Autohelm Tiller Arm.

If my Hydrovane is a 1st mate, then the Autohelm is 2nd Mate – or at least a talented Cabin Boy!
I have no idea if my old version can be upgraded to work with the as-yet-uninstalled new Raymarine radar system. I’m assuming not.

Back in November 2015 the control head was deluged by a freak wave halfway across the Bay of Biscay (I know..what else happens on a sailboat? But there we have it!) and burned out, leaving me to handhold Frank to Camariñas in a (what else in November?) storm. Parking up in the aforesaid fishing port for Christmas, I returned to Texas and found a new unit on ebay.

But at the other end of the Autopilot, attached to the Type 1 hydraulic ram, is an arm. This connects the ram to the tiller shaft. It was still working, but badly corroded. Here is is after I managed to get it off:

And here is the new one!

The hole for the tiller shaft has been machined to 1.25″, but the key is not uniform to 3 decimal places (it has had a hard life..) so I took the arm without a keyway cut. I’ll have to find a shop to get it machined.

This tiller arm is bronze and weighs maybe 10-15 pounds. Slow progre$$, but progre$$.

The Key to success is a key that fits!

1800 Miles from Tortola

I have several hours of video from my solo Atlantic crossing, and have been too busy to create a video of this 2nd leg of my sail from Gosport to Corpus Christi, Texas.

Four years and three months ago I was heading to Tortola, BVI. I came across a short video clip, and turned it into this short message relating the solo sailor to starting up a business: there are many talented sailors, but only a few are “the willing”. Likewise in business.

It is not really a “Frank-Just Frank” video, but without Frank I would not have been there. BTW, I never did get to Tortola, heading instead to St Croix, where I immigrated to the USA and parked Frank for a few months at St Croix Marine


Heads-up! Holding Tank false cupboard

To be USCG (US Coast Guard) compliant, I had to either fit a holding tank or sling the heads before entering US waters. Some Sadler 34 owners have fitted custom holding tanks behind the toilet, in the heads compartment. To get the job done simply, and more economically, I opted for this unattractive approach:

40 liter holding tank from

The holding tank is from Tek Tanks of Alton, Hants in England. They have a database of custom tanks for a load of boats, based on previous projects, but I will stick with the current setup for a year or so.

The plan is to hide it behind a wooden shell, made to look like a cabinet. This bulkhead is the driest part of the boat, so I will add a storage space to the right of the tank, (looking at it), for charts, manuals, documents etc. The loss of space would be a pain if there were four or five crew, but it is fine for one or two.

As an aside, my log was completely ruined after crossing Biscay in November 2014. It was “safely” stored in the desk, and water poured in through the leaky port above the desk, as well (I think) as through the open hatchway when a few massive waves snuck up behind me and took out the sprayhood. I then discovered plastic paper log books, which work great with pencil, and are resilient against sea, rain and flood.

I have ordered a Non-contact tank level sensor, from New Providence Marine. It means that I don’t have to fit a mechanical device inside the tank. It comes with a gauge which I will install in the heads compartment, warning people not to flush the loo if the tank is full.

The sensor has two foil strips running vertically, 3″ or 4″ apart, down the outside of the tank. I think it will have to be fitted to the rear of the tank, against the bulkhead.

[When I first bought her, I could not find the holding tank (it was a crappy hand-over). I called or texted from the Irish Sea and learned that there was none. This explained why it was backed up.]

The tank takes up valuable foot space when sleeping in that bunk, unfortunately, but it will be fine for someone 5’8″ or less. And, of course, a place at the dining table is sacrificed, but for the next year or so, it will do. Especially if it is disguised as a cabinet or cupboard!

New Official Number!

ON 1272125, the new Official Number for Frank, has been assigned by the Coastguard. Once I receive the Certificate of Documentation, I can strike the Manx Red Ensign and hoist the Stars and Stripes!

I will need to have the new port, Corpus Christi, TX, put on the stern, to replace Douglas, IoM. And I need to permanently add the new O.N. to the boat. 

New Sail Cover! Updated 18 Sept ’16

Matt from Coastal Bend Yacht Services made and put the new sail cover on this week. 
Frank looks a lot better! Plus, of course, the mainsail is finally getting some protection from the sun. [Update: the lazy jacks are on too. Adjustable at the mast, so they can be dropped out of the way. My original cover/stackpack was torn when the jacks caught in the battens].

Zipper at the mast

Toggles underneath

I decided against a Stack Pak -$700 to save taking the cover below decks seems poor value for money. Next week the lazy jacks go on. 
I met Matt’s wife when I called in at their shop in Corpus – lovely lady. I bought 50 feet of 1/2″ mooring line to go with the new rope floats that I bought.

