Category archives: Thoughts

Aftermath.

This post isn’t about sailing. I thought that some readers might be interested in what my plans might be and I have received some questions, hence this short article.

Dagny has been missing since December 22nd. There have been no new sightings after the original USCG report on the 23rd. Either someone found the boat and kept it, it sunk in a storm, or she is still somewhere in the Atlantic drifting towards Europe. My hopes have dwindled.

I found France to be worse off than when I left twenty two years ago, with more regulations and taxes. Then there are the migrant issues… Although going back was the right decision regarding my parents, as well as momentary financial relief (no rent), I do not intend on staying past September, if all goes well, but you never know. There is no work to be found here and I am very fortunate to still have a regular client in the United States. I could use one more, so if anyone needs web development or Unix server management work, I am your guy! I have started to refund Paypal loans, unless stated otherwise (thanks!), but it will take a while, please be patient.

I will be forty nine in two days! Time flies, and unfortunately my dream of cruising has been indeterminately postponed. It took me years to finally leave the dock, and I fear it might take me as long to do it again. That thought is very stressful. Not being able to get another boat would be a disaster. I will do everything I can to get back on the water. I estimate my losses at about $25K. I don’t even want to think about it and the sacrifices it will take to save that up again, not to mention the efforts in preparing a boat. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Sorry, this is not a happy post. I am not overly depressed despite it all, but still worried that it might hit me some time in the near future, or eat me up inside until I am well into a new project. It might be a while until I post again and I’ll only do so if anything new happens. Thanks again to all my friends who made this short trip possible and the great people from the Cruisers Forum. I don’t regret trying. I did cross the Gulf Stream on my own boat, fought sea sickness and adversity and sailed two days without an engine to finally reach my destination. In that sense, I succeeded. If only it had lasted a while longer… I will go further next time.

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One Week Before Moving.

Things have been a bit hectic around here trying to get ready to move. I know I won’t be 100% ready but close enough. My sail-away party Friday night was a success. It was very nice to see old friends I hadn’t seen in years, and newer ones, to say goodbye. Thanks again to all who attended! As a bonus I got enough canned food to last me a few weeks! Not to mention a few other useful items.

Packing has been a horrendous task, or rather, deciding what to let go. I sold everything I could a while ago. It’s unbelievable the amount of items we pile-up as time goes by. If you ever plan on doing the same, start getting rid of stuff early. The last few bags and plastic boxes will have to find a spot on Dagny, but she is already fully loaded. Oh well, I didn’t think the first batch would fit either, so maybe there is hope.

I am still hoping to buy a foul weather jacket, SSB Ham radio and new shoes before leaving, but finances are very tight. I also need a spare bilge pump and a couple fenders. There is the $150 Bahamas entry fee to consider, as well as a full tank of diesel. I sure hope I can get my engine to start without hiring a mechanic. Maybe this blog should be named “Cruising On The Cheap.”

All the heavy projects on Dagny are finished. There are a few tasks left, better done before leaving:

  • Fix the engine; priority #1!
  • Install the companionway and forward hatch locks.
  • Install a 20m band antenna (MFJ-1620T).
  • Install red and green navigation lights on deck.
  • Touch up paint inside the cabin.
  • Troubleshoot my marine SSB antenna tuner.
  • Find out how the wind vane works and set it up.
  • Finish the self-tacking jib setup.

These tasks shouldn’t take more than three days but I now know better than to make time estimates when boats are involved.

My Delorme inReach was activated a couple days ago and works fine. Well, it did after I updated the firmware, which was pretty easy. The only issue I have with it is that the device doesn’t have its own phone number for texting, so you must leave the thread open to keep a conversation going. Your contacts must initiate a conversation by sending a message from the map or reply to an existing thread. Not ideal, but it works. The Earthmate Android and iPhone apps work fine on my iPhone and Acer tablet.

Reading about issues with Navionics charts in the Bahamas, I decided to switch to Jeppesen Plan2Nav CMap. The charts are cheaper and supposedly more accurate. I like the Android app, which integrates Active Captain. For weather, I installed Weather4D, but there seems to be a bit of a learning curve. Sailgrib is great for wind predictions. For an anchor alarm I got SailsafePro, but Plan2Nav I think has that feature.

Assuming everyting works, I will keep an eye on the weather for the perfect window. The winds have to be from the South or South-West. Any nothern component creates steep waves in the Gulfstream, to be avoided like the plague, or so I heard. The passage isn’t even an overnight crossing, so it will be a nice shakedown cruise. I might go for a Little Grand Cay check-in, otherwise I would have to first sail South to Lake Worth to make a West-End landing, which I don’t really want to bother doing. I know the Stream will be pushing me North and I will have to account for the drift. But hey, I’ve done that plenty of times flying airplanes, and things happen much faster at 120Kts. The last time I went to the Bahamas from Florida was flying a Grumman Tiger from Sarasota To Green Turtle Cay. It took but three hours, only ten or fifteen minutes out of sight of land. This time it will be a while longer…

Stay tuned for an update after I settle down on board, with a video and maybe even my first podcast.

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Update And Navigation.

In case anyone is wondering how things are going here is an update. Tomorrow my friend Patrick and I are getting a Uhaul van to get my stuff from storage. Some of it will come along on the boat and the rest will have to be disposed of or sold. That afternoon I will take everything I intend to bring along and load up the van. Tuesday morning we will head to Dagny, unload everything on the dock and load her up. I expect it will take quite some time. The locks need to be installed so that I can sleep soundly here at home with all my possessions aboard.

There should be time to look at the engine and see if anything is preventing a valve from closing. I am no mechanic, but I need to learn more about diesels and there is no better way than working on one for that. If I fail it will be time to call in a specialist.

My rudder is finished, still drying, but otherwise ready to go.

Thinking about navigation… I have a few GPS units. One is built-in my Standard Horizon (Yaesu) GX2200 VHF radio. It doesn’t display a chart of course but you do get your latitude/longitude on the screen. I bought a USB GPS for my laptop, which is running OpenCPN. My Delorme inReach satellite gizmo also has a GPS, no map display. Then there is my iPhone with the Navionics app. Using a laptop in my exposed cockpit doesn’t seem like the greatest idea. I thought about the iPhone, but my vision up close isn’t what it used to be, and the screen is rather tiny. The logical solution was an iPad. Unfortunately I really can’t afford one. Looking at Android tablet choices, after discarding many no-name cheap Chinese models (loaded with spyware), I came across the Acer Iconia A-830 for a mere $100 on Ebay. Navionics requires Android 4.0, the Iconia comes loaded with 4.1 so I should be good.

Acer Iconia A1-830 with Navionics

Acer Iconia A1-830 with Navionics

The great thing is that it has a built-in GPS. I also ordered a couple waterproof tablet bags from Hong-Kong for that model. Now I will be able to see where I am going! Not to mention that I also can use the tablet as, well, a tablet! I might even get a refurbished one (seen at $70) as a backup. Getting a sextant and learning celestial navigation is still on my list, but it can wait a bit. I also have a Plastimo Compass in a nice wooden box, which I can bring to the cockpit or inside and keep an eye on my heading.
GX2200 Radio Installed

GX2200 Radio Installed

I am still collecting the numerous items still needed for such an adventure; the biggest one will be an SSB Ham radio. It seems like my Icom AT-120 tuner isn’t working anymore, so that will have to be addressed. At some point I will have to leave, ready or not. I do not expect to have everything I need or finish all the maintenance projects on my list. Dreams have been lost by delaying departure too long hoping everything to be perfect; is never is.

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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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