05 July 2019

What To Do About Fog?

It was a two-day passage from Huntington, NY to Essex, CT where the Seven Seas Cruising Association was holding a Blue Water Weekend. We hoped to learn a lot from SSCA folk who have already been across the Atlantic and even further. And my small contribution was to talk about getting weather forecasts at sea -- something I've been studying assiduously for the last couple of years.

Anyway,  on the way to Essex we got caught out in fog so thick that we probably shouldn't have been out there at all. But there was no place to anchor, so we had to carry on, slowly, with our running lights on, blowing our lung-powered Trump air horn. This is a blow-hard type of safety signal, but blowing hard every two minutes for hours at a time gets pretty old.

But getting run down by a sport fisherman doing 20 knots was only one worry. The other concern was running over a crab pot. We'd picked one up in the Chesapeake last summer, which was bad enough. I did not relish the idea of jumping into the cold Long Island Sound to cut another once loose. So we had a very long day watching out for boats and hard-to-spot crab pots.

Foggy mooring in Essex, CT
Furthermore, once we got to the SSCA Gam, we had plenty of people tell us that what we'd experienced was nothing compared to what we'd find in Maine, where the fog was thick, the lobster pots thicker, and the water colder.

We have been told by people who should know that if you sail between the Bahamas and Maine a couple of times you will experience all the weather you are likely to encounter when crossing the Atlantic in May or June. Fog was something new for us (we had only encountered it on one day in the last two years, down south), and perhaps new for Petronella, since she was rather under-equipped for it. We decided to add radar, a much louder air horn, and a wet suit to our sailing kit before heading any further north.

After doing a bit of research, we discovered the Furuno 1st Watch Wireless Radar. This is one of the least expensive radar units you can buy, probably because it uses your iPad as it's display device. Just mount it on your mast, supply 12 volts, connect your iPad using wifi, and you are up and running. This sounded ingeniously simple, until I started thinking about mounting it on our rectangular wooden mast. Clearly we would need a custom stainless steel bracket to fit our mast, but could we have one made on short notice?

Nope. "Maybe by August," was what we heard from every welder we could get to answer the phone.

"Nevermind," I told Helena, confidently. "I can make one. Out of oak."

Thus committed, I got to work.

I was able to find some pretty nice kiln-dried white oak at a local hardwood dealer, who was able to run it through his jointer and planer, to minimize the amount of finishing I would have to do with my relatively small set of woodworking tools.

I used my portable bandsaw (otherwise known as a jig saw) to do most of the cutting. I had the clever idea of using oak dowels to stabilize the bottom braces, to keep them parallel and the correct distance apart (the thickness of my mast - 5 inches.)

With a morning's work, I had this:

Bracket for shelf to hold radar dome

With the shelf installed
To make installation on the mast as easy as possible, I pre-drilled all the holes on the bracket. Here it is, bolted to the bottom of the radar dome.

Of course, painting took several days. I used Brightside, but I really don't like to use it on wood. It goes on too gloopy, and is very slow to harden. But I had it, so...

The bracket painted and bolted to the dome.
One worry was how to get this heavy, clumsy system up the mast so I could bolt it into place. I eventually thought of a simple rope sling. This worked very well.

Simple sling tied to radar for hoisting
The radar and bracket hoisted into space, I mean place,
where no radar had gone before.
Then it was easy to drill holes, and screw it into place, using plenty of bedding compound. Thanks to the care I took with the oak pegs, the bracket fit the mast perfectly.

Installing radar on a fogless day. One of many, I presume!

And here is Petronella with the radar dome proudly fixed to her mast. It just clears the staysail leech, in case you were wondering.

P with radar installed
How did it work? Pretty well! I spent an hour or so watching boats move up and down the Connecticut River, and eventually understood what I was looking at.

Here is a screen shot from the iPad radar app. Note how I have marked the position of the buoy and boat, which are about a half-mile down the river.

Screen shot of iPad radar screen.
Note position of buoy and boat on the screen. The boat was moving, the buoy was not.

And here is a photo of the same buoy and boat a few moments later:

Photo of buoy and boat a few moments later.

Of course, we are in a mooring field literally surrounded by 50 or more boats, which you can also see on the screen. The radar also picks up the outline of the shore on either side of the river, which takes a bend at Essex.

