The three months we planned to spend on the Oregon coast while Jamie worked at the Tillamook hospital were extended to seven months. We loved our Oceanside home and each other enough to get married there on the beach in front of family and friends. Despite the weather forecast, it turned out being a beautiful day complete with wonderful friends, tasty food and fine music. Returning to Boston, we found the boat in good shape, though looking ever more in need of love and maintenance. We were eager to head south, but had found a great home at the East Boston Shipyard and Marina where we were taken care of like family, complete with colorful and endlessly helpful neighbors also living aboard their boats.
My day job prevented us from heading south right away and forced us to make the final push through New York City, down the New Jersey coast, up the Delaware and into the Chesapeake in a last minute hurry and in less than ideal conditions. We arrived in Annapolis, Maryland a couple of days before our scheduled flight to Copenhagen for a work conference, a visit with friends in Sweden and Italy, and our honeymoon. There was a significant amount of trepidation to be had leaving our boat in the hands of people we'd only just met at the Annapolis Harbor Boatyard, and whom we didn't yet realize would become our hosts and friends for three months. The original plan was to check our rigging, paint our mast, and perform some basic maintenance before continuing on our way south, running from the cold of winter.
It didn't take long to realize that our plans for performing the basic necessary maintenance were naive, that our boat had some critical issues that had to be resolved. While we were abroad on our travels, Kevin from Annapolis Harbor Boatyard sent us regular emails and photos updating us as they inspected our boat, finding chainplates nearly rusted apart which could have led to our mast falling down and an abrupt end to our cruising. Their expert woodworkers sanded our grungy looking mast down to bare wood saving us from rot, cleaning up all the attached metal and giving the wood several much needed coats of paint. They found a poorly located section of rot on the working end of the forward boom requiring the building of a new one, at the same time stripping and repainting our main boom.
I'd long been frustrated by my inability to prevent our stuffing box from leaking, the area where the engine shaft passes through the hull from the engine to the propeller. With our boat hauled out they were quick to isolate and fix the problem meaning our boat no longer would want to sink after a day of motor sailing. While out of the water, they scraped and repainted the bottom of our boat which had become the host of a living carpet of sea life.
By the time we returned from our European vacation, our boat was floating but still without a mast. A storm had blown through preventing the final work from getting completed on schedule. As the weather cleared out and the yard finished preparations on our mast, the Annapolis boat show came to town. We eagerly wandered the event, climbing aboard newer and bigger sailboats and exploring isle after isle of fancy boat toys and tools, our eyes and imaginations far bigger than our wallets. We decided to replace the failed electric windlass on our bow with a much less expensive manual windlass, more effort when pulling up the anchor each morning but also not requiring electricity, a precious commodity on a sailboat.
My plan had been to install the windlass myself, but upon removing the old (which only took about seven times longer than I'd estimated, pretty good for me) I found several gaping holes in our forward deck that were beyond my abilities to repair and explained the leaks that would soak our forward v-berth each time we sailed against the weather. The yard agreed to install the windlass and repair the deck properly. When I finally found time to test the new windlass right before we started our trip south my spirits dropped to discover it didn't work properly. Discussion with the yard revealed that it wasn't a problem with the installation, instead the gypsy I'd purchased at the show was for 5/16 HT sized chain, and our chain was evidently some metric size close to but not quite 5/16. Calling all around Annapolis we finally found one store that had some 5/16 HT chain in stock, and it just happened to be 150 feet of used chain attached to another 150 feet of rode, proving to be an affordable upgrade over what we previously had. Once installed, the windlass worked perfectly and has been serving us very well each time we anchor.
Also at the sailboat show we met the creator of the Cape Horn windvane, one of a variety of ingenious yet simple auto-steering systems that can steer a sailboat using only wind. He made excellent arguments as to why his system was superior to the others at the show and explained how he used his device to sail around the world to prove it worked well before he marketed it for sale. When we asked about how we'd integrate his windvane with our worm gear steering he visited us after the show, climbing into our cramped engine room to design a custom mounting system without charging for the visit. There was no longer any doubt in our minds that we'd chosen well.
The next day he called us to say that he'd been thinking about our steering issues and had a potential solution for us. We visited him at the show and he explained his ideas with diagrams, and then we later talked his ideas through with the yard, ultimately settling on replacing our worm gear with a chain and quadrant system. Olivier, an extremely experienced, modestly knowledgeable and always delightful Frenchman living with his family aboard a 52' wooden boat he built himself spent many long days glassing in and custom installing a heavy duty steering system, allowing us to keep our reverse mounted steering wheel without spending the money on a new worm gear. While this was happening I was down in Grenada with Bill and some other friends, climbing around an obnoxious binnacle mounted steering wheel, and I was in full agreement with my wife that we wanted to keep our reverse mounted steering wheel.
While the mast was done, we took advantage of the accessibility of the top of the mast to add a windex that integrates with our Garmin GPS, showing us wind speed and direction, as well as air pressure and temperature. We also added LED spreader lights, nicely lighting up our decks at night with an amazingly efficient 0.2 amps of power draw. The yard gave us the choice of saving money and re-using the old wires inside the mast or running new ones, and as we don't intend to take the mast down again any time soon we chose the latter. Finally, we replaced an old and no longer functioning water wheel with a new depth sounder and water wheel that also integrates with our chart plotter, helping us see currents and to accurately measure water temperature.
The yard wasn't the only one doing work during our lengthy downtime. Jamie spent many a day sanding down our boom gallows and wood in the cockpit, learning to reseal it beautifully with Bristol Finish as recommended to us nearly two years ago by our friend Captain Tim. I tiled a section of a forward bulkhead and installed a new Dickinson diesel heater to fight off the increasingly chilly nights. Jamie enlarged a hole in our deck over the new heater and installed a beautiful teak spacer provided courtesy of Annapolis Harbor Boatyard. We struggled briefly with fuel flow issues, but got it all solved and have enjoyed a warmer boat while at anchor. We also replaced the leaky scupper on our dinghy so our dinghy no longer sinks, and custom built a davit kit allowing us to pull the dinghy out of the water while under way, improving our average speed and fuel consumption.
It's already the latter half of November, far later than we planned starting our snowbird migration southward, but we've finally cast off our bowlines and pointed our bow toward warmer weather. The night before we left, the owner of the yard, John, stopped by to thank us for putting our trust in them and gave us a very thoughtful gift basket. As we backed away from the dock that had been our home for three months, nearly the entire amazing and wonderful crew at the Annapolis Harbor Boatyard came down to the docks to wave farewell. Though we greatly exceeded our budget and schedule, all the things we did were things needing to be done and it was quite apparent that we'd chosen the right place to get this work done. Everyone at the yard was continuously friendly and helpful, tolerating our endless questions and endless projects, continuously exceeding our expectations. The quality of work done on our boat proved both that they know what they're doing and that they care enough to do things right, a fantastic combination.
We've been traveling South now for a few days without problems. We've flown all our sails at times making 7-8 knots with no engine, and motor sailed when the winds were too light or on our nose. We traveled the ICW from the Chesapeake to Beaufort, NC, and now await a weather window to head outside and aim for St. Augustine, our intended destination for the boat this winter. The boat will stay there while we head up to Alaska for a few months as Jamie got a traveling PT job in Ketchikan, working for the very hospital I was born in. It will allow us to spend the holidays with my family, and to save up some money for our future travel plans. Returning in March, we intend to head out to the Bahamas for a couple of months, and then to make a major trip across the Atlantic into the Mediterranean. What good is a blue water sailing vessel if we don't cross some blue water with it?