The house goes on the market one week from today (hooray!) and then we can turn our full attention back to the boat. In the meantime, last Saturday we did get the chance to have some fun when we drove down to Sound Rigging Services (SRS) in Essex to check out the mast repair and our new standing rigging.
You may recall from the previous post on our dented mast that Chuck Poindexter from SRS had also found a crack in our existing standing rigging, so fixing the mast and getting new standing rigging became priority number one for this off-season. We had decided to go with Hi-Mod swageless terminals so that we could easily replace it ourselves in the future, and Chuck had offered to have us down to his shop so we could practice assembling a Hi-Mod terminal.
Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes. I hadn’t heard of this book when I first saw it at Defender, but flipping through its pages I knew I wanted it. It has nearly 1,000 sailing routes all around the world – information on winds, currents, tropical storm season, best time to go, etc. With a price tag of $55.99 and several years to go before we leave, however, I decided to resist. Researching the book a bit later, I discovered that this book is one of THE books that most cruisers have on their boats. The information in it is indispensable, and we were definitely going to buy it at the beginning of our final winter before cutting the lines.
Flash forward a few months later, and a co-worker was asking me what would be our first foreign country in Pegu Club. It’s something Jeff and I enjoy batting around, so I told him right now we were thinking maybe Maine for the summer, then down the ICW to the Bahamas and into the Windwards via Bruce Van Sant’s “Thornless Path.” It’s a common route for snowbirds. “Really? You wouldn’t want to go someplace else?” It lit a spark. I started thinking. It reminded me that we don’t have to do the “standard” route. In fact, that’s not really our style. Where else would we want to go? And that made me think of the Cornell book again.
Ever since deciding that we want to cruise full-time we’ve been in major savings mode. Sometimes we ruefully say that if we had been this serious years ago we’d already be out there, but there’s no sense in looking back with regrets. Instead, we are thankful that we smartened up when we did, and we keep pushing forward.
Readers may notice that we have not been working on boat projects every weekend during this offseason. That’s because our focus has been on the house so we can put it on the market in February. Yep, we’re selling the house.
Ever since making this decision, it’s been easy to tell who didn’t really believe that we plan to sell everything and sail away. It’s the people who look shocked when we mention we’re selling the house in the spring and moving into an apartment for three years. Invariably, their response is “Wow, you’re really going to do this?!” Yes, we are.
After crunching some numbers it became crystal clear that living in our house vs. renting an apartment is costing us a fortune in potential savings. Connecticut has very high property taxes and we live in a town that is among the highest in the state: we paid $7,300 in property taxes this year for our 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath cape cod-style house. Between taxes, the mortgage itself, and property insurance, it adds up big-time.
Installing new rigging meant that it was finally time to pull the trigger on something we had been thinking about for a while – removing the furler and switching to a hank-on jib.
Currently our headsail is on a furler which is what you see on the vast majority of sailboats nowadays. A furler allows you to simply pull on a line when you’re finished using the jib, rolling it around a foil. Basically the jib is always hoisted, but it rolls up when you’re not using it. When you need to reduce the sail because of high winds, you roll it up part way which reduces the sail but also reduces how closely you can point into the wind. Since we have a sloop (which means there is only one headstay), having a furler meant that to change to a different headsail (a storm sail for example) would involve unfurling the sail entirely (while it flogs in the wind), dropping the sail, putting the new one on by inserting it into the slot (which means raising it higher as you go, while it’s unfurled and flogging in the wind), then furling it after it’s fully raised. We had changed our headsail once when we had Little Bristol, and we had also installed and removed the sails each year at the beginning and end of each season (and once last season in anticipation of the hurricane that didn’t arrive). It’s a royal pain.
Before furlers were invented, headsails were hanked on. Hanked on jibs have small pistons along the luff of the sail which are clipped around the forestay before raising the sail. The sail can stay on the deck while it’s hanked on, so it’s not flogging like a furling sail. Hanked on jibs can have a reef point put in so that you can roll up the bottom of the sail to a certain point rather than changing to a smaller sail. This doesn’t impact your pointing ability. Changing the sail involves dropping it, unhanking it and removing the jib sheets, hanking on a new one and installing the jib sheets, and raising the new sail.
We decided awhile ago that when we replaced the standing rigging we’d also remove the furler and switch to hank on headsails. This definitely goes against popular convention, but we have several reasons for doing this: we don’t like how poorly the boat points when the jib is partially furled; we don’t want to spend the money on adding a solent stay, so if we kept the furler but needed to switch to a storm jib, we’d have to completely unfurl the sail before dropping it – a task that’s not appealing in high winds; and we like how hank on jibs are bullet proof – no furler to break down or maintain. So, consistent with our desire to keep things simple, we’re going hank on.
Last spring we were working on the mast when we noticed there was a dent in it. It was clear that something compressed the upper tang, causing a dent. The upper tang looked normal, so it must have been pulled out again. We hadn’t noticed it when the mast was previously unstepped, but maybe we simply didn’t see it. Regardless, it doesn’t matter when or how, it was there.
We decided to ignore it for the season and deal with it later. We weren’t planning on intentionally sailing in rough conditions nor out on the high seas, so we figured we’d take our chances. But when we unstepped the mast last month, we knew it was time to address the situation.
Since buying Little Bristol four years ago, we’ve heard boaters refer to a mysterious “stuffing box.” Tom, who we bought Little Bristol from, told us when we were first looking at her that he had recently done the stuffing box, making a face that indicated it was a real pain so we should be glad that he had taken care of it. We nodded sympathetically like we knew what he was talking about, all the while thinking “Stuffing box??” to ourselves.
