Saturday, December 29, 2012

Into the 21st Century...

While we sit here idly in St Martin, mulling over where to spend New Year's Eve.... here is another installment about some of the work/changes we've done to Saralane. 

Transom and Bridgedeck

I’ve represented Outbound Yachts for more than 10 years and have come to appreciate the features of the Outbound 46. That design has some features that just plain make sense and we wanted to incorporate them on “Saralane”.  One feature is a “walk through transom” from the cockpit. Back in the 70’s no one would consider a walk through cockpit, but times have changed. We had side gates in the lifelines to board from the dock, but for swimming, there was a fold down swim ladder on the transom, and one had to climb over the stern rail too – very awkward. Also, the side gates were used for getting in and out of the dinghy and the result was that the gate stanchions took big loads when climbing aboard. In fact the deck structure around those stanchions was cracked and soft. Easy access via the transom was the solution. Another change we wanted to make was to eliminate the bridgedeck and create a three step companionway – to make passage in and out of the cabin easier and improve the “flow” between the cockpit and below deck. Our new/old C&C 40 had both a full transom and a bridgedeck with a 5 step companionway. What to do???  SAWZALL!

Sawzall is our friend
Going for it!

No Turning Back


Garden Ornament?
Cutting was easy, but structurally re-building the transom to take rigging loads presented a challenge. While making one of my numerous trips to the dumpster, I saw that someone had tossed the better part of a roll of stitched E-Glass fiberglass cloth with chopped mat backing (expensive and perfect for the structural repair we were about to make) and many useable scraps of biaxial fiberglass for the job too. The bridgedeck would require structural consideration as well, and both would need a lot of fairing and smoothing to look right.  

Just a five minute job!
After measuring twice (or thrice) I marked out the cut line, put a sharp blade in the Sawzall and cut out the transom without looking back – yikes! 

Originally there was a single centerline backstay which now fell exactly in the void I created with my cutting. I planned to put a bridle on the lower portion of the backstay, so now I had to reinforce two areas on either side of my cutout to bolt SS chainplates and attach the backstay bridle. I designed these areas to be below the level of my lowest cut so the tensioned backstay would not “collapse” the transom where I’d cut it out. Reinforcing pads of ¾” marine ply were epoxied in place on the inside and then glassed over with multiple layers of the structural fiberglass. 

New split backstay arrangement and extended swim ladder
Chainplate detail
While I had access to the inside of the hull aft, I glassed in a new 2” engine exhaust tube through the transom, and port and starboard drain manifolds (above the waterline and thus eliminated two more big through hull fittings) to handle cockpit drains, scupper drains, and bilge pump drains. I also installed a small independent drain for the propane lockers. While easily accessed, I plumbed all of the drains and put in a new engine exhaust hose with an elevated emergency shutoff.  

The voids created by the transom removal were patched with flexible plywood (epoxy coated) (1/8”) on the sides and the floor was ½” plywood. I matched the existing molded radius with PVC tubing. All seams were taped with fiberglass and then all surfaces were built up with numerous layers of fiberglass cloth and epoxy. Finally there were many applications of epoxy putty which were sanded, and the process repeated over and over until the surface was paintable. After painting, I made a 10” cutout port and starboard and installed removable screw-in inspection ports to service the bits of plumbing (and hose clamps) inside.

The finished product - pretty pleased with myself!

Old helm seat/transom

Final transom with original helm seat down (note the improved background colors)
The bridgedeck (the step over when going below) rebuild was a similar proccess, but I used thicker plywood on the sides and bottom, since there were no curves to deal with. Again I used PVC pipe to match the existing radius. There was a ridiculous amount of filling and sanding, but in the end it’s a pretty good job. I hired Jesse, a carpentress friend, to trim out the new enlarged companionway in teak. An added bonus to the new arrangement was hinged access to the engine space and a hinged inspection step – a design idea “borrowed” from a Nordic 44.  New Plexiglas hatch boards were templated and cut. I had to relocate our hydraulic panel as it was installed on the bridge deck cut out – so I moved it and the associated plumbing aft near the wheel.

A Big Step Over
Original Deck molding
Old Companionway from inside - many steps
Framed in new area
Rough Cutout
Sand and fill, sand and fill, repeat...

Easy Access!
New Companionway from inside - 3 steps!
Most satisfying of all is that after nearly three years of constant use - and some serious sailing - there are no stress cracks and nothing has moved!

