How Will We Prepare – Boat Readiness

The boat must be tougher than we are.  It must sail when we’re exhausted and weather storms that force us to huddle below.  When something breaks, there must be something aboard that can fix or replace the broken item.

Way back, when we lived on and adored a boat named “Sovereign Nation”, we built a website for that boat.  We went into lavish detail about the systems aboard.  That ketch inspired pride and excitement in us, until it tried to kill us.  Between the gorgeousness of our appearance when leaving Point Roberts, WA, and the avalanche of problems that we sailed into the San Francisco Bay, we learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t,
Okay, enough history.  Here are the types of systems on the boat and how we’re making sure they are up to the trip.

Major Structure – Go
Running and Standing Rigging – Go
Steering – Go
Ground Tackle – No Go
Engine – Go
Plumbing – No Go
Electricity – Go
Safety – No Go

Major Structure – Go

The hull is solid FRP, strengthened by longitudinal stringers and two internal bulkheads.  Ballast is a bolt-on keel that made me uncomfortable at first but now seems to have its good points.  Hitting icebergs won’t be a good idea, but that would be true with internal ballast as well.

The decks are in good shape structurally, though there are extra deck fittings that are unused and could go away.  We need to remove deck fittings, prep and paint the deck, and replace all the fittings before leaving.  It’s not a no-go thing, but we’ll have an easier time of customs and immigration visits if we look better. Plus, there are some places where the paint has lifted and it’s not good to leave fiberglass bare to UV.

On the other hand, the teak toe rail is going to be a lot of work due to a crack near the port chainplates.  Another problem due to our knockdown?  Anyway, we need to fix the break, set a few fasteners deeper, re-bung them, then epoxy, paint, and recaulk.  If the work goes poorly or reveals large problems, we could have a no-go.

Running and Standing Rigging – Go

Our mast is aluminum and we’re so not worried about the mast or its compression system.  After the fall we had, we’d better not have anything to worry about!  The boom is in good condition, though there is one place where the wood looks a little stained around the fasteners for a bail.

We replaced all the chainplates except the most important – the backstay.  That one is glassed in and we haven’t decided whether or not we have to cut it out in order to inspect it.  Based on the condition of the other chainplates, could this be a no-go item?  I fuss about this but haven’t  made up my mind.

The lower shrouds have Norseman fittings at the top and nico press fittings at the bottom.  James took the rigging tape off those right after we bought the boat so we could keep an eye on them.  New shrouds are on the “unexpected influx of money” list, because they look like they’ll serve and I think we’ll have a better, easier time replacing them in Europe.

North Sails

Our sails are fine, though I’d prefer an additional reef in the main.  The Schaeffer 1100 roller furling is in excellent condition.  The genoa is huge.  I’m sure I’ll love it when we’re blasting downwind, but we have to start rolling it up (and compromising on sail shape) in winds I consider pretty light.  I wish we could have a second, smaller rolled jib so that we could run at 100 or 110 when the winds will be strong and steady without having it rolled up at all.

On our must-buy list – a whisker pole.  I say we’re go without it, but I also know we’ll pick one up somewhere, somehow.  There’s too much downwind on the trip we’re planning – we’ll move so much more slowly if we don’t have any way of poling out the genoa.

The winches and tracks will do, though we have to keep an eye on the bronze winches on the main.  They’re old and the bronze has worn away inside to some degree.  We will eventually decide to replace them, but that doesn’t have to happen just yet.

Steering – Go

Our rudder is strong and sound.  Tiller steering means it’s direct, uncomplicated, and very hard to mess up without doing serious damage to the boat.  We have a spare tiller on board and a plan for using the head’s hatch in case we lose the rudder.

I debated the go/no-go aspect for a while.  Our Aries wind vane isn’t fully operational.  We need to get the control lines set up and do a bunch of practice sailing.  But first we need to add a hinge to the hydro-vane.  It’s either all the way off and impossible to install from deck or all the way on and providing a sickening effect in reverse.  The newer ones have lovely clip-in hinges, but ours is very, very old.

We have a tiller pilot that does a fine job when motoring or in certain sailing conditions, but we don’t want to run the engine much.  The tiller pilot is fine for giving us a break at the helm, but we need our primary helmsperson to be an inanimate object – untiring, faultlessly precise, and dedicated to keeping us at the right angle to the wind.

This won’t be a problem, really.  It’s more of a to-do list item than a real issue that might keep us in port.  Nonetheless, it’s important and serious to us.

Ground Tackle – No Go

We have a 22 pound Bruce and a Fortress FX-16.  They both work just fine around here, even though we have only 6′ of chain on the Bruce and none on the Fortress.  We can raise either by hand.

Neither can keep us safe in Greenland.

I loosely translate the name of this place to Prince Christian’s Sound Weather Station.  I don’t think I’m completely full of shit, but I also don’t speak the language.  Anyway, the important part is that the bay shown is less than a half-mile across and the soundings are in meters.  That means that most of this very small bay is around 100 feet deep.  At 5-to-1 scope, that’s 500 feet of rode.  Of course, we’ll aim for the edges, where the depths are in the teens (or hopefully less than 50 feet).  We’ll still want to put out most or all of the 300 feet of chain we don’t have.

