Category archives: Gear

Sea Anchor Choice.

Storms happen and really, who wants to be tossed around like a salad? It takes only one big wave on the beam to ruin your (last) day. The boat must be slowed down or stopped. This is usually done with a drogue or a sea anchor. I looked into Jordan drogues, which are made of a series of fabric cones attached to a line. They have a good reputation but a one-hundred-cone drogue for Dagny would cost about a thousand dollars. A drogue is deployed from the stern and slows the boat down. You are still moving with the storm. If it is in your intended direction all is fine, except that you might spend a bit more time inside the storm. If a rocky shore lies ahead, well.. You need very strong attachment points and the rudder is still exposed to the waves.

A sea anchor is basically a parachute deployed from the bow. It practically stops the boat, bow to the waves. A better way to deploy it is explained in “Storm Tactics” by Lin and Larry Pardey. A briddle is set-up so that the sea anchor is at a slight angle from the boat, heaving-to as it normally would using sails and rudder only, but without drifting too much.

Fiorentino Sea Anchor

Fiorentino Sea Anchor

I decided to go with a sea anchor, ordered one this morning, a Fiorentino offshore model, which set me back $400. Oh well.. I hope I never have to use it. I would use my anchor rode with it, 250′ of 5/8″ and 300′ of 1/2″ if needed. I need a block for the briddle and some kind of chafe prevention gizmo, maybe a rubber hose of some sort.

I am working on my rudder right now, waiting to build the new companionway hatch. It has been more than a month since I last saw Dagny and I worry a lot. My worst nightmare would be receiving a call telling me only the mast is sticking out of the water! Knock on wood.. The bilge pump is powered by the battery, which is charged by solar panels, so all should be well. Still, I need to get there asap.

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Rudder, Hatch and Dinghy Outboard Motor.

Luck favors those who help themselves. Browsing Craigslist I stumbled upon a Mercury (Tohatsu) 2.5hp two-stroke outboard motor in great shape. It necessitates mixing 2% of oil in the fuel; small inconvenience for half the price of a new four-stroke model. I know those small outboards can be tempermental but it beats rowing against current on a windy day, every time. Two-strokes are noisier than the four-bangers and less reliable. they make up for it with good power and light weight. I was really surprised at how light it is. I can easily lift it above my head with one arm. It will be great on the Achilles LEX-77. As I have mentioned in my previous post, a dinghy motor is a matter of safety. Sometimes rowing out of trouble just isn’t an option.

Mercury 2.5HP

Mercury 2.5HP

Next urgent problem is my companionway hatch falling apart. I ordered a 14″ lexan bubble from EZ Tops Worldwide, which should be here on Wednesday. Lexan is much stronger than the clearer acrylic, though it scratches easily. I’d rather go for strength. Thickness is 1/4″, 7″ tall. It will be incorporated into the new hatch. I got the idea from Taylor’s Mingming pocket cruiser. It should keep me dry by avoiding going outside to look around in bad weather. My friend Erin created a CAD file for my other friend Marc at Elite Woodworks to cut with his CNC machine. The hatch is three layers of 12mm marine plywood epoxied together.
Bubble Hatch

Bubble Hatch

My rudder is still less than half-way done, shame on me. I yet have to varnish the first side. The anti-fouling and white paint are done. Then it’s on to the other side.
Morris Frances 26 Rudder

Morris Frances 26 Rudder

Giving myself a week to complete the hatch, mainly because of varnishing, that brings me to mid October for a new work session on the boat. I should then install the new hatch and finish painting; four days of work probably. The next trip should be at the end of the first week of November, with a Uhaul van to bring everything to the boat. Then the wait for a weather window will start.

It is with mixed feelings that I approach departure. You make a lot of friends by living anywhere for twenty one years.. Leaving everyone behind will be hard. There is also the uncertainty, physical and financial. Being a programmer I can work anywhere there is wifi. I won’t be online every single day however, and that might be a problem, or not.. I am mostly concerned about my health, which has declined for the last few months. I hope a new environment free of stress will help. There is also the learning curve I will face, having only sailed locally. This is the way I approach new challenges, very cautiously and with a lot of preparation, if not experience. I hope to stick to my schedule, but nothing is certain, money being the biggest obstacle. Time to start packing up.. Change is coming..

