Rookies of the Sea

For long our plan of sailing exotic destinations has been put under salt for many reasons. Little by little we removed our impediments and finally set our course South.

We departed Brunswick on Monday 24th and made it only as far as New Smyrna Beach, FL, a mere 120 miles away. We transited the Ponce de Leon Inlet right at sunset and dropped anchor in a random shoal just off the ICW.

The reason for such a short hop was health. Both of us felt pretty sick, not only for the crazy motion of our small craft but also for something that we ingested pre departure. I spare you the recounts of symptoms and experiences of this illness, nothing pretty. Without some disappointment we had to make the call to pull over and anchor, to heal and re-gather strength.

We sail a primitive boat, with limited auxiliary power so everything we do has to be timed with favorable weather conditions. Weather is a Master we have to obey.

We had such favorable conditions at the beginning of this week in the form of 15-20 knots blowing from the West allowing us to move South along the Florida coast and reach a favorable hop spot to Bahamas. We could have made it not stop in three days, but we decided nothing good could come from keeping at sea in our sick condition.

Now that we blew this weather window we may have to wait quite a bit. We felt pretty bad about it, as rookies who can barely handle discomfort. It was a tough call, especially knowing what the weather had prepared for us and what is showing for the next days.

Even if our current status is not what our imagination envisioned we are indeed “on the road” in a place we have never intended to visit as often happened before. Our Master will decide how long we will have to stick around and what will be next for us.

Obey your Master.

Sailboat delivery with a twist(er) – Part II: green eye in the sky

Click here for Part I

Third Leg: Ft. Myers, FL to Houston, TX

We saluted the coast of Florida with a nice sailing between Sanibel Island and Pine Island, dodging the plethora of mostly drunk powerboaters going up and down the bay. We decided to use Boca Grande to get out into the Gulf and when we finally approached the channel I was so glad to leave the inlet and the powerboat traffic of the weekend. Winds were 10-15 knots from the SSW, so we put the boat on a close reach, let the tiller in the hands of the Monitor and enjoyed sailing on the gentle swell.

waves1
Offshore sailing in the Gulf of Mexico

It was slow sailing, to be honest, as the Southern Cross 31 needs a bit of sporty conditions to move the 13000 lbs of displacement, but we were happy to make progress towards our destination while enjoying the perks of being at sea: a well equipped, fully provisioned boat, following our watch rotation and enjoying tasty meals cooked on the stove. The next day, Sunday the barometer started to fall to 1004mb and the wind backed to SE. I was worried about that reading, but I was still confident for our positive weather forecast and I went into my bunk for my rest time.

Southern Cross 31 leeward side
Southern Cross 31 leeward side

<<Fabio! Come out!>>. A green eye in the sky crowned by a circle of black clouds appeared in front of me as I cleared the companionway. I had just been summoned on deck from my bunk and I noticed it was getting pretty windy. It’s late afternoon, just an hour before my watch starts. The crew on watch was speechless because they just observed a pod of several dozens of dolphins jumping by and I am not quite sure if I they called me because all hands on deck were needed or just to share the sublime panorama of a violent storm brewing. The green color of the sky was so beautiful yet so menacing. I have never seen a sky like that one before.

Thunderstorm flashes made us understand how quickly we had to move and we prepared the boat for heavy weather. After the previous thunderstorms on the East coast of Florida we were well trained and we reduced the sail area very quickly. The storm’s edge slammed into the boat and for the next minutes the vessel was battered by blinding rain and blown nearly horizontally. We bit the bullet after this first hit but the evil sky showed no sign of mercy.

This system seemed not only more violent than the ones we encountered before but also the squalls were long lasting and so Roberto and I had to reschedule our watches to take turns on the tiller to catch some rest. With the minimum sail area possible (3 reefs in the mainsail and a reefed staysail) we managed to have enough momentum to keep the wind after the beam as we rode the big swell lifted by the storm. We kept working in the dark, removing the rolled up inflatable dinghy from the deck and storing it inside, in the fear that the storm would take it. The thick clouds neutralized the light of the moon and the night was pitch dark, only the flashes of lightining strikes showed the frightening sea conditions before leaving me dazzled.

