Monday, February 25, 2013


Palm Beach, FL N26º49.62 W 80º3.53

Windlass fixed: CHECK
Rigging finished: CHECK
Bottom and prop clean: CHECK
Grill sold: CHECK
Provisioning: CHECK
Fall and get a horrible bruise: CHECK (that was me)

With this huge to-do list done, we finally untied from the dock in St. Augustine, we three, me, Chip and our friend John visiting from D.C. He rode with us this far and is now flying back north.

In the meantime, here's how our hopping went.

Day one: St. Augustine to Rockhouse Creek, 9 hours, 39 minutes

John got his first helm lesson: How to stay on course in one easy step. The ICW is a long straight stretch through here.

Day Two: Rockhouse Creek to Eau Gallie, 11 hours, 33 minutes

Today's highlights included a right turn, executed beautifully by our assistant helmsman, and a mini pirate ship.

Day Three: Eau Gallie to Jensen Beach, 10 hours, 57 minutes

South, south, south into southerly winds. This Jensen Beach anchorage is tres shallow. Enter at your own risk.

Day Four: Jensen Beach to North Palm Beach Marina, 6 hours, 45 minutes

We violated one of our own rules: Don't travel on the ICW on weekends. It was a zoo getting through Jupiter inlet and all its bridges, recreational boats buzzing around like flies. Thank goodness it was only a few hours.

John is leaving us here. Our days were filled with great conversation, good food and our evenings with delicious cocktails. Fun, fun times.

John heads north. We continue heading south.

Bahamas, here we come!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


St. Augustine

Well, if yesterday dawned all grim, today dawned hopeful with potential for catastrophic failure at every turn. On Day Five of this two-day project, what we had, was not a windlass, but a bin of parts and a gaping hole in the bowsprit.

Team Windlass, Chip and our friend John visiting from D.C., had already worked pseudo miracles getting the thing apart (with an assist from a gear puller, our dockmaster and a machinist). Now their plan was to clean all the parts, get a new screw to replace the one we stripped, and, gasp, reassemble the whole thing. Oh, and hope it works.

There were two potential Looming Catastrophes:
  1. Could they, by hand, replace the shaft that required 6,000 pounds of pressure to remove?
  2. Would the burr on the shaft, prevent the clutch from going back on?
  3. Would we be stuck in St. Augustine forever?
Work to be done!
Okay, I know, that's three.

So, we huddled up first thing, got our assignments and went to work. Mine was the easiest. I had to clean the anchor locker around the gaping hole, clean the contacts and terminals and grease them.

With that accomplished, I spent the rest of the day zooming around with final provisioning runs. Then, filled with hope, I started stowing like mad, turning the boat into a working vessel again.

John started cleaning the windlass parts with diesel fuel. Chip took off to find the screw. It was metric. They didn't have it. He had to get a makeshift version, a bolt, actually. Would it work? We didn't know.

With all the parts clean, they started reassembly. As I occasionally passed them in the cockpit, they were most often in grim discussions, looking hopeless and defeated. Sometimes, the sense of foreboding was punctuated by shouts of joy and high fives.

The shaft went back in by hand after a good amount of consternation, because it wouldn't drop down into the worm gear. It was bumping against the oil seal on the bottom of the unit requiring a surgical, tweezer maneuver to get it to seat properly.

Looming Catastrophe #1 averted.
The makeshift bolt had to be rigged.

It worked!
Then they had to fill the oil. Doesn't that sound easy? The directions don't say how much to put in. You have to turn it horizontal to fill it and then vertical to check it. Much trouble, filling, overfilling, draining, etc.

Once that assembly and the #*&$#ing filling was finished, it had to be attached to the motor and the whole thing installed and then wired in that dastardly anchor locker. Chip pulled the shaft from above deck, John held it in place from below, Chip put in the bolts, John did the wiring, and the installation was done.

Now our first major moment of truth: We turned it on. It worked. Shouts of joy.

Then the above deck assembly began and Looming Catastrophe #2 approached. The clutch did, in fact, stick on the burr. If they couldn't get it in place, the entire Day Four torture would have to be repeated. They would have to uninstall it, disassemble it and take it to a machinist.

