, we're at the dock, hoping parts arrive for a complicated repair and that we will be able to leave early in January. The boat has to come out of the water so we cannot stay on board while the repair is being made. It looks like a couple of weeks of being itinerant.

Posted by sailziveli 08:53

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