In short, it works! I'm anxious to try it out on the Sound on a few clear days so that we can see how it works without so many obstructions and targets around. I'm sure the picture will be a lot simpler to interpret at sea.

We also installed an electric horn on the top of the hard dodger, and purchased a wetsuit, just in case.

I hope we don't need to use any of them!

Next Up:

21 June 2019

SSCA Weather Talk

Topic: Preparing your boat for blue water sailing

  • My definition of blue water sailing: sailing beyond the bounds of the departure weather forecast
  • Bluewater sailing requires you to be able to get updated weather forecasts while at sea, away from easy internet access
  • Which data? Will vary. For the East Coast of the US, for example:
    • Charts
      • Current surface Analysis
      • 24, 48, & 72 hr Forecasts
    • NWS Offshore Waters Text Forecast, including 'Discussion'
      • West-central North Atlantic FZNT22
      • New England FZNT21
    • Chris Parker’s  FL/Bahamas and US E Coast & W Atlantic Emails
    • GRIB Data for at least:
      • Wind strength and direction
      • Pressure
      • Wave height
      • Wave direction
      • 500 mb
      • Gulf Stream location and speed
    • Voice broadcasts
      • NWS
      • Chris Parker
      • Redundant if you have above.
    • Local barometric pressure (onboard barometer)
  • How to get it?
    • Key Tips:
      • Subscribe to as much data as possible
        • SailDocs - charts, text forecasts, most GRIB data
        • Chris Parker emails
        • Use LuckGrib app - updates by email for models not covered by Saildocs
      • User StarPath Marine Barometer app on phone and calibrate before departure
    • SSB
      • Capture radio faxes directly with computer or tablet app
      • Get Text and GRIB data by email (WinLink, SailMail)
    • Satellite (sat phone, Iridium Go, etc.)
      • All by email
      • Starpath Marine Barometer app
  • How to interpret it?
    • David Burch Modern Marine Weather"
    • Chris Parker « Coastal & Offshore Weather « 
  • Comparing SSB vs Sat Phone
    • Three costs:
      • In dollars (equipment and on-going costs)
      • In electricity
      • In human energy
    • SSB 
      • Dollars: higher in equipment cost, essentially free thereafter
      • Significant drain on the battery when fetching email (on our boat - not a problem if you have lots of electricity)
      • Significant drain on human energy  it takes real work to get the data!
    • Sat Phone 
      • Dollars: lower equipment cost, pricy ongoing costs 
      • Negligible battery drain
      • Negligiblehuman energy drain
  • My experience
    • SSB 
      • Radio fax charts fairly easy to get, but lower quality than email
      • GRIB data and text forecasts by email
      • Battery drain was serious on our boat, may not be an issue if you have lots of power available
      • Frustrating and tiring to use - perhaps because I tried to use SailMail on a Mac. Might be better on Windows laptop
    • Iridium Go
      • Easy to use
      • Reliable once I found the right location for the antenna
      • We have mainly data plan, so have plenty of data for the year
    • Bottom line: Iridium started out as ‘backup’ to SSB, but the roles soon swapped. The last trip, we used Iridium exclusively.
Try It Yourself

Send the following in a plain text email to query@saildocs.com:

sub http://tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/fax/QDTM85.TIF time=06:00 days=2
sub http://tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/fax/PYAA02.TIF time=06:00 days=2
sub http://tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/fax/PPAE00.TIF time=06:00 days=2
sub http://tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/fax/PWAM99.TIF time=06:00 days=2
sub FZNT21.KWBC time=06:00 days=2
sub FZNT22.KWBC time=06:00 days=2
sub gfs:25N,44N,70W,80W|0.5,0.5|0,6,...,36,48,...,96|Wind,PRESS,WAVES time=06:00 days=2

Doing so will subscribe you to weather charts, text forecasts, and GRIB data for 2 days. For an actual offshore passage, you could extend the subscription for duration of the passage.

For Gulf Stream data, send the following in a plain text email to request@offshore.luckgrib.com

grib: 1200fwnizI5ryxy8395LO9pinXXSRuSjmISjv4pYqnPSPpbn4RSPMgg4Ivp

Next Up:  What to do about fog?

14 June 2019

First Big Steel Job

Meeting the remarkable Australian cruising couple, Neil and Ley Langford, last year really opened our eyes to the possibility of DIY steelwork. They showed us all around their beautiful steel boat Crystal Blues, and then showed us pictures of the many, many steel jobs that they had done over the years.

