Finally feeling like progress is being made!

I’ve been living in a boat that feels more like the abode of a “hoarder” than a sailboat. There have been boxes stacked up to the point where I had the vee berth and the nav station and part of the galley to live in, and had to pick my way around boxes to move between those places.

Yesterday was a productive day. Although no project was finished, a number of them made substantial progress and I can see the salon table again (though still can’t use it at the moment).

There was nothing I couldn’t have done in time (with some requiring an assitant), though some of it took 2 people to do since it required being in two places at the same time. However, I hired a professional to do a lot of it. He has the advantage of experience. He didn’t have to think his way through things because he’s already done them before – plus he has the tools to do it! Me, I often had to figure out what needed to be done, look through my tools, and then figure out a way to McGuyver a way to get something done, and that all takes a lot of time.

We got most of the electronics mounted and now they’re mainly just waiting for power and/or an antennae to be run to them to make them operational. At the same time, we’ve removed an old chart plotter that wouldn’t even power up, which made the helm station a lot less cluttered.

The boat electronics are being centralized. All the important equipment is going to be at the nav desk down in the cabin, protected from the elements and potential thieves. At the helm station (and scattered through the rest of the boat if needed) we will put an iPad that is using WiFi to display needed information. When the race or cruise is over, walk the iPad down below and watch a movie on it or something. We’re also installing a waterproof USB charger so that the iPad can stay charged there at the helm.

For the radio, we’re similarly installing a wireless system so that the radio microphone can be moved around the boat wherever needed. It will have a charging cradle at the nav station as well.

The AIS is installed, though it still needs power and a hookup to the antennae, and then it needs to be programmed.

I’ve now had first had eperience of “meathooks” on the safety lines, opening up a gash on my left arm. Of course, that happened the same day as the replacement safety lines arrived. I still have a bunch of splicing to do to prepare the new, dyneema, safety lines to be installed – that’s awaiting being able to use the cabin table to work upon.

Today will be mostly mechanical work on the engine, steering system, and hopefully the propane system At that point, we’ll be ready to go until winter, at least mechanically and electrically. Oh, and the wind and water sensors need to be ironed out as I’m not getting indications of wind speed nor direction nor our water speed. Also want to see if we can hook the radar to the chart plotter since the radar display is inside the cabin and, therefore, unreadable from the helm.

Things that will still need to be sorted:

  • Mattress cushions for the two aft bunks
  • Refrigeration of some sort for the galley
  • Potentially replacing the head witha composting one
  • Some blackout curtains or something for the sleeping berths to allow good sleep during the day.
  • Insect netting for all the openings.
  • Water maker so that we don’t have to carry water for long distance cruising
  • Solar power or other electrical generation equipment

After that it’s tinkering with the interior to get it the way we like.

LED lighting (again)

Has it really been 5 days? Well, a couple of those were taken up with running up and back to the comfort station. Apparently soy milk does not agree with me and my stomach!

I’ve been doing some more research on the LED lighting situation – how to design the system. It would normally be an easy thing – you simply buy the white/red LED lights that have a built in switch. But… (there’s always a “but” to make things difficult, isn’t there?)

Those lights that have the switch in them are 6 1/2 inches across. The current holes in the headliner is 3 inches across. The lights with the switch in them requires 3 inches of clearance. The current headliners have 1 1/2 inches of clearance. If I used the lights with switches they would require I enlarge the holes in the headliners AND they would protrude a bit from the headliner. Not an aesthetically pleasing installation. Oh, and did I mention that they are almost twice the price of the LED one I was considering?

So after doing some poking around, this is what’s been decided:

The lights under consideration have three wires to them. There’s a common ground and then two power lines. If you apply power to one of the power lines, the white LED turns on. If you apply the power to the other power line, the red LED turns on. Don’t apply power to BOTH of them at the same time. The manufacturer warns against that.