Start to finish
Another great Outbound idea is a stern rail that wraps around the stern and extends forward past the cockpit – this gives a solid handhold when entering/exiting the cockpit. Our old rail wouldn’t work with the new transom anyway, so I bent a template (starboard side) from inexpensive electrical conduit (Home Depot) and wooden dowels (really) and took it to a stainless welder we know, along with the necessary 1” SS tubing needed for the job. I just happened to have enough ½” SS tubing for the lower rail from another project. I asked him to match the template in SS and also make a mirror image rail for the port side. We were afloat by the time he was done, but everything was close enough that we installed both sides from the dinghy!  

Old Stern Rail without stern gate
New rail extending forward past cockpit - much safer!

New Stern rail with aft gate opening - again much improved background scenery

While we had his attention, I had him extend our hinged swim ladder a step, which he did with leftover tubing.  Last season we added treads to make it a bit easier on the feet.
These two big fiberglass jobs have made the biggest “livability” difference on board “Saralane”. No more “up and over” to get below, and climbing back aboard from a swim or the dinghy is now easy.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Just a quickie post to say we're in St. Martin. Before we left, we spent the week swimming, snorkeling and hiking around Peter and Norman Islands.

Nice paint job on a cruise ship in Road Town
TARANTULA hanging out at the ruins on Peter Island

The forecast was good to actually make the whole trip to St. Martin this time and since we planned to leave before dawn, we sailed back up to North Sound in Virgin Gorda to make our departure simple. 

We had an uneventful trip - in both the sailing and fishing departments. Sadly no mahi flung themselves into the cockpit. In fact no mahi even came near our lures. Next time.

We spent two nights anchored out in Marigot and spent one afternoon swimming in Happy Bay, just north of Marigot, before we moved into Simpson Bay Lagoon which is NOT a swimmy kind of place. 

Offshore sunrise on the way to St. Martin
We'll be here for a bit.....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Part way to St. Martin

With a forecast of 8 to 10 knot winds from the northeast we decided to make the 80 mile trip to St. Martin starting at midnight on Monday so we’d arrive in time to get into the lagoon before the end of the day Tuesday. A north swell is supposedly on the way and having rocked and rolled in the anchorage in Marigot during a north swell before, we thought we’d avoid it this time if possible.

Skip adjusts the tack pennant before leaving

I go up the mast to attach our running back stays
We were awake but groggy and got through the channel out of North Sound before 1 AM. Our friends Dan and Jackie on s/v Chill were making the trip too and we could see their steaming light in the distance. We started out with a double reefed main and a just bit of jib out; the 8 to 10 knot winds may have been out there somewhere but not where we were. We had 25 to 30 knots steady over the deck and the seas were steep and choppy. We were taking water over the deck every few waves and it wasn’t long before I was flattened by seasickness. I was lying on a bench in the cockpit and Skip was steering as Saralane pitched in the waves in the dark.

This isn’t a great situation in rough conditions; having one of two crew out of commission. I worry about Skip getting worn out doing most of the work, he worries about me being sick. That’s why it surprised me to hear him mutter  “Bitch…”  as I lay there trying not to moan out loud. Skip’s a soft spoken, gentle guy and doesn’t tend to address me that way. In a stupor of seasickness I didn’t have the energy to argue; after all, I can be a little trying. A split second later when an ocean's worth of sea water crashed down the deck, filled Saralane’s cockpit and spilled through the companionway, I realized he wasn’t talking to me. Mother Nature can be a bitch too.

When the captain starts cursing the sea it’s time to reassess the situation. We had a brief conversation that went something like this:

Skip: It’s gonna be a long night….

Me: Mmph…


Skip: What do you think?

Me: Gonna be a long night….

Skip: Hmm..


This half hearted conversation went on for another minute or two and I’m not sure who suggested it first, but we decided we just didn’t need to make this passage in these miserable conditions. It’s one thing if you’re days into a passage – you just suck it up and keep going, but we didn’t have to be in St. Martin the next day and it was indeed, going be a long night. We turned around and limped back to Virgin Gorda.