"That's the beauty of steel boats," they said. "If you wonder if something is rusting, just cut her open and look. You can always weld her shut again."

They had done just that several times, to fix tanks and other things. No need for that kind of work on Petronella, but there was one steel job that I had on the schedule for our St. Mary's haul out. Thanks to the Langford's example and encouragement, I was sure we could tackle it.

Cutting out the Engine Vent Assembly
The problem was in Petronella's engine vents. Behind each of the four holes above was a steel elbow, to which were attached flexible air ducts. Three of these elbows were rusted clean through. If we were to take a wave over the stern and fill the cockpit footwell, water would gush through these holes onto the top of the engine and into the bilge. This was unlikely to happen, but since we were preparing Petronella for her 12th Atlantic crossing, fixing this problem was near the top of my to-do list.

My plan was to cut out the whole vent assembly, and then have a welder fabricate a new one. The first problem was to cut it out in such a confined space.

My jigsaw, equipped with a metal cutting blade, made short work of two sides, but it was too large to get to the other two sides. I tried several tools, including a bare hacksaw blade, but the guys in the yard recommended an oscillating multi-tool. I'd seen these in hardware stores, but had no idea how they worked. Turns out, they work pretty well at cutting steel in confined spots. It is easy to burn out the rather expensive blades, but once I backed off and let the blade do the cutting (always a good idea with a cutting tool), it worked great.

My new favorite tool
In the pic below, you can see the problem clearly: three of the vents were rusted through. One so badly that it literally broke off when I tried to disconnect the vent hose!

It was definitely time to replace them!

The old vent assembly
Here is the hole left behind, with all the rust and dirt created by the cutting cleaned up. A bit ragged, but I was glad that part of the job was done.

The resulting hole in the footwell

So, I gave the old vent assembly to Rocky at St. Mary's so he could fabricate a new one. Meanwhile, I wanted to clean up some of the rusty bits you can see in the photo above, prior to painting the area.

I set about this job relieved that I had had the nerve to tackle this project and that a major problem would soon be fixed.

Air-powered needle gun
Neil had recommended we buy an air-powered needle gun last summer. I'd immediately bought one, but this was the first time I'd used it. A needle gun is the ultimate tool for chipping rust and old paint off steel. The yard had a compressor, so I grabbed the opportunity to give it a try.

It worked great, and I discovered that the needle gun was also good for opening cans. As in 'can of worms'.

What the needle gun revealed..
After a minute or two blasting away at the small line of rust in the footwell, I soon discovered a big surprise: the joint between the floor and back wall of the footwell was rusted through in several places. Someone had caulked these holes with some sort of silicon goop, but the goop was loose and the holes were no longer effectively patched.

What happens when you don't look (or paint) under the footwell floorboards for a few years.

I found this depressing, and at the same time thrilling. Since buying Petronella, Helena and I have been on a quest to cure all leaks. Water, diesel, anti-freeze, or whatever. In this quest, we had replaced a leaky water pump, replaced several old hoses in the cooling system, and replaced the engine injector fuel lines. This eliminated most of the leaks and nasty diesel smells, but there was still a persistent slow leak that did not seem to correlate with motoring or rain storms or any other potential source of the leak.

I was convinced we had a leaky water tank, but I had put different colored dye into each tank and waited for colored water to appear in the bilge. Nope. Not trace of dye. Just clear water.

I'd nearly given up in despair, but seeing these holes rusted through in the footwell seemed like an Ah-Ha! moment if there ever was one. I never would have suspected the footwell was leaking, but because I'd had the nerve to fix the engine vent, and furthermore took an obsessive approach to prepping the hole for painting, I'd uncovered what could be the source of our sneaky leak.

Repairing the holes with epoxy and fiberglass.
I set about the footwell with the needle gun with a vengeance, and soon discovered several other rusted-through holes that had been also patched with silicon. I soon had all these old patches out, and the rusty areas thoroughly prepped with the needle gun and rust converter. After consulting with both Rocky and Howdy Baily, we all agreed the best way to fix the holes was with epoxy and fiberglass.

The floor of the footwell had been removable to provide access to the engine, but this had probably helped cause the problem in the first place. We agreed that when Petronella needed re-powering in the (hopefully) distant future, that would be the time to cut out the whole footwell and replace it with a new one.

