Boatsick

Sharing time and space with another human on a small boat forces intimacy. Everything is shared. Meals, work, thoughts. Strangers quickly become acquainted if by nothing more than proximity alone. I noticed this while my ship mate for the weekend cooked dinner. His galley was located right next to my bunk where my wet towel and underwear from a trip to the neighboring yacht club hot tub were hanging to dry, mere inches away from his head.

I spent the weekend working on the boat of a single-handed-sailor named Paul, helping him prep the boat for a new paint job. Because he keeps his boat an hour from where he lives, and an hour from where my boat lives, if I wanted the job I had to campout on his boat, on the hard.

I didn’t hesitate. I love the yard, I love boats, and certainly need the money. Due to a leak below the water line on my little boat I have to haul out sooner than expected and have been hustling to earn enough money in time for my haul out date in about three weeks. I was hoping to work on the boat on the float for a while and haul out somewhere on the Chesapeake, which is my very tentative summer/hurricane season destination this year (PANAMA 2019 YA’LL). But I’m not willing to spend that much time in between now and then, afloat and voyaging, with an underwater leak. So out my boat must come and out comes the depth sounder transducer. The depth reader hasn’t worked in months anyway. One less hole in the boat.

Paul’s boat is a Dufour 30. It is named Sobrius. Latin for sobriety. Paul got the boat only after he became sober. He traded booze for blue water and has since sailed over 1000 NM offshore, alone, and will set sail on another voyage in the spring. I have no doubt he and his boat will go far, and perhaps one day give up life on land all together.

I’m a traditionalist at heart when it comes to boat design, but the Dufour 30 seemed incredibly seaworthy despite it’s missile-like keel. Small cockpit, good use of interior space, sturdy rigging and a blue water reputation. Many Dufour sailboats are sailing the world’s waters, and this one in particular crossed the Atlantic twice with previous owners.

As much as I enjoyed the boat, the work, the amazing marina facilities next door, the friends I made in the yard (both human and animal), and Paul’s company—I missed my little boat.

I had folks looking after her while I was gone. Even though the leak is just a slow, tiny trickle, and every marine professional I talk to says in increase an water intrusion is extremely unlikely, I still worried about her alone on her mooring for two nights. When my friend’s sent me pictures of her afloat and in good standing on Sunday afternoon I felt pangs to get back. To get home. It was my first time sleeping away from my boat since September, and before that I was never more than a mile away.

Rowing back to my boat, exchanging pleasantries with my harbor mates, climbing into her cockpit down the companionway I realized everything was exactly how I’d left it. The transducer was still leaking. My dishes were still in the sink. I was still going to have to hustle to make the boat right. And I took great comfort in all of that.

Always thought I’d look cool with a shiner. And yes, I wore a respirator.

Note to Readers: Thank you to everyone who donated to my lost boot fund, and to the fees associated with this website. Both have been taken care of and any extra has gone into my boatyard fund. Also–if anyone is interested in Paul and his Dufour 30 Sobrius check out his book, Becoming a Sailor, and his youtube channel

Karma economics

pearson ariel 26, cruising the icw
The answer is out there somewhere, I just gotta find it.

I want to be so close to a manatee that its snot gets on my face. That’s what happened to Tabatha, age 9, who lives aboard a 46-foot Hunter with her 11-year-old sister Elizabeth and their parents, Ferrel and Phil, from Austin, Texas.

“The manatee nibbled my hair!” she said giggling.

“You’re not supposed to touch them but it’s okay if they touch you,” her sister chimed in. “They got so close that one’s snot got on Tabatha’s face when it sneezed!”

I looked at this boat child in disbelief. She nodded in earnest.

“You’re so lucky,” I said and the saloon erupted in the little girls’ laughter.

pearson ariel 26, live aboard
Pirating the dock in Georgetown, SC.

Michael, onboard an Irwin-something, was in the same part of town as me. I’d walked to the goodwill in an effort to find a pair of rubber boots. I passed an Aldi’s on the way and convinced him to meet me there and share his Uber with me back to the marina. I went crazy on canned fish, peanut butter, coconut oil, crackers, and introduced him to the magic of this discount store for provisioning.

I bought a canned ham because it seemed sailor like and promised we’d cook it together for Michael’s thirty-second birthday this week.