They put a PVC pipe over the shaft and tried tapping the clutch down, trying and trying to get it to drop, feeling more and more fatalistic about the clutch and our future in St. Augustine. If it would just drop into place, there were only three pieces remaining to be installed to complete the job.

"Just wail on it," Chip told John.

He did. It dropped. Shouts of joy. Looming Catastrophe #2 averted.

They threw the drum on, the clutch nut and had only to put in the last screw into the shaft to be done. Yes!

The screw would only go half a turn. Apparently the gear puller damaged the threads. AAAAAHHHHH!!! 

Chip came below and grimly got out his tapping set, bought years ago and never used. He measured the bolt. It was metric, but, miraculously, the set had the appropriate tap.

Major gloom hung over Cara Mia. If this didn't work, the entire Day Four torture would have to be repeated, yes, taking the shaft to a machinist to bore a new hole and tap it.

Chip inserted the tap, held his breath and turned a quarter turn. Removed the tap and tried the screw. Nope.

He reinserted the tap, held his breath and turned a half turn. He could tell it was cutting the threads, potentially destroying them. He removed the tap and tried the screw. Nope.

He reinserted the tap the third time, held his breath, cringed and turned a half turn.

"Just one more turn," John said, knowing this was the end. It would either work, or we had to start over.

Chip turned it. The tap grabbed and moved smoothly. He removed the tap and tried the screw.

It went something like this:

(In this reenactment, I am played by Sophia Loren.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


St. Augustine

Today dawned all grim. We discussed our options, and none of them were happy options. They went something like this:
  1. Put the whole thing back in place and pray.
  2. Get a gear puller and potentially break the clutch. (See #3)
  3. Get a new windlass, which would involve untold acrobatics. A new one would take a week or more to have delivered, then installed.
So, as we often do when we have a difficult decision to make, we threw the question into the universe and asked for an answer.

Chip called the manufacturer and got several good tips, including this one: Never try to remove the casing and motor from belowdecks. You'll never get those allen bolts out.

So much for relying on the internets for step-by-step instructions. #FAIL

Then the same guy said we were on the right track with getting that #*$&@ing bronze clutch cone off. There is nothing holding it in place. We should use a gear press. As a bonus, he said they had a new model of our windlass with, ahem, some improvements (the worm box now snaps out without removing the entire unit DUH). It has the same profile and would easily fit  into the hole already in our deck. Backup plan!

Chip called the auto parts store nearby.* They had a gear press. The universe was putting out signposts.

Returning on his bike, Chip was buoyant. They had loaned him the gear press for free.

Okay, now things were seriously looking up. Could this be a rare and coveted 'yes' day?

Our friend John is visiting from D.C., here to ride south with us if we can get this show on the waterway. So, Chip and John headed to the bow with their new toy like two boys on Christmas morning.

They put the gear puller over the shaft and extended the legs.

A pall fell over the proceedings. Excited little boys turned sullen and puzzled.

They tried C clamps.

#*&$#@*& &#*$. 

The dockmaster had been rolling a cigarette, watching the proceedings as he rolled a cigarette

"Hold on," he said, and came back minutes later with extender arms for the gear press.

YES!!!! Bronze clutch cone removed. Applause, shouting. High fives.

Bolts unbolted. Casing and motor dropped. Electric motor detached. Parts flew off and were subsequently retrieved (amazing). 

Now, just pull the shaft to change the seal. 

Um, no. Shaft not going anywhere.

Bang, bang. Gear press? No. Not moving.

A dockmate told us of an eccentric machinist named Dale one mile away. Chip removed the motor (brown cylinder) loads up the casing/shaft on his bike and off he went.

One hour later, he returned with stories of Dale and with three parts, now duly separated. The stripped screw was bored out and rethreaded. Even the machinist had a difficult time getting it out. Stripping it, apparently, was not our fault. Dale said we'd never had gotten it out. The shaft? It took a stunning 6000++ pounds of pressure to remove it! It is now newly lathed. The whole shebang, $20.

At the end of day four, we have no windlass but a series of pieces. The hard part, hopefully, is behind us.

In this process today, they found several broken clips and a stray piece of line inside the unit. We have been very lucky this thing has served so admirably. Thank you, windlass.