I couldn’t decide wether I preferred to see the waves or to be surprised by a crest of water crashing on deck. The low pressure system showed no sign of dissipating, and beside a brief moment of calm while in “the eye” of the storm, the wind and the even bigger waves resumed their action. Again, I was lying in my bunk trying to have few minutes of rest when Roberto called me on deck. As I was donning my rain gear I could hear thunders and see lightning, the heralds of another stormy squall that hit us with incredible violence as I was climbing the ladder to the cockpit. The boat this time buried the toe rails and the starboard deck deep in the water. The water reached the cockpit coamings, and from up high the windward seats we could watch the green sea underneath as if we were on a rollercoaster approaching a dive loop. Even the little sail area was too much for the wind conditions. With no other option than take them down I started to crawl my way to the mast where without much elegance I let go of the mainsail halyard and the staysail too. I tied down the staysail the best I could while battered by painful raindrops and then I crawled back into the cockpit.

We were now running bare poles, occasionally blown over by a stronger gust but at least we got rid of some pressure from the mast and the rig. Like a cork the boat was going up and down the wave crests, responding slowly to the inputs of the tiller, but surely going the directions we wanted, with the wind behind the beam. Unfortunately it wasn’t finished for us.  A sail we thought it was stowed started to act wildly: the roller furler let go a little portion of the jib that started to flog and shake the forestay wildly. At first we were paralyzed by this occurrence, asking ourselves “and now, what?” We soon realized that we couldn’t afford any paralysis. In those conditions (still well above 40 knots) the flogging of the sail could break the forestay and put the whole rig in danger. Roberto made it to the foredeck and started to play with the spinnaker halyard to bridle the sail. This temporary fix worked for very little and soon more effective measures were required. Again Roberto engaged a wrestling match with the wind this time to pull the jib all the way down from the roller-furler. I don’t know how but I am very glad he succeeded. I was at the helm, trying to avoid any dangerous gybe running after the storm and I could only see Roberto’s headlamp shining from the bow.

Roberto after the storm sleeping on the jib
Roberto after the storm sleeping on the jib

Like the last of Hercules’ labors the dousing of the jib was the last hazard of that long night. As the dawn light spread across the clouds the wind remained of gale force slowly decreasing. Now it was time to admire the 20 feet high, sometimes higher waves that were towering around us, the spindrift flying around and the turbulence drawn by the gusts on the back of the waves, the spectacular turquoise water under the foaming tips of breaking waves. With no much energy left we surrendered to the finest spectacle offered by Nature. Without electronic instruments to measure wind speed we could only estimate their force referring to our past experience. I personally never been in such conditions before and I can say that I experienced the strongest wind and highest waves of my life. We agreed that more than 40 knots blew for the most part of the night, with 50 and stronger gusts during the near knockdown. The night time and the bad weather surely contributed to increase the sense of danger and perhaps affected our perception, but there is not doubt it was a hellish night of severe weather.

The sea state after the storm
The sea state after the storm
A breaking crest coming for us
A breaking crest coming for us

We tried to resume the regular schedule onboard, allowing the crew to rest after the long night, but we soon realized that something was wrong inside the boat. Somehow water found its way inside the cabin, soaking everything on the starboard side, from the navigation station (charts, log book, electronics) and on the rest of the cabin, where Roberto and I stored our luggage, soaking the mattresses and the fresh lining in the bunks. All our phones, stored in a drawer, were gone after a deadly bath in salt water.

Monitor Windvane back on duty
Monitor Windvane back on duty

We couldn’t believe it but all the starboard side of the boat was wet and so our belongings and our sleeping place. I’ve lost many phones before to salt water (mostly falling in the water while boarding dinghies) and although it is a bad feeling, you know it’s just a phone. What was very upsetting was the bedding and clothing. I was left with only one shirt and one pair of shorts, more or less soaked from the night before. We were still 500 miles from Houston, still with thunderstoms around us and on a boat that was not as comfortable as when we left. I was suddenly reminded how important is to have completely a watertight boat.

Click here to read Part III

Sailboat delivery with a twist(er) – Part II: green eye in the sky

Click here for Part I

Third Leg: Ft. Myers, FL to Houston, TX

We saluted the coast of Florida with a nice sailing between Sanibel Island and Pine Island, dodging the plethora of mostly drunk powerboaters going up and down the bay. We decided to use Boca Grande to get out into the Gulf and when we finally approached the channel I was so glad to leave the inlet and the powerboat traffic of the weekend.