Because Frank is on a floating pontoon, I need a way to tie up to the pile in the pic. So I am experimenting.

It is probably overkill, but in case a storm hits (this is hurricane season..) I need a way to give Frank maximum security, especially if I can’t get there in time to move her or double up the lines. 

So I bought 20 of these floats and threaded the line through 18 of them, and lassoed the pile. As you can see, they sit on top of the blue fenders that I put there last week.

The idea is that the lines will rise and fall with the tide, whilst still holding Frank in place. Even if the blue fenders snag, the bow line should float freely. Should…


The newly installed Windex greeted me today, on deck.

I was surprised that it had been blown off. Mark explained that the birds (big buggers, not gulls) break them off, because they like a comfortable perch atop the mast! I wonder how long my yet-to-be installed Bluetooth wind instrument will fare..

I also took the new rails to Frank but have not installed them.

Frank Update

Out if the water for the hurricane season

Out of the water for the hurricane season


Westward Ho

After parking up in St Croix in March 2015, I had a couple of days to get things half tidied up and then headed to Austin Texas  for work. So this week (11-14 Oct ’15) was the first opportunity that I had to get back to Frank in seven months.

I still have to update the blog to cover the journey and stuff that has happened since then.

Quick points:

  1. Getting from Gosport to Falmouth took a long time, mainly because there was a persistent dead short which was caused by poor work by the company which removed and rebuilt the engine. The tail end of a hurricane and some other “stuff” also made it interesting to get to the jumping-off point.
  2. November 3rd, 2014 Frank finally headed out across Biscay, WestSouthWest and then south. It was bumpy in places, I lost the halyard off the main and the repaired sprayhood was shredded in a storm.
  3. Instead of heading south to the canaries, I opted for Camarinas, a small fishing port on the NW tip of Spain. I used my Aloft Alone kit to shimmy up the mast and retrieve the halyard.
  4. Further electrical problems (main earth wire glowing red, wrapped around the fuel line – good job I was not mid Atlantic) and some business issues meant that I decided to park Frank there over Christmas and head back to Texas.
  5. January 2015 I returned to find that Frank’s short had returned in my absence and the starter motor had burned itself out, the engine had been running itself until the diesel in the tank (fortunately low) ran out.
  6. I commissioned a stainless steel frame to go over the hatchway from a local firm in Camarinas; about $100 and done in 24 hours. Great! I had brought with me from the UK, “for emergencies”, several sheets of 1 inch marine ply. So I knocked up a “chicken coop”, attached it to the steel frame and put some acrylic windows in. Not pretty but very effective and the local fishermen loved it.

    Weather-worn chicken coop - did the job.

    Weather-worn chicken coop – did the job.

  7. Set off February 4th, headed to the Canaries. Lost the main halyard again trying to put in a reef in a hard blow. Replaced it with the topping lift, which then managed to get tangled up at the top of the mast.

    Main Halyard making like a python in the rigging.

    Main Halyard making like a python in the rigging.

  8. I used my Aloft Alone kit on a calm day out in the Atlantic to climb the mast. The topping lift was freed and served as my halyard until I arrived at Porto Santos. I refueled, re-provisioned and used my Aloft Alone kit again to retrieve the main halyard, which I wired to ensure that it stayed put.

    Porto Santos - a 12 hour stop-over to refuel, re-provision & recover the main halyard.

    Porto Santos – a 12 hour stop-over to refuel, re-provision & recover the main halyard.

    Frank with blue sprayhood at Portland Marina, en route to Falmouth, September 2014.