At the nav station I have two switches. One switch energizes the starboard cabin lights. The other switch energizes the port cabin lights. All the cabin lights are run in parallel like a christmas tree where if one light burns out, the rest keep working.

What we’re going to do is use an external switch at each light. Push the switch to towards the bow of Opus and the red LED will be selected. Push the switch towards the stern and the white LED will be seleccted. Put the switch in the middle and neither light will be selected. The switches at the nav station will still energize port or starboard, or maybe I’ll put all the lights on one swich, freeing up a switch to use for other things (I can run all the lights off one switch since the LED lights draw far less current than the current incandescent ones).

Most other things are just waiting for supplies to arrive, although hopefully tomorrow I’ll be taking Opus over to the boatyard so that it can be worked on there. Having a professional working on it will make the work go a lot faster (plus there is stuff I just can’t do alone).

I also had a talk with the border folks to see if I can, somehow, commute back and forth rather than living on the boat, but I’l write more about that in the Captain’s Corner blog.


The flow of parts is starting to become a river, but that means decisions need to be made. Case in point is cabin lighting.

If we were going to be sailing only during the day and then be moored/docked/anchored at night, the decision is easy. I wouldn’t have to be concerned with preserving night vision. However, Opus is also intended to be a racing sloop for big, multi-day races wherein she’ll be sailed day and night. This means she needs dual lighting systems in the cabin. White light for when we’re relaxing. Red light for when we’re racing at night.

Why red light? (actually, it could be blue light too, according to the latest research I’ve read) White light destroys your night vision. After being blasted by the white light, it can take a long time for your night vision to fully recover. Red (or blue) light doesn’t have that same effect. For racing, this is important as you don’t want your crew to be blind on deck at night.

So, back to the issue of lighting. Right now the cabin is illuminated with white incandescent lights. These are power hungry and, of course, white. I want to replace them with White/Red LED lighting. LED lighting is a lot better for power consumption, which is important when you’re sailing for several days and don’t have some (alternate) means of recharging your batteries – you want to keep the amount of engine running time (the engine is used to recharge the boat batteries) to a minimum since you have to carry fuel to power the engine.

Rather than buying a bunch of LED lights (which are about $100.00 or so each) and then finding out whether they’d work, we ordered ONE light to try out, and it’s a good thing that we did. The light works well and it fits in the existing holes in the cabin headliner. However (isn’t there alway a however or a but?)…

The LED light has three wires and no intrinsic on/off. One wire is common, it’s attached to ground. Then, depending on whether you want white or red, you apply power to one or the other of the remaining wires, and that’s where the difficulty comes in.

Right now, Opus’ wiring only has two wires going to each location. That means I can turn the light on or turn the light off from a switch at the nav station. I can NOT select whether it should be red or white. Also, it would supply power to all the lights on one side at the same time. The current system has a “master” on/off at the nav station and an individual on/off at each light. The new LED light doesn’t have an on/off at it.

So… what to do… the choices are:

  1. Use two switches at the nav station. One supplies ‘red’ power, one supplies ‘white’ power.
  2. Use one switch at the nav station that provices power to all lights, then put a switch at each light to select “red”, “white” or “none”

Choice one can be further broken down as right now the nav station can supply power to the “port” and ‘starboard’ lights independently. I could set it up where port lights are red, starboard lights are white. However, that still leaves the problem of they are _all_ either on or _all_ are off. “All” meaning all of the same colour.

An alternative is that the “Port” switch at the nav station is repurposed to “white” and the “starboard” switch is repurposed to “Red”. This has advantages of all lights can be either red or white. However, we again have the problem of all the lights are on or all the lights are off. A second drawback is that it allows all the lights to have BOTH the red AND the white lights on at the same time – something the manufacturer says not to do.

Choice 2 has the drawback of more complexity and expense since now I have to wire in (and mount) a switch next to each light. However, it overcomes the difficulties of option 1 and uses the existing wiring runs to each light. It does have the drawback of a light being accidentally set to “white” during the day so that at night, when power is turned on, that light blinds people.

