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!

Global Solo Challenge – on Piracy.

Getting close to Africa’s western coast, aside from not being a logical choice as in typical seasonal weather should mean finding headwinds and opposing currents, not to mention the not entirely unlikely chance of pirate attacks. However, if weather systems are displaced from their normal position the fastest route may take skippers further inshore.

Even though pirates are known to mainly target cargo ships, attacks on yachts are not unheard of.

Webasto Diesel Heater 

Frank has a Webasto Air Top 2000 diesel heater – it takes a minescule feed of diesel from the engine’s fuel tank and burns it, generating warm air which is ducted into the boat. 

The unit was cleaned and serviced before I left the UK, but it had a problem which caused the heater to shut down after 10 minutes, which was actually enough to warm up the boat during the winter. However, I was a tad concerned about using it, and eventually ignored it. Further south and west, I had no need of it.

This Thanksgiving weekend I fixed the wiring (corroded connections) and also fixed a small leak in the fuel supply feeder pipe.

Here is the new pipe, plus a couple of shots of the fuel tank which is in the port lazarette:

The heater seems to work, but I will need colder weather to give it an extended test.

Coachroof Rails progress report.

The short report – progress is slow.


The long report: what do you expect? It takes three hours 15 minutes each way for the drive and it is still too hot to sleep on the boat.

I decided against sandwiching the new rail between the old halves – as you knew, it was a daft idea anyway.

So I cut “shims” out of the bottom halves of the rails, from where the rails had mounted to the coachroof.

First patient please..

There are 7 mounting points on each side, and as one end of the port rail was sacrificed to create a cutting knife for the new rails, I had 13:

I used the coachbolts to line up the holes, then glued and clamped the shims in place:

I made a shim to replace the sacrificed one, out of the left-over new wood. 

The shims are too long and look shabby, after 31 years. I will sand, trim and shape them next week.

I will shorten each end of the rails, and shape the wood so that it matches the approx 45° slope of the end mounting point, so that sheets, lines and “moving stuff” does not snag on the ends of the rails.

As you can see, I still have to countersink the bolts. I am struggling to find the right shaped router blade or countersink bit. Once I have done that, I need to cut some caps from the left-over teak and, after using sealant (3M, no Silkaflex in the US) to keep the bolts secure, add some more sealant to act as semi-permanent fixing for the caps.

That is the plan, anyway.

I read that teak oil can soften the marine sealant…

Today, I also started to fabricate a wooden case to disguise the holding tank which is on the saloon side of the bulkhead between saloon and heads. I just thought – maybe I could put knobs on it, so it looks like a cupboard! More on that another day.

Finding Those Hidden Rigging Problems

Standing rigging is slowly decaying. Like dental decay. Regular checkups and frequent inspection will save you from DIY root canal surgery mid Atlantic!

When Frank was out of the water at St Croix Marine in St Croix, USVI, I noticed a potential problem with one of the shrouds. A strand appeared to be kinked where the cable went into the turnbuckle.

strand to left is kinked – broken inside the swage

 Jerry The Rigger was my “local” rigger in Gosport, England, as well as for the ARC, which I had intended to join, so I knew where to check. I sent this pic to him, and he advised me to get a knife or screwdriver in between that kink and check the strand. It was broken.

I shimmied up the mast using my Aloft Alone kit to check the upper rigging. All looked fine, but I had a nagging doubt and went back up to take a second look.

Sure enough, on closer inspection, the head or baby stay had a broken strand at the swage up top. 

Problem: Selden do not have an agent in St Croix, and the swages are unique to Selden.

The marina rigger did not have the right size wire, as Frank has both 7mm and 8mm shrouds. Bear in mind that the US does not do mm, and I had to translate this into Imperial. The nearest source was in St Barts (I think – will check). So I ordered swages and wire, which was flown in via Antigua after a lot of delay.

Unfortunately, the rigger had a mishap and mangled a swage at the turnbuckle. This meant that the “T-Hook” swage for the mast end of the stay, which he had already attached, was wasted. I only had one 8mm T Hook, so had to order more. 

