Almost Ready to Go

Just a few more days before we set sail.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’m back on Andante after a nice holiday at home. Santa was very generous this year.


There are only a few more jobs to complete in the yard before getting underway early next week. The weather forecast for the next couple of days looks pretty sloppy so we’ll most likely stay put until Tuesday. Then we’ll relocate to an anchorage a few miles south of here in downtown Beaufort for fuel, water, and last minute supplies.

After that we’ll move to Cape Lookout to wait for appropriate weather to head south. At this point the first anticipated stop is about 85 miles away in Southport, NC at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. From there its another easy sail to Charleston, SC. That seems to be the best location for a jump to the Bahamas — but the Covid situation is changing rapidly.

Our new Winslow liferaft arrived and is now stowed, along with a well-equipped ditch bag and damage control supplies, in a dedicated cockpit locker. I’ve reorganized and inventoried all of the storage spaces onboard. My spreadsheet lists the contents of 87 lockers. No wonder I can never find anything.
I built a new heavy-duty storm hatchboard. Just in case. We already had traditional teak boards, a lightweight (night-time) board, and a screen. But nothing heavy-duty that could be secured in place in the event of really rough weather. Now we do.
I climbed the mast twice today and helped a friend do the same on his boat. I built a new suspension system for the radar reflector and finally changed the bulb in the anchor light from the original incandescent (2.7A) to a brighter but much lower power LED (0.1A). The difference in energy usage over 10 hours is staggering.

Details and Derelicts

The list is actually getting shorter.

The initial to-do list created just after we brought Andante home was pretty overwhelming. The list was huge and there were numerous jobs that I didn’t yet know how to even begin. And just when it seemed like things were going well, tasks were added to the list faster than I could cross them off.

Over the past couple of months notable progress has been made. I’ve been able to complete most of the significant structural, mechanical and safety items. Now the focus can shift to helping Andante look her best and making her as comfortable and livable as possible. Fortunately most jobs of that flavor can be done away from the boatyard at a more leisurely pace. I’m looking forward to that.

The boatyard can’t be described as a pretty place. But it has its brief moments such as this cold sunrise last week with mist over the creek wafting into the yard. About 20 minutes later somebody started grinding metal. Glad I was already up.

Many of the remaining jobs can be divided into inside and outside work. So on a recent sunny day I stripped and sanded and varnished. And when it rained over the weekend I repaired some canvas and worked on a few galley projects. And I’m constantly rearranging things below to maximize storage space — and trying to keep a list of where I hid everything so I can find it again later.

A quick sanding and coat of varnish on the cockpit coaming should keep it looking nice for a few more months. There are lots of damaged spots and the whole thing will need to stripped to bare wood eventually. I’ve completely removed the varnish from the toe rail, the hand rails, and the eyebrow and plan to let those go grey for now.
Before the rain I dismounted the dodger and bimini and patched up some holes and worn spots. There isn’t much holding this old canvas together. I added new zippers to attach the side panels that create a nice protected cockpit. I prefer to sail with the cockpit open but when its cold and wet I definitely appreciate the protection from wind and spray.
Another rainy-day project: Built a new spice corral from 1/2″ plastic lumber that almost doubles the amount of storage along the wall. I hope to replicate this in teak at some point. I’m not a very good finish carpenter so it seemed scrap plastic was the best place to start.

I do my best to take care of Andante because I’m counting on her to take care of me. For whatever reason not every boat receives the same level of care and attention. In fact, walking around the boatyard can be a bit depressing sometimes. Mixed in with boats that are clearly headed for sea are an astounding number likely headed for the scrapyard. I’m not one to get emotional over a junkyard full of cars — but its sad to think that each of these old boats was once somebody’s dream.

Cute old tugboat
Hard to see in this photo but the name of the boat is “Ula G.” Seems appropriate.
They were cutting this old girl up with chainsaws last week. The big hoist in the background is being used to salvage her lead keel.

Catching Up

Sorry for the month of silence. No excuses.

I’ve been terrible about posting while ashore. Perhaps its because I don’t anticipate the mundane yard work is of general interest. Or maybe I’m just exhausted every evening. Regardless, I haven’t been doing a very good job of sharing information.

