Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chasing down a leak...

You know you are really and truly a boat owner when you get the privilege of spending 2 or 3 days chasing down a mysterious leak. After a very hard bit of rain, there appeared a leak on the aft cabin berth. Perhaps it was the winch seating? Nope. Both winches above the cabin look to be okay but we did find a bit of old deck rot which must be attended to. No answer to the leak but yet another project on our non-project boat. Maybe its the traveler? That needs to be reset anyway, lets have a look. Nope...not there. Portlight? But we just reseated those and while Mark is not the fastest worker in the world the man is thorough. After 2 days of dismantling everything and putting it back together we have come up with the answer- maybe it is the winch after all. Or maybe not. We will have to wait and see.

The good news is that Kitty was around to assist for a lot of the leak chasing. She found this very exciting as it involved hammers AND screwdrivers. She offered her opinion on our work while Mark and I loosened bolts, then retightened them. Again. And again. The she was off screwdriver in hand to check every bolt and screw on deck. Kid has a bright future in a boat yard somehwere, She didn't miss a single one.

Why yes, that is a different pirate costume. This one was purchased after her previous one literally fell apart from wear. She was a little upset that this one did not have what constitutes a proper hat but was placated when she figured out her head scarf included earrings. I am just hoping this one lasts until Halloween...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sundowners with the Sundowners

Sausage bread and Arancini- not burned and therefore worthy of documentation
I write this blog really just to document this time in our lives so I A: don't forget how hard we worked to get here and B: remind myself why I have vowed never to refit another boat ever again. A side benefit of writing this is that our little blog has given us the opportunity to meet some really incredible people and to develop some great friendships. Without this blog, I would never have met my now good friends Cindy and Laureen. Friends that I know have my back should I ever decide that this was all a really stupid idea and will listen for hours if I have a mental breakdown and weep uncontrollably over our exploding holding tank. This alone makes keeping the blog worthwhile.

We had the good fortune to get to have a meet and greet with Tate and Danielle from Sundowner Sails Again. They were in Kemah for a Westsail owners Rendezous. We were on the boat working on the never ending refit once again. We invited Tate and Dani over for snacks and cocktails, followed by a tour of our boat and a rare dinner out.

We just loved meeting Tate and Dani. I think perhaps Tate was born about 100 years too late. He just has the heart of a Victorian era explorer with the can do attitude and aptitude for picking up and excelling at whatever he puts his hand to. Like a modern Dr. David Livingstone. He just exudes capability as well as having a really wicked sense of humor. He could wear a pith helmet and a monocle and you would not raise an eyebrow because he could totally make it work.

Mark is smiling because he finally met someone who understands his Captain Perfecto tendencies
Dani is just grace itself. Impossibly lovely, gracious and with a keen intellect and that same inherent capability that Tate has. We all loved hanging with Dani but Maura was absolutely starstruck. If we all think Dani is the bees knees, Maura thinks she is a rockstar- smart, beautiful, fearless AND capable? I think Maura will be heading up her fan club. The only one of us disappointed was Kitty and that is only because we told her all week were going to meet Tate and Dani but she thought we were going to see Dani who would bring her CAKE. When she figured out Tate was a person and not a confectionary she just sighed.

Bonding over a shared dismay of the state of our galleys...
We ate too much, drank enough, laughed a lot and stayed up waayy too late. We had a blast. The next morning, it was up with the sun and back to chasing down a leak on the boat. Such is life during a refit but man oh man was it fun to put down the tools for a bit and have a good time with peeps who are simpatico.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


This year, Kitty has been obsessed with Halloween for about 2 months. I blame the Halloween episode of Yo Gabba Gabba. I can't get too upset because Halloween is just about my most favorite holiday of all. It serves no purpose here in the States other than for kids to have fun and I am 100% in favor of fun.

Kitty began going crazy as soon as she saw the first pumpkin decoration a month ago and has been yammering about her costume nonstop. She has been steadfast in her desire to be a pirate "A pirate say ARGH!" I the captain!!!". Since I lack the crafty gene and am on round number 2 of my attempts to make skirts for some wee girlies, I just bought the darned costume already. Actually, my first cheap skate thought was to just dress her in her old t-shirt and flip flops and make her a little cardboard AK-47 and cardboard bag of ghat but even I have a hard time being THAT politically incorrect. So Disney captain Hook pirate it is.