We have to get a good heavy anchor, hundreds of feet of chain, and a windlass that can help us raise that stuff.  Period.

I’ve used and loved CQR, so I’ll be happy enough with a 35 pounder.  If we run into a great deal on a Rocna, Spade, or other high-tech type, we might go for it.  Shrug.  We have to get something, though, and early enough that we can do some sailing with the new weight in the bow.

Engine – Go

She’s fine.  I hope.

Seriously, we ought to have a pro come out and go over the engine.  It’s a Yanmar 3GM30F.  Neither of us has the interest or skill to do any major work ourselves and we’re banking on the engine continuing to work as it always has.  We have the filters and a bunch of spare part, including an alternator, two nearly complete sets of gaskets, and an assortment of belts.  Sigh.  And if we have to tear into the sucker at sea, I will not be a happy girl.

Plumbing – No Go

Our water tanks are called “integral”.  That means that the interior of the hull is the inside of the tank.  We had terrible water, so we cut the access hatches out (couldn’t remove them any other way), cleaned and epoxy-coated the interior, and made new hatches.  Unfortunately, they’re not perfectly water-tight and that is just not okay.  We have to pull the hatches and refit them so that there is no way – no way at all – for salt water to contaminate our drinking water supply.

Other than that, we’re in good shape.  We want to add a diverter so we can use the foot pump if the electrical pump conks out or our electricity dies.  We need to install the manual bilge pump we have sitting in a lazarette.  Shrug.  No problem.

Electricity – Go

All we have to do is buy and install new batteries right before leaving.  This is a big deal financially, but not in any other way.  It’s possible that we could do alright with the batteries we have, but “they” say that one ought not to mix batteries of different ages and we’ll have to replace them all in order to add capacity.  That’s okay.  I like the idea of heading out with fresh batteries.

The electrical systems themselves are working well.  Our charging sources – wind, solar, engine, and shore power – are doing great.  We’re attempting to live off wind and solar alone but need a boost every couple/few weeks.  This is more-or-less what we expect with such old solar panels, but I don’t foresee having the money to buy new ones that will give us complete independence.

Power is gliding along new, simple paths to low-draw lights.  The big draws are the refrigerator and the water pump.  We’ll monitor our status and, perhaps, do without the fridge while underway.  The water pump is only a big draw when we open the faucet full-bore, so we can manage that easily.

Safety – No Go

While wiring our new bow lights, I noticed a bad, bad thing.  The bow pulpit descends to two bronze stanchion bases, one on each side of the bow.  The starboard base is cracked almost half-way through.  Stanchions have been on my mind in a general way for quite some time and I’d like to replace them all, along with the line lines, at the same time that we build a stainless stern rail almost all the way around the cockpit.

The no go is for the cracked base, but I’m not certain I can go to sea with the stern in its current state.  We need the stern rail for multiple reasons.  The wind generator post has a support pole I don’t fully trust.  The propane tanks need to be farther from the mainsheet so it can’t get wrapped up and rip the propane system apart.

Last but not least, there is a feeling of openness in the cockpit that is not as attractive as it sounds.  Maybe you can see it from the picture above (which was showing the Aries).  Our last boat, Sapien, had high transom and a deep, reassuring cockpit.  Our first boat, Sovereign Nation, had a high transom with lots of hand-holds.  This boat, though, feels as though it could dump me in the water with a bounce and a wiggle, and the boat is sure to be doing a lot of that at sea.  She doesn’t have a wheel like the others did, which removes one seriously strong attachment point.  No matter how well we install the jacklines, how will we deal with that feeling of insecurity?  I’d rather buff it up than talk myself into dealing with it.


Our boat is 50 years old and we’ve worked on it for almost 3.  If we pull wage-slave days out of those 3 years, I’ve had 18 months on the boat and James has had 14 months.  We had a few meals (usually at least one per day) and watched a few movies…okay, quite a few movies.

I feel like we’ve gotten a ton of work accomplished in a fairly short time.  We have 5 months until we start sailing away, and I believe that we can turn each of the headers above into a strong, confident “Go!”  I’ll have to do a post, sometime in May, that talks about what we’ve done, how our go/no-go list has changed, and where we stand at that point.

In the meantime, back to work!



  1. Hey girl,
    When I get rich (when my ‘ship’ comes in) and I decide to get another sail boat will you make sure it’s ready to go? You guys have a way of starting with what could be seen as an ‘Oh MY God’ situation if looked at as a whole and breaking it down into pieces and a ‘We can do this’ response. I have a lot of admiration for your abilities and that takes away tons of worry I would otherwise feel when you cast off.

  2. …And now that we have our new Mustang arctic survival suits and have purchessed the windlass that we want, that just makes us that much closer to Scotland!!!
    I put that suit on and it makes me want to sail right outta the slip!

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