I could probably fill you in on everything that has happened until now but that would be too much information. So this entry will share a few highlights from the past month and I’ll do my best to post more frequently going forward.

Probably the biggest highlight for me was flying home for Thanksgiving. It was nice to see Nicholas and those other people. I was particularly thankful this year for carbohydrates and cranberry sauce.

I missed these guys

Much has been going on in the boatyard over the past month. The removal and application of bottom paint went smoothly. A full strip to bare gelcoat and epoxy barrier coat and fairing may still be in Andante’s future but that would have been overkill this year. Thanks for your input on colors: She looks great with her new green bottom.

The two other big jobs I was looking forward to were the replacement of the steering chain and cable (and two worn sheaves) and installation of new engine control cables. The steering work was much easier to accomplish on land than in the water. But boy was it messy. And cramped. And did I mention messy?

But after dreading it for months it was strangely enjoyable to do and very satisfying to complete. And given the critical importance of both steering and engine control and the unknowns of 30+ years of stainless steel crevice corrosion, getting these jobs done is a real confidence boost as I contemplate heading further offshore.

A view underneath the cockpit before cleanup started. Access is through sail lockers on either side of the cockpit. The steering chain and cables translate movement of the steering wheel to movement of the rudder. For several decades the maintenance of the steering system appears to have consisted of smearing heavy grease on the cable and the bronze sheaves. The red cables on the left are the existing (and likely original) engine control cables. These are constructed much like the brake cables on a bicycle and translate motion of the speed and gear levers at the helm to controls on the engine and transmission.
In the confined space under the cockpit it was hard to get far enough away to take a photo of the entire steering system. The key element is the steering quadrant that is keyed to the rudder post. The steering cables engage the quadrant and make it rotate. The cables are pre-stretched 1/4″ 7×19 wire rope — but they will still stretch more when loaded. I expect to be checking on their tension regularly for the next few months.
Topside end of the old engine control cables at the helm. Somehow these got really greasy too. The black lines are tracers I attached to the old steering cables to allow the new ones to be sucked into the correct path through the various sheaves.
New steering chain and cables before installation. The chain is about twice the size of a bicycle chain and is made of stainless steel. I have no idea how many times I climbed into and out of those lockers. But my knees know exactly how many times.
My feet. And also the internals of the steering pedestal. The steering chain (barely visible) rides on a sprocket attached the the wheel shaft. The mechanism at the top is the wheel brake – tightening a knob on the starboard side of the pedestal clamps brake shoes against the shaft and locks the wheel. And the black and yellow wires provide power to the compass light — the compass usually sits on top of the pedestal.

Every day here is full of little jobs too numerous to relate. For example, today I climbed the mast (twice) to fix a navigation light that was acting erratically. And replaced screws in the starboard chainplate covers. And prepared to sew new zippers on the bimini. And inventoried the supply of flares and smoke canisters.

A few of the more notable jobs over the past month (defined as those for which I took photos) included removal of a 25 gallon water tank to free up some prime storage space, cleaning and polishing the prop, and installing a new seawater foot pump in the galley to save water when washing dishes.

The old port upper forward water tank (25 gallons). Removing this created a convenient spot in the main cabin to store all sorts of things and allowed some of the plumbing in this area to be simplified and/or removed — again gaining space for storage. Our total water capacity is now about 160 gallons which is still quite good for a boat this size and perfectly adequate for a crew of 1-2. With a few adjustments (e.g. salt water pump in the galley, drinking more beer) we should be able to delay installation of a water maker for several years.
I like a smooth and shiny prop. Hopefully the evil barnacles do not.
New foot pump in the galley provides seawater for washing dishes. I hadn’t really planned to share a photo of all the other stuff under the sink, but there it is. In case you are wondering, Dawn makes a nice lather in salt water. Even really cold salt water.
Andante back in the water. Traffic noise isn’t as annoying at the dock as it was under the bridge. And it is very nice to feel the boat move again even if just gently rocking from passing boat wakes. (Feeling the boat move while on land was a definite no-no).

Schedule update: I’ll be in NC until a few days before Christmas and will return to NC a few days after Christmas. Weather permitting, I hope to cast off and begin heading south again shortly thereafter. There will be a few days of fueling and watering and provisioning in Beaufort before we head out into the Atlantic.