Monthly Archives: November 2016

End to End Issues

One of the projects we had set aside for New Bern was to  move the stern light.  The original position was on the pushpit just to port of the stern walk through.

new-bern2-012

This was fine until you lifted the dinghy up in the davits.  The dinghy ended up at the exact height of the light and this caused 2 problems; the light could not be seen by other ships at night and the reflected light ruined night vision in the cockpit.

After some consideration, I decided to move the light above the bimini, where the flag pole was mounted.  It came out of the solar panel supporting framework.  I would cut the flag pole and attach some angled stainless plate to act as a light shield so that the light would not hit any equipment that hung off the back of the boat.  After cutting the flag pole, I cut out some cardboard, folded it and attached it to the pole.  With the light temporarily affixed I was able to shape the cardboard to ensure that no light hit the boat and it could still be seen by other boats even when we were heeled over.  I found a guy called the GrillMan who custom makes grills so I got out the bike and make the 17 mile round trip to see him.  I provided the flag pole stub and the cardboard and he told me it would take a week to make.

While the piece was being fabricated I pulled the old wiring out of the pushpit tubing and ran new cable from the breaker panel, through the pushpit tubing and up the outside of the solar panel framework to the lights new position.  For the return trip to pick up the new mount I borrowed a friends car, luckily we have good friends where this is sometimes an option 🙂

The pictures below show the final installation.

Now for the other end of the boat 😦

While Debbie was polishing the stainless she noticed that one of the bolts that held the bowsprit on was missing its head.  After inspection it was obvious that crevice corrosion had caused it to fail and fall off.  I decided to replace all six bolts that held on the bowsprit just to be safe.  I had to replace the bolts one at a time as the standing rigging was still fully tensioned.  Debbie’s keen eyesight had possibly saved the day as 4 of the 6 bolts had crevice corrosion that was so bad that the bold heads snapped off with almost no effort while trying to loosen them.

new-bern3-001

crevice corrosion on 4 of the 6 bolts

Now I became concerned about the bobstay attachment fitting on the bow just above the waterline as the same bolts were used there. The bobstay is a part of the rigging which counteracts the upward tension on the bowsprit from the jib and forestay.

new-bern2-023

bobstay attachment fitting with bobstay rod going up to the bowsprit

I slackened off the backstays and forestay so that there was no tension on the bobstay and then removed fitting.  Three of the four bolts that held it on were in good condition and the fourth had a small amount of crevice corrosion but not enough to be of any real concern.

new-bern2-001

I bought all new bolts and washers just to be safe.  I then cleaned up the bow to remove all old sealant and check the fiberglass was all OK.

While polishing the bobstay attachment fitting prior to refitting, I noticed that there was stress cracking around the tang which the bobstay attached to.

As I could not tell how long it would be till this sort of issue caused a failure I decided to replace the fitting.  It is not an of the shelf item and therefore I cycled back to see Chris at GrillMan to get a new one fabricated.  To ensure it would not happen again, I decided to beef up the specifications.  I went from a 1/8″ thickness backing plate to a 1/4″ plate.  I also up-sized the tang from 3/8″ to 1/2″ thickness.  The end of the bobstay rod had space to allow the thicker tang.

new-bern2-006

old fitting showing available space

Chris had the new fitting made in three days so bike ride number three was undertaken.  The old and new fitting can be seen side by side as a comparison.

It was then time to reinstall the new fitting.  It was through bolted to the hull.  Just to make the task that much more enjoyable, the space behind the hull is the holding tank for the forward head… yaay!!!  I had to reach down through a 4″ inspection hatch to get to the nuts at the back of the fitting at the bottom of the tank.  This involved getting my arm in the tank up to my armpit.  I volunteered to hold the wrench on the bolt heads on the outside but Debbie suggested that if I wanted her help I might want to let her take on that role.

After liberally applying sealant to all the bolts the job went relatively smoothly.  Now we have all new fasteners supporting the rigging at the front of the boat and a little more peace of mind.