  9. My Hydrovane did not work. It kept wanting me to head to port. But my satcom did work, so eventually I emailed the company and sent them some photos. It transpired that a boat had hit my stern (probably in Gosport Marina) and bashed the Hydrovane rudder drive out of line. So with some great tech support from Hydrovane, mid Atlantic, I hung off the stern and with some nifty spanner work set things right.
  10. Before fixing the Hydrovane I had been using my Autohelm. The original one burned out in Bascay when it was deluged with water and shorted out, but I found a replacement on eBay, and fitted it in January ’15. The problem being that it required a lot of battery power, which meant running the engines, and also lengthy spells of hand steering. It is easy to lose concentration when hand steering, especially close to the wind, when a tied tiller is not so effective.
  11. I can heartily recommend a (working!) Hydrovane. As soon as I had it set correctly, it worked flawlessly all the way to The Caribbean.
  12. Instead of my first planned stop of Tortola, BVI, I headed to St Croix, USVI, and arrived just before dawn on March 8th 2015. I had a gear selector problem – no forward gear! I arranged for a tow into Green Cay Marina: after superb weather all the way across, a squall hit just as we were attaching the tow line, and all the way into the marina.
  13. At the end of June I asked St Croix Marine to move Frank for me, and to get her out of the water for the impending Hurricane season.
  14. Repairs and damage:  half way across I lost the first reefing line, and the second was very frail. The outhaul went. The chicken coop was great! No more electrical problems but there is a short between the head of the mast and the port side wiring. The gooseneck was discovered to be fractured – I had not noticed this, and it was not apparent until the boom was removed to fix the outhaul and reefing lines.Broken Gooseneck                                      The gear selector cable was replaced (the gear selector problem had fixed itself but I wanted to ensure it did not return). Poling out – the pole that came with Frank is from another boat, and would not fit into Frank’s mast fitting. So I rigged up (lashed up) a rope fitting which served me well all the way across. The power winches came and went – the port one failed. I think it is a bad power supply. This made changing tack laborious but was not a crisis.
  15. My ample supplies of Red Bull corroded through the tins and this in turn helped to rot through some of my tinned food supplies. Never mix dry and wet! I had plenty of food and water.
  16. Kit. The AIS generally worked well, but would sometimes flake out. The Garmin 750 plotter was great but would sometimes freeze. The Iridium SatCom was superb (but the email bill was horrendous!). It was impossible to get my weather report and GRIB service over satcom.The best single piece of kit was my InReach Explorer – I could send and receive text and email messages and people could track me.
  17. More kit.The log failed but I had several other systems and I also had a spare but did not want to replace it at sea unless all other systems failed.The wind measure became inaccurate. I think I will replace wind and speed measurement with wireless, because the mast is crowded inside with wires, leading to potential for shorts and water ingress.
  18. Most useless kit: the refrigerator. I donated this to a charity in Dartmouth. Every time I had a problem with the electrics or engine I had to haul it out of its home.
  19. There is an inverted U tube through which wires run from the foot of the mast and into the boat. This has sustained damage – whether on the journey or when the boom was being repaired I don’t know, but I need to get rid of some wires and fit a new gland to replace this item.
  20. Cosmetically, Frank looks unloved. I need to clean up the woodwork but that will wait. I have a perspex-and-steel design in mind for the hatchway cover, with in-built solar panels. The chicken coop was much safer than the spray hood when going forwards, by the way. The sprayhood required me to go wide, which was nerve-wracking in a big sea at night with the wind blowing a gale.I have to solve the propellor problem – why is she underpowered into the sea with 38hp of motor? Yesterday I received a maintenance kit for the rope cutter – new anode, dampers and bearing.
  21. I will have her cleaned, new antifoul applied and put back in the sea late November. I asked Judd at the yard to take a look at the standing rigging and will decide on that soon.
  22. More anon!
  23. The Old Man and The Sea

    The Old Man and The Sea

    Heading into Sunset

    Heading into Sunset

    Culet leads the way

    Culet leads the way

    Manx Red Ensign

    Manx Red Ensign

    Bearded Salt

    Bearded Salt

Belated Update

I completely lost track of doing the blog!
Quick update – missed the ARC due to persistent engine issues, caused by shorts in the wiring. Four dead shorts resulted in lots of melted wiring.
I had to park Frank in Camarinas, NW Spain, November through January, so that I could go take care of business, once I decided that ARC was not achievable.
I returned late January to more burned out wiring – the engine had been running with the starter motor on, due to another short. Fortunately, only the (brand new) starter motor was burned out, not the boat. Even better, I had brought with me a new wiring loom.
Anyway, I departed Camarinas Feb 5 2015, stopped briefly in Porto Santos off Madeira on 12th to retrieve the halyard, and landed St Croix, USVI, sunrise on March 8th 2015.

Updates to come.


Official Registration

Frank was finally registered as Frank with the Isle of Man Register of Shipping, Official Number 701429. The number stays with the vessel for life (life on the British Registry, that is).

So Geoff crafted an official number, which is now affixed just under the hatch!

The number is referred to as the carving, as it would originally have been carved into the main beam. Not being wooden, or course, I have compromised and used epoxy.


The white thing with the two red circles is the holding tank, pre-installation. With help from Geoff, it is now installed and partially piped. Some trimming and adjusting required. The sanitary pipe is a bitch to work with, unless you but some better pipe at £27.50 a meter, say $15 a foot. Six feet later..

I ran out of time getting the extraction and vent pipes installed, and the anti-siphon pipes look rather untidy at this stage. But it is progress!

No pics yet.