This will take some thought.

Keep pushing the pawns forward

Progress is being measured not by the completion of tasks but instead it is measured by any forward motion at all on any of the myriad fronts.

It seems the “completion” is a somewhat slippery and elusive quality. Just as I think one thing is getting close to “finished”, fate decides to drop another little present, or should I say “challenge” in my path. Fortunately, help is on the horizon.

We’ve decided to contract out some of the work and I had an opportunity to talk to the mechanic earlier today. Some things just require a second person. Case in point is that the idlers for the steering are said to have problems. However, to witness this and therefore derive a solution requires that I be (a) in the machinery space to see the idlers in operation, and (b) up at the helm turning the wheel, both at the same time. Sure, the answer would be to make a friend on the dock and have them turn the wheel while I witness, but it’s pretty much a desert around here for people.

So some things are just up to the whims of the fates whether I’ll make any progress or not. I can only hope and wait, and be prepared for when things offer opportunities. Or else contract them out, of course.

They will, hopefully, begin the work at the end of this week or the beginning of next week and it should take a few days to maybe a week to get it all done. Then, finaly, we can go sailing!

Speaking of sailing, Quijote is home. Who is Quijote? She is a Hallberg-Rassey 39(? 38?) that I’ve crewed on a number of times, owned by Captain R. Mercer. Originally intended to do a circumnavigation of the Pacific, COVID put a sudden stop to it while she was waiting in Mexico for the right season to continue on westward. Unfortunately, borders remained closed and after sitting in a boatyard in Mexico for a year, it was time to bring her home. I was supposed to crew, but COVID made that a non-starter for me too. Well, they have brought Quijote home from La Paz, Mexico to Seattle by way of Hawaii. You can read about it above under the “friends” menu.

Finally, stuff getting done!

If you’re at all a “maker” or a “handyman” or some such, you know what holds the world together. Duct tape. It’s in every toolbox under the sun, and there are probably more miles of it wrapped around stuff than there are roads in Canada.

Well, that may be true of you land-bound creatures, but in the boating world, it’s cable ties, also known as zip ties. You know, those plastic thingies that you wrap around stuff, pull one end through the other and then pull tight with a “zzzzzzzt!” sound.

One of today’s projects was to put fender holders in. These are basket-like things that hold fenders when the fenders aren’t actually in use. Opus is a big boat and so her fenders are big too. In fact, most things about her are big. I got the big fenders for her (G-6, if anyone wants to know) and holders properly sized for those fenders.

The holders fasten to the safety rail of the ship, and this is where today’s tale of woe and frustration begins. Apparently the manufacturer feels that even though you have a boat big enough to need big fenders, your safety rails are still little scrawny things. They size their mounting bracket accordingly. Unfortunately, as I said before, Opus is a big girl and her safety rails are sized accordingly. Little bracket, meet big rail. Little bracket faints and then backs away saying, “No no no! Too big for me! Too big for me!” After trying sweet talk, then threatening, then force, I had to finally concede. Too big for you indeed.

After a bit of head scratching and thinking, I finally broke down and used zip ties to fasten it to the rail. This probably is not a permanent solution, but it will work for now. Another task for today was fixing the dock lines. The ones that came with Opus were not the right size. Sure, they would probably work, but I don’t like “probably” for these kinds of things, so I had some new docklines delivered. Well, I should say I had the raw parts of docklines delivered. The rest of the day was spent turning dockline parts into docklines. I made them today not because there was an urgent need for them, but rather to clear some boxes out of the cockpit so I have room to work on other stuff.

I also spent a fair amout of time in the machinery space tracing hoses and trying to figure out what are various pieces of equipment that seem to be only partially attached to things. the puzzle continues, so back to the internet I go!