The First 6 Months

Wow – I can’t believe it, but it’s been 6 months to the day since we left Waterford Harbor Marina to start our cruising life.  We have been having a blast and have not regretted the decision to quit our jobs and start cruising.  However, it has not all been as we expected, and although we are working on being relaxed retirees, we are still an engineer and an accountant, so we can’t escape our desire for facts and spreadsheets completely!  I thought I would put together a few facts, figures and observations about our first 6 months, which you may find interesting and potentially useful if you are thinking of taking off cruising in the not-too-distant future.

Where we have been

When we set out, we planned to anchor out as much as possible.  At the beginning of our trip, this didn’t work out quite as planned because the outboard for the dinghy wasn’t working, so we had to stay in marinas.  The outboard was eventually fixed while we were in Stuart, FL, and after that we were able to start anchoring much more.  This was great from a financial standpoint, of course, but more important, it gave us the freedom to stop where we wanted and enjoy the scenery and solitude.  When we have stayed in marinas since Stuart, it has been for specific reasons, such as my stay in Halifax, where I didn’t want to be at anchor alone, or Baltimore, to hide from Matthew, or New Bern, to carry out projects on Sol Purpose.  One thing we have learned is to study Active Captain, Cruising Guides, local websites etc. for free places to stay.  It’s amazing how many places there are, and whenever we have used them we have commented in our blog.

Here is the breakdown of how we spent the first 184 nights:

Overnight travel 26
At anchor 62
Free marina/moorings 14
Moorings 11
Marinas 71
184

When I sat down and read back through the logbook of the first 6 months, I could not believe how far and how many places we have been in such a short time – 5,161 miles, 2 countries, 14 states, 45 different anchorages/marinas.  Each state has something different to offer, and we have enjoyed the changing scenery as we traveled up and down the coast.  However, one thing has been the same wherever we have been and that is the welcome we have received, both from the boating community and the people in the  towns we have visited.   The link below shows the route of Sol Purpose since we left Kemah, TX.

Route so far

The Bottom Line

We really had no idea what we would be spending when we left, but we set up a tentative budget of $3,000 per month.  So far that has proved to be a gross underestimate!

First of all, we have had to make a lot more repairs to the boat than we had anticipated, but we are not too disheartened.  This is the first time that Sol Purpose has really been put through her paces, and it was inevitable that repairs would be needed.  We fully expect that moving forward, we should for the most part be looking at routine maintenance, rather than the major repairs we have had to make so far.  (Fingers crossed, anyway !).

Second, we really need to work on the eating out category!  Unfortunately, we both like to eat well and to hang out in the local bars – it’s a great way to meet people!  As you can see below, we need to curb that spending, but we are working on it.  As time goes on, I am getting better used to cooking in a small galley, and I’m now even baking bread etc!  I’m working on the numbers being much better when I prepare a report in 6 months’ time – who knows, maybe we could even lose a little weight if we eat out less!

The third expense which has been horrendous is the medical insurance.  We’re not sure what that will cost us next year – still checking out the options (see below).

I don’t really like to share details of my expenses, but in the hope that it will help others, here goes:

Category 5/12/16- 6/1/16- 7/1/16- 8/1/16- 9/1/16- 10/1/16- 11/1/16-
5/31/16 6/30/16 7/31/16 8/31/16 9/30/16 10/31/16 11/12/16
Fuel 527.96 317.19 154.65 193.81 381.50 48.91
Insure Boat 2,564.80
Registration 26.00
Other Boat 111.73 1,981.97 1.95 115.26 220.60 929.74 163.32
Dining 171.36 646.18 890.38 787.98 328.21 370.63 148.01
Ent. & leisure 270.51 930.64 812.30 395.57 249.09 650.64
Groceries 533.00 417.52 801.87 806.71 819.51 599.73 422.22
Household 101.78 83.31 256.87 90.12 97.36 560.47 92.00
Medical 1,057.18 701.33 713.51 721.33 691.77
Misc. 137.12 59.00 10.85
Travel to UK 288.09 74.52
Slip fees 709.30 448.90 310.00 746.24 510.00 607.95
Telephone 149.28 69.14 69.21 69.25 76.71 80.24 8.50
TOTAL 2,574.92 6,089.15 6,910.45 4,003.82 3,404.31 4,566.08 834.05