For now, fiberglass would make the footwell truly waterproof and strong enough for whatever we threw at it (or into it.)

The new vent assembly
The new vent assembly arrived, and we set about prepping it for painting and installation.

We had had the assembly built 3/4" larger, all around, so that it could be bolted over the hole, rather than welded in. This was because Rocky was worried about welding over the engine compartment, with its risk of fire.

Eventually, it was time to bolt it in.  We reattached the vent hoses with new hose clamps (the old ones were rusted badly) and bedded it down with 4200.

Bolting the new assembly into place
And here it is, job done. The footwell could use one or two more coats of paint to 'finish' the job, but we ran out of time in St. Mary's. We will get to that whenever it stops raining and warms up here in the North.

Job done
We took these pictures back in St. Mary, but I haven't wanted to declare victory over our leak until today. The leak was just too elusive and random for me to trust that the footwell had been the ultimate source, at least until we had been leak-free for a whole month. It had been so maddening that we hadn't been able to correlate the leak to rain, or running the engine or any other potential source of water. I now believe that the leak had correlated to the taking of cockpit showers! Not that we tracked these, so we never made the connection.

Since we nearly always have our awning up when it rains, we never got much water in the cockpit from rain storms. But when we decided to shower in the cockpit, we would often dump several gallons of fresh water into the cockpit. That's where the water had been coming from.

So, a mystery that had stumped us for 2 years was finally solved. Our bilges are now dry and Petronella is as watertight as she was when launched in 1976. It's a good feeling.

Thank you, Neil and Ley, for showing us the way. I hope you are doing well wherever your travels have taken you.

Next Up:  SSCA Weather Talk

06 June 2019


So we still haven't got to Block Island. Helena was running out of time before her next trip to Brazil (aging parents!), so we opted to spend the week visiting with old friends at the Ketewomoke Yacht Club in Huntington, NY.

The Memorial Day party was even more fun than usual, and when it was over (as usual, Helena and I were among the last to leave), the water off the club dock was glassy smooth. Perfect for trying out a new low-light camera app on my iPhone. The app is called ProCamera, and boy does it take great low-light photos. A vast improvement over the free Apple Camera app, I think.

KYC at midnight

Petronella in a ghostly calm

The Huntington waterfront
Once I got Helena off to Brazil, it was time to stop partying (well, for the most part) and get back to my to-do list.

One thing I've really been meaning to do is to build a lifting sling for our PortaBote dingy. I have been experimenting with various ad-hoc variations and have finally settled on a system that works reasonably well. The balance point of the empty dingy is just aft of the middle seat. Using a three-legged sling - one leg to the bow seat, and two to the stern seat - seemed to work best. It was time to build a proper sling -- one that would easily snap on and off the boat without a lot of knot tying. 

Here is the sling in progress, with its center ring and three legs. The three legs are long enough to wrap around their respective seats and clip on to themselves. For lifting, I will clip the mainsail topping lift to the center ring and haul away. 

Building a lifting sling for the dingy
And here it is, test-fitted to the dingy. All that remained was to finish the last splice on the forward line. That is now done, and the sling is ready to go. I will take pics the next time I hoist the dingy aboard.

Test fitting the sling

Another dingy project that needed doing was figuring out a better way to tow the PortaBote. This popular folding dingy is ideal for cruising, in many ways, but lacks one essential feature: a towing eye. I think this is because they don't recommend towing the dingy, but sometimes you just need to drag it from one anchorage to the next. That's just real life. And even in the ideal, non-towing world, you still need to tie it up to a dock. The lack of any place to tie even a dock line is a real problem.

Luckily, the PortaBote comes equipped with a sort of bow covering that is practically useless. It attaches to the boat using two grommets in the bow. Practically everyone uses these grommets to attach a painter, and I'm no exception. 

I have tried several different ways to attach a painter to these grommets, none successful. Last summer, I saw another PortaBote with a kind of bridle, like the one below. I've been meaning to install one since that day, and I have finally done so. I will be towing the boat for a few hours later this week. I will be very interested to see if this bridle chafes severely, as all previous ones have. We shall see.

Towing bridle
Tomorrow I am off somewhere. KYC has been great to let us stay on their washdown dock for two weekends. I don't want to abuse the privilege, so I want to be off the dock by Friday so the members can enjoy their dock again. 