Winds were 10-15 knots from the SSW, so we put the boat on a close reach, let the tiller in the hands of the Monitor and enjoyed sailing on the gentle swell.

waves1
Offshore sailing in the Gulf of Mexico

It was slow sailing, to be honest, as the Southern Cross 31 needs a bit of sporty conditions to move the 13000 lbs of displacement, but we were happy to make progress towards our destination while enjoying the perks of being at sea: a well equipped, fully provisioned boat, following our watch rotation and enjoying tasty meals cooked on the stove.

The next day, Sunday the barometer started to fall to 1004mb and the wind backed to SE. I was worried about that reading, but I was still confident for our positive weather forecast and I went into my bunk for my rest time.

Southern Cross 31 leeward side
Southern Cross 31 leeward side

<<Fabio! Come out!>>. A green eye in the sky crowned by a circle of black clouds appeared in front of me as I cleared the companionway. I had just been summoned on deck from my bunk and I noticed it was getting pretty windy. It’s late afternoon, just an hour before my watch starts.

The crew on watch was speechless because they just observed a pod of several dozens of dolphins jumping by and I am not quite sure if I they called me because all hands on deck were needed or just to share the sublime panorama of a violent storm brewing. The green color of the sky was so beautiful yet so menacing. I have never seen a sky like that one before.

Thunderstorm flashes made us understand how quickly we had to move and we prepared the boat for heavy weather. After the previous thunderstorms on the East coast of Florida we were well trained and we reduced the sail area very quickly. The storm’s edge slammed into the boat and for the next minutes the vessel was battered by blinding rain and blown nearly horizontally. We bit the bullet after this first hit but the evil sky showed no sign of mercy.

This system seemed not only more violent than the ones we encountered before but also the squalls were long lasting and so Roberto and I had to reschedule our watches to take turns on the tiller to catch some rest. With the minimum sail area possible (3 reefs in the mainsail and a reefed staysail) we managed to have enough momentum to keep the wind after the beam as we rode the big swell lifted by the storm.

We kept working in the dark, removing the rolled up inflatable dinghy from the deck and storing it inside, in the fear that the storm would take it. The thick clouds neutralized the light of the moon and the night was pitch dark, only the flashes of lightining strikes showed the frightening sea conditions before leaving me dazzled.

I couldn’t decide wether I preferred to see the waves or to be surprised by a crest of water crashing on deck. The low pressure system showed no sign of dissipating, and beside a brief moment of calm while in “the eye” of the storm, the wind and the even bigger waves resumed their action. Again, I was lying in my bunk trying to have few minutes of rest when Roberto called me on deck. As I was donning my rain gear I could hear thunders and see lightning, the heralds of another stormy squall that hit us with incredible violence as I was climbing the ladder to the cockpit.

The boat this time buried the toe rails and the starboard deck deep in the water. The water reached the cockpit coamings, and from up high the windward seats we could watch the green sea underneath as if we were on a rollercoaster approaching a dive loop. Even the little sail area was too much for the wind conditions. With no other option than take them down I started to crawl my way to the mast where without much elegance I let go of the mainsail halyard and the staysail too. I tied down the staysail the best I could while battered by painful raindrops and then I crawled back into the cockpit.

We were now running bare poles, occasionally blown over by a stronger gust but at least we got rid of some pressure from the mast and the rig. Like a cork the boat was going up and down the wave crests, responding slowly to the inputs of the tiller, but surely going the directions we wanted, with the wind behind the beam. Unfortunately it wasn’t finished for us.

The Genoa started to act wildly: the roller furler let go a little portion of sail that started to flog and shake the forestay wildly. At first we were paralyzed by this occurrence, asking ourselves “and now, what?” We soon realized that we couldn’t afford any paralysis. In those conditions (still well above 40 knots) the flogging of the sail could break the forestay and put the whole rig in danger.

Roberto made it to the foredeck and started to play with the spinnaker halyard trying to bridle the sail. This temporary fix worked for very little and soon more effective measures were required. Again Roberto engaged a wrestling match with the wind this time to pull the jib all the way down from the roller-furler. I don’t know how but I am very glad he succeeded. I was at the helm, trying to avoid any dangerous gybe running after the storm and I could only see Roberto’s headlamp shining from the bow.