We hailed Chill on the radio and advised them of our change of plans. They were meeting family in St. Martin and decided to carry on with a promise to contact us by radio in a few hours to let us know how they were. They arrived safely in St. Martin the next afternoon after reporting having seen no break in the high winds and 10 foot seas during the passage. We’re disappointed that we’re not there with them, but in retrospect, and at the time too, it was the right decision for us. It took a day or two but the green tinge has left my skin and we’ve both started to feel like ourselves again.

So, here we sit in the BVI. We left North Sound for a change of scenery and are happily bobbing at anchor in Benures Bay on Norman Island. There’s no let up in the forecast high winds for at least the next week so we’ll settle back in and do some of the ongoing boat chores that need doing.  

View from our quiet spot in Benures Bay 

PS - We’ll see you in St. Martin soon Chill.
PPS - Happy first night of Hannukah everyone!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Work, work work

We're still hanging around the BVI - with the excuse that we're working and need good access to wifi and mail (albeit painfully slow mail). While that's true - we also just really like it here. We keep running into friends, then deciding to wait for the next weather opportunity to head for St. Martin. The very next one - really.

One thing we stuck around for was to meet up with friends whose boat hitched a ride down on the big Dockwise Yacht Transport ship from Newport to St Thomas. They'd kindly offered to let us stash a bunch of things on their boat that we'd have trouble shipping down otherwise (paint, heavy clunky boat parts etc...) and since Dockwise was delayed up north - we just wandered around the Virgins until they arrived.

Slowly sinking...
Almost low enough to drive the boats out....
Crowded dinghy dock at Crown Bay in St. Thomas
Skip in the St. Thomas office of Outbound Yachts
A photo for my big sis Leslie
After a few days around St. Thomas, we'd had enough of the 'big city' and wandered our way back through the BVI stopping at a few favorite spots on our way to North Sound for some more of that good wifi and time with friends.

Seen hiking around Peter Island
Beach 'art' we made on the northeast beach of Prickly Pear Island in North Sound
This mama duckling and her little ones were waaaaaaaaaay out in the sound. We passed them in the dinghy on our way into the beach and watched as she lead them safe and sound over the waves and back to the salt pond behind the bushes along the beach. We were pretty worried about the little guy all the way at the end of the line. He got tumbled in the last wave ashore and none of the others seemed to notice.

Full moon rising over Eustatia Sound
We've done a lot of hiking around the north end of VIrgin Gorda but just recently found out about a few new trails here that we thought we'd check out. The trail begins by the flag poles at Biras Creek (for any of you reading this blog sitting on your boat in North Sound!) and they go straight up from there. The trails are steep but the views are worth the sweat. They're the kind of steep that make your parents hang on to the belt loop on the back of your jeans when you step just a little closer to the edge for a better look.  

A rare flat spot
Steep rocky trail with killer views
Skip contemplates the Lovers Leap. 
Top L to R: Skip goes through the goat fence, BIG Frangipani Caterpillar, me going uphill, big hungry Frangipani Caterpillar

There's a nice breeze up here!
We've been seeing these wild looking caterpillars since Carly's visit last year. They're all over the frangipani trees  - I guess that's why they're called Frangipani Caterpillars - and they've completely stripped some of the trees. This one was looking particularly acrobatic....

And this one was looking particularly hungry....

In addition to great views from the top, this hike also took us down to the windward side of the island - we love windward beaches for all the treasures to be found there. There's always lots of plastic. There are always shoes, bottles, tubes, jars (often with printing on them in languages we can't read or speak), crates, buckets and more. There are almost always remnants of boats scattered along the shore and oftentimes there's beach art created by whoever passed by before us.

There were pieces of this sailboat scattered all around.
More boat parts.
One person's trash is another person's beach art.
Some employees from the fancy new yacht club and marina just west of Biras Creek dinghied around the anchorage one morning with some information about the club. We'd seen the marina under construction not long after we came to Virgin Gorda the first time; it's been completed since then and has hosted a few super yacht regattas already. It's still considered low season and they wanted to let people know that the club is open to the public until high season starts. They have a POOL so we made a beeline for the place. (I still dream about the GIANT POOL at Porto Cupecoy.)

Not only do they have a pool, but it's an infinity pool. Happiness. 

Me, happy.

They're also running a special until high season begins mid-month.... two Heinekens for $3 all day long. 

Skip, happy.
You see why were having trouble making our way out of North Sound. We're going back to the pool today. Right now in fact. Maybe we'll get to St. Martin this week. If the wind is right.