The service kit ordered from the manufacturer.
No worries! replacements for the broken clips included.
Let the cleaning and reassembly begin! Can we please have another 'yes' day?

Two more two-mile provisioning runs today
with $12 pillow snagged in bonus round.
I love YES days!
*Advanced Auto Parts loans tools for merely leaving a deposit.
**Special thanks to John for serving as our staff photographer today.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


St. Augustine

How to keep parts from flying overboard.
St. Augustine is a lovely place to be stuck. Stuck indeed.

After Day One and Day Two belowdecks, we went toward the light. Our plan was to remove the winch above the deck, allowing us to drop the motor from above.

Chip started on it, and by the time I got up there, he had the first five pieces removed. WOW! Good omen. Then he got to this one, and it was s-t-u-c-k.

I went on a provisioning run. When I got back he had it off.

Then there was this bronze piece:

Stuck like my mind on the Bahamas.

Many hours and three consultations* later, there she stands. Really? A bronze ring away?

(That silver plate would come off next, exposing the four bolts holding the casing and motor below deck.)

Tomorrow is another effing day.

*Special thanks to Joe on s/v Kajon for phoning in moral support.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


St. Augustine

Crikey. Yesterday's struggle with the windlass continues.

We made zero progress on the offending screw despite a full day's effort -- mostly by Chip.

I removed the platform to give Chip more room and to get the drill to fit under the casing. Then I left on the 1.5-mile trek to the laundromat, followed by the 1-mile trek to the grocery store for another provisioning run.

That's the platform leaning on the left. Bigger than the door.
Meanwhile Chip tried several Grabit bits to get the thing out of there. They grabbed and then let go.


The only option left from below is to drill it all the way out in this position:

Tomorrow we try to disassemble the windlass from above deck.

This is how sailors learn to curse.

Friday, February 15, 2013


St. Augustine

Boat designers have a sinister side. That photo is taken from our bed. The opening is the anchor locker which holds all the chain we use for anchoring. The pole in the middle is the staysail boom, which goes through the deck. The little round silver thing I'm peering at is the windlass motor. Behind it is the casing for the windlass.

The windlass is an electric winch that raises and lowers the anchor by just pushing a button. The maker of our windlass constructed it so that the oil cannot be checked or refilled without removing the entire unit belowdeck.

Effing hell.

Since I'm long and thin, I volunteered to go in and take out the four screws holding it to the deck. The screws must be removed with an Allen wrench. Seriously.

You can't really tell, but the unit is still way beyond where I am, requiring me to stretch my arms overhead, find the screws, maintain upward pressure while trying to unscrew them. At first I was mostly worried about how a) I would hold the 10-pound thing in the air while getting the last screw out and b) how I would ever get the effing thing back in there when we finished rebuilding it.

Ah, but I was counting chickens or borrowing trouble or some trite saying about getting ahead of myself.

The first screw, the only one I could see, came loose with only about 15 minutes of effort. The second a little less. The third was not bad. The last one is in a complete blind spot on the far side of the casing.

Using a mirror on a stick, I was able to get the wrench into the screw, but did not have the strength or torque to get it loose. I tried for about an hour, and I'm pretty sure I stripped it. I gave up.

Chip forced himself in there.

That door is SO SMALL.*

He tried for an hour or so. We regrouped. I found another set of Allen wrenches. Chip went in to confirm it was the screw that was stripped, not the wrench.

It gripped. He turned. The wrench flew out never to be seen again. Chain locker. Piles of chain. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!

We sealed the effing locker up for the night and went to meet friends for dinner. Tomorrow is another frigging day.

*As a special bonus, the camera flash is picking up some white mildew on those door slats. We can't see it otherwise. AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


In the ocean, nobody can hear you scream.

At least we hope not. That would be embarrassing.

I marvel at couples who say they never fight. They're either remarkably compatible or practicing effective public image maintenance. Or are they just amazing suppressionists? (Spell-check, you've clearly never been married if you think 'suppressionist' is not a word. Just so you know: it is, and it doesn't work. )

A year ago today, I wrote about the importance of being honest about our relationships and the consequences of not doing so. Here's another dose of honesty.