Kitty loves her pirate dress. She loves it so much she has insisted on wearing it every single day since we got it. Its not the most well made costume so its already starting to fray at the edges, the elastic is pulling, its dotted with various stains and we've already had an emergency repair on her eye patch. It matters not. Kitty loves it and insists on wearing it anywhere and everywhere she goes. I can not wait for Halloween. Once she figures out that by knocking on a door and saying 'Trick or Treat' you get chocolate, her tiny mind will be absolutely blown.

Even dressed as a pirate, Kitty is still the duck whisperer. She called the ducks over, showed them how to dance, fed them and calmly told them they couldn't come home with us but she would see them later.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gross Understatements, Tacking Lessons and Glue

Shiny valve, pictured here cause its the closest thing to jewelry I'll be getting for a looong time

And so we move on to the plumbing refit. Since Mark has pretty much decided that anything involving hoses falls under the plumbing heading, we aren't just redoing lines to the holding tanks. Captain Perfecto has declared the entire system to be 'crap' due to the previous installation of hoses running every which way with no thought to judicious use of space, ease of access and conscientious routing. So while we will be eventually redoing the head intake, the lines to the holding tank, the entire fresh water system, the shower plumbing, the fresh and salt water lines from the sinks, the cooling water for the engine we are currently dealing with the fuel system.

Step one with Mark is always to look at the defects of a system. He can't help it, its the engineer in him. After carefully considering the current fuel system, he came up with a list of defects that I like to call 'Why This System is Crap'. Actually, he used the word 'mess' not crap but since after all these years together I still hear his Scottish accent and think "If its not Scottish its crap!" I, who am writing this will title his lists whatever I like. Here is his litany of complaints with our current fuel system-
  • Existing system is a mess
  • 8 separate hoses connected to the diesel fuel tanks- 4 hoses for the forward tank, 4 hoses for the aft tank/ engine supply and return and generator supply and return
  • 4 poorly marked selector valves at the fuel tanks- engine supply forward and aft, engine return forward and aft, generator supply forward and aft, generator return forward and aft
  • Separate diesel fuel filters for the engine and generator of different types requiring different fuel filters
  • Each filter has a priming bulb that due to their geriatric state are no longer squeezable
  • Fuel lines are poorly routed through the engine compartment
Mark sat down and after a few hours of creative thinking he came up with a plan. The new not crap system would be comprised of the following-
  • A single 6 port fuel tank selector valve
  • An electric fuel pump for priming and fuel polishing
  • Parallel redundant fuel filters using Racor 500 FG (which will allow us to change the filter while the engine is running
  • Selector valves for fuel filter selection and fuel polishing combinations
  • Fuel supply and return manifolds to serve both engine and generators and simplify hose requirements

The plus side? We will soon have a fuel system that will not only do its intended job better but will be much easier to service. So much easier that even I, a simple minded soul should be able to manage basic routine maintenance. The down side? As Mark poured over parts catalogs obtain the necessary components of his far superior system, he let out an audible gasp as the parts list climbed upwards of $500 and we hadn't even finished. "I think I might be over thinking this' he said. No. Really? Greatest bit of understatement ever.

While Mark is probably over thinking this, I know that if I don't just cheerfully go along with his Rube Goldberg fuel system it will bug him every time we have to change a filter or polish fuel. (in actuality, his system DOES make perfect sense but I can't admit that without giving him some guff first) Given that, we will indeed have the most spectacularly engineered fuel system possible on our boat. There are other niceties on the refit list that can wait if need be. So long as Mark takes to heart my constant mantra "This boat is leaving in November 2013" if it means I have to deal with an ugly galley in order to enjoy a spectacular fuel system, so be it. Fuel system is just a wee bit more important than a pretty galley anyway.

As we sat at breakfast with our sleep heavy eyes, we took a break to get in some sailing lessons. With empty juice glasses filling in for winches and bits of discarded paper from Kitty's artistic endeavors serving as a Genoa, Mark and Maura worked on tacking techniques. Maura had pointed out that this was her first year as real crew and she needed a bit more explanation as to what was expected of her in order to lend a hand with sailing the boat. Starboard tack, port tack, which side is windward, etc. etc. By jove I think she's got it.

