Click to see the updated continuation of the journey, including videos on fitness, healthy eating, and the trip thus far.
Living aboard my Irwin 34 for the next year and a half, so many more adventures to have
Everyone’s had experience with an engine that won’t start up, but how many have had an engine that won’t shut off?
The purpose of a shakedown cruise is to encounter all the likely problems and issues you’ll have before your trip starts. I’m in day two of approximately 2 weeks of my shakedown, and I’ve already come across some good ones. My diesel engine not shutting down, that was interesting, as a diesel will continue to putt along forever until it runs out of fuel. When the pull knob only slowed it down a bit in neutral, I tried manually cutting of the fuel at the lever on the engine, the shutoff lever itself, but that only slowed it to a rediculously slow chug. Next plugging the air intake, but it’s quite difficult to find something that will seal the damned thing… I remembered quite clearly from Marine Tech class, “Don’t ever use your hand to plug the intake on a diesel!” You’ll lose a portion of your hand or something… Rags didn’t work, a book didn’t work… So I gave up and tried the last resort with the decompression lever to shut it off and that worked. Not something that’s at all good for the exhaust valves, but it’ll work. My thoughts ran to the talk of a Diesel burning its own oil so that it will continue until its all out and crispy, a terrible end to an engine!
The unresponsive shutoff happened as I was exiting a narrow channel that welcomes you on to Grand Lake, the place where sailboats roam free here in New Brunswick. Sails up and cruising beautifully at 5 knots, I set the autopilot and set to fixing the engine. All that was needed was a small adjustment to the Idle speed screw, to allow the cut-off arm to move a lil bit further. It actually sounds like people carry spare stop cables on board as well, and they need to be cleaned and oiled annually… Bloody hell, the list never ends
I climbed the mast half a dozen times on my new Mast Mate ladder system, installed an electronic spinny thing and a few other tasks, but have no power going to the display. I’ll figure that one out tomorrow. It’ll be a fuse or loose connection, it usually is.
I installed a block (pully) at the mast head for an extra line to go up. This will be the line that raises the storm sail, that slides around my fuerled jib, and also secures me in the future for climbing the mast. I’m looking forward to trying that out on a windy day!
Anyways, there’s more tech stuff, but I’m set on fixing only one or two things a day. Rest and recreation is important!
My first anchoring was a success, albeit there was no current in the beautiful channel I settled in. I dove down to inspect and it looked like an ok set. Every day I’d like to dive down to check the set, for a shower, exercise and safety of course! I’m interested in the different bottom types as well, I’m strange like that.
Now I’m anchored on grand Lake and my first try didn’t hold. Both Anchor alarms went off, but as my first time use of an anchor alarm, I figured I’d wait n see what happened. Lessons: clean off anchor after every use, and, I don’t think I went in reverse hard enough in this hard (mud/clay?)- as the second attempt bit in solid.
Apparently I can’t dive more then 10-12 feet, as my lungs aren’t trained yet, so I couldn’t see this one set.
Endless cleaning. I have too much stuff and I don’t like clutter or moving 5 things to get the item behind said things… so some stuff will be tossed overboard, metaphorically speaking of course!
This boat tracks beautifully, and sails fast. That makes me very happy. I honestly would do without an engine, if it were practical (it’s not). I lost all sense of the fear of being out here solo, once she was under sail and powering on through. Thoughts of the Ex pop up every now and then, having purchased the boat together, it has added some introspection to the cruise.
Also, not having a set schedule makes me feel like this trip will be a successful one, as I’ve also learned how crappy it is once the wind dies and your destination is just a half hour away… you are at the mercy of the weather and the currents, should your engine ever fail. Tonight if there is any wind I’ll take her for a night sail, and again, try my hand at anchoring.
Oh I am excited!!! My spare piece of PVC I just noticed is the exact dimension of my Irish flute – I feel a new project coming on! ❤
I spent most my childhood in front of a screen, fine tuning my skills and gear in Final Fantasy, and other Roll playing games. Endless hours in upgrading cars in Gran Tourismo, getting the smallest tweak here and there, lighter flywheel, better clutch…
It was expensive with the fictional money and gold that you earned I remember.