Roberto after the storm sleeping on the jib
Roberto after the storm sleeping on the jib

Like the last of Hercules’ labors the dousing of the jib was the last hazard of that long night. As the dawn light spread across the clouds the wind remained of gale force slowly decreasing. Now it was time to admire the 20 feet high, sometimes higher waves that were towering around us, the spindrift flying around and the turbulence drawn by the gusts on the back of the waves, the spectacular turquoise water under the foaming tips of breaking waves.

With no much energy left we surrendered to the finest spectacle offered by Nature. Without electronic instruments to measure wind speed we could only estimate their force referring to our past experience. I personally never been in such conditions before and I can say that I experienced the strongest wind and highest waves of my life. We agreed that more than 40 knots blew for the most part of the night, with 50 and stronger gusts during the near knockdown. The night time and the bad weather surely contributed to increase the sense of danger and perhaps affected our perception, but there is not doubt it was a hellish night of severe weather.

The sea state after the storm
The sea state after the storm
A breaking crest coming for us
A breaking crest coming for us

We tried to resume the regular schedule onboard, allowing the crew to rest after the long night, but we soon realized that something was wrong inside the boat. Somehow water found its way inside the cabin, soaking everything on the starboard side, from the navigation station (charts, log book, electronics) and on the rest of the cabin, where Roberto and I stored our luggage, soaking the mattresses and the fresh lining in the bunks. All our phones, stored in a drawer, were gone after a deadly bath in salt water.

Monitor Windvane back on duty
Monitor Windvane back on duty

We couldn’t believe it but all the starboard side of the boat was wet and so our belongings and our sleeping place. I’ve lost many phones  to salt water before(mostly falling in the water while boarding dinghies) and although it is a bad feeling, you know it’s just a phone. What was very upsetting was the bedding and clothing. I was left with only one shirt and one pair of shorts, more or less soaked from the night before.

We were still 500 miles from Houston, still with thunderstoms around us and on a boat that was not as comfortable as when we left. I was suddenly reminded how important is to have completely a watertight boat.

Click here to read Part III

A tough adventure: Race to Alaska

Just recently I bumped into a boating event that really aroused my imagination and fantasy. It’s a long (750 nm) proving course for self-reliant, un-assisted boats. There are very few rules and the most important one is no engine onboard. You can sail, row, or paddle your boat in 50 degrees waters in one of the most difficult and beautidul scenario on earth.

The R2AK ( Race to Alaska ) is possibly one of the toughest races ever. The organizer is Northwest Maritime Center, “a 501c-3 non-profit committed to engaging people in the waters of our world in a spirit of adventure and discovery“. The spirit of adventure must be high in order to participate to this event. The possible dangers range from low water and air temperature, wildlife  encounters (bears and killer whales), squalls, strong tidal streams and marine traffic.

The modest prize for the winner (10k USD) will keep the stardom of professionals boaters with expensive gear/requirements out of the competition. The sum it’s still some interesting money so will attract a lot of DIY boaters and dreamers with small modern and traditional crafts. This could be dangerous as the money prize may push unexperienced and unfit people to try something out of their skills. To avoid that, the organizers divided the race in two parts: the first qualifier leg from Port Townsed, WA to Victoria, BC will offer a callenging 40 nautical miles open water crossing in the reach of rescue squads; entrants who qualify for this stretch are admitted to the full race which is 710nm from Victoria BC to Ketchikan, AK and where you will be on your own.

For this second leg there is not a predetermined course. The only two obligatory waypoint are Seymour Narrows (a treacherous channel famous for strong turbulent tidal currents) and Bella Bella. The participants choose their route, which can be in the open ocean or following the Inside Passage, so the strategy and the type of boat will be the key factors.

During the summer the prevailing winds blow from the NW, on the nose, but generally light and variable when storms and rain come from the SW. Offshore the southern branch of the North Pacific Current (California Current) is unfavorable until boats reach half of the course and encounter the favorable north branch, Alaska Current, but in order to take advantage of oceanic currents boats would have to sail far from land.  On the Inside Passage route entrants have to face strong tidal currents, rivers and any kind of coastal hazard, and possibly have to cover a bigger distance.