Thanks to everyone at the amazing Ketewomoke Yacht Club for your friendship and hospitality. I do miss you guys.

Next Up: First Big Steel Job

29 May 2019

The Passage North

And then it was time to launch.

I always find it stressful to see Petronella dangling from a Travelift, but of course, the launch went without a hitch and we were soon anchored in the St. Mary's River. We had a few last minute chores, including changing the oil and oil filter, but we were soon ready to go.

Anchored off St. Mary's Boat Services

While there, we spotted a Roseate Spoonbill fishing at low tide. I'm always amazed to see a pink bird... Just doesn't seem natural!

Weird pink bird!
As soon as our son Nick arrived, we left for the Cumberland Island anchorage -- a kind of mini-shakedown cruise. About halfway down the St. Mary's river, the oil pressure gauge spiked up to maximum.

St. Mary's Boat Services and Cumberland Island anchorage.
"That isn't good," I thought. Perhaps the brand new oil filter had got clogged up? That was my first guess. We anchored at the mouth of the river, and I installed a new oil filter, hoping that would fix the problem.

Nope. Still pegged. It was time to consult Nigel.

Nigel Calder's Marine Diesel Engines, I mean. Probably every cruiser owns this book. It is great for troubleshooting engine problems. In this case, Nigel had me trace the problem from the gauge itself (no problems), all the way back to the oil pressure sending unit on the engine. I say that like I know what I'm talking about, but I had no idea what an oil pressure sending unit was until this problem cropped up. Now I know, and I also found the problem: a broken sender wire. Easy-peasy to fix, and we were soon underway again with a working oil pressure gauge.

In retrospect, I was glad the wire chose that moment to break. It would have been that much more difficult to trace and repepair at sea. It seemed King Neptune was watching out for us.

Cumberland Island is always worth a stop. It has to be one of the most pristine, beautiful islands on the east coast. It's an easy dingy ride from the anchorage to the park dock. Nick and I walked across the island, through the enchanted forest of Live Oaks.

Wow, the trees are amazing.

Able Seaman Nick
We had a decent weather forecast for the sail north. A cold front was approaching, but it was supposed to be weak. After that, we'd have high pressure. Probably not a lot of wind, but it would build in from the south as the high moved offshore. It was time to go.

The weather on the day of departure

In fact, we were close hauled the first day and only made 80 miles or so. But after that, the wind was always aft of the beam, and we were soon making our usual 120-140 miles a day.

It's all about the weather, once you are at sea.
Our goal was to sail directly to Block Island. The first question was how to best play the Gulf Stream. As you can see from the track below, the GS was about 100 nm offshore from St. Marys. It then took a long jog to the east off the South Carolina coast before weakening appreciably south of Hatteras.

After doing some calculations, we realized it would be quicker to sail directly to Hatteras than to follow the Gulf Stream. However, when passing the Cape, I wanted to be outside the Gulf Stream, just in case the wind turned northerly. We'd had enough of northerly gales off Hatteras last spring, and I didn't want a repeat performance!

The Gulf Stream on the day of departure

Good sea berths are really important while sailing offshore. Last year we'd fitted our starboard side pilot berth with a lee cloth, and this year we fitted two more to the two berths on the port side. The port-side pilot berth is really too small for adults, but the lee cloth helped keep cushions, etc., in place. On the port-side settee, it helped keep the off-watch crew in place.

New lee cloths in use at sea

Of course, we had some fantastic sunsets, including one which looked ideal for seeing the always elusive green flash. Did we see it? Alas, no. But sailors are optimists, so there is always another chance tomorrow!

Perfect conditions for green flash?

After four days, we rounded Cape Hatteras without problems, but then our weather window threatened to close. It looked nasty enough to take evasive action, so we diverted back across the Gulf Stream to Cape May, NJ. It still looked like we would have time to reach Block Island by Memorial Day, as long as the weather gods were kind to us.

Alas, they weren't. After spending two nights in Cape May, letting a nasty front blow by, the wind was not fair for Block, and in fact, it looked like another northerly would blow in before we could get there. We didn't want to buck this wind, so we headed straight for NY Harbor. We'd take the East River to Long Island Sound, and still have time to reach Block Island.

Stormy day in NY Harbor
The weather was a bit stormy when we entered NY Harbor, but it soon moderated and we had a terrific run up the East River, with all its amazing sights. It was a lot less scary in Petronella than in the tiny Blue Moon, I can tell you that.