It’s also pretty bad in real life too…
I now get a sick feeling every time I tap my Visa card. Very different from a year ago, I loved the ease of it all, and racking up the travel points was a bonus for my annual Thailand winter holiday.
Thats all changed now, as everyday I’ve been hitting store after store, for bits n bobs, stainless this and adapter that. Valves, paints, tools (oh god the tools)…It’s a bit ridiculous… The depth at which one can go while working on a boat is actually, never ending.
I just realized this the other day, and there in lies my love for it all.
Micro managing, improving, tweaking, strengthening, learning new skills everyday and practicing them.
I’m up to level 3 epoxy work now muhahaha.
I remember it was fun playing mechanic in the marina, but here with lots of free time, a good budget, it’s even better. I’m making good use of my time, everyday I try to start one task minimum- and on a good day, I actually complete some.
As our instructors repeated over and over “(in the marine field) anything is possible with enough time and money”.
I believe it too. Fiberglass and epoxy seem like magical things.
Endless possibilities in modifications in every system, plumbing, electrical, rigging, comfort, entertainment, head, stowage… and every piece has an addendum. Every system is made up of subsystems of parts, screws and fittings, which are made up of different qualities in materials, and good luck finding what you need. It’s an absolute mission some days getting what you need. I had to drive to the states just to get a special epoxy last week.
Tomorrow however I have been promised my main sail with extra reefs and re-stitched. My full enclosure should be complete soon also.
Then I’m free to escape the daily hardware store runs and hotdogs at Costco.
I’ve finished the water tanks, and today replaced most of the water lines in the boat. That, was a brutal yet satisfying task.
The main port window was leaking a bit, so I found a gutter system that RVs use… Looks like it’ll work, and I’ve heard good things!
I’ve wired in a 12v horn and bus bar into the mix. No more air horn for me! Princess Auto $20 special and it sounds great, but I need to fabricate an enclosure for it… Tried fiberglass but it didn’t look too good, so tomorrow I’ll try a melting a Lexan sheet into shape and hope for the best.
The decks been cleaned and looks nice. I’m looking at painting the interior a bit, lightening things up from the dark teak wood, but I’m no good with these choices… This is when I need a wife to help out, as I’m fashion blind in all things decorative.
Storm sail. Same with the wife, I don’t have one.
Tomorrow I go up the mast to tinker on a few things, but also to look at installing a block at the top to run a line for a dedicated storm jib. It will be designed to be raised over the fureled jib, with large sail cloth “Hanks” that slide easily over and give the proper shape. In theory…
Lots more on the go. Hopefully soon it will be the boat, going south for the main quest in this game.
I’ve thrown in some fun ones this week to balance out the workload.
Reliable drinking water from my tanks has always been something I wanted for this trip, but a 40 year old tank is kind of gross.
Bleaching, flushing and filtering however wasn’t enough and I still got sick from drinking it. So this past week I cut into the side and main water tanks to find slimy yellow grim coating the walls, and an already compromised lid. It had been leaking, but I didn’t realize it was also saturated and smelled rotten.
I decided the only proper solution would be to completely remove the old wood and sealant. An Epoxy coat of the tanks and new plywood lids, made up with potable water epoxy, and then to re-seal it all with a 6” cleaning port installed in each.
Potable water epoxy is rare to find for tanks under 600 gallons, expensive, and is only shipped within the states, so this has turned out to be quite the task- but it’s almost complete none the less.
While I wait for the extra reefs in my main sail, as well as the new full enclosure to be made by the local Sail Maker, I’ve gone onto a few fun little projects to add to my comfort aboard, and keep me busy.
Not being able to have my windows open on a hot, humid, rainy night sounded like torture to me. Opening them up after a storm, the water collects in them just waiting to come splashing in and ruin my new foam an upholstery I worked so hard on replacing.
The best idea was draining windows, but they still couldn’t be open during a rain, I needed to cover them somehow, which led me to discover rain shields.
$50 US each to buy (x6 = silly expensive in Canadian $)
I wanted to see If I could make them instead, and it turned out to be a fun day project. I bought some plexiglass sheets, $7 each, cut with a small jigsaw and molded them each by hand into to shape with a heat gun. Fit to the ports and drilled tiny holes, held tight with stainless wire for easy removal. A light rain and nothing came in my boat! However when I took the hose to them simulating a hard rain, they failed. The fix was to remove the shields and apply a bead of silicone to the lip of the frame, and now it is completely water tight and still removable.