Under this unpredictable and generally adverse conditions the organizers are expecting a minimum of 3 weeks for the first boat to reach Ketchikan in Alaska. Around that time a “Sweep boat”will leave Port Townsend and covering 75 miles per day, will disqualify each participant reached, offering a tow and assistance. If their estimation is correct it means that the winner will move at an average speed of 1,5kts. This estimation include possible layover time for rest/provisioning, which is not forbidden unless the help is prearrenged by a team. Entrants could land and find assistance, repair the boat, camp and hunt/fish along the way (beware of Grizzlies!), or book a night in a hotel, provided it’s not pre-arranged.

Endurance is going to be the vital skill to win. The boat who can achieve steady progress in the variable conditions of the race has the best chances of victory. This mean the boat shouldn’t stop overnight keeping a crew member on watch all the time. Constant but little progress will pay in the long term and to do so boats need a crew of at least tw0, a shelter for cooking and resting, and enough storage capability to carry water and food for the entire race. You look for maximum light air performance if you sail, and the ability to propel the boat without an engine in adverse wind conditions (tide stronger than wind).

This is what makes the Race to Alaska so exciting. Beside the extreme weather conditions and the challenging course what really triggers my interest is the fact that so many different boats will compete. I am sure that will push people to invent some new boat designs and build interesting hybrids, using classic boats that where designed when engines were not an option. It’s not even 150 years since the first engine was installed on a boat, and humans have been sailed all over the planet for thousands of years without one.

So which boat will be the winner of the first Race to Alaska? No one knows, the course conditions are unpredictable and for sure we are going to see many different crafts on the starting line. Here I enjoyed playing and I imagined different boats types compete for the first place:

1. Sailing trimaran

78266d1359364321-heeling-angles-small-tr

Trimarans have a very good overall sailing speed, they can be fast in light airs, but difficult to paddle/row and subjected to drifting in non favourable wind condition.

 2. Sailing Tri-canoe

canoepage17full.jpg

This concept is becoming pretty popular among camping/cruisers for the wide range of uses in different conditions. Shallow draft, light air performance and paddles. Beside some series production most are custom built assembling different crafts. The double handed designs are usually very light and with minimum space for provisions and gear, but it’s not impossible to customize or even build a more heavy duty version to fit this race.

 3. Yawl-canoe and dories

yawl-photo2.jpg

There are a lot of classic canoe/skiff/dory designs that can be sailed and rowed, and can accomodate two people plus gear for a non-stop trip. Traditional working crafts are epitomes of seaworthiness. For sure we are going to see a lot of them at the starting line.

4. Kayak? (Freya Hoffmeister will think this race is a piece of cake for what she has done so far)

20.-Packing-the-long-awaited-custom-Epic

Slower but virtually unstoppable, with daily average of 30-50 miles per day can make it a possible winner if sailing crafts encounter adverse conditions. a bigger tandem kayak would allow for overnight sleeping altough not a comfortable one.

5. Viking longship?

VIKING+SHIP.jpg

Big crew, shelter (and shields!), it can be sailed and rowed. Bear coats foulweather gear included

6.Row boat/canoe?

3_for_portrait.jpg

As for kayakers these crafts may be slower but virtually unstoppable. Designs offer lightweight boats with shelters and a potential big crew. I wonder what might be the best balance between crew number/overall weight.

7. Traditional First Nations Canoes

canoe_costume_kwakiutl.jpg

First Nations of British Columbia Coast have been invited by the oganizers. Hopefully they didn’t forget their traditions and should still have the knowledg of the race course and the necessary skills to survive and complete the race.

 8. Mod70 Oman Trimaran

120608%20Oman%20Sail%20MOD70-6799_620.jp

Probably the fastest racing boat on earth (ocean), even in rough conditions. In 24hrs of favourable winds she  can cover more than half the total distance. We won’t see this boat on the starting line, but a fast performance bluewater sailboat can really be competitive in this race taking the outside route and hoping for the best.

Compression post repair and other amenities

Recently I started to feel the itch to go sailing. Since we docked Tranquility in Frederica River we haven’t been out sailing. We were too busy organizing the new life on land and too lazy to start few little jobs. We said it a couple of times, let’s take her out, but for one reason or the other it didn’t happen.

