02 February 2022

Cabin Boy's European Adventure

Thanks to a gentle nudge from friend-of-the-blog Mark, I've decided to get off my duff and start writing again. It's been a long time!

Well, when we last met in the spring of 2020, the pandemic was just getting its nasty claws around our necks and starting to squeeze. We had to cancel our Atlantic crossing, and for a few months -- when boating was actually forbidden in the State of Maryland, remember that? -- we wondered if we'd even be able to launch Petronella. In the meantime, we built a new cockpit awning.

Stranded ashore? Might as well build a new cockpit awning.

With some nice details that would be very expensive to have done
like these toggles for the side panels. The benefit of having
nothing else to do!

Thankfully, restrictions loosened up by summer, and we were able to move out of our son's apartment, launch Petronella, and eventually cruise up to Maine, where all the traditional cruising meet-ups were canceled, but even waving to other cruisers from a distance is better than being land-locked all summer.

How to pick one picture from a whole summer in Maine?

We spent the winter of 2020-21 on a mooring in St. Augustine, FL, not a bad way to spend lockdown, actually, although again all the usual St. Augustine Cruiser's Net activities were canceled. I used the time to rebuild our old manual windlass. What a job!


During (but will I be able to put it back together?)


The summer of 2021 saw us back in Maine for more great cruising and hiking and, in retrospect, having all that extra time on Petronella was a blessing in disguise. We found and fixed a few more problems that would have caused real problems if they had revealed themselves during an Atlantic crossing. 

The first was with the chainplates which over the last 45 years had worn pretty thin. Problem was, the thinness was disguised by some Bondo and a lot of paint. Luckily, it occurred to me that it was pretty strange for them to be in such good condition after all that time, and I took a chipping hammer to the paint. Wow, was I surprised. We cut them off with a torch (sounds so simple, right? What a horrendous job!) and welded on some new stainless steel ones. They should be good for another 50 years.

Still strong, but pretty worn out chain plates. 
Note the pink Bondo filler. (Argh!)

The new chain plates with first coat of primer 
covering area of paint burned off by the torch.

We also discovered that the bearings in the U-joints on our driveshaft were worn and in danger of failing. Solution: a brand new drive shaft. The engine noises were cut dramatically by this change. What a relief.

Then on our way up to Maine last summer, the hinge which allows the rudder on our Aries wind vane to swing up broke with a loud Bang!, like a gun shot. I was amazed such a heavy piece of gear could crack in half like that, but apparently the hinge is a weak spot on all wind vanes. We bought a replacement from a company in the UK that still makes Aries parts and vanes.

Finally, our 4-year old Awgrip red paint was looking really sad. It had faded and looked blotchy and horrible. The Awlgrip rep down in St. Augustine was mystified, because the paint really should last 10 years. Well, there was nothing for it but to haul out and try again. Helena and I had watched the professionals roll-and-tip Petronella back in Norfolk, and frankly it hadn't looked like rocket science, so we did it ourselves, following the Awlgrip instructions to the letter. Fingers crossed, it will last longer this time.

Prematurely ugly paint job

After Helena and I rolled-and-tipped two
new coats of paint on. Note scaffolding which
is required for this type of work.

Note to self: If you want something done right...

Currently, we are back in beautiful Montpellier, France for the winter. Petronella is slumbering in Annapolis, MD. Come spring -- King Neptune and Covid permitting -- we will again try and cross the Atlantic via the Azores to Northern Europe.

We feel that Petronella is in great shape now and with a few thousand more offshore miles under our keel, we too are much more experienced and better prepared than we were two years ago. So, I guess you can say the pandemic did us some good, after all.

We are now gearing up again for the voyage and I have a lot of thoughts and plans I want to get down in writing. As usual, I do this mainly for our own use, but perhaps they will be useful or interesting to others who might be a bit behind us.

Really looking forward to the next big adventure!

With French friends in France

Next Up: Combining GRIB Data and Weather Charts using qtVlm


  1. Such a great positive attitude! Yes.... no matter the difficulties or trials there is always something good to come out of them. Discovering what you did will only make things so much safer. I have followed since day one and will continue, looking forward to your re-start!! Best of days to you both!

    1. Thanks. As Churchill would say, when the going gets tough, keep going!

  2. Such a great and positive attitude to have! Yes.... there always will be something positive to come out of difficulties and trials. Discovering and addressing the issues you found will only make things safer for the voyage. I have followed since day one and will continue to do so. Let the adventures begin!! Best of days to you both!!

  3. Thanks for the update John, best wishes.

  4. So happy to see your update. Glad you two are well and writing, sailing, and enjoying life. Looking forward to your next installment. Godspeed, TJH

  5. Gald to hear you are well and safe. Missed your posts.

    1. Yes, I missed writing them. Just needed a kick to get going again.


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