The old T Hook Swages

The mangled new Swage

These ended up spending two weeks going from St Barts to Antigua to St Kitts to Antigua to, eventually and many calls later, to St Croix. I ordered extra!
Finally, the turnbuckle at the forestay did not fit the deck mounting. So I had to buy a new turnbuckle from the store, which they had. 

Always do a close, visual and physical check of your standing rigging, especially at the swage – the damage will be worse just inside the swage, where you can’t see it. And carry spares!

Jerry Henwood aka the aforementioned Jerry The Rigger sold me a A great emergency repair kit from Sta-Lok for use when a shroud breaks at sea, which I did not have to use, but always carry. One set for each size.

For emergencies, by the way, rather than bolt cutters to remove shrouds in case of a dismasting or other problem, I recommend an angle grinder. It can be used one-handed, so you can cling to the boat or the shroud with one hand: you might be in heavy weather. Besides, bolt cutters are very hard to use in the best of conditions – don’t believe what you see in the movies. Bouncing around in a F10 on deck with both hands gripping a bolt cutter is not going to cut it.

Onboard tools should be rechargeable, with spare cutting wheels and spare, interchangeable batteries. I have standardised on DeWalt, so that I know I will have power for cutting sawing and drilling at sea.

For more info on ARC and crossing the Atlantic : Practical Boat Owner ran this article in March 2016.

Photo Journal – Crossing the Atlantic

Crossing from Camarinãs to St Croix took about five weeks. I stayed on GMT the whole trip.

I took a few photos and made a regular video diary, which I plan to edit and turn into a movie of sorts, one day.

This is my iCloud album. Feel free to browse. The most interesting aspect for me was the change in my face – early exhaustion, leading to a leaner, happier visage as I made progress.
There are a load of missing pics, but how many shots of waves, or experimental night shots, can a peson stand??

The stop-over is Porto Santos, where I arrived at around 5am and left at 22:00, having dried my bedding and clothes and retrieved the halyard, using my invaluable Aloft Alone kit .

The big island in the background is Madeira. It is a massive lump of rock in the middle of the Atlantic – it stays in the rear view mirror (no, I don’t have one!) for days! 

The photo or video that I did not get was of the dolphin to my starboard, perhaps 10 feet from me. I was watching and filming the dolphins to port, when I turned and saw a dolphin walking on its tail, looking at me, keeping pace. Then it disappeared.

The other scene that I missed filming was nature in action: the flying fish suddenly appeared, having been hidden from the birds under the boat, they were flushed out by dolphins: then came the chasing dolphins in a feeding frenzy, and suddenly the gulls joined in the fray.

Tired, heading south “to where the butter melts”

Exhausted, smiling

Porto Santos

Madeira. Forever Madeira

Manx Red Ensign at dawn

Happier Colin

Beard coming along nicely

Dragons be there.. Going off the edge of the World, or at least the Garmin map of Western Europe as delimited by that green box under the 274°, top right.

What goes round, comes round..

Radio GaGa updated Sept 10 2016

(Added the name plate with callsign etc to the vhf panel – pic below)

I had to replace the old VHF, as the mic lead had disintegrated in the heat of the Caribbean. Or… Mice?

The new one was a different size profile, and I only had a Dremel, so I made a bad job of fitting it into the “cubby”, as I was just trying to get everything ready to escape before Christmas.

I have made a new frame to fit the vhf, and bought a couple of adapters, so that it is attached to the fascia, rather than to a stand. The pics will explain. 

Note that slot cut into the inner hull side – you can see light through the hull. I am guessing that the original vhf was bigger and the installer cut into the inner hull and 2″ of foam, to give space to the radio’s heat sink.

A bit of varnish makes all the difference…shame I could not match the wood. I have ordered an engraved plate with Vessel Name, call sign (Mike Echo Charlie Whisky Eight), O/N 701429 and MMSI (too long).

A bit messy – someone else before my time added the white gunge, by the way. 

All set, and it works better too!

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