When we were still living on board but working on shore the cabin became unsuitable for sailing. We dismissed the cruisers clothes and wore the landlubber ones, using the boat as we were using an apartment, and apartments are not made for moving around. It’s enough to have a regular job and a life on land to mess up with your routine.

With this new land identity we acquired also a new social life made of friends, colleagues, events, fast internet, movie theatres and gym memberships. We move around with a car. Instead of walking for miles carrying provisions we run on treadmill and lift weights.

Now Tranquility is once again undergoing a major refit project. We had the opportunity to step out our home to house-sit for somebody else’s house and so we decided to empty the boat and destroy everything again.

This time we faced the compression post problem. The compression post is a solid post of hardwood that sustains the compression force of the mast over the deck. Columbia 29 were built with deck stepped mast and with a structural beam glassed on deck to sustain the forces generated by the weight of the boat moving in heavy seas. The compression post was then installed between the overhead (aka ceiling) and a structural beam resting over the bilge, which supported the cabin sole (aka floor) as well.

A proper designed and installed compression post would rest the top of the keel/bilge, which is the strongest part of the Hull. For reasons that exceed my understanding it is not the case of Tranquility. When the boat was built they lowered 3120 lbs (1414 kg) of lead inside the keel before sealing everything with fiberglass. That happened 49 years ago. Meanwhile, age and human lack of care made the rest.

Talking with one of the previous owners of Tranquility I discovered that there was a persistent rainwater leak from the mast that had rotten. Luckily I was able to prevent any when I stepped the mast in the boatyard. The water leak was fixed but the damaged was inherited. After the first longer sailing passages we realized that the compression post was not properly sustained by the rotten cabin sole. Kate’s alert eyes were the first to spot little signs of the compressin forces, where the paint was cracking and the rotten floor getting bending  a little more every time. We couldn’t address the problem while underway and so we kept sailing south in search of warm weather.

The rotten floor and beam under the compression post
The rotten floor and beam under the compression post

This type of repair was not possible while living onboard. The dust and mess of ripping off the floor (plus no place to step but the bilge) discouraged us to proceed. But as soon as we had the opportunity to leave the boat this and several other interior projects begun.

As first thing I ripped out the old rotten floor and all the damaged wood in the area. The more I dug the more I realized that the compression post was resting on a rotten transversal beam suspended few inches from the bilge. The beam was still holding the compression post but it doesn’t take a structural engineer to understand that this was not for long. Better late than never.

Picture underneath the compression post.
Picture underneath the compression post

At first we imagined we should try to jack the compression post back up but we soon realized that this could not happen without removing the mast itself. The best and only possible thing we could do was to avoid any further downward movement and give the post a solid foot to rest on.

Searching in the teak scrapyard (a collection of odd shaped salvaged pieces of teak from different boat projects I found a solid 3″ thick block of teak that I had to reshape to dry fit it under the compression post and sealed in 2 coats of Epoxy resin. Altough teak is very rot resistant to salt water it will rot in fresh water and you never know what is going to go in your bilge.

After all the rotten wood was gone I started to seal the exposed wood of the beam and the bulkheads with West System Epoxy and fiberglass cloth. I built some support for the beam and made sure to create a solid bedding with the hull of the boat through some fiberglass tabbing.

When everything was sealed I fitted the block under the compression post with the help of some serious hammering. I then added some Epoxy mixed with 404 High-Density filler, a thickening additive developed for maximum physical properties in hardware bonding. In this way the block is “glued” to the compression post and to the bilge with a bonding stronger than the wood itself. Another layer of fiberglass is soon to be added to the block as further shield against water penetration.

Compression post repair
Compression post repair
Compression post repair 2
Compression post repair 2

Getting rid of portion of rotten floor was like an invitation to go further and so we decided to proceed and rip off the rest of the 49yrs old floor that had been covered with a nasty sticky non-skid surface. I had to grind it off with a angle grinder and a sanding disk, a terrible job that covered all the surfaces of the boat with a black dust. I kept the good parts of the floor with the idea of fairing and painting them. With all this modification we may want to change the boat’s name at a certain point…

Next step is to rebuild the floor over the bilge a major project that will take at least one week. So after the floor will be replaced we hope to go for a sail test, because even if it’s exciting to do boat repairs, the itch is still there and I’ve been scratching for too long.