“Except it’s already cooked,” he said.

bi polar the dinghy

On Saturday we launched Bi Polar. By we I mean myself, Kourtney, Pete, Pete’s 15-year-old daughter Ava, and her teenage boyfriend, Liam. How excited these people get a fixing problems astounds me. I stared at them in awe as they methodized how to remove some tight fitting rubber from the oars. I’d just have cut it, but they excitedly interjected different suggestions and strategies until it was done. I sort of felt like I was watching an act, but it was real. These people don’t give up.

Bi Polar is, of course, a dinghy. The dinghy of my dreams, actually. A double-ender, eight-foot, salty little row boat. The dinghy once belonged to Kourtney’s friend Scotty. Scotty taught her how to row. Scotty recently died. Scotty liked to drink so we drank champagne in honor of him and the relaunch of his old boat. Kourtney has had Bi Polar for ten years. It will soon be the tender to the 25-foot Pacific Seacraft she has gutted and is rebuilding from the ground up. But for now it is my loaner dinghy until we come up with a permanent dinghy solution.

It was kind of like a dream. These people showing up in their magical VW bus, helping you solve your problem, and then leaving you there alone to row your dinghy in peace while dolphins swim alongside.

In the hullaballoo of getting to the pre-launch dinghy preparations in town, one of my rubber boots managed to detach itself from my backpack. In an effort to locate the missing boot I made signs and retraced my steps, but to no avail. My efforts were merely cathartic it turned out. I may have lost my sea boot but I’ve gained so much.

The magic bus

The girl I’m working for now, Jillian, is 31 and owns her own yacht services company. We wax sport fishing yachts and sailboats and oil teak. She does so much more than that, but right now that is what keeps us busy. She brought me to the ocean and we ate warm soup in her van on a day we got rained off from work. She is connecting me with another sailor and possibly more work painting his boat.

I only found her because Kourtney brought me to the used marine store and the owner gave me her number. I called her, told her my story, told her who I know and the next morning she came to meet me even though she had just learned her friend died. We looked out at my boat from the seawall and she gave me a job.

Space wax

I am continuously humbled by the kindness and friendship from strangers. – January 14, St. Augustine, FL

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Self Steering for Sailing Craft

sheet to tiller steering

While sailing on the Chesapeake Bay I was gifted a book that I’d been keeping an eye out for over a year. Self Steering for Sailing Craft by John Letcher is a timeless gem that deserves a space on the shelf of any yacht’s library (unless of course you’re on a boat like mine which doesn’t really have shelves). In the book Letcher uses anecdotal tales to impart sheet to tiller steering methods he used on his voyages through the Pacific Ocean aboard his homebuilt 20-foot cutter Island Girl. 

Over the course of reading the book I learned a lot, but while I was reading it I started to wonder–is this guy one of those engineering types? I’ve met a lot of engineers on boats. I envy them. Their minds just work differently than mine and they can pretty much figure out anything. When in doubt, ask an engineer, but I am not in touch with that side of my brain.

Turns out Letcher was an engineer with a Ph. D. in Aeronautics. So I wondered, does one have to be of that mindset to use his methods?

While my auto pilot, Jane, has been a most lovely companion she simply cannot keep up in some conditions and requires a constant supply of sunshine to run off my ship’s battery. Plus, she’s electronic and subject to corrosion and she’s not exactly water proof. I’m not getting rid of Jane, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with her as my only form of self-steering if going to sea.

I wanted to see if anyone had tried sheet-to-tiller on an Ariel and found this guy. Again, another engineering type. His methods seemed a little complicated with all types of custom made equipment. I thought this was supposed to be simple? I found myself slightly disenchanted with the idea. Then I met an engineer on the dock who has circumnavigated and just finished the NW Passage. He said, “don’t bother with sheet-to-tiller, get a windvane.”  And so I moved on to that idea for a while.

I know of one vane unofficially for sale for very cheap in New Jersey but it’s owner basically said, “you’re going to have to engineer the shit out of it to get it work and I’ll be very surprised if you do because I didn’t.” Then I wrote a very flattering letter to Yves Gilenas of Cape Horn Wind Vanes in hopes of scoring one at, ahem, “cost.” If I can’t find a wind vane either for cheap or free I may find myself in a bit of pickle because they cost more than my hull.

Picking up Letcher’s book again now I am thinking sheet-to-tiller may be the best method on Vanupied. It certainly would be cheaper and at second glance doesn’t look too complicated. A friend recently sent me this link which shows the method in very simple terms.

