Owning a sailboat, is like living the ultimate RPG

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. 

Finally, my water tanks are finished!
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.

My first fiberglass project… Functional but ugly, I’ll try Lexan next
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. 

There’s a wizard in every great game…

My response time from when the knife slips to putting on bandaids is instant. Too much practice

Everything will give you cancer. This stuff just might take a bit longer than the other sealants


This week’s projects

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. 

An absolute pain to remove this sealant, i tried everything…

The bum slam…
The “its really hot, and i’m loosing patience” tactic…
Eventually tried reasoning with it, which worked much better
Ah, that was easy!

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.

My work crew

I used all the math Sue taught us in Marine Tech…
Perfect fit! When does that ever happen?

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!

Making good use of the Spinnaker pole, less wobbly as those speed boats fly by
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… 

Which reminds me, i have beer in the fridge!

Planning for the year long cruise… What I’ve done so far

I’m quite proud of the work I’ve done thus far. This is a running list of repairs, patches and upgrades for 2017


Preparing for my minimum 1 year solo cruise takes a bit of prep work and forward planning…

So far I have:

Removed and cleaned the upholstery for 15 cushions. Measured and replaced the old moldy foam and replaced new from homemade templates. Restapled n fit back in place.

Removed Septic system, cleaned, primed and painted the surfaces, and replaced with Trident Premium hose and all new parts/head

Prepping for removal

Polished fuel, new filters x2… Spilt some diesel, n made a day of cleaning that up

Cleaned every terminal connector and post, on batteries or otherwise within the boat with Emory cloth

New Impeller, new backup battery

New anchors 2 sizes larger than recommended. Fortress FX 37 and Mantus 35

Installed inline strainer filter, suction side of freshwater pump

Greased furlex bearings, lubed boom track, mast and furler tracks with silicone lube

Installed inline filters pressure side of freshwater pump for drinking water

Replaced 2 pieces of engine cooling water pickup line with new hose

Old kinked hose

Replaced depth transducer, new backing plate baltic birch soaked in resin, and installed new depth display unit

Full bottom kote antifouling

Ridiculously hot day… Obviously

Installed 2 shiny new deck mount plugs, for mast wires

Rebed Pushpit, Pullpit and Radar mast, replaced screws with bolts, washers, locknuts 316 ss, 4200

Rebed and sealed stanchions with resin, 4200

Rebed and sealed chainplates with resin, added a layer of fiberglass to chainplate wall for support as an experiment, butyl

Rebed leaking Anchor rode guides, repaired damage, made 1/4″ thick backing plates to replace rusted washers, 4200

Reset damaged leaking toe rail, rebed, added 2 new screws to hold in place, 4200

*Re-stitched sails and dodger bimini, new solar mounts on dodger for new panel :by sailmaker

*Additional reef points added :by sailmaker

*Full enclosure made :by sailmaker on the cheap

Replaced surgical tubing for spear “gun”

Made box out of Maple for new solar charge controller and mounted. 2 new 100w flex panels

New propane hose to tank (last year)

Recrimped internal wires for mast head light… I’m picky to no end

Added aluminum support for Radar mast, drilled and thru bolted base

Hey… A rainbow

Set valve clearances on yanmar, new valve cover gasket

Replaced topping lift roller with new one, new topping lift line onboard as backup

Sanded outside teak wood and companionway

Sealed the gap in the leaky deck drains with resin

Replaced old city water regulator with new one

Set tension with loos gauge for standing rigging

To Do…

Rebed leaking non opening window above chart table, might as well do both before the other leaks.

New Main halyard, spliced, on order

Make step-up platform behind wheel as I’m too short to see comfortablely while piloting

Install solar vent in forward hatch, on order

**Possibly replace forward hatch glass if destroyed by holesaw for solar vent

Cetol sanded outside teak, task for a non-rainy week

Secure every inside locker and panel with clasps for heavy weather, secure engine compartment hatch with similar

Install more LED lights inside, arrived and a task for a rainy day

Install Inline strainer, suction side of Engine raw water intake, arrived and a task for a rainy day

Zincs… no clue

Order additional Fuel n oil filters, impellors

Remove and clean yanmar heat exchanger, new gaskets onboard already… *Maybe

Additional 12v socket near fireplace settee

Project for next year, redo interior wood with bright east coast colors to brighten up the place


Somewhat Accident Prone

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.

Is that… Ebola?

 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.

It was actually this girl right here

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.

Out with the old…
My tiny hotel, also my workshop and storage

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.

Sorry Rik… I changed the head as well

 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.

I was entirely stuck, and still have a scar or two from my grand escape

 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