The Flopper Stopper. A kinky dress or a device fishing trawlers boom off to the side to stabilize their boat in heavy wake or waves while at anchor. This is the first design I’ve tried, a bit small, but it does work, reducing the wobble of the boat by 30% compared to my neighbours. The next design is in the making, but a boat should have two- one on either side for them to truly be effective.
Milk Crate $5, scraps of plywood $5, scraps of steel for fast reponsive sinking, and zip ties. Can be used as a storage device while underway, which gets bonus points from me! Thanks for the design Dino!
This next one is just a weighted triangle, larger surface area, simple design, flat for storage. Easy, but untested yet.
I’ll be sawing into my forward hatch next week to install the new solar vent, epoxying the new tanks, and finishing off the exterior wood. By then the new halyard, enclosure and sail will be ready, and in theory, so will I.
The plan is to live out on Grand Lake for a month, continue racing with the new crew, sail my boat, get familiar living on anchor and learn navigating. As of yet, I couldn’t navigate my way out of a paper bag without my GPS…
I poisoned myself for the second time this month. Poured the water, knew of its dubious origins, (a 40 year old fiberglass boat tank) and drank away. It wasn’t like I was in dire straits, awash for days without freshwater… the gas station was just a quick dinghy ride away from my mooring ball.
It was however, the quickest way of seeing if the new water filtration unit I installed was working correctly. No… It wasn’t, even after copious amounts of bleach and flushing. I’m working up to test number 3.
Also, I have this habit of breaking things.
Mechanical stuff and I just don’t get along. Never have.
So the dream I had of living aboard a boat was out of reach, in my mind, for most of my life. I had been inspired more than 15 years ago, thanks to Tania Abbie, even Jean Du Sud.
I’d stick to reading the many stories of those young, clever, and many not so clever but still successful, men and woman who temporarily cast away societies idea of normal, and followed their heart.
Eventually a turning point in my life brought forth a confidence to challenge my previous lack of self belief.
Already a long distance hiker, I’d stumble around foreign countries by the dozen over several years playing tourist… hang on, selfie with my Pad Thai… ok, I’m back.
Eventually I found what I needed… oddly enough it involved milking cows, new friends, yoga, and challenging myself on a daily basis in a Buddhist setting.
Something like that.
Then I took the first steps, back in Canada to start this plan.
I lived out of my dodge Caravan in Toronto taking sailing lessons, and becoming familiar once again with handling a 24’ sailboat. Theory, practice, repeat.
I already owned a boat, but was previously too intimidated to take it out.
I found a girl crazy enough to live on a 26’ Pearson sailboat, and set off getting comfortable with things. Turns out you don’t really need a lot of space to cohabitate, we survived the summer, barely, as had the family of 4 that did the same thing on the exact model years prior.
In any case, I found I wasn’t getting out enough, living on the one took too much time to prepare it to sail. So I purchased another boat for dirt cheap and parked them side by side. I became known as the guy who went out when the others were coming back in. Calm days at the beach, small craft weather warnings, daytime or night, I set sail becoming more confident… Until, my motor overheated, and I had no clue what to do with the 9.9 hanging off the back.
So I did what most people without a clue would do. I called the mechanic. Then paid $350 for labour and parts ($25 part) to diagnose and change the impellor. Damn.
I was brought back down from my high. If I knew nothing of oil changes, electricity, or even how to change the spark plugs, there was no way someone without general knowledge could live aboard and travel confidently.
At the end of the summer, after 27 day and night sails, I called the only college in my part of Canada that offered a Marine Mechanic course.
Turned out, the year-long course started in 4 days, I packed up and was there in 2, living out of a hotel until I found an apartment.
I was one of two sailors in the classroom, the other being a retired engineer. It was fair to say I was starting from ground zero in the mechanic department, knowledge wise.
I stripped bolts, bent rods, lost bits and spent most of the class looking like a confused puppy. It took me 2 weeks in outdrive class to even grasp the concept as to what the heck they were, even as we disassembled them… Thank god there aren’t bellows on sailboats.