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Dinghy Outboard Motor and Safety.

My first thought was just to row… My Achilles LEX-77 rows well, though I have only used it on flat water. Browsing various cruising forums (Cruisers Forum and Sailnet, user gilgsn) it appears that not having an engine can be pretty unsafe. Winds and current can blow you out to sea or on rocks. So I decided that if possible I should look for a dinghy outboard motor of 2 to 4hp. If I could afford a new one, which I doubt, there are four models perfect for the task:

All these outboards except the Suzuki cost between 800 and 1000 USD.

The lighter model is the Honda at less than 30lbs. Its reputation is to be reliable but noisy due to air cooling.

The Yamaha, well, it’s a Yamaha and would be my first choice. It seems to be hard to find.

The Tohatsu is the same as the Mercury, and some other brands. With 3.5hp it might prove useful when wind and currents are strong or the boat is heavily loaded.

The Suzuki is said to be pretty powerful for its stated rating but not as reliable as the other three. It is also cheaper.

My main requirement is to be able to lift the engine with one arm, which I can do up to 50lbs, but 40 or less would be much easier. Two-strokes have a better power to weight ratio but require mixing oil in the fuel. They are also no longer available new in the United States, thanks to the EPA. When you think of how much oil BP has leaked in the Gulf of Mexico or how much and what large ships illegally dump in the ocean, it makes little sense. Four-strokes are quieter, more efficient, but their carburators gum up easily due to their small size. I was told it is better to turn them off by shutting off the fuel.

Any suggestion or offers would be welcome…

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Inching Forward.

Hello, I got a few deliveries this week! At last some progress, inching forward I am.

The 35lbs Mantus anchor arrived this afternoon! Nice piece of gear. Assembly was easy, a bit messy with the big wallop of grease provided. If you get one, make sure you have 3/4″ wrenches..

Also delivered was the Fusion 1000W pure sinewave inverter. That is a big device, twice as large as I pictured it. I thought about getting a 600W or so inverter but my drill is 960W and I want to be able to iron clothes once in a while. Pure sinewave is necessary for electronics, otherwise you can damage power supplies, then you lose more money than you think you saved by buying a cheap unit. The Fusion was only about $160. I hope it will fare well in the salty environment. Maybe I should buy a backup unit.

I also received two small fire extinguishers. I’ll install one in the bow and the second one in the stern. You never know which one you’ll be able to grab… Since my stove will be between the two, it is a wise precaution.

I am waiting for an inReach SE satellite communicator. That is a great safety device and my friends as well as you will be able to follow me on my trip. I’ll have texting capabilities but few people will get that number.

The last big item I need is the sea anchor, another $400, ouch.

Then a few must-haves:

  1. Harness and tether.
  2. Flares.
  3. Charts.
  4. 20m antenna, tuner.

Most of the other stuff I already have..

I should make my way to Dagny in about ten days and stay four or five days, enough time to do most of the remaining work. It will probably take one more trip before I move everything abord. I missed my weather window with the hurricane season starting now, but whether I am in Florida or the Bahamas doesn’t make much difference in that regard.

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Survival Suit.

I was hesitant at first to mention my project to my friends, thinking of the old adage: “If you fail remove all evidence that you tried…” Too late for that! Sometimes good things do happen when people know what you are attempting to do. My friend Ed, coffee shop buddy emeritus and Knowledgeable in all things maritime gave me a survival suit tonight! He used to be in the merchant marine and still has contacts… Since until I can afford a bona-fide liferaft my dinghy will have to do, an exposure suit would be extremely useful to abandon ship. Let’s hope it never gets to that…

Survival Suit

Exposure Suit

Things are slowing down a bit here, and it is very frustrating not to be able to go work on the boat. I still need to finish the inside cabin painting, a small area of the deck and cockpit, and a number of small repairs before even thinking of leaving. I hope to make another trip at the end of the month. Stay tuned for updates!

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