22 April 2022

Back in Annapolis!

So, I'm here to tell you that it is NOT easy to leave the south of France in the spring time. The weather is perfect, our (current) favorite restaurant has out door tables under beautiful shade trees, with an old fountain bubbling away, and the view of the Église Saint-Roch a bit of perfection. 

Not easy to give up!

However, if we are going to cross the Atlantic this summer (and that's the plan), we had to say goodbye to our French and expat friends in Montpellier, and head back to Annapolis to get ready. 

It seems like every year, our insurance company wants some sort of survey or inspection, and this year was no different. They wanted a full insurance survey, and a rig inspection. So our first morning back we had no time for the normal indulgence of jet lag and homecoming celebrations. We had to head right back to Petronella to give her a quick tidy, and then greet the surveyor at 9 am. I spent most of the day with him, but in the meantime, Helena tackled the first couple of jobs on our to-do list.

First up was to empty the bilge of whatever water had gotten in. How it gets in is a bit of a mystery, frankly. Condensation? A small leak in the deck somewhere? I have no idea. But over the course of the winter, a couple of cups of water plus a bit of oil got into the bilge. Helena got it out.

Meanwhile, I'd discovered that one of the connections to our solar panels was intermittent, so I cleaned all the connections with terminal cleaner. A must-have tool for debugging solar panel problems, as well as other electrical problems, is a clamp-on ammeter. Being able to see the amps being put out on the wire going to the battery made it easy to track down the bad connection. However, since I was there with all the tools and spray, I cleaned all the connections, just to avoid problems down the line.

Solar panel wiring and connections

A clamp-on meter is essential for debugging electrics

By then, Helena was onto her second job of the day, caulking this sink. This is another job she does every spring, since she has a mild obsession with caulking and nice white lines. It needs to be done before we commission the sink and water tanks, so it's a job that she tackles right away.

When the surveyor left (everything seemed to go well, but still waiting for the report), I got onto my big job of the day -- replacing a broken valve in our water system.

We have three main water tanks on Petronella, and each tank has a valve which allows us to choose from which tank we are drawing water. Unfortunately one of the valves broke last summer, making it impossible to close off that tank. That made it very difficult to know exactly how much water was left in each tank. Clearly not acceptable for the crossing, so a high-priority job.

Plumbing is not my favorite pastime, but I'm getting better at it. In particular, I find getting reinforced plastic hose off of whatever connector it's stuck to can be a very frustrating job. However, I have learned the trick of using a heat gun to soften up the plastic a bit after removing the hose clamp. This makes it much easier to remove the hose. I had the hose off and valve unscrewed from the system so fast, I forgot to take a 'before' picture. This is the 'after' picture, with the valve removed.  

The under-sink set of valves and hoses to various tanks.

The broken 3/8" valve with hose barb still attached

It should be easy to find a replacement valve tomorrow and have the water system ready to go by the weekend.

Finally, Helena and I met on the bow to measure for a triangular-shaped, rain water-catching awning. When rigged, this will fill the entire bow-triangle, from the main mast shrouds to the forestay. However, I want to be able to easily move under the awing when it is raised -- to get to the anchor, for instance -- so I decided to position the awing about 68" above the deck. At that level, the distance between the port and starboard shrouds is 75 inches, and from each shroud to the forestay about 126 inches. A bit of math shows that this will give us a collector of about 60 square feet. 

Bow water collector measurements

Like lots of others, we've used our cockpit awning as a water collector for years, however, I've never been thrilled with it. The main problem is that a cockpit awning is up nearly all the time. This means it gets pretty dirty. That's fine for collecting shower water, but not drinking water. Not for me, anyway.

I plan to build our collector out of untreated, natural cotton duck (canvas), and only rig it when I think we are going to get some rain. This will keep it clean and out of the normal range of cormorants and other nasty birds. I considered using Sunbrella, but the manufacturer warned me off. Sunbrella is treated with lots of interesting chemicals to make it waterproof and mildew resistant, and thus it is not recommended for collecting drinking water. We will have to be more careful to dry untreated canvas before stowing it away, but this shouldn't be a big problem in summer cruising conditions. 

So that was our first day back. We've got 40 more days to complete our prep. Finger's crossed we don't run into any big problems in the meantime!

I will try to post often now, to track our preparation progress, and to give you an idea of what kind of prep we do before launching. It should be good fun so check back often.

Next Up: In the (work) groove


  1. And a bit more math will tell you the answer is 30 square feet, not 60!

  2. What a productive first day back!
    Thank you for the update, looking forward to reading the next ones.


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