Unfortnately, that is probably the end of progress until Tuesday as everything shuts down tomorrow and Monday. Tuesday we start back up again.

Things start to flow!

Pieces of Opus are starting to arrive. Yesterday the SmartPlug arrived. It should have been a fast job, but turned into an all-day affair as these things often do. The first thing was to turn off -everything- so that there was no chance of electricity going where it shouldn’t. Can’t be too careful when there are puddles on the deck from the rains!

After that was removal of the old electrical socket that is attached to the coaming. It came off easily. Too easily. I don’t think it was ever sealed to the coaming. Sealing isn’t actually required, there’s a gasket that should keep things watertight, but I tend not to trust just a gasket alone. Oh well, different strokes for different folks. I worked on the old socket trying to free the wires for a bit and then, in sheer frustration, just cut it off with a combination of box cutter and wire cutters. Later on I discovered I’d have to cut things anyway, so this wasn’t the bad move I thought it might be.

Unfortunately, the cord slipped from my hand, zipped right through the hole in the coaming and went… somewhere. So now the great hunt began to try to find where the wires are. Are they accessible in the port lazarette? Nope. How about the port stern berth? Nope. Ok, move everything from the berth (I’m using that for storage at the moment) and pull up the boards. Not there either. Hmmm, maybe the stern end of the lazarette is removable to provide access to that space? Nope, though studied that for a while.

It took me a while, but then the light dawned. It probably fell into the machinery space, aka “engine room”. To get there, you open the -starboard- thing that looks like a lazarette. Then you step into there and disappear into the bowels of the ship, work your way under the cockpit deck and… SUCCESS! There’s the line! Now how to feed it back up and… Nope, that’s not going to work. I can’t reach high enough and, being alone on the boat, I’m a little reluctant to get myself into a situation where I might need help getting back out.

I know! I drop a cord through the coaming hole down to here, tie the cord to the electrical cord, go back up to the cockpit and pull the electrical cord back up! I have some thin dyneema around, that should be good, but since I had moved everything around, I have to find THAT. Another hunt ensues.

Finding the dyneema, I tie one end to the ship’s wheel (so that it doesn’t fall completely down the hole too) and feed the other end through the hole for the electrical socket, down the hollow space and (hopefully) into the engine room. Then worm back down the starboard lazarette, underneath the deck, over to the electrical cord and look for the black dyneema which blends in with a lot of other things. Finally I find it, caught up on some things and out of reach. Back out, feed more dyneema down on the assumption that SOME loop would eventually make it to the machinery space floor, worm back down again and success, there’s the dyneema. Dyneema is slppery. Electrical cord sheathing is slippery. Use an old method of fastening fletching to arrows to attach the two together. Slither back out, reel in the dyneema and up comes the electrical cord. Tie off the dyneema to the wheel (a second time) so that there’s no way for the electrical cord to slip back down.

I start following the directions for the smartplug installation and one of the things they stress is to make sure that you’ve cut back the electrical cord far enough that you get clean, uncorroded, copper. Hmmm. Cut back some cord. Cut back some more. Cut back some more. Finally find clean copper (see, cutting off the old socket didn’t matter – I’d have had to cut anyway). Now that end is installed and I just have to install the socket into the coam… Oh, hell, the new socket is JUST SLIGHTLY too big for the old hole. Get out the dremel and I’ll sand away… ummm… power. Where to get power for the dremel? Sort that bit out and sand away some of the old outlet’s hole until, eventually, the new outlet fits. Drill a few holes for the… Drats, my cordless screwdriver battery is dead so I have to somehow get power to it so that I can recharge it. That done, I drilled new holes for the mounting screws and voila, done.

Now repeat the process for the end of the cord that runs from the socket to the electrical supply on the dock. Having done the socket already, I knew what I was in for, so this part of it went a bit faster as i took BIG pieces off the electrical cord until I got to clean copper.