Chip and I have fertile ground for conflict. I come from New Mexico and a quiet, subdued family of British and Scottish descent. Chip comes from New Jersey and a raucous, emotive family of Italian and Armenian descent. We're oil and water. Sometimes we make dressing. Sometimes one of us lights on fire and consumes the other.

When we lived on land, it was possible to tiptoe around the issues in our relationship, suppress them or patch them over with a busy schedule or a new couch. But on a 38-foot boat, it's not possible to tiptoe around. It's just not.

Onboard, we fight about ridiculous things, like unwashed dishes or the finer points of where they were left and who left them there -- or who has washed whose dishes the most. I've been known to explode about minuscule things like whiskers left in the sink.

But it's not really about the whiskers, is it? If I make the effort to self-reflect and then to be honest about it, it's about the way I felt ignored and brushed aside at dinner last night with friends, and that's because as the third of four children I often felt invisible and marginalized as a child, and, just like that, the whiskers in the sink are forgotten. Instead of kvetching about unimportant things, I've switched from cleaning the sink to cleaning out the bilge -- mine, not his.

A year ago I wrote about a book called Getting The Love You Want, a book that's taught us how to talk to each other about the real issues, how to help each other clean out our own bilge, to scrub and polish and sand off some ugly, sharp edges. It's something we didn't take the time to do until everything else was stripped away.

Out here living on a boat, our relationship is all we have.

A year later, there are still dirty dishes and whiskers in the sink, but most days I don't care as much. I don't care, because I know Chip cares enough to help me clean out my bilge, works on his own, and has deep, deep patience when I struggle with my half of the job.

And often he cleans the whiskers out of the sink.

And so far, we haven't sunk to the bottom.

Like I said a year ago, our relationship is the richest, most rewarding and valuable thing we have. It is like a big chunk of marble that left unattended might drag us under. But with a grand vision, heavy labor and hours of polishing, it can be transformed into a beautiful masterpiece for the ages. Yours can too.

Happy Valentine's Day.

This post is part of Raft-Up, sailing bloggers discussing the same topic. This month: Relationships Onboard.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


New York

Today's plan: pack the belongings we've spent a whole month scattering about the apartment, for tomorrow, we head back to the boat.

By noon, I'd done nothing more than run a load of laundry and peer out the window at the Manhattan skyline reflecting brilliantly in the Hudson River.

"Let's go into the city and see a show," I said.

At 2:06, less than two hours later, we emerged into the multi-sensory explosion that is Times Square.

With tickets in hand for the matinee showing of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof starring Scarlett Johansson, we headed across the square to get a hot dog -- but not before being accosted by the famous (infamous?) Naked Cowboy.

We took our seats in the theater less than three hours after the thought crossed my mind. As we waited for the lights to go down, I did a doubletake as a man in a tacky knit cap walked in front of me. Was that Liam Neeson? Indeed. (#photofail)

He graciously stepped into the wings to have his photo taken with one of the floor staff. Nice.

We left the theater (review to come) and reentered Times Square after dark. Well, "dark" brighter than daylight. I started snapping photos and, looking at the tiny screen on the camera, I said, what's that green blob? LOL Best. Photobomb. Ever.

I heart New York.

Bags still unpacked.


Friday, February 8, 2013


New York

Chip observing the WTC in progress from Jersey City.
Slow travel. It's what we love. And in New York, it doesn't get any slower. We walk everywhere, drinking in the colors and textures of the city, and sometimes the freezing cold.

I love New York, but that's not why I tagged along on Chip's work trip. A lot of old friends -- and some new little ones live here. So, while I've been busy getting some writing done, I've been enjoying a series of reunions.

My high school classmate Beverly and I hadn't seen each other since the '70s. Gasp.
And, of course, I'd never met her daughter Emily from Nepal. Thanks, Facebook!
Good times with my old pal, Jim Brady.
But where are Joan and the beagles?!?!
More Post reunion with Corones, Peyton and Jeffrey
-- and my first time to meet Miles.

Can you stand it? The Post just keeps giving back.
Libby, Danylo and little Olive.
Chip with his first girlfriend Linda ....
... who married Chip's awesome cousin Carl.
I do love New York.

A squall over the city.
Cars drawing crop circles in the snow under my window.