The Grand Plan

© Kate Zidar
© Kate Zidar

Slowly, thoughts about the future arise from the fog of the present. It is a real fog, like the one that surrounds the Golden Isles during winter. From our boat we observe the foggy mornings and evenings, these interstitial moments that keep on hold the passage between nights and days.

We are recovering from our trip. It’s not a physical recovery I think that has already happened. I am talking about the recovery from escaping winter and from our first cruising together, me, Kate and Tranquility.

This trip was very demanding. We sailed in cold weather, on a boat we have never sailed before and that we fixed all by ourselves. We also encountered challenging moments onboard as running a boat depends on a good interpersonal coordination and this is also something we are finding along the way. Everything went extremely good but the trip took its toll.

The fog is where we are hiding now, resting and meditating. Gathering all the resources to open a new chapter. Tranquility is patiently waiting for more upgrades to come. She is also probably tired of us too and we avoid touching her. There are budget restrictions of course, as we are still doing it on a shoestring and that’s also why the work has not happened yet. But it’s true that after the hurry to launch and get away from the cold weather we have the chance to think more deeply on what we need to happen to improve Tranquility. When the wind blows away the fog we start to see a Grand Plan and we are struggling to catch it before it vanishes again.

Storage

This is Tranquility’s Achilles heel. We are carrying too much stuff and at this time we don’t have good storage solutions. We hope that soon we can let go of very bulky winter clothes that literally saved our life but that are becoming less and less necessary.

The V-Berth became our throw-in space but now we need some serious carpentry work to lock objects in place and allow easy access. We are envisioning two long shelves that run on both sides on the V-Berth and that can accommodate storage boxes and light objects. We can dig more storage spaces adding a shelf on the quarter bunk and opening areas in the dinette, as well as reconfiguring the navigation desk. But the key would be to get rid of unnecessary weight and redistribute it along the boat. Keep it simple.

Electrical system

I am reconsidering the idea to step down to a single battery bank that operates both the engine and the appliances adding voltage converters. This will reduce the number of batteries from 10 to 8 without losing too much power. Thanks to the donation of a solar tracker mount we will be able to fit a 60W solar panel on the stern rail.

Plumbing

The repair of the leaky water tank under the v-berth is now a priority. 25 more gallons will give us at least one week of basic autonomy during passages, extending considerably our sailing range. The hook up of seawater in the plumbing system it’s another upgrade we are expecting to complete. Even if it’s not a priority right now that we are in a marina, it will be crucial when we sit at anchor for long periods.

Sails & Rig

Our sail set performed very well in the North Atlantic. Our sail wardrobe is suitable for medium to strong winds, but we lacking in the extremes. We need sails for lighter winds (Code 0 and Asymmetrical Spinnaker) as well as storm sails for extreme conditions (you never know). To accept this upgrade we have to rig up a trysail track and a whisker pole on the mast and place a mini-bowsprit on the bow.

Self-steering gear

We can’t do a long passage without a self-steering solution anymore. It’s too tiring and unnecessary.  A good wind autopilot it’s a lot of money but sooner or later has to land on Tranquility’s stern, we hope we won’t leave Brunswick without one. It will couple with an electronic tiller-pilot when we need to motor or when the apparent wind is not enough to operate the wind vane.

Safety

Our stanchions and lifeline need a proper reinforcement at the deck level, as well as most of the deck hardware. We are also designing modifications that will  transform our dinghy in a lifeboat, adding closed cell foam collars to increase buoyancy and prevent capsizing.

Comfort

We ordered new “luxury ultra-firm” foam for our mattresses. We decided to leave Fairhaven with the old set but the foam lost all the firmness and sleeping is not very comfortable. We understand now that small luxuries make a huge difference on a boat, especially when they concern health and comfort.

kunaya
© Fabio Brunazzi

This is the Grand Plan as it’s forming in our minds. The details are not revealed yet as they unveil as we proceed. We hope to conclude these enhancements before the end of the summer, to have some buffer time for tests and further adjustments. The list seems pretty small but as we know it will expand in endless tasks, tedious preparatory work and sure annoyances. At that point, if we survived we should be ready for the wind and the ocean.