Useful information (I hope)

Healthcare:  we both worked  for the first quarter of the year, and so weren’t eligible for premium tax credits against the cost of health insurance.  That’s the way it is, so I wasn’t too bothered.  But when I discovered that I could not use my insurance anywhere outside Texas, I wasn’t best pleased.  My fault, as I should have studied the policy better before signing up.  However, I thought that things would improve in 2017, when we could buy a multi-state policy, and would be eligible for premium tax credits.  Now we run into one of the disadvantages of leaving when still of “working age” and being Texas residents – as we are living off savings, we have very little actual income, so fall below the income threshold to get credits.  Texas doesn’t give Medicaid to people of working age who have no children, so basically, we have to pay the full premium.  Added to that, the so-called Multi-state policies rarely cover you in more than one state (yes, please explain that to me!)  Ah well, at least we are exempt from the tax penalty if we don’t have coverage!  Now, no political discussion is being invited here – I’m just setting out the facts in case anyone is thinking of taking off and hasn’t thought about the healthcare implications.

Fuel:  we had romantic dreams of lazy days, with the sails set and just speeding along.  Yep – not so much!  Most days there has been not enough wind, too much wind, or just the right amount but blowing in the wrong direction!  On talking with other cruisers, we find that we were not alone in this discovery.  It’s not too bad, as we are rarely in a huge hurry to get anywhere, but please be aware, future cruisers, that you will need to factor in a larger budget for fuel than you probably were thinking.

Relationships:  I don’t care how close you think your relationship is, be aware that a sailboat is a very small space to live in!  The smallest, most trivial matter can get blown up out of all proportion when there is no way of walking away.  Take every opportunity to have some alone time or, even better, some “with someone other than each other” time!  I am not a big shopper, but I have been very fortunate to have cruising friends to have a “girls’ day out” with from time to time!  Remember why you chose to live this life, with this particular person, and you’ll realize just how lucky you are.

Well, on that note, I’ll sign off.  More baking to be done…..

Boat Projects in New Bern

Monday, October 10th – Tuesday, October 11th, 2016:  after several days of watching the weather and checking to see whether the ICW had been re-opened, we decided to start the trip towards New Bern.  After refueling, we sailed out, past the Zumwalt, which was in Baltimore for Fleet Week, past Fort McHenry and into the Chesapeake.  Given that the Annapolis Boat Show was just finishing, the weather was finally good, and the ICW had re-opened, we thought that there would be a lot of boats, but there were surprisingly few.  We made steady progress towards Portsmouth, with only one minor detour when we passed two army vessels at around 1am, who were concerned that we were too close to them.  So we changed course to pass 1 mile away from them, rather than the 0.9 mile distance we would have previously been!  Other than that, it was a pleasant, easy trip down to Portsmouth.  The approach was interesting, as there were several naval vessels heading out for a training exercise, and there was lots of radio communication between them and the various pleasure craft that were in the area.  We saw two submarines (well, just a little bit of the submarines!), and several other naval vessels as we came into the Portsmouth/Norfolk area.  Our plan was to go down as far as the free docks, where we hoped to stay, but thought we would be unlikely to find a space, so we carefully checked out the anchorages on the way.  Seeing that they were mostly empty, we continued on to the free dock where we were very happy to find one free space.  The people from two of the other boats came out to help us in, and while I started on dinner, Moray chatted with them.  The two boats were from Canada, and were travelling down to Florida.  One, Jimmy’s Junk, had started out with two sailors, but for various reasons was now being single-handed.  The other was Wonona, being crewed by Beatrice and Luc.  They were planning on leaving the next morning, and although we had originally planned to stay a couple of nights, we decided to go with them.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016:  At 7:30am, our little convoy set off to start the journey down the ICW.  Our progress wasn’t too good, but we kept up with the other two boats, and made it to the Great Bridge Lock for the 9:30am opening.  This was the first time we had seen a lot of other boats, and the lock was absolutely full to capacity.  We were sent to the north side of the lock, which generally isn’t quite so good, as it is concrete, and requires a lot of fenders, but on this occasion, it turned out that this was the best side to be.  Once everyone was tied off and the gates were closed, the lockkeeper came along the north side, handing out Halloween candy!  The people on the south side may have got the safe bumpers, but they had to watch us eating the candy!!!!