 While Maura and Mark worked on their tacking simulations, Kitty hummed as she played with her most favorite toys in all the world- colored paper, scissors and a glue stick. She entertained herself for a full hour and half with only an occasional assist from me. I know some people swear by an iPad to keep little ones entertained but I can't imagine Kitty ever being as thrilled with anything from Apple as she was by having her very own glue stick and the freedom to use it.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Its barely October...

...but when the Universe drops such an awesome post in your lap that you don't even have to write you pony up and post it, no matter what you said about updating on the refit. Sorry, no pretty photos on this one but sometimes you don't need one.

If you need the background, read it here: Word of the Day...

Mr. Michaud feels strongly enough to comment on our little blog. Here is what he has to say without any editing what so ever.

"Gents, you clearly do not understand the point of my letter. My rather extensive, not armchair cruising experience has led me to arrive at a factual not emotional response to how some of you approach cruising. 

I too took time off in my early 40s (41-43 to be precise) taking two trips down to the Caribbean via Bermuda as well as four trips to Down East Maine. This was done on a really fine 52 foot sailboat which I upgraded to the nine’s creating a lot of good jobs for people right here in Rhode Island. I subsequently sold this vessel to a very fine Canadian Family that undertook two trans Atlantic passages. In over 40,000 miles of sailing I am happy to report that the boat is still in tip top shape, no one every had a injury or illness remotely approached the incident that was discussed in Sail Magazine. This is due to proper preparation of the boat, with a well-trained crew. This is the primary responsibility of any Captain of any vessel that chooses to venture offshore.

While a cruising vagabond, does indeed have the right to venture offshore in vessels that are undermanned, not properly maintained, or underequipped you do not have the right to except gratis assistance from search or rescue staff from the US, Bermuda, Canadian, or other Coast Guards to expend human and financial resources to save you when you run into serious trouble due to inadequate preparation arising from an inadequate resources.

About 20 years ago a good friend of mine, went offshore from what was seemingly a modest passage from the Bahamas to the West Palm Beach. He did this in a sailing vessel that was not up to the task (with respect to design, equipment, or crew) despite being advised against the trip by his part time Captain (who refused to go) and the dock master at the Marina in the Bahamas. The result was the loss of the vessel and crew (including a visiting Mid West couple) and a massive sea and air rescue search by the US Coast Guard that covered thousands of miles up the Florida Coast and Gulf Stream.

I was also tactician during a Nautor Swan Regatta in the 90s when I saw major sailing hardware fail with a near near serious/fatal injury to a crew member (a young woman along for the ride). This accident occurred because the owner (a friend of mine) chose to jury rig a mainsheet traveler and drill out tab on an undersized hydraulic backstay adjuster to receive an oversize pin for the rod rigging. The net cost savings was a few hundred dollars (which I am sure many of those Sail Magazine readers who have responded negatively to my letter who applaud). However, I think the young woman who could have been fatally injured disagree with these Sail readers.

I also did a delivery on a 70 foot S&S designed yawl Petrol in the late 1970s from Bermuda to New York City. During an unexpected full gale, the seems opened up with the crew having to pump like mad. Moreover, the boat was undermanned (part of the crew were two rather attractive female greenhorns that were useless) resulting in only 4 capable crew to deal with a 70 foot 40 year old boat in 60 knots. 

The result of may past experiences that I have witnessed is that I NEVER go out on anyone else’s boat unless I know the history of the boat, the capabilities of the Captain and crew, and how well the yacht is maintained.

At my point of life 61, I am only interested in logic and facts not emotion. That is how I approach decision-making and life strategies. It has worked rather well for me. I am not sure what next boat that I am going to purchase or have built as I have, by choice, little time outside of my company due to my responsibilities to my customers, my partners, and my employees. I do find that my decisions now are driven by what do I really need rather than what can I afford."

Sorry Den, we did not miss the point of your letter. Perhaps it was not your intent but what your letter conveyed perfectly is that you are kind of a name dropping douche. Your follow up here not only further illustrates this fact, but also lets us know you are a sexist douche to boot. You do realize that not only is this blog written by a woman, there are a whole bunch of women who while being rather attractive, can sail the pants off of any boat, anywhere and many without the benefit of a degree from Brown? Cheers.