As always when working with electricity, there is that feeling of “Please let me have done this right” as I turn on the power to the boat. I’m just waiting to hear the sparks and stuff. This time, nothing exciting, so all’s well except that there’s still caulking to do. I sourced some caulk and this morning got it. I left the socket protected by a tarp overnight in case it rained even though the installation SHOULD be watertight regardless. Silicone calk arouund the edge of it this morning and the whole thing is A-number-1 done.

Since I had caulk in hand, I went and caulked the joint between the kitchen counter tops and the vertical surfaces, so that’s another job done. next job is measuring the luff of the foresail for a genoa cover and, if the weather holds, paying out the anchor chain to make sure that the rhode is attached to it.

Ok, here we go!

At the docks

Today is the first slightly nice day since Opus arrived at the marina. I actually see some baby blue poking its nose out from between the clouds. That means I can open up the engine room and start surveying what needs to be done (Access to the main part of the engine room is through the lazarette outside – a miserable proposition when it’s raining!)

There’s still not a LOT I can do before tomorrow. I don’t want to start disassembling things without means to replace them as I put them back together. That means waiting for tomorrow for the chandlery to open (they are closed Sundays and Mondays). Organization is the key for today – organizing the supplies I DO have and the tools. I also plan on tearing up the sole of the cabin to start making a diagram of where all the through-holes and plumbing and such go. I might even start on wire brushing the corrosion off the engine so I can see what might be causing it. If the organization is done and the aft double berth cleared off, I’ll also look into what I need to do to secure the batteries.

Tomorrow I plan on putting in an order for the dyneema and fittings I need to replace the line lines, new fenders (the current ones are undersized in my opinion) as well as (potentially) some new dock lines. I’m currently tied to the dock using lines that aren’t really right for it, but I’ve doubled them up, so they should take the strain until I can get better ones on.

Hardware-wise I’ll be ordering a new solenoid system and pressure regulator for the propane, complete with gas sensor, plus caulking for the galley and head cabinetry. I’ll probably be ordering even more once I get into the machinery spaces and see what I need to get done.

I’ll also stop by the office to get the secret to accessing the internet and to drop off the bribe… I mean present for the office staff that were so nice to me.

Physically, I’ve recovered from the trip down. I’m surprised how much it took out of me. I’m hoping it was just the cold and wet and not having eaten properly, but exercise is going to be part of my morning routine!

Taking her home

Today was the day to bring Opus home. Sure, she had a home, but once she was sold to me, she really couldn’t stay where she was – a member’s only yacht club dock. Even if I had joined the yacht club, I still wouldn’t have been able to keep her there. I would have had zero seniority and there’s a waiting list.

Instead, she’s berthed elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s in the U.S., which meant I had to cross the border. I don’t know if it’s because I have U.S. (as well as Canadian) citizenship, whether it’s because I have a NEXUS card, or whether it’s because I’ve have my first jab of vaccination, isolated for more than 2 weeks before the trip, or that I had a negative COVID test 3 days, but it was easier to import ME to the U.S. than it was to import the yacht.

Anyway, I’m bushed after a day that started at 2:30 in the morning so I’ll write more another time.

Tomorrow’s the big day!

I take full command of Opus tomorrow. So today is running around like crazy getting the last minute things done in preparation for being gone for a while. I had to get a copy of my COVID vaccination report, results of my COVID test, a few bits and bobs, order some stuff for the boat (that will be delivered at my new berth, but needed to order now before a cash back offer expired), pull together the last minute things, go get the truck that we’ll use to bring sails home, etc.

The former owner has been really gracious so that I won’t have to night over in False Creek. I really wasn’t looking forward to doing that, though I did make a reservation just in case. Anchoring at night, in a boat that I’m unfamiliar with, in a busy, congested, area like False creek, and then trying to sleep while worried, and with no good way to prepare meals, didn’t sound like a good idea to me, but if it was the only way, then c’est la vie, take it as a challenge and do one’s best.