As we departed from the lock, Moray realized there was something very wrong so after clearing the swing bridge, we stopped and tied off to the dock.  Moray got in the cold, disgusting, brown water and went under the boat to look at the prop.  He came back up with a piece of rope that had been wrapped tightly round it.

new-bern-013

That taken care of, we set off again.  By now, our two travelling companions were nowhere to be seen, so we just kept on going towards Broad Creek, where we planned to anchor for the night.  We kept an eye open for debris, but there was relatively little, so we were able to enjoy the lovely day, and the beautiful scenery.  As we approached Coinjock, we could see that this was where all the powerboats that had been with us in the lock, or passed us afterwards, were planning to spend the night.  We kept on going, and saw two sailboats pulling out from the fuel dock – it was Jimmy’s Junk and Wonona!  Reunited with our convoy, we travelled the last few miles down to Broad Creek, where we found a couple of other boats already anchored, one being Stephanie Dawn, who we had last seen in Cape May!

Thursday, October 13th, 2016:  the plan for the day was to travel to Belhaven.  This was a long passage for one day, so we set out at 6:30am, along with Wonona and Jimmy’s Junk.  There was a steady stream of traffic, but nothing too bad, but the amount of debris was noticeably higher than the previous couple of days.  We also saw a boat come very close to hitting the Wilkerson Bridge, because the water was higher, reducing the 65ft clearance to about 63ft!  He made it through, but I’m not sure if his antenna was undamaged, judging from the scraping sounds!  After a long day, we got to Belhaven anchorage at around 5:40pm.  Once everyone was anchored safely, we dropped the dinghy into the water and picked up the others to go ashore for a couple of drinks.  Jimmy, who was single-handing his boat, really needed a break – he has no autopilot, so had been unable to leave the cockpit for more than a few seconds at a time.  Not the most comfortable day for him L .  We headed to the Tavern at Jack’s Neck, where the manager greeted us eagerly, stating that he had thought Richard Branson was with us J  until that point we hadn’t realized how much Jimmy looked like Richard Branson, but he was right!  While we were sitting with our drinks, and chatting, a lady from the Chamber of Commerce came over to our table with goodie bags for each boat, and welcomed us to Belhaven!  And although we didn’t order any food, the manager came by with a pizza for us – on the house.  What a great town!

Friday, October 14th, 2016:  Wonona and Jimmy’s Junk left bright and early the next morning, as they wanted to continue their journey to Florida as fast as possible.  We slept in a little and headed out at around 8:30am towards New Bern.  On the way we passed several wrecks, where people had tried to pass through but had not paid attention to chart depths.  This was not a result of Matthew.

 

We were planning on spending the night in an anchorage about 20 miles before New Bern, called Hancock Creek, but we made good time and found another anchorage which looked more protected and was only 8 miles from New Bern.  There was a possibility that there would be some flooding issues, and we wanted to be somewhere we could have more room, with better holding, and Broad Creek definitely fit the bill.  It was an inlet off the side of the River Neuse, very wide and relatively deep, and surrounded by tree lined banks.  We anchored and spent a very comfortable night at anchor.

Saturday, October 15th, 2016:  as we only had 8 miles to go, we got a later start, and set off around 9:30am.  It was a pretty day, and we travelled slowly up the Neuse River, enjoying the sights.  Once under the Alfred Cunningham Bridge, we called the bridge keeper to request an opening for the bascule bridge, and came into New Bern Grand Marina at around 11am.  We settled into a slip and went to register with the marina that will be home for about the next month.  I took a quick look at the Farmers’ Market, which is held every Saturday morning, while Moray checked out the marina.  Tom and Joy on Belle Ile, which had been travelling about a day behind us, arrived today, much to Joy’s relief.  She had hurt her knee back in Maine, and had a doctor’s appointment in New Bern on Monday, October 17th.  With the weather and ICW closures, she had been worried that she wouldn’t make it, but Tom did a great job and they made it!