New York City, with Governor's Island in the foreground

And then we were in Long Island Sound -- possibly the best, certainly the easiest cruising ground on the east coast. We had the current with us and a fair (if light) wind, so we sailed the rest of the way to Oyster Bay and dropped anchor after a very long day.

Anchor down in Oyster Bay

Our time? 8 days from St. Mary's GA to Oyster Bay NY, including a two day stop in Cape May. That's our best time ever, and a heck of a lot faster than the two months it took to cover the same distance in the Blue Moon. We didn't achieve our goal of sailing non-stop to Block Island, but we did make it past the Chesapeake, so we were satisfied.

There's always next year.

Next Up: At KYC

07 May 2019

A Further Taste...

Continuing on from last time, I've been trying to give you a taste of the more interesting jobs we've done in just the last couple of days. There has been painting and varnishing going on, too (hey, it's a steel boat), but even I find painting boring, so I chose to ignore them!

So, where was I?

New VHF Radio

Modern VHF radios, equiped with DSC, or Digital Selective Calling, are one of the best safety features you can have on an offshore boat. By pressing the little red button on the front panel, you can trigger an automatic SOS which includes your exact GPS location, the identity of your boat, and even the nature of the distress call. With a masthead antenna up 60 feet or so, and a 25 watt radio, your mayday signal can be heard by the Coast Guard or other ships from a long way off.

However, to be of use, the radio needs to be programmed with the boat's MMSI number. And unfortunately, once programmed, the radio can't be re-programmed. I have no idea why.

We had a perfectly good VHF radio on Petronella, but it had John and Gill's MMSI number programmed into it. I bought a replacement radio quite awhile back, but then realized that it would be a big job to install it. I've been putting it off ever since!

The problem is that radios have gotten smaller in the last few years, and the new radio was far too small to use the old mounting location. To mount it, I needed to make some sort of flange which would fit the new radio to the old hole.

The gaping hole left by the old radio
I finally got around to it. I thought about using a piece of sheet aluminum, or maybe plastic, but in the end, I am still most comfortable working in wood.  I made this flange out of a pice of plywood, and gave it a few coats of varnish, just because I like varnish.

Flange for new radio

I decided to epoxy this over the old hole.

Clamped in place
The hard part turned out to be installing the brackets which hold the radio in place. This took both of us an hour of sweaty fiddling to get them installed. But it feels good to have this vital bit of equipment finally working.

New DSC VHF installed and working
Bowsprit Anchor Snubber

This is an idea that Larry Pardey came up with a long time ago. Instead of running the anchor snubber over the anchor roller, as we have done for two years, the idea is to run it out to a block at the end of the bowsprit. This gets the snubber out of the anchor roller, and more importantly, gets it in front of the bobstay so it can't rub and chafe on it. It also exerts more leverage on the end of the bowsprit, holding the bow down, and reducing the tendency to yaw around the anchor. It also makes the snubber longer, which allows it to stretch a bit more, reducing shock.

That's the theory, anyway. We shall see how it works in practice.

View of the lead, from on deck, with Helena doing a great job holding the chain hook.

Snubber soft-shackled to the end of the bowsprit
Larry says everyone wonders about having all that force on the end of the bowsprit, but points out that a jib applies far more pressure on the bowsprit than an anchor ever could. And his bowsprit was wood, not steel.

This was another fun job that involved splicing the chain hook to the 3/4" nylon line, and making a honking big soft shackle. I love soft shackles!

If our bowsprit fall off, I'll let you know.

Fo'c'sle Reorg

Is this a real job? It took a couple of hours to do, so I think so!

Before leaving, I wanted to reorganize our fo'c'sle to make it easier to get to things we need at sea. Namely sails.

Reorganized Fo'c'sle
This is the third time I've reorganized this important space, and this time I have two years experience to work with. It's easy enough to get to anything when you are at anchor, but when you crawl forward in a nausea-inducing seaway, you want what you need to be immediately at hand.

We have a couple of light-air sails that I wanted to have instant access to: our cruising spinaker and our mizzen staysail. We also have a hank-on jib in case we lose our roller-furler jib, and a storm jib in case we find ourselves in the Southern Ocean by mistake.

They are now on the top shelf, easy to pull out, and everything else is on the second shelf. I also cleaned out some of our 'extra' lines, stored to starboard. We still have too many, probably...