Eventually things clicked. Electricity made sense, engines made sense, carbs became easy and I was comfortable with the basics. Graduated with reasonable marks, even got a cash award for “hey you freaking made it with all your fingers intact!”
I started my apprenticeship at North Americas largest fresh water marina. Turns out Mechanics are in high demand, and it’s a field I’ll always find work in no matter where I go. An unexpected bonus.
I worked on old derelicts, multi million dollar yatchs, seadoos n everything else.
Hauled a ton of batteries, and learned a lot about getting into and out of tiny spaces covered in oil n acid, hot, dark and razor-sharp mazes over and around huge diesels. Fun!
Then, sold my previous 2 boats in preparation for the one that would fulfill this dream of mine.
The dream is simple, with no destination or time limit.
One, I want to experience being completely out of sight from land for at least several days and nights alone. Two, to learn as much about repairing every aspect onboard a boat. Engine, fiberglass, electrical, navigation equipment…
Simple. Oh, and three, go somewhere tropical to make this a worth while investment.
We spent months looking for the perfect boat. Turns out it doesn’t exist, and never will. There are always compromises, as the hardened ocean going vessel isn’t as spacious or comfortable as a coastal cruiser, with many more important factors coming into it as well.
We had fallen for several boats. A Bayfield 32, Irwin 34, Aloha 34, and a Douglas 32. This was after personally inspecting 18 boats, test sailing several, and discreetly interrogating the owners.
The Aloha was gorgeous, and saw 4 of them, except I didn’t want a saildrive, and the prices were steep. The affordable one was neglected to the point of never having an oil change in the 9 years of hard running from the owner, and it smelled of septic. Heartbreaking, I passed on it.
The Bayfield was nice, though was completely stock, it was a definite top 2. The Douglas 32 was a steal of a deal, with excellent woodwork and solid throughout…
The Irwin 34, was the unlikely candidate for what I was looking for, turned out to be the perfect boat. Almost every system I had learned about was installed on this boat, it was within my budget, and it was the perfect couple’s boat, or luxurious single persons boat with shoal draft.
Except, that I had then broken off with my partner after 2 years of being together.
I am extremely patient, one of the qualities she liked about me. However she had violent tendencies of jealously that bordered on insanity… that no one ever knew about, no one ever saw, and she never spoke fully about how bad it was.
When she wasn’t triggered, she was lovely, and I miss that side.
That changed my plans slightly, as in the beginning I had started with the notion of a solo trip, like the many books I had read. Then, I got excited with the possibility of travelling with a partner… and now, I’m back to the solo plan, which has it’s benefits as well.
Back in the water, the repairs and upgrades have commenced. Some cosmetic, like the exterior woodwork. Some routine like setting the valve lash, and some for comfort, like redoing the massive amount of upholstery (it’s always moldy), replacing the foam and putting it back together.
Over pressurizing the old septic system had been one of the bigger foibles on board last year. Now completely removed, cleaned, primed, painted and an entirely new system installed, no more smell thank god. An expensive mis-step on my part.
A few days ago I was working, looked up and thought the spare solar panel needed to be tied down… On my way over I then accidently kicked it off of the boat into the swiftly moving murky waters… $300… I dived down but couldn’t see past a foot in front of me, fighting the current the entire time.
I wonder if Mr Bean ever went sailing…
It’d probably be similar to when I got stuck upside down in a tiny hole while rebedding my thruhull transducer, and had to tear myself out in almost panic mode.
So far though, no major disasters. Of course, the official journey starts in a few weeks. Beginning with learning the new boat, I’m awaiting my main sail with extra reef points sewn in, and full enclosure. Sailing this new boat on the nearest lake in every weather condition, sunny, foggy or stormy. Anchoring out every night, and looking forward to testing my new hooks in a blow. Probably won’t sleep those nights, but that’s ok…
Hurricane season ends in 4 months, and this year is supposed to be the worst in over a decade for named storms. Lovely.
Everyday I’m tightening, tinkering, rebedding in an attempt to learn and improve whatever I can.
To challenge myself, and to make sound the floating 34 foot world I live in and depend on are my goals.
Or die trying, with the third attempt at purifying my water system coming soon