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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I can heartily recommend a (working!) Hydrovane. As soon as I had it set correctly, it worked flawlessly all the way to The Caribbean.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- More anon!