Adventures of s/v WILD HAIR


Our land life took on form, solidity, routine. We had mastery of a limited set of skills. We had habitual expectations of others and ourselves. Going sailing, we let go of our attachments to our roles, views, and rituals. We persist because we are growing in this shapeless and dynamic world.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Cruising is sailing from one exotic port to the next to fix your boat.
It’s true! Salt water and the constant torque and flex of the boat underway combine to make an exceptionally harsh environment. The boat demands constant love and attention. Just for fun I’ve included here a list of the problems we experienced and the repairs we made in the month-and-a-half from September 27th to November 11th. By all accounts, this list is fairly typical for live-aboard cruisers.

Problem: after rebuilding the head, the toilet still won’t stay flushed
Solution: we installed a new electric toilet. This complex task challenged Dave’s plumbing, electrical, and mechanical skills, required multiple calls to the company’s technical support hotline and visits to the company’s booth at the Annapolis boat show to request a specially engineered part be sent overnight.

Problem: we exhausted our fuel supply in the Norfolk/Portsmouth shipping lane
Solution: we sailed to an anchorage (arriving after dark), added more fuel, and bled air out of system.

Problem: the boat’s engine died unexpectedly a week later
Solution: we called for a tow off the notorious “Frying Pan Shoals” at “Cape Fear,” cleaned diesel tar out of fuel/water separators, manifold valve, hoses, tanks and primary and secondary filters. Also, we pumped out and hand filtered all the diesel in the tanks.

Problem: our newly installed fuel filtering system repeatedly shorted out
Solution: after many weekend and late-night conversations with the company’s owner, we determined a yet-to-be-connected display wire was touching a piece of metal inside the engine room thereby causing the short.

Problem: the main sail pulled out of the mast track
Solution: we contacted the track’s manufacturer because the system was new and under warrantee. The item was repaired by a professional rigger.

Problem: the two-year-old Mercury outboard dinghy motor ran rough and died
Solution: we changed the sparkplugs and added de-watering solution to the gasoline.

Problem: the two-year-old Mercury outboard dinghy motor died again
Solution: we got a Mercury dealer to pick up the outboard from the boat, remove water from carburetor in his shop, acid wash, and steam clean the ethanol “varnish” from interior.

Problem: the two-year-old Mercury outboard dinghy motor died again
Solution: row to shore with plans to fix it when we’re someplace south.

Problem: our Garmin wind and speed indicators died
Solution: sail the old fashion way with “tell tails.”

Problem: our Garmin depth and temperature indicators died
Solution: we cuss and wonder what’s up.

Problem: our Garmin GPS positioning and chart plotting capabilities died as we depart from an unknown-to-us port with blinding morning sun in our eyes
Solution: we called Garmin and listened to an inexperienced technician apologize profusely and tell us the only thing to do would be to disassemble the unit and mail it back to them. Quivering at the thought of dismantling the system, we diagnosed the problem as a bad T-connection on the backbone. We replaced the connection and all is revived.

Problem: during rain events, water cascaded into the boat through every port light and hatch, destroying woodwork, and saturating bedding and clothes
Solution: we patched windows and hatches temporarily with silicone and made plans to remove and rebed all port lights and hatches when we arrive south.

Problem: while doing a routine pre-ignition engine check, we noticed the alternator belt was loose and while tightening the belt, we discovered the bolts holding the alternator in place had sheared off the bracket. The alternator was poised to fling uncontrolled from its mount, potentially busting through cabinetry and who knows what else.
Solution: we found the uniquely sized bolts online and had them delivered the next day.

Problem: the alternator stopped charging the boat’s battery bank and we quickly drained battery power
Solution: we discovered the field wire connection from the regulator to the alternator had corroded and broken free.

Problem: our backup electronic charts were lost from our laptop when the computer died (the computer experienced repetitive trauma from being thrown to the floor in rough wave action)
Solution: we bungeed a repaired computer to the navigation station and bought a replacement chip to reinstall Maptech on our new laptop.

Problem: our E-bay “bargain” of a single-sideband radio failed to transmit
Solution: after consulting ICOM technical support, we packed the unit up and shipped it to Oregon for repairs. Unfortunately, the unit worked perfectly for them. Upon its return, we reinstalled the unit; again it did not work for us. We intend to fix it when we arrive south.

Problem: without a single-sideband radio, we could not receive weather reports or make emergency calls more than 25 miles offshore
Solution: we purchased and installed a satellite telephone and internet data package.

Problem: below decks, light bulbs burned out, fans shrieked noisily, and faucets leaked
Solution: we installed new light fixtures, swapped fan locations, and rebuilt faucets.

Problem: the hose connecting the boat to municipal water at dock leaked into the bilge, causing the bilge pump to run incessantly
Solution: we shut off the system and installed a new check valve.

Problem: the bilge pump was at risk of sucking in cat toys and other tidbits that made their way between the floor boards and into the bilge
Solution: we installed a heavy-duty bilge strainer.

Problem: the LPG tanks were not to code with proper gages
Solution: we installed a new LPG regulator with pressure gage.

Problem: our handheld VHF radio would not charge in the charger
Solution: we took the unit into West Marine and they swapped out both the charger and the power cord for new.

Problem: we could not sleep offshore on passage due to the motion of the boat
Solution: we installed a lee cloth at our salon pilot berth (a cloth fastened beneath the cot and laced to overhead handrails to prevent sailors from falling out of bed).

Finally, we completed basic maintenance tasks. We regularly washed salt off the deck, canvas, and hardware, cleaned growth and rub marks off the hull, replaced the impeller, and changed the engine’s transmission fluid and oil.

That’s it.

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