I’m getting ready to begin the second stage of the refit to this little boat and I wonder what method self steering method I will wind up adopting.

Rigging remedy

 My heart was so full from everyone and all I encountered in Oriental that it felt heavy the night before leaving. My lines did not tug at their cleats. There was not a breath of wind or current pushing me off the dock. I thought, for what must have been the hundredth time, ‘I don’t want to leave.’

I’ve always said this and it remains–life moves pretty fast on a boat that goes an average of five knots.

I showed up at the free dock in Oreintal, NC with a broken lower shroud and a completely drained battery from lack of sun and freezing temperatures. With the help of a young 20-years-old Quebecoise couple that pulled their battery charger off their engine room bulkhead, and several extension chords later, I was charging my battery with power from the public restrooms. Miraculously it was nursed back to health and I should be able to limp it along as my primary ship’s power until I reach warmer waters and stop to work.

My forward, starboard lower stay was completely cracked at its swaged end. Miles earlier in Elizabeth City I’d scored some 1/4 inch rigging cable to replace my aging, cracking, original standing rigging but knew I needed to at least consult a professional before moving forward. Even having gotten the cable for free, the end fittings I need for each stay are still expensive. Around $40 and I need eight. I could only afford to replace the one broken one for now. It was getting to the point where I could not continue to sail, until that one was fixed. So I came to Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina to do just that. In between was some of the best sailing this whole trip! Except I was kind of playing Russian roulette the entire time.

The series of events are as follows:

-Hunted through town to find a Sta-lok —the fitting needed for DIY rigging replacement to no avail
-Hunted through town to find a rigging shop that could swage the correct end size fitting for me. This came up successful but it was Saturday.
-Found a mobile rigger on the phone who answered (on said Saturday after thanksgiving) and hunted for a part for me  but came up short. It kinda sounded like the best idea to have him just come look at the whole thing.
-Had an internal crisis about paying someone to do work on my boat instead of doing it myself. Rationalized that I know nothing about re-rigging a sailboat and that I will be able to learn first hand. He was coming at a moments notice in order to help me get underway again, and it required a more professional eye than mine. At least the first time around.
-The rigger was awesome and charged me half price to remove the broken stay and measure exactly for the new one, inspected my current and new (free) rigging, instructed me precisely on next steps of where to go to get fitting swaged and install it myself, and just generally provided merriment, tips, and knowledge to me and another young sailor on the dock.

Rigger’s kid

In the meantime I found a climbing harness to borrow from Austin, a crazy 23-year-old sailor on a Sabre 28 who was told to look out for me by the folks on the Bonnie Boat, a sister ship on the Chesapeake Bay. Rode around town doing errands on his dope folding bike (thanks, dude!). Drank far too much wine and sang karaoke with some of my favorite sailors I’ve been seeing along the blue highway. Shared meals and tools and trades with my neighbor. Helped pull two different people up two different masts. Learned that a sailing friend from the best boatyard in the world had indeed sent me the sta-lok he had found in his boat that was exactly the right size I needed and it was waiting for me at the post office ready to pick up first thing Monday morning (Thank you Charlie and Meg)!!.

My good fortune continued. I met a couple, Herbie and Maddie around my age on a 1968 Morgan 45. They’d just been through a gale off Hatteras and were here waiting on parts for their electric engine. I told them I needed someone to pull me up my mast and it turns out Herb is a rigger! Not only that, but I’d read their blog The Rigging Doctor, when I first ventured into this crazy idea to re rig my own vessel from 1968! He knew exactly how to cut the cable and fit the sta-lok (more complicated than you’d think. Keep an eye out for their upcoming video about some DIY-rigging filmed on my boat)!

I was hoisted up with the right tools and instructions. After fiddling with the tight fitting pins for far too long the first part of my new stay was installed! Herb looked through binoculars on my foredeck to confirm it was indeed installed correctly! Then we cut the cable, fanned its individual wires ever so rightly into the new fitting, tightened it, attached it to the turnbuckle and re tuned the rig.

It was a whirlwind–but my rig is whole again. The boat looked slightly sad with her missing stay but it didn’t last long and I could not have been marooned in a better place waiting for all the pieces to come together. As soon as I am somewhere warm and am earning a much needed cash injection, the rest of my stays will all be replaced using the methods I learned in Oriental.

My beautiful new stay!