Ugh! My back hurts just thinking about these jobs, but they are now crossed off our to-do list, which is looking pretty good right now. Only a few dozen more to check off, and we'll be ready to go!

Ah, the vigerous life...

Next Up: The Passage North

A Taste of Our To-Do List

It would be impossible, I think, to write about every single job we do on Petronella. Not only impossible but boring! But as we race to finish the last few 'essential' items on our long to-do list, I wanted to record -- at least for myself -- a taste of some of the jobs we are doing.

So, skipping all the jobs that involved a scraper, sandpaper, or paint, here are some of the more interesting projects we've finished in the last two or three days:

Strap for Iridium Go

Last year we got an Iridium Go to allow us to get surface charts and GRIB data quickly and easily. I'll be writing a lot more about the weather in the near future, but suffice to say the Iridium itself needs to be mounted so that it can see as much of the open sky as possible. A good way to evaluate positions is to put your eyes exactly where the unit would be and to see what you can see from that position.

This led me to the top of our boom crutch, which is about as unobstructed a position as I can reach from the cockpit. However, the mounting bracket for the Go is not the most secure. It was far too easy to imagine this vital bit of technology vibrating loose and pitching overboard. Thus the need for a little 'seatbelt'.

Iridium Go 'Seatbelt'

.I hand-sewed this one up from a bit of webbing and some velcro patches. Simple, but easy to make. The strap goes under the mounting bracket, which is screwed into the top of the boom crutch, and wrapped around the Go.

It goes under the bracket
This picture makes me feel a lot better.

The Iridium Go in position and buckled in

Second Cockpit Tether

Speaking of seatbelts, we always clip on while at sea, even in the cockpit. Yes, we do have a MOB procedure, but frankly, I never want to try it out. So we clip on.

After being caught in a night of gales off Cape Hatteras last year, I thought it would be a good idea to have a second tether in the cockpit. The idea is for the on-watch crew to clip in on the port side of the cockpit with his persona tether, and then to clip on to a second tether attached on the starboard side. This way, even if one of those monster waves found its way into the cockpit, it would be impossible to be washed out of the cockpit.

Overkill for the east coast of the US? Probably, but we are gearing up for an Atlantic Crossing next year, so it doesn't hurt to start thinking about really nasty storms.

Spliced up from some dacron three-strand rope
Besides, I love splicing, so this was a fun project. Those are Wichard snap hooks, spliced into 3-strand dacron.

It's just long enough to reach comfortably across the cockpit.

Second tether in the cockpit
Teak Seats and Floorboards

We've been doing some serious work in the cockpit (more on that in a future post), so we had the teak seats and floorboards out. Helena took the opportunity to give them some TLC by cleaning and oiling them. The seats are back in, but the floorboards will have to wait until we finish the cockpit job.

Freshly cleaned seats, reinstalled
Backup Running Lights

We use a tri-color mast-head light for our main running lights. They are LED, so don't use much power and are very bright. However, the original running lights are still installed, and I like their classic looks. We like to think of them as our 'backup' running lights which, if you think about it, is not a bad idea. One problem: they didn't actually work. I decided to get them back into working order before our big trip.

Classic-looking side light from the early 70s
I traced the power to the sidelights, and then discovered the root problem: the lamp sockets were corroded enough to break the connection. Easy enough to clean up.

Corroded lamp socket
While I had the lights apart, I thought I would replace the 25-watt incandescent bulbs with LED equivalents but I wasn't able to find them in time, so I opted to buy a couple of spares. Actually, there was a 10-watt bulb installed in the starboard light, so I replaced that one with a 25 watt. Combined, they draw a decent bit of power, but they will be better than nothing if the masthead light goes out.

The stern light was more of a problem. Instead of a classic light, it was a cheap plastic LED light which was full of water. It still worked, but you'd be hard pressed to see it more than a few feet away.  And unlike our 40 year old side lights, it was unrepairable. That should tell you something. I removed it and replaced it with a new, hopefully waterproof LED.

New backup stern-light in place on back of the propane locker.
We keep the SSR number just for old-time sake. It probably isn't legal!

Gosh, you see the problem. I'm only halfway through the list of projects I wanted to write about, and already this post is too long. I will resume tomorrow, but meanwhile I will have completed a few more jobs. It really is impossible to keep up!

More tomorrow...

Next Up: A Further Taste