Sunday, October 16th – Tuesday, November 2nd, 2016:  our slip was great but only had a 30 amp power supply.  This meant we had shore power but no air conditioning.  Moray checked with the dock master who found another slip, opposite ours, with 50 amp power, so we moved the boat.  As we are planning to be here for a while, the additional power, and ability to run the air conditioning or heating, will be a blessing.

One of the reasons for spending a month here is to work on various repairs or improvements that we have discovered we need to make.  The first was to get the windex and anemometer replaced.  We had ordered the parts online and they were waiting for us when we arrived at the marina, so I winched Moray up the mast where he removed the mast cap complete with the broken parts.  On our journey here, the mainsail had been furled badly and was now stuck in the mast, so he worked on getting that released on his way down the mast.  He managed to release part of it, but by this time had spent a long time in the Bosun’s Chair, so it was my turn.  I brought him down to the deck and we swapped roles.  A combination of furling and unfurling the sail, while I pulled on it from the mast, finally released the whole sail and we were able to furl it in tidily and tightly.  The next day, after the new parts had all been fitted to the mast cap, Moray went back to the top of the mast, installed the new wind instruments and we are back in business!

My main tasks while we are here involve cleaning the boat.  I finished off the removal of the varnish from the teak, so that I can clean the teak and treat it rather than re-varnish.  The companionway will be re-varnished, but that is a small amount to have to work on in the future!  I am partway through cleaning all the stainless steel, which despite its name, starts to show rust patches after almost 6 months!  I am also making slow by steady progress on cleaning the cabins and galley, which get moldy and damp after time without air conditioning.  It’s a good opportunity also, to empty out the cabinets and reorganize/get rid of/repair items that have been stuffed into any available space for the last few months.  I also took the opportunity to do a little baking

new-bern-2-001Moray’s tasks include replacing a fridge shelf (the original broke during a storm when the contents got thrown around and cracked it), replacing the galley faucet, fixing the drive gear on the wind generator, moving the stern light, replacing the hatch covers and compounding and waxing the boat.  I think I got the easy tasks!

It’s not all work though!  New Bern is a great little town, very friendly and welcoming.  Bob and Clare, on Sofira, and Tom and Joy, on Belle Ile have been here many times, and have shown us around.  (They both have cars here, so they have been wonderful in taking us shopping etc. – thank you, thank you!).

Another thing about New Bern – it loves Halloween!   I went with Joy to a “lunch & learn” at the Tryon Palace Museum, to learn about the witch trials of North Carolina.  Then, Bob & Clare took us to a Halloween party at a friend’s house.  The four of us had about 30 minutes’ notice to get costumes together, but we didn’t do too badly!  Bob went as a lobster fisherman, Moray as a Scot (any excuse to wear his kilt!), I went as a pirate wench – but the prize for originality goes to Clare who was a red marker buoy number 2!  Bob, Clare, Moray and I also took part in the annual Ghostwalk.  Each year, the town selects 18 sites of historical significance (there are a lot to choose from), and the historic society learns something about the people who were connected with that site.  Many are private homes, but the owners allow the historic society to provide hosts and a ghost to guide us through the property and tell us about the people who lived there.  The Cemetery is one of the most popular attractions, as it is open once it gets dark, and you never know who will come out of their grave to tell you a bit about themselves!  On the second night we went to the catacombs of the Methodist Church to have dinner served by dim candlelight.  The same night, I enjoyed the Headless Horseman riding down the street in front of the Tryon Palace, but I think the highlight for all of us was on the final night, with the hooded monk playing music from the Phantom of the Opera on the Church Organ upstairs in the Methodist Church.  The Ghostwalk takes place over three nights and each and every one was a blast.

Well, it’s back to the cleaning for me!  We will be here for a few more weeks, finishing up tasks and enjoying this lovely town.  Then we will be heading to Stuart, FL to pick up our new sails.  So exciting!  In case I don’t write anything before then, Happy Thanksgiving!