The electonics that I ordered is an AIS transceiver. Some may say that a sailboat really doesn’t need one. It’s not like we’re all that fast, so people have plenty of time to see us, and that’s true, but I would also like to see others coming up on me and have some idea of where they’re going. That only requires a (cheaper) receiver, but the thought of them seeing me in low visibility such as fog is comforting.

So soon the ship will be sporting a Vesper Cortex M1/VHF unit, the first of the electronics upgrades I want to do (next is either sensors such as wind sensors and water speed sensors, or a new chartplotter… we’ll see what is required when I have a better opportunity to exercise the electronics. Heck, it might be a new radar system).

The “Oh my god, what have I done” is starting to take a back seat to the excitement and anticipation – though there’s still a LOT of work to do before the anticipation can be turned into reality.

OMG I own a yacht!

Normally when things do not go according to plan, it usually means that things have gone in the worse direction. Delays push off closing dates for houses. Storms arrive sooner than expected and before you’re prepared. We were intending on closing on our new (to us) yacht on Thursday. Then the closing date got moved to Tuesday. Except that it happened yesterday (Monday).

So now I’m an owner of a sailing yacht.

It hasn’t sunk in yet.

What HAS sunk in is that I’ve taken on a huge chunk of responsibility. The clock has started ticking and I have 30 days to bring the yacht into compliance with the suggestions made by the marine surveyor. This is to satisfy the insurance company that they haven’t made a mistake insuring us. If we aren’t in compliance within 30 days, the insurance company reserves the right to cancel our insurance — which would be disasterous.

In these current days, with COVID, this may well be a challenge. There’s a list of stuff that needs to get done. Getting parts is not so easy now. I can’t just run to the marine parts store to get something since the boat is (will be) on one side of the border and I live on the other, and the border is closed to all “non-essential” traffic. I doubt that they will agree that changing the safety lines on my yacht is an essential thing. It might be to me, but my definitions don’t count.

So, instead, each time I discover a part that needs to be ordered, I have to order it and then wait for it to be delivered, install it, discover I need some other adapter or something and order THAT. Of course, that gives me time to actually investigate and plan rather than just bodge something together. In the long run, this is a good thing.

So what will I be doing if I am roadblocked waiting for parts to appear, assuming that all jobs are stonewalled at the same time?

Well, I plan on bringing my captain’s license materials with me to study. I plan on working on my sailing software for the Raspberry Pi. I plan on working on my crocheting. I plan on reading. I plan on walking and bicycling. I plan on sleeping. And, assuming that the boat is in a state where it’s reasonable to take it out sailing, I’ll even do some sailing, though there are definitely some projects that I want to complete before taking her out too much – not because the previous owner is giving me an unsafe boat, but because I don’t want the insurance company mad at me.

I finally figured out that although there are rules and regulations for boating, we are likely far more governed by what the insurance companies require in order to provide insurance than the actual rules and regulations. It’s almost like they’re a shadow legislature. It’s not shady or a conspiracy. They want to protect their investment. I get that, but it’s still an interesting way to look at things.

Today I head up to the yacht brokers’ office to pick up the _actual_ paperwork. They already emailed to me PDFs of the paperwork so that I could start the licensing and insurance stuff, but today I get my hands on the actual sheets of paper. After that it’s down to the boat to meet the previous owner and start onloading and offloading of things as well as gain the beenfit of his experience and knowledge. That process will, hopefully, continue for the rest of this week culminating in a last trip on Friday where Anne will drop me off and I’ll take her from where her previous owner kept her to her new home.

It might well be a 2 day trip with a very short hop off the docks to an anchorage, then the longer trip the next day. This is due to, potentially, getting off the docks rather late in the afternoon and my not wanting to end up on a new boat to a new harbour with me fuzzy-brained from a full day, late at night. That’s a no-good combination, for sure.

Stay tuned for more on how the trip went!