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Preparing for Sea, Part I

April 19, 2011

 The following exchange has become a refrain between Joanna and me. “I’m working on boat jobs this week in preparation for departure,” I say. To which my wife replies, “You’ve worked so much on that boat you should have two boats by now. What on earth could there be left to do?”

Left to do?

Maybe my long association with this old boat has allowed me to forget that not everyone lives this way. Not everyone has a hobby that requires more upkeep than a house, two cars and a lawn mower combined. Not everyone takes on a project that can never be completed.

And by way of providing some context to the ocean crossing to-do list, the following summary with commentary:

Rebuilt the wind vane. The vane is strong and has served well, but its bushings have worn away over the years and need refreshing. Easy job, except the central hinge pin is seized and simply will not budge. Panicked calls to the manufacturer in San Francisco whose advice is not reassuring: “Push the pin out with a hydraulic press and pray you don’t bend the frame.” Praying is the easy part. Finding the press takes two days. The pin pops out with a terrifying crash and next day the vane is back on Murre and looking smart.

Patch the main sail. The main is not as new as one could wish, her full battens have too often barked against the lower shrouds, and all of her luff grommets have popped. Luckily La Paz has a loft with a northeast sounding name, Snug Harbor Sails, and a resident sea dog of great skill. After two visits and a little courting, the sea dog, Doug, is coerced into making a house call and now the main is “all patched up”. After he departs, I find a large roll of sail tape and a wad of webbing I did not previously own tucked into a corner of the cockpit.

Rerig jib/spinnaker pole; test fly the spinnaker at dock. I perform the latter of these on a nearly calm day accompanied by a gust five minutes after the spinnaker is launched. The boat lays over 20 degrees and the spinnaker comes down with a three-foot tear at the head. Back to Snug Harbor Sails I go and return with a re-enforced spinnaker and a newly sewn French flag.

Acquire charts of French Polynesia. Sounds easy, isn’t. None can be found for sale in La Paz nor are any stashed in the lockers of any resident cruisers. The boat departing for the Marquesas before me has only Pilot Charts of the southern hemisphere and a South Pacific chart whose scale is so small it includes Australia. I admire their guts but want real charts. Finally I order a set from San Diego for an exorbitant fee. The vendor warns me that Thailand and the Baja Peninsula have the worst mail delivery record in the world. Things take months or don’t arrive at all. To everyone‘s shock, the charts arrive…on time. The extra duty I have to pay, 20% of the value, including the deliver charge, is worth every penny.

Build storm windows; reinforce companionway and forward hatch with plexiglass; install pad eyes so captain’s seat lid can be lashed down. Where we are headed is famous for easy weather, but better to be prepared.

Replace starboard running light with LED. Bought new, LED running lights in San Francisco and installed in La Paz, but starboard light fails to function. A second has to be ordered and smuggled into the county in Joanna’s suitcase.

Install new solar panel charge controller. Old one fails; new one enters country in same way as LED light along with more rechargeable batteries, two new flashlights, ferrite beads to keep the single sideband radio from crashing the laptop, new mast climbing gear, and two collectible books, Ernie Bradford’s Wind Off the Island and George Millar’s White Boat from England, both recommended by Don, the classically minded owner of a classic yacht next to me and neither having anything to do with the Pacific.  Joanna’s suitcase is quite large.

Secure anchor chain locker (again). By now Murre has almost 200 feet (220 pounds) of 5/16ths chain attached to her 35 pound CQR anchor–way more chain than can fit into the purpose-built forward locker. So, I route the chain to the space below the V-berth using standard housing water pipe. First install (done while at anchor at Isla San Francisco) is too far forward and there’s not enough space below for the chain. Redone in La Paz.

Grease the wheel; change the oil; re-caulk the scuppers; fix the engine blower hose that had somehow wrapped itself around the wheel and burst; paint the mast where chaffing has chipped it these last months; renew lashings for main sheet block, build a shelf for the VHF unit so that it is held in place by more than one screw. Etc. Etc.

A rare domestic item–install a trash can. It is said that a boat won’t feel like a home until it has a trash can installed. Murre’s is now behind the engine access hatch, and, true to the saying I feel amazingly better for it.

And lastly, get the writing up to date…


One Comment
  1. Bolster permalink
    April 19, 2011 11:24 pm

    Whew, I feel tired already! Seems like a formidable list to do at home with one’s own power tools, but down Mexico way with hand tools? Whew. I keep telling the wife that I and my tools are badly needed in La Paz but no sale so far. However, if you care to describe your work, I’ll gladly provide criticism of what you’re doing wrong and what large, specialized tool you should be using.

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