When we bought Pegu Club we didn’t know when the stuffing box had last been taken care of, and frankly, we still didn’t know what it was. We just knew that water dripped from it when the propeller shaft turned. Apparently you want it to drip, but not too much. This season there was plenty of evidence that it was dripping, so we tucked it away in the back of our minds as a possible off-season project. Then Jeff noticed that the hose that clamps around the stern tube and keeps the ocean out of our boat had definitely seen better days, judging by the number of cracks in it. Now replacing the hose was definitely on the to-do list for this off-season. Since we needed to remove the stuffing box in order to access the hose, we figured we might as well take care of both of the stuffing boxes while we were at it.
Our various books told us that there is a stuffing box for the propeller shaft and another one for the rudder stock. The stuffing box is a threaded sleeve and a hollow nut through which the propeller shaft (and rudder stock) passes through. The sleeve (or sometimes the nut) is filled with a material that forms a watertight seal but still allows the propeller shaft to turn. Water is required to lubricate the material, so the stuffing box needs to drip when the shaft it turning (unless you have a dripless system). Great. Now that we knew what it was (and what it looked like), it was time to have at it.
We’ve been keeping busy doing random boat work since hauling Pegu Club out for the off-season. The shut-off date for water in the yard was November 4th, so we made sure to give Pegu Club a much needed bath before it was too late. With her deck and hull washed and her stainless polished, she was put to bed for the winter nice and clean.
Pegu-teeny was also hauled out of the water, and her carpet of marine growth scrubbed away. That’s a gross job – one we had to do several times this season. Now that we know where her waterline is, next season we’ll put a coat of hard bottom paint on her before she goes into the water. We use ablative bottom paint on Pegu Club, but we don’t want to use it on Pegu-teeny because it will get all over the foredeck when we haul her up there for longer trips.
Pegu Club was also winterized, which is a very easy job when you don’t have a standard marine head or pressurized water system. All we had to do was empty her water tanks, change the oil, and run anti-freeze through Thumper. The anti-freeze process was zero stress, unlike last year which had been the first time we winterized an engine. We had read last year that all we needed to do fill a bucket with anti-freeze, putting the raw water intake hose in the bucket, and run the engine until anti-freeze came out the exhaust. We were skeptical that it would actually work, and we nervously started the engine promising that we would shut it off if anti-freeze didn’t start coming out the exhaust within 15 seconds. Needless to say, it worked, so this year we flushed the engine for ten minutes with fresh water and then put the anti-freeze in. No problem.
We’ve had a boat for four years, always on a mooring. Moorings are cheaper, cooler in the summer (because the bow is always pointed into the wind), you can grill on your boat on a mooring, and they offer more privacy. Sure, they can be inconvenient when you’re working on the boat, realize you need something on land, and have to jump into the dinghy to get there vs. simply stepping off the boat onto the dock. But if you had asked me before this past June if we would ever have a slip, I would have said no way. We even received a call from the dock committee last year asking if we wanted a slip for the season, and we turned it down without hesitation.
Then June came along and we started hitting the bottom while on our mooring during the perigee moon cycle. Perigee is when the moon is closest to the earth, and it results in lower (and higher) than usual tides. It would be one thing if Pegu Club simply settled into the bottom and floated back up again, but the motion of the water resulted in about an hour of bump-bump-bumping along, then a period where she was simply in the mud, and then another hour of bump-bump-bump as the tide started to rise again. This was simply not acceptable. Besides the fact that it interfered with our sleep, we didn’t want to risk any damage to the hull or rudder, so we asked for another mooring assignment.
Sometimes I really don’t know why we bother checking the forecast. It was Sunday, October 16th – haul out day. The predicted 5-10 knot overnight winds had, in reality, been 15-20 knots and when we woke up in the morning they had increased to a steady 20+. We literally had whitecaps in the mooring field.
Earlier in the week I had been thinking about launch day. All I had wanted was for decent weather with light winds, and for Pegu Club to be facing bow out when she was splashed. We went zero for three that day. I knew that this time I would be motoring her into the liftout well, so I didn’t need to worry about backing her out, but I was still hoping for decent weather and light winds. Well, it was going to be sixty degrees and sunny, but we had white caps in the mooring field. The winds were worse than launch day and we were going to have to dock. I was not happy.
I like to think that our season lasts until mid-October, but I’m slowly having to admit that it’s not necessarily the case. Last year we hauled out Pegu Club in August so we could get to work on her, but I remember in 2014 we were able to get very few sails in after Labor Day. Typically as temperatures get cooler a series of northerlies start to drop down. Throw in an occasional hurricane threat and nor’easter, and it seems like more often than not we end up not heading down to the boat at all.
This year between work obligations, a lingering head cold for poor Jeff, the threat of Hurricane Matthew, and some ill-timed northerlies and general rainy weather, we ended up with a repeat of 2014. We’re going to have to do some thinking about our haul-out date next year. If we haul out early we may miss some good sailing. If we haul out late, we might get lucky and have a few good weekends but we’ll have no choice but to work on Pegu Club when it’s cold. Maybe the solution is to simply to permanently untie the lines next fall! Ha! I wish.
So the last post left off with the weekend of September 24th and our skill building sail. On the weekend of October 1st, it was raining on Saturday, and we both had to work on Sunday, so unfortunately it was a no-go for the boat.
The weekend of the 8th (Columbus Day weekend) had us hoping to spend the long weekend in Essex. Hurricane Matthew gave us some gray hairs until he decided to change his track, but Mother Nature still didn’t cooperate. As of Friday night things looked great, so we packed our bags. Just before leaving the house on Saturday morning I did a last-minute weather check. Good thing I did. Now we were going to get rain beginning in the middle of the afternoon straight through until Sunday night, followed by a small craft advisory for Monday. Sigh. However, we were really missing Pegu Club, so we decided to drive down on Saturday anyway to hang out until the rain started.