Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Almost ready for sailing

It’s a weird time of year for me. Most people are getting into the whole Christmas holiday season. The thing that’s held my attention lately is getting the sailboat ready for Florida. One advantage of owning a trailer sailer is that it can be worked on in the driveway. Beats the heck out of a marina haul out.

When I bought the boat, it had a boarding ladder attached to the transom. The previous owner did a crappy job on the install. It was only held on by a few bolts with tiny washers. The fiberglass had started to show cracks in the gelcoat. I removed the ladder, patched the damage and plugged the bolt holes. For the next ten months I used a single boarding step that connected by ropes to the cleats. It wasn’t fancy, but worked well enough, and it was cheap.

While that worked fine when boarding from shore or shallow water, in deeper water it was a struggle. I imagined what would happen if I fell overboard in cold water, or became injured. the single step wasn’t going to cut it. After looking at all kinds of boarding ladder options, I ended going back to the one I removed. The ladder itself was rugged and built of stainless steel. I’ve seen similar ones in catalogs for over $200. The problem wasn’t the ladder but the way it was mounted. Instead of just a couple washers, I made long backing plates for the bolts. I also fabricated a couple extra brackets. Now it’s really solid and easily holds my not inconsiderable weight without strain.

Last year a friend lent me a handheld VHF radio to use as backup for my base unit. I really believe that a good backup radio is an important safety feature. Last spring I saw someone lose their main radio antenna on a railroad bridge. He and his wife were rescued by Coast Guard because he was able to call them on his handheld. I took advantage of a good one day sale at West Marine and bought a decent radio of my own.

Leland strobe lights have been a problem. Since we spend nights on the water, having strobe lights on our life jackets seem like a good idea. I ordered two through Amazon. One worked, the other didn’t. Amazon quickly replaced the faulty one -with another faulty one. Doesn’t anyone check these things? I just filed another claim with Amazon.

One of the things I was uncomfortable with was the amount of water we carried on board and the way we carried it. I discovered a new product called Water Bricks. They are rectangular 3.5 gallon water containers. The cool thing is that can be stacked up like Lego blocks. I ordered 4 and they just came in. One nice thing them is the size. 3.5 gallon containers are much easier to handle than the big ones. They even have comfortable carrying handles.

I did a lot of little odds and ends: heavier battery cables, worked on the outboard, rebeded loose screws, repaired gelcoat, painted the bottom, new tiller, and other little jobs. Any boat owner will tell you that there’s always more that can be done on a boat.

The only big thing on the boat that bugs me is that I don’t have a good way to mount the solar panel. The marine brackets for mounting a small panel start at over $500. That ain’t gonna happen. I think I can fabricate something just as good for a tenth the price.

I suppose I’m going to have to pay some attention to the holiday season now. It’s much more fun to think about sailing.



  1. I mounted mine on the wind machine mast, at the stern of the boat. It had brackets that allowed it to be laid flat for high winds.

  2. Now if only I had a wind machine mast . . .

  3. Have you desided if your using the truck or the camper yet?On the mount for the pannel i suggest using 3/4 inch pvc pipe and wing nuts so its easy to remove and store,a few fitting some cutting and glue i think you would have it.

  4. Gary: The tow vehicle question is really up in the air right now. I'm waiting for the DMV to straighten out a small title glitch. I've decided to get some long delayed work done on the truck, just in case I have to use it for one more FL trip.

    I've a friend working on fabricating a trailer hitch for the camper, and I'm going forward on the WVO fuel system.

    It's more work and money. I was going to delay the truck repairs until I got back in the spring.

  5. I'm with you! More fun thinking about sailing!

    Hope you get the solar problem worked out soon!

  6. The solar thing isn't a big deal right now -just an interesting puzzle to figure out.

  7. I like those kinda puzzles. But hey, the boat fits right in to the "holiday season". It has red and green lights ; )

  8. Down here in the land of multiple boat salvage yards, you can get all the hardware needed to fabricate a mast for cheap ( cheap being a relative word )
    When I went to West Marine to see about a mast, they wanted about $300 bucks !
    Therefore I went to the local aluminum supply place and bought the right size pipe for like $50 bucks. Then just found old bimini hardware for all the other fittings at the salvage yards. All together maybe $100.

    There really ain't no place on a little boat ta put panels, other than a mast...

  9. Spud: You are right about the placement. Every place else either puts it in the way or in shade too often.

    I don't have marine anything around here. I've been getting my stainless steel bits and bobs at Tractor Supply and the local hardware store.